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Biography of Walter Scott

Portrait of Sir Walter Scott

Sir Walter Scott was a nineteenth century Scottish novelist.

When and Where was he Born?

15th August 1771, Old Town, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Family Background:

Walter Scott was the son of a Solicitor.


High School, Edinburgh. Kelso Grammar School. Edinburgh University.

Timeline of Sir Walter Scott:

1773: Scott contracts polio and goes to recuperate at his Grandfather’s farm at Sandyknowe in Roxburghshire and he is so impressed by the beauty of the Borders country that it inspires him to start writing.

1775: He returns to Edinburgh.

1785: Scott begins a five-year apprenticeship in his father’s legal practice.

1792: He is admitted to the Bar on 11th July and spends the summer in the Borders.

1793: Scott spends the summer in Perthshire.

1797: He marries Charlotte Carpenter on 24th December and goes to live in Edinburgh with his new wife.

Scott Monument, Edinburgh
The Scott Monument in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1799: He is appointed Sheriff Substitute of Selkirkshire.

1803: Dorothy and William Wordsworth are travelling around Scotland and they meet Walter Scott in Melrose on 19th September, who takes them on a tour of the Abbey.

1804: The couple rent a small cottage at Ashetiel on Tweed near Selkirk.

1805: He joins in a partnership with the printer James Ballantyne. Scott visits the Wordsworth’s in Grasmere in the Lake District and climbs out of the window of Dove Cottage several times to visit the nearby Swan Inn until the landlord lets the cat out of the bag in front of the poet himself.

1806: He becomes Principal Clerk in the Court of Session.

1809: Scott founds the firm of John Ballantyne and Company, booksellers and publishers. He helps to found the “Quarterly Review” magazine after a disagreement with the pro-Whig “Edinburgh Review”.

1811: He moves to Abbottsford after the lease on Ashetiel expires. He spends a great deal of money on improvements to the house and garden.

Abbotsford House
Abbotsford House (copyright  Anthony Blagg)

1813: John Ballantyne and Company collapse financially but is rescued by the publishers Constable. He refuses the title of Poet Laureate and recommends Robert Southey instead.

1814: The novel “Waverley” is published anonymously as he is by now a prominent public figure.

1815: He visits London and the continent and embarks on a productive period of novel writing after the successes of “Waverley” and “Guy Mannering”.

1818: He is made a Baronet.

1821: Scott attends the Coronation of King George the Fourth.

1822: He supervises King George’s official visit to Scotland.

1825: Walter Scott visits Ireland. He begins a biography of Napoleon. On 20th November he begins his Journal.

1826: He faces bankruptcy after the failure of the publishers Constable, Hurst and Robinson and the printers James Ballantyne. Death of his wife. He continues writing in an effort to clear his debts.

1831: He embarks on a mediterranean cruise on the Frigate Borham with his daughter and Lockhart.

Scott Plaque, Malta
Plaque in Valletta, Malta commemorating Scott’s visit to the Beverley Hotel (copyright Anthony Blagg)
Detail of Scott Plaque
Detail of plaque (Copyright Anthony Blagg)

1832: He finally returns to Abbotsford.

When and Where did he Die?

21st September 1832, Abbotsford, Roxburgh, Scotland after a final stroke.

Age at Death:



1797: 24th December to Charlotte Carpenter. (Died 1826)

Site of Grave:

Dryburgh Abbey, Melrose, Scotland.

Written Works:

1796: “The Chase”. “William and Helen”. (translation of work by Gottfreid August Burger).
1797: “The Wild Huntsman”. (Translation of Burger).
1799: “Goetz von Berlichlingen”. (translation of a work by Goethe).
1802: “The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders”, Vol 1 and 2.
1805: “The Lay of the Last Minstrel”.
1806: “Ballads and Lyrical Pieces”.
1808: “Marmion”.
1812: “The Lady of the Lake”. (First Ballantyne book).
1811: “The Vision of Don Roderick”.
1813: “The Bride of Triermain Rokeby”.
1814: “Waverley”.
1815: “The Field of Waterloo”. “The Lord of the Isles”.
1816: “The Antiquary”. “Tales of My Landlord”.
1817: “Rob Roy”. “Harold the Dauntless”.
1818: “The Heart of Midlothian”.
1819: “Ivanhoe”. “The Bride of Lammermoor”.
1820: “The Abbott”. “The Monastery”. “Miscellaneous Poems”.
1821: “Kenilworth”. “An Account of George the Fourth’s Coronation”.
1822: “The Fortunes of Nigel”. “Peveril of the Peak”. “The Pirate”.
1823: “Quentin Dunward”.
1824: “Redgauntlet”. “St. Ronan’s Well”.
1825: “The Betrothed”. “TheTalisman”.
1826: “Woodstock”.
1827: “Chronicles of Canongate”.
1828: “The Fair Maid of Perth”.
1829: “Anne of Geierstein”.
1830: “Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft”.
1832: “Count Robert of Paris”. “Castle Dangerous”.

Places of Interest:


Abbotsford House, Roxburgh.
Scott Monument, Princes Street, Edinburgh.

Scott Monument detail
Walter Scott sculpture inside the Scott Monument in Princes Street, Edinburgh 
Visitors can climb stairs inside this monument for views of the city (copyright Anthony Blagg)

Writer’s Museum, Edinburgh.

Further Information:

The Walter Scott Digital Archive at Edinburgh University Library.