Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

A Group of Scottish Women
Lady Anne Barnard (1750 - 1825)


Scotland has probably produced a greater number of popular songs than any other country, with the exception perhaps of Germany. The picturesque character of the scenery, the dramatic simplicity of peasant life, the mellifluous music of the dialect, combine to clothe the romantic ballads of the north with an atmosphere of pathos, of grace and humour, which cannot be surpassed or rivalled south of the Border. Of the many ballads to which I refer, several of the best known and the most popular are the work of Scottish women. Sir Walter Scott, in one of his letters, gives several instances of these:- “Flowers of the Forest,” by Miss Elliot of Minto; “An’ were na my heart licht, I wad dee,” by Lady Grisell Baillie; Lady Elizabeth Wardlaw’s ballad of “Hardyknute”; “I have seen the smiling of fortune beguiling,” written by Mrs. Cockburn to the same air that inspired Miss Elliot; and lastly, “Auld Robin Gray,” by Lady Anne Lindsay. To these the novelist might well have added the two ballads composed by Miss Oliphant of the “Auld Hoose of Gask” – afterwards Lady Nairne – “The Laird o’ Cockpen” and “The Land o’ the Leal,” whose genuine charm and humour still survive the passage of years. “Place ‘Auld Robin’ at the head of this list,” says Sir Walter, “and I question if we masculine wretches can claim five or six songs equal in eloquence and pathos out of the long lists of Scottish minstrelsy.” It may, therefore, be of interest to note the circumstances under which the most famous of these songs was written, and to make the acquaintance of its author.

The characteristics peculiar to each of the great national families of Scotland have been described from time immemorial by the alliterative epithets which tradition has affixed to their names. Thus we read of “the gay Gordons,” the “doughty Douglasses,” the “gallant Grahams,” the “haughty Hamiltons,” the “handsome Hays,” the “mucklemou’ed Murrays,” and the “light Lindsays.”

[Cf. “From the greed of the Campbells,

        From the ire of the Drummonds,

        From the pride of the Grahams,

        From the wind of the Murrays,

        Good Lord deliver us!”]

Of these, by no means the least interesting is the light-hearted family of Lindsays, whose name appears in Doomsday Book, and whose history supplies a chapter of romance worthy of the pen of a Stevenson or a Balzac.

Lady Anne Lindsay, the author of “Auld Robin Gray,” was the daughter of James Lindsay, 5th Earl of Balcarres, by his wife Anne, daughter of Sir Robert Dalrymple of Castleton. She was the eldest of a family of ten, and was born at Balcarres, on the Fifeshire coast, in the year 1750. Her father was an accomplished gentleman as well as an intrepid soldier. In the famous rising of 1715 he fought in the Stuart cause, but later on was wise enough to stifle his private feelings for the sake of his country’s welfare, and served with gallantry in the army of George II. at Dettingen and Fontenoy. At heart he was ever a Jacobite, a fact which he found some difficulty in reconciling with the habits of a Whig. He could not always conceal his partisanship for the Stuarts, and was inclined on every possible occasion to expatiate upon the beauties and the wrongs of Mary, Queen of Scots, and deplore the union of the two crowns of England and Scotland. He was, however, affirm believer in the old Jacobite adage that “when war is at hand, though it were shame to be on any side save one, it were more shame to be idle than on the worse side, though blacked than rebellion could make it.” At Sheriffmuir he had led his three famous troops of gentlemen-rankers, who fought as common soldiers for the Pretender and routed double their number of the King’s dragoons. But when subsequently pardoned, he was willing to accept an English commission in the Scots Greys, in which regiment he conspicuously distinguished himself on several occasions.

