The Project Gutenberg eBook of In and About Drury Lane, and Other Papers, Vol. 2 (of 2)

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Title: In and About Drury Lane, and Other Papers, Vol. 2 (of 2)

Author: Dr. Doran

Release date: December 6, 2021 [eBook #66891]

Language: English

Credits: Susan Skinner, Martin Pettit and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)


Transcriber’s Note:

Obvious typographic errors have been corrected.





title page











Publishers in Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen

All rights reserved




Life in the Nineteenth Century 1
The Postman’s Knock 26
The Twenty-thousand-pound Widow 53
To Brighton and back again 78
On some Clubs, and their ends 105
Through the Parks 134
Some Scotswomen 160
The Dibdins 190
Horatio Nelson and Emma Hamilton 222
Edward Wortley Montagu 285
Royal and Imperial Jokers 327

[Pg 1]


But for Pepys and Evelyn we should know but little of the social life of the seventeenth century. A host of letter writers—Walpole, Mrs. Delany, and Mrs. Montagu, at the head of them—may be said to have photographed the next century for us. Lord Malmesbury, Lord Auckland, and some others succeeded; and now we are beginning to have revelations exclusively of the first years of the nineteenth century. The most important contributor to our knowledge in this respect is the late Sir George Jackson, whose volumes, ably edited by his widow, will afford us samples of the times in which our grandmothers were young and had swains at their feet—unless war called them away.

Gay people on the Continent had a bad time of it when war broke out in 1803, and the French government issued orders for the arrest of all English persons on whom hands could be laid. Bath expected to be more brilliant than ever by the return of the absentees; but their difficulty was how to return. All who were in France were[Pg 2] made prisoners. A precipitate flight of crowds of English travellers from Geneva took place. They were not safe on any part of the Continent; but some, in disguise and on foot, reached Berlin, others got to the sea and arrived in England; but Bath was not sensible of any increase in numbers or gaiety, for the times were out of joint, though dowagers still played whist and young couples danced minuets.

Many of those who were shut up at Verdun chafed under the restraint as intolerable. Some, however, bore it philosophically, others gaily. A few took to French mistresses; other few to French wives. The French officials made ‘a good thing’ out of those who had money, granting them partial liberty for so many days or hours, according to the ‘consideration.’ Two or three, having spent hundreds of pounds in their bribes, at last took ‘French leave,’ and were lucky in not being recaptured. Their course is not to be commended. We have a higher opinion of Sir Sidney Smith, who, when a prisoner in the Temple, refused to have his parole, used to tell the governor to be vigilant, as he would be off on the first opportunity, and ultimately kept his word, broke prison, and found his painful way to England.

The seriousness of the times and their events little affected the Prince of Wales. He was indeed thought to be ill in the early part of 1804; but[Pg 3] the illness arose, it was said, from the fact that the Prince and the Duke of Norfolk had been so drunk, for three whole days, that the former at last fell like a pig, and would have died like one, but for prompt and copious bleeding. How rude the ‘first gentleman’ could be, when he chose, to his wife, is well-known. At a drawing-room, held by Queen Charlotte in June 1807, when the Prince and Princess of Wales were present, he took no notice of the Princess. Turning his back upon her, he stood between her and the Queen, and as long as the Princess remained he kept up a conversation with his sisters, thereby preventing them from addressing a word to his wife. This feeling against his wife he paraded everywhere. He was jealous of her popularity—quite unnecessarily, for she made herself ridiculous, and the subject of scornful criticism, by her lavish display at evening parties of her protuberant beauties. At these parties, the Prince would stare at ladies whom he knew, without speaking to them. His condescending speech was addressed only to his first wife, Mrs. Fitzherbert, and her sister, Lady Haggerstone. The first of these ladies lived at Brighton with the state of a queen and the spirit of a goddess of mirth. Meanwhile, his Royal Highness flirted with his ‘future Duchess,’ the Marchioness of Hertford. One of Queen Fitzherbert’s merriest tales related how a man had[Pg 4] sent to her some lemonade powders he had invented, on the ground that they were highly approved and constantly used by the Marchioness in question.

In 1802 Bath was surprised by a visit from the Duke of York. He brought the Duchess with him, and left her there next day. Her friends reported that she had been bitten in the hand by one of her numerous pet dogs, and that the wound was privately pumped upon daily. But the public story was, that his Royal Highness had lost 200,000l. at play, and had been compelled to break up his town establishment. The scandalous story of the Duke and Mrs. Clarke, a mistress, who sold places and commissions, is pleasantly balanced by an incident respecting a son of the Duke of Clarence and his mistress, Mrs. Jordan—Lieutenant Fitzclarence, in 1809. He was in Spain with our army in that year, and he reversed La Fontaine’s fable of the mule who was always talking of his mother the mare, but said little of his father the ass. The lieutenant was the foolish aide-de-camp of a foolish General Shaw, who was always showing him about to the Spaniards as the King of England’s grandson.

That grandson was about to be despatched on a mission to the Continent in 1813, but ministers changed their minds. They were afraid he would write every thing to his father, who would publish[Pg 5] it in Bond Street; and so the gentleman was kept at home to sun himself in the bow window at White’s.

The grandest fête of sixty years since was the one given by the Prince, at Carlton House, in 1811. The King was in such ill health and the Princess Amelia in such a precarious condition that it was often deferred; and Jekyll remarked that no one could ever again say, ‘Fixed as fate!’ At length it came off, and, for one happy invited guest, made a hundred mad who were not invited. The Queen and Princesses declined to be present; but Louis XVIII. and the sad-looking Duchess of Angoulême appeared there, and the Prince received the former as a sovereign de facto. ‘I am only a Comte de Lille,’ said Louis modestly. ‘Sire,’ said the Prince, ‘you are the King of France and Navarre;’ and he treated his guest accordingly. Both the Prince’s wives (Mrs. Fitzherbert and the Princess of Wales) sat at home by themselves; but the ‘favourite’ was honoured by a command to attend the festival. One of the Prince’s ideas was to divorce his second wife and shut her up in Holyrood House for ever. This grand fête, it may be added, was soon forgotten in the excitement caused by the fight that was to come off between the Baltimore negro, Molyneux, and the chief of English boxers, Tom Cribb! It was a time, moreover, when later hours began to be fashionable.[Pg 6] We hear of a ball lasting from twelve till eight; and of another at which the majority of dancers kept it up till ten in the morning.

We go back a couple of years, in order to remark that in 1809, while there was no lack of enjoyment among optimists, the press saw the worst side of everything; and the ‘Times’ especially denied or explained away our victories generally, and that of Talavera in particular. The public seem to have been almost as ill-informed as to what was being done abroad as they are now by ‘our own correspondents,’ who are sent to describe battle-fields or other troublesome matters, and who write columns on the boiling of their eggs and the obstinacy of their laundresses. ‘It is too much,’ says Jackson, ‘to hear the victory of Talavera called in question by the “Times;” a victory as honourable to British arms and British generalship as any they ever achieved. That paper should be offered up as a sacrifice to the manes of the heroes who fell on the Alberche. I have not patience to read it.’

In 1814 the Prince Regent had a narrow escape for his life. On one of his evenings of ennui he sent for George Colman to come from the King’s Bench, where he was a prisoner, to amuse him. Court jester and prince, they passed the night, drinking and fooling, till six o’clock, when his Highness was carried to bed in an apoplexy, from[Pg 7] which he only recovered at the cost of seven and twenty ounces of blood! He was as near death at this critical juncture as a man could be and yet live. His constitution, however, carried him through. When the allied sovereigns entered London he was ready for all the duties and eager for all the pleasures that the occasion offered; but he shocked some people on one occasion by presiding at a public dinner on a Sunday.

That English society wanted refinement in the first decade of the present century is not to be disputed. When Mr. Jackson returned from long diplomatic service abroad in 1806, he dined one day at Lord Westmoreland’s. The guests were chiefly Russians. They were as much out of their element in English society as the young diplomatist says he was after the sociability, ease, and elegance of the society at foreign courts to which he had so long been accustomed.

Some of that foreign society was quite as free as it was easy. Jackson and other Englishmen at the Prussian court were admitted to the morning toilette of Madame de Vos, the King of Prussia’s grande maîtresse. While under the hands of her hairdresser she laughed and flirted with the English lords and gentlemen, who paid tribute to her beauty by making her presents of wine and tea, and other English matters, which she greedily accepted. There are three things, says the Welsh[Pg 8] proverb, which always swallow and are never satisfied—the grave, the sea, and a king’s concubine.

Austerlitz killed Pitt as surely as Trafalgar killed Nelson. Each died for his country, but that country mourned more deeply for the great admiral, stricken down in the battle where he was the victor, than it did for the great minister who died of a broken heart. The last book he read, at Bath, was Miss Owenson’s (Lady Morgan’s) ‘Novice of St. Dominic.’ That now unreadable romance, Pitt said, he could not lay down till he had finished it, and thence did the ‘Novice’ come to be the rage for a time. People almost fought to obtain it at the libraries, and nothing in literature was talked of but a book which has long since fallen out of literature and of memory altogether. People, too, fought for another novel, ‘A Winter in London,’ in which fashionable life was illustrated by an incapable whose name and whose work are equally wrapt in oblivion.

Fox did not long survive his great rival Pitt. He died on the 13th of September, 1806. A week previously, when he was already dying, he transacted public business. He gave an audience in his bedroom to George Jackson, with instructions as to how the latter was to act on his new mission to Germany. There was a mixture of the solemn and the ludicrous in the scene. When Jackson[Pg 9] was announced Mrs. Fox, in complete deshabille, was in the room. In her flurry she slipped into a closet, and, as the interview was prolonged, the lightly-draped lady kept signalling to Mr. Fox, as if he alone could hear her, by little coughs and murmurs, to warn him not to over-exert himself, or to dismiss the envoy, that she might be set free. At a moment when there was a pause in the conversation between the minister and his agent the fair captive tapped at the panel, asked if the young gentleman was not gone, and complained of being cold. The dying statesman looked at Jackson with a languid smile, and with friendly wishes bade him farewell—as it proved, for ever.

Descending to minor legislators, we meet with an Irish M.P., who, being told that the favour he asked would be granted on condition of his supporting government, replied that he would not give his constant support for so paltry a favour. The Irish member obtained the favour, and voted twice for government in payment for it. This was better diplomacy than Sir Charles Stuart’s (Marquis of Londonderry), who, when named to a post in Germany, told people that he was going to Spain, by way of being diplomatic. We were unlucky in our leading diplomatists generally at that time. Lord Aberdeen may serve as an example. He went to Toplitz, as English ambassador, and had the bad taste and idiotic indiscretion to say one[Pg 10] day, openly at dinner, that he could not bear the undertaking, and would not go on with it to keep the crowns on the allied heads! One qualification was necessary to even a decently moderate success, namely, the ability to speak French; but Lord Aberdeen not only could not speak two words of French, but had the folly to tell everybody who addressed him in that language that he hated it. There was in some persons as much bad taste in acts as there was in others in words; and it is not without surprise that we hear of gentlemen sightseers who would pass the morning amid the horrors of a field of recent battle, and the evening at the play, philandering with ladies and talking an infinite deal of nothing. On another occasion, we hear of the gayest and most gigantic of picnics, where luxury abounded, while, within a few miles, French soldiers were dropping dead with hunger as they slowly retreated.

Mrs. Fitzherbert was in the early part of the century the Queen of Brighton, if not of England, and she was popularly called ‘Mrs. Prince.’ She certainly was one of the most queen-like women that ever lived; and stood in favourable contrast with Lady Holland, who is justly described as fussy, almost rude, straining at effect, and losing it in the very effort. There was another lady then in England striving to be effective, Madame de Staël; and she (who horrified Henry Brougham) was[Pg 11] pronounced by female critics as ‘too anxious to glitter to be intrinsically good.’ A still more remarkable woman of that day was Lady Caroline Lamb. She was at a party at Lady Heathcote’s, had been flirting and quarrelling with Lord Byron, and therefore ‘stabbed herself with a knife at supper, so that the blood flew about her neighbours.’ When she came to, after a faint, a glass of water was handed to her, but she smashed the glass and cut herself with the pieces. ‘A little discipline,’ said Francis Jackson, ‘will bring these school-girl fancies into order.’ A good deal of disorder was to be found at breakfast as well as at supper-tables. Lady Caroline Hood was, probably, counselled not to go to the Regent’s ‘breakfast’; but ladies will, under certain circumstances, disregard friends and doctors also. Lady Caroline went, and had only herself to blame when she had to be carried away wrapped up in blankets.

Mrs. Fitzherbert’s conduct at Brighton was not always in the best taste. Mrs. Gunn, the bathing-woman, invariably addressed her as ‘Mrs. Prince’; but the latter did not live at the level of that dignity. She held afternoon gossips in her little drawing room, hung with black profiles (her salon aux silhouettes). Only guests of distinction were admitted here to exchange the stories of the day for piquant anecdotes and a cup of tea. There, too, M. le Prince was a subject of discussion. His [Pg 12]sayings and doings were pretty freely handled. It was all done with gusto and elicited much mirth; but some visitors, who were glad to be there, professed to think it all very naughty and in the worst taste.

The fair one who had the reputation of being fairest where all were fair—the reigning queen of beauty in fact—was Miss Rumbold, daughter of Sir George. She was a ‘dashing’ beauty; but if to be beautiful was not common, to be dashing was to be fashionable. Accordingly, we find Miss Rumbold attended so little to the hints and admonitions of the Bishop of Durham, that the love of showing off an amazingly fine ankle prevented more than one offer from among the crowd of her adorers. The same pretty vanity was strong in the Princess Charlotte, at a later period, but Prince Leopold was not kept thereby from being a suitor. It may be concluded that gentlemen were, after all, not so particular as the adorers of Miss Rumbold, if Texier truly said of his daughter (whose beauty he was always praising in her presence) that there were five hundred lords, any one of whom would have been the happiest of men to have her for his own.

The utmost regularity was not incompatible with much eccentricity in many of the foremost individuals of the time. One of them, the Duke of Bedford, arranged his movements for a whole year in advance; and if one went wrong, his Grace was put out for six or eight months together. The[Pg 13] silent Duke was under the thumb of his rattling Duchess, who used to laugh at his announcement, on starting for a long journey, of the precise moment of his return, and what dishes were to be ready for him on his arrival. He would be there, D.V., of course; but in any case, there he would be. The Duchess was as irregular as the Duke was the opposite. His obedience to her was that of Jerry Sneak. She would cry out in a room full of people, Johnny, do this; Johnny, do that; Johnny, I did not see you bow to such a person! Speak to him directly, and speak German, Johnny—and Duke Johnny answered not, but like a good boy, unhesitatingly obeyed.

Lady Holland, fanciful, sharp, and impertinent, did not attract Jackson’s brother Francis. Clever, he allowed that wayward lady to be, but not a wit of the quality she would fain have been thought. ‘There is too much effort—a straining after effect in all she says and does; and the effect is not always what she wishes or imagines it to be.’

In behalf of some of the fine ladies of the time, government officials cheated their own revenue department without scruple. Jackson was, one day in 1810, amused to find the ‘subs’ at the Foreign Office very anxious, at Lord Wellesley’s suggestion, to devise means of getting a box of shoes which had been sent from Spain, for Lady Holland, but which had been seized by the Custom[Pg 14] House officers. Lady Holland was capricious, and as often insolent as civil; but she was not mean, like Lady Hyde Parker, who gave a ball to a crowd of guests and sent them home without supper. By the way, when there was a ball at Buckingham House, in the opening years of the century, no guests under the rank of earls’ sons and daughters were invited; but this exclusiveness had to be laid aside.

Nearly sixty years ago there was a queen of hearts in London who broke as many as she could, voluntarily or involuntarily. She was a Miss Acklom, daughter of a Nottinghamshire squire. Down at Exmouth, amid the loveliness and the idleness of the place, the nymph and a gallant officer named Tilson fell in love, or seemed to do so, with each other. The warrior, at all events, was deeply smitten, and marriage was to plunge him still deeper in love; but, almost at the church door, the cruel nymph declined to go further. The lover went straightway abroad. After a while, Miss Acklom was subdued by another wooer, Mr. Maddox; the beauty consented to become his wife. As the time of the nuptials drew near the lady’s grandfather died. She went into mourning, and came out of it with an announcement of a quality to put her lover into it; namely, that she had changed her mind. Like Tilson, Maddox sought solace in going to the stirring scenes abroad. [Pg 15]Jackson wrote from his quarters at Dijon, in 1814, that the swain so ill-treated by Venus was ‘trying his luck with Mars, as an amateur.... From being a very handsome and lively-tempered young man, he has become quite the reverse.’ While two lovers were despairing a third presented himself. He was no other than that Lord Althorpe, who became so distinguished in the House of Commons as a statesman and a minister. My lord was accepted. Just as the marriage was about to take place this third lover’s grandmother died; whereupon the nymph put on mourning and went down to Bath to live in retirement. Old Mrs. Jackson prophesied that Miss Acklom would, on coming out of mourning, jilt the heir to an earldom as she had done ‘poor Maddox.’ George replied that Tilson had recently returned to England, a general, and ‘this perhaps may win her smiles again.’ Lord Althorpe proved to be a successful swain. Esther Acklom married him, about a month after Mrs. Jackson had presaged that she would play this lover false. The wedding was celebrated in April 1815, and in little more than three years the once volatile nymph was carried to her grave, leaving a childless widower to mourn a good wife’s loss.

The great scandal in high life within the first ten years of this century was the elopement of Lord Paget, afterwards the celebrated Marquis of Anglesea, with Lady Charlotte, wife of Henry[Pg 16] Wellesley, nephew of the subsequently famous Arthur, and better known to us as the first Lord Cowley. All the world of fashion had seen what was going on except the lady’s husband. The guilty parties pleaded uncontrollable passion. The seducer abandoned his wife and eight children, the lady left a husband and four children; but she asked Mr. Arbuthnot to break the matter gently to their father. Lord Paget, who had told his father that he had sought death in battle in order to avoid the social catastrophe, was challenged by Colonel Cadogan, Lady Charlotte’s brother. The Colonel declared that one of them must die; but Lord Paget declined the chance on the ground that his life was devoted to the Colonel’s sister. To this lady he was married in 1810, in which year his union with his first wife was dissolved, and that lady became Duchess of Argyll.

Provincial fine society was somewhat rough but hearty; ‘all very friendly and hospitable; but as regards stuffing it would be difficult, I confess, to excel them.’ The allusion is to a Northumbrian high sheriff’s dinner party. At Brighton, described in 1809 as a dangerous rival to Bath, we are at a ball given by a Mr. and Mrs. Parker, ‘good people who have more money than sense or acquaintances, but who made up for the latter deficiency by giving balls to all whom they did not know and the few whom they did.’ Illustrious strangers[Pg 17] went to dance, eat suppers, and drink champagne, and perhaps laugh at Mrs. Parker, who told everybody on coming in, and by way of compliment, that she had been disappointed of the flower of her party—some three or four personages who could not come. The lady was, after all, not such a fool as she looked. There was good satirical humour (when she went up to Lady Boyne, who was then in deep mourning for her daughter) in her request to the exemplary mother to open the ball! And apropos to Brighton, now so rich in vehicles, we smile at the record of the extortion of Brighton chairmen in 1809, and how they were brought to their senses by an ex-coachman to a gentleman. Jehu bought the old blue coach of the Blackburns, with the cock and trumpet upon it, which had been the glory of Bath; putting a pair of horses to it, the owner conveyed people all over the town at a shilling per person for the trip, before midnight, and one-and-sixpence after. While the chairmen stood upon their rights, earning nothing, this clever coachman whipped up a very pretty little fortune.

One of the most pushing and successful men in Bath in 1809 was Sigmond, who, after being a footman in Germany, set up as a dentist in the City of Hot Waters. His wife had been his mistress. The two together made more dash and lived at more expense than almost anybody in that city.[Pg 18] They once invited the Duke of Gloucester to a grand supper, and he so far accepted the invitation as to send one of his gentlemen to represent him. People of better standing than the footman-dentist and his married mistress hardly behaved better. The mother of Sir George Jackson remembered Mrs. Piozzi and Dr. Johnson at Bath, and she could not imagine how Mrs. Piozzi could tolerate so coarse and bear-like a person as the Doctor; though the Doctor’s coarseness was matched by the lady’s levity. ‘Their manners,’ Mrs. Jackson wrote to her son, ‘were more disgusting than pleasing to most persons ... they both ought to have been ashamed of themselves.’

Sixty or seventy years ago locomotion was considered rapid when the Newcastle mail left that northern town on a Monday morning and reached London on the ensuing Wednesday at 5 A.M. In these days of electric cables and telegraphs, it is amusing to read of the method taken by a Rothschild to obtain news. We had not then got so far as sending or receiving news by carrier pigeons. In February 1807 Jackson arrived in London from Munich. The head of the Rothschild firm, hearing of the arrival, waited on the diplomatist, and, as the latter said, probed him dexterously to elicit any secrets he might possess relative to Prussian financial difficulties and state affairs generally. The Government was as ill off occasionally as the[Pg 19] financier. They at one time depended on the French papers for news from abroad, and for the loan of these, ministers were indebted to the charity of the editor of the ‘Times.’

Looking into private life, we find various illustrations of its character. While war was raging abroad the waltz conquered the prudes of Bath, who, after gracefully battling against it, embraced it and their partners therein with a sort of ecstasy. Those were the days of heavy postage; and we read of a lady who thought to cheat the revenue by stuffing a hare sent to a friend, with letters, which that friend was to hand over according to the addresses. The ingenious method failed, inasmuch as the cook who received the hare tossed all the rumpled and blood-stained letters with which it was lined into the fire.

While Mr. Jackson had the affairs of the world to set down on paper, and often rose from the table where he was writing despatches only to catch a hasty glance at a battle, or to be off in a hurry, hardly pressed by a victorious foe, he was overwhelmed with commissions from thoughtless people. Some asked him to purchase for them carriages and horses, others hammers and nails; and, wrote his mother, ‘If in the course of your rambles through Saxony or Silesia you can meet with a piece of fine cambric for handkerchiefs pray secure it for me, as cambric is now of an exorbitant price[Pg 20] in this country.’ Thousands of men were bleeding to death for want of bandages, and the easy-going old lady at Bath could think only of cheap handkerchiefs for herself.

One incident of the times reads like a page or two from Fielding. It refers to the Irish servant, Pat O’Raffer, who was with George Jackson in Bohemia. Pat was as lean as if he had lived for a month at a French table d’hôte. In Bath, when his master fell in love with Miss Rumbold, Pat fell in love with Miss Rumbold’s maid. In his absence, however, the abigail gave her company to another young man, but Pat continued to write to her ‘a very pretty letter’ all the same. As one of these letters especially contained a good deal of political and personal gossip, which began to spread through Bath, old Mrs. Jackson thought it would be well to secure it, and to stop the writing of similar epistles for the future; and she sent for the damsel, with the success narrated below.

The good, stupid wench mentioned regretfully that the postage was two shillings and ninepence. I said, ‘Susan, this long story about things that you know nothing of, and can take no interest in, my good girl, has cost you, it seems, far more than it is worth.’ ‘Yes, indeed, ma’am,’ she answered, ‘it has. I like very well to hear from Mr. Raffer, but I do wish he would pay the postage.’ ‘Has this thoughtless man often put you to the expense?’ I inquired. ‘Oh, no, ma’am; it’s the first since he went; but he says he shall write again.’ ‘Shall you answer it,[Pg 21] Susan?’ I asked. ‘Lor, ma’am,’ she said, ‘I should never know where to find a place to begin upon. Doesn’t you think, ma’am, it’s more like a piece of reading in the newspaper than a letter? Then I shouldn’t like to pay another two-and-ninepence.’ ‘Then, Susan,’ I said, ‘as my son’s name is mentioned in this letter, suppose I give you five shillings for it—that will pay the postage, and buy you a nice frilled neckerchief.’ Susan blushed and smiled with delight. The bargain was struck at once for this and any other despatch Mr. Raffer may send, silence on the subject being promised.... My only qualm of conscience in getting hold of the letter was, that I suggested to Susan to buy a frilled neckerchief, never allowing my own maids to wear any but plain ones.

In those days mistresses could rule the costume of their maids. In ours the latter dress in the same ill-taste adopted by their mistresses. But chignons, at last, have gone out, and with them the abominable smell which ‘pervaded’ the atmosphere.

By 1813 the minuet, a knowledge of dancing which Mrs. Montagu thought of more importance than a knowledge of French, ceased to be known in the ball-room. It fingered on the stage. The Coburg Theatre audiences looked upon the Minuet de la Cour and Gavotte, danced by M. and Mdme. Le Clercq, with a sort of wondering delight, and Taglioni and Fanny Elsler danced it on our opera stage, forty years ago, as a lady and cavalier of the time of Louis the Fourteenth. When the waltz[Pg 22] first attempted (with its vulgar familiarity and an intimacy which made an Oriental ambassador almost faint) to supplant the minuet, in which the gentleman scarcely touched the tips of the lady’s fingers, and seemed abashed at his own audacity, there was a general outcry of fie upon it. But young ladies soon learned to laugh at the objections of their mothers, and flung themselves on the shirt-fronts of their partners with alacrity. Fashion sanctified it, and the youthful world thought it ill-bred prudery to set its face against what fashionable people of good taste considered innocent and amusing.

The actors of the first half of the century come pleasantly to the memories of some survivors, and to the knowledge of others who will be glad to become acquainted with them. Graceful Elliston, in Octavian, is said to have been superior to John Kemble. George Frederick Cooke was always fine, but never sober; ‘often so drunk as not to be able to come on the stage at all, and generally as not to be able to stand when on.’ We sit with Cooke’s exasperated audience, kept half an hour beyond time, when he was to play Mr. Oakley, and we join in the hissing when he does appear, and enjoy the mingled surprise and indignation that light up his countenance. ‘He, however, recollected himself, and after one violent effort, in which every feature of his speaking countenance had its peculiar [Pg 23]expression, made a sort of half-disdainful half-respectful bow, and an exit steadier than his entrée, though hardly steady enough for dignity.’ Cooke’s Oakley, in its way, was as good as Emery’s Tyke, which, as a bit of tragi-comedy, was inexpressibly grand.

In 1809 Kemble was declining. In reference to his Hamlet, Jackson says, ‘Kemble was, of course, great, and his triumph, I believe, complete; but, in my humble opinion, he has gone off a good deal.’ Of the then new Covent Garden (burnt down in 1808), he writes; ‘It appears to me small, and the prevailing colour—brick red—very common and ineffective. The doors too, though they cost a large sum, and will, if they last as long, be very handsome some years hence, have a mean appearance, the mahogany being so very pale.’ Kemble lingered too long upon the stage. In 1801 we read, in reference to his Hotspur, ‘In some parts he warmed up to the situation and was very good; but he is too old for such a character, and the dress only shows off his unfitness the more. It made him appear decidedly aged, and thus, in a great measure, rendered all he had to say ineffective.’ But in those last years of his career Kemble flashed forth gleams of his old glory. In the year last named he and Mrs. Siddons played inimitably in ‘Isabella,’ in which Charles Kemble played Carlos, and showed signs that he was not going to remain the mere ‘stick’ which he had been for many years. Mrs.[Pg 24] Siddons was, on the other hand, deteriorating. She had grown enormously large. When she killed herself, in ‘Isabella,’ and fell to the ground, the stage groaned beneath her; and if, in any character, she knelt, it took two good men to get her comfortably on her legs again. The greatest theatrical novelty of the day was when Kemble appeared at court to take leave on his intended departure for America, where he was to play twenty-two nights for six thousand pounds and his expenses paid. After all, Kemble did not go; his appearance at court, ‘a player,’ made some people think the world was coming to an end. But there was a worse sign of the times. When Bellingham, after shooting Mr. Percival, was conveyed in a coach to Newgate, the mob escorted and cheered him, shook hands with him, and congratulated him on having murdered a minister.

It is startling to find Mrs. Siddons accused of want of feeling when she took leave of the stage. As John Kemble continued to linger on it, his power of attracting audiences grew less. In 1812 it is said of his King John, ‘his conception of the character remains, of course, as excellent as ever; but his voice is gone, and I am told when the play is ended he is so exhausted as hardly to be able to speak or move.’

We conclude these desultory samples of by-gone life with an example of the remuneration of a [Pg 25]leading barrister of the first years of this century, namely, Garrow. It is said of him that ‘he went into court one morning at York, made a speech of about twenty minutes, then doffed his wig and gown, pocketed four hundred pounds, besides one hundred pounds for his expenses, and drove off again to London.’

Those who have examined these grains from a full measure may find more perfect enjoyment by perusing ‘The Diaries and Letters of Sir George Jackson,’ and the interesting second series of the work known as ‘The Bath Archives.’

[Pg 26]


‘A foot post doth come from Bury, in Suffolk, to the Green Dragon, in Bishopsgate Street, every Wednesday, by whom letters may be conveyed to and fro.’ So writes the water poet, John Taylor, in his ‘Carrier’s Cosmography,’ A.D. 1637. In like manner we learn that a foot post from Wasingham came every second Thursday to the Cross Keys, Holborn; and one from York, to the Rose and Crown, in St. John Street. Letters, however, could be sent every Monday to Scotland, ‘by the post that doth lodge at the King’s Arms, at the upper end of Cheapside.’ Letters did not travel then as fast as a certain general made one travel, by enclosing it in a cannon ball and firing it into a besieged town, for the purpose of conveying a message. Between the time when the first letter was written and that signalled by the postman’s knock this morning there never was a more singular mode of despatch.

The first letter ever written! Where is it? Let us be content to know, as beyond dispute, that the earliest sample we have of a letter is that of[Pg 27] David to Joab. When we remember the contents and the purpose of that letter we may be honestly ashamed of the writer. We could have wished this letter had not been preserved; and we turn from it readily to consider the letters of more recent and less sacred kings.

The earliest royal sign manual existing of our own kings is that of Richard II. The grandest and firmest is that of Richard III. There exists a document of this king’s which was begun under dictation. Richard seems to have grown impatient with his secretary, snatched the pen from his hand, and finished the document with his own hand. His signature, Ricardus Rex, is written with wonderful boldness. The cross line of the ‘x’ looks like a pike-staff, and has a wickedly threatening air with it. There are letters of a far more interesting quality than the above, also written by Richard, in the collection of letters of the time of that king, with others of the later time of Henry VII. The work is one of the series published under the sanction of the Master of the Rolls. Richard’s letters are those of a kind-hearted man, who considers no subject to be too trifling for consideration. Several letters prove that he was an affectionate husband to Lady Anne. When she was Richard’s queen and had fallen sick, her husband wrote to Louis XI., civilly requesting him to send over some Burgundy and wines of Haute[Pg 28] France, for the comforting and strengthening of that august lady’s stomach. On another occasion, when the governess of his little son Edward (that boy-prince of Wales whose unexpected death at Middleham nearly drove his father mad) was likely to lose some property through the dishonesty of a kinsman, Richard looked into her affairs and energetically set about seeing her righted. In details like these he comes before us, like a good-natured head of a family, sympathising with all who live under his roof. It is quite curious, too, to see that matters of dress were not beneath his notice. One of his many Irish favourites—favourites because they had supported the cause of Richard’s noble father, the Duke of York—was the Earl of Desmond. Richard was not only generous to the earl, he was desirous of seeing him dressed in the fashion which prevailed in England, but which had not yet reached Ireland. Richard requests Desmond to ‘renounce the wearing and usage of the Irish array, and to use the manner of apparel for his person after the English guise.’ The king sent patterns of dress to Ireland by the hands of a bishop. The right reverend modiste carried with him samples of ‘gowns, doublets, hose, and bonnets,’ of the latest taste, with a fac-simile of the king’s livery, a collar of gold of Richard’s device, and, finally, a neat assortment of ‘hats, kerchiefs, tippets, and shirts.’ In[Pg 29] connection with such articles, and with the above household details, we hardly recognise the dark Richard of history and the drama. But light and shade prevail throughout. Richard could stoop to invent the fashion of a coat, and could climb through murder to a throne. Whatever may be his guilt with regard to the young princes in the Tower, he showed his wisdom when he took for wife Lady Anne, the daughter of the fierce Countess of Warwick, by immediately locking up his uncomfortable mother-in-law!

This series of letters is worthy of being studied. Richard appears quite another manner of man than we have been accustomed to take him to be. Henry VII., on the other hand, remains unaltered—mean, cruel, treacherous, and crafty. We will only allude to a letter of James IV. of Scotland to show his intelligence. In one of them, written to the King of Denmark, James announces that a band of Gipsies, pretending to be Christian pilgrims, had been in Scotland, and that he had sent them to Denmark, the latter country being, as he believed, in the vicinity of Egypt, from whence the wanderers had started.

In dealing with old letters, as much caution is necessary as in dealing with old pictures. All are not ancient masters that are called so. Some years ago there was an aged man in a German capital, who, throughout a long life, had made a decent[Pg 30] income by painting pictures by any great artist of any time or place. If a rich amateur, travelling that way, wanted a work by some renowned painter of the early times he went to a dealer, and the dealer, undertaking to find him one, went to the old painter of other men’s pictures, who in a week produced a Da Vinci, a Raffaelle, or a Del Sarto, a Rubens, a Claude, or a Wouvermans—it mattered not what; and each party was satisfied. Once the old fellow tried to paint a picture of his own, but there was such a confusion of styles in it he could not offer it for sale, and in order to live respectably he was obliged once more to resort to forgery.

As for forged letters, they are thick as leaves in Vallambrosa. A few years ago a writer in the ‘Athenæum,’ referring to this fact, remarked, ‘In no age has literature been free from the intrusion of spurious records into the domain of truth. One man forges for the pure love of sport, throws his forged papers into a collection, to be found a hundred years later, merely to perplex the pundits. Another forges to sustain a crotchet or a principle. But the most industrious and the most facile are those who forge for profit. Everyone familiar with old papers is aware that the publication of historical documents—letters, plays, poems, maps, charts, and cylinders—has now ceased to be a learned profession, and has become a manufacture.[Pg 31] As the Old Bailey had its tribes of rascals ready to witness against anybody and anything for money, so literature has its race of outcasts ready to furnish any document that may be wanted, from a Wardour Street pedigree, derived from scrolls in a Cheshire muniment room, up to a copy of Homer from a monastery at the summit of Mount Athos.’ Of the above there is no doubt. We may add that, in some cases, letters have been authentic and yet have been no more genuine than if they had been forged. That is to say, they misrepresented the feelings of the writers themselves. We have one sample of something intended in this way, though not carried out, by Crebillon and Sterne. Fun, profit, and mystification were at the bottom of it. Sterne, writing to Garrick in April 1762, says: ‘Crebillon has made a convention with me, which, if he be not too lazy, will be no bad persiflage. As soon as I get to Toulouse he has agreed to write me an expostulatory letter upon the indecorums of “Tristram Shandy,” which is to be answered by recriminations upon the coarseness of his own works. These are to be printed together—Crebillon against Sterne: Sterne against Crebillon. The copy to be sold, and the money to be equally divided. This is good Swiss policy!’ Nothing came of this design, but it illustrates how a letter may be authentic and yet not be genuine.

Widows’ letters are rudely said to be sometimes[Pg 32] of this quality. This is, no doubt, untrue. The idea, however, is as old as Massinger. That dramatic poet makes his Hilario, in ‘The Picture,’ remark:

There be some
That in their husband’s sicknesses have wept
Their pottle of tears a day; but, being once certain,
At midnight, he was dead, have in the morning
Dried up their handkerchiefs, and thought no more on’t!

But Hilario, who says this, is the fool of the piece.

There are historical personages, whose letters and manuscripts generally we should expect would have disappeared altogether; voluntary destruction having been applied to them. On the other hand, there are personages whose manuscripts and whose letters, we should suppose, would have been preserved with a reverential affection. In each case the expectation is contrary to fact. We will instance Margaret of Anjou and William Shakespeare. When Edward IV. was on the throne he was so desirous to secure every letter or despatch written by that heroic wife of an unheroic king, that the penalty of death was awarded against any person who, receiving a letter, or being in possession of a letter from Queen Margaret, delayed in surrendering the same to the government. One would suppose that such a penalty would lead every individual holding such documents, if not to surrender at[Pg 33] least to destroy them. But human nature is perverse, as well as bold, courageous and defiant. Many of Margaret’s correspondents hid the letters she had written to them; some of these have lately been published by the Camden Society. The volume is one of the most interesting of the series published by that Society, and the letters themselves are creditable to the writer. They show her less as a fiercely struggling, deeply sorrowing, terribly avenging queen, than as a sympathising woman, not so busy in her own affairs as to lack time for being interested in the affairs of others. She is ever ready to say a good word for a worthy man seeking advancement, and her heart responds to appeals from young maidens with whom the course of true love does not run smooth. For them, Queen Margaret writes with affectionate urgency to that sort of sire who is apt to say of a suitor to his daughter, who is unwelcome to himself, ‘I can’t imagine what the girl can see in such a fellow, to like him!’ To such stern fathers Margaret of Anjou writes like a wise and affectionate woman. She may be called a ‘matchmaker,’ for she seems to have gone to the work of coupling with great alacrity, but we are sure that many a young couple, in those turbulent times, owed to her a happiness and a harmony in their married life which poor Margaret never enjoyed in her own.

[Pg 34]

But Shakespeare! It is nothing less than marvellous that a man who wrote as he wrote—and, altogether, no other man ever wrote like him—that a poet, the author of such plays and such poems; that a man possessing so many friends and admirers, with whom his correspondence must have been extensive, should not have left a single line behind him traced by his own hand. Of all his poems and plays there does not exist a page, a line, a single word, in manuscript. All Shakespeare’s manuscript plays could not have perished in the fire which destroyed the Globe Theatre. The author must have made little account of them himself; but how great would our estimation be of a single act of any one of Shakespeare’s plays, in his own handwriting! We have just now got among us a parallel to the tulip mania. Thousands of pounds are willingly paid for a picture which the same number of shillings would once have purchased. Rather, let us say that the shillings were given for the picture, and that the pounds by thousands are given for the painter’s name. Well, what would not be willingly paid (for the sake of Shakespeare’s name) for the original manuscript, say of ‘Hamlet’? There would be a fierce fight among competitors for even a single passage. We fancy that the lines beginning with ‘The quality of mercy is not strained,’ or those that open with ‘Canst thou not minister to a mind[Pg 35] diseased?’ or with ‘She never told her love,’ and hundreds of others, would not be had for guineas covering each letter. What a contention there would be for the first love-letter or for any love-letter which the poet wrote to Anne Hathaway; or indeed for any letter, addressed to anyone. A costly holograph! Alas! there are neither lines nor letters. All that has been saved of Shakespeare’s handwriting is confined to a couple of signatures of his name to certain deeds, and in those subscriptions the name is spelt differently. Even the forgers have not dared to produce a letter by Shakespeare.

There seems to have been at one time a regular manufactory for the production of letters by Shelley, Keats, and Byron. The market was swamped by cleverly forged documents. About twenty years ago, Robert Browning, the poet, edited a volume of letters by Shelley, and critics said that they would prove useful to all future biographers of that wayward genius. These letters turned out to be forgeries. One epistle was found to be a ‘crib’ from an article by Sir Francis Palgrave, in the ‘Quarterly Review.’ Another was slightly altered from a paper in a literary annual. When research was made, the discovery ensued that the supposed originals had been purchased by Mr. Moxon, the publisher, at an auction. The auctioneer had had them consigned to him by[Pg 36] a bookseller in Pall Mall, and the bookseller had bought them from two unknown women, who looked as much like ladies as the letters looked like genuine productions. If Mr. Moxon had not sent a copy of the volume to Mr. Tennyson a long time might have elapsed before the fraud could have been discovered. But Mr. Palgrave, on a visit to the Laureate, happened to open the book, and his eye fell on a letter from Shelley to Godwin, written from Florence. Mr. Palgrave recognised in it a portion of an article on Florence, in the ‘Quarterly,’ written by his father, Sir Francis. Mr. Moxon called in all the copies of this volume of pseudo-epistles, and suppressed the publication altogether. A curious result has followed. The volume is worthless, but it is rare; and simply on account of its rarity it is set down in a London bookseller’s catalogue now before us at the price of 1l. 10s.

Stray letters of Shelley continued to turn up in the market. Letters to his wife, of the most confidential nature, containing aspersions on his father, were bought by Sir Percy Shelley, the poet’s son. These too proved to be forgeries and were destroyed. Another letter, addressed to Byron, and bearing Shelley’s signature, contained an assertion against the fidelity of ‘Harriet.’ Whoever bought it paid six guineas for a calumny against a dead and defenceless woman, to which was appended the forged signature of her dead and[Pg 37] defenceless husband. Forged letters purporting to be from Byron are, as it were, to be had at every turn. Also books with his alleged manuscript notes in the margin. Good judges assert that these notes and letters are written with a thorough knowledge of Byron’s life and feelings, and that the books are chosen with the most perfect knowledge of his tastes and peculiarities.

There was once a dreadful fashion of writing romances and novels in letters. Nothing seems more wearisome now, but they delighted the age in which they were written, and that says much for the patient endurance of the readers of the period. There is, however, one story told in letters, the humour of which will never grow old, namely, ‘Humphrey Clinker.’ Smollett never showed more ability, or humour, or power in delineating and discriminating character than in that admirable work. For humour, commend us to the letters of Mrs. Tabitha Bramble. The preciseness of that lady, who is satisfied if a suitable reason be given for things she complains of, and who is drolly serious in her logic, is charmingly illustrated in the following passage in one of her various letters addressed to the housekeeper, Mrs. Gwyllym, in the country, at Brambleton Hall: ‘You tell me the thunder has soured two barrels of beer in the seller, but how the thunder should get there, when the seller was double-locked, I can’t comprehend.[Pg 38] Howsomever, I won’t have the beer thrown out till I have seen it with my own eyes. Perhaps it will recover. At least it will serve for vinegar for the servants.’

This pretended letter is not beyond the reality of much letter-writing of the last century. Southey, when collecting materials for ‘Espriella,’ came into possession of a letter from a farmer’s daughter. It was written towards the close of the century, and it runs thus:

Dear Miss,—The energy of the races prompts me to assure you that my request is forbidden, the idea of which I had awkwardly nourished, notwithstanding my propensity to reserve. M. T. will be there. Let me with confidence assure you that him and brothers will be very happy to meet you and brothers. Us girls cannot go, for reasons. The attention of the cows claims our assistance in the evening.

Unalterably yours.

In the days of heavy postage no one had the slightest scruple in cheating the revenue. Persons leaving home, whether for inland or foreign travel, were importuned by friends to carry letters for them to other friends. An idea prevailed that, if the letters were carried ‘open’—that is, unsealed—there was no infraction of the law, and that consequently no penalty could be exacted. This was a popular error. The law, moreover, was evaded in another way. A newspaper was sent by[Pg 39] post in an envelope; inside the latter a long epistle was often written in invisible ink, generally milk. When this was dry the writing could not be seen. By holding the paper to the fire the writing came out in a sepia colour, and the law was broken. The Post Office authorities discovered this pretty trick, and parties were threatened with prosecution; but as the receivers invariably protested that they did not know who the senders were it was almost impossible to obtain a conviction. Senders indeed grew a little nervous, and many changed their method of conveying information in spite of the law. In place of writing in milk on the covers of the newspapers they made slight dots in ordinary ink under such printed letters as suited their purpose for conveying intelligence. This was troublesome for both sender and receiver, and it was therefore used only for brief messages. The postal tax pressed most heavily on the poor, but the ingenious poor discovered means to evade it. For instance, a son or daughter in town despatched a letter to parents in the country who were too poor to pay the postage. The parents declined to take such letter in, which they had legal right to do. Returned to the General Post Office, the letter on being opened was found to be a blank sheet of paper. The fact is that parents and children had agreed to send these blank sheets as indications that all was well[Pg 40] with the sender; the receiver got that much of news and had nothing to pay for it. The letter was never taken in unless a particular mark was on the cover, which intimated that something of importance was to be read within.

Although a high rate of postage fell most heavily upon the poor there was scarcely anyone who did not feel it. Everyone wished to be relieved from it. We can hardly realise how peers, who could frank a large number of letters daily, and how members of Parliament, who could frank, every day except Sunday, a few, were beset by friends for franks for themselves, or for their friends, or for their friends’ friends. We have an illustration of this fact in the ‘Diary, Letters, and Journals of Sir George Jackson.’ Writing to his mother at Bath, in 1802, the then apprentice diplomatist says: ‘My sister tells me Bath was never so thin. I sympathise with her, knowing how voluminous her correspondence is, and that the thinness of Bath means “a dearth of frank men,” there being, she says, only Lords Rosslyn and Harcourt to fly to.’

In those old days heavy postage made long letters. As the receivers paid the postage they naturally expected their money’s worth. Often a sheet of Bath post, or even of foolscap, was crossed and recrossed, and not a hair’s breadth of the paper was left without its line. A letter then was[Pg 41] written bit by bit, day after day, till the whole was completed. It was, in its way, a newspaper or a book; it was sent all through the branches of a family; it was lent to friends; it even went to mere acquaintances, and strangers made extracts from the choicest parts of it. In the second series of Miss Mitford’s ‘Letters and Correspondence’ she refers to one of these epistles. It was written by a lord who had been travelling on the Continent, and it was a clever, sensible, and instructive document. Miss Mitford borrowed it for the purpose of copying the contents, to accomplish which cost her six mortal hours, which the lady did not think were ill-spent.

When postage was high, letters were luxuries in which persons, far above the condition of those who are called poor, could not often indulge. We cannot give a better illustration of this than one we find in a letter addressed by Mr. Collins, the artist, to his brother, in 1816, when the landscape painter was twenty-eight years of age. Collins was then at Hastings sketching, and had invited his brother to come down from Saturday to Monday. ‘The whole amount of the expense would be the coach, provided you put two biscuits in your pocket, which would answer as a lunch; and I would have dinner for you, which would not increase my expenditure above tenpence. I shall be at the place where the coach stops for you, should[Pg 42] you be able to come. Write me nothing about it unless you have other business, for a letter costs a dinner.’ This was the artist who was overjoyed to receive fifty pounds for his ‘Cromer Sands,’ the picture for which, at the sale of the Gillott collection, a purchaser was found to give, quite as joyously, three thousand seven hundred and eighty guineas.

It has been said that, if heavy postage produced essays, cheap postage makes epigrams. But the latter were not wanting in the very earliest days. Nothing could be more epigrammatic than the note sent by one Irish chief to another: ‘Pay me tribute, or else ——’ To which the equally epigrammatic answer was: ‘I owe you none, and if ——’ Of this sort were the notes between Foote’s mother and Foote. ‘Dear Sam,—I’m in prison. Yours, E. Foote.’ The old lady was under arrest for debt. The son’s answer was: ‘Dear Mother,—So am I. Yours, S. Foote.’ And again, the letters between old Mrs. Garrick and young Edmund Kean: ‘Dear Mr. Kean,—You can’t play Abel Drugger. Yours, &c.’ To which intimation Edmund wrote back: ‘Dear Madam,—I know it. Yours, E. K.’ Instances occur now and then where a joke has been played, the fun of which was to make a man pay heavy postage for very unnecessary information. When Collins, the artist, was once with some friends around him, one[Pg 43] of them resisted every attempt to induce him to stay to supper. He withdrew, and the friends in council over their banquet resolved that the sulky guest should be punished. Accordingly on the following day Collins sent him a folded sheet of foolscap, in which was written: ‘After you left we had stout and oysters.’ The receiver understood what was meant, but he was equally resolved to have his revenge. Accordingly, biding his time, he transmitted, in a feigned hand, to Collins, a letter in which the painter read only, ‘Had you?’ Therewith the joke seemed at an end; but Collins would have the last word. He waited and waited till the thing was almost forgotten, and then the writer of the last query opened a letter one morning in which he had the satisfaction of finding an answer to it in the words, ‘Yes, we had.’ We cannot dismiss this part of the subject without expressing our regret that we are unable to remember the name of that British admiral who, after achieving a glorious victory at sea, despatched a letter to the Admiralty, in which there were only these or similar words: ‘ ... Beat the enemy; took, sunk, burned, and destroyed ships named in the margin.’ Tersest of admirals!

The publication of the letters of deceased persons first arose, or began to be so common, about the middle of the last century, that Dr. Arbuthnot declared the knowledge of such a fact[Pg 44] added a new terror to death. In 1781 the custom had not improved. ‘It has become so much the fashion to publish letters,’ said Dr. Johnson, ‘that I put as little into mine as I can.’ Nevertheless, when Boswell subsequently asked him if it would be proper to publish any of his letters after death, Johnson contented himself by remarking: ‘Nay, sir, when I am dead you may do as you will with mine.’

There has been no little affectation in some notable persons, and a remarkable candour in others, with respect to the publication of these documents. Pope addressed his letters to his friends, but he carefully and elaborately wrote and re-wrote them for posterity, and he was not sorry to see some of them get into print (he rather helping them to that end than obstructing them), that he might have a foretaste of the enjoyment which was more especially intended for after ages. Every line in Walpole’s letters reads as if it were as much intended for us of any year to come as for the happy friend to whom the letter was directed; but this diminishes neither Walpole’s credit nor our appreciation. Pepys never intended his ‘Diary’ to be perused by any mortal eye but his own. The Rev. Mr. Smith, however, deciphered the shorthand, and the best social history of Pepys’ time fell into the hands of a delighted and grateful public. Evelyn wrote his ‘Diary’ for his own[Pg 45] satisfaction, indifferent, as Dr. Johnson about his letters, whether it were published or not after his death. Evelyn’s descendants were ignorant of its value, and it is to a stranger we owe those sketches of contemporary men and things which now enrich our literature. Pepys, Evelyn, Walpole—diaries and letters; of how many exquisite stories we should have known nothing but for those three individuals! It matters little whether they intended we should enjoy that knowledge or not; sufficient for us that we do. And let us note in passing another letter-writer—Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Her letters are not quite so popular, so much read, or so well known, perhaps, as they used to be; they may have had their day, but the writer was well assured they would at least have that. ‘Keep my letters,’ she once wrote to a friend; ‘they will be as good as Madame de Sévigné’s forty years hence.’

