George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 13 November 1797]

13. Clear, calm & remarkably fine & pleasant—Mer. 55 a 65. The British Envoy Mr. Liston & his Lady—Mr. Marchant & his lady & her Son Mr. Brown and Mr. Athill Speaker of the Assembly of Antigua came to Dinner as did a Doctr. Pinckard. The last went afterwards.

Robert Liston (1743–1836) served as British minister and ambassador at several important posts before being appointed in 1796 as envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to the United States. He served in this capacity until 1800. In Feb. 1796, just before coming to this country, he married Henrietta Marchant, “daughter of the late Nathaniel M. esq. of Antigua” (Gentleman’s Mag., 66 [1796], 254). Nelly Custis characterized Mrs. Liston as having “kind & friendly manners” and seemed fond of her, but she refused an invitation to spend part of the winter with the Listons in Philadelphia because of her reluctance to leave Mount Vernon and especially her grandmother (Eleanor Parke Custis to Elizabeth Bordley, 23 Nov. 1797, ViMtvL). mr. marchant: Mrs. Liston’s brother, Dr. Nathaniel M. Marchant (d. 1804) of Antigua. His wife was Mary Marchant. According to Nelly Custis, Mrs. Marchant was “a sweet beautiful engaging Woman, her husband very pleasing & entertaining. I am really sorry that his health is so very precarious. . . . Mr. Brown is a very genteel young man, I am sorry he has left Philadelphia, as I am sure the Belles will feel his loss—he was in my opinion one of the most elegant & pleasing young men last Winter” (Eleanor Parke Custis to Elizabeth Bordley, 23 Nov. 1797, ViMtvL). Mr. Brown was Frank Brown, Mrs. Marchant’s son of a former marriage. Mr. Athill is James Athill, speaker of the Antigua legislature (information from Mrs. Alexandra Lee Levin, Baltimore, Md.; Fitzpatrick, Diaries description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed. The Diaries of George Washington, 1748–1799. 4 vols. Boston and New York, 1925. description ends , 4:263). Nelly Custis thought him “a sensible agreeable man.” The Listons were to accompany the Marchant family and Mr. Athill by water as far as Norfolk, from whence the Marchants, Brown, and Athill were to embark for Antigua (Eleanor Parke Custis to Elizabeth Bordley, 23 Nov. 1797, ViMtvL).

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