Journal of a Lady of Quality

Journal of a Lady of Quality

Journal of a Lady of Quality

Journal of a Lady of Quality


Alexander and Janet Schaw, Scottish siblings, began a journey in 1774 that would take them from Edinburgh to the Caribbean Islands and then to America. Part of the early wave of Scottish colonization, the pair visited family and friends who had already established themselves in the colonies. Journal of a Lady of Quality is Janet Schaw's account of this voyage through letters to a friend in Scotland. The letters describe the sights, scenery, and social life she encountered, but they also reveal the political atmosphere of an America on the verge of revolution. Stephen Carl Arch provides a new introduction for this Bison Books edition.


Stephen Carl Arch

In 1904, while researching colonial history in the British Museum, Charles McLean Andrews and Evangeline Walker Andrews chanced upon Janet Schaw's long-forgotten, unpublished manuscript account of her travels. Their subsequent investigations into the manuscript and its history definitively established Schaw as the author of the unsigned narrative, provided background on some of the people and places she visited, and confirmed the historical significance of her account. Yet today, more than one hundred years later, we know little more about Janet Schaw than the Andrews did when they finally put Schaw's manuscript into print in 1923.

The known facts of Schaw's life can be gleaned for the most part from her narrative: in 1774, as an unmarried, approximately thirty-year-old woman of some education and fairly extensive reading, Janet Schaw accompanied her brother Alexander and the three adolescent children of John Rutherford, a family friend, from Scotland to the West Indies and then to North Carolina. Alexander was to take up a colonial appointment as a customs officer on the island of St. Christopher (St. Kitts); as it turned out, however, he continued on to North Carolina with Janet, and was then re-routed back to London carrying dispatches from the governor of North Carolina to the British government. The children who accompanied Schaw on her trip had completed their education in Scotland and were being delivered to their father, a Loyalist planter and former customs official who lived near Wilmington, North Carolina. Janet Schaw's other brother, Robert, a planter and businessman, also lived in Wilmington, so the second leg of her journey conveniently combined business and pleasure.

Though the book's first editors uncovered some information about Schaw's life, one mystery they did not solve was the iden-

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