They certainly contain many things worth the knowing. The writer’s descriptions of foreign scenes and incidents are full of life and spirit, generally truthful, and always effective without marring the truth. There is one passage in one of her ladyship’s letters which illustrates the writer’s power in a particularly delicate matter, which is well deserving notice. Mr. Montagu’s sister died. She had been Lady Mary Pierrepont’s dearest friend. Young Montagu had to communicate[Pg 46] the news of his sister’s death to the young Lady Mary. In her reply the latter said: ‘I know it is not acting in form, but I do not look upon you as I do upon the rest of the world. You are brother to a woman whom I tenderly loved.’ The young fellow excused the informality; he was proud of being looked upon by the young beauty in a different way from the rest of the world. As that young beauty reminded him that he was brother to the woman she so tenderly loved, he was not dull, and had no difficulty in persuading her to love the brother even better than she had done the sister. The marriage, however, was not made in heaven. The lady herself had some suspicion about the consequences. ‘I tremble,’ she wrote to her intended husband, ‘for what we are doing. Shall we never repent?... I shall come to you only with a nightgown and petticoat, and that is all you will get by me.’ She adds significantly: ‘I had rather die than return to a dependency upon relations I have disobliged.’ In her first letter to her (absent) husband after marriage she alludes to the children of the family in which she was residing, and says: ‘It furnishes my imagination with agreeable pictures of our future life, and I flatter myself with the hopes of one day enjoying with you the same satisfaction ... when the noise of a nursery may have more charms for us than the music of the opera.’

[Pg 47]

While on the subject of the publication of posthumous letters, we may add that other men besides Johnson have written their own so as to gratify posterity as little as possible. Some are as cautious with respect to contemporaries. One of the most venerable of our peers was once told that several of his letters were catalogued for sale in a London auction room. ‘It is a matter of indifference to me,’ said the noble lord; ‘from the day I became a public man I never wrote a line worth the reading by anyone except the person to whom my letter was addressed.’

The assertion that a lady puts the essence, nay, the very purpose and import of her letter, in the postscript, has had many an ingenious but invented illustration. One of the best is that of a young lady in India to her friends at home, viz.:—‘P.S. You will see by my signature that I am married.’ Cobbett hated writing across already written lines, and declared that it was of French origin. The earliest letter by a lady, in this country, of which a copy exists, is one from Matilda, Queen of Henry I., to Archbishop Anselm. In this she styles him her ‘worthily reverenced lord,’ and herself ‘the lowest of the handmaidens of his holiness;’ phrases which show the mind and hand of some reverend secretary. Anne Boleyn’s last cry of love and anguish to her lord is worth a ream of the letters of earlier date written at second hand. It is[Pg 48] genuineness that gives all the interest to the Paston Letters (once so disputed); Agnes Paston’s to her son may be said to be admirable for detail and simplicity. ‘God’s blessing and mine,’ is a fitting double benediction from a mother to her son. How picturesquely descriptive is the passage, ‘On Tuesday last Sir John Heveningham went to his church and heard three masses, and came home again, never merrier, and said to his wife that he would go say a little devotion in his garden and then he would dine; and forthwith he felt a fainting in his legs and slid down. This was at nine of the clock and he was dead ere noon.’ Such were life and death in the middle of the fifteenth century in the county of Norfolk. We may notice, after the above illustration of a letter from a mother to her son, one from a wife to her husband, but of the seventeenth century. In a letter from Susan Montague to her husband Edward, who has announced his being about to leave Madrid for England, the sprightly Susan replied to her ‘sweetheart’ that she fears she may weary his eyes with her ‘tedious scribblement,’ and after many allusions to herself and two ladies, with matters of confidence, Susan Montague concludes by saying: ‘So being very late, as a matter of ten o’clock, I bid you good night, going into the little bed, which I find less than ever it was, and never have no mind to go into it because I cannot find my sweeting there. But when I am there I sleep as little as may be,[Pg 49] for I am still riding post to Madrid, which I hope doth presage that you will shortly post from there and come to the little chamber again, which I heartily pray for. So, dear heart, farewell. Your truly loving wife—Su. Montague.’ The orthography of ladies became rather worse than better in the times after Susan Montague wrote. In the last century ladies spelt ‘physician’ with a capital F, and in the old game of ‘loving’ would not be conscious of wrong in saying, ‘I love my love with a G, because he’s a Gustus!’ There are some curious samples of ill spelling in the Delany correspondence. Cacography seemed to be intermittent like the ague. The wrong thing came with the east wind or epidemics. Sometimes an odd word or two would baffle a lady. At the beginning of the present century the exquisite Alison Cockburn referred in one of her letters to some ‘unpareleled boon.’ The word caught her eye, and she gaily added as a postscript, ‘Cannot spell unparaleled.’

The letters of fine gentlemen are written in a fine gentlemanly way. If the fine gentleman be a wit and a poet it does not always improve the style of the letter. Much nonsense has been written upon Waller and his Sacharissa (Lady Dorothy Sidney). The facts of their supposed love passages have grown up out of the imaginations of sentimental writers. When Lady Dorothy married Lord Spencer, Waller wrote to her sister,[Pg 50] Lady Lucy, a letter which would now be considered much more impudent than witty. But the poet’s hand is in it as well as the impudent wit’s. After sympathising with Lady Lucy on the loss of her sister ‘bedfellow,’ and expressing a hope that the latter would soon ‘taste of the first curse imposed on woman,’ and often; in due course of time, the poet wishes, ‘May she then arrive at that great curse so much declined by fair ladies, old age. May she live to be very old and yet seem young, be told so by her glass, and have no aches to inform her of the truth. And when she shall appear to be mortal, may her lord not mourn for her, but go hand in hand with her to that place where we are told there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage, that being there divorced we may all have an equal interest in her again.’

Letters to children are as difficult to write as books for children. Crabb Robinson stands at the head of all inditers of little epistles to little folk. He is not in the vein of Jeffrey to his granddaughter, as in ‘I send you my blessing and wish I was kissing your sweet rosy lips or your fat finger tips.’ Robinson comes nearer to Hood, only that he could not stoop to use old jokes as well as make new. The two are together in the following paragraph in Hood’s letter to May, one of Dr. Elliot’s daughters: ‘Tell Dunnie that Tom has set his trap in the balcony, and has caught a cold;[Pg 51] and tell Jeanie that Fanny has set her foot in the garden, but it has not come up yet.... The other night, when I came from Stratford, the cold shrivelled me up so that when I got home I thought I was my own child.’ The best thing Crabb Robinson did in this way was by surprising a little girl, who said she did not know how to write a letter to her little brother, by proving to her that she was a perfect letter-writer. She had asked Robinson to suggest all the subjects. He proposed purposely something untrue, then something silly, but both were rejected by the child on the ground of their untruthfulness and silliness. This process went on till the child adopted such subjects as were adapted to her purpose, and she found she was a good letter-writer without knowing it.

We conclude with an unpublished letter, from an American lady we believe, who some quarter of a century ago aspired to be the instructor of children. The quaintness and simplicity, for it is all sober earnestness, are worthy of being preserved: ‘Dear Sir,—Having heard that you are in want of a governess for your children, I write to offer myself as a candidate for that post. My acquirements are English in all its branches, French, German, music, which I play well, singing, painting, drawing, and dancing. My age is just 28. I am a lady by birth, high-spirited, and I am[Pg 52] sorry to say slightly quick-tempered, but still very fond of children, likewise of gentlemen’s society; I am rather delicate, and when not as well as usual require a few tempting viands. I hope, if you decide in having me for your children as their governess, that you will allow me the entrée of your drawing-room at all times, and that you will also allow me to join in all your domestic amusements. I wish to inform you that I have been in the habit of receiving 60l. (sixty pounds) per annum, or fifty pounds (50l.) with laundress, and all travelling expenses paid. You may be glad to hear that I have an elegant figure, small hands and feet, and am, if my friends and admirers are to be believed, engaging.’

With this sample we may leave our readers to pass on to fresh woods and pastures new.

[Pg 53]


In the reign of Charles I. the Old Jewry, which runs from Cheapside to Cateaton Street, was a fashionable locality. Merchant princes lived and died there. The old church, St. Olave Jewry, or St. Olave Upwell, was a fashionable church. Merchant princesses worshipped there, and their daughters were worshipped by the undevout apprentices. The Jewry had its fashionable old hostelry in the Windmill. It lives in Ben Jonson’s drama. It was there that Captain Bobadil told of his heroism at the siege of Strigonium, and there he pished at the idea of Master Stephen’s Provant rapier passing for a Toledo blade. One May morning, A.D. 1628, George Newman, the rich widow Bennett’s first serving-man, was taking his early draught at the Windmill. His master, the rich mercer, a Bennett of the stock from which the Tankerville earls have sprung, was then lying, a month old in his tenantcy, in a grave in St. Olave’s, next to another mercer, Robert Large, the master of one who came to be more famous, namely, Caxton, the father of English printing. Bennett’s[Pg 54] widow was then sitting behind her rich curtains in Jewry Street meditating on a world of speculative subjects. ‘She’s a twenty-thousand-pound widow,’ said Newman, as he wiped his lips with the sleeve of his coat. ‘She’ll be a bride, and a lady to boot, before long. She has as many suitors as she has thousands.’ ‘And,’ said a bystander, ‘will maybe marry the biggest knave or the most perfect fool of the lot.’ ‘Not so,’ rejoined the serving-man. ‘Do you see Mr. Recorder passing by from his court? He is a friend of the family, and will see that neither rogue nor ass carries off the wealthy widow.’ ‘Ay!’ cried the host of the Windmill, ‘Mistress Bennett is in safe hands, with Sir Heneage Finch for her guardian and her little son’s guardian.’ And so said all who stood within hearing.

The scene now changes to the widow’s best room, in her mansion in Old Jewry. If you can fancy the three slim Graces rolled into one, with no other result but delicious increase of beauty in form, motion, look, and expression, you may have a very fair idea of this most blooming and best endowed of widows. Physically, morally, materially, she was not to be equalled throughout the realm of mature womanhood. Fair of face, frank of speech, with an inheritance of two-thirds of her late husband’s property, a prosperous business, plate, diamonds, cash, the mansion in which she lived, a coach, six horses, and all things that tend[Pg 55] to make life enjoyable, Mistress Bennett took her widowhood with that sort of resignation which is denoted by an air of calm content with providential dispensations. She was in such esteem that at least a score of lovers were contending for the honour of rendering her happy. Even the ladies were busy in commending certain of the suitors. The widow would not be persuaded. The lady advisers were frivolous. She would rely on the grave counsel of a grave man. Mr. Recorder would be her truest support if she ever found herself in any perplexity on the subject of marrying again. At the moment it was a subject that was not in her thoughts.

‘The subject is in the thoughts of young Butler, of Bramfield,’ said Lady Skinner. ‘He is a gentleman——’

‘He is a black, blunt-nosed one,’ interrupted the widow. And indeed Butler was not an Adonis.

‘I pity poor Sir Peter Temple,’ said another of Love’s messengers that morning. ‘Stowe does not make him happy; you might.’

‘Eleanor Tirrell will,’ replied the widow. ‘I wish they were all as well provided for.’

‘All!’ exclaimed Sir Peter’s friend. ‘Why, to what tune does the list run?’

‘First,’ answered the widow, ‘there is Sir Henry Mainwaring, a poor old battered knight, who is not master of as much land as his shoes[Pg 56] can cover; and yet he is as proud as if he were a Mainwaring of Over Pecover. His worship was brought hither by the hand of the Countess of Bridgwater, but I speedily rid myself civilly of both. There have been other silly knights, and lords too, who have come and gone, and some of whom come and come again. Lord Bruce took a frank answer, and did not present himself twice. Lord Lumley, all in the glitter of his new title, will not take nay. Dr. Raven has even dared to offer himself without first feeling my pulse, and he swears his daring has not come to an end. Only the other day Sir Sackville Crowe beset me; and, heaven help me! I believed, for a moment, that Sir Heneage Finch himself had views towards me. But Sir Heneage could take an answer, and he besets me with hints of his aspirations no longer.’

‘Crow, Finch, Raven!’ exclaimed the group of ladies who were gathered round the twenty-thousand-pounder in her best room at St. Olave’s. ‘What a singular gathering of birds! You will be flown away with, widow, in spite of yourself.’

Mr. Recorder Finch, erst Speaker of the House of Commons, came into London to perform his legal duties, and returned in the evening to his house at Kensington. The house still stands. It is the kernel round which has grown the shell called Kensington Palace. Heneage Finch’s gardens extended only to what is now called the Broad[Pg 57] Walk. The latter was then a pathway through Hyde Park from Kensington to Bayswater. The wicked public loved to connect his name with those of Crowe and Raven as ‘birds of a feather.’ The truth is, that Raven was the real, daring, and most persistent lover. Sir Sackville Crowe, indeed, had been the more serious in his pretensions, as he most needed the widow’s money. He was ‘a thief on the wrong side of Newgate;’ that is, he outspent his income and ruined his tradesmen. He paid them by agreement just a quarter of what he owed those poor fellows, and thus he submitted to be three-quarters kept by his butcher, baker, and tailor. He made an ‘appearance,’ which it was an easy thing to do at other people’s expense. He had been the official keeper of public funds, of which he unluckily failed to give satisfactory account. He alleged that his book-keeping had been done by deputy, and his deputy seems to have been loose in his arithmetic. Altogether, this Crowe was a supreme rogue, but he was one of a very large family. The widow’s fortune would have saved his post, if not his credit, at the Navy Treasury Office. The widow, however, scornfully refused to sit on the same branch with Crowe, and Sir Sackville, thoroughly plucked, was ejected from the office in question.

But, Dr. Raven! The doctor was of another quality. The physician would not be said nay.[Pg 58] The nay was decies repetita, but it was not heeded. Still, he was not the nearer to his object by being impeded. One evening he took up a copy of Green’s ‘Quip,’ which was then a work of some thirty years old. His eye fell on these words: ‘Lawyers are troubled with the heat of the liver, which makes the palms of their hands so hot that they cannot be cooled unless they be rubbed with oil of angels.’ Forthwith Dr. Raven bethought him that Abigails were very like lawyers, and that he would try a few angels on the palms of Widow Bennett’s waiting-woman, to gain access to whom, however, he had to oil many a serving-man’s palm also. Abigail was willing to betray her mistress for a consideration, and it was made worth her while to admit Raven (like Iachimo into the chamber of the sleeping Imogen) into the apartment where the widow lay in a lapse of loveliness, buried in lace and rosy slumbers. Raven awoke the sleeping dove with all gentleness; as she did not scream he pressed his suit, craftily pointing out to her that as his presence compromised her reputation, the latter could only be saved by an immediate marriage. Then the thoroughly awakened goddess lifted up her voice to tremendous purpose. ‘Reputation,’ indeed! She knew hers to be safe, and she lustily screamed ‘Thieves!’ and ‘Murder;’ in order to bring in her household to keep it so. The men-servants, seeing[Pg 59] no further chance of angels or marks from the physician, flung themselves upon Raven, as if he had really been more intent upon murder than marriage. They held him till the august parish constable arrived, and the constable ‘run him in’ to the Compter for the night. On the following morning Raven was brought up before Mr. Recorder Finch. That impartial judge, sympathising with the insulted widow, whom he so highly respected, committed Dr. Raven for trial at the ensuing sessions. It was not at all likely that Sir Heneage Finch would be slow in protecting the beautiful widow of his deceased friend from such saucy rogues as Dr. Raven, who was subsequently imprisoned for half a year.

The dramatists certainly had their eye upon this escapade of Raven’s. Rowley, especially, adopted the bed-room incident in his ‘City Match,’ where Alexander Bloodhound gets into the Widow Wagge’s chamber. Alexander half-undresses himself, and so frightens the widow that she consents to marry him to save her credit; but she disappoints the audacious wooer at last. Mr. Planché reproduced this scene in 1828 in his ‘Merchant’s Wedding.’ The daring suitor there was Frank Plotwell (C. Kemble); the lady was Aurelia, a wealthy heiress, played by Miss Chester, who was as superb a beauty as Widow Bennett herself. How glorious, too, Charles Kemble looked in his[Pg 60] King Charles suit, and how like a jockey in his silks when he half-stripped, are things only to be remembered by old play-goers with good memories.

At this time there was a Kentish knight keeping lonely state in London. He was a widower twice over; but loving matrimony so well from his sweet experience of it that he was dying to find another mate. The Derings were of a very old stock, and Sir Edward, thirty years of age in 1628, might have looked high in search of the mate in question. He was of Magdalen College, Oxford, and was a sound scholar. In religion rather austere, but with an anti-episcopalian bias. His tastes would have made him a very acceptable member of the Society of Antiquaries. In person he was a handsome fellow, was gifted with kindly dispositions, of good carriage and expression in speaking, was fond of applause, and was unaffectedly conscious that he deserved all he could get of it. Some ladies thought so too. Elizabeth Tufton, one of the nine muses—daughters, we should say—of Sir Nicholas, put her hand in his as frankly as he asked for it; and King James made a knight of the bridegroom, who was none the more a gentleman for the dignity conferred on him. The bride died after the birth of a son, and therewith ended a brief day-dream of married happiness. They carried the young mother to the grave when she[Pg 61] was little more than twenty, nor was the young widower much older.

That young widower found consolation, however, at a pretty early period of his mourning time. He took to his home a new bride from Sussex, Ann Ashburnham, whose mother was connected with the family of the great Buckingham. Thenceforward, for a season, Sir Edward Dering became a public man. He was busier in Kent than his father, Sir Anthony (a baronet), and he was to be seen about court, a gentleman of the Privy Chamber, attending more closely upon the Duke than upon Charles the First, and hoping to get into Parliament under Buckingham’s favour. But fate was against him. The Duke was assassinated in 1626, and Sir Edward was called from court by the sickness of his fair young wife. In one of her letters to him, while he was at Whitehall, she wrote, ‘I cannot send any good news of my couge’s going away, yet I eat joyes of lecarich.’ The ‘couge’s’ signified ‘cough’s.’ The futile remedy was ‘juice of liquorice.’ At the age of twenty-three this second Lady Dering was laid by the side of the first, leaving a son and daughter too young to remember their mother.

Sir Edward was again solitary, and was bearing his solitude impatiently, when chance brought him acquainted with the story of the fair widow in the Jewry. A new act in the City comedy opens, and[Pg 62] to gay music ‘enter Sir Edward Dering.’ It is St. Edmund’s day. Raven is in limbo. The widow is alone. The new lover calls in St. Olave’s. Mrs. Bennett, however, declines to receive him. He sends in a letter to her by her servant, who brings it back, but the maid tells him that her mistress had read it. Read it! Then there was hope. Within the next four days Sir Edward had oiled the palms of men-servants and clerks to the tune of eighty shillings. He called again, but was denied. He wrote again, and she kept the letter. Kept the letter! Here was a hint to proceed further. Sir Edward ‘oiled’ more palms, and moved cousins of his own and cousins of the widow—being of his acquaintance—to stir her to be gracious to so handsome and hopeful a lover. He had the widow’s cash-keeper to sup with him; and, perhaps at the cash-keeper’s suggestion, on the last day in November, 1628, Sir Edward was to be seen twice at the Old Jewry Church, near enough to the handsome widow for her to see him without appearing to turn her eyes expressly for that purpose. Reckoning on having made a favourable impression, he, on the following day, wrote a third letter. This Mistress Bennett deigned to keep, which was favour enough for the present. Presuming on that favour the ardent lover (who had lodged himself at a house opposite the widow’s), at the end of two or three days, rang thrice in one forenoon at the[Pg 63] widow’s bell. ‘Mrs. Bennett was not at home.’ She was abroad, prosecuting the over-zealous lover, Dr. Raven. A friend, and not a servant of the widow, on Dering repeating his call next day, one Mr. George Loe, brought a very cautious message to the wooer. It was made up of what she said, and what he thought. What she said was to this effect: that a Mr. Steward, from whom she wished to buy the wardship he had had conferred on him of her own child, but who wished, on his side, to have legal marital wardship of the child’s mother, was ‘testy,’ and ‘she could give admittance to none till she had concluded all matters of business with him.’ What Loe added was, ‘She has a good opinion of you. I have spoken nobly of you. You shall hear from me as soon as Steward is disposed of, and,’ said Loe (probably the sly widow had told him to say it), ‘don’t refrain from going to the church where she prays unless you think it disparages yourself.’ Disparagement! It was an honour. On the very first Sunday in December Dering paid double worship at St. Olave’s, Old Jewry. He went as parishioner and lover, uniting, as Mr. Bruce says, in his preface to ‘Proceedings in Kent,’ ‘the worship of Mrs. Bennett with that ordinarily offered at St. Olave’s.’ The interference of servants in the affair here curiously manifests itself. As Sir Edward left the church George Newman, whom he had ‘oiled,’ whispered in[Pg 64] Dering’s ear, ‘Good news!’ As Sir Edward was sitting after dinner at his own table Newman entered, and the fellow bade the cavalier be of good cheer. ‘My mistress,’ he said, ‘likes well your carriage, and, if your land is not settled on your eldest son, there is good hope for you.’ The news, true or false, was paid for at the cost of a pound sterling. If he smiled as he went out so also does Sir Edward, as he leans back in his chair, and murmurs to himself, ‘This evening I will seek counsel of Heneage Finch.’

At the Recorder’s house you may see, in the next scene of the drama, Finch and Dering at supper. The friends and kinsmen take their claret and talk of love. The two suitors to the widow were on terms of unlimited confidence and frankness. ‘Ned,’ said Sir Heneage, ‘I wend no more to the widow’s house. I have done. I have no success to look for. I have no desire to go further. I will do or say anything you ask me in this or any other matter.’ Nothing could be kinder than Sir Heneage Finch.

Meanwhile Mr. Steward was at the widow’s feet; or, rather, he stood upright on his own, dictating, rather than asking, terms. The widow’s heart was set, she said, upon having her child’s wardship in her own hands. She was willing to pay fifteen hundred pounds for it. As the words fell from her beautiful lips, Edmund[Pg 65] Aspull, Mrs. Bennett’s cash-keeper, advanced, with the amount all ready. If Steward said anything gallant it has not reached the audience. He seems to have had an ‘aside,’ in which he murmured that for nothing less than four thousand pounds would he ever release his right in the ward. ‘With my good will,’ said the widow, ‘I will never look upon that fellow again!’ But, in legal matters she, of course, would consult her good friend, Sir Heneage. To do him justice, Finch was always ready to give prudent counsel whenever he was asked for it.

‘Madam,’ said George Newman, entering the room, ‘Sir Edward Dering is at the door; he prays of your kindness leave to present himself.’

‘Desire Sir Edward,’ replied the widow, ‘to excuse me. I am not willing to entertain discourse of that kind.’

Newman went to the outer door, where Aspull, the cashier, was talking with Sir Edward, and delivered the reply.

The lover stood in sad contemplation, and then he remarked, ‘I am in a wilderness of uncertainty.’

Aspull carried the ‘pretty phrase’ upstairs to his mistress.

‘Tell Sir Edward that I will see him,’ said Mrs. Bennett.

When serving-man and cash-keeper had left the wooer and the wooed to themselves, the latter[Pg 66] went methodically to matters of business and matters of sentiment. Sir Edward had the privilege which custom gave a lover, on declaring himself; he ‘saluted’ the lady. He then went into details as to his state and estate, to all of which the widow listened with interest. When he touched on the question of affection, the handsome widow looked at the handsome widower, but she answered neither yea nor nay. She kept him as he was. Indeed, the knight begged her to defer her answer till he again presented himself to her. She consented, but therewith she remarked, ‘I have no present purpose of marrying.’ She would name a second day for the meeting, after her cousin Cradock (a friend of Sir Edward’s) should come to town. Dering saw that she was desirous he should then leave her to herself. He respectfully kissed the formally offered cheek, and bowing, withdrew. He, no doubt, went and told all to Sir Heneage.

Mistress Bennett said of Dering, soon after he had retired, ‘He comes not as boisterous as Steward and Sir Peter come. Steward! As soon as I get from him the broad seal which releases my child, he may be hanged ere I have anything more to do with him.’ What she said of both these suitors was duly reported to the third. Whereupon he pressed his suit and he got friends to press it for him. The widow, however, could not[Pg 67] be hurried. Her cousin Cradock was a man it behoved her to consult upon a family question like the present; and the Recorder, being not only her friend but her suitor’s, would be indispensable authority on matters both of law and of property.

Day after day Dering’s patience waned till there was none left. On New Year’s day, 1629, the scene was of the liveliest at the widow’s house. Sir Edward had thought to frighten her into favouring his suit by courteously asking for the returning to him of his letters. The widow sent them back without a word of comment. Her friends standing round her wondered at her decision, and, if the lady and cavalier told their respective stories to Finch he probably looked as wise as a judge while he listened.

The scene is still at the widow’s house, and there again Sir Edward treads the stage. He cannot call on Mistress Bennett, but he can on Mistress Norton, who is his good friend, and the widow’s companion. From her and other household sources he hears that the widow is often sad and silent. If she breaks silence, it is only to remark that she will never marry at all. If Mrs. Norton commends Sir Edward the widow beshrews her companion, and protests that she hears so much of him all day long, she ‘can’t sleep all night for dreaming of him.’ Perhaps in one of those[Pg 68] night visions she confounded Dering with Raven, for she dreamed that she ran away from him in her nightgear, out of the bedroom into her great parlour, whereby she caught catarrh. However, Sir Edward could not push his renewed suit to a happy termination. He sat for an hour with Mrs. Norton, talking of the widow, when he would have preferred to be talking with the widow herself. The latter was reported to be sad, in perplexity, and not likely to marry at all—just yet. This did not render Sir Edward’s suit desperate; but he wrote himself ‘fool’ for having asked for the return of his letters, when Newman told him that she had double services of plate, for town and country use, and that she had that glory of all proudly furnished houses of the olden time, beds, worth one hundred pounds the bed.

Again, the scene shifts to the street before Sir George Croke’s house. The lady is about to descend from her chariot, and lo! the lover is there with a petition to be allowed to assist her. He does more, of course; he escorts her into the parlour, where the judge and many ladies are assembled. While general conversation went on, Sir Edward assiduously courted the widow from behind her chair. They talk in whispers, and are let alone. It is all prayer on one side, fencing prettily on the other. Prettily made accusations are humbly answered; she will not be pressed,[Pg 69] not she. Her final reply should be made through her cousin, Cradock.

‘Pray,’ said Dering, ‘sweeten the answer with your own breath.’ And then Sir George drank to him in a glass of muscado while Sir Edward kissed the lady’s cheek. As the judge and the lover parted at the door, the former did not hesitate to declare his conviction that the widow was not to be won.

‘Won she must be,’ thought Sir Edward, ‘by one means or another.’ He rather stooped to find them. For instance, on a certain morning the widow’s four-year-old son was walking with his nursemaid, Susan, in Finsbury Fields; Susan was induced by a friend to take the boy to Sir Edward’s lodging, where Dering regaled him with cake, gave him an amber box, treated the maid to a glass of wine, hoped her mistress would not be angry with him, and put in the maid’s hand a five-shilling piece.

‘Lor, sir!’ exclaimed Susan, ‘I, and all the house, pray for you; and young Master Simon here does ever call you Father!’

The widow did not seem to be in haste to ratify the relationship. Viscount Lumley’s chariot was at her door five times in one week. My Lord went to St. Olave’s, and escorted her home after service. All London began to take part in the comedy. New lovers again went to the Old[Pg 70] Jewry only to meet denial. Lumley himself, who was but a ragged sort of viscount, was constrained, at last, to take reluctant leave, after his hopes had been buoyed up by interference in his favour by no less a person than the Earl of Dorset, the Queen’s Lord Chamberlain. Sir Edward did not benefit by the withdrawal of the Viscount. Reports reached him that the widow had expressed some liking for him, but not enough to induce her to marry with him. Driven to the extreme of perplexity, Sir Edward engaged another supporter, namely, the Cheapside mercer, Izaak Walton. Izaak celebrated Dering’s praises; mutual friends reported small incidents with much exaggeration. Cousin Cradock knew how Sir Edward might win her; another knew that she was already won, but was coy to confess it. One Master Catesby swore that Dering should both ‘win and wear.’ Lady Cleere told Dering’s father, Sir Anthony, that such a capricious widow was hardly worth the wearing; but Lady Wroth stood up for her as a good and wise gentlewoman, whom any lover might be proud to make his wife.

The grand scene of the comedy occurred when Sir Edward was admitted to see the widow, on condition that he made no reference to the subject of marrying. The interview was a scene for Frith to paint. Sir Edward, with formal low bow,[Pg 71] acknowledged the graciousness which admitted him to this interview; but he hoped it would not be the last of that sort of happiness which he might enjoy. Mistress Bennett murmured that chance might still bring them within sight of one another. Then the lover stretched the contract a little, without breaking it. He touched upon his love, her happiness, and cleverly thanked her for forbidding him to pursue making further proposals, as therein might lie the fact that she need not forbid what she, perhaps, had resolved to grant. Some more word-fencing went on; but it ended with a denial on the lady’s part, and a request from the gentleman that she would authorise him to give a public reason for the denial.

‘Say,’ she replied, ‘that you left me, and take the glory of it.’

‘Nay!’ said Sir Edward; ‘I will never withdraw my affection nor my respect till I see you give your hand to another.’

We fear the widow was a dreadful coquette, for subsequent to the above ‘last sight,’ as the interview was called, Mistress Bennett granted an audience to Lord Lumley, when she went so far as to accept a ring from him—a step which almost implied a contract. But this roused the anxiety of her friends, and particularly of Viscount Campden, whose viscountship was just as new as[Pg 72] Lumley’s. Lord Lumley, however, was an older member of the peerage. Lord Campden, like the deceased Bennett, had been a mercer; his name then was Baptist Hicks. Even after he had been knighted, Sir Baptist served customers in his open shop in Cheapside. He was now a peer, and people who were unable to attain the same dignity laughed at him. What was the use of Sir Baptist Hicks being a peer, when he had no son to inherit the title? But Lord Campden had a daughter; and the Cheapside mercer’s fair daughter (she was his eldest) was married to Edward, Baron Noel, of Ridlington. The mercer was resolved that Baron Edward should not dream of having derogated by such a match. Accordingly, the ex-shopkeeper succeeded in having the ‘remainder,’ that is, succession to the title, settled in the said son-in-law. In due time, Lord Noel became Viscount Campden, and then gained a step in the peerage by wedding with Juliana, the richest heiress of Cheapside. From them is descended the present Earl of Gainsborough, one of whose daughters, Lady Blanche Noel, made that romantic marriage two years ago with her father’s organist, Mr. Murphy.

But, we have to get back to the first ennobled of the Hickses and his friend, the widow. Lord Campden and Sir George Croke united in insisting that she should return to Lord Lumley the ring she had accepted, and therewith give him his [Pg 73]coup de grâce. Ring and letter were despatched on St. Valentine’s Day, and Lord Lumley made his final exit. All London was busy with wondering what the next move would be. It seemed in favour of Sir Edward. Sir Henry Wotton met him in the presence chamber, and wished him ‘full sail.’ The mother of Sir Edward’s late wife, accompanied by that deceased wife’s sister, were indefatigable in lauding Dering’s conjugal virtues in the widow’s ear. Beneficed clergymen, church dignitaries, London gentlemen, country squires, met in the best room in the widow’s house and sang the chorus of his praise. The provoking beauty could not be brought to a decision. She had made a selection, she said, but she really could not say of whom. All in good time. And so this singular love affair proceeded, till the widow consented to grant one more interview, positively for the last time, to her pertinacious suitor, and failed to perform her promise.

‘I will go to Sir Heneage Finch,’ cried the perplexed wooer.

It is very clear that all along Finch perplexed Dering quite as much as the widow did. The Recorder spoke well of Sir Edward to himself and to his friends, and promised to speak well of him to the widow. And perhaps he did; but at the same time Sir Heneage did not neglect his own interests. One morning the bells of St. Dunstan’s in the West,[Pg 74] the fashionable church for marriages, rang out a merry wedding peal. Dr. Raven came out of prison, where he was some time in durance for his silly assault, just in time to hear the peal. Sir Edward may be supposed to have put his head out inquiringly from his window. If so, he must have enjoyed a pretty sight—that of Sir Heneage Finch, in holiday array, leading into the beautiful widow Bennett’s house that most tantalising of fair women, as his bride—Lady Finch! Bow bells took up the peal, as if to announce to all Cocagne that they had all the while known what was going on. Cockneydom protested that it had never expected any other issue to the City comedy. Indeed there was a double marriage. While the widow had been playing with her suitors, her niece, pretty Mary Croke, daughter of Sir George, had been indulging in pretty love passages with Harbottle, afterwards Sir Harbottle Grimstone, Master of the Rolls. On April 16, 1629, aunt and niece, with their respective lovers, met at St. Dunstan’s, and were then and there happily married.

The marriage of Sir Heneage with the fair widow was productive of two daughters,[1] of whom one, Anne, married that Earl of Conway so celebrated by Burnet for his ignorance. When a foreign minister once spoke to him of the[Pg 75] Circles of Germany, my lord laughed, and asked, ‘What have circles to do with affairs of state?’ We may appropriately add that Mrs. Bennett’s son, Simon, became a man of immense wealth—wealth which his three daughters carried into as many noble families, very much to the satisfaction of the latter. But what of the disappointed lover in this comedy? Well, the curtain went down merrily for him also. He happened to see pretty Unton Gibbes, daughter of the Warwickshire Sir Ralph, and Sir Edward, having an alacrity in falling in love, was ‘over head and ears’ immediately. The lady went straightway to the same depths. They came up together, happy man and wife, and lived like young lovers. He was passionately attached to her to the last; but she survived him full thirty years, finding solace at the affectionate hands of two sons and two daughters. For Unton, Sir Edward had one of those pet names which, outside the circle of love, sound so unlovely. It was Numps! ‘My ever dear Numps,’ he says, in a letter addressed to her from London, in 1640, full of political intelligence, ‘thy pretious and hearty letter I received with that ardor that it was written.... I shall not see thee so soon as I wish.... God preserve my pretty children and send thee ease of thy troublesome cough.... I thank thee for the length of thy welcome letters, wherein I confess that I cannot equal thy love;’ and he[Pg 76] ends with ‘Thine, more and more, if possibly,’ &c. One passage of public news in this letter brings a well-known incident before us. ‘The scaffolds are up in Westminster Hall, and Strafford comes to the barre on Monday morning.’ Some of Sir Edward’s letters to his wife are subscribed ‘to thy best self the heart of thine own Edward Dering.’ And if he writes ‘thine in haste,’ he adds, ‘but heartily,’ and writes outside, ‘To my best and dearest friend the Lady Dering,’ while my lady endorses them, ‘From my dearest.’ One letter quaintly begins with ‘My dear and my comfortable Numps, my happiness is (for the greatest part of it in this world) circuited in the same sphere with thine. Love and cheerfulness are blessings invaluable, and if perchance some excentricke motion interpose, all at last (as in the sphaeres) helpe to make up the harmony. So I hope with us every motion shall helpe the tune.’ It would seem that, in absence, they encouraged one another from Scripture. ‘I did presently, as you wished,’ he writes, ‘read over the 91 Spalme (as you call it). I did think to return you a text, but am in haste;’ and ‘Thine own, as ever, for ever.’ The same tone makes musical all his letters, and her own seem to have been attuned to the same melody. The former are full moreover of most interesting public intelligence.

For a troubled time Sir Edward was the much perplexed and ill-requited Lieutenant of Dover[Pg 77] Castle. Released from that charge, he was the happy, intellectual, Kentish squire. Next, his county returned him to the Long Parliament, and he commenced his career with fierce opposition to Laud, hoping that ‘His Grace would have more grace, or no Grace at all.’ Sir Edward was what would now be called an Ultra-Radical. He was for abolishing bishops and was ill-affected towards royalty. He took up with the ‘Root and Branch’ party, and they pushed him forward to the proposing of revolutionary measures; and when he withdrew from the course which they had forced him to take they loaded him with execration, and succeeded in turning him out of Parliament for breach of privilege. Subsequently, he lay hid from the pursuit of Parliament, and he is said to have disguised himself as a parson and to have read prayers in a village church. He joined the King. His estate was sequestered, his house at Surrenden was plundered. At a later period the Parliament allowed him to enter on signing the Covenant and paying a composition; but before the affair was concluded the erst lover of the twenty-thousand-pound widow was, in 1644, laid to rest in Pluckley churchyard, which neither covenanting nor compounding can ever disturb.


[1] It was his son, by a former marriage, who became Lord Chancellor and Earl of Nottingham.

[Pg 78]


Some few years ago, philosophers were jostling excursionists in once gay Brighthelmstone; they discussed the prospects of science, and united archæology with a considerable amount of picnicking and claret-cup. We here submit for the general recreation a paper that was not read at the meeting of the British Association in that town, but which will be perused in the larger Elsewhere. Its staple commodity will consist of the anecdotal waifs and strays connected with old Brighton, which philosophers do not regard, but which have an especial value and interest of their own. Accordingly we pass by the Druidical mistletoe, British barrows, Roman coins, and Saxons, Danes, and Normans, and we come at once to the Brighton of the middle of the last century, when rumours of wars from abroad connected themselves with a literary question and song-writing at home.

About the year 1758 fears of invasion caused several camps to be established on our south coast. There was one at Brighton. Martial spirit attuned the popular lyre to both warlike and sentimental[Pg 79] strains. One of the airs then composed has remained popular to this day. ‘The Girl I left behind me’ was originally known by that and also by a second name, ‘Brighton Camp,’ to which reference is made in the following verse:—

Oh, ne’er shall I forget the night,
The stars were bright above me,
And gaily lent their silv’ry light,
When first she vow’d to love me.
But now I’m bound to Brighton Camp,
Kind Heaven then pray guide me,
And send me safely back again
To the girl I’ve left behind me.

This air has been claimed as Irish by Moore and by Bunting. The former took great liberties with the air. Bunting left it as he found it. But he did not find it till the year 1800, when he heard it played by an Irish harper named O’Neile. The harper had probably picked it up from some regimental band leaving their quarters; but it was popular in England nearly half a century before the date of its first being known in Ireland.

Let those who throng Brighton now just consider what it was about a century ago. In 1761 we read that ‘the men of the town were wholly employed in fishing, and the women in mending their nets.’ There was, however, a free school in Brighton; and boys of twelve years of age, who had learned navigation there, obtained very fair[Pg 80] wages in the ‘fishery.’ There was a population, fixed and movable, even at that period. Many of the houses are described as ‘of flint, with windows and doors frequently adorned with very good brick.’ When Brighton took its first step forward for the purpose of attracting visitors we may learn from a contemporary chronicle of 1761, in which we read that ‘Of late the town has become a resort for the drinking of salt water and for bathing. If the town grows in the next seven years as it has done in the last seven, there will be no better in England.’ Brighton then boasted of ‘one or two public rooms that could be equalled only by those of York.’ People could then put up with what was called ‘accommodation,’ which was of a very uncomfortable character; but everything was of a free-and-easy quality, and most visitors were content to take things as they found them.

To this rule, however, there was one notable exception, just where we should expect to find it.

Nearly a hundred years have elapsed since Dr. Johnson wrote to Boswell, in November of the year 1776, ‘I was some weeks this autumn at Brighthelmstone. The place was very dull, and I was not well.’ The fact is, that Johnson cared little for the beauties of nature. He was like Charles Lamb, who once being at the summit of a mountain from which there was a prospect of unsurpassable grandeur, saw nothing but with his[Pg 81] mind’s eye, and that was at the moment directed to the ham and beef shop at the corner of St. Martin’s Court. In like manner, Johnson hated prospects and views. We have the authority of Mrs. Piozzi for recording that Johnson used to say the best garden was the one which produced the most roots and fruits, and the river most to be prized was the one which produced the most fish. The Doctor unmercifully laughed at Shenstone for valuing a stream according to its picturesqueness, and not its productiveness. Mrs. Piozzi believed that a walk in a wood when it rained was the only rural image which pleased Johnson. The pleasure then was perhaps derived from the thought that the rain would swell the peas, or make the turnips grow, or in some way or other tend to the comforting of the inward man. The feeling was akin to that of the epicurean who dwelt fondly on the orient gale which prospered the ship freighted with sugar for his gooseberry pie. It was that of Southey’s philosopher, who reverenced pig, and who, feeling a certain amount of poetry in a fragrant breeze, exclaimed,

O’er yon blossom’d field
Of beans it came, and thoughts of bacon rise.

Johnson detested the very sight of Brighton Downs, ‘because it was a country so truly desolate,’ he said, ‘that if one had a mind to hang[Pg 82] oneself for desperation at being obliged to live there, it would be difficult to find a tree on which to fasten the rope.’ When the sage uttered this dictum he had certainly overlooked the subject of mutton. He forgot how admirable Sussex land was for turnip husbandry, and that even where the flints lay thickest the corn crops were all the more luxuriant. He did love forest trees, and might have remembered that the Sussex oak has no superior. He was fond of milk, and might have respected the Sussex cows which keep themselves almost beef, while they give rich milk, if so little of it. Hate the Downs! Let all such people remember, especially if they have a liking for a haunch of mutton, that the rot was never known to be caught upon the South Downs; reason sufficient to authorise an epicure’s respect. We see poetry even in a Brighton fish shop. Was it not Sir Wilfred himself who made first-rate fishermen of the primitive Brighton bunglers?

Johnson and Lamb are not the only intellectual persons whose minds could turn from the contemplation of great to the consideration of smaller things. When Charles James Fox was with a party viewing the old master-pieces in the Louvre, he turned from them to bewail the too great effulgence of the sun. ‘This heat,’ he remarked, ‘will burn up all my turnips at St. Anne’s.’ So, Thomas Granville, replying to Rogers, who was referring to[Pg 83] the overpowering glory of a sunset at which they were looking, observed that it was ‘handsome.’

Half a century ago, Brighton was as destitute of trees as it was in Johnson’s time. But now, if the Doctor were alive and had a halter, he would find no difficulty in searching for a branch from which he might hang, the very bulkiest of acorns. Where formerly only the hardy tamarisk grew, we may now see, as a local historian (Erredge) points out, that ‘belts and copses of thriving trees have reared their heads, and the elm, fir, sycamore, horse-chestnut, larch, beech, hazel, birch, hawthorn, and the holly, and other evergreens, having, by culture, become acclimatised, thrive so well as to induce the belief that they are indigenous to the south-east coast.’

That Brighton should have changed in a certain number of years is a matter for no surprise at all. The sea rolls its waves over the site on which the primitive village stood exposed to its fury. The cliffs which from behind the village looked proudly over the waves have been in part destroyed by the assailing waters which, it was once thought, were too remote ever to do them harm. But all this has been the work of time, and of a very long time. Yet change quite as remarkable has been accomplished within the lives of many persons still living. They must be old persons indeed, and must have suffered fourscore years at least of[Pg 84] change of themselves, in order to have been within the periods of what Brighthelmstone was and what Brighton is. What it was towards the close of the last century, about 1790, when it had ceased to be the secluded fishing village it once had been, can scarcely now be realised. It was no uncommon thing for the town to be then visited by unlicensed rovers of the deep. These thieves, who ranged from Beachy Head to Selsey Bill, would drop anchor after dark, and send a company of rascals on shore in a boat, whose mission it was to break into some rich farmer’s house, or some well-endowed mansion near the coast, and carry off thence every article of value that was portable and could be turned to pirate’s use. There was such terror of these water-rats, that wherever they broke in their coming paralysed honest people, who were powerless through terror. They bound and gagged the inmates of houses which they intended to despoil, caroused without limit, and having plundered the dwelling, staggered down to the beach, and carried on board their burglarious freight. They would then lift anchor and drop down along the coast on their way to a place of refuge, or to attack some other house where there was promise of booty and good cheer. Their audacity is explicable only on the ground that they had confederates among the police authorities, if such things were in those early days. In ancient times, when the French landed[Pg 85] there and attacked the town, the Sussex men turned out with alacrity, and often gave the invaders a tremendous thrashing. The sons of those Sussex men quailed in presence of the native rascalry, which was often cruel, but generally avoided murder.

If any archæologist care about the Druidical name for Brighton—if indeed there ever was one—or sigh to learn by what classic term the Romans designated their station on the sea, the care and the sigh are expended in vain. Let such antiquary console himself by laughing at the explanation of its later name, handed down from one local historian to another. Brighthelmstone, as it was called, has not puzzled the easily-satisfied etymologists. To explain it they invent a Saxon bishop who never existed, Brighthelm. They both beatify and canonise him under the title of St. Brighthelm, and having raised him to this dignity, they erect a stone to commemorate him, or a ‘ton,’ i.e., ‘town,’ in which he may dwell, and thus we arrive at ‘Brighthelmstone.’ Some etymologists pooh-poohed this derivation altogether, and they put forth something worse of their own. With them ‘Brighthelmstone’ is born of the shining helms of the Saxon galleys which used (or did not use) to be off the town! Another party sees in the name simply the indication that the town once belonged to a warrior whose family name was Brighthelm.[Pg 86] We must frankly confess that one theory is quite as reasonable as the other.

But, whatever the meaning of the name and whencesoever it came, there was a universal outcry of alarm and disgust when people in a hurry, or not much observant of orthography, cut the name down from a stately three- to a little two-decker. When Brighthelmstone began, in 1787, to be called Brighton, and that even in print, there was a howl of reprobation and a general demand to ‘give us back our three syllables!’ Even Sylvanus Urban in that year moved out of his old ways into the new-fangled groove, and talked of ‘Brighton’ as if he were a fashionable young fop wearing a round hat and his own hair, instead of cocked hat and powder. Sylvanus had announced that a certain Mr. Norman of Bromley had recently died at ‘Brighton!’ Instantly Mr. Urban was assailed with an et tu Brute sort of assault. Afflicted archæologists never thought such a blow could come from St. John’s Gate. One gentleman remonstrated in a tone of the deepest suffering. He argued that, if this abbreviating custom be carried on, Brighthelmstone will not only be wronged, but the world at large, and universal in geography particular, will be thrown into utter confusion. Foreign nations, potentates, governments, scholars, foreign humanity generally, we are told, will be bewildered, and will no longer[Pg 87] be able to distinguish between Brighthelmstone in Sussex and Brighton a village in Yorkshire! Brighton in Yorkshire seems to have withdrawn itself modestly from the world; and if the Emperor of Germany reads of the demise of Brown, Jones, or Robinson at Brighton, that august person will not be troubled as to its local whereabout.

If Brighton Camps had their picturesque aspect and a certain connection with poetry, they had occasional deep shadows to contrast with their lights. The camp of 1795 is especially remarkable for its dark colouring. The defenders of the country were left by the circumlocution office of that day with an insufficient quantity of bread, and with nasty flour to make it. The hungry Oxford militia plundered a mill, and having got all they wanted for their own stomachs, they seized a quantity of corn at Newhaven, not for their half-starved comrades in camp, but for the pleasure of throwing the whole of it into the river at that place. Eight of the mutineers were tried, of whom two, Cooke (called ‘Captain’) and Parish, were sentenced to be shot, the rest to be flogged. During the eight days of trial the circumlocution office gave them as little food as when the office drove them to mutiny through hunger. If it had not been for the morning and evening supplies passed to them through the bars of their airing ground by Samaritans of Russell Street, the accused [Pg 88]militiamen would not have lived through the trial to be shot or flogged. The last ceremony was carried out with much lugubrious pomp. Three of the six men received an instalment of 300 strokes, equivalent to 2,700 lashes, and the other three were respited for future punishment. Then came the more merciful act of putting quickly to death the two men condemned to be shot. There was indeed much slow circumstance before the two culprits were fairly in face of the company of their fellow-militiamen selected to carry out the sentence. For the support and encouragement of the firing party not to shirk their duty and attempt to run, there was drawn up behind them a company of artillery, with shotted cannon and lighted matches, ready to blow the firing party to atoms if they showed any reluctance to destroy their two comrades. They showed nothing but alacrity under the circumstances. Cooke and Parish, kneeling composedly on their own coffins, were shot by what was curiously described as ‘a delinquent platoon of twelve of their own regiment at the distance of only six paces,’ and then did not kill both! One, as he lay on the ground, had to be ‘finished’ by a pistol-shot through the head. Perhaps the ‘delinquent platoon’ were too hungry to aim steadily. One thing is sure, namely, that nobody at the circumlocution office was flogged for famishing the soldiers, nor was the rascal who supplied the filthy so-called flour hanged. Probably he held[Pg 89] the plate at the next Brighton Charity Sermons, and sneered at the poor folk who only contributed ‘coppers.’

