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The Ladies of Llangollen.

MENTION The Ladies of Llangollen and you would be forgiven for conjuring up an image of two women dressed in traditional Welsh costume immersed in the national culture of Wales or active in the Women's Institute.

But you would be wide of the mark,for they were in fact two women who gained notoriety at the turn of the 18th century after they developed an intensely close friendship.

To the horror of their families in Ireland, they eloped in 1778 by escaping across the Irish Sea and settling in Llangollen.

There,amid some scandal and innuendo, their relationship blossomed and their civilized and romantic life became legendary. Nobody knows for certain whether their relationship was sexual but they have become iconic figures for the lesbian community. Lady Eleanor Butler, who came from a noble Irish Catholic family, was 29 when she met Sarah Ponsonby,a sensitive girl of 13.

Over the next 10 years, through letters and visits, they developed an intensely close relationship inspired by the literary ideals of the Romantic Friendship,and those of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.Eventually, they decided to escape their unhappy home lives, and run away to set up home together.

Disguised in men's clothing they eloped together, with the help of a trusted servant, in a dramatic escape across the Irish Sea.

They settled in the idyllic cottage of Pen-y-Maes inLlangollen, which they re-namedPlas Newydd (meaningNew Place).
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 13, 2004
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