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The Production and Dissemination of Knowledge in Scotland

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Lesley Graham

3. The informal transmission of knowledge

“If your daughters are inclined to love reading, do not check their Inclination”: Passing on knowledge and advice among elite women in eighteenth-century Scotland

Anne Mckim

Texte intégral

Introduction

  • 1 Clarissa Campbell-Orr, ed., Wollstonecraft’s Daughters: Womanhood in England and France 1780-1920, (...)
  • 2 George L. Justice & Nathan Tinkler, eds., Women’s writing and the circulation of ideas: manuscript (...)
  • 3 Katharine Glover, Elite Women & Polite Society in Eighteenth-Century Scotland, St Andrews Studies i (...)
  • 4 Markman Ellis, “Reading practices in Elizabeth Montagu’s epistolary network of the 1750s.” Bluestoc (...)
  • 5 ibid., p. 26. The case studies which form a key part of Polly Bull’s thesis go some way to rectifyi (...)

1The relative lack of research on “the role of aristocratic women in advancing their children’s education” in eighteenth-century Britain has been remarked by Clarissa Campbell-Orr in her study, Wollstonecraft’s Daughters.1 This paper makes a modest contribution towards addressing this gap, by considering the experience of some elite Scottish women, as related in their familial letters and memoirs. Studies have established the importance of letters, and of female epistolary networks, for understanding how women circulated ideas, disseminated their knowledge, and developed “textual self-representation”.2 These letters, and memoirs too, frequently include the writers’ views on female education – based on personal experience and sometimes in response to contemporary cultural expectations concerning the education of girls and young women. These often little-known accounts of personal, “lived experience”3 are particularly valuable for the insights they provide into women’s reading practices and experience of reading in their circle.4 Katharine Glover, in her recent examination of Elite Women and Polite Society in Eighteenth-Century Scotland, remarks that “when it comes to lived experience, the historiography of women’s education in eighteenth-century Britain is surprisingly thin (‘a virtual desert’, to quote one recent commentator), and the Scottish situation was worse”.5 This article focuses on a selection of private letters and memoirs in which Scottish women record their views on education, their reading experiences, and disseminate knowledge based on that experience in the form of advice to younger women, often family members and daughters of friends.

  • 6 6Michelle Cohen, “’To Think, to Compare, to Combine, to Methodise: Girls’ Education in Enlightenmen (...)
  • 7 M. Bolufer Peruga, “Gender and the reasoning mind: introduction.” Women, Gender and Enlightenment, (...)
  • 8 ibid., p. 191.
  • 9 Norma Clarke, “Bluestocking Fictions: Devotional Writings, Didactic Literature and the Imperative o (...)

2Education was the focus of much debate in eighteenth-century Europe, with gender central to much of the discussion and to “eighteenth-century educational reflections, prescription and practice for both sexes”.6 Women’s education and access to learning were particularly controversial.7 While male writers on the subject “tended to stress the utilitarian side of women’s education (educating women to be responsible wives and mothers, or polite participants in elite society) women writers tended to value learning as a route to emotional and intellectual autonomy, a path to self-esteem and the pleasure of solitary reflection”.8 Elite Scottish women increasingly prioritized and promoted reading as an improving activity and some of the best evidence of this comes from their letters and memoirs.9

Letters of Advice

  • 10 Mary Wortley Stuart (1718-1794), daughter of Sir Edward Wortley Montagu and Lady Mary Wortley Monta (...)
  • 11 The Letters and Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Edited by Her Great Grandson Lord Wharncliffe, (...)

3In a series of letters sent from Italy between 1752 and 1753, to her daughter, Mary Stuart, Countess of Bute (1718- 1794),10 the writer Lady Mary Wortley Montagu famously advised her “dear child” on the education of her granddaughters – of whom there were five (and as many grandsons) at the time.11 In January 1752 she counselled:

  • 12 ibid., p. 4.

If your daughters are inclined to love reading, do not check their inclination by hindering them of the diverting part of it; it is as necessary for the amusement of women as the reputation of men; but teach them not to expect or desire any applause from it. Let their brothers shine, and let them content themselves with making their lives easier by it, which I experimentally [i.e., experientially] know is more effectually done by study than any other way.12

  • 13 Margaret R Hunt, The Middling Sort: Commerce, Gender, and the Family in England, 1680-1780, Berkely (...)
  • 14 Karen O’Brien, Women and Enlightenment in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009 (...)
  • 15 “Bluestocking Fictions”, p. 436.

