GOWER, Elizabeth Leveson- [née Lady Elizabeth Sutherland], duchess of Sutherland and suo jure countess of Sutherland (1765–1839), landowner. Autograph letter signed to “My Dear Lord” , 4 sides, small 8vo, Sunday morning, 1807, thanking her correspondent for sending some etchings which “are an encitement to me to continue a work which is at present a great amusement to me, in the hope of being able to make some return to you in kind, though the subjects of mine are of a very different nature, being portraits of places in Orkney & in the north of Scotland generally devoid of trees & which will besides the other disadvantages under which they suffer have the additional one, of being executed by a far less masterly hand. Indeed their only merit will be that of singularity, as the places they represent have hitherto been undescribed by any pencil whatever & can have no value except what curiosity may give to them from the remote situation & difficulty of approaching the scenes they attempt to represent”. Marks on rear edge indicating removal from an album, and a discrete repair to the folded paper.
Lady Sutherland accompanied her husband to Paris at the height of the French Revolution, where she wrote descriptions of the political turbulence, and sent clothing to the imprisoned Marie Antoinette, an act reputed to be the last gesture of kindness shown to the doomed queen. She became a leading hostess in London, where she gave sumptuous dinners attended by royalty, aristocrats, and statesmen from Britain and abroad. She owned huge estates in Scotland, and in actively supporting the new philosophy of modernization and improvement became the target of great hatred in the northern highlands. She endeavoured to counteract the adverse publicity surrounding the highland clearances, but with little success.
Lady Sutherland spent much of her time raising her four children, sketching (she was a gifted watercolourist, and was especially accomplished in her landscapes of the Sutherland coast and of Dunrobin Castle), corresponding with Sir Walter Scott, and consuming snuff. ODNB