Warrack, Grace Harriet
- Joyce Simpson
Warrack, Grace Harriet (1855–1932), editor and translator, was born at Catherine Bank, North Leith, Edinburgh, on 29 March 1855, the second of three surviving daughters of John Warrack (1819–1907), merchant and shipowner, and his first wife, Grace, née Stratton (1828–1857). Her father, founder of the firm of John Warrack & Co., shipowners, was a leading figure in Edinburgh business and intellectual circles, a man of strong family affections and still striking appearance in old age, as she recalled (Little Flowers, p. 14). He was chairman of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Speculative Society, of which he was president in 1846. He studied European languages, had a lifelong interest in early German ecclesiastical music, wrote some verse, and was ordained an elder of Pilrig Free Church, whose building was completed during Grace’s childhood in 1863.
Grace Warrack’s mother died in July 1857, and her father married, in July 1859, Mary Cumming (1834–1899), daughter of James Cumming, HM inspector of schools, with whom he had three surviving sons (two of whom later settled in Italy). She grew up with her sisters and stepbrothers in Edinburgh, which remained her home throughout her life, and at the turn of the twentieth century was living with her widower father and elder sister in the family home at 14 Carlton Terrace. But she also travelled independently, building on her family’s links with the Anglo-Florentine community to explore Florence and the Apennines, and spending time also in Paris and in London, in the reading room of the British Museum.
Warrack’s edition of Revelations of Divine Love Recorded by Julian, Anchoress at Norwich, Anno Domini 1373. A Version from the MS in the British Museum, published by Methuen in 1901, introduced early twentieth-century readers to the earliest writing in English known to be by a woman, and it earned for Warrack an enduring standing amongst Julian scholars. Her Version sold well, initially to Catholics (Anglican and Roman) and to those with an interest in the psychology of personal religious experience (including William James, whose copy of her Version was later donated to Harvard College Library). Over the following six decades Methuen brought out many editions, a reprint of the thirteenth edition appearing as late as 1958, just as the further work on the manuscripts undertaken by Anna Maria Reynolds had begun to inspire fresh academic interest. From the late 1950s new work would supersede the Warrack edition, but it was she who brought Revelations of Love into the cultural mainstream where Julian has remained, inspiring worldwide interest.
Warrack transcribed and partially modernized the Long Text of Julian among the Sloane manuscripts in the British Museum (MS Sloane 2499) and provided the first substantial critical introduction. She recognized that the seventeenth-century manuscript had been copied from an earlier exemplar, which however preserved ‘the English of the Fourteenth Century’, which she identified as ‘mixed East Anglian and northern dialects’ (‘Introduction’ p. xi). Surveying the manuscripts known at that time she concluded that the Paris manuscript of the Long Text, the basis for the first printed edition prepared by the Benedictine Serenus de Cressy, and published in 1670, was somewhat earlier than Sloane 2499. She also referred to two nineteenth-century editions: a reprint of the Cressy edition, with a preface by an Anglican clergyman George Hargreave Parker (1843), and a modernized version taken from the Sloane MS with a preface by the Catholic priest Henry Collins (1877).
Warrack’s introduction (pp. xv–xvi) settled the question as to whether the Lady Julian Lampet, member of a well-known Norfolk family, could have been the writer of the Julian texts. By reference to fifteenth century wills, Warrack established that Lady Julian Lampet, anchoress at Carrow Priory, must have died between the years 1478 and 1483 and so could not be identified with the Norwich recluse who in May 1373 had given her age as thirty years and a half. She contextualized Julian’s visions with details of the pattern of life for a female recluse in the fourteenth century, pointing out that generally they had their dwellings not in the solitude of the countryside but in a village or a town, and very often adjoining a church, and locating Julian’s cell alongside the church of St Julian at Conisford in Norwich. She drew on her own wide reading in the late medieval tradition of mystical writing, including Ruysbroeck and Eckhart, and in the Church Fathers. She recognized links to the neo-Platonic tradition, particularly through St Augustine and Hugh of St Victor, and saw a strong affinity between Julian and her close contemporary Walter Hilton. Her scholarship was also up to date, and in his 1899 Bampton lectures on Christian Mysticism W. R. Inge quoted her as-yet-unpublished work, while his 1905 Studies of English Mystics recommended Warrack’s edition to his readers.
