Frances (Winckley) Shelley.

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loyal town we have as yet passed through. Its ruined
church and monastery remind one of its former
religious zeal. Triumphal arches, white flags, and
other emblems are still displayed as signals of
rejoicing for the restoration ; and we saw some
soldiers belonging to the regiment which remained
faithful to the King all through the Hundred Days.

We reached Calais at one o'clock, and were told
that the packets would sail at three in the afternoon.
The captains of the various packets were so eager to
underbid each other, that I think they would have
landed us in England for nothing. We had intended
crossing in the public packet, as the wind was favour-
able, but it was already so crowded that they could
not take our carriage. This was fortunate, for we
embarked on board a remarkably clean, new vessel,
the Lady Jane James. We were scarcely out of
harbour when the wind freshened to a squall, and
we prevailed upon the captain — not without some
difficulty — to lower his topsails. He was very un-
willing to shorten sail, as he had set his heart on
beating the packet.

In a short time the wind freshened to a gale, which
lasted for two hours. I fell twice on the slippery deck
before it occurred to me to get a couple of men to hold
me with a rope. This answered well for a time, but as
the men were wanted for other duties, the captain
begged me to go below. I was drenched to the skin
by the rain and the salt water which from time to time
invaded our vessel ; and the smell of the cabin made
me very unwell. As Shelley suffered as much as I
did, we were very pleased at having a vessel all to our-
selves. The wind dropped almost as suddenly as it
had arisen, but what there was of it had veered round
from S.W. to N.W., which prevented the vessel from
entering Dover harbour in time to save the tide.


Eventually a boat came alongside to take us on shore.
To the shame of my countrymen, be it said, the first
piece of dishonesty we had met with during the whole
period of our travels was on our own coast ! The
boatmen, well knowing that we were at their mercy,
made us pay six guineas for rowing us ashore !

At twelve o'clock at night on September 24, 1815,
we landed at Dover ; and on the 26th we reached
Maresfield. The delight of my children at seeing me
and the comforts of home make full amends for the
lost gaieties of Paris, which, though fascinating for a
time, would soon pall. Everything now appears to
me in the light of a pleasant dream — a dream which
will tinge the memories of old age — when Shelley and
I have lost our youth, and will find pleasure in the
recollection of days so eventful, and so bright.


A copy of the following letter has been given to me
by Lady Bessborough :

" Dear Lady Bessborough,

" You have often wished for some written
account of the adventures and sufferings of your son,
Colonel Ponsonby, 1 on the field of Waterloo ; the
modesty of his nature is however no small obstacle in
the way. Will the following imperfect sketch supply
its place until it comes ? The battle of the 18th of June
was one morning alluded to in the library at Althorpe,
and his answers to many of the questions which were
put to him are here thrown together, as nearly as I
can remember in his own words.

" ' The weather cleared up at noon, and the sun shone
out a little just as the battle began. The armies were
within 800 yards of each other ; the videttes, before
they were withdrawn, being so near as to be able to
converse. At one moment I imagined I saw Bona-
parte ; a considerable staff was moving rapidly along
the front of our line. I was stationed with my regiment,
about 300 strong, at the extreme of the left wing, and
directed to act discretionally ; each of the armies was
drawn up on a gentle declivity, a small valley lying
between them.

'"Atone o'clock, observing, as I thought, unsteadiness
in a column of French infantry of 1,000 men or there-
abouts, which was advancing with an irregular fire, I
resolved to charge them. As we were descending at
a gallop we received from our own troops on the right
a fire much more destructive than theirs, they having

1 Colonel (afterwards Sir) Frederick Cavendish Ponsonby was the second son
of Frederick, Earl of Bessborough. He was born 1783. He distinguished him-
self as a cavalry officer at Talavera and Barrossa. At Waterloo he commanded
11th Light Dragoons. Was Governor of Malta from 1826 to 1S35, an( i died




