[COUTTS, Angela Georgina Burdett-, letters, autographs, documents, manuscripts

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'The duke is not Miss Coutt's Private Secretary ...'

[COUTTS, Angela Georgina Burdett- (1814-1905). Philanthropist.]
Series of letters to Miss Burdett-Coutts from crazed suitors, together with related material including an Autograph Letter of the duke of Wellington. ca. Thirty-eight letters in all with thirteen envelopes, 1850-1863.

The principal actor in this bizarre drama is one E.H. Greene, who had evidently proposed marriage in early 1850 but had been rejected. He writes, quite sanely, on 12 January 1850 that 'I conclude ... that my expectations have been ill founded. I beg leave to apologize for the presumtpion I have been guilty of in ever entertaining them'. But this was only the beginning. There follows a stream of letters, some to an intermediary, Ellen Osborn. Greene takes the well-worn path of expressing his understanding, sending poetry, appealing to the Almighty etc. and then taking his delusions to the lawyers:

'... The Lady I have had the happiness to address has not consented to my entreaty to declare her wishes to me; yet she has kindly condescended to accept my attentions ...'
[21 January 1850]
' What the result may be I must leave your Ladyship
[A.B-C] to determine ...' [22 January]
'... no anxiety distresses me nor does a single doubt perplex my mind. I have every assurance, whatever your intentions towards me may be, they are kind sincere and good; and, should it be in reserve for me to enjoy such unspeakable happiness, I would have no hesitation on confiding in your pure and chaste bosom the inmost secrets of my heart. ...'
[23 January]
'I took the liberty of sending you, yesterday, a few lines of poetry, the humble effusion of my poor intellect ... that The Almighty may be graciously pleased to grant a consummation of my heartfelt wishes ...'
[24 January]

The duke of Wellington writes to Greene in some fury and consternation on 4 July 1850, threatening him with the Magistrates:
'... he has received two letters from Mr Greene, the one dated the 1 the other the 3 of July last containing two packets recevied from the local Post Office consisting of Letters addressed to Miss Burdett Coutts which it appears had been sent back to Mr Greene from the local Post Office! It appears that Mr Greene wishes that these Letters should be delivered by the Duke to Miss Burdett Coutts! The duke concludes that that lady had already declined to receive them and had returned them to the Post Office!
 'The duke is not Miss Coutt's Private Secretary; nor is he the Post Man; nor has he any Relation with the General Post Office!
 'He positively and distinctly declines to deliver these packets to Miss Burdett Coutts! ...'

Greene's characteristically sycophantic reply is on the reverse.

The suitor then appears to have tried the intermediacy of the duke of Cambridge before entering into his protracted correspondence with Miss Burdett-Coutts's lawyers, Messrs Humphrey & Son, in which he appears to suggest that he has in some way been libelled and wishes to be taken to court to make his case public.

There also included eight further documents, some from other lunatics, of a similar nature.

It is of course hardly surprising that Miss Burdett-Coutts, who had inherited some £1.8 million from her mother, would receive many proposals of marriage, often from suitors unknown to her and most of them quietly hoping to restore their own fortunes. She refused all, and returned letters unread. She was, however, very close to the duke of Wellington. In February 1847, when the widowed duke was almost eighty years of age and she in her early thirties she proposed marriage to him, but was politely refused although the two remained on the closest terms. In 1881, when she was sixty-six she scandalised society by reversing the procedure and marrying the twenty-nine-year-old American-born William Lehman Bartlett (who took the name Burdett-Coutts). The marriage resulted in the loss of a large part of her fortune, in consequence of a clause in her mother's will preventing her from enjoying her inheritance if she were to marry a foreigner.

[No: 25754]

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