Warrack’s next work Little Flowers of a Childhood: The Record of a Child (1906) was a memoir of the short life of her nephew John Dunlop Warrack (October 1894–March 1899) and was a response to the spiritual character of childhood as well as the telling of a private grief within an Edinburgh family circle.
Following her father’s death in 1907, Warrack settled in her own home, a substantial detached Victorian town house, on St Margaret’s Road, Edinburgh, and enjoyed the freedom to travel independently and to develop her interest in the Italian language and culture, specifically the area around Florence and the Apennines. Her scholarly network expanded and her circle of friends became international. Her exploration of the Tuscan folk tradition Florilegio di Canti Toscani: Folk Songs of the Tuscan Hills, with English Renderings (1914) contained verse translations of about 400 short poems, mostly Rispetti (verses of four lines and a refrain), whose repetitions she likened to the Gaelic verse traditions of the west of Scotland. The work was dedicated to three lovers of Italy who shared her interests: the expatriate American illustrator and folklorist Francesca Alexander (1837–1917); the artist Phoebe Anna Traquair (1852–1936); and Mary Sarah Talbot (1842–1915) of Clifton, the biographer of the Welsh poet Anna Letitia Waring and correspondent of the Scottish philosopher Edward Caird. Traveller and author at the centre of Anglo-Florentine society Janet Ross (1842–1927) provided the musical settings.
After the First World War, Warrack compiled an anthology, From Isles of the West to Bethlehem: Pictures, Poetry, Tales, Runes of Pilgrimage and Reception (1921), sold for the aid of ‘children of Palestine, Armenia, Italy and France in districts suffering from the War’ and dedicated to Janet Bevill Allen. The accompanying illustrations, which included works by John Duncan, Hannah Clarke Preston Macgoun (1864–1913), and Phoebe Anna Traquair reflected her role as a patron of contemporary Scottish artists, particularly those linked with the Celtic Revival and the Scottish Arts and Crafts Movement. The work of the stained-glass artist Douglas Strachan was also represented. He designed the windows that Warrack had commissioned to be made in stained glass for what was then the High Kirk of the Free Church of Scotland (from 1936 the New College Library, University of Edinburgh) to commemorate members of her family, missionary leaders, and some literary figures, an undertaking which took Strachan twenty years to complete.
Warrack began her reading for Une Guirlande de Poésies Diverses: From the Song of France, Poetry Early and Recent, with Translations, Music and Pictures (1924) in the French Library for Scotland, housed in a room of the Franco-Scottish Society. The compilation broke fresh ground by introducing to readers in Britain the work of several French poets who had perished in the war. She was awarded the Palmes Académiques by the French minister of public instruction for her interest in promoting French poetry in Scotland. A further compilation, Dal Cor Gentil d’Italia Canti Dal Veneto Alla Sardegna; Out of the Heart of Italy. Folk Songs from Venetia to Sardinia, Lyrics, Lullabies Sacred Stories, appeared in 1925 and was her final salute to Francesca Alexander, the friend who had set her on the path of discovering the folk song of Italy.
Warrack died of acute lobar pneumonia at her home, 5 St. Margaret’s Road, Edinburgh, on 3 January 1932. Her sister, Frances Warrack, organized a small memorial window in Martyrs’ Kirk, St Andrews, now the Richardson Research Library, University of St Andrews.
- The Scotsman (4 July 1907); (5 Jan 1932)
- Times (7 Jan 1932)
- C. Love-Rogers, ‘The woman behind the windows at the new college library’, New College
- Librarian, libraryblogs.is.ed.ac.uk/newcollegelibrarian/2018/03/08/the-woman-behind-the-windows-at-new-college-library/, accessed 20 May 2020
- ‘Martyrs’ Church St Andrews’, Scottish Church Research Heritage, www.scottishchurches.org.uk/sites/site/id/4721/name/Martyrs%27+Church%2C+St+Andrews+St+Andrews+and+St+Leonards+Fife, accessed 20 May 2020
- M. Glasscoe, ed., Julian of Norwich: a revelation of love (1976); revised editions (1986, 1993)
- N. Watson and J. Jenkins, eds., The writings of Julian of Norwich (2006)
- WWW, 2007
- census returns, 1871, 1881, 1901
- photograph, The Julian Centre, Norwich