The Mary Hamilton Papers (c.1740-c.1850)



The Mary Hamilton Papers is a digital edition of ego-documents concerning Mary Hamilton (1756-1816), sub-governess to the Royal Court of George III and a member of the Bluestocking circle. The time-span covered by the collection (c.1740-c.1850) and the wide range of topics addressed (court and royal life, literary interests, women’s education, courtship and romance, social and cultural activities in the Bluestocking network, etc.) make this edition a unique data source to explore the intellectual and social world of Hamilton’s day and to investigate important questions about literary practices, letter-writing and everyday language in Georgian England, among others.

Mary Hamilton (1756-1816) was a well-connected figure in royal, aristocratic and literary circles of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The Mary Hamilton Papers (c.1740-c.1850) contains her private correspondence, diaries and travel journals, and other personal writing, together with manuscript materials pertaining to her husband, John Dickenson. Among the major figures represented in the collection are members of the royal family and other courtiers, members of Hamilton’s own family (including her uncle, the diplomat Sir William Hamilton) and prominent members of the Bluestocking circle, such as Elizabeth Montagu, Frances Burney, Frances Boscawen, Elizabeth Vesey and Mary Delany.

The contents come primarily from the eponymous archive held at the John Rylands Research Institute and Library in Manchester (c.2,500 items fully catalogued), with additional items from 11 other repositories in the UK and the US (c.500 items).[1] The materials from the JRRIL and Lancashire Archives have been digitised in-house at the JRRIL; others were digitised at the hosting libraries and then shared with us.

The digital edition contains all of the above-listed 3,000-odd items in the form of high-resolution images with basic metadata: 2,951 pieces of private correspondence, 38 diaries and travel journals, and 11 manuscript books of various kinds, such as anthologies of verse and prose, memoranda and account books. Over half the items have been manually transcribed (c.900,000 words), namely c.1,600 items of private correspondence and 16 diaries/journals by Hamilton. The digital edition is publicly available in Open Access via Manchester Digital Collections (MDC), a repository which is image-centred and which offers a rich variety of visualisation tools.

The transcriptions are in XML format following TEI guidelines (P5), including a header containing metadata (e.g. author, date, summary) and a body containing the transcription of the text. The editorial schema is an XHTML document derived from an ODD file (One Document Does it All) created by David Denison. It covers, for instance, elements in the TEI header; structural elements of the text in the body; manuscript features like underlining, word spacing, additions and deletions; elements to do with editorial intervention, like footnotes and non-modern spelling or sic-forms; content-based mark-up such as person and place names, direct speech, foreign words; and customised tags for research analysis in reading practices and salutations in correspondence.

The transcriptions can be read in MDC alongside the corresponding images in either diplomatic or normalised format. They have furthermore been tagged for part of speech (CLAWS7) and semantic categories (USAS), and this tagged version can be accessed and explored for general research purposes in CQPweb. CQPweb is a user-friendly interface best known for indexing and querying linguistic corpora, where users can search easily for words or strings of text in the normalised version or for XML elements coded in the transcriptions (e.g. place names, references to a particular individual or foreign words). The transcriptions are also freely available as plain text files for non-profit use to anyone who registers for access via the project website.

We have also constructed a ‘personography’ database containing all writers and addressees, as well as nearly everyone mentioned in the material that has been transcribed (c.2,530 individual persons). The database is designed as an XML/TEI file with multiple fields, and will serve as the basis of an electronic person index containing links to external authority files such as VIAF.

The Mary Hamilton Papers is indexed in correspSearch, an open-access web interface for searching across multiple scholarly editions of letters.

How to cite the project:
Unlocking the Mary Hamilton Papers. Project team: Hannah Barker, Sophie Coulombeau, David Denison, Tino Oudesluijs, Cassandra Ulph, Christine Wallis and Nuria Yáñez-Bouza, University of Manchester. Project funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (2019-2023, Ref. AH/S007121/1),

How to cite the edition:
The Mary Hamilton Papers (c.1740-c.1850). Compiled by David Denison, Nuria Yáñez-Bouza, Tino Oudesluijs, Cassandra Ulph, Christine Wallis, Hannah Barker and Sophie Coulombeau, University of Manchester. In progress, 2019- , .

[1] UK: Archives and Manuscripts, The British Library (London); Derbyshire Record Office, Derbyshire County Council (Matlock); Lancashire Archives, Lancashire City Council (Preston); Windsor Castle, The Royal Archives (Windsor). USA: Archives and Special Collections Library, Vassar College Libraries, Vassar College (Poughkeepsie, NY); Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University (New Haven, CT); Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford University (Stanford, CA); Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library (New York, NY); Houghton Library Repository, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA); Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University (New Haven, CT); The Morgan Library & Museum (New York, NY). We are aware of additional material in private collections, e.g. those owned by the Anson family.
Date made available4 Jan 2023
PublisherUniversity of Manchester Figshare


  • Bluestocking circle
  • corpus linguistics
  • correspondence
  • diary
  • digital humanities
  • ego-documents
  • eighteenth century
  • Georgian period
  • Late Modern English
  • letter writing
  • Mary Hamilton
  • reading practices
  • Romantic (literary) period
  • eco-documents

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