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ClassicsOnline Home » SCOTT, W.: Ivanhoe (Abridged)
Sir Walter Scott
Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) is probably best remembered as
a writer of fast-paced novels of chivalry and romance, the essence of which is
distilled so successfully in Ivanhoe.
Scott was born in Edinburgh, the youngest of thirteen
following in his father’s footsteps, was called to the bar
in 1792. He became Sheriff-Depute of Selkirkshire in 1799, and was Clerk of the
Court of Session in Edinburgh from 1806 to within a couple of years of his
Scott’s mother instilled in him her own love of poetry and,
although he was left lame after a childhood illness, Scott enjoyed exploring
the Border countryside. So it is no wonder that the first work to appear under
his own name was The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. The Lady of the Lake
and Harold the Dauntless are among his most famous poems.
The first nine novels Scott published drew on recent
Scottish history. He began the Waverley novels in 1805, but put them aside and
produced more marketable work until 1814 when Waverley appeared. Among his most
famous novels are Old Mortality (1816) and The Heart of Midlothian (1818).
But with the publication of Ivanhoe in 1819, Scott began to
mine the rich seam of historical romance and chivalry that would make him
famous far beyond Scotland.
Scott was a leading figure in the literary establishment of
his day, writing and editing seminal historical works. In 1813 he refused the
title of Poet Laureate, but he did accept a baronetcy in 1820.
From 1811, Scott lived the life of a landed squire at the
large estate of Abbotsford, near Melrose, in the Scottish borders. But he spent
of money on restoring the house, which he referred to as
‘Conundrum Castle — this romance of a house’. He was left with huge debts —
about $200,000 — when a company in which he had heavily invested, as a sleeping
partner, collapsed. Scott shouldered the burden of debt himself, and his
amazingly prolific output was all aimed at paying off the creditors. They were,
indeed, paid off from the proceeds of the sale of his copyrights after his
Scott had the capacity, time and time again, to capture the
a time and to portray it with color, drama and immediacy.
This is never
better illustrated than in Ivanhoe, in which his command of
historical detail gives another dimension to what is one of the greatest
of all time.
Notes by Lesley Young
Jonathan Oliver has appeared in theater throughout the UK in
works ranging from Julius Caesar (English Shakespeare Company) to Bulgakov’s
The Master and Margarita. Widely experienced in television, film and radio, he
has, for a decade, also recorded audiobooks
for the Royal National Institute for the Blind.
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SCOTT, W.: Ivanhoe (Abridged)