Walter Scott & the Shetland Islands

December 26, 2017 at 11:46 am (jane austen, places, travel) (, , , )

Over the holiday weekend I got an email from a friend who plans a future trip to the Shetland Islands! Oooohh…..

Islands have a lure for me – though I cannot say I have EVER visited any I’ve pointed to on a map. The Isles of Scilly remain merely read about. The Channel Islands, because they are on U.K. time, proved impossible to visit as a day trip from Paris, thanks to the ferry schedule. In Scotland, I did get to the Highlands, but never to any of the Islands.

In the back of my brain, however, I dug up the memory of once having ordered yarn (yes, I used to knit) from the tippy-top of Shetland – from Unst, if I recall correctly. I still have the sweater – a thin wool “jumper,” dark green, made to go with a Macdonald tartan skirt.

Oh, the memories! I’m looking at the Jamieson & Smith website. I remember when I used to look at books on historical knitting – and thought about building myself a JUMPER BOARD. If you’re a knitter, and don’t know what that is, click the link. The cost is 85 pounds (though not sure about the shipping…). GROAN: “currently unavailable.” (Ditto for the glove boards.)

IMAGINE: Mail order, in the days before the internet! I can’t be a 100% sure of the company or which island my goods came from, but I’m in the right neighborhood. I bet somewhere around the house is the original packing slip. I remember some fabric, from Scotland, and even Wales, too.

Those were GOOD days. I used to be so enthusiastic about sewing; and I actually designed my own knitwear. Not my own design, but one of my handiwork is this pair of socks:

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The photo was meant to show the “clock” that’s worked around the ankle, although this pattern is Austrian, and features a cable from ankle to knee.

So I’ve had an interest in Shetland patterns, and historical knits in general (I have a tidy little library of books on that subject). AND now I’ve a Highland Lady of my own – Margaret Douglas Maclean Clephane – whom I have been writing about. Margaret married Emma Smith’s (Emma Austen Leigh’s) cousin, Lord Compton. On the death of his father (May 1828), she became the 2nd Marchioness of Northampton.

But Margaret was a Highland Bluestocking.

Torloisk, the Isle of Mull home she shared with her mother and two sisters, is an area I’ve recently looked at on google maps. So it wasn’t hard to look up the likes of Staffa, which Lord Compton visited in 1813 – and I’m beginning to think the Clephane ladies showed him around this island known for its basalt columns.

And not far off from there (on a map): the Shetlands – and that is how I discovered the footprints of Sir Walter Scott!

Margaret Clephane knew Walter Scott (he was her godfather, and her guardian) – and due to her intended marriage to Lord Compton (in 1815) he dropped by the Smith residence at No. 6 Portland Place and chatted an hour with Emma and Fanny Smith! (Mamma was not at home…)

Compton_Margaret and Marianne_Harriet Cheney

Margaret & Marianne (her eldest daughter)

Walter Scott is behind the naming of JARLSHOF, a name he invented for his novel The Pirate (1822). At the southern tip of the Sheltland Islands, Jarlshof is an important archeological site.

Ian Mitchell has written about Scott’s adventures in the Shetlands; Scott visited these northern islands in 1814 – the year he published WAVERLEY, the novel Jane Austen was loath to like, though she “feared she must” like it. [aside: read David Groves, “Jane Austen in Scotland” in JASNA’s 1985 journal Persuasions.] Until that publication, Scott was known for his poetry – and Jane Austen, with three novels to her credit, teased her niece that Scott should have left the crowded field of novel-writing alone! Indeed, his works became fiercely beloved in his lifetime. Published anonymously, it’s rather surprising that Austen had already heard who the author of Waverley was; even Margaret Clephane was only guessing when she wrote to Scott about Waverley – teasing about how much she could have helped the “unknown” author with all things Scots Gaelic (a language Margaret spoke as well as English). She is the reason for a LOT of the Highland scholarship behind Scott’s historical novels. It’s all there, in her letters to him (his replies to her, of course, make up letters in the published Scott Correspondence).

