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Sir Walter Scott


1771 - 1832

Sir Walter Scott
©2016 Gazetteer for Scotland

Sir Walter Scott

Prodigious writer, patriot and enthusiast for all things Scottish. Born in Edinburgh, the son of a solicitor, Scott was educated at the Old High School in the city. He studied law at the University of Edinburgh and became an advocate, before turning to writing. Although living with his parents in Edinburgh's George Square until he was 26, Scott gained a love for the Scottish Borders at an early age through visits to his paternal grandparent's farm at Sandy Knowe (by Smailholm).

His novels are steeped in the traditions and customs of Scotland, based on real events and characters not "the fine-spun cobwebs of the brain." An enthusiastic antiquarian and patriot, Scott did much towards identifying and nurturing a Scottish cultural identity, and indeed invented many expressions of this identity, including modern tartans, created for King George IV's visit in 1822, which Scott stage-managed. He was responsible for rediscovering Scotland's Honours in a chest in Edinburgh Castle, which had been long-forgotten since the Union of 1707. However, he did suffer from a propensity to re-write, or at least augment, history.

The publication of Waverley in 1814 secured his reputation as Britain's most popular historical novelist. His other works include Marmion (1808), The Antiquary (1816), Rob Roy (1817), Heart of Midlothian (1818), Ivanhoe (1819), The Bride of Lammermoor (1819), Kenilworth (1821), St. Ronan's Well (1823), The Talisman (1825), The Fair Maid of Perth (1828) and Tales of a Grandfather (1830). Scott was also a translator, biographer (of Napoleon) and passionate collector of all things Scottish.

Scott had turned down the post of Poet Laureate in 1813, but accepted a knighthood in 1820. His latter years were spent desperately writing to cover the debts of his bankrupt publishers. He died from over-work at his home, Abbotsford House on the banks of the River Tweed, and was buried in the ruins of Dryburgh Abbey, near St. Boswells. He is remembered by monuments in many Scottish towns, the grandest of which is in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh. His books were enjoyed by Queen Victoria, who with Prince Albert greatly popularised Scotland and all things Scottish, much influenced by Scott and his literary legacy.


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