Collected Letters of Mary Blachford Tighe

Found while looking for something completely different: The Collected Letters of Mary Blachford Tighe, in an annotated edition edited by Harriet Kramer Linkin (Lehigh University Press).

The preview allows viewing of not only frontismatter, but also some of the letters! It is pricey (retails for $140 hardcover), so you may wish to take a long look before purchase. The book came out in August 2020.

The TIGHE name will be familiar to those who follow the Ladies of Llangollen. Strolling through the list of the 166 letters featured in the book, you will see letters to or from Sarah (Fownes) Tighe and Caroline (Tighe) Hamilton – very recognizable names from the HAMWOOD PAPERS of the Ladies of Llangollen and Caroline Hamilton.

[check out the Amazon Kindle preview for the first thirty letters in the table of contents]

From the publisher, about the book:

This annotated edition provides a revelatory glimpse into the life and mind of Ireland’s premier Romantic-era woman poet, Mary Blachford Tighe (1772-1810), author of PsycheVerses, and Selena. Although Tighe’s family burned most of her personal papers, 166 letters by and to her survived the flames, and are printed here for the first time. They offer rich insights into her thoughts and feelings about her writing, marriage, friendships, family, anxieties, aspirations, spirituality, politics, travels, and day-to-day activities, with beauty, poignance and wit. The letters written between 1786 and 1801 reveal stunning details about her complex relationship with her voyeuristic husband, about the years she spent in England developing her craft as a writer and acquiring her reputation as a much-admired beauty, and about the lived realities that ground the proto-feminist aesthetics of Psyche, the lyrics in Verses, and the narratives in Selena. The letters from 1802 through 1809 contain exceptional information about her reading habits and scholarly studies, resistance to publication, and friendships with other writers. The Collected Letters of Mary Blachford Tighe presents a rich archive of material that open up significant avenues for scholarship on Tighe: they document how actively she participated in her culture, shed autobiographical light on some of the least-known periods in her life, and illuminate her development as a poet and novelist.

Snow at Llangollen!

Emailed to me on Monday, January 25, 2021 – two highly atmospheric photographs of Llangollen. In the distance, Dinas Brân, under a truly beautiful sky, on its mountaintop.

And – of course – a photograph of Plas Newydd looking very wintery under its blanket of snow.

There’s something very inviting, seeing the dark woodwork and white facade peppered with snow on the roof and across the bushes and grass.

Lisette Davies, gardener at Plas Newydd, emailed these and is happy to share with you how the estate looked early this week. I’m hopeful that we will hear more from Lisette, as her plans and projects for the gardens of Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Sarah Ponsonby begin taking shape!

Lisette is especially interested in hearing from anyone with hints or knowledge about the gardens of surrounding estates, like Chirk Castle or Erddig Hall. I have a suspicion, too, that Eleanor and Sarah potentially exchanged seeds, cuttings, ideas, and thoughts with people from farther afield — I’ve seen a great deal of garden “chatter” in letters between Smith family members.

Original Watercolor: Ladies of Llangollen

Currently (January 2021) for sale at “Karen Taylor Fine Art“, a lovely little depiction of the Ladies of Llangollen, by Lady Emily Dundas. There is a YouTube video, in which Karen Taylor speaks about the work and its artist.

Alas, the sale is marked only “enquire”, so I cannot tell you the asking price. As Taylor describes it, “It is not altogether kind [ie, flattering], but it is very well drawn and in sparkling condition.” Click on the picture to get to the website, the video, and an up-close of the portrait.

Of the artist, as mentioned in Taylor’s write-up, Lady Emily‘s death date is repeated over and again on the internet (died 1900), but not her birth date. Taylor finds she married in 1847 – such an old husband (born 1785) could have had an equally old second wife OR a bright young thing. In short, did Emily Dundas, née Reynolds-Moreton, actually MEET the Ladies of Llangollen?? Or, did she base her little work on existing prints – or her own imagination.

