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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

X. Burns

§ 18. Lady Anne Lindsay of Balcarres; Susanna Blamire; Mrs. Grant of Carron; Mrs. Grant of Laggan; Elizabeth Hamilton; Mrs. John Hunter; Mrs. Maclehose (“Clarinda”)

The very popular sentimental song Auld Robin Gray, which first appeared in a very imperfect form in Herbert Croft’s novel Love and Madness (1780), and, afterwards, in volume III of Johnson’s Museum, was written by Lady Anne Lindsay of Balcarres (afterwards Lady Anne Barnard) as words to the air of an old song The Bridegroom Greets [weeps] When the Sun gae’s doon, sung by a much older lady at Balcarres, who “did not,” says Lady Anne, “object to its having improper words.” A version revised by Lady Anne, with a continuation, was, in 1829, edited for the Bannatyne club by Sir Walter Scott, who was also entrusted with other poems and songs by Lady Anne and other members of the Lindsay family for publication; but the permission to publish was, afterwards, withdrawn. The only other piece known to be by Lady Anne is a short poem in The Scots Magazine for May, 1805, Why Tarries My Love. Susanna Blamire, the “muse of Cumberland,” though of English descent and birth, spent much time in Scotland, owing to her elder sister’s marriage to colonel Graham, of Gartmore, and became specially interested in old Scottish songs and airs. To Johnson’s Museum, she contributed two songs, somewhat in the Scottish style: What ails this heart of Mine, and the better known And Ye shall walk in Silk Attire; and her Nabob is a kind of parody of Auld Lang Syne. Mrs. Grant of Carron (afterwards Mrs. Murray of Bath) is the authoress of the sprightly Roy’s Wife of Aldivalloch, admirably suited to the air The Ruffians Rant, to which it is set. It appeared in volume III of Johnson’s Museum (1792); and, some time after its publication there, Burns, in his long critical letter to Thomson, of September, 1793, thus refers to it:

  • I have the original, set as well as written by the Lady who composed it [it was probably sent to the editor of Johnson’s Museum after the publication of the song there], and it is superior to anything the public has yet seen;
  • but this version of the song has disappeared. Mrs. Grant of Laggan, authoress of Letters from the Mountains, 1806, published, in 1803, a volume of Poems, and, in 1814, Eighteen hundred and Thirteen a Poem; but only her song, O Where tell me Where, has escaped oblivion. Elizabeth Hamilton, authoress of the Scottish tale The Cottagers of Glenburnie and other works, is known as the writer of only one song, the simple and homely, but very happily expressed, My Ain Fireside. Mrs. John Hunter, wife of the famous anatomical professor, published a volume of Poems in 1802. Her song, Adieu Ye Streams that Swiftly Glide, appeared in The Lark, in 1765, as a proposed setting to the old air The Flowers of the Forest, and it is the third set to that tune in volume I of Johnson’s Museum; but, of course, it is quite overshadowed by the first two versions, by Mrs. Cockburn and Jane Elliot respectively; and she is now mainly remembered by her My Mother bids me bind my hair, which was set to music by Haydn. Burns sent to Johnson’s Museum two songs by Mrs. Maclehose (“Clarinda”), Talk not of Love and To a Black-bird. They are quite as good as most of the sentimental English lyrics of the period; but it was mere flattery on his part to assert of the former that the latter half of its first stanza “would have been worthy of Sappho.”