Annie Swan

Author

 

Annie Swan (8 July 1859 - 17 June 1943)

A prolific author of light romantic fiction, she wrote 197 novels and was immensely popular in her time though virtually unread today.

Born near Edinburgh, she spent part of her childhood at Templehall Farm and was later a frequent visitor to the village. Some of her most popular novels were set locally. 

It is a measure of her popularity in the late 19th and  early 20th centuries that houses around Coldingham still bear the names of her most famous titles  viz. Carlowrie,  Aldersyde,  St Vedas,  Orr’s Haven.

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.