Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's opinion that the Countess "had much in her" is amply confirmed by existing evidence. She read many books, and a bookplate designed for her by George Vertue was reserved for books that were presented to her. Many of them were gifts made by her husband, and every such book was certain to be perused by her sooner or later. After reading a book, she wrote in it Daer tuo, which is the reverse of read out, i.e. read through.

The following are some of the books1 given to her by her husband, with the dates of her receiving and reading them:

Theobald's edition of Shakespeare. Read 1745.
Clarendon's Rebellion. Given 1719; read 1740.
Poems of Katherine Philips. Given 1720; read 1721.
Sir John Denham's Poems. Given 1720; read 1721.
Dryden's Works. Given and read 1720.
Giles Jacob's Lives of the Poets. Given 1720; read 1732.
Cowley's Works. Given 1720; read 1732.
Ben Jonson's Works. Given 1720; read 1742.
Spenser's Works. Given 1720; read 1723.
Tournefort's Voyage to the Levant. Given 1720; read 1741.
White Kennett's History of England. Given 1720; read 1721.
Prideaux's Connection. Given 1722; read 1733.
Beaumont & Fletcher's Works. Given 1722  read 1730.
Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia. Given 1723; read 1734.
Hardyng's Chronicle. Given 1731; read 1732.
Shelton's Translation of Don Quixote. Given 1731; read 1742.
Gage's Survey of the West Indies. Given 1731; read 1743.
Nathaniel Wanley's Wonders of the Little World. Given 1731; read 1747.
Mirour for Magistrates. Given 1732; read 1739.
Coryat's Crudities. Given 1732; read 1734.
Erdeswicke's Survey of Staffordshire. Given 1732 ; read 1745.
Pope's Works. Given 1739; read 1743.
Ashmole's Antiquities of Berkshire. Given 1740 ; read 1748.
John Anstis' Order of the Garter. Given 1740 ; read 1745.
Aubrey's Antiquities of Surrey. Given 1740 ; read 1748.

Many others might be enumerated. Several authors gave to her copies of their books, and these also are inscribed Daer tuo. In 1715, for instance, Simon Ockley presented his History of the Saracens. In February, 1719, Prior gave to her the folio edition of his Poems. In 1722, Richard Crossinge gave to her his "Discourse concerning the Great Duty of Charity," which he had dedicated to her husband; she read it in 1725. In 1737, Alexander Pope gave to her the quarto edition of his Letters. In 1744, Dr. Zachary Grey presented his edition of Butler's Hudibras, which she read in the following year. In 1745, Dr. C. Deering gave to her his Catalogue of Nottingham Plants, and it was perused before that year ended.

From the foregoing notes we may conclude that the Countess had a serious taste in literature, and a well-stored mind. It is something to be able to say, as she could, that she had read all the works of Shakespeare, Beaumont & Fletcher, Spenser, Ben Jonson, Butler, Dryden, Pope, Waller, Suckling, Denham, Cleveland, Cotton and Prior.


Plate IV. ROBERT HARLEY, Speaker of the House of Commons, created Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer, 1711. By Bernard Lens, 1714, after Sir Godfrey Kneller. (Welbeck Abbey Miniatures, no. 184.).

Her letters to Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford, consist chiefly of expressions of affection for him, of kindly concern for his health, with occasional references to her own health, and that of her little daughter Peggy. It will suffice if two letters are quoted in extenso as being typical of many, followed by a selection of extracts.

Decr 12, 1715.
Conversing with your Lordship is a greater pleasure then I can express, yett I can no longer omit endeavoring in the best maner I am able to return my thanks for your most affectionate Letter in which your Lordship writes with so much kindness and tenderness that if it were posible it would still encrease that Duty and regard I have for your Lordship. I do beg leave to assure you it is a great Pleasure to me to repeat in words and actions that I am with the utmost Truth Your Lordship's obedient Daughter and Servant
I am very thankfull for your Lordship's kind expresions to my Child.

Decr 28, 1715.
Was it not the Fear of troubling you, I seldom or never would lett an opertunity slip of writing to your Lordship; much more when I have a kind affectionate letter to thank you for, as I now and alwayes have when I receive the Honor of a Letter from your Lordship. My Lord, your obligin Notice you take of my not mentioning Peggy occations you the trouble of the Following account about her, who, I thank God, is well and has cut two Teeth as eacy as can be expected ; has no Feavor; yett I think it proper to keep her up in her Nussery which is airy though warm, it being to the south. I will not longer detain your Lordship then to assure you of my being as much as any one in the world, My Lord, Your obedient Daughter and Servant,
H.C.H.H. My humble Duty attends my Lady.2

In the first of the following excerpts, Lady Henrietta takes notice of the fact that Peggy's birthday and her own fell on the same day:3

6 February 1715-6. [Peggy] has had a Rash, which we at first took to be the Measles, but I thank God she is pritty well, and it did not prove so. She has not gott any more Teeth yett, and I think is both backward of her Feet and her Tong, though she has indeed a very Carfull Nurss, and I do not aprehend she is in ainger of having the Ricketts . . . Here was one of the Farmers here sayes it is strange indeed he never heard of such a thing before as the old Woman and the Yong one to be Born both of one Day. I think I ought to beg your Lordship's pardon for my impertinence, but hoping to make you laugh made me trouble you with this stuff.

