August 16th –Lady Nairne’s Birthday
Born in 1776, a contemporary of both Robbie Burns and Sir Walter Scott –Burns was 7 years older, Scott 5 years younger– Carolina Nairne was one of the great Scottish literary lights of the post Jacobite era.
Following the tradition of the 18th & 19th centuries –a tradition which dictated that while a lady might pursue an artistic career she should never do so under her own name– Lady Nairne was rarely, if ever, published under her own name during her lifetime. Instead, Lady Nairne (born Carolina Oliphant) was known as the Flower of Strathearn.
Born into a staunchly Jacobite family –both her father and grandfather fought at Culloden & Carolina herself was named in honor of the exiled Charles Stuart– Carolina’s work, like her life, would bridge two eras. As a writer and lyricist Carolina wrote about “the wild rose & the jessamine” & the “burnie doon” with a romantic affection, but she also wrote about those “whose warfare is ended, whose combat is over” with a sense of sober reflection. Her family’s dreams of a Jacobite restoration lingered through her childhood. But for all intents the Jacobite cause died before she was born. What remained was the culture and the stories –a culture that the British victors were attempting to eradicate.
It would become Carolina’s lifelong & very ladylike battle to keep the candle of Scottish narrative lit. Appropriately enough it would be Carolina’s efforts to keep Scottish culture alive that would help win her husband the restoration of his title –like many Jacobite sympathizers the Nairne family had lost titles and land in the 18th century– when Sir Walter Scott and King George IV informally negotiated the end of the Jacobite era as a political threat to the British government.
Considering the fact that many Burns’ Nights were still strictly “stag events” into the 20th century, it is perhaps appropriate on August 16th for the ladies to remember Lady Nairne, the Flower of Strathearn, one of the great Scottish literary lights of the 18th and 19th centuries.
(Carolina outlived both Robbie Burns and Sir Walter Scott. She died in 1845.)