Sir Walter Scott
Sir Walter Scott

10 great Scottish writers and their renowned work

There are numerous renowned writers all over the world, and we can get lost in a sea of novels, poems and other great works that have made their great marks in the literary world.

Here in this blog article I have highlighted 10 great Scottish writers who have graced literature. In this article, I have discussed shortly who they were and how they lived their lives before and leading up to their writing career.

Not only that, I have also included these writers’ last words upon death. Doesn’t it interest you what are great people’s last words?

William Dunbar

Born: 1459
Died: 1520

Personal and Writing Life

There are very few records of Dunbar’s professional life. However it was said that he worked at King James’ court. It was said that his years of service in the court correlates with the same timeframe for most of his poems. His last presence was attributed to the poem Quhen the Governour Past in France. David Lyndsay’s poem, The Testament and Complaynt of the Papyngo cited Dunbar’s death.

There are no known records of his cause of death and last words.

Some of Renowned Works

Dunbar’s work was among the first works printed in Scotland. Some of his poems were in Chepman and Myllar and Maitland Manuscripts.

Adam Smith

Born: June 16 1723
Died: July 17, 1790

Personal and Writing Life

Smith grew up in an affluent family in Scotland. In an early age, Smith was already into liberty and reasoning. He later on became a professor on subjects such as rhetoric and economics. Adam Smith also had tutoring jobs and was well-travelled.

Smith died in Edinburgh and his last words were “I believe we must adjourn this meeting to another place.”

Some of Renowned Works

One of Smith’s first publications was The Theory of Moral Sentiments in 1759 which tackled primarily on human morality. His most popular books were The Wealth of Nations which had 5 books that talked about labour, nature, accumulation and employment of stock, progress of opulence in nations, systems of political economy, and revenue of the sovereign or commonwealth. Also, the Essays on Philosophical Subjects which consists of history of astronomy, ancient physics and ancient logics and metaphysics.

Robert Burns

Born: January 25, 1759
Died: July 21, 1796

Personal and Writing Life

Burns is a notable poet for the Romantic movement, being one of the first one who delved into literature which focused on emotion and individualism. Burns grew up in a thriving family who owned a farm and sold it when he was young. Burns struggled financially as he grew older and first wrote poems and songs to Alison Begbie. Later on in his life he continued to venture in farming but had little success. His poems and songs however became successful.

However Burns died young at the age of 37 in Dumfries. His last words were “John, don’t let the awkward squad fire over me.”

Some of Renowned Works

Burns was known for several works. Scots Wha Hae, a patriotic song. Auld Lang Lye, a traditional folksong. To A Mouse, a Scots language poem. A Man’s a Man for A’ That, which had egalitarian and republicanism thought. Halloween which was one of Burns’ long poems.

If you want to dress up like a true Scotsman with a kilt and a proper Scottish jacket, then you should try the men’s kilts of Kilt and Jacks.

Sir Walter Scott

Sir Walter Scott

Born: August 15, 1771
Died: September 21, 1832

Personal and Writing Life

Scott followed his father’s steps as a writer. He graduated with a degree in literature in University of Edinburgh, and in 1786 had his apprenticeship in his father’s office. Interestingly, his profession was not limited to writing but he also graduated law from the same university and practiced in Edinburgh. He also volunteered in the Royal Edinburgh Volunteer Light Dragoons in the height of the threat of a French invasion.

Scott was considered successful and popular all through his death. He died of typhus and his last words were ‘Well, this is a great comfort. I have followed you distinctly, and I feel as if I was to be myself again’.

Some of Renowned Works

Aside from writing his own works such as the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, he also successfully translated foreign works such as the ballads of Gottfried August BĂĽrger from German to English. Scott was fond of the life within the Scottish Border, hence this reflected in his famous ballads. He also wrote nonfiction work such as the renowned Life of Napoleon Bounaparte.

David Hume

Born: May 7, 1711
Died: August 25, 1776

Personal and Writing Life

Although Hume had in mind to pursue law, he never really finished his studies. He didn’t have confidence in professors then as he believed that everything can be learned in books. Although, Hume had an immense interest for philosophy. He became a merchant’s assistant, attempted a career in the university and became a librarian at University of Edinburgh. Later on Hume became a successful essayist.

Some of Renowned Works

The first book Hume published was A Treatise of Human Nature which took 4 years of his life’s work with ideals related to naturalism, empiricism and skepticism. While The History of England was a huge success containing the two parts of the History of Great Britain, one part for the history of House of Tudor and another part for the Early History of England.

David Hume died of cancer, his last words were ‘I am in flames.’

Robert Louis Stevenson

Born: November 13, 1850
Died: December 3, 1894

Personal and Writing Life

Stevenson came from a family whose profession was inclined to engineering. However, Stevenson deviated from this path and chose a life of art, traveling and writing. A lot of his literary works were inspired by his travels. Stevenson’s writing career has started growing immensely in London. Although Stevenson did not pursue his engineering career, he studied law which has influenced his writing. However, he never practiced law as his profession. He spent most of his life traveling and writing.

