Born August 15, 1771, in Edinburgh, Scotland, influential novelist, poet, and historian, and biographer Sir Walter Scott studied law as an apprentice to his father before his writing career flourished. In 1799, he was appointed sheriff depute of the county of Selkirk, and he held this position for the rest of his life. In 1806, he was appointed clerk to the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
Scott became an instant best seller with historical narrative poems like The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805), followed by The Lady of the Lake (1810), Rokeby (1813), and The Lord of the Isles (1815). He also wrote immensely successful historical novels. Waverley, which he published anonymously in 1814, is now considered the first historical novel in Western literature. This story revolves around the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. Scott’s many other novels include Ivanhoe (1819), The Heart of Midlothian (1818), Rob Roy (1817), The Antiquary (1816), and Guy Mannering (1815). Although he published biographies of Swift and Dryden and some history, as well as poems and novels, his chief claim to distinction is his contribution to Romanticism and the historical novel.
His parents were very religious and imposed strict piety upon all their children. Walter was never very deeply affected religiously, however. His works, which contain much about the church, seek neither to elevate nor to censure it, but rather to depict it, for it was an item of history not philosophy..
Having been granted the title of baronet in 1820, Sir Walter Scott was heavily involved in arranging King George IV’s visit to Scotland in 1822 (the first Scottish visit by a ruler of the Hanoverian dynasty), and the ceremonial tartans and kilts Scott had displayed throughout the city during the visit brought the garments back into contemporary fashion and cemented them as important symbols of the Scottish culture.
His popularity, both socially and as a writer, was almost unparalleled. He was married in 1797 to Margaret Charlotte Carpenter, who bore him three sons and two daughters. Scott received his title and baronetcy from King George IV in the spring of 1820. He died, Sir Walter Scott, in 1832 As one of the first English-language authors to succeed international in his own lifetime, Scott’s works are still read today with many such as Ivanhoe, and Rob Roy being adapted for the screen.
However, whilst Scott was one of the most popular writers in both Britain and the United States in the nineteenth century he was not without his detractors. The American author Mark Twain was definitely not a fan, ridiculing Scott by naming the sinking boat after the Scottish writer in his famous 1884 novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Following the Modernist movement in literature in the aftermath of the first World War, Scott’s rambling and verbose text (indeed he was alleged to omit punctuation in his writing, preferring to leave this to the editors) was no longer in vogue.
Nevertheless, Scott’s impact on both Scottish and English literature cannot be denied. He created the modern historical novel which has inspired generations of writers and audiences alike and his input to the Highland revival. Whilst perhaps not as synonymous with Scotland as his predecessor Burns, Scott has been immortalised in monuments as far apart as Glasgow and New York and still appears on the Scottish bank notes.
Bluid is thicker than water….Guy Mannering. Chap. xxxviii.
Time rolls his ceaseless course…Lady of the Lake. Canto iii. Stanza 1.
O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!…Marmion. Canto vi. Stanza 17.
To all, to each, a fair good-night, And pleasing dreams, and slumbers light…L’Envoy. To the Reader.
SOURCE: Britannica; Historic-UK; Poetry Foundation; Bartlett Quote