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Beaux and Belles of England by Mary Robinson

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calamities gave place to hope, on the assurance of her physician, that
by the mild air of a more southern climate she might probably be
restored to health and activity.

The favourite wish of her heart, that of beholding her relations, from
whom she had been so many years divided, it was now in her power to
gratify. From her elder brother she had frequently received invitations,
the most pressing and affectionate, to quit for ever a country where an
unprotected woman rarely fails to become the victim of calumny and
persecution, and to take shelter in the bosom of domestic tranquillity,
where peace, to which she had long been a stranger, might still await
her. Delighted with the idea of combining with the object of her travels
an acquisition so desirable, and after which her exhausted heart panted,
she eagerly embraced the proposal, and set out to Paris, with the
resolution of proceeding to Leghorn. But a letter, on her arrival, from
her physician, prescribing the warm baths of Aix-la-Chapelle in Germany,
as a certain restorative for her complaints, frustrated her plans. Once
more she proceeded in melancholy pursuit of that blessing which she was
destined never more to obtain.

During her sojourn at Aix-la-Chapelle, a dawn of comparative
tranquillity soothed her spirits. Secure from the machinations of her
enemies, she determined, though happiness seemed no more within her
reach, to endeavour to be content. The assiduities and attentions shown
her by all ranks of people presented a striking medium between the
volatility and libertine homage offered to her at Paris, and the
persevering malignity which had followed her in her native land. Her
beauty, the affecting state of her health, the attraction of her
manners, and the powers of her mind, interested every heart in her
favour; while the meekness with which she submitted to her fate excited
an admiration not less fervent, and more genuine, than her charms in the
full blaze of their power had ever extorted.

Among the many illustrious and enlightened persons then resident at
Aix-la-Chapelle, who honoured Mrs. Robinson by their friendship, she
received from the late amiable and unfortunate Duke and Duchess du
Châtelet peculiar marks of distinction. The duke had, while ambassador
in England, been the friend and associate of the learned Lord Mansfield;
his duchess, the _élève_ of Voltaire, claimed as her godmother Gabrielle
Emilia, Baroness du Châtelet, so celebrated by that lively and admirable
writer. This inestimable family, consisting of the duke and duchess,
their nephews the Counts de Damas, and a niece married to the Duke de
Simianne, were indefatigable in their efforts to solace the affliction
and amuse the mind of their fair friend. Balls, concerts, rural
breakfasts, succeeded to each other in gay and attractive variety; the
happy effects produced on the health and spirits of Mrs. Robinson were
considered by this English family as an ample compensation for their
solicitude. When compelled by severer paroxysms of her malady to seclude
herself from their society, a thousand kind stratagems were planned and
executed to relieve her sufferings, or soften the dejection to which
they unavoidably gave rise. Sometimes, on entering her dark and
melancholy bath, the gloom of which was increased by high grated
windows, she beheld the surface of the water covered with rose-leaves,
while the vapour baths were impregnated with aromatic odours. The
younger part of the family, when pain deprived Mrs. Robinson of rest,
frequently passed the night beneath her windows, charming her sufferings
and beguiling her of her sorrows, by singing her favourite airs to the
accompaniment of the mandolin.

Thus, in despite of sickness, glided away two agreeable winters, when
the transient gleam of brightness became suddenly obscured, and her
prospects involved in deeper shade.

About this period Mrs. Robinson had the misfortune to lose her brave and
respected father,--a blow as forcible as unexpected, which nearly shook
her faculties, and, for a time, wholly overwhelmed her spirits. Captain
Darby had, on the failure of his fortunes, been presented to the command
of a small ordnance vessel, through the interest of some of his noble
associates in the Indian expedition. Not having been regularly bred to
the sea, this was the only naval appointment which he could receive.
Enthusiastically attached to his profession, he omitted no occasion of
signalising himself. The siege of Gibraltar, in the year 1783, afforded
to him an opportunity after which he had long panted, when his small
vessel and gallant crew extorted by their courage and exertions the
admiration and applause of the fleet. Having fought till his rigging was
nearly destroyed, he turned his attention to the sinking Spaniards, whom
he sought to snatch from the flaming wrecks, floating around him in all
directions, and had the satisfaction to preserve, though at the hazard
of his life, some hundreds of his fellow beings. The vessel of Captain
Darby was the first that reached the rock by nearly an hour. On his
landing, General Elliot received and embraced him with the plaudits due
to his gallant conduct.

In the presence of his officers, the general lamented that so brave a
man had not been bred to a profession to which his intrepidity would
have done distinguished honour. To this eulogium he added, that, with
the courage of a lion, Captain Darby possessed the firmness of the rock
which he had so bravely defended.

To his care was entrusted by the commander a copy of the despatches,
which Captain Darby delivered four and twenty hours before the arrival
of the regular vessel. For this diligence, and the conduct which had
preceded it, he received the thanks of the Board of Admiralty, while on
the other captain was bestowed the more substantial recompense of five
hundred pounds. An injustice so glaring was not calculated to lessen
Captain Darby's distaste for England, which he quitted, after taking of
his unhappy family an affectionate farewell.

At sixty-two years of age, he set out to regain in a foreign country the
fortune he had sacrificed in the service of his own. With powerful
recommendations from the Duke of Dorset and the Count de Simolin, he
proceeded to Petersburg. From the Count de Simolin he continued to
experience, till the latest period of his existence, a steady and
zealous friendship. Captain Darby had been but two years in the Russian
imperial service when he was promoted to the command of a seventy-four
gun ship, with a promise of the appointment of admiral on the first
vacancy. On the 5th of December, 1785, death put a stop to his career.
He was buried with military honours, and attended to the grave by his
friends, Admiral Greig, the Counts Czernichef and De Simolin, with the
officers of the fleet.[43]

This honourable testimony to her father's worth was the only consolation
remaining to his daughter, whose enfeebled health and broken spirits
sunk beneath these repeated strokes.

During the four succeeding years of the life of Mrs. Robinson, but few
events occurred worthy of remark. In search of lost health, which she
had so long and vainly pursued, she determined to repair to the baths of
St. Amand, in Flanders, those receptacles of loathsome mud, and of
reptiles, unknown to other soils, which fasten on the bodies of those
who bathe. Mrs. Robinson made many visits to these distasteful ditches
before she could prevail on herself to enter them. Neither the example
of her fellow sufferers, nor the assurance of cures performed by their
wonderful efficacy, could for a long time overcome her disgust. At
length, solicitude for the restoration of her health, added to the
earnest remonstrances of her friends, determined her on making the
effort. For the purpose of being near the baths, which must be entered
an hour before the rising of the sun, she hired a small but beautiful
cottage near the spring, where she passed the summer of 1787. These
peaceful vales and venerable woods were, at no distant period, destined
to become the seat of war and devastation, and the very cottage in which
Mrs. Robinson resided was converted into the headquarters of a
Republican French general.[44]

[Illustration: The Prince of Wales From a painting by Sir Thomas

Every endeavour to subdue her disorder proving ineffectual, Mrs.
Robinson relinquished her melancholy and fruitless pursuit, and resolved
once more to return to her native land. Proceeding through Paris, she
reached England in the beginning of 1787, from which period may be dated
the commencement of her literary career. On her arrival in London she
was affectionately received by the few friends whose attachment neither
detraction nor adverse fortunes could weaken or estrange. During an
absence of five years death had made inroads in the little circle of her
connections; many of those whose idea had been her solace in affliction,
and whose welcome she had delighted to anticipate, were now, alas!
no more.[45]

Once more established in London, and surrounded by social and rational
friends, Mrs. Robinson began to experience comparative tranquillity. The
Prince of Wales, with his brother the Duke of York, frequently honoured
her residence with their presence; but the state of her health, which
required more repose, added to the indisposition of her daughter, who
was threatened by a consumptive disorder, obliged her to withdraw to a
situation of greater retirement. Maternal solicitude for a beloved and
only child now wholly engaged her attention; her assiduities were
incessant and exemplary for the restoration of a being to whom she had
given life, and to whom she was fondly devoted.

In the course of the summer she was ordered by her physician to
Brighthelmstone, for the benefit of sea bathing. During hours of tedious
watching over the health of her suffering child, Mrs. Robinson beguiled
her anxiety by contemplating the ocean, whose successive waves, breaking
upon the shore, beat against the wall of their little garden. To a mind
naturally susceptible, and tinctured by circumstances with sadness, this
occupation afforded a melancholy pleasure, which could scarcely be
relinquished without regret. Whole nights were passed by Mrs. Robinson
at her window in deep meditation, contrasting with her present situation
the scenes of her former life.

Every device which a kind and skilful nurse could invent to cheer and
amuse her charge was practised by this affectionate mother, during the
melancholy period of her daughter's confinement. In the intervals of
more active exertion, the silence of a sick-chamber proving favourable
to the muse, Mrs. Robinson poured forth those poetic effusions which
have done so much honour to her genius and decked her tomb with unfading
laurels. Conversing one evening with Mr. Richard Burke,[46] respecting
the facility with which modern poetry was composed, Mrs. Robinson
repeated nearly the whole of those beautiful lines, which were afterward
given to the public, addressed: "To him who will understand them."



"Thou art no more my bosom's friend;
Here must the sweet delusion end,
That charmed my senses many a year,
Through smiling summers, winters drear.
Oh, friendship! am I doomed to find
Thou art a phantom of the mind?
A glitt'ring shade, an empty name,
An air-born vision's vap'rish flame?
And yet, the dear deceit so long
Has wak'd to joy my matin song,
Has bid my tears forget to flow,
Chas'd ev'ry pain, sooth'd ev'ry woe;
That truth, unwelcome to my ear,
Swells the deep sigh, recalls the tear,
Gives to the sense the keenest smart,
Checks the warm pulses of the heart,
Darkens my fate, and steals away
Each gleam of joy through life's sad day.

"Britain, farewell! I quit thy shore;
My native country charms no more;
No guide to mark the toilsome road;
No destin'd clime; no fix'd abode:
Alone and sad, ordain'd to trace
The vast expanse of endless space;
To view, upon the mountain's height,
Through varied shades of glimm'ring light,
The distant landscape fade away
In the last gleam of parting day:
Or, on the quiv'ring lucid stream,
To watch the pale moon's silv'ry beam;
Or when, in sad and plaintive strains,
The mournful Philomel complains,
In dulcet tones bewails her fate,
And murmurs for her absent mate;
Inspir'd by sympathy divine,
I'll weep her woes--for they are mine.
Driv'n by my fate, where'er I go,
O'er burning plains, o'er hills of snow,
Or on the bosom of the wave,
The howling tempest doom'd to brave,--
Where'er my lonely course I bend,
Thy image shall my steps attend;
Each object I am doom'd to see,
Shall bid remembrance picture thee.
Yes; I shall view thee in each flow'r,
That changes with the transient hour:
Thy wand'ring fancy I shall find
Borne on the wings of every wind:
Thy wild impetuous passions trace
O'er the white waves' tempestuous space;
In every changing season prove
An emblem of thy wav'ring love.

"Torn from my country, friends, and you,
The world lies open to my view;
New objects shall my mind engage;
I will explore th' historic page;
Sweet poetry shall soothe my soul;
Philosophy each pang control:
The muse I'll seek--her lambent fire
My soul's quick senses shall inspire;
With finer nerves my heart shall beat,
Touch'd by heav'n's own Promethean heat;
Italia's gales shall bear my song
In soft-link'd notes her woods among;
Upon the blue hill's misty side,
Thro' trackless deserts waste and wide,
O'er craggy rocks, whose torrents flow
Upon the silver sands below.
Sweet land of melody! 'tis thine
The softest passions to refine;
Thy myrtle groves, thy melting strains,
Shall harmonise and soothe my pains.
Nor will I cast one thought behind,
On foes relentless, friends unkind:
I feel, I feel their poison'd dart
Pierce the life-nerve within my heart;
'Tis mingled with the vital heat
That bids my throbbing pulses beat;
Soon shall that vital heat be o'er,
Those throbbing pulses beat no more!
No--I will breathe the spicy gale;
Plunge the clear stream, new health exhale;
O'er my pale cheek diffuse the rose,
And drink oblivion to my woes."

