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Little Memoirs of the Nineteenth Century by George Paston

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texture of threadbare thievery; a trifling transcript of trite twaddle
and trapessing tittle-tattle.... Like everything that falls from her
pen, it is pert, shallow, and conceited, a farrago of ignorance,
indecency, and blasphemy, a tag-rag and bob-tail style of
writing--like a harlequin's jacket.'

Lady Morgan bobbed up as irrepressibly as ever from under this torrent
of (so-called) criticism, made a tour in France and Belgium for the
purpose of writing more 'trapessing tittle-tattle,' and on her return
to London, such were the profits on blasphemy and indecency, bought
her first carriage. This equipage was a source of much amusement to
her friends in Dublin, 'Neither she nor Sir Charles,' we are told,
'knew the difference between a good carriage and a bad one--a carriage
was a carriage to them. It was never known where this vehicle was
bought, except that Lady Morgan declared it came from the first
carriage-builder in London. In shape it was like a grasshopper, as
well as in colour. Very high and very springy, with enormous wheels,
it was difficult to get into, and dangerous to get out of. Sir
Charles, who never in his life before had mounted a coach-box, was
persuaded by his wife to drive his own carriage. He was extremely
short-sighted, and wore large green spectacles out of doors. His
costume was a coat much trimmed with fur, and heavily braided. James
Grant, the tall Irish footman, in the brightest of red plush, sat
beside him, his office being to jump down whenever anybody was knocked
down, or run over, for Sir Charles drove as it pleased God. The horse
was mercifully a very quiet animal, and much too small for the
carriage, or the mischief would have been worse. Lady Morgan, in the
large bonnet of the period, and a cloak lined with fur hanging over
the back of the carriage, gave, as she conceived, the crowning grace
to a neat and elegant turn-out. The only drawback to her satisfaction
was the alarm caused by Sir Charles's driving; and she was incessantly
springing up to adjure him to take care, to which he would reply with
warmth, after the manner of husbands.'

In 1880 Lady Morgan published her _France_ (1829-30). This book
was not a commission, but she had told Colburn that she was writing
it, and as he made her no definite offer, she opened negotiations with
the firm of Saunders and Otley. Colburn, who looked upon her as his
special property, was furious at her desertion, and informed her that
if she did not at once break off with Saunders and Otley, it would be
no less detrimental to her literary than to her pecuniary interest.
Undismayed by this threat, Lady Morgan accepted the offer of a
thousand pounds made her by the rival firm. Colburn, who was a power
in the literary market, kept his word. He advertised in his own
periodicals 'LADY MORGAN AT HALF-PRICE,' and stated publicly that in
consequence of the losses he had sustained by her former works, he had
declined her new book, and that copies of all her publications might
be had at half-price. In consequence of these and other machinations,
the new _France_, which was at least as good a book as the old
one, fell flat, and the unfortunate publishers were only able to make
one payment of £500. They tried to get their contract cancelled in
court, and Colburn, who was called as a witness, admitted that he had
done his best to injure Lady Morgan's literary reputation. Eventually,
the matter was compromised, Saunders and Otley being allowed to
publish Lady Morgan's next book, _Dramatic Scenes and Sketches_,
as some compensation for their loss; but of this, too, they failed to
make a success.

The reviews of _France_ were few and slighting, the wickedest and
most amusing being by Theodore Hook. He quotes with glee the author's
complacent record that she was compared to Molière by the Parisians,
and that she had seen in a 'poetry-book' the following lines:--

'Slendal (_sic_), Morgan, Schlegel-ne vous effrayez pas--
Muses! ce sont des noms fameux dans nos climats.'

'Her ladyship,' continues Theodore, 'went to dine with one of those
spectacle and sealing-wax barons, Rothschild, at Paris; where never
was such a dinner, "no catsup and walnut pickle, but a mayonese fried
in ice, like Ninon's description of Seveigne's (_sic_) heart,"
and to all this fine show she was led out by Rothschild himself. After
the soup she took an opportunity of praising the cook, of whom she had
heard much. "Eh bien," says Rothschild, laughing, as well he might,
"he on his side has also relished your works, and here is a proof of
it." "I really blush," says Miladi, "like Sterne's accusing spirit, as
I give in the fact--but--he pointed to a column of the most ingenious
confectionery architecture, on which my name was inscribed in spun
sugar." There was a thing--Lady Morgan in spun sugar! And what does
the reader think her ladyship did? She shall tell in her own dear
words. "All I could do under my triumphant emotion I did. I begged to
be introduced to the celebrated and flattering artist." It is a
fact--to the cook; and another fact, which only shows that the Hebrew
baron is a Jew _d'esprit_, is that after coffee, the cook
actually came up, and was presented to her. "He," says her ladyship,
"was a well-bred gentleman, perfectly free from pedantry, and when we
had mutually complimented each other on our respective works, he bowed
himself out."'

In spite of her egoism and her many absurdities, it seems clear from
contemporary evidence that in London, where she usually appeared
during the season, Lady Morgan had a following. The names of most of
the literary celebrities of the day appear amid the disjointed
jottings of her diary. We hear of 'that egregious coxcomb D'Israeli,
outraging the privilege a young man has of being absurd'; and Sydney
Smith 'so natural, so _bon enfant_, so little of a wit _titré_';
and Mrs. Bulwer-Lytton, handsome, insolent, and unamiable; and
Allan Cunningham, 'immense fun'; and Thomas Hood, 'a grave-looking
personage, the picture of ill-health'; and her old critical enemy,
Lord Jeffrey, with whom Lady Morgan started a violent flirtation.
'When he comes to Ireland,' she writes, 'we are to go to Donnybrook
Fair together; in short, having cut me down with his tomahawk as
a reviewer, he smothers me with roses as a man. I always say of
my enemies before we meet, "Let me at them."'

The other literary women were naturally the chief object of interest
to her. Lady Morgan seems to have been fairly free from professional
jealousy, though she hated her countrywoman, Lady Blessington, with a
deadly hatred. Mrs. Gore, then one of the most fashionable novelists,
she finds 'a pleasant little _rondelette_ of a woman, something
of my own style. We talked and laughed together, as good-natured women
do, and agreed upon many points.' The learned Mrs. Somerville is
described as 'a simple, little, middle-aged woman. Had she not been
presented to me by name and reputation, I should have said she was one
of the respectable twaddling matrons one meets at every ball, dressed
in a snug mulberry velvet gown, and a little cap with a red flower. I
asked her how she could descend from the stars to mix among us. She
said she was obliged to go out with a daughter. From the glimpse of
her last night, I should say there was no imagination, no deep moral
philosophy, though a great deal of scientific lore, and a great deal
of _bonhomie_.' For 'poor dear Jane Porter,' the author of
_Scottish Chiefs_, Lady Morgan felt the natural contempt of a
'showy woman' for one who looks like a 'shabby canoness.' 'Miss
Porter,' she records, 'told me she was taken for me the other night,
and talked to _as such_ by a party of Americans. She is tall,
lank, lean, and lackadaisical, dressed in the deepest black, with a
battered black gauze hat, and the air of a regular Melpomene. I am the
reverse of all this, and _sans vanité_, the best-dressed woman
wherever I go. Last night I wore a blue satin, trimmed fully with
magnificent point-lace, and stomacher _à la Sévigné_, light blue
velvet hat and feathers, with an aigrette of sapphires and diamonds.'
As Lady Morgan at this time was nearer sixty than fifty, rouged
liberally, and made all her own dresses, her appearance in the costume
above described must at least have been remarkable.

Lady Morgan's last novel, a Belgian story called _The Princess, or
the Béguine_, was published by Bentley in 1834, and for the first
edition she received, £350, a sad falling-off from the prices received
in former days. As her popularity waned, she grew discontented with
life in Dublin, 'the wretched capital of wretched Ireland,' as she
calls it, and in a moment of mental depression she entered the
characteristic query,'_Cui bono?_' in her diary. To the same
faithful volume she confided complaints even of her beloved Morgan,
but the fact that she could find nothing worse to reproach him with
than a disinclination for fresh air and exercise, speaks volumes for
his marital virtue. A more serious trouble came from failing eyesight,
which in 1837 threatened to develop into total blindness. It was in
this year, when things seemed at their darkest, that a pension of £300
a year was conferred on her by Lord Melbourne, 'in recognition of her
merits, literary and patriotic.' It was probably this unexpected
accession of income that decided the Morgans to leave Dublin, and
spend the remainder of their days in London. They found a pleasant
little house in William Street, Knightsbridge, a new residential
quarter which was just growing up under the fostering care of Mr.
Cubitt. Lady Morgan went 'into raptures over the pretty new quarter,'
and wrote some articles on Pimlico in the _Athenæum_. She also
got up a successful agitation for an entrance into Hyde Park at what
is now known as Albert Gate. For deserting Ireland, after receiving a
pension for patriotism, and writing against the evils of Absenteeism,
Lady Morgan was subjected to a good deal of sarcasm by her countrymen.
But, as she pointed out, her property in Ireland was personal, not
real, the tenant-farm of a drawing-room balcony, on which annual crops
of mignonette were raised for home consumption, being the only
territorial possession that she had ever enjoyed.

Lady Morgan's eyesight must have temporarily improved with her change
of dwelling, for in 1839 the first part of her last work of any
importance, _Woman and her Master_, was published by Colburn, to
whom she had at last become reconciled. This book, which was never
finished, was designed to prove, among other things, that in spite of
the subordination in which women have been kept, and in spite of all
the artificial difficulties that have been put in their way, not only
have they never been conquered in spirit, but that they have always
been the depositaries of the vital and leading ideas of the time. The
book is more soberly written than most of Lady Morgan's works, but it
would probably be regarded by the modern reader as dull and
superficial. It was generally believed that Sir Charles had assisted
in its composition, and few men have ever wielded a heavier pen. The
pair only issued one more joint work, _The Book Without a Name_,
which appeared in 1842, and consisted chiefly of articles and sketches
that had already been published in the magazines.

The Morgans now found their chief occupation and amusement in the
society which they attracted to their cheerful little house. One or
two sketches of the pair, as they appeared in their later days, have
been left by contemporaries. Chorley, an intimate friend, observes
that, like all the sceptics he ever approached, they were absurdly
prejudiced, and proof against all new impressions. 'Neither of them,
though both were literary and musical, could endure German literature
and music, had got beyond the stale sarcasms of the _Anti-Jacobin_,
or could admit that there is glory for such men as Weber, Beethoven,
and Mendelssohn, as well as for Cimarosa and Paisiello....
Her familiar conversation was a series of brilliant, egotistic,
shrewd, and genial sallies, and she could be either caressing
or impudent. In the matter of self-approbation she had no
Statute of Limitation, but boasted of having taught Taglioni to dance
an Irish jig, and declared that she had created the Irish novel,
though in the next breath she would say that she was a child when Miss
Edgeworth was a grown woman.' Her blunders were proverbial, as when
she asked in all simplicity, 'Who was Jeremy Taylor?' and on being
presented to Mrs. Sarah Austin, complimented her on having written
_Pride and Prejudice_.

Another friend, Abraham Hayward, used to say that Lady Morgan had been
transplanted to London too late, and that she was never free of the
corporation of fine ladies, though she saw a good deal of them. 'She
erroneously fancied that she was expected to entertain the company, be
it what it might, and she was fond of telling stories in which she
figured as the companion of the great, instead of confining herself to
scenes of low Irish life, which she described inimitably. Lady Cork
was accustomed to say, "I like Lady Morgan very much as an Irish
blackguard, but I can't endure her as an English fine lady."'

In 1843 Sir Charles died rather suddenly from heart disease. His wife
mourned him sincerely, but not for long in solitude. She found the
anaesthetic for her grief in society, and after a few months of
widowhood writes: 'Everybody makes a point of having me out, and I am
beginning to be familiarised with my great loss. London is the best
place in the world for the happy and the unhappy; there is a floating
capital of sympathy for every human good or evil. I am a nobody, and
yet what kindness I am daily receiving.' Again, in 1845, after her
sister's death, she notes in her diary: 'The world is my gin or opium;
I take it for a few hours _per diem_--excitement, intoxication,
absence. I return to my desolate home, and wake to all the horrors of
sobriety.... Yet I am accounted the agreeable rattle of the great
ladies' coterie, and I talk _pas mal_ to many clever men all
day.... That Park near me, of which my beloved Morgan used to say, "It
is ours more than the Queen's, we use it daily and enjoy it
nightly"--that Park that I worked so hard to get an entrance into, I
never walk in it; it seems to me covered with crape.'