The Lindsays were all born soldiers. Lady Anne’s brother James suffered the unique experience of being struck at the battle of Ticonderoga in 1777 by thirteen bullets, of which all but one passed through his clothes without injuring him. Another brother, John, was taken prisoner by Hyder Ali in 1780, and confined at Seringapatam, together with Captain (afterwards Sir David) Baird, the son of Mrs. Baird of Newbyth. [When the news of her son’s capture was broken to this ruthless of lady, and it was stated that the captive officers had been chained together, two and two, “Lord pity the chiel that’s chained to our Davy!” was her now celebrated comment.] Alexander, the predecessor of James, Earl of Balcarres, and uncle to Lady Anne Lindsay, anticipated by a couple of centuries the famous remark of an English Statesman, [The late Viscount Goschen.] who, at the time of the Fenian riots, when asked by a terrified colleague, “What are we to do?” answered at once, “Do? Why, make our wills and do our duty!” He was in command of a small body of troops besieging a town in Flanders in 1707, and was being threatened by a superior force. On his determining to persevere in the siege, a timid subordinate inquired anxiously, “What are we to retire upon?” “Upon Heaven!” replied the earl.

Lady Anne’s father, Lord Balcarres, was something of a philosopher, a man of large impulses and generous instincts, and universally popular in his own countryside. At one time a number of robberies had been committed in Fifeshire, and the criminals were at length brought before the County Court. “Why did you never come to my house?” asked Lord Balcarres. “My lord,” they replied, “we often did. Everywhere else we found closed doors, but at Balcarres they stood always open, and where such is the case it is a rule among us not to enter.”

The story of Lord Balcarres’ wooing is a romantic and curious one. When a comparatively elderly man he fell desperately in love with Miss Dalrymple, a girl who was forty years his junior, and who naturally declined the honour of his hand. The rejected suitor thereupon tool to his bed, and became so ill that his life was despaired of. He was well enough, however, to make a will in which he left half his estate to the object of his choice. And she, hearing of this remarkable bequest, “first endured, then pitied, then embraced,” and so consented to marry the old earl, who at once recovered his health with commendable promptitude.

Lady Balcarres is said to have been a charming woman, high-spirited and vivacious, and it is rather difficult to understand her reasons for accepting as a husband a man who was very deaf, rather gouty, and quite old enough to be her father. It must, however, be admitted that Lord Balcarres was a remarkable old gentleman, something of a litterateur, noted for his courtesy, and the very soul of chivalry. Lady Balcarres was a strict but devoted mother, as her children testified, and that she could be a good friend was proved by Sir Walter Scott, when as a shy youth he basked in her smiles at parties or took shelter in her box at the theatre. [Familiar Letters of Walter Scott, vol. i. p.228]

In the memoirs of her family, which Lady Anne wrote, she has given an amusing account of her own birth and of the events that immediately preceded it. “There had long existed,” she says, “a prophecy that the first child of the last descendant of the house of Balcarres was to restore the family of Stuart to those hereditary rights which the bigotry of James had deprived them of. The Jacobites seemed to have gained new life on the occasion; the wizards and witches of the party had found it in their books; the Devil had mentioned it to one or two of his particular friends… Songs were made by exulting Tories, masses were offered up by good Catholics, who longed to see the Pope’s bull once more tossing his horns in the country.” [Lives of the Lindsays, vol. ii. p.301.] Judge then of the amazement and dismay of the soothsayers, of the annoyance and astonishment of the Pretender’s partisans, when, on December 1, 1750, Lady Balcarres gave birth to a daughter. No doubt the wizards burnt their books, the Devil’s particular friends wished they had been a trifle more particular, the Tories transposed the music of their songs to a minor key, and the good Catholics regretted the masses they had expended so lavishly and with such indifferent success. Lord and Lady Balcarres, however, welcomed the arrival of their small daughter with suitable expressions of delight, and their satisfaction was perhaps a matter of greater importance than the disappointment of the Pretender’s followers.

