Sunday, June 7, 2015

Henrietta Louisa Fermor, Countess of Promfret: Letter Writter and Gothic Revivalist

Lord and Lady Pomfret painted by Thomas Bardwell

Henrietta Louisa Fermor (née Jeffreys) was born at Lisle Street, London on 15 February 1698 the only surviving child of John Jeffreys, second Baron Jeffreys, and his wife, Lady Charlotte Herbert, the daughter of Philip, seventh earl of Pembroke and fourth earl of Montgomery. Henrietta’s father, who “is said to have exceeded even his father in his powers of drinking” (Halliday), died in 1702. Just over a year later, her mother remarried Thomas, Lord Windsor, which would provide Henrietta with five half-siblings. The only other information that can be gleaned from her obscure childhood was an early distaste for the Roman Catholic Church, seen in her unwillingness to attend Roman Catholic mass with her mother in 1718 until her mother “[renounced] the errors of the church of Rome” (Quaintance).
                Henrietta married Thomas Fermor, second baron Leominster on 14 July 1720. From there she moved from her childhood home to her new husband’s country seat at Easton Neston, Northamptonshire. The couple would not remain there long and soon moved to a London home in Hanover Square where they had their first child, Sophia, on 29 May 1721. The couple would go on to have three sons and six daughters. Later that year, on 27 December Thomas became the first earl of Pomfret (or Pontefract), Yorkshire. Henrietta and her husband had a close relationship with the Prince and Princess of Wales, George and Caroline, and chose them to be the godparents of their first son, George. Their close relationship was further cemented when Henrietta became a Lady of the Bedchamber for Princess Caroline in May of 1725 and when her husband was promoted to KB, Knight Companion of the Order of the Bath, in 1725. The earl also became Master of the Horse for Caroline on 28 October 1727, after she became Queen. Henrietta and her husband, however, were not the only members of their family to participate in court functions. A painting by William Hogarth from 1732 captures Sophia, the eldest child, performing a scene from Dryden’s Performance of the Indian Emperor, or, The Conquest of Mexico for several members of the royal family, including the Duke of Cumberland, Princess Mary, and Princess Louisa. Henrietta was also chosen to accompany Princess Amelia to Bath and Turnbridge Wells and acted as a Lady of the Bedchamber to Augusta, Princess of Wales, when she wed Frederick on 27 April 1736. These outings allowed for Henrietta and the earl to tour Leiden, Brussels, and part of the Low Countries in June and July of 1736. 

An engraving of Hogarth's original painting

                After over a decade in the court, the Pomfret couple left court life in 1737 after the death of Queen Caroline and eventually joined their daughters, Sophia and Charlotte, on the continent. Around this time, Henrietta began to write frequent letters to Frances, countess of Hertford, who had also retired from court in 1737, and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. The letters exchanged between Lady Hertford and Lady Pomfret include happenings of parliament, descriptions of Lady Pomfret’s travels, as well as bits of poetry composed for the enjoyment of the receiver. Lord and Lady Pomfret met with noted individuals, such as Lady Mary and Horace Walpole during their travels and short visits in Monts outside of Paris, Siena, and Florence. Walpole visited with the Pomfrets while they were in Florence and made “charming conversation” with them weekly (Dobson, 48). When Lady Mary arrived in Florence in August of 1740, she was warmly greeted by Lady Pomfret but mocked by Horace Walpole who stated in a letter to Henry Seymour Conway in September of 1740, “[Lady Mary] wears a foul mob, that does not cover her greasy black locks, that hang loose, never combed or curled; an old mazarine blue wrapper, that gapes open and discovers a canvas petticoat” (Dobson, 49). Despite Walpole’s cruel description, it appears Lady Pomfret was incredibly pleased to see her friend. After three years of traveling about the continent, Lord and Lady Pomfret returned to England in 1741, stopping in Rome, Venice, Bolzano, Augsburg, the Rhine, and finally, Brussels, along the way. Her friendship with Lady Hertford had grown throughout Lady Pomfret’s travels due to their constant correspondence. In a letter written August 1741 from Brussels, Lady Pomfret described the “little memorials” she intended on bringing back to England to show her friends and admits how she yearns to return to England and to Lady Hertford (Correspondence, 373). Upon reaching England, Lord and Lady Pomfret set up a new home on New Bond Street in London where they would remain until shortly after the earl’s death on 8 July 1753.
                After the death of her husband, Lady Pomfret’s son George became the second earl of Pomfret. Although he had his own estate, George’s extravagant spending habits resulted in Lady Henrietta purchasing 135 statues from the Arudenlian collection that were in his possession, which she donated to the University of Oxford in 1755. The generous donation was commemorated with a poem titled, “On Lady Pomfret’s Benefaction to the University of Oxford.”
                Both Lady Pomfret and her husband had been supporters of the eighteenth- century revival of Gothic architecture. In 1755, she began building what would become known as the Pomfret Castle at 18 Arlington Street, which stood as a major example of the Gothic revival. The Pomfret cabinet, located inside the house but most likely commissioned before Lord Pomfret’s death, is considered “one of the most spectacular examples of 1750s Gothic revival furniture in terms of form, heraldry and contrasting polychrome (Lindfield, 79). The frame from the portait of the couple seen above is another another example of the Gothic design the couple favored. 

The Pomfret Castle at 18 Arlington Street
The Pomfret Cabinet

                Lady Henrietta Pomfret died on 17 December 1761 while traveling to Bath. She was buried at St. Mary’s Church, Oxford, although her will requested she be buried with her husband at Easton Neston.

Fermor, Henrietta Louisa, countess of Pomfret (1698–1761),” Richard Quaintance in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, eee ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: OUP, 2004); online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, May 2015, (accessed June 6, 2015).
Clerk, Thomas. The Works of William Hogarth. London: Black and Armstrong, 1837.
Dobson, Austin. Horace Walpole: A Memoir. New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1890.
Femor, Henrietta Louisa and Frances Seymore. Correspondence Between Frances, Countess of Hartford and Henrietta Louisa, Countess of Pomfret, Between the Years 1738 and 1741. London: R. Phillips, 1805.
Halliday, Paul D.. “Jeffreys, George, first Baron Jeffreys (1645–1689).” Paul D. Halliday In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed., edited by Lawrence Goldman, May 2009. (accessed June 6, 2015).
Hayden, Joseph Timothy and Horace Ockerley. The Book of Dignities. London: W.H. Allen and Co., 1890.
Lindfield, Peter N. “The Countess of Pomfret’s Gothic Revival Furniture.” The Georgian Group Journal. (2014): 77-94. Accessed June 6, 2014.
Vivian, John. A Poem on the Countess of Pomfret’s Benefaction to the University of Oxford. Oxford: W Jackson, 1756.

No comments:

Post a Comment