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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,
And men below, and saints above;
For love is heaven, and heaven is love."

(from The Lay of the Last Minstrel, 1805)

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 Lady Clare.

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,
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
Dream of battled fields no more,
Days of danger, nights of waking.

(from The Lady of the Lake, 1810)

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 and active..." 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.

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. 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. Scott was buried beside his ancestors in Dryburgh Abbey. From the profits of his writings all his debts were ultimately paid.

Come fill up my cup, come fill up my can,
Come saddle your horses, and call up your men;
Come open the West Port, and let me gang free,
And it's room for the bonnets of Bonny Dundee!

(from The Doom of Devorgoil, 1830)

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) - 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.

Selected works:

  • The Chase and William and Helen: Two Ballads, from the German of Gottfried Augustus Bürger, 1796 (free translations of “Der Wilde Jäger” and “Lenore” by Sir Walter Scott)
  • Goetz of Berlichingen with the Iron Hand / Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1799 (translated by W. Scott)
  • The Eve of St. John: A Border Ballad, 1800
  • The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, 1802-03
  • The Lay of the Last Minstrel, 1805
  • Ballads and Lyrical Pieces, 1806
  • Marmion, 1808
  • The Lady of the Lake, 1810
    - films: 1912, prod. Vitagraph Company of America, dir. J. Stuart Blackton; 1930, prod. FitzPatrick Pictures, dir. James A. FitzPatrick, starring Benita Hume, Percy Marmont; TV film 1992, La Donna del lago, dir. Ilio Catani, libretto Andrea Leone Tottola, starring June Anderson, Rockwell Blake, Chris Merritt, Martine Dupuy, Giorgio Surjan
  • The Vision of Don Roderick, 1811
  • Rokeby, 1813
  • The Bridal of Triermain, 1813
  • Waverley, 1914
  • The Border Antiquities of England and Scotland, 1814-1817
  • The Lord of the Isles, 1815
  • Guy Mannering; or The Astrologer, 1815
    - Tähdistälukija (suom. V. Hämeen-Anttila, 1914)
  • The Field of Waterloo, 1815
  • Paul's Letters to his Kinsfolk, 1816
  • Old Mortality, 1816
  • The Antiquary, 1816
  • The Black Dwarf, 1816
    - Musta kääpiö (suom. J. Krohn, 1874)
  • Rob Roy, 1817
    - Henkipatto Rob Roy: romaani viimeisen skotlantilais-englantilaisen jakobiittikapinan ajoilta (suom. J. Maanpää, 1949)
    - films: 1919, dir. Arthur Vivian, starring John Clyde, Theo Henries; 1913, prod. Eclair American, dir. Henry J. Vernot, starring Jack W. Johnston, Nancy Avril, Robert Frazer; 1953, Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue, dir. Harold French, starring Richard Todd, Glynis Johns, James Robertson Justice, Michael Gough; TV series 1961, prod. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), starring Tom Fleming, Donald Douglas, Blake Butler, Samantha Eggar; TV film 1977, dir. Bob Hird, starring Andrew Faulds, Robin Sachs
  • Harold the Dauntless, 1817
  • The Heart of Midlothian, 1818
    - Mid-Lothian sydän (suom. J.A. Hollo, 1948)
