Dorothea Primrose Campbell

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Dorothea Primrose Campbell (4 May 1792 – 6 January 1863) was a Scottish poet and novelist.


She was born in Lerwick, Shetland. Her father Duncan was a surgeon who had married one of the Scotts of Scottshall in Scalloway, Elizabeth, the eldest of a large family.

Dorothea's life was one of many difficulties. The family had hereditary debts and her father died when she was sixteen. In the hope of earning money from her writing, she approached J. Young, a publisher in Inverness, and in 1811 he published the first collection of her 'Poems', by subscription. She had a second, revised edition produced in London in 1816, but the publisher went bankrupt.

Through her Scott family connection she met Sir Walter Scott, a distant relative, during his tour of the north of Scotland aboard the Lighthouse Commission's yacht. Scott was encouraging, and even shipped her a piano for the little school to teach the children of the gentry she had established in Lerwick. Her school also failed, but she went on teaching, supporting her family with her earnings. Her mother became addicted to opium.

In 1841 Dorothea moved to England to take up a post as a governess, but these employers also went bankrupt. She found it impossible to get another job in England. She applied to the Royal Literary Fund in 1844. They paid her £30 and she found a job teaching at Sevenoaks. She died an inmate of an Aged Governesses' Asylum in Kentish Town.


Her sole novel, Harley Radington: A Tale (1821), is, according to the critic Isobel Grundy "a greater tour de force of imagination than her poems". In it "she assumes the voice of a male protagonist-narrator, in whose story she has found a means of heightening and dramatising her own ambivalent feelings about being a Shetlander."

Other works were:

  • Poems, Inverness: J. Young, 1811;
  • Poems, London: Baldwin, Cradock and Joy, 1816;
  • Harley Radington. A Tale, London: A. K. Newman, 1821


External links[edit]

Campbell's 1816 poems are available at:

A critical essay by Isobel Grundy is available at: