Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Christophe, King of Hayti

December, 1826.—In a MS. journal of Mr. Courtenay's, I find some curious particulars respecting the family and government of that extraordinary man, Christophe. He says* Henry Christophe was born a slave in the Island of St. Eustatia, the property of a Mr, Vittor. At a very early period he manifested a disposition impatient of control, accompanied with strong natural abilities, which, however, were not improved by cultivation.

When he was about seventeen years old, a Frenchman of St. Domingo having, in a casual visit to Mr. Vittor, discovered the talents of Christophe, and purchased him from a master who was very glad to get rid of such a troublesome lad, Henri was removed to Cape Francois and apprenticed to a baker, with whom he remained till the French Revolution emancipated the slaves.

Soon after he became general of a brigade in the Colonial service. In the attempt made by the French to re-establish slavery, he distinguished himself as a patriot, fighting under the banner of Toussaint and Dessalines; and upon the death of the latter (1811) became King of Hayti; and there he now (1818) reigns, probably the most despotic monarch on earth.

At first he manifested a most sanguinary disposition; he has been often known to stab or shoot with his own hands persons in high situations about him, for imaginary offences. Since his authority has been more firmly established, he has relaxed in his severity, and has given his subjects a good code of laws.

Mr. Courtenay describes their arrival at Cape Henri, the capital of the Island of Saint Domingo and of the Haytian Empire, and speaks of the extreme civility with which Sir Home Popham (whom he accompanied) was received. A palace, a guard of honour, a stable of horses appropriated to his use, a splendid table, &c. &c.

Cape Henri, when in possession of France, was considered the richest and most splendid city in the New World. The streets are formed by ranges of palaces, all of which, without exception, were burnt or destroyed during the fervour of revolution. The square, in the centre of which is an enormous iron crown, was the scene of many horrible massacres by both parties during the struggle for independence. The French made a practice of nailing the epaulettes to the shoulders of the black officers who were taken prisoners. In this state, so cruelly incapacitated for further service, they were sent back to deter others from following their example.

The private soldiers were despatched m various ways; the most common was to sew them up, six or eight together, in sacks, and throw them into the sea, or to boil them over slow fires. After so many inhumanities, their present antipathy to the French cannot be wondered at; although at the conclusion of the Revolution the Haytians had it in their power to revenge themselves most amply, they acted with considerable moderation, and permitted the remains of the French colony to embark on board a British squadron.

Not a circumstance, let it be ever so trifling, escapes the knowledge of the King; his spies are everywhere, and are only known to himself; his memory is so good, that it is said he is acquainted with every person in his army, by character as well as by name and person. In the space of ten years this extraordinary man has corrected all the abuses be found existing, and has so completely organised his government that it might stand the test of comparison with any of those in Europe.

Christophe has been very anxious to establish morality in his dominions ; and for that reason, has taken the most severe measures to enforce matrimony. In fact, he obliges every person to marry whom he discovers to be in a single state. All the young girls fly at his approach; for whenever he meets one, he begins a string of interrogatories. If he finds her unmarried, he generally informs her he will send a husband next day. He probably sends a black from his regiment of Guards : the lady being as probably, in all but name, a white person. It is in vain to expostulate, even to plead a prior engagement, unless the marriage can be performed before the King's appointed time.

The punishment for adultery is death to both parties; but I understand there is not any instance known in which this law has been enforced to the letter. On a recent occasion, the Countess Rossiere was sentenced to ride in a state of perfect nudity on the back of a donkey through the streets of San Souci at noonday, and her paramour suffered a punishment still more severe.**

All persons have the right of appeal to the King from the courts of law, whenever they conceive themselves aggrieved. In a recent case of this nature, three judges, who were strongly suspected of corruption, were sent to the citadel of Sans Souci to work as common labourers.

Christophe is absolute in all things; and although he has given his subjects a code of laws, he does not hesitate to break them himself, whenever it suits his convenience or his caprice to do so. He is the sole proprietor of land, the produce of which is sold for the benefit of the state; no other person can be a freeholder; but tracts of land, at a nominal rent, are granted by lease as a reward for services. Cattle and sheep are also a royal monopoly, and the revenue more than trebles the expenditure of the country. The treasure collected in Sans Souci is said to amount to more than forty millions of dollars.

With respect to Christophe's private character, I was assured he is a most excellent husband and father, and has spared no pains in giving his children a finished education. The princesses have had the advantage of English governesses, and the prince has been brought up by the Baron de Vastey, a clever gentlemanly white man, educated in France.***

I became acquainted with him and liked him much, though many of his countrymen assured me he was a perfect savage in disposition. The Queen is a well-disposed and very good woman, quite free from the affectation and presumption which generally accompany a rise so very extraordinary as hers. She was once, like her husband, a slave; she accompanied him during the whole progress of the revolution, with her children on her back, often without any other food but wild fruit, exposed to every change of weather, and often half-clothed.

At ten o'clock Sir Home Popham and all our part repaired to the palace by appointment: we were received with every demonstration of respect; a guard of honour in state uniforms, each man more than six feet high. .... We were conducted through a hall, between two lines of officers, into a large and splendidly furnished room paved with marble and cooled by artificial means. In a few minutes the King and Prince Royal made their appearance; the ease and elegance of the King's deportment not a little surprised me. His dress was a plain green coat, with the Order of St. Henri (his own), white satin pantaloons, and crimson morocco boots.

He took his hat off on entering the room, and desired us to sit down. His wool is perfectly grey, his countenance intelligent, and his whole person well proportioned ; his manners are pleasing and rather prepossessing. He congratulated the Admiral on his arrival, regretted his distance from Cape Henri had prevented his arriving to welcome us sooner, &c. &c. He paid many compliments to Sir Home Popham, saying he was no stranger to his reputation, and conversing upon the code of signals invented by Sir Home and used by the British navy. He concluded with a pressing invitation to his Palace of Sans Souci, which I much regret the Admiral could not accept, being obliged to return to Jamaica. ....

