Beaux and Belles of England
Part 4 out of 4
art, strong affections, and an early disposition to coquetry. Her
character spoke out in her face, which was the most eloquent of all
faces; yet it was by no means beautiful if we look upon beauty
critically. There were persons who said that her face would have been
ordinary but for its transcendent loveliness of expression. Unlike the
fair Gunnings, she was neither regular in features nor faultless in
form, yet theirs was baby-beauty compared with hers. True, her hair
inclined to red, her mouth was wide, but her complexion was exquisite;
and the lips, ever laughing, were parted over a splendid set of teeth,
an attribute rare in those days when the teeth were often decayed in
youth. She had, too, a charm of manner natural to her, and a playfulness
of conversation, which, springing from a cultivated mind, rendered her
society most fascinating. "Her heart, too," writes Wraxall, her
cotemporary, "might be considered as the seat of those emotions which
sweeten human life, adorn our nature, and diffuse a nameless charm over
A younger sister, Henrietta Frances, afterward Lady Duncannon, and
eventually Countess of Besborough, was also the object of Lady
Georgiana's warm affection; and, although Lady Duncannon was very
inferior to her in elegance of mind and personal attractions, she
equalled her in sisterly love.
During the middle of the last century, literature was again the fashion
among the higher classes. Doctor Johnson and the Thrales, Miss Gurney,
Hannah More, still clustered at Streatham; many of our politicians were,
if not poets, poetasters. It is true, if we except the heart-touching
poems of Cowper, the Muses were silent. The verses which were the
delight of polished drawing-rooms were of little value, and have been
swept away from our memories of the present day as waste paper; but a
taste for what is refined was thus prevalent, and thus affected the then
rising generation favourably.
Lady Georgiana Spencer had, however, a very few years allotted her for
improvement or for the enjoyment of her youth, for in her seventeenth
year she married.
William, the fifth Duke of Devonshire, at the time when he was united
to Lady Georgiana was twenty-seven years of age. He was one of the most
apathetic of men. Tall, yet not even stately, calm to a fault, he had
inherited from the Cavendish family a stern probity of character, which
always has a certain influence in society. Weight he wanted not, for a
heavier man never led to the altar a wife full of generous impulses and
of sensibility. He was wholly incapable of strong emotion, and could
only be roused by whist or faro from a sort of moral lethargy. He was,
nevertheless, crammed with a learning that caused him to be a sort of
oracle at Brookes's when disputes arose about passages from Roman poets
or historians. With all these qualities, he was capable of being, in a
certain sense, in love, though not always with his lovely and engaging
Miss Burney relates a characteristic trait of this nobleman; it was
related to her by Miss Monckton. The duke was standing near a very fine
glass lustre in a corner of a room in the house of people who were not
possessed of means sufficient to consider expense as immaterial; by
carelessly lolling back, he threw the lustre back, and it was broken. He
was not, however, in the least disturbed by the accident, but coolly
said: "I wonder how I did that!" He then removed to the opposite corner,
and to show, it was supposed, that he had forgotten what he had done,
leaned his head in the same manner, and down came the second lustre. He
looked at it with philosophical composure, and merely said: "This is
singular enough," and walked to another part of the room without either
distress or apology. To this automaton was the young Lady Georgiana
consigned; and the marriage was, in the estimation of society, a
Her animal spirits were excessive, and enabled her to cope with the
misfortune of being linked to a noble expletive. Her good humour was
unceasing, and her countenance was as open as her heart. Fitted as she
was by the sweetest of dispositions for domestic life, one can hardly
wonder at her plunging into the excitements of politics when at home
there was no sympathy. Hence her bitterest misfortunes originated; but
one cannot, with all her indiscretions, suffer a comparison between her
and the Duchesse de Longueville, which Wraxall has instituted. The
Duchess of Devonshire scarcely merits the covert censure; except in
beauty and talents there was no similarity.
Buoyant with health and happiness, the young duchess was introduced into
the highest circles of London as a matter of course. Her husband
represented one of the most influential families of the Whig
aristocracy, and his name and fortune made him important.
Three West End palaces, as they might well be termed, Canton House,
Devonshire House, and Burlington House, were open to every parliamentary
adherent of the famous coalition,--the alliance between Lord North and
Charles James Fox. Devonshire House, standing opposite to the Green
Park, and placed upon an eminence, seemed to look down upon the Queen's
House, as Buckingham Palace was then called. Piccadilly then, though no
longer, as in Queen Anne's time, infested with highwaymen, was almost at
the extremity of the West End.
In right of his descent, on his mother's side from the Boyle family, the
Duke of Devonshire was also the owner of Burlington House, situated near
Devonshire House, and inhabited by his brother-in-law, the Duke
Thus a complete Whig colony existed in that part of London, the head and
front of their party being no less a person than George, Prince of
Wales. He was at this time in the very height of his short-lived health
and youth, and still more short-lived popularity; a man who possessed
all the exterior qualities in which his father was deficient,--grace as
well as good nature, the attribute of George III., a certain degree of
cultivation, as well as of natural talent, a tall, handsome person, with
a face less German in type than those of his brothers, some generosity
of character--witness his kindness to Prince Charles Stuart and his
brother, whom he pensioned--an appearance, at all events, of an
extremely good heart, and a great capacity for social enjoyments.
Doctor Burney states that he was surprised, on meeting the prince at
Lord Melbourne's, to find him, amidst the constant dissipation of his
life, possessed of "much learning, wit, knowledge of books in general,
discrimination of character, and original humour." He spoke with Dr.
Charles Burney, the distinguished scholar, quoting Homer in Greek with
fluency; he was a first-rate critic in music, and a capital mimic. "Had
we been in the dark," said Doctor Burney, "I should have sworn that
Doctor Parr and Kemble were in the room." Hence, the same judge thought
"he might be said to have as much wit as Charles II., with much more
learning, for his merry Majesty could spell no better than the
_bourgeois gentilhomme._" Such was the partial description of the prince
by a flattered and grateful contemporary, who wrote in 1805. Twenty
years later Sir Walter Scott, after dining with the then prince regent,
paid all justice to manners; but pronounced his mind to be of no high
order, and his taste, in so far as wit was concerned, to be condemned.
The prince was, however, just the man to be the centre of a spirited
opposition. In his heart he was Conservative; but the Whigs were his
partisans against a father who strongly, and perhaps not too sternly,
disapproved of his mode of life and his politics.
The circle around him was as remarkable for their talents, and, in some
respects, as infamous for their vices, as any Lord Rochester, or Sedley,
or Etherege of the time of the second Charles. In that day, a Protestant
Duke of Norfolk took an active part in political affairs, and formed one
of the chief supporters of the Whigs. Carlton House, Devonshire House,
often received in their state rooms "Jock of Norfolk," as he was called,
whose large muscular person, more like that of a grazier or a butcher,
was hailed there with delight, for his Grace commanded numerous
boroughs. He was one of the most strenuous supporters of Fox, and had
displayed in the House of Lords a sort of rude eloquence, characteristic
of his mind and body. Nothing, however, but his rank, his wealth, his
influences, his Whig opinions, could have rendered this profligate,
revolting man endurable. Drunkenness is said to have been inherent in
his constitution, and to have been inherited from the Plantagenets. He
was known in his youth to have been found sleeping in the streets,
intoxicated, on a block of wood; yet he is related to have been so
capable of resisting the effects of wine, that, after laying his father,
a drunkard like himself, under the table at the Thatched House, St.
