Mary Brunton Notes

Mary Brunton Notes - 27/02/2008 02:56:00 Few readers today...

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Unformatted text preview: 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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Mary Brunton Notes - 27/02/2008 02:56:00 Few readers today...

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