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Women's Court and Society Memoirs


Chawton House Library: Women's Memoirs

Editors: Amy Culley, Katherine Turner and Jennie Batchelor
Volume Editors: Amy Culley and Katherine Turner

Part I
4 volume set: 1936pp: 234x156mm: 2009
978 1 85196 877 0: £350/$625
Part II
5 volume set: 1984pp: 234x156mm: 2010
978 1 85196 878 7: £425/$750

  • Description
  • Contents
These exhuberant stories of intrigue and scandal paint a vivid and colourful picture of society life.
As lady-in-waiting to the Princess of Wales (the future Queen Caroline), Lady Charlotte Bury was the intimate observer of a family drama played out on the public stage. Her Diary, published anonymously and covering the period 1810–15, presents a vivid portrait of the circle of the Princess of Wales, describing personalities, conversations, fashions, and royal dinner parties in detail.

Catherine Cary draws on the conventions of both Gothic fiction and the roman-à-clef. In detailing her connections with the court of Queen Caroline, Cary reveals conspiracies against the royal family and government ministers. She casts herself as the defender of truth and justice, bringing misdeeds to light and refusing to collaborate with the Queen’s party, despite apparently being subject to intimidation, imprisonment, bribery and blackmail.
 
Famous in her own lifetime for her extravagant habits and her notorious trial for bigamy before the House of Lords in 1776, Elizabeth Hervey presents a colourful case study in eighteenth-century aristocratic eccentricity. After an early and hasty marriage to a lowly soldier, which she spent many subsequent years trying to conceal, she rose to positions of power and intimacy with the great, and married the wealthy Duke of Kingston in 1769. Beautiful and intelligent, yet also fat and ill-mannered, she abused her servants and engaged in an unseemly feud with the seedy playwright Samuel Foote, yet managed also to bewitch princes and noblemen. The Life and Memoirs blend vindication with self-recrimination, and highlight the extraordinary freedoms enjoyed by a woman of Hervey’s class, but also the increasing pressures generated by scandal and publicity.

In 1809 the House of Commons mounted an inquiry into the conduct of the Duke of York in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the British Army. Chief witness for the unofficial prosecution was a Cockney courtesan, Mary Anne Clarke, who had been the Duke’s mistress for several years, and used her influence with the Duke as a means of selling promotions in the army. The inquiry revealed systemic corruption at the heart of national power, and generated intense public interest, not least because of Clarke’s subversive wit. The Duke was acquitted, but the damage was done. Following the trial, incensed at the failure of her supporters to reward her in proper style, Clarke published The Rival Princes. She revealed that the Duke’s trial had been set up by his scheming brother, the Duke of Kent, and a group of his sidekicks: the high-minded radical exposé of corruption was shown to be simply another instance of political chicanery. Written with ironic wit and comic contempt, The Rival Princes is a complex blending of political commentary, personal attacks and, above all, self-justification.

Pauline Adelaide Alexandre Panam’s Memoirs describes her seduction in Paris by Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg (later the father to Prince Albert), and her subsequent neglect and abuse at the hands of the Duke and his bullying family. Skillfully deploying the rhetoric of sensibility and of Gothic romance, Panam presents herself as a helpless victim of powerful and ruthless forces, driven to publish through the need to raise money for herself and her illegitimate child.
Befriended in her later years by the elderly Prince de Ligne, himself a memoirist of scandalous renown in France (and a friend of Casanova), Panam was encouraged by him to publish the story of her life, which generated waves of scandal and sympathy across Europe.

Married at seventeen to the tedious William Craven, Elizabeth, daughter of the Earl and Countess of Berkeley, rapidly produced six children and embarked upon indiscreet affairs. Witty and well-read, she was a close friend of Horace Walpole, with whom she corresponded for many years, and was described by Boswell as ‘the beautiful, gay, and fascinating Lady Craven’. Her Memoirs, published in her old age, celebrate her many years spent in the great courts of Europe, and embody the confident snobbery of Enlightenment aristocracy.

Part I
Editor: Amy Culley

Volumes 1–2

[Lady Charlotte Bury], Diary Illustrative of the Times of George the Fourth (1838)
As lady-in-waiting to the Princess of Wales (the future Queen Caroline), Lady Charlotte Bury was the intimate observer of a family drama played out on the public stage. Her Diary, published anonymously and covering the period 1810-15, presents a vivid portrait of the circle of the Princess of Wales, describing personalities, conversations, fashions, and royal dinner parties in detail. The tone of the Diary is at once sympathetic and critical, as Bury is keen to defend the Princess from false accusation and yet also keeps a wary distance from her disreputable court. The text also recounts Bury’s travels across Europe, which are marked by Napoleon’s return from Elba and Bury’s reunion with the Princess in Italy. In this collage of journal entries and correspondence, Bury introduces a glittering cast of characters and provides a rare insight into the political machinations that surrounded the disastrous marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Volumes 3–4

Catherine E Cary, Memoirs of Miss C E Cary (1825)
Catherine Cary’s unlikely narrative draws on the conventions of both Gothic fiction and the roman-à-clef. Allegedly the daughter of a Duke, Cary recounts the mysteries of her birth and presents a melodramatic account of her life that is characterized by pursuits and flights, disguises and mistaken identities, secret documents, attempted seductions, debts, and imprisonment. In detailing her connections with the court of Queen Caroline, Cary reveals conspiracies against the royal family and government ministers. She casts herself as the defender of truth and justice, bringing misdeeds to light and refusing to collaborate with the Queen’s party, despite apparently being subject to intimidation, imprisonment, bribery, and blackmail by figures such as Alderman Wood and Lady Anne Hamilton. An appendix to the text provides further elaboration of these alleged plots, and it is through these documents that Cary attempts to authenticate her narrative and establish her innocence.

