the woods and groves hereabouts, and teach it to the echo.’ - To Anne Wortley, 1709.

Her father tried hard as he could to force her to marry Skeffington. In 1712, she wrote she was to be sent to the family’s Wiltshire seat, West Dean against her will. However, she managed to escape and eloped with Edward in the August of 1712. ‘I cannot easily submit to my fortune; I must have one more tryal of it. I send you this Letter at 5 a Clock, while the whole familly is asleep. I am stole from my Sister to tell you we shall not go till 7, or a little before. If you can come to the same place any time before that, I may slip out, because they have no suspicion of the morning before a Journey. Tis possible some of the servants will be about the house and see me go off, but when I am once with you, tis no matter.— If this is impracticable, Adeiu, I fear for ever.’ – To Edward Wortley, 1712.

The year after their marriage and now living in London, they welcomed a son, Edward. In 1714 the Whigs came into power, with Edward Snr. appointed as Turkish

treatment of women, giving a more accurate account.

She was charmed by the Ottoman women she met, and they by her.

‘I must not omit what I saw remarkable at Sophia, one of the most beautiful towns in the Turkish Empire, and famous for its hot baths…

I was in my travelling habit, which is a riding dress, and certainly appeared very extraordinary to them, yet there was not one of ‘em that showed the least surprise or impertinent curiosity, but received me with all the obliging civility possible. I know no European court where the ladies would have behaved themselves in so polite a manner to a stranger.

I believe in the whole there were two hundred women, and yet none of those disdainful smiles, or satiric whispers, that never fail in our assemblies, when anybody appears that is not dressed exactly in fashion. They repeated over and over to me, “Uzelle, pek uzelle,” which is nothing but, “Charming, very charming.

‘‘ A smallpox epidemic hit Britain in 1721 and Lady Mary was quick to have her daughter inoculated, the first on British soil.’’

Ambassador in 1716. The family moved to Vienna before settling in Constantinople, now Istanbul, where they welcomed their second child, Mary.

Lady Mary documented her voyage to the Eastern world in illustrative detail in her Letters from Turkey series, and it is the vivid insight into the Ottoman Empire that first gained her the reputation and standing amongst the great writers of her time.

As a woman, she had access into places her male predecessors had been barred entry and so her findings broke down the misconceptions about Eastern religion, traditions and

‘The first sofas were covered with cushions and rich carpets, on which sat the ladies, and on the second their slaves behind ‘em, but without any distinction of rank by their dress, all being in the state of nature, that is, in plain English, stark naked, without any beauty or defect concealed. Yet there was not the least wanton smile or immodest gesture amongst ‘em. They walked and moved with the same majestic grace which Milton describes of our general Mother.’ – To Lady -- 1717 In the segregated Turkish zenanas, or female households, Lady Mary also witnessed smallpox inoculation, or variolation, taking place.

Liotard Lady Montagu 1956 Mary had lost her younger

brother William to the disease in 1713 aged 20 and had also had a severe case herself in 1715 which had tainted her beauty. While there, she had her son inoculated and brought the practice back to Britain on the family’s return in 1718. However, Western doctors were sceptical and dismissed her idea due to its Oriental background. Variolation consisted of scratching pus from an infected person into the skin of the uninfected to promote immunity.

A smallpox epidemic hit Britain in 1721 and Lady Mary was quick to have her daughter inoculated, the first on British soil. She persuaded Princess of Wales, Caroline of Ansbach, to test the treatment on prisoners awaiting execution; they survived and were released. Having been convinced, the Princess of Wales had her own two daughters successfully inoculated.

Some 80 years after Lady Mary first brought the Turkish practice back home, a safer vaccine using cowpox was eventually developed by Edward Jenner.

Back on home turf after her

Turkish expedition, Lady Mary and her family moved to Twickenham where it is thought she and her husband lived a loveless marriage, purely a formal agreement to save face.

Instead she focused on writing and editing her letters, which she chose not to publish but which still wound up being circulated amongst her social circle and beyond. By 1736 and having been estranged from her husband for many years, Lady Mary became infatuated with Count Francesco Algarotti, a Venetian philosopher. At the same time, she also spurned the affection of Lord John Hervey. Algarotti left for Italy where Lady Mary continued to write him before deciding to follow him to Venice in 1739.

Inauguration of The Lady Mary Wortley Montagu Promenade, April 2016

She told her husband the

relocation was for health reasons. ‘I never had my Health better than I have in this Climate, thô it is now cold. But here is a constant clear sun and instead of the dampness I aprehended the air is particularly dry, which I believe my constitution requir’d.’ - To Edward Wortley, 1739 The relationship was short-lived and Mary moved to Avignon, France for a few years before returning to Italy to Brescia before relocating to Lovere on her doctor’s orders. Whilst here, she continued to write, this time to her daughter who had become Countess of Bute, married to John Stuart the future Prime Minister.

Her husband Edward died in 1761 and Lady Mary, then living in Venice, returned to England before passing away the following year in 1762.

Lady Mary’s legacy has since been written into the history books, more so for her smallpox findings. However, her letters and poems have inspired generation after generation of female writers and she is testament to the power of education in women.

‘If your Daughters are inclin’d to Love reading, do not check their Inclination by hindering them of the diverting part of it… People that do not read or work for a Livelihood have many hours they know not how to imploy, especially Women, who commonly fall into Vapours or something worse.’ —To Lady Bute, 1750. Recently the National Trust, in partnership with Barnsley Council and Northern College, re-opened Wentworth Castle Gardens to the public where you can see the Lady Mary Wortley Montagu obelisk which is an important feature of the grounds. Today, almost 300 years after Lady Mary’s pioneering inoculation concept, there is still a great deal of debate concerning vaccinations, particularly the efficacy of the MMR vaccine for children. 63

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