Saturday, October 26, 2013

Today's Quote From Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

I have a 1906 edition of her collected letters.  She lived from 1689 to 1762 and is most famous for introducing*  inoculation for smallpox in Britain  from Turkey where her husband was the British ambassador from 1716 to 1718

Her letters vary in quality, but I love the very early ones which she wrote as a teenager.  This quote is probably from a 1709 letter.  It's to Mrs. Hewett:

Next to the great ball, what makes the most noise here is the marriage of an old maid, who lives in this street, without a portion, to a man 7,000 pounds per annum, and they say, 40,000 pounds in ready money.  Her equipage and liveries outshine anybody's in town.  He has presented with 3,000 pounds in jewels; and never was man more smitten with these charms that had lain invisible for these forty years; but, with all his glory, never bride had fewer enviers, the dear beast of a man is so filthy, frightful, odious and detestable.  I would turn away such a footman, for fear of spoiling my dinner, while he waited at table. 
They were married on Friday, and came to church en parade on Sunday.  I happened to sit in the pew with them, and had the honour of seeing Mrs. Bride fall fast asleep in the middle of the sermon, and snore very comfortably; which made several women in the church think the bridegroom not quite so ugly as they did before.

The letters have quite a bit of feminism (and some anti-feminism), but this quote made me chuckle.
*She may not have been the first who tried that but she was the first who succeeded.  Edward Jenner developed the technique of vaccination somewhat later.