Among the friends of Lady Morgan's old age were the Carter Halls,
Hepworth Dixon, Miss Jewsbury, Hayward, and Douglas Jerrold. Lord
Campbell, old Rogers, and Cardinal Wiseman frequented her
_soirées_, though with the last-named she had waged a pamphlet
war over the authenticity of St. Peter's chair at Rome. Rogers was
reported to be engaged to one of Lady Morgan's attractive nieces, the
Miss Clarkes, who often stayed with her. It was in allusion to this
rumour that he said, 'Whenever my name is coupled with that of a young
lady in this manner, I make it a point of honour to say I have been
refused.' To the last, we are told, Lady Morgan preserved the natural
vivacity and aptness of repartee that had made her the delight of
Dublin society half a century before. 'I know I am vain,' she said
once to Mrs. Hall, 'but I have a right to be. It is not put on and off
like my rouge; it is always with me.... I wrote books when your
mothers worked samplers, and demanded freedom for Ireland when Dan
O'Connell scrambled for gulls' eggs in the crags of Derrynane.... Look
at the number of books I have written. Did ever woman move in a
brighter sphere than I do? I have three invitations to dinner to-day,
one from a duchess, one from a countess, and the third from a
diplomatist, a very witty man, who keeps the best society in London.'

Lady Morgan was fond of boasting that she had supported herself since
she was fourteen (for which read seventeen or eighteen), and insisted
on the advantage of giving every girl a profession by which she could
earn her living, if the need arose. Speaking to Mrs. Hall on the
subject of some girls who had been suddenly bereft of fortune, she
exclaimed: 'They do everything that is fashionable imperfectly; their
drawing, singing, dancing, and languages amount to nothing. They were
educated to marry, and had they had time, they might have gone off
with, and hereafter _from_, husbands. I desire to give every
girl, no matter her rank, a trade or profession. Cultivate what is
necessary to the position she is born to; cultivate all things in
moderation, but one thing to perfection, no matter what it is, for
which she has a talent: give her a staff to lay hold of; let her feel,
"This will carry me through life without dependence."'

With the assistance of Miss Jewsbury Lady Morgan, in the last years of
her life, prepared a volume of reminiscences, which she called _The
Odd Volume_. This, which was published in 1859, only deals with a
short period of her career, and is of little literary interest. The
_Athenæum_, in the course of a laudatory review, observed that
'Lady Morgan had lived through the love, admiration, and malignity of
three generations of men, and was, in short, a literary Ninon, who
seemed as brisk and captivating in the year 1859 as when George was
Prince, and the author of "Kate Kearney" divided the laureateship of
society and song with Tom Moore.'

Lady Morgan, though now an octogenarian, was by no means pleased at
these remarks. She still prided herself on her fascinations, was never
tired and never bored, and looked upon any one who died under a
hundred years of age as a suicide. 'You have more strength and spirit,
as well as more genius, than any of us,' wrote Abraham Hayward to her.
'We must go back to the brilliant women of the eighteenth century to
find anything like a parallel to you and your _soirées_.' But
bronchitis was an enemy with which even her high spirit was powerless
to cope. She had an attack in 1858, but threw it off, and on Christmas
Day gave a dinner, at which she told Irish stories with all her old
vivacity, and sang 'The Night before Larry was Stretched.' On St.
Patrick's Day, 1859, she gave a musical matinée, but caught cold the
following week, and after a short illness, died on April 16th.

Thus ended the career of one of the most flattered and best abused
women of the century. Held up as the Irish Madame de Staël by her
admirers, and run down as a monster of impudence and iniquity by her
enemies, it is no wonder that her character, by no means innately
refined, became hardened, if not coarsened, by so unenviable a
notoriety. Still, to her credit be it remembered that she never lost a
friend, and that she converted more than one impersonal enmity (as in
the case of Jeffrey and Lockhart) into a personal friendship. In spite
of her passion for the society of the great, she wrote and worked
throughout her whole career for the cause of liberty, and she was ever
on the side of the oppressed. An incorrigible flirt before marriage,
she developed into an irreproachable matron, while her natural
frivolity and feather-headedness never tempted her to neglect her
work, nor interfered with her faculty for making most advantageous
business arrangements. 'With all her frank vanity,' we are told, 'she
had shrewd good sense, and she valued herself much more on her
industry than on her genius, because the one, she said, she owed to
her organisation, but the other was a virtue of her own rearing.' It
would be impossible to conclude a sketch of Lady Morgan more
appropriately than by the following lines of Leigh Hunt, which she
herself was fond of quoting, and in which her personal idiosyncrasies
are pleasantly touched off:--

'And dear Lady Morgan, see, see, when she comes,
With her pulses all beating for freedom like drums,
So Irish, so modish, so mixtish, so wild;
So committing herself as she talks--like a child.
So trim, yet so easy--polite, yet high-hearted,
That truth and she, try all she can, won't be parted;
She'll put you your fashions, your latest new air,
And then talk so frankly, she'll make you all stare.'



[Illustration: Nathaniel Parker Willis]

Any fool, said a wise man, can write an interesting book if he will
only take the trouble to set down exactly what he has seen and heard.
Unfortunately, it is only a very special kind of fool who is capable
of recording exactly what he sees and hears--a rare bird who
flourishes perhaps once in a century, and is remembered long after
wiser men are forgotten. It is not contended that the subject of this
memoir was a fool in the crude sense of the word, though he was
responsible for a good deal of folly; but he was inspired by that
impertinent curiosity, that happy lack of dignity, and that passion
for the trivial and the intimate, which, when joined to a natural
talent for observation and a picturesque narrative style, enable the
possessor to illuminate a circle and a period in a fashion never
achieved by the most learned lucubrations of the profoundest scholars.
Thanks to his Boswellising powers, 'Namby-Pamby Willis,' as he was
called by his numerous enemies, has left an admirably vivid picture of
the literary society of London in the 'thirties,' a picture that
steadily increases in value as the period at which it was painted
recedes into the past.

Willis came of a family that had contrived, not unsuccessfully, to
combine religion with journalism. His immediate forebears seem to have
been persons of marked individuality, and his pedigree was, for the
New World, of quite respectable antiquity. The founder of the family,
George Willis, was born early in the seventeenth century, and
emigrated to New England about 1730, where he worked at his trade of
brickmaking and building. Our hero's great-grandfather was a patriotic
sailmaker, who assisted at a certain historic entertainment, when tar,
feathers, and hot tea were administered gratis to his Majesty's
tax-collector at Boston. His wife, Abigail, was a lady of character
and maxims, who saved some tea for her private use when three hundred
cases were emptied into Boston Harbour, and exhorted her family never
to eat brown bread when they could get white, and never to go in at
the back door when they might go in at the front. The son of this
worthy couple conducted a Whig newspaper in Boston during the
Rebellion, and became one of the pioneer journalists of the West. His
son, Nathaniel's sire, was invited, in 1803, to start a newspaper at
Portland, Maine, where the future Penciller was born in 1806, one year
before his fellow-townsman Longfellow.

A few years later, Mr. Willis returned to Boston, where, in 1816, he
started the _Boston Recorder_, the first newspaper, he was
accustomed to say, that had ever been run on religious lines. He seems
to have been a respectable, but narrow-minded man, who loved long
devotions and many services, and looked upon dancing, card-playing and
stage-plays as works of the Evil One. His redeeming points were a
sense of humour and a keen appreciation of female beauty, which last
characteristic he certainly bequeathed to his son. It was his custom
to sit round the fire with his nine children on winter evenings, and
tell them stories about the old Dutch tiles, representing New
Testament scenes, with which the chimney-corner was lined. The success
of these informal Scripture lessons led him to establish a religious
paper for young people called _The Youth's Companion_, in which
some of our hero's early verses appeared. His wife, Hannah Parker, is
described as a charming woman, lively, impulsive, and emotional. Her
son, Nathaniel, whose devotion to her never wavered, used to say, 'My
veins are teeming with the quicksilver spirit my mother gave me.'

Willis the younger was sent to school at Boston, where he had Emerson
for a schoolfellow, and afterwards to the university of Yale, where he
wrote much poetry, and was well received in the society of the place
on account of his good looks, easy manners, and precocious literary
reputation. On leaving Yale, he was delivered of a volume of juvenile
poems, and then settled down in Boston to four years' journalistic
work. Samuel Goodrich, better known in England under his pseudonym of
'Peter Parley,' engaged him to edit some annuals and gift-books, an
employment which the young man found particularly congenial. In his
_Recollections_ Peter Parley draws a comparison between his two
contributors, Hawthorne and Willis, and records that everything Willis
wrote attracted immediate attention, while the early productions of
Hawthorne passed almost unnoticed.

In 1829 Willis started on his own account with the _American Monthly
Magazine_, which had an existence of little more than two years. He
announced that he could not afford to pay for contributions, as he
expected only a small circulation, and he wrote most of the copy
himself. Every month there were discursive, gossiping editorial
articles in that 'personal' vein which has been worked with so much
industry in our own day. He took his readers into his confidence,
prattled about his japonica and his pastilles, and described his
favourite bird, a scarlet trulian, and his dogs, Ugolino and L. E. L.,
who slept in the waste-paper basket. He professed to write with a
bottle of Rudesheimer and a plate of olives at his elbow, and it was
hinted that he ate fruit in summer with an amber-handled fork to keep
his palm cool!

These youthful affectations had a peculiarly exasperating effect upon
men of a different type; and Willis became the butt of the more
old-fashioned critics, who vied with each other in inventing
opprobrious epithets to shower upon the head of this young puppy of
journalism. However, Nathaniel was not a person who could easily
be suppressed, and he soon became one of the most popular
magazine-writers of his time, his prose being described by an admirer
as 'delicate and brief like a white jacket--transparent like a lump of
sugar in champagne--soft-tempered like the sea-breeze at night.'
Unfortunately, the magazines paid but little, even for prose of the
above description, and Willis presently found himself in financial
difficulties; while, with all his acknowledged fascinations, he was
unlucky in his first love-affair. He became engaged to a beautiful
girl called Mary Benham, but her guardian broke off the match, and the
lady, who seems to have had an inclination for literary men,
afterwards married Motley, the historian of the Dutch Republic.

In 1831 the _American Monthly Magazine_ ceased to appear, and
Willis, leaving Boston and his creditors without regret, obtained the
post of assistant-editor on the _New York Mirror_, a weekly paper
devoted to literature, light fiction, and the fine arts. It was the
property of Morris, author of the once world-famous song, 'Woodman,
spare that Tree,' and the editor-in-chief was Theodore Fay, a novelist
of some distinction. Soon after his appointment it was decided that
Willis should be sent to Europe as foreign correspondent of his paper.
A sum of about a hundred pounds was scraped together for his expenses,
and it was arranged that he should write weekly letters at the rate of
two guineas a letter. In the autumn of 1831 he sailed in a
merchant-vessel for Havre, whence he journeyed to Paris in November.
Here he spent the first five or six months of his tour, and here began
the series of 'Pencillings by the Way,' a portion of which gained him
rather an unwelcome notoriety in English society by reason of the
'personalities' it contained. When published in book form the
Pencillings were considerably toned down, and the proper names were
represented by initials, so that people who read them then for the
first time wondered what all the excitement had been about. As the
chapters which relate to England are of most interest to English
readers, Willis's continental adventures need only be briefly noticed.
The extracts here quoted are taken from the original letters as they
appeared in the _New York Mirror_, which differ in many respects
from the version that was published in London after the attack by the
_Quarterly Review_.

In Paris Willis found himself in his element, and was made much of by
the Anglo-French community, which was then under the special patronage
of Lafayette. One of the most interesting of his new acquaintances was
the Countess Guiccioli, upon whose appearance and manners he comments
with characteristic frankness.

'I met the Guiccioli yesterday in the Tuileries,' he writes shortly
after his arrival. 'She looks much younger than I anticipated, and is
a handsome blonde, apparently about thirty. I am told by a gentleman
who knows her that she has become a great flirt, and is quite spoiled
by admiration. The celebrity of Lord Byron's attachment would
certainly make her a very desirable acquaintance were she much less
pretty than she really is, and I am told her drawing-room is thronged
with lovers of all nations contending for a preference which, having
once been given, should be buried, I think, for ever.' A little later
he has himself been introduced to the Guiccioli, and he describes an
interview which he has had with her, when the conversation turned upon
her friendship with Shelley.

'She gave me one of his letters to herself as an autograph,' he
narrates. 'She says he was at times a little crazy--_fou_, as she
expressed it--but there never was a nobler or a better man. Lord
Byron, she says, loved him as a brother.... There were several
miniatures of Byron hanging up in the room; I asked her if any of them
were perfect in the resemblance. "No," she said, "that is the most
like him," taking down a miniature by an Italian artist, "_mais il
était beaucoup plus beau--beaucoup--beaucoup_." She reiterated the
word with a very touching tenderness, and continued to look at the
portrait for some time.... She went on talking of the painters who had
drawn Byron, and said the American, West's, was the best likeness. I
did not tell her that West's portrait of herself was excessively
flattered. I am sure no one would know her, from the engraving at
least. Her cheek-bones are high, her forehead is badly shaped, and
altogether the frame of her features is decidedly ugly. She dresses in
the worst taste too, and yet for all this, and poetry and celebrity
aside, the countess is both a lovely and a fascinating woman, and one
whom a man of sentiment would admire at this age very sincerely, but
not for beauty.'

