Edward Frederick Leveson-Gower.

Bygone years; online

. (page 7 of 21)
Online LibraryEdward Frederick Leveson-GowerBygone years; → online text (page 7 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Enfield, contain much amusing gossip, but are
immeasurably inferior to his brother's journal. He



was, however, more amiable and better liked. He
sang charmingly and was a favourite of the fine
ladies, althouo-h less so with men. He was with us
at Paris as first attach^ at the Embassy, when he
always made himself agreeable. He passed the
latter part of his life in London in two successive
houses, which he furnished with great taste. He
gave the most delightful concerts, which the ^lite
of society attended. His intimate friends, Signor
Mario and Madame Grisi, were the chief performers.
The witty Mr. Sneyd used to compare these parties
to a little cream in a Sevres cup. It was a proof
of Greville's amiability that he never turned his
back on his old friends, and at his very select con-
certs there was always a sprinkling of guests whom
the fashionables probably looked upon as rather
dowdy. He had the merit, rare in Englishmen,
of being full of zest, and of being very keen about
the favourite game of the hour. At Wrest ^ it
became dark before the end of a game of croquet,
when he had lamps brought into the garden to
enable the game to be finished by lamplight.

Another frequent visitor in Bruton Street was
Mr. Frederick Byng already referred to, and, as
he and his wife had peculiarities, some account of
them may be amusing. He was supposed to be
successful in his love affairs ; he was not good-
looking but had a pleasant face, a good figure, and
was reputed to be adventurous. He was called the

' Lady Covvper's country house, which her son Earl Cowper has

1846-50] "POODLE" BYNG 99

" Poodle " on account of his curly hair. He told me
he was given the name by some charming lady
he had courted. He eventually married his mother's
maid, which he did on account of a little girl
she had borne him, whom he tenderly loved. It
was very sad that the child died soon after he had
made such a sacrifice on her behalf. Mrs. Byng was
a good wife, but not refined. With her help he gave
little dinners, which were plain but excellent, and
which it was said she cooked herself My brother
was a favourite of hers, and she continued to embrace
him after he was grown up. On one such occasion
he involuntarily drew back, upon which she observed,
having just eaten a peppermint lozenge, " I see
you're not fond of peppermint." Though not re-
ceived in London, some of her husband's French
friends were kind to her. My father saw her on her
return from a long visit in France to a Madame de
Vatry, a charming person. Mrs. Byng expatiated on
the cordial hospitality they had met with. — " Only
think ! They had our linen washed free of charge !
It was lucky, as Frederick brought with him a
lot of dirty linen." — It may be imagined that such
details did not much interest my father.

Mr. Byng's fault was inquisitiveness, which got
him the name of Paul Pry, a well-known character
acted by Liston in the amusing comedy of that
name. At the time of my eldest sister's engage-
ment he inquired of my mother what answer he
should give if he was asked whether her daughter
was going to marry Lord Rivers. — " Suppose,


Mr. Byng, you say you do not know." — On
his visits to his friends in the country he cross-
examined the servants about all the details of their
masters' establishments, and gave his entertainers
unacceptable advice. At Woburn he complained
to his cousin the Duke of Bedford of the conduct
of a footman. — "What did he do?" — "He did
not look pleased when I tipped him." — " I suppose
you did not give him enough. At all events, I
cannot force him to look pleased when he isn't."
Mr. Byng meddled a good deal with London
parochial affairs, and both with regard to them
and to the domestic arrangements of his hosts, he
was no doubt actuated by the best intentions, and
did some good. After his appointment as Com-
missioner of Sewers Landseer drew a delightful
sketch of a poodle poking his nose into a sewer,
as illustrating his inquisitive activity.

There never was any one who had so many
acquaintances in every class. As I walked along
the street with him he was recognised by nearly
every person we met. He had had an early
introduction into fashionable life. He used to
boast of his admission into Devonshire House
when he was still in his teens. — " It must
have been delightful." — " Not at all. It was a
great honour, but I was bored to death. The
Duchess was usually stitching in one corner of
the room, and Charles Fox snoring in another."

