“A Great Author, Sir Walter Scott,” by Andrew J. Schatkin
My dear ladies and gentlemen and my fellow thinkers, discerners and you who choose to critically think and reject media hype, political correctness, and all forms of political slogans, fads, current fashions, and propaganda… I would like to share with you another intellectual journey to share with one another and each other the way to and reach and find truth and its light rather than the intellectual darkness that presently surrounds and encompasses us. Let me begin by saying and describing a most enlightening conversation I had with a most charming and estimable young man in front of the Bayside LIRR station where I reside and live. He has just graduated from a unit of CUNY and the conversation veered in the direction of what books he was assigned in school. He informed me that the older European writers, and the staples of English literature such as Milton, Henry James, and Tolstoy, were no longer being assigned and were replaced by authors based on multiculturalism and, frankly, having their selection for the students based on some sort of politics. He seemed to indicate the elimination of the sort of classical European authors because of the view that they represented the former white oppressors and that the reason for their end in the school curriculum was a kind of new and reverse racism.
In fact, in a previous essay entitled “Is the Literary and Artistic Culture Dead and Dying and Why this May be So,” I set about to analyze the apparent end and demise of the older literary culture of poetry, live drama, the novel, classical music, and philosophy, and I offered several reasons including, 1. the possible end of the older civilization; 2. the predominance of social media and the image culture of TV, computers, cellphones, emails, and text messages; 3. the nature of American society, which is largely based on commerce and business; 4. the vocational nature of the college curriculum and the elimination of the liberal arts.
So I propose to analyze and present one of the great Victorian authors who along with others I have written of has been lost to the present society and generation except to some specialized few in the English departments of elite colleges and universities. I have written of some of those authors in those pages including Jane Austen; EM forester; and John Stuart Mill. I now would like to write and speak of one I also consider one of the greatest of writers of all time and has since my earliest youth has been not only one of my favorites but an indispensable one, and that is Sir Walter Scott. Scott was primarily a historical novelist and poet and is mostly and primarily remembered for his groundbreaking work in the historical novel. He was also active poetically and was created a baronet. He was born in Edinburgh in 1771. He had a bout of polio that left him lame and was taught to read by his aunt and in 1778 and then returned to Edinburgh for private education to prepare him for school. Scott began studying classics at the University of Edinburgh at the age of 12. In 1782, he married. In 1797, he began his career as a poet. In 1805, he achieved popular success with “The Lay of the Last Minstrel” and published many other poems over the next ten years, including the popular “Lady of the Lake.” He began to write novels with the publication of “Waverly” in 1814 and proceeded to write many other celebrated novels such as “Ivan Hoe,” once a staple of most high school classes; “Old Mortality;” “The Bride of Lammermoor;” and “The Talisman.” In 1827, he acknowledged he was the author a of the Waverly novels. In 1825, a UK banking crisis resulted in the collapse of the Ballantyne Printing of which Scott was the only partner and a financial interest and rather than declare himself bankrupt or accept any kind of financial support from his supporters, he placed his homes and income in a trust and determined to write his way out of debt.
I have given you, dear readers and thinkers, a short bio sketch of this great author and writer, both as a poet and as a historical novelist. In a sense, he founded and placed the historical novel on the map and his work in this genre will forever live in the history of thought of culture. I will always want to return to them and enjoy them. Two of my favorites are “The Talisman” and Ivan Hoe, as well as many of his poems.
I will always remember and recall with fondness his work though presently no longer known at all. He will return and have his day again and I urge the present generation to reject political fads, slogans, and political correctness, and read the writers that have stood the test of time and the passage of many generations
This biographical sketch is taken in part from Wikipedia to which acknowledge my debt.