In the middle of the eighteenth century the bringing up of children was a far sterner business than it is nowadays. The discipline of the nursery was a severe one, and the modern practice of sacrificing everything to the comfort and happiness of the young would have been considered both sinful and foolish. Some idea of the spirit of family life prevalent in those times may be gathered from a letter written to a friend by Lady Strange, wife of the celebrated engraver, in which she declares that her children, from the youngest to the eldest, love her and fear her “as sinners dread death.” [Life of Sir Robert Strange, by J. Dennistoun, vol. i. p.309.] And in the Life of the first Lord Minto we read of the rigorous parental control which he, in common with all the fathers of that date, exercised over his children, and how, when one of his sons (Andrew, afterwards Governor of New York) objected one day to boiled mutton at dinner, “Let Mr. Andrew have boiled mutton for breakfast,” said the stern parent, “and boiled mutton for dinner, and boiled mutton for supper, till her has learnt to like it!” [Life and Letters of Gilbert Elliot, 1st Earl of Minto, vol. i. p.22]

Lady Anne and her brothers and sisters were kept in the most excellent order from earliest infancy. Their mother, acting on the good old principle that children should be “seen but not heard,” snubbed their heads of whenever they dared to open their mouths. So strict was she, in fact, that old Lord Balcarres used now and then to feel called upon to expostulate when he considered the treatment meted out to his children a trifle too severe. The little Lindsays of that age did not have as happy a childhood as do, no doubt, the little Lindsays of to-day. And one fine morning, six of them, goaded to insurrection, organised a dramatic flight by which they hoped to escape once and for all from the tyranny of parental authority. The fugitives were fortunately discovered by the old shepherd, Robin Gray, before they had gone very far, and ignominiously carried back to the nursery, there to be soundly dosed with tincture of rhubarb.

Lady Balcarres always declared that she found her eldest daughter the most difficult child in the world to punish. If Anne were sentenced to a diet of bread and water, she ate it up contentedly and with apparent satisfaction. The crimes she committed were never serious enough to deserve a whipping. (Had they been, she would doubtless have behaved like that stoical child whose father assured her that the corporal punishment he was inflicting hurt him far more than it hurt her, and who at once brightened up and begged him to continue the castigation without further regard for her feelings.) From the accounts of Anne’s childhood, one would come to the conclusion that she was either a very good little girl indeed, or else was particularly successful in avoiding detection. In either case she deserves the fullest credit.

While Lady Balcarres looked after the discipline of her children, their education was relegated to the care of a meek tutor name Small, who was assisted by a certain Miss Henrietta Cumming, whom we have already mentioned in a previous chapter as being an eccentric and hysterical creature of the “decayed gentlewoman” class. This governess found a permanent and extremely comfortable home at Balcarres. Here she gave instruction to the children, and spent her spare time engaged in the Early Victorian pastime of ornamenting silk with painted designs of birds and flowers. She presented a dress which she had decorated in this fashion to Queen Charlotte, and in return received a small pension. Henrietta shared the responsibility for bringing up Anne and her sisters with another equally curious character, of whose influence over the children she was always supremely jealous. Miss Sophia Johnstone was the daughter of the laird of Hilton, a notorious debauchee, who did not believe in giving his children the benefits of a proper education, but allowed them to grow up ignorant and illiterate. She had arrived at Balcarres on a visit at the time of the old earl’s marriage. Once comfortably installed there, Sophia decided to prolong her stay indefinitely. Here, then, she remained for thirteen years, during which time she occupied herself in mothering the little Lindsays, quarrelling with Henrietta, and making fancy horseshoes in a small forge which with curious taste she had erected in her bedroom.

Of all her family Anne seems to have been the most devoted to her sister Margaret, a girl of singular accomplishments and beauty. [It was of her that Sheridan wrote:-

“Mark’d you her eye of heavenly blue,

Mark’d you her cheek of rosy hue;

That eye in liquid circles roving,

That cheek abashed at man’s approving.

The one love’s arrows darting round,

The other blushing at the wound.”]  It was soon after the latter’s unfortunate marriage with Mr. Alexander Fordyce [Fordyce was a banker who absconded, thereby ruining many unfortunate people. His brother, a Presbyterian minister, married Miss Henrietta Cumming.] of Roehampton, in 1771, that Anne wrote that charming ballad for which she is so justly famous. In the absence of her favourite sister she was feeling depressed and lonely, and sought comfort in the society of the Muse. The result was a song which has become a veritable classic in the chronicles of Scottish minstrelsy.

