Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Charles Kemble

June 11th, 1835.—Saw last night C. Kemble as Hamlet: he is wondrous stiff and old. I had been reading in the morning his daughter's memoirs, in which there are occasionally passages of genius, of great discrimination, and good sense. I was struck with an observation on the disadvantage of representing tragedy in a small theatre which would be admirably fitted for comedy. It is not only the foil and tinsel which lose on nearer inspection: the expression of the stronger passions becomes coarse, &c. &c.

How I felt the truth of this last night, when I looked at Kemble's wrinkled face, at the coarser Mrs. Glover (the Gertrude): perhaps, too, the quality of Ophelia's voice might have been refined by distance; her tone was harsh, but her acting not bad enough to shock one, which is more than I can say for most of the performers.

The great error of Kemble seems to me, that he substitutes sneering scorn for dignity, and, truth to say, gives great force to some passages of the part, the ' little more than kin and little less than kind,' for instance; the scene with Rosencrantz and Guilderstein; the play scene; but he made a very awkward job of lying at Ophelia's feet; he sate in the midst of the little stage very stiff, and evidently rising with difficulty. The scene of the King at his devotions and Hamlet's speech are omitted, and I for one do not regret these expressions of diabolical revenge. I was surprised at the scene with the Queen; it was so much better, quieter, more son-like than I expected; there was also more of regret for Polonius than seemed to belong to the cold Kemble school.

I never was so much aware of the fault of the bungling catastrophe, especially of the absurdity of Hamlet's stabbing the king in the midst of his court, without one hand being lifted to prevent the outrage.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Louis Philippe

Rome: Jan. 20th.—I dined yesterday with Sir Coutts Trotter: so happening to talk of Louis Philippe, he told me an anecdote strongly illustrating the more amiable parts of his character. Sir Coutts said he had never lived in intimacy with the Duke of Orleans, but the Duke had had many transactions of business with their house. He then went on to relate, that, passing through Paris a few months ago, he left his name at the Tuileries: the next day, to his great astonishment, he received a message to say that the King was very anxious to see him, and that he must dine with him in private that day.

Sir Coutts of course obeyed, and found himself sitting at table with the King, Queen, Duke of Orleans and one of his brothers, and some of the Marechaux, without more form or ceremony than ' we have at this table,' said he. He was ordered to take the Queen in to dinner, and of course to sit next to her. The conversation turned chiefly on England, on those whom they had known there. The Queen spoke of the wonderful change in her situation since they had met in England, and added, 'Mais j’etais bien mieux, je me trouuais bien plus heureuse quand j’etais de Vautre cote, —meaning in the Palais Royal. Here the King, who was sitting exactly opposite on the other side of the table, interrupted the conversation with 'Mais, Sir Coutts, je vous assure ce n’est pas de ma faute si nous nous trouvons ici.'

He went on to say how often he had remonstrated with Charles X on his measures: how he had foretold exactly that which did happen afterwards; and all this was said in the presence of five or six other persons. I found that Sir Coutts, like myself, believed what they said to be true, that Louis Philippe had not sought the painful pre-eminence in which he finds himself.

There is one thing which must be allowed: of the very many English who were formerly thrown into contact with him, almost all speak highly of him. I have never heard of any one person who found that the Duke of Orleans at the Palais Royal, or Louis Philippe at the Tuileries, had forgotten the kindness or hospitality shown to the exiled son of Egalite. This is much more than can be said for those of the Branche ainee, who one and all ont tout oublie in this sense as well as
in that in which it was originally said.*

* Miss Wynn was probably alluding to the mot attributed to Talleyrand, but really written of the emigrants by Le Chevalier de Pauat to Mallet du Pan, from London, 1796: Personne n'est corrige: personne n'a su ni rien oublier ni rien, appraidre.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Duchesse de Berry

Rome, Jan. 3rd, 1834.—I have picked up here some more strange particulars about the extraordinary history of the ci-devant Duchesse de Berry. I had been astonished, with many others, at the manner in which she was received here. I had heard that the Pope* had deputed Cardinals to welcome her, had assigned her a guard, and had given a sanction to the sort of Court which she attempted to keep up.

Yesterday, Mr. ——, the brother-in-law of Cardinal Weld, cleared up this mystery. It seems that the present Pope, then a Cardinal, was really the person who first introduced Deutz to her notice. He therefore considered himself as the innocent cause of her ruin, and as bound in conscience to reach out a strong hand to save her from utterly sinking. It seems now the universally received opinion that Deutz is the father of the child which is just dead. Whether Lucchesi Palli has any right to that which is to be born, seems very doubtful.

The infatuation of the unhappy woman seems perfectly incredible; she might in so many ways have averted the open disgrace of the catastrophe. There can be no doubt that the French Government would have been too happy to allow her to escape quietly. One of her own near friends told Miss A-—— (from whom I heard it) that the Queen of the French wrote to her frequently in the kindest manner and strongly urged her to escape.

In one of the Queen's letters was the following striking expression — 'Dans tous vos malheurs, rappelez-vous que vous n’avez pas a porter cette couronne d’epines qui me pese.' Any one of those ladies, so fondly, so firmly devoted to her cause, would have taken upon herself the child of disgrace: it was not the first nor the second even, and all had been quietly managed before.

It seems perfectly clear that, if Deutz was not the father, it must have been a married man, or one who could not be passed off as her husband. Then when they were to buy one, one should think they might have found a better than Lucchesi Palli, who was known never to have left the Hague for twenty-four hours during the fourteen months which preceded the birth of the child.

* Gregory XVI

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Manuscripts of Tasso

Rome: December 1833.—I have just picked up a very interesting account of some late discovered books and manuscripts belonging to Tasso. I copy the memorandum written for me by Mr. Horner, to whom these papers were shown by the Conte Alberti:

‘When Tasso was imprisoned, his manuscripts were all seized and put into the hands of Guarini, the author of the "Pastor Fido," and then minister of state of Alfonzo, Duke of Ferrara, He was shortly afterwards sent on an embassy from Alfonzo to the Court of Florence, and failing in the object of his mission, was subsequently dismissed. Still, either designedly or by accident, he retained the manuscripts which the death of Tasso had rendered comparatively unimportant to Alfonzo, and on the death of Guarini they were inherited by his son Alessandro Guarini, from whom they passed into the hands of Carlo Tomaso Strozzi. They were purchased from him by a person of the name of Foppi or Foppo, and finally came into the possession of the Falconieri family at Borne. With their descendants the MSS. remained till the Conte Alberti, hearing that these books existed and were but lightly appreciated by their owner, became the purchaser of them, at a very small price.

The Conte Alberti being in reduced circumstances, and finding the inconvenience under a despotic government of being the possessor of manuscripts, by which he had been already led into very unpleasant situations, he has offered these for sale to the Grand Duke of Tuscany. After having subjected them to the most rigid scrutiny, which has satisfied him as to the authenticity of these papers, Leopold has made the liberal offer of 1,000l., the bargain, however, has not yet been closed, and I imagine that, were a larger sum offered from any other quarter, Conte Alberti is at liberty to take it.

'I myself saw only three of the books; one of them was a compilation of sonnets all written upon scraps of paper, backs of letters, &c. &c. incorrect, but abounding in beauties, and interesting as portraying the progress of the poet's passion for Leonora, and also clearly establishing the fact of his only feigning madness in obedience to the commands of Alfonso, who wished thus to screen the reputation of his sister. There may be about 100 sonnets. I also saw the "Laborinto d'Amore" given to the poet by Leonora, in a cover embroidered by her own hand in allegorical devices. It is in very good preservation, and in the first leaf is a sonnet written by Tasso, which alludes to this circumstance. The third was a Virgil, full of marginal notes written by him. I believe there are many other books rendered interesting by the annotations of Tasso, which are to be sold with the rest; among them, I know, is a treatise by Aristotle on the " Art of War," from which the poet has evidently derived as much knowledge of military tactics as was necessary for the composition of his " Gerusalemme." There is also either a part or the whole of that poem in the author's handwriting as it was originally composed, not as he afterwards gave it to the public.'

Thus far Mr. Horner wrote for me to send to England, in hopes of procuring a better bargain, not only for Conte Alberti, but for the world. He told me that Leopold is supposed to be so jealous of the reputation of his predecessors, or more probably so deeply imbued with the Austrian fear of giving publicity to invectives against princes, even when so many centuries have covered their ashes, that he has absolutely prohibited the publication of any of these books. Conte Alberti says he should be sorry that they should go out of Italy; but he fears they may be as effectually buried in the private library of the Grand Duke as they have been in that of the Falconieri. If he could but be assured that they will be deposited in the Lawrentian Library, where the public might have access to them, he would be satisfied.*

Editor’s note
*Alberti’s collection eventually turned out to be composed of some of the most curious literary forgeries on record. Only a part of the first volume which he brought out was genuine. All the rest have been declared by competent authority to be spurious. His pretended miniature of the Princess Leonora was fiscovered to be a copy of a miniature of a lady of the noble family of Trotti. The complete detection took place in 1843, in the course of an action brought by a bookseller of Ancona to whom part of the MS. Had been sold.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Party Feeling in France

July 1833.—I have just heard from Dr. Somerville a strange instance of the virulence of party feeling now raging in France. He had shown some civilities to a Monsieur and Madame de ———: they vowed eternal friendship in a few days. Some time after this, the Somervilles went to Paris : their dear friends, the de ———'s, were absent, and did not return till the Somervilles had been some time settled, indeed not till the Doctor had returned to England.

