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Elizabeth Vesey


Courtesy of
Walter Scott (c. 1947)

Elizabeth Vesey was born in 1715 in Ossory, Ireland, the child of Mary and Thomas Vesey. Little is known about her childhood.

Elizabeth was married twice. Her first marriage was to William Hancock, a member of Parliament. He died in 1741. Elizabeth then remarried her cousin, Admondesham Vesey. When he died in 1785, he left Elizabeth impoverished.

Elizabeth helped initiate the Bluestocking tradition of salon parties where entertainment consisted of conversations on literary subjects.

Her writing and association circle included Frances Boscawen, Edmund Burke, David Garrick, Edward Gibbon, Samuel Johnson, Thomas Percy, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Richard Sheridan, Adam Smith and Thomas Warton.

One of the most important things that Elizabeth is credited for is developing the name “Bluestocking” to define the group. Elizabeth invited Benjamin Stillingfleet, a scientist and writer, to one of her salon parties. When he refused because he didn’t have proper attire for a social event, Elizabeth insisted that he come anyway. Part of the regular formal attire was black dress stockings; when Benjamin came to the salon, he was wearing informal blue stockings. This is one reason provided for the name of the group.

Elizabeth, like Frances, took on the role of the hostess; Elizabeth did write some, but did not publish. Her influence was felt most strongly in her willingness to host important evening parties.

Elizabeth died in 1791.