Sir Walter Scott

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Scott, Sir Walter,

1771–1832, Scottish novelist and poet, b. Edinburgh. He is considered the father of both the regional and the historical novel.

Early Life and Works

After an apprenticeship in his father's law office Scott was admitted (1792) to the bar. In 1799 he was made sheriff-deputy of Selkirkshire. His first published works (1796) were translations of two German ballads by Bürger, followed by a translation (1799) of Goethe's Götz von Berlichingen. Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (2 vol., 1802; enl. ed., 3 vol., 1803) was an impressive collection of old ballads with introductions and notes. The Lay of the Last Minstrel, his first major poem, appeared in 1805 and was followed by Marmion (1808) and The Lady of the Lake (1810). In 1812 Scott received a court clerkship that assured him a moderate, steady income.


His first novel, Waverley (1814), was an immediate success. There followed the "Waverley novels"—romances of Scottish life that reveal Scott's great storytelling gift and his talent for vivid characterization. They include Guy Mannering (1815), The Antiquary (1816), The Black Dwarf (1816), Old Mortality (1816), Rob Roy (1818), The Heart of Midlothian (1818), The Bride of Lammermoor (1819), and The Legend of Montrose (1819).

Ivanhoe (1820), Scott's first prose reconstruction of a time long past, is a complicated romance set in 12th-century England. His public acclaim grew, and in 1820 Scott was made a baronet. Most of his following novels were of the Ivanhoe style of reconstructed history. They include The Monastery (1820), The Abbot (1820), Kenilworth (1821), The Pirate (1822), The Fortunes of Nigel (1822), Peveril of the Peak (1822), Quentin Durward (1823), The Betrothed (1825), and The Talisman (1825). With St. Ronan's Well (1824), Scott abandoned the historical style and attempted a novel of manners, but in Redgauntlet (1824) he reverted to the background and treatment of his early novels.

Later Life and Works

In 1825 Scott was ruined financially. He had assumed responsibility for the Ballantyne printing firm in 1813 (previously, for a brief time, he had run it as a publishing house), and subsequently he had met Ballantyne's expenses out of advances from his publishers, Constable and Company. In 1825 an English depression brought ruin to both Constable and Ballantyne's. Refusing to go through bankruptcy, Scott assigned to a trust his property and income in excess of his official salary and set out to pay his debt and much of Constable's.

The next few years' work included Woodstock (1826), a life of Napoleon (1827), Chronicles of the Canongate (1827), The Fair Maid of Perth (1828), and Anne of Geierstein (1829). Scott's health began to fail in 1830. After finishing (1831) Count Robert of Paris and Castle Dangerous, he went abroad, returning to Abbotsford, his estate, in 1832, the year of his death. The remainder of the debt he had assumed was paid from the earnings of his books.


Scott's narrative poems introduced a form of verse tale that won great popularity; his lyrics and ballads, such as "Lochinvar" and "Proud Maisie," are masterly in feeling and technique. He was a very prolific and popular novelist. Although his fictional heroes now seem wooden and his plots mechanical, Scott excelled in recreating the spirit of great historical events and in painting realistic pictures of Scottish life.


See his journal, ed. by W. E. K. Anderson (1972); his letters, ed. by Sir H. J. C. Grierson (12 vol., 1932–37); biographies by his son-in-law, J. G. Lockhart (10 vol., 1902) and E. Johnson (2 vol., 1970); studies by A. O. J. Cockshut (1969), R. Mayhead (1973), J. Millgate (1984), J. Wilt (1986), J. Kerr (1989), and A. N. Wilson (1989).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Scott, Sir Walter (1771-1832)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The Scottish poet and novelist was born in Edinburgh on August 15, 1771. His father, also named Walter, worked as a writer for a lawyer, and his mother was the daughter of Dr. John Rutherford, a professor of medicine at Edinburgh University. Scott was left permanently lame from a bout of fever in infancy.

As a schoolboy, Scott mastered French well enough to read collections of French romances, and by fifteen he had also mastered Italian. When he was sixteen he was apprenticed in the lawyer's office where his father worked but came to prefer studying for the law himself. In 1799 he obtained the office of sheriff-deputy of Selkirkshire. To his joy, the office carried very light duties, which left him plenty of time for his literary exploits. In 1806 he obtained the office of clerk of session, which he retained for twenty-five years.

His writings became very successful, but due to financial problems with publishers he came close to financial ruin. He pushed himself to produce more to the point where his health suffered and ugly symptoms began to alarm his family. In February 1830 he had his first stroke of paralysis.

His failing health did not slow Scott, and in 1830 he produced Letters on


and Witchcraft, which was published as Number XI in the Harper's Family Library series. The letters were addressed to J. G. Lockhart, his son-in-law. The letters discussed belief in the immortality of the soul, the fall of the communication between men and the spiritual world, mystical cures by charms, prosecution of witches, King James I's opinion of witches, and other mystic arts independent of witchcraft. It was a probing discourse and commentary. The first letter starts: You have asked me, my dear friend, that I should assist the Family Library, with the history of a dark chapter in human nature, which the increasing civilization of all well-instructed countries has now almost blotted out, though the subject attracted no ordinary degree of consideration in the older times of their history.

Number L of Harper's Family Library was Sir David Brewster's Letters on Natur-

al Magic, addressed to Sir Walter Scott, published in 1832.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Glasgow City Council said: "These are standard repair and maintenance works on the Sir Walter Scott statue, column and base.
The chairman of the Sir Walter Scott Club hopes to restore the popularity of a man who virtually invented the historical novel, and in doing so encourage the abridging of his other books.
Shakespeare also used it in A Midsummer Night's Dream, but it became truly widespread after it featured in Sir Walter Scott's 1816 novel Old Mortality.
A rare Victorian album containing the signatures of William Wordsworth, Sir Walter Scott, Charles I and Queen Victoria could sell for up to pounds 2,000 when it goes under the hammer next month.
Immortalised and romanticised by Sir Walter Scott in his early 19th century novel, Kenilworth is probably one of the finest ruined castles to be seen in Britain today.
Sir Arthur Sullivan's grand opera Ivanhoe and its theatrical and musical precursors; adaptations of Sir Walter Scott's novel for the stage, 1819-1891.
Shaw is most noted for his work on Sir Walter Scott and, more specifically, Scott' s Waverley novels.
Readers with a literary bent will find references to Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, and other well-known authors.
Thomas Carlyle perhaps summed it up best in his essay on Sir Walter Scott: "Under all speech that is good for anything there lies a silence that is better." Let all those helter-skelter celebrants, all those clergy who recite endless petitions in the last strophe of mattins, all those choirmasters who fill every silence with ancient chants ponder the conclusion of Carlyle's paragraph when he states: "Silence is deep as eternity; speech as shallow as Time."
The Life of Nelson is beautiful.' There is an excellent eighteen-page introduction by the historian and biographer, Alan Palmer, which shows that Southey's work is not only a superb biography but a 'period piece' of Regency writing to set beside Jane Austen and Sir Walter Scott.
At the end of the period Sir Walter Scott rewrote the story of a genuine case of infanticide to make the woman innocent, and judges simply refused to believe that any mother could knowingly kill her child, no matter how strong the evidence.
But for a younger generation, many of whom are unfamiliar with the novels of Sir Walter Scott or with modern Scottish historians, such a movie can fan the flames of resentment as well as national pride.