The Bride of Lammermoor
“Then he began to talk of school and and of books. He asked us whether we
had read the poetry of Thomas Moore or the works of Sir Walter Scott and
Lord Lytton. I pretended that I had read every book he mentioned so that in
the end he said:
—Ah, I can see you are a bookworm like myself.”
-“An Encounter” (D 25)
“An Encounter” asks its reader to consider the nature of the bookworm. A bookworm is, of course, someone fond of reading, but it seems to entail more than this also. The bookworm burrows into the book, shapes its world from the stories which surround it, takes sustenance from the pages, and makes its own narrative as it moves through the book according to a logic of its own. In many ways, “An Encounter” and The Bride of Lammermoor are stories told by bookworms. Scott begins The Bride of Lammermoor with an epigraph from Don Quixote:
It is mighty well, said the priest; pray. landlord, bring me those books, for I have a mind to see them. With all my heart, answered the host; and going to his chamber, he brought out a little old cloke-bag, with a padlock and chain to it, and opening it, he took out three large volumes, and some manuscript papers written in a fine character. (n.p.)
Scott, who began a translation of Don Quixote at age fourteen, uses the epigraph to gesture toward the framing devices he employs in the Waverley novels. The Bride of Lammermoor belongs to a series of novels entitled “Tales of My Landlord,” which is often considered a subset of the larger Waverley collection. Scott gives the impression that the novels are written by one Jedediah Cleishbotham who is editing the stories of the late Peter Pattieson who heard the tales from his landlord. The landlord in Cervantes’s tale has inherited a portmanteau of books and manuscripts containing chivalric stories. The man of the house takes great pride and entertainment from the books, which he keeps under lock and key. The priest who asks for the books wishes to burn half of them because of their fictional content, wanting only to retain the rigorously historical and morally upright works.
Scott’s novel, in its textual and material forms, deploys narrative strategies similar to those in Dubliners. A dual encounter characterizes Joyce’s story. On one level, the narrator and Mahoney are shaped by the events in Ringsend, and on another, they are shaped by the textual worlds they inhabit. Just as Cervantes’s Don Quixote or Scott’s Jedediah Cleishbotham, Joyce’s characters inhabit fictional narratives that drive their actions.