Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Gunnings

Some anecdotes were mentioned a few days before of a person who, in a very different way, could boast of a superiority as prominent as the Duke of Marlborough's, I mean the celebrated Countess of Coventry.

From old Sheridan (the father of Richard Brinsley) Lord Braybrooke heard some curious anecdotes of her early life.

Mrs. Gunning (her mother) consulted Sheridan as to what she should do with her two beautiful but penniless daughters. He recommended that they should be presented at the Castle. Here a great difficulty occurred: by what possible means where they to procure court dresses?

This Sheridan obviated: he was at that time manager of the Dublin Theatre, and offered them a loan of the stage dresses of Lady Macbeth and Juliet. In these they appeared most lovely; and Sheridan, after having attended the toilet, claimed a salute from each as his reward.

Very soon after this, a most diabolical scheme was formed by some unprincipled young men; they invited Mrs. Gunning and her two daughters to dinner, and infused strong narcotics in the wine, intending to take advantage of the intoxication which must ensue to carry off the two young women.

Fortunately, Sheridan discovered their base designs, and arrived just in time to rescue the ladies. He lived to see one of these girls Duchess of Argyle, and the other Countess of Coventry; and, it is melancholy to add, lived to see his application for admission to their parties rejected.

Lady Coventry enjoyed one very singular triumph. Having one day casually mentioned to the king, that she could not walk in the Mall because the crowd who came to gaze at her pressed round her in a way that was quite alarming, his Majesty gallantly exclaimed that the finest woman in England should not be prevented from gracing the Mall. He desired that whenever she wished to walk she would send notice to the
captain upon guard, and at the same time ordered that she should be attended by a sergeant's guard.

She walked several times with this train: of course, the crowd increased; but they were prevented from pressing upon her, and her vanity, which was excessive, must have received the highest gratification in this singular distinction.*

Editor's Notes
** * These stories of the Gunnings might be amply confirmed from contemporary accounts of them. Walpole states that they borrowed court dresses to attend a drawing-room at the Castle, Dublin, from Peg Woffington, and writes thus of them in 1751:
'There are two Irish girls of no fortune, who are declared the handsomest women alive. I think their being two so handsome, and both such perfect figures, is their chief excellence, for, singly, I have seen much handsomer figures than either: however, they can't walk in the park, or go to Vauxhall, but such mobs follow them that they are therefore driven away.'

Lady Coventry died in September 1760, in her twenty-seventh year, of a consumption. Till within a few days of her death, she lay on a couch with a looking-glass in her hand. When she found her beauty, which she idolized, was quite gone, she took to her bed and would be seen by nobody—not even by her nurse, suffering only the light of a lamp in her room. She then took leave of her husband, who had forgiven her errore, and died with the utmost resignation.'— (Walpole).

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Duke of Marlborough - Admiral Barrington

April 1810.—Looking at the fine full-length portrait of John, Duke of Marlborough; Lord Braybrooke told us some interesting and curious anecdotes of him.

When this great man, at a very advanced age, was called to attend a council on the best mode of defence from a threatened invasion, he gave his opinion with his usual firmness and penetration. Afterwards he said that for above fifty years he had served his country and should be happy to do so still, but that he was aware his faculties were impaired.

At present, he added, he was fully conscious of his deficiency, but he feared the time might soon come when he should be no longer aware of it. He, therefore, made it his earnest request that he might never more be summoned to council, and that it elsewhere, on any occasion, he expressed an opinion, no importance should be attached or deference paid to it.

It is melancholy to reflect how low became the degradation of that mind, whose decaying powers were equal to such an act of magnanimity. After having had everything to gratify—first, as the finest, gayest man in Europe, then as its greatest general, and afterwards as its greatest negotiator and statesman—after all this, in a state of complete imbecility, an absolute driveller, he was actually exhibited by his servants to all who chose to give an additional fee after having stared at all the magnificence of Blenheim. In this manner my grandfather (then a lad just entered at Oxford) beheld the wreck of this great man, and has often described the melancholy spectacle to Lord Braybrooke.*

A similar instance of conscious decay and of magnanimity, perhaps even superior to the Duke of Marlborough, was at the same time mentioned. The late Admiral Barringtou, being called upon by the Admiralty to take the command of the Channel fleet, refused it, saying that his mental powers were so weakened that he was no longer equal to a situation of such importance, but that he thought himself still very well able to act under another, though not to command; he therefore requested to be second.*

In the course of the following year his weakness had so increased, that he quarrelled with the Admiralty for not placing him in that very situation for which he had himself told them he was unfit.

Editor's Notes
* "In life's last scene what prodigies surprize,
Fears of the brave, and follies of the wise !
From Marlborough's eyes the streams of dotage flow,
And Swift expires a driv'ler and a show."
The Vanity of Human Wishes

It was the sagacious remark of Mr. Cobden to myself that great men should rarely be consulted or listened to in advanced age, because their authority increases whilst their mental powers decay.

** Admiral Barrington, a highly distinguished officer, was the brother of the Honourable Shute Barrington, Bishop of Durham, and great-uncle of the present Lord Barrington. The account which a surviving member of the family heard from the Bishop wag that, when the offer of the command of the Channel fleet was made to the Admiral, he asked whether it had been offered to Lord Howe, for he was the man who ought to have it.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Tyrone Ghost Story (Part 2)

Real particulars of the preceding story dictated to me by Lady E. Butler and Miss Ponsonby (the ladies of Llangollen), who had frequently heard them from many of Lady Beresford's and of Mr. Gorges' descendants, with some of whom they are intimately connected and related.

Miss Hamilton, a rich and beautiful heiress, was early married to Sir Martin Beresford: it was supposed that both before and after her marriage she had been too intimately connected with Lord Tyrone. Some time after her marriage, in the year 1704, it was agreed that Lord Tyrone, Sir Martin and Lady Beresford, should pass one Christmas at Colonel Gorges' house, called Kilbrew, in the county of Meath.

One night, after the family were all retired. Lady Beresford was surprised to see the door of her chamber open, and Lord Tyrone walked in, dressed in his robe de chamber. She exclaimed ' Good God, what brings you here at this time
of night?'

He walked up to the bedside and replied, ' I left Corraughmore with an intention of coming here. I was taken ill on the road, and have just expired. I am come to you for the ring which I gave you.'

Lady Beresford, horror-struck, pushed Sir Martin to wake him. ‘He cannot wake while I am here,' said Lord Tyrone; ' He will die; you will marry the gentleman of this house: you will die in childbed of your second son, but you shall see me again; give me the ring.'

Lady Beresford, extremely agitated, could not immediately get it off her finger; he seized her hand, and the ring appeared to her to roll off upon the floor. The next morning Lady Beresford tried to persuade herself that the whole of this scene was the effect of imagination, but on her wrist she found the mark of Lord Tyrone's hand; each finger left a black mark as if it had been burnt. On a desk which stood near the bed, and on which Lord Tyrone had leant, the same trace of five fingers was found.

That on Lady Beresford's wrist never was effaced, and to her dying day she wore a black ribbon bracelet to conceal it. The ring was likewise missing; nor could it after the most diligent search be ever found, though every board of the floor was taken up the next day.

In the course of time Sir Martin died, and Lady Beresford did marry Colonel Gorges. By Sir Martin she had one son, born in 1694; by Colonel Gorges, three daughters, one of whom married Lord Howth, and another Lord Desart. After these she had a son.

Colonel Gorges, fearing that his birth might prey upon her mind, still strongly affected with the recollection of the vision, persuaded her that her child was
a girl. She was got so well after her confinement, that the carriage was ordered for her to take the air.

Meanwhile, she unfortunately enquired of a housemaid who came into the room, how her child was; the maid replied, ' He is very well.' 'He!’ said Lady B,' it is then a son,' and she burst into tears. Her husband and friend at length succeeded in persuading her that, after having been. so long brought to bed, all danger must be over, and she proceeded to take the air as she had intended,

As she was going down stairs, she exclaimed, 'There is Lord Tyrone; I see him on the landing place!' She fainted, was carried to her bed, and died a few days after.

Some years after, in 1717, her son. Sir M. Beresford, married Lady C. de la Poer, the daughter and heiress of Lord Tyrone, and was the grandfather of the present Lord Waterford.

Editor’s note
It is amusing to compare these two versions, each professing to rest on the same quality of information, and with equal pretensions to the title of ' real particulars.' The internal evidence, however, is in favour of that furnished by the ladies of Llangollen. The story is not mentioned by Dr. Ferrier, Dr. Hibbert, or Sir Walter Scott. Mrs. Crow ('Nightside of Nature') merely alludes to it as well known and well authenticated.

According to Lodge's 'Irish Peerage' (confirmed by Burke), Sir Tristram (not Sir Martin) Beresford, third baronet, born 1669, married, 1687, Nicola Sophia, youngest daughter and coheir of Hugh Hamilton, Baron of Glenawly; and by her (who remarried with Lieut.-General Eichard Gorges, of Kilbrew, county of Meath) had issue one son, Sir Marcus, created Earl of Tyrone in 1746, having in 1717 married the Lady Catherine Poer, daughter and heir to James Earl of Tyrone, who died in 1704. Sir Tristram died in 1701, three years before Lord Tyrone.

