Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Harriot Clinton and Elizabeth Carter Diaries, 1771-1795

Finding aid created by
Kate Silbert, June 2012

Summary Information
Title: Harriot Clinton and Elizabeth Carter diaries
Creator: Carter, Elizabeth, ca. 1741-1817
Inclusive dates: 1771-1795
Extent: 13 volumes
Abstract:
The collection consists of a brief diary kept in 1771 by Harriot (Carter) Clinton, the wife of Sir Henry Clinton, and a 12-volume journal composed between 1774 and 1795 by her sister Elizabeth Carter, who oversaw the Clinton household during much of this time. Most of Elizabeth’s diary relates to household and farm management, health and medicine, leisure activities, and social life among the English gentry, with occasional references to political or military developments. The Clinton and Carter diaries are part of Series VIII within the larger Henry Clinton papers.

Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1958. M-1079.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown

Other Finding Aids:

The Harriot Clinton and Elizabeth Carter diaries are part of Series VIII within the larger Henry Clinton papers.

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

Harriot Clinton and Elizabeth Carter diaries, Henry Clinton papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Arrangement

The collection is arranged chronologically.


Biographical/Historical Note

Harriot (ca. 1746-1772) and Elizabeth (1741-1817) Carter were the daughters of Thomas Carter, Esq. Harriot married Sir Henry Clinton, a prominent British military figure, in February 1767 at St. George Parish in London. At the time of her death in 1772, they had at least four children: Augusta (1765-1852), William Henry (1769-1846), Henry (1771-1829), and Harriot (1772-1812). Before their marriage, they may have had an additional child, Frederick, who died in 1774.

Upon Harriot's death, Elizabeth and her sister Martha Carter (ca. 1745-1783) commenced overseeing the Clinton household and raising the children. Elizabeth also managed some of Henry Clinton's finances and papers for much of the period between 1775-1782, during which he served as a leading British officer and eventually commander-in-chief of the British forces in North America. Thomas Carter, Elizabeth and Martha's father, was part of the household until his death in 1782. For most of the 1770s and 1780s, Elizabeth Carter and the rest of the Clinton household split their time between the village of Weybridge in Surrey, a residence in London, and Bath. In later years, they also spent considerable time in Brighton, Cheltenham, and at Orwell Park, near Ipswich in Suffolk.

The Clinton boys each attended Eton in the 1780s before pursuing careers in the military. Both became professional soldiers and eventually served as members of Parliament. Elizabeth Carter's diary traces their education and some of their early military service, including William's designation as Groom of the Bed Chamber to the Duke of Gloucester (King George III's younger brother Prince William Henry) in March 1794 and promotion to lieutenant colonel in January 1795, as well as Henry's appointment as aide-de-camp to the Duke of York (Prince Frederick, the second son of King George III) in February 1793 and his wounding in Flanders in May 1794. William Henry Clinton married Louisa Dorothea Holroyd in 1797, and Henry wed Susan Charteris in December 1799. Both women were members of aristocratic families, with whom the Clinton household had long-standing relationships.

The two Clinton girls were also educated, mostly by private instructors at their home. Augusta Clinton eloped with Henry Dawkins (1765-1852), the son of a prominent Jamaica landholder, in 1788. Their first child, Henry, was born in November of that year. They eventually had six sons and four daughters and lived at Over Norton Park in Oxfordshire. In 1799, Harriot Clinton married Henry Chester, a general in the British military.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of a brief diary kept in 1771 by Harriot Clinton, the wife of Sir Henry Clinton, and a 12-volume journal composed between 1774 and 1795 by her sister Elizabeth Carter, who oversaw the Clinton household during much of this time. Most of Elizabeth’s diary relates to household and farm management, health and medicine, leisure activities, and social life among the English gentry, with occasional references to political or military developments.

Harriot Clinton's diary is a small leather-bound volume of The Ladies New and Polite Pocket Memorandum-Book that consists of brief financial accounts and entries that she composed in Weybridge and London in 1771. She noted information about her children and their health (including Henry's birth), social activities and visits, and goods that she had purchased. A number of the acquaintances she listed, including the Duke of Newcastle, Lord and Lady Milsingtown, the Bulls, and Mr. Jenkins, reappear in her sister's diary.

Elizabeth Carter's 12-volume journal stretches from 1774, when the four Clinton children were young, to their father Sir Henry Clinton's death in 1795. With the exception of gaps in the diary during family disruptions or personal illness, Carter wrote brief entries daily during this 20-year time span.

During Sir Henry Clinton's time away in 1774 and for much of 1775-1782, Carter kept track of when she or her sister wrote to or received letters from "the dear Genl." and additionally noted any intermediary parties involved in handling the correspondence. Most of these intermediaries were members of the military. In addition to overseeing the General's papers and sending him supplies during this time, she occasionally remarked about military developments, including the British defeat at Bunker Hill (June 17, 1775), the trial and execution of Major John André (November 15 and December 3, 1780), the capture of Saint Eustatius (March 13, 1781), and the British surrender at Yorktown (November 1782). Upon Henry Clinton’s return and residence with the family, she recorded his outings and activities, including the hours he kept while serving as a member of the House of Commons.