The Prince Royal, only fifteen years old, is the fattest fellow I ever beheld, and I should not imagine him half as clever as his father. His dress was as splendid as gold, silver, and jewels could make it; in his hat he wore a large plume of feathers and a diamond star. In about half an hour we retired and left the Admiral tete-a-tete with the King. Their conference lasted about an hour. .... When they came back into the room where we were, the King began to quiz the Archbishop, and mentioned the stories constantly invented by the French about him; amongst others that of his having, in a fit of rage, thrown the Prince out of a corridor at Sans Souci. The Archbishop laughingly observed that they gave him credit for more strength than he could boast, in supposing him capable of even lifting from the ground such a fat fellow.

The King the same evening left Cape Henri, the heat of which disagrees with him: when he travels he goes at full gallop, and will keep it up the whole day to the great inconvenience of his attendants.

Not two years after this account was written, the singular and glorious career of Christophe closed in misfortune.**** The widow and daughters came over to England, having previously resided some time in America in the vain hope that a second revolution would place the eldest daughter on the throne of the father.

I heard of them passing the winter of 1822-23 at Hastings, and the following spring I saw the daughters frequently. They attended the lectures of Prati, which I also attended. From a Madam e ————, whom I often met, I heard a great deal about them; they were living very quietly in a small house at Islington, I think, but still preserving their chambellan, and some little semblance of royalty. The eldest daughter was described as a woman of superior talents, who had taken great pains in cultivating her mind. She was said to have been the confidante and counselor of her father during his latter years. She spoke French easily but not well, she had a good figure, and, as far as I could judge from under a close black bonnet, an intelligent eye. The other sister was a heavy, stuffy, short, fat person. They were in deep mourning, and very plainly dressed.

At one time I heard that Madame——was thinking of writing a memoir of the life of Christophe, from the information she derived from his daughter. One day I asked her about it; she told me that she had quite given up the plan from finding their ideas so different; that many actions which the Haytian considered as glorious, she felt so disgraceful to the memory of Christophe, that she should have thought herself acting unfairly by his daughter in making them public on her authority ; more especially as she could not consistently with her own character mention them without reprobation.

I proposed that the daughter should write the history herself, and only submit it to some person who would correct the language. My proposal seemed to take ; but very soon after that time the Haytians, only then beginning to give up hopes of restoration, left England.

In the summer of 1824 I heard of them travelling in Germany: at this period the King of Bavaria purchased a part of a set of the ex-Queen's jewels (rubies I believe) for a wedding present to his daughter, who married the Prince Royal of Prussia. In 1826 I saw one of these Haytian Princesses walking in the street at Pisa. My laquais de place called her a Principessa della Morea, spoke of them as living very retired, but knew nothing of the mother, who, I conclude, is dead.

Editor’s Notes
* Mr. Courtenay must be considered as speaking throughout.
** He underwent the fate of Abelard,
*** He was a mulatto, and one of the most remarkable of the race. He is the author of some creditable works; amongst others, of an Essay on the Revolutions &c. of Hayti, published
in 1819.
**** His troops mutinied, his deposition was proclaimed, and he shot himself with a pistol. One proximate cause of his fall was his incapacity, from palsy, to make the requisite exertions for the preservation of his authority. His sons were killed by the troops, his wife and daughters were saved by British protection. The wife was allowed to carry off her jewels, and a moderate income was secured to her. See The Present State of Hayti, by James Franklin; 1828 : and Brief Notices of Hayti, &c., by John Candler, 1842. Christophe's authority only extended over half of the Island of St. Domingo; and his subjects are computed at not more than 200,000. His principal revenue was derived from plantations cultivated by slaves or forced labour.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Duc de Berri

Having heard and written down at the time all the accounts I heard of the assassination of the Due de Berri, and of the birth of his posthumous son,—aware that my informants were ultra-royalists, I was not a little amused in hearing yesterday from the E.s, the story of the liberals. In the royalist history, the variations are unimportant; but our friends, I see, are very much inclined to believe that the Duc de Bordeaux is not the child of the Duchess, but the offspring of one of his mistresses, of the mother of les petites anglaises mentioned in the letter of Madame de Grontault.*

True it is that, among the known and undisputed facts, there are many suspicious circumstances; the extraordinary privacy of the birth,—the unaccountable delaissement of the Duchess though all Paris knew that the accouchement was daily, nay hourly, expected—the wonderful strength of the Duchess, whom Henry saw at the window, within the first forty-eight hours, I think—her known partiality for Mademoiselle, and her indifference to the boy—the one, she says, 'est mon enfant, l'autre c'est l'enfant de la France;' the fact of her having escaped a miscarriage after such a shock and such exertions. Another singular circumstance—the extravagant liberality and attention displayed not by the Duchess only but by all the royal family to les petites anglaises (now Comtesses d'Issou-dun) and to their mother, would be thus accounted for.

The most suspicious part of the story is, that the proces-verbal giving the account of the birth of the child, which was proclaimed by authority, was altered: in the first copy, only half-an-hour was said to have elapsed between the time when the ladies took leave of the Duchess and that when they were not only safe in their nests but so fast asleep that they could not hear her bell. In a second, this was made an hour. Still the certainty that the fable (if fable it be) must have been fabricated within the first twenty-four hours after the assassination of the father, and the coincidence with the circumstances which had been brought forward to shake the legitimacy of the young Napoleon, are in my mind strong evidence against this story.

It is singular that, the day after, I heard a report which, admitting both stories to be true, would furnish a striking instance of poetical justice. This child, this pretender, is so little promising in body or mind, that Charles Dix considers himself under the necessity of marrying to provide another heir. It is impossible not to wish that the Duc de Chartres, who has had a good, quiet, unprincely education, and is said to do great credit to it, is not left to take his chance.

They say that while the cannon were firing to announce the birth of the Duc de Bordeaux,—after the twenty-four (I think) which mark the birth of a female, while everybody was listening for the twenty-fifth which was to announce an heir, the Due de Chartres said, ' Now we shall see whether I have a wife or a master.'