begun long before it could take effect, and slackening
as we drew nearer. When we were within 50 paces
of them, they turned, and much execution was done
amongst them, as we were followed by some Belgians
who had remarked our success. But we had no sooner
passed through them, than we were attacked in our
turn before we could form, by about 300 Polish
Lancers, who had come down to their relief — the
French artillery pouring in amongst us a heavy fire of
grape-shot, which, however, for one of our men
killed three of their own. In the melee I was disabled
almost instantly in both my arms, and followed by a
few of my men who were presently cut down — for no
quarter was asked or given — I was carried on by my
horse, till receiving a blow on my head from a sabre, I
was thrown senseless on my face to the ground.
Recovering, I raised myself a little to look round,
being I believe at that time in a condition to get up
and run away, when a Lancer, passing by, exclaimed :
" Tu n'es pas mort, coquin," and struck his lance
through my back. My head dropped, the blood gushed
into my mouth ; a difficulty of breathing came on, and
I thought all was over. Not long afterwards (it was
then impossible to measure time, but I must have
fallen in less than ten minutes after the charge) a
tirailleur came up to plunder me, threatening to take
away my life. I told him that he might search me,
directing him to a small side pocket, in which he found
three dollars, being all I had. He unloosed my stock,
and tore open my waistcoat, then leaving me in a very
uneasy posture. He was no sooner gone, than another
came up for the same purpose, but assuring him 1 had
been plundered already, he left me. When an officer,
bringing on some troops (to which probably the
tirailleurs belonged) and halting where I lay, stooped
down and addressed me, saying he feared I was badly
wounded, I replied that I was, and expressed a wish
to be removed into the rear. He said it was against
the orders to remove even their own men, but that if
they gained the day, as they probably would, for he
understood the Duke of Wellington was killed and
that six battalions of the English army had surrendered,
every attention in his power should be shown me. I
complained of thirst, and he held his brandy bottle to
my lips, directing one of his men to lay me down on

i8 4 ALL NIGHT ON THE FIELD [ch. xiii

my side, and placed a knapsack under my head. He
then passed on into the action, and I shall never know
to whose generosity I was indebted, as I conceive, for
my life. Of what rank he was I cannot say ; he wore
a blue great-coat. By-and-bye another tirailleur
came, and knelt down and fired over me, loading and
firing many times, and conversing with great gaiety all
the while. At last he ran off, saying : " Vous serez
bien aise d'entendre que nousallons nousretirer. Bon
jour, mon ami."

" 4 Whilst the battle continued in that part, several of
the wounded men and dead bodies near me were hit
with the balls, which came very thick in that place.
Towards evening, when the Prussians came up, the
continued roar of cannon along their and the British
line, growing louder and louder as they drew near,
was the finest thing I ever heard. It was dusk when
the two squadrons of Prussian cavalry, both of them
two deep, passed over me in a full trot, lifting me from
the ground, and tumbling me about cruelly — the clatter
of their approach and the apprehensions it excited
may be easily conceived. Had a gun come that way,
it would have done for me. The battle was then
nearly over, or removed to a distance. The cries and
groans of the wounded all around me became every
instant more and more audible, succeeding to the
shouts, imprecations, and cries of " Vive l'Empereur,"
the discharges of musketry and cannon, now and then
intervals of perfect quiet which were worse than the
noise. I thought the night would never end. Much about
this time one of the Royals lay across my legs — he had
probably crawled thither in his agony — his weight, con-
vulsive motions, his noises, and the air issuing through
a wound in his side, distressed me greatly — the latter
circumstance most of all, as the case was my own.

"' It was not a dark night, and the Prussians were
wandering about to plunder, and the scene in " Ferdi-
nand Count Fathom * came into my mind, though no
women, I believe, were there. Several Prussians came,
looked at me, and passed on. At length one stopped

1 Smollett's "Adventures of Count Fathom," published in 1754, was
dramatised. The allusion is to the robber scene in the old woman's hut.
While the gang were absent, an old beldam conveys the Count to a rude
apartment to sleep in. Here he found the dead body of a man, lately stabbed,
concealed in some straw. His sensations during the night, in momentary
expectation of a violent death at the hands of a robber, may well be imagined.


to examine me. I told him as well as I could, for I
could speak but little German, that I was a British
officer, and had been plundered already. He did not
desist, however, and pulled me about roughly before
he left me. About an hour before midnight I saw a
soldier in an English uniform coming towards me.
He was, I suspect, on the same errand, but he came and
looked in my face. I spoke instantly, telling him who
I was, and assuring him of a reward if he would
remain by me. He said that he belonged to the 40th
Regiment, but that he had missed it. He released me
from the dying man, and being unarmed, he took up
a sword from the ground, and stood over me, pacing
backwards and forwards.