4In eighteenth-century Scotland, as in England, “mothers (and stepmothers) bore a direct responsibility for the rearing and socialization of daughters’”.13 Montagu’s advice here to her daughter recognises this, as well as conveying her clear awareness of society’s gendered expectations in relation to educational opportunities. John Locke’s influential treatise, Some Thoughts concerning Education (1693) and Mary Astell’s A Serious Proposal to the Ladies, Parts I and II (1694, 1697) had opened the way for women writers to call for improved education for girls.14 At the end of the century Mary Wollstonecraft (1792) proposed the same type of education for girls as that Rousseau (1762) had proposed for boys, and argued that if girls were encouraged from an early age to develop their minds, it would be seen that they were rational creatures. As Clarke remarks, the “bluestocking ideal was of self-realisation through intellectual cultivation.”15

  • 16 Her biographer, Isobel Grundy, describes Montagu as already” a feminist-intraining” at the age of f (...)

5In 1752 Montagu’s views, perhaps surprisingly for such a famously unconventional woman, echoed much eighteenth-century Scottish writing on the education of girls in elite families.16 In September 1719, Marion Scott, daughter of the Lord Advocate and wife of a diplomat posted abroad, wrote to her sister Anne Mure, a mother of four daughters and several sons, offering similar advice to that Montagu gave her daughter. Like Montagu, Scott regarded mothers as vital first teachers who could prepare their daughters for uncertain futures by fostering a love of reading. She also recalled her own pleasure in books in her youth:

  • 17 Marion Scott, “Mrs Scott to Mrs Mure of Caldwell, Hanover, Septr 8, 1719.” Selections from the Fami (...)

If you can give your daughters a liking for reading you’ll do them good office. Nobody knows what may happen to them in this world. I am sure it was a happiness for me that I took pleasure in that. How much idle company hath it kept me from! How many worse diversions even than reading Romances, (such as Balls and Masquerades), have I neglected from pure love to a book.17

6Montagu’s own library contained all the popular romances of her youth too, as her grandchildren were later to discover. In another letter to Lady Bute, sent on 18 February 1753, she laments that too many mothers raise their daughters as great ladies destined for fine marriages:

  • 18 The Letters and Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, III, p. 49.

People commonly educate their children as they build their houses, according to some plan they think beautiful, without considering whether it is suited to the purposes for which they are designed. Almost all girls of quality are educated as if they were to be great ladies, which is often as little to be expected, as an immoderate heat of the sun in the north of Scotland.18

  • 19 ibid., 49.
  • 20 Cynthia Lowenthal, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and the Eighteenth-Century Familiar Letter, Athens: Ge (...)
  • 21 The Letters and Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, III, p. 45.
  • 22 Bolufa Peruga, p. 191.
  • 23 Towsey, “Women’s Reading”, p. 439.

7So she directs her daughter to more sensible child-rearing when she writes: “You should teach yours to confine their desires to probabilities, to be as useful as is possible to themselves, and to think privacy (as it is) the happiest state of life” (my italics).19 While Montagu believed that this provision will be a safeguard against false expectations, in particular of marrying well, her advice departs from the many contemporary conduct books for women that promulgated the view that, in grooming her “solely for marriage”, a girl’s education should aim to make her useful to others, especially to males.20 By linking women’s reading to their personal happiness, what she refers to as the use of knowledge in our sex... [for] the amusement of solitude”,21 Montagu undermines the traditional utilitarian grounds for sanctioning women’s reading of books.22 This utilitarian argument is nowhere more clear than in Sermons for Young Women (1766), considered to be among the “standards of the eighteenth-century country-house library”.23 The author, Scottish clergyman, James Fordyce, instructed the young women he addressed:

  • 24 James Fordyce, “Sermon VII.” Sermons for Young Women (1766). Ed. Janet Todd. Female Education in th (...)

Your business chiefly is to read Men, in order to make yourselves agreeable and useful... Nevertheless, in this study you may derive great assistance from books. Without them, in effect, your progress here will be partial and confined.24

  • 25 Hunt, p. 75.

8He therefore allows that histories, biographies and memoirs, along with books about geography, voyages and astronomy, can be profitably read by women. Jane Austen may have mocked Fordyce through Mr Collins’ frustrated attempts to read his Sermons aloud to the Bennet girls in Pride and Prejudice, yet the work remained in demand, for it was reprinted some fourteen times before 1814, and translated into French in 1788.25

  • 26 Ibid.

9An apparently even more “popular” conduct book was John Gregory’s A Father’s Legacy to His Daughters, first published in Edinburgh (by his son) in 1774, and subsequently reprinted twenty-seven times by 1877.26 Just as Montagu warned that daughters should let their brothers “shine”, and advised her granddaughters to conceal their learning, Gregory counsels young women to:

  • 27 John Gregory, “On Conduct and Behaviour.” A Father’s Legacy to His Daughters (1774). Ed. Janet Todd (...)

