Saturday, January 19, 2013

Jane Austen's Scottish Contemporaries

Most of us will be familiar with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, published 200 years ago, but few will have read similar novels by two Scottish contemporaries.

From a story in the Scotsman...

The writer in question was Susan Edmonstone Ferrier, who was born in 1782. Like Scott, Ferrier was born in the Old Town of Edinburgh and moved as a child to the then New Town. Her social circle included the aged novelist Henry Mackenzie, whose only prose narrative, The Man Of Feeling, influenced both Scott and Austen. Scott left this account of her company, after she visited Abbotsford: “This gifted personage besides having great talents has conversation the least exigeant of any author, female at least … simple, full of humour, and exceedingly ready at repartee, and all this without the least affectation of the blue stocking”.

Ferrier wrote three novels: Marriage, by far her best book, was started in 1810 and was co-written in part by her friend Charlotte Clavering. It was published in 1818, and followed by The Inheritance in 1824 and Destiny in 1831, which commanded impressive advances of £1000 and £1700.

Ferrier very gently undermines Scott’s romanticism: her contemporary Highlands have “dingy turnip fields” and asthmatic, pompous lairds. Although her reputation sank in the 20th century she has latterly been more favourably appreciated.

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