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The Diary of Mary Ravenscroft, the 7th Countess of Traquair. Part 1
Every few weeks we will bring you some glimpses into family life at Traquair in the later 18th century, recorded in the greatest of detail by Mary Ravenscroft, the wife of Charles, 7th Earl of Traquair. She was the daughter of George Ravenscroft of Wickham Grange, Spalding, Lincolnshire, and his wife, Mary Slater. Charles and Mary married in 1773. Their first child, Lady Louisa Stuart, was born in 1776 and their son, Charles Stuart (titled Lord Linton as heir to the Earldom of Traquair), in 1781.
You will see references below to the young family possibly going abroad. They did in fact leave Traquair a year after Mary ended this diary, with her husband convinced the fortunes of the family could be elevated in Spain. Mary died in Madrid in 1796, never having returned home.
This first instalment covering a fraction of one day followed by two full days serves as a snapshot of life in the house and gives us a fascinating insight into Mary’s daily pursuits. It is also important from the point of view of medical history in that it begins the timetable of the young Lord Linton’s inoculation against smallpox, a preventative measure then in its infancy. Read about Linton’s reaction to the inoculation, noted meticulously by his mother who proved herself a devoted nurse to him, in subsequent instalments.
Notes about the Diary
* It is unbound and consists of 55 loose folios.
* It contains many abbreviations. For ease of reading these are expanded wherever possible. Square brackets are used where there is an element of doubt. A colon, used by Mary as an abbreviation, remains where it has not been possible to identify the complete word or name.
* Mary has used the third person throughout, referring to herself as Ly. T., i.e. Lady Traquair. Her husband is referred to as Ld. T.
* As was usual at the time, punctuation is random, capital letters are used indiscriminately, spellings are inconsistent and dashes frequently used in place of full stops. This style has been retained for authenticity. The overall appearance of the script is hurried, with many marginal notes, additions and crossings-out.
* Marginal notes are given as indented text and are placed roughly in line with where they appear on the page, even if this destroys the flow of the narrative.
* An image of part of the transcribed text is supplied to show the character of the document.
Wednesday 23 April 1783
Linton was Inoculated in ye Parlour Lady Traquair held him on her knee – he only Cryed a little – Lord Traquair played with him – gave him Toys to devert him – went to Bed very pleasantly – he took 1 Grain Calomel [laxative] in bread & milk. Mr Reid went to Peebles between 8 & 9
Thursday 24 April 1783
Linton had a good night, rose about 8 o’clock gave him 2 grains of Jallup in some Raisins kept his room all day was not washed & kept his night cap on. Lady Traquair made him Chicken Broth half a fowl Physic operated very well 3 motions had Rice Pudding without eggs or butter for his dinner did not eat much of it, but eat a great deal of Toast & Bread & took all his Chicken Broth
About 12 Coach went to Peebles for Mrs Rad: who arrived at Traquair between 3 & 4 with Mr Steward & Nurse Sawn.
Mr J[ame]s Ball: arrived at Traquair from Edinburgh about 3 o’clock – after dinner Lady Traquair Mrs Rad: & Louisa walked in ye Garden. Lady Traquair sent Louisa to gather flowers for Mr Steward Mr Cru[kshank] & Mr Ball: whilst she talked with Mrs Rad: told about Miss B.& Mr W. that Lady Traquair had inform Miss B. that she knows of ye Affair etc. Lord & Lady Traquair saw Linton go to Bed. Linton took porridge for supper.
Lady Traquair went first from Parlour to Mrs Rad: 11 o’clock did not intend to stay but staid till between one & 2 o’clock Mrs Rad: telling Lady Traquair about her daughter’s Lady appearing to them etc. etc. Mr Steward not well in his health speaks ye Galic troubled with Stomach Complaints Dr Gre: Grant attends him.
Friday 25 April 1783
Linton had a good night. Lady Traquair had the Calico Lining took out of his day Cap & went through ye house wanting his Clothes & hatt – as soon Linton was dressed & out of ye room Lady Traquair ordered ye Fire to be taken out of ye room & one kept in Blue room went out doors as soon as got his Breakfast.
Lady Traquair advised Mrs Rad: to prevail on her daughter to go to Confession to B[ishop] Ged[des] as being ye properest Person in her Situation to go to.
Had water porridge & milk – had his room well aired & Bed Curtains all up when went to Sleep – took good Sleep fore noon had week mutton Broth for dinner & pudding Mr McIver made without eggs or butter – went out again after dinner – had a very high Colour in his in Evening – eat his broth well but not ye pudding had porridge for supper. Lady Traquair saw him undress & go to Bed – left off his flannel waistcote at night had on a Calico one
Mr Steward took Calomile Tea before dinner & was to take it again in ye afternoon.
Mrs Rad: wrote her daughter to go to Confession to B----p Geddes
Mrs Rad: told Lady Traquair Sir Alexander Strachan was to come to Traquair to endeavour to prevent Lord & Lady Traquair from going Abroad - & that Bishop Geddes wished ye family to remain at Traquair would do any thing to serve them – that B----p Geddes heared Abbe Colbert advised ye Ladies at Paris to employ Wal: Fer: Lady Traquair told Mr Cruk[shank] a good deal what Mrs Rad: had said relating her daughter etc. etc. – that Mr Cruk[shank] & Lady Traquair believed it to be an Illusion etc. Mr James Ball: went away after Breakfast – Lord Traquair rode to Inverleithen to see the houses building.
Linton had one motion in ye Evening & Slept without fire in ye room for first night that year
Gard: told Lady Traquair ye nursery side of Good with ye bit going would answer him for Tilliage if Lord Traquair liked & then it would not alter ye Plan of ye Grass Parks.
Lady Traquair spoke to Mrs Rad: about girl hired for Linton by ye accounts seems as if she would answer.
To continue reading please see part two.