Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet

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Walter Scott

Birthdate:
Birthplace: Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh, UK
Death: Died in Melrose, The Scottish Borders, UK
Place of Burial: Dryburgh Abbey, Melrose, Scotland
Immediate Family:

Son of Walter Scott, WS and Anne Scott
Husband of Charlotte Genevieve Scott
Father of Charlotte Sophia Scott; Walter Scott; Anna Scott and Charles Scott
Brother of Mary Scott; Andrew Scott; James Scott; Anne Scott; Robert Scott and 8 others

Occupation: Historical novelist, Poet, Lawyer, Sheriff of Selkirkshire
Managed by: Peter Alexis Andrews
Last Updated:

About Walter Scott

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.

Writer and poet, a born storyteller and master of dialogue, one of the greatest historical novelists, whose favorite subject was his native Scotland. Scott wrote twenty-seven historical novels. His influence is seen among others in the works of James Fenimore Cooper, Alexandre Dumas, and Aleksandr Pushkin.

"Love rules the court, the camp, the grove,

And men below, and saints above;

For love is heaven, and heaven is love."

(from The Lay of the Last Minstrel, 1805)

Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh, as the son of a solicitor Walter Scott and Anne, a daughter of professor of medicine. An early illness - polio - left him lame in the right leg. Six of his 11 brothers and sisters died in infancy. However, Scott grew up to be a man over six feet and great physical endurance.

Scott's interest in the old Border tales and ballads had early been awakened, and he devoted much of his leisure to the exploration of the Border country. His early years Scott spent in Sandy-Know, in the residence of his paternal grandfather. There his grandmother told him tales of old heroes. At the age of eight he returned to Edinburgh. He attended Edinburgh High School (1779-1783) and studied at Edinburgh University arts and law (1783-86, 1789-92). At the age of sixteen he had already started to collect old ballads and later translated into English Gottfried Bürger's ballads 'The Wild Huntsman' and 'Lenore' and 'Goetz of Berlichingen' (1799) from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's play. Scott was apprenticed to his father in 1786 and in 1792 he was called to the bar. In 1799 he was appointed sheriff depute of the county of Selkirk. After an unsuccessful love affair with Williamina Belsches of Fettercairn - she married Sir William Forbes - Scott married in 1797 Margaret Charlotte Charpentier (or Charpenter), daughter of Jean Charpentier of Lyon in France. They had five children.

In 1802-03 appeared Scott's first major work, MINSTRELSY OF THE SCOTTISH BORDER. As a poet Scott rose into fame with the publication of THE LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL (1805) about an old border country legend. He had burned its first version, when his friends did not like it. Scott returned to the poem in 1802, when a horse had kicked him and he spent three days in bed. The Lay of the Last Minstrel became a huge success and made him the most popular author of the day. It was followed by MARMION (1808), a historical romance in tetrameter, set in 1513, and concerning the attempts of Lord Marmion to marry the rich Lady Clare. In 1810 appeared THE LADY IN THE LAKE and in 1813 ROKEBY. Scott's last major poem, THE LORD OF THE ISLES, was published in 1815. Later Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866) ridiculed in 'The Four Ages of Poetry' Scott, Byron, and the Romantic "Lake Poets" Wordsworth and Coleridge: "While the historian and the philosopher are advancing in, and accelerating, the progress of knowledge, the poet is wallowing in the rubbish of departed ignorance, and raking up the ashes of dead savages to find gewgaws and rattles for the grown babies of the age. Mr.Scott digs up the poachers and cattle-stealers of the ancient border. Lord Byron cruizes for thieves and pirates on the shores of Morea and among the Greek Islands. Mr. Southey wades through ponderous volumes of travels and old chronicles..." Verses from The Lady of the Lake, including 'Hail to the Chief who in triumph advances!" were put to music by James Sanderson (1769-1841) and became the march traditionally played to honor the president of the United States.

Soldier, rest! thy warfare o'er,

Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,

Dream of battled fields no more,

Days of danger, nights of waking.

