Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh on 15 August He was educated in Edinburgh and called to the bar in , succeeding his father as Writer to the Signet, then Clerk of Session. He published anonymous translations of German Romantic poetry from , in which year he also married. In he published his first major work, a romantic poem called The Lay of the Last Minstrel , became a partner in a printing business, and several other long poems followed, including Marmion and The Lady of the Lake These poems found acclaim and great popularity, but from and the publication of Waverley , Scott turned almost exclusively to novel-writing, albeit anonymously.
A hugely prolific period of writing produced over twenty-five novels, including Rob Roy , The Heart of Midlothian , The Bride of Lammermoor , Kenilworth and Redgauntlet Already sheriff-depute of Selkirkshire, Scott was created a baronet in From until his death he was Sheriff of Selkirkshire, and from to he held a well-paid office as a principal clerk to the Court of Session in Edinburgh, the supreme Scottish civil court. From , too, Scott was secretly an investor in, and increasingly controller of, the printing and publishing businesses of his associates, the Ballantyne brothers.
Despite crippling polio in infancy, conflict with his Calvinist lawyer father in adolescence, rejection by the woman he loved in his twenties and financial ruin in his fifties, Scott displayed an amazingly productive energy and his personal warmth was attested by almost everybody who met him. His first literary efforts, in the late s, were translations of romantic and historical German poems and plays.
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In Scott's first considerable original work, The Lay of the Last Minstrel, began a series of narrative poems that popularized key incidents and settings of early Scottish history and brought him fame and fortune. In Scott, having declined the poet laureateship and recommended Southey instead, moved towards fiction and devised a new form that was to dominate the early-nineteenth-century novel.
Waverley and its successors draw on the social and cultural contrasts and the religious and political conflicts of recent Scottish history to illustrate the nature and cost of political and cultural change and the relationship between the historical process and the individual.
Waverley was published anonymously and, although many people guessed, Scott did not acknowledge authorship of the Waverley novels until Many of the novels from Ivanhoe on extended their range to the England and Europe of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Across the English-speaking world, and by means of innumerable translations throughout Europe, The Waverley novels changed forever the way people constructed their personal and national identities.
Scott was created a baronet in During the financial crisis of Scott, his printer Ballantyne, and his publishers Constable and their London partner became insolvent. Scott chose not to be declared bankrupt, determining instead to work to generate funds to pay his creditors. The Secret History Popular Penguins.
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source site RP: We encounter the unknown — new experiences, new people, new places — every day. I suppose that strange fiction dispenses, at some point, with the notion that life can be lived on autopilot, and helps you see the world with rejuvenated eyes. Unanswered questions, like new places, can be pondered and left behind. You place us never quite firmly in the ordinary, and through often subtle revelations, guide us toward an unsettling end. Your pacing is excellent. How do you, as a writer, decide what to reveal to your audience, and when to reveal it? The two stories you mention are essentially about information being drip-fed.
The things you do to disquiet us as readers are often very understated — the sudden ringing of a telephone, a knock at the door — little things that jar us from our focus. What do you find unsettling? What leaves you feeling ill-at-ease? RP: Just about everything! I find I can take nothing, including good mental health, for granted. What can be more unsettling than being unable to trust your own brain?
I suppose quite a lot of my characters are learning to distrust or relearn their assumptions or perceptions. RP: I enjoy the editing process and working with other writers has helped when I come to revise my own stories. It can be strange being at the other end of the process, though. Film is a different thing entirely — the visual image is of prime importance, although learning to write dialogue is essential for both film and short story writers.
JER: While your work has a classic feel to it, it strikes me as very contemporary and makes me wonder about your literary influences. I most admire the brave, emotionally or psychologically; Robert Aickman comes particularly to mind, but also Sylvia Townsend Warner, who wrote more fearlessly than I could ever hope to. I read English at university initially, so I have a good grounding in general literature, including Thomas Hardy, the Brontes and Dickens, and I read a lot of contemporary mainstream literature. Can you share some thoughts on that world?
This is not necessarily wholly malevolent. In the shadow world hopes and desires can be explored, as well as fears and dread. There is room for love in the shadow world, and that is the biggest mystery of all. Buy a copy of Sparks from the Fire here. Rolfe is an author of Absurdist fiction. A native of Southwestern Ontario, he currently lives in Chatham-Kent with his wife, his daughter, his dog and his rabbit.