Tag Archive | Susana Ellis

Memoirs of a Highland Lady: Life in India and Another Sister Wed

The large house of Camballa, which [my uncle] had hired to receive us in, was of the usual Indian Construction, the large, long centre hall with broad verandahs round it; but such a hall, 80 feet long, 80 feet wide, Verandahs 20 feet wide. It stood on a platform in the middle of the descent of a rocky hill, round which swept the sea, with a plain of rice fields, and a tank, a handsome tank, between the foot of it and the Breach Candi road along the beach. From the hill end of the hall rose a wide staircase in stages; each stage led off on either hand to a terrace, each terrace on the one hand was a flower garden, on the other a covered gallery leading to offices. Top of all, and very high it was, the Terraces were covered in as bedrooms, catching all the air that blew and commanding from their latticed balconies such a view as was alone worth almost the voyage from Europe.

Dinner was served in one of the Verandahs to the great hall with such a display of plate, so brilliant a light, and such an array of attendants as were startling after our Cuddy reminiscences. I thought of the Arabian nights. The scenes there depicted were realized with a charm belonging to them quite beyond any description to paint and which now at this distance of time rouses the fancy again, and gives them back to memory with a freshness never to be impaired. There was light, vastness, beauty, regal pomp, and true affection. All was not gold, however; a better acquaintance with our palace disturbed much of our admiration. Our bedrooms were really merely barns, no ceilings, the bare rafters, bare walls, no fastenings to the doors, the bathrooms very like sculleries, the flowery terraces suspected of concealing snakes, and most certainly harbouring myriads of insects most supremely troublesome, and the tank a nuisance. Very beautiful as it seemed, with its graduated sides descending to the water, interesting, from the groups of native women resorting there at all hours with those pyramids of Etruscan shaped pots upon their heads, and their draperied clothing, and winging on with such a graceful step, the tank at night became a nuisance from the multitude of frogs—the large bull frog with such a dreadful croak as deafened us. Still these were minor evils. It was all a stage play life, and we were enchanted with it.

Mary’s Marriage to Mr. Gardiner

Mr Gardiner [also a passenger on the Mountstewart Elphinstone] was very agreeable and soon became a favourite with my father and with Mary. He was a Civilian, not young; he had been ten years in India, and was returning there now after a two years’ leave at home. He was about thirty, had held a good appointment, and expected a better. The family was Irish; the father, Colonel Gardiner, had inherited money and made more, and on dying left £100,000 to his five children.

My sister’s marriage was a grand affair. I don’t remember how many people my Aunt thought it necessary to invite to the breakfast; there were above 20 present at the Ceremony in the Cathedral. We had such a Cousinhood at the Presidency, and Mr Gardiner and Uncle Edward had so many friends, and there were my father’s brother judges, etc. Good Mr Carr, now the Bishop, married them.

For so very pretty a girl as Mary then was, so beautiful a woman as she became, there never was a less interesting, I was going to say a plainer, Bride. Her dress was heavy and unbecoming, and a very large veil, the gift of Mr Norris, hid all of her face except the large nose, the feature that had been best concealed. She was perfectly silent before the ceremony and equally silent after it, self possessed all through. She bowed without smiling when her health was drank and she went off with her husband in her new carriage to Salsette as if she had been going out just to take a drive with me.

I never pretended to understand Mary; what she felt, or whether she felt, nobody ever knew when she did not choose to tell them. Like Jane, and I believe like myself, what she determined on doing she did, and well, without fuss, after conviction of its propriety. One thing is certain, she married a most estimable man; and she made a most happy marriage, and whatever she felt towards him the day she became his Wife, she was afterwards truly attached to him and she valued him to the end of her days as he deserved.

We had had plenty to do, she and I, preparing for this event, for Mary, not content with her outfit, ordered considerable additions to her wardrobe, such things as she and our Aunt Caroline considered indispensible in her new position—near $100 my father had to pay. Then there were toilette requisites, a carriage, liveries, horses, servants, linen etc., on Mr Gardiner’s part, all to be chosen by her. A friend, Mr Elliot, lent them or rented to him his furnished house at Bycullah, which saved them both trouble and expense, he Mr Elliot being ill and ordered to the Neilgherries*; still there were many little matters to settle, and we had no help from my father and mother. They were completely absorbed in the same sort of affairs of their own. Really it was amusing to see persons of their age, who had kept house for so many years, and had full experience of such business, so completely occupied with every the minutest detail of their Bombay establishment.  Their house, its situation, furniture, number of servants, etc., one could understand would require attention; but the shape of the turbans, the colour of the cumberbands, their width, the length of the robes of the Chobdars**, all these minutiae received the greatest consideration.

A short honeymoon satisfied our lovers; they returned after a retirement of 10 days, and then began a round of entertainments to the newly married pair. Every incident was seized on by the community to give excuse for party giving. There was so little to interest any one going forward at any time, the mails being infrequent then, that we all gladly turned our attention to the trifles which filled up our lives for want of better things. An Indian life is very eventless; very dull it was to me after Mary married and John left us. Uncle Edward continued so unwell after losing the gout that he was recommended to try a year at the Neilgherries; John went there with them, proceeding afterwards from there by Bangalore to Madras and so to Calcutta, his nomination being to Bengal.

