صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

Winter winds blew loud and cauld at our Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge

thee,

parting, Fears for my Willie brought tears in my Warring sighs and groans I'll wage

[blocks in formation]

JOANNA BAILLIE's literary reputa- | tions, are not distinguished by original. tion is greater than a just estimate of her poetic achievements will sustain.

This must be placed to the credit of the woman, whose character is the theme of the praises of almost all her contemporaries. Her few Scottish pieces, with two or three excep

ity; indeed, most of them are echoes of previous models; but considering the time which she lived away from the land of her nativity, they are very creditable to her patriotic tenacity.

She was born on the 11th September 1762, at Bothwell, on the banks of the

Clyde, her father, Dr James Baillie, being minister of that parish. He was afterwards professor of divinity in the University of Glasgow. Her mother was a sister of the celebrated anatomists, Drs John and William Hunter, after the former of whom Joanna was named. Few places in Scotland are a meeter "nurse for a poetic child" than the romantic surroundings of Bothwell Castle, the once famous stronghold of | the Douglasses; and here and at Hamilton, about three miles distant, Joanna Baillie spent the first ten years of her life. In 1778, her father died at Glasgow; and in 1784, she went with her mother and her sister Agnes to live with her brother, Dr Mathew Baillie, who succeeded to the London house and the practice of his uncle, Dr William Hunter, on the death of that well-known physician. Here, in 1790, she published anonymously her first volume of poems, which met with a very indifferent reception. In 1798, she published her first series of dramas, with the view of illustrating her theory of the action of the passions, each passion being the subject of a tragedy and a comedy. Her theory, which advocates stricter adherence to nature in the dramatic art, she maintains in a lengthy introduction, which shows her to have been an original and vigorous thinker. This venture, which was also anonymous, created an immediate impression, and a second edition was required in a short time. In 1802, she continued the subject in a second volume; and in a third, in 1812. In 1804, she produced a volume of miscellaneous dramas, and in 1810 the "Family Legend," a tragedy founded

[blocks in formation]

On the marriage of Dr Baillie, his mother and sisters went for some time to Colchester; but about 1801, they fixed their abode permanently at Hampstead Heath. Here their mother died in 1806, and here the two affectionate sisters continued to reside and receive the visits of almost all their contemporary celebrities till Joanna's death, on the 23d February 1851. Agnes lived for other ten years, dying in 1861, in the hundredth year of her age. Joanna's Address to Agnes on her Birthday is one of the most simply beautiful pictures of sisterly affection

extant.

LINES TO AGNES BAILLIE ON HER BIRTHDAY.

Dear Agnes, gleamed with joy and dashed with tears,

O'er us have glided almost sixty years Since we on Bothwell's bonnie braes were

seen,

By those whose eyes long closed in death

have been

Two tiny imps, who scarcely stooped to gather

The slender harebell or the purple

heather;

No taller than the foxglove's spinky stem, That dew of morning studs with silvery

gem.

LINES TO AGNES BAILLIE ON HER BIRTHDAY. 661

Then every butterfly that crossed our view

With joyous shout was greeted as it flew; And moth, and lady-bird, and beetle

bright,

Well may it please me, in life's latter scene, To think what now thou art and long to me hast been.

"Twas thou who wooedst me first to look

In sheeny gold, were each a wondrous Upon the page of printed book,

sight.

Then as we paddled barefoot, side by side,

Among the sunny shallows of the Clyde, Minnows or spotted parr with twinkling fin,

Swimming in mazy rings the pool within, A thrill of gladness through our bosoms sent,

Seen in the power of early wonderment.

A long perspective to my mind appears, Looking behind me to that line of years; And yet through every stage I still can

trace

Thy visioned form, from childhood's morning grace

To woman's early bloom-changing, how soon !

To the expressive glow of woman's noon; And now to what thou art, in comely age, Active and ardent. Let what will engage Thy present moment-whether hopeful seeds

In garden plat thou sow, or noxious weeds From the fair flower remove; or ancient lore

In chronicle or legend rare explore,
Or on the parlour hearth with kitten play,
Stroking its tabby sides; or take thy way
To gain with hasty steps some cottage
door,

That thing by me abhorred, and with address

Didst win me from my thoughtless idle

ness,

When all too old become with_bootless haste,

In fitful sports the precious time to waste, Thy love of tale and story was the stroke At which my dormant fancy first awoke, And ghosts and witches in my busy brain Arose in sombre show, a motley train. This new-found path attempting, proud was I

Lurking approval on thy face to spy, Or hear thee say, as grew they roused attention,

"What is this story all thine own invention !"

Then, as advancing through this mortal span,

Our intercourse with the mixed world began;

Thy fairer face and sprightlier courtesy-
A truth that from my youthful vanity
Lay not concealed did for the sisters
twain,

Where'er we went, the greater favour gain;

While but for thee, vexed with its tossing

tide,

I from the busy world had shrunk aside. On helpful errand to the neighbouring And now, in later years, with better grace,

poor

Active and ardent, to my fancy's eye

Thou still art young, in spite of time gone

by.