I am indebted to my friend, Mr. F. Pollock, for the following extract from a letter to himself:—
'I first heard the story of the Beresford ghost from Mr. Cumberland. He told it finely. I was about twelve years old at the time . . . (this would be sixty years ago). Long afterwards I met with the ghost in print, in a magazine which my father took in regularly. A discussion on tales of mystery produced a letter from one of the Beresford family, containing an account of the real circumstances of the story. The lady of the velvet bracelet, when about to be married for the second time, really had a dream warning her of the unhappiness likely to result from the contemplated union. It was well known to all the family of the intended bride that she had been subject to a disorder which had left a deep scar on her wrist — long before the visitation of the burning spirit; and she had covered this scar with a velvet bracelet most carefully ever since it had been formed.'

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Tyrone Ghost Story

Lord Tyrone and Lady Beresford were born in Dublin. They were left orphans in their infancy to the care of the same person, who brought them up in the principles of Deism. Their guardian dying when they were about fourteen, they fell into very different hands, and even means was tried to convince them of the truth of revealed religion, but in vain.

Though separated, their mutual affection remained unalterable. After some years they made a solemn vow to each other, that whichever should die first, would (if permitted by the Almighty) appear to the other and declare what religion was most approved by God.

Lady Beresford shortly after married Sir Martin Beresford. One morning she came down unusually pale with black ribbon round her wrist. Sir Martin asked whether she was ill, and whether she had sprained her wrist she replied she was well, and conjured him never to enquire the cause of her wearing the ribbon. She expressed anxiety for the arrival of the post.

Sir Martin asked whether she expected letters. She said she expected to hear that Lord Tyrone was dead; that he died last Tuesday at 4 o'clock. Sir Martin tried to comfort her, and assured her she was deceived by some idle dream.

The letter arrived conveying the intelligence of Lord Tyrone's death, which had happened at the precise time Lady Beresford had specified.

She then informed Sir Martin that she had to announce to him that she should shortly give him a son, an event that had long and ardently desired. In some months Lady Beresford was delivered of a son; she had before given birth to two daughters. Sir Martin survived this event but four years.

After his death Lady Beresford shur herself very much up, she visited no family but that of the clergyman of the village. His family consisted of himself, his wife, and a son, who, at the time of Sir Martin's death, was quite a boy; to this son, however, she was in a few years married.

He behaved to her in the most scandalous manner. After having given birth to two daughters. Lady Beresford insisted on a separation from her profligate husband. After a few years she was induced by his entreaties to pardon and once more live with him, and in time became the mother of another son.

The day she had lain in a month, she sent for Lady Betty Cobb, her intimate friend, requesting her and a few friends to spend the day with her, as it was her birthday; among others, was the clergyman by whom she was baptized. Having observed that she was forty-eight that day, the clergyman assured her she was only forty-seven: telling her he had had frequent disputes with her mother on the subject, and had a few days before searched the register, which proved him to be right and her only forty-seven instead of forty-eight.

'You have signed my death warrant,' said she, and requested the company to leave her, as she had many things to settle before she died. She requested that Lady Betty Cobb and her son by Sir Martin (who was about twelve years old), would come to her, as she had something to communicate to them.

When the attendants were withdrawn, she said,'I have something to communicate to you both before I die, a period which is not far distant. You, Lady Betty, are no stranger to the friendship which always subsisted between Lord Tyrone and myself; we were educated under the same roof, and in the same principles of Deism. When my friends afterwards tried to persuade us to embrace the revealed religion, their arguments, though insufficient to convince, had power to stagger our former faith. In this perplexing state of doubt, we made a vow to each other that whichever died first should (if permitted) appear to the other and declare what religion was most acceptable to the Almighty. Accordingly, while Sir Martin and I were asleep, I woke suddenly and found Lord Tyrone sitting by the bed-side. I screamed, and endeavoured to wake Sir Martin. " For Heaven's sake," said I, " by what means, or for what purpose, came you here at this time of night ?

"Have you forgot your promise ? " said he; "I died last Tuesday, at four o'clock, and have been permitted by the Supreme Being to appear to you to assure you that revealed religion is the only true faith and the only means by which we can be saved. I am further suffered to inform you that you are with child of a son who shall marry my daughter. Not many years after his birth, Sir Martin will die; you will be married again to a man whose ill conduct will make you miserable; you will bring him two daughters and afterwards a son, in childbed of whom you will die in the forty-seventh year of your age."

" Just Heaven," I exclaimed, " and cannot I prevent this?" "Undoubtedly, you may," said he, "you are a free agent, and may prevent this by resisting every temptation to a second marriage; but the passions are strong; hitherto you have had no trials; you know not their power. More I am not permitted to say; but if, after this warning, you persist in your infidelity, your lot in another world would be miserable indeed."

" May I not ask," said I, " if you are happy ? "Had I been otherwise, I should not have been permitted to appear to you." "I may then infer that you are happy; when the morning comes, how shall I be convinced that your appearance has been real, and not the phantom of my imagination?"

" Will not the news of my death be sufficient to convince you ?" " No," returned I, "I might have had such a dream, and that dream by accident come to pass. I wish to have some stronger proof of its reality."

“You shall," said he; then waving his hand, the bed-curtains, which were of crimson velvet, were instantly drawn through a large hook of ivory, by which the tester of the bed, which was of an oval form, was suspended. "In that," said he, " you can't be mistaken; no mortal arm could have done this." "But we are sleeping, and people have much greater strength then than when awake. I may fancy I have done it in my sleep. I shall still doubt."

" You have a pocket-book, on the leaves of which I will write; you know my handwriting." He wrote. " Still," said I, " I may in the morning have my doubts; though waking I cannot mistake your hand writing; sleeping I may."

"You are hard of belief. I must not touch you; it would injure you irreparably; it is not for spirits to touch mortal flesh." "I do not regard a slight blemish." "You are a woman of courage. Hold out your hand." I did; he touched my wrist: My hand was cold as marble. In an instant the sinews shrank up, every nerve withdrew. "Now," said he, "while you live, let no mortal eye behold that wrist; to see would be sacrilege."

He stopped: I turned to him again; he was gone. During the time I converse with him, my thoughts were perfectly calm and collected; but the moment he was gone, I felt chilled with horror; the bed trembled under me; I endeavoured to awake Sir Martin, but in vain.

In this state of horror and agitation, I lay for some time when, a shower of tears coming to my relief, I dropped asleep.

'In the morning Sir Martin arose as usual without perceiving the situation in which the curtain remained. When I awoke, I found Sir Martin already gone. I went into the gallery adjoining our apartment, and took from thence a very large broom used for sweeping the cornices: by the help of this, though not without difficulty, I took down the curtain, as I imagined this extraordinary appearance would excite
enquiries among the servants which I wished to avoid.

I then went to my bureau, locked up the pocket-book, and took out some black ribbon, which I bound round my wrist. When I came down, the agitation of my mind had left an impression on my countenance too strong to pass unnoticed by Sir Martin. He enquired the cause of my visible disorder. I told him I was well, but informed him that Lord Tyrone was no more; at the same time entreated him to drop all enquiries about the black ribbon round my wrist.

He kindly desisted from all importunity, nor did he ever after enquire the cause. You were born, my son, as had been foretold, and four years after your ever-to-be-lamented father expired in my arms.

'After this melancholy event, I determined, as the only means by which I might avoid the dreadful event of the prediction, for ever to abandon society, and pass the remainder of my days in solitude; but few can endure to exist long in a state of perfect sequestration. I commenced an intercourse with one family only, nor could I foresee the fatal consequences that afterwards ensued.

Little did I imagine that their son, their only son, was the person intended by fate for my undoing. In a few years I ceased to regard him with indifference; I endeavoured by every means to conquer a passion the fatal consequences of which, if ever I should yield to its impulse, were too well known; and I fondly imagined I had overcome its influence, when the event of one fatal moment undermined my fortitude, and plunged me into that abyss I had so long determined to shun.

(He had frequently solicited his parents for leave to go into the army, and at length obtained their per mission. He came to bid me farewell before departure: the moment he entered the room he h! on his knees at my feet, told me he was miserable and that I alone was the cause. At that instant my fortitude forsook me. I gave myself up for lost, I considered my fate as inevitable; and without further hesitation consented to a union, the result of which I knew to be misery, and its end death.

After a few years were passed, the conduct of my husband amply warranted my demand of a separation, and I hoped by this step to avoid the fatal accomplishment of the prophecy; but won over by his strong entreaty, I was prevailed on to pardon and once more to reside with him, though not till after I had, as I imagined, passed my forty-seventh year, but I have this day heard from indisputable authority that I am but forty-seven this day.

Of the near approach of my death I entertain not the least doubt, but I do not dread its arrival: armed with the prospects of Christianity, I can meet the King of Terrors without dismay, and without a tear bid adieu to the regions of mortality for ever.

When I am dead, as the necessity of its concealment closes with my life, could wish that you. Lady Betty Cobb, would unbind my wrist and take from thence the black ribbon, and let my son and yourself behold my arm.'

Lady Beresford here paused for some time, but renewing the conversation she entreated her son to behave so as to merit the honour he would in future receive from a union with the daughter of Lord Tyrone.

