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Elizabeth Craven and Grace Dalrymple Elliott

We know for a fact that Elizabeth Craven was personally acquainted with Grace Dalrymple Elliott, the Scottish beauty who was famed in her lifetime for many reasons, not least for being at various times the mistress of the English Prince of Wales and of the French Duc d'Orléans.  If those two great connoisseurs of female beauty both paid homage to her, we can be certain that Grace was really very attractive and the portraits are not misleading.

In this portrait by Gainsborough, Grace emphasizes her magnolia-white skin by wearing a black ribbon tied under the chin and trailing down her long neck into the bosom.

Grace Elliott and Elizabeth Craven had a common acquaintance with George, Earl of Cholmondeley, the wealthy playboy who is said to have fathered one of Grace's children. They moved in the same circles. Yet Craven does not mention Grace Elliott in her Memoirs, nor does Grace Elliott mention Craven in hers. This leads to the conclusion that the two women probably did not like each other.
When they met in London in around the year 1780, Craven made a  joke about Grace Elliott's remarkable height  - she was about six feet tall. Grace was pointed out to her in Ranelagh Gardens, whereupon Craven exclaimed, "Oh, Lord, I know that figure... it is extremely familiar to me; that is GLUMDALCLITCH, the heroine of Gulliver's Travels, — I have the Dean's works in my private library, with cuts!" (i)  Glumdalclitch was a giantess in Brobdingnag, and the witticism is rather caustic. Craven, who was rather tall herself by the standards of the time, was not used to meeting other women who towered over her in this startling way. If the joke was repeated to Grace, she might not have thought it funny.

By 1784, Elizabeth Craven was living in Paris where she became well acquainted with the Duc d'Orléans who was Grace's current lover. She writes much about him in her Memoirs, showing an insight into his political maneouvering, but she never mentions Grace. The Rambler's Magazine reported that Paris society was dazzled by a "quadrille of English beauties  - Lady Worsley, Mrs Robinson, Mrs Elliott and Lady Craven" but Elizabeth when she wrote her Memoirs did not wish to be classified with the others, who were all regarded as courtesans, adored by men but not welcome among ladies of good reputation. It is perhaps a pity that she does not give us a little more candid insight into this circle of acquaintance, a disreputable, adventurous and unconventional lot.

(i)The Rambler's Magazine, August 1784 page 302.


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