In the first year of the present century the ‘Crown and Anchor’ in East Street was proudly known as ‘The Hotel’; but the ‘Ship’ soon endeavoured to attract fashionable visitors by a dining-room decorated with ‘The Story of Telemachus’ in bronze on blue. At that time coaches had not learned to run between Brighton and London in five hours. In summer the earliest coach left Brighton at 7 A.M., and arrived in London at 5 P.M. The night coach left at 10 P.M. and was due in London at 7 the next morning, keeping its time when it could. Then for crossing ‘the streak of liquid silver,’ there were ‘pacquets’ advertised to run ‘in time of peace’ three times a week, always setting sail, weather permitting, in the evening. One of these ‘pacquets’ manifested Napoleonic ideas, for it was called the Buonaparte schooner, and it made a great boast of having two cabins, a state room, and the means of making up twenty beds.

At this period it is amusing to read in a local record that ‘literature is not neglected in this town; for in Middle Street there is an academy where young gentlemen are boarded and educated.’ The idea that a boarding-school necessarily implies literary cultivation has long since expired.

While our pulpits, in the early part of the present century were denouncing the stage, and [Pg 90]persuading people to leave theatres to the devil, and to brace up their minds and bodies at the seaside, the marine pulpits were busy in bidding people to avoid the coast and to get back to London and their business as speedily as possible. In ‘Their Majesties’ Servants,’ I have alluded to the audiences who ‘were preached down to the coast, and especially to Brighton, and to the zealous pastors in the latter place who preached them back again. One of these, the Rev. Dr. Styles, of Union Street, Brighton, did his best to stop the progress of London on Sea. He left the question of the stage for others to deal with; but he strictly enjoined all virtuously minded people to avoid watering-places generally and Brighton in particular, unless they wished to play into the devil’s hands. He denounced the breaking up of homes, the mischief of minds at rest, and the consequences of flirting and philandering. He looked upon a brief holiday as a long sin at the seaside; and with prophecy of dire results attending on neglect of his counsel, he drove or sought to drive all the hard workers in search of health and in the enjoyment of that idle repose which helps them in their search, back to London. Then, as now, England stood shamefully distinguished for the indecorum of its sea-coast bathers; but, with certain religious principles whereby to hold firmly, the good doctor does not think that much ill may befal therefrom, and he[Pg 91] sends all erring sheep with their faces towards London, and with a reference to Solomon’s Song (above all things!) bidding them to wait for a south wind of the Holy Spirit to blow over their spices!’

The list of Brighton notabilities is not a long one, but it invariably contains the name of Phœbe Hassell, who served in the army as a man and who died at an age which is calculated to make Mr. Thoms shake the head of incredulity. But there is a Brighton woman far worthier of being remembered than old Phœbe Hassell. We allude to the mother of James Rooke, a simple young fellow who had been drawn in by a crafty tailor, named Howell, to rob the mail, as it was then carried on horseback, between Brighton and Shoreham. On Phœbe Hassell’s information, the two were hanged and gibbeted. In course of time, the clothes and flesh of the culprits had utterly wasted away. When nothing remained but the skeletons, the aged mother of Rooke, who had often been a pilgrim to the mournful shrine of her son, went nightly to the gibbets in all weathers. Nothing prevented her from performing that sacred duty; and when her object became known it was sacredly respected. It was to collect the bones of her unhappy son, and of the companion in his sad fate, as time, wind, and tempest shook them apart and out of the respective skeletons till nothing was left in the chains. She[Pg 92] gathered them, and carried them reverently and affectionately to her poor home; and when there were no more to gather, she deposited all in a little box, and perhaps with some sad memories of the hour when she had rejoiced at the birth of her son, she, all alone, save those memories, buried them in what she considered the hallowed ground of old Shoreham churchyard. Poor mother! Many a woman has been canonised for the performance of duties not half so holy.

The widow Rooke is forgotten, while the annals of fashion still keep warm the memory of people less worthy of being remembered. There was a time when Mrs. Prince, as old Dame Gunn, the bathing woman, used to call Mrs. Fitzherbert, reigned in Brighton. She was one of those women who justify the old saying that beauty is of every age. She was exquisite when young. There are some among us who may remember that she was queenly, when crowned by years. Like a queen, she was surrounded by duchesses at Brighton; the most august dandies worshipped at her shrine in Castle Square; and among those idolaters were the Prince’s own brothers, with men of less degree, yet perhaps higher fame. In the number of the latter must be reckoned Colonel Hanger (late Lord Coleraine), whose first freak was to join a gang of gipsies, and take a dusky bride from among the daughters in the tents. Hanger led such a [Pg 93]rollicking life, that when he grew old and tired of it, the new and enforced quiet came upon him like a novel enjoyment.

There were some singular specimens of ladies in the old Brighton days. None more singular than Lady Clermont, who used to take a tea-spoonful of brandy in her tea, by first pouring the brandy over the back of the spoon and then correcting the mistake, which she attributed to defect of sight, by filling the spoon in the ordinary way. Of a different temper was the fair and ambitious Lady Haggerstone. My lady invited the Prince to a rural festival at her villa near the Spa. She received him in character, as a milkmaid, ready to concoct a syllabub for the royal guest. She carried in one hand a silver pail, in the other a milking stool, such as the most ingenious of artistic upholsterers could alone invent. A characteristic hat, with long cherry-coloured ribbons, adorned her head; and the milkmaid’s apron would have fetched hundreds of pounds for its lace. The syllabub, however, was never accomplished. Some absurd accident brought the attempt to an end, which after brief laughter was altogether forgotten. In contrast with this gentle masquerade, was the bold, loudly-brogued, but beautiful Lady Nagle, with her husband Sir Edmund’s miniature suspended from the longest of chains, flinging about as she moved, but always, as[Pg 94] she said, near her heart. The Prince loved to have these and other fair ones about him. They made up his table at whist; brought him all sorts of gossip, home and foreign, and made themselves conspicuous in a hundred ways, as they figured on the Steyne and excited the wonder of simple-minded spectators.

Sir Benjamin Bloomfield was another of the old Brighton celebrities. He owed his position as Master of the Household to the Prince of Wales to an accident. ‘Slade,’ said his Royal Highness to the Colonel of that name, ‘do you know any gentleman who plays the violoncello?’ ‘I only know one, sir,’ replied the Colonel, ‘Captain Bloomfield, of the Artillery.’ ‘Bring him here to dinner,’ rejoined the Prince, ‘and tell him to bring his violoncello with him; we’ll play something together after dinner.’ The Captain played to good purpose. The Prince again invited him as a guest; subsequently he attached the violoncello player to his household, and Sir Benjamin became as well-known a figure on and about the Steyne as the Prince himself was.

The story of the Pavilion will be found more amusing in Cobbett’s satirical chronicle of its rise and progress than in any of the local histories. The history of its decline and fall is within the memory of him who never remembers anything—the oldest inhabitant. The noble eccentrics who[Pg 95] figured in the Pavilion circle have been stereotyped. But there were eccentrics without, whose eccentricity amused those within that circle. One of these was well known on the Brighton stage.

An ignorant impatience of taxation was manifested at Brighton, especially when the heavy impost was laid on hair-powder. By nearly general resolve people avoided the tax by leaving off the powder. Anyone who ventured to appear in public, powdered, incurred the peril of being pelted. Even on the stage, when genteel comedy required the sword by the side and the powder on the hair, there was a difference of opinion as to the wearing of it, and the actor portant épée et poudre was both hissed and applauded, as sentiment prevailed among the audience. At Brighton, Mr. Fox, the manager’s son, had to appear in a character of the sword and powder period. He took a singular course. He powdered one half of his hair, and left the other au naturel. People laughed at his droll aspect, and also at his reason for putting it on. Mr. Fox explained that he had taken that course in order to please both parties—the powderers and the anti-powderers. It was accepted for wit.

As far less has been said and written of Brighton just as royalty began to tire of its old love, than of the town when it seemed a seventh heaven to the King, George IV., we will look into one year of its[Pg 96] sayings and doings—A.D. 1825—when it was learning to go alone.

Brighton had long rejoiced in the sunshine of royalty. It veiled its head, and wore sackcloth, and cast ashes upon itself, when royalty was absent. At least, it would have done all this, but for certain consolatory circumstances. Nevertheless, it affected a very decent horror. This is especially manifested in the fashionable intelligence in the local papers. The first thing thought of there is the condition and prospects of the Pavilion. That shrine of haut ton is spoken of as a most interesting invalid, who is sick only because the sun is absent, and all Brighton is therefore sick with it. Yet will the invalid be convalescent if Hope is the physician, and then sympathetic Brighton will feel itself also ‘very much better, thank you.’ But ‘should the King’—for we now speak of the time when George IV. had grown tired of his gew-gaw—should ‘his most sacred Majesty’ nothing less than ‘graciously condescend to inhabit’ for awhile the ‘marine palace’ which he once both well and wisely loved—in such case Brighton would not only be restored to health, but would enjoy a sensation of stalwart youth and ecstatic immortality.

It is distressing to read the expression of sorrow at the idea that the King, so to speak, continually went on not coming. With the new year (1825) the wail opens to its old solemn tune. ‘There is no[Pg 97] change at the Pavilion.’ ‘We hope that the desire to see his Majesty again among us may speedily be realised.’ Alas! the realisation does not speedily come, and the ‘Fashionable Intelligencer’ wept in its imitation lawn handkerchief, and then wiped its loyal eyes and exclaimed, ‘The gloom of silence and desertion continues to envelop the Pavilion.’ Double envelopes of desertion and of silence. Then followed reports that the King was coming soon. The soon was succeeded by ‘a period not yet determined.’ Finally, it was said that his Majesty would visit Brighton and take up his residence there during the Christmas holidays. But before that time and its event arrived, ‘Fashionable Intelligencer’ discovered that, instead of the King coming, his best wine was going. It did not require much logic to enable observers to come to the conclusion that if the best vintage were taking its departure, Sacred Majesty would not be among speedy arrivals. The town could hardly find consolation in the assurance that wherever the monarch might be, his heart was certainly at Brighton. The King never came. The local banks could not bear it. They unanimously broke.

A royal duke and duchess were scarcely equivalent to a king; yet the appearance of the Duke of York relieved in some degree the heart of Brighton from some of its heavings. There was a burst of joy when it was announced that H.R.H.[Pg 98] ‘purposed to give an entertainment to his tonish friends.’ Everyone uninvited must henceforth consider himself to be mauvais ton. What a flutter there was when ‘tonish reporters’ proclaimed in the newspapers that the Duke would give a public breakfast at Ireland’s Royal Gardens, and that ‘the whole fashionable world would partake of the repast.’ Meanwhile ‘Fashionable Intelligencer’ watched the Duke and noted his ducal ways. We read with infinite emotion that his royal princeliness not only entered several shops, but that he purchased various articles in the most unassuming manner. The grand breakfast at last came off, and a very jolly affair it was; but Snob, who was not invited, and who felt his ‘fashionable’ honour very much ruffled in consequence, declared that the thing was low, and that the company were vulgar.

The Duchess of Gloucester did not put herself so prominently forward as the Duke of York; but the local observer did not fail to chronicle the proud circumstance, namely, that ‘The Duchess gives importance by her presence to the Steyne.’ Her condescension, too, was eulogised in lofty terms; but in the practice of proud humility the Duchess was nothing in comparison with the Bishop of Chichester. Robert James Carr was then, as prelate, only a year old. In the bloom of his official age the Right Rev. Father, &c., visited Brighton, and on his first Sunday there he repaired to the[Pg 99] Royal Chapel. There was the ordinary congregation, but there was no clergyman. He had been taken ill and was unable to attend. But the diocesan was not proud. The fashionable chronicler tells us that the Bishop performed divine worship himself, ‘with his usual kindness and condescension.’

Sometimes high-born and ill-bred personages condescended to much stranger performances. Thus we find Jeames the Chronicler setting down a record of the fact that Sir Godfrey Webster, one of the fastest of the very rapid men of the day, had left the town, and that the regret was universal; but that the baronet would soon return, in order to take the chair of a free-and-easy at the ‘Swan Inn.’ It is to be observed, that whenever a ‘tonish’ person took his departure, all Brighton was filled with the most poignant regret. Also, that when a family or individual of the haut ton or beau monde (nice distinctions!) arrived, all Brighton was stirred with an indescribable sort of happiness. If Mrs. Fitzherbert left the town drowned in tears, the arrival of Lady Berwick brought it again to life and laughter. Sir Matthew Tierney’s post-carriage, galloping out of Brighton, pierced the hearts of all beholders; but there was balm in Gilead. How sympathetic must have been the fashionable reporter of 1825 when he wrote down the fact that, ‘Grateful rumour states that the esteemed[Pg 100] Dukes of Richmond and Argyle, and the Marquis of Anglesea, again propose to add to the importance of the “Royal York Hotel” by residing there before the end of the present year.’ Mark the new and original figure, ‘grateful rumour.’ But to indulge in strange figures was the old Brighton reporter’s dearest delight. ‘The Marquis of Granby,’ says our friend, ‘without any feeling of indisposition, enjoys good spirits in Regency Square.’ This might astonish Mark Tapley, whose spirits were highest under prostration, but to us it seems natural enough. Another fashionable record, this time full of simplicity, is to the effect that ‘Lady William Gordon confesses the salutary influence of the coast air.’ Occasionally an unexpected arrival makes the reporter of it facetious. For example, the local chronicler states how the ‘Barossa,’ homeward bound from St. Helena, had dropped her anchor off the town the previous night, without any idea of her being there, and how her gallant captain, Hutchenson, went ashore, and gave joyous surprise to his lady and family, and how he was on board again, and on his way to the Downs, by five in the morning.

Speaking of ladies as well as of captains, let us not forget—indeed it is impossible to overlook—that incarnation of gaiety and beauty, the Lady Berwick of that day. Before her marriage, she was a Miss Sophia Dubouchet. This young lady[Pg 101] was married to the second Lord Berwick in 1812. In some peerages she is styled plain ‘Sophia Dubouchet,’ with no more account of her family than if she had been, like Melchizedek, without father and without mother. It is clear that this lady, who died childless, was not of illustrious descent. How she looked at Brighton, in 1825, and what were ‘pretty Fanny’s ways’ in that year, at that place, we may gather from another of the scraps of intelligence. ‘A la mode Lady Berwick,’ says a contemporary local journal, ‘formerly Miss Sophia de Bouchez’ (the chroniclers were not particular as to names), ‘has been the source of attraction for our fashionable promenades during the week. It afforded us much pleasure to observe that the late abuse of the press has in no degree diminished the vivacity so characteristic of her ladyship and family.’ There were two other ladies at Brighton at that time who were of a quieter quality, and whose wealth was the least of their charms. They are thus registered in the fashionable column: ‘We have two of the richest heiresses in the country now with us, Miss Wykeham and Miss Pleydell.’ How little did the chronicler conjecture that the former lady, who died so recently as 1870, was the heroine of a romance, and might have been Queen of England if she had chosen to bear that magnificent title. When Miss Wykeham was at Brighton, at a much earlier period than[Pg 102] 1825, she attracted the attention of the Duke of Clarence. She was then the much honoured heiress of an Oxfordshire squire, Wykeham of Swalcliffe, a member of the family of William of Wykeham. The royal Duke had other opportunities of seeing this beautiful and accomplished heiress; and, overcome by her beauty, her intellectual qualities, and her account at her banker’s, he made her the offer of his hand. With good common sense, Miss Wykeham declined the offer. The Duke subsequently married a German princess, but he never ceased to esteem the heiress, whose presence made Brighton so happy nearly half a century ago. As soon as the Duke became William IV., King of England, he, with the glad sanction of Queen Adelaide, prevailed on the lady whom he had once sought to make his wife, to accept a peerage. Miss Wykeham took the title of Baroness Wenman, whereby she revived an old title in her family. Her grandfather had married the sister and heiress of the Viscount Wenman, in the Irish peerage. The Viscount having died childless, in 1800, the dignity became extinct; but Wenman, as an English baronial title, was conferred on Miss Wykeham in 1834. For six and thirty years she wore it with dignity, and when she died, in 1870, there was not a memory more honoured in the three kingdoms than that of Sophia Elizabeth Wykeham, Baroness Wenman, of Thame Park, county Oxon.

[Pg 103]

When William IV. took up his residence at Brighton, he played the citizen king. He walked and talked in the streets, and knocked at the doors of his personal friends, paying morning visits, and speedily discovering that, altogether, ‘it wouldn’t do.’ Queen Victoria went down to look at the place, to give it a trial, and to come to the same conclusion, that ‘it wouldn’t do.’ When cabmen or their customers stood on the roofs of their cabs to gaze at the Queen over the garden walls, royalty quietly withdrew, and Brighton took good heart, and has since contrived to get on handsomely alone, but she is ever glad, and naturally so, when a prince or princess is to be reckoned among her visitors. Only now the inhabitants do not go out to meet them, as they did in 1815 to meet Queen Charlotte. Large bodies of them then received permission to welcome the Queen at Patcham. They were dressed in buff, and mounted. As they cantered by the side of the Queen’s carriage, as her escort, she smiled and bowed to such of them as were ‘getting a look at her,’ as if she liked it. The Prince Regent, the Duke of Clarence, and a bright array of nobility, waited in the open space before the Pavilion to do honour to her on her arrival. ‘The present,’ says a contemporary historian, ‘is beyond all doubt the most brilliant period in the annals of Brighton.’

Fitting period wherewith to close these [Pg 104]remarks. What a contrast is the fuss to get a sovereign into Brighton with the anxiety to get Charles II. out of it! For effecting the escape of the King, Captain Tattersall was rewarded with a pension of 100l. a year to himself and his descendants. We suppose that the most democratic of politicians would not object to a pension being paid which was originally earned by getting his most ‘religious majesty’ out of the kingdom.

[Pg 105]


Of all historical parallels, there are few more curious than the one between the first club ever established and any similar association of modern times. We must go as far back as the reign of Philip of Macedon (B.C. 320) for that original club. It consisted of Greek gentlemen, who, from their number, called themselves ‘The Sixty.’ They met once a week, not at a tavern, but in a temple—that of Hercules, at Athens. Their secretary was a sprightly young Achaian, named Callimedes—so sprightly, indeed, that the jolly Sixty nicknamed him the Grasshopper. They must have had the highest opinion of their own wit, for every good thing that was uttered was entered in a book, and any member who had a repartee on the tip of his tongue was obliged to keep it there till what had provoked it had been written down! This book of wit, wisdom, and joking was in such repute that it was lent out to princes and other potentialities, on depositing a security for its return. Thus Athens furnished not only the first club, but the first idea of a circulating library.

[Pg 106]

One of the most singular features of some of the social gatherings of Roman gentlemen consists in the fact, that if a member did not consider himself ‘clubbable,’ or was not considered so by his colleagues, he might bring with him some one who was. If he possessed an extremely witty slave, and chose to bring him to the meeting, in such case Libanus was as welcome as Demenætus. There are clubs of the present day where dulness so prevails among the associates, where Sir Rayleigh D’Istressin is such a nonentity, and Mr. Hugh Doane Nohoo is so overflowing with nonsense, that it is a pity they cannot be represented by capable substitutes. The latter might be found among the public office clerks. How well many of these persons have discovered what they are especially fitted for is to be seen in the little companies that club together and exhibit themselves with alacrity as Nigger Serenaders!

In England here, although the name of club for a society was not known till the seventeenth century, the thing itself was in active practice three hundred years before. The first English club of which we know anything has a French name—La Cour de Bonne Compagnie. It was founded in the reign of Henry the Fourth, and we may take it that bonne compagnie was understood to signify, in English, good fellows. They met, like ‘The Sixty’ in Athens, once a week. The club was what would[Pg 107] now be called a dining club—that is, meeting periodically in order to dine together, and to enjoy the ‘feast of reason and the flow of soul’ which come of good cheer, safe digestion, happy humour, and undying wit.

We may be very sure that at the meetings which took place at ‘The Mermaid,’ and at those where Ben Jonson’s sons sat around him in ‘The Apollo,’ the English language ripened into mellowness, beauty, and strength. Shakespeare, Raleigh, and the men whose sympathies were attuned to those of the soldier and the poet, must have done especially good work to that end during their joyous discussions at ‘The Mermaid.’ Politics do not seem to have been touched upon. The first club founded in London with a political purpose among its other objects was the Rota Club. More than two centuries have elapsed since the Rota saw its table and coffee-cups surrounded by such men as Milton, Cyriac Skinner (to whom Milton addressed the sonnet which urges play as well as work), Marvel, Harrington, Nevill, and very many others. They advocated a going-out of Members of Parliament by rotation, and used a ballot-box for the settlement of club questions—that is to say, they affirmed or negatived by that means the conclusions arrived at by the lecturer for the evening. They also supported the ballot, as the simplest and truest method of voting, generally. To this[Pg 108] end we are only on the point of now coming partially.

There were some clubs that, meeting only for recreation, fell into a fixed purpose by accident. Small clubs they were, but they were the beginnings of great consequences. From the meeting together of a few ‘city gentlemen,’ members of the Wednesday Club, in the reign of William III., arose certain discussions on financial matters which led to the ‘Conferences’ of 1695, in which William Paterson took a leading part. From this club, its discussions and conferences, sprang a gigantic result—‘The Old Lady in Threadneedle Street;’ in other words, the Bank of England.

A dozen years later, the first germs of the Royal Society of Antiquaries, long enthroned in Somerset House, were planted in the modest room of ‘The Bear Tavern,’ in the Strand. Three individuals, to whom the past was dearer than the present or the future, there met to talk over the condition of the ancient monuments of the kingdom, while they smoked their pipes and sipped their ale. One of them was Humphrey Wanley, the well-known archæologist, and librarian to Harley, Earl of Oxford. They agreed to add to their numbers, meet every Friday night, and confine themselves to the consideration of matters and monuments which illustrated English history not later than the reign of James the First. The[Pg 109] weekly business was to begin at six, and every absentee was to be fined sixpence. The club or society migrated from the parlour of one public-house to another before it found royal patronage, and a home in the palace which occupies the site of the one built by the Protector Somerset. After a brief sojourn of a month at ‘The Bear,’ they went, in 1708, to the ‘Young Devil’ tavern close by, and there they seem to have been housed for above a quarter of a century. In 1739 they moved to more commodious apartments in ‘The Mitre,’ Fleet Street, and they talked no more of sixpences. They numbered a hundred members. Each of them paid a guinea entrance-fee, and twelve shillings annual subscription. In 1770 they commenced the ‘Archæologia’; and in the following year George III. gave them the abiding-place beneath the roof of Somerset House, where, till the removal to Burlington House, they met weekly, on Thursdays, during six or seven months of the year, and sometimes, like Gratiano, spoke an infinite deal of nothing. At other times the meetings are full of interest, and emperors themselves have been glad to be enrolled among the Antiquaries, who began their career as a modest club in a Strand tavern of no great repute.

A more ancient society than the Antiquaries had also a home within Somerset House. The Royal Society is of much older date, but it began in a[Pg 110] little club-gathering, in 1645, at Dr. Goddard’s lodgings in Wood Street, and for some time where it could, in Cheapside. After it rose from a club to an incorporated society, it first met in Gresham College, but afterwards occupied rooms in Somerset House for upwards of ninety years, when it migrated to Burlington House. Its first avowed object—the establishing of facts by successive experiments—was highly ridiculed, and that most wittily, by Butler, in ‘The Elephant in the Moon.’ One of the members is described as one who

—— had lately undertook
To prove and publish in a book
That men, whose natural eyes are out,
May, by more pow’rful art, be brought
To see with th’ empty holes as plain
As if their eyes were in again.

Another philosopher is said to be renowned

—— for his excellence
In height’ning words and shad’wing sense.

A third experimentalist and chatterer is transported with the ‘twang of his own trills.’ Collectively they are men who are satisfied,

As men are wont, o’ th’ bias’d side.

The society set up a telescope to make discoveries in the moon. They detect armies fighting, and an elephant moving among them. Delighted with what they had discovered, they drew up a narrative, to be published in the ‘Transactions.’ By the[Pg 111] time this had been done, idle explorers have made out that the armies are gnats and flies on the lens, and that the elephant is a mouse that had got imprisoned in the tube. The philosophers are disconcerted, and the satirical poet rides over them roughshod, with a moral which is intended to make them as comfortable as a toad under a harrow. Butler flew at them again, in prose, in ‘An Occasional Reflection upon Dr. Charlton’s feeling a Dog’s Pulse at Gresham College.’ This is exquisite fooling. The paper is supposed to be written by Robert Boyle, Esq., and never was imitation so hard to be distinguished from an original. It is far superior in this respect to the prose imitations, in ‘Rejected Addresses,’ of the styles of Dr. Johnson and of Cobbett. We will not conclude this reference to the Wood-street Club, which has grown to such dignity and usefulness as the present Royal Society, without recording that, a little more than a hundred years ago, a Latin paper, on ‘Volcanoes,’ was read before it by a German, one Raspe. Whether it faithfully narrated Raspe’s experiences, who can tell?—for Raspe subsequently wrote that amusingly serious lie called ‘Baron Munchausen.’

In the early part of the last century, a body of ladies constituted themselves as ‘The Shakespeare Club.’ They met in rooms in Covent Garden, and their object was to raise funds to supply the managers of the two theatres, to enable them to act with appropriate splendour the plays of the national[Pg 112] poet strictly according to his text; in other words, the end was to annihilate the adapters of the bard. How even the ladies themselves were divided in opinion and into clubs, is seen in the closing words to Fielding’s ‘Historical Register for 1736.’ The piece closes with a deprecatory appeal to the fair sex present, to whom an actor says: ‘And you ladies, whether you be Shakespeare’s ladies, or Beaumont and Fletcher’s ladies, I hope you will make allowance for a rehearsal.’

There was another club in the last century whose purpose was one which deserves for it everlasting respect and admiration. The excellent object it had in view was the suppression of wearisome preachers, or the putting down of silly and interminable sermons. Whether the means taken to arrive at the ends aimed at could be equally respected and admired, is a matter on which a certain difference of opinion may be justly allowed. It was the fashion of the time for ladies to carry fans, and for gentlemen to be inseparable from their canes. These weapons were turned to church uses by the ladies and gentlemen who were members of the Rattling Club. They were vagrant Christians, who attended such churches as possessed congregations who sat in need of relief from a great oppression—that of being bored by a preacher who (as Voltaire says of them all) stood five feet above contradiction. The Rattlers were perfectly unobtrusive during[Pg 113] service, and indeed they were perfectly decorous during sermon, unless they were provoked by absurdity or tediousness. As soon as any provocation of that sort was felt, a Lady-Rattler began to agitate her fan, or a Gentleman-Rattler tapped his cane against the floor or the panelling of his pew. The signal was followed by the other members, and the interruption was continued, gradually increasing till there was such a fluttering of fans and a rattling of canes as to produce conviction on the mind of the preacher that the sooner he pronounced the word ‘finally’ the sooner there would be peace in the church. It would not be very unreasonable to call such conduct unseemly—even vulgar. The Rattling Club, however, had very august precedent for their proceedings. In as far as the eccentric young Queen Christina of Sweden set the example, she may be fairly looked upon as the founder of the Rattlers. In her own royal chapel, as well as in any ordinary church where she happened to be present before she passed over to the Church of Rome, Christina used to give decent attention to the sermon till she thought she had taken as much as would do her good. At that point she would slightly rap with her fan on the top of the back of the chair which always stood before her own in the Chapel Royal, or on any hard substance which happened to be near her, when she was being sermon-vexed in other places. If the preacher[Pg 114] neglected to attend to this signal, her Majesty declared open warfare against him, and rattled away with her fan with increasing intensity till she had silenced the pulpit, or (if the preacher continued to pour forth his volleys) till she raised the siege and retreated in vexation. Let us mention here, by the way, that in the early intolerant age of the Reformation which followed the intolerable era of Popery in England, people were compelled (under serious penalties) to go to church whether they were Reformers or Romanists. Many of the latter attended the Protestant service rather than pay the fine, and yet preserved their consistency; and you may fancy the mirth in some old country-house, when the solemn knight and his lady, and the laughing daughters with their haughty brothers, as soon as they heard the church-bells ring, proceeded to stuff wool into their ears, and then went to a sermon with a joyous conviction of being unable to hear a word of it.

Let us now fancy ourselves standing in Great Queen Street, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, in the year 1711. We are in front of the Land Bank, which had lately come to grief, and the street was not of the high estate it had been when lords smoked their pipes at its windows, and could smell the haycocks that were in St. Pancras Fields. Let us describe what took place. There was a going in and out, and a standing on the steps, and a [Pg 115]gathering of increased numbers, and an universal cheerful gossiping, save on the part of Mr. Ferrers, who was dumb. Passengers stopped to look at these men, and were not slow to recognise the most eminent among the wellnigh five dozen standing or moving about the door, or going in and out. People from Drury Lane knew their neighbour Mr. Vertue, who was talking apart to a little knot of listeners—engravers like himself. There was Michael Dahl, talking a good deal about his Swedish patroness Queen Christina, and still more about his claims to be director of an Academy of Painting. At these claims his hearers may be taken to have smiled, especially if their eye happened to fall on a well-dressed, courteous gentleman, who passed into the house bowing to all who greeted him. There was not a child in Queen Street who could not recognise in him the great Sir Godfrey Kneller. Sir Godfrey was probably greeted most warmly by Laguerre, who had glorified the knight’s house at Whitton with more simple taste than usually distinguished Laguerre. Thornhill stood near the latter, and looked on him with no more perceptible air of triumph than a modest artist could help, who had been substituted for the other in the task of painting the Life of St. Paul within the dome of the metropolitan church. Richardson too was there, and his colleagues respected him as an artist who, if Kneller and Dahl were but away, would be[Pg 116] at the head of portraiture in England. A laughing group stood round Richardson; he was narrating to them his own great story, which has been so often retold with other heroes of the tale: ‘The gentleman was singularly annoyed that his friend should declare that his Rubens was only a copy. He said to me: “I will knock any man’s brains out who will call it a copy! My dear Mr. Richardson, come down to my house, and give me your candid opinion!”’ We may fancy that merry and wise Richardson tripping up the steps laughingly, stopping, perhaps, in the hall to talk with two gentlemen, brothers, one of whom exhibits to him, and to smiling Laptist Monnoyer, some paintings on fans which excite his generous unreserved admiration. It is Mr. Godfrey, behind whose marvellously-decorated fans—on which figured landscapes created to make love in—the beauties of the time of Anne and the first two Georges used to feign to blush and hide confusion which they did not feel.

When these and others were assembled in the old bank, they numbered sixty-two. Every man came with his guinea ready for the treasurer. It was to be the annual subscription. Each member had also with him a list of twelve names, whom he voted for as directors for one year. Michael Dahl insinuated his right to be governor, but, saving Dahl’s vote, Kneller was unanimously elected; and[Pg 117] with his quietly moving into the chair of that club, was the first Academy of Painting established in England.

The jealousy of Dahl, and a few individual affectations, marred some of the good that the Academy might have accomplished. In the second year, the Swedish favourite of Queen Anne and her husband, Prince George of Denmark, withdrew, because Kneller was still preferred to him as governor or president. The Academy Club elected new members, with or without their consent. At that time there was a French painter in London, named Berchet. He had painted panels and ceilings in England from the time of the latter years of Charles II.; and when De la Fosse was over here, he must have been proud, if he was not jealous, of his pupil. If there be an old painted panel yet in the house that was the Duke of Schomberg’s, in Pall Mall, it is possibly a portion of the decoration of the house, and is, in such case, Berchet’s work. The belles and gallants of the day flocked to Ranelagh, to gaze at the summer-house so daintily tricked out by Berchet’s delicate pencil. Now, he was painting small mythological pieces, in oils; and the ‘Academicians,’ deeming him worthy of being a member, elected him. Berchet (by letter) ‘excused himself, being not well and tysicky, and could not bear the smoke of the lamp.’ His infirmity did not leave him, neither did his industry. He had[Pg 118] just put his name at the foot of ‘A Bacchanalian,’ his last work, when the pencil dropped for ever from his hand, and Berchet’s occupation was gone.

We pass from Art to Fashionable Eccentricity. When squires were squires in England, and came up to London to see a little life, a club was founded for them in St. James’s Street, which was (and is) called Boodle’s, but which was long familiarly known as ‘The Topboot and Worsted Stocking Club.’ To rival Boodle’s dinners, or Almack’s, was not a difficult matter, since they seem to have consisted of uncouth legs of mutton, roasted geese, and buttered apple-pies. Something better than mere squirearchy must have been among the members, for Gibbon was one, and a hundred years ago the great historian wrote his letters there. It was the poor cookery of Boodle’s that probably gave rise to the ‘Sçavoir Vivre Club,’ the palates of whose members could not bear, nor their stomachs digest, the mutton, geese, and apple-pies of the club, which still exists. The ‘Sçavoir Vivre’ showed that they knew how to live, by composing or importing new dishes, and they showed that they knew how to dress, by creating the most eccentric of costumes. Among their imported dishes was macaroni. It become such a favourite dish at the club, and was so invariably brought to table, that the clubbists themselves became celebrated as ‘Macaronies.’ In dress they wore a toy cocked hat, gold-laced,[Pg 119] buttoned and tasseled over hair fashioned into a foretop above the head, side-curls, and a clubbed tail. Tight striped silk breeches, and an equally tight coat and waistcoat, kept them together. Their tasseled canes were as long as those still carried by state footmen when they ride behind a carriage going to court on a drawing-room day. Like Tiddy Bob, they had a watch in each fob, with cable-chains, and a pound of seals at the end of them. Their white neck-cloths displayed a front bow as large as a cauliflower; and they daintily walked about in white silk stockings and diamond-buckled shoes, in all weathers. In any sense, for a Macaroni to wear a greatcoat was to confess his unworthiness of being a member of the august brotherhood. As equestrians, they figured in the park on little ponies, and looked as if they lacked strength to get on anything higher. The female Macaronies carried heads top-heavy with hair of their own and other peoples—hat, feathers, and a world of knicknackery. Their dress clung almost as closely to the body as the gentlemen’s to theirs. But they dragged after them a long, long gold-embroidered train, the very thought of which reminds us of the poet’s line:—

Hæc nunc auratâ cyclade verret humum.

The Macaronies and the Macaroniesses, as they were called, turned days, nights, hours, and[Pg 120] seasons, topsy-turvy; and the former, to show that they were men, ran foot-races on Sundays in Kensington Gardens, very lightly clad, and putting in peril their little lives, by exhaustion of the little breath they carried in their little bodies. Having established macaroni as a dish to be thenceforward known in every household of taste, they died out, and men knew them no more.

The Eccentrics entered into the present century. The Keep-the-Line Club was one of the brilliant, fashionable, and shortlived clubs of the first quarter of the present century. Its members consisted of wits, artists, actors, authors, gentlemen, and peers. It had two purposes—enjoyment and preservation of temper, by putting it to the hardest trials. One of the rules was, that whenever a member was insulted by another, however grossly, the insulted person should rise and offer his best thanks to the offender. A witty fellow might here find good opportunity for his wit, if he only knew how to avail himself of opportunity. Another rule imposed a fine of a dozen of claret to the club, on the member who published any literary composition of his own. Samuel Rogers, Topham, Miles Peter Andrews, Merry, Morton, Reynolds, Fitzgerald, Horace Smith, Boaden, Kenney, and others, paid the fine willingly whenever it was fairly due. The penalty was once demanded of Wilson (the surgeon), and of John Tufton. The first had issued an [Pg 121]advertisement announcing a course of lectures; Tufton had addressed an electioneering handbill to his constituents. Both publications were pronounced to be literary. The authors had not only to pay the penalty in claret, but to profess their unfeigned delight at its being imposed on them.

While the Keep-the-Line loved fun, others loved athletics. The Mary-le-bone Cricket Club of the olden days did not at all resemble what it afterwards became when known as Lord’s. In its early age, there was as much difficulty in passing a ballot successfully, as in the most exclusive clubs of the present day. The members included players from every degree in the peerage, members of the House of Commons, and gentlemen of large landed property. The costume of the club was skyblue! and their chief object—even before cricketing—was the performance of practical jokes. One of the latter was played by the bacchanalian Duke of Richmond on Fred Reynolds the dramatist. The Duke put Reynolds on horseback, and rode with him to a match on Moulsey Hurst. The steed ridden by Reynolds was from Astley’s, and the Duke led the way to where a body of soldiers were exercising with gun, drum, and trumpet. The circus war-horse immediately became dramatic, going through a course of unparalleled performances, which he concluded by flinging his sky-blue rider. But[Pg 122] there were, besides the practical jokers, serious and accomplished cricketers. For bowling, David Harris; for batting, Tom Walker; and for wicket-keeping, sharp-eyed Hammond, had no equal except in Lord Frederick Beauclerc, who excelled, each in his speciality, and could beat everybody at all three.

In those days, the Mary-le-bone Club had no particular ground. From May to September they moved from place to place, encamping here and bivouacking there by day, and taking their ease in their inn by night. Hospitality varied this course very pleasantly. Sir Horace Mann, the King of Cricket, kept open house for the club at his seat near Maidstone, or at his marine residence at Margate. This hospitality did not cause him to be respected by the practical jokers. Some of the jokes lacked decency; and we do not see much fun in the emptying a man’s box of its snuff and filling it with hellebore, to make him sneeze a hundred times for one! It was a rule that no offence was to be taken at the roughest of these jokes, but it was not always in the power of a man to seem delighted at them. We quite sympathise with Miles Peter Andrews, who, being asked why he looked serious when everybody was laughing loudly at a jest perpetrated by the most convivial of the members, answered—‘My dear sir, I can see no fun in a man who owes me three guineas!’

[Pg 123]

The hospitality of Mann to the club was, if possible, exceeded by that of Richard Leigh, whose welcomes to the members at Wilmington were feudal in their sumptuousness. His good taste and liberality were manifested in many ways. His musical gatherings were exquisite treats. His love for athletic sports was shown in his zeal at getting up cricket matches. The eccentric Duchess of Gordon, who had married two dukes and a marquis to her three daughters, once said aloud to Richard Leigh: ‘I am the first, but you are the second, match-maker in England, Mr. Leigh.’

One of the droller incidents of the club-matches was long remembered. Reynolds, who was but an amateur, was one day called upon to go in for a member who was too ill to play. He went to the wicket with a feeling of fright, as if he stood in front of a loaded pistol levelled at him, when he saw that the formidable Harris was about to bowl. In his own words, he says: ‘My terrors were so much increased, by the mock pity and sympathy of Hammond, Beldam, and others round the wicket, that when this mighty bowler—the Jupiter Tonans—hurled his bolt at me, I shut my eyes in the intensity of my panic, and mechanically gave a random desperate blow, which, to my utter astonishment, was followed by a loud cry all over the ring of “Run! run!” I did run, and with all[Pg 124] my force; and getting three notches, the Duke of Richmond, John Tufton, Leigh, Anguish, and other arch-wags, advanced and formally presented to me twenty-five sixpences in a hat, collected from the bystanders as “the reward of merit.” Even Lord Winchilsea and Sir Horace Mann contributed to this, and then all playfully commenced promoting a new subscription, which only stopped because I could not stop the next ball. To my great joy, up went my stumps and out I walked—certainly with some little éclat, being the first member of the club who had been considered a regular playeri.e., paid for his services.’

We have now to say a few words of some other clubs and their purposes. In the last century, Benjamin Franklin was in the chair at a private club which used to meet weekly at ‘The Prince of Wales’ in Conduit Street. A proposal was made to do something for starving authors. The members murmured over their pipes, stared at the punch-bowl, and thought authors were vulgar people, who were not worth being thought about. The matter, however, was not allowed to drop. Year after year some kind soul or another brought it hot upon the anvil, hammered at it till he was weary, and then passed the hammer to another and another, and he to another, till at last the something was beaten into shape, and shape into substance, till there was[Pg 125] fashioned that excellent and praiseworthy institution, the Literary Fund. In its first year only a few shillings could be spared for one hungry author, but now it sends forth welcome relief by hundreds of pounds.

This Literary Fund brings to our mind a literary club which we must not pass over—namely, ‘The Syncretics.’ The worthy gentleman who invented the name has never been discovered; but, dignified as the title looked, it sorely troubled some of the members, particularly those who had looked into a dictionary for the interpretation, yet who, on being asked for the meaning of ‘Syncretic,’ had forgotten the dictionary definition. The object of this united body was the encouragement of the dramatic element among the members. They were to write plays, which managers were to put on the stage for them; and as each play was acted, the Syncretics were bound, or were supposed to be bound, to support the drama of their brother-member by enthusiastic demonstrations of applause. Their motto seemed to be: ‘Hors nous et nos amis nul n’aura de l’esprit.’

When the amiable society had furnished nearly as many new dramas as there were members, the difficulty arose as to which play should have the precedence. It was a delicate matter. Each writer saw peculiar claims and merits in his own[Pg 126] play, and those members whose pieces were as yet only on the stocks thought that the club should not be in too great a hurry, lest, by failing in their first venture, they should discourage the possible or probable new Shakespeares who as yet lacked time to bring about their dramatic dénouements. At length a decision was arrived at, and a play called ‘Martinuzzi’ had the good or evil fortune to be selected for representation. The public expectation had been stimulated to a high degree, but disappointment followed. ‘Martinuzzi’ was a lugubrious failure; but an ill-natured world would have it that it was most violently hissed by the author’s fellow-clubbists, the Syncretics. What will not a censorious world assert? The scandal-mongers affirmed that it was a Syncretic rule for each member, except the author, to hiss the play in course of representation, as each sibilant member hoped, by damning his brother’s play, to obtain a better chance of bringing his own forward earlier.

Is there anyone surviving whose pantomimic memories can flash vividly back half a generation? If so, how joyous yet sad must be his remembrance of another literary club—‘The Fielding’—and the pantomime of ‘Harlequin Guy Fawkes,’ acted by the members, at Covent Garden, in 1855! If the set purpose of that society at its formation was to found a school of mimes, the success was undoubted.[Pg 127] It was a strange ambition, thought Smelfungus, for professional men and clerks in public offices to attempt to rival—nay, excel—the clowns, harlequins, lovers, and pantaloons who were imbued with the traditions of the times of Grimaldi and Bologna, Barnes and Parsloe. The amateurs were quite up to the regular business. Who that was there will forget the marvellous delivery of the patter song which Albert Smith rattled out as ‘Catesby’? Was ever stage-fight at the old Coburg (where Messrs. Blanchard and Bradley used to slay and be slain nightly with broad-swords, that hacked and hewed to orchestral accompaniments) equal to the terrific combat which was maintained between the awfully savage Catesby and the resolute assassin Guy Fawkes, who had Mr. Holmes under his mask? The latter seemed like a boneless unvertebrated acrobat who could throw his limbs anywhere he pleased out of his own way, or very much in the way of his adversary. The murderous earnestness of his fighting was in strong contrast with the hilarious humour of his burlesque-singing; and Mr. Holmes’s solemn humour was equally well illustrated in the part he took, with three other amateurs, in the performance of acrobatic feats in the scene of the Epsom Racecourse. They executed the easiest of feats with an admirable air of having achieved the impossible. The laughing spectators were almost deceived by the mock seriousness of[Pg 128] the pseudo-acrobats; and, when the latter bowed to the applause, with an air of being exhausted by their seemingly laborious efforts, the applause grew louder, and the laughter shook the very house.

There were other members of the club who took part in this celebrated pantomime, and who were quite as effective as their fellows. Spectators calculated in vain the number of government-office windows Mr. Bidwell, the inimitable harlequin, must have leapt through, the government tables he must have vaulted over, and the government chairs he must have waltzed with for supposititious columbines, before he arrived at the perfection which he then displayed. One could not but wonder whether he went down to his office in Whitehall in his spangles covered by a greatcoat, from which he suddenly emerged to stir the often-manifested delight of the porter. Did he go to his desk by a hop, step, and a jump? Did he ever awe a reproving ‘Head of Department’ by shaking his ruler above him, as on the stage he shook his wand and paralysed the clown? Then there was Arthur Smith, who slipped about in Pantaloon as if he had never known boots, and heels to them, since he was born. Nor let us pass over Joe Robins, that airy medical student, who, we suppose, made the dissecting-room funny by his skeleton songs, if he chaunted the scraps of minstrelsy as farcically as he sang ‘Hot Codlins’ in[Pg 129] the character of Clown. Horace Walpole said of some amateur actors at whose playing he was present, that they played so well it was a pity they had not sense enough not to play at all. He would not have been epigrammatic in that style had he witnessed the burlesquers and pantomimists of the Fielding Club. It was because of their sense and intelligence that they were so efficient. In their strength and buoyant spirits and exuberant health, they looked immortal. Alas! some of them have passed from the stage-manager to the sexton. One or two, having the alternative put before them, quitted motley and pantomime for ever, and took permanently to their office duties. Two or three went in an opposite direction; they stuck to the stage, and more or less adorn it now, under their proper or under stage-names. An odd fellow or so ‘got up a tree,’ as if that feat belonged to the harlequinade of life; but it is believed that their creditors saw less fun in the reality than in the pantomimic effect. In short, to quote Hood’s ‘Ode on a Distant Prospect of Clapham College’—

Alack! They’re gone a thousand ways!
And some are serving in ‘The Greys,’
And some have perish’d young!—
Jack Harris weds his second wife,
Hal Baylis drives the wane of life,
And blithe Carew is hung!

We can only briefly refer to a few other clubs,[Pg 130] some still, others till lately, existing. We may suppose that a member of the ‘Early Rising Association’ has no affinity with the ‘Owls.’ The ‘One-o’-clock Club’ would no more understand a cricket-club than the members of the one could look like the members of the other. ‘The Early Risers’ are members of one of those cricket-clubs. During the season they pitch their wickets at four o’clock in the morning, and play till seven, and then to business—pleasure with them taking the precedence. But work is their business of the day. Put the ‘Owls’ by their side, the foul birds would certainly bear no resemblance to a man and a brother. The ‘Owls’ used to meet at ‘The Sheridan Knowles,’ Bridge Street, Covent Garden. They sat without ever rising. Day and night some blinking member was to be found there making sacrifice of his faculties. It was not much to offer up; but, by one saddened victim or another, the sacrifice was being continually made. The smoke of their sacrifice ascended from their pipes, and their libations were made in the very hottest of mixed liquors. We believe that all the ‘Owls’ were utterly consumed—to the great relief of their friends. Aspiring young imbeciles who call themselves by that name are probably only the much-shattered wrecks of the ‘One-o’clock Club,’ an association which was established for the lofty purpose of late drinking! The ‘One-o’clock’ made[Pg 131] ghosts of a good many of its members. If any of its paralysed survivors could bear being taken down to the Serpentine at daybreak on one of these winter mornings, we should like to show them the club of hardy bathers there who take their plunge, though they break the ice for it, and then run across the park to breakfast at a pace that would take all the poor breath out of the poorer body of any survivor of a club like the ‘One-o’clocks.’

We must say for the ‘Owls’ that they did not originally intend to be permanently drinking. They fell into bad ways. Sheridan Knowles himself was, probably, never anything more than the honorary patron of the club. Poor musical Augustine Wade, the composer of ‘Meet me by Moonlight alone,’ and the disposer of Mrs. Waylett, who gave melodious utterance to his ballads, was chairman of the club of ‘Owls’ in its best days. These were when it met upstairs at the ‘Shakespeare’s Head’ in Wych Street—sacred ground, nevertheless, for it was the home of genius, and, according to some authorities, the cradle of Punch.

We will say nothing of ‘The Sublime Society of Beefsteaks,’ for Brother Arnold has written its history and sung its requiem. What a host of great people, home and foreign, used to assemble in a French eating-house in a dirty little street near Leicester Square, where the Foreigners’ Club[Pg 132] was held, and Mallet du Pau, Pozzo di Borgo, and our Vansittart were among the best talkers! We may wonder if ‘The Y. Z.’s’ of Liverpool have seen as wise heads among them as once met at ‘The Foreigners.’ Gone are the ‘Fabs,’ the ‘Fortnightly Associated Book Society’; ‘The Jelly Bags’ in nightcaps are as extinct as Barham’s ‘Wigs.’ ‘Our Club,’ whose number was once that of the ‘Forty Thieves,’ has never recovered the prestige it had in the days of Douglas Jerrold, while the ‘Cocked Hats,’ select in number, grow in hilarity as well as in ‘Archæo-knowledgy.’ The ‘Arts,’ or the Upst-Arts, as some wild wit called that club at its foundation, is, at least, existing. The ‘Civil Service’ has a cheerful home—and a hospitable—at ‘The Thatched House.’ Then there is a club so mysterious that we cannot learn whether its name is ‘The Sentry,’ or ‘The Century’; but its purposes are said to be very ‘advanced,’ in the well-understood political meaning of that word. By-and-by we shall probably hear a good deal of them. Meanwhile, we will close this paper with a quotation from Lord Campbell’s Life of Lord Thurlow. It will serve, at least, to show that modern club-ways were not the ways of the clubs of former days: ‘A.D. 1769. At that time, and indeed when I myself first began the study of the law, the modern club-system was unknown, and (as in the time of Swift and Addison) men went in the [Pg 133]evenings for society to coffee-houses, in which they expected to encounter a particular set of acquaintance, but which were open to all who chose to enter and offer to join in the conversation, at the risk of meeting cold looks and mortifying rebuffs.’

