Power, Marguerite


Power, Marguerite
Countess of Blessington


Bibliographic Dictionary Entry




O'Toole, Tina


Munster Women Writers Project, University College Cork


Women in Irish Society Project, University College Cork




Munster, Ireland, 1800-2000








Power, Marguerite


O'Toole, Tina

Birth Date


Death Date



Knockbrit, Co Tipperary

Place of Association

Clonmel, Co Tipperary

Biographical Text

Daughter of a small landowner from Clonmel, Marguerite Power had an interesting and varied career. Her childhood was dismal, due to her father's violent temper. He was regarded as a traitor to the Catholic cause as a result of his efforts to put down the '98 rising in the area. Forced by him to marry at the age of fifteen, she fled from her violent husband, Captain Farmer after three months, returning to live with her parents. Farmer's military career ended when he drew a sword on his commanding officer in a quarrel - he was allowed to resign and friends shipped him to the East Indies. He returned to England in 1816, and died after a fall from a window ledge at Fleet Prison during a drunken party. By that time, his widow had left Ireland for London, residing first in the fashionable Manchester Square, and then later at St.James' Square, where she soon earned a reputation as a famous hostess. Her biographer asserts that her conduct after the separation was beyond reproach, which suggests that there were rumours of indiscretions.

In 1818, a few months after Farmer's death, Marguerite married Charles John Gardiner, Earl of Blessington. Their shared tastes were extravagant, and his estates heavily in debt. They went abroad in 1822, visited Byron in Genoa, and lived on the Continent until Blessington's death in 1829. The Count d'Orsay travelled with them, first as a friend, and then married the Earl's daughter. Following the Earl's death, this marriage broke up, and the Count set up home next-door to Lady Blessington in London, their relationship causing scandal for many years.
After her husband's death, she supplemented her considerably reduced income by writing novels, and contributing to various publications as author or editor. The Idler books were popular for their gossip, anecdote and sentiment. Her novels seem to have mainly consisted of fictionalised accounts of the lives of the aristocracy, as Tynan points out: "Lady Blessington introduces to her readers the leading representatives of art, literature, politics [...] whom she has received as friends or met in society" (Cabinet of Irish Literature vol.4). She also edited The Keepsake and The Book of Beauty for several years, as well as contributing sketches and articles to other periodicals of the day. Despite her large earnings, she went bankrupt and fled to Paris in 1849, where she died of apoplexy.


The Magic Lantern, or, Sketches of Scenes in the Metropolis London Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown 1822
Sketches and Fragments 1822
Conversations with Lord Byron Colburn's New Monthly Magazine 1832
Grace Cassidy, or The Repealers 1833
Meredyth 1833
Journal of Conversations with Lord Byron 1834
The Two Friends London Saunders and Otley 1835
The Confessions of an Elderly Gentleman London Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longman 1836
The Victims of Society Paris A & W Galignan 1837
The Idler in Italy London Henry Colburn 1839
The Governess 1839
The Idler in France Paris Baudry's European Library 1841
Memoirs of a Femme de Chambre Leipzig Bernhard Tauchnitz 1846
Marmaduke Herbert, or, The Fatal Error Leipzig Berhard Tauchnitz 1847
Country Quarters Leipzig Bernhard Tauchnitz 1850
The Confessions of an Elderly Lady and of an Elderly Gentleman London Simms and McIntyre 1853
The Belle of a Season London Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longman n.d.
The Confessions of an Elderly Lady [Unpublished] n.p. n.d.
Desultory Thoughts and Reflections [Unpublished] n.p. n.d.
Tour Through the Netherlands to Paris [Unpublished] n.p. n.d.
The Lottery of Life [Unpublished] n.p. n.d.

Secondary Sources:
Blessington-D'Orsay: A Masquerade Sadleir, Michael London Constable 1933
The Literary Life and Correspondence of the Countess of Blessington Madden, R.R. London T.C.Newby 1855

Writing Genre

Travel Writing
Short Stories