Wednesday, November 30, 2005


April 14th, 1814 — Saw Kean in Iago, and was less struck than I had been by his performance of Shylock, perhaps because I expected more. The absence of all ranting is in itself a great merit, which in the present state of the stage, degraded as it is, appears even greater.

The quiet colloquial tone in which Kean performs the greatest part of this character, gives an effect almost electric to those passages which he strongly (sometimes, I own, too strongly) points. His emphasis seems to me always well laid, proceeding always from a strong and often from a new view of the sense of this passage; * not like Kemble's, falling sometimes on words where it is so falsely applied that one should almost be tempted to believe that he does not give himself thhe trouble of understanding the common sense of what he is speaking. I once saw him in Lear, and heard the following passage thus accented:—
I tax you not, you elements, with unkindness,
I never gave you kingdom, called, you children.
Nothing can be more admirable than the strong expression of continual watchfulness which mark Kean's deep eye in Iago, and I think I can never forget the look of deep villany, of dire diabolical revenge, with which, in leaving the stage, he direct the eye of the miserable Othello to his murdered Desdemona.

May 27th.—I have seen Kean in Othello, and found him in that magnificent part fully equal to my highly raised expectations; the highest dramatic treat I ever experienced. One regret will intrude, the weakness of his voice, and still more the insignificance of his figure, make him a very unfit representation of the rough martial Othello. When he tells what that little arm has done; when he tells you that ' every puny whipster gets my sword'—it requires all his wonderful talent to blind one to the ridicule of such expressions applied to that form.**

In all the earlier part of the play, Kean saves himself, and you get only transient gleams of his genius. In the first act, the passage which struck me most was the burst of tenderness, displaying the whole character of Othello in these few words, ' And I loved her that she did pity them.'

The charm of Kean's Othello seems to me to lie mainly in the intense passion for Desdemona which he seems to be concealing, and which bursts forth as if involuntarily; this seems to form the excuse for Othello, to give nature to the excess of jealousy. In the fine scene in which Othello first conceives suspicion, this was peculiarly evident; and when Iago says, ' I see this hath a little dashed your spirits,' Kean electrified the house by the simple words, 'Not a jot.' The bitter look of deep hatred with which he said, 'I found not Cassio's kisses
Before such merits all objections fly, Pritchard 's genteel, and Garrick 's six feet high on her lips,' seems to prepare one for the catastrophe, and was finely contrasted with the heartfelt dark dejection with which the beautiful farewell to “the pomp and circumstance of glorious war'' was spoken.

Nothing could be finer than the speech about the handkerchief, 'and could almost read the thoughts of people'— his speaking eye seemed fully possessed of that power; or more affecting than the speech, ‘Had it pleased Heaven to try me with affliction,' excepting the last scene, the beauty of which is so fully displayed in the tender heart-broken tones of Kean. I believe it is quite an original idea, certainly one which crowns the effect and seems to give the full view of this magnificent character, when Othello, just before the last speech, after the innocence of Desdemona is established, returns to the bed, to give one last look, one kiss of reconciled love which seems to cast a gleam over his despair. Then, as if it were a thing no longer of the slightest importance, he carelessly says, 'I have done the state some service.'

When at last he stabs himself, the gradual relaxation of the limbs, and the last fall, were as fine as anything could be.

In seeing Othello performed a month ago by Pope, who stormed and mouthed and ranted the part, I felt quite enraged with the pit and galleries, who clapped him, while they rarely and coldly marked any applause of Kean in Iago, which I consider as the most perfect piece of acting I ever witnessed. I could believe only that Pope had a powerful party in the house. Little did I then imagine that in these days it was Shakespeare himself, and his Othello, which had taken possession of the audience, and made them incapable of applauding his wicked tormentor.

I felt it almost strange that those who could admire such acting did not hiss that of Kean. When he appeared in Othello, the applause was deafening, and Pope, who was less offensive to me in Iago, was received in sullen silence; which convinced me that it was the characters, and not the actors of them, who moved the multitude.
Editor’s notes
* “To see Kean act is like reading Shakspeare by flashes of lightning.” (Coleridge.)
** Before such merits all objections fly,
Pritchard’s genteel, and Garrick’s six feet high.” Churchill

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Stage: Miss Farren, Mrs Siddons, Miss O'Neill, Kemble, Talma

Editor’s note [a very Victorian note]
The transition from princes and statesmen to actors and actresses, was natural enough in the first quarter of the century, whatever it may appear now. The stage was an important part of the intellectual life of the contemporaries of the Kembles, Kean, and Miss O'Neil. A striking illustration is given by Dr. Doran, who states that, on one evening in 1804, when young Betty played Hamlet, ' the House of Commons, on a motion by Pitt, adjourned and went down to the theatre to see him.

Charles Fox read ' Zanga,' to the little actor, and commented on Young's tragedy with such effect that the young gentleman (then in his 14th year) never undertook the principal character.' * The stage divided the attention of the literary world with poetry and romance. The first representation of Joanna Baillie's ' De Montforf,' Milman's * Fazio,' Maturin's ' Bertram,' or Shiel's ' Evadne,' was an event little inferior in interest to the publication of' Marmion' or ' The Corsair.' In assigning so prominent a place to the acting drama, therefore, Miss Wynn simply reflects the opinion of the time.

Nothing appears to me more difficult than even to preserve an idea of the pleasure one has derived from good acting. I am quite convinced no description can give the least idea of that which one has not seen After having heard and read so much as I have Garrick, I have often looked at the picture in James's Square,** and fancied I had some idea of him; but then, when I saw Mr. Angerstein's picture of Garrick
between Tragedy and Comedy, I found it so different that all my ideas were overturned.

I certainly recollect Miss Farren on the stage, and remember very clearly her taking leave of it, but nothing remains upon my mind which would lead me from my own knowledge to say that she was an excellent actress. I know I was told so; but in the part of Lady Teazle, in which I saw her frequently, I could not point out one prominent part which has left on my mind an impression of excellence. Perhaps the absence of prominent parts may, to a certain degree, be considered as the characteristic of that never-failing elegance and ease which marked her performance.

Perhaps, too, it is just the sort of excellence which is the least likely to strike and captivate the imagination of a very young person. I recollect (not the admirable
acting in the famous screen scene but) the circumstance of seeing Lord Derby leaving his private box to creep to her behind the scene; and, of course, we all looked with impatience for the discovery, hoping the screen would fall a little too soon, and show to the audience Lord Derby as well as Lady Teazle.***

Mrs. Siddons in her prime is certainly a bright recollection, but I did not feel for her acting quite the enthusiasm that most people profess. It was too artificial for my taste : her attitudes were fine and graceful, but they always seemed to me the result of study: not like Miss O'Neil, who always was graceful merely because she could not help it, because it was impossible to throw those beautifully formed limbs, and especially that neck, into any position that was not beautiful. At the same time I must say, in Isabella, and in Jane Shore, Miss O'Neil struck me as very inferior indeed to Mrs Siddons. She never excited that deep thrill of horror which made my blood tingle at my fingers' end. I was melancholy, and that was all.

Miss O'Neil had sense enough to refuse the character of Lady Macbeth, conscious that her powers were inadequate to it. I never saw Mrs. Siddons with a good Macbeth; for Kemble I never reckoned tolerable; nor did I feel I knew what the character was till I heard Mrs. Siddons read the play. Certainly, in that reading, some speeches of Macbeth's, and almost the whole of the witches', were the parts that struck me most.

Probably Lady Macbeth, however excellent, had by frequent petition lost some of her power; certainly (I felt) that part Mrs. Siddons could no longer surprise me. Yes, she did though. I looked with impatience for the grand sleep-walking scene, and thought I would take advantage of my position, which was very near her, to watch the fine, fixed, glassy glare which she contrived to give to her eyes. Alas! that was quite gone: whether the diminution of the natural fire of the eye presented this effect, or whether the muscles were grown less flexible from age and want of constant practice, I know not, but I feel quite certain of the fact.

It struck me when I saw her once more, in one of her frequent re-appearances, act Lady Macbeth on the opera stage. Then, my pleasure in seeing her was increased by my delight in watching the effect she produced on the very eloquent though plain countenance of Madame de Stael, who sat in the stage box, literally wrapped up in the performance.

