Elizabeth Montagu
and the Bluestocking Circle
         is Funded by the AHRC

Writing Materials Conference: Audiotape of the day at the V&A


Writing Materials: Women of Letters from Enlightenment to Modernity a conference organised by the AHRC funded Montagu Letters Network, in partnership with King’s College London and the V&A will take place on Thursday 29 – Friday 30 November 2012.

 The conference on the afternoon of Thursday 29th November at King’s College, London is free to all who register and there will be a brief meeting of the Editorial Board . For the second day Friday 30th November there will be a very modest charge to pay to the V&A Museum through their online registration


which will go towards their costs. (£25 or £10 for students). There will be an opportunity for interested delegates to attend one of two handling sessions with curator Rachel Church but numbers are limited to 15 per session. If you would like to put your name down to be considered for a handling session then please inform Kate spiller k.spiller@swansea.ac.uk

These will be allocated on a first come first served basis. There will be a late opening on the Friday evening which will allow delegates to visit the galleries and view the objects which have been discussed in presentations throughout the conference. Please keep checking the website as we will shortly issue the confirmed programme. We will also provide advice on where to stay in London and making your travel arrangements.

For details on the conference please follow this link. Our full programme and speaker biographies are now availiable.

Friday Late Opening

Following the conference on the Friday there will be a late opening at the V and A. Chill out with the original contemporary late night event. Held on the last Friday in every month (except December) when the Museum is open from 10.00 to 22.00 with Friday Late events starting at 18.30.
Live performances, cutting-edge fashion, debates, one-off displays and installations, special guests, bar and food, guest DJs, late-night exhibition opening.

Call information / booking office on +44 (0)20 7942 2820 , 9.00-17.30, seven days a week, for further details.


Further information on the Writing Materials Conference

• Recommended Hotels
• Travelling to Kings College and the V and A

Recommended Hotels

The following hotels are within reasonable distance of King’s College and the V and A:

Premier Inn
There are several Premier Inns close by including those at Southwark (Tate Modern),  County Hall, London Blackfriars and Leister Square.
For further information and booking please see: www.premierinn.com

Burns Hotel, Best Western
For further information and bookings please see:

Penn Club Hotel
For further information and bookings please see:

Travelling to Kings College and the V and A

Kings College is located within the City of Westminster (WC2R 2LS).

The Kings College website has information on travelling to Kings College, including information for disabled visitors:

The V and A website also has visitor information on how to get to the museum:

General information on travelling around London can be found here:

If you have any further queries regarding travel, accommodation or any other questions regarding the conference, please contact Kate, Project Administrator: (k.spiller@swansea.ac.uk.)



Conference Report on the second colloquium of the project (below) Editing Enlightenment Letters: Elizabeth Montagu’s Correspondence
Huntington Library, Friday 13 April 2012

Caroline Franklin gave a summary of the aims of the project in digitally publishing and fully editing from MSS the correspondence of Elizabeth Montagu and its achievements so far. The project website had been launched, the Editorial Board had met and the Steering Committee had drafted its Editorial Principles and planned the pilot project on the unpublished Montagu- James Beattie letters. Applications would shortly be made for funding to accomplish the digitization of the manuscripts in the Huntington, which constituted three-quarters of the extant letters. She welcomed the graduate students present and assured them that the project hoped they would all join the network and become involved in the editorial work to come.

The first panel of the day was expertly chaired By Professor Betty Schellenberg (Simon Fraser University, CA). Professor Markman Ellis (QMUL), a member of the Editorial Board, gave a fascinating talk illustrated by slides on ‘The Circulation and Reputation of Montagu’s Letters in Her Lifetime’. He stressed that letters were not merely personal but a tool used to foster sociability and conversation, and were therefore often valued and retained, passed around and re-read by others in the circle. Manuals of letter-writing should be seen as part of the move to reform manners which included the conduct-book tradition. Ellis whetted the appetite of the audience for the third colloquium of the project to be held in November at the Victoria and Albert Museum, by showing numerous illustrations of the furniture specially designed for keeping letters, special racks, pigeon-holes in bureaux, as well as methods of recording correspondence sent and received for business and personal use. He then moved on specifically to EM’s letters which were sometimes copied more than once, and demonstrated that pin-holes in the paper suggested that they had been retrieved, sewn and filed on to a string or wire. Scholars were also able to see the marks and crossings out of previous editors of print selections. The existence of contemporary copies of EM correspondence suggests that it was regarded as valuable not merely as ephemeral news but in terms of a literary artefact and circulated amongst a circle of acquaintances especially 1755-60.