4 July 1716. [She tells him that she, her Lord and Peggy are staying] at our very kind Harty Friend Morley's house at Guestlingthorp.4 We had a very Pleasant Jorney, and have continued in perfit Health. Since we came hither, I have rid to see a Place called Kirby Hall, where Lady Vere Dyed, and I have rid nere forty Mile in one Day and was not in the least Tyred.

By Bernard Lens, 1717. (Welbeck Abbey Miniatures, no. 188.)

In 1720, there was a little misunderstanding, and Lord Oxford feared that he had been misrepresented to her. She tells him that such is not the case, assures him that she is "an affectionate Daughter, and a Kind Wife, and I have not the least intention of altering in either of Those Capacitys, and I have as much resolution to be a Tender Mother and take care that my Daughter shall have no reason to reproach me for want of Care both of her person and Fortune." She takes "a misrepresentation to be a Falce thing, that is I mean asserting of Lyes, and teling things that are wrong of an absent Person." 13 March 1721-2. [She excuses herself for delaying to answer his letter, the reason being] My time is so much taken up with writing to your son that it prevented my doing it to you, he having always desired me to write long letters to him, and that being very agreeable to me I could not denye myself the Pleasure of complying with it.


Allusions to her are frequent in the letters and Diary of Humfrey Wanley, her husband's librarian. Humfrey mentions her in nearly every letter he wrote to her husband, and never without some addition of honour and respect, such as "Your most noble consort," "My noble Lady your consort," or "My most noble lady your illustrious consort," whereas, when he has occasion to mention his own wife, he styles her "My poor spouse."

On the 19th February, 1715-6, Humfrey writes to his wife: "Last night Her Ladiship was pleased to present me with a silver snuff box which I will always keep for Her Noble Sake."

Writing again, on the 4th March, he says: "My good Lady remembreth herself kindly to you, and desireth to know how you make your Pease-Pudding: For those made by the Cook here [at Wimpole] are by no means to be compared with yours. Pray, my dear, let me have it by the next Post; and also the receipt for making New-College Puddings." It appears that the receipts were sent, for on the 25th of the same month,

Humfrey says that his lord and lady "like the New College Puddings extremely: and indeed every thing that you do."

On the 21st July, 1722, he wrote in his Diary: "This day it pleased the most Illustrious & High-born Lady, the Lady Henrietta Cavendish Holles Harley, to add to her former Bounties to me, particularly to a large Silver Teapot formerly given to me by her Noble Ladyship, by sending hither (to this Library) her Silversmith with a fine & large silver Tea-kettle, lamp & Plate, & a neat wooden Stand, all of her Ladiship's free Gift: for which great Favor, as in duty and gratitude bound, I shall never cease from praying Almighty God to Bless Her & all this Noble Family with all Blessings Temporal & Eternal."


Plate VI. MATTHEW PRIOR. Enamel by  Charles  Boit after  Rigaud, 1699, Bequeathed by Prior to Margaret Cavendish Harley, afterwards Duchess of Portland. (Welbeck Abbey Miniatures, no. 193.)

Matthew Prior was a frequent guest of Lord Harley and his wife, and long afterwards their daughter Peggy said of him that "he made himself beloved by every living thing in the house—master, child, and servant, human creature or animal."

Of the Lady Henrietta he always spoke in terms of affection. In one letter she is "my good and beloved Lady," and in another she is "adorable Lady Harriette." Once when he was with Lord Harley he extemporized the lines:

"Pen, ink, and wax, and paper send
To the kind Wife, the lovely Friend;
Smiling bid her freely write
What her happy thoughts indite,
Of Virtue, Goodness, Peace and Love,
Thoughts which Angels may approve."

In the year 1719, on the 9th November, Lady Henrietta visited St. John's College, Cambridge. Prior received her in the Library of the College, and complimented her by reciting the following poetical address (the original MS. of which is now at Welbeck Abbey):

"Since Anna visited the Muses' seat
(Around her tomb let weeping Angels wait),
Hail thou, the brightest of thy sex and best.
Most gracious neighbour, and most welcome guest.
Not Harley's self to Cham and Isis dear,
In virtues and in arts great Oxford's heir,
Not he such present honors shall receive
As to his consort we aspire to give.
Writings of men our thought to-day neglects,
To pay due homage to the softer sex;
Plato and Tully we forbear to read,
And their great followers which this House has bred,
To study lessons from thy morals given,
And shining characters imprest by Heaven.
Science in books no longer we pursue,
Minerva's self in Harriet's face we view:
For when with beauty we can virtue joyn,
We paint the semblance of a form divine.
Their pious incence let our neighbours bring
To the kind memory of some bounteous King;
With gratefull hand due altars let them raise
To some good Knight's or holy Prelate's praise;
We tune our voices to a nobler theme,
Your eyes we bless, your praises we proclaim.
St. John's was founded in a woman's name,
Enjoyn'd by Statute to the fair we bow,
In spight of time, we keep our ancient vow,
What Margaret Tudor was, is Harriet Harley now."

When he made his will in 1721, after bequeathing pictures to Lord Harley, he specifies that he leaves his picture of Queen Elizabeth "to the Honorable and Excellent Lady Harriette Harley, and my own Picture in Enamail to her Dear Daughter Margarette."4

(1) These books are in the Welbeck Abbey Library.
(2) Lord Oxford's second wife.
(3) Vide p. 11. (4) John Morley, the well-known land agent
(4) The picture and the enamel are at Welbeck Abbey.