Mr. Greathead, who had been in the habit of hearing Mrs. Siddons read Macbeth even (he said) from the period of her being his mother's maid,**** before she
had appeared on any stage up to the present moment, told me he was struck with a great difference in her manner of reading the witches' scenes after the appearance of ' Guy Mannering.' ****** He said it was quite clear to him that Meg Merrilies had explained to Mrs Siddons, Shakespeare's idea in the witches. This he told me upon my observing with delight upon their totally altered appearance on Drury Lane Theatre, which I ascribed to the same cause. I consider this as one of the most singular and at the same time the most glorious triumphs of the genius of the Great Unknown, as it is now the fashion to call him.

I can hardly conceive anything finer than the expression which Mrs. Siddon
to the gave simple reply, 'A deed without a name.’****** It seemed full of all the guilty dread belonging to witchcraft; and it is just this idea of guilt which seems to be so difficult to convey to our minds, which are engrossed with the folly of the whole thing that we not recollect it was a sin.

My delight, my astonishment, when I first saw Kean in most of his great parts, I recorded at the time and therefore do not mention here. Miss O'Neil gave me great pleasure, but it was altogether a lighter sensation than that excited by Mrs. Siddons or Kean. There was none of that thrill which more exactly answers the idea of pleasing pain than anything I ever felt, and I can hardly attach any other meaning to the words. She was sometimes very affecting, always graceful, pleasing, but I think never great, and certainly never offensive. I am, upon recollection, inclined to doubt whether her scene with Lord Hastings in ' Jane Shore' might not deserve the epithet of great; in the last scene she fell very far short of Mrs. Siddons.

I could imagine a person looking at those features, which, though handsome, are certainly very deficient in expression, and asking how could that face succeed on the stage ? She must have painted her eyebrows, for how could there be any expression in a face so entirely without brow as hers ? I should be puzzled to answer these enquiries, but I believe both Miss O'Neil and Kean (in a lesser
degree) may be adduced as instances of expression without features, and may show how much feeling may be betrayed by the human frame, independent of the

Still there certainly was a powerful charm in the evanescent hue of Miss O'Neil's delicate complexion. I saw her once in Mrs. Haller give interest to the dull
scene in which Old Tobias pours forth his tedious gratitude ; her rosy blushes showed how unmerited she felt every commendation bestowed on a creature so guilty. In the whole of this part she appeared to me absolute perfection; one trait of nature enchanted me. In the last scene, after having been pleased by her appearance of deep contrition, her painful consciousness of degradation, I anticipated with pain the sort of disgust. which I had always experienced at the return of jewels. The whole incident seems to me too trifling, becomes ludicrous when Mrs. Haller, looking to see whether they are all right, makes an oration on each article.********

With these feelings what was my delight when Miss O'Neil, who had kept her eyes steadily fixed on the ground ,and appeared really sinking into it, in taking the box from the stranger looked at him for the first time, and by that look told us more than by words how he was altered, her fears, her love, &c. &c, In short, I looked at her face and quite forgot the jewels, which, even the first time the play was ever acted nearly made me disgrace myself by laughing in the midst of the tears and screams which Mrs. Siddons called forth.

Talma has extremely delighted me. I never go to a French tragedy expecting that close and sober imitation of nature which one looks for on the English stage: one might as well look for it in the midst of opera recitative as in the jingle of rhyme. Still it is pleasure, and great pleasure too, though of a different nature.

I think Talma superior to every performer I ever saw in the expression of bitter scorn, especially when it is mixed with irony. Still, I think he never gave me as much pleasure on the stage, as he did in Lady Charleville's drawing-room, where I heard him talk over English and French acting, express his wish to unite the merits of both, and deprecate the horrible accuracy with which the last mortal throes are often represented on our stage.

He spoke of Kemble's Macbeth, wondered at his tameness — especially immediately after the commission of the murder, and said that his whole frame ought to have spoken of the horrid deed. Thus far everybody must have agreed with him ; but when the very natural question, Qu'auriez vous fait ? was put to him, and he
proceeded to act his feelings, I, for one, thought it most absurd, because then my ideas were screwed to the pitch of Macbeth and nature. Probably I might have admired if I had been screwed up to the pitch of Oreste and French rant. Much ought to be allowed for the super-abundance of action which the French bestow on the relation of the common events of life, and in ordinary conversation.

What would I give to have been present at a scene related to me that evening by Sir J. B. Burgess. had, a few days before, introduced Talma to Lady
Charleville.******** After a little commonplace. Talma was drawn on, as if electrified by finding in her a kindred admiration of his hero. Napoleon ; and related all that passed on the last memorable day of departure from Fontainebleau. He gave the speeches of Talleyrand, of Napoleon, of a physician who acted a conspicuous part, with such an accurate imitation of their several manners, that Sir James told me he felt as if he too had been present at the scene.

This evening Talma recited to us Hamlet's soliloquy, in English; he has been for so large a portion of his early life in England, that the thing was upon the whole much less absurd than might have been expected; then was no very striking gallicism, excepting the word consumation.

Editor’s notes
* Their Majesty's Servants: Annals of the 'English, Stage, vol. ii, p. 416.
** No. 18, the town house of Sir Wattkin Williams Wynn.
*** Dr. Doran states that Miss Farren took her final leave of the stage in Lady Teazle on the 8th April, 1797, and was married to Lord Derby on the May-day following, his countess having died on the 14th of the preceding March. In allusion to the earl's attachment to the actress, Horace Walpole writes to Miss Berry in 1791;
‘I have had no letter from you these ten days, though the east wind has been as constant as Lord Derby.
**** When Mrs. Siddons, then Sarah Kemble, was very young, she left her parents in a pet, 'because they would not let her marry Mr. Siddona, and entered the service of Mr. and Mrs. Greathead, of Guy's Cliff; whether as reader, nursery maid, or lady's maid, has been disputed, and matters little. Mr. Campbell says that her principal employment was to read. to Mrs. Greathead (Life of Mrs. Siddons).
***** Guy Mannering was published in 1816.
****** Macbeth. How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags!
What is 't you do ?
All. A deed without a name.
******* Stranger. And now I may at least desire you to take back what is your own—your jewels. (Gives her the casket)
Mrs. Holier (opens it in violent agitation, and her tears burst upon it). How well I recollect the sweet evening when you gave me these! That evening, my father—joined our hands; and joyful; I pronounced the oath of eternal fidelity. It is broken. Tin', locket you gave me on my birthday. This bracelet I received after William was born. No! take them—take them! I cannot keep these, unless you wish that the sight of them should be an incessant reproach to my almost broken heart. (Gives them back,)
******** Catherine, Countess of Charleville, wife of the first earl, a woman of many and varied accomplishments, and of masculine strength of understanding. She died at an advanced age in 1849. The translation of Voltaire's Pucelle, still frequently ascribed to her in book catalogues, was always indignantly denied by her. It was executed, and printed, for private circulation by her second husband, the Earl of Charleville, prior to their marriage, and was not at all in her style. She delighted in refined wit, and detested coarse humour.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Imperial and Royal Visitors in 1814 - Visit to Oxford*

Of the mob of kings, and princes, and foreign generals whom the events of 1814 brought to London, I believe I did not miss seeing one, nor had I ever an opportunity of doing more than staring at them.

Upon the whole, though the appearance of the theatre at Oxford was most striking, still, the scene which made the deepest impression upon my mind, was the entrance of Louis XVIII. into London. We stood on Lord Dudley's balcony; there were few there, and those few not inclined to talk: so one had time to muse over all the strange occurrences of the day, and of all the historical recollections it naturally suggested.

I cannot say that I quite liked to see the British Guards decorated with the white cockade. I was amused at seeing the Prince Regent sitting backwards in the landau. He had, of course, given the front seat to Louis and the Duchesse d'Angouleme. I wondered how a position so unusual would agree with him; since the days of absolute childhood, when he might have gone with the king and queen, he never could have found himself in such a one, and I thought of the possibility of an interruption most undignified to the procession.

