George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Robert Bowyer, 8 January 1792

To Robert Bowyer

Philada Jany 8th 1792.


I have lately received your letter, giving me information of the death of the Right Honble the Countess Dowager of Huntingdon, and accompanied with an engraving of that Lady, from a painting of yours.1

Although I had not the satisfaction of knowing the late Countess personally, yet having been honored with her correspondence, and learning from others the amiable and benevolent character which she sustained, I have respected her virtues, and am pleased with having in my possession the picture which you have been so polite as to send me and for which I must beg you to accept my best thanks.2 I am Sir, your most obedt Servant,

Go: Washington.


Robert Bowyer (1758–1834) exhibited miniatures and paintings at the Royal Academy and was appointed painter in watercolors and of miniatures to members of the British royal family.

1Bowyer’s letter informing GW of the death “of your most worthy & respected relation the Rt Honble the Countess Dowager of Huntingdon” has not been found but was extracted in William Evarts Benjamin, Catalog No. 3, Oct. 1885, item 9. It must have been sent from London to Providence, R.I., merchant Joseph C. Clark sometime after the death on 17 June of Selina Hastings (1707–1791), wife of Theophilus Hastings, ninth earl of Huntingdon. Clark wrote GW on 6 Dec. 1791, presenting his compliments along with “the inclosed letter with the picture of the Countess of Huntington committed to his care” (DLC:GW). The countess was a daughter of Washington Shirley, second Earl Ferrers, who was fifth in descent through his mother’s line from Lawrence Washington of Northampton and Gray’s Inn, GW’s forebear (see editorial note to Lady Huntingdon’s Scheme for Aiding the American Indians, [20 Dec. 1784]; Henry F. Waters, An Examination of the English Ancestry of George Washington . . . [Boston, 1889], chart opp. 46). An early convert to Methodism, she was a close associate of Charles and John Wesley and a chief sponsor of George Whitefield, who in 1770 left her his school and orphanage near Savannah, Georgia. After the Revolutionary War she proposed to send pious English settlers to the American frontier to convert Indians to Christianity, and she named GW as one of her executors for establishing an American foundation to support a college for Indian missionaries. The engraved portrait of the countess was in Martha Washington’s “Old Room” at GW’s death in 1799 and was then valued at seventy-five cents (Prussing, Estate of George Washington, description begins Eugene E. Prussing. The Estate of George Washington, Deceased. Boston, 1927. description ends 416).

2According to Tobias Lear’s letter to Clark of 9 Jan. 1792, GW asked the Rhode Island merchant to forward this letter to Bowyer “when a convenient opportunity offers” (DLC:GW).

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