Marguerite Power, Countess of Blessington (1789-1849)

[Marguerite Agnes Power; Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington; Lady Blessington] b. 1 Sept. 1789, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary; dg. of Col. Edmund Power, a small landowner and sometime editor of Clonmel Gazette and Munster Mercury; forced by her father to marry at 14 a dissolute army officer called Captain Maurice St Leger Farmer, who died in a brawl in the King’s Bench prison [falling from a window], Oct. 1817; m. Charles John Gardiner (1st Earl of Blessington), 16 Feb. 1818, at St Mary’s, Marylebone; travelled abroad with her husband, taking her younger sister Mary-Anne (aetat. 21), 1822; met Count D’Orsay in Avignon, 20 Nov. 1822, having formerly become intimate in London in 1821; established a mênage a trois, touring Italy with him to public scandal;
encountered Lord Byron in Genoa, where they settled for some months, Aug. 1822 onwards, bringing Marguerite"s 21-year old sister Mary Ann with them; moved on to Naples were and became acquainted with Walter Savage Landor of Imaginary Conversations fame; here they also met Richard Robert Madden [q.v.], who the historian of the United Irishman who became her biographer; Count D’Orsay m. Harriet Gardiner [aetat. 15], the dg. of Lord Blessington by his previous marriage, 1 Dec. 1827; the Blessingtons moved to Paris with the D’Orsays, residing at the Hôtel Marèchal Ney; death of Lord Blessington by apoplexy occurred in 1829; D’Orsay separated from Harriet and moved with Marguerite to London, residing in London at Seamore Place, and afterwards at Gore House, Kensington, which became famous as a literary salon (afterwards the site of the Albert Hall); it was there that Hans Christian Anderson met Charles Dickens;
visited by Benjamin Disraeli - who wrote his novel Venetia (1837) there - Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton, and others; issued Conversations with Byron (1834); ed. The Book of Beauty and The Keepsake, magazines; issued Idler in Italy (1839-1840), and Idler in France (1841); D’Orsay moved to Paris to escape creditors, 1849; contents of Gore House sold, enabling her to join him in Paris, where she died, 4 June 1849, of a burst heart [3 times normal size]; the de luxe edn. of her works issued by Count D’Orsay is prized by bibliophiles; he himself died on 4 Aug. 1852; there is a life by Joseph. F. Molloy (The Gorgeous Lady Blessington); the Journal of Conversation with Lord Byron has a frontispiece portrait of Lady Blessington by Sir Thomas Lawrence. CAB IF PI NCBE DIW RAF OCEL SUTH OCIL [RIA WIKI]

There is a notice by David Murphy in the Dictionary of Irish Biography [online] and a longer one at Wikipedia [online].

The Gorgeous Lady Blessington
by Sir Thomas Lawrence
[ Click image to enlarge ]

Lady Blessington’s Grand Tour:
[...] Of rare beauty, charm and wit, she was no less distinguished for her generosity and for the extravagant tastes she shared with her second husband. On 25 August 1822 they set out for a continental tour with Marguerite's youngest sister, the 21-year-old Mary Anne, and servants. On the way they met Count D'Orsay (who had first become an intimate of Lady Blessington in London in 1821) in Avignon on 20 November 1822, before settling at Genoa for four months from 31 March 1823. There they met Byron on several occasions, giving Lady Blessington material for her Conversations with Lord Byron. After that they settled for the most part in Naples, where she met the Irish writer Richard Robert Madden, who was to become her biographer. They also spent time in Florence with their friend Walter Savage Landor, author of the Imaginary Conversations which she greatly admired.[6]
‘Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington’ - in Wikipedia [online]

[ top ]