A Single Lady

…[O]ld as I was,  I was quite in fashion—a second season of celebrity, a coming out again! Like my father, I have all my life looked 10 years younger than my age; nobody guessed me at 30, and beng handsome, lively, obliging and a great man’s daughter, I reigned in good earnest over many a better queen! than myself. Of course every eligible was to be married to me, not only that but everybody was busy marrying me. ‘Now, don’t mind them, Eliza, my dear,’ said uncle Edward very early in my Indian career; ‘don’t fix yet, wait for Smith, my friend Smith; he’ll be sure to be down here next season, and he’s just the very man I have fixed on for yu.’ Then my Aunt, ‘I don’t mind your not liking old so and so and that tiresome this, and that ill humoured that, I had rather you married Colonel Smith than any body.’ Then my cousins, ‘Oh you will so like Colonel Smith, Eliza, everyone likes Colonel Smith, he will make such a kind husband, he is so kind to his horses.’ ‘My goodness, Miss Grant,’ said Mrs Norris, ‘is it possible you have refused—the best match in the Presidency—will certainly be in Council. Who do you mean to marry, pray.’ (Every body must marry, they can’t help it here.) ‘I am waiting,’ said I, ‘for Colonel Smith.” Great laughing this caused, of course, none laughing more than the intending Bride, to whom this Colonel Smith was no more than a bit of fun, just as likely to be her husband as her most particular admirer, a great fat Parsee.

One morning I was sitting at work; the cooler weather had restored us our needles and I was employing mine for Mary’s expected baby, early in November, my Mother lying on the sofa reading, when the Chobdar in waiting announced Colonel Smith. It is customary for all new arrivals to call on the Burra Sahibs. He entered, and in spite of all the nonsense we had amused ourselves with, we liked him. ‘Well,’ said Mary, on hearing who had called, ‘will he do?’ ‘Better than any of your upsetting Civilians,’ answered I, ‘a million of times, I never liked the Military at home and here I don’t like the Civilians. Colonel Smith is the most gentlemanly man I have seen in India.’ Mary and Mr Gardiner laughed and neither they nor I thought more about him.

Next Week: Colonel Henry Smith

*This photograph of a waterfall in the Nilgiri Hills was taken by an unknown photographer in the 1860s as part of an album entitled ‘Photographs of India and Overland Route’. The British established resort towns in the Nilgiri Hills during the nineteenth century where they could retreat from the harsh Indian summers. These hill stations suited the Victorian taste for the ‘picturesque’. This notion was so ingrained in the Victorian imagination that it was imperative for a successful landscape photographer to capture the right elements. This included any view endowed with scenic charm and normally meant strategically framed views of rugged mountain scenery, forests, rivers, lakes and rural dwellings.

**Chob-dar or mace bearer, in livery decorated with gold lace, holding a mace of gold or silver. Handcoloured copperplate engraving by an unknown artist from “Asiatic Costumes,” Ackermann, London, 1828.

Memoirs of a Highland Lady

‘I was born on the 7th May 1797 of a Sunday evening at No. 5 N. side of Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, in my father’s own lately built house and I am the eldest of five children he and my mother raised to maturity.’ Thus opens one of the most famous set of memoirs ever written. Since its first bowdlerised edition in 1898, they have been consistently in print. This is the first ever complete text. Written between 1845 and 1854 the memoirs were originally intended simply for Elizabeth’s family, but these vivid and inimitable records of life in the early 19th century, and above all on the great Rothiemurchus estate, full of sharp observation and wit, form an unforgettable picture of her time. The story ends with the thirty-three-year-old Elizabeth finding her own future happiness in marriage to an Irish landowner, Colonel Smith of Baltiboys. ‘A masterpiece of historical and personal recall.’ Scotsman

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Memoirs of a Highland Lady: Shipboard Life

Mount Stewart Elphinstone’ with the cliffs of the English coastline in the distance. Figures are shown on deck looking towards the coast. Built of teak in India in 1826, the ‘Mount Stewart Elphinstone’ had a trading life of more than 50 years. Over several voyages she carried nearly 1,700 convicts to Sydney and Hobart, as well as emigrants to Australia. The ship took between three and five months to make each voyage and in 1849 was described by Sir Lucius O’Brien of County Clare as a ‘deplorable prison-ship’. The painting has been signed and dated by the artist ‘W. Knell 1840’.

1827-1828

A long four months’ voyage in a narrow space amid a crowd of strangers. I could not avoid believing that some of them must have become acquainted with the humiliating circumstances attending our departure; they never showed this, and the Captain, who had been an actor in the miserable scene, was the most delicate of all, apparently ignorant of all; yet in odd ways Mary and I fancied he was more interested in us than in any of the rest of his passengers. We had taken a dislike to the good little man; we had met him at a tea party… On board his ship no man could be quieter or more agreeable than Captain Henning. My father and mother were the principal people’ we had the best accommodation, and we formed a large party ourselves. My father and mother had one cabin, a poop cabin, Mary and I had the other, Isabella’s smaller one opened out of ours; opposite to hers was Mr Gardiner; the two deck cabins were occupied by my brother John and the captain. It was quite a home circle apart from every body else; they were all below on the main decks.

The first feeling that struck me was the absence of all fear; alone on those wide waters, with but a plank between our heads and death, the danger of our situation never occurred to me. There was such a sober certainty of life apparent in the regular routine observed; the early holy stoning, the early cleaning, manoeuvring, arranging, the regular bells, the busy crew, the busy cuddy servants, the regular meals, the walks upon the deck, the quiet preparation of all in the Cuddy*, of all in our cabins, as if we were to go on thus for ever, as if we had gone on thus for years past; all looked so usual that the terrours which assail the spirits of those on shore who watch the sea never once entered the heads of the most cowardly amongst us. Storms, rocks, fogs without, fires, leaks, want of care within, all so readily arranged before the timid ashore, never once started up in a single mind at sea.

