"How!" said the Queen Dowager, "confined by the inquisition for his services!" "Not altogether for his services," said the Chevalier; "but without any regard to his services, he was treated in the manner I have mentioned for a little affair of gallantry, which I shall relate to the King presently.
"The campaign of Catalonia being thus ended, we were returning home, not overloaded with laurels; but as the Prince de Conde had laid up a great store on former occasions, and as he had still great projects in his head, he soon forgot this trifling misfortune: we did nothing but joke with one another during the march, and the prince was the first to ridicule the siege. We made some of those rhymes on Lerida, which were sung all over France, in order to prevent others more severe; however, we gained nothing by it, for notwithstanding we treated ourselves freely in our own ballads, others were composed in Paris in which we were ten times more severely handled. At last we arrived at Perpignan upon a holy-day: a company of Catalans, who were dancing in the middle of the street, out of respect to the prince came to dance under his windows: Monsieur Poussatin, in a little black jacket, danced in the middle of this company, as if he was really mad. I immediately recognized him for my countryman, from his manner of skipping and frisking about: the prince was charmed with his humour and activity. After the dance, I sent for him, and inquired who he was: 'A poor priest, at your service, my lord,' said he: 'my name is Poussatin, and Bearn is my native country: I was going into Catalonia to serve in the infantry, for, God be praised, I can march very well on foot; but since the war is happily concluded, if your lordship pleases to take me into your service, I would follow you everywhere, and serve you faithfully.' 'Monsieur Poussatin,' said I, 'my lordship has no great occasion for a chaplain; but since you are so well disposed towards me, I will take you into my service.'
"The Prince de Conde, who was present at this conversation, was overjoyed at my having a chaplain. As poor Poussatin was in a very tattered condition, I had no time to provide him with a proper habit at Perpignan; but giving him a spare livery of one of the Marshal de Grammont's servants, I made him get up behind the prince's coach, who was like to die with laughing every time he looked at poor Poussatin's uncanonical mien in a yellow livery.
"As soon as we arrived in Paris, the story was told to the Queen, who at first expressed some surprise at it: this, however, did not prevent her from wishing to see my chaplain dance; for in Spain it is not altogether so strange to see ecclesiastics dance, as to see them in livery.
"Poussatin performed wonders before the Queen; but as he danced with great sprightliness, she could not bear the odour which his violent motions diffused around her room the ladies likewise began to pray for relief; for he had almost entirely got the better of all the perfumes and essences with which they were fortified: Poussatin, nevertheless, retired with a great deal of applause, and some louis d'or.
"Some time afterwards I procured a small benefice in the country for my chaplain, and I have since been informed that Poussatin preached with the same ease in his village as he danced at the wedding of his parishioners."
The King was exceedingly diverted at Poussatin's history; and the Queen was not much hurt at his having been put in livery: the treatment of Gregorio Brice offended her far more; and being desirous to justify the court of Spain, with respect to so cruel a proceeding: "Chevalier de Grammont," said she, "what heresy did Governor Brice wish to introduce into the state? What crime against religion was he charged with, that he was confined in the inquisition?" "Madam," said he, "the history is not very proper to be related before your majesty: it was a little amorous frolic, ill-timed indeed; but poor Brice meant no harm: a school-boy would not have been whipped for such a fault, in the most severe college in France; as it was only for giving some proofs of his affection to a young Spanish fair one, who had fixed her eyes upon him on a solemn occasion."
The King desired to know the particulars of the adventure; and the Chevalier gratified his curiosity, as soon as the Queen and the rest of the court were out of hearing. It was very entertaining to hear him tell a story; but it was very disagreeable to differ with him, either in competition, or in raillery: it is true that at that time there were few persons at the English court who had merited his indignation: Russell was sometimes the subject of his ridicule, but he treated him far more tenderly than he usually did a rival.
This Russell was one of the most furious dancers in all England, I mean, for country dances: he had a collection of two or three hundred in print, all of which he danced at sight; and to prove that he was not an old man, he sometimes danced until he was almost exhausted: his mode of dancing was like that of his clothes, for they both had been out of fashion full twenty years.
The Chevalier de Grammont was very sensible that he was very much in love; but though he saw very well that it only rendered him more ridiculous, yet he felt some concern at the information he received, of his intention of demanding Miss Hamilton in marriage; but his concern did not last long. Russell, being upon the point of setting out on a journey, thought it was proper to acquaint his mistress with his intentions before his departure. The Chevalier de Grammont was a great obstacle to the interview, he was desirous of obtaining of her; but being one day sent for, to go and play at Lady Castlemaine's, Russell seized the opportunity, and addressing himself to Miss Hamilton, with less embarrassment than is usual on such occasions, he made his declaration to her in the following manner: "I am brother to the Earl of Bedford: I command the regiment of guards: I have three thousand pounds a year, and fifteen thousand in ready money: all which, madam, I come to present to you, along with my person. One present, I agree, is not worth much without the other, and therefore I put them together. I am advised to go to some of the watering places for something of an asthma, which, in all probability, cannot continue much longer, as I have had it for these last twenty years: if you look upon me as worthy of the happiness of belonging to you, I shall propose it to your father, to whom I did not think it right to apply before I was acquainted with your sentiments: my nephew William is at present entirely ignorant of my intention; but I believe he will not be sorry for it, though he will thereby see himself deprived of a pretty considerable estate; for he has great affection for me, and besides, he has a pleasure in paying his respects to you since he has perceived my attachment. I am very much pleased that he should make his court to me, by the attention he pays to you; for he did nothing but squander his money upon that coquet Middleton, while at present he is at no expense, though he frequents the best company in England."
Miss Hamilton had much difficulty to suppress her laughter during this harangue: however, she told him that she thought herself much honoured by his intentions towards her, and still more obliged to him for consulting her, before he made any overtures to her relations: "It will be time enough," said she, "to speak to them upon the subject at your return from the waters; for I do not think it is at all probable that they will dispose of me before that time, and in case they should be urgent in their solicitations, your nephew William will take care to acquaint you; therefore, you may set out whenever you think proper; but take care not to injure your health by returning too soon."
The Chevalier de Grammont, having heard the particulars of this conversation, endeavoured, as well as he could, to be entertained with it; though there were certain circumstances in the declaration, notwithstanding the absurdity of others, which did not fail to give him some uneasiness. Upon the whole, he was not sorry for Russell's departure; and, assuming an air of pleasantry, he went to relate to the king how Heaven had favoured him by delivering him from so dangerous a rival. "He is gone then, Chevalier," said the king. "Certainly, sir," said he; "I had the honour to see him embark in a coach, with his asthma, and country equipage, his perruque a calotte, neatly tied with a yellow riband, and his old-fashioned hat covered with oil skin, which becomes him uncommonly well: therefore, I have only to contend with William Russell, whom he leaves as his resident with Miss Hamilton; and as for him, I neither fear him upon his own account, nor his uncle's; he is too much in love himself to pay attention to the interests of another; and as he has but one method of promoting his own, which is by sacrificing the portrait, or some love-letters of Mrs. Middleton, I have it easily in my power to counteract him in such kind of favours, though I confess I have pretty well paid for them."
"Since your affairs proceed so prosperously with the Russells," said the king, "I will acquaint you that you are delivered from another rival, much more dangerous, if he were not already married: my brother has lately fallen in love with Lady Chesterfield." "How many blessings at once!" exclaimed the Chevalier de Grammont: "I have so many obligations to him for this inconstancy, that I would willingly serve him in his new amour, if Hamilton was not his rival: nor will your majesty take it ill, if I promote the interests of my mistress's brother, rather than those of your majesty's brother." "Hamilton, however," said the king, "does not stand so much in need of assistance, in affairs of this nature, as the Duke of York; but I know Lord Chesterfield is of such a disposition, that he will not suffer men to quarrel about his wife, with the same patience as the complaisant Shrewsbury; though he well deserves the same fate." Here follows a true description of Lord Chesterfield.
[Philip, the second Earl of Chesterfield. He was constituted, in 1662, lord-chamberlain to the queen, and colonel of a regiment of foot, June 13, 1667. On November 29, 1679, he was appointed lord- warden and chief-justice of the king's forests on this side Trent, and sworn of the privy-council, January 26, 1680. On November 6, 1682, he was made colonel of the third regiment of foot, which, with the rest of his preferments, he resigned on the accession of James IT. He lived to the age of upwards of 80, and died, January 28, 1713, at his house, in Bloomsbury-square.]
He had a very agreeable face, a fine head of hair, an indifferent shape, and a worse air; he was not, however, deficient in wit: a long residence in Italy had made him ceremonious in his commerce with men, and jealous in his connection with women: he had been much hated by the king; because he had been much beloved by Lady Castlemaine: it was reported that he had been in her good graces prior to her marriage; and as neither of them denied it, it was the more generally believed.
