I came across this idiom, "a Shakespeare and a Scott," which I have found in several different writings, and haven't been able to ascertain its origin, meaning, or an appropriate synonym.

"Poetically classic ground does not, alas! occur with us, as on the shores consecrated by a Shakespeare and a Scott." - Sir Samuel Ferguson in the Ireland of His Day, p. 100.

"How extraordinary that a great and powerful empire like Great Britain, uniting as she does every facility and requisite for its cultivation and development, should be so insensible to its value—a country which has produced a Bacon, a Newton, a Milton, a Shakespeare, and a Scott—a country which has excelled in every other walk of human genius and enterprise!" - Remarks on Ancient and Modern Art, pp. 394-395

"The reason why they omit it is that it is impossible for any but a Shakespeare and a Scott to touch it with any kind of life, spirit, delicacy, and truth." - The Token and Atlantic Souvenir, p. 274

Shakespeare is obviously a reference to the playwright, and it appears Scott refers to Walter Scott, a renowned English novelist.

My guess is it is a way of emphasizing the difficulty of a task, capable of being successfully completed only by one with profound intellect and skill, and as for a generic synonym, perhaps genius? Is anyone familiar with this idiom and its origin?

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    It seems you've figured it out on your own. What's your question? – Unrelated Oct 13 '20 at 4:45
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    Do you equate a mere guess, a shot in the dark, with "figuring something out"? My question is in the title and the last sentence of my post. – reformed Oct 13 '20 at 4:47
  • As far as I can see, it might not be an idiom at all, though it sure sounds like one. Scott is definitely Walter Scott. The second example lists others apart from the two. Third one is in the same vein, listing two greats to represent the highest standards of English writing. There are too few results on google to suggest a wide usage. There is a book titled A Parallel of Shakespeare and Scott , there too the names do not seem to form an idiom. Basically, they seem to be names and not adjectives. – R.S. Oct 13 '20 at 6:54
  • These all seem to be from older works, written when Scott was a more popular author than he is now. Today we might refer to 'Shakespeare and Dickens'. – Kate Bunting Oct 13 '20 at 7:40

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