On we sailed, those bright summer days, with hardly breeze enough to fill our sails, skimming leisurely over undulating rather than swelling waves, hardly aware that we were crossing the Bay of Biscay. With Fatima’s help our cabin was soon set in order. It was well filled; a sofa bed, a dressing table that closed over a washing apparatus, a writing table, a pianoforte, a bookcase, and a large trunk with trays in it, each tray containing a week’s supply of linen. In the locker was a good supply of extra stores, water well bottled, in particular. A swing tray and a swing lamp hung from the roof, and two small chairs filled corners; there was a pretty mat upon the floor, and no little room could look more comfortable. The whole locker end was one large window, closed till we left the colder latitudes, open ever after, and shaded by Venetians during the heat of the day. A small closet called a galley, in which Ayah kept her peculiar treasures, had a shower bath in it, readily filled by the sailors, and a most delightful and strengthening refreshment to us…

We soon learned to employ our days regularly, taught by the regularity round us. The life we led was monotonous, but far from being disagreeable, indeed after the first week it was pleasant; the quiet, the repose, the freedom from care, the delicious air, and a large party all in spirits, aided the bright sun in diffusing universal cheerfulness. Few were ill after the first weeks, the soreness of parting was over, a prosperous career was before the young, a return to friends, to business, and to pay awaited the elder; and we had left misery behind us and were entering on a new life free from trials that had been hard to bear.

… I occupied myself pretty much as at home, reading, writing, working, shading my charts, and making extracts from the books I read, a habit I had indulged for some years and found to be extremely useful, the memory was so strengthened by this means and the intellect expanded as thought always accompanied this exercise. We were all well supplied with books and lent them freely to one another. Captain Henning had a very good library, and with him and one or two others we could converse pleasantly.

So on we sped in our ‘gallant ship,’ the Mountstewart Elphinstone, 600 tons, built by Captain Henning his own self up at Surat, and a very slow sailer! he made her. As we proceeded under brightening skies we ourselves seemed to grow sunnier. We learned to vary our amusements too, I got on famously. The little Ceylon children were very nice, particularly the little girl; it was a pity to see them lose what they had been learning, so I made them come to me to school for 3 hours daily, Mary when she was well enough, helping to teach them; however, she soon gave herself something better to do… [O]ne of the Officers proposed to me to make a chart of the voyage with the ship’s course traced regularly and dated; it was very interesting getting on day by day, sometimes great long runs that carried by dots on ever so many degrees, and then a little shabby move hardly observable. Once in a calm, we went round in a circle for 3 or 4 days, quite annoyingly.

After crossing the equator we found a charming occupation—a map of the Southern sky. The constellations were so beautiful. We have no idea in these cloudy climates of the exquisite brilliancy of the cloudless ones, the size of the stars too. We marked each as it rose, often staying on the poop till actually ordered away. The Cross, Sirius, Aldebaran, never were such diamonds in a sky…

Just as if they had been dotted on top of the myriads of glowing suns in the Milky Way, this image depicts some of the brightest stars of the southern sky: on the right, in a rhomboidal shape reminding that of a kite, are the four stars of the constellation Crux, the Southern cross; in the lower left part, instead, shine the two most brilliant stars of the constellation Centaurus, the Centaur.

Besides these more private intellectual pursuits we had publick diversions. Mrs Morse played the harp well, Mr Lloyd sang; every Saturday night the captain gave us a supper; in return each guest spoke or sang, the worse the better fun, but we did our best.…

Another day was for the sailors; they danced and they sang, and did athletick exercises, ending with a supper. Mrs Morse gave a Concert once a week down below in her range of cabins, and my Mother, opening our 4 en suite, gave another. Then we played cards in the Cuddy. Every body inclining to be agreeable, amusement was easily managed.

The Cadets killed a shark, and the Doctor dissected the head, giving quite a pretty lecture on the Eye. A nautilus, too, came under his knife, and a dolphin, and flying fish and sucking fish. One day I had been doing my map in the Cuddy, and wanting some pencil or something, went into our cabin; the locker Venetians were all open, and there before me, resting on the water beyond, was an albatross, surrounded by her young. Such a beautiful sight. That ‘Ancient Mariner’ committed a dreadful crime. Another day a storm at a distance revealed to us as it ended a waterspout, which, had it broken on us, would have been our end. It was in hour glass form, spouting up very high.

We had stormy weather near the Cape, bitterly cold; all the thick wraps we were provided with were insufficient to keep us comfortable. One really wild day I had myself lashed to the campanion that I might take a steadier survey of the sea ‘mountains high.’ The weaves rose to the mast head, apparently; we were up on top of them one minute, down in such a hollow the next, the spray falling heavy on the deck.

We landed on the 8th of February 1828 in Bombay. We entered that most magnificent harbour at sunset, a circular basin of enormous size, filled with islands, high, rocky, wooded, surrounded by a range of mountains beautifully irregular; and to the north on the low shore spread the City, protected by the Fort, screened by half the shipping of the world. We were standing on the deck. ‘If this be exile,’ said my father musingly, ‘it is splendid exile.’ ‘Who are those bowing men?’ said my mother, touching his arm and pointing to a group of natives with Couloured high crowned caps on some heads, and small red turbans on others, all in white dresses, and all with shoeless feet, who had approached us with extraordinary deference. On of the high caps held out a letter. It was from Uncle Edward, my Mother’s younger brother… and these were his servants come to conduct us to his country house.

*The Cuddy was the public room, where the passengers sat and ate ; and cuddy servants were those who waited at table.