Lady Beresford then expressed a wish to lie down on the bed, and endeavoured to compose herself to sleep. Lady Betty Cobb and her son called the attendants to watch their mistress, and, should they observe the slightest change in her, instantly to let them know.

An hour passed; all was silent: they listened at the door; everything was still, but in about half-an-hour the bell rang violently. They flew to the apartment, but before they reached the door they heard the servant exclaim, ' Oh she is dead, my mistress is dead.'

Lady Betty sent the servants out of the room; she approached the bed of Lady Beresford with her son ; he knelt by his mother's bedside. Lady Betty lifted up her hand, unbound the black ribbon exactly in the state Lady Beresford had described,—every sinew shrank up, and every nerve withered.

N.B. Lady Beresford's son, as had been predicted, is married to the daughter of Lord Tyrone: the black ribbon and pocket-book are in the possession of Lady Bettv Cobb in Ireland, or Marlborough Buildings, Bath: who, together with the Tyrone family, will assert its truth, and by whom the above narrative is stated, and was transcribed at Tallerig, on July 24th, 1794, by the Honourable Mrs. Maitland. (Copy of a Copy taken in 1801.)

Friday, October 21, 2005

Buxton Letter

Extract of a Letter from Dr. J——n, at Buxton, to his friend, J——s B——II, Esq., in Scotland. (By Pepper Arden, afterwards Lord Alvanley.)

Fortune often delights to exalt what nature has neglected, and that renown which cannot be claimed by intrinsic excellence is frequently derived from accident.

The Rubicon was ennobled by the passage of Caesar, and the bubbling up of a stream in the middle of a lime quarry has given celebrity to Buxton. The waters in which it is agreed that no mineral properties reside, and which seem to have no better claim to superior heat than what is derived from comparing them with the almost Siberian atmosphere that surrounds them, are said, however, to possess a spirit which, though too volatile and unknown to receive a name from the chymists of graver ages, have, in this fanciful era, when Macaroni philosophers hold flirtation with science, taken the lead of all the other elements, and those whose nerves have not found any relief in change of sky and variety, seek for a refuge here in fixed air.

It is, indeed, amazing to see the avidity with which mankind seek after that health which they have voluntarily alienated, like Methodists who hope for salvation through faith without works. Invalids come here in hopes of finding in the well the vigour which they have lost in the bowl, and of absorbing in the bath the moisture which evaporated in the ball or the masquerade.

For this purpose they venture to this dreary spot, which I contemplates with envy the Highlands of Scotland, surrounded by barren mountains, beaten by storms almost perpetual.

Scarce an inhabitant is to be seen unless when the sun, whose appearance is justly considered as one of the wonders of the Peak, draws them out from a curiosity natural to man who wonders into what cavern the storm has retired.

Yet this is summer; and if the winter hold its natural proportion, the inhabitants of the hall—which is not thirty yards distant from the well—must pass months without any communication with it. Yet here, the same folly which created the disease for the cure of which so much is suffered, obstructs the operation of the remedy from which so much is hoped.

Animated by the appetite, which even the diluent powers of common water, assisted by the vibrations of diurnal exercise and the collisive hilarity of reciprocal salutation, would give to a body obstructed by gluttony and rest — they devour with deleterious hunger a farinaceous sponge, the interstices of which are inundated with butter, which might smile at the peristaltic exertions of an elephant, and of which the digestion would be no less an evil than the obstruction.

If obstructed, it convulses the stomach with rancid exhalations; and if by its gravity it finds its way to the bowels, it tumefies them with flatulent paroxysms by its detention: in both it becomes acrimonious and mephitic, and while its fumes arise and salute the brain with palsy, its caput mortuum descends and lays the foundation of fistula.

Very providentially, however, the evils of breakfast are not aggravated by dinner. Dinner is rather a ceremony here than a repast, and those who are delicate and sick, acquire popularity by disseminating among the multitude that food which nothing but rude health, both of body and mind, can digest. When it is finished, however, the chaplain calls upon the company to be thankful for what they have received; and the company, remembering they have breakfasted, join in the thanksgiving.

The evils of the day are likewise happily alleviated by the early hour of retiring to bed; and if sleep forsakes the pillow, even fancy itself cannot charge it on the supper. There are, notwithstanding, here upwards of two hundred people, who, by talking continually of how much nature has left undone, and how little art has done for the place, increase the spleen they come to cure.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sir Walter Scott's Stories

April, 1807. Mr. Scott, the author of the 'Lay,' told us some curious border histories. We were much pleased with the conclusion of the history of Wat Tynlin. When he was grown old and blind, one of the agents of the Lady of Branksome, in her absence, called upon him for the rent of a small tower which he inhabited; part of which is standing to this day.

Wat, incensed, replied he never had paid rent, nor would at that age. At last he delivered his bow to the steward, and said he would pay the rent to the man who could draw that bow; the bow was certainly tried, but we will hope that the lady would never have obliged such a man to pay his rent. However, certain it is that some vain attempts were made to draw his bow, and that Wat never paid his rent.

Mr. Scott spoke of one story which might make an excellent ballad, but he said he could not write it, as to do it justice much humour, a quality he never possessed* was required. Scott of Harden, one of his ancestors, was a famous border thief, and at one time, when he had either spoiled the neighbouring English of all their cattle or had frightened them all away, he began to fear that from disuse he might become less expert at the honourable trade he pursued; and to keep his hand in, amused himself with driving the cattle of one of his own countrymen and neighbours, Murray of Elibank, an ancestor of the present Lady Elibank.

Murray soon found means of revenging himself, and brought Scott, his followers, his cattle, &c., &c., all prisoners to Elibank Castle. On the walls was sitting his wife, who, perceiving the train that followed him, asked what he meant to do with Scott. ' "Why, hang him, to be sure,' was the answer. The more prudent wife exclaimed, ‘What! hang such a winsome mannie as Harden, when we have three such sorry damsels at home?'

Murray was persuaded by his wife, and sending for one of his daughters, whose ugly face and immense mouth had acquired her the name of Mag o' mouth Murray, proposed to Scott to marry her, leaving him no other alternative but a halter. The unfortunate
prisoner most ungallantly refused the lady; and the tradition says that it was not till the rope was tied to the tree, and he began to feel it tighten, that be repented.

He was married, and sorrowfully bent his steps homewards, taking with him his ugly wife.

* (Note by Miss Wynn.)— When in 1816 Scott published Paul's ‘Letters to his Kinsfolk,’ in which the attempts at humour so entirely failed, I lamented his having forgotten this declaration. Now, in 1824, when he is considered as the undoubted, though unacknowledged, author of so many admirable novels, containing more humour, than could probably be found in all the other authors of this century collected together, I wonder at his having made it. I see that when I tell this story nobody believes me, and I feel I should doubt my own recollection if the above had not been written on the very day that I saw Scott, in 1807.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Last Moments of Louis XVI - Escape of the Ducs D'Angouleme and Berry

Stowe: January 9th, 1807.—This morning I have been very much interested by an account given us of some of the horrors of the Revolution by the Duke de Sirent. He read to us a history of the last moments of Louis XVI, written by Abbé Edgeworth, at the request of the brothers of that unfortunate Monarch. In the history there was little that we did not know before from Clery's and other publications: but every particular became doubly interesting—first, from being so authenticated, but still more from the extreme emotion of the reader. This was peculiarly striking when, in describing the anxiety expressed by the King respecting the fate of the clergy, the abbé says he informed him of the kind, hospitable reception they had met with in this country, upon which the King forcibly expressed his gratitude towards the English for the protection they had afforded to his unfortunate subjects. At these words the poor old man's voice faltered, and his eyes filled as he looked towards LadyB.

The most striking circumstance mentioned by Edgeworth is a speech of the Deputy of the National Assembly, who was ordered to accompany him in the fiacre, which carried him from the National Assembly to the melancholy abode of the condemned Monarch. After very little communication on indifferent subjects, the man suddenly exclaimed, 'Mon Dieu, quelle tache nous avons a remplir f Quel homme! quelle resignation! quel courage! II faut qu'il y ait la quelque chose de surhumain.' *

After this speech the abbé had the prudence to preserve perfect silence; he thought that, though he might be able to work on the mind of this man, it was still more likely, considering the short time they had to pass together, that he might only exasperate him, and be denied the permission of seeing the unfortunate King. The behaviour of Louis in these last trying moments exhibits proofs not only of his uncommon piety, resignation, and meekness, but also of fortitude and resolution, which appear little to accord with general weakness and indecision of his character.

In reading this melancholy history, it was singular to see that the duke appeared to be most affected by trifling instances of degradation, which we might otherwise have overlooked. For instance, when Louis described as receiving the sacrament sans prie-Dieu sans cousin, in a small bed-room** without any furniture but trois mauvaises chaises en cuir, he was deeply affected, probably from the having so frequently been an eye-witness of all the splendour which used to attend this ceremony.

Afterwards, the duke gave us the account of his escape from Paris with the sons of the Comte d'Artois,— the Duc d'Angouleme and the Duke de Bern. These children were entrusted to him not only by their father, but by the King, who both seem on this occasion to have given evident proofs of indecision and weakness of mind. The Comte d'Artois (now Monsieur) having told the duke that he wished him to escape with his sons, whose governor he was, everything was prepared for their departure that night.

