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(STANHOPE, Lady Hester.) POWLETT, Wilhelmina, Duchess of Cleveland.

The Life and Letters of Lady Hester Stanhope...

by her niece The Duchess of Cleveland.

Availability: In stock

Published: London William Clowes and Sons, 1897

Stock Code: 130546

OR On display in 100 Fulham Road


First edition, presentation copy from the author, inscribed on the half-title, "The Earl of Leven & Melville, from his very old friend, The Author". The recipient was Ronald Leslie-Melville (1835-1906), the 11th Earl of Leven and a family friend of the Stanhopes. Wilhelmina Powlett, née Stanhope, Duchess of Cleveland (1819-1901) was an historian and genealogist. She was active in the royal court, serving as a Maid of Honour at Queen Victoria's coronation, and a bridesmaid at her wedding to Prince Albert.

This uncommon work provides an insightful account of the life of her aunt, the most extraordinary woman traveller of the 19th century. Lady Hester Lucy Stanhope (1776-1839) left society life in England in 1810 when she travelled to Constantinople via Malta and onwards to Egypt. "In a shipwreck off Rhodes in 1812 Lady Hester nearly lost everything she owned; it was then that she started (of necessity, at first) to wear male Turkish attire... there followed several years of uninterrupted travel" (Robinson p. 57.) In Cairo she was received with honours and pageantry by Muhammad 'Ali Pasha, before making a tour of the Holy Land and Lebanon. In March 1813 she entered Palmyra at the head of a cavalcade of Bedouin, the fourth Briton and first British woman to do so. There she was allegedly crowned Queen of the Desert, writing that "the inhabitants were arranged in the most picturesque manner... the space before the arch was occupied with dancing girls, most fancifully and elegantly dressed" (p. 122). In 1814 she moved into a former convent, Mar Elias, in the foothills of Sidon, Lebanon. After living there for some years she moved to Dar Jun, a more remote spot higher in the hills, where she become increasingly hermetic and developed an obsession with the occult. Whilst there she maintained an interest in the world outside and gave sanctuary to refugees during the civil strife in Lebanon in the 1820s and during Ibrahim Pasha's siege of Acre in 1831-2. As her health deteriorated she retreated further, and her correspondence with England became more sporadic, despite a flurry of letter writing in 1838 regarding her pension. By this time however she had grown weak, and died on 23 June 1839 at Dar Jun, where she was buried, "only some of the olives and orange trees that she planted are left, and the exact place of her burial cannot be determined" (p. 354, this passage marked in pencil in the margin). In conclusion to this work the Duchess of Cleveland provides her own account of her pilgrimage to her aunt's burial place in 1895, "I have always wished to see Djoun, and I think it has even surpassed my expectations" (p. 356).

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Octavo. Original white cloth, spine and front cover lettered in gilt and black within gilt and black frames, device of the Duchess of Cleveland to front cover in gilt, frames blocked in blind to rear cover, edges red, brown endpapers.


Engraved frontispiece and plate with tissue guards.


Ownership inscription to front free endpaper verso. Spine very gently rolled, faint soiling to still remarkably bright cloth, top edge a little dust toned, light marks to contents page; a very good, uncommonly crisp, copy.


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