Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.PLATE VII. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. By C. F. Zincke,  1738. (Welbeck Abbey  Miniatures, no. 220.)

William Henry Cavendish Bentinck, Marquess of Titchfield, afterwards third Duke of Portland.
William Henry Cavendish Bentinck, Marquess of Titchfield, afterwards third Duke of Portland.
(Welbeck Abbey Miniatures, no.1223.)

Very charming was the affection that existed between the Countess and the eldest son and heir of her daughter "Peggy," who had married the second Duke of Portland. This was William Henry Cavendish Ben-tinck, Marquess of Titchfield, who afterwards became third Duke of Portland and Prime Minister. The series of her letters to him extends from 1745 (when he was seven years old) to 1753.

One letter is here given in extenso as a specimen, and it is followed by a series of excerpts.

April 29th, 1747.
My dear Grandson,
I with pleasure thank you for your affectionate letter. I hope before you receive this, your good Pappa and Mamma will be return'd to Whitehall in perfect health. I desire you to give my affectionate compliments to the Duke, and blessing to my dear daughter and your sisters. I omit mentioning Neddy becauce you will give him the enclosed.

The weather is here delightfull, and the Oakes have got their summer cloathing. I expect a summons, soon to send the coach to bring your selfe, your brother and sisters hither. I shall think the time tedious till I have the happiness of seeing you and them. My compliments waits on Lady Portland,1 and Miss Parsons, and service to Mr. Achard.
I am,
My dear Grandson, while I live,
Your most affectionate Grandmother & friend

10 October 1747. I wou'd not omit the first day my thanks for your most pleasing letter, and join my congratilations for the progress you make in your learning. The good sense God has indowed you with, succeeded with your right judged ambition and industry, gives me, your parents and freinds the greatest hopes you will make one of the best appearence in the age you live in. You employ your time so well, I will take no more of it up.

28 May 1748. Your time is so well taken up, it leaves me no room to suspect you forget kindly to remember me when your letters are a little longer delay'd. My dear, your keeping yourselfe so long Captain of the second Forme is eaqualy a pleasure to your gaining of it so earley.2

21 September 1748. I went from Grantham to Cottom, and saw a very pritty church, good brick farm houses and very rich grazing grounds well fenced with quick, the verdure beautifull, but scarce any trees but Owlers,3 or Willows, and but few of them; from thence I went to Sibthorpe, which joins the other lordship, and saw much the same sort of grounds and houses, and a good church, in it a fine alablaster monument of the Markham family that married one of the Cheshire Warburtons ;  from thence I went to Staunton, Mr. Charleton's, and dined with him and his family ... in the church yard is a large church and a small one, and they have service in one in the winter and the other in the sum'er ... I came to Welbeck at night, and saw it in great beauty, the verdure fine, and Oakes well cloathed with leaves.

22  December 1750. Your father, mother and your selfe liking Welbeck and the improvements I have made and [am] going on with, as fast as the time and other circumstances will permit, is a just reason for an inducement to go on with them ... I have now above a hundred men employ'd, and entend to have many more when the weather is better and longer days. The stuco men work by candle light night and morning.

7 August 1751. Miss Gunnings do's not want assurance.4 I hear their beauty often praised. Welbeck improvements do not go on so fast as I wish. The many fairs, feasts and races are sad retarders of our work . . . Poor Ross who restored the Manage Horses soon after intended to take his pleasure at Thoresby, and on his return hither was seized with an apilective fit, dropt of[f] his horse and died.

27  May 1752. The weather was so hot last Tuesday, it almost sufficated me.   The works go on slowly here . . . The Oakes in the Cow Close Wood are now in beauty. I doubt they will not long continue it, we have so many Brown Clocks,5 I fear their will be no leaves upon the trees.

13 June 1752. Lord and Lady Galway lately escaped a bad accident, which was on returning home from Coll. Chadwick's; the footman riding by the coach disturbed his pistol which went of[f] so nere the coach it had like to have shot my Lord or Lady.

28 October 1752. The Duke of Kingston has had a Horse Race in Thoresby Park, and a vast concourse of spectators, and plenty of victuals and liquor.

25 November 1752. I doubt Lord Pulteney6 is a pert youth, with but a shallow head. I am sorry Lord Willoughby7 gives his freinds no better prospect of his making a proper figure in the world. Pride is the forerunner of many follys, and lays them open to the grosest flaterers, and they are the worst conversation a man can be free with.

