‘Moving upon Glass’: The Madness of Lady Frances Coningsby

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Department 1



Through an analysis of a collection of letters written by Mary Trevor, Lady Frances Coningsby's friend and companion, to the Hon. Mrs. R. B. Walsingham, Lady Frances's daughter Charlotte (1773-1779), this essay traces the diagnosis of Lady Frances's madness by Dr. William Battie, one of London's two leading "mad doctors," her confinement, illness, and treatment. Reading these letters alongside three anonymous newspaper passages which attack Mary Trevor in The London Morning Post in July 1777 not only clarifies the origin of the public attacks but also exposes the tensions which developed within Lady Frances's family and explains why in dealing with the various family members Mary Trevor felt she was "moving upon glass" as she tried to protect both Lady Frances and her property. Finally, the essay explores the long and intimate relationship of Mary Trevor and Lady Frances Coningsby.


Dr. Temma Berg (Gettsyburg College) is one of the editors of this book.

Original version is available from the publisher at: http://inpress.sites.lehigh.edu/view_book.php?id=198

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