[Pg 134]


It cannot be said that we are a very grateful people to our kings—to such of them, that is, as have claims on our gratitude. Richard III., when he was yet but a young prince, flying his hawks over his manor at what is now called Notting Hill (an estate which fell to him on the attainder of its old possessor, De Vere, Earl of Oxford), had a great love for the drama. He was the first prince of the blood royal of England that ever formed a company of comedians in his pay, and we all know in what sort of light this Richard is represented on the stage of which he was such a noble patron. Again, take Charles I. Before his time Hyde Park was a royal inclosure. It was a sacred possession of the crown, into which no man dared venture who cared to continue to wear his ears. By special permission of sacred majesty an English nobleman or a foreign ambassador might be allowed to kill a buck there, but if a commoner man only ventured to look over the wall he ran great risk of paying for it in Newgate. Charles I., one bright May-day, threw open Hyde Park to the[Pg 135] people. The people cut off his head, and made May-day a Hyde Park festival on many recurring anniversaries. They who were present enjoyed the glory of it; all who were absent envied them, and few had a thought to spend upon the king.

The popular history of Hyde Park really dates from the time when unlucky Charles made a gift of the place to his people. Previous to that circumstance the locality belongs to history of another sort. Druids once sang ‘Derry Down’—a phrase said to be druidical—in its groves, and nightingales once made its evening foliage melodious. It would be impossible for the one or for the other to exist there now. For our own parts, we would rather hear the nightingales than see the Druids, but it would not be for long. London boys would soon silence the birds; and the metropolitan police would probably take the Druids by the beard, and ‘run ’em in.’ Then, does it ever occur to the equestrians in the Row, or to those who charioteer it around the drive, or to the modest pedestrian who looks on at both as a part of the London Summer Exhibition, that through the parks once ran that ancient British or Roman road which began at Chester and ended at Dover? We all know till lately where it crossed the Thames, namely, at Stangate, opposite Horseferry Road. We can only fancy what the wayfarers looked like. We may be sure that they did not in the least resemble any of[Pg 136] the groups or individuals who now lounge in or hurry through the park in these later days. The land passed from Briton to Saxon, from Saxon to Norman. William the ‘Conquistor’ gave much of it, in which the present parks were included, to the Abbey of Westminster. The ecclesiastical lords made the most of that part of the gift which comprised the manor of Eia (thence Hythe and Hyde); they enclosed it, but did not keep it solely for purposes of venison, although on questions of game they were excessively jealous. They recognised the salubrity of the place, and sent not only sick and convalescent monks, but nobles and rich merchants to recover their digestions, by drinking the waters of springs which flow now as copiously as ever. The leper house, on the site of which stands Knightsbridge Chapel, abutting on Hyde Park, was a sanatorium for patients so dreadfully afflicted. In other respects, the place was strictly private. There were no steel traps or spring guns, but intruders were kept off by equally efficacious means. It was a preserve, to break into which was almost a capital crime. Ultimately the Reformation dispossessed the ecclesiastics, and the land passed into the hands of the crown. Henry VIII. had no scruples. From St. James’s up to Highgate and Hampstead all (saving a few paths), was made hunting-ground for the king and his friends, native and foreign. The enclosed places[Pg 137] were as sacred as the king’s private chamber, and no man, without special permission, or in course of rendering some duty to the king, could pass through the gate of the park any more than he dared step over the threshold of the royal sleeping-chamber, without warrant. Gradually, however, the exclusive sacredness of the place passed away. St. James’s was yet for the most part a palace garden, when Hyde Park was the convenient stage on which hot-headed young gallants and love-stricken court pages privately fought for nothing or their mistresses. People began to murmur at not being allowed to even look into that for the maintenance of which they paid pretty dearly. Then permissions were given to persons of quality to shoot a buck or to take the air. Men of lesser note subsequently gained admission; and at last, but not altogether without restriction, Charles I. opened the park, and invited the citizens to enter. From this point begins, as we have said, the popular history of Hyde Park.

Let us turn here, for a moment, to the other Park of St. James, including the Green, or Little St. James’s, Park. All this was enclosed by Henry VIII. Queen Elizabeth loved to walk in it. One of her appearances there is little known, but it is worth the telling, as it also illustrates her love for art. In 1561 one Vergetius was commissioned by the Queen to procure objects of art for her[Pg 138] abroad, which Throckmorton, her envoy in Paris, forwarded to her. In the above year the envoy sent by the hands of a Mr. Sommers ‘the images of the twelve emperors.’ These were alleged to be medals of great antiquity. Throckmorton, however, informed Elizabeth that he had employed expert Italians to look into this matter, and they suspected the medals ‘to be counterfeit.’ Such as they were, their price was ‘six hundred crowns of the sun’—to be delivered in good condition within two months. By the same messenger Throckmorton informed Cecil that an experienced person had assured him that the medals were made of common copper and cunningly gilt.

Sommers, having delivered his despatches to Cecil, exhibited the images of the Cæsars. Cautious Cecil merely observed that ‘he liked them very well, but was not skilful of their antiquity;’ he would refer the question, he said, ‘to some cunning body,’ but ‘would not yet believe that it was æs Corinthium. He had seen such works of ancient art, in gold, silver, and brass, but not in such metal as this. He thought, moreover, that 600 crowns would be far too high a price to expect the Queen to disburse for them.

The loyal Sommers, anxious that Elizabeth should not be suspected of meanness, suggested that Cecil should invent any excuse for returning them rather than let Vergetius suppose ‘that the[Pg 139] Queen would stick for 600 crowns to have such a thing of price.’

Thereupon Cecil took Sommers to the Park at St. James’s, where he knew the Queen was walking, and there the messenger, with the box of ‘images’ under his cloak, was presented to Elizabeth, who gave him her hand to kiss, asked how Lady Throckmorton ‘could away with France?’ glanced at his despatches, said she would read them in her chamber, and then, perceiving that Sommers had something under his cloak, ended with a ‘What have ye there?’

Sommers informed her; but when he named the price she protested with a ‘Marry!’ that she had the same set already in silver, but she bade him, as it was growing late, to bring them for inspection on the morrow. Accordingly, Sommers attended on her at the palace, and she laughed at seeing them so daintily handled, all curiously arranged in a gilt box, ‘in the holes made for that purpose,’ and covered over with a piece of crimson velvet. Then she told over the names as she looked at each portrait, and scanned as many of the devices as she, with Sommers’ aid, could decipher. She would come to no terms, however. He must leave them with Cecil for a while. She would consider of it.

Cecil kept the medallion portraits, waiting in vain for a chymist or artificer with skill enough to ‘touch’ them and tell him of what metal they[Pg 140] were fashioned. Chaloner looked at them, and did not bring the matter nearer to a solution by remarking, ‘If I were rich, I would give a hundred crowns for them myself.’

The queen wrote with her own hand to Throckmorton. She has seen, she says, ‘the twelve medallions of the emperors, whereof she does not make such estimation as the price assigned. She returns them, and wills him to thank Vergetius for the same, telling him that she has caused certain closets and cabinets of her father to be searched, wherein a great number of such monuments in gold, silver, and copper have been found, and amongst them very fair monuments of the said emperors.’ And so ends this picturesque episode of the imperial ‘images.’ The park scene might suggest a picture to Frith or Ward, if either should ever happen to be in want of a subject.

And now, let us return to Hyde Park, and mark its progress to the end of the seventeenth century. Many a letter has been printed to show how speedily Hyde Park became the sacred ground of fashion. We will add to these illustrations one that has never been quoted.

In January, 1639, the fashionable world was looking out with pleasurable anticipation to the park season; so early in the year Madame Anne Merrick wrote to fair Mrs. Lyddall (both ladies were in the country) to entreat her ladyship to[Pg 141] come up to town ‘in Hyde Park time.’ Madame Merrick adds: ‘The fear of a war with the Scots doth not a little trouble me, lest all the young gallants should go for soldiers, and the ladies should want servants to accompany them to that place of pleasure which both of us so zealously affect. I long to see those French ladies, Mme. Mornay and Mme. Darcy, and the new stars of the English court, Mrs. Harrison and Mrs. Vaughan.’ The lady inquires whether sleeves are still worn down to the wrist—the mode brought in by the Duchess de Chevreuse. ‘Do they wear their necks up?’ she asks, meaning covered, not as Herrick says, with ‘a lawn about the shoulders, thrown into a sweet distraction.’ Mistress Merrick does not love the fashion of the gown coming up to the throat, and boldly says, ‘I do not hold any one worthy of a fair neck, or any other good part, that is not free to show it.’ How she looked, head upon pillow, and afterwards saucily erect in the park, may be seen in the modest lady’s request to fair Mrs. Lyddall to buy for her ‘half a dozen white night coifs which tie under the chin, and as many white hoods to wear over them a-days.’ Thus the park beauties of Charles’s time clapt their hoods over their night coifs, and exhibited in the park

The sleepy eye that speaks the melting soul.

Charles I., in opening the parks for free ingress[Pg 142] and egress, reserved the crown rights over them as crown lands. Thirteen years after Mrs. Merrick wrote so fondly about it, that is to say, in 1652, the Parliament ordered Hyde Park to be sold for ready money. More than 600 acres fetched a little over 17,000l. The Protectorate did not exclude the people, but everyone who was aristocratic enough to appear in a carriage or on horseback was compelled to pay, each horseman a shilling, a coach half-a-crown, for admission. The fee was roughly levied by fellows armed with sticks, who were the agents of the purchasers of the land, and therefore were empowered by the state to levy the toll. One would like to know if Oliver, when he drove his own coach so awkwardly through the gate, had to pull up, and fumble under his doublet for a shilling. The higher classes grumbled. They could formerly take the air gratis, while Charles and his queen walked on the grass, looked on at the races, or affected to taste the milk offered them by the daintiest of maids. The nightingales and cuckoos never visited the park after it became ‘common.’ Cromwell and his friends, however, made a pretty show in the park, and were ‘mobbed,’ as our manner is. Not every man who stood near and shouted loudest was a Commonwealth man. Assassins watched their opportunity when he rode, or drove, or witnessed military pageants, or was a spectator of the horse-racing or of the hurling by[Pg 143] Cornish gentlemen. They never had heart to draw trigger. Even when Cromwell tumbled from his own coach-box, no pistol was discharged save the one which he carried, and that went off by accident. The scene was entirely changed when, after the tap of Monk’s drums was heard coming up the then rural and sweet-savoured Gray’s Inn Lane, the troops by whom monarchy was to be restored encamped in Hyde Park, and all the world went thither to welcome them. Charles II. resumed the possession of the parks, reserving as before the crown rights. He bought the meadows which skirted the Reading Room (Piccadilly) and out of them made what is now called the Green Park. It was added to the land which Henry VIII., when he lived in Whitehall, honestly acquired. It was marshy land, with a hospital for female lepers upon it. Henry removed the leprous ladies, built a palace, and enclosed the park, to which Charles II. added the Upper St. James’s or Green Park, a portion of which was built over at a later period. Hyde Park felt the Restoration. It had become a field: Charles made it a pleasaunce. Fashion went to it rather than to the Mall. There was enjoyment within it all the year through, with high festival on May-day. When it became formal, the gayer pedestrians took possession of St. James’s and the Mall. But formality was not to be seen in the ride or the drive. Coach as well as horse-racing[Pg 144] drew crowds of delighted spectators; but this was nothing to the joyous excitement which stirred the hearts and voices of the gazers when saucy Miss Stewart swept into the Park in that wonderful vehicle belonging to the king, the newly-invented ‘calash.’ The other royal mistress had wept and sworn in vain in order to have this triumph. The king’s wife, Queen Catherine, had mildly expressed a wish that she might be the first to enter the park in her husband’s novel carriage; but, poor woman! what was she that she should be heeded when two of the king’s concubines had expressed the same wish? And the gratification was accorded to the saucier of the two—if it can be said that the Stewart could be saucier than the Castlemaine. After Charles’s brother had taken refuge in France there was a recognised Jacobite walk in Hyde Park. The police would sometimes fling their net into the stream of plotters and promenaders with more or less success. The Jacobites were truculent in their joy as the news spread among them, as they walked, that Mons had fallen (A.D. 1691). Queen Mary happened to be walking, not far from them, on that Broad Walk which is now included within Kensington Gardens. Most of the Tory gentlemen paid her the courtesy due to a lady and a queen; but Sir John Fenwick assumed an insulting air, and cocked his hat rudely instead of raising it like a gentleman. Six years after, King William caught[Pg 145] Sir John on the hip. The Jacobite was convicted of treason, and William had the greatest pleasure in courteously having him beheaded by act of attainder, as if the man who had insulted his wife had been a peer of the realm.

It is a singular circumstance that, after Hyde Park—the park which had been opened to the people by King Charles—had been sold and divided under Cromwell, ‘James’s Park’ was preserved. The latter was open only to members of Cromwell’s court and to a few other privileged persons who lived in Petty France, on the south-east side of the park. Milton was one of these. Later on a wider permission was given. Commonwealth ladies ruffled it there, and Cromwell himself paced it in serious converse with serious men. His wife kept her cows there, and talked of them with mild congenial spirits. With Charles II. came courtiers, swains, nymphs, lovers. Some took the Mall, and practised gallantry openly; others—chacun avec sa chacune—resorted to the welcome shades round Rosamond’s Pond, in the south-west corner of the park. Under the elms in what is now Pall Mall, or under the limes which skirted the Mall in the park, all that was gay, and light, and frivolous, frisked and frolicked; but thoughtful men threaded their way among them too, and shook their heads at much which some people would have shut their eyes at. Charles, standing under the park wall to[Pg 146] exchange light talk with Nell Gwynne, who looked down and laughed upon him from her garden on the other side, was a sight which made Evelyn groan aloud. It was a type of the general naughtiness which prevailed. Half the graceless fops and hussies of the comedy of the period play out their impudent drama in St. James’s Park. In the comedies of that time the manners of people of quality are reflected. As has been remarked, how they dressed, talked, and thought; what they did, and how they did it; what they hoped for, and how they pursued it: all may be learnt from contemporary comedy. We fully agree with the judgment which says of the personages, that the fine gentlemen are such unmitigated rascals, and the women, girls, and matrons are such unlovely hussies—in rascality and unseemliness quite a match for the men—that one escapes from their wretched society, and a knowledge of their one object, and the confidences of the abominable creatures engaged therein, with a feeling of strong want of purification and of that ounce of civet by which the imagination may be sweetened.

With all this there was a leaven of what was respectable or harmless. Charles himself may not seem heroic, but he is at least harmless as we see him, playing with his dogs, feeding his various birds, large and small, in Birdcage Walk, or walking to Whitehall, looking fresh from the dip we[Pg 147] are told he had just taken in the canal. Occasionally a thief who admired the king’s breed of puppies would steal a favourite as it trotted at the very heels of majesty. ‘Will they never leave robbing his Majesty?’ is the query at the close of an advertisement, the opening of which implies how often the king was despoiled: ‘We must call upon you again for a black dog,’ &c.

When we remember that Charles often walked alone in both the parks, and that plotters were abroad, we may wonder that he was never molested by anyone worse than an enthusiast. It was a time when promenading ladies in the park took no offence at being accosted by gentlemen who were strangers. On the other hand, ladies saw nothing wrong in taking with them, in their drives in Hyde Park, some handsome boy who acted as girl on the stage, or walking with him in the Mall in his histrionic costume. The great glory of St. James’s was during Charles II.’s reign. His figure always has the park for a background. When he passed away the park was seldom visited by a sovereign; but William occasionally shut himself up on Duck Island, and smoked his pipe as he sat amid the all but stagnant waters. When the seventeenth century closed St. James’s belonged to the public, the lower classes of which went thither to contemplate the leaders of fashion and the gaudiest flowers of husseydom.

[Pg 148]

In the last century it was ‘the thing’ for promenaders in Hyde Park to gaze through the railings, and watch Queen Anne and her ladies airing their nobility within Kensington Gardens. The most important park incident of that Queen’s reign was the murderous duel between the Tory Duke of Hamilton and the Whig Lord Mohun. Their quarrel was personal and political, and it was embittered by a question as to right of property. On a gloomy November morning of 1712 they fought with swords, before it was quite daylight, and with such ferocity—hacking and rolling over each other on the ground—that, when Mohun dealt the Duke a mortal stab he himself fell dead on the grass. All the world went in crowds to the spot, to moralise, eat cakes, drink ale, and cut poor jokes on the scene of the butchery. No other park duel of the last century was so sanguinary. It was there that Martin, M.P. for Camelford, nearly killed Wilkes by shooting him through and through. ‘It would have been all over with me,’ said Wilkes, ‘only that Martin used government powder.’ It was in Hyde Park that George Garrick and Baddeley went out to pistol one another at instigation of a Jewish lover of Mrs. Baddeley, who hoped that George would kill the lady’s husband; but the affair ended by the parties dining together. A later fight was more serious; it occurred in December 1773. One[Pg 149] Hugh Williamson managed to steal the despatches sent by the governors of the American colonies to Whately, one of the under-secretaries in England. Dr. Franklin received the stolen property, and sent the documents to America, where their publication caused the greatest indignation. Whately’s brother, a banker, expressed his suspicion of an American, one Temple, being the thief. Temple called Whately out, and the two pelted each other with shot, and then hacked and thrust at each other with swords, till Whately was removed in an almost dying state. At that time neither the thief nor the receiver was known. It was not till after the fight that Franklin acknowledged that he was the receiver, and it was not till much later that Hugh Williamson was discovered to be the thief. In 1780 the popular Lord Shelburne was hit in the groin in a duel with Colonel Fullarton, of whom, as an attaché to the English Embassy in Paris, the minister had spoken with great contempt. The City of London sent every day a ‘How d’ye do?’ to the leader of the Opposition. Subsequently parsons were not ashamed to do their bit of murder here, or run the risk of being murdered by another. Parson Bate fought his co-proprietor of the ‘Morning Post’ without much harm to either; and Parson Allen stretched his man, Dulany, dead on the turf. For this feat he suffered half-a-year’s imprisonment in Newgate.[Pg 150] But this penalty did not prevent the Hon. Cosmo Gordon from killing Colonel Thomas on the same spot, nor weaken the arm of General Stewart in running his sword into Lord Macartney. When people of quality thought butchering one another a salve for wounded honour, fools of lower degree soon followed the example. In June, 1792, one Frizell, weary of a night’s debauch with other Irish law students, was sarcastically rebuked for his comparative sobriety by his friend Clarke. The whole party resorted to Hyde Park, in the beautiful summer dawn, to settle the question with pistols. In five minutes poor Frizell was lying stark dead among the buttercups and daisies. His tipsy companions tumbled the body into a hackney-coach, which was afterwards found standing in Piccadilly, without coachman or any passenger except the dead law student, who was beyond giving any account of himself. In August, 1796, Mr. Pride, an American, killed his countryman, Mr. Carpenter, in the park. In 1797 Colonel King exchanged six shots ineffectually with Colonel Fitzgerald, a married man, from whom King had only recently recovered his sister whom Fitzgerald had seduced from her home. Some time after this duel in the park Fitzgerald went over to Kilworth, Ireland, in order to gain possession again of the unhappy young lady. Her brother, who had become Lord Kingsborough, broke into Fitzgerald’s room for[Pg 151] the purpose of chastising him. He would probably have been slain by the stalwart ruffian but for the timely arrival of his father, the Earl of Kingston, who, seeing his son’s danger, fired at Fitzgerald, and killed the rascal on the spot.

But people found life in Hyde Park as well as death. Frost could not keep them from it in February, nor dust and heat in June. Fashion rode round and round the Ring, as equestrians do in a circus, to attract the admiration of spectators. Since hackney-coaches had been forbidden to enter the park, at the close of William’s reign, because their crowded inmates used to indulge in loud and rude comments on such public characters as passed them, the place had become more delightful to exclusive fashionables. Rogues and hussies, however, had the most dashing equipages. Camps and reviews—particularly in the Jacobite period—varied the grand spectacle; and there were crowds who went, as to a festival, to see a soldier nearly flogged to death or shot outright. The fine people, with less curiosity, walked meanwhile, with well-bred indifference, beneath the five rows of walnut trees which flourished there till 1814, when, by the exigencies of war, they were all cut down to be converted into gun-stocks. After the West Bourn was converted into the ‘Serpentine River,’ by order of Queen Caroline, there was boating on it, as now, but the yachts were ‘for the diversion[Pg 152] of the royal family.’ That good queen, having taken 300 acres of the park, added them to Kensington Gardens. The good lady would fain have undone the gracious act of Charles I., and would have made the parks private; but she changed her mind on hearing the probable cost: Walpole estimated it at three crowns. The roads at this time were a disgrace to the authorities; and when ducal carriages broke down in the ruts, and commonplace chariots drove through the panels behind which royalty was seated, the public were comforted, for they thought that improvement must ensue. Gallantry, meanwhile, did not care for roads. The sight of Molly Nisbett’s ankle, as she walked by the Serpentine, so moved Lord Macclesfield’s heart that he ‘fell in love’ with her, as the phrase goes; but happening to meet her sister Dorothy when he expected to meet Molly, he fell still more in love with her, and at last married her. Walpole epigrammatically says that the Countess Dolly was my lord’s mistress—or at least other people’s.

Just a hundred and eleven years ago, George II. reviewed, in the park, Colonel Burgoyne’s troop of light horse; and the Colonel’s son, Sir John Burgoyne, died only recently, in his ninetieth year. The review was as nothing compared with a spectacle afforded at a later period by the Ranger of the park, Lord Orford, who[Pg 153] drove a four-in-hand of reindeer instead of horses. Deer-hunting in the park by the royal family and privileged persons was not uncommon as late as the latter half of the last century. There, too, might be seen, on his little Welsh pony, great Chatham—he who first called the parks the ‘lungs of London.’ Ugly Wilkes there found willing listeners among the handsomest of women. The beaux about to make the grand tour took leave of home by a display in the park, and probably dined with the Sçavoir Vivre Club, partaking of their favourite dish, from which beaux generally acquired the name of ‘macaronies.’ The headdresses of the latter were something like those of women very recently, and were almost as nasty. The women of that day sailed through the park in head-gear that made them look top-heavy, and long skirts which might be described in the words which Scripture applies to the skirts of Jerusalem. Thieves of every degree were busy among the thoughtless crowd; but gentlemanly young fellows would gallantly protect strange young ladies across the park when it grew dusk, and strip them of everything valuable before they were half across it. A detected thief, however, might think himself lucky if he escaped undrowned from the Serpentine water and unsuffocated from the Serpentine mud. Other dangers came from the park. Rifle practice went on there very [Pg 154]actively—so actively that at last the landlord of the King’s Arms, Paddington, naturally complained at a ball, intended for the target, having crashed through his windows, and lodged in the wood of one of the boxes in his tap-room. At this exercise and at the reviews, the belles of the day used to muster in Amazonian uniforms corresponding with those of the regiments they intended to compliment. Blind Lord Derehurst used to ride through the old grass-road full gallop, but with a friend at his side, whereby he once came into collision with a furious rider who could see his way. Both were half killed by the shock; but when the blind lord recovered the use of his limbs he terrified everybody by galloping about the park more furiously than ever. When the men took to four-in-hand driving it was done with a perfection which may be still equalled, but also with a splendour of appointments which is not followed. The ladies, too, took up the reins, and condescended even ‘to whistle sweet their diuretic strains.’ The lady drivers had above a fifty years’ reign, from the days of Young’s Delia, who, in 1728, smacked the silken thong, ‘graceful as Jehu,’ to the period when Lady Archer ‘tooled’ her four white horses through the park, and Mrs. Gordon, in 1783, drove her phaeton and bays almost as rashly as Phaeton himself drove his father’s chariot and broke down before he got to the end of his course.

[Pg 155]

In the last century, while the charioteers exhibited themselves in Hyde Park, the promenaders took possession of that part of St. James’s known as the Mall. Along a portion of the road, Charles I., had walked his dolorous way to the scaffold at Whitehall; but he walked it like a true gentleman. The gay throng that succeeded remembered little of that King, in connection with the Park. They had lighter things to think of. At one time the scene was as animated as that of Venice in the old Carnival time, especially as long as visor-masks were in fashion. The Mall was the first place in which a newly-appointed chaplain to a lord fluttered his new black silk scarf, the sign and symbol of his dignity. His quality was known by the flag he hung out. The scarf had just been handed to him by my lord’s butler, who kept one or two samples of the article by him, ready to be delivered to any new chaplain named by my lord, in return for which the reverend gentleman was expected to drop into the butler’s hand at least a half-guinea. Even young officers in the Mall had little, if any, advantage of the young chaplain, as long as his scarf bore its new lustre, and his address had the necessary audacity. Old and young men of pleasure lounged in the Mall and idled in the chocolate houses. The ladies were there in beautiful, patched, painted, and scented crowds, the soft evening hours being their particular season.[Pg 156] They criticised each other, and each admired herself. There Prior took the air to make himself fat, and Swift to make himself thin. There were walks to suit all tastes. That by Rosamond’s Pond for lovers, sentimental persons, and elegiac poets. The Green Walk had its scandal-mongers and beaux with their hats, not on their heads, but under their arms. Now and then a French or a Frenchified fop was to be seen, as Tom Brown has etched him, with both his hands in his pockets, carrying all his plaited coat before to show his silk breeches. Other figures grouped in the park picture included senators talking, or seeming to talk, of state affairs; milk-people crying ‘A can of milk, ladies! a can of red cow’s milk, sir!’ St. James’s Park had also its Close Walk, at the head of Rosamond’s Pond, in the south-west corner of the park. This got the name of the Jacobites’ Walk before there was one in Hyde Park. It was the resort of Tories in the latter years of William’s reign, whereas the Jacobite Walk in Hyde Park was the favourite conversing ground of the friends of the old and young Pretenders. The park was manifestly losing its fashionable aspect when Warburton ridiculed, while pretending to praise it. What could be more pastoral than the cows and milk-women near Spring Gardens? Comedy, Farce, Satire, were in all the walks. Rosamond’s Pond was the resource of hearts ill at ease. Madrigals and sonnets might best be[Pg 157] composed in Birdcage Walk. Georgics and didactic poetry would find inspiration on Duck Island, for which, however, Warburton gives the very poor reason, that ‘the governor of it, Stephen Duck, can both instruct our friend (Mason) in the breed of the wild fowl and lend him of his genius to sing their generations.’ St. James’s has grown common, without lacking any people of the high quality that used to gather there in animated groups. King Charles loitered there for hours amid his birds, to the great delight of the crowds who watched him, killing time. Queen Caroline, George II.’s queen, would fain have had the park to herself, as Elizabeth had, but failing that, she only visited it in her sedan. But where those great personages tarried, for pleasure, personages equally great only hurry along, bent on business. A sovereign drives in the centre of the Mall, to open or close Parliament, or passes along the side of it on her way to hold a levee. But even this is a rare sight now. As for peers and senators of less degree, whichever way they go, they seem bent upon getting out of the park in the quickest way possible.

On the other hand, it is and almost always has been the business of pleasure-seekers to linger in Hyde Park. They go thither with alacrity; tarry with delight; wend their way homeward with regret, and return to the park with renewed zest. It[Pg 158] has ever been so. The last century ended a long season of park joys; the present century added to them. People of the highest rank took the dust there, and seemed to enjoy it. The park had not been desecrated in their eyes by footmen fighting duels in it, like their masters. Ladies, indeed, not nicer than jockeys, were lauded for nothing but their riding. One Amazon of the Row was complimented by being likened to Diana, in everything but chastity. The greatest beau of the park at the end of the last century was also the greatest, among a hundred eccentrics, long after the beginning of this: namely, Beau Brummell. He is more familiar to us than Colonel Hanger, who spent 900l. a year on his dress—if he really paid his tailor. Republican France influenced Hyde Park to this extent, that ladies were nearest the French fashion who wore the least amount of dress. They needed only to show their faces to be the most attractive, as was often told them, but they heeded it not, except when they mounted the box to drive four in hand, and even then they looked as much like young coachmen as dress could make them. For years, on succeeding Sundays, Martin Von Butchell, the eccentric doctor, was there, beard and all, on his painted pony, a very good advertisement for the doctor. When death overtook the old man, who had an idea he was immortal, he was more missed than Romeo Coates, with his lofty[Pg 159] phaeton, in shape and colour of a sea-shell, and his crest of a cock, with its motto, ‘While I live I’ll crow.’ The park, without Von Butchell and his variously painted pony, may be compared to the Haymarket stage without Compton.

All sorts of oddities were to be seen there, on the old-fashioned Sundays. A Polish countess proved to be a Drury Lane ballet-girl; a magnificent lady turned out to be a lady’s maid; and real ladies stooped to copy the fashions set by the counterfeits. But space fails to permit us to do more than refer to the dainty Petersham, the curled Geramb, the Four-in-hand and the Tandem clubs, the dandies who ruled when the men were at the wars, and the men who came back with the Don Cossacks and the allied sovereigns, and showed themselves in Hyde Park, as a proof that heroes were again upon the throne of fashion. The throne still exists and a full and splendid gathering is around it, on court days. In its way, Hyde Park is one of the most attractive of sights, when the season is at its brightest, and the Somebodies are there, with their kinsfolk eager to admire and imitate them. From royalty downwards, indeed, every class is to be seen in that moving panorama. Princes and mechanics, princesses and flower-girls, every grade is there, and not the least remarkable are those Anonymas, who dress with such exquisite propriety lest they should be mistaken for modest women.

[Pg 160]


In the poetry of no nation are the ‘lasses’ more exquisitely courted than in that of Scotland. But old women, with one or two exceptions only, come off with ungallant treatment. This incivility may perhaps have been born of the suspicion that old women had a strong tendency towards growing into witches. On the other hand, witchery was common enough with the younger wenches. There are few things more remarkable in social history than the existence of women in Scotland who professed to be witches, and the cruel punishments inflicted, not only on women who were professed, but on those also who were suspected witches.

There was a grossly immoral side to this story, and the immorality was just the attractive part to individuals who could but practise it under the character of warlocks and witches. The latter, combined with the devil, established a reign of licentiousness in spite of all laws. We believe that the women and the devil did really, in a certain sense, come together, that is, in some cases. The fiend usually went abroad by night. He had a[Pg 161] strong kindness for young witches only. Take all as merely human elements, and we know what wicked human nature could make of them. It cannot be doubted that many a licentious scoundrel passed himself off as the devil, and promised supernatural powers to all young witches who would obey him. Hallucinations would come of it; and desire to be witches, with power to severely punish all enemies, would spread among people of diseased minds. The fact that this devil was a worse sort of Don Giovanni, a hard drinker, and that he often piped while the young witches danced, in cutty sarks, or without sarks at all, were circumstances which tend to show a depraved humanity taking advantage of a humanity too weak to resist. Moreover, generally speaking, the devil had little regard for old witches. Nevertheless, these hags sometimes went to the stake asserting their might of sorcery. When they recanted, or urged their complete guiltlessness, they were not believed. In some instances they were proud of belonging to the Amazons of Hell.

The supernatural hags were long in dying out. Even Norna of the Fitful Head was not the last of the mystic queens of storm and rulers of the winds. ’Tis sixty years since, and a woman was then living in Stromness, an old weird woman, who sold winds to mariners at a remarkably low figure. For the small charge of sixpence, ‘awfu’ Bessie Miller’[Pg 162] would sell a wind to a skipper from any point of the compass he chose to have it. One relic of youthful beauty added dread fascination to this storm-witch. The bright blue eyes, that in their time had been the lode-stars of many a laddie’s heart, were bright and blue as ever. All else was old age in its most withered aspect, and the eyes were as two dazzling lights in a skull. The calm or storm vendors have ceased to be; but in the Orkneys there are old women who still earn an ‘honest penny’ by controlling nature; there is not a pain—from the first that a child can cause, to the last a mortal endures in getting well-rid of his mortality—but these crones profess to relieve. We learn too, on competent authority, that old Orkney women still retain an unaccountable aversion to turbot, and avoid naming it when crossing sounds and bays in boats.

Midnight courtships were quite as injurious as midnight meetings of young witches and rattling warlocks. Among the agricultural classes the ordinary time for courting is still, in many parts of Scotland—as it used to be universally—the middle of the night. A farmer’s swain—with an all-overishness about him for a particular lass, with whom he may have had a crack ‘’twixt the gloaming an’ the murk, when the kye comes hame’—will rise at midnight, walk over to his lady’s bower, and find her ready and willing to let[Pg 163] him in, as the lady did Finlay, in the ballad, or go down to him, and walk and talk and enjoy ‘courtship,’ till the dawn, if it be summer-time, bids the rustic Romeo and Juliet depart. The report of the Royal Commissioners may be studied for the prose as well as the poetical side of this strange method of wooing—a method sanctioned by parents and not ill-thought of by friends, seeing that such was the course of their wooing an’ wedding, an a’. This custom is, doubtless, referred to in Joanna Baillie’s ballad—‘It fell on a morn when we were thrang’—

When the clocksy laird o’ the warlock glen,
Wha waited without, half blate, half cheery,
And lang’d for a sight o’ his winsome deary,
Raised up the lattice an’ cam’ crousely ben.
His coat was new an’ his o’erlay was white;
His mittens an’ hose were cozie and bien;
But a wooer that comes in braid daylight
Is no like a wooer that comes at e’en.

We may conclude, on other ballad evidence, that it was right unseemly for the lassie to make the first step in this owl-like courtship. The ballad of ‘The Maid gaed to the Mill’ is a warning. She pretended to go merely to get her corn ground, but really that the miller might make love to her—

[Pg 164]

The maid’s gane to the mill by night,
Hech hey, sae wanton!
The maid’s gane to the mill by night,
Hey, sae wanton she!

In connection with midnight courtship may be noticed the clandestine ‘Ruglen marriages,’ which were so called because in Rutherglen it was more easy to get legally married in spite of law than elsewhere. A couple of centuries ago an Act of Parliament visited clandestine marriages (that is, without banns) with heavy penalties and imprisonment, but it did not invalidate the marriage itself. The Rutherglen justices broke the law while professing to maintain it, made money thereby, and gave especial delight to the lasses. For example: a lad and lass wish to be quietly married; they got a friend to denounce them to a ‘Ruglen magistrate’ for having broken the law. The offenders were summoned before him; they of course acknowledged, in the presence of the court, that they were man and wife, which acknowledgment made them so legally. They were fined five shillings, and were given a copy of the sentence, which they signed; and this was universally taken as a legal certificate of the union. Other magistrates followed this lucrative business. When they told the young offenders that as to the statute penalty of three months’ imprisonment the court would take time to consider, the lad, lass, court, and[Pg 165] assistants all laughed aloud, and the Ruglen marriage was a legal one.

In earlier days than those just referred to great evil arose from the fact that girls of twelve years of age could legally effect a marriage of their own will. We might suppose that the lovers could afford to patiently wait for the nymphs till then. Manœuvring mothers, however, frequently sacrificed lovers content to wait, for others whom the mothers preferred to favour. In 1659 the Countess of Buccleuch (in her own right) was married, when only eleven years of age, to Scott of High Chester, a lad of fourteen. This was the evil work of the bride’s mother, the Countess of Wemyss. The validity of the marriage was disputed, but meanwhile the bride finished her twelfth year, and then married the lad of her own accord. She died very early in her teens, and then her successor (for she was a great heiress), her sister Annie, was married, while still a child, to the natural son of Charles II.—the Duke of Monmouth. Parents and guardians were heavily fined for allowing these marriages when the parties were under age; but as they gained more by selling an heiress than they lost in paying the penalty, this did not deter them. On some occasions a gallant would carry off a child-heiress and keep her till she reached the lawful age. Towards the end of the seventeenth century this[Pg 166] freak was looked upon as a crime. When Carnagie, the Earl of Northesk’s brother, thus ran off with Mary Gray of Baledgarnie, men said if he could be got, he deserved hanging, for an example to secure men’s children from such attempts.

This practice had died out, but in 1728, we hear of an ‘abduction in the old style.’ The offender was a Highlander. The damsel was a wright’s niece, named Mowbray. Her ‘gouvernante had betrayed her upon a promise of a thousand marks, the young lady having 3,000l. of fortune.’ The uncle luckily caught them near to Queensferry, as they were coming to town to be married. The newspapers add, ‘The gouvernante is committed to prison, as is also the gentleman.’ There were some illegitimate marriages that were severely punished. In the reign of Charles I., a tailor in Currie was beheaded for marrying his deceased wife’s half-brother’s daughter. As late as the reign of William and Mary, we hear of a certain Margaret Paterson, one of the beauties of the then prevailing husseydom. She had drawn into her irresistible toils the two young sons of a kirk minister named Kennedy. For this offence Margaret stood an hour in the ‘jougs,’ was whipped the whole length of the city, and was then transported to the plantations for the term of her natural life.

[Pg 167]

We have more gentle reminiscences of some Scotswomen, through both poetry and romance—both founded on history. Few maidens are better known in ballad lore than Bessy Bell and Mary Gray. Their true history is not so familiarly known. They were living at the time of the last plague that ever devastated Scotland, A.D. 1645. Bessy was daughter of the Laird of Kincaid: Mary, of the Laird of Lednoch. At the last place, near Perth, Bessy was on a visit to Mary. The plague broke out in the neighbourhood, and raged so fearfully that the young ladies built them a bower, about a quarter of a mile from the mansion, and there dwelt, apart from their family, but not from all human companionship. They were visited and whatever they required was brought to them by a swain who is said to have been equally deeply in love with both—which was a very aggravated symptom of a common sort of plague. Tradition says that death came of it. The lover with two mistresses brought the infection with him. The ladies caught the disease, died, and were buried near where the present mansion stands—a mansion, the name of which has been changed from Lednoch to the more familiar Lynedoch. The gallant soldier who bore that name, built a bower over the graves of a couple of whom we know nothing surely, except that they lived and died.

In legend—one which was born of sad truth,[Pg 168] and has passed into Italian opera—there is no maiden more famous than the Bride of Lammermoor. In melancholy prose, the lady was the Honourable Janet Dalrymple, daughter of the first Lord Stair. She and young Lord Rutherford had plighted their troth, had broken a silver coin between them, and had invoked malediction on whichever of the two should be false to the compact. The parents of Lady Janet insisted on her marrying Dunbar of Baldoon. The mother, Lady Stair, was most cruel in forcing her daughter to this match. Janet, broken-hearted and helpless, had an interview with her lover, and sobbed out a text from Numbers xxx. 2, 3, 4, 5, as an excuse for her obedience to her mother’s commands. The lovers parted in sorrow; Rutherford in anger. He had not in him the spirit of young Lochinvar, nor Janet the wit to run away with him herself. The poor thing was, in fact, scared. She was carried to church to be wed, in a semi-crazed and more than half-dead state. At night a hurricane of shrieks came from the bridal chamber, where the bridegroom was found on the ground, profusely bleeding from a stab, and the bride sat near him in her night-gear, bidding them ‘Take up your bonny bridegroom!’ She died insane in less than three weeks. Dunbar of Baldoon recovered, but he was never known to open his lips on the causes which led to the catastrophe. Baldoon evidently took[Pg 169] things as they came; after his death, some thirteen years later, in 1682, Andrew Simpson wrote an elegy upon him, in which the romantic adventurer upon marriage with another man’s love was described as a respectable country gentleman who had introduced many improvements into agriculture! Lord Rutherford, the lover, died childless, in 1685. As Dunbar would never suffer the catastrophe to be alluded to, good-natured people invented a story that Rutherford himself was in the chamber before Baldoon reached it, and had stabbed him as soon as he entered it. There is no shadow of the slightest grain of substance for this part of a sufficiently calamitous history.

Janet Dalrymple was a strong-minded woman. She and her contemporaries descended from mothers and grandmothers who were both strong-minded and wrong-headed. Among the Scotswomen who may be so designated may be reckoned those who were accustomed in the latter half of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries to go about in men’s attire. Indeed the sexes would often change clothes. This was done sometimes at bridals, sometime at burials, always in a spirit of jollification, and there is an instance of women and men making this travesty and rioting through Aberdeen, in celebration of their recovery from the plague, but while the foul stigmata of the disease were still upon them! The magistrates had infinite trouble with[Pg 170] the women. Fines did not frighten the offenders. Other means were adopted. In March, 1576, certain women ‘tryit presently as dancers in men’s claiths, under silence of night, in houses and through the town;’ the magistrates inform them that if they are caught ‘they shall be debarrit fra all benefit of the kirk and openly proclaimit in the pulpit.’ This masquerading was not confined to women of low degree. Queen Mary Stuart and her ladies, once at least, frolicked through Edinburgh in disguise—that is to say, they went their joyous way as young market-women; this unseemly frolic occurred when weak and ill-starred Darnley was on the point of wedding with the widowed but then light-hearted queen.

Of all the wilful Scotswomen of whom Scottish records make mention, one of the most singular was the Hon. Susan Cochrane, daughter of John, the fourth Earl of Dundonald. At fifteen, she married the Earl of Strathmore, who was accidentally killed three years later, A.D. 1728. Twenty years after this the childless widow married her groom, according to the Rev. Mr. Roger—her ‘factor,’ or bailiff, according to the peerage books. The second husband’s name was Forbes. ‘The groom,’ says Mr. Roger, ‘at first (when she offered herself in marriage to him) thought that the countess had become mentally disordered, but when he perceived she was serious he gladly embraced the good[Pg 171] fortune which had so unexpectedly fallen in his way.’ There was a daughter of this marriage. The mother ultimately carried the girl with her to France, when Forbes made the home unfit for a commonly decent woman to live in. Lady Strathmore died in that country in 1754, leaving her daughter, Miss Forbes, in a convent at Rouen. Forbes married again, and then sent for his daughter, who returned to his house. She was so cruelly treated that at last she ran away, wandered through the country, and, when nearly irrecoverably exhausted, was taken into a farm-house, in Fifeshire, by a family named Lauder. The fugitive told her tale, and the Lauders gave her a permanent home. After a while, the eldest son fell in love with and married her. Happiness seemed secured to her at last, but it did not continue long. Her husband fell into adversity, and the honest fellow died under the crushing pressure of it. What the daughter of Lady Strathmore suffered it would be too painful only to conjecture. In 1821 she was found living in a miserable cottage near Stirling, and her influential neighbours took up her case. They represented it to the families of Dundonald and Strathmore, to whom the appeal was not made in vain. They contributed to furnish her with an annuity of 100l. a year. It was thankfully received, and it proved all-sufficient for the wants of the granddaughter of two earls.

[Pg 172]

Returning to days before the Reformation, it seems to have been then a sort of practical joke on the part of leaders of military bands to quarter their officers and men in convents, which were also places where young ladies of quality were educated and lodged. There were generally means available to get rid of this unmanly intrusion. Similar circumstances, with similar results, occurred in Scotland after the Reformation. The first notice of a regular professional governess in Scotland occurs under the date of 1685. In a petition to the Privy Council this lady, Isabel Cumming, describes herself as a widow and stranger, who has been invited to Edinburgh (in which place she considered that the centre of the virtue of the whole kingdom was to be found!) to instruct young gentlewomen in all sorts of needlework, playing, singing, and several other excellent pieces of work, becoming ladies of honour. She had not only succeeded, but, she says, she was continually improving herself for the advantage of young ladies of quality. This exemplary Isabel petitioned to be made exempt from the affliction of having soldiers quartered upon her; otherwise, what would become of all her young ladies? Their heads would be turned from study, and their hearts would be beating to nought but military airs. The Lords of the Council, who had young kinswomen, perhaps, among the pupils,[Pg 173] prudently and promptly granted Mrs. Cumming’s request.

These young ladies, grown into wives, often sorely troubled their lords by going to conventicle instead of to church, as the Act of Charles II., the religious head of that church, ordered them to do, under severe penalty, which, of course, the husband had to pay. The wife of Balcanqui of that ilk so often offended in this way, that her lord at last grew tired of paying her fines. He protested to the king’s council that he conformed himself, but that his wife stoutly refused. He was therefore, desirous, he said, to deliver her up to the council, to be disposed of at their pleasure. The considerate council declared that men like Balcanqui were not to be ruined by the mad and wilful opinions of fanatical wives; and they agreed to remit the fine, if he would send them the lady.

On the other hand, there was at least one lady who was willing, not only to give up her lord for conventicle-haunting, but to see him hanged as a Nonconformist. Her name has not lived in history, but Wodrow records the fact. She was a graceless virago. She mocked him in family prayer, cursed him when he went to conventicle, and flung stools at him when he returned. She had him up to the court at Glasgow, and entreated my lords ‘to hang him.’ They refused, on the ground that hanging[Pg 174] could be nothing compared with having to live with her. This fearful sort of woman constantly comes to the front in Scottish annals. Indeed, the question as to woman’s rights was settled in Scotland before it was thought of in England. Take, for example, the ladies who mobbed the Chancellor Stair and Archbishop Sharpe, in Charles’s reign. They cried out that the Gospel was starving in Scotland through rampant prelacy. One of the ladies struck the prelate on the back of the neck as he passed into the Parliament House, crying out, at the same time, that that (his neck) should pay for it ere all was done! The prelate’s life was said to have been in danger. The whole scene, with the beautiful furies pelting the archbishop with epithets of ‘Judas’ and ‘Traitor,’ and hinting at murder, is almost inconceivable now. We should have something like it if the Mrs. Fitzhighflyers were to mob the Dean of Westminster in his own cloisters, and try to hang him from one of his own gargoyles.

If a minister took a wife from women of the temper indicated above, he must have soon felt that the same temper would always regulate home affairs. Very fearful bodies were some of those ministers’ wives. James Fraser, of Ross-shire, who wrote a work on Sanctification during the first half of the last century, had about the worst of them. She kept him tightly up to the collar, worked him hard, and starved him outright. She gloried in[Pg 175] her tyranny. It might be said of her, as some say of Bismark, human anguish was a sensual delight. The good man’s neighbours put food in his way when he was permitted to walk abroad, or they treated him hospitably in their houses, where he dared tarry, however, very briefly. In winter, his Fury allowed him neither light nor fire in his study. He worked in it by day and meditated in it by night, when not at a scanty meal. At a ministers’ festival meeting ‘Our Wives’ was one of the toasts. Fraser, on being sportively asked if he would drink it, exclaimed, ‘Aye, heartily! Mine brings me to my knees in prayer a dozen times daily, which is more than any of you can say of yours!’ On the day of Fraser’s death, several ministers, on a formal visit of condolence, waited on her, and found her gaily busy among the poultry which she reared and sold. ‘Oh aye, he’s gane!’ said the widow. ‘Ye can gang in, if ye will, and look at the body!’ and she scattered corn the while, crying, ‘Chick! chick! chick!’ The sentiment of Mrs. Fraser towards her husband was very like that of the Scotswoman in the old song:—

I wish that you were dead, goodman,
An’ a green sod on your head, goodman,
That I might wear my widowhood
Upon a ranting Highlandman.
There’s sax eggs in the pan, goodman,
There’s sax eggs in the pan, goodman.
[Pg 176]There’s ane to you, and twa to me,
An’ three to our John Highlandman!

Another Scottish widow reminds us of the widow in Voltaire’s ‘Zadig’ for delicate fidelity towards a deceased husband. The relict in question was one day in spring seen by the clerk of her parish crossing the churchyard with a watering-pot and a bundle. ‘Ah, Mistress Mactavish,’ said the clerk, ‘what’s yer bus’ness, wi’ sic like gear as that y’are carryin’?’ ‘Ah, weel, Mr. Maclachlan,’ replied the widow, ‘I’m just goin’ to my gudeman’s grave. I’ve got some hay-seeds in my bundle, the which I’m goin’ to sow upon it; and the water in the can is just to gi’e ’em a spring like!’ ‘The seeds winna want the watering,’ rejoined the clerk, ‘they’ll spring finely o’ themselves.’ ‘That may well be,’ rejoined the widow; ‘but ye dinna ken that my gudeman, as he lay a-deeing, just got me to make promise that I’d never marry agin till the grass had grown aboon his grave. And, as I’ve had a good offer made me but yestreen, ye see, I dinna like to break my promise, or to be kept a lone widow, as ye see me!’ The minister’s aide-de-camp looked on the widow, indeed, with a mirthful expression. ‘Water him weel, widow,’ said the clerk; ‘Mactavish aye was drouthy!’ The above took place within the Georgian era, when both old and young ladies in Scotland broadly[Pg 177] called things by their names. We are not sure that it was not the same everywhere. As a Scottish sample, we take the last duchess of the house of Douglas, who was a ‘jolly’ lady in manner and matter; broad in figure and in speech, and not to be offended by word or innuendo. When the duchess was in Paris with several Scottish gentlemen, in the reign of George III., 1762, the language and ideas of the whole party were of a sort, it is said, to make the hair of the fastest of our day to stand on end. One of the gentlemen suggested that when the duchess went to court she should claim the right to occupy a tabouret, or low seat, in the royal presence, by virtue of her late husband’s ancestors having held a French dukedom (Touraine). Robert Chambers, who had the story from Sir James Stuart of Coltness, one of the party, says that the old lady made all sorts of excuses in her homely way; but when Boysock started the theory that the real objection lay in her grace’s fears as to the disproportioned size of the tabouret for the correlative part of her figure, he was declared, amidst shouts of laughter, to have divined the true difficulty—her grace enjoying the joke as much as any of them. The story may remind some readers of the assembly at Mrs. Montague’s, when that bluntest of ladies asked Dr. Johnson to take a chair, and how that learned savage, in the coarsest[Pg 178] way, intimated that there were fewer seats than persons to be seated.

