Joanna BaillieUK

Joanna Baillie Bio, Biography, Parents, Siblings, Death and Cause, Plays, Poets, Legacy, Google Doodle, 256th Birthday

11th September 2018, Google Doodle honours, Joanna Baillie, a Scottish playwright and poet on what would have been her 256th Birthday.

Joanna Baillie Biography

Joanna Baillie Bio

Joanna Baillie was born on 11th September 1762 in Bothwell, United Kingdom and died on 23 February 1851 aged 88. She was a Scottish playwright and poet, once compared to Shakespeare. Her parents were Revd James Baillie (c.1722–1778)-father, who had recently been appointed minister at Bothwell, and her mother, Dorothea Hunter (c.1721–1806). The Baillies traced their lineage back to the Scottish patriot William Wallace, and Joanna’s mother was a sister of the physician William Hunter and the surgeon John Hunter. Joanna was the last born in a family of three children; she had had a twin sister, but this child had died unnamed a few hours after her birth.

Born 11 September 1762 in Bothwell, United Kingdom
Died 23 February 1851 (aged 88) in Hampstead, United Kingdom
  • Revd James Baillie (c.1722–1778) – Father
  • Dorothea Hunter (c.1721–1806) – Mother
  •  Matthew Baillie (1761–1823)
  • Agnes (1760–1861
Occupation Playwright, Poet
Nationality Scottish
Period 1790–1849
Notable works Plays on the Passions
Google Doodle 11th September 2018, Google Doodle honours, Joanna Baillie, a Scottish playwright and poet on what would have been her 256th Birthday. Happy Birthday Joanna Baillie.

Joanna Baillie Legacy

Financially independent herself, Joanna Baillie customarily gave half her earnings from her writings to charity and engaged in many philanthropic activities. Few women writers have received such universal commendation for their personal qualities and literary prowess as Joanna Baillie. Her intelligence and integrity were allied to a modest demeanour which made her, for many, the epitome of a Christian gentlewoman.
She was on friendly terms with all the leading women writers of her time. Maria Edgeworth, recording a visit in 1818, summed up her appeal for many:

“Both Joanna and her sister have most agreeable and new conversation, not old, trumpery literature over again and reviews, but new circumstances worth telling, apropos to every subject that is touched upon; frank observations on character, without either ill-nature or the fear of committing themselves; no blue-stocking tittle-tattle, or habits of worshipping or being worshipped.”

Joanna Baillie offered the literary world a new way of looking at drama and poetry. Poets revered her on both sides of the Atlantic, many of her contemporaries placed her above all women poets except Sappho. According to Harriet Martineau, she had ‘enjoyed fame almost without parallel, and … been told every day for years, through every possible channel, that she was second only to Shakespeare’ (Martineau 358). At one time her works were translated into Cingalese and German and were performed widely in both the United States and Great Britain.

In the 1830s, Joanna Baillie met with Martineau that fame seemed to belong to a bygone era. There were no revivals of her plays in the nineteenth or twentieth centuries; and yet, as psychological studies, her tragedies would seem very suited to the intimacy of television or film. It was not until the late twentieth century that critics began to recognize the extent to which her intimate depictions of the human psyche influenced Romantic literature. Scholars now recognize her importance as an innovator on the stage and as a dramatic theorist, and critics and literary historians of the Romantic period concerned with reassessing the place of women writers are acknowledging her significance.

Joanna Baillie was great friends with Lady Byron. This friendship led her to be close friends and colleagues with Lord Byron as well. Lord Byron even attempted to get one of her plays to be performed at Drury Lane, sadly to no avail (Slagle 343). Their friendship continued until a domestic division arose between Lord and Lady Byron, leaving Baillie to take the side of her friend. After this, she was more critical of Lord Byron and his work, calling his characters “untrue to nature and morally bankrupt” (Brewer 180). While they were still polite to each other as literary contemporaries, their friendship was never the same.

One of the people Joanna Baillie corresponded the most with was Sir Walter Scott. The two of them wrote enough letters to each other to fill a decently sized volume. Scott appreciated and supported Baillie as a literary contemporary, but their relationship did not stop there. Their letters are full of personal details and conversations about their families. While they both respected each other’s work, their friendship was more profound than just professional (Slagle).

See Joanna Baillie’s Dramatic and Poetical Works (London, 1851).

A Royal Society of Arts commemorates Baillie at Bolton House on Windmill Hill, Hampstead.

