Letters of Margaret Compton, Marchioness of Northampton

Scope and Content

Thirty-nine letters (numbers 1-39, 22 October 1828-August 1829) from Margaret Compton (d 1830), later Marchioness of Northampton, to the Honourable Henry Edward Fox (1802-1859), later 4th and last Baron Holland. The majority is written from Rome, and the letters are addressed to Fox in France (mostly, February-March 1826), Italy and London. All are dated within a period of nine months (October 1825-June l826), except for four which are dated July and August 1829. Numbers 40-41 contain verses in Margaret Compton's hand.

The letters are primarily personal, but have social and literary value; many contain information concerning members of the English community in Italy and common acquaintances in Italian Society. Several letters are addressed to Sir Walter Scott and concern his financial difficulties.

Administrative / Biographical History

Margaret Compton (d 1830), Marchioness of Northampton, poet, was the eldest daughter and heir of Major-General Douglas Maclean Clephane of Torloisk, Isle of Mull. She was a gifted poet, a favourite of Sir Walter Scott, and an accomplished musician and artist. Although her poetry was praised by Wordsworth, she did not publish anything during her lifetime. In July 1815 she married Spencer Joshua Alwyne Compton (1790-1851), the second son of Charles Compton, 9th Earl and 1st Marquess of Northampton. Their marriage was a happy one and they had four sons and two daughters. From 1820 to 1830 she and her husband lived in Italy, mainly in Rome, where they not only pursued connoisseurship but also protected victims of despotism in Lombardy and Naples. Compton succeeded his father as Marquess of Northampton on 24 May 1828. Margaret Compton died of complications after the birth of their sixth child, on 2 April 1830. Her husband returned to England and issued a privately printed edition of her poems in 1833 under the title Irene: a poem, in six cantos. Miscellaneous poems.

Source: Jack Morrell, 'Compton, Spencer Joshua Alwyne, second marquess of Northampton (1790-1851)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press - http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/6037.

Access Information

The collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library from the bookseller H.M. Fletcher in February 1963.


Description compiled by Jo Humpleby, project archivist, with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on Spencer Compton, 2nd Marquess of Northampton.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1952-1970 (English MS 1287); see also the note in the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, vol. 46 (1963-4), pp. 1-2.

Related Material

Correspondence and miscellaneous literary manuscripts of Margaret Compton, 1804-28, remain in the ownership of the Marquess of Northampton at Castle Ashby, Northamptonshire (ref.: GB 2423 vol 5, 1154-71). The National Library of Scotland, Manuscript Collections, hold other letters from Margaret Compton to Sir Walter Scott, 1809-28 (ref.: GB 233 MSS 3878-3907 passim).


These letters form a useful supplement to the Earl of Ilchester's edition of The journal of the Hon. Henry Edward Fox (afterwards fourth and last Lord Holland) 1818-1830 (London: T. Butterworth, [1923]).

The JRUL holds a copy of the Marchioness of Northampton, Irene: a poem, in six cantos. Miscellaneous poems (London: printed by Mills, Jowett, and Mills, 1833): accession no. 21778. An appendix contains a tale from the Cabinet des fées, by the Comtesse de Murat, which suggested the story of Irene (Le palais de la vengeance).

Geographical Names