(from The Lady of the Lake, 1810)

In 1806 Scott became clerk to the Court of Session in Edinburgh - this work took only a few hours daily and half of the year he was free. His long holidays Scott spent at Ashestiel, situated on the Tweed River. To increase his income he started a printing and publishing business with his friend James Ballantyne. The firm had in the 1810s financial difficulties, and Scott spent his time in immense labours for his publishers, much of it hack editorial work. Scott also expanded during these years his Abbotsford estate, but it was not until 1826 when the final crash came. He accepted all Ballantyne's debts and decided to pay them off with his writings - the sum was £130,000 (millions today). In his diary he wrote: "I am become a sort of writing automaton, and truly the joints of my knees, especially the left, are so stiff and painful in rising and sitting down, that I can hardly help screaming - I that was so robust and active..." Difficulties lasted the best of Scott's writing career. To be more productive he used a massive desk with two desktops and kept two projects going at a time. Although Scott's books were sold at prices as high as 31s. 6d., they found much new middle-class readers, and there was no interest in lowering the prices. In comparison, low-cost books, booklets, were offered for the "white-collar" workers at sixpence apiece, and paperbound books were sold for 5 shillings.

In the 1810s Scott published several novels anonymously or under the pseudonym Jebediah Cleisbotham or 'Author of Waverley.' From this period date such works as WAVERLEY (1814), dealing with the rebellion of 1745, which attempted to restore a Scottish family to the British throne. The book set the classic pattern of the historical novel. It had a hero, whose loyalty is split between two rulers and two ways of life. Scott continued with GUY MANNERING (1815) and TALES OF MY LANDLORD (1816), consisting of The Black Dwarf and Old Mortality. ROB ROY (1817) was a portrait of one of Scotland's greatest heroes - the novel sold out its edition of 10 000 copies in two weeks. THE HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN (1818) was a story of Jeanie Deans's journey to London to appeal on behalf of her sister who has been wrongfully charged with child murder. THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR (1819), was a novel of loss, love and vengeance, a venture into the gothic genre. In A LEGEND OF MONTROSE (1819) Scott drew a picture of the campaigns of 1644. IVANHOE (1819) was set in the reign of Richard I and depicted the rivalry between the King and his wicked brother John (King 1199-1216).

Ivanhoe, a tale of chivalry, was set in the age of Richard the Lion-Hearted. Wilfred of Ivanhoe loves Rowena, but his father plans marry her to Athelstane of Coningsburgh. Ivanhoe serves with King Richard in the crusades. King's brother John tries to usurp the throne with the help of Norman barons. Richard appears in disguise at the tournament at Ashby de la Zouch, where he helps Ivanhoe to defeat John's knights. At the tournament Sir Brian falls in love with Rebecca, a beautiful Jewess. She is taken captive with her father Isaac, Rowena, Ivanhoe, and Cedric by the Norman barons and imprisoned in Torquilstone. The King and his band of outlaws, among them Robin Hood, release the prisoners. Rebecca is carried off by Bois-Guilbert and charged of witchcraft. Ivanhoe appears as her champion, opposing Bois-Guilbert, who dies. Rebecca, seeing Ivanhoe's love for Rowena, leaves England with her father. - Michael Ragussis has argued that Scott's Isaac the Jew and his daughter Rebecca restaged England's medieval persecution of Jews and criticized the barbarity of persecution and forced conversion. In the story Rebecca is a healer and a voice of moderation between Saxon knights and Normans.

In the 1820s appeared KENILWORTH (1821), THE FORTUNES OF NIGEL (1822), PEVERIL OF THE PEAK (1823), QUENTIN DURWARD (1823), THE TALISMAN (1825), WOODSTOCK (1826), THE SURGEON'S DAUGHTER (1827), ANNE OF GEIERSTEIN (1829). After the financial crash of 1825-26 the author's anonymity was destroyed, and he was exposed to the general public as Sir Walter Scott. He had at least five pen names, including Jebediah Cleisbotham, Crystal Croftangry, Malachi Malagrowther, Lawrence Templeton, and Captain Clutterbuck. According to an anecdote, when mortally sick, Beethoven (1770-1827) hurled away Scott's novel with the cry: "Why, the fellow writes for money".

