In James Joyce's short story 'Araby', a copy of Walter Scott's novel The Abbot is left discarded in a pile of 'old useless papers'. Despite this rather negative association, Joyce himself found many uses for Scott's work. This article examines a number of significant references to Scott and his texts in Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and Finnegans Wake. In Joyce's texts, readers of Scott are associated with incest and onanistic self-absorption, as well as familial and racial decline. However, both writers present models or structures of historical progress in their work. Scott's Smithian view of history is reflected in texts such as Waverley while Joyce's use of the theories of Giambattista Vico is demonstrated in Finnegans Wake. In addition to studying the function of references to Scott and his texts in Joyce's work, this article analyses the different configurations of history offered by Scott and Joyce, and considers how these models relate to the use of river imagery by the two authors. The article also charts Joyce's personal reading of Scott's work, from his encounter with Ivanhoe as a student in 1899 to his attempt to memorise The Lady of the Lake while recovering from an eye operation in 1924.