Welcome to The British Literary Ballads Archive, a site dedicated to a unique genre of literary imitations of traditional ballads. The site contains a growing archive of over 700 poems, as well as short biographical sketches of the poets who wrote them.

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Isabella Craig-Knox (1831-1903)



Scottish poet and feminist. Born the only daughter of a hosier, John Craig, on 17 October 1831 in Edinburgh. Orphaned when she was a child and brought up by her grandmother. Although she attended school until 1840 and was largely self-educated in literature, Isabella (going by the name of Isa) regularly contributed poems to The Scotsman, and in 1853 she became an editorial staffmember of the newspaper. In 1856 her first volume of poems, Poems by Isa, was published by the Blackwood of Edinburgh. In the same year Isa met a women’s rights activist, Elizabeth Rayner Parkes, whom she assisted in editing the Glasgow women’s periodical, Waverley Journal. In 1857 Isa moved to London to be appointed Secretary of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science and kept the position until May 1866 when she married her cousin John Knox, an iron merchant. Isa published several volumes of poetry, children’s books, and a novel. Her most famous poem was “Ode on the Centenary of Burns”, which won the centenary Robert Burns poetry competition at the Crystal Palace in 1858. As a social reformer she was keenly aware of the relentless toil of the Victorian working class. Her description of factory life anticipates John Davidson (1857-1909). Died on 23 December 1903 at Brockley, Suffolk. (H. N.)

1.The Ballad of the Brides of Quair