The Home of Sir Walter Scott!
With hills, fields and woods in the background, like a fairytale castle, the old house emerges from beautiful gardens with its many chimneys, its crenellated turrets and crow stepped gables…
No wonder Sir Walter was so deeply attached to Abbotsford. He designed the house in the same way he wrote his books, with passion.
In 1811, he acquired Cartyhole, a small farmhouse and the surrounding grounds, where he wanted to build his home. A new building soon replaced the old one and Walter Scott called it Abbotsford after the monks from Melrose Abbey who, at one time, had a crossing there, the abbots’ford !
If the Scottish Baronial style house we can see today appears to be so deeply rooted in the Scottish soil and history, it is not only because of its location in the Borders but also because of what Walter Scott made of it, drawing his inspiration when he designed it, from favourite places he had visited before, the abbey of Melrose or Rosslyn Chapel for example.
Indeed, Abbotsford can be visited as the home of Sir Walter, one of the world’s most sucessful novelists, but also as a museum full of the historical relics Sir Walter had collected avidly all along his life.
What an inspiring place for Sir Walter to write !
The great Scottish author lived in Abbotsford for 20 years, from 1912 to 1932, until the very day of his death, in fact. There, he wrote the whole series of the Waverley Novels, plus many other books among which are the 9 volumes of Napoleon, and the four volumes of Tales of a Scottish Grandfather which he dedicated to his six-year-old ill-fated grandchild John Hugh Lockhart, nicknamed by him Hugh Littlejohn.
Below is the list of the Waverley novels, just to give you an idea of the author’s work! In fact, Sir Walter wrote himself to death to pay for the huge amount of debts which, in 1826, fell upon himself and his fellow partners and friends, Archibald Constable & Co., his publisher, and James Ballantyne & Co., as the result of an unfortunate business venture. A bad year indeed since the very same year he lost his dear wife, Charlotte.
Waverley or Tis Sixty Years Since 1814
Guy Mannering, or The Astrologer 1815
The Antiquary 1816
The Black Dwarf 1816
The Tale of Old Mortality 1816
Rob Roy 1818
The Heart of Midlothian 1818
The Bride of Lammermoor 1819
A Legend of Montrose 1919
The Monastery 1820
The Abbot 1820
The Pirate 1822
The Fortunes of Nigel 1822
Peveril of the Peak 1822
Quentin Durward 1823
St Ronan’s Well 1824
The Betrothed 1825
The Talisman 1825
Woodstock or The Cavalier 1826
St Valentine’s Day, or The Fair Maid of Perth 1828
Anne of Geierstein or The Maiden in the Mist 1829
Count Robert of Paris 1831
Castle Dangerous 1831
Now, let’s go back to 1832. We are at the end of the summer….
Sir Walter, who is now 61, is returning home after a tour of Malta and Italy. He is exhausted. Following his friends’ advice, he had departed for a long holiday in the southern countries, hoping that sunny skies would do him good but his condition had got worse there and now he feels his end is drawing near. He urges his companions to carry him home quickly, for fear he won’t be able to see his dear old place a last time. Finally, after catching a last glimpse of his dear Eildon Hills from the window of his horse-drawn carriage, Sir Walter arrives at Abbotsford.
There, on 21 September, he will pass quietly by the window of his dining room where he had been propped up in his bed so that he could see his favourite view of the Tweed river, surrounded by his beloved family, his faithful servants and cherished dogs. …
Invisible but very close, the river Tweed still murmurs…
The house triggered our curiosity at once when we came to visit it for the first time in 2000 and since then, we’ve never ceased to look for its master whose presence can still be felt in each of Abbotsford rooms. During one of our last visits there, in 2006, we took the oath to read all Sir Walter’s books…
Up until 2004, Abbotsford was under the care of the family. In 2000, we happened to meet there a charming lady with whom we exchanged a few words in our bad english. She let us stay in the house up to the last minute to take pictures of the whole place. I’m not sure, but she may have been Lady Maxwell-Scott. The great lady died in 2004. I’ve found a very interesting article entitled ‘Dame Jean Maxwell-Scott’ in the obituaries of The Independent on Sunday, dated 10 May 2004.
I knew that since her death Abbotsford has been managed by a charitable Trust and we noticed some changes during our last visit there in 2007.
A few days ago, I found a big envelope in my mailbox. It came from the Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club of which we are members. It contained several documents edited by the Abbotsford Trust, the aim of which was to save Abbotsford.
No need to say we are going to read these documents very carefully!
In one of my next posts, I will tell you more about the Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club and the Abbotsford Trust’s “a vision for the future“.
A bientôt. Mairiuna.