Part 3 out of 6
Sir Lumley Skeffington, of Skeffington Hall, Leicestershire, was a
celebrated votary of fashion. Descended from "Awly O'Farrell, King of
Conereene," and from innumerable Kings and Princes of Ireland, his ancient
lineage, as well as his pronounced dandyism, gave him a claim upon the
attentions of society, which was further augmented by his literary
pretensions. Nevertheless, he subsequently experienced a reverse of
fortune, typical of the days in which he lived; and of his rise and fall
John Stanhope gives a brief account.
"Poor Skeffington," he relates, "was the Dandy of the day, _par
excellence_. Remarkable for his ugliness, his dress was so exaggerated as
to render his lack of beauty the more marked. He was a very good-natured
man, and had nothing of the impertinence of manner of the fops who
succeeded him. Moreover, he was a _bel-esprit_, writing epilogues and
prologues, and was at one time the observed of all observers. I have seen
him at an assembly literally surrounded by a group of admiring ladies."
Skeffington, in short, in 1805, wrote a play entitled "The Sleeping
Beauty," which, produced at great expense at Drury Lane, gained for him
much fame among his contemporaries and caused him for a time to be looked
upon as a lion in the fashionable world. Enjoying to the full his
reputation as a literary celebrity, he elected to ape certain mannerisms
and eccentricities which he considered in keeping with this character.
"He," Gronow mentions, "used to paint his face like a French toy. He
dressed _a la Robespierre_ and practised other follies, although the
consummate old fop was a man of literary attainments, remarkable for his
politeness and courtly manners, in fact, he was invited everywhere. You
always knew of his approach by an _avant courier_ (sic) of sweet smells,
and as he advanced a little nearer, you might suppose yourself in the
atmosphere of a barber's shop."
Skeffington, after the publication of his play, was known by the nickname
of "The Sleeping Beauty," and a representation of him in that role John
Stanhope describes as "the best caricature I ever saw." Tall, thin, and a
complete slave to his toilet, Sir Lumley not only indulged in an abnormal
use of perfumes and cosmetics, but was incessantly to be seen combing his
scented tresses by the aid of a hand mirror, till it was suggested that
one of his Royal ancestors must have formed a _mesalliance_ with the
mermaid who most appropriately figured in his armorial bearings, similarly
employed. The extreme slimness of his figure was accentuated by a coat
which he made as famous as Lord Petersham did the garment called after his
name; and Byron added to the fame of the beau by mentioning him in the
satire "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers":--
And sure great Skeffington must claim our praise
For skirtless coats and skeletons of plays
Renowned alike; whose genius ne'er confines
Her flight to garnish Greenwood's gay designs,
Nor sleeps with 'Sleeping Beauties,' but anon
In five facetious Acts comes thundering on,
While poor John Bull, bewildered with the scene,
Stares, wondering what the devil it can mean.
[Illustration: CARICATURE OF SIR LUMLEY SKEFFINGTON AS "THE SLEEPING
Unfortunately, however, the harmless foibles of Sir Lumley were combined
with an unbounded extravagance which finally involved the luckless dandy
in a ruin as complete as it was pathetic. He disappeared from fashionable
life to undergo a dreary imprisonment, and when he at last issued thence,
the world which had showered blandishments upon him in his prosperity,
would have no more of him. In vain did he dress exquisitely, enunciate
witticisms and assume a gaiety of manner which he was far from feeling.
The friends who had courted his society before his downfall now shunned
his acquaintance, and a _bon-mot_ uttered at his expense elicited the
applause which his most happily-conceived jests failed to evoke. On some
stranger pointing out Skeffington to Lord Alvanley, and inquiring who was
that smart-looking individual, Alvanley responded with a wit more keen
than kind--"It is a second edition of 'The Sleeping Beauty,' bound in
calf, richly gilt and illustrated by _many cuts_."
For long did the luckless beau continue, with a pathetic persistence, to
haunt the scenes of his former triumph. At theatres, at picture auctions,
in the Park, and in all fashionable thoroughfares, he was a familiar
sight, still with the passing of years the butt of the contemporaries who
had once fawned upon him, and, as they gradually diminished, the standard
jest of a younger generation. With the flight of Time, the blackness of
his false ringlets never varied, the brilliant rouge of his cheeks, or the
strange costume which he had worn during the heyday of his existence, and
to which he clung after it had been obsolete for half a century. And with
each year his slim figure became yet thinner, his back more bent, and his
spindle legs more bowed, till at length the man who had been born early in
the reign of George III. witnessed the dawning of the year 1850; after
which the quaint figure of the once-famous Sir Lumley Skeffington was seen
[Illustration: MADAME CATALANI
_From an engraving by Carten in the collection of Mr A. M. Broadley._]
But of the fate which the future held for their guest, the Stanhopes can
little have dreamed when Sir Lumley dined with them a few months after the
production of his play and at the moment when his society was courted by
all his acquaintances. The little dinner party composed of so many
brilliant conversationalists was enjoyed by all present; the reaction
which it represented to the host and hostess after the comparatively quiet
week in Yorkshire was much appreciated by them; and two nights after the
entry respecting it, Mrs Stanhope records further gaieties:--
Marianne went to the Opera last night with the charming Miss Glyn. It
was thin & they were in their old box for the first time this season,
& that is so high up, no one found them out, but she saw Frank
Primrose  at a distance. The Opera is new done up and beautiful.
Catalani  is very good in the Comic Opera, & there is a new dancer
who is a scholar of Parisides, and dances delightfully. Kelly's room
 is no longer open, therefore, the only ways out are the great and
chair doors. However, one good has arisen--the large room has become
London is thin, & the only party I have heard of is one at Mrs Knox's
on the birthnight.
_Marianne Spencer-Stanhope to John Spencer-Stanhope._
_February 8th, 1807._
Yesterday, we dined at Sir Richard Glyn's.... Poor Dickey! he was more
forlorn than ever. I never did see such a little wooden puppet. He
speechified just in the way you used to say he did at Christ Church to
all the ladies in rotation. His chief business is getting chairs for
the company. I think the old description of a husband would very well
apply to him.... "_It is a thing that sits at the bottom of the
table & likes legs better than wings of Chicken._"
The Duke of Norfolk, Papa has heard, just after accepting the Lord
Lieutenancy of Surrey, at the Whig Club gave his old toasts--"The
Sovereignty of the People." We have seen the youngest Prince of
Holstein  & the tutor, as agreeable as usual. They heard of you at
Inverary, the bad news arrived while they were in Ireland, they
immediately set off for London, expecting to be ordered back to
Holstein; on the contrary, they found a letter recommending them to
stay quietly here. Papa means to give them a dinner. He dined the
other day at his College Club himself & Lord Moira who has promised to
meet the Princes here.
Papa is highly delighted with Mr Wilberforce's letter on the Slave
Trade; Ld. Grenville's speech on that subject, he says, was the finest
thing he ever heard.
Your love, Mrs Cator,  came to town for Court last Thursday. Miss
Glyn saw her, and informed her how you were smitten. She laughed very
hard and was much amused. She gives a curious account of the Cators &
of the people she lives with at Beckenham, she says, she never was
used to such people, at her uncle Sligo's;  but that Mr Cator 
has known them all his life & likes them. He proposed in a curious
manner. One day Miss Mahon said she must go & pack up her jewels. He
asked her how many she had. She said, "About twenty pounds' worth." He
said, "Well, I have about as many, suppose we club & put them
together." Which they forthwith decided to do!
Our Sunday dish, Frank Primrose, is here.... I suppose we shall have
him every Sunday till the family come to town. The Duchess of Gordon
has taken a house in this Square, opposite the Law's in Duke St. I saw
Kinnoull in the Pitt at the Opera last night. Our visitors were, the
Prince Auguste for about two hours, & Jack Smyth.  Young Prince
Estahazy  is one of the greatest beaux in town--he is of the first
family in Hungary. The Princess of Wales not going to the Drawing-room
was a sad disappointment. Some attribute it to the Prince, others
_hope_ it is her health. _Dieu Sait_.
_February 12th, 1807._
All the world is going to Court to-day, except us--& many hope to see
the Princess there. I believe they will be disappointed, as there is
some difficulty about her dressing in Carlton House & I suppose it
is thought proper she should not go from any other.
Lady Chesterfield is to be the new Lady of the Bedchamber in the room
of Lady Cardigan who declines on account of the age of her Lord, that
she may dedicate more time to him.
The story of the unhappy marriage of Caroline of Brunswick with the Prince
of Wales, afterwards George IV., is too well known to need repetition.
Since 1796 she had lived apart from the Prince at Shooter's Hill or
Blackheath, and was the object of much sympathy among a large section of
the public. In 1806 reports respecting her conduct had led to there being
instituted against her what was subsequently known as the _delicate
investigation_, proceedings in which the prosecution relied principally on
evidence supplied by Sir J. Douglas. The verdict was that her conduct had
been imprudent but not criminal, and the populace, ever ready to take up
the cause of one whom they considered unjustly treated, sang about the
streets and under the windows of Carlton House, a refrain far from
complimentary to H.R.H:--
"I married you 'tis true
Not knowing what to do,
My affairs at the time were
So bad, bad, bad;
But now my debts are paid
And my fortune it is made,
You may go home again to
Your dad, dad, dad!" */
Great excitement naturally prevailed as to whether the Princess would or
would not make her re-appearance at Court, but it was not till May 22nd,
1807, that she succeeded in asserting her right to do so, and on this
occasion she seems to have enjoyed one of the few triumphs achieved in her
_Mrs Spencer-Stanhope to John Spencer-Stanhope._
_May 22nd, 1807._
The appearance of the Princess of Wales, both at Court and at the
Opera you would read with pleasure. At the former place Sir J. Douglas
was in the outer room, and a lady near who knew him by sight said
something handsome of the Princess and that she hoped her Calumniators
would be brought to justice. All around joined in cordially, and he
The following year Mrs Stanhope wrote:--
Lady Hertford  is very busy trying to bring about a reconciliation
between the Prince and Princess, and I hear she has made some
Lady Hertford, who was long known by her nickname of the "Sultana," had
become celebrated for her liaison with the Prince of Wales, which was
destined to continue for some years till she was superseded in favour by
Lady Conyngham. She was described as shy and insipid, her manners were
stately and formal, and the impression which she conveyed was that of a
person rigidly correct in comportment and morals. But if, indeed, she ever
attempted to reunite the husband and wife whom her conduct had assisted to
alienate, it was scarcely to be expected that such a mediator would meet
with success in such a task. Of the luckless Princess, however, Mrs
Stanhope was for long a distinct partisan; and on March 19th of that same
year she wrote a description of the tactless Caroline which shows that, on
occasions, the Princess could assume a dignity foreign to the usual tenor
of her conduct.