9 May 1753. The Oakes are almost cloathed with leaves, and now will be seen in full veiu from the West Front, as the Manage Horse Stable is pull'd down.

28 July 1753. The encouragement you give me by likeing my improvements makes me continue them with pleasure, but the workmen are slow, it vexes me . . . two pair of Iron Gates are fixed up, and the other pair of Iron Gates they will not promise till October.

24 October 1753. My eyesight is so bad by candell light, I can not make much use of my pen. I assure you, your pappa, your mamma, and your aprobation of my intended improvements makes the few impertinent seekers to find faults affect me as litle as their directions deserve . . . Your account of the new sort of Gameing—it's very strange humane cretures should imploy their time and their money to so bad a use . . .


The recipient of the following letter was Lady Margaret Cavendish Bentinck (born 1739, died 1756), third daughter of the second Duke of Portland :

Welbeck, March 16th 1750.
My Dear Granddaughter,
I disigne[d] to write, if I had not been favour'd with yours this post. I Rejoyce you all Injoy Health, & desire my affectionate Compliments to your Pappa & Blessing to your Dear Mamma, Brothers & Sisters. Let your Pappa know the Loss I have, & the Cause assigned for it, no less then 18 Old Bucks. There was Turneps on a small Bit of Ground Fenced in, but for a few Hours was a Deffect in the Fence. These Deer got in, tasted the Turneps before they were turn'd out, & woud not eat any Food after & starved themselves to Death.
My Dear Peggy, I am,
Your Affectionate Grandmother & Freind


Perhaps the greatest friend of the Countess was Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Lady Mary gave to her more affection than she gave to any other friend, and there is abundant evidence to show that that affection was equally reciprocated.

Many letters written by Lady Mary during her last residence abroad to the Countess of Oxford are printed in Lord Wharncliffe's edition of Lady Mary's Letters, 1837, iii, 227-259, and four additional letters are printed in the Longleat Papers, ii. 184-5. Drafts of the Countess's answers during the same period are at Welbeck Abbey.

Lady Mary gives unstinted praise to the Countess, and very often assures her of her "truest and most tender affection." A few excerpts may be given in illustration of this statement:

2 July 1744. It is a very great truth, that as your friendship has been the greatest blessing and honor of my life, it is only that which gives me any pleasing view for those years that remain.

29 October 1744. If I am so unhappy to survive you, I shall look upon myselfe as a widow and an orphan, having no friend in this world but your selfe: if you saw the tears with which these lines are accompany'd, you would be convinced of the sincerity of them.

20 August 1749. It is no compliment, but a plain truth, when I say that your ladyship is the only true friend I ever had in my life.

1 June 1753. Our correspondence is the comfort of my life ... if it was in my power I would never be from Welbeck, and should think my whole life happily employed could I in any degree contribute to the ease of yours. These are castles I must not indulge, lest I murmur too much against that destiny which confines me at so great a distance from that only friend in whom I never saw any thing, but what was worthy the highest esteem.

The Countess of Oxford had not the rare epistolary gift of being able to turn a trifle into a treasure, and she had by nature none of what Lord Morley has called the "fluency, rapidity, abandonment and pleasant volubility which make letters amusing, captivating or piquant," but she was full of sincerity and of the milk of human kindness, and her letters convey her sentiments as well as items of news in a style of agreeable unpretentiousness. Byron said of his handwriting that it was as bad as his character. Of Lady Oxford's handwriting we may say that it was as good as her character. There is something about it that is careful, formal and clear, so that readers of her manuscript find all her words plainly written, just as her correspondents perceived plain evidences of her amiability, her friendliness, her good sense and her desire to annihilate distance.

Most of the letters from which the following extracts are taken begin "Dearest Madam," but in one case the Countess uses the expression "My ever most dear Lady Mary."

17 September 1743. I find if possible my inclination for retirement increases . . . My neighbour Sir George Savile is very ill; it is feared he will not last long ; he will be a loss to his family and the country.

3 March 1743-4. The Duchess of Norfolk's behaviour to me has been as obliging as possible ever since she and I have been in the same County. I can not say so much of His Grace's, which is very odd, but I will not trouble you longer on that subject.

7 May 1744. I hope you will forgive my renewing my request to continue me the happiness of your correspondence, the only consolation I can have for your absence.