Be ever cautious in displaying your good sense. It will be thought you assume a superiority over the rest of the company. - But if you happen to have any learning, keep it a profound secret, especially from the men, who generally look with a jealous and malignant eye on a woman of great parts, and a cultivated understanding. A man of real genius and candour is far superior to this meanness. But such a one will seldom fall in your way.27

  • 28 ibid., p. 24.
  • 29 Todd, pp. xix-xx.

10Like Fordyce, Gregory saw “no impropriety”28 in women reading history books as this would lead them to be useful, agreeable companions to men, especially husbands, a motivation that female advocates of the rights of women, Mary Wollstonecraft and Catherine Macauley, disparaged.29 For Montagu, female education was about self-improvement, enabling women to make their lives, especially single lives, richer and happier. She avers this has been her own experience; she lived a single life after leaving her husband and moving to Italy in 1739:

  • 30 The Letters and Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, III, p. 52.

I know, by experience, it is in the power of study not only to make solitude tolerable, but agreeable. I have now lived almost seven years in a stricter retirement than yours in the Isle of Bute, and can assure you, I have never had half an hour heavy on my hands, for want of something to do. Whoever will cultivate their own mind, will find full employment. March 6, 1753.30

  • 31 Todd, p. xv.

11While Montagu’s letters on the education of her granddaughters are not an advice manual, like women writers of such manuals and conduct books, her advice is based on personal experience. Janet Todd has observed that while “male-authored conduct books… appealed primarily to authority... [w] hen women wrote conduct books themselves, they tended to emphasise their own experience”.31 In view of Montagu’s advice and experience it is remarkable that of one of the granddaughters whose education so concerned her, Lady Louisa Stuart, the only one of Lady Bute’s six daughters who never married, wrote about her love of books and learning, and in her turn proffered very similar advice, based on her own experience

12Lady Louisa Stuart (1757-1851) was Montagu’s youngest granddaughter, and the last born of the eleven children of Mary, Countess of Bute and John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute. She lived from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century, dying in her ninety-fourth year. During her long life Stuart wrote many letters, as well as several memoirs of friends and relatives; one of her correspondents was Walter Scott. Her letters to a friend’s daughter in the 1820s afford a fascinating insight into the enduring influence her famous grandparent had on Louisa, and on how her experience of reading influenced her views on female education and self-improvement.

  • 32 Lady Louisa Stuart, Letters of Lady Louisa Stuart to Miss Louisa Clinton ed. James A Home. 2 vols. (...)

13Stuart frequently encouraged her young protegée and namesake, Louisa Clinton, to extend her knowledge through wide reading, often recommending and lending books. She was delighted to discover that the young woman was learning the classical languages that in her own youth were considered the preserve of males. In a letter to “Dear Lou” in August 1822, she complains that she herself was forbidden to learn Latin as a girl.32 Like her grandmother, though, she urges concealment of this self-improving activity. In a letter to Louisa a month later she wrote:

  • 33 ibid., p. 271,

I rejoice to hear of your returning to your Latin studies, which I particularly wish you to cultivate. My knowledge of the language is so very slight and imperfect I can speak little of it; but I am fully persuaded the Classics are the foundation of all good sense and good taste, and, as you had the advantage of being taught it early, I want you to persevere and learn it thoroughly. Aye, and Greek too. Why not? Nobody need know anything of the matter. Besides, it is not run down as it was in my time. Women are now permitted, if not encouraged, to know something.33

14Like her famous grandmother, Louisa Stuart offers advice based on her own experience. That experience, at least in her girlhood, had not been happy. Well into her sixties she could vividly recall the humiliation she had endured as a child constantly taunted by her older siblings for her love of books, and her supposed resemblance to her grandmother in this respect. She wrote to the same young friend in 1826:

  • 34 ibid., II, p. 21. Her grandmother had lived in Italy since 1739, some eighteen years before Louisa (...)

"Every one knows his own sore, " says the proverb, and I, with all your tastes, knew the evil of being the youngest among brothers and sisters, of being daily snubbed and checked "for all my nonsense, " and told by elders, of whom I stood in awe, of my self-conceit and affectation of wisdom, in reading books I had no sort of business with instead of minding my work [i.e., needlework] as I should do, with this constant burthen, "I know as well as possible you have got it in your head that you are to be like my grandmother, " whereas it was this reproach that first informed me I had ever had a grandmother, and I heartily hated her name. Whatever I wanted to learn, everybody was up in arms to oppose it, and represent that if I indulged in it I should become such a pedant nobody would be able to bear me.34

  • 35 ibid., I, 228. See Susan Buchan, Lady Louisa Stuart: Her Memories and Portraits (London: Hodder and (...)
  • 36 ibid., p. 269.