James's, he has been stated to have repaired to another party, there to
finish the convivial rites. He was often under the influence of wine
when, as Lord Surrey, he sat in the House of Commons; but was wise
enough, on such occasions, to hold his tongue. He was so dirty in his
person, that his servants used to take advantage of his fits of
intoxication to wash him; when they stripped him as they would have done
a corpse, and performed ablutions which were somewhat necessary, as he
never made use of water. He was equally averse to a change of linen. One
day, complaining to Dudley North that he was a prey to rheumatism,
"Pray," cried North, "did your Grace ever try a clean shirt?"
This uncleanly form constituted a great feature of the Whig assemblies.
At that time every man wore a queue, every man had his hair powdered;
yet "Jack" renounced powder, which he never wore except at court, and
cut his hair short. His appearance, therefore, must have been a strange
contrast with that of the Prince of Wales, curled and powdered, with
faultless ruffles, and an ample snow-white cravat, to say nothing of the
coat which looked as if it were sewn on his back. It is to the Duke of
Norfolk that the suggestion of putting a tax on hair powder has been
ascribed. His life was one series of profligacy. Yet, such was the
perverted judgment of the day, that this unworthy descendant of the
Plantagenets was as popular as any peer of his time. When sober, he was
accessible, conversable, and devoid of pride. When intoxicated, he used
half to confess that he was still a Catholic at heart. His conversion to
the reformed faith was held not to be very sincere; and his perpetual
blue coat of a peculiar shade--a dress he never varied--was said to be a
penance imposed on him by his confessor. He did no credit to any
Christian church; and the Church of Rome is welcome to his memory.
Richard Brinsley Sheridan, at this period in his thirty-third year, was
not then wholly degraded by drinking, debt, and, as far as money was
concerned, dishonesty. His countenance at this age was full of
intelligence, humour, and gaiety: all these characteristics played
around his mouth, and aided the effect of his oratory to the ear. His
voice was singularly melodious, and a sort of fascination attended all
he did and said. His face, as Milton says of the form of the
"Had not yet lost
All her original brightness."
Yet he lived to be known by the name of "Bardolph,"--to have every fine
expression lost in traces of drunkenness. No one could have perceived,
in after days, the once joyous spirit of Sheridan in a face covered with
eruptions, and beaming no longer with intelligence. He resembled, says
Wraxall, at sixty, one of the companions of Ulysses, who, having tasted
of Circe's "charmed cup"--
"... lost his upright shape,
And downward fell into a grovelling swine."
This extraordinary man was the husband of one of the most beautiful,
and, in being his wife, one of the most unfortunate of women. Miss
Linley, the daughter of a celebrated musical composer, and called, for
her loveliness, the "Maid of Bath," had the calamity of being wooed and
won by Sheridan. Never was there a more touching and instructive history
than hers. Her beauty was rare, even amid the belles of a period rich in
attractive women. Dark masses of hair, drawn back on her brow, fell in
curls on a neck of alabaster. Her features were delicate and regular;
the expression of her eyes was exquisitely soft and pensive. Her charms
have been transmitted to her female descendants, Mrs. Norton, the
Duchess of Somerset, and Lady Dufferin, whilst they have also inherited
her musical talents, and the wit and ability of their grandfather. Mrs.
Sheridan, after a life of alternate splendour and privation, died at
Clifton, of consumption, before middle age. Her death was saddened, if
not hastened, by her carriage, as she was preparing to drive out on the
Downs, being seized for her husband's debts. Whilst united to this young
and lovely wife, Sheridan was one of the brightest stars in the
dissolute sphere of Carlton House; but for domestic life he had neither
time nor disposition. His fame was at its climax, when, during the trial
of Warren Hastings, he spoke for hours in Westminster Hall, with an
eloquence never to be forgotten; then, going to the House of Commons,
exhibited there powers of unrivalled oratory. Meantime the theatres were
ringing with applause, and his name went from mouth to mouth whilst the
"Duenna" was acted at one house, the "School for Scandal" at another. He
was, in truth, the most highly gifted man of his time; and he died in
the fear of bailiffs taking his bed from under him,--an awestruck,
forlorn, despised drunkard!
But of all the party men to whom the young Duchess of Devonshire was
introduced, the most able and the most dissolute was Fox. The colouring
of political friends, which concealed his vices, or rather which gave
them a false hue, has long since faded away. We now know Fox as he was.
In the latest journals of Horace Walpole, his inveterate gambling, his
open profligacy, his utter want of honour, is disclosed by one of his
own opinions. Corrupted ere yet he had left his home, whilst in age a
boy, there is, however, the comfort of reflecting that he outlived his
vices. Fox, with a green apron tied around his waist, pruning and
nailing up his fruit-trees at St. Ann's Hill, or amusing himself
innocently with a few friends, is a pleasing object to remember, even
whilst his early career recurs forcibly to the mind.
Unhappily, he formed one of the most intimate of those whom Georgiana,
Duchess of Devonshire, admitted to her home. He was soon enthralled
among her votaries, yet he was by no means a pleasing object to look at
as he advanced in life. He had dark saturnine features, thought by some
to resemble those of Charles II, from whom he was descended in the
female line; when they relaxed into a smile, they were, it is said,
irresistible. Black shaggy eyebrows concealed the workings of his mind,
but gave immense expression to his countenance. His figure was broad,
and only graceful when his wonderful intellect threw even over that the
power of genius, and produced, when in declamation, the most impassioned
gestures. Having been a coxcomb in his youth, Fox was now degenerating
into the sloven. The blue frock coat and buff waistcoat with which he
appeared in the House of Commons were worn and shabby. Like the white
rose which distinguished the Stuarts, so were the blue and buff the
badge of the American insurgents and of Washington, their chief.
Having ceased to be the head of the Maccaronis, as the _beau monde_ were
then called, Fox had devoted himself to play. Whist, quinze, and
horse-racing were his passion, and he threw away a thousand pounds as if
they had been a guinea; and he lost his whole fortune at the
gaming-table. Before thirty he was reduced to distress, even in the
common affairs of life. He could not pay the chairmen who carried him to
the House. He was known to borrow money from the waiters at Brookes's,
which was the rallying-point of the Opposition. There the night was
spent in whist, faro, suppers, and political consultations. Dissolute as
he was, there was a kindness, a generosity of disposition that made his
influence over man or woman most perilous to both. Then he was one of
the most accomplished of students in history and general letters; and to
his studies he could even devote himself after irretrievable losses at
play. Topham Beauclerk, after having passed the whole night with Fox at
faro, saw him leave the club in desperation. He had lost enormously.
