Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 September 2012
Of all Scott's fiction his last works, Count Robert of Paris, Reliquiae Trotcosienses and Castle Dangerous have been perceived as the most problematic. Frequently dismissed by critics they have been seen as flawed productions, the consequence of Scott's late illnesses and intellectual decline. A. O. J. Cockshut, for example, states that Scott's last texts are simply an act of ‘[labouring] steadily on with the task of covering blank paper with ink’ while Christopher Harvie describes them as ‘eminently forgettable projects’. Catherine Jones sees these novels as a ‘retreat into the formulaic’. While recognising that Count Robert is Scott's ‘most powerful exercise in grotesquerie’ John Sutherland nevertheless calls the novel an ‘abortion’. James Anderson sums up the common response to Scott's last novels by stating that of them ‘it is best to say nothing; they were written after paralysis had begun to destroy Scott's genius … The writing of 1830 and 1831 is dull and wordy’.
These late texts by Scott were also perceived as problematic at their inception. Scott's advisers, Cadell and Lockhart, saw them as inherently flawed, limited by the condition of Scott's health at the point when they were being written. In his Life J. G. Lockhart describes how James Ballantyne informed Scott ‘that he considered the opening chapters of Count Robert as decidedly inferior to any thing that had ever before come from that pen’.
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