The Mary Hamilton Papers : Journal-letters of a tour to Spa (Belgium) from Mary Hamilton to Mrs Mary Catherine Hamilton (née Dufresne) (1 August 1776...

Hamilton, Mary, Dawson (née Freame), Philadelphia Hannah, Baroness Cremorne

The Mary Hamilton Papers

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This travel journal covers the period from 1 August to October 1776 and details Mary Hamilton’s visit to Spa [now in Belgium], as a guest of Lord and Lady Dartrey (see <a target='_blank' class='externalLink uom-purple' href=''>HAM/1/11</a>). The travel journal is written largely as journal-letters to her mother, as indicated on pp.13, 26, 34, 40, 45, 46, 47, 48, 52, 58, 62, 63, 65, 70. The remainder could be regarded as journal entries but were clearly intended to be shown to her mother on her return, like those that were posted. An inscription on the first page of the journal, dated 30 July 1776, notes that Hamilton had left her ‘Dear Mama to accompany Lord & Lady Dartrey to Spa’.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The journal begins at Dover where Hamilton writes of waiting for a ‘fair wind’ before they can board for France. The journal records Hamilton’s journey to Dover, describing the scenery and some of the places and buildings that she visited on her way. She also notes that whilst at Dover she met the ‘celebrated & amiable’ Mrs [Elizabeth] Carter who had come from her home in Deal and writes of other people waiting to go to Calais whom she met in Dover, including Lord Pomfret.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The journal is full of details of Hamilton’s journey to Spa, her companions, the towns and cities that they stayed in, the various people they met, the dress of the local people, the accommodation they occupied and the food they ate. In Calais they visited the Convent of the Dominicans and met an English lady at the Abbey who showed them the types of work carried out by the nuns there such as making purses. She later writes of visiting the convent of St Clara where the nuns only eat eggs, milk and cheese and who exist by begging, noting that there are two ‘Holy fathers’ who go around the community collecting for the support of the nuns. Hamilton also includes stories relating to the convents themselves. At one she was told that a woman had been placed there two years earlier after having ‘an attachment to a young man’ of whom her parents did not approve. She tried to escape from the convent but was captured and returned by soldiers. The woman starved herself to death and her lover drowned himself after he discovered this.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The journal is full of Hamilton’s views of the artwork she saw on her travels such as a number of Rubens paintings that she saw at a church in Ghent. She writes of the fashions, hairstyles and society of the different places she visited. In general, the hairstyles are not as extravagant as in London although ‘some of the Ladies have their heads well loaded’. She notes that in Brussels the prevailing fashion is for very small hats that barely cover the head and that the women will not ‘walk abroad’ without them. She also writes of women in another area not wearing stays.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The journal also contains news of Hamilton’s family and of her companions. Hamilton writes that Lord Dartrey prefers that she and Lady Dartrey play cards at the end of the day rather than write letters. She says that her uncle, Lord Cathcart, wants his daughter [Lady Stormont, later Lady Mansfield (see <a target='_blank' class='externalLink uom-purple' href=''>HAM/1/18</a>] to marry a man much older than her and that her cousin took an instant dislike to the man. Hamilton writes that it is hoped that her cousins ‘will be prevailed upon’. She also notes that her uncle and aunt, Sir William and Lady Hamilton, are on their way to Paris to talk to her cousin. Mary Hamilton also discusses literature, in particular Elizabeth Carter’s book of Poems that her guardian Lord Napier (see <a target='_blank' class='externalLink uom-purple' href=''>HAM/1/19</a>) had sent her.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>In Spa, Hamilton describes how she spends her time, the people she meets, the walks she takes and the dances and entertainments that she attends. She writes of meeting Sir John and Lady Webb (see <a target='_blank' class='externalLink uom-purple' href=''>HAM/1/8/7</a>) and notes that Lady Webb had married Sir John when she was just thirteen. Lady Webb was ‘handsome but in delicate health & looks very unhappy’. She also meets Princess Dashkova [Catherine Dashkova (1743-1810), confidante of Catherine the Great of Russia, educator and author] and notes that she dresses in ‘men’s clothes w[hi]ch is her usual morning dress [...] Her hair is very powdered & tied in a club behind a very shabby small [...] hat’. Hamilton describes spending time with the Princess and comments that she was very ‘obliging’ but the Princess complained about her health and nerves and said that she was not able to sing or play in public because of this. Hamilton writes of the balls that she and Lady Dartrey attended, including details of the types of dances they danced and their various partners. She attended a concert in aid of a charity and was ashamed to admit that she laughed very much through it and that Lady Webb behaved no better. A ‘miserable little man’ in the middle of a large room played a flute ‘in tones so weak, or delicate, if you chuse, that no sound reached the ears except now & then a tone that resembled the squeak of a pig’. The journal continues with the entertainments and waters at Spa, Hamilton’s acquaintances there and her journey back to England.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Also included in the journal are letters from Lady Dartrey to Mrs Hamilton, in which she updates her with news of her daughter. The last few pages of the journal include a transcript of a poem ‘written by a lady’ and given to Hamilton by Princess Dashkova, and two pages of drawings of the various people that Hamilton met or saw while she was at Spa.</p>

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