The Mary Hamilton Papers : Diary of Mary Hamilton (21 June 1784 - 15 July 1784)

Hamilton, Mary

The Mary Hamilton Papers

<p style='text-align: justify;'>The diary covers the period from 21 June to 15 July 1784 and details Mary Hamilton’s many visits and engagements with friends such as Hester Chapone, Mary Delany, the Dowager Duchess of Portland, Elizabeth Vesey and Horace Walpole. She also details her day-to-day life, her writing and reading, her relationships with her servants, and the news and gossip of the day.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Hamilton records her many social engagements including a detailed description of a visit to Horace Walpole at Strawberry Hill, when Hamilton’s party was late. She assured Walpole that this was not her fault as ‘Mr V[esey] is never punctual’. Eva Garrick arrived immediately afterwards. Hamilton notes that Walpole showed them through his house and opened the cabinets ‘w[hi]ch are not opened to the company that come to see the house’. The cabinets contain ‘miniatures & various fine & curious things both Modern & Antique’. She describes the house as ‘true Gothic – every Room, closet, Gallery, Boudoir &c has painted Glass Windows’. To Hamilton the house was the ‘most perfect thing of the kind in England I believe I may say in Europe – one must live in this house at least a Month to see every thing’. Hamilton notes that Walpole was particularly attentive to her and that she took real pleasure in viewing the house and the art it contained. She details the works that he showed her, noting that some of the art and curiosities he showed only to ‘particular friends’. She details the dinner Walpole gave which was elegant and served well and ‘showed that the master of the House was a man of fortune & taste accustomed to elegance’. Hamilton clearly delights in the attention that Walpole paid her. Hamilton details the evening and writes that she took Mrs Garrick aside and told her of her engagement to John Dickenson. Mrs Garrick ‘shed tears of joy & assured’ her that she would receive Dickenson with open arms. Hamilton also writes of the conversations she had with Garrick who told her that she has never recovered from the loss of her husband. She writes that they lived together for 34 years in the utmost harmony; he died her lover as well as her husband and friend. Before she left, Walpole passed Hamilton a letter to give to his niece Lady Maria Waldergrave.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>On another occasion, crossing Kew Bridge on her way to Sir Joshua Reynolds’s house with Mr and Mrs Vesey, she notes how ‘happy I felt when I compared my present Liberty to that life of restraint’. (This was the first time she had crossed the bridge since she had left Court.) She describes and lists the company with her at Reynolds’s, as well as the house and the many portraits there. On the same evening she attended another engagement at Mrs Vesey’s whose guests included Horace Walpole and Eva Garrick. Another time, she attended a dinner with Sir Joshua Reynolds, James Boswell and Miss Palmer and she writes of Mr Boswell’s ‘professed attachment’ to her. Miss Parmer showed her one of her own paintings which she thought similar in style to Reynolds. In her own home, Mrs Delany’s nephew, Court Dewes was so taken by the singing of Hamilton’s cousin, Jane Hamilton, that he cancelled going to the Opera. On a visit to Mrs [Charlotte] Walsingham she sought assurance over the propriety of travelling alone with Mr Pepys. She describes her evening, Walsingham’s house and possessions, and the company which included Mrs Garrick and the Duchess of Bolton. Hamilton also writes of Walsingham’s daughter, Miss Boyle, who was about fourteen years old and whom Hamilton describes as the ‘most accomplished young Person I ever met with’. She outlines her educational abilities but notes her fears that such an education will ‘prevent her enjoying the innocent pleasure of society for every other female will not only envy but be afraid of her & the men in general are so jealous of our being as wise as themselves that they will shun her none will associate with her but [...] pretended Femmes Savantes & an affect Femme Savante is in my opinion a most disagreeable animal’ as they pretend more information than they know ‘are pert affected & useless members of society’. She continues on the subject of knowledgeable women; the most learned in her opinion is Elizabeth Carter.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Hamilton writes about her family and the advice they give with regards to her engagement. She records the conversations she had with her family including one in which her aunt Mrs Frederick Hamilton ‘talked away’ for an hour on such things as the ‘disappointed lives people of fashion led in Dublin’, whilst her uncle Frederick talked about taxes and the state of the nation and about her relation, Colonel Cathcart speaking in the House of Commons. She writes of family disputes, particularly one involving her cousin Lady Stormont and her uncle, Frederick Hamilton.