Mary Hamilton Papers : Diary of Mary Hamilton (20 March - 22 April 1784)

Hamilton, Mary

Mary Hamilton Papers

<p style='text-align: justify;'>The diary covers the period from 20 March to 22 April 1784 and details Hamilton’s daily life during this period.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Hamilton describes a visit from Mr Stanhope, a married man who ‘plagued’ Hamilton with his attentions and many visits. He desired Hamilton ‘to feel as great & sublime a friendship for him as he did & had done so long for me – told me what a pattern of perfection he thought me etc. I let him run on till my head quite ach[e]d [...] [and told him I] had letters to write’. She also writes of a visit from one of her old maids who came to her for advice since she was getting married.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Hamilton describes many of her visits to her friends including one to Elizabeth Vesey when she talked with Elizabeth Carter on murder trials and on dreams and superstition. She records her many visits to Mary Delany who on one occasion showed her some of Jonathan Swift’s letters to her; Hamilton comments that he had a ‘lively stile’. She writes of a visit from Lord Monboddo who brought some her manuscript poems and whom she describes as ‘quite a character’. She visited Lord and Lady Wake where the main topic of conversation was the dissolution of Parliament. Eva Maria Garrick inviting her to use her box at Drury Lane if she wanted to see Sarah Siddons. Hamilton did go to see Siddons play Lady Randolph in Douglass and she thought her ‘very great’ but the other actors were all bad. She also describes visits from friends from Court, who brought news of the Royal Family, and her attendance at a concert which greatly pleased her and where she saw many people that she knew. At an evening at Mrs Vesey’s she talked with Horace Walpole about a new work he had recently published. Hamilton describes attending two assemblies, the first of which was given by the Duchess of Chandos where there was a great deal of company ‘but not many of the 1st ton’. She then attended a more ‘elegant’ assembly at Lady Herries’s. She notes that there were not many men in attendance at either assembly as they were all ‘busy with politics & preparing for a new election’. She writes of Lady Wake’s happiness that her husband was not to stand in the election. Talk was of the American War amongst other things. Hamilton apologised to Mrs Pepys for not being able to attend her Bas Bleu assembly, but she describes attending many other assemblies including one given by Miss Tyson which was full of people of distinction, and her visits including to Frances Boscawen where the talk was of elections.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Hamilton visited Mrs Garrick, whose other visitors included Frances Burney, Horace Walpole and Joshua Reynolds. Mrs [Charlotte] Walsingham invited her to the Pantheon to hear the rehearsal of the concert ‘which is to be performed in the memory of Handel’. She also records attending a Bas Bleu party with Elizabeth Montagu, Horace Walpole, Frances Burney, Hannah More, Elizabeth Carter and Eva Maria Garrick. Joshua Reynolds’s niece, Miss Palmer, told Hamilton that her uncle, Sir William Hamilton, was a frequent visitor at Sir Joshua’s and that he had ‘escorted my cousin Cha[rles] Greville’s Mistress [later Lady Emma Hamilton] in a Hackney Coach & that her uncle was painting this woman’s picture for him to take to Naples. I shall make use of this intelligence, & have some entertainment in plaguing Sir William’.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Hamilton records the literature she has read including a novel sent to her by Mrs Handcock called <i><i>Henrietta</i></i>. She describes a visit from Lord Napier, who informed her that he had made an offer of marriage to Miss Clavering and had been accepted; he described Miss Clavering as a woman of good character and large fortune. Hamilton adds that he has not yet told his family and asked her not to mention it to anyone. Hamilton also writes with general news of her family: attending dinners with her various family members; the intention of her uncle, Frederick Hamilton, to return to Ireland for six weeks to ‘finish family affairs’; her Aunt Warwick’s purchase of a new carriage and her dislike of allowing her horses to go amidst crowds. Hamilton attended a party given for Lord Napier and Miss Clavering, wearing her ‘best bib & tucker’. The infamous Sarah Lennox was at the party and Hamilton (a relation by marriage to Lord Napier) found her to be ‘good-humoured & engaging [...] [and] could not avoid being civil on this occasion [...] but my principles & hers are exactly opposite for me not to avoid any further intimacy’.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The diary also contains gossip and news of London society. She writes of Miss Gunning’s brother visiting her and telling her of the Great Seal being stolen from the Lord Chancellor’s house. Mr Stanhope and Lord Monboddo talked of the Duchess of Devonshire’s conduct in respect of the Westminster election. Hamilton notes that they ‘spoke sensibly when they reprobated it yet show’d their good nature in speaking in milder terms of this prostitution of female delicacy than I had yet heard even from her own Sex’. During a visit from Miss Argyle the conversation turned to the Queen of France and how she acted towards towards the Argyles when they were in Paris. She writes of seeing the Prince of Wales on horseback coming from Devonshire House and holding out his hand to her and notes that she thought he looked ill. She mentions that one of her friends attended a Ball which the Prince also attended.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Hamilton writes of the mundane aspects of her daily life such as having her hair dressed which she dislikes: it can take up to two hours ‘to make me look smart’. Rather than just waste her time she spends these two hours reading (Plato on one occasion) and writing.</p>


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