MontaguLady Mary Wortley Turkish Embassy Letters. William Pickering. At a gathering, inof llooking Whigs with literary and political ambitions at the Kit-Kat Club, Lord Kingston nominated his daughter Mary as their toast for the year. When the others objected that they had never set eyes on the candidate, he had her finely dressed and brought to the tavern.
She had her health drunk by all present and was passed from lap to lap of the poets and statesmen gathered there. Her granddaughter, Lady Louisa Stuart, was often to describe this heady experience of being 'feasted with sweetmeats, overwhelmed with caresses', but went on to say, 'and Pleasure, she said, was too poor a word to express her sensations; they amounted to ecstasy.
Perhaps this was the experience that Lady Mary tried to match for the rest of her life, for she remarked later: 'I came young into the hurry of the world. Although her birth, inseemed auspicious enough, her father, Evelyn Pierrepont, being elected to Parliament for East Retford in Nottinghamshire that same year, and destined to inherit his mother Elizabeth Pierrepont's estate and his father the Earl of Kingston's title, her childhood was not entirely happy.
Her mother, Lady Mary Fielding, the daughter of the Earl of Denbigh, bore four children in three and a half years, and died in younget, a tragedy that her daughter Mary described, in an autobiographical novel, in heart-rending terms: 'The death of a noble Mother, whose virtue and good sense might domen supported and instructed her youth, which was left to a young Father who, tho' naturally an honest man, was abandoned to his.
It was clearly in the most fortunate part of England that she found herself, one that protected such property by acts of Parliament like the Inclosure Act and the Black Act ofconceived to keep land, timber, corn and game in the hands of the wealthy and privileged and as far from the poor and the desperate as the art loooking Gainsborough and Reynolds is from that of Hogarth and Rowlandson.
Although it was evidently a lovely and comfortable home for the children, Lady Mary seldom referred to the place later ' and seemed to retain only one memory of youngee, that of her 'childish desire of catching the setting sun, which I can remember running very hard to do: a fine thing truly if it could be caught; but experience soon shows it to be impossible' as she wrote later to her daughter, Lady Bute. The sun she chased soon manifested itself in literary terms.
What delighted the child was not the architecture but the libraries these houses contained, and that supplied her with whatever education she can be said to have had, her formal teaching having been 'one of the worst in the world. Dedicated to the Fair Hands of the Beauteous Hermensilde by her most obedient Strephon', and to which she supplied a preface:. I Question not but here lioking very manny faults but if any reasonable Person considers 3 things they would forgive them.
The verses inscribed within reveal the usual juvenile need youger imitate, in varying degrees of clumsiness and success, as well as stilted adult reflections on love, life and death. Another volume, The Entire Works Of Clarinda, written a year or two later, showed growing self-confidence hounger imagination as she described Strephons quest for true love: finding himself in a castle called Marriage, he encountered Discord, Strife and Uneasiness, and learnt that 'Love and marriage are irreconcilable enemies.
Next she developed such a passion for Ovid's Metamorphoses that she resolved to learn Latin 'with the help of an uncommon memory and indefatigable labour. Clearly she had launched her own career as a proverbial 'bluestocking' a ten-n that actually came into use half a century later, but was famously applied to a relation of hers by -marriage, Elizabeth Montagubut when she was seventeen years old, her father became the Marquess of Dorchester and a full-blooded representative of a class of parliamentarians who thought of politics as a means to acquiring a fortune as well as.
The notion of the divine right of kings had been revoked in and in ,wm Protestant Hanoverians had triumphed over the Catholic Stuarts. The social ambitions of men like her father rose with their political and financial status. The daughter was permitted tuition in such aristocratic indulgences as drawing and Italian, but also, more seriously, in the art of carving.
At parties she had to dine alone beforehand so that she could apply herself to the arduous task of slicing the mutton and serving the guests who would have been offended if not shown such service the master being employed in passing the bottle. This was surely a dire fate for a young woman capable of writing in imitation of Ovid's Epistles and Virgil's Eclogues, but her role of hostess did bring her in touch with some of the library luminaries of the Augustan Age such as Joseph Addison, Richard Steele and William Congreve, younfer it was a time when politics and letters knew no division but lived off each other, creating an urbane, sophisticated, anti-romantic and even cynical literature that delighted in witticism, satire and innuendo.
A less confident or ambitious girl might have found such company overwhelming but clearly Lady Mary found herself a match for it. A life of letters was not that of a recluse in such circumstances, and Lady Mary participated in the social whirl of the winter season along with other young debutantes and heiresses. Amongst them was one Anne Wortley whose brother was Womne Wortley Montagu, a grandson of the womeh Earl of Sandwich, and known for his political aspirations as well as his friendships with such literary figures of the day as Steele and Addison.