Thursday, we attended the Drawingroom; most brilliant. The Princess of
Wales looked extremely well & _her manners are the most graceful and
Royal of any I ever saw_.
Ere that date, however, London had been plunged into confusion by the
sudden fall of Lord Grenville's Ministry.
_Marianne Spencer-Stanhope to John Spencer-Stanhope._
_April 27th, 1807_, GROSVENOR SQUARE.
As Parliament is to be dissolved to-morrow or Tuesday, conceive the
bustle which prevails thro'out this great town. The gentlemen are in
agonies for their purses, and the ladies for their parties, which must
either be postponed or destitute of beaux.... This last week we have
been very gay--that is, we have been almost squeezed to death at
sundry grand crowds, and knocked up with balls. Mrs Robinson's was
good in everything but dancing, and Lady Scott's  was good in
everything but company. The latter was nothing but a little dance, a
rehearsal to a magnificent ball she means to give in May, in which she
has asked us to dance in the French country dances--but helas! all
that will now be at an end.... You would have been charmed with Lady
Scott. I know how much you admire her, and to increase your delight, I
will tell you what she eats for supper. After having already been at
one table, she came to ours when everybody had done eating. _She had
first half a breast of mutton, then half a chicken, then a whole
lobster, a blanc-manger & a mixed salad._
The Election of 1807 was one long celebrated in the history of Yorkshire,
being unprecedented in the fierceness of the struggle it provoked. As is
well known, there were in those days but two representatives for the
entire county, and there was but one polling booth, which was in the
castle yard at York. The retiring members on this occasion were Mr Walter
Fawkes and William Wilberforce. The former did not seek re-election, for
he took the dissolution so much to heart that he declared he should
withdraw for ever from public life, but the latter speedily made good his
right to represent the county once more. There remained, therefore, but
one seat to be contested, and great was the excitement when it was found
that the candidates were to be chosen from the two great Yorkshire houses
of rival politics--Lord Milton, the son of Earl Fitzwilliam, in the Whig
interest, and the Hon. Henry Lascelles, son of the Earl of Harewood, for
the Tory party. Mr Stanhope, having secured his own election for his old
seat of Carlisle, hastened back to Yorkshire to take part in the contest
in favour of the Tory member there, whose chances of success he hoped
would be enhanced by the youthfulness of Lord Milton, which gave his
opponents a valuable handle for satire. As already pointed out, precocious
in every role of life, Lord Milton had married at the age of nineteen, and
having just attained his majority, was now anxious to represent the
_Walter Spencer-Stanhope to John Spencer-Stanhope._
CANNON HALL, _May 18th, 1807._
I had no time to write to you this Day Se'nnight from Carlisle after
my Election. I got to York on Tuesday night, attended the Nomination
at York the next day, which was carried almost unanimously in Favour
of Wilberforce, and by a great Majority in favour of Lascelles over
Lord Milton, but nevertheless, this young Lordling, who was only of
age the third of this month, told us he would demand a Poll on
Wednesday next. My Canvass against him has been very successful and I
mean, having concluded all my arrangements, both here and at
Horsforth, to give my Vote on Thursday or Friday.
There has been a flood at Silkstone more tremendous than ever was
known by the bursting of a cloud on the Hill to the West of the
Village. An old woman and two children were drowned in one of the
cottages near the Vicarage, and much damage was done all along the
Course of the Brook. Strange Events seem becoming frequent in this
Neighbourhood, for last year, you may have heard, during a violent
storm a cottage was struck, an old woman and her two sons knocked out
of the chairs in which they were seated at the table, and the soles of
one of the Boys' shoes ripped from off his feet, although the entire
party suffered no other damage.
To York, consequently, Stanhope repaired, where he found Lord Milton
prepared to hold his own with spirit. On being taunted with his youth, he
replied in the well-known words of Lord Chatham that it was a fault he
would remedy every day, while a still more brilliant rejoinder to the
attacks of his opponent gained him many votes. Mr Lascelles, determined to
make a _coup_, on the Nomination day stepped across the hustings, and
referring contemptuously to the age and short stature of his rival,
offered him a whip and a top. Lord Milton took both with unruffled
composure, and throwing the top into the crowd, he handed the whip back to
his adversary with the remark that he thought Mr Lascelles' father might
find greater use for it to flog his slaves in Jamaica. As the most vexed
question at the election was the emancipation of the slaves, this sally
provoked great enthusiasm. None the less, on the first day Mr Lascelles
headed the poll.
_Walter Spencer-Stanhope to John Spencer-Stanhope._
YORK, _May 22nd, 1807._
MY DEAR JOHN,
I have but a moment to tell you I am engaged in the severest contest
that ever was known. On Wednesday the Poll began, and closed leaving
Milton in a Minority, but yesterday we got near three hundred ahead,
by getting early possession of the advances to the Polling Booths. To-
day, Wilberforce, who was last yesterday, is regaining his lost ground
fast, and I fully expect Lascelles will beat the young Lord, but the
contest will be dreadful and the cost enormous. I like your eagerness,
but you are full as well where you are. Were you here, you would have
a fair chance of a Fever. I am a good deal heated, but not ill. We
poll 2 or 3,000 a day.
What a charming account we have of William. We are all in high spirits
this day. Wilberforce is the head of the Poll and Lascelles has gained
upwards of fifty upon Milton.
_May 27th._--Hoping that Lascelles is above 300 ahead, I left
York this morning. I send you an Electioneering song I wrote, but you
must not let anyone have a copy of it.
Wave the flag, hoist the pennant,
Hear our great Lord Lieutenant
Who would save us the trouble of choice.
"Let not Lascelles content you,
Milton _shall_ represent you,
And I'll in the House guide his voice!"
Wise in speech, look, and act
(I appeal to the fact),
At nineteen he determined to marry,
And all I could say,
Till his twentieth birthday,
Would hardly persuade him to tarry.
Ere at years of discretion,
He sat a whole Session,
E'en Grantham made way for the boy.
Who's the fittest law-maker?
He that's first a law-breaker;
To catch thieves you a thief should employ.
What a lordling it is,
With his carrotty phiz,
So cried up, so flattered, so built on.
You may oft take a rule
From a nickname at School,
And the boys named him _old Lady Milton_.
Oh patriot revered
Go shave for a beard!
Hie to Wentworth and finish this strife,
York, Malton, the county,
Disdained to be bound t'ye,
Go and cherish your nice little wife,
Oh! soon may she bear
You a fine son and heir;
Then ten oxen whole you may roast;
May Fitzwilliam carouse
With _two boys_ in the house
Nor bewail _Milton's Paradise Lost_!
The contest lasted three weeks, while the actual polling occupied fifteen
days, during which 25,120 votes were tendered. It is thus described in the
_Annals of Yorkshire_:--
The county was in a state of the most violent agitation, party spirit
being wound up to the highest pitch by the friends of the two noble
families, and everything being done that money or personal exertion
could accomplish; the roads in all directions were covered night and
day with coaches, barouches, curricles, gigs, fly-waggons, and
military cars with eight horses, conveying voters from the most remote
parts of the county.... On the fifth day Lascelles passed his opponent
and kept the lead till the 13th day, at the close of which the numbers
stood,--_Milton_, 10,313; _Lascelles_, 10,255. Now the efforts were
prodigious and the excitement maddening.
"All parties," wrote Mrs Stanhope, "consider themselves secure. Lord
Milton met with more success than Mr Lascelles at Sheffield, Rotherham,
Doncaster, and, I am sorry to add, Leeds. At Halifax, he had a very cold
reception.... Mr Osbaldiston and another man were almost killed going in
to vote, owing to the enormous crowd."
During all this time the state of York was indescribable, and since the
public-houses were ordered by the candidates to supply gratis whatever
refreshment the voters called for, the roads in every direction were lined
with tipsy men who molested travellers, indulged in rioting, or slumbered
in heaps by the roadside; so that, partly on account of the fatigue of
travelling, but still more owing to the dangerous condition of the roads
and of the city of York, the county gentlemen agreed together that the
ladies who were entitled to vote should not exercise this privilege unless
it should be found essential. 
At length the Poll closed, and amid unparalleled excitement it was found
that the numbers stood thus:--
MR WILBERFORCE 11,806.
LORD MILTON 11,177.
Mr Lascelles 10,990.
When the news of Lord Milton's success became known in London on Sunday,
all the Whig families caused their horses to be adorned with large orange
favours, while the ladies at the fashionable promenade in Kensington
Gardens made a lavish display of his colours. In Yorkshire, the event was
celebrated by the victorious party with mad rejoicings, not the least
remarkable being the behaviour of the people of Wakefield who, unable to
do honour in person to the successful candidate, seized upon an old woman
who lived on Clayton Hill and "chaired" her all round the town with wild
enthusiasm. She was ever afterwards known by the nickname of "Lady
Milton," and the street where she lived bore the name of Milton Street.
But even the successful candidate must have found his triumph tempered by
the fabulous cost of the election. The unusual size of the county, and the
fact that voters had to be brought from and returned to such distant
localities, while the cost of their transit and their keep was meanwhile
defrayed by the candidates without stint, brought out the electioneering
expenses at the enormous sum of L100,000 for each candidate. Lord
Harewood, to whose outlay was added the mortification of its uselessness,
is said to have kept a card in his pocket from that day forward with the
ominous figures L100,000 inscribed on it, and whenever he was asked again
to contest the county, he would produce this as an unanswerable argument
against his doing so.
Meanwhile, at Ramsgate, Mrs Stanhope and her party were contenting
themselves with whatever gaieties the place afforded, and on May 31st,
1807, Marianne Stanhope sent her brother an interesting account of the
conditions prevailing there at that date.
Just now I think you would be very miserable here, for the wind is
very high and whistles at every corner, the sea is rough and
everything looks blowing. The night before last was dreadfully
tempestuous, & all yesterday morning was very stormy, but it cleared
out, happily for us, in the evening, so that we were able to take a
turn on the pier.
That famous pier! The only thing worth seeing, I think, either in or
out of Ramsgate, for you must know I have now seen almost all the
lions:--that miserable forlorn Mansion, East Cliff, _ci-devant_
Lord Keith's; the elegant little cake house of Mr Warne, who is going
to Russia; the soi-disant cottage of Mr Yarrow, in the romantic
vicinity of Pegwell Bay, celebrated, I am told for its fisheries; and
last, though certainly not least, the splendid and deserted King's
Gate. The building is very classic and elegant, but surely Tully's
Villa must be a very different thing in the sweet Campagna of Italy,
than placed on such a barren cliff. Poor fellow! Could he look out of
the Elysian fields (for there, I suppose, we must place him) I think
he would not admire the change of situation!
