March 11, 2008 02:44 PM
Who is the author of the letter? All evidence so far points to Baillie’s and Berry’s close friend, the sculptor and author Anne Seymour Damer (1749-1828). Damer, whose classically-inspired busts appear in the Louvre, the Uffizi, and the National Portrait Gallery, was born at Coombe Bank (or Combe Bank), near Sevenoaks, Kent, the seat of Damer’s mother’s family the Campbells. In 1813, Coombe Bank was the property of Damer’s uncle Lord Frederick Campbell, and it seems all but certain that this is the “Combanke” of the 1813 letter. The handwriting on a shorter letter at the Dunedin Public Library signed by Damer is a close match to the handwriting on the 16 August 1813 letter.
I hope to examine a few more Damer letters in the near future, in order to confirm this new identification. In the meantime, I offer my sincere regrets for the misattribution. I am just finishing two projects of interest to Baillie scholars: a complete chronology of Baillie’s letters (for Romantic Circles), and an edition of Further Letters of Joanna Baillie (for Fairleigh Dickinson University Press). Locating and studying the Dunedin letters started me on these two new projects, and they will, I hope, be some recompense for my earlier error.
University of Otago