Walter Scott


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The Vision of Don Roderick

First Edition, First Impression:

The Vision of Don Roderick; A Poem. By Walter Scott, Esq. Edinburgh: Printed by James Ballantyne and Co. For John Ballantyne and Co., Edinburgh; and Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, London. 1811.

Composition | Synopsis | Reception | Links


The Vision of Don Roderick was written in celebration of Wellington's successes in the Peninsular Campaign, with all profits to be donated to Portuguese war sufferers. Composed in Spenserian stanzas, the poem was based on an episode in Ginés Pérez de Hita's Guerras civiles de Granada, one of Scott's favourite books as a boy. He began work on the poem at Ashestiel during the spring vacation of 1811 but found composition extremely hard-going. Upon completing the poem, he dismissed it in his correspondence as 'this patriotic puppet' (letter to John Morrit, 1 July 1811) and a mere 'Drum and Trumpet performance' (letter to William Hayley, 2 July 1811).

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Vision of Don Roderick, engraved by Samuel Noble after Richard Westall, 1812 (Corson H.WES.2)


Scott derived his poem's scheme from an episode in the Spanish historian Ginés Pérez de Hita's Guerras civiles de Granada (1595-1609), in which Don Roderick, the last Gothic King of Spain, is portrayed descending into an enchanted cave to learn the outcome of the Moorish invasion. Scott has two bronze giants reveal further visions of Spain's future: the Moorish dominion following Don Roderick's death, the restoration of Christian rule, the conquest of the New World, religious persecution, the slow decline of the increasingly corrupt Spanish court, down to the present day with Napoleon's invasion, the resistance of the Spanish patriots, and, finally, Wellington's brilliant victories.

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Published on July 2, 1811, The Vision of Don Roderick was, in spite of Scott's own negative assessment, well-received by the public and earned one hundred guineas for the Portuguese war fund. Critical reaction was more mixed. The vividness of its descriptions were widely praised though the Quarterly Review queried the propriety of mixing historical and allegorical figures and regretted that it lacked all suspense. Francis Jeffrey, writing in the Edinburgh Review similarly decried the absence of all story and characters but nonetheless admired the brilliance of Scott's tableaux. The Critical Review pointedly refrained from passing judgment given the poem's charitable purpose while the Eclectic Review regretted Scott's idolatry of Wellington and accused him of celebrating war and barbarity.

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Don Roderick, engraved by Abraham Raimbach after Richard Westall, 1812 (Corson H.WES.2)


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Last updated: 19-Dec-2011
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