I’ve finally returned from my two and half week trip to Great Britain where I toured castles, stalked the infamous Hairy Coo (more on this next week), zipped around on London’s Tube system, and actually ate haggis (not too bad, in case you were wondering).
I also saw miles and miles (or is it kilometers?) of museums, but one museum was a must see for me: The Writers’ Museum in Edinburgh, Scotland.
No, I wasn’t featured in it. Sigh.
This cozy little museum contains tidbits from three of Scotland’s most famous writers: Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Robert Burns. Objects they used – including Burns’s envy-inducing writing desk – and portions of their manuscripts are displayed in a three-story home built in 1622. The house itself is fascinating to see, so even if you’re not into Scottish writers and poets, the building is worth a peek.
Self Publishing: Old School Style
One of the most inspiring objects in The Writers’ Museum was Sir Walter Scott’s printing press. Yes, this guy was self publishing before it was “a thing” – and before you had to spend half your writing time on social media marketing your writing!
Scott used the press to print his Waverly novels. Scott is the father of the historical novel as we know it and the Waverly novels are a series of books dealing with the Jacobite rebellion. Weirdly enough, Scott was already hugely popular for writing poetry. Rather than turning that fame to his advantage, he self published Waverly anonymously to let the book stand on its own merit.
The book (and the following series) was a wacky success, but Scott still tried to keep his name secret – although plenty of people had figured out who the man behind the pen was. He still attempted to maintain his secret identity while at the same time making use of his novels’ success by putting “by the author of Waverly” on his subsequent books – self publishers are such whores!
More Than A Self-Publishing Success – Finding the Sparklies
Besides being a popular and successful writer, there was more to Scott than meets the eye. As a historical novelist, Scott became intimately familiar with Scottish history.
Part of that Scottish history included “losing” the crown jewels of Scotland (known as The Honours of Scotland) that hadn’t been seen for a couple hundred years or so. You know when you hide something so no one else will steal it from you then you forget where you hid that something? Yeah, that’s what happen to the crown jewels. Oops.
Well, the guy who would become King George IV was so impressed with Scott’s research skills, he gave the writer the chance to delve into the location of the Scottish crown jewels. Using historical documents and other information, Scott found the jewels and I hope at least did a little happy dance with the crown on his head before handing the treasures over to the prince.
Enjoying Sir Walter Scott
If you like historical novels, you should give Scott’s works a chance. They can be a little dense and hard to get into, but once the stories start flowing, they are truly enjoyable. I’d recommend Kenilworth as a starter book – it’s short and deals with a subject many fans of history are familiar with: Queen Elizabeth I.
For the Adventurous
If you happen to find yourself in Edinburgh, visit the Sir Walter Scott Monument – the largest monument to any writer. You can’t miss the damn thing and I’m sure everyone who has ever toured the city has at least one picture of the giant spire. But if looking isn’t enough, you can climb to the top.
I seize up with fear on tight spiral staircases so I skipped this (I’ve learned my lesson on past trips), but my husband did it. He has a thing about climbing towers to take in the views and generally has no problem. But when he came down from the Scott memorial, he was shaking with fear.
Personally, I’d rather just stay on the ground with a good book!
If you want to visit The Writer’s Museum, it’s located just down the hill from Edinburgh Castle on the Royal Mile. Best of all, it’s free! Full details on hours can be found on the Edinburgh Museums and Galleries website.
If you want to climb the Scott Monument, it’ll cost you five pounds (about eight dollars) and probably a few years off your life. The monument is located on Princes Street.