Constantia Grierson

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Grierson, Constantia, a woman of uncommon literary abilities, was born at Kilkenny in 1706. Her maiden name is not mentioned. Her parents were poor, illiterate people. Her friend Mrs. Pilkington says that she was mistress of Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and French, and had a good knowledge of mathematics. "She received some little instruction from the minister of the parish when she could spare time from her needlework, to which she was closely kept by her mother... Her turn was chiefly to philosophical or divine subjects... Her piety was not inferior to her learning." At the age of eighteen she came to Dublin to receive instruction in midwifery. There her literary acquirements introduced her to society, and she married Mr. Grierson, a printer, to whom Lord Carteret granted a patent as King's Printer, with her name inserted.

She edited a new edition of Tacitus, with a Latin dedication to Lord Carteret; and Terence, to which was prefixed a Greek epigram from her pen. She also wrote poetry. She has been described as "happy in a fine imagination, a great memory, an excellent understanding, and an exact judgment, but had all these crowned by virtue and piety; she was too learned to be vain, too wise to be conceited, too knowing and too clear-sighted to be irreligious." Mrs. Grierson died in 1733, at the early age of twenty-seven. Her eldest son, who proved a man of learning, wit, and vivacity, was educated by her. He died in Germany at the same age as his mother. Johnson once remarked that he possessed more extensive knowledge than any man of his years he had ever known. The Grierson family continued government printers in Ireland for several generations, and after they gave up business some of the government printing was executed under their patent until Mr. Thom's appointment as Queen's Printer in 1876.

Sources

37. Biographical Dictionary: Alexander Chalmers. 32 vols. London, 1812-'17.

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