WITH A PUBLISHER'S NOTE
Marjory Fleming (1803-11), an extraordinary child prodigy, left poems, letters and a journal that are now one of the treasures of the National Library of Scotland; and in 1889 Sir Leslie Stephen, Virginia Woolf's father, wrote an entry about her for the original Dictionary of National Biography, believing that 'no more fascinating infantile author has ever appeared.'
Oriel Malet, author of this biographical novel, was herself only 20, but had already published two books by the time Marjory Fleming was published in 1946, and had won the John Llewelyn Rhys Prize for one of them. There are clear similarities between her and her precocious subject.
The book describes Marjory's life over the three years when she leaves the family home at Kirkcaldy and goes to live in Edinburgh with her cousin Isabella, who recognised, and wished to encourage, her exceptional gifts; and her final year when she had returned home and was deeply unhappy away from her beloved 'Isa'. With 'true, almost psychic perception' (Elizabeth Bowen in a 1946 review in The Tatler) Oriel Malet takes us into the mind of a potential genius. The Paris publishing house Editions Autrement brought out Marjory Fleming in a French translation in 2002.
There could only be one fabric for Marjory: a shawl, that she might have been wrapped in when, apparently recovered from measles, she was carried downstairs by her father in December 1811. We have chosen a paisley that would have been made in either the Edinburgh or Paisley region in about 1810.