Sir Walter Scott was a writer a part of the romantic era, roughly 1797 -- 1837. Scott was born slightly before the beginning of this era, in 1771, and died nearly at the same time the period changed in 1832. Scott is known as a novelist, playwright, and poet of Scottish descent. The beginning of the Romantic period is typically attributed to the publication of Wordworth's and Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads, and closed with the rise into power of Queen Victoria. This is a period in literature that produced outstanding lyrical poetry, a few dramas, and several novelists that were popular, including Scott. Scott was known for the ability to blend European history into entertaining narratives. Scott happened to have mass appeal during this period, able to reach readers of various classes and places within the Victorian era. At the time of the Romantic Era, authors such as Jane Austen were drowned out in the popularity of the likes of Sir Walter Scott. He was one of the first authors (in English) to reach an international audience during his lifetime. Scott's readers were in Europe, North American, and Australia. Besides having a reputation as a writer, Scott was additionally an advocate, judge, and legal administrator. His work in his formal profession honed his skills as a writer and editor. The paper will review Scotts body of work, including attention paid to his style, the topics of his writings, as well as what kinds of criticism he work garnered.
For the most part, Sir Walter Scott's published works consists of narrative fiction. He wrote mostly novels. Secondarily, Scott was a writer of poetry. He additionally wrote some plays and had some other miscellaneous publications, such as short story collections, and personal letters to family and colleagues that were published during and after his lifetime. (EUL, 2014) Scott's first major work appeared in 1803, called Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. His first hugely successful publication was The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805). This piece made him popular as a poet. His last publication of poetry was The Lord of the Isles, in 1815. (Mackenzie, 2009)
During the 1810s is when Scott flourished as a novelist. (Scott, 2010) During this decade, he published, several of which are continued to be taught to students and read by students in the 21st century. Waverly (1814) was one of his first novels. Other famous novels from this author during this period include Rob Roy (1817), Ivanhoe (1819), and A Legend of Montrose (1819). He continued writing and publishing novels in the 1820s. Some of those novels include Woodstock (1825) and The Surgeon's Daughter (1827). (Mackenzie, 2009)
His very first publication was in 1796, which was a translation of Goethe's poetry and his last was in 1832, with a few works still left unfinished at the time of his death. (Scott, 2010) There were also some posthumous publications of his works immediately after and even a few decades after his death. (Scott, 2010) Scott was a writer who published for the majority of his life, beginning as a young writer, blooming into a prolific and famous writer of his time and after his time. His body of work is a tribute to his abilities and his mass appeal to readers of the past, the present, and potentially the future.
It is possible to imagine how influential Scott's works were around the world, but particularly influential in his homeland of Scotland. The effects of his works were arguably felt more strongly in Scotland more than anywhere else his readers were. (EUL, 2014) Scott's works captured the interests of many people. His romantic poems and novels garnered so much attention, that if he were in the 21st century, he might be considered a worldwide celebrity. Some historians argue that the kind of fame he had was comparable to that of Shakespeare's in England at the height of his career.
Scott's popularity and significance of his works overshadowed other contemporary writers including Austen, as aforementioned, as others such as the poet, Burns, in addition to inspiring and influencing other writers, such as Lord Byron. (Scott, 2010) The writings of Sir Walter Scott contribute directly to the liberation of Scotland, specifically free from restrictions of the social and religious traditions. He is an author known for founding the form of the historical romance. (Scott, 2010)
The subjects of Scott's poems are primarily adventure, love, and romance. The poems are not necessarily very deep or philosophical. The poems are not heavily concerned with morality, but more so with entertaining the reader. (EUL, 2014) There are also a number of poems about Scotland itself. There are poems full of description of the Scottish landscape, clearly a tribute to his homeland and country. Scott wrote many lyrics, which is another form of poetry, too. His lyrical poetry attempts to elicit or arouse emotions. People found the lyrics to be charming as musical, as they were quite popular during his lifetime.
The novels of Scott, as mentioned earlier, were mainly classified as historical romance or historical fiction. (Scott, 2010) Scott wrote about the past. He had a very vivid historical imagination. This could have been because he longed for and romanticized the past. The Victorian era was not an easy period for many people. There was a lot of social stratification in Europe, putting many people in the lower classes, which made it difficult to survive or to maintain hope. Scott's works directly contributed to the happiness of his readers, helping them escape their turmoil, and engaging their imaginations. Scott's depictions of the past and of history are so vivid and so enthralling, that many of the readers of the time, including those in England, learned about their own history through his fiction narratives. (EUL, 2014)
There are some stories and novels, such as Ivanhoe, take place in the 12th and 13th centuries. Others such as Kenilworth, are set in the time of 15th and 16th centuries. Lastly, there are pieces which took place in closer time periods to his present, such as the 17th and 18th centuries. In Scott's early novels, most of the stories are romances. (Scott, 2010) They are romances with a clear hero and heroine. His novels additionally included paragons that were less normative for that time in history, such as paragons of course and charm. (Mackenzie, 2009)Later in his stories, Scott brings attention to people he knew himself, people he knew very well, and put them into his stories. This is still true of great writers today; they write about what and who they know best. This strategy worked very well for Scott, enabling him to attract many readers and many kinds of readers.
Sir Walter Scott's style shows variation depending on the time period of his writings and depending on the genre of his writing. That means that style changed based on what time in his life he was writing and his style changed based on whether he was writing a novel, story, or poem. (EUL, 2014) The style of the Romantic era was watch more formal than in the writing of the present day. The structure of his stories was not very compact. He extended plot and detail as long as he deemed necessary, often writing elaborately and ornately.
Some historians speculate that Scott would begin writing without any clear idea of how the stories would continue. (Scott, 2010) This may be why Scott is known for having somewhat of a wandering style to his writing. He did not know where he was going until he was there. So sometimes the stories or plots began in a specific tone or direction, and then the story would wander in a completely different or divergent direction. All the while though, whether his stories wandered or not, he had the ability to capture and keep his readers' attention.
Scott's style of writing was definitely that of a storyteller. Many pieces of his writings were written in the third person. (EUL, 2014) There are other times, even within the same piece of writing, that Scott would switch from the third person to the first, especially when he wanted to explain something specific to the reader, such as in Ivanhoe. (Scott, 2010) Within this novel, for example, he writes in the first person and in the third person. Even within a historical romance or adventure, Scott would use the literary device of a flashback. He often used this device as a way to establish multiple narratives and then later on, weave them all together into a seamless narrative, again, and exemplified in Ivanhoe.
He also used juxtaposition. In Ivanhoe, the main figures of the plot are juxtaposed between violent action and intensely beautiful natural backdrops. (EUL, 2014) Scott's style, no matter the type of writing, is typically intensely descriptive, which made be hard to get through, but ultimately proves rewarding if the reader can make it all the way through. The very descriptive style pays off in contextualizing the characters, storyline, and time…