Fearful of the consequences, Beauclerk followed him to his lodgings. Fox
was in the drawing-room, intently engaged over a Greek "Herodotus."
Beauclerk expressed his surprise. "What would you have me do? I have
lost my last shilling," was the reply. So great was the elasticity of
his disposition, sometimes, after losing all the money he could manage
to borrow, at faro, he used to lay his head on the table, and, instead
of railing at fortune, fall fast asleep. For some years after the
Duchess of Devonshire's marriage Fox had continued to represent
Westminster. So long as he retained that position, Pitt's triumph could
not be considered as complete, nor the Tory party as firmly established
in the administration. Three candidates appeared on the hustings in
April, 1784,--Lord Hood, Sir Cecil Wray, and Fox. So late as the
twenty-sixth of the month Wray, who had sat for some time for
Westminster in Parliament, maintained a small numerical advantage over
Fox. The election, which began on the first of the month, had now gone
on more than three weeks: ten thousand voters had polled; and it was
even expected that, since the voters were exhausted, the books would be
closed, and Wray, who was second on the poll, Lord Hood being first,
would carry the day.
Happily we have now no adequate notion of the terrors of such an
election; it was a scene of fun and malice, spirit and baseness,
alternately. Englishmen seemed hardly men; whilst they one hour
blustered, the next they took the bribe, and were civil. Fox went down
to Westminster in a carriage with Colonel North, Lord North's son,
behind as a footman, and the well-known Colonel Hanger--one of the
reprobate associates of George IV. (when prince regent), and long
remembered on a white horse in the park, after being deserted by the
prince and out of vogue--driving in the coat, hat, and wig of a
coachman. When Queen Charlotte heard of this exploit of Colonel North's
she dismissed him from his office of comptroller of her household,
saying she did not covet another man's servant.
As the month drew to a close, every hour became precious, and Fox gained
at this critical juncture two new and potent allies. Dressed in
garter-blue and buff, in compliment to Fox and his principles, forth
came the young Duchess of Devonshire and her sister, now Lady Duncannon,
and solicited votes for their candidate. The mob were gratified by the
aspect of so much rank, so great beauty, cringing for their support.
Never, it was said, had two "such lovely portraits appeared before on
It required, indeed, no ordinary courage to undertake collecting votes,
for a strong disposition to rioting now manifested itself. Nevertheless,
being provided with lists of the outlying voters, these two young women
drove to their dwellings. In their enterprise they had to face butchers,
tailors, every craft, low or high, and to pass through the lowest, the
dirtiest, and the most degraded parts of London. But Fox was a hundred
votes below Wray, and his fair friends were indefatigable; they forgot
their dignity, their womanhood, and "party" was their watchword. They
were opposed by the Marchioness of Salisbury, whom the Tories brought
forward. She was beautiful, but haughty; and her age, for she was
thirty-four, whereas the Duchess of Devonshire was only twenty-six,
deteriorated from the effect of her appearance.
Forgetting her rank, which Lady Salisbury always remembered, and
throwing all her powers of fascination into the scale, the young duchess
alighted during one of her canvassing days at a butcher's shop. The
owner, in his apron and sleeves, stoutly refused his vote, except on one
condition,--"Would her Grace give him a kiss?" The request was granted.
This was one of the votes which swelled the number of two hundred and
thirty-five above Sir Cecil Wray, and Fox stood second on the poll. Of
course much stupid poetry was written on the occasion.
"Condemn not, prudes, fair Devon's plan,
In giving _Steel_ a kiss
In such a cause, for such a man,
She could not do amiss."
Even the Prince of Wales took an active interest in this memorable
election; and George III. is said to have also interfered. Never was
political rancour so high, nor conscience so low, as at that period. The
hustings resembled the stand at Newmarket. "An even bet that he comes in
second," cried one; "five to four on this day's poll," screamed another.
Amid all these shouts, gazed at by the lowest of all human beings, the
low not only in rank but in feeling, the drunken, paid-for voters, stood
the duchess and a band of fair titled friends supporting Fox, who was
called the "Man of the People."
It was the 17th of May when Fox, over whose head a scrutiny hung on the
part of Sir Cecil Wray, and who was not thought even then returned as
member, was chaired. This procession took place as the poll closed. Fox
was carried through the streets on a chair decorated with laurel, the
ladies in blue and buff forming part of the _cortege_. Before him was
displayed the prince's plume: those three ostrich feathers, the sight of
which might bring back to our minds the field of Cressy, where they were
won, and henceforth worn for four successive centuries. A flag, on which
was inscribed, "Sacred to Female Patriotism," was waved by a horseman in
the triumphant cavalcade. The carriages of the Duke of Devonshire and
the Duke of Portland attracted even less attention than that of Fox, on
the box of which were Colonel North and other friends, partisans of Lord
North's, who now mingled with their former opponents. As the procession
turned into Pall Mall, it was observed that the gates of Carlton House
were open; it passed in, therefore, and saluted, in veering round, the
Prince of Wales, who, with a number of ladies and gentlemen, stood in
the balustrade in front. Fox then addressed the crowd, and attempted to
disperse them; but at night the mob broke out into acts of fury,
illuminated and attacked those houses which were in sullen darkness.
The next day the prince invited all the rank, beauty, and fashion of the
coalition party to a fête on his lawn. It wad a bright day that 18th of
May; and under the delicious shade of the trees the young and gay
forgot, perhaps, in the enchantments of the scene, politics and
elections. Lord North, dressed in blue and buff,--his new
livery,--strutted about amid those who only fifteen months before had
execrated and denounced him, until, by the coalition with Fox, he had
made himself their idol. Every one, on this occasion, crowded around the
minister, whose wit was as inexhaustible as his _sang-froid_, and whose
conversation in its playfulness resembled that of our great premier of
1859. Blue and buff pervaded the garden. Colonel North (afterward Lord
Guildford) and George Byng, hitherto bitter enemies, were seen, dressed
alike, walking together familiarly. The prince was irresistibly
fascinating, and nothing could be more splendid than the fête given by
royalty overwhelmed by debt.
As the party were thus enjoying themselves, by a strange coincidence,
the famous cream-coloured horses of George III. were beheld proceeding
in solemn state down St. James's Park. His Majesty was going to
Westminster to open Parliament. Nothing but a low wall separated Canton
Gardens from the park, so that the king could not forbear seeing his
former minister, his son, and the successful candidate disporting
themselves in all the elation of success.
In the evening Lower Grosvenor Street was blocked up with carriages, out
of which gentlemen and ladies, all in blue and buff, descended to visit
the famous Mrs. Crewe, whose husband, then member for Chester, was
created, in 1806, Lord Crewe. This lady was as remarkable for her
accomplishments and her worth as for her beauty; nevertheless, she
permitted the admiration of Fox, who was in the rank of her admirers.
The lines he wrote on her were not exaggerated. They began thus:
"Where the loveliest expression to features is joined,
By Nature's most delicate pencil design'd;
Where blushes unbidden, and smiles without art,
Speak the softness and feeling that dwell in the heart;
Where in manners enchanting, no blemish we trace,
But the soul keeps the promise we had from the face;
Sure philosophy, reason, and coldness must prove
Defences unequal to shield us from love."
