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    Sir Walter Scott

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    Sir Walter Scott

    Scottish author & novelist
    3 Favorites on Read Print

    Biography

    Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) 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. More ...

    Books by Sir Walter Scott

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    We hope you enjoy reading these Sir Walter Scott books! If you'd like to read a specific Sir Walter Scott book which we're missing on Read Print, do let us know.

    Quotes by Sir Walter Scott

    • He that climbs the tall tree has won right to the fruit.
    • O! many a shaft, at random sent, Finds mark the archer little meant; And many a word, at random spoken, May soothe or wound a heart that's broken!
    • To all, to each, a fair good night, And pleasing dreams, and slumbers light.
    • And come he slow, or come he fast, It is but death who comes at last.
      Marmion (1808)
    • Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive!
      Marmion, Canto vi. Stanza 17.
    If we're missing any Sir Walter Scott books or quotes, do email us.

    Biography of Sir Walter Scott

    Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) 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.

    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).

    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.

    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.
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