Her empire as a wit was undisputed, for the Duchess of Devonshire was then a mere girl, at her mother's knee; but that for beauty was disputed by Mary, Duchess of Rutland, so well remembered in our own time, as she survived till 1831.
This exquisite specimen of English loveliness, compared by some to Musidora, as described by Thomson, was the most beautiful woman of rank in the kingdom. Every turn of her features, every form of her limbs, was perfect, and grace accompanied every movement. She was tall, of the just height; slender, but not thin; her features were delicate and noble; and her ancestors, the Plantagenets, were in her represented by a faultless sample of personal attributes. She was the daughter of a race which has given to the world many heroes, one philosopher, and several celebrated beauties—that of Somerset; and, as the descendant of the defenders of Raglan Castle, might be expected to combine various noble qualities with personal gifts. But she was cold, although a coquette. In the Duchess of Devonshire it was the besoin d'aimer, the cordial nature recoiled into itself from being linked to an expletive, that betrayed her into an encouragement of what offered her the semblance of affection—into the temptation of being beloved. To the Duchess of Gordon her conquests were enhanced by the remembrance of what they might bring; but the Duchess of Rutland viewed her admirers in the light of offering tributes to a goddess. She was destitute of the smiles, the intelligence, and sweetness of the Duchess of Devonshire; and conscious of charms, received adoration as her due. "In truth," Sir Nathanial Wraxall, who knew her well, writes, "I never contemplated her except as an enchanting statue, formed to excite admiration rather than to awaken love, this superb production of nature not being lighted up by corresponding mental attractions."
This lady was united to one of the most attractive and popular of men, but one of the most imprudent and convivial. The son of that celebrated Marquis of Granby whom Junius attacked, the young Duke of Rutland was a firm partisan of Pitt, whom he first brought into the House of Commons, and at whose wish he accepted the government of Ireland in 1784. Never was there such splendour at the vice-regal court as in his time. Vessels laden with the expensive luxuries from England were seen in the Bay of Dublin at short intervals; the banquets given were most costly; the evenings at the castle were divided between play and drinking; and yet the mornings found the young duke breakfasting on six or seven turkey's eggs. He then, when on his progress, rode forty or fifty miles, returned to dinner at seven, and sat up to a late hour, supping before he retired to rest.
The duchess had little place in his heart, and the siren, Mrs. Billington, held it in temporary thraldom; but constancy was to a man of such a calibre impossible. Nevertheless, when the duke saw his wife surrounded by admirers, whom her levity of manner encouraged, he became jealous, and they parted, for the last time as it proved, on bad terms. One evening, seeing him engaged in play, the duchess approached the window of the room in which he sat, and tapped at it. He was highly incensed by this interference with his amusements. She returned to England, an invalid, in order to consult Doctor Warren, the father of the late physician of that name. Whilst residing with her mother in Berkeley Square, she heard that the duke was attacked with fever. She sent off Doctor Warren to see him, and was preparing to follow him when the physician returned. At Holyhead he had heard that the duke was no more. He died at the early age of thirty-three, his blood having been inflamed by his intemperance, which, however, never affected his reason, and was, therefore, the more destructive to his health. His widow, in spite of their alienation, mourned long and deeply. Never did she appear more beautiful than when, in 1788, she reappeared after her seclusion. Like Diana of Poictiers, she retained her wonderful loveliness to an advanced age. Latterly, she covered her wrinkles with enamel, and when she appeared in public always quitted a room in which the windows, which might admit the dampness, were opened. She never married again, notwithstanding the various suitors who desired to obtain her hand.
For a long time the Duchess of Gordon continued to reign over the Tory party almost without a rival. When, at last, the Duchess of Devonshire came forward as the female champion of the Foxites, Pitt and Dundas, afterward Lord Melville, opposed to her the Duchess of Gordon. At that time she lived in the splendid mansion of the then Marquis of Buckingham in Pall Mall. Every evening, numerous assemblies of persons attached to the administration gathered in those stately saloons, built upon or near the terrace whereon Nell Gwyn used to chat with Charles II on the grass below, as he was going to feed his birds in his gardens. Presuming on her rank, her influence, her beauty, the Duchess of Gordon used to act in the most determined manner as a government whipper-in. When a member on whom she counted was wanting, she did not scruple to send for him, to remonstrate, to persuade, to fix him by a thousand arts. Strange must have been the scene—more strange than attractive. Everything was forgotten but the one grand object of the evening, the theme of all talk,—the next debate and its supporters. In the year 1780 events took place which for some time appeared likely to shake the prosperity of the Gordon family almost to its fall.
The duke had two brothers, the elder of whom, Lord William, was the Ranger of Windsor Park, and survived to a great age. The younger, Lord George, holds a very conspicuous but not a very creditable place in the annals of his country. No event in our history bears any analogy with that styled the "Gordon Riots," excepting the fire of London in the reign of Charles II; and even that calamity did not exhibit the mournful spectacle which attended the conflagrations of 1780. In the former instance, the miserable sufferers had to contend only with a devouring element; in the latter, they had to seek protection, and to seek it in vain, from a populace of the lowest description, and the vilest purposes, who carried with them destruction wherever they went. Even during the French Revolution, revolting and degrading as it was, the firebrand was not employed in the work of destruction; the public and private buildings of Paris were spared.
The author of all these calamities, Lord George Gordon, was a young man of gentle, agreeable manners, and delicate, high-bred appearance. His features were regular and pleasing; he was thin and pale, but with a cunning, sinister expression in his face that indicated wrong-headedness. He was dependent on his elder brother, the duke, for his maintenance, six hundred pounds a year being allowed him by his Grace. Such was the exterior, such the circumstances of an incendiary who has been classed with Wat Tyler and Jack Cade, or with Kett, the delinquent in the time of Edward VI.