The father seems to have little troubled himself with any arrangements, saying to the duke, 'Je m'en, repose sur vows, ce sont vos enfants, and refusing even to name the place or country to which he was to take them. At last, upon his representing that they were enfants de l’etat, he promised to get from Louis an order empowering the duke to remove them. Very late at night, not having received this order. Monsieur de Sirent determined to follow Monsieur to the queen's supper, where he knew him to be.

He says he never can forget the appearance of deep dejection and consternation which he saw in the faces of all the royal family, assembled after supper in the state bedchamber of the queen. In a window stood the King and the Comte d'Artois, in earnest conversation. Monsieur de Sirent endeavoured once more to obtain further orders; representing that from various political circumstances, of which he was ignorant, there must be reasons for preferring one country to another for the refuge of the royal children.

After a pause, both brothers, nearly in the same words, assured him of their perfect confidence in him, and refused to give any further orders; thus shifting all the weight of responsibility from their own shoulders upon his. They gave, however, one much stronger proof of pusillanimity; when the duke repeated his request for a written order from the King, His Majesty said, 'a propos, il vous en faut un assurement,' and put into his hands a folded paper. His dismay must have been great when, on his return home, he found this to be only an order to furnish him with post-horses; in short, a sort of safe conduct for himself, without any mention of the young princes.

He had, therefore, to set out on his perilous enterprise with the additional horror of knowing that, if the princes were missed soon enough to be overtaken by the emissaries of the National Assembly, he had no permission to show; and, therefore, the whole blame would fall on his devoted head.

Besides, it seemed but too probable that they might work on the mind of the weak monarch so far as to make him wish to recall the princes; in which case, he would never avow that he had permitted their departure. Neither of these fears were expressed by M. de Sirent, but from the circumstances, it was easy to imagine what he must feel.

At last, in the middle of the night, they set out; the duke, his two pupils, a surgeon, and a servant in one carriage, followed by one in which were the duchess and her daughters. The children had no idea where they were going; they were told they were going to see the departure of a regiment of hussars which they had much admired.

The hairbreadth escapes of this journey made one's blood run cold. Monsieur de Sirent describes the
villages as ne finissant point, particularly one near Paris filled with laundresses, who poured upon them the most violent torrent of abuse.

After some hours' travelling, it became necessary to give the children some breakfast, which he thought might be safely obtained at the seat of the Garde des Sceaux, M. de Massieu (I think). He was absent; but from an old concierge, who knew Monsieur de Sirent to be an old friend of his master, they got breakfast. While the children were eating, the duke was examining the old concierge. Finding that he had lived 20 years with Monsieur de M., he ventured to tell him that his visitors were the sons of the Comte d'Artois, asking him to procure them horses.

In this he succeeded, and for some time they travelled prosperously, the innkeepers too much occupied by passing events to trouble their heads about un simple particulier voyageant a Spa pour sa sante avec sa femne et ses enfans.

At the town of Buonavite, where they intended to sleep and expected to find a bon gîte , they found the streets full of populace, who collected round the carriage, calling them aristocrats, and by every other abusive term which seemed to follow of course. They were actually beginning to pull off the papers which were stuck on to conceal the arms on the carriages, when the courier, to whom, fortunately, their intention of stopping had not been communicated, announced the horses to be put to, and they set off again, not very sorry to lose sight of the good people of Buonavite.

At the next stop they found only a wretched post house, but the master promised to get them some eggs for supper, and the cushions of the carriages were taken out to make a sort of bed for the princes and the ladies. While they were resting, the duke sat himself down in a corner of the kitchen chimney, trying to warm himself; for, though worn out with anxiety, he found it impossible to sleep.

The post-master sat down by him, and began to talk of the news of the day, of the wretched condition of the country, of the disturbances hourly expected in the next town of Peronne, &c. On these subjects his sentiments were such as the duke himself might have expressed, and more effectually warmed his heart than the kitchen fire. At last, having agreed with his host in everything, he asked him how he might prosecute his journey to Spa with most safety and least disturbance. The man replied: Monsieur, il faut enfin, que les coquins dorment comme les honnetes gens, je vous donnerai six bons chevaux a chaque voiture, et vous serez loin d'ici avant qu’ils ne soient eveilles.

They accordingly proceeded without obstacle through the deserted streets of Peronne, which by ten o'clock the next day was in a state of insurrection. During this day's journey they were overtaken by the Prince de Conde, and had the mortification of seeing the horse which had been put to their carriage taken off for his.

When he discovered them, he wished to prevent this, but the duke wisely thought that a little delay would be less dangerous than the suspicions excited by such a mark of respect. At last, on the third night of their departure from Paris, when they were within a few miles of Valenciennes, where the duke knew Monsieur would meet them, he informed his pupils of their real destination. Hitherto they had been kept in perfect ignorance.

After the story of the hussar regiment, he had invented others to account for their travelling incognito. M. de Sirent took this opportunity to inform them fully, and in the most solemn manner, of the melancholy situation of their father, their King, and their country; expressing at the same time his fears as to their future fate. He then told them that now they must depend upon themselves, they must become from that hour not only men but heroes.

All this appears perfectly natural if the princes had been, as we thought when we heard all this, only eight or ten years of age; but the fact is that these children, kept so perfectly in the dark, delighted with the idea of seeing a hussar regiment, and believing that such a journey was caused and all the apprehensions which they could not but see in M. de Sirent excited by some trivial occasion—these children (as he called them) were, one near sixteen and the other near fourteen.

They stayed only a few days at Valenciennes, and then proceeded to Spa; nor was M. de Sirent at ease about them till two months and a half afterwards, when they reached Turin, and were placed under the care of their maternal grandfather.

Madame de Sirent, who was dame d’atours to Madame Elizabeth, and had only left her, thinking that she should rather impede than assist her flight after the disaster of Varennes, determined to return to her post. Immediately on her return to Paris, she and her daughter were imprisoned, and were only released at the death of Robespierre, fourteen months after. Her life was during this time preserved by singular means: one of the inferior agents of Robespierre was highly bribed, and through his hands passed the awful orders of execution.

They were given each decade on ten loose sheets of paper, one for each day; when the name of Madame de Sirent appeared upon the paper, he slipped that sheet underneath, and proceeded to the next. Afterwards she attached herself to the unfortunate niece of Madame Elizabeth, and is now with her at Mittau, while her husband, from the same sense of duty, is here with Monsieur and the Duc de Bern.

N.B.—In 1814 I saw Madame de Sirent, a little hump-backed old woman, a stray lady of the bed
chamber to the Duchesse d'Angouleme, at the reception or sad mock drawing-room, which she held in South Audley Street, in a small two-roomed house which the Comte d'Artois had hired. A few days after they departed for Paris.

*It was the Minister of Justice (Garat) who accompanied the abbé on his way to the Temple, and his soliloquy is thus reported in the Derniei'es Beures, as printed; '"Grand Dieu! S'ecria-t-il, apres avoir leve les glaces de sa voiture, "de quelle affreuse commission je me vois charge ! Quelle homme!" ajouta-t-il en parlant du Eoi, "quelle resignation! quel courage! Non, la nature toute seule ne saurait donner tant de forces; il y a quelque chose de surhumain."'
**According to the printed copy of the narrative, it was the King's cabinet, 'ou il n'y avait ni tapisserie ni ornemens; un mauvais poele de faience lui tenoit lieu de cheminee, et l'on n'y
voyait pour toute meuble qu' une table et trois chaises de cuir
. It was in the adjoining chamber, the King's, where 'le Roi entendit la messe a genoux par terre, sans prie-Dieu. Ni coussins.'

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Extracts from Letters from Germany

August: 1800.— On the morning before Ratisbonne was taken, a grand and solemn ceremony was performed in the cathedral, of which the band and organ are reckoned the best in Germany. At one passage of the Latin service, the fears of the inhabitants of a siege and bombardment seemed to be expressed in the words, 'Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou shalt be made desolate!'

The prophecy was chanted by a shrill single voice, like one from the dead, at the further end of the long echoing cathedral. A dreadfully sublime pause succeeded, and then the whole thunder of the organ, drums, and trumpets, broke in. I never thought terrific music could have reached so high.

Two hours after an alarm was given, and the Hungarian infantry were called out to support their defeated countrymen. This music, though less sacred, was also perfect in its kind. Its effect was heightened by the sound of artillery coming nearer and nearer, and the flash of carbines from the neighbouring wood, where they were skirmishing in small parties. The sight of men and horses passing, gave a serious aspect to the scene, and convinced the spectator that he was not hearing the drums of a holiday parade.

Sept. 1st, 1802.— He gave me an account of the demolition of the strong castle of Ehrenbreitstein, which human force had never conquered, but the destruction of which was a stipulated article in the German Treaty of
Peace. The task is not even yet fully accomplished. He was present at the springing of the principal mine. It must have been a sight terrible and magnificent in the extreme.

The mighty structure, compacted and cemented by the skill of early ages, did not immediately separate, but rose at the explosion in one great mass, slowly
sullenly, to the distance of four feet from the ground for a moment it remained in the air in awful equipoise, visibly balancing from side to side, as if in do
which way to deal devastation; at last, with resist impetuosity, and with a crash that rent the air, it for its way down a shelving precipice of 800 feet into
valley beneath. Near the river's brink was an ancient seat of the Elector Palatine, which had long been desolate and uninhabited. Against this the bastion, still entire, rushed with all its augmented and accelerated force.

