An Edinburgh Diary 1793–1798

Author(s): Agnes Witts
Introduction: Alan Sutton 

ISBN: 9781781554845
$23.00 $33.00
In 1793, the Witts family arrived in Edinburg. A well-to-do family, they were nearly bankrupted; however, they soon built a wide circle of friends in the upper echelons of society where Agnes’ magnetic personality worked its magic.
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  • The first detailed study on Witts’ life, drawing on her detailed diaries and musings

  • An innovative and theoretical approach to the relationship between author and reader

  • Handsomely illustrated with previously unpublished illustrations

In 1793, the Witts family arrived in Edinburgh. A previously well-to-do Oxfordshire/Gloucestershire family, they were brought to near bankruptcy by the failure of Edward Witts’ woollen cloth trading business. Apart from the stigma of insolvency, their easy style of living came crashing down to a mere few hundred pounds annually. Within a few months, Edward and Agnes had built a wide circle of friends and acquaintances in Edinburgh society where Agnes’ magnetic personality worked its magic.

Agnes was a remarkable woman with a great zest for life. She required constant amusement and bored easily; her favourite pastimes were cards and stimulating conversation; her social circle was wide and well-connected; and Agnes’ attachment to her faith consistent and strong. In a remarkable series of sixty-two diaries covering the years 1793-1798, Agnes recorded her life in a structured and unvarying manner. She noted the weather, the doings of the day and letters received and written. A day without a letter was a dark day in her life.

She loved to maintain a wide correspondence amongst a large circle of family, friends and acquaintances. Gaps in the diary are very few and usually occur only during times of serious illness.

These remarkable diaries provide a snapshot of Edinburgh society at a time of remarkable change when the city was rising to prominence as the ‘Athens of the North’. Edinburgh was a dynamic place, a growing city that was looking forwards to a prosperous future. It was the new middle classes that were at the forefront of the enlightenment and Agnes’ diaries provide a fascinating glimpse into the social fabric at the time.

BOOK ISBN 9781781554845
FORMAT 248 x 172 mm
BINDING Hardback
PAGES 416 pages
PUBLICATION DATE 15 December 2016
ILLUSTRATIONS  30 colour and 50 black-and-white illustrations



Agnes Witts (1747-1828) was a remarkable woman with great zest for life. Witt’s favourite pastimes were cards and stimulating conversation, her social circle was wide and well-connected; and her attachment to her faith was consistent and strong. She came from a well-to-do family whose considerable income had come from a successful business in linen drapery with a genealogical tree hung around with a viscount or two, a duke and the odd lord and Knights of the Realm. In 1775, she married Edward Witts who had inherited the family wool-stapling business in Chipping Norton and shared his love of travel to the detriment of his attendance to their financial affairs, although he carried out his social responsibilities as a country gentleman and civic duties as a justice of the peace, a deputy lieutenant for Oxfordshire and, in 1779, high sheriff of the county.

Alan Sutton has been well known as a publisher for more than four decades during which time he has produced many thousands of titles of local history, transport history, military history as well as archaeology and ancient history. The diaries of Agnes Witts and her son Francis take him into the realm of transcription and research, and since 1980 these diaries have been his weekend and evening ‘relaxation’. In total the diaries exceed four million words and in addition there is an index to the diaries of Francis which exceeds 1,000 pages. A labour of love, Alan refers to it as a life sentence, and it is all likely to be completed during the next ten years.