Margaret Douglas MacLean Clephane

Margaret's long name is the result of her father inheriting three different estates from his father, mother and wife. But Margaret can hardly have known him, as he died abroad when she was a child, and the estate which was most important to the surviving family was her mother's clan lands in Mull, where the family lived, worked, and drew their identity. Margaret was a poet, and her husband had some of her work printed posthumously. They are available on-line but a few extracts are included below as their reflections on religion, gender roles and national identity form an interesting contribution to the Charlotte Chapel project.

- 1830
Torloisk, Mull
Major General William Douglas Maclean Clephane of Carslogie, Fifeshire. As the son of David Clephane he was the 21st Clephane of Carslogie in the direct male line. His mother, Anna Jean Douglas, was daughter of Rev Robert Douglas, minister of Portmoak in Kinross, and Helen Douglas, daughter and heiress of Sir Robert Douglas of Kirkness, Kinross. He died at Granada 1803, and Walter Scott was appointed guardian of his children.
Marianne MacLean, daughter of Lachlan MacLean of Torloisk and Margaret Smith. Marianne inherited Torloisk and for much of her married life ran the estate while her husband was away on campaign, and after his death. She worked on improving the estate, turning multi-tenant farms into individual crofts and abolishing personal services to the proprietor, and engaging a lowland farmer to advise on the cultivation of potatoes, turnips and kale. By 1800 potatoes, grown in lazy-beds, were the main crop. (7)
Religious views
In her poetic paraphrase of Ezekiel (below), Margaret demonstrates her appreciation of the sublime quality of Old Testament scripture. She might well have heard Daniel Sandford teach in his confirmation class that the Psalms were 'inspired compositions of the greatest sublimity and piety', as he said in the Sermons for young persons he published in 1802 [when M was how old?] (4) Her poetry evokes a sense of the sacredness of place (see the extracts from Irene below), which might have its origins in the classics, but which might also be influenced by the theology of the Scottish Episcopal Church, with its emphasis on the sacraments.
Chapel connection
1815 (wedding)
Married on
Spencer Compton
Charles Douglas, William, and four daughters. She died at Rome in childbirth.
Walter Scott was her guardian.

Paraphrase on part of the first chapter of Ezekiel

'Twas in the fourth month of the thirtieth year,
Among the captives by the river Chebar,
That Buzi's son, in the Chaldean's land,
The Priest Ezekiel, heard the word of God.

I saw--and lo! a whirlwind from the North
Came rolling on--cloud above cloud, and fire,
Now flashing dim and lurid through the dark,
Now brightly issuing to enwrap the storm
In one vast blaze!
                            Oh for fit words
To utter-- to declare the wondrous shapes
In that bright radiance!
                                      Human like they seem'd,
Yet wing'd above, below, around! Their brightness
Far brighter than the furnace' roaring flames,
Or than th'intense reflection thousand-fold
Of burnish'd brass, a blazing amber light
Through the dark tempest.
                                            O'er all limits, power
Seem'd theirs:--their motions, will: their being, sight:--
And wheels in wheels, in mazing way, were there,
Instinct with life, with visual power.

                                                              And high
O'er all--bright as the firmament--invisible
From overpowering brightness--sat the Likeness
Man was created from.

                                      The living wings
Of the wing'd beings moved.
                                                    The rushing noise
Of mighty waters--and the infinite roar
Of the peal'd shout that victor armies raise--
Seem'd joined in echoing thunder.
                                                          My ears rung--
My eye-balls nigh to burst--the sight o'erpower'd
Receiv'd such blaze of sapphire--living amber--
Fire and white flash--and rainbow hues in light,
That prone to earth, I sank.

                                              A voice above
Rolled through the firmament, and it fell on me--

"Rise, Son of Man," he said,--"Stand on thy feet,
"And I will speak unto thee."

                                                  Stiff, upraised,
But not by strength of mine, I stood, and heard--
I heard poor Israel's burdenl and their sins
Of monstrous guilt and sinking weight; I heard
Myself commission'd, Priest of God, to preach
His will to these rebellious--all in vain!
I saw the Book of Woes, of bitterness
And lamentations, mourning and despair.

Then loud the rushing wheels and sounding wings
Rose through the space--and the full mingled voice
Of thousands joined and cried--
                                                    "Blest be the Lord;
"Blest be the Lord Almighty in this place,
"Hence and for evermore!"

