Chawton House Library and the University of Notre Dame London present Quills and other feathers: Elizabeth Montagu and the matter of life-writing by Elizabeth Eger (Reader in Eighteenth-Century Studies, King's College London).
The lecture will commence at 7:00 p.m., with a drinks reception beforehand.
Elizabeth Montagu, ‘Queen of the Bluestockings’, who lived from 1718 to 1800, was a voracious correspondent, who confessed to her sister that she ‘did not see how a sociable being could live without writing.’ Over 7,000 of her letters survive and many convey her highly self-conscious relationship to the materiality of the form. Ink, paper, feathers and letters were part of a complex network of affiliation, friendship and gift-giving.
This lecture will consider Montagu’s practical use of feathers alongside her impulse to embrace their metaphorical potential as instruments of transformation, circulation and imaginative transcendence. This discussion of the role of feathers in the construction of Montagu’s identity will lead, finally, to a consideration of the role of material culture in shaping biography, or the more broadly defined field of ‘life-writing’, then and now.