Art, Beauty, Curriculum
Comments 2


Charlotte Mason loved to read the novels of Sir Walter Scott.  I titled this “her reading” as I think about what was by her bedside. Right now I have a book that she probably would have had there at some point, The Talisman by Sir Walter Scott. I have another book that I found at a thrift store by Washington Irving entitled Abbotsford.  This is Scott’s home.  And, it is Irving’s narration of a visit to Mr. Walter Scott (before he became SIR) at the time of Scott’s publishing Rob Roy. Irving’s knock on the door turned into a few days visit for that was Scott’s way: “You think our neighborhood is to be read in a morning, like a newspaper,” said Scott. “It takes several days of study for an observant traveler that has a relish for auld world trumpery.”  Irving writes, “…I found myself committed for a visit of several days, and it seemed as if a little realm of romance was suddenly opened before me.”

He was the author of the day alongside Dickens and Austin and Bronte.  Scott gathered the stories of Scotland from listening to his grandmother and aunts tell the old ballads, folklore of a nation, which kindled his imagination and strung them into his calling.  He was natural at narration. Irving said anyone with him became his companion to converse and relished the flow of the stores in his memory. One caught the vigor of his imagination because his narratives and descriptions were wonderfully graphic. “He placed the scene before you like a picture; he gave the dialogue with the appropriate dialect or peculiarities, and described the appearance and characters of his personages with that spirit and felicity evinced in his writings. Indeed, his conversation reminded me of his novels.”

Today he is not in most curriculums. I wasn’t educated with his works.  Scott’s Waverly Novels come into the Amblesideonline curriculum in Year 7, free reading in Year 6. Are our students different than Charlotte Mason’s in their interests and reading levels? My high school literature students are reading The Talisman and finding it hard.  That is good.  It will challenge their minds, help them to discipline themselves in reading more slowly, and perhaps become better thinkers. Will they slow down from our fast-paced technological age to grasp the richness of the literature? Does the delight reach their minds, hearts and souls when it is hard?  Will education become online with clicks and such brief readings that it will be hard for a teacher to bring in Scott or even Moby Dick?

Will the brief encounters that technology affords provide slow, rich reading that Mason did when she read Scott?  What will we miss? As Scott said, “You think our neighborhood is to be read in a morning, like a newspaper.” There is something to that for us moderns. How will we use our technology?  Can we use it to truly read our “neighborhood,” or will it drive us to distraction?

This entry was posted in: Art, Beauty, Curriculum


Carroll Smith has spoken on various topics related to Charlotte Mason. Currently he teaches at Gardner-Webb University and enjoys working with children, teachers, college students, and Charlotte Mason Institute. He was a teacher and a principal for 21 years before coming to Gardner-Webb University where he has been for six years. Having grown up in eastern North Carolina, he attended East Carolina University for his undergraduate degree and his master's in school administration. He completed his terminal degree and wrote his dissertation on Charlotte Mason at Virginia Tech. Carroll enjoys reading, gardening, and discussing ideas with friends. He and his wife, Andra, and their two young adult college-age children, Corban and Anna, enjoy living, working and playing in North Carolina.


  1. I read my second Scott novel last December (The Monastery published in 1820). I found it more readable than anticipated and loved to see how Scott used “your words pierce my very soul” very differently from Austen in Persuasion (1818) “you pierce my soul.” I actually gasped when I saw it!



    So, was this phrasing in common usage? Did Scott lift it from Austen? Was it a coincidence? Such fun rabbit trails to ponder!

  2. storybookfamily says

    Bonnie, I enjoyed this and have the same questions regarding technology and have limited it in some ways with my children, spending more time with books, drawing, practical skills, and handicrafts. However, watching old movies has inspired my 13 year old to read Hugo, Austen, and Dickens for pleasure, in addition to her assigned books, so I’m thrilled! Her goal is to read all of Jane Austen’s books this summer. I just finished Ivanhoe, my first Scott, and look forward to more.


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