The Highland inn

The Highland inn - Anonymous A two-decker, not a three-decker, but this 1839 romance is very much in the vein of Sir Walter Scott, though it has a contemporary not a historical setting, and contains rather more discursive writing than a Scott novel usually indulged in. The anonymous author is an analyst of sentiment, and does not hesitate to have his male characters weep (or to make merciless fun of his one obligatory old maid character).

The narrative device is a first-person journal (by Dr. McAlpine), with an unnamed editor rearranging the pieces - it appears the journal form over-constricted our author! - and many subsidiary narrators as necessary. What appears at the beginning to be a rather disjointed set of tales in fact resolves itself rather better than expected into a single, if rather convoluted set of relationships all centering around a mother and daughter (Miss Caroline Ashton/Atkinson), similar in colouring and stature, who are the love objects of the various men, heroic and villainous, of the piece.

I enjoyed very much the natural description in this novel; perhaps I am a better reader of this kind of thing than I was in my youth, but the descriptions of the natural scenes seemed to me to be quite fresh and not overwrought. The author even had the temerity to take us to Melrose Abbey by moonlight (although with multiple bows to Sir Walter!)

Anyway, unexpectedly good for the anonymous shelf; a few annoying errors in diction or grammar, but fewer than one finds in the average drugstore novel today.