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Walter Scott

Walter Scott at 250: Looking forward by Caroline McCracken-Flesher and Matthew Wickman

September 2021, no. 435

Walter Scott, born on 15 August 1771, turns 250 in 2021. This event has been celebrated in Scotland with events such as a ScottFest at ‘Abbotsford’, his home, and a major international conference. But Scott, almost certainly the most popular and widely known author in the world in the nineteenth century, fell disastrously in public and critical esteem, to the point that E.M. Forster, in his influential Aspects of the Novel (1927), could sum him up with the wearily dismissive question ‘Who shall tell us a story?’ and the equally dismissive answer ‘Sir Walter Scott of course’. For Forster, Scott had ‘a trivial mind and a heavy style’.

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Becoming a resurrectionist, a digger-up of dead bodies, was not a conscious career choice for me. Yet, along with two colleagues, I find myself accused of just that. We occupy this position because we have recently edited and published two previously unpublished works by Sir Walter Scott: The Siege of Malta and Bizarro (Edinburgh University Press, edited by J.H. Alexander, Judy King and Graham Tulloch, £45 hb). The appearance of our edition provoked a storm in a tea- cup in Britain, beginning with the Scotsman’s weekend edition, Scotland on Sunday, and spreading from there to the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph and The Times. The storm died down quickly, but the issues remain.

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