The Highland Lady, Elizabeth Grant, was born in 1797 to the 9th Laird, John Peter and his wife Jane. She was the eldest of five children and spent her life travelling between Edinburgh, London, India and France before settling down in Ireland on the property of her husband, Colonel Henry Smith.
Elizabeth is remembered largely for journals, which were published after her death. She began to write her memoirs on her birthday in 1845 whilst she was on holiday in France. Elizabeth described this task as being able to “live again her early years”. In 1898, three years after her death her writings were first published as Memoirs of a Highland Lady. Even then this book was almost as popular as it is today, needing three reprints in the first year alone! Elizabeth began writing her journals in 1840 while living in Ireland and continued through to her death. The reasons she gives for writing such journals were to give advice and protection to her children through her text, to be able to share in her journal as she would a confidante, to amuse and distract her in her old age and to share with her husband. To historians, however, they became much more; providing evidence to help contribute to the understanding of the effects of the Irish potato famine on communities.
As well as recording her own life, Elizabeth often wrote articles and short stories which were published in the Victorian press, often anonymously. The additional income received from these articles may have contributed as much as 10% to her family income and certainly provided a lifeline, considering her father’s wayward spending! On one occasion, Elizabeth and her sister Mary received £40 for a collection of several short stories written during a long winter in The Doune. This income was able to pay the wages of several servants as well as some new shoes! Elizabeth was also very generous with her income, and she supported many local schools in Ireland.
If you are interested to read more about this fascinating woman, you can purchase the Memoirs of a Highland Lady from the Rothiemurchus Centre.