Note that several of these titles, conventionally ascribed to Marguerite Power (1789-1849), Countess of Blessington, may be by her niece Marguerite Power (1815-67). I have let all those titles stand in the list of works by the elder Marguerite Power extracted from COPAC unless specifically mentioned in connection iwith the bibliography of the younger [q.v.].
  • Grace Cassidy; or, The Repealers. A Novel. London , 1833, 3 vols., 12o.
  • The Victims of Society. by the Countess of Blessington. London: Saunders and Otley 1837, [3] vols.; Do., Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard 1837, 2 vols.
  • The Belle of a Season, by the Countess of Blessington. Splendidly illustrated from drawings by A.E. Chalon. London NY: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longmans; Appleton 1840, 93pp.; 9 unnum. lvs. of pls.; 30 cm.;
  • The Lottery of Life [and Other Stories]. Paris: Baudry’s 1842, 2pp., l., 393pp., 1 l.
  • Strathern; or Life at Home and Abroad. London: H. Colburn, 1845. 4 vols., 8o.
  • Lionel Deerhurst; or, Fashionable life under the Regency edited by the Countess of Blessington, by Barbara Hemphill [?-1858], ed. by the Countess of Blessington. London: Richard Bentley 1846, 3 vols, (12).
  • Memoirs of a femme de chambre. By the Countess of Blessington. Collection of British authors . Leipzig: Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun. 1846, [4], 443, [1] pages; 16 cm.; Do., A Novel. By the Countess of Blessington. London: R. Bentley 1846, 3 vols.
  • Marmaduke Herbert; or, The fatal error: A novel founded on fact. vol. 1. By the Countess of Blessington. Collection of British authors; Leipzig: Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun. 1847, [4], 314 pages; 16 cm; [Do.,] Vol. 2. [Collection of British authors]. Leipzig: Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun. 1847 [4], 290 pages; 16 cm.
  • Country Quarters, Vol. 2. By the Countess of Blessington. Collection of British authors. Leipzig: Bernh. Tauchnitz Jun. 1850, [4], 299, [1] pages, [1] leaf of plates: portrait; 16 cm. [copyright edn.]; Do.: A Novel by the Countess of Blessington; with a memoir by her niece, Miss Power. London: W. Shoberl 1850, (3 vol., ill.; Do., as Country Quarters: A Love Story. By the “Countess of Blessington.” Philadelphia: T.B. Peterson & Brothers [185-?], 1, l lf., 19-560pp.
  • The Confessions of an Elderly Gentleman. Illustrated by six female portraits, from drawings by E. T. Parris. London , Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longman 1836, (12º) Referenced by Michael Sadleir, p.236; Block A. pp.22; Do. [A novel.] Illustrated by ... portraits, etc. London, 1838 12o.; Do. [The Parlour Library ser.], Vol. 22 (1847), 8º; Do. (1848), 2 vols. in 1, 8o.
  • The Magic Lantern, or Sketches of scenes in the metropolis (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown 1822, 72pp.; Do. by the author of Sketches and Fragments, Journal of a Tour in the Netherlands, &c. 2nd edn. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, Paternoster Row 1823, 105pp. [prelim. lvs.]
  • Sketches and Fragments, by the author of “The magic lantern” and Journal of a Tour to the Netherlands [i.e., Marguerite Blessington]. London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown 1822, viii, [1], 139pp.
  • Journal of a Tour through the Netherlands to Paris, in 1821 / by the author of “Sketches and fragments”. London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown 1822, viii, 171, [1] pages; 16 cm.
Conversations with Lord Byron(editions)
  • Conversations of Lord Byron with the Countess of Blessington. Philadelphia: E. L. Carey & A. Hart 1836, 180pp.; Do., 2nd edn. London: [s.n.] 1850, 4, 412pp.;
  • Do., A new edn., rev., and annotated, to which is prefixed a contemporary sketch of Lady Blessington. London: R. Bentley & son 1893, lxiv, 376pp.;
  • Do., as A Journal of Conversations with Lord Byron. By the Countess of Blessington. With a sketch of the life of the author. [3rd edn.] Boston: G.W. Cottrell [n.d.] 381pp.;
  • Do., as Journal of Correspondence and Conversations between lord Byron and the Countess of Blessington. Cincinnati 1851, cm.19.;
  • Do., as A journal of the conversations of Lord Byron with the Countess of Blessington.: A new edition, revised and annotated to which is prefixed a contemporary sketch of Lady Blessinton by her sister, and memoir of her by the editor of this edition. NY: C. Scribner’s sons 1893, lxiv, 376pp.;
  • Conversations de Lord Byron avec la Comtesse de Blessington: pour faire suite aux me´mories publie´s par Thomas Moore / traduction de Ch.-M. Le Tellier. Paris: H. Fournier Jeune 1833, xviii, 380pp. [Haithi Trust]
  • Rambles in Waltham Forest: a stranger’s contribution to the triennial sale for the benefit of the Wanstead Lying-in charity London: Priv. Print. by J. L. Cox 1827, 2, 33pp.; frontispiece, 8 pls. [see details].
  • Heath’s Drawing-room Portfolio ... / with fanciful illustrations, in verse, by the Countess of Blessington. London: Printed by James Moyes, Castle Street, Leicester Square. 1837, 20p., plates: ill.; fol.
  • Gems of Beauty displayed in a series of twelve ... engravings / from designs by E.T. Parris. With fanciful illustrations in verse, by the Countess of Blessington. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longman. 1836, 24p., [12] plates: ill.; fol.
  • Flowers of Loveliness: twelve groups of female figures, emblematic of flowers. L. E. L. (Letitia Elizabeth Landon) 1802-1838. Eighteenth century journals.; Section 5. London: Ackermann and Company 1836-1838, 3 v., leaves of plates): ill. Vol. [1]: designed by E.T. Parris, poetical illustrations by Countess of Blessington; v. [2]: designed by various artists, poetical illustrations by T.H. Bayly; v. [3]: designed by various artists, poetical illustrations by L.E.L. Some plates in v. [1] are dated 1835. Vol. [3] includes: Portraits of the children of the nobility ... / from drawings by Alfred E. Chalon ... and other eminent artists; with illustrations in verse, by distinguished contributors, edited by Mrs. Fairlie. First series. London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1838..
  • The Book of Beauty, or Regal Gallery: with beautifully finished engravings from drawings by the first artists / edited by the Countess of Blessington. London: David Bogue [annual], 2 vols. Ill. 24 cm.
  • The Keepsake for 1828 (London: 1828) [Issues for 1852-57] London: Hurst, Chance, & Co.: R. Jennings, 30 vols., ills., pls., ports., 20-25 cm.; also The Keepsake [mag.] for 1844. / Edited by the Countess of Blessington. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, etc., etc. 1843.
  • The Wanderer’s Adieu: one of the last effusions of the late Countess of Blessington / [composed] by J. P. Barratt. NY: Jaques & Brother [185-?], 6pp.
  • The True Story of Lord & Lady Byron as told by Lord Macaulay, Thomas Moore, Leigh Hunt, Thomas Campbell, the Countess of Blessington, Lord Lindsay, the Countess Guiccioli, Lady Byron, and by the poet himself, in answer to Mrs. Beecher Stowe. London: J. C. Hotten [1869], 189pp.
Biographical & Epistolary
  • The Literary Life and Correspondence of the Countess of Blessington / By R.R. Madden; half-title Countess of Blessington diaries, memoirs, etc. London: T.C. Newby 1855, 3 vols.
  • The Works of Lady Blessington. Philadelphia: E.L. Carey and A. Hart 1838, 2 vols. in 1.
Selections from the writings

