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The Study was designed as Scott’s private sanctum and was the last room to be completed at Abbotsford in 1824.
Sir Walter Scott’s later novels were written in this room, together with his nine-volume biography The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte (1827) and the delightful Tales of a Grandfather (1828-31) – a children’s history of Scotland written for his grandson Johnnie Lockhart.
Though the great Waverley novels were produced in another room of the house, they were written at the desk now occupying this study. The desk was made in 1810 by Gillow of London and is a near-copy of John Morritt’s desk at Rokeby Park in the North Riding of Yorkshire (now County Durham). Scott brought the new desk with him from his previous home at Ashestiel and placed it in the main room of the original farmhouse. From there he moved it to the first study he built at Abbotsford (now the Exhibition Room), before relocating it in this room in 1824. In 1935 two secret drawers were found in the desk, one of which contained more than fifty letters written by Scott to his wife before and after their marriage in 1797.
Following the collapse of Scott’s printer and his publisher in the recession of 1826, the study became the scene of his unremitting labours to pay off a debt of £126,000. The bulk of the debt was not properly his, but in an age before the laws of limited liability, his financial stake in Ballantyne’s printing business was such that he felt duty-bound to pay for everything rather than declaring himself bankrupt. Scott had always worked early in the morning before breakfast and then for two more hours before midday. Now he was obliged to write in the afternoons and evenings as well, weekdays and Sundays, dedicating his time and talents ‘to the production of such literary work as may pay off my debts’. The task was monumental and it certainly affected his health. But on he went until the debts were able to be cleared by the sale of some copyrights not long after his death in 1832.