Great was the joy of meeting, and that of the de ————'s did not evaporate in professions. Parties were immediately made to show those sights to which favour alone could gain admission, a dinner proposed, &c. &c. The day after their first meeting, Madame ———— being in the carriage with Mrs. Somerville, asked her whether she had been to some party or sight past. ' No,' answered Mrs. Somerville, ' it was unfortunately at the time when I was at La Grange,' (the country seat of La Fayette). The genuine Frenchwoman expressed her surprise by a start, a bound from her seat which made Mrs. Somerville tremble for the springs of her carriage: then followed a string of 'Mon Dieu! est il possible!' &c. &c., ' that you, such a woman as you, should visit such a man? There is not a person belonging to the bonne societe who would speak to you, if you were known to have been in such company.'

Mrs. Somerville repeated that she had not only passed a week at La Grange, but considered it as one of the most agreeable she had spent in the whole course of her life, and that she hoped to repeat the visit. Her friend said that she felt under great obligations to Mrs. Somerville, had conceived for her an affection which nothing could shake, ' but I own to you,' she added, ‘had this been our first interview, after what has just passed, it should have been our last. However, I have one favour to ask of your friendship, et je vous la demands a genoux. You are to dine with me on such a day: au nom de Dieu, I entreat, do not mention the name of La Fayette, or in any way allude to this visit. Of the party invited to meet you there is not one individual who would not, after such an avowal, avoid you as if you came from a plague-house, or would ever speak to you.'

Mrs. Somerville replied, that she would never wittingly speak on a topic unpleasant to the master of any house where she found herself a guest: at the same time, as she never did anything she was ashamed of, she would not shrink from her friendship for La Fayette, if, in the course of conversation, she was questioned on the subject.

Dr. Somerville tells me that, even under Napoleon, the police never was so active, nor so expensively organised, as under the Citizen King. When the Duchesse de Berry was wandering about, the strictness about passports was most absurd. Dr. Somerville went with Mr. Hankey to the Passport Office, where every individual was then expected to appear, and all, even children and maids, were obliged to have their separate passports, describing person, age, &c. Dr. Somerville, having seen this ceremony performed on the four elder children, at last said to the official, 'I see you are a gentleman, and I am convinced that a secret entrusted to your honour will, in spite of everything, be in safe keeping. I will, therefore, in strict confidence, tell you an important secret: you see there the Duchesse de Berry in disguise,' and he pointed to the youngest child, a girl of four years old, who, upon being looked at, hid herself under the table.

The officer, laughing, said: 'Que voulez-vous, monsieur? Je sens comme vous tout le ridicule de ce que je fais; mais les ordres nous viennent d'en haut; nous devons obeir a la lettre.'

A few days after this, Dr. Somerville departed by the Malle Paste: being within a few miles of Montreuil, he missed his passport, and consulted the conducteur as to what he was to do; he fully expected to have been lodged in a prison till he could in some way have been identified, and asked whether he had not better tell his tale and surrender himself at once. The conducteur, hearing that he was known to Quilliac, at Calais, promised, if he would only lean back in the cabriolet, he would pass him through the gates without any enquiry. However, he had not an opportunity of proving the total uselessness of the tiresome passport, for a few minutes afterwards it was found in the straw at the bottom of the carriage.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Sir Walter Scott

My uncle gave me a curious account of the introduction of Mr. Scott to the Princess of Wales. Mrs. Hayman, in sending the invitation to my uncle (Lord Grenville), added a personal request that he would come early to protect the poet (for as such only was he known), who she believed would not know any one other guest. Scott arrived late, was only presented to the Princess just before she went to dinner; at table, his place was of course far removed from hers, and little if any conversation took place between them. Very soon after the gentlemen came up from dinner, the Princess said, ' Mr. Scott, I hear you have a great collection of stories which you tell remarkably well: pray let us hear one.'

Without any disclaiming speeches, without hesitation, almost without delay, Scott began, ' Madam, there was once,' &c. &c. The story was much applauded: another was called for and followed with equal facility.

