Thou hast lost thy gaiety; persecution has stripped you of it; and has robbed you of your health. The happiness of your life is already disturbed. But now, and more solidly than ever, are you attached to me. Nobody will ever be able to separate us. You have suffered because you love me.
When accounts of what was happening in Bavaria reached England a well pickled rod was applied to Lola's back:
"The sanguinary and destructive conduct of the Munich mob," began a furious leading article, "was caused by the supposed return of Bavaria's famous strumpet, Lola Montez. This heroine was once familiar to the eyes of all Paris, and notorious as a courtesan. When she was invested with a title, the Bavarians shuddered at their degradation. It was nothing less than an outrage on the part of royalty, never to be forgotten or forgiven."
The columns of Maga also wielded the rod in vigorous fashion:
"The late King, one of the most accomplished of dilettanti, worst of poets, and silliest of men, had latterly put the coping-stone to a life of folly by engaging in a most bare-faced intrigue with the notorious Lola Montez. The indecency and infatuation of this last liaison—far more openly conducted than any of his former numerous amours—had given intense umbrage to the nobility whom he had insulted by elevating the ci-devant opera-dancer to their ranks."
Yet, with all his faults heavy upon him, Ludwig, none the less, had his points. Thus, in addition to converting Munich from a second-rate town to a really important capital, he did much to encourage the development of art and letters and science and education throughout his kingdom. Ignaz Doellinger, the theologian, Joseph Goerres, the historian, Jean Paul Richter, the poet, Franz Schwanthaler, the sculptor, and Wilhelm Thirsch, the philosopher, with Richard Wagner and a host of others basked in his patronage. When he died, twenty years later, these facts were remembered and his little slips forgotten. The Muencheners gave him burial in the Basilica; and an equestrian statue, bearing the inscription, "Just and Persevering," was set up in the Odeon-Platz.
It is the fashion among certain historians to charge Lola Montez with responsibility for the revolution in Bavaria. But this charge is not justified. The fact is, the kingdom was ripe for revolution; and the equilibrium of the government was so unstable that Ludwig would have lost his crown, whether she was in the country or not.
It is just as well to remember this.
After a few months among them, Lola, tiring of the Swiss cantons, thought she might as well discover if England, which she had not visited for six years, could offer any fresh attractions. Accordingly, resolved to make the experiment, on December 30, 1848, she arrived in London.
The Satirist, hearing the news, suggested that the managers of Drury Lane and Covent Garden should engage her as a "draw." But she did not stop in England very long, as she returned to the Continent almost at once.
In the following spring, she made a second journey to London, and sailed from Rotterdam. Unknown to her, the passenger list was to have included another fallen star. This was Metternich, who, with the riff-raff of Vienna thundering at the doors of his palace, was preparing to seek sanctuary in England. Thinking, however, that the times were not altogether propitious, he decided to postpone the expedition.
"If," he wrote, "the Chartist troubles had not prevented me embarking yesterday at Rotterdam, I should have reached London this morning in the company of the Countess of Landsfeld. She sailed by the steamer in which I was to have travelled. I thank heaven for having preserved me from such contact!"
All things considered, it is perhaps just as well that the two refugees did not cross the Channel together. Had they done so, it is probable that one of them would have found a watery grave.
Metternich had worsted Napoleon, but he found himself worsted by Lola Montez. On April 9, he wrote from The Hague:
"I have put off my departure for England, because I wished to know first what was happening in that country as a result of the Chartists' disturbance. I consider that, for me who must have absolute rest, it would have been ridiculous to have arrived in the middle of the agitation."
Louis Napoleon, however, was made of sterner stuff; and it is to his credit that, as a return for the hospitality extended him, he was sworn in as a special constable.
A "LEFT-HANDED" MARRIAGE
On arriving in London, and (thanks to the bounty of Ludwig) being well provided with funds, Lola took a house in Half Moon Street, Piccadilly. There she established something of a salon, where she gave a series of evening receptions. They were not, perhaps, up to the old Barerstrasse standard; still, they brought together a number of the less important "lions," all of whom were only too pleased to accept invitations.
Among the hangers-on was Frederick Leveson-Gower, a son of Earl Granville. He had met the great Rachel in Paris and was ecstatic about her. "Not long after," he says, "I got to know another much less gifted individual, but who having captivated a King, upset two Ministries, and brought about a revolution in Bavaria, was entitled to be looked upon as celebrated. This was Lola Montez."
In his character of what is still oddly dubbed a "man-about-town," Serjeant Ballantine was also among those who attended these Half Moon Street gatherings. "His hostess," he says, "had certain claims to celebrity. She was, I believe, of Spanish origin, and certainly possessed that country's style of beauty, with much dash of manner and an extremely outre fashion of dress." Another occasional visitor was George Augustus Sala, a mid-Victorian journalist who was responsible for printing more slipshod inaccuracies than any two members of his craft put together. He says that he once contemplated writing Lola's memoirs. He did not, however, get beyond "contemplating." This, perhaps, was just as well, since he was so ill-equipped for the task that he imagined she was a sister of Adah Isaacs Menken.
"About this time," he says, "I made the acquaintance, at a little cigar shop under the pillars in Norreys Street, Regent Street, of an extremely handsome lady, originally the wife of a solicitor, but who had been known in London and Paris as a ballet-dancer under the name of Lola Montez. When I knew her, she had just escaped from Munich, where she had been too notorious as Countess of Landsfeld. She had obtained for a time complete mastery over old King Ludwig of Bavaria; and something like a revolution had been necessary to induce her to quit the Bavarian capital."
A ridiculous story spread that Lord Brougham (who had witnessed her ill-starred debut in 1843) wanted to marry her. The fact that there was already a Lady Brougham in existence did not curb the tongues of the gossipers. "She refused the honourable Lord," says a French journalist, "in a manner that redounded to her credit."
Journalists, anxious for "copy," haunted Half Moon Street all day long. They were never off her doorstep. "Town gossip," declared one of them, "is in full swing; and the general public are all agog to catch a glimpse of the latest 'lioness.' Lola Montez is on every lip and in everybody's eye. She is causing an even bigger sensation than that inspired by the Swedish Nightingale, Madame Jenny Lind."
Notwithstanding the ill-success of a former attempt to exploit her personality behind the footlights, Mrs. Keeley produced a sketch at the Haymarket written "round" Lola Montez. This, slung together by Stirling Coyne, was called: Pas de Fascination. The scene was laid in "Neverask-where"; and among the characters were "Prince Dunbrownski," "Count Muffenuff," and "General von Bolte."
It scarcely sounds rib-rending.
Mrs. Charles Kean, who attended the first performance, described Pas de Fascination as "the most daring play I ever witnessed." Lola Montez herself took it in good part. She sat in a box, "and, when the curtain fell, threw a magnificent bouquet at the principal actress." Coals of fire.
Not to be behindhand in offering tit-bits of "news," an American correspondent informed his readers that: "During the early part of 1849, Lola Montez, arrayed in the Royal Bavarian jewels, crashed into one of the Court balls at Buckingham Palace. Needless to remark," he added, "the audacity has not been repeated." From this, it would appear that the Lord Chamberlain had been aroused from his temporary slumbers.
The Satirist had assured his readers "the public will soon be hearing more of Madame Montez." They did. What they heard was something quite unexpected. This was that she had made a second experiment in matrimony, and that her choice had fallen on a Mr. George Heald, a callow lad of twenty, for whom a commission as Cornet in the Life Guards had been purchased by his family.
The precise reasons actuating Lola in adopting this step were not divulged. Several, however, suggested themselves. Perhaps she was attracted by the Cornet's glittering cuirass and plumed helmet; perhaps by his substantial income; and perhaps she tired of being a homeless wanderer, and felt that here at last was a prospect of settling down and experimenting with domesticity.
When the announcement appeared in print there was much fluttering among the Mayfair dovecotes. As the bridegroom had an income of approximately L10,000 a year, the debutantes—chagrined to discover that such an "eligible" had been snatched from their grasp—felt inclined to call an indignation meeting.
"Preposterous," they said, "that such a woman should have snapped him up! Something ought to be done about it."
But, for the moment, nothing was "done about it," and the knot was tied on July 14. Lola saw that the knot should be a double one; and the ceremony took place, first, at the French Catholic Chapel in King Street, and afterwards at St. George's, Hanover Square.
A press representative, happening to be among the congregation, rushed off to Grub Street. There he was rewarded with a welcome five shillings by his editor, who, in high glee at securing such a piece of news before any other journal, had a characteristic paragraph on the subject:
Lola Montez, Countess of Landsfeld, the ex-danseuse and ex-favourite of the imbecile old King of Bavaria, is, we are able to inform our readers, at last married legitimately. On dit that her young husband, Mr. George Trafford Heald, has been dragged into the match somewhat hurriedly. It will be curious to mark the progress of the Countess in this novel position. A sudden change from a career of furious excitement to one in which prudence and a regard for the rules of good society are the very opposite to those observed by loose foreigners must prove a trial to her. Whipping commissaries of police, and setting ferocious dogs at inoffensive civilians, may do very well for Munich. In England, however, we are scarcely prepared for these activities, even if they be deemed the privilege of a countess.
