Grierson, Constantia (DNB00)

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GRIERSON, Mrs. CONSTANTIA (1706?–1733), classical scholar, whose maiden name has been doubtfully stated to have been Phillipps (Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. i. 341), was born apparently at Kilkenny. Her parents seem to have been in narrow circumstances, but her father is said to have first encouraged her love of study. In her eighteenth year she began to study obstetrics under Dr. Van Lewen, a Dublin physician of repute, father of Mrs. Letitia Pilkington. She soon afterwards married George Grierson, an eminent Dublin printer, who obtained from Lord Carteret, when lord-lieutenant, a patent as king's printer in Ireland, chiefly, it is conjectured, owing to Carteret's admiration of Mrs. Grierson's attainments. Mrs. Pilkington, who knew Mrs. Grierson personally, writes that she was mistress of Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and French, understood mathematics well, and wrote elegantly in verse and prose. Mrs. Grierson was on intimate terms with Dean Swift, Thomas Sheridan, and Patrick Delany, D.D. A poem by her was included by Mrs. Barber [q. v.] in her volume of ‘Poems on Several Occasions,’ London, 1734. Mrs. Grierson edited Latin classics published by her husband. Of these the principal were ‘Terence,’ 1727, and ‘Tacitus,’ 1730. The first was inscribed to Robert, son of Lord Carteret, viceroy of Ireland, and her edition of ‘Tacitus’ was dedicated in elegant Latin to Carteret himself. Dr. Harwood, the classical bibliographer, pronounced Mrs. Grierson's ‘Tacitus’ to be ‘one of the best edited books ever delivered to the world.’ Mrs. Grierson is also stated to have written several English poems, of which copies have not been preserved. Her learning and virtue were referred to in a poem by Henry Brooke (1703?-1783) [q. v.], author of ‘Gustavus Vasa.’ She was engaged on an edition of ‘Sallust’ at the time of her death in 1733. A copy of it with her annotations came into the possession of Lord George Germain [q. v.], and at the sale of his books was purchased by John Wilkes, who valued it highly. Her son, George Abraham Grierson, described as ‘a gentleman of uncommon learning, great wit and vivacity,’ was a friend of Dr. Johnson. He died at Düsseldorf in 1755, aged 27. Several volumes of his manuscript collections, in various languages, relating to European history are in the possession of representatives of his family.

[Memoirs of Mrs. L. Pilkington, 1748; Memoirs of British Ladies, by G. Ballard, 1775; E. Harwood's View of Editions of Classics, 1790; Brookiana, 1804; Swift's Works, ed. Sir Walter Scott, 1824; Boswell's Life of Johnson, ed. G. B. Hill; Hist. of City of Dublin, vol. ii. 1859; Autobiography of Mrs. Delany, vol. i., 1861; manuscripts of Grierson family.]

J. T. G.