This _improvisatore_ produced in her auditor not less surprise than
admiration, when solemnly assured by its author that this was the first
time of its being repeated. Mr. Burke[47] entreated her to commit the
poem to writing, a request which was readily complied with. Mrs.
Robinson had afterward the gratification of finding this offspring of
her genius inserted in the _Annual Register_, with a flattering encomium
from the pen of the eloquent and ingenious editor.

Mrs. Robinson continued to indulge in this solace for her dejected
spirits, and in sonnets, elegies, and odes, displayed the powers and
versatility of her mind. On one of these nights of melancholy
inspiration she discovered from her window a small boat, struggling in
the spray, which dashed against the wall of her garden. Presently two
fishermen brought on shore in their arms a burthen, which,
notwithstanding the distance, Mrs. Robinson perceived to be a human
body, which the fishermen, after covering with a sail from their boat,
left on the land and disappeared. But a short time elapsed before the
men returned, bringing with them fuel, with which they vainly
endeavoured to reanimate their unfortunate charge. Struck with a
circumstance so affecting, which the stillness of the night rendered yet
more impressive, Mrs. Robinson remained some time at her window,
motionless with horror. At length, recovering her recollection, she
alarmed the family; but before they could gain the beach the men had
again departed. The morning dawned, and day broke in upon the tragical
scene. The bathers passed and reprised with little concern, while the
corpse continued extended on the shore, not twenty yards from the
Steine. During the course of the day, many persons came to look on the
body, which still remained unclaimed and unknown. Another day wore away,
and the corpse was unburied, the lord of the manor having refused to a
fellow being a grave in which his bones might decently repose, alleging
as an excuse that he did not belong to that parish. Mrs. Robinson,
humanely indignant at the scene which passed, exerted herself, but
without success, to procure by subscription a small sum for performing
the last duties to a wretched outcast. Unwilling, by an ostentatious
display of her name, to offend the higher and more fastidious female
powers, she presented to the fishermen her own contribution, and
declined further to interfere. The affair dropped; and the body of the
stranger, being dragged to the cliff, was covered by a heap of stones,
without the tribute of a sigh or the ceremony of a prayer.

These circumstances made on the mind of Mrs. Robinson a deep and lasting
impression; even at a distant period she could not repeat them without
horror and indignation. This incident gave rise to the poem entitled
"The Haunted Beach," written but a few months before her death.

In the winter of 1790, Mrs. Robinson entered into a poetical
correspondence with Mr. Robert Merry, under the fictitious names of
"Laura," and "Laura Maria;" Mr. Merry assuming the title of "Della

Mrs. Robinson now proceeded in her literary career with redoubled
ardour; but, dazzled by the false metaphors and rhapsodical extravagance
of some contemporary writers, she suffered her judgment to be misled and
her taste to be perverted; an error of which she became afterward
sensible. During her poetical disguise, many complimentary poems were
addressed to her; several ladies of the Blue Stocking Club, while Mrs.
Robinson remained unknown, even ventured to admire, nay more, to recite
her productions in their learned and critical coterie.

The attention which this novel species of correspondence excited, and
the encomiums which were passed on her poems, could not fail to gratify
the pride of the writer, who sent her next performance, with her own
signature, to the paper published under the title of _The World_,
avowing herself at the same time the author of the lines signed "Laura,"
and "Laura Maria." This information being received by Mr. Bell, though a
professed admirer of the genius of Mrs. Robinson, with some degree of
skepticism, he replied, "That the poem with which Mrs. Robinson had
honoured him was vastly pretty; but that he was well acquainted with the
author of the productions alluded to." Mrs. Robinson, a little disgusted
at this incredulity, immediately sent for Mr. Bell, whom she found means
to convince of her veracity, and of his own injustice.

In 1791 Mrs. Robinson produced her quarto poem, entitled "Ainsi va le
Monde." This work, containing three hundred and fifty lines, was written
in twelve hours, as a reply to Mr. Merry's "Laurel of Liberty," which
was sent to Mrs. Robinson on a Saturday; on the Tuesday following the
answer was composed and given to the public.

Encouraged by popular approbation beyond her most sanguine hopes, Mrs.
Robinson now published her first essay in prose, in the romance of
"Vancenza," of which the whole edition was sold in one day, and of which
five impressions have since followed. It must be confessed that this
production owed its popularity to the celebrity of the author's name,
and the favourable impression of her talents given to the public by her
poetical compositions, rather than to its intrinsic merit. In the same
year the poems of Mrs. Robinson were collected and published in one
volume. The names of nearly six hundred subscribers, of the most
distinguished rank and talents, graced the list which precedes the work.

The mind of Mrs. Robinson, beguiled by these pursuits from preying upon
itself, became gradually reconciled to the calamitous state of her
health; the mournful certainty of total and incurable lameness, while
yet in the bloom and summer of life, was alleviated by the consciousness
of intellectual resource, and by the activity of a fertile fancy. In
1791 she passed the greater part of the summer at Bath, occupied in
lighter poetical compositions. But even from this relief she was now for
awhile debarred; the perpetual exercise of the imagination and
intellect, added to a uniform and sedentary life, affected the system of
her nerves, and contributed to debilitate her frame. She was prohibited
by her physician, not merely from committing her thoughts to paper, but,
had it been possible, from thinking at all. No truant, escaped from
school, could receive more pleasure in eluding a severe master, than did
Mrs. Robinson, when, the vigilance of her physician relaxing, she could
once more resume her books and her pen.

As an example of the facility and rapidity with which she composed, the
following anecdote may be given. Returning one evening from the bath,
she beheld, a few paces before her chair, an elderly man, hurried along
by a crowd of people, by whom he was pelted with mud and stones. His
meek and unresisting deportment exciting her attention, she inquired
what were his offences, and learned with pity and surprise that he was
an unfortunate maniac, known only by the appellation of "mad Jemmy." The
situation of this miserable being seized her imagination and became the
subject of her attention. She would wait whole hours for the appearance
of the poor maniac, and, whatever were her occupations, the voice of mad
Jemmy was sure to allure her to the window. She would gaze upon his
venerable but emaciated countenance with sensations of awe almost
reverential, while the barbarous persecutions of the thoughtless crowd
never failed to agonise her feelings.

One night after bathing, having suffered from her disorder more than
usual pain, she swallowed, by order of her physician, near eighty drops
of laudanum. Having slept for some hours, she awoke, and calling her
daughter, desired her to take a pen and write what she should dictate.
Miss Robinson, supposing that a request so unusual might proceed from
the delirium excited by the opium, endeavoured in vain to dissuade her
mother from her purpose. The spirit of inspiration was not to be
subdued, and she repeated, throughout, the admirable poem of "The
Maniac,"[49] much faster than it could be committed to paper.

She lay, while dictating, with her eyes closed, apparently in the stupor
which opium frequently produces, repeating like a person talking in her
sleep. This affecting performance, produced in circumstances so
singular, does no less credit to the genius than to the heart of
the author.

On the ensuing morning Mrs. Robinson had only a confused idea of what
had passed, nor could be convinced of the fact till the manuscript was
produced. She declared that she had been dreaming of mad Jemmy
throughout the night, but was perfectly unconscious of having been awake
while she composed the poem, or of the circumstances narrated by
her daughter.

Mrs. Robinson, in the following summer, determined on another
continental tour, purposing to remain some time at Spa. She longed once
more to experience the friendly greeting and liberal kindness which even
her acknowledged talents had in her native country failed to procure.
She quitted London in July, 1792, accompanied by her mother and
daughter. The susceptible and energetic mind, fortunately for its
possessor, is endowed with an elastic power, that enables it to rise
again from the benumbing effects of those adverse strokes of fortune to
which it is but too vulnerable. If a lively imagination add poignancy to
disappointment, it also has in itself resources unknown to more equal
temperaments. In the midst of the depressing feelings which Mrs.
Robinson experienced in once more becoming a wanderer from her home, she
courted the inspiration of the muse, and soothed, by the following
beautiful stanzas, the melancholy sensations that oppressed her heart.



"JULY 20, 1792

"Bounding billow, cease thy motion,
Bear me not so swiftly o'er;
Cease thy roaring, foamy ocean,
I will tempt thy rage no more.

"Ah! within my bosom beating,
Varying passions wildly reign;
Love, with proud Resentment meeting,
Throbs by turns, of joy and pain.

"Joy, that far from foes I wander,
Where their taunts can reach no more;
Pain, that woman's heart grows fonder
When her dream of bliss is o'er!

"Love, by fickle fancy banish'd,
Spurn'd by hope, indignant flies;
Yet when love and hope are vanish'd,
Restless mem'ry never dies.

"Far I go, where fate shall lead me,
Far across the troubled deep;
Where no stranger's ear shall heed me,
Where no eye for me shall weep.

"Proud has been my fatal passion!
Proud my injured heart shall be!
While each thought, each inclination,
Still shall prove me worthy thee!

"Not one sigh shall tell my story;
Not one tear my cheek shall stain;
Silent grief shall be my glory,--
Grief, that stoops not to complain!

"Let the bosom prone to ranging,
Still by ranging seek a cure;
Mine disdains the thought of changing,
Proudly destin'd to endure.

"Yet, ere far from all I treasur'd,
----ere I bid adieu;
Ere my days of pain are measur'd,
Take the song that's still thy due!

"Yet, believe, no servile passions
Seek to charm thy vagrant mind;
Well I know thy inclinations,
Wav'ring as the passing wind.

"I have lov'd thee,--dearly lov'd thee,
Through an age of worldly woe;
How ungrateful I have prov'd thee
Let my mournful exile show!

"Ten long years of anxious sorrow,
Hour by hour I counted o'er;
Looking forward, till to-morrow,
Every day I lov'd thee more!

"Pow'r and splendour could not charm me;
I no joy in wealth could see!
Nor could threats or fears alarm me,
Save the fear of losing thee!

"When the storms of fortune press'd thee,
I have wept to see thee weep
When relentless cares distress'd thee,
I have lull'd those cares to sleep!

"When with thee, what ills could harm me?
Thou couldst every pang assuage;
But when absent, nought could charm me;
Every moment seem'd an age.

"Fare thee well, ungrateful lover!
Welcome Gallia's hostile shore:
Now the breezes waft me over;
Now we part--to meet no more."

On landing at Calais, Mrs. Robinson hesitated whether to proceed. To
travel through Flanders, then the seat of war, threatened too many
perils to be attempted with impunity; she determined, therefore, for
some time to remain at Calais, the insipid and spiritless amusements of
which presented little either to divert her attention or engage her
mind. Her time passed in listening to the complaints of the impoverished
aristocrats, or in attending to the air-built projects of their
triumphant adversaries. The arrival of travellers from England, or the
return of those from Paris, alone diversified the scene, and afforded a
resource to the curious and active inquirer.

The sudden arrival of her husband gave a turn to the feelings of Mrs.
Robinson: he had crossed the channel for the purpose of carrying back to
England his daughter, whom he wished to present to a brother newly
returned from the East Indies. Maternal conflicts shook on this occasion
the mind of Mrs. Robinson, which hesitated between a concern for the
interests of her beloved child, from whom she had never been separated,
and the pain of parting from her. She resolved at length on accompanying
her to England, and, with this view, quitted Calais on the memorable 2d
of September, 1792,[50] a day which will reflect on the annals of the
republic an indelible stain.

They had sailed but a few hours when the _arrêt_ arrived, by which every
British subject throughout France was restrained.

Mrs. Robinson rejoiced in her escape, and anticipated with delight the
idea of seeing her daughter placed in wealthy protection, the great
passport in her own country to honour and esteem. Miss Robinson received
from her new relation the promise of protection and favour, upon
condition that she renounced for ever the filial tie which united her to
both parents. This proposal was rejected by the young lady with proper
principle and becoming spirit.