Nearly eight years after the famous election at Westminster, Mrs. Crewe
was still in perfection, with a son of one and twenty, who looked like
her brother. The form of her face was exquisitely lovely, her complexion
radiant. "I know not," Miss Burney writes, "any female in her first
youth who could bear the comparison. She uglifies every one near her."
This charming partisan of Fox had been active in his cause; and her
originality of character, her good humour, her recklessness of
consequences, made her a capital canvasser.
The same company that had assembled in the morning at Carlton House now
crowded into Grosvenor Street. Blue and buff were the order of the
evening, the Prince of Wales wearing those colours. After supper he gave
a toast,--"True blue and Mrs. Crewe." The room rang with applause. The
hostess rose to return thanks. "True blue, and all of you," was her
toast. Nor did the festivities end here. Canton House some days
afterward received all the great world, the "true blues" of London. The
fête, which was of the most varied kind, and of the most magnificent
description, began at noon, went on all night, and was not ended till
the next day. Nothing could exceed its splendour. A costly banquet was
prepared for the ladies, on whom his Royal Highness and the gentlemen
waited whilst they were seated at table. Nothing could exceed the grace,
the courtesy, the tact of the prince on these occasions, when he forgot
his two hundred thousand pounds of debt, and added to them. Louis XIV.,
said an eye-witness, could not have eclipsed him. This was probably the
brightest era in the life of the Duchess of Devonshire. She was the lady
paramount of the aristocratic Whig circles, in which rank and literature
were blended with political characters. Slander soon coupled her name
with that of Fox; and that name, though never wholly blighted, was
sullied. Miss Burney, meeting her at Bath, some years afterward,
describes her as no longer beautiful, but with manners exquisitely
polite, and "with a gentle quiet" of demeanour. Yet there was an
expression of melancholy. "I thought she looked oppressed within," was
Miss Burney's remark. On another occasion she found her more lively, and
consequently more lovely, vivacity being so much her characteristic that
her style of beauty required it. "She was quite gay, easy, and charming;
indeed, that last word might have been coined for her;" and Miss Burney
soon perceived that it was the sweetness of her smile, her open,
ingenuous countenance, that had won her the celebrity which had attended
her career of fashion.
But even then there was a canker in the duchess's felicity. Lady
Elizabeth Foster, the daughter of the Earl of Bristol, and a contrast to
her in person,--large, dark, and handsome,--had attracted the duke, her
husband, and the coldest of men had become, deeply enamoured of this
woman, whom he eventually married. Gibbon said of Lady Elizabeth that
she was the most alluring of women. Strange to say, a sort of friendship
existed between the duchess and Lady Elizabeth, who was with her at
Bath, when Miss Burney saw them together. Even then a cloud hung
over--these two ladies of rank; and Mrs. Ord, Miss Gurney's cautious
friend, reproved her for making their acquaintance.
Three children of rare promise were given to occupy the affections which
were so little reciprocated by the duke. The elder of the three,
Georgiana Dorothy, afterward married to the Earl of Carlisle, and the
mother of the present Duchess of Sutherland, is described by Miss
Gurney, at eight years of age, as having a fine, sweet, and handsome
countenance, and with the form and figure of a girl of twelve. She, as
well as her sister, was at that time under the care of Miss Trimmer, the
daughter of Mrs. Trimmer, one of the most admirable writers for children
that has ever delighted our infancy. Miss Trimmer is described as a
"pleasing, not pretty" young lady, with great serenity of manner.
Lady Henrietta Elizabeth, married to the Earl of Granville, so long
ambassador at Paris, was, at six years of age, by "no means handsome,
but had an open and pleasing countenance, and a Look of the most happy
disposition;" a tribute borne out by the many virtues of that admirable
lady in after life. The Marquis of Hartington, afterward Duke of
Devonshire, then only fourteen months old (this was in 1791), had
already a house, and a carriage to himself, almost in the style of
royalty. He lived near his father, whilst the duchess was staying with
her mother, Lady Spencer. To persons of domestic notions this seems a
This apparently happy family party had, however, some trials to obscure
their supposed felicity. Scandal not only pointed at Lady Elizabeth
Foster as possessing an undue influence over the duke, but attacked the
duchess in the most sacred relations of her life. The little marquis was
reputed to be illegitimate; the report assumed several shapes; of course
rancorous political partisans pointed to the intimacy with Fox; others
to the intimacy at Carlton House. Another story also obtained credit,
and never died away. This was that at the time when the duchess was
confined, Lady Elizabeth gave birth to a son, the duchess to a daughter,
and that the children were changed; that the late duke entered into a
contract with his uncle, the late Lord George Cavendish, never to marry,
in order that his lordship's children might have an undisputed
succession at his Grace's death.
There was another source of disquiet to Lady Spencer and the duchess at
this time, in the deep depression of Lady Duncannon. This lady, the
mother of Lady Caroline Lamb, so conspicuous for her eccentricity in our
own time, seems to have been affectionately beloved by her brother, the
Lord Spencer, the grandfather of the present earl. "He made up to her,"
says Miss Burney, "with every mark of pitying affection, she receiving
him with the most expressive pleasure, though nearly silent." This
afflicted woman lived, nevertheless, to a great age, and survived her
gay, spirited sister, the Duchess of Devonshire.
Lady Spencer belonged to that class whom we now call evangelical; a
class earnest in feeling, originating in a sincere desire to renovate
the almost dead faith of the period; to set an example of piety and
decorum; and also "to let their light shine before men." Miss Burney
describes her as too desirous of a reputation for charity and devotion.
Nevertheless, Lady Spencer could not detach her daughter from the
The duchess continued to take an active part in politics, and to mingle
with the tumult of elections, faro, and party triumphs, Love, poetry,
end the fine arts. Her son was born in the dawn of that Revolution in
France which shook the foundations of all social life. At this very
period a serious calamity befell their country in the first fit of
insanity that attacked George III. Up to the very time when France was
plunged into commotion, his Majesty, apparently in perfect health, had
held his weekly levees at St. James's until the last week of October,
1788. Early in November the first paroxysms of his disordered intellect
occurred at the Queen's Lodge, after dinner, her Majesty and the
princesses being present. The gates of the Lodge were closed that night;
no answers were given to persons making inquiries; and it was rumoured
that his Majesty was dead.
The state of the public mind may readily be conceived. The capital
exhibited a scene of confusion and excitement only exceeded by that
displayed four years afterward, when the decapitation of Louis XVI. was
announced in London.
A regency was proposed; and six physicians were called in to act in
consultation. Doctor Warren was considered to hold the first place in
this learned junto. Doctor Addington, the father of the late Lord
Sidmouth, Sir Lucas Pepys, and Doctor Willis were amongst the rest.