Stevenson later in his life has settled in Upolu an island located in Samoa and became an influential individual there. Upon his death, his last words were directed towards his wife saying ‘Do I look strange?’

Some of Renowned Works

Stevenson’s renowned works were Treasure Island, Kidnapped, A Child’s Garden of Verses, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and My Hyde.

Treasure Island’s story revolves around Jim who later on discovers a map to a treasure from a man named Bill who dies in the early part of the book. Jim then finds companions Dr. Livesey and a squire named Trelawney. They all sought and journeyed towards the treasure. Later on they find the treasure chest empty where a man named Ben Gunn has found the treasure first, while the other members of the voyage takes the treasure with a man named Silver, the ship’s cook.

Kidnapped is another success by Stevenson. The story is about teenager David Balfour,
The story started with the death of his parents and goes on with the conflict regarding the inheritance between him and his uncle Ebenezer. The story includes David’s journey to survival and some legal battle with David asserting his claims to the inheritance.

Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes

Born: May 22, 1859
Died: July 7, 1930

Personal and Writing Life

Doyle is most known for his creation of Sherlock Homes, however, Doyle was not only a writer during his day. Doyle was also a surgeon and a medical officer traveling by a whaling boat through Liverpool and West Africa. Later on in his life, he lived in Portsmouth and balanced his time between his medical practice and writing. Doyle was also fond of sports in his younger year, he played football, cricket, golf and also did some boxing.

Doyle continued on living his life comfortably until his death in Sussex. His last words were for his wife saying, “You are wonderful.”

Some of Renowned Works

Doyle’s first successful publications were A Study of Scarlet in 1887 and The Lost World in 1912. The former was about Dr. John Watson a military doctor who later on meets Sherlock Homes and learns of his special skills as a detective. This book is the first where Holmes appeared and where Watson first accompanied Holmes in a case together and solved it in the end of the book.

While The Lost World was about Ned Malone and his love for Gladys Hungerton, Malone later on meets Professor George Challenger for a story he is doing. The book continued on as Malone traveled to South America with Professor Challenger and their team to delve into Professor Challenger’s claims. Later on they found themselves caught in the middle of the battle between Accala and the ape-men.

J.M. Barrie

Born: May 9, 1860
Died: June 19 1937

Personal and Writing Life

From the onset of Barrie’s life he knew he wanted to pursue a career in writing. However his parents wanted him to pursue a different career like the ministry. He then agreed to study with the condition to enroll in a literary course. His first job was a journalist in London. Later on in his writing career, he found interest in writing theatre plays.

Barrie stayed in Manchester in his old age up until he died of pneumonia. His last words were “I can’t sleep.”

Some of Renowned Works

Barrie is mostly known for the great success of Peter Pan, the character first appeared in The Little White Bird. The most successful work of Barrie “Peter Pan or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up”. As famously known, Peter Pan is a boy who can fly and the story highlights his adventures on the island of Neverland with his companions Wendy, Tinker Bell, the Lost Boys, Tiger Lily, Captain Hook and his brothers. Following Peter Pan, Barrie published several successful plays such as The Twelve Pound Look which was about a woman who claimed an independent life as a writer after leaving her husband.

Hugh MacDiarmid

Born: August 11 , 1892
Died: September 9, 1978

Personal and Writing Life

Like many writers, MacDiarmid’s first job was a journalist in the Edinburgh Evening Dispatch, then he became a newspaper reporter at Monmouthshire, Wales. He also served the army in 1915 with the Royal Army Medical Crops. MacDiarmid lived quite a life also being involved in politics as one of the co-founders of National Party in Scotland, he also became a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain.

There is no known records for MacDiarmid’s last words.

Some of Renowned Works

The first ever publication of MacDiarmid was Annals of the Five Senses which contained of prose and poetry. However his practice of referencing other works have lead some of his works be accused of plagiarism such as his poem Perfect. Mostly he wrote prose such as Scottish Eccentrics and his autobiography Lucky Poet.

There is no known records of MacDiarmid’s last words but according to his biography his life was ‘the story of an absolutist whose absolutes came to grief in his private life’.

Carol Ann Duffy

Born: December 23, 1955

Personal and Writing Life

Duffy started her writing career young at the age of 15, it was when her poems were first published. Duffy became a poet critic for The Guardian, a lecturer in poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University and later on successfully became a creative director of its Writing School. She was later on elected as an Honorary Fellow of the British Academy. Duffy was the first woman, first Scottish poet, and first LGBT poet to have held position as Britain’s Poet Laureate in 2009.

Some of Renowned Works

Duffy became even more popular for the 46 line poem she wrote for the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. She also wrote the Last Post in remembrance of the deaths of Henry Allingham and Harry Patch. She also published The Twelve Days of Christmas 2009 which reflected climate crisis.

Duffy is still living and is continues to be a poet to this day.

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