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Beaux and Belles of England
by Mary Robinson
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"Oh! my country!" were Pitt's last words; those of Fox were equally characteristic. His nature was tender and sympathetic, and had he lived in other times he would have been probably as good as he was great.

His remains were removed from Chiswick to his own apartments in St. James's, and conveyed under a splendid canopy to Westminster Abbey. As the gorgeous procession passed Carlton House, a band of music, consisting of thirty, played the "Dead March in Saul." The Prince of Wales had wished to follow his friend on foot to the grave, but such a tribute was forbidden by etiquette.

It is to be regretted that princes must be exempted from so many of the scenes in this sublunary life calculated to touch the heart, to chasten and elevate the spirit. As the funeral entered the abbey, and those solemn words, "I am the Resurrection and the Life," were chanted, the deepest emotion affected those who had known and loved him whose pall they bore.

Among other tributes to the memory of Fox were the following lines from the pen of the Duchess of Devonshire. The visitor to Woburn Abbey will find them underneath the bust of the great statesman in a temple dedicated to Liberty by the late Duke of Bedford.

"Here, near the friends he lov'd, the man behold, In truth unshaken, and in virtue bold, Whose patriot zeal and uncorrupted mind Dared to assert the freedom of mankind; And, whilst extending desolation far, Ambition spread the hateful flames of war Fearless of blame, and eloquent to save, 'Twas he—'twas Fox—the warning counsel gave, Midst jarring conflicts stemm'd the tide of blood, And to the menac'd world a sea-mark stood! Oh! had his voice in mercy's cause prevailed, What grateful millions had the statesman hail'd: Whose wisdom made the broils of nations cease, And taught the world humanity and peace! But, though he fail'd, succeeding ages here The vain, yet pious efforts shall revere; Boast in their annals his illustrious name, Uphold his greatness, and confirm his fame."

The duchess only survived Fox a year; she died in 1806, beloved, charitable, penitent. Her disease was an abscess of the liver, which was detected rather suddenly, and which proved fatal some months after it was first suspected. When the Prince of Wales heard of her death, he remarked: "Then the best-natured and best-bred woman in England is gone." Her remains were conveyed to the family vault of the Cavendish family in All Saints' Church, Derby; and over that sepulchre one fond heart, at all events, sorrowed. Her sister, Lady Duncannon, though far inferior to the duchess in elegance both of mind and person, had the same warm heart and strong affection for her family. During the month of July, 1811, a short time before the death of the Duke of Devonshire (the husband of the duchess), Sir Nathaniel Wraxall visited the vault of All Saints' Church. As he stood admiring the coffin in which the remains of the once lovely Georgiana lay mouldering, the woman who had accompanied him showed him the shreds of a bouquet which lay on the coffin. Like the mortal coil of that frame within, the bouquet was now reduced almost to dust. "That nosegay," said the woman, "was brought here by the Countess of Besborough, who had intended to place it herself upon the coffin of her sister; but as she approached the steps of the vault, her agony became too great to permit her to proceed. She knelt down on the stones of the church, as nearly over the place where the coffin stood in the vault below as I could direct, and there deposited the flowers, enjoining me to perform an office to which she was unequal. I fulfilled her wishes."

By others the poor duchess was not so faithfully remembered. Her friend Lady Elizabeth Foster had long since become her rival, yet one common secret, it was believed, kept them from a rupture. Both had, it was understood, much to conceal. The story of the late Duke of Devonshire's supposed birth has been referred to: he is supposed to have been the son of the duke, but not of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, but of her who afterward bore that title, Lady Elizabeth Foster. The inflexible determination of the late duke to remain single, according, it is said, to an agreement between him and his uncle, then Lord George Cavendish, always seemed to imply, in a man of such pure and domestic tastes, so affectionate a disposition, and so princely a fortune, some dire impediment.

In 1824, Lady Elizabeth Foster, then the second Duchess of Devonshire, expired at Rome, where she had lived many years in almost regal splendour. Amongst her most intimate friends were the Cardinal Consalvi and Madame Recamier, who were cognisant of the report, which was confirmed in their minds by the late duke's conduct at her death. Lady Elizabeth, as we shall still by way of distinction call her, was then so emaciated as to resemble a living spectre; but the lines of a rare and commanding beauty still remained. Her features were regular and noble, her eyes magnificent, and her attenuated figure was upright and dignified, with the step of an empress. Her complexion of marble paleness completed this portrait. Her beautiful arms and hands were still as white as ivory, though almost like a skeleton's from their thinness. She used in vain to attempt to disguise their emaciation by wearing bracelets and rings. Though surrounded by every object of art in which she delighted, by the society, both of the English, Italian, and French persons of distinction whom she preferred, there was a shade of sadness on this fascinating woman's brow, as if remembrance forbade her usual calm of life's decline.

