Helen Craik

Poet and Novelist (1751-1825)

Scottish poet and novelist Helen Craik was born at Arbigland c1751. One of six legitimate children, Helen’s father, politician and laird William Craik, was also rumoured to be the father of John Paul Jones.

Helen became a correspondent to Robert Burns. Two of Burns’ letters to her have survived. In 1792, she suddenly moved from Arbigland to Flimby Hall in Cumberland following the purported suicide of a groom on her father’s estate. It is thought that the groom had been engaged to marry Helen, but had been murdered by a member of her family. If true, these dramatic event were echoed in her five novels which were published anonymously.

Her novels were Adelaide de Narbonne, Julia de St. Pierre, Stella of the North or The Foundling of the Ship, The Nun and her Daughter or Memoirs of the Courville Family and Henry of Northumberland or The Hermit's Cell, which was the only one of her novels not set in her own time.

Craik eventually inherited a half-share in the Flimby estate, but no part of her father's at Arbigland which went to a distant male relative, John Hamilton.

She died unmarried at Flimby Hall on June 11th, 1825. Her obituaries and the memorial in her village church describe her as a published author in English and French (works in the latter language have not survived) and a philanthropist to the poor, a theme which appears in her novels.