The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

XV. The Bluestockings

§ 10. Mrs. Chapone

Mrs. Chapone, born Hester Mulso, occasionally gave bluestocking receptions that were “rational, instructive and social,” and, also, unfortunately, somewhat spiritless and dull. Though Johnson thought sufficiently well of her literary talent to include her among the few contributors to his Rambler, the promise of her youth never ripened to any noteworthy performance, if we except Letters on the Improvement of the Mind, which, in its day, was considered an educational work of the first importance. The author was, by temperament, argumentative, impulsive, emotional; and, perhaps because of her experience, such qualities are condemned in her Letters. These are only interesting now as embodying an acclaimed ideal of eighteenth century feminine manners. Mrs. Chapone was frequently a guest at North End, where she would earnestly discuss with Richardson his female characters. Mrs. Delany, that “fairest model of female excellence,” asserted that Mrs. Chapone was the prototype of some of his principal heroines, which, she said, “is the reason they are not really so polished as he takes them to be.”

Perhaps the most charming description of a bluestocking evening is from the vivid and sprightly pen of Fanny Burney. She was a blue, but not of what Hannah More called the old set. She had not long visited among them—where Evelina and her own amiable personality secured her a warm welcome—before her appointment to a post at court. She snatched an evening from her wearisome duties, however, to visit Mrs. Ord, a later but hardly less distinguished hostess than the original three, and there found practically all the members of the circle: Mrs. Montagu, Mrs. Boscawen, Owen Cambridge, Horace Walpole, Sir Lucas Pepys, Leonard Smelt, Bennet Langton and Lady Rothes, his wife, Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Chapone, William Pepys and others. The talk was of The Streatham Letters, the correspondence between Mrs. Thrale and Dr. Johnson which had just been published, and many of the blues feared the indiscretions of her too fluent pen. It is a lively and graceful picture of eighteenth century society, and an excellent representation of the friendly charm of the bas-bleu meetings.