Warren was disposed to Whiggism, and thought the king's recovery
doubtful. Willis was a Tory, and pronounced it possible, and indeed
probable. His dictum was believed at St. James's and at Kew Palace;
Warren was credited at Carlton House and Devonshire House. If the first
was the oracle of White's, the second was trusted at Brookes's. The
famous Duchess of Gordon, the partisan of Pitt and Dundas, supported
Willis and his views, and was the whipper-in of the Tory party. The
Duchess of Devonshire was the firm and powerful supporter of the prince,
in his claims to the regency. The Tories were for the power not only
over the royal household, but over the council, being vested in Queen
Charlotte. A caricature was circulated representing the Lord Chancellor,
Pitt, and Dundas, as the three "weird sisters" gazing at the full moon.
Her orb was half enlightened, half eclipsed. The part in darkness
contained the king's profile; on the other side was a head, resplendent
in light, graciously gazing at the weird sisters; that was the queen. In
the February of the ensuing year, nevertheless, to the great joy of the
nation, the king showed signs of amendment. One day, Mr. Greville,
brother to the Earl of Warwick, was standing near the king's bed, and
relating to Doctor Willis that Lord North had made inquiries after the
king's health. "Has he?" said the king. "Where did he make them, at St.
James's, or here?" An answer being given, "Lord North," said his
Majesty, "is a good man, unlike the others. He is a good man." The party
at Carlton House, amongst whom the Duchess of Devonshire must ever be
ranked, were disappointed at this timely recovery, whilst the
honest-hearted middle and lower classes of England were unfeignedly
rejoiced; but there was too much party rancour existing for any better
spirit to arise and show itself. Even in society, the venom of party was
suffered to intrude. Lord Mountnorris, being one evening at a ball given
by the French ambassador, canvassed the whole room for a partner, but in
vain. He begged Miss Vernon to interfere, and to procure him a partner
for a country dance. She complied, and presented him to a very elegant
young lady, with whom his lordship danced, and conversed some time. Soon
afterward a gentleman said to him, "Pray, my lord, do you know with whom
you have been dancing?" "No," he replied; "pray who is she?"
"Coalitions," said the gentleman, "will never end; why, it is Miss Fox,
the niece of Charles, and sister of Lord Holland." The noble lord was
thunderstruck. Had Pitt seen him? If so, he was undone. He ran up to
reproach Miss Vernon. "True," was the reply; "she is the niece of Fox,
but since she has twenty thousand pounds to her fortune, I thought I had
not acted improperly in introducing you."
In the famous quarrel between Burke and Fox, the Duchess of Devonshire
took the office of mediator. Burke thus attacked Fox in the House
"Mr. Fox," he said, "has treated me with harshness and malignity. After
harassing with his light troops in the skirmishes of 'order,' he has
brought the heavy artillery of his own great abilities to bear on me.
There have," he added, "been many differences between Mr. Fox and
myself, but there has been no loss of friendship between us. There is
something in this cursed French constitution which envenoms everything."
Fox whispered, "There is no loss of friendship between us." Burke
replied, "There is. I know the price of my conduct: our friendship is
at an end."
Fox was overwhelmed with grief at these words. He rose to reply, but his
feelings deprived him of utterance. Relieved by a burst of tears, whilst
a deep silence pervaded the house, he at last spoke.
"However events," he said, in deep emotion, "may have altered the mind
of my honourable friend,--for so I must still call him,--I cannot so
easily consent to relinquish and dissolve that intimate connection which
has for twenty-five years subsisted between us. I hope that Mr. Burke
will think on past times, and whatever conduct of mine has caused the
offence, he will at least believe that I did not intend to offend." But
the quarrel was never reconciled, notwithstanding the good offices of
the Duchess of Devonshire, the friend of both parties.
Soon after the commencement of the eighteenth century, this party spirit
was, as it were, rebuked, first by the death of Pitt, and afterward by
that of Fox, who was long in a declining state. When he heard that Pitt
had expired, he said, "Pitt has died in January, perhaps I may go off in
June. I feel my constitution dissolving." When asked by a friend, during
the month of August, to make one of a party in the country at Christmas,
"It will be a new scene," said his friend. "I shall indeed be in a new
scene by Christmas next," Mr. Fox replied. On that occasion he expressed
his belief in the immortality of the soul; "but how," he added, "it acts
as separated from the body, is beyond my capacity of judgment." Mr. Fox
took his hand and wept. "I am happy," he added, "full of confidence; I
may say of certainty."
One of his greatest desires was to be removed to St. Ann's Hill, near
Chertsey, the scene of his later, his reformed, his happier life. His
physicians hesitated, and recommended his being carried first to the
Duke of Devonshire's house at Chiswick. Here, for a time, he seemed to
recover health and spirits. Mrs. Fox, Lady Holland, his niece, and Lady
Elizabeth Foster were around his death-bed. Many times did he take leave
of those dearest to him; many times did death hover over him; yet we
find no record that the Duchess of Devonshire was amongst those who
received his last sigh. His last words to Mrs. Fox and Lord Holland
were, "God bless you, bless you, and you all! I die happy--I pity you!"
"Oh! my country!" were Pitt's last words; those of Fox were equally
characteristic. His nature was tender and sympathetic, and had he lived
in other times he would have been probably as good as he was great.
His remains were removed from Chiswick to his own apartments in St.
James's, and conveyed under a splendid canopy to Westminster Abbey. As
the gorgeous procession passed Carlton House, a band of music,
consisting of thirty, played the "Dead March in Saul." The Prince of
Wales had wished to follow his friend on foot to the grave, but such a
tribute was forbidden by etiquette.
It is to be regretted that princes must be exempted from so many of the
scenes in this sublunary life calculated to touch the heart, to chasten
and elevate the spirit. As the funeral entered the abbey, and those
solemn words, "I am the Resurrection and the Life," were chanted, the
deepest emotion affected those who had known and loved him whose pall
Among other tributes to the memory of Fox were the following lines from
the pen of the Duchess of Devonshire. The visitor to Woburn Abbey will
find them underneath the bust of the great statesman in a temple
dedicated to Liberty by the late Duke of Bedford.
"Here, near the friends he lov'd, the man behold,
In truth unshaken, and in virtue bold,
Whose patriot zeal and uncorrupted mind
Dared to assert the freedom of mankind;
And, whilst extending desolation far,
Ambition spread the hateful flames of war
Fearless of blame, and eloquent to save,
'Twas he--'twas Fox--the warning counsel gave,
Midst jarring conflicts stemm'd the tide of blood,
And to the menac'd world a sea-mark stood!
Oh! had his voice in mercy's cause prevailed,
What grateful millions had the statesman hail'd:
Whose wisdom made the broils of nations cease,
And taught the world humanity and peace!
But, though he fail'd, succeeding ages here
The vain, yet pious efforts shall revere;
Boast in their annals his illustrious name,
Uphold his greatness, and confirm his fame."