The reception of James II. by Louis XIV. was certainly far more splendid; but I am inclined to doubt whether, to a feeling heart, the magnificence of St. Germains — which, by-the-bye, I believe from what remains could have existed only in the imagination of Frenchmen—could be nearly as gratifying as the popular feeling so powerfully excited and so freely expressed on this occasion. I was then, or rather soon after, very much astonished to hear from Lord Arthur Hill, who was in the balcony with us, and afterwards at Paris, how much more tranquil, more tame, had been the entrance of Louis into his own capital. I had then taught myself to believe the French a very demonstrative race, and did not know how much more difficult it is to excite popular feeling among the mercurial Frenchmen than among the phlegmatic English.**

I was not well enough to go to the drawing-room which Louis held at Trillion's Hotel, but I went one evening to the Duchesse d'Angouleme's, in Monsieur's dark two-roomed house in South Audley Street.*** It was literally hardly possible to see across the room, and the whole thing was, if one could have entertained such a feeling, a burlesque upon royalty. The sour, ill-tempered, vulgar countenance of the blear-eyed Duchess was a great damp to the interest one was prepared to feel in one whose fate had been more melancholy than that of any heroine of romance.

The little crumpled Duchess de Sirent might easily be fancied the good fairy whose wand had produced the wondrous change; but she had not, like the godmother of Cinderella, changed the dusty dirty abode into a palace, or even converted into cloth of gold the dingy brown dress of her protege. 'Waverley' was not yet published**** but when I read there the account of Charles Edward’s drawing-room at Edinburgh, I could think of nothing but the dark rooms in South Audley Street.

At Oxford it seemed to me that there was a great want of dignity of manner among the assembled grandees. Even the dandy Alexander seemed to want it; though he was much better than any of his compeers, excepting, perhaps, our own king when he happened to be in good humour, which was not always the case during his visit to Oxford. As to the King of Prussia, he looked as stupid and as vulgar as I believe be really is. When complimented, he never could look otherwise than embarrasse de sa personne, bored to death, and could not even make a tolerably gentleman-like bow.

His two sons looked fine animated boys; the eldest was said to have accompanied the army, and, it was added, had scarcely been prevented by those around him from exposing himself most gallantly. They seemed to look at everything with the genuine happy feelings of their age, and are said to have expressed great delight when the measles seemed likely to prove an impediment to their quitting this country, but they got well much sooner than they wished.

It did not at that time occur to me as possible that these sovereigns might not understand one syllable of the elegant classical orations made in compliment to them. I have since heard from Dr. Crichton—a Scotch physician belonging to the household of the Empress dowager, who accompanied one of her grandsons, the brother of Alexander—that neither this young prince nor any one of a numerous suite, excepting one man, understood a word of Latin or Greek.

I think the illumination of the High Street of Oxford was by far the finest sight of the kind I ever beheld. From the difficulty of getting a sufficient number of coloured lamps, they were obliged to put candles in every window and on every part of every building which would bear them. By this means, the light, instead of intersecting and twisting through all the ornamental part of the architecture, followed the fine broad line to gave a magnificent contrast of light and shadow, and made that which is naturally so beautiful, much more so.

One church was illuminated. It seems very difficult to find an inscription short enough to be read in lamps; if it is long, the beginning is burnt out before the end is lighted. The difficulty was much increased by this necessity of making this appropriate to a church. I never heard who had the merit of suggesting the beautifully simple ' Our prayers are heard.'

The night was beautiful, uncommonly calm and warm. From my window, which looked down upon the High Street, it seemed as if one could really have walked upon the moving mass of heads. In one moment, almost without any previous notice, at least without any that could call the attention of the mob which was so fully occupied, a tremendous storm of thunder and rain came on. The effect was really more like the dissolving of the enchanted spell and the changes of scene in a pantomime, than anything I ever did see or ever expect to see again in real life.

The High Street, which was one blaze of light, and one unceasing hum of happiness, became in the course of five. minutes quite dark and quite deserted: nothing was heard but the thunder and the torrents of rain. Where all the multitude could find shelter, I never discovered. I heard afterwards that many who had walked miles from their abodes to see the show, slept upon chairs and tables in the small houses in the suburbs of Oxford.

Amidst that crowd in the High Street were, I am told, Alexander and the Grand Duchess*****, who, as soon as they could get away from the great dinner in the Radcliffe library, went out to walk incog.

This was on the 14th of June. It is curious to remember that the Season was so backward that on this day there was the greatest difficulty in procuring one small dish of strawberries to deck the royal banquet, the forced strawberries being all over and the natural not ripe.

Editor's Notes
* To bring together her reminiscences of historic personages, Miss Wynn passes on at once to 1814, when London was crowded with them. It will be remembered that the exiled royal family in France had frequently partaken of the splendid hospitality of Stowe, and that she went to Oxford in the suite of her uncle Lord Grenville, the Lord High Chancellor of the University.
** Miss Wynn has here lost sight of the fact that the popular feeling was far from favourable to the restored dynasty.
*** No. 72. Madame d'Arblay gives a curious account of the confusion that prevailed both there and at Grillion's during the royal receptions. (Diary, vol. 7, p. 22-39.) In a letter of July 9th, 1814, Sir Walter Scott writes : ‘The Duke of Buccleugh told me yesterday of a very good reply of Louis to some of his attendants, who proposed shutting the doors of his apartments to keep out the throng of people. "Open the door," he said, "to John Bull; he has suffered a good deal in keeping the door open to me." '
**** Waverley was published in 1814.
***** The Grand Duchess of Oldenburg, who attracted great attention by her showy person and dress. The Oldenburg bonnet (described in ' The Fudge Family') speedily became the rage—
A charming new bonnet, set high up and poking,
Like a pot that is set to keep chimneys from smoking.

By way of caricaturing it in the pantomime, Grimaldi appeared with one of the old-fashioned coalscuttles on his head and a chimney-pot on the top. When the restored princes re-entered Paris in 1814, the Duchess of Augouleme gave offence by her quiet style of dress and flat bonnet, supposed to be a servile adoption of English fashions.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Early Impressions of Celebrated Men - Pitt, Fox, Lord Wellesley and Windham

I have often thought, in reading Lord Orford's 'Reminiscences,' that almost anybody might make, by writing down theirs, a book which would at least be sure of giving entertainment to the writer when the recollections it records becomes less vivid. Upon that hint I write, and first I mean to record those sights which are gone and past, and which never can greet my eyes again.

Without ever having read Lavater or any one else who has written on physiognomy, I have, as most people probably have, delight in tracing character in countenance, and therefore there are few recollections I love better than those of the faces of the great men whom I have seen at various periods. I can now laugh at the recollection of my excessive disappointment in the first great man I remember seeing—in society at least. I was about sixteen or seventeen when, at Dropmore where I was with Lord and Lady Grenville only — Mr.Pitt arrived for a visit of two days.

First, I was disappointed in that turned-up nose, and in that countenance, in which it was so impossible to find any indication of the mind, and in that person which was so deficient in dignity that he had hardly the air of a gentleman. After this first disappointment my every faculty seemed to me to be absorbed in listening.

If not tropes, I fully expected the dictums of wisdom each time that he opened his mouth. From what I then heard and saw, I should say that mouth was made for eating; as to speaking, there was very little, and that little was totally uninteresting to me, and I believe would have been so to everybody.

I was certainly not capable of a very accurate judgment, but I was as certainly in a mood very much to overrate instead of underrating what fell from the great man, and to be quite sure that what I did not understand must be mighty fine.

On the second day arrived Lord Wellesley,* whom I thought very agreeable ; partly, I fancy, from his high-bred manners, and still more from his occasionally saying a few words to me, and thus making me feel treated as a reasonable creature.

After we had retired for the night, I heard from the library, which was under my room, the most extraordinary noises — barking, mewing, hissing, howling, interspersed with violent shouts of laughter. I settled that the servants had come into the room, and had got drunk and riotous; and I turned to sleep when the noise had ceased. Never can I forget my dismay (it was more than astonishment) when next day at breakfast I heard that my wise uncle and his two wise guests, whom we had left talking, as I supposed, of the fate of Europe, had spyed in the room a little bird; they did not wish it to be shut up there all night: therefore, after having opened every window, these great wise men tried every variety of noise they could make to frighten out the poor bird.

