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The Scottish Nation

FERRIER, SUSAN EDMONSTONE, a gifted novelist, the youngest daughter of James Ferrier, Esq., one of the principal clerks of the court of session, was born at Edinburgh in 1782. In 1818 she published her first attempt at fiction, being ‘Marriage,’ a novel in three volumes. This work at once became popular, and in 1824, she greatly enhanced her reputation by the publication of ‘Inheritance,’ another novel, also in three volumes. The latter was followed in 1831 by ‘Destiny, or the Chief’s Daughter,’ connected with Highland scenery and Highland manners, a more ambitious but equally successful effort, also in three volumes. These works, by their own intrinsic merits, took a high place among the standard fictions of the day.

Somewhat masculine in her mode of treatment, the principal characteristic of her style is a piquant humour, and a naïve appreciation of the ludicrous. Skilful and vigorous in depicting individual character, she was not less faithful in describing national manners and peculiarities, and she is referred to by Sir Walter Scott, at the conclusion of the ‘Tales of my Landlord,’ as his ‘sister shadow,’ the author of the very lively work entitled ‘Marriage,’ one of the labourers capable of gathering in the large harvest of Scottish character and fiction. With the family of the author of Waverley she was very intimate, and she is mentioned in the most kindly and complimentary terms, in Sir Walter’s diary, published in Lockhart’s Life of Scott. In describing the melancholy situation of his father-in-law, the year before his death, Mr. Lockhart introduces Miss Ferrier in a very amiable light: “To assist them (the family of Scott) in amusing him in the hours which he spent out of his study, and especially that he might be tempted to make those hours more frequent, his daughters had invited his friend the authoress of ‘Marriage’ to come out to Abbotsford; and her coming was serviceable; for she knew and loved him well, and she had seen enough of affliction akin to his to be well skilled in dealing with it. She could not be an hour in his company without observing what filled his children with more sorrow than all the rest of the case. He would begin a story as gaily as ever, and go on, in spite of the hesitation in his speech, and tell it with highly picturesque effect, but, before he reached the point, it would seem as if some internal spring had given way; he paused, and gazed round him with the blank anxiety of look that a blind man has when he has dropped his staff. Unthinking friends sometimes pained him sadly by giving him the catch-word abruptly. I noticed the delicacy of Miss Ferrier on such occasions. Her sight was bad, and she took care not to use her glasses when he was speaking; and she affected to be also troubled with deafness, and would say, ‘Well, I am getting as dull as a post; I have not heard a word since you said so and so,’ being sure to mention a circumstance behind that at which he had really halted. He then took up the thread with his habitual smile of courtesy, as if forgetting his case entirely in the consideration of the lady’s infirmity.”

In her later years Miss Ferrier lived in comparative retirement, gracing a circle which valued her virtues as a friend, as the literary world admired her accomplishments as a novelist. She died in November 1854.

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