15What she calls “the blue-stockingphobia... so prevalent with the males of my house” had a lifelong effect, and led to a crippling lack of self-confidence and a fear of for being thought a bluestocking.35 Hence, she says, “Í am always solicitous to guard you against the errors that have been most prejudicial to myself”.36 Her correspondent, she noted, was fortunate in being the eldest child in her family, not the youngest.

  • 37 The Letters and Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, I, pp. 49-121.

16Fortunately, Stuart’s resentment of her learned grandmother did not last. She went on to write a brief biography of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu in 1837,37 to which I shall return in the final section of this article which focuses on women’s views on reading expressed in their memoirs. The letters drawn on here were written by an older generation to a younger one. A number of memoirs compiled by elite Scottish women provide insights into how a later generation of women responded to the advice and instruction on reading and leaning they had received from their influential mothers and grandmothers.

Memoirs: Recollections and Tributes

  • 38 Glover, pp. 75-76.
  • 39 Hunt, p. 88.

17Karen Glover has argued that it “was in family memoirs that women seem to have felt most at liberty to move from reading to writing; at once personal and precept, memoirs were the literary representation of women’s role in the family”.38 These memoirs enabled an increasing number of women to “place their mark on the historical record”39 through accounts of their own lives and biographies of significant family members.

  • 40 E. Ewan, S. Innes, and S. Reynolds, The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women, Edinburgh: Edinb (...)

18The memoir of Elizabeth Mure of Caldwell, daughter of Anne Mure already mentioned above, provides a rare insider view of female education in elite families in eighteenth-century Renfrewshire. Mure’s life (c.1715-c.1791) spanned much of the century.40 Whether her mother had taken the sisterly advice of Marion Scott or not, towards the end of her life Elizabeth wrote down her own views on reading, recording how this and other aspects of young women’s education had changed in the course of her lifetime. She relates that in her youth books were not easily come by, with the result that:

  • 41 Elizabeth Mure, “Some remarks on the change of manners in my own time.” Selections from the Family (...)

The weman’s knowledge was gain’d only by conversing with the men not by reading them-selves, as they had few books to read that they could understand. Whoever had read Pope, Addison & Swift, with some ill wrot history, was then thought a lairnd Lady, which Character was by no means agreeable.41

  • 42 Mure, p. 271.

19To make matters worse, she says, women lost even that source of knowledge when Scottish households, in the 1760s, adopted the “English fashions” of long dinners, starting at 3 p.m. and lasting until 8 p.m., from which women were expected to withdraw early while the men caroused on for hours.42 “The weman were all the evening by themselves, which pute a stope to that general intercourss so necessary for the improvement of both sexes”. As a consequence, parents started to assume more responsibility for the socialization and education of their female children, beginning at an early age:

  • 43 ibid., p. 272.

Cut off in a great measure from the Society of the men, its necessary the women should have some constant ammusement; and as they are likewise denied friendships with one another, the Parents provides for this void as much as possible in giving them compleat Education; and what formerly begun at ten years of age, or often leater, now begines at four or five. How long its to continue the next age most determine; for its not yet fixed in this. Reading, writing, musick, drawing, Franch, Italian, Geografie, History, with all kinds of nedle work are now carefully taught the girles, that time may not lye heavie on their hand without proper society. Besides this, shopes loaded with novels and books of amusement to kill the time.43

20Mure’s account of parents beginning to assume the education of their daughters at the age of four or five is borne out by the experience of the philosopher and educationalist Elizabeth Hamilton (1757-1816). Hamilton described in her memoir how, having first learned to read at the age of 4, her learning was then nurtured by her foster-mother, her maternal aunt by whom:

  • 44 Elizabeth Benger, ed., Memoirs of the Late Mrs Elizabeth Hamilton, Volume 1. 1818, Cambridge: Cambr (...)

I was adopted, and educated with a care and tenderness that has been seldom equalled. No child ever spent so happy a life; nor, indeed, have I ever met with anything at all resembling the way in which we lived, except the description given by Rousseau of Wolroar’s farm and vintage.44

  • 45 ibid., p. 43.
  • 46 ibid., p. 49.

21Hamilton came to appreciate that her aunt Marshall “wished me to be self-dependent; and, consequently, taught me to value myself upon nothing that did not strictly belong to myself”.45 She gratefully acknowledges the encouragement she received from an aunt whose own love of reading meant that “it was one of her domestic regulations, that a book be read aloud in the evening for general amusement”.46 Her earliest biographer notes, however, that:

  • 47 ibid., p. 50.

