As a good sportsman she at the last moment gave Montagu a chance to retreat.
"He [my father] will have a thousand plausible reasons for being irreconcileable, and 'tis very probable the world will be of his side. Reflect now for the last time in what manner you must take me. I shall come to you with only a night-gown and petticoat, and that is all you will get with me. I told a lady of my friends what I intended to do. You will think her a very good friend when I tell you she has proffered to lend us her house if we would come there the first night. I did not accept of this till I had let you know it. If you think it more convenient to carry me to your lodgings, make no scruple of it. Let it be where it will: if I am your wife I shall think no place unfit for me where you are. I beg we may leave London next morning, wherever you intend to go. I should wish to go out of England if it suits with your affairs. You are the best judge of your father's temper. If you think it would be obliging to him, or necessary for you, I will go with you immediately to ask his pardon and his blessing. If that is not proper at first, I think the best scheme is going to the Spa. When you come back, you may endeavour to make your father admit of seeing me, and treat with mine (thought I persist in thinking it will be to no purpose). But I cannot think of living in the midst of my relations and acquaintance after so unjustifiable a step:—unjustifiable to the world,—but I think I can justify myself to myself. I again beg you to hire a coach to be at the door early Monday morning, to carry us some part of our way, wherever you resolve our journey shall be. If you determine to go to that lady's house, you had better come with a coach and six at seven o'clock to-morrow. She and I will be in the balcony that looks on the road: you have nothing to do but to stop under it, and we will come down to you. Do in this what you like best. After all, think very seriously. Your letter, which will be waited for, is to determine everything. I forgive you a coarse expression in your last, which, however, I wish had not been there. You might have said something like it without expressing it in that manner; but there was so much complaisance in the rest of it I ought to be satisfied. You can shew me no goodness I shall not be sensible of. However, think again, and resolve never to think of me if you have the least doubt, or that it is likely to make you uneasy in your fortune. I believe to travel is the most likely way to make a solitude agreeable, and not tiresome: remember you have promised it."
Even in this hour of excitement Lady Mary did not lose her head, and she asked for a settlement that would make her easy in her mind.
"Tis something odd for a woman that brings nothing to expect anything; but after the way of my education, I dare not pretend to live but in some degree suitable to it. I had rather die than return to a dependancy upon relations I have disobliged. Save me from that fear if you love me. If you cannot, or think I ought not to expect it, be sincere and tell me so. 'Tis better I should not be yours at all, than, for a short happiness, involve myself in ages of misery. I hope there will never be occasion for this precaution; but, however, 'tis necessary to make it. I depend entirely on your honour, and I cannot suspect you of any way doing wrong. Do not imagine I shall be angry at anything you can tell me. Let it be sincere; do not impose on a woman that leaves all things for you."
No woman could be more sensible than was Lady Mary at this time, and she gave expression to the most exemplary sentiments.
"A woman that adds nothing to a man's fortune ought not to take from his happiness. If possible I would add to it; but I will not take from you any satisfaction you could enjoy without me."
"If we marry, our happiness must consist in loving one another: 'tis principally my concern to think of the most probable method of making the love eternal."
"There is one article absolutely necessary—to be ever beloved, one must be ever agreeable."
"Very few people that have settled entirely in the country but have grown at length weary of one another. The lady's conversation generally falls into a thousand impertinent effects of idleness, and the gentleman falls in love with his dogs and horses and out of love with everything else."
And so on.
Possibly if Lady Mary had had less brains and more passion, if she had not so calmly worked out the permutations and combinations of married life, the alliance might have been more successful. She, with all her intelligence, did not seem to realise that matrimony is not an affair of rules and regulations, of aphorisms and epigrams, nor that the lines on which husband and wife shall conduct themselves to a happy ending can be settled by a study of vulgar fractions.
Anyhow, the plunge was at last taken—with some not unnatural trepidation on the part of the twenty-three-year-old bride. On Friday night, August 15, 1712, she wrote to Montagu:
"I tremble for what we are doing.—Are you sure you will love me for ever? Shall we never repent? I fear and I hope. I forsee all that will happen on this occasion. I shall incense my family in the highest degree. The generality of the world will blame my conduct, and the relations and friends of —— will invent a thousand stories of me; yet, 'tis possible, you may recompense everything to me. In this letter, which I am fond of, you promise me all that I wish. Since I writ so far, I received your Friday letter. I will be only yours, and I will do what you please.
"You shall hear from me again to-morrow, not to contradict, but to give some directions. My resolution is taken. Love me and use me well."
The wedding licence is dated August 16, and the marriage took place in a day or two.
The bride had the active assistance of her uncle, William Feilding, who may have been present at the ceremony; and the full sympathy of her brother, Lord Kingston, who, however, did not accompany her, perhaps deeming it impolitic to quarrel with his father.
The family must have thought that Lord Dorchester would examine Lady Mary's papers, for her sister, Lady Frances destroyed all she could find, including, unfortunately, a diary that Lady Mary had kept for several years.
EARLY MARRIED LIFE (1712-1714)
An uneventful existence—Montagu's Parliamentary duties take him to London—Lady Mary stays mostly in the country—Correspondence—Montagu a careless husband, but very careful of his money—Later he becomes a miser—Lady Mary does not disguise the tedium of her existence— Concerning a possible reconciliation with her father—Lord Pierrepont of Hanslope—Lord Halifax—Birth of a son, christened after his father, Edward Wortley Montagu—The mother's anxiety about his health—Family events—Lady Evelyn Pierrepont marries Baron (afterwards Earl) Gower—Lady Frances Pierrepont marries the Earl of Mar—Lord Dorchester marries again—Has issue, two daughters—the death of Lady Mary's brother, William—His son, Evelyn, in due course succeeds to the Dukedom of Kingston—Elizabeth Chudleigh—The political situation in 1714—The death of Queen Anne—The accession of George I—The unrest in the country— Lady Mary's alarm for her son.
The records for the first years of the married life of Edward and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu are scanty indeed. From the wedding day until 1716, when they went abroad, Lady Mary's life was, for months together, as uneventful as that of the ordinary suburban housewife. Montagu's parliamentary duties took him frequently to town, and kept him there for prolonged periods, during which he certainly showed no strong desire for her to join him. Lady Mary, indeed, spent most of the time in the country. Sometimes she stayed at the seat of her father-in-law, Wharncliffe Lodge, near Sheffield; occasionally she visited Lord Sandwich at Hinchinbrooke; for a while they stayed at Middlethorpe, in the neighbourhood of Bishopthorpe and York. From time to time they hired houses in other parts of Yorkshire. The honeymoon lasted from August until October, 1712, when Montagu had to go to Westminster.
The first letter of this period is dated characteristically: "Walling Wells, October 22, which is the first post I could write. Monday night being so fatigued and sick I went straight to bed from the coach." It starts:
"I don't know very well how to begin; I am perfectly unacquainted with a proper matrimonial stile. After all, I think 'tis best to write as if we were not married at all. I lament your absence, as if you were still my lover, and I am impatient to hear you are got safe to Durham, and that you have fixed a time for your return."
Marriage made Lady Mary more human. She no longer dwelt upon the various points that in her maidenhood days she had thought would be conducive to happiness in matrimonial life; she was now, anyhow for the moment, in love with her husband, or at least persuaded herself that this was the case, and was at pains to inform him of the fact.
"I have not been very long in this family; and I fancy myself in that described in the 'Spectator,'" the letter of October 22 continues. "The good people here look upon their children with a fondness that more than recompenses their care of them. I don't perceive much distinction in regard to their merits; and when they speak sense or nonsense, it affects the parents with almost the same pleasure. My friendship for the mother, and kindness for Miss Biddy, make me endure the squalling of Miss Nanny and Miss Mary with abundance of patience: and my foretelling the future conquests of the eldest daughter, makes me very well with the family.—I don't know whether you will presently find out that this seeming impertinent account is the tenderest expressions of my love to you; but it furnishes my imagination with agreeable pictures of our future life; and I flatter myself with the hopes of one day enjoying with you the same satisfactions; and that, after as many years together, I may see you retain the same fondness for me as I shall certainly mine for you, and the noise of a nursery may have more charms for us than the music of an opera.
