I have always been interested in this departure from what high society deemed appropriate at that time. Much of this commentary was in my earlier publications of the "The Circle of the Rose".
Or Bluestocking Stories:
The aim and inspiration of the BasBleu, or English Salon, was to enjoy society in "blue stockings" that is without the forms and ceremonies of fashion.
MRS. MONTAGU and MRS. VESEY are said to have invented the art of conversation as a Social Function. There was no hint of affectation then attached to the word bluestocking, which was indiscrimitately applied to men and women.
A lightening sketch of a "Conversazione" by MRS. THRALE reveals the normal mingling of the sexes: "Mrs. Montagu was brilliant in diamonds, solid in judgement, critical in talk. Sophy smiled, Piozzi sang, Pepys panted with admiration,, Johnson was good humoured, Lord John Clinton attentive, Dr. Bowdler lame and my master not asleep. Mrs. Ord looked elegant, Lady Rothes dainty, Mrs. Davenant dapper, and Sir Philip's curls were blown in the wind."
HANNAH MOORE refers to "a very pleasant comical dinner" of "only nine females" as a startling experiment - and she adds that "we all agreed that men were by no means so necessary as we had been foolish enough to fancy".
They took up serious activities without neglecting the social amenities. Above all they dissociated themselves from Swift's "woman of quality, who scrawled and spelt like a wapping wench". They found no shame in studying the classics, a little science, and a good deal of philosophy. They established the right of women to use their minds and charm mankind by their wits.
Always ladies, not pedants, they regarded life with intelligence and common sense, formed their own opinions, followed their own tastes; and accomplished something toward the ideal of a gay and frank comradeship with brilliant and learned men.
MRS. DELANEY was often regarded as their doyenne although she was not an active Bas Bleu. She did provide an example of femenine distinction that other ladies were content to follow. She was a beloved friend of Their Royal Majesties.
The so-called Queen of the Bluestockings was ELIZABETH MONTAGU. She had a constant stream of conversation and was a very extraordinary woman who "displayed such powers of ratiocination, such radiations of intellectual eminence, as are amazing".
MRS. VESEY, "The Sylph", had a gay and volatile nature, and abhorring a formal arrangement was wont to push all the small sofas, as well as the chairs, pell mell about the apartments, and even placed the seats back-to-back so that individuals could or could not converse as they pleased.
All the Bas Bleu ladies were ardent Richardsonians, but MRS. CHAPONE's link with the great novelist was extremely close. Some of his most attractive female characters were based, it is said, upon her.
. . .to be ontinued . . .