Aneta Lipska, ed., The Travel Writings of Marguerite Blessington: the most gorgeous lady on the tour [Anthem Studies in Travel] (London: Anthem Press 2017) - Contents: Preface; Introduction; Part I: Texts; 1. Paratexts; 2. From life to text; 3. Fictional strategies; Part II: Images; 4. Natural sceneries; 5. Ruins and edifices; 6. Sacred art and religious practices; Part III: Spaces; 7. Genoa: Byron’s companion; 8. Naples: Lady of the house; 9. Rome and Venice: Romantic traveller; 10. Paris: Writer of fashion and revolution; Conclusion; Notes; Bibliography; Index.

—Available at COPAC with search strings <Marguerite Power> - online & <Countess Blessington> - online; accessed 30.09.2023.

See also ...
Rambles in Waltham Forest: A Stranger’s Contribution to the Triennial Sale for the Benefit of the Wanstead Lying-In Charity, by Marguerite, Countess of Blessington, ed. Stephen Behrendt [Nebraska U] (Alexander Street Press 2008)- available in digital format at “Irish Women Poets of the Romantic Period” -[online].

Silver Fork Novels, 1826-1841, gen. ed. Harriet Devine Jump (London: Pickering & Chatto 2005) - contains in sep. vols. 1. Thomas Henry Lister, Granby (1826), ed. Clare Bainbridge; 2. Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Romance and Reality (1831), ed. Cynthia Lawford; 3. Edward Bulwer, later Bulwer-Lytton, Godolphin (1833); 4. Marguerite, Countess of Blessington, The Victims of Society (1837), ed. Ann R. Hawkins and Jeraldine R. Kraver; 5. Rosina Bulwer, Cheveley: A Man of Honour (1839), ed. Marie Mulvey-Roberts; and 6. Catherine Gore, Cecil, or the Adventures of a Coxcomb (1841), ed. Andrea Hibbard and Edward Copeland.

