Walter Scott was born on the 15th of August in 1771 in Edinburgh, Scotland. His parents were Walter Scott. Sr., a lawyer and writer, and Anne Rutherford. Walter suffered a bout of polio during his early years that cast a significant impact on his life. To cure his physical challenge, his parents left him in the custody of his paternal grandparents where he grew up listening to stories of the Scottish border. Soon, he started reading and enjoying drama, poetry, historical romances, and fairy tales. These early readings set grounds for his growth as a writer.
Since Walter was living with his relatives, his aunt, taught him the basic skills of reading and writing along with speech patterns. Later, in 1878, he returned to his parents and attended private tuitions to prepare himself for schooling. The following year, he attended the Royal High School in Edinburgh where he did astonishingly well. Since he was an ardent reader, his early readings included chivalric romances, history, poetry, and travel books. After finishing school, he re-joined his aunt Jenny at Kelso, where he attended Kelso Grammar School to pursue his education. Later, he studied classics at the University of Edinburgh.
During his visit to Lake District, England with his friends, he met Charlotte Charpentier, a member of French royals. After a few weeks, he proposed to her and the couple tied a knot in 1797 in St Mary’s Church. The couple had five children but only one survived.
Some Important Facts of His Life
- His extensive knowledge of Scottish history became the reason for the re-discovery of Scotland’s lost jewel called, the Honours of Scotland.
- He is commemorated on a stone slab placed in Makars’ Court, outside The Writers’ Museum, Lawnmarket, Edinburgh.
- Walter Scott’s Monument in the center of George Square, Glasgow, still attracts a huge number of his fans.
- In 2010, the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch created the annual Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction.
Walter Scott was a true legend who has given us a lot of valuable pieces of historical narratives. He started writing at a young age and tasted the fruits of success in his lifetime. His first published works, “The Chase, and, William and Helen”, were the translations of German ballads. His early writings include various translations from German and narrative poems and plays including “The Lay of the Last Minstrel” which ran into many editions. The poem’s vigorous and storytelling technique, honest pathos, Scottish elements, and descriptive landscapes found repetitions in his other pieces including “The Lady of the Lake”, “Marmion” and “The Lord of the Isles.” Later, in 1808, his eighteen volume edition of John Dryden’s work appeared followed by nineteen volume edition of Jonathan Swift. By 1813, being tired of narrative poetry, he started writing his first novel, Waverley, which earned a lot of success. His other notable attempts include Guy Mannering, Peveril of the Peak, The Bridal of Triermain, The Doom of Devorgoil, The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte, and Lives of the Novelists.
Walter Scott earned a huge success in life as a ground-breaking modernist author of all times. He gained immense popularity on account of his thoughtful ideas and catchy writing techniques that inspired and spellbound generations. The major elements of his style include the use of disjointed flashbacks, medieval colloquialism, and varied structure. For instance, his much-appreciated work, Ivanhoe, provides his readers with the realistic and vivid background of the medieval age using historical characters along with fictional characters, flashbacks, and plain narration. Since he was a born storyteller, in most of his works, he used third person narrative. However, when he wished to explain something from a different perspective, he used the first-person narrative. While using disjointed flashbacks in his works, he presents the actions of varied groups in a logical sequence. The recurring thematic strands in most of the writings are cultural clash, history, religious intolerance, and honor. Regarding literary devices, he often turns to metaphors, imagery, and similes to create a unique style.
Some Important Works of Walter Scott
- Best Novels: Some of his best novels include Waverley, The Antiquary, The Black Dwarf and The Tale of Old Mortality, The Heart of Midlothian, The Monastery and The Abbot, and The Fair Maid of Perth.
- Other Works: Besides writing novels, he tried his hands on other genres, too. Some of them include “The Lady of the Lake”, “The Highland Widow”, “The Two Drovers”, Goetz of Berlichingen, with the Iron Hand: A Tragedy, and The Doom of Devorgoil.
Walter Scott’s Impact on Future Literature
Walter Scott’s unique writing style and literary qualities of his masterpieces brought praiseworthy changes in the Scottish as well as global English literature. His distinctive writing approach and unique expression made him stand among the best historical fiction writer of his time. Also, he had a significant influence on a diverse range of writers and critics, writers, and other influential figures including Letitia Elizabeth Landon who wrote two tributes to him. Among others were, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Samuel Cramer, Mark Twain, and Isaac Asimov. Even still young writers aspire to write historical fiction like Scott.
- “I have heard men talk about the blessings of freedom,” he said to himself, “but I wish any wise man would teach me what use to make of it now that I have it.” (Ivanhoe)
- “Chivalry!—why, maiden, she is the nurse of pure and high affection—the stay of the oppressed, the redresser of grievances, the curb of the power of the tyrant —Nobility were but an empty name without her, and liberty finds the best protection in her lance and her sword.” (Ivanhoe)
- “The wretch concentred all in self,
The living shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonored, and unsung.” (“The Lay of the Last Minstrel 1805”)
- “Blessed be his name, who hath appointed the quiet night to follow the busy day, and the calm sleep to refresh the wearied limbs and to compose the troubled spirit.” (The Talisman)