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  • Susan Stoderl

Women Writers Through History | Margaret Calderwood | A Very Witty Scottish Diarist

Portrait of Margaret Calderwood
Highly Entertaining and Shrewd Travel Diaries

Margaret Calderwood (1715–1774) was a Scottish diarist who wrote about her journeys through England to Brussels after the Jacobite rising of 1745. Her diaries include observations on contemporary transport, food and water, fuel, money, agriculture, religion, and education. They are quite entertaining and witty to read. The difference between 18th-century Scottish words and spellings is negligible to understanding what she wrote.

It had been eleven years since Sir James Stuart last saw his younger sister, Margaret Calderwood. In the summer of 1756, she set out from Edinburgh, accompanied by her husband, two sons, and two servants. Their final destination was to be Liège, Belgium. They traveled by horse-drawn coach to London, continuing to Harwich, then by ship to Rotterdam. While traveling, she met a Miss Dondie, whom she described with quite a tongue.


“…. Miss Dondie was a girl about eighteen, not ill-lookt, quite a cockney, she has exactly the voice of the stage, and might be made a player, had she as much sense or feeling as to enter into the spirit of her part.”

In another passage, she described another two passengers, by this time both getting seasick.

“Marinasa the opera dancer was in the company, and a companion of his, a Swiss, who was either a singer or a dancer, we could not know which, for he sung very ill, and did not look as if he could dance. This poor Italian applyed to the doctor for a few of his drops, which after taking, he fell sick, took his bed, and did not get up again till he was within smell of land; we all thought he would have died outright.”

The Maitland Club initially circulated her diaries in 1842 and republished them more widely in 1884. The diaries are worth the effort to find them.


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