There is a regiment of Irish Dragoons here. The Colonel has just left
them to take possession of a large fortune, & another officer has gone
to Ireland to give a vote. Both the Irish and Germans have very good
bands which often play before our windows & this is the only gaiety
I am sure all the pleasure of this place must depend upon the company
& when you have society that you like, what spot will not appear
We are not too well off in that respect as you will think when I have
described our acquaintance.
Our greatest intimate is Lady Jane Pery,  Lord Limerick's
daughter, who has had so many complaints she is unable to move from
her chair, though full of life and spirits. Lady Conyngham  is the
great lady of the place, a nice, civil old woman. We were at a party
at her house where we met all the natives. Her daughter, Miss Burton,
is 6 ft. 4 in. in height & ugly in proportion, but very agreeable. To-
morrow we are going to a party there where we are to meet _everybody_,
for you must know that even in this small society there is an improper
set. Lady Dunmore  & her daughters, Lady Virginia Murray, & the
married one, Lady Susan Drew,  sisters to the Duchess of Sussex,
 and Lord and Lady Edward Bentinck  & their two daughters are
visited by very few _proper_ people, but both these houses are the
_rendez-vous_ of the officers. Lady Sarah Drew had a ball the other
At Lady Conyngham's, we are to meet all these.
Miss Bentinck  is a great beauty; there has been a long affair
between her and Hay Drummond, which is at last broke off by the lady.
She had been sent to the Duke of Rutland's to be out of his way.
Drummond contrived to introduce himself to the servants as her maid's
beau, by which means he slept in the house and was able to walk with
her before breakfast & late at night. At last her brother, who was
shooting one morning early, & knew Drummond by sight well, found them
out and gave the alarm. The Duke sent Miss Bentinck home directly, &
they were to be married in September, but lo! she has changed her
_Mrs Spencer-Stanhope to John Spencer-Stanhope._
NELSON'S CRESCENT, RAMSGATE, _June 1st._
There are parties here, but the majority of women is quite ridiculous.
Lord Cranley  the other night at Lady Conyngham's for a short time
found himself the only man amongst twenty women. He said he looked as
if he had broken into a Convent. I do not like his wit, he is too like
a thing to be laughed at.
_June 2_.--We were last night at another party at Lady Conyngham's,
where there were four card tables, and it was then settled that there
should be a ball on the Birthday, to the no small pleasure of your
sisters, who expect to have officers in plenty to dance with.
I do not believe there is any truth in Lady Glyn's report respecting
Milnes, though I am convinced he thinks Miss H. Monckton very
agreeable.  I am certain she asked Lady Galway, for she wrote me
word she did not take Joy, [accept congratulations].
I have been here long enough to admire the sea, but the country will
not do for a Yorkshirewoman.
Yesterday was the dullest Birthday I ever remember. The Guns were
fired and something attempted by the Military on the sands, but it was
high water, and they, moreover, fired ill. A Ball Miss Burton
determined to have, and though neither Lady Edward Bentinck's party
nor the Dunmores chose to attend, they danced nine couple very
pleasantly. Some of the Gentlemen of the 13th had too loyally
celebrated the King's Birthday, however, they _did_ dance, and
thanks to the Germans, we have some new figures, and two of them
amused us very much with a Waltz, which we were very curious to see.
 Your sisters and two men finished with a Reel, but as we were the
only ladies remaining at one o'clock, we were obliged to come away,
tho' the Dragoons all indignantly exclaimed that it was not keeping
the Birthday. As there were more men than women, the dancing went on
Some of the 13th went away early as they ride a race on Barham Downs
From Ramsgate, Mrs Stanhope and her Party appear to have gone a brief
Tour, with which they were much pleased.
_July 25th, 1807._
Our tour answered in every respect--the weather continued fine & the
country through which we passed very pretty. When we arrived at
Woodstock, we found we could not see the House at Blenheim before
three, we therefore took fresh horses and drove all round the Park,
and visited the House where Lord Rochester died. We then ate cold meat
at the Inn, and at three went thro' the House & over the Pleasure
Ground--large enough for a tolerable sized place. From thence, drove
through the Parks of Ditchley & Hey Thorpe to Warwick.
The next morning we saw the Castle and grounds, and afterwards went to
Mr Greathead's, Guy's Cliff, a pretty, small place, but noted for some
beautiful paintings by his only Son who died at the age of 23 abroad.
There are two pictures of Bonaparte, one with his Court face, the
other when reviewing; both taken from recollection immediately after
seeing him & said to be extremely like. He took a third which he
presented to Louis Bonaparte.
This expedition appears to have terminated in a visit to the Lowthers at
Swillington, where Mrs Stanhope records an instance of the drastic medical
treatment in favour with our ancestors.
_November 5th, 1807_, SWILLINGTON.
Lady Lonsdale  is living at Leeds with Lady Elizabeth, who I fear
is little, if any, better. And though Lady Lonsdale is willing to
flatter herself, I fear she is too ill to be relieved by Grosvenor's
plan of friction which is what they are now trying. _She has five
people to rub her at once_.
Do send me some particulars of Miss Drummond's wedding. I hear such
various stories--one that she was married in an old riding habit with
a red scarf round her neck.
The recipient of Mrs Stanhope's correspondence, her son John, was at this
date completing his education at Edinburgh, under the auspices of the
famous Dugald Stewart, Professor of Moral Philosophy, who the year
previously had received from the Whig Government a sinecure worth L600.
Judging, however, by Mrs Stanhope's reference in the following letter to
the kindly ministrations of a certain "Miss Anne," Moral Philosophy was
not the only study which was engrossing the attention of John Stanhope.
CANNON HALL, _November 23rd, 1807._
After the long quiz you will this morning receive from Marianne,
perhaps a matter-of-fact letter from your mother may not be
unacceptable, and if your weather in any degree resembles ours, the
post will be a person held by you in great estimation, as you sit
freezing over your fire.
I sincerely hope that Miss Anne's pills and grey Dinnark had the
desired effect and that you are now quite in Ball trim. I like your
account of Dugald Stewart and hope you retain a great deal of the
knowledge which flows from his mouth. How I should like to hear him!
For Moral Philosophy is my favourite study.
Your account of your dinners amused us. Sir John Sinclair  always
collects from all quarters of the Globe; sometimes he mixes them
oddly, but I think his dinners are not disagreeable. Knox, with whom
you dined, lives in Grosvenor Street, his mother gives balls, and Mrs
Beaumont expects she will be with her at Christmas on her road from
It now snows as fast as possible. Thursday was a very bad day, and we
have had severe frost ever since. I do not ever remember so determined
a snow before Xmas, and all the old people foretell a hard winter.
Sir John Smith  is dead. Mrs Marriott  tried to be sorry, but
when she recollected it would enable the Smiths to live in town and a
hundred other _et ceteras_, for the life of her she could not
grieve; and in truth he was not a man to be much regretted, he was of
too selfish a character to be either much loved or esteemed.
We are much amused at the extract which you have sent us from Drummond
The extract in question, which was enclosed in this letter, runs as
PART OF THE JOURNAL OF THE CELEBRATED ELIZABETH WOODVILLE (afterwards
Queen of Edward IV.) previous to her first marriage with Sir John
Grey. Extracted from an ancient MS. preserved in Drummond Castle.
_Monday morning._ Rose at four o'clock & helped Catherine to milk
the cows, Rachael, the other Dairy Maid having scalded her hands the
night before. Made a Poultice for Rachael & gave Robin a penny to get
something comfortable from the Apothecary's.
_6 o'clock._ The Bullock of Beef rather too much boiled & the
beer rather stale. Mem: to talk to the Cook about the first fault & to
mend the second myself by tapping a fresh barrell.
_7 o'clock._ Went to walk with the Lady Duchess, my Mother, 
in the Courtyard. Fed 25 Men & Women. Chid Roger severely for
expressing some ill words at attending us with the broken Meat.
_8 o'clock._ Went into the Paddock behind the house with my maid
Dorothy, & caught Thump the black Poney & rode a matter of six miles
without either Saddle or Bridle.
_10 o'clock._ Went to dinner. John Grey  a most comely
Youth,--but what is that to me? a Virtuous Maiden should be entirely
under the guidance of her Parents--John ate but little and stole a
great many looks at me; said "Women could never be handsome in his
opinion that were not good temper'd." I think my temper is not bad. No
one finds fault with it but Roger, & he is the most disorderly serving
man in our Family. John Grey likes white Teeth. My Teeth are of a
pretty good colour, I think, & my hair is as black as Jet. John Grey,
if I mistake not, is of the same opinion.
_11 o'clock._ Rose from table, the Company all desiring a walk in
the Fields. John Grey would help me over every stile & twice he
squeezed my hand. I can't say I have any great objections to John
Grey. He plays at Prison Bars as well as any Country Gentleman; is
remarkably dutiful to his Parents, my Lord and Lady; & never misses
Church on a Sunday.
_3 o'clock._ Poor Robinson's house burnt down by accident. John
Grey proposed a subscription among the Company for the relief of the
Farmer & gave no less than 4L himself. Mem: Never saw him look so
comely as at that Moment.
_4 o'clock._ Went to Prayers.
_6 o'clock._ Fed the Pigs and Poultry.
_7 o'clock._ Supper on Table, delayed to that hour on account of
Robinson's misfortune. Mem: the Goose Pie too much baked & the Pork
roasted to rags.
_9 o'clock._ The Company fast asleep. These late hours very
disagreeable. Said my Prayers a second time, John Grey distracting my
thoughts too much the first. Fell asleep at ten. Dreamed that John
Grey had demanded me of my Father. 
ON DITS FROM GROSVENOR SQUARE AND CANNON HALL
_Marianne Spencer-Stanhope to John Spencer-Stanhope._
GROSVENOR SQUARE, _Jan 27th, 1808._
Poor Philip went to school to-day, to the great regret of all the
party, for he is a general favourite. Such a lively little monkey I
On Sunday Roast Beef and Plum Pudding  dined with us, and were
entertaining as usual, also Orator Milnes, who was quite fascinating,
the first time I ever saw him so! He is perfectly different with his
town face to what he appears in Yorkshire. Yesterday we had a pleasant
_dinnette_. In the evening Lady Glyn arrived _bien triste_, and Mrs
Beaumont all magnificence for Lady Castlereagh's. We were much
surprised to find Count Holmar  in town, but we have had the
mystery explained. He took the Princes back to their own country, and
then came back here on account of his love for Miss Gifford, Lady
Lansdowne's daughter by her first husband.  She is pretty and
clever, without much fortune, but Lord Lansdowne has taken a fancy to
her, has settled Southampton Castle upon her, and having no child of
his own, intends making her an heiress. The young lady does not like
the Count much, but her friends wish it, so there are delicacies and
difficulties enough for a novel of the first order. He spent three
months there this autumn, and certainly as far as a pale cheek, sunk
eyes, and slender form can prove anything, he is either hopelessly
consumptive or in love. So much for him!