Memoirs of a Highland Lady

‘I was born on the 7th May 1797 of a Sunday evening at No. 5 N. side of Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, in my father’s own lately built house and I am the eldest of five children he and my mother raised to maturity.’ Thus opens one of the most famous set of memoirs ever written. Since its first bowdlerised edition in 1898, they have been consistently in print. This is the first ever complete text. Written between 1845 and 1854 the memoirs were originally intended simply for Elizabeth’s family, but these vivid and inimitable records of life in the early 19th century, and above all on the great Rothiemurchus estate, full of sharp observation and wit, form an unforgettable picture of her time. The story ends with the thirty-three-year-old Elizabeth finding her own future happiness in marriage to an Irish landowner, Colonel Smith of Baltiboys. ‘A masterpiece of historical and personal recall.’ Scotsman

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Memoirs of a Highland Lady: Further Hardships and Preparing for a Voyage

Jane’s marriage to Colonel Pennington, a much older man:

Jane was determined. She had argued the point in her own strong mind, decided it, and it was to be. Perhaps she was not wrong; the circumstances of the family were deplorable, there did not appear to be any hope of better days, for the girls at any rate, and we were no longer very young. So a very handsome trousseau was ordered, our great Uncle the Captain, kind old man, having left each of us £100 for the purpose, spent long before, I suppose, but Jane said she was entitled to it and so she got more than the worth of it, it added but a small sum to the vast amount of debt.

After Jane’s marriage, the Grants’ economic difficulties worsened. When their father lost his seat in Parliament to the Duke of Bedford’s son (according to Elizabeth Grant), he left Scotland to go to London and then abroad, with his son John.

Then came the news of his appointment to a judgeship in India—Bombay; Charles Grant, now Lord Glenelg, had done it, and we were desired to proceed to London immediately to prepare for the voyage. It was a blessing, and a shock—to me at least; every one else was rejoicing. Letters of congratulation came by every post. My poor mother smiled once more, and set about her preparations for removal with an alacrity that surprised us.

Preparing for a Voyage

There was a good deal to be done, for the house was to be left in a proper state to be let furnished with the shootings, a new and very profitable scheme for making money out of bare moors in the highlands. We were to take nothing with us but our wardrobes, all else was to be left for sale, and lists of the property left had to be made to prepare the way for the Auction. The stock and crop at the farm, the wine, the plate, the linen, the books, there was the rub, all and everything that was not furniture was to go, even what belonged to my sister and me, except a few pet treasures…

It was in August, early in the month; the weather was beautiful, the country looked lovely, the Spey sparkled under the sunshine, the wooded hills on either side stood as they stand now, and we watched the sun setting behind the Tor Alvie on that last day, without a tear. Mary and I had determined to be brave.

Rothiemurchus

My father had been knighted, and was safe in France, with John. William had been in London and Edinburgh and I know not where else, and had returned to take charge of us.

We entered the carriage, never once looked back, never shed a tear, though the eyes sometimes filled, very gravely we made out those eight miles among those hills and woods, and heaths and lakes, and the dear Spey, all of which we had loved from childhood and which never again could be the same to any of us.

We travelled on thro’ the bleak hill road, and posting all the way reached Perth to dinner.

Here an unexpected difficulty met us. A coachmaker, not paid for some repairs done to the carriage at various times, seized it for a debt of £40… We were in despair, feeling how very little would upset our poor mother—it was the last straw… [A]fter a good night’s sleep we entered our redeemed carriage and drove on to Edinburgh. There the carriage was seized again and allowed to go; we wanted it no longer. We were much annoyed my brother and I by hosts of unpaid tradesmen, whom it was agreed that I should see, as they were likely to be more considerate with me—I, who could do nothing. William kept out of the way and we would not allow my Mother to be worried…

We were two beautiful days and two calm nights at sea; I recollect the voyage as agreeable…

We reached London, or rather Blackwall, in the afternoon, engaged two hackney coaches for ourselves and our luggage… and on we went to Dover Street, Piccadilly, where lodgings had been taken for us… Our imprudent father could not keep quiet; he was so well known he was followed once or twice, and being so short sighted he might have been seized but for the cleverness of the shop people. So it was resolved therefore to send him away, and on Sunday he and John steamed from the Tower stairs to Boulogne… I got on quickly with the necessary preparations. Most of those I had to deal with were so kind, and when Mrs Need had to go home good Mrs Gillio came daily to me; her daughter Isabella was going to Bombay under my mother’s care, so that our business was the same. She went with me to the docks to see the ships and arrange the cabins… The cabins were furnished, and all the linen of our wardrobes, gentlemen and ladies, supplied by an Outfitter in the Strand, and even our ordinary dresses the few that we required. I had only to get besides, shoes, stockings, gloves, books, stationery, all the little necessaries our toilettes and our occupations needed.

Every one was obliging except old Mr Churton, who had been the family’s hosier for years. My father sent me to him with the ready money order, a good large one, as some amends, the only one in his power at present, for old unpaid debts. He refused to have any dealings with it, caught up his long bills and a long story, and a grievance, with reflexions on my father’s conduct to him which it was not comfortable for his daughter to hear. I told the old cross crab what my father had told me, adding that this was sure money, and that we were going where he would soon save sufficient to pay all his creditors in full. He did not care, he wanted none of this money, nor any orders from the family, nor any speeches either; he wanted nothing but his rights. I had never met with such incivility, was quite unused to be so addressed. I got very faint and queer I fancy, for he seemed frightened and called his sister, who appeared distressed, told the ‘dear young lady’ not to mind and brought me a glass of wine. But I had recovered, and got grand, and would not touch it, swallowed my tears, and… walked out à la Princesse, leaving the ill conditioned old man making humble apologies to the air. It was very cruel in him to taunt a young girl with her parents’ delinquencies.

It was late in the September day—the 28th I remember it was, in the year 1827—nearly dark. We got into a good sailing boat and proceeded out to sea… In an hour we reached our huge ‘ocean home’; down came the chair, we were soon upon the deck, amid such confusion, all noise, all hubbub, all a dream, but not to last long, for the rumour grew in a moment that the wind has changed. The captain ordered the anchors up… We stood out to sea and beat about till nearly 10 o’clock, when a Jersey boat sighted our peculiar light, came alongside, and my father and both my brothers came on deck; a few moments were allowed for a few words. My father shut himself up with my Mother; John remained beside Mary and me. William, in an agony of grief I never saw equaled in any man, burst out of our Cabin. We watched the sound of the oars of the Jersey boat as it bore him from us, and then said Mary, pale as a corpse, but without a tear, ‘We are done with home.’ We got under weigh directly, and favoured by the wind, long before we waked from heavy slumbers, were out of reach of any silver oars.

