Joanna Baillie

1762 - 1851

Joanna Baillie
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Joanna Baillie

Poet and dramatist. Baillie was born in Bothwell (South Lanarkshire), daughter of the Parish Minister. Her maternal uncles were the noted surgeons Dr. William Hunter (1718 - 1833) and Dr. John Hunter (1728 - 1893). In 1775, Baillie moved with her family to Glasgow when her father accepted the Chair of Divinity at the university there. Following the death of their father, Baillie moved with her sister to London to keep house for their brother, Matthew Baillie (1761 - 1823), a young doctor. Settling in Hampstead, her home became the centre of a brilliant literary circle and counted the likes of author Sir Walter Scott (1771 - 1832), and poets William Wordsworth and Lord Byron among her friends.

In 1790, Baillie published an anonymous volume called Fugitive Verses and in 1798, also anonymously, the first of her "plays on the passions", under the simple title of A Series of Plays. This book was highly successful and was followed by a second volume in 1802, a third in 1812. Her other works included Miscellaneous Plays (1804), the Family Legend (1810), published in Edinburgh under the patronage of Sir Walter Scott, and three volumes of Dramas (1836). While popular in print, Baillies plays were not successful on the stage.

She is also noted for her poems and songs, which included adaptations of the traditional.

Baillie died in Hampstead at the great age of 88, widely respected and well-liked.

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