He had paid his devoirs to the eldest daughter of the Duke of Ormond, while his heart was still taken up with his former passion: the king's love for Lady Castlemaine, and the advancement he expected from such an alliance, made him press the match with as much ardour as if he had been passionately in love: he had therefore married Lady Chesterfield without loving her, and had lived some time with her in such coolness as to leave her no room to doubt of his indifference. As she was endowed with great sensibility and delicacy, she suffered at this contempt: she was at first much affected with his behaviour, and afterwards enraged at it; and, when he began to give her proofs of his affection, she had the pleasure of convincing him of her indifference.
They were upon this footing, when she resolved to cure Hamilton, as she had lately done her husband, of all his remaining tenderness for Lady Castlemaine. For her it was no difficult undertaking: the conversation of the one was disagreeable, from the unpolished state of her manners, her ill-timed pride, her uneven temper, and extravagant humours Lady Chesterfield, on the contrary, knew how to heighten her charms with all the bewitching attractions in the power of a woman to invent who wishes to make a conquest.
Besides all this, she had greater opportunities of making advances to him than to any other: she lived at the Duke of Ormond's, at Whitehall, where Hamilton, as was said before, had free admittance at all hours: her extreme coldness, or rather the disgust which she showed for her husband's returning affection, wakened his natural inclination to jealousy: he suspected that she could not so very suddenly pass from anxiety to indifference for him, without some secret object of a new attachment; and, according to the maxim of all jealous husbands, he immediately put in practice all his experience and industry, in order to make a discovery, which was to destroy his own happiness.
Hamilton, who knew his disposition, was, on the other hand, upon his guard, and the more he advanced in his intrigue, the more attentive was he to remove every degree of suspicion from the Earl's mind: he pretended to make him his confidant, in the most unguarded and open manner, of his passion for Lady Castlemaine: he complained of her caprice, and most earnestly desired his advice how to succeed with a person whose affections he alone had entirely possessed.
Chesterfield, who was flattered with this discourse, promised him his protection with greater sincerity than it had been demanded: Hamilton, therefore, was no further embarrassed than to preserve Lady Chesterfield's reputation, who, in his opinion, declared herself rather too openly in his favour: but whilst he was diligently employed in regulating, within the rules of discretion, the partiality she expressed for him, and in conjuring her to restrain her glances within bounds, she was receiving those of the Duke of York; and, what is more, made them favourable returns.
He thought that he had perceived it, as well as every one besides; but he thought likewise, that all the world was deceived as well as himself: how could he trust his own eyes, as to what those of Lady Chesterfield betrayed for this new rival? He could not think it probable, that a woman of her disposition could relish a man, whose manners had a thousand times been the subject of their private ridicule; but what he judged still more improbable was, that she should begin another intrigue before she had given the finishing stroke to that in which her own advances had engaged her: however, he began to observe her with more circumspection, when he found by his discoveries, that if she did not deceive him, at least the desire of doing so was not wanting. This he took the liberty of telling her of; but she answered him in so high a strain, and treated what he said so much like a phantom of his own imagination, that he appeared confused without being convinced: all the satisfaction he could procure from her, was her telling him, in a haughty manner, that such unjust reproaches as his ought to have had a better foundation.
Lord Chesterfield had taken the same alarm; and being convinced, from the observations he had made, that he had found out the happy lover who had gained possession of his lady's heart, he was satisfied; and without teasing her with unnecessary reproaches, he only waited for an opportunity to confound her, before he took his measures.
After all, how can we account for Lady Chesterfield's conduct, unless we attribute it to the disease incident to most coquettes, who, charmed with superiority, put in practice every art to rob another of her conquest, and spare nothing to preserve it.
But before we enter into the particulars of this adventure, let us take a retrospect of the amours of his Royal Highness, prior to the declaration of his marriage, and particularly of what immediately preceded this declaration. It is allowable sometimes to drop the thread of a narrative, when real facts, not generally known, give such a variety upon the digression as to render it excusable: let us see then how those things happened.
The Duke of York's marriage, with the chancellor's daughter, was deficient in none of those circumstances which render contracts of this nature valid in the eye of heaven the mutual inclination, the formal ceremony, witnesses, and every essential point of matrimony, had been observed.
[The material facts in this narrative are confirmed by Lord Clarendon.—'Continuation of his Life', p. 33. It is difficult to speak of the persons concerned in this infamous transaction without some degree of asperity, notwithstanding they are, by a strange perversion of language, styled, all men of honour.]
Though the bride was no perfect beauty, yet, as there were none at the court of Holland who eclipsed her, the Duke, during the first endearments of matrimony, was so far from repenting of it, that he seemed only to wish for the King's restoration that he might have an opportunity of declaring it with splendour; but when he saw himself enjoying a rank which placed him so near the throne; when the possession of Miss Hyde afforded him no new charms; when England, so abounding in beauties, displayed all that was charming and lovely in the court of the King his brother; and when he considered he was the only prince, who, from such superior elevation, had descended so low, he began to reflect upon it. On the one hand, his marriage appeared to him particularly ill suited in every respect: he recollected that Jermyn had not engaged him in an intimacy with Miss Hyde, until he had convinced him, by several different circumstances, of the facility of succeeding: he looked upon his marriage as an infringement of that duty and obedience he owed to the King; the indignation with which the court, and even the whole kingdom, would receive the account of his marriage presented itself to his imagination, together with the impossibility of obtaining the King's consent to such an act, which for a thousand reasons he would be obliged to refuse. On the other hand, the tears and despair of poor Miss Hyde presented themselves; and still more than that, he felt a remorse of conscience, the scruples of which began from that time to rise up against him.
In the midst of this perplexity he opened his heart to Lord Falmouth, and consulted with him what method he ought to pursue: He could not have applied to a better man for his own interests, nor to a worse for Miss Hyde's; for at first, Falmouth maintained not only that he was not married, but that it was even impossible that he could ever have formed such a thought; that any marriage was invalid for him, which was made without the King's consent, even if the party was a suitable match: but that it was a mere jest, even to think of the daughter of an insignificant lawyer, whom the favour of his sovereign had lately made a peer of the realm, without any noble blood, and chancellor, without any capacity; that as for his scruples, he had only to give ear to some gentlemen whom he could introduce, who would thoroughly inform him of Miss Hyde's conduct before he became acquainted with her; and provided he did not tell them that he really was married, he would soon have sufficient grounds to come to a determination.
The Duke of York consented, and Lord Falmouth, having assembled both his council and his witnesses, conducted them to his Royal Highness's cabinet, after having instructed them how to act: these gentlemen were the Earl of Arran, Jermyn, Talbot, and Killegrew, all men of honour; but who infinitely preferred the Duke of York's interest to Miss Hyde's reputation, and who, besides, were greatly dissatisfied, as well as the whole court, at the insolent authority of the prime minister.
The Duke having told them, after a sort of preamble, that although they could not be ignorant of his affection for Miss Hyde, yet they might be unacquainted with the engagements his tenderness for her had induced him to contract; that he thought himself obliged to perform all the promises he had made her; but as the innocence of persons of her age was generally exposed to court scandal, and as certain reports, whether false or true, had been spread abroad on the subject of her conduct, he conjured them as his friends, and charged them upon their duty, to tell him sincerely everything they knew upon the subject, since he was resolved to make their evidence the rule of his conduct towards her. They all appeared rather reserved at first, and seemed not to dare to give their opinions upon an affair of so serious and delicate a nature; but the Duke of York having renewed his entreaties, each began to relate the particulars of what he knew, and perhaps of more than he knew, of poor Miss Hyde; nor did they omit any circumstance necessary to strengthen the evidence. For instance the Earl of Arran, who spoke first, deposed, that in the gallery at Honslaerdyk, where the Countess of Ossory, his sister-in-law, and Jermyn, were playing at nine-pins, Miss Hyde, pretending to be sick, retired to a chamber at the end of the gallery; that he, the deponent, had followed her, and having cut her lace, to give a greater probability to the pretence of the vapours, he had acquitted himself to the best of his abilities, both to assist and to console her.
Talbot said, that she had made an appointment with him in the chancellor's cabinet, while he was in council; and, that, not paying so much attention to what was upon the table as to what they were engaged in, they had spilled a bottle full of ink upon a despatch of four pages, and that the King's monkey, which was blamed for this accident, had been a long time in disgrace.
Jermyn mentioned many places where he had received long and favourable audiences: however, all these articles of accusation amounted only to some delicate familiarities, or at most, to what is generally denominated the innocent part of an intrigue; but Killegrew, who wished to surpass these trivial depositions, boldly declared that he had had the honour of being upon the most intimate terms with her he was of a sprightly and witty humour, and had the art of telling a story in the most entertaining manner, by the graceful and natural turn he could give it: he affirmed that he had found the critical minute in a certain closet built over the water, for a purpose very different from that of giving ease to the pains of love: that three or four swans had been witnesses to his happiness, and might perhaps have been witnesses to the happiness of many others, as the lady frequently repaired to that place, and was particularly delighted with it.
The Duke of York found this last accusation greatly out of bounds, being convinced he himself had sufficient proofs of the contrary: he therefore returned thanks to these officious informers for their frankness, ordered them to be silent for the future upon what they had been telling him, and immediately passed into the King's apartment.
