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||Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)|
Writer and poet, a born storyteller and master of dialogue, one of the greatest historical novelists, whose favorite subject was his native Scotland. Scott wrote twenty-seven historical novels. His influence is seen among others in the works of James Fenimore Cooper, Alexandre Dumas, and Aleksandr Pushkin.
"Love rules the court, the camp, the grove,
Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh, the son of a solicitor Walter Scott and Anne, a daughter of professor of medicine. An early illness – polio – left him lame in the right leg. Six of his 11 brothers and sisters died in infancy. However, Scott grew up to be a man over six feet and great physical endurance.
Scott's interest in the old Border tales and ballads had early been awakened, and he devoted much
of his leisure to the exploration of the Border country. His early years Scott spent in Sandy-Know,
in the residence of his paternal grandfather. There his grandmother told him tales of old heroes.
At the age of eight he returned to Edinburgh. He attended Edinburgh High School (1779-1783) and
studied at Edinburgh University arts and law (1783-86, 1789-92). At the age of sixteen he had
already started to collect old ballads and later translated into English Gottfried Bürger's
ballads 'The Wild Huntsman' and 'Lenore' and 'Goetz of Berlichingen' (1799) from Johann Wolfgang
von Goethe's play.
Scott was apprenticed to his father in 1786 and in 1792 he was called to the bar. In 1799 he was appointed sheriff depute of the county of Selkirk. After an unsuccessful love affair with Williamina Belsches of Fettercairn – she married Sir William Forbes – Scott married in 1797 Margaret Charlotte Charpentier (or Charpenter), daughter of Jean Charpentier of Lyon i n France. They had five children.
In 1802-03 appeared Scott's first major work, The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.
As a poet Scott rose into fame with the publication of The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805)
about an old border country legend. He had burned its first version, when his friends did not
like it. Scott returned to the poem in 1802, when a horse had kicked him and he spent three
days in bed. The Lay of the Last Minstrel became a huge success and made him the most
popular author of the day. It was followed by Marmion (1808), a historical romance in
tetrameter, set in 1513, and concerning the attempts of Lord Marmion to marry the rich
The Lady of the Lake (1810) and Rokeby (1813), were followed by Scott's last major poem, The Lord of the Isles, which came out in 1815. Later Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866) ridiculed in 'The Four Ages of Poetry' Scott, Byron, and the Romantic "Lake Poets" Wordsworth and Coleridge: "While the historian and the philosopher are advancing in, and accelerating, the progress of knowledge, the poet is wallowing in the rubbish of departed ignorance, and raking up the ashes of dead savages to find gewgaws and rattles for the grown babies of the age. Mr.Scott digs up the poachers and cattle-stealers of the ancient border. Lord Byron cruizes for thieves and pirates on the shores of Morea and among the Greek Islands. Mr. Southey wades through ponderous volumes of travels and old chronicles..." Verses from The Lady of the Lake, including 'Hail to the Chief who in triumph advances!" were put to music by James Sanderson (1769-1841) and became the march traditionally played to honor the president of the United States.
Soldier, rest! thy warfare o'er,
In 1806 Scott became clerk to the Court of Session in Edinburgh – this work took only a few hours daily
and half of the year he was free. His long holidays Scott spent at Ashestiel, situated on the Tweed
River. To increase his income he started a printing and publishing business with his friend James
Ballantyne. The firm had in the
1810s financial difficulties, and Scott spent his time in immense labours for his publishers,
much of it hack editorial work. Scott also expanded during these years his Abbotsford estate, but it
was not until 1826 when the final crash came. He accepted all Ballantyne's debts and decided to pay
them off with his writings – the sum was £130,000 (millions today). In his diary he wrote: "I
am become a sort of writing automaton, and truly the joints of my knees, especially the left, are so
stiff and painful in rising and sitting down, that I can hardly help screaming – I that was so robust
Difficulties lasted the best of Scott's writing career. To be more productive he used a massive desk with two desktops and kept two projects going at a time. Although Scott's books were sold at prices as high as 31s. 6d., they found much new middle-class readers, and there was no interest in lowering the prices. In comparison, low-cost books, booklets, were offered for the "white-collar" workers at sixpence apiece, and paperbound books were sold for 5 shillings.