It was during the administration of Lord North that the Cordon Riots took place, excited by the harangues and speeches of Lord George. On the 2d of June he harangued the people; on the 7th these memorable disturbances broke out; Bloomsbury Square was the first point of attack. In Pope's time this now neglected square was fashionable:
"In Palace Yard, at nine, you'll find me there; At ten, for certain, sir, in Bloomsbury Square."
Baxter, the Nonconformist, and Sir Hans Sloane once inhabited what was, in their time, called Southampton Square, from Southampton House, which occupied one whole side of Bloomsbury Square, and was long the abode of Lady Rachel Russell, after the execution of her lord. Like every other part of what may be called "Old London," it is almost sanctified by the memories of the lettered and the unfortunate. But the glory of Bloomsbury Square was, in those days, the house of Lord Mansfield, at the north end of the east side; in which that judge had collected many valuables, among which his library was the dearest to his heart; it was the finest legal library of his time. As soon as the long summer's day had closed, and darkness permitted the acts of violence to be fully recognised, Hart Street and Great Russell Street were illuminated by large fires, composed of the furniture taken from the houses of certain magistrates. Walking into Bloomsbury, the astounded observer of that night's horrors saw, with consternation, the hall door of Lord Mansfield's house broken open; and instantly all the contents of the various apartments were thrown into the square, and set on fire. In vain did a small body of foot-soldiers attempt to intimidate the rioters. The whole of the house was consumed, and vengeance would have fallen on Lord Mansfield and his lady had they not escaped by a back door a few minutes before the hall was broken into; such was that memorable act of destruction—so prompt, so complete. Let us follow the mob, in fancy, and leaving the burning pile in Bloomsbury Square, track the steps of the crowd into Holborn. We remember, as we are hurried along, with a bitter feeling, that Holborn was the appointed road for criminals from Newgate to Tyburn. It is now one blaze of light; in the hollow near Fleet Market, the house and warehouses of Mr. Langdale, a Catholic—a Christian like ourselves, though not one of our own blessed and reformed church—is blazing; a pinnacle of flame, like a volcano, is sent up into the air. St. Andrew's Church is almost scorched with the heat; whilst the figures of the clock—that annalist which numbers, as it stands, the hours of guilt—are plain as at noonday. The gutters beneath, catching here and there gleams of the fiery heavens, run with spirituous liquors from the plundered distilleries; the night is calm, as if no deeds of persecution sullied its beauty; at times it is obscured by volumes of smoke, but they pass away, and the appalled spectators of the street below are plainly visible. Here stands a mother with an infant in her arms looking on; there, a father, leading his boy to the safest point of observation. We wonder at their boldness; but it is the direst sign of affright—in their homes they are insecure—everywhere, anywhere, the ruthless unseen hand may cast the brand, and all may perish. At this early hour there seemed to be no ringleader—no pillage; it appeared difficult to conceive who could be the wretch who instigated, who directed this awful riot; but, at the windows, men were seen calmly tearing away pictures from the walls; furniture, books, plate, from their places, and throwing them into the flames. As midnight drew near, the ferocious passions of the multitude were heightened by ardent spirits; not a soldier, either horse or foot, is visible. "Whilst we stood," says an eye-witness, "by the wall of St. Andrew's churchyard, a watchman, with his lanthorn in his hand, passed on, calling the hour as if in a time of profound security."
Meantime, the King's Bench Prison was enveloped in flames; the Mansion House and the Bank were attacked. But the troops were killing and dispersing the rioters on Blackfriars Bridge; a desperate conflict between the horse and the mob was going on near the Bank. What a night! The whole city seemed to be abandoned to pillage—to destruction. Shouts, yells, the shrieks of women, the crackling of the burning houses, the firing of platoons toward St. George's Fields, combined to show that no horrors, no foes are equal to those of domestic treachery, domestic persecution, domestic fury, and infatuation.
It was not alone the Roman Catholics who were threatened. Sir George Savile's house in Leicester Square—once the peaceful locality in which Dorothy Sydney, Waller's "Sacharissa," bloomed—was plundered and burned. Then the Duchess of Devonshire took fright, and did not venture to stay at Devonshire House for many nights after dusk, but took refuge at Lord Clermont's in Berkeley Square, sleeping on a sofa in the drawing-room. In Downing Street, Lord North was dining with a party his brother, Colonel North, Mr. Eden, afterward Lord Auckland, the Honourable John St. John, General Fraser, and Count Malzen, the Prussian minister. The little square then surrounding Downing Street was filled with the mob. "Who commands the upper story?" said Lord North. "I do," answered Colonel North; "and I have twenty or thirty grenadiers well armed, who are ready to fire on the first notice."
"If your grenadiers fire," said Mr. Eden, calmly, "they will probably fire into my house just opposite."
The mob was now threatening; every moment the peril was increasing. Mr. St. John held a pistol in his hand; and Lord North, who never could forbear cutting a joke, said, "I am not half so much afraid of the mob as of Jack St. John's pistol." By degrees, however, the crowd, seeing that the house was well guarded, dispersed, and the gentlemen quietly sat down again to their wine until late in the evening, when they all ascended to the top of the house, and beheld the capital blazing. It was here that the first suggestion of a coalition between Lord North and Fox, to save the country and themselves, was started, and afterward perfected behind the scenes of the Opera House in the Haymarket. During this memorable night George III, behaved with the courage which, whatever their failings, has ever highly distinguished the Hanoverian family. By the vigorous measures, late indeed, but not too late, which he acceded to at the Council, London was saved. But the popular fury had extended to other towns. Bath was in tumult; a new Roman Catholic chapel there was burned. Mrs. Thrale, hearing that her house at Streatham had been threatened, caused it to be emptied of its furniture. Three times was Mrs. Thrale's town house attacked; her valuables and furniture were removed thence also; and she deemed it prudent to leave Bath, into which coaches, chalked over with "No Popery," were hourly driving. The composure with which the rioters did their work seemed to render the scene more fearful, as they performed these acts of violence as if they were carrying out a religious duty rather than deeds of execrable hatred.
