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    15 August 2021: Happy Birthday Sir Walter!!!

    Today, 15 August 2021, is a keydate on the Scottish calendar. It is  the 250th birthday of Sir Walter Scott, one of the most popular authors in Scotland and his popularity goes far beyond its frontiers. As one of his French admirers, I could not help writing a few lines on Scotiana today. How I would like to be in Scotland to celebrate the event with his many fans, in one of the places connected with Sir Walter.

    Here are just a few lines to pay homage, to remember the great man. Maybe, in one way or other, my message will reach the Master of Abbotsford. When you visit his beloved place you can feel his presence, invisible and it is not difficult to imagine the writer sitting at his desk, reading an old book in his magnificent library or walking in his lovely garden, along the Tweed, in company of his favourite dogs…

    Abbotsford Walter's study 2006

    Abbotsford Walter’s study 2006


    Well… Happy Birthday Sir Walter!


    Abbotsford entrance door and dog statues © 2001 Scotiana

    Abbotsford entrance door and dog statues © 2001 Scotiana

    As you may already know, dear readers, my personal way of celebrating this anniversary was to fulfill the promise we had made at Abbotsford, during one of our memorable visits there, to read all his works. Not a day passes without my reading of a few pages written by Sir Walter. Presently I’m reading The Antiquary, the third volume of the Waverley Novels and this fascinating book will be the subject of my next post. In my last post I’ve introduced Guy Mannering. You know, the more I read Sir Walter’s books and the more I become a fan!

    There can be no better way to learn more about Sir Walter than to read what he wrote about himself.  In the Preface of the very interesting biography he wrote of his beloved father-in-law, John Lockhart indicates how he had been led to insert, at the beginning of his book, the few autobiographical pages discovered in an old cabinet at Abbotsford.

    Sir Walter Scott Monument Edinburgh © 2007 Scotiana

    Sir Walter Scott Monument Edinburgh © 2007 Scotiana

    I was born, as I believe, on the 15th August, 1771, in a house belonging to my father, at the head of the College Wynd. It was pulled down, with others, to make room for the northern front of the new College.

    (Sir Walter Scott – From the “Ashestiel fragment”)

    Ashestiel, April 26, 1808.

    The present age has discovered a desire, or rather a rage, for literary anecdote and private history, that may be well permitted to alarm one who has engaged in a certain degree the attention of the public. That I have had more than my own share of popularity, my contemporaries will be as ready to admit as I am to confess that its measure has exceeded not only my hopes, but my merits, and even wishes. I may be therefore permitted, without an extraordinary degree of vanity, to take the precaution of recording a few leading circumstances (they do not merit the name of events) of a very quiet and uniform life—that, should my literary reputation survive my temporal existence, the public may know from good authority all that they are entitled to know of an individual who has contributed to their amusement.

    Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart. by J.G. Lockhart, esq. 1845 edition © 2021 Scotiana

    Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart. by J.G. Lockhart, esq. 1845 edition © 2021 Scotiana

    My edition of Sir Lockhart’s biography is not a new edition, as you can see! Not the first edition either.  I’ve converted the roman numerals MDCCCXLV into 1845. The book’s cover is complete but rather damaged. I hardly dare to turn the pages as they are so fragile. Fortunately I can read this book (1st edition) on Gutenberg.


    Preface by John Gibson Lockhart
    London, December 20, 1836.

    “In obedience to the instructions of Sir Walter Scott’s last will, I had made some progress in a narrative of his personal history, before there was discovered, in an old cabinet at Abbotsford, an autobiographical fragment, composed by him in 1808—shortly after the publication of his Marmion.
    This fortunate accident rendered it necessary that I should altogether remodel the work which I had commenced. The first chapter of the following Memoirs consists of the Ashestiel fragment; which gives a clear outline of his early life down to the period of his call to the Bar—July, 1792. All the notes appended to this chapter are also by himself. They are in a handwriting very different from the text, and seem, from various circumstances, to have been added in 1826.
    It appeared to me, however, that the author’s modesty had prevented him from telling the story of his youth with that fulness of detail which would now satisfy the public. I have therefore recast my own collections as to the period in question, and presented the substance of them, in five succeeding chapters, as illustrations of his too brief autobiography. This procedure has been attended with many obvious disadvantages; but I greatly preferred it to printing the precious fragment in an Appendix.”


    • Memoir of the Early Life of Sir Walter Scott, written by himself.
    • Illustrations of the Autobiographical Fragment. — Edinburgh. — Sandy-Knowe. — Bath. — Prestonpans. 1771-1778.
    • Illustrations of the Autobiography continued. — High School of Edinburgh. — Residence at Kelso. 1778-1783.
    • Illustrations of the Autobiography continued. — Anecdotes of Scott’s College Life. 1783-1786.
    • Illustrations continued. — Scott’s Apprenticeship to his Father. — Excursions to the Highlands, etc. — Debating Societies. — Early Correspondence, etc. — Williamina Stuart. 1786-1790.
    • Illustrations continued. — Studies for the Bar. — Excursion to Northumberland. — Letter on Flodden Field. — Call to the Bar. 1790-1792.
    • First Expedition into Liddesdale. — Study of German. — Political Trials, etc. — Specimen of Law Papers. — Bürger’s Lenore translated. — Disappointment in Love. 1792-1796.
    • Publication of Ballads after Bürger. — Scott Quartermaster of the Edinburgh Light Horse. — Excursion to Cumberland. — Gilsland Wells. — Miss Carpenter. — Marriage. 1796-1797.

    Iain has sent us a very interesting link to share with you : the “Walter Scott” Edition of the Newsletter from National Library of Scotland !   Many thanks Iain.  I read in the article that earlier this year, writer and journalist Damian Barr visited the Library to talk to curator Ralph McLean about Sir Walter Scott and that this interview features in the BBC documentary entitled “In Search of Sir Walter Scott”.  Unfortunately when I tried to watch it I discovered that BBC iPlayer only works in the UK… what a pity! It must be quite interesting. On n’y peut rien. C’est comme ça ! 😉

    Soyons philosophes !

    Á bientôt.


    (My reading notes about The Antiquary increase every day!)


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