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Walter Scott

Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet

Raeburn's portrait of Sir Walter Scott in 1822.
Born 15 August 1771
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died 21 September 1832(1832-09-21) (aged 61)
Melrose, Scotland,
Occupation Historical novelist, Poet, Lawyer, Sheriff of Selkirkshire
Nationality Scottish
Literary movement Romanticism
Spouse(s) Margaret Charlotte Carpenter

Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet (15 August 1771 ' 21 September 1832) was a Scottish historical novelist, playwright, and poet, popular throughout much of the world during his time.

Scott was the first English-language author to have a truly international career in his lifetime, with many contemporary readers in Europe, Australia, and North America. His novels and poetry are still read, and many of his works remain classics of both English-language literature and of Scottish literature. Famous titles include Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, The Lady of The Lake, Waverley, The Heart of Midlothian and The Bride of Lammermoor.


[edit] Early days

Scott's childhood at Sandyknowe farm, seen across the lochan from Smailholm Tower, introduced him to the Borders.

Born in College Wynd in the Old Town of Edinburgh in 1771, the son of a solicitor, Scott survived a childhood bout of polio in 1773 that left him lame. To cure his lameness he was sent in 1773 to live in the rural Borders region at his grandparents' farm at Sandyknowe, adjacent to the ruin of Smailholm Tower, the earlier family home. Here he was taught to read by his aunt Jenny, and learned from her the speech patterns and many of the tales and legends that characterised much of his work. In January 1775 he returned to Edinburgh, and that summer went with his aunt Jenny to take spa treatment at Bath in England, where they lived at 6 South Parade.[1] In the winter of 1776 he went back to Sandyknowe, with another attempt at a water cure at Prestonpans during the following summer.[2]

In 1778 Scott returned to Edinburgh for private education to prepare him for school, and in October 1779 he began at the Royal High School of Edinburgh. He was now well able to walk and explore the city and the surrounding countryside. His reading included chivalric romances, poems, history and travel books. He was given private tuition by James Mitchell in arithmetic and writing, and learned from him the history of the Kirk with emphasis on the Covenanters. After finishing school he was sent to stay for six months with his aunt Jenny in Kelso, attending the local Grammar School where he met James Ballantyne who later became his business partner and printed his books.[3]

[edit] Scott's meeting with Blacklock and Burns

Scott began studying classics at the University of Edinburgh in November 1783, at the age of only 12, a year or so younger than most of his fellow students. In March 1786 he began an apprenticeship in his father's office to become a Writer to the Signet. While at the university Scott had become a friend of Adam Ferguson, the son of Professor Adam Ferguson who hosted literary salons. Scott met the blind poet Thomas Blacklock who lent him books as well as introducing him to James Macpherson's Ossian cycle of poems. During the winter of 1786'87 the 15-year-old Scott saw Robert Burns at one of these salons, for what was to be their only meeting. When Burns noticed a print illustrating the poem "The Justice of the Peace" and asked who had written the poem, only Scott knew that it was by John Langhorne, and was thanked by Burns.[4] When it was decided that he would become a lawyer, he returned to the university to study law, first taking classes in Moral Philosophy and Universal History in 1789'90.[3]

After completing his studies in law, he became a lawyer in Edinburgh. As a lawyer's clerk he made his first visit to the Scottish Highlands directing an eviction. He was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1792. He had an unsuccessful love suit with Williamina Belsches of Fettercairn, who married Sir William Forbes, 6th Baronet.

[edit] Literary career launched

Scott's childhood at Sandyknowes, close to Smailholm Tower, introduced him to tales of the Scottish Borders.

At the age of 25 he began dabbling in writing, translating works from German, his first publication being rhymed versions of ballads by Gottfried August Bürger in 1796. He then published a three-volume set of collected Scottish ballads, The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. This was the first sign from a literary standpoint of his interest in Scottish history.

