Exhibition of Sir Walter Scott's literary reviews set to open

AN exhibition focusing on the role of Waverley novelist Sir Walter Scott as a reviewer of other famous authors' books opens in the spring.

Sir Walter Scott

The show, titled “Rave Reviewer: Scott on Frankenstein, Emma and Childe Harold”, will tell the story of his engagement and interaction with some of the most famous literature of the early nineteenth century - the works of Mary Shelley, Jane Austen and Lord Byron.

Co-organisers the National Library of Scotland said Scott achieved this through penning “some of the most insightful, sympathetic and outstanding literary reviews of the age”.

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In the era, reviews on all manner of subjects were often more widely read than the original publications.

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Scott was central to the setting up and popularity of a literary magazine, John Murray’s Quarterly Review, and would remain a key contributor throughout his years as the most famous and prolific novelist of the time.

Novelists and reviewers often wrote anonymously at the tine, so the story behind the exhibition is one where appearances could be deceiving.

Few were as capable at playing this elaborate game as Scott - he even reviewed his own novels, anonymously, in 1816.

Two hundred years from the time that Mary Shelley first began work on Frankenstein, in the company of her husband, the poet Percy Byssche Shelley and Lord Byron, visitors will be able to see a very rare first edition of the gothic novel belonging to Walter Scott, one of only 500 copies originally circulated, along with his first edition of Jane Austen’s Emma.

Lord Byron

Visitors will also be able to see a selection of letters and manuscript reviews that bring to life the story behind preparing a work for publication and review, including original documents in the hand of Shelley, Mary Shelley, Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott, on loan from the National Library of Scotland. Many of these items are going on display to the public for the first time.

The exhibition at his former home in Galashiels is collaboration between the National Library of Scotland’s Murray Archive and the Abbotsford Trust.

Kirsty Archer-Thompson, collections and interpretation manageress at the Abbotsford Trust said today/yesterday [THURS]: “We are delighted to be collaborating with the National Library of Scotland to tell this fascinating story about a community of readers and writers shaping the present, and indeed future, impact of what we now consider to be classic works of literature.

“Novels such as Frankenstein did not fare well with reviewing community as a whole and Scott’s acknowledgement of [Mary] Shelley’s genius ran very much against the grain.

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

“This exhibition is a wonderful platform to show that Scott was just as capable of looking to the future as he was to the past.”

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David McClay, curator of the John Murray Archive at the National Library of Scotland added: “The National Library of Scotland is delighted with this opportunity to bring some of the rare and unique national treasures to the home of Sir Walter Scott.

“The story they tell about Scott and the reviewing culture of his time is fascinating, not least because it involves some of the greatest literary geniuses of all time.”

Lord Byron

The exhibition will be on display in Abbotsford House from Saturday 2nd April 2016 until the end of the season on November 2016. Entry is included as part of the admission ticket to the house.”