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Name: Walter Scott

From: 1771

To: 1832

Biography: As well as writing about them, the poet and novelist Scott (WS) ate and breathed the Border, so much so that much of them is unofficially known as "Scott Country". This biographical topography includes the four great Border rivers and their valleys (Ettrick Water, the Tweed, the Teviot and Yarrow Water), Dryburgh Abbey, the Eildon Hills, Jedburgh, Kelso, Melrose, Selkirk and Smailholm.

Scott Country
The infant Scott (WS) spent about three years of his infancy at Sandyknowe, his grandfather’s farm in Smailholm (between Melrose and Kelso). Here it was hoped that exercise and clean air would improve his health. Here he learned to read, and through the storytelling of his relations became well-versed in his family’s colourful history and Border lore. Here, too, he was first exposed to the ballad tradition. Nearby Smailholm Tower was later remembered in Marmion (see below).

WS spent the happiest days of his life (1804–12) in the rented house of Ashiestiel (a former Border peel tower on the south bank of the Tweed, 6 miles from Selkirk,) writing The Lay of the Last Minstrel, Marmion, Lady of the Lake and the 1st draft of Waverley. At this time he was Sheriff of Selkirkshire, a seasonal post which nonetheless required his residency in the county.

WS was a frequent visitor, along with other literary figures such as Hogg, Wilson and De Quincey to Tibbie Shiels Inn at the south-western end of St Mary’s Loch.

WS built a baronial-style mansion called Abbotsford beside the Tweed about 2 miles west of Melrose. The estate was bought in 1811, and completed in 1824. In its fusion of medieval style and modern appliances, it was hugely influential on subsequent architecture. W.S. furnished Abbotsford with historical artefacts, and amassed an important library of rare books and documents. He also entertained lavishly, his countless guests including Maria Edgeworth, J.M.W. Turner, Thomas Moore and Washington Irving. Scott died at Abbotsford and was buried in Dryburgh Abbey. See also ‘James Robertson’.

Scott’s View is from the road (B6356) about 2.5 miles east of Melrose. At this vantage point he would customarily halt his ride to look down at the Tweed and away to the Eildon Hills. After his death, the horses pulling his hearse stopped here without command for one last look.

Background Reading: James Hogg (1834) Domestic Manners and Private Life of Walter Scott; Andrew Lang (1897) Homes and Haunts of Sir Walter Scott. Glasgow: James Maclehose & Sons; John Buchan (1932) Sir Walter Scott, published by House of Stratus; To find a selection of Scott's works along with interesting background reading and links, go to the Scottish Publisher's Association web site:

Titles: The Maid of Neidpath | Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border | The Lay of the Last Minstrel | Marmion: a Tale of Flodden Field | Waverley: or 'Tis Sixty Years Since | Guy Mannering | The Antiquary | The Black Dwarf | The Bride of Lammermoor | The Monastery | The Abbot | St Ronan's Well | Redgauntlet |

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