It was not until two or three days after tranquillity had been restored that Lord George Gordon was apprehended. Ministers were justly reproached for not having sent him to the Tower on the 2d of June, when he had assembled and excited the mob to extort compliance with their wishes from the House of Commons. Such a step, when the House was surrounded by multitudes, and when, every moment, it was expected that the door would be broken open, would have been hazardous; had that occurred, Lord George would have suffered instant death. General Murray, afterward Duke of Atholl, held his sword ready to pass it through Lord George's body the instant the mob rushed in. The Earl of Carnarvon, the grandfather of the present earl, followed him closely with the same intent.
The indignation of the insulted Commons was extreme, and the distress and displeasure of Lord George's own family doubtless excessive. The House of Commons had never been thus insulted before. It is difficult to determine what could be Lord George's motives for the conduct which led to these awful results, during the whole of which he preserved a composure that bordered on insensibility; he was a perfect master of himself whilst the city was in flames. Much may be laid to fanaticism, and the mental derangement which it either produced or evinced. When too late he tried in vain to abate the fury he had excited, and offered to take his stand by Lord Rodney's side when the Bank was attacked, to aid that officer, who commanded the Guards, in its defence.
Lord George then lived in Weibeck Street, Cavendish Square, and tradition assigns as his house that now occupied by Mr. Newby, the publisher, No. 30, and for many years the house of Count Woronzoff, the Russian ambassador, who died there. Lord George there prepared for his defence, which was entrusted to the great Erskine, then in his prime, or, as he was called in caricatures, with which the shops were full, from his extreme vanity, Counsellor Ego. In February, 1781, the trial took place, and Lord George was acquitted. He retired to Birmingham, became a Jew, and lived in that faith, or under the delusion that he did so. The hundreds who perished from his folly or insanity were avenged in his subsequent imprisonment in Newgate for a libel on Marie Antoinette, of which he was convicted. He died a very few years after the riots of 1780, in Newgate, generally condemned, and but little compassionated.
It appears from the letters addressed by Doctor Beanie to the Duchess of Gordon, that she was not in London during the riots of June, 1780. The poet had been introduced to her by Sir William Forbes, and frequently visited Gordon Castle. We find him, whilst London was blazing, sending thither a parcel of Mirrors, the fashionable journal, "Count Fathom," "The Tale of a Tub," and the fanciful, forgotten romance by Bishop Berkeley, "Gaudentio di Lucca," to amuse her solitude. "'Gaudentio,'" he writes, "will amuse you, though there are tedious passages in it. The whole description of passing the deserts of Africa is particularly excellent." It is singular that this dream of Bishop Berkeley's of a country fertile and delicious in the centre of Africa should have been almost realised in our own time by the discoveries of Doctor Livingstone.
To his present of books, Doctor Beattie added a flask of whisky, which he sealed with his usual seal, "The three graces, whom I take to be your Grace's near relations, as they have the honour, not only to bear one of your titles, but also to resemble you exceedingly in form, feature, and manner. If you had lived three thousand years ago, which I am very glad you did not, there would have been four of them, and you the first. May all happiness attend your Grace!"
This graceful piece of adulation was followed by a tender concern for "her Grace's" health. A sportive benediction was offered whilst the duchess was at Glenfiddick, a hunting seat in the heart of the Grampian Hills—a wild, sequestered spot, of which Doctor Beattie was particularly fond.
"I rejoice in the good weather, in the belief that it extends to Glenfiddick, where I pray that your Grace may enjoy all the health and happiness that good air, goats' whey, romantic solitude, and the society of the loveliest children in the world can bestow. May your days be clear sunshine; and may a gentle rain give balm to your nights, that the flowers and birch-trees may salute you in the morning with all their fragrance! May the kids frisk and play tricks before you with unusual sprightliness; and may the song of birds, the hum of bees, and the distant waterfall, with now and then the shepherd's horn resounding from the mountains, entertain you with a full chorus of Highland music! My imagination had parcelled out the lovely little glen into a thousand little paradises; in the hope of being there, and seeing everyday in that solitude, what is
'Fairer than famed of old, or fabled since, Of fairy damsels, met in forests wide By errant knights.'
But the information you received at Cluny gave a check to my fancy, and was indeed a great disappointment to Mrs. Beattie and me; not on account of the goats' whey, but because it keeps us so long at such a distance from your Grace."
When at Gordon Castle, the duchess occupied herself with pursuits that elevated whilst they refreshed her mind. She promised Doctor Beattie to send him the history of a day. Her day seems to have been partly engaged in the instruction of her five daughters, and in an active correspondence and reading. It is difficult to imagine this busy, flattered woman reading Blair's sermons—which had then been recently published—to her family on Sundays; or the duke, whom Doctor Beattie describes as "more astronomical than ever," engrossed from morning to night in making calculations with Mr. Copland, Professor of Astronomy in Marischal College, Aberdeen. Beattie's letters to the duchess, although too adulatory, were those of a man who respects the understanding of the woman to whom he writes. The following anecdotes, the one relating to Hume, the other to Handel, are in his letters to the Duchess of Gordon, and they cannot be read without interest.
"Mr. Hume was boasting to the doctor (Gregory) that among his disciples he had the honour to reckon many of the fair sex. 'Now tell me,' said the doctor, 'whether, if you had a wife or a daughter, you would wish them to be your disciples? Think well before you answer me; for I assure you that whatever your answer is, I will not conceal it.' Mr. Hume, with a smile and some hesitation, made this reply: 'No; I believe skepticism may be too sturdy a virtue for a woman.' Miss Gregory will certainly remember she has heard her father tell this story."