Mrs Beaumont is quite on her high horse. 'Tis said _he_ has asked
for a peerage on account of his _overwhelming_ influence in the
county of York, all of which he employed in favour of Lord Milton!
Bravo, say I!
Another story is that he has had the offer of a Swedish order, fees
L150, a sky-blue ribbon, which gives no place, and the honour of being
a Sir, not hereditary. I never heard of its being conferred on any but
dancing masters and medical geniuses.
My father has become acquainted with Mrs Knox, and is much charmed
with her. He says they seem to live in prodigious style, have a
magnificent house, as finely furnished as Bretton. She said her son
mentioned you in the highest terms.
We were at the Opera on Saturday. Fuller of men I never saw it; the
boxes thin. The Duchess of A. was there looking _fade_. Kelly's
room is at an end; so we had the pleasure of waiting, or rather
starving in the great room for near an hour.
Marianne Stanhope, later, thus describes this room at the Opera where the
audience assembled on leaving, and where each lady who was unattended by a
cavalier of her own family, strove anxiously to escape the crowning
ignominy of not having a beau to "hand her to her carriage."
Then came the pleasures of the crush-room, that most singular of all
places of amusement, where a mob of good company assemble twice a
week, in a thorough draft of air, to enjoy the pleasure of inhaling
the odours of expiring lamps, amid the ceaseless din of "Lady
Townley's carriage stops the way"--"Lord D----'s servants'--"--"the
Duchess of N---'s carriage"--"Lord P----'s coming down"--"The Duke of
S---- must drive off," and sounds such as these constantly reiterated.
Young ladies by the dozens were to be seen freezing, with shawls off
one shoulder, trying to inveigle some man, by means of sweet words or
sweeter looks, to hand them to their carriages; the unfortunate mammas
behind them, looking worn out in the service, ready to expire with the
cold and bustle, sinking on the sofa opposite to the fireplace to
await their turn with what patience they might. 
And after enlarging upon the various methods by which the representatives
of the _haut ton_ strove likewise to secure the satisfaction of "hearing
their names proclaimed by each passer-by," she exclaims--"Say! ye
frequenters of the Opera round-room, if these are not its chiefest
Meanwhile the flirtations which were wont to beguile this tedious hour
invariably attracted much attention.
_January 29th, 1808._
I have heard some news respecting the little Viscount which surprises
me--that he is to marry the second Miss Bouverie as soon as she is
presented.  That the eldest was cruel & moreover that he always
preferred the second, though he has never given the slightest hint &
did not go near her at the Opera, not even in the crush-room. He is
gone to Bath, probably to avoid the talk & gossip of London till it is
_February 22nd, 1808._
On Monday we were charmed at Drury Lane with Mrs Jordan in "_Three
weeks after Marriage_." I admire her so much I could forgive the
Duke of Clarence anything. On Friday, we had a dinner party at Mrs
Glyn's--_hum-drum enough_. The next night we had a dinner here,
at which we had George Hampson, who is now one of our great flirts; he
has been much in Edinburgh and likes nothing better than Scotch
The dear Prims [Primroses] dine here _a l'ordinaire_. I met the
Viscount in the Park with his love, and he went again in the evening,
but I wonder they don't dine together of a Sunday. She is a nice
little girl, very genteel and pleasing, but no beauty like her sister,
who is all-conquering this year. At Court the other day she had a
trimming and headdress of her own composition, all pheasant's
feathers, the plumage of two-and-thirty. As for poor little Frankey
[Frank Primrose] as Mary Lowther says, all the Roast Beef and Plum
Pudding will produce nothing.
Miss de Visme  has not yet arrived. She has made great havoc among
the Staffordshire beaux. Your old Square Flame, Miss Calcraft  is
in a few months to come out a raging belle. She is amazingly admired
by the few who have seen her. London is pronounced dullissimo, so pray
continue to amuse yourself in Edinburgh, which by your account must be
the gayest and pleasantest place in the world.
We are much obliged to the Duchess of Gordon for giving you so happy
an opportunity of announcing the beautiful, or extraordinary presents
we may expect to receive--perhaps Scotch husbands--who knows! Pray
don't be dilatory. Miss Glyn is smarter, gayer, and a greater flirt
than ever. A last attempt--may it succeed!
_Mrs Spencer-Stanhope to John Spencer-Stanhope._
_February 26th, 1808._
Yesterday I had the pleasure of your gay, wild epistle. You remind me
of the French prisoner who was asked how he spent his time. He
answered--"We breakfast, then dance; dine, dance again; sup--_encore
la danse!_" This I begin to suspect is a Scotch life, and very good
for bile, provided the dinners are such as the prisoner partook of.
You seem to be the happiest of the happy and the gayest of the gay.
Peter was quite shocked you had not mentioned Walter Scott. Have you
ever met with him? Great expectations are formed of his poem. Campbell
and Rogers are both going to publish poems.
_March 11th, 1808._
I believe I have not written to you since your sisters were at the
Argyle Rooms,  which they liked extremely, but where they had small
opportunity of exhibiting their new steps. There was first an
Operetta, then a supper, and afterwards an attempt at a dance; but the
stupid English voted it not _ton_, and there were only about fifteen
couples who ventured to defy this opinion--Marianne and Mr Macdonald
one of them. Anne remained a spectator. As the dancing did not seem to
be approved, Mr Greville said, for the future there should be none
except upon ball nights.
_March 16th, 1808._
We were at the Opera on Saturday and at the Argyle Rooms on Monday. At
the latter place we had only a concert and supper--thin and I thought
dull. The men are always in the house and have little time for
anything but politicks.
The King is, I understand, quite provoked with the Opposition, and
says that their present method of proceeding is different to any that
has ever been in his reign. They depend upon wearing out the
Constitutions of the Ministers. Your father told Lord Castlereagh he
was certain it was all owing to his pale face and therefore he ought
to put on a little rouge. The Lords sending back the Bill on the
orders of Council had given great spirits to the Opposition.
The dullness of London is beyond anything I have ever known. The only
new belle is Miss Hood, daughter to Lord Hood, who is quite beautiful.
Your friend Mr Macdonald did us the honour to remember us at the
Argyle Rooms, but he has made so little impression on your sisters,
they both asked who he was.
Mr Macdonald, who was unfortunate in having made so little impression upon
Mrs Stanhope's daughters, was Archibald, third son of Alexander, Baron
Macdonald of Sleat, called "Lord of the Isles." He was a great friend of
John Stanhope, who, in 1806, had accompanied him on a canvassing tour
through the Hebrides when such an expedition was fraught with discomfort
and even danger, so little had civilization penetrated to that wild region
since the days of Dr Johnson's famous tour seventy years previously.
Failing in his canvass, Archibald Macdonald subsequently made another
attempt to obtain a seat in Parliament, of which he sent the following
account to the former companion of his efforts:--
_Archibald Macdonald to John Spencer-Stanhope._
METHVEN CASTLE, _May 26th, 1808._
My Dear Stanhope,
You will have heard by this time that I have been half way to the
North Pole (Kirkwall in the Orkneys) in quest of a seat in Par., and
perhaps you will also have heard that I did not find it. However, I
left no stone unturned in my researches--Philosopher's stone
excepted--and only came back from my transportation four days ago, not
a little happy to find myself at Methven again, for such a country I
never beheld. Starvation reigns there with _pinching sway_, as
both my nose and my stomach very soon informed me, for the one was
nipped into a sort of beetroot colour by the North Winds, and the
other was forced thro' a course of Salt Fish and Whiskey, for the hard
season had laid an embargo on animal food, etc., and this you will say
was pinching fare for a candidate from the land of plenty! Posts, only
once a week, were irregular.
I must not forget to mention that I went to Orkney in the King's
Cutter (The Royal George), and scarcely had we landed at Kirkwall than
accounts were brought of a French privateer being within sight. Away
went the Royal George, and, in 10 hours after, returned to her
moorings with the _Passepartout_ of 16 guns and 63 men from Dunkirk.
The French Captain, Vanglieme, was my guest to Leith, and a most
extraordinary genius he was, full of life and spirits, not in the
least downcast at his misfortunes. He had a most excellent little band
of music on board, which amused us all the way home; he is now on his
Parole at Peebles. His behaviour to some English Captains that he had
taken was so generous that they came forward to sign a certificate in
his behalf to be presented by me to the Commander-in-Chief, everything
that can be done for him I hope will be done--generosity for
I perceive a very beautiful place to be sold in ye papers, Park
Place--Lord Malmesbury's. I wonder what they expect for it--it would
suit me--but rather too high land.
_Mrs Spencer-Stanhope to John Spencer-Stanhope._
GROSVENOR SQUARE, _June 11th, 1808._
The Princess of Wales danced all night at Burlington House with Lord
Ebrington.... Mrs Bankes's rout was as full and as good as even she
could wish, so many men scarcely ever seen at any Assembly, & in every
respect it was good. The only disappointment was that the night would
not permit of the world going into the Garden, tho' it was lighted &
the Pandear Band played. Before we came away they were beginning to
dance, but to that music I do not think it could be kept up with
We left dancing also at Lady Neave's, & had thoughts of returning
there, but Mrs Bankes's was too pleasant to allow of our attempting to
get away,--no easy thing if we had wished it, for I really believe
there must have been near 2,000 people there.
A most desperate flirtation between Miss Glyn & Mr Archibald Grey. How
fine "my Uncle Portland" would sound! Little Sir D----y would be
killed with delight.
To-day and to-morrow we dine fourteen. Your father was at the House
till past five yesterday morning. However, he stole an hour for Mrs
Mrs Bankes, the wife of the M.P. for Corfe Castle,  presumably gave
this successful party for her two daughters, one of whom Lord Broughton,
writing a few years later, describes as "lively and entertaining, very
lovely and very clever, but a little odd." This latter characteristic
appears to have been shared by her father, for various stories of his
absent-mindedness have survived, and one mentioned by the same
correspondent was often subsequently quoted with peculiar zest by his
large circle of acquaintance. When Chantrey was thinking of a design for
Satan, Mr Bankes, in the presence of a grave and learned assembly,
volunteered the following unexpected recommendation: "My dear Chantrey,
you had better choose some part of Satan's history and so make your task
more easy--take, for instance, his conflict with _sin and death_!" The
shout of laughter with which this unsolicited advice was received
completely mystified Mr Bankes, who, for some time could not be persuaded
that he had made any inappropriate suggestion. Nevertheless both he and
his wife enjoyed exceptional popularity, and their parties were
appreciated far more than the next entertainment referred to by Mrs
Lady Dartmouth gives a breakfast at Blackheath this morning, the heat
and dust will be dreadful. To-night we expect to be amused at the
Argyle Rooms, as those who choose may go in masks. Lady Harrington
goes nowhere, and the Marquis almost lives here.
