Arabella Williams – Le Petit Matelot – yet another update!


We can’t believe it we already have yet another update from Mick who has so kindly provided some more snippets about Arabella’s fascinating family that we thought you would like to read. We agree with Mick that Arabella’s mother Lucy Mallet (nee Elstob) seems to have been a nightmare!

Barbarism and Religion, Volume 1 By J. G. A. Pocock

Charlemont writes: “I never saw him [Hume] so much displeased, or so much disconcerted as by the Petulance of Mrs. Mallet, the pert and conceited Wife of Bolingbroke’s Editor. This lady, who was not acquainted with Hume, meeting with him one night at an Assembly, boldly accosted him in these Words – “Mr. Hume, Give me leave to introduce myself to you. We Deists ought to know each other” “Madam,” replied he, “I am no Deist. I do no style myself so, neither do I desire to be known by that Appellation“;

“Anecdote of Hume,” Royal Irish Academy (MS-12/R/7, f.523); Ernest Campbell Mossner, The Life of David Hume (Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1954), 395

A History, Critical and Biographical, Of British Authors, From The Earliest: page 41

When Gibbon the historian was dismissed from his college at Oxford for embracing popery, he took refuge in Mallet’s house, and was rather scandalised, he says, than reclaimed, by the philosophy of his host. Wilkes mentions that the vain and fantastic wife of Mallet one day lamented to a lady that her husband suffered in reputation by his name being so often confounded with that of Smollett; the lady wittily answered, “Madam, there is a short remedy; let your husband keep his own name.”

David Hume letter from Paris April and Sept 1764

I saw a few days ago Mrs. Mallet, who seems to be going upon a strange project, of living alone, in a hermitage, in the midst of the forest of Fontainbleau. …

Mrs Mallet has retired into the Forrest of Fontainebleau with a Macgregor. I fancy she is angry with me, and thought herself neglected by me while in Paris. I heard of her thrusting herself everywhere into Companies, who endeavoured to avoid her; and I was afraid she would have laid hold of me to enlarge her Acquaintance among the French.

 Sarah Scott, in undated letter, 1755 ca; Gentleman’s Magazine 75 (March 1805) 219

This Mallet married the youngest Miss Elstob, daughter to the late lord Carlisle’s steward, perhaps you may have seen her at Ripon, — an odious conceited pedant….

 Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen – Volume 3.

His (Mallets) second wife is reported to have been particularly proud, and anxious that he should, at all times appear like a man of the first rank. She reserved to herself the pleasing task of purchasing all his fine clothes, and was always sure to let her friends know it was out of her fortune she did so.

As Mallet was what is called a free-thinker in religion, his wife also, who prided herself in the strength of her understanding, scrupled not, when surrounded at her table with company of congenial opinions, amongst whom it is said Gibbon was a frequent guest, to enforce her dogmas in a truly authoritative style, prefacing them with the exclamation of “Sir—We Deists.”

She believed that her husband was the greatest poet and wit of the age. Sometimes she would seize his hand and kiss it with rapture, and if the looks of a friend expressed any surprise, would apologize that it was the dear hand that wrote those divine poems.

 Lucy Mallet and Elizabeth Elstob

Ballads and Songs says “It does not appear that he (Lewis Elstob) was at all related to the famous Anglo-Saxon scholars of the name, who were natives of Newcastle-on-Tyne.”

In fact Lucy was related to the famous Anglo-Saxon scalars i.e. Elizabeth and William Elstob in quite a shameful way. Elizabeth was quite famous in her day and is the subject of many books/articles and is remembered as a pioneering feminist and perhaps Britain’s first professional woman (she is also my favourite ancestor).  Her life choice left her abandoned by her wealthy family and at times seen her destitute. In later life she received and income from Queen Anne’s’ bounty until the queen died.  Elizabeth lived out her final years in the household of the Dowager Duchess of Portland which is where Lucy found her shortly before her death.

The Autobiography and correspondence of Mary Granville (Mrs Delany) also provides us with an insight into the character of Lucy

“Mrs. Elstob is gradually drawing towards that happy repose which we may presume so good a woman may obtain. I have made her many visits during my constant attendance at Whitehall…

She never desires any clergyman to come to her, and her Cousin Mallet (the Bolingbroke Mr. Mallet’s wife) visits her very often, who is a Roman Catholic, and alarms the Duchess very much ; she brings her presents of chocolate, and seems to pay great court to her.

I wish if the poor woman has any little sum that she will bestow on the friend (Mrs. Capon)… but I fear she is not in favour, and I don’t know in a letter how to tell you the particulars about it”.

Mrs. Delany’s remarks after Elizabeth Elstob’s death:

“I suppose she cannot have left much money : seventy guineas were found, but whether she has any stock of any kind cannot be known till her papers are enquired into, which was to be done as soon as  Mrs Mallet and her sister  Mrs Elstob (her two nearest relations) could come to look over them”.

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