Identified as one of five daughter of the 1st Earl of Ducie – we find for him a life-span of 1776-1840; but more importantly a marriage in December 1797. Even if the four daughters were born one after the other, Emily would not have been born until around 1801, if not later. [see below, I find her next eldest sister, if correct, born in 1806!] Son Henry, (always easy to find the “heir”), was born in May 1802. _IF_ she met the Ladies, Emily would have been, at the far end, a young woman in her twenties

Taylor tells us that Lady Emily’s step-niece, Augusta “assembled the friendship album” from which this drawing came. Always stabs me in the heart when albums get disassembled, and sold piecemeal. More profitable, of course. A clue to “asking price” is the self-portrait of the artist — asking price £950. The self-portrait is CHARMING!



Addendum – the siblings of Lady Emily

eldest sister:
Lady Mary Reynolds-Moreton (1798-16 Dec 1842); married 1822 William 7th Earl of Denbigh

Henry Reynolds-Moreton (8 May 1802-2 Jun 1853)

Hon. Augustus Henry Moreton Macdonald of Largie (24 Jun 1804-14 Feb 1862)

third daughter:
Lady Charlotte Reynolds-Moreton (1806-1881); married 1834 Maurice 1st Baron FitzHardinge

Hon. Percy Reynolds-Moreton (18 Jun 1808-15 Mar 1886)

fourth daughter [younger or older than Percy, born 1808?]:
Lady Emily Reynolds-Moreton (d. 1900); married 1847 Adm. Sir James Dundas

youngest sister:
Lady Catherine Reynolds-Moreton (1815-1892); married 1841 John Raymond-Barker [his daughter Augusta (1827-1900) assembled the friendship album]


from The Ladies of Llangollen

I will take the opportunity to say to readers of “The Ladies of Llangollen,” Happy New Year and welcome to 2021.

Auction results (I rarely FIND the items when they are up-for-sale) often turn out to be treasure. I always welcome searches that turn up tidbits that I hadn’t known about. This is an interesting *find*.

Found on “WorthPoint” (no, I have no subscription), this book was evidently once for sale on eBay. The title: “THE LADIES OF LLANGOLLEN – INSCRIBED PRESENTATION COPY OF CHARLOTTE SMITH”.

  • (AN ASIDE: How is it, if I buy an eBay item, it ends up on WorthPoint, forever; if I miss out buying an item, and I’d like to FIND the old ad forever, it’s never listed there?? Can’t be price because I’ve missed out on some items that went for a great deal. of money)

The book, by Charlotte Smith, is Rural Walks: In Dialogues. Intended for the Use of Young Persons. It is inscribed as being from Lady Eleanor and Miss Ponsonby for a list of PARKER family members. The curious thing: Why is it dated “about 1810 or 12”?? I suspect the inscription was made at a later date, by someone after the initial gift, who was trying to recall from whom and to whom. Therefore, not inscribed by Lady Eleanor or Sarah Ponsonby. Pity…

I will agree that it’s a “remarkable” association copy. [click on the picture to see all the images of the book]

I’ve no clue as to the date of this eBay sale, but as WorthPoint seems the only source now, it’s probably been a while. (eBay makes it tough, somewhat “quickly” to find OLD sales.) No clue either as to the “auction” price.

The “ad” identifies “THE PARKERS: It seems clear that the Parkers to whom the book was presented were the children of Thomas Netherton Parker and Sarah Parker of Sweeney Hall, Oswestry, Shropshire, just 12 miles distant from Llangollen. The Parkers were friends, visitors and correspondents of the Ladies for many years.”

The identity of the children (also from the ad):

  • “T.B. Parker,” is, we believe, Thomas Browne Parker, the eldest son of Thomas and Sarah (née Browne), who died in 1833, aged 36.
  • Second on the list (“J.”) is John, the future Rev. John Parker (1798-1860), vicar of Llanyblodwel, dean of Llangollen, and amateur botanist, architect and artist, with over a thousand drawings in the National Library of Wales.
  • The fourth name (“E.S.”) is the Parkers’ daughter Elizabeth Sarah, who authored a “small work” of verse, A Poesy of Divinity (1845), and in later life became a recluse and purportedly Dickens’ model for the character of Miss Havisham.
  • But it is the third name, “M. Parker”, that is particularly noteworthy. This is MARY PARKER, the future Lady Le…..