Disraeli, who had a hearty appetite for all the tit-bits of gossip discussed in Mayfair drawing-rooms, heard of the match and mentioned it in a letter to his sister, Sarah:
The Lola Montez marriage makes a sensation. I believe he [Heald] has only L3,000 per annum, not L13,000. It was an affair of a few days. She sent to ask the refusal of his dog, which she understood was for sale—of course it wasn't, being very beautiful. But he sent it as a present. She rejoined; he called; and they were married in a week. He is only twenty-one, and wished to be distinguished. Their dinner invitations are already out, I am told. She quite convinced him previously that she was not Mrs. James; and, as for the King of Bavaria, who, by the by, allows her L1500 a year, and to whom she writes every day—that was only a malheureuse passion.
Apropos of this union, a popular riddle went the round of the clubs: "Why does a certain young officer of the Life Guards resemble a much mended pair of shoes?" The answer was, "Because he has been heeled [Heald] and soled [sold]."
The honeymoon was spent at Berrymead Priory, a house that the bridegroom owned at Acton. This was a substantial Gothic building, with several acres of well timbered ground and gardens. Some distance, perhaps, from the Cornet's barracks. Still, one imagines he did not take his military duties very seriously; and leave of absence "on urgent private affairs" was, no doubt, granted in liberal fashion. Also, he possessed a phaeton, in which, with a spanking chestnut between the shafts, the miles would soon be covered.
The Priory had a history stretching back to the far off days of Henry III, when it belonged to the Chapter of St. Paul's Cathedral. Henry VII, in high-handed fashion, presented it to the Earl of Bedford; and a subsequent occupant was the notorious Elizabeth Chudleigh, the bigamous spouse of the Duke of Kingston. Another light lady, Nancy Dawson, is also said to have lived there as its chatelaine, under the "protection" of the Duke of Newcastle.
At the beginning of the last century the property was acquired by a Colonel Clutton. He was followed by Edward Bulwer, afterwards Lord Lytton, who lived there on and off (chiefly off) with his wife, until their separation in 1836. On one occasion he gave a dinner-party, among the guests being John Forster, "to meet Miss Landon, Fontblanque, and Hayward." To the invitation was added the warning, "We dine at half-past five, to allow time for return, and regret much having no spare beds as yet." A spare bed, however, was available for Lord Beaconsfield, when he dined there in the following year.
On the departure of Bulwer, the house had a succession of tenants; and for a short period it even sheltered a bevy of Nuns of the Sacred Heart. It was when they left that the estate was purchased by Mr. George Heald, a barrister with a flourishing practice. He left it to his booby son, the Cornet: and it was thus that Lola Montez established her connection with Berrymead Priory.
While the original house still stands, the garden in which it stood has gone; and the building itself now serves as the premises of the Acton Constitutional Club. But the committee have been careful to preserve some evidence of Cornet Heald's occupancy. Thus, his crest and family motto, Nemo sibi Nascitur, are let into the mosaic flooring of the hall, and the drawing-room ceiling is embellished with his initials picked out in gold.
Prejudice, perhaps, but unions between the sons of Mars and the daughters of Terpsichore were in those days frowned upon by the military big-wigs at the Horse Guards. Hence, it was not long before an inspired note on the subject of this one appeared in the Standard:
We learn from undoubted authority that, immediately on the marriage of Lieutenant Heald with the Countess of Landsfeld, the Marquess of Londonderry, Colonel of the 2nd Life Guards, took the most decisive steps to recommend to Her Majesty that this officer's resignation of his commission should be insisted on; and that he should at once leave the regiment, which this unfortunate and extraordinary act might possibly prejudice.
Her Majesty, having consulted the Prince Consort and the Duke of Wellington, shared this view. Instead, however, of being summarily "gazetted out," the love-sick young warrior was permitted to "send in his papers."
Thinking that he had acted precipitately in resigning, Cornet Heald (egged on, doubtless, by Lola) endeavoured to get his resignation cancelled. The authorities, however, were adamant. "Much curiosity," says a journalistic comment, "has been aroused among the Household Troops by the efforts of this officer to regain his commission after having voluntarily relinquished it. Notwithstanding his youth and the fact that he had given way to a sudden impulse, Lord Londonderry was positively inflexible. Yet the influence and eloquence of a certain ex-Chancellor, well known to the bride, was brought to bear on him."
The "certain ex-Chancellor" was none other than Lord Brougham.
Much criticism followed in other circles. Everybody had an opinion to advance. Most of them were far from complimentary, and there were allusions by the dozen to "licentious soldiery" and "gilded popinjays." The rigid editor of The Black Book of the British Aristocracy was particularly indignant. "The Army," he declared, in a fierce outburst, "is the especial favourite of the aristocratic section. Any brainless young puppy with a commission is free to lounge away his time in dandyism and embryo moustaches at the public expense."
The Satirist, living up to its name, also had its customary sting:
Of course, the gallant Colonel of the Household Troops could not do less. That distinguished corps is immaculate; and no breath of wind must come between it and its propriety. There is but one black sheep in the 2nd Life Guards, and that, in the eyes of the coal black colonel (him of the collieries), is the soft, enchanted, and enchained Mr. Heald. Poor Heald! Indignant Londonderry! How subservient, in truth, must be the lean subaltern to his fat colonel.
A Sunday organ followed suit. "What," it demanded, "may be the precise article of the military code against which Mr. Heald is thought to have offended? One could scarcely have supposed that officers in Her Majesty's service were living under such a despotism that they should be compelled to solicit permission to get married, or their colonel's approbation of their choice."
In addition to thus disapproving of marriages between his officers and ladies of the stage, Lord Londonderry (a veteran of fifty-five years' service) disapproved with equal vigour of tobacco. "What," he once wrote to Lord Combermere, "are the Gold Sticks to do with that sink of smoking, the Horse Guards' guard and mess-rooms? Whenever I have visited them, I have found them worse than any pot-house, and this actually opposite the Adjutant-General's and under his Grace's very nose!"
The example set by Cornet Heald seems to have been catching. "Another young officer of this regiment," announced the Globe, "has just run off with a frail lady belonging to the Theatre and actually married her at Brighton." He, too, was required to "send in his papers."
Besides losing his commission, Cornet Heald had, in his marriage, all unwittingly laid up a peck of fresh trouble for himself. This was brought to a head by the action of his spinster aunt, Miss Susannah Heald, who, until he came of age, had been his guardian. Suspecting Lola of a "past," she set herself to pry into it. Gathering that her nephew's inamorata had already been married, she employed enquiry agents to look into this previous union and discover just how and when it had been dissolved. They did their work well, and reported that the divorce decree of seven years earlier had not been made absolute, and that Lola's first husband, Captain James, was still alive. Armed with this knowledge, Miss Heald hurried off to the authorities, and, having "laid an information," had Lola Montez arrested for bigamy.
The case was heard at Marlborough Street police court, with Mr. Bingham sitting as Magistrate. Mr. Clarkson conducted the prosecution, and Mr. Bodkin appeared for the defence.
"The proceedings of a London police court," declared John Bull, "have seldom presented a case more fruitful of matter for public gossip than was exhibited in the investigation at Marlborough Street, where the mediated wife of a British officer (and one invested with the distinction of Royal favouritism) answered a charge of imputed bigamy.... It will readily be inferred that we allude to that extraordinary personage known as Lola Montez, alias the Countess of Landsfeld."
Lola had, as the theatrical world would put it, dressed for the part. She had probably rehearsed it, too. She wore, we learn, "a black silk costume, under a velvet jacket, and a plain white straw bonnet trimmed with blue ribbons." As became a countess, she was not required to sit in the dock, but was given a chair in front of it. "There," said a reporter, "she appeared quite unembarrassed, and smiled frequently as she made a remark to her husband. She was described on the charge sheet as being twenty-four years of age, but in our opinion she has the look of a woman of at least thirty."
"In figure," added a second occupant of the press box, "madam is rather plump, and of middle height, with pale complexion, unusually large blue eyes and long black lashes. Her reputed husband, Mr. Heald, is a tall young man of boyish aspect, fair hair and small brown moustachios and whiskers. During the whole of the proceedings he sat with the Countess's hand clasped in his, occasionally giving it a fervent squeeze, and murmuring fondly in her ear."
All being ready, Mr. Clarkson opened the case for the prosecution.
