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Overview

The Beaumont Library Catalogue contains handwritten records of entries from the personal libraries of Sir George Howland Beaumont and Lady Margaret, granddaughter of Sir John Willes, Lord Chief Justice of Common Pleas at Astrop. This catalog enables sociologists and literary scholars to examine one aspect of the intellectual, literary, and social interests in England during the time of the French Revolution. Specifically, the catalog contains references to works by Pope, Gray, and Thomson; classics; novels; books on travel and the sciences; plus period books from the 1790s, including the 1783 Works by Benjamin Franklin.

The historical significance of this collection issues from the tremendous impact of the French Revolution on the Beaumonts. As this upheaval removed the medieval social strata of Europe and opened paths to 19th-century liberalism, the nobility and the clergy nervously watched the spread of Republican ideals. During his service to Parliament (1790-1796), Sir George visited Paris, witnessing the mob violence. It is conjectured that he and his wife provided refuge for political exiles including the French clergyman Michael Heude. Pastor Heude, in fact, appears to have written the majority of entries in the Beaumonts' library catalog.

The Catalog and Its Provenance It appears that Heude wrote 600 entries and over 1,500 volumes--clearly the bulk of the text. A second, unidentified handwriting follows with 13 entries from 1790-1794, and a third handwriting appears to be that of Lady Beaumont, adding 40 or 50 entries from 1794-1797.

The catalog reveals much about aristocratic tastes of the period. Sir George enjoyed the writings of Burke and Johnson, as well as Parliamentary debates and legal, constitutional, and economics volumes. Being an artist, he also possessed several art books, including Principles of Beauty by A. Cozens, under whom Beaumont was a student. Beaumont was also a friend and benefactor of Wordsworth, who often visited Beaumont at Coleorton Hall. Wordsworth said that some of his best poems were written on the grounds of Coleorton.

The religious sections of the library were long, including two copies of Taylor's Holy Living and The Improvement of the Mind and a Supplement to the Art of Logick by I. Watts (1743). Lady Beaumont's scholarly interests are revealed by the entries of the three geometry textbooks added in her hand and the record that she received tuition on Euclid from John (later Sir) Barrow. The catalog also indicates she read many works on gardening and botany, which led to discussions and correspondence with Wordsworth and Price.

As historians contemplate the French Revolution's effect on the political and social culture of the Western world, this catalog provides significant source material.

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