Abbotsford - The Famous Novelist, 1811-1817

Now in 1811 a new epoch began in Scott's life when he bought the property later called Abbotsford. It was in that Border countryside which was always the dream of his heart. The last clan battle in Border history between the Kers and the Scotts had taken place there in 1526. For the rest of his life Scott dreamed, planned and worked on Abbotsford, which today stands as an inspiring monument to his courage and genius: Si monumentum requiris, circumspice. (If you are looking for his monument, look around you - these words, carved on the tablet to Sir Christopher Wren in St Paul's Cathedral, are as applicable to Scott.)

With the publication in July, 1814 of Waverley, Scott began that series of historical novels, which is perhaps his greatest contribution to world literature. They were published anonymously by him, as he considered that in this way he would best safeguard his legal position. 'I shall not own Waverley. I am not sure it would be considered quite decorous of me, as a Clerk of Session, to write novels.' Times have of course changed and we find a future Prime Minister of England, Disraeli, writing novels and good ones too. Moreover Scott did not want to cheapen his name or appear in the character of popular entertainer. We respect his reasons for we respect the man and his integrity. In 1827 he revealed his authorship. Waverley was an instant best-seller. For the next ten years Scott was giving to world literature that series of novels which for energy, fertility of mind and imagination has perhaps no equal in literary history. Wauerley, The Bride of Lammermoor, Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, Guy Mannering, The Heart of Midlothian and the other titles resound like a salvo of artillery in honour of one of the foremost literary giants of all time.

In 1814 Scott took a very happy holiday when he visited, with Robert Louis Stevenson's grandfather and the other lighthouse commissioners, the Orkney, Shetland and Hebridean islands. In his journal of his voyage he is, in the words of his great biographer, J. G. Lockhart, his son-in-law, 'the poet, the antiquary, the magistrate, the planter, the agriculturist; but everywhere the philanthropist, everywhere the courtesy based on the selflessness of the thoroughbred gentleman.'

In 1815 Scott visited the battlefield of Waterloo. He met Wellington, Blucher and other famous men, and he was publicly kissed on both cheeks by the Russian Cossack Commander. He had always been very interested in Napoleon and when he entertained French prisoners-of-war from Selkirk at Abbotsford he used to question them about him. This helped him for his nine-volume Life of Napoleon (1827) which Goethe, no mean critic, highly praised.

Go To The Scottish Regalia, His Knighthood, King George IV's Visit

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