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Elizabeth Montagu: Queen of the Bluestockings by Gill Woodcock

Elizabeth Montagu (1718-1800) was a central figure in the Bluestocking Circle in eighteenth-century London. Samuel Johnson called her ‘Queen of the Blues’. Whilst she was best known as a salon hostess, she was also a writer and a businesswoman. Montagu was a patron to several artists and writers and was especially supportive of young female poets including Helen Maria Williams, Hannah More and Ann Yearsley. This essay looks at Montagu’s impact as a female patron through two artefacts: firstly, James Barry’s The Distribution of the Premiums, one of the murals in The Progress of Human Knowledge and Culture painted in the Great Room of the Royal Society of Arts in the latter part of the eighteenth century, and secondly the dedicatory poem To Mrs Montagu in Helen Maria Williams 1784 poem Peru. Montagu’s placement in the centre of The Distribution surrounded by high status individuals including The Prince of Wales, Edmund Burke and William Shipley is a significant indication of her influence and status. Williams’s dedication gives an insight into the supportive environment provided by Montagu and the Bluestocking Circle. Examining the artefacts together, as this essay argues, shows Montagu was not only a leading salon hostess but also a significant female patron and role model, recognised by artists and poets who chose to honour her influence.

Date created: 
Wednesday, April 12, 2023
Attribution for this resource:
Elizabeth Montagu: Queen of the Bluestockings by Gill Woodcock, All rights reserved.
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