[Torn] "as these are the sure effect of my sincere love, since 'tis the nature of that passion to entertain the mind with pleasures in prospect; and I check myself when I grieve for your absence, by remembering how much reason I have to rejoice in the hope of passing my whole life with you. A good fortune not to be valued!—I am afraid of telling you that I return thanks for it to Heaven, because you will charge me with hypocrisy; but you are mistaken: I assist every day at public prayers in this family, and never forget in my private ejaculation how much I owe to Heaven for making me yours. 'Tis candle-light, or I should not conclude so soon.
"Pray, my dear, begin at the top, and read till you come to the bottom."
Montagu, for his part, was somewhat careless as regards correspondence—for which offence she rebuked him more than once, but in the most flattering manner.
"I am at present in so much uneasiness, my letter is not likely to be intelligible, if it all resembles the confusion of my head. I sometimes imagine you not well, and sometimes that you think of it small importance to write, or that greater matters have taken up your thoughts. This last imagination is too cruel for me. I will rather fancy your letter has miscarried, though I find little probability to think so. I know not what to think, and am very near being distracted, amongst my variety of dismal apprehensions. I am very ill company to the good people of the house, who all bid me make you their compliments. Mr. White begins your health twice every day. You don't deserve all this if you can be so entirely forgetful of all this part of the world. I am peevish with you by fits, and divide my time between anger and sorrow, which are equaly troublesome to me. 'Tis the most cruel thing in the world, to think one has reason to complain of what one loves. How can you be so careless?—is it because you don't love writing? You should remember I want to know you are safe at Durham. I shall imagine you have had some fall from your horse, or ill accident by the way, without regard to probability; there is nothing too extravagant for a woman's and a lover's fears. Did you receive my last letter? if you did not, the direction is wrong, you won't receive this, and my question is in vain. I find I begin to talk nonsense, and 'tis time to leave off. Pray, my dear, write to me, or I shall be very mad."
Montagu was, not to put too fine a point on it, a careless husband. Not only did he neglect to write to his wife, but he neglected, or forgot, to keep her adequately supplied with money. She had more than once to remind him of this. "I wish you would write again to Mr. Phipps, for I don't hear of any money, and am in the utmost necessity for it," she told him in November, 1712. Montagu, even at this time a well-to-do man, found it difficult to part with his money. A couple of years later, Lady Mary had again to say to him: "Pray order me some money, for I am in great want, and must run into debt if you don't do it soon." Even in these days Montagu evidently had begun to be miserly. With all his riches, he never spent a crown when a smaller sum would suffice, and during most of his life he, as Sir Leslie Stephen put it, "devoted himself chiefly to saving money."
In the winter of 1712, Lady Mary, who was with child, suffered much from ill-health, and this was to some extent aggravated by intense boredom, although of that boredom she wrote good-humouredly enough.
"I don't believe you expect to hear from me so soon, if I remember you did not so much as desire it, but I will not be so nice to quarrel with you on that point; perhaps you would laugh at that delicacy, which is, however, an attendant of a tender friendship," she wrote to her husband from Hinchinbrooke at the beginning of December, 1712.
"I opened the closet where I expected to find so many books; to my great disappointment there were only some few pieces of the law, and folios of mathematics; my Lord Hinchinbrook and Mr. Twiman having disposed of the rest. But as there is no affliction, no more than no happiness, without alloy, I discovered an old trunk of papers, which to my great diversion I found to be the letters of the first Earl of Sandwich; and am in hopes that those from his lady will tend much to my edification, being the most extraordinary lessons of economy that ever I read in my life. To the glory of your father, I find that his looked upon him as destined to be the honour of the family.
"I walked yesterday two hours on the terrace. These are the most considerable events that have happened in your absence; excepting that a good-natured robin red-breast kept me company almost all the afternoon with so much good humour and humanity as gives me faith for the piece of charity ascribed to these little creatures in the Children in the Wood, which I have hitherto thought only a poetical ornament to that history.
"I expect a letter next post to tell me you are well in London and that your business will not detain you long from her that cannot be happy without you."
Even in these early days of marriage Montagu seemed to have no love for domestic life, and often he stayed in London when he could have been in the country with his wife, or had her with him in town. "As much as you say I love the town, if you think it necessary for your interest to stay some time here, I would not advise you to neglect a certainty for an uncertainty? but I believe if you pass the Christmas here, great matters will be expected from your hospitality: however, you are a better judge than I am." So Lady Mary wrote from Hinchinbrooke in the first week of December. She did not disguise from him the tedium of her existence.
"I continue indifferently well, and endeavour as much as I can to preserve myself from spleen and melancholy; not for my own sake; I think that of little importance; but in the condition I am, I believe it may be of very ill consequence; yet, passing whole days alone as I do, I do not always find it possible, and my constitution will sometimes get the better of my reason. Human nature itself, without any additional misfortunes, furnishes disagreeable meditations enough. Life itself to make it supportable, should not be considered too near; my reason represents to me in vain the inutility of serious reflections. The idle mind will sometimes fall into contemplations that serve for nothing but to ruin the health, destroy good humour, hasten old age and wrinkles, and bring on an habitual melancholy. 'Tis a maxim with me to be young as long as one can: there is nothing can pay one for that invaluable ignorance which is the companion of youth; those sanguine groundless hopes, and that lively vanity, which make all the happiness of life. To my extreme mortification I grow wiser every day than other [sic]. I don't believe Solomon was more convinced of the vanity of temporal affairs than I am; I lose all taste of this world, and I suffer myself to be bewitched by the charms of the spleen, though I know and foresee all the irremediable mischiefs arising from it. I am insensibly fallen into the writing you a melancholy letter, after all my resolutions to the contrary; but I do not enjoin you to read it: make no scruple of flinging it into the fire at the first dull line. Forgive the ill effects of my solitude, and think me as I am,
There was still hope in the hearts of Lady Mary and her husband that it might be possible to effect a reconciliation with Lord Dorchester. Since apparently the Marquess was not directly approachable by either of them, they perforce had to seek an intermediary. Such an one, they trusted at one time, would be one of Lady Mary's relatives, Lord Pierrepont of Hanslope. To this matter there are many allusions in the correspondence, "The Bishop of Salisbury writes me word that he hears my Lord Pierrepont declares very much for us," Lady Mary wrote from Hinchinbrooke early in December to her husband in town. "As the Bishop is no infallible prelate, I should not depend much on that intelligence; but my sister Frances tells me the same thing. Since it is so, I believe you'll think it very proper to pay him a visit, if he is in town, and give him thanks for the good offices you hear he has endeavoured to do me, unasked. If his kindness is sincere, 'tis too valuable to be neglected. However, the very appearance of it may be of use to us. If I know him, his desire of making my Father appear in the wrong, will make him zealous for us. I think I ought to write him a letter of acknowledgment for what I hear he has already done." Very shortly after, however, it appears that Lord Pierrepont was a broken reed upon which to rely. "I did not expect," Lady Mary said bitterly, "that my Lord Pierrepont would speak at all in our favour, much less show zeal upon that occasion, that never showed any in his life." You cannot put it plainer than that.
One who did really endeavour to bring about the resumption of friendly relations was Montagu's cousin, Charles Montagu, first Baron Halifax of Halifax, who was afterwards created first Earl of Halifax.
To judge from Lady Mary's comments, sometimes when Montagu did write it had been better he should not have done so.
"I am alone, without any amusements to take up my thoughts. I am in circumstances in which melancholy is apt to prevail even over all amusements, dispirited and alone, and you write me quarrelling letters," she rebuked him on one occasion.
"I hate complaining; 'tis no sign I am easy that I do not trouble you with my head-aches, and my spleen; to be reasonable one should never complain but when one hopes redress. A physician should be the only confidant of bodily pains; and for those of the mind, they should never be spoke of but to them that can and will relieve 'em. Should I tell you that I am uneasy, that I am out of humour, and out of patience, should I see you half an hour the sooner? I believe you have kindness enough for me to be very sorry, and so you would tell me; and things remain in their primitive state; I chuse to spare you that pain; I would always give you pleasure. I know you are ready to tell me that I do not ever keep to these good maxims. I confess I often speak impertinently, but I always repent of it. My last stupid letter was not come to you, before I would have had it back again had it been in my power; such as it was, I beg your pardon for it."
In May, 1713, Lady Mary was delivered of a boy, who was christened after his father, Edward Wortley Montagu. Some account of his unsatisfactory career will be given in a later chapter. As an infant, he suffered from ill-health.
