Sir Walter Scott
Sir Walter Scott
Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet
Born:Born 15 August 1771 College Wynd, Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: 21 September 1832 (aged 61) Abbotsford, Roxburghshire, Scotland
- Historical novelist
- Clerk of Session
- Nationality: Scottish
- Alma mater: University of Edinburgh
- Literary movement: Romanticism
- Spouse(s): Charlotte Carpenter (Charpentier)
Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet, FRSE (15 August 1771 – 21 September 1832) was a Scottish historical novelist, playwright, and poet.
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. <ref>Walter Scott was the foremost literary figure of his days". (accessed 13th July 2014)</ref>
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.
Although primarily remembered for his extensive literary works and his political engagement, Scott was an advocate, judge and legal administrator by profession, and throughout his career combined his writing and editing work with his daily occupation as Clerk of Session and Sheriff-Depute of Selkirkshire. A prominent member of the Tory establishment in Edinburgh, Scott was an active member of the Highland Society and served a long term as President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1820–32).
The son of a Writer to the Signet (solicitor), Scott was born in 1771 in his Presbyterian family's third floor flat on College Wynd in the Old Town of Edinburgh, a narrow alleyway leading from the Grassmarket to the gates of the old University of Edinburgh.<ref>"Family Background". Retrieved 2011-04-09</ref> He survived a childhood bout of polio in 1773 that left him lame, a condition that was to have a significant effect on his life and writing.<ref>Cone, T E (1973). "Was Sir Walter Scott's Lameness Caused by Poliomyelitis?". Pediatrics 51 (1): 33</ref><ref>Robertson, Fiona. "Disfigurement and Disability: Walter Scott’s Bodies". Otranto.co.uk. Retrieved 9 May 2014</ref>
To cure his lameness he was sent in 1773 to live in the rural Scottish Borders at his paternal grandparents' farm at Sandyknowe, adjacent to the ruin of Smailholm Tower, the earlier family home.<ref> "Sandyknowe and Early Childhood". Retrieved 2011-04-09</ref> 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. <ref>http://www.imagesofengland.org.uk/Details/Default.aspx?id=443617 (accessed 13th June 2014)</ref>
In the winter of 1776 he went back to Sandyknowe, with another attempt at a water cure at Prestonpans during the following summer. <ref>http://www.walterscott.lib.ed.ac.uk/biography/sandy.html (accessed 13th June 2014)</ref>
In 1778, Scott returned to Edinburgh for private education to prepare him for school, and joined his family in their new house built as one of the first in George Square. <ref>"Family Background". (accessed 13th July 2014)</ref>
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 Church of Scotland 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 and John Ballantyne, who later became his business partners and printed his books.<ref>School and University".Walterscott.lib.ed.ac.uk (accessed 13th June 2014)</ref>
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.<ref>Walterscott.lib.ed.ac.uk (accessed 13th June 2014)</ref>
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.<ref>School and University".Walterscott.lib.ed.ac.uk (accessed 13th June 2014)</ref>
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 Belshes of Fettercairn, who married Scott's friend Sir William Forbes, 6th Baronet.
Early Literary Career
As a boy, youth and young man, Scott was fascinated by the oral traditions of the Scottish Borders. He was an obsessive collector of stories, and developed an innovative method of recording what he heard at the feet of local story-tellers using carvings on twigs, to avoid the disapproval of those who believed that such stories were neither for writing down nor for printing. At the age of 25 he began to write professionally, translating works from German, his first publication being rhymed versions of ballads by Gottfried August Bürger in 1796. He then published an idiosyncratic three-volume set of collected ballads of his adopted home region, The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. This was the first sign from a literary standpoint of his interest in Scottish history.
As a result of his early polio infection, Scott had a pronounced limp. He was described in 1820 as tall, well formed (except for one ankle and foot which made him walk lamely), neither fat nor thin, with forehead very high, nose short, upper lip long and face rather fleshy, complexion fresh and clear, eyes very blue, shrewd and penetrating, with hair now silvery white. <ref> Leslie C. R. Letter to Miss C Leslie dated 26 June 1820 in Autobiographical recollections ed. Tom Taylor, Ticknor & Fields, Boston 1855</ref>
Although a determined walker, on horseback he experienced greater freedom of movement. Unable to consider a military career, Scott enlisted as a volunteer in the 1st Lothian and Border yeomanry.<ref>http://www.1stlothiansandborderyeomanry.co.uk/memorials.html (accessed 13th June 2014)</ref>