Sir Walter Scott’s early work consisted of poetic romances such as The Lady of the Lake (1810). He later wrote The Waverley Novels, a series of historical novels published anonymously between 1814 and 1832 that were popular in his day. The earlier books are set in Scotland and demonstrate Scott’s knowledge of Scottish history and society.
Scott’s earliest published work was largely poetry. After translating a few German texts, he went on to publish a three-volume anthology entitled Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802–03), the product of his long-term interest in Scottish border ballads. In this collection Scott attempted to “restore” orally corrupted versions of ballads, often creating works of art in their own right. After his ballad anthology, which made his name known to a wide public, he published several poetic romances such as Marmion (1808) and The Lady of the Lake. Within a few years he tired of narrative poetry, and in 1814 he published his first novel, Waverley. The novel tells the story of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 in Scotland. It was an instant success, although it was published anonymously. A series of novels followed that came to be known as The Waverley Novels, many of which are also set in historical Scotland. In these Scott demonstrates his deep knowledge of Scottish history and culture, masterfully portraying the manners, speech, and customs of his native country and capturing the different echelons of Scottish society. As demand for his historical novels increased, Scott began to reach outside of Scotland for his source material. In 1819 he published his most popular work, Ivanhoe, set in 12th-century England. He also wrote Quentin Duward (1823), set in 15th-century France, and The Talisman (1825), set in Palestine during the Crusades. Scott had a profound influence on other European and American novelists, and he is often credited with inventing the historical novel.