Edward Wortley Montagu (traveller)

A 1775 portrait of Edward Wortley Montagu by Matthew William Peters

Edward Wortley Montagu (15 May 1713 – 29 April 1776) was an English author and traveller.

Life and career

He was the son of Edward Wortley Montagu, MP and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, whose talent and eccentricity he seems to have inherited. In 1716 he was taken by his parents to Constantinople, and at Pera in March 1716-17 was inoculated for smallpox, being the first native of the United Kingdom to undergo the operation.

On the return of his parents to England in 1718 he was placed at Westminster School, from which he ran away more than once. On the first occasion in July 1726, he was traced to Oxford, and was with difficulty 'reduced to the humble condition of a school-boy.' He decamped again in August 1727, and was not recovered for some months. Two similar escapades are mentioned by his tutor, Forster, chaplain to the Duchess of Kingston, but without dates. The first ended in his discovery, after a year's absence, selling fish in Blackwall; on the second occasion he worked his passage out to Oporto, deserted, went up country, and found employment in the vineyards, but returning to Oporto in charge of some asses, was arrested at the instance of the British consul, brought back to his ship, identified and restored to his parents by the master.

He was then sent to travel with a tutor in the West Indies, and afterwards with a keeper to the Netherlands. He made, however, a serious study of Arabic at Leiden (1741), and returned many years later to prosecute his studies. His father made him a meagre allowance, and he was heavily encumbered with debt.

He served in the British army from 1743-1748, first as a cornet in the 7th Dragoon Guards and later as a captain-lieutenant in the 1st Regiment of Foot. He fought at the Battle of Fontenoy. He left the army in 1748. He thereafter traveled in various parts for many years, writing brief diary notes of his travels along with occasional sketches; and finally returned to his studies in 1769.

He was Member of Parliament (MP) for Huntingdonshire in 1747, and was one of the secretaries at the conference of Aix-la-Chapelle that closed the War of the Austrian Succession. In 1751 he was involved in a disreputable gaming quarrel in Paris; arrested for cheating a Jew at cards and then robbing him when he refused to pay;[1] and was imprisoned for eleven days in the Châtelet. He was cleared after the first court hearing before the decision was overturned by the Parlement of Paris and he was ordered to pay a fine of 300 livres. He continued to sit in parliament, and wrote Reflections on the Rise and Fall of the Antient Republics ... (1759). His father left him an annuity of £1000, the bulk of the property going to his sister Lady Bute.

He set out for extended travel in the East, and George Romney describes him as living in the Turkish manner at Venice. Fluent in Hebrew, Arabic, Chaldaic, and Persian[2] he was also an excellent orator. His family thought him mad, and his mother left him a single guinea in her will, but her annuity devolved on him at her death. He died at Padua in Italy.


  1. Jeremy Black, The British and the Grand Tour, 1985, p. 118.
  2. Platts, John (1822). The book of Curiosities : Containing Ten Thousand Wonders and Curiosities of Nature and Art. p. 110.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Montagu, Edward Wortley". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 

Further references

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Thomas Foster
William Breton
Member of Parliament for Bossiney
with Richard Heath

Succeeded by
Richard Heath
William Ord
Preceded by
Coulson Fellowes
William Montagu
Member of Parliament for Huntingdonshire
with Coulson Fellowes

Succeeded by
Coulson Fellowes
The Lord Carysfort
Preceded by
William Ord
William Montagu
Member of Parliament for Bossiney
with Edwin Sandys 1754–1761
John Richmond Webb 1761–1766
Lord Mount Stuart 1766–1768

Succeeded by
Lord Mount Stuart
Henry Luttrell
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