Home  »  Volume XII: English THE ROMANTIC REVIVAL The Nineteenth Century, I  »  § 20. The influence of his work

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XII. The Romantic Revival.

I. Sir Walter Scott

§ 20. The influence of his work

Necessarily, Scott’s influence was felt more drastically in Scotland than elsewhere. The enormous interest aroused there by the publication of his poetic romances and then of his novels we can now hardly realise. It quite outvied that immediately caused by the poetry of Burns, who, to use Burns’s own expression, was less “respected” during his life than he gradually came to be after his death. While some aspects of Scott’s presentations of the past called forth, at first, some protests from the stricter sectarians, the general attitude towards them was that of enthusiastic appreciation; and it is hardly possible to exaggerate their effect in liberating Scotland from the trammels of social and religious tradition. He did not, however, found a poetic school in Scotland. In England, he had various poetic imitators that are now forgotten; and he had, further, a good deal to do with the predominance of narrative in subsequent English verse. Byron, also, was directly indebted to him in the case of his narrative verse, and echoes of his method and manner are even to be found in Macaulay’s Lays of Ancient Rome. In fiction, he may almost be reckoned the founder of the historical romance, in which he has had many successors, both in this country and abroad; and, if Smollett was his predecessor in the Scottish novel, and is more responsible than he for the earlier novels of Galt, Scott may be deemed the originator of a pretty voluminous Scottish romantic school, of which the most distinguished representative is R. L. Stevenson; while, with Smollett and Galt, he has been the forerunner of a vernacular school of fiction which, within late years, developed into a variety to which the term “kailyard” has, with more or less appositeness, been applied. On the continent, Scott shared with Byron a vogue denied to all other English writers except Shakespeare, and his influence was closely interwoven with the romantic movement there, and, more especially, with its progress in France.