Grant, Anne (1755–1838)

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Grant, Anne (1755–1838)

Scottish poet, essayist, and writer. Name variations: Mrs. Grant of Laggan; Anne MacVicar. Born Anne MacVicar in Glasgow, Scotland, on February 21, 1755; died in Edinburgh on November 8, 1838; daughter of Duncan MacVicar (an army officer); married James Grant (an army chaplain), in 1779 (died 1801); children: twelve, eight reached adulthood but only one survived her.

Selected writings:

Poems (1802); Letters from the Mountain (1807); Memoirs of an American Lady: Sketches of Manners and Scenery in America as They Existed Previous to the Revolution (1808); Essays on the Superstitions of the Highlanders of Scotland (1811).

Anne Grant was born Anne MacVicar in Scotland in 1755. Two years later in 1757, when her father Duncan MacVicar obtained a commission in a British regiment stationed in America, she found herself uprooted to a foreign country. Settling in Albany, Anne Grant lived among Dutch and British colonists and spent a good deal of time with Catherine Van Rensselaer Schuyler , the wife of General Philip Schuyler.

On their return to Scotland in 1768, the MacVicars lived at Fort Augustus where Duncan was barrack master. In 1779, Anne married the chaplain of Fort Augustus, Reverend James Grant, and they immediately moved to the nearby town of Laggan, where he was assigned a church. In addition to singlehandedly running the family farm, Anne learned Gaelic and became an expert in Scottish folklore.

The sudden death of her husband in 1801 left Grant without residence or income since the ownership of the farm was connected to her husband's position. To raise money for her eight children, she followed the advice of friends and published a book by subscription. Her earnings from Poems allowed her to move to Stirling in 1803. Encouraged by this success, she continued to write and, in 1807, published Letters from the Mountain. Its rich descriptions of rural Scottish life brought her acclaim, although the book was less financially successful than her poems. In 1808, Grant published Memoirs of an American Lady: Sketches of Manners and Scenery in America as They Existed Previous to the Revolution. This book, which reminisced about her childhood in America, was also a tribute to Catherine Schuyler, her Albany companion.

By 1810, Grant had moved to Edinburgh. While the success of her book placed her well within Scottish literary circles where she cultivated friendships with Sir Walter Scott and Francis Jeffrey, her writing was not sufficiently successful to support her, and she took in boarders to supplement her income. Undaunted by her financial difficulties, Grant continued to write and published Essays on the Superstitions of the Highlanders of Scotland in 1811 and "Eighteen Hundred and Thirteen, a Poem" in 1814.

In 1820, a fall crippled Grant for the remainder of her days, and in 1826, with the help of Scott and several other friends, she secured a pension of £100 from the government, easing her life considerably. After her death of the flu in 1838, her son J.P. Grant edited and published Memoirs and Letters (1844) which provides additional autobiographical information to her previous works.

Judith C. Reveal , freelance writer, Greensboro, Maryland