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Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) was born in Edinburgh. Educated for the law, he obtained the office of sheriff-depute of Selkirkshire in 1799 and in 1806 the office of clerk of session, a post whose duties he fulfilled for some twenty-five years. His lifelong interest in Scottish antiquity and the ballads which recorded Scottish history led him to try his hand at narrative poems of adventure and action.
The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805),
Marmion (1808), and
The Lady of the Lake (1810) made his reputation as one of the leading poets of his time. A novel,
Waverley, which he had begun in 1805, was published anonymously in 1814. Subsequent novels appeared with the note “by the author of Waverley”; hence his novels often are called collectively “the Waverley novels.” Some of the most famous of these are
Old Mortality (1816),
Rob Roy (1817),
Kenilworth (1821), and
Quentin Durward (1823). In recognition of his literary work Scott was made a baronet in 1819. During his last years he held various official positions and published biographies, editions of Swift and Dryden, tales, lyric poetry, and various studies of history and antiquity.
The story recounts the tragic love of Lucy Ashton and Edgar, Master of Ravenswood. Edgar's father was stripped of the title for supporting the deposed King James VII. Lucy's ambitious father, Sir William Ashton, then bought the Ravenswood estate. Edgar hates Sir William for this usurpation of his family's heritage, but on meeting Lucy, falls in love with her, and renounces his plans for vengeance.