Walter Scott


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Sir Henry Raeburn's 1809 Portrait of Sir Walter Scott

Scott disliked the solemn and intent cast of his features in Sir Henry Raeburn's 1808 portrait. These were softened, very possibly at Scott's instigation, in a version that he had painted for himself in 1809. However, as Scott was later to write that Raeburn had 'twice made a very chowderheaded [i.e. clumsy- or thick-headed] person of me' (Letters, V, 349), it appears that he remained unsatisfied. Other minor changes were made. Scott's greyhound Percy was introduced, and the original backdrop -- a ruined tower with, in the distance, a view of Hermitage Castle and the Liddesdale Hills -- was replaced by trees and a view of Yarrow. The green coat that Scott wears in the 1808 picture gives way to a more homely brown. Where the earlier portrait presents Scott as a poet amidst the very scenery that he has celebrated in his verse, the latter is a more personal, domestic portrait.
Click on the thumbnail to see a photogravure of a detail of Raeburn's 1809 portrait of Scott.

Only one reproduction appears to have been made of the 1809 portrait. When 39 North Castle Street was sold following the financial crash of 1826, Scott's friend, James Skene of Rubislaw agreed to look after the picture (Letters, VIII, 453). In 1831 Scott asked for it to be returned and offered to pay for a copy to be made. Skene, however, had already had a facsimile made by Sir John Watson Gordon. The facsimile was acquired by Dr Corson in 1961, and an image will shortly appear on this page. In unpublished notes, Corson opined that the engraved portrait of Scott by W.H. Lizars in J.G. Lockhart's Peter's Letters to his Kinsfolk is based on a sketch made by Lockhart of the 1809 portrait. Francis Russell, however, in his Portraits of Sir Walter Scott lists this as a version of the 1808 portrait. The original portrait hangs at Abbotsford.


  • Russell, Francis. Portraits of Sir Walter Scott: A Study of Romantic Portraiture (London: The Author, 1987)
  • Scott, Walter, Sir. The Letters of Sir Walter Scott, ed. H.J.C. Grierson (London: Constable, 1932-37)

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Last updated: 21-Mar-2005
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