Other ladies of ducal families had their peculiarities—which even in those days excited remark. A very few years have elapsed since there died the old soldier Duncan Mackenzie. He could remember when he kissed the Duchess of Gordon in taking the shilling from betwixt her teeth to become one of her regiment, the Gordon Highlanders. Ladies of rank in England at that time, when elections were hotly contested, bought votes with their kisses. A few years ago there passed away from society, almost unnoticed, a Scottish lady who had made no little noise in her time. We allude to the beautiful Lady Charlotte C., daughter of the Duke of A——. In 1796 she married her namesake, ‘Handsome Jack’ C., of the Guards. At that time the bride was perhaps unequalled for her beauty, and she was not shy of showing it. Indeed, after Lady Charlotte first went to court as a wife, Queen Charlotte sent her word that if she ever came there again she must first take a tuck or two out of her skirts. In Glasgow crowds used to follow this audacious beauty; and no wonder, for local historians say she would walk down the most fashionable street in petticoats almost as short as a Highlander’s kilt. On one occasion, when thus lightly attired, and walking with a lady and a young gentleman, the whole city seemed to gather about[Pg 179] them, wondering, admiring, and criticising. Finding themselves mobbed, they took shelter in a shop, whose owner, further to protect them, put up his shutters and locked his door. Instead of dispersing, the mob increased. The shopkeeper, fearing an attack on his premises, by which his goods and his guests would alike suffer, jumped out of a back-window and ran for the guard. A sergeant and three or four men were sent down and posted in front of the premises. Meanwhile, Lady Charlotte C. followed the shopkeeper’s example. She lightly leapt from the back-window into an unfrequented lane, made her way into a decent house, told her story, sent for a coach, and quietly rode to her inn unrecognised. During this flight and escape the mob grew denser and more impatient. At length the shop-door was opened. The tradesman informed the people how Lady Charlotte had got away, and asked undisturbed passage for the young lady and gentleman who remained. This was granted, for there was nothing eccentric about this couple, who were civilly allowed to ‘gang their gait.’ The reigning beauty lived to a great age—between eighty and ninety. Age did not bring wisdom with it, if the story be true that when she was old she went to court in a dress every way as objectionable as that with which, in her youth, she ruffled the plumes of Queen Charlotte’s propriety. In her declining years she had not only lost the[Pg 180] once handsome Jack, but his estates too: Islay and Woodhall had gone to creditors. The old lady, however, married a clergyman named Bury, turned to literary pursuits, and, among other books, produced in 1839 the Diary illustrative of the times of George IV., which was edited by Galt.

Lady Grisell Baillie has been called ‘the bravest of all Scotch heroines.’ Her career lasted from 1665 to 1746. In that life of fourscore years and one she wrote one famous song, ‘Were my Heart licht I wad dee,’ and rendered a million good services to her fellow-creatures. One of the eighteen children of Sir Patrick Home, afterwards Earl of Marchmont, she learned the trick of serving her kindred so early and so well that she could not give it up when she was a fine old lady. Till her eighty-first year she rose the earliest of her family, and managed the most difficult of their affairs. When her father was in hiding from the scaffold, and Grisell was eighteen, she walked alone every night, over a dark road, and through an ill-reputed churchyard, to carry food to the fugitive, who was concealed in the family vault. Sir Patrick is described as lying on a mattress wrapped in a Kilmarnock cloak, among the mouldering bones of his ancestors, with nothing to help to spend the time but repeating some of Buchanan’s Latin psalms. Grisell had to be cautious, for there[Pg 181] were hostile soldiers in her father’s house ever on the watch. One night, when she was providing the rations for her parent, she contrived to take a sheep’s head from the table. She was nearly betrayed to the soldiers by the remark of a sister, who, suddenly missing the head, gave loud expressions to her wonder at Grisell having so quickly eaten the whole of it. When in exile in Holland, before the Great Revolution, Sir Patrick wrote home as to how the young people should be brought up. He enjoined dancing every day. ‘Lost estates,’ he said, ‘can be recovered again, but health once lost by a habit of melancholy can never be recovered.’ After Grisell married young Baillie of Jerviswood, ‘he never went abroad but she went to the window to look after him (so she did that very day he fell ill, the last time he was abroad), never taking her eyes from him so long as he was in sight.’ Grisell ranks among Scottish songstresses. Some of her tuneful sisters are worthy of notice.

The world does not know much of Alison Rutherford of Fairnalee, but she is familiar to us under her married name of Mrs. Cockburn, authoress of one of the versions of ‘Flowers of the Forest.’ Her period was a long one, within the limits of the last century, 1712-1794. One of the biographers of this Queen of Edinburgh describes the Scotswomen of the early part of that century[Pg 182] as highly cultivated. ‘The daughters of the country houses were educated by their fathers’ chaplains and their brothers’ tutors’ (the Dominie Sampsons of the House), ‘when they had brothers, as well as by their mothers’ waiting-women; and when the family happened to be of more than ordinary intelligence, or to be decidedly of a studious turn, the daughters were fairly well-read and well-informed women. Not only were Shakespeare, Milton, Pope, Prior, and Addison on many bookshelves in lairds’ and ladies’ closets, but, though the women of the nobility and gentry had not a classical education, they frequently learnt French and Italian, and were very conversant with the former. This was not so much because of the obsolete national alliances which have scattered French words broadcast over the field of the Scottish language, as because of the influence of the vieille cour of the great Louis on manners, and the effects of its beaux esprits on literature, which were felt as far as Scotland. The number of soldiers of fortune belonging to the upper classes who served campaigns abroad and came home with foreign polish increased the influence. Corneille, Racine, and Molière, La Fontaine and La Bruyère were as much the fashion in the Scotch rank that pretended to fashion when Alison Rutherford was young, as they were in English high society when Lady Mary Wortley[Pg 183] Montagu and Mrs. Delany grew up.’ The above must be taken with some reserve. Scottish governesses of the period were, for the most part, ill-educated, and they were as much servants as teachers. When Jean Adam, the reputed author of ‘There’s nae Luck about the House’ (she was born in 1710), went as governess into the family of a clergyman, Mr. Turner of Greenock, she had to live on pease-brose, nettle-kail, and barley-meal scones. She knitted the minister’s stockings, helped to make the clothes of his wife, his girls, and his boys, worked at the spinning-wheel, nursed the baby, and tended the sick. In the manse of Crawfurdsdyke this governess wore a woollen petticoat and a short gown of striped linen within the house. Her Indian cotton gown and her bon grâce, or straw hat, were for gala trips to Glasgow. The education of Mrs. Cockburn, as we will call her, was defective in spelling, at all events. In one of her notes she complains of the ‘rheumatiz.’ In another she uses the word ‘unparaleled,’ sees the mistake, can’t correct it, and then gaily writes in a postscript, ‘cannot spell unparaleled.’ She was a beauty throughout life—supremely beautiful in her youth. She says prettily of herself: ‘I was a prude when young, and remarkably grave. It was owing to a consciousness that I could not pass unobserved, and a fear of giving[Pg 184] offence or incurring censure. I loved dancing extremely, because I danced well.’ She loved it to the end of her days, and would dance with men whose grandfathers had been her partners in days of yore. Mrs. Cockburn also preferred men’s society to that of women. A company without a clever man in it was to her worse than no company at all. The sterling stuff that was in her is to be seen in what she curiously says of the early years of her marriage with young Cockburn, son of the Lord Justice Clerk: ‘I was married, properly speaking, to a man of seventy-five, my father-in-law. I lived with him four years, and as the ambition had seized me to make him fond of me, knowing also that nothing could please his son so much, I bestowed all my time and trouble to gain his approbation.’ Of her husband she wrote, three-and-thirty years after she had become a widow: ‘I was twenty years united to a lover and a friend.’ Perhaps it was the happiness of her own married life that gave her a decided partiality for making matches. ‘She was the confidante,’ her biographers remark, ‘of all lovesick hearts.’ When speaking of a widow ‘being consoled by one who had been longer in that state,’ Mrs. Cockburn contemptuously asked, ‘What’s a woman to a woman?’ That any woman should prefer a single to a married life was a fact she could not[Pg 185] account for. ‘The girls are all set agog,’ she writes, ‘in seeking the ideal man, and will have none of God’s corrupted creatures.... Even as a good housewife I would choose my lord and master should have many faults, because there’s so much glory in mending them. One is prouder of darning an old table-cloth than of sewing a new one.’ The sentiment is happier than the simile. To the next sentiment universal mankind would say a loud Amen: ‘It’s a pity woman does not mend with age as wine does.’ There was a rough side to female Scottish character in those days. Among the friends of Mrs. Cockburn, when she was queen of Edinburgh society, was a Miss Suff Johnstone. She is thus sketched in ‘The Songstresses of Scotland,’ of whom Miss Suff was not one: ‘Miss Suff, before women’s rights were mooted, took the law into her own hand, and wore a man’s greatcoat, hat, and square-buckled shoes, practising, with the habiliments, a man’s habit of striding, spitting, and swearing. She shod a horse better than a smith, had a private forge in her bedroom, played on a fiddle, and sang a man’s song in a man’s bass voice.’ Gentle Anne Scott’s foot happening to tread upon the space appropriated by the Amazon, Anne was punished by a rough kick on the shins, and the fierce challenge, ‘What are ye wab-wabstering there for?’ The innocent [Pg 186]offender was overwhelmed, and the rest of the party electrified. A contemporary of Mrs. Cockburn, Miss Jean Elliot, whose life ran between the limits of 1727 and 1805, and who was also the author of a version of the song, ‘Flowers of the Forest,’ had a very indifferent opinion of the Scotswomen of her time. ‘The misses,’ she wrote to a friend, ‘are, I am afraid, the most rotten part of the society. Envy and jealousy of their rivals have, I fear, a possession in their minds, especially the old part of the young ladies, who grow perfect beldames in that small society.’ At that period, the lady leaders of fashion of the faster sort frequented the Edinburgh oyster-cellars, exercised the license of men, and had such promising pupils as Miss Suff Johnstone. In an indirect way we owe to this last lady the song of ‘Auld Robin Gray.’ She was in the habit of singing words far from choice to the old tune. Lady Anne Barnard (while she was the yet unmarried daughter of the Earl of Balcarres) took the tune, and supplied it with the words which tell the well-known tale of virtuous distress. The author was forty years of age when she married Mr. Barnard, son of the Bishop of Limerick. She is almost as celebrated for this one song as the Baroness Nairne (by birth an Oliphant of Gask) was for the ‘Laird o’ Cockpen,’ ‘Caller Herrin,’ and a dozen of Jacobite and other songs, in some[Pg 187] of which there are indications of great humour, in others of great pathos. In one verse of ‘Caller Herrin,’ she sketches a picture, as George Cruikshank used to do, with two or three strokes:—

When the creel o’ herrin’ passes
Ladies, clad in silk and laces,
Gather in their braw pelisses,
Cast their heads and screw their faces.

In the last century there was a Scottish home discipline, compared with which that of school must have appeared amiable. Take the Lanarkshire home of Joanna Baillie, who passed away just twenty years ago at the venerable age of ninety. She and the other children of the family had parents whose hearts were full of affection, which their principles would not permit them to show. The father never kissed his children. Joanna, hungering for a caress, once clasped her mother’s knee, and was gently chided. ‘But,’ Joanna used to say, ‘I know she liked it.’ It is curious to mark the contrast of Joanna Baillie, who could hardly read at eleven, running wild by the banks of the Clyde or on the braes of Calder, and of Joanna Baillie writing songs and plays in the house of her brother, the physician, in Windmill Street, Haymarket—the site of the house now occupied by the Argyll Dancing-rooms. Byron’s daughter, Ada, Countess of Lovelace, had a wonderful knowledge of mathematics, but[Pg 188] she cared nothing for her father’s nor any other person’s poetry. Joanna Baillie had not a poet for her sire, but the numbers came. Therewith she acquired the paternal affection for Euclid, and was great in the demonstration of problems. In her unrestrained Scottish girlhood she knew as little of fear as Nelson ever did. She was not only supreme in all girlish sports, but she rushed into audacious deeds that boys stopped short at. She ran unbonneted and high-kilted, along the parapets of bridges and the tops of walls as deftly as Mazurier or Gouffe over theatrical representations of them. She once induced her brother to mount a horse on which she was seated. The steed, waxing angry, bolted, and flung the brother, whose arm was broken. Her equestrianism was the admiration of the countryside. ‘Look at Miss Jack!’ cried a farmer, who saw her pass, riding at the head of a party on a country excursion. ‘Look at Miss Jack! she sits her horse as if it was a bit of herself.’ Not the least singular thing connected with this Scottish lady is that when, after a long residence in London she returned to Scotland, her Scottish accent was stronger than ever. Her Scottish songs, original or adapted, will probably live longer than her ‘Plays of the Passions,’ with all their unquestionable merits.

We may here put readers on their guard[Pg 189] against concluding that even a very Scottish song must necessarily be by a Scottish author. Mrs. John Hunter, who wrote ‘My Mother bids me,’ and a version of ‘Flowers of the Forest,’ was a Yorkshirewoman. Mrs. Grant, famous for ‘Roy’s Wife,’ was Irish. Mrs. Ogilvy, who has given so many samples of Highland minstrelsy, was born in India. Miss Blamire wrote ‘An ye shall walk in Silk Attire,’ but she was a Cumberland lass; and Mrs. Hamilton, of ‘My ain Fireside,’ was, like Mrs. Grant, of Carron, an Irish lady. They are all held to be virtually Scottish by men who deny that Wallace was a Welshman and that Robert Bruce was a native of Yorkshire.

[Pg 190]


For about a hundred years the name of Dibdin was a pleasant name in the ears and eyes of the English people. The Dibdin proper, son of a silversmith, was born at Southampton in the year of the Scotch Rebellion, 1745. The event belongs almost to ancient history, but there are men not yet so very old who can remember in their childhood the once ‘tuneful Charley,’ who became for ever mute in the year 1814.

The name is a local one. There is a place called Dibden (originally Deep Dene), a place of some importance at the time of the Conquest, situated in a thickly wooded dell in Southampton Water. Charles Dibdin was Hampshire born and Hampshire bred. His father, silversmith and parish clerk, sent him to Winchester School, but he was more especially of the Winchester Cathedral choir. He was ‘intended for the Church,’ as the phrase goes, but instead of a bishop writing charges, he became a composer arranging musical scores. In the Church he probably would have written a few indifferent sermons. On and for the stage, and the[Pg 191] world, he penned and melodised hundreds of popular songs. Some of these are as good as sermons; others are as unintelligible; there are many of them that are infinitely better. Dibdin knew as much about a ship as many curates know about religion; and now and then he got into the same sort of mess accordingly. On the whole, however, he pulled through successfully. The backbone of all his songs was ‘loyalty.’ It was like insisting on ‘faith’ in sermons. He perhaps would have been a popular preacher, had he not preferred being a popular song-writer—Tyrtæus instead of Calchas.

Charles Dibdin was neither sailor nor parson, but the family was destined to contribute both to the wide-apart professions respectively. Charles had an elder brother who took to sea and became captain of an East Indiaman. Years after, but in the same year, 1775, a son was born to each, and each son was named Thomas. The captain’s son was born at Calcutta. He was put to the law with the object of making a Lord Chancellor of him, but the young fellow turned to the Church, and did not become an archbishop. Nevertheless, he is well remembered as the Rev. Thomas Frognal Dibdin, author of the ‘Bibliomania,’ the ‘Biographical Decameron,’ and many other works of a similar nature. The Rev. Thomas died, a popular preacher, rector of St. Mary’s, Bryanstone Square, in 1847.

[Pg 192]

The Rev. Thomas’s cousin, Tom, was born in Peter Street, Holborn. You will look for street or house in vain. New Oxford Street has swept it all down. Peter Street was the third of a street which had three names. At the Holborn end it was Bow Street; at the Montague House, or Museum, end, it was Queen Street. The middle portion was Peter Street, which New Oxford Street has knocked out of existence. But for this, you might yourself have knocked at the very house door, as Mr. Garrick did, on the day of Master Tom’s christening, when Roscius was godfather, and he brought with him a hamper of wine, and Frank Aickin, as second godfather. This was ‘Tyrant Aickin,’ as Frank was called, from his having always to play the swaggering, low-mouthed Maximinus of the drama. The godson of the two actors never had the good luck in life of either of his godfathers. He never had a living that made him socially equal with his cousin the rector. The cousins were alike in one point only. Each wrote his own biography, both of which are worth the reading. Thomas Frognal Dibdin, D.D., became one of the founders of the Roxburgh Club. Tom Dibdin of Peter Street was often a guest at the Sublime Society of Beef Steaks. T. F. D. was a popular lecturer, but no lecture of his had such vogue as his cousin Tom’s song, ‘When Vulcan forged the bolts of Jove.’ Tom’s father never wrote a better.

[Pg 193]

But Tom’s father is waiting, and it is his story that has to be briefly told. After all, Charles Dibdin the elder began life, or would have begun it, with the Church—as organist. He was a candidate for the office at Bishop’s Waltham, in his native county. He was then only fourteen years of age. He was self-taught, save some elementary instruction from Mr. Fussel, the organist of Winchester Cathedral. The village judges, finding him competent, duly rejected him on account of his youth! He was looking at the ruins of the episcopal palace with a humble church officer, who told him it was built by King Stephen’s brother Henry de Blois. ‘And you are a descendant of his,’ said Charles. ‘That’s more than I ever knew before,’ replied his companion. ‘It’s quite true though,’ rejoined Dibdin; ‘are you not Henry the organ-blower?’

The outlines of Dibdin’s career are soon told. He came up to London as poor as Whittington, but with little of his luck. He earned a couple of guineas by composing ballads for music-sellers, by which they made hundreds; and he tuned pianos, and taught how to play on them. At length, wearied with this, he made his first appearance on the stage (he says) at the Richmond Theatre, on the Hill, in 1762, when he was seventeen years of age. Dibdin, however, also states that he first appeared at Birmingham, and Jesse records[Pg 194] that Dibdin and Bannister came out originally at Marylebone Gardens. Dibdin speaks of the old Richmond house as the ‘Academy’ and the ‘Histrionic Academy.’ This was one of the names given to the theatre by Theophilus Cibber before a licence had been got to open it. Theophilus called it at first the Cephalic Snuff Warehouse. Snuff, in minute quantities, was sold at the various entrances, and admission followed gratis. It was on this stage that Dibdin is said to have made his début, as Damætas, in ‘Midas’; a thing the more difficult to believe, as ‘Midas’ was not produced in England till 1764, namely, at Covent Garden, and then Damætas was played by Fawcett.

Victor pronounced Charles Dibdin’s Mungo to be ‘as complete a low character as was ever exhibited.’ Isaac Bickerstaffe as highly praised the musical composer as Victor did the actor. ‘The music of this piece,’ he wrote in the preface to it, ‘being extremely admired by persons of the first state and distinction, it would be injustice to the extraordinary talents of the young man who assisted me in it, was I not to declare that it is, under my direction, the entire composition of Mr. Dibdin, whose admirable performance in the character of Mungo does so much credit to himself and me, as well as to the gentleman whose penetration could distinguish neglected genius, and who has taken pleasure in producing it to the public.’ Dibdin’s[Pg 195] elder son was named after his father, the character he played, and the author of ‘The Padlock’—Charles Isaac Mungo Dibdin. The author of ‘The Thespian Dictionary,’ writing of the second son, Thomas Dibdin, adds to the fact, ‘but not acknowledged by his father!’

Dibdin’s success as an actor was so complete, that we can only wonder at his leaving it so soon for authorship, musical composition, and entertainments in which he was the sole performer. He was the original Ralph, in ‘The Maid of the Mill,’ and straightway London fluttered with ‘Ralph handkerchiefs.’ Dibdin’s Mungo, in ‘The Padlock,’ another creation, was so naturally and thoroughly to the purpose, it was said that the performer had gone to Jamaica and spent weeks there in order to study the manners and speech of the negroes! The fact is, that he combined impulse with intelligence, and never lost an opportunity. The very first sea-song of his which took the national ear and the national heart, was ‘Blow high, blow low!’ and this, if he did not compose, he imagined, not in the open stormy ocean, on board a man-of-war, but on board a Calais packet which took thirteen hours on a stormy passage across the Straits of Dover.

In nearly all cases of composition, with Dibdin, his method was most singular. In his musical entertainments, he introduced hundreds of songs, words and music by himself. But when he seated [Pg 196]himself at the piano, before the public, not a note of the accompaniment was written. He improvised, and never thought of putting a single note down on paper till the music-sellers wanted copy for the engravers.

Dibdin went abroad in the early part of his career to study music; but he merely practised by himself, and noted little but the manners and morals of the people amongst whom he was thrown. The English society at Calais, during his sojourn there, he describes as consisting of three or four fraudulent bankrupts, two or three too successful duellists, a few rich smugglers under strong suspicion of having committed murder, which was the most likely thing in the world, and a high official personage, guilty of forgery, and ‘the father of a nobleman who was afterwards singularly remarkable for having publicly exhibited the hand and head of Struensee.’

Dibdin exchanged Calais for ever pleasant, and then especially pleasant, Nancy. He makes a very curious observation on one incident of his sojourn there. He saw the Emperor of Germany, Joseph, brother of Marie Antoinette, pass through the old capital of the province which had once belonged to the imperial house of Hapsburg Lorraine. There was an outburst of the old affection of the Lorrainers at the sight of the descendant of their old dukes; and such expression was given to this [Pg 197]manifestation that Dibdin states his conviction that if the Emperor of Germany were once resolved to relieve Lorraine from the oppression of the French yoke, the inhabitants of the old duchy would give him their enthusiastic support.

We will not follow out Dibdin’s professional career. The biographical dictionaries and his own works tell of his struggles, his ups and downs, his reverses and his triumphs. We rather care to look at him in some of his picturesque moments. We seem to see and to hear him when we look in at St. Bride’s—a mere lad, playing the congregation out with such exquisite power, that instead of departing, they remained to listen. We seem to see the young fellow’s enraptured look when he first heard the crash of an overture. What emotion there must have been in the young soul when he discovered that from simply hearing the combination and working of sounds in that overture, he had grasped the secret of composition; and later, on returning home from some grand musical banquet, he could write out the whole score from memory, with very few errors indeed. It was only natural after Dibdin had composed a great part of the music to ‘Love in the City,’ and to ‘Lionel and Clarissa’—as we write the words, Tom Cooke’s manly voice seems to fill the house with ‘I’ll love thee ever dearly!‘—it is natural, we say, that ‘Charley’ should find himself growing famous. We find him[Pg 198] in strange company the year after ‘Lionel and Clarissa’ was produced.

Perhaps the last place in which one would expect to find Dibdin is, not indeed with Dr. Johnson, but in Boswell’s life of the erudite savage. Boswell had composed a ‘little epigrammatical song’ which, he says, he was ‘volatile enough’ to repeat to Johnson, adding, ‘that Garrick had, a few days before, got it set to music by the ingenious Mr. Dibdin.’ This was in 1769, when Charles was four-and-twenty; and this is what he had to go to work upon:—


In the blithe days of honeymoon,
With Kate’s allurements smitten,
I lov’d her late, I lov’d her soon,
And call’d her, ‘dearest kitten!’
But now my kitten’s grown a cat,
And cross, like other wives;
Oh, by my soul, my honest Mat,
I fear she has nine lives!

Doubtless, Dibdin’s music was better than Boswell’s words—it could not be worse. Johnson confined himself simply to literary criticism. ‘My illustrious friend,’ Boswell remarks, said, “It is very well, sir, but you should not swear.” Upon which, I altered “Oh by my soul” to “Alas, alas!”’

It was in this year, 1769, that Dibdin lifted[Pg 199] Sedaine’s ‘Deserter’ to the English stage, after which all the sweet throats in town were warbling ‘Somehow, my spindle I mislaid.’ Just ninety-nine years ago this last month of August, Dibdin produced ‘The Waterman,’ which has now entered its hundredth year, and which is as fresh as a pure flood-tide on a bright morning. Many of us may remember having seen in our childhood the original Tom Tug, for Bannister lived half a century after he created the part. And what a whole crew of Tom Tugs have warbled on the boards and concert-room since then! Do you remember, on Edmund Kean’s benefit, June 3rd, 1822, how touchingly he sang ‘Farewell, my trim-built wherry’? Can you not see Braham, so like an amateur waterman? Can you not hear him so like something sweetly superhuman, trilling forth, ‘And have you not heard of a jolly young waterman?’ Only a few nights ago we saw the piece and heard the songs, and were tempted to say as Ophelia says about the things that had been and the things that be. It is ninety-eight years since Dibdin himself, as Solomon, sang his own song, ‘The lads of the village shall merrily, ha!’ in ‘The Quaker,’ and it remains an exquisite song still, but it demands an exquisite voice and tact in the singer.

Charles had a way of his own in adapting French musical pieces to the English stage. He took the pieces, but he fitted them with music by[Pg 200] himself. After all, this sort of thing has been done by composers with reference to other composers of the same country. There was, for instance, a ‘Barber of Seville,’ by Paisiello. Well, Rossini appropriated the story, composed his own fresh and immortal music for it, and extinguished Paisiello’s barber for ever. When Dibdin brought out ‘Rose and Colin,’ a piece which had been ‘set’ by Philidor, he was asked why he had not retained the clever Frenchman’s sparkling music. ‘Because,’ answered Charles, ‘Philidor is famous enough, and I have a reputation of my own to make!’ Philidor’s reputation is now more connected with chess (for he was the Philidor) than with music. Nevertheless, he is bracketed with Duni and Monsigny as one of the founders of modern comic French opera; and the song for Medusa, in his opera of ‘Persée,’ ‘J’ai perdu la beauté qui me rendait si vaine,’ remains a masterpiece of harmony. Philidor was better known than Dibdin himself, in London, where he died, indifferent that Charles and others were ‘stealing his thunder,’ with the reputation of being one of the best-tempered, most upright, and most disinterested men that ever lived.

From 1765 to 1775 was Dibdin’s best time in connection with the drama. Subsequently he became erratic. He was proprietor, manager, at the head of a company, or constituting a whole company in himself, now with audiences, now sadly in[Pg 201] want of them: now flourishing like a prince, living like three, and falling into bankruptcy and rheumatic gout. He has given an account of his wanderings, in which there is an incident or two worth the telling, when they refer to musical or to theatrical matters. From this book we learn that Shuter had an amusingly sententious critical way with him. When Reddish (George Canning’s stepfather) first played Posthumus (in ‘Cymbeline’), Shuter simply remarked, ‘Henceforth, let every villain be called Posthumus Leonatus.’ And, being asked what he thought of Macklin’s Macbeth, he solemnly replied: ‘The time has been that when the brains were out the man would die, and there an end!’

One day, when Dibdin was near the Land’s End, he passed through a village where he saw several men carrying books and instruments to church. To his questions, they replied that they were going to practise for the Sunday service. ‘Very good,’ said sympathising Charley; ‘and whose music do you sing?’ ‘Oh, Handel, Handel!’ was the rather bold answer of the leader of the choir. ‘Handel!’ rejoined Dibdin, in much amazement; ‘don’t you find him a leetle difficult?’ ‘Well,’ replied the Cornish minstrel, ‘we did at first; but, you see, we altered him, and so we get on very well with him now.’ Charles, who hated Garrick and despised Handel, changed the scene of his dramatic incident[Pg 202] to Bath; but it was originally told of the Cornish singers.

It was principally for Dibdin’s own entertainments, not for ‘Dibdin at Home,’ that he wrote and composed his famous sea-songs. How Dibdin came to write and compose sea-songs is accounted for by a tradition. Among the crew of a ship which came into Southampton Water was a cabin-boy who, disgusted with the tyranny of which he was daily the subject, took the first opportunity to escape. The boy remained hid in Southampton till his ship had sailed, and then he appeared in the streets singing naval ditties for bread. The lad sang so sweetly that people got interested in him. His name, he said, was Incledon, and he came from near the Land’s End, Cornwall. Dibdin and Incledon became known to each other, and the Cornish cabin-boy furnished the naval properties which the Hampshire poet put into his naval songs.

But this yarn won’t hold water. Incledon, the silvery-toned son of a Cornish doctor, was articled to the celebrated composer, Jackson of Exeter, at eight years of age. The boy was the petted favourite of the musical people of Exeter for about seven years. At the end of that time, weary of the cathedral choir discipline, for which town popularity could not compensate, Incledon, in 1779, entered as a common sailor on board the Formidable. He served in the West Indies, took[Pg 203] part in hard fighting, and, after the lapse of about four years, he determined to go upon the stage as a singer. It was about the year 1783 that Incledon made his first appearance in Southampton and on its stage, at which time some of the best of Dibdin’s sea-songs had long been familiar in the public ear. In 1790 Incledon first appeared in London, as Dermot in ‘The Poor Soldier,’ and for thirty subsequent years he shared with Braham the glory of being the first of English melodists. No one ever did, or ever will, sing Stevens’s ‘Storm,’ or Andrew Cherry’s ‘Bay of Biscay,’ as Incledon sang them and other manly songs; and no couple of vocalists ever did or ever will sing as Braham (Valentine) and Incledon (Fitzwalter) sang the former’s important duet, ‘All’s Well’ to Tom Dibdin’s words. There was so much of the sea in Tom’s songs that some of the best have been frequently attributed to his father.

It was lucky for that father and the nation that he quarrelled with managers, wrote, sang, and played on his own hook, and composed the naval ditties especially, that will make his name last till the New Zealander seats himself on the ruined arch of London Bridge. These songs caused Dibdin to be a power in the country, and his services were not altogether without acknowledgment. Pitt encouraged and paid him to write, sing, publish, and give away loyal war-songs in the old fighting time[Pg 204]—testimony enough of the minstrel’s value. George III. rewarded his loyalty by granting him a pension, of which a succeeding Addington ministry deprived him. The bust of the skilled son of song was appropriately placed in Greenwich Hospital, where the singer himself might as appropriately have found a home. Lord Minto patronised an edition of Dibdin’s songs for the use of the navy. They have not been quite slap-banged out of use by the crapulous music-halls. At public dinners far better than the meat is it to hear Ransford sing ‘Yeo heave ho!’ or Donald King ‘Tom Bowling’—the touching monody to the author’s good brother the captain of an East Indiaman. It is said that our Queen conferred a small pension on Dibdin’s suffering daughter, a lady honourably connected with literature. If this be true, let us be glad that all literary annuities, if we may so speak, are not granted to persons far too well off to require them—or to receive them, one would suppose, without a sense of humiliation.

The religion of Charles Dibdin’s sailors ebbs and flows like the sea, and that even in one song. Take, for instance, ‘Poor Jack,’ which has been praised on the very ground of its religious beauty. In the first verse Jack has more comfort than faith. He is careless, on the chance of others caring for him:—

[Pg 205]

Avast! nor don’t think me a milksop so soft
To be taken for trifles a-back;
For they say there’s a Providence sits up aloft,
To keep watch for the life of poor Jack!

In the second verse Jack has heard the chaplain palaver one day, ‘about souls, heaven, mercy, and such.’ It was, Jack says, as unintelligible to him as high Dutch. Nevertheless, Jack got at some instruction from the reverend gentleman:—

For, he said, how a sparrow can’t founder, d’ye see,
Without orders that come down below;
And a many fine things that prov’d clearly to me
That Providence takes us in tow.
For, says he, d’ye mind me, let storms e’er so oft
Take the topsails o’ sailors a-back,
There’s a sweet little cherub that sits up aloft
To keep watch for the life of poor Jack.

In the next verse Jack is worldly again. When Poll is ‘sniv’ling and piping her eye’ at the idea of parting from him, he says tenderly—and we can hear the voice of T. P. Cooke saying it—‘Why, what a damn’d fool you must be!’ Then comes the change in his religious philosophy:—

Can’t you see the world’s wide, and there’s room for us all,
Both for seamen, and lubbers ashore?
And if to Old Davy I should go, dear Poll!
You never will hear of me more.
What then? all’s a hazard!... &c.

[Pg 206]

Perhaps he ‘may laughing come back,’ and he supports this doctrine of chances by means of the doctrine of election, in the figure of the cherub up aloft with his protective power over Jack; and which cherub, in the last verse, is commissioned, at the end of all things, to ‘look out a good berth’ for the same theological sailor.

To be sure, such loose theology was to be expected in sailors who had such chaplains to teach them, as Dibdin delineates in another of his songs, ‘There’s nothing like grog’:—

T’other day, as the chaplain was preaching,
Behind him I curiously slunk;
And while he our duty was teaching,
As how we should never get drunk,
I show’d him the stuff, and he twigg’d it,
And it soon set his rev’rence agog;
And he swigg’d, and Nick swigg’d,
And Ben swigg’d, and Dick swigg’d,
And I swigg’d, and all of us swigg’d it,
And swore there was nothing like grog!

At a time when old English ballads are supposed to portray English history, we may point to the above as untruly reflecting naval manners in England in the last century. It is more of a caricature than a naval scene in a pantomime, and the morality is as ‘shaky’ as that in another ballad, ‘When faintly gleams the doubtful day,’ where humanity in hunting matters is illustrated[Pg 207] by hunting the hare to the point of death, but then protecting ‘the defenceless creature’ by calling off ‘the well-taught hounds:’—

For cruelty should ne’er disgrace
The well-earn’d pleasures of the chase!

Again, of the fox it is said, ‘Unpitied shall the culprit die’:—

To quell his cruel, artful race,
Is labour worthy of the chase;

as if the quelling was not the last thought of squires who breed foxes. It was very good policy of Dibdin to teach that ‘Every bullet has its billet,’ but in ‘A sailor and an honest heart’ war’s dangers are the sailor’s chances, and his philosophy is to ask no more than ‘grog aboard and girl ashore.’

Ben Backstay and Anna piping their eyes at parting are but sickly sentimentalities. Bill Bobstay, with his purse always open and his veins to the same tune, shedding his blood for the king, is like the stagiest of stage sailors; and Jack Rattlin heaving a sigh as he sits on the ‘pendant yard,’ and dying for love, with his eyes uplifted, when he comes down from it, is not the man who could hand, reef, and steer better than any mate afloat. Indeed Dibdin’s sailors in love are generally great spooneys; in ‘The Boatswain calls’ there is a whole shipload of them. Fancy an entire crew heaving[Pg 208] ‘fervent sighs’ as they leave looking at the girls ashore, to turn for consolation to the windlass with ‘Yo heave ho!’ But even these soft ones are to be preferred to the tipplers who declare that ‘the best sort of sounding is sounding the bowl.’ The best side of Dibdin’s philosophy is where he metrically teaches that ‘a brave British sailor should never despair,’ and pays a compliment to the bold royal tar, the Duke of Clarence, who got it made into a law that ‘each tar of his rhino should have his full share,’ and should no more be cheated of his pay, as he used to be. But there was a lack of sincerity in most of Dibdin’s sentimental sea-maxims for sailors, and for one who is cheered in dying for love there are a dozen who are encouraged to find in every port a wife:—

I’ve a spanking wife at Portsmouth Gates,
A pigmy at Goree,
An orange-tawny up the Straits,
A black at St. Lucie;
Thus, whatsomdever course I bend,
I leads a jovial life;
In ev’ry mess I finds a friend,
In ev’ry port a wife.

To our thinking, Charles Dibdin, celebrated as he was for his sea songs, deserves far higher praise for quite another sort of country song, of which we will give an example. His sailors are too much addicted, when storms rage and billows roll, to[Pg 209] sling the flowing bowl; landsmen might fancy that Jack’s life consisted of thinking of Nancy afloat, hugging her ashore, drinking to her health unceasingly, and taking a turn of duty with a hornpipe sort of air, as if the galleries were clapping him enthusiastically. It is all good and picturesque in its way, but tuneful Charley is more to our liking when he gets into an English corn-field, strolls down an English lane, or sits at the door of an English cottage. He is then as natural as Moreland treating the same subjects on canvas. The fragrance of the fields comes on the wings of his song, and his English home and peasant are still more truly English than his English ships and sailors. Take, for example:—


The ploughman whistles o’er the furrow,
The hedger joins the vacant strain,
The woodman sings the woodland thorough,
The shepherd’s pipe delights the plain.
Where’er the anxious eye can roam,
Or ear receive the jocund pleasure,
Myriads of beings thronging, flock,
Of Nature’s song to join the measure;
Till, to keep time, the village clock
Sounds sweet the lab’rer’s welcome home!
The hearth swept clean, his partner smiling;
Upon the dining-table smokes
The frugal meal—which, time beguiling,
The ale the harmless jest provokes.
[Pg 210]Ye inmates of the lofty dome,
Admire his lot. His children playing,
To share his smiles around him flock,
And faithful Tray, since morn, that straying,
Trudged with him, till the village clock
Proclaim’d the lab’rer’s welcome home.
The cheering faggot burnt to embers,
While lares around their vigils keep,
That Power that poor and rich remembers,
Each thanks, and then retires to sleep.
And now the lark climbs Heav’n’s high dome,
Fresh from repose, toil’s kind reliever;
And furnish’d with his daily stock—
His dog, his staff, his keg, his beaver—
He travels till the village clock
Sounds sweet the lab’rer’s welcome home!

Here the pictures are perfect; each is in its way a little Bewick. If there is once or twice a slight roughness in the metre, it is such as may be met with in Cowley; and if the introduction of ‘lares’ at an English hearth startles us a little, it is just such surprises as come upon us in Cowley and the poets of his time. The charm of the above song is greatly enhanced by the music. We have no such songs nor any such music for English people generally in these days. Music-hall ruffianism woos the public ear with beastly innuendo, worse than downright speaking, and the Hurlingham husseydoms, after assisting at the butchery of doves, talk[Pg 211] music-hall slang and play Champagne Charley quadrilles.

Let us now add a word respecting another child of song, born in Southampton, and still living when Charles Dibdin came there into the world—Isaac Watts. Isaac Watts and Charles Dibdin! Why not? They are not so far apart as you may think. Isaac, the Southampton Nonconformist schoolmaster’s son, lived from 1674, reign of Charles the Second, to 1748, reign of the second George. Charles Dibdin was, at the latter period, three years old. The piety of Watts is no more questionable than the loyalty of Dibdin. Watts upheld piety by simple means in an impious age. Dibdin sustained loyalty at a time when revolutionary ideas were struggling into activity at home, and when there were enemies abroad who found moral support in such a struggle. If Dibdin’s allegiance found occasionally exaggerated expression, so Watts’s piety sometimes found a rather arrogant utterance. Dibdin, however, was—strange as it may appear—more humble and contented than Watts. In a ballad in ‘The Old Woman of Eighty,’ Dibdin makes a crowd of poor unlearned country folk sing:—

Come here, ye rich; come here, ye great;
Come here, ye grave: come here, ye gay;
Behold our blest, though humble fate,
Who, while the sun shines, make our hay.

[Pg 212]

Therein is Christian philosophy with content. Watts makes his well-born Christian child an insufferable prig, who would have scorned Dibdin’s half-starved wretch; for example, in the ‘Praise for Mercies’:—

While some poor wretches scarce can tell
Where they may lay their head,
I have a home wherein to dwell
And rest upon my bed.

In Dibdin’s ‘True Courage’ Bob Bounce is ready to eat an enemy alive, but the minstrel humanises him, and inculcates the maxim that all men are brothers:—

That my friend Jack or Tom I should rescue from danger,
Or lay my life down for each lad in the mess,
Is nothing at all; ’tis the poor wounded stranger,
And the poorer the more I shall succour distress.

This may be rough morality, but it is of better quality than the following selfish sample in Watts:

Lord, I ascribe it to thy grace,
And not to chance, as others do,
That I was born of Christian race,
And not a heathen or a Jew.

While Dibdin’s Tom or Jack is for ever seeing, after his fashion, a merciful Providence, Watts’s model child can discern only one armed with terrors and tortures. Isaac had no idea of one of Charley’s ‘sweet little cherubs’ sitting aloft [Pg 213]watchful to preserve; the Nonconformist’s feverish eye beheld only a demon:—

’Tis dangerous to provoke a god!
His power and vengeance none can tell:
One stroke of his Almighty rod
Shall send young sinners quick to hell.

In the sailor’s philosophy all is harmony; but Watts finds discord where other men find none. Jack does not believe that ‘dogs delight to bark and bite,’ nor that ‘God hath made them so.’ A pat on the head from a master’s hand is the supreme delight of the ever-faithful dog. And if ‘bears and lions growl and fight,’ it is not that ‘it is their nature to;’ any more, at least, than it is the nature of man. It was Nelson who told the young midshipman, as part of his duties, to ‘hate a Frenchman like the devil!’ Dibdin only allowed such feeling in the heat and fury of battle:—

’Tis a furious lion in battle, so let it!
But, fury appeased, ’tis in mercy a lamb!

Watts is always readiest with unpleasant figures. Ordinary parents forgive lovingly the faults of children, but Watts tells each little angelic rebel that—

The ravens shall pick out their eyes,
And eagles eat the same!

Moreover, Watts forgets grace, occasionally, for chance, as in the couplet:—

[Pg 214]

If we had been ducks, we might dabble in mud,
Or dogs, we might play till it ended in blood,
So foul and so fierce are their natures.
But Thomas and William, and such pretty names,
Should be cleanly and harmless, as doves or as lambs,
Those lovely, sweet, innocent creatures.

Watts’s intentions were as honest as Dibdin’s, and both, no doubt, often erred; but the silversmith’s son was never so loose in logic, philosophy, truth, and metre, as the dwarfish son of the schoolmaster is in the sample just given. It must have been some such sample that soured the spirit of ‘bold Bradbury,’ another dissenting minister, who suspected Watts of not being a good Trinitarian. Once Bradbury’s clerk gave out one of Watts’s hymns, to be sung before the sermon. The minister looked down from the pulpit and said: ‘No, sir, none of Watts’s whims here, if you please.’ In one of the anniversaries of 1688 Bradbury sang, at a public dinner, ‘The Roast Beef of Old England!’ Had he lived long enough he would have sung with equally loyal zest, Tom Dibdin’s famous anti-invasion song, ‘The tight little Island.’

We are not disposed to touch upon Dibdin’s domestic story. A good deal is said in the words that his children loved, honoured, and reverenced their mother. His life led him too much, too far, and too long away from home for the fine domestic sympathies to have ardent play. Even before his[Pg 215] melancholy death in 1814, his sons, Charles and Thomas, had distinguished themselves, but they lacked the grace and power of musical composition so remarkable in the father. But in dramatic composition they were his equals, and Tom especially was nearly equal with, though not so prolific as, his father in song-writing.

How Charles the younger caught the ‘trick’ of his father may be seen in a song (published as his in ‘My Spouse and I’), of which here is one stanza:—

We tars have a maxim, your honours, d’ye see,
To live in the same way we fight;
We never give in, and when running a-lee,
We pipe hands the vessel to right.
It may do for a lubber to snivel and that,
If by chance on a shoal he be cast,
But a tar among breakers, or thrown on a flat,
Pull away, tug and tug, to the last;
With a yeo, yeo, yeo, &c.

It was the old Dibdin philosophy of ‘Never say die.’

Tom Dibdin is generally supposed to have adopted the stage for a profession only after he had tried another calling—apprentice to an upholsterer. This is not quite correct. Tom made his first appearance on the stage before he went to school. He acted, or, rather, represented, Cupid in a pageant in which Mrs. Siddons sat as the[Pg 216] goddess Venus. As the great actress took him in hand to rectify his dress, little Tom heard the first words from her lips that ever fell on his ear. They were directed to a female dresser, and they were solemnly enunciated: ‘Ma’am, could you favour me with a pin?’ Tom, as he sat at her feet in the pageant, felt a sort of stage-fright, but Sarah kept him under control by repeated murmured promises that if he were a good boy there was barley-sugar in store for him.

As an upholsterer’s apprentice Tom vexed his master’s soul and injured all his materials. The lad was barely eighteen when he made his plunge into the drama. Only the other day, we looked with interest on the front of the old Eastbourne Theatre, in the centre of the village, away from the modern sea-town. It has still, or had a little while ago, a dramatic-looking exterior. Richland, one of the managing partners of the house, had a nephew, a handsome lad of fourteen years of age, who printed the bills, did general business, and was called ‘Little Jerrold.’ When little Jerrold got to York as a manager, he put a fine handle to his name, and was thenceforth known for some time as Mr. Fitz-Jerrold. Tom Dibdin proposed to come out at the Eastbourne Theatre as Norval. Jerrold, on preparing the play-bill, asked him in what name Tom intended to appear. Dibdin replied, ‘My name is Norval!’ ‘I know it is,’ said[Pg 217] Jerrold, ‘on the Grampian hills, but what is it in Sussex?’ The name adopted was Merchant. After all, instead of ‘journeying with this intent,’ and playing Norval, Dibdin ‘gilded his humble name’ by playing Valentine, in one of his father’s numerous musical pieces, and singing ‘Poor Jack,’ to the delight of the Eastbourne audience. The handsome Jerrold above alluded to was the father of Douglas Jerrold, whom John Kemble, as Rolla, once carried on his shoulder as Cora’s child, and who ended his career too early, leaving behind him a reputation for wit second to none.

The most amusing portion of Tom Dibdin’s reminiscences are the illustrations of social as well as dramatic life with which it abounds.

Tom belonged to one of those Beef Steak Clubs (this one was theatrical) which seem never to have had the dish on the table from which the name was supposed to be derived. One of their intellectual sports consisted in a member naming an actor, and then calling on another member for a quotation which should be applicable to the actor named. In this way some one named Incledon, whose talk was a bubbling talk, interlarded with ‘my boy,’ and ‘my dear boy,’ as is the traditionary manner with familiar players still. Incledon being named, Const, the magistrate, being called upon, instantly quoted the line ‘Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of nothing.’ Nothing could be apter. Then another member,[Pg 218] naming George Frederick Cooke, called on Irish Johnstone for the illustration, and Jack, without hesitation, enunciated ‘Load o’ whisky,’ giving this appropriate turn to the name of an operatic drama then in vogue—‘Lodoiska.’ Emery was once called upon in connection with his own name; but he was tired and embarrassed, and at length he stammered forth, apologetically, ‘Indeed, indeed, sirs, but this troubles me!’ unconscious that he had fulfilled all conditions, and had illustrated himself in a line from Shakespeare.

These intellectual exercises were not confined to the ‘Beef Steaks.’ There was in Tom Dibdin’s days a certain ‘Ad Libitum Club,’ where the intellect was as much exercised as the more sensual appetites were liberally gratified by supper and punch. At these jovial meetings, some one happening to name an individual in course of conversation, would be met by a cry of ‘Skull!’ which implied that the member was to consider the individual dead, if he were not so already; at all events, he was to furnish on the instant that individual’s rhymed epitaph. Tom Dibdin once chanced to refer to Isaac Read, the scholar and antiquary. The cry of ‘Skull’ was immediately raised, and Tom as instantaneously replied to it as follows:—

Reader! by these four lines take heed,
And mend your life, for my sake!
For you must die, like Isaac Read,
Though you read till your eyes ache.

[Pg 219]

On another occasion Tom, without thinking of the consequences, made some allusion to the materials for writing his own life. He was, in one breath, pronounced to be dead, and with the cry of ‘Skull!’ he was challenged to recite his own epitaph. It was furnished in the lively style that follows:—

Longing, while living, for laurel and bays,
Under this willow a poor poet lays.
With little to censure and less to praise,
He wrote twelve dozen and threescore plays,
He finished his ‘Life’ and went his ways.

While on the subject of epitaphs we may as well give a sample of Tom’s father in this department of literature. The following, penned in all seriousness, is to be found in Lee churchyard, near Blackheath, the tribute of Charley to Parsons, the comic actor:—

Here Parsons lies! Oft on life’s busy stage,
With nature, reader, hast thou seen him vie.
He science knew; knew manners, knew the age,
Respected knew to live—lamented, die.

Thomas Frognall Dibdin, son of ‘Tom Bowling,’ seems to have been early influenced by a desire to show that the Dibdin power of rhyming was in him as well as in his cousins. In 1797 Booker published his ‘Poems.’

Two years after this mild flirtation of the[Pg 220] reverend cousin with the Muses, Tom Dibdin made an adaptation from ‘Kotzebue,’ and brought it out with songs, as ‘Of Age To-morrow.’ Our then young grandmothers were soon singing Miss de Camp’s song, ‘Oh no, my Love, no!’ and juvenile actors were all longing to come out in Bannister’s part of Frederick, Baron Willmhurst. Miss de Camp had come from the sawdust of the Surrey Circus, to charm the town; and when she was Mrs. Charles Kemble she became the mother of Fanny Kemble.

They are all gone, these Dibdins, of whom Charles of Southampton was the one whose fame will be the most lasting. Like all men, he is to be judged by his best. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link; a boiler is only as thick as its thinnest part; but a poet is to be measured by his best—the best teachings of the best of his poetry. By this standard the oldest of the Dibdins will rank foremost among those bards and minstrels who have swept the harp and raised the voice to quicken human trust in God, to fan into flame the slumbering but never dead fire of patriotism, and to inculcate loyalty to the powers that be. Dibdin taught perseverance in well-doing with the fervour of a St. Paul, and if he allowed a little too much of the bowl, he was earnest in upholding, when serious, courage and honesty in man, and undying fidelity to woman.

When the youngest of the vocal, musical, and[Pg 221] dramatic Dibdins died, in 1841, some one was found to fling, as it were, a stanza or two of sympathy on his tomb. From some lines, called ‘Poor Tom,’ dated from Vienna and printed in the ‘Bath Journal,’ we take the last eight to close our article:—

Poor Tom! As late I wander’d by the Rhine,
I saw its banks in Winter’s mantle clad,
Gaunt, grim, and naked stood each shiv’ring vine—
It was a sight to make the soul feel sad.
‘How many a heart,’ I said, ‘is now made warm
By the bright produce of the joyous tree,
Here left by man to struggle with the storm!’
I sigh’d, Tom; went my way; and thought of thee!