In the year 1793 a little farce, entitled "Nobody," was written by Mrs.
Robinson. This piece, designed as a satire on female gamesters, was
received at the theatre, the characters distributed, and preparations
made for its exhibition. At this period one of the principal performers
gave up her part, alleging that the piece was intended as a ridicule on
her particular friend. Another actress also, though in "herself a host,"
was intimidated by a letter, informing her that "'Nobody' should be
damned!" The author received likewise, on the same day, a scurrilous,
indecent, and ill-disguised scrawl, signifying to her that the farce was
already condemned. On the drawing up of the curtain, several persons in
the galleries, whose liveries betrayed their employers, were heard to
declare that they were sent to do up "Nobody." Even women of
distinguished rank hissed through their fans. Notwithstanding these
manoeuvres and exertions, the more rational part of the audience seemed
inclined to hear before they passed judgment, and, with a firmness that
never fails to awe, demanded that the piece should proceed. The first
act was accordingly suffered without interruption; a song in the second
being unfortunately encored, the malcontents once more ventured to raise
their voices, and the malignity that had been forcibly suppressed burst
forth with redoubled violence. For three nights the theatre presented a
scene of confusion, when the authoress, after experiencing the
gratification of a zealous and sturdy defence, thought proper wholly to
withdraw the cause of contention.[51]

Mrs. Robinson in the course of this year lost her only remaining parent,
whom she tenderly loved and sincerely lamented. Mrs. Darby expired in
the house of her daughter, who, though by far the least wealthy of her
children, had proved herself through life the most attentive and
affectionate. From the first hour of Mr. Darby's failure and
estrangement from his family, Mrs. Robinson had been the protector and
the support of her mother. Even when pressed herself by pecuniary
embarrassment, it had been her pride and pleasure to shelter her widowed
parent, ands preserve her from inconvenience.

Mrs. Darby had two sons, merchants, wealthy and respected in the
commercial world; but to these gentlemen Mrs. Robinson would never
suffer her mother to apply for any assistance that was not voluntarily
offered. The filial sorrow of Mrs. Robinson on her loss, for many months
affected her health; even to the latest hour of her life her grief
appeared renewed when any object presented itself connected with the
memory of her departed mother.

Few events of importance occurred during the five following years,
excepting that through this period the friends of Mrs. Robinson observed
with concern the gradual ravages which indisposition and mental anxiety
were daily making upon her frame. An ingenuous, affectionate,
susceptible heart is seldom favourable to the happiness of the
possessor. It was the fate of Mrs. Robinson to be deceived where she
most confided, to experience treachery and ingratitude where she had a
title to kindness and a claim to support. Frank and unsuspicious, she
suffered her conduct to be guided by the impulse of her feelings; and,
by a too credulous reliance on the apparent attachment of those whom she
loved, and in whom she delighted to trust, she laid herself open to the
impositions of the selfish, and the stratagems of the crafty.

In 1799 her increasing involvements and declining health pressed heavily
upon her mind. She had voluntarily relinquished those comforts and
elegancies to which she had been accustomed; she had retrenched even her
necessary expenses, and nearly secluded herself from society. Her
physician had declared that by exercise only could her existence be
prolonged; yet the narrowness of her circumstances obliged her to forego
the only means by which it could be obtained. Thus, a prisoner in her
own house, she was deprived of every solace but that which could be
obtained by the activity of her mind, which at length sank under
excessive exertion and inquietude.

Indisposition had for nearly five weeks confined her to her bed, when,
after a night of extreme suffering and peril, through which her
physician hourly expected her dissolution, she had sunk into a gentle
and balmy sleep. At this instant her chamber door was forcibly pushed
open, with a noise that shook her enfeebled frame nearly to
annihilation, by two strange and ruffian-looking men, who entered with
barbarous abruptness. On her faintly inquiring the occasion of this
outrage, she was informed that one of her unwelcome visitors was an
attorney, and the other his client, who had thus, with as little decency
as humanity, forced themselves into the chamber of an almost expiring
woman. The motive of this intrusion was to demand her appearance, as a
witness, in a suit pending against her brother, in which these men were
parties concerned. No entreaties could prevail on them to quit the
chamber, where they both remained, questioning, in a manner the most
unfeeling and insulting, the unfortunate victim of their audacity and
persecution. One of them, the client, with a barbarous and unmanly
sneer, turning to his confederate, asked, "Who, to see the lady they
were now speaking to, could believe that she had once been called the
beautiful Mrs. Robinson?" To this he added other observations not less
savage and brutal; and, after throwing on the bed a subpoena, quitted
the apartment. The wretch who could thus, by insulting the sick, and
violating every law of humanity and common decency, disgrace the figure
of a man, was a professor and a priest of that religion which enjoins us
"not to break the bruised reed," "and to bind up the broken in heart!"
His name shall be suppressed, through respect to the order of which he
is an unworthy member. The consequences of this brutality upon the poor
invalid were violent convulsions, which had nearly extinguished the
struggling spark of life.

By slow degrees her malady yielded to the cares and skill of her medical
attendants, and she was once more restored to temporary convalescence;
but from that time her strength gradually decayed. Though her frame was
shaken to its centre, her circumstances compelled her still to exert the
faculties of her mind.

The sportive exercises of fancy were now converted into toilsome labours
of the brain,--nights of sleepless anxiety were succeeded by days of
vexation and dread.

About this period she was induced to undertake the poetical department
for the editor of a morning paper,[52] and actually commenced a series
of satirical odes, on local and temporary subjects, to which was affixed
the signature of "Tabitha Bramble." Among these lighter compositions,
considered by the author as unworthy of a place with her collected
poems, a more matured production of her genius was occasionally
introduced, of which the following "Ode to Spring," written April 30,
1780, is a beautiful and affecting example:


"Life-glowing season! odour-breathing Spring!
Deck'd in cerulean splendours!--vivid,--warm,
Shedding soft lustre on the rosy hours,
And calling forth their beauties! balmy Spring!
To thee the vegetating world begins
To pay fresh homage. Ev'ry southern gale
Whispers thy coming;--every tepid show'r
Revivifies thy charms. The mountain breeze
Wafts the ethereal essence to the vale,
While the low vale returns its fragrant hoard
With tenfold sweetness. When the dawn unfolds
Its purple splendours 'mid the dappled clouds,
Thy influence cheers the soul. When noon uplifts
Its burning canopy, spreading the plain
Of heaven's own radiance with one vast of light,
Thou smil'st triumphant! Ev'ry little flow'r
Seems to exult in thee, delicious Spring,
Luxuriant nurse of nature! By the stream,
That winds its swift course down the mountain's side,
Thy progeny are seen;--young primroses,
And all the varying buds of wildest birth,
Dotting the green slope gaily. On the thorn,
Which arms the hedgerow, the young birds invite
With merry minstrelsy, shrilly and maz'd
With winding cadences: now quick, now sunk
In the low twitter'd song. The evening sky
Reddens the distant main; catching the sail,
Which slowly lessens, and with crimson hue
Varying the sea-green wave; while the young moon,
Scarce visible amid the warmer tints
Of western splendours, slowly lifts her brow
Modest and icy-lustred! O'er the plain
The light dews rise, sprinkling the thistle's head,
And hanging its clear drops on the wild waste
Of broomy fragrance. Season of delight!
Thou soul-expanding pow'r, whose wondrous glow
Can bid all nature smile! Ah! why to me
Come unregarded, undelighting still
This ever-mourning bosom? So I've seen
The sweetest flow'rets bind the icy urn;
The brightest sunbeams glitter on the grave;
And the soft zephyr kiss the troubled main,
With whispered murmurs. Yes, to me, O Spring!
Thou com'st unwelcom'd by a smile of joy;
To me! slow with'ring to that silent grave
Where all is blank and dreary! Yet once more
The Spring eternal of the soul shall dawn,
Unvisited by clouds, by storms, by change,
Radiant and unexhausted! Then, ye buds,
Ye plumy minstrels, and ye balmy gales,
Adorn your little hour, and give your joys
To bless the fond world-loving traveller,
Who, smiling, measures the long flow'ry path
That leads to death! For to such wanderers
Life is a busy, pleasing, cheerful dream,
And the last hour unwelcome. Not to me,
Oh! not to me, stern Death, art thou a foe;
Thou art the welcome messenger, which brings
A passport to a blest and long repose."

A just value was at that time set upon the exertions of Mrs. Robinson,
by the conductors of the paper, who "considered them as one of the
principal embellishments and supports of their journal."

In the spring of 1800 she was compelled by the daily encroachments of
her malady wholly to relinquish her literary employments.

Her disorder was pronounced by the physicians to be a rapid decline. Dr.
Henry Vaughan, who to medical skill unites the most exalted
philanthropy, prescribed, as a last resource, a journey to Bristol
Wells. A desire once again to behold her native scenes induced Mrs.
Robinson eagerly to accede to this proposal. She wept with melancholy
pleasure at the idea of closing her eyes for ever upon a world of vanity
and disappointment in the place in which she had first drawn breath, and
terminating her sorrows on the spot which gave her birth; but even this
sad solace was denied to her, from a want of the pecuniary means for
its execution. In vain she applied to those on whom honour, humanity,
and justice, gave her undoubted claims. She even condescended to
entreat, as a donation, the return of those sums granted as a loan in
her prosperity.

The following is a copy of a letter addressed on this occasion to a
noble debtor, and found among the papers of Mrs. Robinson after
her decease:


"April 23, 1800.

"MY LORD:--Pronounced by my physicians to be in a rapid decline, I trust
that your lordship will have the goodness to assist me with a part of
the sum for which you are indebted to me. Without your aid I cannot make
trial of the Bristol waters, the only remedy that presents to me any
hope of preserving my existence. I should be sorry to die at enmity with
any person; and you may be assured, my dear lord, that I bear none
toward you. It would be useless to ask you to call on me; but if you
would do me that honour, I should be happy, very happy, to see
you, being,

"My dear lord,

"Yours truly,


To this letter no answer was returned! Further comments are unnecessary.

The last literary performance of Mrs. Robinson was a volume of Lyrical
Tales. She repaired a short time after to a small cottage _ornée_,
belonging to her daughter, near Windsor. Rural occupation and amusement,
quiet and pure air, appeared for a time to cheer her spirits and
renovate her shattered frame. Once more her active mind returned to its
accustomed and favourite pursuits; but the toil of supplying the
constant variety required by a daily print, added to other engagements,
which she almost despaired of being capacitated to fulfil pressed
heavily upon her spirits, and weighed down her enfeebled frame. Yet, in
the month of August, she began and concluded, in the course of ten days,
a translation of Doctor Hagar's "Picture of Palermo,"--an exertion by
which she was greatly debilitated. She was compelled, though with
reluctance, to relinquish the translation of "The Messiah" of Klopstock,
which she had proposed giving to the English reader in blank verse,--a
task particularly suited to her genius and the turn of her mind.

But, amidst the pressure of complicated distress, the mind of this
unfortunate woman was superior to improper concessions, and treated with
just indignation those offers of service which required the sacrifice of
her integrity.

She yet continued, though with difficulty and many intervals, her
literary avocations. When necessitated by pain and languor to limit her
exertions, her unfeeling employers accused her of negligence. This
inconsideration, though she seldom complained, affected her spirits and
preyed upon her heart. As she hourly declined toward that asylum where
"the weary rest," her mind seemed to acquire strength in proportion to
the weakness of her frame. When no longer able to support the fatigue of
being removed from her chamber, she retained a perfect composure of
spirits, and, in the intervals of extreme bodily suffering, would listen
while her daughter read to her, with apparent interest and collectedness
of thought, frequently making observations on what would probably take
place when she had passed that "bourn whence no traveller returns." The
flattering nature of her disorder at times inspired her friends with the
most sanguine hopes of her restoration to health; she would even
herself, at intervals, cherish the idea. But these gleams of hope, like
flashes of lightning athwart the storm, were succeeded by a deeper
gloom, and the consciousness of her approaching fate returned upon the
mind of the sufferer with increased conviction.

