Sir Walter Scott

Sir Walter Scott was a poet, novelist, ballad-collector, critic and man of letters, but is probably most renowned as the founder of the genre of the historical novel, involving tales of gallantry, romance and chivalry. Beginning with the publication of Waverley in 1814, one of the most significant books of the nineteenth-century, his anonymously published Waverley novels proved hugely popular in Europe and America, and established his reputation as a major international literary force. It is a measure of Scott's influence that Edinburgh's central railway station, opened in 1854, is called Waverley Station.

Scott spent his childhood years in Edinburgh, with occasional extended visits to his grandfather Robert Scott's farm in Tweeddale in the Borders, where he became versed in his family's history, and in Borders culture in general. He attended the famed Edinburgh High School, and then followed in his father's wake by taking a law degree at Edinburgh University, being called to the Bar in 1792. At 25 he began writing, first translating works from German then moving on to poetry. In 1797 he married the daughter of a French refugee, Charlotte Carpenter, with whom he had four children. Five years later, he published a three-volume set of collected Scottish ballads, The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders. This was an early indicator of his interest in Scotland and history from a literary standpoint.

He consolidated his legal career by becoming Sheriff-Depute of Selkirk and a Principal Clerk to the Court of Session at Edinburgh. As well as continuing to publish literary work, the versatile and prolific Scott reviewed widely, edited works, set up a theatre in Edinburgh, and helped found the Quarterly Review in 1809.

By the 1820s, Scott was probably the most famous of living Scotsmen, and was consequently chosen to organise the visit to Edinburgh in 1822 of George IV. He was heavily criticised by his Scottish contemporaries for the resultant tartan pageantry, in which the King appeared in Highland dress complete with salmon-pink leggings.

In 1825, his financial state deteriorated drastically, and 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 continued to live at Abbotsford near Melrose, where he died on the 21st September 1832. Among other tributes, the Scott monument was raised on Princes Street in Edinburgh, and a biography was published by his son-in-law, John Gibson Lockhart

People and Traditions | From bonny borderland to darkest Africa

Kelso Border Union Show
Grey Mare's Tail
Smailholm Tower
Scott's View
Melrose Abbey
The River Tweed