The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XII. The Romantic Revival.

I. Sir Walter Scott

§ 13. Scenic arrangement

As an instance of his employment of a graphically minute description of surroundings to rouse and impress the reader’s imagination, reference may be made to the masterly picture of the wildly desolate characteristics of the waste of Cumberland, through which Brown, in Guy Mannering, journeyed to find Dandie Dinmont engaged in a life and death struggle with the highway thieves. He also shows a special partiality for night scenes. There is, for example, the Glasgow midnight in Rob Roy, the attack on the Tolbooth in The Heart of Midlothian, the moonlight night in the beautiful highland valley, where Francis Osbaldistone, journeying to a supper and bed at Aberfoil, is overtaken by two horsemen, one of whom proves to be Diana Vernon, and, later, is suddenly hailed by a touch on the shoulder from his mysterious friend, the escaped desperado Rob Roy, with the remark “a braw nicht Maister Osbaldistone, we have met at the mirk hour before now”; the adventure of the Black Knight, who, shortly after twilight in the forest had almost deepened into darkness, chanced on the rude hut of that strange hermit the buxom friar Tuck; and the night of the snowstorm, in which Brown, after leaving the chaise, finds his way through the steep glen to the ruinous hut in which he discovers Meg Merrilies keeping lonely watch over the dying smuggler. But, indeed, generally, an outstanding feature of his romances is the almost magical art with which he conjures the varied atmosphere and scenery of his events and incidents. Outward nature was the constant companion of his thoughts and feelings; he was familiar with its varied aspects; and, in his references to them in his romances, he shows an unerring instinct for what is appropriate for his purpose.