The duchess only survived Fox a year; she died in 1806, beloved,
charitable, penitent. Her disease was an abscess of the liver, which was
detected rather suddenly, and which proved fatal some months after it
was first suspected. When the Prince of Wales heard of her death, he
remarked: "Then the best-natured and best-bred woman in England is
gone." Her remains were conveyed to the family vault of the Cavendish
family in All Saints' Church, Derby; and over that sepulchre one fond
heart, at all events, sorrowed. Her sister, Lady Duncannon, though far
inferior to the duchess in elegance both of mind and person, had the
same warm heart and strong affection for her family. During the month of
July, 1811, a short time before the death of the Duke of Devonshire (the
husband of the duchess), Sir Nathaniel Wraxall visited the vault of All
Saints' Church. As he stood admiring the coffin in which the remains of
the once lovely Georgiana lay mouldering, the woman who had accompanied
him showed him the shreds of a bouquet which lay on the coffin. Like the
mortal coil of that frame within, the bouquet was now reduced almost to
dust. "That nosegay," said the woman, "was brought here by the Countess
of Besborough, who had intended to place it herself upon the coffin of
her sister; but as she approached the steps of the vault, her agony
became too great to permit her to proceed. She knelt down on the stones
of the church, as nearly over the place where the coffin stood in the
vault below as I could direct, and there deposited the flowers,
enjoining me to perform an office to which she was unequal. I fulfilled
By others the poor duchess was not so faithfully remembered. Her friend
Lady Elizabeth Foster had long since become her rival, yet one common
secret, it was believed, kept them from a rupture. Both had, it was
understood, much to conceal. The story of the late Duke of Devonshire's
supposed birth has been referred to: he is supposed to have been the son
of the duke, but not of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, but of her who
afterward bore that title, Lady Elizabeth Foster. The inflexible
determination of the late duke to remain single, according, it is said,
to an agreement between him and his uncle, then Lord George Cavendish,
always seemed to imply, in a man of such pure and domestic tastes, so
affectionate a disposition, and so princely a fortune, some dire
In 1824, Lady Elizabeth Foster, then the second Duchess of Devonshire,
expired at Rome, where she had lived many years in almost regal
splendour. Amongst her most intimate friends were the Cardinal Consalvi
and Madame Récamier, who were cognisant of the report, which was
confirmed in their minds by the late duke's conduct at her death. Lady
Elizabeth, as we shall still by way of distinction call her, was then so
emaciated as to resemble a living spectre; but the lines of a rare and
commanding beauty still remained. Her features were regular and noble,
her eyes magnificent, and her attenuated figure was upright and
dignified, with the step of an empress. Her complexion of marble
paleness completed this portrait. Her beautiful arms and hands were
still as white as ivory, though almost like a skeleton's from their
thinness. She used in vain to attempt to disguise their emaciation by
wearing bracelets and rings. Though surrounded by every object of art in
which she delighted, by the society, both of the English, Italian, and
French persons of distinction whom she preferred, there was a shade of
sadness on this fascinating woman's brow, as if remembrance forbade her
usual calm of life's decline.
Her stepson (so reported), the late duke, treated her with respect and
even affection, but there was an evident reserve between them. At her
death he carefully excluded all friends to whom she could in her last
moments confide what might perhaps, at that hour, trouble her
conscience. Her friends, Madame Récamier and the Duc de Laval, were only
admitted to bid her farewell when she was speechless, and a few minutes
before she breathed her last.
This circumstance struck them forcibly as confirmatory of the report
alluded to; but it must in candour be stated that the duke's precautions
may have originated in another source. His step-mother was disposed to
Romanism, and he may have feared that the zeal of her Catholic friends
should prompt them, if opportunity occurred, to speak to her on the
subject of her faith, and to suggest the adoption of such consolations
as their own notions would have thought indispensable at that awful
moment. The point is one that cannot be settled. It may, however, be
remarked, that in disposition, in his wide benevolence and courteous
manners, the late duke greatly resembled the subject of this
memoir,--the beautiful, the gifted, but the worldly Georgiana, Duchess
Note 1: Collins's "Peerage" gives the following account of this lady:
"Peter, Lord King, married Anne, daughter of Richard Seys, Esq., of
Boverton, in Glamorganshire, with whom he lived to the day of his death
in perfect love and happiness, and left by her four sons and two
Note 2: A portrait of my grandmother, when a girl, was seen by my mother
at Hawell, in Somersetshire, the seat of Sir C. K. Tynt, many years after
I was born.
Note 3: I may with truth, and without vanity, make this remark. The
estimable being here mentioned was named John; he died on the 7th of
December, 1790, at Leghorn, in Tuscany, where he had been many years
established as a merchant of the first respectability.
Note 4: Hannah More, with her sisters, at this time kept a boarding-
school for young ladies. Later she became famous as the author of
tragedies which gained popularity--Ed.
Note 5: Mr. Powel.
Note 6: Thomas Hull, deputy manager of Covent Garden Theatre, was founder
of the Theatrical Fund for the relief of distressed players. He was an
actor, the author and translator of several plays, and a writer of poems
and short stories.--Ed.
Note 7: David Garrick, the famous actor and manager of Drury Lane Theatre,
made his last appearance on the stage on the 10th of June, 1776, he
being then in his sixtieth year.--Ed.
Note 8: Arthur Murphy, an Irishman, began life as a clerk, then became a
journalist, and subsequently an actor, but remaining on the stage only
for a couple of seasons, he turned dramatist and wrote a number of
plays, some of which attained great success. Two years after the death
of David Garrick he wrote a life of the famous player, who had been his
Note 9: Susannah Cibber, who gained considerable fame as a singer in
oratorio before becoming an actress. Her first success as a player was
gained at Covent Garden, but in 1753 she joined Garrick's company at Drury
Lane, of which she remained a member until her death in 1766. Garrick, who
greatly admired her genius, on hearing of her demise, declared, "Then
tragedy is dead on one side." She lies buried in Westminster Abbey.
Note 10: At the time when the banns of her marriage were published she
admits to being "a few months advanced in her sixteenth year;" and she had
been four months married when the journey to Bristol was made.--Ed.
Note 11: Mrs. Sophia Baddeley, who was a very beautiful woman, and the
heroine of many amorous adventures.--Ed.
Note 12: Robert Henley, who, in 1772, succeeded his father as second Earl
of Northington. Previous to this date he had been made an LL. D. of
Cambridge, and had held the offices of teller of the exchequer, and
master of the Hamper Office in Chancery. The year after his succession
he was made Knight of the Thistle, and in 1783 was appointed Lord
Lieutenant of Ireland.--Ed.
Note 13: Thomas, second Baron Lyttelton, known as "the wicked Lord
Lyttelton," in distinction to his father, who in his lifetime had been
styled "the good Lord Lyttelton." Thomas, Baron Lyttelton, was a man of
parts and fashion; a politician, a writer of verses, an artist whose
paintings were supposed to contain the combined excellencies of Salvator
Rosa and Claude, and withal one of the greatest profligates of the age.
This is the Lord Lyttelton who, in his thirty-fifth year, and whilst in
perfect health, dreamt a woman appeared to him and announced he had not
three days to live. He spoke lightly of his dream, and on the morning of
the third day felt in such good spirits that he declared he should "bilk
the ghost." He died suddenly that night, when his friend Miles Peter
Andrews dreamt Lyttelton appeared to him and said, "All is over."
