06 June 2012

Well (?) Written Wednesdays: the insipidity which sometimes attaches to fair beauties

"Formed in the best proportion of her sex, Rowena was tall in stature, yet not so much so as to attract observation on account of superior height. Her complexion was exquisitely fair, but the noble cast of her head and features prevented the insipidity which sometimes attaches to fair beauties. Her clear blue eye, which sate enshrined beneath a graceful eyebrow of brown sufficiently marked to give expression to the forehead, seemed capable to kindle as well as melt, to commend as well as to beseech. If mildness were the more natural epression of such a combination of features, it was plain, that, in the present instance, the exercise of habitual superiority, and the reception of general homage, had given to the Saxon lady a loftier character, which mingled with, and qualified that bestowed by nature. Her profuse hair, of a colour betwixt brown and flaxen, was arranged in a fanciful and graceful manner in numerous ringlets, to form which art had probably aided nature . . .

"When Rowena perceived the Knight Templar's eyes bent on her with an ardour, that, compared with the dark caverns under which they moved, gave them the effect of lighted charcoal, she drew with dignity the veil around her face, as an intimation that the determined freedom of his glance was disagreeable."

-from Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott


Really, Scott? "A graceful eyebrow of brown sufficiently marked to give expression to the forehead?"

Ivanhoe is a rip-roaring good adventure, but sometimes the writing style makes me want to bang my head on the coffee table. Or fall asleep.


  1. Mmmm, yes. I had a hard time getting through the book for that very reason!

  2. Sir Walter Scott is best read at the age of 13, when the soul is more sensitive to nobility than refinement, and then left quaintly on the shelf to collect dust for the next generation.

  3. I'm tutoring a sixteen-year-old in literature this summer, and he specifically requested Ivanhoe (he has never read it). He is a discerning reader, so we'll see what he thinks of it.