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Title: Memoirs of Doctor Burney (Vol. 3 of 3)

Author: Fanny Burney

Release date: May 7, 2020 [eBook #62046]

Language: English

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“O could my feeble powers thy virtues trace,
By filial love each fear should be suppress’d;
The blush of incapacity I’d chace,
And stand—Recorder of Thy worth!—confess’d.”
Anonymous Dedication of Evelina, to Dr. Burney, in 1778.







[Pg 1]




Towards the end of this year, Dr. Johnson began again to nearly monopolize the anxious friendship of Dr. Burney.

On the 16th of November, Dr. Johnson, in the carriage, and under the revering care of Mr. Windham, returned from Litchfield to the metropolis; after a fruitless attempt to recover his health by breathing again his natal air.

The very next day, he wrote the following note to St. Martin’s-street.

“To Dr. Burney.

“Mr. Johnson, who came home last night, sends [Pg 2] his respects to dear Dr. Burney; and to all the dear Burneys, little and great.

Bolt Court, 17th Nov. 1784.

Dr. Burney hastened to this kind call immediately; but had the grief to find his honoured friend much weakened, and in great pain; though cheerful, and struggling to revive. All of the Doctor’s family who had had the honour of admission, hastened to him also; but chiefly his second daughter, who chiefly and peculiarly was always demanded.

She was received with his wonted, his never-failing partiality; and, as well as the Doctor, repeated her visits by every opportunity during the ensuing short three weeks of his earthly existence.

She will here copy, from the diary she sent to Boulogne, an account of what, eventually, though unsuspectedly, proved to be her last interview with this venerated friend.

To Mrs. Phillips.

25th Nov. 1784.—Our dear father lent me the carriage this morning for Bolt Court. You will easily conceive how gladly I seized the opportunity for making a longer visit than usual to my revered [Pg 3] Dr. Johnson, whose health, since his return from Litchfield, has been deplorably deteriorated.

He was alone, and I had a more satisfactory and entertaining conversation with him than I have had for many months past. He was in better spirits, too, than I have seen him, except upon our first meeting, since he came back to Bolt Court.

He owned, nevertheless, that his nights were grievously restless and painful; and told me that he was going, by medical advice, to try what sleeping out of town might do for him. And then, with a smile, but a smile of more sadness than mirth!—he added: “I remember that my wife, when she was near her end, poor woman!—was also advised to sleep out of town: and when she was carried to the lodging that had been prepared for her, she complained that the staircase was in very bad condition; for the plaister was beaten off the walls in many places. ‘O!’ said the man of the house, ‘that’s nothing; it’s only the knocks against it of the coffins of the poor souls that have died in the lodging.’”

He forced a faint laugh at the man’s brutal honesty; but it was a laugh of ill-disguised, though checked, secret anguish.

[Pg 4]

I felt inexpressibly shocked, both by the perspective and retrospective view of this relation: but, desirous to confine my words to the literal story, I only exclaimed against the man’s unfeeling absurdity in making so unnecessary a confession.

“True!” he cried; “such a confession, to a person then mounting his stairs for the recovery of her health—or, rather, for the preservation of her life, contains, indeed, more absurdity than we can well lay our account to.”

We talked then of poor Mrs. Thrale—but only for a moment—for I saw him so greatly moved, and with such severity of displeasure, that I hastened to start another subject; and he solemnly enjoined me to mention that no more!

I gave him concisely the history of the Bristol milk-woman, who is at present zealously patronized by the benevolent Hannah More. I expressed my surprise at the reports generally in circulation, that the first authors that the milk-woman read, if not the only ones, were Milton and Young. “I find it difficult,” I added, “to conceive how Milton and Young could be the first authors with any reader. Could a child understand them? And grown persons, who have never read, are, in literature, children still.”

[Pg 5]

“Doubtless,” he answered. “But there is nothing so little comprehended as what is Genius. They give it to all, when it can be but a part. The milk-woman had surely begun with some ballad—Chevy Chace or the Children in the Wood. Genius is, in fact, knowing the use of tools. But there must be tools, or how use them? A man who has spent all his life in this room, will give a very poor account of what is contained in the next.”

“Certainly, sir; and yet there is such a thing as invention? Shakespeare could never have seen a Caliban?”

“No; but he had seen a man, and knew how to vary him to a monster. A person, who would draw a monstrous cow, must know first what a cow is commonly; or how can he tell that to give her an ass’s head, or an elephant’s tusk, will make her monstrous? Suppose you show me a man, who is a very expert carpenter, and that an admiring stander-by, looking at some of his works, exclaims: ‘O! He was born a carpenter!’ What would have become of that birth-right, if he had never seen any wood?”

Presently, dwelling on this idea, he went on. “Let two men, one with genius, the other with none, look together at an overturned waggon; he who has no [Pg 6] genius will think of the waggon only as he then sees it; that is to say, overturned, and walk on: he who has genius will give it a glance of examination, that will paint it to his imagination such as it was previously to its being overturned; and when it was standing still; and when it was in motion; and when it was heavy loaded; and when it was empty: but both alike must see the waggon to think of it at all.”

The pleasure with which I listened to his illustration now animated him on; and he talked upon this milk-woman, and upon a once as famous shoe-maker; and then mounted his spirits and his subject to our immortal Shakespeare; flowing and glowing on, with as much wit and truth of criticism and judgment, as ever yet I have heard him display; but, alack-a-day, my Susan, I have no power to give you the participation so justly your due. My paper is filling; and I have no franks for doubling letters across the channel! But delightfully bright are his faculties, though the poor, infirm, shaken machine that contains them seems alarmingly giving way! And soon, exhilarated as he became by the pleasure of bestowing pleasure, I saw a palpable increase of suffering in the midst of his sallies; I offered, therefore, to go into the next room, there to wait for the carriage; an offer which, [Pg 7] for the first time! he did not oppose; but taking, and most affectionately pressing, both my hands, “Be not,” he said, in a voice of even melting kindness and concern, “be not longer in coming again for my letting you go now!”

I eagerly assured him I would come the sooner, and was running off; but he called me back, and in a solemn voice, and a manner the most energetic, said: “Remember me in your prayers!”

How affecting, my dearest Susanna, such an injunction from Dr. Johnson! It almost—as once before—made me tremble, from surprise and emotion—surprise he could so honour me, and emotion that he should think himself so ill. I longed to ask him so to remember me! but he was too serious for any parleying, and I knew him too well for offering any disqualifying speeches: I merely, in a low voice, and, I am sure, a troubled accent, uttered an instant, and heart-felt assurance of obedience; and then, very heavily, indeed, in spirits, I left him. Great, good, and surpassing that he is, how short a time will he be our boast! I see he is going. This winter will never glide him on to a more genial season here. Elsewhere, who may hope a fairer? I now wish I had asked for his prayers! and perhaps, so [Pg 8] encouraged, I ought: but I had not the presence of mind.

Melancholy was the rest of this year to Dr. Burney; and truly mournful to his daughter, who, from this last recorded meeting, felt redoubled anxiety both for the health and the sight of this illustrious invalid. But all accounts thenceforward discouraged her return to him, his pains daily becoming greater, and his weakness more oppressive: added to which obstacles, he was now, she was informed, almost constantly attended by a group of male friends.

Dr. Burney, however, resorted to Bolt Court every moment that he could tear from the imperious calls of his profession; and was instantly admitted; unless held back by insuperable impediments belonging to the malady. He might, indeed, from the kind regard of the sufferer, have seen him every day, by watching, like some other assiduous friends, particularly Messrs. Langton, Strahan, the Hooles, and Sastres, whole hours in the house to catch a favourable minute; but that, for Dr. Burney, was utterly impossible. His affectionate devoirs could only be received when he arrived at some interval of ease; and then the kind invalid constantly, and with tender pleasure gave him welcome.

[Pg 9]

The Memorialist was soon afterwards engaged on a visit to Norbury Park; but immediately upon her return to town, presented herself, according to her willing promise, at Bolt Court.

Frank Barber, the faithful negro, told her, with great sorrow, that his master was very bad indeed, though he did not keep his bed. The poor man would have shewn her up stairs. This she declined, desiring only that he would let the Doctor know that she had called to pay her respects to him, but would by no means disturb him, if he were not well enough to see her without inconvenience.

Mr. Straghan, the clergyman, was with him, Frank said, alone; and Mr. Straghan, in a few minutes, descended.

Dr. Johnson, he told her, was very ill indeed, but very much obliged to her for coming to him; and he had sent Mr. Straghan to thank her in his name, but to say that he was so very bad, and very weak, that he hoped she would excuse his not seeing her.

She was greatly disappointed; but, leaving a message of the most affectionate respect, acquiesced, and drove away; painfully certain how extremely ill, or how sorrowfully low he must be, to decline the sight of one whom so constantly, so partially, he [Pg 10] had pressed, nay, adjured, “to come to him again and again.”

Fast, however, was approaching the time when he could so adjure her no more!

From her firm conviction of his almost boundless kindness to her, she was fearful now to importune or distress him, and forbore, for the moment, repeating her visits; leaving in Dr. Burney’s hands all propositions for their renewal. But Dr. Burney himself, not arriving at the propitious interval, unfortunately lost sight of the sufferer for nearly a week, though he sought it almost daily.

On Friday, the 10th of December, Mr. Seward brought to Dr. Burney the alarming intelligence from Frank Barber, that Dr. Warren had seen his master, and told him that he might take what opium he pleased for the alleviation of his pains.

Dr. Johnson instantly understood, and impressively thanked him, and then gravely took a last leave of him: after which, with the utmost kindness, as well as composure, he formally bid adieu to all his physicians.

Dr. Burney, in much affliction, hurried to Bolt Court; but the invalid seemed to be sleeping, and could not be spoken to till he should open his eyes. [Pg 11] Mr. Straghan, the clergyman, gave, however, the welcome information, that the terror of death had now passed away; and that this excellent man no longer looked forward with dismay to his quick approaching end; but, on the contrary, with what he himself called the irradiation of hope.

This was, indeed, the greatest of consolations, at so awful a crisis, to his grieving friend; nevertheless, Dr. Burney was deeply depressed at the heavy and irreparable loss he was so soon to sustain; but he determined to make, at least, one more effort for a parting sight of his so long-honoured friend. And, on Saturday, the 11th December, to his unspeakable comfort, he arrived at Bolt Court just as the poor invalid was able to be visible; and he was immediately admitted.

Dr. Burney found him seated on a great chair, propt up by pillows, and perfectly tranquil. He affectionately took the Doctor’s hand, and kindly inquired after his health, and that of his family; and then, as evermore Dr. Johnson was wont to do, he separately and very particularly named and dwelt upon the Doctor’s second daughter; gently adding, “I hope Fanny did not take it amiss, that I did not see her that morning?—I was very bad indeed!”

[Pg 12]

Dr. Burney answered, that the word amiss could never be apropos to her; and least of all now, when he was so ill.

The Doctor ventured to stay about half an hour, which was partly spent in quiet discourse, partly in calm silence; the invalid always perfectly placid in looks and manner.

When the Doctor was retiring, Dr. Johnson again took his hand and encouraged him to call yet another time; and afterwards, when again he was departing, Dr. Johnson impressively said, though in a low voice, “Tell Fanny—to pray for me!” And then, still holding, or rather grasping, his hand, he made a prayer for himself, the most pious, humble, eloquent, and touching, Dr. Burney said, that mortal man could compose and utter. He concluded it with an amen! in which Dr. Burney fervently joined; and which was spontaneously echoed by all who were present.

This over, he brightened up, as if with revived spirits, and opened cheerfully into some general conversation; and when Dr. Burney, yet a third time, was taking his reluctant leave, something of his old arch look played upon his countenance as, smilingly he said, “Tell Fanny—I think I shall yet throw the ball at her again!”

[Pg 13]

A kindness so lively, following an injunction so penetrating, re-animated a hope of admission in the Memorialist; and, after church, on the ensuing morning, Sunday, the 12th of December, with the fullest approbation of Dr. Burney, she repaired once more to Bolt Court.

But grievously was she overset on hearing, at the door, that the Doctor again was worse, and could receive no one.

She summoned Frank Barber, and told him she had understood, from her father, that Dr. Johnson had meant to see her. Frank then, but in silence, conducted her to the parlour. She begged him merely to mention to the Doctor, that she had called with most earnest inquiries; but not to hint at any expectation of seeing him till he should be better.

Frank went up stairs; but did not return. A full hour was consumed in anxious waiting. She then saw Mr. Langton pass the parlour door, which she watchfully kept open, and ascend the stairs. She had not courage to stop or speak to him, and another hour lingered on in the same suspense.

But, at about four o’clock, Mr. Langton made his appearance in the parlour.

[Pg 14]

She took it for granted he came accidentally, but observed that, though he bowed, he forbore to speak; or even to look at her, and seemed in much disturbance.

Extremely alarmed, she durst not venture at any question; but Mrs. Davis,[1] who was there, uneasily asked, “How is Dr. Johnson now, Sir?”

“Going on to death very fast!” was the mournful reply.

The Memorialist, grievously shocked and overset by so hopeless a sentence, after an invitation so sprightly of only the preceding evening from the dying man himself, turned to the window to recover from so painful a disappointment.

“Has he taken any thing, Sir?” said Mrs. Davis.

“Nothing at all! We carried him some bread and milk; he refused it, and said, ‘The less the better!’”

Mrs. Davis then asked sundry other questions, from the answers to which it fully appeared that his faculties were perfect, and that his mind was quite composed.

This conversation lasted about a quarter of an hour, before the Memorialist had any suspicion that

[Pg 15]

Mr. Langton had entered the parlour purposely to speak to her, and with a message from Dr. Johnson:

But as soon as she could summon sufficient firmness to turn round, Mr. Langton solemnly said, “This poor man, I understand, Ma’am, from Frank, desired yesterday to see you.”

“My understanding, or hoping that, Sir, brought me hither to-day.”

“Poor man! ’tis a pity he did not know himself better; and that you should not have been spared this trouble.”

“Trouble?” she repeated; “I would come an hundred times to see Dr. Johnson the hundredth and first!”

“He begged me, Ma’am, to tell you that he hopes you will excuse him. He is very sorry, indeed, not to see you. But he desired me to come and speak to you for him myself, and to tell you, that he hopes you will excuse him; for he feels himself too weak for such an interview.”

Struck and touched to the very heart by so kind, though sorrowful a message, at a moment that seemed so awful, the Memorialist hastily expressed something like thanks to Mr. Langton, who was visibly affected, and, leaving her most affectionate [Pg 16] respects, with every warmly kind wish she could half utter, she hurried back to her father’s coach.

The very next day, Monday, the 13th of December, Dr. Johnson expired—and without a groan. Expired, it is thought, in his sleep.

He was buried in Westminster Abbey; and a noble, almost colossal statue of him, in the high and chaste workmanship of Bacon, has been erected in St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The pall-bearers were Mr. Burke, Mr. Windham, Sir Joseph Banks, Mr. Colman, Sir Charles Bunbury, and Mr. Langton.

Dr. Burney, with all who were in London of the Literary Club, attended the funeral. The Reverend Dr. Charles Burney also joined the procession.


This year, happily for Dr. Burney, re-opened with a new professional interest, that necessarily called him from the tributary sorrow with which the year 1784 had closed.

The engravings for the Commemoration of Handel were now finished; and a splendid copy of the work was prepared for the King. Lord Sandwich, as one of the chief Directors of the late festival, obligingly offered [Pg 17] his services for taking the Doctor under his wing to present the book at the levee; but his Majesty gave Dr. Burney to understand, through Mr. Nicolai, that he would receive it, at a private audience, in his library.

This was an honour most gratifying to Dr. Burney, who returned from his interview at the palace, in an elevation of pleasure that he communicated to his family, with the social confidence that made the charm of his domestic character.


He had found their Majesties together, without any attendants or any state, in the library; where he presented both to the King and to the Queen a copy of his Commemoration.

They had the appearance of being in a serene tête à tête, that bore every mark of frank and cheerful intercourse. His reception was the most gracious; and they both seemed eager to look at his offerings, which they instantly opened and examined.

“You have made, Dr. Burney,” said his Majesty, “a much more considerable book of this Commemoration than I had expected; or, [Pg 18] perhaps, than you had expected yourself?”

“Yes, Sire,” he answered; “the subject grew upon me as I proceeded, and a continual accumulation of materials rendered it almost daily more interesting.”

His Majesty then detailed his opinion of the various performers; and said that one thing only had discredited the business, and that was the inharmonious manner in which one of the bass singers had sung his part; which had really been more like a man groaning in a fit of the cholic, than singing an air.

The Doctor laughingly agreed that such sort of execution certainly more resembled a convulsive noise, proceeding from some one in torture, than any species of harmony; and that, therefore, as he could not speak of that singer favourably in his account, he had been wholly silent on his subject; as had been his practice in other similar instances.

The Queen seemed perfectly to understand, and much to approve, the motive for this mild method of treating want of abilities and powers to please, where the will was good, and where the labour had been gratuitous.

The King expressed much admiration that the full fortes of so vast a band, in accompanying the singers, had never been too loud, even for [Pg 19] a single voice; when it might so naturally have been expected that the accompaniments even of the softest pianos, in such plenitude, would have been overpowering to all vocal solos. He had talked, he said, both with musical people and with philosophers upon the subject; but none of them could assign a reason, or account for so astonishing a fact.

Something, then, bringing forth the name of Shakespeare, the Doctor mentioned a translation of his plays by Professor Eichenberg. The King, laughing, exclaimed: “The Germans translate Shakespeare! why we don’t understand him ourselves: how should foreigners?”

The Queen replied, that she thought Eichenberg had rendered the soliloquies very exactly.

“Aye,” answered the King, “that is because, in those serious speeches, there are none of those puns, quibbles, and peculiar idioms of Shakespeare and his times, for which there are no equivalents in other languages.”

The Doctor then begged permission to return his most humble thanks to his Majesty, for the hints with which the work had been honoured during its compilation. The King bowed; and their Majesties both re-opened [Pg 20] their books to look at the engravings; when the King, remarking to several of them the signature of E. F. Burney,[2] said: “All your family are geniuses, Dr. Burney. Your daughter—”

“O! your daughter,” cried the Queen, lifting up one of her hands, “is a very extraordinary genius, indeed!”

“And is it true,” said the King, eagerly, “that you never saw Evelina before it was printed?”

“Nor even till long after it was published;” answered the Doctor. This excited a curiosity for the details that led, from question to question, to almost all the history that has here been narrated; and which seemed so much to amuse their Majesties, that they never changed the theme during the rest of a long audience. And, probably, the parental pleasure obviously caused by their condescension, involuntarily augmented its exertions. Certainly it sent home the flattered father as full of personal gratitude as of happy loyalty.


Speedily after this interview, Dr. Burney had the great professional [Pg 21] satisfaction and honour to announce officially to the Society of Musicians, at a general meeting convened for that purpose, that their Majesties had consented to become Patron and Patroness of the institution; which might thenceforth be styled The Royal Society of Musicians.

This honourable and most desirable distinction had been obtained, at the instance of the Committee of Assistants, by the influence of Dr. Burney with Lord Sandwich; who brought it to bear through that of the Earl[3] of Exeter and the Duke of Montagu with the King.

The speech of Dr. Burney, as Chairman of the Committee, both before and after the petition which he drew up to their Majesties upon this occasion; as well as the address of thanks by which its success was followed, was neat, appropriate, and unostentatious; but, from that same abstemious propriety, they offer nothing new or striking for publication.


Dr. Burney bestowed, also, in the opening part of this year, a portion of his time and his thoughts to a purpose of benevolence that may [Pg 22] almost be called pious.

Mademoiselle Paradis, a young German, equally distinguished by her talents and her misfortunes, was strongly recommended to the Doctor, by his Vienna correspondents, as an object at once of admiration and of charity.

When only two years old, she had been suddenly deprived of sight by a paralytic stroke, or palsy of the optic nerves. Great compassion was excited by this calamity; and every method was essayed that could be devised for restoring to her the visible light of heaven, with the fair view of earth and her fellow creatures; but all was unavailing. At seven years of age, however, she began to listen with such ardent attention to the music that she heard in the church, that it suggested to her parents the idea of having her taught to play on the piano-forte; and, soon afterwards, to sing. In three or four years time, she was able to accompany herself on the organ in the stabat mater of Pergolese; of which she sung the first soprano part in the church of St. Augustin, at Vienna, in the presence of the Empress Queen, Maria Theresa, with such sweetness and pathos, that her Imperial Majesty, touched with her performance and misfortune, settled upon her a handsome pension.

[Pg 23]

She then pursued her musical studies under the care of Kozeluch; who composed many admirable lessons for her use. But, on the death of the Empress Queen, the pension of Mademoiselle Paradis was withdrawn, indiscriminately, and inconsiderately, as it was a charity, with all other pensions that had been granted by her Imperial Majesty.

In 1784, Mademoiselle Paradis quitted Vienna, with her mother, in order to travel; and, after visiting the principal courts and cities of Germany, she arrived at Paris, where she received every possible mark of approbation. She then brought letters to England from persons of the first rank, to her Majesty, Queen Charlotte; to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales;[4] to the Imperial Minister, Count Kageneck; to Lord Stormont;[5] and to other powerful patrons; as well as to the principal musical professors in London.

Dr. Burney exerted all his influence to obtain for her some new benefactors. He invited her to his house, where he gave a concert that caused her to be heard and seen by those who were best able to aid as well as judge: and to render this concert the more piquant, he asked [Pg 24] to it our own celebrated blind musician, the worthy Mr. Stanley; who was extremely pleased to meet her, and took great interest in her fate.

Dr. Burney translated, or rather imitated, into English, a cantata that had been written by her own blind countryman and friend, M. Pfeffel of Vienna; and set to music by her master, M. Kozeluch. This cantata contains a poetical, yet faithful history of her life and sorrows; and could not but prove affecting to whoever heard it performed by herself.

Dr. Burney took measures for having this narratory effusion set before our Queen Charlotte, both in its vernacular and its adopted tongue; and her Majesty, to whom charity never supplicated in vain, humanely cheered and revived the blind minstrel with essential tokens of royal liberality. No efforts, however, succeeded in forming any establishment for her in London; though there is reason to believe that the state of her finances was considerably amended by her expedition.

The following is the simple and plaintive cantata, which, with a brief account of her life and situation, Dr. Burney printed and dispersed, at his own expense, in her service.

[Pg 25]


Written in German for Mademoiselle Paradis, by her blind friend M. Pfeffel, of Colmar, and set to music by her musicmaster, M. Leopold Kozeluch, of Vienna, 11th November, 1784.


“The new born insect sporting in the sun,
Is the true semblance of my infant state,
When ev’ry prize for which life’s race is run
Was hidden from me by malignant fate.
“Instant destruction quench’d each visual ray,
No mother’s tears, no objects were reveal’d!
Extinguish’d was the glorious lamp of day,
And ev’ry work of God at once conceal’d!
“Where am I plunged? with trembling voice I cried,
Ah! why this premature, this sudden night!
What from my view a parent’s looks can hide,
Those looks more cheering than celestial light!
“Vain are affliction’s sobs, or piercing cries;
The fatal mischief baffles all relief!
The healing art no succour can devise,
Nor balm extract from briny tears and grief!
[Pg 26]
“How should I wander through the gloomy maze,
Or hear the black monotony of woe,
Did not maternal kindness gild my days,
And guide my devious footsteps to and fro!
“Upon a festival designed
To praise the Father of mankind,
When joining in the lofty theme,
I tried to hymn the great Supreme,
A rustling sound of wings I hear,
Follow’d by accents sweet and clear,
Such as from inspiration flow
When Haydn’s fire and fancy glow.
“‘I am the genius of that gentle art
Which soothes the sorrows of mankind,
And to my faithful votaries impart
Extatic joys the most refin’d.
“‘On earth, each bard sublime my power displays;
Divine Cecilia was my own;
In heav’n each saint and seraph breathes my lays
In praises round th’ eternal throne.
“‘To thee, afflicted maid,
I come with friendly aid,
To put despair to flight,
And cheer thy endless night.’
“Then, gently leading to the new-made lyre,
He plac’d my fingers on the speaking keys;
‘With these (he cries) thou listening crowds shalt fire,
And rapture teach on every heart to seize.’
“Elastic force my nerves new brac’d,
And from my voice new accents flow;
My soul new pleasures learn’d to taste,
[Pg 27]
And sound’s sweet power alleviates woe.
“Theresa! great in goodness as in power,
Whose fav’rite use of boundless sway,
Was benefits on all to shower,
And wipe the tear of wretchedness away;
“When first my hand and voice essay’d,
Sweet Pergolesi’s pious strains,
Her pitying goodness she displayed,
To cherish and reward my pains.
“But now, alas! this friend to woe,
This benefactress is no more!
And though my eyes no light bestow
They’ll long with tears her loss deplore!
“Yet still where’er my footsteps bend,
My helpless state has found a friend.
“How sweet the pity of the good!
How grateful is their praise!
How every sorrow is subdued,
When they applaud my lays!
“The illustrious patrons I have found,
Whose approbation warms my heart,
Excite a wish that every sound
Seraphic rapture could impart.
“The wreathes my feeble talents share,
The balmy solace friends employ,
Lifting the soul above despair,
Convert calamity to joy.”

[Pg 28]


In this same spring, a very serious misfortune befel Dr. Burney, which, though not of the affecting cast that had lately tainted his happiness, severely attacked his worldly comforts.

Early one morning, and before he was risen, Mrs. Burney’s maid, rushing vehemently into the bedroom, screamed out: “Oh, Sir! Robbers! Robbers! the house is broke open!”

A wrapping gown and slippers brought the Doctor down stairs in a moment; when he found that the bureau of Mrs. Burney, in the dining parlour, had been forced open; and saw upon the table three packets of mingled gold and silver, which seemed to have been put into three divisions for a triple booty; but which were left, it was supposed, upon some sudden alarm, while the robbers were in the act of distribution.

After securing and rejoicing in what so fortunately had been saved from seizure, Dr. Burney repaired to his study; but no abandoned pillage met his gratulations there! his own bureau had been visited with equal rapacity, though left with less precipitancy; and he soon discovered that he had been purloined of upwards of £300.

[Pg 29]

He sent instantly for an officer of the Police, who unhesitatingly pronounced that the leader, at least, of the burglary, must have been a former domestic; this was decided, from remarking that he had gone straight forward to the two bureaus, which were the only depositories of money; while sundry cabinets and commodes, to the right and to the left, had been passed unransacked.

The entrance into the house had been effected through the area; and a kitchen window was still open, at the foot of which, upon the sand on the floor, the print of a man’s shoe was so perfect, that the police-officer drew its circumference with great exactitude; picking up, at the same time, a button that had been squeezed off from a coat, by the forced passage.

Dr. Burney had recently parted with a man-servant of whom he had much reason to think ill, though none had occurred to make him believed a house-breaker. This man was immediately inquired for; but he had quitted the lodgings to which he had retired upon losing his place; and had acquainted no one whither he was gone.

The officers of the police, however, with their usual ferretting routine of dexterity, soon traced the suspected runaway to Hastings; [Pg 30] where he had arrived to embark in a fishing vessel for France; but he had found none ready, and was waiting for a fair wind.

When the police-officer, having intimation that he was gone to an inn for some refreshment, entered the kitchen where he was taking some bread and cheese, he got up so softly, while the officer, not to alarm him, had turned round to give some directions to a waiter, that he slid unheard out of the kitchen by an opposite door: and, quickly as the officer missed him, he was sought for in vain; not a trace of his footsteps was to be seen; though the inward guilt manifested by such an evasion redoubled the vigilance of pursuit.

The fugitive was soon, however, discerned, on the top of a high brick wall, running along its edge in the midst of the most frightful danger, with a courage that, in any better cause, would have been worthy of admiration.

The policeman, now, composedly left him to his race and his defeat; satisfied that no asylum awaited him at the end of the wall, and that he must thence drop, without further resistance, into captivity.

[Pg 31]

Cruel for Dr. Burney is what remains of this narration: the runaway was seized, and brought to the public office, where a true bill was found for his trial, as he could give no reason for his flight; and as the button picked up in the area exactly suited a wanting one in a coat discovered to be in his possession. His shoe, also, precisely fitted the drawing on the kitchen floor. But though this circumstantial evidence was so strong as to bring to all the magistrates a conviction of his guilt that they scrupled not to avow, it was only circumstantial; it was not positive. He had taken nothing but cash; a single bank note might have been brought home to him with proof; but to coin, who could swear? The magistrates, therefore, were compelled to discharge, though they would not utter the word acquit, the prisoner; and the Doctor had the mortification to witness in the court the repayment of upwards of fifty guineas to the felon, that had been found upon him at Hastings. The rest of the three hundred pounds must have been secured by the accomplices; or buried in some place of concealment.

But Dr. Burney, however aggrieved and injured by this affair, was always foremost to subscribe to the liberal maxim of the law, that it is better to acquit ten criminals, than to condemn one innocent man. [Pg 32] He resigned himself, therefore, submissively, however little pleased, to the laws of his noble country, ever ready to consider, like Pope,

“All partial evil universal good.”

Would it be just, could it be right, to leave unqualified to the grief of his friends, and to the rage of the murmurers against destiny, a blight such as this to the industry and the welfare of Dr. Burney; and not seek to soften the concern of the kind, and not aim at mitigating the asperity of the declaimers, by opening a fairer point of view for the termination of this event, if fact and fair reality can supply colours for so revivifying a change of scenery?

Surely such a retention, if not exacted by discretion or delicacy, would be graceless. A secret, therefore, of more than forty-seven years’ standing, and known at this moment to no living being but this Memorialist, ought now, in honour, in justice, and in gratitude, to be laid open to the surviving friends of Dr. Burney.

About a month after this treacherous depredation had filled the Doctor and his house with dismay, a lady of high rank, fortune, [Pg 33] and independence, well known in the family, mysteriously summoned this Memorialist to a private room, for a tête à tête, in St. Martin’s-street.

As soon as they were alone, she scrutinizingly examined that no one was within hearing on the other side of either of the doors leading into the apartment; and then solemnly said that she came to demand a little secret service.

The Memorialist protested herself most ready to meet her request; but that was insufficient: the lady insisted upon a formal and positive promise, that what she should ask should be done; yet that her name in the transaction should never be divulged.

There seemed something so little reasonable in a desire for so unqualified an engagement upon a subject unknown, that the Memorialist, disturbed, hesitated and hung back.

The lady was palpably hurt; and, dropping a low curtsey, with a supercilious half smile, and a brief, but civil, “Good morrow, ma’am!” was proudly stalking out of the room; when, shocked to offend her, the Memorialist besought her patience; and then frankly asked, how she could promise what she was in the dark whether she could perform?

[Pg 34]

The lady, unbending her furrowed brow, replied, “I’ll tell you how, ma’am: you must either say, I believe you to be an honest woman, and I’ll trust you; or, I believe you to be no better than you should be, and I’ll have nothing to do with you.”

An alternative such as this could hardly be called an alternative: the promise was given.

The smile now of pleasure, almost of triumph, that succeeded to that of satire, which had almost amounted to scorn, nearly recompenced the hazarded trust; which, soon afterwards, was even more than repaid by the sincerest admiration.

The lady, taking a thick letter-case from a capacious and well-furnished part of the female habiliment of other days, yclept a pocket, produced a small parcel, and said, “Do me the favour, Ma’am, to slip this trifle into the Doctor’s bureau the first time you see him open it; and just say, ‘Sir, this is bank notes for three hundred pounds, instead of what that rogue robbed you of. But you must ask no questions; and you must not stare, Sir, for it’s from a friend that will never be known. So don’t be over curious; for it’s a friend who will never take it back, if you fret yourself to the bone. So please, Sir, to do what you please with it. Either use it, or put it behind [Pg 35] the fire, whichever you think the most sensible.’ And then, if he should say, ‘Pray, Miss, who gave you that impertinent message for me?’ you will get into no jeopardy, for you can answer that you are bound head and foot to hold your tongue; and then, being a man of honour, he will hold his. Don’t you think so, Ma’am?”

The Memorialist, heartily laughing, but in great perturbation lest the Doctor should be hurt or displeased, would fain have resisted this commission; but the lady, peremptorily saying a promise was a promise, which no person under a vagabond; but more especially a person of honour, writing books, could break, would listen to no appeal.

She had been, she protested, on the point of non compos ever since that rogue had played the Doctor such a knavish trick, as picking his bureau to get at his cash; in thinking how much richer she, who had neither child nor chick, nor any particular great talents, was than she ought to be; while a man who was so much a greater scholar, and with such a fry of young ones at his heels, all of them such a set of geniuses, was suddenly made so much poorer, for no offence, only that rogue’s knavishness. And she could not get back into her right senses upon the accident, she said, till she had hit upon this scheme: for [Pg 36] knowing Dr. Burney to be a very punctilious man, like most of the book-writers, who were always rather odd, she was aware she could not make him accept such a thing in a quiet way, however it might be his due in conscience; only by some cunning device that he could not get the better of.

Expostulation was vain; and the matter was arranged exactly according to her injunctions.

Ultimately, however, when the deed was so confirmed as to be irrevocable, the Memorialist obtained her leave to make known its author; though under the most absolute charge of secrecy for all around; which was strictly observed; notwithstanding all the resistance of the astonished Doctor, whom she forbade ever to name it, either to herself, she said, or Co., under pain of never speaking to him again.

All peculiar obstacles, however, having now passed away, justice seems to demand the recital of this extraordinary little anecdote in the history of Dr. Burney.

Those who still remember a daughter of the Earl of Thanet, who was widow of Sir William Duncan, will recognize, without difficulty, in this narration, the generosity, spirit, and good humour, with the [Pg 37] uncultivated, ungrammatical, and incoherent dialect; and the comic, but arbitrary manner; of the indescribably diverting and grotesque, though munificent and nobly liberal, Lady Mary Duncan.


The singular, and, in another way, equally quaint and original, as well as truly Irish, Mrs. Vesey, no sooner heard of Dr. Burney’s misfortune, than she sent for an ingenious carpenter, to whom she communicated a desire to have a private drawer constructed in a private apartment, for the concealment and preservation of her cash from any fraudulent servant.

Accordingly, within the wainscot of her dressing room, this was effected; and, when done, she rang for her principal domestics; and, after recounting to them the great evil that had happened to poor Dr. Burney; and bemoaning that he had not taken a similar precaution, she charged them, in a low voice, never to touch such a part of the wall, lest they should press upon the spring of the private drawer, in which she was going to hide her gold and bank notes.

[Pg 38]


A beam, however, of softest bosom happiness, soon after this disaster, lightened, almost dispersed, the cares of Dr. Burney. His Susanna, called back, with her husband and family, to England, by some change of affairs, suddenly returned from Boulogne—and returned beyond expectation, beyond probability, beyond all things earthly, save Hope—if Hope, indeed,—that sun-mark of all which lights on to futurity! can be denominated earthly—recruited in health, and restored to his wishes, as well as to his arms, and to her country and her friends. So small a change of climate had been salubrious, and in so short a space of time had proved renovating.

This smiling and propitious event, happily led the Doctor to yet further acquaintance with the incomparable Mr. Locke and his family; as the recovered invalid was now settled, with her husband and children, in the picturesque village of Mickleham, just at the foot of Norbury Park; and within reach of the habitual enjoyment of its exquisite society.

[Pg 39]


In the summer of this year, 1785, came over from France the celebrated Comtesse de Genlis. Dr. Burney and his second daughter were almost immediately invited, at the express desire of the Countess, to meet, and pass a day with her, at the house of Sir Joshua Reynolds. His niece, Miss Palmer,[6] Sir Abraham and Lady Hume, Lord Palmerston, and some others, were of the party.

Madame de Genlis must then have been about thirty-five years of age; but the whole of her appearance was nearly ten years younger. Her face, without positive beauty, had the most winning agreeability; her figure was remarkably elegant, her attire was chastly simple: her air was reserved, and her demeanour was dignified. Her language had the same flowing perspicuity, and animated variety, by which it is marked in the best of her works; and her discourse was full of intelligence, yet wholly free from presumption or obtrusion. Dr. Burney was forcibly struck with her, and his daughter was enchanted.

[Pg 40]

Almost as numerous as her works, and almost as diversified, were the characters which had preceded this celebrated lady to England. None, however, of the calumnious sort had reached the ears of the Doctor previously to this meeting; and though some had buzzed about these of the Memorialist, they were vague; and she had willingly, from the charm of such superior talents, believed them unfounded; even before the witchery of personal partiality drove them wholly from the field: for from her sight, her manners, and her conversation, not an idea could elicit that was not instinctively in her favour.

Unconstrained, therefore, was the impulsive regard with which this illustrious foreigner inspired both; and which, gently, but pointedly, it was her evident aim to increase. She made a visit the next day to the Memorialist, whose society she sought with a flattering earnestness and a spirited grace that, coupled with her rare attractions, made a straightforward and most animating conquest of her charmed votary.

Madame de Genlis had already been at Windsor, where, through the medium of Madame de la Fìte, she had been honoured with a private audience of the Queen: and the energetic respect with which she spoke of her [Pg 41] Majesty, was one of the strongest incentives to the loyal heart of Dr. Burney for encouraging this rising connexion.

Madame de Genlis had presented, she said, to the Queen the sacred dramas which she had dedicated to her Serene Highness the Duchess of Orleans; adding, that she had brought over only two copies of that work, of which the second was destined for Mademoiselle Burney! to whom, with a billet of elegance nearly heightened into expressions of friendship, it was shortly conveyed.

The Memorialist was at a loss how to make acknowledgments for this obliging offering, as she would have held any return in kind to savour rather of vanity than of gratitude. Dr. Burney, however, relieved her embarrassment, by permitting her to be the bearer of his own History of Music, as far as it had then been published. This Madame de Genlis received with infinite grace and pleasure; for while capable of treating luminously almost every subject that occurred, she had an air, a look, a smile, that gave consequence, transiently, to every thing she said or did.

She had then by her side, and fondly under her wing, a little girl [Pg 42] whom she called Pamela,[7] who was most attractively lovely, and whom she had imbibed with a species of enthusiasm for the Memorialist, so potent and so eccentric, that when, during the visit at Sir Joshua Reynolds’, Madame de Genlis said, “Pamela, voilà Mademoiselle Burney!” the animated little person rushed hastily forward, and prostrated herself upon one knee before the astonished, almost confounded object of her notice; who, though covered with a confusion half distressing, half ridiculous, observed in every motion and attitude of the really enchanting little creature, a picturesque beauty of effect, and a magic allurement in her fine cast up eyes, that she could not but wish to see perpetuated by Sir Joshua.

On the day that Dr. Burney left his card in Portland-place, for a parting visit to Madame de Genlis, previously to her quitting London, he left there, also, the Memorialist; who, by appointment, was to pass the morning with that lady. This same witching little being was then capitally aiding and abetting in a preconcerted manoeuvre, with which Madame de Genlis not a little surprised her guest. This was by [Pg 43] detaining her, through a thousand varying contrivances, all for a while unsuspected, in a particular position; while a painter, whom Madame de Genlis mentioned as being with her by chance, and who appeared to be amusing himself with sketching some fancies of his own, was clandestinely taking a portrait of the visitor.

However flattered by the desire of its possession in so celebrated a personage, that visitor had already, and decidedly, refused sitting for it, not alone to Madame de Genlis, but to various other kind demanders, from a rooted dislike of being exhibited. And when she discovered what was going forward, much vexed and disconcerted, she would have quitted her seat, and fled the premises: but the adroit little charmer had again recourse to her graceful prostration; and, again casting up her beautifully picturesque eyes, pleaded the cause and wishes of Madame de Genlis, whom she called Maman, with an eloquence and a pathos so singular and so captivating, that the Memorialist, though she would not sit quietly still, nor voluntarily favour the painter’s artifice, could only have put in practice a peremptory and determined flight, by trampling upon the urgent, clinging, impassioned little suppliant.

[Pg 44]

This was the last day’s intercourse of Madame de Genlis with Dr. Burney and the Memorialist. Circumstances, soon afterwards, suddenly parted them; and circumstances never again brought them together.


This brilliant new acquaintance offered, in its short duration, a pleasing interlude for the occasional leisure of Dr. Burney, which more than ever required some fresh supply, as Mr. Burke now was entirely lost to him; and to all but his own political set, through the absorption of his tumultuous accusations against Mr. Hastings; by which his whole existence became sacrificed to Parliamentary contentions.

Sir Joshua Reynolds, however, not less faithfully than pleasantly, still kept his high and honoured post of intimacy with Dr. Burney. And Mrs. Delany maintained hers, with a sweetness of mental attraction that magnetized languor from infirmity, and deterioration of intellect from decay of years.

[Pg 45]


The society which assembled at that lady’s mansion was elegant and high bred, yet entertaining and diversified. As Mrs. Delany chose to sustain her own house, that she might associate without constraint with her own family, the generous Duchess of Portland would not make a point of persuading her to sojourn at Whitehall; preferring the sacrifice of her own ease and comfort, in quitting that noble residence nearly every evening, to lessening those of her tenderly loved companion.

And here her good sense repaid the goodness of her heart; for she saw, from time to time, without formality, introduction, or even the etiquettes of condescension, sundry persons moving in a less exalted sphere than her own, yet who, as she was a spirited observer of life and manners, afforded an agreeable variety in the current intercourse of the day: and from any thing inelegantly inferior, Mrs. Delany, from her rank in the world, and still more from her good principles and good taste, was inviolably exempt.

Many of the most favoured of this peculiar assemblage had already passed away, before Dr. Burney had been honoured with admission. [Pg 46] Amongst those yet remaining, who belonged equally to both these ladies, were, the Countess of Bute, wife to the early favourite of his Majesty, George the Third, and the famous Lady Mary Wortley Montague’s daughter; a person of first-rate understanding, and possessing a large share of the ready wit, freed from the keen sarcasm and dauntless spirit of raillery of her renowned mother.

And she was occasionally accompanied by Lady Louisa Stuart, her accomplished daughter; who inherited only the better part, namely, sense, taste, and amiability, from any of her progenitors.

The Countess of Bristol, still a strikingly fine woman, and, though no longer young, still pleasingly interesting; with her engaging and charming daughter, Lady Louisa Harvey,[8] not seldom formed the party.

The “high-bred, elegant Boscawen,” the everyway honourable widow of the gallant Admiral, was peculiarly a favourite of Mrs. Delany, for equal excellence in character, conduct, and abilities.

The old Earl of Guilford, high in all the wit, spirit, and politeness [Pg 47] that he transmitted to his favoured and numerous race, was always gladly welcomed.

Lady Wallingford, the unhappy widow of a gaming Lord, and the ruined daughter, though born heiress of the richest speculator of Europe, the famous South Sea Law, was at this time reduced to aid her existence by being a pensioner of her feeling friend, Mrs. Delany! by whom this unfortunate, but very respectable lady, was always distinguished with assiduous attention, both from her misfortunes and the obligations under which they forced her to labour. She was extremely well bred, though mournfully taciturn. She was uniformly habited in black silk, and in full dress; wearing a hoop, long ruffles, a winged cap, and all the stately formality of attire of the times, that even then were past; which, however, in its ceremonial, seemed suited with the rank to which she had risen; and in its gloom to the distress into which she had fallen.

Mrs. Carter and Mrs. Chapone, from time to time, spent and enlightened a day with this inestimable Mrs. Delany; who was connected more intimately still with Mrs. Montague.

The celebrated Horace Walpole was a frequent visitor, from possessing [Pg 48] enough of genuine taste to delight in Mrs. Delany, and of spirit and fashion for paying his court to the Duchess Dowager of Portland. He was enchanted, also, to recreate his quaint humour by mingling occasionally with persons who, from being little known to him, excited his ever busy curiosity; which was restlessly seeking fresh food, with a devouring voracity that made it ever freshly required. And it was observed, that Mr. Walpole was nowhere more agreeable or more brilliant than in St. James’s Place; where he was polite and gay, though irrepressibly sarcastic; and good-humoured and entertaining, though always covertly epigrammatical.

Owen Cambridge and Soame Jenyns appeared, also, in this society; and were as fully capable to appreciate the excellences of Mrs. Delany, as she, in return, was to enjoy their playful wit, and well-seasoned raillery.

The elegant, polished Mr. Smelt, was peculiarly suited both to the taste and the situation of Mrs. Delany; with the first there was congeniality of mind; with the second, there was the similarity of each being a chosen, though untitled favourite of both King and Queen.

[Pg 49]

Mr. and Mrs. Locke were latterly added to this set; which they were truly formed to draw to a climax of social perfection.

But a lamented, though not personal or family event, which occurred at the end of this summer, must here be recorded, with some detail of circumstance; as it proved, in its consequences, by no means unimportant to the history of Dr. Burney.

The venerable Mrs. Delany was suddenly bereft of the right noble friend who was the delight of her life, the Duchess Dowager of Portland. That honoured and honourable lady had quitted town for her dowry mansion of Bulstrode Park. Thither she had just most courteously invited this Memorialist; who had spent with her Grace and her beloved friend, at the fine dwelling of the former at Whitehall, nearly the last evening of their sojourn in town, to arrange this intended summer junction. A letter of Mrs. Delany’s dictation had afterwards followed to St. Martin’s-street, fixing a day on which a carriage, consigned by her Grace to Mrs. Delany’s service, was to fetch the new visitor. But, on the succeeding morning, a far different epistle, written by the Amanuensis of Mrs. Delany, brought the mournful counter-tidings of the seizure, illness, and decease, of the valuable, generous, and charming [Pg 50] mistress of Bulstrode Park.

Mrs. Delany, as soon as possible, was removed back to St. James’s Place; in a grief the most touchingly profound, though the most edifyingly resigned.

This was a loss for which, as Mrs. Delany was fifteen years the senior, no human calculation had prepared; and what other has the human Mathematician? Her condition in life, therefore, as well as her heart, was assailed by this privation; and however inferior to the latter was the former consideration, the conflict of afflicted feelings with discomfitted affairs, could not but be doubly oppressive: for though from the Duchess no pecuniary loan was accepted by Mrs. Delany, unnumbered were the little auxiliaries to domestic economy which her Grace found means to convey to St. James’s Place.

But now, even the house in that place, though already small for the splendid persons who frequently sought there to pay their respects to the Duchess, as well as to Mrs. Delany, became too expensive for her means of supporting its establishment.

The friendship of the high-minded Duchess for Mrs. Delany had been an honour to herself and to her sex, in its refinement as well as in its liberality. Her superior rank she held as a bauble, her superior wealth [Pg 51] as dross, save as they might be made subservient towards equalizing in condition the chosen companion, with whom in affection all was already parallel.

To see them together, offered a view of human excellence delightful to contemplate. They endeared existence to each other, and only what was participated seemed to be enjoyed by either. And they each possessed so much understanding, cultivation, taste, and spirit, that their mutual desire to procure and to give pleasure to each other, operated not less as a spur to their improvement, even at this late period of life, than as a delight to their affections. In sentiment and opinion their converse had the most unrestrained openness; but in manner, a superior respect in Mrs. Delany was never to be vanquished by the utmost equalizing efforts of the Duchess: it was a respect of the heart, grafted upon that of the old school; and every struggle to dislodge it only proved, by its failure, the unshakeable firmness of its basis. The Duchess, therefore, was forced to content herself with wearing an easy cheerfulness of freedom, that flung off all appearance of seeming [Pg 52] aware of this reverence; but which she accompanied with a cherishing delicacy, that made her watchful of every turn of countenance, every modulation of voice, and every movement or gesture, that might indicate any species of desire for something new, altered, or any way attainable for the advantage or pleasure of the friend whom she most loved to honour.

What a blank was a breach such as this of an intercourse so tender, and at an age so advanced! Religion alone could make it supportable; and to that alone can be attributed the patient sweetness with which Mrs. Delany met every consolation that could be offered to her by her still existing ties, Lady Bute, Lady Bristol, Mrs. Boscawen, Mrs. Sandford, &c. &c. &c.

But most eager amongst them, from the energy of her attachment, forth rushed her latest, newest, and last chosen friend, who, in another day or two, would have been at her side, on the very moment of this heavy deprivation. Fearfully, nevertheless, she came, every other consoler having priority of almost every species to plead for preference: but those chords of unison, which in sympathy alone include every claim, discarding, as dissonance, whatever would break in upon their harmony, had here struck from heart to heart with responsive tenderness; and [Pg 53] what of merit preponderated in the scales of one, was balanced into fair equilibrium by venerating devotion in the other.

Upon first receiving the melancholy intelligence of the broken-up meeting at Bulstrode Park, Dr. Burney had taken his much-grieved daughter with him to Chesington; where, with all its bereavements, he repaired, to go on with his History; but, with a kindness which always led him to participate in the calls of affection, he no sooner learned that her presence would be acceptable to Mrs. Delany, than he spared his amanuensis from his side and his work, and instantly lent her his carriage to convey her back to town, and to the house of that afflicted lady; whose tenderly open-armed, though tearful reception, was as gratifying to the feelings of her deeply-attached guest, as the grief that she witnessed was saddening.

The Doctor permitted her now to take up her abode in this house of mourning; where she had the heart-felt satisfaction to find herself not only soothing to the admirable friend, by whom so late in life, but so warmly in love, she had been taken to the bosom; but empowered to relieve some of her cares by being intrusted to overlook, examine, [Pg 54] and read to her letters and manuscripts of every description; and to select, destroy, or arrange the long-hoarded mass. She even began revising and continuing a manuscript memoir of the early days of Mrs. Delany; but, as it could be proceeded with only in moments of unbroken tête à tête, it never was finished.

Meanwhile, when the tidings of the death of the Duchess Dowager of Portland reached their Majesties, their first thought, after their immediate grief at her departure, was of Mrs. Delany; and when they found that the Duchess, from a natural expectation of being herself the longest liver, had taken no measures to soften off the worldly part, at least, of this separation, the King, with most benevolent munificence, resolved to supply the deficiency which a failure of foresight alone, he was sure, had occasioned in a friend of such anxious fondness. He completely, therefore, and even minutely fitted up for Mrs. Delany a house at Windsor, near the Castle; and settled a pension of three hundred pounds a-year upon her for life; to enable her to still keep her house in town, that she might repair thither every winter, for the pleasure of enjoying the society of her old friends.

[Pg 55]

The grateful heart of Mrs. Delany overflowed at her eyes at marks so attentive, as well as beneficent, of kindness and goodness in her Sovereigns; for well she felt convinced that the Queen had a mental share and influence in these royal offerings.

To Windsor, thus invited, Mrs. Delany now went; and this Memorialist, lightened of a thousand apprehensions by this cheer to the feelings of her honoured friend, returned to Dr. Burney, in Surrey. A letter speedily followed her, with an account that the good King himself, having issued orders to be apprized when Mrs. Delany entered the town of Windsor, had repaired to her newly allotted house, there, in person, to give her welcome. Overcome by such condescension, she flung herself upon her knees before him, to express a sense of his graciousness for which she could find no words.

Their Majesties almost immediately visited her in person; an honour which they frequently repeated: and they condescendingly sent to her, alternately, all their royal daughters. And, as soon as she was recovered from her fatigues, they invited her to their evening concerts at the Upper Lodge, in which, at that time, they sojourned.[9]

Pg 56]


The time is now come to open upon the circumstances which will lead, ere long, to the cause of a seeming episode in these memoirs.

Dr. Burney was soon informed that the Queen had deigned to inquire of Mrs. Delany, why she had not brought her friend, Miss Burney, to her new home? an inquiry that was instantly followed by an invitation that hastened, of course, the person in question to St. Albans’-street, Windsor.

Here she found her venerable friend in the full solace of as much contentment as her recent severe personal loss, and her advanced period of life, could well admit. And, oftentimes, far nearer to mortal happiness is such contentment in the aged, than is suspected, or believed, by assuming and presuming youth; who frequently take upon trust—or upon poetry—their capability of superior enjoyment for its possession. She was honoured by all who approached her; she was loved by all with whom she associated. Her very dependence was made [Pg 57] independent by the delicacy with which it left her completely mistress of her actions and her abode. Her Sovereigns unbent from their state to bestow upon her graciousness and favour: and the youthful object of her dearest affections[10] was fostered, with their full permission, under her wing.

And, would it not seem senseless ingratitude, or puerile affectation, not to acknowledge, that the gracious encouragement with which they urged to her side the singularly elected friend of her later years, bore a share, and not a small one, in contributing to the serenity of her mind, and the pleasantness of her social life?


In a week or two after the arrival of the new visitant, she was surprised into the presence of the King, by a sudden, unannounced, and unexpected entrance of his Majesty, one evening, into the drawing-room of Mrs. Delany; where, however, the confusion occasioned by his unlooked-for appearance speedily, nay blithely, subsided, from the suavity of his manners, the impressive benevolence of his countenance, and the cheering gaiety of his discourse. Fear could no more exist [Pg 58] where goodness of heart was so predominant, than respect could fail where dignity of rank was so pre-eminent; and, ere many minutes had elapsed, Mrs. Delany had the soft satisfaction not only of seeing the first tremors of her favoured friend pass insensibly away, but of observing them to be supplanted by ease, nay, delight, from the mild yet lively graciousness with which she was drawn into conversation by his Majesty.

The Queen, a few days later, made an entry with almost as little preparation; save that the King, though he had not announced, had preceded her; and that the chairman’s knock at the door had excited some suspicion of her approach; while the King, who came on foot, and quite alone, had only rung at the bell; each of them palpably showing a condescending intention to avoid creating a panic in the new guest; as well as to obviate, what repeatedly had happened when they arrived without these precautions, a timid escape.

To describe what the Queen was in this interview, would be to pourtray grace, sprightliness, sweetness, and spirit, embodied in one frame. And each of these Sovereigns, while bestowing all their decided attentions [Pg 59] upon their venerable and admirable hostess, deigned to display the most favourable disposition towards her new visitor; the whole of their manner, and the whole tenor of their discourse denoting a curious desire to develop, if traceable, the peculiarities which had impelled that small person, almost whether she would or not, into public notice.

The pleasure with which Dr. Burney received the details now transmitted to him, of the favour with which his daughter was viewed at Windsor, made a marked period of parental satisfaction in his life: and these accounts, with some others on a similar topic of a more recent date, were placed amongst hoards to which he had the most frequent recourse for recreation in his latter years.

The incidents, indeed, leading to this so honourable distinction were singular almost to romance. This daughter, from a shyness of disposition the most fearful, as well as from her native obscurity, would have been the last, in the common course of things, to have had the smallest chance of attracting royal notice; but the eccentricity of her opening adventure into life had excited the very curiosity which its scheme meant to render abortive; and these august personages [Pg 60] beheld her with an evident wish of making some acquaintance with her character. They saw her, also, under the auspices of a lady whom they had almost singled out from amongst womankind as an object worthy of their private friendship; and whose animated regard for her, they knew, had set aloof all distance of years, and all recency of intercourse.

