Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Calderwood, Margaret

CALDERWOOD, MARGARET (1715–1774), diarist, was a daughter of Sir James Steuart of Coltness, bart., and sometime solicitor-general for Scotland. She married in 1735 Thomas Calderwood of Polton, near Edinburgh. Her sister Agnes became the wife of Henry David, tenth earl of Buchan, and the mother of Henry Erskine, lord advocate, and of Thomas Erskine, the chancellor. Her brother, Sir James Steuart, was implicated to some extent in the rebellion of 1745, and was compelled to reside abroad, and it was with a view to affording him some comfort in his exile that Mrs. Calderwood joined him at Brussels in the year 1756. From the day of her departure from home she kept a careful journal and was in constant correspondence with her Scottish friends. The substance of both letters and journals was woven by herself into a continuous narrative and widely circulated among her acquaintance; but it remained in manuscript until the year 1842, when it was privately printed for the Maitland Club, and issued to its members under the title of the ‘Coltness Collections.’ In 1884 Colonel Fergusson re-edited the letters and journals, and they have thus become known to a larger circle. Mrs. Calderwood was a keen observer of men and things, and her remarks are shrewd and pointed, while her writings have additional value as preserving the Scottish words and idioms prevalent in her time in educated society. She herself seems to have been a poor linguist, but it would appear that she had studied mathematics under Professor Maclaurin, the friend of Newton, and she certainly exhibited much financial ability in the management of the family estates. Evidence of this skill is to be found in the fact that in eight years she largely increased their rental by judicious outlays, and the journal of her ‘factorship,’ presented to the farmers with a view to encouraging their enterprise, has not yet lost its value. Less successful was her attempt at novel writing, and it would appear that her reputation has not suffered by ‘The Adventures of Fanny Roberts’ remaining still unprinted. Mrs. Calderwood died in 1774, eight months after the death of her husband, having had two sons and one daughter, and in the issue of the last the estate of Polton is now vested.

[Letters and Journals of Mrs. Calderwood of Polton, edited by Lieut.-col. Alexander Fergusson, Edinburgh, 1884, 8vo; Coltness Collections. Maitland Club Publications, 1842, 4to.]

C. J. R.