As soon as he had entered the cabinet, Lord Falmouth, who had followed him, related what had passed to the Earl of Ossory, whom he met in the presence chamber: they strongly suspected what was the subject of the conversation of the two brothers, as it was long; and the Duke of York appeared to be in such agitation when he came out, that they no longer doubted that the result had been unfavourable for poor Miss Hyde. Lord Falmouth began to be affected for her disgrace, and to relent that he had been concerned in it, when the Duke of York told him and the Earl of Ossory to meet him in about an hour's time at the chancellor's.
They were rather surprised that he should have the cruelty himself to announce such a melancholy piece of news: they found his Royal Highness at the appointed hour in Miss Hyde's chamber: a few tears trickled down her cheeks, which she endeavoured to restrain. The chancellor, leaning against the wall, appeared to them to be puffed up with some thing, which they did not doubt was—rage and despair. The Duke of York said to them, with that serene and pleasant countenance with which men generally announce good news: "As you are the two men of the court whom I most esteem, I am desirous you should first have the honour of paying your compliments to the Duchess of York: there she is."
Surprise was of no use, and astonishment was unseasonable on the present occasion: they were, however, so greatly possessed with both surprise and astonishment, that in order to conceal it, they immediately fell on their knees to kiss her hand, which she gave to them with as much majesty as if she had been used to it all her life.
The next day the news was made public, and the whole court was eager to pay her that respect, from a sense of duty, which in the end became very sincere.
The petits-maitres who had spoken against her, seeing their intentions disappointed, were not a little embarrassed. Women are seldom accustomed to forgive injuries of this nature; and, if they promise themselves the pleasure of revenge, when they gain the power they seldom forget it: in the present case, however, the fears of these petits-maitres were their only punishment.
The Duchess of York, being fully informed of all that was said in the cabinet concerning her, instead of showing the least resentment, studied to distinguish, by all manner of kindness and good offices, those who had attacked her in so sensible a part; nor did she ever mention it to them, but in order to praise their zeal, and to tell them that nothing was a greater proof of the attachment of a man of honour, than his being more solicitous for the interest of his friend or master, than for his own reputation: a remarkable example of prudence and moderation, not only for the fair sex, but even for those who value themselves most upon their philosophy among the men.
The Duke of York, having quieted his conscience by the declaration of his marriage, thought that he was entitled, by this generous effort, to give way a little to his inconstancy: he therefore immediately seized upon whatever he could first lay his hands upon: this was Lady Carnegy, who had been in several other hands. She was still tolerably handsome, and her disposition, naturally inclined to tenderness, did not oblige her new lover long to languish. Everything coincided with their wishes for some time: Lord Carnegy, her husband, was in Scotland; but his father dying suddenly, he as suddenly returned with the title of Southesk, which his wife detested; but which she took more patiently than she received the news of his return. Some private intimation had been given him of the honour that was done him in his absence: nevertheless, he did not show his jealousy at first; but, as he was desirous to be satisfied of the reality of the fact, he kept a strict watch over his wife's actions. The Duke of York and her ladyship had, for some time, been upon such terms of intimacy, as not to pass their time in frivolous amusements; however, the husband's return obliged them to maintain some decorum: he therefore never went to her house, but in form, that is to say, always accompanied by some friend or other, to give his amours at least the appearance of a visit.
About this time Talbot returned from Portugal: this connection had taken place during his absence; and without knowing who Lady Southesk was, he had been informed that his master was in love with her.
A few days after his arrival, he was carried, merely to keep up appearances, to her house by the duke; and after being introduced, and some compliments having been paid on both sides, he thought it his duty to give his Royal Highness an opportunity to pay his compliments, and accordingly retired into the ante-chamber, which looked into the street, and placed himself at the window to view the people as they passed.
He was one of the best meaning men in the world on such occasions; but was so subject to forgetfulness, and absence of mind, that he once forgot, and left behind him at London, a complimentary letter which the duke had given him for the Infanta of Portugal, and never recollected it till he was going to his audience.
He stood sentry, as we have before said, very attentive to his instructions, when he saw a coach stop at the door, without being in the least concerned at it, and still less, at a man whom he saw get out of it, and whom he immediately heard coming upstairs.
The devil, who ought to be civil upon such occasions, forgot himself in the present instance, and brought up Lord Southesk 'in propria persona': his Royal Highness's equipage had been sent home, because my lady had assured him that her husband was gone to see a bear and a bull baiting, an entertainment in which he took great delight, and from whence he seldom returned until it was very late; so that Southesk, not seeing any equipage at the door, little imagined that he had such good company in his house; but if he was surprised to see Talbot carelessly lolling in his wife's ante-chamber, his surprise was soon over. Talbot, who had not seen him since they were in Flanders, and never supposing that he had changed his name: "Welcome, Carnegy, welcome, my good fellow," said he, giving him his hand, "where the devil have you been, that I have never been able to set eyes on you since we were at Brussels? What business brought you here? Do you likewise wish to see Lady Southesk? If this is your intention, my poor friend, you may go away again; for I must inform you, the Duke of York is in love with her, and I will tell you in confidence, that, at this very time, he is in her chamber."
Southesk, confounded as one may suppose, had no time to answer all these fine questions: Talbot, therefore, attended him downstairs as his friend; and, as his humble servant, advised him to seek for a mistress elsewhere. Southesk, not knowing what else to do at that time, returned to his coach; and Talbot, overjoyed at the adventure, impatiently waited for the duke's return, that he might acquaint him with it; but he was very much surprised to find that the story afforded no pleasure to those who had the principal share in it; and his greatest concern was, that Carnegy had changed his name, as if only to draw him into such a confidence.
This accident broke off a commerce which the Duke of York did not much regret; and indeed it was happy for him that he became indifferent; for the traitor Southesk meditated a revenge, whereby, without using either assassination or poison, he would have obtained some satisfaction upon those who had injured him, if the connection had continued any longer.
He went to the most infamous places, to seek for the most infamous disease, which he met with; but his revenge was only half completed; for after he had gone through every remedy to get quit of his disease, his lady did but return him his present, having no more connection with the person for whom it was so industriously prepared.
[Bishop Burnet, taking notice of the Duke of York's amours, says, "a story was set about, and generally believed, that the Earl of Southesk, that had married a daughter of the Duke of Hamilton's, suspecting some familiarities between the duke and his wife, had taken a sure method to procure a disease to himself, which he communicated to his wife, and was, by that means, sent round till it came to the duchess. Lord Southesk was, for some years, not ill pleased to have this believed. It looked like a peculiar strain of revenge, with which he seemed much delighted. But I know he has, to some of his friends, denied the whole of the story very solemnly." —history of His Own Times, vol. i., p. 319. It is worthy of notice that the passage in the text was omitted in most editions of Grammont, and retained in that of Strawberry-hill, in 1772.]
Lady Robarts was then in the zenith of her glory; her beauty was striking; yet, notwithstanding the brightness of the finest complexion, with all the bloom of youth, and with every requisite for inspiring desire, she nevertheless was not attractive. The Duke of York, however, would probably have been successful, if difficulties, almost insurmountable, had not disappointed his good intentions: Lord Robarts, her husband, was an old, snarling, troublesome, peevish fellow, in love with her to distraction, and to complete her misery, a perpetual attendant on her person.
She perceived his Royal Highness's attachment to her, and seemed as if she was inclined to be grateful: this redoubled his eagerness, and every outward mark of tenderness he could possibly show her; but the watchful husband redoubling his zeal and assiduity, as he found the approaches advance, every art was practised to render him tractable: several attacks were made upon his avarice and his ambition. Those who possessed the greatest share of his confidence, insinuated to him that it was his own fault if Lady Robarts, who was so worthy of being at court, was not received into some considerable post, either about the queen or the duchess: he was offered to be made Lord Lieutenant of the county where his estate was; or to have the management of the Duke of York's revenues in Ireland, of which he should have the entire disposal, provided he immediately set out to take possession of his charge; and having accomplished it, he might return as soon as ever he thought proper.
He perfectly well understood the meaning of these proposals, and was fully apprised of the advantages he might reap from them: in vain did ambition and avarice hold out their allurements; he was deaf to all their temptations, nor could ever the old fellow be persuaded to be made a cuckold. It is not always an aversion to, or a dread of this distinction, which preserves us from it: of this her husband was very sensible; therefore, under the pretence of a pilgrimage to Saint Winifred, the virgin and martyr, who was said to cure women of barrenness, he did not rest, until the highest mountains in Wales were between his wife and the person who had designed to perform this miracle in London, after his departure.
The duke was for some time entirely taken up with the pleasures of the chase, and only now and then engaged in those of love; but his taste having undergone a change in this particular, and the remembrance of Lady Robarts wearing off by degrees, his eyes and wishes were turned towards Miss Brook; and it was in the height of this pursuit that Lady Chesterfield threw herself into his arms, as we shall see by resuming the sequel of her adventures.