These were circumstances to exile common form and royal disciplinarianism from these great personages; and to give to them the smiling front and unbent brow of their fair native, not majestically acquired, physiognomies. And the impulsive effect of such urbanity was facilitating their purpose to its happy, honoured object; who found herself, as if by enchantment, in this august presence, without the panic of being summoned, or the awe of being presented. Nothing was chilled by ceremonial, nothing was stiffened by etiquette, nothing belonging to the formulæ of royalty kept up stately distance. No lady in waiting exhibited the Queen; no equerry pointed out the King; the reverence of the heart sufficed to impede any forgetfulness of their rank; and the courtesy of their own unaffected hilarity diffused ease, spirit, and pleasure all around.

[Pg 61]

The King, insatiably curious to become still more minutely master of the history of the publication of Evelina, was pointed, though sportive, in question to bring forth that result. The Queen, still more desirous to develop the author than the book, was arch and intelligent in converse, to draw out her general sentiments and opinions; and both were so gently, yet so gaily, encouraging, that not to have met their benignant openness with frank vivacity, must rather have been insensibility than timidity.

They appeared themselves to enjoy the novelty of so domestic an evening visit, which, it is believed, was unknown to their practice till they had settled Mrs. Delany in a private house of their own presentation at Windsor. Comfortably here they now took their tea, which was brought to them by Miss Port; Mrs. Delany, to whom that office belonged, being too infirm for its performance; and they stayed on, in lively, easy, and pleasant conversation, abandoning cards, concert, and court circle, for the whole evening. And still, when, very late, they made their exit, they seemed reluctantly to depart.

Mrs. Delany was elevated with grateful pleasure; her devoted guest was delighted, astonished, enchanted; and Dr. Burney, with the highest vivacity, read her narrative of this visit; with other nearly similar [Pg 62] scenes that followed it, during a three weeks’ residence at Windsor; to almost all his confidential friends.


The far, and but too deeply, widely, and unfortunately famed Warren Hastings was now amongst the persons of high renown, who courteously sought the acquaintance of Dr. Burney.

The tremendous attack upon the character and conduct of Governor Hastings, which terminated, through his own dauntless appeal for justice, in the memorable trial at Westminster Hall, hung then suspended over his head: and, as Mr. Burke was his principal accuser, it would strongly have prejudiced the Doctor against the accused, had not some of the most respectable connexions of the Governor, who had known him through the successive series of his several governments, and through the whole display of his almost unprecedented power, been particularly of the Doctor’s acquaintance; and these all agreed, that the uniform tenor of the actions of Mr. Hastings, while he was Governor General of India, spoke humanity, moderation, and liberality.

[Pg 63]

His demeanour and converse were perfectly corroboratory with this praise; and he appeared to Dr. Burney to be one of the greatest men then living as a public character; while as a private man, his gentleness, candour, and openness of discourse, made him one of the most pleasing. He talked with the utmost frankness upon his situation and affairs; and with a perfect reliance of victory over his enemies, from a fearless consciousness of probity and honour.

That Mr. Burke, the high-minded Mr. Burke, with a zeal nearly frantic in the belief of popular rumours, could so impetuously, so wildly, so imperiously be his prosecutor, was a true grief to the Doctor; and seemed an enigma inexplicable.

But Mr. Burke, with all the depth and sagacity of the rarest wisdom where he had time for consideration, and opportunity for research, had still not only the ardour, but the irreflection of ingenuous juvenile credulity, where tales of horror, of cruelty, or of woe, were placed before him with a cry for redress.

Dr. Burney was painfully and doubly disturbed at this terrific trial, through his esteem and admiration for both parties; and he kept as aloof from the scene of action during the whole of its Trojan [Pg 64] endurance, as he would have done from a bull fight, to which both antagonists had been mercilessly exposed. For though, through his transcendent merit, joined to a longer and more grateful connexion, he had an infinitely warmer personal regard for Mr. Burke, he held Mr. Hastings, in this case, to be innocent, and, consequently, injured: on him, therefore, every wish of victory devolved; yet so high was the reliance of the Doctor on the character of intentional integrity in the prosecutor, that he always beheld him as a man under a generous, however fanatical delusion of avenging imputed wrongs; and he forgave what he could not justify.[11]


Few amongst those who, at this period, honoured Dr. Burney with an increasing desire of intimacy, stood higher in fashionable celebrity than Horace Walpole,[12] and his civilities to the father were ever more accompanied by an at least equal portion of distinction for his [Pg 65] daughter; with whom, after numerous invitations that circumstances had rendered ineffective, the Doctor, in 1786, had the pleasure of making a visit of some days to Strawberry Hill.

Mr. Walpole paid them the high and well understood compliment of receiving them without other company. No man less needed auxiliaries for the entertainment of his guests, when he was himself in good humour and good spirits. He had a fund of anecdote that could provide food for conversation without any assistance from the news of the day, or the state of the elements: and he had wit and general knowledge to have supplied their place, had his memory been of that volatile description that retained no former occurrence, either of his own or of his neighbour, to relate. He was scrupulously, and even elaborately well-bred; fearing, perhaps, from his conscious turn to sarcasm, that if he suffered himself to be unguarded, he might utter expressions more amusing to be recounted aside, than agreeable to be received in front. He was a witty, sarcastic, ingenious, deeply-thinking, highly-cultivated, quaint, though evermore gallant and romantic, [Pg 66] though very mundane, old bachelor of other days.

But his external obligations to nature were by no means upon a par with those which he owed to her mentally: his eyes were inexpressive; and his countenance, when not worked upon by his elocution, was of the same description; at least in these his latter days.

Strawberry Hill was now exhibited to the utmost advantage. All that was peculiar, especially the most valuable of his pictures, he had the politeness to point out to his guests himself; and not unfrequently, from the deep shade in which some of his antique portraits were placed; and the lone sort of look of the unusually shaped apartments in which they were hung, striking recollections were brought to their minds of his Gothic story of the Castle of Otranto.

He shewed them, also, with marked pleasure, the very vase immortalized by Gray, into which the pensive, but rapacious Selima had glided to her own destruction, whilst grasping at that of her golden prey. On the outside of the vase Mr. Walpole had had labelled,

“’Twas on THIS lofty vase’s side.”

He accompanied them to the picturesque villa already mentioned, which [Pg 67] had been graced by the residence of Lady Di. Beauclerk; but which, having lost that fair possessor, was now destined for two successors in the highly-talented Miss Berrys; of whom he was anticipating with delight the expected arrival from Italy. After displaying the elegant apartments, pictures, decorations, and beautiful grounds and views; all which, to speak in his own manner, had a sort of well-bred as well as gay and recreative appearance, he conducted them to a small but charming octagon room, which was ornamented in every panel by designs taken from his own tragedy of the Mysterious Mother, and executed by the accomplished Lady Di.

Dr. Burney beheld them with the admiration that could not but be excited by the skill, sensibility, and refined expression of that eminent lady artist: and the pleasure of his admiration happily escaped the alloy by which it would have been adulterated, had he previously read the horrific tragedy whence the subject had been chosen; a tragedy that seems written upon a plan as revolting to probability as to nature; and that violates good taste as forcibly as good feeling. It seems written, indeed, as if in epigrammatic scorn of the horrors of the Greek drama, by giving birth to conceptions equally terrific, and [Pg 68] yet more appalling.

In the evening, Mr. Walpole favoured them with producing several, and opening some of his numerous repositories of hoarded manuscripts; and he pointed to a peculiar caravan, or strong box, that he meant to leave to his great nephew, Lord Waldegrave; with an injunction that it should not be unlocked for a certain number of years, perhaps thirty, after the death of Mr. Walpole; by which time, he probably calculated, that all then living, who might be hurt by its contents, would be above,—or beneath them.

He read several picked out and extremely clever letters of Madame du Deffand,[13] of whom he recounted a multiplicity of pleasant histories; and he introduced to them her favourite little lap-dog, which he fondled and cherished, fed by his side, and made his constant companion. There was no appearance of the roughness with which he had treated its mistress, in his treatment of the little animal; to whom, perhaps, he paid his court in secret penitence, as l’amende honorable for his harshness to its bequeather.

[Pg 69]

Horace Walpole was amongst those whose character, as far as it was apparent, had contradictory qualities so difficult to reconcile one with another, as to make its development, from mere general observation, superficial and unsatisfactory. And Strawberry Hill itself, with all its chequered and interesting varieties of detail, had a something in its whole of monotony, that cast, insensibly, over its visitors, an indefinable species of secret constraint; and made cheerfulness rather the effect of effort than the spring of pleasure; by keeping more within bounds than belongs to their buoyant love of liberty, those light, airy, darting, bursts of unsought gaiety, yclept animal spirits.

Nevertheless, the evenings of this visit were spent delightfully—they were given up to literature, and to entertaining, critical, ludicrous, or anecdotical conversation. Dr. Burney was nearly as full fraught as Mr. Walpole with all that could supply materials of this genus; and Mr. Walpole had so much taste for his society, that he was wont to say, when Dr. Burney was running off, after a rapid call in Berkeley-square, “Are you going already, Dr. Burney?—Very well, sir! but remember you owe me a visit!”

The pleasure, however, which his urbanity and unwearied exertions evidently bestowed upon his present guests, seemed to kindle in his [Pg 70] mind a reciprocity of sensation that warmed him into an increase of kindness; and urged the most impressive desire of retaining them for a lengthened visit. He left no flattery of persuasion, and no bribery of promised entertainment untried to allure their compliance. The daughter was most willing: and the father was not less so; but his time was irremediably portioned out, and no change was in his power.

Mr. Walpole looked seriously surprised as well as chagrined at the failure of his eloquence and his temptations: though soon recovering his usual tone, he turned off his vexation with his characteristic pleasantry, by uncovering a large portfolio, and telling them that it contained a collection of all the portraits that were extant, of every person mentioned in the Letters of Madame de Sevigné; “and if you will not stay at least another day,” he said, patting the portfolio with an air of menace, “you shan’t see one drop of them!”

Highly pleased and gratified, they came away with a positive engagement for a quick return; but an event was soon to take place which shewed, as usual, the nullity of any engagement for the future of Man to his fellow.

[Pg 71]


In May, 1786, died that wonderful blind musician, and truly worthy man, Mr. Stanley, who had long been in a declining; state of health, but who was much lamented by all with whom he had lived in any intimacy.

Once more, a vacancy opened to Dr. Burney of the highest post of honour in his profession, that of Master of the King’s Band; a post which in earlier life he had been promised, and of which the disappointment had caused him the most cruel chagrin.

He had now to renew his application. The Chamberlain was changed; and whether the successor to Lord Hertford had received, as any part of the bequests of his predecessor, the history of the violated rights of Dr. Burney, remained to be tried.


Dr. Burney was himself persuaded, from the favour shewn to him by the King, relative to the Commemoration of Handel, that his best chance was with his Majesty in person: and with this notion and hope, he waited upon his amiable friend Mr. Smelt, to consult with him upon what [Pg 72] course to pursue.

Mr. Smelt counselled him to go instantly to Windsor; not to address the King, but to be seen by him. “Take your daughter in your hand,” he said, “and walk in the evening upon the terrace. Your appearing there at this time, the King will instantly understand; and he has feelings so good and so quick, that he is much more likely to be touched by a hint of that delicate sort, than by any direct application. But—take your daughter in your hand.”

Mr. Smelt had probably heard, from Mrs. Delany, the graciousness with which that daughter had been signalized; and the Doctor determined implicitly to follow this advice.


Fortunately, to encourage and enliven the little expedition, just before the post-chaise stopped at the door, a letter from Mrs. Delany, written by Miss Port, warmly pressing for a renewal of the visit of the daughter, with an intimation, that it was asked by the Queen’s express [Pg 73] desire, came, through a private conveyance, from Windsor.

Arrived at Windsor, Dr. Burney drove to the house of Dr. Lind, after first depositing his companion at that of Mrs. Delany. With joy inexpressible that companion flew into the kind open arms of the most venerable of women, from whom her reception had all the liveliness of pleasant surprise, added to its unfading affection. They spent the rest of the morning together, and chiefly in the closet of Mrs. Delany; who, to her revering friend, unbosomed all her cares and sorrows, with a soft and touching unreserve, that could not but more and more endear her to one who took a share in all her griefs, as quick and sensitive as if they had been her own.

And many were the solicitudes of this feeling and most generous lady, though, at her great age, it might have been hoped that such would have been spared her; but her primitive sensibility was unimpaired, and the difficulties or misfortunes of all with whom she was connected, were felt as if personal. Her beloved great niece was still with her, and was her first comfort and delight; but too young and inexperienced to enter into her cares. These, however, though not their cause, had [Pg 74] been perceived by the penetrating Queen; who had then condescended to counsel this valued lady to press for another visit “from her new friend and favourite; who seemed,” she deigned to say, “peculiarly suited to sooth her anxieties:” a gracious partiality, which Mrs. Delany related as of good omen to the present application.


When the hour came for the evening walk on the Terrace, Dr. Burney took the arm of Dr. Lind; and Mrs. Delany consigned his daughter to the charge of Lady Louisa Clayton, a sister of Lady Charlotte Finch, Governess of the Princesses.

All the Royal Family were already on the Terrace. The King and Queen, and the Prince of Mecklenburgh, her Majesty’s brother, walked together; followed by a procession of the six lovely young Princesses, and some of the Princes; exhibiting a gay and striking appearance of one of the finest families in the world. Everywhere as they advanced, the crowd drew back against the walls on each side, making a double hedge for their passage: after which, the mass re-united behind, to follow.

[Pg 75]

When the King and Queen approached towards the party of Lady Louisa Clayton, her ladyship most kindly placed by her own side the Memorialist; without which attention she had been certainly unnoticed; for the moment their Majesties were in sight, she instinctively looked down, and drew her hat over her face. The courage with which their graciousness had invested her in the interviews at Mrs. Delany’s, where she was seen by them through their own courtesy, and at their own desire, all failed her here; where she came with personal, or, rather, filial views, and felt terrified lest they might appear to be presumptuous.

The Doctor was annoyed by the same feeling; and looked so conscious and embarrassed, that though he attained the honour of a bow from the King, and a curtsey from the Queen, every time they passed him, he involuntarily hung back, without the smallest attempt at even looking for further notice. Thus, and almost laughably, each of them, after coming so far merely with the hope of being recognized, might have gone back to their cells, without raising a surmise that they had ever quitted them, but for the considerate kindness of Lady Louisa Clayton; who, in taking under her own wing the Memorialist, gave her a post of [Pg 76] honour too conspicuous to be unremarked.

And, as soon as the Queen had stopped, and spoken to Lady Louisa in general terms, her Majesty, in a whisper, demanded, “Who is with you, Lady Louisa?” And when Lady Louisa answered: “Miss Burney, Ma’am;” her Majesty smilingly stepped nearer, with gentle and condescending inquiries.

The King, then, having finished his discourse with some other party, repeated the same question to Lady Louisa; and, having received the same answer, immediately addressed himself to the Memorialist, to ask whether she were come to Windsor to make any stay?

“No, Sir; not now.”

“I was sure,” cried the Queen, “she was not come to stay, by seeing her father, who has so little time.”

“And when shall you come again,” said the King, “to Windsor?”

“Very soon—I hope, Sir!”

“And—and—and—” added he, half-laughing, and hesitating significantly, while he flourished his hand and fingers as if wielding a pen; “pray—how goes on—the Muse?”

[Pg 77]

To this she only answered by laughing also; but he would not be so evaded, and repeated the interrogatory. She then replied, “Not at all, Sir!”

“No?—but why?—why not?”

“I am—afraid, Sir!” she stammered.

“And why?” repeated he, surprised: “Of what are you afraid?—of what?—”

Ashamed, however gratified, at the implied civility of this surprise, she answered something so hesitatingly and indistinctly, that he could not hear—or, at least, understand her; though he had bent his head to a level with her hat from the beginning of the little conference; and after another such question or two, with no greater satisfaction of reply—for she knew not how to treat so personal a subject in such full Congress—he smiled very good-humouredly, as if suddenly recollecting her father’s account of the shyness of her Muse, and walked on: the Queen, wearing a smile of the same expression, by his side.

This exceeding condescension was truly reviving to Dr. Burney; but it was all of good that repaid his journey and his effort. The place which he sought with so many motives to expect, and for which his rank in his profession so conclusively entitled him, he was informed, a few days afterwards, had been given away instantly upon the death of [Pg 78] Mr. Stanley, without any consultation with his Majesty; and, it was generally surmised, much to his Majesty’s displeasure.


But not, however, against the successful rival, Mr. Parsons, afterwards Sir William, was this displeasure directed: he was wholly blameless, not only in this superseding promotion, but in the tenor of his life at large. He might even be uninformed of Dr. Burney’s prior claims. And such, in fact, was Dr. Burney’s belief.

The ensuing paragraph, which appears to have been written in Italy, and is copied from a manuscript memorandum book of Dr. Burney’s, will demonstrate the early and liberal kindness of the Doctor towards Mr. Parsons.


“An old and excellent composer, now out of fashion, with whom I was made acquainted by Mr. Morrison, has very singular notions about all invention being at an end in music; asserting that composers only repeat themselves and each other. And that, as to modulation, it is only in the second part of songs (a da capo) [Pg 79] that it is attempted, merely to frighten the hearer back to the first. It seems, he adds, as if these second parts were made by the valet-de-chambre of the Maestro di Capella. I recommended him to Mr. Parsons, who consulted me about a master at Rome, after he had been at a conservatoriò at Naples, where he learned, he said, nothing. Rinaldo, an admirable as well as fanciful musician, but deemed to be passé, could afford to give him more time than if in full employment; and for but little money. Mr. Parsons solicited me, likewise, to prevail on Santarelli to favour him with a few lessons in singing; which, at my request, he did, without fee or reward; for he had long ceased teaching da professore, except his charming Eléve, La Signorina Battoni.”

The Doctor, it is true, could not then foresee the personal competition he was accelerating; but neither his equity nor his generosity were warped by the after discovery: all of injustice, if any there were in the nomination, hung upon the patron, not the candidate.


Very shortly after this most undeserved disappointment, the Memorialist—who must still, perforce, mingle, partially, something of her own memoirs with those of her father, with which, at this period, they were indispensably linked—met, by his own immediate request, Mr. Smelt, at the house of Mrs. Delany, who was then at her London [Pg 80] dwelling, in St. James’s Place.

He expressed the most obliging concern at the precipitancy of the Lord Chamberlain, who had disposed, he said, of the place before he knew the King’s pleasure; and Mr. Smelt scrupled not to confess that his Majesty’s own intentions had by no means been fulfilled.

As soon in the evening as all visitors were gone, and only himself and the Memorialist remained with Mrs. Delany, Mr. Smelt glided, with a gentleness and delicacy that accompanied all his proceedings, into the subject that had led him to demand this interview. And this was no other than the offer of a place to the Memorialist in the private establishment of the Queen.

Her surprise was considerable; though by no means what she would have felt had such an offer not been preceded by the most singular graciousness. Nevertheless, a mark of personal favour so unsolicited, so unthought of, could not but greatly move her: and the moment of disappointment and chagrin to her father at which it occurred; with the expressive tone and manner in which it was announced by Mr. Smelt, brought it close to her heart, as an intended and benevolent mark [Pg 81] of goodness to her father himself, that might publicly manifest how little their Majesties had been consulted, when Dr. Burney had again so unfairly been set aside.

But while these were the ideas that on the first moment awakened the most grateful sensations towards their Majesties, others, far less exhilarating, broke into their vivacity before they had even found utterance. A morbid stroke of sickly apprehension struck upon her mind with forebodings of separation from her father, her family, her friends; a separation which, when there is neither distress to enforce, nor ambition to stimulate a change, can have one only equivalent, or inducement, for an affectionate female; namely, a home of her own with a chosen partner; and even then, the filial sunderment, where there is filial tenderness, is a pungent drawback to all new scenes of life.

Nevertheless, she was fully sensible that here, though there was not that potent call to bosom feelings, there was honour the most gratifying in a choice so perfectly spontaneous; and favour amounting to kindness, from a quarter whence such condescension could not but elevate with pleasure, as well as charm and penetrate with gratitude and respect.

[Pg 82]

Still—the separation,—for the residence was to be invariably at the Palace;—the total change of life; the relinquishing the brilliant intellectual circle into which she had been so flatteringly invited—

She hesitated—she breathed hard—she could not attempt to speak—

But she was with those to whom speech is not indispensable for discourse; who could reciprocate ideas without uttering or hearing a syllable; and to whose penetrating acumen words are the bonds, but not the revealers of thoughts.

They saw, and understood her conflict; and by their own silence shewed that they respected hers, and its latent cause.

And when, after a long pause, ashamed of their patience, she would have expressed her sense of its kindness, they would not hear her apology. “Do not hurry your spirits in your answer, my dear Miss Burney,” said Mrs. Delany; “pray take your own time: Mr. Smelt, I am sure, will wait it.”

“Certainly he will,” said Mr. Smelt; “he can wait it even till to-morrow morning; for he is not to give his answer till to-morrow noon.”

“Take then the night, my dear Miss Burney,” cried Mrs. Delany, in a tone of the softest sympathy, “for deliberation; that you may think [Pg 83] every thing over, and not be hurried; and let us all three meet here again to-morrow morning at breakfast.”

“How good you both are!” the Memorialist was faintly uttering, when what was her surprise to hear Mr. Smelt, who, with a smile, interrupted her, say: “I have no claim to such a panegyric! I should ill execute the commission with which I have been entrusted, if I embarrassed Miss Burney; for the great personage, from whom I hold it, permitted my speaking first to Miss Burney alone, without consulting even Dr. Burney; that she might form her own unbiassed determination.”

Where now was the hesitation, the incertitude, the irresolution of the Memorialist? Where the severity of her conflict, the pang of her sundering wishes? All were suddenly dissolved by overwhelming astonishment, and melted by respectful gratitude: and to the decision of Dr. Burney all now was willingly, and with resolute and cheerful acquiescence, referred.

Dr. Burney felt honoured, felt elated, felt proud of a mark so gracious, so unexpected, of personal partiality to his daughter; but felt it, perforce, with the same drawbacks to entire happiness that so [Pg 84] strongly had balanced its pleasure with herself. Yet his high sense of such singular condescension, and his hope of the worldly advantage to which it might possibly lead; joined to the inherent loyalty that rendered a wish of his Sovereign a law to him, checked his disturbance ere it amounted to hesitation. Mutually, therefore, resigned to a parting from so honourable a call, they embraced in tearful unison of sentiment; and, with the warmest feelings of heart-felt and most respectful—though not unsighing—devotion, Dr. Burney hastened to Mr. Smelt, with their unitedly grateful and obedient acceptance of the offer which her Majesty had deigned to transmit to them through his kind and liberal medium.


Dr. Burney now became nearly absorbed by this interesting crisis in the life of his second daughter; of which, however, the results, not the details, belong to these Memoirs.

She was summoned almost immediately to Windsor, though only, at first, to the house of Mrs. Delany; in whose presence, as the Doctor learned from her letters, this Memorialist was called to the honour [Pg 85] of an interview of more than two hours with her Majesty. Not, however, for the purpose of arranging the particulars of her destination. The penetrating Queen, who soon, no doubt, perceived a degree of agitation which could not be quite controlled in so new, so unexpected a position, with a delicacy the most winning put that subject quite aside; and discoursed solely, during the whole long audience, upon general or literary matters.

“I know well,” continued the letter to the Doctor, “how my kind father will rejoice at so generous an opening; especially when I tell him that, in parting, she condescended, and in the softest manner, to say, ‘I am sure, Miss Burney, we shall suit one another very well!’ And then, turning to Mrs. Delany, she added, ‘I was led to think of Miss Burney first by her books—then by seeing her—and then by always hearing how she was loved by her friends—but chiefly, and over all, by your regard for her.’”

The Doctor was then further informed, through Mrs. Delany, that the office of his daughter was to be that of an immediate attendant upon her Majesty, designated in the Court Calendar by the name of Keeper of the Robes.

[Pg 86]

His sense of the voluntary favour and good opinion shown by the Queen in this election, made now nearly the first pleasure of his life; yet not superior, even if equal, was, or could be, either his satisfaction or the gratitude of his daughter, to the pleasure of Mrs. Delany, at this approximating residence of a favourite whom she most partially loved, and by whom she knew herself to be most tenderly revered.

The business thus fixed, though unannounced, as Mrs. Haggerdorn, the predecessor, still held her place, the Doctor again, for a few weeks, received back his daughter; whom he found, like himself, extremely gratified that her office consisted entirely in attendance upon so kind and generous a Queen: though he could not but smile a little, upon learning that its duties exacted constant readiness to assist at her Majesty’s toilette: not from any pragmatical disdain of dress—on the contrary, dress had its full share of his admiration, when he saw it in harmony with the person, the class, and the time of life of its exhibitor. But its charms and its capabilities, he was well aware, had engaged no part of his daughter’s reflections; what she knew of it was accidental, caught and forgotten with the same facility; and conducing, consequently, to no system or knowledge that might lead to [Pg 87] any eminence of judgment for inventing or directing ornamental personal drapery. And she was as utterly unacquainted with the value of jewelry, as she was unused to its wear and care.

The Queen, however, he considered, as she made no inquiry, and delivered no charge, was probably determined to take her chance; well knowing she had others more initiated about her to supply such deficiencies. It appeared to him, indeed, that far from seeking, she waived all obstacles; anxious, upon this occasion, at least, where the services were to be peculiarly personal, to make and abide by a choice exclusively her own; and in which no common routine of chamberlain etiquette should interfere.

And, ere long, he had the inexpressible comfort to be informed that so changed, through the partial graciousness of the Queen to the Memorialist, was the place from that which had been Mrs. Haggerdorn’s; so lightened and so simplified, that, in fact, the nominal new Keeper of the Robes had no robes in her keeping; that the difficulties with respect to jewelry, laces, and court habiliments, and the other routine business belonging to the dress manufactory, appertained to her colleague, Mrs. Schwellenberg; and that the manual labours and cares devolved upon the Wardrobe-women; while from herself all that [Pg 88] officially was required was assiduous attention, unremitting readiness for every summons to the dressing-room, not unfrequent long readings, and perpetual sojourn at the palace.


Not till within a few days of the departure of Mrs. Haggerdorn for Germany, there to enjoy, in her own country and family, the fruits of her faithful services, was the vacation of her place made public; when, to avoid troublesome canvassings, Dr. Burney was commissioned to announce in the newspapers her successor.

Open preparations were then made for a removal to Windsor; and a general leave-taking of the Memorialist with her family and friends ensued.

Not, indeed, a leave-taking of that mournful cast which belongs to great distance, or decided absence; distance here was trifling, and absence merely precarious; yet was it a leave-taking that could not be gay, though it ought not to be sad. It was a parting from all habitual or voluntary intercourse with natal home, and bosom friends; since she could only at stated hours receive even her nearest of kin in her [Pg 89] apartments; and no appointment could be hazarded for abroad, that the duties of office did not make liable to be broken.

These restrictions, nevertheless, as they were official, Dr. Burney was satisfied could cause no offence to her connexions: and with regard to her own privations, they were redeemed by so much personal favour and condescension, that they called not for more philosophy than is almost regularly demanded, by the universal equipoise of good and evil, in all sublunary changes.

General satisfaction and universal wishing joy ensued from all around to Dr. Burney; who had the great pleasure of seeing that this disposal of his second daughter was spread far and wide through the kingdom, and even beyond its watery bounds, so far as so small an individual could excite any interest, with one accord of approbation.

But the chief notice of this transaction that charmed Dr. Burney, a notice which he hailed with equal pride and delight, was from Mr. Burke; to whom it was no sooner made known, than he hastened in person to St. Martin’s-street with his warm gratulations; and, upon missing both father and daughter, he entered the parlour, to write upon a card [Pg 90] that he picked from a bracket, these flattering words:

“Mr. Burke,

“To congratulate upon the Honour done by
“The Queen to Miss Burney,—
“And to Herself.”


The 17th of July, 1786, was the day appointed by the Queen for the entrance into her Majesty’s establishment of Dr. Burney’s second daughter.

Mrs. Ord, the worthy and zealous friend of Dr. Burney and his family, who, with even maternal affection, had long delighted to place the Memorialist by the side of her own and most amiable daughter, in chaperoning them to assemblies, or large societies; insisted upon resigning her kind adoption at the very place where it must necessarily cease, by being herself the convoy of the new Robe-keeper to Windsor. Dr. Burney, therefore, made his own carriage follow that of Mrs. Ord merely as a baggage-waggon, and to bring him afterwards back to town; as Mrs. Ord meant to travel on from Windsor to Bath.

[Pg 91]

The serene kindness of this excellent lady, who was enchanted at this appointment, kept up the gaiety of Dr. Burney to an height with his satisfaction, by banishing all discourse upon the only drawbacks to his contentment; immediate parting, and permanent separation from under his roof.

To their no small surprise, they did not find Mrs. Delany at home; but her lovely great niece[14] flew out, with juvenile joy, to hail the approaching residence of the Memorialist so near to the habitation of her aunt.

Mrs. Ord soon took leave, to proceed on her journey to Bath. Cordial and cheering was her congratulatory shake of the hand with Dr. Burney; but when she came to the quitting embrace with the new Windsor resident, an involuntary check to her pleasure, at sight of the disturbed air of its object, started into her eyes, and ran down her cheeks. But though thus sensible to foregoing an almost continual intercourse with a fondly favourite companion, her native equanimity of disposition soon resumed its steadiness; for sensibility, though now and then the excursive guest of sudden emotion, is soon chased for [Pg 92] something wiser, at least, if not better, when it comes not in contact with habitual sympathies. She uttered, therefore, her kind wishes, and auspicious auguries of royal favour, with the usual firmness of her calm temperament; and then, with cheerful satisfaction, repaired to her carriage.

Mrs. Delany appeared shortly afterwards, and received her guests with an ardour as animated as that of her little niece, and nearly as youthful. Sensibility here was the characteristic of the composition. Untamed by age, unexhausted by calamity, it still crimsoned her pale cheeks, still brightened, or dimmed her soft eyes, as sorrow or as joy touched her still sensitive heart.

Delightful to Dr. Burney was the sight of her expansive pleasure; delightful and congenial. His own ever airy spirits caught the gay infection. He saw in it a gentle solace to every private care of his daughter, and an augmentation of every enjoyment: while the view of such blithe and pure hilarity, in beings so beloved and so revered, could not but mitigate the fears, the doubts, the fond regrets that waive over every experimental change of life to a reflecting mind.

To Mrs. Delany,—her time of life, her heart-rending recent loss of [Pg 93] the friend most dear to her upon earth, and the tender affection she had conceived for the Memorialist considered—this appointment, which brought immediately and constantly within her reach, a person, whom she knew to be attached to her by the warmest ties of love and veneration, seemed an event too romantic for reality; and almost she thought it, she said, a dream.

The absence of Mrs. Delany had been occasioned by the honour of taking an airing with her Majesty; to whom intelligence was immediately conveyed of the arrival of the new attendant; which as immediately was followed by a command for that attendant to mount the hill forthwith to the Queen’s Lodge.

An abridged account of the rest of this day’s transaction will be copied from a letter of Dr. Burney,

“To Lemuel Smelt, Esq.

“When the summons from the Queen arrived, Mrs. Delany, who most kindly persuaded me to remain a day or two at Windsor, to see my daughter installed in her new office, persuaded me to walk with her to the Lodge. The weather was very fine, and the distance next to nothing. The approach, nevertheless, was so formidable to the poor new Robe-keeper, that I feared she [Pg 94] would not be able to get thither. She turned pale, her lips quivered, and she found herself so faint, that it was with the utmost difficulty she reached the portico; whence we were shewn immediately, by one of the pages, to her stated apartment.

“This seizure was by no means from any panic at advancing to the presence of her Majesty, for that she already knew to be all gentleness and benignity; it was but the aggregate of her feelings in quitting her family and her friends; with whom she had ever lived in the most perfect harmony, and of whose cordial affection she was gratefully convinced.

“She had scarcely a moment to indulge in these reflections, ere she was conducted, by a page, to her Majesty; from whose sight she returned to me in a quarter of an hour, quite revived; and relieved and rejoiced me past measure by saying, that the Queen’s reception had been so gracious, or rather so kind, as to have had the effect of a potent cordial; a cordial, dear Sir, of which, you may imagine, I had my full portion.

“After dining the next day at Mrs. Delany’s, and walking in the evening upon the terrace, where I received congratulatory compliments from various friends I there met; and where I was honoured with the gracious notice of their Majesties, and nearly a quarter of an hour’s conversation; I called, in my way back to Mrs. Delany, upon my daughter in her new abode; and had the happiness to find her in recruiting spirits, and much pleased and flattered by all that had passed during the course of the day. And when, the following noon, I called again to take leave ere I returned to town, I heard that she had received visits and civilities from the whole female household at present resident at Windsor. She likes her apartments extremely. Her sitting [Pg 95] room, which is large and pleasant, is upon the lawn before the lodge, and has in full view, but at a commodious distance, the walk that leads to the terrace, which, of course, is gay and thronged with company; yet never noisy, nor riotously crowded.

“I left her with the most comforting hope that her spirits will be soon entirely restored; for the condescending goodness of her Majesty is so sweet and gracious, that she is quite penetrated with reverence and gratitude. And I have since had a completely satisfactory letter from her, in which she says, ‘I have been told frightful stories of the precipices and brambles I shall find in my paths in a residence at court; but my road, on the contrary, only grows smoother and smoother; so that, if precipices and brambles there may be to encounter, they have not, at least, jutted forth to terrify me on the onset: I therefore hope that they will not occur till I am so well aware of their danger, that I shall know how to step aside without tumbling from one, or being torn by the other.’

“But that which most has touched the new Robe-keeper, is the delicacy with which her Royal Mistress, during the first three or four days, forbore to call her into office, though she called her into presence. It was merely as if she had been a visitor; and one for whom the Queen deigned herself to furnish topics of conversation; an elegance so engaging, that it enabled the noviciate to glide into her office gradually, and without fright or embarrassment.

“The Princesses, also, every one of the lovely six, come occasionally, upon various small pretences, to her apartment, with a sweetness of speech and manner that seems almost eager to shew her favour. The little Princess Amelia is brought often by her nurse,[15] at her own playful desire.

[Pg 96]

“I should make my letter of an unreasonable length, even, dear Sir, to you, if I were to enumerate all the flattering and encouraging things that have come to my knowledge, not from the household only, but from many others; all uniting to tell me, that no one speaks of this appointment without pleasure and approbation. The Bishop of Salisbury[16] said this to me aloud on the terrace, the first evening; and my daughter was much gratified by such episcopal approvance. The Bishop added that his brother, Lord Barrington, declared there never was any thing of the sort more peculiarly judicious than this choice. I mention these circumstances in hopes of exculpating you, dear Sir, in some measure, for your kind partialities upon this event; and I will frankly add, that though I have had the good fortune to marry to my own contentment three of my daughters, I never gave one of them away with the pride or the pleasure I experienced in my gift of last Monday.”

Dr. Burney now felt perfectly, nay thankfully, at ease, as to the lot of his second daughter; who was distinguished in her new abode by the most noble benignity, and addressed even with elegance by all of the royal race who honoured her with any notice; a graciousness which, to Dr. Burney, in whose composition loyalty bore a most conspicuous sway, produced an even exulting delight.

[Pg 97]

His correspondence with the new Robe-keeper was active, lively, incessant; and he had no greater pleasure than in perusing and answering her letters from Windsor Lodge.

As soon as it was in his power to steal a few days from his business and from London, he accepted an invitation from Mrs. Delany to pass them in her abode, by the express permission, or rather with the lively approbation of the King and Queen; without which Mrs. Delany held it utterly unbecoming to receive any guests in the house of private, but royal hospitality, which they had consigned to her use.

The Queen, on this occasion, as on others that were similar, gave orders that Dr. Burney should be requested to dine at the Lodge with his daughter; to whom devolved, in the then absence of her coadjutrix, Mrs. Schwellenberg, the office of doing the honours of a very magnificent table. And that daughter had the happiness, at this time, to engage for meeting her father, two of the first characters for virtue, purity, and elegance, that she had ever known,—the exemplary Mr. Smelt, and the nearly incomparable Mrs. Delany. There were, also, some other agreeable people; but the spirited Dr. Burney was the principal object: and he enjoyed himself from the gay feelings of his [Pg 98] contentment, as much as by the company he was enjoyed.

In the evening, when the party adjourned from the dining-room to the parlour of the Robe-keeper, how high was the gratification of Dr. Burney to see the King enter the apartment; and to see that, though professedly it was to do honour to years and virtue, in fetching Mrs. Delany himself to the Queen; which was very generally his benevolent custom; he now superadded to that goodness the design of according an audience to Dr. Burney; for when Mrs. Delany was preparing to attend his Majesty, he, smilingly, made her re-seat herself, with his usual benign consideration for her time of life; and then courteously entered into conversation with the happy Dr. Burney.

He opened upon musical matters, with the most animated wish to hear the sentiments of the Doctor, and to communicate his own; and the Doctor, enchanted, was more than ready, was eager to meet these condescending advances.

No one at all accustomed to Court etiquette could have seen him without smiling: he was so totally unimpressed with the modes which, even in private, are observed in the royal presence, that he moved, spoke, and walked about the room without constraint; nay, he even debated with [Pg 99] the King precisely with the same frankness that he would have used with any other gentleman, whom he had accidentally met in society.

Nevertheless, a certain flutter of spirits which always accompanies royal interviews that are infrequent, even with those who are least awed by them, took from him that self-possession which, in new, or uncommon cases, teaches us how to get through difficulties of form, by watching the manoeuvres of our neighbours. Elated by the openness and benignity of his Majesty, he seemed in a sort of honest enchantment that drove from his mind all thought of ceremonial; though in his usual commerce with the world, he was scrupulously observant of all customary attentions. But now, on the contrary, he pursued every topic that was started till he had satisfied himself by saying all that belonged to it; and he started any topic that occurred to him, whether the King appeared to be ready for another, or not; and while the rest of the party, retreating towards the wainscot, formed a distant and respectful circle, in which the King, approaching separately and individually those whom he meant to address, was alone wont to move, the Doctor, quite unconsciously, came forward into the circle himself; and, wholly [Pg 100] bent upon pursuing whatever theme was begun, either followed the King when he turned away, or came onward to meet his steps when he inclined them towards some other person; with an earnestness irrepressible to go on with his own subject; and to retain to himself the attention and the eyes—which never looked adverse to him—of the sweet-tempered monarch.

This vivacity and this nature evidently amused the King, whose candour and good sense always distinguished an ignorance of the routine of forms, from the ill manners or ill-will of disrespect.

The Queen, also, with a grace all her own towards those whom she deigned to wish to please, honoured her Robe-keeper’s apartment with her presence on the following evening, by accompanying thither the King; with the same sweetness of benevolence of seeking Mrs. Delany, in granting an audience to Dr. Burney.

No one better understood conversation than the Queen, or appreciated conversers with better judgment: gaily, therefore, she drew out, and truly enjoyed, the flowing, unpracticed, yet always informing discourse of Dr. Burney.

[Pg 101]


One morning of this excursion was dedicated to the famous Herschel, whom Dr. Burney visited at Slough; whither he carried his daughter, to see, and to take a walk through the immense new telescope of Herschel’s own construction. Already from another very large, though, in comparison with this, very diminutive one, Dr. Herschel said he had discovered 1500 universes! The moon, too, which, at that moment, was his favourite object, had afforded him two volcanos; and his own planet, or the Georgium Sidus, had favoured him with two satellites.

Dr. Burney, who had a passionate inclination for astronomy, had a double tie to admiration and regard for Dr. Herschel, who, both practically and theoretically, was, also, an excellent musician. They had much likewise in common of suavity of disposition; and they conversed together with a pleasure that led, eventually, to much after-intercourse.

The accomplished and amiable Mr. Smelt joined them here by appointment; as did, afterwards, the erudite, poetical, and elegant Dr. Hurd, [Pg 102] Bishop of Worcester, and author of the Marks of Imitation; whose fine features, fine expression, and fine manners made him styled by Mr. Smelt “The Beauty of Holiness;” and who was accompanied by the learned Dr. Douglas, afterwards Bishop of Salisbury.

Miss Herschel, the celebrated comet-searcher, and one of the most truly modest, or rather humble, of human beings, having sat up all night at her eccentric vocation, was now, much to their regret, mocking the day-beams in sound repose.

In similar visits to his daughter, Dr. Burney had again and again the high honour and happiness of being indulged with long, lively, and most agreeable conversations with his Majesty; who, himself a perfectly natural man, had a true taste for what, in a court—or, in truth, out of one—is so rarely to be met with,—an unsophisticated character.

And thus, congenial with his principles, and flattering to his taste, softly, gaily, salubriously, began for Dr. Burney the new career of his second daughter. It was a stream of happiness, now gliding on gently with the serenity of enjoyment for the present; now rapidly flowing faster with the aspiring velocity of hope for the future.

[Pg 103]


What a reverse to this beaming sunshine was floating in the air! A second year was yet incomplete, when a cloud intercepted the bright rays that had almost revivified Dr. Burney, by suddenly and for ever closing from his view the inestimable, the exemplary, the venerated friend of his daughter, Mrs. Delany; for sudden was this mortal eclipse, though, at her great age, it could never be unexpected.

And yet, it was not the death of age that carried her hence; no shattering preparatory warning, either corporeally debilitating, or intellectually decaying, had raised that alarm which teaches the waning value, as well as duration, of life; and makes grief in the survivors blush at its selfishness; and regret appear nearly a crime. Her eyes alone had failed, and those not totally. Nor even was her general frame, though enfeebled, wholly deprived of its elastic powers. She was still upright; her air and carriage were full of dignity; all her motions were graceful; and her gestures, when she was animated, had a vivacity almost sportive. Her exquisitely susceptible soul, at every strong emotion, still mantled in her cheeks: and her spirits, to the [Pg 104] last, retained their innocent gaiety; her conversation its balmy tone of sympathy; and her manners, their soft and resistless attraction; while her piety was at once the most fervent, yet most humble.

The immediate cause of her death was an inflammation of the chest, brought on by a cold. Skill and care were unavailing for this world; and she, though she accepted, sought them not; her pious spirit had been long and cheerfully, though not impatiently, prepared for another—a better!

She seemed, indeed, to grieve at leaving her darling young niece; and a generous sorrow touched her kind and tender heart for the deep sadness with which she knew she must be mourned, almost incessantly mourned, by her latest adopted, but not least loved friend; to whom she left, by her faithful Astley, this affecting message: “Tell her—when I am gone—for I know how she will miss me!—tell her how much comfort she must always feel, in reflecting how mightily my latter days have been soothed by her!” Words of such heart-melting tenderness, that they consoled at once, and redoubled the survivor’s grief.

Dr. Burney was amongst the last persons that she mentioned; and with [Pg 105] a kindness the most touching; but the latest name that, on the night of her death, she pronounced to this Memorialist, was that of the King; to whom she sent her most grateful duty, with a petition that he would deign to accept her humble bequest of what she thought the least worthless amongst her paintings, and what he most had approved.

When faintly, but most impressively, she had articulated this message, she spoke a word of fondness to her sorrowing niece; and murmured a gentle, a tender “Good night!” to her afflicted friend; and then, with evident intent to compose her mind to pious meditation, she turned away her head; uttering, though with closed eyes, but a cheerful smile upon her lips; “And now—I’ll go to sleep!—”

This was not more than a quarter of an hour ere, to all human perception, that sleep became eternal![18]

[Pg 106]


Such was the cloud that obscured the spring horizon of Dr. Burney in 1788; but which, severely as it damped and saddened him, was but as a point in a general mass, save from his kind grief for his heart-afflicted daughter, compared with the effect produced upon him by the appalling hurricane that afterwards ensued; though there, he himself was but as a point, and scarcely that, in the vast mass of general woe and universal disorder, of which that fatal storm was the precursor.

The war of all the elements, when their strife darts with lightnings, and hurls with thunder, that seem threatening destruction all around, is peace, is calm, is tameness and sameness, to that which was caused [Pg 107] by the first sudden breaking out of a malady nameless, but tremendous, terrific, but unknown, in the King—that father of his people, that friend of human kind.

To mourn here was but the nation’s lot; daily to rise in the most anxious expectation; nightly to go to rest in the most fearful dismay, was but the universal fate, from the highest peer to the lowest peasant of Great Britain. With one heart the whole empire seemed to beat for his sufferings; and to unite with one voice in supplication for his recovery.

This malady, however, so baleful in itself, so affrighting in its concomitants, so agitating in its effects, is now become not a page but a volume of history. All recurrence to it here would, therefore, be superfluous; especially as Dr. Burney, though amongst the most poignantly interested in its progress, from the loyalty of his character joined to the situation of his daughter, had no intelligence upon the subject but such as was public: for the Memorialist received the commands of her Majesty, immediately upon the breaking out of alarm, not to touch upon this calamity in a single letter sent from the Lodge, even to her father: an order which she strictly obeyed, till, [Pg 108] first, the evil had become publicly known, and, next, was worn away.

This event, then, is foreign to all domestic memoirs; and to such as are political, Dr. Burney’s can have no pretensions. It will rapidly, therefore, be passed over, in consonance with the intentions of the Doctor, manifested by an entire omission of any intervening memorandums, from his grief at the illness, to his joy at the recovery of his Sovereign; a joy which, however diversified by the endless shadings of multitudinous circumstances, was almost universally felt by all ranks, all classes, all ages; and hailed by a chorus of sympathy, that resounded in songs of thanksgiving and triumph throughout the British empire.

The Heavens then,—as far as the Heavens with the transitory events of living man may be assimilated—once again were clear, transparent, and bright with lustre to every loyal heart in the King’s dominions. The royal sufferer, renovated in health, mental and corporeal, re-instated in his exalted functions, and restored to the benediction of his family, the exercise of his virtues, and the enjoyment of his beneficence; suddenly emerged from an enveloping darkness of mystery and seclusion, to an unexampled eclât of popularity; reverberating [Pg 109] from every voice, beating in every heart; streaming from every eye, to hail his sight, wherever even a glimpse of him could be caught, with a joy that seemed to shed over his presence a radiance celestial.

Who, in the fair front of humble individual rejoicers, stood more prominent in vivacity of exultation than Dr. Burney? whose whole soul had been nearly monopolized by the alternating passions of fear, hope, pity, or horror, successively awakened by the changeful rumours that coloured, or discoloured, all intelligence during the illness.


And yet—though joy flew to his bosom with such exalting delight, when that joy had spent its first effervescence; when, exhausted by its own eager ebullition, it subsided into quiet thankfulness—did Dr. Burney find himself in the same state of self-gratulation at the position of his daughter, as before that blight which bereaved her of Mrs. Delany? did he experience the same vivid glow of pleasure in her destination, that he had felt previously to that tremendous national tempest that had shaken the palace, and shattered all its dwellers, through terror, [Pg 110] watchfulness, and sorrow?

Alas, no! the charm was broken, the curtain was dropt! the scene was changed by unlooked-for contingencies; and a catastrophe of calamity seemed menacing his peace, that was precisely the reverse of all that the opening of this part of his life’s drama had appeared to augur of felicity.

The health of his daughter fell visibly into decay; her looks were alarmingly altered; her strength was daily enfeebling; and the native vivacity of her character and spirits was palpably sinking from premature internal debility.

Nevertheless, not the first, nor even the twentieth, was Dr. Burney to remark this change. Natively unsuspicious of evil, the pleasure with which his sight always lighted up the countenance of his daughter, kept him long in ignorance of the threatening decline which, to almost all others who beheld her, was apparent. But when her family and friends perceived his delusion, they conceived it to be more kind to give him timely alarm, than to leave him to make the discovery himself—perhaps too late. They agreed, therefore, after various consultations, to point out to him the aspect of danger.

[Pg 111]

This indeed, was a blight to close, in sickly mists, the most brilliant avenues of his parental ambition. It was a shock of the deepest disappointment, that the one amongst his progeny on whom fortune had seemed most to smile, should be threatened with lingering dissolution, through the very channel in which she appeared to be gliding to honour and favour; and that he, her hope-beguiled parent, must now, at all mundane risks, snatch her away from every mundane advantage; or incur the perilous chance of weeping over her precipitated grave.

Yet, where such seemed the alternative, there could be no hesitation: the tender parent took place of the provident friend, and his decision was immediate to recal the invalid from all higher worldly aspirations to her retired natal home.

The gratitude of his daughter at this paternal tenderness rose to her eyes, in her then weakened state, with constant tears every time it occurred to her mind; for well she knew how many a gay hope, and glowing fond idea, must be sacrificed by so retrograde a measure.

Medical aid was, however, called in; but no prescription was efficacious: no further room, therefore, was left for demur, and with the sanction, or rather by the direction of her kind father, she [Pg 112] addressed a letter to the Queen—having first besought and obtained her Majesty’s leave for taking so direct a course.

In this letter, the Memorialist unreservedly represented the altered state of her health; with the fears of her father that her constitution would be utterly undermined, unless it could be restored by retirement from all official exertions. She supplicated, therefore, her Majesty’s permission to give in her resignation, with her humblest acknowledgments for all the extraordinary goodness that had been shown to her; the remembrance of which would be ever gratefully and indelibly engraven on her heart.

Scarcely with more reluctance was this letter delivered than it was received; and as painful to Dr. Burney were the conflicting scenes that followed this step, as had been the apprehensions by which it had been produced. The Queen was moved even to tears at the prospect of losing a faithful attendant, whom she had considered as consecrated to her for life; and on whose attachment she had the firmest reliance: and the reluctance with which she turned from the separation led to modifying propositions, so condescendingly urgent, that the plan of retreat was [Pg 113] soon nearly melted away from grateful devotion.

To withstand any kindness is ungenial to all feeling; to withstand that which a Sovereign deigns to display is revolting to the orders of society. The last person upon earth was Dr. Burney for such a species of offence; from week, therefore, to week, and from month to month, this uncertain state of things continued, and his daughter kept to her post; though, from the view of her changed appearance, there was almost an outcry in their own little world at such continual delay.

In no common manner, indeed, was Dr. Burney beset to adhere to his purpose; he was invoked, conjured, nay, exhorted, by calls and supplications from the most distinguished of his friends, which, however gratifying to his parental feelings, were distressful to his loyal ideas from his conviction that the gracious wish of detention sprung from a belief that the restoration of the invalid might be effected without relinquishing her place.


And while thus poignantly he was disturbed by this conflict, his daughter became accidentally informed of plans that were in secret [Pg 114] agitation to goad his resolves. Mr. Boswell, about this time, guided by M. de Gaiffardiere, crossed and intercepted her passage, one Sunday morning, from the Windsor cathedral to the Queen’s lodge.

Mr. Boswell had visited Windsor to solicit the King’s leave, which graciously had been granted, for publishing Dr. Johnson’s dialogue with his Majesty.

Almost forcibly stopping her in her path, though making her an obsequious, or rather a theatrical, bow, “I am happy,” he cried, “to find you, Madam, for I was told you were lost! closed in the unscalable walls of a royal convent. But let me tell you, Madam!” assuming his highest tone of mock-heroic, “it won’t do! You must come forth, Madam! You must abscond from your princely monastery, and come forth! You were not born to be immured, like a tabby cat, Madam, in yon august cell! We want you in the world. And we are told you are very ill. But we can’t spare you.—Besides, Madam, I want your Johnson’s letters for my book!”

Then, stopping at once himself and his hearer, by spreading abroad both his arms, in starting suddenly before her, he energetically added, “For the book, Madam! the first book in the universe!”

[Pg 115]

Swelling, then, with internal gratulation, yet involuntarily half-laughing, from good-humouredly catching the infection of the impulse which his unrestrained self-complacency excited in his listener, he significantly paused; but the next minute, with double emphasis, and strong, even comic gesticulation, he went on: “I have every thing else! every thing that can be named, of every sort, and class, and description, to show the great man in all his bearings!—every thing,—except his letters to you! But I have nothing of that kind. I look for it all from you! It is necessary to complete my portrait. It will be the First Book in the whole universe, Madam! There’s nothing like it—” again half-laughing, yet speaking more and more forcibly; “There never was,—and there never will be!—So give me your letters, and I’ll place them with the hand of a master!”

She made some sportive reply, to hurry away from his urgency; but he pursued her quite to the Lodge; acting the whole way so as to make gazers of all whom they encountered, and a laughing observer of M. de Gaiffardiere. “You must come forth, Madam!” he vociferated; “this monastic life won’t do. You must come forth! We are resolved to a [Pg 116] man,—we, The Club, Madam! ay, the club, Madam! are resolved to a man, that Dr. Burney shall have no rest—poor gentleman!—till he scale the walls of your august convent, to burn your veil, and carry you off.”

At the iron gate opening into the lawn, not daring to force his uninvited steps any farther, he seriously and formally again stopped her, and, with a look and voice that indicated—don’t imagine I am trifling!—solemnly confirmed to her a rumour which already had reached her ears, that Mr. Windham, whom she knew to be foremost in this chivalrous cabal against the patience of Dr. Burney, was modelling a plan for inducing the members of the Literary Club to address a round-robin to the Doctor, to recall his daughter to the world.

“And the whole matter was puissantly discussed,” added Mr. Boswell, “at the club, Madam, at the last meeting— Charles Fox in the chair.”

The alarm of this intimation sufficed, however, to save the Doctor from so disconcerting an honour; for the next time that the invalid, who, though palpably waning away, was seldom confined to the house, went to Westminster Hall during the trial of Mr. Hastings, and was joined by Mr. Windham, she entreated that liberal friend to relinquish his too [Pg 117] kind purpose; assuring him that such a violent measure was unnecessary, since all, however slowly, was progressive towards her making the essay so kindly desired for her health, of change of air and life.

Mr. Windham, at first, persisted that nothing short of a round-robin would decisively re-urge Dr. Burney to his “almost blunted purpose.” But when, with equal truth and gratitude, she seriously told him that his own personal influence had already, in this most intricate difficulty, been persuasively powerful, he exclaimed, with his ever animated elegance, “Then I have not lived in vain!” and acquiesced.


Sir Joshua Reynolds, Horace Walpole, and all the Burkes, were potent accomplices in this kind and singular conspiracy; which, at last, was suddenly superseded by so obviously a dilapidated state of health in its object, as to admit of no further procrastination; and this uncommon struggle at length ended by the entrance at Windsor of a successor to the invalid, in July, 1791; when, though with nearly as much regret as eagerness, Dr. Burney fetched his daughter from the [Pg 118] palace; to which, exactly five years previously, he had conveyed her with unmixed delight.