The bulk of the diary, however, pertains to the daily life of the Clinton household as the four children grew up and as the family followed the seasonal shifts between town and country, which were fashionable among the English gentry.

Carter regularly reported on the health and activities of the household. She listed daily social visits, walks or rides out, and guests that came for tea. Over the course of the diary, she remarked on a variety of medical ailments, including rheumatism, sore throat, chicken pox, measles, and sprains, as well as treatments, including cupping, bleeding, emetics, rhubarb, and being "electrified." She also noted the first time that Harriot had her hair shaved (July 5, 1780) and that Henry first dressed and powdered his hair (January 29, 1786). In entries from the 1770s and early 1780s, she remarked on the progress of her nieces' and nephews' education, including the boys' matriculation at Eton, the girls’ attendance at a dancing academy, as well as the visits to the Clinton home of several music and art instructors, including painter Noel Joseph Desenfans, composer Dr. Charles Burney, and naturalist James Bolton. Eventually, her accounts shifted to record the Clinton offspring's entry into formal society, outings, and, for William and Henry, professional pursuits.

The journal also offers brief glimpses into the lives and activities of the Clinton family's servants, most of whom Carter only referred to by their first names. She often noted when servants went on special errands, accompanied one of the children for a ride or walk, or traveled between the family's residences. The journal also includes a few scattered notes about servants' wages, dismissals, or health.

The content of the diary reflects the household's seasonal residences. The entries from Weybridge convey details about farm laborers, the crops (hay, oats, barley, wheat, and rye), and stock (horses, cows, pigs, and chickens), along with notes about social calls and leisure activities (cricket matches, fishing, horse races, and hunting). When Orwell Park in Ipswich replaced Weybridge as the family's country retreat around 1785, Carter continued to record leisure activities but no longer mentioned farm concerns, with the exception of the care of horses.

In entries that Carter wrote from London or Bath, she mentioned trips to the theater and opera, concerts, assemblies, card playing, and private parties. She also noted her father and male relatives frequenting coffee houses. Some outings and events of particular note include:

  • An encounter with the King and Duke of Gloucester in the park (April 26, 1775)
  • The Duchess of Kingston's trial for bigamy (April 1776)
  • Organ performances by Samuel Wesley (June 17, 1778)
  • The Newgate Prison riots (June 1780)
  • Augusta’s presentation at St. James Palace (March 1787)
  • The trial of Warren Hastings, governor general of India (May 1789)
  • The marriage of the Prince of Wales (April 8, 1795)
  • Harriot's introduction to the Princess of Wales at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton (October 1, 1795)

Finally, the diary sheds light on the Clinton household's extensive connections among the English gentry, as Carter consistently named the men and women with whom she, Sir Henry Clinton, or her nieces and nephews socialized.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Agriculture--Great Britain.
    • Animal husbandry.
    • Bath (England)
    • Brighton (England)
    • Card games.
    • Carter, Martha, d. 1783.
    • Carter, Thomas, d. 1782.
    • Cheltenham (England)
    • Clinton, Augusta, 1768-1852.
    • Clinton, Harriot, 1772-1812.
    • Clinton, Henry, Sir, 1738?-1795.
    • Clinton, Henry, Sir, 1771-1829.
    • Clinton, William Henry, 1769-1846.
    • Dawkins, Henry, 1765-1852.
    • Education--Great Britain.
    • Great Britain. Army--Officers.
    • Great Britain--Politics and government--1760-1789.
    • Great Britain--Social life and customs--18th century.
    • Health and medicine.
    • Household employees--Great Britain.
    • London (England)
    • Nobility--Great Britain.
    • Sports and leisure.
    • Suffolk (England)
    • Surrey (England)
    Contributors:
    • Clinton, Harriot, ca. 1746-1772.
    Genre Terms:
    • Account books.
    • Diaries.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Additional Descriptive Data

    The Harriot Clinton and Elizabeth Carter diaries are part of Series VIII within the larger Henry Clinton papers.

    Bibliography

    "Clinton." In The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1790-1820, edited by R. Thorne, 451-453. London: Published for the History of Parliament Trust by Secker & Warburg London, 1986.

    "Henry Dawkins (1765-1852)." In The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1790-1820, edited by R. Thorne. London: Published for the History of Parliament Trust by Secker & Warburg London, 1986.

    Chapman, John H., ed. The Register Book of Marriages belonging to the Parish of St. George, Hanover Square, in the County of Middlesex, Beginning April 1725. Registers, Vol. 11 in The Publications of the Harleian Society. London: 1886.