In Guy Mannering (1815), Walter Scott provides a largely sympathetic portrayal of the Romani, or Gypsies, in Scotland, and the Gypsy heroine Meg Merrilies is the crucial lynchpin of the narrative that provides the impetus for the story’s resolution. This focus on the Romani and their positive representation in the novel reveals an inclusive sensibility that emphasises the role of minority and underrepresented groups in national narratives and historical memory. In support of this effort, Scott’s Gypsies are endowed with relatable and sympathetic qualities that stress their humanity, and one of the ways that this is accomplished is by associating the Gypsies with the Scots, and, in particular, with the Highlanders, a population that has been persecuted and oppressed in their own right. The similarities between the Highlanders and Scott’s Romani in Guy Mannering first become apparent in the violent eviction of the Gypsy community at Derncleugh, which points to the contemporary tragedy of the Highland Clearances. By reviewing first-hand accounts of the Clearances, Scott’s personal writings, and passages from the novel, it becomes apparent that this comparison is most likely a purposeful one, which serves two simultaneous purposes: it draws attention to and provides a critique of contemporary events in Scotland, and it elicits sympathy through shared experience for the fictional Gypsies in the novel and their real-life counterparts, which helps to link them to Scotland and the imagined community of the nation.
KEYWORDS:Walter Scott, Scotland, Clearances, Highlanders, Romani, Gypsies