The Letter-Bag of Lady Elizabeth Spencer-Stanhope v. I.
by A. M. W. Stirling (compiler)
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The following papers, which extend over a space of nearly seventy years during a most interesting period of our National History, may be said to form a sequel and a conclusion to two previous publications, Coke of Norfolk and his Friends, which appeared in 1906, and Annals of a Yorkshire House, which appeared in 1911. They are, however, more essentially a continuation of the latter, in which the Cannon Hall muniments and anecdotes were brought down to the years 1805-6, from which date the narrative is resumed in the present volume.

In that first series of Papers which was published in the Annals, the bulk of the correspondence centred round the personality of Walter Spencer- Stanhope, M.P., who lived from 1749 to 1821. In the present series, the correspondence is principally addressed to or written by John Spencer- Stanhope, his son, who lived from 1787 to 1873. Other letters, doubtless, there were in plenty, to and from other members of the family, but only those have survived which found their way back to the old Yorkshire house whence so many of them had originally set forth with their messages of love and home tidings, and which were there preserved, eventually, by the grandmother of the present writer, Lady Elizabeth, wife of John Stanhope and daughter of the celebrated 'Coke of Norfolk.'

The following book, therefore, is appropriately termed the "Letter-bag" of the lady to whom its existence is due, although her personal contribution to its contents does not commence before the year 1822, when she first became a member of the family circle of its correspondents. In it, in brief, is represented the social existence of two generations and the current gossip of over half-a-century, as first set forth by their nimble pens in all the freshness of novelty. Thus it is an ever-shifting scene to which we are introduced. We become one with the daily life of a bygone century, with a family party absorbed in a happy, busy existence. We mingle with the gay throng at the routs and assemblies which they frequented. We meet the "very fine" beaux at whom they mocked, and the "raging belles" whom they envied. Then the scene changes, and we are out on the ocean with Cuthbert Collingwood, in our ears rings a clash of arms long since hushed, a roar of cannon which has been silent throughout the passing of a century, while we gauge with a grim realisation the iron that entered into the soul of a strong man battling for his country's gain. Then the black curtain of death shrouds that scene, and we are back once more in the gay world of ton, with its petty gossip and its petty aims.... Later, other figures move across the boards; Wellington, as the ball-giver, the gallant chevalier des dames; Napoleon, in his bonnet de nuit, a mysterious, saturnine figure; his subordinates, who shared his greed without the dignity of its magnitude; next, in strange contrast, Coke of Norfolk, the peaceful English squire, seen thus for the first time—not as a public character, a world-wide benefactor—but in the intimacy of his domestic life, as "Majesty," the butt of his daughter's playful sallies, as the beloved father, the tender grandfather, a gracious, benevolent presence. We read the romance of his daughter, that pretty, prim courtship of a bygone day; we see her home life as a young wife, the coming of another race of merry children; by and by, we follow the fortunes of graceful "little Madam" with her brilliant eyes, and see the advent of yet another lover of a later day. So the scenes shift, the figures come and go, the great things and the small of life intermingle. And as we read, by almost imperceptible stages, the Georgian has merged into the Victorian, and the young generation of one age has faded into the older generation of the next, till we are left confronted with the knowledge, albeit difficult of credence, that both have vanished into the mists of the Unknown.

Meanwhile, one aspect of this glimpse into the past requires but little insistence. Among these two generations of Stanhopes a high standard of education prevailed. This, coupled with the opportunities which they possessed of mingling with the best-known people of their day, both in England and France, makes it obvious that records written by such writers, with all the happy abandon of a complete sympathy between scribe and recipient, have a value which transcends any more laboured enumeration of historical data. The worth of their correspondence lies in the fact that it presents, artlessly and candidly, the outlook of a contemporary family, of good position and more than average intelligence, upon events ordinary and extraordinary, under four sovereigns. And while many books have been edited describing the sayings and doings of Royal personages and political leaders during that period, few have yet been published which present them in the intimate guise in which they jostle each other throughout the following pages, and fewer still which give any adequate picture of the social life as lived during these years by the less notable bulk of the community.

Yet more, the writers of these letters are no mere puppets of ancient history, who move in a world unreal to us and shadowy. Their remarks to us are instinct with the freshness—the actuality—of to-day. Whether as happy, noisy schoolboys and girls, or as men and women of the fashionable world bent on pursuit of pleasure or of learning, to us they are emphatically alive. Almost we can hear and echo the laughter of that merry home-circle; their jests are our own, differently phrased, their joys and sorrows knit our hearts to them across the century. They lived at a date so near our own that it has all the charm of similarity—with a difference; and it is just this likeness and unlikeness which lend such piquancy to their experiences.






THE VISCOUNTESS ANSON Frontispiece From a miniature by Cosway







SIR FRANCIS BURDETT, BT. From a picture painted while he was a prisoner in the Tower








"In town what numbers into fame advance, Conscious of merit in the coxcombs' dance, The Op'ra, Almack's, park, assembly, play, Those dear destroyers of the tedious day, That wheel of fops, that saunter of the town, Call it diversion, and the pill goes down." Young


For the enlightenment of those readers who have not read the previous volumes of which the present is the continuation, it may be well to recapitulate briefly the material with which these dealt.

In 1565 a branch of the Stanhopes came from Lancashire into Yorkshire, and eventually settled at Horsforth, Low Hall, near Calverley Bridge, in the latter county. During the period of the Civil Wars, a branch of the family of Spencer migrated from the borders of Wales into Yorkshire, and in the reign of Charles II. one of them purchased the house and land at that date constituting the estate of Cannon Hall. In 1748 Walter Stanhope of Horsforth united the two families by his marriage with Ann Spencer of Cannon Hall, and their son Walter, eventually inheriting both properties from his respective uncles, bore the name of Spencer-Stanhope.

Walter Spencer-Stanhope was for thirty-nine years a member of the House of Commons, during which time he represented respectively Haslemere, Carlisle, and Hull. In 1787 he married Mary Winifred Pulleine, who inherited the estates of Roddam and Dissington in Northumberland, in trust for her third and fourth sons. By her he had fifteen children, but his eldest son and first-born child, owing to an accident at birth, was rendered non compos, and his second son, John, was therefore in the position of his heir.

Mrs Stanhope, an exemplary and affectionate mother, appears occasionally to have become confused with the number of her progeny and to have been fearful of forgetting the order of their rapid entrance into the world or of certain events which formed a sequel to their arrival. She therefore compiled a list of such incidents, which is here subjoined, since the reader may find it useful for occasional reference.

The Family of Walter Spencer-Stanhope of Cannon Hall.

Walter Spencer Spencer-Stanhope, his first-born, came into the world about eight o'clock in the morning of the 26th of August, 1784, & was christened in Horsforth Chapel the 25th of September following, his Sponsors were Edward Collingwood, John Ashton Shuttleworth, Esqre., & Mrs Lawson of Chirton. He was inoculated by Baron Dimsdale the 13th of February, 1787, and had about 30 small-Pox. He had the measles very favourably in November 1790.

Marianne, our next-born, came into the world in Grosvenor Square on the 23rd of May, 1786, about 7 o'clock in the morning, was baptised there on the 20th June following. Her Sponsors were Sir Richard Carr Glyn, Mrs Stanhope, and Mrs Greame his mother and aunt. She was inoculated by Baron Dimsdale the 13th of February 1787, and was very full. She had the measles in Grosvenor Square very favourably in March 1806. [1]

John, his third child, came into the world in Grosvenor Square on the 27th of May, 1787, between 6 & 8 o'clock in the morning. He had private Baptism in his house that Evening & public Baptism on June 25th, 1787, or thereabouts. His Sponsors were the Earl of Chesterfield, Sir Mathew White Ridley and Lady Glyn. He was inoculated the 12th February, 1788, by Baron Dimsdale and had the disorder favourably. He had the Measles and Whooping-cough at Sunbury. [2]

Anne, his 4th child, was born September 7th, 1788, between 6 & 8 in the Morning at Cannon Hall, was christened at Cawthorne Church, November 2nd, 1788, having received private Baptism about a Fortnight after she was born. She was inoculated by Baron Dimsdale on or about 24th of April, 1789, and had the Disorder very favourably. Her Sponsors were the Countess of Burford, Mrs Marriott & Mr Pulleine. [3]

Catherine, his fifth Child, was born between 6 & 8 o'clock on the morning of September, 1789, at Cannon Hall; was christened at the beginning of November following, having received private Baptism 3 weeks before. Her Sponsors were Mrs Bigge, Mrs Anne Shafto & Colonel Glyn, She was inoculated by Baron Dimsdale, the beginning of April, 1790, and had the Disorder very favourably. She died 20th of November, 1795, of a Complaint in the Throat or Lungs, and was buried at Cawthorne Church.

