Partner Catherine Talbot

Queer Places:
20 Clarges St, Mayfair, London W1J, Regno Unito
Grosvenor Chapel, 24 S Audley St, Mayfair, London W1K 2PA, Regno Unito

Elizabeth Carter (16 December 1717 – 19 February 1806) was an English poet, classicist, writer and translator. She was a member of the Bluestocking Circle that surrounded Elizabeth Montagu.[1] She had a romantic friendship with Catherine Talbot. The letters exchanged by writers Elizabeth Carter and Catherine Talbot during their lifelong romantic friendship contained numerous expressions of romantic and physical love. Elizabeth Carter wrote of her wild emotion for Talbot, claiming she is absolutely my passion; I think of her all day, dream of her all night, and one way or other introduce her into every subject I talk of. Talbot returned her feelings, sending her a lock of her hair and playfully worrying on one occasion that Carter had fallen in love with another woman, and the first is forgot.

Born in Deal, Kent, Elizabeth Carter was the oldest child of Rev. Nicolas Carter, perpetual curate of Deal, and his first wife Margaret (died c. 1728), only daughter and heir of Richard Swayne of Bere Regis, Dorset, who died when Elizabeth was ten.[2] Her redbrick family home can still be seen at the junction of South Street and Middle Street, close to the seafront. Encouraged by her father to study, she mastered several modern and ancient languages (including Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic) and science.

Carter rendered into English Jean-Pierre de Crousaz's ''Examen de l'essai de Monsieur Pope sur l'homme'' (''Examination of Mr Pope's "An Essay on Man"'', two volumes, 1739); Francesco Algarotti's ''Newtonianismo per le dame'' (''Newtonianism for women''); and wrote a small volume of poems. However, Carter's position in the pantheon of 18th-century women writers was ensured by her translation in 1758 of ''All the Works of Epictetus, Which are Now Extant'', the first English translation of the known works by the Greek stoic philosopher. This work made her name and fortune, securing her the spectacular sum of £1000 in subscription money.[3]

Carter was a friend of Samuel Johnson, editing some editions of his periodical ''The Rambler''.[4] He wrote, "My old friend, Mrs. Carter could make a pudding as well as translate Epictetus from the Greek and work a handkerchief as well as compose a poem."[5]

After Catherine died in 1770, Elizabeth made the acquaintance of the Bluestockings, female intellectuals such as Elizabeth Montagu, and she also knew other great thinkers of the day such as Fanny Burney. Catherine’s mother left a bequest to Elizabeth that enabled her to continue to live independently till her death in 1806, a gesture that suggests she valued the feelings Elizabeth had for her daughter and did not think ill of them.

Carter was friends with many other eminent people, as well as being a close confidant of Elizabeth Montagu, Hannah More, Hester Chapone, and other members of the Bluestocking circle. Anne Hunter, a minor poet and socialite, and Mary Delany were also noted as close friends.[6] The novelist Samuel Richardson included Carter's poem "Ode to Wisdom" in the text of his novel ''Clarissa'' (1747–48) without ascribing it to her. It was later published in a corrected form the ''Gentleman's Magazine'' and Carter received an apology from Richardson.

Carter appeared in the engraved (1777) and painted (1778) versions of Richard Samuel's ''The Nine Living Muses of Great Britain'' (1779) but the figures in the painting were so idealised that she complained she could not identify herself or anyone else in the work. Samuel had not done any sittings from life when preparing the work.[7]

Fanny Burney is quoted in Boswell's ''Life of Samuel Johnson'' as saying in 1780 she thought Carter "a really noble-looking woman; I never saw age so graceful in the female sex yet; her whole face seems to beam with goodness, piety, and philanthropy." However, Betsey Sheridan, sister of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the playwright, described her five years later in her diary as "rather fat and not very striking in appearance".

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