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Sir Walter Scott - His Life

Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh on the 15th August 1771, in a tenement flat at the head of College Wynd in the Old Town. He was the ninth of twelve children, of whom the first six died in infancy. His father was a ‘Writer to the Signet’ (solicitor) and a sober and strict Calvinist. His mother Anne Rutherford was the daughter of a professor of Medicine at Edinburgh University. Both parents were from old Borders families, whose histories inspired Scott's later literary work.

He developed polio as an infant, and was sent to his grandparents' farm at Sandyknowe in the Borders to recuperate. The farm is situated beside Smailholm Tower, an inspiring medieval fortified house on a dramatic rocky knoll. Various remedies were attempted to cure his infirmity, including a year in Bath 'taking the waters' to no avail - he had a limp and periods of illness throughout the rest of his life.

In 1779 he went to the Royal High School of Edinburgh and became a good Latin scholar. He retained an interest in languages and taught himself Italian, Spanish and French while at University from 1783, and later translated ballad's and play's of Burger and Goethe from German. He studied law and was called to the Bar as an Advocate (Barrister) in 1792.

As a young man Scott saw much medieval architecture on his walks around town - Old Trinity College Church, Holyrood Palace and Abbey, and of course Edinburgh Castle. Melrose and Jedburgh Abbeys in the Borders also influenced the settings of the historical poems and novels he wrote.

Scott became very much the country gentleman when he lived at Abbotsford with his wife Charlotte Charpentier. His faithful band of servants were very much part of his family.

In 1830 and 1831 he suffered strokes, and, on medical advice and with the permission of William IV was sent on a Royal Navy frigate, HMS Barham to Malta and Italy to help his health.

His health improved briefly, but on the return journey he suffered a cerebral haemorrhage, and although spending his last few weeks at Abbotsford, died on 21 September 1832.

He was interred beside his wife in St Mary's Aisle in Dryburgh Abbey.

'Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land.'

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