Within a few days of her decease, she collected and arranged her
poetical works, which she bound her daughter, by a solemn adjuration, to
publish for her subscribers, and also the present memoir. Requesting
earnestly that the papers prepared for the latter purpose might be
brought to her, she gave them into the hands of Miss Robinson, with an
injunction that the narrative should be made public, adding, "I should
have continued it up to the present time--but perhaps it is as well that
I have been prevented. Promise me that you will print it!" The request
of a dying parent, so made, and at such a moment, could not be refused.
She is obeyed. Upon the solemn assurances of her daughter, that her Last
desire, so strongly urged, should be complied with, the mind of Mrs.
Robinson became composed and tranquil; her intellects yet remained
unimpaired, though her corporeal strength hourly decayed.

A short time previous to her death, during an interval of her daughter's
absence from her chamber, she called an attending friend, whose
benevolent heart and unremitting kindness will, it is hoped, meet
hereafter with their reward, and entreated her to observe her last
requests, adding, with melancholy tenderness, "I cannot talk to my poor
girl on these sad subjects." Then, with an unruffled manner and minute
precision, she gave orders respecting her interment, which she desired
might be performed with all possible simplicity. "Let me," said she,
with an impressive though almost inarticulate voice, "be buried in Old
Windsor churchyard." For the selection of that spot she gave a
particular reason. She also mentioned an undertaker, whose name she
recollected having seen on his door, and whom she appointed from his
vicinity to the probable place of her decease. A few trifling memorials,
as tributes of her affection, were all the property she had to bequeath.
She also earnestly desired that a part of her hair might be sent to two
particular persons.

One evening, her anxious nurses, with a view to divert her mind, talked
of some little plans to take place on her restoration to health. She
shook her head with an affecting and significant motion. "Don't deceive
yourselves," said she; "remember, I tell you, I am but a very little
time longer for this world." Then pressing to her heart her daughter,
who knelt by her bedside, she held her head for some minutes clasped
against her bosom, which throbbed, as with some internal and agonising
conflict. "Poor heart," murmured she, in a deep and stifled tone, "what
will become of thee!" She paused some moments, and at length, struggling
to assume more composure, desired in a calmer voice that some one would
read to her. Throughout the remainder of the evening she continued
placidly and even cheerfully attentive to the person who read, observing
that, should she recover, she designed to commence a long work, upon
which she would bestow great pains and time. "Most of her writings," she
added, "had been composed in too much haste."

Her disorder rapidly drawing toward a period, the accumulation of the
water upon her chest every moment threatened suffocation. For nearly
fifteen nights and days she was obliged to be supported upon pillows, or
in the arms of her young and affectionate nurses.[53] Her decease,
through this period, was hourly expected. On the 24th of December she
inquired how near was Christmas Day! Being answered, "Within a few
days," "Yet," said she, "I shall never see it." The remainder of this
melancholy day passed in undescribable tortures. Toward midnight, the
sufferer exclaimed, "O God, O just and merciful God, help me to support
this agony!" The whole of the ensuing day she continued to endure great
anguish. In the evening a kind of lethargic stupor came on. Miss
Robinson, approaching the pillow of her expiring mother, earnestly
conjured her to speak, if in her power. "My darling Mary!" she faintly
articulated, and spoke no more. In another hour she became insensible to
the grief of those by whom she was surrounded, and breathed her last at
a quarter past twelve on the following noon.

The body was opened, at the express wish of Doctors Pope and Chandler.
The immediate cause of her death appeared to have been a dropsy on the
chest; but the sufferings which she endured previously to her decease
were probably occasioned by six large gall-stones found in the

All her requests were strictly observed. Her remains were deposited,
according to her direction, in the churchyard of Old Windsor; the spot
was marked out by a friend to whom she had signified her wishes. The
funeral was attended only by two literary friends.

Respecting the circumstances of the preceding narrative, every reader
must be left to form his own reflections. To the humane mind, the errors
of the unfortunate subject of this memoir will appear to have been more
than expiated by her sufferings. Nor will the peculiar disadvantages, by
which her introduction into life was attended, be forgotten by the
candid,--disadvantages that, by converting into a snare the bounties
lavished on her by nature, proved not less fatal to her happiness than
to her conduct. On her unhappy marriage, and its still more unhappy
consequences, it is unnecessary to comment. Thus circumstanced, her
genius, her sensibility, and her beauty combined to her destruction,
while, by her exposed situation, her inexperience of life, her tender
youth, with the magnitude of the temptations which beset her, she could
scarcely fail of being betrayed.

"Say, ye severest ...
... what would you have done?"

The malady which seized her in the bloom of youth, and pursued her with
unmitigable severity through every stage of life, till, in the prune of
her powers, it laid her in a premature grave, exhibits, in the history
of its progress, a series of sufferings that might disarm the sternest,
soften the most rigid, and awaken pity in the hardest heart. Her mental
exertions through this depressing disease, the elasticity of her mind,
and the perseverance of her efforts amidst numberless sources of
vexation and distress, cannot fail, while they awaken sympathy, to
extort admiration. Had this lovely plant, now withered and low in the
dust, been in its early growth transplanted into a happier
soil--sheltered from the keen blasts of adversity, and the mildew of
detraction, it might have extended its roots, unfolded its blossoms,
diffused its sweetness, shed its perfumes, and still flourished,
beauteous to the eye, and grateful to the sense.

To represent the character of the individual in the circumstances of
life, his conduct under those circumstances and the consequences which
they ultimately produce, is the peculiar province of biography. Little
therefore remains to be added. The benevolent temper, the filial piety
and the maternal tenderness of Mrs. Robinson are exemplified in the
preceding pages, as her genius, her talents, the fertility of her
imagination, and the powers of her mind are displayed in her
productions, the popularity of which at least affords a presumption of
their merit. Her manners were polished and conciliating, her powers of
conversation rich and varied. The brilliancy of her wit and the sallies
of her fancy were ever tempered by kindness and chastened by delicacy.
Though accustomed to the society of the great, and paying to rank the
tribute which civil institutions have rendered its due, she reserved her
esteem and deference for these only whose talents or whose merits
claimed the homage of the mind.

With the unfortunate votaries of letters she sincerely sympathised, and
not unfrequently has been known to divide the profits of her genius with
the less successful or less favoured disciples of the muse.

The productions of Mrs. Robinson, both in prose and verse, are numerous,
and of various degrees of merit; but to poetry the native impulse of her
genius appears to have been more peculiarly directed. Of the glitter and
false taste exhibited in the Della Crusca correspondence[54] she became
early sensible; several of her poems breathe a spirit of just sentiment
and simple elegance.




Farewell to the nymph of my heart!
Farewell to the cottage and vine!
From these, with a tear, I depart,
Where pleasure so often was mine.

Remembrance shall dwell on her smile,
And dwell on her lute and her song;
That sweetly my hours to beguile,
Oft echoed the valleys along.

Once more the fair scene let me view,
The grotto, the brook, and the grove.
Dear valleys, for ever adieu!
Adieu to the daughter of Love!


"Few women," says Sir Nathaniel Wraxall, "have performed a more
conspicuous part, or occupied a higher place on the public theatre of
fashion, politics, and dissipation, than the Duchess of Gordon."

Jane, afterward Duchess of Gordon, the rival in beauty and talent to
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, was born in Wigtonshire, in Scotland.
Her father, Sir William Maxwell of Monreith (anciently Mureith),
represented one of the numerous families who branched off from the
original stock--Herbert of Caerlaverock, first Lord Maxwell, the
ancestor of the famous Earl of Nithsdale, whose countess, Winifred,
played so noble a part when her husband was in prison during the
Jacobite insurrection. From this honourable house descended, in our
time, the gallant Sir Murray Maxwell, whose daughter, Mrs. Carew, became
the wife of the too well-known Colonel Waugh; the events which followed
are still fresh in the public mind. Until that blemish, loyalty, honour,
and prosperity marked out the Maxwells of Monreith for "their own." In
1681, William Maxwell was created a baronet of Nova Scotia. Various
marriages and intermarriages with old and noble families kept the blood
pure, a circumstance as much prized by the Scotch as by the Germans. Sir
William, the father of the Duchess of Gordon, married Magdalene, the
daughter of William Blair, of Blair, and had by her six children,--three
sons and three daughters,--of whom the youngest but one was Jane, the
subject of this memoir.

This celebrated woman was a true Scotchwoman--staunch to her
principles, proud of her birth, energetic, and determined. Her energy
might have died away like a flash in the pan had it not been for her
determination. She carried through everything that she attempted; and
great personal charms accelerated her influence in that state of society
in which, as in the French capital, women had, at that period, an
astonishing though transient degree of ascendency.

The attractions of Jane Maxwell appeared to have been developed early,
for before she entered on the gay world, a song, "Jenny of Monreith,"
was composed in her honour, which her son, the Duke of Gordon, used to
sing, long after the charms, which were thus celebrated, had vanished.
Her features were regular; the contour of her face was truly noble; her
hair was dark, as well as her eyes and eyebrows; her face long and
beautifully oval; the chin somewhat too long; the upper lip was short,
and the mouth, notwithstanding a certain expression of determination,
sweet and well defined. Nothing can be more becoming to features of this
stamp, that require softening, than the mode of dressing the hair then
general. Sir Joshua Reynolds has painted the Duchess of Gordon with her
dark hair drawn back, in front, over a cushion, or some support that
gave it waviness; round and round the head, between each rich mass, were
two rows of large pearls, until, at the top, they were lost in the folds
of a ribbon; a double row of pearls round the fair neck; a ruff, opening
low in front, a tight bodice, and sleeves full to an extreme at the top,
tighter toward the wrists, seem to indicate that the dress of the period
of Charles I had even been selected for this most lovely portrait. The
head is turned aside--with great judgment--probably to mitigate the
decided expression of the face when in a front view.

As she grew up, however, the young lady was found to be deficient in one
especial grace--she was not feminine; her person, her mind, her manners,
all, in this respect, corresponded. "She might," says one who knew her,
"have aptly represented Homer's Juno." Always animated, with features
that were constantly in play, one great charm was wanting--that of
sensibility. Sometimes her beautiful face was overclouded with anger;
more frequently was it irradiated with smiles. Her conversation, too,
annihilated much of the impression made by her commanding beauty. She
despised the usages of the world, and, believing herself exempted from
them by her rank, after she became a duchess, she dispensed with them,
and sacrificed to her venal ambition some of the most lovable qualities
of her sex. One of her speeches, when honours became, as she thought,
too common at court, betrays her pride and her coarseness. "Upon my
word," she used to say, "one cannot look out of one's coach window
without spitting on a knight." Whatever were her defects, her beauty
captivated the fancy of Alexander, the fourth Duke of Gordon, a young
man of twenty-four years of age, whom she married on the 28th of
October, 1767. The family she entered, as well as the family whence she
sprang, were devoted adherents of the exiled Stuarts, and carried, to a
great extent, the hereditary Toryism of their exalted lineage. The
great-grandmother of the duke was that singular Duchess of Gordon who
sent a medal to the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh, with the head of
James Stuart the Chevalier on one side, and on the other the British
Isles, with the word "Reddite" inscribed underneath. The Faculty were
highly gratified by this present. After a debate, they accepted the
medal, and sent two of their body to thank the duchess, and to say that
they hoped she would soon be enabled to favour the society with a second
medal on the Restoration. Duke Alexander, the husband of Jane Maxwell,
showed in his calm and inert character no evidence of being descended
from this courageous partisan. He was a man of no energy, except in his
love of country pursuits, and left the advancement of the family
interests wholly to his spirited and ambitious wife. They were married
only six years after George III had succeeded to the throne. Never was a
court more destitute of amusements than that of the then youthful
sovereign of England. Until his latter days, George II. had enjoyed
revelries, though of a slow, formal, German character; but his grandson
confined himself, from the age of twenty-two, to his public and private
duties. He neither frequented masquerades nor joined in play. The
splendours of a court were reserved for birthdays, and for those alone;
neither did the king usually sit down to table with the nobility or with
his courtiers. Never was he known to be guilty of the slightest excess
at table, and his repasts were simple, if not frugal. At a levee, or on
the terrace at Windsor, or in the circle of Hyde Park, this model of a
worthy English gentleman might be seen, either with his plain-featured
queen on his arm, or driven in his well-known coach with his old and
famous cream-coloured horses. Junius derided the court, "where," he
said, "prayers are morality and kneeling is religion." But although
wanting in animation, it was far less reprehensible than that which
preceded or that which followed it. The Duchess of Gordon,
irreproachable in conduct, with her high Tory principles, was well
suited to a court over which Lord Bute exercised a strong influence. She
had naturally a calculating turn of mind. Fame, admiration, fashion,
were agreeable trifles, but wealth and rank were the solid aims to which
every effort was directed. Unlike her future rival, the Duchess of
Devonshire, who impoverished herself in her boundless charities, the
Duchess of Gordon kept in view the main chance, and resolved from her
early youth to aggrandise the family into which she had entered.