Meanwhile the news from the continent was again calculated to arrest the
attention of the most frivolous amongst the gay world of London. Events
were assuming a more threatening aspect. The long-protracted Peninsular
war had begun; but Sir Arthur Wellesley, dispatched to the relief of
Portugal, three weeks after landing defeated Junot in a decisive victory
at Roliga, on August 17th, 1808. Had he then pushed on, as it was said he
wished to do, the whole French army must have surrendered; but his
superior officers, Sir Harry Burrard and Sir Hugh Dalrymple, who landed on
the two succeeding days, forbade all pursuit, and, it was asserted,
obliged Wellesley to sign with them the pitiful Convention of Cintra,
which allowed the French army to evacuate Portugal unharmed, and to be
carried on British ships back to France. Junot admitted frankly that his
men would have capitulated had they been pursued but two miles by the
English, and so great was the indignation roused in England by the news of
this fiasco, that the three generals demanded and obtained a court-
martial. All were acquitted; but Wellesley, who had denounced the
Convention vehemently before the Court, was instantly employed again, an
honour which was denied to his superior officers. Hence the refrain, which
became a favourite at the time.
Sir Arthur and Sir Harry, Sir Harry and Sir Hew,
Doodle, doodle, doodle, cock a doodle doo!
Sir Arthur was a gallant knight, but for the other two
Doodle, doodle, doodle, cock a doodle doo!
Some years afterwards, with regard to this famous occurrence, John
Stanhope wrote in his journal--
I regret that I did not at the time dwell at a greater length upon the
Convention of Cintra.... That Convention and even the battle of
Vimiera, at one time the theme of every tongue, are effaced from the
memory of even us their contemporaries by the more brilliant
achievements of the British army--by successes which have blotted out
all recollections of former errors. I can scarcely recall to my mind
the arguments that were used for and against that Convention by those
who were present at the battle; but the feeling against it in England
was so strong, that, strange as it may appear in these days, at a Race
Ball at Carlisle where I accompanied my father, then Member for that
City, when the Steward, Sir James Graham, gave the health of Sir
Arthur Wellesley, an officer rose and declared that he would not drink
the health of a General _who had disgraced England_.
That Sir Arthur Wellesley was fortunate in throwing the blame from his
own shoulders on to his superiors in command, there can be little
doubt, as notwithstanding the assertion of his friends, it is not
possible to consider the signature of such a man in the situation that
he then held, as a mere matter of official duty.
If a General is superseded in his command in the hour of victory he
does not become a mere aide-de-camp or secretary to the officer by
whom he has been superseded. In conducting a negociation, he stands
rather in the position of an ambassador, who, though he may not have
full power himself, is still held to be mainly responsible for the
treaty that he signs. If Sir Arthur only signed the Convention
_officially_, he ought, for the sake of his own character, at
once to have remonstrated openly against all the terms of which he
disapproved and which tarnished the splendour of his victory.
The obvious conclusion to be drawn from his signature of the
Convention was that, the opportunity of following up the victory
having been lost, the surrender of Lisbon and the evacuation of the
whole of Portugal by the French troops were advantages too great to be
rejected and left to the uncertain decision of arms.
But whatever may have been his private opinion, he was fortunate to
rise superior to the disgrace which fell upon his commanding officers,
probably because the victory of Vimiera must have served to open the
eyes of our Government to the folly of submitting a man of his
abilities to the command of Generals higher in rank but far inferior
in military experience. It can but appear singular that a General
should be superseded in his command in the very moment of battle, and
that, before his successor had time to grasp the reins of power, the
latter should in turn be himself succeeded, by yet another
commander! It affords an extraordinary instance either of indecision
or of intrigue in the Cabinet!... Suffice it to say that this
Triumvirate produced as a monument to their glory the Convention
Following upon this event, Sir John Moore took command of the British
troops in Portugal, and advanced into Spain to relieve the Spaniards.
"There was," relates John Stanhope, "at this period no man in the army
whose character stood higher than that of Sir John Moore. He was a man of
the finest principles and of the most undaunted courage; by those under
his command he was adored. In the hour of battle he had the most perfect
self-possession and confidence both in his troops and in himself, which
alone was sufficient to ensure success. Though not a fortunate general, he
was esteemed one of the most able in the British service, and it gives me
pleasure to add, that I have since heard French officers who served
against him give the highest testimony in favour of his military conduct.
But his political opinions, which were hostile to Government, added to the
difficulty of his situation, and that circumstance undoubtedly weighed
upon his mind.... It is to this very susceptibility, this want of moral
courage and readiness to sacrifice his own reputation to the cause in
which he was engaged, that his misfortunes are principally to be
The story of Moore's advance into Spain, as John Stanhope points out,
"undoubtedly betrays, both on his part and on that of the Government, a
most lamentable ignorance of the real state of that country. Because they
heard of Spanish armies in the field, they idly supposed that these were
armies in the accepted sense of the word and not a mere collection of
peasants, undisciplined and chiefly unarmed, officered by men as ignorant
of their profession as themselves and commanded by a General yet more
incompetent.--And with armies so composed they actually sent a British
force to co-operate! ... Sir John Moore had not been long in Spain before
he discovered the mistake that had been committed and the danger of his
situation; he saw at once that the course he ought to adopt was to retreat
upon Portugal, fall back upon his resources and rely entirely upon his own
The story of his dilemma, and of how he was forced to act against his
convictions, is well known to posterity. After dwelling at length upon the
aspects of the situation, John Stanhope concludes:
He made a rapid march on Madrid and was on the point of attacking
Soult when he learnt, by an intercepted dispatch, that Bonaparte was
marching against him in person and that he was in immediate danger
of being surrounded. The consequence was his famous retreat. As to
the manner in which that was conducted, I have heard a French
General, who was employed in the actual army by which Moore was
pursued, speak of his enemy's tactics with boundless admiration. But
perhaps the highest praise which can be accorded to it is that the
pursuit, in the first instance, was conducted by Bonaparte in person,
and subsequently by Soult and Ney under his express directions, and
yet that Sir John Moore succeeded in effecting his escape without
once being _entraine_, and crowned his efforts by the victory of
Corunna--a victory which, sealed as it was with his own blood, ought
to wash out the memory of any errors which he may have committed. 
_Mrs Spencer-Stanhope to John Spencer-Stanhope._
RAMSGATE, _January 27th, 1809._
You will have experienced the greatest grief for the loss of our
gallant defender, Sir John Moore--a great blow to this country. But
while deploring his death, we must not forget to glory in what our
brave troops performed, tho' 'tis grievous to think how many lives
have been lost, and what the remaining army have gone through, without
lamenting that this almost unexampled victory will be of so little
Last night this place was thrown into surprise and confusion by the
arrival of one or two Transports with part of the 52nd, and of two or
three other Regiments. The poor men were obliged to pass the night in
the Transports as they could not come on shore till the orders came
from Canterbury. Your father went last night to see some of them. He
found a Serjeant who said they had no assistance from the Spaniards,
but the accounts are so various I do not like to give too ready credit
to what I hear, tho' I hear there is not the patriotism amongst them
one should suppose.
Lady Lilford,  that beauty _en masse_ (who is here with two
daughters ill out of the four she has with her) was made very happy
last night by the arrival of her Son who was in the 52nd, & of whom
she had not been able to hear anything.
We have put on a black ribbon for Major Stanhope, son to Lord
The Knoxs will have been in great anxiety, for they have a son in the
52nd. Knox would be just in time to receive him.
The excitement occasioned by news of the victory of Corunna and the
lamentable death of Sir John Moore had scarcely abated when the attention
of the public was arrested by a _cause celebre_ which occasioned an
The Duke of York, Commander-in-Chief, had for three years had a _liaison_
with Mrs Mary Anne Clarke, a woman of humble origin, but great powers of
fascination. It was at length discovered that she had been selling
commissions in the army for extortionate sums and sinecures in almost
every department of State, so that men of all classes, by her
intervention, had procured places and privileges as a matter of
favouritism or of merchandise. So much was this the case, that a footman
whom she liked was given a commission in the Army, and a clergyman, for
substantial payment, had secured the honour of preaching before the King.
On January 27th, 1809, Colonel Wardle, M.P. for Okehampton, brought
forward a motion of inquiry in the House, charging the Commander-in-Chief,
not only with having been a party to such practices, but of actually
participating in the proceeds. Instead of this inquiry taking place, as he
had intended, before a secret Committee, so great was the belief in the
Duke's innocence, that it was decided to give the investigation all the
publicity possible, and that the witnesses should be examined before the
whole House. This was singularly unfortunate, as the consequent scandal
On February 14th, 1809, Mrs Stanhope wrote:--
The House sat till three this morning examining Mrs Clarke, who your
father says is a lively, clever woman. End as it will, it must be
disgraceful to the Duke of York. The King is much hurt at it. Except
the floods, that is the only subject of conversation.
During the progress of the inquiry, Mrs Clarke appeared daily at the bar
of the House exquisitely dressed, witty, impudent, and answering the
attacks of the cross-examiners with a cleverness and fund of smart
repartee which completely foiled them. On March 8th, Mrs Stanhope wrote
It is very extraordinary that the day should arrive and Colonel Wardle
never have signified what his Motion is to be. Tierney wrote to him
the day before yesterday, to which the answer was that he should not
be at the House, and referred him to Lord Folkstone who did not appear
till the Debate was begun; therefore all is conjecture. This conduct
on the part of Mr Wardle will be in favour of the Duke, who I doubt
not will be honourably acquitted.
Mr Burrell says, what a fuss they make about the Duke's having what
every man in Office must have--_a clerk_.
Mr Stephens, brother-in-law to Wilberforce, made a speech of four
hours on the Commission business. For three he commanded attention. It
will be published.
Although the verdict eventually given declared charitably that the Duke
was exonerated from the charge of personal corruption, it was evident that
he had been guilty of culpable neglect of his duty, that he had signed
papers presented to him without troubling to read them, and had agreed to
every arrangement made by Mrs Clarke, although knowing that she was making
a traffic of such commissions.
The Duke, in consequence, was forced to resign his Commandership, although
in 1811, he was, to the indignation of many people, reinstated in it by
his brother, the Prince Regent.
Ere that date, however, another topic of conversation had been provided
for the social world.
_February 25th, 1809._
We are very quiet. To-night, we go to the Opera, and on Wednesday,
another dance at Mrs Knox's and _voila tout_. Your father was at
the House till four, but I cannot give you any account of the
Debate, as our thoughts have been engaged by the fire at Drury Lane.