"I am in abundance of pain about our dear child: though I am convinced in my reason 'tis both silly and wicked to set one's heart too fondly on anything in this world, yet I cannot overcome myself so far as to think of parting with him with the resignation that I ought to do," the mother wrote from Middlethorpe at the end of July. "I hope and I beg of God he may live to be a comfort to us both. They tell me there is nothing extraordinary in want of teeth at his age, but his weakness makes me very apprehensive; he is almost never out of my sight. Mrs. Behn says that the cold bath is the best medicine for weak children, but I am very fearful and unwilling to try any hazardous remedies. He is very cheerful and full of play."
"I hope the child is better than he was," she mentioned a little later; "but I wish you would let Dr. Garth know he has a bigness in his joints, but not much; his ankles seem chiefly to have a weakness. I should be very glad of his advice upon it, and whether he approves rubbing them with spirits, which I am told is good for him." Then came more favourable news about young Edward. "I thank God this cold well agrees with the child; and he seems stronger and better every day," Lady Mary was able to report. "But I should be very glad, if you saw Dr. Garth, if you asked his opinion concerning the use of cold baths for young children. I hope you love the child as well as I do; but if you love me at all, you'll desire the preservation of his health, for I should certainly break my heart for him." Garth, it may be assumed, was the famous Samuel Garth, afterwards physician-in-ordinary to George I and author of The Dispensary. His views on cold baths for children of fifteen months have not been handed down to posterity by Lady Mary.
Meantime things were happening in the Pierrepont family. Lady Mary's sister, Lady Frances, had, on March 8, 1712, married John, second Baron Gower, who afterwards was created Earl Gower. Lady Mary's other sister, Lady Evelyn, on July 26, 1714, became the second wife of John Erskine, sixth or eleventh Earl of Mar of the Erskine line, who presently came into prominence as an adherent of the Pretender in the rebellion of '15, after which he fled the country. He was created Duke of Mar by the Pretender. Finally, the Marquess of Dorchester, being then in his fiftieth year, took for his second wife, on August 2, 1714, Lady Isabella Bentinck, fifth daughter of William, first Earl of Portland and his first wife, Anne, sister of Edward, first Earl of Jersey. There was issue of this marriage two daughters: Caroline, who married Thomas Brand, of Kempton, Hertfordshire; and Anne, who died unmarried in 1739 at the age of twenty.
Already, on July 1, 1723, had died Lord Dorchester's only son and heir, William, who took the style of Earl of Kingston. He had married Rachel, daughter of Thomas Baynton, of Little Chalfield, Wiltshire, by whom he had one son, named Evelyn, after his grandfather, whom he succeeded in 1726 as the second Duke of Kingston.
The career of Evelyn was undistinguished. Born in 1711, his aunt, Lady Mary, said of him at the age of fifteen: "The Duke of Kingston has hitherto had so ill an education, 'tis hard to make any judgment of him; he has his spirit, but I fear will never have his father's sense. As young gentlemen go, 'tis possible he may make a good figure among them." Than which it would be unkind to say anything more cutting. Of course, honours came to him. He was created Knight of the Garter in 1741, in which year he was appointed a Lord of the Bedchamber. He rose to the rank of colonel in the army in 1745, and twenty-seven years later was promoted General; but it does not appear that he saw any service. The second Duke of Kingston will, however, always be remembered for his marriage in 1769 with the beautiful and notorious Elizabeth Chudleigh, who was nine years his junior. She had in 1744 married secretly Augustus John Hervey, afterwards sixth Earl of Bristol, who survived until December, 1779. She had long been living with the Duke, but in 1769 she obtained a divorce a mensa et thoro, which she believed erroneously annulled the marriage. The Duke died in 1773, when all his titles became extinct. His Duchess was in the following year tried before the House of Lords for bigamy, found guilty, but, pleading benefit of peerage, was discharged. Thus, she carried out the prognostication of Lord Chief Justice Mansfield, who had opposed the prosecution. "The arguments about the place of trial suggest to my mind the question about the propriety of any trial at all," he said in a debate in the House of Lords. "Cui bono? What utility is to be obtained? Suppose a conviction to be the result?—the lady makes your lordships a courtesy, and you return a bow." She survived, living on the continent, until 1788. As an epitaph for her there can be nothing better than a remark of Horace Walpole: "I can tell you nothing more extraordinary, nor would any history figure near hers. It shows genius to strike anything so new as her achievements. Though we have many uncommon personages, it is not easy for them to be so superiorly particular."
More generally interesting than these domestic matters was the political situation. Queen Anne's life had for some time been hanging in the balance. It was thought that she might linger for some time, but there was no hope of her recovery. The fight that was carried on between the supporters of the Hanoverian succession and the adherents of the Pretender is, of course, a matter of history. On August 5, 1714, came to the Elector of Hanover, James Craggs, junior, with a letter from the Privy Council, dated July 31, announcing the precarious state of Anne's health, and conveying assurances that in the event of her demise every precaution would be taken to safeguard the rights of George Lewis. The same night messengers arrived at Hanover from London with the news of the death of the Queen, who had passed away on July 31, shortly after the departure of Craggs.
During the interval between the proclamation of the accession of George I and his arrival, which did not take place until September 17, the country was in a disturbed state, and it is not unnatural that Lady Mary in Yorkshire was alarmed for the safety of herself and the child.
"I cannot forbear taking it something unkindly that you do not write to me, when you may be assured I am in a great fright, and know not certainly what to expect upon this sudden change," she wrote from Middlethorpe to Montagu. "The Archbishop of York has been come to Bishopthorpe but three days. I went with my cousin to-day to see the King proclaimed, which was done; the Archbishop walking next the Lord Mayor, all the country gentry following, with greater crowds of people than I believed to be in York, vast acclamations, and the appearance of a general satisfaction. The Pretender afterwards dragged about the streets and burned. Ringing of bells, bonfires, and illuminations, the mob crying Liberty and Property! and Long live King George! This morning all the principal men of any figure took post for London, and we are alarmed with the fear of attempts from Scotland, though all Protestants seem unanimous for the Hanover succession. The poor young ladies at Castle Howard are as much afraid as I am, being left all alone, without any hopes of seeing their father again (though things should prove well) this eight or nine months. They have sent to desire me very earnestly to come to them, and bring my boy; 'tis the same thing as pensioning in a nunnery, for no mortal man ever enters the doors in the absence of their father, who is gone post. During this uncertainty, I think it will be a safe retreat; for Middlethorpe stands exposed to plunderers, if there be any at all."
A day or two later this letter was followed by another:
"You made me cry two hours last night. I cannot imagine why you use me so ill; for what reason you continue silent, when you know at any time your silence cannot fail of giving me a great deal of pain; and now to a higher degree because of the perplexity that I am in, without knowing where you are, what you are doing, or what to do with myself and my dear little boy. However (persuaded there can be no objection to it), I intend to go to-morrow to Castle Howard, and remain there with the young ladies, 'till I know when I shall see you, or what you would command. The Archbishop and everybody else are gone to London. We are alarmed with a story of a fleet being seen from the coasts of Scotland. An express went from thence through York to the Earl of Mar. I beg you would write to me. 'Till you do I shall not have an easy minute. I am sure I do not deserve from you that you should make me uneasy. I find I am scolding, 'tis better for me not to trouble you with it; but I cannot help taking your silence very unkindly."
THE ACCESSION OF GEORGE I (1714)
Lady Mary shows an increasing interest in politics—She tries to incite her husband to be ambitious—Montagu not returned to the new Parliament—His lack of energy—Correspondence—The Council of Regency—The King commands Lord Townshend to form a Government—The Cabinet—Lord Halifax, First Lord of the Treasury—Montagu appointed a Lord Commissioner of the Treasury—Correspondence—The unsatisfactory relations between Lady Mary and Montagu.
At the time of the death of Queen Anne Lady Mary began to show an increased interest in polities, at least in so far as the career of Montagu was bound up with it. She began to try to persuade her husband to be, to some extent at least, ambitious. It may be that she was not happy at the thought of being married to a man who was regarded as a nonentity. She was always urging him to put his best foot forward. Sometimes she wrote to him as to a naughty child. "I am very much surprised that you do not tell me in your last letter that you have spoke to my Father," she said in August, 1714. "I hope after staying in the town on purpose, you do not intend to omit it. I beg you would not leave any sort of business unfinished, remembering those two necessary maxims, Whatever you intend to do as long as you live do as soon as you can; and to leave nothing to be done by another that 'tis possible to do yourself." What sort of a man must Montagu have been at the age of thirty-six that his wife should deem it necessary to give him such first-aid advice?
