Colville, Elizabeth (DNB00)

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COLVILLE, ELIZABETH, Lady Colville of Culros (fl. 1603), poetess, is supposed to be identical with Elizabeth, daughter of Sir James Melville of Halhil, author of 'Memoirs of his own Life' (Bannatyne Club). To this lady, who married John, eldest son of Alexander Colville (1530P-1597) [q.v.], commendator of Culros, Alexander Hume dedicated his 'Hymns, or Sacred Songs' (1599). In 1603 appeared a poem in ottava rima describing a dream in which the author seemed to descend into hell, and when all but dropping into the fire to be saved by Christ himself. The original title-page is as follows: 'Ane Godlie Dreame compylit in Scottish Meter be M.M., Gentil woman in Culros, at the requesst of her freindis,' Edinburgh, 1603. It will be observed that the initials are not E. M. but M. M. (explained as Mistress Melvill). By the death of his kinsman, the second lord Colvill of Culros, in 1640, John Colvill became of right the third lord, but did not assume the title. Hereldestson, Alexander [q.v.] (1620-1676), is separately noticed. Armstrong (Launcelot Temple) refers to a melody known as Lady Culross's dream as 'an old composition, now I am afraid lost; perhaps because it was almost too terrible for the ear' (Miscellanies (1770) on Vulgar Errors), and in 1859 Lady Lytton communicated to 'Notes and Queries' the fact that she had once possessed a ballad printed in the reign of Richard III in which the following couplet occurred:

 It was fals Sir Gawyn's culp that faire Alice
  now did seme
 Like the ghast Ladye of Culrosse in her
  wild shrieking dreme.

It is probable that the existing poem is a rifacimento of a much earlier one, the subject or reputed author of which was a certain lady of Culross. The existing poem, which answers on the whole very ill to the description 'wild shrieking dreme,' after passing through various editions in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, was reprinted with a biographical note in 'Early Metrical Tales,' edited by David Laing, 1826.

[Douglas's Peerage of Scotland, i. 355; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. viii. 247, 312.]

J. M. R.