|Sir Walter Scott|
Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832) was responsible for the enormous popularity of historical fiction, which dominated the English scene through much of the 19th century. Born in Edinburgh, Scott came down with polio while still an infant and suffered from lameness in his right leg throughout the rest of his life. His father was a solicitor; his maternal grandfather, a professor of physiology. He studied at the University of Edinburgh and was admitted to the bar in 1792.
Scott’s first literary production was a three-volume collection of traditional ballads, Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802–1803). He became a famous poet in his own right, achieving great success with The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805) and The Lady of the Lake (1810), and was offered the laureateship in 1813. He refused the position and soon went on to publish Waverley (1814), the first of his great historical novels. Scott wrote 23 works of fiction in all, including Old Mortality (1816), Rob Roy (1817), The Heart of Midlothian (1818), and Ivanhoe (1819). In such works, he frequently returns to conflicts between traditional and modern ways of life, offering a complex account of historical change. Scott was made a baronet in 1820 and spent much of his later life working almost furiously in an attempt to pay off massive debts. After suffering a series of strokes, he died at Abbotsford, his country house near the River Tweed, at the age of 61.
[Courtesy: Professor Timothy Spurgin]