It is here a duty—a fair and a willing one—to mention, that in an audience of leave-taking to which the Memorialist was admitted just before her departure, the Queen had the gracious munificence to insist that half the salary annexed to the resigned office should be retained: and when the Memorialist, from fullness of heart, and the surprise of gratitude, would have declined, though with the warmest and most respectful acknowledgments, a remuneration to which she had never looked forward, the Queen, without listening to her resistance, deigned to express the softest regret that it was not convenient to her to do more.[19]

All of ill health, fatigue, or suffering, that had worked the necessity for this parting, was now, at this moment of its final operation, sunk in tender gratitude, or lost in the sorrow of leave-taking; and the Memorialist could difficultly articulate, in retiring, [Pg 119] a single sentence of her regret or her attachment: while the Queen, the condescending Queen, with weeping eyes, laid her fair hand upon the arm of the Memorialist, repeatedly and gently wishing her happy—“well, and happy!” And all the Princesses were graciously demonstrative of a concern nearly amounting to emotion, in pronouncing their adieus. Even the King, the benign King himself, coming up to her, with an evident intention to wish her well, as he entered the apartment that she was quitting, wore an aspect of so much pity for her broken health, that, utterly overpowered by the commiserating expression of his benevolent countenance, she was obliged, instead of murmuring her thanks, and curtseying her farewell, abruptly to turn from him to an adjoining window, to hide a grateful sensibility of his goodness that she could neither subdue, nor venture to manifest.

A minute or two he deigned to wait in silence her resumption of self-command, that he might speak to her; but finding she could not enough recover to look round, he moved silently, and not very fast, away; taking with him a fervency of prayers and blessings that issued from the heart’s core of his humblest, but most grateful subject.

[Pg 120]

No one, not even the bitterest of his political enemies, could have passed five years under the roof of his Majesty George the Third, and have seen him, whether overwhelmed by the most baneful of calamities, or brightened by the most unexampled popularity, always, through every vicissitude, save in the immediate paroxysms of his malady, himself unchanged, in zeal for his people; in tender affection for his family; and in the kindliest benevolence for all his household—without looking up to him with equal reverence and attachment, as a being of the most stainless intentional purity both in principle and in conduct.


Arrived again at the natal home, Dr. Burney welcomed back his daughter with the most cheering tenderness. All the family,—and in the same line in partial affection,—Mr. and Mrs. Locke, hastened to hail and propitiate her return; and congratulatory hopes and wishes for the speedy restoration of her health poured in upon the Doctor from all quarters.

But chiefly Mrs. Crewe, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and Messrs. Windham, Horace Walpole, and Seward, started forward, by visits or by letters, [Pg 121] upon this restitution, with greetings almost tumultuous; so imbued had been their minds with the belief that change of scene and change of life, alone could retard a change more fatal.


Mr. Burke was at Beaconsfield; and joined not, therefore, in the kind participation which the Doctor might else have hoped for, on the re-appearance of his invalid daughter in those enlightening circles of which Mr. Burke, now, was the unrivalled first ornament.

It may here be right, perhaps, as well as interesting, to note, since it can be done upon proof, the kindness of heart and liberality of Mr. Burke, even in politics, when not combatted by the turbulence and excitement of public contention. Too noble, indeed, was his genuine character, too great, too grand, for any warp so offensive to mental liberty, as that of seeking to subject the opinions of his friends to his own.

This truth will be amply illustrated by the following letter, written [Pg 122] in answer to some apology from Dr. Burney, for withholding his vote, at a Westminster Election, from the friend and the party that were canvassed for in person by Mr. Burke.

“To Dr. Burney.

“My Dear Sir,—I give you my sincere thanks for your desire to satisfy my mind relative to your conduct in this exigency. I am well acquainted with your principles and sentiments, and know that every thing good is to be expected from both. * * * God forbid that worthy men, situated as you are, should be made sacrifices to the minuter part of politics, when we are far from able to assure ourselves that the higher parts can be made to answer the good ends we have in view! You have little or no obligations to me; but if you had as many as I really wish it were in my power—as it is certainly in my desire—to lay upon you, I hope you do not think me capable of conferring them, in order to subject your mind, or your affairs, to a painful and mischievous servitude. I know that your sentiments will always outrun the demands of your friends; and that you want rather to be restrained in the excess of what is right, than to be stimulated to a languid and insufficient exertion.” * *

The rest of this letter, so striking, yet so calm in its enlarged political humanity—is not comprehensible, no copy of the letter to which it was a reply having been found. But the following copy of the answer of Dr. Burney to the above letter of Mr. Burke, is still extant.

[Pg 123]

“To the Right Hon. Edmund Burke.

“The manner, dear Sir, in which you have kindly relieved my mind is a new obligation, for which I am utterly unable to express my gratitude. * * * You have not only removed my fears of incurring your censure, but have put me in humour with my own proceeding: and somebody has truly said, that the worst quarrel a man can have is with himself. Indeed, I was so circumstanced in the late exigency, that I was unable to satisfy my feelings by any mode of action, or of quiescence, in my power: but you have reasoned in so enlarged and liberal a manner on the subject, that, great as I thought the trial during my mental conflict, you have so nearly transformed the evil into good, as to make me almost rejoice in the occasion that has given birth to such a letter as that with which you have honoured me. Your delicacy, dear Sir, in refraining from the least hint or allusion that could be construed into a wish that I should go with you in the late struggle, though you had a fair claim upon me,[20] redoubles my desire to give you some voluntary testimony of the great respect and regard with which I have the honour to be,” &c. &c. &c.

[Pg 124]

Dr. Burney at this time resided entirely at Chelsea College; and he found this sojourn so perfectly to his taste, that, though obliged, some years afterwards, by official arrangements, to remove from the ground floor to nearly the highest range of rooms in that lofty edifice, he never wished to change the place of his abode.

The distance from town was just sufficient to avoid its bustle, its smoke, its dust, and its noise; yet not enough to impede any evening engagement, as it was not above an hour’s walk, and consequently half an hour’s drive from Piccadilly. Operas, concerts, conversaziones, were all within reach of his time, when without obstruction from his health. And Chelsea air is even proverbially salubrious, Doctors Arbuthnot, Sloane, Mede, Cadogan, Farquar, &c., having given it medical celebrity in making it their chosen residence.

He had also the pleasure, in the College itself, of some very agreeable, hospitable, and respectable neighbours; to all of whom he was an acquisition equally valuable and valued. And which to the taste and pursuits of a man of letters was still more important, he found here safe, lofty, and well fitted-up chambers, that were spacious and ready for the accommodation of his books. Here, therefore, and [Pg 125] completely to his satisfaction, he placed his learned, classical, scientific, and miscellaneous library.

Solaced, nevertheless, as was now his anxiety for his invalid daughter, he was not at rest. She looked ill, weak, and languid; and the danger was clearly not over.

She, too, with all the delight her affections experienced, felt her heart involuntarily saddened by quitting their Majesties and the Princesses: and the final marks of their benign favour upon parting with her, cast a shade of melancholy over her retreat from their presence, dejecting—though not amounting to regret.

So deplorably, indeed, was her health injured, that successive changes of air were medicinally advised for her to Dr. Burney; and her maternally zealous friend, Mrs. Ord, most kindly proposed taking charge of the execution of that prescription. A tour to the west was undertaken; the Bath waters were successfully tried: and, after passing nearly four months in gentle travelling, the good Mrs. Ord delivered the invalid to her family, nearly re-established.

The paternal affection which greeted this double restoration, to her [Pg 126] health and her home, gave her, then, a happiness which vivified both. The Doctor allowed her the indulgence of living almost wholly in his study; they read together, wrote together, compared notes, communicated projects, and diversified each other’s employment; and his kindness, enlivened by her late danger and difficulties, was more marked, and more precious to her than ever.


It has been thought necessary to say so much, first upon the appointment in the Queen’s establishment of the Doctor’s second daughter, and next upon her resignation; from the honours to the Doctor in which both these events were entwined, that there now seems a call for a few more last lines upon the subject; which the Memorialist, with the sincerest sense—and perhaps pride!—of gratitude and respect, is anxious to impart.

She had no sooner made known that her western tour was finished, than she was summoned to the Palace, where her Majesty deigned to receive her with the highest grace of condescension; and to keep her in animated discourse, with the same noble trust in her faithful [Pg 127] attachment, that had uniformly marked every conference during her royal residence. Each of the amiable Princesses honoured her with a separate interview; vying with each other in kindly lively expressions upon her restored looks and appearance: and the King, the gracious King himself, vouchsafed, with an air the most benevolent, not alone of goodness, but even of pleasure, to inquire after her health, to rejoice in its improvement, and to declare, condescendingly, repeatedly to declare, how glad he was to see her again. He even made her stand under a lustre, that he might examine her countenance, before he pronounced himself satisfied with her recovery.

And, from that time forward, upon her every subsequent admission, the graciousness of her reception bounded with the blandest joy from her own heart to that of the Doctor.

The Queen, full of sense, penetration, and judgment, easily saw that she had preserved a true and devoted adherent, though she had lost a servant. The Princesses, with the impulsive confidence of innocence, had faith in an attachment which they could not but be conscious their own amiability had inspired: and the King, with the purest innate probity of character, possessed a tact, which the quickest [Pg 128] parts sometimes fail to bestow, of a straightforward discernment to distinguish fidelity from profession.

And thus, after conflicts and chagrins of which he had deeply felt the severity, and by the harass of which he still remained shaken; the Doctor finally attained the lasting consolation of seeing that the motives, which had urged him to withdraw his daughter from the royal roof, were perfectly understood; and that she had forfeited no favour; but, on the contrary, had left behind her a graciously benignant—he might almost venture to believe friend, in her condescending Royal Mistress; and in each of their Royal Highnesses, nay, even in the King himself, a most august and animated well-wisher.

And this persuasion, such was the anxious loyalty of the Doctor’s principles, was essential rather than reviving to his happiness.


Not to break into the little history which mentally, during the last five years, had almost absorbed Dr. Burney, no mention has been made of a personal event of as much moment to his peace as to his fame; [Pg 129] namely, the publication, in 1789, of the third volume of his History of Music; nor that, before the end of the same year, he had the brain-relieving satisfaction of completing his long impending work, by bringing out the fourth and last volume.

All the details, whether thorny or flowery, of the progress to this conclusion, were unknown, in their passage, to the Memorialist; whose intricate situation and disordered health chased, from every paternal interview, all subjects that had not reference to her precarious position.

Unnarrated, however, and undescribed, it will not be difficult to imagine the load of care, thought, and anxiety that were now removed from the nearly overburthened historian.

It seemed to him a sort of regeneration to feel freedom restored to his reflections, and liberty to his use of time, by arriving at the close of this literary labour; which, though in its origin voluntary, had of late become heavily fatiguing, because shackled by an engagement, and therefore obligatory.

His first feelings upon this relief he has expressed, with his characteristic pleasantry, in a letter to Mr. Repton, the successor to Capability Brown, and cotemporary and brother rival park-embellisher [Pg 130] with Uvedale Price and Gally Knight.

“Did you ever see, dear Sir,” says the Doctor in this letter, “a child, when musing over his playthings, with seeming quiet sobriety, give an involuntary jump from the mere ebullition of animal spirits? a few nights ago, when I had just sent the last copy of the last chapter of the last volume of my Work to the compositor, I caught myself in the fact; and, if you were here, I would exhibit to you how I jumped for joy at the thought of an enterprise being terminated, that had been thirty years in meditation, and twenty in writing and printing; and for which I had previously taxed every amusement and social enjoyment; and even, in order to gain more time, had drawn deeply upon my sinking fund—Sleep.”


The life of Dr. Burney was now almost equally distributed in literary, professional, and amical divisions.

In literature, his time, ostensibly, was become his own; but never was time less so than when put into his own hands; for his eagerness was without either curb or limit to devote it to some new pursuit. And scarcely had that elastic bound of renovated youth, of which he speaks to Mr. Repton, been capered, than a fresh, yet voluntary occupation, drove his newly-restored leisure away, and opened a course of bookish [Pg 131] and critical toil, that soon seized again upon every spare moment. This was constituting himself a member amongst the Monthly Reviewers, under the editorship of the worthy Mr. Griffith.

Of the articles which were Dr. Burney’s, no list has been found; and probably none was kept. The ardour of sincerity in pointing out faults and failures, is so apt to lead to a similar ardour of severity in their censure, that, in those days, when the critics were not, wisely, anonymous, the secret and passive war of books and words among authors, menaced the more public and tumultuous one of swords and pistols.[21]

The articles which, occasionally, to a small circle, he avowed, were written with a spirit that made them frequently bright with entertainment, and sometimes luminous with instruction.

In his professional department, he has almost with exultation recorded, in the following passage of his journal, the happy commencement of the year 1791.

[Pg 132]

“1791.—This year was auspiciously begun, in the musical world, by the arrival in London of the illustrious Joseph Haydn. ’Tis to Salomon that the lovers of music are indebted for what the lovers of music will call this blessing. Salomon went over himself to Vienna, upon hearing of the death of the Prince of Esterhazy, the great patron of Haydn, purposely to tempt that celebrated musical genius hither; and on February 25, the first of Haydn’s incomparable symphonies, which was composed for the concerts of Salomon, was performed. Haydn himself presided at the piano-forte: and the sight of that renowned composer so electrified the audience, as to excite an attention and a pleasure superior to any that had ever, to my knowledge, been caused by instrumental music in England. All the slow middle movements were encored; which never before happened, I believe, in any country.”

In his amical career, he still possessed Mr. Twining, to whom he clung with every species of high esteem and fond regard. And he yet retained his early and excellent old friend, Mr. Hayes; who preserved his memory and his faculties unimpaired, though his body was sunk into a state of debility the most deplorable.

The friendship of Sir Joshua Reynolds the Doctor constantly cultivated with the ardour, as well as pleasure, that always rapidly cements connexions that owe their origin to the attraction of sympathy.

With Sir Joseph Bankes he was now upon terms of lively intimacy; and [Pg 133] had the satisfaction of seeing both his sons, from their nautical or classical eminence, share with him in the sprightly, as well as learned and lettered pleasures of the president’s good fellowship.

Mr. Windham, in every walk, whether of literature or sentiment, was amongst those with whom he most delightedly associated.

The elegant Mr. Smelt kept steadily his rank in the first line of the admired friends of the Doctor; but Mr. Smelt, though affectionately retaining for him the most faithful esteem and regard, was now nearly lost to all, except his immediate family; for he had himself lost the partner of his life, and the world faded before him with daily diminishing interest in its pleasures, pains, pursuits, or transactions.

The unfortunate, but truly amiable and high-minded Mr. Beckford was amongst the greatest favourites and most welcome visitors to Dr. Burney; whose remembrance of the friendly zeal of that gentleman in Italy, was a never-failing call for every soothing return that could be offered to him in the calamities which, roughly and ruinously, had now changed his whole situation in life—leaving his virtues alone unalterable.

[Pg 134]

The two Wesleys, Charles and Samuel, those born rather than bred musicians, sought, and were welcomed by the Doctor, whenever his leisure agreed with his estimation of their talents. With Samuel he was often in musical correspondence.

Horace Walpole invariably delighted in the society of Dr. Burney; and had himself no admirer who carried from his company and conversation a larger or more zested portion of his lordship’s bon mots; or who had a higher taste for his peculiar style of entertainment.


But Mr. Greville, the old friend and early patron of the Doctor, he now never saw, save by accident; and rarely as that occurred, it was oftener than could be wished; so querulous was that gentleman grown, from ill-luck in his perilous pursuits; so irascible within, and so supercilious without; assuming to all around him a sort of dignified distance, that bordered, at least, upon universal disdain.

The world seemed completely in decadence with this fallen gentleman; and the writhings of long suffocated mortification, from sinking his fine spirits and sickening his gay hopes, began to engender a morbid [Pg 135] irritation, that was ready, upon every fancied provocation, to boil into vehemence of passion, or burst into the bitterness of sarcastic reproach.

This state of things had come upon him unconsciously; though to the observations of his friends its advance had been glaringly evident.

It was not that he wanted, at large, foresight for events to be rationally expected, or judgment to dictate how they should be met: but his foresight, his sense of right, were all for his neighbours! for himself—he had none. To all without he had a nearly microscopic vision; to all within he was blind; as the eye sees every thing—but itself.

“Experience,” Mr. Crisp was wont to say, “is rarely of any use collaterally; it does not become efficient till it has personally been bought. And it must be paid for, also,” he would energetically add, “to be well remembered!”

But so torpid was the infatuation of self-security in Mr. Greville, that pertinaciously he frequented the same seductive haunts, and mechanically adhered to the same dangerous society, till the knowledge of his errors and their mischief was forced upon him by his creditors.

[Pg 136]

Angered and disgusted, he then, in gloomy sullenness, retired from public view; and lived a rambling, unsettled sort of life, as ill at ease with his family as with the world, from the wounds he habitually inflicted, and occasionally suffered, through the irritability of his argumentative commerce.


Another of the Doctor’s brightest calls to high and animated society was now, also, utterly eclipsed; for She, the loveliest of the lovely, the first Mrs. Sheridan, was fading away—vanishing—from the list of his fair enchantresses.

This paragon of syrens, by almost universal and national consent, had been looked up to, when she sang at oratorios and at concerts, as the star of harmony in England: though so short was that eclât of supremacy, that, from the date of her marriage, her claim to such pre-eminence was known to the public only by remembrance or by rumour; Mr. Sheridan, her husband, inexorably renouncing all similar engagements, and only at his own house suffering her to sing.

Far happier had it been for that captivating and beautiful creature, [Pg 137] far happier for her eminent and highly-talented husband, had the appropriate fame that belonged equally to the birth, education, and extraordinary abilities of both, been adequate to their pride of expectation: for then, glowing with rational and modest, not burning with inordinate and eccentric ambition, they would not disdainfully—almost madly—have cast away from their serious and real service the brilliant gifts of favouring nature, which, if seasonably brought forth, would have opened to them, without struggle or difficulty, the golden portals of that splendour to which their passion for grandeur and enjoyment throbbingly aspired.

But from these brilliant gifts, as instruments of advantage, they turned captiously aside; as if the exquisite powers, vocal and dramatic, which were severally intrusted to their charge, had been qualities that, in any view of utility, they ought to shrink from with secrecy and shame.

Yet Dr. Burney always believed Mrs. Sheridan herself to be inherently pure in her mind, and elegantly simple in her taste; though first from the magnetism of affection, and next from the force of circumstances, she was drawn into the same vortex of dissipation and extravagance, in which the desires and pursuits of her husband unresistedly rolled.

[Pg 138]

Every thing, save rank and place, was theirs; every thing, therefore, save rank and place, seemed beneath their aim.

If, in withdrawing his fair partner from public life, the virtues of moderation had bestowed contentment upon their retreat, how dignified had been such a preference, to all the affluence attendant upon a publicity demanding personal exhibition from a delicate and sensitive female!

Such was the light in which this act of Mr. Sheridan, upon its early adoption, had appeared to Dr. Johnson; and, as such, it obtained the high sanction of his approbation.[22] But to no such view was the subsequent conduct of this too aspiring and enchanting couple respondent. They assumed the expenses of wealth, while they disclaimed the remuneration of talents; and they indulged in the luxuries of splendour, by resources not their own.

Not such, had he lived to witness the result, had been the sanction of Dr. Johnson. He had regarded the retirement from public exhibition as a measure of primitive temperance and philosophic virtue. The last of men was Dr. Johnson to have abetted squandering the delicacy of integrity, [Pg 139] by nullifying the labours of talents.

The unhappy delusion into which this high-wrought and mis-placed self-appreciation betrayed them, finished its fatal fanaticism by dimming their celebrity, mocking their ambition, and hurling into disorder and ruin their fortune, their reputation, their virtues, and their genius.


At the head of the female worthies, who gratified Dr. Burney with eager good wishes on the return of the Memorialist, stood Mrs. Montague. And still the honourable corps was upheld by Mrs. Boscawen, Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Chapone, Mrs. Garrick, and Miss More—though, alas, the last-mentioned lady is now the only one of that distinguished set still spared to the world.

But the person at this epoch the most conciliatory and the most welcome to Dr. Burney, was the still beautiful, though no longer the still young; the humorous, though contemplative; the sportively loquacious, though deeply-thinking, Mrs. Crewe.

This lady was now his most confidential friend, and most intimate [Pg 140] correspondent. In politics, they were not, indeed, naturally of the same school; though even there, strong mutual esteem, and a great tendency to mutual trust, induced a propensity to such fairness and candour of discussion, that their opinions were more frequently blended than hostile.

Mrs. Greville, her celebrated mother, who to this partiality had led the way by her example, was now no more; to the infinite grief of her tenderly admiring daughter.

Mrs. Crewe, in felicitating the Doctor on the recovery of his invalid, formed innumerable schemes, some of which were put in immediate execution, for aiding him to recruit her shattered nerves, and restring her animal spirits.


But a catastrophe of the most sorrowing sort soon afterwards cast a shade of saddest hue upon this happy and promising period, by the death of the friend to whom, after his many deprivations, Dr. Burney had owed his greatest share of pleasure and animation—Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Deeply this loss affected his spirits. Sir Joshua was the last of the new circle with whom his intimacy had mellowed into positive friendship. And though with many, and indeed with most of the Literary [Pg 141] Club, a connexion was gradually increasing which might lead to that heart-expanding interest in life, friendship,—to part with what we possess while what we wish is of uncertain attainment, leaves a chasm in the feelings of a man of taste and selection, that he is long nearly as unwilling as he may be unable to re-occupy.

With Mr. Burke, indeed, with the immortal Edmund Burke, Dr. Burney might have been as closely united in heart as he was charmed in intellect, had circumstances offered time and opportunity for the cultivation of intimacy. Political dissimilarity of sentiment does not necessarily sunder those who, in other points, are drawn together by congeniality of worth; except where their walk in life compels them to confront each other with public rivalry.

But Mr. Burke, in whose composition imagination was the leading feature, had so genuine a love of rural life and rural scenery, that he seldom came voluntarily to the metropolis but upon parliamentary business; and then the whole powers of his ardent mind were absorbed by politics, or political connexions: while Sir Joshua, whose equanimity of temper kept his imagination under control; and whose art was as [Pg 142] much the happiness as it was the pride of his prosperity, finding London the seat of his glory, judiciously determined to make it that of his contentment. His loss, therefore, to Dr. Burney, was not only that of an admired friend, with whom emulously he might reciprocate and enlighten ideas; but, also, of that charm to current life the most soothing to its cares, a congenial companion always at hand.

And more particularly was he affected at this time by the departure of this valuable friend, from the circumstance of having just brought to bear the return home of the Memorialist, for which Sir Joshua, previously to a paralytic attack, had been the most eager and incessant pleader. The Doctor, therefore, had looked forward with the gayest gratification to the renewal of those meetings which, alike to himself, to his daughter, and to the knight, had invariably been productive of glee and pleasure.

But gone, ere arrived that renewal, was the power of its enjoyment! A meeting, indeed, took place, and with unalterable friendship on both sides. Immediately after the Western tour, Dr. Burney carried the Memorialist to Leicester-square; first mounting to the drawing-room [Pg 143] himself, to inquire whether Sir Joshua were well enough for her admission. Assent was immediate; and she felt a sprightly renovation of strength in again ascending his stairs.

Miss Palmer came forward to receive her with warm greeting cordiality; but she rapidly hastened onward to shake hands with Sir Joshua. He was now all but quite blind. He had a green bandage over one eye, and the other was shaded by a green half bonnet. He was playing at cards with Mr. William Burke, and some others. He attempted to rise, to welcome a long-lost favourite; but found himself too weak. He was even affectingly kind to her, but serious almost to melancholy. “I am very glad indeed,” he emphatically said, though in a meek voice, and with a dejected accent, “to see you again! and I wish I could see you better! But I have only one eye now,—and hardly that!”

She was extremely touched; and knew not how to express either her concern for his altered situation since they had last met, or her joy at being with him again; or her gratitude for the earnest exertions he had made to spur Dr. Burney to the step that had been taken.

[Pg 144]

The Doctor, perceiving the emotion she both felt and caused, hurried her away. And once more only she ever saw the English Raphael again. And then he was still more deeply depressed; though Miss Palmer good-humouredly drew a smile from him, by gaily exclaiming, “Do pray, now, uncle, ask Miss Burney to write another book directly! for we have almost finished Cecilia again—and this is our sixth reading of it!”

The little occupation, Miss Palmer said, of which Sir Joshua was then capable, was carefully dusting the paintings in his picture gallery, and placing them in different points of view.

This passed at the conclusion of 1791; on the February of the following year, this friend, equally amiable and eminent, was no more!

Dr. Burney, extremely unwell at that period himself, could not attend the funeral; which, under the direction of Mr. Burke, the chief executor, was conducted with the splendour due to the genius, and suitable to the fortune of the departed. Dr. Charles Burney was invited in the place of his father, and attended at the obsequies for both.

In the retirement of this mournful interval of personal sickness and mental dejection, Dr. Burney composed the following elegy to the [Pg 145] memory of Sir Joshua.

    “Farewell, farewell, illustrious friend!
Sent here thy art, and men, to mend;
Farewell, dear friend!—in vain I try
To think of thee without a sigh!
If in life’s long and active round
Thy equal I so rarely found,
How, in my few remaining days,
While nature rapidly decays,
Can hope persuade, in flattering strain,
Thy niche will e’er be fill’d again?
Thy loss is not to art alone,
Which placed thee on Apelles’ throne;
Society has lost still more,
Which both the good and wise deplore;
Thy friends dispers’d, of joy bereft,
No stand, no central point have left;
For when fate cut thy vital thread,
And number’d thee among the dead;
To all who had seen thee give a glow
Wherever wit and wisdom flow;
Who, at thy hospitable board
Had seen thee lov’d, rever’d, ador’d;
Who knew thy comprehensive mind,
Thy zeal for worth of every kind;
Who, in thy Aristippan bowers,
[Pg 146]
Forgot thy pencil’s magic powers,—
To these, the nation’s light and pride,
Of wit the source, of taste the guide,
From all the heart most precious deems,
Thy loss an amputation seems.”


Another last separation, long menacing, yet truly grievous to the Doctor, was now almost momentarily impending. His good, gay-hearted, and talented old friend, Mr. Hayes, had had a new paralytic seizure, which, in the words of Dr. Burney, “deprived him of the use of one side, and greatly affected his speech, eyes, and ears; though his faculties were still as good and as sound as his heart.”

This account had been addressed, the preceding year, to George Earl of Orford, by desire of the poor invalid.

Pitiable as was this species of existence, Mr. Hayes long lingered in it, with a patience and cheerfulness that kept him still open to the kind offices, as well as to the compassion of his friends: and Dr. Burney held a regular correspondence with Lord Orford upon this subject, till it ceased from a calamitous catastrophe; not such as was daily expected to the ancient invalid, though then bed-ridden, and [Pg 147] past eighty years of age, but to the Earl himself, from an attack of insanity.


This was a new grief. Lord Orford had been not only an early patron, but a familiar friend of the Doctor’s during the whole of his sojourn in Norfolk.

This truly liberal, though, as has been acknowledged, not faultless nobleman, attached himself to all that was literary or scientific that came within reach of his kindness at Haughton Hall; yet without suffering this intellectual hospitality to abridge any of the magnificence of the calls of fair kindred aristocracy, which belonged to his rank and fortune. His high appreciation of Mr. Bewley has been already mentioned; and his value of the innate, though unvarnished worth of Mr. Hayes, sprang from the same genuine sense of intrinsic merit.

Nearly in the meridian of his life, Lord Orford had been afflicted with a seizure of madness, occasioned by an unreflecting application of some repelling plaster or lotion to an eruption on the forehead, [Pg 148] that had broken out just before one of the birthdays of the King,[23] upon which, as his lordship was then first Lord of the Bedchamber in waiting, his attendance at St. James’s had seemed indispensable.

This terrible malady, after repeated partial recoveries and disappointing relapses, had appeared to be finally cured by the same gifted medical man who blessedly had restored his Sovereign to the nation, Dr. Willis. Lord Orford, from that happy lucid interval, resided chiefly at Ereswell, his favourite villa. And here, once more, Dr. Burney had had the cordial pleasure of passing a few days with this noble friend; who delighted to resort to that retirement from the grandeur and tumult of Haughton Hall.

It had been nineteen years since they had met; and the flow of conversation, from endless reminiscences, kept them up nearly all the first night of this visit. And Dr. Burney declared that he had then found his lordship’s head as clear, his heart as kind, and his converse as pleasing, as at any period of their early intercourse.

Lord Orford, since his revival, had acquired a knowledge, at once profound and feeling, of the French Revolution—the only topic which [Pg 149] those who had either hearts or heads could, at that time, discuss. And he animatedly asserted that never before had any country, or any epoch, produced, in one and the same nation, contrasts so striking of atrocious, unheard-of guilt, and consummate, intrepid virtue; warmly adding, as he adverted to the emigrants then pouring into England, that the detestation excited by the murderous and sacrilegious revolutionary oppressors, ought universally to instigate respect as well as commiseration for their guiltless fugitive victims.

The relapse, by which, not three weeks after this meeting, the Earl again lost his senses, had two current reports for its cause: the first of which gave it to a fall from his horse; the second to the sudden death of Mrs. Turk, his erst lovely Patty; “to whom,” says the Doctor, in a letter, after his Ereswell visit, that was addressed to Mrs. Phillips, “he was more attached than ever, from her faithful and affectionate attendance upon him during the long season of his insanity; though, at this time, she was become a fat and rather coarse old woman.”

Dr. Burney was of opinion that to both these circumstances, since one of them quickly followed the other, this last fatal seizure might be [Pg 150] owing. Its prompt termination left the good, infirm, and far older Mr. Hayes a sorrowing, but not a long survivor.

Dr. Burney mourned for both; for Lord Orford with true concern—for Mr. Hayes with lasting regret.

Mr. Hayes bequeathed to Dr. Burney a finely chosen and beautifully bound collection of books, among which were several works of great price and rarity; to which was joined a valuable case of coins and medals. And the Doctor’s eldest son, Captain Burney, who from a boy had been known and loved by Mr. Hayes, was worthily named, by that excellent friend, his general heir and residuary legatee.

In speaking of this last event in a letter to Mrs. Phillips, the Doctor says: “I have been so melancholy as to be unwilling to communicate my lâcheté to you, who, I hope, are in better spirits. The death of my worthy and affectionate friend, Hayes, though I gain a charming collection of books by it, fills me with sorrow every time I look at them. Thirty years ago, such a bequest would have made me mad with joy; but now, alas! my literary curiosity and wants lie in a smaller compass. I was already in possession of the best books he has left [Pg 151] me, though in worn editions and worse bindings; and as for the rest, my gain is merely nominal: for our books have been so much in common during more than thirty years, that his were mine and mine were his, as much as our own. We had only to stretch out our hands a little further, when we wanted what were distant. How much harder is such a friend to find than such books, scarce, and really valuable as are many of them!”


Upon the publication of the celebrated Treatise of Mr. Burke on the opening of the French Revolution, Dr. Burney had felt re-wakened all his first unqualified admiration of its author, from a full conviction that error, wholly free from malevolence, had impelled alike his violence in the prosecution of Mr. Hastings, and his assertions upon the incurability of the malady of the King: while a patriotism, superior to all party feeling, and above all considerations but the love of his country, had inspired every sentence of the immortal orator in his new work.

The Doctor had interchanged some billets with Mr. Burke upon this [Pg 152] occasion; and once or twice they had met; but only in large companies. This the Doctor lamented to Mrs. Crewe; who promised that, if he would spend three or four days at her Hampstead little villa, she would engage for his passing one of them with Mr. Burke; though she should make, she added, her own terms; namely, “that you are accompanied, Mr. Doctor, by Miss Burney.”

Gladly the invitation and the condition were accepted; and the Editor hopes to be pardoned, if again she spare herself the toil of re-committing to paper an account of this meeting, by copying one written at the moment to her sister Susanna. Egotistic in part it must inevitably be; yet not, she trusts, offensively; as it contains various genuine traits of Mr. Burke in society, that in no graver manner than in a familiar epistle could have been detailed.

“To Mrs. Phillips.

“At length, my Susan, the re-meeting, so long suspended, with Mr. Burke, has taken place. Our dearest father was enchanted at the prospect of spending so many hours with him; and of pouring forth again and again the rapturous delight with which he reads, and studies, and [Pg 153] admires, the sublime new composition of this great statesman.

“But—my satisfaction, my dear Susan, with all my native enthusiasm for Mr. Burke, was not so unmingled. If such a meeting, after my long illness, and long seclusion, joined to my knowledge of his kind interest in them, had taken place speedily after that on Richmond Hill, at Sir Joshua Reynolds’; where I beheld him with an admiration that seemed akin to enchantment; and that portrayed him all bright intelligence and gentle amenity;——instead of succeeding to the scenes of Westminster Hall; where I saw him furious to accuse,—implacable not to listen—and insane to vanquish! his respiration troubled, his features nearly distorted, and his countenance haggard with baneful animosity; while his voice, echoing up to the vaulted roof in tremendous execrations, poisoned the heated air with unheard-of crimes!—Oh! but for that more recent recollection, his sight, and the expectation of his kindness, would have given me once again a joy almost ecstatic.[24]

[Pg 154]

“But now, from this double reminiscence, my mind, my ideas—disturbed as much as delighted—were in a sort of chaos; they could coalesce neither with pleasure nor with pain.

“Our dear father was saved all such conflicting perplexity, as he never attended the trial; and how faint are the impressions of report, compared with those that are produced by what we experience or witness! He was not, therefore, like me, harassed by the continual inward question: ‘Shall I see once more that noble physiognomy that, erst, so fascinated my fancy? or, am I doomed to behold how completely ’tis expression, not feature, that stamps the human countenance upon human view?’

“The little villa at Hampstead is small, but commodious. We were received by Mrs. Crewe with great kindness, which you will easily believe was the last thing to surprise us. Her son[25] was with her; [Pg 155] a silent and reserved, but, I think, sensible young man, though looking—so blooming is she still—rather like her brother than her son. He is preparing to go to China with Lord Macartney. Her daughter[26] we had ourselves brought from town, where she had been on a visit to the lovely Emily Ogilvie,[27] at the Duchess Dowager of Leinster’s. She, Miss Crewe, is become an intelligent and amiable adolescent; but so modest, that I never heard her uncourted voice.

“Mr. Burke was not yet arrived; but young Burke, who, when I lived in the midst of things, was almost always at my side, like my shadow, wherever we met, though never obstrusively, was the first person I saw. I felt very glad to renew our old acquaintance; but I soon perceived a strangeness in his bow, that marked a decided change from fervent amity to cold civility.

“This hurt me much for this very estimable young man; but alarmed me ten thousand times more for his father, whose benevolent personal partiality—blame him as I may for one or two public acts—I could not [Pg 156] forfeit without the acutest mortification, pain, and sorrow.

“But it now oppressively occurred to me, that perhaps young Mr. Burke, studiously as in whatever is political I always keep in the back ground, had discovered my antipathy to the state trial: for though I felt satisfied that Mr. Windham, to whom so openly I had revealed it, had held sacred, as he had promised, my secret—for how could honour and Mr. Windham be separated?—young Burke, who was always in the manager’s box, must unavoidably have observed how frequently Mr. Windham came to converse with me from the Great Chamberlain’s; and might even, perhaps, have so been placed, at times, in the House of Commons’ partition, as to overhear my unrestrained wishes for the failure of the prosecution, from my belief in its injustice—and if so, how greatly must he have been offended for his reverenced father! to whom, also, he might, perhaps, have made known my sentiments!

“This idea demolished in a moment all my hope of pleasure in the visit! and I became more uncomfortable than I can describe.

“Our dear Father did not perceive my disturbance. Always wisely alive to the present moment, he was occupied exclusively with young Mr. [Pg 157] Crewe, at the motion of our fair hostess; who, after naming Lord Macartney’s embassy, said: ‘Come, Dr. Burney, you, who know every thing, come and tell us all about China.’

“Soon after entered Mrs. Burke, who revived in me some better hopes; for she was just the same as I have always seen her; soft, serene, reasonable, sensible, and obliging; and we met, I think, upon just as good terms as if so many years had not parted us.

“Next appeared—for all the family inhabit, at present, some spot at Hampstead—Mr. Richard Burke; that original, humorous, flashing, and entertaining brother of the Burke; whom we have so often met, but whom we have never liked, or, at least, understood well enough to associate with for himself; nor yet liked ill enough to shirk when we have met him with others. From him I could develop nothing of my great point of inquietude, i.e. how I stood with his great brother; for I had put myself into a place, in my old way, in the back ground, with Miss Crewe; Miss French, a lively niece of Mr. Burke’s; and a very pleasing Miss Townshend; and Mr. R. Burke did not recollect, or, probably, see me. But my father, immediately leaving young Crewe, and [Pg 158] Lord Macartney, and the whole empire of China in the lurch, darted forward to expatiate with Mr. Richard upon his brother’s noble Essay.

“At length—Mr. Burke himself was announced, and made his appearance; accompanied by the tall, keen-eyed Mr. Elliot, one of the Twelve Managers of the Impeachment; and a favourite friend of Mr. Windham’s.

“The moment Mr. Burke had paid his devoirs to Mrs. Crewe, he turned round to shake hands, with an air the most cordial, with my father; who, proud of his alacrity, accepted the greeting with evident delight.

“I thought this the happiest chance for obtaining his notice, and I arose, though with a strong inward tremor, and ventured to make him a curtesy; but where was I, my dear Susan, when he returned me the most distant bow, without speaking or advancing?—though never yet had I seen him, that he had not made up to me with eager, nay, kind vivacity! nor been anywhere seated, that he had not taken a place next mine!

“Grieved I felt—O how grieved and mortified! not only at the loss of so noble a friend, but at the thought of having given pain and offence [Pg 159] to one from whom I had received so much favour, and to whom I owed so much honour! and who, till those two deadly blights to his fair fame, the unsubstantiated charges against Mr. Hastings, and the baneful denunciation of the King’s incurability, had appeared to me of a nature as exalted in purity of feeling as in energy of genius.

“While I hesitated,—all sad within—whether to retire to my retreat in the back ground, or to abide where I stood, obviously seeking to move his returning kindness, Mrs. Crewe suddenly said, ‘I don’t think I have introduced Mr. Elliot to Miss Burney?’

“Mr. Elliot and I were certainly no strangers to each other’s faces, so often I had seen him in the Manager’s box, whence so often he must have seen me in the Great Chamberlain’s; but a slight bow and curtesy had hardly time to be exchanged between us—for the moment I was named, imagine my joy, my Susan, my infinite joy, to find that Mr. Burke had not recollected me! He is more near-sighted, considerably, even than my father or myself. ‘Miss Burney!’ in a tone of vivacity and surprise, he now exclaimed, coming instantly, courteously, and smilingly forward, [Pg 160] and taking my willing hand, ‘and I did not see—did not know you!’ And then, again, imagine my increasing joy, after this false alarm, to hear him utter words that were all sweetness and amiability, upon his pleasure on our re-meeting!

“I had so mournfully given up all hope of such sounds, that I was almost re-organized by the sudden transition from dejection to delight; and I felt a glow the most vivid tingle in my cheeks and my whole face. Mr. Burke, not aware of the emotion he himself had caused, from not having distinguished me before its operation, took the colour for re-established health, and the air of gaiety for regenerated vigour; and began to pour forth the most fervent expressions of satisfaction at my restoration. ‘You look,’ cried he, still affectionately holding my hand, while benignly he fixed his investigating eyes upon my face, ‘quite—renewed!revived!—in short, disengaged! You seemed, when I conversed with you last, at the trial, quite——.’ He paused for a word, and then finished with, ‘quite altered!—I never saw such a change for the better!’

“Ah, Mr. Burke, thought I, this is simply a mistake from judging by your own feelings. I seemed altered for the worse at the trial, because I there looked coldly and distantly from distaste and disapprobation; [Pg 161] and I here look changed for the better, because I here meet you with the re-kindling animation of my first devotion to your incomparable genius. For never, my dear Susan, can I believe Mr. Burke to be either wilfully or consciously wrong. I am persuaded, on the contrary, that his intentions are always pure; and that the two fatal transgressions which despoiled him of his supremacy of perfection, were both the wayward produce of that unaccountable and inexplicable occasional warp, which, in some or other unexpected instance, is sure, sooner or later, to betray an Hibernian origin; even in the most transcendant geniuses that spring from the land of Erin.

“Mrs. Crewe now made me take a seat by her side on the sofa; but, perceiving the earnestness with which Mr. Burke was talking to me—and the gratification he was giving to his hearer,—she smilingly rose, and left him her own place; which, with a little bow, he very composedly took. He then entered into a most animated conversation, of which while I had the chief address, young Mr. Crewe was the chief object; as it was upon Lord Macartney, the Chinese expedition, and two Chinese youths who were to accompany it. These he described with a most amusing [Pg 162] minuteness of detail: and then spoke of the extent of the undertaking in high, and perhaps fanciful terms; but with allusions and anecdotes intermixed, so full of general information and brilliant ideas, as, happily, to enchain again my charmed attention into a return of my first enthusiasm—and with it a sensation of pleasure, that made the rest of the day delicious.

“My father soon afterwards joined us, and politics took the lead. Mr. Burke then spoke eloquently indeed; but with a vehemence that banished the graces, though it redoubled his energies. The French Revolution, he said, which began by legalizing injustice; and which, by rapid steps, had proceeded to every species of despotism, except owning a despot; was now menacing all mankind, and all the universe, with a diabolical concussion of all principle and order.

“My father, you will be very sure, heartily concurred in his opinions, and participated in his terrors. I assented tacitly to all that he addressed to me against the revolutionary horrors; but I was tacit without assent to his fears for stout old England. Surely, with such a warning before us, we cannot fall into similar atrocities. We have, [Pg 163] besides, so little, comparatively, to redress! One speech he then made, that I thought he meant to be explanatory of his own conduct, and apparent change in cutting Mr. Fox; as well as in the sentiments he has divulged in his late book in disfavour of democracy: or rather, perhaps, I ought to say of republicanism.

“After expatiating copiously and energetically upon the present pending dangers to even English liberty and property, and to all organized government, from so neighbouring a contagion of havoc and novelty, he abruptly exclaimed: ‘This it is,—the hovering in the air of this tremendous mischief, that has made me an abettor and supporter of courts and kings! Monarchs are Necessary! If we would preserve peace and prosperity, we must preserve Monarchs! We must all put our shoulders to the work: aye, and stoutly, too!—’

“Then, rising, somewhat moved, he turned suddenly towards me, and repeated—‘’Tis this,—and this alone, could have made ME lend MY shoulders to courts and to kings!’ Here he hastily broke up the subject, and joined Mrs. Crewe; as everybody else had already done, except Mr. Elliot; who had stood silent and fixed and tall, looking all the time in one hard stare at Mr. Burke and a certain sister of yours, [Pg 164] with a sort of dry, but insatiable curiosity. I attribute it to his so often seeing Mr. Windham, with whom he is very intimate, converse with me at the trial. But whether he was pleased or displeased is all in his own bosom, as he never either smiled or frowned. He only stood erect and attentive. It was so odd, I could sometimes hardly keep my countenance; for there was nothing bold nor rude in his look: it was merely queer and curious.

“My dear father immediately followed Mr. Burke; as I, if I had not been ashamed, should have done too! for when Mr. Burke is himself—that is, in spirits, but not in a rage, there is no turning from him to any thing or any one else! and my father, who goes all lengths with him on the French Revolution, was here, what I was at Sir Joshua Reynolds’, a ‘rapt enthusiast!’

“At dinner, Mr. Burke sat next to Mrs. Crewe; and I, my dear Susan, had the happiness to be seated next to Mr. Burke!—and that by his own smiling arrangement! My other neighbour was his amiable son, in whom, to my great satisfaction, all strangeness now subsided. Whether, generously, he forgave my adherence to Mr. Hastings; or whether his chagrin at it insensibly wore off from the very nature of things, [Pg 165] I know not. But it is at least as clear as it is amiable, that he never had troubled his father or mother with what he must have deemed my delinquency. They could not else have honoured me with such unabating distinction.

“The dinner, and, far more, when the servants were dismissed, the dessert, were delightful. How I wish my dear Susanna and Fredy[28] could meet this wonderful man when he is easy, happy, and with people he cordially likes! But politics, even then, and even on his own side, must always be excluded! His irritability is so terrible upon politics, that they are no sooner the topic of discourse, than they cast upon his face the expression of a man who is going to defend himself against murderers!

“I must now give you such little detached traits as I can recollect.

“Charles Fox being mentioned, Mrs. Crewe told us that lately, upon his being shewn a passage upon some subject that, erst, he had warmly opposed, in Mr. Burke’s Book, but which, in the event, had made its own justification, very candidly said: ‘Well, Burke is right!—but Burke is often right—only he is right too soon!’

[Pg 166]

“‘Had Fox seen some things in that book,’ answered Mr. Burke, ‘as soon, he would at this moment, in all probability, be first Minister of this country.’

“‘What!’ cried Mrs. Crewe, ‘with Pitt? No, No!—Pitt won’t go out; and Charles Fox will never make a coalition with Pitt.’

“‘And why not?’ said Mr. Burke, drily, almost severely; ‘why not that Coalition, as well as other Coalitions?’

“Nobody tried to answer this! The remembrance of Mr. Fox with Lord North, Mr. Pitt with Lord Rockingham, &c., rose too forcibly to every mind; and Mrs. Crewe looked abashed.[29]

“‘Charles Fox, however,’ said Mr. Burke, after this pause, ‘can never, internally, like this French Revolution. He is’—he stopped for a word, and then added, ‘entangled!—but, in himself, if he could find no other objection to it, he has, at least, too much taste for such a Revolution.’

“Mr. Elliot then related that he had recently been in company with some of the first and most distinguished men of the French nation, now fugitives here, and had asked them some questions concerning the new [Pg 167] French ministry; but they had answered that they knew not one of them, even by name! ‘Think,’ said he, ‘what a ministry that must be! Suppose a new administration were formed here of English men, of whom we had never before heard the names? What statesmen must they be! How prepared and fitted for government? To begin being known by being at the Helm!’

“Mr. Richard Burke then narrated, very comically, various censures that had reached his ears upon his brother, concerning his last and most popular work; accusing him of being the Abettor of Despots, because he had been shocked at the imprisonment of the King of France! and the Friend of Slavery, because he was anxious to preserve our own limited monarchy in the same state in which it so long had flourished!

“Mr. Burke had looked half alarmed at his brother’s opening, not knowing, I presume, whither his odd fancy might lead him; but, when he had finished, and so inoffensively, and a general laugh that was excited was over, he—THE Burke—good-humouredly turning to me, and pouring out a glass of wine, cried: ‘Come, then, Miss Burney! here’s Slavery for ever!’

[Pg 168]

“This was well understood, and echoed round the table.

“‘This would do for you completely, Mr. Burke,’ cried Mrs. Crewe, laughing, ‘if it could but get into a newspaper! Mr. Burke, they would say, has now spoken out! The truth has come to light over a bottle of wine! and his real defection from the cause of true liberty is acknowledged! I should like,’ added she, laughing quite heartily, ‘to draw up the paragraph myself!’

“‘Pray then,’ said Mr. Burke, ‘complete it by putting in, that the toast was addressed to Miss Burney!—in order to pay my court to the Queen!’

“This sport went on, till, upon Mr. Elliot’s again mentioning France, and the rising Jacobins, Mr. Richard Burke, filling himself a bumper, and flourishing his left hand, whilst preparing with his right to toss it off, cried, ‘Come! here’s confusion to confusion!’

“Mr. Windham being mentioned, I was gratified by the warmth with which Mr. Burke returns his attachment; for upon Mr. Elliot’s speaking with regret of Mr. Windham’s being so thin, Mr. Burke exclaimed: ‘He is just as he should be! If I were Windham this minute, I should not wish to be thinner nor fatter, nor taller nor shorter, nor in any way, nor in any thing, altered.’

[Pg 169]

“A little after, speaking of former times, you may believe how I was struck, nay, how enchanted, to hear Mr. Burke say to Mrs. Crewe: ‘I wish you had known Mrs. Delany! She was a perfect pattern of a perfect fine lady; a real fine lady of other days. Her manners were faultless; her deportment was of marked elegance; her speech was all sweetness; and her air and address were all dignity. I always looked up to Mrs. Delany, as the model of an accomplished gentlewoman of former times.’

“Do you think I could hear this testimony to the worth of my revered and beloved departed friend unmoved?

“When, afterwards, we females were joined by the gentlemen at tea, Mr. Richard Burke, crossing hastily over to me, cried, in a loud whisper, almost in my ear: ‘Miss Burney! prune your plumes!—allow me to say, I never was so glad in my life as I am to see you in the world again! Prune your plumes, we all conjure you!—Prune your plumes! we are all expectation!’

“Our evening finished more curiously than desirably, by a junction that robbed us of the conversation of Mr. Burke. This was the entrance of Lord Loughborough and of Mr.[30] and Mrs. Erskine, who, having villas [Pg 170] at Hampstead, and knowing nothing of Mrs. Crewe’s party, called in accidentally from a walk. If not accidentally, Mr. Erskine, at least, would probably have denied himself a visit that brought him into a coterie with Mr. Burke; who openly, in the House of Commons, not long since, upon being called by Mr. Erskine his Right Hon. Friend, sternly demanded of him, whether he knew what Friendship meant?

“From this time there was an evident disunion of cordiality in the party. My father, Mr. Elliot, Mr. Richard Burke, and young Burke, entered into some general discourse, in a separate group. Lord Loughborough joined Mrs. Burke. My new young partizan[31] sat with Miss Crewe and Miss Townshend; but the chair of Mrs. Erskine being next to mine, she immediately began talking to me as chattily and currently as if we had known each other all our lives.

“Mr. Erskine confined his attention exclusively to Mrs. Crewe. Mr. Burke, meanwhile, with a concentrated, but dignified air, walked away from them all, and threw himself on a settee at a distant part of the room. Here he picked up a book, which he opened by chance, and, to my [Pg 171] great astonishment, began reading aloud! but not directing his face, voice, or attention to any of the company. On the contrary, he read with the careless freedom from effort or restraint that he might have done had he been alone: and merely aloud, because the book being in verse, he was willing to add the pleasure of sound to its sense. But what to me made this seem highly comic, as well as intrepidly singular, was that the work was French; and he read it not only with the English accent, but exactly as if the two nations had one pronunciation in common of the alphabet. It was a volume of Boileau, which he had opened at the famed and incomparable Epître à son Jardinier.

“Yet, while the delivery was so amusing, the tone, the meaning, the force he gave to every word, were so winning to my ears, that I should have listened to nothing else, if I had not unavoidably been engrossed by Mrs. Erskine; though from her, too, I was soon called off by a surprise and half alarm from her celebrated husband.

“Mr. Erskine had been enumerating, fastidiously, to Mrs. Crewe, his avocations, their varieties, and their excess; till, at length, he mentioned, very calmly, having a case to plead soon against Mr. Crewe, [Pg 172] upon a manor business in Cheshire. Mrs. Crewe hastily interrupted him, with an air of some disturbance, to inquire what he meant? and what might ensue to Mr. Crewe? ‘O, nothing but losing the lordship of that spot;’ he coolly answered; ‘though I don’t know that it will be given against him. I only know, for certain, that I shall have three hundred pounds for it!’

“Mrs. Crewe looked thoughtful; and Mr. Erskine then, finding he enjoyed not her whole attention, raised his voice, as well as his manner, and began to speak of the New Association for Reform by the Friends of the People; descanting in powerful, though rather ambiguous terms, upon the use they had thought fit, in that association, to make of his name; though he had never yet been to the society; and I began to understand that he meant to disavow it: but presently he added, ‘I don’t know—I am uncertain—whether ever I shall attend. I have so much to do—so little time—such interminable occupation! However, I don’t yet know—I am not decided; for the People must be supported!’

“‘Pray will you tell me,’ said Mrs. Crewe, coolly, ‘what you mean by The People? for I never know.’

[Pg 173]

“Whether she asked this with real innocence, or affected ignorance, I cannot tell; but he was evidently surprised by the question, and evaded any answer. Probably he thought he might as well avoid discussing such a point before his friend, Mr. Burke; who, he knew well, though lying perdu from delicacy to Mrs. Crewe, would resistlessly be ready, upon the smallest provocation, to pounce with a hawk’s power and force upon his prey, in order to deliver a counter interpretation to whatever he, Mr. Erskine, might reply of who and what were meant by the People.

“I conjecture this from the suddenness with which Mr. Erskine, after this interrogatory, almost abruptly made his bow.

“Lord Loughborough instantly took his vacated seat on the sofa next to Mrs. Crewe; and presently, with much grave, but strong humour, recited a speech which Mr. Erskine had lately made at some public meeting, and which he had opened to this effect. ‘As to me, gentlemen, I trust I have some title to give my opinions freely. Would you know whence my title is derived? I challenge any man amongst you to inquire? If he ask my birth,—its genealogy may dispute with kings! If my wealth,— it is [Pg 174] all for which I have time to hold out my hand! If my talents—No!—of those, gentlemen, I leave you to judge for yourselves!’

“When the party broke up, Mr. and Mrs. Burke joined in giving my dear father and me a most cordial invitation to Beaconsfield. How I should delight in its acceptance!

“We finished this charming day in a little trio of our three selves; when our dear ardent father indulged in a hearty laugh at the untoward question of Mrs. Crewe; and at its electrifying effect; declaring that he almost regretted that Mr. Burke had shown his fair hostess such punctilious deference, as not to start up at once with one of his Thunders of Reply, that might have elicited the Lightnings of Mr. Erskine, so as to have worked out, with the assistance of the arch sarcasms of Lord Loughborough, and the pithy remarks of Mr. Elliot, so tremendous a political storm as to have shaken her little dwelling to its foundation.

“This mock taste for fire and fury soon, you will easily believe, gave way to his genuine one for peace, literature, and elegance; and we concluded a short long evening by various select morsels of poetry, that my father read with his usual feeling and spirit; summing up the [Pg 175] whole with Rogers’ Pleasures of Memory; from which we retired to rest, in very serene good-humour, I believe, with one another.”


This happy summer excursion may be said to have charmed away, for a while, from Dr. Burney, a species of evil which for some time had been hovering over him, and which was as new as it was inimical to his health; and as unwelcome as, hitherto, it had been unknown to his disposition; namely, a slow, unfixed, and nervous feverishness, which had infested his whole system; and which, in defiance of this salubrious episode, soon ruthlessly returned; robbing his spirits, as well as his frame, of elasticity; and casting him into a state the least natural to his vigorous character, of wasteful depression.

His recent mental trials had been grievous, and severely felt. The loss of his old and much valued friend, Mr. Hayes; and of his far more admired, and almost equally prized favourite, Sir Joshua Reynolds; joined to that of his early and constantly attached patron, the Earl [Pg 176] of Orford, had all been inflicted, or been menacing, at the same time: and a continual anxious watchfulness over the gradual deterioration of health, and decay of life, of three such cherished friends, now nearly the last of early associations—had been ill adapted for impeding the mischief of the long and deeper disturbance caused by the precarious health, and singular situation, of his second daughter: and the accumulation of the whole had, slowly and underminingly, brought him into the state that has been described.

The sole employment to which, during this morbid interval, he could turn himself, was the difficult, the laborious work of composing the most learned and recondite canons and fugues; to which study and exposition of his art, he committed all the activity that he could command from his fatigued faculties.

This distressing state lasted, without relief or remittance, till it was suddenly and rudely superseded by a violent assault of acute rheumatism; which drove away all minor or subservient maladies, by the predominance of a torturing pain that nearly nullified every thing but itself.

