Help for WOM-PO Archives

Nassau Community College List Server

WOM-PO Archives

WOM-PO Archives


WOM-PO@LISTS.NCC.EDU


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

WOM-PO Home

WOM-PO Home

WOM-PO  January 2007

WOM-PO January 2007

Subject:

Extra Foremother Posting: Agnes Maclehose (1758-1841)

From:

Ellen Moody <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Discussion of Women's Poetry List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 29 Jan 2007 08:00:15 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (167 lines)

I see Burns's night has been honored. My husband 
(who is British and loves Burns's poetry) and I 
usually celebrate January 25th as it's our oldest 
daughter's birthday too (not to omit Virginia Woolf).

On my small EighteenthCenturyWorlds list someone 
commemorated the day by sending a life of Agnes 
Maclehose; she was Burns's Clarinda. I don't have 
any of Maclehose's poetry, but thought people 
might like to read this brief life from the 
ODNB.  Maclehose was longlived (her span is close 
to that of Fanny Burney and Mary Hays and Maria Edgeworth, foremothers too):

 > Maclehose  [née Craig],  Agnes  (1758-1841), letter writer and
 > poet, was born in Glasgow on 26 April 1758, the third of four
 > daughters of Andrew Craig (d. 1782), a surgeon, and his wife,
 > Christian (d. 1767), daughter of John Maclaurin, a minister of the
 > Scottish church. She later attributed her piety to the religious
 > training that she received from her mother during her early
 > childhood. She had little formal education, although her father did
 > send her to a boarding-school in Edinburgh for six months when she
 > was fifteen, by which time all her siblings were dead. It was on a
 > journey to Edinburgh that she met James Maclehose (c.1754-1812), a
 > lawyer from Glasgow, whom she married on 1 July 1776. According to
 > a story told at the time, he saw her in Glasgow and was so struck
 > by her beauty that he booked all the other seats on the coach on
 > which she was travelling so that he could be alone with her on the
 > ten-hour journey. The marriage proved to be very unhappy, and they
 > formally separated in December 1780. James Maclehose took custody
 > of their two sons (a third son had died in infancy), both under
 > three at the time; he later took custody also of their youngest
 > child, born a few months after the separation. Agnes Maclehose
 > remained with her father until his death, in 1782, when she moved
 > to Edinburgh. By that time James Maclehose had gone to London-where
 > he eventually ended up in a debtors' prison-and Agnes had recovered
 > her children; she supported herself and them on a small annuity
 > left by her father, and subsequently with the help of a cousin,
 > William Craig, later Lord Craig.
 >
 > During her time in Edinburgh, Agnes Maclehose cultivated literary
 > interests and friendships and, as she started writing poetry
 > herself, she became passionately interested in the poetry of her
 > contemporaries. In December 1787 she arranged to be introduced to
 > Robert Burns at the house of a mutual friend. On Christmas eve she
 > sent him the verses 'When first you saw Clarinda's charms', and
 > thereafter she and Burns corresponded, using the pseudonyms
 > Clarinda and Sylvander. It is this correspondence for which Agnes
 > Maclehose became known. Most of the letters date from the winter of
 > 1787-8 and were written in the fashionable, sentimental style of
 > the 1780s; in one of her early letters Maclehose described the
 > correspondence as 'the effusion of a benevolent heart upon meeting
 > one similar to itself'  (Barr, 25). On 3 January 1788 she sent
 > Burns a poem beginning 'Talk not of Love! It gives me pain'. Burns
 > thought that the second half of the first stanza was worthy of
 > Sappho, and sent the verses with some alteration and an additional
 > stanza for publication in Johnson's Musical Museum, where they were
 > set to the air 'The Banks of Spey'. On 19 January Maclehose sent
 > Johnson lines 'To a Blackbird Singing on a Tree', with an
 > additional stanza by Burns, which were also published in the
 > Museum. Despite being reminded by Maclehose that she was a married
 > woman Burns proclaimed himself devoted to her, declaring at one
 > point 'I esteem you, I love you, as a friend, I admire you, I love
 > you as a woman, beyond any one in the circle of creation'  (ibid.,
 > 157-8). She meanwhile insisted that while never 'were there two
 > hearts formed so exactly alike as ours' she was nevertheless 'shock
 > [ed]' by Burns's 'avowal of being an enemy to Calvinism'  (ibid.,
 > 58) and deeply troubled by the potential 'criminality' of their
 > friendship  (ibid., 122). Her main hope in writing to him, she
 > insisted repeatedly, was to make him 'embrace the Gospel'  (ibid.,
 > 83) and 'feel a little of the genuine gospel humility'  (ibid.,
 > 114) that she drew from her strong Calvinist faith-a goal which she
 > clearly failed to achieve.
 >
 > Unsurprisingly the correspondence lapsed following Burns's marriage
 > to Jean Armour in August 1788. Agnes Maclehose apparently heard of
 > the marriage from their mutual friend Robert Ainslie; though her
 > letter to Burns on that occasion does not survive it is clear from
