Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Joanne Baillie

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Henry Robinson. Joanna Baillie, 1876–77. After John James Masquerier. The Walter Scott Digital Archive, Edinburgh University Library

Joanne Baillie
b. 1762, Bothwell, Lanarkshire, Scotland; d. 1851, London

Joanna Baillie, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, was widely considered the foremost dramatist of her day. Although known as a modest Christian gentlewoman, her writing penetrated the dark side of human nature and psychology. In 1798, she anonymously published the first of her plays on the passions of the human mind (such as love, joy, or sorrow), titled A Series of Plays. Its success yielded future volumes on the passions (published under her own name) in 1802 and 1812, as well as Miscellaneous Plays (1804); the Family Legend (1810), published under the patronage of famed Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott; and three volumes of Dramas (1836). While popular in print, Baillie's plays were not successful on the stage; she once said that "John any-body would have stood higher with the critics than Joanna Baillie" (Slagle, Joanna Baillie, 75).

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Primary Sources

Slagle, Judith Bailey. Joanna Baillie: A Literary Life. Madison, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2002.

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