Elizabeth Montagu
and the Bluestocking Circle
         is Funded by the AHRC

The Project


Our goal is to prepare a fully annotated electronic edition of Elizabeth Robinson Montagu's correspondence. The author and bluestocking salonnière (1718-1800) was the leading woman of letters and artistic patron of her day. Montagu corresponded extensively with leaders of British Enlightenment coteries, such as Edmund Burke, Gilbert West, David Garrick and Horace Walpole, as well as the Bluestocking inner circle - Elizabeth Carter, Sarah Scott, Hannah More, Hester Thrale Piozzi, Frances Burney, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Elizabeth Vesey, and Frances Boscawen. The c.8,000 extant letters, 'among the most important surviving collections from the eighteenth century' (Schnorrenberg) are held in the British Library, the Bodleian, Aberdeen, Manchester and other archives including the Huntington Library, California, which holds 6,923 of them. Less than a quarter of these documents has been previously published and then in partial archaic print selections.


  • To preserve the fragile papers by providing scholars from a variety of fields (English, History, Theatre, Politics, Art, Architecture, Economics, Women’s Studies) with freshly-edited fully-annotated transcripts and also digital images of the manuscripts.
  • Provide the first calendar and full inventory of ERM’s letters
  • Provide fresh transcriptions from the archives and full scholarly annotation in the first digital edition of this important correspondence.
  • Mount the transcriptions together with images of some of the manuscripts on to a specially-constructed and fully-sustainable website which will allow additions and corrections while the editing work is in process.
  • A digital edition will give searchability of the letters to enable connections to be made between correspondents, places, proper nouns and to enable fresh research

The Colloquia 2010-2012

 1. The first colloquium, entitled 'Bluestockings: The Social Network', was held in Swansea University and the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea on Friday and Saturday 3-4 June 2011. The network met at Swansea University on Friday and first heard academic papers by international scholars delivered in panels; and plenary lectures by Felicity Nussbaum (UCLA) and Professor Betty Schellenberg (Simon Fraser University, CA). Attendance: 40 delegates. The Saturday session was held in conjunction with the Historical Association the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea. It featured two papers on 'Bluestocking Businesswomen': Les Turnbull on 'Elizabeth Montagu and Coalmining in the North-East'; and Michael Franklin on 'Hester Thrale and Thrale's Brewery, Southwark'. Attendance: 70.


2. The second colloquium, entitled Editing Enlightenment Letters: Elizabeth Montagu’s Correspondence was hosted by the Huntington Library, California (13 April 2012), and speakers included Markman Ellis, Deborah Heller, Nicole Pohl, Elizabeth Eger, Clarissa Campbell Orr and Michael J. Franklin. 38 delegates.


3. The final colloquium, entitled Writing Materials:Women of Letters from Enlightenment to Modernity was held in King's College, London and the Victoria and Albert Museum (29th / 30th November 2012) and speakers included. Peter Stallybrass, Dena Goodman, Leonie Hannan, Karen Harvey, Christina Lupton, Juliette Kristensen, Andrew Piper, Samantha Matthews, Stacey Sloboda, Rosemary Baird. Handling sessions were led by curator Rachel Church. There was a Postgraduate and Early-career Workshop on ‘Objects in Dialogue’ with a prize of books for best speakers kindly donated by CUP. 90/103 delegates.

Outputs from the colloquia 

  • Two special journal issues are currently being prepared ‘Elizabeth Montagu:  Commerce, Friendship and Sociability’ ed. M. Franklin and N. Pohl for The Huntington Library Quarterly; ‘The Material Culture of Women’s Writing’ – for Women’s Writing ed. C. Franklin: both to be published in 2014.
  • The Pilot Project, a selected edition of the Montagu-Beattie correspondence hitherto unpublished is under preparation by the steering committee for publication on the website and demonstrates the editorial principles agreed by the Editorial Board.


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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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