Hastings, Elizabeth (DNB00)

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HASTINGS, Lady ELIZABETH (1682–1739), philanthropist, daughter of Theophilus, seventh earl of Huntingdon, by his first wife, daughter of Sir John Lewis of Ledstone Hall in Yorkshire, was born in 1682. Through her mother she succeeded to a very considerable property. Her half-sisters, the Ladies Anne, Frances, Catherine, and Margaret Hastings, generally lived with her. Her beauty, gracefulness, and courtesy in her youth are commemorated in the 'Tatler,' where she bears the inappropriate name of Aspasia. Congreve eulogises her in No. 42, and is followed by Steele in No. 49, where the famous sentence occurs, 'To love her is a liberal education.' Four years before, on the death of her only own brother George, the eighth earl of Huntingdon, on 22 Feb. 1704—5, she had succeeded to the family seat of Ledstone Park, near Pontefract, Yorkshire, and there she permanently resided. She never married, and devoted her whole life and fortune to works of piety and charity. Her advisers were men equally conspicuous for piety and wisdom, such as Archbishop Sharp, Robert Nelson, Bishop Wilson of Sodor and Man, Dr. Lucas, and William Law. They were mostly men of strong church views, and her charities prove that her own sympathies were in this direction. She was a munificent subscriber to the funds raised for Berkeley's missionary project, and towards the expenses in Bishop Wilson's lawsuit in the Isle of Man, and a liberal contributor towards Mary Astell's design for a 'protestant nunnery.' Her half-sister Lady Margaret Hastings married Benjamin Ingham [q. v.], one of the early methodists, and Selina, countess of Huntingdon [q. v.], wife of her halfbrother Theophilus, was the founder of 'Lady Huntingdon's Connexion.' She was gratified by the accounts of Wesley's early activity, but did not live to see methodism in its later development. As a plain English churchwoman she lived on excellent terms with the vicar of Ledsham, and loved to entertain those especially who valued religion of this type. Ralph Thoresby visited and was delighted with her (Diary, ii. 82). Robert Nelson, in his 'Address to Persons of Quality,' applied to her the text: 'Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.' William Law, in a work published the year after her death, cites her as a crucial instance of saintliness in the English church (Answer to Dr. Trapp, Works, vol. vi.) upon hearing of her death Law desired her half-sister 'to draw up an historical account of that blessed lady's spirit, life, and virtues.. . . that a memorial of her virtues might be communicated to the world.'

The bulk of Lady Elizabeth's landed estate went to her nephew Francis, lord Hastings, the son of Selina, countess of Huntingdon, but she bequeathed large sums of money for pious uses. She had always valued highly 'human learning as a handmaid to religion,' and bequeathed a large amount to 'the provost and scholars of Queen's College, Oxford,' for the support of 'poor scholars' from twelve schools in Yorkshire, Westmoreland, and Cumberland. Among her other charitable bequests were '14l. for ever to provide bread and wine for the monthly sacrament at the parish church of Thorp Arch in the ainsty of the city of York,' money for several charity schools for 'the bishop of the Isle of Man,' for 'building a gallery in Ledsham Church for the use of the charity boys,' 'for an altarpiece, a covering for the communion-table, pulpit-cloath and cushion, all of crimson cloath,' and for purchasing the great tithes in several places for the augmentation of poor livings. She added 10l. per annum to the endowment of the hospital founded at Ledsham by her grandfather, Sir John Lewis, for twelve aged poor.

Lady Elizabeth died at Ledstone Hall 2 Jan. 1739, at the age of fifty-eight, and was buried at Ledsham. The figure upon her monument is from a portrait, and justifies the account of her early beauty. Statues of her two surviving sisters, Lady Frances and Lady Anne Hastings, on pedestals on each side of her, were afterwards added.

[Historical Character relating to the holy and exemplary Life of the Right Hon. the Lady Elizabeth Hastings, &c., by Thomas Barnard, Master of the Free School, Leeds, 1742; Life and Times of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon; Life of William Law; Law's Works, vol. vi.; Life of Bishop Wilson, by Keble, also Lives of Bishop Wilson by Cruttwell and by Stowell; The Tatler, &c.]

J. H. O.