Elizabeth Eger (KCL), the Co-PI of the project and foremost expert on Montagu, next gave an illuminating account of ‘Elizabeth Montagu’s Editors from 1806 to the Present’. She was able to testify that Montagu was a careful record-keeper in all respects, including in her dealings with Hoare’s Bank and her coalmining business accounts, and that her meticulous personality ensured that her correspondence during her long life was conducted in an orderly and conscientious fashion. What was notable about it was the breadth and diversity of EM’s correspondents. She argued that Montagu was always aware of the possibility of a print selection of her correspondence being published without her permission or after her death. The selections of Matthew Montagu, Emily Climenson and Reginald Blunt inevitably reflected the preconceptions of an earlier age, for example removing political or sexual material that might be seen as unseemly in a woman, or focusing on social aspects now considered lightweight. Their reception in the early nineteenth century emphasized respectability and piety above all.

After an excellent buffet lunch and some exciting thunderstorms the delegates returned to hear two informative accounts of the completion of Bluestocking editing projects: from Professor Deborah Heller (Western New Mexico) who had spent the previous decade editing the c. 350 letters to and by Mrs Vesey; and from Dr Nicole Pohl (Oxford Brookes) who spent the same time completing her edition of the 396 letters of Sarah Scott for the Huntington Library. It was interesting to learn that 96 of ERM’s letters to EV had survived compared to 22 of EV to ERM; while 57 of ERM’s to SS were extant and 22 of SS’s to her sister. Professor Heller retained EV’s original spelling and inserted an extra space for sense breaks as there was no formal punctuation. Superscripts were retained and franks and seals noted, especially those in black for mourning. Nicole Pohl gave some biographical details and portraits of Scott and noted that SS’s correspondence was more private and family-centred than Elizabeth Robinson Montagu’s. Therefore most of her letters had been destroyed and there were also gaps in the correspondence. She made the interesting point that the correspondence evoked the performance of sisterly relationships in these women.

The final panel was chaired by Professor Felicity Nussbaum of UCLA. The speakers contextualised Montagu’s letters first by reference to the Court and secondly in terms of the British Empire. In a full and detailed talk, Clarissa Cambell Orr (Anglia University) argued that Augustan feminism was evoked by the attempts of families to attain court patronage for their daughters in learning German to become governess at court. Secondly many women were connected through dynastic ties and those of the diocese. They were often mentored by Anglican clergy amongst their friends and relatives. Campbell Orr traced the family connections of Mary Pendarvis (later Delaney) and Elizabeth Carter, and discussed the possible influence of Mary Astell on the former, as well as Judith Drake being a connection of EC’s mother. The education of these women emphasized the classics in translation and vernacular European literature. In ‘An Avant-garde Critic to Empathize with the East’, Michael Franklin focused upon Montagu’s delight in William Jones’s Poems (1772), but contrasted her desire for more translations of genuine Oriental poems with the published (male) critics, such as Gilbert Stuart in the Monthly, who praised Jones’s imitations, and with James Beattie’s farrago of Eurocentric stereotypes. Her openness to eastern literature was traced to her enthusiasm for the ‘Asiatick fire & figure’of Armenian Joseph Emin, whose impassioned heroism impressed a prestigious swath of high society in the 1750s. Thirty years later in Calcutta, Sir William Jones recommended Emin to the governor-general and encouraged him to compose his memoirs (1792), correcting ‘errors in language and orthography’. Jones’s poems provided fascinating materials and formative models for Romantic subjectivity, but Elizabeth Montagu had been there – imaginatively and intellectually – long decades before writers such as Coleridge, Southey, Landor, Byron, Moore, Percy Shelley, Felicia Hemans, Charlotte Dacre, and Sydney Owenson.