12 July 1744. I beleive you are pleased Lord Gower has disposed of Miss Betty Lewson to Lord Goreing. I am told her good understanding is the motive that induced him to make choice of her; it is a better reason than usual for the choice of a wife.8

18 August 1744. It is true Pope is dead. I did not mention it, knowing the contempt you have for worthless people.

23 February 1744-5. Lady Peterborow9 left me about a fortnight ago. I find the want of her company. I am alone, and chuse it, because I think it easier than to converse with people I am indiferent to.

3 February 1745-6. If constancy, faithfulness and affection merit friendship, I have a just claime to the continuance of the hapyness of yours as long as I live in this world.

8 February 1745-6. The Highland Army was no nearer me than Derby, and I do not find they had much reason to complain of injury. All Notts, fled with great precipitation. I chose to remain here.

26 February 1745-6. I have your picture that was Lady Jekyl's in the room I almost allways sit in, which gives me pleasure.10

22  July 1747. Sir George Savile was of age last Saturday ; it was kept at Rufford with great magnificence and much company . . . My health is at this time a litle better than usuall, but I am very lame, and my legs so swell'd it prevents my walking enough, and I dare scarce lye out of my own bed. I have not lain out of it almost a year.

21 January 1747-8. I live as retired here as I can in this country where my ancesters had lived so long. It is most agreable to my health and inclinations, but must see more company than I chuse, which has tempted me to build in Clipston Park two floors ... I call it Cavendishe Lodge.

23 December 1749. In this [Clipstone] Park is a mineral spring, which restores some persons to their health, but do's not agree with me, nor any other steel waters.

7 April 1750. A great number of people were so frighted by the 2 late earthquakes felt in London, they left the town for fear of another shock. A merchant was very earnest in packing up his things for the country. His servant, a black, wonderd; and [this] made him ask if his master's God lived in the country.

6 April 1751. [On the 1st April there was a by-election at Newark in consequence of the appointment of Job Staunton Charlton as Clerk of Deliveries of the Ordnance. Charlton was re-elected.]

Dr. Wilson has been disapointed of bringing in his nephew Craythorp member for Newark and set aside Mr. Charleton; it was hard fought, but the Dr. lost it by 8 votes. The Poll was clos'd late, and the voters chose to refresh themselves, and only women remaind at Stanton, and they got out of bed at one o'clock and rung the bells . . . Lady Portland is dead of a mortification, and will be bury'd at Shene.11

31 July 1751. The Duke of Kingston . . cheifly amuses him selfe with cricket.12 He has good qualities [and this] makes one greive for his errors.


Writing to Mrs. Dewes on the 11th December, 1755, Mrs. Delany states that the Countess had a stroke of apoplexy on Monday morning (i.e. December 8th), and that she died early on the following morning. She was buried in Westminster Abbey, "in the old Duke of Newcastle's vault," on the 26th December.13


 i. Oval Miniature, by Nicholas Dixon, signed. Head and shoulders, red dress. Mentioned by George Vertue as "feeble work." Welbeck Abbey Miniatures, no. 362.

ii. Picture, by Sir Godfrey Kneller, signed, dated 1714. Whole length figure in green and white riding habit. The price charged by Kneller was sixty guineas, and his receipt for one half of the amount is dated 18 March 1714-5. Welbeck Abbey Pictures, no. 62.

iii. Replica of no. ii, by Kneller, signed, dated 1716. This was given by Lord Harley to Dr. William Stratford, Canon of Christ Church, Oxford. It hangs at the Deanery, Christ Church, Oxford,

iv. Replica of no. ii, belonging to the Viscount Downe, Dingley.

v. Oval Enamel, by Charles Boit, signed. Head and shoulders. Copied after no. ii. Welbeck Abbey Miniatures,  no. 195. Illustrated  in Catalogue, pl. xxii; also in La Renaissance, July, 1922, p. 428. [PLATE III.]

vi. Oval Enamel, probably by C. F. Zincke. Head and shoulders. Copied after no. ii. Welbeck Abbey Miniatures, no. 199.

vii. Oval Miniature, probably by Bernard Lens. Head and shoulders. Copy after no. ii. Set inside the lid of a tabatiere of tortoiseshell. Welbeck Abbey Miniatures, no. S 3.

viii.   Picture, by Sir Godfrey Kneller, signed, dated 1716. Three-quarter length figure, standing, a basket of flowers in her hands. Charged on Kneller's bill, 4 September, 1716, at £32 5s. Welbeck Abbey Pictures, no. 454. [PLATE I.]