Scott then became an ardent volunteer in the yeomanry. On one of his "raids" at Gilsland Spa he met Margaret Genevieve Charpentier (or Charpenter), daughter of Jean Charpentier of Lyon in France. They married in 1797 and had five children, only 4 survived by the time he died. In 1799 he was appointed Sheriff-Depute of the County of Selkirk, based in the Royal Burgh of Selkirk.

In his early married days Scott had a decent living from his earnings at the law, his salary as Sheriff-Depute, his wife's income, some revenue from his writing, and his share of his father's rather meagre estate.

After Scott had founded a printing press, his poetry brought him fame, beginning with The Lay of the Last Minstrel in 1805. He published other poems over the next ten years, including the popular The Lady of the Lake, printed in 1810 and set in the Trossachs. Portions of the German translation of this work were set to music by Franz Schubert. One of these songs, Ellens dritter Gesang, is popularly labelled as "Schubert's Ave Maria".

Another work from this period, Marmion, produced some of his most quoted lines. Canto VI. Stanza 17 reads:

Yet Clare's sharp questions must I shun,
Must separate Constance from the nun
Oh! what a tangled web we weave
When first we practise to deceive!
A Palmer too! No wonder why
I felt rebuked beneath his eye;

In 1809 Scott became partners with John Ballantyne in a book-selling business and also, as an ardent political conservative, helped to found the Tory Quarterly Review, a review journal to which he made several anonymous contributions.

In 1813 he was offered the position of Poet Laureate. He declined, and the position went to Robert Southey.[5]

[edit] Novels

Walter Scott

When the printing business became embroiled in pecuniary difficulties, Scott decided in 1814 to write a cash-cow. The result was Waverley, a novel that did not name its author. It was a tale of the Jacobite rising of 1745 in the Kingdom of Great Britain. Its English protagonist was Edward Waverley, by his Tory upbringing sympathetic to the Jacobite cause. Becoming enmeshed in events, however, he eventually chooses Hanoverian respectability. The novel met with considerable success. There followed a succession of novels over the next five years, each with a Scottish historical setting. Mindful of his reputation as a poet, Scott maintained the anonymity he had begun with Waverley, always publishing the novels under the name Author of Waverley or attributed as "Tales of..." with no author. Even when it was clear that there would be no harm in coming out into the open, he maintained the façade, apparently out of a sense of fun. During this time the nickname The Wizard of the North was popularly applied to the mysterious best-selling writer. His identity as the author of the novels was widely rumoured, and in 1815 Scott was given the honour of dining with George, Prince Regent, who wanted to meet "the author of Waverley".

In 1819 he changed from writing about Scotland with Ivanhoe, a historical romance set in 12th-century England. That book featured a sympathetic Jewish character named Rebecca, considered by many critics to be the book's real heroine, remarkable at a time when the struggle for the Emancipation of the Jews in England was gathering momentum. It too was a success, and he wrote several others along similar lines.

Scott wrote The Bride of Lammermoor based on a true story of two lovers, in the setting of the Lammermuir Hills. In the novel, Lucie Ashton and Edgar Ravenswood exchange vows, but Lucie's mother discovers that Edgar is an enemy of their family. She intervenes and forces her daughter to marry Sir Arthur Bucklaw, who has just inherited a large sum of money on the death of his aunt. On their wedding night, Lucie stabs the bridegroom, succumbs to insanity, and dies. Donizetti's opera Lucia di Lammermoor was based on Scott's novel.

As his fame grew, Walter Scott was granted the title of baronet, becoming Sir Walter Scott in 1820. He organised the visit of King George IV to Scotland, and concocted spectacular pageantry to portray George as a rather tubby reincarnation of Bonnie Prince Charlie. When the King visited Edinburgh in 1822, Scott's pageantry made tartans and kilts fashionable and turned them into symbols of Scottish national identity.

