Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)

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The novelist and poet, Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) attended Edinburgh University in 1783-86 and 1789-92.

The son of an Edinburgh lawyer, Walter Scott was born in College Wynd, Edinburgh (the site of the house is marked by a commemorative plaque at the top of Guthrie Street) and was brought up at 25 George Square (marked by another plaque), where the family lived until the death of Walter Scott, Senior. The young Walter Scott attended the Royal High School and the University of Edinburgh, and was called to the bar in 1792. He married Charlotte Mary Carpenter in 1797 and moved to a house in Castle Street, Edinburgh (marked by yet another plaque) before moving to Ashestiel on the Tweed in 1804.

He continued his legal career, at the same time making his name as a collector and editor of ballads ("Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border", 3 vols 1802-1803) and a poet ("Lay of the Last Minstrel", 1805, etc.); he was a lifelong friend and collaborator of James Hogg ('The Ettrick Shepherd') and of Professor John Wilson ('Christopher North'). He became a partner in James Ballantyne's printing business in 1809 and purchased Abbotsford on the Tweed in 1812. His first novels ("Waverley", 1814, etc.) were published anonymously, but he had to use the security of his copyrights, as well as the publication of the later novels, to meet the debts incurred as a result of the failure in 1826 of Constable and Ballantyne, his publisher as well as his business partner. He masterminded the visit to Edinburgh in 1822 of King George IV, and did much to create the historically romantic image of Scotland enjoyed by the Victorians and later generations. He is also remembered for his support for the retention of low-denomination banknotes.

In 1804 Scott presented his alma mater with a copy of "Sir Tristrem: a metrical romance of the thirteenth century by Thomas of Erclidoune, called the Rhymer" (1804) which he himself had copied and edited from the Auchinleck manuscript. 170 years later the University was to purchase from Dr James Corson, former Deputy Librarian of the University Library, the Corson Walter Scott Collection, which includes other copies, editions and reviews of one of Scott's earliest published works.

All or some of the text on this page originally appeared in the Gallery of Benefactors