Memoirs of a Highland Lady

‘I was born on the 7th May 1797 of a Sunday evening at No. 5 N. side of Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, in my father’s own lately built house and I am the eldest of five children he and my mother raised to maturity.’ Thus opens one of the most famous set of memoirs ever written. Since its first bowdlerised edition in 1898, they have been consistently in print. This is the first ever complete text. Written between 1845 and 1854 the memoirs were originally intended simply for Elizabeth’s family, but these vivid and inimitable records of life in the early 19th century, and above all on the great Rothiemurchus estate, full of sharp observation and wit, form an unforgettable picture of her time. The story ends with the thirty-three-year-old Elizabeth finding her own future happiness in marriage to an Irish landowner, Colonel Smith of Baltiboys. ‘A masterpiece of historical and personal recall.’ Scotsman

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Memoirs of a Highland Lady: Frugality, Practicality, and Much Reflection

The Doune, the seat of the William Grant family

In July then, 1820, we returned to the highlands, which for seven years remained the only home of the family. My Mother resisted all arguments for a return to Edinburgh this first winter, and they were never again employed. She had begun to lose her brave heart, to find out how much more serious than she had ever dreamed of had become the difficulties in which my father was involved, though the full extent of his debts was concealed for some time longer from her and the world. Some sort of a Trust Deed was executed this summer, to which I know our Cousin lame James Grant, Glemoriston’s Uncle, was a party. William was to give up the Bar, and devote himself to the management of the property. Take the forest affairs into his own hands… My father was to proceed as usual; London and the House in Spring, and such improvements as amused him when at home.

My Mother did not enjoy a country life; she had therefore the more merit in suiting herself to it. She had no pleasure in gardening or in wandering through all that beautiful scenery, neither had she any turn for Schools, or ‘cottage comforts,’ or the general care of her husband’s people, though in particular instances she was very kind; nor was she an active housekeeper. She ordered very good dinners, but as general overseer of expenditure she failed… She had no extravagant habits, not one; yet for want of supervision the waste in all departments of the household was excessive. Indolently content with her book, her newspaper, or her work, late up and very late to bed, a walk to her poultry yard which was her only diversion was almost a bore to her, and a drive with my father in her pretty pony carriage quite a sacrifice. Her health was beginning to give way and her spirits with it.

Managing the Estate

William was quite pleased with the change in his destiny; he was extremely fond of commanding, very active in his habits, by no means studious, and he had never much fancied the Law. Farming he took to eagerly, and what a farmer he made. They were changed times to the highland idlers. The whole yard astir at five o’clock in the morning, himself perhaps the first to pull the bell, a certain task allotted to every one, hours fixed for this work, days set apart for that, method pursued, order enforced. It was hard, up hill work, but even to tidiness and cleanliness it was accomplished in time. He overturned the old system a little too quickly, a woman would have gone about the requisite changes with more delicacy; the result, however, justified the means.

Rothiemurchus

The forest affairs were at least equally improved by such active superintendence, although the alterations came more by degrees. I must try and remember all that was done there, and in due order if possible. First, the general felling of timber at whatever spot the men so employed found it most convenient to them to use their axe on a marked tree, was put a stop to. William made a plan of the forest, divided it into sections, and as far as was practicable allotted one portion to be cleared immediately, enclosed by a stout fencing, and then left to nature, not to be touched again for fifty or sixty years. The ground was so rich in seed that no other care was requisite. By the following Spring a carpet of inch high plants would be struggling to rise above the heather, in a season or two more a thicket of young fir trees would be found there, thinning themselves as they grew, the larger destroying all the weaker. Had this plan been pursued from the beginning there would never have been an end to the wood of Rothiemurchus.

The order he got that farm into, the crops it yielded afterwards, the beauty of his fields, the improvement of the Stock, were the wonder of the Country. This first year I did not so much attend to his doings as I did the next, having little or nothing to do with his operations. Jane and I rode as usual. We all wandered about in the woods and spent long days in the garden, and then we had the usual Autumn Company to entertain at home and in the neighbourhood.

Managing the Household

At the end of this year my sisters and I had to manage amongst us to replace wasteful servants and attend to my Mother’s simple wants… My Mother placed me in authority, and by patience, regularity, tact and resolution, the necessary reforms were silently made without annoying any one. It was the beginning of troubles the full extent of which I had indeed little idea of then, nor had I thought much of what I did know till one bright day, on one of our forest excursions, my rough pony was led through the moss above Auchnahartenich by honest old John Bain. We were looking over a wide, bare plain, which the last time I had seen it had been all wood. I believe I started. The good old man shook his gray head, and then, with more respect than usual in his affectionate highland manner, he told me all that was said, all that he feared, all that some one of us should know, and that he saw ‘it was fixed’ that Miss Lizzie should hear, for though she was ‘lightsome’ she would come to sense when it was wanted to keep her Mama easy, try to get her brothers on and not refuse a good match for herself, or her sisters should it come their way. Good, wise John Bain—‘A match for me!’ that was over, but the rest was easy, could at least be tried. ‘A stout heart to a stiff brae’ gets up the hill. I was ignorant of household matters, My kind friend the Lady Belleville was an admirable economist, she taught me much. Dairy and farmkitchen matters were picked up at the Deli and the Croft, and with books of reference, honest intentions, and untiring activity, less mistakes were made in this season of apprenticeship than could have been expected. And so passed the year of 1821.

