Walter Scott

The Sir Walter Scott Collection

A small collection of books, manuscripts and periodical articles by or about Sir Walter Scott.

About Sir Walter Scott

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Plate from The Scott gallery: a series of one hundred and forty-six photogravures, together with descriptive letterpress, 1903 by James L. Caw

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) was born in Edinburgh, the son of a writer to the Signet. He was sent to stay at his grandfather's farm in the Borders at an early age, and so began his association with that part of the Scottish countryside which remained a feature of his work throughout his life. His first published works were translations of Goethe and other German poets in 1796. The next year he married Charlotte Charpentier and in 1799 he was appointed Deputy Sheriff of Selkirkshire.

About this time, he renewed his friendship with a schoolfellow, James Ballantyne, and it was he who published for Scott in 1799 some original ballads and translations under the title 'Apology for Tales of Terror.' Scott later went into partnership with Ballantyne and in the next few years they published many of his poems including Marmion, The Lady of the Lake, Rokeby, The Bride of Trierman, The Lord of the Isles and Harold the Dauntless. Most of these became very popular, in particular the ballad The Lay of the Minstrel published in 1805 which earned him tremendous popularity. In 1812 he was able to move to Abbotsford, a large and romantically placed house on the River Tweed.

Shortly afterwards, when he found his popularity as a poet waning in favour of Byron, he turned to prose and in 1814 published Waverley anonymously. The novel was well received by the public and in the years that followed he wrote one Waverley novel after another.

In 1819 he was created a baronet, and all went well until 1826, when the collapse of the Ballantyne bookselling business rendered him liable for debts amounting to £130,000. With amazing spirit, he applied himself to the task of writing novels, criticism, histories and articles, in order to meet these debts, and when he died in 1832, he had already repaid much of the enormous sum he owed.

Sir Walter Scott was buried at Dryburgh Abbey. His influence in all aspects of Scottish culture was immense. His work provided inspiration, not only to other writers, but to artists, musicians and historians.

About the collection

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Plate from Abbotsford: the personal relics and antiquarian treasures of Sir Walter Scott, 1893

The collection consists of 20 items and includes books, manuscripts and periodicals, by and about Sir Walter Scott.

Finding aid

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Cover, Cornhill Magazine, 1932.

Sir Walter Scott Collection listing (PDF, 109KB)

Further reading

Read a full biography of Sir Walter Scott at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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