[Pg 222]


On Michaelmas-day in the year 1758, the wife of the rector of Burnham Thorpe was delivered of a sickly boy. At that moment Anson was in command of the Channel fleet, and there were old men then in England who had seen Prince Rupert. Exactly a quarter of a century had elapsed since Admiral Byng had surrendered life. Russell, who beat Tourville at La Hogue, had been asleep in the grave for more than thirty years. Churchill, and Dilkes, the terror of Frenchmen and Spaniards in his day, had been at rest for just half a century. These were great men; but in 1758 a greater than all was born in the quiet rectory of Burnham Thorpe. That feeble boy, accepted and tolerated rather than welcomed and cherished, grew up in the possession of all the virtues of the above heroes and with but few of their failings: he had the dashing spirit of Rupert without his imprudence: he possessed the wisdom and valour of Byng without his cold-heartedness: he was as persevering as Anson and in no wise so foolish—as rapid as Russell, but not so rapacious: he was even more [Pg 223]enterprising and successful than Dilkes; and, as with the gallant brother of Marlborough, his services claimed high honours long before he obtained them. This puny fragile child, born to achieve such greatness—this almost neglected son of a Norfolk parson, and, by his mother, grandson of a Westminster prebendary—designed, as it were, by nature to be a student, ‘sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,’ and to cultivate learned leisure in trim gardens—this feeble instrument was born with a great mission: let the splendour of its fulfilment make us forgetful of his very few errors!

Yes: when he first saw the light there were old men in England who had seen Prince Rupert beneath the beeches at Windsor. It was but the other day that Nelson’s sister died. Thus is he connected with two periods when the people were at issue with sovereigns: his figure stands half-way between the time, when Roundheads were assailing cavaliers and royalty; and the present period, when democracy, more despotic than any aristocracy, is again howling at palace gates and the hearths of nobles. In his own days the same struggle was going on; but the scene of the struggle was not now within our boundary of home. He was the great champion of royalty, and never had crowned king so unconquerable a champion as he. There was not a democrat abroad who did not hate his name as much as he feared it. For the French democrats[Pg 224] his own hatred was in equal measure intense; and, if it be suggested that his contempt was not less intense for French aristocrats, we answer that he lived at a period when the vices, the selfishness, and the tyranny of that aristocracy justified the insurrection, which annihilated one bad system to give temporary life to a worse. He did not despise the dissolute men and the more dissolute women of Naples less than he despised the French; but, in supporting the one and destroying the other, he was the great antagonist of anarchy, and the great promoter of order at home. Loyalty here flourished by the blood of his victories. The veriest would-be rebel in England was proud of the pale warrior whose feeble arm upheld a world of thrones; a defeat at Aboukir might have made him a Republican. But we are hurried from Nelson’s cradle to his glories and his grave. Let us sketch his wondrous career in a more orderly spirit.

She who bore the perils of his birth did not survive to be glad at his greatness. At nine, Nelson was motherless—at twelve he quitted school—and some of his playfellows were yet launching their paper galleons on Norfolk ponds when Nelson had gained respect and reputation for his name. A trip of a few brief months’ duration with his maternal uncle, Captain Suckling, just introduced him to naval life without affording him instruction. The latter he derived under Captain John Rathborn,[Pg 225] a naval officer, engaged for the time in the West India trade, under whom Nelson acquired a thorough acquaintance with practical seamanship, and was ever ready to acknowledge his obligation. The writer of this acknowledges his pride, too, in telling his son that his mother is the granddaughter of Nelson’s tutor. Horatio began his real service in the royal navy by entering the Triumph, rated as ‘captain’s servant.’ In a year or so he became midshipman, the duties of which office he efficiently performed during four or five years on board the same vessel, and in the Carcass, the Seahorse, and the Dolphin. During this period, he saw active service in every climate, from the North Pole to Bagdad and Bussorah. We next find him as lieutenant on board the Worcester and the Lowestoft. While on board the last-mentioned vessel he made his first prize, gallantly boarding and capturing an American privateer, from an attempt at which the first lieutenant had retired unsuccessful; and this was accomplished when he was only nineteen years of age! So fond was he of this branch of his profession that he changed to the schooner Lucy, with a sort of roving commission, of which the American traders soon became tremblingly conscious. He subsequently served in the Bristol (the flag-ship of Sir Peter Parker), in the three degrees of lieutenancy; and, in 1778, ere he was yet twenty, the boy was captain of the Badger brig, and with men eager[Pg 226] to obey him. But his just ambition was not yet satisfied; and when in his twenty-first year he had the delight of finding himself posted, and in command of the Hinchinbrook, his whole course of daring and dangerous service in the Gulf of Mexico plainly manifested that he was ever keeping in view that ‘top of the tree,’ whose leafy honours first invited him from his father’s rectory. The service alluded to seriously affected his own health and cost the lives of one hundred and ninety out of his crew of two hundred men. On his return home he rested at Bath for a year. He had no long leisure to be ill, for the following year saw him in the old French Albemarle, carrying terror along the Spanish main. In 1782, he was employed in convoy service; and, having occasionally some idle time on shore at Quebec, the young commander got into mischief—that is, he fell most imprudently into love. His friends carried him by violence on board: the sea air cured his passion; and his lucky joining with Hood’s fleet and his subsequent busy time in the West Indies effectually kept his thoughts from any lady then on land. It was at this period that he became known to the Duke of Clarence. The royal sailor thought him the merest boy of a captain that had ever been seen, and could not but laugh at the gigantic and endless queue that hung down his back and seemed to be pulling all the lank unpowdered hair off his head after it. But[Pg 227] this plain-looking and youthful commander was then remarkable for being as well acquainted with all naval matters as the oldest and most experienced captain in the fleet. The piping time of peace put him for a season on half-pay. A portion of 1783, and of the year following it, was passed in France. With idleness came evil; and, having nothing better to do, Nelson fell desperately in love with the dowerless daughter of an English clergyman, who, there is some reason to believe, was little affected by the magic he could offer her of half-pay and love in a cottage. The sea again stood his friend. In 1784, the Boreas carried him to the Leeward Islands, where, at great risk of purse and person, he was actively engaged in supporting those Navigation Laws which our modern Whigs have so ruthlessly abolished.

In this matter (says Dr. Pettigrew) he was also opposed by Major-General Sir T. Shirly, the governor of the Leeward Islands, who took in dudgeon the advice of Nelson, and assured him that old generals were not in the habit of taking advice from young gentlemen. Upon which Nelson, with much promptitude and ingenuity, replied—‘Sir, I am as old as the Prime Minister of England, and think myself as capable of commanding one of his Majesty’s ships as that Minister is of governing the State.’

He was engaged in putting down the illicit traffic sought to be carried on by the Americans[Pg 228] (whom successful rebellion had made foreigners) in the West Indies, and also in dragging into light the frauds practised by some English officials of no inconsiderable dignity in the islands. He succeeded in all he undertook, but got small thanks and no profit for any service which, in this respect, he rendered to his country. He was much on shore, too; and it is a fact that his foot no sooner touched the land than his good genius left him. He fell in love with a widow; and, what is much worse, married her. In the island of Nevis he became acquainted with Mrs. Nisbet, the widow of a surgeon who had died insane a year and a half after their marriage, leaving her with one son, Josiah, who subsequently owed so much to Nelson and thanked him so little for it. At this time the captain of the Boreas was a man at whom Fame held her finger; he never drank wine save to the healths of his sovereign, the royal family, and his admiral, and these were always bumper toasts to him. He was reserved, grave, and silent; and it was only occasional flashes that gave evidence of the brilliancy within. The narrow-minded people of Nevis could not make him out; and Mrs. Nisbet was set at him, as she was expected to make something of him, because ‘she had been in the habit of attending to such odd sort of people.’ Unfortunately she made a husband of him. She, perhaps, thought it a [Pg 229]condescension to marry a man who was of ‘puny constitution—who was reduced to a skeleton—and who put his hopes of recovery in asses’ milk and doctors.’ However this may be, she never looked upon him as a hero, nor was she worthy of being a hero’s wife. She would have been exemplary as the spouse of a village apothecary: she was highly virtuous, very respectable, and exceedingly ill-tempered. The ill-assorted pair were united in 1786: they reached England in 1787, in which year Nelson was kept for months on board his ship at Sheerness, merely taking in slops and lodging pressed seamen. And then ensued the quietest six years of his life: they were passed at Burnham Thorpe, and they were got through with tolerably good success. As a quiet country couple, there was nothing to disturb their stagnant felicity. Nelson busied himself in gardening, getting birds’ nests, and fretting for employment.

It came in 1793; when in place of capturing birds’ nests, Nelson, in the Agamemnon, was with the fleet at the capture of Toulon, its forts, and its navy. But other things came in 1793, too. Nelson was sent to Naples with despatches for our Minister, Sir William Hamilton. He was much on shore, and mischief came of it, of course. Sir William told his wife, the too famous, too erring, and yet much sinned-against Lady Hamilton, that a little man was coming to dine with him who was infirm[Pg 230] and ill-looking, but who had in him the stuff of a hero, and who was undoubtedly destined to be the man for the difficulties coming. If Emma Hamilton loved a virtue it was that of courage and ability in man: she loved heroes, and her ardent feelings were soon interested in Nelson.

From this period we must speak more generally of Nelson’s great deeds that we may have fuller space to treat of matters less known, and in the revealing of which lie the chief merit and the chief recommendation of Dr. Pettigrew’s excellent volumes. Lord Howe appointed him (over five senior captains) to blockade Genoa. In 1794 he was active against the French in Corsica, and his men so entered into his own spirit that, as he said himself, they minded shot no more than peas. But for him, Bastia would not have been taken, nor perhaps Calvi, where he received the injury to his right eye which ultimately deprived it of sight. His labour was incessant and his health most wretched; but he was too busy to be invalided. ‘The plan I pursue (said he) is never to employ a doctor;’ and, consequently, though he was ill, he kept himself from the peril of growing worse. In 1795 he had his first ‘brush’ with the French fleet. He thus modestly calls a battle, in which he laid the Agamemnon between the Ça Ira and the Censeur and forced both to yield. The former was large enough to put the Agamemnon in her hold.[Pg 231] He was now fully in that vein of conquest which never left him when a French vessel was before him as an antagonist. He now dared to disobey orders when he judged that circumstances authorised him, and he was no bad judge. He had by this time been engaged one hundred times—he was literally the hero of a hundred fights. His ship when docked, in order to be refitted, had neither mast, yard, sail, or rigging, that did not need repair in consequence of the shot she had received: her hull had long been secured by cables sewed around her. Nelson exhibited such discretion in disobeying orders, and success so invariably followed action that resulted from judgment of his own, that at length his admirals ceased to give him any close orders at all. Sir John Jervis left him to act as he thought best: the result was that, in two years, Nelson captured fifty French vessels; and the navy itself, under Jervis and his pale captain, became perfectly invincible. Up to 1797 victory followed victory: there was abundance of honour and salt-beef; but neither prize-money nor even notice in the ‘Gazette.’ He consoled himself by saying that he would one day have a ‘Gazette’ of his own and all to himself. He had well-nigh deserved it for the crowning fight at St. Vincent: he was in the thickest of the struggle where the odds against us were twenty-seven to fifteen. It made Jervis an earl and Nelson a knight, and it[Pg 232] opened a new era in naval strategy; for never from that day has British captain bent upon victory paused to count his enemy, or deferred his triumph in calculating the disparity of power except Lord Gambier at Aix.

Honours were both lavished on, and conferred by, the frail conqueror of the San Josef and the San Nicolas. Corporations flung their municipal freedoms at his feet, and gave him endless invitations to dinner. The only thing that he ever designated as dreadful was meeting a provincial mayor and alderman! They voted him more swords than he could ever hope to employ; but they were all outweighed by that which he himself presented to the Corporation of Norwich—the sword which had been surrendered to him by his gallant but vanquished foe on board the San Josef. Norwich will be proud of her trophy when no memory remains of her crapes and bombazeens or of the fair forms that wore them. The Government, too, made him rear-admiral of the blue. He was not an idle one: he went to sea in the Theseus surrounded by men whose hearts, though turbulent, beat in unison with the pulsations of his own: he twice bombarded Cadiz—lost his right arm before Teneriffe—reposed awhile at Bath to recruit his strength—received some pecuniary reward for the loss of it; and, after publicly thanking the Almighty for all His mercies and acknowledging the[Pg 233] lightness of His visitations, was again entrusted to save his country by destroying the then enemies of all mankind. With a squadron of observation he scoured the Mediterranean, and after a search unparalleled in its nature, and carrying despair to every heart but his own, he came upon the French at Aboukir and made 1798 for ever memorable in England by the well-won victory which he achieved at the Nile. If honours poured on him after the affair at St. Vincent, they descended now in an avalanche. His king made him a peer who among men was peerless. Parliament thanked him: the nation adored him. Russia endowed him with coloured ribbands—the Sultana stuffed his mouth with sugar-candy—public companies enrolled him among their members. ‘Nelson-squares,’ and ‘streets,’ and ‘terraces,’ arose without number; and curates were weary of christening an endless succession of Horatios. As for Naples, which country he had saved from the very jaws of the French, the people there when he landed nearly killed him with kindness, and did all but devour him. The king, queen, and the entire court, kissed his very feet. He turned with something like disgust from all their homage, and his honest tongue confessed that he despised those whom it was his duty to save, and that he loathed in his very soul the entire court, if not the universal people. He designated the men as scoundrels: the women[Pg 234] were what the author of the old ballad of ‘Nancy Dawson’ says that well-known lady was, and they cared as little to keep it from their neighbours; and he brushed away the imprecation on his lips, launched against the Neapolitan ladies, to kiss the hand of Emma Hamilton! But there was a distinction, though we are not going to show where it lay.

From the same year to that which closed the century, 1800, his presence was all but ubiquitous in the Mediterranean, and his name was uttered with awe and reverence all over the world. Within this period he became rear-admiral of the red, and Naples made him Duke of Bronté, in return for his having saved the nation from entire destruction. Within the same period is on record that dark event connected with the name of Carracciolo, to which we will hereafter allude: let it suffice to say here that after sweeping the Mediterranean of the enemies of England, and doing a world of good to those who were not worthy of being reckoned her friends—after executing all entrusted to him to accomplish, and rendering the name of England a tower of strength and pride throughout the world—Nelson returned home across Europe. He did not set out without first writing a sensible letter to the Pope, whom he had restored to Rome, in better fashion than Oudinot lately followed in behalf of Pio Nono. According to the prophecy of honest old[Pg 235] Father M’Cormick, Nelson may be said to have taken Rome with his ships—a feat of which he reminds the Pope and remains his ‘very obedient servant.’ That his progress from Leghorn to Hamburgh was one of such triumph as the world had never seen may be readily believed; for no human being had ever deserved such ovation. When he landed at Yarmouth the earth seemed to heave to salute him. Myriads of men blessed him, wept over him, hailed him with shouts—in the warmth of their welcome they did all but pay him divine honours. And his wife—how did she spring forward in exultation and enduring love, impatient to meet the boat that bore her heroic husband? Alas! Lady Nelson was quietly awaiting his arrival at Nerot’s hotel in town, and so cold and unsatisfactory was her greeting when the idol of the nation stepped into her presence that the incense of London adulation must have proved savoury by comparison.

Ere he had leisure to sun his laurels he was again afloat, and in the first year of the present century he passed the wild and stormy steep of Elsinore. The battle was a Titanic struggle, and giants of the same blood grappled with each other. Equal was the valour, and if our compelled rather than willing foes had the advantage in means of assault the better wisdom was ours, without which prowess is but a flail apt to wound the skull of him[Pg 236] who wields it. The battle of the Baltic, so gigantically fought and inimitably won, placed on Nelson’s brow the coronet of a viscount; but he did not quit the Baltic until he had fluttered the Russian fleet at Revel, and, when he returned to give a report of his mission accomplished, England already needed him for the fulfilment of another. Napoleon was at Boulogne, and, with a French army, threatening invasion. What the feeling of the times was in the parsonages on the Sussex coast—is it not written in the letters of Peter Plimley? What Nelson’s feelings were may be divined from that saying of his, that the French might come any way they pleased, but that they should not come by sea! England trusted him, and he kept his word as far as in him lay. If he did not destroy the Boulogne flotilla, he at least demonstrated that it could not issue from harbour without his permission nor put out to sea without being destroyed. Boulogne has, in some degree, benefited by the rough messengers which he flung into the port as visiting cards to intimate that he and his followers were outside. Some hundred weights of good English iron were projected into the town, and out of them are the gaspipes constructed which are now laid down in the Bassa Ville and the suburb of Capecure!

While thus giving peace to innumerable homes in England, he was ever, amidst war’s loudest[Pg 237] thunder, endeavouring to found a home of peace for himself: that home was at Merton, in Surrey, where it was vouchsafed to him for a very brief season. The name of Merton is more closely connected with great men and great acts than many of our readers may be aware, and it was the fitting resting-place for a man who desired to gain breathing time between his heroic deeds. It was the birthplace of that Walter de Merton to whose liberality some of our readers may possibly be indebted for the instruction they may have received at Oxford—not that Merton College has been very famous for turning out good, at least great, scholars. According to a witty master of that College, it ought to have possessed more learning than any other in the University; for, said he, ‘many scholars brought much knowledge there and left it all behind them.’ Their founder, however, possessed both legal learning and religious wisdom. The law boasts of him as one of the great Chancellors, and the Church approvingly points to him as an exemplary Bishop of Rochester. For much of his learning, and something of his wisdom, he is indebted to the accomplished Augustine canons who cultivated both in the old convent founded by Gilbert Norman in 1115, and the prior of which sat in Parliament as a mitred abbot. It was at Merton that the early French invasion under Louis the Dauphin, made with the intent of driving[Pg 238] Henry III. from his inheritance, was compensated for in 1217, by the treaty of peace forced upon the French prince. It was at Merton that the able De Burgh found refuge from his insatiable enemies; above all, it was here that were enacted the famous statutes of Merton. The Parliament of Henry III., which enacted those statutes, will be further ever-memorable for the unshakable firmness with which the barons—those reformers before the Reformation—withstood the insidious overtures of the ambitious prelates for the introduction of the imperial and canon laws. It was at Merton that was uttered a cry as famous, as significant, and as important in its result as the battle signal of Trafalgar. It was there that the barons shouted that famous shout—‘Nolumus leges Angliæ mutari!’

Of all these things which have conferred undying celebrity on the banks of the little river Wandle, Nelson probably knew nothing, and, if possible, cared less. But, notwithstanding this, we repeat that the locality which had been illustrated by humanity, by patriotism, by liberality, and by love of freedom, was a becoming spot whereon to spread the carpet of repose for him whose humanity was as great as his courage—whose patriotism was without a stain—whose liberality was ever extended without selfishness, and whose love of freedom made him the invincible foe of the nation that was endeavouring to enslave the world.

[Pg 239]

Had he been less liberal and more considerate for himself than for others he might have preserved Merton for his daughter—he would not have been compelled to sell his diamonds—and Merton itself need not have passed to those inheritors of other men’s patrimony—the money-lending Israelites.

For the fearful fight at Copenhagen, in which never were greater perils of navigation overcome, nor had there ever been in sea-fight more of English blood profusely shed—for this fight and victory Nelson received a token of honour from the Sultan; but his own Government granted no medals to the victors. They were permitted to wear the orders sent them by foreign princes, but no such honours awaited them at the hands of those who interpreted, and, perhaps, influenced, the will of King George. The people gave what the Ministry denied; and when the father of Nelson calmly closed his eyes on this world, in the year 1802, almost the last sounds that fell upon his ear were sounds of praise for his noble son. Nelson’s brother, the Rev. Dr. William Nelson, thought Lord Walpole cared little for his connection with the Nelson family, or he would have conferred Burnham Thorpe on the son of the late incumbent—that is to say, on himself. This reverend gentleman certainly does little credit to his profession, even taking him by his own description. When there was a report of his becoming[Pg 240] successor to the yet living, but indisposed, Dean of Exeter, he wrote to his brother—‘I wish it may be so. If you see Mr. Addington soon, you may offer my vote for the University of Cambridge for members of Parliament, and for the county of Norfolk to any candidate he may wish.’ ‘The dean’ (adds Dr. Pettigrew) ‘died on July 15, and Nelson applied to Mr. Addington, but Dr. Nelson was not appointed. Exeter failing, in a short time he directed his views to Durham,’ and he hinted his wishes in a letter to Lady Hamilton. After reminding her that he is a Doctor of Divinity of the University of Cambridge, and that such a dignified personage is as much superior to a mere Scottish M.D. ‘as an arch-angel is to an arch-fiend,’ this man, who had little in him of the angelic and still less of the arch-angelic, offers the lady a bribe of Norfolk beafins; and, having thus impressed her with his dignity, and purchased as he thought her good will for ‘half-a-dozen apple-trees,’ thus concludes his very undignified epistle:—‘I see by the papers that there is a stall vacant at Durham—I suppose worth a thousand a year—in the gift of the Bishop (Barrington). I remember some years ago, when the Duke of Portland was Prime Minister, he secured one for Dr. Poyntz, at Durham. There is another vacant at York (if not filled up), in the gift of the archbishop; but I don’t know the value—no very great sum, I believe.’ So very illogical a person[Pg 241] was as unsuccessful as he deserved to be. Lord Nelson’s chaplain on board the Vanguard at the Nile fared better, and merited so to fare. On Nelson’s application, Lord Eldon thought himself bound in public duty to pass over his own personal wishes and also the strong claims which individuals had upon him to be attentive to their welfare. Nelson’s chaplain at the Nile had a prior claim: and the Rev. Mr. Comyn received his appointment accordingly to the living asked for—that of Bridgham. While treating of the clerical connections of Nelson, we cannot omit noticing another trait in the brother who so little resembled him. He thus writes to Lady Hamilton:—‘The election for the University took place yesterday (July 5, 1802): the whole was over in five minutes: Mr. Pitt and Lord Euston are re-elected. I had a bow this morning from Billy in the Senate-house—so I made up to him and said a word or two to him.’

Soon after this, Lord Nelson was made a D.C.L. by the University of Oxford. The hero was with the Hamiltons and a party of relatives on a tour to Wales: they took Blenheim in their way. The duke was at home—he declined receiving them; but he sent them out something to eat! The descendant of Marlborough had not been introduced to the man as great as he from whom alone the duke possessed the only greatness he enjoyed, and, therefore, he would not shake hands with him![Pg 242] His grace, with the spirit of a Frenchman, kept himself as secure from the defender of his country as he well could; he rolled himself up like a hedgehog and kept his prickles erect. Had it not been for Nelson, he might not then have had Blenheim wherein to nurture his absurd shyness or absurder pride. Blenheim was the only hearth in England at which Nelson was churlishly received, and its master the only man in the kingdom who did not feel on speaking terms with the hero of the Nile. Nelson paid no fee, touched no food, and turned from the dwelling of him who owned none of his great ancestor’s characteristics, save his meanness, with calm contempt.

In 1802 hostilities were again renewed, and, as a matter of course, all eyes were turned to the defender of his country. His eyesight was failing: he had actual fears of becoming blind, but all his fears were suppressed in his eagerness to be of use to his native land. It may be noticed that, in this year, Sir William Hamilton died; and the fact that Nelson’s continued correspondence with the graceful widow is, from this time, no longer addressed to her as ‘dear friend,’ but ‘dearest Emma,’ plainly, perhaps too plainly, denotes the nature of the connection by which they were now bound. To judge of him by what he effected and what he endured during this year, we might assert that he never took rest nor thought of anything[Pg 243] save the welfare of his country and the fighting condition of his fleet; but he had leisure devoted to further the welfare of private friends and other deserving individuals, and he could turn from devising plans for crushing the French to the arrangement of a paddock. All that he immediately cared for was lest his sight should entirely leave him before he could fall upon the French, who had a design upon Naples and Egypt. After he had beaten them, he felt almost certain that his eyes would be in total eclipse: he was resigned to the prospective fate, and contemplated it with a grave but manly resignation.

In a note on a paragraph in a letter written at this time by Lord Nelson, in which he says to Lady Hamilton that she will be sorry but not surprised to hear of Lord Bristol’s death, Dr. Pettigrew informs us that—

—— this nobleman was fourth Earl of Bristol and was also Bishop of Derry. He died on July 8, 1803. To avoid any superstitious exhibition on the part of sailors, who entertain a dread of having a corpse on board, his lordship’s body was packed up in a case and shipped as an antique statue. Could he have anticipated such a circumstance, it would have offered him a capital subject to have written upon.

In 1804, his harassing life in the Mediterranean received something to make it tolerable by his triumph in his case for prize-money against Lord[Pg 244] St. Vincent. It was money fairly won after St. Vincent gave up the command; and his award was 13,000l. The sum rescued him from debt and from anxiety; but the enjoyment of it could not relieve him of his most anxious desire to destroy the French fleet, which wanted no inducement to leave Toulon, only that Nelson was waiting outside to receive them. His vigilance had to be doubled, but he had enough for the emergency, and to spare. Suspicions existed that Spain was about to enter into an armed coalition with France against England, and, without increase to his force, Nelson was ready to meet and confident of annihilating both. With all their advantage of superior strength, the French not only lingered in Toulon, but spread forged intelligence all over Europe that, on their making preparations for sea, Nelson had precipitately fled; but the avenger was still there; and, as now and then a French vessel would occasionally show her bowsprit outside of the harbour and retire in all speed at the sight of the flaunting Jack defying them from seaward, Nelson would say that, if the whole fleet did not soon come out and stand a contest, he should go in and try the effect of putting salt upon their tails!

But his own countrymen, or rather the Government which did not represent the feelings of his countrymen, wounded him more deeply than his worst enemies. Nelson was poor, considering the[Pg 245] rank he had to maintain and the heavy charges, some voluntarily assumed and all honourably acquitted, on his income. The Ministry knew he was poor; but, because he was not ashamed of his poverty, they kept him plunged in it. In the Mediterranean, with war declared against Spain, there was a prospect of rich prizes being made and some substantial reward being given to him and his gallant band for their labours, their devotedness, and their blood. But between these deserving men and their right, evil influences interposed: unknown to Nelson, another admiral and a small squadron were stationed off Cadiz: their office was to capture all the commercial vessels they could: they performed the office to its uttermost letter—hurried to England with the golden argosies, and divided the proceeds so easily and bloodlessly won. When the fact became known to Nelson it severely shook his manly heart: he continued as steadfast as ever in the fulfilment of his duty, endured reiterated disappointment at not meeting with the French, and sealing his course of victory by a final triumph ere he found refuge in his home from the ingratitude of man, and at length returned to England, on leave, determined to enjoy his sweet reward at Merton, since he was denied any by an ungrateful Ministry.

He arrived at Merton on August 20, 1805. On the 13th of the following month, Captain [Pg 246]Blackwood called on Nelson at five in the morning with news that the French and Spanish fleets were in the harbour of Cadiz: Nelson got up, dressed, and was ready to start to ‘give Monsieur Villeneuve a drubbing.’ The two proceeded to the Admiralty, the lords of which were now all eager to grant whatever Nelson asked. The latter knew he must rest satisfied with fifteen or sixteen sail of the line less than his enemies would have in array against him; but with these odds, backed by God’s blessing, he only knew of a full victory as the glorious result. He made some arrangements for those who depended on his bounty—some preparations in case of the sorrowful event that did cloud the general triumph—and, between ten and eleven at night, took his last farewell of Merton and of her who had so long kept him in sweet bonds—gazed once on his sleeping child, breathed a prayer over her, and went forth to death—to death the most glorious that was ever accorded to mortal man whereby to make his passage from time into eternity.

On October 21, he went into battle after fervent prayer to God. How, under fearful odds, he beat his enemy, is known to every schoolboy. Since that day Spain has almost ceased to be a naval power, and France is only now recovering the position from which the hero of that day flung her down. It was a day, the issues of which were left humbly to God, but which were struggled for as[Pg 247] though they depended on the arm of mortal man alone. The triumphant result was purchased at a costly rate—the life of England’s dearest son; his mission was fulfilled: he had destroyed the last coalition made to enslave the world, and he died at the fitting moment of certain victory, leaving all dear to him on earth as a legacy to his native country. May his name live for ever!

Almost the last words uttered by Nelson were the expression of a hope that his country would provide for Lady Hamilton and for his adopted daughter. Nelson’s wife was alive, and the marriage had been without issue. Who, then, was this stranger that so closely occupied the last thoughts of the hero—and who the ‘adopted daughter’?—for such was the designation that engaged so engrossing a share of his love.

As for Lady Nelson, she was indeed alive, but she had long been dead to him. The pair, from the first, had been ill-matched; and what began ill begot no happy consequences. Nelson himself had warmth enough of temperament for two: his wife had none. She was, if we may judge by what is written, unmoved at his great triumphs, without pride in his great fame, and she was the last to welcome him when he came home crowned with great deeds: she was the last woman in the world fitted to be the wife of a hero, and perfectly incapable of controlling a hero’s weaknesses. When[Pg 248] Nelson on one occasion was speaking warmly in his wife’s presence of the talents and beauty of Lady Hamilton, and of the immense services she had rendered his king and country through him, the hot Creole blood fired up: she rose in a whirlwind of passion, exclaiming that she was sick at hearing the name and praises of Lady Hamilton, and that Nelson must either desist from eulogising her or cease to live with his wife. Nelson defended his favourite with good humour; but from that hour utter estrangement ensued between himself and Lady Nelson, resulting in a separation which, once determined on, was never followed by opportunity or inclination for a reconciliation.

The remarkable individual—as remarkable for her great sufferings and great sorrows as for her great errors—who was in a certain degree the cause of breaking up the indifferent home which Nelson found in the companionship of his wife, may be said to have been the last of a race proverbial for bewitching and irresistible beauty—viz., the Lancashire witches. She was born at Preston, in 1764; her father’s name was Lyon, and her parents were of menial condition. The child, named Emma, was, on the early death of her father, taken by her mother to Hawarden, in Flintshire, where her remaining parent sought to support both by industry, and where Emma grew every day in beauty and ignorance. When old enough she was sent forth[Pg 249] to earn her own livelihood. She commenced life in the humble condition of a nursery-maid in a family at Hawarden: subsequently she was engaged in the same capacity in the family of Dr. Budd, Chatham-place, Blackfriars. The good doctor little suspected that he possessed two servants in his house destined to achieve celebrity for themselves, and thus lend something of perpetuity to his own name. The nursemaid was Emma Lyons: the housemaid was Jane Powell, who, in her after career as an actress, was a fine interpreter of Shakespeare, could give interest to the bombast of Nat Lee, and make endurable the platitudes of Rowe—just as Rachel, in our own day, interpreted Racine and endowed with life the metrical dulness of Merope and Chimène. From Dr. Budd’s to the family of a dealer in St. James’s Market was a change from the east to the court end of the town, and it had its consequences. She attracted the attention and won the good-will of a lady of fashion, who withdrew her from servitude and elevated her to what is often more degrading and worse paid, the dignity of a companion. The education she received here was such as might be expected at the hands of a fine lady of the last century. She read all the stilted and not too delicate romances of the day—a course of reading which not only kills time, but which generally destroys the student. It at least did not improve the spelling of the now ‘young[Pg 250] lady’; for to the last, though she talked like Aspasia, she spelled as badly as Caroline of Brunswick—a light fault in a day when countesses spelt Physician with an F, and thought G was the first letter of Augustus! The house of Emma’s patroness was the resort of all the great players, poets, and literati of the day. It was the ‘Gore House’ of its time: perhaps, its glories ended as ignobly. As a home and an asylum for a young girl full of beauty, and given to impulses which she knew not how to govern, it deserved not the name. The poor thing was made the Cynthia of the minute: the Trissotins dedicated sonnets to her; her beauty was deified; incense was daily offered to her by fools and knaves, and even by those who were neither: but yesterday she was toiling for wages, and perhaps complacently receiving the coarse compliments of liveried worshippers: to-day she was tended on by delicate hands, her smiles eagerly sought after, her presence acknowledged by a buzz of admiration, her wit celebrated by the ecstatic praises of the witty, and her intellect directed to everything save to the study of divine things. She loved the refinement which concealed the vice yet unknown to her: what was so pleasant could hardly be sinful, for it brought no remorse. The foolish virgin lacked a man at hand to tell her that she was neglecting her lamp; and it was only in after life, when intellect was superseded by cleverness[Pg 251] and reflection made her matured beauty all the more radiant, that she sorrowingly acknowledged that to her first patroness had been sacrificed the morning of her youth, and that every opportunity neglected had been fruitful in a multitude of after sorrows.

The first public sin, if we may so express it, was the consequence of the exercise of a great virtue. It was the time of the first American war. The press-gangs were in active pursuit of their terrible calling, and by one of these a humble acquaintance had been captured, and was confined on board a tender in the Thames. She personally interceded to procure his liberty: the officer to whom the application was made was Captain, afterwards Admiral, Willet Payne, the companion of the Prince of Wales. This man drove a bargain and became what is cruelly called the ‘protector’ of the friendless Emma. The first false step made, the descent was rapid. From the dissolute seaman she was won by a profligate squire, Sir Harry Fetherstonehaugh; and she speedily enraptured a whole shire of country gentlemen by her bold and graceful riding, subdued them by her wit, and charmed them, they knew not wherefore, by the refinement of her manners. It is a curious trait marking such a career that, though the baronet was nearly ruined by the extravagant profusion into which he plunged for her sake, to the end of life he spoke of her and[Pg 252] wrote to her in terms of the profoundest respect. It was a period when provincial squires were not noted for much delicacy of manner: they had not yet adopted the advice of Lord Chesterfield, and become gentlemanlike in their vices; but nevertheless, like the Athenians of old, they could praise a virtue which they did not practise: not decent themselves, they could admire decency in others.

The unfortunate and fallen woman, on her separation from her ruined admirer, soon learned a deeper misery than she had endured in her native home and early privations. She was at length on the point of being turned into the street by her landlord, who had no admiration for penniless tenants, however greatly endowed with beauty, when she fell in the way of the most stupendous quack that ever gulled the most gullible of patient publics. We need hardly name the once famous Dr. Graham,[2] who, with his mysterious chambers,[Pg 253] golden beds, seraphic music, and impudent medical lectures, for some time persuaded the people that he could lead them to the fountain where played the waters endowing man with eternal and vigorous youth. That he was mysterious only proved that he had a secret, and that it was well worth knowing and richly worth paying for. This quack hired the hungry and heart-broken beauty, exhibited her as the ‘Goddess of Health,’ lectured upon her as the result of his system, and made half the fashionable women of his day mad to become like her, glowing with health and splendid with beauty. This public exhibition gave her a particular fame among artists:[Pg 254] she became the eagerly sought after and highly purchased model of the day. In Romney’s pictures more especially she is constantly repeated, and the eternal sameness is ever varied and charming: she was, indeed, Romney’s inspiration rather than model: he had but to state what he desired or dreamed of, and the vision stood a breathing reality before him. Heroic, as Joan of Arc; crushed by her grief, as a Magdalene; joyous, as a Bacchante; sublime, as Cassandra; winning, as a Wood Nymph; making sorrow graceful, as Calypso; giving rapture double interpretation—first as the Pythian priestess on her tripod, and next as St. Cecilia—gentle, as Serena; lovely, as Sensibility; and perhaps more intellectually lovely still, as Miranda—we can hardly wonder, as we look on these characters, that Hayley, who saw the original stand for them all, rushed into rhyme to immortalise them, and perpetrated verse that was almost tolerable and very nearly worth reading.

We do not know that we may say that she was rescued from this sort of life by meeting with Mr. Charles Fulke Greville. He was not a mere squire, but a gentleman and a connoisseur: he so loved beauty that when he beheld Romney’s model he longed to possess it as he would have longed to possess a Grecian statue. In this case the matter was negotiable: she passed from the studio to the bower. Mr. Greville discovered her mental powers[Pg 255] as well as admired her material beauty, and he was humane enough to do—what no human being had ever thought of doing—educate her. It came of the latest, when the tares had choked the wheat. She progressed, indeed, rapidly in all she studied, and in music she attained a wonderful perfection: her voice, even in speaking, was one to melt the heart: in singing it fairly carried it off by magic. If vanity accompanied the possession of powers such as no one has since possessed—not even our now silent Nightingale—her apology is in her course of life, for much of which others were responsible. This vanity reached its culmination one night at Ranelagh, when, intoxicated by the remarks flung in her way like flowers as she passed, she electrified the entire crowd by breaking forth into song, and, by the exercise of her unequalled vocalisation, flung uncontrollable ecstasy over the idle public of the place. ‘Mr. Greville’ (says Dr. Pettigrew, in his interesting ‘Sketch of Lady Hamilton’) ‘had gone farther than he intended, and became alarmed at her fondness for admiration, and ventured to reproach her for her indiscretion. She retired to her room, threw off the elegant attire in which she was clothed, and, presenting herself before him in a plain cottage dress, proposed to relieve him of her presence. This act, however, served only the more securely to bind him in his chains, and a reconciliation took[Pg 256] place.’ It is reported that three children were the fruit of this connection; but there is a letter from Nelson to Lady Hamilton extant, which, if it does not prove the contrary, shows at least that Nelson knew nothing of it—a not likely circumstance if the alleged fact were one in reality. However this may be, Dr. Pettigrew adds, ‘In the splendid misery in which she lived she hastened to call to her her mother, to whom she was through life most affectionate and attentive.’

In 1789, the year of many sorrows, Mr. Greville found himself, by the French Revolution and other accidents, a nearly ruined man. His uncle, Sir William Hamilton, our minister at Naples, stepped in to relieve him of many of his embarrassments—among them of the lady to whom perhaps some of them might be traced. Dr. Pettigrew says:—‘It is only charitable to suppose Sir William to have been ignorant of his nephew’s connection with Emma, but there have not been wanting reports that the condition of the engagement between Sir William and the lady was the payment of the nephew’s debts.’ At this time Sir William was within a year of threescore. He was neither the Pericles of his age, nor was Emma quite the Aspasia; but when we remember the bond which bound the great statesman and refined lover of refined art to the most beautiful and most accomplished woman in Greece—when we remember that in his home[Pg 257] intellect and skill were almost deified—that to it her presence, her powers, and even her virtues (for all were not wanting because one was absent) gave its chiefest charm—that without her the war against Samos would not have been a matter of history—that she inspired great commanders, and that but for her, much eloquence would have been mute, which, through her, fired Greece to deeds of noble daring—with these memories about us, we say, there is much in the persons and lives of Sir William Hamilton and his wife that reminds us of Pericles and Aspasia, even down to the very circumstance that the great lawgiver took the courtesan to wife after she had been his mistress.

Dr. Pettigrew thus describes Sir William himself:—

Sir William Hamilton was a native of Scotland, born in 1730, and was Minister at Naples for the long period of thirty-six years. He was a distinguished antiquary, remarkable for his taste in, and appreciation of, the fine arts. He possessed also scientific acquirements, and had some knowledge of mineralogy: he was a Trustee of the British Museum, Fellow of the Royal Society, and a Vice-President of the Society of Antiquaries: he was also a distinguished member of the Dillettanti Club, and appears among their portraits in their meeting-room at the Thatched House Tavern. A portrait of him, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, one of his intimate friends, may be seen in the National Gallery. He is known as an author by his works. With the King of Naples he was a great favourite, and largely shared with him the enjoyment of[Pg 258] the chase and other sports, to which the sovereign is well known to have been egregiously addicted.

Such was the sexagenarian philosopher. At this period the Aspasia of his affections, if we may indeed use such a word, was just five-and-twenty. She is thus limned by her biographer:—

Already familiarised to the studies of the painter, and, according to Romney and his biographer, no mean judge of the arts, with Sir William she had in Italy many opportunities of enjoying her taste, of improving herself, and also of imparting knowledge. This she is said to have practically evinced; for with a common piece of stuff she could so arrange it and clothe herself as to offer the most appropriate representations of a Jewess, a Roman matron, a Helen, Penelope, or Aspasia. No character seemed foreign to her, and the grace she was in the habit of displaying under such representations excited the admiration of all who were fortunate enough to have been present on such occasions. The celebrated ‘Shawl Dance’ owes its origin to her invention; but it is admitted to have been executed by her with a grace and elegance far surpassing that with which it has ever been rendered on the stage of any of our theatres. Under the tuition and government of Sir William she improved so greatly, and obtained such complete sway over him, that he resolved upon making her his wife. They came to England, and on September 6, 1791, she, writing the name of Emma Harte (an assumed name under which she had long been known), he married her at the Church of St. George, Hanover Square, resolving to return with her to Naples that she might there be recognised by the Neapolitan Court. But prior to quitting London to return to Naples she was[Pg 259] doomed to experience disappointment; for although she had, through the position of Sir William Hamilton and his high connections, together with her own attractions and accomplishments, gained admission into a very high circle of society, she was very properly refused admission into the Court of St. James’s, which Sir William in vain endeavoured most assiduously to effect. In the society, however, in which she now moved, she became distinguished for her great accomplishments; and the dulness of fashionable life was greatly relieved by her displays as a singer and as an actress. The admiration she excited was universal. It is said that at first, upon the return of Sir William Hamilton to Naples, there was some difficulty in the way of her introduction to the Queen, not having been received at the Court of her own country; that, however, was soon removed, and in a short time she maintained the confidential intercourse with her Majesty. That the Queen of Naples should have become intimately attached to Lady Hamilton cannot be a matter of surprise when we recollect the calamities her family had sustained by the French Revolution. To seek consolation in the bosom of the wife of the English Minister—the Minister of that country which almost stood alone in its opposition to the principles and conduct of the French Revolution—seems natural. Friendship is often created by sympathetic associations called forth under the pressure of affliction, and is sustained by the consolations of hope derived from them. There are many letters in my possession from the Queen of Naples to the Lady Hamilton breathing the most ardent attachment, the most unbounded friendship, and expressing eternal gratitude to her.

It was in the year 1793 that Nelson first saw this dangerous beauty. From the period of her[Pg 260] arrival up to this time, she appears to have been the only source of joy and admiration to the Neapolitan Court. The Duke of Sussex retained to the last lively recollections of her charms, and of the effect she produced when singing with the famous Mrs. Billington. In the eventful year last named Nelson landed at Naples with despatches from Lord Hood. Sir William, as we have said, on returning home after his interview with Nelson, told Lady Hamilton that he was about to introduce to her a little man who could not boast of being very handsome, but who would be the greatest man that England ever produced. ‘I know it’ (said Sir William) ‘from the very few words of conversation I have already had with him. I pronounce’ (said the Minister) ‘that he will one day astonish the world. I have never entertained any officer in my house, but I am determined to bring him here: let him be put in the room prepared for Prince Augustus.’ Nelson is stated to have been equally impressed with Sir William Hamilton’s merits. ‘You are’ (he said) ‘a man after my own heart: you do business in my own way. I am now only captain; but, if I live, I will be at the top of the tree.’ The impression produced upon him by Lady Hamilton, and her kindness towards the son of Nelson’s’ wife by her first marriage, he thus simply describes in one of his letters:—‘Lady Hamilton has been wonderfully kind and good to[Pg 261] Josiah. She is a young woman of amiable manners, and who does honour to the station to which she is raised.’

The early attachment entertained by the Queen of Naples for Lady Hamilton admits of ready and natural explanation. Sir William after his marriage conducted his young bride to Naples by way of Paris, where she was received by the ill-fated Marie-Antoinette. This unhappy queen was sister to the Queen of Naples; and to Lady Hamilton she entrusted the last letter she ever wrote to her scarcely less unhappy relative. The wife of the British Minister became at once the personal friend of the Neapolitan Queen, and her influence so great that the King himself said of her that she had de-Bourbonised them and made them all English. It was from this period that her patriotic mission commenced—a mission which she carried out regardless of personal expense or personal peril, and for the performance of which, though so great in its results, she obtained slight acknowledgment and no recompense.

It was for no individual, but for her country solely, that she exercised her unbounded influence when at Naples. Sir John Jervis named her the ‘patroness of the navy;’ and when he was engaged upon the reduction of Corsica he depended upon Lady Hamilton for despatching to him all the necessaries he required from Naples: he [Pg 262]subsequently confessed that the reduction of the island was facilitated and expedited by her aid and energy. At a time when British interests were at stake and nearly all Europe was engaged in destroying them, she was unceasingly wakeful to maintain and strengthen them. We had about this time a most uncertain ally in Spain. It came to the knowledge of Lady Hamilton that a Spanish courier had arrived at Naples with a letter for the King: she forthwith repaired to the Queen, and so exercised the power she possessed over even the powerful mind of that Sovereign that she induced her to repair to the King’s cabinet and abstract the important document from the monarch’s possession. The letter was obtained: it was from the King of Spain himself, and it announced his determination to break up his old alliance and to unite with France against England. Sir William Hamilton was sick and incapable of action; but ‘our General’s wife was now the General;’ and she further prevailed on the Queen to allow her to take a copy of the document. This copy she transmitted by a secure but costly method to Lord Grenville. To effect its safe arrival cost her out of her own private purse not less than four hundred pounds sterling. She was hardly thanked and was never remunerated.

But ingratitude did not render her patriotism weary or unwilling: year after year the British[Pg 263] flag in the Mediterranean was indebted to her for triumphs which it achieved, because without her aid the English could not have profited even by opportunity. It must be remembered, too, as Dr. Pettigrew justly remarks, ‘that at this period so high were French ascendency and revolutionary principles in Naples that it was absolutely dangerous for the British Minister to go to court.’

Her greatest service, though not her last, remains to be mentioned. It is of that importance that it merits being mentioned in detail, and the details are so clearly and concisely told by Dr. Pettigrew that we cannot do better than adopt them. Never was service more greatly needed: its having been rendered saved England, changed the aspect of European politics, and gave to Lady Hamilton a branch of the showers of laurel that fell to the victors at the Nile:—

In June, 1798, about three days after the French fleet had passed by for Malta, Sir William and Lady Hamilton were awakened one morning about six o’clock by the arrival of Captain Trowbridge with a letter from Sir Horatio Nelson, then with the fleet lying off the bay near to Capri, ‘requesting that the ambassador would procure him permission to enter with his fleet into Naples or any of the Sicilian ports to provision, water, &c., as otherwise he must run for Gibraltar, being in urgent want; and that, consequently, he would be obliged to give up all further pursuit of the French fleet which he had missed at Egypt on account of their having put into Malta.’ At this time[Pg 264] Naples had made peace with France, and an ambassador was resident then at Naples. One of the stipulations of the treaty which had been entered into was to the effect that no more than two English ships of war should enter into any of the Neapolitan or Sicilian ports. However, Sir William Hamilton called up Sir John Acton, the Minister, who immediately convened a council at which the King was present. This was about half-past six. Lady Hamilton went immediately to the Queen, who received her in her bed-room: she represented to her Majesty that the safety of the two Sicilies now depended upon her conduct, and that should the council, as she feared that under the circumstances they must do, decide on negative or half measures, the Sicilies must be lost if Nelson were not supplied agreeably to his request, by which he would be enabled to follow the great French force which had passed in that direction only a few days before. Nothing could exceed the alarm with which the Queen received this intelligence: she urged that the King was in council and would decide with his Ministers. Lady Hamilton dictated, and the Queen wrote a positive order, ‘directed to all governors of the two Sicilies to receive with hospitality the British fleet to water, victual, and aid them.’ In every way this order, as Lady Hamilton well knew, would be more respected than that which might emanate from the King. The council did not break up until eight o’clock, and Lady Hamilton attended Captain Trowbridge and her husband to their residence! The faces of the King, of Acton, and Sir William too plainly told the determination at which they had arrived, and that they could not then break with France. On the way home Lady Hamilton told Sir William and Captain Trowbridge that she had anticipated the result and provided against[Pg 265] it; that, whilst they were in council debating on the application, she had been with the Queen and had not without effect implored her Majesty to render the aid required: she then, to his great astonishment and delight, produced the order in question. Nothing could exceed the gladness this occasioned. Trowbridge declared that it would ‘cheer Nelson to ecstasy;’ and that by this means they should be enabled to pursue and conquer the French fleet, otherwise they must have gone for Gibraltar. Sir William Hamilton wrote to Sir Horatio Nelson, communicating to him the formal decision of the council; but added, ‘You will receive from Emma herself what will do the business and procure all your wants.’ Lady Hamilton enclosed to the admiral the order, praying him ‘that the Queen might be as little committed in the use of it as the glory and service of the country would admit of.’ To this Nelson replied that he received the precious order, and that if he gained the battle it should be called hers and the Queen’s; for to Lady Hamilton he should owe his success, as without the order their return to Gibraltar was decided upon; but, he added, ‘I will now come back to you crowned with laurels or covered with cypress.’