The cholera frightened Willis away from Paris in April, but before he
left, the United States minister, Mr. Rives, appointed him honorary
attaché to his own embassy, a great social advantage to the young man,
who was thereby enabled to obtain the _entrée_ into court circles
in every country that he visited. At the same time the appointment
somewhat misled his numerous new acquaintances on the subject of his
social position, while the 'spurious' attachéship afterwards became a
weapon in the hands of his enemies. However, for the time being, the
young correspondent thoroughly enjoyed his novel experiences, and
contrived to communicate his enjoyment to his readers. His letters
were eagerly read by his countrymen, and are said to have been copied
into no less than five hundred newspapers. He eschewed useful
information, gave impressions rather than statistics, and was fairly
successful in avoiding the style of the guide-book. The summer and
autumn of 1832 were spent in northern Italy, Florence being the
traveller's headquarters. He had letters of introduction to half the
Italian nobility, and was made welcome in the court circles of
Tuscany. In the autumn he was flirting at the Baths of Lucca, and at
this time he had formed a project of travelling to London by way of
Switzerland. 'In London,' he writes to his sister, 'I mean to make
arrangements with the magazines, and then live abroad altogether. It
costs so little here, and one lives so luxuriously too, and there is
so much to fill one's mind and eye, that I think of returning to naked
America with ever-increasing repugnance. I love my country, but the
_ornamental_ is my vocation, and of this she has none.' This
programme was changed, and Willis spent the winter between Rome,
Florence, and Venice. Wherever he went he made friends, but his
progress was in itself a feat of diplomacy, and few people dreamt that
the dashing young attaché depended for his living upon his
contributions to a newspaper, payment for which did not always arrive
with desirable punctuality. 'I have dined,' he writes to his mother,
'with a prince one day, and alone in a cook-shop the next.' He
explains that he can live on about sixty pounds a year at Florence,
paying four or five shillings a week for his rooms, breakfasting for
fourpence, and dining quite magnificently for a shilling.

In June 1833, Willis was invited by the officers of an American
frigate to accompany them on a six months' cruise in the
Mediterranean. This was far too good an offer to be refused, since it
would have been impossible to get a peep at the East under more ideal
conditions of travel. Willis's letters from Greece and Turkey are
among the best and happiest that he wrote, for the weather was
perfect, the company was pleasant (there were ladies on board), and
the reception they met with wherever they weighed anchor was most
hospitable; while the Oriental mode of life appealed to our hero's
highly-coloured, romantic taste. In the island of Ægina he was
introduced to Byron's Maid of Athens, once the beautiful Teresa Makri,
now plain Mrs. Black, with an ugly little boy, and a Scotch terrier
that snapped at the traveller's heels. He describes the
_ci-devant_ Maid of Athens as a handsome woman, with a clear dark
skin, and a nose and forehead that formed the straight line of the
Greek model.

'Her eyes are large,' he continues, 'and of a soft, liquid hazel, and
this is her chief beauty. There is that looking out of the soul
through them which Byron always described as constituting the
loveliness that most moved him.... We met her as simple Mrs. Black,
whose husband's terrier had worried us at the door, and we left her
feeling that the poetry she called forth from the heart of Byron was
her due by every law of loveliness.'

By this time the fame of the _Pencillings_ had reached London;
and at Smyrna Willis found a letter awaiting him from the _Morning
Herald_, which contained an offer of the post of foreign
correspondent at a salary of £200 a year. But as his letters would
have to be mainly political, and as he might be expected to act as
war-correspondent, which was scarcely in his line, he decided to
refuse the offer. On leaving the frigate he loitered through Italy,
Switzerland, and France to England, arriving at Dover on June 1, 1834.
While at Florence he had made the acquaintance of Walter Savage
Landor, who had given him some valuable letters of introduction to
people in England, among them one to Lady Blessington. Landor also put
into Willis's hands a package of books, whose temporary disappearance
through some mismanagement roused the formidable wrath of the old
poet. In his _Letter to an Author_, printed at the end of
_Pericles and Aspasia_, Landor describes the transaction (which
related to an American edition of the _Imaginary Conversations_),
and continues:--

'I regret the appearance of his book (the _Pencillings by the
Way_) more than the disappearance of mine.... My letter of
presentation to Lady Blessington threw open (I am afraid) too many
folding-doors, some of which have been left rather uncomfortably ajar.
No doubt his celebrity as a poet, and his dignity as a diplomatist,
would have procured him all those distinctions in society which he
allowed so humble a person as myself the instrumentality of
conferring. Greatly as I have been flattered by the visits of American
gentlemen, I hope that for the future no penciller of similar
composition will deviate in my favour to the right hand of the road
from Florence to Fiesole.'

The end of this storm in a teacup was that the books, which had safely
arrived in New York, returned as safely to London, where they were
handed over to their rightful owner, but not in time, as Willis
complained, to keep him from going down to posterity astride the finis
to _Pericles and Aspasia_. Long afterwards he expressed his hope
that Landor's biographers would either let him slip off at Lethe's
wharf, or else do him justice in a note. Before this unfortunate
incident, Landor and Willis had corresponded on cordial terms. The old
poet wrote to say how much he envied his correspondent the evenings he
passed in the society of 'the most accomplished and graceful of all
our fashionable world, my excellent friend, Lady Blessington,' while
the American could not sufficiently express his gratitude for the
introduction to that lady, 'my lodestar and most valued friend,' as he
called her, 'for whose acquaintance I am so much indebted to you, that
you will find it difficult in your lifetime to diminish my

Willis seems to have arrived in England prepared to like everything
English, and he began by falling in love with the Ship Hotel at Dover,
'with its bells that _would_ ring, doors that _would_ shut,
blazing coal fires [on June 1], and its landlady who spoke English,
and was civil--a greater contrast to the Continent could hardly he
imagined.' The next morning he was in raptures over the coach that
took him to London, with its light harness, four beautiful bays, and
dashing coachman, who discussed the Opera, and hummed airs from the
_Puritani_. He saw a hundred charming spots on the road that he
coveted with quite a heartache, and even the little houses and gardens
in the suburbs pleased his taste--there was such an _affectionateness_
in the outside of every one of them. Regent Street he declares to be
the finest street he has ever seen, and he exclaims, 'The Toledo of
Naples, the Corso of Rome, the Rue de la Paix, and the Boulevards
of Paris are really nothing to Regent Street.'

Willis called on Lady Blessington in the afternoon of the day after
his arrival, but was informed that her ladyship was not yet down to
breakfast. An hour later, however, he received a note from her
inviting him to call the same evening at ten o'clock. She was then
living at Seamore House, while D'Orsay had lodgings in Curzon Street.
Willis tells us that he found a very beautiful woman exquisitely
dressed, who looked on the sunny side of thirty, though she frankly
owned to forty, and was, in fact, forty-five. Lady Blessington
received the young American very cordially, introduced him to the
magnificent D'Orsay, and plunged at once into literary talk. She was
curious to know the degree of popularity enjoyed by English authors in
America, more especially by Bulwer and D'Israeli, both of whom she
promised that he should meet at her house.

'D'Israeli the elder,' she said, 'came here with his son the other
night. It would have delighted you to see the old man's pride in him.
As he was going away, he patted him on the head, and said, "Take care
of him, Lady Blessington, for my sake. He is a clever lad, but wants
ballast. I am glad he has the honour to know you, for you will check
him sometimes when I am away...." D'Israeli the younger is quite his
own character of Vivian Grey, crowded with talent, but very
_soigné_ of his curls, and a bit of a coxcomb. There is no
reverse about him, however, and he is the only _joyous_ dandy I
ever saw.' Then the conversation turned upon Byron, and Willis asked
if Lady Blessington had known La Guiccioli. 'No; we were at Pisa when
they were together,' she replied. 'But though Lord Blessington had the
greatest curiosity to see her, Lord Byron would never permit it. "She
has a red head of her own," said he, "and don't like to show it."
Byron treated the poor creature dreadfully ill. She feared more than
she loved him.'

On concluding this account of his visit, Willis observes that there
can be no objection to his publishing such personal descriptions and
anecdotes in an American periodical, since 'the English just know of
our existence, and if they get an idea twice a year of our progress in
politics, they are comparatively well informed. Our periodical
literature is never even heard of. I mention this fact lest, at first
thought, I might seem to have abused the hospitality or the frankness
of those on whom letters of introduction have given me claims for
civility.' Alas, poor Willis! He little thought that one of the most
distinguished and most venomous of British critics would make a long
arm across the Atlantic, and hold up his prattlings to ridicule and

The following evening our Penciller met a distinguished company at
Seamore House, the two Bulwers, Edward and Henry; James Smith of
'Rejected Addresses' fame; Fonblanque, the editor of the
_Examiner_; and the young Duc de Richelieu. Of Fonblanque, Willis
observes: 'I never saw a worse face, sallow, seamed, and hollow, his
teeth irregular, his skin livid, his straight black hair uncombed. A
hollow, croaking voice, and a small, fiery black eye, with a smile
like a skeleton's, certainly did not improve his physiognomy.'
Fonblanque, as might have been anticipated, did not at all appreciate
this description of his personal defects, when it afterwards appeared
in print. Edward Bulwer was quite unlike what Willis had expected. 'He
is short,' he writes, 'very much bent, slightly knock-kneed, and as
ill-dressed a man for a gentleman as you will find in London.... He
has a retreating forehead, large aquiline nose, immense red whiskers,
and a mouth contradictory of all talent. A more good-natured,
habitually smiling, nerveless expression could hardly be imagined.'
Bulwer seems to have made up for his appearance by his high spirits,
lover-like voice, and delightful conversation, some of which our
Boswell has reported.

'Smith asked Bulwer if he kept an amanuensis. "No," he said, "I
scribble it all out myself, and send it to the press in a most
ungentlemanlike hand, half print, half hieroglyphics, with all its
imperfections on its head, and correct in the proof--very much to the
dissatisfaction of the publisher, who sends me in a bill of £16, 6s.
4d. for extra corrections. Then I am free to confess I don't know
grammar. Lady Blessington, do you know grammar? There never was such a
thing heard of before Lindley Murray. I wonder what they did for
grammar before his day! Oh, the delicious blunders one sees when they
are irretrievable! And the best of it is the critics never get hold of
them. Thank Heaven for second editions, that one may scratch out one's
blots, and go down clean and gentlemanlike to posterity." Smith asked
him if he had ever reviewed one of his own books. "No, but I could!
And then how I should like to recriminate, and defend myself
indignantly! I think I could be preciously severe. Depend upon it,
nobody knows a book's faults so well as its author. I have a great
idea of criticising my books for my posthumous memoirs. Shall I,
Smith? Shall I, Lady Blessington?"'

Willis fell into conversation with the good-natured, though gouty
James Smith, who talked to him of America, and declared that there
never was so delightful a fellow as Washington Irving. 'I was once,'
he said, 'taken down with him into the country by a merchant to
dinner. Our friend stopped his carriage at the gate of his park, and
asked if we would walk through the grounds to the house. Irving
refused, and held me down by the coat-tails, so that we drove on to
the house together, leaving our host to follow on foot. "I make it a
principle," said Irving, "never to walk with a man through his own
grounds. I have no idea of praising a thing whether I like it or not.
You and I will do them to-morrow by ourselves."' 'The Rejected
Addresses,' continues Willis, 'got on his crutches about three o'clock
in the morning, and I made my exit with the rest, thanking Heaven
that, though in a strange country, my mother-tongue was the language
of its men of genius.'

One of the most interesting passages in the _Pencillings_ is that
in which Willis describes a breakfast at Crabb Robinson's chambers in
the Temple, where he met Charles and Mary Lamb, a privilege which he
seems thoroughly to have appreciated. 'I never in my life,' he
declares, 'had an invitation more to my taste. The _Essays of
Elia_ are certainly the most charming things in the world, and it
has been, for the last ten years, my highest compliment to the
literary taste of a friend to present him with a copy.... I arrived
half an hour before Lamb, and had time to learn something of his
peculiarities. Some family circumstances have tended to depress him of
late years, and unless excited by convivial intercourse, he never
shows a trace of what he once was. He is excessively given to
mystifying his friends, and is never so delighted as when he has
persuaded some one into a belief in one of his grave inventions....
There was a rap at the door at last, and enter a gentleman in black
small clothes and gaiters, short and very slight in his person, his
hair just sprinkled with grey, a beautiful, deep-set, grey eye,
aquiline nose, and a very indescribable mouth. His sister, whose
literary reputation is very closely associated with her brother's,
came in after him. She is a small, bent figure, evidently a victim to
ill-health, and hears with difficulty. Her face has been, I should
think, a fine, handsome one, and her bright grey eye is still full of
intelligence and fire....

