Sir Walter Scott may represent the attitude of the earlier three-volume novelist to illustration. None of his Waverley novels had any pictures when they first came out, though various collected editions had vignettes and frontispieces. As Scott had wanted to be a painter in his youth, and was a friend of Wilkie, Allan, and Haydon, one might have expected him to be interested in illustration for its own sake. But he was interested only if the pictures helped make the money he needed so badly. Late in life, the success of other illustrated works, such as Rogers's poems, put him on the alert; but his attitude was simply that he "must try to make the new edition superior by illustrations and embellishments as a faded beauty dresses". He pressed strongly for illustrations when he found the faded beauty's dress had realized 13,000. (Harvey 8)

Prior to 1830, Scott's works were not much illustrated: "The change reflects a new openness in painting to the serious, noble, and pathetic in humble life, and coincides with the triumph of the domestic strain in popular melodrama" (Meisel 290). A favourite subject was the prison interview between Effie and Jeanie Deans prior to Effie's trial in Scott's Heart of Midlothian (1818), the subject of an 1823 frontispiece by C. R. Leslie, both imitated and altered by John Burnet in the Abbotsford Edition of the Waverley Novels, and by John Hayter in a painting exhibited in 1839 at the British Institution. Throughout the Victorian period, in fact, the works of Scott remained a popular subject for Royal Academicians such as Charles Dickens's friend Thomas Herbert Maguire (1821-1895), a lithographer as well as a painter, who exhibited the Ivanhoe-inspired "Matilda Relating Morthan's History" at the Royal Academy in 1858 and "The Champion of England" at the British Institution that same year.

With their detestation of industry and modernism generally, it is not surprising that the Pre-Raphaelites, fascinated by mediaeval myth and legend, drew inspiration from the works of Scott, as well as from Chaucer and Shakespeare. Having read Scott's romances avidly in youth, Dante Gabriel Rossetti in particular was inspired by Scott's mediaevalism, to which he was introduced through a childhood copy of Marmion. In 1847, when Holman Hunt exhibited a painting from Scott's Woodstock at the Royal Academy, Rossetti was lavish in his praise of it. He never forgot his childhood enjoyment of the poems The Lay of the Last Minstrel, The Lady of the Lake, The Lord of the Isles, and Rokeby, and the Waverley Novels, chiefly Kenilworth, Ivanhoe, and Quentin Durward.


Gordon, Catherine. "The Illustration of Sir Walter Scott: Nineteenth-Century Enthusiasm and Adaptation." Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institute 34 (1971): 300-317.

Harvey, J. R. Victorian Novelists and Their Illustrators. London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1970.

Meisel, Martin. Realizations: Narrative, Pictorial, and Theatrical Arts in Nineteenth-Century England. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983.

Thirlwell, Angela. The Pre-Raphaelites and Their World: A Personal View. London: The Folio Society, 1995.

Last modified January 28, 2002