It was more especially for this service rendered when he was in his utmost need that Nelson, while dying, recommended Lady Hamilton to the memory and gratitude of his country. The effect of this service we need not repeat. The British ships watered and victualled at Syracuse, spread their huge wings in pursuit of their foe, and at the Nile launched their heavy thunder to his destruction.[Pg 266] On the 20th of September the triumphant squadron arrived at Naples, where ships, officers, and men found every want supplied and every wish anticipated. ‘But especially’ (says Dr. Pettigrew) ‘were the broken health and wounded body of the valorous chief regarded. Nelson was taken into the British Minister’s house, and there personally tended by her whose sympathies had been so awakened, and by whose attentions he was after a time restored to health.’ Her services did not terminate here. While all at Naples were at the very high top-gallant of their joy, Lady Hamilton induced the court to break altogether with the French. The ambassador of the Republic was consequently dismissed with scanty courtesy and in considerable haste. When, at a later period, a French army marched on Naples itself and the royal family were reduced to fly to Palermo, the chief arrangements for the safety of the lives and properties of others were made or carried out by Lady Hamilton: she privately removed from the palace the royal jewels and thirty-six barrels of gold. These were marked ‘Stores for Nelson,’ and under that device were safely shipped. Indeed, it was not till the treasure was secured that the King consented to embark. In a despatch to the Admiralty Lord Nelson says, ‘Lady Hamilton seemed to be an angel dropped from heaven for the preservation of the royal family.’ To effect[Pg 267] that preservation she was regardless of her own. On the night in which she personally assisted the King, Queen, and children to escape, she attended a party given by Kelim Effendi: she withdrew from this party on foot, leaving her equipage in front of the house, hastened to the place of meeting, conducted the royal family by a subterranean passage to Nelson’s boat waiting to receive them, embarked with the fugitives, and with them went before the storm that blew them to Palermo. To accomplish this Sir William and his wife voluntarily abandoned their entire possessions in their house at Naples: they did not convey away one single article. The whole of their private property was thus left behind in order to prevent discovery of their proceedings in behalf of the royal family. The value of Lady Hamilton’s portion thus abandoned amounted to 9,000l.; not less than 30,000l.’s worth of property was sacrificed which belonged to Sir William. The virtue of this sacrifice was the sole reward gained by those who made it.

It was in this year (1799) that Sir Alexander Ball, who held a part of Malta, the French occupying another part, sent despatches to Nelson at Palermo for provisions, without which he would be compelled to surrender. Nelson was absent at his old occupation looking after the enemies of England. Lady Hamilton opened the despatches, purchased several entire cargoes of corn at her own[Pg 268] risk, and forwarded them to the half-starved English in Malta. She expended 5,000l., of which not one shilling was ever returned to her. All that she profited thereby was in receiving the order of St. John of Jerusalem from the Emperor Paul, Grand Master of the Knights. England owed her much and acknowledged nothing. The Queen of Naples acted with more generosity: she put into the hands of Lady Hamilton, on parting from her subsequently at Vienna, a conveyance of 1,000l. per annum; but the latter magnanimously destroyed the deed, remarking that ‘England was just, and to her faithful servants generous, and that she should feel it unbecoming to her own beloved and magnanimous Sovereign to accept of meed or reward from any other hand.’

But the same year is also marked by an occurrence the very mention of which seems to obscure the brightness of Nelson’s name and to fling an additional lurid hue round that of the wife of a British Minister. We say seems; for in truth there is more of seeming than of reality in it, and yet all is not seeming and there is something real. We allude, of course, to the case of Admiral Prince Carracciolo. According to some he was murdered by Nelson at the instigation of Lady Hamilton, who was so fiercely Royalist that, if we may believe partial writers, the blood of a Jacobin was to her of marvellous sweet savour. Divested of exaggeration the story of old [Pg 269]Carracciolo is simply this—He was a rich, valiant, and aged seaman, and warmly attached to Royalty until the triumph of Republicanism endangered those who had a distaste for Commonwealths. When the Neapolitan royal family fled from Naples to Sicily their hitherto faithful old servant followed them thither: when the heads of the party who had proclaimed a Republic at Naples threatened to confiscate the property of absentees, Carracciolo returned to protect his own. In thinking over-much of himself he forgot fealty to his Sovereign, and in a brief period he became as hot a Republican as ever he had been an eager Royalist. He took up arms against his King, opposed his restoration, and fired upon his flag. After the principal body of rebels had capitulated to the force in arms to give the King his own again, he was captured in open rebellion, taken on board the Foudroyant, Lord Nelson’s own ship, and there given up to be tried by a court-martial. Nelson, as chief of the united Sicilian and English squadrons, ordered this court-martial to be held: it was formed exclusively of Sicilian officers, but it was held on board the English admiral’s ship. The trial did not exactly exhibit a specimen of Jedburgh justice, by which a man is hung first and tried afterwards, but there was a spirit manifested that was very much akin to it. The president of the court, Count Thurn, was a personal enemy though an old shipmate of[Pg 270] Carracciolo. The case for the prosecution was soon gone through: the facts were clear, patent, and undeniable; but the brave and misguided old seaman made a most gallant, fearless, and almost irresistible defence. Probably, the worst enemy of the crown of Naples was the King himself: he was worthless, selfish, weak, vain, and pompous. Carracciolo asserted that he had not deserted the royal cause, but that in fact the King himself had betrayed it: when there was no longer a royalty to defend that was worth the keeping, then alone had he joined the Republicans. Thus far the defence was, perhaps, founded on truth. It was not less true when Carracciolo alluded to his property and the risk he ran of rendering his posterity beggars if he had not taken office under the Republican flag; but this was a sort of truth that was even less valid as an apology for rebellion than the former. The court unanimously found him guilty and sentenced him to be hung by the neck at the yard-arm of his own flag-ship. ‘Hereafter’ (said the undaunted old man with some emotion)—‘hereafter, when you shall be called to your great account, you will weep for this unjust sentence in tears of blood. I take shame to myself for asking for any favour from such men; but, if possible, I wish to be shot as becomes my rank, and not hung up like a felon and a dog.’ ‘It is inadmissible’ (was the curt and savage reply of the court), ‘and the court is hereby[Pg 271] dissolved.’ What followed is ever to be deplored. Dr. Pettigrew struggles ably and manfully to defend Nelson from all blame, but he struggles unsuccessfully. The facts are these—even by Dr. Pettigrew’s admission. The sentence was no sooner made known than Nelson issued an order for the immediate execution. The guilty man was to be hung from six o’clock till sunset, ‘when you will have his body cut down and thrown into the sea.’ So run the words to which the name of Nelson is affixed. Lieutenant Parkinson, at the request of the doomed man, interceded with the admiral; but to the prayer of Carracciolo, that he might die the death of a man and not that of a dog, Nelson refused to interfere, and harshly bade the poor lieutenant to go and attend to his duty. The result was that Carracciolo was ignominiously run up to the yard-arm, not of his own flag-ship, but to that of Lord Nelson. The English admiral not only refused the mercy that he unquestionably might have granted, but he, in some sort, became the executioner: he not only insisted that the sentence of hanging should be carried into effect, but he lent a gallows for the purpose.

The sentence was just, and the unfortunate old warrior merited death; but justice would have been satisfied had the great criminal been allowed the melancholy privilege of falling as he might have done in battle. At all events, the yard-arm[Pg 272] of a British ship ought not to have been lent for the purpose of hanging a foreigner who had betrayed his trust to a foreign king. In thus much does blame appear attributable to Nelson. That any is due to Lady Hamilton, or that Nelson was in the least degree influenced by her on this occasion, we disbelieve, simply for the reason that such an assertion is unsusceptible of proof.

But the Foudroyant was the scene of other disgraces. We come to the mention of them with reluctance, and will narrate them with all possible brevity. In 1800, Sir William Hamilton was superseded as British Minister at Naples: he and Lady Hamilton, with the Queen of Naples, were on board Nelson’s ship. Nelson himself was now a Neapolitan duke. The whole party were about to leave the Mediterranean, and, with the exception of the Queen, whose destination was Vienna, to return to England by land through Germany. It was during the passage from Palermo to Malta that the intimacy took place which resulted in the birth of that little Horatia who was long thought to be the daughter of the Queen of Naples, but whom Dr. Pettigrew, under Nelson’s own hand, proves to be the child of Lady Hamilton. That Nelson was the child’s father no one ever doubted. The strange party—husband, wife, and friend—reached London in November, 1800. Lady Nelson was not among those who stood first to greet the arrival of the hero[Pg 273] or who at meeting greeted him with any warmth of feeling. She had, possibly, heard through her son, Captain Nisbet, of the too friendly terms which existed between her husband and the wife of another. His home was, in consequence, an unhappy one, and he left it to proceed on an excursion with Sir William and his lady. This excursion was an ovation which reached its highest point at Fonthill. Here the celebrities in art, rather than the noble by birth, were assembled to meet the illustrious party: here Banti, the Pasta of her day, joined her voice with the ex-ambassadress; and here West looked on and smiled.

In the gallery of the Abbey, after the repast, the company assembled, and Lady Hamilton enchanted them with one of her remarkable personations—that of Agrippina bearing the ashes of Germanicus in a golden urn, and as presenting herself before the Roman people with the design of exciting them to revenge the death of her husband, who, after having been declared joint Emperor by Tiberius, fell a victim to his envy, and is supposed to have been poisoned by his order at the head of the forces which he was leading against the rebellious Arminians ... Lady Hamilton displayed with truth and energy every gesture, attitude, and expression of countenance, which could be conceived in Agrippina herself, best calculated to have roused the passions of the Romans in behalf of their favourite general. The action of her head, of her hands and arms, in the various positions of the urn, in her manner of presenting it to the Romans, or of raising it up to the gods in the act of supplication, was most[Pg 274] classically graceful. Every change of dress, principally of the head, to suit the different situations in which she successively presented herself, was performed instantaneously with the most perfect ease, and without retiring or scarcely turning aside a moment from the spectators. In the last scene of this beautiful piece of pantomime, she appeared with a young lady of the company who was to personate a daughter. Her action in this part was so perfectly just and natural, and so pathetically addressed to the spectators as to draw tears from several of the company.

When the character of the Roman dress is remembered, it is difficult to believe that the representative of Agrippina was in the condition noticed by Dr. Pettigrew.

The final separation between Nelson and his wife took place in the January of 1801. The last scene between the latter is thus described by a yet living witness, Mr. Haslewood:—

In the winter of 1800-1, I was breakfasting with Lord and Lady Nelson at their lodgings in Arlington Street, and a cheerful conversation was passing on indifferent subjects when Lord Nelson spoke of something which had been done or said by ‘dear Lady Hamilton,’ upon which Lady Nelson rose from her chair and exclaimed, with much vehemence—‘I am sick of hearing of dear Lady Hamilton, and am resolved that you shall give up either her or me.’ Lord Nelson, with perfect calmness, said—‘Take care, Fanny, what you say; I love you sincerely, but I cannot forget my obligations to Lady Hamilton, or speak of her otherwise than with affection and admiration.’ Without[Pg 275] one soothing word or gesture, but muttering something about her mind being made up, Lady Nelson left the room, and, shortly after, drove from the house. They never lived together afterwards. I believe that Lord Nelson took a formal leave of her ladyship before joining the fleet under Sir Hyde Parker.

Dr. Pettigrew cites this letter of Mr. Haslewood to show that the separation was unavoidable on Lord Nelson’s part: it appears to us to have been inevitable and necessary. Perhaps the strangest part of this incident is that Nelson’s family closely attached themselves to Lady Hamilton. We must make exception, however, of the still stranger incident—namely, the birth of Lady Hamilton’s daughter at her residence in Piccadilly, the absence of all attempt to confer the honours of paternity on Sir William, and the consequent mystification. The birth took place about the last day of January 1801. The child was conveyed to a nurse about a week or ten days afterwards, and was not the home companion of its guilty parents until 1803, after the death of Sir William Hamilton. Nelson’s daughter was recently alive, and was formerly married to Captain Ward, late of the 81st regiment.

Before the death of Sir William Hamilton, Lord Nelson had made his house their common residence. At the death of the former, he, with something of an affected decency, quitted it for private lodgings. Sir William left his widow[Pg 276] totally unprovided for. He thought, as Nelson thought, that the Government would not hesitate to make her an ample provision for her services. In the meantime, waiting for an event that was never to occur, Lord Nelson purchased Merton. It is yet the object of many a sailor’s pilgrimage, and is about ten minutes’ walk from the Wimbledon station. Here he offered the deserted widow and the mother of his child a refuge—nay, more, a home. It was such to her; for there she enjoyed the homage and respect not only of every member of Nelson’s family, but also of the great and good of the exterior world. Never was woman placed in so anomalous a condition, in which the anomaly was so carefully concealed from herself and unheeded by the world.

It should have had the realities of the virtue of which it bore so well the semblance. That it had not was, perhaps, one of the causes why it endured so brief a space. It is most touching to read the letters of Nelson, cited by Dr. Pettigrew, and written to his child’s mother at home. The heavy responsibilities connected with Trafalgar, the anxieties coming thick and fast, the duties he had to fulfil—none of these things rendered him forgetful of his treasure. For the safety of one little life his heart beat as only a parent’s heart can beat; and while meditating the array of battle, in which his own life was to cloud the splendour of the[Pg 277] victory, he found leisure to send home detailed instructions how a substantial netting should be raised in the grounds of Merton to preserve little Horatia from falling into a pond ambitiously called the Nile. There wanted but one thing to give holiness to Nelson’s character as a father.

To this, as to all his worldly glory, and to all the felicity that had hitherto rested upon Merton, a sudden termination was given by the fatal ball which struck him, when his glory was greatest, on the deck of the Victory, at Trafalgar. The last request of such a man, made in such an hour, and amid such a triumph, purchased by him with his heart’s blood—the dying request of such a man ought to have been held sacred by his country. For five years Lady Hamilton struggled on at Merton: she made application to every source, but she applied in vain. The recompense justly due to her for services rendered was withheld or denied under the most shabby and futile pretences. The worst of all, perhaps, was the pretence, or the plea, of the length of time that had expired since the service itself was rendered!

In a codicil annexed to his will, and made by Nelson as he was about to enter into action at Trafalgar, the Admiral, with a strong feeling that death was near him, asked two favours of his King and Country in whose defence he was about to offer up his own life—one was, protection and[Pg 278] provision for Lady Hamilton, whose late husband was the King’s foster-brother; the other, goodwill for his ‘adopted daughter.’ He solemnly bequeathed both to his sovereign and his fellow-countrymen. When the will was proved, this codicil was held back by the Rev. William Nelson, although he and his family had been partaking of Lady Hamilton’s hospitality for months. Indeed, during six years, she was a second mother to his children, to whom he recommended Lady Hamilton as an example and enjoined obedience to her as an instructress. ‘The Earl (says Dr. Pettigrew—for the reverend gentleman was created an earl) fearful that Lady Hamilton should be provided for in the sum Parliament was expected to grant to uphold the hero’s name and family, kept the codicil in his pocket until the day 120,000l. was voted for that purpose. On that day he dined with Lady Hamilton in Clarges Street, and, hearing at table what had been done, he brought forward the codicil, and, throwing it to Lady Hamilton, coarsely said she might now do with it as she pleased. She had it registered the next day at Doctors’ Commons, where it is now to be seen.’

With insufficient means to live in her old dignity at Merton, and with little knowledge of how to make the best of those means, accustomed to find others her stewards and unused to provide for hours of necessity, she at length found herself[Pg 279] compelled to make an assignment of the home which Nelson had established for her and their child. She removed to Richmond, and, subsequently, had lodgings in Bond Street. Pursued by creditors, without her child for whom she had no home—and for whom such protection as she could give was not that which a child most needed—she led a miserable life, which was hardly rendered more miserable by her incarceration, in 1813, in the King’s Bench. She passed ten months in this captivity, and was only relieved at last by the humanity of Alderman Smith. With freedom came no measure of happiness: utterly destitute, and abandoned by those who in the days of her prosperity professed to be her slaves, she fled the country that would not aid her, and sought succour in a foreign land. She found shelter, and nothing more, in Calais, in a miserable house, kindly lent her, however, by a Monsieur de Rheims. That it was only shelter, and nothing else, may be inferred from the following account handed to Dr. Pettigrew by the lady who enacts in it so graceful a part:—

Mrs. Hunter was in the habit of ordering meat daily at a butcher’s for a little dog, and on one of these occasions was met by Monsieur de Rheims, who followed her exclaiming, ‘Ah, Madam!—ah, Madam! I know you to be good to the English. There is a lady here who would be glad of the worst bit of meat you provide for your dog.’ When questioned as to who the lady was, and promising that she should not want for anything, he declined telling,[Pg 280] saying that she was too proud to see anyone, and that besides he had promised her secrecy. Mrs. Hunter begged him to provide her with everything she required, &c., as if coming from himself, and she would pay for it. This he did for some time, until she became very ill, when he pressed her to see the lady who had been so kind to her; and, upon hearing that her benefactress was not a person of title, she consented, saw her, thanked her, and blessed her.

Shortly after this her infirmities increased, and ultimately she died at Calais of water on the chest, on January 15, 1815. Dr. Pettigrew gives no credence to the report of an anonymous foreign writer that she had been converted to the Romish faith, and had received the sacrament from a Romish priest as long before as during her confinement in the King’s Bench. That she died, as the same anonymous author reported, in the bosom of the Catholic Church, and received its sacraments on her death-bed, can be as little confirmed. The Romish Church would have buried a convert with willing ceremony: as it was, the method of the sad solemnity was thus ordered for one who, even in death, remained, as described by Mrs. Hunter, exceedingly beautiful:—

Mrs. Hunter was anxious to have her interred according to English custom, for which, however, she was only laughed at; and poor Emma was put into a deal-box without any inscription. All that this good lady states that she was permitted to do was to make a kind of pall[Pg 281] out of her black silk petticoat stitched on a white curtain. Not an English Protestant clergyman was to be found in all Calais or its vicinity; and, so distressed was this lady to find some one to read the burial service over her remains, that she went to an Irish half-pay officer in the Rue du Havre, whose wife was a well-informed Irish lady. He was absent at the time; but, being sent for, most kindly went and read the service over the body. Lady Hamilton was buried in a piece of ground in a spot just outside the town, formerly called the gardens of the Duchess of Kingston, which had been consecrated and was used as a public cemetery till 1816. The ground, which had neither wall nor fence to protect it, was some years since converted into a timber-yard, and no traces of the graves now remain. Mrs. Hunter wished to have placed a head or foot-stone, but was refused. She, therefore, placed a piece of wood in the shape, as she describes it to me, of a battledore, handle downwards, on which was inscribed ‘Emma Hamilton, England’s friend.’ This was speedily removed—another placed and also removed; and the good lady at length threatened to be shot by the sentinel if she persisted in those offices of charity. A small tombstone was, however, afterwards placed there, and was existing in 1833.

To the latter assertion we may remark that no tombstone was existing there in the month of August of the latter year. We searched the field very narrowly for the purpose, and found but one record of the decease of an English sojourner. The grave itself was pointed out to us by a Calaisian, but its locality was only traditionary.[Pg 282] About nine pounds’ worth of effects, twelve shillings in money, a few clothes, and some duplicates of pawned plate were all that was left by the companion and friend of queens. Little as it was, the Reverend Earl Nelson hastened to Calais to claim it. He expected more, and in his cupidity wished to take the pledged trinkets without paying the necessary expenses for getting them out of pawn; he would not even discharge the few debts incurred by her death. These were discharged by Mr. Cadogan, to whom Horatia was entrusted (Mrs. Matcham, Nelson’s sister, receiving her after Lady Hamilton’s decease), and to whom, as to Alderman Smith, the forlorn creature was indebted for much aid ere death placed her beyond the need of requiring it.

This tale bears with it its own moral: retribution followed offence: the commission of sin reaped its usual reward; the wanderer from virtue was visited with terrible affliction; and the penalty awaited not its commencement till the knell of the offender had summoned her to judgment. Thus much man knows, but with thus much he has not condescended to rest satisfied; and the sons of the seducers have been eager to cast stones at her whom their fathers enticed to sin. In the remembrance of her faults they make no account of her services, of her suffering, or of her sorrows; they have no idea that, if there was guilt, there might[Pg 283] have been reconciliation, and that the dark season of her long last agony might have been passed in

Owning her weakness,
Her evil behaviour,
And leaving with meekness,
Her sins to her Saviour.

No: man who bore part in the offence constituted himself the judge of this poor daughter of frailty, and she met with such mercy at his hands as man is accustomed to give.

Do not let it be supposed that we are advocates or even apologists in this case: our only anxiety is that, in the sacrifice of one, impunity may not be gained by, perhaps, greater offenders. Let not the man who flung her beauty and her virtue into ruin be allowed to escape. Her sins were of man’s making: if these are to be remembered, let his share in them form part of the example we are taught to avoid. By man she was ruined in body and perilled in soul. Throughout the course of her life she does not appear to have met with one who acted by her in a spirit of Christian charity and anxiety: she was born with qualities that should have led her heavenward: she was early pushed from the path thither tending; nor amid all her royal, her noble, and alas! her clerical companions, was there one who persuaded her that she was erring—nay, but the contrary.[Pg 284] The whole correspondence, now for the first time divulged in these volumes, shows the wickedness of men who could seduce to sin—their guilt in maintaining such terms with her who had fallen as to make her feel assured that she had neither incurred sin nor merited disgrace—and their baseness in making her in her helplessness feel with double weight the penalty of a crime which they had in the days of her greatness held to be none. Let us, indeed, learn wisdom from a tale, the heroine of which does not afford the sole example that is to be avoided; but be it also ours to remember her services rather than her sins. The latter, with those of the first seducer who made of her very charity a means to destroy her for ever, may be left to Him who will render an unerring sentence when seducer and victim are in presence together at the tribunal of truth. At all events, let not the hardest blows of humanity fall on the weakest offender. She would have been better but for man—that she was not much worse was for no lack of energy on his part to make her so.

Who made the heart, ’tis He alone
Decidedly can try us:
He knows each chord, its various tone—
Each spring, its various bias.
Then at the balance let’s be mute,
We never can adjust it.
What’s done we partly can compute,
But know not what’s resisted.


[2] Graham first appeared in London in 1782. He was a graduate of Edinburgh, wrote in a bombastic style, and possessed a great fluency of elocution. He opened in Pall Mall a mansion which he called the ‘Temple of Health.’ The front was ornamented with an enormous gilt sun, a statue of Hygeia, &c. The rooms were superbly furnished, and the decorations, mirrors, &c., gave to the whole the appearance of an enchanted palace. Single admission to his lectures on health and the birth of children cost two guineas—a sum readily given. The Goddess of Health usually delivered a supplementary lecture when the doctor concluded. When two guinea auditors were exhausted, his two gigantic porters, decked in gorgeous liveries, deluged the town with bills stating that the lectures would be delivered at one guinea each. The descending scale ultimately reached half-a-crown, and at last he exhibited the Temple of Health itself at one shilling per head. Its chief attraction was a ‘celestial bed,’ with rich hangings and glass legs. The quack promised such results from merely sleeping on this enchanted couch that married persons of high rank and respectability were known to have given one hundred pounds for the accommodation. Persons more foolish still and as highly exalted were found who gave him one thousand pounds for a supply of his ‘elixir of life.’ He then, when dupes were not grown scarce, but required variety in the means of imposition, took to the practice and public exhibition of earth-bathing. He and his goddess stood an hour each day immersed to the chin in earth, above which their heads appeared, dressed in the extravagant fashion of the day. In this position he delivered a lecture on the salubrity of the practice at sums for single admissions which commenced at a guinea and ended at a shilling. When all London had heard and seen him he made a provincial tour; but, in spite of his elixir of life, he died at the early age of fifty-two; and, in spite of the facility with which he gained money, he died in poverty. The famous Mrs. Macaulay married his brother, and Dr. Arnold, of Leicester, the author of an able treatise on insanity, married his sister. In the profession of the most impudent quackery Dr. Graham has never been equalled, either for impudence or the success which attended it.

[Pg 285]


Lady Mary Pierrepont, when she wrote to Mr. Wortley touching the death of his sister, said she had lost what she loved most, and could thenceforth only love those who were nearest and dearest to her departed friend. Out of this hint, it may be, came the marriage of Lady Mary and Mr. Wortley. It seemed a disinterested match on both sides, but it was not fruitful in happiness. Of this union were born a son and daughter; the mother reserved all her love for the latter.

The son was born in May 1713. Within two months from that date Lady Mary had left her firstborn to mercenary, but perhaps efficient and kindly care. In July she wrote to her husband, ‘I heard from your little boy yesterday, who is in good health.’ In that phrase, so cold in its unmotherly temper, may perhaps be found the cause why that ‘little boy’ became so wayward, and why he developed into a man so wilful and so irreclaimable. In 1717 the boy was taken by his parents to Constantinople, where Mr. Wortley[Pg 286] acted, for a few months, as English representative. On the return from this embassy, Lady Mary tarried for a while at Belgrade. At that time the small-pox was a deadly scourge in England. In Turkey it was less mortal. The infidel Turk anticipated and modified the disease by inoculation. Lady Mary had the courage to submit her child to the novel system of ‘engrafting,’ as it was called. In a letter written at Belgrade in March 1718 she says: ‘The boy was engrafted last Tuesday, and is at this time singing and playing, very impatient for his supper. I pray God my next may give as good an account of him.’ For society at large the step which Lady Mary took was most beneficial; but few mothers, however courageous, would have had the heart, in a foreign land too, to suffer such an experiment to be made on an only son, not yet five years of age. She had, however, full confidence in the efficacy of the proceeding: and she remarked that she would have imparted the matter to the doctors generally, only that they were too selfish to sanction a course which would diminish their incomes!

In the following year commenced the daring escapades of this young gentleman. In 1719 he became a Westminster Scholar. Within six months he was missing from the school, and his friends had such knowledge of his tastes that they searched for him in the lowest purlieus of[Pg 287] London. They sought for this mere child in vain; till after some time a Mr. Foster and a servant of Mr. Wortley, being in the neighbourhood of Blackwall, heard a boy crying ‘Fish!’ The voice was familiar, the boy, on being seen, was recognised, and his master, a fisherman, to whom the child—so it is said—had bound himself to help to sell the fish which they had caught together, parted from him with a regret that was felt on both sides. The truant was reinstated at school, if not at home, but in a brief time the bird was flown and left no trace behind him. A year or two, perhaps more, had elapsed when the Quaker captain of a ship trading to Oporto, and the British consul in that city, were looking at a young fellow driving some laden asses from the vineyards through the city gates. The captain saw in the lad a sailor who had come on board in the Thames, and run away from his ship on its arrival at Oporto. He had gone up country and found employment, although he was ignorant of the language. The consul knew him in his real personality, and the adventurous hero was shipped for home, where he was kept not so strictly as if the keepers would be sorry at his again escaping. Edward Wortley took a convenient opportunity to do so, and when he was next recognised he was acting diligently, as he had always done, this time as a common sailor in the Mediterranean. There[Pg 288] was the making of a hero in this resolute boy, if he had only been allowed to follow his inclinations. On the contrary, he was exiled to the West Indies, with Foster to attend him as teacher and guardian. They spent several years there; and the boy, who preferred to battle with and for life, to spending it in ease and luxury, had nothing to do but to study the classics, which he did, as he did most things, with energy and a certain success. How he failed, or neglected to leave Foster in the lurch, is not explained. Neither do we know anything of his actual life after his return to England, for many years. Had he been left at sea, Edward Wortley would probably have distinguished himself. As it was he abused life, but only as other ‘young sparks’ did in England; and he filled up the measure of his offences by marrying a handsome honest laundress, older than himself, of whom he got tired in a few weeks. A small annuity reconciled her to living comfortably by herself. After this, all is dark, and we cannot come again upon the trail but by the help of Lady Mary’s letters.

There are few references made to her son by Lady Mary, except in letters to her husband when she was living abroad, ranging from 1741 to 1752. In a letter from Genoa, in 1741, she regrets having to bring before her husband ‘so disagreeable a subject as our son.’ The son was then anxious to procure a dissolution of his marriage with the[Pg 289] laundress, but the laundress was a decent woman, living a blameless life, and she could defy Parliament to pass an Act annulling her marriage, even if the father had been willing to help the son to such purpose, which he was not. The mother was unmotherly severe on the son. ‘Time,’ she writes, ‘has no effect, and it’s impossible to convince him of his true situation.’ The son then passed by an assumed name. The name being mentioned to Lady Mary by a stranger, with reference to the responsibility of the bearer of it, she replied, ‘the person was, to my knowledge, not worth a groat, which was all I thought proper to say on the subject.’

In 1742 this ‘fool of quality’ was now wandering, now tarrying on the Continent, under the name of M. de Durand. In the June of that year his mother encountered him, and passed two days with him at Valence, an ancient city on the Rhone. In various letters to her husband, she speaks of ‘our son’ as altered almost beyond recognition, with beauty gone, a look of age not warranted by his years, and, though submissive, with an increase of the old wildness in his eyes that shocked her, as it suggested some fatal termination. He had grown fat, but was still genteel and agreeably polite. She was charmed with his fluently-expressed French, but she noted a general volubility, yet without enthusiasm, of speech, which [Pg 290]inconsiderate people took for wit; and a weakness of understanding and of purpose, exposing him to be led by more resolute spirits. ‘With his head,’ she says, ‘I believe it is possible to make him a monk one day and a Turk three days after.’ Flattering and insinuating, he caught the favour of strangers, ‘but,’ says the not too-indulgent lady, ‘he began to talk to me in the usual silly cant I have so often heard from him, which I shortened by telling him I desired not to be troubled with it; and that the only thing that could give me hopes of good conduct was regularity and truth.’ She credited him with ‘a superficial universal knowledge,’ as the result of what he had seen. His acquaintance with modern languages was undoubted, but she did not believe that he knew Arabic and Hebrew. He promised to proceed to Flanders, and there wait his father’s orders; adding, that he would keep secret the interview with his mother; but M. de Durand ‘rode straight to Montélimart, where he told at the Assembly that he came into this country purely on my orders ... talking much of my kindness to him, and insinuating that he had another name, much more considerable than that he appeared with.’

Edward Wortley was in England in the early part of the above year. In the latter part he went to Holland, where he resided, a sort of prisoner at large, by desire of his father, who allowed him a[Pg 291] small income on condition of submission to the paternal will. ‘I hear,’ wrote Lady Mary, ‘he avoided coming near the sharpers, and is grown a good manager of his money. I incline to think he will, for the future, avoid thieves and other persons of good credit.’ When persons of really ‘good credit’ spoke well of him, as Lord Carteret did, the mother rather doubted than accepted the testimony. ‘Whenever,’ she wrote to her husband, ‘he kept much company, it would be right to get him confined, to prevent his going to the pillory or the gallows;’ and she described his excuses for his conduct as ‘those of murderers and robbers!’ Young Wortley was desirous of joining the army in Flanders; his mother doubted his sincerity, and insisted that he should go as a volunteer. If his father bought him a commission, she was sure it would be ‘pawned or sold in a twelvemonth.’ Whether as volunteer or commissioned officer, he did serve in Flanders. No news to grieve a parent’s heart came thence; upon which circumstance Lady Mary wrote to her husband in 1744: ‘I think it is an ill sign you have had no letters from Sir John Cope concerning him. I have no doubt he would be glad to commend his conduct if there were any room for it;’ and she was inclined to blame the father for over-indulgence to his son. She had no sympathy even for the amiable weaknesses of the latter; and yet she was so sentimentally affected[Pg 292] by the tragedy of ‘George Barnwell,’ the rascal hero of which murders his real uncle in order to gratify the rapacity of a harlot, that she said, whoever could read the story or see the play without crying, deserved to be hanged.

Edward Wortley’s countrymen did not think so ill of Lady Mary’s son; for in 1747 the electors of Huntingdonshire returned him, with Mr. Coulson Fellowes, member for the county. He was a silent but highly respectable member. In the year 1748 Mr. Wortley, the father, wrote to his wife some pleasant news he had heard of their son. The mother coldly replied, ‘I should be extremely pleased if I could depend on Lord Sandwich’s account of our son. As I am wholly unacquainted with him, I cannot judge how far he may be either deceived or interested.’ This singular mother cultivated her antipathies rather than her sympathies. The father seems to have considered his paternal duty was discharged by, wisely perhaps, keeping his son on a small allowance. The son lived as if he had already his inheritance in hand, and for a year or two he found society in London quite to his mind.

Among the ladies who figured on the Mall by day, who drew crowds around them at Vauxhall by night, and who were never out of the ‘Scandalous Chronicle’ of the period, was the ‘Pollard Ashe,’ as she was called. This miniature beauty[Pg 293] was in some measure a mysterious individual. She was the daughter of a high personage, it was said, and such affinity was all she had to boast of in the way of family. In the June of 1750, Walpole thus wrote of her to George Montagu:

I had a card from Lady Caroline Petersham, to go with her to Vauxhall. I went accordingly to her house, and found her and the little Ashe ... they had just finished their last layer of red, and looked as handsome as crimson could make them.... We issued into the Mall to assemble our company, which was all the town.... We mustered the Duke of Kingston, Lord March (the old Second Duke of Queensbury of later years), Mr. Whitehead, a pretty Miss Beauclerc, and a very foolish Miss Sparre.... We got into the best order we could, and marched to our barge, with a boat of French horns attending and little Ashe singing. We paraded some time up the river, and at last debarked at Vauxhall.... A Mrs. Lloyd, seeing the two girls following Lady Petersham and Miss Ashe, said aloud, ‘Poor girls! I am sorry to see them in such bad company!’ Miss Sparre, who desired nothing so much as the fun of seeing a duel—a thing which, though she is fifteen, she has never been so lucky to see—took due pains to make Lord March resent this ... but he laughed her out of this charming frolic. Here we picked up Lord Granby ... very drunk.... He would fain have made love to Miss Beauclerc, who is very modest; and did not know what to do at all with his whispers or his hands. He then addressed himself to the Sparre, who was very well disposed to receive both.... At last, we assembled[Pg 294] in our booth, Lady Caroline in our front, with the vizor of her hat erect, and looking gloriously jolly and handsome.... We turned some chicken into a china dish, which Lady Caroline stewed over a lamp, with three pats of butter and a flagon of water, stirring, and rattling, and laughing, and were every minute expecting to have the dish fly about our ears.... The whole air of our party was sufficient to take up the whole attention of the garden.... It was three o’clock before we got home.

Very early in the year 1751 our hero made love to Miss Ashe, and at the same time appeared in public as the first ‘macaroni’ of the day, but with science and philosophy enough to render him worthy of being taken into brotherhood by the Royal Society. On February 9, 1751, Walpole writes:

Our greatest miracle is Lady Mary Wortley’s son, whose adventures have made so much noise; his parts are not proportionate, but his expense is incredible. His father scarce allows him anything; yet he plays, dresses, diamonds himself, even to distinct shoe-buckles for a frock, and has more snuff-boxes than would suffice a Chinese idol with a hundred noses. But the most curious part of his dress, which he has brought from Paris, is an iron wig; you literally would not know it from hair; I believe it is on this account that the Royal Society have just chosen him of their body.

His father, however, made no complaint of his son in his letters to his wife. The anxious mother invariably concluded that when nothing was said there was something to be dreaded. Accordingly,[Pg 295] in a letter to her husband, dated May 1751, Lady Mary writes:

(May 24, 1751.) ‘I can no longer resist the desire I have to know what is become of my son. I have long suppressed it, from a belief that, if there was anything good to be told, you would not fail to give me the pleasure of hearing it. I find it now grows so much upon me, that whatever I am to know, I think it would be easier for me to support than the anxiety I suffer from my doubts. I beg to be informed, and prepare myself for the worst with all the philosophy I have.’

Her son was not in such a desperate condition as his mother supposed. The new Fellow of the Royal Society was simply making love to ‘the Pollard Ashe.’ In the summer of this year, 1751, Vauxhall and the Mall missed her; but the world knew very well whither she had wended, and with whom. In September 1751 Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu wrote to her husband: ‘Young Wortley is gone to France with Miss Ashe. He is certainly a gentleman of infinite vivacity; but methinks he might as well have deferred this exploit till the death of his father.’ Walpole wrote to Mann that ‘Wortley, who, you know, has been a perfect Gil Blas, is thought to have added the famous Miss Ashe to the number of his wives.’

While London was busy with the story of the elopement of Miss Ashe with Edward Wortley[Pg 296] Montagu, and this rather airy couple were on their amorous way to Paris, there was a young Mr. Roberts, not yet quite twenty-one years of age, sojourning at the Hôtel d’Orléans in that city, with a Miss Rose for a companion, Miss Rose’s sister for a friend, and various servants to wait on all three. Roberts lived like a milor, and he gave out that he was about to make the grand tour to Italy and back. Montagu’s quarters were at the Hôtel de Saxe. Roberts was a stranger to him, but Montagu not only called upon the wealthy traveller, on September 23, but sent him an invitation to dinner. The company consisted of Roberts, Lord Southwell, Mr. Taafe, M.P., and Montagu, who was also a member of the House of Commons. After coffee the party adjourned to Montagu’s room. Taafe produced dice and proposed play. Roberts declined, on the ground of being without money; but this and other pleas were overruled, and, ‘flustered with wine,’ which he said he had been made to drink, he sat down to tempt fortune. Fortune used this gambler ill; when he rose to return to his hotel he had lost 870 louis d’ors—400 to Taafe, 350 to Southwell, and 120 to Montagu. Taafe speedily demanded the amount he had won, and not finding it forthcoming the British legislator, with Lord Southwell, broke into his room about midnight, and under dreadful threats, made with swords drawn, compelled him[Pg 297] to give drafts for the entire sum. The crafty Roberts, however, drew upon bankers with whom he had no effects; and, probably that he might be out of reach of arrest till he could give an explanation, he hurriedly set off for Lyons.

The bird had just flown when the three more fortunate gamblers, their drafts having been dishonoured, forcibly entered Roberts’s rooms and rifled them of everything valuable—a large sum in gold and silver, a very valuable assortment of jewellery and precious stones, and the two Miss Roses. There was 40,000 livres’ worth in all, not including the sisters. One of these ladies consented with alacrity to accompany Mr. Taafe, with his other booty, to his quarters at the Hôtel de Pérou. The sister went thither also, for society’s sake, and after a three days’ sojourn Taafe kissed their hands and sent them to England under the guardianship of another gentleman.

Perfect tranquillity prevailed among those who remained in Paris, but on Sunday night, October 25, just before one o’clock, as Montagu was stepping into bed with, as he says, ‘that security that ought to attend innocence,’ a commissary of police, backed by an armed force, entered his room, and, despite all protest, carried him off to the Châtelet. Before they locked him up for the night, the gaolers would scarcely utter a word save a rough one, and he could not get even a[Pg 298] cup of water. The night was cold, and a small bit of candle enabled him the better to see the horrors of his cell. ‘The walls were scrawled over,’ he says in the memoir he published, ‘with the vows and prayers of the vilest malefactors before they went to the axe or the gibbet.’ Under one of the inscriptions were the words: ‘These verses were written by the priest who was hanged and burned, in the year 1717, for stealing a chalice of the Holy Sacrament.’

On November 2 the charge made by Roberts—namely, that Montagu’s party had made him half drunk, the better to cheat him at dice, and had subsequently plundered his rooms—was made known to him. ‘I answered,’ he says, ‘in a manner that ought to have cleared my own innocence, and to have covered my antagonist with confusion.’ But he was remanded to prison. Some amelioration of his condition was permitted, and he was allowed to be visited. Consequently it was the fashion to go and look at him, but the solaces of his friends could not compensate for the cruel wit, jeers, and sarcasms cast at him by curious strangers. Influential persons interested themselves in this notorious case. The English ambassador interfered with effect. The king, on being moved, replied that he could not meddle in a private case; but a king can do many things without appearing to meddle. The charge was again looked into, and[Pg 299] the method of examination may be seen in the result. The sentence of the court, delivered on January 25, 1752, was to the effect that the accused be discharged; that Roberts be compelled to confess the accusation to be false, also to pay 20,000 livres damages to Montagu and Taafe; and pay all the costs of suit on both sides, including the expense of publishing the judgment.

As soon as Montagu was free, he published a memoir, explanatory and defensive. It was not so much a denial as an evasion. It was made up of assertions that he had ‘never deviated from the sentiments and conduct of a man of honour;’ that regard ought to be had to ‘the probability of the charges, the rank of the accused, and the character of the prosecutor;’ that he was of ‘distinguished condition,’ and that his accuser was infamous in character and inconsistent in his evidence; that Lord Albemarle, the English ambassador, had told him that he was as convinced of his innocence as he was of his own. Montagu protested that the whole thing was a conspiracy ‘against his Honour and Person,’ at the head of which was the so-called Roberts, whom he had discovered to be a fraudulent bankrupt Jew, Payba by name, who had fled from England to avoid the gallows. Montagu acknowledged that he had invited this ‘infamous bankrupt’ to dinner, but that, instead of winning 120 louis d’ors of him,[Pg 300] he had formerly lent that sum to the Jew, who had ‘trumped up this story in order to evade payment.’ He had made the first call on the soi-disant Mr. Roberts, taking him for a man of fashion, and it was the custom for the last comer to make such calls in his neighbourhood, and not to wait to be called upon; and the visit having been returned the invitation to dinner naturally followed. As to playing after dinner, Montagu does not deny it; but he says that the imputation of playing with loaded dice filled him with horror. The conclusion of the so-named defence is that, as the judgment of the court was so completely in favour of Montagu and Taafe, the innocence of those two gentlemen was perfectly established.

Before we see if this was exactly the case, let us see what was thought of the affair in England. The public press barely alluded to the scandal, and were not at all grieved at the locking up of a couple of British senators in a French prison. Private individuals noticed the scandal in their letters.

In October 1751, Mrs. Montagu wrote to Gilbert West some details of the gambling affair and its consequences. She described the offence of Montagu and Taafe as ‘playing with a Jew at Pharaoh, with too much finesse.’

Finesse (she adds) is a pretty improvement in modern life and modern language. It is something people may[Pg 301] do without being hanged, and speak of without being challenged. It is a point just beyond fair skill and just short of downright knavery; but as the medium is ever hard to hit, the very professors of finesse do sometimes deviate into paths that lead to prisons and the galleys, and such is the case of those unhappy heroes. The Speaker of the House of Commons will be grieved to see two illustrious senators chained at the ignoble oar. The King of France has been applied to, but says he does not interpose in private matters. So how it will go with them no one can tell. In the meantime, poor Miss Ashe weeps like the forsaken Ariadne on a foreign shore.

The conduct of Edward Wortley in England was noticed by his father, in a letter to Lady Mary, who, replying to it in a letter from Louveres (November 10, 1751), when the Paris scandal was known, says:—‘I will not make any reflections on the conduct of the person you mention; ’tis a subject too melancholy to us both. I am of opinion that tallying at bassette is a certain revenue (even without cheating) to those who can get constant punters and are able to submit to the drudgery of it; but I never knew any one pursue it long and preserve a tolerable reputation.’ Therewith, the mother dismissed further notice of her wayward son to talk of an old woman at the baths of Louveres, who in her hundredth year had recovered sight, teeth, and hair, and who had died ten years later, not of age, but of tumbling down[Pg 302] a stone staircase; something like the apocryphal Countess of Desmond:—

Who lived to the age of a hundred and ten,
And died of a fall from a cherry-tree then.

Even after the son had escaped the galleys, the mother made no references to the circumstance in a letter to her daughter, the Countess of Bute (February 1752), but was full of ‘Peregrine Pickle’ and of the rather lively sayings and doings of Lady Vane.

As the maternal susceptibilities were not much ruffled, the sympathy of the public was not to be expected. We learn more from Walpole than from Lady Mary. In November 1751, Walpole, writing to Mann, remarks that all the letters from Paris were very ‘cautious of relating the circumstances.’ He styles Montagu and Taafe as the ‘two gentlemen who were pharaoh-bankers to Madame de Mirepoix’ in England, and ‘who had travelled to France to exercise the same profession.’ Walpole adds that they had ‘been released on excessive bail, are still to be tried, and may be sent to the galleys or dismissed home, where they will be reduced to keep the best company; for,’ says Walpole, ‘I suppose nobody else will converse with them.’ The letter-writer describes Montagu as having been a ‘perfect Gil Blas,’ and as having added ‘the famous Miss Ashe to the number of[Pg 303] his wives.’ Walpole says of Taafe, ‘He is an Irishman, who changed his religion to fight a duel, as you know in Ireland a Catholic may not wear a sword.’ But as Taafe was M.P. for Arundel when Catholics could not sit in Parliament, it is quite as probable that Taafe changed, or professed to change, his religion—if he had any religion—that he might become a borough member. ‘He is,’ writes Walpole, ‘a gamester, usurer, adventurer, and of late has divided his attentions between the Duke of Newcastle and Madame de Pompadour; travelling with turtles and pineapples in post-chaises to the latter, flying back to the former for Lewes races and smuggling burgundy at the same time.’ The Speaker was railing at gaming and White’s apropos to these two prisoners. Lord Coke, to whom the conversation was addressed, replied: ‘Sir, all I can say is, that they are both members of the House of Commons, and neither of them of White’s.’

While ‘society’ was discussing this matter, Miss Ashe reappeared in England and reassumed her former distinguished position. In December 1751, the town witnessed the happy reconciliation of Miss Ashe with the gay Lady Petersham, who had been offended at the indiscretion of the younger nymph. Lady Petersham’s principles were very elastic: she pardoned the Pollard Ashe on her own assurances that she was ‘as good as married’ to[Pg 304] Mr. Wortley Montagu, who, according to Lord Chesterfield, seemed ‘so puzzled between the châtelet in France and his wife in England, that it is not yet known in favour of which he will determine.’

Soon after Lord Chesterfield’s flying comment on the Ariadne who had really abandoned her Theseus, ‘society’ received her to its arms as readily as Lady Petersham. The example of both was followed by one individual. A certain naval officer, named Falconer, made an honest woman of the Pollard Ashe; and with this marriage ends our interest in one of the many ‘wives’ of the English Gil Blas.

If some surprise was raised by the judgment given in favour of Montagu and Taafe, none need exist at present. The two gentlemen who were such useful friends at the pharaoh tables of Madame de Mirepoix, the French ambassadress in England, and one of whom supplied Madame de Pompadour, the French King’s mistress, with turtle and pineapples, could dispense with the good offices of Louis the Fifteenth, or perhaps obtained them through the mistress and the ambassadress. But Abraham Payba, alias James Roberts, possessed as influential friends as Taafe and Montagu. Payba appealed against the judgment, his appeal was successful, and the two English members of Parliament stood very much in danger of the galleys. In their turn,[Pg 305] however, they appealed against the legality of quashing the judgment given in their favour. The question came once or twice before the courts, and then it ceased to be argued. It would seem as if powerful friends on both sides had interfered. Each party could claim a decision in its favour and could boast of honour being saved, but the public feeling was that they were all rogues alike.

After the lapse of a few years, Wortley Montagu came into the possession of a fixed income by the death of his father in 1755. He had sold a reversion of 800l. a-year. His father now left him an annuity of 1,000l. The disgrace of the Paris adventure was not altogether forgotten, but Taafe was in favour at Versailles (by what lucky chance nobody could tell), and Montagu, after a few years of pleasure, took to better ways than of old. There seems to have come over the half-outcast a determination to show the better side of his nature and his ability. In 1759, he published his ‘Reflections on the Rise and Fall of the Ancient Republics; adapted to the present State of Great Britain.’ In this work—an able and spirited review of the republics of Greece, Rome, and Carthage—the author probably stated his own idea of religion in the words, ‘To search out and adore the Creator in all his works is our primary duty, and claims the first place in every rational mind.’ Two years subsequent to the publication of this most [Pg 306]creditable work, certain Cornish men thought that Edward Wortley would be their most fitting representative. In 1761, he was elected member for the borough of Bossiney. But he was weary of England and the legislature, and he resolved to leave both for ever.

Before Mr. Montagu left England ‘for good’ in 1762, he made necessary preparations for at least a long residence abroad. Among those preparations the most curious may be said to be indicated in the following copy of a bill of articles purchased at an optician’s. Moses’s gross of green spectacles sinks into insignificance by the side of the assortment of spectacles, reading-glasses, pocket telescopes, &c., with which Mr. Montagu provided himself to meet the exigencies of foreign travel. The bill is now in the possession of Lord Wharncliffe, as are some of the articles enumerated. I am greatly indebted to his lordship for a sight of both, and to the prompt courtesy of his permission to copy and reproduce this very singular bill.

Edwd. Wortley Montagu, Esq. Dr. to G. Adams.
1761 £ s. d.
Dec. 23 Six Ellis’s Microscopes at £2, in the Box
marked A
12   1  0
12 Reading Glasses, in horn boxes, at 4s.
each, in the Box marked B.
 2   8  0
24 Reading Glasses, Ruff Shell and Silver,
at 18/s. in the Box C
22 16 0?
The large Reading glass in Ruff Shell and Silver,
in the Box C
 2   2  0
[Pg 307] 12 Concave glasses in Ruff Shell and Silver,
at 9/s. in the Box C
 5   8  0
A Silver case inlaid with pearl  2   2  0
With a pair of Silver Temple Spectacles, in
the Box C
 0  13  0
12 Pockett Tellescopes, Nurse Cases, 4
glasses mounted in Brass, at 16/s., in the Box D
 9  12  0
24 Dozen of Concaves in horn boxes, at 18/s.
per Dozn, in the Box E
 21  12  0
10 Dozn of Steel Temple Spectacles, at 2/s.
each, in the Box F
 12   0  0
10 Dozn of paper cases to Do, at 4/s. per
Doz., in the Box G
  2   0  0
6 pair of the Best Steel Temple Spectacles,
in Black Fish Cases, at 7/s., in the Box H
  2   2  0
6 pair Do, in Nurse Cases, at 7/13 = 20/s.,
in the Box H
  6   0  0
Six pair of Silver Temple Spectacles, in best
Nurse Cases, at 13/16 = 29/s., in the Box marked H
  8  16  0
Six pair Steel Temple Spec., at 2/s.   0  12  0
Six paper cases to Do, Box H   0    2  0
12 Camp Tellescopes, at 16/s. in the Box marked K   9  12  0
6 Two foot Achromatic Tellescopes, at £2, in the Box L  12   0  0
12 Ring Dials, at 10/6, in the Box M   6   6  0
2 12-inch Reflecting Tellescopes   9   9  0
Six metallic Cones, with Six Setts of
Deformed pictures, at £2 2 0, in the Box N
 12  12  0
Six pair of goglars, Box   1  10  0
12 Reading glasses, in Mahogany frames
with handles, in the Box marked, at 14/s.
  8   8  0
12 Leather purses to Do   0   4  0
6 Treble Magnifiers, in Ruff Shell and
Silver, at 25/s., in the Box marked H
  7  10  0
24 Black Skin prospects, at 1/6   1  16  0
[Pg 308] 24 Do, at 2/s.   2   8  0
Two thermometers to Boiling Water   3   0  0
Two Brass Box Steering Compasses, with
Muscovy Tale Cards, 11 Inch.
  1  10  0
One Do, 10 Inches   0  13  6
187   1  6
14 Small Deal Boxes   0  12  0
2 Strong Packing Cases   0  14  0
188   7  6
Dec. 30, 1761. Recd of Edwd Wortley Montagu, Esq., the full contents of this Bill and all Demands.
J. Geo. Adams & Co.

