He was the son of the diplomat and Member of Parliament Edward Wortley Montagu and the writer and traveller 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, the first native of the United Kingdom to undergo this medical procedure.
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. The second time, 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, he 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 a serious study of Arabic at Leiden in 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 to 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 1748. 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; 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). Whilst in Italy, he designed and published a detailed map of the Ambracian Gulf and the island of Lefkas in northwestern Greece. 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 described him as living in the Turkish manner at Venice. Fluent in Hebrew, Arabic, Chaldaic, and Persian, 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.
- "Edward Wortley Montagu (1713–1776), MP | Art UK". artuk.org. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
- "Edward Wortley Montagu - National Portrait Gallery". www.npg.org.uk. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
- "WORTLEY MONTAGU, Edward, jun. (1713-76), of Boreham Wood, Herts. | History of Parliament Online". www.histparl.ac.uk. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
- Beckford, William (13 June 2013). Vathek. OUP Oxford. ISBN 978-0-19-164578-5.
- "Ancestors of Edward Wortley MONTAGU". www.ashefamily.info. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
- Jeremy Black, The British and the Grand Tour, 1985, p. 118.
- The map seems to have been based on a large manuscript map of the same area drawn in 1757 by Girolamo Delanges and held in the Marciana Library in Venice. See Nikos D. Karabelas, In Charta. Prints of Preveza, Preveza, 2006, p. viii.
- Grundy, Isobel; Grundy, Henry Marshall Tory Professor Isobel (1999). Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-811289-1.
- Platts, John (1822). The book of Curiosities : Containing Ten Thousand Wonders and Curiosities of Nature and Art. p. 110.
- Partington, Charles Frederick (1838). The British Cyclopedia of Biography: Containing the Lives of Distinguished Men of All Ages and Countries, with Portraits, Residences, Autographs, and Monuments. W. Orr.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Curling, Jonathan (1954). Edward Wortley Montagu 1713–1776: The Man in the Iron Wig. The Rogues Gallery Number One (Illustrated ed.). London: Andrew Melrose.
- Isobel Grundy, "Edward Wortley Montagu", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (subscription)
- Gruber, Ira (2010). Books and the British Army in the Age of the American Revolution. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
- Finding aid to Edward Wortley Montagu papers at Columbia University. Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
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