The whole fabrick burned down in a very short time. Fortunately, as
it is Lent, the Theatre was not open. It took fire during the
rehearsal, and even some of the stalls are down. Charles has been
there this morning and says there was only one life lost. It is the
fifth theatre I remember being burnt. Canning was speaking when the
account reached the House. The Debate was immediately interrupted,
and it was proposed to adjourn, but Sheridan requested they would
not postpone it for him, and it went on. Knox, with his good-humour,
asked Anne if he was not to have a ticket in my box, but she told
him, as he could not want one at present, he should have one from
the beginning of April.
Your father and Lord James  go to the Speaker's to-night. We are
grown very good and walk in Hyde Park every day. From Ramsgate, I hear
that the place is full of poor Irish soldiers who are dying fast. I
fear the mortality has been so great since the return of the Army that
it will increase the loss of men largely.
The destruction of Drury Lane was rendered yet more tragic by the
conditions under which the news of such a startling disaster reached those
who were most affected by it. "On the 24th of February," Michael Kelly
relates, "Mr Richard Wilson gave a dinner to the principal actors and
officers of Drury Lane Theatre, at his house in Lincoln's Inn Fields. All
was mirth and glee; it was about 11 o'clock when Mr Wilson rose and drank
'Prosperity and Success to Drury Lane Theatre.' We filled a bumper to the
toast; and at the very moment when we were raising the glasses to our
lips, repeating '_Success to Drury Lane Theatre_' in rushed the younger
Miss Wilson and screamed out, '_Drury Lane Theatre is in flames!_' We ran
into the Square and saw the dreadful sight. The fire raged with such fury
that it perfectly illuminated Lincoln's Inn Fields with the brightness of
day. We proceeded to the scene of destruction. Messrs Peake and Dunn, the
Treasurers, dashed up the stairs, at the hazard of their lives, to the
iron Chest in which papers of the greatest consequence were deposited.
With the aid of two intrepid firemen they succeeded in getting the Chest
into the street--little else was saved.
"I had not only the poignant grief of beholding the magnificent structure
burning with merciless fury, but of knowing that all the scores of operas
which I had composed for the Theatre, the labour of years, were then
consuming. It was an appalling sight! And, with a heavy heart I walked
home to Pall Mall. At the door I found my servant waiting for me, who told
me that two gentlemen had just called, and, finding I was not at home had
said, 'Tell your master when he comes home, that Drury Lane is now in
flames, and that the Opera House shall go next.' I made every effort to
trace these obliging personages, but never heard anything more of them.
"Mr Sheridan was in the House of Commons when the dreadful event was made
known, and the Debate was one in which he was taking a prominent part. In
compliment to his feelings, it was moved that the House should adjourn.
"Mr Sheridan said that he gratefully appreciated such a mark of attention,
but he would not allow an adjournment, for 'Public duty ought to precede
all private interest,' and with Roman fortitude he remained at his post
while his Play House was burning." 
Sheridan, indeed, in the midst of such a misfortune, showed a nobility and
disinterestedness which did him infinite credit. Forgetful of self, he
begged the whole Theatrical Company to stand by each other, even at
personal loss, till the Theatre could be rebuilt, pointing out that while
the superior actors would have little difficulty in getting other
engagements, the inferior ones were in far other case. "Let us," he urged,
"make the general good our sole consideration. Elect yourselves into a
Committee and keep in remembrance even the poor sweepers of the stage,
who, with their children, must starve if not protected by your fostering
Although the cause of the disaster was never ascertained, a general
impression prevailed that the Theatre had not been set on fire by
accident, and the mysterious message left at the house of the unhappy
manager seemed to confirm this suspicion. A report was also current that
the Prince of Wales had some time previously received an anonymous letter
telling him that all the principal public buildings should be burnt down
one after the other. Innumerable fires, indeed, occurred, and many people
were afraid of attending the Opera, since it was rumoured that a train of
gunpowder had been found under it. Hence, doubtless, the "good-humoured"
request of Mr Knox for a seat at the post of danger; and shortly
afterwards another mention of him occurs. He had attended a Drawing-room
held by the Queen, which had proved unusually crowded, owing to the
sympathy that all were anxious to show for the Royal family on the
acquittal of the Duke of York.
GROSVENOR SQUARE, _March, 1809._
Knox was presented yesterday, and his Mamma takes him to introduce to
all her acquaintances, which he does not like. Her last ball was much
too full, she might have opened her whole house, therefore, there was
no good dancing till just before supper, when the Musick was sent
away, to the sore annoyance of Anne, who was just beginning the dance
with Mr Fraser. The Knoxs say that Charlotte Bouverie is a painted
thing, but Archy was charmed with her, and her dancing. He has given
up talking of home, both he and Lord James dine here again, the 11th,
with the Primroses and Mr Knox, Lady Milton, Lord Euston, and some
others. The Drawingroom was very full yesterday, and I believe the
Queen spoke to everybody; she thinks there are times to be civil.
I was surprised at Court to hear Knox say he thought it was
everybody's duty to go to Court yesterday, as he supposed Queens would
feel like other Mothers. I was delighted to hear so loyal a speech
from one of that house, for though his father and his uncle are in
possession of a place of L10,000 a year, I do not believe they are
disposed that way.
Miss Shuckburgh  was presented yesterday, and as she has a
borough, Knox thought she might be worth looking at, but the Borough
and Twelve Thousand a year must be thought of, by any one disposed to
think of her.
The Beaumonts are to be at Cheltenham on Monday, the Colonel is much
better, a _very_ large Blister has roused his senses. 
You must put on a black coat for the Duchess of Bolton who died
_March 30th, 1809._
Your brother Philip is by the kindness of the Duke of Montrose, the
Master of the Horse, appointed Page to His Majesty. We are ordering
him his smart uniform, sword, etc., for him to go to Court in, to kiss
the King and Queen's hand, the week after next.
Marianne is busy learning to make shoes. Archy was so pleased that he
has begun. The Shoemaker says he does very well, but he thinks Lord
James [Murray] understands better. The Master is a Scotchman. What
think you of Princess Charlotte learning the trade? It rather
discomposes me, as it is not an amusement for a Queen of England.
A novel occupation was absorbing the attention of the fashionable world.
The craze for making shoes suddenly obsessed Society. Shoemakers
unexpectedly found themselves the most favoured of mortals. Lessons in
their art were demanded on all sides and at all costs. They were so busy
teaching it, they had little time to practise it. Men and women alike
would forego engagements while they strove to perfect themselves in the
new hobby; and the lady who, at balls, could boast that her feet had been
shod by her own fair hands was an object of envy to all the less talented.
The Stanhopes threw themselves with avidity into the new pastime, and
still in existence are the little cards which they had printed in jest
announcing that this new profession was "Carried on at Cannon Hall and
Grosvenor Square." Mrs Stanhope apparently viewed the occupation with
equanimity, save when it became the recreation of Royalty. Nevertheless it
seems occasionally to have interfered seriously with her arrangements.
That same month she writes:--
I have not seen Archy of some days, but I think I shall this morning
as I have sent an Opera ticket for either him or Lord James yesterday,
and they neither of them appeared. They are so busy learning to make
shoes that they can think of nothing else, and all engagements are
The new opera last night was excellent. The _Chasse of Henri Quatre_
when we had _Viva, Viva, Nostro Re_, there was universal applause, and
it was with spirit encored. The dancing excellent. Miss Gaylon does
not dance after Saturday, as she is to marry a Mr Murray, a clergyman.
Knox is gone to Ireland; I believe heartily glad to get from his
Mamma's introductions. When he was introduced to the Duke of
Gloucester, H.R.H. inquired what profession he was brought up to--and
at the reply exclaimed--"What, _no_ profession!" Mrs Knox, who
had presented him as an eldest son, coloured.
I must conclude with an extract from the papers:--
"A few days ago was married by special license, at St George's Church,
Hanover Square, Mr Tho. Kay of Hickleton, near Doncaster, farrier and
blacksmith, to Miss Sarah Walker, of Upper Grosvenor Street, London."
The enclosed paragraph I send you, because the lady is my _laundry-
maid_, and is at this moment at the wash-tub. She chose to marry a
day or two before I came to Town, to the rare annoyance of my footman,
Robert, as there had long been an attachment between them, though she
is old enough for his mother. She has now announced her decision to
the fashionable world.
Meanwhile the visit to Ireland does not seem to have been altogether happy
for Mr Knox. Various letters speak of his serious illness, and the
multiplicity of the remedies resorted to in his aid rivalled those
employed on behalf of Lady Elizabeth Lowther. On June 11th a certain Mr
Maconochie, a Scotch friend of John Stanhope, wrote from Edinburgh:--
We had fine fun at Pitt's dinner. Lord Melville made a very good
speech; we had good singing too. I went to the evening Collation on
the King's Birthday where there was about 1,000 people, and the
immortal memory of Mr Pitt drunk with three times three. The Whigs, I
can assure you, are quite down in Scotland.
By the way when I speak of Whigs, you have alarmed me very much about
poor Knox. What is his complaint? You have never told me, you only say
he is in great danger--no wonder, poor fellow, _with six physicians
Later, Mr Maconochie furnished John Stanhope with news of another common
I was in Edinburgh on Wednesday last. Mrs Playfair has got three or
four youths from the South, among whom is the _aimable_ Lord John
Russell  I suppose he intends to honour the speculative with his
presence as Mrs Playfair told me she hoped I would not vote against
him. I certainly shall not, as I think any _thing_ of the appearance
of a gentleman will be of invaluable service.
You must observe in the newspapers that old Sir William Douglas 
is dead, and I am very sorry to say that owing to the negligence and
delay of Frank Walker's papa, our friend William does not succeed
nearly to what his Uncle intended, nor does he indeed get anything
till after his father's death.
The state of the Case is this:--Sir William met his agent, Mr Walker,
at Harrogate, this summer, and he then desired him to make out a
settlement for him by which he left _everything_ he should die
possessed of to William. Mr Walker recommended him to delay it till he
should get to Scotland that he might execute it formally. To this Sir
William agreed. On his getting to London, however, he found himself so
very unwell that he wrote to Mr Walker to say that he had no time to
lose. Mr Walker, none the less, still delayed, and did not send the
Deeds for above a fortnight, and Sir William had died two days before
they reached Town. By the Will which is valid, and which was executed
so long ago as the year 1790, his whole fortune is to be divided
between three brothers, William's Papa, Mr Douglas (Sir James Shaw's
partner), and one in America. The American one is since dead, leaving
an only daughter, and there is a great question whether or not she
will be entitled to anything.
But let the worst come to the worst, our friend will have the Castle
Douglas estate entire, about L7,000 per annum, besides his father's
estate of Orchardton, L5,000 a year more. This he will in a great
measure owe to his uncle, Mr Douglas's, kindness, who says that as far
as possible, the unexecuted Deed shall be complied with. In the
meantime, you see, he would have nothing till his father's death.
