Guide to the Sir Walter Scott letters, 1826 MS 302
Scottish novelist, poet, historian, and biographer who is often considered both the inventor and the greatest practitioner of the historical novel. Scott's father was a lawyer and his mother was the daughter of a physician. From his earliest years, Scott was fond of listening to his elderly relatives' accounts and stories of the Scottish Border, and he soon became a voracious reader of poetry, history, drama, and fairy tales and romances. His explorations of the neighboring countryside developed in him both a love of natural beauty and a deep appreciation of the historic struggles of his Scottish forebears.
Scott was educated at the high school at Edinburgh and also for a time at the grammar school at Kelso. In 1786 he was apprenticed to his father as writer to the signet. His study and practice of law were somewhat desultory, for his immense youthful energy was diverted into social activities and into miscellaneous readings in Italian, Spanish, French, German, and Latin. After a very deeply felt early disappointment in love, he married, in December 1797, Charlotte Carpenter, of a French royalist family, with whom he lived happily until her death in 1826.
His first published work, The Chase, and William and Helen (1796), was a translation of two ballads by the German Romantic balladeer G.A. Bürger. His early works made Scott's name known to a wide public, and he followed up his first success with a full-length narrative poem, The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805), which ran into many editions. The poem's clear and vigorous storytelling, Scottish regionalist elements, honest pathos, and vivid evocations of landscape were repeated in further poetic romances, including Marmion (1808), The Lady of the Lake (1810), which was the most successful of these pieces, Rokeby (1813), and The Lord of the Isles (1815).
Scott led a highly active literary and social life during these years. In 1808 his 18-volume edition of the works of John Dryden appeared, followed by his 19-volume edition of Jonathan Swift (1814) and other works. But his finances now took the first of several disastrous turns that were to partly determine the course of his future career. He had become a partner in a printing (and later publishing) firm owned by James Ballantyne. By 1813 this firm was hovering on the brink of financial disaster, and although Scott saved the company from bankruptcy, from that time onward everything he wrote was done partly in order to make money and pay off the lasting debts he had incurred. Another ruinous expenditure was the country house he was having built at Abbotsford, which he stocked with enormous quantities of antiquarian objects.
Everyone paid tribute to the selfless honesty with which he set himself to work to pay all his huge debts. Unfortunately, though, the corollary was reckless haste in the production of all his later books and compulsive work whose strain shortened his life. After the notable re-creation of the end of the Jacobite era in Redgauntlet, he produced nothing equal to his best early work, though his rapidity and ease of writing remained largely unimpaired, as did his popularity. Scott's creditors were not hard with him during this period, however, and he was generally revered as the grand old man of English letters. In 1827 Scott's authorship of the “Waverley” novels was finally made public. In 1831 his health deteriorated sharply, and he tried a continental tour with a long stay at Naples to aid recovery. He was taken home and died in 1832.
Excerpted from Encyclopedia Britannica. "Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 30 Jun. 2009 http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/529629/Sir-Walter-Scott-1st-Baronet.
Consists of two letters signed by Scott. One is dated 12 October 1826 and addressed to Andrew Lang, Esq. and appears to be a cover letter for a cheque. The other is addressed to an unknown recipient and concerns a claim to the Earldom of Stirling by one Humphrey Alexander (or a Humphrey and an Alexander).
This material is open for research.
Restrictions on Use
Permission to publish material from the Sir Walter Scott letters must be obtained from the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library.
Sir Walter Scott letters, 1826, MS 302, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University
Leopold Meyer donated the bound volume in 1970. Loose letter purchased from Blackford (dealer) in 1956.
Detailed Description of the Collection