* The Duke's English mistress, who attended his death-bed, as related by Madame de Gontault, in a letter (transcribed by Miss Wynn) narrating 'all the circumstances of the assassination and his death. The doubts relating' to the birth of the Due de Bordeaux were not more plausible than those thrown on the birth of the Chevalier St. Georges, which are now rejected as preposterous.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

An Archbishop on False Pretences

Rome: March 25th, 1826.—I have been waiting to write the account of a singular impostor, hoping always to pick up more particulars, but I fear in the midst of the wonders that surround me I may lose the recollection of what I do know.

Some time ago an Egyptian arrived at Rome bearing a letter from the pacha, in which he stated to the pope that, having in his dominions a very large Catholic population, he wished to have a bishop to be at the head of this Church, and sent the bearer, hoping that he might be ordained. The request was most willingly granted. The Egyptian was clothed, fed, lodged, and taught: the teaching was rather a slow process, but the ignorance of an African was not likely to excite suspicion. In short, the Egyptian was named Archbishop of Memphis, and with this title returned to his own country.

The pacha wrote an angry expostulation to the pope for interfering with his subjects, and it was not till then discovered that the first letter was a forgery and the Archbishop of Memphis a daring impostor. He was sent here, and was sentenced to death, which has since been commuted to hard labour as a galley slave for life. I have been told that all this while he is archbishop; for that dignity once conferred cannot, according to the Catholic canon, be taken away. Others tell me he is degraded, and I cannot get at the truth.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Duchesse D'Albany*

Florence: January 14th, 1826.—I have been dining with the Lawleys in the house formerly inhabited by the Duchesse d'Albany. The conversation turned much on the subject of the late possessor, who, if she be not much belied, must have been a very odious woman.

The only cause I can find for doubting the truth of what has been told me, is that it appears scarcely possible that such a creature as she is represented could be to Alfieri an object of such strong, such constant affection. It is, I am told, quite certain that her marked predilection for Fabre excited in the poor poet a fit of such violent jealous passion as to have produced gout in the stomach, of which he died suddenly. Some are uncharitable enough to suspect Fabre of having poisoned him ; but there is not the slightest evidence to warrant the suspicion of his having ever administered any poison but that of jealousy.

It seems this Fabre was a French picture-dealer, a thorough blackguard, who was introduced to the Duchesse as a secretary by Alfieri himself, during the lifetime of Charles Edward. It was not long before he aspired to the affection of his mistress, and supplanted Alfieri in the position of what is here called il patito.

That there must have been something peculiarly shameless in the woman who chose to record her own shame in marble is evident, and this is what the Duchesse has done by her monument to Alfieri.**

That she must always have been ugly is (as I hear) also proved by a portrait painted by Fabre in 1793, and placed in the French saloon at the Gallery, which I have not yet taken the trouble of seeing. Her table is said to have been the object of her strongest affection through life, and to have overcome her love of money. By a sort of poetical justice, .not often seen in real life, the pangs which she had inflicted upon poor Alfieri were visited on her own head or heart. The latter years of her life were embittered by her excessive jealousy of the attentions paid by Fabre to the very handsome wife of a seal engraver, whose name I have forgotten.

An eye-witness told Sir Robert Lawley that her deathbed (in 1824) afforded the strongest instance of the ruling passions strong in death. She blessed God for a long and happy life, and instanced three peculiar causes of thankfulness: first, that she had always had the best of wines; secondly, that she had always had a good cook and an excellent dinner; thirdly and principally, that she had not outlived the seal engraver, and thus had been spared the misery of seeing Fabre married to her rival.

Sir Robert says that the Florentines, who could not forgive her treatment of Alfieri, had ceased to visit her after his death;*** and were very much astonished when the peace of 1814 brought shoals of English, to see some of our first ladies at the feet of this odious woman, and suffering themselves to be treated as subjects by this mock sovereign. The dirt of her house, when he took it, he says was quite incredible : that and everything else belonging to her, with the exception of a very small legacy to some starving Stolberg relations, she bequeathed to Fabre.

He told Sir Robert that, it was very singular, within a couple of months of her death, she had been furnishing herself with various articles, as if she had expected to live a hundred years. She had ordered a new carpet to be made at Tournay, for one of her rooms. She had bought a dozen pair of cotton stockings, and a dozen petticoats; the first article Sir Robert purchased, and was earnestly requested by Fabre to buy the others too.****

Editor’s notes
* Although popularly called Duchess after her death, she was only known as Countess in her lifetime, and that was her real title. The title of Duchess was conferred by the Pretender on his illegitimate daughter.
** The monument is the simplest record of an attachment which
was not condemned by society : ' Victoria Alfierio Asteiisi Aloisia e Principibus Stolbergis Albania Cumitissa M.P.C. An. MDCC'CX.' There is no ground for the supposition that Alfieri's death was hastened by jealousy, and Fabre was a French painter of unimpeachable respectability.
*** So far was this from being the case that Napoleon sent for her
in 1809, and began thus : ' I know your influence over the society of Florence. I know also that you employ it in a sense adverse to my policy.'
**** See Die Grafin van Albany : Von Alfred von Reumont (2 vols.) Berlin, 1860; and the review of that book in the Edinburgh Review for July 1861. As I wrote that review, I may not be deemed wholly without predilections; but Miss Wynn's informants strike me to have been in every way unjust towards the Duchesse and Fabre, and to have made no allowance for Alfieri's treatment of her. At the same time, it must be admitted that much of her conduct and character sadly militate against romance Another very high authority, Lord Broughton, has taken the unfavourable side.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Deaths of the Emperors Alexander and Paul

Florence: Dec. 24th, 1825.—We are all here full of speculations upon the subject of the death of Alexander, which this day's post has announced. Many are inclined to believe that his death has been occasioned by the hereditary complaint which proved fatal to his three predecessors. We had much conversation on the subject, and I heard for the first time that it is now universally believed that Catherine was strangled.

There is a species of poetical justice in this, which makes one more inclined to believe than one should otherwise be; it is even added that Marcoff on his death-bed confessed that he was the agent employed on this occasion. Lord
Dillon afterwards gave us the particulars of the death of Paul, derived from a Mrs. Browne and a Miss Kennedy, who were at that time in the nursery of the two younger princes, Nicholas and Michael.

