Memoirs of a Highland Lady: Resentment and Recovery


Had I been left in quiet, to time—my own sense of duty, my conviction of having acted rightly, a natural spring of cheerfulness, with occupation, change, etc., all would have acted together to restore lost peace of mind, and the lesson, severe as it was, would have certainly worked for good, had it even done no more than to have sobered a too sanguine disposition. Had my father’s judicious silence been observed by all, how much happier would it have been for every one. Miss Elphick returned to us in June, and I fancy received from my Mother her version of my delinquencies, for what I had to endure in the shape of rubs, snubs, and sneers and other impertinences, no impulsive temper suh as mine could possibly have put up with. My poor Mother dealt too much in the hard hit line herself, and she worried me with another odious lover. Defenceless from being blameable, for I should have entered into no engagement unsanctioned, I had only to bear in silence this never ending series of irritations. Between them, I do think they crazed me. My own faults slid into the shade comfortably shrouded behind the cruelties of which I was the victim, and all my corruption rising, I actually in sober earnest formed a deliberate plan to punish my principal oppressor—not Miss Elphick, she could get a slap or two very well by the way. My resolve was to wound my Mother where she was most vulnerable, to tantalize her with the hope of what she most wished for, and then to disappoint her. I am ashamed now to think of the state of mind I was in; I was astray indeed with none to guide me, and I suffered for it, but I caused suffering, and that satisfied me. It was many a year yet before my rebellious spirit learned to kiss the rod.

Our first three weeks at home [Doune] were very quiet, no company arriving, and my father being absent at Inverness, Forres, Garmouth, etc. on business. We had all our humble friends to see, all our favourite spots to visit. To me the repose was delightful, and had I been spared all those unkind jibes, my irritated feelings might have calmed down and softened my temper; exasperated as they continually were by the most cutting allusions, the persuasion that I had been most unjustly treated and was now suffering unjustly for the faults of others, grew day by day stronger and stronger, and estranged me completely from those of the family who so perpetually annoyed me. Enough of this. So it was, so it ever was, blame me who will.

[Edinburgh] A long illness beginning with a cold confined me there during the early part of the winter, and when I began to recover I was so weakened dear and kind Dr Gordon, who had attended me with the affection of a brother, positively forbade all hot rooms and late hours. It was a sentence I would have bribed him to pronounce, for I was sick of those everlasting gaieties, and with his encouragement and the assistance of a few other friends I was making for my self, I was able to find employment for time infinitely more agreeable than that round of frivolous company… My Mother did not at all approve of this secluded life. In heart she loved both dress and visiting; besides, she did not wish it to be thought that I was breaking my heart, or had had it broken by cruel parents. Spectre as I was, she really believed half my illness feigned.

By the end of February, this winter of 1816, I was able to indulge my Mother with my company even to a Ball or two. Though received by the world with as much indulgence as before, I had the prudence to dance little, generally sitting by Mrs Rose… There was one I seldom refused—no lover, but a most true and agreeable friend, the best dancer in Edinburgh, Campbell Riddell, who, the a younger son and very little likely to make a living at the Bar, a profession quite unsuitable to him, was the favourite of all the belles, and more than tolerated by the mothers. We were very happy, he and I, together, I was hardly so intimate with any other young man, and long years after when we met in Ceylon we both recollected with equal pleasure the days of our innocent flirtation.


Atholl Crescent in Edinburgh

Another friend I made this year who remembered to ask about me very lately, Adam Hay, now Sir Adam. He was Sir John Hay’s third son when I knew him. John died. Robert the very handsome sailor was drowned, so the Baronetcy fell to Adam… Adam Hay tried to shake my integrity; he advocated as he thought, the cause of his dearest friend, whose mother, dear excellent woman, having died, their sophistry persuaded them so had my promise. We had many grave conversations on a sad subject, while people thought we were arranging our matrimonial excursion. He told me I was blamed, and I told him I must bear it; I did add one day, it was no easy burden, he should not seek to make it heavier. His own sister, some time after this succeeded to my place; lovely and most loveable she was, and truly loved I do believe. Adam Hay told me of it when he first knew it, long afterwards, and I said, so best; yet the end was not yet. I had never had female friends, I don’t know why; I never took to them unless they were quite elderly.

Note: Sir Adam Hay was M.P. for Linlithgow burghs (1826-30). This tantalizing hint as to the identity of E.G.’s lover), alas does not appear to fit any of his four married sisters.

From Wikipedia:

Sir Adam Hay, 7th Baronet (14 December 1795-18 January 1867) was a Scottish baronet and politician.

He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Lanark Burghs from 1826 to 1830.

He was the brother of Sir John Hay, 6th Baronet (1788-1838).

He lived at 12 Atholl Crescent in Edinburgh’s West End.

From Wikipedia:

Campbell Drummond Riddell (9 January 1796 – 1858) was an Australian Colonial public servant who served as Colonial Treasurer.

Riddell was the son of Thomas Milles Riddell (d.1796) and Margaretta, née Campbell. He was the grandson of Sir James Riddell Bt who was created first baronet, of Ardnamurchan, Argyllshire, Scotland.

He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, but he did not take a degree. Upon joining the Colonial Service he served in Ceylon, where he met and married his wife, and later in Sydney, New South Wales where he served as the Colonial Treasurer.

After retiring from the colonial service he was appointed to the New South Wales Legislative Council. He also served as President of the Australian Club.

He died in England in 1858.

Memoirs of a Highland Lady

‘I was born on the 7th May 1797 of a Sunday evening at No. 5 N. side of Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, in my father’s own lately built house and I am the eldest of five children he and my mother raised to maturity.’ Thus opens one of the most famous set of memoirs ever written. Since its first bowdlerised edition in 1898, they have been consistently in print. This is the first ever complete text. Written between 1845 and 1854 the memoirs were originally intended simply for Elizabeth’s family, but these vivid and inimitable records of life in the early 19th century, and above all on the great Rothiemurchus estate, full of sharp observation and wit, form an unforgettable picture of her time. The story ends with the thirty-three-year-old Elizabeth finding her own future happiness in marriage to an Irish landowner, Colonel Smith of Baltiboys. ‘A masterpiece of historical and personal recall.’ Scotsman


Memoirs of a Highland Lady

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