Biography of Sir Walter Scott
Sir Walter Scott was an author-lawyer, laboring at the law for over 30 years while writing "on the side" and proving extremely prolific.
Born in Edinburgh on August 15, 1771, Scott had polio as a toddler and bore with a limp the rest of his life. Due to his health, he spent a lot of time as a child at his grandfather's country home in the Borders (southern Scotland) and eventually, when money and position permitted, built himself a castle there called Abbotsford.
Like his castle, "flamboyant" well describes Scott who enjoyed his fame, his fortune and being in the limelight. After writing poetry for several years (eg, The Lay of the Last Minstrel, Marmion), he turned to fiction (some say to avoid being compared unfavorably with Lord Byron). Here he succeeded beyond all ambition, not only becoming a best-selling author (and a baronet), but inventing a whole new genre and ensuring himself a place in all the literature textbooks as "the father of historical fiction." He would be pleased with the appellation.
Sir Walter Scott seems to have been an interesting composite of the two sides of Scottish culture. On the one hand, he did more than anyone to popularize and rehabilitate the image of the Highlander, talking King George IV into visiting Scotland and even wearing the kilt. It was Scott's efforts that revitalized an interest in the tartans, Highland history and the contribution of the clans to the shaping of Britain. While Scott sometimes went "over the top" in his portrayal of swashbuckling, hard-drinking, Jacobite clansmen, there is no doubt that much of today's interest in clan history is due to his efforts.
On the other hand, Scott was a Borderman and his ties to England were strong. He was not against the union, but rather sought to enhance Scotland's status within the empire. Many of his books, including his most famous, Ivanhoe, take place in England.
Scott proved better at business than many an author, though plagued by financial worries at times (through overspending?). Sadly, the publishing house in which he was a partner failed in 1826. Rather than declare bankruptcy, Scott vowed to write his way out of his troubles (Churchill often did the same), and proceeded with a will to produce well over a dozen volumes in his final years.
After a lengthy illness, Scott died at his beloved Abbotsford on September 21, 1832.
Counted as "classics", his books are read today by anyone who enjoys a rousing tale and great romance. Historical fiction has become an established genre, the favorite of many readers. Even if we haven't read Ivanhoe, we've heard of it and of that great and well-named Scotsman - Sir Walter Scott.
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