AULD ROBIN GRAY

I

When the sheep are in the fauld, when the cows come hame,

When a’ the weary world to quiet rest are gane,

The woes of my heart fa’ in showers frae my e’e,

Unken’d by my gudeman, who soundly sleeps by me.

II

Young Jamie lov’d me weel, and sought me for his bride;

But saving ae crown-piece, he’d naething else beside.

To make the crown a pound, my Jamie gaed to sea;

And the crown and the pound, oh! they were baith for me.

III

Before he had been gone a twelvemonth and a day,

My father broke his arm, our cow was stown away;

My mother she fell sick – my Jamie was at sea –

And Auld Robin Gray, oh! he came a-courting me.

IV

My father cou’dna work – my mother cou’dna spin;

I toil’d day and night, but their bread I cou’dna win;

Auld Rob maintain’d them baith, and wi’ tears in his ee

Said, “Jenny, oh! for their sakes, will you marry me?”

V

My heart it said na, and I look’d for Jamie back;

But hard blew the winds, and his ship was a wrack:

His ship was a wrack! Why didna Jenny dee?

Or, wherefore am I spared to cry out, Woe is me!

VI

My father argued sair – my mother didna speak,

But she look’d in my face till my heart was like to break;

They gied him my hand, but my heart was in the sea,

And so Auld Robin Gray, he was gudeman to me.

VII

I hadna been his wife, a week but only four,

When mournfu’ as I sat on the stane at my door,

I saw my Jamie’s ghaist – I cou’dna think it he,

Till he said, “I’m come hame, my love, to marry thee.”

VIII

O sair, sair did we greet, and mickle say of a’;

Ae kiss we took, nae mair – I bad him gang awa.

I wish that I were dead, but I’m no like to dee;

For O, I am but young to cry out, Woe is me!

IX

I gang like a ghaist, and I carena much to spin;

I darena think o’ Jamie, for that wad be a sin.

But I will do my best a gude wife aye to be,

For Auld Robin Gray, oh! he is sae kind to me.

The secret of writing a song that shall outlive the passing fashion of an hour, and win for itself and its author an eternal place in the memories and affections of men, is one which it would be difficult to specify or to define. It seems to have eluded the grasp of the great masters of English prosody, and revealed itself alone to humbler bards such as Lady Anne Lindsay. One cannot readily call to mind the name of any distinguished national poet – with the exception of Shakespeare and Robert Burns – who has written songs that can be truly said to have achieved immortality. The works of every well-known poet, from Herrick to Tennyson and Browning, have been ransacked to find suitable lyrics. But the result has never yet rivalled in popularity such comparatively undistinguished ballads as “The Last Rose of Summer” or “Auld Robin Gray.”

The literary merit of a song is, after all, a matter of little consequence. Can any one seriously pretend that his feelings would be very deeply stirred by a first perusal of the words of “The Lost Chord,” or even “Auld Lang Syne,” in a book or magazine? Yet no one can hear either of these ballads sung without experiencing a thrill of very genuine emotion.

The composer’s share is, of course, an important one, but it cannot altogether account for the popularity of any single song of this kind. Divorced from its words, the air of “Home, Sweet Home,” would strike the critic as obvious and unoriginal. That of “God Save the King” – “that tiresome tune,” as Queen Victoria is said to have termed it – is not of a very high order. But the music of either is, at any rate, congruous and sympathetic. It can safely be relied upon to stimulate the loyal or domestic sentiments to which it is primarily intended to appeal. By its means the lyrics find expression in the most perfect and eloquent fashion. Music, indeed, as a French philosopher has said, makes us feel what we are thinking, and the airs of these old ballads conjure up an apt dramatic setting for the stories which the poet narrates so vividly in the text. The grandest things, as Edward Fitzgerald truly remarked, do not depend on delicate finish. And the popular song must, above all, rely for success upon qualities of simplicity, elemental humour, and pathos, which speak directly to the heart of the listener. It is for this reason that the folk-song and the ballad are immortal. For though the popular taste may change from year to year, and the modern thirst for entertainment be only satisfied with ignoble music-hall songs, in which the dubious humour of domestic infelicity, conjugal infidelity, and inebriety plays a prominent part, there is still room in the affections of even the least refined section of the community for the old favourites of the past. The audience which has just laughed itself hoarse over the antics of a low comedian, who has graphically described the methods he employs to outwit his mother-in-law or avoid the just payment of his debts, will accord a warm and perpetual welcome to the ballad-singer whose repertoire consists of “Annie Laurie” and “The Old Folks at Home.” There is always a place in the public favour for any homely theme culled from the familiar drama of daily life, and so it is that, though times change and fashions vary, the primitive love of the old and the simple still sways the populace, and the songs of long ago are ever the favourites of to-day.

