Montagu,Lady Mary Wortley, an English authoress, eldest daughter of Evelyn Pierrepont, duke of Kingston, born at Thoresby, Nottinghamshire, about 1690, died Aug. 21, 1762. She was related through her father to Beaumont the dramatist, and through her mother to Fielding the novelist, who was her second cousin. Her beauty and wit made her the pet of her father, and she acquired the elements of Greek, Latin, and French under the tuition of her brother's preceptors. At the age of 12 she wrote a poetical epistle from Julia to Ovid; at 15 she was meditating the establishment of an English nunnery, and was correcting her education by extensive reading; at 20 she made a translation of the Enchiridion of Epictetus. Meantime she lived principally at Thoresby and at Acton, near London, and as the eldest daughter of a widower presided at the dinner table and exerted her social powers in the entertainment of guests. In 1712 she was privately married to Edward Wortley Montagu. A disagreement concerning the settlement- had caused the duke of Kingston to withhold his consent, and the union did not prove happy. They lived in the country till after the accession of George I. in 1714, when Mr. Montagu joined the ministry as one of the lords of the treasury.
Lady Mary, on her first appearance at St. James's, was hailed with universal admiration, as much for her conversation as for her beauty. In 1716 she accompanied her husband to Constantinople, whither he was sent as ambassador to the Porte and as consul general in the Levant. Her letters descriptive of the court and society of Vienna, and the scenery and customs of the East, which rank among the choicest publications of their class, were published surreptitiously after her death (3 vols., 1703), under circumstances which afforded no guarantee for their authenticity; this, however, is in general proved by the coincidences of style with her other writings, though the text has been tampered with and spurious letters introduced; a fourth volume was published in 1767. At Belgrade she first observed the practice of inoculation for the smallpox, by which malady she had lost an only brother and her own fine eyelashes. In 1718 she applied the process after earnest examination to her son and daughter; and on her return to England the experiment was tried at her suggestion on five persons under sentence of death. The success of the trial did not prevent the most violent clamors against the innovation.
On returning to England she had taken up her residence at Twickenham, at the solicitation of Pope, who had been one of her most intimate correspondents. .\ rupture soon took place between them, according to her statement, because she could not refrain from laughter when at an ill-chosen moment he was solemnly and passionately making love to her; and from that time he treated her with constant malice. She wrote many witty verses. In 1739 her health was declining in consequence of a cancer which ultimately proved fatal, and she went abroad. she took up her abode in a deserted palace on the shores of Lake Iseo, in Loinbardy, and afterward in the city of Venice, where she was remains when her husband died in 1761 She then returned to England, and died within a year. The best edition of her "Letters and Works" (3 vols., London, 1837), by her great-grandson Lord Wharncliffe, containing full biographical notices, was critically revised for Bonn's "Historical Library" by Moy Thomas (1861). Her letters were edited by Mrs. S. J. Hale (New York, 1856).