Henry Raeburn. Photo Wikimedia Commons

Portrait of Scott by Henry Raeburn. Photo Wikimedia Commons

Here are “Five Fascinating Facts about Sir Walter Scott” from Interesting Literature. I’m not altogether convinced by that “glamour” item though. It does seem that the derivation Interesting Literature quotes from a Scots corruption of the word “grammar” is correct, but the word was being used that way well before Scott was ever born. But the OED also credits him with introducing the word into “the literary language”. I’m wondering in what way Oxford thinks that Allan Ramsay wasn’t literary though. Two of their references predating Scott are from Ramsay. Maybe he’s just not glamourous enough.

Back then “glamour” meant something like a magic spell or enchantment, and travelled towards its modern sense following the track of the fairy-godmother type of spell, wishing great beauty on the little princess. I guess its journey from grammar may have resulted from some sort of “correct form of words” sense, though in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries “gramarye” did mean learning in general, so a move to occult learning was perhaps inevitable.

One of the nice things about Scott was his friendship with James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd. This was not always of the smoothest; Scott was after all a dyed-in-the-wool Tory with a strong appreciation of his superior position in Border society. Hogg was always willing to address any artist (or anyone) on equal terms, but as he often appeared in Edinburgh salons stinking of sweat and sheep dung, the fellowship was not always reciprocated. I just finished reading Karl Miller’s Electric Shepherd (“electric” was a surprisingly prominent word in writings at the turn of the eighteenth to nineteenth century). Indeed one of the most striking impressions I brought away from this book is how much of the Scottish vernacular as spoken by Hogg and his fellow Borderers back then is exactly similar to the language I would hear as a child.

I wrote about Scott’s ill-fated involvement in printing and publishing back in 2013.