As Miss Jane Elliot always maintained a dignified silence on the subject of the authorship of “Flowers of the Forest,” and Lady Nairne for forty years kept the secret of having written “The Land o’ the Leal,” so did Lady Anne make an invariable practice of denying any share in the composition of “Auld Robin Gray.” One person alone, a Mrs. Russell of Ashestiel and aunt of Sir Walter Scott, who happened to be staying at Balcarres when the song was written, was admitted to the confidence of its author.

Many years afterwards, in a letter dated July 1823, Lady Anne gave Sir Walter a very interesting description of the composition of her famous ballad. “’Robin Gray,’” she wrote, “so called from its being the name of the old herd at Balcarres, was born soon after the close of the year 1771. My sister Margaret had married, and accompanied her husband to London; I was melancholy, and endeavoured to amuse myself by attempting a few poetical trifles. There was an ancient Scotch melody of which I was passionately fond; [“The Bridegroom Greits when the Sun Goes Down.”] Sophie Johnstone, who lived before your day, used to sing it to us at Balcarres. She did not object to its having improper words, though I did. I longed to sing old Sophie’s air to different words, and give to its plaintive tone some little history of virtuous distress in humble life, such as might suit it. While attempting to effect this in my closet, I called to my little sister, now Lady Hardwicke, who was the only person near me, “I have been writing a ballad, my dear; I am oppressing my heroine with many misfortunes. I have already sent her Jamie to sea – and broken her father’s arm – and made her mother fall sick – and given her auld Robin Gray for her lover; but I wish to load her with a fifth sorrow within the four lines, poor thing! Help me to one.’ ‘Steal the cow, sister Anne,’ said the little Elizabeth. The cow was immediately lifted by me, and the song completed.

‘He hadna been gane a twelvemonth and a day

When my father brake his arm, and the cow was stown away;

My mither she fell sick – my Jamie was at sea,

And auld Robin Gray came a-courting me.’

“At our fireside and amongst the neighbours, ‘Auld Robin Gray’ was always called for. I was pleased in secret with the approbation it met with; but such was my dread of being suspected of writing anything, perceiving the shyness it created in those who could write nothing, that I carefully kept my secret.” [Auld Robin Gray: A ballad by the Right Hon. Lady Anne Barnard, born Lady Anne Lindsay of Balcarres. (Edin., James Ballantyne & Co., 1825).]

Lady Anne proceeds to relate how Lady Frances Scott guessed her secret, and how the laird of Dalzell, on hearing the song, exclaimed, “Oh, the villain! Oh, the auld rascal! I ken wha’ stealt the poor lassie’s coo – ‘twas auld Robin Gray himsell!” This old gentleman also begged Lady Anne, when she next sang the song, to alter the line –

“To make the crown a pund, my Jamie gaed to sea,”

To “To make it twenty merks,” for, said he, a Scottish pound was but twenty pence, and “Jamie was nae such a gowk as to leave Jennie and gang to sea to lessen his gear!”