It seems that the day before some rumour of the conspiracy reached the ears of Paul: he sent for Count Pannin, who was at that time his minister, and bitterly reproached him for his want of vigilance. Pannin, undismayed, professed his perfect acquaintance with all the designs of the conspirators; acknowledged himself as one of them, alleging as his motive that all other means of defeating their purpose would have proved vain; and added that now he had all the clue, and had the means of arresting the conspirators as soon as any overt act could be proved against them, which at present was not the case.

Paul burst into tears, embraced Pannin, called him his saviour, the guardian of his country, &c. &c. The Emperor continued oppressed and agitated all the evening, which he passed alone with the Empress; saw all his children, kissed and blessed them, and unable to shake off the agitation produced by the conversation with Pannin, retired at an earlier hour than usual.

Soon after the conspirators rushed into the room: they were Beningsen (the distinguished general); Ouwarow (the man whose tremendous black murderous countenance made such an impression on me when he was in London, as aide-de-camp to Alexander); Subow, a Georgian prince; Pannin, who remained behind a screen.*

Paul resisted stoutly, attempted to conceal himself, &c.; and they seem to have hacked him most cruelly. At last Beningsen and Ouwarow took the sash of one of the sentinels on duty and closed the scene by strangling him, but not till he had received some tremendous blows on the head, and not till one of them (Beningsen, I think) had trampled upon him, and had with his sharp spurs inflicted two wounds in his stomach.

Miss Kennedy with her young charge slept in the room immediately over that of the Emperor : she heard the violent uproar (' row,' Lord Dillon called it), trembled, quaked, got the infant out of its own bed into hers, and with him in her arms lay expecting some horrible event. This dreadful interval lasted more than an hour, when Madame de Lieven (the mother of the Prince Lieven who was ambassador in England, and then grande maitresse of the Empress) rushed half dressed into the room, and desired Miss Kennedy to bring the Grand Duke to his mother instantly, if she wished to save his life and her own.

By the time she reached the apartment of the Empress, all the children and their respective attendants were assembled there, half dressed and frightened out of their wits. Alexander and Constantine, who were both past twenty, were absent at Petersburg. The 'Empress, quite frantic, rushed out of the room, collecting her children round her; and followed by the troop of terrified, half-dressed women, went to the Emperor's room.

The sentinels, gained over or terrified by the conspirators, at first refused her admittance ; but she, partly by her commanding manner, beauty and dignity, and partly by literal strength of arm, overawed them, drove them back, and obtained admission for herself and her terrified train. She threw herself on the mangled body; would not for a long while believe that life was extinct; then poured forth the most bitter execrations against the murderers, and lamentations for her lost husband; who (strange to say) brute as he was to everybody else, was kind and still very dear to her.

At length, wearied out, she sank half exhausted and half choking: one of the ladies got her a glass of water ; the rough sentinel who had opposed her entrance, and who probably, at the orders of the conspirators, would have killed her, stopped her from drinking, and said to the attendant, ' Woman, what have you brought ? I insist upon your drinking half the contents of that glass before the Empress touches it.'

The feelings of the Empress were naturally most excited by her fears for her children, whom she expected to see murdered before her eyes. In vain the conspirators assured her that she and they were safe: then, with unparalleled brutality, in that chamber, in the presence of her murdered husband, told her all was over, and shouted in her ears, ' Long live Alexander.''

That he was privy to the murder there seems but too much reason to fear ; the apology made for him is that he was told by the conspirators that his father must be deposed; that all resistance was vain : that if he and Constantine wished to avoid sharing his fate, they would remain perfectly quiet, and appear ignorant of what was going on. I should have said before that this scene passed at the summer palace, out of Petersburg; and that the first object of the Empress, when she in any degree recovered her senses, was to get her children into the winter palace at Petersburg, where she felt that in the multitude she should find safety and protection. This was at first refused, but with the spirit of a heroine she rushed amongst the Guards, saying, ' Who will dare to stop a mother protecting her infant children?' In short, she once more prevailed, and they allowed her to go: two carriages were brought forward, but she would not hear of being separated from her children, and therefore waited till some old lumbering vehicle was found in which they could all go together.

I had always understood that Constantine was a horrible brute, but had not an idea of the extent of his cruelty till this event brought his character so much into discussion. I am told that a servant of his said, ' This has been a quieter journey than usual: we have killed only two postillions;' and declared that in the last journey Constantine had shot three with his own hand from the carriage.
With this ferocity he unites great cowardice.

An Englishman now here, a Mr. Aubyn, who has served with him, told me that he has seen him betray great personal fear in action. It was said by somebody that his character was softened, and that since he had been in Poland, where he is Viceroy, you did not hear of such horrid acts of barbarity; which was allowed. And yet, said some one, the following fact took place latterly in Poland : An officer married a young Jewess : he was punished for this crime, and Constantine sent for her to receive the punishment of the knout. Her beauty produced such an effect upon him that he doomed her to the severer penance of becoming his mistress. The husband was sent to Siberia: the wretched wife destroyed herself.**

People do not seem to rate the characters of the other brothers higher. Nicholas, they say, is more dangerous, inasmuch as he has the art to conceal his vices; Michael seems to be considered as a mere brute.

After all, horrible as all this is, it is impossible not to own that in the customs of that semi-barbarous nation, some little excuse is to be found. The person who from childhood has been accustomed to see, or at least hear, the knout administered for the most trivial faults, must in time become hardened in human suffering. I understand that the Russians resident in this town have been obliged to adopt some other means of punishment for their wretched servants. It was not unusual, on entering a house, to hear the most dreadful screams, and to be told by the lady of the house not to mind: it was only her maid who, having dressed her ill, was receiving so many strokes of the knout.***

Complaints were made : the police interfered, and the knout was strictly prohibited. The extremes of splendour and of misery seem to be their habitual modes of life. Demidoff, who in a state of representation lives more magnificently than any person I ever saw, keeping a company of French actors at his own expense, filling his rooms with every magnificence which money can buy—from chairs and tables up to diamonds and pearls, which are exhibited in large cases lined with velvet, and covered with plate glass, exactly like those in Rundell's shop— is living himself in dirt and misery, greater than that of any English cottage.

