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Great Scott! Celebrating 200 years of Sir Walter Scott

Great Scott! Celebrating 200 years of Sir Walter Scott

His name is immortalised in stone as well as paper, yet how many of us have actually read Sir Walter Scott?

He is the only author in Britain to have a railway station named after him and his writing became a leap-point for Scottish tourism as we know it.

His descriptions of Scotland as a romanticised land, filled with sweeping misted hills and flame-haired folk brought tourists in their droves.

So why is it that this famous Scottish author, whose books have sold in their millions across the globe, now appears to be consigned to dusty shelves?

“I think, like many people, I thought that Scott’s books were a bit dusty, a bit old and probably a bit too heavy to be enjoyable,” said historian Eleanor Harris.

“But I started reading a few of his books and now I know why they took the world by storm. It has been 200 years since Walter Scott wrote his first book and he deserves to be given another chance.”

Eleanor, 35, is now on a mission to get more Scots reading the works of this great novelist, starting with the very first book Scott wrote – Waverley.

Launching this week under the hashtag #Waverley200, Eleanor is recruiting readers and fans willing to organise events this year to help get Scots reading Scott again.

“Scott pretty much reinvented the image of Scotland,” said Eleanor. “He romanticised it. It’s where our red-headed heroes came from and the iconic stag on the hill.

“Our whole Scottish tourist industry has a lot to thank him for. It was the first real time someone had written about Scotland in this way.”

"We build statues out of snow, and weep to see them melt."

-Walter Scott

Edinburgh born Walter Scott published his works around the same time as popular author Jane Austin, yet it was Scott’s works that went on to sell millions of copies.

“He became a publishing phenomenon during his lifetime,” said Eleanor.

But while Jane Austin’s characters have gone on to be immortalised in film by the BBC and Hollywood, Eleanor is keen that Scott’s creations could also have their moment.

“What you want is that great image like when Mr Darcy jumps into the lake in a white shirt,” said Eleanor with a laugh.

“But Scott has so many of these. Unlike other books at the time, the most interesting characters in Scott’s stories are the farmers, the fish wives, and characters from all walks of life – from beggars to Kings.

“They’re just extraordinary.”

“Many a law, many a commandment have I broken, but my word never.”

-Walter Scott

“I’d like people to get hold of a copy and read it with a fresh eye," said Eleanor. "He has got wit and enlightenment in his writing, and at times he’s wry and even a bit silly. I think people will be surprised if they give him a chance.”

If you would like to join in with the Scott revival, you can follow the conversation on Twitter using #Waverley200.

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