He was now ordered to Bath, where the waters, the change of scene, the [Pg 177] casually meeting with old friends, and incidentally forming new ones; so recruited his health and his nerves, by chasing away what he called the foul fiend that had subjugated his animal spirits, that he was soon imperceptibly restored to his fair genial existence.

One circumstance, more potent, perhaps, in effect, than the concurrence of every other, contributed to this revivifying termination, by a power that acted as a spell upon his mind and happiness; namely, the enlightening society of the incomparable Mr. Burke; who, most fortunately for the invalid, was then at Bath, with his amiable wife, his beloved son, and his admiring brother; and whose own good taste led him to claim the chief portion of Dr. Burney’s recreative leisure. And with Mr. Burke Dr. Burney had every feeling, every thought, nay, every emotion in common, with regard to that sole topic of the times, the French Revolution.

Dr. Burney wrote warmly of these meetings to the Memorialist, by whom he well knew no subject would be more eagerly welcomed; and he finished his last Bath details with these flattering words: “I dined, in all, eight times at the Burkes’, where every day, after dinner, your health was constantly given by Mr. Burke himself, as his favourite toast.”

[Pg 178]


The deep public interest which Doctor Burney, whether as a citizen of the world, or a sound patriot, took in the disastrous situation of France, was ere long destined to goad yet more pungently his private feelings, from becoming, in some measure, personal.

At the elegant mansion of the friend, whose sight she never met but with mingled tenderness and reverence, Mr. Locke, the Doctor’s second daughter, began an acquaintance that, imperceptibly, led to a connexion of high esteem and genial sympathy, that no opposition could dispirit, no danger intimidate, and no time—that impelling underminer of nearly all things—could wither.

But though to the strong hold of an attachment of which the basis is a believed congeniality of character, no difficulties are ultimately unconquerable; the obstacles to this were more than commonly formidable. M. d’Arblay was at that time so situated, that he must perforce accompany the friend with whom he acted, Count Louis de [Pg 179] Narbonne, to Switzerland; or decide to fix his own abode permanently in England, in the only manner which appeared desirable to him, a home connexion with a chosen object.

Not a ray of hope opened then to point to any restoration in France of Order and Monarchy with Liberty, to which M. d’Arblay inviolably adhered; and exile from his country, his family, and his friends, seemed to him a lot of blessedness, in comparison to joining the murderous and regicidical republic.

Dr. Burney, it may well be believed, was startled, was affrighted, when a proposition was made to him for the union of his daughter with a ruined gentleman—a foreigner—an emigrant; but the proposition came under the sanction of the wisest as well as kindest of that daughter’s friends, Mr. and Mrs. Locke, of Norbury Park; and with the fullest sympathies of his cherished Susanna, who already had demonstrated the affection, and adopted the conduct, of a sister to M. d’Arblay. The Doctor could not, therefore, turn from the application implacably; he only hesitated, and demanded time for consideration.

The dread of pecuniary embarrassment, secretly stimulated and [Pg 180] heightened by a latent hope and belief in a far more advantageous connexion, strongly opposed a free and happy consent to an alliance which, otherwise, from all he heard or could gather of the merits, the character, and rank in life of M. d’Arblay, he would have thought, to use his own words, “an honour to his daughter, to himself, and to his family.”

Fortunately, about this time, the Prince de Poix and the Comte de Lally Tolendahl, wrote some letters, in which were interspersed their personal attestations of the favour in which they knew M. d’Arblay to have stood with Louis XVI.; mingled with their intimate conviction of the spotless honour, the stainless character, and the singularly amiable disposition for which, in his own country, M. d’Arblay had been distinguished.

These letters, with their writers’ permission, were shewn to Dr. Burney; whom they so touched, nay, charmed, as to conquer his prudence of resistance: and at the village of Mickleham, in the vicinity of Norbury Park, the marriage took place.

Mr. Locke, whose unerring judgment foresaw what would make both parties happy; and whose exquisite sensibility made all virtuous felicity a bosom joy to himself, took the responsible part of father to M. [Pg 181] d’Arblay, at the altar, where, in the absence of the Doctor, Captain Burney gave his sister to that gentleman: who quickly, or rather immediately, won from his honoured new relation, an esteem, a kindness, and an affection, that never afterwards failed or faded.

Of sterner stuff than entered into the composition of Dr. Burney must that heart have been moulded, that could have witnessed the noble conduct of that truly loyal sufferer in the calamities of his king and country, General d’Arblay; and could have seen the cheerful self-denial with which he limited his expenditure to his wants, and his wants to the mere calls of necessity; save where he feared involving his partner in his privations,—in one word, who could have beheld him, at the opening of his married career, in the village of Bookham, turn instantly from the uncontrolled restlessness, and careless scorn of foresight, of the roving military life, into a domestic character of the most sage description; renouncing all foreign pleasures; retiring from even martial ambition, though it had been the glory of his hopes, and the bent of his genius, without a murmur, since he no longer thought it coalesced with honour; for home occupations, for family [Pg 182] economies, for fireside enjoyments,—and not be struck by such manly self-command, such active, such practical virtue.


And while stilled by this generous prudence were the inward fears of Dr. Burney with regard to this union, his outward and more public solicitudes were equally removed, by a letter which his daughter d’Arblay had the high honour and joy to receive, written by royal order, in answer to her respectful information of her marriage to the Queen: containing, most benignly by his own command, the gracious good wishes of the King himself, joined to those of the Queen and all the Princesses, for her health and happiness.


And, next only to this deeply gratifying condescension, must be ranked for Dr. Burney, the glowing pleasure with which he welcomed, and copied for Bookham, the cordial kindness upon this occasion of Mr. Burke. The letter conveying its energetic and most singular expression, was written to Dr. Burney by the great orator himself; and speaks first of [Pg 183] a plan that had his fullest approbation and most liberal aid, suggested by Mrs. Crewe, in favour of the French emigrant priests; from which Mr. Burke proceeds to treat of the taking of Toulon by Lord Hood; and his, Mr. Burke’s, hope of ultimate success, from the possession of that great port and arsenal of France in the Mediterranean; after which he adds:

“Besides my general wishes, the establishment of Madame d’Arblay is a matter in which I take no slight interest; if I had not the greatest affection to her virtues, my admiration of her incomparable talents would make me desirous of an order of things which would bring forward a gentleman of whose merits, by being the object of her choice, I have no doubt: his choice of her too would give me the best possible opinion of his judgment.

“I am, with Mrs. Burke’s best regards, and all our best wishes for you and M. and Madame d’Arblay, my dear Sir,

“Yours, &c.

“Edmd. Burke.”[32]

[Pg 184]

And Mrs. Burke, in a postscript of her own, writes:

“Will you be so good as to make my very best compliments to Madame d’Arblay, and tell her that no person can more sincerely wish her every happiness than I do.”

Not even the highly flattered, highly honoured Bookham Hermits themselves could read these generous words from the pen of Mr. Burke, whose personal kindness must apologise for their extraordinary exaggeration, with more vivid delight than they excited in the heart of Dr. Burney, by new stringing his hopes, and lightening his anxieties, upon this alliance.


The zeal of Mrs. Crewe to propitiate the cause of the Emigrant French Clergy, mentioned in the letter of Mr. Burke, induced her now to enlist as a principal aid-de-camp to her scheme, Dr. Burney; who, having never acquired that power of negation, which the world at large seems so generally to possess, of shirking all personal applications that lead to no avenue, whether straight or oblique, of personal advantage, immediately listened to her call; and thus mentions the subject in a letter to Bookham.

[Pg 185]

“Mrs. Crewe, having seen at East Bourne a great number of venerable and amiable French Clergy, suffering all the evils of banishment and beggary with silent resignation, has, for some time, had in meditation a plan for procuring an addition to the small allowance that the Committee at the Freemason’s Hall is able to spare from the residue of the subscriptions and briefs in their favour.”

Dr. Burney lost not a moment in assisting this liberal design; in which he had the happiness of engaging the powerful energies of Mr. Windham. And, soon afterwards, growing warmer in the business, from seeing more of the pious sufferers, he consented to becoming honorary secretary himself to the private society of the ladies who were at the head of this charitable exertion; of which the Marchioness of Buckingham[33] was nominated chief, at the desire of Mrs. Crewe.

The world is so full of claims, and of claimants for whatever has money for its object, that the benign purpose of these ladies was soon offensively thwarted from misapprehension, envy, or ill-will, that sought to excite in its disfavour the prejudices ever ready, of John [Pg 186] Bull against foreigners, till his justice is enlightened by an appeal to his generosity. Mrs. Crewe wrote warm lamentations on the subject to Dr. Burney, eagerly pressing him to engage his daughter in its cause.

“I never,” said the Doctor, in discussing this project, “receive a letter from Mrs. Crewe, in which she does not express her wishes that you would subscribe with your pen. ‘People in common,’ she truly says, ‘see the coarse, vulgar side of this business; and some good female writer would do well to put out some short essay, to throw a good colouring on such a subject; and bring precedents, if possible, out of the age of chivalry. Now Miss Burney never shone more than when she made her Cecilia burst from the shackles of common forms at Vauxhall, to save the life of Harrel. O! I wish Madame d’Arblay would let us all thank her again for such true pictures of taste and perfection in the moral world! The refinements of courts have been great; but they have seldom reached the heart; and I think genuine elegance was much oftener to be found amongst our ancestors; who, though, perhaps, too strict concerning the female sex, seem, by their writings, hardly ever to have let refinements interfere with the [Pg 187] operations of reason and common sense.’”

This quotation was followed by earnestly encouraging exhortations from the Doctor, to charge the new recluse to make some effort in favour of this pious emigrant clergy; and as the request had the full concurrence of M. d’Arblay, to whose every feeling the plan was touchingly interesting, her compliance, though fearful, could not be reluctant.

This was the origin and cause of The Address to the Ladies of Great Britain, in favour of the Emigrant French Priests, that was written for those venerable sufferers, as a pen-offering subscription from this Memorialist.

And the partial view that was taken of it by her fellow recluse; and the warm approvance accorded to it by Mrs. Crewe’s new private secretary, made the writer esteem it the most fortunate effusion of that pen.

Mrs. Doctor Burney was amongst the most active workers for these pious self-sacrificed exiles: as well as for whatever had charity for its object.

[Pg 188]


Such were the exertions of Dr. Burney, such the concurrent occupations of the happy new recluse, when suddenly a whirlwind encompassed the cottage of the latter, that involved its tenants in tremulous disorder.

It was raised by the taking of Toulon, just mentioned in the letter of Mr. Burke; and began its workings upon the female hermit on the evening of a day which had brightly dawned upon her, in bringing the junction of the suffrage of her father upon her pamphlet to that of her life’s partner.

Her own account of this shock, written to Dr. Burney, will here be inserted, because it was preserved by the Doctor as characteristic of the principles and conduct of his new son-in-law.

Bookham, 1794.

“To Dr. Burney.

“When I received the last letter of my dearest father, and for some hours after, I was the happiest of human beings; I make no exception. I think none possible. Not a wish remained for me—not a thought of forming one!

[Pg 189]

“This was just the period—is it not always so?—for a stroke of sorrow to reverse the whole scene! That very evening, M. d’Arblay communicated to me his desire of re-entering the army, and—of going to Toulon!

“He had intended, upon our marriage, to retire wholly from public life. His services and his sufferings, in his severe military career,—repaid by exile and confiscation, and for ever embittered to his memory by the murder of his sovereign, had fulfilled, though not satisfied, the claims of his conscience and his honour, and led him, without a single self-reproach, to seek a quiet retreat in domestic society: but—the second declaration of Lord Hood no sooner reached this obscure little dwelling; no sooner had he read the words Louis XVII. and the Constitution, to which he had sworn, united, than his military ardour re-kindled, his loyalty was all up in arms, and every sense of monarchical patriotism now carries him back to war and public service.

“I dare not speak of myself!—except to say that I have forborne to distress him by a single [Pg 190] solicitation. All the felicity of that our own chosen and loved retirement, would effectually be annulled, by the smallest suspicion that it was enjoyed at the expense of any public duty.

“He is now writing an offer for entering as a volunteer into the army destined for Toulon; together with a list of his past services up to his becoming Commandant of Longwy; and the dates of his various promotions to the last recorded of Marechal de Camp, which was yet unsigned and unsealed, when the captivity of Louis XVI. forced the emigration which brought M. d’Arblay to England.

“This memorial he addresses and means to convey in person to Mr. Pitt.”

To Dr. Burney, with all his consideration for his daughter, this enterprise appeared not to be inauspicious; and its spirit and loyalty warmly endeared to him his new relative: who could not, however, give proof of the noble verity of his sentiments and intentions, till many years later; for before the answer of Mr. Pitt to the memorial could be returned, the attempt upon Toulon proved abortive.

[Pg 191]


The Doctor continued in his benevolent post of private Secretary to the charitable ladies of the Emigrant Clergy Contribution, so long as the Committee lasted; though with so expert a distribution of time, that his new office robbed him not of the pleasure to yet enlarge the elegance of his literary circles, by being initiated into the Blue parties of Lady Lucan, supported by her accomplished daughter, Lady Spencer.


He now, also, renewed into long and social meetings, at his own apartments at Chelsea college, an acquaintance of forty-six years’ standing with Mason, the poet; by whom he was often consulted upon schemes of church psalmody, with respect both to its composition and execution; as well as upon other desirable improvements in our sacred harmony; which Mr. Mason, from practical knowledge both of music and poetry, was peculiarly fitted to investigate and refine.

Of this formation of intimacy, rather than renewal of acquaintance, [Pg 192] Dr. Burney, in his Letters to the Hermits, spoke with great pleasure; though, while always admiring the talents, and esteeming the private character of that charming poet, he never lost either his regret or his blame for the truly unclerical use made of his powers of wit and humour, by the insidious, yet biting sarcasms, levelled against his virtuous Sovereign in the poetical epistle to Sir William Chambers.

Had any crime been held up to view, there might have been an exaltation of courage in not suffering the Throne to be its protector; or had any secret vice, that was undermining moral duties, been exposed, there might have been a nobleness of intrepid indignation in casting upon it the glare of public contempt. But the shaft was levelled at one who had neither crime nor vice; an exemption so rare, that it ought to have created respect for the lowest born subject in the realm; and therefore, when marking the character of a monarch, became a call, a commanding call, to every lover of virtue—be his politics what they might—for being blazoned with public applause, as an excitement to public example.

[Pg 193]


Dr. Burney grew closely connected, also, with that indefatigable anecdote-hunter; date-ferretter; technical difficulty-solver; and collector of various readings—Mr. Malone.


And he had the happiness of often meeting with the Hon. Frederic North, afterwards Earl of Guildford; whose pleasant wit, practical urbanity, and persevering love of enterprise, made him full of original entertainment; whilst his unvarying gaiety of good-humour enabled him to discard spleen from pain, and to banish murmuring from even the acutest fits of the gout; though maimed by them, distorted, and crippled.

Upon his first visit to Dr. Burney, at Chelsea College, Mr. Frederick North appeared there upon crutches, and with difficulty hobbled into the library; yet he advanced with a smile, saying, that though he must obsequiously beg permission to produce himself in such a plight elsewhere, he boldly felt at home in coming with wooden legs to Chelsea Hospital.

[Pg 194]


The health of Dr. Burney was at this time most happily restored to the full exercise of all his powers of life. In a letter written to Bookham, at the close of the spring season, he says:

“I have been such an evaporé lately, that if I were near enough to accost you de vive voix, it would be with Susey’s[34] exclamation, when she was just arrived from France, at only eleven years old, after staying at Mrs. Lewis’s till ten o’clock one night, “Que je suis libertine, papa!” And thus, “Que je suis libertin, ma fille!” cry I. Three huge assemblies at Spencer House; two dinners at the Duke and Duchess of Leeds; two ditto at Mr. Crewe’s; two clubs; a dejeuner at Mrs. Crewe’s villa, at Hampstead; a dinner at Lord Macartney’s; ditto at Mr. Locke’s; ditto at Mr. Coxe’s; two ditto at Sir George Howard’s, at Chelsea; two philosophical conversationes at Sir Joseph Bankes’s; two operas; two professional concerts; Haydn’s benefit; Salomon’s three ancient musics; &c. &c. &c.

“What dissipating profligacy! But what argufies all this festivity? ’Tis all vanity, and exhalement of spirit. I was tired to death of it all before it was over: whilst your domestic occupations and pleasures are as fresh every morning as the roses of your garden.”

The following is the sportive conclusion of another letter, written in the season of fashionable engagements.

[Pg 195]

“When shall I have done with telling you of mes bonnes fortunes? Betty Carter, Hannah More, Lady Clarges—nay, t’other day, at Dickey Coxe’s, I met with the Miss Berrys, as lively and accomplished as ever; and I have strong invites to their cottage at Strawberry Hill. What say you to that, ma’am?—

“Torn to pieces, I declare!”


The Doctor now, in truth, became so universally in fashion, that he was even sought, much to his amusement, by those against whose principles, as far as they were political, he was invariably at war; namely, sundry celebrated oppositionists.

In his letter to the Hermits he particularizes in this liberty list, Mr. Mason, Mr. Stonehewer, Sir William Jones, Mr. Hayley, Mr. Godwin, and the first Lord Lansdowne; ending with Mr. Erskine,[35] whom he had met at two dinners, and to whose house he had been invited to a third convivial meeting: and here this renowned orator and new acquaintance fastened upon the Doctor with all the volubility of his eloquence, and all the exuberance of his happy good-humour, in singing his own exploits and praises, without insisting that his hearer should [Pg 196] join in chorus; or rather, perhaps, without discovering, from his own self-absorption, that that ceremony was omitted.


The dejeuner above mentioned of Mrs. Crewe at her little villa, at Hampstead, was given in honour of Caroline, Princess of Wales.[36] To this, in order to compliment at once the rank and the taste of her Royal Highness, Mrs. Crewe invited whoever she thought most distinguished, either in situation or in talents. Under the latter class, she was not likely to forget her old friend, Dr. Burney; whose name her Royal Highness no sooner heard, than she desired Mr. Windham to bring him to her for presentation. “And then,” the Doctor in his diary relates, “she said, in very good English, ‘How do you do, Dr. Burney? You and I are not strangers. You are very well known in Germany, and often mentioned there; car, enfin, vous êtes un homme celebre.’”

[Pg 197]

“After which,” the Doctor’s diary goes on, “in the little colloquial debates, and playful defences of general conversation, she commonly and flatteringly referred to me for arbitration, saying: ‘Is it not so, Dr. Burney? You are a wise man, and must know of the best.’”

“The next time her Royal Highness had music, I was remembered for a summons to Blackheath, forwarded to me by the very agreeable and very deserving Miss Hayman. And here the Princess had the politeness and condescension to shew me her plantations and improvements.

“The music performed was chiefly of Mozart; and her Royal Highness, on piece following piece of the same composer, cried: ‘I hope you like Mozart, Dr. Burney?’ ‘No compositions can better deserve your Royal Highness’s favour,’ I answered; ‘for his inventions and resources are inexhaustible: and his vocal music, of which we knew nothing in England till after he was dead, surpasses in beauty even his instrumental; which had so justly, in this country, obtained him the warmest applause.’ The music was so good, and her Royal Highness was so lively, that Mrs. Crewe, whom I had the honour to accompany, could not take leave till past one o’clock in the morning; and it was past six ere my [Pg 198] jaded horses and I reached Chelsea College.”


Chiefly cheering, however, and agreeable to the Doctor, was an unexpected re-meeting with a long favourite friend, from whom he had unavoidably, and most unpleasantly, been separated,—Mrs. Thrale; whom now, for the first time, he saw as Mrs. Piozzi.

It was at one of the charming concerts of the charming musician, Salomon, that this occurred. Dr. Burney knew not that she was returned from Italy, whither she had gone speedily after her marriage; till here, with much surprise, he perceived amongst the audience, il Signor Piozzi.

Approaching him, with an aspect of cordiality, which was met with one of welcoming pleasure, they entered into talk upon the performers and the instruments, and the enchanting compositions of Haydn. Dr. Burney then inquired, with all the interest that he most sincerely felt, after la sua consorte. Piozzi, turning round, pointed to a sofa, on which, to his infinite joy, Dr. Burney beheld Mrs. Thrale Piozzi, seated in the midst of her daughters, the four Miss Thrales.

[Pg 199]

His pleasure seemed reciprocated by Mrs. Piozzi, who, sportively ejaculating, “Here’s Dr. Burney, as young as ever!” held out to him her hand with lively amity.

His satisfaction now expanded into a conversational gaiety, that opened from them both those fertile sources of entertainment, that originally had rendered them most agreeable to each other; the younger branches, with amiable good-humour, contributing to the spirit of this unexpected junction.

The Bookhamite Recluse, to whom this occurrence was immediately communicated, received it with true and tender delight. Most joyfully would she, also, have held out her hand to that once so dear friend, from whom she could never sever her heart, had she happily been of this Salomonic party.[37]

[Pg 200]


Dr. Burney still, as he had done nearly from the hour that his History was finished, composed various articles for the Monthly Review. But so precarious and irregular a call upon his fertile abilities, sufficed not for their occupation; and he soon started a new work, on a subject peculiar and appropriate, that came singularly home to his business and bosom; though it was offered to him only by that fatal power which daily and unfailingly lavishes before us subjects for our discussions—and for our tears!—Death; which, some time previously to the liberation of the Doctor’s mind from the arcana of musical history, had cast the Life and Writings of the Abate Metastasio upon posterity.

No poet could be more congenial to Dr. Burney than Metastasio, the purity of whose numbers was mellifluously in concord with the purity of his sentiments; while both were in perfect unison with the taste of the Doctor. He considered it, professionally, to be even a duty, for the Historian of the Art of Music, to raise, as far as in him lay, a biographical monument to the glory of the man whose poetry, after that which is sacred, is best adapted to inspire the lyric muse with [Pg 201] strains of genial harmony, in all the impassioned varieties that the choral shell is capable to generate for the musical enthusiast.

The first object of Dr. Burney in his visit to Vienna, at the period of his German Tour, had been to see and to converse with Metastasio; whose resplendent lyrical fame had raised him, in his own dramatic career, to a height unequalled throughout Europe.

The benign reception given to the Doctor by this amiable and venerable bard; the charm of his converse; the meekly borne honours by which he was distinguished and surrounded; and the delightful performances, and graceful attractions of his Niece, Mademoiselle Martinez, are fully and feelingly set forth in the third volume of the Musical Tours.

When decided, therefore, upon this subject for his pen and his powers, he employed himself without delay in preparatory measures for his new undertaking: and procured every edition of the Poet’s works; to glean from each all that might incidentally be interspersed of anecdote, in letters, advertisements, prefaces, or notes.

He was kindly assisted in getting over various documents from Vienna, [Pg 202] by the late Lord Mansfield, who, while Lord Stormont, had been British Ambassador at that capital when it was visited by Dr. Burney.

The present Earl Spencer, also, liberally aided the passage to England of some works much wanted, but difficult of attainment.

From Haydn, with whom the Doctor was in constant commerce, and who chiefly resided at Vienna, he received considerable local and agreeable help.

And through the generous and judicious friendship of the faithful Pacchierotti, he was furnished with every species of assistance that judgment, zeal, and a perfect acquaintance with the calls of the subject, could suggest.

“In short,” says the Doctor, in a letter to Bookham, “I am prodigiously hallooed on in my Metastasio mania by all sorts of poets and critics; and, to bring all to a point, I have a letter, which I inclose for your perusal, from the enchanting Mademoiselle Martinez.”

Thus powerfully encouraged, the Doctor consigned himself to this new composition. Not, however, as when working at his History, to the sacrifice of his ease, his comfort, and his friends: with these, on [Pg 203] the contrary, his spring and winter intercourse were now lively and frequent; and with some of them he indulged himself in spending a portion of his summer.


While he had been blessed by the preservation of Messrs. Crisp, Bewley, and Twining, he had neither inclination nor time for any diffusion that would have robbed him of their incomparably endearing and enlightening society. A few days in rotation were all that he could bestow on his many other claimants; but the two first of these heart, head, and leisure-monopolizers, Messrs. Crisp and Bewley, were gone; and had left a chasm that the third only could fill; and he, Mr. Twining, was now almost unremittingly occupied in kindly attendance upon a sick and suffering wife.

The next who, now, ranked nearest to Dr. Burney for consolation and confidence, was Mrs. Crewe; to whom he would willingly have dedicated the greatest part of his wandering holidays, but that her country residence, at Crewe Hall, in Cheshire, exacted two journeys so incommodious and fatiguing, that it was rarely, and with difficulty, they could be undertaken.

[Pg 204]

To his valuable old friend, Mr. Coxe, he gave a week or two, at his pleasant villa, near Southampton, every season. And he made rambling visits, of a few days, to Lady Mary Duncan, Sir Joseph Bankes, Mrs. Boscawen, Mrs. Garrick, Lady Clarges, and several others.

With his two sons, and his eldest daughter, as their residences were within a few miles of his own abode, he was in constant commerce; but to his Susanna, since she had been separated from the paternal roof, he devoted a fortnight every year; and he gratified his fourth daughter, Charlotte, now resident in Norfolk, with visits rather longer, because her greater distance from Chelsea made them necessarily less frequent.


In the first of these domestic and amical tours that were made after the marriage of his second daughter, he suddenly turned out of his direct road to take a view of the dwelling of the Hermits of Bookham; in which rural village they were temporarily settled, in a small but pleasant cottage, endeared for ever to their remembrance from having been found out for them by Mr. Locke.

[Pg 205]

It was not, perhaps, without the spur of some latent solicitude, some anxious incertitude, that Dr. Burney made this first visit to them abruptly, at an early hour, and when believed far distant; and if so, never were kind doubts more kindlily solved: he found all that most tenderly he could wish—concord and content; gay concord, and grateful content.

When he sent in his name from his post-chaise, the Hermits flew to receive him; and ere he could reach the little threshold of the little habitation, his daughter was in his arms. How long she there kept him she knows not, but he was very patient at the detention! Tears of pleasure standing in his full eyes at her rapturous reception; and at witnessing the unsophisticated happiness of two beings who, from living nearly in the front of life, nourished in retirement no wish but for its continuance.


The Memoirs of Metastasio, with all their interest to a man whose love of literary composition was so eminently his ruling passion, surmounted not—for nothing could surmount—the parental benevolence that welcomed with encouragement, and hailed with hope, a project now communicated [Pg 206] to him of a new work, the third in succession, from the author of Evelina and Cecilia.

That author, become now a mother as well as a wife, was induced to print this, her third literary essay, by a hazardous mode of publicity, from which her natively-retired temperament had made her, in former days, recoil, even when it was eloquently suggested for her by Mr. Burke to Dr. Burney; namely, the mode of subscription.

But, at this period, she felt a call against her distaste at once conjugal and maternal. Her noble-minded partner, though the most ardent of men to be himself what he thought belonged to the dignity of his sex, the efficient purveyor of his own small home and family, was despoiled, by events over which he had no control, of that post of honour.

This scheme, therefore, was adopted. Its history, however, would be here a matter of supererogation, save as far as it includes Dr. Burney in its influence and effect; for neither the author, nor her partner in all, could feel greater delight than was experienced by Dr. Burney, from the three principal circumstances which emanated from this undertaking.

The first of these was the honour graciously accorded by her Majesty, [Pg 207] Queen Charlotte, of suffering her august name to stand at the head of the Book, by deigning to accept its Dedication.

The second was the feminine approbation marked for the author by three ladies, equally conspicuous for their virtues and their understanding; the honourable and sagacious Mrs. Boscawen, the beautiful and zealous Mrs. Crewe, and the exemplary and captivating Mrs. Locke; who each kept books for the subscription, which the kindness of their friendship raised as highly in honour as in advantage.

And the third circumstance, to the Doctor the most touching, because now the least expected, was the energetic interest, to which the prospect of seeing this Memorialist emerge again from obscurity, re-animated the still generous feelings of the now nearly sinking, altered, gone Mr. Burke! who, on finding that his charges against Mr. Hastings were adjudged in Westminster Hall to be unfounded, though he was still persuaded himself that they were just, had retired from Parliament, wearied and disgusted; and who, on the following year, had lost his deeply-attached brother; and, almost immediately afterwards, his nearly idolized son, who was “the pride of his heart, and the joy of his existence,” to use his own words in a paragraph of a letter [Pg 208] written to the mutually respected and faithful friend of himself and of Dr. Burney, Mrs. Crewe.

That lady, well acquainted with the reverence of Dr. Burney for Mr. Burke, and the attachment with which Mr. Burke returned it, generally communicated her letters from Beaconsfield to Chelsea College; and not unfrequently with a desire that they might be forwarded on to Bookham; well knowing that the extraordinary partiality of Mr. Burke for its female recluse, would make him more than pardon the kind pleasure of Mrs. Crewe in granting that recluse such an indulgence.

The letter, whence is taken the fond sad phrase just quoted, was written in answer to the first letter of Mrs. Crewe to Mr. Burke, after his irreparable bereavement; and the whole of the paragraph in which it occurs will now be copied, to elucidate the interesting circumstance for Dr. Burney to which it led. Beautiful is the paragraph in the pathetic resignation of its submission. No flowery orator here expands his imagination; nothing finds vent but the touching simplicity of a tender parent’s heart-breaking sorrow.

[Pg 209]

“To Mrs. Crewe.

“We are thoroughly sensible of your humanity and compassion to this desolate house.

“We are as well as people can be, who have nothing further to hope or fear in this world. We are in a state of quiet; but it is the tranquillity of the grave—in which all that could make life interesting to us is laid—and to which we are hastening as fast as God pleases. This place[38] is no longer pleasant to us! and yet we have more satisfaction, if it may so be called, here than anywhere else. We go in and out, without any of those sentiments of conviviality and joy which alone can create an attachment to any spot. We have had a loss which time and reflection rather increase the sense of. I declare to you that I feel more this day, than on the dreadful day in which I was deprived of the comfort and support, the pride and ornament of my existence!”

Mrs. Crewe, extremely affected by this distress, and as eager to draw her illustrious friend from his consuming grief, as to serve and to gratify the new Recluse, sent to Beaconsfield the next year, 1795, [Pg 210] the plan, in which she took so prominent a part, for bringing forth Camilla, or a Picture of Youth; in the hope of re-exciting his interest for its author.

The following is the answer which, almost with exultation of kindness, Mrs. Crewe transmitted to the Hermits.

“To Mrs. Crewe.

“As to Miss Burney—the subscription ought to be, for certain persons, five guineas; and to take but a single copy each. The rest as it is. I am sure that it is a disgrace to the age and nation, if this be not a great thing for her, If every person in England who has received pleasure and instruction from Cecilia, were to rate its value at the hundredth part of their satisfaction, Madame d’Arblay would be one of the richest women in the kingdom.

“Her scheme was known before she lost two[39] of her most respectful admirers from this house;[40] and this, with Mrs. Burke’s subscription and mine, make the paper I send you.[41] One book is as good as a thousand: one of hers is certainly as good as a thousand others.”

The reader will not, it is hoped, imagine, that the emotion excited by these words at Bookham sprang from a credulity so simple, or a vanity so insane, as that of arraigning the judgment of Mr. Burke by a literal acceptation of their benevolent, rather than flattering exaltation:—No! the emotion was to find Mr. Burke still susceptible of his old generous warmth of regard: and that emotion was of the tenderest gratitude in the Recluse, upon seeing herself still, in defiance of absence, of distance, of time, and even of deadly sorrow, as much its honoured object as when she had been sought by him in her opening career.

The felicitations of Dr. Burney to Bookham upon this extraordinary effusion of heart-affecting kindness, were so full of happiness, as to demand felicitations in return for himself.

[Pg 212]


In 1795 the Memoirs of Metastasio made their appearance in the republic of letters. They were received with interest and pleasure by all readers of taste, and lovers of the lyric muse. They had not, indeed, that brightness of popular success which had flourished into the world the previous works of the Doctor; for though the name of Metastasio was familiar to all who had any pretensions to an acquaintance with the classical muses, whether ancient or modern, it was only the chosen few who had any enjoyment of his merit, or who understood the motives to his fame. The Italian language was by no means then in its present general cultivation; and the feeling, exalted dramas of this tenderly touching poet, were only brought forward, in England, by the miserable, mawkish, no-meaning translations of the opera-house hired scribblers.[42] And all that was most elegant and most refined, in thought as well as in language, of this classical bard, was frequently so ill rendered into English, as to become mere matter of risibility, held up for mockery and ridicule.

[Pg 213]

The translations, or, more properly speaking, imitations, occasionally interspersed in this work, of some of the poetry of Metastasio, were the most approved by the best critics; as so breathing the sentiments and the style of the author, that they read, said Horace Lord Orford, like two originals.

But the dissertation concerning the rules was what excited most attention. Dr. Warton, a professed and standard supporter of them and of Aristotle, confessed, with surprise, that he was shaken from his firm ancient hold, through the treatise on their subject by Metastasio, as given, in so masterly a manner, by Dr. Burney.

Mr. Twining, the able and learned commentator and translator of Aristotle, and one of the most candid of men, allowed himself, also, to be struck, if not convinced, by the reasoning of Metastasio, as presented by Dr. Burney.

Mr. Mason, likewise, owned that he was set upon taking quite a new view of that long-battled topic. And the ingenious Mr. Walker opened a critical and literary correspondence from Dublin with Dr. Burney, relative to this interminable question.

Meanwhile, from the public at large, these Memoirs obtained a fair and satisfactory approvance that kindly sheltered the long-earned laurels [Pg 214] of Dr. Burney from withering, if they elicited not such productive fragrance as to make those laurels bloom afresh.

On the opening of July, 1796, the parental feelings of Dr. Burney were auspiciously gratified by the reception of his daughter’s new attempt; of which the first homage was offered, and graciously received in person at Windsor, by the King, as well as by the Queen; with the most benevolent marks of unvaried favour, and with the condescension of repeated private audiences with the Queen, and with the Princesses, during a short Windsor sojourn. But that which enchanted beyond his hopes the Doctor’s fondest desires, was that his daughter had the signal happiness of naming his foreign-born, though domestic-bosomed son-in-law, General d’Arblay, to the King, upon the Terrace, by the gracious motion of his Majesty; who there accorded him the high honour of a conversation of several minutes.

This, which was the proudest instant of his daughter’s life, was not less elevating to the loyal heart of the Doctor; who considered it as an indication that the unsullied conduct and character of General d’Arblay had reached the ears of the King, who had his Royal Highness [Pg 215] the Duke of York at his side; and who certainly would not himself thus publicly have sought out and distinguished a foreigner, of whose principles he could have had any doubt.


But—what, next to this highest benignity, had most been coveted by Dr. Burney, met not his hopes! The kindly predilection of Mr. Burke, brought forward with such previous and decided partiality for this new enterprise, never reached its intent. Mr. Burke received it at Bath, on the bed of sickness, in the anguish of his lingering and ceaseless depression for the loss of his son; and when he was too ill and weak to have spirits even to open its leaves; withheld, perhaps, the more poignantly, from internal recurrence to the happy family parties to which repeatedly he had read its two predecessors, in the hearing of him by whom his voice now could be heard no more!

Visited by Mrs. Crewe, soon after the appearance of Camilla in the world, he said, “How ill I am you will easily believe, when a new work [Pg 216] of Madame d’Arblay’s lies on my table, unread!”[43]

To Dr. Burney the result of this publication was fondly pleasing, in realising a project formed by the willing Hermits, immediately upon their marriage, of constructing a slight and economical, but pretty and convenient cottage, for their residence and property.

Most welcome, indeed, to the Doctor was a scheme that had their settlement in England for its basis: and most consoling to the harassed mind and fortunes of M. d’Arblay was the prospect of creating for himself a new home; since his native one, at that time, seemed lost even to his wishes, in appearing lost to religion, to monarchy, and to humanity.

Almost instantly, therefore, after the return of the Hermits from the honoured presentation of Camilla at Windsor, a plan previously drawn up by M. d’Arblay, was brought forward for execution; and a small dwelling was erected as near as possible to the Norbury mansion, on a field [Pg 217] adjoining to its Park, and rented by the Hermits from the incomparable Mr. Locke.


The celebrated embassy of Lord Macartney to China, which had taken place in the year 1792, had led his lordship to consult with Dr. Burney upon whatever belonged to musical matters, whether instruments, compositions, band, or decorations, that might contribute, in that line, to its magnificence.

The reputation of Dr. Burney, in his own art, might fully have sufficed to draw to him for counsel, in that point, this sagacious ambassador; but, added to this obvious stimulus, Lord Macartney was a near relation of Mrs. Crewe, through whom he had become intimately acquainted with the Doctor’s merits; which his own high attainments and intelligence well befitted him to note and to value.

Always interested in whatever was brought forward to promote general knowledge, and to facilitate our intercourse with our distant fellow creatures, Dr. Burney, even with eagerness, bestowed a considerable portion of his time, as well as of his thoughts, in [Pg 218] meditating upon musical plans relative to this expedition; animated, not alone by the spirit of the embassy, but by his admiration of the ambassador; who, with unlimited trust in his taste and general skill, as well as in his perfect knowledge upon the subject, gave carte blanche to his discretion for whatever he could either select or project. And so pleased was his lordship both with the Doctor’s collection and suggestions, and so sensible to the time and the pains bestowed upon the requisite researches, that, on the eve of departure, his lordship, while uttering a kind farewell, brought forth a striking memorial of his regard, in a superb and very costly silver inkstand, of the most beautiful workmanship; upon which he had had engraven a Latin motto, flatteringly expressive of his esteem and friendship for Dr. Burney.

At this present period, 1796, this accomplished nobleman was again preparing to set sail, upon a new and splendid appointment, of Governor and Captain-General of the Cape of Good Hope; and again, upon the leave-taking visit of the Doctor, he manifested the same spirit of kindness that he had displayed when parting for China.

In a room full of company, to which he had been exhibiting the [Pg 219] various treasures prepared as presents for his approaching enterprise, he gently drew the Doctor apart, and whispered, “To you, Dr. Burney, I must shew the greatest personal indulgence, and private recreation, that I have selected for my voyage.” He then took from a highly-finished travelling bookcase, a volume of Camilla, which had been published four or five months; and smilingly said, “This I have not yet opened! nor will I suffer any one to anticipate a word of it to me; and, still less, suffer myself to take a glimpse of even a single sentence—till I am many leagues out at sea; that then, without hindrance of business, or any impediment whatever, I may read the work throughout with uninterrupted enjoyment.”


Bright again with smiling success and gay prosperity was this period to Dr. Burney; but not more bright than brittle! for, almost at its height, its serenity was broken by a stroke that rent it asunder!—a wound that never could be healed!

The peculiar darling of the whole house of Dr. Burney, as well as [Pg 220] of his heart; whose presence always exhilarated, or whose absence saddened every branch of it, his daughter Susanna, was called, by inevitable circumstances, from his paternal embraces and fond society, to accompany her husband and children upon indispensable business, to Ireland; then teeming with every evil that invasion, rebellion, civil war, and famine, could unite to inflict.

The absence was fixed for only three years; but the dreadful state of that unfortunate country, joined to the delicate, if not already declining health of this beloved daughter; with his own advance in years, made this parting a laceration of gloomy prognostic, almost appalling. He suffered, however, no vent to these sensations before her whom they would nearly have demolished: he only permitted them to break out afterwards to some of his children; and strained her to his bosom, at the cruel instant of separation, with all he could assume of smiling hope for her speedy return. While she, though trembling throughout her shattered frame with the acutest filial tenderness, set off without a murmur. She wished to sustain her beloved father, not to forsake herself; and she quitted his honoured presence with excited spirits, and apparent cheerfulness.

[Pg 221]

Mixed with some of the Doctor’s poetical effusions, there remains an elegiac fragment upon this voyage to Ireland, from which the following lines are extracted.

On the departure of my daughter Susan to Ireland.

“My gentle Susan! who, in early state,
Each pain or care could soothe or mitigate;
And who in adolescence could impart
Delight to every eye, and feeling heart;
Whose mind, expanding with increase of years,
Precluded all anxiety and fears
Which parents feel for inexperienc’d youth,
Unguided in the ways of moral truth—
On her kind nature, genially her friend,
A heart bestow’d instruction could not mend:
Intuitive, each virtue she possess’d,
And learn’d their foes to shun and to detest.
“Nor did her intellectual powers require
The usual aid of labour to inspire
Her soul with prudence, wisdom, and a taste
Unerring in refinement; sound and chaste.
“Yet of her merits this the smallest part—
Far more endear’d by virtues of the heart,
Which constantly excite her to embrace
Each duty of her state with active grace.
[Pg 222]
“Such was the prop and comfort of my age
Whose filial tenderness might well assuage
The sorrows which infirmities produce.
“My vital drama’s now so near its end,
That the last act’s unlikely to extend
Till she return.——
“And yet—
The few remaining scenes to me allow’d
Shall not on useless murmurs be bestow’d;
But, patiently resign’d, I’ll act my part;
Try each expedient——
And, till the curtain drop, and end the play,
For my dear Susan’s welfare ardent pray!”

This virtuous resolution the Doctor put in practice with his utmost might; and, having finished with Metastasio, he turned his thoughts, with all their functions, critical, elucidating, inventive, etymological, and didactive, upon a work which he purposed to make the basis of a composition, or compilation, explanatory of every word, phrase, and difficulty belonging to the science, the theory, and the practice of music.

From the impossibility to find place in his History for the whole of his vast accumulation of materials, there remained in his hands matter [Pg 223] amply adequate for forming the major, and far most abstruse part of a theoretical dictionary of this description. And, from this time, at intervals, he laboured at it with his usual vigour.

But not here ended the sharp reverse of this altered year; scarcely had this harrowing filial separation taken place, ere an assault was made upon his conjugal feelings, by the sudden, at the moment, though from lingering illnesses often previously expected, death of Mrs. Burney, his second wife.

She had been for many years a valetudinarian; but her spirits, though natively unequal, had quick and animated returns to their pristine gaiety; which, joined to an uncommon muscular force that endured to the last, led all but herself to believe in her still retained powers of revival.

Extremely shocked by this fatal event, the Doctor sent the tidings by express to Bookham; whence the female recluse, speeded by her kind partner, instantly set off for Chelsea College. There she found the Doctor encircled by most of his family, but in the lowest spirits, and in a weak and shattered state of nerves; and there she spent with him, and his youngest daughter, Sarah Harriet, the whole of the first [Pg 224] melancholy period of this great change.

It was at this time, during their many and long tête à têtes, that he communicated to her almost all the desultory documents, which up to the year 1796, form these Memoirs.

His sole occupation, when they were alone, was searching for, and committing to her examination, the whole collection of letters, and other manuscripts relative to his life and affairs, which, up to that period, had been written, or hoarded. These, which she read aloud to him in succession, he either placed alphabetically in the pigeon-holes of his bureau, or cast at once into the flames.

The following pages upon this catastrophe are copied from his after memorandums.

Having briefly mentioned that his second son, Dr. Charles, prevailed with him to accept a secluded apartment at Greenwich, till the mournful last rites should be paid to the departed, with whose remains his daughters continued at Chelsea College, he thus goes on.

“On the 26th of October, she was interred in the burying ground of Chelsea College. On the 27th, I returned to my [Pg 225] melancholy home, disconsolate and stupified. Though long expected, this calamity was very severely felt. I missed her counsel, converse, and family regulations; and a companion of thirty years, whose mind was cultivated, whose intellects were above the general level of her sex, and whose curiosity after knowledge was insatiable to the last. These were losses that caused a vacuum in my habitation and in my mind, that has never been filled up.

“My four eldest daughters, all dutiful, intelligent, and affectionate, were married, and had families of their own to superintend, or they might have administered comfort. My youngest daughter, Sarah Harriet, by my second marriage, had quick intellects, and distinguished talents; but she had no experience in household affairs. However, though she had native spirits of the highest gaiety, she became a steady and prudent character, and a kind and good girl. There is, I think, considerable merit in her novel, Geraldine, particularly in the conversations; and I think the scene at the emigrant cottage really touching. At least it drew tears from me, when I was not so prone to shed them as I am at present.”

Afterwards, recurring again to his departed wife, he says:

“In the course of nature, she should not have gone before me. She was the admirer and sincere friend of that first wife, whose virtues and intellectual powers were perhaps her model in early life. Without neglecting domestic and maternal duties, she cultivated her mind in such a manner by extensive reading, and the assistance of a tenacious and happy memory, as to enable her to converse with persons of learning and talents on all subjects to which female studies are commonly allowed to extend; and through a coincidence of taste and principles in all matters of [Pg 226] which the discussion is apt to ruffle the temper, and alienate affection, our conversation and intercourse was sincere, cordial, and cheering.

“She had read far more books of divinity and controversy than myself, and was as much mistress of the theological points of general dispute as reading and reflection could make her; but, within a few days, if not hours, of her death, she lamented having perused so many polemical works; and advised a female friend, fond of such researches, who was with her,[44] not to waste her time on such inquiries; saying, ‘they will disturb your faith—by leading to endless controversy: they have done me no good!’”

In the same memorandum book, occurs, afterwards, the following paragraph:

“I shut myself up for some weeks; and, during part of that time, while sorting and examining papers with my daughter d’Arblay, she found among them the fragment of a poem on Astronomy, began at the period of the first ascent from balloons, and formed on the idea that, by their help, if, in process of time, a steerage was obtained, and the art of keeping them afloat, and ascending to what height the steersman pleased, was also discovered, parties might easily and pleasantly undertake voyages to the moon; and, perhaps, to the planets nearest to the earth, such as Mars and Venus: without considering that each planet and satellite must have its vortex and atmosphere filled with different beings and productions, none of which can subsist in another region.

“This wild fancy put it into my daughter d’Arblay’s head to persuade me to attempt a serious historical and didactic poem on the subject [Pg 227] of astronomy; in order to employ my time and thoughts during the first stages of my sorrow for the losses I had sustained: and, having been a dabbler almost all my life in astronomy, I was not averse to the proposition.”

To the great satisfaction of this daughter, from the recreative employment of time to which it led, this idea was neither forgotten nor set aside; it was, in truth, but a return to the original propensity to astronomy which had been nourished by his first conjugal partner, who enthusiastically had shared his taste for contemplating the stars.

In his letters, after the return of the Memorialist to her cottage, the sadness of his mind is touchingly portrayed. In the first of them he says:

Nov.—I have been writing melancholy, heart-rending letters this day or two, which have oppressed me greatly: yet I am still more heartless in doing nothing. The author of the poem on The Spleen, says, ‘Fling but a stone, the giant dies:’ but such stones as I have to fling will not do the business. James and Charles[45] dined here yesterday, and kept the monster at a little distance; but he was here again the minute they were gone. I try to read; but ‘pronounce the words without understanding one of them,’ as Dr. Johnson said, in reading my Dissertation on the Music of the Ancients.”

[Pg 228]

And in another letter, of Dec. 2nd, 1796, he writes,—

“I have been tolerably well in body, but in mind extremely languid, and full of heartaches.

“Few people have been more repandu, or more frequently forced from home than myself; or more separately occupied when there: yet the short intervals I was able to spend with my family, ever since I had one, were the happiest of my life. Even labour, care, and anxiety, for those we love, have their pleasures; and those very superior to what can be derived by working and thinking for self.”

Most anxiously, in answer to these communications, the Memorialist pressed upon him a forced application to his Musical Dictionary; or, preferably yet, to the last started subject of his balloon ideal Voyages. But while this, after heavenly hopes, was what she urged for occupation; what chiefly she brought forward to him as comfort, was the solace which he had bestowed upon herself, during her late visit, from witnessing his mild and exemplary resignation. She ardently begged him to have recourse, for further self-consolation, to his own reflections upon all that had passed with the poor sufferer during the whole of their long intercourse; by looking back to his unabated, constant, and indulgent kindness, through sickness, misfortunes, and time; joined to [Pg 229] the most grievous events, and trying circumstances.


Mrs. Crewe, whose fancy was as fertile as her friendship was zealous, perceiving the melancholy state of spirits into which the Doctor had fallen, sought to awaken him again into new life and activity through the kindly medium of his parental affections. She suggested to him, therefore, the idea of a new periodical morning paper, serious and burlesque, informing, yet amusing, upon The Times as they Run; strictly anti-jacobinical, and professedly monarchical; but allowing no party abuse, nor personal attack; and striving to fight the battles of morals and manners, by enlisting reason on their side, and raising the laugh against their foes.

The Times as they Ran, at that epoch, appeared big with every species of danger that could issue, through political avenues, from the universal sway of revolutionary systems which occupied, or revolutionary schemes which bewildered mankind. All thoughts were ingrossed by public affairs. Private life seemed as much a chimera of imagination, as reverting to the pastoral seasons of the poets of old, [Pg 230] in wandering through valleys, or ascending mountains, crook in hand, with sheep, deer, or goats.

Mr. Burke, in his unequalled and unrivalled Essence of the French Revolution,—for such his Essay on that stupendous event may be called, had sounded a bell of alarm throughout Europe; echoing and re-echoing, aloud, aloft, around, with panic reverberation,

“Every man to his post! or
Havoc will let loose the dogs of war,”

with massacre, degradation, shame, and devastation, “involving all—save the inflictors!”

Nor vain was the clangor of that bell. All who dreaded evils yet untried, evils wrapped up in the obscurity of hidden circumstances; dependent on the million of inlets to which accident opens an entrance; and of uncertain catastrophe; still more than they recoiled from ills which, however unpalatable, have been experienced, and are therefore known not to outstretch the powers of endurance; caught its fearful sound, and listened to its awful warnings: and the lament of Mr. Burke that the times of chivalry were gone by, nearly re-animated their [Pg 231] return, from the eloquence with which he pointed them out as antidotes to the anarchy of insubordination; and spurs to rescue mankind from hovering degeneracy.

Fraught with these notions, Mrs. Crewe conceived an idea that a weekly paper upon such subjects, treating them so variously as to keep alive expectation, by essaying

“—— happily to steer
From grave to gay; from lively to severe,”

might turn to what Mr. Burke, and Dr. Burney, and she herself, deemed the right way of seeing things, the motley many who, from wanting reflection to think for themselves, are dangerously led to act by others.

This weekly paper Mrs. Crewe purposed to call The Breakfast Table. And it was her desire, expressed in the most flattering terms, that the Doctor should bear a prominent part in it; but that his daughter should be the editor and chief.

The letters of Mrs. Crewe on this plan are full of spirit and ingenuity; and of comic as well as sagacious ideas. “If we are saved,” she cries, “from the infection, i. e. the jacobinism of our neighbours, it will be through the wise foresight of Mr. Burke; and [Pg 232] from seeing that persiflage has been their bane, and that Quiz, if we are not upon our guard, will be ours; and, above all, from taking heed that Jacobinism does not carry the day in polite companies; for Newgate never does mischief to society. No! ’tis your fine talkers, and free-thinkers, and refiners, that are to be feared. Watch but the vital parts, and the extremities will take care of themselves....

“I mentioned my idea of this paper to our Beaconsfield friends;[46] but they have enough to do there...!

“I think, indeed, there should be a society to join in this plan; which should include strictures upon life and manners at the end of the eighteenth century; to come out in one sheet for breakfast tables. How folks would read away, and talk, in all great towns, and in all country-houses; nay, and in London itself; where I remember my poor mother told me much of the effects produced formerly by periodical papers; even Pamela, when it came out in that way. Now how well Madame d’Arblay could manage such a work! and how one and all would join to [Pg 233] get epigrams for her; and bobs at the times, in prose and in verse: and news from Paris; &c. &c. And we might all have a finger in the pie! and try to laugh people out of their Jacobinism. Old anecdotes, characters, and bits of poetry rummaged out of old authors; especially from some of the quaint, but clever ancient French poets: and a thousand interesting things that would be read, and tasted, and felt, if well introduced: and if Madame d’Arblay’s name could be said to preside, it would suit people’s laziness so well to have matters brought before them all ready chosen and prepared...!

“And O! how Mr. Burke’s spirit would be relevé by such a spur! which is now choaked and kept down by gross abuse and disheartedness.

“Think of all this, Dr. Burney; it may employ you. Let it be a secret at first, and I have no objection to cater for our society of writers. People love to read the beauties of books; and we might pick out bits of Mr. Burke’s, so as to impress and shame all out of at least creeping Jacobinism. I am certain, already, that Mr. Windham would approve the plan. The only point is to do it well.”

[Pg 234]

Project upon project, scheme upon scheme, and letter upon letter followed this opening, and sought, progressively, to make it effective to the Doctor: while all, by the desire of Mrs. Crewe, was communicated to Bookham, with the most cordial zeal for attracting its female recluse from her obscurity, by placing her at the head of a design to work at mind and morals, in concert with the high names of Mr. Windham, Mr. Canning, and the then Dean of Chester; with various other honourable persons, marked out, but not yet engaged.

“Do ask Madame d’Arblay,” she continues, “to form some plan. We will all help to address letters to her, if she will be ‘Dear Spec.’”

She then adds a wish that the nominal Editor should be supposed to live in the neighbourhood of Sir Hugh Tyrold; whose simplicity of truth, perplexity of doubts and humility, and laughable originality of dialect, might produce comic entertainment to enliven the serious disquisitions.

And, in conclusion, her filial heart, always wedded to the memory of her distinguished mother, earnestly desired to make this work a mean to bring forth some “novel characters” of that celebrated lady, that might be taken from a posthumous manuscript which Mrs. Crewe, long since, [Pg 235] had given to this Memorialist, to finish—if she thought feasible—or otherwise to edit; but which various impediments had, and still have, kept unpublished in her hands.

Nothing could be more honourable than such a proposition, nor more gratefully felt by the then Bookham, and afterwards West Hamble Female Hermit: but she, who, from the origin of her first literary attempt, might almost be called an accidental author, could by no means so new model the natural shyness of her character, as to assume courage for meeting the public eye with the opinions, injunctions, and admonitions of a didactic one. Her answer, therefore, to her Father, which, after communicating to Mrs. Crewe, Dr. Burney preserved, is here abridged and copied.

“To Dr. Burney.

“I hardly know whether I am most struck with the fertility of the ideas that Mrs. Crewe has started, or most gratified at their direction. Certainly, I am flattered where most susceptible of pleasure, when kindness such as hers would call me forth from my retirement, to second views so important in their ends, and demanding such powers in their [Pg 236] progress. But though her opinion might give me courage, it cannot give me means. I am too far removed from the scene of public life to compose anything of public utility in the style she indicates. The manners as they rise; the morals, or their deficiencies, as they preponderate, should be viewed, for such a scheme, in all their variations, with a diurnal eye. The editor of such a censorial and didactic work, should be a watchful frequenter of public places, and live in the midst of public people. The plan is so excellent, it ought to be well adopted, and well fulfilled: but many circumstances would render its accomplishment nearly impossible for me. Wholly to omit politics, would mar all the original design: yet the personal hostility in which all intermingling with them is entangled, would make a dreadful breach into the peace of my happiness.” &c.

Then follows a statement of local obstacles to her presiding over such a project, from the peculiar position of M. d’Arblay; which required the most inflexible adherence to his cottage seclusion, till he could dauntlessly spring from it in manifestation of his loyal principles.