Montagu was evidently of a procrastinating turn of mind. He had, as has been said, sat for Huntingdon in the House of Commons from 1705 until 1713. In the latter year Parliament was dissolved on August 8, but Montagu had made no definite plans as regards his future political career—for some reason or other his father reserved for himself the seat for Huntingdon. Montagu found no other constituency, and consequently did not sit in the new Parliament that assembled on the following November 11.
"I suppose you may now come in at Aldburgh, and I heartily wish you was in Parliament," Lady Mary wrote to him. "I saw the Archbishop [of York]'s list of the Lords Regents appointed, and perceive Lord Wharton is not one of them; by which I guess the new scheme is not to make use of any man grossly infamous in either party; consequently, those who have been honest in regard to both, will stand fairest for preferment. You understand these things much better than me; but I hope you will be persuaded by me and your other friends (who I don't doubt will be of opinion) that 'tis necessary for the common good for an honest man to endeavour to be powerful, when he can be the one without losing the first more valuable title; and remember that money is the source of power. I hear that Parliament sits but six months; you know best whether 'tis worth any expense or bustle to be in for so short a time."
Lady Mary's letters now contain many references to political affairs, anyhow in so far as they directly concern Montagu.
"I hope you are convinced I was not mistaken in my judgment of Lord Pelham; he is very silly but very good-natured. I don't see how it can be improper for you to get it represented to him that he is obliged in honour to get you chose at Aldburgh, and may more easily get Mr. Jessop chose at another place. I can't believe but you may manage it in such a manner, Mr. Jessop himself would not be against it, nor would he have so much reason to take it ill, if he should not be chose, as you have after so much money fruitlessly spent. I dare say you may order it so that it may be so, if you talk to Lord Townshend about it, &c. I mention this, because I cannot think you can stand at York, or anywhere else, without a great expense. Lord Morpeth is just now of age, but I know not whether he'll think it worth while to return from travel upon that occasion. Lord Carlisle is in town, you may if you think fit make him a visit, and enquire concerning it. After all, I look upon Aldburgh to be the surest thing. Lord Pelham is easily persuaded to any thing, and I am sure he may be told by Lord Townshend that he has used you ill; and I know he'll be desirous to do all things in his power to make it up. In my opinion, if yon resolve upon an extraordinary expense to be in Parliament, you should resolve to have it turn to some account. Your father is very surprizing if he persists in standing at Huntingdon; but there is nothing surprizing in such a world as this."
Later in August Lady Mary wrote again on the same subject, and this letter shows that she had been at pains to acquire some practical knowledge of borough-mongering.
"You seem not to have received my letters, or not to have understood them; you had been chose undoubtedly at York, if you had declared in time; but there is not any gentleman or tradesman disengaged at this time; they are treating every night. Lord Carlisle and the Thompsons have given their interest to Mr. Jenkins. I agree with you of the necessity of your standing this Parliament, which, perhaps, may be more considerable than any that are to follow it; but, as you proceed, 'tis my opinion, you will spend your money and not be chose. I believe there is hardly a borough unengaged. I expect every letter should tell me you are sure of some place; and, as far as I can perceive you are sure of none. As it has been managed, perhaps it will be the best way to deposit a certain sum in some friend's hands, and buy some little Cornish borough: it would, undoubtedly, look better to be chose for a considerable town; but I take it to be now too late. If you have any thoughts of Newark, it will be absolutely necessary for you to enquire after Lord Lexington's interest; and your best way to apply yourself to Lord Holdernesse, who is both a Whig and an honest man. He is now in town, and you may enquire of him if Brigadier Sutton stands there; and if not, try to engage him for you. Lord Lexington is so ill at the Bath, that it is a doubt if he will live 'till the election; and if he dies, one of his heiresses, and the whole interest of his estate, will probably fall on Lord Holdernesse.
"'Tis a surprise to me that you cannot make sure of some borough, when so many of your friends bring in several Parliament-men without trouble or expense. 'Tis too late to mention it now, but you might have applied to Lady Winchester, as Sir Joseph Jekyl did last year, and by her interest the Duke of Bolton brought him in for nothing; I am sure she would be more zealous to serve me than Lady Jekyl. You should understand these things better than me. I heard, by a letter last post, that Lady M. Montagu and Lady Hinchinbrooke are to be Bedchamber Ladies to the Princess, and Lady Townshend Groom of the Stole. She must be a strange Princess if she can pick a favourite out of them; and as she will be one day Queen, and they say has an influence over her husband, I wonder they don't think fit to place women about her with a little common sense."
Again, in the middle of September Lady Mary returned to the subject of Montagu finding a seat in the House:
"I cannot be very sorry for your declining at Newark, being very uncertain of your success; but I am surprized you do not mention where you intend to stand. Dispatch, in things of this nature, if not a security, at least delay is a sure way to lose, as you have done, being easily chose at York, for not resolving in time, and Aldburgh, for not applying soon enough to Lord Pelham. Here are people here had rather choose Fairfax than Jenkins, and others that prefer Jenkins to Fairfax; but both parties, separately, have wished to me you would have stood, with assurances of having preferred you to either of them. At Newark, Lord Lexington has a very considerable interest. If you have any thoughts of standing, you must endeavour to know how he stands affected; though I am afraid he will assist Brigadier Sutton, or some other Tory. Sir Matthew Jenison has the best interest of any Whig; but he stood last year himself, and will, perhaps, do so again. Newdigate will certainly be chose there for one. Upon the whole, 'tis the most expensive and uncertain place you can stand at. Tis surprizing to me, that you are all this while in the midst of your friends without being sure of a place, when so many insignificant creatures come in without any opposition. They say Mr. Strickland is sure at Carlisle, where he never stood before. I believe most places are engaged by this time. I am very sorry, for your sake, that you spent so much money in vain last year, and will not come in this, when you might make a more considerable figure than you could have done then. I wish Lord Pelham would compliment Mr. Jessop with his Newark interest, and let you come in at Aldburgh."
On the death of the Queen, the Council, which had assembled at Kensington Palace, adjourned to St. James's. By the Regency Bill the administration of the government (in the event of the King being absent from the realm at the time of his accession to the throne) devolved upon the holders for the time being of the Great Officers of State: the Archbishop of Canterbury (Dr. Thomas Tenison), the Lord Chancellor (Simon, Lord Harcourt), the Lord President (John, Duke of Buckinghamshire), the Lord High Treasurer (Charles, Duke of Shrewsbury), the Lord Privy Seal (William, Earl of Dartmouth), the First Lord of the Admiralty (Thomas, Earl of Strafford), and the Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench (Sir Thomas Parker, afterwards Earl of Macclesfield). Under another clause of the Regency Act the Sovereign was entitled to nominate a number of Lords Justices. Baron von Bothmer, the Hanovarian Envoy Extraordinary to the Court of St. James's, opened the sealed packet containing the Commission of Regency, drawn up by George after the death of his mother. The King's nominees were the Archbishop of York, the Dukes of Shrewsbury, Somerset, Bolton, Devonshire, Kent, Argyll, Montrose, and Roxborough; the Earls of Pembroke, Anglesea, Carlisle, Nottingham, Abingdon, Scarborough, and Oxford; Viscount Townshend; and Barons Halifax and Cowper. Marlborough was not in the Commission, but he was appointed Captain-General of the Forces.
[Footnote 1: The Commission was, of course, made out before the Duke of Shrewsbury was given the White Staff, the possession of which made him a Lord Justice in virtue of his office.]
From The Hague, where he arrived on September 5, 1714, George I sent authority to Charles, Viscount Townshend, to form a Cabinet, with power to nominate his colleagues. Townshend took the office of Secretary of State for the Northern Department, and appointed James Stanhope Secretary of State for the Southern Department. Lord Halifax became First Lord of the Treasury; Lord Cowper, Lord Chancellor; the Earl of Nottingham, Lord President; the Marquis of Wharton, Lord Privy Seal; the Earl of Oxford, First Lord of the Admiralty; the Earl of Sunderland, Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland; Robert Walpole, Paymaster-General of the Forces. As Captain-General Marlborough was in the Cabinet.
