It has just been announced that the library at Mount Stewart has been acquired by the National Trust from the estate of the late Lady Mairi Bury. These books, spread across a number of rooms in the house, document the intellectual, cultural and political life of the Vane-Tempest-Stewart family since the eighteenth century.
The library was purchased for just under £100,000, with funding from the Royal Oak Foundation, the B.H. Breslauer Foundation, the Northern Ireland Museums Council, the Friends of the National Libraries, Doreen Burns and Terence and Di Kyle.
Some of the books were owned by Charles Stewart, 7th Marquess of Londonderry (1878-1949) and his wife Edith (1879-1959). They were both actively engaged in politics and in addition Edith was a notable gardener and cultural patroness, all of which is reflected in the books they collected.
In his study of northern Irish country house libraries, The Big House Library in Ireland, Mark Purcell notes how the ownership inscriptions in the books at Mount Stewart provide evocative evidence of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century family and social networks.
A first edition of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park (1814) at Mount Stewart, for instance, belonged to one of Lord Londonderry’s ancestors, Amelia Ann Hobart (1772-1829), while an 1813 copy of Pride and Prejudice owned by her half-sister Caroline, Lady Suffield (d.1850), remains at their parents’ house, Blickling Hall.
Other books that have ended up at Mount Stewart were once in the possession of Amelia and Caroline’s great aunt, Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk (c.1688-1767), the mistress of George II who built the exquisitely Palladian Marble Hill House.