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  • Susan Stoderl

Women Writers Through History | Scottish Writer Susan Carnegie

Portrait of Susan Carnegie
Some Similarities with Gabaldon's "Outlander"

This Scottish women writer had a few similarities to Outlander’s Clare and Jamie. Like Clare, Susan Carnegie, née Scott, although not a doctor, showed a deep concern for the health of her fellow citizens. She was a founder and benefactor of the Montrose Asylum, the first public asylum in Scotland, which opened in 1781. It was also one of the first to use a compassionate approach to the insane. Her husband, George Carnegie, fought in the Jacobite rising of 1745 and was in exile after the Battle of Culloden, as was Jamie in Outlander.


Carnegie was fluent in French and Italian and was an artist and poet. Her intellectual interests extended to economics and society. Influenced by Rousseau, she advocated for equal educational opportunities for women and rejected the notion that women were intellectually inferior to men.


Her philanthropy extended to founding the Montrose Female Friendly Society in 1808, organizing poor relief in her local church, and establishing a local savings bank in 1815.


She published poetry under the pseudonym Juliette North. One, entitled “A Vision,” Terpsichore, one of the nine Muses, appears to the writer and refers to her as her protectress. She promises to be her attendant and instructress. In “On Light,” Carnegie imitates the style of Milton. And in a third, although she doesn’t write in blank verse, in “On the Approach of Winter,” she imitates James Thomson’s “The Seasons” in its imagery and diction. Another published poem from 1820 is “Dunnottar Castle: a poem.”


Ms. Carnegie was also a prolific writer of correspondence and memorabilia, an ongoing diary in many volumes. One of her chief correspondents was the poet and philosopher James Beattie to whom she wrote under the pseudonym Arethusa. She made suggestions to Beattie’s poetry, which Beattie acknowledged in a letter to Sir William Forbes, on 8th January 1767. Referring to the poem, “The Hermit”, Beattie wrote:


“I wrote it at the desire of a young lady of this country, who has a taste both for poetry and music and wanted me to make words for a Scots tune called ‘Pentland Hills,’ of which she is very fond.” 

That young lady was Susan Carnegie or Arethusa. The University of Aberdeen houses these writings.


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