1855 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Caroline Eliza Richardson

Mrs. Macarthur, in Charles Rogers, Modern Scottish Minstrel (1855-57) 2:269-72.



CAROLINE ELIZA SCOTT, better known as Mrs G. G. Richardson, the daughter of a gentleman of considerable property in the south of Scotland, was born at Forge, her father's family residence, in the parish of Canonbie, on the 24th of November 1777, and spent her childhood and early youth amidst Border scenes, Border traditions, and Border minstrelsy. It is probable that these influences fostered the poetic temperament, while they fed the imaginative element of her mind, as she very early gave expression to her thoughts and feelings in romance and poetry. Born to a condition of favourable circumstances, and associating with parents themselves educated and intellectual, the young poetess enjoyed advantages of development rarely owned by the sons and daughters of genius. The flow of her mind was allowed to take its natural course; and some of her early anonymous writings are quite as remarkable as any of her acknowledged productions. Her conversational powers were lively and entertaining, but never oppressive. She was ever ready to discern and do homage to the merits of her contemporaries, while she never failed to fan the faintest flame of latent poesy in the aspirations of the timid or unknown. Affectionate and cheerful in her dispositions, she was a loving and dutiful daughter, and shewed the tenderest attachment to a numerous family of brothers and sisters. She was married to her cousin, Gilbert Geddes Richardson, on the 29th of April 1799, at Fort George, Madras; where she was then living with her uncle, General, afterwards Lord Harris; and the connexion proved, in all respects, a suitable and happy one. Her husband, at that time captain of an Indiaman, was one of a number of brothers, natives of the south of Scotland, who all sought their fortunes in India, and one of whom, Lieutenant-Colonel Richardson, became known in literature as an able translator of Sanscrit poetry, and contributor to the Asiatic Researches. He was lost at sea, with his wife and six children, on their homeward voyage; and this distressing event, accompanied as it was by protracted suspense and anxiety, was long and deeply deplored by his gifted sister-in-law.

Young, beautiful, and doubly attractive from the warmth of her heart, and the fascination of her manners, Mrs. Richardson was not only loved and appreciated by her husband, and his family, but greatly admired in a refined circle of Anglo-Indian society; and the few years of her married life were marked by almost uninterrupted felicity. But death struck down the husband and father in the very prime of manhood; and the widow returned with her five children (all of whom survived her), to seek from the scenes and friends of her early days such consolation an they might minister to a grief which only those who have experienced it can measure. She never brought her own, peculiar sorrows before the public; but there is a tone of gentle mournfulness pervading many of her poems, that may be traced to this cause; and there am touching allusions to "one of rare endowments," that no one who remembered her husband's character could fail to recognise. Her intense love of nature happily remained unchanged; and the green hills, the flowing river, and the tangled wildwood, could still soothe a soul that, but for its susceptibility to these beneficent charms, might have said in its sadness of everything earthly, "miserable comforters are ye all." Continuing to reside at Forge while her children were young, she devoted herself to the direction of their education, the cultivation of her own pure tastes, and the peaceful enjoyments of a country life; and when she afterwards removed to London, and reappeared in brilliant and distinguished society, she often revered, with regret, to the bright skies and cottage homes of Canonbie. In 1821, Mrs. Richardson again returned to Scotland, and took up her abode at Dumfries, partly from the desire of being near her connexions, and partly for the sake of the beautiful scenery surrounding that pretty county town. In 1828 she published, by subscription, her first volume of miscellaneous poems, which was well received by the public, favourably noticed by the leading journals, and received a circulation even beyond the range of 1700 subscribers. A second edition, in a larger form, soon followed; and, in 1834, after finally settling in her native parish, she published a second volume, dedicated to, the Duchess of Buccleuch, and which was also remarkably successful. From this time she employed her talents in the composition of prose; she published Adonia, a novel, in three volumes; and various tales, essays, and fugitive pieces, forming contributions to popular serials. Her later poems remain in manuscript. She maintained an extensive correspondence with her literary friends, and spent much of her time in reading and study, and in the practice of sincere and unostentatious piety. Her faculties were vigorous and unimpared, until the seizure of her last illness, which quickly terminated in death, on the 9th October 1853, when she had nearly completed her seventy-sixth year. She died at Forge, and was laid to rest in the churchyard of her own beloved Canonbie.