Celebrating Scotland's 'forgotten Jane Austen' at Edinburgh hotel where she once lived
A celebration of Scotland’s “forgotten Jane Austen” is being held at an Edinburgh hotel that was once the townhouse where the author lived with her family.
Susan Ferrier, who published several well received novels in the early 19th century, but whose profile never truly lit up outside literary circles, once lived at 25 George Street in one of the townhouses that now makes up the InterContinental Edinburgh The George.
The hotel is now marking the hotel’s literary connections with a celebration of Susan Ferrier for Women’s History Month, with her book Marriage, published in 1818, made available to guests, along with works of other Scottish female writers.
Kieran Quinn, hotel general manager at InterContinental Edinburgh The George, said: “We are so proud of our historical ties to some of Scotland’s greatest literary experts, so it felt only right that we launched a new offering for guests to delve back into the work of those women who once stayed and were inspired by where we now call home and learn more about more modern Scottish female authors too.”
Ferrier came from society family with her father James, a writer to the Signet and a principal clerk of the Court of Session, where he was a colleague of Sir Walter Scott.
Like other female writers of the day, Ferrier wrote anonymously, although her identity became more widely known through time. She always continued to deny her work in public, however, and wrote in her memoir: “I will never avow myself … I could not bear the fuss of an authorism.”
Her anonymity came at a time when society considered it inappropriate for women to have a public role in their own right, with it considered more acceptable for women to support the ambitions of the men in their lives.
It was also unusual for ladies to engage in business. According to an article for the National Library of Scotland, it was common at the time for a publisher to buy the copyright of a novel outright, rather than agree to pay royalties.
But in Ferrier’s case, the publisher negotiated the copyright sales not with the author, but with her brother.
When she was an unknown author, Blackwoods offered £150 for her first novel Marriage, which tells the story of an English heiress who elopes with an impoverished Scot to a rundown castle in the Highlands.
By the time 'The Inheritance' was published in 1819, the fee offered to Ferrier had risen to £1,000.
The InterContinental The George has collaborated with Rare Birds Book Shop in Stockbridge to illuminate the work of Ferrier.
As well as a copy of Marriage, guests who buy the deal will also receive "beautifully packaged” copies of former Makar Jackie Kay’s debut novel Trumpet – a fictionalised chronicle of the life and death of transgender jazz artist Billy Tipton and Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
Rachel Wood, founder and owner Rare Birds Book Shop, which opened in 2017 to champion women’s writing, said: “There's nothing we love more than helping readers discover writing by women, and what better way to help visitors discover Edinburgh's rich literary history than by shining the spotlight on three brilliant Scottish writers, whose work has captured the imagination of readers around the world."