Grant, Mary Ann née Nicholson, c.1780—?
by Benjamin Colbert
Mary Ann Nicholson was probably born in the early 1780s in London, the only surviving child of her father and mother (d. 1801). In her early childhood, her father died, appointing guardians who also died before her majority. Her mother eventually remarried an officer in the army (identified only as Colonel G. in Sketches of Life and Manners, with Delineation of Scenery in England, Scotland, and Ireland ).
In December 1795, the family moved from Walham Green, London, to Fort George in Inverness-shire, a journey partly by sea and then overland from Peterhead. This voyage and their excursions in the Highlands radiating from Fort George form a principal part of the first volume of Sketches. While visiting London in May 1799, Nicolson learned of the death of her step-father. Soon after her mother returned to London, their residence there broken only by Mary Ann Nicholson’s excursions to visit friends and family. While returning from an extended visit to cousins in Botesdale, Suffolk, in late autumn 1801, she learned of her mother’s death, which left her without immediate family while still a minor.
After some months settling her affairs and visiting with friends, including a trip to Margate, Mary Ann Nicholson returned to Scotland, settling at Inverness in July 1802. In April the next year, she married there a Captain James Grant, who had served with the 40th regiment (Aberdeen Journal). Soon after he took up a new commission with the 42nd, stationed at Weeley barracks, Essex, and by December 1803 they had moved into quarters there. Mary Ann Grant was pregnant, but her daughter, born in February 1804, did not long survive (Morn. Chron.). In December 1804, Mary Ann Grant accompanied her husband to Ireland where they remained for nearly ten months, returning to London via Wales. Her husband, now a Major, was on leave, but left the military permanently in November 1805 (Caledonian). They retired to Major Grant’s family farm at Sluggan in Scotland, near the banks of the river Dulnain, where they remained at least until 1808.
The principal source for Grant’s biography remains her own Sketches of Life and Manners (1810), which details her life between 1795 and 1808. She published one further volume, Tales. Founded on Facts (1820), which contains a suggestive end-paper prospectus for ‘Mrs. Grant’s establishment for the education of young ladies’ at Park House, Croydon. Like a similar end-paper advertisement in the Edinburgh Review that year, the prospectus notes that Grant had been engaged in educating young ladies ‘for several years’.
No further records of the school have been found, although as late as 1830, William Watts’s The Yahoo: a Satirical Rhapsody attacked Grant's approach to teaching Holy Scripture: ‘Oh shame where is thy blush! Here’s godly reading, / To teach young girls at boarding-school good breeding!’ (50). Of course, Watts may have been responding solely to the 1820 prospectus and nothing definitive is currently known of Mary Ann Grant beyond that year.
The Aberdeen Journal, no. 2887 (Wed., 11 May 1803). Gale Databases: British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900. Web. 24 Nov. 2017.
Barrell, Helen. ‘Life at Weeley Camp and Barracks, 1803 to 1804, from Mary Ann Grant’s Sketches of Life & Manners’. Essex & Suffolk Surnames. Web. 24 Nov. 2017.
Caledonian Mercury, no. 13140 (Mon., 25 Nov. 1805). Gale Databases: British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900. Web. 24 Nov. 2017.
Grant, Mary Ann. Sketches of Life and Manners, with Delineation of Scenery in England, Scotland, and Ireland: Interspersed with Moral Tales and Anecdotes, in Original Letters. 2 vols. London: For the Author, 1810. Print.
Grant, Mary Ann. Tales. Founded on Facts. London: Boosey and Sons, 1820. Print.
The Morning Chronicle, no. 10827 (Wed., 1 Feb. 1804). Gale Databases: British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900. Web. 24 Nov. 2017.
Watts, William. The Yahoo: A Satirical Rhapsody. New York [i.e. London?]: Printed and Published by H. Simpson, 1830. Print.
|Sketches of Life and Manners, with Delineation of Scenery in England, Scotland, and Ireland||1810|