Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Brunton, Mary

BRUNTON, MARY (1778–1818), novelist, was daughter of Colonel Thomas Balfour of Elwick. Her mother was the daughter of Colonel Ligonier. Mary Balfour was born in the island of Barra, Orkney, on 1 Nov. 1778. Her early education was irregular, but the girl learned music, French, and Italian. From her sixteenth to her twentieth year she managed her father’s household. About l79Sshe married the Rev. Alexander Brunton, and settled in the parsonage of Bolton, near Haddington. The young couple studied together philosophy and history. In 1803 they went to live in Edinburgh. In 1810 Mrs. Brunton’s first novel, ‘Self-Control,' was published; it was dedicated to Joanna Baillie, and the circumstance led to a pleasant and lifelong intercourse. The book had a marked success. A second novel, ‘Discipline,' appeared in December 1814. In a letter to her brother, while acknowledging that she loved ‘money dearly,’ she declares that her great purpose had been ‘to procure admission for the religion of a sound mind and of the Bible where it cannot find access in any other form.' The repairing of the Tron Church in 1815 gave Dr. Brunton and his wife an opportunity for a visit to London and to the south-west of England. She now projected a series of domestic tales, and made considerable progress with one called 'Emmeline.' But after giving birth to a stillborn son on 7 Dec., she was attacked by fever, and died 19 Dec. 1818. A life of Brunton, with selections from her correspondence, her two novels, the unfinished story of ‘Emmeline,' and some other literary remains, were published by her husband in 1819. ‘Self-Control’ and ‘Discipline’ were republished in Bentley’s Standard Novels in 1832, and in cheap editions in 1837 and 1852. A French translation of ‘ Self-Control ’ appeared in Paris in 1829.

Alexander Brunton, Mrs. Brunton’s biographer, was born at Edinburgh in 1772, and became minister of Bolton in 1797, of the New Greyfriars, Edinburgh, in 1803, and of the Tron Church in 1809. He was professor of oriental languages in the university of Edinburgh, and dizgei) Feb. 1854. His works are : ‘Sermons and Lecturwf Edinburgh, 1818; ‘Persian Grammar,’ Edinburgh, 1822.

[The Biographical Memoir mentioned above; Quéard's La Littérature Française Contemporaine, Paris, 1846, t. ll, 461 ; Blackwood's Magazine, v. 183.]

W. E. A. A.