Lord Dillon gave an extraordinary instance of this mixture in Madame Gerebstoff, who passed many years in England. He had some business with her, and went one morning to her house in Harley Street at an hour rather earlier than that of visiting. The servant hesitated about letting him in; he rather insisted on the plea of business, and was taken up to the drawing- room, where he found Madame de G-. lying on the couch in a blue silk gown, her hair dishevelled, and a diamond tiara hanging down on one shoulder, the rouge on her cheeks streaked: her person and dress looked as dirty as possible. Seeing probably his amazement, she said: ' Ah! mon cher, je suis rentree si tard hier, que je me suis couchee a la Russe. Je vais prendre un bain, et puis je m'habillerai.' ****

Editor's Notes
* There were in all thirty conspirators, including' (besides those named above) two named Subow, Prince Jaschwill, Count Pahlen, Tatischen, &c. The circumstances are differently narrated in each of the best authenticated accounts.
** 'Revolting as this reads, the famous Marechal Saxe treated an actor and his wife much in the same fashion with the aid of a lettre de cachet..
*** Most probably of the whip. The knout is reserved for more serious occasions, which, I believe, are defined by law.
**** 'La superficie en tout offrait l'image de la civilisation, mais sous cette ecorce legere, l'observation retrouvait encore facilement cette vieille Muscovie.'—Segur.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The first news of Waterloo

I did not know till I heard it from Alava the exact circumstances of the first arrival of the news of the battle of Waterloo in London. It seems that one morning a partner of the house of Rothschild came to Lord Liverpool, informed him that he had a few hours before received the glorious news, or at least the bare outline; that, having made all the advantage which this exclusive knowledge could give him on the Stock Market, he now came to impart it to Government.

He would not answer any enquiries as to the means by which he had acquired the intelligence, and could not give any particulars: he only repeated the assurances of truth of the information. Lord Liverpool thought it cruel on such vague foundations to raise hopes or fears. To one of his colleagues (Vansittart, I think), who happened to come in, he told the circumstance, and they agreed to conceal it from every other human being till more was known. There was a cabinet dinner that day at Lord Harrowby's: not one word was said respecting the news; and Lord Liverpool was returning home full of anxiety. In the street his carriage was stopped by an unknown, who, with some apology, said that he was just come from Downing Street; that a carriage with six horses, dressed with laurels, French Eagles and colours hanging out of the windows, had arrived: that the glorious news was instantly spread; and that the messenger was gone to Lord Harrowby's in pursuit of him, through another street from that in which he was met.

This, I think, I heard at the time, but certainly till now never heard the thing accounted for. It seems that the Duke of "Wellington, after writing his despatch home, said to Pozzo di Borgo, ' Will you write to Louis XVIII. at Ghent? tell him only that Napoleon is utterly defeated: that in less than a fortnight I shall be in possession of Paris, and hope very soon after to see him reinstated; say that excessive fatigue prevents me from writing.'*

A messenger was of course immediately sent off to Ghent: when he arrived, Louis and his little Court happened to be assembled at breakfast, in a room whose windows down to the ground were wide open. The embraces, the ejaculations, of course instantly apprised those under the windows of the arrival of good news.

Among these was a spy from the house of Rothschild, who had many days been upon the watch: he no sooner heard the news than he rode post to Ostend: there, happening to find a small vessel just sailing, he embarked, and got one tide before the English messenger, who arrived shortly afterwards.

Editor’s notes
The official intelligence of the victory of Sunday, the 18th, did not arrive in London till late in the evening of Wednesday, the 21st. The result was first announced by the newspapers on the 22nd, but there is a passage in the Times of that day which partially confirms the Rothschild agent story: ' Those who attended to the operations of the Stock Exchange yesterday (21st) were persuaded that the news of the day before would be followed up by something still more brilliant and decisive. Omnium rose in the course of the day to six per cent. premium, and some houses, generally supposed to possess the best information, were among the purchasers.' The popular version of the story was that the agent did not stay to verify his conclusion, but started immediately after witnessing the signs of joy manifested by the royal party.

Some very interesting communications have been made to me on the subject of the arrival of the official intelligence of the victory, brought by the Honourable Major Henry Percy, brother of the present Earl of Beverley.

The Honourable William Bathurst, son of Earl Bathurst, Secretary for the Colonies and War in 1815, states that the despatches were directed to his father, who was not at the Earl of Harrowby's where Lord Liverpool was dining; and that Major Percy was with some difficulty persuaded (in Lord Bathurst's absence) to deliver them to the Earl of Liverpool, the Prime Minister. Mr. Bathurst was dining at the Earl of Jersey's, and, in company with Earl Grey, had gone to Lord Harrowby's on hearing of the arrival of the news.

Communicated by a member of Major Percy's family.
‘A few hours after the battle was over, Major Percy started with the Duke's despatches and the captured eagles, travelling day and night. When he arrived in London, he went, Ibelieve, first to the Horse Guards, where he found none of the authorities; then to Lord Liverpool, who was, I believe, dining at Lord Bathurst's, where Major Percy followed him.
"You must come immediately with me to the Regent," said Lord Liverpool, and they got into the carriage of his Lordship. " But what is to be done with the eagles?" " Let the footman carry them," said Lord Liverpool. Major Percy always told this with some disgust. They proceeded to Mrs. Boehm's house in St. James's Square,** where the Regent and the Duke of York were dining. Lord Liverpool took up Major Percy to the Prince, and said, " I have brought Major Percy, who comes with the news of a great victory for your Royal Highness." " Not Major Percy, but Lieut.-Colonel Percy," said the Prince. Major Percy knelt and kissed his hand. " We have not suffered much loss, I hope," he then said.
"The loss has been very great indeed," was of course the reply, upon which the Regent burst into tears. Major Percy afterwards went to his brother's house in Gloucester Place, and called him up to hear the good news, and then to Portman Square, where he undressed and went to bed for the first time since the battle.
'I well remember the next Monday, when I was taken to see him. I remember the great dark stain on his uniform; the horror I felt, in the midst of all the triumph and joy of the moment, when he told me, in answer to my questions, that it was the blood of an officer killed close to him. Still more when I heard him tell how, in taking off his sash as he undressed, he shook from the folds fragments of the brain which
had lodged there.
'I have often heard him describe the interview between the Duke and Bliicher, at which he was present: and the ride back to the English quarters over the field of battle covered with the dead and the dying. It was a bright moonlight night. The first soldiers they met greeted the Duke with loud cheers, which were taken up and sounded along the whole line of bivouacs; the poor wounded men joined with their feeble voices, and Major Percy said he saw many try to rise as the Duke passed. As the first soldiers who recognised crowded round him, he said, " My poor fellows, you have had a hard day's work.'' There was a general cry in answer, " We don't mind it: all's right as you are safe." Those words were almost the only expressions uttered by the Duke during that memorable ride. He was deeply affected, and even shed tears.'

