Peveril of the Peak

Peveril of the Peak
Author Sir Walter Scott
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series Waverley novels
Genre Historical novel
Publisher Constable and Co.
Publication date
January 7, 1823
Media type Print (Hardback)

Peveril of the Peak (1823) is the longest novel by Sir Walter Scott. Along with Ivanhoe, Woodstock and Kenilworth, this is one of Scott's English novels, with the main action taking place around 1678.

Plot introduction

Julian Peveril, a Cavalier, is in love with Alice Bridgenorth, a Roundhead's daughter, but both he and his father are accused of involvement with the "Popish Plot" of 1678.

Most of the story takes place in Derbyshire, London, and on the Isle of Man. The title refers to Peveril Castle in Castleton, Derbyshire.

Plot summary

Sir Geoffrey Peveril and Major Bridgenorth had been boys together; and although they adopted different views in religion and politics, the major's influence had saved the Royalist's life after the battle of Bolton-le-Moors, and Lady Peveril had brought up his motherless girl, Alice, with her own son. After the Restoration, the Countess of Derby, who, through treachery, had suffered a long imprisonment by the Roundheads, sought protection at Martindale Castle, where Bridgenorth would have arrested her for having caused his brother-in-law, William Christian, to be shot as a traitor, had not the knight interfered by tearing up the warrant, and escorting her through Cheshire on her return to the Isle of Man. Alice was of course withdrawn from his wife's care, and it was supposed the major had emigrated to New England. Several years afterwards Sir Geoffrey's son Julian became the companion of the young earl, and, with the nurse Deborah's connivance, renewed his intimacy with his foster sister, who was under the care of her widowed aunt, Dame Christian. At one of the secret interviews between them, they were surprised by the entrance of her father, who related some of his religious experiences, and vaguely hinted that his consent to their marriage was not impossible. The next night, having undertaken to proceed to London, to clear the countess and her son from the suspicion of being concerned in Titus Oates's pretended Popish plot, Julian was conducted to a sloop by Fenella, his patron's deaf and dumb dwarf, and, as she was being taken ashore against her will while he was asleep, he dreamt that he heard Alice's voice calling for his help.

At Liverpool he met Topham with a warrant against Sir Geoffrey, and on his way to the Peak to warn him, he travelled with Edward Christian, passing as Ganlesse, a priest, who led him to an inn, where they supped with Chiffinch, a servant of Charles II. On reaching Martindale Castle, he found his father and mother in the custody of Roundheads, and he was taken by Bridgenorth as a prisoner to Moultrassie Hall, where Alice received them, and he recognised Ganlesse among a number of Puritan visitors. During the night the Hall was attacked by the dependents and miners of the Peveril estate, and, having regained his liberty, Julian started, with Lance as his servant, in search of his parents, who he ascertained were on their way to London in charge of Topham. At an inn where they halted, Julian overheard Chiffinch revealing to a courtier a plot against Alice, and that he had been robbed of the papers entrusted to him by the countess, which, however, he managed to recover the next morning.

Julian Peveril and Alice Bridgenorth, surprised by Major Ralph Bridgenorth (Richard Parkes Bonington, ca. 1826)

Meanwhile, Christian, under whose care Bridgenorth had placed his daughter, communicated to the Duke of Buckingham a design he had formed of introducing her to Charles II, and, at an interview with her father, endeavoured to persuade him to abandon the idea of marrying her to young Peveril. Having reached London, Julian met Fenella, who led him into St. James's Park, where she attracted the notice of the king by dancing, and he sent them both to await his return at Chiffinch's apartments. Alice was already under the care of Mistress Chiffinch, and escaped from an interview with the duke to find herself in the presence of Charles and her lover, with whom, after he had placed the countess's papers in the king's hands, she was allowed to depart. Julian, however, lost her in a street fray, and having been committed to Newgate for wounding his assailant, he was placed in the same cell with the queen's dwarf, and conversed with an invisible speaker. After startling Christian with the news that his niece had disappeared, the duke bribed Colonel Blood to intercept his movements, so that he might not discover where she was, and was then himself astonished at finding Fenella instead of Alice, who had been captured by his servants in his house, and at her equally unexpected defiance of and escape from him.

A few days afterwards, Sir Geoffrey Peveril, his son and the dwarf were tried for aiding and abetting Oates's Plot; but after nearly three years and the execution of at least fifteen innocent men, opinion had begun to turn against Oates. The last high-profile victim of the climate of suspicion was Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop of Armagh, whose unjust slaughter is retold by Scott with no small dose of bitterness. Sir Geoffrey, his son and the dwarf are, at length, all acquitted. In order, however, to avoid the mob, they take refuge in a room, where they encounter Bridgenorth, who convinces Julian that they are in his power, and allows Christian to propose to the Duke of Buckingham that several hundred Fifth-Monarchy men, led by Colonel Blood, should seize the king, and proclaim his Grace Lord-Lieutenant of the kingdom. The same afternoon Charles has just granted an audience to the Countess of Derby, when the dwarf emerges from a violoncello case and reveals the conspiracy which Fenella had enabled him to overhear. It then transpires that Bridgenorth had released the Peverils, and that Christian had trained his daughter Fenella, whose real name was Zarah, to feign being deaf and dumb, in order that she might act as his spy; but that her secret love for Julian had frustrated the execution of his vengeance against the countess. He is allowed to leave the country, and the major, who on recovering Alice by Fenella's aid, had placed her under Lady Peveril's care, having offered to restore some of Sir Geoffrey's domains which had passed into his hands as her dowry, the king's recommendation secures the old knight's consent to the marriage which within a few weeks unites the Martindale-Moultrassie families and estates.


Vale of Edale in Derbyshire, north of Peveril Castle
Sulby River, Isle of Man

Allusions and references

The character of Fenella, a deaf and dumb fairy-like attendant of the Countess of Derby, was suggested by Goethe's Mignon in Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship.[1] The hiding of the Countess of Derby in the novel was based on the story of Mrs. Macfarlane which took place around 1716.[2]

"Peak-haunting Peveril" is one of many topical references in "The Heavy Dragoon Song" from Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience (opera).


  1. Eckermann.Gespräche mit Goethe., insel-verlag, S. 129
  2. T. F. Henderson, ‘Macfarlane, Mrs (fl. 1716–1719)’, rev. Barbara White, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 10 May 2015

This article incorporates text from the revised 1898 edition of Henry Grey's A Key to the Waverley Novels (1880), now in the public domain.

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