Celebrated poet, novelist, and ballad-collector Sir Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 14th August 1771.
When Walter was young he suffered a bout of polio that left him lame in his right leg for the rest of his life. To aid his recovery, Walter was sent to live for some years in the rural Scottish Borders, on his grandparents’ farm at Sandyknowe. It was while he was there that he learned many of the tales and legends which would influence much of his later literature. After some time, Walter then moved to Bath in England, for further recuperation at the famous spas, before returning to Scotland to study law.
Like his father, Walter became a lawyer, and in 1792 he was called to the Bar. As well as practising law, Walter was already a keen writer. In 1797 he married Charlotte Carpenter, with whom he had four children. Then in 1802, he published a three-volume set of collected Scottish ballads, The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders.
Walter became the Sheriff-Depute of Selkirk and a Principal Clerk to the Court of Session in Edinburgh, as well as continuing to publish poetry, such as his celebrated The Lady of the Lake. In 1809 he helped set up a theatre in Edinburgh, and founded the Quarterly Review. Scott’s first novel was Waverley, which was published in 1814. It was a huge hit, popular in Europe and America, and established Scott’s reputation as a major international literary force.
By the 1820s, Scott was probably the most famous of all living Scotsmen, and was consequently chosen to organise the visit to Edinburgh in 1822 of King George IV. By 1825 however, his financial situation suffered a drastic setback. Rather than declare bankruptcy he placed his home, Abbotsford, near Melrose, and income into a trust belonging to his creditors, and attempted to write his way out of debt. Despite these problems, Scott and his family continued to live at Abbotsford until his death on the 21st September 1832.
Sir Walter Scott was one of the first authors to have a truly international career during his own lifetime, with readers all over Great Britain, Ireland, Europe, Australia, and North America. To this day, his novels, including Ivanhoe, The Heart of Midlothian, Rob Roy, and Waverley, remain popular, on page and on screen.
Dr Kathryn Bates is a graduate of archaeology and history. She has excavated across the world as an archaeologist, and tutored medieval history at Leicester University. She joined the administrative team at Oxford Open Learning twelve years ago. Alongside her distance learning work, Dr Bates is a bestselling novelist, and an itinerant creative writing tutor for primary school children.