By Jan B. Gordon (auth.)
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Additional info for Gossip and Subversion in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction: Echo’s Economies
434). In Scott's hands, the challenge posed by orality is often narrated as a secondary presence, alongside if not coterminal with, those who identify themselves as guardians of the letter and its values. In The Antiquary, the bibliophile, Jonathan Oldbuck of Monkbams, has established a metaphoric kinship with an impoverished noble, Sir Arthur Wardour, by proclaiming a 'typographical lineage' which might rival that of an ancient family: 'I conceive that my descent from that painful and industrious typographer, Wolfbrand Oldenbuck ...
The author of parricide, he exacts a compensatory justice - emerging as did Madge earlier - from the remote seaside cave, a common habitat of the counter-sublime in Scott. We should not forget that Madge Wildfire, whose 'oral line' renders large areas of Scotland inaccessible to civilized order, straddles a thematic 'gap' between two impossible political extremes. On the one hand, like Meg Merrilies, she must resist the colonialism of a seductive, decadent nobility which, even in the disguise of indigenous 'folk', would domesticate, then abandon her.
She lacks any fixed abode, but her mobility provides the 'cover' which enables her to both join and secede from a plethora of families at will. Yet, that very mobility leads to charges of 'idleness' by the very aristocrats who epitomize leisure, like the Baronet, Sir Robert Hazelwood, who deflects even the possibility of an extant heir to Ellangowan by discounting it as information 'whispered about among tinkers, gipsies, and idle persons' (GM, p. 379). Gossips, when we encounter them in nineteenth-century British fiction are often characterized as simultaneously idle and 'busy-bodies', an impossible combination, were it not in effect an attempt to devalue their discursive contribution as economically non-productive.