"The offence imputed to the lady at the bar," he said, "is that, well knowing her husband, Captain Thomas James, was still alive, she contracted another marriage with this young gentleman, Mr. George Trafford Heald. If this be established, serious consequences must follow, as I shall prove that the Ecclesiastical Court merely granted a decree a mensa et thoro." He then put in a copy of this document, and pointed out that, by its provisions, neither party was free to re-marry during the lifetime of the other. Counsel also submitted an extract from the register of the Hanover Square church, showing that, on July 19, the defendant had, under the name of "Maria Torres de Landsfeld," gone through a ceremony of marriage with Cornet Heald.
Police-sergeant Gray, who had executed the warrant, described the arrest.
"When I told her she must come along with me, the lady up and said: 'This is all rubbish. I was properly divorced from Captain James by Act of Parliament. Lord Brougham was present when the divorce was granted. I don't know if Captain James is still alive or not, and I don't care a little bit. I was married to him in the wrong name, and that made the whole thing illegal.'"
"Did she say anything else?" enquired the magistrate.
"Yes, Your Worship," returned the sergeant, consulting his note-book. "She said: 'What on earth will the Royal Family say when they hear of this? There's bound to be the devil of a fuss.'"
"Laughter in Court!" chronicled the pressmen.
"And what did you say to that?" enquired Mr. Bingham.
"I said that anything she said would be taken down by myself and used in evidence against her," was the glib response.
The execution of the warrant would appear to have been carried out in dramatic fashion.
Having evidently got wind of what was awaiting her, Lola and the Cornet had packed their luggage and arranged to leave England. Just as they were stepping into their carriage, Miss Susannah Heald and her solicitor, accompanied by a couple of police officers, drove up in a cab to Half Moon Street. When the latter announced that they had a warrant for her arrest, there was something of a scene. "The Countess," declared an imaginative reporter (who must have been hovering on the doorstep), "exhibited all the appearance of excessive passion. She used very strong language, pushed the elderly Miss Heald aside, and bustled her husband in vigorous fashion. However, she soon cooled down, and, on being escorted to Vine Street police station, where the charge of bigamy was booked, she graciously apologised for any trouble she had given the representatives of the law. She then begged permission to light a cigar, and suggested that the constables on duty there should join her in a social whiff."
Miss Susannah Heald, described as "an aged lady," deposed that she was Cornet Heald's aunt, and that she had been appointed his guardian during his minority, which had only just expired. She was bringing the action, she insisted, "from a sense of duty."
Another witness was Captain Charles Ingram, a mariner in the service of the East India Company. He identified the accused as the Mrs. James who had sailed in a ship under his command from Calcutta to London in the year 1842.
While an official return, prepared by the military authorities, showed Captain James to have been alive on June 13, there was none to show that he was still in the land of the living on July 19, the date of the alleged bigamous marriage. The prosecution affected to consider this point unimportant. The magistrate, however (on whom Lola's bright eyes had done their work), did not agree.
"The point," he said, "is, to my mind, very important. During the interval that elapsed between these two dates many things may have happened which would render this second marriage quite legal. It is possible, for instance, that Captain James may have been snatched from this world to another one by any of those numerous casualties—such as wounds in action or cholera—that are apt to befall members of the military profession serving in a tropical climate. What do you say to that, Mr. Clarkson?"
Mr. Clarkson had nothing to say. Mr. Bodkin, however, when it came to his turn, had a good deal to say. The charge against his client was, he declared, "in all his professional experience, absolutely unparalleled." Neither the first nor the second husband, he pointed out, had advanced any complaint; and the offence, if any, had been committed under circumstances that fully justified it. He did not wish to hint at improper motives on the part of Miss Heald, but it was clear, he protested, that her attitude was governed by private, and not by public, ends. None the less, he concluded, "I am willing to admit that enough has been put before the Court to justify further enquiry."
Such an admission was a slip which even the very rawest of counsel should have avoided. It forced the hand of the magistrate.
"I am asked," he said, "to act on a presumption of guilt. As proof of guilt is wanting, I am reluctant to act on such presumption, even to the extent of granting a remand, unless the prosecution can assure me that more evidence will be offered at another hearing. Since, however, the defendant's own advocate has voluntarily admitted that there is ground for further enquiry, I am compelled to order a remand. But the accused will be released from custody on providing two sureties of L500 each, and herself in one of L1000."
The adjourned proceedings began a week later, and were heard by another magistrate, Mr. Hardwick. This time, however, there was no defendant, for, on her name being called by the usher, Mr. Bodkin pulled a long face and announced that his client had left England. "I cannot," he said, "offer any reason for her absence." Still, he had a suggestion. "It is possible," he said, "that she has gone abroad for the benefit of her health." The question of estreating the recognizances then arose. While not prepared to abandon them altogether, counsel for the prosecution was sufficiently generous to say that so far as he was concerned no objection would be offered to extending them.
When, after two more adjournments, the defendant still failed to surrender to her bail, the magistrate and counsel for the prosecution altered their tone.
"Your Worship," said Mr. Clarkson, "it has come to my knowledge that the person whose real name is Mrs. James, and who is charged with the felonious crime of bigamy, is now some hundreds of miles beyond your jurisdiction, and does not mean to appear. Accordingly, on behalf of the highly respectable Miss Heald, I now ask that the recognizances be forfeited. My client has been actuated all through by none but the purest motives, her one object being to remove the only son of a beloved brother from a marriage that was as illegal as it was disgraceful. If we secure evidence from India that Captain James is still alive, we shall then adopt the necessary steps to remove this deluded lad from the fangs of this scheming woman."
"Let the recognizances be estreated," was the magisterial comment.
"Sensation!" scribbled the reporters.
Serjeant Ballantine, who liked to have a hand in all causes celebres, declares that he was consulted by Lola's solicitors, with a view to undertaking her defence. If so, he would seem to have read his instructions very casually, since he adds: "I forget whether the prosecution was ultimately dropped, or whether she left England before any result was arrived at. My impression is that the charge could not have been substantiated."
Ignoring the fact that the case was still sub judice, the Observer offered its readers some severe comments:
"The Helen of the age is most assuredly Lola Montez, alias Betsy James, alias the Graefin von Lansfelt, alias Mrs. Heald. As far as can be gathered from her dark history, her first public act was alleged adultery, as her last is alleged bigamy.... The evidence produced before the Consistory Court is of the most clear and convincing nature, and proves that the character of this lady (whose fame has become so disgustingly notorious) has been from an early date that of a mere wanton, alike unmindful of the sacred ties of matrimony and utterly careless of the opinion of the world upon morality or religion."
By the way, during the police court proceedings, fresh light on the subject of Lola's parentage was furnished by an odd entry in an Irish paper:
"Lola Montez, Countess of Landsfeld, is the daughter of a Cork lady. Her mother was at one time employed as a member of a millinery establishment in this city; and was married here to Lieutenant Gilbert, an officer in the army. Soon after the marriage, he sailed with his wife and child to join his regiment in India. At the end of last year, Lola's mother, who is now in delicate health, visited her sister in Cork."
Thanks to the bright eyes of Lola (or perhaps to the musical jingle of the Cornet's cash bags), a very loose watch was kept on the pair. Hence the reason why the Countess of Landsfeld (as she still insisted on being called) had not kept her second appointment at Marlborough Street was because, together with the dashing ex-Life Guardsman, she had left England early that morning. Travelling as Mr. and Mrs. Heald, the pair went, first, to Paris, and then to Italy.
A British tourist who happened to be in Naples wrote to The Times, giving an account of a glimpse he had of them. According to him, the couple, "a youthful bridegroom and a fair lady," accompanied by a courier, a femme de chambre, and a carriage, took rooms at the Hotel Vittoria. After one night there, they left the next morning, hiring a special steamer, at a cost of L400, to take them to Marseilles. The hurried departure was said to be due to a lawyer's letters that was waiting for the bridegroom at his banker's. "I am told," adds the correspondent, "that Mr. and Mrs. Heald were bound on an excursion to the Pyramids; and that, when the little business for which the lady is wanted at home has been settled, they mean to prosecute their intention. Pray, sir, help Mrs. Heald out of her present affliction. Is this the first time that a lady has had two husbands? And is she not bound for the East, where every man has four wives?"
The booby Cornet, with his ideas limited to fox-hunting and a study of Ruff's Guide, was no mate for a brilliant woman like Lola. Hence disagreements soon manifested themselves. A specially serious one would seem to have arisen at Barcelona, for, says a letter from a mutual acquaintance, "the Countess and her husband had a warm discussion, which ended in an attempt by her to stab him. Mr. Heald, objecting to such a display of conjugal affection, promptly quitted the town."
Further particulars were supplied by another correspondent: "I saw Mr. Heald," says this authority. "He is a tall, thin young man, with a fair complexion, and often uses rouge to hide his pallor. Many pity him for what has happened. Others, however, pity the lovely Lola. Before he left this district, Mr. Heald called on the English Consul. 'I have come,' he said,'to ask your advice. Some of my friends here suggest that I should leave my wife. What ought I to do about it? If I stop with her, I am afraid of being assassinated or poisoned.' He then exhibited a garment covered with blood. The Consul replied: 'I am positively astonished that, after the attack of which you speak, you did not complain to the police, and that you have since lived with your wife on terms of intimacy. If you want to abandon her, you must do as you think best. I cannot advise you.'"