It was new to me to think. I had never thought before. I often lay awake in the early summer morning looking from my bed through the large south window of that pretty ‘White room,’ thinking of the world beyond those fine old beech trees, taking into the picture the green gate, the undulating field the bank of birch trees, and the Ord Bain, and on the other side the height of the Polchar, and the smoke from the gardener’s cottage; wondering, dreaming, and not omitting self accusation, for discipline had been necessary to me, and I had not borne my cross meekly. My foolish, frivolous, careless career and its punishment came back upon me painfully, but no longer angrily; I learned to excuse as well as to submit, so kissed the rod in a brave spirit which met its reward… my wise Aunt found me a new and most pleasant employment. She set me upon writing essays, short tales, and at length a novel. I don’t suppose they were intrinsically worth much, and I am sure I do not know what has become of them, but the venture was invaluable. I tried higher flights afterwards with success when help was more wanted.

All this while, who was very near us, within a thought of coming on to find us out, had he more accurately known our whereabouts. He who hardly seven years after became my husband. He was an Officer of the Indian Army at home on furlough*, diverting his leisure by a tour through part of Scotland; he was sleeping quietly at Dunkeld while I was waking during the long night at the Doune. Uncle Edward, his particular friend, had so often talked of us to him that he knew us almost individually, but for want of a letter of introduction would not volunteer a better acquaintance. It was better for me as it was. I know well, had he come to Rothiemurchus, Jane would have won his heart. So handsome she was, so lively, so kind, a sickly invalid would have had no chance with him. Major Smith and Miss Jane would have ridden enthusiastically through the woods together, and I should have been unnoticed. All happens well, could we but think so; and so my future husband returned alone to India, and I had to go there after him!

*An extended leave. Born in 1780, the second son of a Co. Wicklow landowner, Henry Smith had been admitted to the King’s Inn, after which he enrolled as a Cadet in the East India Company Cavalry. He was promoted Major in 1820 and was to be Lieutenant Colonel four years later.

Memoirs of a Highland Lady

‘I was born on the 7th May 1797 of a Sunday evening at No. 5 N. side of Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, in my father’s own lately built house and I am the eldest of five children he and my mother raised to maturity.’ Thus opens one of the most famous set of memoirs ever written. Since its first bowdlerised edition in 1898, they have been consistently in print. This is the first ever complete text. Written between 1845 and 1854 the memoirs were originally intended simply for Elizabeth’s family, but these vivid and inimitable records of life in the early 19th century, and above all on the great Rothiemurchus estate, full of sharp observation and wit, form an unforgettable picture of her time. The story ends with the thirty-three-year-old Elizabeth finding her own future happiness in marriage to an Irish landowner, Colonel Smith of Baltiboys. ‘A masterpiece of historical and personal recall.’ Scotsman

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Memoirs of a Highland Lady: Edinburgh and an Unfortunate Change of Circumstances

Edinburgh and an Unfortunate Change of Circumstances

One morning my mother sent Jane and Mary with a message to the poor Carrs in the Abbey; William was out elsewhere; most of the servants were dispatched on errands; and then, poor woman, she told me there was to be an Execution* in the house, and that I must help her to ticket a few books and drawings as belonging to the friends that had lent them to us. We had hardly finished when two startling rings announced the arrival of a string of rude looking men, who proceeded at once to business however with perfect civility, although there visit could not have been satisfactory, inasmuch as nothing almost was personal property. The furniture was all hired, there was no cellar, very little plate. The Law library and the pianoforte were the most valuable items of the short catalogue. I attended them with the keys, and certainly they were very courteous, not going up to the bedrooms at all, nor scrutinising any where closely. When they were gone we had a good fit of crying, my mother and I, and then she told me for the first time of our difficulties as far as she herself knew them, adding that her whole wish now was to retire to the highlands; for, disappointed as she had been in every way, she had no wish to remain before the publick eye nor to continue an expensive way of living evidently beyond their circumstances. How severely I reflected on myself for having added to her griefs, for I had considerably distressed her by my heartless flirtations, entered on purposely to end in disappointment. The guilt of such conduct now came upon me as a blow, meriting just as cruel punishment as my awakening conscience was giving me; for there was no help, no cure for the past, all remaining was a better line of conduct for the future, on which I fully determined, and, thank God, lived to carry out, and so in some small degree atone for that vile flippancy which had hurt my own character and my own reputation while it tortured my poor Mother. I don’t now take all the blame upon myself; I had never been rightly guided. The relations between Mother and daughter were very different then from what they are now. Our mother was very reserved with us, not watchful of us, nor considerate, nor consistent. The Governess was an affliction. We had no rule of right and so deserve excuse for our many errours. Thought would have schooled us but I never thought till this sad day. Then it seemed as if a veil fell from my giddy spirits and real life, and the lesson I read began my education.

Mary had also grieved my poor mother a little by refusing Uncle Edward’s invitation to India; Jane, by declining what were called good marriages; William, by neglecting his Law studies. A little more openness with kindness might have done good to all; tart speeches and undue faulting finding will put nothing straight, ever. We had all suffered from the fretful without knowing what had caused the ill humour. It was easy to bear and easy to soothe once it was understood. We were all the happier after we knew more of the truth of our position.