Thou help'st me still to hold a welcome place

With those whom nearer neighbourhood has made

Though oft of patience brief, and temper The friendly cheerers of our evening

[blocks in formation]
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

listless exotics, but the vigorous products of the soil. The more practical parts of education were not neglected; and on arriving at maturity, Caroline Oliphant was a very accomplished young woman, her national enthusiasm fired with the recollection of all that was romantic in the history of her native land, and her tastes trained to

after-life she found enjoyment in a wider range of sympathies, without lessening her interest in the country of her birth.

CAROLINE OLIPHANT, Baroness Nairne, the greatest of Scotland's female song-writers, was born on the 16th August 1766, at the old mansionhouse of Gask, in Perthshire. Her father, Laurence Oliphant, the laird of Gask, a cadet of the ancient and distinguished family of Oliphant, was an ardent adherent of the Stuart cause, having taken an active part in the re-appreciate its ideas and manners; yet in bellion of 1745, on account of which the family estates were forfeited. Her mother was a daughter of Duncan Robertson of Strowan, chief of the clan Robertson, or Donnachie, also an adherent of the Jacobite cause. It is no wonder, then, to find the future poetess named after the "Young Chevalier." Both families suffered severely for their political convictions, and had therefore to practise a wholesome economy in their domestic habits; yet time, rather than the hardships to which it subjected them, alone tempered the ardour of their misplaced loyalty, and a lock of the prince's hair is still held as a precious heirloom by the Oliphants of Gask.

Mrs Oliphant died in 1774, and Caroline, with her brothers and sister, was placed in charge of a governess. Dancing and music were the favourite amusements of the family, and the famous Neil Gow often brought the soul of the one to sustain the life of the other. It need hardly be added that neither were

In 1792, her father died; and while still residing at Gask with her brother Laurence, she became interested in the rich collections of national songs which the genius of Burns was reviving and creating, and she felt stimulated to help the work of purifying the sentiments to which some of our finest old airs were sung. Her first attempt was "The Pleughman," which was soon followed by "John Tod," "The Laird of Cockpen," and others.

On the 2d of June 1806, she was married to her cousin, Major William Nairne, assistant Inspector-General of barracks in Scotland; and after residing some time at Portobello, they took up their residence at Duddingston, where her uncle, the chief of the Robertsons, presented her with a villa which was named after her. Here she formed an accomplished, but-so far as literature is concerned-a disguised member of the

Edinburgh society of which Scott was beginning to form the centre. She had written "The Land of the Leal" some time before she left Gask (about 1798); yet the secret of her being a song-writer was known to but a few of her most intimate friends: even her publisher knew her only in the assumed individuality of Mrs Bogan of Bogan.

In 1824, Major Nairne had the forfeited rank and titles of his family in the peerage of Scotland restored to him, and in 1830 he died, leaving an only son. On her husband's death, Lady Nairne removed to Clifton, and afterwards to Ireland; but in 1834, she removed to the Continent in search of a milder climate for her son, whose health showed signs of weakness.

The two last years of her life were mostly occupied in the promotion of similar projects. She died on the 26th October 1845, in her seventy-ninth year, and was buried in the private chapel built by her brother beside the house of Gask.

[ocr errors]

66

Lady Nairne stands next to Burns in the breadth and diversity of her talents as a song-writer. She does not manifest the same command over the passions as Burns does; and her love songs, as 'The Lass of Gowrie," and "Huntingtower," though excellent of their kind, have not the depth of feeling which characterises her Land o' the Leal." "Caller Herrin'," "The Laird o' Cockpen," and "John Todd," are real original sketches, and equal to any songs in the same vein; while "Charlie is my Darling," "Will ye no come back again?" and "The Hundred Pipers," and two or three others, display the Jacobite spirit to perfection. "The Rowan Tree," "Songs of my Native Land," and others, prove the depth of her patriotic sentiments and love of locality. Her "Twa Doos" is an admirable sample of that humour which is one of the most delightful characteristics of canny old Scotch folk, which we fear is fast fading before the fashionable in

After having tried all the health-resorts of the Continent, William, sixth Lord Nairne, died at Brussels in December 1837, and was there buried. Lady Nairne, accompanied by her sister, Mrs Keith, continued to reside on the Continent, moving about from place to place, and everywhere trying to relieve the distress which she saw around her. At length, on the invitation of her brother, who went to Paris for the purpose of bringing her home, she returned to Scotland, and took up her abode at Gask in 1843. She soon began to in-fluences of present social conditions. terest herself in the affairs of her native land, particularly in schemes of bene-lected and edited, with her permission, volence, and for the diffusion of religion. In all her contributions for these ends she acted, as in her authorship, anonymously; and it was not till after her death that Dr Chalmers felt at liberty to mention her name as the donor of £300 to his West Port Territorial Scheme.

Lady Nairne's songs were being col

under the title of Lays of Strathearn, without her name, shortly before her death, but were not issued till after it. An edition, with a memoir prefixed, has since been edited by Dr Rogers, with the title of The Life and Songs of the Baroness Nairne.

« السابقةمتابعة »