Feeble was the resistance; but feeble as it was, the sudden collision loosened all the component parts of the destructive engine, and the tower and the palace form one blended shapeless heap of indiscriminate ruin.

Mentz: 1802.— This unfortunate city thrice changed its masters during the war. Custine first took it; then, after a most severe bombardment, it fell into the hands of the Prussians; and again it reverted to the French amid the tide of their splendid victories.

Its public buildings are all ruined and destroyed; its religious houses demolished; the trees which formed a magnificent avenue on the ramparts are felled to the earth; the palace of the Elector and all the adjacent villas so entirely done away, that their place knoweth them no more; the stately cathedral, once the pride and glory of ecclesiastical sovereignty, presented to the view little more than. a broken dilapidated mass of complicated destruction.

Here my melancholy walk ended: the evening was far advanced, and there remained just enough light to relieve the dark shadows which the projections of tombs, chapels, and arches threw forward. Except a few wanton mutilations, the superb monuments all remain as in their pristine state: they chiefly consist of busts and statues of the successive Electors, in the purest white marble, from the fifteenth to the middle of the eighteenth century. Amid these splendid specimens of art, the traveller sees in the great aisle a shapeless heap of forage : near the pulpit, all glittering with coloured ornaments, a depot of straw in trusses; in the choir, which neither war nor sacrilege could entirely deprive of its enrichments, two or three miserable cabriolets; the western chapel, once embellished by all that wealth, ingenuity, or devotion could prompt or suggest, turned into an occasional stable.

It was a second Babylon in ruins; full of doleful creatures, profaned, desecrated, devastated. The pavement, formerly in rich mosaic, exhibits evident proof of that furious zeal which ransacked the mansions of the dead in order to fabricate engines and weapons of death. The leaden coffins were too valuable objects of military consideration to escape the hands of those whose hearts nothing could soften.
As my dubious feet were feeling their way along, and it was only not totally dark, my guide, a savage-looking ruffian fellow, suddenly and violently seized my arm. I was straining my eyes to catch a glimpse of a gigantic figure in marble elevated to a considerable height against one of the pillars. I had insensibly prolonged my stay, rapt in musing and meditations congenial to the scene; but when I met with this unexpected attack, and as I deemed assault, it took not a moment to bring me to myself. The man, in his rude jargon between German and French, soon explained to me his kindness and mv own danger: at my feet was a hideous chasm through which in the siege a bomb had forced its way into a spacious vault that had ever since remained open; one moment more, and it would have received another visitor.*

* I rather think that Sir R. Wilmot Horton was the writer of these remarkable letters.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Emperor Alexander

Wynnstay: Oct. 1806.— I heard a curious trait of the character of the Emperor Alexander. At one of the great national festivals of St. Petersburgh, where he was greeted by multitudes almost innumerable with the most violent applause,—every one seeming to vie with his neighbour in the mode of best expressing their enthusiastic fondness for their Emperor,—he turned to the Duke of G. who was standing near him, and said he could not look at that immense populace without shuddering when he considered them as absolutely dependent upon the will of one man; adding that he should never feel completely happy till he saw introduced into Russia, a limited monarchical government similar to that of England.*

… The Duke of G. spoke much of the violent detestation expressed by all orders of men for the Archduke Constantine. It seems strange that such statements can be loudly professed with impunity under the government of a son of the Emperor Paul; but one fact which the Duke of G. said was related to him by Alexander, is much more so. The Emperor was one reproving Count Pannin, his favourite, for expressing so freely his opinion of Constantine. He told him that he must consider it a want of respect to himself when his brother was treated in such a manner: besides, added he, consider what may be the probable consequences to yourself; remember that, if anything should happen to me, Constantine becomes your Sovereign.**

Pannin replied that no one was more anxious than himself to avoid anything which might appear like disrespect to His Majesty, and therefore would for that reason avoid expressing his opinions on this subject; adding that, as to the other argument, that had no weight with him,.

‘Sire,' said he, ' if anything was to happen to you, I wish Archduke Constantine to know, and beg you will tell him from me, that he shall not reign twenty-four hours.’

* Alexander is said. to have replied to Madame de Stael, when she spoke of his beneficent rule, that he was only a happy accident.
** Pannin might have remembered the reply of Charles II, when the Duke of York (afterwards James II), reproached him with not taking precautions against assassins: 'Depend on it, James, no one will kill me to make you king.'

[The Duke of G. is, I assume, her father, George Grenville, First Lord of the Treasury in the 18th century.]

Friday, October 14, 2005

Earthquake at Naples

Extract of a Letter from Naples, giving an account of the Earthquake

Naples: July 26th, 1805, 12 o'Clock at night.

Have had a most dreadful earthquake; it took place about near a quarter-past ten. I was at the theatre, where I found myself suddenly rolling about in my chair, and the whole house apparently falling: judge of the confusion it occasioned. Everybody rushed to the door, and I was fortunate enough to be one of the first; several houses
had been thrown down, and many lives lost.

The front of the house next to Mr. Elliot fell down, and killed a man who was passing. On my return to my house I found the walls cracked, and in many places quite opened.

As the mountain remains quiet, only throwing out flames occasionally, we are afraid of a second shock. Elliot and his whole family mean to pass the night in their
carriages on the sea-shore: most of those who have carriages have followed his example; the squares are crowded with them. I am not determined what I shall do.

2 0'Clock a.m.—The streets are crowded with processions: nothing is heard but the howling of the lazaroni; everybody calling on St. Ann, for what reason I have not yet been able to learn. I believe the worst thing to do is to go to bed.

July llth.—We have had no return of the earthquake. I have been assured by several grave people that we are indebted to St. Ann's interposition for this, as she seems to be in the secret: a heretic may be pardoned in saying she might as well have prevented the first shock. Joking apart, we have had a very narrow escape. The shock was excessively severe, and lasted nearly a minute: had it continued with equal violence a few seconds longer, we should have had a repetition of all the horrors of the Lisbon earthquake in 1755.

There is scarce a house that has not been damaged more or less. There was nothing in the heavens that indicated the approach of this commotion; the day had been sultry, and was succeeded by one of those fine Italian nights unknown in the north; there was not a cloud to be seen in the horizon, nor a breath of air stirring. During the shock, and for some time afterwards, partial eddies of wind brought with them immense clouds of dust, hut they were soon dispersed; and the remainder of the night was as fine as the former part, nor is there a cloud to be seen this morning.

July 28th.—The whole town passed last night in the squares and open places, as a return of the earthquake was expected. It was the most horrible sight I ever beheld. Notwithstanding the immense crowds, a perfect silence prevailed, interrupted only by the crying of women and the singing of children, who paraded the streets in processions with flambeaux in honour of the Virgin. Not a smile was seen on any countenance; the fierce looks of the lazaroni increased the horror of the scene. The havoc is infinitely greater than was at first imagined. The houses destroyed are estimated at five millions of piastres; whole streets are in ruins.

The shock was so strong that the crew of the 'Excellent,' anchored at two miles from the shore, supposed that the ship had struck against the earth, and all the officers
|nd men were upon deck en chemise. It is supposed that not more than ninety people have been crushed at Naples.

July 29th —All remains quiet, but we are daily receiving reports from the environs that are truly distressing. Half of the town of Averca is destroyed. At Capua the barracks fell in, and killed or wounded seventy-three soldiers. The towns of Isernia (about sixty miles from hence) and Campo Basso are entirely destroyed. At Aventino they have lost eight hundred persons. At another town (the name of which I have forgot) the loss is upwards of one thousand. I will write again by the next post, that you may not be uneasy on my account. I am, however, in great hopes that all danger is over.

Naples: August 6th, 1805.— We have fortunately had no return of the earthquake: the slightest, in the present ruined state of the town, would bring the whole about our ears. The shock has been sufficiently great; - 'tis said twelve thousand persons have perished, though the government allows but five thousand. Forty-two towns or villages have suffered more or less, some of which are entirely destroyed. The town of Boiardo has totally disappeared, and a lake has been formed in its place. A new volcano is said to have burst out in the chain of the Apennines which runs behind Isernia; a fortunate event, which has, perhaps, saved us from the
renewal of the earthquake by giving vent to the volcanic matter, which from some secret cause had set in agitation the bowels ef the earth.

You may form some idea of the violence of the shock, from the circumstance of some persons being affected by it as by sea-sickness. The children of Sir Grenville Temple, who, from being ignorant of the danger, cannot be supposed to have been influenced by fear, were affected in this manner in common with several grown people. I myself did not feel any sensation of this sort, perhaps from having been
constantly in motion: the same cause prevented my feeling the second and third shocks, which took place at eleven and one o'clock the same night; but if my imagination does not deceive me, the earth has never ceased to tremble ever since the great shock. One wing of the house in which I live has been declared uninhabitable: my part has not suffered so much; but it will be necessary that it should undergo a thorough repair, being cracked from top to bottom, and the walls open in several places,

August 13th.—At seven o'clock last night we had a most furious eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The lava, a mile and a half in breadth, ran down to the sea a distance of seven miles in three hours, destroying vineyards, cattle, houses—in short, everything it met in its passage. The damage it has done is immense. The effect it produced when it came in contact with the sea was truly sublime; for one hundred yards round you might have boiled an egg in the water, so violent a heat did it communicate. Seven or eight old people only have perished.

