With a long and successful history in the written word, Edinburgh has come to be known as a renowned city of literature. Romantic, historic and vibrant at every turn, it has been inspiring great literature and memorable characters for centuries. From Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge to J.K. Rowling’s Lord Voldermort, Edinburgh has given rise to some of our favourite characters. As the first Unesco City of Literature and home to the renowned Edinburgh Book Festival, we thought it high time we took a closer look at some of the most famous Edinburgh authors to walk our streets.
Good Ol’ Rabbie
When it comes to famous Scottish writers, there is one man who stands head and shoulders above the rest – Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns. His poems, which were written in the Scots tongue instead of English, were a huge success. Although not originally from Edinburgh, his time in our capital city helped shape Edinburgh’s famed literary heritage. His work was so popular, that when he arrived in the city in 1786, the gates were flung open to welcome him in. And after a successful (albeit short) career, around ten thousand people attended his funeral. Today, his work continues to endure as people all over the world toast the bells and welcome in the New Year by singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ – his best-known work. And to celebrate the life and work of our favourite bard, we Scots have a Burns Night supper every year where we commemorate the life and times of ol’ Rabbie Burns with traditional Scottish fayre and an ‘Address to the Haggis’.
Sir Walter Scott is one of the greatest Edinburgh Literati to have walked our streets. Born in Edinburgh in 1771, his literary legacy can be seen throughout the city. From Waverley Train Station to the Scott Monument on Princes Street, his romantically popular poetry and novels made him the blockbuster novelist of his day. A literary mastermind and loyal patriot, Scotland’s most iconic writer even helped uncover the Scottish Crown Jewels, which had been hidden somewhere in Edinburgh Castle since the Treaty of the Union in 1707.
Nowhere To Hyde
Perhaps one of the greatest (not to mention most popular) writers to grace the Edinburgh literary scene was Robert Louise Stevenson. From Treasure Island and Kidnapped to The Strange Case of Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde, his writing was shaped by the duality of Edinburgh city itself. His early life was spent in the dichotomy of long days drinking in Edinburgh’s seedy Old Town, before retiring to the warm, safe bosom of his affluent New Town home – a theme of contrasts that prevailed over his work and his life.
A man who needs little introduction on the Edinburgh literary scene is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the man who penned the world’s most beloved crime fighting duo, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. Born in Edinburgh in 1859, he was a student of medicine who found fame and fortune in the world’s greatest fictional detective – a brilliant observationist of logic and master of deductive reasoning. Today, his timeless series of Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories continue to be re-told and adapted time and time again.
So there you have it. A few of the famous Edinburgh authors who helped shape the written word while inspiring future generations to dream.