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Sunday, 30 November 2008

Marjory Fleming Ancestry Fife Scotland


Marjory Fleming Ancestry, Fife, Scotland. In Abbotshall Kirkyard in Kirkcaldy stands a statue that was erected in 1930 to commemorate a little girl, Marjory Fleming, who died in 1811. Although Marjory lived for a mere 8 years and 11 months, her writings in prose and verse have, following the publication of some extracts by mid-19th-century essayists, endeared her to countless readers. The sculptor Pilkington Jackson depicted Pet Marjorie, as she was then erroneously termed, seated in a chair, with a quill pen in her right hand and a book in her lap. This book represents one of her journals, in which she wrote in an amusingly precocious way her thoughts and opinions on people and events and other topics that interested or affected her. Three short journals, which were probably written between March or April 1810 and April 1811, plus a few poems and letters, ensured her literary immortality. That she kept a journal at all was the result of her being sent away from her Kirkcaldy home in 1809 to stay with an aunt in Edinburgh. A possible reason for this separation was the arrival in that year of a younger sister. It may be that her poor mother, as Marjory revealingly refers to her, found her young Madgie to be too much of a handful. Certainly, Marjory was prone to tantrums, as when on her own admission she threw a book at her cousin Isa in a dreadful passion, or roared like a bull. "I confess that I have been more like a little young Devil when Isabella went to teach me religion and my multiplication and to be good and all my other lessons I stamped with my feet and threw my new hat which she made on the ground and was sulky and was dreadfully passionate." The Isabella, or Isa, referred to was an elder cousin, who had taken on the role of mentor and mother substitute for her cherished Miss Muff. As the following verse indicates, this devotion was reciprocated.

I love in Isas bed to lie
0 such a joy and luxury
The bottom of the bed I sleep
And with great care I myself keep
Oft I embrace her feet of lillys
But she has goton all the pillies (pillows)
Her neck I never can embrace
But I do hug her feet in place.

It was Isa indeed that encouraged Marjory to keep a journal in the first place, partly as an exercise to improve her writing and partly as a means of communicating with her parents. They in their turn were probably impressed by Isa's attention to religious instruction, which was reflected in Marjory's frequent religious and Biblical allusions and her self-admonitions on the need for repentance. Certainly her Victorian biographers admired this aspect of her writing, while censoring some of her more frank and exuberant expressions. To appreciate the charm and vivacity of Marjory's verse and prose, it is best to read her own delightfully inconsequential text, as transcribed vin Frank Sidgwick's The Complete Marjory Fleming (1934), regrettably out of print.

Contrary to Dr John Brown's famous essay on Pet Marjorie, there is no evidence that Sir Walter Scott ever met her. But Marjory was certainly acquainted with some of Scott's works. One of her last letters written after her return to Kirkcaldy in July 1811 referred to her favourite poem, hill valen (Scott's 'Helvellyn'). In her reply, Isa quoted from memory the entire poem, concluding with Marjory's favourite lines describing the sad death of 'the meek Mountain Lamb', Within a few weeks Marjory was seriously ill and, in consequence, unusually meek and patient. The last thing she wrote was a poem addressed to her beloved Isa. Four days later she was dead, probably as a result of meningitis following a serious bou of measles, which was then an all too often fatal illness.

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1 comment:

Katherine Carlson said...

I would like to add that Fleming's work was recently published by Mercat press, and is presumably still in print in that edition. A class I was leading was able to purchase copies in spring 2008.