George Edward Ayscough, a captain in the Guards, was cousin to the
second Lord Lyttelton. Some years Later than the date of his meeting
with Mrs. Robinson he produced a version of Voltaire's "Semiramis,"
which was presented at Drury Lane Theatre in 1776. He is described as "a
parasite of Lord Lyttelton," and as "a fool of fashion."--Ed.
Note 14: Anna Laetitia Aikin (1743-1825).--Ed.
Note 15: George Robert Fitzgerald, commonly known as "Fighting
Fitzgerald," from the number of duels in which he took part, was a man of
good family, noted alike for his gallantry and recklessness. A fracas
which was the result of his distasteful attentions to Mrs. Hartley, a
well-known actress, had made him notorious in 1773, some years previous
to his introduction to Mrs. Robinson. His life, which was one of
singular adventure, ended on the scaffold, he being executed for murder
Note 16: Mrs. Abington, a distinguished actress who, at the age of
seventeen, had made her first appearance at the Haymarket Theatre, some
six years before the author of these memoirs was born.
Note 17: Later she gave birth to a daughter, named Sophia, who lived but
Note 18: Mr. Robinson was educated at Harrow, and was a contemporary of
Note 19: This gentleman's name is Hanway, the person mentioned in the
former part of this work as Mr. Robinson's earliest friend.
Note 20: Writing of this time, Miss Hawkins states that Mrs. Robinson was
"eminently meritorious: she had her child to attend to, she did all the
work of their apartments, she even scoured the stairs, and accepted the
writing and the pay which he had refused."--Ed.
Note 21: Georgiana, wife of the fifth Duke of Devonshire. The duchess was
not only one of the most beautiful, vivacious, and fascinating women of
the day, but was likewise an ardent politician. Whilst canvassing for the
election of Fox, she purchased the vote of a butcher for a kiss, and
received from an Irish mechanic the complimentary assurance that he
could light his pipe at her eyes.--Ed.
Note 22: George Hobart, third Earl of Buckinghamshire, who had a passion
for dramatic entertainments, and for a time became manager of the opera in
Note 23: Richard Brinsley Sheridan was at this period in his twenty-fifth
year, and had entered on his mismanagement of Drury Lane Theatre. He had
already written "The Rivals," which had not proved a success on its
first appearance; "St. Patrick's Day, or the Scheming Lieutenant," a
farce; "The Duenna," a comic opera; but he was yet to write "A Trip to
Scarborough," and "The School for Scandal."
Note 24: In his "History of the Stage," Genest tells us Mrs. Robinson made
her first appearance on the stage as Juliet, on the 10th of December,
1776, but leaves us in ignorance regarding the actors who took part in
the tragedy. Romeo was evidently played by William Brereton, who had
rehearsed the principal scenes with her in the greenroom before Sheridan
and Garrick. Genest adds: "Mrs. Robinson was received with great
applause. She had an engagement previous to her first appearance, and
received what was considered a handsome salary. She was a most beautiful
woman, and a very good breeches figure."--Ed.
Note 25: According to Genest, the second character she attempted was
Statira, in "Alexander the Great," played on the 17th of February, 1777;
Amanda, in "The Trip to Scarborough," produced seven nights later, being
her third personation.--Ed.
Note 26: Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, and afterward King of
Hanover, was the fifth son of George III, and perhaps the most profligate
and unpopular member of the royal family.--Ed.
Note 27: Horace Walpole, writing to his friend, the Rev. William Mason, on
the 28th of May, 1780, says: "Lady Craven's comedy, called 'The
Miniature Picture,' which she acted herself with a genteel set at her
own house in the country, has been played at Drury Lane. The chief
singularity was that she went to it herself, the second night, in form;
sat in the middle of the front row of the stage box, much dressed, with
a profusion of white bugles and plumes, to receive the public homage due
to her sex and loveliness.... It was amazing to see so young a woman
entirely possess herself; but there is such an integrity and frankness
in her consciousness of her own beauty and talents, that she speaks of
them with a _naïveté_ as if she had no property in them, but only wore
them as gifts of the gods. Lord Craven, on the contrary, was quite
agitated by his fondness for her, and with impatience at the bad
performance of the actors, which was wretched indeed. Yet the address of
the plot, which is the chief merit of the piece, and some lively
pencilling, carried it off very well, though Parsons murdered the Scotch
Lord, and Mrs. Robinson (who is supposed to be the favourite of the
Prince of Wales) thought on nothing but her own charms and him."
"The Irish Widow" was a farce founded by David Garrick on Molière's "Le
Mariage Forcé," and produced on the 23d of October, 1772.--Ed.
Note 28: Thomas Linley, who was considered "one of the finest violin
players in Europe," was drowned through the upsetting of a boat on the
5th of August, 1778. He was a brother-in-law of Richard Brinsley Sheridan.
Note 29: George Colman, a popular and prolific dramatist, who in 1777
became manager of the Haymarket Theatre, and continued as such until 1785,
introducing meanwhile many new players and some dramatic novelties.--Ed.
Note 30: Elizabeth Farren, born 1759, made her first appearance before a
London audience as Miss Hardcastle, in "She Stoops to Conquer," on June
9, 1777. After years spent in strolling through the provinces in her
father's company and that of other managers, she now captivated the
town. Her beautiful face, exquisitely modulated voice, elegant figure,
and natural grace, rendered her an ideal representative of the fine
ladies of comedy. She was welcomed into the most distinguished society
in London, and whilst acting as manageress of private theatricals at the
Duke of Richmond's house in Whitehall, met Edward, twelfth Earl of
Derby, whose wife was then living. This did not prevent him from falling
in love with Miss Farren, who, it was understood, would succeed his
first wife as countess did the latter predecease the actress. Lady Derby
died on March 14, 1797 and on the 8th of the following month Miss Farren
took leave of the stage in the character of Lady Teazle, and on the 1st
of May was married to Lord Derby, she being then in her thirty-eighth
year. Even in this scandal-loving and licentious age no imputation had
ever been cast upon her honour. Of the three children born of this
union, but one survived, a daughter, who marred the Earl of Wilton. The
Countess of Derby lived until 1829.--Ed.
Note 31: Mrs. Robinson played Lady Macbeth on the occasion of her benefit,
when was also performed a musical farce she had composed entitled, "A
Note 32: The famous politician, Charles James Fox, a friend of the Prince
Note 33: George III. and Queen Charlotte, who frequently attended the
Note 34: This performance of "The Winter's Tale" took place on December 3,
1779, she being at that time in her twenty-second year, and the Prince
of Wales in his eighteenth year.--Ed.
Note 35: Smith had been educated at Eton and St. John's College,
Cambridge, with a view to becoming a clergyman, but eventually went on the
stage and proved himself an excellent actor, whose representation of
Charles Surface was considered a finished performance.--Ed.
Note 36: George Chapel Coningsby, Viscount Malden, afterward fifth Earl of
Essex, born November 13, 1757. He married twice, his second wife being
Miss Stephens, the famous singer.--Ed.