In the 1810s Scott published several novels anonymously or under the
pseudonym Jebediah Cleisbotham or 'Author of Waverley.' He consistently
refused to acknowledge his authorship of the novels and usually opened
them with a tongue-in-cheek account how the manuscrip had been found,
and how the 'Author of Waverley' hand only edited or translated it.
From this period date such works as Waverley (1814), dealing with the rebellion of 1745, which attempted to restore a Scottish family to the British throne. The book set the classic pattern of the historical novel. It had a hero, whose loyalty is split between two rulers and two ways of life. Scott continued with Guy Mannering (1815) and Tales of My Landlord (1816), consisting of The Black Dwarf and Old Mortality. Rob Roy (1817) was a portrait of one of Scotland's greatest heroes – the novel sold out its edition of 10 000 copies in two weeks. The Heart of Midlothian (1818) was a story of Jeanie Deans's journey to London to appeal on behalf of her sister who has been wrongfully charged with child murder. The Bride of Lammermoor (1819), was a novel of loss, love and vengeance, a venture into the gothic genre. A Legend of Montrose (1819) drew a picture of the campaigns of 1644. Ivanhoe (1819) was set in the reign of Richard I and depicted the rivalry between the King and his wicked brother John (King 1199-1216).
Ivanhoe, a tale of chivalry, was set in the age of Richard the Lion-Hearted. Wilfred of Ivanhoe loves Rowena, but his father plans marry her to Athelstane of Coningsburgh. Ivanhoe serves with King Richard in the crusades. King's brother John tries to usurp the throne with the help of Norman barons. Richard appears in disguise at the tournament at Ashby de la Zouch, where he helps Ivanhoe to defeat John's knights. At the tournament Sir Brian falls in love with Rebecca, a beautiful Jewess. She is taken captive with her father Isaac, Rowena, Ivanhoe, and Cedric by the Norman barons and imprisoned in Torquilstone. The King and his band of outlaws, among them Robin Hood, release the prisoners. Rebecca is carried off by Bois-Guilbert and charged of witchcraft. Ivanhoe appears as her champion, opposing Bois-Guilbert, who dies. Rebecca, seeing Ivanhoe's love for Rowena, leaves England with her father. - Michael Ragussis has argued that Scott's Isaac the Jew and his daughter Rebecca restaged England's medieval persecution of Jews and criticized the barbarity of persecution and forced conversion. In the story Rebecca is a healer and a voice of moderation between Saxon knights and Normans. Nearly all of the other non-Jewish characters are prejudiced in one way or the other.
In the 1820s appeared Kenilworth (1821), The Fortunes of Nigel (1822), Peveril of the Peak (1823), Quentin Durward (1823), The Talisman (1825), Woodstock (1826), The Surgeon's Daughter (1827), and Anne of Geierstei
(1829). After the financial crash of 1825-26 the author's anonymity was
destroyed, and he was exposed to the general public as Sir Walter
Scott. He had at least five pen names, including Jebediah Cleisbotham,
Crystal Croftangry, Malachi Malagrowther, Lawrence Templeton, and
Captain Clutterbuck. According to an anecdote, when mortally sick,
Beethoven (1770-1827) hurled away Scott's novel with the cry: "Why, the
fellow writes for money".
The quality of Scott's novels had declined drastically by the 1830s. A "cloudiness of words and arrangement" made it necessary for Scott to rely on the help of an amanuensis. Count Robert of Paris (1832) was substantially rewritten by his son-in-law, John Gibson Lockhart. Scott's friend were worried of his mental health, when he conceived a plan to kidnap Princess Victoria and install Wellington as dictator. The Siege of Malta, which Scott wrote in 1831-32, and Il Bizarro (1832) were not published until 2008. "... it may be hoped that no literary resurrectionist will ever be guilty of the crime of giving the to the world," said John Buchan in his life of Sir Walter Scott.