Again, about Handel:
"I lately heard two anecdotes, which deserve to be put in writing, and which you will be glad to hear. When Handel's 'Messiah' was first performed, the audience were exceedingly struck and affected by the music in general; but when the chorus struck up, 'For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth,' they were so transported that they all, together with the king (who happened to be present), started up, and remained standing till the chorus ended; and hence it became the fashion in England for the audience to stand while that part of the music is performing. Some days after the first exhibition of the same divine oratorio, Mr. Handel came to pay his respects to Lord Kinnoul, with whom he was particularly acquainted. His lordship, as was natural, paid him some compliments on the noble entertainment which he had lately given the town. 'My lord,' said Handel, 'I should be sorry if I only entertained them—I wish to make them better.'"
Beattie's happiest hours are said to have been passed at Gordon Castle, with those whose tastes, in some respects differing from his own, he contributed to form; whilst he was charmed with the beauty, the wit, the cultivated intellect of the duchess, and he justly appreciated her talents and virtues. Throughout a friendship of years her kindness was unvaried;
"Ne'er ruffled by those cataracts and breaks Which humour interposed too often makes."
The duchess felt sincerely for poor Beattie's domestic sorrows; for the peculiarities of his wife, whom he designated as "nervous;" for the early death of his son, in whom all the poet's affections were bound up, and to whose welfare every thought of his was directed.
One would gladly take one's impressions of the Duchess of Gordon's character from Beattie, rather than from the pen of political writers, who knew her but as a partisan. The duchess, according to Beattie, was feelingly alive to every fine impulse; demonstrative herself, detesting coldness in others; the life of every party; the consoling friend of every scene of sorrow; a compound of sensibility and vivacity, of strength and softness. This is not the view that the world took of her character. Beattie always quitted Gordon Castle "with sighs and tears." It is much to have added to the transient gleams of happiness enjoyed by so good and so afflicted a man. "I cannot think," he wrote, when under the pressure of dreaded calamity—that of seeing his wife insane; "I am too much agitated and distrait (as Lord Chesterfield would say) to read anything that is not very desultory; I cannot play at cards; I could never learn to smoke; and my musical days are over. My first excursion, if ever I make any, must be to Gordon Castle."
There he found what is indispensable to such a man—congeniality. Amusement was not what he required; it was soothing. It was in the duchess's presence that he wrote the following "Lines to a Pen:" "Go, and be guided by the brightest eyes, And to the softest hand thine aid impart; To trace the fair ideas as they arise, Warm from the purest, gentlest, noblest heart;" lines in which the praise is worth more than the poetry. The duchess sent him a copy by Smith of her portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds, a picture to which reference has been already made.
In 1782 the duchess grieved for the death of Lord Kaimes, for whom she had a sincere friendship, although the religious opinions of that celebrated man differed greatly from those of Beattie. Lord Kaimes was fifty-six years an author, in company with the eccentric Lord Monboddo, the author of the theory that men have had tails. Lord Kaimes passed some days at Gordon Castle shortly before his death. Monboddo and he detested each other, and squabbled incessantly. Lord Kaimes understood no Greek; and Monboddo, who was as mad and as tiresome about Greek and Aristotle, and as absurd and peculiar on that score as Don Quixote was about chivalry, told him that without understanding Greek he could not write a page of good English. Their arguments must have been highly diverting. Lord Kaimes, on his death-bed, left a remembrance to the Duchess of Gordon, who had justly appreciated him, and defended him from the charge of skepticism. Lord Monboddo compared the duchess to Helen of Troy, whom he asserted to have been seven feet high; but whether in stature, in beauty, or in the circumstances of her life, does not appear.
The happiness of the duchess was perfected by the blessings granted to her in her family. In 1770 the birth of her eldest son George, long beloved in Scotland whilst the Marquis of Huntley, took place. Doctor Beattie describes him as "the best and most beautiful boy that ever was born." He proved to be one of the most popular of the young nobility of that period. Doctor Beattie strongly advised the duchess to engage an English tutor, a clergyman, for him, recommended either by the Archbishop of York, or by the Provost of Eton. When it afterward became a question whether the young heir should go to Oxford or to Cambridge, the doctor, who seems to have been a universal authority, allowed that Cambridge was the best for a man of study, whilst Oxford had more dash and spirit in it: so little are matters altered since that time.
Fifteen years appear to have elapsed before the birth of a second son, Alexander. Both these scions of this ducal house became military men: the young marquis was colonel of the Scots Fusileer Guards, and served in the Peninsular war, and was eventually Governor of Edinburgh Castle. Long was he remembered by many a brother officer, many an old soldier, as a gallant, courteous, gay-hearted man; with some of the faults and all the virtues of the military character. He married late in life Elizabeth, daughter of Alexander Brodie, Esq., of Arnhall, N. B., who survived him. Lord Alexander Cordon died unmarried; but five daughters added to the family lustre by noble and wealthy alliances.
Wraxall remarks "that the conjugal duties of the Duchess of Gordon pressed on her heart with less force than did her maternal solicitudes." For their elevation she thought, indeed, no sacrifice too great, and no efforts too laborious. In the success of her matrimonial speculations she has been compared to Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, who numbered among her sons-in-law two dukes and three earls. But the daughters of the proud Sarah were, it has been observed, the children of John Churchill, and on them were settled, successively, Blenheim and the dukedom. The Ladies Gordon were portionless, and far less beautiful than their mother. To her skilful diplomacy alone were these brilliant fortunes owing.
