The Correspondence of Elizabeth Montagu

Lead Research Organisation: Swansea University
Department Name: School of Arts and Humanities


Our goal is to prepare a fully annotated electronic edition of Elizabeth Montagu's correspondence. The author and bluestocking salonnière (1718-1800) was the leading woman of letters and artistic patron of her day. The 8,000 extant letters, 'among the most important surviving collections from the eighteenth century' (Schnorrenberg) is held in the British Library, the Bodleian and the Huntington Library, the latter of which holds 6,000 of them. Less then a quarter of these documents has been previously published and then in partial archaic print selections. The team will conduct a pilot study over the twenty-four months: listing the correspondence, and devising the editorial principles by each taking a different correspondent as a case study. The problems and possibilities thrown up by their work will be explored in a series of colloquia to which they will invite other experienced editors of eighteenth-century texts and experts from other disciplines. Additional places will be offered to research students. A website will be set up and the network will be able to access podcasts of the previous colloquia and download research papers. Focused discussion between the editorial team and particular specialists on the recipients of the correspondence and experts from libraries, museums and galleries will elucidate the context of epistolary dialogues relative to art and architecture, industry, literature, philosophy, theatre, economics and politics. Montagu corresponded extensively with leaders of British Enlightenment coteries, such as Edmund Burke, Gilbert West, David Garrick and Horace Walpole, as well as the Bluestocking inner circle - Elizabeth Carter, Sarah Scott, Hannah More, Hester Thrale Piozzi, Frances Burney, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Elizabeth Vesey and Frances Boscawen. Experienced managers of large-scale editorial projects and technical experts in electronic publishing will be invited to participate in workshop discussions. Issues to be explored will aso include theoretical and technical considerations bearing on editorial practice, and the presentation and maintenance of an electronic publication of this magnitude. There will be a series of two-day colloquia: on the first day of which lectures, workshops and a meeting of the editorial committee will be held; and on the second day cultural issues will be aired with a wider audience, including research students, in events in museums or libraries. The first on 'Friendship and Bluestocking Correspondence', with a plenary by Felicity Nussbaum (UCLA), will be held in Swansea University, whose second day will include a panel discussion on C18th bluestocking businesswomen at the National Waterfront Museum of Wales. The second entitled 'Towards Digital Editions' will be held at Oxford Brookes University with a plenary by Robert McNamee (Director, Electronic Enlightenment, Oxford University) and a subsequent tour of the Bodleian library. The third colloquium will be hosted by the Huntington Library, California, with a plenary by Elizabeth Eger (KCL). The fourth will be held at King's College, London on 'Letters and material culture' , with plenaries from curatorial staff at the Victoria and Albert Museum to which will be invited the network, research students and those following the Masters programme 'Studies in the Eighteenth Century' taught by King's College, London in conjunction with the British Museum. On the second day delegates will be invited to attend a national student event at the KCL performance laboratory: 'Voice, Performance and Letters'. The conclusions of the pilot project will be disseminated and the network invited to comment. The network will survive on into the next stage of work on the edition which will take another six years to complete. Indeed, the Advisory Board, Editorial Board and research assistants necessary for the long-term project will doubtless be members of it, as will many of the future academic beneficaries of the published edition.

Planned Impact

The breadth and range of topics covered in Montagu's correspondence, and the lively, intimate immediacy of her epistolary voice will appeal to both a specialist and a general audience, in providing a new window onto the eighteenth century. The British Library, Huntington Library, California and Bodleian Library Oxford hold most of Montagu's letters and this network project puts these locales and the collaboration between librarians and academics at the centre of its activites. The management of the project explicitly links such academic activities in its colloquia with events disseminating research to a wider audience of students, curatorial staff and academics in libraries or in museums with eighteenth-century collections.

The first colloquium features the UCLA eighteenth-century expert Felicity Nussbaum leading discussion on the correspondence of the bluestocking salon. The network will on the second day join a public audience in hearing curatorial experts on the industrial revolution put Montagu into another context, as a coal-owner and businesswoman, at the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea, by invitation of the West Wales branch of the Historical Association. The association was founded in order to link academics, curators of museums and students with educationalists and teachers, and audiences usually often include local historical societies, the wider public and individuals from local government and third sector bodies with an interest in promoting tourism within the locale. Delegates at the second colloquium at Oxford will discuss how electronic publication can widen access to primary research. They will visit the archive at the Bodleian Library. The third colloquium, at the Huntington Library CA, will extend this discussion on the availability of letters and how they should be displayed, annotated, distributed and maintained. The third colloquium will be held in King's College, London on 'Letters and material culture' with plenaries from staff at the Victoria and Albert Museum and Museum of Writing, Senate House, to which will be invited the network, research students and those following the Masters programme 'Studies in the Eighteenth Century' taught by King's College, London in conjunction with the British Museum. The network is invited to attend a national student event at the KCL performance laboratory: 'Voice, Performance and Letters'.