These social studies were far from satisfying her avidity for information; she perused many books by stealth. Mrs. Marshall, on discovering what had been her private occupation, expressed neither praise nor blame, but quietly advised her to avoid any display of superior knowledge, by which she might be subjected to the imputation of pedantry. This admonition produced the desired effect, since, as she herself informs us, she once hid a volume of Lord Kaime’s Elements of Criticism under the cushion of a chair, lest she should be detected in a study which prejudice and ignorance might pronounce unfeminine.47

  • 48 Isobel Grundy, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu: Comet of the Enlightenment, Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999, p. 1 (...)

22Mrs Marshall’s advice to her niece about concealing the extent of her learning, echoes that given to her daughter and granddaughters by Montagu, who admitted that much of her own book reading in her youth was undertaken by stealth.48

  • 49 Murray of Stanhope, Lady Grisell. Memoirs of the lives and characters of the Right Honourable Georg (...)

23Finally, I turn to two memoirs of outstanding women written by their offspring, in the first case by a daughter and in the second by a granddaughter. Grisell Baillie (1665 -1746), later Lady Murray of Stanhope by marriage, was the eldest of the two daughters of Lady Grisell and Sir George Baillie of Jerviswood. An only son died in infancy. Murray wrote the memoir shortly after her mother’s death (6 December, 1749). Though intended only for circulation within the family, it was subsequently published in 1822 a year after it became the inspiration for Joanna Baillie’s metrical legend of her ancestor.49

  • 50 The family were staunch Whigs and Presbyterians and were exiled to the Netherlands after the Rye Ho (...)
  • 51 Murray, p. 49.
  • 52 ibid. Murray inherited her mother’s lifelong love of music and preserved a book of songs her mother (...)
  • 53 ibid., p. 81.

24A recurring theme in Murray’s memoir of her mother is the role of parents, and grandparents, as the primary educators of children. She particularly highlights the importance of women’s knowledge, and how this is passed on. Murray attributes much of her knowledge of her maternal grandmother to her mother, Lady Grisell Baillie, as this grandmother had died when Murray was ten years old. It was also from her mother that she learned that, when this Covenanting family was in exile in Utrecht,50 her grandfather “taught them every thing that was fit for their age; some Latin, others French, Dutch, geography, writing, reading, English, & c.; and my grandmother taught them what was necessary on her part”.51 As the eldest of thirteen children, her mother’s duties in the family meant that it was only sometimes that she “took a lesson with the rest, in French and Dutch, and also diverted herself with music”.52 This knowledge of languages came in useful when Lady Grisell later took her own family - the two daughters, a son-in-law and grandsons - to Europe from 1731 to 1733. In Naples she set about learning Italian with only the help of a grammar and dictionary.53

  • 54 ibid., p. 66.

25Mother and daughter were close ( “never in my life from her above two months at a time, and that very seldom, and always unwillingly”,54) and Murray recalls affectionately a relationship based on friendship from childhood. She and her sister learned much from their mother, and from the governess appointed by her in due course:

  • 55 ibid., p. 67.

[F] rom our infancy [she] treated my sister and me like friends, as well as children, and with an indulgence that we never had a wish to make she could prevent; always used us with an openness and confidence which begat the same in us, that there never was any reserve amongst us, nor any thing kept secret from one another, to which she had used us from our early years. We were always with her at home and abroad, but when it was necessary we should learn what was fit for us; and for that end she got Mrs May Menzies, a daughter of Mr Menzies of Raws, writer to the signet, to be our governess, who was well qualified in all respects for it, and whose faithful care and capacity my mother depended so much upon, that she was easy when we were with her. She was always with us when our masters came, and had no other thought or business but the care and instruction of us; which I must here acknowledge with gratitude, having been an indulgent though exact mistress to us when young; and to this time, it being now forty-five years that she has lived with us, a faithful disinterested friend, with good sense, good temper, entirely in our interest, and that with so much honesty, that she always spoke her mind sincerely, without the least sycophantry. She has a solid judgment and advice to give upon any occasion, and an integrity in all her actions, even to a scruple. As such she always has been, and still is regarded by us all.55

26Lady Grisell’s household accounts book (Baillie xlvi) reveals that May Menzies was in fact the best paid Baillie family retainer, with a salary of Scots £100 per annum. The same source records payments over the years of tutors employed for her daughters’ education (in reading, writing, languages, arithmetic, dancing and singing), so we know she set a high value on their education. When the family was away from their home in Berwickshire, for example, in London as her husband was an MP and Lord of the Treasury, Lady Grisell ensured her daughters’ lessons continued.

  • 56 ibid., p. 83.
  • 57 Murray, p. 95.

