Wolverhampton BTW

Alison Charles Carmichael

Carmichael, Alison Charles née Stewart, c.1790—1885

by Benjamin Colbert

Alison Charles Stewart, later Carmichael, was born in Edinburgh, daughter of Dr Charles Stewart and Mary Stewart, née Erskine. She married, also in Edinburgh, John Wilson Carmichael (1775/6-1850) in 1815. She had two daughters, Mary Erskine (b.1816) and Alison Johanna (b.1819), who joined several older children from her husband's first marriage in St Vincent, where he had previously served as an officer in the 1790s.

In 1820, Alison C. Carmichael and John Carmichael departed with their family for the West Indies. Arriving at St Vincent in December, they reoccupied a slave plantation John C. had acquired during his previous residence, and which Alison C. describes in her Domestic Manners. Returning to Britain in 1826, the family appears to have resided for a time in Guernsey. Early negotiations to publish Domestic Manners came to nothing, but the topicality of debate for and against abolition breathed new life into the plan and the volumes appeared in 1833, the same year as Slavery Abolition Act. Also in that year, Alison's brother James Stuart published his Three Years in North America.

In an agreement signed 2 November 1839, Alison C. (now of St Helen’s, Jersey) contracted with Richard Bentley for a three-volume ‘work of fiction (the title to be here-after agreed upon)’ with a generous ‘two-thirds’ profit for Carmichael after deductions, following a period of negotiation in which Carmichael had offered a slighter two-volume work. In the end, memorandum notwithstanding, this dwindled into a one-volume fictional autobiography, also based on her experiences in St Vincent: Tales of a Grandmother (1841). Her life after this date is not well documented.


Bentley, Richard. Letter to Alison Carmichael, 28 Oct 1839. Add MS 46613, ff. 234-35 [Vol 54]. Richard Bentley Papers. British Lib., London.

Memorandum of an agreement between Richard Bentley and Mrs Alison C. Carmichael of St. Helen’s Jersey, 2 Nov. 1839. MS 46613, f. 259 [Vol 54]. British Library, London.

Williamson, Karina. 'Mrs Carmichael: A Scotswoman in the West Indies, 1820-1826'. International Journal of Scottish Literature 4 (Spring/Summer 2008): n. pag. Web. 11 Apr. 2015.


Title Published
Domestic Manners and Social Condition of the White, Coloured, and Negro Population of the West Indies 1833

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