Scott included little in the way of punctuation in his drafts, leaving such details to the printers to supply.[6]

He eventually acknowledged in 1827 that he was the author of the Waverley novels.[7]

[edit] Financial woes

Beginning in 1825, he again went into dire financial straits as his printing company nearly collapsed. Rather than declare bankruptcy, Scott placed his home and income into a trust belonging to his creditors, and proceeded to write his way out of debt. He kept up his prodigious output of fiction, as well as producing a biography of Napoléon Bonaparte, until 1831. By then his health was failing, and he died at his home in 1832. Though he died in debt, his novels continued to sell and eventually did clear his debts.

[edit] His home, Abbotsford House

When Scott was a boy, he sometimes travelled with his father from Selkirk to Melrose in the Border Country where some of his novels are set. At a certain spot the old gentleman would stop the carriage and take his son to a stone on the site of the Battle of Melrose (1526). Not far away was a little farm called Cartleyhole, and this Scott eventually purchased. The farmhouse developed into a wonderful home that has been likened to a fairy palace. Through windows enriched with the insignia of heraldry the sun shone on suits of armour, trophies of the chase, a library of over 9,000 volumes,[8] fine furniture, and still finer pictures. Panelling of oak and cedar and carved ceilings relieved by coats of arms in their correct colours added to the beauty of the house.

It is estimated that the building cost him over –25,000. More land was purchased until Scott owned nearly 1,000 acres (4 km–). A neighbouring Roman road with a ford used in olden days by the abbots of Melrose suggested the name of Abbotsford. Although Scott died at Abbotsford, he was buried in Dryburgh Abbey, where nearby there is a large statue of William Wallace, one of Scotland's many romanticised historical figures.

[edit] Later assessment

Sir Walter Scott's study at Abbotsford

Scott was the most popular writer in the United States in the nineteenth century, but his acclaim was not universal. In 1883 Mark Twain satirised the impact of his writings, declaring that Scott "had so large a hand in making Southern character, as it existed before the [American Civil] war, that he is in great measure responsible for the war".[9] Twain ridiculed chivalry in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, in which the main character repeatedly utters "great Scott" as an oath. Twain also targeted Scott in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, where he names a sinking boat the Walter Scott.

From being one of the most popular novelists of the 19th century,[10] Scott suffered from a decline in popularity after the First World War. The tone was set in E.M. Forster's classic Aspects of the Novel (1927), where Scott was savaged as being a clumsy writer who wrote slapdash, badly plotted novels. Scott also suffered from the rising star of Jane Austen, who was considered merely an entertaining "woman's novelist" in the 19th century. But in the 20th century, Austen began to be seen as perhaps the major English novelist of the first few decades of the 19th century. As Austen's star rose, Scott's sank, although, ironically, he had been one of the few male writers of his time to recognise Austen's genius.

Scott's ponderousness and wordiness were out of step with Modernist sensibilities. Nevertheless, he was responsible for two major trends that carry on to this day. First, he essentially invented the modern historical novel; an enormous number of imitators (and imitators of imitators) appeared in the 19th century. It is a measure of Scott's influence that Edinburgh's central railway station, opened in 1854 by the North British Railway, is called Waverley. Second, his Scottish novels followed on from James Macpherson's Ossian cycle in rehabilitating the public perception of Highland culture after years in the shadows following southern distrust of hill bandits and the Jacobite rebellions. As enthusiastic chairman of the Celtic Society of Edinburgh, he contributed to the reinvention of Scottish culture. It is worth noting, however, that Scott was a Lowland Scot, and that his re-creations of the Highlands were more than a little fanciful. His organisation of the visit of King George IV to Scotland in 1822 was a pivotal event, leading Edinburgh tailors to invent many "clan tartans" out of whole cloth, so to speak. After being essentially unstudied for many decades, a small revival of interest in Scott's work began in the 1970s and 1980s. Postmodern tastes favoured discontinuous narratives and the introduction of the 'first person', yet they were more favourable to Scott's work than Modernist tastes. F.R. Leavis had rubbished Scott, seeing him as a thoroughly bad novelist and a thoroughly bad influence (The Great Tradition (1948)); Marilyn Butler, however, offered a political reading of the fiction of the period that found a great deal of genuine interest in his work (Romantics, Revolutionaries, and Reactionaries (1981)). Scott is now seen as an important innovator and a key figure in the development of Scottish and world literature.

