Sir Walter Scott, a Scottish author, born in Edinburgh, Aug. 15, 1771, died at Abbotsford, Sept. 21, 1832. He was a younger son of Walter Scott, a writer to the signet, allied to the Scotts of Harden, an offshoot from the house of Buccleuch. His mother was Anne, daughter of John Rutherford, a medical professor in the university of Edinburgh. Being delicate, he was sent at three years of age to reside on his paternal grandfather's farm of Sandyknowe, in Roxburghshire. In 1779 he returned to Edinburgh greatly improved in health, with the exception of a lameness which appeared in his second year and never left him. Soon after he entered the high school of Edinburgh, whence, in October, 1783, he was transferred to the university. He was apprenticed in May, 1786, to legal business in the office of his father, and was called to the Scottish bar in July, 1792. His earliest publications were metrical versions of Bürger's "Leonora" and "Wild Huntsman" (4to, 1796). Subsequently he composed the ballads "Glenfinlas," "The Eve of St. John," and "The Grey Brother," published in 1799 in Lewis's "Tales of Wonder." About the same time he produced a translation of Goethe's Götz von Berlichingen. He had meanwhile (December, 1797) married Charlotte Margaret Carpenter, a young lady of French extraction, and was in the enjoyment of a comfortable income.
In 1799 he was appointed sheriff depute of Selkirkshire. In 1802 appeared the first two volumes of his "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border," a collection of ancient ballads, in 1803 the third volume, and in 1804 his annotated edition of the ancient poem of "Sir Tristrem." These works were preliminary to "The Lay of the Last Minstrel," of which the first draught had been written in the autumn of 1802, and which on its appearance in 1805 met with an enthusiastic reception. Scott's appointment in 1806 to one of the principal clerkships in the Scottish court of session, with a salary of £800 (subsequently increased to £1,300), enabled him to devote himself entirely to literature. He produced a collection of "Ballads and Lyrical Pieces" (1806), and edited a complete edition of the works of Dryden, with a life of the poet (1808). In 1808 appeared "Marmion, a Tale of Flod-den Field," followed in 1810 by "The Lady of the Lake." His succeeding poems, "The Vision of Don Roderick" (1811), "Rokeby" (1812), a tale of the English civil wars, "The Bridal of Triermain" (anonymous, 1813), "The Lord of the Isles" (1814), "The Field of Waterloo" (1815), and "Harold the Dauntless" (1817), are far inferior, though having occasional passages of great beauty.
In the summer of 1814 some mislaid sheets of a novel designed to illustrate highland scenery and customs in the era of 1745, which had been commenced in 1805, but laid aside, fell in his way. The second and third volumes were written in three weeks, and in July of the same year the work was published anonymously under the title of "Waverley, or 'tis Sixty Years Since." The publication marked an era in the history of English fiction. He had been in the habit of passing his summers at Ashes-tiel on the Tweed, near Selkirk, an estate belonging to a kinsman, and in 1811 he purchased a small farm on that river, within a few miles of Melrose, to which he gave the name of Abbotsford, and which by successive purchases, often made at exorbitant prices, gradually expanded into a large domain. The modest dwelling first erected upon it grew in the course of a few years into a large Gothic castellated mansion; and it was the owner's chief occupation, in the intervals of literary labor or of hospitable duties, to add to the embellishments of both house and grounds. He now produced his novels in rapid succession; and perhaps one reason for maintaining his incognito was his unwillingness to impair his standing as a landed proprietor by allowing it to be known that he was an author writing for fortune.
To "Waverley" succeeded in 1815 "Guy Mannering," and in 1816 "The Antiquary," both "by the author of Waverley." His next tales, "The Black Dwarf" and "Old Mortality" (1816), constituted the first series of the "Tales of my Landlord," while "Rob Roy" (1817) was "by the author of Waverley." In 1818 appeared "The Heart of Mid-Lothian," and in 1819 "The Bride of Lammermoor" and "A Legend of Montrose," forming additional series of "Tales of my Landlord." "Ivanhoe" (1819), which was to have appeared under a new incognito, was, in consequence of the publication of a novel in London pretending to be a fourth series of "Tales of my Landlord," announced as "by the author of Waverley." "The Monastery" and "The Abbot" appeared in 1820, "Kenilworth" and "The Pirate" in 1821, "The Fortunes of Nigel" in 1822, "Peveril of the Peak," "Quen-tin Durward," and "St. Ronan's Well" in 1823, "Redgauntlet" in 1824, and "Tales of the Crusaders," comprising "The Betrothed" and "The Talisman," in 1825, all "by the author of Waverley." Down to the end of 1825 he was engaged in a variety of miscellaneous enterprises besides those specified.
In 1809 he edited the "State Papers and Letters of Sir Ralph Sadlier," in 1809-12 "Lord Som-ers's Collection of Tracts" (13 vols. 4to), and in 1814 the works of Swift in 19 volumes, with a life of the author. An excursion to the continent after the battle of Waterloo furnished the materials for "Paul's Letters to his Kinsfolk." He was also an occasional contributor to the "Edinburgh" and "Quarterly" reviews and other periodicals, including the "Edinburgh Annual Register," the historical department of which he conducted in 1814 -'15. To these must be added his dramatic sketches, "Halidon Hill" (1822) and "Macduff's Cross," and the articles on "Chivalry," "Romance," and the "Drama," for the "Encyclopaedia Britannica." With the increase of his prosperity he kept state at Abbotsford like a wealthy country gentleman, and from March to December it was the resort of innumerable visitors of every rank and degree. His mornings until 11 o'clock were devoted to composition, and the rest of the day to the superintendence of the works of improvement on his grounds, or the entertainment of his guests and family. In spite of his lameness he was an indefatigable walker and rider.