The bill being duly discharged, Edward Wortley took, as it proved, a final farewell of England. But his friends there soon heard of his whereabout. He proved that he was not a mere ignorant traveller, by addressing to the Earl of Macclesfield two letters on an ancient bust at Turin, the quality of which is warranted by the fact that they were thought of sufficient importance to be read before the Royal Society. Wortley Montagu was in a fair way to be a votary of science, but he might have said with Southwell,

Tho’ Wisdom woo me to the saint,
Yet Sense would win me to the shrine.

He had some reason, perhaps, to feel careless and embittered, for in this year, 1762, his mother died, showing her cruel contempt for him by leaving him a guinea, which he gave to Mr. Davison, a friend and companion in his wayfaring. It was[Pg 309] from his mother, said Mrs. Piozzi, that the ‘learned’ and accomplished Edward Wortley Montagu inherited all his ‘tastes and talents for sensual delights.’

In the same year, 1762, the English consul at Alexandria was a Scandinavian, a native either of Denmark or Sweden, named Feroe. His wife was a beautiful young woman, born at Leghorn in 1741. Her father (sometimes said to be an innkeeper) was English, or of English descent. His name was Dormer, the name of a family that had once given a duchess to one of the Italian states, and that has given a line of barons to the English peerage since the year 1615 to the present day. The mother of the lady in question was an Italian; her maiden name was Maria Sciale. There were several children of this marriage, but we have only to notice the beautiful Caroline Dormer, who married Consul Feroe, of Alexandria. This Caroline is said to have been as much distinguished for her virtue as for her beauty. The Dormer family record (in Lord Wharncliffe’s possession), in which this double distinction is chronicled, perhaps, ‘doth protest too much’ with respect to the virtue, as that quality would now be understood; but of this the reader may judge for himself.

The consul and his wife were happily settled at Alexandria, when Wortley Montagu was sojourning in that city. Her beauty, as the Scripture[Pg 310] phrase expresses it, took his mind prisoner. The object he had in view—that of carrying her off from her husband—seemed unattainable; but Montagu did not allow himself to be deterred by difficulties, and he found a way to surmount them. It was the way of a very unscrupulous man, but he had few scruples in compassing any end. He appeared as the friend of the family. He made no advances to the lady, but he manifested great interest in the welfare of her husband. Egypt was too dull a place for a man of such abilities. Montagu succeeded in inducing Feroe to leave it for a while on some pretended mission to Europe, which was to prove very lucrative to the poor consul, who took men and things for what they seemed to be. After Feroe’s departure there came news of his sudden illness. A little additional time elapsed, and then came intelligence of his death. The decease of the consul in Holland was officially attested, and in 1763 Montagu presented the mournful document to the beautiful young widow. After she had made herself mistress of its contents, and saw herself left alone in a strange land, he took pity on her exquisite grief, made love to her at once, and proposed a remedy for her loneliness by her taking him for husband. The fair young widow was not hard to woo. She did not indeed yield at once. She suggested some becoming objections. She, a Roman Catholic, had erred,[Pg 311] she thought, in marrying Mr. Feroe, who was a Protestant. She could not bring herself to repeat the error, but she intimated that she might be won if her handsome lover would turn from his heretical ways and become a true son of the true church. As nothing more than this trifle stood as an obstacle to his success, Montagu resolved to become Roman Catholic. Perhaps he reflected long enough on the matter to persuade himself that he had a true call to that church. At all events, he professed to be somewhat divinely driven. He repaired to Jerusalem, and made his profession at the fountain-head of Christianity. In October 1764 Montagu presented himself in the Holy City to Father Paul, prefect of the missions in Egypt and Cyprus. The traveller said that he had come to Jerusalem rather out of curiosity than devotion, but that the hand of God had fallen upon him. From his youth up, he stated (truly enough) that he had been the dupe of the devil. He made the statement with manifestations of grief, especially as he had obstinately resisted the impulses of the Holy Spirit, for which he now expressed penitence and humbly sought pardon. Father Paul gave heed to the repentant sinner’s statement, and finding him cleansed from all heretical depravity, freed him from all pains and penalties decreed by the church against heretics, gave him plenary absolution, and received him[Pg 312] into communion with Rome. Father Paul thought much of his convert, whom he styles, in the official certificate of Montagu’s conversion, ‘Dominus Comes de Montagu’ (as every Englishman abroad in those days used to be called ‘mi lord,’) and the good father bids all the faithful to refrain from snubbing the convert, but on the contrary, to rejoice and be merry over him, as they would be over the unexpected finding of a treasure. A copy of the original document, which still sparkles with the silver dust showered over the finely written Italian letters, was printed in ‘Notes and Queries,’ January 4, 1873.

There is no reason to doubt that soon after this act was accomplished Mr. Wortley Montagu and Madame Feroe née Dormer, were duly married. Their conjugal felicity, however, was slightly disturbed by the reappearance of the consul Feroe, who very naturally expressed the greatest surprise at the household arrangements which had taken place in his absence, and he laid claim to his beautiful wife. The Catholic lady was persuaded that her first marriage with the Protestant consul was null and void, the validity of such a union not being recognised by her church. At the same time she looked with some doubt, or she affected so to look, on the contract with her second husband. Appeal was made to the law tribunals of Tuscany, and pending the appeal, the wife of two[Pg 313] husbands retired to a religious house at Antoura, in Syria. Montagu solaced himself with travel: he possibly knew that Italian judges were tardy in coming to conclusions. Whither he wended is quite easy to tell, for in 1765 Mr. Montagu was encountered at Venice. Mr. Sharp, in his Letters from Italy, has one dated Venice, September 1765, in which he gives the following account:

One of the most curious sights we saw among these curiosities, was the famous Mr. Montagu, who was performing quarantine at the Lazaretto. All the English made a point of paying him their compliments in that place, and he seemed not a little pleased with their attention. It may be supposed that visitors are not suffered to approach the person of any who is performing quarantine. They are divided by a passage of about seven or eight feet wide. Mr. Montagu was just arrived from the East; he had travelled through the Holy Land, Egypt, Armenia, &c., with the Old and New Testaments in his hands for his direction, which, he told us, had proved unerring guides. He had particularly taken the road of the Israelites through the Wilderness, and had observed that part of the Red Sea which they had passed through. He had visited Mount Sinai, and flattered himself he had been on the very part of the rock where Moses spake face to face with God Almighty. His beard reached down to his breast, being of two years and a half growth; and the dress of his head was Armenian. He was in the most enthusiastic raptures with Arabia and the Arabs. Like theirs, his bed was the ground, his food rice, his beverage, water, his luxury, a pipe and coffee. His purpose was to return once more among that virtuous[Pg 314] people, whose morals and hospitality, he said, were such, that were you to drop your cloak in the highway, you would find it there six months afterwards, an Arab being too honest a man to pick up what he knows belongs to another; and, were you to offer money for the provision you meet with, he would ask you, with concern, why you had so mean an opinion of his benevolence, to suppose him capable of accepting a gratification. ‘Therefore, money,’ said he, ‘in that country, is of very little use, as it is only necessary for the purchase of garments, which, in so warm a climate, are very few and of very little value.’ He distinguishes, however, between the wild and the civilised Arab, and proposes to publish an account of all that I have written.

In 1765, Wortley Montagu (while sojourning at Pisa), wrote his well-known account of his journey to ‘The Written Mountains’ in the East. It is a clever and modest record; his conclusion being that the rock inscriptions were undecipherable, and probably would not, if interpreted, be worth the outlay of means. This account was read before the Royal Society. In March 1766 he was still at Pisa, whence he wrote to M. Varsy, a merchant from Marseilles, established at Rosetta, and married to a sister of Mrs. Feroe, or Mrs. Montagu, as the Tuscan judges might decide. The letter in French (now, with others quoted below, in Lord Wharncliffe’s possession,) contains the following personal matter:—

... On my way back I shall go through Alexandria and Rosetta to see you, and also to see whether I cannot[Pg 315] establish myself at Rosetta rather than in Syria. As my father-in-law sets out for Syria next week, I shall not be obliged to take the shortest road; my wife will be at ease, and I shall have at least time to assure you how charmed I shall be to find opportunities of testifying to you my gratitude, and of renewing our old and dear friendship—a friendship which will always be dear to me, and with which I shall never cease to be, &c., &c.

D. Montaigu.

I have before me the original ‘dispensation,’ to enable him to neglect keeping Lent in the usual abstinent way. That he should take the trouble to procure such a power would seem to be warrant for a sincerity for which we can hardly credit him. It is dated ‘March 6, 1767,’ and he is styled ‘Excellentissimus Dominus Eduardus de Comitibus Montagu.’ Meanwhile the question of the marriage was still undecided. The ecclesiastical and civil judges were perhaps not long in forming, but they were very slow in delivering judgment. Mrs. Montagu, however, or ‘the Countess,’ as she was sometimes called, seems to have formed a judgment of her own; or, at all events, to have accepted that of her second husband. They lived together at Smyrna, where for two years both applied themselves to the study of Turkish, in which language, as in others of the East, Montagu became a proficient scholar. On New Year’s day, 1769, he addressed a joyous letter to his brother-in-law Varsy. The Tuscan and the Roman[Pg 316] tribunals had at length pronounced on the great question. The rich and orthodox second husband was declared to be the legal possessor of the lady, and her previous marriage with the poor heretical consul was decreed to be no marriage at all.

You cannot imagine, thus runs the letter, the great joy I feel at being able to tell you that Mr. Feroe has the final decree of the Court of the Nuncio at Florence. Accordingly, as Madame is already here (Smyrna), we reckon on being as soon as possible at Rosetta. But prudence requires that we should first write to you to beg you to find us a suitable house. That in which we were before would be good enough, but I think and fear that the consul may have it. Without the servants, there are myself, my wife, and her father (monsieur son père). We live more in the Turkish fashion than ever. Accordingly, the women’s apartments must be comfortable and convenient for the salamlike (sic), and there must be a chamber for my father-in-law. You know what is necessary. The quarter in which we live must be free from disturbance, from plague, and from robbers. Have the kindness to inform me if the country is tranquil, and if you believe that there is no danger from the government; for here no end of stories is being circulated. Write by the first ship. Be convinced of the constant friendship with which I am, my very dear friend, entirely yours,

D. Montaigu.

There seems to have been some obstruction to impede the desired settlement in Egypt. In a letter, dated ‘Antoura’ (Syria), ‘January, 1771,’ there is the following passage:—

[Pg 317]

Many accidents have prevented me from following my design and my inclination for Rosetta; and indeed it seems more prudent to wait till the government (in Egypt) is authorised (affirmé) by the consent of the Ottoman Porte, before we establish ourselves in Egypt. However, here I am nearer to you, and I shall not fail to follow my first plan as soon as circumstances will allow. Madame thanks you for your souvenir, and sends many compliments. Keep yourself well, continue to love me, and be assured of the constant and perfect friendship of your very humble servant,

Chev. De Montaigu.

It may be mentioned by the way, that Wortley Montagu reckoned among his friends men not at all likely to entertain respect for worthless individuals. ‘My learned friend, the Bishop of Ossory,’ is a phrase which bears one of these indications. It was written at Cairo. Meanwhile, here is another characteristic note from Cyprus. The writer speaks of his wife, as if the laundress of old no longer existed.

À. M. Joseph Varsy, négociant français, à Rosette.

Chipre, 24 juin 1771.

Monsieur,—Enfin, mon très-cher ami, je touche au moment de vous embrasser. Cette lettre vous sera envoyée d’Alexandrie par ma femme, qui va à Rosette avec M. son père et Mademoiselle sa sœur. Je vous supplie de leur procurer ou une maison commode, ou un appartement suffisant dans l’oquel (?), où ils attendront jusqu’à ce que je leur écrive du Caire, où je vais par voie de Damiette.

Chev. De Montaigu.

[Pg 318]

In July, he writes thus from Damietta:—

À M. Joseph Varsy, négociant français, à Rosette.

Damiette, 14 juillet 1771.

Me voici, mon tres-chèr ami, arrivé proche de vous; aussi je me flatte que dans peu j’aurai l’honneur de vous embrasser. Ma femme doit être arrivée à Alexandrie, et elle m’attendra à Rosette. Ayez la bonté de lui faire avoir un appartement, ou deux, s’il le faut, et de l’assister en ce dont elle aura besoin pour la maison. Je crois être assez assuré de votre amitié pour être persuadé que vous ne me refuserez pas ce service. Je vous écrirai du Caire le moment que j’arriverai. En attendant soyez assuré que je serai toujours, comme vous m’avez toujours connu,

Votre très-humble serviteur et véritable ami, 
Chev. De Montaigu.

Five days later, he acknowledges, from Alexandria, the arrival of a box of pipes, from Constantinople. Soon after, the Egyptian home was established. It was on a thoroughly Eastern footing, and the two chief inmates seem to have devoted themselves to the study of Eastern languages and literature. But in August 1772 the home seems to have been abandoned by Montagu. There was a report that he had embraced Mohammedanism, in order to visit Mecca in safety, and that his wife having refused to follow his example, or to recognise a negro boy who was with him as his heir, he separated from her. The following note shows that he was again[Pg 319] roaming, but also that he was careful for his wife’s comforts and on friendly terms with her family.

(À Varsy.)

Alexandrette, août 4, 1772.

Nous voici, mon très-cher ami, après une heureuse navigation de trois jours, arrivés à Alexandrette. C’est un village précisément comme Tor. Nous y avons trouvé des chevaux et un domestique de M. Belleville. Ainsi, nous partons ce soir pour Aleppe, sans attendre l’escorte. Les gens que l’on dit obsèdent le chemin ne sont que cinq ou six; et nous sommes trois, bien armés, sans compter M. Belleville: ainsi nous n’avons rien à craindre. Il n’y a pas de peste, ni rien de semblable. Le Pacha est à Aleppe et non à Damas; assez loin de votre maison. Je vous prie d’avoir toutes les attentions que vous pouvez pour ma femme. Mes complemens à ce que vous avez de plus cher. M. Raymond vous enverra ... une pellisse neuve; il vous en dira aussi le prix; si ma femme la trouve belle et le prix honnête elle la prendra, et M. Raymond vous la passera avec compte; si non, vous en disposerez selon les ordres de M. R. Adieu. Je monte à cheval.

Similar notes tell of his progress, of certain inconveniences from being too long in the saddle, exposed to the sun; and in the autumn, of his approaching return home. In September he writes to Varsy:

I am well persuaded of the care you take of our house, and I beg you to hurry on the workmen, and that everything be done absolutely in accordance with my wife’s inclinations. Let the men put up the paper as she[Pg 320] orders it, but let no one touch my room below, unless he can paint it perfectly in the Arab fashion.

After expressing surprise that Mohammed Kiaja, a supposed friend, is intriguing against him, and stating that if his return to Rosetta should create any difficulties or perils, it would be better to have them smoothed away while he is at a distance, he writes:

... J’ai dépensé ici 800 piastres; il est vrai que je les ai dépensés en des choses qui valent plus chez nous, et quand les dames auront pris ce qui les accommode, nous ferons faire de l’argent du reste; mais en attendant cela vous incommode; il faut en ce cas-là prendre de l’argent à intérêt pour mon compte, et disant que c’est pour moi pour ne pas prodiguer mon nom. Quand la cuisine est finie, il faut blanchir toute l’ancienne cuisine et autres endroits qui sont sur son niveau....

In a letter from Latackia, October 1, 1772, he speaks of projects promising great results; ‘broad rivers’ (he says) ‘are the sum of narrow streams.’ In a still later letter the project seems to refer to pearls and rich stuffs. The letter concludes thus:

Je vous prie de me faire faire, par Schieck Ali, un catalogue de tous mes livres arabes, turcs, et persans, qui sont manuscrits, et qu’il mette vis-à-vis de chacun le prix suivant qu’il les estime.

This indicates an approaching break up. The cause of it does not appear, except as far as can be made out in a letter from

[Pg 321]

Alexandrie, 13 oct. 1772.

... Je vois que M. Dormer veut rester à Rosette, et en ce cas je n’y resterai pas. J’ai dit autant à Madame, pour lui donner le tems de se retirer à Alexandrie avant mon arrivée. Je coucherai demain à Raimhé; dimanche à Aboukir, lundi à Etikon, et mardi, s’il plaît à Dieu, je serai à Rosette, et si j’y trouve M. Dormer je n’y resterai qu’autant qu’il faudra pour empaqueter quelques livres, car je ne veux pas rester dans la même ville avec M. Dormer. J’aurais été charmé de le voir ici, mais je ne veux pas le voir à Rosette; ainsi, mon cher, persuadez-le de partir immédiatement; car si je le trouve je n’y coucherai pas; cela est certain.

What the ground of dissension was that induced Montagu to declare that he would not remain in the same city with Dormer is not known. Whatever it was, the Egyptian home was broken up. The wife and her sister subsequently established themselves, temporarily, at Marseilles, definitively at Nancy. Montagu moved about the Continent in moody restlessness. In 1773 and the following year he settled for awhile in Venice. He lived in frequent retirement, and to all outward appearance in as truly a Turkish fashion as if he were a faithful child of Islam.

While Mr. Montagu was residing at Venice an illustrious traveller, the Duke of Hamilton, arrived in that city, under the care of his physician, Dr. John Moore, afterwards the author of ‘Zeluco,’ and the father of a glorious son, Sir John Moore[Pg 322] the hero of Corunna. The Doctor had probably talked with his patron or ward about the more eccentric traveller, of whom he had more to say than most people as to the affair between Montagu and the Jew Payba, Moore having been official medical man at the English Embassy in France, when Lord Albemarle was ambassador, and Montagu was appealing to him for aid and protection. At Venice, the Duke, according to Moore, ‘had the curiosity’ (he does not say the courtesy) ‘to wait on this extraordinary man.’ ‘Montagu,’ says the Doctor, in his published letters,

met his Grace at the stair-head, and led us through some apartments furnished in the Venetian manner, into an inner room in quite a different style. There were no chairs, but he desired us to seat ourselves on a sofa, whilst he placed himself on a cushion on the floor, with his legs crossed in the Turkish fashion. A young black slave sat by him, and a venerable old man, with a long beard, served us with coffee. After this collation some aromatic gums were brought, and burnt in a little silver vessel. Mr. Montagu held his nose over the steam for some minutes, and sniffed up the perfume with peculiar satisfaction; he afterwards endeavoured to collect the smoke with his hands, spreading and rubbing it carefully along his beard, which hung in hoary ringlets to his girdle.... We had a great deal of conversation with this venerable looking person, who is, to the last degree, acute, communicative, and entertaining, and in whose discourse and manners are blended the vivacity of a Frenchman with the gravity of a Turk.

[Pg 323]

Moore does not say that Montagu had assumed the Mohammedan faith, but simply that he considered the Turkish way of life to surpass that of all other nations. Indeed they deserved to be ‘the happiest of mankind,’ if they were, as Montagu held them to be, distinguished for integrity, hospitality, and most other virtues. Egypt was, in his eyes, ‘a perfect paradise,’ to which he was longing to return; and he was convinced that if the Israelites of old could have had their own way they would have stuck to the land and the flesh-pots and driven the Egyptians into Canaan. But he added, with a fine sense of what the occasion required, that ‘it had been otherwise ordered, for wise purposes, of which it did not become us to judge.’

Subsequently Montagu returned the visit of the Duke and his medical guardian. He seated himself on a sofa with his legs drawn up under him, as the most natural and convenient position that a gentleman could take. Moore, in the course of the conversation which ensued, slily adverted to the Mohammedan views with regard to women. The quasi Turk became Oriental to the very ends of his fingers, and grew eloquent on this delicate question. Of course, he defended polygamy and concubinage, even as Solomon had wisely observed it. Women liked neither, and but for this foolish objection they would have had influence enough[Pg 324] to have spread Islam as one religion throughout Europe. The men hated Christianity on more valid ground. Auricular confession they abhorred. ‘No Turk of any delicacy would ever allow his wife (particularly if he had but one) to hold private conference with a man on any pretext whatever.’ When the Doctor (for the Duke seems to have been generally silent) insinuated that the Turks had not the same grounds to hate Protestantism, Montagu remarked that the Turks could not tolerate the Christian idea of the equality of women and men, nor accept the Christian view of an exceedingly dull heaven, where the souls of ordinary women were to be assembled, instead of the graceful bodies of Houris, who were to welcome the sons of Islam to a joyous paradise.

The self-exile continued to be the observed of all curious travellers; but he directed his steps at last in the direction of home, if with no decided resolution to return thither. The cause, perhaps, is found in a phrase of a letter from Mrs. Delany, written in February 1776: ‘Mr. Wortley Montagu’s wife is dead.’ This was the laundress, his only legitimate wife, who had married him in his youthful time. Her husband had recently been entertaining Romney, and Romney had painted the portrait of his friend in Turkish costume, which bespeaks the talent of the artist and the sad yet manly beauty of the friend. The latter had[Pg 325] been the victim of more lies and jests than any man of his time, and these were multiplied now, but they are not worth repeating. The wanderer himself was near the end of his course. Two months subsequent to his lawful wife’s decease he died, after a brief illness, at Padua. He is said to have expressed a hope that he should die as a good Moslem; but that he was held to have died in the Roman Catholic faith is best proved by the fact that he lies beneath a church roof in Padua, and with a Latin inscription over him, which describes him as ‘ubique civis,’ and which credits him with nearly all the qualities that can dignify humanity. If much eccentricity has been ascribed to him by the world, it is because his acts and words gave some warrant for it. There was scarcely any condition in life but in some country or another he had assumed it. He used to boast that he had never committed a small folly; and his gambling was certainly, at one time, of gigantic proportions. A memoir of him, published in Dublin two years after his death, reckoned among his boyish assumptions those of link-boy, chimney-sweep, and shoe-black! The same veracious volume numbered among his wives, with the English laundress, a Dutch Jewess, a Turkish lady, a Greek girl, a Circassian damsel, and an Arabian maiden. Even to the English laundress he is said to have been married by an official of the Fleet[Pg 326] prison. His old tutor, Forster, claimed the merit of having written the work on Ancient Republics, but this claim, made when the author could not answer it, was universally scouted, as was the contemptible pretender. Lady Louisa Stuart, referring to the various ladies who assumed a right to bear his name, remarks:—

More than one lady took the title of his wife, with or without the pretext of a ceremony which, it is to be feared, he would not scruple to go through any number of times, if requisite for the accomplishment of his wishes. But the last person so circumstanced, and the loudest in asserting her claims, met him upon equal ground, having herself a husband living, from whom she had eloped; therefore, she at least could not complain of deception.

The above lady was the ci-devant Miss Dormer. She appeared in London soon after Edward Wortley Montagu’s death; and in her family papers it is stated that she received one hundred pounds annually from Coutts’s out of her alleged husband’s estate. For a long period she resided at Nancy, and she may yet live in the recollection of not very old persons, English and others, who dwelt in that pleasant city in their youth, for the last of the wives of Wortley Montagu survived till January 1821. She lived and died as Countess of Montagu, and her death finally closed a romance of real life, the unfortunate hero of which would probably have won honourable fame if he had been blessed with a mother of a different quality.

[Pg 327]


In that marvellous work of history, the ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,’ Gibbon somewhere remarks, in reference to sovereign ladies in love, that they are by their social position, or rather by their position above society, placed at a manifest disadvantage, inasmuch as the first advances must come from themselves. If this was the case in the olden time, it is not exactly so now—though, of course, the outer world knows little about the matter. Many princesses have not been at all troubled at the idea of having to speak, or look, first; and the great Russian Czarina had as little embarrassment in choosing her lovers as she had in murdering that holy and august madman, her husband.

The well-favoured individuals on whom high and mighty princesses have been ready to smile had a delicate task to perform. They had to look more than twice before they leaped, and were compelled to feel their way very cautiously lest a false step or a too boldly ventured word should cost[Pg 328] them their head. But after all this perilous condition of aspiring lovers was as nothing compared with the dangers of too wittily endowed courtiers who should indulge in jesting with a king, especially of the olden type and of mediæval and morose temper. When the courtiers of Amarose, King of Little Britain, gently awoke him with the glee—

‘Awake, awake your royal nob,
The kettle boils upon the hob’—

his surly and too suddenly aroused majesty descended to his tea, toast, and eggs, entered the breakfast-room with the gracious greeting, ‘My lords and gentlemen, get out!’ King Arthur, in ‘Tom Thumb,’ returns homage in much the same civil humour. These, however, are but stage kings—kings of shreds and patches. The flesh-and-blood, genuine, despotic monarch was a far more dreadful animal.

Jesting with kings, particularly uninvited—why, it was as if a swimmer, however experienced, should venture within the smooth but death-bearing current of Niagara, which inevitably carries all within its power over the Falls. People have played little teasing jokes with elephants, and when the jokers have forgotten all about it the gravely majestic beast has put his foot upon the offender, and crushed the humour out of him for ever. It has been just so with malice-bearing monarchs, and[Pg 329] with courtiers who thought they might joke with them. The incarnation of all such monarchs existed in the person of an African king named Chaka. He was given to joking at others, and woe betide them if they did not burst with ecstacy at the joke; but if a ‘fellow of infinite humour’ happened to cap the royal joke with a better, Chaka broke into hilarity, which he ended by exclaiming, ‘Cut off that wretch’s head; he has made me laugh.’

The Cæsars must have been almost as dreadfully dangerous men to joke with as Chaka. The great Julius, indeed, after he became great, had no leisure for jesting, but was the object of some popular jokes which he took with indifference. The guests of Augustus were afraid to ‘crack a joke’ in his presence. They would whisper one to a neighbour, and then turn pale if the emperor invited them to ‘speak up.’ The imperial table was as grand and dull as that of the copper Augustus, Louis the Fourteenth, and the emperor had recourse to merryandrews, just as the Grand Monarque had to harlequins. But the harlequins of those days were gentlemen and scholars. The grim Tiberius, on the other hand, was remarkably facetious. His delight was to puzzle his learned guests with unanswerable questions, such as, ‘What was the name of the song the Syrens sang?’ and the like. Fancy half a dozen members of the[Pg 330] Society of Antiquaries dining with her Majesty and being gravely asked who built the marble halls the Bohemian girl dreamt she dwelt in? or what was the Christian name of the ‘Minstrel Boy?’ and at what period ‘Auld lang syne’ had been young? Nevertheless, Tiberius was a nicer man to deal with than Caligula, all of whose jests were brutally cruel, in words, and oftener in deeds. What a serious joke was that when, having nothing on but the linen apron of a victim-slayer, he raised the mallet, and instead of slaying the beast, knocked out the brains of the sacrificing priest! Claudius was too huge a feeder to have appetite for wit; but he would have eaten the whole beast that his predecessor should have killed. Yet Claudius, half beast himself, had a good deal of the scholar in him; as Nero had, who loved science, admired art, was mildly witty, and therewith as savage as an insane hyæna. We must except the occasions of his visiting the theatre, when he sat in an upper seat, and found delight in flinging nuts down upon the bald head of the prætor below. That official was as proud of the attention as if every nut had been an especial honour. Joyless Galba had none of the Neronic fun in him. But though not mirthful himself, Galba could smile when he heard the popular slang name, in allusion to his flat nose, ‘Simius.’ His successor, Otho, was just such a wit as a man might be expected to be who washed his[Pg 331] face in asses’ milk. If witty men went away from him feeling dull and heavy, it was the result of their exchanging ideas with their imperial master. He had his wit at second-hand, as Vitellius had, who got his jokes from a stage-player and charioteer. In more modern times, when Astley’s was in its glory, and the clown of the ring a joker that people went to listen to, that circus clown got his jokes, not from his own brains, but from the Westminster boys. Jokes used to be made at Westminster as they now are at the Stock Exchange, where fresh batches are served each morning, like hot rolls. But to return to the Cæsars. Perhaps Vespasian was a greater joker than any of them, but his jokes were often broad and scurrilous. Titus was rather gracious than given to jesting, though he enjoyed one sorry joke, in promising to every suitor that his request should be granted. They went away radiant. ‘Every one,’ he said, ‘ought to depart joyfully from the presence of his prince;’ and then, ‘the delight of mankind’ thought no more of his promise. The chief recreation of the gloomy Domitian was in playing dice; but he always won. Every antagonist knew what the joke would cost him if he beat the emperor.

Altogether, those Twelve Cæsars were men compounded of the most opposite qualities, with a small modicum of what is called wit among the[Pg 332] whole of them. Out of all those who followed, one alone, Hadrian, made a standing and a sterling joke—a joke which has descended to us and added a slang phrase to our vulgar tongue. To ‘scrape acquaintance’ comes to us from Hadrian. He was at the public baths one day when he saw one of his veteran soldiers scraping his body with a tile. That was such poor luxury that Hadrian ordered that his old comrade should be supplied with more suitable cleansing materials, and also with money. On a subsequent occasion when the emperor again went to the bath, the spectacle before him was highly amusing. A score of old soldiers who had fought under Hadrian were standing in the water, and each was currying himself with a tile and wincing at the self-inflicted rubbing. The emperor perfectly understood what he saw and what was the purpose of the sight. ‘Ha! ha!’ he exclaimed, ‘you had better scrape one another, my good fellows!’ He added, ‘You certainly shall not scrape acquaintance with me!’

Heliogabalus was perhaps the most practical joker among the imperial jesters. We have seen at the Surrey Oval, in old days, eleven one-legged Greenwich pensioners playing cricket against eleven pensioners with only one arm. By the way, the one-legged men had the advantage, as the one-armed men often fell in stooping for the ball, wanting the missing arm to balance themselves[Pg 333] withal. It was the humour of Heliogabalus to get together companies of individuals all marked by the same peculiarity. He would now have at dinner a dozen baldheaded men, or twelve ladies with one eye each; he would have been delighted to have got hold of triple assortments of the three famous sisters who had but one eye and one tooth between them! Failing that, the ‘lord of the sun,’ as he called himself, was content to have a score of hunchbacks, or of flat-nosed men, or squinting women. He is said on one occasion to have put into a very small chamber, where dinner was prepared, so many excessively fat and hungry men that they had no room for anything but to perspire, and not much for that. Heliogabalus was an expensive joker, but then his good people paid for the fun, and he might therefore indulge his humour without restraint at the time, or remorse after it. His supremely imperial joke lay in placing a number of guests on table-couches (guests reclined, and did not sit down to dinner) which were blown up with air instead of being stuffed with wool. At a moment when the cups were filled to the brim with the choicest wine, and the guests were lifting them to their lips with anticipations of liquid Elysium, a tap was drawn beneath the carpet, which suddenly emptied the couches of their air, and consequently tumbled all the recliners on to the floor, where they lay pell-mell, with wine spilt,[Pg 334] goblets lost, and utter confusion prevailing, except on the face of Heliogabalus, who looked on and indulged in laughter inextinguishable. Having but indifferent appetite himself, he was fond of sauces, and he highly rewarded any inventor of a sauce that was to the imperial liking. But if it failed to tickle his very sacred majesty’s palate he had recourse to a joke of a very practical character indeed; that is to say, he condemned the unlucky candidate for his favour to live upon nothing else but the sauce in question until he had discovered another more successful in its object. Fancy having to live on anchovy, without fish, for a twelvemonth, or catsup and a little bread, from the Ides of March to the Kalends of December! Think of what your palate and liver would be had you nothing to sit down to but pickled walnuts without the chop, or mustard without the beef, from Christmas to Easter, even if your wits enabled you to make deliverance then.

There was grim but honest joking in the Emperor Carus. The frugal man was once seated, as was his wont, on the grass, supping on dry bread, grey peas, and stale bacon. He gave audience at the same time to Persian ambassadors who came to sue for peace. As the emperor was about to reply, he opened his mouth for the reception of a huge spoonful of peas, but he paused to say—at the same time taking off his skull-cap with his [Pg 335]disengaged hand—‘Look here! If your master does not confess the superiority of Rome, I will render Persia as destitute of trees as my head is of hair.’ Having said which, he swallowed his shovelful of peas, and chuckled as the Persian legates went homeward with that significant message.

After all, this joke was made up of the rudest boasting. There is something in it and its attending circumstances which remind one of the last war in Europe. Rome declared war against Persia, and the Roman cry was ‘The Tigris for a boundary!’ ‘To Susa!’ ‘To Ecbatana!’ and so forth. The later cry of the enraptured Gauls, ‘Le Rhin! le Rhin!’ ‘À Berlin! à Berlin!’ seem like Irish echoes of the old cry. What disaster came of it Gibbon tells and readers of history remember, but even among the degenerate Romans there was no one ignoble enough to set an example to the poor French feuilletonist, who said of the brave German officers that they would be too proud to brush French boots with their blonde moustaches. Brave Frenchmen must have shuddered at this wretched jest, and Louis Napoleon, who loved a good joke though he never made one, must have curled his lip with indignation if he read the piece of miserable wit over his coffee at Metz.

In Prussia, which dates as a kingdom from the year 1702, there is not one of its seven kings who[Pg 336] can be called a wit, though more than one had what is far better, strong, far-seeing, uncommon sense. Unclean in their vagaries the Prussian royal jokers have assuredly been, and one or two admitted of no liberty whatever being taken with them, as far as repartee went. So stern were the most of the Prussian margraves, electors, and dukes, that, to express the peril of joking with them, there arose the well-known popular proverb, ‘It is advisable not to eat cherries with princes.’ The queens of Prussia, on the other hand, brought their own wit with them into the royal family, and there was not a sharper lady among them than Queen Sophia Charlotte, the first queen of Prussia. Leibnitz, whom she delighted to honour as a man and a philosopher, once asked her if she could imagine the infinitely little? ‘Why, of course I can!’ exclaimed the hilarious queen. ‘What a question to ask the wife of Frederick the First!’

There was good common sense in the humour of Frederick the Great of Prussia. In his hours of joviality with his boon companions, smoking and drinking around a table, in a cottage specially devoted to such recreation, the king was understood to be absent. Frederick gave the loosest rein to his own spirit of jesting, and took the roughest jokes of his guests with perfect good temper. He has been immoderately praised for this control over himself; but in truth there was[Pg 337] none. He could always escape from raillery that was tinged with bitterness. At critical moments, when an ordinary mortal, hard pressed by satirical assailants, would lose his equanimity and fly into a rage, Fritz could quietly remark, ‘Friends, the king has come back;’ after which observation he neither joked himself nor was attacked by the jokers. Neither did the king bear any ill-will if his own jesting was turned roughly against him, and he was made to smart by a repartee more stinging than the royal sarcasm which gave it birth.

There was often a childlike simplicity about the old soldier-king. He would joke and laugh with the children in the streets of Potsdam, as he slowly rode along on his veteran Molwitz gray. He loved to have them at his stirrup, and watch them struggling to kiss his boot or pat the proud old horse; and he would laugh joyously if their young throats set up the famous chorus:

Victoria! with us is God!
The haughty foe lies there!

One Saturday afternoon they carried the matter further than his patience would tolerate, and Fritz, raising his crutched cane menacingly, cried out in affected anger, ‘Young rascals! to school with you all! to school!’ The cry was met by a counter-shout from the ragamuffins of ‘Ha! ha! Papa Fritz don’t know that there’s no school on Saturday[Pg 338] afternoon!’ At which the absolute king rode away rebuked. His humour, however, made such rebuffs welcome. He took truths from the popular tongue with alacrity. After the Seven Years’ War, riding towards Sans Souci, he recognised an old fruit-woman near the Brandenburg Gate, whom he remembered to have seen there before the war broke out. Fritz at once greeted her with a ‘Well, mother, how have the times been treating you?’ ‘Middling,’ was the concise reply; ‘but where have you been for this ever so long?’ ‘Don’t you know, mother, I have been making war for these seven years past?’ ‘How should I know?’ asked the venerable Pomona, ‘and why should I care?

“Rabble fight, and rabble slay;
And rabble are friends another day.”’

Fritz laughed aloud, and rode away in high good humour. Do you think it would be safe, say, for a prince of the blood to enter into colloquy with the apple women at the Marble Arch or the fruit-sellers at St. James’s Gate, when the guard is being relieved? Frederick William the Third had a quiet humour of his own. There is one sample of it which reminds one of what Henry the Fourth said to the mayor of a town whose speech the king could hardly hear for the accompanying braying of a donkey: ‘One at a time, gentlemen, if you please!’ When Frederick William visited one of[Pg 339] his provincial towns for the first time, the chief clerical official of the district read to him a bombastically inflated address. The king grew uneasy as the flattery was piled, and at length he cut it all short, with an angry observation to his adjutant, Colonel von Witzleben, ‘Can’t stand any more of it! The man is pelting me with untruths.’ The king and the crown prince were good mimics, and both brought their powers into play at a moment when a farce was being acted in Berlin, which attracted all play-goers who loved a laugh, king and court included. There was a favourite scene in this farce, wherein a workman and his master quarrelled and were reconciled. Great fun was caused by the way in which the workman propitiated his wrathful master, by awkwardly holding out his hand, and saying, in dialect, ‘Now, measter, nevertheless, no animosity on no account!’ To this, said again and again, the master invariably replied, ‘You know me better; am I not always that one which’—— In the expression given to these phrases by the two low comedians there was a world of stage humour which delighted their audience, the sovereign and his family, as much as any there. It happened at this time that the king was kept waiting for his dinner by the tardiness of the crown prince to appear. Now if we common mortals can bear only with impatience being kept so waiting, you may judge if a king with an [Pg 340]appetite considers such an offence to be much below high treason. Frederick William at last sat down in dudgeon; all his family sat down too, in silence, looking at the crown prince’s vacant chair, with a feeling that there was a storm coming. When his majesty had just concluded his soup, his tardy royal highness entered the room. Seeing how matters stood, he put on the sheepish look of the actor who played the workman in the farce, approached the king in a loutish fashion, extended his hand awkwardly, and exclaimed with country accent, ‘Now, measter, nevertheless, no animosity on no account!’ Frederick William took up the joke immediately. He put on the look of the other actor, assumed his air and accent, and answered in his very voice, squeezing his son’s hand the while, ‘Fritz, thou knowest me better; am I not always that one which’—— You may suppose what a satisfied audience listened to that bit of dialogue; and may lose yourself in conjecture as to how a similar scene might be gone through with H.R.H. the Prince of Wales and H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh giving imitations of Mr. Compton and Mr. Buckstone in ‘Box and Cox.’

Kings of England in the olden time seldom made jokes, and more seldom allowed them to be made by others, excepting professional jesters. When we come to the Norman time we find the Conquistor so little able to digest a joke that he[Pg 341] declared war against the King of France for making one at the expense of William’s obesity. The latter, indeed, did try to answer the jest, but the answer missed its aim, and William lost his life because he could not understand humour. Rufus, on the contrary, indulged in such jesting as one might expect in an ill-bred bachelor king of loose principles and looser companions. The first Henry is handed down to us by successive historians as a man of very facetious humour, but they afford no samples of the humorous expression. Stephen had little leisure for anything but to keep his seat in the saddle into which he had leaped after a severe struggle. The humour of Henry the Second was of a sad-coloured hue; as it well might be. It was sardonically indulged when he caused to be painted on the wall of a chamber at Windsor and on the ceiling of a room at Winchester a singular picture. The artist is nameless, but he must have been the Landseer or the Ansdell of his day. The subject was an old eagle attacked by his four eaglets. The youngest and fiercest of the four was savagely picking at the parent eagle’s eyes. The king used to smile a melancholy smile as courtiers gazed at this picture, and did not penetrate, or seemed not to penetrate, the allegory which it presented. Probably when they were beyond royal sight and hearing they made good guesses at it, or the king interpreted it,[Pg 342] and then it was no treason to give circulation to Henry’s interpretation. The old eagle was the monarch himself. The four eaglets were his obstinately rebellious sons. The ruffianly youngest bird savagely trying to peck the parent’s eyes out was the youngest and most ruffianly of his sons, John. In that form the half-mad and most melancholy Henry manifested his humour with regard to family affairs—an example which has not been generally followed. In one of his sons, Richard the First, there was much readiness of wit; and he especially loved to turn it against the priests. To make a joke at the cost of an ecclesiastic was as good to him as slaying an infidel. John’s jokes took a cruel form, drawing Jews’ teeth to accelerate their disposition to lend money, and behaving noisily at divine worship with an idea of humiliating some priest or bishop who had offended him. His son Henry loved the arts and good company. Of the three Edwards not one has come to our knowledge as a joker, but the son of the last, the Black Prince, did once so far stoop from his dignity as to, half jocularly, half angrily, call an archbishop an ass. The second Richard never had an opportunity for joking; and of the next three kings, Henry the Fifth alone, when Prince of Wales, is said to have aired his wit a-nights about Eastcheap. But what Shakespeare has made witty in relation never took place in point of fact. All[Pg 343] the Eastcheap doings are apocryphal, and the Boar’s Head never had beneath its roof-tree those joyous princely spirits in whom we shall nevertheless continue to believe. Again, of the third Richard’s jesting humour we have no other example than what Shakespeare and Colley Cibber have invented for him. The seventh Henry was a dull deep man; the eighth, one to laugh with if you felt especially sure it would not shake your head off your shoulders. His son and his daughters are not recorded in the annals of wit, and such stories as have descended to us of James the First are of an unclean tendency, and the best of them in point of mirth are by far the uncleanest. His son Charles was too gentlemanlike and too grave to be such a joker as his unkingly sire. His refinement of manner did not admit of coarseness, with whatever wit it might be gilded, and the royal martyr is but known, in respect of humour, for ‘King Charles’s Golden Rules,’ of which, of course, he was not the author.

If ever there was a man in whom we should not expect to find the jesting spirit, that man is Oliver Cromwell. At the wedding festival, however, of his daughter Frances with Mr. Rich, Oliver entered joyously into all the jesting; so joyously that, in a moment of excitement, the Protector whipt off his son Richard’s wig and pretended to throw it into the fire. This he appeared[Pg 344] to have done, but he had dexterously conveyed it under him, and was sitting upon it, when the company were looking for the wig upon the top of the coals. No clown, not even thou, oh Joseph Grimaldi!—not even thou who wast an artist, true actor, in whose every look there was a purpose, in every movement a meaning—not even thou, oh best and greatest of the old pantomime clowns! couldst have executed this trick with more rapidity, cleverness, and impudent imperturbability than Oliver Cromwell exhibited on that occasion. It was an occasion, by the way, when spilling of blood had like to have happened through immoderate excess of the spirit of fun. Old Sir Thomas Hillingsby was solemnly dancing, according to the fashion of his younger days. He looked so like an insensible statue in motion, that some daring young Puritan lads thought they might molest him with impunity. They tried, as he slowly moved to and fro in measured pace, to blacken his lips with burnt cork. They roused the old lion to fury. The ex-gentleman usher to the Queen of Bohemia pulled out his dagger, which he would have plunged between the ribs of the fellow most actively concerned but for general interference. Some time elapsed before harmony was restored.

It may be here objected that Cromwell was neither a royal nor an imperial joker. He was[Pg 345] nevertheless sovereign master of England, and as despotic as any of them. We place him among them for much the same reason which Richardson, the painter, gave to Queen Caroline, when she went to see Richardson’s series of portraits of English kings, and seeing Cromwell’s portrait among them, angrily asked how he, who was no king, was placed in such company. ‘He was no king, indeed, madam,’ said Richardson, ‘but it is good for kings to have him among them.’

George the Second was not a humourist, but he would have made a first-rate actor of ‘genteel comedy’ had not fate cast him for another line of characters in the drama of life. Shortly after his accession he commanded a play at the theatre in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The house was full, but as the king kept it waiting, the murmurs of their displeasure fell upon his ear as he entered his box, three-quarters of an hour behind time. As he caught the unwelcome sounds he turned to Mr. Rich, the manager, who waited on him, as if he might gather from that official some explanation of the phenomenon. The greatest of the intellectual harlequins of England honestly told the king that his majesty was late, and that the audience did not seem to like it. Whereupon the sovereign assumed the air of an unrighteously suspected prince. He advanced to the front of his box, took out his watch with the apparent conviction that it was an[Pg 346] arbitrator which would render him justice, and looking upon it, saw that it showed the time which he knew it to be. Then he appeared in a change of character. He gazed at the audience with an expression bespeaking a guilty but a repentant prince. He put himself as much outside of his box as the laws of balancing would allow, and shaking his wigged head and very much powder out of it, he laid his jewelled hand on the heart side of his sky-blue velvet coat, and made a bow to the house, so superb in its apologetic pantomime that the audience burst forth into hilarious hurrahing and applauding, and all other possible symptoms, to demonstrate their gladness and to express their consent to a full reconciliation of prince and people.

The Thespian element was very strong too in the eldest son of George the Third. If the first gentleman in Europe had not been born a prince he might have made a very good livelihood as an actor. High or low comedy, it would have been all the same to a player of such versatility. He could have played Rover like Elliston, and his imitations were as good as Mr. Toole’s. The best-wigged prince in Christendom has, fortunately, had an historian who makes record of his royal hero in the histrionic part of his profession. Raikes is the chronicler, but the Duke of Wellington was the fountain of intelligence.

[Pg 347]

‘When the king sent for me,’ said F.M. the Duke of Wellington to Raikes, ‘to form a new Administration in 1828, he was then seriously ill, though he would never allow it. I found him in bed, dressed in a dirty silk jacket and a turban night-cap, one as greasy as the other; for, notwithstanding his coquetry about dress in public, he was extremely slovenly and dirty in private. The first words he said to me were, “Arthur, the Cabinet is defunct;” and then he began to describe the manner in which the late Ministers had taken leave of him on giving in their resignations. This was accompanied by the most ludicrous mimicry of the voice and manner of each individual, so strikingly like that it was quite impossible to refrain from fits of laughter.’

This exhibition has been considered a proof of the king’s bad taste; which it may be allowed to be. But there was equal bad taste on the part of the Duke. If he had looked grave, the old bedridden prince-actor would have been rebuked. Moreover, the king was quite as capable and quite as willing to give an imitation of Arthur. Inimitable as the latter was in certain respects, there were certain peculiarities about him which the king would have hit off with as intense delight as he felt when mimicking his majesty’s servants, Viscounts Goderich and Palmerston.

With George the Fourth’s successor there was[Pg 348] no indisposition to joke, but the royal humour was of an ordinary quality. And yet it was eccentric too. King William would not, like his brother of Cambridge, have said to a chaplain at a public dinner, ‘Come, d—— it, do say grace, and let us begin!’ but he could not resist heightening a jest by a strong expletive; as, for instance, in the case of Captain and Mrs. Marryat, who were at a royal reception at the Pavilion, in King William’s time, and from which they were anxious to get away at a certain hour, in order to fulfil another engagement. Mrs. Marryat looked anxiously at the clock, and King William, catching her more than once in the fact, good-humouredly asked her the cause of her uneasiness. The lady frankly replied. ‘Well,’ said his majesty, ‘then why do you not leave at once?’ Mrs. Marryat had to inform him that it would be a breach of etiquette to leave the room while their majesties were still there. ‘Oh, d—— it!’ said the bluff monarch; ‘if that’s the case, come along o’ me; I’ll smuggle you out.’ On state occasions, however, a breach of etiquette would fairly take the king’s breath away. This is exemplified by what occurred at one of his first levées. Seeing an admiral, with whom he had been shipmate, bowing before him, the king cordially expressed his gladness at seeing his old comrade; adding, ‘and I hope you are quite well?’ The proper course would have been to simply[Pg 349] answer the remark made. But the over-polite admiral replied, ‘Quite well, your majesty. I hope your majesty is well?’ The breach of etiquette was in making a remark to the king which implied the necessity of an answer. King William quite blushed with confusion, and did not recover himself till dinner-time. One of his own jokes he enjoyed amazingly; and notably one which he played off soon after his accession. After his arrival at St. James’s Palace the populace summoned him again and again to the window to offer him the congratulations of their sweet voices. King William presented himself again and again, till twilight came on and he was tired of it. As the ‘gloaming’ thickened, and identity was a matter of difficulty, the king sent an old naval officer to bow for him at the window. At every summons the officer stepped forward and acted king, bowing and retiring, till it became too dark to make out whether any one was at the window or not. Then the loyal mobile dispersed, and the affair was a joke for the remainder of the night at the jovial monarch’s table.

And now we are called upon to pause, just as we had finished only the prologue to our drama. But if people will make prologues as long as plays, editors will call out, Lusisti satis! and the play is deferred to a more convenient opportunity.

[Pg 350]