My sister-in-law. Lady Granville, was a perfect
hostess. She had charming manners and a French-


woman's gift, when surrounded by a circle of clever
men, of addressing each of them by turn and en-
couraging them to talk. The company in Bruton
Street comprised many eminent Englishmen and
foreigners, chiefly politicians. There were also
many agreeable women, such as Lady Morley, the
grandmother of the lately deceased Earl, who in her
old age retained all the liveliness of youth, and was
extremely entertaining without ever uttering an
ill-natured word. Her sayings were often much to
the point. She called those who made unjust wills
" posthumous villains." I also remember there Lady
Cowper, the mother of the present Earl, who knew
more good stories and told them better than any one
I ever knew except perhaps her son Henry. Lady
Harriet Baring ^ was a woman of a different calibre.
She was more feared than liked ; she had not many
friends, but a few who were devoted to her. She
was celebrated for her wit and her power of quick
repartee. She spared no one, least of all those
who were worthy of her steel. She even chaffed
her husband, although she would not allow any one
else to do so. One day he observed that every one
was supposed to have a favourite ology, but that
he had none. — ** Yes, my dear, you have one.
You love tautology." (He was given to repeating
the same story). — When she reproached Monckton
Milnes with the revolutionary tendency of a
pamphlet he had just published, he said, " The

* Daughter of the sixth Earl of Sandwich. Her husband was after-
wards the second I^ord Ashburton,


writings of your friend Carlyle are much redder." —
" You mean they are much more read." — My
mother wrote to her sister that she liked Lady
Harriet, but was aware that her preference required
some apology.

It was about this period that I first made ac-
quaintance with Mr. Thomas Carlyle, Lady Harriet
Baring's devoted friend. Lady Harriet was very
good to me, I fancy on account of my mother's re-
ception of her in Paris, and I was frequently a guest
not only at Bath House, but at the Grange and at
a farm they had at Addiscombe, and once at Alver-
stoke. I met Carlyle at these different places, and
sometimes Mrs. Carlyle. My recollection of the
latter is, sitting in a corner busy with her embroidery,
with no one speaking to her. One can easily
imagine how much so clever a woman must have
resented this neglect. I never was converted to
Carlyle's views, but I could not help being fascin-
ated by his eloquence, originality, and vehement
abuse of everybody and everything, which in most
people would be repellent, but in him was amusing.
Many years later I again saw something of him.
It was just after the death of his wife, when
Lady Marian Alford, hearing of his dejection, did
her best by every sort of attention to cheer him.
I saw him when he was staying with her at
Mentone, and afterwards at Belton, besides several
times in London. One day Louisa, Lord Ash-
burton's second wife, who continued to show him
the same kindness as her predecessor, asked Lady

1846-50] THOMAS CARLYLE 103

Marian Alford and me to meet him at dinner. We
were therefore a party of four, and all through
the repast the two ladies fervently worshipped
the great man, which he did not take amiss.
As I am not a hero-worshipper and disliked
some of his opinions, I maliciously introduced
the subject of slavery. Mr. Carlyle rose to the
occasion, defended slavery, and vilified the aboli-
tionists. The two ladies, who had tender hearts
and abhorred slavery from the bottom of their
souls, were much disturbed. — " Oh, Mr. Carlyle,
do not say that ! You cannot mean it. Have
you ever read Mrs. Stowe ? " — "A poor, foolish
woman, who wrote a book of wretched trash
called Uncle Toms Cabins —My purpose was
achieved, and for a short time the adoration
abated. Another day the same party met, when
after dinner our hostess said to Mr. Carlyle, " I
hope you will not mind our leaving you, as we
are going to the theatre to see Fechter act
Hamlet." To her astonishment he told her he
would like to accompany us. He had not been
inside a theatre for years, and his delight at the
performance was great. — " The fellow is not so
bad after all. Dear me ! That is capital ! " — All
this was said in so loud a voice that every
moment I expected the audience to call the
philosopher to order.

Mr. Baring, Lady Harriet's husband, was also
very kind to me, and invited me to bachelor dinners
which he liked to give. I have stumbled on a


letter I wrote to my mother in which there occurs
a description of one of those dinners :

" Yesterday I had a curious dinner at Mr.
Bingham Baring's — Mr. Macaulay and three other
men I had never seen before. I took one of
them before dinner in the dark for a boy, he
was so small, till he talked and I saw his features.
All dinner I puzzled over whom he might be.
Disagreeable sharp manner, very acute, knowing
a good deal, assuming to know everything, main-
taining very startling opinions, certainly the
most peculiar man I ever saw. My host, when
I asked his name, was astonished that I did not
know Roebuck by sight."

