SIR WALTER SCOTT (1771-1832)
1771 Born in Edinburgh. His family belonged to a well-known Scottish clan, whose folksongs, poems
and traditions deeply influence W. Scott. While still a toddler he was struck by illness that left his left
leg permanently lame.
1778 Entered the High School at Edinburgh. Popular with other boys for his story-telling. At 12 (not
unusually young) he entered Edinburgh University.
1792 Embarked on a five-year legal apprenticeship with his father. Unlike his father is became an
1796 Married a rich young banker, Charlotte Charpentier, after his heart had been broken by
1799 His father died, leaving a sizeable legacy. Published a translation of Goethe. Appointed Sheriff-
depute of Selkirkshire. Improvement in his finacial circumstances, allowed him to devote himself to
1802 The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (ballads).
1805 The Lay of the Last Minstrel (poems)
1806 Became a partner in a printing and publishing business which was to become bankrupt a few
years later, forcing W. Scott to write quickly to pay off his debts.
1808 Marmion (poems)
1810 The Lady of the Lake (poems)
1811 Bought a farmhouse on the Tweed, he called it Abbotsford. Bought neighbouring land and
created and estate and a palatial country house.
1813 Refused to become Poet Laureate
1814 Waverley, his first novel, published anonymously (wrote 26 other novels until his death)
1815-32 Guy Mannering, The Antiquary, Old Mortality, The Heart of Midlothian, Ivanhoe, The Bride
1822 He was made a baronet and supervised George IV´s visit to Scotland.
1825 His publishing company went bankrupt. Kept Abbotsford. Began to write to pay off his debts.
The strainof such a workload made his health decline.
1832 Had several strokes and died at Abbotsford.
Scott was the first British novelist to make a fortune by writing (27 novels in 18 years). His
civilized. Edinburgh in particular -the Athens of the North- boasted a society as cultured as any in
Europe, and had produced such internationally renowned thinkers as the philosopher David Hume
had risen for Bonnie Prince Charlie, occupied the Lowlands, and invaded England.
Scott was fascinated by the Scottish past, its folklore, historical figures, the conflicts between
clans or religious groups: Waverley, for instance, goes back to the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, Rob Roy
to 1715, at the time when the Jacobites, partisans of the exiled Stuart kings, were about to rise in
arms, Old Mortality to a sect of strict Covenanters under Charles II, Ivanhoe turns to English history -
the rivalry between the Saxons and the Normans under Richard I, Quentin Durward is centered on
Louis XI of France and his intrigues,...
Scott contributed to the revival of the chivalrous spirit in the late 18C and early 19C.
Historians of the time approached the past in anew, objective fashion and began to study medieval
documents and artefacts with scientific curiosity. Whereas the rationalists of the Englishtment
showed a scholarly attitude to the distant past, it was the very distance and mystery of the Middle
Ages which appealed to the Romantics of the late 18C.
This chivalrous spirit manifested itself from early years of the 19C, when the monarchy
seized every opportunity to dress up in Court, eg. George IV´s coronation and his visit to Scotland in
1822. Another display of chivalric revival was the Eglinton Tournament which took place in 1939
during Queen Victoria´s reign. Scott´s account of a tournament in Ivanhoe was a major source of
inspiration to Lord Eglinton. The tournament was a disaster because of the rain.
Scott always tries to recreate the atmosphere of the past, its scenery and events, its
vernacular, but most of all, he portrays man in his public and social aspects, man that is to say, as he
is conditioned by factors outside himself, by his place and function in society, his relation to a historic
of his characters. In very rare instances are they flat characters; although they are presented from
the outside, so to say, the public view of them, Scott does it with such skilfully observed detail that we
are nearly always able to infer their inner lives.