The Mary Hamilton Papers : Diary of Mary Hamilton (17 February 1784 - 20 March 1784)

Hamilton, Mary

The Mary Hamilton Papers

<p style='text-align: justify;'>The diary covers the period from 17 February to 20 March 1784 and records details of Mary Hamilton’s daily life during this period including her attendance at a Ball held by the Prince of Wales, visits to and from her many friends, her relationships with her family, her servants, and events in wider society including a riot that occurred in the London.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Hamilton continues the final diary entry in HAM/2/7 concerning anecdotes by Elizabeth Carter. She writes of receiving a note from Lady Stormont concerning the Prince of Wales. Stormont had met the Prince that morning and he asked her to inform Hamilton that he hoped that she would accompany Lady Stormont to a Ball and supper at Carleton House that the Prince was giving the following Wednesday. Hamilton wished it was in her power to excuse herself from going. ‘I have too small a fortune to enable me to bear the expense of dress but in a quiet moderate way & I have no ambition of being in the first Circles’. She wrote to her uncle, William Hamilton, for advice and he replied that he had met the Prince last night and he had also asked him to tell Hamilton that he hoped she would attend. She later received an official invitation from the Prince. Lady Stormont advised her against refusal and recommended her milliner ‘to dress me out’. She was to have a ‘black velvet body etc.’. Her friend Anna Maria Clarke gave her some black velvet for her dress so she did not have to purchase any. Hamilton records being measured for a new pair of stays and discussing the invitation with Mrs Delany and her other friends. Sir William Hamilton told her that the Prince had informed him that he meant to ‘endeavour to go to Paris’.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Hamilton describes the ball at Carleton House in detail. She notes that after the ‘important task [of her toilette] was finished to the satisfaction of my civil attendants’, Lady Stormont came to take her. She saw the Prince when she reached the second room and noted that he was ‘gracious & expressed great pleasure in seeing me’. She had two long conversations with him ‘in the old friendly stile’. About 500 to 600 people attended and there was ‘no distinction of party as there were both the ins and the outs. Most of the ladies were dressed in taste & elegance everybody appeared to have new clothes for the occasion. All the young people and all those who did not chuse to be thought old were decorated en Habit de Bal - great variety & no set form of dress’. The Prince asked Lady Stormont to dance but she declined as she was ‘with child’. Hamilton continues with description of the dances, the Prince and the guests. She amused herself ‘by talking to a variety of people’. A great many of her relations were present including Sir William Hamilton. She notes that the ‘Princes attentions were properly divided & nothing in my opinion could be more proper, more gracious more like a gentleman & a Prince than his behaviour, what pity that one who know [<i>sic</i>] so well how to do what is right ever fails of doing so!’ She says it was reported that Carleton House was not cleared before 9 o’clock in the morning.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>She writes of her many visits, when the conversation frequently turned to politics, even her friend Miss Blosset defending her ‘favourite’ Mr Charles Fox. Other conversations were on the subject of taste and what was thought necessary for a ‘polished mind’. Hamilton writes of Miss Gregory (see <a target='_blank' class='externalLink uom-purple' href=''>HAM/1/6/7</a>) whom she describes as good humoured and sensible and ‘esteemed by all’. After the death of her father, Elizabeth Montagu took Miss Gregory under her protection and she has lived with her ever since. Hamilton describes her many visits to Elizabeth Vesey and the conversations she had there; she often met people such as Horace Walpole, Miss More, Mrs Carter and Sir Joshua Reynolds. For example (3 March): ‘I spent an agreeable afternoon in hearing the sensible conversation of Mr H. Walpole & Miss H. More &c’.