 > his response that she indignantly broke off the correspondence.
 > While they did exchange some letters in the early 1790s, in which
 > Maclehose enclosed lines on 'Sympathy', they met only once more, in
 > December 1791, shortly before Agnes Maclehose set off to join her
 > husband, then in Jamaica, in a final effort to salvage her
 > marriage. Her departure in February 1792 was the incident that led
 > Burns to compose 'Ae Fond Kiss'-perhaps the most famous of the
 > poems inspired by Clarinda. The journey to Jamaica was an utter
 > failure-James Maclehose did not even bother to meet his wife when
 > she landed-and Agnes remained there less than three months. By
 > August 1792 she was back in Edinburgh, explaining that poor health
 > prevented her from remaining in a tropical climate, although in a
 > memoir written after her death her grandson claimed that James
 > Maclehose's mistreatment of his slaves-and his wife's discovery
 > that he kept a slave mistress-were the decisive factors in her
 > departure. For much of the rest of her husband's life Agnes
 > Maclehose attempted to claim court-ordered support payments for the
 > education of her one surviving son, but she received almost no
 > money from him and remained dependent on her cousin Lord Craig (who
 > died in 1813) and, later, on her son, who became a writer to the
 > signet in Edinburgh. After her return from Jamaica she spent the
 > rest of her life in Edinburgh, enjoying what social life she could
 > in her relatively straitened circumstances. Later in her life she
 > was apparently sought out by Burns's admirers as a living link with
 > the poet; she seems to have encouraged such interest and to have
 > remembered fondly her relatively brief friendship with him. In
 > December 1831 she noted the fortieth anniversary of their final
 > meeting in her diary, and, according to one account, even in her
 > old age she 'never wearied of telling the story of her flirtation
 > with Burns'  (Ross, 224).
 >
 > However much she might have enjoyed reminiscing about the affair in
 > her old age Agnes Maclehose was careful to retain control of the
 > letters after Burns's death. In negotiations with his biographers
 > Alexander Cunningham and John Syme she offered to select passages
 > from his letters to her in exchange for the return of her own; she
 > eventually succeeded in recovering the manuscripts, and only a few
 > passages from Burns's side of the correspondence were published
 > during her lifetime. The result was that there was considerable
 > speculation about the relationship among Burns's biographers and
 > admirers; Clarinda's reputation was both attacked and defended for
 > years afterwards. Cunningham himself wrote slightingly of her that
 > 'for aught I know [she] may be as chaste as Diana, but ... [she]
 > bears a quisquis character in the World'  (McIntyre, 406). In his
 > biography of Burns, John Gibson Lockhart scarcely mentions
 > Clarinda, except to dismiss the published excerpts of Burns's side
 > of the correspondence as a regrettable lapse on his part into 'bad
 > taste, bombastic language, and fulsome sentiment'  (Lockhart, 121).
 > Even the biographer and memoirist Robert Chambers, a friend and
 > admirer of Agnes Maclehose who met her long after Burns's death,
 > thought it 'almost necessary to have known the woman' to appreciate
 > the 'perfect innocence of [her] nature'  (Chambers, 358-9).
 >
 > Agnes Maclehose died at her home at Calton Hill, Edinburgh, on 22
 > October 1841. Soon afterwards her grandson published, for the first
 > time, both sides of the correspondence-minus some of her letters,
 > which she had apparently destroyed, and some passages from Burns's
 > letters, which according to the preface had been destroyed by
 > frequent handling as Agnes Maclehose showed them to visitors or cut
 > pieces out for autograph hunters. Once in print the letters
 > encouraged admirers of Burns to romanticize the affair; as one
 > Victorian writer proclaimed in a volume of tributes to her, 'among
 > the heroines of Burns, Agnes M'Lehose is not the least deserving of
 > honour as an honest, a beautiful, and a gifted woman'  (Ross, x).
 >
 > Pam Perkins
 >
 >
 >
 >
 >
 >
 >
 >
 >
 >
 > Sources  J. MacKay, Burns (1992) + A. J. Barr, ed., Sylvander and
 > Clarinda (New York, 1917) + J. D. Ross, ed., Burns' Clarinda (1897)
 > + I. McIntyre, Dirt and deity (1995) + J. G. Lockhart, Life of
 > Burns (New York, 1907) + R. Chambers, Traditions of Edinburgh, 1824
 > (1967) + Annual Register (1841)
 > Likenesses  J. Miers, silhouette, 1788, Scot. NPG [see illus.] · A.
 > Banks, engraving (after Miers), repro. in W. S. Douglas, ed., The
 > works of Robert Burns · woodcut (aged forty; after silhouette),
 > repro. in W. S. Douglas, ed., The works of Robert Burns
 >


Posted by Ellen

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
February 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
December 1998
November 1998
October 1998
September 1998
August 1998
July 1998
June 1998
May 1998
April 1998
March 1998
February 1998
January 1998
December 1997

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



LISTS.NCC.EDU

CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager