Scott had many friends among the actors [of the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh]: Murray and Charles Mackay of the Edinburgh Theatre, Charles Young, Charles Matthews the comedian, John Kemble and Mrs. Siddons (both of whom he met at Lord Abercorn's), and above all Daniel Terry. When a fund for the relief and support of the decayed performers' was set up in 1819, Scott inevitably became one of the patrons, and it was at the Fund dinner in 1827 that he confessed to being the Author of Waverley. (MacLehose)

decorated initial 'A'lthough his own plays met with little success, he actively cooperated in at least one adaptation, Terry's Guy Mannering; furthermore, the actor-producer had Scott's keen interest in his numerous "Terryfications" (as Scott termed his friend's adaptations). The most popular of Scott's works for dramatic adaptation is Ivanhoe, which was the subject of at least six different productions in London alone during the year following its publication. In 1952, it was translated into film by Richard Thorpe, and again in 1982 by Douglas Camfield; it also provided the basis for a highly popular British television series in 1957-8 starring young Roger Moore. The misty atmosphere of ghosts, curses, and ruinous castles found throughout Scott's novels made them (despite their length) naturals for stage adaptation during the regency and then the reign of George IV, though Scott himself realised nothing financially from this theatrical popularity. In 1818, Scott yielded to the entreaties of his actor-friend Daniel Terry by writing a melodrama entitled The Doom of Devorgil (not published until 1830). In it, Scot utilises such familiar plot materials as a proud but poverty-stricken aristocratic family (which he used to better effect in the following year's The Bride of Lammermoor), a ghost, a treasure hoard, a pair of lovers in disguise, and a gullible parson. The surviving remnant of this lively romp is the well-known eleven-verse song "The Bonnets of Bonny Dundee." Unfortunately, Scott had no sense of what was possible and what was not in terms of stage illusion, requiring unmanageable supernatural effects. Scott's later play, Auchindrane; or, The Ayrshire Tragedy (1830), taking up the revenge theme of The Bride of Lammermoor, was far less stageworthy than most of Terry's own adaptations of Scott's novels. Other original dramas by Scott include a play he rattled off on two rainy mornings, Halidon Hill (1822), for which he received 1,000 pounds, and Macduff's Cross (1823). Dramas founded on Scott's novels, but adapted by other hands include George Soane's Rob Roy the Gregarach (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane; March, 1818), Daniel Terry's The Antiquary (Theatre Royal, Covent Garden; January, 1820); and J. W. Calcraft's The Heart of Midlothian (Theatre Royal, Edinburgh; February, 1820). Other highly diligent adapters were W. H. Murray, Isaac Pocock, and Edward Fitzball. Scott's reluctance to write for the London stage is well expressed in a letter of April, 1819, to the poet Southey:

To write for low, ill-informed and conceited actors, whom you must please, for your success is necessarily at their mercy, I cannot away with. . . . Besides, if this objection were out of the way, I do not think the character of the audience in London is such that one could have the least pleasure in pleasing them. One half come to prosecute their debaucheries, so openly that it would degrade a bagnio. Another set snooze off their beef-steaks and port wine; a third are critics of the fourth column of the newspaper; fashion, wit and literature there is not; and on the whole I would far rather write verses for mine honest friend Punch and his audience. (Cited in The Revels History, Vol. IV from The Private Letter-Books of Sir Walter Scott, ed. Wilfred Partington [1930]).

Nineteenth-century working-class readers in London and its environs were familiar with Scott both through dramatisations of his novels on the stages of "Surrey-side" playhouses and through the cheap, pulp-paper adaptations published in the Dicks' Standard Plays series: No. 355, Fox Cooper's Ivanhoe (first produced at Astley's on Easter Monday, 1869); No. 252, Thomas Dibdin's Heart of Midlothian (first performed at the Royal Surrey in 1819); No. 334, Dibdin's Kenilworth (first performed "at the Theatres Royal, London," including Covent-Garden in March, 1821); and No. 344, John William Calcraft's The Bride of Lammermoor.

No discussion of Scott and dramatic adaptation, no matter how cursory, would be complete without mention of Scott and nineteenth-century opera. The most popular (and well-known) opera derived from a Scott novel is probably Lucia di' Lammermore, by Cammarano and Donizetti; the least known is probably Festen paa Kenilworth in Danish. Ivanhoe has probably been adapted for the opera house more than any other Scott novel, with notable treatments by Rossini (Ivanhoó), and by W. A. Wholbrück and Heinrich Marschner (Der Templar und die Jüdin. Other operas mentioned by Jerome Mitchell (1977) include Auber's La Muette de Portici(which features only the character of Fenelia from Peveril of the Peak ) and Holtstein's Die Hochländer, which is a synthesis of several Scott novels.


Victorian Web Sir Walter Scott

Las modified December 2001