Her stepson (so reported), the late duke, treated her with respect and even affection, but there was an evident reserve between them. At her death he carefully excluded all friends to whom she could in her last moments confide what might perhaps, at that hour, trouble her conscience. Her friends, Madame Recamier and the Duc de Laval, were only admitted to bid her farewell when she was speechless, and a few minutes before she breathed her last.

This circumstance struck them forcibly as confirmatory of the report alluded to; but it must in candour be stated that the duke's precautions may have originated in another source. His step-mother was disposed to Romanism, and he may have feared that the zeal of her Catholic friends should prompt them, if opportunity occurred, to speak to her on the subject of her faith, and to suggest the adoption of such consolations as their own notions would have thought indispensable at that awful moment. The point is one that cannot be settled. It may, however, be remarked, that in disposition, in his wide benevolence and courteous manners, the late duke greatly resembled the subject of this memoir,—the beautiful, the gifted, but the worldly Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.



THE END.



ENDNOTES.

Note 1: Collins's "Peerage" gives the following account of this lady: "Peter, Lord King, married Anne, daughter of Richard Seys, Esq., of Boverton, in Glamorganshire, with whom he lived to the day of his death in perfect love and happiness, and left by her four sons and two daughters."

Note 2: A portrait of my grandmother, when a girl, was seen by my mother at Hawell, in Somersetshire, the seat of Sir C. K. Tynt, many years after I was born.

Note 3: I may with truth, and without vanity, make this remark. The estimable being here mentioned was named John; he died on the 7th of December, 1790, at Leghorn, in Tuscany, where he had been many years established as a merchant of the first respectability.

Note 4: Hannah More, with her sisters, at this time kept a boarding- school for young ladies. Later she became famous as the author of tragedies which gained popularity—Ed.

Note 5: Mr. Powel.

Note 6: Thomas Hull, deputy manager of Covent Garden Theatre, was founder of the Theatrical Fund for the relief of distressed players. He was an actor, the author and translator of several plays, and a writer of poems and short stories.—Ed.

Note 7: David Garrick, the famous actor and manager of Drury Lane Theatre, made his last appearance on the stage on the 10th of June, 1776, he being then in his sixtieth year.—Ed.

Note 8: Arthur Murphy, an Irishman, began life as a clerk, then became a journalist, and subsequently an actor, but remaining on the stage only for a couple of seasons, he turned dramatist and wrote a number of plays, some of which attained great success. Two years after the death of David Garrick he wrote a life of the famous player, who had been his intimate friend.—Ed.

Note 9: Susannah Cibber, who gained considerable fame as a singer in oratorio before becoming an actress. Her first success as a player was gained at Covent Garden, but in 1753 she joined Garrick's company at Drury Lane, of which she remained a member until her death in 1766. Garrick, who greatly admired her genius, on hearing of her demise, declared, "Then tragedy is dead on one side." She lies buried in Westminster Abbey.

Note 10: At the time when the banns of her marriage were published she admits to being "a few months advanced in her sixteenth year;" and she had been four months married when the journey to Bristol was made.—Ed.

Note 11: Mrs. Sophia Baddeley, who was a very beautiful woman, and the heroine of many amorous adventures.—Ed.

Note 12: Robert Henley, who, in 1772, succeeded his father as second Earl of Northington. Previous to this date he had been made an LL. D. of Cambridge, and had held the offices of teller of the exchequer, and master of the Hamper Office in Chancery. The year after his succession he was made Knight of the Thistle, and in 1783 was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.—Ed.

Note 13: Thomas, second Baron Lyttelton, known as "the wicked Lord Lyttelton," in distinction to his father, who in his lifetime had been styled "the good Lord Lyttelton." Thomas, Baron Lyttelton, was a man of parts and fashion; a politician, a writer of verses, an artist whose paintings were supposed to contain the combined excellencies of Salvator Rosa and Claude, and withal one of the greatest profligates of the age. This is the Lord Lyttelton who, in his thirty-fifth year, and whilst in perfect health, dreamt a woman appeared to him and announced he had not three days to live. He spoke lightly of his dream, and on the morning of the third day felt in such good spirits that he declared he should "bilk the ghost." He died suddenly that night, when his friend Miles Peter Andrews dreamt Lyttelton appeared to him and said, "All is over."

George Edward Ayscough, a captain in the Guards, was cousin to the second Lord Lyttelton. Some years Later than the date of his meeting with Mrs. Robinson he produced a version of Voltaire's "Semiramis," which was presented at Drury Lane Theatre in 1776. He is described as "a parasite of Lord Lyttelton," and as "a fool of fashion."—Ed.

Note 14: Anna Laetitia Aikin (1743-1825).—Ed.

Note 15: George Robert Fitzgerald, commonly known as "Fighting Fitzgerald," from the number of duels in which he took part, was a man of good family, noted alike for his gallantry and recklessness. A fracas which was the result of his distasteful attentions to Mrs. Hartley, a well-known actress, had made him notorious in 1773, some years previous to his introduction to Mrs. Robinson. His life, which was one of singular adventure, ended on the scaffold, he being executed for murder in 1786.—Ed.

Note 16: Mrs. Abington, a distinguished actress who, at the age of seventeen, had made her first appearance at the Haymarket Theatre, some six years before the author of these memoirs was born.

Note 17: Later she gave birth to a daughter, named Sophia, who lived but six weeks.—Ed.

Note 18: Mr. Robinson was educated at Harrow, and was a contemporary of Mr. Sheridan.

Note 19: This gentleman's name is Hanway, the person mentioned in the former part of this work as Mr. Robinson's earliest friend.

Note 20: Writing of this time, Miss Hawkins states that Mrs. Robinson was "eminently meritorious: she had her child to attend to, she did all the work of their apartments, she even scoured the stairs, and accepted the writing and the pay which he had refused."—Ed.

Note 21: Georgiana, wife of the fifth Duke of Devonshire. The duchess was not only one of the most beautiful, vivacious, and fascinating women of the day, but was likewise an ardent politician. Whilst canvassing for the election of Fox, she purchased the vote of a butcher for a kiss, and received from an Irish mechanic the complimentary assurance that he could light his pipe at her eyes.—Ed.

Note 22: George Hobart, third Earl of Buckinghamshire, who had a passion for dramatic entertainments, and for a time became manager of the opera in London.—Ed.

Note 23: Richard Brinsley Sheridan was at this period in his twenty-fifth year, and had entered on his mismanagement of Drury Lane Theatre. He had already written "The Rivals," which had not proved a success on its first appearance; "St. Patrick's Day, or the Scheming Lieutenant," a farce; "The Duenna," a comic opera; but he was yet to write "A Trip to Scarborough," and "The School for Scandal."

Note 24: In his "History of the Stage," Genest tells us Mrs. Robinson made her first appearance on the stage as Juliet, on the 10th of December, 1776, but leaves us in ignorance regarding the actors who took part in the tragedy. Romeo was evidently played by William Brereton, who had rehearsed the principal scenes with her in the greenroom before Sheridan and Garrick. Genest adds: "Mrs. Robinson was received with great applause. She had an engagement previous to her first appearance, and received what was considered a handsome salary. She was a most beautiful woman, and a very good breeches figure."—Ed.

Note 25: According to Genest, the second character she attempted was Statira, in "Alexander the Great," played on the 17th of February, 1777; Amanda, in "The Trip to Scarborough," produced seven nights later, being her third personation.—Ed.

Note 26: Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, and afterward King of Hanover, was the fifth son of George III, and perhaps the most profligate and unpopular member of the royal family.—Ed.

Note 27: Horace Walpole, writing to his friend, the Rev. William Mason, on the 28th of May, 1780, says: "Lady Craven's comedy, called 'The Miniature Picture,' which she acted herself with a genteel set at her own house in the country, has been played at Drury Lane. The chief singularity was that she went to it herself, the second night, in form; sat in the middle of the front row of the stage box, much dressed, with a profusion of white bugles and plumes, to receive the public homage due to her sex and loveliness.... It was amazing to see so young a woman entirely possess herself; but there is such an integrity and frankness in her consciousness of her own beauty and talents, that she speaks of them with a naivete as if she had no property in them, but only wore them as gifts of the gods. Lord Craven, on the contrary, was quite agitated by his fondness for her, and with impatience at the bad performance of the actors, which was wretched indeed. Yet the address of the plot, which is the chief merit of the piece, and some lively pencilling, carried it off very well, though Parsons murdered the Scotch Lord, and Mrs. Robinson (who is supposed to be the favourite of the Prince of Wales) thought on nothing but her own charms and him."

"The Irish Widow" was a farce founded by David Garrick on Moliere's "Le Mariage Force," and produced on the 23d of October, 1772.—Ed.

Note 28: Thomas Linley, who was considered "one of the finest violin players in Europe," was drowned through the upsetting of a boat on the 5th of August, 1778. He was a brother-in-law of Richard Brinsley Sheridan. —Ed.

Note 29: George Colman, a popular and prolific dramatist, who in 1777 became manager of the Haymarket Theatre, and continued as such until 1785, introducing meanwhile many new players and some dramatic novelties.—Ed.

Note 30: Elizabeth Farren, born 1759, made her first appearance before a London audience as Miss Hardcastle, in "She Stoops to Conquer," on June 9, 1777. After years spent in strolling through the provinces in her father's company and that of other managers, she now captivated the town. Her beautiful face, exquisitely modulated voice, elegant figure, and natural grace, rendered her an ideal representative of the fine ladies of comedy. She was welcomed into the most distinguished society in London, and whilst acting as manageress of private theatricals at the Duke of Richmond's house in Whitehall, met Edward, twelfth Earl of Derby, whose wife was then living. This did not prevent him from falling in love with Miss Farren, who, it was understood, would succeed his first wife as countess did the latter predecease the actress. Lady Derby died on March 14, 1797 and on the 8th of the following month Miss Farren took leave of the stage in the character of Lady Teazle, and on the 1st of May was married to Lord Derby, she being then in her thirty-eighth year. Even in this scandal-loving and licentious age no imputation had ever been cast upon her honour. Of the three children born of this union, but one survived, a daughter, who marred the Earl of Wilton. The Countess of Derby lived until 1829.—Ed.

Note 31: Mrs. Robinson played Lady Macbeth on the occasion of her benefit, when was also performed a musical farce she had composed entitled, "A Lucky Escape."—Ed.

Note 32: The famous politician, Charles James Fox, a friend of the Prince of Wales.—Ed.

Note 33: George III. and Queen Charlotte, who frequently attended the theatre.—Ed.

Note 34: This performance of "The Winter's Tale" took place on December 3, 1779, she being at that time in her twenty-second year, and the Prince of Wales in his eighteenth year.—Ed.

Note 35: Smith had been educated at Eton and St. John's College, Cambridge, with a view to becoming a clergyman, but eventually went on the stage and proved himself an excellent actor, whose representation of Charles Surface was considered a finished performance.—Ed.

Note 36: George Chapel Coningsby, Viscount Malden, afterward fifth Earl of Essex, born November 13, 1757. He married twice, his second wife being Miss Stephens, the famous singer.—Ed.

Note 37: Those who have read "The Winter's Tale" will know the significance of these adopted names.

Note 38: The writer evidently makes a mistake in fixing the Oratorio for the next night, as will be seen from the note on the next page.—Ed.

Note 39: Frederick Augustus, Duke of York and Albany, second son of George III., who at the age of six months was elected to the valuable bishopric of Osnaburg.—Ed.

Note 40: Another of the "diurnal prints," dated February 12, 1780, is not so complimentary in its remarks, which run as follows: "A circumstance of rather an embarrassing nature happened at last night's Oratorio. Mrs. R——, decked out in all her finery, took care to post herself in one of the upper boxes immediately opposite the prince's, and by those airs peculiar to herself, contrived at last so to basilisk a certain heir-apparent, that his fixed attention to the beautiful object became generally noticed, and soon after astonished their Majesties, who, not being able to discover the cause, seemed at a loss to account for the extraordinary effect. No sooner, however, were they properly informed than a messenger was instantly sent aloft desiring the dart-dealing actress to withdraw, which she complied with, though not without expressing the utmost chagrin at her mortifying removal."—Ed.

Note 41: At this time the Prince of Wales and his brother Frederick Augustus, Duke of York, were living in seclusion at Boner Lodge, Kew, where their education was being conducted by Doctor Hurd, Bishop of Lichfield, Mr. Arnold, and Lord Bruce. A strict discipline was exercised over the princes at this period. It was not until January 1, 1781, that the Prince of Wales was provided with a separate establishment, a part of Buckingham House being allotted to him for that purpose.—Ed.

Note 42: Now Margravine of Anspach.

Note 43: The most affecting tribute which the memory of a gallant father could receive was the following pathetic and heartfelt effusion of genuine and grateful duty:

TO THE MEMORY OF MY LAMENTED FATHER, WHO DIED IN THE SERVICE OF THE EMPRESS OF RUSSIA, DECEMBER 5, 1786.

Oh, sire, rever'd! ador'd! Was it the ruthless tongue of DEATH That whisp'ring to my pensive ear, Pronounc'd the fatal word That bath'd my cheek with many a tear, And stopp'd awhile my gasping breath? "He lives no more! Far on a foreign shore, His honour'd dust a laurell'd grave receives, While his immortal soul in realms celestial lives!"