Meanwhile the authorship of the verses became a matter of popular dispute. Some people affirmed that it was a very ancient ballad, composed perhaps by David Rizzio; others that it was a modern song of but little importance. A reward of twenty pounds was offered in the newspapers to the one person who could ascertain beyond a doubt the truth as to its author’s identity. Mr. Jernyngham, secretary of the Antiquarian Society, had an interview with Lady Anne upon the subject. To him she declared that the ballad in question had me with attentions beyond its deserts. “It set off with having a very fine tune put to it by a doctor of music,” [The Rev. William Leeves, rector of Wrington, wrote the air to which “Auld Robin Gray” is now usually sung.] she informed her interviewer, “was sung by youth and beauty for five years and more, had a romance composed from it by a man of eminence, was the subject of a play, of an opera, and of a pantomime, was sung by the united armies in America, acted by Punch, and afterwards danced by dogs in the street, but never more honoured than by the present investigation.”

Several persons laid claim to having written “Auld Robin Gray.” There was a clergyman on the coast, says Captain Basil Hall, Sir Walter Scott’s friend and constant guest, in his Journal, “whose conscience was so large that he took the burden of the matter upon himself, and pleaded guilty to the authorship.” Finally the author of Waverley mentioned Lady Anne by name in The Pirate [vol. ii. p13.] as the author of “Auld Robin Gray,” and she determined to reveal her secret to the world.

On the death of her father she left Balcarres and went to live in Edinburgh with her mother. She had previously paid frequent visits to he grandmother, Lady Dalrymple, a clever old lady who lived there and was intimate with all the leading Scotsmen of her time. During her residence at the Scottish capital Lady Anne continued the friendships which she had thus begun with such eminent men as Dr. Johnson and Mackenzie, author of The Man of Feeling, while David Hume was a constant visitor at her house.

At what were facetiously called the Dinners of the Eaterati – convivial meetings at which the literary and fashionable people of Edinburgh foregathered – she made the acquaintance of a number of interesting men of all kinds. These gatherings were of a mixed character, and it was not unusual to find such uncongenial spirits as Principal Robertson and David Hume hobnobbing together over a bottle of port, just as though such a thing as the Thirty-Nine Articles had never existed. “To see the lion and the lamb lying down together, the deist and the doctor, is extraordinary,” writes Lady Anne of one occasion; “it makes one hope that some day Hume will say to him, ‘Thou almost persuadest me to be a Christian.’” [Life of David Hume, by J.H. Burton, vol. ii. p445.]

When the young Earl of Balcarres married, Lady Anne said a final farewell to the home of her childhood and settled in London, in a house in Berkeley Square, with her sister Lady Margaret Fordyce, whose husband’s death had followed immediately upon his bankruptcy and disgrace. Here she soon formed a wide circle of friends, among other the Prince of Wales and Mrs. Fitzherbert, with both of whom she maintained a close correspondence extending over a great number of years. The list of her acquaintances also included such men as Pitt, Burke, and Henry Dundas, - at that time leading figures in the world of politics. For the last-named statesman she conceived the strongest attachment, but her feelings were not reciprocated, and when Dundas, who had divorced his first wife, became engaged to Lady Jane Hope, Lady Anne turned elsewhere for consolation. Shortly afterwards she made up her mind to marry Andrew Barnard, son of the old Bishop of Limerick, who was very much in love with her, and of whom she was very fond. Her father-in-law was a well-known public character, and had been Bishop of Killaloe. Dr. Johnson, it will be remembered, composed an amusing charade on the Bishop’s name.

[My first shuts out thieves from your house or your room,

My second expresses a Syrian perfume,

My whole is a man in whose converse is shar’d

The strength of the Bar and the sweetness of Nard.”] It was to Dr Barnard too that Johnson made the celebrated remark to the effect that “the Irish are a fair people; they never speak well of one another!” [Boswell’s Life of Johnson, (Malone), p.235.] And when the bishop and the crusty old doctor quarrelled in an argument as to whether a man’s mental and physical qualities improved or deteriorated after the age of forty-five, Johnson was extremely rude to Dr. Barnard, and the latter retaliated by addressing some caustic verses to his friend, of which the last stanza runs as follows:-

“Let Johnson teach me how to place

In fairest light each borrowed grace,

From him I’ll learn to write;

Copy his clear and easy style,

And from the roughness of his file,

Grow as himself – polite!”

