Born in Edinburgh in 1771, Sir Walter Scott is regarded as one of the most influential Scots in history. As a child he was sent to the countryside to help him recover from a bout of polio, and it was during his time there that he first heard the folklore and poetry that would inspire his later works. Weaving together traditional stories and reimagining them, Scott captured the spirit of Scotland and provided a national identity for the Scottish people. These themes made him hugely popular, and he rewarded his fans with a staggering number of novels and poems, many of which remain literary classics to this day.
In 2021, 250 years on from his birth, we’re celebrating Scott’s incredible role in putting Scottish literature on the map. What’s more, you may be surprised to learn that his impact can also be felt in our modern English language. Fond of adapting colloquial phrases, many of the unique expressions we use in English come from Scott’s works. These include ‘caught red-handed’, ‘cold shoulder’, ‘blood is thicker than water’, ‘flotsam and jetsam’, and ‘tongue in cheek’.
Artist Stephen Raw has captured Scott in a portrait alongside lettering inspired by monuments to the writer.
A Labour of Love
“Like many I grew up with the stories of Rob Roy, The Lady of the Lake and Ivanhoe, which my dad would often act out very dramatically. I think I only read Rob Roy as a teenager but loved the television adaptations - always in black and white! So, when the opportunity to join the celebration of Sir Walter Scott’s life and works came about I was delighted.
A couple of years ago, I was able to visit Scott’s home, Abbotsford. Being a textual artist, I’m fascinated by lettering and all of my early designs included some specific lettering reference to Scott. The route chosen in the end was a combination of distinctive Gothic lettering from the chapel at Abbotsford alongside some lettering used by Scott in the magnificent entrance to his home. As for the portrait, I was inspired by the wonderful sculpture of Scott that sits within his monument on Princes Street, Edinburgh.”