Scott's historical novels fall into three groups; those set in the background of Scottish history, from Waverly to A Legend of Montrose; a group which takes up themes from the Middle Ages and Reformation times, from Ivanhoe to Talisman, and his remaining books, from Woodstock onwards. Scott's dramatic work include HALIDON HILL (1922), MACDUFF'S CROSS (1823), THE DOOM OF DEVORGOIL, A MELODRAMA (1830), and AUCHINDRANE (1830), which was founded on the case of Mure of Auchindrane in Pitcairn's Ancient Criminal Trials.

In 1820 Scott was created a baronet. A few years later he founded the Bannatyne Club, which published old Scottish documents. Scott visited France in 1826 to collect material for his LIFE OF NAPOLEON, which was published in 9 volumes in 1827. A few years earlier Scott had started to keep his Journal, recording in undiscourageable spirit his deteriorating health and other misfortunes. His wife, Lady Scott, died in 1826, and the author himself had a stroke in 1830. Next year Scott sailed to Italy. In Malta he wrote one novel and a short story, and in Naples he collected old songs and ballads. After return to England in 1832, he died on September 21. Scott was buried beside his ancestors in Dryburgh Abbey. From the profits of his writings all his debts were ultimately paid.

Come fill up my cup, come fill up my can,

Come saddle your horses, and call up your men;

Come open the West Port, and let me gang free,

And it's room for the bonnets of Bonny Dundee!

(from The Doom of Devorgoil, 1830)

Scott's influence as a novelist was profound. He established the form of the historical novel and his work inspired such writers as Bulwer-Lytton, G. Eliot, and the Brontës. In the United States the scholar W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) said in his address in 1926, that he learned most of Scott's 'Lady of the Lake' by heart at school, adding: "In after life once it was my privilege to see the lake." In the 1930s European Marxist critics found Scott again, and interpreted his novels in term of historicism. The most prominent admirer of Scott was the Hungarian philosopher and aesthetician György Lucács. Modernist taste classified Scott to the category of the subliterary or juvenile. "It is impossible to believe that Scott lives anywhere today," wrote Ford Madox Ford in his The March of Literature (1938), "he might perhaps in a doctor's dining-room in Marseilles or Tarascon, in a child's nursery in Buenos Aires, or a housemaid's pantry on Boston Hill. Or, of course, in all the sancta sanctorum of all the professors of the universities of Goettingen and Jena. But his guilelessness is such that it is impossible to believe that any grown man could take seriously the adventures of Ivanhoe or Rob Roy." However, there is also a significant revival of critical and scholarly interest on Scott.

For further reading: Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart. by J.G. Lockhart (1837-38, 7 vols.); Sir Walter Scott by J. Buchan (1932); Scott: The Scott and Scotland by E. Muir (1936); A történelmi regény by Georg Lucács (1937 - trans. as The Historical Novel); Bibliography of Sir Walter Scott, 1797-1940 by James C. Corson (1943); The Waverly Novels by J.T. Hillhouse (1968); Walter Scott: Modern Judgements, ed. by D.D. Devlin (1968); Critical Heritage, ed. by J.O. Hayden (1970); Sir Walter Scott: the Great Unknown by Edgar Johnson (1970, 2 vols.); The Author of Waverly by D.D. Devlin (1971); Walter Scott by T. Crawford (1982); Scott and his Influence by J.H. Alexander and D. Hewitt (1983); Walter Scott: The Making of the Novelist by Jane Millgate (1984); Secret Leaves: The Novels of Walter Scott by Judith Wilt (1985); Modern Romance and Transformation of the Novel by Ian Duncan (1992); 'Writing Nationalist History' by Micheal Ragussis, in English Literary History 60:1, Spring (1993); The Life of Walter Scott by John Sutherland (1995); Critical Essays on Sir Walter Scott, ed. by Harry E. Shaw (1996) - See also: Prosper Merimée, J.F. Cooper, Washington Irving, The Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club - Suomessa Scottin teosten vaikutus näkyy mm. Frederika Runebergin ja Zachris Topeliuksen historiallisissa romaaneissa.

