Walter Scott


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Early Years

  • 1771 - Scott is born in Edinburgh on 15 August, the ninth child (fourth surviving) of Walter Scott, Writer to the Signet, and Anne Rutherford.
  • 1773 - Contracts polio which renders him lame in his right leg for the rest of his life. Sent to live with his grandfather Robert Scott at Sandyknowe in the Borders.
  • 1775 - Briefly returns to Edinburgh following his grandfather's death but is sent to Bath in the summer to attempt a water cure. Visits London.
  • 1776 - Returns from Bath in the summer and is sent back to Sandyknowe.
  • 1778 - Returns to Edinburgh to live at his father's new house at 25 George Square.
  • 1779 - Enters the High School of Edinburgh.
  • 1783 - Leaves school and goes to Kelso to stay with his Aunt Janet (Jenny) Scott for a year. At Kelso Grammar School, meets his future friend and business partner, James Ballantyne.
  • 1783-86 - Attends Edinburgh University.
  • 1784-85 - Health deteriorates again and has to interrupt his studies. All treatments fail and is sent back to Kelso to live with his aunt for a year.

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Professional Life

  • 1786 - Apprenticed to his father's legal firm, but soon decides to aim for the Bar.
  • 1786-87 - Visits the Highlands on business where he meets a client of his father, Alexander Stewart of Invernahyle, who had once fought a duel with Rob Roy MacGregor. Scott, only fifteen years of age, also meets Robert Burns. This remains the only meeting of the two great Scottish writers.
  • 1789-92 - Resumes his studies and reads law at Edinburgh University.
  • 1790 - Meets and falls in love with Williamina Belsches.
  • 1792 - Qualifies as a lawyer and is admitted to the Faculty of Advocates.
  • 1792-6 - Practises as an Advocate in Edinburgh.
  • 1797 - Heartbroken when spurned by Williamina who marries William Forbes of Pitsligo. Visits the Lake District and meets Charlotte Carpentier whom he marries on Christmas Eve in Carlisle Cathedral. Moves to rented accomodation in George Street, Edinburgh.
  • 1798 - Rents a cottage at Lasswade on the River Esk, where he will summer each year until 1804.
  • 1799 - Scott's father dies in April. Birth of Scott's first daughter, Charlotte Sophia, on 24 October. On 16 December, Scott becomes Sheriff-Deputy of Selkirkshire, an office he holds until his death in 1832.
  • 1801 - Birth of Scott's first son, Walter, on 28 October. In December, moves to 39 Castle Street which will remain his Edinburgh home until 1826.
  • 1803 - Birth of Scott's second daughter, Anne, on 2 February.

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Years of Prosperity

  • 1804 - Moves with his family to Ashestiel near Galashiels, retaining 39 Castle Street as as a winter residence.
  • 1805 - Enters into a secret business partnership with James Ballantyne. Birth of Scott's second son, Charles, on 24 December.
  • 1806 - Becomes Principal Clerk to the Court of Session in Edinburgh, permitting him a steady income from the law without having to practise as an Advocate.
  • 1809 - Becomes half-owner of John Ballantyne's publishing company.
  • 1810 - Williamina Forbes dies at the age of 34.
  • 1811 - Buys Cartley (nicknamed Clarty) Hole Farm. Extends the original four-room cottage and renames his new home Abbotsford. Scott and his family move into Abbotsford in 1812.
  • 1813 - Collapse of John Ballantyne and Co. The company's assets are bought by Archbald Constable and Co. who remain Scott's publishers until 1826. Scott is rescued from impending bankruptcy by his patron, the Duke of Buccleuch (see Financial Hardship).
  • 1816 - Inherits the estate of his brother, Major John Scott (1769-1816).
  • 1818 - Heads a team which rediscovers the lost Regalia (Crown Jewels) of Scotland in Edinburgh Castle. The Prince Regent rewards him with a baronetcy.
  • 1819 - Scott's mother dies.
  • 1820 - Elected President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In April, Scott's eldest daughter Sophia marries John Gibson Lockhart, his future biographer.
  • 1821 - Birth of Scott's grandson John Hugh Lockhart (the 'Hugh Littlejohn' of Tales of a Grandfather) on 14 February.
  • 1822 - Plays a leading role in organizing the visit of King George IV to Edinburgh. This is the first visit of a Hanoverian monarch to Scotland.
Portrait of King George IV - P. 1586     