The Earl of Bristol, ever restless and ambitious, had put in practice every art, to possess himself of the king's favour. As this is the same Digby whom Count Bussy mentions in his annals, it will be sufficient to say that he was not at all changed: he knew that love and pleasure had possession of a master, whom he himself governed, in defiance of the chancellor; thus he was continually giving entertainments at his house; and luxury and elegance seemed to rival each other in those nocturnal feasts, which always lead to other enjoyments. The two Miss Brooks, his relations, were always of those parties; they were both formed by nature to excite love in others, as well as to be susceptible of it themselves; they were just what the king wanted: the earl, from this commencement, was beginning to entertain a good opinion of his project, when Lady Castlemaine, who had lately gained entire possession of the king's heart, was not in a humour, at that time, to share it with another, as she did very indiscreetly afterwards, despising Miss Stewart. As soon, therefore, as she received intimation of these secret practices, under pretence of attending the king in his parties, she entirely disconcerted them; so that the earl was obliged to lay aside his projects, and Miss Brook to discontinue her advances. The king did not even dare to think any more on this subject; but his brother was pleased to look after what he neglected; and Miss Brook accepted the offer of his heart, until it pleased heaven to dispose of her otherwise, which happened soon after in the following manner.
Sir John Denham, loaded with wealth as well as years, had passed his youth in the midst of those pleasures which people at that age indulge in without restraint; he was one of the brightest geniuses England ever produced, for wit and humour, and for brilliancy of composition: satirical and free in his poems, he spared neither frigid writers, nor jealous husbands, nor even their wives: every part abounded with the most poignant wit, and the most entertaining stories; but his most delicate and spirited raillery turned generally against matrimony; and, as if he wished to confirm, by his own example, the truth of what he had written in his youth, he married, at the age of seventy-nine, this Miss Brook of whom we are speaking, who was only eighteen.
The Duke of York had rather neglected her for some time before; but the circumstance of so unequal a match rekindled his ardour; and she, on her part, suffered him to entertain hopes of an approaching bliss, which a thousand considerations had opposed before her marriage: she wished to belong to the court; and for the promise of being made lady of the bedchamber to the duchess, she was upon the point of making him another promise, or of immediately performing it, if required, when, in the middle of this treaty, Lady Chesterfield was tempted, by her evil genius, to rob her of her conquest, in order to disturb all the world.
However, as Lady Chesterfield could not see the Duke of York, except in public assemblies, she was under the necessity of making the most extravagant advances, in order to seduce him from his former connection; and as he was the most unguarded ogler of his time, the whole court was informed of the intrigue before it was well begun.
Those who appeared the most attentive to their conduct were not the least interested in it. Hamilton and Lord Chesterfield watched them narrowly; but Lady Denham, vexed that Lady Chesterfield should have stepped in before her, took the liberty of railing against her rival with the greatest bitterness. Hamilton had hitherto flattered himself that vanity alone had engaged Lady Chesterfield in this adventure; but he was soon undeceived, whatever her indifference might have been when she first commenced this intrigue. We often proceed farther than we at first intended, when we indulge ourselves in trifling liberties which we think of no consequence; for though perhaps the heart takes no part at the beginning, it seldom fails to be engaged in the end.
The court, as we have mentioned before, was an entire scene of gallantry and amusements, with all the politeness and magnificence which the inclinations of a prince naturally addicted to tenderness and pleasure, could suggest: the beauties were desirous of charming, and the men endeavoured to please: all studied to set themselves off to the best advantage: some distinguished themselves by dancing; others by show and magnificence; some by their wit, many by their amours, but few by their constancy. There was a certain Italian at court, famous for the guitar: he had a genius for music, and he was the only man who could make anything of the guitar: his style of play was so full of grace and tenderness, that he would have given harmony to the most discordant instruments. The truth is, nothing was so difficult as to play like this foreigner. The king's relish for his compositions had brought the instrument so much into vogue, that every person played upon it, well or ill; and you were as sure to see a guitar on a lady's toilet as rouge or patches. The Duke of York played upon it tolerably well, and the Earl of Arran like Francisco himself. This Francisco had composed a saraband, which either charmed or infatuated every person; for the whole guitarery at court were trying at it; and God knows what an universal strumming there was. The Duke of York, pretending not to be perfect in it, desired Lord Arran to play it to him. Lady Chesterfield had the best guitar in England. The Earl of Arran, who was desirous of playing his best, conducted his Royal Highness to his sister's apartments: she was lodged at court, at her father's, the Duke of Ormond's; and this wonderful guitar was lodged there too. Whether this visit had been preconcerted or not, I do not pretend to say; but it is certain that they found both the lady and the guitar at home: they likewise found there Lord Chesterfield, so much surprised at this unexpected visit, that it was a considerable time before he thought of rising from his seat to receive them with due respect.
Jealousy, like a malignant vapour, now seized upon his brain: a thousand suspicions, blacker than ink, took possession of his imagination, and were continually increasing; for, whilst the brother played upon the guitar to the duke, the sister ogled and accompanied him with her eyes, as if the coast had been clear, and no enemy to observe them. This saraband was at least repeated twenty times: the duke declared it was played to perfection: Lady Chesterfield found fault with the composition; but her husband, who clearly perceived that he was the person played upon, thought it a most detestable piece. However, though he was in the last agony at being obliged to curb his passion while others gave a free scope to theirs, he was resolved to find out the drift of the visit; but it was not in his power: for, having the honour to be chamberlain to the queen, a messenger came to require his immediate attendance on her majesty. His first thought was to pretend sickness: the second to suspect that the queen, who sent for him at such an unseasonable time, was in the plot; but at last, after all the extravagant ideas of a suspicious man, and all the irresolutions of a jealous husband, he was obliged to go.
We may easily imagine what his state of mind was when he arrived at the palace. Alarms are to the jealous what disasters are to the unfortunate: they seldom come alone, but form a series of persecution. He was informed that he was sent for to attend the queen at an audience she gave to seven or eight Muscovite ambassadors: he had scarce begun to curse the Muscovites, when his brother-in-law appeared, and drew upon himself all the imprecations he bestowed upon the embassy: he no longer doubted his being in the plot with the two persons he had left together, and in his heart sincerely wished him such recompense for his good offices as such good offices deserved. It was with great difficulty that he restrained himself from immediately acquainting him what was his opinion of such conduct: he thought that what he had already seen was a sufficient proof of his wife's infidelity; but before the end of the very same day, some circumstances occurred which increased his suspicions, and persuaded him that they had taken advantage of his absence, and of the honourable officiousness of his brother-in-law. He passed, however, that night with tranquillity; but the next morning, being reduced to the necessity either of bursting or giving vent to his sorrows and conjectures, he did nothing but think and walk about the room until Park-time. He went to court, seemed very busy, as if seeking for some person or other, imagining that people guessed at the subject of his uneasiness: he avoided everybody, but at length meeting with Hamilton, he thought he was the very man that he wanted; and, having desired him to take an airing with him in Hyde Park, he took him up in his coach, and they arrived at the Ring, without a word having passed between them.
Hamilton, who saw him as yellow as jealousy itself, and particularly thoughtful, imagined that he had just discovered what all the world had perceived long before; when Chesterfield, after a broken, insignificant preamble, asked him how he succeeded with Lady Castlemaine. Hamilton, who very well saw that he meant nothing by this question, nevertheless thanked him; and as he was thinking of an answer: "Your cousin," said the earl, "is extremely coquettish, and I have some reason to suppose she is not so prudent as she ought to be." Hamilton thought the last charge a little too severe; and as he was endeavouring to refute it: "Good God!" said my lord, "you see, as well as the whole court, what airs she gives herself: husbands are always the last people that are spoken to about those affairs that corcern them the most; but they are not always the last to perceive it themselves: though you have made me your confidant in other matters, yet I am not at all surprised you have concealed this from me; but as I flatter myself with having some share in your esteem, I should be sorry you should think me such a fool as to be incapable of seeing, though I am so complaisant as not to express my sentiments: nevertheless, I find that affairs are now carried on with such barefaced boldness, that at length I find I shall be forced to take some course or other. God forbid that I should act the ridiculous part of a jealous husband: the character is odious; but then I do not intend, through an excess of patience, to be made the jest of the town. Judge, therefore, from what I am going to tell you, whether I ought to sit down unconcerned, or whether I ought to take measures for the preservation of my honour.
"His royal highness honoured me yesterday by a visit to my wife." Hamilton started at this beginning. "Yes," continued the other, "he did give himself that trouble, and Lord Arran took upon himself that of bringing him: do not you wonder, that a man of his birth should act such a part? What advancement can he expect from one who employs him in such base services? But we have long known him to be one of the silliest creatures in England, with his guitar, and his other whims and follies." Chesterfield, after this short sketch of his brother-in-law's merit, began to relate the observations he had made during the visit, and asked Hamilton what he thought of his cousin Arran, who had so obligingly left them together. "This may appear surprising to you," continued he, "but hear me out, and judge whether I have reason to think that the close of this pretty visit passed in perfect innocence. Lady Chesterfield is amiable, it must be acknowledged; but she is far from being such a miracle of beauty as she supposes herself: you know she has ugly feet; but perhaps you are not acquainted that she has still worse legs." "Pardon me," said Hamilton, within himself: and the other continuing the description: "Her legs," said his lordship, "are short and thick; and, to remedy these defects as much as possible, she seldom wears any other than green stockings."