    - films: 1914, A Woman's Triumph, prod. Famous Players Film Company, dir. J. Searle Dawley
  • The Bride of Lammermoor, 1819
    - Lammermoor’in morsian (suom. Suonio [Julius Krohn], 1871) / Lammermoorin morsian (suom. Hannes Korpi-Anttila, 1954)
    - films: 1909, prod. Vitagraph Company of America, dir. J. Stuart Blackton; 1912, prod. Cinès; 1914, prod. Kennedy Features; 1922, prod. Master, dir. Challis Sanderson, written by Frank Miller, starring Vivian Gibson; 1946, Lucia di Lammermoor, dir. Piero Ballerini, starring Nelly Corradi, Afro Poli, Mario Filippeschi; 1971, Lucia di Lammermoor, dir. Mario Lanfranchi, starring Anna Moffo, Lajos Kozma, Paolo Washington; 1983, Lucia di Lammermoor, prod. Grand Théâtre de Genève, dir. Pier Luigi Pizzi, libretto Salvatore Cammarano, starring June Anderson; 1989, Lucia di Lammermoor, prod. Teatro alla Scala di Milano, dir. Pier'Alli,libretto Salvatore Cammarano, starring Mariella Devia; 1998, Lucia, dir. Don Boyd, starring Amanda Boyd, Andrew Greenan, John Daszak; TV film 2002, Lucie de Lammermoor, dir. Don Kent, starring Patrizia Ciofi, Roberto Alagna, Natalie Dessay, Sébastian Na; TV film 2003, Lucia di Lammermoor, dir. Andrea Dorigo, starring Stefania Bonfadelli, Marcelo Álvarez, Roberto Frontali, Mirco Palazzi
  • A Legend of Montrose, 1819
    - Vanha tarina Montrosesta (suom. J. Krohn, 1871)
  • Ivanhoe, 1819
    - Ivanhoe (suom. 1870; J. Krohn, 1885)
    - films: 1913, dir. Leedham Bantock, starring Lauderdale Maitland, Ethel Bracewell; 1913, dir. Herbert Brenon, starring King Baggot, Leah Baird, Herbert Brenon; 1952, dir. by Richard Thorpe, starring Robert Taylor, Joan Fontaine, Elizabeth Taylor; TV series 1957-58, prod. Screen Gems Television, starring Roger Moore, Robert Brown; TV film 1982, dir. by Douglas Camfield, starring Anthony Andrews, James Mason, Lysette Anthony, Sam Neill, Olivia Hussey; 1983, Ballada o doblestnom rytsare Ayvengo, dir. Sergei Tarasov, starring Peteris Gaudins, Tamara Akulova, Boris Khimichev; TV mini-series 1997, dir. Stuart Orme, starring Steven Waddington, Susan Lynch, Ciarán Hinds
  • The Monastery, 1820
  • The Abbot, 1820
  • The Pirate, 1821
  • Kenilworth, 1821
    - Kenilworth: historiallinen romaani Elisabeth kuningattaren ajoilta (suom. V. Hämeen-Anttila, 1912; Vihtori Lehtonen, 1912-13)
    - films: 1909, prod. Vitagraph Company of America, scenario Eugene Mullin; TV series 1957, prod. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), starring Paul Eddington, Anthony Newlands, Ann Firbank
  • The Fortunes of Nigel, 1822
    - Nigelin vaiheet: historiallinen romaani Kuningas Jaakko I:n ajoilta (suomentanut V. Hämeen-Anttila, 1914)
  • Lives of the Novelists, 1821-1824
  • Halidon Hill: A Dramatic Sketch from Scottish History, 1822
  • Peveril of the Peak, 1822
  • Quentin Durward, 1823
    - Qventin Durward (suom. Suonio [Julius Krohn], 1877; 2. korj. p. 1917) / Kuninkaan jousimies (suom. J. Maanpää, 1948)
    - films: 1910, prod. Pathé Frères, dir. Albert Capellani; 1912, dir. Adrien Caillard, adaptation Louis Mauzin; 1955, dir. Richard Thorpe, starring Robert Taylor, Kay Kendall, Robert Morley; TV series 1971, dir. Gilles Grangier, starring Amadeus August, Marie-France Boyer, William Sabatier, Michel Vitold; 1988, Priklyucheniya Kventina Dorvarda, strelka korolevskoy gvardii, prod. Mosfilm dir. Sergei Tarasov
  • St. Ronan's Well, 1823
  • Macduff's Cross, 1823
  • Redgauntlet, 1824
  • The Journal, 1825-1832
  • The Betrothed, 1925