Extract from Journal***
' Came up from Dover in a chaise and four with three eagles out of the window. They were too long to be shut in it. Went first to the Prince Regent (before he came home) at Mrs. Boehm's in St. James's Square. Prince much affected. All London thrown into agitation—people quitting balls and assemblies as the news was conveyed of the wounds or deaths of relatives. Many ladies fainted. There was a rumour, before the news came, of a great battle and retreat, and even defeat. People were much depressed; therefore the reaction was immense.'
From another member of the Percy family****
'Major Henry Percy, A.D C. to the Duke of Wellington, was sent home with the Waterloo despatches. He came express from Dover, in those days in a chaise and four horses, with the conquered eagles projecting out of each window, amidst the cheers of all the towns and villages he passed. He arrived late in London, called at Lord Bathurst's, who was out, and was told that the Prince Regent and most of the ministers were dining at Mrs. Boehm's in St. James's Square.

He proceeded thither, and was shown into the dining-room, where the gentlemen still were. Lord Bathurst not being present, he hesitated about delivering the despatches, but Lord Liverpool took and read them. The Prince Regent imagining Lord Anglesea to be killed, was much moved. After the dispatches were read, the Prince said, “I congratulate you, Colonel Percy – on which the Duke of York good-naturedly said two ‘Kiss Hands! Kiss hands!’ They kept him there till near two AM when it was arranged he should breakfast with the Duke of York next morning, but he arrived too late, and followed the Duke along the Mall to the Parade, where immense numbers were assembled, and where all the windows and tops of houses were thronged with people, expecting the eagles and colours were there to be presented to the Duke. When Henry Percy alighted, there was a long-continued cheer, and the band changed to “See the Conquering Hero comes”. The Duke immediately took Henry to the Horse Guards, where he remained till late in the afternoon. Though he was no wounded, his uniform was entirely stained with blood.”

* The Duke himself wrote to this effect to Louis XVIII on
the morning of the 19th, but it is highly probable that a brief
announcement of the victory was despatched at once.
** No. 14, now occupied by a club.
*** In the first edition this was erroneously described as an extract from Major .Percy's Journal. The number of the eagles sent home by the Duke is stated in his despatch of June 19th : ' I send with this despatch three eagles, taken by the troops, which Major Percy will have the honour of laying at the feet of His Royal Highness.'

Friday, January 13, 2006

Conversations with General Alava

Editor’s notes
General Alava, for many years Spanish Minister at the Court of Great Britain, is best known as the friend and companion in arms of the Duke of Wellington; who retained through life a warm esteem for him, although political differences may have caused an occasional coolness. Alava, on his part, never wavered in his attachment.
After expressing his approval of some measure of Lord Grey's Government he suddenly turned round and exclaimed, ' But you must not think I can ever prefer this Government to the Duke of Wellington; it is he whom I love.'

Alava, says Lord Holland in his ' Foreign Reminiscences,' ' was impetuous in temper and heedless in conversation; but yet so honest, so natural, so cheerful, and so affectionate, that the most reserved man could scarcely have given less offence than he, who commanded the respect of the many by his intrepid openness and sincerity.'
Dr. Gleig, after relating the circumstances of the wound or contusion received by the Duke at the battle of Orthes, adds: ' He was on his feet, however, in a moment, and in a condition to laugh at the Spanish General, Alava, who had likewise been wounded almost at the same instant in that fleshy and very sensitive part of the body, any accident to which is apt to excite the mirth rather than the sympathy of the looker-on.'*

No one knew better how to interpret the slightest action of his Chief. The night before one of the Duke's Peninsular victories, an officer came up to Alava and asked in much alarm, ' What will become of us ? We shall have a great battle to-morrow, and Lord Wellington is doing nothing but flirting with Madame de Quintana.' ' I am glad to hear it,' replied Alava, ' if we are to have a great battle to-morrow; for it is quite certain that all his arrangements are made, if he is flirting with Madame Quintana.' Alava died in 1841.

Aix-la-Chapelle: October 9th, 1825.—I am hearing from General Alava a great deal about all those of whom history will one day talk a great deal and tell much that he could contradict on personal knowledge. For instance, he was present when Cambronne was taken,, and when he is said to have made the speech so often commented upon, ' La Garde meurt, et ne se rend pas.' He did not say this or anything else, only screamed for a surgeon to dress his wound, having quietly surrendered.**

Alava saw the famous correspondence which passed between Fouche and Carnot at the period of the Restoration, when the former, as minister of police, was sending all the proscribed into exile. Carnot wrote, 'Ou veux-tu que j’aille, traitre?' Fouche replied, ' Ou tu voudras, imbecille.'

I am still, after all I have heard in Majorca, astonished at the manner in which Madame de Coigny, a professed devote, Alava, and the Prince Pierre d'Aremberg, talk before us heretics of their bishops, cardinals, legates, and even their popes. Alava was telling us of the legate in Spain during the reign of Charles III. He had some discussion with Aranda, then minister, and refused some boon requested for Spain, detailing with great pomp his fears lest the interests of their holy faith might suffer by such concessions.

Aranda, provoked, at last said, 'How can you bring forward such arguments to me who know that you are an atheist as well as myself?' The pious legate quietly replied, ' E vero, ma questo non si dice.''

