|Sir Walter Scott, 1822.|
Tomorrow marks 250 years since the birth of Sir Walter Scott, novelist and contemporary of Jane Austen. Young 'Wattie', as he was affectionately known by his family, was born 'in a house belonging to my father, at the head of the College Wynd' in Edinburgh, he later recalled.
At first Walter was a healthy child, but after an illness in which he lost the use of his right leg, he was sent to live with his paternal grandparents on their farm at Sandy Knowe, Roxburghshire. The fresh country air and lots of exercise greatly restored Walter's health, although he was left with a permanent limp.
But his stay at Sandy Knowe left an even more lasting legacy. His grandmother, and his Aunt Jenny, told Walter lots of stories and legends about the Border reivers, and the ill-fated Jacobite rebellions. These tales fired the young lad's imagination, and later inspired his poems and fiction.
After attending school at Edinburgh and Kelso, Walter studied at Edinburgh University before becoming indentured to his father to train as a Writer to the Signet. When his apprenticeship ended, Scott trained for the Scottish Bar. In 1792 he qualified as an Advocate 'with all its duties and honours'.
While studying at Edinburgh, Walter joined several literary societies. He also composed poetry. During the course of his legal training, he also visited the Highlands - and its scenery had a lasting impact on him.
Following an unrequited love for a young lady he met during his teens, Scott fell for the dazzlingly beautiful Charlotte Carpenter (Charpentier). They married at Carlisle in 1797. Two years later, Scott was appointed Sheriff-Depute of Selkirk.
Scott's first full-length publication, The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders (1802) was a collection of traditional Scots ballads (see Alistair Johnson's essay here); it also included some of Scott's own work. The Minstrelsy was a best-seller, and laid the foundations of Walter's first full-length published poem, The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805), followed by Marmion; A Tale of Flodden Field. (1808).
|Scott at Abbotsford.|
|Abbotsford; Scott's Study.|
Scott's later years were overshadowed by illness and financial troubles, and the death of his wife. The collapse of his publishers led Scott to try and repay his debts honourably, by writing. He successfully reduced a large amount of the debts before his death at Abbotsford in 1832.
All images from the author's collection.