The Glasgow Pub Companion

Rob Roy

Sir Walter Scott,
page 2 of 17

deep interest in the town?” Then a lawyer or litigious trader, who had stood before the tables of green cloth in Edinburgh, might reply, “That is Walter Scott, principal clerk of the Court of Session, more celebrated as a writer of poems, and supposed by many to be the author of the Waverley Novels.” The visit of Scott to Glasgow at this time had no connection with law. He was endeavouring to trace the footsteps of Rob Roy, and to discover the prototype of a worthy magistrate, who soon, to the delight of all the world, became known under the name of Bailie Nicol Jarvie.

Walter Scott, not yet Sir Walter, was now forty-six years of age, and nearly at the height of his great reputation. During the next three years he gave to the world all the works that bear the impress of his genius, which thereafter began to decline. Standing at this point, then, let us enquire how the briefless advocate rose to such a distinction that in an era of great authors he stood without a peer, with honours and rewards unparalleled in the annals of literature.

Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh, on the 15th August, 1771. The house in which he first saw the light stood at the head of College Wynd, but it disappeared many years ago to make room for some enlargement of the College buildings. His father, Walter Scott, W.S., was a man of fine presence, and grave, dignified manners, but not peculiarly distinguished in intellectual power or force of character. He could boast of a remote kinship with the noble family of Buccleuch. He was the grandson of Walter Scott of Harden, the famous “Beardie,” who in loyalty to the Jacobite cause had sworn never to cut his beard while the Stuarts were in exile. “Beardie,” possibly through his Jacobite proclivities had come to the west, and married Jean Campbell, the daughter of Robert Campbell of Silvercraigs land in the Saltmarket, a niece of the Provost, Colin Campbell of Blythswood. This connection made with the Glasgow Campbells was maintained. Robert Scott, Beardie’s son, married Barbara, daughter of Thomas Haliburton and his wife Janet Campbell, who was a daughter of Robert Campbell of North Woodside. The son of Robert Scott and this grand-daughter of Woodside was Walter Scott, W.S., father to Sir Walter. There was thus a good Glasgow strain in Sir Walter’s blood. No wonder that he had some pride in visiting his cousins in the west, and in going northward to their ancient haunts, and in describing Rob Roy M’Gregor, who was a Campbell on his mother’s side. In him the best elements of the west country and of the Border met together, and he did not forget the rock out of which he was hewn. From his mother, Anne Rutherfurd, daughter of Professor Rutherfurd, Scott seems more immediately to have inherited his rare gifts of head and heart. She also claimed descent from an ancient Border house. Thus his ancestors on both sides had been renowned in the fierce Border wars — proud, indomitable men who lived in armour, and held their lands by right of the sword. It is not surprising that Scott, in whom the natural piety of race and family was largely developed, should take some pride in this martial pedigree, which transmitted to him its noblest instincts of courage and independence. If Scott had spent his boyhood in Edinburgh, the whole current of that splendid life might have been changed. He might have written histories more luminous than Robertson’s; reviews more racy than Jeffrey’s; but the lays and legends of the Borders, the novels and romances which enchant the world might never have been produced. Nature, however, charges herself with the birth and growth of poets, placing them in the


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