Walter Scott (1771-1832) was born in Edinburgh, in 1771, and he was always attracted by the numerous, legendary stories of his country.
He was lame because he caught polio when he was little, and his health was always, from that moment forth, very delicate. So he couldn’t go to school regularly, but read a lot of books.
He used to read the legendary tales of Scotland or listen to them from peasants and humble people.
When he grew up he started working with his father and later on, when he became a lawyer, he was admitted to the Bar and became Sheriff of Selkirshire, a job that gave him –together with a consistent salary- also time for writing.
Scott started his literary career translating German ballads, renewing old Scottish songs and writing tales.
When Byron’s “Childe Harold” became popular, he decided, inspired by that, to become a novelist himself and he wrote in that period 30 tales and a major work titled “Waverley”.
He married the daughter of a French refugee, and, with one of his friends, he set up a publishing house.
After reaching fame and success (he was even made a baronet by king George IV), he spent his life in a big castle that had been built for him and his family, where he used to live in great splendor and wealth like a feudal lord.
But during a period of economic problems in England, Sir Walter Scott lost a big amount of money and, since he however didn’t want any financial help from any of his friends and acquaintances, he found himself full of debits that he unsuccessfully tried to repay for all his life.
He died in 1832.
At the beginning of his literary career, Walter Scott translated several German ballads. One of the most famous is “William and Helen”, a free version of Bürger’s “Lenor”.
Other important works are “The lady of the lake” and “Waverley”. This last is the story of a family –the Waverlies- that live during the reign of King George III, when Charles Edward Stuart tried to get the throne of England.
But what is always remembered as Scott’s masterpiece is surely “Ivanhoe”, a romance of adventure set in middle ages, during the Norman conquest.
Other quite popular works are “The fortunes of Nigel”, “Woodstock”, “The life and works of John Dryden” and “The life and works of Jonathan Swift”.
It is surely in Ivanhoe that Scott’s most important literary features are shown.
They can basically be resumed in three points:
1) The union of tradition and romance: Scott always had a great knowledge of Scottish and English traditions and habits. His stories are frequently set in ancient castles and palaces, though they are set in different periods.
2) The union of historical events and imaginary heroes.
3) The vitality of the past: the numerous legends that invade Scott’s works make us feel the glamour of the places, as much as the frequent presence of humble and strange people. He surely renewed the spirit of the ancient ages, describing and analyzing problems and situations.