Hamilton could not for his life imagine the drift of all this discourse, and Chesterfield, guessing his thoughts: "Have a little patience," said he: "I went yesterday to Miss Stewart's, after the audience of those damned Muscovites: the king arrived there just before me; and as if the duke had sworn to pursue me wherever I went that day, he came in just after me. The conversation turned upon the extraordinary appearance of the ambassadors. I know not where that fool Crofts had heard that all these Muscovites had handsome wives; and that all their wives had handsome legs. Upon this the king maintained that no woman ever had such handsome legs as Miss Stewart; and she, to prove the truth of his majesty's assertion, with the greatest imaginable ease, immediately shewed her leg above the knee. Some were ready to prostrate themselves, in order to adore its beauty; for indeed none can be handsomer; but the duke alone began to criticise upon it. He contended that it was too slender, and that as for himself he would give nothing for a leg that was not thicker and shorter, and concluded by saying that no leg was worth anything without green stockings. Now this, in my opinion, was a sufficient demonstration that he had just seen green stockings, and had them fresh in his remembrance."
Hamilton was at a loss what countenance to put on during a narrative which raised in him nearly the same conjectures; he shrugged up his shoulders, and faintly said that appearances were often deceitful; that Lady Chesterfield had the foible of all beauties, who place their merit on the number of their admirers; and whatever airs she might imprudently have given herself, in order not to discourage his royal highness, there was no ground to suppose that she would indulge him in any greater liberties to engage him: but in vain was it that he endeavoured to give that consolation to his friend which he did not feel himself. Chesterfield plainly perceived he did not think of what he was saying; however, he thought himself much obliged to him for the interest he seemed to take in his concerns.
Hamilton was in haste to go home to vent his spleen and resentment in a letter to his cousin. The style of this billet was very different from those which he formerly was accustomed to write to her: reproaches, bitter expostulations, tenderness, menaces, and all the effusions of a lover who thinks he has reason to complain, composed this epistle; which, for fear of accidents, he went to deliver himself.
Never did she before appear so lovely, and never did her eyes speak so kindly to him as at this moment: his heart quite relented; but he was determined not to lose all the fine things he had said in his letter. In receiving it, she squeezed his hand: this action completely disarmed him, and he would have given his life to have had his letter again. It appeared to him at this instant that all the grievances he complained of were visionary and groundless: he looked upon her husband as a madman and an impostor, and quite the reverse of what he supposed him to be a few minutes before; but this remorse came a little too late: he had delivered his billet, and Lady Chesterfield had shewn such impatience and eagerness to read it as soon as she had got it that all circumstances seemed to conspire to justify her, and to confound him. She managed to get quit, some way or other, of some troublesome visitors, to slip into her closet. He thought himself so culpable that he had not the assurance to wait her return: he withdrew with the rest of the company; but he did not dare to appear before her the next day, to have an answer to his letter: however, he met her at court; and this was the first time, since the commencement of their amour, that he did not seek for her. He stood at a distance, with downcast looks, and appeared in such terrible embarrassment that his condition was sufficient to raise laughter or to cause pity, when Lady Chesterfield approaching, thus accosted him: "Confess," said she, "that you are in as foolish a situation as any man of sense can be: you wish you had not written to me: you are desirous of an answer: you hope for none: yet you equally wish for and dread it: I have, however, written you one." She had not time to say more; but the few words she had spoken were accompanied with such an air, and such a look, as to make him believe that it was Venus with all her graces who had addressed him. He was near her when she sat down to cards, and as he was puzzling himself to devise by what means he should get this answer, she desired him to lay her gloves and fan down somewhere: he took them, and with them the billet in question; and as he had perceived nothing severe or angry in the conversation he had with her, he hastened to open her letter, and read as follows:
"Your transports are so ridiculous that it is doing you a favour to attribute them to an excess of tenderness, which turns your head: a man, without doubt, must have a great inclination to be jealous, to entertain such an idea of the person you mention. Good God! what a lover to have caused uneasiness to a man of genius, and what a genius to have got the better of mine! Are not you ashamed to give any credit to the visions of a jealous fellow who brought nothing else with him from Italy? Is it possible that the story of the green stockings, upon which he has founded his suspicions, should have imposed upon you, accompanied as it is with such pitiful circumstances? Since he has made you his confidant, why did not he boast of breaking in pieces my poor harmless guitar? This exploit, perhaps, might have convinced you more than all the rest: recollect yourself, and if you are really in love with me, thank fortune for a groundless jealousy, which diverts to another quarter the attention he might pay to my attachment for the most amiable and the most dangerous man of the court."
Hamilton was ready to weep for joy at these endearing marks of kindness, of which he thought himself so unworthy he was not satisfied with kissing, in raptures, every part of this billet; he also kissed several times her gloves and her fan. Play being over, Lady Chesterfield received them from his hands, and read in his eyes the joy that her billet had raised in his heart. Nor was he satisfied with expressing his raptures, only by looks: he hastened home, and wrote to her at least four times as much. How different was this letter from the other! Though perhaps not so well written; for one does not show so much wit in suing for pardon, as in venting reproaches, and it seldom happens that the soft languishing style of a love-letter is so penetrating as that of invective.
Be that as it may, his peace was made: their past quarrel gave new life to their correspondence; and Lady Chesterfield, to make him as easy as he had before been distrustful expressed on every occasion a feigned contempt for his rival, and a sincere aversion for her husband.
So great was his confidence in her, that he consented she should show in public some marks of attention to the duke, in order to conceal as much as possible their private intelligence. Thus, at this time nothing disturbed his peace of mind, but his impatience of finding a favourable opportunity for the completion of his desires: he thought it was in her power to command it; but she excused herself on account of several difficulties which she enumerated to him, and which she was desirous he should remove by his industry and attentions.
This silenced his complaints; but whilst he was endeavouring to surmount these obstacles, still wondering how it was possible that two persons who were so well disposed to each other, and who were agreed to make each other happy, could not put their designs in execution, accident discovered an unexpected adventure, which left him no room to doubt, either of the happiness of his rival, or of the perfidy of his mistress.
Misfortunes often fall light when most feared; and frequently prove heaviest when merited, and when least suspected. Hamilton was in the middle of the most tender and passionate letter he had ever written to Lady Chesterfield, when her husband came to announce to him the particulars of this last discovery: he came so suddenly upon him, that he had only just time to conceal his amorous epistle among his other papers. His heart and mind were still so full of what he was writing to his cousin, that her husband's complaints against her, at first, were scarce attended to; besides, in his opinion, he had come in the most unfortunate moment on all accounts.
He was, however, obliged to listen to him, and he soon entertained quite different sentiments: he appeared almost petrified with astonishment, while the earl was relating to him circumstances of such an extravagant indiscretion, as seemed to him quite incredible, notwithstanding the particulars of the fact. "You have reason to be surprised at it," said my lord, concluding his story; "but if you doubt the truth of what I tell you, it will be easy for you to find evidence that will convince you; for the scene of their tender familiarities was no less public than the room where the queen plays at cards, which while her majesty was at play, was, God knows, pretty well crowded. Lady Denham was the first who discovered what they thought would pass unperceived in the crowd; and you may very well judge hew secret she would keep such a circumstance. The truth is, she addressed herself to me first of all, as I entered the room, to tell me that I should give my wife a little advice, as other people might take notice of what I might see myself, if I pleased.
"Your cousin was at play, as I before told you: the duke was sitting next to her: I know not what was become of his hand; but I am sure that no one could see his arm below the elbow: I was standing behind them, just in the place that Lady Denham had quitted: the duke turning round perceived me, and was so much disturbed at my presence, that he almost undressed my lady in pulling away his hand. I know not whether they perceived that they were discovered; but of this I am convinced, that Lady Denham will take care that everybody shall know it. I must confess to you, that my embarrassment is so great, that I cannot find words to express what I now feel: I should not hesitate one moment what course to take, if I might be allowed to show my resentment against the person who has wronged me. As for her, I could manage her well enough, if, unworthy as she is of any consideration, I had not still some regard for an illustrious family, that would be distracted were I to resent such an injury as it deserves. In this particular you are interested yourself: you are my friend, and I make you my confidant in an affair of the greatest imaginable delicacy: let us then consult together what is proper to be done in so perplexing and disagreeable a situation."
Hamilton, if possible, more astonished, and more confounded than himself, was far from being in a proper state to afford him advice on the present occasion: he listened to nothing but jealousy, and breathed nothing but revenge; but these emotions being somewhat abated, in hopes that there might be calumny, or at least exaggeration in the charges against Lady Chesterfield, he desired her husband to suspend his resolutions, until he was more fully informed of the fact; assuring him, however, that if he found the circumstances such as he had related, he should regard and consult no other interest than his.
Upon this they parted; and Hamilton found, on the first inquiry, that almost the whole court was informed of the adventure, to which every one added something in relating it. Vexation and resentment, inflamed his heart, and by degrees extinguished every remnant of his former passion.