Notwithstanding the destruction it has occasioned, I cannot but look upon it as a fortunate circumstance, as it has probably saved us from a repetition of the earthquake.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The execution of Charles I

Jan. 18th, 1805.—I went to Llangollen; the ladies* gave me a paper of which the following is the copy :—-

Copy of an old MS. found behind an ancient engraving of Charles I., in the Parsonage House at Inkberghe, in the County of Worcester.

' Dr. Ed. Smallbrooke, Bishop of St. David's, informed me that, when he was chaplain of Archbishop Tennison, ye Archbishop told him as follows concerning the person that executed King Charles.'

' When the Archbishop was rector of St. Martin's, he was sent for to pray by a dying man in a poor house in Gardner's Lane, Westminster. He made haste, but found the man just expired. The people of the house told him that the man had been very anxious to see him and to confess to him that he was the executioner of King Charles ; that he was a trooper of Oliver, and that, every man in the troop having refused to do that office, Olive made them draw lots, and the lot falling upon him he did the work in a mask, and that he immediately mixed in the crowd, hiding the mask; that he had never been easy in his mind since. He had lived some time in their house, was poor and melancholy, and much distressed for want of consolation' from Dr. Tennison. Dr. Tennison was in great esteem for his good offices about dying persons. Charles lay one night, Saturday, May 10th, 1645, at the Parsonage at Inkberghe.' **

Extract from a Gazette, entitled ' Every-day Journal,' collected by J. Walker Clerc, and published by a particular Order of Parliament.

Feb. 1st, 1648.—The gazette begins with an account of King Charles' trial and condemnation, and after the sentence passed on him. follows this paragraph:—' If the King had been guiltless of the charge, who is so weake to think he would have suffered the sentence of death to have passed on him for want of pleading ? He pleaded the jurisdiction of the Court, wherein he strikes at the people's privileges to question tyrants.'

Jan. 30th,—' This morning a letter was brought from Prince Charles to the King, by one of the gentlemen belonging to the Dutch ambassador, delivered to the captain of the guard, who acquainted the King therewith, but the King refused to receive it, and desired that it might be returned back again,'

Then follows the King's speech from the scaffold, as given in all the histories, ending with his requesting Colonel Hacker to ' take care they did not put him I paine.' The gazette then proceeds,—' after some other circumstances, the executioner severed his head from his body.'

' Those of the King's line that now are, or hereafter shall be, may sadly lay it to heart, and not aspire to monarchy, considering what sad successes their predecessors have had. King Charles is beheaded ; his brother was poisoned: his sister put to exile; his eldest son exiled, her eldest son drowned; his father strongly suspected to be poisoned ; his grandfather murthered and hanged on a tree; and his grandmother beheaded.'

N.B. This gazette was read by Lord Grrenville to the King and the Prince of Orange, a few days after the execution of the unfortunate Louis XVL, to prove to them that, even in committing a great crime, the English preserved more of decency and humanity than the French. It was melancholy to read the last paragraph to the dethroned Prince of Orange, who, as well George III, is the immediate descendant of Charles.

* Lady E. Butler and Miss Ponsonby.
** Assuming this story to have any foundation in truth, the penitent must have been William Hulet, who was tried on the 16th Oct. 1000, for regicide. Evidence was given that he, and one Walker, were the two men who officiated in disguise on the scaffold; but which of them cut off the king's head, and which held it up, with the exclamation,' This is the head of a traitor,' was left in doubt. Hulet was found guilty, but pardoned on the recommendation of the judges, who disapproved the verdict.
Various other persons—Lord Stair, Colonel Joyce, &c. &c. _ have been named; and the question, ' Who cut off Charles I.'s head?” has been as eagerly discussed as,' Who was the man in the Iron Mask?' or, 'Who wrote Junius?' The weight of evidence is in favour of Richard Brandon, the common hangman, who died in 1649. See the State Trials for 1660; Ellis's Original Letters, New Series, vol. iii. 340, and Notes and Queries, passim. The index to that valuable compilation makes all its treasures easily available.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Mr Burke’s Ghost Story

December, 1804

I became acquainted with Mrs (wife of Colonel) Dixon, first at Acton,* afterwards here. From her conversation I gained much amusement, and, I hope some instruction. One or two stories that told us I am determined not to forget.

At a meeting of the Literary Club, at which Dr. Johnson, Mr. Burke, and several other eminent characters of the day were present, it was observed that an old gentleman, who had never missed one of the me meetings of the society, was that day absent. His absence was considered as the more extraordinary because happened to be president that day.

While the company were expressing their surprise at this circumstance they saw their friend enter the room, wrapped in a long white gown, his countenance wan and very much fallen.

He sat down in his place, and when his friends wondered at his dress, he waved his hand, nodded to each separately, and disappeared from the room without speaking. The gentlemen, surprised at this circumstance, and determined to investigate it, called for the waiters, and asked whether anybody had been seen upon the staircase which led to the room where they were sitting. They were answered that no person had been seen either to enter the house or to mount the stairs and that both the staircase and the entrance had been constantly filled with comers and goers.

Not satisfied with this, they sent to the house of the gentleman whom they had just seen, to enquire whether he had been out. His residence happened to be very near the coffee-house where they were, and their messenger immediately returned with the following melancholy intelligence: their friend had died about ten minutes before, of a violent fever, which had confined him entirely to his bed for several days.

Some of the most eminent men of the club gave themselves great pains to discover the imposition which some thought had been practised upon them; others firmly believed fehat their friend's ghost had actually appeared to them; and the latter opinion wag confirmed by the total failure of all enquiries. All their efforts proved vain to remove the veil of mystery which hung over this transaction. At last they determined to remove the club to another part of the town, entering at the same time into an engagement never to reveal the circumstance which had occasioned this change.

They wisely thought that such a story, supported by the evidence of such men as Johnson, Burke, &c., might do much mischief while the causes remained unexplained.

Many years afterwards, as Mr. Burke was sitting at dinner with some friends at his own house, he was told that a poor old woman, who was dying in an obscure garret in the midst of the greatest wretchedness, had just said that she could not die in peace unless she could reveal a most important secret to Mr. Burke. This summons appeared so like a fraudulent means of extorting money, that Mr. Burke refused to go. In a short time, he received a second message still more pressing, and at the same time, such an account was given of the extreme poverty and misery of the poor expiring object, that .his compassion was excited, and he determined to go, in spite of the earnest entreating of his friends, who still feared for his safety. They accordingly watched in the little obscure alley, saw him ascend the staircase which led to the garret in which he was told that the poor woman was lying, and reminded him that succour was at hand.

Mr. Burke soon returned. He told his friends that he had found everything as it had been represented; that the old woman had died after telling him a very extraordinary circumstance, which had given him great satisfaction ; he then related all the former part of this story; and added that the dying woman had confessed that she had been guilty of a neglect which had cost an unfortunate man his life. She said that upon her death-bed, she was determined to make all the atonement in her power, confess her error, and had therefore requested his presence, knowing him to be the most intimate friend of the deceased.

She said that some years before, she was nurse to a gentleman who was ill of a dangerous fever, and named Mr. Burke's friend. She said that on a particular day—which she named—she was told by the physician that the crisis of the disease was that day to be expected, and that the ultimate issue of the malady would very much depend upon the patient's being kept perfectly quiet at that moment; which could only be done by incessant watching, as the delirium would probably run very high just before. In that case the physician directed that the patient should be forcibly detained in his bed, as the least cold would prove fatal.

He therefore ordered the nurse not to leave the room upon any account the whole of the day. The nurse added that in the afternoon of that day a neighbour had called upon her; that, seeing the gentleman perfectly quiet, she had ventured to leave his room for ten minutes; when she returned, she found her patient gone. In a few minutes he returned and expired immediately. When she heard the enquiries made, she was well aware what had given birth to them, but was at that time prevented by shame from confessing the truth!**

* Acton Park, Wrexham : the seat of Sir R. A, Cunliffe, Bart

** If anything of the kind had occurred at the Literary Club, it could hardly have escaped Boswell. Sir Walter Scott relates a similar story, the scene of which ‘is a club of persons connected with science and literature’ at Plymouth.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Convent Tragedy

Extract from a Letter from Mr, Southey to Charles W. Wynn, dated January 8, 1805*

Jane Power was placed in the Irish Nunnery at Belem, near Lisbon, when but a child; she grew up there and took the vows. Shortly after, there came over a young Irish woman (Louisa Bourke, by name), who went through the year of her probation resolutely, and took the veil. She had left her own country, and then abandoned the world, in a fit of jealousy: her lover at length traced her, followed her, and spoke with her at the grate. A reconciliation ensued: they corresponded and resolved to try to get her out by means of a dispensation.

The scheme was discovered; its success would have been a great misfortune to the convent, as the large fortune which Louisa had brought must in that case have been refunded. It was said that she had died very soon after. At this time, Jane Power was ill; after her recovery, being in a remote part of the convent which was not in use, she heard Louisa's voice, which seemed to proceed from within the wall; she thought it was her spirit, and much alarmed, asked if she should order any services for her soul.

Louisa replied she was still alive, and requested her friend to come to her, giving her at the same time directions to find an entrance to her place of confinement. It was a small cell on a higher story, matted round, and so entirely remote from all the inhabited part of the convent and from every ear, that she was even allowed a musical instrument there. She had that day got down by finding some means of slipping back a bolt or lock, and by the same means Jane was enabled to visit her, which she did regularly every night for some months.

Once she stayed later than usual, because her friend appeared more depressed than she had ever seen her. In consequence of this delay, her lamp was exhausted and went out in the cloisters. She was afraid that in the dark she might mistake her cell and thus be discovered; she therefore sat herself down to wait for daybreak. When the dawn came, she thought she would go back to tell Louisa how she had passed the night; she knocked and received no answer; after some time she pushed the door, found something against it. Having at last succeeded in opening the door, she saw her wretched friend lying on the floor with her throat cut from ear to ear.

Jane Power fainted, and in this state was found lying on the bleeding body of the unfortunate Louisa by the nun who brought food to the prisoner. She was carried before the abbess, who made her take the most solemn vow never to reveal what she had seen.

She continued several years longer in the nunnery; the horror which the scene she had witnessed had left"upon her mind made her situation dreadful. Her prospect brightened a little upon the arrival of our troops. Her sister's husband, whose name is either Heatley or Headley, had a civil appointment in our army there.
During his stay, the frequent visits of her sister and of her English friends, made her life more cheerful than that of a nun usually is. When the troops were moving, she complained bitterly to her sister, and Headley determined to carry her off; he conveyed boy's clothes to her, and gave her his watch that she might know the hour at which to make her escape. In order to secure her from interruption from any of the male servants of the convent, he made them all drunk.

When Jane, in her disguise, came to the door, the key creaked in the lock. She had resolution enough to return to the dormitory and dip it in a lamp. Still she was before the hour appointed; for never having had a watch, she had not wound it up; and when at last the time came, she flung the watch over the wall instead of a stone. However, she effected her escape.

Still there remained a difficulty; the captain of the packet, after having promised to take her, repented and refused after she was out of the convent. She was got on board by the management of Col. Trent's wife, who went in the same packet; and the captain of a frigate, who was acquainted with her story, convoyed the vessel out, declaring at the same time that if Todd (the master of the packet) would not take her, he would run all risks and carry her to England himself, rather than that she should be forced to return to the convent.

There came on rough weather, and poor Jane whispered that perhaps it was sent because of her. However, she reached Falmouth in safety, and the last I heard of her was that her friends were endeavouring to procure from the Pope a dispensation of her vows.

I give you this story as Mrs. Trent gave it me. Mrs. Trent is a very extraordinary woman. Her husband was among the persons stopped in France ; she went over, obtained his liberty, and smuggled home the son of Hoppner the painter.

When Jane Power saw the mail coach, she said the King was coming; and the first thing she asked for, when she was safely housed, was a looking-glass; for, since she was five years old, she had never seen her own face.

* A great many letters to Mr. Charles Wynn from Southey have been printed by his son and his son-in-law, but this particular letter is not amongst them.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Innocent Convict

Nov. 18th, 1803

We left Buxton in the midst of a deep snow, and after a very cold and wretched journey arrived at Elton* the next day. During the time we were there, I heard the following story, which appeared to me very interesting:

Some years ago some passengers in a vessel bound for Botany Bay, were very much struck by the appearance of a female convict who was on board. She was a very beautiful woman, and appeared to be only 18 or 19; her elegant manners were as striking as the beauty of her person. To these charms, she added one still more powerful — great modesty and strict propriety of deportment. It was this quality, so extraordinary in this most abject situation, which first called forth the attention of her superiors.

The captain of the vessel was requested to examine the register which was sent with every convict, detailing their offence and their sentence, and inform the passengers what had been the crime of a creature who appeared so lovely. He found that her name was Mary Green, and that she had been convicted on the clearest evidence of stealing a card of lace from a shop in Oxford Street.

During a long passage her continued good conduct gained her so much respect that, a maid-servant belonging to one of the officers having fallen sick on board, his wife took Mary Green to supply her place; she found very soon that she had gained by the change: the more she saw of Mary the better she liked her. At last she tried to persuade herself that her favourite was innocent of the crime laid to her charge.

She questioned her as to her former situation, and as to the reasons which could have induced her to the commission of a crime which seemed so foreign to her nature. Mary replied, as she had to all her former enquiries, that no power upon earth could make her reveal any part of her story. She added that she was perfectly resigned to her fate, and determined to pass the rest of her days in New Holland, as she never could revisit her native land.

Still, in spite of the mystery which hung about her, she rose every day in the good opinion of her mistress, who, after some time, placed her about her children; then only she discovered that, in addition to all her amiable qualities, Mary possessed, in a superior degree, all the talents and accomplishments which belong to an exalted situation. She spoke several modern languages, and understood both painting and music. In short, she soon became the favourite companion of her mistress, who
could no longer treat this superior being as a servant.

Still, however, Mary resisted her urgent entreaties to discover her former situation; she owned that it had been superior to that rank in which she now found herself; confessed that her present name was assumed; added that she had been very unfortunate, but would never add to her other misfortunes that of thinking that her relations and friends were blushing for her.

About three years after this time, the chaplain of the settlement was called upon to attend the death-bed of an old female convict who was lately arrived. Though an old offender who had grown up in the paths of vice, this woman felt in her last moments great contrition, and made a full confession of all her crimes.

She said that what lay the most heavy on her conscience was the recollection of her having laid one of her offences to the charge of an innocent young woman. She said, that having gone in one day to a shop in Oxford Street at the same time with a very young girl who appeared to be fresh from the country, she had spoken to her; and after having stolen a card of lace she followed the young woman out of the shop. Soon after, hearing the cry of ' stop thief,' she made a pretence of her clog being untied to ask the assistance of the young woman, who was still close by her, and while she was stooping had contrived to slip the lace into her muff, and to escape herself before their pursuers reached them. She said she had afterwards heard that the poor girl had been convicted of an offence of which she knew her to be perfectly innocent.

This account immediately brought to the chaplain's mind the Mary Green who had excited so much curiosity. He went immediately to her, asked for her story, and received from her the usual answer, refusing all intelligence on this subject. He, however, pressed her, told her that it might be of the utmost
importance to her to confide in him, as some circumstances had lately come to light which he hoped might lead to her exculpation if she would give him all the particulars of her case. She burst into tears, told him that she was the only daughter of a respectable merchant of Birmingham, but still refused to tell the name.

She said that at eighteen years of age she had gone to London for the first time, to an uncle who lived in Newman Street; that a day or two after her arrival she had, in the dusk of the evening, gone to a haberdasher's shop, to which she had been directed as being only a few steps from her uncle's house. On coming out of the shop she had heard a cry of ‘stop thief,' and had hastened home to escape the mob, by whom she had been very much hustled. On the steps of her uncle's house she was arrested, the piece of lace was found upon her, and she was immediately carried into confinement.

She said that she thought that it was hardly possible that any testimony of her character could avail against the positive evidence brought against her, more particularly as her only defence was that she knew not how the lace came in her muff. She therefore determined to conceal her name and never apply to her family. This happened just before the time of sessions. Mary's trial and condemnation ensued so soon after, that her relations had not had time to make all the enquiries which they afterwards sent in vain all over the kingdom.

These circumstances tallied so exactly with the old woman's confession that the chaplain ventured to tell Mary that he had no doubt of her acquittal. He informed the Governor of the whole transaction, who promised to transmit this information by the first ship to the English Government, and said that her innocence appeared to him So clear that, without instructions, he would venture to say that she should no longer be considered as a convict, but as a planter.

In England the strictest enquiry was made, and every circumstance exactly tallied with Mary's deposition. The next ship brought her complete acquittal and conveyed her back to her disconsolate parents, who had not ceased to lament the unaccountable disappearance of their beloved child. Soon after her return she married extremely well to a young clergyman, who had a very good living.

I was told that this story was perfectly true in every resolved to
part; and there can hardly be a stronger instance of virtue and innocence triumphing over the most unfortunate false appearances. It was the virtue and modesty of Mary's behaviour which were the first cause of bringing her innocence to light. Had she not been so distinguished, the chaplain never would have thought of her, but an unjust accusation of theft naturally brought her to his mind. Perhaps it may be said that her beauty contributed in some degree to the celebrity which she obtained, and consequently to her acquittal.

* Elton Hall, Oundle: the seat of the Earl of Carysfor

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Wynard Ghost Story*: Oct. 16th, 1803

Buxton, Oct. 16th 1803. - I returned from Blithfield**.

The night before my departure, the conversation happening to turn on ghost stories, Lord Bagot mentioned the following, as being very curious from its uncommon authenticity.

During the American war, Major Wynyard (who afterwards married Lady Matilda West), Gen. Ludlow, and Col. Clinton, were dining together in a mess-room at New York. In this room there were but two doors, one of which led to a staircase, and the other to a small closet, or rather press, without either door or window.

A man entered at the door, when Gen. Ludlow, the only one of the gentlemen whose head was turned to the door, exclaimed, ' Good God. Harry! what can have brought you here?' The figure only waved its hand and said nothing. At his friend's exclamation Major Wynyard turned round, and his astonishment at seeing a brother whom he had left in England was so great, that he was unable to speak.

