Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Montagu, Elizabeth, 1720-1800
Collected Correspondence of Elizabeth Montagu
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1660-1903 (mostly 1740-1810)
2 boxes and 0.6 linear feet
Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Box 1-2


Contains correspondence of Elizabeth Montagu, known as "queen of the Bluestockings," an informal group of 18th-century English literary figures and intellectuals that gathered frequently at her home.

Collection Description & Creator Information


The collection consists primarily of correspondence of Montagu and her contemporaries collected by A. M. Broadley for his 1903 extra-illustrated copy (in twelve volumes) of Dr. (John) Doran's A Lady of the Last Century (Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu) (London, 1873). Included are letters by Robert Adam, Hugh Blair, William Cowper, Richard Cumberland, David Garrick, George Lyttleton, Conyers Middleton, Sir Walter Scott, Richard B. Sheridan, Voltaire, William Wilberforce, and Edward Young. In addition, there are twenty letters by Montagu to various members of her circle and four letters to her from Frances Reynolds.

Collection Creator Biography:


Elizabeth Montagu was born on October 2, 1720, in York, England. She was the first daughter and fifth child of Matthew and Elizabeth Robinson, two well-connected and wealthy members of society who were generally distant and preoccupied parents. She spent much of her childhood in Cambridge at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Conyers Middleton, Elizabeth's grandmother and her second husband. On these stays, Montagu and her closest sister, Sarah, were introduced to academic pursuits and pleasures. They were educated in Italian, French, and Latin and read classical and English literature and history.

Montagu's interest in lively intellectual life continued through many important friendships in her adolescence and early adulthood. She was a close companion of Lady Margery Harley, whom she met in Cambridge. Harley was three years older than Elizabeth and introduced her to a glamorous society life. After Harley married the second duke of Portland, Elizabeth regularly visited them in London, experiencing the sort of free intellectual discourse between men and women at their home that she would later emulate in her "bluestocking" gatherings.

Elizabeth married Edward Montagu on August 5, 1742, despite her disdain for marriage. Her only child John died unexpectedly in September 1744, devastating Elizabeth. Her relationship with her husband was cordial but distant; he was preoccupied with his business and political interests and she enjoyed her intellectual pursuits.

Montagu is most famous for her "bluestockings parties," gatherings of literary figures and intellectual socialites at her London home at which drinking and card games were banned in favor of witty discussion of literature, philosophy, and other topics. Often called the "queen of the bluestockings," Montagu and her friend Elizabeth Vesey organized these meetings. Montagu also pursued her own writing, including an appreciated and acclaimed essay on Shakespeare, displaying her nationalism and belief in his genius and condemning the less positive evaluations of contemporary critics such as Samuel Johnson and Voltaire.

Montagu died in 1800, leaving her estate to her nephew, Matthew Robinson Montagu.

Collection History


Gift of Dickson Q. Brown in 1954 .


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Anna Bialek in June 2005 . Finding aid written by Anna Bialek at the end of June 2005 .

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Credit this material:

Collected Correspondence of Elizabeth Montagu; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Box 1-2

Find More


The Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1922) was consulted during preparation of the biographical note.

Subject Terms:
Women intellectuals--Great Britain--18th century.
Genre Terms:
Correspondence -- 18th century
Broadley, Alexander Meyrick, 1847-1916
Great Britian--Intellectual life--18th century.