Germaine Greer tribute to Elizabeth Melville

Germaine Greer. Picture: Getty

Germaine Greer. Picture: Getty

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A MEMORIAL to one of Scotland’s first female literary greats is to be unveiled by renowned feminist and broadcaster Germaine Greer.

The author of The Female Eunuch will unveil an inscribed flagstone in Makars’ Court to Lady Culross, Elizabeth Melville.

The 17th-century poet became Scotland’s first best-selling female author with the publication of her mini-epic, Ane Godlie Dreame, in 1603.

It was Professor Greer who revived interest in Melville by including her in an anthology of 17th century women’s verse, and the Australian academic has reserved a special affection for her ever since.

She said: “Elizabeth Melville embodies much of what is special about Scotland. She was a married woman who is known to history by her maiden name as was the Scottish practice.

“She wrote in English but hers is English as it is spoken by Scots. Her faith was the Scottish version of Calvinism. Shewas European rather than insular.”

Makars’ Court, in front of the Scottish Writers’ Museum, contains 38 inscribed flagstones but only six of them commemorate women.

The inscription from the Dreame will read: “Though tyrants threat, though Lyons rage and rore/ Defy them all, and feare not to win out.”

It will be unveiled on Saturday, June 21, at 11.30am, launching a day of events celebrating Melville.

Councillor Richard Lewis, the city’s culture and sport convener, said: “Elizabeth Melville was the first Scotswoman to see her work in print and it is only right that her work continues to inspire writers and readers everywhere.

“I can’t think of a more fitting tribute than to inscribe her name in the national literary monument that is Edinburgh’s Makars’ Court.”

Born in the late 1570s the daughter of leading courtier Sir James Melville of Halhill, her family had been friends to doomed Mary, Queen of Scots.

Elizabeth was a resolute opponent of the king’s ecclesiastical reform because she believed in a self-governing Kirk.

She became the earliest known Scottish woman writer to see her work in print when the Edinburgh publisher Robert Charteris issued the first edition of her masterpiece, a Calvinist re-imagining of the medieval Catholic dream-vision poem.