Walter Scott, born in College Wynd, Edinburgh, was the son of a lawyer. Educated first at Edinburgh High School and then University he was apprenticed to his father and called to the bar in 1792. An avid reader of poetry, history, drama and romances, the young Scott read widely in Italian, Spanish, Latin and German. In his twenties he was influenced particularly by the German Romantics and his first published works were translations of G.A. Bürger and Goethe. These were followed by the collections of border ballads and the narrative poems, written between 1805 and 1815, that first made him famous. By by this time he had also married Margaret Charlotte Charpenter, of a French Royalist family, and became sheriff-deputy of Selkirkshire, in 1797 and 1799 respectively.
In 1809 Scott became partners with John Ballanytne in a book-selling business and also, as an ardent political conservative, helped to found the Tory 'Quarterly Review'. In 1811 he built a residence at Abbotsford on the Tweed. By 1815, beginning to feel eclipsed as a poet by Byron, he turned to the novel form for which he is now chiefly famous.
A vast number of these were published, anonymously, over approximately the next fifteen years. In 1820 Scott was made a baronet and seven years later, in 1827, he first gave his name to his works. However, in 1826 the book-selling business became involved in the bankruptcy of another company, leaving Scott with debts of approximately £114,000. It is generally believed that some part at least of the profligacy of his writing is attributed to his desire to pay off these debts personally. His work, and along stay at Naples in 1831, undertaken in an attempt to regain his health, took up the rest of his life.
He is now generally hailed as the inventor of the historical novel. His work was widely read and imitated across the whole of Europe throughout the Nineteenth-Century in particular and his influence is marked even in such writers as Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot and the Brontes.