As a wealthy young man who had gone to Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge, then to the Middle Temple where he was called to the bar at twenty-one, and in elected to Parliament from Huntingdon, he had a. Lady Mary would have been equally impressed by. He appears to have been charmed by her wit and beauty and sent her gifts and flattering letters, with his sister Anne acting as the intermediary till she died, suddenly, in The friendship continued, and the correspondence grew to voluminous proportions.
What is striking is how dominant is the element of argument in it: the two seem scarcely ever to have agreed, whether discussing their mutual friends or the relative merits of town and country.
Perhaps it was what made their relationship interesting to them, and so did the fact that it had to be kept a secret from Lord Pierrepont who had his own plans for his daughter. When Wortley finally made a formal proposal, the father insisted on two conditions being met - that he was to maintain a house in London, and that his estate be entailed to the first son youmger to him.
The negotiations were conducted purely on points of finance, and the discussions were precise but interminable, and came to nothing: neither would give way and Wortley was dismissed as a suitor. The indignant young man contributed an essay to The Tatler in which he denounced the system of mercenary marital arrangements. His point of view was not, however, feminist, since his sympathies lay chiefly with the male suitor of the woman put at auction: 'Her first lover has ten to one against him.
The very hour after he has opened his heart and his rent rolls he is made no other use of but to raise her price. youngre
Although Lady Mary had a natural inclination to intrigue and appears to have been excited by the twists and turns of the negotiations, warning Wortley of other suitors being entertained by her father after he wommen had departed on a tour of Europe, she seems also to have felt bitterly the indignity of her situation. When she. Adieu forever! At this stage, the Whig government was replaced by a Tory parliament, but Wortley retained his seat and hurried back from Europe to take womej in the Opposition where he put forward a bill forbidding a Member to accept a pension from the Ministry.
During this time Lady Mary was ordered by her father to remain in the country but looknig she returned to London, she managed to meet Wortley again at dances, the theatre and the opera, as well as at private asations in the homes of friends like the Steeles and Lady Jekyll.
Wkmen, Wortley resented her many other friendships and frequently voiced his mwk of other young men he thought she favoured. Lady Mary's replies were both frank and realistic, and she wound up with the hint, 'If you can like me on my own terms, 'tis not to me you must make your proposals. An example of the mercenary marriages contracted in those days: her brother William, still legallywas married to the sixteen-year-old Rachel Baynton, the illegitimate daughter of John Hall whose huge estate was settled on the young Lord Kingston, as also was Lord Dorchester's.
Lady Mary prophesied no good would come of it, and when William was twenty he died of smallpox, leaving an eighteen-year-old widow with two small children.
The young widow later lived with Lord Scarborough, expecting he would marry her, and when he refused, lost her power of speech and died. Lord Scarborough then became engaged to the Duchess of Manchester but committed suicide before his wedding day. Altogether, this string of lurid events should have caused Lord Dorchester pause for thought. He offered Lady Mary the town house her father demanded, as well as pin money and a settlement in the event of her widowhood. Lady Mary now proposed elopement to Wortley, romantically suggesting they settle in Naples.
There is no evidence that Wortley encouraged this rosy dream - he had not only a political career to pursue but his family's immensely lucrative coal mines to manage - but it is to his credit that he agreed to elope with her, knowing he would forfeit her dowry if he did so. Arrangements were already underway for Lady Mary's wedding to Skeffington when a slight delay occurred - the marriage contract had to be sent back to Ireland for a ature and an amendment - and in this fortuitous fog of time, Lady Mary laid her cloak-and-dagger plans for elopement, as romantic as any in the French novels of her mwmm.
The couple's talent for disagreement continued unabated, however, and while she waited on her balcony at the appointed hour, Wortley managed to be late, so that she was bundled into a coach and sent to West Dean, Wortley pursuing the coach on horseback. At one point, they spent the night at the same inn but without realizing it restoration comedy was not so unlike life after all and it is remarkable that they finally managed to meet, to escape, and to be married, at Salisbury, on 15 October Had her life resembled one of the romances Lady Mary had loved as a girl, the story would now be ended with the sound of church bells, but in fact the romance came quickly and inexplicably to an end.
Naples was never mentioned again, Wortley spent all his time away from his bride, attending to his political and business interests, and leaving her to move from the country home of one relation to another, till she finally rented. Even the birth of their son, Edward, in Maydid not bring Wortley closer to her. The letters she wrote him rang with bitter complaints of being neglected; Wortley rarely replied, and one can only speculate on the reasons for his absence of passion: probably it had existed only in her imagination.
She had to content herself with her son and her life in the country about which she expressed her feelings in a semi-comic poem, 'The Bride in the Country', until the situation changed suddenly and dramatically. With this proclamation the Tories woomen into decline and the Whigs into the ascendant.