Lady Charlotte, the eldest, was eighteen years of age when her mother first entertained matrimonial projects for her, and chose for their object no less a personage than Pitt, then prime minister. Her schemes might have proved successful had not Pitt had that sure impediment to maternal management,—a friend. This friend was the subtle Henry Dundas, afterward Lord Melville; one of those men who, under the semblance of unguarded manners and a free, open bearing, conceal the deepest designs of personal aggrandisement. Governing India, governing Scotland, the vicegerent in Edinburgh for places and pensions, Dundas was looking forward to a peerage, and kept his eye steadily on Pitt, whom he guided in many matters, adapting his conduct and his conversation to the peculiar tone of the minister's mind. Flattery he never used—dictation he carefully avoided; both would have been detrimental to his influence with the reserved statesman.
Pitt was by no means calculated to win the affection of a blooming girl of eighteen, who, whatever Wraxall may have thought, lived to be one of the most beautiful and graceful women of her time. Many years ago, during the life of Sir Thomas Lawrence, his portrait of the Duchess of Richmond, formerly Lady Charlotte Cordon, was exhibited at Somerset House. So exquisite were the feminine charms of that lovely face, so elegant the form he had portrayed, that all crowded to look upon that delineation of a woman no longer young; whilst beauties in the bloom of youth were passed by as they hung on the walls in all the glowing colours of girlhood.
On most intimate terms with the duchess, Pitt seems to have been touched with the attractions of Lady Charlotte, and to have paid her some attentions. He was one of the stiffest and shyest of men, finely formed in figure, but plain in face; the last man to be fascinated, the last to fascinate. Drives to Dundas's house at Wimbledon when Pitt was there; evenings at home, in easy converse with these two politicians; suppers, at which the premier always finished his bottle, as well as the hardier Scotchman, failed to bring forward the reserved William Pitt. The fact was, that Dundas could not permit any one, far less the Duchess of Gordon, to have the ascendency over the prime minister that so near a relationship would occasion. He trembled for his own influence. A widower at that time,—his wife, a Miss Rennie of Melville, who had been divorced from him, being dead,—he affected to lay his own person and fortune at Lady Charlotte's feet. Pitt instantly retired, and the sacrifice cost him little; and Dundas's object being answered, his pretensions also dropped through. Two years afterward, Lady Charlotte became the wife of Colonel Lennox, afterward Duke of Richmond, and in the course of years the mother of fourteen children; one of whom, Henry Adam, a midshipman, fell overboard from the Blake in 1812, and was drowned. According to Wraxall, the Duke of Richmond had to pay the penalty of what he calls "this imprudent, if not unfortunate marriage," being banished to the snowy banks of St. Lawrence under the name of governor.
In modern times, our young nobility of promise have learned the important truth, ably enforced by Thomas Carlyle, that work is not only man's appointed lot, but his highest blessing and safeguard. The rising members of various noble families have laid this axiom to heart; and, when not engaged in public business, have come grandly forward to protect the unhappy, to provide for the young, to solace the old. The name of Shaftesbury carries with it gratitude and comfort in its sound; whilst that of him who figured of old in the cabal, the Shaftesbury of Charles II's time, is, indeed, not forgotten, but remembered with detestation. Ragged schools; provident schools; asylums for the aged governess; homes in which the consumptive may lay their heads in peace and die; asylums for the penitent; asylums for the idiot; homes where the houseless may repose,—these are the monuments to our Shaftesbury, to our younger sons. The mere political ascendency—the garter or the coronet—are distinctions which pale before these, as does the moon when dawn has touched the mountains' tops with floods of light. As lecturers amid their own people, as the best friends and counsellors of the indigent, as man bound to man by community of interests, our noblemen in many instances stand before us—Catholic and Protestant zealous alike.
"Jock of Norfolk" is represented by a descendant of noble impulses. Elgin, Carlisle, Stanley—the Bruce, the Howard, the Stanley of former days—are our true heroes of society, men of great aims and great powers.
The Duchess of Gordon was indefatigable in her ambition, but she could not always entangle dukes. Her second daughter, Madelina, was married first to Sir Robert Sinclair; and secondly, to Charles Fyshe Palmer, Esq., of Luckley Hall, Berkshire. Lady Madelina was not handsome, but extremely agreeable, animated, and intellectual. Among her other conquests was the famous Samuel Parr, of Hatton, who used to delight in sounding her praises, and recording her perfections with much of that eloquence which is now fast dying out of remembrance, but which was a thing a part in that celebrated Grecian. Susan, the third daughter of the duke and duchess, married William, Duke of Manchester, thus becoming connected with a descendant of John, Duke of Marlborough.
Louisa, the fourth daughter, married Charles, second Marquis Cornwallis, and son of the justly celebrated Governor of India; and Georgiana, the fifth and youngest, became the wife of John, the late Duke of Bedford.
Such alliances might have satisfied the ambition of most mothers; but for her youngest and most beautiful daughter, the Duchess of Bedford, the Duchess of Cordon had even entertained what she thought higher views. In 1802, whilst Buonaparte was first consul, and anticipating an imperial crown, the Duchess of Gordon visited Paris, and received there such distinctions from Napoleon Bonaparte, then first consul, as excited hopes in her mind of an alliance with that man whom, but a few years previously, she would probably have termed an adventurer!
Paris was then, during the short peace, engrossed with fetes, reviews, and dramatic amusements, the account of which makes one almost fancy oneself in the year 1852, that of the coup d'etat, instead of the period of 1802. The whirlwinds of revolution seemed then, as now, to have left all unchanged; the character of the people, who were still devoted to pleasure, and sanguine, was, on the surface, gay and buoyant as ever. Buonaparte holding his levees at the Tuileries, with all the splendour of majesty, reminds one of his nephew performing similar ceremonies at the Elysee, previously to his assuming the purple. All republican simplicity was abandoned, and the richest taste displayed on public occasions in both eras.