H.B.M. Consul, however, did stretch a point, since he (perhaps fearing further bloodshed) offered to viser the applicant's passport for any other country. Thereupon, Mr. Heald betook himself to Mataro. But, becoming conscience-smitten, he promptly sat down and wrote an apologetic letter to the lady he left behind him, begging her forgiveness. "If you should ever have reason to complain of me again," he said, "this letter will always act as a talisman."
Apparently it had the effect, for Lola returned to her penitent spouse.
The Barcelona correspondent of L'Assemblee Nationale managed to interview the Cornet.
"He says," announced this authority, "that others persuaded him to depart, against his real wishes. On rejoining him, Mrs. Heald was most indignant. Her eyes positively flashed fire; and, if she should chance to encounter the men who took her husband from her, I quite tremble to think what will happen!"
Something obviously did happen, for, according to de Mirecourt, "during their sojourn in Sunny Spain, the admirable English husband made his wife the gratified mother of two beautiful offspring." Parenthood, however, would appear to have had an odd effect upon this couple, for, continues de Mirecourt: "Mais, en depit de ces gages d'amour, leur bonheur est trouble par des querelles intestines."
It was from Spain that, having adjusted their differences temporarily, the couple went back to Paris. As a peace offering, a rising young artist, Claudius Jacquand, was commissioned to paint both their portraits on a single canvas. During, however, another domestic rupture, Heald demanded that Lola's features should be painted out. "I want nothing," he said, "to remind me of that woman." Unfortunately, Lola had just made a similar demand where the Cornet was concerned. Jacquand was a man of talent, but he could not do impossibilities. Thereupon, Lola, breathing fire and fury, took the canvas away and hung it with its back to the front in her bedroom. "To allow my husband to watch me always would," she said, "be indelicate!"
There is a theory that, within the next twelve months, the ill-assorted union was dissolved by Heald getting upset in a rowing-boat and drowned in Lisbon harbour. The theory, however, is a little difficult to reconcile with the fact that, on the close of the Great Exhibition at the end of 1851, he attended an auction of the effects, where he bought a parquet floor and had it laid down in his drawing-room at Berrymead Priory. After this he had a number of structural alterations added; fitted the windows with some stained glass, bearing his crest and initials; and, finally, did not give up the lease until 1855. Pretty good work, this, for a man said to have met with a watery grave six years earlier.
As a matter of strict fact, Cornet Heald was not drowned, either at Lisbon or anywhere else. He died in his bed at Folkestone, in 1856. The medical certificate attributed the cause of death to consumption. In the Gentleman's Magazine, however, the diagnosis was different, viz., "broken heart."
All things pass. In 1859 the executors of the dashing Cornet sold the Berrymead property for L7000, to be repurchased soon afterwards for L23,000 by a land-development company. The house now serves as the premises of the Priory Constitutional Club, Acton. A certain amount of evidence of Cornet Heald's one-time occupancy still exists. Thus his crest and motto, Nemo sibi Nascitur, are let into the mosaic flooring of the hall, and the drawing-room ceiling is embellished with his initials picked out in gold.
Notwithstanding the tie of alleged parenthood, domestic relations between them did not improve, and the couple soon parted. The knowledge that she was still "wanted" there kept Lola out of England. Instead, she went to Paris, where such unpleasantnesses as warrants could not touch her. There she was given a warm welcome, by old friends and new.
During this visit to Paris an unaccustomed set-back was experienced. She received it from Emile de Girardin, of whom she endeavoured to make a conquest. But this "wild-eyed, pale-faced man of letters," as she called him, would have none of her. Perhaps he remembered what had befallen Dujarier.
As was to be expected, the coming among them of Lola Montez attracted the attention of the courrierists, who earned many welcome francs by filling columns with details of her career. What they did not know about it they invented. They knew very little. Thus, one such article (appropriately signed "Fantasio") read as follows:
"Madame Lola Montez, who is now happily returned to us, is the legitimate spouse of Sir Thomas James, an officer of the English Army. Milord Sir James loved to drink and the beautiful Lola loved to flirt. A wealthy Prince of Kabul was willing to possess her for her weight in gold and gems. Up till now, her principal love affairs have been with Don Enriquez, a Spaniard, Brule-Tout, a well-developed French mariner, and John, a phlegmatic Englishman. One day Sir James bet that he could drink three bottles of brandy in twenty minutes. While he was thus occupied, the amorous Lola made love to three separate gallants."
"It will doubtless," added a second, "be gratifying to her pride to queen it again in Paris, where she was once hissed off the stage. There she will at any rate now be received at the Bavarian Embassy, and exhibit the Order of Maria Theresa. She was invested with this to the considerable scandal of the Munich nobility, who cannot swallow the idea of such a distinction being bestowed on a dancer."
This sort of thing and a great deal more in a similar strain, was accepted as gospel by its readers. But for those who wished her ill, any lie was acceptable. Thus, although there was not a scrap of evidence to connect her with the incident, a paragraph, headed "Lola Again?" was published in the London papers:
Yesterday afternoon an extraordinary scene was witnessed by the promenaders in the Champs Elysees. Two fashionably attired ladies, driving in an elegant equipage, were heard to be employing language that was anything but refined. From words to blows, for suddenly they began to assault one another with vigorous smacks. The toilettes and faces of the fair contestants were soon damaged; and, loud cries of distress being uttered, the carriage was stopped, and, attracted by the fracas, some gentlemen hurried to render assistance. As a result of their interference, one of the damsels was expelled from the vehicle, and the other ordered the coachman to drive her to her hotel. This second lady is familiar to the public by reason of her adventures in Bavaria.
Albert Vandam, a singularly objectionable type of journalist, who professed to be on intimate terms with everybody in Paris worth knowing, has a number of offensive and unjustifiable allusions to Lola Montez at this period of her career. He talks of her "consummate impudence," of her "pot-house wit," and of her "grammatical errors," and dubs her, among other things, "this almost illiterate schemer."
"Lola Montez," says the egregious Vandam, "could not make friends." He was wrong. This was just what she could do. She made many staunch and warm-hearted friends. It was because she snubbed him on account of his pushfulness that Vandam elected to belittle her.
Lola Montez chose her friends for their disposition, not for their virtue. One of them was George Sand, "the possessor of the largest mind and the smallest foot in Paris." She also became intimate with Alphonsine Plessis, and constantly visited the future "Lady of the Camelias" in her appartement on the Boulevard de la Madeleine. Another habitue there at this period was Lola's old Dresden flame, the Abbe Liszt, who, not confining his attentions to the romanticists, had no compunction about poaching on the preserves of Dumas fils, or, for that matter, of anybody else. As for the fair, but frail, Alphonsine, she said quite candidly that she was "perfectly willing to become his mistress, if he wanted it, but was not prepared to share the position." As Liszt had other ideas on the subject, the suggestion came to nothing.
Some years afterwards, one of his pupils, an American young woman, Amy Fay, took his measure in a book, Music-study in Germany:
"Liszt," she wrote, "is the most interesting and striking-looking man imaginable. Tall and slight, with deep-set eyes, shaggy eyebrows and long iron-grey hair which he wears parted in the middle. His mouth turns up at the corners, which gives him a most crafty and Mephistophelean expression when he smiles, and his whole appearance and manner have a sort of Jesuitical elegance and ease."
Before she set out on this journey, Lola wrote to an acquaintance: "What makes men and women distinguished is their individuality; and it is for that I will conquer or die!" Of this quality, she had enough and to spare. Her Paris life was hectic; or, as the Boulevardiers put it, elle faisait la bombe.
Among the tit-bits of gossip served up by a reporter was the following:
"Lola is constantly giving tea-parties in her Paris flat. A gentleman who is frequently bidden to them tells us that her masculine guests are restricted to such as have left their wives, and that the feminine guests consist of ladies who have left their husbands."
An Englishman whom she met at this time was Savile Morton, a friend of Thackeray and Tennyson. One night when she was giving a supper-party, a fellow-guest, Roger de Beauvoir, happened to read to the company some verses he had written. The hostess, on the grounds of their alleged "coarseness," complained to Morton that she had been insulted. As a result, Morton, being head over ears in love with her, sent de Beauvoir a challenge. Lola, however, having had enough of duels, took care that nothing should come of it; and insisted that an apology should be given and accepted.