According to the following anecdote Mr. Roebuck
was made a Privy Councillor without ever having
been in office. When Mr. Grote refused the peerage
which Mr. Gladstone offered him, Mrs. Grote wrote
to a member of the Government that whilst her
husband did not wish to become a peer, it would
gratify him to become a Privy Councillor. The
answer was that no one deserved it more, but
that he could not be made one as he had never held
office, it being forgotten that the case of Roebuck
formed a precedent. Times are changed — there
is no such difficulty at present. Tom, Dick, and
Harry now become Right Honourables.

Old men often remark that women have become
less beautiful than they formerly were. I confess
that I have sometimes had the same impression,
but it is an idea as groundless as it is easy to
be explained. Young men are more impression-


able than old men, who also detect faults less
apparent to the eyes of the less experienced.
For instance, I always thought that there were
a greater number of good-looking women to be
met with at the parties in Bruton Street than I
have seen anywhere collected in later years. They
were too numerous for me to attempt now to name
them. I will only mention two sisters of con-
spicuous merit, Lady Canning and Lady Waterford.
Both were very handsome, although their parents,
Lord and Lady Stuart de Rothesay, were the
ugliest couple in Europe. Lady Canning was
the heroic wife of the Governor-General of India,
whom she so nobly sustained during the fearful
days of the Indian Mutiny. Lady Waterford was
the best amateur artist living, whose only fault
was excessive modesty, and to whom might well
be applied Waller's lines :

Small is the worth
Of beauty from the light retired.

Bid her come forth.
Suffer herself to be admired,
Nor blush so much to be desired.

It is remarkable that with scarcely an ex-
ception all the pretty women of this society bore
spotless reputations. There is no doubt that an
improvement in morals had taken place at that
time, which may to a great degree be ascribed to
Queen Victoria's silent influence.

In other respects various changes in society
occurred. The lady patronesses of Almack's ceased


to exercise their despotic power. Lady Jersey,^
who had long been looked upon as the leader
of the fashionable world, had to give way to the
Duchess of Sutherland." This did not arise from
any wish of the Duchess to supplant her, but
merely from the force of circumstances. The
Duchess had great wealth and rank. She was
known to be a favourite of the Queen, and was
generally esteemed and admired. She had a sound
understanding, and in social matters, as well as
in politics, always took the generous side. Lady
Jersey was very jealous of her. Lady Tankerville
told me at a garden party at Chiswick that she had
spent most of the afternoon in trying to console
Lady Jersey, who was in floods of tears at not
having been asked to a party at Windsor the
following week, to which the Duchess had been
invited. "That woman," she said, "is cutting me
out in everything ! " Persons in humble positions
often imagine that those above them who appear
to possess everything they can possibly desire
must, in the absence of real sorrow, be content
with their good fortune. But this is not the case.
Royal personages have been known to fret because
they are not assigned the place at public functions
to which they think themselves entitled. For
similar reasons the wife of a younger son of a peer
is angry when a rich parvenue is sent in to dinner

' Julia, daughter of Sir Robert Peel, wife of the sixth Earl of Jersey.
2 Harriet, daughter of the sixth Earl of Carlisle, wife of the second
Duke of Sutherland.


before her, and a lady's-maid is unhappy if in the
housekeeper's room precedence is not given to her
in accordance with the rank of her mistress. Who
could imagine that the beautiful, the wealthy, the
much-envied Lady Jersey could be distressed at not
being invited to a party at Windsor ? She had, it
must be admitted, two defects — she was silly and

The Lady Tankerville above mentioned was
the daughter of the Due de Gramont, and she and
her mother emigrated into Germany at the time
of the Revolution. She there met — like her famous
ancestress, Corisande de Gramont, whose Christian
name she bore — with a Royal admirer. The Comte
d'Artois, the future Charles X., fell desperately in
love with her, and to avoid his advances the
Duchess hurried her off to England. They were
there warmly welcomed by the Duchess of Devon-
shire, and for several years Devonshire House
became their home. It was from there that she
married Lord Tankerville. There was some delay
about it, because his father objected to have a
daughter-in-law who was both a Catholic and
a foreigner.

The Chesterfield House set was always para-
mount in racing circles, but became about this time
less conspicuous in other respects. I often went
there in the evening to join in a rubber of whist.
It was generally supposed that much gambling
went on there. This was not the case in my time,
nor do I think it ever was so. If I remember right,


our stakes were half-a-crown points and five shillings
the rubber. Once when travelling by train with
Lady Chesterfield and some of her fi-iends we
passed the time in playing whist, when she ruled
that our stakes should only be a shilling because
it was so easy to cheat in a railway carriage.