[edit] Memorials and commemoration

The Scott Monument, Edinburgh

During his lifetime, Scott's portrait was painted by Sir Edwin Landseer and fellow-Scots Sir Henry Raeburn and James Eckford Lauder.

In Edinburgh, the 61.1 metre tall Victorian Gothic spire of the Scott Monument was designed by George Meikle Kemp. It was completed in 1844, 12 years after Scott's death, and dominates the south side of Princes Street. Scott is also commemorated on a stone slab in Makars' Court, outside The Writers' Museum, Lawnmarket, Edinburgh, along with other prominent Scottish writers; quotes from his work are also visible on the Canongate Wall of the Scottish Parliament building in Holyrood. There is a tower dedicated to his memory on Corstorphine Hill in the west of the city and as mentioned previous Edinburgh Waverley railway station takes the name of one of his novels.

In Glasgow, Walter Scott's Monument dominates the centre of George Square, the main public square in the city. Designed by David Rhind in 1838, the monument features a large column topped by a statue of Scott.[11]

There is a statue of Scott in New York City's Central Park.[12]

[edit] Appearance on banknotes

Scott has been credited with rescuing the Scottish banknote. In 1826, there was outrage in Scotland at the attempt of Parliament to prevent the production of banknotes of less than five pounds. Scott wrote a series of letters to the Edinburgh Weekly Journal under the pseudonym "Malachi Malagrowther" for retaining the right of Scottish banks to issue their own banknotes. This provoked such a response that the Government was forced to relent and allow the Scottish banks to continue printing pound notes. This campaign is commemorated by his continued appearance on the front of all notes issued by the Bank of Scotland. The image on the 2007 series of banknotes is based on the portrait by Henry Raeburn.[13]

[edit] Works

[edit] The Waverley Novels

[edit] Tales of My Landlord

[edit] Tales from Benedictine Sources

[edit] Short stories collections

  • Chronicles of the Canongate, 1st series (1827). Collection of three short stories:

"The Highland Widow, "The Two Drovers" and "The Surgeon's Daughter".

  • The Keepsake Stories (1828). Collection of three short stories:

"My Aunt Margaret's Mirror", "The Tapestried Chamber" and "Death Of The Laird's Jock".

[edit] Poetry

[edit] Other

  • Introductory Essay to The Border Antiquities of England and Scotland (1814'1817)
  • The Chase (translator) (1796)
  • Goetz of Berlichingen (translator) (1799)
  • Paul's Letters to his Kinsfolk (1816)
  • Provincial Antiquities of Scotland (1819'1826)
  • Lives of the Novelists (1821'1824)
  • Essays on Chivalry, Romance, and Drama Supplement to the 1815'24 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica
  • Halidon Hill (1822)
  • The Letters of Malachi Malagrowther (1826)
  • The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte (1827)
  • Religious Discourses (1828)
  • Tales of a Grandfather, 1st series (1828)
  • History of Scotland, 2 vols. (1829'1830)
  • Tales of a Grandfather, 2nd series (1829)
  • The Doom of Devorgoil (1830)
  • Wild Deception (1830)
  • Essays on Ballad Poetry (1830)
  • Tales of a Grandfather, 3rd series (1830)
  • Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft (1830)
  • The Bishop of Tyre

[edit] Quote

Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
from The Lay of the Last Minstrel by Walter Scott

Oh! what a tangled web we weave
When first we practise to deceive!

from Marmion, Canto VI. Stanza 17. by Walter Scott

[edit] References in other literature

In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, there is a wrecked ship called Walter Scott.

In To Kill a Mockingbird, the protagonist is made to read Walter Scott's book Ivanhoe, and he refers to the author as "Sir Walter Scout", in reference to his own sister's nickname.

