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Significant Scots
William Sharp


William Sharp (12 September 1855, Paisley – 12 December 1905, Sicily) was a Scottish poet, literary biographer, and romantic story-teller, who, from 1893 wrote also as 'Fiona MacLeod', a pseudonym that was mostly kept secret during his lifetime. He was also an editor of the poetry of Ossian, Walter Scott, Matthew Arnold, Algernon Charles Swinburne and Eugene Lee-Hamilton.

Sharp Genealogy

Sharp/MacLeod Bibliography

See 02WilliamSharpBibliography.pdf

Brief Life Story of William Sharp

William Sharp, as the eldest son of a wealthy family, was educated at Glasgow Academy and the University of Glasgow, the latter which he attended from 1871 to 1872 without completing a degree.

In 1872 William contracted typhoid, but then from 1874-5 worked in a Glasgow law office. His father David, died in 1876 in Dunoon. It should be noted that William was the present informant to the Registrar on his father's death, and that soon thereafter, William's health broke down again. His ever-loving mother then sent him away on a voyage to Australia with hopes that he would recuperate.

On his return in 1878 William took a position in a bank in London, and, while there, he was introduced to Dante Gabriel Rossetti by Sir Noel Paton, and joined the Rossetti literary group that included Hall Caine, Philip Bourke Marston and Swinburne.

In late 1884, William married his 1st cousin Elizabeth Amelia Sharp.

William and Elizabeth travelled widely in Europe, and on one of these trips William developed an intensely romantic but platonic attachment to an Edith Wingate Rinder, another writer of the consciously Celtic Edinburgh circle surrounding Patrick Geddes and "The Evergreen." It was to Edith ('EWR') that he attributed the inspiration for his writings thereafter as 'Fiona MacLeod', and to whom he dedicated his first 'MacLeod' novel ('Pharais').

Thus from 1891 he started to devote himself to writing full time. It so happened that Elizabeth's father, William's Uncle Tom, and his wife Agnes Farquharson, had also had a son Robert who by this time was an Assistant Librarian in the British Museum, London. Thus, both William and Elizabeth would have had a close ally for any researching they might need to do for their literary efforts. Cousin Robert eventually rose by 1911 to become a First Class Assistant in the Department of Printed Books in the British Museum.

In 1895, literary works such as 'Mountain Lovers' and 'Pharais' signalled a dramatic change in William's's life with noticeable energy being shown in his writing as reported by readers and critics alike. It was through these fictional characters that most of his financial success came as a writer. Wide distribution of his works at home and abroad eventually established him as a genius of his era.

William had an interesting relationship with W. B. Yeats during the 1890s concerning Celtic Revival. Yeats initially found 'MacLeod' acceptable and 'Sharp' not! Very, very few learned of this dual identity until after William's death in 1905.

On occasions when it was necessary for 'Fiona MacLeod' to write to someone unaware of the dual identity, William would dictate texts to his sister (Mary Beatrice Sharp), whose handwriting would then be passed off as 'Fiona's' manuscript. Also during his 'MacLeod' period, William was a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

William's health started to fail more and more after the turn of the century, and overwork and anxiety contributed to his accelerating journey to the grave .... and peace at last for mind and body. Again, seeking remission, and after a fond farewell to his mother, he and Elizabeth took refuge in Sicily, and it was there in 1905 that he died and was buried at Castello di Maniace.

His widowed mother was grief-stricken, and she followed her husband and eldest son to the grave in 1908.

In 1911 and 1912, his widow Elizabeth published, in two volumes, a biographical memoir, that among other things, not only provides an explanation of the creative necessity lying behind William's identity deception, but also her edited versions of many of his works. Living independently and comfortably, widow Elizabeth survived her eminent husband for twenty-seven years after his passing.


Volume One - 'Pharais And The Mountain Lovers' by Elizabeth Amelia Sharp - 1911

The Mountain Lovers.pdf

Chapter 1 The Pseudonym
Chapter 2 The Mountain Lovers
Chapter 3 The Washer At The Ford
Chapter 4 Green Fire
Chapter 5 From the Hills of Dream
Chapter 6 Wives in Excile
Chapter 7 Dominion of Dreams
Chapter 8 The Devine Adventure
Chapter 9 Provence
Chapter 10 Lismore
Chapter 11 Winter in Athens
Chapter 12 The Winged Destiny
Chapter 13 Year 1905
Chapter 14 Conclusion

Additional Information can be found here

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