Lady Anne Barnard was fifteen years older than her husband. They were both of them excessively poor. But they seem nevertheless to have been a singularly happy and devoted couple. By the kindness of Dundas, who was then in office, Andrew Barnard was appointed Secretary of the Cape Colony in 1797 when Lord Macartney [George, 1st Earl Macartney] was sent to South Africa as Governor. Lady Anne accompanied her husband to Cape Town, and, in the absence of Lady Macartney, undertook the position of hostess and chatelaine at Government House. She soon became a prominent and popular figure at the South African capital, though she writes of the colonists in a tone of good-natured superiority, declaring that their manners and refinement left a great deal to the imagination and that their parties reminded her of second-rate subscription dance at home. She was of a curious and inquisitive disposition, was for ever seeking information upon every possible subject, and accepted without question the most incredible stories which the astute natives chose to pour into her ingenuous ears.

The Barnards bought a small farmhouse on a hillside outside Cape Town, where during the hot months of the year they lived a rustic, peaceful existence. Lady Anne was especially fond of animals, and in the grounds of “Paradise,” as her country residence was called, there might be seen a strange variety of domestic pets, ranging from jackals to penguins, from tame springboks to chameleons, while a young sea-calf disported itself in a pond close to the house. She thoroughly enjoyed her stay in South Africa, and was always organising expeditions to various places of interest in the Colony. When she and a number of friends ascended Table Mountain for the first time, she donned certain masculine garments which she borrowed from her husband, to whom she laughingly declared that this was the first and last occasion on which he could ever accuse her of wearing such things. On reaching the summit of the mountain, she handed glasses of Madeira round to the whole party, and insisted that all should join in singing “God Save the King.” Later on she and her husband undertook a lengthy tour into the very interior of the country. They travelled in a huge wagon drawn by oxen, loaded with provisions and an assortment of cheap but attractive-looking presents in the form of beads, shawls, &c., with which the secretary and his wife proposed to ingratiate themselves with the natives.

On the subsequent cession of the Cape of Good Hope to the Dutch, in 1802, Andrew Barnard returned to England. Four years later, however, when the English again conquered the Cape, he was once more appointed secretary, this time to Lord Caledon, who was Macartney’s successor. Lady Anne made every arrangement to follow her husband to South Africa, but was stopped at the last moment by the news of his sudden death in 1807. The heart-broken widow then returned to her sister’s house in London. Here she continued to live after Lady Margaret Fordyce had married Sir James Burgess, in 1812, until her death.

Probably no woman ever left such abundant material for a future biography as did Lady Anne. Alas! no woman ever loaded a possible biographer with so many restrictions. Among her papers, now in the hands of her descendants, are eighteen large folio volumes filled with personal memoirs and recollections, every single page of which is rife with human interest. In these books Lady Anne provides a complete and most humorous picture of London and Edinburgh life at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries. She also gives characteristic accounts of her experiences in Paris on the occasions of her various visits to that city, then the very focus of the world’s gaze. Her descriptions of Marie Antoinette, Madame du Barri, the Duc de Choiseul, and other great personages connected with the French court are of absorbing interest. And when she returns to London, we find her in the closest touch with all the principal character of her day. Sheridan, Burke, Reynolds, and a hundred more notabilities, appear to have been on the most intimate terms with her. Indeed, it would seem that she knew and was known by everybody, that she inspired more confidence and received more confidences than any other woman of her contemporaries.

These volumes are a perfect gold-mine of valuable information, and the fact of not being allowed to delve therein is all the more tragic. Unfortunately Lady Anne left with these memoirs the strictest possible injunctions forbidding the reproduction in print of any matters that they contained. The letters from eminent personages, the anecdotes in which these recollections are particularly rich, must therefore remain unpublished. And no doubt Lady Anne was perfectly right in her desire that the secrets of her intimates should be respected after her death. For though one may deplore the loss of so much valuable material, it is impossible not to appreciate the views of one who could not anticipate an age when self-advertisement would be universal and “personal paragraphs” the very breath and essence of social life.

