Quentin Durward is a young Scotsman seeking fame and fortune in the France of Louis XI in the fifteenth century. He kws little and understands less, but Scott represents his igrance and naivete as useful to 'the most sagacious prince in Europe' who needs servants motivated solely by the desire for coin and credit and lacking any interest in France which would interfere with the execution of his political aims. In Quentin Durward Scott studies the first modern state in the process of destroying the European feudal system. By far the most important of Scott's sources for Quentin Durward is the splendid Memoirs of Philippe de Comines. Comines, who has more than a walk-on role in the vel itself, was trusted councillor of Charles the Bold of Burgundy until 1472, when Louis XI persuaded him to enter his service. Scott's contrasting portraits of Louis and Charles, crafty king and fiery duke, essentially derives from Comines, whose memoirs are generally regarded as the first example of modern analytical history rather than chronicle. But it is as story that Quentin Durward succeeds, and it is one of Scott's most absorbing tales.
J. H. Alexander is Reader Emeritus in English at the University of Aberdeen. G A M Wood was formerly Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Stirling.