He might easily have seen her, and have made her such reproaches as a man is generally inclined to do, on such occasions; but he was too much enraged to enter into any detail which might have led to an explanation: he considered himself as the only person essentially injured in this affair; for he could never bring his mind to think that the injuries of the husband could be placed in competition with those of the lover.
He hastened to Lord Chesterfield, in the transport of his passion, and told him that he had heard enough to induce him to give such advice, as he should follow himself in the same situation, and that if he wished to save a woman so strongly prepossessed, and who perhaps had not yet lost all her innocence, though she had totally lost her reason, he ought not to delay one single instant, but immediately to carry her into the country with the greatest possible expedition, without allowing her the least time to recover her surprise.
Lord Chesterfield readily agreed to follow this advice, which he had already considered as the only counsel a friend could give him; but his lady who did not suspect he had made this last discovery of her conduct, thought he was joking with her, when he told her to prepare for going into the country in two days: she was the more induced to think so as it was in the very middle of an extremely severe winter; but she soon perceived that he was in earnest: she knew from the air and manner of her husband that he thought he had sufficient reason to treat her in this imperious style; and finding all her relations serious and cold to her complaint, she had no hope left in this universally abandoned situation but in the tenderness of Hamilton. She imagined she should hear from him the cause of her misfortunes, of which she was still totally ignorant, and that his love would invent some means or other to prevent a journey, which she flattered herself would be even more affecting to him than to herself; but she was expecting pity from a crocodile.
At last, when she saw the eve of her departure was come, that every preparation was made for a long journey; that she was receiving farewell visits in form, and that still she heard nothing from Hamilton, both her hopes and her patience forsook her in this wretched situation. A few tears perhaps might have afforded her some relief, but she chose rather to deny herself that comfort, than to give her husband so much satisfaction. Hamilton's conduct on this occasion appeared to her unaccountable; and as he still never came near her, she found means to convey to him the following billet.
"Is it possible that you should be one of those, who, without vouchsafing to tell me for what crime I am treated like a slave, suffer me to be dragged from society? What means your silence and indolence in a juncture wherein your tenderness ought most particularly to appear, and actively exert itself? I am upon the point of departing, and am ashamed to think that you are the cause of my looking upon it with horror, as I have reason to believe that you are less concerned at it than any other person: do, at least, let me know to what place I am to be dragged; what is to be done with me within a wilderness? and on what account you, like all the rest of the world, appear changed in your behaviour towards a person whom all the world could not oblige to change with regard to you, if your weakness or your ingratitude did not render you unworthy of her tenderness."
This billet did but harden his heart, and make him more proud of his vengeance: he swallowed down full draughts of pleasure in beholding her reduced to despair, being persuaded that her grief and regret for her departure were on account of another person: he felt uncommon satisfaction in having a share in tormenting her, and was particularly pleased with the scheme he had contrived to separate her from a rival, upon the very point perhaps of being made happy. Thus fortified as he was against his natural tenderness, with all the severity of jealous resentment, he saw her depart with an indifference which he did not even endeavour to conceal from her: this unexpected treatment, joined to the complication of her other misfortunes, had almost in reality plunged her into despair.
The court was filled with the story of this adventure; nobody was ignorant of the occasion of this sudden departure, but very few approved of Lord Chesterfield's conduct. In England they looked with astonishment upon a man who could be so uncivil as to be jealous of his wife; and in the city of London it was a prodigy, till that time unknown, to see a husband have recourse to violent means, to prevent what jealousy fears, and what it always deserves. They endeavoured, however, to excuse poor Lord Chesterfield, as far as they could safely do it, without incurring the public odium, by laying all the blame on his bad education. This made all the mothers vow to God that none of their sons should ever set a foot in Italy, lest they should bring back with them that infamous custom of laying restraint upon their wives.
MEMOIRS OF COUNT GRAMMONT, VOLUME 5.
By Anthony Hamilton
EDITED, WITH NOTES, BY SIR WALTER SCOTT
VARIOUS LOVE INTRIGUES AT THE ENGLISH COURT.
Every man who believes that his honour depends upon that of his wife is a fool who torments himself, and drives her to despair; but he who, being naturally jealous, has the additional misfortune of loving his wife, and who expects that she should only live for him; is a perfect madman, whom the torments of hell have actually taken hold of in this world, and whom nobody pities. All reasoning and observation on these unfortunate circumstances attending wedlock concur in this, that precaution is vain and useless before the evil, and revenge odious afterwards.
The Spaniards, who tyrannise over their wives, more by custom than from jealousy, content themselves with preserving the niceness of their honour by duennas, grates, and locks.
The Italians, who are wary in their suspicions, and vindictive in their resentments, pursue a different line of conduct: some satisfy themselves with keeping their wives under locks which they think secure: others by ingenious precautions exceed whatever the Spaniards can invent for confining the fair sex but the generality are of opinion, that in either unavoidable danger or in manifest transgression, the surest way is to assassinate.
But, ye courteous and indulgent nations, who, far from admitting these savage and barbarous customs, give full liberty to your dear ribs, and commit the care of their virtue to their own discretion, you pass without alarms or strife your peaceful days, in all the enjoyments of domestic indolence!
It was certainly some evil genius that induced Lord Chesterfield to distinguish himself from his patient and good-natured countrymen, and ridiculously to afford the world an opportunity of examining into the particulars of an adventure which would perhaps never have been known without the verge of the court, and which would everywhere have been forgotten in less than a month; but now, as soon as ever he had turned his back, in order to march away with his prisoner, and the ornaments she was supposed to have bestowed upon him, God only knows what a terrible attack there was made upon his rear: Rochester, Middlesex, Sedley, Etheredge, and all the whole band of wits, exposed him in numberless ballads, and diverted the public at his expense.
The Chevalier de Grammont was highly pleased with these lively and humorous compositions; and wherever this subject was mentioned, never failed to produce his supplement upon the occasion: "It is strange," said he, "that the country, which is little better than a gallows or a grave for young people, is allotted in this land only for the unfortunate, and not for the guilty! poor Lady Chesterfield, for some unguarded looks, is immediately seized upon by an angry husband, who will oblige her to spend her Christmas at a country-house, a hundred and fifty miles from London; while here there are a thousand ladies who are left at liberty to do whatever they please, and who indulge in that liberty, and whose conduct, in short, deserves a daily bastinado. I name no person, God forbid I should; but Lady Middleton, Lady Denham, the queen's and the duchess's maids of honour, and a hundred others, bestow their favours to the right and to the left, and not the least notice is taken of their conduct. As for Lady Shrewsbury, she is conspicuous. I would take a wager she might have a man killed for her every day, find she would only hold her head the higher for it: one would suppose she imported from Rome plenary indulgences for her conduct: there are three or four gentlemen who wear an ounce of her hair made into bracelets, and no person finds any fault; and yet shall such a cross-grained fool as Chesterfield be permitted to exercise an act of tyranny, altogether unknown in this country, upon the prettiest woman in England, and all for a mere trifle: but I am his humble servant; his precautions will avail him nothing; on the contrary, very often a woman, who had no bad intentions when she was suffered to remain in tranquillity, is prompted to such conduct by revenge, or reduced to it by necessity: this is as true as the gospel: hear now what Francisco's saraband says on the subject:
"Tell me, jealous-paced swain, What avail thy idle arts, To divide united hearts? Love, like the wind, I trow, Will, where it listeth, blow; So, prithee, peace, for all thy cares are vain.
"When you are by, Nor wishful look, be sure, nor eloquent sigh, Shall dare those inward fires discover, Which burn in either lover Yet Argus' self, if Argus were thy spy, Should ne'er, with all his mob of eyes, Surprise.
"Some joys forbidden, Transports hidden, Which love, through dark and secret ways, Mysterious love, to kindred souls conveys."
The Chevalier de Grammont passed for the author of this sonnet: neither the justness of the sentiment, nor turn of it, are surprisingly beautiful; but as it contained some truths that flattered the genius of the nation, and pleased those who interested themselves for the fair sex, the ladies were all desirous of having it to teach their children.
During all this time the Duke of York, not being in the way of seeing Lady Chesterfield, easily forgot her: her absence, however, had some circumstances attending it which could not but sensibly affect the person who had occasioned her confinement; but there are certain fortunate tempers to which every situation is easy; they feel neither disappointment with bitterness, nor pleasure with acuteness. In the mean time, as the duke could not remain idle, he had no sooner forgotten Lady Chesterfield, but he began to think of her whom he had been in love with before, and was upon the point of relapsing into his old passion for Miss Hamilton.
