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Joanna Baillie's 256th birthday! (11 September 1762 - 23 February 1851)

"There is a friend and old schoolfellow of mine, who, after having been brought up in affluence and living in that state till within a few years of the present time, finds herself reduced to absolute poverty, a small yearly pittance excepted, which some of her friends have said they will allow her as long as they can afford to do so. She has four single daughters grown up, who, after having been brought up delicately, are now preparing to find situations in the world to do for themselves. In this state of things, as she is an estimable woman who has borne misfortune with great fortitude, and is liked and respected both in Scotland (for she is a Scotchwoman) and here, I have offered to edit for her advantage a collection of poems in one volume, to be published by subscription. I wish the collection to be composed chiefly of MSS., or such pieces as have only been printed privately, and I am anxious that it should be in itself a creditable book, that I may not be accused of altogether picking people’s pockets for the benefit of my friend. Ah! little did I think that she would ever stand in need of any such a service from me! For well I remember, when I was a schoolgirl in

Glasgow, her father’s house was the finest town house I had ever been in; and I looked at the livery servants and the set-out dinner, with all its jellies and whirli-gigs, and the dressed ladies playing at cards, etc., and scarcely knew how to behave myself." (FL 82–3)

In brief but deeply touching detail, Joanna Baillie explains the reasons behind what would later take the form of her A Collection of Poems, Chiefly Manuscript, and from Living Authors, published in April 1823. Today is a special day, and Thomas McLean's article "Donation and Collaboration: Joanna Baillie’s A Collection of Poems, Chiefly Manuscript, and From Living Authors, April 1823" is the best way to be reminded of the deeper social impact of a writer's textual legacy. In this context, McLean's purpose is to share the full story of Baillie's Collection, and approach it "as an innovative act of literary philanthropy." You can enjoy the full piece here:

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