Sir Walter Scott


"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)


Sir Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh on August 15, 1771, attended Edinburgh High School (1779-1783) and studied arts and law at Edinburgh University (1783-86, 1789-92). Writer and poet, a natural storyteller with an incredible gift of dialogue, Scott remains one of the greatest historical novelists of all time whose favorite subject was his native Scotland.

Scott spent his youth in Sandy-Know, in the residence of his paternal grandfather, where his grandmother told him tales of old heroes. Enchanted by at an early age by these old Border tales and ballads by the age of sixteen he had already started to collect old ballads.

The body of Scott's work is broadly influenced by the philosophical landscape of his 18th century Scotland's regarding tolerance and enlightenment. He believed every human was basically decent regardless of class, religion, politics, or ancestry. He was the first novelist to portray characters sympathetically and realistically, and was equally just to peasants, merchants, soldiers, and kings.

In the 1810s Scott published several novels anonymously or various pseudonyms including Jebediah Cleisbotham, Crystal Croftangry, Malachi Malagrowther, Lawrence Templeton, and Captain Clutterbuck or 'Author of Waverley.' From this period date such works as Waverley (1814), dealing with the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, which attempted to restore the Stuart family to the British throne.

In his popular historic Waverley Novels (numbering 27) express his belief in the need for social progress that does not reject the traditions of the past while arranging his plots and characters so the reader became immersed in the history and the lives of both the great and ordinary people of which he wrote. He focuses on the conflict between the new English culture and the old Scottish in such titles as Old Mortality (1816), Rob Roy (1817) sold out its edition of 10,000 copies in a mere two weeks, A Legend of Montrose and The Heart of Midlothian (both 1819), Quentin Dunward (1823), and St Ronan's Well (1824). Many of Scott's novels include a central theme of conflicts between cultures, Ivanhoe (1819), between Normans and Saxons set in the reign of Richard I and depicted the rivalry between the King and his wicked brother John (King 1199-1216), and The Talisman (1825), between Christians and Muslims.

"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)


His poetry still stirs the imagination. The Lay of the Last Minstral (1805) is about an old border country legend and was a huge success upon publication making him the most popular author of the day. In 1810 appeared The Lady in the Lake, in 1813 Rokeby and Scott's last major poem, The Lord of the Isles was published in 1815.

Back in 1806 Scott became clerk to the Court of Session in Edinburgh a position requiring only a few hours of his time daily and provided him with half of the year free, with his long holidays Scott resided at his estate of Abbotsford in Ashestiel, situated on the Tweed River. His daily constitutional included a stop to admire the view of the Eildon Hills from Bemersyde (near Melrose). He died on September 21, 1832 and is buried aside his ancestors in Dryburgh Abbey. It is said that the horse pulling the hearse taking him to his interment stopped at Bemersyde as it usually did on its daily outings with Sir Walter aboard, now known to all as Scott's View.


Sir Walter Scott, Edinburgh
footnote ?