There was in London a celebrated portrait-painter called Lely, who had greatly improved himself by studying the famous Vandyke's pictures, which were dispersed all over England in abundance. Lely imitated Vandyke's manner, and approached the nearest to him of all the moderns. The Duchess of York, being desirous of having the portraits of the handsomest persons at court, Lely painted them, and employed all his skill in the performance; nor could he ever exert himself upon more beautiful subjects. Every picture appeared a master-piece; and that of Miss Hamilton appeared the highest finished: Lely himself acknowledged that he had drawn it with a particular pleasure. The Duke of York took a delight in looking at it, and began again to ogle the original: he had very little reason to hope for success; and at the same time that his hopeless passion alarmed the Chevalier de Grammont, Lady Denham thought proper to renew the negotiation which had so unluckily been interrupted: it was soon brought to a conclusion; for where both parties are sincere in a negotiation, no time is lost in cavilling. Everything succeeded prosperously on one side; yet, I know not what fatality obstructed the pretensions of the other. The duke was very urgent with the duchess to put Lady Denham in possession of the place which was the object of her ambition; but as she was not guarantee for the performance of the secret articles of the treaty, though till this time she had borne with patience the inconstancy of the duke, and yielded submissively to his desires; yet, in the present instance, it appeared hard and dishonourable to her, to entertain near her person, a rival, who would expose her to the danger of acting but a second part in the midst of her own court. However, she saw herself upon the point of being forced to it by authority, when a far more unfortunate obstacle for ever bereft poor Lady Denham of the hopes of possessing that fatal place, which she had solicited with such eagerness.
Old Denham, naturally jealous, became more and more suspicious, and found that he had sufficient ground for such conduct: his wife was young and handsome, he old and disagreeable: what reason then had he to flatter himself that Heaven would exempt him from the fate of husbands in the like circumstances? This he was continually saying to himself; but when compliments were poured in upon him from all sides, upon the place his lady was going to have near the duchess's person, he formed ideas of what was sufficient to have made him hang himself, if he had possessed the resolution. The traitor chose rather to exercise his courage against another. He wanted precedents for putting in practice his resentments in a privileged country: that of Lord Chesterfield was not sufficiently bitter for the revenge he meditated: besides, he had no country-house to which he could carry his unfortunate wife. This being the case, the old villain made her travel a much longer journey without stirring out of London. Merciless fate robbed her of life, and of her dearest hopes, in the bloom of youth.
As no person entertained any doubt of his having poisoned her, the populace of his neighbourhood had a design of tearing him in pieces, as soon as he should come abroad; but he shut himself up to bewail her death, until their fury was appeased by a magnificent funeral, at which he distributed four times more burnt wine than had ever been drunk at any burial in England.
[The lampoons of the day, some of which are to be found in Andrew Marvell's Works, more than insinuate that she was deprived of life by a mixture infused into some chocolate. The slander of the times imputed her death to the jealousy of the Duchess of York.]
While the town was in fear of some great disaster, as an expiation for these fatal effects of jealousy, Hamilton was not altogether so easy as he flattered himself he should be after the departure of Lady Chesterfield: he had only consulted the dictates of revenge in what he had done. His vengeance was satisfied; but such was far from being the case with his love; and having, since the absence of her he still admired, notwithstanding his resentments, leisure to make those reflections which a recent injury will not permit a man to attend to: "And wherefore," said he to himself, "was I so eager to make her miserable, who alone, however culpable she may be, has it in her power to make me happy? Cursed jealousy!" continued he, "yet more cruel to those who torment than to those who are tormented! What have I gained by having blasted the hopes of a more happy rival, since I was not able to perform this without depriving myself, at the same time, of her upon whom the whole happiness and comfort of my life was centred."
Thus, clearly proving to himself, by a great many reasonings of the same kind, and all out of season, that in such an engagement it was much better to partake with another than to have nothing at all, he filled his mind with a number of vain regrets and unprofitable remorse, when he received a letter from her who occasioned them, but a letter so exactly adapted to increase them, that, after he had read it, he looked upon himself as the greatest scoundrel in the world. Here it follows:
"You will, no doubt, be as much surprised at this letter as I was at the unconcerned air with which you beheld my departure. I am led to believe that you had imagined reasons which, in your own mind, justified such unseasonable conduct. If you are still under the impression of such barbarous sentiments it will afford you pleasure to be made acquainted with what I suffer in the most horrible of prisons. Whatever the country affords most melancholy in this season presents itself to my view on all sides: surrounded by impassable roads, out of one window I see nothing but rocks, out of another nothing but precipices; but wherever I turn my eyes within doors I meet those of a jealous husband, still more insupportable than the sad objects that encompass me. I should add to the misfortunes of my life that of seeming criminal in the eyes of a man who ought to have justified me, even against convincing appearances, if by my avowed innocence I had a right to complain or to expostulate: but how is it possible for me to justify myself at such a distance; and how can I flatter myself that the description of a most dreadful prison will not prevent you from believing me? But do you deserve that I should wish you did? Heavens! how I must hate you, if I did not love you to distraction. Come, therefore, and let me once again see you, that you may hear my justification; and I am convinced that if after this visit you find me guilty it will not be with respect to yourself. Our Argus sets out to-morrow for Chester, where a law-suit will detain him a week. I know not whether he will gain it; but I am sure it will be entirely your fault if he does not lose one, for which he is at least as anxious as that he is now going after."
This letter was sufficient to make a man run blindfold into an adventure still more rash than that which was proposed to him, and that was rash enough in all respects: he could not perceive by what means she could justify herself; but as she assured him he should be satisfied with his journey, this was all he desired at present.
There was one of his relations with Lady Chesterfield, who, having accompanied her in her exile, had gained some share in their mutual confidence; and it was through her means he received this letter, with all the necessary instructions about his journey and his arrival. Secrecy being the soul of such expeditions, especially before an amour is accomplished, he took post, and set out in the night, animated by the most tender and flattering wishes, so that, in less than no time almost, in comparison with the distance and the badness of the roads, he had travelled a hundred and fifty tedious miles at the last stage he prudently dismissed the post-boy. It was not yet daylight, and therefore, for fear of the rocks and precipices mentioned in her letter, he proceeded with tolerable discretion, considering he was in love.
By this means he fortunately escaped all the dangerous places, and, according to his instructions, alighted at a little hut adjoining to the park wall. The place was not magnificent; but, as he only wanted rest, it did well enough for that: he did not wish for daylight, and was even still less desirous of being seen; wherefore, having shut himself up in this obscure retreat, he fell into a profound sleep, and did not wake until noon. As he was particularly hungry when he awoke, he ate and drank heartily: and, as he was the neatest man at court, and was expected by the neatest lady in England, he spent the remainder of the day in dressing himself, and in making all those preparations which the time and place permitted, without deigning once to look around him, or to ask his landlord a single question. At last the orders he expected with great impatience were brought him, in the beginning of the evening, by a servant, who, attending him as a guide, after having led him for about half an hour in the dirt, through a park of vast extent, brought him at last into a garden, into which a little door opened: he was posted exactly opposite to this door, by which, in a short time, he was to be introduced to a more agreeable situation; and here his conductor left him. The night advanced, but the door never opened.
Though the winter was almost over, the cold weather seemed only to be beginning: he was dirtied up to his knees in mud, and soon perceived that if he continued much longer in this garden it would all be frozen. This beginning of a very dark and bitter night would have been unbearable to any other; but it was nothing to a man who flattered himself to pass the remainder of it in the height of bliss. However, he began to wonder at so many precautions in the absence of a husband his imagination, by a thousand delicious and tender ideas supported him some time against the torments of impatience and the inclemency of the weather; but he felt his imagination, notwithstanding, cooling by degrees; and two hours, which seemed to him as tedious as two whole ages, having passed, and not the least notice being taken of him, either from the door or from the window, he began to reason with himself upon the posture of his affairs, and what was the fittest conduct for him to pursue in this emergency: "What if I should rap at this cursed door," said he; "for if my fate requires that I should perish, it is at least more honourable to die in the house than to be starved to death in the garden but then," continued he, "I may, thereby, perhaps, expose a person whom some unforeseen accident may, at this very instant, have reduced to greater perplexity than even I myself am in." This thought supplied him with a necessary degree of patience and fortitude against the enemies he had to contend with; he therefore began to walk quickly to and fro, with resolution to wait, as long as he could keep alive, the end of an adventure which had such an uncomfortable beginning. All this was to no purpose; for though he used every effort to keep himself warm, and though muffled up in a thick cloak, yet he began to be benumbed in all his limbs, and the cold gained the ascendancy over all his amorous vivacity and eagerness. Daybreak was not far off, and judging now that, though the accursed door should even be opened, it would be to no purpose, he returned, as well as he could, to the place from whence he had set out upon this wonderful expedition.
All the faggots that were in the cottage were hardly able to unfreeze him: the more he reflected on his adventure, the circumstances attending it appeared still the more strange and unaccountable; but so far from accusing the charming countess, he suffered a thousand different anxieties on her account. Sometimes he imagined that her husband might have returned unexpectedly; sometimes, that she might suddenly have been taken ill; in short, that some insuperable obstacle had unluckily interposed, and prevented his happiness, notwithstanding his mistress's kind intentions towards him. "But wherefore," said he, "did she forget me in that cursed garden? Is it possible that she could not find a single moment to make me at least, some sign or other, if she could neither speak to me nor give me admittance?" He knew not which of these conjectures to rely upon, or how to answer his own questions; but as he flattered himself that everything would succeed better the next night, after having vowed not to set a foot again into that unfortunate garden, he gave orders to be awakened as soon as any person should inquire for him: then he laid himself down in one of the worst beds in the world, and slept as sound as if he had been in the best: he supposed that he should not be awakened, but either by a letter or a message from Lady Chesterfield; but he had scarce slept two hours when he was roused by the sound of the horn and the cry of the hounds. The but which afforded him a retreat, joining, as we before said, to the park wall, he called his host, to know what was the occasion of that hunting, which made a noise as if the whole pack of hounds had been in his bed-chamber. He was told that it was my lord hunting a hare in his park. "What lord?" said he, in great surprise. "The Earl of Chesterfield," replied the pea sant. He was so astonished at this that at first he hid his head under the bed-clothes, under the idea that he already saw him entering with all his bounds; but as soon as he had a little recovered himself he began to curse capricious fortune, no longer doubting but this jealous fool's return had occasioned all his tribulations in the preceding night.
