Annie S. Swan
Annie S. Swan CBE
Swan in April 1905
|Born||Annie Shepherd Swan|
8 July 1859
Mountskip, Gorebridge, Scotland
|Died||17 June 1943 (aged 83)|
Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland
|Pen name||Annie S. Swan, Annie S. Smith, David Lyall, Mrs Burnett-Smith|
|Occupation||Writer, novelist, journalist|
|Genre||Fiction, dramatic fiction, romantic fiction, non-fiction, advice, feminism, politics, religion, social commentary|
|Notable works||Aldersyde (1884)|
|Spouse||James Burnett Smith (1883–1927)|
Annie Shepherd Swan (8 July 1859 – 17 June 1943) was a Scottish journalist, novelist and story writer, who wrote mainly under her maiden name, but also as David Lyall and later Mrs Burnett Smith. As a popular writer of romantic fiction for women, she published over 200 novels, serials, short stories and other fiction between 1878 and her death in 1943. She has been called "one of the most commercially successful popular novelists of the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries". Swan was politically active throughout her life: during the war effort of the First World War, as a suffragist, as a Liberal activist, and as a founder-member and vice-president of the Scottish National Party.
Swan was born on 8 June 1859 in Mountskip, Gorebridge, Scotland. She was one of the seven children of Edward Swan (died 1893), a farmer and merchant, by his first wife, Euphemia Brown (died 1881). After her father's business failed, she attended school in Edinburgh, latterly at the Queen Street Ladies College. Her father belonged to an Evangelical Union congregation, but she turned in adulthood to the Church of Scotland. She persistently wrote fiction as a teenager.
Her first publication was Wrongs Righted (1881), which appeared as a serial in The People's Friend. This periodical she long saw as the mainstay of her career, although she contributed to many others.
The novel that made her reputation was Aldersyde (1883), a romance set in the Scottish Borders, which was favourably reviewed. Swan received an autographed letter of appreciation from Lord Tennyson, while the prime minister, William Ewart Gladstone wrote in a letter to The Scotsman that he thought it as "beautiful as a work of art" for its "truly living sketches of Scottish character".
Later successes included The Gates of Eden (1887) and Maitland of Lauriston (1891). These owed a debt to the fiction of Margaret Oliphant, who was among her critics, accusing Swan's novels of presenting a stereotypical, unrealistic depiction of Scotland. In a review of Carlowrie (1884), Oliphant went so far as to say Swan "presented an entirely distorted view of Scottish life." Because of her dominance over Women at Home, editor-in-chief W.R. Nicoll often called it Annie Swan's Magazine. She later became editor of the magazine from 1893 to 1917. While writing for the British Weekly, she became acquainted with S. R. Crockett and J. M. Barrie, whose work like hers was given the unflattering epithet kailyard, an allusion to its parochialism and sentimentality.
By 1898, Swan had published over 30 books, primarily novels, many serially published. She also wrote poetry and stories, and books on advice, politics and religion. In 1901, The Juridical Review reported that Swan's books were the most favoured among female inmates in Irish prisons. In 1906, she was profiled in Helen Black's Notable Women Authors of the Day. She is named as the favourite novelist of William Morel's sweetheart Lily in D. H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers (1913).
Swan used her maiden name for most of her career, but occasionally the pseudonyms David Lyall and later Mrs Burnett Smith. She was also a respected public speaker involved in social and political causes such as the Temperance movement. She wrote books and novels on the suffragist movement in Britain, often under her David Lyall pen name, such as Margaret Holroyd: or, the Pioneers (1910). The novel took the form of interconnecting stories that followed a young suffragette, Margaret Holroyd, and dealt with many real problems faced by suffragettes and suffragists, such as disapproval from family and friends, fear of public speaking, physical exhaustion and ethical dilemmas in a rebellious and sometimes militant atmosphere.
Starting in 1924, Swan ran another penny weekly The Annie Swan Annual. She also wrote several popular novels during this time including The Last of the Laidlaws (1920), Closed Doors (1926) and The Pendulum (1926). After her husband's death in 1927, Swan returned to Scotland, settling in Gullane, East Lothian. In 1930, she received the CBE in recognition of her contribution to literature. She also remained involved in politics, becoming a founding member of the Scottish National Party and serving as its Vice President.