Lady Anne was, as has already been mentioned, a particular friend of the Prince Regent. After her husband’s death she sent his portrait to the prince, at the same time begging him not to trouble about replying. He was determined, however, to acknowledge her gift, and sent her a letter which speaks eloquently of his whole-hearted affection.

“My dear and old friend (he wrote), you are right in thinking that perhaps it would be better, both for you and me, that no letter should pass between us in consequence of this recent mark of your kindest recollection and affection. But there are certain feelings which one is only individually responsible for, and that which perhaps in one instance is better for one person not to do, it is impossible for another to resist, It is not from any selfish conceit or presumption that I presume to differ from your much better reasoned an conceived opinion, but from the ingenuous and paramount impulse and feelings of a heart that you have long, long indeed known, which from the earliest hour of its existence has glowed with the warmest and most transcendent feelings of the most affectionate friendship for those who love and know how to appreciate it – and to whom can this be better applied, dearest Lady Anne, than to yourself? To tell you how much and how highly I value your present, and what, (if it be possible) is much more, the affectionate manner in which you have done it, is that which I not only can never express, but can never forget. That every blessing and happiness may for ever attend you is the earnest prayer of

“Your ever and most affectionate friend,

  GEORGE P.

“P.S. – My heart is so full that I hope you will forgive this hasty scrawl, for I write the very instant I have received your letter. Pray tell me that you forgive me.”

During a serious illness George IV. sent for Lady Anne to come and see him, and presented her with a material token of his affection. “Sister Anne,” he said to her on this occasion, “I wish to tell you that I love you, and beg you to accept this golden chain for my sake. I may, perhaps, never see you again.”

Lady Anne had always been fond of writing. During her sojourn in South Africa she sent a number of extremely graphic and descriptive letters to Dundas, giving an interesting account of her life in the Cape Colony. She possessed a strong sense of humour, and could invest the most commonplace and trivial incidents with a dramatic interest which was the outcome of her effective literary style. Sir Walter Scott at one time projected the publication of a book of verses, to be styled “The Lays of the Lindsays,” and Lady Anne sent him several songs of her own. Unluckily, just before the book was circulated, she changed her mind, and had the whole edition suppressed with the exception of the song “Auld Robin Gray.” It was probably to compensate Sir Walter for the financial loss he had incurred over the publication of these lays that Lady Anne left him a legacy of 50 in her will.

At her father’s request she began a history of the family, and, out of compliment to her mother, who was always wishing to hear how the “unlucky business of Jennie and Jamie ended,” she attempted a continuation of “Auld Robin Gray.” This, like most sequels, would have been better left unwritten. The “vagrant scraps,” as she termed her occasional writings, which she has left behind, show her to have been a woman of ready wit, rich fancy, and an original turn of mind. She is said to have been a delightful conversationalist, and the life and soul of every party she attended. She was a great story-teller, and it is related that at a dinner party which she was giving to some friends, her old family servant caused some amusement by whispering in her ear, in an undertone audible to the whole company, “My lady, you must tell another story, the second course won’t be ready for five minutes.”

Besides being the possessor of literary ability of no mean order, Lady Anne had a remarkable taste for painting. Whatever her sketches lacked of real artistic merit they made up for in observation and character. “She does not, indeed, place mountains on their apex,” wrote Scott to his friend, J.P. Morritt, in 1811, “like that of Zarenta in Bruce’s travels, or those of Selkirkshire in Miss Lydia White’s drawings, but what her representations lose in the wonderful they gain in nature and beauty.” [Familiar Letters of Walter Scott, vol. i. p.228.] But whatever else she may have been or done that was admirable or worthy of praise, she would still most certainly have earned the gratitude of the whole English-speaking race had her only contribution to the literature of her country been the ballad of “Auld Robin Gray” – “the most pathetic that ever was written,” as Leigh Hunt calls it [Men, Women, and Books, by Leigh Hunt, p.284.] – with which her memory must ever be associated.


Return to Book Index Page