Her empire as a wit was undisputed, for the Duchess of Devonshire was
then a mere girl, at her mother's knee; but that for beauty was disputed
by Mary, Duchess of Rutland, so well remembered in our own time, as she
survived till 1831.

This exquisite specimen of English loveliness, compared by some to
Musidora, as described by Thomson, was the most beautiful woman of rank
in the kingdom. Every turn of her features, every form of her limbs, was
perfect, and grace accompanied every movement. She was tall, of the just
height; slender, but not thin; her features were delicate and noble; and
her ancestors, the Plantagenets, were in her represented by a faultless
sample of personal attributes. She was the daughter of a race which has
given to the world many heroes, one philosopher, and several celebrated
beauties--that of Somerset; and, as the descendant of the defenders of
Raglan Castle, might be expected to combine various noble qualities with
personal gifts. But she was cold, although a coquette. In the Duchess of
Devonshire it was the _besoin d'aimer_, the cordial nature recoiled into
itself from being linked to an expletive, that betrayed her into an
encouragement of what offered her the semblance of affection--into the
temptation of being beloved. To the Duchess of Gordon her conquests were
enhanced by the remembrance of what they might bring; but the Duchess of
Rutland viewed her admirers in the light of offering tributes to a
goddess. She was destitute of the smiles, the intelligence, and
sweetness of the Duchess of Devonshire; and conscious of charms,
received adoration as her due. "In truth," Sir Nathanial Wraxall, who
knew her well, writes, "I never contemplated her except as an enchanting
statue, formed to excite admiration rather than to awaken love, this
superb production of nature not being lighted up by corresponding mental

This lady was united to one of the most attractive and popular of men,
but one of the most imprudent and convivial. The son of that celebrated
Marquis of Granby whom Junius attacked, the young Duke of Rutland was a
firm partisan of Pitt, whom he first brought into the House of Commons,
and at whose wish he accepted the government of Ireland in 1784. Never
was there such splendour at the vice-regal court as in his time. Vessels
laden with the expensive luxuries from England were seen in the Bay of
Dublin at short intervals; the banquets given were most costly; the
evenings at the castle were divided between play and drinking; and yet
the mornings found the young duke breakfasting on six or seven turkey's
eggs. He then, when on his progress, rode forty or fifty miles, returned
to dinner at seven, and sat up to a late hour, supping before he
retired to rest.

The duchess had little place in his heart, and the siren, Mrs.
Billington, held it in temporary thraldom; but constancy was to a man of
such a calibre impossible. Nevertheless, when the duke saw his wife
surrounded by admirers, whom her levity of manner encouraged, he became
jealous, and they parted, for the last time as it proved, on bad terms.
One evening, seeing him engaged in play, the duchess approached the
window of the room in which he sat, and tapped at it. He was highly
incensed by this interference with his amusements. She returned to
England, an invalid, in order to consult Doctor Warren, the father of
the late physician of that name. Whilst residing with her mother in
Berkeley Square, she heard that the duke was attacked with fever. She
sent off Doctor Warren to see him, and was preparing to follow him when
the physician returned. At Holyhead he had heard that the duke was no
more. He died at the early age of thirty-three, his blood having been
inflamed by his intemperance, which, however, never affected his reason,
and was, therefore, the more destructive to his health. His widow, in
spite of their alienation, mourned long and deeply. Never did she appear
more beautiful than when, in 1788, she reappeared after her seclusion.
Like Diana of Poictiers, she retained her wonderful loveliness to an
advanced age. Latterly, she covered her wrinkles with enamel, and when
she appeared in public always quitted a room in which the windows, which
might admit the dampness, were opened. She never married again,
notwithstanding the various suitors who desired to obtain her hand.

For a long time the Duchess of Gordon continued to reign over the Tory
party almost without a rival. When, at last, the Duchess of Devonshire
came forward as the female champion of the Foxites, Pitt and Dundas,
afterward Lord Melville, opposed to her the Duchess of Gordon. At that
time she lived in the splendid mansion of the then Marquis of Buckingham
in Pall Mall. Every evening, numerous assemblies of persons attached to
the administration gathered in those stately saloons, built upon or near
the terrace whereon Nell Gwyn used to chat with Charles II on the grass
below, as he was going to feed his birds in his gardens. Presuming on
her rank, her influence, her beauty, the Duchess of Gordon used to act
in the most determined manner as a government whipper-in. When a member
on whom she counted was wanting, she did not scruple to send for him, to
remonstrate, to persuade, to fix him by a thousand arts. Strange must
have been the scene--more strange than attractive. Everything was
forgotten but the one grand object of the evening, the theme of all
talk,--the next debate and its supporters. In the year 1780 events took
place which for some time appeared likely to shake the prosperity of the
Gordon family almost to its fall.

The duke had two brothers, the elder of whom, Lord William, was the
Ranger of Windsor Park, and survived to a great age. The younger, Lord
George, holds a very conspicuous but not a very creditable place in the
annals of his country. No event in our history bears any analogy with
that styled the "Gordon Riots," excepting the fire of London in the
reign of Charles II; and even that calamity did not exhibit the mournful
spectacle which attended the conflagrations of 1780. In the former
instance, the miserable sufferers had to contend only with a devouring
element; in the latter, they had to seek protection, and to seek it in
vain, from a populace of the lowest description, and the vilest
purposes, who carried with them destruction wherever they went. Even
during the French Revolution, revolting and degrading as it was, the
firebrand was not employed in the work of destruction; the public and
private buildings of Paris were spared.

The author of all these calamities, Lord George Gordon, was a young man
of gentle, agreeable manners, and delicate, high-bred appearance. His
features were regular and pleasing; he was thin and pale, but with a
cunning, sinister expression in his face that indicated
wrong-headedness. He was dependent on his elder brother, the duke, for
his maintenance, six hundred pounds a year being allowed him by his
Grace. Such was the exterior, such the circumstances of an incendiary
who has been classed with Wat Tyler and Jack Cade, or with Kett, the
delinquent in the time of Edward VI.

It was during the administration of Lord North that the Cordon Riots
took place, excited by the harangues and speeches of Lord George. On the
2d of June he harangued the people; on the 7th these memorable
disturbances broke out; Bloomsbury Square was the first point of attack.
In Pope's time this now neglected square was fashionable:

"In Palace Yard, at nine, you'll find me there;
At ten, for certain, sir, in Bloomsbury Square."

Baxter, the Nonconformist, and Sir Hans Sloane once inhabited what was,
in their time, called Southampton Square, from Southampton House, which
occupied one whole side of Bloomsbury Square, and was long the abode of
Lady Rachel Russell, after the execution of her lord. Like every other
part of what may be called "Old London," it is almost sanctified by the
memories of the lettered and the unfortunate. But the glory of
Bloomsbury Square was, in those days, the house of Lord Mansfield, at
the north end of the east side; in which that judge had collected many
valuables, among which his library was the dearest to his heart; it was
the finest legal library of his time. As soon as the long summer's day
had closed, and darkness permitted the acts of violence to be fully
recognised, Hart Street and Great Russell Street were illuminated by
large fires, composed of the furniture taken from the houses of certain
magistrates. Walking into Bloomsbury, the astounded observer of that
night's horrors saw, with consternation, the hall door of Lord
Mansfield's house broken open; and instantly all the contents of the
various apartments were thrown into the square, and set on fire. In vain
did a small body of foot-soldiers attempt to intimidate the rioters. The
whole of the house was consumed, and vengeance would have fallen on Lord
Mansfield and his lady had they not escaped by a back door a few minutes
before the hall was broken into; such was that memorable act of
destruction--so prompt, so complete. Let us follow the mob, in fancy,
and leaving the burning pile in Bloomsbury Square, track the steps of
the crowd into Holborn. We remember, as we are hurried along, with a
bitter feeling, that Holborn was the appointed road for criminals from
Newgate to Tyburn. It is now one blaze of light; in the hollow near
Fleet Market, the house and warehouses of Mr. Langdale, a Catholic--a
Christian like ourselves, though not one of our own blessed and reformed
church--is blazing; a pinnacle of flame, like a volcano, is sent up into
the air. St. Andrew's Church is almost scorched with the heat; whilst
the figures of the clock--that annalist which numbers, as it stands, the
hours of guilt--are plain as at noonday. The gutters beneath, catching
here and there gleams of the fiery heavens, run with spirituous liquors
from the plundered distilleries; the night is calm, as if no deeds of
persecution sullied its beauty; at times it is obscured by volumes of
smoke, but they pass away, and the appalled spectators of the street
below are plainly visible. Here stands a mother with an infant in her
arms looking on; there, a father, leading his boy to the safest point of
observation. We wonder at their boldness; but it is the direst sign of
affright--in their homes they are insecure--everywhere, anywhere, the
ruthless unseen hand may cast the brand, and all may perish. At this
early hour there seemed to be no ringleader--no pillage; it appeared
difficult to conceive who could be the wretch who instigated, who
directed this awful riot; but, at the windows, men were seen calmly
tearing away pictures from the walls; furniture, books, plate, from
their places, and throwing them into the flames. As midnight drew near,
the ferocious passions of the multitude were heightened by ardent
spirits; not a soldier, either horse or foot, is visible. "Whilst we
stood," says an eye-witness, "by the wall of St. Andrew's churchyard, a
watchman, with his lanthorn in his hand, passed on, calling the hour as
if in a time of profound security."

Meantime, the King's Bench Prison was enveloped in flames; the Mansion
House and the Bank were attacked. But the troops were killing and
dispersing the rioters on Blackfriars Bridge; a desperate conflict
between the horse and the mob was going on near the Bank. What a night!
The whole city seemed to be abandoned to pillage--to destruction.
Shouts, yells, the shrieks of women, the crackling of the burning
houses, the firing of platoons toward St. George's Fields, combined to
show that no horrors, no foes are equal to those of domestic treachery,
domestic persecution, domestic fury, and infatuation.

It was not alone the Roman Catholics who were threatened. Sir George
Savile's house in Leicester Square--once the peaceful locality in which
Dorothy Sydney, Waller's "Sacharissa," bloomed--was plundered and
burned. Then the Duchess of Devonshire took fright, and did not venture
to stay at Devonshire House for many nights after dusk, but took refuge
at Lord Clermont's in Berkeley Square, sleeping on a sofa in the
drawing-room. In Downing Street, Lord North was dining with a party his
brother, Colonel North, Mr. Eden, afterward Lord Auckland, the
Honourable John St. John, General Fraser, and Count Malzen, the Prussian
minister. The little square then surrounding Downing Street was filled
with the mob. "Who commands the upper story?" said Lord North. "I do,"
answered Colonel North; "and I have twenty or thirty grenadiers well
armed, who are ready to fire on the first notice."

"If your grenadiers fire," said Mr. Eden, calmly, "they will probably
fire into my house just opposite."

