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The Birtwhistles of Craven and Galloway

 

 

 

 

 

A review in the European Magazine in 1810 of her first published work, “Poems and Translations from the minor Greek Poets”, tells us that many of the translations had been carried out by Anna between the ages of 10 and 16, when her family had lived in Gatehouse of Fleet, where an uncle owned a cotton mill. These dates are  consistent with political letters bearing her father’s hallmark style of composition beginning to appear in the Dumfries Weekly Journal in December 1792, and a poem written by Anna  in  1807 which contains  the lines Nine summer suns have shone since by they side/O’er the rich bank of gentle Fleet I hung. Alexander Birtwhistle, the uncle who owned the Gatehouse cotton mill, had moved to Scotland in 1772, and was both the Provost of Gatehouse and the Captain of the Gatehouse Volunteers in 1798. This was one of the many local militias formed throughout Britain in response to a threatened invasion by the French. The painting below, which belongs to a Birtwhistle descendant, shows Anna’s aunt, Mrs Thomas Birtwhistle, presenting the colours to Anna’s uncle Alexander in Gatehouse in 1798. Anna and her mother are thought to be  two of the figures on the right of the picture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 21. Presentation of colours in 1798 to Alexander Birtwhistle,

Anna’s uncle, by her aunt, Mrs Thomas Birtwhistle

 

 

 

Many of the translations in “Poems and Translations” were of Odes of  Anacreon, and a footnote tells us that Anna had been attracted to the ancient Greek poet because of his contempt for wealth, hilarity and sportive homage to beauty. This would appear to be an accurate assessment of her own philosophy; when she later inherited considerable wealth,  she wrote to a friend that her relatives could not understand why she lived so modestly. Apart from the short period when married and living in Galloway, Anna does not appear to have lived in a family home, choosing to live with others, sometimes in London, and sometimes in the country.

 

 

 

 

 

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