I used to wonder that Lady Chesterfield admitted
into her house that good-fiDr-nothing fellow, Count
d'Orsay. He was handsome, clever, and amusing,
and I am aware that in the eyes of some people
such qualities cover a multitude of sins. But
his record was a bad one. No Frenchman would
speak to him because he left the French Army
at the breaking out of the war between his own
country and Spain, in order to go to Italy with
Lord and Lady Blessington, and his conduct with
regard to his marriage was infamous. Lord
Blessington's daughter was brought up in Ireland
by two pious old aunts in the principles of re-
ligion and morality. When she had reached the
age of sixteen her step-mother. Lady Blessington,
got her husband to order her to join them, and
not long afterwards brought about a marriage
between her and her own lover. Count d'Orsay,
in order that he might get hold of her fortune.
After the marriage she induced him entirely to
neglect his young wife. She moreover endeavoured
to undermine her faith and her morals by getting
her to read books calculated to do so, and what
was still worse, she promoted the advances of
other men, who made up to this inexperienced


and beautiful young woman. Her life at Gore
House became at last so intolerable that she fled
from it, never to return. In spite of all this
Lady Blessington is described by some modern
writers as " the gorgeous Lady Blessington."
She was handsome, and had some Irish wit ;
but her literary performances were poor, and
only got into notice through being puffed by
penny-a-liners whom she entertained at her table.

I was never inside Gore House, but I was
told by others who knew it that with some few
exceptions the company was inferior, and to
compare it with that of Holland House, as has
sometimes been done, is simply ridiculous. Louis
Napoleon was a frequent guest, but he at that
time was of small repute. When he first arrived
in London his uncle Jerome asked the Duke
of Devonshire to invite his mauvais stcjet of a
nephew to one of his large parties at Devonshire
House, "so that he might for once be seen in
decent society." Their relations were, I fancy,
limited to such invitations ; nevertheless, before
the Boulogne expedition the Prince asked the
Duke to lend him five thousand pounds. I cannot
say whether he told him for what object he
wanted the money, but I know that the request
was not complied with. I believe that that foolish
expedition was concocted at Gore House.

Lady Chesterfield came several times to Paris
with her sister, Mrs. Anson, where they were both
much admired. Her knowledge of French was


imperfect. When playing at whist she called the
queen of hearts " la reine des cceurs,'' and the
knave of diamonds " le coqtiin de diamants!'' When
discussing the relative stoutness of French and
English women she observed, " Moi, je ne suis
pas grosse mamienant, mais je r^tais avant mon
mariage!' And she told them that " Monsieur
de Rambuteau avail eu robligeance de lui envoyer
sa boite d POpdra!' Monsieur de Rambuteau, the
PrSfet de la Seine, was popular with all classes.
His chief delight was to devote himself to the
English beauties who came to Paris. He sent
them his boxes at the theatres, and in return they
allowed him to arm them about at receptions.
On each occasion Madame de Rambuteau was
heard to say in a low voice, to the amusement
of those who heard her, " Encore une victimey

Monsieur de Rambuteau behaved well at
the time of the Revolution of '48. He remained
at his post till the last moment. The mob would
not destroy the picture of " Le ban papa,'' but laid
it on Madame de Rambuteau's bed.

The following account of the state of Paris at
that time, written to me by my friend Lady Harriet
d'Orsay, ^ may be found interesting.

" I thought that in the midst of all the excitement
caused by the wonderful events which have just
taken place, you would bear me in mind and feel
some anxiety about my fate. I admit with you
that this Revolution has been a fine thing, bravely

• Only daughter of Lord Blessington already referred to.

