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'.
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.
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.