Joanna Baillie Google Doodle

On 11th September 2018, Google Doodle honoured, Joanna Baillie, the Scottish playwright and poet on what would have been her 256th Birthday. Happy Birthday Joanna Baillie.

Joanna Baillie Google Doodle
Joanna Baillie Google Doodle

Joanna Baillie Poetry

  • 1790 • Baillie’s first publication: Poems: Wherein it is Attempted to Describe Certain Views of Nature and Rustic Manners. Baillie later revised a selection of these early poems which were reprinted in her Fugitive Verses (1840).
  • 1821 • Metrical Legends of Exalted Characters
  • 1836 • three volumes of Dramatic Poetry
  • 1840 • encouraged by her old friend the banker poet Samuel Rogers, Baillie issued a new collection, Fugitive Verses, some of which were old and some recently written. It was generally agreed that her popular songs, especially those in Scots dialect, would live on.
  • 1849 • Baillie published the poem Ahalya Baee for private circulation [subsequently published as Allahabad (1904)].

Joanna Baillie Plays

  • 1790 • a tragedy, Arnold, which was never published. • ‘a serious comedy’ which was later burnt. • Rayner was written, though it was heavily revised before it was published in Miscellaneous Plays (1804).
  • 1791 • Plays on the Passions first conceived.
  • 1798 • the first volume of Plays on the Passions published anonymously under the title of A Series of Plays. Volume 1 consisted of Count Basil, a tragedy on love, The Tryal, a comedy on love, and De Monfort, a tragedy on hatred.
  • 1800 • De Monfort was produced at Drury Lane with John Kemble and Sarah Siddons in the leading parts. Splendidly staged, the play ran for eight nights but was not a theatrical success. Henriquez and The Separation were coldly received.
  • 1802 • second volume of Plays on the Passions published under Joanna Baillie’s name, with a preface which acknowledged the reception given to volume one: ‘praise mixed with a considerable portion of censure’. Volume 2 consisted of The Election, a comedy on hatred, Ethwald, a tragedy in two parts on ambition, and The Second Marriage, a comedy on ambition. Baillie herself was of the opinion that these plays, especially Ethwald, exemplified her best writing.
  • 1804 • published a volume entitled Miscellaneous Plays: the tragedies Rayner and Constantine Paleologus, and a comedy, The Country Inn.
  • 1810 • the Scottish-themed Family Legend, produced at Edinburgh under the enthusiastic patronage of Sir Walter Scott, had a brief though brilliant success. It included a prologue by Scott and an epilogue by Henry Mackenzie. Its success encouraged the managers of the Edinburgh theatre to revive De Monfort, which was also well received.
  • 1812 • third and final volume of Plays on the Passions published. It consisted of two gothic tragedies, Orra, and The-Dream, a comedy, The Siege, and a serious musical drama, The Beacon. The tragedies and comedy represented the passion of Fear, while the musical drama represented Hope.
  • 1815 • The Family Legend produced at Drury Lane, London.
  • 1821 • De Monfort produced at Drury Lane, London, with Edmund Kean in the title role. • Constantine Paleologus, though written with John Kemble and Sarah Siddons in mind, was declined by Drury Lane. It was produced at the Surrey Theatre as a melodrama, Constantine and Valeria, and, in its original form, at Liverpool, Dublin, and Edinburgh.
  • 1836 • three volumes of Miscellaneous Plays published. They included, along with nine other new plays, the continuation of Plays on the Passions promised earlier: a tragedy and comedy on jealousy and a tragedy on remorse. Their publication created a stir, and critics were almost universally enthusiastic and welcoming. Fraser’s Magazine declared: ‘Had we heard that a MS play of Shakespeare’s, or an early, but missing, a novel of Scott’s, had been discovered and was already in the press, the information could not have been more welcome’ (Fraser’s Magazine, 236).

Joanna Baillie Death and Cause

Joanna Baillie was anxious that all her works with the exception of her theological pamphlet  be collected in a single volume, and had the satisfaction of seeing this ‘great monster book’ as she called it, which appeared in 1851, shortly before she died. She had remained in good health until the end. She died 23 February 1851 (aged 88) in Hampstead, United Kingdom. Her sister, Agnes, lived on to be 100. Both sisters were buried alongside their mother in Hampstead parish churchyard, and in 1899 a sixteen-foot-high memorial was erected in Joanna Baillie’s memory in the churchyard of her birthplace at Bothwell.”


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