Marjory Wardrop (1869–1909)

Marjorie Scott Wardrop was a pioneering scholar and translator of Georgian. Her interest in the country was piqued by her brother, the British diplomat, Sir Oliver Wardrop who travelled there and learned the language before studying at Oxford and enjoying a fulfilling career. As a woman, she enjoyed no such opportunities and lamented this, as seen in this letter of 1894 to her brother: ‘I have got to stay home just doing nothing when I ought to be living, learning and working’. Despite the restrictions, she taught herself Georgian, eventually travelled there, and was revered in the country for her scholarship and for her crucial role in bringing Georgia and Georgian culture to a wider international audience.

Marjorie Wardrop remained immersed in Georgian culture until her death, continuing to study and translate its texts and to be involved in its politics. Her cultural and political work for Georgia won her many friends and allies, including a number of women for whom she served as a role model as they campaigned for political rights. Her most complex and important translation was The Man in the Panther’s Skin, from an epic poem written in the 12th century by Shota Rustaveli. She worked on it during her travels, consulting her own personal copy. She underlined a favourite verse: the lion’s cubs are equal, whether male or female. Wardrop refused to publish her translation during her lifetime, insisting it was not fit for publication. It was finally published in an edition prepared by her brother after her early death, and remains the standard against which other English translations of it are judged.