Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet (15 August 1771 – 21 September 1832) was a Scottish historical novelist, playwright, and poet, popular throughout much of the world during his time. Scott was the first English-language author to have a truly international career in his lifetime, with many contemporary readers in Europe, Australia, and North America.
<i>Waverley</i> was an astonishing success, the first edition selling out within two days of publication. The critics too were warm in their praise, particularly Francis Jeffrey in the <i>Edinburgh Review</i> who extolled its truth to nature, fidelity to 'actual experience', force of characterization, and vivid description. Some reviewers, though, notably John Wilson Croker for the <i>Quarterly Review</i>, expressed reservations about the propriety of mixing history and romance.
"In all of Sir Walter Scott's novels the difference between the modern world and the world of the past is defined by the difference between the rule of law and the rule of violence."
"The title of this work has not been chosen without the grave and solid deliberation which matters of importance demand from the prudent. Even its first, or general denomination, was the result of no common research or selection, although, according to the example of my predecessors, I had only to seize upon the most sounding and euphonic surname that English history or topography affords, and elect it at one as the title of my work, and the name of my hero."
"While the novel's juvenile and romantic qualities probably have been responsible for much of its appeal to successive generations of readers and, more recently, to moviegoers, the basic point of view in Ivanhoe is neither juvenile nor romantic, but thoughtful mature, and in a sense antiromantic."
"In that pleasant district of merry England which is watered by the river Don, there extended in ancient times a large forest, covering the greater part of the beautiful hills and valleys which lie between Sheffield and the pleasant town of Doncaster. The remains of this extensive wood are still to be seen at the noble seats of Wentworth of Warncliffe Park, and around Rotherham."
In 1812, Scott embarked on building his home at Abbotsford near Melrose. His approach to architecture reflected his writing, reviving historical styles in a dramatic way. This approach was also used by Scott when he took charge of arrangements for the Royal Visit of George IV to Edinburgh in 1822. The visit led to a surge in interest in Scotland’s past, including the revival of traditional forms of Highland dress.
Scott's historical novels were read and admired throughout Europe. Those which dealt with Scottish themes, like <i>Heart of Midlothian</i> and <i>Waverley</i>, have had a major influence on how Scots see their own past and on how Scotland is viewed from outside.
In 1797 he was married to Miss Charlotte Margaret Charpentier, the daughter of a French gentleman of good position. The year 1802 saw the publication of Scott’s first work of real importance, <i>The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border</i>, of which 2 vols. appeared, the third following in the next year. In 1804 he went to reside at Ashestiel on the Tweed, where he ed. the old romance, Sir Tristrem, and in 1805 he produced his first great original work, <i>The Lay of the Last Minstrel</i>, which was received with great favour, and decided that literature was thenceforth to be the main work of his life.
At 15 he was apprenticed to his father, but preferring the higher branch of the profession, he studied for the Bar, to which he was called in 1792. He did not, however, forego his favourite studies, but ransacked the Advocates’ Library for old manuscripts, in the deciphering of which he became so expert that his assistance soon came to be invoked by antiquarians of much longer standing. Although he worked hard at law his ideal was not the attainment of an extensive practice, but rather of a fairly paid post which should leave him leisure for his favourite pursuits, and this he succeeded in reaching, being appointed first in 1799 Sheriff of Selkirk, and next in 1812 one of the Principal Clerks to the Court of Session, which together brought him an income of £1600.
Sir Walter Scott was one of the most popular writers of the 19th century. His historical novels and poetry were incredibly successful throughout the world. His most famous novels included <i>Waverley</i>, <i>Ivanhoe</i> and <i>Rob Roy</i>.