*Execution: a judicial writ directing the enforcement of a legal judgment (as against a debtor)

Memoirs of a Highland Lady

‘I was born on the 7th May 1797 of a Sunday evening at No. 5 N. side of Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, in my father’s own lately built house and I am the eldest of five children he and my mother raised to maturity.’ Thus opens one of the most famous set of memoirs ever written. Since its first bowdlerised edition in 1898, they have been consistently in print. This is the first ever complete text. Written between 1845 and 1854 the memoirs were originally intended simply for Elizabeth’s family, but these vivid and inimitable records of life in the early 19th century, and above all on the great Rothiemurchus estate, full of sharp observation and wit, form an unforgettable picture of her time. The story ends with the thirty-three-year-old Elizabeth finding her own future happiness in marriage to an Irish landowner, Colonel Smith of Baltiboys. ‘A masterpiece of historical and personal recall.’ Scotsman

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Memoirs of a Highland Lady: Waterloo and the Return to Edinburgh

A view of the battlefield from the Lion’s mound (which did not exist in 1819). On the top right are the buildings of La Haie Sainte. 

Waterloo (as seen in 1819)

And then we went to Waterloo. Oh, will there ever be another war! At first sight there was nothing, as it seemed, to look at, a wide plain under crop, a few rising grounds wooded, a hamlet or two, and the forest of Soigny. An old man of the name of Lacoste—an old cheat, I believe—in a blouse, striped night cap, and immense shoes, came up as a guide to all the different points of interest, and did his pan well, although his pretension to having been the attendant of Buonaparte during the Battle and his director in his flight was a fable. He took us up to the ruins of Houguemont, to La Haie Sainte, to the hollow with the paved road in the bottom of it where the Guards felt themselves so at home, to the wide mound raised by the heaps of the slain, to the truncated column of black marble erected to the memory of an hero. At this distance of time I do not remember all we saw, and I did not attend to all he told, mistrusting his veracity. The scene was impressive enough gazed on silently; and then to think of the terrour in Brussels, of the despair in the neighbouring villages, of the two armies individually and collectively, of the two Commanders and all that hung upon the strife so lately ended! This was but the fourth year after the victory, the world was still full of the theme, but there was little trace of the struggle left upon the ground it had been fought on. Fine crops of corn had been this very Autumn waving there, though the plough still turned up relicks of the eventful day. Monsieur Lacoste had a sack full of trophies he said had been found upon the field. The feeling of the people most certainly did not go with the victors. They hated the Union with the Dutch, they hated the Dutch King ruling over them; the habits and manners of the two ill cemented nations were totally dissimilar, and with the French they amalgamated readily. The Emperour really lived in their hearts, spite of the Conscription, spite of his defeat, spite of his crimes, as we may call the consequences of his ambition.

“The morning after the battle of Waterloo”, by John Heaviside Clark, 1816

The Return from the Continent

Here [Rotterdam] we had a great deal to do… All the mornings my father was packing his old China, quantities of which he had picked up here and there in the course of our wanderings, always dispatching his purchases to Rotterdam to await our arrival. So heavy was then the duty upon foreign porcelaine, it would have cost a fortune to have sent all this Collection home through the Custom House—it was therefore to reach us by degrees, a barrel of butter or herring or such commodities as these plates and dishes could be packed amongst was to be entrusted to our old friend the skipper of the Van Egmont every return journey he made, and positively most of these treasures in time reached us, the skipper not always taking the trouble to put them up as directed.

We had a stormy passage, a pitchy sea, the result of a storm just lulling, with a wind ahead. Even I who never suffer at sea, was ill enough for an hour or two… Instead of landing at Harwich, we were put ashore some few miles up the coast at a small village… Our inn was village like—clean beds its greatest luxury. After the palace hotels we had been accustomed to of late, the little ill furnished parlours, the closet bedrooms, and the inferiour style of establishment altogether in these English Country inns, made an unfavourable first impression… The first church I saw abroad struck me as bare, so cold, with so much white washed wall and so very little ornament. The first I saw again at home seemed only like an aisle of the others, rich enough in carvings, pillars, stained glass, and so on, but so confined so narrow, so small, all stuffed up with seats for dignatories. I missed the grand space that to the unaccustomed eye had seemed desolate… I felt as if there were not room to move in the Cathedral, Lincoln, after being but a mite in the one at Antwerp.

post chaise, 1815

We had all through travelled in two divisions. My father, my Mother and I and Ward. And William, Jane, Mary and the Courier. With him, however, we had parted at Brussels… The people everywhere had taken us at first for two distinct families. My father and I they supposed to be man and wife, and my Mother was his Mother in law. William and Mary were the Monsieur and Madame of the other carriage, and Jane the sister in law; not bad guesses. My father looked like my Mother’s son, and I looked far too old to be his daughter. William infinitely too old to be his son, and Jane and William were so alike they could not be mistaken for brother and sister. We were quite amused at all these erroneous impressions, and the younger ones eager still further to mystify our hosts and hostesses and my father in the front of the fun, but we saw soon that it seriously annoyed my Mother. She had no idea of acting Madame mere to the whole party, so we had to restrain our mirth when she was by.

Memoirs of a Highland Lady

‘I was born on the 7th May 1797 of a Sunday evening at No. 5 N. side of Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, in my father’s own lately built house and I am the eldest of five children he and my mother raised to maturity.’ Thus opens one of the most famous set of memoirs ever written. Since its first bowdlerised edition in 1898, they have been consistently in print. This is the first ever complete text. Written between 1845 and 1854 the memoirs were originally intended simply for Elizabeth’s family, but these vivid and inimitable records of life in the early 19th century, and above all on the great Rothiemurchus estate, full of sharp observation and wit, form an unforgettable picture of her time. The story ends with the thirty-three-year-old Elizabeth finding her own future happiness in marriage to an Irish landowner, Colonel Smith of Baltiboys. ‘A masterpiece of historical and personal recall.’ Scotsman

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Memoirs of a Highland Lady: Rotterdam and Mr. George Canning

Travels on the Continent

I cannot recollect much else that is worthy of note before our little tour upon the Continent. We set out in August, and were two months a half away. My father was not inclined for such a movement at all, it was probably very inconvenient to the treasury, but my mother had so set her heart upon it, he, as usual, good naturedly gave way. Johnny was to spend his holidays with the Freres. Miss Elphick went to the Kirkman Finlays, her parting was quite a dreadful scene, screams, convulsions, sobs, hystericks. The poor woman was attached to some of us, and had of late been much more agreeable to the rest; but she was a plague in the house, did a deal of mischief, and was no guide, no help. She had been seven years with us, so there was a chain of habit to loosen at any rate.