Swan married the schoolteacher James Burnett Smith (1857–1927) in 1883. They lived initially at Star of Markinch, Fife, where she became close friends with the Scottish theologian Robert Flint and his sister. They moved two years later to Morningside, Edinburgh, where Burnett Smith became a medical student, and in 1893 to London, where their two children, Effie (1893–1973) and Eddie (born 1896), were born.
While in London they became close friends and neighbours with writer Beatrice Harraden, as well as with Joseph and Emma Parker at a later date in Hampstead. After the family moved to Hertford in 1908, her son Eddie died in a shooting accident in September 1910.
Swan's autobiography My Life appeared in 1934 and was reprinted six times within a year of publication. Her final published work was an article for Homes and Gardens, "Testament of Age", in March 1943. She died of heart disease three months later at her home in Gullane on 17 June 1943. A collection of her personal correspondence, The Letters of Annie S. Swan (1945), was edited by Mildred Robertson Nicoll and published two years later.
During the First World War, Swan resigned her editorial position and volunteered for the British war effort. During the First World War she went to France on a morale-boosting tour and also worked with Belgian refugees. Swan visited the United States in January 1918 and again after the armistice at the end of the year. She met Herbert Hoover, then head of the U.S. Food Administration, and lectured on the necessity for conserving food on the American home front as well as informing the American public of Britain's wartime contributions. Two successful plays, Getting Together by John Hay Beith and The Better 'Ole by Bruce Bairnsfather, were written for the occasion. While in the United States, she also took the opportunity to write a book on the cultural differences between women in Britain and the United States entitled As Others See Her: An Englishwoman's Impressions of the American Woman in War Time (1919).
Swan was an active Liberal throughout her life, and became a well-known suffragist. Shortly after the passage of Representation of the People Act 1918 gave women the vote in Britain, she was the first female candidate when she stood unsuccessfully for the Maryhill division of Glasgow in the general election of 1922. There were only 32 female candidates across Britain at that general election, only two of whom were returned.
|Labour||John William Muir||13,058||47.3|
|Unionist||Sir William Mitchell-Thomson||10,951||39.6|
|Liberal||Annie Burnett Smith||3,617||13.1|
Following her defeat, the Women's Freedom League claimed that Swan and other female candidates would have been elected under the system of proportional representation seen in other European countries such as Ireland, Netherlands and Germany. She was also a founding member and one-time vice president of the Scottish National Party.
Her husband died in 1927, after which Swan and her daughter moved to Gullane, East Lothian. She was made a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1930 Birthday Honours for literary and public services. She died at her home in Gullane on 17 June 1943, aged 80.
In the years since her death, there has been little study of her life or work by literary historians. However, articles such as Edmond Gardiner's "Annie S. Swan – Forerunner of Modern Popular Fiction" (1974) and Charlotte Reid's "A Cursory of Inspection to Annie S. Swan" (1990) pointed out her literary contributions. Several of her novels have been reprinted in the last decade.
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- "Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood" (PDF). The Edinburgh Gazette. 6 June 1930. p. 651. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
- Beetham, Margaret. A Magazine of Her Own?: Domesticity and Desire in the Woman's Magazine, 1800-1914. London: Routledge, 1996. ISBN 0-415-04920-2
- Browning, DC; Cousin, John W (1969). Everyman's dictionary of literary biography. London: J. M. Dent & Sons.
- Finkelstein, David and Alistair McCleery. The Edinburgh History of the Book in Scotland: Professionalism and Diversity, 1880-2000. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007. ISBN 0-7486-1829-5
- Gardiner, Edmond F. "Annie S. Swan – Forerunner of Modern Popular Fiction". Library Review, 24.6 (1974)
- Reid, Charlotte. "A Cursory of Inspection to Annie S. Swan". Cencrastus. (Winter 1990/91)
- Works by Annie Shepherd Swan at Project Gutenberg
- Papers of and relating to Annie S. Swan at University of Aberdeen
- Works by or about Annie S. Swan at Internet Archive
- Works by or about Mrs Burnett Smith at Internet Archive
- Works by or about David Lyall at Internet Archive
- Works by Annie S. Swan at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
- Annie S. Swan at The Orlando Project