[Pg 237]

“But tell Mrs. Crewe,” she continues, “I entreat you, my dearest Father, that I am not only obliged, but made the happier by her kind partiality; and that, if otherwise circumstanced, I should have delighted to have entered into any scheme in which she would have taken a part.”

Here, at once, ere, in fact, it was begun, this business ended: Dr. Burney was acquiescent: and Mrs. Crewe was far too high-bred a character to prosecute any scheme, or persist in any wish of her own, that opposed the feelings of those whom she meant to please, or to serve. The topic, therefore, from the most eager pressure, was instantly cast into silence, from which it quietly dropt into oblivion.


But not so passive was Mrs. Crewe with respect to the signal favour to which the Doctor was rising in the estimation of the Duke of Portland, with whom, through her partial introduction, a long general acquaintance was now cementing into an intercourse of peculiar esteem and regard. His Grace, indeed, conceived so strong a liking to the principles and the opinions of Dr. Burney, as to manifest the most [Pg 238] flattering pleasure in drawing them forth. And equally he seemed gratified, whenever they chanced to be tête à tête, in unbending his own mind in unrestrained and kind communication.

To owe the origin of this affectionate attachment to Mrs. Crewe, to whom already were owing such innumerable circumstances of agreeability, only heightened its charm. And it was here but the natural effect of situation—Mrs. Crewe being, at her pleasure, domiciliated at the various mansions of the Duke, from the marriage of one of her brothers with Lady Charlotte Bentinck, a daughter of his Grace.

This connexion became, ere long, a spring of spirits as well as of pleasure to Dr. Burney, in affording him, at Burlington House, a continually easy access to the highest rank of society of the Metropolis; and an elegantly prepared sojourn in the country, at the noble villa of Bulstrode Park; where the distinguished kindness of the Duke made the visits of the Doctor glide on deliciously to his satisfaction.

[Pg 239]


But in the midst of this delectable new source of enjoyment to Dr. Burney, a deeply-mourned and widely-mournful loss tried again, with poignant sorrow, his kindliest affections.

On the 10th of July, 1797, he received the following note:—

“Dear Sir,

“I am grieved to tell you that your late friend, Mr. Burke, is no more. He expired last night, at half-past twelve o’clock.

“The long, steady, and unshaken friendship which had subsisted between you and him, renders this a painful communication; but it is a duty I owe to such friendship.

“I am, Dear Sir, &c.,

“Edw. Nagle.”

Beaconsfield, 9th July, 1797.

Hard, indeed, was this blow to Dr. Burney. He lamented this high character in all possible ways, as a friend, a patriot, a statesman, an orator, and a man of the most exalted genius.

[Pg 240]

“He was certainly,” says his letter to Bookham upon this event, “one of the greatest men of the present century; and, I think I might say, the best orator and statesman of modern times. He had his passions and prejudices, to which I did not subscribe; but I always ardently admired his great abilities, his warmth of friendship, his constitutional urbanity.”

He then adds:—

“That, while such was his character, and such his loss in public, he, (Dr. Burney,) and his daughter, to whom Mr. Burke had been so unremittingly and singularly partial, must be ungrateful indeed not yet more peculiarly to lament his departure, and honour his character in private.”

In her answer, she sorrowingly assures the Doctor that there was nothing to fear of her want of sympathy in this affliction. “I feel it,” she cries, “with my whole heart, and participate in every word you say of that truly great man. That he was not, as his enemies exclaim, perfect, is nothing in the scale of his stupendous superiority over almost all those who are merely exempt from his defects. That he was upright in heart and intention, even where he acted erroneously, I firmly believe: and that he asserted nothing that he had not persuaded himself to be true, even from Mr. Hastings being the most rapacious of villains, to the King’s being incurably insane.[47] He was as liberal in sentiment as he was luminous in [Pg 241] intellect, and extraordinary in eloquence; and for amiability, he was surely, when in spirits and good-humour—all but the most delightful of men. Yet, though superior to envy, and glowing with the noblest zeal to exalt talents and merits in others, he had, I believe, an unavoidable, though not a vain consciousness of his own greatness, that shut out from his consideration those occasional and useful self-doubts that keep the judgment in order, by making us, from time to time, call our motives and our passions to account.”

The Doctor was amongst the invited who paid the last homage to the manes of Mr. Burke by attending his funeral.

“Malone and I,” he says, “went to Bulstrode together, in my carriage, with two added horses. We found there the Dukes of Portland and Devonshire. Windham arrived to dinner. The Lord Chancellor and the Speaker could not leave London till four o’clock, but were at Bulstrode by seven. All set off together for Beaconsfield, where we found the rest of the pall-hearers, Lords Fitzwilliam and Inchiquin, Sir Gilbert Elliot, Frederick North, Drs. King and Lawrence, Dudley North, and very many of the great orator’s personal friends; though, by his repeated [Pg 242] injunctions, the funeral was ordered to be very private. He left a list to whom rings of remembrance were to be sent, in which my name honourably occurs; and a jeweller has been with me for my measure.

“After these mournful rites, the Duke of Portland included me in his invite back to Bulstrode, with the Duke of Devonshire, the Chancellor, the Speaker, Windham, Malone, and Secretary King: and there I continued the next day.

“The Duke pressed me to stay on, and accompany him and his party to a visit, the following morning, in honour of Mr. Burke, that was to be made to the school, founded by that enlarged philanthropist, for the male children of the ruined emigrant nobility, now seeking refuge in this country. But it was not in my power to prolong my absence from town.”


Dr. Burney now lost, also, his sagacious physician and enlightened friend, Dr. Warren; “a loss sad,” he says, “indeed, to his family, to science, and to hundreds of people whose lives he preserved.”


The unwearied Mrs. Crewe, grieved at the fresh dejection into which these reiterated misfortunes cast the Doctor, now started a scheme [Pg 243] that had more of promise than any other that could have been devised of affording him some exhilaration. This was arranging an excursion that would lead him to visit the scene of his birth, that of his boyhood, and that of his education; namely, Shrewsbury, Condover, and Chester; by prevailing with him to accompany her to Mr. Crewe’s noble ancient mansion of Crewe Hall: a proposal so truly grateful to his feelings, that he found it resistless.

The following account of its execution is extracted from his own letters to the Hermits:

“The die is thrown; and I have agreed, at last, to go down with Mrs. Crewe to the family mansion in Cheshire, which Mr. Crewe, as well as herself, has so long pressed me to visit. M. le President de Fronteville, a very agreeable French gentleman, is to be of the party. But dear Mr. Crewe, with his daughter,[48] sets off first, to pass a condoling day or two with poor Mrs. Burke at Beaconsfield. We are then to join at Wycomb; and thence to Oxford; &c.

Crewe Hall, 2d August.

“I could not get a moment to write on the road, as we travelled at a great rate, with Mrs. Crewe’s four horses, followed by four post. I have now only time to name what places we passed ere we got to old Shrewsbury, which lies forty miles out of the right road of [Pg 244] dear Mrs. Crewe; who so kindly made a point of carrying me thither. Blenheim—Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon,—where I visited the mansion, or rather cabane of our immortal bard, now a butcher’s shop! I sate on his easy chair, still remaining in his chimney corner; and wondered more than ever how a man living in such a miserable house and town, should have attained such sublime ideas of grandeur in the most exalted situations. Birmingham—Wolverhampton—Nufnal by the Rekin—Watling, thought a Roman road—Lord Berwick’s—and, at five o’clock in the afternoon, on Monday, old Shrewsbury.

“I ran away from Mrs. Crewe, who was too tired to walk about, and played the Cicerone myself to Miss Crewe, who has both understanding and curiosity for gaining knowledge, and to M. de Fronteville, to whom I undertook to shew off old Shrewsbury; of which I knew all the streets, lanes, and parishes, as well as I did sixty years ago.

“I found my way, without a single question, to the old Town Hall, the New Town House, High Street, and Raven Street, where I was born. And then to the Free School, founded by Henry VIII. and endowed by his daughter Bess.

“We went up to the top of the highest tower in the Castle, which Sir William Pulteney now inhabits. He has repaired every one of the lofty and venerable towers in their true ancient and Gothic style. After dinner, I laid out a shilling or two with an old bookseller, whom I catechised about old people and old things,—but alas! of the first, not one creature is now alive whom I remember, or who can remember me!

[Pg 245]

“The next morning, Tuesday, I set off alone, at seven o’clock, to visit the new church, St. Chad’s; which is a very fine one but so irreverently secular, that it would make a very handsome theatre. I then walked in that most beautiful of all public walks, as I still believe, in the world, called the Quarry; formed in verdant and flower-enamelled fields, by the Severn side, with the boldest and most lovely opposite shore imaginable.

“I found my way, also, from this walk to a new bridge, called The Welsh Bridge; which leads to Montgomeryshire. On the former old one there was a statue, which was supposed to be of Llewellen, Prince of Wales; but is now discovered to be of the Black Prince. It is well preserved, and is not of bad sculpture. I was driven back to the inn by the rain.

“We all adjourned to breakfast with Dr. Darwin, who is newly married to a daughter of Mr. Wedgewood’s. They are very intelligent, agreeable, and shrewd folks.

“In a most violent rain, nearly a storm, we left my dear old Shrewsbury; and without being able, in such weather, to get to my dearer old Condover.

Yet I could have found nothing there but melancholy remembrances; all gone for whom I had cared,—or who had cared for me!

“Crewe Hall was built in the reign of James the First, of half Gothic, half Grecian architecture. It is the completest mansion I ever saw of that kind; and has been repaired and kept up in the exact costume of that period. It is a noble house; well fitted, and well applied to hospitality. Mr. Crewe is one of the politest men in his own house, and one of the best landlords that I know.

“The park, in the midst of which the mansion stands, is well wooded and planted. There is a noble piece of water in sight of [Pg 246] my window, nearly of the same effect as that of Blenheim, allowing for the different magnitude of the mansions and grounds. Mrs. Crewe has a little ferme ornée, to which she sometimes retires when the house is crowded with mixed company. ’Tis fitted up with infinite fancy and good taste. She has established there a school of forty girls, who are taught needle-work and reading. The outside is built in imitation of a convent, and the matron is called the Abbess.

“When I had passed, most agreeably, about a fortnight at Crewe Hall, Mrs. Crewe fulfilled her kind promise of making an excursion to Chester, knowing how much I yearned to see again that city of my youth. Miss Crewe, and M. le President alone made the party; which turned out most pleasantly. I ran about Chester, the rows, walls, cathedral, and castle, as familiarly as I could have done fifty years ago; visited the Free School, where I Hic, hæc, hoc’d it three or four years; and the cathedral, where I saw and heard the first organ I ever touched.

“From Chester, we went to Liverpool by water, on a new canal that communicates with the river Mersey. The passage-boat was very convenient, and the voyage very pleasant. The sight of the shipping from the Mersey is very striking. We put up at the Hôtel; passed all the morning in visiting Liverpool, the docks, warehouses, &c., which we were shewn by Mr. Walker, a rich and great ship-broker, and an acquaintance of Mr. and Mrs. Crewe’s. Mrs. Walker is a really elegant and agreeable woman.

“Eight Jamaica ships had come in for Mr. Walker a few days before our arrival, by which he cleared £10,000. We dined at his villa, two or three miles from the town, on turtle; and afterwards went to the play, at a pretty theatre, where the performance was good.

[Pg 247]

“We then took a little dip into a charming part of Wales, about Wrexham, and visited Lady Cunliffe, wife of Sir Foster, capo di casa of a very old and worthy family of my acquaintance of very many years. She is an elegant and most pleasing woman; the house is just finished by Wyatt, in exquisite taste; as is the furniture, &c. &c.

“At the end of a month, the President and I took leave, reluctantly, of Crewe Hall, and set off together for London. Mrs. Crewe made a party with us, the first day, to Trentham Hall, the very fine place of the Marquis of Stafford. We were very hospitably as well as elegantly received by the Marchioness. The park, through which the river Trent runs; the woods; the valley of Tempe; the iron bridge over a large and clear piece of water; the pictures, all fine in their way; and the house, lately altered and enlarged by Wyatt: all this we saw to great advantage, for almost all, in compliment to Mrs. and Miss Crewe, was shewn us by the Marchioness herself.

“We thence went to Wedgewood’s famous pottery, called Etruria, and witnessed the whole process of that ingenious and beautiful manufactory, of which the produce is now dispersed all over the world. Mrs. Crewe wanted to send you a mighty pretty hand churn for your breakfast table; but I was sure it would be broken to pieces in the journey, and did not dare take it in charge. Here I parted with that dear Mrs. Crewe.


“The President and I got to Litchfield about ten o’clock that night; and the next morning, before my companion was up, I strolled about the city with one of the waiters, in search of [Pg 248] Dr. Johnson’s good negro, Frank Barber, who, I had been told, lived there; but, upon inquiry, I found that his residence was in a village four or five miles off: I saw, however, the house where Dr. Johnson was born; and where his father, ‘an old bookseller,’ died. The house is stuccoed; has five sash windows in front; and pillars before it. It is in a broad street, and is the best house thereabouts, though it is now a grocer’s shop!

“I next went to the Garrick mansion; which has been repaired, stuccoed, enlarged, and sashed. Peter Garrick, David’s elder brother, died nearly two years ago, leaving all his property to the apothecary who had attended him: but the will was disputed and set aside not long since; it having been proved at a trial, that the testator was insane at the time the will was made; so that Mrs. Doxie, Garrick’s sister, a widow with a numerous family, recovered the house and £30,000. She now lives in it with her children, and has been able to set up her carriage. The inhabitants of Litchfield were so pleased with the decision of the Court, that they illuminated the streets, and had public rejoicings on the occasion.

“I next tried to find the abode of Dr. James, inventor of the admirable fever powder, which so often has saved the life of our dear Susan, and of others without number; but the ungrateful Litchfieldites knew nothing about him! I could find only one old man who remembered or knew even that he was a native of the town! ‘The man who has lengthened life’ to be forgotten at his natal place! and already!

“The Cathedral here is the most complete and beautiful Gothic building I ever saw. The outside was very ill-used by the fanatics of the last century; but there are three perfect spires still standing, and more than fifty whole-length figures of saints in their original niches. The choir is exquisitely beautiful. A [Pg 249] fine new organ is erected, and was well played. I never heard the cathedral service so well performed, to that instrument only, before. The services and anthems were of middle-aged music, neither too old and dry, nor too modern and light; the voices subdued, and exquisitely softened and sweetened to the building.

“I found here a monument to Garrick; and another just by it to Johnson. The former put up by Garrick’s widow; the latter by Johnson’s friends. Both are beautiful, and alike in every particular of workmanship.”

Note of Dr. Burney’s, in a memorandum book of this year, 1797:

“I beg that my pilgrimage to Litchfield, in 1797, may somewhere be recorded in my Memoirs, from memorandums made on the spot, after visiting the house where Dr. Johnson was born, and his father kept a bookseller’s shop; the house where Garrick lived, and his elder brother died; and seeking in vain for the birth-place, or at least residence, of Dr. James.”


Upon the return of Dr. Burney to Chelsea, his astronomical project became his greatest amusement as well as occupation. In a memorandum upon its idea he writes:

“Very early in life I collected all the books I could attain upon this subject. I was already, therefore, in possession of a good number; to which I now added whatever I could procure from [Pg 250] France, as well as in England. And with these, having the free run of Sir Joseph Bankes’ scientific library, with that of the Royal Society, and of the Museum, I obtained such ample materials, that I took my daughter d’Arblay’s advice, and, in little more than a year from the time that I began the work, I had made a rough sketch of an historical and didactic Poem on Astronomy.”

This enterprise, shortly afterwards, so grew upon his fancy, that, to use again his own words,

“Every spare minute I now devote to astronomy and its history, which I try incessantly to versify, but find very difficult to render poetical. This probably, however, may be the case with most didactic poems.”

In another letter to the Hermitage on this subject, in which he describes his various whirls of business and engagements, he sportively cries:

“And, after fulfilling them all, instead of going to sleep, like a mere dull mortal, I take a flight upon Pegasus to the moon, or to some planet, or fixed star.”

And, a little later, he writes:

“Do you know that I have had the assurance to mention my planetary undertaking to Herschel, at the Royal Society? and he encourages me by liking my plan, and wishing me to go on. I am soon, therefore, to read and talk over my manuscript with him. I desire very much indeed to have his sanction for the scientific part of my characters and opinions of the most renowned astronomers. He himself, after Newton, will be my Achilles and Æneas, c’est à dire, l’heros de la pièce. [Pg 251] The discoveries which he has made, by his improved specula, exceed in number those of any one astronomer that ever existed. Galileo discovered the four satellites of Jupiter, and Cassini four of the five satellites of Saturn; but what are these compared with a new planet? an additional satellite to Jupiter, two satellites to Saturn, and myriads of fixed stars, double as well as single, which his own telescope only could discover?”


An account of the first visit to Dr. Herschel, at Slough, upon this astronomical pilgrimage, written by Dr. Burney, to Bookham, in September, 1797, displays, though unintentionally, the characters of both these men of science, with a genuine simplicity that can hardly fail of giving pleasure to every unsophisticated reader.

After mentioning a call upon Lord Chesterfield, at Baillies, in the neighbourhood of Slough, he says:

“I went thence to Dr. Herschel, with whom I had arranged a meeting by letter; but being, through a mistake, before my time, I stopped at the door, to make inquiry whether my visit would be the least inconvenient to Herschel that night, or the next morning. The good soul was at dinner, but came to the carriage himself, to press me to alight immediately, and partake of his family repast: and this he did so heartily, that I could not resist. I was introduced to the company at table; four ladies, and a little [Pg 252] boy, about the age and size of Martin.[49] I was quite shocked at intruding upon so many females. I knew not that Dr. Herschel was married, and expected only to have found his sister. One of these females was a very old lady, and mother, I believe, of Mrs. Herschel, who sat at the head of the table. Another was a daughter of Dr. Wilson, an eminent astronomer, of Glasgow; the fourth was Miss Herschel. I apologised for coming at so uncouth an hour, by telling my story of missing Lord Chesterfield, through a blunder; at which they were all so cruel as to join in rejoicing; and then in soliciting me to send away my carriage, and stay and sleep there. I thought it necessary, you may be sure, to faire la petite bouche; but, in spite of my blushes, I was obliged to submit to having my trunk taken in, and my carriage sent on. We soon grew acquainted; I mean the ladies and I; for Herschel I have known very many years; and before dinner was over, we all seemed old friends just met after a long absence. Mrs. Herschel is sensible, good-humoured, unpretending, and obliging; Miss Herschel is all shyness and virgin modesty; the Scots lady sensible and harmless; and the little boy entertaining, comical, and promising.[50] Herschel, you know, and every body knows, is one of the most pleasing and well-bred natural characters of the present age, as well as the greatest astronomer. Your health was immediately given and drunk after dinner, by Dr. Herschel; and, after much social conversation, and some hearty laughs, the ladies proposed taking a walk by themselves, in order to leave Herschel and me together.

[Pg 253]

We two, therefore, walked, and talked over my subject, tête à tête, round his great telescope, till it grew damp and dusk; and then we retreated into his study to philosophise. I had a string of questions ready to ask, and astronomical difficulties to solve, which, with looking at curious books and instruments, filled up the time charmingly till tea. After which, we retired again to the study; where, having now paved the way, we began to enter more fully into my poetical plan; and he pressed me to read to him what I had done. Lord help his head! he little thought I had eight books, or cantos, of from four hundred to eight hundred and twenty lines, which to read through would require two or three days! He made me, however, unpack my trunk for my MS., from which I read him the titles of the chapters, and begged he would choose any book; or the character of any great astronomer that he pleased. ‘O,’ cried he, ‘let us have the beginning.’ I read then the first eighteen or twenty lines of the exordium; and then told him I rather wished to come to modern times; I was more certain of my ground in high antiquity than after the time of Copernicus. I began, therefore, my eighth chapter.

“He gave me the greatest encouragement; repeatedly saying that I perfectly understood what I was writing about: and he only stopped me at two places; one was at a word too strong for what I had to describe; and the other at one too weak. The doctrine he allowed to be quite orthodox concerning gravitation, refraction, reflection, optics, comets, magnitudes, distances, revolutions, &c. &c.; but he made a discovery to me which, had I known sooner, would have overset me, and prevented my reading to him any part of my work! this was, that he had almost always had an aversion to poetry! which he had generally regarded as an arrangement of fine words, without any adherence [Pg 254] to truth: but he presently added that, when truth and science were united to those fine words, he then liked poetry very well.

“The next morning, he made me read as much, from another chapter, on Descartes, as the time would allow; for I had ordered my carriage at twelve. But I stayed on, reading, talking, asking questions, and looking at books and instruments, at least another hour, before I could leave this excellent man.”


The spring of the following year, 1798, opened to Dr. Burney with pupils, operas, concerts, conversationes, and assemblies in their usual round. All that is marked as peculiar, in his memorandums, is the intimate view which he had opportunity to take of the triumphant elevation of commercial splendour over even the highest aristocratical, in the entertainments of this season.

His late new acquaintance, Mr. Walker, of Liverpool, and his charming wife, not only, the Doctor says, in their balls, concerts, suppers, and masquerades, rivalled all the Nobles in expense, but in elegance. And that with an eclât so indisputable, as to make those overpowered great ones “hide their diminished heads;” or raise them only in a tribute of patriotic admiration, at a proof so brilliant of the true [Pg 255] national ascendance of all-conquering commerce.

If a born nobleman, or gentleman, whose income, however great, be limited to his rent-roll, take up nine or ten thousand pounds for any extraordinary occasion, so abrupt a dip into his fortune must be met by selling, or mortgaging some estate; or by borrowing at ruinous interest: while to the successful man of commerce, there is frequently so sudden and lucrative a flush of abundance, that no obstacle seems to be in the way to any species of extraneous expenditure.

Yet it has generally been observed, that this exuberance of new-acquired wealth, when springing from fortuitous circumstances, not progressive prosperity, rarely terminates in a pre-eminence that is durable. On the same wheel, around which turn the favours of fortune, turn, also, its perils; and though there are splendid exceptions to the remark, still it is but seldom that the lavish superfluity of the happy chance, or fortunate speculation, which sets the merchant above his Peers, escapes, ultimately, the revolving counterbalance of ever-lurking reverse.

When the Doctor had finished, in twelve books, the rough sketch of his Astronomical Poem, he was allured into reading parts of it to no [Pg 256] less personages than Messrs. Windham and Canning. His account of this lecture was thus given to the Hermits:

24th April, 1798, Chelsea College.

“Mrs. Crewe has frequent singing-parties with young people of ton, to bring out Miss. Crewe. All the world that I know are there. Last week I was at Mrs. Ord’s, to meet my old sweethearts, Mrs. Garrick, Betty Carter, Hannah More, and my new sweetheart, Mrs. Goodenough, the Speaker’s sister, &c. To-morrow at Lord and Lady Inchiquin’s; Friday again at Mrs. Crewe’s, with evening music at Lady Northwick’s, ci-devant Lady Rushont’s; Saturday to dine with Lady Jones, relict of Sir William.——And so we go on.

Well, but in the midst of all this hurly burly, and business besides, I have terminated the twelfth book of my Poem, and transcribed it fair for your hearing or perusal. Mrs. and Miss Crewe, and Miss Hayman, who is now privy purse to the Princess of Wales, have been attending Walker’s astronomical lectures, and wanted much to hear some of my Schtoff; so, also, Windham and Canning. An evening was fixed upon for a meeting. Windham, after dinner, was to read us his balloon journal; Canning a manuscript poem; and I a book of my astronomy. The lot fell on me to begin. When I had finished book the first, “Tocca Lei,” quoth I to Mr. Windham. “No, no, not yet; another book first!” Well, when that was read, “Tocca Lei,” I cried to Mr. Canning. “No, no,” all called out, “let us go on! another book!” Well, there was no help; so hoarse as I now was, I began a third book. Mrs. Crewe, however, soon offered to relieve me; and Miss Hayman to relieve Mrs. Crewe; and [Pg 257] then supper was announced; and thus I was taken in! and the rest, with the balloon and the manuscript poem, are to be read comf. at Mrs. Crewe’s villa at Hampstead, as soon as finished.”


Not the least, nor least prized honour, in the life of Dr. Burney, occurred in the June of this year, 1798, in seconding the motion of Mr. Windham for the election of Mr. Canning as a member of the Literary Club; “though, strange to say,” he relates, “I had already honoured myself by seconding the same motion once before, when Mr. Canning was put up, I believe, by Lord Spencer; but was rejected by one abominable party black-ball, though there were ten or eleven balls all white.”

As this club was instituted for the pursuits and enjoyment of literature, independent of party or politics, it seems strangely foreign to such a design, either to elect or reject merely from political incitement. Dissensions through politics in the senate must necessarily be endured; nay, cannot rationally be lamented; they are the unavoidable offsprings of the most exalted exercise of the human faculties, freedom of debate; that freedom whence spring independence, justice, and liberty.

[Pg 258]

But, in meetings consecrated to social intellectuality, might not the chance be greater of obtaining and dispensing liberal knowledge, if the scrutiny of the electors were solely directed to the general powers of instruction or entertainment in the candidates, than in being cast upon any arbitrary standard of political creeds?

How, but by this comprehensive view of literary conviviality, could Dr. Johnson and Charles Fox, so opposite in state opinions, yet so approximate in powers of colloquial combat, have been members of this very club, without leaving one record behind them of controversial discord? In truth, to exclude from meetings formed for social enlargement, all who are not in all things of the same opinion, seems assembling a company to face an echo, and calling its neat repetition of whatever is uttered, conversation.

The election this time, however, was honourable to the club, for it was successful to Mr. Canning. And Mr. Marsden, author of the curious and spirited account of Sumatra, was happily white-balled at the same time; which Dr. Burney called, in his next letter to the Hermits, a revival of the true spirit of the institution.

[Pg 259]


In the ensuing September, the Doctor writes, in a manuscript memoir:

“This autumn, September, 1798, after spending a week at Hampton, at the house of Lady Mary Duncan, who did the honours of that charming neighbourhood, by carrying me to all the fine places in its circle, Hampton Court, Mrs. Garrick’s, Richmond Hill and Park, Oatlands, Kew Gardens, &c.; I went to Mrs. and Miss Crewe at Tunbridge; where I enjoyed, for more than a fortnight, all the humours of the place in the most honourable and pleasant manner.

“And thence I went to Camilla Cottage at West Hamble; a cottage built on a slice of Norbury Park, by M. d’Arblay and my daughter, from the production of Camilla, her third work; where, and at Mr. and Mrs. Locke’s, I passed my time most pleasantly, in reading, in rural quiet, or in charming conversation.”

This small residence, here mentioned by Dr. Burney, of which the structure was just now completed, had, playfully, received from himself the name of Camilla Cottage; which name was afterwards adopted by all the Friends of the Hermits.

Its architect, who was also its principal, its most efficient, and even its most laborious workman, had so skilfully arranged its apartments for use and for pleasure, by investing them with imperceptible [Pg 260] closets, cupboards, and adroit recesses; and contriving to make every window offer a freshly beautiful view from the surrounding beautiful prospects, that while its numerous, though invisible conveniences, gave it comforts which many dwellings on a much larger scale do not possess, its pleasing form, and picturesque situation, made it a point, though in miniature, of beauty and ornament, from every spot in the neighbourhood whence it could be discerned.

Dr. Burney promised to gratify, from that time, these happy Hermits once a year with his presence. He could not without admiration, as well as pleasure, witness the fertile resources with which his son-in-law, though till then a stranger to a country, or to private life, could fill up a rainy day without a murmur; and pass through a retired evening without one moment of ennui, either felt or given. Yet the longest day of sunshine was always too short for the vigorous exertions, and manly projects that called him to plant in his garden, to graft and crop in his orchard, to work in his hay-field, or to invent and execute new paths, and to construct new seats and bowers in his wood. From which useful and virtuous toils, when corporeally he required rest and refreshment, his mental powers rose in full force to [Pg 261] the exercise of their equal share in his composition, through his love of science, poetry, and general literature. And Dr. Burney, through the wide extent of his varied connexions, could nowhere find taste more congenial, principles more strictly in unison, or a temper more harmoniously in accord with his own, than here, in the happy little dwelling which he named Camilla Cottage.


At the close of this second year of Dr. Burney’s astronomical operations, their efficacy upon his health and spirits grew more and more apparent. They chased away his sorrows, by leading to meditations beyond the reach of their annoyance; and they gave to him a new earthly connexion that served somewhat to brighten even the regions below, in an intimacy with Dr. Herschel.

This modest and true philosopher, who, not long afterwards, receiving the honour of the Guelphic order from the King, became Sir William, opened again his hospitable dwelling to hear the continuation of the Doctor’s poem; to which he afforded his valuable remarks with as much pleasure as acumen. And from that time, the intercourse was kept up [Pg 262] by Sir William’s returning, occasionally, the visits of the Doctor at Chelsea College, when called to town for reading, or for presenting his astronomical discoveries to the Royal Society.


Upon one of the excursions of the Doctor to Slough, he has left the following memorandum.

After having spoken of the lecture of his work, he says:—

“In the evening we walked upon the terrace, where I was most graciously noticed by their Majesties, who both talked to me a considerable time. Both, also, condescended to inquire much after my health, and seemed to observe with pleasure that I looked better than I had done in the spring. ‘Yes;’ I answered; ‘the fine weather has been more propitious to me than medicine.’

“‘I dare say it has!’ cried the King with quickness, and an expression that implied much of scepticism as to physic.

“In the evening, by the advice of Herschel, I accompanied him to the King’s concert at the castle. The performance, which was all of sacred music from Handel’s oratorio of Joseph, was begun before we arrived. At the end of the first part, his Majesty discovered, and graciously came up to us; and, after some remarks on the excellence of the choruses, [Pg 263] the King suddenly cried: ‘How goes on Astronomy, Dr. Burney?’

“This question quite astonished me, as I did not believe that any one hut Herschel knew what I had been about. I stared a little, but answered, ‘We must ask Dr. Herschel, Sir, the state of the heavens.’—‘O, but I know,’ cried he, moving his hand as if it held a pen, ‘that you are doing something!’

“On my bowing very humbly at the implied interest of such an inquiry, he said: ‘Well, you’ll make it entertaining, whatever it is. But how do you find time to write?’

“‘I make time, Sir;’ I replied; ‘I have a sinking fund.’


“‘I take it out of my sleep, Sir, for extra occasions.’

“He seemed too kind to laugh, and only very seriously said: ‘But you’ll hurt your health.’”


Yet more warmed by such encouragement in his ardour upon this ethereal subject, the Doctor thus gaily speaks of it in his next letter:

10th December, 1798, Chelsea College.

“Well, but Herschel has been in town, for short spirts and back again, two or three times, and I have had him here two whole days. * * * I read to him the first five books without any one objection, except a little hesitation, at my saying, upon Bayly’s authority, that if the sun were to move round the earth, according to Ptolemy, instead of the earth round the sun, as in [Pg 264] the Copernican system, the nearest fixed star in every second must constantly run at the rate of near 100,000 miles. ‘Stop a little!’ cries he; ‘I fancy you have greatly under-rated the velocity required; but I will calculate it at home.’ And, on his second visit, he brought me a slip of paper, written by his sister, as he, I suppose, had dictated. ‘Here we see that Sirius, if it revolved round the earth, would move at the rate of 1426 millions of miles per second. Hence the required velocity of Sirius in its orbit would be above 7305 times greater than that of light.’ This is all that I had to correct of doctrine in the first five books! And he was so humble as to protest that I knew more of the history of astronomy than he did himself; and that I had surprised him by the mass of information that I had gotten together.

“In arranging another lecture, he flattered me much in a note, by saying that, if I should be disengaged on a day that he mentioned, it would give him pleasure to devote it to the continuation of ‘our’ poetical history. This is adoption!

“He came, and his good wife accompanied him; and I read four books and a half. * * * And on parting, still more humble than before, or still more amiable, he thanked me for the instruction and entertainment I had given him!

“What say you to that? ‘Can anything be grander?’ And all without knowing a word of what I have written of himself; all his discoveries, as you may remember, being kept back for the twelfth and last book. Adod! I begin to be a little conceited! * * * So God bless you, the dear Gardener, and the Alexandretto.

“But hold! on the first evening Herschel spent at Chelsea, when I called for my Argand lamp, Herschel, who had not seen one of those lamps, was surprised at the great effusion of light; and immediately calculated the difference between that and a single candle, and found it as sixteen to one.”

[Pg 265]


But before this year terminated, Dr. Burney had yet another, and a very sensible loss, through the death of Mr. Seward; who was truly a loss, also, to all by whom he was known. He was a man of sound worthiness of character, of a disposition the most amiable, and invested with a zeal to serve his friends, nay, to serve even strangers, that knew no bounds which his time or his trouble could remove.

He was pleasing and piquant in society; and, though always shewing an alacrity to sarcasm in discourse, in action he was all benevolence.

Yet he was eccentric, even wilfully; and wilfully, also, inconsistent, if not capricious; but he was constantly in a state of suffering, from some internal and unfathomable obstructions, which generally at night robbed him of rest; and frequently, in the day, divested him of self command.[52]

He was author of a very agreeable and amusing, though desultory, collection of anecdotes, entitled Biographiana.[53]

[Pg 266]


Still in his prime seemed Dr. Burney, in defiance either of years or of misfortune, for the free use of his unimpaired faculties, when called upon to any exertion.

On the anniversary of the birth-day of his Majesty George III., in 1799, a body of Cavalry of between 8000 and 9000 men, bearing the name of the Chelsea Armed Association, mounted, exercised, clothed and equipped at their own expense, under the command of an honorary Colonel, Matthew Yateman, Esq., mustered in the courts and precincts of Chelsea College, in full display of their military force and equipment. They were received with every honourable testimony to their noble zeal, and unparalleled liberality, by the Governor of the College, the principal officers, and the Chaplain: while the colours were presented to them by a daughter[54] of North, Bishop of Winchester.

Dr. Burney had the pleasure to compose a march for this brave corps; to play the organ upon the consecration of the colours; and, after the minutest investigation, and unsparing research into all that was [Pg 267] most correct, and most distinguished of ancient practice upon similar ceremonies, to draw up the order for its procession.

The delight of the Doctor at this brilliant and disinterested loyalty in so large a body of volunteers, made his rendering it any assistance a true and lively self-gratification: the committee, however, of this armed association, thought it so much obliged for his services, that a vote of thanks was unanimously passed; and was publicly conveyed to him by the commander, Colonel Yateman.

He was too sensible to this mark of courtesy to receive it unmoved, and hastened back the following answer:

“15th June, 1799.

To Matthew Yateman, Esq., Commandant of the Chelsea
Armed Association.


“I cannot resist the desire with which the testimony of your approbation, and that of the special committee of the Chelsea Armed Association has impressed me, of returning thanks for the thanks with which you have honoured me for a small service, in the performance of which I had infinite pleasure. And, loving my country, and its established government as I do, I shall, to the last hour of my life, regard the loyalty, zeal, and truly patriotic spirit of your very respectable corps, manifested on the [Pg 268] King’s birth-day, as the most honourable to his Majesty and to his subjects, which any country has ever shewn.

“We know that the Roman legions were paid, as well as the individuals of every other army, ancient or modern; and that the title of soldier is derived from solidus, a piece of money; but a body of eight or nine thousand men, voluntarily mounted, exercised, and clothed at their own expense, is an instance of such real patriotism as does not, perhaps, occur in the history of the world. I feel, therefore, proud of my country, and the noble efforts it is making to avert the misery and horrors with which Gallic principles and plunder have desolated the rest of Europe, and shook the globe.

“I have the honour to be,
“Sir, &c.

“Charles Burney.”

Chelsea College,
June 15th, 1799.


The Doctor wrote, also, a song upon the naval victories, of which the battle of the Nile was the climax. It was designed to stir the feelings of the multitude; and the language was familiar, and suited to that purpose. He set it to music himself; and the air was of the most popular, and what he called hallaballoo species, that he could compose; his only wish being to adapt it for a street-singing ballad. The [Pg 269] following is his own account of it, written to the Hermitage:—


* * * “Pray take note, that I have made a song on the five naval British heroes of the present war, to an easy popular tune, which any one with a good ear may sing by memory, after twice hearing. To this I was provoked by Lady Spencer’s complaining to me, that though several pretty poems, and a few good songs had been produced by our late victories, yet there were no good new tunes. I have gotten Lady Harrington to send a copy of this naval ditty, both words and music, to the Queen at Windsor: and I have sent another copy to Lady Spencer herself, who has bestowed upon me the following flattering answer:

“‘Dear Sir,

“‘I should have returned you my best thanks for your excellent song, and popular air, as soon as I received them; but I have been severely ill: * * * however, I am now somewhat recovered, and able to thank you; which I do most sincerely. I wish you would get it sung at Covent Garden theatre: that is always the progress of these kind of songs; they begin on the stage, and come thence into the street; and this last step is the highest honour such music can look to. I declare that whoever composed ‘Rule Britannia,’ is next to Handel in my list of composers. That your song may have the same honour, and have it long, my dear Sir, I most heartily hope. I am sure your talents and your excellent intentions, deserve such fame.

“‘I am, dear Sir, &c.

“‘Lav. Spencer.’

[Pg 270]

“Mrs. Crewe, and two or three more, to whom I have communicated this patriotic hallaballoo, join in the opinion of Lady Spencer, that it should be sung at the theatres. That, however, should it be thought worth while, must be negociated by some one else—not by me.

“Lord and Lady Spencer are charming people: he, now first Lord of the Admiralty, is everything one could wish a man, in his high station, to be; active, accessible, and well-bred. In private life, a lover of literature and talents; manly at once, and elegant in his pursuits; and a model for husbands, for fathers, and for masters. She has a natural cheerfulness and sport about her, joined to considerable acquirement; designs and paints well; is a good musician; and has a keenness in reading characters which I have but lately found out; with great eagerness for knowledge of whatever is the subject of conversation.

7th Nov.—Well, Lady Harrington has received the most gracious of requests relative to my ballad; and it is written by Her Royal Highness the Princess Elizabeth:

“‘Mamma has just commanded me to beg you to return Dr. Burney her thanks for the song he has sent her, which she has already sung; and she thinks it has so much merit, that she wishes Dr. Burney would give her leave to send it to Covent Garden theatre, to be performed there; for she thinks the tune so pretty and simple, that it will become popular.’”

Highly gratified was the Doctor by this gracious command, which he eagerly obeyed; and the song was performed when their Majesties next indulged the public with their presence at the theatre.

[Pg 271]


In the Doctor’s memorandums of this year, are the following paragraphs upon the Duke of Leeds and Lord Palmerston:

“In 1799 our Literary Club lost one of its noble members in the Duke of Leeds, to whom I had become known from the time of his marriage with Lady Emily d’Arcy, the daughter of my first patron, the Earl of Holdernesse. I had had the honour, also, of frequently meeting him, while Marquis of Carmarthen, in Italy; where he acquired a taste for good modern music, and whence he remembered fragments of Italian operas, and particularly of the opera L’Artigiano felice, to his last hours. He kindly visited Farinelli when at Bologna, and was cordially embraced by him, as the son of his great patron while in England. When he became acquainted with the Miss Anguishes, four young ladies of great accomplishments, and of extraordinary musical powers, he grew fond of the old, or Handelian school of music: and the eldest of these young ladies, whom he afterwards, in second espousals, married, made him a perfectly happy domestic man. He desired Boswell to set him up at our club, which he was fond of visiting; and where his remarkable good breeding and courteous demeanour could not but be appreciated; though he escaped not, from those members who thought themselves more learned, or better informed than himself, the common club-censure of being fonder of talking than listening.

“This year I had much pleasure at the Assemblies of Lady Palmerston, [Pg 272] whose exhilarating character rendered them peculiarly lively. The elegant mansion of her well-known lord, the Viscount, in Hanover Square, was fitted up and furnished with exquisite taste; and its walls were covered with pictures of the first masters; the chief of which had been collected by his great ancestor, Sir William Temple; to which he had added some chef d’oeuvres of modern artists; particularly of Sir Joshua Reynolds, of whom he was still more a friend and admirer than a patron.”


In the ensuing autumn, when the expedition against Holland was in preparation, Mrs. Crewe prevailed with the Doctor to accompany her and her large party to Dover, to see the embarkation; well knowing the animated interest which his patriotic spirit would take in that transaction. His own lively and spirited, yet unaffected and unpretending account of this excursion, will bring him immediately before those by whom he may yet be remembered.


Dover, 9th Sept. 1799.

“Why you Fanny!—I did not intend to write you my adventures, but to keep them for vive voix on coming to Camilla Cottage; but the nasty east wind is arrived, to the great inconvenience of our expedition, and of my lungs—all which circumstances put it out of my power to visit [Pg 273] Camilla Cottage at present, as I wished, and had settled in my own mind to do. But let me see—where did I leave off? I believe I have told you of my arrival here, where, at first, I found Mr. Crewe, as you might observe by the frank. But two days after he went to Hythe, where he is now quartered with the Cheshire Militia corps, of which he is Colonel.

“You may be sure that I hastened to visit the harbour and town, which I had not seen for near thirty years * * * Did I tell you Mr. Ryder, our Chelsea joint paymaster, is here, and that we all dined on Wednesday with him and his sposa, Lady Susan? a most sweet creature, handsome, accomplished, and perfectly well-bred, with condescending good-humour; and who sings and plays well, and in true taste. Thursday, bad weather; but Canning came to Longchon to brighten it: and at night I read astronomy to Mrs. Crewe, and her fair, intelligent daughter.

“On Friday, I visited with them Lady Grey, wife of the Commander in Chief, at the Barham Down Camp. I like Lady Grey extremely, notwithstanding she is mother of the vehement parliamentary democrat, Mr. Grey, who is as pleasing, they pretend, as he is violent, which makes him doubly dangerous. She is, indeed, a charming woman, and by everybody honoured and admired; and as she is aunt to our ardent friend Spotty, the Dean of Winchester’s daughter, I was sure to be much flattered and fêted by all her family. Sir Charles’s mother, old Mrs. Grey, now eighty-five, is a great and scientific reader and studier; and is even yet in correspondence with Sir Charles Blagden; who communicates to her all the new philosophical discoveries made throughout Europe. What a distinguished race! The democrat himself,—but for his democracy, strikingly at their head! Mrs. Grey took to me mightily, and would hardly let me speak to anybody else. Saturday we visited Mr. and Lady Mary Churchill, our close neighbours [Pg 274] here, and old acquaintance of mine of fifty years’ standing or more. Next day, after church, I went with Miss Crewe and Canning—I serving for chaperon—to visit the Shakespeare Cliff, which is a mile and more beyond the town: and a most fatiguing clamber to it I found! We took different roads, as our eye pointed out the easiest paths; and, in so doing, on my being all at once missed, Canning and Miss Crewe were so frightened ‘you can’t think!’ as Miss Larolles would say. They concluded I had tumbled headlong down the Cliff! It has furnished a story to every one we have seen ever since; and that arch clever rogue, Canning, makes ample use of it, at Walmer Castle, and elsewhere. ‘Is there any news?’ if he be asked, his ready answer is, ‘only Dr. Burney is lost again!’

“This day, 5th September, pray mind! I went to Walmer Castle with Mrs. and Miss Crewe, to dine with Lady Jane Dundas—another charming creature, and one of my new flirtations; and Mr. Pitt dined at home. And Mr. Dundas, Mr. Ryder, Lady Susan, Miss Scott, the sister of the Marchioness of Titchfield,[55] and Canning, were of the party; with the Hon. Colonel Hope, Lady Jane’s brother. What do you think of that, Ma’am? Mr. Pitt!—I liked this cabinet dinner prodigiously. Mr. Pitt was all politeness and pleasantly. He has won Mrs. Crewe’s, and even Miss Crewe’s heart, by his attentions and good-humour. My translation of the hymn, ‘Long live the Emperor Francis!’ was very well sung in duo by Lady Susan Ryder and Miss Crewe; I joining in the chorus. Lady Jane Dundas is a good musician, and has very good taste. I not only played this hymn of Haydn’s setting, but Suwarrow’s March to the great minister: and though Mr. Pitt neither knows nor cares one farthing for [Pg 275] flutes and fiddles, he was very attentive; and before, and at dinner, his civility to me was as obliging as if I had half a dozen boroughs at my devotion; offering to me, though a great way off him, of every dish and wine; and entering heartily into Canning’s merry stories of my having been lost; and Mrs. Crewe’s relation of my dolorous three sea voyages instead of one, when I came back from Germany; all with very civil pleasantry.

“Monday the 2d. Dine with Sir Charles Grey, and twenty or thirty officers from the camp, for whom he keeps a table, and is allowed ten guineas a day towards that expense alone. Sir Charles placed me on Lady Grey’s right hand, and took the liberty of placing himself on mine! What do you say to that, Ma’am? You cannot imagine how cordially and openly he talked to me on all sort of things that occurred. I only wish he had kept his eldest hopes in better order! However, he is a charming man; very animated, and, for his time of life, very handsome. To Miss Grey,[56] a very sweet girl of ten or eleven, I gave a copy of the hymn and of the march; and made her try them with me; much to the satisfaction of Sir Charles and his lady. Next day, Lady Grey and her young people came to breakfast with Mrs. Crewe; and Lord Palmerston and his eldest son, Mr. Temple,[57] came in the evening. Lord Palmerston is a great favourite of Mrs. Crewe; she would have his character stand for the leading one in the periodical works at which she wants you to preside. Wednesday, we visited the castle at Dover, its Roman towers, and remains, &c.

[Pg 276]

“Thursday, we go to the camp at Barham Downs, and see Mr. Pitt at Sir Charles Grey’s. The Duke of Portland and Lady Mary Bentinck arrive at our house, where they take up their abode. Friday, go with his Grace and the ladies to the parade, where a feu de joie, by two or three thousand militia and regulars, took place for excellent Dutch news. After which, all but the Duke went to the Camp to visit Mr. John Crewe, just appointed Lieutenant-Commandant of the 9th Regiment, and going abroad. The Duke went on horseback to Walmer Castle, and lent me his chaise and four to follow the three ladies, who occupied Mrs. Crewe’s demi-landau. And I dined very comfortably and sociably with the good and gay Sir Charles and his charming Partner, and their engaging young folks. ’Tis a delightful family; all spirit and agreeability. There were likewise a few select officers. I came home alone in the Duke’s carriage and four,—in which Canning reports I was again lost!

“Saturday we go encore to Walmer Castle; Lady Mary Bentinck, Mrs. and Miss Crewe, in Mr. Crewe’s chaise and four; and Mrs. Churchill and I in the Duke’s. His Grace on horseback. The Duke of York was at the Castle; and all were preparing for the third embarkation for Holland, which did not take place till Sunday, the eighth; when we were all called up at five in the morning. The three ladies set out at six for Deal, which is just by Walmer Castle: but the Duke, who took me in his chaise, did not set off till between seven and eight: and we arrived just before the first boat of transports was launched. After seeing five or six launches, in a very high and contrary wind, we gazers all repaired to lunch at Walmer Castle. Mr. Pitt and Mr. Dundas all hurry, but all attention to his Royal Highness the Duke of York; and to the business of the day. But just as we were going to depart, Mr. Pitt pressed us to stay and take a scrambling dinner, that we might see the Duke of York [Pg 277] himself launched. This offer was gladly accepted.

“It was truly a scrambling dinner; his Royal Highness, with his aides-de-camp, Lord Chatham, two or three general officers, the Duke of Portland, Mr. Dundas and Lady Jane, and Mrs. Crewe, filled the first table. Lady Mary Bentinck, with her youngest brother, Lord Charles, going also as aide-de-camp to his Royal Highness; Messrs. Ryder and Lady Susan, Miss Scott, Canning, &c. and I, filled the second. Canning is delightful in social parties; full of wit and humour. The cannon on the castle battlements of Walmer and of Deal, and those of all the ships, to the number of at least one hundred and fifty, were fired when his Royal Highness embarked. He looked composed, princely, and noble. It was a very solemn and serious operation to all but the military, who went off in high spirits and glee; though there was a violent east wind against them, which must oblige them to roll about all night, if not all this following day. I pity the sea-sickness of the fresh water sailors more than their fighting. And so here’s my Journal for you up to this day, 9th Sept. 1799. And take note, Lady Jane Dundas, Lady Susan Ryder, and Lady Grey, I regard as my bonnes fortunes in this expedition. All three have pressingly invited me to their houses in town, and begged that our acquaintance may not drop here. And I don’t intend to be cruel!—But for’ll this, I hope to get away in a week; for I dread letting the autumn creep on at a distance from my own chimney corner.”

[Pg 278]

“15th September, 1799.

“The Duke and Lady Mary left us two days after my last, but a dinner was fixed for Messrs. Pitt, Dundas, Ryder, and Canning, with us at Dover. Now I must give you a little episode. Canning told me that Mr. Pitt had gotten a telescope, constructed under the superintendence of Herschel, which cost one hundred guineas; but that they could make no use of it, as no one of the party had knowledge enough that way to put it together; and, knowing of my astronomical poem, Canning took it for granted that I could help them. The first day I went to Walmer Castle, I saw the instrument, and Canning put a paper in my hand of instructions; or rather, a book, for it consisted of twelve or fourteen pages: but before I had read six lines, company poured in, and I re-placed it in the drawer whence Canning had taken it; and, to say the truth, without much reluctance; for I doubted my competence. I therefore was very cautious not to start the subject! but when I got to Dover, I wrote upon it to Herschel, and received his answer just in time to meet the Dover visit of Mr. Pitt. It was very friendly and satisfactory, as is every thing that comes from Herschel; I shewed it to Mr. Pitt, who read it with great attention, and, I doubt not, intelligence.

“After discussing all the particulars concerning the telescope, Herschel says: ‘When I learn that you are returned to Chelsea, I shall write again on the subject of memorandums that I made when I had the pleasure of hearing your beautiful poetical work.’ This I did not let Mr. Pitt see; but withdrew the letter from him after Herschel had done speaking of the telescope, lest it should seem that I more wished Mr. Pitt should see Herschel’s civilities to me, than his telescopical instructions. But Mrs. Crewe, in the course of the evening, borrowed [Pg 279] the letter from me, and shewed it to Lady Jane Dundas; who read it all, and asked what the poetical work meant. Miss Crewe smilingly explained.

“The dinner was very cheerful, you may imagine, for these Messieurs had brought with them the important news of the taking Seringapatam; truly gratifying to Mr. Pitt; but doubly so to Mr. Dundas, who plans and directs all India affairs.

“No one can be more cheerful, attentive, and polite to ladies than Mr. Pitt; which astonishes all those who, without seeing him, have taken for granted that he is no woman’s man, but a surly churl, from the accounts of his sarcastic enemies.

“The Major of Mr. Crewe being ill, Mr. Crewe himself could not dine at home, being obliged to remain at Hythe with his regiment; and, after the ladies left the dining-room, it having been perceived that none drank port but Mr. Pitt and I; the rest all taking claret, which made the passing and repassing the bottle rather awkward; I was voted into the chair at the head of the table, to put the bottle about! and that between the first ministers, Pitt and Dundas! what ‘only think,’ and ‘no notions,’ would Miss Larolles have exclaimed! I, so notorious for always stopping the bottle!

“When we went to the ladies, music and cheerfulness finished the evening. The hymn and the march were not forgotten. In talking over Pizarro, Mr. Pitt related, very pleasantly, an amusing anecdote of a total breach of memory in some Mrs. Lloyd, a lady, or nominal housekeeper of Kensington Palace: ‘being in company,’ he said, ‘with Mr. Sheridan, without recollecting him, while Pizarro was the topic of discussion, she said to him, “And so this fine Pizarro is printed?” “Yes, so I hear,” said Sherry. “And did you ever in your life read such stuff?” cried she. “Why, I believe it’s bad enough!” quoth Sherry; [Pg 280] “but at least, Madam, you must allow it’s very loyal.” “Ah!” cried she, shaking her head, “loyal? You don’t know its author so well as I do?”’

“In speaking, afterwards, of the great number of young men who were just embarked for Holland, Miss Crewe, half jocosely, but no doubt half seriously, said it would ruin all the balls! for where could the poor females find partners? ‘O,’ said Mr. Pitt, with a pretended air of condolence, ‘you’ll have partners plenty—both Houses of Parliament!’

“‘Besides,’ said Canning, ‘you’ll have the whole Bench of Bishops!’

“To be sure nobody laughed! Mr. Pitt, by the way, is a great and loud laughter at the jokes of others; but this was so half his own, that he only made la petite bouche.

“Two days after all this, Mrs. and Miss Crewe brought me on in my way home as far as Canterbury.

“Now what say you? Is this not a belle histoire?”

Not to break into the chain of the far too deeply interesting narrative that must soon follow, the Doctor’s account of the Abbé de Lille and of M. de Calonne will be here inserted, a little before its date.

“19th Nov. 1799.

“I have been at a dejeuné in the neighbourhood of Vauxhall. Mrs. and Miss Crewe called for me, and we went over Battersea bridge to Mr. Woodford’s; where we met Mr. and Mrs. Windham; M. de Calonne; Beau Dillon; M. Du Thé, secretary to Monseigneur le Comte d’Artois; Miss [Pg 281] Thellasson and her brother; and the Abbé de Lille. It has been a very pleasant morning. It is now half-past five, and I am just got home, to dine with our governor and his lady, Sir William and Lady Fawcet, so having a few unappropriated moments, I thought I would tell you my morning adventure.

“We were soon hussled together, and acquainted; and the little Abbé and I were presently quite thick. He is not such a fright as I expected; having been told that he was hideous; which, by the way, is a great advantage to any one previous to an interview. Well, but we prevailed upon him to repeat fragments of some of his best works—his Jardins; his poem on the Imagination; his defence of the Supreme Being, and of Religion in general, against the Chevalier Parry’s Guerre des Dieux, Anciens et Moderns; on the assassination of the Queen of France; a parallel between Milton and Ariosto; and some others.

“His person is not very unlike little Hawkesworth’s, though piu brutto; but he is so natural, cheerful, good-humoured and animated, yet civil, that he wants no further beauty. He repeats his verses all by memory, in a wonderful manner. I like his style of declaiming, as much as the substance and texture of his poetry. In discourse he is a fair reasoner, with excellent principles, moral, religious, and truly philosophical. He and M. de Calonne had a debate on the character of Sieyes, which was well supported on both sides. The Abbé thinks him without heart, without principles, and a coward: the statesman goes still deeper into his character, and says, what is very likely, that he is profound and dangerous; and that, besides his dexterity in falling upon his feet at every revolution since the year 1789, and escaping, though deserving, the vengeance of every party, he hoards separate designs, which only wait opportunity for bursting out in explosions: [Pg 282] that he has probably been in communication with Buonaparte in Egypt, and has been the main-spring of that general’s return to Europe: that the present Revolution, effected by Buonaparte, is deeply laid; and, consequently, is likely to be more permanently mischievous than its predecessors to the French nation, and to humanity: that Sieyes has a great force of self-denial, insomuch that he has not made un sous in all these Revolutions. The Queen, he says, in her terror of this Abbé’s sinister power, had applied to him, (Calonne,) to give Sieyes a bishopric: upon which occasion, Calonne thought proper to remark to him, that, though they might pass by his principles, in religion and government, as he was always a Frondeur, while he kept them to himself, he must now be counselled to remember that his public hostility to them could be no recommendation to church preferment; upon which Sieyes flew out into an unqualified declaration that he wanted no preferment; nor anything beyond what he already possessed, which supplied him with all he required, namely, de quoi manger; ‘a most dangerous independence of defiance, in times such as these,’ said Calonne, ‘as it endears him to the mob; for it persuades them to believe him sincere when he declaims upon equality.’”