27Murray conveys her mother’s lifelong value of learning, and her important role in the education of her extended family too. Lady Grisell took charge of the education of her nieces and nephews, as part of the management of her brother Alexander’s affairs while he was Envoy to Denmark between 1716 and 1721. (Alexander Hume had four daughters and four sons.) Her grandsons, Lady Murray’s nephews, were only eleven and nine years old when their father died prematurely in 1732 and Lady Grisell assumed a key role in arranging their education. Murray writes that her mother desired that “they should appear in the world with distinction, and omitted nothing she could devise to further them this way”.56 This included remaining in London and Oxford while they attended school and then university. She then prepared them for the extension of their education through the grand tour of Europe, even providing them with a memorandum containing sound advice on transport and currency, as well as about what to see and whom to meet, all drawing on her own experience of travelling on the continent in the early 1730s. A great part of the purpose of Murray’s memoir then is to pay tribute to the mother and grandmother from whose “knowledge, experience, and continual advice” her daughters and the rest of the family benefited.57

  • 58 Jill Rubenstein, “Women’s Biography as a Family Affair: Lady Louis Stuart’s ‘Biographical Anecdotes (...)

28Lady Louisa Stuart (1757-1851) is best remembered by her memoir of her “outrageous” grandmother, Mary Wortley Montagu, the only one of her memoirs to be published in her lifetime and then anonymously as, among her self-confessed “aristocratic prejudices” was a disdain for publication.58 Stuart composed these “Biographical Anecdotes” as an introduction to The letters and works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1837) edited by her nephew - and Montagu’s great grandson - Lord Wharncliffe. Her main sources of information were her mother, Lady Bute, her grandmother’s letters, and her diaries, to which she had access before Lady Bute destroyed them just before she died in 1794. As noted earlier, Stuart barely knew the grandmother who nevertheless exerted a powerful and longlasting influence on her. She met her for the first time when she was five years old, just six months before Montagu’s death in 1762 when she returned to London because of her failing health. On that occasion the mother and daughter met for the first time in over 20 years.

29It was actually Louisa’s eldest sister Mary that Montagu had principally in mind when she offered advice on her granddaughters’ education in the letters from Italy, thinking she and her sisters were unlikely to find husbands. In the event, Mary and all her siblings except Louisa married, and married well. Louisa is the one who most conformed to her grandmother’s prediction and ideas.

  • 59 The Letters and Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, I, p. 51.
  • 60 ibid.

30Like Lady Murray, Lady Stuart’s main source of knowledge about her grandmother was her mother, Lady Bute. It was from Lady Bute that she gathered that Montagu never learned Greek. Montagu’s own letters are a key fount of course, and informed her that her grandmother taught herself Latin as a child, which was of particular interest as the young Louisa had not been permitted to learn the classical languages. Stuart even quotes phrases from the very letters Montagu sent to Lady Bute about educating her granddaughters. She regards the letters as promoting the “learned education of women” and notes that her grandmother decried her own early education as “one of the worst in the world” at the hands of ignorant tutors.59 Stuart also advances her own ideas on education, thoroughly distilled as they were when she wrote this memoir, at the age of eighty. She clearly approved that the largely self-educated Lady Mary “read everything... in pursuit of information”,60 though often stealthily just as Stuart had done in her youth. Perhaps she rather envied the freedom granted her grandmother to do so. Nevertheless, there’s ample evidence of Stuart’s own extensive reading throughout her letters, and her self-taught knowledge of the modern languages.

  • 61 ibid., p. 52,

31Stuart also draws on her own memory, recalling her grandmother’s library and providing insights into Montagu’s reading habits. Clearly the romances of Charlotte Lennox and others, devoured by the young Montagu, were not to Stuart’s taste, though she lists the titles and recollects that they were read and re-read by one of Lady Bute’s attendants. Perhaps the most touching moment in the memoir is Stuart’s account of how an old family retainer vigilantly protected Montagu’s books from careless children and their nursery-maids.61 Stuart also saw fit to mention the works in Montagu’s London library by the feminist Mary Astell, whom her grandmother knew, and from whom she received the books as gifts. Stuart had read these and observes that many of Astell’s ideas on women’s education became better known through Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which was first published in 1792 when Stuart was in her thirties.

  • 62 Bull, pp. 62-65.

32Cultural and social commentary about reading became widespread in the eighteenth century, prompted by new education ideologies such as those proposed by Locke and Rousseau.62 At the end of the century, Mary Wollstonecraft, Catherine Macaulay and other bluestockings published their influential books on the education of girls and the associated rights of women. They considered reading was a necessary part of girls’ intellectual development, and in later life a comfort and resource, just as Montagu had. Louisa Stuart certainly read Wollstonecraft and was familiar with the work of the Scottish educationalist Elizabeth Hamilton, but her expressed views and advice to others derive from her lived experience. Elizabeth Mure provides a historical perspective on changes in the education of girls over the best part of a century, as she traces the shifts she witnessed in her lifetime.

