1876 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elizabeth Montagu

Robert Carruthers, in Chambers's Cyclopaedia of English Literature, 3rd ed. (1876; 1879) 4:390-91.



MRS. ELIZABETH MONTAGU (1720-1800) and MRS. HESTER CHAPONE (1726-1801) were ladies of learning and ability, holding — particularly the former — a prominent place in the literary society of the period. Mrs. Montagu was left a widow with a large fortune, and her house became the popular resort of persons of both sexes distinguished for rank, classical taste, and literary talent. Numerous references to this circle will be found in Boswell's "Johnson," in the "Life of Dr. Beattie," the works of Hannah More, &c. Mrs. Montagu was authoress of a work highly popular in its day, "Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakspeare, compared with the Greek and French dramatic Poets, with some remarks upon the Misrepresentations of M. de Voltaire," 1769. This essay is now chiefly valued as showing the low state of poetical and Shakespearean criticism at the time it was written. A memoir, with letters, of Mrs. Montagu was published in 1873 by Dr. Doran, under the title of "A Lady of the last Century." Mrs. Chapone's principal work is "Letters on the Improvement of the Mind," 1773. Two years afterwards she published a volume of "Miscellanies in Prose and Verse." All her writings are distinguished for their piety and good sense.