It was not possible for him to sleep again, after such an alarm; he therefore got up, that he might revolve in his mind all the stratagems that are usually employed either to deceive, or to remove out of the way, a jealous scoundrel of a husband, who thought fit to neglect his law-suit in order to plague his wife. He had just finished dressing himself, and was beginning to question his landlord, when the same servant who had conducted him to the garden delivered him a letter, and disappeared, without waiting for an answer. This letter was from his relation, and was to this effect:
"I am extremely sorry that I have innocently been accessary to bringing you to a place, to which you were only invited to be laughed at: I opposed this journey at first, though I was then persuaded it was wholly suggested by her tenderness; but she has now undeceived me: she triumphs in the trick she has played you: her husband has not stirred from hence, but stays at home, out of complaisance to her: he treats her in the most affectionate manner; and it was upon their reconciliation that she found out that you had advised him to carry her into the country. She has conceived such hatred and aversion against you for it, that I find, from her discourse, she has not yet wholly satisfied her resentment. Console yourself for the hatred of a person, whose heart never merited your tenderness. Return: a longer stay in this place will but draw upon you some fresh misfortune: for my part, I shall soon leave her: I know her, and I thank God for it. I do not repent having pitied her at first; but I am disgusted with an employment which but ill agrees with my way of thinking."
Upon reading this letter, astonishment, shame, hatred, and rage, seized at once upon his heart: then menaces, invectives, and the desire of vengeance, broke forth by turns, and excited his passion and resentment; but, after he deliberately considered the matter, he resolved that it was now the best way quietly to mount his horse, and to carry back with him to London a severe cold, instead of the soft wishes and tender desires he had brought from thence. He quitted this perfidious place with much greater expedition than he had arrived at it, though his mind was far from being occupied with such tender and agreeable ideas: however, when he thought himself at a sufficient distance to be out of danger of meeting Lord Chesterfield and his hounds, he chose to look back, that he might at least have the satisfaction of seeing the prison where this wicked enchantress was confined; but what was his surprise, when he saw a very fine house, situated on the banks of a river, in the most delightful and pleasant country imaginable. Neither rock nor precipice was here to be seen; for, in reality, they were only in the letter of his perfidious mistress. This furnished fresh cause for resentment and confusion to a man who thought himself so well acquainted with all the wiles, as well as weaknesses, of the fair sex; and who now found himself the dupe of a coquette, who was reconciled to her husband in order to be revenged on her lover.
At last he reached London, well furnished with arguments to maintain that a man must be extremely weak to trust to the tenderness of a woman who has once deceived him, but that he must be a complete fool to run after her.
This adventure not being much to his credit, he suppressed, as much as possible, both the journey and the circumstances attending it; but, as we may easily suppose, Lady Chesterfield made no secret of it, the king came to the knowledge of it; and, having complimented Hamilton upon it, desired to be informed of all the particulars of the expedition. The Chevalier de Grammont happened to be present at this recital; and, having gently inveighed against the treacherous manner in which he had been used, said: "If she is to be blamed for carrying the jest so far, you are no less to be blamed for coming back so suddenly, like an ignorant novice. I dare lay an hundred guineas, she has more than once repented of a resentment which you pretty well deserved for the trick you had played her: women love revenge; but their resentments seldom last long; and if you had remained in the neighbourhood till the next day, I will be hanged if she would not have given you satisfaction for the first night's sufferings." Hamilton being of a different opinion, the Chevalier de Grammont resolved to maintain his assertion by a case in point; and, addressing himself to the king: "Sir," said he, "your majesty, I suppose, must have known Marion de l'Orme, the most charming creature in all France: though she was as witty as an angel, she was as capricious as a devil. This beauty having made me an appointment, a whim seized her to put me off, and to give it to another; she therefore wrote me one of the tenderest billets in the world, full of the grief and sorrow she was in, by being obliged to disappoint me; on account of a most terrible headache, that obliged her to keep her bed, and deprived her of the pleasure of seeing me till the next day. This headache coming all of a sudden, appeared to me very suspicious; and, never doubting but it was her intention to jilt me: 'Very well, mistress coquette,' said I to myself, 'if you do not enjoy the pleasure of seeing me this day, you shall not enjoy the satisfaction of seeing another.'
"Hereupon, I detached all my servants, some of whom patrolled about her house, whilst others watched her door; one of the latter brought me intelligence that no person had gone into her house all the afternoon; but that a foot-boy had gone out as it grew dark; that he followed him as far as the Rue Saint Antoine, where this boy met another, to whom he only spoke two or three words. This was sufficient to confirm my suspicions, and make me resolve either to make one of the party, or to disconcert it.
[Marion de l'Orme, born at Chalons, in Champagne, was esteemed the most beautiful woman of her times. It is believed that she was secretly married to the unfortunate Monsieur Cinqmars. After his death, she became the mistress of Cardinal Richelieu, and, at last, of Monsieur d'Emery, superintendent of the finances.]
"As the bagnio where I lodged was at a great distance from the Marais, as soon as the night set in I mounted my horse, without any attendant. When I came to the Place-Royale, the servant, who was sentry there, assured me that no person was yet gone into Mademoiselle de l'Orme's house: I rode forward towards the Rue Saint Antoine; and, just as I was going out of the Place-Royale, I saw a man on foot coming into it, who avoided me as much as he possibly could; but his endeavour was all to no purpose; I knew him to be the Duke de Brissac, and I no longer doubted but he was my rival that night: I then approached towards him, seeming as if I feared I mistook my man; and, alighting with a very busy air 'Brissac, my friend,' said I, 'you must do me a service of the very greatest importance: I have an appointment, for the first time, with a girl who lives very near this place; and, as this visit is only to concert measures, I shall make but a very short stay: be so kind, therefore, as to lend me your cloak, and walk my horse about a little, until I return; but, above all, do not go far from this place: you see that I use you freely like a friend; but you know it is upon condition that you may take the same liberty with me.' I took his cloak, without waiting for his answer, and he took my horse by the bridle, and followed me with his eye; but he gained no intelligence by this; for, after having pretended to go into a house opposite to him, I slipped under the piazzas to Mademoiselle de l'Orme's, where the door was opened as soon as I knocked. I was so much muffled up in Brissac's cloak that I was taken for him: the door was immediately shut, not the least question asked me; and having none to ask myself I went straight to the lady's chamber. I found her upon a couch in the most agreeable and genteelest deshabille imaginable: she never in her life looked so handsome, nor was so greatly surprised; and, seeing her speechless and confounded: 'What is the matter, my fair one?' said I, 'methinks this is a headache very elegantly set off; but your headache, to all appearance, is now gone?' 'Not in the least,' said she, 'I can scarce support it, and you will oblige me in going away that I may go to bed.' 'As for your going to bed, to that I have not the least objection,' said I, 'but as for my going away, that cannot be, my little princess: the Chevalier de Grammont is no fool; a woman does not dress herself with so much care for nothing.' 'You will find, however,' said she, 'that it is for nothing; for you may depend upon it that you shall be no gainer by it.' 'What!' said I, 'after having made me an appointment!' 'Well,' replied she hastily, 'though I had made you fifty, it still depends upon me, whether I chose to keep them or not, and you must submit if I do not.' 'This might do very well,' said I, 'if it was not to give it to another.' Mademoiselle de l'Orme, as haughty as a woman of the greatest virtue, and as passionate as one who has the least, was irritated at a suspicion which gave her more concern than confusion; and seeing that she was beginning to put herself in a passion: 'Madam,' said I, 'pray do not talk in so high a strain; I know what perplexes you: you are afraid lest Brissac should meet me here; but you may make yourself easy on that account: I met him not far from this place, and God knows that I have so managed the affair as to prevent his visiting you soon.' Having spoken these words in a tone somewhat tragical, she appeared concerned at first, and, looking upon me with surprise: 'What do you mean about the Duke de Brissac?' said she. 'I mean,' replied I, 'that he is at the end of the street, walking my horse about; but, if you will not believe me, send one of your own servants thither, or look at his cloak which I left in your ante-chamber.' Upon this she burst into a fit of laughter, in the midst of her astonishment, and, throwing her arms around my neck, 'My dear Chevalier,' said she, 'I can hold out no longer; you are too amiable and too eccentric not to be pardoned.' I then told her the whole story: she was ready to die with laughing; and, parting very good friends, she assured me my rival might exercise horses as long as he pleased, but that he should not set his foot within her doors that night.