33All of the women from whose letters and memoirs I have quoted were Scottish, with the exception of Montagu, although she did have Scottish forebears and was descended from the Duke of Argyll. But it would be unwise to suggest that Scottish national identity was something these writers shared. Murray and Stuart lived most of their lives in or near London and as members of elite Scottish families were part of what might indeed be called a cross-border society. And while, as McMillan has pointed out in A History of Scottish Women’s Writing, letters and memoirs, like other non-fiction writing by women, are hardly a distinctively Scottish phenomenon, their interest and value lie in the insights they provide into the experiences of real Scottish women. Largely because the letters and memoirs of the kind I have cited were not intended for publication the writers felt free to be frank about their personal educational experiences, the views on reading and learning they developed, and shared as a consequence.

Notes

1 Clarissa Campbell-Orr, ed., Wollstonecraft’s Daughters: Womanhood in England and France 1780-1920, Manchester: Manchester UP, 1996, p. 13.

2 George L. Justice & Nathan Tinkler, eds., Women’s writing and the circulation of ideas: manuscript publication in England, 1550-1880, Cambridge, U.K.; New York: Cambridge UP, 2002; Dorothy McMillan, “Selves and Others: Non-fiction Writing in the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries.” A History of Scottish Women’s Writing. Ed. D. Gifford & Dorothy McMillan, Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1997, pp. 72, 90; Betty Hagglund, “Changes in Roles and Relationships: Multiauthored Epistles from the Aberdeen Quaker Women’s Meeting” in Woman to Woman: Female Negotiations during the Long Eighteenth Century, ed. C. D. Escott & L. Duckling, Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2010, p. 138.

3 Katharine Glover, Elite Women & Polite Society in Eighteenth-Century Scotland, St Andrews Studies in Scot. History, Cambridge: Boydell Press, 2011, p. 26.

4 Markman Ellis, “Reading practices in Elizabeth Montagu’s epistolary network of the 1750s.” Bluestockings Displayed: Portraiture, Performance and Patronage, 1730-1830 ed. Elizabeth Eger Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2013, p. 213; Betty Hagglund, “The Depiction of Literacy, Schooling and Education in the Autobiographical Writing of Eighteenth-Century Scottish Women.” Women in Eighteenth-Century Scotland: Intimate, Intellectual and Public Lives ed. K. Barclay and D. Simonton, Farnham: Ashgate, 2013, pp. 129-31; Mark Towsey, “Women’s Reading.” The Edinburgh History of the Book in Scotland, Volume 2: Enlightenment and Expansion 1707 -1800 ed. S. Brown and W. McDougall, Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2012, pp. 438-46; Towsey, “Women as Readers and Writers.” Cambridge Companion to Women’s Writing in the Eighteenth Century (1660-1780) ed. C. Ingrassia, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2015, pp. 27-31.

5 ibid., p. 26. The case studies which form a key part of Polly Bull’s thesis go some way to rectifying this by analysing the reading experiences of men and women recorded in their diaries. “The Reading Lives of English Men and Women, 1695-1830.” Diss. Royal Holloway, University of London. 2012.

6 6Michelle Cohen, “’To Think, to Compare, to Combine, to Methodise: Girls’ Education in Enlightenment Britain.” Women, Gender and Enlightenment ed. Sarah Knott and Barbara Taylor, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005, pp. 224-42, p. 225.

7 M. Bolufer Peruga, “Gender and the reasoning mind: introduction.” Women, Gender and Enlightenment, pp. 189-94, p. 189.

8 ibid., p. 191.

9 Norma Clarke, “Bluestocking Fictions: Devotional Writings, Didactic Literature and the Imperative of Female Improvement.” Women, Gender and Enlightenment, pp. 460-73, p. 464; Glover, p. 77.

10 Mary Wortley Stuart (1718-1794), daughter of Sir Edward Wortley Montagu and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (Pierrepont), married John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, and later Prime Minister of Britain 1762–1763, in 1736. Their
sixth daughter, Louisa, was born in 1757. See below p. 189.

11 The Letters and Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Edited by Her Great Grandson Lord Wharncliffe, 3 vols, London: Richard Bentley, 1836; 2 volumes. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1837, Vol. III, p. 20.

12 ibid., p. 4.

13 Margaret R Hunt, The Middling Sort: Commerce, Gender, and the Family in England, 1680-1780, Berkely: California UP, 1996, p. 84. See also Janet Todd, “Introduction.”. Female Education in the Age of Enlightenment Volume 1. London: William Pickering, 1996, p. xix.

14 Karen O’Brien, Women and Enlightenment in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009, p. 19; Todd xiii-xiv.

15 “Bluestocking Fictions”, p. 436.