At one time she was optimistic enough to take a villa at Beaujon on a fifteen years' lease, and had it refurnished in sumptuous fashion on credit. The first two instalments of the rent were met. When, however, the landlord called to collect the third one, he was put off with the excuse that: "Mr. Heald was away and had forgotten to send the money, but would be back in a week." This story might have been accepted, had not the landlord discovered that his tenant was planning to leave surreptitiously and that some of the furniture had already been removed. As a result, a body of indignant tradesmen, accompanied by the Maire of the district, in tricoloured sash and wand of office complete, betook themselves to the villa and demanded a settlement of accounts for goods delivered. This time they were told that the money had arrived, but that the key of the box in which it had been deposited for safety was lost. Assuring them that she would fetch a locksmith, Lola slipped out of the house, and, stepping into a waiting cab, drove off to a new address near the Etoile. This was the last that the creditors saw of her.
In January, 1851, Lola, setting an example that has since then become much more common among theatrical ladies, compiled her "memoirs." When the editor of Le Pays undertook to publish them in his columns, a rival editor, jealous of the "scoop," referred to their author as "Madame James, once Madame Heald, formerly Mlle Lola Montez, and for nearly a quarter of an hour the Countess of Landsfeld."
The work was dedicated to her old patron, King Ludwig, with a florid avant-propos:
Sire: In publishing my memoirs, my purpose is to reveal to a world still engulfed in a vulgar materialism Your Majesty's lofty thoughts about art, poetry, and philosophy. The inspiration of this book, Sire, is due to yourself, and to those other remarkable men whom Fortune—always the protector of my younger years—has given me as councillors and friends.
Lola must have written with more candour than tact. At any rate, after the first three chapters had appeared, the editor of Le Pays, on the grounds that they would "shock his purer readers," refused to continue the series. "We positively decline," he announced, "to sully our columns further."
Authorship having thus proved a failure, Lola, swallowing her disappointment, directed her thoughts to her old love, the ballet. To this end, she placed herself in the hands of a M. Roux; and, a number of engagements having been secured by him, she began a provincial tour at Bordeaux. By the time it was completed the star and her manager were on such bad terms that, when they got back to Paris, the latter was dismissed. Thereupon, he hurried off to a notary, and brought an action against his employer, claiming heavy damages.
According to Maitre Desmaret, his client, M. Roux, had been engaged in the capacity of pilote intermediare during a prospective tour in Europe and America. For his services he was to have 25 per cent of the box-office receipts. On this understanding he had accompanied his principal to a number of towns. He then returned to Paris; and while he was negotiating there for the defendant's appearance at the Vaudeville, he suddenly discovered that she was planning to go to America without him. As a result, he was now claiming damages for breach of contract. These he laid at the modest figure of 10,000 francs.
M. Blot-Lequesne, on behalf of Lola Montez, had a somewhat different story to tell. The plaintiff himself, he declared, wanted to get out of the contract and had deliberately disregarded its terms. His client, he said, had authorised him to accept an engagement for her to dance six times a week; but, in his anxiety to make additional profit for himself, he had compelled her to dance six times a day. Apart from this, he had "signally failed to respect her dignity as a woman, and had invented ridiculous stories about her career." He had even done worse, for, "without her knowledge or sanction, he had compiled and distributed among the audiences where she appeared an utterly preposterous biography of his employer." This, among other matters, asserted that she had "lived and danced for eleven years in China and Persia; and that she had been befriended by the dusky King of Nepaul, as well as by numerous rajahs."
The concluding passage from this effort was read to the judge:
"Ten substantial volumes would be filled with the chronicle of the eccentricities of Mlle Lola Montez, and much of them would still be left unsaid. In the year 1847 a great English lord married her in London. Unfortunately, they found themselves not in sympathy, and in 1850 she returned to the dreams of her spring-time. The Countess has now completed one half of her projected tour. In November she leaves France for America and—well—God only knows what will happen then!"
"As long," said counsel, "as the amiable Mlle Montez was treated by M. Roux like a wild animal exhibited at a country fair, she merely shrugged her shoulders in disgust. When, however, she saw how this abominable pamphlet lifted the curtain from her private life, it was another thing altogether. She expressed womanly indignation, and made a spirited response."
"What was that?" enquired the judge, with interest.
"She said: 'It is lucky for you, sir, that my husband is not here to protect me. If he were, he would certainly pull your nose!'"
As was inevitable, this expression of opinion shattered the entente, and the manager returned to Paris by himself. Hearing nothing from him, Lola Montez thought that she was at liberty to make her own plans, and had accordingly arranged the American tour without his help.
On November 6, 1851, continued counsel, Lola Montez arrived in Paris, telling M. Roux that she would leave for America on November 20, but that she would fulfil any engagement he secured during the interval. Just before she was ready to start he said he had got her one, but he would not tell her where it was or produce any written contract.
Accepting this version as the correct one, the Court pronounced judgment in favour of Lola Montez.
M. Roux having thus been dismissed with a flea in his ear, Lola, on the advice of Peter Goodrich, the American consul in Paris, next engaged Richard Storrs Willis (a brother of N. P. Willis, the American poet) to look after her business affairs, and left Europe for America. As the good ship Humbolt, by which she was sailing, warped into harbour at New York, a salute of twenty-one guns thundered from the Battery. Lola, mightily pleased, took this expenditure of ammunition as a tribute to herself. When, however, she discovered that it was really to herald the coming of Louis Kossuth, who also happened to be on board, she registered annoyance and retired to her cabin, to nurse her wrath. A Magyar patriot to be more honoured than an English ex-favourite of a King! What next?
"A gentleman travelling with her informed our representative," said the New York Herald, "that Madame had declared Kossuth to be a great humbug. The Countess was a prodigious favourite among the masculine passengers during the voyage, and continually kept them in roars of laughter."
But, if disappointed in one respect, Lola derived a measure of compensation from the fact that the bevy of reporters who met the vessel found her much more interesting than the stranger from Hungary.
"Madame Lola Montez," remarked one of them, who had gone off with a bulging note-book, crammed with enough "copy" to fill a column, "says that a number of shocking falsehoods about her have been published in our journals. Yet she insists she is not the woman she is credited (or discredited) with being. If she were, her admirers, she thinks, would be still more plentiful than they are. She expresses herself as fearful that she will not have proper consideration in New York; but she trusts that the great American public will suspend judgment until they have made her acquaintance."
"The Countess of Landsfeld, who is now among us," adds a second scribe, "owes more to the brilliancy of intellect with which Heaven has gifted her than to her world-wide celebrity as an artiste. Her person and bearing are unmistakably aristocratic. If we may credit the stories which from time to time have reached us, she can, if necessary, use her riding-whip in vigorous fashion about the ears of any offending biped or quadruped. In America she is somewhat out of her latitude. Paris should be her real home."
For the present, however, Lola decided to stop where she was.
While she was in America on this tour, Barnum wanted to be her impresario, and promised "special terms." Despite, however, the lure of "having her path garlanded with flowers and her carriage drawn by human hands from hotel to theatre," the offer was not accepted.
The New York debut of Lola Montez was made on December 29, 1851, in a ballet: Betly, the Tyrolean. Public excitement ran high, for appetites had been whetted by the sensational accounts of her "past" with which the papers were filled.
"Scandal does not necessarily create a great dancer," declared one rigid critic; and a second had a long column, headed: "MONTEZ v. RESPECTABILITY," in which he observed (thoughtfully supplying a translation): "Parturiunt MONTEZ, nascitur ridiculus mus." All the same, the box-office reported record business. As a result, prices were doubled, and the seats put up to auction.
If she had her enemies in the press, Lola also had her champions there. Just before she arrived, one of them, a New York paper, took up the cudgels on her behalf in vigorous fashion:
The most funny proceeding that is going on in this town is the terrible to-do that is being made about Lola Montez. If this state of things continues we will guarantee a continuance of the fun after Lola makes her advent among us, for if she doesn't properly horse-whip those squeamish gentlemen we are much mistaken in her character.
Now we want to call the attention of our fair-minded readers to a few other matters that are sure to occur. Here are the various papers pouring out a torrent of abuse on Lola. What will it all amount to? In a few weeks she will land. In a few weeks a popular theatre will be occupied by her, and tens of thousands will throng that theatre. The manager will reap a fortune, and so will Lola Montez; and those short-sighted conductors of the Press will be begging for tickets and quarrelling among themselves as to who can say the most extravagant things in her favour. Public curiosity will be gratified at any price; and if Lola Montez is a capital dancer she will soon dance down all opposition. With what grace can the public talk about virtue in a public actress, when they have followed in the wake of an ELSSLER? If the private character of a public actress is to be the criterion by which to judge of her professional merit, then half the theatres would be compelled to shut their doors.
We are as independently correct as any other paper that exists. We don't care a straw whether we go on with or without the other newspapers. We will do justice and say what is true, regardless of popularity. We detest hypocrisy; and we have no disposition to make a mountain out of a molehill, or to see a mote in the eye of Lola Montez, and not discover a beam in the eye of Fanny Elssler, or of any of the other great dancers or actresses.
