Guthrie, Marie née Romaud-Survesnes, previously Dunant, ?—c.1800
by Benjamin Colbert
Marie [sometimes anglicized to ‘Maria’] Guthrie was born Marie de Romaud-Servesnes, her parentage and date of birth unknown, although her father is said to have been a nobleman from Burgundy (Burke 144).
How or when she came to be in St. Petersburg remains a mystery, although at some point she married one ‘N. Dunant’ and became the Acting Director of the Imperial Convent for the Education of the Female Nobility of Russia (the Smol’nyi Institute), probably in the 1770s. During these years, she bore a son, who later became secretary to the diplomatist Sir Charles Whitworth (1752-1825; ODNB) (Guthrie, ‘Letter’ 470-71).
After the death of her first husband, she married Matthew Guthrie (1743-1807; ODNB), the physician to the Cadet Corps of Nobles, and a man of extensive interests in science, antiquarianism, musicology, and ethnology. It is likely that the couple visited Edinburgh sometime in the 1780s (see Tour 228). In those years, too, they produced two daughters, Anastasia-Jessy (1782-1855) and Mary Elizabeth (1789-1850).
From 1795 to 1796, Marie Guthrie travelled in the Crimea, seeking in a southern climate, as she wrote, ‘the recovery of [my] health, deeply injured by too close an attention to [my] daughter’s education’ (2). Her husband and children remained in St. Petersburg, and she and one of her own female servants were accompanied by the German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas and his family (Sweet 248n15a). Along the way, she recorded her observations in letters to her husband that demonstrate her participation in the antiquarian, historical, botanical, and ethnological investigations in which he also delighted. In fact, she wrote in the full knowledge that her letters would form the basis for a jointly produced travel narrative, building on a tour that Matthew Guthrie had made to the Crimea some years earlier.
On her return, her health worsened and she journeyed south once more (Tour 284) collecting further notes that would be incorporated into the travelogue. A Tour, Performed in the Years 1795-6, through the Taurida, or Crimea (1802), however, was published posthumously, translated from the French and edited by Matthew Guthrie, who also intertwined his own notes with her text honouring, he claimed, Marie Guthrie’s own wishes.
Marie Guthrie died around 1800 and is buried at St. Petersburg.
Burke, J. Bernard. A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland. Vol. 3. London: Henry Colburn, 1853. Print.
Guthrie, Marie. A Tour, Performed in the Years 1795-6, through the Taurida, or Crimea. London: T. Cadell, Jun. and W. Davies, 1802. Print.
Guthrie, Matthew. ‘Letter of Matthew Guthrie, M.D. to Dr. Garthshore [24 March 1797]’, Gentleman’s Mag. 55 (1843): 469-71. Print.
Sweet, Jessie M. ‘Matthew Guthrie (1743-1807): An Eighteenth-Century Gemmologist’. Annals of Science 20.4 (Dec. 1964): 245-302. Print.
|A Tour, Performed in the Years 1795-6||1802|