Let us picture to ourselves the old, quaint palace of the Tuileries on a reception day then; and the impression made on the senses will serve for the modern drama; be it comedy, or be it tragedy, which is to be played out in those stately rooms wherein so many actors have passed and repassed to their doom.
It is noon, and the first consul is receiving a host of ambassadors within the consular apartment, answering probably to the "Salle des Marechaux" of Napoleon III. Therein the envoys from every European state are attempting to comprehend, what none could ever fathom, the consul's mind. Let us not intermeddle with their conference, but look around us, and view the gallery in which we are waiting until he, who was yesterday so small, and who is to-day so great, should come forth amongst us.
How gorgeous is the old gallery, with its many windows, its rich roof, and gilded panels! The footmen of the first consul, in splendid liveries, are bringing chairs for the ladies who are awaiting the approach of that schoolmaster's son; they are waiting until the weighty conference within is terminated. Peace-officers, superbly bedizened, are walking up and down to keep ladies to their seats and gentlemen to the ranks, so as to form a passage for the first consul to pass down. Pages of the back stairs, dressed in black, and with gold chains hanging around their necks, are standing by the door to guard it, or to open it when he on whom all thoughts are fixed should come forth.
But what is beyond everything striking is the array of Buonaparte's aids-de-camp,—fine fellows, war-worn,—men such as he, and he alone, would choose; and so gorgeous, so radiant are their uniforms, that all else seem as if in shadow in comparison.
The gardens of the Tuileries meantime are filling with troops whom the first consul is going to review. There are now Zouaves there; but these are men whom the suns of the tropics hate embrowned; little fellows, many of them, of all heights, such as we might make drummers of in our stalwart ranks; but see how muscular, active, full of fire they are; fierce as hawks, relentless as tigers. See the horse-soldiers on their scraggy steeds; watch their evolutions, and you will own, with a young guardsman who stood gazing, fifty years afterward, on the troops which followed Napoleon III into Paris, that "they are worth looking at."
The long hour is past; the pages in black are evidently on the watch; the double door which leads into the Salle des Marechaux is opened from within; a stricter line is instantly kept by the officers in the gallery. Fair faces, many an English one among them, are flushed. Anon he appears, whilst an officer at the door, with one hand raised above his head and the other extended, exclaims, "Le Premier Consul."
Forth he walks, a firm, short, stolid form, with falling shoulders beneath his tight, deep-blue frock. His tread is heavy rather than majestic,—that of a man who has a purpose in walking, not merely to show himself as a parade. His head is large, and formed with a perfection which we call classic; his features are noble, modelled by that hand of Nature which framed this man "fearfully," indeed, and "wonderfully." Nothing was ever finer than his mouth—nothing more disappointing than his eye; it is heavy, almost mournful. His face is pale, almost sallow, while—let one speak who beheld him—"not only in the eye, but in every feature, care, thought, melancholy, and meditation are strongly marked, with so much of character, nay, genius, and so penetrating a seriousness, or rather sadness, as powerfully to sink into an observer's mind."
It is the countenance of a student, not of a warrior; of one deep in unpractical meditation, not of one whose every act and plan had then been but a tissue of successes. It is the face of a man wedded to deep thought, not of the hero of the battle-field, the ruler of assemblies; and, as if to perfect the contrast, whilst all around is gorgeous and blazing, he passes along without a single decoration on his plain dress, not even a star to mark out the first consul. It is well; there can but be one Napoleon in the world, and he wants no distinction.
He is followed by diplomatists of every European power, vassals, all, more or less, save England; and to England, and to her sons and daughters, are the most cherished courtesies directed. Does not that recall the present policy?
By his side walks a handsome youth whom he has just been presenting to the Bavarian minister,—that envoy from a strange, wild country, little known save by the dogged valour of its mountaineers. The ruler of that land, until now an elector, has been saluted king by Napoleon the powerful.
On the youth, who addresses him as mon per, a slight glance is allowed even from those downcast eyes which none may ever look into too full. Eugene Beauharnais, his stepson, the son of his ever-loved Josephine, has a place in that remorseless heart. "All are not evil." Is it some inkling of the parental love, is it ambition, that causes the first consul to be always accompanied by that handsome youth, fascinating as his mother, libertine as his stepfather, but destitute at once of the sensibilities of the former and of the powerful intelligence of the latter?
It is on him—on Eugene Beauharnais—that the hopes of the proud Duchess of Gordon rest. Happily for her whom she would willingly have given to him as a bride, her scheme was frustrated. Such a sacrifice was incomplete.
Look now from the windows of that gallery; let your gaze rest on the parade below, in the Rue de Rivoli, through which Buonaparte is riding at the head of his staff to the review. He has mounted a beautiful white horse; his aids-de-camp are by his side, followed by his generals. He rides on so carelessly that an ordinary judge would call him an indifferent equestrian. He holds his bridle first in one hand, then in another, yet he has the animal in perfect control; he can master it by a single movement. As he presents some swords of honour, the whole bearing and aspect of the man change. He is no longer the melancholy student; stretching out his arm, the severe, scholastic mien assumes instantly a military and commanding air.