At a later period, in the year 1805, I found myself for nearly a week at Stowe, with Mr. Fox; but as there were above fifty others in the house, with the Prince Regent ** at their head, the whole thing was a formal crowd, and I could only gaze at the countenance of the one whom I should most have liked to hear talk. Certainly in this mixed society he hardly ever was heard to speak, but occasionally with some one individual one saw him entering into an animated whispered conversation; and it was curious to watch the sudden illumination of a countenance which, when silent, had to my fancy a heavy, sullen look.

How far it might even then have been altered by malady, I cannot judge; but I know that the next time I beheld Mr. Fox, not six months after, at Lord Melville's trial, I thought I never had seen the ravages of illness so strongly marked in any human countenance. All its animation had disappeared, the leaden eyes were almost lost under the heavy eyebrow, even that appeared to partake in the extraordinary change which all the colouring seemed to have undergone, the pallid or rather livid hue of the complexion deepened the sable line of the dark brow, and the whole countenance assumed a lethargic expression. He lived scarcely three months after the time I mention.***

In my recollection, no person appears to have possessed the power of making conversation delightful as much as Mr. Windham. His peculiar charm seems to me to have been that sort of gay openness which I should call the very reverse of what the French term morgue. To all, this must be agreeable, and it is peculiarly delightful to a young person who is conscious of her own inferiority to the person who condescends to put her perfectly at ease. During the party at
Stowe to which I have alluded, I found myself embarked for the morning's or rather day's amusement, in a carriage with Lady King, Lord Braybrooke, and
Mr. Windham. My mother was in some other carriage, my two sisters in a third.

When we all met in our own rooms, they with one accord voted they were a little tired and very much bored. I, though much more liable to both these complaints than any of the party, could only say I had been highly amused the whole day.
The fact was, they had no Mr. Windham to listen to, and I had; and yet, truth to say, when I was asked how he had contrived to amuse me so much, I had very little to tell even then; and now after so many years that little has passed away.

I do recollect, however, one singular circumstance. Junius happened to be mentioned, and on that old subject Mr. Windham ventured what was to me at least a quite new guess. Gibbon was the person he mentioned as the only man of high talents living at that period in obscurity which might effectually have concealed him. Soon afterwards I mentioned this conjecture to Charles (the late Eight Hon. Charles Wynn), whose accurate memory immediately produced a proof of its fallacy.

He said, 'I cannot help thinking that, at the period of the publication of Junius, Gibbon was not in England.' Upon referring to the letters of Gibbon, it proved that he was in Switzerland during the greater part, if not the whole, of the appearance of Junius. It seems most singular that Mr. Windham should even mention a conjecture which he had not brought to this obvious test.****

Editor's Notes
* It appears from Lord Wellesley's Correspondence, that the then Earl of Mornington) spent some days at Dropmore in the spring of 1797, and this must have been the visit in question. He left England for India in the November of that year, and did not return till January 1806, when Pitt was dying.
**Not Regent till 1811
***This account of Fox's appearance in his latter years is confirmed, by contemporaries. But, according to Sir William Napier, Pitt retained till within a year and a half of his death a boyish love.
* Miss Wynn and her brother must have been under a mistaken impression as to the period during which the Letters of Junius appeared. The letters under that signature began in January 1769, and ended in January 1772. Gibbon returned to England in 1765, and did not leave it again to reside acroad till 1783; but his habits and turn of mind, as developed in his autobiography, to say nothing of his political opinions or his style, completely preclude the notion of his being the author of Junius. He had been often stated as a candidate.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Anecdotes of Denon

Mr Bankes told me that, one morning while he was breakfasting tete-a-tete with Denon, a servant brought in a packet from the mint containing a medal just struck. Denon laid it flat on his hand, considered the reverse, then exclaimed: Nous sommes seuls, mon ami: parlons a coeur ouvert: voila le comble de la flatterie;' then he read "Mouse oum resta uratoum - et puis (turning the medal and showing the head of Louis XVIII.) Voila cet homme que a tout fait pour le detruire."

When one recollects what Denon and his old master had done for the Museum; when one remembers how soon under the new regime he was turned out; when, besides, one looks not only at the Louvre, which the fate of war has stripped of its finest ornaments, but at the various collections, at the Jardin des Plantes, which from neglect and want of encouragement have suffered nearly as much; when, most of all, one looks at what was the Musee des Monumens, now totally destroyed and dispersed by bigotry - when one thinks of all these circumstances, one wonders that, speaking a couer ouvert, Denon could express himself so moderately on the subject.

One day Mr Bankes said he expressed to Denon a strong wish to see Roustan, the Mameluke, who is now keeping a small shop. Denon's reply did him honour. "You will certainly do as you please, but you must allow me to say that, from the moment you condescend to seek such a wretch as that man, I shall considered our acquaintance ended, and you must not wonder if my doors are closed against you."

Mt Bankes said he certainly would not incur such a penalty, but remonstrate, alleging he was far from admiring the character of Roustan, very far from defending his ingratitude towards Napoleon, but that he should have much pleasure in learning from his mouth some of the lesser particulars of the domestic life of his master, which have been so variously represented.

Denon allowed the truth of all this, but said that if any Englishman of name was known to go to Roustan's house, he would soon be followed by several of his countrymen; money would flow in, and the wretch would soon be raised from the state of well-deserved contempt and degradation which was the natural consequence of his ingratitude.

It seems he was given to Napoleon by one of the pashas, as a thing of much less value than an Englishman would consider a dog. Napoleon took a fancy to him, loaded him with favours, kept him always about his person, gave him the means of marrying, and in the most trying moment of his life, when he considered himself going into the greatest dangers, his last thought always seems to have been that of making an additional provision for Roustan. Even on the eve of leaving Paris in the campaign which terminated his career of glory, he thought of Roustan. After having thus fattened on Napoleon's prosperity, after having so closely attended on him as always to sleep across the door of his tent or his room, be forsook him in adversity and refused to follow him to St Helena.

* Denon was the most celebrated of the savans who accompanied Napoleon in the Egyptian expedition of which he published a scientific and illustrated account in 1802. He was Directeur General des Musees under the Emperor, and was displaced on the Restoration. Lady Morgan speaks highly of his conversational powers in her France.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Pretend Archduke

I have heard this evening a strange wild romantic story from Mr. Bankes,* almost too improbable for a novel, and yet the leading facts seem established beyond a doubt.

A stranger, with one attendant only (I think), arrived some years ago at the house of a man of the name of Contessini, then British Consul at Jaffa, who
was obliged, on seeing some passports and papers, to bestow a bed and a dinner. The latter was bad enough, but the stranger gave the servants of the consul a gratuity three or four times as large as any they had ever received before.

Old Contessini, according to the custom of the East, took this fee from his servants; being an honest man, and being impressed with a strong idea that the liberality of the stranger bespoke a person of consequence, he very much improved his fare on the second day. On the third, the stranger began to open a little; he asked Contessini whether he was not consul for Austria as well as England, and received a reply in the affirmative.

'Well,' says he, ' you need not hoist the Austrian flag, but I will confide to you a secret of the greatest importance, under the seal of the most inviolable secrecy. I am travelling in the strictest -incog., but I am the Archduke John, the brother of the Emperor of Austria.'

The poor consul was overwhelmed with confusion: he got up from the dinner-table at which they were sitting, insisting upon serving behind the chair of his illustrious guest, who had great difficulty in. persuading him, partly by the force of arguments drawn from the necessity of concealment from the servants and partly by that of his arms, to resume his chair.

In this state things remained some days: the old consul was delighted to see that the archduke took great notice of his son, a fine lad. One day the boy, coming into the stranger's room, found him occupied in taking some things out of a trunk in which were fine uniform embroidered most richly and covered with stars and orders. The boy told his father of the fine things he had beheld, and, not being under any promise of secrecy, repeated his story to every person he met.

Suspicions began to be excited as to the rank of the stranger; the old consul looked mysterious, and began to whisper his secret.

This made the residence of Jaffa very unpleasant to the prince: he talked of prosecuting his journey through the Holy Land, and asked Contessini whether there was any person in Jaffa from whom he could procure money.