The correspondence will be electronically published and the team intend therefore that it will be available either free or at a very moderate charge which public libraries could easily afford. Discussions are already under way with various publishers including Electronic Enlightenment, run by Oxford University Press, with the Bodleian Library. The findings of the pilot project will be disseminated to the network at the conclusion of the project. The eventual publication of all the correspondence will benefit the public at large as well as academics. Public bodies essential to national culture such as English Heritage and the National Trust will be enabled to find new information on Montagu's several residences and estates which comprise some of the most signicant eighteenth-century properties in the history of British architecture and interior design. The Victoria and Albert Museum will likewise find the letters a primary resource for interior design, fashion and material culture. The team has a proven track record in liaising with museums and galleries and with the general public. Co-PI Elizabeth Eger and Lucy Peltz of the National Portrait Gallery co-curated the 2008 Brilliant Women exhibition which attracted 185,000 vistors and was described as 'successful' in the NPG's online self-assessment document which noted that the gallery saw a 12% increase on the previous twelvemonth, 45% of visitors being under 34. The Co-PI was interviewed by Jenni Murray on BBC Radio 4's


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Description The Network Grant brought together literary editors, IT experts and librarians to plan an ambitious long-term editing project: transcribing and editing the voluminous correspondence of Elizabeth Montagu, which consists of c.8000 letters extant. Three successful conferences at Swansea, the Huntington Library CA and London (King's College and the V&A) brought together US and European experts to discuss what would be involved in editing the letters freshly from manuscripts, constructing and - importantly - sustaining a digital edition. The general public and doctoral students were also invited to participate in the two larger conferences. A website was set up, a steering committee, Advisory Board and Editorial Board met regularly, and an extensive network of interested parties was formed. Editorial principles were formulated; IT experts were consulted on the use of digitized images and the librarians caring for the manuscripts were all contacted. Detailed discussion took place with those at the Huntington Library which cares for two-thirds of the letters. From the scholarship generated by the project thus far, a special issue of the journal Women's Writing on the Material Culture of Women's writing was published, with another on Elizabeth Montagu published in The Huntington Library Quarterly. Further funding has been obtained from a philanthropic donor and from the Foyle Foundation to pay for the digitisation, now under way, and to provide research assistants .
Exploitation Route The letters to and from Elizabeth Montagu, when edited and published, will make an invaluable educational resource for the general public as well as researchers in many disciplines: theatre studies, literature, history, economics, art, architecture and politics. In 2016, our application to AHRC for funding to digitise the Montagu letters held in the Huntington Library and to publish a digital edition of transcribed, annotated correspondence was rejected. We have now set up a Charitable Incorporated Organization with the help of a potential benefactor willing to fund the digitisation, and with Swansea University Department of Information Services and Systems. Swansea University has pledged to host the images in the archives and to build a platform for the digital edition. Hitherto only specialists visiting the USA could access this archive. When our digital edition is published, these primary materials full of fascinating material will be accessed by all.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description The relationship ofthe Montagu project with V&A and National Waterfront museums, private library (Huntington Library CA), Bodleian, Oxford and UK university libraries holding Montagu letters has been maintained and developed further, for example through: 1. Formal collaboration with Electronic Enlightenment at the Bodleian Library, Oxford and award of CDA doctoral scholarship with EE. 2. Huntington Library's continued support and offer to host an international conference to showcase the project to the American public in 2019. 3. Links with the Historical Association made through the project's public lectures during the grant have been maintained: with the Swansea branch members eager to participate in the transcription of the Montagu/ Piozzi correspondence for the editors. 4. The project website is being maintained and improved with the help of Swansea University funding. The doctorial student is launching his own research blog and engaging with social media to publicize the progress of the edition.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

Description Additional funding for Elizabeth Montagu editing work
Amount £500 (GBP)
Organisation Swansea University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2013 
End 03/2013
Description Additional funding for Elizabeth Montagu editing work
Amount £500 (GBP)
Funding ID Research initiative funding 
Organisation Swansea University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2014 
End 06/2014
Description Conference hospitality
Amount £1,000 (GBP)
Organisation King's College London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2012 
End 12/2012
Description Paul Mellon Foundation Award
Amount £1,500 (GBP)
Organisation Paul Mellon Foundation 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2012 
End 01/2013
Description Elizabeth Montagu Project/ Electronuic Enlightenment 
Organisation University of Oxford
Department Bodleian Library
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Supervising student's research on Bluestocking correspondence and his participation with the editing team in publishing letters on EE.
Collaborator Contribution Providing training in Digital Humanities for CDA student and contributing to his expenses.
Impact Outcomes will include the training of the student and the publication of letters in due course.
Start Year 2012
Description 'Bluestockings: The Social Network' 3-4 June 2011 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact International academic colloquium exploring the connections between Bluestocking circles held in Swansea University on Friday 3 June; delivered in panels; and with plenary lectures by Felicity Nussbaum (UCLA) and Professor Betty Schellenberg (Simon Fraser University, CA) with 40 delegates including 10 PhD students with free places. Two public lectures held at the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea on 4 June in collaboration with the Swansea branch of the Historical Association with an audience of 70. Two papers on 'Bluestocking Businesswomen': Les Turnbull on 'Elizabeth Montagu and Coalmining in the North-East'; and Michael Franklin on 'Hester Thrale and Thrale's Brewery, Southwark' .

Two Public lectures over the Saturday audience of 70
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011