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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.

XI. Letter-Writers

§ 20. The Correspondence between the Countesses of Hertford and Pomfret

The Correspondence between Frances Countess of Hertford (afterwards Duchess of Somerset) and Henrietta Louisa Countess of Pomfret, which was not published till 1805, belongs to an earlier period, extending from 1738 to 1741. The two ladies were both of the bedchamber of queen Caroline, and it was Lady Hertford who obtained the pardon of Savage through the queen’s influence. Johnson, who pays her a lofty compliment on this, is less polite towards her interests in literature, and tells us that it was her “practice to invite every summer some poet into the country, to hear her verses, and assist her studies,” adding that this honour was one year conferred on Thomson, but he “took more delight in carousing with Lord Hertford and his friends than assisting her ladyship’s poetical operations, and therefore never received another summons.” Another poet who dedicated a volume to her was Issac Watts, and Shenstone’s ode, Rural Elegance, was also, after her death, inscribed to her memory. Her correspondent Henrietta, countess of Pomfret, was granddaughter of lord chancellor Jeffreys, and her letters from France and Italy faintly recall the style of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, with some details, not uninteresting, of life at foreign courts. Lady Hertford was a shrewd observer, and contributes opinions on the early methodists which represent the judgment of the quiet, cultivated, religious society to which, after her retirement from court, she belonged. Two smart poems in Dodsley’s collection refer to her supposed affection for Sir William Hamilton; and gossips made free with her name, but quite without reason. Her later years, at least, those of warm friendship with Lady Luxborough, were secluded and sad.

  • “After a Ball or Masquerade,” she wrote, in language which well illustrates the style of these letters, “have we not come Home very well contented to pull off our Ornaments and fine Cloaths in order to go to rest? Such, methinks, is the Reception we naturally give to the Warnings of bodily Decays; they seem to undress us by Degrees, to prepare us for a Rest that will refresh us more powerfully than any Night’s Sleep could do.”