The mob was now threatening; every moment the peril was increasing. Mr.
St. John held a pistol in his hand; and Lord North, who never could
forbear cutting a joke, said, "I am not half so much afraid of the mob
as of Jack St. John's pistol." By degrees, however, the crowd, seeing
that the house was well guarded, dispersed, and the gentlemen quietly
sat down again to their wine until late in the evening, when they all
ascended to the top of the house, and beheld the capital blazing. It was
here that the first suggestion of a coalition between Lord North and
Fox, to save the country and themselves, was started, and afterward
perfected behind the scenes of the Opera House in the Haymarket. During
this memorable night George III, behaved with the courage which,
whatever their failings, has ever highly distinguished the Hanoverian
family. By the vigorous measures, late indeed, but not too late, which
he acceded to at the Council, London was saved. But the popular fury had
extended to other towns. Bath was in tumult; a new Roman Catholic chapel
there was burned. Mrs. Thrale, hearing that her house at Streatham had
been threatened, caused it to be emptied of its furniture. Three times
was Mrs. Thrale's town house attacked; her valuables and furniture were
removed thence also; and she deemed it prudent to leave Bath, into which
coaches, chalked over with "No Popery," were hourly driving. The
composure with which the rioters did their work seemed to render the
scene more fearful, as they performed these acts of violence as if they
were carrying out a religious duty rather than deeds of
execrable hatred.

It was not until two or three days after tranquillity had been restored
that Lord George Gordon was apprehended. Ministers were justly
reproached for not having sent him to the Tower on the 2d of June, when
he had assembled and excited the mob to extort compliance with their
wishes from the House of Commons. Such a step, when the House was
surrounded by multitudes, and when, every moment, it was expected that
the door would be broken open, would have been hazardous; had that
occurred, Lord George would have suffered instant death. General Murray,
afterward Duke of Atholl, held his sword ready to pass it through Lord
George's body the instant the mob rushed in. The Earl of Carnarvon, the
grandfather of the present earl, followed him closely with the
same intent.

The indignation of the insulted Commons was extreme, and the distress
and displeasure of Lord George's own family doubtless excessive. The
House of Commons had never been thus insulted before. It is difficult to
determine what could be Lord George's motives for the conduct which led
to these awful results, during the whole of which he preserved a
composure that bordered on insensibility; he was a perfect master of
himself whilst the city was in flames. Much may be laid to fanaticism,
and the mental derangement which it either produced or evinced. When too
late he tried in vain to abate the fury he had excited, and offered to
take his stand by Lord Rodney's[55] side when the Bank was attacked, to
aid that officer, who commanded the Guards, in its defence.

Lord George then lived in Weibeck Street, Cavendish Square, and
tradition assigns as his house that now occupied by Mr. Newby, the
publisher, No. 30, and for many years the house of Count Woronzoff, the
Russian ambassador, who died there. Lord George there prepared for his
defence, which was entrusted to the great Erskine, then in his prime,
or, as he was called in caricatures, with which the shops were full,
from his extreme vanity, _Counsellor Ego_. In February, 1781, the trial
took place, and Lord George was acquitted. He retired to Birmingham,
became a Jew, and lived in that faith, or under the delusion that he did
so. The hundreds who perished from his folly or insanity were avenged in
his subsequent imprisonment in Newgate for a libel on Marie Antoinette,
of which he was convicted. He died a very few years after the riots of
1780, in Newgate, generally condemned, and but little compassionated.

It appears from the letters addressed by Doctor Beanie to the Duchess of
Gordon, that she was not in London during the riots of June, 1780. The
poet had been introduced to her by Sir William Forbes, and frequently
visited Gordon Castle. We find him, whilst London was blazing, sending
thither a parcel of _Mirrors_, the fashionable journal, "Count Fathom,"
"The Tale of a Tub," and the fanciful, forgotten romance by Bishop
Berkeley, "Gaudentio di Lucca," to amuse her solitude. "'Gaudentio,'" he
writes, "will amuse you, though there are tedious passages in it. The
whole description of passing the deserts of Africa is particularly
excellent." It is singular that this dream of Bishop Berkeley's of a
country fertile and delicious in the centre of Africa should have been
almost realised in our own time by the discoveries of Doctor

To his present of books, Doctor Beattie added a flask of whisky, which
he sealed with his usual seal, "The three graces, whom I take to be your
Grace's near relations, as they have the honour, not only to bear one of
your titles, but also to resemble you exceedingly in form, feature, and
manner. If you had lived three thousand years ago, which I am very glad
you did not, there would have been four of them, and you the first. May
all happiness attend your Grace!"

This graceful piece of adulation was followed by a tender concern for
"her Grace's" health. A sportive benediction was offered whilst the
duchess was at Glenfiddick, a hunting seat in the heart of the Grampian
Hills--a wild, sequestered spot, of which Doctor Beattie was
particularly fond.

"I rejoice in the good weather, in the belief that it extends to
Glenfiddick, where I pray that your Grace may enjoy all the health and
happiness that good air, goats' whey, romantic solitude, and the society
of the loveliest children in the world can bestow. May your days be
clear sunshine; and may a gentle rain give balm to your nights, that the
flowers and birch-trees may salute you in the morning with all their
fragrance! May the kids frisk and play tricks before you with unusual
sprightliness; and may the song of birds, the hum of bees, and the
distant waterfall, with now and then the shepherd's horn resounding from
the mountains, entertain you with a full chorus of Highland music! My
imagination had parcelled out the lovely little glen into a thousand
little paradises; in the hope of being there, and seeing everyday in
that solitude, what is

'Fairer than famed of old, or fabled since,
Of fairy damsels, met in forests wide
By errant knights.'

But the information you received at Cluny gave a check to my fancy, and
was indeed a great disappointment to Mrs. Beattie and me; not on account
of the goats' whey, but because it keeps us so long at such a distance
from your Grace."

When at Gordon Castle, the duchess occupied herself with pursuits that
elevated whilst they refreshed her mind. She promised Doctor Beattie to
send him the history of a day. Her day seems to have been partly engaged
in the instruction of her five daughters, and in an active
correspondence and reading. It is difficult to imagine this busy,
flattered woman reading Blair's sermons--which had then been recently
published--to her family on Sundays; or the duke, whom Doctor Beattie
describes as "more astronomical than ever," engrossed from morning to
night in making calculations with Mr. Copland, Professor of Astronomy in
Marischal College, Aberdeen. Beattie's letters to the duchess, although
too adulatory, were those of a man who respects the understanding of the
woman to whom he writes. The following anecdotes, the one relating to
Hume, the other to Handel, are in his letters to the Duchess of Gordon,
and they cannot be read without interest.

"Mr. Hume was boasting to the doctor (Gregory) that among his disciples
he had the honour to reckon many of the fair sex. 'Now tell me,' said
the doctor, 'whether, if you had a wife or a daughter, you would wish
them to be your disciples? Think well before you answer me; for I assure
you that whatever your answer is, I will not conceal it.' Mr. Hume, with
a smile and some hesitation, made this reply: 'No; I believe skepticism
may be too sturdy a virtue for a woman.' Miss Gregory will certainly
remember she has heard her father tell this story."

Again, about Handel:

"I lately heard two anecdotes, which deserve to be put in writing, and
which you will be glad to hear. When Handel's 'Messiah' was first
performed, the audience were exceedingly struck and affected by the
music in general; but when the chorus struck up, 'For the Lord God
Omnipotent reigneth,' they were so transported that they all, together
with the king (who happened to be present), started up, and remained
standing till the chorus ended; and hence it became the fashion in
England for the audience to stand while that part of the music is
performing. Some days after the first exhibition of the same divine
oratorio, Mr. Handel came to pay his respects to Lord Kinnoul, with whom
he was particularly acquainted. His lordship, as was natural, paid him
some compliments on the noble entertainment which he had lately given
the town. 'My lord,' said Handel, 'I should be sorry if I only
entertained them--I wish to make them better.'"

Beattie's happiest hours are said to have been passed at Gordon Castle,
with those whose tastes, in some respects differing from his own, he
contributed to form; whilst he was charmed with the beauty, the wit, the
cultivated intellect of the duchess, and he justly appreciated her
talents and virtues. Throughout a friendship of years her kindness
was unvaried;

"Ne'er ruffled by those cataracts and breaks
Which humour interposed too often makes."

The duchess felt sincerely for poor Beattie's domestic sorrows; for the
peculiarities of his wife, whom he designated as "nervous;" for the
early death of his son, in whom all the poet's affections were bound up,
and to whose welfare every thought of his was directed.

One would gladly take one's impressions of the Duchess of Gordon's
character from Beattie, rather than from the pen of political writers,
who knew her but as a partisan. The duchess, according to Beattie, was
feelingly alive to every fine impulse; demonstrative herself, detesting
coldness in others; the life of every party; the consoling friend of
every scene of sorrow; a compound of sensibility and vivacity, of
strength and softness. This is not the view that the world took of her
character. Beattie always quitted Gordon Castle "with sighs and tears."
It is much to have added to the transient gleams of happiness enjoyed by
so good and so afflicted a man. "I cannot think," he wrote, when under
the pressure of dreaded calamity--that of seeing his wife insane; "I am
too much agitated and _distrait_ (as Lord Chesterfield would say) to
read anything that is not very desultory; I cannot play at cards; I
could never learn to smoke; and my musical days are over. My first
excursion, if ever I make any, must be to Gordon Castle."

There he found what is indispensable to such a man--congeniality.
Amusement was not what he required; it was soothing. It was in the
duchess's presence that he wrote the following "Lines to a Pen:"
"Go, and be guided by the brightest eyes,
And to the softest hand thine aid impart;
To trace the fair ideas as they arise,
Warm from the purest, gentlest, noblest heart;"
lines in which the praise is worth more than the poetry. The duchess
sent him a copy by Smith of her portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds, a
picture to which reference has been already made.

In 1782 the duchess grieved for the death of Lord Kaimes, for whom she
had a sincere friendship, although the religious opinions of that
celebrated man differed greatly from those of Beattie. Lord Kaimes was
fifty-six years an author, in company with the eccentric Lord Monboddo,
the author of the theory that men have had tails. Lord Kaimes passed
some days at Gordon Castle shortly before his death. Monboddo and he
detested each other, and squabbled incessantly. Lord Kaimes understood
no Greek; and Monboddo, who was as mad and as tiresome about Greek and
Aristotle, and as absurd and peculiar on that score as Don Quixote was
about chivalry, told him that without understanding Greek he could not
write a page of good English. Their arguments must have been highly
diverting. Lord Kaimes, on his death-bed, left a remembrance to the
Duchess of Gordon, who had justly appreciated him, and defended him from
the charge of skepticism. Lord Monboddo compared the duchess to Helen of
Troy, whom he asserted to have been seven feet high; but whether in
stature, in beauty, or in the circumstances of her life, does
not appear.

The happiness of the duchess was perfected by the blessings granted to
her in her family. In 1770 the birth of her eldest son George, long
beloved in Scotland whilst the Marquis of Huntley, took place. Doctor
Beattie describes him as "the best and most beautiful boy that ever was
born." He proved to be one of the most popular of the young nobility of
that period. Doctor Beattie strongly advised the duchess to engage an
English tutor, a clergyman, for him, recommended either by the
Archbishop of York, or by the Provost of Eton. When it afterward became
a question whether the young heir should go to Oxford or to Cambridge,
the doctor, who seems to have been a universal authority, allowed that
Cambridge was the best for a man of study, whilst Oxford had more dash
and spirit in it: so little are matters altered since that time.

Fifteen years appear to have elapsed before the birth of a second son,
Alexander. Both these scions of this ducal house became military men:
the young marquis was colonel of the Scots Fusileer Guards, and served
in the Peninsular war, and was eventually Governor of Edinburgh Castle.
Long was he remembered by many a brother officer, many an old soldier,
as a gallant, courteous, gay-hearted man; with some of the faults and
all the virtues of the military character. He married late in life
Elizabeth, daughter of Alexander Brodie, Esq., of Arnhall, N. B., who
survived him. Lord Alexander Cordon died unmarried; but five daughters
added to the family lustre by noble and wealthy alliances.