Alava amused me in telling of the same man, the manner in which he received the often-repeated question of that fool Charles IV., who made all around him observe the striking resemblance between his son Don Francisco de Paula and the Prince of Peace. The sneer with which the legate first looked at the Queen, then at Manuel, and replied, 'E vero, Sire,' was very well described.

They all speak of the present Pope (Leo XII.) as having been fier libertine, and are not shy of letting you see that they consider his present austerity as mere hypocrisy. Of the late Pope (Pius VII.) they speak with the veneration which his character seems to demand from all, but which is certainly not felt by the bigoted Catholics, who cannot endure his liberal ideas.

They were speaking of the time that he passed in confinement at Fontainebleau. Napoleon wanted to force him to consent to measures which his conscience disapproved, and one day, tired out, said to one of his ministers (Fouche,*** I believe), ' Why do not you try what ill-treatment can do, short of torture ? I authorize you to employ every means.' The reply was, ' Mats, Sire, que voulez-vous que fon fasse Sun honime qui laisse geler Veav, dans son benitier sans se plaindre de n'avoir pas du few dans sa chambre ?'

One evening we talked of that extraordinary personage the Prince de Ligne, who for fourscore years had lived with every person of distinction in Europe, and who, to the last moment, preserved not only every useful faculty, but wit and gaiety besides. He preserved also to the last a singular facility of versification, and was particularly fond of writing epitaphs on himself. They say that he must have written above 500, generally impromptus, and of course worthless.****


Madame de Coigny told us an anecdote of that famous progress which Catherine la Grande made through the southern part of her empire, and which the Prince de Ligne has so well described. She was attended by the ministers of the three great European Powers. They arrived at Kiow. She first asked the Austrian, Cobentzel, what he thought of the town. He made a set speech on the ruins of the ancient town, contrasting them with the new buildings which she had made, and of course extracting from that part of the subject a long tirade of compliment, &c. &c.

When this oration, was ended Catherine turns to Segur, the French minister, ' Et vous, Monsieur, qu'e.n pensez-vous?’

‘Madame, il me semble que Kiow offrele souvenir d’un grand empire et l’espoir d’un autre.’’

Catherine then says, ' A votre tour. Monsieur Fitzherbert (afterwards Lord St. Helens), qu’en dites-vous? '

Ma foi, Madame, je trouve que, c'est le plus vilain trou que nous ayons encore vu, dans touts notre route.’

Madame de Coigny says she has laughed at Lord St. Helens about this speech; he replied that everything that was pretty, everything flattering had been said, so that nothing remained for him but the plain truth. She added, ' C'est si Anglais.'*****

* The Life of Arthur Duke of Wellington, &c., p. 272.
** Siborne says that when the French Guards fell back, General Halkett, who had marked out Cambronne, dashed at him with uplifted sword, and was on the point of cutting him down, when Cambronne cried out to him to hold his hand, and surrendered. Just afterwards Halkett's horse fell, and Cambronne made an attempt to escape, but was overtaken by the General,, who pulled him back by the aiguiltette, and delivered him over to a guard of Osnabruckers. Cambronne himself always denied the historic mot attributed to him, which, according to M. Fournier (L'Esprit dans I'Histoire), was invented by M. Rougemont, the editor of the Independent, in which journal it originally appeared.
*** In his apocryphal Memoires, Fouche is made to say that Napoleon, knowing his repugnance to violent measures against the Pope, never trusted him with the conduct of them.
**** He was always writing about himself in prose as well as in verse. Amongst the heads of chapters in his Memoires et Melanges, we find, 'De Moi pendant Ie jour,' 'De Moi pendant la nuit,' ' De Moi encore,' ' Memoire par mon coeur,' Mes-Ecarts, ou Ma Tete en Liherte.'
***** Kiow was the capital of the ancient empire of Muscovy.
****** Segur's version is: '" Comment trouvez-vous la ville de Kioff? " dit-elle an Cornte de Cohentzel. " Madame," repliqua le comte avec le ton de l'enthousiasme, " c'est la plus belle, la plus imposante et la plus magnifique ville/ C’ue j'aie vue." M. Fitzherhert repondit a la meme question: " En verite, c'est un triste lieu; on n'y voit que des mines et des masures." Luterroge a men tour, je lui dis, " Madame, Kioff vous offre le souvenir et l'espoir d'une grande ville." '

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Ballons and Diving-Bells

Stowe: August, 1825.—Nugent (Lord Nugent) was talking to me on the subject of aerostation, and amused me very much. His sanguine mind still looks, after so many failures, to a degree of progress which may produce some useful result; and when I expressed utter incredulity, and said,' Since the discovery of the science, so little progress has been made, that I can anticipate very little from the future,' he only replied, ' If from the first discovery of navigation you were' to take thirty-five years, you would probably find that, in that period, much less progress was made than has been made in aerostation in the thirty-five years which have elapsed since the discovery.'

In the first place, an argument which necessarily rests on probability only, I think worth very little; but, granting this position, I conceive that the state of science, of knowledge, &c., of that age, will bear so little comparison with that of the present day, that the parallel must fall to the ground. Though he did not convince me, he surprised me, by telling me how much had been done latterly. By observations on the different currents of wind, with the power of ascending by increasing the quantity of gas, of descending by throwing out ballast, they have acquired some little power of directing the balloon.

But the most important discovery is one made by Sadler, which enables them to measure with tolerable accuracy the rate of their flight. A long log-line is thrown out, and by measuring with great accuracy, by means of a quadrant, the angle which this line makes, they can ascertain the velocity of their flight, and from observation of the compass may form a tolerable idea of their situation.

Nugent tells me that a young friend of his ascended with Graham a little time ago ; it was one of the lovely bright calm days which have been so frequent this summer ; still, in the elevated regions of the atmosphere, the cold was intense; but no peculiar sensation accompanied this cold. George (Lord N.) said he asked what was the appearance of the horizon of the earth: ' Cloud,' was the answer ; ' the view was always caught through clouds, which formed an irregular fringe or frame to the picture.'