Lord Halifax, when making out the Commission of the Treasury, invited his cousin Montagu to be one of the Commissioners, although the latter had not secured a seat in Parliament. "It will be surprizing to add," says Lady Mary, "that he hesitated to accept it at a time when his father was alive and his present income very small; but he had certainly refused it if he had not been persuaded to it by a rich old uncle of mine, Lord Pierrepont, whose fondness for me gave him expectations of a large legacy." Lady Mary, though glad enough that her husband had been given a place, was not over and above delighted that it was one so modest.
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu to her Husband
[Enclosed, September 24, 1714.]
"Though I am very impatient to see you, I would not have you, by hastening to come down, lose any part of your interest. I am surprized you say nothing of where you stand. I had a letter from Mrs. Hewet last post, who said she heard you stood at Newark, and would be chose without opposition; but I fear her intelligence is not at all to be depended on. I am glad you think of serving your friends; I hope it will put you in mind of serving yourself. I need not enlarge upon the advantages of money; every thing we see, and every thing we hear, puts us in remembrance of it. If it was possible to restore liberty to your country, or limit the encroachments of the prerogative, by reducing yourself to a garret, I should be pleased to share so glorious a poverty with you; but as the world is, and will be, 'tis a sort of duty to be rich, that it may be in one's power to do good; riches being another word for power, towards the obtaining of which the first necessary qualification is impudence, and (as Demosthenes said of pronunciation in oratory) the second is impudence, and the third, still, impudence. No modest man ever did or ever will make his fortune. Your friend Lord H[alifa]x, R. W[alpo]le, and all other remarkable instances of quick advancement, have been remarkably impudent. The Ministry is like a play at Court; there's a little door to get in, and a great crowd without, shoving and thrusting who shall be foremost: people who knock others with their elbows, disregard a little kick of the shins, and still thrust heartily forwards, are sure of a good place. Your modest man stands behind in the crowd, is shoved about by every body, his cloaths tore, almost squeezed to death, and sees a thousand get in before him, that don't make so good a figure as himself.
"I don't say it is impossible for an impudent man not to rise in the world; but a moderate merit, with a large share of impudence, is more probable to be advanced, than the greatest qualifications without it.
"If this letter is impertinent, it is founded upon an opinion of your merit, which, it if is a mistake, I would not be undeceived in: it is my interest to believe (as I do) that you deserve every thing, and are capable of every thing; but nobody else will believe you if they see you get nothing."
[Postmark, October 6, 1714.]
"I cannot imagine why you should desire that I should not be glad, though from a mistake, since, at least, it is an agreeable one. I confess I shall ever be of opinion, if you are in the Treasury, it will be an addition to your figure and facilitate your election, though it is no otherwise advantageous; and that, if you have nothing when all your acquaintance are preferred, the world generally will not be persuaded that you neglect your fortune, but that you are neglected."
[Endorsed, October 9, 1714.]
"You do me wrong in imagining (as I perceive you do) that my reason for being solicitous for your having that place, was in view of spending more money than we do. You have no cause of fancying me capable of such a thought. I don't doubt but Lord H[alifa]x will very soon have the Staff, and it is my belief you will not be at all the richer: but I think it looks well, and may facilitate your election; and that is all the advantage I hope from it. When all your intimate acquaintance are preferred, I think you would have an ill air in having nothing; upon that account only, I am sorry so many considerable places are disposed on [sic]. I suppose, now, you will certainly be chose somewhere or other; and I cannot see why you should not pretend to be Speaker. I believe all the Whigs would be for you, and I fancy you have a considerable interest amongst the Tories, and for that reason would be very likely to carry it. 'Tis impossible for me to judge of this so well as you can do; but the reputation of being thoroughly of no party, is (I think) of use in this affair, and I believe people generally esteem you impartial; and being chose by your country is more honourable than holding any place from any king."
The relations between Lady Mary and her husband did not improve. Not only did he neglect to write to her when he left her in the country, but he does not at any time appear to have had any desire to have her with him in town. Lady Mary showed extreme, in fact overmuch, forbearance, but towards the end of November her patience gave out: "I cannot forbear any longer telling you, I think you use me very unkindly."
"I don't say so much of your absence, as I should do if you was in the country and I in London; because I would not have you believe I am impatient to be in town, when I say I am impatient to be with you; but I am very sensible I parted with you in July and 'tis now the middle of November," she went on to say. "As if this was not hardship enough, you do not tell me you are sorry for it. You write seldom, and with so much indifference as shews you hardly think of me at all. I complain of ill health, and you only say you hope 'tis not so bad as I make it. You never enquire after your child. I would fain flatter myself you have more kindness for me and him than you express; but I reflect with grief a man that is ashamed of passions that are natural and reasonable, is generally proud of those that [are] shameful and silly."
Lady Mary, once having given vent to her feeling of injustice, was not concerned to mince her words: "You seem perfectly pleased with our separation, and indifferent how long it continues.... When I reflect on your behaviour, I am ashamed of my own: I think I am playing the part of my Lady Winchester. At least be as generous as My Lord; and as he made early confession of his aversion, own to me your inconstancy, and upon my word I will give you no more trouble about it.... For my part, as 'tis my first, this is my last complaint, and your next of the kind shall go back enclosed to you in blank paper."
LADY MARY WORTLEY MONTAGU'S ACCOUNT OF THE COURT OF GEORGE I
Lady Mary, then, had been in Yorkshire when the Queen died, and was still in the country, much against her will, when the King arrived on September 18. Soon after, however, she came to town, and, so to speak, looked around the Court. Her "Account of the Court of George I" is not always accurate, and is certainly often prejudiced. It is not the less interesting because the writer did not mince her words, even when discussing the character of her friend, "Dolly" Walpole. Notwithstanding, this bird-eye view of the royal and political circles at the accession of the first of the Hanoverian monarchs is so valuable as to deserve inclusion in this work.
"The new Court with all their train was arrived before I left the country. The Duke of Marlborough was returned in a sort of triumph, with the apparent merit of having suffered for his fidelity in the succession, and was reinstated in his office of general, &c. In short, all people who had suffered any hardship or disgrace during the late ministry would have it believed that it was occasioned by their attachment to the House of Hanover. Even Mr. Walpole, who had been sent to the Tower for a piece of bribery proved upon him, was called a confessor to the cause. But he had another piece of good luck that yet more contributed to his advancement, he had a very handsome sister, whose folly had lost her reputation in London; but the yet greater folly of Lord Townshend, who happened to be a neighbour in Norfolk to Mr. Walpole, had occasioned his being drawn in to marry her some months before the Queen died.
"Lord Townshend had that sort of understanding which commonly makes men honest in the first part of their lives; they follow the instruction of their tutor, and, till somebody thinks it worth while to show them a new path, go regularly on in the road where they are set. Lord Townshend had then been many years an excellent husband to a sober wife, a kind master to all his servants and dependants, a serviceable relation whenever it was in his power, and followed the instinct of nature in being fond of his children. Such a sort of behaviour without any glaring absurdity, either in prodigality or avarice, always gains a man the reputation of reasonable and honest; and this was his character when the Earl of Godolphin sent him envoy to the States, not doubting but he would be faithful to his orders, without giving himself the trouble of criticising on them, which is what all ministers wish in an envoy. Robethon, a French refugee (secretary to Bernstorff, one of the Elector of Hanover's ministers), happened to be at The Hague, and was civilly received by Lord Townshend, who treated him at his table with the English hospitality; and he was charmed with a reception which his birth and education did not entitle him to. Lord Townshend was recalled when the Queen changed her ministry, his wife died, and he retired into the country, where (as I have said before) Walpole had art enough to make him marry his sister Dolly. At that time, I believe, he did not propose much more advantage by the match than to get rid of a girl that lay heavy on his hands.
