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THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
Willielma Maxwell's birth and parentage Her mother enters into a second marriage-Her sister married to the Earl of SutherlandWillielma marries Lord Glenorchy-Makes the tour of Europe Returns to Britain-Enters into the dissipations of the world-Forms resolutions of leading a devout and religious life-Becomes acquainted with the Hawkstone family-Particularly with Miss Hill-Goes to Taymouth-Is there visited by sickness; under which, lasting impressions of religion are made on her heart-Letter of Miss Hill to Lady Glenorchy-Happy effects of it on Lady Glenorchy's mind.
WILLIAM MAXWELL, Esq. of Preston, in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, a branch of the Nithsdale family, was a medical gentleman, and possessed a large fortune.
In the year 1739 he married Elizabeth Hairstanes, of Craig, in the same county. Their family consisted of two daughters. The eldest was Mary, afterwards
Countess of Sutherland. The youngest was Willielma, the subject of these Annals, born after her father's death, on the 2d of September 1741.
Mrs Maxwell having lived a widow twelve years, was on the 27th of August 1753 married to the Right Honourable Charles Erskine of Tinewold and Alva, a Senator of the College of Justice, with the title of Lord Alva; in consequence of which, by the courtesy of the times, she enjoyed the title of Lady Alva till her death. She survived her daughter Willielma twenty years. Lord Alva was, soon after his marriage, raised to the high office of Lord Justice Clerk, equivalent in Scotland to that of Lord Chief Justice in England. Under the parental roof of this much respected Judge, the Misses Maxwell spent the last seven years of their unmarried state; and of his Lordship's kindness during that period, Lady Glenorchy always spoke with much reverence and affection.
The Misses Maxwell were in their day celebrated for their beauty, accomplishments, and amiable manners, as well as for their fortune. Their mother, lofty and ambitious, had, from their infancy, destined them, in her own mind, to the attainment, by marriage, of high rank.
She obtained her object; but, alas! as is often the case in schemes of worldly ambition, it was followed with many bitter consequences.
[1761.] Mary, the eldest, was married, with every flattering prospect, on the 14th of April 1761, to William the seventeenth Earl of Sutherland, and premier Earl of Scotland. To the finest person, he united all the dignity and amenity of manners and character which give lustre to greatness, while she was every thing which could be desired by such a husband. But their earthly career was of short duration. "As for
man, his days are as grass; as a flower of the field so he withereth."
About the time of Lord and Lady Sutherland's union, a proposal of marriage was made to Willielma by John Lord Viscount Glenorchy, the only son and heir of John the third Earl of Breadalbane; a young man, in every respect, except in rank and fortune, the very opposite of Lord Sutherland. Lord Breadalbane had been bred at Court, and possessed very extensive property and influence. He was proprietor of one of the most magnificent seats in Scotland, where he lived in princely splendour. A suitor placed in the circumstances, and possessing the prospects of Lord Glenorchy, was a temptation, if not too great for Miss Maxwell, yet beyond a doubt too great for her mother to resist. His character must have been at this time in a great degree unknown to them both, as it had not yet been fully developed. Pushed on by mistaken friends, and deceived by the fascinations of grandeur, which had no doubt been increased by the marriage of her sister a few months before, she was, in the twentieth year of her age, on the 26th of September 1761, married to Lord Glenorchy, who on that day was twenty-three years old.
Lady Glenorchy had fine talents, and she had profited much by a very liberal and expensive education. She was esteemed one of the first amateur musicians, and had a charming voice, which, after she became a decided Christian, she seldom used but in the worship of God. She was naturally vivacious, gay, peculiarly formed for hilarity, and commanded a very considerable portion of pleasantry, which she was capable of using with great effect. In short, she seems to have been endowed with every talent calculated to communicate delight to a virtuous and well regulated mind.
[1762.] Lord Glenorchy, the year after his marriage, succeeded to the estate and mansion of Great Sugnal in Staffordshire, which he derived from his mother, the heiress of John Pershall, Esq. There Lady Glenorchy and he sometimes resided. Lord Breadalbane had a house in London, and magnificent apartments in the Abbey of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, besides the celebrated Castle of Taymouth in Perthshire. His Lordship generally resided during the winter in London, and Lady Glenorchy with him. After Lady Breadalbane's death, he resigned to Lord and Lady Glenorchy the establishments of Edinburgh and Taymouth. Although, therefore, Lord Breadalbane was generally with them wherever they were, Lady Glenorchy had the direction and command of the whole establishments.
[Aged 21.] Soon after Lady Breadalbane's death, which took place at Bath, September 1, 1762, Lord and Lady Glenorchy, accompanied by Lord Breadalbane, went abroad, intending to make the usual tour of Europe. They had spent some time in France, and had proceeded to Nice, when Lord Breadalbane left them, being called home by the death of his sister, who was maid of honour to the Princess Amelia. Lord and Lady Glenorchy pursued their journey to Italy and Rome; and after spending about two years on the continent, they returned home.
[1764. Aged 23.] Lady Glenorchy was now about twenty-three years of age, and during all that time "had walked according to the course of this world, without God, and without hope." This is the account which she herself gave about two years afterwards in
her Journal, which shall presently be brought before
RETURNS TO BRITAIN.
On their return to Britain, Lady Glenorchy, like the bulk of young people in her circumstances and present state of mind, entered with ardour into the pomp and splendour of high life, and frequented public places and fashionable amusements. But among these she found no place on which she could rest the sole of her foot. In the full possession of all those things which are objects of envy to the worldling, she was wretchedly forlorn. O! what a hard and deceitful task-master is this present evil world!
That the health of a young and delicate female should suffer from such a mode of life, is not uncommon. And so it was with Lady Glenorchy. The seasons of indisposition, however, were seasons of reflection: she thought of God and religion, became sensible that she was not in spirit what she ought to be, and formed resolutions of abandoning her present pursuits, of returning to God, and living a deyout and religious life. But, alas! when the dawn of health and spirits appeared, as is usual in such cases, the dew of good intentions evaporated,
Great Sugnal, where Lord and Lady Glenorchy sometimes resided, was at no great distance from Hawkstone, the celebrated seat of Sir Rowland Hill, Bart. At this time, several of the younger branches of this family, Mr Richard Hill, the Rev. Rowland Hill, Miss Hill their eldest sister, and another sister, afterwards Mrs Tudway, were of a decidedly pious character, and bore the reproach ordinarily connected with it, from the thoughtless, the formal, and the profligate. Lady Glenorchy visited this family, became intimate with it, revered and loved its members, and secretly wished that she was like them. Happily the time was at hand in which God fulfilled these desires of her heart.