Marguerite Power (1789-1849)

Commentary


Life
[Countess of Blessington; Lady Blessington;] b. 1 Sept. 1789, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary; dg. of Edmund Power, a small landowner and sometime editor of Clonmel Gazette and Munster Mercury; forced by her father to marry at 14 a dissolute army officer called Captain Maurice St Leger Farmer, who died in a brawl in the King’s Bench prison, Oct. 1817; m. Charles John Gardiner (1st Earl of Blessington), 16 Feb. 1818, at St Mary’s, Marylebone; travelled abroad with her husband, taking her younger sister Mary-Anne (aetat. 21), 1822; met Count D’Orsay in Avignon, 20 Nov. 1822, having formerly become intimate in London in 1821; established a mênage a trois, touring Italy with him to public scandal;
 
encountered Lord Byron in Genoa, where they settled for some months, 1823; moved to Naples and became acquainted with Walter Savage Landor of Imaginary Conversations fame; Count D’Orsay m. Harriet Gardiner, the dg. of Lord Blessington by his previous marriage, aetat. 15, 1 Dec. 1827; the Blessingtons moved to Paris with the D’Orsays, residing at the Hôtel Marèchal Ney; death of Lord Blessington by apoplexy, 1829 [var. 1827]; D’Orsay separates from Harriet and moves with Marguerite to London; resides in London at Seamore Place, and afterwards at Gore House, Kensington, which became famous as a literary salon (afterwards the site of the Albert Hall);
 
visited by Benjamin Disraeli, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, and others; issued Conversations with Byron (1834); ed. The Book of Beauty and The Keepsake, magazines; issued Idler in Italy (1839-1840), and Idler in France (1841); D’Orsay moved to Paris to escape creditors, 1849; contents of Gore House sold, enabling her to join him in Paris, where she died, 4 June 1849; the de luxe edn. of her works issued by D’Orsay is prized by bibliophiles; Count D’Orsay, 4 Aug. 1852; there is a life by Joseph. F. Molloy (The Gorgeous Lady Blessington). CAB IF PI NCBE DIW RAF OCEL SUTH OCIL.

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Works
Journal of Conversations of Lord Byron with the Countess of Blessington [see New Cam. Bibl. Eng. Lit., 3 (1969), 710-711.]

See also ...
Rambles in Waltham Forest: A Stranger’s Contribution to the Triennial Sale for the Benefit of the Wanstead Lying-In Charity, by Marguerite, Countess of Blessington, available as a digital edition in “Irish Women Poets of the Romantic Period”, ed. Stephen Behrendt (Nebraska U), at Alexander Street Press - online.

Richard Robert Madden, Literary Life and Correspondence of the Countess of Blessington, 2nd edn. Vol 1 (1855), 522pp. [var. 3 vols.]

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Criticism
P. H. Fitzgerald, The Gorgeous Lady [Lady Blessington] (q.d.); Michael Sadlier, Blessington-D’Orsay: A Masquerade (Constable 1933); see also Heidi Hansson, New Contexts: Re-framing Nineteenth-century Irish Women’s Prose (Cork UP 2008), 216pp. [deals with Lady Blessington, Maria Edgeworth, Somerville & Ross, et al.]

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Commentary
Claire Connolly, ‘Irish Romanticism, 1800-1839’, in Cambridge History of Irish Literature (Cambridge UP 2006), Vol. I [Chap. 10]: ‘Lady Blessington (1789-1849) capitalised on her success with Sketches and Fragments and The Magic Lantern to publish Journal of a Tour through the Netherlands to Paris in 1821 (1822). Blessington moulds her observations to the established form of the “sketch”, already used by Owenson [Lady Morgan] in her Patriotic Sketches (1807), in which femininity becomes the politicised sign of an emotional susceptibility to the effects of history and politics on landscape. Blessington’s accounts of London focus on civic spaces that allow for a collision of classes, manners and accents.’ (p.425.)

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References
Encyclopaedia Britannica
(1949 edn), comments under ‘William Charles Macready (1793-1873)’ that ‘the first production of Bulwer’s Money took place under the artistic direction of Count d’Orsay.’

Margaret Drabble, ed., The Oxford Companion to English Literature (OUP 1986) remarks that her Journal of Conversations with Lord Byron (1832) is of great importance in any consideration of his life abroad. Under D’Orsay [widely-known to be homosexual], ‘He was prominent at Gore House, at which Lady Blessington entertained’; she contrib. to The Dublin Journal of Temperance, Science and Literature (See also Brian McKenna, Irish Literature, 1978. p.32). Oxford Literary Guide, cites Journal of Conversations with Lord Byron (1832) - connected with Clonmel.

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John Sutherland, The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction (Longmans 1988; rep. 1989) notes that the Earl of Blessington compensated her former protector with 10,000; silver fork and Irish novels; Grace Cassidy or the Repealers (1833); The Victims of Society (1837); The Governess (1839), prob. the first Victorian novel on this theme; The Lottery of Life (1842); Strathern (1845); Country Quarters (1850); further, [her] facile fiction chronicles the milieu soon after eclipsed by Victorian decency; her literary career was masterminded by [the publisher] Colburn.

Katie Donovan, A. N. Jeffares & Brendan Kennelly, eds., Ireland’s Women (Dublin: G&M 1994).

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Notes
Portrait: There is a portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence in the Wallace Collection, London, and a miniature derived from it in the National Portrait Collection, Dublin.

Queries: Hans Christian Anderson visited Lady Blessington at Gore House, Leicestershire[?], where she held him by hand and spoke slowly, looking into his eyes. Every room in her house had an image of Napoleon. She introduced him to Dickens and Bulwer Lytton. She contrib. gossip column, Daily Mail.

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