Scott's historical novels fall into three groups; those set in the background of Scottish history, from Waverly to A Legend of Montrose; a group which takes up themes from the Middle Ages and Reformation times, from Ivanhoe to Talisman, and his remaining books, from Woodstock onwards. Scott's dramatic work include Halidon Hill (1922), Macduff's Cross (1823), The Doom of Devorgoil (1830), and Auchindrane (1830), which was founded on the case of Mure of Auchindrane in Pitcairn's Ancient Criminal Trials.
Scott was created a baronet in 1820. A few years later he founded
the Bannatyne Club, which published old Scottish documents. Scott
visited France in 1826 to collect material for The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte,
which was published in 9 volumes in 1827. (This biography was one of
the sources for Charles Chaplin's never-realized film about Napoleon.)
A few years earlier Scott had started to keep his Journal,
recording in undiscourageable spirit his deteriorating health and other
misfortunes. His wife, Lady Scott, died in 1826, and the author himself
had a stroke in 1830. Next year Scott sailed to Italy. In Malta he
wrote one novel and a short story, and in Naples he collected old songs
and ballads. After return to England in 1832, he died on September 21.
When his head was opened after death, it was observed that "the brain
was not large– and the cranium thinner that it is usually found to be." Scott was buried in Dryburgh Abbey beside his wife in the sepulchre of his ancestors. From the
profits of his writings all his debts were ultimately paid.
Come fill up my cup, come fill up my can,
Scott's influence as a novelist was profound. He established the form of the historical novel and his work inspired such writers as Bulwer-Lytton, G. Eliot, and the Brontës. In the United States the scholar W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) said in his address in 1926, that he learned most of Scott's 'Lady of the Lake' by heart at school, adding: "In after life once it was my privilege to see the lake." In the 1930s European Marxist critics found Scott again, and interpreted his novels in term of historicism. The most prominent admirer of Scott was the Hungarian philosopher and aesthetician György Lucács. Modernist taste classified Scott to the category of the subliterary or juvenile. "It is impossible to believe that Scott lives anywhere today," wrote Ford Madox Ford in his The March of Literature (1938), "he might perhaps in a doctor's dining-room in Marseilles or Tarascon, in a child's nursery in Buenos Aires, or a housemaid's pantry on Boston Hill. Or, of course, in all the sancta sanctorum of all the professors of the universities of Goettingen and Jena. But his guilelessness is such that it is impossible to believe that any grown man could take seriously the adventures of Ivanhoe or Rob Roy." However, there is also a significant revival of critical and scholarly interest on Scott.
For further reading: Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart. by J.G. Lockhart (1837-38, 7 vols.); Sir Walter Scott by J. Buchan (1932); Scott: The Scott and Scotland by E. Muir (1936); A történelmi regény by Georg Lucács (1937 - trans. as The Historical Novel); Bibliography of Sir Walter Scott, 1797-1940 by James C. Corson (1943); The Waverly Novels by J.T. Hillhouse (1968); Walter Scott: Modern Judgements, ed. by D.D. Devlin (1968); Critical Heritage, ed. by J.O. Hayden (1970); Sir Walter Scott: the Great Unknown by Edgar Johnson (1970, 2 vols.); The Author of Waverly by D.D. Devlin (1971); Walter Scott by T. Crawford (1982); Scott and his Influence by J.H. Alexander and D. Hewitt (1983); Walter Scott: The Making of the Novelist by Jane Millgate (1984); Secret Leaves: The Novels of Walter Scott by Judith Wilt (1985); Modern Romance and Transformation of the Novel by Ian Duncan (1992); 'Writing Nationalist History' by Micheal Ragussis, in English Literary History 60:1, Spring (1993); The Life of Walter Scott by John Sutherland (1995); Critical Essays on Sir Walter Scott, ed. by Harry E. Shaw (1996); 1814 Year of Waverley: How Walter Scott’s Novel Changed Us by Christopher Harvie (2013) - See also: Prosper Merimée, J.F. Cooper, Washington Irving, The Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club - Suomessa Scottin teosten vaikutus näkyy mm. Frederika Runebergin ja Zachris Topeliuksen historiallisissa romaaneissa.