'I had set a large arm-chair for Miss Lamb. "Don't take it, Mary,"
said Lamb, pulling it away from her very gravely. "It looks as if you
were going to have a tooth drawn." The conversation was very local,
but perhaps in this way I saw more of the author, for his manner of
speaking of their mutual friends, and the quaint humour with which he
complained of one, and spoke well of another, was so completely in the
vein of his inimitable writings, that I could have fancied myself
listening to an audible composition of new Elia. Nothing could be more
delightful than the kindness and affection between the brother and
sister, though Lamb was continually taking advantage of her deafness
to mystify her on every topic that was started. "Poor Mary," he said,
"she hears all of an epigram but the point." "What are you saying of
me, Charles?" she asked. "Mr. Willis," said he, raising his voice,
"admires your _Confessions of a Drunkard_ very much, and I was
saying that it was no merit of yours that you understood the subject."

'The conversation presently turned upon literary topics, and Lamb
observed: "I don't know much of your American authors. Mary, there,
devours Cooper's novels with a ravenous appetite with which I have no
sympathy. The only American book I ever read twice was the _Journal
of Edward Woolman_, a Quaker preacher and tinker, whose character
is one of the finest I ever met. He tells a story or two about negro
slaves that brought the tears into my eyes. I can read no prose now,
though Hazlitt sometimes, to be sure--but then Hazlitt is worth all
the modern prose-writers put together." I mentioned having bought a
copy of _Elia_ the last day I was in America, to send as a
parting gift to one of the most lovely and talented women in the
country. "What did you give for it?" asked Lamb. "About
seven-and-six." "Permit me to pay you that," said he, and with the
utmost earnestness he counted the money out on the table. "I never yet
wrote anything that would sell," he continued. "I am the publisher's
ruin. My last poem won't sell a copy. Have you seen it, Mr. Willis?" I
had not. "It is only eighteenpence, and I'll give you sixpence towards
it," and he described to me where I should find it sticking up in a
shop-window in the Strand.

'Lamb ate nothing, and complained in a querulous tone of the veal pie.
There was a kind of potted fish, which he had expected that our friend
would procure for him. He inquired whether there was not a morsel left
in the bottom of the last pot. Mr. Robinson was not sure. "Send and
see," said Lamb, "and if the pot has been cleaned, bring me the lid. I
think the sight of it would do me good." The cover was brought, upon
which there was a picture of the fish. Lamb kissed it with a
reproachful look at his friend, and then left the table and began to
wander round the room with a broken, uncertain step, as if he almost
forgot to put one leg before the other. His sister rose after a while,
and commenced walking up and down in the same manner on the opposite
side of the table, and in the course of half an hour they took their
leave.' Landor, in commenting on this passage, says it is evident that
Willis 'fidgeted the Lambs,' and seems rather unaccountably annoyed at
his having alluded to Crabb Robinson simply as 'a barrister.'

In London Willis appears to have fallen upon his feet from the very
first. To the end of his life he looked back upon his first two years
in England as the happiest and most successful period in his whole
career. It was small wonder that he became a little dazzled and
intoxicated by the brilliancy of his surroundings, which spoilt him
for the homelier conditions of American life. 'What a star is mine,'
he wrote to his sister Julia, three days after landing at Dover. 'All
the best society of London exclusives is now open to me--_me!_
without a sou in my pocket beyond what my pen brings me, and with not
only no influence from friends at home, but with a world of envy and
slander at my back.... In a literary way I have already had offers
from the _Court Magazine_, the _Metropolitan_, and the _New
Monthly_, of the first price for my articles. I sent a short
tale, written in one day, to the _Court Magazine_, and they gave
me eight guineas for it at once. I lodge in Cavendish Square, the most
fashionable part of the town, paying a guinea a week for my lodgings,
and am as well off as if I had been the son of the President.'

Willis was constantly at Lady Blessington's house, where he met some
of the best masculine society of the day. At one dinner-party among
his fellow-guests were D'Israeli, Bulwer, Procter (Barry Cornwall),
Lord Durham, and Sir Martin Shee. It was his first sight of Dizzy,
whom he found looking out of the window with the last rays of sunlight
reflected on the gorgeous gold flowers of an embroidered waistcoat. A
white stick with a black cord and tassel, and a quantity of chains
about his neck and pocket, rendered him rather a conspicuous object.
'D'Israeli,' says our chronicler, 'has one of the most remarkable
faces I ever saw. He is vividly pale, and but for the energy of his
action and the strength of his lungs, would seem a victim to
consumption. His eye is as black as Erebus, and has the most mocking,
lying-in-wait expression conceivable. His mouth is alive with a kind
of impatient nervousness, and when he has burst forth with a
particularly successful cataract of expression, it assumes a curl of
triumphant scorn that would be worthy of Mephistopheles. A thick,
heavy mass of jet-black ringlets falls over his left cheek almost to
his collarless stock, while on the right temple it is parted and put
away with the smooth carefulness of a girl's, and shines most
unctuously with "thy incomparable oil, Macassar."' Willis was always
interested in dress, being himself a born dandy, and he was inclined
to judge a man by the cut of his coat and the set of his hat. On this
occasion he remarks that Bulwer was very badly dressed as usual, while
Count D'Orsay was very splendid, but quite indefinable. 'He seemed
showily dressed till you looked to particulars, and then it seemed
only a simple thing well fitted to a very magnificent person.'

The conversation ran at first on Sir Henry Taylor's new play,
_Philip van Artevelde_, which the company thought overrated, and
then passed to Beckford, of _Vathek_ fame, who had already
retired from the world, and was living at Bath in his usual eccentric
fashion. Dizzy was the only person present who had met him, and,
declares Willis, 'I might as well attempt to gather up the foam of the
sea as to convey an idea of the extraordinary language in which he
clothed his description. There were at least five words in every
sentence which must have been very much astonished at the use to which
they were put, and yet no others apparently could so well have
conveyed his idea. He talked like a racehorse approaching the
winning-post, every muscle in action, and the utmost energy of
expression flowing out in every burst. It is a great pity he is not in

At midnight Lady Blessington left the table, when the conversation
took a political turn, but D'Israeli soon dashed off again with a
story of an Irish dragoon who was killed in the Peninsular. 'His arm
was shot off, and he was bleeding to death. When told he could not
live, he called for a large silver goblet, out of which he usually
drank his claret. He held it to the gushing artery, and filled it to
the brim, then poured it slowly out upon the ground, saying, "If that
had been shed for old Ireland." You can have no idea how thrillingly
this little story was told. Fonblanque, however, who is a cold
political satirist, could see nothing in a man's "decanting his
claret" that was in the least sublime, so "Vivian Grey" got into a
passion, and for a while was silent.'

Willis was now fairly launched in London society, literary and
fashionable. He went to the Opera to hear Grisi, then young and
pretty, and Lady Blessington pointed out the beautiful Mrs. Norton,
looking like a queen, and Lord Brougham flirting desperately with a
lovely woman, 'his mouth going with the convulsive twitch that so
disfigures him, and his most unsightly of pug-noses in the strongest
relief against the red lining of the box.' He breakfasted with 'Barry
Cornwall,' whose poetry he greatly admired, and was introduced to the
charming Mrs. Procter and the 'yellow-tressed Adelaide,' then only
eight or nine years old. Procter gave his visitor a volume of his own
poems, and told him anecdotes of the various authors he had known,
Hazlitt, Lamb, Keats, and Shelley. Another interesting entertainment
was an evening party at Edward Bulwer's house. Willis arrived at
eleven, and found his hostess alone, playing with a King Charles'
spaniel, while she awaited her guests.

'The author of _Pelham_,' he writes, 'is a younger son, and
depends on his writings for a livelihood; and truly, measuring works
of fancy by what they will bring, a glance round his luxurious rooms
is worth reams of puffs in the Quarterlies. He lives in the heart of
fashionable London, entertains a great deal, and is expensive in all
his habits, and for this pay Messrs. Clifford, Pelham, and Aram--most
excellent bankers. As I looked at the beautiful woman before me,
waiting to receive the rank and fashion of London, I thought that
close-fisted old literature never had better reason for his partial

Willis was astonished at the neglect with which the female portion of
the assemblage was treated, no young man ever speaking to a young lady
except to ask her to dance. 'There they sit with their mammas,' he
observes, 'their hands before them in the received attitude; and if
there happens to be no dancing, looking at a print, or eating an ice,
is for them the most entertaining circumstance of the evening. Late in
the evening a charming girl, who is the reigning belle of Naples, came
in with her mother from the Opera, and I made this same remark to her.
"I detest England for that very reason," she said frankly. "It is the
fashion in London for young men to prefer everything to the society of
women. They have their clubs, their horses, their rowing matches,
their hunting, and everything else is a _bore_! How different are
the same men at Naples! They can never get enough of one there."...
She mentioned several of the beaux of last winter who had returned to
England. "Here have I been in London a month, and these very men who
were at my side all day on the Strada Nuova, and all but fighting to
dance three times with me of an evening, have only left their cards.
Not because they care less about me, but because it is not the
fashion--it would be talked about at the clubs; it is _knowing_
to let us alone."'

There were only three men at the party, according to Willis, who could
come under the head of _beaux_, but there were many distinguished
persons. There was Byron's sister, Mrs. Leigh, a thin, plain,
middle-aged woman, of a serious countenance, but with very cordial,
pleasing manners. Sheil, the famous Irish orator, small, dark,
deceitful, and talented-looking, with a squeaky voice, was to be seen
in earnest conversation with the courtly old Lord Clarendon.
Fonblanque, with his pale, dislocated-looking face, was making the
amiable, with a ghastly smile, to Lady Stepney, author of _The Road
to Ruin_ and other fashionable novels. The bilious Lord Durham,
with his Brutus head and severe countenance, high-bred in appearance
in spite of the worst possible coat and trousers, was talking politics
with Bowring. Prince Moscowa, son of Marshal Ney, a plain,
determined-looking young man, was unconscious of everything but the
presence of the lovely Mrs. Leicester Stanhope. Her husband,
afterwards Sir Leicester, who had been Byron's companion in Greece,
was introduced to Willis, and the two soon became on intimate terms.

In the course of the season Willis made the acquaintance of Miss
Mitford, who invited him to spend a week with her at her cottage near
Reading. In a letter to her friend, Miss Jephson, Miss Mitford says:
'I also like very much Mr. Willis, an American author, who is now
understood to be here to publish his account of England. He is a very
elegant young man, more like one of the best of our peers' sons than a
rough republican.' The admiration was apparently mutual, for Willis,
in a letter to the author of _Our Village_, says: 'You are
distinguished in the world as the "gentlewoman" among authoresses, as
you are for your rank merely in literature. I have often thought you
very enviable for the universality of that opinion about you. You
share it with Sir Philip Sidney, who was in his day the
_gentleman_ among authors. I look with great interest for your
new tragedy. I think your mind is essentially dramatic; and in that,
in our time, you are alone. I know no one else who could have written
_Rienzi_, and I felt _Charles I._ to my fingers' ends, as one
feels no other modern play.'

Willis was less happy in his relations with Harriet Martineau, to whom
he was introduced just before her departure for America. 'While I was
preparing for my travels,' she writes, in her own account of the
interview, 'an acquaintance brought a buxom gentleman, whom he
introduced under the name of Willis. There was something rather
engaging in the round face, brisk air, and _enjouement_ of
the young man; but his conscious dandyism and unparalleled
self-complacency spoiled the satisfaction, though they increased the
inclination to laugh.... He whipped his bright little boot with his
bright little cane, while he ran over the names of all his
distinguished fellow-countrymen, and declared that he would send me
letters to them all.' Miss Martineau further relates that the few
letters she presented met with a very indifferent reception. Her
indignation increased when she found that in his private
correspondence Willis had given the impression that she was one of his
most intimate friends. In his own account of the interview he merely
says: 'I was taken by the clever translator of Faust to see the
celebrated Miss Martineau. She has perhaps at this moment the most
general and enviable reputation in England, and is the only one of the
literary clique whose name is mentioned without some envious

A budget of literary news sent to the _Mirror_ includes such
items as that 'D'Israeli is driving about in an open carriage with
Lady S., looking more melancholy than usual. The absent baronet, whose
place he fills, is about to bring an action against him, which will
finish his career, unless he can coin the damages in his brain. Mrs.
Hemans is dying of consumption in Ireland. I have been passing a week
at a country-house, where Miss Jane Porter [author of _Scottish
Chiefs_] and Miss Pardoe [author of _Beauties of the Bosphorus_]
were staying. Miss Porter is one of her own heroines grown old,
a still noble wreck of beauty.... Dined last week with Joanna
Baillie at Hampstead--the most charming old lady I ever saw.
To-day I dine with Longman, to meet Tom Moore, who is living
_incog._ near this Nestor of publishers, and pegging hard at his
_History of Ireland_.... Lady Blessington's new book makes a
great noise. Living as she does twelve hours out of the twenty-four in
the midst of the most brilliant and intellectually exhausting circle
in London, I only wonder how she found time to write it. Yet it was
written in six weeks! Her novels sell for a hundred pounds more than
any other author's, except Bulwer's. Bulwer gets £1400; Lady
Blessington, £400; Mrs. Norton, £250; Lady Charlotte Bury, £200;
Grattan, £300; and most other authors below this. Captain Marryat's
gross trash sells immensely about Wapping and Portsmouth, and brings
him in £500 or £600 the book--but that can scarce be called
literature. D'Israeli cannot sell a book _at all_, I hear. Is not
that odd? I would give more for one of his books than for forty of the
common saleable things about town.'

