Reading Mary Booth (1704–1772)

Ed Potten has been commissioned by the National Trust to prepare an exhibition on the remarkable library of Lady Mary Booth (1704-1772) at Dunham Massey, as part of a wider exhibition on her life and influence.

Mary Booth was born into an inward-looking and at times unhappy household, in poor repair, facing huge debt and still dominated by the legacy of her grandfather, Henry Booth, 1st Earl of Warrington. Inheriting an estate in ruin, her father, the 2nd Earl, married the wealthy heiress Mary Oldbury in 1702. For him the marriage was motivated solely by money, so much so that during its arrangement he expressed indifference as to which of the Oldbury daughters he would marry. His young wife immediately fell short of his expectations, and expressed her unhappiness through any means possible. The marriage was deeply unhappy, he obsessed with his finances, she disappointed and disillusioned. Mary was their only child, and after her birth husband and wife lived separate lives.

George Booth 2nd Earl of Warrington (1675-1758) and his Daughter Lady Mary Booth later Countess of Stamford (1704-1772) - Michael Dahl (Stockholm 1656:9 – London 1743)

The Library shows, however, that Mary broke free from the mould set by her father and grandfather. On the shelves we can chart every stage of Mary’s life, and her books paint a vivid picture of a powerful, devout, intelligent and appealing character, who changed the direction and culture of the estate she inherited. As reader and writer she left a rich legacy.

The exhibition will run from 24 March, 2018.

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