Mary Hamilton Papers : Diary of Mary Hamilton (15 July 1784 - 2 August 1784)

Hamilton, Mary

Mary Hamilton Papers

<p style='text-align: justify;'>The diary covers the period from 15 July 1784 to 2 August 1784 and details Mary Hamilton’s day-to-day life including her numerous social engagements.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Hamilton describes in detail an incident when one of her servants, Betty, accused a housemaid of stealing. The housemaid, Hannah, tearfully confessed to the crime and asked for forgiveness. Hannah in turn accused Betty of stealing as much if not more than she had and, as Betty was unable to defend herself, Hamilton concluded that Betty was also involved. She and the Clarkes decided that as she could not give them ‘characters’ they would not turn them away but by ‘a generous forgiveness & good advice to try to affect a reformation in their mind & excite their gratitude’. Hamilton made the two women embrace each other and promise to keep the affair secret from their acquaintances. The Clarkes and Hamilton agreed that they had done what was most ‘kind & charitable’. The diary also records Hamilton’s relations with other servants including a Mrs Johnston, an old maid of hers, with whom she kept in contact after she left. She bought presents for Mrs Vesey’s servants who ‘had been very civil’. On taking a chair to visit Mrs Delany, one of the chairmen recognised her from her time at Court and ‘he made so many speeches of his happiness in seeing me &c that my fare cost me ½ a Crown instead of a shilling’.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The diary also includes information on Hamilton’s Bas Bleu friends. Hamilton records that Elizabeth Vesey showed her a ‘clever letter’ written by Elizabeth Montagu who ‘lamented Mrs Thrales [Hester Thrale Piozzi] having so lost herself in marrying Piozzi the Italian Singer’. She describes the many visits from women such as Hannah More and Eva Maria Garrick. She received an invitation to the home of Mrs [Charlotte] Walsingham where the Philosopher Walker [perhaps Adam Walker (1730/31-1821)] was to be present, and Mrs Walsingham and her daughter, Mrs Boyle, were to construct an air balloon which was then to be let off.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Hamilton records the congratulations and advice she received from her friends and relations over her forthcoming marriage to John Dickenson. Lord Stormont, for instance, advised her that it would be proper to get ‘Mr D upon a proper footing, w[hi]ch was that we should be presented at Court’ after her marriage. If this was not done, ‘all my family & the world w[ou]ld suppose I married a person who was not approved of by my Relations etc’. Hamilton admits that she said little in reply to Stormont’s advice, as she wished to do what John Dickenson ‘found to be agreeable’. Mary Delany told Hamilton that she had much admiration for Dickenson, so much so ‘that she should be tempted to marry him th[ou]gh she was only in her 85th year’. Dickenson made Delany and the Duchess of Portland happy by saying that he would not separate Hamilton from the society of her friends.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The diary is full of information on Hamilton’s daily life and her social engagements. She attended church where a ‘stranger’ was taking the service who ‘preach[e]d the most extravagant discourse I ever heard [...] a composition of loose sentences in Blank Verse or rather Prose run mad’. When she dined with Lord and Lady Stormont, they often used dumb-waiters which meant their conversation was not constrained by the attendance of servants. They discussed the style of living and the Court in Vienna which, in Lord Stormont’s view, was the most ‘polished’ in Europe. They talked too of the cost of living, both in England and abroad. Stormont said that ‘you could live in an elegant manner abroad where you would do so with difficulty in England’. He also noted that the French were taking ‘infinite pains to adopt our manners and learn our language’. Stormont reported a conversation he had had with the King ‘after the negotiation between the English, French & Republicans [...] when through Lord Stormonts prudence in conducting that affair we were saved from a war with Russia’. The King said that he hoped he would not ‘out live the remembrance of what he & this Country owed to Lord Stormont’. During visits by her uncle, Frederick Hamilton, they talked of the situation in Ireland where her uncle feared there would be a revolution.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Other topics of conversations with friends and relations included the Royal family, the education of girls and Hamilton’s views on Madame de Genlis’s methods of teaching, and politics. Hamilton notes that ‘Mr Fox had greatly offended his friends by his late absence from the House of Commons – they wrote to remonstrate to him the folly & impropriety of it’. She reports Fox’s reply: he was ‘very happy & quiet at St Anns Hill with Mrs Armstead [Elizabeth Armitstead, mistress of Charles Fox], that he thought he should stay some time longer & concluded his letter by saying that Mrs A wonder’d they did not come & see her’. From this discussion of politics, Hamilton concluded that ‘we were a ruin’d People & that the Glory of the English Nation was set for ever’. Her cousin Colonel Greville, an equerry to the King, reported that the Prince of Wales paid his compliments to Hamilton and expressed his wonderment at not seeing Hamilton all winter; Hamilton notes that the last time ‘he had that pleasure was when I was at the Ball he invited me to’. Later Hamilton speaks of her surprise at seeing the Prince of Wales’s groom and horses outside Mrs Armitstead’s house for over two hours; ‘by this Mr Fox I suppose is return’d’. Hamilton discusses growing discontent in society, for instance in Scotland ‘with the Taxes on linnens Gauses & Ribbons as it would quite ruin the Manufacturers of Glasgow & Paisley – that the Irish grow every day more violent, & that a Mr Pemberton had call’d out in the Theatre in Dublin when the Duke of Portland came in & they had begun playing “God Save the King” No more of that &c &c God save Louis 16th King of France & friend of the oppressed’.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Hamilton describes the acquaintances who had a ‘fondness’ for her, including the numerous visits she received from the married Mr Stanhope, whom she calls ‘my old torment’. She records the books she read including Madame de Genlis’s <i><i>Veillées du Château</i></i> and James Cook’s <i><i>Voyages</i></i>. The diary records Hamilton’s commissioning a portrait of Richard Glover from John Opie; she sends the balance due to Opie of four pounds four shillings. Hamilton also writes of attending her first ever auction in London, although she thinks it will also be her last, as the room was so crowded and hot that she almost fainted.</p>


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