In the early 19th century, the heart-throbs and heroes of the literary world were poets such as Robert Burns, Lord Byron, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley ... and Walter Scott (8/15/1771-9/21/1832). Scott became popular and quite wealthy by writing romantic poems set in his native Scotland. The Lady of the Lake, published in 1810, is a love story, a battle of kings, a battle of clans. Lay of the Last Minstrel turns on lovers from feuding families, a magician’s book, and a goblin page. Marmion, published in 1808, includes such evocative lines as
By 1813, at age 42, Scott was invited to be the poet laureate of Great Britain. Scott refused: he had a different career path in mind, although it was years before the public knew what it was.
In 1814, the novel Waverley was published anonymously in Edinburgh. Waverley was a romance set in the mid-1700s, at the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Scots Highlanders’ rebellion. The first edition sold out in a matter of days. About 20 more novels of love and adventure followed, all published anonymously “by the author of Waverley.”
Among them is Ivanhoe, with Robin Hood, the Black Knight, damsels in distress – plus jousts, burning castles, and a man buried alive. The tragic Bride of Lammermoor (published 6/21/1819) inspired Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, one of the world’s most popular operas. Rob Roy made a Scottish folk hero world famous. Scott’s name only began to appear on the title pages of these novels 13 years after Waverley was published.
If you enjoy historical novels, take a moment to thank Scott, who invented the genre. Scott's also credited with creating the romanticized view of Scotland that made the country a tourist destination. Novels such as Ivanhoe and Rob Roy are still readable today - despite Ogden Nash's "Complaint to Four Angels" ("Then a page of Scott or Cooper / May induce a healthful stupor . …").
This is one of many statues in New York erected in the late 19th century by immigrants, in honor of heroes in their native land. In 1872, on the centennial of Scott’s birth, New Yorkers showed their admiration by dedicating Scott’s statue in Central Park - a copy by the original sculptor of a marble statue of Scott in Edinburgh. Scott was the third literary figure to appear in Central Park, only a few years after Schiller and Shakespeare.
From The Bride of Lammermoor:
From The Heart of Midlothian:
From Chronicles of the Canongate:
From The Lay of the Last Minstrel:
More Scott quotes here.