"When King George ascended the throne, he was surrounded by all his German ministers and playfellows, male and female. Baron Goertz was the most considerable among them both for birth and fortune. He had managed the King's treasury, for thirty years, with the utmost fidelity and economy; and had the true German honesty, being a plain, sincere and unambitious man. Bernstorff, the Secretary, was of a different turn. He was avaricious, artful, and designing, and had got his share in the King's councils by bribing his women. Robethon was employed in these matters, and had the sanguine ambition of a Frenchman. He resolved there should be an English ministry of his choosing; and, knowing none of them personally but Townshend, he had not failed to recommend him to his master, and his master to the King, as the only proper person for the important post of Secretary of State; and he entered upon that office with universal applause, having at that time a very popular character, which he might probably have retained for ever if he had not been entirely governed by his wife and her brother Robert Walpole, whom he immediately advanced to be Paymaster, esteemed a post of exceeding profit, and very necessary for his indebted estate.
"But he had yet higher views, or rather he found it necessary to move higher, lest he should not be able to keep that. The Earl of Wharton, now Marquis, both hated and despised him. His large estate, the whole income of which was spent in the service of the party and his own parts, made him considerable, though his profligate life lessened that weight that a more regular conduct would have given him.
"Lord Halifax, who was now advanced to the dignity of Earl, and graced with the Garter, and First Commissioner of the Treasury, treated him with contempt. The Earl of Nottingham, who had the real merit of having renounced the ministry in Queen Anne's reign, when he thought they were going to alter the succession, was not to be reconciled to Walpole, whom he looked upon as stigmatised for corruption.
"The Duke of Marlborough, who in his old age was making the same figure at Court that he did when he first came into it—I mean, bowing and smiling in the antechamber while Townshend was in the closet,—was not, however, pleased with the Walpole, who began to behave to him with the insolence of new favour, and his Duchess, who never restrained her tongue in her life, used to make public jokes of the beggary she first knew him in, when her caprice gave him a considerable place, against the opinion of Lord Godolphin and the Duke of Marlborough.
"To balance these, he had introduced some friends of his own, by his recommendation to Lord Townshend (who did nothing but by his instigation). Colonel Stanhope was made the Secretary of State. He had been unfortunate in Spain, and there did not want those who attributed it to ill conduct; but he was called generous, brave, true to his friends, and had an air of probity which prejudiced the world in his favour.
"The King's character may be comprised in very few words. In private life he would have been called an honest blockhead; and Fortune that made him a king, added nothing to his happiness, only prejudiced his honesty, and shortened his days. No man was ever more free from ambition; he loved money, but loved to keep his own, without being rapacious of other men's. He would have grown rich by saving, but was incapable of laying schemes for getting; he was more properly dull than lazy, and would have been so well contented to have remained in his little town of Hanover, that if the ambition of those about him had not been greater than his own, we should never have seen him in England; and the natural honesty of his temper, joined with the narrow notions of a low education, made him look upon his acceptance of the crown as an act of usurpation, which was always uneasy to him. But he was carried by the stream of the people about him, in that, as in every action of his life. He could speak no English, and was past the age of learning it. Our customs and laws were all mysteries to him, which he neither tried to understand, nor was capable of understanding if he had endeavoured it. He was passively good-natured, and wished all mankind enjoyed quiet, if they would let him do so.
"The mistress that followed him hither was so much of his own temper, that I do not wonder at the engagement between them. She was duller than himself, and consequently did not find out that he was so; and had lived in that figure at Hanover almost forty years (for she came hither at three score) without meddling in any affairs of the Electorate, content with the small pension he allowed her, and the honour of his visits when he had nothing else to do, which happened very often. She even refused coming hither at first, fearing that the people of England, who, she thought, were accustomed to use their kings barbarously, might chop off his head in the first fortnight; and had not love or gratitude enough to venture being involved in his ruin. And the poor man was in peril of coming hither without knowing where to pass his evenings; which he was accustomed to do in the apartments of women free from business. But Madame Keilmansegg saved him from this misfortune. She was told that Mademoiselle Schulenburg scrupled this terrible journey, and took the opportunity of offering her service to his Majesty, who willingly accepted it, though he did not facilitate it to her by the payment of debts, which made it very difficult for her to leave Hanover without permission of her creditors. But she was a woman of wit and spirit, and knew very well of what importance this step was to her fortune. She got out of the town in disguise, and made the best of her way in a post-chaise to Holland, from whence she embarked with the King, and arrived at the same time with him in England; which was enough to make her called his mistress, or at least so great a favourite that the whole Court began to pay her uncommon respect.
"This lady deserves that I should be a little particular in her character, there being something in it worth speaking of. She was past forty; she had never been a beauty, but certainly very agreeable in her person when adorned with youth; and had once appeared so charming to the King, that it was said the divorce and ruin of his beautiful Princess, the Duke of Celle's daughter, was owing to the hopes her mother (who was declared mistress to the King's father, and all-powerful in his Court,) had of setting her daughter in her place; and that project did not succeed, by the passion which Madame Kielmansegg took for M. Kielmansegg, who was a son of a merchant of Hamburg, and after having a child by him, there was nothing left for her but to marry him. Her ambitions ran mad with the disappointment, and died in that deplorable manner, leaving L40,000 which she had heaped by the favour of the Elector, to this daughter, which was very easily squandered by one of her temper. She was both luxurious and generous, devoted to her pleasures, and seemed to have taken Lord Rochester's resolution of avoiding all sorts of self-denial. She had a greater vivacity in conversation than ever I knew in a German of either sex. She loved reading, and had a taste of all polite learning. Her humour was easy and sociable. Her constitution inclined her to gallantry. She was well-bred and amusing in company. She knew both how to please and be pleased, and had experience enough to know it was hard to do either without money. Her unlimited expenses had left her with very little remaining, and she made what haste she could to make advantage of the opinion the English had of her power with the King, by receiving the presents that were made her from all quarters, and which she knew very well must cease when it was known that the King's idleness carried him to her lodgings without either regard for her advice, or affection for her person, which time and very bad paint had left without any of the charms which had once attracted him. His best-beloved mistress remained still at Hanover, which was the beautiful Countess of Platen.
"Perhaps it will be thought a digression in this place to tell the story of his amour with her; but, as I write only for myself, I shall always think I am at liberty to make what digressions I think fit, proper or improper; besides that in my opinion can set the King's character in a clearer light. That lady was married to Madame Kielmansegg's brother, the most considerable man in Hanover for birth and fortune; and her beauty was as far beyond that of any of the other women that appeared. However, the King saw her every day without taking notice of it, and contented himself with his habitual commerce with Mademoiselle Schulenburg.
"In those little Courts there is no distinction of much value but what arises from the favour of the Prince, and Madame Platen saw with great indignation that all her charms were passed over unregarded; and she took a method to get over this misfortune which would never have entered into the head of a woman of sense, and yet which met with wonderful success. She asked an audience of his Highness, who granted it without guessing what she meant by it; and she told him that as nobody could refuse her the first rank in that place, it was very mortifying to see his Highness not show her any mark of favour; and as no person could be more attached to his person than herself, she begged with tears in her fine eyes that he would alter his behaviour to her. The Elector, very much astonished at this complaint, answered that he did not know any reason he had given her to believe he was wanting in respect for her, and that he thought her not only the greatest lady, but the greatest beauty of the court. 'If that be true, sire,' replied she, sobbing, 'why do you pass all your time with Mademoiselle Schulenburg, while I hardly receive the honour of a visit from you?' His Highness promised to mend his manners, and from that time was very assiduous in waiting upon her. This ended in a fondness, which her husband disliked so much that he parted with her, and she had the glory of possessing the heart and person of her master, and to turn the whole stream of courtiers that used to attend Mademoiselle Schulenburg to her side. However, he did not break with his first love, and often went to her apartment to cut paper, which was his chief employment there; which the Countess of Platen easily permitted him, having often occasion for his absence. She was naturally gallant; and, after having thus satisfied her ambition, pursued her warmer inclinations.
"Young Craggs came about this time to Hanover, where his father sent him to take a view of that court in his tour of travelling. He was in his first bloom of youth and vigour, and had so strong an appearance of that perfection, that it was called beauty by the generality of women: though in my opinion there was a coarseness in his face and shape that had more the air of a porter than a gentleman; and, if fortune had not interposed her almighty power, he might by his birth have appeared in that figure; his father being nothing more considerable at his first appearance in the world than footman to Lady Mary Mordaunt, the gallant Duchess of Norfolk, who had always half a dozen intrigues to manage. Some servant must always be trusted in affairs of that kind and James Craggs had the good fortune to be chose for that purpose. She found him both faithful and discreet, and he was soon advanced to the dignity of valet-de-chambre.
