Kenilworth, by Sir Walter Scott, Limited Editions Club

Kenilworth, A Romance is a historical novel by Sir Walter Scott, first published in 1821. Kenilworth is set in the late 1500’s, and revolves around the secret marriage of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, and Amy Robsart, daughter of Sir Hugh Robsart. Amy and the Earl love each other, though she shares his love with his ambition. He has to keep this marriage secret so he can attain the level of power and prestige he desires through the favor of Queen Elizabeth I.

The themes of ambition versus love, along with selfishness and selflessness are exemplified in the characterization of Amy and Robert, who really do love each other tempering their other not so positive traits, and by Tressilian and Varney; the first loves Amy and is completely selfless in his devotion to her,  while the second serves the Earl, but is utterly ambitious, ruthless and selfish with nothing to counterbalance these traits. I will not give the plot completely away other than saying the results are tragic.

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) was a Scottish historical novelist whose writing was extremely popular throughout the world during his lifetime, and largely remains so to this day. Many of his works remain significant in the Western Canon, including Rob RoyWaverley and Ivanhoein addition to Kenilworth.  In the early and mid parts of the 20th century Scott’s reputation suffered, though, like much of the over-reaction Modernism foisted upon us, the pendulum is swinging back in his favor. His influence is unquestionable; it can be legitimately claimed that Scott invented the modern historical novel.

Clarke Hutton (1898-1984) illustrated the 1966 Limited Editions Club (LEC) edition of Kenilworth. In the late 1920′s, he was taught lithography by A.S. Hartrick, one of the foremost lithographers of his day. Hutton took over for Hartrick teaching at the Central School of Arts & Crafts in London from 1930-1968. He illustrated books for Oxford University Press, Penguin and The Folio Society, in addition to LEC. He also illustrated the LEC’s New Arabian Nights, reviewed here (the style is exactly the same as used in Kenilworth).

David Daiches (1912–2005) provides the introduction to the 1966 LEC edition of Kenilworth.  As a Scottish literary historian and literary critic who wrote extensively on English and Scottish literature, he was an inspired choice to provide some background remarks on Sir Walter Scott and to provide some literary context to the story.

As for the LEC edition, I like the golden colored cloth binding (though it takes some getting used to) and the line drawings, but I struggle some with the full page illustrations. Something about the full package just does not completely click with me. Don’t get me wrong, it is a nicely done book, just not one of my favorite LEC’s.

About the LEC Edition

  • Published in 1966
  • Illustrated with drawings and paintings by Clarke Hutton, who also signs the edition
  • Introduction by David Daiches
  • Printed at The Lane Press, Burlington, Vermont from the typographic plan of Robert L. Dothard
  • Full gold brocade
  • 568 pages
  • Limited to 1500 copies

Pictures of the LEC Edition

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{Ed. Note: I took these pictures in my local book store, so lighting is not great, and the camera was not my ‘good’ one…but, I think they are good enough to get the point!}

Kenilworth, LEC, Slipcase Spine
Kenilworth, LEC, Book Spine and Cover
Kenilworth, LEC, Cover
Kenilworth, LEC, Title Page
Kenilworth, LEC, Sample Text #1 (Chapter One)
Kenilworth, LEC, Sample Illustration #1
Kenilworth, LEC, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
Kenilworth, LEC, Sample Illustration #3 with Text
Kenilworth, LEC, Sample Illustration #4 with Text
Kenilworth, LEC, Colophon

4 thoughts on “Kenilworth, by Sir Walter Scott, Limited Editions Club

  1. This is one of my favorite Scott novels published by the Club. I bought it directly from the Club as a member in 1966. the cloth binding is luxurious, and this kind of treatment always worked well since many of the Clubs examples of illustrated bindings did not. Many appear as afterthoughts so I always liked the ones with superior bindings rather than ones with cover illustrations. Of course there are exceptions such as The Scarlet Letter with its carouche of Hester’s emblem and the civil war soldiers embossed on The Red Badge ….cover.

    No one knows if Robert Dudley murdered his secret wife, Amy Robsart, but Scott put all of the historical facts togrther and made a rollicking good mystery out of it. And I like the illustrations which do a remarkable job of portraying the deep intrigue found in the novel. I have all of the Scott novels published by the club,but this is the only one I have read twice.

    But alas, while my copy remains in Mint condition, Kenilworth castle is no more. I believe the grounds have been preserved as part of England’s historical heritage, but the castle has ceased to exist, perhaps following Amy Robsart into another world.

    1. I agree with Django about the appropriateness of the Edward Wilson illustrations for Ivanhoe. But Kenilworth is not Ivanhoe,Wison’s type of illustrations wouldn’t have worked in what was after all an historical murder mystery. I believe Hutton’s illustrations work exceedingly well in visually depicting sixteenth century intrigue and murder.

      Don Floyd

  2. Chris, it’s interesting that we have almost identical reactions to Hutton. I just wrote to Faisel that the LEC “New Arabian Nights,” though a gem and containing some of my favorite RLS stories, is not one of my favorite–mostly because I can’t get overly enthusiastic about Hutton’s work. I can’t put my finger on the reasons why, exactly, but only offer the comparison between the illustrations in this book, and E.A.Wilson’s illustrations for [Ivanhoe] as an example of what I consider appropriate art for Scott.

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