Elizabeth, our next Child, was born on the 5th of November 1790, about 1 o'clock in the afternoon, had first private Baptism & was afterwards christened at Cawthorne Church on the 11th of December following. The Sponsors were Mrs Ord, of Morpeth, Mrs Pulleine & Mr John Collingwood. She was inoculated by Baron Dimsdale in March 1791 & had the disorder very favourably. Died April 15th, 1801, of obstruction, in Grosvenor Square, and was buried in St James's Chapel, Hampstead Road.

Edward, our seventh Child, was born on the 30th October, 1791 at 1/2 past twelve at noon, was christened at Cannon Hall in December. The Sponsors were Mr Collingwood, Mr Fawkes of Farnley & Mr Glyn. He was inoculated by Baron Dimsdale April 1st, 1792 & had the Disorder very favourably. Had the measles in 1806. [4]

William, our eighth Child was born at 1/2 past four o'clock on the 4th of January 1793, was christened on the 5th of February following, at Cawthorne Church. His Sponsors were Admiral Roddam, Mr Carr Ibbotson and Mrs Beaumont. He was inoculated by Baron Dimsdale the 24th of March, 1793, & had the Disorder very favourably. He had the Measles at Sunbury School May 1802. Went to Sea in the Ocean to join Lord Collingwood off Cadiz, March, 1806. [5]

Thomas Henry, our ninth Child, was born at 1/2 past one in the morning the 14th of May 1794, was christened the 9th of June following in Grosvenor Square. His Sponsors were Lady Carr Glyn, Collingwood Roddam Esqre., & Ashton Shuttleworth Esqre. He was inoculated by Baron Dimsdale in April 1795 & had the Disorder very favourably. Had the Measles at Sunbury 1802. Died April the 3rd, 1808, after a long and painful illness. Was buried with Eliza in St James's Chapel in Hampstead Road.

Charles, our tenth Child, born on the 14th October, 1795, christened at Cawthorne, Sponsors Colonel Beaumont, James Shuttleworth Esqre., & Mrs Elizabeth Roddam. Was inoculated in the spring, 1796, by Baron Dimsdale. [6]

Isabella, our eleventh Child, was born on the 20th of October 1797, at one in the morning, christened at Cawthorne Church the 8th of December following. Sponsors, Mrs Roddam, Mrs Smith of Dorsetshire & Mr Smyth of Heath. Was inoculated in Autumn 1798 by Mr Greaves of Clayton. [7]

Philip, our twelfth Child, was born January 25th, 1799, at one in the morning; was christened by Mr Phipps February, 1799. The Sponsors were Mr Edwyn Stanhope, the Rev. John Smith, Westminster & Lady Augusta Lowther. Was inoculated with the Cow-pox May 1800 by Mr Knight. Had the Measles at Putney in the Autumn, 1806. [8]

Frances Mary, our thirteenth Child was born on the 27th of June, 1800, at 1/2 past twelve at Noon in Grosvenor Square & was christened there by the Rev. Mr Armstrong on the 26th of July following. The Sponsors were Samuel Thornton Esqre, Mrs Greame of Bridlington & Mrs Marriott of Horsmonden, Kent. Inoculated with the Cow-pox by Mr Greaves in the Autumn of 1800. [9]

Maria Alicia, our fourteenth Child, was born at Cannon Hall the 4th of September 1802, 1/2 before seven in the Morning & was christened at Cannon Hall by the Rev. Goodair on 22nd of October following. The Sponsors were the Rev. D. Marriott, Mrs Henry Pulleine of Carlton & Mrs Morland of Court Lodge, Kent. Inoculated with the Cow-pox by Mr Whittle in Grosvenor Square the Spring following. [10]

Hugh, our fifteenth Child, [11] was born September 30th, 1804, about five in the Morning & was christened at Cawthorne Church by the Rev. Mr Goodair the 1st of November following. The Sponsors were Edward Collingwood Esqre., Mr Smith of Dorsetshire & Lady Elizabeth Lowther of Swillington. The four youngest had the measles at Ramsgate.

As will be seen by this comprehensive list, of the fifteen children of Walter Spencer-Stanhope and his wife, three only failed to attain maturity. The tale of their brief lives has no part in the following correspondence, and might be dismissed without comment, save that the mention of them serves to bring yet nearer to us that mother whose powerful brain, warm heart and tireless pen bound to her the affections of her children with a devotion seldom surpassed.

Of Henry Stanhope, destined to die after much suffering, many letters, not inserted here, remain eloquent of the manner in which, throughout his long illness, his mother denied herself to all her acquaintance and never left his side. Of little Catherine Stanhope, who expired at the age of five, two pathetic mementoes exist. One is a large marquise ring which never left the mother's finger till she, too, was laid in the grave; the other a silken tress like spun sunshine, golden still as on that day in a dead century when, viewing it through her tears, Mrs Stanhope labelled it tenderly—"My dear little Catherine's hair, cut off the morning I lost her, November 20th, 1795." Of little Elizabeth a more curious and harrowing reminiscence has survived.

Grosvenor Square, Saturday, April the 28th, the day on which the remains of my dear child were deposited in the vault at Mrs Armstrong's Chapel between six and seven in the morning, attended by her dear, afflicted father.

So little Elizabeth, in the spring-time of her life, passed to her grave at a strangely early hour on that April morning; and her mother, in the hushed house, took up the thread of life once more with pious submission and the iron will for which she was remarkable.

At the date at which this book opens, many years had gone by since that storm of sorrow had fallen upon her, suddenly, like a bolt from the blue. All unsuspected, indeed, another grief, the death of her little son, was approaching; but for the present contentment reigned.

After celebrating the Christmas festivities, as usual, in Yorkshire, early in January, 1805, she journeyed with her husband and family back to their house in London, No. 28 Grosvenor Square, a building since much altered, but still standing at the corner of Upper Grosvenor Street. [12] There she was occupied introducing into society her clever eldest daughter Marianne, aged nineteen, and preparing for the debut of her second daughter, Anne; and thence with the dawning of that year destined to be momentous in English history, she wrote to her son John, his father's heir- presumptive, a youth of eighteen, who had just gone to Christ Church:

The New Year smiles upon us, and, thank God, finds us all well, except Henry, and he gains strength. May you see many happy ones and may the commencing year prove as happy to you as I have every reason to believe the last was.... You are really, my dear John, the most gallant son I ever heard of to make such very flattering speeches.... It is vastly gratifying to a mother to have a son desire to hear from her so frequently, and such a request must always be attended to with pleasure.

How assiduously the writer fulfilled her promise is testified by those packets of letters, dim with the dust and blight of a vanished century, but in which her reward is likewise attested. "I do not believe," she affirms proudly, "that there is a man at either of the Universities who writes so often to his mother as you do, and let me beg you will continue to do so, for the hearing from you is one of the chief pleasures of my life." Moreover, that family of eight sons and five daughters, who, at this date, shared her attention, in their relations to each other were singularly united. Throughout their lives, indeed, the tie of blood remained to them of paramount importance, although, as often happens, this fact bred in them a somewhat hypercritical view of the world which lay without that charmed circle. Graphic and lively as it will be seen are their writings, their wit was at times so keen-edged that it is said to have caused considerable alarm to the dandies and belles of their generation, who suffered from the too vivacious criticism of their young contemporaries. This was more particularly so in the case of Marianne, the eldest daughter, afterwards the anonymous author of the satirical novel Almack's. Brilliant and full of humour as is her correspondence, it shows her to have been what family tradition reports, rich in talent and accomplishments, gifted with imagination and keenly observant of her surroundings, but withal cynical of speech and critical of temperament—a woman, perhaps, more to be feared than loved.

Her brother John, the recipient of most of the following letters, was, on the contrary, a youth of exceptional amiability, and unalterably popular with all whom he encountered. Intellectual from his earliest childhood, in later life he was a profound classical scholar. A seven months' child, however, the constitutional delicacy which was a constant handicap to him throughout his existence had been further accentuated by an unlucky accident. When at Westminster, a fall resulting from a push given to him by Ralph Nevill, Lord Abergavenny's son, had broken his collar-bone, and with the Spartan treatment to which children were then subjected, this injury received no attention. But what he lacked in physical strength was supplied by dauntless grit and mental energy, so that, although in the future debarred by his health from taking any active part in political life, he early attained, as we shall see, to no mean fame as a traveller and an explorer, while he was regarded as one of the savants of his generation.