A lively discussion followed at the close of the colloquium before the delegates went to dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant.


Editing Enlightenment Letters:

Elizabeth Montagu’s Correspondence

Huntington Library, Friday April 13th 2012,
9.30-5pm, Botanical Classroom

This one-day workshop will explore the history and significance of the Huntington Library’s major collection of Elizabeth Montagu’s correspondence (c. 7, 000 letters), raising questions about editorial theory and practice, past and present.
Speakers will aim to highlight the potential research opportunities that could be created by a new edition of this extraordinary archive.

Speakers and participants include:
Elizabeth Bennett (Independent scholar); Clarissa Campbell Orr (Anglia University); Elizabeth Eger (KCL); Markman Ellis (Queen Mary, University of London); Deborah Heller (Western New Mexico); Felicity Nussbaum (UCLA);
Nicole Pohl(Oxford Brookes)
Organised by the Elizabeth Montagu Letters Project (AHRC research network: Elizabeth Eger (King’s College London), Caroline Franklin (Swansea University), Mike Franklin (Swansea University) and Nicole Pohl (Oxford Brookes University)

With thanks for the support of the AHRC, the Huntington Library and the Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences at the California Institute of Technology.
For further details and registration, please contact: Elizabeth.Eger@kcl.ac.uk


Bluestockings: The Social Network

Swansea University, 3-4 JUNE 2011

Program - June 3rd

This colloquium is the first in a series initiated by an AHRC-funded network whose purpose is to set in motion a project to edit Elizabeth Montagu's letters. The c. 8,000 letters of the 'Queen of the Bluestockings' (1718-1800) have been described by Barbara Schnorrenberg as 'among the most important surviving collections from the eighteenth century'. The Steering Committee comprises Caroline Franklin (Swansea), Elizabeth Eger (King's, London), Nicole Pohl (Oxford Brookes) , and Michael Franklin (Swansea) and our ultimate aim is a complete critical edition in electronic format, providing unparalleled access to these documents.

Our colloquium Bluestockings: The Social Network will be held on 3-4 JUNE 2011 at Swansea University and the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea.

Friday 3 June at Swansea University: Papers delivered in panels; keynote lectures by Professor Betty Schellenberg and Professor Felicity Nussbaum.
The conference dinner will take place at the Patti Raj restaurant on Friday June 3rd at 7.30pm. Please signal on the registration form if you wish to attend (£18 per person.)

Saturday 4 June at the National Waterfront Museum: 'Bluestocking Businesswomen': Les Turnbull on 'Elizabeth Montagu and Coalmining in the North-East'; and Michael Franklin on 'Hester Thrale and Thrale's Brewery, Southwark'.

In attempting to diversify and extend our own network, this colloquium will showcase the contributions of editors and scholars working on aspects of bluestocking culture from a variety of disciplinary approaches, including history, literature, classics, politics, economics, linguistics, art, architecture and women's studies. Themes and topics will include: the chief salonnières and their correspondents and how this interchange effected, in the words of David Hume, 'the increase of arts, pleasures, and social commerce'; the distinctions between friendship, patronage and love; the role of letters in bridging distances. Consideration of the mixture of informality, intimacy and rivalry which characterized these overlapping networks of conversation, correspondence, criticism, and patronage will undoubtedly further the social and intellectual progress of our own twenty-first-century network.

Please click here for speaker bios.

There is a historical walk planned for after the conference on the afternoon of Saturday June 4th. Click here for details.

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Bluestocking Circle

The Bluestocking Circle was a group of writers, artists and thinkers who met in the London homes of Elizabeth Montagu, Elizabeth Vesey and Frances Boscawen. These fashionable hostesses invented a new kind of informal sociability and nurtured a sense of intellectual community. The term "bluestocking" evolved from the scholar Benjamin Stillingfleet's decision to abandon formal evening dress and obey Vesey's call to "Come in your blue stockings." Guests included the leading literary, political and cultural figures of the day, including Elizabeth Carter, Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, David and Eva Garrick and later Hannah More and Frances Burney.

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