Lady Elizabeth Wardlaw (1677-1727)

Born in April 1677 as the second daughter of Sir Charles Halket, bart., of Pitfirrane, Fifeshire, Scotland. "Hardyknute", 'perhaps the earliest literary attempt at a folk ballad' (The New Encyclopaedia Britannica 23: 118) was first published in 1719, during her lifetime, as a relic. When he included it in the Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765), Percy was uncertain about the attribution of the poem though he offered the possibility of Wardlaw's authorship. The controversies surrounding the attribution have been settled, but an extraordinary by-product of the issue is that Wardlaw was once also believed to be the author of the popular ballad masterpiece "Sir Patrick Spens". Percy added an endnote to the ballad that 'An ingenious friend thinks the Author of Hardyknute has borrowed several expressions and sentiments from the foregoing, and other old Scottish songs in this collection.' (Reliques 1:63n) Wardlaw is no longer credited with the composition of "Sir Patrick Spens", but Percy's endnote is not without relevance as this great work of tradition has an explicit influence over her literary ballad.  (M. Y.)

1. Hardyknute