And there WorthPoint cuts off the original ad!

In looking up Mary daughter of Thomas Netherton Parker, one finds she married Sir Baldwyn Leighton, but how the sentence concluded, I do not know.

A short article in the Shropshire Star, in slightly debunking the myth that Elizabeth Sarah Parker might have inspired Dickens, Linda Fletcher (archivist, Newport History Society) repeats the story she doesn’t believe: That Elizabeth Sarah became a recluse after being jilted by her lover, Sir Baldwyn Leighton. But didn’t he marry her sister… Tale becomes interesting, but veers off topic.

Sarah Ponsonby’s Diary

The website CURIOUS TRAVELLERS has posted an annotated version of “Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, Account of a Journey in Wales; Perform’d in May 1778 by Two Fugitive Ladies“.

The diary opens on May 10th, with the words: Arrived at Haking —

Follow the duo, as they sail across Milford Haven to commence their journey to Llangollen.

One of the few primary materials penned by Sarah Ponsonby that remains, it’s original archive entry at the National Library of Wales may be found here.

For the transcription of “Two Fugitive Ladies,” click on the picture (below):

In the Grounds Plas Newydd

While at the site, check out other “historical” tours, of Wales and of Scotland (same link serves for all tours). The Welsh tours include Katherine Plymley (“Journey to Anglesey,” 1792) and Anne Lister (“Tour of North Wales”, 1822); as well, of course, the Butler/Ponsonby tour.

A focus for the website is THOMAS PENNANT. You will enjoy his letters as much as the tours.

Fascinating Information: Ladies of Llangollen

As part of the SUBLIME WALES website, Michael Freeman has crafted an intricate and fascinating LADIES OF LLANGOLLEN site.

Ladies of Llangollen_website

Great detail is given to subjects like SOURCES and PORTRAITS. Some fabulous *finds* in images, items not seen or at least not collected together.

Additionally, work on the material itself yields a TON of new information, from GUESTS (alpha or by year) to ACCOUNTS. I know first-hand how tedious it is to note costs of things, but when you’re able to SEE how much hair powder cost, or the average price of postage or a horse, a comb or a pair of shoes, it really does uncover some incredible information.

Of course WHAT is associated most with the Ladies of Llangollen, but their house – Plas Newydd – and their neighorhood and (of course!) Llangollen itself. You’ll find links for subjects as diverse as the “wood” decorations of Plas Newydd to contents of its library. (Yeah, BOOKS!)

One of the “hooks” that grabbed ME when I first visited Llangollen, and learned the tiniest history of Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby was the IDEA of spending time just reading and learning. Oh, so beautiful an idea for LIVING LIFE.

You will find MUCH (and check back for MORE) to interest you on the entire site “Sublime Wales”, but special _SHOUT OUT_ must be reserved for the pages dealing with _our_ subjects: The Ladies of Llangollen!

Hamwood House

Anyone reading about the Ladies of Llangollen – Sarah Ponsonby and Lady Eleanor Butler – sooner rather than later come across the book published in 1930 entitled The Hamwood Papers of the Ladies of Llangollen and Caroline Hamilton.

hamwood dust

The Hamwood estate, “Historic House and Gardens,” opens to visitors April to September. But you can “visit” it via its website any time you please!

Hamwood House

Unfortunately, much of the web-history of Hamwood follows the men of the estate, so make sure to click on HAMWOOD LADIES for the more satisfying run-down of their influence and history. A charming portrait of Caroline Hamilton on that page just might entice everyone to seek out The Hamwood Papers. In the past, there have been well-priced copies; the market fluctuates. It can be a bit of a search – though well worth it, as the book includes much primary material, especially the diary entries of Eleanor Butler.

You can find MORE published items under BIBLIOGRAPHY, on this blog, including links to those that have been uploaded to this site. “Hover” over the word bibliography in the links along the top for pieces such as the chapter on the Ladies of Llangollen in E. Owen Blackburne’s Illustrious Irishwomen. Same links run down the right-side of the screen.

Hamwood is located in County Meath, Ireland. As the picture above shows, the house is quite handsome from the exterior.