"King James II had an amour with her after he was upon the throne, and respected the Queen enough to endeavour to keep it entirely from her knowledge. James Craggs was the messenger between the King and the Duchess, and did not fail to make the best use of so important a trust. He scraped a great deal of money from the bounty of this royal lover, and was too inconsiderable to be hurt by his ruin; and did not concern much for that of his mistress, which by lower intrigues happened soon after. This fellow, from the report of all parties, and even from that of his professed enemies, had a very uncommon genius; a head well turned for calculation, great industry, and was so just an observer of the world, that the meanness of his education never appeared in his conversation.
"The Duke of Marlborough, who was sensible how well he was qualified for affairs that required secrecy, employed him as his procurer both for women and money, and he acquitted himself so well of these trusts as to please his master, and yet raise a considerable fortune, by turning his money in the public funds, the secret of which came often to his knowledge by the Duke's employing him. He had this only son, whom he looked on with the partiality of a parent, and resolved to spare nothing in his education that could add to his figure.
"Young Craggs had great vivacity, a happy memory, and flowing elocution, he was brave and generous, and had an appearance of open-heartedness in his manner that gained him a universal good-will, if not a universal esteem. It is true there appeared a heat and want of judgment in all his words and actions, which did not make him valuable in the eyes of cool judges, but Madame Platen was not of that number. His youth and fire made him appear very well worthy of his passionate addresses. Two people so well disposed towards each other were very soon in the closest engagement; and the first proof Madame Platen gave him of her affection was introducing him to the favour of the Elector, who took it on her word that he was a young man of extraordinary merit, and he named him for Cofferer at his first accession to the Crown of England, and I believe it was the only place that he then disposed of from any inclination of his own. This proof of Madame Platen's favour hindered her coming hither.
"Bernstorff was afraid she might meddle in the distribution of places that he was willing to keep in his own hands; and he represented to the King that the Roman Catholic religion that she professed was an insuperable objection to her appearance at the Court of England, at least so early; but he gave her private hopes that things might be so arranged as to make her admittance easy when the King was settled in his new dominions. And with this hope she consented without much concern to let him go without her; not reflecting that weak minds lose all impressions by even short absences. But as her own understanding did not furnish her with very great refinements, she was troubled with none of the fears that would have affected a stronger head, and had too good an opinion of her own beauty to believe anything in England could efface it, while Madame Kielmansegg attached herself to the one thing necessary—getting what money she could by the sale of places, and the credulity of those who thought themselves very polite in securing her favour.
"Lord Halifax was one of this number; his ambition was unbounded, and he aimed at no less than the Treasurer's staff, and thought himself in a fine road for it by furnishing Madame Kielmansegg both with money and a lover. Mr. Methuen was the man he picked out for that purpose. He was one of the Lords of the Treasury; he was handsome and well-made; he had wit enough to be able to affect any part he pleased and a romantic turn in his conversation that could entertain a lady with as many adventures as Othello,—and it is no ill way of gaining Desdemonas. Women are very apt to take their lovers' characters from their own mouths; and if you will believe Mr. Methuen's account of himself, neither Artamenes nor Oroondates ever had more valour, honour, constancy, and discretion. Half of these bright qualities were enough to charm Madame Kielmansegg, and they were soon in the strictest familiarity, which continued for different reasons, to the pleasure of both parties, till the arrival of Mademoiselle Schulenburg, which was hastened by the German ministers, who envied the money accumulated by Madame Kielmansegg, which they longed to turn into another channel, which they thought would be more easily drawn into their own hands. They took care to inform Mademoiselle Schulenburg of the fond reception all the Germans met with in England, and gave her a view of the immense fortune that waited her here. This was enough to cure her fears, and she arrived accompanied by a young niece who had already made some noise at Hanover. She had projected the conquest of the Prince of Wales, and had so far succeeded as to obtain his favours for some months, but the Princess, who dreaded a rival to her power, soon put an end to the correspondence, and she was no longer possessed of his good graces when she came hither.
"I have not yet given the character of the Prince. The fire of his temper appeared in every look and gesture; which, being unhappily under the direction of a small understanding, was every day throwing him upon some indiscretion. He was naturally sincere, and his pride told him that he was placed above constraint; not reflecting that a high rank carries along with it a necessity if a more decent and regular behaviour than is expected from those who are not set in so conspicuous a light. He was far from being of that opinion, that he looked on all men and women he saw as creatures he might kick or kiss for his diversion; and whenever he met with any opposition in those designs, he thought his opposers insolent rebels to the will of God, who created them for his use, and judged of the merit of all people by their submission to his orders, or the relation they had to his power. And in this view, he looked upon the Princess, as the most meritorious of her sex; and she took care to keep him in that sentiment by all the arts she was mistress of. He had married her by inclination; his good-natured father had been so complaisant as to let him choose a wife for himself. She was of the house of Anspach, and brought him no great addition either of money or alliance; but was at that time esteemed a German beauty, and had genius which qualified her for the government of a fool; and made her despicable in the eyes of men of sense; I mean a low cunning, which gave her an inclination to cheat all the people she conversed with, and often cheated herself in the first place, by showing her the wrong side of her interest, not having understanding enough to observe that falsehood in conversation, like red on the face, should be used very seldom, and very sparingly, or they destroy that interest and beauty which they are designed to heighten.
"Her first thought on her marriage was to secure to herself the sole and whole direction of her spouse; and to that purpose she counterfeited the most extravagant fondness for his person; yet, at the same time, so devoted to his pleasures (which she often told him were the rule of all her thoughts and actions), that whenever he thought proper to find them with other women, she even loved whoever was instrumental to his entertainment, and never resented anything but what appeared to her a want of respect for him; and in this light she really could not help taking notice that the presents made to her on her wedding were not worthy of his bride, and at least she ought to have had all his mother's jewels. This was enough to make him lose all respect for his indulgent father. He downright abused his ministers, and talked impertinently to his old grandmother the Princess Sophia, which ended in such a coldness towards all his family as left him entirely under the government of his wife.
"The indolent Elector contented himself with showing his resentment by his silence towards him; and this was the situation the family first appeared in when they came into England. This behaviour did not, however, hinder schemes being laid by various persons of gratifying their ambition, or making their fortunes, by particular attachments to each of the Royal Family."
AT HERRENHAUSEN AND ST. JAMES (1714-1716)
The Elector George Lewis not delighted at his accession to the British throne—A greater man in Hanover than in London—Lady Mary modifies her first impression of the King—She is in high favour at Court—An amusing incident at St. James's—The early unpopularity of George I in England generally, and especially in the capital—The Hanoverians in the Royal Household—The Duchess of Kendal—The Countess of Darlington—Lady Mary's description of the Hanoverian ladies—The Duchess of Kendal's passion for money—Her influence with the King in political matters—Count de Broglie—The scandal about Lady Darlington refuted—Lady Mary and the Prince of Wales—The King and the Prince of Wales—The poets and wits of the day—Gay's tribute to Lady Mary—Pope's verses on her—"Court Poems."
It is beyond question that the accession to the British throne gave no thrill of pleasure to the King. He was fifty-four years of age, and had no desire to change his state. It was necessary for him, as the present writer has said elsewhere, now to go from a country where he was absolute, to another where, so far from being supreme, when King and people differed on a matter of vital importance, the monarch had to give way—the price of resistance having been fixed, at worst at death, at best exile or civil war. He had to go from a country where he was the wealthiest and most important personage to another where he would be merely regarded as a minor German princeling set up as a figurehead, and where many of the gentry were wealthier than he. This point was appreciated by Lady Mary when she went to Hanover in November, 1716, for she wrote from there to the Countess of Bristol: "I have now made the tour of Germany, and cannot help observing difference between travelling here and in England. One sees none of those fine seats of noblemen that are so common among us, nor anything like a country gentleman's house, though they have many situations perfectly fine. But the whole people are divided into absolute sovereignties, where all the riches and magnificence are at Court, or communities of merchants, such as Nuremberg and Frankfort, where they live always in town for the convenience of trade."