But I have since heard that the old Boy is going to reside at Castle
Douglas, and going to give his present place immediately to William.
Douglas is no doubt disappointed, as he has lost above L150,000
exclusive of what he will get, for actually the old Curmudgeon died
From such an event as the disposal of a fortune of four hundred thousand,
the thoughts of Mrs Stanhope were again distracted by the news in the
political world. A letter from Archibald Macdonald, dated July 23rd, 1809,
echoes the current gossip respecting Lord Wellesley, afterwards Viceroy of
Ireland, of whose movements with regard to the Continental campaign no one
could speak with certainty. "Is he gone to Spain or not?" questioned Mr
Macdonald. "I have heard it very confidently asserted that he is not
going, and that all his _gout_, etc., is merely affected to prevent his
being sent. In short, that he has changed all his plans and did not
venture to stir one step. On the other hand, it is said, that he is become
nearly quite imbecile." Meanwhile, although Sir Arthur Wellesley had
obtained victories at Oporto and at Talavera, having been unsupported by
the Spaniards he was obliged to retreat; and following on this, an
expedition sent out by the British Government to Walcheren under Lord
Chatham proved a terrible failure. The mutual recriminations of Canning
and Castlereagh led to their resignation and resulted in a duel which took
place between them on September 9th, and of which Archibald Macdonald
When we were at Glasgow Circuit the Lord Advocate shewed me Lord
Castlereagh's _own_ account of the duel, and really from it I
think there is no doubt he behaved most infamously. Canning was
certainly not in the least to blame. I hope the King will still take
Lord Wellesley and him into the Cabinet.
Lord Melville intended to have gone to England in the beginning of the
month; he has now, however, determined not to stir till everything is
fixed, lest it should be said that he has gone a-place hunting.
In October Perceval succeeded the Duke of Portland as Prime Minister,
First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer, while Lord
Wellesley became Minister for Foreign Affairs. A rumour meanwhile reached
the Stanhopes with regard to their young friend Mr Pemberton Milnes which
roused their curiosity.
What say you in the South to the Administration? Will it be possible
for them to go on? 'Tis strongly reported here that Milnes refused
being Chancellor of the Exchequer. True it is that a King's Messenger
was sent to him, and I believe that something which he declined was
offered to him, but surely not that great office. I live in dread of
the United _Talents_ being called in! Lord Wellesley and Lord
Melville might enable them to go on, but without them they will never
do. I am still willing to hope that Peace is not signed and that
Bonaparte may be ill.
The true story of the offer which was made to Pemberton Milnes was
afterwards thus recorded by John Stanhope:--
Soon after he left Cambridge, Milnes made a bet of L300 to L500 with
Kit Wilson, then a great character on the Turf--indeed for a long time
Father of the Turf--that before seven years were over he should be
Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do not mention this from mere rumour,
for I heard Mr Wilson himself tell the story at dinner at Wentworth
House, adding that the bet was drawn before the seven years were over.
As will be seen by his letter to me, he was actually offered the
Chancellorship of the Exchequer at five-and-twenty,--not perhaps
exactly in the view in which he originally intended, as that place has
now for years been considered as attached to the position of the Prime
Minister, but still with a place in the Cabinet.
_Robert Pemberton Milnes to Walter Spencer-Stanhope._
_October 23rd, 1809._
My Dear Sir,
As I feel as strongly as I can the kind expressions of friendship that
we have interchanged, and as I flatter myself on this occasion you may
find an interest in what perhaps may be thought a leading event in my
life, I sit down to send you a line informing you of my having reached
London, having received a letter from Perceval which would have made
it personally disrespectful to him had I declined coming. On my
arrival here, and after he had submitted in great detail the history
of the Cabinet discussions, he closed by no less an offer than saying
he had the King's orders to propose to me the situation either of
Chancellor of the Exchequer or Secretary of War,--the latter without a
seat in the Cabinet, if I wished to lessen the responsibility.
This was on Saturday, and I have employed the interval, not in
reviewing the grounds upon which he stands as Prime Minister, which
really on the first statement satisfied me there was no alternative,
but in duly weighing my own situation and taking my measure (as it
were) for my fitness for the Office. The result of my reflections has
been to decline both offers. In so doing, you may imagine I had no
ordinary feelings of personal vanity to contend with, nor a common
self-satisfaction in thinking that the proposal had been made me. At
the same time, dazzling as the place of a high Cabinet situation might
have been, I do conscientiously assure you that I looked to my country
more than to myself, and differing from Perceval in thinking that its
interests would well be entrusted in my hands, I have answered
decisively that I thought there were others who would conduct them
I believe that he proposes offering the Chancellorship of the
Exchequer to Rose, and the Secretaryship of War to Palmerston.
In all this business, however well or ill determined on my part, you
will be glad to hear that I think Perceval's case quite a triumphant
one, and such as, when well stated to Parliament, will meet with sure
I write in the greatest hurry.
I am, dear Sir,
Yours most faithfully,
ROB. P. MILNES.
The tradition of this famous bet has long been related and disputed. The
incident was one of national importance, for it was the refusal of Mr
Milnes to accept this brilliant offer pressed upon him by Perceval which
gave Lord Palmerston admission into the Ministry, and started him on a
career which finally led him to the Premiership. Lord Palmerston's Maiden
Speech in the House was made in reply to one by Mr Milnes.
In Mrs Milnes's Diary, there is given the following account of the
reception of the offer by her husband:--
One morning when we were at breakfast a King's Messenger drove up in a
post-chaise-and-four with a despatch from Mr Perceval, offering Mr
Milnes the choice of a seat in the Cabinet, either as Chancellor of
the Exchequer or Secretary of War. Mr Milnes immediately said "Oh no!
I will not accept either. With my temperament I should be dead in a
year." I knelt and entreated that he should, and represented that it
might be an advantage to our little boy, please God he lived, but all
was to no purpose, and he went up to London to decline the most
flattering and distinguished compliment ever known to have been paid
to so young a man. 
Immediately after Christmas, as was their custom, the Stanhopes returned
to London, and 1810 found them once more resuming their life in Grosvenor
_February 27th, 1810._
London is not yet gay. Of Politicks, whether the present Ministers can
stand seems doubtful. Lord Chatham in his examination throws blame on
the Navy; his having presented a paper to the King without any
communication with the other Ministers, has made sad work. The
business in the House is every day, and all day, and all night.
I have not seen any of your friends yet. Miss Acklom is not yet come.
The body of Mr Eden  is found, & though he had been so long in the
water, some Bank Notes were found perfect in his pocket.
Sir T. Gascoigne  and Sir C. Turner  both dead, the former has
left his fortune to the Olivers, and failing them and their issue to
Lord Fitzwilliam--very distant, if any relation.
Sir C. Turner, his house, stud, and plate at Newmarket to his groom
there; everything else, for ever, to Lady Turner.
Honoria Blake has married Captain Cadogan--amiable and poor. Lord and
Lady Barnard to live at the Duchess of Bolton's old house--the two
Lords of that name so near will make a confusion.
_March 20th, 1810._
There are more girls of high fashion just come out than has been known
for many years.
London, I never knew so dull.... I hear of no matches, the flirtations
have not yet begun.
_March 27th, 1810._
Ministers have much to do this week. The Walcheren Debate came on
yesterday and is to last Tuesday; Wednesday they repose from their
labours, and Thursday and some say Friday the Debate is to last.
We have sent to Mr Knox for the numbers, he came home at one, and he
thought there would be no division. I suppose this question will
decide the fate of the Ministers.
There was a very interesting debate the other day on a statute,
precluding all men who have written on hire for newspapers from
becoming Members of Lincoln's Inn. A lawyer present described a case
in which a young man of the highest expectations, most distinguished
education, might be driven by necessity to accept of such an offer for
existence. After enlarging with great feeling on such a case, he
concluded by saying he had not described an imaginary situation, but
his own, thirty years before. The applause of the House was excessive.
I wish you may meet with the speech for it was very interesting.
Sir F. Burdett has published a letter to say that the House of Commons
have no right to imprison Gale Jones.  There is to be a debate
upon it. I fear his conduct will do much mischief. His letter is
addressed to his Constituents.
Pole Carew got drunk at Oxford and made such a riot he was sent to the
Castle. Think of Wentworth (Beaumont) coming from Cambridge to have a
tooth out without leave!
[Illustration: SIR FRANCIS BURDETT, BT., M P.
_From an engraving by Wm. Sharp, after a picture by J. Northcote, R.A.
Painted while Sir Francis was a prisoner in the Tower._]
Yesterday early I went into the Park to see between 4,000 & 5,000
Cavalry pass in Review before the Commander-in-Chief. The sight was
highly gratifying, the morning beautiful, & as they entered from the
Kensington Barracks & went down the Ride, all the carriages went up
the drive, several open carriages and a large concourse of people both
on foot & horseback. It was well-timed, as this morning there is to be
a Meeting of the Electors of Westminster in Westminster Hall to
address, I believe, the Commons for having deprived them of one of
their Members, but the sight of the army yesterday will, I doubt not,
keep all quiet.
Sir F. Burdett is going to Law with the Speaker on the illegality of
his Warrant. Thursday, the Foot Troops are all to be reviewed in the
Park, the number about 17,000. Major Gibbs and his Regiment are on
guard in the Square.... Since Sir F. Burdett was safe in the Tower the
town has been perfectly quiet & all parties in the House join to
condemn his conduct.
This year there is quite a new Ball set. Mrs Beaumont's was the best
of the year--a child's Ball from 8 to 10, and then a grown-up one, two
suppers, magnificently done, never too full, nor too hot. I had a few
people before, only 14 or 15 women and plenty of men. They danced to
I invited Lady Eleanora Dundas.  Our visiting arose from an odd
mistake. She called here and believed herself at Lady Dalkeith's. I,
somewhat surprised at her invasion, of course, as in politeness bound,
returned her visit--at which _she_ must have been much astonished,
being still unaware she had called on _me_. When she came to return my
return-visit, she was not a little shocked and surprised to discover
where she had actually been when she supposed herself to be calling
upon Lady Dalkeith! Archy says La Belle  is to marry the son of
Picture Davis, at whose house they are, and who has bought Lord
London is very gay now. Mrs Knox has contributed more to its gaiety
than anybody yet. Last night she had another excellent dance
downstairs in two rooms. I was there till five, Esther (Acklom) with
me, the little Lord still perseveres, but I am told it will not do.
Archy has got a capital house, elegantly furnished, in Connaught
Place, close to Tyburn, with a fine view of the Park.
_May 22nd, 1810._
To-day all the world are wishing it may continue fair, as Lady
Buckinghamshire gives a Venetian Breakfast. I scarcely expect she will
find the world fools enough to mask by daylight.