His winters were passed at his house in Edinburgh. His literary fame, greatly enhanced by the steadily growing belief that he was identical with the author of "Waverley," seems never to have disturbed his equanimity; and the baronetcy conferred upon him by George IV. in 1820 was probably received with more satisfaction than the praises of the public. In January, 1826, Constable and co. of Edinburgh, his publishers, were obliged, in consequence of a commercial crisis, to suspend payment, and Scott was found to have incurred liabilities to their creditors to the amount of £72,000. In his eagerness to enlarge and embellish Abbotsford, and to maintain his style of living, he had been in the habit of receiving from Constable and co. large sums in anticipation of Works in progress or which he proposed to write, and was thus led, on the principle of mutual accommodation, to give the firm counter acceptances or to indorse their bills. This disaster was almost immediately followed by the failure of the printing house of James Ballantyne and co., which had printed Scott's works since 1802, and of which, it was now discovered, he had been a secret partner since 1805. The affairs of the two firms had become badly involved with each other; and Scott was found to be liable, as partner of Ballantyne and co., for the total amount of the debts of the firm, which somewhat exceeded £100,000. As about half of the £72,000 due to the creditors of Constable and co. was included in the debts of Ballantyne and co., his actual liabilities on account of both firms amounted to a little less than £150,000. He refused the composition which his creditors offered him, and, having procured an extension of time, at the age of 55 set about the task of reimbursing them by his literary labors.
He surrendered his town house and most of his available assets, but still clung to Abbotsford, although obliged to live there in humbler style. In 1826 appeared "Woodstock," a novel written during the crisis of his financial troubles, and in 1827 "Chronicles of the Can-ongate, First Series," and the "Life of Napoleon Bonaparte," the latter of which produced for his creditors £18,000. At a dinner given for the benefit of the Edinburgh theatrical fund on Feb. 23, 1827, he finally threw off the mantle of disguise, which he observed to a friend had become somewhat tattered, and declared himself to be the sole author of the "Waverley novels," a fact long before established to the public satisfaction. His remaining works are the "Chronicles of the Can-ongate, Second Series" (1828); "Tales of a Grandfather," first, second, and third series (1827-'9), devoted to Scottish history; "Anne of Geierstein" (1829); " The Doom of Devoir-goil" and "The Auchindrane Tragedy" (1830); a "History of Scotland" (2 vols., 1229-'30), in Lardner's "Cabinet Cyclopaedia;" "Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft" (1830), published in Murray's "Family Library;" another series of "Tales of a Grandfather" (1830), on French history; and a fourth series of "Tales of my Landlord" (1831), containing "Count Robert of Paris" and "Castle Dangerous." He also furnished the notes and prefaces for a cheap uniform series of the Waverley novels, commenced in 1829 by Robert Cadell, who had purchased half of the copyright; and the profits of the new edition aided very considerably the liquidation of his debts.
In his later works he began to give evidence of mental exhaustion, and his bodily health declined under the influence of incessant mental application and confinement. In the winter of 1830-'31 symptoms of gradual paralysis, a disease hereditary in his family, began to be manifested. Abstinence from literary labor was enjoined upon him, and in October, 1831, he sailed for Italy in a ship furnished by the admiralty. Honors seldom paid to literary men awaited him at Naples, Rome, and elsewhere. Feeling that his strength was rapidly failing, he requested to be conveyed at once to his native country, that he might die within sight and sound of the Tweed. . The journey was accomplished too rapidly for his strength, and on his arrival in London in June, 1832, he had become insensible to the presence of his friends and relatives. He reached Abbotsford on July 11, seeming to revive a little in the presence of familiar scenes and faces, but soon after relapsed into insensibility, in which condition, after occasional intervals of consciousness, death finally overtook him.
He was buried in an aisle in Dryburgh abbey, which had belonged to one of his ancestors, and his memory is perpetuated by a noble Gothic tabernacle erected in Edinburgh in 1844-'6. He had paid at the time of his death upward of £100,000 of his debts, and soon afterward, chiefly through the liberal advances of Cadell, who received in return Scott's share of the profits accruing from copyright property in the Waverley novels, the claims of all his creditors were fully satisfied. His two sons and two daughters survived him, but have since died, leaving no male issue. His eldest daughter was married to John Gibson Lockhart, and their daughter was married to James Robert Hope, who by act of parliament assumed the name of Hope-Scott. She died in 1858, and her only surviving child, Mary Monica, born in 1852, is the last lineal descendant of Walter Scott and the present owner of Abbotsford. The centenary of Scott's birth was celebrated in the principal towns of Scotland in 1871. - Scott was tall and vigorous, and in walking betrayed his lameness only by a slight sinking of the right limb. His head was long and cylindrical, his complexion fair, and his eyes, surmounted by large bushy eyebrows, small and gray.
The expression of his countenance was somewhat heavy, but in conversation or in moments of relaxation it lightened up with great animation. Of his generosity, his affability, his passion for field sports, his love of dogs and horses, and the innumerable little traits which endeared him to the domestic circle, as well also as of his strong prejudices, particularly on political subjects (his opinions being strongly tory), many details may be found in the biography by Lockhart, which is the most complete record of his life. A new life of Scott, by Francis Turner Palgrave, was prefixed to a new edition of his poems (London, 1867). His novels have been translated into nearly all the European languages.