The Bute Family video transcript

This story begins in a library, the room where Mary Pierrepont spent her childhood reading the plays and novels among her fatherʼs books.

Like many other people of that time, she bought and read playbooks just as people do novels today – she talked of ʻyour dear romances and beloved playbooksʼ. Sometimes she wrote her opinions of these plays in the books themselves ʻgoodʼ, ʻbadʼ, ʻindifferentʼ, ʻa good plot, but a silly playʼ.

In 1712 she eloped with Edward Wortley Montagu, who shared her love of books.

In an age when all a married womanʼs property belonged to her husband, Lady Mary took great care to keep a hold of her own library. When she went to live in Italy in 1739, she took with her several boxes of books, including 51 volumes of playbooks.

Lady Mary left her books, along with all her other property, to her eldest daughter, who was married to the Third Earl of Bute, a Scottish aristocrat who served his friend King George III as Prime Minister. The Butes had a splendid home at Luton Hoo, with a beautiful library, where the playbooks now moved.

The Butesʼ eldest son succeeded to his fatherʼs title and to all his property in 1792, and soon was elevated to become the First Marquess of Bute. Like his father, he was a collector, and he added to the collection some of the most valuable items in it – the early Shakespeare quartos.

By 1814 the collection of playbooks, originaly started by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu simply for the enjoyment of reading had become a substantial library. Rebound and recatalogued, the books became part of the Crichton Stuart family estate and remained in the familyʼs houses until 1939.

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