In the month of August, then, of this year 1819 we set out on our foreign travels, my father, my Mother, William, Jane, Mary and I; rather too large a party as we found when we had more experience, particularly as we were attended by a man, a maid, and a dog. The maid, a thoroughly stupid creature, and the dog, poor Dowran, went with us; the man, a black, and a deal too clever, joined us in Holland, for to the Netherlands we were bound. My father had always had a passion for Dutch and Flemish paintings, farming, buildings, and politicks; besides, he was so very kind as to wish to take me to the waters at Aix la Chapelle. I had been attacked in the Spring with the same sort of strange suffering that has fallen upon me several times since, at intervals, after any disturbance of mind, a failure as it seemed of all powers of body, the whole system paralysed, as it were, without any apparent cause other than that reserve of disposition inherited from my Mother, which threw all grief back inwardly while the outward manner was unchanged.

We embarked at Leith in a common trading vessel, a tub, with but moderate accommodation, the Van Egmont, bound for Rotterdom. Its very slow rate of sailing kept us nine days at sea; luckily the weather the whole time was beautiful… We all did our best to make them pass cheerfully. We watched the land, the sea, the sky, the day’s work. Our skipper was extremely civil; his mate, a merry scapegrace, inventing all sorts of fun to amuse every body; the fare was good, the Cabin clean, and living out on deck in the open air even I regained an appetite.

Rotterdam

We arrived in the very midst of the Kermess, the annual fair, the most favourable of all times for the visit of strangers. The wares of all the world were exposed for sale in the streets of booths tastefully decorated, lighted up brilliant at night, and crowded at all hours by purchasers from every province in the two united kingdoms, all in their best and very handsome and perfectly distinct attire. Like Venice, Rotterdam is built in the water, long canals intersect it in every direction, on which the traffic is constant; there are mere footpaths on either side, with quantities of narrow bridges for the convenience of crossing. The tall houses forming the street must have been goomy abodes, just looking over the narrow stream to one another. Outside they were gay enough from the excessive cleanliness observed, and the bright paint, and the shining brass knockers, and the old fashioned solidity of the building.

Rotterdam, 1857, by Rouargue

The excessive cleanliness was almost more to be admired than all else; it pervaded the habits of the nation throughout. The streets were daily swept, the pavements daily washed, the windows daily rubbed, the brasses daily brightened. Within it was the same; no corner left unvisited by the busy maid, the very door keys were polished, like the small bunches we keep in our pockets, cupboards, closets, shelves, not only spotless but neatly ornamental; white paper with a cut fringe, or white linen frilled, laid along under the shining wares they were appropriated to hold. Yet nobody seemed overworked. In the afternoons all the women were spinning or knitting, as beautifully tidy in their own persons as was all the property around them. There were no dirty children, even no beggars.

[The father]* left a curious will. He ordered his daughters to marry into the peerage under the penalty of forfeiting all share of their inheritance should any of them give herself to a Commoner. How absurd are these meddlers with the future.

George Canning by Richard Evans

I went with [my father] along the Bompjes [waterfront] under the trees by the side of the water, and reaching the part at which the Harwich packet landed the passengers, who should step ashore but Mr Canning—the only time I ever saw him. He and my father seemed glad to meet, and while they were conversing of I had an opportunity of correcting all my imaginary impressions of the great man. He was not so tall and much more slender than I expected. His countenance was pale, anxious almost, and certainly no longer handsome; the high, well developed forehead alone reminded me of the prints of him. He was travelling with his sick son, a boy of seventeen or so, a cripple confined to a Merlin chair, and supported in that by many cushions. An elderly, very attentive servant never left the invalid’s side, while another looked after the luggage and a carriage fitted up with a sort of sofa bed. They did not come to Badthouse, so we saw no more of them; but I could not forget them, and often after, when the world was ringing with Mr Canning’s fame, this scene of his private life returned to me, for he lost the son… Mrs Canning, the wife, was sister to the Duchess of Portland and the Countess of Moray. They were co-heiresses with very large fortunes, something like a hundred thousand pounds apiece; indeed I believe the eldest sister had more… [The father]* left a curious will. He ordered his daughters to marry into the peerage under the penalty of forfeiting all share of their inheritance should any of them give herself to a Commoner. How absurd are these meddlers with the future. Mrs Canning, of course, lost her fortune, but her ennobled sisters each presented her with fifty thousand pounds as a wedding present.

*Major-general John Scott, British army officer and Scottish politician, reportedly won a million dollars at whist at White’s.

Memoirs of a Highland Lady

‘I was born on the 7th May 1797 of a Sunday evening at No. 5 N. side of Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, in my father’s own lately built house and I am the eldest of five children he and my mother raised to maturity.’ Thus opens one of the most famous set of memoirs ever written. Since its first bowdlerised edition in 1898, they have been consistently in print. This is the first ever complete text. Written between 1845 and 1854 the memoirs were originally intended simply for Elizabeth’s family, but these vivid and inimitable records of life in the early 19th century, and above all on the great Rothiemurchus estate, full of sharp observation and wit, form an unforgettable picture of her time. The story ends with the thirty-three-year-old Elizabeth finding her own future happiness in marriage to an Irish landowner, Colonel Smith of Baltiboys. ‘A masterpiece of historical and personal recall.’ Scotsman

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