Anne Lister at The National Archives

When this blog existed as a website (many years ago), I had posted some of Anne Lister’s comments, as one of the Visitors to the Ladies of Llangollen at Plas Newydd. I never re-linked all of the extended pages. Of course Anne’s own words can be read in the book I Know My Own Heart (edited by Helena Whitbread; 1988).

An extract is listed, with thanks to Michael in Aberystwyth, in A Plas Newydd Timeline, which features visitor and other comments from the 1780s to the 1830s and beyond. Hover over the menu link (above) for a drop down menu, by date. Anne Lister’s comments are under ‘1820-1824‘; she visited Llangollen in the summer of 1822.


With the popularity of the TV series Gentleman Jack, featuring Suranne Jones as Anne Lister, The National Archives, in Kew, have blogged about their holdings of Lister-related documents.

I will do as they did – and say SPOILER ALERT! – for anyone finding their way here because of the TV series. We deal with the inevitable ‘end,’ for TNA holds the handwritten wills of Anne Lister and Ann Walker. Their blog post will also ‘catch you up’ on some of the backstory, Anne’s years before Gentleman Jack.

Anne Lister

A caveat to keep in mind, not specifically mentioned in TNA’s blog post: At the time, if a woman married her property became the property of her husband. In leaving Ann Walker Shibden Hall for her lifetime, Anne Lister would NOT have wanted the property to devolve to anyone Ann Walker decided to share her own wealth with.

  • (A marriage settlement might have stipulated, if both parties agreed, to separate out the property. But who would take that chance?)

I have a couple of old wills, original wills, related to my research of the family of Emma Austen and Mary Smith. Folded, they look JUST LIKE those pictured in TNA’s blog! It’s thrilling to see Anne and Ann’s ‘last wishes’ represented, and to know The National Archives has such a cache of originals (probated wills are my bête noire; some are horrible to decipher due to the hand used, and swirls inserted to cover ‘blank’ space; while microfilm also does them NO favor).

I believe the link the blog provides – going to PROB 11, whereby you can purchase (for £3.50) a PDF download, rather than PROB 10 – brings you to the PROBATED copy, not the original of Ann Walker’s will. The blog does provide one photograph (alas: can’t enlarge it!) of a section of Anne Lister’s will.

Like my own research materials at The National Archives, other items exist because of a dispute. You will be amazed over the “end” of the story…

Note also their link to the DIGITAL copies of Anne Lister’s diaries, online (since April 2019) at West Yorkshire Archive.

Letters from the Ladies of Llangollen

Every once in a while I look up the holdings for the LLOYDS of ASTON HALL, OSWESTRY at the National Library of Wales. The parents of Louisa Lloyd were Lady Louisa and Sir Eliab Harvey, of Rolls Park, Chigwell. The Harveys were neighbors and friends with the Smiths of Suttons (both Essex estates).

A lot of work has gone into cataloguing the Aston Hall materials, especially letters, which appear in a finding aid of some detail (though brief contents of individual letters are only to be found in the archival record [click on the individual file name; scroll below to “Scope and Content”]; I’ve saved you the trouble for the letters listed below).

_I_, of course, would love to find that some letters from my Smiths have ended up here. I would settle for some sentences of chat or gossip about them even – but that would take reading through the letters. Correspondence, especially that between mother and daughter is voluminous! More than one repository holds what exists, as well.

In short, it’s not likely that I would take the time, in the hope of finding a short mention of the Smiths of Suttons & Portland Place.

But reading through the finding aid one gets a “feeling” for the volume of correspondents, and the reach of letters in the early 19th century when distance separated family members.

My reason for bringing this up is less about the Smiths, about whom I think 24/7, but about the letters from the Ladies of Llangollen, Sarah Ponsonby and Lady Eleanor Butler found in this deposit.

An even MORE exciting *find* is the item described as “a Bible presented by Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Ponsonby to Ward Harvey Lloyd, 8 August 1819“.

The letters were written to Louisa Lloyd (Mrs. William Lloyd of Aston Hall, though it’s possible some letters were written to her when visiting away from home).

