21st September 1832

Author Walter Scott dies

Sir Walter Scott was one of Scotland’s most accomplished writers, responsible for several classics, including Rob Roy, Waverley, and Ivanhoe.

He was born in Edinburgh in 1771 and contracted polio in his infancy. This left him with a minor disability (some sources claim this was the result of an accident), after which he spent five formative years of his childhood with various members of his extended family as they sought treatment.

Parental influence

This experience would influence his later work. On 29 September 1832, the Bristol Times and Mirror explained that “he was consequently much at home, and he acquired from his grandfather, father, and several old people in the neighbourhood great stores of information representing the annals of his country, which, added to his natural turn of legendary lore, old tales, and old ballads, superinduced that wonderful development of mind which has raised his name to the first rank among writers, and given him a popularity never attained by any other author during his lifetime.”

He enrolled at the University of Edinburgh, where he met Robbie Burns and immersed himself in literature. However, the association didn’t immediately lead to a successful writing career – and, indeed, Scott never devoted himself entirely to this craft.

Not only a writer

He qualified in law and was involved with various aspects of the running of courts through his whole life. In 1817 he was commissioned by the king to recover Scotland’s crown jewels, which had been hidden during the 1650s when Oliver Cromwell had been Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland. They had been stored at Edinburgh Castle, but it was so long since they’d been taken out of storage that nobody could quite remember where they’d been put. The following year, Scott and the men he had assembled to help in the search found the jewels in a wooden chest.

Scott thus had great success as a writer, within the legal profession, and as a friend of the king, but this wasn’t enough to save him from ruin when he lost his assets in a country wide financial crisis. He significantly increased his writing output to repay his debts, but he died six years later. He suffered a stroke while on a voyage in the Mediterranean, which he cut short so he could die at home. He was 61.

Sir Walter Scott’s death

The Worcester Herald of 29 September 1832 wrote that his death had been expected for some time, and said “we regret to find that Sir Walter closed his brilliant and laborious career without making an adequate provision for the younger branches of his family. His pecuniary losses were considerable; and it now appears that his efforts to recover them were not attended with the success they so well deserved.”
A scheme was immediately formulated to build a monument in his honour, the foundation stone of which was laid in 1840. The monument, which sits close to Edinburgh’s Waverley station, was designed by George Meikle Kemp, who didn’t live long enough to see it completed, after tripping and drowning in a canal during its construction.

Scott Monument in Edinburgh
Scott Monument in Edinburgh



Other events that occured in September

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