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Frances Boscawen invited her to a party that was to be in the ‘Bas Bleu Stile’ but Hamilton was unable to attend. She also records a visit to Mrs Delany, whom she found in ‘high beauty’, dressed in white satin to celebrate the Duchess of Portland’s seventieth birthday. Amongst the guests were the Bishop of Exeter and Mrs Boscawen, and the ‘conversation was lively’ with anecdotes on the ‘proud Duke of Somerset’ and how ‘Lord Northington’s brother used to torment him by mortifying his vanity [...] by informing the servants to never move out of the way excepting for members of the royal family & the Duke of Norfolk’. On a later visit to Mrs Delany she found her not well and that she had been blooded. Mrs Delany had been alarmed ‘at the riotous behaviour of the Mob last night who broke windows &c at 1 in the morning when Mr Pitt return’d out of the City’. They talked on the subject although Hamilton comments that she is ‘so out of humour with political topics and party divisions that I have not patience to write down all I hear.’</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Hamilton describes a visit from Mrs Garrick whom she describes as a ‘most unaffected, elegant, pleasing, friendly woman’. Hamilton paid a visit to Mary Delany’s, where she was entertained to ‘a little select concert of Musick’, consisting of songs by Handel, which Sir William Hamilton had had arranged in Italy for trios. They were performed by an Italian named Broggio, [James] Cervetto, ‘the fine violencello performer’, and Sir William. Mary Delany was most affected by ‘I Know that my Reedemer Liveth’: ‘the tears were trickling down her venerable cheeks’. Hamilton and her friends visited Texier’s [Anthony A. Le Texier (c.1737-1814), monologuist and theatre manager], ‘where we were well amused - he read a little piece of 2 Acts call’d Le Vapoureus or Splenetick Man - after this there were some French and Italien Girls - a little one of ab[ou]t 8 or ten years old sustain’d her part admirably’.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Hamilton records a visit from Elizabeth Carter, who had spent some time with the Dowager Lady Spencer at St Albans. Carter noted that Lady Spencer was not in good spirits: she could only sleep with the aid of laudanum, though she was involved in many benevolent acts and had a hospital amongst other things under her direction. Hamilton also mentions a visit to Elizabeth Montagu, where the conversation was mainly on chemistry and natural history. She met the Duc de Chaulnes, who showed her ‘curious drawings of Chinese buildings’; he discovered the method of making the ‘fine colours of the Chinese’. She writes about her many other visits including one from the Duke of Atholl, Lord Napier and Mr Fisher (see HAM/1/7/6), who talked of the Royal family and of Prince Edward’s governor and his ‘temper, ignorance and’ and the ‘vulgarity’ of Mr Hayes, the governor of the young princes.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Hamilton writes that her friend Miss Clarke went to see Sarah Siddons acting in the ‘Mourning Bride’, which she was very pleased with. Hamilton also reports the recovery of Elizabeth Montagu from a dreadful accident she had, being burnt when her clothes caught fire. She describes her reading matter, including <i><i>Macbeth</i></i>, which she read with her friends, and of a manuscript written by Richard Glover which ‘set the foundation of his epic poem <i><i>Leonidas</i></i>’. At a visit to her friend Miss Gunning they talked of the ‘stile of life of people of fashion led in London’. She discusses society and her belief that it was incumbent upon the individual to find their own amusement. Sir Robert Gunning noted that he preferred the society and manners of the French. Hamilton adds that she was unable to comment on this as she had never lived in Paris.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Hamilton also reveals the unwelcome attentions of Mr Stanhope, ‘a singular character’ who has a place at Court. ‘He does me the favor to like me so very much that he has tormented me for the last 6 years with his civilities - he is the only person I ever was obliged to seem rude to - but he never w[oul]d take offence - he is a tiresome, good creature, for he means extremely well.’</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The diary includes information on financial matters including those she had with her uncle, Frederick Hamilton, and his attempts to settle the affair of the rent from her mother’s house in St James’s Street. She writes of family divisions and of the indiscretion of her uncle and his disagreement with the Stormonts. Hamilton writes of the charity that she became involved in and her working to make blankets for one of her old servants whose wife had had twins. She writes of a man who teaches the harpsichord and who came from the Foundling Hospital and that he regretted not knowing ‘whom[<i>sic</i>] his parents were’.</p>

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