The Doctor then goes on, in brief but cheerful journalizing upon sundry select dinners that had been given at the Duke of Portland’s and at Mr. Crewe’s, for meetings with Lord Macartney, Mr. Canning, Mr. and Mrs. Windham, Miss Hayman, Mr. Frankland, &c. &c., and then thus gaily [Pg 283] concludes his letter:

“My cough is better; and so am I; and, as Horace Walpole used to say, ‘I am now at my best—for I shall never be better!’ I work at my astronomy, polish, make notes, &c., and often see Herschel, with whom I dearly love to conjure—as Daddy Crisp called all commerce upon the sciences. I review an article now and then for Griffith; I have had a most comic letter from dear Twi.;[58] I have gotten twenty-nine subscribers for Haydn; and to-morrow I shall have the musical graduates to dine with me.—And now I must run and dress.

“So here’s my history;—and so good night, and God bless you and your Alexanders, the Great and the Little.”

Three days afterwards he writes:

“A Burney party dined with me yesterday; and we were as merry, and laughed as bonnily as the Burneys always do when they get together, and open their hearts, and tell old stories, and have no fear of being quizzed by interlopers.”

About this period, Dr. Burney had become extremely earnest that the recluse of West Hamble should no longer wholly abandon her pen. He had acquiesced in her declining a project which would have occupied, at least involved it, in politics; for politics, save as affecting passing events, he held, abstractedly, to be out of the province of women. To [Pg 284] any decided bent he would, nevertheless, have given way; but his own native inclination led him to wish that morals and manners, as swaying society, not as organizing difficulties of state, should employ their faculties: and one of his most constant desires was to see the writings of this recluse engaged by her imagination and her reflections. In relinquishing, therefore, the more ambitious enterprise of Mrs. Crewe, he urged the production of a pastoral tragedy, of which his daughter had shown him the manuscript before her marriage; and which he now pressed her to bring forth with a vivacity that would surely have charmed her into compliance; but that a secret solicitude, a trembling anticipation of anguish had seized so severely upon her earliest and tenderest affections, as wholly to nullify all literary operations.

And, even yet, with what pain does she approach—perforce!—the afflicting subject of the most heart-rending calamity that could then befal Dr. Burney—yet which, even while thus vividly the gayest scenes of his latter years were passing, and thus benignly for the gratification of the Camilla-cottage Hermits, were recording, was almost hourly, though obscurely, impending over his peace!

Pg 285]


Early in October, 1799, the desolating intelligence reached West Hamble, that the lingering sufferings of the inestimable Susanna, from long latently undermining her delicate frame, began openly to menace its destruction.

Dr. Burney, at this period, had received no intimation of the hovering storm, which all around him had for some time feared they saw gathering. To spare him was the united desire of his family, while any probability, however chequered, remained, that no dire and absolute necessity would force the infliction of so fatal a shock.

The disposition of Dr. Burney had aided their wishes, through his native inattention to all evil that was not obtrusive; for evil, indeed, he as little sought as practised. Passive, therefore, on one side, and timid on the other, the month of October, 1799, had arrived, with little comment or discussion upon the precarious health of the precious absentee; for Hope till then was still, even to the most anxious of the apprehensive, predominant—Celestial Hope! more soothing even than transient! more welcome even than delusive! and higher in power of inspiring blissful sensations than can be cancelled even by [Pg 286] the misery of disappointment! for while so little of earthly happiness is permanent, how nothingly would be our portion of earthly enjoyment, were the episodes of ideal delights, in the epic poem of human existence, circumscribed by experience, and bounded by reality?

But when, with regard to this affecting subject, an alarm once arose in the family, that, striking even at Hope, showed it fading fast away, and verging on becoming imperceptible; the same filial solicitude took necessarily another turn, from the dread of exposing the parental tenderness of the Doctor to a blow for which he should be utterly unprepared.

How dire then was the task which fell upon this Memorialist, superadded to terrors the most thrilling, and grief the most piercing, of communicating to Dr. Burney, this harrowing menace! of tearing from his eyes those kindly mists, which had obscured from their sight the perspective of danger; and breaking into all the flattering schemes of ultimately calling that darling child “to rock the cradle of declining age,” and sooth and cheer its last days of repose!

The disclosure, however, was now imperative; the moment was come that [Pg 287] admitted not of another for delay. A long season of agitating doubt was terminating in an affrighting conviction, that all possibility for averting the fast advancing calamity, was change of air and scene for the drooping sufferer.

The tale, therefore, was unfolded; and all that the truest filial devotion could suggest for mitigating the misery of this tragic confession, was zealously put forward, by an energetic enumeration of the means which might still be essayed, to obviate the difficulties arising from the insurrectional state of Ireland; and the lateness of the season for making the now last attempt—a trial of her natal air—to rescue this treasure, yet a space! from the already opening grave.

The Doctor bore the dreadful intelligence with a taciturn sadness, a gloomy consternation, the most affecting; yet that shewed surprise to have little share in his grief. His heart, during the ardent passions of glowing early manhood, had been rived by a deprivation that had nearly assailed his reason; and ever since that baleful period, he had recoiled from the approach of excessive affliction with a horror of its power over his mind, that made him shut his ears, and close his eyes, on the menace of every sorrow, of which the anticipation [Pg 288] would be unavailing.—Such this must have been to him; and from this, therefore, he had sedulously turned aside; though he had long, it is presumable, been latently annoyed by apprehensions to which he had refused examination or harbour: for prognostics there are, where our wills and our wishes are opposed to the probabilities of events, from which no conflicts can rescue our fears, combat as we may to chase them from our thoughts. Prognostics that cross our paths like ruthless spectres; that present phantasms of perils; and that, while shunned in one quarter, start up abruptly in another! that invade the avenues of our most secret ruminations; that flit before even our closed eyes; and pierce across the shattered brain, in forms, shapes, fancies, and scenes, that relentlessly represent to us the appalling view of all we struggle to disbelieve and to discard! To such ineludable prognostics must be attributed the mutely mournful acquiescence that mingled with the heavy mass of woe with which the Doctor listened to these deadly tidings.

Winter now was nearly at hand, and travelling seemed deeply dangerous, in her sickly state, for the enfeebled Susanna. Yet she herself, panting to receive again the blessing of her beloved father, [Pg 289] concentrated every idea of recovery in her return. She declined, therefore, though with exquisite sensibility, the supplicating desire of this Editor to join and to nurse her at Belcotton, her own cottage; and persevered through every impediment in her efforts to reach the parental home.

The ceaseless endeavours to hasten her journey, and the afflicting circumstances that intervened to retard it, cast the Doctor into a state of inquietude and disturbance, that had little intermission. Every part of her fond family severally, and in every way that the most anxious tenderness could vary or devise, worked at propitiating her arrival; while her heart-dear friends, Mr. and Mrs. Locke, and their beautiful, inappreciable bridal daughter, Mrs. Angerstein, made never to be forgotten, never to be equalled exertions of friendship, to draw her first to Norbury Park—that seat of all loveliness, and of every virtue!—that there they might recruit her debilitated frame, and brace her shattered nerves, by their boundless and incomparable restorative resources, and an air balsamic as their own social sweetness, before she should venture so near to even the precincts of the Metropolis as Chelsea College.

[Pg 290]

In her answer to the urgent propositions and prayers for preference that now poured in upon her, from her father, her brothers, her sisters, and these angelic friends, soothing—though nearly too penetrating to her grateful spirit—she declined, but with the softest expressions of reluctance, beginning her return at the dwellings of either sisters or brothers: and to the endearing; solicitations of Mr. and Mrs. Locke, she replied, that one thing only in the whole world could enable her to resist their kind desire, namely, her dearest father’s wishes to receive her himself, in all her feebleness and shaken state; and to help her restoration by his own personal cares: “This,” she adds, “had been such a balm to her sufferings, that she felt as if to behold him again, to meet his commiserating eyes, and to be under his roof and in his arms, would make him give her a second life.”

Her expressions had the genuine charm of native eloquence, for her language was that of her soul, and her soul seemed already angelical; so that all she said, and all she wrote, when addressing those she loved, found a passage to the inmost heart, of which they took the tenderest, the fullest, the most lasting possession.

[Pg 291]

Every obstacle, at length, being finally vanquished, the journey was resolved upon, and its preparations were made;—when a fearful new illness suddenly confined the helpless invalid to her bed. There she remained some weeks; after which, with the utmost difficulty, and by two long days’ travelling, though for a distance of only twenty-six miles, she reached Dublin; where, exhausted, emaciated, she was again forced to her bed; there again to remain for nearly as long a new delay!

Every hour of separation became now to the Doctor an hour of grief, from the certainty that, the expedition once begun, it could be caused only by suffering malady, or expiring strength.

It was not till the very close of the year 1799, amidst deep snow, fierce frost, blighting winds, and darksome days, that, scarcely alive, his sinking Susanna was landed at Park Gate.

There she was joined by her affectionate brother, Dr. Charles; who hastened to hail her arrival, that he might convey her in his own warm carriage to her heart-yearning father, her fondly impatient brethren, and the tenderest of friends.

But he found her in no state to travel further!—feeble, drooping, wasted away, scarcely to be known shrunk, nearly withered!—yet [Pg 292] still with her fair mind in full possession of its clearest powers; still with all the native sweetness of her looks, manners, voice, and smiles; still with all her desire to please; her affecting patience of endurance; her touching sensibility for every species of attention; and all her unalterable loveliness of disposition, that sought to console for her own afflictions, to give comfort for her own sufferings!

During the space of a doubtful week, her kind brother, Dr. Charles, awaited the happy moment when she might be able to move on—— But on—save as a corpse,—she moved no more!

Gentle was her end! Gentle as the whole tenor of her life; but as sudden in its conclusion as it had been lingering in its approach.

The news of her reaching—at length!—these shores, written by herself from Park Gate, in a brief, but soul-touching letter to her father, and another to this Memorialist, had been enchanting to the whole family. Not to risk for her any fresh fatigue from haste, all impatience for her sight was suppressed. A distant day, therefore, had been named by Dr. Charles for her arrival at Chelsea College.

What a blessed instant was the reception of that appointment to the [Pg 293] Doctor!—An instant indeed, for it passed away, never to return! But, during its brief interval, the Doctor devoted himself to making arrangements for this felicitous restoration; and fixed the nearest time that he could hope his Susanna would be sufficiently recovered to give, and to receive, the joy springing from a family assemblage to celebrate her return.——

Such was the radiant gleam that transiently shone upon the Doctor and his happy race, when all the fair fabric of his renovating expectations, his parental hopes, his fondest wishes, was broken down, dissolved, confounded, by tidings that his Susanna—instead of hastening to his roof, his arms, his blessing——was gone from all! was gone on that awful journey whence no traveller returns—had landed but to die—and was gone—gone hence for ever!

The deadly catastrophe was conveyed to the Doctor by his son-in-law and nephew, the deserving Mr. Burney; who kindly spared his afflicted wife—rent by personal sorrow—the dreadful task which, necessarily, had been appointed to her by Dr. Charles. The good Mr. Burney, as the Doctor afterwards declared, unfolded the irreparable calamity with as much judiciousness as feeling. And the Doctor again evinced a force [Pg 294] of character unshaken by years, that shewed him capable of supporting, while bewailing this terrific blow, with the submission of resignation, and the fortitude of reason; not desponding, however wretched; not overwhelmed, though indescribably unhappy.

What scenes were those which followed! how deep the tragedy! How wide from their promised joys were the family meetings! Yet all his family impressively hastened to the Doctor, and all were kindly received.

It was on the midnight of the first day of this woe, that his unhappy daughter of West Hamble, whom its baleful blight had pierced the preceding noon, forced her way, with her sympathizing partner, to Chelsea College. Her, however, the Doctor could not see! His courage sunk from that interview! He gave them the apartment that for so far happier a purpose had been destined, and remitted a meeting to the next morning.

Nor yet, even at breakfast, was he able to encounter her grief; it was twelve or one o’clock at noon ere he could assume the strength necessary: and then, his first words, on opening the parlour door, at which he stopped and stood, feeble and motionless, with shut eyes, and [Pg 295] a look of unutterable anguish, were an almost inaudible exclamation, “I dread to see you, Fanny! I dread to see you!”

The first heart-breaking effort, however, made, all else could not but be soothing to each, even while to each piercing; and he kept her at the College for some weeks, during which she devoted herself to him wholly.

But for the fair hope that all the pungency of heart-riving separations such as these, from the objects of our purest affections, is left behind;—that their bitterness is not shared; that the void, cold! unsearchable! of such dire deprivations, is known only to the survivors—while to the gone all clouds are cleared away, all storms are calmed, all pangs are chased by bliss; but for this celestial Hope, and spiritual Belief,—how could the fragile human frame be strong enough to sustain the convulsed human mind, in the writhings of its first desolating experience of a woe, which, by one fatal stroke, seems, for the moment, to leave life without a charm?—For such is the first, instinctive, imperious sensation upon such dread catastrophes; whatever are the consolations with which remaining tender ties may speedily [Pg 296] afterwards soothe and regenerate our feelings; and exchange our mortal grief for immortal aspirations.

The ensuing lines were written by Dr. Burney, for an epitaph in Neston churchyard, near Park Gate, where the remains of Mrs. Phillips were deposited:

In Memory of


Third daughter of Doctor Burney, and wife of Major Phillips, of
Belcotton, in Ireland; who, in her way to visit her father at Chelsea
College, died at Park Gate, 6th of January, 1800.

Learn, pensive reader, who may pass this way,
That underneath this stone remains the clay
That held a soul as pure, inform’d, refin’d,
As e’er to erring mortal was assign’d.
Closed are those eyes whose radiance, mild, yet bright,
Beam’d all that gives to feeling soul’s delight!
Quench’d are those rays of spirit, taste, and sense,
Pure emanations of benevolence,
That could alike instruct, appease, control,
And speak the genuine dictates of the soul.
C. B.

Pg 297]


Of the rest of this melancholy year no vestige remains, either from the Doctor or his Biographer. The beginning of the new century to them was the closing of hope, not the opening of joy! and the pocket-book memorandums of both are sterile and blank.

The Doctor, nevertheless, feeling himself past the time of life, and past the strength of body for yielding to unbending grief without danger to his faculties, as well as to his existence, accorded himself but a short period for retirement from the world; and then, with what force he could muster, returned to his business and his friends.


The sole circumstance that excited him to any exertion, was the election of the eldest son of Mr. Locke, of Norbury Park, to be a member of the Literary Club.

It was to Dr. Burney that the idea of this election first occurred; no one else at the club, at that period, being equally acquainted with the claims of Mr. William Locke to confraternity with such a society. The Doctor communicated this project, in which he felt great interest, to West Hamble.

[Pg 298]

“Fanny Phillips[59] and I,” he says, “have dined thrice lately with your excellent neighbours, the Lockes, who rise in my esteem and affection at every visit. I have been long thinking of putting up Mr. William Locke at our club, but would not venture without his permission. After the last dinner, therefore, I drew him aside, and fairly asked him whether he would give me leave to try for his election at a club, established under Dr. Johnson, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and Mr. Burke? and he said, after some modest scruples of being unworthy, that nothing would flatter him more. Yesterday, therefore, I began to canvass Malone, at his own house, and Lord Macartney, a sotto voce, in the club-room, before dinner. Malone was readily de mon avis; but Lord Macartney, following up the known plan of Dr. Johnson, to select the first man in every profession, for the more exact information of the rest upon those points of which they were ignorant, argued that we ought to have a great painter to supply, as well as he could, the loss of Sir Joshua Reynolds.

“‘And you will have one, my Lord,’ I cried. ‘The painters all honour themselves in being of that mind with respect to Mr. William Locke. He only happens, by chance, to be heir to a considerable estate; he would else have been a painter by profession, as well as by talent and excellence. In Mr. William Locke we shall have every gratification we can wish for in a new member; he is a scholar, a traveller, a gentleman; and, when he can be prevailed with to talk, the best informed and most pleasing converser with whom men of cultivated minds can wish to associate.’

“This gave me Lord Macartney as well as Malone; and, after dinner, on that very day, Lord Macartney himself, seconded by Mr. Langton, put up your dear friend’s ‘eldest hopes.’ I was applied to for giving [Pg 299] the Christian name, and an assurance that the election was desired by the proposed new member. An entry then was made in the books, and the election will come on at the next club.”

The ensuing letter to West Hamble, will shew the happy effect of the Doctor’s success upon his spirits:

“I went to the club to-day with fear and trembling, lest I should have involved Mr. William Locke in any disappointment. Langton, though he had willingly seconded Lord Macartney’s motion, could not be there: it was a great day at the House, where they were debating the Adultery Bill, which lost us Windham, Canning, Bishop Douglas, Lords Spencer, Ossory, Palmerston, and Mr. Frere, of all whose suffrages I was sure. There were only nine members present; and I saw, on entering the room, with fear and dismay, the person suspected as a general black-baller. I’ll try to recollect the nine members: Lord Macartney, Sir Robert Chambers, Malone, Sir Charles Bunbury, Marsden, Dr. Fordyce, Mr. Thomas Grenville, Dr. Vincent, and your humble servant. Canning, whose turn it was to be President, being away, Lord Macartney, and two or three more, invited me to take the chair; but I modestly declined the honour! Well, we all seemed in perfect good-humour, and I hobbed a nob; and got two or three more to hob a nob, with the Knight of the Negro Ball; and, after dinner, when the box went round, Sir Charles Bunbury acted as Vice President, and opened it,—and—would you think it?—all was as white as milk!—and Mr. William Locke, jun. was declared duly elected.

[Pg 300]

“Sir Charles wrote the usual letter of inauguration, and I one of congratulation; and I sent my own man with both to Manchester Square. And so that fright, at least, is happily over.

“If Mr. and Mrs. Locke are with you, pray lay my best respects at their feet; and my love at the hearts of your two Alexanders. And so good night. It is past twelve, and time for all but owls and bats to be at roost.

“C. B.”


In 1801, also, there was but a single event that the Doctor thought worth committing to paper: and that, indeed, was of a kind that no one who knew him could read, first without trembling, and next without rejoicing; for, in the summer of 1801, and in his seventy-sixth year, he had an escape the most providential from sudden and violent destruction.

He had accompanied Mrs. Crewe, and some of her friends, to a review on Ascot Heath, when, in returning home by water, as the boat was disembarking its crew at Staines, feeling himself light and well, and equal to a small leap, he jumped incautiously from the boat on what he believed to be a tuft of grass; but what proved to be a moss-covered stone, or hillock, which, far from bending, as he had expected, to the [Pg 301] touch of his foot, struck him backwards into the boat with frightful violence, and a risk the most imminent of breaking his neck, if not of fracturing his skull. Happily, no such dreadful evil ensued! and every species of care and kindness were vigilantly exerted to keep aloof further mischief than accrued from a few bruises.

Mr. Windham, who was of the party, had the Doctor conveyed immediately to the nearest inn, to be blooded, and to have all the injured parts examined and bathed. The Doctor’s carriage came to him there, and he got back to Chelsea, slowly, but tolerably well: and nothing more followed from this dangerous accident than a confinement of several days.

That the mind, however, was far stronger than the frame, became now indisputably evident, from the spirit with which he supported the fright, the pain, and the mortification of this untoward experiment upon his remnant and unsuspectedly failing corporeal force. But who discovers the exact moment of arriving defalcation either of body or mind, till taught it by one of those severe instructors, Disease, or Accident?

[Pg 302]


Nevertheless, though no further episodical event occurred in 1801, that year must by no means be passed over without record in the Memoirs of Dr. Burney; for it was marked by such extraordinary intellectual exertion as may almost be called unparalleled, when considered as springing from volition, not necessity; and from efforts the most virtuously philosophical, to while away enervating sadness upon those changes and chances that hang upon the very nature of mortal existence: for now, to tie his activity to his labours, he entered into a formal agreement with the editors of the then new Encyclopedia, to furnish all its musical articles at stated periods.

He thus, in a letter of which he has left a copy, though not the address, speaks of this enterprise to some friend:

“I have entered now into concerns that leave me not a minute, or a thought, to bestow on other matters. Besides professional avocations, I have deeply engaged in a work that can admit of no delay; and which occupies every instant that I can steal from business, friends, or sleep. A new edition, on a very enlarged plan, of the Cyclopedia of Chambers, is now printing in two double volumes 4to, for which I have agreed to furnish the musical articles, on a very large scale, including whatever is connected with the subject; not only definitions [Pg 303] of the musical technica, but reflexions, discussions, criticism, history, and biography. The first volume is printed, and does not finish the letter A. And in nine months’ hard labour, I have not brought forth two letters. I am more and more frightened every day at the undertaking, so long after the usual allowance of three score years and ten have expired. And the shortest calculation for the termination of this work is still ten years.”

And in his letters to West Hamble on the same subject, he mentions, that to fulfil his engagement, he generally rises at five or six o’clock every morning—! in his seventy-sixth year.


This year partook not of any lack of incident; it commenced during the operation and incertitude of a public transaction so big, in its consequences, with deep importance to the domestic life of Dr. Burney, that it seems requisite for all that will follow, to enter into such parts of its details as affected the Doctor’s feelings, through their influence over those of his son-in-law, General d’Arblay. And it will be done the more willingly, as it must involve an unpublished anecdote or two of the marvellous character who, for a while, was the ruler of nearly all Europe,—Napoleon Buonaparte.

[Pg 304]

At the period of the peace of Amiens, in the preceding year, the Minister Plenipotentiary who was sent over by Buonaparte, then only First Consul, to sign its preliminaries, chanced to be an artillery officer, General de Lauriston, who had been en garrison, and in great personal friendship, with General d’Arblay, during their mutual youth; and with whom, as with all the etat major of the regiment of Toul, a connexion of warm esteem and intimacy had faithfully been kept alive, till the dreadful catastrophe of the 10th of August dispersed every officer who survived it, into the wanderings of emigration, or the mystery of concealment.

When the name of Lauriston reached West Hamble, its obscured, but not enervated Chief, rushed eagerly from his Hermitage to the Metropolis, where he hastily wrote a few impressive lines to the new Minister Plenipotentiary, briefly demanding whether or not, in his present splendid situation, he would avow an old Camarade, whose life now was principally spent in cultivating cabbages in his own garden, for his own family and table?

Of this note he was fain to be his own bearer; and in some Hotel in, or near St. James’s Street, he discovered the Minister’s abode.

[Pg 305]

Unaccoutred, dressed only in his common garden coat, and wearing no military appendage, or mark of military rank, he found it very difficult to gain admission into the hotel, even as a messenger; for such, only, he called himself. The street was crowded so as to be almost impassable, as it was known to the public, that the French Minister was going forth to an audience for signing the preliminaries of Peace with Lord Hawkesbury.[60]

But M. d’Arblay was not a man to be easily baffled. He resolutely forced his way to the corridor leading to the Minister’s dressing apartment. There, however, he was arbitrarily stopped; but would not retire: and compelled the lacquey, who endeavoured to dismiss him, to take, and to promise the immediate delivery of his note.

With a very wry face, and an indignant shrug, the lacquey almost perforce complied; carefully, however, leaving another valet at the outside of the door, to prevent further inroad.

M. de Lauriston was under the hands of his frizeur, and reading a newspaper. But the gazette gave place to the billet, which, probably recollecting the handwriting; he rapidly ran over, and then eagerly, [Pg 306] and in a voice of emotion, emphatically demanded who had been its bearer?

A small ante-room alone separated him from its writer, who, hearing the question, energetically called out: “C’est Moi!

Up rose the Minister, who opened one door himself, as M. d’Arblay broke through the other, and in the midst of the little ante-room, they rushed into one another’s arms.

If M. d’Arblay was joyfully affected by this generous reception, M. de Lauriston was yet more moved in embracing his early friend, whom report had mingled with the slaughtered of the 10th of August.

The meeting, indeed, was so peculiar, from the high station of M. de Lauriston; the superb equipage waiting at his door to carry him, for the most popular of purposes, to an appointed audience with a British minister; and the glare, the parade, the cost, the attendants, and the attentions by which he was encompassed; contrasted with the worn, as well as plain habiliments of the recluse of West Hamble, that it gave a singularity to the equality of their manners to each other, and the mutuality of the joy and affection of their embraces, that from first [Pg 307] exciting the astonishment, next moved the admiration of the domestics of the Minister Plenipotentiary; and particularly of his frizeur, who, probably, was his first valet-de-chambre; and who, while they were yet in each other’s arms, exclaimed aloud, with that familiarity in which the French indulge their favourite servants, “Ma foi! voilà qui est beau!

This characteristic freedom of approbation broke into the pathos of the interview by causing a hearty laugh; and M. de Lauriston, who then had not another instant to spare, cordially invited his recovered friend to breakfast with him the next morning.

At that breakfast, M. de Lauriston recorded the circumstances that had led to his present situation, with all the trust and openness of their early intercourse. And sacred General d’Arblay held that confidence; which should have sunk into oblivion, but for the after circumstances, and present state of things, which render all that, then, was prudentially secret, now desirably public.

No change, he said, of sentiment, no dereliction of principle, had influenced his entering into the service of the republic. Personal gratitude alone had brought about that event. Whilst fighting, [Pg 308] under the banners of Austria, against Buonaparte, in one of the campaigns of Italy, he had been taken prisoner, with an Austrian troop. His companions in arms were immediately conveyed to captivity, there to stand the chances of confinement or exchange; but he, as a Frenchman, had been singled out by the conquerors, and stigmatized as a deserter, by the party into whose hands he had fallen, and who condemned him to be instantly shot: though, as he had never served Buonaparte, no laws of equity could brand as a traitor the man who had but constantly adhered to his first allegiance. Buonaparte himself, either struck by this idea; or with a desire to obtain a distinguished officer of artillery, of which alone his army wanted a supply; felt induced to start forward in person, to stop the execution at the very instant it was going to take place. And, to save M. de Lauriston, at the same time, from the ill-will or vengeance of the soldiers, Buonaparte concealed him, till the troop by which he had been taken was elsewhere occupied; conducting himself, in the meanwhile, with so much consideration and kindness, that the gentle heart of Lauriston was gained over by grateful feelings, and he accepted the post afterwards [Pg 309] offered to him of Aide-de-camp to the First Consul; with whom, in a short time, he rose to so much trust and favour, as to become the colleague of Duroc, as a chosen and military,—though not, as Duroc, a confidential secretary.

Buonaparte, Lauriston said, had named him for this important embassy to England from two motives: one of which was, that he thought such a nomination might be agreeable to the English, as Lauriston, who was great grand-son or grand-nephew to the famous Law, of South Sea notoriety, was of British extraction; and the other was from personal regard to Lauriston, that he might open a negociation, during his mission, for the recovery of some part of his Scotch inheritance.

At this, and a subsequent breakfast with M. de Lauriston, M. d’Arblay discussed the most probable means for claiming his reforme, or half-pay, as some remuneration for his past services and deprivations. And M. de Lauriston warmly undertook to carry a letter on this subject to Buonaparte’s minister at war, Berthier; with whom, under Louis the Sixteenth, M. d’Arblay had formerly transacted military business.

It was found, however, that nothing could be effected without the [Pg 310] presence of M. d’Arblay in France; and therefore, peace between the two nations being signed, he deemed it right to set sail for the long-lost land of his birth.

Immediately upon his arrival in Paris, a representation of his claims was presented to the First Consul himself, accompanied with words of kindliest interest in its success, by the faithful General de Lauriston.

Buonaparte inquired minutely into the merits of the case, and into the military character of the claimant; and, having patiently heard the first account, and eagerly interrogated upon the second, he paused a few minutes, and then said: “Let him serve in the army, if only for one year. Let him go to St. Domingo, and join Le Cler;[61] and, at the end of the year, he shall be allowed to retire, with rank and promotion.”

This was the last purpose that had entered into the projects of M. d’Arblay; yet, to a military spirit, jealous of his honour, and passionately fond of his profession, it was a proposition impossible to be declined. It was not to combat for Buonaparte, nor to fight [Pg 311] against his original allegiance: it was to bear arms in the current cause of his country, in resisting the insurgents of St. Domingo,[62] against whom he might equally have been employed by the Monarch[63] in whose service he had risked, and through whose misfortunes he had lost his all. He merely, therefore, stipulated to re-enter the army simply as a volunteer; with an agreed permission to quit it at the close of the campaign, whatever might be its issue: and he then accepted from Berthier a commission for St. Domingo, which, in the republican language adopted by Buonaparte on his first accession to dictatorial power, was addressed to le Citoyen General-in-Chief, Le Cler; and which recommended to that General that le Citoyen Darblay should be employed as a distinguished artillery officer.

M. d’Arblay next obtained leave to come over to England to settle his private affairs; to make innumerable purchases relative to the expedition to St. Domingo; and to bid adieu to his wife and son.

[Pg 312]


Dr. Burney received him with open arms, but tearful eyes. He had too much candour to misjudge the nature and the principles of a military character, so as to censure his non-refusal of an offered restoration to his profession, since, at that moment, the peace between the two countries paralysed any possible movement in favour of the Royalists; yet his grief at the circumstance, and his compassion for his dejected daughter, gave a gloom to the transaction that was deeply depressing.

The purchases were soon made, for the re-instated man of arms sunk a considerable sum to be expeditiously accoutred; after which, repelling every drawback of internal reluctance, he was eager not to exceed his furlough; and, pronouncing an agitated farewell, hurried back to Paris; purposing thence to proceed to Brest, whence he was to embark for his destination.

But, inexpressibly anxious not to be misunderstood, nor drawn into the service of Buonaparte beyond the contracted engagement; the day before he left London, M. d’Arblay, with a singleness of integrity that never calculated consequences where he thought his honour and his interest [Pg 313] might pull different ways, determined to be unequivocally explicit, and addressed, therefore, the following letter directly to Buonaparte:

Au Premier Consul.


“La generosité et la grandeur d’ame etant inseparables, ce qui pourroit me perdre avec un autre, va être ma saufegarde avec vous. Admirateur sincere du bien que vous avez déja fait; animé par l’éspoir de celui qui vous reste à faire; je veux et j’éspere me rendre digne de la manière flatteuse dont vous venez de me traiter. Je pars, et vous pouvez compter sur ma reconnoissance: mais ce seroit vous en donner une preuve indigne de vous que de me rendre coupable d’ingratitude envers un autre. Enthousiaste de la liberté, je fas encore plus ami de l’ordre; et restai jusqu’au dernier moment un des serviteurs le plus fidele, et, j’ose le dire, le plus energique, d’un monarque dont plus qu’un autre j’ai connu le patriotisme et les vertus. Forcé de fuir, rien n’eut pû me faire manquer au serment de ne jamais porter les armes contre ma patrie; determiné de même de ne jamais m’armer contre la patrie de mon epouse—contre le pays qui pendant neuf ans nous a nourris. Je vous jure sur tout le reste fidelité et devouement.

“Salut et respect,

“Alexandre Darblay.”

This letter he hurried off by an official express, through Buonaparte’s then minister here, M. Otto; [Pg 314] who, after reading, forwarded it under cover to Le Citoyen Ministre de la Guerre, Berthier; to whom, as a former military friend, M. d’Arblay recommended its delivery to Le Premier Consul.[64] This done, M. d’Arblay pursued his own route.

A frightful chasm of all intelligence to Dr. Burney ensued after this critical departure of M. d’Arblay; no tidings came over of his arrival at Brest, his embarkation, or even of his safety, after crossing the channel in the remarkably tempestuous month of February, in 1802.

The causes of this mysterious silence would be too circumstantial for these Memoirs, to which it belongs only to state their result. The First Consul, upon reading the letter of M. d’Arblay, immediately withdrew his military commission; and Berthier, in an official reply, desired that le Citoyen Darblay would consider that commission, and the letter to General Le Cler, as non avenues.

Berthier, nevertheless, in the document which annulled the St. Domingo commission, and which must have been written by the personal command of [Pg 315] Buonaparte, since it was in answer to a letter that had been directed immediately to himself, calmly, and without rancour, harshness, or satire, developed the reason of the recall, in simply saying, that since le Citoyen Darblay would not bear arms against the country of his wife, which might always, eventually, bear arms against France, he could not be engaged in the service of the Republic.

Buonaparte, stimulated, it is probable, by M. de Lauriston’s account of the frank and honourable character of M. d’Arblay, contented himself with this simple annulling act; without embittering it by any stigma, or demonstrating any suspicious resentment.

This event, as has been hinted, produced important consequences to Dr. Burney; consequences the most ungenial to his parental affections; though happily, at that period, not foreseen in their melancholy extent, of a ten years’ complete and desperate separation from his daughter d’Arblay.

Unsuspicious, therefore, of that appendent effect of the letter of M. d’Arblay to Buonaparte, the satisfaction of Dr. Burney, at this first moment, that no son-in-law of his would bear arms, through any means, however innocent, and with any intentions, however pure, under the [Pg 316] banners of Buonaparte, largely contributed to make the unexpected tidings of this sudden change of situation an epoch of ecstacy, rather than of joy; of adoration, rather than of thankfulness, to his Hermit daughter.

But far different were the sensations to which this turn of affairs gave birth in M. d’Arblay. Consternation seems too tame a word for the bewildered confusion of his feelings, at so abrupt a breaking up of an enterprise, which, though unsolicited and unwished for in its origin, had by degrees, from its recurrence to early habits, become glowingly animated to his ideas and his prospects. Buonaparte had not then blackened his glory by the seizure and sacrifice of the Comte d’Enghein; and M. d’Arblay, in common with several other admirers of the military fame of the First Consul, had conceived a hope, to which he meant honestly to allude in his letter, that the final campaign of that great warrior, would be a voluntary imitation of the final campaign of General Monk.

Little, therefore, as he had intended to constitute Buonaparte, in any way, as his chief, a breach such as this in his own professional career, nearly mastered his faculties with excess of perturbation. To seem dismissed the service!—he could not brook the idea; he was [Pg 317] confounded by his own position.

He applied to a generous friend,[65] high in military reputation, to represent his disturbance to the First Consul.

Buonaparte consented to grant an audience on the subject; but almost instantly interrupted the application, by saying, with vivacity, “I know that business! However, let him be tranquil. It shall not hurt him any further. There was a time I might have been capable of acting so myself!—”

And then, after a little pause, and with a look somewhat ironical, but by no means ill-humoured or unpleasant, he added: “Il m’a écrit un diable de lettre!”—He stopt again, after which, with a smile half gay, half cynical, he said: “However, I ought only to regard in it the husband of Cecilia;” and then abruptly he broke up the conference.

Of the author of Cecilia, of course, he meant.

This certainly was a trait of candour and liberality worthy of a more gentle mind; and which, till the ever unpardonable massacre of Pg 318] the Duke d’Enghein, softened, in some measure, the endurance of the compulsatory stay in France that afterwards ensued to M. d’Arblay.


Dr. Burney, meanwhile, from the time that the St. Domingo commission was annulled, was in daily expectation of the return of his son-in-law, and the re-establishment of the little cottage of West Hamble:—but mournfully, alas, was he disappointed! The painful news arrived from M. d’Arblay, that, from the strangeness of the circumstances in which he was involved, he could not quit France without seeming to have gained his wish in losing his appointment. He determined, therefore, to remain a twelvemonth in Paris, to shew himself at hand in case of any change of orders. And he desired, of course, to be joined there by his wife and son.

M. d’Arblay, however, wrote to that wife, to Dr. Burney, and to his dearly reverenced friend, Mr. Locke, the most comforting assurance, that, one single year revolved, he would return, with his little family, to the unambitious enjoyment of friendship, repose, and West Hamble.

[Pg 319]

By no means gaily did Dr. Burney receive the account of this arrangement. Gloomy forebodings clouded his brow; though his daughter, exalted by joy and thankfulness that the pestilential climate of St. Domingo was relinquished; and happily persuaded that another year would re-unite her with her honoured father, her brethren, and friends, assented with alacrity to the scheme. Almost immediately, therefore, it took place; though not before the loyal heart of Dr. Burney had the soothing consolation of finding, that the step she was taking was honoured with the entire approbation of her benevolent late Royal Mistress; who openly held that to follow the fortune of the man to whom she had given her hand, was now her first duty in life.

And something of pleasure mixed itself with his parental cares, and a little mitigated the severity of his concern at this event, when the Doctor heard that she was not only admitted by that most gracious Queen to a long and flattering farewell audience; and to the high honour of separate parting interviews with each of the Princesses; but also to the unspeakable delight of being graciously detained in her Majesty’s white closet till the arrival there, from some review, of the benign King himself; who deigned, with his never-failing benevolence, to [Pg 320] vouchsafe to her some inappreciable minutes of his favouring and heart-touching notice: while the Queen, with conscious pleasure at the happiness which she had thus accorded to her, smilingly said, “You did not expect this, Madame d’Arblay.”

With this high honour and goodness exhilarated, her spirits rose to their task; with the support of hope, she parted from her family and friends; with the resolution of remembering the escape from St. Domingo, should she be pursued by any misfortune, she quitted her loved cottage; and even from her thrice-dear father she separated without participating in his alarm, while seeking to dissipate it by her own brighter views.

Yet moved was she to her heart’s core when, on the evening preceding her departure, which took place after a long sojourn at Chelsea College, he suddenly broke from her, as if to stir the fire; but pronounced, in a voice that shewed he merely sought to hide his emotion, his fears, nay belief, that M. d’Arblay, though twice he had returned with speed from Paris when he had visited it alone, would probably be tempted to lengthen, if not fix his abode there, when the chief ties to his adopted country became a part of that of his birth.

[Pg 321]

Nevertheless, even this apprehension, such was her faith in the sacred influence of Camilla Cottage over the mind of her partner in life, she courageously parried, though impressively she felt; and at the leave-taking moment, she was happily able to cheer the presentiments of the Doctor, by the lively sincerity of the feelings that cheered her own.

One point only combatted her courage, and was too potent for her resistance; she could not utter an adieu to her matchless friend, Mr. Locke!—his frame had always seemed to her as fragile as his virtues were adamantine; and the tender partiality with which he had ever met her reverential attachment, made his voice so meltingly affecting to her, that she feared lest her own should betray how little she already thought him of this world! she cheerfully bade adieu to her father, her family, and her friends—but she retreated without uttering a farewell to Mr. Locke,—whom, alas! she never saw more!

No further narrative, of which the detail can be personal or reciprocal with the Editor, can now be given of Dr. Burney. What follows will be collected from fragments of memoirs, and innumerable memorandums in his own handwriting; from his letters, and those of his family and [Pg 322] friends; and from various accidental, incidental, and miscellaneous circumstances.

Yet, at the period of this separation, the Memorialist had the solace to know, that many as were the ties already dissolved of his early affections; numerous the links already broken of his maturer attachments; and wholly incalculable the mass of losses or changes in the current objects of pursuit that, from year to year, had eluded his grasp, flown from his hopes, or betrayed his expectations; he still possessed a host of consolers and revivers, added to what yet remained of his truly attached family, who strove, with equal fidelity and vivacity, to lighten and brighten the years yet lent to their friendly efforts.

At the head of this honourable list, and, for Dr. Burney, of every other, since the loss of Mr. Crisp and Mr. Bewley, would have risen Mr. Twining, had his society been attainable: but Mr. Twining was so seldom in London, that their meetings became as rare as they were precious. His correspondence however, still maintained its pre-eminence; and it is hardly too much to say, that the letters of Mr. Twining were received with a brighter welcome than the visits of almost any other person.

[Pg 323]

First, therefore, now, in positive, prevailing, and graceful activity of zeal to serve him in his own way, and furnish food to his ideas, with temptation to his spirits and humour for its welcome, must be placed his ever faithful and generous friend, and, by proxy, his god-child, Mrs. Crewe; who prized him equally as a counsellor and a companion.

Far different from all that belongs to this lady are the records that further unfold his broken intercourse with Mr. Greville; and most painful to him was it to turn from the fairness of right reason, and the steadfastness of constancy, which were unvaryingly manifested in the attachment of Mrs. Crewe, to the wayward character, and irrational claims of his erst first patron and friend, her father; who, emerging, nevertheless, from the apathetic gloom into which he had fallen on the first public breaking up of his establishment, had started a spirited resolution to hit upon a new, unknown, unheard-of walk in life, to give recruit to his fortune, and lustre to his name.

Eagerly he looked around for some striking object that might fix him to a point; but all was chaos to the disturbed glare of his ill-directed vision. His internal resources were too diffuse and unsystematized, to fit him for being the chief of any new enterprise; yet, to be an [Pg 324] agent, a deputy, a second, he thought more intolerable than danger, distress, debt, difficulty, nay, destruction.

Sick, then, at heart, and self-abandoned for every purpose of active life, partly from despair, partly from ostentation, he plunged all he could yet command of faculty into the study of metaphysics; a study which, from his nervous irritability, soon made all commerce with his friends become impracticable rather than difficult.


The Memorialist had the comfort, however, to leave the Doctor always eagerly solicited to the society, or honoured with the correspondence of the noble Marquis of Aylesbury, and the liberal Earl of Lonsdale, inclusively with their singularly amiable families: and sought equally by the all-accomplished Dowager Lady Templeton, by Lady Manvers, Lady Mary Duncan, Mrs. Garrick, the Marchioness of Thomond, Mrs. Ord, Lord Cardigan, Mr. Coxe, Mr. Pepys, the still celebrated, though fading away Mrs. Montagu, the sagacious and polished Mrs. Boscawen, and the inimitable Lockes.

And while, in general friendship, such was the nourishment for his [Pg 325] gratitude—that feeling which, when not the most oppressive, is the most delightful in human associations—his love of literature, science, and the arts, had food equally nutritive with Mr. Malone, from his spirit of research after facts, incidents, and all the shades and shadows of the great or marked characters that, erst, had been objects of renown.

With Mr. Courtney, though utterly dissimilar in politics, for his wit, sense, and general agreeability.

With Mr. Rogers, for the coincident elegance and philanthropy of his disposition with his poetry.

With Sir George Beaumont, from a vivid sympathy of taste in all the arts.

With Mr. Windham, from a union the most perfect in sentiment, in principles, and in literature.

And by the President of the Royal Society, Sir Joseph Bankes, the Doctor, from his own universal thirst of knowledge, and uncommon capacity for receiving, retaining, and naturalizing its gifts, was welcomed on public days as a worthy brother of the learned and studious; and in the hours of private conviviality was courted yet more from the gaiety of his humour and the entertainment of his anecdotes; [Pg 326] Sir Joseph, when unbent from the state of Newton’s chair, being ever merrily charmed to reciprocate sportive nonsense; various remnants of which, laughingly amusing, but too ludicrous from the President of a scientific society for the press, are amongst the posthumous collections of the Doctor.

With all these his social hilarity was in constant circulation, kept alive by their kindness, and invigorated by their plaudits; which rendered such commerce as medicinal to his health as to his pleasure, from its sane and active spur to what constitutes the happiest portion of our mundane composition, animal spirits.

But the intercourse the most delighting to his fancy and his feelings, was through an increase of attachment for Lady Clarges. Yet melancholy was the cause of this augmented sympathy; melancholy then, and afterwards mournful. To the pleasing view of the personal likeness to his Susanna which had first endeared Lady Clarges to his sight; to the soothing sensations excited by those vocal notes in which a similarity of sound was so grateful to his ears, was now superadded another resemblance, as far more touching as it was less exhilarating; the [Pg 327] health of Lady Clarges, never robust, was now in apparent, though not yet alarming, decline. This, altogether, occasioned a tender interest that clung to the breast of the Doctor, first with added regard, and afterwards with suffering solicitude.

In all, however, that was most efficient in good, most solid, most serious, most essential in comfort as well as elegance, the noble kindness of the Duke of Portland took the lead. His magnificent hospitality was nearly without parallel. The select invitations upon select occasions to Burlington House, with which his favour to the Doctor had begun, were succeeded by general ones for all times and all seasons; and with injunctions that the Doctor would choose his own days, and adjust their frequency completely by his own convenience.

This carte blanche of admission at will was next extended from Burlington House to Bulstrode Park; where he was found so agreeable by the noble host, and so pleasing to the noble family, that, in a short time, the Duke urged him to take possession of an appropriated apartment, and to consider himself to be completely at home in that sumptuous dwelling; where he had his mornings with undisturbed liberty, wholly at his own disposal; where he even dined, according [Pg 328] to the state of his health and spirits, at the Duke’s table, or in his own parlour; and where, though welcomed in any part of the day to every part of the house, he was never troubled with any inquiry for non-appearance, except at the evening’s assemblage; though not unfrequently the Duke made him personal visits of such affectionate freedom, as signally to endear to him this splendid habitation.

So impressive, indeed, was the regard of his Grace for Dr. Burney, and so animated was the gratitude of its return, that the enjoyments of Bulstrode Park, with all their refined luxuries, and their cultivated scenery, soon became less than secondary; they were nearly as nothing in the calculation of the Doctor, compared with what he experienced from the cordial conversation and kindness of the Duke.

Such, added to his family circle, were the auspices under which, to her great consolation, his daughter d’Arblay left Dr. Burney in April, 1802.


Dr. Burney, upon the arrival in France of his daughter d’Arblay, for the stated year, opened with her a continental correspondence, [Pg 329] prudent, i.e. silent, in regard to politics; but communicative and satisfactory on family affairs and interests; which, on her part, was sustained by all the trust that, at such times, and from such a quarter, could be hazarded. She knew the passing pleasure, at least, with which he would read all that she could venture to write on the new scenes now before her; which were replete with objects, prospects, and ideas to give occupation to Conjecture and Expectation, of more vivacity and mental movement than had been offered to the thought of man for many preceding ages.

And, as her filial letters, from the influence of Mrs. Crewe with Mr. Pelham,[66] passed through the hands of Mr. Merry, the English Minister, she freely related various personal occurrences; though she abstained, of course, from any risk of betraying to the police, through a surprised correspondence, her private opinions, or secret feelings upon the vast new theatre of civil, political, and martial manoeuvres of which she now became, in some measure, a spectatress. Whatever looked Forward, or looked Backward, at that critical juncture, was dangerous for the Pen: to be acquiescent with what was Present alone [Pg 330] was safety.

Dr. Burney, upon this separation, redoubled the vigilance of his self-exertions for turning to account every moment of his existence. And his spirits appeared to be equal to every demand upon their efforts. In his first letter to Paris, May 20, 1802, he says:

“I hope, now, the two nations will heartily shake hands, and not be quiet only themselves, but keep the rest of the world quiet. My hurries are such at present, as to oblige me to draw deeper than ever upon my sinking-fund.[67] Business, and more numerous engagements than I have ever yet had, swallow all my time; and this enormous Cyclopedia fills up all my thoughts. I have been long an A.B.C. derian; and now am become so for life.”

In another letter of the same year, written a few months later, the Cyclopedia is no longer proclaimed to be the principal, but the exclusive occupation of the Doctor. The indefatigable eagerness of its pursuit, will best appear from his own account:

July 1st, 1802.—I have this day taken leave, for this year, of my town business, which broke into three precious mornings of my week, shivered the lord knows how many links of the chain of my Cyclopedia, [Pg 331] and lost me even the interval of time from the trouble of collecting the broken fragments of my materials, and re-putting them together.

“In order to form some idea of the total absorption of my present life, by this Herculean labour, added to my usual hurricanes during the town season, a delightful letter of Twining himself, which I received some weeks ago, remains unanswered! I had a mind to see what I could really do in twelve months, by driving the quill at every possible moment that I could steal from business or repose, by day and by night, in bed and up; and, with all this stir and toil, I have found it impracticable to finish three letters of the alphabet!”

How fortunate—may it not be said how benign?—was the invisibility to coming events at the parental and filial moment of the late separation! an invisibility that spared from fruitless disturbance the greater part of that promised year that was to have ended with the balm of re-union, by hiding the fresh proof with which it was labouring to manifest the never-ending, yet never-awaited imperfection and fallacy of human arrangements.

But grievous, however procrastinated, was the light that too soon broke into that invisibility, when, almost at the moment of happy expectation, Dr. Burney had the shock of hearing that war was again declared with France! And dire, most dire and afflicting to his [Pg 332] daughter, was the similar information, of learning that Buonaparte had peremptorily ordered Lord Whitworth to quit Paris in a specified number of hours: and that a brief term was dictatorially fixed for either following that Ambassador, or immoveably remaining in France till the contest should be over.

The very peculiar position, in a military point of view, in which M. d’Arblay now stood in his native country, made it impossible for him to leave it, at so critical a juncture, in the hurried manner that the imperious decree of the French Dictator commanded. It might seem deserting his post! He felt, therefore, compelled, by claims of professional observance, to abide the uncertain storm where its first thunder rolled; and to risk, at its centre, the hazards of its circulation, and the chances of its course.

The unhappiness caused by this decision was wholly unmixed with murmurs from Dr. Burney, whose justice and candour acknowledged it, in such a situation, to be indispensable.

War thus again broken forth, few and concise were the lines, not letters, that kept up any correspondence between Dr. Burney and Paris; passing unsealed when they came by the post; and even undirected, as [Pg 333] accidental papers, when they were intrusted to private hands: so great was the dread in this English Memorialist of raising in the French Government any suspicion of cabal or conspiracy, by any sort of written intercourse with England.[68]

Nothing, therefore, at this time, can be drawn for these Memoirs from the letters of Dr. Burney: and every article or paragraph for the next two or three years, will be copied, or abridged, from the Doctor’s posthumous manuscripts.

[Pg 334]


In 1803, one short record alone has been found. That he wrote no more journal-anecdotes that year, may be chiefly attributed to his then intense application to the Cyclopedia. Perhaps, also, his spirits for his Diary might be depressed by so abrupt a privation of another daughter; not, indeed, by the hand of death, yet by a species of exile that had no certain or visible term.

The following is the single record of 1803 above-mentioned:

“Beethoven’s compositions for the piano-forte were first brought to England by Miss Tate, a most accomplished dilletante singer and player. I soon afterwards heard some of his instrumental works, which are such as incline me to rank him amongst the first musical authors of the present century. He was a disciple of Mozart, and is now but three or four and twenty years of age.”

1804 turned out far more copious in events and recitals; though saddening, however philosophical and consonant to the common laws of nature, are the reflections and avowals of Dr. Burney upon his this year’s birth-day.

[Pg 335]


From the Doctor’s Journal.

“In 1804, in the month of April, I completed my 78th year, and decided to relinquish teaching and my musical patients; for both my ears and my eyes were beginning to fail me. I could still hear the most minute musical tone; but in conversation I lost the articulation, and was forced to make people at the least distance from me repeat everything that they said. Sometimes the mere tone of voice, and the countenance of the speaker, told me whether I was to smile or to frown; but never so explicitly as to allow me to venture at any reply to what was said! Yet I never, seemingly, have been more in fashion at any period of my life than this spring; never invited to more conversaziones, assemblées, dinners, and concerts. But I feel myself less and less able to bear a part in general conversation every day, from the failure of memory, particularly in names; and I am become fearful of beginning any story that occurs to me, lest I should be stopped short by hunting for Mr. How d’ye call him’s style and titles.

“I was very near-sighted from about my 30th year; but though it is usually thought that that sort of sight improves with age, I have not discovered that the notion was well founded. My sight became not only more short, but more feeble. Instead of a concave glass, I was forced to have recourse to one that was convex, and that magnified highly, for pale ink and small types.”

The Editor must here remark, that Dr. Burney never required the convex glass of which he speaks, for the perusal of either printed or written [Pg 336] characters, except when they were presented to him at a distance. He read to his very last days every book and every letter that he could hold near to his eyes, without any species of spectacles.

30th April. I finished this month by a cordial domestic dinner at Mr. Crewe’s; where, in the evening, was held the ambulatory ladies’ concert.”

In the month of the following May, a similar ebullition of political rancour with that which so difficultly had been conquered for Mr. Canning, foamed over the ballot box of the Literary Club to the exclusion of Mr. Rogers; by whom it was the less deserved, from its contrast to that poet’s own widely opposite liberality, in never suffering political opinions to shut out, either from his hospitality or his friendship, those who invite them by congenial sentiments on other points.

The ensuing page is copied from Dr. Burney’s own manuscript observations upon this occurrence:

May 1st. I was at the Club, at which Rogers, put up by Courtney, and seconded by me, was ballotted for, and blackballed; I believe on account of his politics. There can, indeed, be nothing else against him. He is a good poet, has a refined taste in all the arts; has [Pg 337] a select library of the best editions of the best authors in most languages; has very fine pictures; very fine drawings; and the finest collection I ever saw of the best Etruscan vases; and, moreover, he gives the best dinners to the best company of men of talents and genius of any man I know; the best served, and with the best wines, liqueurs, &c. He is not fond of talking politics, for he is no Jacobin-enragé, though I believe him to be a principled republican, and therefore in high favour with Mr. Fox and his adherents. But he is never obtrusive; and neither shuns nor dislikes a man for being of a different political creed to himself: it is therefore, that he and I, however we may dissent upon that point, concur so completely on almost every other, that we always meet with pleasure. And, in fact, he is much esteemed by many persons belonging to the government, and about the court. His books of prints of the greatest engravers from the greatest masters, in history, architecture, and antiquities, are of the first class. His house in St. James’s Place, looking into the Green Park, is deliciously situated, and furnished with great taste. He seemed very desirous of being elected a member of the club, to which, in fact, his talents would have done honour; few men are more fitted to contribute to its entertainment.”

The Doctor, long afterwards, in talking over this anecdote, said:

“There is no accounting for such gross injustice in the club; except by acknowledging that there are demagogues amongst them who enjoy as the highest privilege of an old member, the power of excluding, with or without reason, a new one.”

[Pg 338]

In the same month Dr. Burney had the professional gratification of receiving a perpetual ticket of admission to the Concerts of Ancient Music, enclosed in the following letter from the Earl of Dartmouth:

Berkeley Square,

May 27th.

“Lord Dartmouth is happy to have it in charge from his brother-Directors of the Ancient Concerts, to present the enclosed General Ticket to Dr. Burney; and to beg his acceptance of it as a token of their sense of his merits in the cause of Music; and especially that part of it which is more immediately the object of their attention: as well as of the respect in which they all hold his person and character.”

A copy of his thanks remains, written in a very fair hand, and on the same day:

To the Right Honourable the Earl of Dartmouth, Lord Chamberlain of His Majesty’s Household, and one of the Directors of the Concerts of Ancient Music.