One more description of a literary dinner at Lady Blessington's may be
quoted before Willis's account of this, his first and most memorable
London season, is brought to an end. Among the company on this
occasion were Moore, D'Israeli, and Dr. Beattie, the King's physician,
who was himself a poet. Moore had been ruralising for a year at
Slopperton Cottage, and, before his arrival, D'Israeli expressed his
regret that he should have been met on his return to town with a
savage article in _Fraser_ on his supposed plagiarisms. Lady
Blessington declared that he would never see it, since he guarded
himself against the sight and knowledge of criticism as other people
guarded against the plague. Some one remarked on Moore's passion for
rank. 'He was sure to have five or six invitations to dine on the same
day,' it was said, 'and he tormented himself with the idea that he had
perhaps not accepted the most exclusive. He would get off from an
engagement with a countess to dine with a marchioness, and from a
marchioness to accept the invitation of a duchess. As he cared little
for the society of men, and would sing and be delightful only for the
applause of women, it mattered little whether one circle was more
talented than another.' At length Mr. Moore was announced, and the
poet, 'sliding his little feet up to Lady Blessington, made his
compliments with an ease and gaiety, combined with a kind of
worshipping deference, that were worthy of a prime minister at the
Court of Love.... His eyes still sparkle like a champagne bubble,
though the invader has drawn his pencillings about the corners; and
there is a kind of wintry red that seems enamelled on his cheek, the
eloquent record of the claret his wit has brightened. His mouth is the
most characteristic feature of all. The lips are delicately cut, and
as changeable as an aspen; but there is a set-up look about the lower
lip--a determination of the muscle to a particular expression, and you
fancy that you can see wit astride upon it. It is arch, confident, and
half diffident, as if he were disguising his pleasure at applause,
while another bright gleam of fancy was breaking upon him. The
slightly tossed nose confirms the fun of his expression, and
altogether it is a face that sparkles, beams, and radiates.'

The conversation at dinner that night was the most brilliant that the
American had yet heard in London. Sir Walter Scott was the first
subject of discussion, Lady Blessington having just received from Sir
William Gell the manuscript of a volume on the last days of Sir Walter
Scott, a melancholy chronicle of ruined health and weakened intellect,
which was afterwards suppressed. Moore then described a visit he had
paid to Abbotsford, when his host was in his prime. 'Scott,' he said,
'was the most manly and natural character in the world. His
hospitality was free and open as the day; he lived freely himself, and
expected his guests to do the same.... He never ate or drank to
excess, but he had no system; his constitution was Herculean, and he
denied himself nothing. I went once from a dinner-party at Sir Thomas
Lawrence's to meet Scott at another house. We had hardly entered the
room when we were set down to a hot supper of roast chicken, salmon,
punch, etc., and Sir Walter ate immensely of everything. What a
contrast between this and the last time I saw him in London! He had
come to embark for Italy, quite broken down both in mind and body. He
gave Mrs. Moore a book, and I asked him if he would make it more
valuable by writing in it. He thought I meant that he should write
some verses, and said, "I never write poetry now." I asked him to
write only his name and hers, and he attempted it, but it was quite

O'Connell next became the topic of conversation, and Moore declared
that he would be irresistible if it were not for two blots on his
character, viz. the contributions in Ireland for his support, and his
refusal to give satisfaction to the man he was willing to attack.
'They may say what they will of duelling,' he continued, 'but it is
the great preserver of the decencies of society. The old school which
made a man responsible for his words was the better.' Moore related
how O'Connell had accepted Peel's challenge, and then delayed a
meeting on the ground of his wife's illness, till the law interfered.
Another Irish patriot refused a meeting on account of the illness of
his daughter, whereupon a Dublin wit composed the following epigram
upon the two:--

'Some men with a horror of slaughter,
Improve on the Scripture command.
And honour their--wife and their daughter--
That their days may be long in the land.'

Alluding to Grattan's dying advice to his son, 'Always be ready with
the pistol,' Moore asked, 'Is it not wonderful that, with all the
agitation in Ireland, we have had no such men since his time? The
whole country in convulsion--people's lives, fortune, religion at
stake, and not a gleam of talent from one's year's end to another. It
is natural for sparks to be struck out in a time of violence like
this--but Ireland, for all that is worth living for, _is dead_!
You can scarcely reckon Sheil of the calibre of the spirits of old,
and O'Connell, with all his faults, stands alone in his glory.'

In the drawing-room, after dinner, some allusion to the later
Platonists caused D'Israeli to flare up. His wild black eyes
glistened, and his nervous lips poured out eloquence, while a whole
ottomanful of noble exquisites listened in amazement. He gave an
account of Thomas Taylor, one of the last of the Platonists, who had
worshipped Jupiter in a back-parlour in London a few years before. In
his old age he was turned out of his lodgings, for attempting, as he
said, to worship his gods according to the dictates of his conscience,
his landlady having objected to his sacrificing a bull to Jupiter in
her parlour. The company laughed at this story as a good invention,
but Dizzy assured them it was literally true, and gave his father as
his authority. Meanwhile Moore 'went glittering on' with criticisms
upon Grisi and the Opera, and the subject of music being thus
introduced, he was led, with great difficulty, to the piano. Willis
describes his singing as 'a kind of admirable recitative, in which
every shade of thought is syllabled and dwelt upon, and the sentiment
of the song goes through your blood, warming you to the very eyelids,
and starting your tears if you have a soul or sense in you. I have
heard of women fainting at a song of Moore's; and if the burden of it
answered by chance to a secret in the bosom of the listener, I should
think that the heart would break with it. After two or three songs of
Lady Blessington's choice, he rambled over the keys a while, and then
sang 'When first I met thee' with a pathos that beggars description.
When the last word had faltered out, he rose and took Lady
Blessington's hand, said Good-night, and was gone before a word was
uttered. For a full minute after he closed the door no one spoke. I
could have wished for myself to drop silently asleep where I sat, with
the tears in my eyes and the softness upon my heart.'


Having received invitations to stay with Lord Dalhousie and the Duke
of Gordon, Willis went north at the beginning of September, 1834. The
nominal attraction of Scotland he found, rather to his dismay, was the
shooting. The guest, he observes, on arriving at a country-house, is
asked whether he prefers a flint or a percussion lock, and a
double-barrelled Manton is put into his hands; while after breakfast
the ladies leave the table, wishing him good sport. 'I would rather
have gone to the library,' says the Penciller. 'An aversion to
walking, except upon smooth flag-stones, a poetical tenderness on the
subject of putting birds "out of their misery," and hands much more at
home with the goose-quill than the gun, were some of my private
objections to the order of the day.' At Dalhousie, the son of the
house, Lord Ramsay, and his American visitor were mutually astonished
at each other's appearance when they met in the park, prepared for a
morning's sport.

'From the elegant Oxonian I had seen at breakfast,' writes Willis, 'he
(Lord Ramsay) was transformed into a figure something rougher than his
Highland dependant, in a woollen shooting-jacket, pockets of any
number and capacity, trousers of the coarsest plaid, hobnailed shoes
and leather gaiters, and a habit of handling his gun that would have
been respected on the Mississippi. My own appearance in high-heeled
French boots and other corresponding gear, for a tramp over stubble
and marsh, amused him equally; but my wardrobe was exclusively
metropolitan, and there was no alternative.' It was hard and exciting
work, the novice discovered, to trudge through peas, beans, turnips,
and corn, soaked with showers, and muddied to the knees till his
Parisian boots were reduced to the consistency of brown paper. He came
home, much to his own relief, without having brought the blood of his
host's son and heir on his head, and he made a mental note never to go
to Scotland again without hobnailed boots and a shooting-jacket.

On leaving Dalhousie Willis spent a few days in Edinburgh, where he
breakfasted with Professor Wilson, _alias_ Christopher North. The
Professor, he says, talked away famously, quite oblivious of the fact
that the tea was made, and the breakfast-dishes were smoking on the
table. He spoke much of Blackwood, who then lay dying, and described
him as a man of the most refined literary taste, whose opinion of a
book he would trust before that of any one he knew. Wilson inquired if
his guest had made the acquaintance of Lockhart. 'I have not,' replied
Willis. 'He is almost the only literary man in London I have not met;
and I must say, as the editor of the _Quarterly Review_, and the
most unfair and unprincipled critic of the day, I have no wish to know
him. I never heard him well spoken of. I have probably met a hundred
of his acquaintances, but I have not yet seen one who pretended to be
his friend.' Wilson defended the absent one, who, he said, was the
mildest and most unassuming of men, and dissected a book for pleasure,
without thinking of the feelings of the author.

The breakfast had been cooling for an hour when the Professor leant
back, with his chair still towards the fire, and 'seizing the teapot
as if it were a sledge-hammer, he poured from one cup to the other
without interrupting the stream, overrunning both cup and saucer, and
partly flooding the tea-tray. He then set the cream towards me with a
carelessness that nearly overset it, and in trying to reach an egg
from the centre of the table, broke two. He took no notice of his own
awkwardness, but drank his cup of tea at a single draught, ate his egg
in the same expeditious manner, and went on talking of the "Noctes,"
and Lockhart, and Blackwood, as if eating his breakfast were rather a
troublesome parenthesis in his conversation.' Wilson offered to give
his guest letters to Wordsworth and Southey, if he intended to return
by the Lakes. 'I lived a long time in their neighbourhood,' he said,
'and know Wordsworth perhaps as well as any one. Many a day I have
walked over the hills with him, and listened to his repetition of his
own poetry, which, of course, filled my mind completely at the time,
and perhaps started the poetical vein in me, though I cannot agree
with the critics that my poetry is an imitation of Wordsworth's.'

'Did Wordsworth repeat any other poetry than his own?'

'Never in a single instance, to my knowledge. He is remarkable for the
manner in which he is wrapped up in his own poetical life. Everything
ministers to it. Everything is done with reference to it. He is all
and only a poet.'

'What is Southey's manner of life?'

'Walter Scott said of him that he lived too much with women. He is
secluded in the country, and surrounded by a circle of admiring
friends, who glorify every literary project he undertakes, and
persuade him, in spite of his natural modesty, that he can do nothing
wrong. He has great genius, and is a most estimable man.'

On the same day that he breakfasted with Wilson, this fortunate
tourist dined with Jeffrey, with whom Lord Brougham was staying.
Unluckily, Brougham was absent, at a public dinner given to Lord Grey,
who also happened to be in Edinburgh at the time. Willis was charmed
with Jeffrey, with his frank smile, hearty manner, and graceful style
of putting a guest at his ease. But he cared less for the political
conversation at table. 'It had been my lot,' he says, 'to be thrown
principally among Tories (_Conservatives_ is the new name) since
my arrival in England, and it was difficult to rid myself at once of
the impressions of a fortnight passed in the castle of a Tory earl. My
sympathies on the great and glorious occasion [the Whig dinner to Lord
Grey] were slower than those of the rest of the company, and much of
their enthusiasm seemed to me overstrained. Altogether, I entered less
into the spirit of the hour than I could have wished. Politics are
seldom witty or amusing; and though I was charmed with the good sense
and occasional eloquence of Lord Jeffrey, I was glad to get upstairs
to _chasse-café_ and the ladies.'

Willis aggravated a temporary lameness by dancing at the ball that
followed the Whig banquet, and was compelled to abandon a charming
land-route north that he had mapped out, and allow himself to be taken
'this side up' on a steamer to Aberdeen. Here he took coach for
Fochabers, and thence posted to Gordon Castle. At the castle he found
himself in the midst of a most distinguished company; the page who
showed him to his room running over the names of Lord Aberdeen and
Lord Claude Hamilton, the Duchess of Richmond and her daughter, Lady
Sophia Lennox, Lord and Lady Stormont, Lord and Lady Mandeville, Lord
and Lady Morton, Lord Aboyne, Lady Keith, and twenty other lesser
lights. The duke himself came to fetch his guest before dinner, and
presented him to the duchess and the rest of the party. In a letter to
Lady Blessington Willis says: 'I am delighted with the duke and
duchess. He is a delightful, hearty old fellow, full of fun and
conversation, and she is an uncommonly fine woman, and, without
beauty, has something agreeable in her countenance. _Pour
moi-méme_, I get on better everywhere than in your presence. I only
fear I talk too much; but all the world is particularly civil to me,
and among a score of people, no one of whom I had ever seen yesterday,
I find myself quite at home to-day.'