[ top ]

  • Richard Robert Madden, Literary Life and Correspondence of the Countess of Blessington, 3 vols. (London: T.C. Newby 1855), 522pp.;
  • J. Fitzgerald Molloy, The Gorgeous Lady [Lady Blessington] (London: Downey & Co. 1896; 2nd & 3rd edns. 1896; 4th edn. 1897), xii, 436pp. [see Vol. 1 in Internet Archive - online]; another edn., 2 vols. (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons 1896); also de luxe edn. (London: Grolier Soc. 1896), 445pp. [1,000 copies for England and America].
  • Michael Sadlier, Blessington-D’Orsay: A Masquerade (London: Constable 1933), and Do. [new edn.] (London Constable 1944).
See also
  • Heidi Hansson, New Contexts: Re-framing Nineteenth-century Irish Women’s Prose (Cork UP 2008), 216pp. - deals with Lady Blessington, Maria Edgeworth, Somerville & Ross, et al.
  • Ann R. Hawkins and Maura Ives, eds., Women Writers and the Artifacts of Celebrity in the Long Nineteenth Century (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate 2012), xiv, 280pp.: ill., ports.; 24 cm. - incls. Katie Halsey, ‘The Portrait, the Beauty, and the Book: Celebrity and the Countess of Blessington.’
  • Susanne Schmid [Mainz U.], British Literary Salons of the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries [Nineteenth-Century Major Lives and Letters] (NY: Palgrave Macmillan 2013), 272pp. - incls. Chap. 6: ‘The Countess of Blessington as Hostess; From Irish Country Girl to London’s Outcast Queen: Lady Blessington’s Life.’

Note: Caro Peacock, Friends in High Places [A Liberty Lane Mystery, 7] (Sutton: Severn House 2015), 269pp., is a novel about involving the trial of Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte in Paris and a hanged man in Gore House, the Countess of Blessington’s Kensington home.

Sale Catalogues of Libraries of Eminent Persons, ed., with introductions by A[lan] N[oel] L[atimer] Munby (London: Mansell with Sotheby Publications 1971) – incls. those of Marguerite Gardiner (Countess of Blessington), Thomas Day, Thomas Gray, William Hayley, Samuel Rogers, Elias Ashmole, Robert Hooke, John Ray, and Edmond Halley. [The auctioneer presumably was Sotheby’s.]

[ top ]

Claire Connolly, ‘Irish Romanticism, 1800-1839’, in Cambridge History of Irish Literature (Cambridge UP 2006), Vol. I [Chap. 10]: ‘Lady Blessington (1789-1849) capitalised on her success with Sketches and Fragments and The Magic Lantern to publish Journal of a Tour through the Netherlands to Paris in 1821 (1822). Blessington moulds her observations to the established form of the “sketch”, already used by Owenson [Lady Morgan] in her Patriotic Sketches (1807), in which femininity becomes the politicised sign of an emotional susceptibility to the effects of history and politics on landscape. Blessington’s accounts of London focus on civic spaces that allow for a collision of classes, manners and accents.’ (p.425.)

[ top ]

Encyclopaedia Britannica (1949 edn), comments under ‘William Charles Macready (1793-1873)’ that ‘the first production of Bulwer’s Money took place under the artistic direction of Count d’Orsay.’

New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature (1969) cites Journal of Conversations of Lord Byron with the Countess of Blessington [pp.710-711].

Margaret Drabble, ed., The Oxford Companion to English Literature (OUP 1986) remarks that her Journal of Conversations with Lord Byron (1832) is of great importance in any consideration of his life abroad. Under D’Orsay [widely-known to be homosexual], ‘He was prominent at Gore House, at which Lady Blessington entertained’; she contrib. to The Dublin Journal of Temperance, Science and Literature (See also Brian McKenna, Irish Literature, 1978. p.32). Oxford Literary Guide, cites Journal of Conversations with Lord Byron (1832) - connected with Clonmel.

John Sutherland, The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction (Longmans 1988; rep. 1989) notes that the Earl of Blessington compensated her former protector with 10,000; silver fork and Irish novels; Grace Cassidy or the Repealers (1833); The Victims of Society (1837); The Governess (1839), prob. the first Victorian novel on this theme; The Lottery of Life (1842); Strathern (1845); Country Quarters (1850); further, [her] facile fiction chronicles the milieu soon after eclipsed by Victorian decency; her literary career was masterminded by [the publisher] Colburn.

Katie Donovan, A. N. Jeffares & Brendan Kennelly, eds., Ireland’s Women (Dublin: G&M 1994).

[ top ]

Portrait: There is a portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence in the Wallace Collection, London, and a miniature derived from it in the National Portrait Collection, Dublin.

Queries: Hans Christian Anderson visited Lady Blessington at Gore House, Leicestershire[?], where she held him by hand and spoke slowly, looking into his eyes. Every room in her house had an image of Napoleon. She introduced him to Dickens and Bulwer Lytton. She contrib. gossip column, Daily Mail.

[ top ]