'I fear,' replied the old man, 'there may not be a sum sufficient to supply the occasions of your Imperial Highness; but if such a sum (naming something about 100L) is sufficient, I can easily find it.' The money was produced: the archduke gave his note, disguised himself as a monk, and proceeded on his journey to Nazareth, where there was a. large convent; and Contessini, after much importunity, obtained leave to acquaint the prior by letter of the real name and rank of the stranger.

He took up his abode for some time in the convent: every respect was shown to him; the prior kept the secret for some time; but much curiosity and many suspicions were excited by the uncommon liberality of the stranger. He evinced this chiefly by giving at the mass, which lie attended with the most exemplary regularity, a contribution for the wants of the convent, which, though it was nearly ten times as much as they were in the habit of receiving from the most liberal of their contributors, was in fact very small.

By this and various other means he so established his character without betraying his rank, that the prior made not the funds of the convent on his word only, and on promise of obtaining various immunities and advantages for the convent from the Emperor of Austria. He returned to his old friend the consul at Jaffa: expressed a wish to fit out a vessel to convey him to the coast of Italy, for the purpose of performing a pilgrimage to Loretto.

The attendant or cameriere suggested to the consul that he was mad not to try to take advantage of the partiality which the archduke expressed for his son to try to obtain for him a situation in his household. The permission was given for young Contessini to attend the archduke, and many very vague promises of future protection were made.

In return for this the consul could do no less than take upon himself all the trouble of the purchase of the vessel, and of course he made himself responsible for all the expenses. He was also persuaded by the cameriere to embark several bales of cotton, which the young man, his son, "would sell to great advantage.

One of the next adventures of this great personage was at one of the Turkish ports. He was lodged in the house of the Austrian consul, to whom he carried a letter from old Contessini declaring his rank, but still with injunctions of the greatest secrecy.

A few days after his arrival the Turkish fleet, with the Captain Pasha (the third man in the empire) on board, anchored in the port. The consul with great difficulty obtained from his guest permission to declare his rank to this great personage ; an invitation ensued to visit the fleet; every royal honour and observance were paid; and very large presents of jewels, &c., offered, and of course accepted, by the prince.

He then went (I forget where) to another Eastern convent, where he was received with still greater distinction by the archbishop. Here, however, his career seemed very near a close; the notes or bills had all been protested, and a rumour of the fraud spread very soon after his arrival.

He was the first to tell the story to the old archbishop, to inveigh against the tricks of swindlers, and at the ingenuity of one who, having discovered him to be travelling incog. & the East, had ventured to personate him; then. followed a dozen stories of exactly similar personations, &c., but he ended in stating that, though loaded with passports, letters of credit, &c., from the emperor, which were all in his vessel, he should be very averse to appearing publicly in his own character.

He said his journey, or rather his pilgrimage, had been undertaken from motives of religion only, very much against the consent of the emperor, who would be still more incensed when he discovered the fraud which had ensued from the circumstance of his travelling incog.

It became, therefore, his duty to guard his secret more strictly than ever. Upon this pretence he once more obtained a large sum to enable him to perform his
pilgrimage to Loretto, and once more he resumed his travels.

When he reached the Continent he professed himself surprised to find the emperor more incensed than ever: the cameriere was dismissed, and young Contessini, who was enthusiastically devoted to him, was persuaded that the life of his illustrious master depended upon his secrecy. After various adventures, hair-breadth escapes, daring frauds, &c., he reached Hamburgh.

There he contrived by various forgeries to raise a sum of money, on credit, to charter a vessel for America. This was wrecked somewhere on the British coast. The adventurer and his faithful Contessini arrived in London.

The latter, from whom Mr. Bankes had the whole detail, described with the most beautiful simplicity, in his bad Italian, the effect produced in his mind by all
that he saw, and especially by the grande bellissimo superbo hotel where they were lodged, and which, with some difficulty, he at last explained to be the Saracen's Head.

Among its various merits, he did not enumerate that of its being a peaceful abode. Englishmen were not so easily to be taken in as consuls, pashas, and
archbishops in the East. The various frauds and forgeries of the adventurer were soon brought to light, and the bellissimo hotel full of officers of justice' in pursuit of him.

However, he contrived once more to escape them by getting out of a garret window upon the roofs of the neighbouring houses. Such was the extraordinary simplicity and credulity of his faithful attendant that even at this moment, after all that he had witnessed, he described himself as perfectly convinced that his master was going straight to St. James's, meaning at last to avow his rank and resume his native splendour. Judge, then, what must have been his dismay when he found himself safely lodged with the archduke in Newgate.

From the extreme ignorance of the narrator it was impossible, Mr. Bankes said, to gain a clear idea of this part of his adventures. By some means they got out of Newgate, and very soon after were sent to a lock-up house.

Here the story of the impostor closes, not, as might be expected, by his obtaining the due reward of all his iniquities, but by his seducing the wife of the keeper of the lock-up house, carrying off with her every valuable in the house, and contriving to elude every pursuit.

Poor Contessini was now left alone to stand his trial, and Mr. Bankes said nothing could be more curious than his admiration, his simple gratitude for his extraordinary good fortune in having been taken before the most upright, the most humane, the greatest of judges, the only one man in the whole world who would not have hanged him because he had been imposed upon by a rascal, never having
had any share in the transactions which made him amenable to justice. A subscription was collected to enable this poor creature to return to his own country, which he did not reach without having been once more wrecked.

When Mr, Bankes was at Jaffa, he heard repeatedly of the adventurer, who had imposed himself upon so many persons, and raised large sums of money, as the Archduke John. He was one day questioning the British Consul on the subject, who, from common report, related many of the leading particulars, especially the reception by the Captain Pasha. He added, 'As you seem very curious, if you wish it, I will send for the son of my predecessor Contessini, who for some time followed the fortunes of this adventurer.' He came.

Mr. Bankes was so pleased with his extraordinary story, and with his mode of relating it, that he took the man as his servant, though he had little else to recommend him.**

Editor's notes
* William Bankes, .Esq., of Corfe Castle, and Kingston Hall, Dorsetshire
** Mr. Bankes's story is substantially confirmed by Sir William Gell, who says in his Memoirs, ' We had. been told that one of the Austrian archdukes was passing through Greece at this time, and that he was now (1804) at Modon, giving out that he had quitted Vienna on account of some disagreement with the Austrian imperial family, and was travelling incog. . . .
' A few mouths after, we heard of an unpleasant accident which happened quite unexpectedly to his Imperial Highness. After he had resided some time at the house of the poor consul, a Polish nobleman, Prince Sapieha, landed at Modon. As he was well acquainted with the Austrian imperial family, he flew to the house of the consul, as soon as he heard the archduke was there. He entered hastily tile room where the consul and his guest "were dining, eagerly enquiring for his friend the archduke. The consul, distressed at the arrival of a person whom he doubted not was despatched from the court to reclaim the wandering prince, and hoping that the messenger was not personally acquainted with his imperial guest, thought it better to hesitate, and gave no answer till Prince Sapieha demanded with more eagerness to be shown to the room of the archduke. During this time, the adventurer said not a word, and the consul was at length induced to confess that his Imperial Highness was present. Of course Prince Sapielia needed no further explanation, left the room, and soon quitted Modon, not without having had the charity to advise the owner of the house where he lodged to inform the Austrian consul that he was ruining himself for an impostor. The adventurer was not, however, routed by the unfortunate visit of the prince, for he succeeded in persuading the consul, who was alarmed, and began to expostulate, that he knew Sapieha well, but was so disgusted at the impertinence of his abrupt entrance during dinner, instead of sending in due form to know when his company would be agreeable, that he did not condescend to acknowledge him.'

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Napoleon and his Brothers

Lady H. has been telling us of some of the conversation which passed at Walcot* while Lucien Buonaparte was there. He was very communicative on the adventures of his own and his brother's life, and anecdotes so authenticated are worth remembering.

When Lucien was living at his villa on the Lago Bracciano, near Rome, he was requested hy his brother Joseph, then king of Naples, to come to him on business of great importance. Joseph told him he wished to consult him on a letter he had just received from Napoleon, offering him the crown of Spain, and desiring him to come and receive it at his hands.

