GOOGLE has today paid homage to a prolific Scottish poet and playwright, Joanna Baillie, who would have turned 256 years old today.
Baillie’s works came at the start of the English Romantic period in literature and is best known for pieces such as Fugitive Verses and Plays on the Passions.
In honour of Baillie’s birthday, we’ve compiled a list of things you may not know about her.
Astonishing mosaic detail on the Joanna Baillie monument in Bothwell. (Video online in about a week.) pic.twitter.com/DrQpdT9uJI— Scotland Forever (@Guide2Scotland)
Joanna was born the youngest of three children to Deborah Hunter and Presbyterian reverend James Baillie, in Bothwell, rural Scotland. She had a twin sister who died shortly after birth. The wealthy Baillies believed they were descendants of the Scottish war hero, William Wallace.
A 10-year-old Baillie was sent to a boarding school in Glasgow, admitting “I could not read …until the age of nine”. Her sister disputer that she had in fact been illiterate until she was 11-years-old.
Baillie loved schoolwork and thrived in subjects such as art, drama, mathematics and music, but writing and performing in her own plays was by far her most treasured pastime at school.
— Alexander Huber (@C18AH)
Foray into poetry
The Baillie family moved to London in 1784 and Joanna was encouraged by her aunt, Anne Hunter, to try poetry. She studied a series of French authors like Volatire as well as playwrights like Shakespeare. Seven years later, Joanna had written her most famous piece, Plays on the Passions, which was praised by critics and hailed a new era of English Romanticism in literature.
Baillie’s wildly popular work was often compared to Shakespeare. Her first poem ever published was Winter Day in 1790 and detailed her love of Scotland. Her first collection of poetry was published in the same year, entitled Poems: Wherein it is Attempted to Described Certain Views of Nature an of Rustrice Manners. Baillie donated half of her salary to a variety of charities.
Baillie lived with her sister Agnes after their parents died. During this time, she wrote songs, one of which was dedicated to her sister Agnes and entitled Lines to Agnes Baillie. Neither woman married but were known to have had relationships with well known people in London’s arts and science communities.
Baillie was well connected at the height of her career in London. She was in regular contact with world famous novelist Sir Walter Scott, author of famed books The Lady of The Lakeor and Ivanhoe. The pair would regularly send each other letters, chatting about their families.
She also became quite close with British nobelman and poet Lord Byron and his wife Anne Isabella Noel Byron, or Lady Byron.
Baillie remained in reasonably good health until she died just before her 90th birthday in February 1851. Baillie and her sister Agnes are both buried beside their mother in Hampstead.