"What is Lola Montez?" enquire the public. A good dancer, says the manager of a theatre. She is also notorious. The public will crowd the theatre to see her and to judge whether she is not also a good actress; and if they get their money's worth, they are satisfied. They do not pay to judge of the former history of Lola Montez.... A few squeamish people cannot prevent Lola Montez from creating a sensation here, or from crowding from pit to dome any house where she may appear; and, as they will be the first to endorse her success, they would be more consistent were they to let her alone until she secures it.
None the less, there was competition to meet. A great deal of competition, for counter-attractions were being offered in all directions. Thus, "Professor" Anderson was conjuring rabbits out of borrowed top hats; Thackeray was lecturing on "The English Humourists"; Macready was bellowing and posturing in Shakespeare; General Tom Thumb was exhibiting his lack of inches; and Mrs. Bloomer was advancing the cause of "Trousers for Women!" Still, Lola more than held her own as a "draw."
In January the bill was changed to Diana and the Nymphs. The fact that some of the "Nymphs" supporting the star adopted a costume a little suggestive of modern nudism appears to have upset a feminine critic.
"When," was her considered opinion, "a certain piece first presented a partly unclothed woman to the gaze of a crowded auditory, she was met with a gasp of astonishment at the effrontery which dared so much. Men actually grew pale at the boldness of the thing; young girls hung their heads; a death-like silence fell over the house. But it passed; and, in view of the fact that these women were French ballet-dancers, they were tolerated."
To show that she was properly qualified to express her views on such a delicate matter, this censor added: "Belonging, root and branch, to a theatrical family, I have not on that account been deemed unworthy to break bread at an imperial table, nor to grasp the hand of friendship extended to me by an English lordly divine."
By the way, on this subject of feminine attire (or the lack of it) a rigid standard was also applicable to the audience's side of the curtain, and any departure from it met with reprisals. This is made clear by a shocked paragraph chronicling one such happening at another theatre:
"During the evening of our visit there transpired an occurrence to which we naturally have some delicacy in alluding. Since, however, it indicates a censorship in a quarter where refinement is perhaps least to be expected, it should not be suffered by us to pass unnoticed. In the stalls, which were occupied by a number of ladies and gentlemen in full evening costume, and of established social position, there was to be observed a woman whose remarkable lowness of corsage attracted much criticism. Indeed, it obviously scandalised the audience, among the feminine portion of which a painful sensation was abundantly perceptible. At last, their indignation found tangible expression; and a voice from the pit was heard to utter in measured accents a stern injunction that could apply to but one individual. Blushing with embarrassment, the offender drew her shawl across her uncovered shoulders. A few minutes later, she rose and left the house, amid well merited hisses from the gallery, and significant silence from the outraged occupants of the stalls and boxes."
Decorum was one thing; decolletage was another. In the considered opinion of 1851 the two did not blend.
A certain Dr. Judd, who, in the intervals of his medical practice, was managing a Christy Minstrels entertainment at this period, has some recollections of Lola Montez. "Many a long chat," he says, "I had with her in our little bandbox of a ticket-office. Thackeray's Vanity Fair was being read in America just then, and Lola expressed to me great anger that the novelist should have put her into it as Becky Sharp. 'If he had only told the truth about me,' she said, 'I should not have cared, but he derived his inspiration from my enemies in England.'"
This item appears to have been unaccountably missed by Thackeray's other historians.
Lola's tastes were distinctly "Bohemian," and led her, while in New York, to be a constant visitor at Pfaff's underground delicatessen cafe, then a favourite haunt of the literary and artistic worlds of the metropolis. There she mingled with such accepted celebrities as Walt Whitman, W. Dean Howells, Commodore Vanderbilt, and that other flashing figure, Adah Isaacs Menken. She probably found in Pfaff's a certain resemblance to the Munich beer-halls with which she had been familiar. A bit of the Fatherland, as it were, carried across the broad Atlantic. German solids and German liquids; talk and laughter and jests among the company of actors and actresses and artists and journalists gathered night after night at the tables; everybody in a good temper and high spirits.
Walt Whitman, inspired, doubtless, by beer, once described the place in characteristic rugged verse:
The vaults at Pfaff's, where the drinkers and laughers meet to eat and drink and carouse, While on the walk immediately overhead pass the myriad feet of Broadway.
There was a good deal more of it, for, when he had been furnished with plenty of liquid refreshment, the Muse of Walt ran to length.
From New York Lola set out on a tour to Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Boston. While in this last town, she "paid a visit of ceremony" to one of the public schools. Although the children there "expressed surprise and delight at the honour accorded them," the Boston Transcript shook its editorial head; and "referred to the visit in a fashion that aroused the just indignation of the lady and her friends."
The cudgels were promptly taken up on her behalf by a New York journalist:
"Lola Montez," he declared, "owes less of her strange fascination and world-wide celebrity to her powers as an artiste than to the extraordinary mind and brilliancy of intellect with which Heaven has thought fit to endow her. At one moment ruling a kingdom, through an imbecile monarch; and the next, the wife of a dashing young English lord.... Her person and bearing are unmistakably aristocratic. In her recent visit to one of our public schools she surprised and delighted the scholars by addressing them in the Latin language with remarkable facility."
It would be of interest to learn the name of the "dashing young English lord." This, however, was probably a brevet rank conferred by the pressman on Cornet Heald.
On April 27, 1852, Lola Montez appeared at the Albany Museum in selections from her repertoire. On this occasion she brought with her a "troupe of twelve dancing girls." As an additional lure, the bills described these damsels as "all of them unmarried, and most of them under sixteen."
But the attraction which proved the biggest success in her repertoire was a drama called Lola in Bavaria. This was said to be written by "a young literary gentleman of New England, the son of a somewhat celebrated poetess." The heroine, who was never off the stage for more than five minutes, was depicted in turns as a dancer, a politician, a countess, a revolutionary, and a fugitive; and among the other characters were Ludwig I, Eugene Sue, Dujarier, and Cornet Heald, while the setting offered "a correct representation of the Lola Montez palace at Munich." It seemed good value. At any rate, the public thought it was, and full houses were secured. But the critics restrained their raptures. "I sympathise," was the acid comment of one of them, "with the actresses who were forced to take part in such stuff"; and Joseph Daly described the heroine as "deserting a royal admirer to court the sovereign public." The author of this balderdash was one C. P. T. Ware, "a poor little hack playwright, who wrote anything for anybody."
March of 1853 found Lola Montez fulfilling an engagement at the Varietes Theatre, St. Louis. Kate Field, the daughter of the proprietor, wrote a letter on the subject to her aunt.
"Well, Lola Montez appeared at father's theatre last night for the first time. The theatre was crowded from parquet to doors. She had the most beautiful eyes I ever saw. I liked her very much; but she performed a dumb girl, so I cannot say what she would do in speaking characters."
During this engagement Lola apparently proved a little difficile, for her critic adds: "She is trying to trouble father as much as possible."
Lola certainly was apt to "trouble" people with whom she came into contact. As an accepted "star," she had a high sense of her own importance and considered herself above mere rules. Once, when travelling from Niagara to Buffalo by train, she elected to sit in the baggage car and puff a cigarette. "While," says a report, "thus cosily ensconced, she was discovered by the conductor and promptly informed by him that such behaviour was not permitted. Thereupon, Madame replied that it was her custom to travel where and how she pleased, and that she had frequently horse-whipped much bigger men than the conductor. This settled the matter, for the company's officer did not care to challenge the tigress."
The visit to Buffalo was crowned with success. "Lola Montez," declared the Troy Budget, "has done what Mrs. McMahon failed to accomplish—she positively charmed the Buffaloes. This can perhaps be attributed to her judicious choice of the ex-Reverend Chauncey Burr, by whom she is accompanied on her tour in the capacity of business-manager."
The choice of an "ex-Reverend" to conduct a theatrical tour seems, perhaps, a little odd. Still, as Lola once remarked: "It is a common enough thing in America for a bankrupt tradesman or broken-down jockey to become a lawyer, a doctor, or even a parson." Hence, from the pulpit to the footlights was no great step.
THE "GOLDEN WEST"
As this was before the days when actresses in search of publicity announce that they are not going to Hollywood, Lola had to hit on a fresh expedient to keep her name in the news. Ever fertile of resource, the one she now adopted was to give out that this would be her "positively last appearance, as she was abandoning the stage and becoming a nun." The scheme worked, and the box-office coffers were filled afresh. But Lola did not take the veil. Instead, she took a trip to California, sailing by the Isthmus route in the summer of 1853.
A ridiculous book, The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole, with an introductory puff by a windbag, W. H. Russell, has a reference to this project:
Came one day Lola Montez, in the full zenith of her evil fame, bound for California, with a strange suite. A good-looking, bold woman, with fine, bad eyes and a determined bearing; dressed ostentatiously in perfect male attire, with shirt collar turned down over a lapelled coat, richly worked shirt front, black hat, French unmentionables, and natty polished boots with spurs. She carried in her hand a riding-whip.... An impertinent American, presuming—perhaps not unnaturally—upon her reputation, laid hold jestingly of the tails of her long coat; and, as a lesson, received a cut across his face that must have marked him for some days. I did not wait to see the row that followed, and was glad when the wretched woman rode off on the following morning.
