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Elizabeth Melville


Lady Culross, the daughter of the statesman and courtier Sir James Melville of Halhill, was a fervent religious radical who died in 1640, two years after the signing of the National Covenant which she had helped to bring about. She was a friend and supporter of the radical ministers Robert Bruce, John Welsh, David Dickson, John Livingstone and Samuel Rutherford.  She was born c.1578, and unusually for a woman in the 16th century, she was highly educated by her father.  She went on to write a great deal of skilfull religious poetry in Scots. Even more unusually, she published a long poem at Edinburgh in 1603, which immediately became a best seller for the next hundred years. This "Godlie Dreame compylit in Scottis meter" was almost certainly the source of Bunyan's inspiration to write "Pilgrim's Progress". Until September 2002, all her other work was thought to be lost, but Dr Jamie Reid Baxter of Glasgow University discovered a huge cache of manuscript poems in a volume of sermons from 1590.  Currently, Lady Culross is known to have written over 4200 lines of late Middle Scots verse, in many different forms.  
 
Thanks to Peter Wright for this information.
 

Scots Women in History  |  Significant Scots