During 1805, when he was yet a freshman at Christ Church, his younger brothers and sisters were likewise variously employed with their education, the boys at the celebrated schools of Sunbury and Westminster, the girls in the seclusion of a large school-room in the rambling house in Grosvenor Square. And that the learning for which they all strove was of a comprehensive nature, moreover, that those of their party who had already entered the gay world never disdained to share such labours, is shown in a letter written many years afterwards to John by his brother Charles, in which the writer complains sarcastically—

You have no idea how happy, year by year, as of yore, the little ones seem—(for they will always be called so, though now Frances is as big as me and amazingly handsome). Yet still they have not one moment of time to themselves. They cram and stuff with accomplishments incessantly, and they prison me in my room & won't allow me to pry into the haunts of the Muses. Marianne and Anne have been learning to paint for these last two years, and make (I think) but slow progress. Marianne never will have done (I wish I could be so industrious). She is now beginning to learn the harp. They are both learning to sing from some great star, which is only money and time thrown away; & Isabella, Frances and Maria learn to dance of one of the most celebrated Opera dancers. Isabella learns a new instrument something like a guitar, called a harp-lute. Marianne and Anne, having learnt French, German, Latin and Italian, are now at a loss to find something left to know, and talk of learning Russian. They will be dyed blue-stocking up to their very chins.

Allowing for the exaggeration of a schoolboy, the letter throws an interesting light on the standard of education aimed at by those who, despite the imputation to the contrary, had no pretension to belong to the recognised blue-stocking coteries of their day. And the father of that busy, happy circle, in the seriousness of his own life and aims, presented the same contrast to many of his contemporaries which was reflected in his family.

Fourteen years senior to his wife, and at this date in his fifty-seventh year, Walter Stanhope had been M.P. respectively for his different constituencies since 1775. A keen politician, he was punctilious in his attendance at the House.

Nevertheless, as shown in a former volume, although a man of ability and of intense earnestness of purpose, his devotion to his political labours never wholly counteracted a certain lethargy of temperament which, throughout his life, limited achievement. Thus, although in his youth undoubtedly gifted with a lively fancy, or with what his generation termed sensibility, this very trait seems at variance with the sum of his later career. True, that under stress of emotion he could rise to heights of impassioned oratory which provoked by its very evidence of latent power; but the tenor of his existence was scarcely in accordance with these brief flashes of genius, and the fulfilment of his prime belied its promise. The record of his life remains one which commands respect rather than admiration. Level-headed, sober in judgment and conduct, even while possessed of a wit which was rare and a discernment at times profound, his days flowed on in an undeviating adherence to duty which makes little appeal to the imagination. As a churchman, as a parent, as a landowner, as a politician he fulfilled each avocation with credit. As a man of the world he could toy with but remain unmastered by the foibles of his age. While a Fox and a Pitt rose to heights and sank to depths which Stanhope never touched; while a Wilberforce was imbued with religious fervour as with a permeating flame, Stanhope, to his contemporaries, presented something of an anomaly. As in his early years he had been a Macaroni who eschewed the exaggerations of his sect, so throughout life he could gamble without being a gamester, could drink without being a toper, be a politician without party acumen, and a man of profoundly religious feelings devoid of fanaticism. But since he who himself is swayed by the intensity of his convictions is he who in turn sways his fellows, possibly the very restraint which saved Stanhope from folly debarred him from fame. [13]

Meantime his generation was one of colossal exaggeration, both in talent and in idiocy, in virtue and in vice. Men sinned like giants and as giants atoned. Common sense, mediocrity—save upon the throne—were rare. Even the fools in their folly were great. The spectacle was recurrent of men who would smilingly stake a fortune as a wager, who could for hours drench their drink-sodden brains in wine, then rise like gods refreshed, and with an iron will throw off the stupor which bound them, to wield a flood of eloquence that swayed senates and ruled the fate of nations. Even the fops in their foppishness were of a magnitude in harmony with their period. They could promote dandyism to a fine art and win immortality by perfecting the role. Their affectation became an adjunct of their greatness, their eccentricity an assumption of supremacy; their very insolence was a right divine before which the common herd bowed with a limitless tolerance.

In the world of London, as that celebrated gossip, Gronow, points out, from generation to generation, certain men of fashion have come to the fore amongst the less conspicuous mass of their fellows, and have been defined by the general term of "men about town." The earlier representatives of that race, the Macaronis of a former date, ere 1805 had been replaced by a clique of dandies whose pretensions to recognition were based on a less worthy footing. For while those previous votaries of fashion, although derided and caricatured according to the humour of their day, were, none the less, valuable patrons of art and literature, the exquisites of a later date could seldom lay claim to such distinction. To dine, to dress, to exhibit sufficient peculiarity in their habits and rudeness in their manners whereby to enhance that fictitious value in the eyes of those who did not dare to emulate such foibles, was the end and aim of their existence. Yet it is doubtful whether posterity remembers them less faithfully. Side by side with the great names of their century there has come down to us the record of these apparently impudent pretenders to fame, and it is questionable whether a Nash, a Brummell, or a D'Orsay are less familiar to the present generation than those whose claim to the recognition of posterity was not so ephemeral.

Thus, while the circle of acquaintance with which the lives of Stanhope and his family at this date mingled serves to throw into sharper relief his own divergence of character from that of many of his contemporaries— those men who to great abilities, and sometimes to great achievement, joined the pettiness of a fop and the follies of a mountebank—still more did the typical man-about-town, with his whims and his foibles, his shallow aims and his lost opportunities, compare strangely with the larger souls of his generation. For the moment was one which called forth the greatness or the littleness of those who met it, and which heightened that contrast of contemporary lives.

With the coming of the nineteenth century the political outlook for England had waxed grave. The air was full of wars and rumours of wars. Napoleon, the mighty scourge of the civilised world, was minded to accomplish the downfall of the one Power which still defied his strength. "The channel is but a ditch," he boasted, "and anyone can cross it who has but the courage to try." Boats were in readiness at Boulogne and at most of the French ports, fitted up for the attempt, while the Conqueror of Europe dallied only for the psychological moment to put his project into execution. With bated breath Europe awaited the possible demolition of the sole barrier which yet lay between the Tyrant and universal monarchy, while upon the other side of the "ditch" the little Island expected his arrival in a condition of prolonged tension and stubborn courage. At any moment her blue waters and green fields might be dyed with blood. At any moment a swarm of foreign invaders might trample her pride in the dust, and crush her as other nations had been effectually crushed. But she meant to sell her liberty dear. Out of a population averaging 9,000,000 souls there were 120,000 regular troops, 347,000 volunteers, and 78,000 militia; and still Napoleon paused.

Upon the threatened throne still sat good Farmer George and his prim German consort, models of dull domesticity, of narrow convictions, of punctilious etiquette—the epitome of respectable and respected mediocrity, save when, with a profound irony, the recurring blast of insanity transformed the personality of the stolid monarch, and shattered the complacency of the smug little Court. Within its shelter hovered the bevy of amiable Princesses, whose minutest word and glance yet lives for us in the searchlight of Fanny Burney's adoring scrutiny. Afar, the sons pursued their wild careers. The Prince of Wales, the mirror of fashion, diced and drank, coquetted with politics and kingship, and—a very travesty of chivalry—betrayed his friend, broke the heart of the woman who loved him, deserted the woman who had wedded him, and tortured with petty jealousy the sensitive soul of the child who might rule after him.

In secret silence Mrs Fitzherbert endured the calumny of the world, and ate out her heart in faith to the faithless. With flippant and undignified frivolity the Princess of Wales strove to support an anomalous position and find balm to her wounded pride and weak brain; while the passionate, all-human child-princess, Charlotte, awakening with pitiful precocity to the realities of an existence which was to deal with her but harshly, pitted her stormy soul against a destiny which decreed that before her the sweets of life were eternally to be flaunted, to be eternally withheld.

