Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Davidson, Harriet Miller

DAVIDSON, HARRIET MILLER (1839–1883), authoress, was born at Cromarty in Scotland on 25 Nov. 1839. She was the second but eldest surviving child of Hugh Miller [q. v.], the distinguished geologist, and his wife Lydia Fraser, a lady of high culture and considerable literary power. She was a very beautiful and highly gifted child, with a remarkable gift of improvisation in verse and song, reminding some of her friends of Scott's ‘Pet Marjory.’ Educated at Edinburgh and London, she was barely seventeen at the time of her father's death in 1856, which caused a shock from which she never completely recovered. In 1863 she married the Rev. John Davidson, minister of the Free church of Scotland at Langholm in Dumfriesshire. In 1869, her husband having been appointed minister of Chalmers's Church in Adelaide, South Australia, she removed thither, and very soon made a strong impression by her bright social qualities among Adelaide friends. When Mr. Davidson was appointed to the chair of English literature and mental philosophy, the new sphere seemed not less appropriate for Mrs. Davidson than it was for him. But even before his death, which took place in 1881, his wife had been in a precarious state of health, and from 1880 she was a confirmed invalid. She died on 20 Dec. 1883.

Mrs. Davidson's literary work began with several fugitive poems published in local journals. Her first book was ‘Isobel Jardine's History,’ a temperance tale, published under the auspices of the Scottish Temperance League. This story has been very popular, and has run through several editions. ‘Christian Osborne's Friends’ followed, a story suggesting several references to her own hardy seafaring ancestors. In Adelaide she became a contributor to the local newspapers, and her articles, poems, and stories were looked for and read with admiration by a large class of readers up to a short time before her death. Among these stories one entitled ‘A Man of Genius’ was considered by her the best of her prose writings. ‘Sir Gilbert's Children,’ the last of her stories, was left unfinished, but completed from her instructions to a friend. She was also a contributor to ‘Chambers's Journal,’ where ‘Daisy's Choice’ appeared in 1870, and ‘The Hamiltons,’ a story of Australian life, in 1878. Her poems were never collected, but many of them had great merit. A poem on summer attracted the friendly notice of Canon Kingsley at the time it was published.

[The Australian Register; Dr. Peter Bayne's Life and Letters of Hugh Miller; private information from her brother, Hugh Miller, esq., of the Geological Survey for Scotland.]

W. G. B.