The ten days at Gordon Castle Willis afterwards set apart in his
memory as 'a bright ellipse in the usual procession of joys and
sorrows.' He certainly made the most of this unique opportunity of
observing the manners and customs of the great. The routine of life at
the castle was what each guest chose to make it. 'Between breakfast
and lunch,' he writes, 'the ladies were usually invisible, and the
gentlemen rode, or shot, or played billiards. At two o'clock a dish or
two of hot game and a profusion of cold meats were set on small
tables, and everybody came in for a kind of lounging half meal, which
occupied perhaps an hour. Thence all adjourned to the drawing-room,
under the windows of which were drawn up carriages of all
descriptions, with grooms, outriders, footmen, and saddle-horses for
gentlemen and ladies. Parties were then made up for driving or riding,
and from a pony-chaise to a phaeton and four, there was no class of
vehicle that was not at your disposal. In ten minutes the carriages
were all filled, and away they flew, some to the banks of the Spey or
the seaside, some to the drives in the park, and all with the
delightful consciousness that speed where you would, the horizon
scarce limited the possessions of your host, and you were everywhere
at home. The ornamental gates flying open at your approach; the herds
of red deer trooping away from the sound of your wheels; the stately
pheasants feeding tamely in the immense preserves; the stalking
gamekeepers lifting their hats in the dark recesses of the
forest--there was something in this perpetual reminder of your
privileges which, as a novelty, was far from disagreeable. I could
not, at the time, bring myself to feel, what perhaps would be more
poetical and republican, that a ride in the wild and unfenced forest
of my own country would have been more to my taste.'

Willis came to the conclusion that a North American Indian, in his
more dignified phase, closely resembled an English nobleman in manner,
since it was impossible to astonish either. All violent sensations, he
observes, are avoided in high life. 'In conversation nothing is so
"odd" (a word that in English means everything disagreeable) as
emphasis, or a startling epithet, or gesture, and in common
intercourse nothing is so vulgar as any approach to "a scene." For all
extraordinary admiration, the word "capital" suffices; for all
ordinary praise, the word "nice"; for all condemnation in morals,
manners, or religion, the word "odd.".... What is called an
overpowering person is immediately shunned, for he talks too much, and
excites too much attention. In any other country he would be
considered amusing. He is regarded here as a monopoliser of the
general interest, and his laurels, talk he never so well, overshadow
the rest of the company.'

On leaving Gordon Castle, Willis crossed Scotland by the Caledonian
Canal, and from Fort William jolted in a Highland cart through Glencoe
to Tarbet on Lomond. Thence the regulation visits were paid to Loch
Katrine, the Trossachs and Callander. Another stay at Dalhousie Castle
gave the tourist an opportunity of seeing Abbotsford, where he heard
much talk of Sir Walter Scott. Lord Dalhousie had many anecdotes to
tell of Scott's school-days, and Willis recalled some reminiscences of
the Wizard that he had heard from Moore in London. 'Scott was the soul
of honesty,' Moore had said. 'When I was on a visit to him, we were
coming up from Kelso at sunset, and as there was to be a fine moon, I
quoted to him his own rule for seeing "fair Melrose aright," and
proposed to stay an hour and enjoy it. "Bah," said Scott. "I never saw
it by moonlight." We went, however, and Scott, who seemed to be on the
most familiar terms with the cicerone, pointed to an empty niche, and
said to him: "I think I have a Virgin and Child that will just do for
your niche. I'll send it to you." "How happy you have made that man,"
I said. "Oh," said Scott, "it was always in the way, and Madam Scott
is constantly grudging it house-room. We're well rid of it." Any other
man would have allowed himself at least the credit of a kind action.'

After a stay at a Lancashire country-house, Willis arrived at
Liverpool, where he got his first sight of the newly-opened railway to
Manchester. In the letters and journals of the period, it is rather
unusual to come upon any allusion to the great revolution in
land-travelling. We often read of our grandfathers' astonishment at
the steam-packets that crossed the Atlantic in a fortnight, but they
seem to have slid into the habit of travelling by rail almost as a
matter of course, much as their descendants have taken to touring in
motor-cars. Willis the observant, however, has left on record his
sensations during his first journey by rail.

'Down we dived into the long tunnel,' he relates, 'emerging from the
darkness at a pace that made my hair sensibly tighten, and hold on
with apprehension. Thirty miles in the hour is pleasant going when one
is a little accustomed to it, it gives one such a pleasant contempt
for time and distance. The whizzing past of the return trains, going
in the opposite direction with the same degree of velocity--making you
recoil in one second, and a mile off the next--was the only thing
which, after a few minutes, I did not take to very kindly.'

Willis adds to our obligations by reporting the cries of the newsboys
at the Elephant and Castle, where all the coaches to and from the
South stopped for twenty minutes. On the occasion that our traveller
passed through, the boys were crying 'Noospipper, sir! Buy the morning
pippers, sir! _Times, Herald, Chrinnicle,_ and _Munning Post_,
sir--contains Lud Brum's entire innihalation of Lud Nummanby--Ledy
Flor 'Estings' murder by Lud Melbun and the Maids of Honour--debate
on the Croolty-Hannimals Bill, and a fatil catstrophy in conskens
of loosfer matches! Sixpence, only sixpence!'

In November Willis returned to London, and took lodgings in Vigo
Street. During the next ten months he seems to have done a good deal
of work for the magazines, and to have been made much of in society as
a literary celebrity. His stories and articles, which appeared in the
_New Monthly Magazine_ under the pseudonym of Philip Slingsby,
were eagerly read by the public of that day. He was presented at
court, admitted to the Athenacum and Travellers' Clubs, and patronised
by Lady Charlotte Bury and Lady Stepney, ladies who were in the habit
of writing bad novels, and giving excellent dinners. Madden, Lady
Blessington's biographer, who saw a good deal of Willis at this time,
says that he was an extremely agreeable young man, somewhat
over-dressed, and a little too _démonstratif_, but abounding in
good spirits. 'He was observant and communicative, lively and clever
in conversation, having the peculiar art of making himself agreeable
to ladies, old and young, _dégagé_ in his manner, and on exceedingly
good terms with himself.'

Not only had Willis the _entrée_ into fashionable Bohemia, but he
was well received in many families of unquestionable respectability.
Elderly and middle-aged ladies were especially attracted by his
flattering attentions and deferential manners, and at this time two of
his most devoted friends were Mrs. Shaw of the Manor House, Lee, a
daughter of Lord Erskine, and Mrs. Skinner of Shirley Park, the wife
of an Indian nabob. Their houses were always open to him, and he says
in a letter to his mother: 'I have two homes in England where I am
loved like a child. I had a letter from Mrs. Shaw, who thought I
looked low-spirited at the opera the other night. "Young men have but
two causes of unhappiness," she writes, "love and money. If it is
_money_, Mr. Shaw wishes me to say you shall have as much as you
want; if it is _love_, tell us the lady, and perhaps we can help
you." I spend my Sundays alternately at their splendid country-house,
and at Mrs. Skinner's, and they can never get enough of me. I am often
asked if I carry a love-philter with me.'

At Shirley Park, Willis struck up a friendship with Jane Porter, and
made the acquaintance of Lady Morgan, Praed, John Leech, and Martin
Tupper. Mrs. Skinner professed to be extremely anxious to find him a
suitable wife, and in a confidential letter to her, he writes: 'You
say if you had a daughter you would give her to me. If you _had_
one, I should certainly take you at your word, provided this
_exposé_ of my poverty did not change your fancy. I should like
to marry in England, and I feel every day that my best years and best
affections are running to waste. I am proud to _be_ an American,
but as a literary man, I would rather _live_ in England. So if
you know of any affectionate and _good_ girl who would be content
to live a quiet life, and could love your humble servant, you have
full power to dispose of me, _provided_ she has five hundred a
year, or as much more as she likes. I know enough of the world to cut
my throat, rather than bring a delicate woman down to a dependence on
my brains for support.'

In March of this year, 1835, Willis produced his _Melanie, and other
Poems_, which was 'edited' by Barry Cornwall. He received the
honour of a parody in the _Bon Gaultier Ballads_, entitled 'The
Fight with the Snapping Turtle, or the American St. George.' In this
ballad Willis and Bryant are represented as setting out to kill the
Snapping Turtle, spurred on by the offer of a hundred dollars reward.
The turtle swallows Willis, but is thereupon taken ill, and having
returned him to earth again, dies in great agony. When he claims the
reward, he is informed that:--

'Since you dragged the tarnal crittur
From the bottom of the ponds,
Here's the hundred dollars due you
_All in Pennsylvanian bonds._'

At the end of the poem is a drawing of a pair of stocks, labelled 'The
only good American securities,' Willis seems to have been too busy to
Boswellise this season, but we get a glimpse of him in his letters to
Miss Mitford, and one or two of the notes in his diary are worth
quoting. On April 22 he writes to the author of _Our Village_ in
his usual flattering style: 'I am anxious to see your play and your
next book, and I quite agree with you that the drama is your
_pied_, though I think laurels, and spreading ones, are sown for
you in every department of writing. Nobody ever wrote better prose,
and what could not the author of _Rienzi_ do in verse. For
myself, I am far from considering myself regularly embarked in
literature, and if I can live without it, or ply any other vocation,
shall vote it a thankless trade, and save my "entusymussy" for my wife
and children--when I get them. I am at present steeped to the lips in
London society, going to everything, from Devonshire House to a
publisher's dinner in Paternoster Row, and it is not a bad _olla
podrida_ of life and manners. I dote on "England and true English,"
and was never so happy, or so at a loss to find a minute for care or

In his diary for June 30, Willis notes: 'Breakfasted with Samuel
Rogers. Talked of Mrs. Butler's book, and Rogers gave us suppressed
passages. Talked critics, and said that as long as you cast a shadow,
you were sure that you possessed substance. Coleridge said of Southey,
"I never think of him but as mending a pen." Southey said of
Coleridge, "Whenever anything presents itself to him in the form of a
duty, that moment he finds himself incapable of looking at it."' On
July 9 we have the entry: 'Dined with Dr. Beattie, and met Thomas
Campbell.... He spoke of Scott's slavishness to men of rank, but said
it did not interfere with his genius. Said it sunk a man's heart to
think that he and Byron were dead, and there was nobody left to praise
or approve.... He told a story of dining with Burns and a Bozzy
friend, who, when Campbell proposed the health of _Mr_. Burns,
said, "Sir, you will always be known as _Mr_. Campbell, but
posterity will talk of _Burns_." He was playful and amusing, and
drank gin and water.'

While staying with the Skinners in August, Willis met his fate in the
person of Miss Mary Stace, daughter of a General Stace. After a week's
acquaintance he proposed to her, and was accepted. She was, we are
told, a beauty of the purest Saxon type, with a bright complexion,
blue eyes, light-brown hair, and delicate, regular features. Her
disposition was clinging and affectionate, and she had enjoyed the
religious bringing up that her lover thought of supreme importance to
a woman. General Stace agreed to allow his daughter £300 a year, which
with the £400 that Willis made by his pen, was considered a sufficient
income for the young couple to start housekeeping upon.

Willis, who had promised to pay Miss Mitford a visit in the autumn,
writes to her on September 22, to explain that all his plans were
altered. 'Just before starting with Miss Jane Porter on a tour that
was to include Reading,' he says, 'I went to a picnic, fell in love
with a blue-eyed girl, and (after running the gauntlet successfully
through France, Italy, Greece, Germany, Asia Minor, and Turkey) I
renewed my youth, and became "a suitor for love." I am to be married
(_sequitur_) on Thursday week.... The lady who is to take me, as
the Irish say, "in a present," is some six years younger than myself,
gentle, religious, relying, and unambitious. She has never been
whirled through the gay society of London, so is not giddy or vain.
She has never swum in a gondola, or written a sonnet, so has a proper
respect for those who have. She is called pretty, but is more than
that in _my_ eyes; sings as if her heart were hid in her lips,
and _loves_ me.... We are bound to Paris for a month (because I
think amusement better than reflection when a woman makes a doubtful
bargain), and by November we return to London for the winter, and in
the spring sail for America to see my mother. I have promised to live
mainly on this side of the water, and shall return in the course of a
year to try what contentment may be sown and reaped in a green lane in

While the happy pair were on their honeymoon, Lady Blessington had
undertaken to see the _Pencillings by the Way_ through the press.
For the first edition Willis received £250, but he made, from first to
last, about a thousand pounds by the book. Its appearance in volume
form had been anticipated by Lockhart's scathing review in the
_Quarterly_ for September 1835. The critic, annoyed at Willis's
strictures on himself in the interview with Professor Wilson, attacked
the _Pencillings_, as they had appeared in the _New York Mirror_,
with all proper names printed in full, and many personal
details that were left out in the English edition. Lockhart always
knew how to stab a man in the tenderest place, and he stabbed Willis
in his gentility. After pointing out that while visiting in London and
the provinces as a young American sonneteer of the most
ultra-sentimental delicacy, the Penciller was all the time the regular
paid correspondent of a New York Journal, he observes that the letters
derive their powers of entertainment chiefly from the light that they
reflect upon the manners and customs of the author's own countrymen,
since, from his sketches of English interiors, the reader may learn
what American breakfast, dinners, and table-talk are _not_; or at
all events what they were not in those circles of American society
with which the writer happened to be familiar.

