Memoirs of a Highland Lady: Further Hardships and Preparing for a Voyage

Jane’s marriage to Colonel Pennington, a much older man:

Jane was determined. She had argued the point in her own strong mind, decided it, and it was to be. Perhaps she was not wrong; the circumstances of the family were deplorable, there did not appear to be any hope of better days, for the girls at any rate, and we were no longer very young. So a very handsome trousseau was ordered, our great Uncle the Captain, kind old man, having left each of us £100 for the purpose, spent long before, I suppose, but Jane said she was entitled to it and so she got more than the worth of it, it added but a small sum to the vast amount of debt.

After Jane’s marriage, the Grants’ economic difficulties worsened. When their father lost his seat in Parliament to the Duke of Bedford’s son (according to Elizabeth Grant), he left Scotland to go to London and then abroad, with his son John.

Then came the news of his appointment to a judgeship in India—Bombay; Charles Grant, now Lord Glenelg, had done it, and we were desired to proceed to London immediately to prepare for the voyage. It was a blessing, and a shock—to me at least; every one else was rejoicing. Letters of congratulation came by every post. My poor mother smiled once more, and set about her preparations for removal with an alacrity that surprised us.

Preparing for a Voyage

There was a good deal to be done, for the house was to be left in a proper state to be let furnished with the shootings, a new and very profitable scheme for making money out of bare moors in the highlands. We were to take nothing with us but our wardrobes, all else was to be left for sale, and lists of the property left had to be made to prepare the way for the Auction. The stock and crop at the farm, the wine, the plate, the linen, the books, there was the rub, all and everything that was not furniture was to go, even what belonged to my sister and me, except a few pet treasures…

It was in August, early in the month; the weather was beautiful, the country looked lovely, the Spey sparkled under the sunshine, the wooded hills on either side stood as they stand now, and we watched the sun setting behind the Tor Alvie on that last day, without a tear. Mary and I had determined to be brave.


My father had been knighted, and was safe in France, with John. William had been in London and Edinburgh and I know not where else, and had returned to take charge of us.

We entered the carriage, never once looked back, never shed a tear, though the eyes sometimes filled, very gravely we made out those eight miles among those hills and woods, and heaths and lakes, and the dear Spey, all of which we had loved from childhood and which never again could be the same to any of us.

We travelled on thro’ the bleak hill road, and posting all the way reached Perth to dinner.

Here an unexpected difficulty met us. A coachmaker, not paid for some repairs done to the carriage at various times, seized it for a debt of £40… We were in despair, feeling how very little would upset our poor mother—it was the last straw… [A]fter a good night’s sleep we entered our redeemed carriage and drove on to Edinburgh. There the carriage was seized again and allowed to go; we wanted it no longer. We were much annoyed my brother and I by hosts of unpaid tradesmen, whom it was agreed that I should see, as they were likely to be more considerate with me—I, who could do nothing. William kept out of the way and we would not allow my Mother to be worried…

We were two beautiful days and two calm nights at sea; I recollect the voyage as agreeable…

We reached London, or rather Blackwall, in the afternoon, engaged two hackney coaches for ourselves and our luggage… and on we went to Dover Street, Piccadilly, where lodgings had been taken for us… Our imprudent father could not keep quiet; he was so well known he was followed once or twice, and being so short sighted he might have been seized but for the cleverness of the shop people. So it was resolved therefore to send him away, and on Sunday he and John steamed from the Tower stairs to Boulogne… I got on quickly with the necessary preparations. Most of those I had to deal with were so kind, and when Mrs Need had to go home good Mrs Gillio came daily to me; her daughter Isabella was going to Bombay under my mother’s care, so that our business was the same. She went with me to the docks to see the ships and arrange the cabins… The cabins were furnished, and all the linen of our wardrobes, gentlemen and ladies, supplied by an Outfitter in the Strand, and even our ordinary dresses the few that we required. I had only to get besides, shoes, stockings, gloves, books, stationery, all the little necessaries our toilettes and our occupations needed.

Every one was obliging except old Mr Churton, who had been the family’s hosier for years. My father sent me to him with the ready money order, a good large one, as some amends, the only one in his power at present, for old unpaid debts. He refused to have any dealings with it, caught up his long bills and a long story, and a grievance, with reflexions on my father’s conduct to him which it was not comfortable for his daughter to hear. I told the old cross crab what my father had told me, adding that this was sure money, and that we were going where he would soon save sufficient to pay all his creditors in full. He did not care, he wanted none of this money, nor any orders from the family, nor any speeches either; he wanted nothing but his rights. I had never met with such incivility, was quite unused to be so addressed. I got very faint and queer I fancy, for he seemed frightened and called his sister, who appeared distressed, told the ‘dear young lady’ not to mind and brought me a glass of wine. But I had recovered, and got grand, and would not touch it, swallowed my tears, and… walked out à la Princesse, leaving the ill conditioned old man making humble apologies to the air. It was very cruel in him to taunt a young girl with her parents’ delinquencies.

It was late in the September day—the 28th I remember it was, in the year 1827—nearly dark. We got into a good sailing boat and proceeded out to sea… In an hour we reached our huge ‘ocean home’; down came the chair, we were soon upon the deck, amid such confusion, all noise, all hubbub, all a dream, but not to last long, for the rumour grew in a moment that the wind has changed. The captain ordered the anchors up… We stood out to sea and beat about till nearly 10 o’clock, when a Jersey boat sighted our peculiar light, came alongside, and my father and both my brothers came on deck; a few moments were allowed for a few words. My father shut himself up with my Mother; John remained beside Mary and me. William, in an agony of grief I never saw equaled in any man, burst out of our Cabin. We watched the sound of the oars of the Jersey boat as it bore him from us, and then said Mary, pale as a corpse, but without a tear, ‘We are done with home.’ We got under weigh directly, and favoured by the wind, long before we waked from heavy slumbers, were out of reach of any silver oars.

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