Joseph professed himself very much inclined to decline the new honours offered him, This resolution Lucien did his utmost to confirm; he reminded Joseph of all the difficulties he had found in establishing himself on the throne of Naples. Those were overcome, and the Neapolitans were now perfectly tranquil under his government.

In Spain, he would have the whole to go over again, and would probably find the Spaniards much more disinclined towards him than the Neapolitans had ever been. Joseph accordingly wrote to Napoleon, respectfully declining the crown offered him, and expressing his gratitude for that he already possessed, and his perfect satisfaction. Unfortunately for himself (much against the advice of Lucien) he added, that ' il se rendrait aux ordres de sa Majeste,' and set out to meet Napoleon. He, to use the words of Lucien, 'prepara un de ces grands coups qu'il aimait tant et qui lui ont si souvent reussi.'

Bayonne was the appointed place of meeting, but Napoleon went farther, met Joseph on the road, and got out of his carriage to be the first to congratulate the King of Spain. In one moment Joseph found himself surrounded by the numerous suite of his brother, and had received their homage almost before he knew where he was. This public ceremony having taken place, it was no longer possible to retract.

In those days, when crowns were literally going a-begging, Lucien (by his own account at least) seems to have shown great firmness in rejecting them, not only for himself, but for his family.

At one time, Napoleon sent for one of Lucien's daughters, offering to marry her to the Prince of Spain (Ferdinand), or to the Prince of Wirtemberg (Paul). Lucien determined to refuse both: ' L'un,' he said, 'etait pire que fou; mais il fallait obeir aux ordres supremes de mon frere; et j'envoyai Charlotte a Paris, suivie de ses femmes seulement, et de I'abbe B.'

I have forgot the name, but he was the nephew of Lucien's first wife, and was present when the story was told. When the poor victim arrived at St. Cloud, where the Emperor was, she was immediately presented to him; and as she knelt to pay her obeisance, he said, ' Levez-vi princesse.'

She had the courage to reply, 'Non, sire, je ne suis pas princesse; je ne suis que Charlotte Buonaparte: permittez-moi, sire, de retourner mon pere.''

This permission was granted, and ntended Queen of Spain (afterwards Princess Gabriella) was, when this story was related, living with her parents at Ludlow.

On the day of Napoleon's coronation, Garnerin sent up a balloon to make the news fly. This balloon landed near Lucien's Roman villa, in twenty-six hours exactly from the period at which it was launched from Paris.

Yet, speedy as this communication appears, it might have been still more so; for, at its first setting out balloon was impelled quite in another direction. How soon it took its south-eastern course, cannot, of course, be known.**

Editor’s notes
* Walcot, Salop ; a seat of the Earl of Powia.
** In the journal of De las Casas this circumstance is mentioned as related by Napoleon, who speaks of the time as 'en peu d’heures’.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Napoleon on Board the ‘Northumberland'

Extracts from letters from an officer of the Marines
H.M.S. Northumberland Aug. 5, 1815
It is my guard, and I have to sit in the antechamber of Napoleon, to prevent communication between him and the ship’s company, and also to be a check on his own domestics; it is now one and I must keep awake to six … Napoleon gets very sulky if he is not treated with that deference and respect to which he is accustomed: his own followers treat him with the same respect as if he was still emperor.

Beattie, my captain, was at Acre: Napoleon learnt this in conversation; seemed quite pleased, caught hold of his ear and gave it a good pinch (which is his custom when pleased), and seems to have taken a great liking to him.

He is sometimes very communicative: to-day he mentioned the project he had formed for invading England in 1805, declared it had been his intention to lead the expedition himself; and said it might have succeeded.

The plan was this: he sent his fleet to the West Indies for the purpose of drawing our fleets there, which it did, Lord Nelson and Sir Robert Calder both following Villeneuve there; he -was to return immediately to the Channel, and Napoleon said he calculated that Villenueve would be in the Channel at least a fortnight before our fleets could get back.

His army was embarked (200,000 he says), but the plan was disconcerted by Villeneuve's going into Cadiz instead of coming to the Channel. His words were, ' He might as well have been in the East Indies as at Cadiz;' and he then declared that if Villenueve had obeyed his orders, he should certainly have invaded England, be the result what it might.*

Bertrand is the only one that seems to feel his situation ; he speaks of Napoleon often with tears, and is extremely agitated when conversing on the state of France. He says Napoleon did not calculate upon fighting the English and Prussians at Waterloo. The Prussians were beaten on the 16th, and it was not supposed they could have been up to take part in the battle of the 18th. He thinks the French would have been victorious if the Prussians had not come up ; but circumstances were not favourable. The French soldiers fought very well; the officers did not.

I asked him what became of the French army after the battle, why they did not retreat in some sort of order? He said, with a shrug, they were annihilated, there were none left; yet, notwithstanding these admissions, they break out gasconading about their victories. ....

Napoleon's spirits are better; he enters into conversation very freely on different parts of his life. The other day he was speaking of Waterloo: he said he had not the least idea of fighting on the 18th: he did not suppose Wellington would have given him battle; he so fully expected Wellington to retreat, that he had not even made preparations for battle, and was a little taken by surprise.

' But,' said he, ' I never was so pleased as when I saw he intended to fight. I had not a doubt of annihilating his army; it was the only thing I could have wished. I expected him to abandon Flanders, and fall back on the Russians ; but when I found he gave me battle singly, I was confident of his destruction. My soldiers behaved well; my generals did not.'

He says it was dusk when his army was thrown into confusion ; that if he could have shown himself, they would have rallied and been victorious ; but that the rout was so great, he was carried away in the throng. He went to Paris to try to save the honour of France, but found he could not.

He positively asserts that previously to the battle of Waterloo, and after his return to France, Austria proposed to him to abdicate in favour of Napoleon II., and promised to support him. His followers, too, have mentioned so many particulars respecting this, that I do not doubt the fact. This proposition had nothing to do with the forged letter of the Duke of Bassano, which they also speak of as a falsehood : none such was shown to him by Murat.

He has been talking this evening about his turning Mahometan: he said it was a long time before he could persuade them that he was a true Mussulman ; but at last I persuaded them that Mahomet was wrong in some things, and I was right; and they acknowledged me to be the greater man.' He says that in his retreat from Acre he lost nearly half his army.

Yesterday he remarked that Madame Bertrand was in much better spirits than when she attempted to drown herself, and added, ' A man of true courage will bear up against misfortunes, and finally surmount them, while common minds will sink under them.' He converses sometimes on the subject of his making away with himself, and calmly reprobates the idea of his being supposed capable of it.**

I believe the object of the guard is to prevent communication with the crew. Napoleon told the admiral that he did not doubt he could get many to join him if he tried; and, indeed, they are a set of as mutinous rascals as I ever heard of; though I don't think they would assist him to escape. What I am going to state
must, for the credit of the country, be a secret: they mutinied, and refused to get anchor up at Portsmouth; the Artillery company, the 53rd, and ourselves, were under arms for three hours—that is to say, till we had sailed.

About twenty of the principal seamen were seized and confined, but sent away from the ship; and the conduct and language of the sailors now is beyond everything; they think nothing of striking the midshipman.* . . .

St. Helena.—We arrived at this barren horrid island yesterday, after a passage of ten weeks. In my former travels in these latitudes everything seemed animated; the sea swarming with fish, water brilliant and phosphoric, sky without a cloud. Now everything has been the reverse: since we left Madeira, the sun has been constantly obscured with clouds; the weather, even on the equator, as cold as you can have had it in England; scarcely a fish to be seen; and, what is still more extra-ordinary, the trade-winds, which in the tropics are calculated upon as certain, have blown almost from the opposite quarter to what they were expected, and thereby opposed our progress.

We crossed the equator on the 23rd September, the same day as the sun; the greatest height of the thermometer was then only 75°, with a vertical sun; since it has been as low as 66°: today it is only 70°. Napoleon has been in pretty good health and spirits all the voyage, conversing on every subject without the least hesitation.

Editor’s note [Here follows the well-known justification of the poisoning of the sick at Jaffa ; execution of the Due d'Enghien, &c. &c.]

