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Stephanie Clayton

Research student, English Literature, School of English, Communication and Philosophy


My thesis is based upon the formal and informal networks sustained through manuscript letters and social encounters in the eighteenth century. The specific figures I intend to research are Elizabeth Montagu, the Duchess of Portland, the Countess of Hertford and Lord Lyttelton. While figures like Montagu have received extensive focus, the others have not, and I hope that my comparative case studies will help enrich our understanding of all four. The methodology for my research is to undertake a detailed study of the correspondence between these figures, as well as their wider social circle, and their literary production in order to research the mechanisms of patronage and literary performance. I hope to recover contemporary discourses about their public personas, as they attempted to shape their own identities and determine those of others. In looking at the construction of a letter, my research intends to build on the work of Bruce Redford and my supervisor, Melanie Bigold, by exploring performative letter-writing habits. My study will integrate these ‘performances’ within a wider understanding of changing social encounters and environments.


Research interests

Eighteenth-century manuscript studies, the bluestockings, eighteenth-century women writers.


For the love of ink: Patronage and Performance in the letters and works of the early bluestocking circle'.