Philobiblon: A new 19th-century blogger

Saturday, October 08, 2005

A new 19th-century blogger

I've been promising it for months, but now it is finally here, drumroll ....

Diaries of a Lady of Quality

Written between 1797 and 1844 by Miss Frances Williams Wynn, the daughter of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn (the fourth baronet) and Charlotte, daughter of George Grenville (First Lord of the Treasury, 1763-1765).

I'll be posting entries on a (more or less) daily schedule. And I haven't read ahead in detail - so I'll be reading along with everyone else. Comments and suggestions about the text will be most welcome.

The choice, I'll admit is somewhat random. I was looking for a women writer of the past to promote (with a text out of copyright), and this book fell into my lap. (Well I paid £30 for it, to be precise.)

The Diaries seem little known to modern scholarship, as indeed is Miss Williams Wynn herself. A search through all of the scholarly resources to which I have access, including JStor and the Royal Historical Society Bibliography produced precisely no results for her. (I'd be very interested if anyone has any more success, or indeed knows anything at all about her or can suggest likely sources.)

Pretty well all I know about her comes from the preface:
Miss Frances Williams Wynn, the lady in question, was the daughter of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn (the fourth baronet) and Charlotte, daughter of George Grenville (First Lord of the Treasury, 1763-1765). The uncles to whom she frequently alludes, were the first Marquis of Buckingham, Lord Grenville, and the Right Honourable Thomas Grenville: the brothers, the Right Honourable Charles Williams Wynn, and the Eight Honourable Sir Henry Williams Wynn (long English minister at Copenhagen).

One of her sisters was married to the late Lord Delamere, and the other to Colonel Shipley, M.P., son of the celebrated Dean of St. Asaph, and grandson of Johnson's friend, the Bishop. Lord Braybrooke and Lord Nugent were her near relatives. She died in 1857, in her 77th or 78th year; when her papers came into the possession of her niece, the Honourable Mrs. Rowley,* under whose sanction these selections from them are published.

I was intimately acquainted with Miss Wynn during the last sixteen or seventeen years of her life, and I spoke from personal knowledge when, on a former occasion, I mentioned her as distinguished by her literary taste and acquirements, as well as highly esteemed for the uprightness of her character, the excellence of her understanding, and the kindness of her heart.

Frances gets a brief mention in this 1911 encyclopedia article about the Williams Wynn family, which seems to have been of Welsh origins and strongly Tory, with a sprinkling of Jacobite.

It seems too the Diaries were used by Lytton Strachey, in his biography of Queen Victoria.

The only substantial reference I have found in my research was a two-column review in The Times of 26 May, 1864. (Found online, but I haven't yet been able to get a copy - will post it when I can.)

The diaries were edited by a man, and while he boasts of how little she wrote of personal matters I suspect the original, unedited version, would probably give a better sense of the writer as a person. As presented, while these are called diaries, they are often more in the nature of a commonplace book.

But they're never dull - indeed to start off are a couple of rather gory "buried alive" and ghost stories.

And since I don't have months to spend in the National Library of Wales (MSS 2775-88), where it looks like her papers, presumably including the original diaries, are, the edited version is the best that I can do. (It seems there are also a lot of family records in the Denbighshire Record Office.)


Anonymous Sharon said...

There is a slightly more substantial article about the family in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography (this URL should work):

I know more about the 17th and early 18th century Wynnstay history than later (the first Sir WWW was something of a character...), and that's not much (a lot of the older archives were lost in a 19th century fire, I believe...). But I'll try to remember to poke around the Welsh history shelves in the UWA library next week to see if I can get any references. Something might turn up in the Welsh Periodicals Index (at least I think that's what it's called). Someone's recently brought out a 'notable Welsh women in history' type book; I wonder if she gets a mention in that.

I've just accessed the Times review and I'll email you the pdf file.

10/08/2005 10:19:00 am  
Anonymous Sharon said...

That DWB URL as a proper link.

10/08/2005 10:21:00 am  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Brilliant, thanks!

10/09/2005 01:01:00 am  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Thanks to Sharon for this further information in the National Library of Wales. And I'm now on the trail of the other book mentioned here - her mother could be the next "blogger".

[2775A, 2776B]
(TREVOR OWEN 5-6.) NOTEBOOKS OF FANNY WILLIAMS WYNN. Notebooks of Frances (‘Fanny’) Williams Wynn (1773-1857), daughter of Sir
Watkin Williams Wynn, 4th baronet, of Wynnstay, Denbighshire, by his wife
Charlotte (nee Grenville.). They include notes written during visits to London and to country houses and on visits to the continent of Europe, copies of letters, records of conversations, and observations on political and historical events. Some of the material contained in them was included by Abraham Hayward in his Diaries of a Lady of Quality from 1797 to 1844 ... (London, 1864). See also Rachel Leighton: Correspondence of Charlotte Grenville, Lady Williams Wynn ... (London, 1920).
English; French. XIX cent.
See also N.L.W. MSS. 2778 and 2784.

10/09/2005 02:37:00 pm  

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