A study of Sir Walter Scott’s The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border

03 Aug

A study of Sir Walter Scott’s The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border has been written by Alistair Johnson of the Advocates’ Library and published on the Faculty’s website.

The work explains how the Minstrelsy, three volumes of collected folk ballads first published in 1802 and 1803, had helped Scott to establish his name as a “man of letters” and reflected the influence on him of Scottish folk culture.

“Scott was steeped in the traditional song and music of his country,” says Alistair Johnson.

“As a result of developing polio in 1773, he was sent from Edinburgh to his grandfather’s farm ‘Sandy-Knowe’ in Roxburghshire. His relatives were a link to living folk tradition which was quickly absorbed by the impressionable child.

“From an early age, Scott was to start collecting popular songs and ballads from books, chapbooks, broadsides and newspaper cuttings.

“By the end of 1799 Scott had decided that ballads might be a way to establish his name in the world of letters. He began to formulate the idea of producing a slim volume of ballads…This ‘slim’ volume was eventually to grow into the three volumes that made up the first edition of the Minstrelsy.”

Scott is widely regarded as the Faculty’s most celebrated member. A long association between the Faculty and Abbotsford, Scott’s home near Melrose in the Scottish Borders, is continued through the Faculty of Advocates Abbotsford Collection Trust which has care of around 9,000 books in the house’s library and other items.

To see Alistair Johnson’s full work, and an online exhibition of ballads from Scott’s collection at Abbotsford, go to http://www.advocates.org.uk/faculty-of-advocates/the-advocates-library/scotts-border-minstrelsy-exhibition