The figure stalked once round the table, and then disappeared through the closet door, pulling it after him, without fastening it. One of the gentlemen rose immediately to open the door, but the figure was already vanished, and no trace of any mode of egress was found in the closet. Col. Clinton, who had never seen Mr. H. Wynyard, and was less horrified than his friends, proposed that they should mark both the day and the hour on which they had seen this strange apparition, believing that they should never hear of it again, but at the same time, thinking' it might be a satisfaction to know the precise time of so extraordinary an occurrence.

The next mails which came from England brought news of the death of Mr. Henry Wynyard, which had taken place at the same hour, two days after that on which his brother had seen the figure.

Some years after this, as Col. Clinton and Gen. Ludlow were walking together in London, Col. Clinton exclaimed: ' There is the figure which we saw in America.' Gen. Ludlow turned round, and saw a man (whose name Lord Bagot had forgot) so famous for being so like Mr. H. Wynyard, that he was perpetually mistaken for him. This man never had been in America. All these facts were told to Lord Bagot by Col. Wynyard, in the presence of either one or both of the gentlemen who were with him at the time that this extraordinary adventure happened.

Another curious fact I heard at Blithfield. The Bishop of Carlisle told Lord Bagot that, in examining the papers of the late Duke of Bridgewater, in the midst of some useless papers which they were burning, they found two original warrants signed by Queen Elizabeth, one for the execution of the Duke of Norfolk, the other for that of Essex. Both warrants bear exactly the same date. Norfolk's is signed in a fine strong hand; that of Essex in one so trembling, that it is hardly legible***.

At Blithfield is preserved the cap which Charles I wore on the day of his execution, and which he sent to Col. Salusbury, an ancestor of the Bagots. The cap is made of crimson satin, richly embroidered with gold and silver. I saw likewise a letter from Charles to Col. Salusbury. It is published by Pennant, but he does not mention where the original is to be found.

* No ghost story is more frequently mentioned in society than this, but the amount of accurate information concerning it may be estimated from Sir Walter Scott's version: (The story of two highly respectable officers in the British army, - who are I supposed to have seen the spectre of the brother of one in a hut, or barrack, in America, is also one of those accredited ghost tales - which attain a sort of brevet rank as true, from the mention 'of respectable names as the parties who witnessed the vision.
The late Sir R. Peel had a fixed impression that he had seen and spoken with Lord Byron (then ill at Patras) in 1810 in the streets of London.—Moore's Memoirs, vol. vi. p. 14.

** The seat of Lord Bagot, in Staffordshire.

*** In Park's edition of Walpole's 'Royal and Noble Authors' (vol iii) is a fac-simile of the so-called original warrant in the Stafford collection, and the signature is clear and firm. There are three flourishes which could not have been executed by a trembling hand.

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Dead Alive: London, March 17th, 1803

We passed the evening with the Grimstones, talking about the Duke of Bridge-
water, who, it was then thought, might very possibly be brought to life again, though he had been dead above a week. They told me the following extraordinary

Many years ago, a Mrs. Killigrew was supposed to have been dead above a week; when she was to be put into her coffin, her body was so swelled that it. was found impossible to get her diamond hoop-ring off without cutting the finger; this her husband would not consent to; accordingly, she was buried with the ring.

The sexton, who had observed this, determined to steal the ring that night. Having forced open the coffin, he proceeded to cut off the finger, but the first gash of the knife brought Mrs. Killigrew to life again. The sexton, frightened, ran away, leaving his lanthorn, which she immediately took, and walked to her own house.

There her appearance, of course, created great consternation among the servants; no one would venture to open the door; fortunately the rumour reached the ears of her disconsolate husband, who went directly to receive her After this event she lived ten years, and in the course of that time had two children. A maid who belonged to
Mrs. Killigrew, after her death lived with Mrs. Walters, grandmother to the Grimstones: from her they had this story.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Prefatory Notice

The manuscript volumes (ten in number) from which this book has been compiled, differ materially from any of the same extent which have fallen under my observation. Although called diaries, they are none of them what is commonly understood or described by that name. They do not profess to be a record of the writer's daily life: they contain no details of a private or purely personal nature: no flights of egotism, no self-communings, nothing that can be called scandal. At the end of half a century the lives of princes and statesmen belong to history, and the only unfavourable impressions noted down by her relate exclusively to them. Her very gossip is redeemed by the speakers and the subjects; and her sole object throughout appears to have been to submit her understanding to an improving exercise, and to store up for future reference the conversations and compositions which attracted her attention in the course of her daily intercourse with the most cultivated people and her assiduous study of curious books and manuscripts.

How many of us have regretted that we did not make a note at the time of what we heard fall from persons who had been prominent actors on the political or literary stage, or who had even been behind the scenes when a memorable performance was arranged or in progress! How unlucky, have we thought, that we did not copy the striking passage in the now forgotten book, or in the curious letter which we might easily have borrowed for the purpose; or that we did not cut out and keep the clever newspaper article or quaint paragraph which so much struck everybody! Then why, on finding that this has been judiciously done by another, should we not profit by his or her sagacity, industry, and taste? Such were the questions that suggested themselves to me when I had gone over these diaries with the view of deciding whether a book, calculated to reflect credit on the diarist, could be compiled from them.

Gray went a little too far when (as quoted by Horace Walpole) he laid down that 'if any man were to form a book of what he had seen and heard himself, it must, in whatever hands, prove a useful and entertaining one.' But when a woman of thought and feeling, of cultivation and discernment, has enjoyed such opportunities of seeing and hearing as this lady of quality, a book so formed by her could hardly fall short of the degree of value and attraction anticipated by Gray.

Miss Frances Williams Wynn, the lady in question, was the daughter of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn (the fourth baronet) and Charlotte, daughter of George Grenville (First Lord of the Treasury, 1763-1765). The uncles to whom she frequently alludes, were the first Marquis of Buckingham, Lord Grenville, and the Right Honourable Thomas Grenville:* the brothers, the Right Honourable Charles Williams Wynn, and the Eight Honourable Sir Henry Williams Wynn (long English minister at Copenhagen). One of her sisters was married to the late Lord Delamere, and the other to Colonel Shipley, M.P., son of the celebrated Dean of St. Asaph, and grandson of Johnson's friend, the Bishop. Lord Braybrooke and Lord Nugent were her near relatives. She died in 1857, in her 77th or 78th year; when her papers came into the possession of her niece, the Honourable Mrs. Rowley,* under whose sanction these selections from them are published.

I was intimately acquainted with Miss Wynn during the last sixteen or seventeen years of her life, and I spoke from personal knowledge when, on a former occasion, I mentioned her as distinguished by her literary taste and acquirements, as well as highly esteemed for the uprightness of her character, the excellence of her understanding, and the kindness of her heart.

Simple and easy of execution as my editorial duties may appear, they have really involved no inconsiderable amount of embarrassing responsibility. In the case of each individual entry or transcript, I was obliged to decide on the novelty or originality, as well as on the inherent value or interest, of the narrative, description, or reflections comprised in it. Thackeray used to say that, when Punch was first established, there was a member of its staff who knew every joke that had been made since the beginning of all things.

It would require an editor equally well versed in Ana, or anecdote literature, to declare where and when (if ever) each of the stories or traits of character preserved by Miss Wynn had been in print. All I could do was to refer to the likeliest repositories, and having done so, boldly to take for granted that what was still new to me would prove new to the majority of readers.

As she professedly copied the details, or wrote them down from memory, and did not invent, it stands to reason that they were once as well known to others as to her; but it doea not follow that a striking incident should be kept back from the existing generation because it may have been familiar to the last. It is also obvious that a fresh and well authenticated version of a received anecdote may prove highly valuable to the biographer or historian.

Besides endeavouring to supply as succinctly as possible the information required to explain the allusions or show the bearings of the statements, I have done my best to remedy the frequent deficiency of dates.
A. H.
8 St. James Street:
April 25, l864.

* Mr. T. Grenville is so frequently cited as an authority in the
Diaries, that I am induced to quote a portion of a gracefully written notice by Earl Stanhope, -who was intimately acquainted with him:’ The Duke of Wellington has told me that a speech which he heard Mr. Thomas Grenville deliver in 1807, as First Lord of the Admiralty during a few months, and in moving the Navy Estimates, was among the best and clearest statements he remembered. Thus, for hig'h political eminence he wanted only larger opportunities and a more stirring spirit of ambition. His books—now the pride of the Museum, through his own munificent bequest—were his refuge and delight, yet not so as ever to abstract him from his friends. Born in 1755, and surviving in the fullest possession of his faculties till 1846, he formed as it were a link between the present and a long past age.' (History of England from the Peace of Utrecht, vol. vii. p. 114.) A story was current of his having joined the rioters along with some other young men of rank in 1780, and Lord Macaulay used to say that the first time Mr. T. Grenville entered the Admiralty was at the head of a mob and the second time as First Lord.
* Daughter of the late Colonel and Mrs. Shipley, and wife of
Colonel the Honourable R. T. Rowley, M.P.
+ Autobiography &c, of Mrs. Piozzi, vol. i. p. 251, note (second edition).

(pp. vii-xii)