In my note Joanna Baillie in New Zealand: Eight New Letters (Keats-Shelley Journal 54  33-42), I included an unsigned 16 August 1813 letter to Mary Berry. The letter was one of a small group held in the Reed Collection of the Dunedin Public Library in New Zealand. A recent reexamination of the letter has convinced me that it was not written by Baillie. The name Joanna Baillie appears on the letter in another hand, and there is much to support this supposition. Baillie and Berry were lifelong correspondents, and the subject matter (concern over Berrys despondency) appears in other Baillie letters. Baillie was traveling in August 1813, and therefore the unidentified place of writing (Combanke) seemed less surprising. However, the handwriting, though quite similar to Baillies own, is not hers.
Who is the author of the letter? All evidence so far points to Baillies and Berrys close friend, the sculptor and author Anne Seymour Damer (1749-1828). Damer, whose classically-inspired busts appear in the Louvre, the Uffizi, and the National Portrait Gallery, was born at Coombe Bank (or Combe Bank), near Sevenoaks, Kent, the seat of Damers mothers family the Campbells. In 1813, Coombe Bank was the property of Damers uncle Lord Frederick Campbell, and it seems all but certain that this is the Combanke of the 1813 letter. The handwriting on a shorter letter at the Dunedin Public Library signed by Damer is a close match to the handwriting on the 16 August 1813 letter.
I hope to examine a few more Damer letters in the near future, in order to confirm this new identification. In the meantime, I offer my sincere regrets for the misattribution. I am just finishing two projects of interest to Baillie scholars: a complete chronology of Baillies letters (for Romantic Circles), and an edition of Further Letters of Joanna Baillie (for Fairleigh Dickinson University Press). Locating and studying the Dunedin letters started me on these two new projects, and they will, I hope, be some recompense for my earlier error.
University of Otago