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Honour for first Scotswoman to see work printed

SCOTLAND'S most significant early modern woman writer is to be honoured with an inscription in the Poets' Corner of the north.

mini-epic: Ane Godlie Dreame was first printed in 1603 and was a  best-seller.
mini-epic: Ane Godlie Dreame was first printed in 1603 and was a best-seller.

Edinburgh City Council is to consider a call to have the name of Elizabeth Melville, Lady Culross - who was the first Scotswoman to see her work in print - set in stone at Makars' Court outside the national Writers' Museum.

Melville, who lived from 1578 until about 1640, is the likely latest addition to the shrine for the country's top writers. It is hoped the tribute will be the Scots equivalent to the Westminster Abbey Poets' Corner, which includes the burial place of Geoffrey Chaucer and commemorations to Byron and Shakespeare.

Melville's mini-epic, called Ane Godlie Dreame, was first printed in 1603 and was a best-seller, being reissued at least 12 times up to 1737.

A daughter of the well-known courtier, diplomat and memoirist Sir James Melville of Halhill, Melville also left a very substantial body of manuscript verse that is only now beginning to be explored by critics.

A report to the council's culture committee said: "Thanks to the extent of her work that has survived, she is undoubtedly Scotland's most significant early modern woman writer.

"The melodies to which five of her poems were designed to be sung are known, while other poems reflect her major involvement in the struggle to defend religious freedom against the policies of James VI and his son Charles I, which led to the National Covenant of 1638."

The call to include Melville came from the Saltire Society, responsible for promoting arts and heritage in Scotland and is sponsored by Dr Jamie Reid-Baxter, Rosemary Burton and the Scots Language Centre.

It is expected councillors will agree to have Melville as the latest addition to the courtyard tribute, which was opened by lain Crichton Smith in August 1998.

The Saltire Society initially selected 12 writers, ranging in date from John Barbour, who lived in the 14th century, to Sorley MacLean, who died in 1996.

Each writer is commemorated by a quotation selected from his or her work which is inscribed in stone and set in the paving leading either from The Mound or Lawnmarket entrances to the door of the museum.

Between October 2000 and last November a further 26 inscribed stones were added and the latest - celebrating conservationist John Muir who wrote more than 300 articles and 10 books - was approved by the council last October and is due to be unveiled within the next few weeks.

l The proposed inscription will contain the lines from Ane Godlie Dreame: "Though tyrants threat, though Lyons rage and rore

"Defy them all, and feare not to win out."

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