Immensely learned, self-educated in an era when formal schooling was denied to women, Mary Wortley Montagu was an admired poet, a consistently scandalous doyenne of eighteenth-century London society, and, in a period when letter-writing had been elevated to an art form, one of the greatest letter writers in the English language. Her epistles, meant for both public and private consumption, are the product of a mind distinguished by its adventurousness, its indifference to convention, and its eagerness not only to acquire knowledge but to convey it with unmitigated style and grace.

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