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Memento Mori

March 27, 2015 at 10:53 pm (history) (, , )

Although a bit of a morbid subject to contemplate, this hour-plus video tour of the cemetery known as The Dundee Howff, is quite fascinating.

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For instance, I can’t say I ever realized an Hour Glass on its side indicated a person who hadn’t lived “a full life” (ie, 70 years). It’s a pity those monuments that are on the ground are hard to see, as the explanations make you wish to view them closely. Iain Flett and Innes Duffus are the two archivists showing us around.

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Allan Maclean, Jacobite General

March 7, 2015 at 12:39 pm (books, history) (, , )

In trying to give greater access to my launching series of “Online Articles”, I was searching for a paper I knew to be on Academia.edu, and in that search found a very interesting book: on the uncle of Margaret Maclean Clephane (ie, Lady Compton).

allan macleanAllen Maclean: Jacobite General, by Mary Beacock Fryer (1987; 1996) is at the very least available on Kindle, though probably copies of the original printing are out there.

Anyone reading even a few posts on Two Teens will know that women’s history is more up my alley. BUT: Maclean not only has a slim attachment to my Smith & Gosling research, he also served in the United States (more correctly, “the Colonies”) – and I see mentions of Lake Champlain (VERY near to me) in the text.

Anyone who has read the book, don’t be shy – drop by, say ‘hello,’ and give your thoughts on the book, the man, anything really.

The blurb for the book (on books.google) begins, “Born on the Isle of Mull to an impoverished laird of the clan Maclean, young Allan fought his first battle — for Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden”. Maclean fled to Holland, then served during the Seven Years War (AKA The French and Indian War) here, in North America, and again during the American Revolution. Allan Maclean was born in 1725 and died in March, 1797.

Early in the book (page 123), MARGARET’s letter discussing the history of this uncle is cited:

“The adventures contributed to a fund of stories that delighted his niece Marianne [the mother of Margaret, Anna Jane, and Wilmina Douglas-Maclean-Clephane], growing up at Torloisk, which she later passed on to her daughters. The eldest, Margaret Clephane, wrote to a friend, a Miss Stanhope:

his history would make a novel; he once passed through the American Camp in the disguise of a quack doctor, and sold a whole box of physic to the Yankees, and reached the British headquarters.

This ruse occurred when Allan slipped through the rebel army surrounding Boston…”

What a FASCINATING thing for Margaret to envision, given her close relationship with Walter Scott — his books were often the subject of Clephane-Compton correspondence.

 

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The Macdougall sisters’ Edinburgh-area home

June 5, 2013 at 9:00 pm (estates, history, news) (, , , , , , , , )

In an earlier post, “A Tale of Two Macdougalls,” I wondered where the sisters Susan and Helen Macdougall — two women who served in the capacity of governess in the Smith household, in the early 1820s — might have lived. I had VERY LITTLE information to go on!

Marian has ID’ed the home of Alexander Macdougall and family as Eskhill House, Inveresk, Edinburgh. No. 15 Inveresk Village, is for sale at Savills.

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The 12-page brochure calls Eskhill House “exceptional,” and has the following to say about the property and its 6226 sq. ft house:

“Inveresk ia charming village, situated 7 miles East of Edinburgh city centre… Historically a home for Edinburgh’s prosperous professional classes this is a picturesque village with impressive period architecture.

…Eskhill House is an exceptional house which dates from 1710 and which has been extended, improved and sympathetically modernised over the years…. Of particular note are the principal reception rooms with their fine ornamental plasterwork and magnificent mantelpieces.”

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Interlude:

British Listed Buildings has a little to say about Alexander Macdougall, claiming he purchased the estate for £500. Today’s asking price? £1,850,000.

Pity it wasn’t ME who won the “mega millions” lottery!

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