The last week has not been gay, we have had nothing but dinners and
Lord James Murray was married on Saturday,  and this day at twelve
Miss Dashwood gives her hand to Lord Ely,  all her first cousins
to attend to the amount of forty. I hope he will behave well to her
for she is truly amiable.
To-day Esther goes to the Breakfast, to the Opera to-night with us,
and then to sup at Devonshire House with Lady Caroline Wortley. I see
no beau likely to succeed at present.
Towards the close of 1810 the mental affliction under which George III.
had so long suffered became more pronounced, and was declared by his
physicians to be incurable. In the February following, the Bill was passed
by which the Prince of Wales became King in all but name; and forthwith,
in the worst possible taste, he determined to celebrate the inauguration
of his regency by a fete at Carlton House, which should surpass all
previous entertainments given by him in its unrivalled magnificence. The
selfishness which prompted such callous indifference to the condition of
his father was accentuated by the fact that he fixed upon the date of the
old King's birthday as an appropriate anniversary on which to hold this
public rejoicing at the incapacity of the unfortunate monarch; while the
occasion was rendered still more memorable by the fact that from this
great festivity, not only was the Princess of Wales perforce excluded and
Mrs Fitzherbert, by a studied slight on his part, prevented from
attending, but even the unoffending Princess Charlotte, now verging on
womanhood and panting to taste that gladness of youth of which she had
known so little, was denied participation in the gaiety for which she
None the less, all other members of the world of fashion went to the
entertainment, which proved one of surpassing brilliancy. The night was
fine, and the company, which began arriving soon after nine o'clock,
stayed till the small hours of the following morning. The walks adjacent
to the Palace were enclosed and converted into temporary rooms, glittering
with lights and festooned with flowers. The supper took place at two
o'clock in the morning in an exquisite grotto of rare exotics, and along
the centre of the table, which was 200 feet long, a river of pure water
flowed from a beautiful fountain at its head. Gold and silver fish
disported themselves in its limpid waters, while along its banks were
ranged cool green moss and aquatic flowers. In contrast with this scene of
simulated sylvan beauty, the daily papers relate with awe, if with some
lack of humour, that "the gold and silver plate used at the fete amounted
to seven tons. _Nearly a wagon load of it belonged to the late Sir W.
Pulteney and was borrowed for the occasion._" In the midst of this
astonishing display, surrounded by his most favoured friends and waited on
by sixty servitors, sat the Regent, resplendent in his finest clothes and
swelling in the plenitude of his new importance. To him it mattered
nothing that his daughter was breaking her heart in the dullness of
Windsor, that his wife was chafing in her seclusion at Blackheath, or that
the woman who loved him knew herself publicly humiliated by his attitude
towards her; yet the condemnation meted out freely to his conduct, even by
those who accepted his hospitality, finds no echo in the correspondence of
Mrs Stanhope, who with tireless energy attended the royal fete previous to
starting on the long journey to Cannon Hall.
CANNON HALL, _July 1st, 1811._
The day before I left Town I attended the most magnificent fete I ever
saw, given by the Prince Regent. It was to have been on the King's
Birthday, but the preparations could not be ready in time. Three
Thousand people were invited and there was room at supper for all, the
tables were in the temporary rooms in the garden, and it was more like
Vauxhall than anything I know to compare it to. All our princes, the
Duke of York & Princess Sophia & the Duke of Gloucester were there.
We did not get home till 1/2 past 5 & started on our journey to
Yorkshire at 3. I hear the public are to be admitted to see the
_Hebris_ of our feast.
Unfortunately, this well-intentioned decision on the part of the Prince
Regent was attended with a dire result. "The condescension of the Prince,"
relate the papers, "in extending the permission to view, for three days
longer, the arrangements for the late fete at Carlton House, has nearly
been attended with fatal consequences. Wednesday being the last day of the
public being admitted, many persons took their station at the gates so
early as seven o'clock. By twelve the line of carriages reached down St
James's Street, as far as Piccadilly, and the crowd of pedestrians halfway
up the Haymarket. At three o'clock the crowd had so much increased, that
the Guards were forced to give way; several ladies were unfortunately
thrown down and trampled upon; and we regret to learn that some were
seriously hurt, among whom were Miss Shum of Bedford Square, and a young
lady, daughter of a gentleman at the British Museum. Another young lady
presented a shocking spectacle; she had been trodden on till her face was
quite black from strangulation, and every part of her body bruised to such
a degree as to leave little hopes of her recovery."
"I hear," wrote Mrs Stanhope from her safe retreat in Yorkshire, "that no
one knew what to do nor how to disperse the people. At last, the Dukes of
Kent and Cumberland ordered ladders to be brought, and, climbing up on to
the wall of the court-yard, they personally announced loudly that the
Prince Regent had given orders that the house should be shut up and no
more people admitted. There were numbers wounded, however, before the
immense crowd could get away. What a mercy Esther Acklom did not go, as I
know that she intended doing!"
Esther Acklom, to whom constant reference is made in the correspondence of
Mrs Stanhope, was the only daughter and heiress of Richard Acklom, Esq.,
of Wiseton Hall, Nottinghamshire. She was much sought after in society on
account of her reputed wealth; and although stout and somewhat plain in
appearance, she was a decided flirt, and extremely fond of amusement.
Partly owing to the fact that her mother was in delicate health, partly to
the proximity of her father's house in Lower Grosvenor Street to that of
Mr Stanhope, she was the constant associate of the young Stanhopes, and
attended many balls and routs chaperoned by their mother. There was,
indeed, much to recommend her companionship. Clever, well-read, lively in
manner and witty in conversation, she was invariably agreeable, despite
the fact that her speech was apt to be too frank and her determination too
unswerving to render her universally popular. Of her extraordinary
decision of character, indeed, her life furnishes more than one striking
instance, and an illustration of this may be given, which occurred when
she was but fifteen years of age.
She was then journeying abroad with her parents, when, in common with some
other English travellers, they were detained at Vienna on its capture by
Napoleon. The danger was imminent. Once plunged into a foreign prison, it
was impossible to say when or by what means they might escape thence. In
such a dilemma none knew what to do or to advise; but Esther Acklom was
equal to the occasion. Hearing that the military commandant was Marshal
Mortier, who had been known to her family in England, she took her maid,
and went off to interview him. She found the great man seated in the Hotel
de Ville, surrounded by a large staff, listening to the complaints of the
burghers and administering justice. She presented her petition, but he
scarcely glanced at it, and roughly bade her to stand aside till others
had been attended to who were of more importance. Her maid, terrified at
his manner, implored her young mistress to come away, but Esther, nothing
daunted, stood her ground. She had shrewdly observed that an aide-de-camp
of the Emperor was by the side of the marshal, and concluding that this
fact might account for his manner, she patiently awaited the turn of
events. Nor was she wrong. In course of time the aide-de-camp departed,
and the commandant then politely inquired in what he could serve her. She
explained, and, evidently struck by her courage, he further asked in the
kindest manner how many passes she required. Again she had presence of
mind to perceive the drift of his question, and to see that he was
anxious, if she so desired, to aid her friends as well as herself. She
boldly answered, three, in the hope of serving two English families of her
father's acquaintance. To her delight, the passes were at once handed to
her, and within a few hours the three carriages were hastening from
Even then her adventures were not at an end. An English family, who had
failed in securing a pass, decided, as a forlorn hope, to follow in the
wake of the other carriages on the chance that, in the confusion of so
many vehicles leaving the city, they might effect their departure under
cover of the passports of their friends. As was to be expected the attempt
failed. The Official on guard allowed the three carriages with passes to
drive through the gates, but the fourth was at once arrested and ordered
to return. Vainly did its frightened occupants entreat and expostulate,
the man was obdurate, and they had given up all for lost, when the clever
girl who had secured the safety of the rest of the party came to their
Thrusting her head out of the carriage in which she was seated, Esther
looked back at them with well assumed anger. "Why on earth don't you go
back to your hotel and fetch your pass," she cried impatiently, "instead
of giving all this trouble? It is absurd! We will, of course, wait here
till your return!" So convincing was her indignation, and so complete her
assurance, that the Official was deceived. The fourth carriage received
permission to pass the barrier, and the fugitives hastened to make good
their escape, showering blessings on the young girl whose coolness and
presence of mind had saved them.
A character of so much individuality and resource doubtless appealed
strongly to the young Stanhopes, and Esther, besides being their constant
companion in London, was often their guest at Cannon Hall. Between the
years 1810-1811, mention is made of an incident which occurred during one
of these visits, and which in a striking manner serves to emphasise the
gulf between a past and a present century.
An advertisement had been issued in Wakefield announcing that, on a given
day, a man would fly from the Tower of the Parish Church to the Bowling-
green in Southgate. Much local interest had been roused by this statement
and wagers had been made upon the practicability or impracticability of
the attempt. The Stanhopes had no thought of attending this performance,
but they happened to be driving in the neighbourhood with Esther Acklom on
the day appointed, and their lively guest, with her usual wilfulness,
insisted that they should make their coach pause near the Church in order
that she might witness the occurrence.
At the appointed time, accompanied by some other men, the adventurer
appeared. He stood for a moment in view of the crowd, outlined darkly
against the Tower of the Church, then, stepping cautiously off the roof,
he apparently committed himself to space, and was pushed off on his voyage
by his companions. With his arms waving to and fro like wings he slid
slowly towards a tall pole upon the bowling-green, while the vast mob
below watched his flight with breathless anxiety. The fact was that a fine
rope was attached from the Tower of the Church to the stake, and a piece
of board with a deep grove underneath having been securely strapped to the
"aviator," the groove was then balanced upon the rope, and the action of
the man's arms sufficed to set it in motion. The venture, however, was
sufficiently perilous to sustain the interest of a crowd who must
presumably have been cognisant of the existence of the rope, and when the
successful adventurer reached the ground in safety, he was greeted with
heart-whole acclamations from an enchanted crowd, in which lively Esther
A more important incident in the life of Miss Acklom was likewise due to
her acquaintance with the Stanhopes. But we must first glance at the train
of events which indirectly gave rise to it.
ANECDOTES FROM A PRISONER OF NAPOLEON
John Stanhope had early evinced a desire to travel. His most youthful
venture had been a tour in Wales, whilst his next excursion, the tour to
the Hebrides already referred to, had been of a more daring nature;
indeed, a man, in those days, who had made such a journey, was looked upon
as a traveller of some experience. Not content, however, with having
acquired this reputation, young Stanhope, when not yet twenty-three years
of age, determined to extend his researches further afield.
He was anxious to investigate the antiquities of Greece, about which
little was then known, and having imbued his friend Tom Knox with his own
enthusiasm the latter decided to accompany him. On the 29th of January
1810 the two young men therefore embarked on board the ship _Vestal_,
which was carrying Mr, afterwards Sir Charles Stuart  as Minister, out