In To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf a few of the characters discuss their views on Scott's Waverley Novels at dinner. Afterwards, one of the characters sits down to read and reacts to The Antiquary.

In Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., memoirist and playwright Howard W. Campbell, Jr. prefaces his text with the six lines beginning "Breathes there the man. . ."

In John Brown by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emerson writes, "Walter Scott would have delighted to draw his picture and trace his adventurous career."

In Knights of the Sea by Paul Marlowe, there are several quotes from and references to Marmion, as well as an inn named after Ivanhoe, and a fictitious Scott novel entitled The Beastmen of Glen Glammoch.

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ "No 1 Nos 2 and 3 (Farrell's Hotel) Nos 4 to 8 (consec) (Pratt's Hotel)". Images of England. English Heritage. http://www.imagesofengland.org.uk/Details/Default.aspx?id=443617. Retrieved 29 Jul. 2009. 
  2. ^ "Sandyknowe and Early Childhood". Walterscott.lib.ed.ac.uk. 24 Oct. 2003. http://www.walterscott.lib.ed.ac.uk/biography/sandy.html. Retrieved 29 Nov. 2009. 
  3. ^ a b "School and University". Walterscott.lib.ed.ac.uk. 24 Oct. 2003. http://www.walterscott.lib.ed.ac.uk/biography/education.html. Retrieved 29 Nov. 2009. 
  4. ^ "Literary Beginnings". Walterscott.lib.ed.ac.uk. 11 Dec. 2007. http://www.walterscott.lib.ed.ac.uk/biography/beginning.html. Retrieved 29 Nov. 2009. 
  5. ^ "Scott the Poet". Walterscott.lib.ed.ac.uk. 11 Dec. 2007. http://www.walterscott.lib.ed.ac.uk/biography/poet.html. Retrieved 29 Nov. 2009. 
  6. ^ Stuart Kelly quoted by Arnold Zwicky in The Book of Lost Books at Language Log
  7. ^ "Walter Scott Digital Archive - Chronology". Walterscott.lib.ed.ac.uk. 13 Oct. 2008. http://www.walterscott.lib.ed.ac.uk/biography/chronology.html. Retrieved 29 Nov. 2009. 
  8. ^ Abbotsford House website. See also Advocates Library, search on keywords 'Abbotsford' and 'Collection' for catalogue of the library at Abbotsford
  9. ^ Twain, Mark. "Life on the Mississippi", Chapter 46
  10. ^ "'it would be difficult to name, from among both modern and ancient works, many read more widely and with greater pleasure than the historical novels of ' Walter Scott." 'Alessandro Manzoni, On the Historical Novel
  11. ^ http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/site/143263/details/glasgow+george+square+walter+scott+s+monument/
  12. ^ http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/centralpark/monuments/1411
  13. ^ "Bank of Scotland to launch new series of banknotes". Bank of Scotland press releases. HBOS plc. 21 Jun. 2007. http://www.hbosplc.com/media/pressreleases/articles/bos/2007-06-21-BankofScot.asp?section=bos. Retrieved 14 Oct. 2008. 

[edit] References

  • Sir Walter Scott, John Buchan, Coward-McCann Inc., New York, 1932

[edit] Further reading

  • Bautz, Annika. Reception of Jane Austen and Walter Scott: A Comparative Longitudinal Study. Continuum, 2007. ISBN 082649546X, ISBN 978-0826495464.
  • Brown, David. Walter Scott and the Historical Imagination. Routledge, 1979. ISBN 0710003013.
  • Duncan, Ian. Scott's Shadow: The Novel in Romantic Edinburgh. Princeton UP, 2007. ISBN 978-0-691-04383-8.
  • Kelly, Stuart. Scott-Land: The Man Who Invented a Nation. Polygon, 2010. ISBN 9781846971075
  • Lincoln, Andrew. Walter Scott And Modernity. Edinburgh UP, 2007.

[edit] External links

Baronetage of the United Kingdom
New title Baronet
(of Abbotsford)
1st creation
1820 - 1832
Sir Walter Scott

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