“Dr. Burney presents his most humble respects to the Earl of Dartmouth, and to the rest of the Right Honourable and Honourable Directors of the Concerts of Ancient Music; and feels himself flattered beyond his powers of expression, with the liberal testimony of the esteem and approbation with which he has been honoured by the illustrious Patrons of an Establishment at the formation of which he had the honour to be present; and for its prosperity constantly zealous.

[Pg 339]

“So uncommon and unexpected a token of approbation of his exertions in the cultivation and cause of an art which he has long laboured, and still labours to improve, as well as to record its progress, and the talents of its Professors, from the time of Orpheus to that of Handel; will gild his latter days, and generate a flattering hope that his diligence and perseverance have been regarded in a more favourable light than, in his vainest moments, he had ever dared to hope or imagine.

Chelsea College,

27th May, 1804.

Here stop all journals, all notes, all memorandums of Dr. Burney for the rest of this year. Not another word remains bearing its date.

The severest tax upon longevity that, apart from his parental ties, could be inflicted, was levied upon him at this time, by the heart-harrowing stroke of the death of Mr. Twining.

It was not merely now, in the full tide of sorrow, that Dr. Burney could neither speak nor write upon the loss of this last-elected bosom friend; it was a subject from which he shrunk ever after, both in conversation and by letter: it was a grief too concentrated for complaint: it demanded not a vent by which, with time, it might be solaced; but a crush by which, though only morbidly, it might be subdued: religion and philosophy might then lead, conjointly, to calm [Pg 340] endurance.

And not alone, though from superior sorrow aloft, stood this deprivation. It was followed by other strokes of similar fatality, each of which, but for this pre-eminent calamity, would have proved of tragic effect: for he had successively to mourn, First, the favourite the most highly prized by his deplored early partner, as well as by her successor; and who came nearest to his own feelings from the tender ties in which she had been entwined—Dolly Young; for so, to the last hour, she was called by those who had early known and loved her, from a certain caressing pleasure annexed to that youthful appellation, that seemed in unison with the genuine simplicity of her character.

Second, Mr. Coxe, the oldest and most attached of his associates from early life.

Third, Lord Macartney, a far newer connexion, but one whose lively intelligence, and generous kindness, cut off all necessity for the usual routine of time to fasten attachment. And with Lord Macartney, from the retired life which his Lordship generally led after his embassy to China, the Doctor’s intercourse had become more than ever amical. This, therefore, was a loss to his spirits and exertions, as [Pg 341] well as to his affections, which he felt with strong regret.

Fourth, that distinguished lady whose solid worth and faithful friendship compensated for manners the most uncouth, and language the most unpolished,—Lady Mary Duncan.

Fifth, the celebrated Elizabeth Carter; in whom he missed an admiring as well as an admired friend, the honour of whose attachment both for him and for his daughter, is recorded by her nephew, Mr. Pennington, in her Memoirs.

The Doctor truly revered in Mrs. Carter the rare union of humility with learning, and of piety with cheerfulness. He frequently, and always with pleasure, conveyed her to or from her home, when they visited the same parties; and always enjoyed those opportunities in comparing notes with her, on such topics as were not light enough for the large or mixed companies which they were just seeking, or had just left: topics, however, which they always treated with simplicity; for Mrs. Carter, though natively more serious, and habitually more studious than Dr. Burney, was as free from pedantry as himself.

By temperance of life and conduct, activity of body, and equanimity of [Pg 342] mind, she nearly reached her 90th year in such health and strength as to be able to make morning calls upon her favourite friends, without carriage, companion, or servant. And with all her modest humility upon her personal acquirements, she had a dignified pride of independence, that invested her with the good sense to feel rather exalted than ashamed, at owing her powers of going forth to her own unaided self-exertion.

And Sixth, the man who, once the most accomplished of his race, had for half his life loved the Doctor with even passionate regard—Mr. Greville.

All these sad, and truly saddening catastrophes were unknown, in their succession, to the Memorialist; whom they only reached in the aggregate of their loss, when, after a long, unexplained, and ill-boding silence, Dr. Burney imposed upon himself the hard task of announcing the irremediable affliction he had sustained through these reiterated and awful visitations of death. And then, to spare his worn and harassed sensibility any development of his feelings, he thus summed up the melancholy list in one short paragraph:

“Time,” he says, “has made sad havoc amongst my dearest friends of late——Twining!——Dolly Young; Mr. Coxe; Lord Macartney; Lady Mary [Pg 343] Duncan;—poor Elizabeth Carter a few months ago;—Mr. Greville only a few weeks!”

And, kindly, then to lighten the grief he knew he must inflict by a catalogue that included Mr. Twining and Dolly Young, he hastens to add:

“Mr., Mrs., and Miss[69] Locke, however; Mrs. Angerstein; Mrs. Crewe; Miss Cambridge; Mrs. Garrick; Lady Templetown; Lady Keith, ci-devant Miss Thrale; the Marchioness of Thomond, ci-devant Miss Palmer; Mrs. Waddington; and many more of your most faithful votaries, still live, and never see me without urgent inquiries after you. Your dear Mrs. Locke, who has had a dreadful fit of illness, and losses enough to break so tender a heart, is perfectly recovered at last; and, I am told, is as well, and as sweet and endearing a character to her friends as ever.”

He then permits himself to go back to one parting phrase:

“But though, in spite of age and infirmities, I have lately more than doubled the number of friends I have lost—the niches of those above-mentioned can never be filled!”

From this time he reverted to them no more.

Of his ancient and long-attached friend, Mr. Greville, little and merely melancholy is what now can be added. His death was rather a shock than a loss; but it considerably disturbed the Doctor. Mr. [Pg 344] Greville had gone on in his metaphysical career, fatiguing his spirits, harassing his understanding, and consuming the time of his friends nearly as much as his own, till, one by one, each of them eluded him as a foe. How could it be otherwise, when the least dissonance upon any point upon which he opened a controversial disquisition, so disordered his nervous system, that he could take no rest till he had re-stated all his arguments in an elaborate, and commonly sarcastic epistle? which necessarily provoked a paper war, so prolific of dispute, that, if the adversary had not regularly broken up the correspondence after the first week or two, it must have terminated by consuming the stores of every stationer in London.

His wrath upon such desertions was too scornful for any appeal. Yet so powerful was still the remembrance of his brilliant opening into life, and of his many fine qualities, that his loss to society was never mentioned without regret, either by those who abandoned him, or by those whom he discarded.

Dr. Burney was one of the last, from the peculiarity of their intercourse, to have given it up, had it not been, he declared, [Pg 345] necessary to have had two lives for sustaining it without hostility; one of them for himself, his family, and his life’s purposes; the other wholly for Mr. Greville;—who never could be content with any competition against his personal claims to the monopoly of the time and the thoughts of his friends.

Yet whatever may have disturbed, nothing seems to have shortened his existence, since, though nearly alienated from his family, estranged from his connexions, and morbidly at war with the world, the closing scene of all his gaieties and all his failures, did not shut in till some time after his 90th year.

Lady Mary Duncan bequeathed to Dr. Burney the whole of her great and curious collection of Music, printed and manuscript, with £600.


Upon the death of this liberal and honourable old friend, the Doctor re-opened a correspondence with his faithful and most deservedly cherished favourite, Pacchierotti, which the difficulties of communication from the irruption of Buonaparte into Italy, had [Pg 346] latterly impeded, though not broken.

The answer of Pacchierotti to the account of his loss of this his earliest and greatest benefactress in England, was replete with the lamentation and sorrow to which his susceptible heart was a prey, upon every species of affliction that assailed either himself or those to whom he was attached; and for Lady Mary, his gratitude and regard were the most devoted; for though he saw, with keen perception, her singularities, he had too much sense to let them outweigh in his estimation her benevolence, and her many good qualities.

He knew, also, for she published it dauntlessly to the world, with what energy she admired him; and he suffered not his gratitude to lose any of its respect from the ridicule which he saw excited when they appeared together in public; though frequently and anxiously he wished and sought to withdraw from the general gaze which her notice of him attracted. And he often spoke with serious simplicity of concern to Dr. Burney, of the mannish air, and stride, and mien, with which she would defyingly turn short upon any under-bred scoffer, who looked at her with vulgar curiosity, when he had the honour to accompany her on [Pg 347] the public walks. And once, in the zeal of his attachment, upon her asking him, in her abrupt manner, to tell her, unreservedly, what he thought of her; he took hold, he said, of that affable inquisition to frankly, in his peculiar English, answer: “Why, madam, if I must, to be sincere,—I think your ladyship is rather too much of the masculine.”

“No?—you don’t say so?” cried she, with the utmost surprise, but without taking the smallest offence. “And I am of the opinion,” added Pacchierotti, in relating the anecdote to Dr. Burney, “that she was not at all of my advice in that observation; for she ever thinks she does nothing but the common; though certainly it is of the other nature; for it must to be confessed, that, with all her goodness, she is not one of the literature.”

The letter upon the information of Lady Mary’s death, is the last from Pacchierotti that is preserved in the collection of the Doctor; and, probably, the last that was received; for the troubles of Italy made all commerce with it dangerous, save for those who could write with unqualified approbation of the powers that were, be they of what class they might.

Not such was the correspondence of Dr. Burney with Pacchierotti. They [Pg 348] each wrote with the freedom of sincerity, and the kindness of sympathy, upon every subject, mental, literary, or political, that occurred to them: and while Pacchierotti could bemoan without danger the invasion and oppression of his country, it was soothing to his disturbance to deposit his apprehensions with so wise a friend: while to Dr. Burney it was a real pleasure to keep alive an intercourse so full of endearing recollections. Nevertheless, from the year 1808, the correspondence was wholly cut off by political dangers.

Amongst the few remaining persons to whom Pacchierotti may still from memory, not tradition, be known, there are none, probably, who will not hear with satisfaction, that he finished his long career in the serene enjoyment of well-merited, and elaborately-earned independence. Modestly, and wisely, he had retired from the instability of popular favour, and the uncertainty of public remuneration, while yet his fame was at its height; sparing thus his sensitive mind from the dangers of caprice, inconstancy, jealousy, or neglect. His residence was at Padua; his dwelling was a palazza, elegantly furnished, and rendered a delicious abode to him by spacious and beautiful gardens.

[Pg 349]

He lived to the year 1824, and was some time past eighty when he expired.[70]


Fortunately for Dr. Burney, another year was not permitted wholly to wane away, ere circumstances occurred of so much movement and interest, that they operated like a species of amnesty upon the sufferings of the year just gone by; and enabled him to pass over submissively his heavy privations; and, once again, to go cheerfully on in life with what yet remained for contentment.

The chief mover to this practical philosophy was the indefatigable Mrs. Crewe; who by degrees, skilful and kind, so lured him from mourning and retirement to gratitude and society, that his seclusion insensibly ended by enlisting him in more diffuse social entertainments, than any in which he had heretofore mixed.

[Pg 350]

His accepted dinner appointments of this time, enroll in his pocket-book the following names—

Mrs. Crewe    Lady Melbourne
Mr. Windham    Sir Geo. and Lady Beaumont
Mr. Rogers    Lady Manvers
Mr. Malone    Lady Cork
Bishop of Winchester    Lady Cork
Sir Joseph Bankes    Mr. Wilbraham
Lady Salisbury    Miss Shepley
Duke and Duchess of Leeds    Mr. Angerstein
Duke of Portland    Mrs. Ord
Marquis of Aylesbury    Mrs. Waddington
Lord and Lady Lonsdale    Mr. Hammersley
Lord and Lady Bruce    Mr. Thompson
Marquis and Marchioness Thomond    Mr. Walker

And the Right Hon. George Canning.

He rarely missed the Concert of Ancient Music.

He generally dined at the appointed meetings of the Club; where he has peculiarly noted a still brilliant assemblage, in naming

Earl SpencerMr. Marsden
Sir Joseph BankesMr. Frere
Sir William Scott[71] Dr. Lawrence
The Dean of WestminsterMr. Malone
The Master of the RollsMr. Windham
Mr. EllisMr. Canning

And Charles Fox in the Chair.

[Pg 351]

But the climax of these convivial honours was dining with his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.[72]

Of this, as it will appear, he wrote largely, with intention to be copied precisely.

And about this time, Dr. Burney received a splendid mark of filial devotion to which he was truly sensible, and of which—who shall wonder?—he was justly proud, from his son Dr. Charles.

This was a request to possess the Doctor’s bust in marble.

Such a wish was, of course, frankly acceded to; and Nollekens was the sculptor fixed upon for its execution; not only from the deserved height to which the fame of that artist had risen, but from old regard to the man, which the Doctor always believed to be faithfully and gratefully returned; conceiving him, though under-bred and illiterate, to be honest and worthy; yet frequently remarking how strikingly he exemplified the caprice, or locality, of taste, as well as of genius, which in one point could be truly refined, while in every other it was wanting.

Thirty casts of this bust, for family, friends, or favourites, were taken off; and the first of them Dr. Charles had the honour of laying [Pg 352] at the feet of the Prince of Wales: who, when next he saw Dr. Burney, smilingly said: “I have got your bust, Dr. Burney, and I’ll put it on my organ. I got it on purpose. I shall place it there instead of Handel.”

In the month of May, 1805, Dr. Burney, through a private hand, re-opened, after a twelvemonth’s mournful silence, his correspondence with his absent daughter, by the following kind and cheering, though brief and politically cautious lines:

“To Madame d’Arblay.

Chelsea College, May, 1805.

“My dear Fanny,

“The notice I received of our good friend, Miss Sayr’s,[73] departure for the continent, has been communicated to me so short a time before its taking place, that I am merely able to give you signe de vie; and tell you that, cough excepted, I am in tolerable health, for an octogenaire; with the usual infirmities in eyes, ears, and memory.

“God bless you, my dear daughter. Give my kindest love to our dear M. d’Arblay, and to little Alexander.

“Your ever affectionate father,

“Chas. Burney.

“As blind as a beetle, as deaf as a post,
Whose longevity now is all he can boast.”

[Pg 353]

The following is a paragraph of another letter to Paris, written about the same time, but conveyed by another private hand:

“I passed some days very pleasantly at Bulstrode Park in the Easter week. The good Duke of Portland came himself to invite me, and sat nearly an hour by my fireside, conversing in the most open and unreserved manner possible upon matters and things. Our party at Bulstrode had the ever-admirable Lady Templeton, her two younger daughters,[74] and their brother Greville,[75] who is an excellent musician, and a very charming young man, &c. &c. The Duke’s daughters, Lady Mary Bentinck and Lady Charlotte Greville, did the honours very politely; and Lord William Bentinck, [76] one of the Duke’s son, who was in Italy with Marshal Suwarrow, and has since been in Egypt, was also there; and he and I are become inkle-weavers. I like him much; and we are to meet again in town. We never sat down less than thirty each day at dinner; and we danced, and we sung, and we walked, and we rode, and we prayed together at chapel, and were so sociable and agreeable ‘you’ve no notion,’ as Miss Larolles would say.”

What will now follow, will be copied from the memoir book of Dr. Burney of this month of May; which, after a dreary winter of sorrow, seemed to have been hailed as genially by the Historian of Music, as by the [Pg 354] minstrelsy of the woods.

“1805.—In May, at a concert at Lady Salisbury’s, I was extremely pleased, both with the music and the performance. The former was chiefly selected by the Prince of Wales. * * * I had not been five minutes in the concert room, before a messenger, sent to me by his Royal Highness, gave me a command to join him, which I did eagerly enough; when his Royal Highness graciously condescended to order me to sit down by him, and kept me to that high honour the whole evening. Our ideas, by his engaging invitation, were reciprocated upon every piece, and its execution. After the concert, Lady Melbourne, who, when Miss Milbanke, had been one of my first scholars on my return to London from Lynn, obligingly complained that she had often vainly tried to tempt me to dine with her, but would make one effort more now, by his Royal Highness’s permission, that I might meet, at Lord Melbourne’s table, with the Prince of Wales.

“Of course I expressed, as well as I could, my sense of so high and unexpected an honour; and the Prince, with a smile of unequalled courtesy, said, ‘Aye, do come, Dr. Burney, and bring your son with you.’ And then, turning to Lady Melbourne, he added,—‘It is singular that the father should be the best, and almost the only good judge of music in the kingdom; and his son the best scholar.’

“Nothing, however, for the present, came of this: but, early in July, at a concert at Lady Newark’s, I first saw, to my knowledge, their Royal Highnesses the Dukes of Cumberland and Cambridge. These Princes had lived so much abroad, that I thought I had never before beheld them; till I found my mistake, by their both speaking to me, when I [Pg 355] stood near them, not only familiarly, but with distinction; which I attribute to their respect to the noble graciousness they might have observed in their august brother; whose notice had something in it so engaging as always to brighten as well as honour me.

“But I heard nothing more of the projected dinner, till I met Lady Melbourne at an assembly at the Dowager Lady Sefton’s; when I ventured to tell her Ladyship that I feared the dinner which my son and I were most ambitious should take place, was relinquished. ‘By no means,’ she answered, ‘for the Prince really desired it.’ And, after a note or two of the best bred civility from her Ladyship, the day was settled by his Royal Highness, for—

July 9th.—The Prince did not make the company wait at Whitehall, (Lord Melbourne’s,); he was not five minutes beyond the appointed time, a quarter past six o’clock: though he is said never to dine at Carlton House before eight. The company consisted, besides the Prince and the Lord and Lady of the house, with their two sons and two daughters, of Earls Egremont and Cowper, Mr. and Lady Caroline Lamb, Mr. Lutterel, Mr. Horner, and Mr. Windham.

“The dinner was sumptuous, of course, &c.

“I had almost made a solemn vow, early in life, to quit the world without ever drinking a dry dram; but the heroic virtue of a long life was overset by his Royal Highness, through the irresistible temptation to hobbing and nobbing with such a partner in a glass of cherry brandy! The spirit of it, however, was so finely subdued, that it was not more potent than a dose of peppermint water; which I have always called a dram.

“The conversation was lively and general the chief part of the evening; but about midnight it turned upon music, on which subject his Royal Highness deigned so wholly to address himself to me, that we kept it [Pg 356] up a full half hour, without any one else offering a word. We were, generally, in perfect tune in our opinions; though once or twice I ventured to dissent from his Royal Highness; and once he condescended to come over to my argument: and he had the skill, as well as nobleness, to put me as perfectly at my ease in expressing my notions, as I should have been with any other perfectly well-bred man.

“The subject was then changed to classical lore; and here his Royal Highness, with similar condescension, addressed himself to my son, as to a man of erudition whose ideas, on learned topics, he respected; and a full discussion followed, of several literary matters.

“When the Prince rose to go to another room, we met Lady Melbourne and her daughter, just returned from the opera; to which they had been while we sat over the wine, (and eke the cherry brandy); and from which they came back in exact time for coffee! The Prince here, coming up to me, most graciously took my hand, and said, ‘I am glad we got, at last, to our favourite subject.’ He then made me sit down by him, close to the keys of a piano-forte; where, in a low voice, but face to face, we talked again upon music, and uttered our sentiments with, I may safely say, equal ease and freedom; so politely he encouraged my openness and sincerity.

“I then ventured to mention that I had a book in my possession that I regarded as the property of his Royal Highness. It was a set of my Commemoration of Handel, which I had had splendidly bound for permitted presentation through the medium of Lord St. Asaph; but which had not been received, from public casualties. His Royal Highness answered me with the most engaging good-humour, saying that he was now building a library, and that, when it was finished, mine should be the first book [Pg 357] placed in his collection. Nobody is so prompt at polite and gratifying compliments as this gracious Prince. I had no conception of his accomplishments. He quite astonished me by his learning, in conversing with my son, after my own musical tête à tête dialogue with him. He quoted Homer in Greek as readily as if quoting Dryden or Pope in English: and, in general conversation, during the dinner, he discovered a fund of wit and humour such as demonstrated him a man of reading and parts, who knew how to discriminate characters. He is, besides, an incomparable mimic. He counterfeited Dr. Parr’s lisp, language, and manner; and Kemble’s voice and accent, both on and off the stage, so accurately, so nicely, so free from caricature, that, had I been in another room, I should have sworn they had been speaking themselves. Upon the whole, I cannot terminate my account of this Prince better than by asserting it as my opinion, from the knowledge I acquired by my observations of this night, that he has as much conversational talent, and far more learning than Charles the Second; who knew no more, even of orthography, than Molière’s Bourgeois Gentilhomme.

“My next great concert was at Mr. Thomson’s, in Grosvenor-square. Before I arrived, from not knowing there was a Royal motive for every one to be early, I found the crowd of company so excessively great, that I was a considerable time before I could make my way into the music-room; which I found also so full, that not only I could not discern a place where I might get a seat, (and to stand the whole night in such a heat would have been impossible for me;) but also I could not discover a spot where I might look on even for a few minutes, to see what was going forwards, without being bodily jammed; except quite close to the orchestra; where alone there seemed a little breathing room left. To gain this desirable little opening, I ventured to follow [Pg 358] closely, as if of their party, two very fine ladies, who made their way, heaven knows how, to some sofa, I fancy, reserved for them. But what was my surprise, and shame, when, upon attaining thus my coveted harbour, I found I came bounce upon the Prince of Wales! from respect to whom alone no crowd had there resorted! I had no time, however, for repentance, and no room for apology; for that gracious and kind Prince laughed at my exploit, and shook me very heartily by the hand, as if glad to see me again; and obliged me to sit down by him immediately. Nor would he suffer me to relinquish my place, even to any of the Princes, his brothers, when they came to him! nor even to any fine lady! always making a motion to me, that was a command, to be quiet. We talked, as before, over every piece and performance, with full ease of expression to our thoughts: but how great was my gratification, when, upon going into a cooler room, between the acts, he put his hat on his seat, and said ‘Dr. Burney, will you take care of my place for me?’ thus obviating from my stay all fear of intrusion, by making it an obedience. And his notions about music so constantly agree with my own, that I know of no individual, male or female, with whom I talk about music with more sincerity, as well as pleasure, than with this most captivating Prince.

“Another time, at the Opera, the Prince of Wales, perceiving me in the pit, sent for me to his splendid box; and, making me take a snug seat close behind his Royal Highness, entered, with his usual vivacity, into discussions upon the performance; and so re-jeunied me by his gaiety and condescension, joined to his extraordinary judgment on musical subjects, that I held forth in return as if I had been but five-and-twenty!

“Soon after these festivities, I went to Bulstrode Park, where I had the grief to find the Duke more feeble and low-spirited than he had [Pg 359] been in town. He could not hear the motion of a carriage, and was seldom able to dine at the table. He merely walked a little in the flower-garden. There was no company, except one day at dinner; and for one night Lord and Lady Darnley. They came in while I was dressing, and I had not heard their names, and knew not who they were. Unacquainted, therefore, with the bigoted devotion to the exclusive merit of Handel that I had to encounter, I got into a hot dispute that I should else, at the Duke’s house, have certainly avoided. The expression, ‘modern refinements,’ happened to escape me, which both my lord and his lady, with a tone of consummate contempt, repeated: ‘Modern refinements, indeed!’ ‘Well, then,’ cried I, ‘let us call them modern changes of style and taste; for what one party calls refinements, the other, of course, constantly calls corruption and deterioration.’ They were quite irritated at this; and we all three then went to it ding-dong! I made use of the same arguments that I have so often used in my musical writings,—that ingenious men cannot have been idle during a century; and the language of sound is never stationary, any more than that of conversation and books. New modes of expression; new ideas from new discoveries and inventions, required new phrases: and in the cultivation of instruments, as well as of the voice, emulation would produce novelty, which, above all things, is wanted in music. And to say that the symphonies of Haydn, and the compositions of Mozart and Beethoven, have no merit, because they are not like Handel, Corelli, and Geminiani;—or to say that the singing of a Pacchierotti, a Marchese, a Banti, or a Billington, in their several styles, is necessarily inferior to singers and compositions of the days of Handel, is supposing time to stand still—

“I was going on, when the kind Duke, struck, I doubt not, by a view of the storm I was incautiously brewing, contrived to whisper in my ear, ‘You are upon tender ground, Dr. Burney!’

[Pg 360]

“I drew back, with as troublesome a fit of coughing as I could call to my aid; and during its mock operation, his Grace had the urbanity to call up a new subject.”


“——20, 1805.—The King, the Queen, and all the Royal Family in England, I believe, except the Prince and Princess of Wales, visited and inspected Chelsea College. They went over every ward, the Governor’s apartments, and all the offices; with the chapel, refectory, and even the kitchen. I was graciously summoned when they entered the chapel, and most graciously, indeed, received. The first thing the King said on my appearance, was, holding up both his hands as if astonished, ‘Ten years younger than when I saw you last, Dr. Burney!’ The first words of the Queen were, ‘How does Madame d’Arblay do?’ And after my answer, and humble thanks, she added in a low voice, ‘I am extremely obliged to you, Dr. Burney, for the hymn you sent me.’ ‘What? what?’ cried the King. Her Majesty answered: ‘The Russian air, Sir.’ ‘Ay, ay; it’s a very fine thing; but they performed it too slow. It wanted more spirit in the execution. They commonly perform too slow, and make things of that sort languid that should be animated.’

“He then illustrated his observation by examples taken from the sluggish performance of Acis and Galatea; in which I heartily coincided; particularising in my turn the trio of, ‘The Flocks shall leave the Mountains,’ ‘which loses,’ I said, ‘all its effect by being performed slowly. The two lovers are not complaining, nor accusing one another of infidelity or of cruelty; they are perfectly happy, and promising each other eternal constancy; the time, therefore, ought to mark liveliness, not melancholy: and the envy and jealousy of [Pg 361] Polypheme while exclaiming, “Rage! Fury! I cannot, cannot bear it!” sound so tame, when sung without the fire of quick expression, that they seem quite ridiculous: for he does bear it! and looks on to the sight of the lover’s happiness with very commendable patience and composure.’

“Their Majesties then both condescended to make some inquiries after my family, though by name only after my daughter d’Arblay. I heard from her very seldom, I answered; I was afraid of writing to her; and I saw she was afraid of writing to me. Buonaparte, I said, was so outrageous against this country, that I doubted not but that a sheet of blank paper that should pass between us, would be turned into a conspiracy! My grand-daughter Fanny Phillips, I mentioned, now lived with me: for she had often and most condescendingly been noticed by the Royal Family, during the time that my daughter d’Arblay had had the honour of belonging to the Queen’s establishment. The Queen said she had heard of my young companion from Lady Aylesbury. When I left their Majesties, I went in search of my grand-daughter, and brought her under my arm into the governor’s great room.

“The Queen no sooner perceived, than she graciously addressed her: while the King held up his hands at her growth since he had seen her, at the Palace, in her childhood. All the Princesses remembered, and spoke to her with the most pleasing kindness.

“‘And what are you doing now, Dr. Burney?’ said the King.

“‘I am writing for the new Cyclopedia, Sir.’

“‘I am glad the subject of music,’ he answered, ‘should be in such good hands.’

“And then, with an arch smile, he added: ‘For the essay writers, and [Pg 362] the periodical writers—are all, I believe, to a man, at this time, Jacobins.’

“And afterwards, with a good-humoured laugh, he said: ‘That disease (the Jacobin) was first caught here, I believe, by the poets; and then by the actors; and now the infection has caught all the singers, and dancers, and fiddlers!’

“‘Tis the shortest cut, Sir,’ I answered, ‘to make them all, what they all want to be, chiefs and masters severally themselves.’

“More seriously, then, the King said the contagion was so general only from the want of religion; without which all men were scrambling savages. ‘Religion,’ he added, ‘alone humanizes us.’

“Something being said, I forget what, about the Jew’s-row, Chelsea, his Majesty seemed fully apprised of its Bacchanalian character for the pensioners, as he directly quoted from Dryden,

“‘Drinking is the soldier’s pleasure!’

“And added, ‘when that ode is performing, and that line is singing, before Sir William Howe—I always give him a nod!’

“The King then resumed again his old favourite topic of amusement, my daughter d’Arblay’s concealed composition of Evelina; inquiring again and again into the various particulars of its contrivance and its discovery.

“I could not have been honoured with so much of his Majesty’s notice, but that, being at home at Chelsea College, I was naturally permitted to follow in his suite the whole morning; and all I have written passed at different intervals, between matters of higher import.”

May 25.—I heard, with much musical concern, from Salomon, of the sudden death of young Pinto, who was infinitely the most extraordinary [Pg 363] early violin player, I believe, of any age or country. When quite a child, he used to lead and direct private concerts at Lady Clarges’; not only correcting old performers from the Opera band, who played under him, with his tongue, but with his instrument; informing them of the time and the expression of various movements and passages, just as Geminiani used to do at sixty; and which professors would then bear from nobody else. When he first set about studying composition, he read everything he could lay hold of; and taught himself the piano-forte; and found out the most commodious manner of fingering the most difficult and extraneous keys. He composed a set of lessons in six of the most unusual keys in the system, which no one but himself could play. It is generally believed that this most ingenious youth, who would listen to no control, shortened his existence by extreme irregularity of life. A matter worth recording, as a warning to check the ill-judged and fatal presumption of genius.”

The ensuing accounts, written by Dr. Burney, of the next successors to Sir George Howard, as Governors of Chelsea Hospital, are without date:


“I had the great pleasure, for six months, of seeing my old, honourable, and partial friend, General Lord Townshend, Governor of Chelsea Hospital. His Lordship was the immediate successor of Sir George Howard; and he frequently called upon me, as upon a favourite old provincial friend, during that period. His great flow of wit and humour made all intercourse with him gay and agreeable.”

[Pg 364]

Dr. Burney was wont to relate that, upon his congratulatory visit to the Marquis of Townshend, after his second nuptials, his lordship presented the Doctor to his beautiful bride, one of the three Miss Montgomeries, who were known, at that epoch, by the name of the Three Graces. The terms of the presentation were so full of kindness and regard, that her ladyship instantly held out to him her fair hand, which, being gloveless, he could not, he said, do otherwise than press to his lips; upon which Lord Townshend exclaimed, “Why, how now, Burney! She is not the Queen!” “She is your Queen, my Lord,” he replied; “and I am glad to pay her homage.” Lord Townshend was so little offended by this repartee, that, when the Doctor retired, his lordship descended with him to the hall, and, calling to the porter, said, “Look at this gentleman! Look at him well! D’ye hear? And whenever he comes, be it when it will, take care you always let him in!”


“Sir William Fawcet, the successor of Lord Townshend, was one of the most honourable of men; and he is worthy of particular notice, from the credit that his nomination did to the government of this country. He was friendly, benevolent, patient, and even humble; which rarely [Pg 365] indeed is the case with men exalted from an inferior condition to professional honours, and dignity of station, such as never could have entered into their expectations when they began their career. Sir William is said to have opened his military life in the ranks; but by his bravery, diligence, and zeal in the service, as well as by his integrity, temper, and prudent conduct, to have mounted entirely by merit to the summit of his profession; regularly acquiring the good-will and favour of his superior officers, till he obtained that of the Commander in chief;[77] through whose liberal recommendation he rose to the countenance and patronage of his Majesty himself.

“He was as firm in probity and honour as in courage. I never knew a man of more amiable simplicity, or more steady temper. Madame Geoffrin, of Paris, used to say of the Baron d’Holbech, that he was simplement simple. If such a phrase could be naturalized in English, it would exactly suit Sir William Fawcet: and the suavity of manners he acquired by frequenting the court, though late in life, was certainly extraordinary. Marbles and metals very difficultly receive a polish after being long neglected, and exposed to corrosion; but when the intrinsic value is solid, the external, sooner or later, always manifests affinity.”

In a memorandum of 1805, is this paragraph:

“Lady Bruce,—after I had nearly transcribed two huge folio volumes of music, or, rather, on music, Sala’s Regole di Contrapunto, which I thought Lady Bruce had only lent me, and which I had therefore returned; sends me them back, telling me she had brought them from [Pg 366] Naples purposely to put them into my possession, and only wishing they were more worth my acceptance. What ill usage!—The books, indeed, tell me nothing I did not know, and are nothing, with all their value, to me, compared to her ladyship’s goodness and kindness. They are, nevertheless, the best digested course of study on counterpoint that have, perhaps, ever been written; and my collection of books on music would be incomplete without them.”

The severe disappointments, with their aggravating circumstances, that repeatedly had deprived Dr. Burney of the first post of nominal honour in his profession, which the whole musical world, not only of his own country, but of Europe, would have voted to be his due, were now, from the Doctor’s advanced stage in life, closing, without further struggle, into inevitable submission.

Yet his many friends to whom this history was familiar, and who knew that the approbation of the King, from the earliest time that the Doctor had been made known to His Majesty, had invariably been in his favour, could not acquiesce in this resignation; and suggested amongst themselves the propriety of presenting Dr. Burney to the King, as a fit object for the next vacancy that might occur, in the literary line, for a pension to a man of letters. And, upon the death of Mrs. Murphy, Mr. [Pg 367] Crewe endeavoured to begin a canvass.

But an audience with the King, at that moment, from various illnesses and calamities, was so little attainable, that no application had been found feasible: weeks, months again rolled away without the effort; and nothing, certainly, could be so unexpected, so utterly unlooked for, in the course of things, as that Dr. Burney, the most zealous adherent to government principles, and the most decided enemy to democratic doctrines, should finally receive all the remuneration he ever attained for his elaborate workings in that art, which, of all others, was the avowed favourite of his King, under the administration of the great chief of opposition, Charles Fox.[78]

So, however, it was; for when, in the year 1806, that renowned orator of liberty, found himself suddenly, and, by the premature death of Mr. Pitt, almost unavoidably raised to the head of the state, Mrs. Crewe started a claim for Dr. Burney.

[Pg 368]

Mr. Windham was instant and animated in supporting it. Mr. Fox, with his accustomed grace, where he had a favour to bestow, gave it his ready countenance; the King’s Sign Manual was granted with alacrity of approbation; and the faithful, invaluable Lady Crewe, while her own new honours were freshly ornamenting her brow, had the cordial happiness of announcing to her unsoliciting and no longer expecting old friend, his participation in the new turn of the tide.

It was Lord Grenville, however, who was the immediately apparent agent in this gift of the Crown; though Charles Fox, there can be no doubt, had a real share of pleasure in propitiating such a reward to a friend and favourite of Lord and Lady Crewe; to settle whose long withheld title was amongst the first official acts of his friendship upon coming into power.

The pension accorded was £300 per annum, and the pleasure caused by this benevolent royal act amongst the innumerable friends of the man of four-score—for such, now, was Dr. Burney—was great almost to exultation. And, in truth, so little had his financial address kept pace with his mental abilities, that, previously to this grant, he had found it necessary, in relinquishing the practice of his profession, [Pg 369] to relinquish his carriage.

Such news, of course, was not trusted to the post of Paris; and it was long after its date, ere it reached the Parisian captives. Nevertheless, in this same month of May, 1806, Dr. Burney, the octogenaire, as he now called himself, confided, upon other subjects, to a passing opportunity, a long letter to Paris; written in a strong and firm round hand; the following pages from which, evince his unaltered disposition to cultivate his natural gaiety with his social spirit of kindness:

“To Madame D’arblay.

* * “I have so much to say, that I hardly know where to begin. * * *

“At the close of this last summer, I took it into my head that the air, water, rocks, woods, fine prospects, and delightful rides on the Downs, at Bristol Hotwells, and in their vicinity, would do my cough good, and enable me to bear the ensuing winter more heroically than I have done what have preceded it; for since the Influenza of 1804, I have dreaded cold, and night air, as much as they are dreaded by a trembling Italian greyhound. Do you remember Frisk, the pretty little slim dog we had, as successor to Mr. Garrick’s favourite pet, Phill? who always pestered Garrick to let him lick his hands and his fingers,—till Garrick, though provoked, could not, in the comic playfulness of his character, help caressing him again, even while exclaiming, when the animal fawned upon him: ‘What dost follow me for, [Pg 370] eh,—Slobber-chaps?—Tenderness without ideas!’ Well, as chill am I now as that poor puppy, Frisk,—though not quite as tender, nor yet, I trust, as void of ideas.

“Well, to the Hotwells at Bristol I went; and took with me Fanny Phillips. And we both took Evelina, as many of its best scenes are at the Wells and at Bath. However we devoured it so eagerly on the journey, that we had only half a volume left when we arrived at No. 7, on Vincent’s Parade; where we were sumptuously lodged; and Fanny Phillip’s maid went to market; and our landlady dressed our dinners; and, as I had my carriage, and horses, and servant, we did very well: except that we were too late in the season, for we had not above three balmy days in our whole month’s residence.

“I liked little Evelina full as well as ever; and I have always thought it the best—that is, the most near to perfection of your excellent penmanships. There are none of those heart-rending scenes which tear one to pieces in the last volumes of Cecilia and Camilla. They always make me melancholy for a week. But, for all that, Fanny Phillips and I proposed going through the whole while at Bristol, for our social reading. However, it was not possible; for we could never procure the first volume of Cecilia from any of the Libraries. It was always, as the Italians say of the English when they vainly try for admission, ‘Sempre not at home!’

“I made an excursion to the city of Wells for one day and night, to see its admirable cathedral. The Bishop, Dr. Beadon, is an old musical acquaintance of mine, of thirty years’ standing. He wished me to have remained a week with him. And I should have liked it very well,—‘ma!—ma!—ma!’—as the Italians say, I have no weeks to spare!”

[Pg 371]

The health and spirits of Dr. Burney were now so good, that he seized another opportunity for writing again, in the same month, to his truly grateful daughter:

“12th October.

“My Dear Fanny,

“Do you remember a letter of thanks which I received from Rousseau for a present of music which I sent him, with a printed copy of The Cunning Man, that I had Englishized from his Divan du Village? I thought myself the most fortunate of beings, in 1770, to have obtained an hour’s conversation with him; for he was then more difficult of access than ever, especially to the English, being out of humour with the whole nation, from resentment of Horace Walpole’s forged letter from the King of Prussia; and he had determined, he said, never to read or write again! Guy, the famous bookseller, was the only person he then admitted; and it was through the sagacious good offices of this truly eminent book-man, urged by my friends, Count d’Holbach, Diderot, &c., that the interview I so ardently aspired at was procured for me. Well, this letter from the great Jean Jacques, which I had not seen these twenty years, I have lately found in a cover from Lord Harcourt, to whom I had lent it, when his lordship was preparing a list of all Rousseau’s works, for the benefit of his widow; which, however, he left to find another editor, when Madame Rousseau relinquished her celebrated name, to become the wife of some ordinary man. Lord Harcourt then returned my letter, and, upon a recent review of it, I was quite struck with the politeness and condescension with which Jean Jacques had accepted my little offering, at a time when he refused all [Pg 372] assistance, nay, all courtesy, from the first persons both of England and France. I am now writing in bed, and have not the original to quote; but, as far as I can remember, he concludes his letter with the following flattering lines:

“‘The works, Sir, which you have presented me, will often call to my remembrance the pleasure I had in seeing and hearing you; and will augment my regret at my not being able sometimes to renew that pleasure. I entreat you, Sir, to accept my humble salutations.

“‘Jean Jacques Rousseau.’

“I give you this in English, not daring, by memory, to quote J. J. Rousseau. It was directed to M. Burney, in London; and, I believe, under cover to Lord Harcourt, who always was his open protector. But is it not extraordinary, my dear Fanny, that the most flattering letters I have received should be from Dr. Johnson and J. J. Rousseau? I can account for it in no other way than from my always treating them with openness and frankness, yet with that regard and reverence which their great literary powers inspired. Much as I loved and respected the good and great Dr. Johnson, I saw his prejudices and severity of character. Nor was I blind to Rousseau’s eccentricities, principles, and paradoxes in all things but music; in which his taste and views, particularly in dramatic music, were admirable; and supported with more wit, reason, and refinement, than by any writer on the subject, in any language which I am able to read. But as I had no means to correct the prejudices of the one, nor the principles of the other of these extraordinary persons, was I to shun and detest the whole man because of his peccant parts? Ancient and modern poets and sages, philosophers and moralists, subscribe to the axiom, humanum est errare, and yet, [Pg 373] every individual, whatever be his virtues, science, or talents, is treated, if his frailties are discovered, as if the characteristic of human nature were perfection, and the least diminution from it were unnatural and unpardonable! God bless you, my dear Fanny. Write soon, and long, I entreat.”

In this same, to Dr. Burney, memorable year, 1806, he had the agreeable surprise of a first invitation from Mr. West, President of the Royal Academy, to the annual dinner given by its directors to the most munificent patrons, capital artists, distinguished judges, or eminent men of letters of the day, for the purpose of assembling them to a private and undisturbed view of the works prepared for forming the exhibition of the current year.

By that grand painter, and delightful man of letters, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Dr. Burney, from the time of their first happy intimacy, had regularly been included in the annual invitations; but Mr. West was unacquainted, personally, with the Doctor, and had, of course, his own set and friends to oblige. What led to this late compliment, after a chasm of fourteen years, does not appear; but the remembrance occurred at a moment of revived exertion, and the Doctor accepted it with exceeding satisfaction. Nevertheless, the opening of the account which [Pg 374] he has left in his journal of this classic entertainment, is far from gay:

“My sight was now,” he says, “become so feeble, that I knew nobody who did not first accost me; and my hearing so impaired, that it was with difficulty I caught what was said to me by any of my neighbours, except those immediately to my right or my left.

“At the Royal Academy this year, I was placed near my son Dr. Charles, and Loutherbourg, who served me as a nomenclature, and I was happily in the midst of many old as well as new friends and acquaintance; particularly the Bishops of Durham,[79] Winchester,[80] and London,[81] and Sir George Beaumont.

“I went early into several small apartments, previously to entering the great room; and luckily, in the first I entered I came upon Sir George Beaumont, who most kindly, politely, and with cordial courtesy, accompanied me during the whole review; always, with unerring judgment, pointing out what was most worth stopping to examine. He was enthusiastically fond of Wilkie’s famous piece.

“Mr. Windham here came forward in the highest spirits. I never saw him more animated, even when conversing with favourite females. I eagerly made up to him with my thanks, both to himself and Mrs. Windham, for their zeal and activity in my affairs.[82] ‘Yes, yes,’ cried he gaily, ‘in zeal we all vied one with another.’

[Pg 375]

“It had rained torrents all day; but I had promised, not expecting the continuance of such weather, to go from the exhibition to the opera, to join Lord and Lady Bruce; who wanted to make a convert of me to their favourite singer, Grassini; but in descending the endless stairs, I was joined by my benevolent neighbour, the Bishop of Winchester; who, perceiving how cautiously I made my way, seized my arm, and insisted on conducting me; and when he heard my opera engagement, he dauntlessly, though laughingly, ordered away my carriage himself, and helped me into his own; promising absolution for my failure to Lady Bruce, but protesting he could not, and would not, suffer me to go any whither such a desperate night, from home; whither he drove me full gallop, setting me down at Chelsea College, in his way to Winchester House. More kind and cheerful benevolence never entered man’s heart, than is lodged in this good prelate’s.”


In the ensuing year, 1807, the diary of the Doctor contains the following narration of the Countess of Mount Edgecumbe:

December 21.—I have lost my oldest and most partial musical friend, the Countess Dowager of Mount Edgecumbe, relict of the third Lord and first Earl, and mother of the present Earl. She was daughter of Dr. John Gilbert, Archbishop of York. I knew and was known to her when she was Miss Gilbert, and at the head of lady musicians. She was always of the Italian school, and spoke both Italian and French well and fluently: she was one of the great patronesses of Giardini and Mengotti, in their days of renown; and generously never ceased serving [Pg 376] and supporting them when they were superseded by newer rivals. She was a correspondent in Italian with Martinelli. She played with great force and precision all the best modern compositions of the times; and in so high and spirited a style, that no other lady, or hardly professor, in England, durst attempt them. She kept her box at the opera till very late in life: and then, when, from the bustle and noise of entry and exit, she relinquished it, she still sustained her own private study and practice on the harpsichord. And, to the very last, when told of any musical phenomena, vocal or instrumental, she was curious and eager to hear them at private or subscription concerts. She went to Tunbridge Wells last summer, when her frame was extremely impaired, and her faculties no longer of their original brightness. Previously to setting out, she honoured me, in as infirm and decayed a state as herself, with a visit; condescendingly clambering up my flight of stairs to nearly the summit of Chelsea Hospital, protesting, with her old and very agreeable liveliness, that the exertion did her nothing but good: and then, almost on her knees, beseeching me to go also to Tunbridge Wells, as she was sure its waters would be highly beneficial to me. I was then, however, so unwell and feeble, that I feared going even to Bulstrode. I could not, therefore, satisfy this kind and noble lady with the least prospect of following her, and partaking of her offered hospitality.

“Daughter of so eminent a divine, she had been brought up with a firm belief and veneration in religion; and she was persuaded that all the calamities of the war were inflicted upon us as the scourge of our iniquities, for our admission of jacobinical principles at the opening of the French Revolution. It was a very remarkable circumstance, that pulsation stopped, and her heart ceased to beat, three days before she expired.”

[Pg 377]

About this period, also, or somewhat later, Dr. Burney had to lament the loss of his constant and respectable friend, Mrs. Ord; which, though not of a sort to prey upon his feelings, like those privations that bereaved him of the objects of his taste, as well as connexion, caused yet a considerable breach in his habits of friendly intercourse, and of such enlivening parties and projects, as constitute the major, though not the higher portion of our rotatory comforts.

The whole tenor of the life of Mrs. Ord, and of her minutest as well as most important actions, was under the concentrated guidance of a laudable ambition to merit general esteem. And so sagely directed were her movements for the attainment of their object, that she was one of those few beings whom censure passed by as unimpeachable.

She was sincerely attached to Dr. Burney and his family, and was sincerely lamented by all to whom her worth and virtues were known.

Towards the close of this year, 1807, Dr. Burney had an infliction which nearly robbed him of his long-tried, and hitherto almost invulnerable force of mind, for bearing the rude assaults of misfortune: this was a paralytic stroke, which, in casting his left [Pg 378] hand into a state of torpor, threw his heart, head, and nerves into one of ceaseless agitation, from an unremitting expectance of abrupt dissolution.

His absent daughter was spared from participating in the pain of this terrifying interval; and the despotic difficulty so often repined at of foreign correspondence, might here have seemed a benediction, had it been to political rigidity alone that she had been indebted for this exemption from availless anguish: but her generous father had made it his first care to prohibit, and peremptorily, all parts of his house from sending any communication, any hint whatsoever of his apprehensive state to Paris: and his exhortation, with the same earnestness, though not the same authority, was spread to every writing class of friend or acquaintance.

His own account of this trying event, written in the following year, in answer to his daughter’s alarm at his silence, will shew the full and surprising return of his spirits and health upon his recovery:

“To Madame D’arblay.

Nov. 12th, 1808.

“My dear Fanny,

“The complaints made, in one of the two short notes which I have received, of letters never answered, Old Charles returns—as his account of family affairs he finds has never reached you. Indeed, [Pg 379] for these last two or three years, I have had nothing good to say of own self; and I peremptorily charged all the rest of the family to say nothing bad on the subject of health: for I never understood the kindness of alarming distant friends with accounts of severe illness,—as we may be either recovered or dead before the information reaches them.

“I wrote you an account of my excursion to Bristol Hotwells: but I had not been returned to Chelsea more than three days, before I had an alarming seizure in my left hand, which neither heat, friction, nor medicines could subdue. It felt perfectly asleep; in a state of immoveable torpor. My medical friends would not tell me what this obstinate numbness was; but I discovered by their prescriptions, and advice as to regimen, that it was neither more nor less than a paralytic affection; and, near Christmas, it was pronounced to be a Bath case. On Christmas eve, I set out for that City, extremely weak and dispirited: the roads terrible, and almost incessant torrents of rain all the way. I was five days on the journey; I took Fanny Phillips with me, and we had excellent apartments on the South Parade, which is always warm when any sun shines. I put myself under the care of Dr. Parry, who, having resided, and practised physic at Bath more than forty years, must, cæteris paribus, know the virtues and vices of Bath waters better than the most renowned physicians in London. To give them fair play, I remained three months in this City; and I found my hand much more alive, and my general health very considerably amended. But, I caught so violent a fresh cold in my journey home, that it was called what the French style a Fluxion de poitrine, and I was immediately confined to my bed at Chelsea, and unable to eat, sleep, or speak. Strict starvation was then ordered; but softened off into fish and asparagus as soon as possible, by our wise and good [Pg 380] Æsculapius, Sir Walter Farquhar: and now I am allowed poultry and game, under certain restrictions, and find myself tolerably well again. All this tedious account of own self should still have been suppressed, but that I feared it might reach you by some other means, and give you greater alarm; I determined, therefore, to tell you the truth, the whole truth, &c., with my own paw: being able, at the same time, to write you that, cough excepted, which returns with cold weather, I passed last summer more free from complaint than I have passed any for many preceding years. And now it is time to say something of your other kindred, whose names you languish, you say, to see.

“I have forgotten to mention that, during my invalidity at Bath, I had an unexpected visit from your ci-devant Streatham friend, of whom I had lost sight for more than ten years. When her name was sent in, I was much surprised, but desired she might be asked to follow it: and I received her as an old friend with whom I had spent much time very happily, and never wished to quarrel. She still looks well, but is grave, and seems to be turned into candour itself: though she still says good things, and writes admirable notes, and, I am told, letters. We shook hands very cordially; and avoided any allusion to our long separation and its cause. Her caro sposo still lives; but is such an object, from the gout, that the account of his sufferings made me pity him sincerely. He wished, she told me, to see his old friend; and, un beau matin, I could not refuse compliance with this wish. I found him in great pain, but very glad to see me. The old rancour, or ill-will, excited by our desire to impede the marriage, is totally worn away. Indeed, it never could have existed, but from her imprudence in betraying to him that proof of our friendship for her, which ought [Pg 381] never to have been regarded as spleen against him, who, certainly, nobody could blame for accepting a gay rich widow.—What could a man do better?[83]

It is well worthy of notice, and greatly in favour of the Bath waters for paralytic affections, that Dr. Burney never had a return of his alarming seizure of the hand; and never to the end of his life, which was yet prolonged several years, had any other paralytic attack.

It was during this residence at Bath that Dr. Burney made his last will; in which, after settling his various legacies, he left his two eldest daughters, Esther and Frances, his residuary legatees; and nominated his sons, Captain James Burney and Dr. Charles Burney, his executors.

[Pg 382]


It was here, also, after a cessation of twenty-four years, that the Doctor recurred to his long dormant scheme of writing his own Memoirs.

If, at the date of its design and commencement, in 1782, his plan had been put into execution, according to the nobly independent ideas, and widely liberal intention of its projection, few are the individual narratives of a private life in the last century, that could have exhibited a more expansive, informing, general, or philosophical view of society than those of Dr. Burney.

But, in 1807, though the uncommon powers of his fine mind were still unimpaired for conversation or enjoyment, his frame had received a blow, and his spirits a suspensive shock, that caused a marked diminution of his resources for composition.

His imagination, hitherto the most vivid, even amidst sorrow, calamity, nay care, nay sickness, nay age, was now no longer, as heretofore, rambling abroad and at will for support and renovation. A fixed object, as he expressed himself in various letters of that date, had seized, occupied, absorbed it. The alarm excited by a paralytic attack is far more baneful than its suffering; for every rising dawn, and every [Pg 383] darkening eve look tremblingly for its successor; and the sword of Damocles, as he mournfully declared, seemed eternally waving over his head.

The spirit, therefore, of composition was now, though not lost, enervated; and the whole force of his faculties was cast exclusively upon his memory, in the research of past incidents that might soothe his affections, or recreate his fancy; but bereft of those exhilarating ideas, which, previously to this alarm, had given attraction to whatever had fallen from his pen.

Hence arose, in that vast compilation for which, from this time, he began collecting materials and reminiscences, a nerveless laxity of expression, a monotonous prolixity of detail, that, upon the maturest examination, decided this Memorialist to abridge, to simplify, or to destroy so immense a mass of morbid leisure, and minute personality, with the fullest conviction, as has been stated, that it never would have seen the public light, had it been revised by its composer in his healthier days of chastening criticism; so little does it resemble the flowing harmony, yet unaffected energy of his every production up to that diseased period.

[Pg 384]

Nor even can it be compared with any remaining penmanship, though of a much later date, written after his recovery; as appears by sundry letters, occasional essays, and biographical fragments, sketched from the time of that restoration to the very end of his existence.

And hence, consequently, or rather unavoidably, have arisen in their present state those abridged, or recollected, not copied Memoirs; which, though on one hand largely curtailed from their massy original, are occasionally lengthened on the other, from confidential communications; joined to a whole life’s recollections of the history, opinions, disposition, and character of Dr. Burney.

A dire interval again, from political restrictions and prudential difficulties, took place between all communication, all correspondence of Dr. Burney with Paris. But in June, 1810, it was happily broken up, through the active kind offices of a liberal friend,[84] who found means by some returning prisoner, to get a letter conveyed to Chelsea [Pg 385] College; and to procure thence the following indescribably welcomed answer:

June, 1810.

“My Dear Fanny.

“I never was so surprised and delighted at the sight of your well-known autograph, as on the envelop of your last letter; but when I saw, after the melancholy account of your past sufferings, and of the more slight indisposition of your caro sposo, with what openness you spoke of your affairs; and, above all, that your dear Alexander was still with you, and had escaped the terrific code de conscription, it occasioned me an exultation which I cannot describe. And that you should be begging so hard of me for a line, a word, in my own handwriting, at the time that I was, in prudence, imploring all your living old correspondents and my friends, not to venture a letter to you, even by a private hand, lest it should accidentally miscarry, and, being observed, and misconstrued, as coming from this country, should injure M. d’Arblay in the eyes of zealous Frenchmen!—But the detail you have given me of the worthy and accomplished persons who honour you with their friendship; and of the lofty apartments you have procured, Rue d’Anjou, for the sake of more air, more room, more cleanliness, and more bookeries, diverts me much. With regard to my own health, I shall say nothing of past sufferings of various kinds since my last ample family letter; except that ‘Here I am,’ in spite of the old gentleman and his scythe. And the few people I am able to see, ere the warm weather, tell me I look better, speak better, and walk better than I did ‘ever so long ago.’ God knows how handsome I shall be by-and-by! [Pg 386] —but you will allow it behoves the fair ladies who make me a visit now and then, to take care of themselves!—That’s all.

“People wonder, secluded as I am for ever from the world and its joys, how I can cut a joke and be silly: but when I have no serious sufferings, a book, or a pen, makes me forget all the world, and even myself; the best of all oblivions.”

Then follow sundry confidential family details.

“Having now pretty well enumerated your friends, pray, when you have a safe opportunity, tell me how many are living amongst those who were formerly mine, in Paris? particularly the Abbé Roussier; M. l’Abbé Fayton; and Messrs. Framery, La Borde, Hulmandel, and Ginguené.

“I am delighted you are yourself acquainted with the truly scientific and profound M. Suard, to whom I had letters recommendatory from our common friend, Garrick; and from whom I received many instances of friendly zeal in my musical inquiries; and of hospitality at his own home, where the honours were done with remarkable grace by his beautiful and engaging wife. It was there that I became acquainted with the celebrated Grecian, the Abbé Arnaud, and with M. Diderot.