* * * * *

But with the dawning of 1805 the crisis of England's fate approached consummation. Napoleon's plans were known to be completed. Pitt's Continental Allies were secretly arming. The sea-dogs who guarded the safety of our shores—Nelson, Collingwood, Cornwallis, Calder—were on the alert. Yet while England's very existence as a Nation hung in the balance, in the gay world of London those who represented the ton danced and flirted, attended routs and assemblies, complaining fretfully of the unwonted dullness of the town, or in their drawing-rooms discussed the topics of the hour—the acting of the wonder-child Roscius; the lamentable scandal relating to Lord Melville; or, ever and again—with a tremor—the possibilities of invasion.





Mrs Spencer-Stanhope to John Spencer-Stanhope. GROSVENOR SQUARE, January 18th, 1805.

Here we are established as of old and beginning our usual avocations.... Our Opera-box we like extremely. I generally take some young woman, which makes us cheerful. Miss Glyn [1] was of my party one night, and was well pleased. Little Roscius [2] appeared again to-night. I almost despair of seeing him, though I will try.

On Saturday morning, Marianne and I and five or six hundred others went to hear Mr Sydney Smith [3] lecture upon the Conduct of the Human Understanding. His voice is fine and he is well satisfied with himself. I cannot say we came away much wiser, but we were well amused. I hear that Mr Smith protests that all women of talent are plain.

Lady de Clifford [4] is to be Governess to Princess Charlotte, Mrs and Miss Trimmer [5] the acting ones. I doubt the mother accepting the appointment. On the 25th February there is to be a grand ball at Windsor.

Marianne Spencer-Stanhope to John Spencer-Stanhope. GROSVENOR SQUARE, February 1st, 1805.


I fear you will have thought me long in performing my promise, but as I was to have gone to Court yesterday, I delayed writing to you until the ceremony was over; as it is, instead of my letter being full of royalty, peers and ribbons, you must accept nothing but the remnant of those ideas, which the interesting hairbreadth adventures of Tom Jones have left me; in plain English the Drawing-room was put off on account of the Queen's indisposition, and I am just at the end of the above-mentioned delightful book. Oh! had I the wit of Partridge, the religion of Thwackum, or the learning of Square, I might describe with tolerable accuracy the intolerable stupidity of this great town. The Opera is thin of company, thin of performers, thin of lights, thin of figurantes, thin of scene-shifters, thin of everything! One night we were a good deal entertained by having his R.H., & chere amie [6] in the next box to us, really they squabbled so, you would have imagined they were man and wife....

As for Politicks, of which you ask so much, everyone here seems discontented. All Pitt's friends, angry that he has deserted them for Addington, and Lord Stafford, the head of them all, angry that the ribbon should be given to Lord Abercorn—to one who has protected rather than to one who has insulted Pitt—"Such little things are great to little men."

The King, everyone agrees, looks charmingly and is more composed than he has been for long. Lady de Clifford is appointed Governess to the Princess (Charlotte)—the bosom friend of Mrs Fitzherbert, helas!—and Mrs and Miss Trimmer under her; some say they will not accept it. Dr Fisher, Bishop of Exeter, is to be Governor. I am for making he and Mrs Trimmer disagree about Religion.

Mrs Spencer-Stanhope to John Spencer-Stanhope. February 23rd.

On Thursday Marianne and I attended the Drawingroom, and so disagreeable a crowd I never was in. Miss Drummond [7] looked very well and Miss Glyn quite pretty—the great Hoop suits her figure. I have not heard you mention being acquainted with a young man of the name of Knox-Irish. [8] His father and mother live in this street, and are friends of Mrs Beaumont's. [9]

I have finished the Life of Sir William Jones. [10] His acquirements appear to have been wonderful—eight languages perfectly, but I think it was twenty-eight of which he had more or less some knowledge. He was withal a very religious man. His attainments were of the right sort, for they fixed his principles and all his writings are in favor of Virtue.

The speech Mr Windham made in the House of Commons was full of wit, and would I think amuse you.

Marianne Spencer-Stanhope to John Spencer-Stanhope. (Undated.)

The apparent good spirits in which you write, even after a Mathematical Lecture, gives us reason to hope that that favourite exercise has not quite deprived you of your valuable intellect Long may it continue thus! Long may you be the glory of CH. CH. Mathematicians; and when you have left the British Athens, long may your name stand forward among the lists of those Worthies who discovered that two parallel, straight lines might run on to all Eternity without ever meeting!

As a little incitement to you to continue acquiring learning, I will send you a short account of the manner that two Dukes of Suffolk (sic) spent their time at Cambridge in 1550:

"During dinner, one of them read a Chapter of the Greek Testament, and did afterwards translate it into English; they then said Grace, in turns; & did afterwards propound questions, either in Philosophy or Divinity; & so spent all the time at Meat in Latin disputation.

"When there was any Public disputation, they were always present; every Morning they did read & afterwards translate some of Plato in Greek, & at Supper present their Labours. They were of St John's College, & every day were devoted to private lectures, & the Residue they did account for."

I ought almost to apologise for sending you so long an extract, but I thought it would remind you so forcibly of yourself and your distribution of your time, that I was unwilling to deny you the pleasure of the comparison.

Mrs Spencer-Stanhope to John Spencer-Stanhope. (Undated.)

Thanks for the account of the distribution of your time. I flatter myself you are too much attached to home and to the life you have led here ever to get into the idle way of spending Sunday, which I fear you will witness too frequently at Oxford, for from your account of what they are obliged to do on that day, a very small portion only need be given up to the religious duties of the day.

I was particularly pleased with a passage I met with the other day in which Bishop Newton on the Prophecies, speaking of Lord Bolingbrook, who, you know, was an unbeliever and from his talents and eloquence had too much weight at the time, says, "Raleigh and Clarendon believed, Lock and Newton believed, where then is the discredit to Revelation if Lord Bolingbrook was an Infidel. 'A scorner,' saith Solomon, 'seeketh Wisdom and findeth it not'"

I know not if your father took any notice of the part of your letter to him where you mention that, in a lecture, it had been proved that the Blacks were a species between men and monkeys—I think, for I have not your letter, that I have stated rightly what was said. It might be asserted, but surely could not be proved, and it is doctrine I do not like, as it goes directly to justify using them as beasts of burthen—a very good argument for a slave dealer.

March 1st.

Your father is very well. He was sorry for the fate of the Slave Trade Bill last night.

The Elopement and distress in the House of Petre has been the chief subject of conversation for the last few days. Miss Petre [11] made her escape from her father's house in Norfolk with her Brothers' tutor on Monday last. It is said they are at Worcester and married only by a Catholic Priest. However, Lord and Lady P. are gone there and it is expected she will be brought back to-night. They can do nothing but get her married to the man at Church. She is 18, he 30, and no Gentleman. She was advertised and 20 guineas reward offered to anyone who could give an account of the stray sheep. It is a sad History. What misery this idle girl has caused her parents, and probably ensured her own for life.

Marianne Stanhope to John Spencer Stanhope. March 3rd.

You have doubtless read in the papers the account of Miss Petre's elopement with her brother's tutor, Mr Philips. He is a very low man, quite another class, always dined with the children, never associated the least with the family, a sort of upper servant. Lady Petre thought him rather forward, he was to have left them at Easter. She had seen her daughter at twelve the night before, and only missed her at breakfast. Her clothes were all gone. A friend of his, a brandy merchant, accompanied her in the chaise, the tutor rode first. A clergyman refused to marry them some time ago at Lambeth, but they have since been married at Oxford by a Mr Leslie, a Catholic priest, which is not enough. They are not yet discovered.

The Same. GROSVENOR SQUARE, March 4th, 1805.


... London cannot be duller, those who remember it formerly were astonished at the change that time has wrought, and those ho look forward to the future, hope it will not always be so; but without a joke, except the Opera and the house of Glyn, I have scarcely seen anybody or been anywhere. We have three dinner engagements this week, besides one at home, but not one Assembly. You must know that we contrive to go out almost every night, but that it is only one degree better, or if you please, two degrees worse, than dozing at home; then, you know, as the existence of an Assembly is the not having room to stir, when you have plenty of elbow room from the thinness of the company it must be bad; besides another thing, when you have no time for conversation, you fancy everybody is agreeable, and in fashionable life, trust me, imagination is always preferable to reality!