'Many of _this person's_ discoveries,' continues Lockhart,
warming to his work, 'will be received with ridicule in his own
country, where the doors of the best houses were probably not opened
to him as liberally as those of the English nobility. In short, we are
apt to consider him as a just representative--not of the American mind
and manners generally--but only of the young men of fair education
among the busy, middling orders of mercantile cities. In his letters
from Gordon Castle there are bits of solid, full-grown impudence and
impertinence; while over not a few of the paragraphs is a varnish of
conceited vulgarity which is too ludicrous to be seriously
offensive.... We can well believe that Mr. Willis depicted the sort of
society that most interests his countrymen, "born to be slaves and
struggling to be lords," their servile adulation of rank and talent;
their stupid admiration of processions and levees, are leading
features of all the American books of travel.... We much doubt if all
the pretty things we have quoted will so far propitiate Lady
Blessington as to make her again admit to her table the animal who has
printed what ensues. [Here follows the report of Moore's conversation
on the subject of O'Connell.] As far as we are acquainted with English
or American literature, this is the first example of a man creeping
into your home, and forthwith, before your claret is dry on his lips,
printing _table-talk on delicate subjects, and capable of
compromising individuals_.'

The _Quarterly_ having thus given the lead, the rest of the Tory
magazines gaily followed suit. Maginn flourished his shillelagh, and
belaboured his victim with a brutality that has hardly ever been
equalled, even by the pioneer journals of the Wild West. 'This is a
goose of a book,' he begins, 'or if anybody wishes the idiom changed,
the book of a goose. There is not an idea in it beyond what might
germinate in the brain of a washerwoman.' He then proceeds to call the
author by such elegant names as 'lickspittle,' 'beggarly skittler,'
jackass, ninny, haberdasher, 'fifty-fifth rate scribbler of
gripe-visited sonnets,' and 'namby-pamby writer in twaddling albums
kept by the mustachioed widows or bony matrons of Portland Place.'

The people whose hospitality Willis was accused of violating wrote to
assure him of the pleasure his book had given them. Lord Dalhousie
writes: 'We all agree in one sentiment, that a more amusing and
delightful production was never issued by the press. The Duke and
Duchess of Gordon were here lately, and expressed themselves in
similar terms.' Lady Blessington did not withdraw her friendship, but
Willis admits, in one of his letters, that he had no deeper regret
than that his indiscretion should have checked the freedom of his
approach to her. As a result of the slashing reviews, the book sold
with the readiness of a _succés de scandale_, though it had been
so rigorously edited for the English market, that very few
indiscretions were left.

The unexpurgated version of the _Pencillings_ was, however,
copied into the English papers and eagerly read by the persons most
concerned, such as Fonblanque, who bitterly complained of the libel
upon his personal appearance, O'Connell, who broke off his lifelong
friendship with Moore, and Captain Marryat, who was furious at the
remark that his 'gross trash' sold immensely in Wapping. Like
Lockhart, he revenged himself by an article in his own magazine, the
_Metropolitan_, in which he denounced Willis as a 'spurious
attaché,' and made dark insinuations against his birth and parentage.
This attack was too personal to be ignored. Willis demanded an
apology, to which Marryat replied with a challenge, and after a long
correspondence, most of which found its way into the _Times_, a
duel was fixed to take place at Chatham. At the last moment the
seconds managed to arrange matters between their principals, and the
affair ended without bloodshed. This was fortunate for Willis, who was
little used to fire-arms, whilst Marryat was a crack shot.

In his preface to the first edition of the _Pencillings_ Willis
explains that the ephemeral nature and usual obscurity of periodical
correspondence gave a sufficient warrant to his mind that his
descriptions would die where they first saw the light, and that
therefore he had indulged himself in a freedom of detail and topic
only customary in posthumous memoirs. He expresses his astonishment
that this particular sin should have been visited upon him at a
distance of three thousand miles, when the _Quarterly_ reviewer's
own fame rested on the more aggravated instance of a book of
personalities published under the very noses of the persons described
(_Peter's Letters to his Kinsfolk_). After observing that he was
little disposed to find fault, since everything in England pleased
him, he proceeds: 'In one single instance I indulged myself in
strictures upon individual character.... I but repeated what I had
said a thousand times, and never without an indignant echo to its
truth, that the editor of that Review was the most unprincipled critic
of the age. Aside from its flagrant literary injustice, we owe to the
_Quarterly_ every spark of ill-feeling that has been kept alive
between England and America for the last twenty years. The sneers, the
opprobrious epithets of this bravo of literature have been received in
a country where the machinery of reviewing was not understood, as the
voice of the English people, and animosity for which there was no
other reason has been thus periodically fed and exasperated. I
conceive it to be my duty as a literary man--I _know_ it is my
duty as an American--to lose no opportunity of setting my heel on this
reptile of criticism. He has turned and stung me. Thank God, I have
escaped the slime of his approbation.'

The winter was spent in London, and in the following March Willis
brought out his _Inklings of Adventure_, a reprint of the stories
that had appeared in various magazines over the signature of Philip
Slingsby. These were supposed to be real adventures under a thin
disguise of fiction, and the public eagerly read the tawdry little
tales in the hope of discovering the identities of the _dramatis
personæ_. The majority of the 'Inklings' deal with the romantic
adventures of a young literary man who wins the affection of high-born
ladies, and is made much of in aristrocratic circles. The author
revels in descriptions of luxurious boudoirs in which recline
voluptuous blondes or exquisite brunettes, with hearts always at the
disposal of the all-conquering Philip Slingsby. Fashionable fiction,
however, was unable to support the expense of a fashionable
establishment, and in May 1836 the couple sailed for America. Willis
hoped to obtain a diplomatic appointment, and return to Europe for
good, but all his efforts were vain, and he was obliged to rely on his
pen for a livelihood. His first undertaking was the letterpress for an
illustrated volume on American scenery; and for some months he
travelled about the country with the artist who was responsible for
the illustrations. On one of his journeys he fell in love with a
pretty spot on the banks of the Owego Creek, near the junction with
the Susquehanna, and bought a couple of hundred acres and a house,
which he named Glenmary after his wife.

Here the pair settled down happily for some five years, and here
Willis wrote his pleasant, gossiping _Letters from Under a
Bridge_ for the _New York Mirror_. In these he prattled of his
garden, his farm, his horses and dogs, and the strangers within his
gates. Unfortunately, he was unable to devote much attention to his
farm, which was said to grow nothing but flowers of speed, but was
forced to spend more and more time in the editorial office, and to
write hastily and incessantly for a livelihood. In 1839, owing to a
temporary coolness with the proprietor of the _Mirror_, Willis
accepted the proposal of his friend, Dr. Porter, that he should start
a new weekly paper called the _Corsair_, one of a whole crop of
pirate weeklies that started up with the establishment of the first
service of Atlantic liners. In May 1839 the first steam-vessel that
had crossed the ocean anchored in New York Harbour, and thenceforward
it was possible to obtain supplies from the European literary markets
within a fortnight of publication. It was arranged between Dr. Parker
and Willis that the cream of the contemporary literature of England,
France, and Germany should be conveyed to the readers of the
_Corsair_, and of course there was no question of payment to the
authors whose wares were thus appropriated.

The first number of the _Corsair_ appeared in January 1839, but
apparently piracy was not always a lucrative trade, for the paper had
an existence of little more than a year. In the course of its brief
career, however, Willis paid a flying visit to England, where he
accomplished a great deal of literary business. He had written a play
called _The Usurer Matched_, which was brought out by Wallack at
the Surrey Theatre, and is said to have been played to crowded houses
during a fairly long run, but neither this nor any of his other plays
brought the author fame or fortune. During this season he published
his _Loiterings of Travel_, a collection of stories and sketches,
a fourth edition of the _Pencillings_, an English edition of
_Letters from Under a Bridge_, and arranged with Virtue for works
on Irish and Canadian scenery. In addition to all this, he was
contributing jottings in London to the _Corsair_. As might be
supposed, he had not much time for society, but he met a few old
friends, made acquaintance with Kemble and Kean, went to a ball at
Almack's, and was present at the famous Eglinton Tournament, which
watery catastrophe he described for his paper. One of the most
interesting of his new acquaintances was Thackeray, then chiefly
renowned as a writer for the magazines. On July 26 Willis writes to
Dr. Porter:--

'I have engaged a new contributor to the _Corsair_. Who do you
think? The author of _Yellowplush_ and _Major Gahagan_. He has
gone to Paris, and will write letters from there, and afterwards
from London for a guinea a _close_ column of the _Corsair_--cheaper
than I ever did anything in my life. For myself, I think him the
very best periodical writer alive. He is a royal, daring, fine
creature too.' In his published _Jottings_, Willis told his readers
that 'Mr. Thackeray, the author, breakfasted with me yesterday,
and the _Corsair_ will be delighted to hear that I have engaged
this cleverest and most gifted of all the magazine-writers of
London to become _a regular correspondent of the Corsair_....
Thackeray is a tall, athletic-looking man of about forty-five
[he was actually only eight-and-twenty], with a look of talent that
could never be mistaken. He is one of the most accomplished
draughtsmen in England, as well as the most brilliant of
periodical writers.' Thackeray only wrote eight letters for the
_Corsair_, which were afterwards republished in his _Paris
Sketch-book_. There is an allusion to this episode in _The
Adventures of Philip_, the hero being invited to contribute to a
New York journal called _The Upper Ten Thousand_, a phrase
invented by Willis.

When the _Corsair_ came to an untimely end, Willis had no
difficulty in finding employment on other papers. He is said to have
been the first American magazine-writer who was tolerably well paid,
and at one time he was making about a thousand a year by periodical
work. That his name was already celebrated among his own countrymen
seems to be proved by the story of a commercial gentleman at a Boston
tea-party who 'guessed that Goethe was the N.P. Willis of Germany.'
The tales written about this time were afterwards collected into a
volume called _Dashes at Life with a Free Pencil_. Thackeray made
great fun of this work in the _Edinburgh Review_ for October
1845, more especially of that portion called 'The Heart-book of Ernest
Clay.' 'Like Caesar,' observed Thackeray, 'Ernest Clay is always
writing of his own victories. Duchesses pine for him, modest virgins
go into consumption and die for him, old grandmothers of sixty forget
their families and their propriety, and fall on the neck of this "Free
Pencil."' He quotes with delight the description of a certain Lady
Mildred, one of Ernest Clay's numerous loves, who glides into the room
at a London tea-party, 'with a step as elastic as the nod of a
water-lily. A snowy turban, from which hung on either temple a cluster
of crimson camellias still wet with the night-dew; long raven curls of
undisturbed grace falling on shoulders of that indescribable and dewy
coolness which follows a morning bath.' How naively, comments the
critic, does this nobleman of nature recommend the use of this rare

In spite of his popularity, Willis's affairs were not prospering at
this time. He had received nothing from the estate of his
father-in-law, who died in 1839, his publisher failed in 1842, and he
was obliged to sell Glenmary and remove to New York, whence he had
undertaken to send a fortnightly letter to a paper at Washington. This
was the year of Dickens's visit to America, and Willis was present at
the 'Boz Ball,' where he danced with Mrs. Dickens, to whom he
afterwards did the honours of Broadway. In 1843 Willis made up his
difference with Morris, and again became joint-editor of the
_Mirror_, which, a year later, was changed from a weekly to a
daily paper. His contributions to the journal consisted of stories,
poems, letters, book-notices, answers to correspondents, and editorial
gossip of all kinds.

In March 1845 Mrs. Willis died in her confinement, leaving her
(temporarily) broken-hearted husband with one little girl. 'An angel
without fault or foible' was his epitaph upon the woman to whom, in
spite of his many fictitious _bonnes fortunes_, he is said to
have been faithfully attached. But Willis was not born to live alone,
and in the following summer he fell in love with a Miss Cornelia
Grinnell at Washington, and was married to her in October, 1846. The
second Mrs. Willis was nearly twenty years younger than her husband,
but she was a sensible, energetic young woman, who made him an
excellent wife.

The title of the _Mirror_ had been changed to that of _The Home
Journal_, and under its new name it became a prosperous paper.
Willis, who was the leading spirit of the enterprise, set himself to
portray the town, chronicling plays, dances, picture-exhibitions,
sights and entertainments of all kinds in the airy manner that was so
keenly appreciated by his countrymen. He was recognised as an
authority on fashion, and his correspondence columns were crowded with
appeals for guidance in questions of dress and etiquette. He was also
a favourite in general society, though he is said to have been, next
to Fenimore Cooper, the best-abused man of letters in America. One of
his most pleasing characteristics was his ready appreciation and
encouragement of young writers, for he was totally free from
professional jealousy. He was the literary sponsor of Aldrich, Bayard
Taylor, and Lowell, among others, and the last-named alludes to Willis
in his _Fable for Critics_ (1848) in the following flattering

'His nature's a glass of champagne with the foam on't,
As tender as Fletcher, as witty as Beaumont;
So his best things are done in the heat of the moment.
* * * * *
He'd have been just the fellow to sup at the 'Mermaid,'
Cracking jokes at rare Ben, with an eye to the barmaid,
His wit running up as Canary ran down,--
The topmost bright bubble on the wave of the town.'

