Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (15 May 1689 – 21 August 1762) was an English aristocrat and writer. Lady Mary is today chiefly remembered for her letters, particularly her letters from Turkey, as wife to the British ambassador, which have been described by Billie Melman as “the very first example of a secular work by a woman about the Muslim Orient”
Lady Mary Pierrepont was born in London on 15 May 1689; her baptism took place on 26 May at St. Paul's Church in Covent Garden. She was a daughter of Evelyn Pierrepont, 5th Earl of Kingston-upon-Hull, and his first wife, Lady Mary Fielding. As a pioneer of modern medicine, she was the first European who insisted on inoculation of her children of small doses of smallpox long before programmes of preventative medicine began, based on her own observational evidence of Turkish milkmaids similarly inoculated who recovered from the disease. Her mother had three more children before dying in 1692. The children were raised by their Pierrepont grandmother until Mary was 9. Lady Mary was then passed to the care of her father upon her grandmother's death.
She eloped with Edward Wortley Montagu. They were married on 23 August 1712 in Salisbury
A quote attributed to Lady Mary Wortley Montague: "No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting." (Griffiths: Page iv)
Page 9-10: "She was born at Thoresby, in Nottinghamshire, about the year 1690, and lost her mother in 1694." She "had two sisters: Lady Frances, who married John Ereskin of Mar, and Lady Evelyn the wife of John Leveson Lord Gower, who was the mother of the present Marquis of Stafford."
"Lady Mary Wortley Montague was daughter of Evelyn, 5th Earl of Kingston, who was in 1706 Marquis of Dorchester, by Queen Anne, and in 1716, Duke of Kingston; and Tong was the scene of early years, if not her birthplace (which is claimed by Thoresby). Her youth at any rate must have passed between these two homes of the Pierpoint family. Her letters form a conspicuous part of the literary of her time. Born in 1690, she lost her mother in 1694, being educated under the superintendence of Bishop Burnet, obtained a high degree of mental cultivation. She married Mr. Edward Wortley Montague by special license. Her father had refused him, because he would not make the necessary settlements; and she had allowed him to encourage another suitor; and matters had gone so far that the wedding clothes had actually been bought; but, only making up her mind the evening before, she decided to run away with Mr. Montague, and was married on August 12 1712.""
"It had fallen to the lot of the Duke of Kingston in 1690 to propose a beauty as the aunual toast of the Kitcat Club, and a whim seized him to nominate his little daughter, Lady Mary Pierpoint, then 8 years old. Some of the members demurred, as they had not seen her. The Duke sent for her, and when she arrived, finely dressed, she was received with acclamations, her health drunk, her beauty extolled on every side, and she was petted and caressed by all present, the company consisting of some of the most eminent men in England."
"Her brother, William Pierrepont, died of it at the age of 20, and in late 1715, she contracted the disease herself. She survived, but her looks did not; she lost her eyelashes and was left with deeply pitted skin on her face. When Lady Montagu’s husband, Edward Wortley Montagu, was appointed ambassador to Turkey the year after her illness, she accompanied him and took up residence in Constantinople (now Istanbul). The lively letters she wrote home described the world of the Middle East to her English friends and served for many as an introduction to Muslim society."
"The sprightly writings of Lady Mary Wortley Montague still provide pleasant relaxation and instruction for those who take the trouble to read them. She was born in 1689, and her mother died in 1694. Her father, the Duke of Kingston, early made her the mistress of his house, and so her childhood was quickly clouded by the responsibilities of the management of a large establishment. The Duke was a morose and severe individual, greatly impressed with the importance of his station in life, and insisted upon his daughter waiting upon him in an almost obsequious manner. For example, she had to carve at meals, and, in order that she should perform this important office in a proper manner, he insisted that she should have her meals separately and before him so that her attention should not be diverted from his requirements. On the whole, her home-life was most uncomfortable. However, in 1712 she married Edward Wortley Montague and went to live in London where she was a great success, her wit and beauty attracting much attention, and she became the friend of Addison, Pope and other wits of the XVIII. century. In 1716 Montague was appointed Ambassador to Constantinople, and it was during her sojourn in Constantinople and the Levant that she wrote those delightful "Letters from the East," which are such a pleasure to read nowadays. But greater than her literary success and her wit and her beauty is the fact that she was the first to recognise and introduce into England the custom of innoculation against small-pox. She came across this custom in the East, and having tried it upon her own child and found it successful, she proceeded to do all that she could to introduce to her countrymen this valuable protection against a fell disease."