Then the consular band strike up a march, and the troops follow in grand succession toward the Champs Elysees. The crowds within the gallery disappear; I look around me: the hedges of human beings who had been standing back to let the hero pass, are broken, and all are hurrying away. The pages are lounging; the aids-de-camp are gone; already is silence creeping over that vast gallery of old historic remembrances. Do not our hearts sink? Here, in this centre window, Marie Antoinette showed her little son to the infuriated mob below. She stood before unpitying eyes. Happier had it been for him, for her, had they died then. Will those scenes, we thought, ever recur? They have—they have! mercifully mitigated, it is true; yet ruthless hands have torn from those walls their rich hangings. By yon door did the son of Egalite escape. Twice has that venerable pile been desecrated. Even in 152, when crowds hastened to the first ball given by Napoleon III., he traces of the last revolution were pointed out to the dancers. They have darkened the floors; all is, it is true, not only renovated, but embellished, so as to constitute the most gorgeous of modern palaces; yet for how long?
It is, indeed, in mercy that many of our wishes are denied us. Eugene Beauharnais was even then, destined to a bride whom he had never seen, the eldest daughter of that Elector of Bavaria to whom Buonaparte had given royalty; and the sister of Ludwig, the ex-King of Bavaria, was the destined fair one. They were married; and she, at all events, was fond, faithful, nay, even devoted. He was created Duke of Leuchtenberg, and Marie of Leuchtenberg was beautiful, majestic, pious, graceful; but she could not keep his heart. So fair was she, with those sweet blue eyes, that pearl-like skin, that fine form, made to show off the parures of jewels which poor Josephine bequeathed to her—so fair was she, that when Buonaparte saw her before her bridal, he uttered these few words, "Had I known, I would have married her myself." Still she was but second, perhaps third, perhaps fourth ('tis a way they have in France) in his affections; nevertheless, when he died,—and it was in his youth, and Thorwaldsen has executed a noble monument of him in the Dom Kirche at Munich,—when that last separation came, preceded by many a one that had been voluntary on his part, his widow mourned, and no second bridal ever tempted her to cancel the remembrance of Eugene Beauharnais.
For Lady Georgiana Gordon, a happier fate was reserved. She married, in 1803, John, the sixth Duke of Bedford, a nobleman whose character would have appeared in a more resplendent light had he not succeeded a brother singularly endowed, and whose death was considered to be a public calamity. Of Francis, Duke of Bedford, who was summoned away in his thirty-seventh year, Fox said: "In his friendships, not only was he disinterested and sincere, but in him were to be found united all the characteristic excellencies that have ever distinguished the men most renowned for that virtue. Some are warm, but volatile and inconstant; he was warm too, but steady and unchangeable. Where his attachment was placed, there it remained, or rather there it grew.... If he loved you at the beginning of the year, and you did nothing to lose his esteem, he would love you more at the end of it; such was the uniformly progressive state of his affections, no less than of his virtue and friendship."
John, Duke of Bedford, was a widower of thirty-seven when he married Georgiana, remembered as the most graceful, accomplished, and charming of women. The duke had then five sons, the youngest of whom was Lord John Russell, and the eldest Francis, the present duke. By his second duchess, Georgiana, the duke had also a numerous family. She survived until 1853. The designs formed by the duchess to marry Lady Georgiana to Pitt first, and then to Eugene Beauharnais, rest on the authority of Wraxall, who knew the family of the Duke of Gordon personally; but he does not state them as coming from his own knowledge. "I have good reason," he says, "for believing them to be founded in truth. They come from very high authority."
Notwithstanding the preference evinced by the Prince of Wales for the Duchess of Devonshire, he was at this time on very intimate terms with her rival in the sphere of fashion, and passed a part of almost every evening in the society of the Duchess of Gordon. She treated him with the utmost familiarity, and even on points of great delicacy expressed herself very freely. The attention of the public had been for some time directed toward the complicated difficulties of the Prince of Wales's situation. His debts had now become an intolerable burden; and all applications to his royal father being unavailing, it was determined by his friends to throw his Royal Highness on the generosity of the House of Commons. At the head of those who hoped to relieve the prince of his embarrassments were Lord Loughborough, Fox, and Sheridan. The ministerial party were under the guidance of Pitt, who avowed his determination to let the subject come to a strict investigation.
This investigation referred chiefly to the prince's marriage with Mrs. Fitzherbert, who, being a Roman Catholic, was peculiarly obnoxious both to the court and to the country, notwithstanding her virtues, her salutary influence over the prince, and her injuries.
During this conjuncture the Duchess of Gordon acted as mediator between the two conflicting parties, alternately advising, consoling, and even reproving the prince, who threw himself on her kindness. Nothing could be more hopeless than the prince's affairs if an investigation into the source of his difficulties took place; nothing could be less desired by his royal parents than a public exposure of his life and habits. The world already knew enough and too much, and were satisfied that he was actually married to Mrs. Fitzherbert. At this crisis, the base falsehood which denied that union was authorised by the prince, connived at by Sheridan, who partly gave it out in the House, and consummated by Fox. A memorable, a melancholy scene was enacted in the House of Commons on the 8th of April, 1787,—a day that the admirers of the Whig leaders would gladly blot out from the annals of the country. Rolle, afterward Lord Rolle, having referred to the marriage, Fox adverted to his allusion, stating it to be a low, malicious calumny. Rolle, in reply, admitted the legal impossibility of the marriage, but maintained "that there were modes in which it might have taken place." Fox replied that he denied it in point of fact, as well as of law, the thing never having been done in any way. Rolle then asked if he spoke from authority. Fox answered in the affirmative, and here the dialogue ended, a profound silence reigning throughout the House and the galleries, which were crowded to excess. This body of English gentlemen expressed their contempt more fully by that ominous stillness, so unusual in that assembly, than any eloquence could have done. Pitt stood aloof; dignified, contemptuous, and silent. Sheridan challenged from Rolle some token of satisfaction at the information; but Rolle merely returned that he had indeed received an answer, but that the House must form their own opinion on it. In the discussions which ensued, a channel was nevertheless opened for mutual concessions—which ended eventually in the relief of the prince from pecuniary embarrassments, part of which were ascribed to the king's having appropriated to his own use the revenues of the duchy of Cornwall, and refusing to render any account of them on the prince's coming of age. It was the mediation of the Duchess of Gordon that brought the matter promptly to a conclusion, and through her representations, Dundas was sent to Canton House, to ascertain from the prince the extent of his liabilities; an assurance was given that immediate steps would be taken to relieve his Royal Highness. The interview was enlivened by a considerable quantity of wine; and after a pretty long flow of the generous bowl, Dundas's promises were energetically ratified. Never was there a man more "malleable," to use Wraxall's expression, than Harry Dundas. Pitt soon afterward had an audience equally amicable with the prince.