Wraxall remarks "that the conjugal duties of the Duchess of Gordon
pressed on her heart with less force than did her maternal solicitudes."
For their elevation she thought, indeed, no sacrifice too great, and no
efforts too laborious. In the success of her matrimonial speculations
she has been compared to Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, who numbered
among her sons-in-law two dukes and three earls. But the daughters of
the proud Sarah were, it has been observed, the children of John
Churchill, and on them were settled, successively, Blenheim and the
dukedom. The Ladies Gordon were portionless, and far less beautiful than
their mother. To her skilful diplomacy alone were these brilliant
fortunes owing.

Lady Charlotte, the eldest, was eighteen years of age when her mother
first entertained matrimonial projects for her, and chose for their
object no less a personage than Pitt, then prime minister. Her schemes
might have proved successful had not Pitt had that sure impediment to
maternal management,--a friend. This friend was the subtle Henry Dundas,
afterward Lord Melville; one of those men who, under the semblance of
unguarded manners and a free, open bearing, conceal the deepest designs
of personal aggrandisement. Governing India, governing Scotland, the
vicegerent in Edinburgh for places and pensions, Dundas was looking
forward to a peerage, and kept his eye steadily on Pitt, whom he guided
in many matters, adapting his conduct and his conversation to the
peculiar tone of the minister's mind. Flattery he never used--dictation
he carefully avoided; both would have been detrimental to his influence
with the reserved statesman.

Pitt was by no means calculated to win the affection of a blooming girl
of eighteen, who, whatever Wraxall may have thought, lived to be one of
the most beautiful and graceful women of her time. Many years ago,
during the life of Sir Thomas Lawrence, his portrait of the Duchess of
Richmond, formerly Lady Charlotte Cordon, was exhibited at Somerset
House. So exquisite were the feminine charms of that lovely face, so
elegant the form he had portrayed, that all crowded to look upon that
delineation of a woman no longer young; whilst beauties in the bloom of
youth were passed by as they hung on the walls in all the glowing
colours of girlhood.

On most intimate terms with the duchess, Pitt seems to have been touched
with the attractions of Lady Charlotte, and to have paid her some
attentions. He was one of the stiffest and shyest of men, finely formed
in figure, but plain in face; the last man to be fascinated, the last to
fascinate. Drives to Dundas's house at Wimbledon when Pitt was there;
evenings at home, in easy converse with these two politicians; suppers,
at which the premier always finished his bottle, as well as the hardier
Scotchman, failed to bring forward the reserved William Pitt. The fact
was, that Dundas could not permit any one, far less the Duchess of
Gordon, to have the ascendency over the prime minister that so near a
relationship would occasion. He trembled for his own influence. A
widower at that time,--his wife, a Miss Rennie of Melville, who had been
divorced from him, being dead,--he affected to lay his own person and
fortune at Lady Charlotte's feet. Pitt instantly retired, and the
sacrifice cost him little; and Dundas's object being answered, his
pretensions also dropped through. Two years afterward, Lady Charlotte
became the wife of Colonel Lennox, afterward Duke of Richmond, and in
the course of years the mother of fourteen children; one of whom, Henry
Adam, a midshipman, fell overboard from the _Blake_ in 1812, and was
drowned. According to Wraxall, the Duke of Richmond had to pay the
penalty of what he calls "this imprudent, if not unfortunate marriage,"
being banished to the snowy banks of St. Lawrence under the name
of governor.

In modern times, our young nobility of promise have learned the
important truth, ably enforced by Thomas Carlyle, that work is not only
man's appointed lot, but his highest blessing and safeguard. The rising
members of various noble families have laid this axiom to heart; and,
when not engaged in public business, have come grandly forward to
protect the unhappy, to provide for the young, to solace the old. The
name of Shaftesbury carries with it gratitude and comfort in its sound;
whilst that of him who figured of old in the cabal, the Shaftesbury of
Charles II's time, is, indeed, not forgotten, but remembered with
detestation. Ragged schools; provident schools; asylums for the aged
governess; homes in which the consumptive may lay their heads in peace
and die; asylums for the penitent; asylums for the idiot; homes where
the houseless may repose,--these are the monuments to our Shaftesbury,
to our younger sons. The mere political ascendency--the garter or the
coronet--are distinctions which pale before these, as does the moon when
dawn has touched the mountains' tops with floods of light. As lecturers
amid their own people, as the best friends and counsellors of the
indigent, as man bound to man by community of interests, our noblemen in
many instances stand before us--Catholic and Protestant zealous alike.

"Jock of Norfolk" is represented by a descendant of noble impulses.
Elgin, Carlisle, Stanley--the Bruce, the Howard, the Stanley of former
days--are our true heroes of society, men of great aims and
great powers.

The Duchess of Gordon was indefatigable in her ambition, but she could
not always entangle dukes. Her second daughter, Madelina, was married
first to Sir Robert Sinclair; and secondly, to Charles Fyshe Palmer,
Esq., of Luckley Hall, Berkshire. Lady Madelina was not handsome, but
extremely agreeable, animated, and intellectual. Among her other
conquests was the famous Samuel Parr, of Hatton, who used to delight in
sounding her praises, and recording her perfections with much of that
eloquence which is now fast dying out of remembrance, but which was a
thing _à part_ in that celebrated Grecian. Susan, the third daughter of
the duke and duchess, married William, Duke of Manchester, thus becoming
connected with a descendant of John, Duke of Marlborough.

Louisa, the fourth daughter, married Charles, second Marquis Cornwallis,
and son of the justly celebrated Governor of India; and Georgiana, the
fifth and youngest, became the wife of John, the late Duke of Bedford.

Such alliances might have satisfied the ambition of most mothers; but
for her youngest and most beautiful daughter, the Duchess of Bedford,
the Duchess of Cordon had even entertained what she thought higher
views. In 1802, whilst Buonaparte was first consul, and anticipating an
imperial crown, the Duchess of Gordon visited Paris, and received there
such distinctions from Napoleon Bonaparte, then first consul, as excited
hopes in her mind of an alliance with that man whom, but a few years
previously, she would probably have termed an adventurer!

Paris was then, during the short peace, engrossed with fêtes, reviews,
and dramatic amusements, the account of which makes one almost fancy
oneself in the year 1852, that of the _coup d'état_, instead of the
period of 1802. The whirlwinds of revolution seemed then, as now, to
have left all unchanged; the character of the people, who were still
devoted to pleasure, and sanguine, was, on the surface, gay and buoyant
as ever. Buonaparte holding his levées at the Tuileries, with all the
splendour of majesty, reminds one of his nephew performing similar
ceremonies at the Élysée, previously to his assuming the purple. All
republican simplicity was abandoned, and the richest taste displayed on
public occasions in both eras.

Let us picture to ourselves the old, quaint palace of the Tuileries on a
reception day then; and the impression made on the senses will serve for
the modern drama; be it comedy, or be it tragedy, which is to be played
out in those stately rooms wherein so many actors have passed and
repassed to their doom.

It is noon, and the first consul is receiving a host of ambassadors
within the consular apartment, answering probably to the "_Salle des
Maréchaux_" of Napoleon III. Therein the envoys from every European
state are attempting to comprehend, what none could ever fathom, the
consul's mind. Let us not intermeddle with their conference, but look
around us, and view the gallery in which we are waiting until he, who
was yesterday so small, and who is to-day so great, should come forth
amongst us.

How gorgeous is the old gallery, with its many windows, its rich roof,
and gilded panels! The footmen of the first consul, in splendid
liveries, are bringing chairs for the ladies who are awaiting the
approach of that schoolmaster's son; they are waiting until the weighty
conference within is terminated. Peace-officers, superbly bedizened, are
walking up and down to keep ladies to their seats and gentlemen to the
ranks, so as to form a passage for the first consul to pass down. Pages
of the back stairs, dressed in black, and with gold chains hanging
around their necks, are standing by the door to guard it, or to open it
when he on whom all thoughts are fixed should come forth.

But what is beyond everything striking is the array of Buonaparte's
aids-de-camp,--fine fellows, war-worn,--men such as he, and he alone,
would choose; and so gorgeous, so radiant are their uniforms, that all
else seem as if in shadow in comparison.

The gardens of the Tuileries meantime are filling with troops whom the
first consul is going to review. There are now Zouaves there; but these
are men whom the suns of the tropics hate embrowned; little fellows,
many of them, of all heights, such as we might make drummers of in our
stalwart ranks; but see how muscular, active, full of fire they are;
fierce as hawks, relentless as tigers. See the horse-soldiers on their
scraggy steeds; watch their evolutions, and you will own, with a young
guardsman who stood gazing, fifty years afterward, on the troops which
followed Napoleon III into Paris, that "they are worth looking at."

The long hour is past; the pages in black are evidently on the watch;
the double door which leads into the _Salle des Maréchaux_ is opened
from within; a stricter line is instantly kept by the officers in the
gallery. Fair faces, many an English one among them, are flushed. Anon
he appears, whilst an officer at the door, with one hand raised above
his head and the other extended, exclaims, "_Le Premier Consul_."

Forth he walks, a firm, short, stolid form, with falling shoulders
beneath his tight, deep-blue frock. His tread is heavy rather than
majestic,--that of a man who has a purpose in walking, not merely to
show himself as a parade. His head is large, and formed with a
perfection which we call classic; his features are noble, modelled by
that hand of Nature which framed this man "fearfully," indeed, and
"wonderfully." Nothing was ever finer than his mouth--nothing more
disappointing than his eye; it is heavy, almost mournful. His face is
pale, almost sallow, while--let one speak who beheld him--"not only in
the eye, but in every feature, care, thought, melancholy, and meditation
are strongly marked, with so much of character, nay, genius, and so
penetrating a seriousness, or rather sadness, as powerfully to sink into
an observer's mind."

It is the countenance of a student, not of a warrior; of one deep in
unpractical meditation, not of one whose every act and plan had then
been but a tissue of successes. It is the face of a man wedded to deep
thought, not of the hero of the battle-field, the ruler of assemblies;
and, as if to perfect the contrast, whilst all around is gorgeous and
blazing, he passes along without a single decoration on his plain dress,
not even a star to mark out the first consul. It is well; there can but
be one Napoleon in the world, and he wants no distinction.

He is followed by diplomatists of every European power, vassals, all,
more or less, save England; and to England, and to her sons and
daughters, are the most cherished courtesies directed. Does not that
recall the present policy?

By his side walks a handsome youth whom he has just been presenting to
the Bavarian minister,--that envoy from a strange, wild country, little
known save by the dogged valour of its mountaineers. The ruler of that
land, until now an elector, has been saluted king by Napoleon
the powerful.

On the youth, who addresses him as _mon pèr_, a slight glance is allowed
even from those downcast eyes which none may ever look into too full.
Eugène Beauharnais, his stepson, the son of his ever-loved Josephine,
has a place in that remorseless heart. "All are not evil." Is it some
inkling of the parental love, is it ambition, that causes the first
consul to be always accompanied by that handsome youth, fascinating as
his mother, libertine as his stepfather, but destitute at once of the
sensibilities of the former and of the powerful intelligence of
the latter?

It is on him--on Eugène Beauharnais--that the hopes of the proud Duchess
of Gordon rest. Happily for her whom she would willingly have given to
him as a bride, her scheme was frustrated. Such a sacrifice was

Look now from the windows of that gallery; let your gaze rest on the
parade below, in the Rue de Rivoli, through which Buonaparte is riding
at the head of his staff to the review. He has mounted a beautiful white
horse; his aids-de-camp are by his side, followed by his generals. He
rides on so carelessly that an ordinary judge would call him an
indifferent equestrian. He holds his bridle first in one hand, then in
another, yet he has the animal in perfect control; he can master it by a
single movement. As he presents some swords of honour, the whole bearing
and aspect of the man change. He is no longer the melancholy student;
stretching out his arm, the severe, scholastic mien assumes instantly a
military and commanding air.

