Nisbet, Mary, Countess of Elgin

The letters of Mary Nisbet of Dirleton, Countess of Elgin. Arranged by Lieut.-Col.Nisbet Hamilton Grant.

London, John Murray 1926.

Reference: 15423
Price: £95 [convert currency]

Full Description

8vo. xii + (4) + 358pp, (8) photo plates including frontispiece, (10)pp publisher’s adverts. Publisher’s cloth. Ownership inscription, dated 1928, of W(illiam) Anstruther-Gray of Kilmany, a Fifeshire landowner and MP for St.Andrews 1906-18.

This provides the texts of a long series of engaging letters written by Mary, Countess of Elgin, to her mother between September 1799 and April 1805. They document the chief events in the daily life of Lord Elgin and herself both during the period when he was serving as British Ambassador to Constantinople, and during the subsequent period in which the Elgins were making their difficult way home through Italy and France. The Countess was interested in social events, gossip, and dresses, and hardly at all in art or in antiquities – if a quotation in a recent issue of The Times newspaper is correct, Boris Johnson, our present Prime Minister, was characteristically slapdash when asserting in his Oxford University youth that Lord Elgin purchased the Elgin Marbles to please his “young and skittish wife … with a pampered girl’s insatiable desire for presents” – but her letters provide a really essential chronological structure for these years, and also much useful incidental detail about the individuals in Elgin’s entourage. Scarce in the book trade today.