ix. Replica of no. viii, unsigned. This was given to Margaret Duchess of Portland. It formerly hung at Bulstrode, and is inscribed in the Bulstrode manner. Welbeck Abbey Pictures, no. 35.

x. Oval Enamel, probably by C. F. Zincke. Head and shoulders. Copy after no. viii. Welbeck Abbey Miniatures, no. 198.

xi. Picture, by John Wootton, 1716. Mounted on her dun mare, wearing black hat and scarlet habit. Charged on Wootton's bill, 10 November, 1716, at £8 12s. Welbeck Abbey Pictures, no. 280. Illustrated in W. Shaw Sparrow's British Sporting Artists, 1922, p. 92.

xii. Picture, by John Wootton, 1716. Hunting the hare on Orwell Hill. Charged on Wootton's bill, 10 November, 1716, at £53 15s. Welbeck Abbey Pictures, no. 295. Illustrated in W. Shaw Sparrow's British Sporting Artists, 1922, p. 112.

xiii. Picture, by John Wootton, 1716. Hawking in Wimpole Park. Charged on Wootton's bill, 10 November, 1716, at £53 15s. Welbeck Abbey Pictures, no. 296.

xiv. Oval Miniature, by Bernard Lens, signed, dated 1717. Three-quarter length figure, seated, in blue dress, her daughter Margaret standing by her side. Welbeck Abbey Miniatures, no. 188. Illustrated in Dr. Williamson's Portrait Miniatures, 1904, pl. liv. [PLATE V.]

xv. Picture, dated 1717. Three-quarter length figure, white dress, blue flowers in right hand. In the manner of Charles d'Agar. Clumber House. Cat. 1872, no. 208.

xvi. Picture, by Michael Dahl. Half-length figure, nearly full face, leaning on a cushion which lies on a ledge. (I have not been able to trace this picture, and know it only from the small copies, nos. xvii and xviii.).

xvii. Rectangular Miniature, by C.  Richter, signed, dated 1721. Half-length figure. Copied after no. xvi. Welbeck Abbey Miniatures, no. 187.

xviii. Oval Enamel, by C. F. Zincke. Head and shoulders.  Copied after no. xvi. Welbeck Abbey Miniatures, no. 200.

xix. Picture, by C. Jarvis, signed, dated 1726. Whole length figure, seated, blue dress, her daughter standing by her side. At Ruxley Lodge, in the collection of Lord Foley, 1910.

xx. Picture, attributed to Sir Godfrey Kneller. Three-quarter length figure, seated, blue dress, holding a basket of flowers. At Raby Castle. A three-quarter length portrait of a lady seated to dexter in white dress and red mantle, attributed to Kneller, no. 112 in Messrs. Shepherd Brothers' Spring Exhibition, 1911, was erroneously called by her name.

(1) The widow of William Bentinck, Earl of Portland.
(2) The Marquess of Titchfield was at Westminster School.
(3) Owler, i.e. alder tree.
(4)Elizabeth Gunning, who became Duchess of Hamilton and Duchess of Argyll, and her sister Maria, who became Countess of Coventry.
(5) Cockchafers.
(6) William Viscount Pulteney, who was elected M.P. for Old Sarum in 1754.
(7) John Peyto Verney, sixth (or de jure fourteenth) Lord Willoughby de Broke, son of John Verney, Master of the Rolls, and his wife Abigail, daughter of Auditor Edward Harley.
(8) The Countess was mistaken as to the young  lady's Christian name, and she corrected the mistake in her next letter. It was not Miss Betty, but Miss Evelyn Leveson-Gower who, on the 29th June, 1744, married John Lord Gowran, afterwards created Earl of Upper Ossory.
(9) Anastasia Robinson, the singer, who secretly became the wife of Charles Mordaunt, third Earl of Peterborough, circa 1722, and was publicly married to him in 1735.
(10) The Countess paid £42 to Christopher Cock, the auctioneer, "for Lady Wortley's Picture," 1 January, 1739-40.
(11) Widow of William Bentinck, Earl of Portland.
(12) This is a very early reference to a Notts, cricketer.
(13) Chester's Westminster Abbey Registers, 1876, p. 389. A note in Mrs. Delany's Autobiography and Correspondence, iii. 383, gives the date of her death as December 7th.