My uncle mentioned this as an extraordinary feat of self-possession and ready wit. I am certainly not inclined to doubt the extraordinary talents of Scott, but in this instance many circumstances appear to me to diminish the wonder. The trade of Scott in his character of London and Edinburgh lion was as decidedly at that period that of a teller of stories as it has since been that of a writer of novels. The tales had probably been told a hundred times, and on this occasion his friend Mrs. Hayman, I doubt not, gave him a previous hint of what would, be asked from him.*

To this I cannot help adding a story of the embarkation of poor Sir Walter Scott at Portsmouth, which I heard from Dr. Somerville last June. He was touring with his family in 1831, and learnt at his arrival at the hotel at Portsmouth, that Sir Walter was there waiting the pleasure of the wind for embarkation. They went into his room, and with an exclamation of pleasure made the usual enquiries after his health. Sir Walter rose, and in advancing to meet them tottered, and would have fallen on his face if the strong arm of Dr. Somerville had not supported and borne him back to his chair.

When he was a little recovered, he said,' After what has just passed, it is quite needless to answer your question you see how I am. It is all here,' added he, striking his forehead. ‘Take warning from me, Mr Somerville, and spare your head. I have brought this on myself by taking too much out of me.’ Sair Walter sailed October 27th, 1831.**

Editor’s Notes
Scott mentions this dinner in a letter to Mr. George Ellis, describing his visit to London, dated April 7th, 1806: 'I had also the honour of dining with a fair friend of yours at Blackheath, an honour 'which I shall long remember. She is an enchanting princess, who dwells in an enchanted palace, and I cannot help thinking her prince must lie under some malignant spell when he denies himself her society.' His popularity dates from the publication of the Lay of the Last Minstrel, in 1805. At a later period and after a longer practice in being lionised, in 1809, he made extremely light of his own social accomplishments. ' All this is very flattering,' he would say Sir to Mr. Morritt, ' and very civil. If people are amused with hearing me tell a parcel of old stories, or recite a pack of ballads to lovely young girls and gaping matrons, they are easily pleased, and a man would be very ill-natured who would not give pleasure so cheaply conferred.'
** Beside other reminiscences of Sir Walter Scott by Dr Somerville, these diaries contain a complete copy of Sir William’s Gell’s; but they have all been incorporated into the Life by Lockhart.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Madame D'Arblay

March 1833.—I have been reading the life of Dr. Burney by his daughter, and am more disappointed than I can express. We were well aware that her style, always affected, grew more so in each successive work; but that the authoress (the unaided authoress, I firmly believe her) of 'Evelina' could write such stuff as I have just read, I should hardly have thought possible.

Her overweening admiration for that very insignificant personage, her father, I can forgive. I can believe it was quite equalled by Miss Edgworth, so very much the superior of Madame d'Arblay in talent. But I cannot endure her excessive personal vanity, her nauseous repetition of all the compliments made to her under the shallow pretence of telling the world how much pleasure the paternal heart of Dr. Burney derived from them.

Then all this absurdity and arrogance is made more disgusting by her frequent allusions to her extreme modesty! Look at the genuine modesty of great talent in Miss Edgeworth's memoirs of her father; admire the good taste with which she speaks of her works, the anxiety with which she allots a share in their production far larger than any reader is inclined to allow to her father. How I wish she would fulfil her promise, and let us see in her long-talked-of work what she can do without him.

From what I heard last year from her nephew, I fear that a distrust of her own powers may chill their energy. He told me that she has not to anyone imparted the title, or even the subject, of the work in which she is engaged; that the dread of producing something inferior to the fame which she has acquired seems to act as a bugbear upon her imagination, and he fears may prove a decided check to it.

After all. Miss Burney's book has been valuable to me, it has proved a hook by which I have caught some very interesting stories; among others, one which strongly exemplifies the ignorance in which Napoleon kept France of everything which he did not wish to publish.

Madame d'Arblay had been with her husband in France for some years, when the events of 1814 restored, with the Bourbons, the communication between England and France. Madame d'Arblay hastened over to see. Her family. Dr. C. Burney told my uncle that his sister was dining with him a day or two after her arrival.

The china or earthenware which he used happened, with the word Trafalgar, to be ornamented with various emblems of that victory. Madame d'Arblay, pointing to her plate, said,' What can this mean, brother ?' ' I think if you look at the word, Trafalgar, you will not need any other explanation,' was the natural answer. ' But what can that mean?' rejoined she; and in short it turned out that it was the first time she had heard of the battle with which all Europe had seemed to us to ring.

Madame d'Arblay in her book speaks of some verses by Canning, which were read to the Princess of Wales by Mrs. A. Hayman; who tells me this is not true: they were promised, but Canning said he had burnt them upon reading 'De Montfort,' dismayed by the example of the Quizzer destroyed.*
Editor's Note
* De Montfort's hate had been exasperated, by the ridicule and
irony of his victim.