Hazel McHaffie

Georgiana, Lady Chatterton – writer

We writers are always thrilled to find unexpected literary treasures.

So, when I visited the moated National Trust property,  Baddesley Clinton Hall, in Warwickshire, a few weeks ago, I was delighted to discover a hitherto unknown-to-me writer associated with it, and enthusiastic volunteer guides only too ready to tell us all about her. Georgiana, Lady Chatterton is one of the three aristocratic ladies being promoted there just now. Who? do I hear you cry?

Henrietta Georgiana Marcia Lascelles Iremonger was born in London, on 11 November 1806 and at the tender age of 17, she married Sir William Abraham Chatterton, 2nd Baronet of Castle Mahon, County Cork, who was eighteen years her senior. Their circle included the literary intelligentsia as well as royals, but Georgina coupled a busy social life with writing, producing 29 novels and travel books between 1837 and 1876. In 1859, now a widow, she married Edward Dering, a fellow writer. The story (which may be apocryphal) is told with some glee that Edward was actually asking permission to marry Georgiana’s niece, but the older lady misheard and thought he was proposing to her. She accepted, so he gallantly went along with the misunderstanding.

Baddesley Clinton has books and quotes by Georgina and information about her, tastefully scattered around the rooms, as well as many glorious paintings by her aforementioned niece, Rebecca Dulcibella Orpen, the second lady highlighted at the Hall.

This exquisite portrait of Georgiana by her, sits on an easel in the room where Rebecca continued to paint until she was in her 90s. (Apologies the lighting was tricky.)

Georgiana loved the idea of her thoughts and words being retained for posterity, preferably entombed in a library …

… and I’m sure would have thought the one at Baddesley Clinton a perfect resting place.

Whilst friends and acquaintances would forget her and vanish in their turn, she reflected, her words would continue to be read sympathetically by strangers for generations to come, granting her a very special kind of immortality.

What a lovely and unexpected find.

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