Catherine Gilpin

Personal data
Catherine Gilpin
Born 1738
Died April 29, 1811

Daughter of John Bernard Gilpin (1701-1776), commandant at Carlisle in 1745, and Matilda Langstaff (d. 1773). Born at Scaleby Castle. She won some contemporary fame for her songs in the local Cumbrian dialect. She shared lodgings with the Muse of Cumberland, poet Susanna Blamire (1747-94) for a time.

Several years after her death, a younger relation of hers described her as "one of those sprightly characters whose whimsical vivacities are perhaps hardly altogether approved by strict sober minded people, who are content to walk in well trodden paths. I remember my father saying that she could hardy return from a walk without having some odd adventure to tell, which she professed to have met with. On such occasions Mr. Farish, (my maternal grandfather,) would sometimes say to her, 'Now, Kitty, you know that isn't true!' 'Not true - not true, indeed! and wherefore not?' she would answer with a good humoured pretence at astonishment, in a ringing voice that was itself full of animation. The famous Archdeacon Paley took great delight in her conversation, and many skirmishes of wit took place between them, in which, as my father thought, the Archdeacon often found himself overmatched."1

  • 1C. B. Gilpin, quoted in Sidney Gilpin's  Songs and Ballads of Cumberland and the Lake Country (1874)
Life with Boswell

Boswell met Gilpin at Springkell on October 11, 1762, where she stayed (as did Boswell) for a day. Although probably not one of Boswell's amorous relationships, they did seem to hit it off well and entertained each other and their company with singing, poetry and even practical jokes during their stay there. Boswell described er as "a fine lively creature, not pretty but of an agreeable countenance." They met again when Boswell visited Carlisle 16 years later, on August 21, 1778. On this occasion, he described her as "looking plump and cheerful and (in my opinion) better than when I saw her formerly".