From this period until after the death of Pitt, in 1806, the Duchess of Cordon's influence remained in the ascendant. The last years of the man whom she had destined for her son-in-law, and who had ever been on terms of the greatest intimacy with her, were clouded. Pitt had the misfortune not only of being a public man,—for to say that is to imply a sacrifice of happiness,—but to be a public man solely. He would turn neither to marriage, nor to books, nor to agriculture, nor even to friendship, for the repose of a mind that could not, from insatiable ambition, find rest. He died involved in debt—in terror and grief for his country. He is said never to have been in love. At twenty-four he had the sagacity, the prudence, the reserve of a man of fifty. His excess in wine undermined his constitution, but was source of few comments when his companions drank more freely than men in office had ever been known to do since the time of Charles II. Unloved he lived; and alone, uncared for, unwept, he died. That he was nobly indifferent to money, that he had a contempt for everything mean, or venal, or false, was, in those days, no ordinary merit.
During the whirl of gaiety, politics, and matchmaking, the Duchess of Gordon continued to read, and to correspond with Beattie upon topics of less perishable interest than the factions of the hour. Beattie sent her his "Essay on Beauty" to read in manuscript; he wrote to her about Petrarch, about Lord Monboddo's works, and Burke's book on the French Revolution,—works which the duchess found time to read and wished to analyse. Their friendship, so honoured to her, continued until his death in 1803.
The years of life that remained to the Duchess of Gordon must have been gladdened by the birth of her grandchildren, and by the promise of her sons George, afterward Duke of Gordon, and Alexander. The illness of George III., the trials of Hastings and of Lord Melville, the general war, were the events that most varied the political world, in which she ever took a keen interest. She died in 1812, and the duke married soon afterward Mrs. Christie, by whom he had no children.
The dukedom of Gordon became extinct at his death; and the present representative of this great family is the Marquis of Huntley.
GEORGIANA, DUCHESS OF DEVONSHIRE
GEORGIANA, DUCHESS OF DEVONSHIRE
Notwithstanding the purity of morals enjoined by the court of George III., the early period of his reign presents a picture of dissolute manners as well as of furious party spirit. The most fashionable of our ladies of rank were immersed in play or devoted to politics; the same spirit carried them into both. The Sabbath was disregarded, spent often in cards or desecrated by the meetings of partisans of both factions; moral duties were neglected and decorum outraged.
The fact was that a minor court had become the centre of all the bad passions and reprehensible pursuits in vogue. Carlton House, in Pall Mall, which even the oldest of us can barely remember, with its elegant screen, open, with pillars in front, its low exterior, its many small rooms, the vulgar taste of its decorations, and, to crown the whole, the associations of a corrupting revelry with the whole place,—Canton House was, in the days of good King George, almost as great a scandal to the country as Whitehall in the time of improper King Charles II.
The influence which the example of a young prince, of manners eminently popular, produced upon the young nobility of the realm must be taken into account in the narrative of that life which was so brilliant and so misspent; so blessed at its onset, so dreary in its close—the life of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Descended in the third degree from Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, Georgiana Spencer is said to have resembled her celebrated ancestress in the style of her beauty. She was born in 1757. Her father, John, created Earl of Spencer in 1765, was the son of the reprobate "Jack Spencer," as he was styled, the misery at once and the darling of his grandmother, Sarah, who idolised her Torrismond, as she called him, and left him a considerable portion of her property. Whilst the loveliness of Sarah descended to Georgiana Spencer, she certainly inherited somewhat of the talent, the reckless spirits, and the imprudence of her grandfather, "Jack;" neither could a careful education eradicate these hereditary characteristics.
Her mother was the daughter of a commoner, the Right Honourable Stephen Poyntz, of Midgham, in Berkshire. This lady was long remembered both by friends and neighbours with veneration. She was sensible and intelligent, polite, agreeable, and of unbounded charity; but Miss Burney, who knew her, depicts her as ostentatious in her exertions, and somewhat self-righteous and vainglorious. She was, however, fervently beloved by her daughter, who afterward made several pecuniary sacrifices to ensure her mother's comfort. The earliest years of Lady Georgiana (as she became after her father was created an earl) were passed in the large house at Holywell, close to St. Albans, built by the famous Duke of Marlborough on his wife's patrimonial estate. Aged people, some fifteen years ago, especially a certain neighbouring clergyman, remembered going to play at cards in this house; and the neighbourly qualities of Lady Spencer, as much as her benevolence to the poor, endeared her much to the gentry around. She exercised not only the duties of charity, but the scarcely minor ones of hospitality and courtesy to her neighbours. Before the opening of railroads, such duties were more especially requisite to keep together the scattered members of country society. Good feelings were engendered, good manners promoted, and the attachment then felt for old families had a deeper foundation than servility or even custom. As Lady Georgiana grew up, she displayed a warm impressionable nature, a passion for all that was beautiful in 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 existence."
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 first wife.
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 splendid alliance.
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 of Portland.
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 fallen angel,— "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 a canvas."
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 fete 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 fete 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 fete, 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 singular arrangement.
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 gay world.
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 of Commons.
"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, he declined.
"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!"