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John Gregory

(b. June 3, 1724, Aberdeen, Scotland – d. Feb. 9, 1773, Edinburgh, Scotland )

Gender: M

John Gregory (1724-1773) was Professor of Medicine at Edinburgh and a Fellow of the Royal Society. He married Elizabeth Forbes (c1728-1761), and they had three sons and three daughters. Elizabeth Montagu visited his family on her trips to Edinburgh, and his daughter Dorothea Gregory became Montagu’s companion. Following the death of his wife, Gregory wrote a conduct book for the benefit of his daughters. He did not intend to publish it, but after his death in 1774, his son James Gregory published it under the title A Father’s Legacy to His Daughters, The book was to designed to advise the girls on how to get a husband and behave in society, but he recommended a degree of insincerity and emotional manipulation that Mary Wollstonecraft indignantly attacked in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Gregory took a sentimental view of women, viewing them as delicate and emotional beings. He advised girls to display an almost pathological shyness, to hide their intelligence and even to avoid appearing physically robust. He believed that women were incapable of romantic love, and were therefore indifferent to the choice of husband. The Father’s Legacy was massively popular, becoming a contemporary bestseller and going into many editions and translations. It must be said that Dorothea Gregory displayed throughout her life an energy and determination that was not consistent with her father’s advice. Her insistence on marrying the man she loved, against the wishes of Elizabeth Montagu, would no doubt have surprised him. A close friend of fellow Scottish Enlightenment thinker, James Beattie, John Gregory was memorialised in the second part of his poem The Minstrel (1774).

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