It was Waverly (considered 'indescribably sensational' by one American scholar) that may be considered as the instrument of that success - the historical novel,properly speaking, did not exist before Scott wrote it. Yet, as the critic George Saintsbury put it:'In a few years the whole of Europe was greedily reading historical novels, and a considerable part of the literary population of Europe was busily writing them.' In Waverly, his highly readable story of a romantic young man in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, Scott blends realism and romance, the old world and the new, Enlightenment and Romanticism. Waverly stands ultimately for peace and stability, for social and political cohesion and harmony - qualities which may consciously or unconsciously, account for its immense popularity.
Sir Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh in 1771. Educated for the law, he obtained the office of sheriff-depute of Selkirkshire in 1799 and in 1806 the office of clerk of session, a post whose duties he fulfilled for some twenty-five years. His lifelong interest in Scottish antiquity and the ballads which recorded Scottish history led him to try his hand at narrative poems of adventure and action. The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805), Marmion (1808), and The Lady of the Lake (1810) made his reputation as one of the leading poets of his time. A novel, Waverley, which he had begun in 1805, was published anonymously in 1814. Subsequent novels appeared with the note "by the author of Waverley"; hence his novels often are called collectively "the Waverley novels." Some of the most famous of these are Old Mortality (1816), Rob Roy (1817), Ivanhoe (1819), Kenilworth (1821), and Quentin Durward (1823). In recognition of his literary work Scott was made a baronet in 1819. During his last years he held various official positions and published biographies, editions of Swift and Dryden, tales, lyric poetry, and various studies of history and antiquity. He died in 1832.
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