Not a ball have I heard of excepting one the other night at Mr Johnstone's, Hanover Square. Now you know, balls without dancing are such very enchanting things! Without the Opera it requires a stretch of imagination to know how we should have existed. Our neighbour, Mrs Fitzherbert, in the next box to our own, affords us plenty of amusement. I shall almost become an adept at finding out Royalty by their conversation, from frequently overhearing what passes between the Lady, and not only one but several of their R.H.'s. I will give you an infallible guide to a Royal conversation. Stupidity for its basis, an ignorance of intellectual merit for one prop, and a contempt of moral excellence for the other; witticisms, double entendres, mimickry, and every species of oaths that any English gentleman ever made use of for the fond; as a whole you may call it double refined folly and vulgarity. This is only doing justice to the conversations I have overheard; far be it from me to wish to diminish the meridian lustre with which these noble gentlemen shine. Let me rather forgive them for understanding who have no conduct and those for conduct who have no understanding. The excellent qualifications of the lady as an associate are evident, she has neither conduct nor understanding.

The ball at Windsor has been the general subject of conversation this last week. The House of Stanhope put in a good appearance. Mrs Pierrepont was there. The supper was most magnificent. Seats were raised above the rest for the Royal Family; during the entertainment the King rose, and gave the Queen's health, while everybody bowed and curtseyed. Afterwards, the Queen repeated the same compliment to His Majesty.

Our next-door flirt complained much to Lord Grantham at being obliged to dance a great deal with Lord Petersham, which she thought very tiresome. Mr Kinnaird [12] seems quite off, Lord P. quite out of spirits. Papa thinks he really loves not her purse but her. She seems to love nobody, and flirts with everybody. I saw her at Court on Thursday se'nnight looking beautifully cross at not having a man near her. The Drawing-room was a dreadful squash.

I have seen a good deal of the Kinnairds lately, we dine there to- morrow and stay the evening. Georgiana is very pleased and looks well.

The Royal Institution is more the ton than anything and Ladies of all ages submit to a squeeze of an hundred people in a morning, to hear lectures on the Human Understanding, Experimental Philosophy, Painting, Music or Geology. We only attend a course of the latter— don't shout at the name, it means the History of the Earth. You see how wise I grow! Mr Eyre thinks all the ladies will be pedants, and when you have been there, you will think so too. To see so large a party, the majority ladies, not very handsome though all listening with profound attention to the opinion of Descartes and Newton, some taking notes and all looking quite scientific, is really ridiculous. Mr Davy, [13] who lectures on Geology or the Chemical History of the Earth, is very clever, his style is good, his matter interesting, and to make use of an expression I heard a gentleman use, he certainly writes on the subject con amore.

I hope you will like Sir Wm. Jones's life. I have not read it but have heard it is very clever. My lectures at present are Metastasio, and St Simon's Memoirs, the Bp. of London's lectures and Bigland's Letters on Ancient History.

There is a little tale of Miss Edgeworth's which is much admired, "The Modern Griselda," which you must read.

Of the names mentioned in this letter, that of Lord Petersham deserves more than a passing notice. Among the members of the House of Stanhope, it must first be remarked, there were to be found some notable exceptions to the prevailing social type of that generation. Philip, Earl of Chesterfield, for one, although he failed to keep up the traditions of his famous predecessor in art and elegance, was never notorious for the weaknesses of his day; and Charles, the 3rd Earl Stanhope, more violently eschewed the foppishness of many of his contemporaries, devoting all his attention to mechanical contrivances and scientific research. His simplicity of life, however, was said to be the expression of his Republican tendencies which he had inherited in a pronounced form from his father, who had likewise left behind him the reputation of having been a magnificent patron of learning. In fact, in order to emphasize his democratic principles, so shabby had been the attire of the second Earl Stanhope, that on one occasion he had actually been stopped by a new door- keeper as he was about to enter the House of Lords. "Now then, honest man, go back!" quoth this vigilant guardian of the sacred precincts; "you can have no business in such a place, honest man!" And it was only with considerable difficulty that the eccentric peer had asserted his right to admittance among his fellows, whose honesty was enhanced by a more elegant exterior.

In marked contrast, therefore, to these other members of the family, it was in the Harrington branch that the foibles of the beau monde were cultivated with intention.

Charles, 3rd Earl of Harrington, born the same year as Charles, 3rd Earl Stanhope, had married Jane, daughter and heiress of Sir John Fleming, Bt, who proved no unworthy successor to her celebrated predecessor immortalised by George Selwyn for vivacity and abnormal conversational powers. [14] The drawing-room of this later Lady Harrington was recognised as a great social centre where her friends could meet, if not actually without invitation, at least at a shortness of notice which marked the informality of the entertainment and lent to it a subtle charm. The hostess, whose energy was unbounded, would go out in the morning and pay about thirty calls, leaving at each house an invitation bidding her friends to assemble at Harrington House that same evening.

She would then walk up Bond Street at the hour at which the fashionable young men of the day were likely to be abroad, and would dart from one side of the road to the other as she spied a suitable object for her purpose. A circle of friends assembled thus three or four times a week, resulted in the formation of a recognised clique, the delightful informality of which was much appreciated by her young relations from Grosvenor Square, and the entree into which was much envied by those who were admitted only to the larger and more stately parties reserved for the less favoured.

Nor were Lady Harrington's impromptu evening assemblies less celebrated than her perpetual tea-drinkings at Harrington House. The superior quality of this expensive beverage in which the family of Stanhope indulged there, and the frequency with which Lady Harrington presented it to her visitors at all hours of the day, gave rise to the saying that where you saw a Stanhope, there you saw a tea-pot. A story current in town was that when her son, General Lincoln Stanhope, returned home after a prolonged absence in India, he found the family party precisely as he had left them many years before, seated in the long gallery sipping their favourite refreshment. On his entry, his father looked up from this absorbing occupation, and, with a restraint indicative of the highest breeding, gave voice to the characteristic greeting—"Hullo! Linky, my dear boy, you are just in time for a cup of tea!"

Such a home was the very atmosphere in which to develop a fashionable man of the period; and the eldest son of the House, Charles. Lord Petersham, did not discredit his surroundings. Tall, handsome, and faultlessly clad, he was one of the most celebrated dandies of his day. Decidedly affected in his manners, he spoke with a slight lisp; and since he was said to recall the pictures of Henri IV., he endeavoured to accentuate this likeness by cultivating a pointed beard. He never went out till six in the evening, and one of his hobbies indoors was the strenuous manufacture of a particular sort of blacking which, he always maintained, once perfected, would surpass every other. His sitting-room emphasized his eccentricity. One side of it represented the family penchant, being covered with shelves upon which were placed canisters containing the most expensive and perfect kinds of tea. On the other, in beautiful jars, reposed an equally choice and varied assortment of snuffs. Lord Petersham's snuff-boxes and his canes were alike celebrated; indeed, his collection of the former was said to be the finest in England, and he was reported to have a fresh box for every day in the year. Thus Gronow relates that once when a light Sevres box which he was using, was admired, Lord Petersham responded with a gentle lisp—"Yes, it is a nice summer box—but would certainly be inappropriate for winter wear!"

Caricatures of the period represent the heir to the Earldom of Harrington clad in light trousers and a brown coat, seated upon a brown prancing horse. One of his whims, indeed, was to affect everything brown in hue— brown steeds, brown liveries, brown carriages, brown harness and brown attire. This was attributed to the fact of his having been in love with a fair widow of the name of Brown, whose charms he thus endeavoured to immortalise; but whatever the truth of this rumour, it is evident from the letter of Marianne Stanhope, that at the age of twenty-five he honoured with his devoted attention a lady whose personal attractions and unamiable disposition afforded a fund of entertainment to his relations living next door to her in Grosvenor Square. And this sidelight on the character of the dandy gives pause to criticism. How much, perhaps, of the eccentricity for which Lord Petersham was remarkable, like that of the celebrated Lady Hester Stanhope, may be attributed to the buffetings of a secret fate? Yet, this man who, with exceptional abilities and exceptional opportunity for exercising those abilities, could contentedly fill his empty days with the manufacture of blacking, or pass an entire night, as Gronow relates him to have done, playing battledore and shuttlecock for a wager with Ball Hughes, was, in much, a typical product of his generation. His mannerisms were accepted by his contemporaries with a forbearance which bordered on admiration, and, however childish his peculiarities, he remained unalterably popular. Nor were the other members of his family less appreciated for their good-nature and amiability.

Mrs Spencer-Stanhope to John Spencer-Stanhope. GROSVENOR SQUARE, March 19th, 1805.

I shall employ my Pen in sending you an account of last night's gaiety—the first really gay night Marianne has had.

