Great Scott

Article excerpt

Byline: James Morrison, THE WASHINGTON TIMES


A Scottish professor who taught two future prime ministers and the man who would be king is promoting an even more daunting goal than teaching Britain's elite.

In Washington earlier this month, Eric Anderson issued an urgent appeal to Americans and British expatriates to raise money to restore Abbortsford House, the iconic home of one of Scotland's greatest writers, Walter Scott.

To hear Mr. Anderson describe the property, the once-elegant 19th century mansion built in the Scottish baronial style with soaring turrets and manicured gardens is now - what a real estate agent might call - a fixer-upper.

Scott, who purchased the land in the Scottish Borders region in 1811, almost lost his house in 1825 because of debts. However, he saved it through the profits of his voluminous novels, which included Rob Roy and Ivanhoe, and epic poems like The Lady of the Lake.

Abbortsford is now in danger again, Mr. Anderson told members of the English-Speaking Union of the United States and the Living Legacy of Scotland.

He said the estate needs a new roof and new windows, electricity and plumbing. The Abbortsford Trust, created in 2007 to restore the mansion, has raised nearly $14 million of the $21 million needed for the restoration. Mr. Anderson is counting on Scott's fans to help.

Even those who know little of Scott's work might be familiar with one of his most notable quotes:

"Oh! what a tangled web we weave

When first we practice to deceive!

Critics might accuse Scott, himself, of being a grand deceiver because his works promote a romanticized version of Scotland, mostly of misty highlands with heroic Scotsmen wearing kilts and wretched witches casting spells. Other novels were built on the legend of King Arthur. …