Cartoon by Thomas Rowlandson, 1815










From: Dictionary of Quotations, collected and arranged with comments by Bergen Evans (1968)

A Blue Stocking was first used to describe a lady of literary tastes in the 18th century. A Mrs. Edward Montagu sought distinction by having intellectual parties and, to show their disdain of luxury and frivolity, her guests dressed plainly. Plainest was Mr. Benjamin Stillingfleet who even wore a tradesman’s homely blue-gray stockings instead of the white silk stockings a gentleman would be expected to wear on formal occasions. Society at once dubbed the intellectuals ‘bluestockings’ and the name stuck – though to the ladies.

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