I have dined three times with Napoleon. I cannot say I think his manners have much of that elegance which might have been expected from a person of his ci-devant rank. He has a particularly disagreeable grunt when he does not understand what you say, and desires a repetition. He converses freely, but not at table, with the Frenchmen, and takes no more notice of the ladies than if they were a hundred miles off. I have not heard him speak once to Madame Bertrand at table, and seldom elsewhere.

Napoleon landed on the 17th of October: he appeared a good deal affected at leaving the ship, and spoke so.

Did I tell you that the band, who used to play every day, struck up of their own accord, a few days after we left England, Vive Henri Quatre, upon Buonaparte coming after dinner ? Thinking it might hurt his feelings, we stopped them immediately; but he had heard enough to know what it was, and requested they would play that or any other French tune, as he liked it much ; and afterwards they played the loyal and revolutionary airs indiscriminately.

Of the Due d'Enghien's business he said, not a fortnight ago (December 1815) — and you may rely upon he did say, though I did not hear it — it was in dictating to his secretary, Las Casas—two days after the Due was executed, he received proofs of his innocence, and that the Due even solicited employment in his service, stating his poverty; but that the application was not received till after his death.

This Buonaparte certainly said; for I do not think his secretary would say so if it was not true: and he said he had it from Napoleon's mouth, as part of papers which he was dictating the I day before I had it.****

Editors’ Notes
* His plan, as described by M. Thiers, was much more complicated, and required a concurrence of events on which it was preposterous to rely.
** He must have forgotten his own attempt to poison himself at Fontainehleau, clearly proved by M. Thiers.

*** This state of things appears to have been carefully concealed
from the public.
**** Mr. Warren stated, in his printed, letters that he had seen a copy of the alleged letter from the Due d'Enghien in the possession of Las Casas.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Account of a Hurricane in Jamaica

Extract from a letter dated Chester Coffee Estate, three-quarter way up the Blue Mountains (Jamaica), from the side of a large wood fire ; thermometer 58°, the mountain winds blowing almost a hurricane, and the rain descending in Equinoctial torrents.—16th October 1815, 10 a.m.

As soon as I was sufficiently recovered from the effects of the yellow fever to bear the journey, I was brought to this invigorating climate, and wonderful its effects have been in eleven days.

This is a higher situation than any I have yet visited, higher even than Mount Atlas. The house is superb, with fireplaces in every room, and the climate that of the South of France. There is a large and beautiful garden, where grow side by side, in the utmost luxuriance and full of fruit, the mangan, cinnamon, and nutmeg trees of the East; the apple, pear, and nectarine of England ; and the pine-apple, orange, cocoatree, guava, &c. of the West.

In no other part of the world, perhaps could you see assembled the productions of so many countries; and this is from the unvarying temperatures of the climate, being neither influenced by the season nor ever getting too warm for European plants, or too cold for those of the tropics.

Kingston, Nov. 5, 1815.—Little did I expect, when I sat down so comfortably at Chester Hill to write to you by my snug fireside, what danger and misery were awaiting me. It was then, as you may see by my date, blowing very strong, but we expected nothing further.

I was interrupted at twelve o'clock by a summons to luncheon; in the midst of it we were suddenly alarmed by seeing the fine mangan tree in our garden torn up by the roots, whisked into the air, and carried out of sight; this made us apprehend what soon succeeded—a violent hurricane. After this first gust of wind, fresh ones attacked us, each with increased violence: not one of the beautiful trees was left standing; cedar, orange, apple, and all the large trees being torn up, and the cocoas, cabbages, &c., snapped in the middle.

The wind continued raging with tremendous force; and next, we were terrified beyond description by the whole wing of that part of the house we had just quitted, walls and all, giving way, though a most substantial stone building ; the roof entire, without loss of a shingle or beam, being carried up into the air, the walls falling in with a tremendous crash; and the beams, boards, &c. of the two floorings were seen flying with amazing velocity through the air, knocking down all that came in contact with them. It was with the utmost difficulty that, on hearing the walls shaking and cracking, we saved ourselves, and got into the farther end, or rather division, of a double house.

Here, however, we had not been ten minutes before the wind getting under the remaining part of the roof (since the fall of the wing, totally unprotected) tore it up too, throwing down on us the ceilings and some of the beams, by one of which I was
knocked down and hurt.

However, we contrived to rush out, expecting that the walls, now unroofed, must follow; and being unable to stand upright from the fear of being taken off our legs, we crawled into the kitchen—an outhouse which, being very low and nearly circular, we hoped might stand. We were disappointed; for after our seeing the coffee-store, coffee-works, overseer's house, all the negro houses, and every possible place of shelter, blown down; not a tree standing; beams, trees, branches, and wooden shingles with large nails in them flying about in every direction, with certain death to every living thing they encountered; night coming on and the gale increasing the kitchen gave way, injuring us all more or less, and, I fear, maiming one negro for life. I only received another hard blow.

As a last resource and almost forlorn hope, we betook ourselves to a cellar under the ruins of the house, trying to hope that, if the walls fell in (and we heard stones dropping from them every instant), they might not beat in the floor of the dining-room over our heads and crush us with their fall. That they would fall, we had no doubt; and a very, very slender hope that the flooring would withstand them, and no possibility of escape.

This was about eight in the evening, when the night was just setting in. Our cellar was about nine feet square: up to our knees in water from the torrents of rain falling through the unroofed ruin above us, under a constant shower-bath in that cold climate that very cold night, in the instant expectation of being crushed to death or horribly mangled, we remained the whole of that dreadful night.

Our party consisted, besides myself, of Mr. A., Dr. M., the overseer, the bookkeeper, four black men, and four black women with their six children.

What I suffered from cold, and the bruises I had received, exceeded in mere bodily suffering anything I have ever felt or expect to feel—far worse than the surgeon's knife searching the bullet; and I certainly never felt the passion of fear before —at least nothing resembling my sensations that night.

At about two in the morning one of the walls fell in; luckily, so that the wind blew the stones &c. from, instead of on us: still, a great part fell over our heads on the flooring, of course on boards, with a tremendous crash. "We conceived it was the whole house, and the screams of the poor women and children, the (as they supposed) dying prayer of the men, were horrible beyond anything I can conceive.

I rose up from sitting on an empty barrel, hoping the beams might strike my head first, and end my sense of suffering for myself and my companions. For that the beams were falling, and that death seemed inevitable, was evident; but, after many alarms of this sort and constant dread, the gale abated at sunrise, after the longest night I ever passed.

At 6 a.m. the rain and wind had entirely ceased and we were able to walk out of our dungeon and witness the scene of destruction. Not a house, a tree, a negro hut or shed, left standing; large trees thrown down or torn away; small snapped off close to the roots; all the beautiful garden destroyed; one of the four walls of the house levelled, a wing entirely down, the remainder unroofed: and we had no means of communication with our neighbours, as every rivulet was swelled to an impassable river.

At the end of three days, however, we got to the nearest neighbour's house, which had not suffered so much; and a week after, the roads and rivers admitted of my return here safe and sound.

Kingston has suffered much less than the mountains. . . . The hurricane has cooled the air, and now the temperature of Kingston is tolerable even after leaving the Blue Mountains.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Lord North

Among the many anonymous letters which daily poured in upon the late Lord North, he received one announcing to him the arrival of a box which was exactly described. He was warned not to open this box, as it was so contrived that, upon opening the lock, a loaded pistol which the box contained should be discharged. On the following day (which I forgot to say was the time specified) Lord North received a box exactly answering to the description. Without mentioning the circumstance, he took the portentous box, and, concealing it under his great-coat, went immediately and threw it unopened into the Thames.*

*This story was related by Mr T. Grenville

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Account by a Lady of a Visit to Princess Dashkaw

Editor's introduction
The Princess was the third daughter of Count Woronzow, and was married at sixteen under characteristic circumstances. The Prince Dashkaw having made a compromising proposal to her, not pour le bon motif, she affected to treat it as a proposal of marriage, and communicated it as such to her family.

