William Sharp – The Personality behind Fiona Macleod

Much is still uncertain and undiscovered about the Scottish writer, William Sharp. Born in Paisley on the 12th September 1855, William Sharp passed away on the 12th of December 1905. He was buried within Castello di Maniace in Sicily, Italy at fifty years old.

William began his academic career at the Glasgow Academy moving on into the University of Glasgow where he studied from 1871 to 1872. Unfortunately Sharps’ early departure from University left him without a formal degree. A sickly past began to intrude into his life again when in 1872 he contracted typhoid, a disease brought on from ingesting contaminated foodstuffs or liquids.

From 1874 to 1891 Sharp engaged in a number of diverse careers ranging from such activities as working in a law office in Glasgow to servings a clerk position at a noteworthy London bank. Unfortunately, in 1976, as occurred only four years earlier, William’s health began deteriorating.

During this period, William joined the famous Rossetti Literary Group after an introduction by Sir Noel Paton to Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The group came to include member such as Philipp Bourke Marston, Swinburne and Hall Caine. William’s and his first cousin Elizabeth first made their acquaintance in the summer of 1863 upon his visits to an aunt and uncle in London. These introductions were the precursor to a love affair between William and Elizabeth that resulted in their marriage in 1884. Elizabeth Amelia Sharp would subsequently contribute greatly to William’s literary work.

William a distinguished writer and most notably considered to be a genius in literature, literary biography and poetry. Sharp was also a well-respected editor of poetry for such poets as Eugene Lee-Hamilton, Ossian and Walter Scott, to mention a few.

In 1891, after a holiday with Elizabeth to Germany and then Italy during the winter period, William met with a mutual friend Edith Wingate Rinder. The introduction of William Sharp to Edith Rinder was a turning point for Sharp’s personal life. It was here in Italy that a love affair between Sharp and Rinder began. This was also the start of a secret identity which would last till his death – the name “Fiona Macleod“.

Sharp adopted the pseudonym Fiona Macleod which arose from the inspiration and arousal that Sharp felt in Edith’s presence. Sharp’s inspiration formed the basis for one of his greatest works, ‘Sospiri di Roma’ a small book of poems.

In 1895, literary works such as ‘Mountain Lovers’ and ‘Pharais’ signaled a dramatic change in Sharp’s life with the noticeable energy exhibited in his writing as reported by readers and critics alike. It was through these fictional characters as author that most of Sharp’s financial success as a writer would establish him as a genius of his era.

In 1910 after William Sharps’ death, Elizabeth Sharp began writing a biographical memoir that revealed the origin and necessity behind the double personality of William Sharp that was such a prominent feature of his literary works.