Correspondence from the Bas Bleu

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 HAM/1/6
  • Dates of Creation
      1773-1814
  • Physical Description
      8 sub-subseries; 93 items. Condition: two letters in HAM/1/6/3 are fragile and a number of pieces have been censored with part of the text cut from the sheet in sub-series HAM/1/6/8.

Scope and Content

This sub-series consists of letters and notes from Mary Hamilton's friends prominent in the Bas Bleu, or bluestocking circle. Included are the letters and notes from Frances Evelyn Boscawen (HAM/1/6/1), Elizabeth Vesey (HAM/1/6/2), Mary Delany (HAM/1/6/3), Elizabeth Montagu (HAM/1/6/4), Frances Burney (HAM/1/6/5), Eva Maria Garrick (HAM/1/6/6), Dorothea Gregory (HAM/1/6/7) and John Hope (HAM/1/6/8).

The bluestocking circle comprised a group of women and men who met from the mid- to late eighteenth century as an intellectual and social group. The three prominent hostesses of this circle, Elizabeth Montagu, Elizabeth Vesey and Frances Boscawen are all represented in this sub-series. All three women were wealthy and well connected and used their influence to attract prominent intellectuals of the day, such as Horace Walpole, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Frances Burney, Elizabeth Carter and Hannah More, into their homes. These bluestocking breakfasts and assemblies were a means to merge learning with sociability. Although the bluestocking circle comprised both men and women, the term increasingly began to refer to women and the group encouraged the patronage of women, to assist them to publish their writings. The bluestocking circle, or the 'Bas Bleu' as they became known after Hannah More's poem about the group, stressed the importance of morality and virtue and they were socially mixed, made up of writers, aristocrats, actors, artists and politicians. They came together with the aim of acquiring knowledge and provided a forum for cultural and intellectual exchange.

Mary Hamilton writes in detail on her various bluestocking friends and of attending Bas Bleu evenings in her diaries (see HAM/2).

Although John Hope was not a member of the bluestocking circle, his correspondence and miscellanea (HAM/1/6/8) constituted part of this sub-series when the archive was received, and they have been kept in their original location.

Arrangement

This sub-series has been divided into 8 sub-subseries by author. Within each sub-subseries, items are arranged in chronological order with undated items placed at the end of each sequence unless dates could be inferred from their content, context or physical characteristics. The majority of pieces in HAM/1/6/8 are undated and have been kept in the original order in which they were found.