Click on the thumbnail to view full-size
image of a portrait of King George IV


  • 1825 - In November, Scott starts to keep his 'Journal' (posthumously published in 1890). Suffers poor health and fears financial ruin.
Corson B.LOCJ.84


Click on the thumbnail to view the full-size image of the title page of John Gibson Lockhart's Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart. (2nd ed: 1839). The engraving by George Baird Shaw shows the 1820 bust of Scott by Sir Francis Leggatt Chantrey.



The Years of Decline

  • 1826 - Becomes insolvent after the failure of his publishers, Archibald Constable, and his printers, James Ballantyne (see Financial Hardship). Pledges the future income from his publications to a trust in order to repay his creditors. The start of an excessive period of work, which is to affect his health. On 15 May, Scott's wife dies.
  • 1827 - Finally admits to the authorship of the Waverley novels at a public dinner.
  • 1828 - Makes preparations for a complete annotated edition of his works, later nicknamed the Magnum Opus.
  • 1829 - Suffers from haemorrhages.
  • 1830 - Declines the offer of a Civil List pension and the rank of Privy Councillor.
  • 1831 - Suffers a stroke and then apoplectic paralysis. Goes to Italy with his daughter Anne to recuperate. On 15 December receives news of the death of his ten year old grandson John Hugh Lockhart.
  • 1832 - Returns from the continent. Dies at Abbotsford on 21 September and is buried beside his wife in Dryburgh Abbey.
JZ 237



Click on the thumbnail to view the full-size image of a lithograph of Dryburgh Abbey.

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The Poet

  • 1782 - Writes his earliest verse.
  • 1796 - Publishes The Chase, and William and Helen, translations of two poems by Gottfried August Bürger.
  • 1797 - Translates dramas from the German of Maier, Iffland, Schiller, and Von Babo, and ballads and drama by Goethe.
  • 1799 - Publishes a translation of Goethe's drama Goetz von Berlichingen. The Ballantyne Press privately prints Scott's ballad 'The Eve of St John' and An Apology for Tales of Terror, containing three of Scott's translations from German.
  • 1800 - Collects, edits and reworks material for a ballad collection called the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border to be published by Ballantyne. Matthew Gregory Lewis's anthology Tales of Wonder contains three original ballads by Scott.
  • 1802 - First edition of the Minstrelsy.
  • 1803 - An expanded 3 volume edition of the Minstrelsy is published.
  • 1804 - Scott's edition of the medieval romance Sir Tristrem with a conclusion furnished by himself.
  • 1805 - The Lay of the Last Minstrel is published to critical and popular acclaim.
  • 1807 - The Edinburgh Publisher Archibald Constable pays Scott 1,000 guineas for a poem he had not yet written: Marmion went on to sell 28,000 copies by 1811. Completes Joseph Strutt's historical romance Queenhoo Hall.
  • 1809 - Involved in the foundation of the Quarterly, a Tory rival to the Edinburgh Review.
  • 1810 - The Lady of the Lake is published and proves even more popular than Marmion, selling 25,000 copies in eight months.
  • 1811 - Publishes The Vision of Don Roderick.
  • 1812 - Has a new poetic rival in Lord Byron, whom he meets in 1813.
  • 1813 - Rokeby and The Bridal of Triermain are published. Is offered and declines the Poet Laureateship.

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The Novelist

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Last updated: 20-July-2012
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