  • The Talisman, 1825
    - Talismani: romani (suom. 1889) / Talismani: tarina ristiretkien ajoilta (suom. Toivo Wallenius, 1918)
    - films: 1923, Richard the Lion-Hearted , dir. Chester Withey, starring Wallace Beery, Charles K. Gerrard, Kathleen Clifford, Marguerite De La Motte; 1954, King Richard and the Crusaders, dir. David Butler, starring Rex Harrison, George Sanders, Virginia Mayo, Laurence Harvey; TV mini-series 1980, dir. Richard Bramall; 1992, Richard lvinoye serdtse, prod. Amidas (Russia), dir. Yevgeni Gerasimov, starring Aleksandr Baluyev; 1993, Rytsar Kennet, prod. Gorky Film Studios, dir. Yevgeni Gersimov, starring Aleksandr Baluyev
  • Woodstock, or the Cavalier, 1826
    - Kuninkaan mies: historiallinen romaani (suomentanut V. Hämeen-Anttila, 1915)
    - TV series 1973, prod. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), dir. David Maloney, adaptation Anthony Steven
  • The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte, 1827 (9 vols.)
  • Chronicles of the Canongate, 1827 (2nd series)
  • The Miscellaneous Prose Works of sir Walter Scott, 1827
  • The Eve of St. John, 1827
  • The Highland Widow, 1827
    - Ylämaan leski (suom. V. Hämeen-Anttila, 1913)
  • The Two Drovers, 1827
  • The Surgeon's Daughter, 1827
  • Tales of a Grandfather, 1827-30
  • The Fair Maid of Perth, 1828
    - Perth’in kaupungin kaunotar (suom. Suonio [Julius Krohn], 1878) / Perth'in kaupungin kaunotar (suom. Aune Brotherus, 1932)
    - films: 1923, dir. Edwin Greenwood, starring Russell Thorndike, Sylvia Caine, Lionel d'Aragon, Tristan Rawson; 1926, prod. De Forest Phonofilm, dir. Miles Mander; TV film 1988, La Jolie fille de Perth, dir. Pierre Jourdan, starring Inva Mula, Charles Workman, Jean-François Lapointe
  • The Keepsake Stories, 1828
  • Anne of Geierstein, 1829
  • Tales of a Grandfather, 1828-31
  • The History of Scotland, 1829-30
  • Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft, 1830
  • Essays on Ballad Poetry, 1830
  • The Doom of Devorgoil: A Melodrama, 1830
  • Auchindrane; or, the Ayrshire Tragedy, 1830
  • Count Robert of Paris, 1832
  • Castle Dangerous, 1832
  • The Waverley Novels, 1829-33 (48 vols.)
  • Poetical Works, 1833-34 (12 vols.)
  • The Miscellaneous Prose Works of Sir Walter Scott, 1834-71 (30 vols.)
  • The Journal of Sir Walter Scott, 1890 (republished 1939-36 in 3 vols.)
  • The Private Letter-Books of Sir Walter Scott, 1930 (edited by Wilfred Partington) 
  • Sir Walter's Post-Bag: More Stories and Sidelights from His Unpublished Letter-Books, 1932 (written & selected by Wilfred Partington)
  • The Letters of Sir Walter Scott, 1932-37 (12 vols., ed. by H.J.C. Grierson)
  • The Journal of Sir Walter Scott, 1972 (edited and introduced by W.E.K. Anderson)
  • The Supernatural Short Stories of Sir Walter Scott, 1977 (edited with an introduction by Michael Hayes)
  • Scott on Himself: A Selection of the Autobiographical Writings of Sir Walter Scott, 1981 (edited by David Hewitt)
  • Northern Lights, or, a Voyage in the Lighthouse Yacht to Nova Zembla and the Lord Knows Where in the Summer of 1814, 1982 (edited by William F. Laughlan)
  • Selected Poems, 1992 (edited with an introduction by James Reed)
  • The Siege of Malta; and Bizarro, 2008 (edited by J.H. Alexander, Judy King, and Graham Tulloch)
  •  The Shorter Fiction, 2009 (edited by Graham Tulloch and Judy King)

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