We began our evening at a concert at Mrs Methuen's, from thence we proceeded to a very fine Assembly at the Ladies' Townshends, and about twelve arrived at the Duchess of Bolton's, where we found them tripping on the light fantastick toe with great spirit. Marianne found herself near Lady A. Stanhope, [15] who was extremely attentive to her, & her first partner introduced to her by Lady Harrington was Mr Mercer. After supper she danced a Reel, and afterwards two dances with Mr Dashwood, & then two with Mr Cooke of the Guards. I need not, after this account of the ball say she was well amused. There were a great many men & very young ones, not too fine to dance. Lord Alvanley [16] is not amongst the smartest. Hay Drummond amused me, for at five in the morning, he asked me if I had a daughter there!—I was in bed by 1/2 after five.

Marianne is quite well this morning and very well disposed to go to Almack's if your father does not object. On Thursday we go to another ball at Lady Ledespenser's.

We have now delightful weather, soft rain yesterday; therefore I expect a pull in the Sociable will be delightful to-day & do us all good after our night's raking.

The Duchess of Bolton, [17] who was a cousin of Walter Stanhope, had been a widow since 1794, when the dukedom became extinct on the death of her husband. The latter, well known during the lifetime of his elder brother as the eccentric Lord Henry Paulet, was believed to have supplied Smollet with his character of Captain Whiffle in Roderick Random. For many years he had resided at Bolton—formerly Baltimore—House, a quaintly constructed, solitary mansion, standing on the outskirts of London amid rural scenery, and encircled by a fine garden. Celebrated for its hospitality in those the last days of its splendour, Bolton House had opened its portals nightly to the guests who drove down from town to take part in the festivities there, amongst the most frequent of whom had been Walter Stanhope and his young wife. The duchess, however, subsequent to her husband's death, had heard with dismay of a projected transformation in her surroundings. The erection of new buildings in the neighbourhood was predicted—houses which would blot out the rural scenery and for ever destroy the privacy of her country home. And although this dreaded innovation did not actually come to pass till 1801, long before the first stone of Russell Square had been laid, the duchess had sold her threatened mansion to Lord Loughborough, a friend of Walter Stanhope, and had established herself in a new home but four doors from the house of the latter, No. 32 Grosvenor Square.

Settled thus in the heart of London, her love of entertaining remained undiminished, and beneath her hospitable roof the House of Stanhope, in its various branches, continued to assemble as of yore. There Lady Harrington still figured as one of the most constant guests, ever ready to do a kindly action to any of her young relations whom she encountered. Mr Mercer, whom she presented to Marianne Stanhope at the party on March 18th, was, as she was well aware, a man greatly in request in society, and to whom an introduction was eagerly coveted on account of his exceptional talent for music. Gifted with a remarkably fine voice, he sang duets in company with a friend, in Greek, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and English. "Mercer's voice and both their tastes are exquisite," relates Lord Glenbervie at this date. "They accompany themselves, Mercer on the Pianoforte, Gill on a Spanish guitar, which he has had made under his own directions in London. Their foreign airs and words they have chiefly picked up recently from ballad-singers in the streets."

Marianne Stanhope was therefore fortunate in securing this acquaintance, as she was in having for a partner "Mr Cooke of the Guards," better known in London society as "Kangaroo Cooke," for many years private aide-de-camp and secretary to the Duke of York, and of whom Gronow relates that, "He was in the best society and always attracted attention by his dandified mode of dress." Still more, besides frequenting all the Ton parties in London at night, during the day he was invariably to be seen somewhere between the barracks of the Horse Guards and the premises of Weston the tailor in Bond Street, an ultra-fashionable promenade, which he paced and re-paced, thus satisfactorily exhibiting the beauty of his clothes and encountering the most select members of his acquaintance.

The curious nickname which clung to this dandy through life is usually ascribed to a quaint resemblance noticeable in him to the Australian quadruped after which he was called; but others attributed it rather to the leaps and bounds by which he advanced socially, though on account of his connections and the exquisite perfection of his dress this could not be considered surprising. The fact that he bore such a name was well known to him, and only on one occasion did it cause him any annoyance. Once, when dining on board the flag-ship off Lisbon with Admiral Galton, he was much startled by his host suddenly springing up and shouting out a mysterious order, the terms of which seemed like a veiled insult. "Make signal," thundered the Admiral, "for the Kangaroo to get under way!" For one instant the dismayed beau feared that this was a nautical form of dismissal due to some offence of which he had unwittingly been guilty; but his neighbour at table relieved his fears by explaining that the Admiral was merely directing the immediate departure of one of the vessels of his squadron, which, by a strange coincidence, bore the same name as his honoured guest.

But a yet more celebrated leader of fashion mentioned by Mrs Stanhope as being present at the ball given by the Duchess of Bolton was Lord Alvanley. One of the accepted dandies in the same category as Lord Petersham, the Duke of Argyle, Lords Foley and Worcester, Beau Brummell and his great friend, Henry Pierrepont, Lord Alvanley had served with distinction in the army, and further enjoyed the reputation of being one of the wittiest men in Europe. Short and somewhat stout, with a small nose and florid cheeks usually adorned with a lavish sprinkling of snuff, like his rival Lord Petersham, he cultivated a lisp which accentuated the humour of his utterances. He also adopted much the same method of enhancing his value by indulging in certain peculiarities which, however inconvenient to his fellows, appear to have been accepted by them with surprising amiability. For instance, being fond of reading in bed, when he at length felt sleep overpowering him, he would extinguish his candle by the novel method of popping it alight under his bolster, or flinging it into the middle of the room and taking a shot at it with his pillow—but if the shot was unsuccessful, with a heavy sigh he left it to take its chance. So well known, indeed, was this little habit of Lord Alvanley, that hostesses who were anxious not to have their houses set on fire at midnight would depute a servant to watch in a neighbouring apartment till his lordship composed himself to sleep, a precaution which was invariably adopted by Mrs Stanhope when he paid his annual visit to Cannon Hall.

However, despite such minor failings, Lord Alvanley enjoyed a popularity seldom surpassed. To his other recommendations was added that of being a celebrated gourmet, and the excellence was proverbial of the little dinners which he gave in his house in Park Street, St James's, to which never more than eight friends were bidden, and at which there was an apricot tart on the sideboard all the year round. Moreover, although like Brummell and Sheridan, many a bon mot was fathered upon him to which he had never given utterance, yet his reputation as a wit was well deserved, and at a date when both the dandies and the fine ladies prided themselves upon their undisguised insolence, Lord Alvanley remained a shining example of good-nature, so that, save, perhaps, in one instance recorded in this book, his wit never offended. Likewise, only once, it is said, did he exhibit reluctance in consenting to oblige anyone who requested from him a favour, on which occasion he conveyed his refusal in a singularly characteristic manner. Some friends were anxious to get up a representation of Ivanhoe, and begged Lord Alvanley to take the part of Isaac. "That I fear is impossible," he replied. "Why so?" urged his friends, "since you are so clever at doing different characters." "Ah, but—" objected Lord Alvanley, "in all my life I have never been able to do a Jew!"

In truth, with the House of Israel his extravagance had made him painfully familiar; nevertheless, as mentioned by Lord Broughton, on one occasion he made his peccadilloes in this respect the subject of another jest. "Is there any chance," he asked with assumed pathos, "of the ten tribes of Israel being recovered? For I have exhausted the other two!"

* * * * *

It was three months after the ball at Bolton House, which had been preceded by a concert at Mrs Methuen's that Mrs Stanhope mentions attending another entertainment given by the latter hostess, to which she went shortly after an evening of painful excitement.

Tuesday, June 18th, 1805.

You would read in the papers of the riot at the Opera House. So complete and mischievous a one I never before saw, or ever wish to see again. I saw part of the stage pulled up and thrown into the Pitt, and when the scene was thrown down, it was only wonderful people were not killed, as the stage was full. Notwithstanding the damage was said to amount from L900 to L1200, we are to have an Opera to-night.

It was said the House of Peers intended to, object to the Commons prosecuting one of their House, but I have not heard anything more of it—so I suppose it will pass over.

It formed the great topick of conversation at the Methuen's ball where we were till five this morning—fine, but dull—the best supper I ever saw.