Russell was not a fellow-passenger in the ship by which Lola travelled. Somebody else, however, who did happen to be one, gives a very different description of her conduct on the journey:
"We had not been at sea one day," says Mrs. Knapp, "before all the saloon occupants were charmed by this lovely young woman. Her vivacity was infectious, and her abandon was always of a specially airy refinement."
The arrival of Lola Montez at San Francisco would have eclipsed that of any Hollywood heroine of the present era. A vast crowd, headed by the City Fathers, "in full regalia," gathered at the quay. Flags decked the public buildings; guns fired a salute; bands played; and the schoolchildren were assembled to strew her path with flowers as she stepped down the gangway; and, "to the accompaniment of ringing cheers," the horses were taken from her carriage, which was dragged by eager hands through the streets to her hotel. "The Countess acknowledged the reception accorded her with a graceful inclination."
"What if Europe has exiled her?" demanded an editorial. "This is of no consequence. After all, she is Lola Montez, acknowledged Mistress of Kings! She is beautiful above other women; she is gorgeous; she is irresistible; and we are genuinely proud to welcome her."
Enveloped in legend, the reputation of the newcomer for "eccentricity" had preceded her. She lived up to this reputation, too, for, when the spirit moved her (and it did so quite often), she would dance in the beer gardens "for fun"; she had her hair cut short, when other women were affecting chignons; and—wonder of wonders—she would "actually smoke cigarettes in public." Clearly, a trifle ahead of her period.
By the way, while she was in San Francisco, Lola is said to have renewed her acquaintance with the mysterious Jean Francois Montez, who, during the interval since they last met, had turned over a fresh leaf and was now married. But according to a chronicler: "The family felicity very soon succumbed to the lure of the lovely Lola." Without, too, any support for the assertion, a contributor of theatrical gossip dashed off an imaginative column, in which he declared her, among other things, to have been "the petted companion of Louis Napoleon"; and also "the idolised dancer of the swells and wits of the capitals of the Old World, with the near relatives of royalty and the beaux of Paris for her intimates."
This was going too far. Lola, much incensed, shook her dog-whip and threatened reprisals.
"What's the matter with you?" demanded the journalist, astonished at the outburst, "it's good publicity, isn't it?"
"Yes, but not the sort I want," was the response.
Still, whether she wanted it, or not, Lola was soon to have a good deal more "publicity." This was because she suddenly appeared with a husband on her arm.
Although the bridegroom, Patrick Purdy Hull, was a fellow-editor, the Daily Alta, of California, considered that the news value of the event was not worth more than a couple of lines:
"On the 2nd inst. Lola Montez and P. P. Hull, Esq., of this city (and late of the San Francisco Whig) were married at the Mission Dolores."
Obviously regarding this as a somewhat meagre allowance, a New York journal furnished fuller details:
Among the recent domestic happenings of the times in California, the marriage of the celebrated Lola Montez will attract most attention. This distinguished lady has again united herself in the bonds of wedlock, the happy young man being Patrick Purdy Hull, Esq., formerly of Ohio, and for the past four years employed in the newspaper business in San Francisco.
Mr. Hull was a fellow-passenger with the fascinating Countess on her trip to California; and the acquaintance then formed fast ripened into an attachment which terminated fatally to his bachelorhood. The nuptials were consummated [sic] at the Holy Church of the Mission Dolores in the presence of a highly respectable gathering of prominent citizens.
The "prominent citizens" included "Governor Wainwright, Judge Wills, Captain McMichael, Mr. and Mrs. Clayton, and Beverley Saunders, Esq." An attempt was made to keep the ceremony secret; and, with this end in view, the invited guests were pledged not to divulge it beforehand. On the previous evening Captain McMichael, being something of a tactician, announced to them: "We do not yet know for certain that the affair will ever come off, and we may all be jolly well sold." When they assembled at the Mission Church, it looked as if this would happen, as neither of the couple appeared. Suddenly, however, they drove up in a carriage and entered the church. The "blushing bride," says a reporter who had hidden behind a pillar, "carried a bouquet of orange blossoms, and the organ played 'The Voice that breathed o'er Eden'"; and another chronicler adds: "On the conclusion of the ceremony, all adjourned to partake of a splendid spread, with wine and cigars ad lib." But this was not all, for: "Governor Wainwright, giving a significant wink, kissed the new-made bride, Mrs. Hull. His example was promptly followed by Mr. Henry Clayton, 'just to make the occasion memorable,' he said. 'Such is the custom of my country,' remarked Madame Lola. She was not kissed by anybody else, but she none the less had a pleasant word for all."
It was at Sacramento that Lola and her new husband began their married life. The conditions of the town were a little primitive just then; and even in the principal hotel the single guests were expected to sleep in dormitories. The cost of board and lodging (with bed in a bunk) was 150 dollars a week. As for the "board," standing items on the daily menu would be boiled leg of grizzly bear, donkey steak, and jack-rabbit. "No kickshaws" was the proud boast of every chef.
In addition to his editorial labours (which were not unduly exacting), Hull was employed by the Government on census work, preparing statistics of the rapidly increasing population. But Lola, much to his annoyance, did not add to his figures for the Registrar-General's return. The footlights proved a stronger lure than maternity; and, almost immediately after her marriage, she accepted an engagement at one of the theatres, where she appeared as Lady Teazle. A countess in that part of the world being a novelty, the public rallied to the box-office in full force and "business" was phenomenal. Still, competition there, as elsewhere. Some of it, too, of a description that could not be ignored. Thus, Ole Bull was giving concerts at the Opera House, and causing hardened diggers to shed tears when he played "Home Sweet Home" to them on his violin; Edwin Booth, "supported by a powerful company," was mouthing Shakespeare, and tearing passion to tatters in the process; and a curious freak, billed as "Zoyara, the Hermaphrodite" (with a "certificate of genuineness, as to her equestrian skill and her virtues as a lady, from H.M. the King of Sardinia") was cramming the circus to capacity every afternoon and evening. Yet, notwithstanding His Majesty's "certificate," it is a fact that its recipient "married" a woman member of the troupe. "The long sustained deception has been dropped," says a paragraphist, "and the young man who assumed the name of 'Madame Zoyara' is now to be seen in correct masculine attire."
Still, despite all this, Lola kept her public. After all, a countess was a countess. But, before long, there was a difference of opinion with the manager of the theatre in which she was appearing. Lola, who never brooked criticism, had "words" with him. High words, as it happened; and, flourishing her whip in his face, she tore up her contract and walked out of the building.
"Get somebody else," she said. "I'm through."
The difference of opinion appears to have arisen because Lola elected to consider herself "insulted" by a member of the audience while she was dancing, and the manager had not taken her part. The next evening, accordingly, she made a speech in public, giving him a "bit of her mind." The result was, declared the San Francisco Alta, "the Countess came off the victor, bearing away the bravas and bouquets. At the conclusion of her address she was hailed by thunderous cheers, amid which she smiled sweetly, dropped a curtsey, and retired gracefully."
Much to their surprise, those who imagined that the honours of the evening went to Lola read in the next issue of the Californian that "the applause was all sham, the paid enthusiasm of a hired house." This was more than flesh and blood could stand. At any rate, it was more than Lola could stand; and she sent the editor a fierce letter, challenging him to a duel. "I must request," was its last passage, "that this affair of honour be arranged by your seconds as soon as possible, as my time is quite as valuable as your own: MARIE DE LANDSFELD-HULL (LOLA MONTEZ)."
The editor of the Californian did not accept the suggestion. Instead, he applied the necessary balm, and the pistols-for-two-and-coffee-for-one order was countermanded.
A woman of moods, when Lola made a change, it was a complete one. She made one now. The artificiality of the towns, with their false standards and atmosphere of pretence, had begun to pall. She wanted to try a fresh milieu. Everybody was talking just then of Grass Valley, a newly opened-up district, set amid a background of the rugged Sierras, where gangs of miners were delving for gold in the bowels of Mother Earth, and, if half the accounts were true, amassing fortunes. Why not go there and see for herself? It would at least be a novel experience.
No sooner said than done. Hiring a mule team and wagon, and accompanied by Patrick Hull, she started off on a preliminary tour of inspection of the district.
Travelling was unhurried in those leisurely days. There were several stoppages; and the roads were rough, and long detours had to be made to avoid yawning canyons. "At the end of two weeks from the time they left Sacramento behind them, Pat Hull and his charming bride wheeled across the mountains into Grass Valley."