1846-50] PARIS IN 1848 III

and nobly done, though seen de pres it would not
seem quite as perfect as when you had the glowing
descriptions given in the French papers, never
backward in singing their own praises. I confess
that for my part, though I have heard of some
admirable traits of courage and disinterestedness,
yet I have not felt a gleam of enthusiasm or
pleasure. I had no love for Louis Philippe, and
the insolence and tyranny of Guizot and his acolytes
had become insufferable. But still, to see an old
man robbed of everything and turned out with
his family upon the pavement, the Tuileries
saccagds, Neuilly burnt, and the Due d'Orleans*
statues taken down, his wife and child turned adrift,
and now disgusting calumnies heaped upon the whole
family, was pain and grief to my spirit. The
Republic may be a very fine thing, and I admit
that Lamartine is a very fine character, and I
believe quite sincere. But I fear that he is too
much of a poet, of a reve creux and sentimentalist,
for this age and this country. I think he has in
his head an ideal Republic, all patriotism, self-
sacrifice and noble disinterestedness. But will he
be able to establish things on this footing ? Will
his colleagues have the same lofty aim and generous
views ? Will not the spirit of intrigue, the love
of filthy lucre, all the mean, petty rivalships and
desire of personal aggrandisement and gain soon
rise up again to deface the fair structure of
Republicanism ? And then, if he is thrown down,
who is to take his place ? Who will stem the
torrent of Communism and brutal violence ? I
think with this fickle people his very excess of
popularity at this moment is alarming, though one
cannot wonder at it, for his courage, energy, and
self-immolation are beyond praise.

" I was rushing about in all directions from first
to last, and just missed the unfortunate fusillade
at the Capucines by five minutes. You have no


idea of anything so wretched as Paris looks All

d'eaion^'Th""" '"'"i ?■• =-"-^'' '" evcrj
direction. There is wonderfully little enthusi;,,™

even among those who have done all The hoT

keepers would gladly have everything as it Z'

a fortnight ago. Their loss of coursers f^menTe

as there IS no society, and most people are re

iorsVave"'br''''"''=''"^r= ""y ''^"' Koth: hiidi:

losses have been tremendous. The nnnr M-,„ i
have also suffered severely she bdnfr^^ fi ^ '
the middle nf if ,11 -ri , "■'' confined in

beforl th^ ]^ ^''"^ '^'""S^" °" Thursday nfcrht

belore the new Government was organised with
thousands of drunken men all armed about he struts
and among whom were all the /orfa^s and ruffians
n Pans was frightful to contemplate. Now evlrv

TllZ.""''"''' ''"'"' '"' ''-"'^ -'^ J-o'-e To
shZ^l^'lirL:;^^, the Princes for having

prophesied al,"th,-s I7Ls p^^k^d fc "llg^^'

for having tried to enlighten the King ^ '"

I he Princess Lieven ran off before fV,«

catastrophe, as did also Dow. Sandwich Ladv

woTd'^'shrw f r h"^r '^^ ^ - '^^ ^-^^^'^

ura sne, was at her house. The Princesse

foreign funds. They burnt Rothsrhil^rrL^
and Suresnes." J^otnschilds Boulogne

The Duchesse de Montpensier, who had lately
married, had all the liveliness of youth, as is proved

1846-S0] THE REVOLUTION OF 1848 113

by the following incident. When the Royal Family
had to fly from Paris, she was confided to a gentle-
man of the Court to take charge of her to England.
When approaching Abbeville they learnt that there
was great excitement in the town and they thought
it prudent to send the carriage to the posthouse
and to await its return by the side of the road,
which they did in pouring rain. The gentleman
expressed to the Princess his great concern that
she should undergo so much discomfort. She how-
ever assured him that she did not much mind it —
indeed, that she preferred it to the round table
at the Tuileries. It seems that the Queen Marie
Amelie used after dinner to preside at a table
round which the Princesses and the ladies of the
Court sat, all engaged in fancy work, and scarcely
any one uttering a word.

Lord Normanby was then Ambassador at Paris,
and having been in heated conflict with Monsieur
Guizot on the subject of the Spanish marriages,
he welcomed his fall and the Revolution which
followed. He in consequence went about talking
of '' les zdros de Fdvrier,'' meaning of course '' les

I saw but little of Lady Chesterfield in later life.
She occasionally asked me to dinner, and one
day I .found a small party, composed entirely of
Lord Beaconsfield and some of his staunchest
adherents. They naturally looked upon me as
a black sheep, but he, to put me at my ease,
addressed himself to me during the whole of



dinner, taking little notice of his own friends.
He was always courteous, but his courtesy was
a little overdone one day. I asked his leave to
go to Hughenden to look at the verandah there,
which I thought of copying at my own home.
He immediately said that he was much distressed
to be unable to be there to receive me, but begged

1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryEdward Frederick Leveson-GowerBygone years; → online text (page 7 of 21)