Mrs. Montagu's contemplative bench: Bluestocking gardens and female retirement
Huntington Library Quarterly, 69, (4), . (doi:10.1525/hlq.2006.69.4.555).
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Drawing on the correspondence of Elizabeth Montagu from the 1740s to the 1780s, Stephen Bending explores the role of gardens and retirement in the life of the leading eighteenth-century Bluestocking and argues that her estate at Sandleford played a crucial role in the fashioning of her identity. Aware that her garden could be framed as a site of fashion or of meditation, she demonstrates in her letters an acute and flexible response to the clashing and competing paradigms of female retirement. Montagu's correspondence with other Bluestocking women (notably her sister, Sarah Scott, and Elizabeth Carter) and with close male friends (including the Earl of Bath and Lord Lyttelton) demonstrates her manipulation of the gendered literary and cultural traditions in which her identity could be styled and defined, and shows the particular importance of pastoral, in its various modes, for a woman closely associated with spectacular urban display.
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