Scott, Sir Walter, 1st Baronet biographical name
(born Aug. 15, 1771, Edinburgh, Scot.died Sept. 21, 1832, Abbotsford, Roxburgh) Scottish writer, often considered both the inventor and the greatest practitioner of the historical novel. From childhood Scott was familiar with stories of the Border region of Scotland. Apprenticed to his father, a lawyer, in 1786, he later became sheriff depute of Selkirk and clerk to the Court of Session in Edinburgh. His interest in border ballads led to the collection Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802–03). His first original poetic romance, The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805), established his reputation; The Lady of the Lake (1810) was his most successful contribution to the genre. He produced editions of the works of John Dryden, 18 vol. (1808), and Jonathan Swift, 19 vol. (1814). Troubled with debt, from 1813 he wrote in part to make money. He tired of narrative poetry and turned to prose romances. The extremely popular series now known as the Waverley novels consists of more than two dozen works dealing with Scottish history, including the masterpieces Old Mortality (1816), Rob Roy (1817), and The Heart of Midlothian (1818). He drew on English history and other themes for Ivanhoe (1819), Kenilworth (1821), and Quentin Durward (1823). All his novels were published anonymously until 1827.
Sir Walter Scott, detail of an oil painting by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, 1824; in the National
—Courtesy of The National Portrait Gallery, London
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