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Letters and Journals of Lady Eleanor Butler (1739-1829) and Sarah Ponsonby (1755-1831) from the National Library of Wales


In 1778 Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby eloped to set up a new life together in Plas Newydd in Llangollen Vale. The move met with strong opposition from their respective families but their new Gothic residence soon became a magnet for writers and intellectuals.

Wordsworth, Madame de Genlis, Edmund Burke and Anna Seward all visited, and the 'Ladies of Llangollen' (as Butler and Ponsonby soon became known) established a vigorous correspondence network.

The papers of the Ladies of Llangollen held at the National Library of Wales are a vital source to study this important partnership and the literary circle that they created. Known as the Hamwood Papers, formerly in the possession of the Hamilton family of Hamwood, Dunboyne, co Meath, they include:

Papers and Correspondence of Elinor Goddard including an account of attempts by Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby to escape from their homes in Ireland, and accounts of visits to the Ladies of Llangollen

Sarah Ponsonby's "Account of a Journey in Wales perform'd in May 1778 by Two Fugitive Ladies"

Sarah Ponsonby's Commonplace Book (with gardening and architectural notes and verse in French, Italian and English)

Eleanor Butler's Diary for 1784 including comments on letters received and books acquired and read

Eleanor Butler's famous Journals (six volumes in all, for 1788-1791, 1799, 1802, 1807 and 1821) which have been compared with Dorothy Wordsworth's Journal, recording details of visitors, books read, correspondence and local events

Five volumes of correspondence sent to the ladies including letters from Henrietta Bowdler, Lady Bury, Mrs O'Connell, Lady Sydney Morgan, Anna Seward, Mrs Jane Davey, Hester Lynch Piozzi, George Canning, Sir Walter Scott, Arthur Wellesley, William Wilberforce and William Wordsworth

An apparently unpublished verse drama entitled "Loves Frenzy, or, the Garlands of the Faun", together with poems and watercolours largely by Sarah Ponsonby

A volume of manuscript poems compiled for Camilla Blackford

A volume of manuscript poems dedicated to Caroline Hamilton

A volume of manuscript poems composed by Mary Tighe

Manuscript volumes concerning Geometry, Medicine, Buonaparte and Heraldy

This source will be valuable for anyone writing on Romantic Friendship, the Gothic Pastoral Ideal, 18th Century Literary Circles and the Romantic Movement.

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