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Elizabeth Montague: Queen of the Bluestockings

Elizabeth Robinson was born very wealthy and well-connected. She grew up in Coveney, Cambridgeshire, under supervision of her grandparents, and was frequent childhood visitor to Cambridge where her grandfather was Librarian of Cambridge University. As a child, she demonstrated a serious interest in literature and, at 12 began a correspondence with Lady Cavendish Harley that lasted 50 years. Known in her youth as `Fidget’, she was very fond of dancing. On this she remarked `Why shall a table that stands still require so many legs when I can fidget on two?’ In 1742, Elizabeth married Edward Montagu, a grandson of the first Earl of Sandwich. The couple was devoted to each other, but they led individual lives. During the early years of her marriage, Elizabeth suffered many tragedies. Her only child died within a year, 1744; her mother in 1746, and brother in 1747. Bereaved, she took up residence in London in 1850, in an explicit attempt to set up a central point for intellect and fashion. Known for giving intellect the precedence of rank, she wrote: `I never invite idiots to my house.’ Through her lead, `conversation parties’ became known throughout London. These were elaborate evening affairs where gambling was not permitted and literature was frequently discussed; these parties became known as blue-stockings. For 50 years she was the preeminent intellectual hostess in London, though a number of similar `competitors’ appeared. Mrs. Montagu also found a great deal of fulfillment in Bath, where she lived at various times in

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