Sir Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh. At the ace of the eighteenth month, he was crippled by a childish ailment but he grew up a man of robust energy, in spite of his lameness.
He was educated at Edinburgh High School and University. His father was a lawyer. As a leader, he had little success. Scott had an unsuccessful love affair with a Perthshire lady. He married the daughter of a French exile. He became famous as a narrative poet and a master of lyrics.
Sir Walter Scott poetry
Scott's earliest poetical efforts were translation from German. His numerous ballads, narrative tales and lyrics earned him lasting popularity among the romantic poets of his age. His ballads recreated the Scottish life of his time and of the past. His lyric touched the human heart. Historically Scott's poetry is important because it brought about a revolution in the taste of the readers which made Wordsworth and Coleridge expectable and paved the way for Byron, Shelley and Keats. In a word, his lyrics popularised romance.
The important lyrics written by him are “The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border”, “The Lay of the Last Minstrel”, “The Lady of the Lake", "The Lord of the Isles”, “Marmion” etc. Scott's contribution to English Poetry is significant. He removed the ballad from sentimental nostalgia and unrealistic idealization. He created a type of narrative verse.
Characteristics of Sir Walter Scott Poetry
1. Scott as a revivalist: He revived the old spirit of Chivalry. In his poetry, the knights and ladies of the Chivalric age live again with vigour and delicacy.
2. Vitalizing the past: Scott was gifted with rich historical imagination. As a result, he could recreate the history of the past. He saw in the past, the vigour of life.
3. His love for earth and nature: Scott has a passionate love for countryside life. He was a great lover of Scotland nature in all 1it s aspects-it's tranquillity as well as stormy aspects. He did not idealize nature but simply caught the beauty of the landscape, the hills, the dales with all its loveliness. Scott also romanticized nature without any mystical message which nature had suggested to Wordsworth.
4. His love of locality: Scott had a passionate love of locality. He admired the beauty of local nature, the geographical settings, the old castle etc.
5. The narrative quality: He was narrative in the descriptions the background of the historical events. He was a storyteller in verse.
6. Romanticism in Scott's poetry: Romanticism was the keynote of his poetry. His romanticism shows his emotion, imagination, lave for the past, love for the chivalry, love for nature etc.
7. His defects as a poet: He lacked humour and philosophic intensity. He did not take poetry seriously. He wanted to give simple pleasure and had no other message like Wordsworth.
Sir Walter Scott's Prose
When Scott gave up writing poetry, sometime about 1814, he started writing prose works or novels and he no more wrote in verse. Some of the important prose works of Scott's are “Guy Mannering”, “The Antiquary”, “Old Morality”, “Rob Roy”, “The Black Dwarf”, “The Prate” etc. His prose works were also numerous. In his prose works, the old spirit also revived and the ancient glory is renewed. However, his prose works earned him popularity as his novels. For example, “Lives of the Novelists” and “Life of Napoleon” cost him more labour than ten novels.
Characteristics of Sir Walter Scott novel
1. The rapidity of production of Walter Scott novel: Scott's great success as a novelist led to some positive evils, the greatest of which was too great haste in the composition of his stories. His financial method often led him to future profit. Hastiness is visible in the construction of his plots. The same haste is also seen in the handling of his character. However, his style is spacious and ornate. He cares little for rhythm and melody.
2. Walter Scott Contributions to the novel: His contribution to the novel is very great. To the historical novel, he brought the knowledge that was not exact but wide and bountiful. His historical novel is a new species in English Literature. In other words, in the hands of Scott, the historical novel became of the first importance that continued for generations even after his death. He did much to develop domestic novel. In his novel, we find his skilful handling of character and incident.
3. Shakespearean qualities of Walter Scott novel: Scott has often been called the Prose Shakespeare and in several respects, the comparison is fair just, He resembles Shakespeare in the free manner in which he anges high and low, right and left, in search for materials. On the other in his character drawing he lacks Elizabethan deep concentration and emotional presentation. His villains are melodramatic and his heroes and heroines are wooden and dull. His best figures are characters from the lower middle class who are mostly eccentric. However, in his use of humour and wit, he is close to Shakespeare and Fielding. Scott's humour is tolerant and urbane.
4. Walter Scott novel style: Scott's style lacks suppleness but it is powerful, solid and sure. His characters use Scottish dialogue or vernacular. As a result, there is freshness and attraction. In other words, the use of native speech adds to the pleasure of reading Scott. Sir Walter Scott earned fame as a narrative poet and a master of lyrics. His contribution to English literature is no doubt immense. By reviving the lore of the past and by revitalising the life of the middle ages, he carried forward the notes of romantic poetry. He emerged as a great storyteller and could draw the attention of the readers. The vigour and strength of Scott's poetical works is unmistaken.
Above all, he was a great historical novelist who launched a new track of historical fiction. Scott's style helped us to appreciate the monotonous melodies of the poets of the previous age. For example, the melodies of “Songs of Innocence” and “Songs of Experience” and of “Lyrical Ballads” make a new appeal to the readers.