Correspondence from Mary Sharpe

Scope and Content

Mary Sharpe was the only daughter and heir of Fane William Sharpe. She married the Rev. Dr Osmund Beauvoir (d. 1789), who was the Headmaster of King's School, Canterbury. She married a second time to a Dr Douglas. Sharpe was very close to the author Elizabeth Carter and in her letters to Hamilton, called her 'dear Mama' (her own had mother died).

The letters relate to Sharpe's friendship with Hamilton, the health and the nursing of her friend, Elizabeth Carter, literature, and invitations including an invitation to Handel's Messiah, and a party whose guests included Hester Chapone and Elizabeth Carter. She details a trip to Oxford and describes a visit to New College Chapel, Christ Church and the Radcliffe Library, with which she was decidedly unimpressed (HAM/1/22/9). The letters also relate to Hamilton's unhappiness at Court and Sharpe's attempts to stress to Hamilton the positive aspects of her position. Sharpe also speaks of her own unhappiness and of being discontented with her situation in life (HAM/1/22/12): although she was left a fortune after the death of her father, she claims that she had no friend (HAM/1/22/43). Sharpe writes about a Mrs O'Keefe (HAM/1/22/13), a woman who had been mistreated by her husband and whom she is aiding. Sharpe outlines O'Keefe's story and says that she has provided a house for her to live in.

Sharpe writes about literature, for example commented that she shares Hamilton's opinions on Fielding's Tom Jones (HAM/1/22/13), and that Elizabeth Carter advises Hamilton not to go 'starring & marry a Tom Jones, blessing your stars all the while & thinking you have made a notable choice' (HAM/1/22/14). She continues that such advice would be useful 'to Many a poor Sentimental Miss'.

Sharpe discusses her health and visits to Tunbridge Wells to take the waters (HAM/1/22/12-13). She writes of her decision to marry and also of her relationship with Elizabeth Carter (HAM/1/22/43). She laments that her life has been one of 'sorrow' and that she long ago decided not to marry and to live a life of independence, as she had been 'oppressed by every one whom I once had reason to love'. She suffered much ill-treatment from her governess and it was with much difficulty that she freed herself from her. It was at this period in her life that she met and became attached to Elizabeth Carter. She then writes of her change of mind and of her engagement to Mr Beauvoir, the father of a friend, whom she describes as neither rich nor young. She comments that her engagement caused a rift between Elizabeth Carter and herself. The letter continues with Sharpe noting on how much she money she intends to settle on her new daughter-in-law and others.

The correspondence also relates to a dispute between Sharpe and Mary Hamilton. Sharpe is angry that Hamilton's husband, John Dickenson, called on her at Mrs Rundell's (see HAM/1/8/6) in order to present Hamilton's condolences on the death of her husband. Sharpe had never been introduced to Dickenson and she and Hamilton had not been friends for some time. She therefore claims that Dickenson's calling on her was inappropriate and she then blames Hamilton for terminating their friendship over a difference between the two women concerning Elizabeth Carter. She suggests that Hamilton had been disrespectful to her husband, Dr Beauvoir, in his lifetime and that she does not wish to renew her friendship with her. Sharpe continues her argument in HAM/1/22/54.

See also HAM/1/9/62-64.

Arrangement

The correspondence has been arranged in chronological order with undated items placed at the end of the sequence unless dates could be inferred from their content, context or physical characteristics.