Marriage - Literary Fame, 1797-1806

In this same year, 1797, on Christmas Eve Scott married the lady of his heart, Margaret Charlotte Charpentier, the daughter of a French refugee whom he first saw in Cumberland that autumn. She was an attractive girl with dark brown eyes, masses of black hair and a fine figure. As Churchill says about his marriage and future: 'I married and lived happily ever after'; one can say the same of Scott, apart from his later financial worries six years before he died. His wife shared his life most loyally, was the mother of two sons and two daughters, was the repository of her husband's plans, watched carefully over his health and was a brave, mirthful and kindly companion. Like his great compatriot, Robert Burns, Scott was blessed in his wife. When she died in 1826, Scott tells in his Journal that his heart must break.

The young couple took up house in Edinburgh and finally came to live at No. 39 North Castle Street, till 1826. Scott was busy with his legal work but also found time to translate Goethe's Gotz von Berlichingen. He started writing some ballads, among them being Glenfinlas and The Eve of St John. In 1799 his dear father died and also the Sheriff-depute of Selkirkshire. Scott was appointed to succeed the latter. During this same year his first child, his daughter Charlotte Sophia, was born.

His official work in Selkirkshire helped him also to set about his collection of the old Border ballads energetically. This enabled him to publish in 1802 two volumes of his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border and a third volume in 1803.

As he was legally bound to reside for at least four months annually in his sheriffdom, Scott, who had taken a country cottage at Lasswade near Edinburgh upon his marriage, now took the lease of the property of Ashiestiel, on the River Tweed near Selkirk, in 1804. His family now consisted of Walter, born in 1801 and Anne, born in 1803 as well as Charlotte Sophia already mentioned. In his new home Scott found a refuge where he could bring out from the treasures of his well-stocked mind new things and old. The beloved Border country, his helpful friends such as Wordsworth and James Hogg, the 'Ettrick Shepherd' whom Scott met about this time and highly regarded, the dear society of his affectionate wife and family, his growing reputation in legal circles, all these combined in the bringing forth in 1805 of his first great narrative poem, The Lay of the Last Minstrel. With the Lay Scott became famous and the most popular poet of the day. Fox and Pitt alike praised it as did many lesser folk.

The success of the Lay made Scott decide that literature should be the main business in his life. A fortunate decision, for himself, Scotland and the world. When a second edition of the Lay was called for, Messrs Longman the publishers offered £500 for the copyright and 'added £100 in their own unsolicited kindness to supply the loss of a fine horse which broke down suddenly while the author was riding with one of the worthy publishers'. Scott deeply appreciated this; he had a great love of animals as did his fellow Scot, Robert Burns. Scott had an extraordinary attraction for dogs. There was once a hen which followed him about as did the donkeys belonging to his daughter Sophia, and once a little pig wanted to attach itself to him.

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