Mary Paton Ramsay

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Mary Paton Ramsay
Born(1885-10-25)25 October 1885
Headington, Oxfordshire
Alma materUniversity of Aberdeen
Known forLes Doctrines Medievales Chez Donne (1917)
Parent(s)Sir William Ramsay

Mary Paton Ramsay (25 October 1885 – after c. 1946) was a Scottish academic. In 1919, she was the winner of the Rose Mary Crawshay Prize for her book Les Doctrines Medievales Chez Donne, which argued for the influence of medieval mysticism on the poetry of John Donne.

Early life[edit]

Mary Ramsay was born in Headington, Oxfordshire, on 25 October 1885, the daughter of Sir William Ramsay.[1][2] She graduated from the University of Aberdeen with an MA (I Eng.) in 1908.[2][3] She was elected to a Carnegie fellowship in 1913 and studied the origins of English metaphysical poetry under professor H. J. C. Grierson. She completed her doctorate on John Donne under professor François Picavet of the University of Paris, an authority on scholasticism in Europe who had also written about Donne.[4]

During the First World War she did clerical work, spent two years working with munitions (TNT) in Edinburgh 1915–1917, and worked as an administrator in France for the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps, 1917–1919.[5][2]


In 1919, Ramsay was a lecturer in history and sociology at the American College for Women at Constantinople[5] when she won the Rose Mary Crawshay Prize for her book Les Doctrines Medievales Chez Donne (French),[6] which was based on her doctoral thesis. She argued in the book for the influence of medieval mysticism on Donne's work, although not of an extreme kind; Michael Martin sees this view as part of a trend in early twentieth-century literary criticism that derives from Evelyn Underhill's book Mysticism (1911).[7] Ramsay's thesis was not universally accepted and several contemporary and later scholars have attempted to rebut it, including Mario Praz, T.S. Eliot,[8] and George Williamson (1898–1968).[9]

Ramsay's later works were on Scottish topics, including a discussion of John Calvin's attitude to art as it relates to Scotland and works on Scottish patriotism and song.[10]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Les Doctrines Medievales Chez Donne, le poète métaphysicien de l'Angleterre (1573–1631). Humphrey Milford, London, 1917. (2nd, Oxford University Press, 1924)
  • Calvin and Art, Considered in Relation to Scotland. Moray Press, Edinburgh & London, 1938.
  • The Freedom of the Scots from Early Times Till its Eclipse in 1707: Displayed in Statements of our Forefathers Who Loved and Served Scotland. Edinburgh, 1945.
  • Popular Variants of Auld Scots Sangs. Kilmarnock, 1946. (Editor)


  1. ^ Mary Paton Ramsay England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837–2008. Family Search. Retrieved 29 September 2018. (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c Allardyce, Mabel Desborough. (Ed.) (1921) Roll of Service in the Great War 1914–1919 Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press. p. 342.
  3. ^ Marlene & Geoffrey Rayner-Canham. (2008). Chemistry Was Their Life: Pioneering British Women Chemists, 1880–1949. London: Imperial College Press. p. 278. ISBN 978-1-86094-987-6.
  4. ^ Smith, A.J. & Catherine Phillips (Eds.) (2005). John Donne: The Critical Heritage Vol. II. London: Routledge. p. 383. ISBN 978-1-134-90514-0.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  5. ^ a b "University News". The Manchester Guardian (22891). 22 December 1919. p. 4. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
  6. ^ The Rose Mary Crawshay Prize. British Academy via Internet Archive. Retrieved 24 September 2018.
  7. ^ Martin, Michael. (2016). Literature and the Encounter with God in Post-Reformation England. Abingdon: Routledge. p. 56. ISBN 978-1-317-10441-4.
  8. ^ Schuchard, Ronald (Ed.) and T.S. Eliot. (1996). The Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry. New York: Harcourt Brace. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-544-35837-9.
  9. ^ "John Donne: The Middle Way" by Irving Lowe in Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 22, No. 3 (Jul.–Sep., 1961), pp. 389–397 (p. 390.)
  10. ^ de Niet, Johan, Herman Paul, Bart Wallet (Eds.) (2009). Sober, Strict, and Scriptural: Collective Memories of John Calvin, 1800–2000. Leiden: BRILL. p. 327. ISBN 978-90-474-2770-4.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)