Oh! my lov'd sire, farewell! Though we are doom'd on earth to meet no more, Still memory lives, and still I must adore! And long this throbbing heart shall mourn, Though thou to these sad eyes wilt ne'er return! Yet shall remembrance dwell On all thy sorrows through life's stormy sea, When fate's resistless whirlwinds shed Unnumber'd tempests round thy head, The varying ills of human destiny!

Yet, with a soul sublimely brave, Didst thou endure the dashing wave; Still buffeting the billows rude, By all the shafts of woe, undaunted, unsubdued! Through a long life of rugged care, 'Twas thine to steer a steady course! 'Twas thine misfortune's frowns to bear, And stem the wayward torrent's force! And as thy persevering mind The toilsome path of fame pursued, 'Twas thine, amidst its flow'rs to find The wily snake—Ingratitude! Yet vainly did th' insidious reptile strive On thee its poisons dire to fling; Above its reach, thy laurel still shall thrive, Unconscious of the treach'rous sting!

'Twas thine to toil through length'ning years, Where low'ring night absorbs the spheres! O'er icy seas to bend thy way, Where frozen Greenland rears its head, Where dusky vapours shroud the day, And wastes of flaky snow the stagnate ocean spread, 'Twas thine, amidst the smoke of war, To view, unmov'd, grim-fronted Death; Where Fate, enthron'd in sulphur'd car, Shrunk the pale legions with her scorching breath! While all around her, bath'd in blood, Iberia's haughty sons plung'd lifeless 'midst the flood.

Now on the wings of meditation borne, Let fond remembrance turn, and turn to mourn; Slowly, and sad, her pinions sweep O'er the rough bosom of the boist'rous deep To that disastrous, fatal coast Where, on the foaming billows tost, Imperial Catherine's navies rode; And war's inviting banners wide Wav'd hostile o'er the glitt'ring tide, That with exulting conquest glow'd!

For there—oh, sorrow, check the tear!— There, round departed valour's bier, The sacred drops of kindred virtue[56] shone! Proud monuments of worth! whose base Fame on her starry hill shall place; There to endure, admir'd, sublime! E'en when the mould'ring wing of time Shall scatter to the winds huge pyramids of stone! Oh! gallant soul! farewell! Though doom'd this transient orb to leave, Thy daughter's heart, whose grief no words can tell, Shall, in its throbbing centre, bid thee live! While from its crimson fount shall flow The silent tear of ling'ring grief; The gem sublime! that scorns relief, Nor vaunting shines, with ostentatious woe!

Though thou art vanish'd from these eyes, Still from thy sacred dust shall rise A wreath that mocks the polish'd grace Of sculptur'd bust, or tuneful praise; While Fame shall weeping point the place Where Valour's dauntless son decays! Unseen to cherish mem'ry's source divine, Oh I parent of my life, shall still be mine!

And thou shalt, from thy blissful state, Awhile avert thy raptur'd gaze, To own, that 'midst this wild'ring maze, The flame of filial love defies the blast of fate!

Note 44: Dumouriez.

Note 45: An attachment took place between Mrs. Robinson and Colonel Tarleton shortly after the return of the latter from America, which subsisted during sixteen years. On the circumstances which occasioned its dissolution it is neither necessary nor would it be proper to dwell. The exertions of Mrs. Robinson in the service of Colonel Tarleton, when pressed by pecuniary embarrassment, led to that unfortunate journey, the consequences of which proved so fatal to her health. The colonel accompanied her to the Continent, and, by his affectionate attentions, sought to alleviate those sufferings of which he had been the involuntary occasion.

Note 46: Son of the celebrated Edmund Burke.

Note 47: The Right Honourable Edmund Burke, at that time conductor of the Annual Register.

Note 48: Mr. Merry had been a member of the "Scuola della Crusca," at Florence.

Note 49: Mrs. Robinson's "Poems," vol. ii. p. 27.

Note 50: The date on which the Paris prisons were broken open and twelve hundred royalist prisoners slain.—Ed.

Note 51: Boaden, in his Life of Kemble, says: "I remember the warmth with which Mrs. Robinson chanted the kindness of Mrs. Jordan in accepting the principal character: and I cannot forget the way, when the storm began, in which the actress, frightened out of her senses, 'died and made no sign.'"—Ed.

Note 52: The Morning Post.

Note 53: Miss Robinson and a friend.

Note 54: Those who have read Gifford's "Baviad" and "Maeviad" will understand this allusion.—Ed.

Note 55: Second Baron Rodney, son of the admiral, then a captain in the Guards.

Note 56: Captain Darby commanded, at the time of his death, a ship of war in the Russian service, and was buried with military honours, universally lamented.

THE END

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