Famous Scottish Writers - Part One
Scottish writers often get thrown into the mix when English Literature is considered. Burns and Doyle and Stevenson are lined up next to Austen and Dickens and Shakespeare. But the truth of the matter is, writers from Scotland have their own unique voice. They have a dialect, culture, and perspective all their own.
Check out the famous Scottish authors listed below... I bet you didn't know they were all from Scotland! You will find short biographies, photographs, lists of notable works, as well as links to buy the writers' books on Amazon. Enjoy, and leave comments below!
Born: April 24, 1825
Died: February 8, 1894
Robert Michael Ballantyne is well known for his adventure novels written for young adults. He was a prolific author (with almost one hundred novels under his belt!) who sought first-hand experience to give his writing depth.
Life: R.M. Ballantyne was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1825. His family was involved in the book-publishing industry; they even published some of Sir Walter Scott’s works. When Ballantyne was only sixteen years old, he began to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company in Canada. He returned to Scotland six years later and published his first book, Hudson’s Bay: or, Life in the Wilds of North America. Ballantyne worked sometime in the publishing business, but eventually concentrated on writing. Throughout his life, he wrote many adventure books, such as The Coral Island, which were geared toward young men. Robert Louis Stevenson (who was inspired by reading The Coral Island as a teenager) nicknamed this author “Ballantyne the Brave.” He died in Rome in 1894.
The Hudson's Bay Company (1848)
The Coral Island (1857)
Personal Reminiscences of Book Making (1893)
Born: May 9, 1860
Died: June 19, 1937
Sir James Matthew Barrie is best known as the creator of Peter Pan, which began as a play. He wrote a number of plays as well as novels, but his legacy will remain in the hands of the little boy who never grows up.
J.M Barrie was born in Kirriemuir, Scotland in 1860. He began his literary career as a journalist and drama critic. He grew in popularity as he wrote Scottish-life stories and, later on, plays. In 1894, Barrie married the actress Mary Ansell. They had no children, and eventually divorced in 1909 due to Mary’s affair with Gilbert Cannan. Barrie formed a lifelong friendship with the Llewellyn Davies family, starting in 1897. When their father, Arthur, died in 1907, Barrie helped the family out with finances. Sylvia, the mother, died in 1910, directing in her will that Barrie be co-guardian of her five sons. Barrie’s most notable work, Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, was first performed in 1904. This beloved story has been a huge cultural influence in the past century. There has even been a “syndrome” named after it – The Peter Pan Syndrome. In 1913, Barrie was knighted. J.M. Barrie died in 1937 of pneumonia.
Side note (because I’m a huge fan of Johnny Depp): A beautiful movie about J.M. Barrie was made in 2004, called Finding Neverland.
Auld Licht Idylls (1888)
Sentimental Tommy (1896)
Margaret Ogilvy (1896)
Peter Pan (1904)
Dear Brutus (1917)
Born: October 29, 1740
Died: May 19, 1795
James Boswell, a writer in his own right, claims most of his fame from the name of another – Samuel Johnson. Boswell was a companion of Johnson and wrote one of the most famous biographies of all time – Life of Johnson. Boswell is also known for his extensive diaries.
James Boswell was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1740. He was a sickly child, and was taken out of school to be instructed by tutors for a while in his youth. While he attended the University of Glasgow, Boswell determined to become a Catholic monk. His father forbade him, whereupon Boswell ran away for a time. His father regaining him, Boswell went back to school, eventually becoming a lawyer. Boswell spent a great deal of time traveling on the Continent, recording it in his journals. He married Margaret Montgomerie, his cousin, in 1769 with whom he had seven children. Boswell was wildly unfaithful, however, and he was often sick with venereal diseases. He was also addicted to alcohol and gambling. Boswell’s legacy came from his long friendship with Samuel Johnson, the famous English writer. After Johnson died, Boswell wrote his biography from a personal view, and Life of Johnson was published in 1791. Boswell, his health declining, died in 1795.
The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
"No Abolition of Slavery" (1791)
Born: January 25, 1759
Died: July 21, 1796
Robert Burns is considered the national poet of Scotland. There is even a holiday named after him – Robbie Burns Day on January 25. Burns wrote poetry during the Romantic Movement, like John Keats.
Life: Robert Burns was born in Alloway, Scotland in 1759. He worked much of his childhood on a farm and received a lot of his education at home. When Burns was sixteen, he wrote his first poem, “O, Once I Lov’d A Bonnie Lass.” He continued to write poetry on the side while he worked on the farm. Burns joined the Freemasons at the age of twenty two, and became a respected leader among them. Burns had numerous romantic relationships, and not a few children. In 1788, he married Jean Armour with whom he already had children. They eventually had nine children together. Burns wrote hundreds of well-loved poems and songs, exhibiting great skill in writing the Scot dialect. He also helped preserve many Scottish folk songs. However, Burns lacked business sense, and some say he was given to drink. Robert Burns died in 1796 at the age of thirty seven.
"Holy Willie's Prayer" (1785)
"To a Mouse" (1785)
"Auld Lang Syne" (1788)
"Tam o' Shanter" (1790)
"My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose" (1794)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Born: May 22, 1859
Died: July 7, 1930
Conan Doyle is considered a master at detective stories. His creation Sherlock Holmes is one of the most famous detectives in the literary world. But Doyle wrote more than just mysteries; he also wrote science fiction, historical fiction, poetry, and more.
Life: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1859. He was close to his mother growing up, perhaps due to the fact that his father was an alcoholic and was eventually committed to an insane asylum. Doyle was given a Catholic education, but eventually became an agnostic. Doyle studied to be a doctor, while writing stories on the side. In 1885, he married Louisa Hawkins with whom he had two children. Louise died in 1906 from tuberculosis. A year later, Doyle married Elizabeth Leckie, who gave him three more children. Sherlock Holmes first appeared in the novel A Study in Scarlet in 1887. He had a long career fighting crime in fifty-six short stories and four novels. Doyle not only solved fictional mysteries, but he also helped bring two real-life cases to justice. He wrote some political pamphlets, and was knighted in 1902. Late in life, Doyle became involved in the beliefs of spiritualism, and was even convinced that Houdini had magical powers, despite Houdini’s own admittance to the contrary. Arthur Conan Doyle died of a heart attack in 1930.
A Study in Scarlet (1887)
The White Company (1891)
The Adventures of Shelock Holmes (1892)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902)
The Lost World (1912)
Born: March 8, 1859
Died: July 6, 1932
Kenneth Grahame was a writer whose most notable work was The Wind in the Willows, a children's book about talking animals.
Life: Kenneth Grahame was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1859. He, in fact, spent most of his growing up years in England with his grandmother, after his mother died. After going to school, Grahame worked at the Bank of England for almost thirty years. He married Elspeth Thomson in 1899, and they had one son, Alastair. Alastair, who was the inspiration for “Mr. Toad,” committed suicide before he reached his twentieth birthday. Grahame had small success publishing short stories, but his legacy is The Wind in the Willows, which was published in 1908. Kenneth Grahame died in 1932.
Pagan Papers (1893)
The Golden Age (1895)
Dream Days (1898)
The Wind in the Willows (1908)
Check out Part Two...
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