The Opera House, at the date of this occurrence, was usually a brilliant and attractive scene. The accommodation was divided into seats in the gallery, boxes and pit. The latter, where many of the elite were seated, was separated from the stage by the orchestra only, which then consisted of less than half the number of performers of which it would be composed to-day. There were, consequently, no stalls, but a passage led from the entrance to the front seats, known as Fop's Alley from the dandies who lounged and promenaded there, partly to see and partly to be seen by the ladies with whom the house was filled.

The dress of these exquisites was ruled by a punctilious etiquette, and their knee-breeches, lace ruffles, diamond buckles, and chapeaux bras were subject to the strictest regulations and to every fluctuation of the prevailing mode. Their gold-handled spy-glasses were impartially directed towards the stars upon the stage or to the belles in the neighbouring boxes, where, from the grand tier to the roof, was a dazzling display of beauty and of fashion. Their excursions to the Green Room were likewise interspersed with visits to those amongst the audience to whose boxes they had the entree; and as they murmured platitudes to their fair acquaintance, they traced languidly the locality of yet other friends whom they could visit, whose names were inserted upon the paper fans with which each lady was provided, and on which was printed a diagram of the boxes and a list of their owners throughout the great building.

But on this momentous night the very atmosphere of the place was transformed. At the first token of the coming storm, many of the frightened beaux hurriedly vacated their beloved promenade, while certain peaceable members of the audience also endeavoured to escape from the building. But the majority remained, brazenly instigating or prolonging the disgraceful scene which followed. The cause of the sudden riot was afterwards related personally by Michael Kelly, the then celebrated actor and stage manager.

On account of the length of the arias and ballets, and the impossibility of being able to get the lady-singers ready to begin in time, the operas seldom finished till after twelve o'clock on Saturdays. The Bishop of London had therefore sent to inform Kelly that if the curtain did not drop before midnight, the licence should be taken away and the house shut up. Against this fiat there was no appeal, and for two or three weeks running, Kelly was obliged, on Saturday night, to order the closing of the performance in the midst of an interesting scene in the ballet. On these two or three occasions this was submitted to with unexpected good-humour by the subscribers and the general public, but such a state of affairs could not long continue.

"On Saturday, the 15th of June (Oh! fatal night!)," Kelly relates, "the demon of discord appeared in all his terrors in this hitherto undisturbed region of harmony. The curtain fell before twelve o'clock, just as Deshayes and Parisot were dancing a popular pas de deux. This was the signal for the sports to begin: a universal outcry of 'Raise the curtain! Finish the ballet!' resounded from all parts of the House; hissing, hooting, yelling, (in which most of the ladies of quality joined) commenced.

"The ballet master, D'Egville, was called for, and asked 'Why he allowed the curtain to drop before the conclusion of the ballet?' He affirmed that he had directions from me to do so. I was then called upon the stage, and received a volley of hisses, yellings, etc. I stood it all, like brick and mortar; but at last, thinking to appease them, I said the truth was that an order had been received from the Bishop of London to conclude the performance before midnight. Some person from the third tier of the boxes who appeared to be a principal spokesman called out—'You know, Kelly, that you are telling a lie.' I turned round very coolly and looking up at the box from whence the lie came, I said, 'You are at a very convenient distance; come down on the stage and use that language again, if you dare!'

"This appeal was received by the audience with a loud burst of applause, and the universal cry of 'Bravo, Kelly: well replied!—turn him out! Turn the fellow out of the boxes!' The gentleman left the box, but did not think proper to make his appearance on the stage. This was a lucky turn as regarded myself, but did not appease the rioters; for finding their mandate for drawing up the curtain and finishing the ballet was not obeyed, they threw all the chairs out of the boxes into the Pitt, tore up the benches, broke the chandeliers, jumped into the orchestra, smashed the pianoforte, and continued their valourous exploits by breaking all the instruments of the poor unoffending performers. Having achieved deeds so worthy of a polished nation, and imagining no more mischief could be done, they quitted the scene of their despoliation with shouts of victory."

There was, however, a finale to the drama which the rioters did not expect. Mr Goold, a lawyer and great friend of Kelly, identified some of the ringleaders and brought actions against them for damages which cost them many hundreds of pounds. The lustres, scenes and musical instruments which had been destroyed alone were estimated at L1500. And the prosecutions were only withdrawn on the culprits undertaking to apologise for their conduct, as well as to recoup all who had suffered through their misbehaviour. Meanwhile, many persons were frightened from attending the Opera for fear of a repetition of such scenes, and the rival attraction of the performances given by the young Roscius prospered in proportion.

This infant prodigy, who was born in 1791, first appeared on the stage at the age of eleven, and for over five years personated the most difficult characters before enraptured audiences, earning from fifty to seventy-five guineas per night, apart from benefits, so that he really made from L4000 to L5000 a year.

In 1805, the House of Commons adjourned in a body to witness his performance of Hamlet. Wherever he appeared an excited mob instantly gathered; ladies vied with each other in the endeavour to kiss his hand, and at the hour when he was expected at the Play House a larger crowd assembled than ever collected to see the king. "He and Bonaparte now divide the world," wrote Sir William Knightly at this date; "This is, I believe, the first instance since the creation, of a child so much under age, getting such an income by any ability. I think he is very excellent, his gracefulness is unparalleled and the violence of the desire to see him either on or off the stage is like a madness in the people."

In the autumn of 1805, Roscius went a tour in the Provinces; in August of that year he was in the North, and Mr Smith, the Vicar of Newcastle (formerly tutor to the sons of Walter Stanhope) wrote to Mrs Stanhope an account of the prodigy's reception there:—

August 19th.

The Young Roscius is engaged here for three nights, and makes his debut this evening in the play of "Douglas"; places are as yet allowed to be taken only for the first four nights of his performance, and so great is the expectation of Newcastle, that if the boxes had held double the number of spectators, all the seats would have been taken.

But whatever impression the young actor made on the other inhabitants of Newcastle, the verdict pronounced by the critical Mr Smith is very modified praise:—

For Mrs Stanhope's comfort and the credit and taste of the people of Newcastle, I add that Master Betty has had a very good Benefit, considering the thinness of the Town. I should conjecture the house amounted to about L95; and admitting that he mouths a good deal, is indistinct in his lower tones, and does not pronounce very accurately, I was not displeased with his performance of Warwick in the play "Earl of Warwick."

Despite this far from enthusiastic verdict, great was the excitement of the Stanhope family to hear that the next county to be visited by Roscius was Yorkshire, whither they usually returned before Christmas. Ere that date, however, their thoughts were much occupied by a double tragedy, the death within a month of their friends, Lord and Lady Kinnaird. [18]

November 2nd, 1805.

I sent you word of the truly deplorable situation of the two poor Kinnairds; within one month deprived of both parents, and all their brothers in Yeomanry. When the last accounts were received, the present Lord Kinnaird was at Vienna. Lady K. did not, as I sent you word, die in her carriage, tho' in it when she was seized. Lord K. was dining at the Ordinary at Perth races and was seized at dinner, the Uvula descending into the Windpipe. He recovered sufficiently to return into the room, but did not survive many days.

Lord Primrose [19] from whom the whole detail came, sent us also an account of his gaieties, he and his father had been a tour in Scotland and had not neglected to visit at Drummond Castle with which he was enchanted, which he could not well fail being, as the lady of the Castle [20] is a passionate admirer of it, and takes great pleasure in it and manages much about the Estate.

We have at last concluded Roscoe's elaborate work, the Life of Leo X, and I do not think I shall ever go through the whole again. The Italian wars are tiresome and to me always most uninteresting. I neither like Leo's principles nor those of his biographer. Parts I shall certainly read again. The style is elegant, and he is an able apologist. I certainly should recommend parts of the work to you; it will be an amusement to you at Christmas.

The comment of Mrs Stanhope, as a staunch Tory, upon the famous Life of Leo X., which was then attracting much attention, affords an amusing contrast to the extravagant praise bestowed upon the work by the Whigs of the day. Shortly after she had finished its perusal she must have returned with her family to Yorkshire, where a fresh excitement awaited her.

"The Gallery at Bretton," she writes, "is to be painted, as well as the staircase. The Architect says, he has worked there six months already. We are going over to see the result of his labours."

Bretton Park, which was then undergoing such complete renovation, is situated about a couple of miles from Cannon Hall, and its owner at this date afforded endless food for discussion both in Yorkshire and London.

