Scottish writer and poet and one of the greatest historical novelists.
Scott was born on
August 15, 1771, in Edinburgh as the son of a solicitor and Anne, a
daughter of professor of medicine. An early illness left him lame in
the right leg, but he 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. He attended Edinburgh High School and studied
at Edinburgh University arts and law. 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. In 1797 Scott married Margaret
Charlotte Charpenter. They had five children.
In 1802-03 Scott's
first major work, Minstrelsy Of The Scottish Border appeared. As a poet
Scott rose into fame with the publication of The Lay Of The Last Minstrel
(1805) about an old border country legend. It 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. The Lady In The
Lake appeared in 1810 and Rokeby in 1813. Scott's last major poem, The
Lord Of The Isles, was published in 1815.
In 1806 Scott became
clerk to the Court of Session in Edinburgh. To increase his income he
started a printing and publishing business with his friend James Ballantyne.
The enterprise crashed and Scott accepted all debts and tried to pay
them off with his writings.
In the 1810s Scott
published several novels. From this period date such works as Waverly
(1814), dealing with the rebellion of 1745, which attempted to restore
a Scottish family to the British throne. Scott continued with Guy Mannering
(1815) and Tales Of My Landlord (1816). Rob Roy (1817) a portrait of
one of Scotland's greatest heroes, sold out its edition of 10 000 copies
in two weeks. The Heart of Midlothianappeared in 1818 followed by The
Bride Of Lammermoor (1819) and A Legend Of Montrose (1819). Ivanhoe
(1819) set in the reign of Richard I is perhaps the best known of Scott's
novels today. 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),
and Anne Of Geierstein (1829).
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. His wife, Lady Scott, died in 1826, and the author
himself had a stroke in 1830. Next year Scott sailed to Italy. After
his return to England in 1832, he died on September 21. Scott was buried
beside his ancestors in Dryburgh Abbey.
Sir (August 14,
1771 - September 21, 1832) was a prolific Scottish historical novelist
popular throughout Europe.
of Sir , by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer]]
Born in Edinburgh
in 1771, the young survived a childhood bout of polio that would leave
him lame in his right leg for the rest of his life. After studying law
at Edinburgh University, he followed in his father's footsteps and became
a lawyer in his native Scotland. Beginning at age 25 he started dabbling
in writing, first translating works from German then moving on to poetry.
In between these two phases of his literary career, he published a three-volume
set of collected Scottish ballads, The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.
This was the first sign of his interest in Scotland and history from
a literary standpoint. In 1797 he married Charlotte Carpenter, with
whom he had five children.
After Scott had founded a printing press, his poetry, beginning with
"The Lay of the Last Minstrel" in 1805, brought him fame.
He published a number of other poems over the next ten years, including
the popular "Lady of the Lake" in 1810, portions of which
(translated into German) found their way into Schubert's Ave Maria.
When the press
became embroiled in pecuniary difficulties, Scott set out, in 1814,
to write a cash-cow. The result was Waverley, a novel which did not
name its author. It was a tale of the last Jacobite rebellion in the
United Kingdom, the "Forty-Five", and a considerable success.
There followed a large set of novels in next five years, each the same
general vein. Mindful of his reputation as a poet, he maintained the
anonymous habit he had begun with Waverley, always publishing the novels
under the name "Author of Waverley" or attributed as "Tales
of..." with no author. Even when it was clear that there would
be no harm in coming out into the open he maintained the façade,
apparently out of a sense of fun. During this time the nickname "The
Wizard of the North" was popularly applied to the mysterious best-selling
writer. His identity as the author of the novels was widely rumoured,
In 1820 he broke
away from writing about Scotland with Ivanhoe, a historical romance
set in 12th-century England. It too was a runaway success and, as he
did with his first novel, he unleashed a slew of books along the same
lines. As his fame grew during this phase of his career, he was granted
the title of baronet.
Beginning in 1825 he went into dire financial straits again, as his
company nearly collapsed. That he was the author of his novels became
general knowledge at this time as well. Rather than declare bankruptcy
he placed his home, Abbotsford, and income into a trust belonging to
his creditors, and proceeded to write his way out of debt. He kept up
his prodigious output of fiction (as well as producing a non-fiction
biography of Napoleon Bonaparte) through 1831. By then his health was
failing, and he died at Abbotsford in 1832. Though not in the clear
by then, his novels continued to sell, and he made good his debts from
beyond the grave. He was buried in Dryburgh Abbey where nearby, fittingly,
a large statue can be found of William Wallace -- one of Scotland's
most romantic historical figures.
Scott was responsible for two major trends that carry on to this day.
First, he popularized the historical novel; an enormous number of imitators
(and imitators of imitators) would appear in the 19th century. It is
a measure of Scott's influence that Edinburgh's central railway station,
opened in 1854, is called Waverley Station. Second, his Scottish novels
rehabilitated Highland culture after years in the shadows following
the Jacobite rebellions. It is worth noting, however, that Scott was
a Lowland Scot, and that his recreations of the Highlands were more
than a little fanciful. It is known that he invented many clan tartans
out of whole cloth, so to speak, for a visit by George IV to Scotland
in 1822. Nevertheless, even though he is less popular in these days,
the echoes of Waverley and its sequels reverberate still.
Scott was also responsible, through a series of pseudonymous letters
published in the Edinburgh Weekly News in 1826, for retaining the right
of Scottish banks to issue their own banknotes, which is reflected to
this day by his continued appearance on the front of all notes issued
by the Bank of Scotland.
• 1771 - Scott is born in Edinburgh on 15 August, the ninth child
(fourth surviving) of , Writer to the Signet, and Anne Rutherford.
• 1773 - Contracts polio which renders him lame in his right leg
for the rest of his life. Sent to live with his grandfather Robert Scott
at Sandyknowe in the Borders.
• 1775 - Briefly returns to Edinburgh following his grandfather's
death but is sent to Bath in the summer to attempt a water cure. Visits
• 1776 - Returns from Bath in the summer and is sent back to Sandyknowe.
• 1778 - Returns to Edinburgh to live at his father's new house
at 25 George Square.
• 1779 - Enters the High School of Edinburgh.
• 1783 - Leaves school and goes to Kelso to stay with his Aunt
Janet (Jenny) Scott for a year. At Kelso Grammar School, meets his future
friend and business partner, James Ballantyne.
• 1783-86 - Attends Edinburgh University.
• 1784-85 - Health deteriorates again and has to interrupt his
studies. All treatments fail and is sent back to Kelso to live with
his aunt for a year.
• 1786 -
Apprenticed to his father's legal firm, but soon decides to aim for
• 1786-7 - Visits the Highlands on business where he meets a client
of his father, Alexander Stewart of Invernahyle, who had once fought
a duel with Rob Roy MacGregor. Scott, only fifteen years of age, also
meets Robert Burns. This remains the only meeting of the two great Scottish
• 1789-92 - Resumes his studies and reads law at Edinburgh University.
• 1790 - Meets and falls in love with Williamina Belsches.
• 1792 - Qualifies as a lawyer and is admitted to the Faculty
• 1792-6 - Practises as an Advocate in Edinburgh.
• 1797 - Heartbroken when spurned by Williamina who marries William
Forbes of Pitsligo. Visits the Lake District and meets Charlotte Carpentier
whom he marries on Christmas Eve in Carlisle Cathedral. Moves to rented
accomodation in George Street, Edinburgh.
• 1798 - Rents a cottage at Lasswade on the River Esk, where he
will summer each year until 1804.
• 1799 - Scott's father dies in April. Birth of Scott's first
daughter, Charlotte Sophia, on 24 October. On 16 December, Scott becomes
Sheriff-Deputy of Selkirkshire, an office he holds until his death in
• 1801 - Birth of Scott's first son, Walter, on 28 October. In
December, moves to 39 Castle Street which will remain his Edinburgh
home until 1826.
• 1803 - Birth of Scott's second daughter, Anne, on 2 February.
Years of Prosperity
• 1804 - Moves with his family to Ashestiel near Galashiels, retaining
39 Castle Street as as a winter residence.
• 1805 - Enters into a secret business partnership with James
Ballantyne. Birth of Scott's second son, Charles, on 24 December.
• 1806 - Becomes Principal Clerk to the Court of Session in Edinburgh,
permitting him a steady income from the law without having to practise
as an Advocate.
• 1809 - Becomes half-owner of John Ballantyne's publishing company.
• 1810 - Williamina Forbes dies at the age of 34.
• 1811 - Buys Cartley (nicknamed Clarty) Hole Farm. Extends the
original four-room cottage and renames his new home Abbotsford. Scott
and his family move into Abbotsford in 1812.
• 1813 - Collapse of John Ballantyne and Co. The company's assets
are bought by Archbald Constable and Co. who remain Scott's publishers
until 1826. Scott is rescued from impending bankruptcy by his patron,
the Duke of Buccleuch (see Financial Hardship).
• 1816 - Inherits the fortune of his brother, Major Scott.
• 1818 - Accepts a baronetcy.
• 1819 - Scott's mother dies.
• 1820 - Elected President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
• 1822 - Plays a leading role in organizing the visit of King
George IV to Edinburgh. This is the first visit of a Hanoverian monarch
• 1825 - Scott's eldest daughter Sophia marries John Gibson Lockhart,
his future biographer. In November, Scott starts his famous journal.