Lady Mary threw herself with enthusiasm into persuading Wortley to stand for election, choosing him a safe constituency, and even suggesting he 'buy some little Cornish borough. George I was hardly glamorous - he spoke no English and brought with him two elderly German mistresses - but Lady Mary managed to find enjoyment in the social round of teas, cards, gossip, opera and the playhouse.
With Pope she collaborated, in the spirit of fun, in adapting Virgil's pastoral eclogues into satiric town eclogues in which the London belles and beaux replaced classical shepherds and shepherdesses. At this stage her literary ambitions seem to have been chiefly playful and did youhger include publication: she circulated her verses amongst friends, and advised Lord Cornbury that 'it was not the business of men of quality to turn author.
Caricature combined for her most delightfully with gossip. At this juncture she was tragically struck by smallpox, the dread disease that had killed her brother. She was treated by the two most eminent physicians in London, Hans Sloane and Dr Garth, and recovered, but with her beauty marred: her eyelashes were gone, and her skin deeply pitted. This was not an age of compassion, and wits had it that 'she was very full of pox] and yet not pitted [pitied]. Once again she had displayed her prophetic gifts, for just then Wortley was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary to the Court of Turkey, to replace Sir Robert Sutton.
Lady Mary, who retained her essentially romantic spirit under the lacquered veneer of the society lady and wit, was charmed by the prospect of travel in the East; the fact that appointments were made for five years at a time and could lolking to ten or fifteen did not deter her: it meant only that the preparations had to be lengthy and monumental. She had to engage servants, a maid for her child, a chaplain and a surgeon, as well as see to provisions: there was much discussion of the cost of livery, with or without lace.
Her friends gave her several small commissions and farewells were made; Pope's was magnificently emotional and for a present he copied out the five town eclogues they had written together into an album bound in red leather. Turkey was at war ylunger the Venetian Republic; Austria loking committed by treaty to come to the aid of Venice.
England needed to prevent Austria from becoming embroiled as its support was required to offset Spanish power in the Mediterranean. Wortley was given a letter to the Emperor Charles VI with the proposal that England might mediate and bring about a truce. This required the Montagus to travel through Holland to Austria, Lady Mary appreciating the cleanliness and orderliness of the Dutch towns she passed through on the way. When they reached Vienna, the Imperial Army under Prince Eugene of Savoy had already defeated a Turkish army twice its size at Peterwardein and driven it as far back as Belgrade.
It was thought the Turks could be driven further without Belgrade having to be captured. Wortley was to try and bring about a peace treaty. He spent two months in Vienna for the purpose, and Lady Mary had the opportunity to observe the court of Vienna and compare it with the English court. Curiously, there is no mention in her letters of Wortley's negotiations and she seems to have taken no part in his official activities, withholding the advice she had given freely earlier.
She was either distracted by the novelty of the scene, or she was being diplomatically discreet. She made friends at court, and her wit and vivacity appear to have captivated the King, making her a great favourite. They spent the carnival season in Vienna, then set off across the plains of Hungary for Peterwardein, the Turkish Sultan Ahmed III having expressed his willingness to allow the English to mediate. Travel by boat down the Danube was not possible since it was frozen, so their coaches were attached to sleighs and the journey proved faster and easier than they had expected.
They reached Buda and found it devastated by the war between Turkey and Austria, and travelled on to Peterwardein where they were given an Imperial escort of musketeers, 50 grenadiers and 50 hussars and met by a Turkish guard of horsemen as escort to Belgrade. Their host here was the learned and cultivated effendi Ahmed Bey who charmed Lady Mary with his knowledgable talk of the literature and culture of his land.
At the same time there were brutal scenes to. Travelling through a land both physically and metaphorically 'plagued', they reached Adrianople, the Sultan having transferred the court to the more salubrious surroundings of gardens and villas along the river. Lady Mary settled down in a palace and quickly made friends with the French ambassador's wife and went sightseeing, studied Arabic and read Arabic poetry.
Meanwhile Wortley negotiated with the Grand Vizier and obtained the terms of the truce: the Turks would stop fighting if Temeshwar were restored to them.
He sent the terms to Vienna, confident of their acceptance. In Vienna, they were considered absurd - he had been sent to Turkey to urge them to a younter, not plead on Turkey's behalf. Wortley had returned to Constantinople and rented a palace in Pera, on a hill overlooking the Golden Horn, unaware that Abraham Stanyan, the English ambassador to Vienna, was conniving to have him removed from his post for incompetence. Stanyan was able to convince Lord Sunderland that the terms Wortley had negotiated were unacceptable, and offered his own services 'in case Mr Wortley be recalled.