Margaret Montgomerie - Wife of James Boswell

Margaret Montgomerie

Born abt. 1738
Died Jun 04, 1789 at Auchinleck House

Alias: 

Margaret Boswell

Biography: 

Daughter of David Montgomerie (d. 1752), 7th Laird of Lainshaw, and Veronica Boswell (ca. 1704-1742). Sister of James, Elizabeth and Mary. On November 25, 1769 she married her first cousin James Boswell.

A longtime sufferer of Tuberculosis she died at Auchinleck House on June 6, 1789, while James himself was en-route back from London.

Life with Boswell: 

Margaret Montgomerie appeared only a few times in the journals or the known correspondence of Boswell until April 1769. However, it is clear that at that point she and Boswell had been close friends for some time.

The first hint to their relationship is a curious - and as Pottle states "obviously jocular" - agreement dated August 8, 1768, written by Boswell in full legal form and signed by Margaret, in which she commits to not marry him during 1768 nor to insist on his promise to marry her at a later time, "considering that Mr. James Boswell, advocate, my cousin, is at present so much in love with me that I might certainly have him for my lawful husband if I choose it, and the said James being of a temper so inconstant that there is reason to fear that he would repent of his choice in a very short time, on which account he is unwilling to trust himself in my company."1

In the spring of 1769 Margaret accompanied Boswell on a journey to Dublin, where Boswell intended to court the young Mary Ann Boyd, a relation of Margaret's on her father's side. But as Pottle puts it "Boswell started off for Dublin ostensibly free to make his suit to [Boyd] but actually committed to Margaret Montgomerie."2

In a letter to Temple dated May 3, 1769, but not sent until sometime later, he wrote:

"I must tell you that I am accompanied by my cousin Miss Montgomerie, whom I believe you saw at Edinburgh, and she perhaps may and perhaps ought to prevent my Hibernian nuptials. You must know that she and I have always been in the greatest intimacy. I have proved her on a thousand occasions, and found her sensible, agreeable, and generous. When I was not in love with some one or other of my numerous flames, I have been in love with her; and during the intervals of all my passions Margaret has been constantly my mistress as well as my friend. Allow me to add that her person is to me the most desirable that I ever saw. Often have I thought of marrying her, and often told her so. But we talked of my wonderful inconstancy, were merry, and perhaps in two days after the most ardent professions to her I came and told her that I was desperately in love with another woman. Then she smiled, was my confidante, and in time I returned to herself. She is with all this, Temple, the most honest, undesigning creature that ever existed."3

In the early fall of 1769 the two agreed to marry, much to the dismay of Margaret's uncle and father-in-law-to-be, Lord Auchinleck, Margaret bringing neither money nor status nor new connections to the family. He eventually agreed to their marriage, albeit with no optimism for their future, and perhaps influenced by the fact that he was himself secretly thinking of remarrying following the death of his first wife, James' mother, in 1766.

James was possibly even more averse to his father's planned marriage, and so - in an act of obvious defiance on James' part - James Boswell married his cousin Margaret Montgomerie at Lainshaw, and Lord Auchinleck married his cousin Elizabeth Boswell at Edinburgh, both weddings taking place in the evening of November 25, 1769.

[to be expanded following the general progress of the site]