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Hamilton records the news and gossip of society. Of the gossip amongst her friends, Elizabeth Vesey for instance gave Hamilton a detailed history of Mrs Ord, including information on the death of her husband in the ‘last American war’ She writes of the reactions of the various Bas Bleu members to the news of Miss Gregory’s marriage to a clergyman, Archibald Alison, without fortune (he had a living of only £150 a year); Elizabeth Montagu ‘was dissatisfied by the match’. Hamilton was saddened that the marriage was thought to be unwise ‘in every respect except that the gentleman had a good character’, commenting that Miss Gregory ‘has not behaved gratefully and openly towards her best friend Mrs Montagu’. The diary also contains gossip and news concerning members if the Royal Family.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The diary also documents the books and pamphlets that Hamilton reads which include Blair’s Sermons and <i><i>Remarks on the French and English Ladies</i></i>. Hamilton does not like the author’s style, but she does agree with his views on French women ‘as she has heard from people who have lived in France’. Hamilton also begins an unnamed ‘foolish novel’ of which she could only read a few pages before putting it down as the ‘stile’ was to poor to continue with. The novel was not ‘indelicate but poor sad stuff’. She also notes reading Voltaire’s <i><i>Memoirs</i></i>; she describes him as a ‘great though wicked author’ and says that ‘no woman ought to read a book w[hi]ch she w[ou]ld be ashamed to own she has read – I reproach myself for having read this’. Hamilton also read much of her friends’ writings including letters and journals. She notes that Richard Glover gave her his manuscript journal, written when he was in France and Italy, to read. Mr Dewes had sent her the letters which his aunt, Mrs Delany, had written to his mother. Hamilton was making extracts from them (see HAM/3/3). She writes that he approved of her industry and made her happy by saying that she could keep the letters and that when she had copied the packet she had he would send her the remainder in his possession. He also offered to ask his sister Mrs Port if she had any letters. Hamilton also discusses on art and a visit to Mr Agars where she impressed him with her comments on the paintings and was invited to return with her uncle, Sir William Hamilton. Her cousin, Lady Frances Harper showed her a miniature by Saunders of her son, of a size suitable for a ring, which cost five guineas. Lady Frances suggested that Hamilton should have her portrait painted by him.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Hamilton writes of a visit from Miss Glover who told her that at dinner at her home, M. Bourdieu was told to give up hopes of Hamilton’s accepting his offer of marriage but that he still insisted saying that it was impossible for him to give up hope (see HAM/2/10). Mr Glover then informed him of Hamilton’s engagement to John Dickenson and M. Bourdieu was much affected by this news. Hamilton also records the continual visits from one of her other admirers, Mr Stanhope, a married man who ‘plagued’ her. She writes that in one visit he said that she was a ‘pattern of perfection [...] I let him run on till at last my head quite ach[e]d’. He was not put off and called again the following day.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The diary also includes information on everyday life such as Hamilton’s maid preparing her hot peppermint water as a remedy for a headache, and having her hair dressed which she notes was ‘a long affair’. She writes of receiving a ‘begging’ letter from the ‘miserable good for nothing Mr Copeland’. She notes that her friends Mrs Walsingham and Miss Boyle were held up by a highwayman and she records general topics of the day including the possible increase of tax on super fine sugars. Hamilton comments on an odd request she received from the Duke of Newcastle who wrote asking ‘what sort of mourning he should go in to Court for the late Dowager [Lady] Harrington. I was not a little entertain[e]d to think he should apply to me for this important information – I sent his Grace my opinion’. Hamilton also writes on the subject of servants and of her pleasure in dining at Lord and Lady Stormont’s who on occasions are served by a dumb waiter ‘which is the most comfortable methods of dining as it lays no restraint on conversation’.</p>

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