16 Her biographer, Isobel Grundy, describes Montagu as already” a feminist-intraining” at the age of fourteen. “Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and her daughter” in Women’s Writing and the Circulation of Ideas ed. Justice and Tinkler, p. 192. By the age of twenty-one her letter to Gilbert Burnet already “argues forcibly for women’s education”. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu: Comet of the Enlightenment. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999, p. 37.

17 Marion Scott, “Mrs Scott to Mrs Mure of Caldwell, Hanover, Septr 8, 1719.” Selections from the Family Papers Preserved at Caldwell Part First MCCCCXCVI-MDCCCLIII. Ed. W. Mure. Maitland Club 71. Glasgow, 1854, p. 240.

18 The Letters and Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, III, p. 49.

19 ibid., 49.

20 Cynthia Lowenthal, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and the Eighteenth-Century Familiar Letter, Athens: Georgia UP, 1994, p. 189.

21 The Letters and Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, III, p. 45.

22 Bolufa Peruga, p. 191.

23 Towsey, “Women’s Reading”, p. 439.

24 James Fordyce, “Sermon VII.” Sermons for Young Women (1766). Ed. Janet Todd. Female Education in the Age of Enlightenment Volume 1 (London: William Pickering, 1996), p. 75.

25 Hunt, p. 75.

26 Ibid.

27 John Gregory, “On Conduct and Behaviour.” A Father’s Legacy to His Daughters (1774). Ed. Janet Todd. Female Education in the Age of Enlightenment, p. 15.

28 ibid., p. 24.

29 Todd, pp. xix-xx.

30 The Letters and Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, III, p. 52.

31 Todd, p. xv.

32 Lady Louisa Stuart, Letters of Lady Louisa Stuart to Miss Louisa Clinton ed. James A Home. 2 vols. (Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1901-13), vol. I, p. 264. Internet Archive. Web. 1 May 2015.

33 ibid., p. 271,

34 ibid., II, p. 21. Her grandmother had lived in Italy since 1739, some eighteen years before Louisa was born, and did not return to Britain until 1761.

35 ibid., I, 228. See Susan Buchan, Lady Louisa Stuart: Her Memories and Portraits (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1932), p. xii.

36 ibid., p. 269.

37 The Letters and Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, I, pp. 49-121.

38 Glover, pp. 75-76.

39 Hunt, p. 88.

40 E. Ewan, S. Innes, and S. Reynolds, The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women, Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2006, p. 276.

41 Elizabeth Mure, “Some remarks on the change of manners in my own time.” Selections from the Family Papers Preserved at Caldwell Part First MCCCCXCVI-MDCCCLIII ed. W. Mure (Maitland Club 71. Glasgow, 1854), pp. 259-272, p. 269. McMillan notes that according to her brother William, Mure’s memoir was "surreptitiously printed in one of the few numbers of the short-lived periodical set on foot in Edinburgh in 1818, under the title of Constable’s magazine". “Selves and Others”, p. 33.

42 Mure, p. 271.

43 ibid., p. 272.

44 Elizabeth Benger, ed., Memoirs of the Late Mrs Elizabeth Hamilton, Volume 1. 1818, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2014, p. 42.

45 ibid., p. 43.

46 ibid., p. 49.

47 ibid., p. 50.

48 Isobel Grundy, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu: Comet of the Enlightenment, Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999, p. 15.

49 Murray of Stanhope, Lady Grisell. Memoirs of the lives and characters of the Right Honourable George Baillie and Lady Grisell Baillie by their Daughter, Edinburgh 1822. Joanna Baillie, Metrical Legends of Exalted Characters. Second edition. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1821.

50 The family were staunch Whigs and Presbyterians and were exiled to the Netherlands after the Rye House plot of 1683.

51 Murray, p. 49.

52 ibid. Murray inherited her mother’s lifelong love of music and preserved a book of songs her mother had written. She herself was admired for her singing.

53 ibid., p. 81.

54 ibid., p. 66.

55 ibid., p. 67.

56 ibid., p. 83.

57 Murray, p. 95.

58 Jill Rubenstein, “Women’s Biography as a Family Affair: Lady Louis Stuart’s ‘Biographical Anecdotes’ of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.” Prose Studies 9 (1986): 3-21, pp. 20, 5.

59 The Letters and Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, I, p. 51.

60 ibid.

61 ibid., p. 52,

62 Bull, pp. 62-65.

Auteur

Professor of English at the University of Waikato, New Zealand. Her teaching and research focus on British, especially Scottish, literature and travel writing. Recent publications include her edition of A Journey Through Scotland (1723) by John Macky (2014); ‘ “A full idea of your own country”’: Paradise or wilderness? Scottish tourists on the home tour’ (2015); and ‘The Testament of Gideon Mack: Jangling the universal nerve?’ (2015).

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