The prince married her, as the only or best way of getting out of the scrape. He owned her first child, but demurred to the second. She played a leading part in the intrigues and conspiracies which made Catherine the Second Autocrat of all the Russias; but the gratitude of her imperial friend and mistress did not keep pace with her expectations, and a coolness grew up between them which estranged her from the court,

The first reward she claimed was the colonelcy of a crack regiment. This Catherine refused, but made her Director of the Academy, and she is said to have proved fully equal to the post. She was popularly supposed to have been entrusted with the momentous duty of subjecting the empress’s male favourites to a kind of competitive examination or qualifying test; whence her name of l’eprouveuse, which was also given to another lady who succeeded her.

These particulars are principally based on French authorities. But the memoirs of the Princess, written by herself, were edited in English ' from the originals' by Mrs. W, Bradford in 1840; forming, with the correspondence, two volumes octavo. This lady, whose maiden name was Wilmot, was the younger sister of the writer of the following account, parts of which are comprised in Mrs. W. Bradford's work. I need hardly add that the Princess might say of her autobiography what a lively Frenchwoman said of her own: ' Je ne me suis peinte qv’en buste.'

In her ' letter dedicatory ' to her editor and friend, she complains that 'a life strictly moral and passed for the most part in privacy should be blackened by way of confirmatory supplement to' the falsehoods and vile imputations which some French writers had been pleased to fabricate and propagate against the great Catherine.

The sisters were of a good Irish family, who had made the acquaintance of the Princess during her residence in Ireland. They knew nothing personally of her before 1803, when she was near sixty.

Since cold is the order of the day, you may make this passing remark, that habit has no power of reconciling one to the inclemency of the climate: at least my sister says that she felt the second winter like the evaporation of saltpetre on the skin compared to the first which she scarcely minded, and now she is covered with wadded cloaks, when I need no additional clothing and the Princess is utterly unconscious it is not a summer's day. . . .

Russia is yet barbarous enough to be distinguished by her hospitality. She has many other nationalities, no doubt, but my experience has not been able to distinguish any except among the lower orders of the people: for, with respect to the higher, I am sorry to say they imitate the French in everything: and though the manners of the French are appropriate to themselves, I cannot endure the singerie of Bruin when he frolics like the monkey on his back. Instead, therefore, of the dignified salutation of former days (namely, of bowing seriously to one another till their crowns met together), you are kissed on both the cheeks with an appearance of transport, and are told mechanically how enchanted they are to make your acquaintance, &c.

The dress, too, is an imitation of the French, and they have universally adopted their language. ... In the midst of all this adoption of manners, customs, and language there is something childishly silly in their reprobating Buonaparte, when they cannot eat their dinner without a French cook to dress it, when they cannot educate their children without an unprincipled adventuress from Paris to act as governess, when every house of consequence (that I have seen at least) has an outcast Frenchman to instruct the heir apparent; in one word, when every association of fashion, luxury, elegance, and fascination is drawn from France, and, in the midst of this obliteration of themselves, a dying squeak against Buonaparte redeems them in their own eyes from this social and political suicide …

How I abhor these general observations arising from such circumscribed experience as mine, and I don’t know what induces me to depart from the detail of gossip. Strange to say, this same gossip would lead me to talk of Princess Dashkaw’s character (as I know more of her than of anyone else’s), which is diametrically opposite to all singerie; for if ever there was an original upon the face of the earth, it is herself.

Though she uniformly behaves to us with the greatest kindness and attention, she exacts (from imperial habits I suppose) a sort of deference, that surprised one excessively at first sight, from her own country people. For example, no man, though covered with stars, attempts to sit down in her presence without being desired, and not always even when requested. I have seen a dozen Princes stand out a whole visit. Once I saw them bowed out of the room (when she got deadly tired of them); and after she had given them her hand to kiss, they departed.*

It never enters into her head or heart to disguise any sentiment, and therefore you may guess what a privileged sort of being she is: and lucky it is that she has sensibility, and gentleness of nature; otherwise she would be a pest or scourge. She is the first by right, rank, sense, and habit in every company, and prerogative becomes such a matter of course that nothing appears extraordinary that she does. . . .

I believe I never mentioned a fine place the Princess has made herself, situated in the midst of sixteen villages belonging to her. Three thousand peasants ('my subjects' as she calls them) live most happily under her absolute power; and of all the blessed-hearted beings that ever existed she is the most blessed, excepting Mrs. C. There are 200 servants (taking in all denominations, inside and outside) belonging to the establishment; more than 100 horses, 200 cows, and everything else in proportion.

The house is enormous, and has wings at either side which are only connected by balconies raised on iron railings to the second story. Twenty bearded men are now busily employed in making a temporary wooden passage, as in winter (strange to say) they had provided for no internal communication: so much was sacrificed to the beauty of the outside.

There are a hundred whimsical and most ridiculous peculiarities of custom such as, letting you provide your own bedclothes in a palace even. We have our own sheets, blankets, quilts; and they would think one as extraordinary expecting that the house was to provide for these things as you would if, in your house, I laid myself up, and sent for your gown to use as a matter of right.

In fact, system of each person having a separate little establishment, is observed in more ways than that; for saucepans, candles, candlesticks, tea and coffee equipage, a hundred etceteras, are regularly found in the care of the femmes de chamber. I might lock my castle door, or my sister's, or Anna's, and we have provisions to keep the citadel a week in flourishing health.

The system of hoards is therefore without bounds, and presents appropriate to this comical system are perfectly the fashion. The Princess sent us a pair of silver candlesticks and a store of wax candles on our arrival here. I expected a spit or a gridiron next; but though not exactly so, we got presents of iron pans the following day. . . .

In the midst of this immense establishment, and in the centre of riches and honour, I wish you could see the Princess go out to take a walk, or rather to look over her 'subjects.' An old worn-out great-coat, and a silk pocket-handkerchief worn to rags about her neck, form her dress; and well may it be in rags, for she has worn it eighteen years, and will continue to wear it as long as she lives, because it belonged to Mrs. Hamilton.

Her originality, her appearance, her manner of speaking, her doing every description of thing, altogether give me the idea of her being a fairy; for she helps the masons to build walls, she assists with her own hands in making the roads, she feeds the cows, she composes music, she sings and plays, she writes for the press, she shells the corn, she talks out loud in church and corrects the preacher if he is not devout, she talks out loud at her little theatre here and puts in the performers if they are out in their parts.

She is a doctor, an apothecary, a surgeon, a farrier, a carpenter, a magistrate, a lawyer; in short, she hourly practises every sort of incongruity, corresponds with her brother who holds the first place in the empire on his trade, with authors, with philosophers, with Jews, with poets, with her son, with all her relations, and yet appears as if she had her time a burden on her hands.

She is unconscious whether she speaks English, French, or Russ, and mingles them in every sentence. She speaks German and Italian equally well; but her pronunciation is not clear, which takes from the pleasure I should otherwise receive from her conversation. I have just finished reading Voltaire's, Diderot's, Garrick's, and the Abbe Raynal's letters to her.

She has promised me the Empress Catherine's: and it is highly necessary to qualify oneself with the knowledge of public affairs and characters in Russia since the time of Catherine, for she alludes to them perpetually; and her mind wanders back so naturally to the court, study, toilette, and boudoir of Catherine, that I am beginning to fancy I recollect her habits of life and conversation, and that I was a party concerned in the Revolution.

By-the-bye, the principal reception-room at Troitskoe is ornamented with an immense picture of Catherine on horseback in uniform, taken the very day of her husband’s destruction, and, (the Princess says) a perfect resemblance.

Besides this there are portraits of her in every room. . . . Don't irritate me by saying, you suppose I am beginning to speak the language. No, let that satisfy you for ever. I feel my powers of duncishness increase daily, my powers of idleness, and of helplessness in everything that is good.
So adieu, &c.
W. WllMOT.
Troitskoe, Sept. 1805.

* The late Sir Robert Adair used to relate that, during his mission to St Petersburgh, he and the French ambassador were sitting with Potemkin when an aide-de-camp, a young nobleman, brought him a disagreeable note or missive of some sort. Potemkin started up, and actually kicked the innocent messenger out of the room. The Princess Dashkaw was once equally high in the Empress's favour, and might have indulged her passions or caprices with equal impunity.