Then the consular band strike up a march, and the troops follow in grand
succession toward the Champs Élysées. The crowds within the gallery
disappear; I look around me: the hedges of human beings who had been
standing back to let the hero pass, are broken, and all are hurrying
away. The pages are lounging; the aids-de-camp are gone; already is
silence creeping over that vast gallery of old historic remembrances. Do
not our hearts sink? Here, in this centre window, Marie Antoinette
showed her little son to the infuriated mob below. She stood before
unpitying eyes. Happier had it been for him, for her, had they died
then. Will those scenes, we thought, ever recur? They have--they have!
mercifully mitigated, it is true; yet ruthless hands have torn from
those walls their rich hangings. By yon door did the son of Égalité
escape. Twice has that venerable pile been desecrated. Even in 152, when
crowds hastened to the first ball given by Napoleon III., he traces of
the last revolution were pointed out to the dancers. They have darkened
the floors; all is, it is true, not only renovated, but embellished, so
as to constitute the most gorgeous of modern palaces; yet for how long?

It is, indeed, in mercy that many of our wishes are denied us. Eugène
Beauharnais was even then, destined to a bride whom he had never seen,
the eldest daughter of that Elector of Bavaria to whom Buonaparte had
given royalty; and the sister of Ludwig, the ex-King of Bavaria, was the
destined fair one. They were married; and she, at all events, was fond,
faithful, nay, even devoted. He was created Duke of Leuchtenberg, and
Marie of Leuchtenberg was beautiful, majestic, pious, graceful; but she
could not keep his heart. So fair was she, with those sweet blue eyes,
that pearl-like skin, that fine form, made to show off the _parures_ of
jewels which poor Josephine bequeathed to her--so fair was she, that
when Buonaparte saw her before her bridal, he uttered these few words,
"Had I known, I would have married her myself." Still she was but
second, perhaps third, perhaps fourth ('tis a way they have in France)
in his affections; nevertheless, when he died,--and it was in his youth,
and Thorwaldsen has executed a noble monument of him in the Dom Kirche
at Munich,--when that last separation came, preceded by many a one that
had been voluntary on his part, his widow mourned, and no second bridal
ever tempted her to cancel the remembrance of Eugène Beauharnais.

For Lady Georgiana Gordon, a happier fate was reserved. She married, in
1803, John, the sixth Duke of Bedford, a nobleman whose character would
have appeared in a more resplendent light had he not succeeded a brother
singularly endowed, and whose death was considered to be a public
calamity. Of Francis, Duke of Bedford, who was summoned away in his
thirty-seventh year, Fox said: "In his friendships, not only was he
disinterested and sincere, but in him were to be found united all the
characteristic excellencies that have ever distinguished the men most
renowned for that virtue. Some are warm, but volatile and inconstant; he
was warm too, but steady and unchangeable. Where his attachment was
placed, there it remained, or rather there it grew.... If he loved you
at the beginning of the year, and you did nothing to lose his esteem, he
would love you more at the end of it; such was the uniformly progressive
state of his affections, no less than of his virtue and friendship."

John, Duke of Bedford, was a widower of thirty-seven when he married
Georgiana, remembered as the most graceful, accomplished, and charming
of women. The duke had then five sons, the youngest of whom was Lord
John Russell, and the eldest Francis, the present duke. By his second
duchess, Georgiana, the duke had also a numerous family. She survived
until 1853. The designs formed by the duchess to marry Lady Georgiana to
Pitt first, and then to Eugène Beauharnais, rest on the authority of
Wraxall, who knew the family of the Duke of Gordon personally; but he
does not state them as coming from his own knowledge. "I have good
reason," he says, "for believing them to be founded in truth. They come
from very high authority."

Notwithstanding the preference evinced by the Prince of Wales for the
Duchess of Devonshire, he was at this time on very intimate terms with
her rival in the sphere of fashion, and passed a part of almost every
evening in the society of the Duchess of Gordon. She treated him with
the utmost familiarity, and even on points of great delicacy expressed
herself very freely. The attention of the public had been for some time
directed toward the complicated difficulties of the Prince of Wales's
situation. His debts had now become an intolerable burden; and all
applications to his royal father being unavailing, it was determined by
his friends to throw his Royal Highness on the generosity of the House
of Commons. At the head of those who hoped to relieve the prince of his
embarrassments were Lord Loughborough, Fox, and Sheridan. The
ministerial party were under the guidance of Pitt, who avowed his
determination to let the subject come to a strict investigation.

This investigation referred chiefly to the prince's marriage with Mrs.
Fitzherbert, who, being a Roman Catholic, was peculiarly obnoxious both
to the court and to the country, notwithstanding her virtues, her
salutary influence over the prince, and her injuries.

During this conjuncture the Duchess of Gordon acted as mediator between
the two conflicting parties, alternately advising, consoling, and even
reproving the prince, who threw himself on her kindness. Nothing could
be more hopeless than the prince's affairs if an investigation into the
source of his difficulties took place; nothing could be less desired by
his royal parents than a public exposure of his life and habits. The
world already knew enough and too much, and were satisfied that he was
actually married to Mrs. Fitzherbert. At this crisis, the base falsehood
which denied that union was authorised by the prince, connived at by
Sheridan, who partly gave it out in the House, and consummated by Fox. A
memorable, a melancholy scene was enacted in the House of Commons on the
8th of April, 1787,--a day that the admirers of the Whig leaders would
gladly blot out from the annals of the country. Rolle, afterward Lord
Rolle, having referred to the marriage, Fox adverted to his allusion,
stating it to be a low, malicious calumny. Rolle, in reply, admitted the
legal impossibility of the marriage, but maintained "that there were
modes in which it might have taken place." Fox replied that he denied it
in point of fact, as well as of law, the thing never having been done in
any way. Rolle then asked if he spoke from authority. Fox answered in
the affirmative, and here the dialogue ended, a profound silence
reigning throughout the House and the galleries, which were crowded to
excess. This body of English gentlemen expressed their contempt more
fully by that ominous stillness, so unusual in that assembly, than any
eloquence could have done. Pitt stood aloof; dignified, contemptuous,
and silent. Sheridan challenged from Rolle some token of satisfaction at
the information; but Rolle merely returned that he had indeed received
an answer, but that the House must form their own opinion on it. In the
discussions which ensued, a channel was nevertheless opened for mutual
concessions--which ended eventually in the relief of the prince from
pecuniary embarrassments, part of which were ascribed to the king's
having appropriated to his own use the revenues of the duchy of
Cornwall, and refusing to render any account of them on the prince's
coming of age. It was the mediation of the Duchess of Gordon that
brought the matter promptly to a conclusion, and through her
representations, Dundas was sent to Canton House, to ascertain from the
prince the extent of his liabilities; an assurance was given that
immediate steps would be taken to relieve his Royal Highness. The
interview was enlivened by a considerable quantity of wine; and after a
pretty long flow of the generous bowl, Dundas's promises were
energetically ratified. Never was there a man more "malleable," to use
Wraxall's expression, than Harry Dundas. Pitt soon afterward had an
audience equally amicable with the prince.

From this period until after the death of Pitt, in 1806, the Duchess of
Cordon's influence remained in the ascendant. The last years of the man
whom she had destined for her son-in-law, and who had ever been on terms
of the greatest intimacy with her, were clouded. Pitt had the misfortune
not only of being a public man,--for to say that is to imply a sacrifice
of happiness,--but to be a public man solely. He would turn neither to
marriage, nor to books, nor to agriculture, nor even to friendship, for
the repose of a mind that could not, from insatiable ambition, find
rest. He died involved in debt--in terror and grief for his country. He
is said never to have been in love. At twenty-four he had the sagacity,
the prudence, the reserve of a man of fifty. His excess in wine
undermined his constitution, but was source of few comments when his
companions drank more freely than men in office had ever been known to
do since the time of Charles II. Unloved he lived; and alone, uncared
for, unwept, he died. That he was nobly indifferent to money, that he
had a contempt for everything mean, or venal, or false, was, in those
days, no ordinary merit.

During the whirl of gaiety, politics, and matchmaking, the Duchess of
Gordon continued to read, and to correspond with Beattie upon topics of
less perishable interest than the factions of the hour. Beattie sent her
his "Essay on Beauty" to read in manuscript; he wrote to her about
Petrarch, about Lord Monboddo's works, and Burke's book on the French
Revolution,--works which the duchess found time to read and wished to
analyse. Their friendship, so honoured to her, continued until his
death in 1803.

The years of life that remained to the Duchess of Gordon must have been
gladdened by the birth of her grandchildren, and by the promise of her
sons George, afterward Duke of Gordon, and Alexander. The illness of
George III., the trials of Hastings and of Lord Melville, the general
war, were the events that most varied the political world, in which she
ever took a keen interest. She died in 1812, and the duke married soon
afterward Mrs. Christie, by whom he had no children.

The dukedom of Gordon became extinct at his death; and the present
representative of this great family is the Marquis of Huntley.


[Illustration: Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire From the painting by


Notwithstanding the purity of morals enjoined by the court of George
III., the early period of his reign presents a picture of dissolute
manners as well as of furious party spirit. The most fashionable of our
ladies of rank were immersed in play or devoted to politics; the same
spirit carried them into both. The Sabbath was disregarded, spent often
in cards or desecrated by the meetings of partisans of both factions;
moral duties were neglected and decorum outraged.

The fact was that a minor court had become the centre of all the bad
passions and reprehensible pursuits in vogue. Carlton House, in Pall
Mall, which even the oldest of us can barely remember, with its elegant
screen, open, with pillars in front, its low exterior, its many small
rooms, the vulgar taste of its decorations, and, to crown the whole, the
associations of a corrupting revelry with the whole place,--Canton House
was, in the days of good King George, almost as great a scandal to the
country as Whitehall in the time of improper King Charles II.

The influence which the example of a young prince, of manners eminently
popular, produced upon the young nobility of the realm must be taken
into account in the narrative of that life which was so brilliant and so
misspent; so blessed at its onset, so dreary in its close--the life of
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Descended in the third degree from
Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, Georgiana Spencer is said to have
resembled her celebrated ancestress in the style of her beauty. She was
born in 1757. Her father, John, created Earl of Spencer in 1765, was the
son of the reprobate "Jack Spencer," as he was styled, the misery at
once and the darling of his grandmother, Sarah, who idolised her
Torrismond, as she called him, and left him a considerable portion of
her property. Whilst the loveliness of Sarah descended to Georgiana
Spencer, she certainly inherited somewhat of the talent, the reckless
spirits, and the imprudence of her grandfather, "Jack;" neither could a
careful education eradicate these hereditary characteristics.

Her mother was the daughter of a commoner, the Right Honourable Stephen
Poyntz, of Midgham, in Berkshire. This lady was long remembered both by
friends and neighbours with veneration. She was sensible and
intelligent, polite, agreeable, and of unbounded charity; but Miss
Burney, who knew her, depicts her as ostentatious in her exertions, and
somewhat self-righteous and vainglorious. She was, however, fervently
beloved by her daughter, who afterward made several pecuniary sacrifices
to ensure her mother's comfort. The earliest years of Lady Georgiana (as
she became after her father was created an earl) were passed in the
large house at Holywell, close to St. Albans, built by the famous Duke
of Marlborough on his wife's patrimonial estate. Aged people, some
fifteen years ago, especially a certain neighbouring clergyman,
remembered going to play at cards in this house; and the neighbourly
qualities of Lady Spencer, as much as her benevolence to the poor,
endeared her much to the gentry around. She exercised not only the
duties of charity, but the scarcely minor ones of hospitality and
courtesy to her neighbours. Before the opening of railroads, such duties
were more especially requisite to keep together the scattered members of
country society. Good feelings were engendered, good manners promoted,
and the attachment then felt for old families had a deeper foundation
than servility or even custom. As Lady Georgiana grew up, she displayed
a warm impressionable nature, a passion for all that was beautiful in

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