After 1846 Willis wrote little except gossiping paragraphs and other
ephemera. In answer to remonstrances against this method of frittering
away his talents, he was accustomed to reply that the public liked
trifles, and that he was bound to go on 'buttering curiosity with the
ooze of his brains.' He read but little in later life, nor associated
with men of high intellect or serious aims, but showed an
ever-increasing preference for the frivolous and the feminine. In 1850
he published another volume of little magazine stories called
_People I have Met_. This appeared in London as well as in New
York, and Thackeray again revenged himself for that close column which
had been rewarded by an uncertain guinea, by holding up his former
editor to ridicule. With mischievous delight he describes the
amusement that is to be found in N.P. Willis's society, 'amusement at
the immensity of N.P.'s blunders; amusement at the prodigiousness of
his self-esteem; amusement always with or at Willis the poet, Willis
the man, Willis the dandy, Willis the lover--now the Broadway
Crichton--once the ruler of fashion and heart-enslaver of Bond Street,
and the Boulevard, and the Corso, and the Chiaja, and the
Constantinople Bazaars. It is well for the general peace of families
that the world does not produce many such men; there would be no
keeping our wives and daughters in their senses were such fascinators
to make frequent apparitions among us; but it is comfortable that
there should have been a Willis; and as a literary man myself, and
anxious for the honour of that profession, I am proud to think that a
man of our calling should have come, should have seen, should have
conquered as Willis has done.... There is more or less of truth, he
nobly says, in these stories--more or less truth, to be sure there
is--and it is on account of this more or less truth that I for my part
love and applaud this hero and poet. We live in our own country, and
don't know it; Willis walks into it, and dominates it at once. To know
a duchess, for instance, is given to very few of us. He sees things
that are not given to us to see. We see the duchess in her carriage,
and gaze with much reverence on the strawberry-leaves on the panels,
and her grace within; whereas the odds are that that lovely duchess
has had, one time or the other, a desperate flirtation with Willis the
Conqueror. Perhaps she is thinking of him at this very moment, as her
jewelled hand presses her perfumed handkerchief to her fair and
coroneted brow, and she languidly stops to purchase a ruby bracelet at
Gunter's, or to sip an ice at Howell and James's. He must have whole
mattresses stuffed with the blonde or raven or auburn tresses of
England's fairest daughters. When the female English aristocracy read
the title of _People I have Met_, I can fancy the whole female
peerage of Willis's time in a shudder; and the melancholy marchioness,
and the abandoned countess, and the heart-stricken baroness trembling
as each gets the volume, and asks of her guilty conscience, "Gracious
goodness, is the monster going to show up me?"'

In 1853 Willis, who had been obliged to travel for the benefit of his
declining health, took a fancy to the neighbourhood of the Hudson, and
bought fifty acres of waste land, upon which he built himself a house,
and called the place Idlewild. Here he settled down once more to a
quiet country life, took care of his health, cultivated his garden,
and wrote long weekly letters to the _Home Journal_. He had by
this time five children, middle age had stolen upon him, and now that
he could no longer pose as his own allconquering hero, his hand seems
to have lost its cunning. His editorial articles, afterwards published
under the appropriate title of _Ephemera_, grew thinner and
flatter with the passing of the years; yet slight and superficial as
the best of them are, they were the result of very hard writing. His
manuscripts were a mass of erasures and interlineations, but his copy
was so neatly prepared that even the erasures had a sort of 'wavy
elegance' which the compositors actually preferred to print. His
mannerisms and affectations grew upon him in his later years, and he
became more and more addicted to the coining of new words and phrases,
only a few of which proved effective. Besides the now well-worn term,
the 'upper ten thousand,' he is credited with the invention of
'Japonicadom,' 'come-at-able,' and 'stay-at-home-ativeness.' One or
two of his sayings may be worth quoting, such as his request for
Washington Irving's blotting-book, because it was the door-mat on
which the thoughts of his last book had wiped their sandals before
they went in; and his remark that to ask a literary man to write a
letter after his day's work was like asking a penny-postman to take a
walk in the evening for the pleasure of it.

On the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Willis went to Washington as
war-correspondent of his paper. It does not appear that he saw any
harder service than the dinners and receptions of the capitol, since
an opportune fit of illness prevented his following the army to Bull's
Run. The correspondent who took his place on the march had his career
cut short by a Southern bullet. Willis, meanwhile, was driving about
with Mrs. Lincoln, with whom he became a favourite, although she
reproached him for his want of tact in speaking of her 'motherly
expression' in one of his published letters, she being at that time
only thirty-six. He met Hawthorne at Washington, and describes him as
very shy and reserved in manner, but adds, 'I found he was a lover of
mine, and we enjoyed our acquaintance very much.' One of the minor
results of the great Civil War was the extinguishing of Willis's
literary reputation; his frothy trifling suddenly became obsolete when
men had sterner things to think about than the cut of a coat, or the
etiquette of a morning call. The nation began to demand realities,
even in its fiction, the circulation of the _Home Journal_ fell
off, and Willis, who had always affected a horror of figures and
business matters generally, found himself in financial difficulties.
He was obliged to let Idlewild, and return, in spite of his rapidly
failing health, to the editorial office at New York.

The last few years of Willis's career afford a melancholy contrast to
its brilliant opening. Health, success, prosperity--all had deserted
him, and nothing remained but the editorial chair, to which he clung
even after epileptic attacks had resulted in paralysis and gradual
softening of the brain. The failure of his mental powers was kept
secret as long as possible, but in November, 1866, he yielded to the
entreaties of his wife and children, knocked off work for ever, and
went home to die. His last few months were passed in helpless
weakness, and he only occasionally recognised those around him. The
end came on January 20, 1867, his sixty-first birthday.

Selections from Willis's prose works have been published within recent
years in America, and a new edition of his poems has appeared in
England, while a carefully written Life by Mr. De Beers is included in
the series of 'American Men of Letters.' But in this country at least
his fame, such as it is, will rest upon his sketches of such
celebrities as Lamb, Moore, Bulwer, D'Orsay, and D'Israeli. As long as
we retain any interest in them and their works, we shall like to know
how they looked and dressed, and what they talked about in private
life. It is impossible altogether to approve of the Penciller--his
absurdities were too marked, and his indiscretions too many--yet it is
probable that few who have followed his meteor-like career will be
able to refrain from echoing Thackeray's dictum: 'It is comfortable
that there should have been a Willis!'



[Illustration: Lady Hester Stanhope from a drawing by R. J. Hamerton]

There are few true stories that are distinguished by a well-marked
moral. If we study human chronicles we generally find the ungodly
flourishing permanently like a green bay-tree, and the righteous
apparently forsaken and begging his bread. But it occasionally happens
that a human life illustrates some moral lesson with the triteness and
crudity of a Sunday-school book, and of such is the career of Lady
Hester Stanhope, a Pitt on the mother's side, and more of a Pitt in
temper and disposition than her grandfather, the great Commoner
himself. Her story contains the useful but conventional lesson that
pride goeth before a fall, and that all earthly glory is but vanity,
together with a warning against the ambition that o'erleaps itself,
and ends in failure and humiliation. That humanity will profit by such
a lesson, whether true or invented for didactic purposes, is doubtful,
but at least Nature has done her best for once to usurp the seat of
the preacher, 'to point a moral and adorn a tale.' Lady Hester, who
was born on March 12,1776, was the eldest daughter of Charles, third
Earl of Stanhope, by his first wife Hester, daughter of the great Lord
Chatham. Lord Stanhope seems to have been an uncomfortable person, who
combined scientific research with democratic principles, and contrived
to quarrel with most of his family. In order to live up to his
theories he laid down his carriage and horses, effaced the armorial
bearings from his plate, and removed from his walls some famous
tapestry, because it was 'so d----d aristocratical.' If one of his
daughters happened to look better than usual in a becoming hat or
frock, he had the garment laid away, and something coarse put in its
place. The children were left almost entirely to the care of
governesses and tutors, their step-mother, the second Lady Stanhope (a
Grenville by birth) being a fashionable fine lady, who devoted her
whole time to her social duties, while Lord Stanhope was absorbed by
his scientific pursuits. The home was not a happy one, either for the
three girls of the first marriage, or for the three sons of the
second. In 1796 Rachel, the youngest daughter, eloped with a Sevenoaks
apothecary named Taylor, and was cast off by her family; and in 1800
Griselda, the second daughter, married a Mr. Tekell, of Hampshire. In
this year Hester left her home, which George III used to call
Democracy Hall, and went to live with her grandmother, the Dowager
Lady Stanhope.

On the death of Lady Stanhope in 1803, Lady Hester was offered a home
by her uncle, William Pitt, with whom she remained until his death in
1806. Pitt became deeply attached to his handsome, high-spirited
niece. He believed in her sincerity and affection for himself, admired
her courage and cleverness, laughed at her temper, and encouraged her
pride. She seems to have gained a considerable influence over her
uncle, and contrived to have a finger in most of the ministerial pies.
When reproached for allowing her such unreserved liberty of action in
state affairs, Pitt was accustomed to reply, 'I let her do as she
pleases; for if she were resolved to cheat the devil himself, she
would do it.' 'And so I would,' Lady Hester used to add, when she told
the story. If we may believe her own account, Pitt told her that she
was fit to sit between Augustus and Mæcenas, and assured her that 'I
have plenty of good diplomatists, but they are none of them military
men; and I have plenty of good officers, but not one of them is worth
sixpence in the cabinet. If you were a man, Hester, I would send you
on the Continent with 60,000 men, and give you _carte blanche_,
and I am sure that not one of my plans would fail, and not one soldier
would go with his boots unblacked.' This admiration, according to the
same authority, was shared by George III, who one day on the Terrace
at Windsor informed Mr. Pitt that he had got a new and superior
minister in his room, and one, moreover, who was a good general.
'There is my new minister,' he added, pointing at Lady Hester. 'There
is not a man in my kingdom who is a better politician, and there is
not a woman who better adorns her sex. And let me say, Mr. Pitt, you
have not reason to be proud you are a minister, for there have been
many before you, and will be many after you; but you have reason to be
proud of her, who unites everything that is great in man and woman.'

All this must, of course, be taken with grains of salt, but it is
certain that Lady Hester occupied a position of almost unparalleled
supremacy for a woman, that she dispensed patronage, lectured
ministers, and snubbed princes. On one occasion Lord Mulgrave, who had
just been appointed Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, found a
broken egg-spoon on the breakfast-table at Walmer, and asked, 'How can
Mr. Pitt have such a spoon as this?' 'Don't you know,' retorted Lady
Hester, 'that Mr. Pitt sometimes uses very slight and weak instruments
wherewith to effect his ends?' Again, when Mr. Addington wished to
take the title of Lord Raleigh, Lady Hester determined to prevent what
she regarded as a desecration of a great name. She professed to have
seen a caricature, which she minutely described, representing Mr.
Addington as Sir Walter Raleigh, and the King as Queen Elizabeth. Mr.
Pitt, believing the story, repeated it to Addington and others, with
the result that messengers were despatched to all the print-shops to
buy up the whole impression. Of course no such caricature was to be
found, but the prospective peer had received a fright, and chose the
inoffensive title of Lord Sidmouth. Lady Hester despised Lord
Liverpool for a well-meaning blunderer, but she hated and distrusted
Canning, whom she was accustomed to describe as a fiery, red-headed
Irish politician, who was never staunch to any person or any party;
and she declared that by her scoldings she had often made him blubber
like a schoolboy. It cannot be supposed that her ladyship was popular
with the numerous persons, high and low, who came under the ban of her
displeasure, or suffered from her pride; but she was young, handsome,
and witty, her position was unassailable, and as long as her uncle
chose to laugh at her insolence and her eccentricities, no lesser
power presumed to frown.

For her beauty in youth we must again take her own account on trust,
since she never consented to sit for her portrait, and in old age her
recollection of her vanished charms may have been coloured by some
pardonable exaggeration. 'At twenty,' she told a chronicler, 'my
complexion was like alabaster, and at five paces distant the sharpest
eyes could not discover my pearl necklace from my skin. My lips were
of such a beautiful carnation that, without vanity, I can assure you,
very few women had the like. A dark-blue shade under the eyes, and the
blue veins that were observable through the transparent skin,
heightened the brilliancy of my features. Nor were the roses wanting
in my cheeks; and to all this was added a permanency in my looks that
no sort of fatigue could impair.' She was fond of relating an anecdote
of a flattering impertinence on the part of Beau Brummell, who,

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