Fleming, Margaret (1803–1811)

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Fleming, Margaret (1803–1811)

British writer. Name variations: Marjory, Marjorie, or Marjarie. Born on January 15, 1803; died at age eight of measles on December 19, 1811; daughter of James Fleming of Kirkcaldy, Scotland.

Although she lived only a brief span of eight years, Margaret Fleming is remembered for her charming diary, in which, as noted by Mary Jane Moffat and Charlotte Painter , she "wrote of the difficulties of achieving an ideal of feminine goodness even before she had learned to punctuate." Fleming's daily writing assignments were imposed by her cousin and tutor Isabella Keith , who also served as the paradigm of virtue little Margaret aspired to. However, as might be expected, she frequently—and some might say delightfully—failed in her attempts at piety:

To Day I pronounced a
word which should never
come out of a ladys lips it was
that I called John a Impudent
Bitch and Isabella afterwards told
me that I should never say
it even in joke but she kindly
forgave me because I said
that I would not do it again.

In the Spring of 1911, the year of her untimely death, Margaret's thoughts turned to love:

Love I think is in the fashion for
every body is marrying there
is a new novel published named
selfcontroul a very good
maxam forsooth yesterday
a marrade man name Mr
John Balfour Esq offered
to kiss me, & offered to marry
me though the man was espused,
& his wife was present, &
said he must ask her permission
but he did not I
think he was ashamed or confounded
before 3 gentelman.

Following Margaret's death, her diary remained with her family until the 1850s, when it was edited and published by Dr. John Brown, as Pet Marjorie: A Story of Child Life Fifty Years Ago. Even though Margaret's original work was heavily censored in reproduction, she gained worldwide notoriety, and was the youngest subject listed in Sir Leslie Stephen's Dictionary of National Biography. Her childhood musings remain timeless and universal in their appeal.


Moffat, Mary Jane and Charlotte Painter, eds. Revelations: Diaries of Women. NY: Random House, 1974.

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