1817 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Anne Grant

Anonymous, "Memoir of Mrs. Grant, of Laggan" Ladies' Monthly Museum S3 5 (January 1817) 1-3.



It is seldom we meet with a subject whose natural abilities are so far cultivated, by personal industry and perseverance, as to arrive at the acme of excellence which attracts and deserves public celebrity. Talents so improved, are, at all times, truly worthy of praise; but they become doubly estimable when they are exerted and applied to laudable and benevolent purposes. When a parent is labouring by mental means, to raise and maintain with comfort a numerous offspring, and to procure them education proper to make them worthy and useful members of society, how gratifying it must be to the feelings of every Biographer to record such a character! (at least, it is so to the writer of this article), and to have a opportunity of introducing to our readers an account of so respectable a person as Mrs. Grant, of Laggan, North Britain.

This praise-worthy lady, the subject of our present memoir, is the daughter of a Highland officer, formerly in the British Army, of the name of Macvicar, and her mother is connected with many families of the Appin Stuarts: she was born in the year 1755, in Glasgow. — While an infant, she was taken by her parents to America, where her father was stationed a considerable time, at a fort in the back settlements, among the Mohawks. In the year 1769, in consequence of the disquiet which then began to prevail, he quitted the service, and returned with his wife and daughter to Scotland.

On leaving America, the native talents of Miss Macvicar, who was then fourteen years of age, could not be supposed to have received much improvement from cultivation. Remote as the situation of her father was from all civil society, there could be no source of promoting the education of his daughter, except what his own, and Mrs. Macvicar's, parental zeal and attention afforded. Their joint endeavours, however, to inform and enlighten the mind of their promising pupil, were promptly aided by her own natural abilities, which, at a very early period, displayed themselves far superior to her infantine time of life.

A few years after Mr. Macvicar's return to Scotland, he obtained in 1773, a kind of half-military appointment at Fort Augustus, where Miss Macvicar chiefly resided till 1779, when she married the Rev. James Grant, minister of Laggan, a remote part of the country. By this gentleman, who died in 1802, she became the mother of eight children; four of whom yet survive; and it was to procure the means of placing out her orphan children that she began to give to the public the productions of her literary talents. Her situation and motives soon attracted the attention of the public as well as of her friends; and, from the intrinsic merit of her performance, public patronage also; for her first publication in 1803, "The Highlanders, and other poems, 8vo." very soon reached a third edition; and her second work in 1806, Memoirs of an American Lady, with Sketches of Scenery and Manners in America," 2 vols. 12mo. a second edition in 1809. From the favour shewn, and success attending the sale of these works, by her friends, and a benevolent and discerning public, Mrs. Grant was encouraged to publish; in 1808, "Letters from the Mountains," 3 vols. 12mo. which have gone through four editions; in 1811, "Essays on the Superstitions of the Highhanders," 2 vols. 12mo. and "Eighteen Hundred and Thirteen," a poem; besides other useful publications, and occasionally writing for several periodical works.

These volumes of Mrs. Grant's literary exertions, continue to be generally read, with an avidity highly creditable to the talents of the fair writer, — a proof of the intrinsic merit of her works, and the approbation of the praise-worthy conduct which first induced Mrs. Grant to present her compositions to the public.

Among the few singular events, by which a quiet and secluded life has been diversified, one of the most remarkable was the benevolence and warmth of friendship which prompted an American Lady, of distinguished worth and talents, to make a very uncommon exertion in behalf of the subject of this memoir. Meeting accidentally with the "Letters from the Mountains," this ardent and superior mind, not satisfied with warm approbation, and the elegant expression of these feelings to the author, actually, with the assistance of some friends, reprinted the work at Boston (New England), and remitted the profits to the author. This lady, now beyond the reach of human praise, closed an exemplary life amidst her fondly attached friends and relations in 1811. She was daughter to the late eminent Judge Lowell, of New England.