Part II
Editor: Katherine Turner

Volume 5

Elizabeth Hervey, Life and Memoirs of Elizabeth Chudleigh (1789)
Famous in her own lifetime for her extravagant habits and her notorious trial for bigamy before the House of Lords in 1776, Hervey presents a colourful case study in eighteenth-century aristocratic eccentricity. After an early and hasty marriage to a lowly soldier, which she spent many subsequent years trying to conceal, she rose to positions of power and intimacy with the great, and married the wealthy Duke of Kingston in 1769. Beautiful and intelligent, yet also fat and ill-mannered, she abused her servants and engaged in an unseemly feud with the seedy playwright Samuel Foote, yet managed also to bewitch princes and noblemen. As a young woman she flirted semi-naked with George II, and later, during her flamboyant exile in Europe, she befriended Catherine the Great of Russia, another voluptuous Enlightenment female. The Life and Memoirs blend vindication with self-recrimination, and highlight the extraordinary freedoms enjoyed by a woman of Hervey’s class, but also the increasing pressures generated by scandal and publicity.

Volume 6

Mary Anne Clarke, The Rival Princes; Or, A Faithful Narrative of Facts, Relating To Mrs M A Clarke's Political Acquaintance (1810)
In 1809 the House of Commons mounted an inquiry into the conduct of the Duke of York in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the British Army. Chief witness for the unofficial prosecution was a Cockney courtesan, Mary Anne Clarke, who had been the Duke’s mistress for several years, and used her influence with the Duke as a means of selling promotions in the army. The inquiry revealed systemic corruption at the heart of national power, and generated intense public interest, not least because of Clarke’s subversive wit. The Duke was acquitted, but the damage was done. Following the trial, incensed at the failure of her supporters to reward her in proper style, Clarke published The Rival Princes. She revealed that the Duke’s trial had been set up by his scheming brother, the Duke of Kent, and a group of his sidekicks: the high-minded radical exposé of corruption was shown to be simply another instance of political chicanery. Written with ironic wit and comic contempt, The Rival Princes is a complex blending of political commentary, personal attacks and, above all, self-justification, as Clarke makes it clear that for an abandoned woman with small children to support, a career as a crooked courtesan was the only real option.

Volume 7

Pauline Adelaide Alexandre Panam, Memoirs of a Young Greek Lady (1823)
Panam’s Memoirs describes her seduction in Paris by Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg (later the father to Prince Albert), and her subsequent neglect and abuse at the hands of the Duke and his bullying family. Each of the two volumes contains a ‘supplement’ of letters and documents written by the high-ranking cast of characters, which substantiate the otherwise incredible narrative of victimization. Skillfully deploying the rhetoric of sensibility and of Gothic romance, Panam presents herself as a helpless victim of powerful and ruthless forces, driven to publish through the need to raise money for herself and her illegitimate child. Befriended in her later years by the elderly Prince de Ligne, himself a memoirist of scandalous renown in France (and a friend of Casanova), Panam was encouraged by him to publish the story of her life, which generated waves of scandal and sympathy across Europe. In England, coming just three years after the trial of Queen Caroline, it served as further evidence of royal cruelty and decadence, and its politically subversive undertones were anxiously registered by the critics.

Volumes 8 and 9

Elizabeth Craven, Memoirs of the Margravine of Anspach, Formerly Lady Craven (1826)
Married at seventeen (in 1767) to the tedious William Craven (who became Baron in 1769), Elizabeth, daughter of the Earl and Countess of Berkeley, rapidly produced six children and embarked upon indiscreet affairs. Witty and well-read, she was a close friend of Horace Walpole, with whom she corresponded for many years, and was described by Boswell as ‘the beautiful, gay, and fascinating Lady Craven’. She wrote short comic plays and stories, and published a substantial travel narrative in 1789, A Journey through the Crimea to Constantinople. By then it was public knowledge that the Cravens were living apart, each engaged upon affairs. Lady Craven had formed a liaison with a German prince, the Margrave of Anspach, and spent many years living with him at Triersdorf before the deaths of both their spouses finally made it possible for them to marry. They returned to England and maintained an extravagant lifestyle at Brandenburg House, on the Thames at Fulham. After the Margrave’s death in 1806, Elizabeth once again sojourned in Europe, dying in Naples in 1828. The memoirs, published in her old age, celebrate her many years spent in the great courts of Europe, and embody the confident snobbery of Enlightenment aristocracy. They also vindicate her controversial private life and pay tribute to the virtues of the Margrave as husband and ruler.

ISBNs: 9781851968770 978-1-85196-877-0 ISBNs: 9781851968787 978-1-85196-878-7

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