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.

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.

Notes
*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.*

Note
* 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.’

Notes
* 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.