Selected works:

THE EVE OF ST. JOHN, 1800

MINSTRELSY OF THE SCOTTISH BORDER, 1802-03

THE LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL, 1805

BALLADS AND LYRICAL PIECES, 1806

MARMION, 1808

THE LADY IN THE LAKE, 1810

ROKEBY, 1813

THE BRIDAL OF TRIERMAIN, 1813

THE WAVERLY NOVELS: Guy Mannering, 1815; The Antiquary, 1816; The Black Dwarf, 1816

BORDER ANTIQUITES OF ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND, 1814

THE LORD OF THE ISLES, 1815

GUY MANNERING, 1815 - Tähdistälukija

THE FIELD OF WATERLOO, 1815

PAUL'S LETTERS TO HIS KINSFOLK, 1816

OLD MORTALITY, 1816

THE ANTIQUARY, 1816

THE BLACK DWARF, 1816 - Musta kääpiö

TALES OF MY LANDLORD, 1816 - The Black Dwarf and Old Mortality

ROB ROY, 1817 - Henkipatto Rob Roy

HAROLD, THE DAUNTLESS, 1817

THE HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN, 1818 - Mid-Lothian sydän

THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR, 1819 - Lammermoorin morsian

A LEGEND OF MONTROSE, 1819 - Vanha tarina Montrosesta

IVANHOE, 1819 - suom. - film 1952, dir. by Richard Thorpe, starring Robert Taylor, Joan Fontaine, Elizabeth Taylor; television film 1982, dir. by Douglas Camfield, starring Anthony Andrews, James Mason, Lysette Anthony, Sam Neill, ; television series 1957-58, starring Roger Moore

THE ABBOT, 1820

THE MONASTERY, 1820

THE PIRATE, 1821

KENILWORTH, 1821 - suom.

THE FORTUNES OF NIGEL, 1822 - Nigelin vaiheet

HALIDON HILL, 1822

QUENTIN DURWARLD, 1823

PEVERIL OF THE PEAK, 1823

ST. RONAN'S WELL, 1823

MACDUFF'S CROSS, 1823

QUENTIN DURWARD, 1823 - Kuninkaan jousimies

REDGAUNTLER, 1824

THE TALISMAN, 1825 - Talismani

THE BETROTHED, 1825

LIVES OF THE NOVELISTS, 1825

WOODSTOCK, 1826

THE LIFE OF NAPOLEON BUONAPARTE, 1827 (9 vols.)

CHRONICLES OF THE CANONGATE, 1827

MISCELLANEOUS PROSE, 1827

THE SURGEON'S DAUGHTER, 1827

THE HIGHLAND WIDOW, 1827 - Ylämaan leski

THE TALES OF A GRANDFATHER, 1827-30

THE FAIR MAID OF PERTH, 1828 - Perth'in kaupungin kaunotar

ANNE OF GEIERSTEIN, 1829

TALES OF A GRANDFATHER, 1828-31

THE HISTORY OF SCOTLAND, 1829-30

LETTERS ON DEMONOLOGY AND WITCHCRAFT, 1830

ESSAYS ON BALLAD POETRY, 1830

THE DOOM OF DEVORGOIL, A MELODRAMA, 1830

AUCHINDRANE OR THE AYRSHIRE TRAGEDY, 1830

LETTERS ON DEMONOLOGY AND WITCHCRAFT, 1830

COUNT ROBERT OF PARIS, 1832

CASTLE DANGEROUS, 1832

THE WAVERLEY NOVELS, 1829-33 (48 vols.)

POETICAL WORKS, 1833-34 (12 vols.)

MISCELLANEOUS PROSE, 1834-71 (30 vols.)

THE JOURNAL, 1890 (republished 1939-36 in 3 vols.)

THE PRIVATE LETTER-BOOKS OF SIR WALTER SCOTT, 1930

SIR WALTER'S POST-BAG, 1932

THE LETTERS OF SIR WALTER SCOTT, 1932-37 (12 vols., ed. by H.J.C. Grierson)

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Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet's Timeline

1771
August 15, 1771
Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh, UK
1799
1799
Age 27
1801
1801
Age 29
1803
1803
Age 31
1805
1805
Age 33
1832
September 21, 1832
Age 61
Melrose, The Scottish Borders, UK
????
????
Melrose, Scotland