Marguerite, Countess of Blessington. Painted by Thomas Lawrence in 1822.
Marguerite, countess of Blessington (September 1, 1789 - June 4, 1849), nee Margaret Power, Irish novelist and miscellaneous writer, daughter of Edmund Power, a small landowner, was born near Clonmel, County Tipperary, Ireland.
Her childhood was made unhappy by her father's character and poverty, and her early womanhood wretched by her compulsory marriage at the age of fifteen to a Captain Maurice St Leger Farmer, whose drunken habits brought him at last as a debtor to the kings bench prison, where, in October 1817, he died.
His wife had left him some time before, and in February 1818 she married Charles John Gardiner, 1st Earl of Blessington. Of rare beauty, charm and wit, she was no less distinguished for her generosity and for the extravagant tastes which she shared, with her husband, which resulted in encumbering his estates with a load of debt. In the autumn of 1822 they went abroad, spent four months of the next year at Genoa where she met Byron on several occasions giving her material for her most famous work "Conversations with Lord Byron", and remained on the continent till Lord Blessington's death in May 1829.
Some time before this they had been joined by Count D'Orsay, who in 1827 married Lady Harriet Gardiner, Lord Blessington's only daughter by a former wife. D'Orsay, who had soon separated from his wife, now accompanied Lady Blessington to England and lived with her till her death. Their home, first at Seamore Place, and afterwards Gore House, Kensington, now the site of The Albert Hall, became a centre of attraction for whatever was distinguished in literature, learning, art, science and fashion. Benjamin Disraeli wrote "Venetia" whilst staying there.
After her husband's death she supplemented her diminished income by contributing to various periodicals as well as by writing novels. She was for some years editor of The Book of Beauty and The Keepsake, popular annuals of the day. In 1834 she published her Conversations with Lord Byron, perhaps the only one of her works which has any value. Her Idler in Italy (1839-1840), and Idler in France (1841) were popular for their personal gossip and anecdote, descriptions of nature and sentiment.
Early in 1849, Count D'Orsay left Gore House to escape his creditors; subsequently the furniture and decorations were sold in a public sale successfully discharging Lady Bessington's debts. Lady Blessington joined the count in Paris, where she died on the 4th of June 1849 of a burst heart. On examination it was found that her heart was three times normal size.
Her Literary Life and Correspondence (3 vols.), edited by RR Madden, appeared in 1855. Her portrait was painted in 1808 by Sir Thomas Lawrence and can be seen in The Wallace Collection, London.
- This article incorporates public domain text from: Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London, J.M. Dent & sons; New York, E.P. Dutton.
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopędia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
- Works by Marguerite, Countess of Blessington at Project Gutenberg