“I knew there, also, M. l’Abbé Morellet; and always thought that no writer on good taste and feeling in the execution of good music, could express his sentiments with more discrimination delicacy, and precision, than M. l’Abbé Morellet, to whom I beg you to present my compliments, as to a very old and intimate acquaintance, during his residence in England, at the Earl of Shelburne’s.[85] I am delighted to hear he has so admirable, and peculiarly fitted-up a library; and that [Pg 387] he has invited you, with so much courtesy, at your common friend’s, the incomparable Madame de Tessé’s, to let him do its honours to you at your own time, and in your own way; and that he keeps up so much spirit and politeness, though—nearly—as old as your aged Father. I was really moved by his so readily and obligingly repeating to you, at the request of Madame de Tessé, the ballad he composed upon attaining his eightieth year. But ’twas a true touch of French malice—that story of his martial equipment, when elected a member of the Institute; and when, with a collar encircled with wreaths of laurel, he girded on his sword, for the first time in his life, at seventy-nine, and, to the great, though, probably, merry shock of his companion-men of letters, suffered it to get between his legs, and trip up his heels! M. de Narbonne was just the man for such a tale, which he made, I doubt not, roguishly comic.”

“I think it is high time now to pull up and give you my benediction; joining sincerely in your prayer for peace; and begging you to assure M. d’Arblay and Alex. of my cordial affection. For yourself, my dear Fanny, be assured that your letter has given me a fillip that has endeared existence; concerning which, during pain and long nights, I have been often worse than indifferent.

C. B.”

How merely an amanuensis had been the Editor of these Memoirs, had all the personal manuscripts of Dr. Burney been written at this healthy, though so much later period of his existence; instead of having fallen under his melancholy pen, to while away nerveless languor when paralysis, through the vision of his imagination, appeared to be [Pg 388] unremittingly suspended over his head! the last given pages of his letters to Paris, though composed from his 80th to his 85th year, are all run off in the flowing and lively style of his early penmanship.

But disastrous indeed to Dr. Burney was an after event, of the year 1810, that is now to be recorded; grievously, essentially, permanently disastrous. Misfortune, with all her fevering arrows of hoarded ills, retained no longer the materials that could so deeply empoison another dart, for striking at the root of what life could yet accord him of elegant enjoyment. Lady Crewe alone remained, apart from his family, whose personal loss could more afflictingly have wounded him, than that which he now experienced by the death of the Duke of Portland.

Fatal to all future zest for worldly exertion in Dr. Burney, proved this blow; from which, though he survived it some years, he never mentally recovered; so deeply had he felt and reciprocated the extraordinary partiality conceived for him by his Grace.

It was the Duke alone who, for a long time previously, had been able to prevail with him to come forth from his already begun seclusion, to be [Pg 389] domiciliated at Bulstrode Park; where he could animate with society, recreate in rural scenery, or meditate in solitude without difficulty or preparation; that superb country villa being as essentially, and at will, his own, as his apartments at Chelsea College.

A loss such as this, was in all ways irreparable.

The last sentence which he wrote upon the Duke, in his Journal, is mournfully impressive:

“My loss by the decease of my most affectionate and liberal friend and patron, the Duke of Portland, and my grief for his dreadful sufferings, will lower my spirits to the last hour of sensibility! The loss to my heart is indescribable!”


Yet, in the midst of this total and voluntary retreat from public life, a new honour, as little expected by Dr. Burney as, from concomitant circumstances, it was little wished, sought, in 1810, to encircle his brow.

M. le Breton, Secretaire perpetuel de la Classe des Beaux Arts de l’Institut National de France, had, some years previously, put up the name of Dr. Burney as a candidate to be elected an honorary foreign [Pg 390] member of the Institute: but the interrupted intercourse between the two countries caused a considerable time to elapse, before it was known whether this compliment was accepted or declined.

Not without much disturbance, from such a doubt, passed that interval in the breast of the Doctor’s absent daughter. She was deeply sensible to a mark so flattering of the literary fame of her father, which she could not but consider as peculiarly generous, the long and public hostility of the Doctor against French music, being as notorious as his passion for Italian and German.

But, on the other hand, knowing the excess of horror conceived against the French, Nationally, though not Individually, by Dr. Burney from the epoch of the Revolution, she was full of apprehension lest he should reject the offering; and reject it with a contempt that might involve her husband and herself in the displeasure which such a species of requital to offered homage might excite.

So keen, indeed, was this alarm upon her mind, that when M. le Breton called upon her to announce, with good-humoured exultation, tidings that he naturally imagined must give her the proudest satisfaction, [Pg 391] she involuntarily shrunk from the communication; and, though she ventured not positively to decline, she procrastinated being the organ for conveying the purposed favour to England. M. le Breton was too observant not to perceive her embarrassment, though too well-bred to augment it by any remark.

He soon, however, for he had means and power, found a more willing coadjutrix[86] to forward his proposal to Dr. Burney; who, after a short pause, accepted this new tribute to his renown with due civility.

The parental motives by which this acquiescent conduct was influenced, his daughter could not doubt; but she had the comfort to know how much his repugnance to his new dignity must be lessened, in considering his respected and intimate friend, Sir Joseph Bankes, as his colleague in this new association.

These preliminary measures, with all that belonged to the honour of the offer, passed in the year 1806; but it was not till the year 1810 that Dr. Burney received the official notification of his election; [Pg 392] which he has thus briefly marked in his last volume of Journal:—

Nov. 23, 1810.

“Received from the National Institute at Paris, with a letter from Madame Greenwood Solvyns, my diploma, or patent, as a Member of the Institute, Classe des Beaux Arts.”

And three weeks afterwards:—

Jan. 14, 1811.

“I received a packet from M. Le Breton, &c., addressed,

A Monsieur le Docteur Burney,

Correspondant de l’Institut de France.

“This packet found its way to my apartment at Chelsea College, by means of Mr. West, President of the Royal Academy. Its contents were—

Notices historiques sur la vie et les ouvrages de M. Pajon. Par M. Joachim le Breton. Du. 6 Otto. 1810.

Notices historiques sur la vie, et les ouvrages, de Jos. Haydn. Par le même.

This memoir sur la vie de Haydn, sent by M. le Breton, drew from the Doctor, nearly at the close of his own annals, the following paragraph upon that great musician, who, for equal excellence in science and invention, he held to be at the head of all his compeers:

[Pg 393]

“Haydn, 1810.

“It has been well observed, by Haydn’s excellent biographer, at Paris, M. le Breton, that the public everywhere, by whom his works were so enthusiastically admired, took more care of his fame than of his fortune. He, however, himself, always modest, upright, and prudent, supposed it possible that he might survive his talents; and wished, by rigid economy and self-denial, to accumulate a sufficiently independent income for old age and infirmities, when he might no longer be able to entertain the public with new productions. This humble and most rational wish he was unable, in his own country, from the smallness of remuneration, to accomplish.

“I began an intimate intercourse with him immediately on his arrival in England; and was as much pleased with his mild, unassuming, yet cheerful conversation and countenance, as with his stupendous musical merit. And I procured him more subscribers to that sublime effort of genius—the Creation, than all his other friends, whether at home or abroad, put together.”

Of the year 1811, no species of event, nor detail of circumstance, has reached this Memorialist, except the following letter, which is copied from Doctor Burney’s own handwriting near the conclusion of his Journal:

“To Mr. Kollman, who had left a parcel for me.

March 24, 1811.

“Dear Sir,

“I was sorry when you did me the favour to call, that I had not left my bedroom, where I had been confined, and unable to see my friends ever [Pg 394] since the beginning of the present year; and I was then in daily fear of the baleful ides of March: but on opening the valuable parcel which you had been so good as to leave with my servant, I have found the contents to be such as to furnish my eyes and my mind with agreeable employment ever since. I have often admired your musical science and ingenuity; but I think your fugues and double counterpoint in four parts, for two performers on one piano-forte, considerably surpass in clearness, contrivance, and pleasing melody, any of your former elaborate and learned productions that I have seen. And if it is so considered, and we count how many folio pages there are of letter-press in your introductory explanations, the works which you left for me would be a cheap purchase at £1. 1s., which I have the pleasure to send, with thanks for my entertainment.

“Your different harmonics to the original melody of the 100th psalm is a work of great study and knowledge.

“I am very seldom, now, in health and spirits to read or comment on works of complication in music, or of speculation in literature, as age, infirmities, and sickness, have made the use of a pen a very heavy task, and rendered me only fit to peruse old authors, that were in high estimation when I was young; but, being now forgotten, are become new to me again; or at least interesting by their antiquity to one who has wholly quitted the modern world.

“The above was written last night to Mr. Kollman. The following is a memorandum of what I have long thought concerning Parochial Psalmody. After justly estimating the varied harmonies which the ingenious organist of his Majesty’s German chapel has found for the original melody of the 100th psalm, I add the following record of an idea of my own long since conceived.

“If the simple tune which is sung in our parish churches throughout [Pg 395] the kingdom, in notes of the same length, without the least discrimination of lōng and shŏrt syllables, (bad in prose, but worse in metre,) was sung in the same measure of 3/2 as the 100th psalm, which is in favour everywhere, the objection would be removed against calvinistical psalmody, which is drawled out, and bawled out, as long and as loud as possible. Indeed, all our old psalm tunes, in simple counterpoint of note against note, received and established at the time of the Reformation, might be correctly accented, without losing the idea of the old melodies when sung in 2, 3, 4, or more parts.”


On the opening of April, 1812, ten years of hard-borne absence were completed between Dr. Burney and his second daughter; after a parting which, in idea, and by agreement, had foreseen but a twelvemonth’s separation. Grievously dejecting in that long epoch, had been, at times, the breach of intercourse: not alone they never met; that, in a season of war, however afflicting, was but the ordinary result of hostile policy; not alone the foreign post-office was closed, and all regular and authentic communication was annihilated; that, again, was but the common lot of belligerent nations while under arms, and was sustained, therefore, with that fortitude which all, save fools and madmen, must, sooner or later, perforce acquire, the fortitude of necessity.

[Pg 396]

But these prohibitions, however severe upon every national or kindred feeling that binds the affections and the interests of man to man, were inefficient to baffle the portentous vengeance of Napoleon, who suddenly, in one of his explosions of rage against Great Britain, issued a decree that not a letter, a note, an address, or any written document whatsoever, should pass from France to England, or arrive from England to France, under pain of death.

It was then that this dire position became nearly insupportable; for, by this fierce stroke of fiery despotism, all mitigation of private anodyne to public calamity was hopelessly destroyed; all the softening palliatives of billets, or memorandums, trusted to incidental opportunities, which hitherto had glided through these formidable obstacles, and found their way to the continental captive with a solace utterly indescribable, were now denied: the obscure anxiety of total ignorance of the proceedings, nay, even of the life or death, of those ties by which life and death hold their first charm, was without alloy; and hope had not a resting place!

The paroxysm of hatred or revenge which urged Napoleon to this harsh rigidity, passed, indeed, after a while, it may be presumed, away, like most other of his unbridled manifestations of unbounded authority; [Pg 397] since its effect, after a certain time, seemed over; and things appeared to go on as they had done before that tremendous decree. But that decree was never annulled! what, then, was the security that its penalty might not be exacted from the first object, who, in disobeying it, should incur his suspicion or ill-will? or of whom, for whatever cause, he might wish to get rid?

Dr. Burney, on this subject, entertained apprehensions so affrighting, that he entirely abstained from writing himself to France; and charged all his family and friends to practise the same forbearance. The example was followed, if not set, by his nearly exiled daughter; and, at one sad time, no intelligence whatever traversed the forbidden route; and two whole, dread, endless years lingered on, in the darkest mystery, whether or not she had still the blessing of a remaining parent.

This was a doubt too cruel to support, where to endure it was not inevitable; though hard was the condition by which alone it could be obviated; namely, submission to another bosom laceration! But all seemed preferable to relinquishing one final effort for obtaining at least one final benediction.

Her noble-minded partner, who participated in all her filial [Pg 398] aspirations, but to whom quitting France was utterly impossible, consented to her spending a few months in her native land: and when the rumour of a war with Russia gave hope of the absence of Napoleon from Paris, worked assiduously himself at procuring her a passport; for, while the Emperor inhabited the capital, the police discipline was so impenetrable, that a madman alone could have planned eluding its vigilance.

When, however, it was ascertained that the Czar of all the Russias disclaimed making any concessions; that Napoleon had left Dresden to take the field; and that his yet unconquerable and matchless army, in actual sight of the enemy, was bordering the frontiers of all European Russia; whence two letters, written at that breathless crisis, reached M. d’Arblay himself, from an Aide-de-camp,[87] and from the first surgeon[88] of Napoleon; the singular moment was energetically seized by the most generous of husbands and fathers; his applications, from fresh courage, became more vigorous; the impediments, from an involuntary relaxation of municipal rigidity, grew more feeble; and, [Pg 399] liberally seconded by the most zealous, disinterested, and feeling of friends,[89] he finally obtained a passport not only for his wife, but, though through difficulties that had seemed insurmountable, for his son; for whom, during the imperial presence in the French metropolis, even to have solicited one, notwithstanding he was yet much too young to be amenable to the conscription, would have produced incarceration.


A reluctant, however eagerly sought parting then abruptly took place in the faubourg, or suburbs of Paris; and, after various other, but minor difficulties, and a detention of six weeks at Dunkirk, the mother and the son reached the long-lost land of their desires.

It was at Deal they were disembarked, where their American vessel, the Marianne, was immediately captured; though they, as English, were of course set at liberty; and, to their first ecstacy in touching British ground, they had the added delight of being almost instantly [Pg 400] recognized by the lady[90] of the commander of the port; and the honour of taking their first British repast at the hospitable table of the commander himself.[91]

After a separation so bordering upon banishment, from a parent so loved and so aged, some preparation seemed requisite, previous to a meeting, to avoid risking a surprise that might mar all its happiness. At Deal, therefore, and under this delectable protection, they remained three or four days, to give time for the passage of letters to Dr. Burney; first, to let him know their hopes of revisiting England, of which they had had no power to give him any intimation; and next, to announce their approach to his honoured presence.

Fully, therefore, they were expected, when, on the evening of the 20th of August, 1812, they alighted at the apartment of Dr. Burney, at Chelsea College, which they had quitted in the beginning of April, 1802.

The joy of this Memorialist at the arrival of this long sighed-for moment, was almost disorder; she knew none of the servants, though they were the same that she had left; she could not recollect whether [Pg 401] the apartment to which she was hurrying was on the ground door or the attic, the Doctor having inhabited both; her head was confused; her feelings were intense; her heart almost swelled from her bosom.

And so well was her kind parent aware of the throbbing sensations with which an instant yearned for so eagerly, and despaired of so frequently, would fill her whole being—would take possession of all its faculties, that he almost feared the excess of her emotion; and, while repeatedly, in the course of the day, he exclaimed, in the hearing of his housekeeper: “Shall I live to see her honest face again?”[92] he had the precaution, kindly, almost comically, to give orders to his immediate attendants, Rebecca and George, to move all the chairs and tables close to the wall; and to see that nothing whatsoever should remain between the door and his sofa, which stood at the farther end of a large room, that could interfere with her rapid approach.

[Pg 402]

And, indeed, the ecstatic delight with which she sprang to his arms, was utterly indescribable. It was a rush that nothing could have checked; a joy quite speechless—an emotion almost overwhelming!

But, alas! the joy quickly abated, though the emotion long remained!—remained when bereft of its gay transport, to be worked upon only by grief.

The total dearth of familiar intercourse between Paris and London had kept all detailed family accounts so completely out of view, that she returned to her parental home without the smallest suspicion of the melancholy change she was to witness; and though she did not, and could not expect, that ten years should have passed by unmarked in his physiognomy—still there is nothing we so little paint to ourselves at a distance, as the phenomenon of the living metamorphoses that we are destined to exhibit, one to another, upon re-unions after long absences. When, therefore, she became calm enough to look at the honoured figure before which she stood, what a revulsion was produced in her mind!

She had left him, cheerful and cheering; communicating knowledge, imparting ideas; the delight of every house that he entered.

She had left him, with his elegantly formed person still unbroken [Pg 403] by his years; his face still susceptible of manifesting the varying associations of his vivid character; his motions alert; his voice clear and pleasing; his spirits, when called forth by social enjoyment, gay, animating, and inspiring animation.

She found him—alas! how altered! in looks, strength, complexion, voice, and spirits!

But that which was most affecting was the change in his carriage and person: his revered head was not merely by age and weakness bowed down; it was completely bent, and hung helplessly upon his breast; his voice, though still distinct, sunk almost to a whisper: his feeble frame reclined upon a sofa; his air and look forlorn; and his whole appearance manifesting a species of self-desertion.

His eyes, indeed, still kept a considerable portion of their native spirit; they were large, and, from his thinness, looked more prominent than ever; and they exhibited a strong, nay, eloquent power of expression, which still could graduate from pathos to gaiety; and from investigating intelligence to playful archness; with energies truly wonderful, because beyond, rather than within, their original force; though every other feature marked the wither of decay! but, at this moment, from conscious alteration, their disturbed look depicted [Pg 404] only dejection or inquiry; dejection, that mournfully said: “How am I changed since we parted!” or inquiry, anxiously demanding: “Do you not perceive it?”

This melancholy, though mute interrogatory with which his “asking eye explored her secret thoughts,” quickly impelled her to stifle her dismay under an apparent disorder of general perturbation: and, when his apprehension of the shock which he might cause, and the shock which the sight of its impression might bring back to him, was abated, a gentle smile began to find its way through the earnestness of his brow, and to restore to him his serene air of native benignity: while, on her part, the more severely she perceived his change, the more grateful she felt to the Providence that had propitiated her return, ere that change,—still changed on!—should have become, to her, invisible.

In consequence of her letters from Deal, he had prepared for her and his Grandson, whose sight he most kindly hailed, apartments near his own: and he had charged all his family to abstain from breaking in upon this their first interview.

The turbulence of this trying scene once past, the rest of the evening glided on so smoothly, yet so rapidly, that when the closing night [Pg 405] forced their reluctant separation, they almost felt as if they had but recognized one another in a dream.

The next morning, the next, and the next, as soon as he could be visible, they met again; and for some short and happy, though, from another absence, most anxious weeks, she delightedly devoted to him every moment he could accept.

The obscurity of the brief and ambiguous letters that rarely and irregularly had passed between them, had left subjects for discussion so innumerable, and so entangled, that they almost seemed to demand a new life for reciprocating.

Endless, indeed, were the histories they had to unfold; the projects to announce or develop; the domestic tales to hear and to relate; and the tombs of departed friends to mourn over.

Amongst these last, the most deeply-lamented by the Doctor was Mr. Twining, whose name he could not yet pronounce, nor could his daughter hear, without a sigh of lamenting regret: though to her, far more keenly still, more profoundly, more piercingly irreparable, was the privation of Mr. Locke! the matchless Mr. Locke! in mind, in manners, in heart, in understanding, matchless! matchless!

[Pg 406]

Gone, too, was Mr. Windham, that pride, as well as delight of the Doctor’s chosen friendship.

And gone was the “elegant, high-bred Boscawen,” whom he honoured and esteemed as one of the first of her sex.

Mr. Courtney he missed alike for his wit, his intelligence, and his flattering personal partiality.

Lord Cardigan, though with none of these to be named in an intellectual point of view, was yet, from frequency of intercourse, and his Lordship’s almost ardent regard for the Doctor, a substantial loss in colloquial cheerfulness without effort; such as, after having passed the meridian of life, it is not facile in its wane to replace, however commonly, while possessed, it may be under-rated; the value of easy commerce being seldom duly appreciated till we are fit for no other.

But the loss the most prejudicial to the Doctor’s commixture with the world of letters, was that which robbed him of Mr. Malone, with whom he had now for many years been upon terms of literary intimacy; the Doctor still, though no longer a principal in any work, retaining a lively pleasure in promoting, as an agent or coadjutor, the works of others; for gaily as he had enjoyed, and skilfully as he had earned [Pg 407] his personal reputation, his exertions had always had a nobler stimulus than vanity. For its own sake he prized whatever was intellectual; and had he lived

“—in deserts, where no men abide,”

he would have explored whatever his eye could have surveyed, his understanding have developed, or his activity have pursued, even in so lone a position of nature in her most savage state, from his integral love of information.

Nevertheless, the deprivation that, in these last years, had most sorrowingly touched his feelings, was that of Lady Clarges; whose exhilarating spirits and lively eccentricities, during her youth and health, had long been delightful sources to him of entertainment and agreeability; while her musical excellencies, and her affecting resemblance to his Susanna, had established her in his mind with a yet more endearing influence. And so sensible was she to his tender partiality, that he was amongst the last, as well as the most select, who obtained almost constant admission to her apartment during her suffering and lingering premature decline.

His utter retirement from the world had made him gradually, but wholly lose sight of his favouring and favourite Mrs. Garrick, La Violetta; [Pg 408] of Sir George and Lady Beaumont, Mr. Batt, and Mr. Rogers; though they were all exhilaratingly alive to the world which they helped to exhilarate.

Happily, however, most happily, he still preserved his first, who was now become his oldest cherished friend, Lady Crewe, who constantly kept her place at the head of all, save of born affinity, who were most consoling to his sympathies: and though she approved the timely wisdom of his retreat from full and great societies, she exerted her most zealous powers to personally enliven his voluntary seclusion.

Amongst those of yet flourishing friends who, after Lady Crewe, were of the greatest weight to him for comfort, support, and pleasure, foremost he still reckoned two noblemen of just reputation for goodness, honour, and benevolence,—the Marquis of Aylesbury and the Earl of Lonsdale, who, with their exemplary ladies, and their singularly amiable families, never thought they saw enough of Dr. Burney; and repaired every breach of verbal intercourse, by an unremitting assiduity through that of the pen.

Lady Charlotte Greville, Lady Mary Bentinck, Lady Manvers, Lady [Pg 409] Rushont, and several others, might still, also, be named; but imprimis in this second list must be placed the sprightly Marchioness of Thomond: and the Dowager Lady Templeton, whom he particularly admired, and who honoured him with never-varying regard and esteem.

And with the animated and engaging Miss Hayman, and the erudite and accomplished Miss Knight, some few occasional letters were still exchanged.


It was as singular as it was fortunate, that, in this long space of ten years, the Doctor had lost, in England, but one part of his family, Mrs. Rebecca Burney, an ancient and very amiable sister. In India he was less happy, for there died, in the prime of life, Richard Thomas, his only son by his second marriage; who left a large and prosperous family.[93]

His eldest son, Captain James Burney, who had twice circumnavigated the globe with Captain Cooke, and who had always been marked for depth of knowledge in his profession as a naval officer, had now distinguished [Pg 410] himself also as a writer upon naval subjects; and, after various slighter works, had recently completed an elaborate, scientific, yet entertaining and well written, General History of Voyages to the South Sea, in five volumes quarto.

His second son, Dr. Charles, had sustained more than unimpaired the high character in Greek erudition which he had acquired early in life, and in which he was generally held, after Porson and Parr, to be the third scholar in the kingdom. The fourth, who now, therefore, is probably the first, was esteemed by Dr. Charles to be Dr. Blomfield, the present Bishop of London. Dr. Charles still toiled on in the same walk with unwearied perseverance; and was, at that time, engaged in collating a newly found manuscript Greek Testament; by the express request of the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Manners Sutton.

His daughters, Esther and Charlotte, were well and lively; and each was surrounded by a sprightly and amiable progeny.

His youngest daughter, by his second marriage, Sarah Harriet, had produced, and was still producing, some works in the novel path of literature, that the Doctor had the satisfaction of hearing praised, [Pg 411] and of knowing to be well received and favoured in the best society.

And the whole of his generation in all its branches, children, grand-children, and great-grand-children, all studied, with proud affection, to cherish the much-loved trunk whence they sprang; and to which they, and all their successors, must ever look up as to the honoured chief of their race.


His general health was still tolerably good, save from occasional or local sufferings; of which, however, he never spoke; bearing them with such silent fortitude, that even the Memorialist only knew of them through a correspondence which fell to her examination, that he had held with a medical friend, Mr. Rumsey.

The height of his apartments, which were but just beneath the attic of the tall and noble Chelsea College, had been an evil when he grew into years, from the fatigue of mounting and descending; but from the time of his dejected resolve to go forth no more, that height became a blessing, from the greater purity of the air that he inhaled, and the [Pg 412] wider prospect that, from some of his windows, he surveyed.

To his bed-chamber, however, which he chiefly inhabited, this good did not extend: its principal window faced the burying-ground in which the remains of the second Mrs. Burney were interred; and that melancholy sight was the first that every morning met his eyes. And, however his strength of mind might ward off its depressing effect, while still he went abroad, and mingled with the world; from the time that it became his sole prospect, that no change of scene created a change of ideas, must inevitably, however silently, have given a gloom to his mind, from that of his position.

Not dense, perhaps, was that gloom to those who seldom lost sight of him; but doubly, trebly was it afflicting to her who, without any graduating interval, abruptly beheld it, in place of a sunshine that had, erst, been the most radiant.

From the fatal period of the loss of the Duke of Portland, and of the delicious retreat of the appropriated villa-residence of Bulstrode Park, the Doctor had become inflexible to every invitation for quitting his own dwelling. The surprise of the shock he had then sustained [Pg 413] from his disappointment in out-living a friend and patron so dear to him, and so much younger than himself, had cast him into so forlorn a turn of meditation, that even with the most intimate of his former associates, all spontaneous intercourse was nearly cut off; he never, indeed, refused their solicitations for admission, but rare was the unbidden approach that was hailed with cheering smiles! Solitary reading, and lonely contemplation, were all that, by custom, absorbed the current day: except in moments of renovated animation from the presence of some one of influence over his feelings; or upon the arrival of national good tidings; or upon the starting of any political theme that was flatteringly soothing to his own political principles and creed.

In books, however, he had still the great happiness of retaining a strong portion of his original pleasure: and the table that was placed before his sofa, was commonly covered with chosen authors from his excellent library: though latterly, when deep attention fatigued his nerves, he interspersed his classical collection by works lighter of entertainment, and quicker of comprehension, from the circulating libraries.

[Pg 414]


With regard to his writings, he had now, for many years, ceased furnishing any articles for the Monthly Review, having broken up his critic-intercourse with Mr. Griffith, that he might devote himself exclusively to the Cyclopedia.

But for the Cyclopedia, also, about the year 1805, he had closed his labours: labours which must ever remain memorials of the clearness, fulness, and spirit of his faculties up to the seventy-eighth year of his age: for more profound knowledge of his subject, or a more natural flow of pleasing language, or more lively elucidations of his theme, appear not in any of even his most favoured productions.

The list, numbered alphabetically, that he drew up of his plan for this work, might almost have staggered the courage of a man of twenty-five years of age for its completion; but fifty years older than that was Dr. Burney when it was formed! There is not a book upon music, which it was possible he could consult, that he has not ransacked; nor a subject, that could afford information for the work, that he has not fathomed. And so excellent are his articles, both in manner [Pg 415] and matter, that, to equal him upon the subjects he has selected, another writer must await a future period; when new musical genius, composition, and combinations in the powers of harmony, and the varieties of melody, by creating new tastes, may kindle sensations that may call for a new Historian.

Less pleasing, or rather, extremely painful, is what remains to relate of the last efforts of his genius, and last, and perhaps most cherished of his literary exercises, namely, his Poem on Astronomy; which the Memorialist had now the chagrin, almost the consternation, to learn had been renounced, nay, committed to the flames!

To this work, as, upon her return, he reminded her, with a look implying, though unwillingly, nay, even tenderly, something like reproach, he had been urged by her solicitations.

This, however, he could not but forgive, and freely forgive, knowing that her motive was to draw him from the melancholy inertness that threatened his future existence, upon the loss, and at so late a period of life, of a companion of thirty years.

The subject, also, was his own, and was one in which he had long and [Pg 416] early delighted; which offered, therefore, the fairest promise of enabling him

“When all his genial years were flown,
And all the Life of Life was gone,”

to find, through the energy of a favourite pursuit, that his intellectual faculties were not for ever interred before the funeral of the machine, through which, so long and so vividly, they had emanated.

She had the consolation, also, to know that, for many years, this Poem had answered all the purposes for which it had been suggested. Its idea had amused his fancy; its researches had kept alive his thirst of knowledge; and had meandered into so many new channels of information, in the bright regions which it led him to contemplate, that it had been a source to him of pleasure, and a new spring to exertion, that, though not competent to drive away sorrow, had frequently, at least, discarded sadness.

What new view, either of the occupation, or its execution, had determined its total relinquishment, was never to its instigator revealed; the solemn look with which he announced that it was over, had an expression that she had not courage to explore.

[Pg 417]

Enough, however, remains of the original work, scattered amongst his manuscripts, to shew his project to have been skilfully conceived, while its plan of execution was modestly and sensibly circumscribed to his bounded knowledge of the subject. And its idea, with its general sketch, drawn up at so advanced a period of a life—verging upon eighty—that had been spent in another and an absorbent study, must needs remain a monument of wonder for the general herd of mankind; and a stimulus to courage and enterprise for the gifted few, with whom longevity is united with genius.


From the time of this happy return, the Memorialist passed at Chelsea College every moment that she could tear from personal calls that, most unopportunely yet imperiously, then demanded her attention.

Shut up nevertheless, as the Doctor was now from the general world and its commerce, the seclusion of his person was by no means attended with any seclusion of kindness; or any exemption from what he deemed a parental devoir.

When, on the 12th day of the following year, 1813, his returned [Pg 418] daughter, though her first enjoyment was her restoration to his society, excused herself from accompanying her son to the College; and the Doctor gathered that that day, the 6th of January, and the anniversary of the lamented loss of their mutual darling, Susanna, had been yearly devoted, since that privation, to meditative commemoration; he sent his confidential housekeeper to the Memorialist’s apartment with the following lines:

“Few individuals have lost more valuable friends than myself,—Twining, Crisp, poor Bewley, Dr. Johnson, Garrick, Sir Joshua Reynolds—If I were to keep an anniversary for all these severally, I should not have time allowed me for diminishing the first excess of my affliction for each.”

It may, perhaps, be superfluous, and yet seems unavoidable to mention, that again, as after the death of Mr. Crisp, she hastened to him with her grateful acknowledgments for this exhortation; and that she has ever since refused herself that stated sad indulgence.

Still, also, the epistolary pen of the Doctor not only retained its kind, but kept alive its fanciful flow; as witness the following extract from a letter, written in his eighty-seventh year, three months later than the date of the last copied billet, and in answer to a letter from the Memorialist, written during a visit to Mrs. Locke, [Pg 419] senior, at Norbury Park;

Chelsea College, April, 1813.

“Why, my dear F. B. d’Arblay! what a happy effect has the kindness of your dear, accomplished, and elegant friend, Mrs. Locke, produced! She has poured balm into all your mental wounds, and healed every sore, which, having had no leonine tincture of March in it, now only breathes zephyrs, and the comforts of Favonius; after your anxiety for the success of Alexander’s election[94], your own feeble state of health, and your uneasiness at the alarming silence of your kind and worthy husband.

“I thought the weather was about to mend its manners! but to-day it has been more wet and blustering than for some time past. For the rain, however, as April is begun, it is to be hoped it will bring forth May flowers: and as to the fury of the wind, it seems to have purified the air of its noxious vapours, which have been supposed to have produced the symptoms of influenza.”

&c. &c.


Nothing new, either of event or incident, occurred thenceforward that can be offered to the public reader; though not a day passed that teemed not with circumstance, or discourse, of tender import, or bosom interest, to the family of the Doctor, and to his still surviving and admitted friends.

[Pg 420]

That Dr. Burney would have approved the destruction, or suppression of the voluminous records begun under his sickly paralytic depression, and kept in hand for occasional additions to the last years of his life, his Biographer has the happy conviction upon her mind, from the following paragraph, left loose amongst his manuscript hoards.

It is without date; but was evidently written after some late perusal of the materials which he had amassed for his Memoirs; and which, from their opposing extremes of amplitude and deficiency, had probably, upon this accidental examination, struck his returning judgment with a consciousness, that he had rather disburthened his memory for his own ease and pastime, than prepared or selected matter from his stores for public interest.

The following is the paragraph:

“These records of the numerous invitations with which I have been honoured, entered, at the time, into my pocket-books, which served as ledgers, must be very dry and uninteresting, without relating the conversations, bon mots, or characteristic stories, told by individuals, who struck fire out of each other, producing mirth and good-humour: but when these entries were made, I had not leisure for details—and now—memory cannot recall them!”

What next—and last—follows, is copied from the final page of Dr. [Pg 421] Burney’s manuscript journal: and closes all there is to offer of his written composition.

Sir Joshua Reynolds desired that the last name he should pronounce in public should be that of Michael Angelo: and Dr. Burney seems to purpose that the last name he should transmit—if so allowed—through his annals, to posterity, should be that of Haydn.

“Finding a blank leaf at the end of my Journal, it may be used in the way of postscriptum, in speaking of the prelude, or opening of Haydn’s Creation, to observe, that though the generality of the subscribers were unable to disentangle the studied confusion in delineating chaos, yet, when dissonance was tuned, when order was established, and God said,

“‘Let there be light!—and there was light!’
Que la lumière soit!—et la lumière fut!

the composer’s meaning was felt by the whole audience, who instantly broke in upon the performers with rapturous applause before the musical period was closed.”


Little or no change was perceptible in the health of Dr. Burney, save some small diminution of strength, at the beginning of this memorable year; which brought to a crisis a state of things that, by analogy, [Pg 422] might challenge belief for the most improbable legends of other times; a state of things in which history seemed to make a mockery of fiction, by giving events to the world, and assorting destinies to mankind, that imagination would have feared to create, and that good taste would have resisted, as a mass of wonders fit only for the wand of the magician, when waved in the fancied precincts of chivalrous old romance—all brought to bear by the unimaginable manoeuvre of the starting of an unknown individual from Corsica to Paris; who, in the course of a few years, without any native influence, or interest, or means whatsoever, but of his own devising, made Kings over foreign dominions of three of his brothers; a Queen of one his sisters; a Cardinal of an uncle; took a daughter of the Cæsars for his wife; proclaimed his infant son King of Rome; and ordered the Pope to Paris, to consecrate and crown him an Emperor![95]

An epoch such as this, unparalleled, perhaps, in hope, dread, danger, and sharp vicissitude, could even still call forth the energies of Dr. Burney through his love of his country; his enthusiasm for those who [Pg 423] served it; the warmth of his patriotism for its friends, and the fire of his antipathy for its foes, could still animate him into spirited discourse; bring back the tint of life into his pallid cheek; dart into his eyes a gleam of almost lustrous intelligence; and chase the nervous hoarseness from his voice, to restore it to the native clearness of his younger days.

The apprehension of a long death-bed agony had frequently disturbed the peace of Dr. Burney; but that, at least, he was spared. It was only three days previous to his final dissolution, that any fears were excited of a fast approaching end.

To avoid going over again the same melancholy ground, since nothing fresh recurs to give any advantage to a new statement, the Memorialist will venture to finish this narration, by copying the account of the closing scene which she drew up for General d’Arblay, who was then in Paris.[96]


To General d’Arblay.

“Not a week before the last fatal seizure, my dear father had cheerfully said to me: ‘I have gone through so rough a winter, and [Pg 424] such severity of bodily pain; and I have held up against such intensity of cold, that I think now, I can stand any thing!’

“Joyfully I had joined in this belief, which enabled me—most acutely to my since regret!—to occupy myself in the business I have mentioned to you; which detained me three or four days from the College. But I bore the unusual separation the less unwillingly, as public affairs were just then taking that happy turn in favour of England and her allies, that I could not but hope would once more, at least for a while, reanimate his elastic spirits to almost their pristine vivacity.

“When I was nearly at liberty, I sent Alexander to the College, to pay his duty to his grandfather; with a promise that I would pay mine before night, to participate in his joy at the auspicious news from the Continent.

“I was surprised by the early return of my messenger; his air of pensive absorption, and the disturbance, or rather taciturnity with which he heard my interrogatories. Too soon, however, I gathered that his grandfather had passed an alarming night; that both my brothers had been sent for, and that Dr. Mosely had been summoned.

[Pg 425]

“I need not, I am sure, tell you that I was in the sick room the next instant.

“I found the beloved invalid seated, in his customary manner, on his sofa. My sister Sarah was with him, and his two faithful and favourite attendants, George and Rebecca. In the same customary manner, also, a small table before him was covered with books. But he was not reading. His revered head, as usual, hung upon his breast—and I, as usual, knelt before him, to catch a view of his face, while I inquired after his health.

“But alas!—no longer as usual was my reception! He made no sort of answer; his look was fixed; his posture immoveable; and not a muscle of his face gave any indication that I was either heard or perceived!

“Struck with awe, I had not courage to press for his notice, and hurried into the next room not to startle him with my alarm.

“But when I was informed that he had changed his so fearfully fixed posture, I hastened back; reviving to the happy hope that again I might experience the balm of his benediction.

“He was now standing, and unusually upright; and, apparently, with unusual muscular firmness. I was advancing to embrace him, but his air [Pg 426] spoke a rooted concentration of solemn ideas that repelled intrusion.

“Whether or not he recognized, or distinguished me, I know not! I had no command of voice to attempt any inquiry, and would not risk betraying my emotion at this great change since my last and happier admittance to his presence.

“His eyes were intently bent on a window that faced the College burial-ground, where reposed the ashes of my mother-in-law, and where, he had more than once said, would repose his own.

“He bestowed at least five or six minutes on this absorbed and melancholy contemplation of the upper regions of that sacred spot, that so soon were to enclose for ever his mortal clay.

“No one presumed to interrupt his reverie.

“He next opened his arms wide, extending them with a waving motion, that seemed indicative of an internally pronounced farewell! to all he looked at; and shortly afterwards, he uttered to himself, distinctly, though in a low, but deeply-impressive voice, “All this will soon pass away as a dream!”[97]

[Pg 427]

“This extension of his arms offered to his attendants an opportunity, which they immediately seized, of taking off his wrapping gown.

“He made no resistance: I again retreated; and he was put to bed. My sister Sarah watched, with his housekeeper, by his side all night; and, at an early hour in the morning, I took her place.

“My other sisters were also summoned; and my brothers came continually. But he spoke to no one! and seldom opened his eyes: yet his looks, though altered, invariably manifested his possession of his faculties and senses. Deep seemed his ruminations; deep and religious, though silent and concentrated.

“I would fain have passed this night in the sick room; but my dear father, perceiving my design, and remembering, probably, how recently I was recovered from a dangerous malady, strenuously, though by look and gesture, not words, opposed what he thought, too kindly, might be an exertion beyond my strength. Grieved and reluctant was my retreat; but this was no epoch for expostulation, nor even for entreaty.

“The next morning, I found him so palpably weaker, and more emaciated, that, secretly, I resolved I would quit him no more.

[Pg 428]

“What a moment was this for so great an affliction! a moment almost throbbing with the promise of that re-union which he has sighed for, almost—mon ami, as I have sighed for it myself! This very day, this eleventh of April, opened by public announcement, that a general illumination would take place in the evening, to blazon the glorious victory of England and her allies, in wresting the dominion of the whole of Europe—save our own invulnerable island, from the grasp and the power of the Emperor Napoleon!

“This great catastrophe, which filled my mind, as you can well conceive! with the most buoyant emotion; and which, at any less inauspicious period, would have enchanted me almost to rapture in being the first to reveal it to my ardent and patriotic father, whose love of his country was nearly his predominant feeling, hung now trembling, gasping on my lips—but there was icicled, and could not pass them!—for where now was the vivacious eagerness that would have caught the tale? where the enraptured intelligence that would have developed its circumstances? where the ecstatic enthusiasm that would have hailed it with songs of triumph?

“The whole day was spent in monotonous watchfulness and humble [Pg 429] prayers. At night he grew worse—how grievous was that night; I could offer him no comfort; I durst not even make known my stay. The long habits of obedience of olden times robbed me of any courage for trying so dangerous an experiment as acting contrary to orders. I remained but to share, or to spare, some fatigue to others; and personally to watch and pray by his honoured side.

“Yet sometimes, when the brilliancy of mounting rockets and distant fire-works caught my eyes, to perceive, from the window, the whole apparent sky illuminated to commemorate our splendid success, you will easily imagine what opposing sensations of joy and sorrow struggled for ascendance! While all I beheld without shone thus refulgent with the promise of peace, prosperity, and—your return! I could only contemplate all within to mourn over the wreck of lost filial happiness! the extinction of all the earliest sweet incitements to pleasure, hope, tenderness, and reverence, in the fast approaching dissolution of the most revered of parents!

“When I was liberated by day-light from the fear of being recognised, I earnestly coveted the cordial of some notice; and fixed myself by the side of his bed, where most frequently I could press his paternal [Pg 430] hand, or fasten upon it my lips.

“I languished, also, to bring you, mon ami! back to his remembrance. It is not, it cannot—I humbly trust! be impious to covet to the last breathings, the gentle sympathies of those who are most dear to our hearts, when they are visibly preceding us to the regions of eternity! We are nowhere bidden to concentrate our feelings and our aspirations in ourselves! to forget, or to beg to be forgotten by our friends. Even our Redeemer in quitting mortal life, pityingly takes worldly care of his worldly mother; and, consigning her to his favourite disciple, says: “Woman, behold thy Son!”

“Intensely, therefore, I watched to catch a moment for addressing him: and, at last, it came, for, at last, I had the joy to feel his loved hand return a pressure from mine. I ventured then, in a low, but distinct whisper, to utter a brief account of the recent events; thankfully adding, when I saw by his countenance and the air of his head, that his attention was undoubtedly engaged, that they would bring over again to England his long-lost son-in-law.

“At these words, he turned towards me, with a quickness, and a look of vivacious and kind surprise, such as, with closed eyes, I should have [Pg 431] thought impossible to have been expressed, had I not been its grateful witness.

“My delight at such a mark of sensibility at the sound of your name, succeeding to so many hours, or rather days, of taciturn immoveability, gave me courage to continue my recital, which I could perceive more and more palpably make the most vivid impression. But when I entered into the marvellous details of the Wellington victories, by which the immortal contest had been brought to its crisis; and told him that Buonaparte was dethroned, was in captivity, and was a personal prisoner on board an English man-of-war; a raised motion of his under lip displayed incredulity; and he turned away his head with an air that shewed him persuaded that I was the simple and sanguine dupe of some delusive exaggeration. I did not dare risk the excitement of convincing him of his mistake!

“And nothing more of converse passed between us then—or, alas!—ever!—Though still I have the consolation to know that he frequently, and with tender kindness, felt my lips upon his hand, from soft undulation that, from time to time, acknowledged their pressure.

[Pg 432]

“But alas! I have nothing—nothing more that is personal to relate.

“The direction of all spiritual matters fell, of course, as I have mentioned, to my brother, Dr. Charles.

“From about three o’clock in the afternoon he seemed to become quite easy; and his looks were perfectly tranquil: but, as the evening advanced, this quietness subsided into sleep—a sleep so composed that, by tacit consent, every one was silent and motionless, from the fear of giving him disturbance.

“An awful stillness thence pervaded the apartment, and so soft became his breathing, that I dropped my head by the side of his pillow, to be sure that he breathed at all! There, anxiously, I remained, and such was my position, when his faithful man-servant, George, after watchfully looking at him from the foot of his bed, suddenly burst into an audible sob, crying out, “My master!—my dear master!”

“I started and rose, making agitated signs for forbearance, lest the precious rest, from which I still hoped he might awake recruited, should prematurely be broken.

“The poor young man hid his face, and all again was still.

[Pg 433]

“For a moment, however, only; an alarm from his outcry had been raised, and the servants, full of sorrow, hurried into the chamber, which none of the family, that could assemble, ever quitted, and a general lamentation broke forth.

“Yet could I not believe that all had ceased thus suddenly, without a movement—without even a sigh! and, conjuring that no one would speak or interfere, I solemnly and steadily persisted in passing a full hour, or more, in listening to catch again a breath I could so reluctantly lose: but all of life—of earthly life, was gone for ever!——And here, mon ami, I drop the curtain!—”

On the 20th of the month of April, 1814, the solemn final marks of religious respect were paid to the remains of Doctor Burney; which were then committed to the spot on which his eye had last been fixed, in the burying-ground of Chelsea College, immediately next to the ashes of his second wife.

The funeral, according to his own direction, was plain and simple.

His sons, Captain James Burney, and Doctor Charles Burney, walked as chief mourners; and every male part of his family, that illness or distance did not impede from attendance, reverentially accompanied the [Pg 434] procession to the grave: while foremost among the pall-bearers walked that distinguished lover of merit, the Hon. Frederic North, since Earl of Guildford; and Mr. Salomon, the first professional votary of the Doctor’s art then within call.

A tablet was soon afterwards erected to his memory, in Westminster Abbey, by a part of his family; the inscription for which was drawn up by his present inadequate, but faithful Biographer.

When a narratory account is concluded, to delineate the character of him whom it has brought to view, with its failings as well as its excellencies, is the proper, and therefore the common task for the finishing pencil of the Biographer. Impartiality demands this contrast; and the mind will not accompany a narrative of real life of which Truth, frank and unequivocal, is not the dictator.

And here, to give that contrast, Truth is not wanting, but, strange to say, vice and frailty! The Editor, however, trusts that she shall find pardon from all lovers of veracity, if she seek not to bestow piquancy upon her portrait through artificial light and shade.

[Pg 435]

The events and circumstances, with their commentary, that are there presented to the reader, are conscientiously derived from sources of indisputable authenticity; aided by a well-stored memory of the minutest points of the character, conduct, disposition, and opinions of Dr. Burney. And in the picture, which is here endeavoured to be portrayed, the virtues are so simple, that they cannot excite disgust from their exaggeration; though no conflicting qualities give relief to their panegyric.

But with regard to the monumental lines, unmixed praise, there, is universally practised, and calls for no apology. Its object is withdrawn, alike from friends and from foes, from partiality and from envy; and mankind at large, through all nations and all times, seems instinctively agreed, that the funereal record of departed virtue is most stimulating to posterity, when unencumbered by the levelling weight of human defects.—Not from any belief so impossible as that he who had been mortal could have been perfect; but from the consciousness that no accusation can darken the marble of death, ere He whom it consigns to the tomb, is not already condemned—or acquitted.

The Biographer, therefore, ventures to close these Memoirs with the following Sepulchral Character:

[Pg 436]

Sacred to the Memory





IN HIS 87th YEAR, APRIL 12th, 1814,


[1] Mrs. Davis is mentioned more than once by Mr. Boswell.

[2] Edward Burney, Esq., of Clipstone Street.

[3] Since Marquis.

[4] His late Majesty, George the Fourth.

[5] Afterwards Earl Mansfield.

[6] Afterwards Marchioness of Thomond.

[7] Afterwards Lady Edward Fitzgerald.

[8] Since Countess of Liverpool.

[9] When, many years after, the reparations of Windsor Castle were completed, so as to fit it for the residence of the King, George the Third, and the Royal Family, this Lodge, and the Lower, were pulled down.

[10] Miss Port: now Mrs. Waddington, of Llanover House.

[11] In this equitable judgment of Dr. Burney, other of the managers were included, and Mr. Windham was identified.

[12] Afterwards Earl of Orford.

[13] Afterwards edited by Miss Berry.

[14] Miss Port; now Mrs. Waddington, of Llanover.

[15] Mrs. Cheveley.

[16] Barrington—afterwards Bishop of Durham

[17] Afterwards Sir William.

[18] To this highly-favoured latest friend she bequeathed two medallions of the King and Queen; one of the mosaic flowers from her botanical work; her own elegant copy of Waller’s lovely Saccharissa, from Vandyke, the original of which is still in the Waller Family, at Beaconsfield; and, finally, she closed her benign offerings by a verbal commission to her nephew, Mr. Barnard Dewes, to make over to the same person her noble edition of Theobald’s Shakespeare, in eight volumes quarto; kindly desiring him to say, that it was a tribute to the pleasure with which she had listened to that immortal Bard through the reading of the legatee.

Mr. Barnard Dewes sent the Saccharissa, preceded by the following invaluable words.

Copy from the Will of Mrs. Delany.

“I take this liberty that my much-esteemed friend may sometimes recollect a person, who was so sensible to her friendship, and who delighted so much in her conversation and works.”

[19] The Memorialist has since been informed that the King himself had deigned to say, “It is but her due. She has given up five years of her pen.”

[20] This has reference to the situation, and to that only, in Chelsea College.

[21] The eels, now, are so used to being skinned, that these matters, both for the inflictors and the endurers, are become more easy.

[22] See Mr. Moore’s Life of Sheridan.

[23] George III.

[24] The Editor cannot here refuse herself the satisfaction of inserting a remarkable speech, that was made to her by a professionally experienced physiognomist, the Rev. Thomas Willis, upon observing Mr. Burke, after he had spoken to her one day in Westminster Hall: “Give me leave to ask—who was that you were conversing with just now?” “Mr. Burke!” “Is that possible!—Can a man who seeks by EVERY means, not only the obvious and the fair, but the most obscure and irrelevant, to prosecute to infamy and persecute to death—have a countenance of such marked honesty? Every line of his face denotes honour and probity!”

[25] Now Baron Crewe.

[26] Now the Hon. Mrs. Cunliffe Offley.

[27] Afterwards the Hon. Mrs. Beauclerk.

[28] Mrs. Locke of Norbury Park.

[29] Mr. Burke, in one of his unpublished Letters, says, “Coalition is the condition of Mankind!”

[30] Afterwards Lord Chancellor.

[31] Miss French, a niece of Mr. Burke’s.

[32] See Correspondence.

[33] Since Duchess.

[34] Mrs. Phillips.

[35] Afterwards Lord Chancellor.

[36] Afterwards Queen.

[37] Twice only this lady and the Memorialist had yet met, since the Italian marriage; once at a large assembly at Mrs. Locke’s; and afterwards at Windsor, on the way to St. George’s chapel; but neither of these meetings, from circumstantial obstacles, led to any further intercourse; though each of them offered indications to both parties of always subsisting kindness.

[38] Beaconsfield.

[39] Mr. Richard Burke, sen., and Mr. Burke, jun.

[40] Beaconsfield.

[41] A £20 Bank Note.

[42] The translations of Mr. Hoole were not yet in circulation.

[43] He made the same speech of melancholy, but partial regret, to Dr. Charles Burney, who visited him also at Bath.

[44] Mrs. General Hales, of Chelsea College.

[45] The Doctor’s Sons.

[46] The Burkes.

[47] At this date, 1797, the King, George III. was perfectly restored.

[48] Now the Hon. Mrs. Cunliffe Offley.

[49] Mr. Burney, the barrister, son of the late Rear-Admiral Burney.

[50] The present celebrated mathematician and author.

[51] George III.

[52] To the Editor he once avowed, that to pass twenty-four hours without one piercing pang of pain would be new to him.

[53] Generally, from the name of the author, attributed, but erroneously, to Anna Seward, of Litchfield.

[54] Now Mrs. Garnier.

[55] Now Viscountess Canning.

[56] Now Lady Elizabeth Whitbread.

[57] Now Viscount Palmerston.

[58] Mr. Twining.

[59] The Doctor’s grand-daughter, now Mrs. Raper.

[60] Afterwards Earl of Liverpool.

[61] First husband of Buonaparte’s sister, Paulina, afterwards La Princesse Borghese.

[62] The Culpability, or the Rights of the insurgents, could make no part of the business of the soldier; whose services, when once he is enlisted, as unequivocally demand personal subordination as personal bravery.

[63] Louis the Sixteenth.

[64] Of this singular and hazardous letter, M. d’Arblay, who wrote it on a sudden impulse, neither gave nor shewed one copy in England, except to M. Otto.

[65] General de La Fayette; who then, with his virtuous wife and family, resided at his old Chateau of La Grange; exclusively occupied by useful agricultural experiments, and exemplary domestic duties.

[66] Afterwards Earl of Chichester.

[67] His Sleep.

[68] As the wife of a French officer of distinction, living with him in his own country, she would have held any species of clandestine manoeuvre to its disadvantage as treachery, and, indeed, ingratitude; for, during ten unbroken years of sojourn in France, she met with a never abating warmth of friendship, and confidence in her honour, from the singularly amiable personages to whom she had the happiness of being presented by her husband; the charm of whose social intercourse is indelibly engraven on her remembrance. And she cannot here resist the indulgence of gratefully selecting from a list too numerous for this brief record, the names of the amiable Prince and Princesse de Beauvau, and their delightful family; and of the noble-minded General and Madame Victor de la Tour Maubourg, with the whole of that upright and estimable race; including most peculiarly MADAME DE MAISONENNE, the faithful, chosen, and tender friend of this Editor.

[69] Now Lady (George) Martin.

[70] This Editor had a letter from him, after a lapse of correspondence of thirty years, that was written within a few weeks of his decease, by an amanuensis, but signed by himself; and dictated with all the still unimpaired imagination of his fertile mind and poetical country; and with the fervent fancy, and expressive feelings of his grateful recollections of the nation in which he declares himself to have passed the happiest days of his life.

[71] Now Lord Stowell.

[72] George IV.

[73] Now wife of le Chevalier de Pougens.

[74] The present Hon. Mrs. Singleton and the Hon. Miss Upton.

[75] The Hon. Col. Greville Howard.

[76] Now Governor General of Bengal.

[77] The Duke of York.

[78] A mark of genuine liberality this in Mr. Fox, who, like Mr. Burke, in the affair of Chelsea College, clearly held that men of science and letters should, in all great states, be publicly encouraged, without wounding their feelings by shackling their opinions.

[79] Barrington.

[80] North.

[81] Howley, now Archbishop of Canterbury.

[82] Relative to the pension.

[83] At Bath, also, many years afterwards, an intercourse, both personal and epistolary, between Mrs. Piozzi and this Memorialist was renewed; and was gliding on to returning feelings of the early cordiality, that, gaily and delightfully, had been endearing to both—when calamitous circumstances caused a new separation, that soon afterwards became final by the death of Mrs. Piozzi.

[84] General La Fayette, who was then still living in his agricultural retirement, surrounded by a branching family, almost constituting a tribe; and, at that time, utterly a stranger to all politics or public life.

[85] Afterwards the first Marquis of Lansdowne.

[86] Mrs. Solvyns.

[87] The Count Louis de Narbonne.

[88] The Baron de Larrey.

[89] Chiefly the loyal and admirable family De la Tour Maubourg.

[90] Lady Lucy Foley.

[91] Admiral Sir Richard Foley.

[92] While she was very young, the Doctor had accustomed himself to say: “Poor Fanny’s face tells what she thinks, whether she will or no.”

[93] Every one of which the Doctor kindly remembered in his will.

[94] A Tancred Scholarship at Cambridge.

[95] The Editor resided at Paris during the astonishing period of all these events.

[96] Omitting, of course, all extraneous circumstances.

[97] The dream of human existence, from which death would awaken him to immortal life!

Transcriber’s Notes.

1. Silently corrected simple spelling, grammar, and typographical errors.

2. Retained anachronistic and non-standard spellings as printed.