restricted access 7. Scotland and the literary call to freedom in Mary Brunton’s fiction
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111 II: INDIVIDUAL WRITERS AND FREEDOM 7. Scotland and the literary call to freedom in Mary Brunton’s fiction1 MARÍA JESÚS LORENZO MODIA Mary Brunton (1778–1818) was born in the Orkneys, spent most of her life in Scotland, died in the city of Edinburgh, and published novels in which her country was a key issue. She has perhaps not been as overlooked as Mary McKerrow, her most recent biographer, suggests:2 all her works have been in print during the late twentieth century,3 and a new edition of her first novel was published as recently as 2014. Her literary production consists of three core novels: Self-Control (1811),4 Discipline (1815),5 and Emmeline (1818),6 a posthumous, unfinished text published by her husband as a tribute to her life, which was truncated following the birth of a stillborn son. Brunton’s place in the history of literature needs to be recognised, in that she occupies a prominent position in the formation and development of the so-called female novel. The degree of her literary success was also noteworthy, with her first novel going through three editions in the year of its publication; the book also commanded a high price, selling for twentyone shillings, compared to fifteen for Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.7 However, a further aspect of her work which requires consideration is Brunton’s role in the creation of a Scottish literary canon and the story of the nation, one which makes sense of Scotland’s relationship to England and thus to Great Britain (Ferris). In order to explore this issue, and how it was presented by an early nineteenth-century Scottish female writer, the theoretical framework to be used will be that of post-colonialism, drawing particularly on the work of Edward Said (1991),8 Homi Bhabha (1994),9 and Patrick Parrinder (2006),10 as well as elements of gender studies, as in the work of Janet Todd (1989)11 and Elaine Showalter (1984),12 among others. As for the relationship between a writer and the nation to which he/she 112 claims to be ascribed, the issues proposed by Parrinder in Nation and Novel are those of descent, nationality, domicile (p. 3), but also those of language and ‘filiation,’ or ‘affiliation’ according to Edward Said (pp. 19–20). In terms of the situation of Scotland in this period, the above factors should be complemented with the concept of ‘cultural nation,’ as opposed to that of ‘nation state,’ discussed by Friedrich Meinecke in 1908,13 and re-elaborated by Kristan Kumar in The Making of the English National Identity (2003).14 Brunton’s contribution to the creation of the female Highland novel has already been studied by Sarah W. R. Smith, who considers her to be a writer inspired by Calvinism, one who contributed to the development of the role of women as active social agents pursuing economic independence as a social tool, for the benefit of both themselves and their families.15 Brunton has been seen as a novelist who, in contrast to Walter Scott, pays due attention to women, whose works ‘hold considerable political, social, and economic power, often by proxy for male leaders; she believably shows how the patriarchal and hierarchic society changes under post-Rebellion stresses’,16 and whose Highlanders are not only rural characters but leaders who are familiar both with the atmosphere of the capital of Scotland and that of the London metropolis, or even abroad.17 In contributing to the creation of the Scottish female novel genre, and to the national tale, as Andrew Monnickendam put it in The Novels of Sir Walter Scott and his Literary Relations,18 Brunton was accompanied by other novelists and essay writers, these including Elizabeth Hamilton (1758–1816), who shared with her a moderate, progressive interest in transforming national domestic agendas, particularly poverty and educational reform,19 and was followed by others, such as Jane Porter (1776–1850), Christian Isobel Johnstone (1781–1857), and Susan Ferrier (1782–1854), all of them labelled ‘The Other Great Unknowns’ by Carol Anderson and Aileen M. Riddell.20 Brunton was moderately well received by her fellow writers and contemporary critics, in particular in post-Enlightenment Edinburgh, which was a centre of intellectual activity. One indication of her literary relations is the dedication of Self-Control to the London based Scottish writer Joanna Baillie (1762–1851), who later paid tribute to Brunton’s memory with the following obituary: maría jesús lorenzo...