Note 37: Those who have read "The Winter's Tale" will know the
significance of these adopted names.
Note 38: The writer evidently makes a mistake in fixing the Oratorio for
the next night, as will be seen from the note on the next page.--Ed.
Note 39: Frederick Augustus, Duke of York and Albany, second son of George
III., who at the age of six months was elected to the valuable bishopric
Note 40: Another of the "diurnal prints," dated February 12, 1780, is not
so complimentary in its remarks, which run as follows: "A circumstance of
rather an embarrassing nature happened at last night's Oratorio. Mrs.
R----, decked out in all her finery, took care to post herself in one of
the upper boxes immediately opposite the prince's, and by those airs
peculiar to herself, contrived at last so to _basilisk_ a certain
heir-apparent, that his fixed attention to the beautiful object became
generally noticed, and soon after astonished their Majesties, who, not
being able to discover the cause, seemed at a loss to account for the
extraordinary effect. No sooner, however, were they properly informed
than a messenger was instantly sent aloft desiring the dart-dealing
actress to withdraw, which she complied with, though not without
expressing the utmost chagrin at her mortifying removal."--Ed.
Note 41: At this time the Prince of Wales and his brother Frederick
Augustus, Duke of York, were living in seclusion at Boner Lodge, Kew,
where their education was being conducted by Doctor Hurd, Bishop of
Lichfield, Mr. Arnold, and Lord Bruce. A strict discipline was exercised
over the princes at this period. It was not until January 1, 1781, that
the Prince of Wales was provided with a separate establishment, a part of
Buckingham House being allotted to him for that purpose.--Ed.
Note 42: Now Margravine of Anspach.
Note 43: The most affecting tribute which the memory of a gallant father
could receive was the following pathetic and heartfelt effusion of
genuine and grateful duty:
TO THE MEMORY OF MY LAMENTED FATHER,
WHO DIED IN THE SERVICE OF THE EMPRESS OF RUSSIA,
DECEMBER 5, 1786.
Oh, sire, rever'd! ador'd!
Was it the ruthless tongue of DEATH
That whisp'ring to my pensive ear,
Pronounc'd the fatal word
That bath'd my cheek with many a tear,
And stopp'd awhile my gasping breath?
"He lives no more!
Far on a foreign shore,
His honour'd dust a laurell'd grave receives,
While his immortal soul in realms celestial lives!"
Oh! my lov'd sire, farewell!
Though we are doom'd on earth to meet no more,
Still memory lives, and still I must adore!
And long this throbbing heart shall mourn,
Though thou to these sad eyes wilt ne'er return!
Yet shall remembrance dwell
On all thy sorrows through life's stormy sea,
When fate's resistless whirlwinds shed
Unnumber'd tempests round thy head,
The varying ills of human destiny!
Yet, with a soul sublimely brave,
Didst thou endure the dashing wave;
Still buffeting the billows rude,
By all the shafts of woe, undaunted, unsubdued!
Through a long life of rugged care,
'Twas thine to steer a steady course!
'Twas thine misfortune's frowns to bear,
And stem the wayward torrent's force!
And as thy persevering mind
The toilsome path of fame pursued,
'Twas thine, amidst its flow'rs to find
The wily snake--Ingratitude!
Yet vainly did th' insidious reptile strive
On thee its poisons dire to fling;
Above its reach, thy laurel still shall thrive,
Unconscious of the treach'rous sting!
'Twas thine to toil through length'ning years,
Where low'ring night absorbs the spheres!
O'er icy seas to bend thy way,
Where frozen Greenland rears its head,
Where dusky vapours shroud the day,
And wastes of flaky snow the stagnate ocean spread,
'Twas thine, amidst the smoke of war,
To view, unmov'd, grim-fronted Death;
Where Fate, enthron'd in sulphur'd car,
Shrunk the pale legions with her scorching breath!
While all around her, bath'd in blood,
Iberia's haughty sons plung'd lifeless 'midst the flood.
Now on the wings of meditation borne,
Let fond remembrance turn, and turn to mourn;
Slowly, and sad, her pinions sweep
O'er the rough bosom of the boist'rous deep
To that disastrous, fatal coast
Where, on the foaming billows tost,
Imperial Catherine's navies rode;
And war's inviting banners wide
Wav'd hostile o'er the glitt'ring tide,
That with exulting conquest glow'd!
For there--oh, sorrow, check the tear!--
There, round departed valour's bier,
The sacred drops of kindred virtue shone!
Proud monuments of worth! whose base
Fame on her starry hill shall place;
There to endure, admir'd, sublime!
E'en when the mould'ring wing of time
Shall scatter to the winds huge pyramids of stone!
Oh! gallant soul! farewell!
Though doom'd this transient orb to leave,
Thy daughter's heart, whose grief no words can tell,
Shall, in its throbbing centre, bid thee live!
While from its crimson fount shall flow
The silent tear of ling'ring grief;
The gem sublime! that scorns relief,
Nor vaunting shines, with ostentatious woe!
Though thou art vanish'd from these eyes,
Still from thy sacred dust shall rise
A wreath that mocks the polish'd grace
Of sculptur'd bust, or tuneful praise;
While Fame shall weeping point the place
Where Valour's dauntless son decays!
Unseen to cherish mem'ry's source divine,
Oh I parent of my life, shall still be mine!
And thou shalt, from thy blissful state,
Awhile avert thy raptur'd gaze,
To own, that 'midst this wild'ring maze,
The flame of filial love defies the blast of fate!
Note 44: Dumouriez.
Note 45: An attachment took place between Mrs. Robinson and Colonel
Tarleton shortly after the return of the latter from America, which
subsisted during sixteen years. On the circumstances which occasioned its
dissolution it is neither necessary nor would it be proper to dwell. The
exertions of Mrs. Robinson in the service of Colonel Tarleton, when
pressed by pecuniary embarrassment, led to that unfortunate journey, the
consequences of which proved so fatal to her health. The colonel
accompanied her to the Continent, and, by his affectionate attentions,
sought to alleviate those sufferings of which he had been the
Note 46: Son of the celebrated Edmund Burke.
Note 47: The Right Honourable Edmund Burke, at that time conductor of the
Note 48: Mr. Merry had been a member of the "Scuola della Crusca," at
Note 49: Mrs. Robinson's "Poems," vol. ii. p. 27.
Note 50: The date on which the Paris prisons were broken open and twelve
hundred royalist prisoners slain.--Ed.
Note 51: Boaden, in his Life of Kemble, says: "I remember the warmth with
which Mrs. Robinson chanted the kindness of Mrs. Jordan in accepting the
principal character: and I cannot forget the way, when the storm began,
in which the actress, frightened out of her senses, 'died and made no
Note 52: The Morning Post.
Note 53: Miss Robinson and a friend.
Note 54: Those who have read Gifford's "Baviad" and "Maeviad" will
understand this allusion.--Ed.
Note 55: Second Baron Rodney, son of the admiral, then a captain in the
Note 56: Captain Darby commanded, at the time of his death, a ship of war
in the Russian service, and was buried with military honours,
Back to Full Books