                                            Then silence came--
And power of utterance slow revisited
My shaking frame.--
                              On Chebar's banks I stood,
And seven long days, 'midst the Captivity
I sat confounded--knowing naught I saw. (3)

from Irene

Canto I, Stanzas 31-34

Irene is a narrative poem, like those which launched her guardian Walter Scott's literary career, such as the Lady of the Lake. Yet with its regular octaves, gentle humour and its subject 'Man's inconstancy', it seems to have more echoes of Lord Byron's Don Juan than Scott's heroic themes. It could even be a woman's answer to Byron's poem -- but I am straying into other scholars' disciplines. It contains some pleasing passages of descriptive writing:

Near to the town a little quiet bay
Retires, conceal'd by wood and rising land;
Where the blue rippling waters still delay
To quit th' enchantment of its shelter'd strand.
There, at some Roman emperor's command,
The villa once had proudly rear'd its head:
But all is gone, save on the silver sand
The brilliant fragments of mosaic spread,
And gleaming through the waves with azure, green, and red.

Tis almost fearful to behold a place
As lone and lovely as the haunt of fays,
And yet upon the strand to see the trace
That all the nothingness of pride displays.
Nor this alone; for if your eyes you raise,
On a smooth plat, between the wood and shore,
A temple1 stands, a fane of other days,
But ruin'd now, its worship long is o'er,
And Venus and her son are fled, and gods no more.

Its circle stands on smoothest velvet sward,
And ivies mingling with the gadding vine
Each loosen'd stone from farther ruin guard,
So firmly do the leafy garlands twine.
But not when Venus still adorn'd her shrine,
Received she vows from any lovelier guest
Than when Irene, scarcely less divine,
Made this delightful spot her place of rest,
And with long wreaths of flowers the ruin'd archway drest.

There, in this solitary calm retreat,
She struck the lute, and sung her artless song;
Passing the day's long vacant hours of heat,
Far from the flatteries of a courtly throng.
The wild birds love to sit the boughs among
That canopied above her sylvan throne;
And e'en her maidens never thought it long
To stay till evening's lengthen'd shades came on,
And night compell'd to rise, and homewards to be gone.

Canto V, Stanza 1

Chas'd by a thousand fiends of vain remorse
Florio fled on, whither he could not tell,
Till, past the farther gate, his dizzy course
Stumbled some half mile farther, and he fell.
Beside a river pool, surrounded well
With deeply foliag'd trees, the wretch was laid:
It seem'd a place for holy peace to dwell,
Daisies and violets o'er the turf were spread,
And the wild hawthorn wav'd its branches o'er his head. (6)

Translation of the Gaelic song Agus o Mha'rag

When Margaret translated Gaelic Jacobite songs, it was to imagine how it would have been to wear the white cockade and fall in love with Bonnie Prince Charlie. There were 'real' elderly Jacobites in Charlotte Chapel congregation, like the lady who disconcerted Daniel Sandford early in his ministry by 'starting from her knees during the most solemn parts of divine service'. Luckily someone explained to him before he remonstrated with her that 'if he was offended at her indecorum, she was not less so at his conformity; and that in her estimation, prayer for the house of Hanover, as the royal family of England, was little short of sacrilege.' (5) But for people like Margaret, the generation who form the majority of this study, the Jacobite era held the same romantic place in their imaginations that the Age of Steam has in mine.

Though thou'rt far across the ocean,
Wert thou on thy native coast,
Rising clans in swift commotion
Soon would face the scarlet host.

Soon the web of strife and battle
Wove in destin'd loom would be,
Mill'd in hostile weapons' rattle,
Crimson dyed in sanguine sea.

Clanronald with his crest of heather
At thy signal flies to arms,
Barasdale's young knights together
March to glory's stern alarms.

Soon to grace thy lion standard
Sleat's grey warriors cross the sea,
Though their infant cradled landlord
Knows not yet his clan or thee.

Brave Mackinnon joins thy muster,
Let who will remain at home,
Cameron's spears in warlike cluster
From each mountain fastness come.

Stout Glengary's banner waving
Spreads its well-known folds to view,
And Glencoe, thy foemen braving,
Sends thee forth her warriors true.

Largie, Tarbert, chiefs victorious,
Leave for thee their halls of ease,
Doubt not thou an issue glorious,
Followed by such hosts as these. (6)


  1. Registers of Charlotte Chapel (NAS CH12/3)
  2. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1818
  3. Spencer Compton, Lord Northhampton, The Tribute: a collection of miscellaneous unpublished poems by various authors (London, John Murray, 1837) p.54-57
  4. Daniel Sandford, Sermons, chiefly designed for young persons (J. Moir, Edinburgh 1802) p.264
  5. John Sandford, Remains of the late Right Reverend Daniel Sandford (Waugh and Innes, Edinburgh, 1830) vol.1 p.45
  6. Lady Northampton, Irene, and other poems (Mills, Jowett and Mills, London, 1833)
  7. Martin Rackwitz, Travels to Terra Incognita (Waxmann, Münster, 2007) p.385

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