The son of a lawyer, Walter Scott was educated at Edinburgh High School and at the university; he was called to the bar in 1792. He began his literary career as a collector of ballads; his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border was published in 1802-03, to be followed by his best-selling poems and even more successful novels, the latter published anonymously. In 1813 Scott declined the laureateship, recommending Robert Southey. He was created a baronet in 1820. His financial difficulties began in 1826 with the bankruptcy of his publishing concern; Scott was able to pay off his creditors though the burden of additional writing is thought to have shortened his life.