Books

Scott on Waterloo

Walter Scott (and others)

On the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo discover a fascinating primary source: Walter Scott's accounts of his journey to the battlefield

In the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Waterloo tourists flocked from Britain to witness the scene of the most important conflict of their generation. Walter Scott was among them, and with a commission from his publisher for a travel book and a long poem. These prose and verse accounts bring to vivid life the carnage, spectacle and excitement of a fascinating period of European history.

Brilliantly introduced and annotated by Paul O'Keeffe, this edition elucidates and contextualises Scott's first-hand account of his travels, his dashing epic, ‘The Field of Waterloo’ and the eerily chilling 'Dance of Death'.

Ivanhoe

Walter Scott

It is the dark days of King Richard's reign, when the beloved king is fighting in far-off lands, leaving his corrupt brother John in charge of his kingdom. Tensions between Saxon and Norman lords erupt in bouts of bloodshed or foul play; good men are banished, forced to turn outlaw and serve the true king in secrecy and disguise. In this dangerous world, the brave Wilfred of Ivanhoe must grapple with the claims of family, crown, truth and justice if he is ever to win the hand of his true love, the beautiful Lady Rowena.

Waverley

Walter Scott

King George is on the throne, but there are those in Scotland who swear loyalty to the Stuart heir, Bonnie Prince Charlie, and are prepared to stake his claim in conflict and bloodshed. Young Edward Waverley is caught in the middle: son of a Hanoverian yet nephew and heir to a Jacobite, a captain in the King's army yet drawn to the brave Highlanders and their romantic history. Edward must choose where his loyalties lie, even as his heart is torn between gentle Rose Brawardine, and the passionate, principled Flora Mac-Ivor.

Ivanhoe

Walter Scott

The Penguin English Library Edition of Ivanhoe by Walter Scott

'Fight on, brave knights! Man dies, but glory lives!'

Banished from England for seeking to marry against his father's wishes, Ivanhoe joins Richard the Lion Heart on a crusade in the Holy Land. On his return, his passionate desire is to be reunited with the beautiful but forbidden lady Rowena, but he soon finds himself playing a more dangerous game as he is drawn into a bitter power struggle between the noble King Richard and his evil and scheming brother John. The first of Scott's novels to address a purely English subject, Ivanhoe is set in a highly romanticized medieval world of tournaments and sieges, chivalry and adventure where dispossessed Saxons are pitted against their Norman overlords, and where the historical and fictional seamlessly merge.

The Penguin English Library - 100 editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century and the very first novels to the beginning of the First World War.

Waverley

Walter Scott

The first romantic historical novel and international bestseller, Waverley (1814) tells the story of Edward Waverley, a naïve, sensitive young man who is posted to Scotland with his regiment, and becomes caught between the clans of the Jacobite Rising and the forces of the Hanoverian regime. He must decide whether he will follow the civilization he has always known, or be drawn into an older world of honour and loyalty - and must also choose between the quiet, constant Rose, and the passionate, principled Flora.

Waverley

Walter Scott (and others)

Set against the backdrop of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, Waverley depicts the story of Edward Waverley, an idealistic daydreamer whose loyalty to his regiment is threatened when they are sent to the Scottish Highlands. When he finds himself drawn to the charismatic chieftain Fergus Mac-Ivor and his beautiful sister Flora, their ardent loyalty to Prince Charles Edward Stuart appeals to Waverley's romantic nature and he allies himself with their cause - a move that proves highly dangerous for the young officer. Scott's first novel was a huge success when it was published in 1814 and marked the start of his extraordinary literary success. With its vivid depiction of the wild Highland landscapes and patriotic clansmen, Waverley is a brilliant evocation of the old Scotland - a world Scott believed was swiftly disappearing in the face of a new, modern era.

Kenilworth

Walter Scott (and others)

In the court of Elizabeth I, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, is favoured above all the noblemen of England. It is rumoured that the Queen may chose him for her husband, but Leicester has secretly married the beautiful Amy Robsart. Fearing ruin if this were known, he keeps his lovely young wife a virtual prisoner in an old country house. Meanwhile Leicester's manservant Varney has sinister designs on Amy, and enlists an alchemist to help him further his evil ambitions. Brilliantly recreating the splendour and pageantry of Elizabethan England, with Shakespeare, Walter Ralegh and Elizabeth herself among its characters, Kenilworth (1821) is a compelling depiction of intrigue, power struggles and superstition in a bygone age.

Rob Roy

Walter Scott

A Superb historical novel set in the late seventeenth century, Rob Roy is also an adventure story. Using his favourite device of contrasting characters and places, Scott sets romantic rural Scotland against the prosaic cities of Glasgow and London. In his tragic portrait of Rob Roy MacGregor, he shows the feudal world of the Highlands withering away under the onslaught of new commercial and political realities. With his own sympathies equally balanced, he is perfectly quipped to portray the struggle between them. Rob Roy has been made into a film, starring Liam Neeson, John Hurt, Jessica Lange, Tim Roth and Eric Stolpz.

Rob Roy

Walter Scott

When young Francis Osbaldistone discovers that his vicious and scheming cousin Rashleigh has designs both on his father's business and his beloved Diana Vernon, he turns in desperation to Rob Roy for help. Chieftain of the MacGregor clan, Rob Roy is a brave and fearless man, able and cunning. But he is also an outlaw with a price on his head, and as he and Francis join forces to pursue Rashleigh, he is constantly aware that he, too, is being pursued - and could be captured at any moment. Set on the eve of the 1715 Jacobite uprising, Rob Roy brilliantly evokes a Scotland on the verge of rebellion, blending historical fact and a novelist's imagination to create an incomparable portrait of intrigue, rivalry and romance.

The Heart of Mid-Lothian

Walter Scott (and others)

Jeanie Deans, a dairymaid, decides she must walk to London to gain an audience with the Queen. Her sister is to be executed for infanticide and, while refusing to lie to help her case, Jeanie is desperate for a reprieve. Set in the 1730s in a Scotland uneasily united with England, The Heart of Mid-Lothian dramatizes different kinds of justice - that meted out by the Edinburgh mob in the lynching of Captain Porteous, and that encountered by a terrified young girl suspected of killing her baby. Based on an anonymous letter Scot received in 1817, this is the seventh and finest of Scott's 'Waverley' novels. It was an international bestseller and inspired succeeding novelists from Balzac to George Eliot.

Biography

Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh in 1771, educated at the High School and University there and admitted to the Scottish Bar in 1792. From 1799 until his death he was Sheriff of Selkirkshire, and from 1806 to 1830 he held a well-paid office as a principal clerk to the Court of Session in Edinburgh, the supreme Scottish civil court. From 1805, 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 1790s, were translations of romantic and historical German poems and plays. In 1805 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 1813 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 (1814) 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 1827. Many of the novels from Ivanhoe (1819) 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 1820. During the financial crisis of 1825-6 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. Despite his failing health he continued to write new novels, to revise and annotate the earlier ones for a new edition, and to write a nine-volume Life of Napoleon and a history of Scotland under the title Tales of a Grandfather. His private thoughts during and after his financial crash are set down in a revealing and moving Journal. Scott died in September 1832; his creditors were finally paid in full in 1833 from the proceeds of his writing.