Mary Brunton Notes - 11:56:00 PM Few readers today have...

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27/02/2008 02:56:00 Few readers today have heard of Mary Brunton. Although labelled 'the forgotten  Scottish novelist' by Mary McKerrow in the title of her recent biography, [1]  her work has  not been entirely unknown. In her own time, in the words of her husband, Alexander  Brunton, who wrote a full and touching  Memoir  of his wife, 'they [her novels] rose very  fast into celebrity, and their popularity seems to have as quickly sunk away.' [2]   Contemporary criticism of Brunton's fiction included some gentle ironic comments by  Jane Austen in her letters, while her religious didacticism clearly appealed to early  Victorian readers who were able to enjoy several further editions of her fiction between  1837 and 1852. Her first novel,  Self-Control , was translated into French in 1829. In  recent years her writing has been resurrected both in Britain and in the States. Her  three works of fiction,  Self-Control  (1811),  Discipline  (1814), and  Emmeline with some  other pieces , (1819) were published in paperback in the late twentieth century, and are  currently available on an internet website. [3] The daughter of an army officer, Colonel Thomas Balfour of Elwick, and Frances  Ligonier, sister of the second earl of Ligonier, Mary Brunton came from an upper class  Scottish family. She was born on 1 November 1778 on Burray, Orkney. Her education  was limited; according to her husband's  Memoir , her father had little leisure to teach her  and her mother was more trained to 'the accomplishments which adorn court, than to  those which are useful in domestic life.' [4]  However, her mother did teach her music,  Italian and French, although when Mary was 16, 'the charge of her father's household  devolved upon her', [5]  lasting for nearly four years. Life could be hard on Orkney and  she could have had little time for leisure or self-improvement. Mary Balfour was soon to meet the Rev. Alexander Brunton, a Church of  Scotland minister, with whom she fell lastingly in love. Unfortunately, her mother had  other ideas for the future of her daughter which did not include marriage to the son of a  shoemaker. Therefore in 1798 she planned to send her to London to live with her  godmother, Viscountess Wentworth. When Mary refused to go, she was sent to the  island of Gairsay to stay with the family of Sir William Craigie, M.P., in order to get her  away from her lover. Happily for Mary, but to the fury of her mother, this plan did not  work. The story goes that Alexander Brunton rowed over from the mainland in a fishing  boat, spiriting Mary away to get married. [6]
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