In a previous volume, [21] reference has been made to the celebrated Mrs Beaumont, or, as she was universally called by her generation, Madame Beaumont. The natural daughter of Sir Thomas Blackett of Bretton, she had been made his heiress, and had married Colonel Beaumont, M.P. for York. Although Mrs Stanhope and many others then living could remember her as a village girl riding to Penistone every market day to sell butter and eggs, Mrs Beaumont successfully ignored any such unpleasant reminiscences on the part of those acquainted with her early life, and continued to dominate a situation to which, thus heavily handicapped, she might well have succumbed.

By dint of an unassailable belief in her wealth and importance, she held her own with the county families, whose slights she ignored or repaid with interest, and whom she alternately flouted and patronised. At once a source of irritation and of amusement to her neighbours, this was particularly so in the case of the family at Cannon Hall, whose property adjoined her own and who were perpetually annoyed by her interference and impertinence. There was unfortunately no boundary line between the estates, so Mrs Beaumont used unhesitatingly to inform strangers that all the land from the walls of Bretton to those of Cannon Hall was hers; while on one occasion, when a dispute arose between herself and Mr Stanhope respecting a certain tree, she settled the question in a characteristic manner by causing this to be cut down in the night.

The letters of the younger Stanhopes were full of anecdotes of, or complaints against their aggressive neighbour. "You can have no idea what petty differences my father and Mrs Beaumont have about boundaries and rights, which Madam Graspall claims in everything," wrote Edward Stanhope on one occasion. "She warned us all not to shoot anywhere on her ground or Manors, also from Mr Bosville's, and she at once sent Mr Bird to shoot on my father's land. However, we warned him off! "But although the sportsman with the inappropriate name met with a warm reception from the younger branches of the House of Stanhope, Edward adds, "My mother never will take part in these differences but chuses to call and dine. However, as she was thus civil, this year Madam has chosen only to leave cards without inquiring whether we were at home, and has now sent out cards for a party and left us out!" None the less, although later in life, as we shall see, the family at Bretton were cleverly satirised by Marianne Stanhope, a show of friendship was maintained between the two families, which, in the case of the younger generation was very genuine, for the daughters of Madame Beaumont were the antithesis of their parent and were simple and charming.

Yet Mrs Beaumont was undoubtedly one of the most curious characters of her generation, in that, as stated, her self-assurance enabled her to tilt successfully against the strong social prejudices of her day and to sustain an all but impossible position with undoubted success. While Yorkshire and London rang with tales of her effrontery, the imperturbable lady, instead of perceiving snubs, dealt them, and in the height of her triumphant career enjoyed the wrath of the amazed recipients. Meanwhile, although many of the stories related of her were genuine, a few were undoubtedly apocryphal, among which must be classed the following, very generally believed in the West Riding a century ago.

It was said that being much addicted to gambling and proud of the immensity of the wagers which she dared to risk, Madame Beaumont on one occasion staked the entire Bretton estate on a game of chance. She lost; and her opponent, being apparently as sporting as herself, dared her to win it back by riding through Bretton Park and village astride on a jackass with her face to the tail The idea of the haughty and pompous lady undertaking such a penance must have seemed actually incredible, but Madame Beaumont was not readily daunted. To the unbounded surprise of her fellow-gamester she accomplished the feat and thus reinstated herself in all her former wealth and grandeur.

In Yorkshire, she invariably drove about the country in a carriage drawn by four beautiful black horses on which were seated postilions in velvet jockey-caps. She owned an extraordinary number of carriages, and directly news reached her that any visitor of importance was being entertained at Cannon Hall, she would order out her finest equipage and drive over in full state with the intention of enticing away the guest whose rank attracted her. As usual, no rebuffs discouraged her-she failed to perceive them. In London, she strove with equal determination to admit no one to her parties who was not the possessor of a title—commoners, however well born, were received by her with a scarcely concealed insolence. The big yellow coach in which she and her daughters drove about town was a familiar sight, making its triumphal progress through the most fashionable streets, or drawn up by the Park railings that its occupants might converse with the elite among the loungers who thronged around it. For those who scoffed at Madame Beaumont courted her diligently on account of the excellence of her entertainments, while her luxury and the lavish nature of her expenditure formed their favourite topic of jest and gossip. Apart from her boundless hospitality to those whom she considered sufficiently important to be honoured by it, the sums which she spent on the house and stables at Bretton were said to have been enormous; and it was doubtless with considerable curiosity that the family at Cannon Hall, on their return to Yorkshire, hurried over to inspect the alterations which their neighbour was effecting.

Mrs Spencer-Stanhope to John Spencer-Stanhope. CANNON HALL, December 4th, 1805.

We drove to Bretton this morning. We walked all over the gardens and the House. The number of people is enough to distract one Architect. Improvers, Agents, etc., etc., without end. Much is done, and still much remains to be done. Madame B. says she shall quite rejoice to leave the place. The plants appear in great order and are very valuable. The Collection is extremely large, but at present the plants are so very small that to the ignorant they appear of little value— which we know is impossible to be the case.

Thanks for the account of your studies; as for mine, I cannot give a very favourable report of them. Hume's Henry 8th, Warton on Pope, Cowper's Letters, and The Idler, are the books I have at present in hand; but I have not much leisure. We are at present alone, and with my family round me, I do not wish for company. It is not a bustle of company I like, for I do not like the Society of the Country—it is morning, noon, and night.

Roscius is now performing at Sheffield—I should like to see him there!

Life in the country at this date was apparently more exhausting than life in London. No moment of the day was sacred from the encroachments of visitors. Morning calls were the fashion, and it was held to be impolite to refuse admission to friends who, after a long drive over bad roads, not only expected the offer of some substantial refreshment, but in view of the fatigue they had undergone and their desire that they should be sufficiently recovered before undertaking the return journey, were apt to outstay their welcome. Of a neighbour, however, who resided beyond the distance practicable for a morning call, and with whom Marianne Stanhope had apparently been staying at this date, she gives a more enthusiastic description. Mr Fawkes of Farnley was the son of her father's old friend and neighbour at Horsforth, in the days of his youth, Walter Hawkesworth, [22] who took the name of Fawkes on inheriting the property of Farnley under the will of a cousin. He was succeeded, in 1792, by this son, Walter Ramsden Fawkes, who, in 1806, became Member for York, and later, as his father had been before him, High Sheriff for the county. This younger Mr Fawkes was a man of exceptional talent, who is best remembered by posterity as having been one of the earliest and most munificent patrons of J. M. W. Turner, but who was better known to his contemporaries for his remarkable oratory. Mr Stanhope relates of him that once at a meeting which was convened in Yorkshire to discuss the Peace of Amiens, he made a speech so brilliant that the reporters declared themselves unable to take it down, so completely were they carried away by its extraordinary eloquence and beauty of language.

Marianne Spencer-Stanhope to John Spencer-Stanhope. December 4th, 1805.

You cannot think how charmed I was with Mr Fawkes when we were at Farnley, he is so full of information and talent. He told us two stories which pleased me so much that I will endeavour to relate them—both facts.

About ten years ago a friend of his was riding thro' a long and gloomy wood in one of the inland counties. As he came to the most intricate part, suddenly his horse made a dead pause, pricked up his ears, snorted, and when spurred, refused to proceed, his eyes all the time upon one spot on the ground. On looking towards this place, conceive the gentleman's horror at beholding a woman's body weltering in blood and a dog licking the wounds. The traveller stood for some minutes petrified with horror, his eyes rivetted on the body, when all at once the dog, perceiving him, set off full speed thro' the thickest part of the wood.

He was resolved to pursue the animal, and instantly spurring his horse, he followed it through most intricate and unfrequented roads for about ten miles, when he saw it enter a miserable house in a little village. The traveller put up his horse, and entering the same house, desired they would bring him something to drink. There were three ill-looking fellows sitting round a table, under which the dog had lain down. The traveller's object was now to find out to whom the dog belonged, he tried every means, in vain, for about an hour, when, seizing hold of the poker he, under some trivial pretext, gave the dog a violent blow on the head, upon which one of the men with an oath asked him why he did this. The gentleman with much presence of mind, turned the poker promptly against the man who asked the question, and having overpowered him in a pretended quarrel, discovered in his pocket a bag of gold. The rest I do not know, but the man was hanged for the murder in Oxfordshire or Warwickshire about ten years ago. Is it not a curious story?

Mr Fawkes thinks it would be a fine subject for a picture—the awful gloominess of the wood, the dead body, the dog licking the wounds, the horror of the horse, and the man's countenance as he sat contemplating the scene—he thinks might be wonderfully portrayed on canvas.

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