Letters from Eleanor Butler, by date:

  • 1805 [no specific date] [C 1520: “Sender’s proposed visit to Aston; reference to the Duchess of Gordon, the Duchess of Richmond and the Ladies Lennox’s stay at Bangor.”]
  • 7 November 1806 [C 1521: “Sender’s proposed visit to Aston; reference to their visit to Brynkinalt; also to the arrival of Lady Ormonde and her daughter Eleanor.”]
  • 13 April 1813 [C 1522: “Miscellaneous news.”]
  • 18 August 1813 [C1523: “Recipient’s departure from Aston; sender’s desire to have Lady Louisa Harvey at Plas Newydd.”]
  • 9 December 1813 [C 1524: “Enquiry for Lady Louisa Harvey and reference to two books.”]
  • 1813 [no specific date] [C 1525: “Accepting an invitation to Aston.”]
  • 5 April 1814 [C 1526: “Acknowledgement of a box.”]
  • 4 April 1817 [C 1527: “Sender’s proposed visit to Aston.”]
  • 29 January 1819 [C 1528: “Sender’s visit to Wynnstay; the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland and Lady Harrie Williams Wynn’s visit to Plas Newydd; personal and miscellaneous news.”]
  • 3 February 1819 [C 1529: “Accepting an invitation to Aston and miscelleneous news.”]
  • 21 April 1819 [C 1530: “Asking for vegetables from the garden in exchange for flowers; reference to Saving Banks; Sunday Schools and the Bible Society; miscellaneous news.”]
  • c1819 [C 1531: “Recipient’s visit to Plas Newydd.”]
  • 1819 [no specific date] [C 1532: “Acknowledging a drawing; the books of Auguste La Fontaine; an account of the King of Sweden laid out in state, received from Stockholm.”]
  • 1819 [again, no specific date] [C 1533: Acknowledging a letter; Edward gone to school; miscellaneous news.”]
  • 1 January 1826 [C 1534: “Acknowledging the gifts of drawings.”]

Two undated letters, written written by Lady Eleanor to Lady Louisa Harvey are also in the collection:

  • [C 7207: “Miscellaneous news with reference to Mrs. Lloyd of Rhoggat, Lord Westmeath, Governor Nugent, Lady Crewe, Lord and Lady Grosvenor, Mr. Pryce of Bryn-y-pys and others.”]
  • [C 7208: “An invitation to visit Plas Newydd, reference to recipient’s daughter Mrs. Lloyd, Mrs. Kenyon and others.”]

Lady Louisa Harvey and childrenLady Louisa Harvey and her two children,
Edward and Louisa
(by Thomas Lawrence) [c1793]

In the “Miscellaneous Letters and Fragments” are noted two letters to Lady Eleanor Butler:

  • from E. Curtis; 29 March 1822 [C 8241: “Personal and family news with reference to sender’s drawings.”]
  • from unknown; 16 November [year unknown] [C 8242: “Disappointment at the cancellation of a visit.”]

Letters of Sarah Ponsonby, (identified as “Other level: Pole-Puzzo”), by date:

  • 27 July 1817 [C 6338: “Lady Eleanor Butler’s indisposition; arranging a visit to Aston to meet Lady Louisa Harvey; intending to arrive for breakfast.”]
  • 7 September 1829 [C 6339: “Recipient and her family to visit Plas Newydd; reference to Lady Louisa Harvey.”]
  • 18 September 1829 [C 6340: “The Empress Josephine and her life written by Mlle le Normand; recipient’s visit to Llangollen and a set of views for her.”]
  • 19 October 1830 [C 6341: “A journal for Lady Louisa Harvey.”]
  • 3 January 1831 [C 6342: “Arrangements re: recipient’s visit to Llangollen with her family.”]
  • 5 November 1831 [C 6343: “A gift of plants for recipient, acknowledging flowers sent from Aston; the cholera and a receipt [sic] for it.”]

Letter from Sarah to Elizabeth Lloyd:

  • 6 June 1816 [C 8150: “Enquiries concerning Mr. and Mrs. Kenyon and acknowledgements for agreeable day passed at Pradoe.”]

* * *

Fiona Brideoake’s book, The Ladies of Llangollen: Desire, Indeterminancy, and the Legacies of Criticism has several small quotes from the Mother-Daughter (Lady Louisa Harvey and Louisa Lloyd) letters; my favorite is this exchange:

… a source of amusement to Lady Louisa Harvey, who wrote in 1807 to her daughter advising her of an erroneous newspaper report of Butler’s attendance at court on the occasion of the king’s birthday: ‘I know no news but what I’ve seen in the papers, one of which entertained us much viz: Lady Eleanor Butler** dress [sic] at the drawing Room was a pale pink crepe trimmed with wreaths of full blown roses and buds.’ [pp. 40-41]

**could this Lady Eleanor have been Lady Ormonde’s daughter? see description of letter C 1521, dated 1806

On a sadder note, this exchange between the two Louisas, in January, 1832:

‘I have seen a kind well written letter from one of the poor little Maids at poor dear lost Llangollen. I hope and trust there will be no auction, it is a sad thought that of all their poor Treasure, displaced, and pried on by all.’ [page 137]

Some of the drawings being acknowledged in the above letters may be the subject of this first sentence; the second, touches on the Ladies’ books:

Writing to Lady Louisa Harvey on Augusta 18, 1832, Louisa Lloyd further observed of the Plas Newydd sale, ‘Mary seems much annoyed that Edward should have missed my Picture but I think he was right  It is not worth above 3s.’ … ‘I am quite astonished that the Books should go so cheap, I expected they would sell for an enormous Sum how very Stupid the Shropshire Gentry must be, poor Ladies how their Ghosts must be hovering round all these horrid unfeeling People–‘

“Gentleman Jack” on TV

Since I don’t like in the UK or subscribe to HBO I am waiting to actually see Gentleman Jack, the new series that stars Suranne Jones as Anne Lister of Shibden Hall. Friends in the UK are giving the series-so-far enthusiastic “thumbs up”.

Anne and Ann-Gentleman Jack

On the Ladies of Llangollen website, from which this blog evolved (begun in 2006), I had had excerpts from Anne Lister’s meeting with Sarah Ponsonby and Lady Eleanor Butler. Anne is not currently listed as a “visitor” to Plas Newydd, but is found under the Timeline for 1820-1824. You, of course, can read about Anne’s visit to Llangollen in Helena Whitbread‘s publication: I Know My Own Heart (1992), republished as The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister, after the 2010 TV film came out.

Other publications of the Lister diaries include:

  • No Priest But Love: The Journals of Anne Lister from 1824-1826, Helena Whitbread
  • Female Fortune: Land, Gender, and Authority, by Jill Liddington
  • Nature’s Domain: Anne Lister and the Landscape of Desire, by Jill Liddington
  • for other items, see Amazon
  • more podcasts were noted on Ladies of Llangollen (from 2017)
  • more on Anne Lister on my companion blog Regency Reads (2012)
  • Revealing Anne Lister of Shibden Hall on my main blog Two Teens in the Time of Austen (2012)

The TV series has its own “tie-in” publications. Now in paperback is the same-titled biography, Gentleman Jack, by Angela Steidele. This is a well-translated work (by Katy Derbyshire) from the German, which covers all of Anne’s lovers. NOT, evidently, a source for the TV series, new copies of the book come with a photograph of actress Suranne Jones in a different pose (away from the camera), while the tie-ins have photos of her looking at the camera.

SAG-AFTRA Gentleman Jack

Steidele appears in the first of two new YouTube offerings:

Jones and Wainwright are on camera for bit more than 44 minutes, taking a few questions from the audience at the end. Wainwright’s writing credits feature series many will recognize. It was with a nod of “yeap, know that well” when I heard her talk of wanting to direct what she wrote — respecting a previous series, ITV declined because she hadn’t directed. The usual Catch-22, as we often hear. Can’t ‘do’ because you don’t have experience, yet can’t get experience because, well, you have no experience.

SAG-AFTRA Suranne_Sally

What caught my ear, though, was Wainwright’s description of working with the original Anne Lister diaries: “Absorb,” is the word she used. She describes the act of transcribing, as well as the after-fact absorption of the material that then must be done.

IMDB (Internet Movie Database) is indicating that there is already a Series 2 in the future for Gentleman Jack.

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