Mary Anne Erskine

A close childhood friend of Walter Scott, they lost touch when he quarrelled with her husband the Lord Advocate.

Lived
1773-
Origin
Muthill, Perthshire
Father
Rev William Erskine, incumbent of the Episcopal Church at Muthill. In 1752 he received a gift of a prayer book from the wife of a prominent Jacobite, Lady George Murray. His name is sometimes spelt Erskyne, but his origins are obscure.(3)
Mother
Helen Drummond, daughter of John Drummond, son of John Drummond of Keltie
Address
54 George Street
Religious views
Her father was an Episcopalian minister
Story
When Mary Anne became engaged to Archibald Campbell, it cheered up her sister's best friend, Walter Scott, who at the time was longing to marry Williamina Belsches at the time and (rightly) afraid he would lose her to William Forbes. Scott wrote to Mary Anne's brother,
'Let me... take some credit for my observation, when I inform you that the important arrangement with which you acquaint me did not strike me with all the surprise you may perhaps have expected -- in requital the pleasure which it gives me is inexpressable and it adds to it not a little that tho No. 47 must lose its amiable mistress she will remain one of ourselves and if I know her aright will be as much the delight of her friends as Mrs C-- as she has been as Miss E-- ... Tell your sister that my best and warmest wishes for her welfare and happiness ever will, and ever must attend her, and that there are not upon this earth two of her sex besides in whose happiness I feel myself equally interested... Tell Mary Anne how inconceivably mortified I shall be if I do not retain the same interest in her friendship as formerly -- that I expect she will deviate from the fashion so far as to give me petits soupers as well as routes (4 vol.1 p.51-3)
However, Scott quarrelled with Campbell around 1807, and appears to have completely lost touch with Mary Anne. In 1827 he wrote to Alexander Young about William's daughters, her neices. Mary Anne had written to Young about a plan to send them out to India, which Scott finds outrageous, and he struggles to find good words to say about her:
Where the fault lies ... considering that they are not themselves indigent and that their nearest relations are persons of wealth and respectability it is not for me to say nor have I the information necessary [to] form an opinion on the subject. It is evident however from the terms of my old friend Mrs Colquhouns letter that though she is generously willing to assist her neices necessities it is unhappily without that cordiality of affection which alone can render benefits acceptable or in some cases endurable. I have no doubt that this misunderstanding arises out of circumstances. Mrs Colquhoun must be much altered from what I once knew her were it otherwise. But unhappily these circumstances exist & have made a breach it seems between the young Ladies and the person whose sex rank & education in life would have made her naturally their chief or rather their sole counsellor.' (4 vol.10 p.326-7)
Chapel connection
baptisms 1797-1811
Married on
14 September 1796
Spouse
Archibald Campbell Colquhoun
Children
Children: Helen (1797), Agnes (1798), William Laurence Colquhoun (1811)

Sources

  1. Registers of Charlotte Chapel (NAS CH12/3)
  2. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1818
  3. The Private Lives of Books, National Library of Scotland exhibition list of exhibits 2004, p.24, online accessed 13 June 2010
  4. H.J.C. Grierson, Letters of Sir Walter Scott (London, Constable and Co. 1932)

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