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Bessborough papers

Call Number: OSB MSS 55
Scope and Contents
The Bessborough Papers consist of correspondence and manuscripts by and connected with Henrietta, Countess of Bessborough; her sister Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire; and her daughter Lady Caroline Lamb. The papers span the dates 1774-1826 and have been organized into two series: Series I, Letters to Lady Bessborough; and Series II, Manuscripts.

Series I, Letters to Lady Bessborough , is housed in folders 1-34 and consists of single letters addressed to the Countess of Bessborough by a variety of friends and relatives. Many of the letters detail social engagements and plans for visits; some letters are described more fully in the box and folder listing. Lady Bessborough's literary interests are reflected in letters from Lady Eleanor Butler, commenting on Lady Bessborough's visit to Llangollen; from the poet Samuel Jackson Pratt; and from W. Drew, who encloses verses addressed to his patroness.

Lady Bessborough's travels on the Continent and concern for friends caught up in the events of the French Revolution are also documented in letters from the comtesse de Boufflers-Rouverel, Baron Armfelt, and the vicomte de Leon. Folder 11 contains a letter from the Duchess of Devonshire describing the seige of Mainz, and folder 12 holds letters from the Duke of Dorset to the Duchess of Devonshire on developments in France at the end of 1791. The collection also contains a letter from the Earl of Chichester on the surrender of Valenciennes and one from "le chevalier W" on the situation at Coblenz. Folders 32-34 house letters and fragments by unidentified authors on events during the Terror.

Series II, Manuscripts , is housed in folders 36-108 and is organized into two subseries: Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and Lady Caroline Lamb. The first subseries consists of detatched album leaves upon which manuscripts in various hands have been pasted. The leaves are numbered, and as this order may reflect the original order of the album it has been preserved in the current box and folder listing. Contents include an epitaph for the Duchess, ascribed to her; occasional poems addressed to her sister and other relatives; a prayer for "my sister" which contains self-reproaches for "my pointed tongue" (folder 63); and prose fragments on subjects such as jealousy, misfortune, and self-interest. There are also several apparently contemporary poems of unknown authorship.

The second subseries, Lady Caroline Lamb, has been arranged in three sections: Poems Attributed to Lady Caroline Lamb; Other Poems; and Other Papers. The first section includes a poem that seems to be addressed to Lamb's only child ("A little Lamb there was who from its birth"); several romantic or melancholy verses; and a poem "On a Broken Guitar" accompanied by a reply poem from "Mrs. Lilburn."

There are several items which suggest or have been connected to Lamb's relationship with Lord Byron. A poem dated "April 23, 1824" which opens "And can I believe that the form I beheld" seems to be a reaction to the news of Byron's death; the poem "by those eyes whose sweet expression" has been annotated "Ldy. Caroline Lamb on Byron. 1814?" Folder 83 contains a copy of "This heart has never stoop'd its pride," which was published in a different version in Lamb's Glenarvon. An annotator attributes it, probably incorrectly, to Byron himself. A heavily corrected stanza expressing "agonizing woe" and followed by what may be the fragment of a letter is found in folder 90.

Other Poems includes copies of popular sentimental verse by L. E. L.; poems addressed to Lamb by friends; and two copies of Byron's epitaph on his dog. Other Papers, located in folders 101-106, contains silhouettes and a pencil sketch; the manuscript of an Italian "favola per Carolina mia;" and a sheet of possible chapter mottoes for an unidentified work.
Conditions Governing Access
The materials are open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
The Bessborough Papers is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Bequest of James Marshall and Marie-Louise Osborn. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.
0.42 Linear Feet (1 box)
Language of Materials