The descent was very perilous: the young man—almost a boy—having asked Graham how high they were, and being told, I forget what, asked ' whether they could not ascend a little higher before they began their descent ?' Graham said. Certainly they could, but that he was averse to the idea of expending any more gas, because a small quantity in reserve might be essential to the safety of their descent. "When once the ballast is all thrown out and the descent begun, the only means of avoiding any dangerous spot on which the balloon might chance to fall, is by admitting a little more of the inflammable gas, rising, and trusting to the wind to convey the machine out of the dangerous neighbourhood. The young man still pressed for a farther ascent; Graham weakly consented; and the danger he had foreseen actually occurred.

As soon as the earth became visible through their glasses, it was evident that they had their choice of dangers only: they were coming down between the river and some lime-kilns. The kilns were certain destruction ; the moment the balloon approached them. The inflammable gas must have ignited, and they must have been burnt to death. The only alternative was to rise and trust to the wind for conveying them out of this dangerous neighbourhood. They had no gas left, and the only means of lightening the balloon was by cutting away the car—without the power (as George observed) of saying ' heads below'—-and trusting themselves to the ropes of the balloon itself, which of course rose, having a lighter weight, made still lighter by being close to it, instead of being attached at some distance. At last they fell into the river, and being both good swimmers, escaped.

I forgot to say that another of the modern contrivances is a pulley, by means of which the aeronaut can draw the car farther from or nearer to the balloon: by this means the ascent or descent may be checked, and more or less advantage may be taken of the current of wind in which they may happen to find themselves.

London, he says, appeared wonderfully regular at this great elevation: every smaller distinction of height disappeared ; every building appeared of equal height and of dazzling whiteness.

This conversation naturally led us to the diving-bell. I found George had been down in one, in Plymouth Sound. By his account, it must have been precisely similar to that which I saw at Bordeaux. He says, when under the water, you see in the diving-bell about as clearly as you would in a carriage, when the breath has been congealed on the glasses; though you see very little without, within you can see to read the smallest print.

He says, the first thing his companion did, was to direct his attention to the code of signals attached to the side of the bell, and explain them, that George might know what to do in the improbable event of his companion's being seized with a fit. The signals are given by so many strokes of the hammer against the side of the bell: the first, and most important of all, which is ' Hold fast where you are,' is given by one stroke; the second, which is, I should have thought, still more so, is ' Draw up the bell;' the others direct it to be drawn N., 8., E., or W.

His companion said, ' Now, you see that pointed rock: if we go on in our present course, the side of the bell must strike against it; it will be overset, and we shall inevitably be destroyed: but there is no hurry; we will go nearer and examine it.' When they approached he gave the signal to be drawn up higher; then directing the course so as to come immediately over the rock, he desired to be lowered again, and they found themselves with the point of the rock within the bell.

George describes the painful sensation in the ears exactly as the man at Bordeaux did; a buzzing and sense of pressure like that arising from a drop of water in the drum of the ear, only stronger. Cotton to deaden this sensation would be a very dangerous experiment: the compressed air would drive it in so far, it would not be got out again without some instrument.

He says, that altogether the sensation is so little disagreeable, that he conceives one might remain under water for any length of time. In returning to the air, there is a disagreeable sulphureous smell, for which it is not easy to account, but which is always observed. George did not know whether this smell was experienced returning from fresh water as well as from sea water.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Spinetto on the Pastoral Drama

May 11th.—I went yesterday to hear Spinetto's lecture at the institution, when I found that the pastoral drama was the subject. I expected to be much tired, anticipating only a discussion on the' Aminta' and ' Pastor Fido,' too long and much too full of national partiality for my patience or my estimation of their merits. I was agreeably surprised. Spinetto is fully aware of the faults of these two dramas, and especially of their tremendous long-windedness, and did not dwell upon them very long.

He laughed at the attempts made in France at this species of composition, the absurdity of which must be felt by every person who has the least love of poetry or discrimination of character. The French ideas of shepherds and shepherdesses seem to me to be exactly adapted to the stiff, long-stayed, hoop-petticoated, powdered, full-wigged caricatures of the human form which Watteau, Boucher, &c. call by these names.

When Spinetto came to speak of the pastoral drama in England, he of course began by the ' Faithful Shepherdess ' of Fletcher.* Praise of the occasional beauties of the poetry and emanations of genius throughout the performance, was nearly overbalanced by blame on occasional coarseness and immorality. He then proceeded to the 'Gentle Shepherd,' which he rated higher, adverted to the general diffusion of knowledge in Scotland, and digressing to the eternal never-ceasing topic of additional schools, wished them to prosper, neatly applying a quotation from Petrarch, 'Quando luce it sol, ed ovvunque luce.'

We then came to ' Comus,' which I feared would scarcely be allowed to come under the denomination of a pastoral drama; but the praise bestowed upon it fully satisfied my partial feelings. The morality of Spinetto, which I own myself apt to think puritanical and over-strained, was quite in its place when he admired the skill with which the sainted muse of Milton contrived to describe, or rather represent, the licentious court of Comus without contaminating herself.

Spinetto then startled his audience by telling them that we possessed a drama which might be denominated pastoral by a still greater poet. I was puzzled, and could anticipate only the ' Winter's Tale,' which, after all, I think should have been mentioned, though certainly not quite equal to ' As you Like it,' which he terms the most perfect pastoral drama extant. I have often thought that this beautiful play is not generally rated as highly as it deserves, and was delighted at hearing a foreigner commend it so forcibly. At the same time, I cannot go quite as far as my friend Miss Stables, who places it second to ' Hamlet' only, and above every other play.

Now, in reading, I believe I prefer 'Othello,' 'Lear,' and 'Macbeth.' Upon the stage, I am quite sure that the two plays from which I derive most pleasure are ' Macbeth' and ' As you Like it.'

Editor's note
* Can he have forgotten The Passionate Shepherd of Marlow:
(Come live with me and be my love' ?
The same incongruity may be observed as in the French pastoral:
e.g. the damsel is to have—
Slippers lined choicely for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold,
A belt of straw, and ivy buds,
"With coral clasps and amber studs.'