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Walter Scott was born on August 15, 1771 in College
Wynd, Edinburgh. He was the ninth child of Walter Scott, Writer
to the Signet, and Anne Rutherford, but five of his siblings had
already died in infancy, and a sixth, Barbara, was to die when he
was five months old.
father was heir to a junior branch of the Scotts, a bellicose and
litigious clan who since the tenth century had played a prominent
role in the warfare and internecine strife that wracked the Border
region. On his mother's side, he descended from the Haliburtons
of Newmains who brought to the Scott family the hereditary right
of burial in Dryburgh Abbey.
Walter senior was the first of his family to move to Edinburgh
and to follow a profession. His own father, Robert, had directed
him toward the Law, calculating that a Border lawyer should make
a healthy living out of his countrymen's interminable private feuds.
He enjoyed considerable success, rising to the position of senior
partner in the firm in which he served his apprenticeship. As a
Writer to the Signet, he was at the pinnacle of the sollicitor's
calling in Scotland with the privilege of appearing before the Court
of Session, the nation's supreme civil court. Scott's father was
a strict Calvinist, scrupulously honest in his professional life,
and rigid in his educational principles. He is affectionately caricatured
in the shape of Alexander Fairford in Scott's 1824 novel Redgauntlet.
||In April 1758, he married Anne Rutherford, eldest
daughter of John Rutherford, Professor of Medicine in the University
of Edinburgh (see portrait, right, by unknown artist). Rutherford
had studied in Leyden under the great Herman Boerhaave, a pioneer
Rutherford was appointed to the Chair of Theory and Practice
of Medicine at Edinburgh in 1726 where he proved highly influential
in introducing Boerhaave's teachings to the Scottish medical
profession. Some of his lecture notes and casebooks are held
by the Special
Collections Division of Edinburgh University Library).
|On her father's side, Anne Rutherford (see
engraved portrait, right, after Watson Gordon) descended
from a clan of Border warriors and reivers, celebrated
a family legend. Her
mother's family, the Swintons, was one of the oldest in
Scotland and claimed descent from the Earls of Douglas.
It was his grandmother's
aristocratic connections that gave the otherwise thoroughly
middle-class Scott his first introduction to Edinburgh's
society circles. Anne had a great love of ballads and folk
traditions and a passion for literature, both of which she
passed on to
In his early months, the young Walter (or 'Wattie' as he was known)
proved a robust, lively child. At the age of eighteen months, however,
he contracted polio, which would leave him lame for the rest of
his life. He was sent to his grandfather's home at Sandyknowe in
the Borders to see whether fresh air and exertion would mend his
health (see Sandyknowe and Early Childhood).
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Last updated: 24-Oct-2003
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