Mary Wortley Montagu


Biography of Mary Wortley Montagu

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (15 May 1689 – 21 August 1762) was an English aristocrat and writer. Montagu is today chiefly remembered for her letters, particularly her letters from Turkey, as wife to the British ambassador, which have been described by Billie Melman as “the very first example of a secular work by a woman about the Muslim Orient”.

Lady Mary Pierrepont was born in London on May 15, 1689; her baptism took place on May 26 at St. Paul's Church in Covent Garden. She was a daughter of Evelyn Pierrepont, 5th Earl of Kingston-upon-Hull, and his first wife, Lady Mary Fielding.

Her mother had three more children before dying in 1692. The children were raised by their Pierrepont grandmother until Mary was 9. Lady Mary was then passed to the care of her father upon her grandmother's death.

She began her education in her father's home. Family holdings were extensive, including Thoresby Hall and Holme Pierrepont Hall in Nottinghamshire, and a house in West Dean in Wiltshire. She used the library in her father’s mansion, Thoresby Hall in the Dukeries of Nottinghamshire, to “steal” her education, teaching herself Latin. Thoresby Hall had one of the finest private libraries in England, which she loved, but it was lost when the building burned in 1744. By fourteen Lady Mary Wortley Montagu had written two books filled with poems, a brief epistolary novel, and a prose-and-verse romance modeled after Aphra Behn's Voyage to the Isle of Love (1684). She also corresponded with two bishops, Thomas Tenison and Gilbert Burnet, who supplemented the instructions of a governess she despised. Lady Mary would later describe her governess' teachings as "the worst in the world".

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