"There were about 1600 people in the township of Marysville at this period," says a chronicler, "and 1400 of them were of the masculine sex. The prospect of sudden riches was the attraction that drew them. England and the Continent were represented by some of the first families. A dozen were graduates of Oxford and Cambridge; there were two young relatives of Victor Hugo; there were a number of scions of the impoverished nobility of Bohemia; and several hundred Americans. Among the latter was William Morris Stewart, a Marysville lawyer, who was afterwards to become a senator and attorney-general."
Grass Valley at this period (the autumn of 1853) was little more than a wilderness. The nearest town of any size was Nevada City, fringed by the shadows of the lofty Sierras. Between the gulches had sprung up as if by magic a forest of tented camps and tin-roofed shanties, with gambling-booths and liquor saloons by the hundred, in which bearded men dug hard by day, and played faro and monte and drank deep by night. Fortunes were made—and spent—and nuggets were common currency. The cost of living was very high. But it cost still more to be ill, since a grain of gold was the accepted tariff for a grain of quinine.
The whole district was a melting-pot. Attracted by the prospect of the precious metal that was to be wrung from it, there had drifted into the Valley a flotsam and jetsam, representatives of all nations and of all callings. As was natural, Americans in the majority; but, with them, Englishmen and Frenchmen and Germans and Italians, plus an admixture of Chinamen and Kanakas; also an undesirable element of deserters from ships and convicts escaped from Australia. To keep them in some sort of order, rough justice was the rule. Mayors and sheriffs had arbitrary powers, and did not hesitate to employ them. Judge Lynch was supreme; and a length of hemp dangling from a branch was part of the equipment of every camp.
With a full knowledge of all these possible drawbacks, Lola Montez looked upon Grass Valley and saw that it was good. Perhaps the Bret Harte atmosphere appealed to her. At any rate, she decided to settle down there temporarily; and, with this end in view, she persuaded Hull to buy a six-roomed cottage just above Marysville.
When Lola Montez—for all that she had a wedding-ring on her finger, she still stuck to the name—arrived there with her new husband, the conditions of life in Grass Valley were a little primitive. A telegraph service did not exist; and letters were collected and delivered irregularly. Transport with the outer world was by stage coach and mule and pony express. Whisky had to come round by Cape Horn; sugar from China; and meat and vegetables from Australia. The fact was, the early settlers were much too busily employed extracting nuggets and gold dust to concern themselves with the production of any other commodity.
Mrs. Dora Knapp, a neighbour of Lola Montez in Grass Valley at this period, has contributed some reminiscences of her life there:
"We, who knew of her gay career among the royalty and nabobs, were astonished that she should have gone to the camp. She frequently had letters from titled gentlemen in Europe, begging her to come back and live on their rich bounty. It was simply because she was weary of splendour and fast living that the Countess turned with such fondness to life in a mining camp."
To Patrick Hull, however, the attractions of the district were not so obvious. Ink was in his blood. He wanted to get back to his editorial desk, preferring the throbbing of printing presses to the rattle of spades and picks and the clanking of drills. Nor did "love in a cottage" appeal to him. When Lola refused to give up Grass Valley, he developed a fit of sulks and turned to the whisky bottle for consolation.
Under the circumstances, matrimonial bliss was impossible. Such a life was a cat and dog one. Its end arrived very soon.
"Lola Montez and her new husband," says the knowledgeable Mrs. Knapp, "had not lived together more than a few months before trouble began. When two such spirits came together, there was bound to be a clash. The upshot was that one day Lola pushed Patrick down the stairs, heaved his grip out of the window and ordered him to quit."
Mr. Hull, who could take a hint as well as any man, did "quit." He did more. He took to his bed and expired. "In his native state," says a tearful obituary, "he was respected and loved by a large circle. The family of Manuel Guillen (in whose house he lay), inspired by a sentiment of genuine benevolence, bestowed upon him all the tender watchfulness due to a beloved son and brother; and nothing was omitted that promised cure or promoted comfort."
But this was not until some time after he had received his abrupt conge from Lola Montez.
Once more, Lola had drawn a blank in the matrimonial market.
With Adrienne Lecouvreur, Lola Montez must often have asked herself, Que faire au monde sans aimer? "Living without loving" had no appeal for her. Hence, she was soon credited (or discredited) with a fresh liaison. This time her choice fell on a German baron, named Kirke, who also happened to be a doctor. There was a special bond between them, for he had come from Munich, and could thus awaken memories and tell her of Ludwig, of Fritz Peissner and the other good comrades of the Alemannia, and of the house in the Barerstrasse where she had once queened it.
"This fourth adventure in matrimony was," says a chronicler, "copiously consummated." An odd choice of words. But, successful or not, it was short-lived. One fine day the baron took his gun with him into the forest. He did not return. "Killed in a shooting accident" (a fairly common occurrence in the Wild West at that period) was the coroner's verdict. As a result, Lola was once more without a masculine protector.
The position was not devoid of an element of danger, for the district swarmed with lawless gangs, to whom a woman living by herself was looked upon as fair prey. But Lola was not disturbed. She had plenty of courage. She knew, too, that the miners had formed themselves into a "guard of honour," and that it would have gone ill with anybody attempting to molest her. If the diggers were rough, they were chivalrous.
In response to a general invitation from the camp, Lola more than once gave an exhibition of her quality as a danseuse. Although the charge for admission was a hundred dollars, the hall where she appeared was always crammed to the doors. She expanded out, too, in other directions; and a picturesque account of her life at this period says that she slept under the stars ("canopy of heaven" was the writer's more poetical way of putting it) and wore woollen underclothing knitted by herself. Another detail declares that she held a "weekly soiree in her cottage, attended by the upper circles of the camp, a court of litterateurs and actors and wanderers"; and that among the regular guests were "two nephews of Victor Hugo, a quartet of cashiered German barons, and a couple of shady French counts." Obviously, a somewhat mixed gathering. For all this, however, the receptions were "merely convivial assemblies, with champagne and other wine, served with cake and fruit ad lib, and everyone smoked. The two Hugo neighbours were always there, as well as a son of Preston Brooks, the South Carolina congressman. A dozen of us looked forward to attending these salons, which we called 'experience-meetings.' Senator William M. Stewart, then a young lawyer in Nevada, said he used to count the days between each. Every song, every story, every scrap of humour or pathos that any of the young men came across would be preserved for the next gathering. Occasionally, our charming hostess would have a little fancy-dress affair at the cottage, and, clad in the fluffy and abbreviated garments she had once worn on the stage, show us that she still remembered her dancing-steps."
When not engaged in these innocent relaxations, Lola would give herself up to other pursuits. Thus, she hunted and fished and shot, and often made long trips on horseback through the forests and sage bush. Having a fondness for all sorts of animals, on one such expedition she captured a bear cub, with which she returned to her cabin and set herself to tame. While thus employed, she was visited by a wandering violinist, who, falling a victim to her charms, begged a lock of her hair as a souvenir of the occasion. Thereupon, Lola, always anxious to oblige, struck a bargain with him. "I have," she said, "a pet grizzly in my orchard. If you will wrestle with him for three minutes, you shall have enough of my hair to make a bow for your fiddle. Let me see what you can do." The challenge was accepted; and the amorous violinist, merely stipulating that the animal should be muzzled, set to work and secured the coveted guerdon.
Something of a risk, perhaps. Still, it would have been a more serious one if Lola had kept a rattlesnake.
Appearances are deceptive, and Bruin was less domesticated than Lola imagined. One day, pining perhaps for fresh diet, he grappled with his mistress and bit her hand. The incident attracted a laureate on the staff of the California Chronicle, who, in Silas Wegg fashion, "dropped into verse:"
LOLA AND HER PET
One day when the season was drizzly, And outside amusements were wet, Fair Lola paid court to her Grizzly And undertook petting her pet.
But, ah, it was not the Bavarian Who softened so under her hand, No ermined King octogenarian, But Bruin, coarse cub of the land.
So, all her caresses combatting He crushed her white slender hand first, Refusing his love to her patting, As she had refused hers to Pat!
Oh, had her pet been him whose glory And title were won on the field, Less bloodless had ended this story, More easy her hand had been Heald!
This doggerel was signed "F.S.", initials which masked the identity of Frank Soule, the editor of the Chronicle.
Never without her dog-whip, Lola took it with her to her cottage in Grass Valley. There she soon found a use for it. A journalist, in a column account of her career, was ungallant enough to finish by enquiring "if she were the devil incarnate?" As the simplest method of settling the problem, "Lola summoned the impertinent scribbler and gave him such a hiding that he had no doubts left at all."
Shortly afterwards, there was trouble with another representative of the press. This was with one Henley Shipley, the editor of the Marysville Herald, who, notwithstanding that they were "regularly attended by the elite of the camp," had described her "Wednesday soirees" as "disgraceful orgies, inimical to our fair repute." Thereupon, says a sympathiser, the aspersed hostess "took her whip to him, and handed out a number of stinging and well merited cuts."
The opportunity being too good to miss, the editor of the Sacramento Union set to work and rushed out a special edition, with a long description of the incident: