The Mary Hamilton Papers : Diary of Mary Hamilton (18 August 1784 - 26 December 1784)

Hamilton, Mary

The Mary Hamilton Papers

<p style='text-align: justify;'>The diary covers the period from 18 August to 26 December 1784 and records many aspects of Mary Hamilton's day-to-day life, including her many social engagements, the handicrafts she undertook with Mary Delany at Bulstrode, literature, the social and political affairs of the day and her time spent during a visit to Mrs Delany and the Dowager Duchess of Portland at Bulstrode.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Hamilton writes of discussing 'learning & Ladies' with Lord Stormont, who believed that Lady Stormont was 'sufficiently accomplish'd in language for any Woman - She is perfect mistress of French & speaks as if born in Paris - understands Italian & has some knowledge of German and Russian & she is well acquainted with the English tongue'. Hamilton also reports the Stormonts told her of a conversation between the King and Queen and her uncle, Sir William Hamilton. The Queen asked Sir William if he intended to return alone to Naples, and at last she confessed that she had been asked by the King to 'fish out' if he intended to marry again. Sir William told the Queen that he had to be careful as to whom he could choose for a wife, to which the Queen responded that she believed that he held 'a bad opinion of Our Sex'. He assured her that this was not the case and that he had had 22 happy years of marriage and was fearful of suffering widowhood a second time. The King then asked about Sir William's estate in Wales and who was to be his heir. The King supposed that it would be his nephew, Charles Greville, who was standing next to him at the time. Hamilton comments that Sir William answered 'this improper question very properly': he would 'certainly keep that secret to himself'. Lord Stormont also told Hamilton that the Prince of Wales had made enquiries of her marriage and said many 'handsome things' about her. On another occasion, at a party of the Bas Bleu, Eva Maria Garrick reported that Elizabeth Montagu had spoken 'handsomely' of Hamilton and her forthcoming marriage.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>During a visit to Bulstrode, Hamilton describes spending her time cutting and pasting prints in Mary Delany's books of prints while conversing with her, and of decorating a box by pasting prints on to it. Mrs Delany gave her a gift of a locket made of mother-of-pearl which enclosed some of her hair. On the cover of the locket she had written a 'reward of industry' and engraved around the locket was 'Win it & wear it, M D aged 84'. Mrs Delany told her that Lady Bute had asked if the reports were true that Hamilton was to be married. Lady Bute had said that Hamilton 'acted very wisely not to sacrifice my [Hamilton's] happiness by accepting offers w[hi]ch my heart & mind were adverse to etc'. Hamilton continues that her uncles Frederick and William Hamilton both seem happy with her choice of husband. 'I must own I think I have been very successful in making all the folks approve of what I like'. Sir William was sure that she would be happy in her marriage, more so than if she married for 'ambition or interested motives'. Although Hamilton wished to keep her engagement quiet amongst her friends for the moment, Charlotte Gunning informed her that she had been asked many questions at Court about the marriage, leaving Hamilton to have to 'submit in good humour to furnishing conversation to my acquaintances'.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Hamilton writes of receiving many visits from her admirer Mr Stanhope (see HAM/2/9). Hamilton refused to see him but he left a message with her servant that he needed to see her before he left town. After Hamilton agreed to talk to him he told her that he had heard of her marriage and talked about how his 'heart & soul felt'. He talked of her 'many personal attractions' but declared that 'to his taste I was possessed of every charm though certainly a plain woman'. She writes that at one point during the meeting Anna Maria Clarke came into the room but mischievously ran straight out, declaring that she would not 'interrupt a tête á tête'.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The diary includes details of a visit to Lord Mansfield's house at Kenwood and of Hamilton meeting the two Miss Murrays, Lady Stormont's sisters, who she notes have the title 'Miss' but that both appear to be of an age to claim that of 'Mrs'. Hamilton writes of the death of an acquaintance who left behind three children. She attends the christening of Lady Stormont's baby and describes the dinner she attended after it and lists the guests. She also writes of a visit to Horace Walpole's with her uncle, Sir William Hamilton. As Walpole had been disappointed at not seeing Sir William at Strawberry Hill that summer he told her 'he did not think he w[ou]ld let him in if he had not heard my name'. They all then went to Mrs Garrick's, who showed them many interesting things, such as a pair of gloves that had belonged to Shakespeare. Hamilton includes sketches of a few of the things that Mrs Garrick showed her. She describes talking about Voltaire and art with Walpole. She discussed with her uncle people marrying merely for the sake of 'a rank or any eligible establishment without paying any regard to principles - dispositions, temper &c'. Sir William argued that this was 'neither more or less than a legal prostitution'. Her uncle also greatly pleased her by saying that he would give her a portrait of himself painted by Reynolds. She also writes that Mrs Garrick gave Hamilton the catalogue of her late husband's [David Garrick's] library at the Adelphi and invited her to choose any books from it she wished to read. (The following day she chose a few books and returned the catalogue to Mrs Garrick with a long note.) The diary also details a visit to see Lunardi's air balloon and of her seeing the kitten and dog that had 'accompanied Mr Lunardi in his Voyage'.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The diary also records that Hamilton suffered from an eye complaint and consulted Mr Churchill, the apothecary. Mrs Garrick gave her some 'famous eye water sold only by Mr Austin No. 17 Catherine Street, Strand'. She notes her anxiety over her illness and over not being able to indulge in her 'favourite amusement of reading' and of Anna Maria Clarke checking on her to ensure that she was not reading or writing. Hamilton discusses gossip such as Mr Vesey's Valet de Chambre 'having gone raving mad' after receiving a letter from Ireland informing him of the infidelity of a woman whom he was in love with, and anecdotes including one about the Prince of Wales. Hamilton also writes of the excitement of her servants who came to inform her of air balloons being seen from the door of her house and one having a light which looked 'like a pretty meteor floated near Earth'. Hamilton comments that they were only 'the three shilling ones let off by some person at the end of our street - there are dozens of them every night'. Hamilton also writes about Sir William Hamilton's return to Naples and her being too upset to say goodbye in person.</p>

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