Worse than all George must set forth by no means sure of his reception, and with no love, nor even liking, for the people over whom he was called to reign. That he did go at all is greatly to his credit, for he was doubtful if he would be allowed to remain, and he never revisited Hanover without some suspicion that he might not be able to return to England. He would have been a much happier man if he could have remained at his beloved Herrenhausen. He never felt he owed Britain anything, and indeed he did not: the throne had been settled on his mother, not for love of her, but simply because she was the only alternative to the succession of the dreaded Roman Catholic heirs. So George came as a visitor, rather submitting to be King of England, than anxious for the honour, prepared to be forced by circumstances to return, little dreaming that two hundred years later his descendants would be firmly seated upon his throne.
It may be mentioned that Lady Mary, as she became better acquainted with the King, grew to like him. In the letter from Hanover just quoted, she says: "His Majesty dines and sups constantly in public. The Court is very numerous, and his affability and goodness make it one of the most agreeable places in the world to me." The King was indeed at his best when in residence at Herrenhausen. Lord Peterborough said that George was so happy there that he believed he had forgot the accident that occurred to him and his family on the 1st of August, 1714.
It may be that, the King having taken a great fancy to Lady Mary, modified that lady's earlier impression. When she and her husband went to Hanover, the King, as she mentioned in one of her letters to Lady Bristol, "has had the goodness to appoint us a lodging in one part of the Palace, without which we should be very ill accommodated; for the vast number of English crowds the town so much, it is very good luck to be able to get one sorry room in a miserable tavern. I dined to-day with the Portuguese ambassador, who thinks himself very happy to have two wretched parlours in an inn."
Lady Mary was, indeed, in high favour at the Courts of Hanover and St. James's. "Mr. Wortley and his lady are here," the British Minister at Hanover, John Clavering, wrote in December, 1716, to Lady Cowper. "They were so very impatient to see his Majesty that they travelled night and day from Vienna here. Her Ladyship is mighty gay and airy, and occasions a great deal of discourse. Since her arrival the King has took but little notice of any other lady, not even of Madame Kielmansegg, which the ladies of Hanover don't relish very much; for my part, I can't help rejoicing to see his Majesty prefer us to the Germans."
It was evidently before that the following incident occurred. Lady Mary often went to St. James's, but, as it was very dull there, was often glad to go instead to some less august and more amusing assembly. One evening Lady Mary particularly desired to leave early, and induced the Duchess of Kendal to persuade the King to dismiss her. The King reluctantly acquiesced, though, when Lady Mary made her bow, he declared it was an act of perfidy to run away, but, in spite of that and other complimentary remarks, she at last contrived to make her escape.
At the foot of the staircase she met Mr. Secretary Craggs, who, seeing her leave so early, enquired if the King had retired, but she reassured him on that point, and dwelt complacently on the King's reluctance to let her go. Craggs made no remark, but took her in his arms, ran upstairs, and deposited her in the ante-chamber, whereupon the pages at once threw open the doors leading to the King's apartment.
"Ah! la re-voila," cried his Majesty and the Duchess of Kendal, and expressed their pleasure that she had changed her mind, but Lady Mary was so flustered that, instead of maintaining a discreet silence she burst out, "Oh, Lord, Sir, I have been so frightened!" and related her adventure.
She had scarcely finished relating her adventure, when the door was thrown open, and Mr. Secretary Craggs was announced. He entered calmly, and made his bow as if nothing had happened, but the King strode up to him, and said angrily: "Mais, comment, donc, Monsieur Craggs, est ce que c'est l'usage de ce pays de porter des belles dames comme un sac de froment?" ("Is it the custom of this country to carry about fair ladies as if they were a sack of wheat?") The culprit was dumbfounded by the unexpected attack, and glanced reproachfully at Lady Mary for having betrayed him, but, soon finding his wits, parried with, "There is nothing I would not do for your Majesty's satisfaction."
One of the reasons for the early unpopularity of George I was that he brought with him a large suite from Hanover.
The household that accompanied him numbered sixty-three. There was Baron von Kielmansegg, who was Master of the Horse; Count von Platen, son of the late Prime Minister of Hanover; and Baron von Hardenburg, Marshal of the Court. With them came the Lutheran clergyman, Braun; a group of physicians, surgeons, and apothecaries; five body-servants, including the Turks, Mahomet and Mustapha; four pages, two trumpeters, a carver, twelve footmen, eighteen cooks, three cellarmen, two housemaids, and one washerwoman. It may be mentioned that in 1696 there were only two washerwomen for the three hundred and seven persons, exclusive of royalty, that at this date made up the Court of Hanover.
The political staff that came included twenty-three persons. Baron von Bothmer was already in England. Now arrived Baron von Bernstorff, Prime Minister of Hanover; Baron von Schlitz-Goertz, Hanoverian Finance Minister; Baron von Hattorf, Hanoverian Minister of War; and John Robethon.
To these men, who advised the King in his capacity of Elector of Hanover, there would have been no objection had they confined their energies to administering that country. This, unfortunately, was not the case. Some of them, at least, notably Bernstorff and Robethon, meddled in English politics, and most of them desired high office, lucrative appointments, peerages, and other grants. It is certain that they must have known that they were barred from such delights by an Act of 1700 which carefully guarded against foreigners acquiring any share in the government of this country. Nothing, in fact, could be more definite than clause three of the "Act for the further limitation of the Crown": "No person born out of the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, or Ireland, or the dominions thereunto belonging (although he be naturalised or made a denizen, except such as are born of English parents)," so runs clause three of the above-mentioned Act, "shall be capable of the Privy Council, or a Member of either House of Parliament, or to enjoy any office or place of trust, either civil or military, or to have any grant of lands, tenements, or hereditaments from the Crown to himself or to any other or others in trust for him." Still, Acts of Parliament have been repealed, and the invaders may well have hoped that, with the King's support, their influence might increase until they were strong enough to have the clause revoked.
As a matter of fact, nothing of the kind happened, and no Hanoverian statesman or court officer was appointed to any place of profit under the Crown or rewarded for his services in the Electorate by the grant of a British peerage. It may be noted that the Hanoverian officials, fond as all Germans were and are of wordy distinctions, styled themselves "Koenigliche-Gross-britannische-Kurfuerstlich-Braunschweig-Lueneburgische" (Royal-British-Electoral-Brunswick-Luenburg) councillors or magistrates.
The Hanoverians who were on the political side or held posts in the Household might, by the exercise of a little tact, have lived down an unpopularity that was the result of circumstances rather than arising from any personal animosity. That they did not do so may be ascribed partly, anyhow, to their own fault.
On the other hand, nothing probably would have overcome the prejudice against the ladies who followed George to this country. These were the Countess Ehrengard Melusina von der Schulenburg, who, in 1716, was created Duchess of Munster in the Irish peerage, and three years after Duchess of Kendal, by which latter title she is more generally known, and the Baroness von Kielmansegg (nee Platen), who was presently elevated to the dignity of Countess of Darlington. It was generally assured that these ladies were the King's mistresses, and they were accordingly disliked not only at Court but also by the mob. One of them when driving in London was assailed by terms of abuse—as she understood scarcely any English, she could only go by the tone of the voices—and putting her head out of the coach said: "Good people, why abuse us? We come for all your goods." "Yes, damn you," cried someone, "and for our chattels, too." The man in the crowd only voiced the general opinion, and, it must be said, the general opinion was not far removed from the truth.
Of course, the Jacobites made the most of this, and, as Horace Walpole has related, "the seraglio was food for all the venom of the Jacobites, and, indeed, nothing could be grosser that was vomited out in lampoons, libels, and every channel of abuse against the Sovereign and the new Court and chanted even in their hearing in the public streets."
It is mentioned in Walpoliana that "this couple of rabbits, the favourites, as they were called, occasioned much jocularity on their first importation." Some of the jocularity was aroused by their appearance. The style of beauty, or what passed for beauty, in each country was markedly different. Hear Lady Mary Wortley Montagu writing from Hanover in December, 1716: "I have now got into the regions of beauty," she told Lady Rich. "All the women have literally rosy cheeks, snowy foreheads and bosoms, jet eye-brows, and scarlet lips, to which they generally add coal-black hair. These perfections never leave them till the hour of their death, and have a very fine effect by candle-light, but I could wish they were handsome with a little more variety. They resemble one another as much as Mrs. Salmon's Court of Great Britain, and are in much danger of melting away by too near approaching the fire which they for that reason carefully avoid, though it is now such excessively cold weather, that I believe they suffer extremely by that piece of self-denial."