Suffers from gallstones and fearsfinancial ruin.
The Years of Decline
• 1826 - Becomes insolvent after the failure of his publishers,
Archibald Constable, and his printers, James Ballantyne (see Financial
Hardship). Pledges the future income from his publications to a trust
in order to repay his creditors. The start of an excessive period of
work, which is to affect his health. On 15 May, Scott's wife dies.
• 1827 - Finally admits to the authorship of the Waverley novels
at a public dinner.
• 1828 - Makes preparations for a complete annotated edition of
his works, later named the Magnum Opus.
• 1829 - Suffers from haemorrhages.
• 1830 - Declines the offer of a Civil List pension and the rank
of Privy Councillor.
• 1831 - Suffers a stroke and then apoplectic paralysis. Goes
to Italy with Lockhart to recuperate. On 15 December receives news of
the death of his ten year old grandson Johnnie Lockhart.
• 1832 - Returns from the continent. Dies at Abbotsford on 21
September and is buried beside his wife in Dryburgh Abbey.
• 1782 - Writes his earliest verse.
• 1796 - Publishes The Chase, and William and Helen, translations
of two poems by Gottfried August Bürger.
• 1797 - Translates dramas from the German of Maier, Iffland,
Schiller, and Von Babo, and ballads and drama by Goethe.
• 1799 - Publishes a translation of Goethe's drama Goetz von Berlichingen.
The Ballantyne Press privately prints Scott's ballad 'The Eve of St
John' and An Apology for Tales of Terror, containing three of Scott's
translations from German.
• 1800 - Collects, edits and reworks material for a ballad collection
called the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border to be published by Ballantyne.
Matthew Gregory Lewis's anthology Tales of Wonder contains three original
ballads by Scott.
• 1802 - First edition of the Minstrelsy.
• 1803 - An expanded 3 volume edition of the Minstrelsy is published.
• 1805 - The Lay of the Last Minstrel is published to critical
and popular acclaim.
• 1807 - The Edinburgh Publisher Archibald Constable pays Scott
1,000 guineas for a poem he had not yet written: Marmion went on to
sell 28,000 copies by 1811. Completes Joseph Strutt's historical romance
Queenhoo Hall. Writes 'Essay on Chivalry' for the Encylopaedia Britannica.
• 1809 - Involved in the foundation of the Quarterly, a Tory rival
to the Edinburgh Review.
• 1810 - The Lady of the Lake is published and proves even more
popular than Marmion, selling 25,000 copies in eight months.
• 1811 - Publishes The Vision of Don Roderick.
• 1812 - Has a new poetic rival in Lord Byron, whom he meets in
• 1813 - Rokeby and The Bridal of Triermain are published. Is
offered and declines the Poet Laureateship.
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• 1814 - First novel Waverley published anonymously. Becomes the
most successful novel ever published in English.
• 1815 - Publishes second novel Guy Mannering and The Lord of
the Isles, his last major poetic work. During a trip to Waterloo and
Paris, writes The Field of Waterloo.
• 1816 - The Antiquary and the first series of Tales of My Landlord
are published, consisting of Old Mortality and The Black Dwarf. Also
publishes Paul's Letters to His Kinsfolk, imaginary letters describing
his travels in Belgium and France.
• 1817 - Writes Rob Roy and publishes Harold the Dauntless, his
last long poem.
• 1818 - The Second Series of Tales of My Landlord (The Heart
of Midlothian) is published.
• 1819 - Suffering from gallstones, dictates A Legend of Montrose
and The Bride of Lammermoor which are later published as Tales of My
Landlord, Third Series. Also dictates Ivanhoe which is published at
the end of the year and is enormously successful, selling 10,000 copies
in a fortnight.
• 1820 - The Monastery and The Abbot are published.
• 1821 - Kenilworth and The Pirate are published.
• 1823 - Peveril of the Peak, Quentin Durward and St. Ronan's
Well are published.
• 1824 - Redgauntlet is published.
• 1825 - Tales of the Crusaders, The Betrothed and The Talisman
• 1826 - Leads a successful campaign through The Letters of Malachi
Malagrowther to preserve the Scottish banknote. Publication of Woodstock.
• 1827 - The Life of Napoleon and Chronicles of the Canongate
• 1828 - The Fair Maid of Perth and the First Series of Tales
of a Grandfather are published.
• 1829 - Anne of Geierstein and the Second Series of Tales of
a Grandfather are published.
• 1830 - Writes, at J.G. Lockhart's suggestion, the Letters on
Demonology and Witchcraft. Third Series of Tales of a Grandfather.
• 1831 - Fourth Series of Tales of a Grandfather and Fourth Series
of Tales of My Landlord (Count Robert of Paris and Castle Dangerous)