" 'At 8 o'clock in the morning some English were seen
at a distance. He ran to them, and a messenger was
sent off to Colonel Harvey. A cart came for me — I
was placed on it, and carried to a farmhouse, about a
mile and a half distant, and laid in the bed from which
poor Gordon, as I understood afterwards, had been
just carried out. The jolting of the carriage and the
difficulty of breathing were very painful. I had re-
ceived seven wounds ; a surgeon slept in my room,
and I was saved by continual bleeding — 120 ounces in
two days, besides a great loss of blood on the field.

" ' The lances from their length and weight would
have struck down my sword long before I lost it, if it
had not been bound to my hand. What became of my
horse I know not. It was the best I ever had.

" ' The men soon grow very savage from being
knocked about, and much serious inconvenience would
arise from allowing the wounded to be carried off —
the men being so ready on the slightest pretext to
leave the field. The soldier from the Royals 1 was
still breathing when I was removed in the morning,
and was soon after taken to the hospital. Much con-
fusion arose, and many mistakes, from similarity of
dress. The Belgians in particular suffered greatly
from their resemblance to the French, being still in the
very same clothes they served in under Bonaparte. Sir
Denis Pack said the greatest risk he ran the whole day
was in stopping his men, who were firing on me and
my regiment, when we began to charge. The PVench
make a great clamour in action, the English only shout."'

1 Presumably the Royal Dragoons.


June 21, 1816. — As we always meant to go abroad,
we have not made many arrangements for the London
Season. The usual round, the usual sound, and nothing
much to chronicle. Shall we never hear the last of
Lady Caroline Lamb and her vagaries ! She has pub-
lished a novel which has made much fuss, and has
momentarily revived the story of her wild enthusiasm
for Byron. I hear that Lady Byron is furious, and no
wonder ! What a strange being is this ! first to run all
over London after Lord Byron, and then spread all
kinds of stories about him, good, bad, and indifferent.
Holding up her folly for all men to see and smile at,
and then to crown all by the publication of a book like
" Glenarvon " ! I was unfortunate enough to have
offended her a few days ago, and the incident gave me
some idea of the wildness and impracticability of her
strange character.

• • • * •

We here insert two letters, found among Lady
Shelley's papers, which seem to belong to this period:

From Lady Caroline Lamb to Lady Shelley

" May 15, 1 8 16.

" I have shown your note to my mother, and we both
entreat you to forgive my being in the wrong. Believe
me, my dear Lady Shelley, I had been speaking of
your kindness, and friendly behaviour, but a few
moments before; and I do request this may go no
further. If I have been in the wrong do not do as



Lady Jersey and Lady Holland would, and expose my
letter and foil}- to the whole town ; but generously
forgive it, and believe me most heartily sorry at what
I said. My mother will certainly go to your ball if it
is possible, and we have been getting a great many
men. I entreat you once more to attribute my apparent
rudeness to the peculiar situation I am in — no one
knows this, so do not name it.

" Ever yours,

" With much truth,

" Caroline Lamb." 1

"May 20, 1816.

" My Dear Lady Shelley,

" I hear nothing ever did better than the ball.
Once more excuse me — my mother knew nothing about
it — always remember, in future, that I write in a
passion the most ill-judged things, but that in heart I
would sooner die than say an unkind word behind a
person's back. Will you bear with me ? and remember,
when people are in the wrong, they are ever apt to
take things ill ? Lady Melbourne has not the most
distant guess of all this — and she said to-day : ' How
did the ball go off?' and was very sorry she was not
able to go. I find a card on my table from Lady
Hertford for next Tuesday — is not this likely to hurt
the Argyle, 2 etc. ? or will people go after ? I sent you
twelve men, and desired each to tell you I sent them
to you. Who was a young lady who danced opposite
to Miss Beresford in the Cotillon and who walzed and
danced most beautifully, as they say ?

" I am going for three days out of town ; let me hope
before I go that you have entirely forgiven me ! My
mother says she never read such a letter as mine ; a
sort of challenge had I been a man. How much I
regret that you mentioned it. I only spoke of it to

1 Lady Caroline Lamb (1785 — 1828) was the daughter of third Earl of
Bessborough, by his wife Lady Henrietta Spencer, sister of Georgiana, Duchess
of Devonshire. She married June 3, 1805, William Lamb, afterwards Lord
Melbourne. Her infatuation for Byron was the cause of much scandal in
London Society during 181 2 and 1813. She was known by the sobriquet
" The Bat," a name which her flitting about by night so happily suggested.

2 The Argyle Rooms, a sort of rival to the very select Almack's, were resorted
to by the world of fashion ; balls and masquerades were given there. In 1810
it was presided over by Colonel Greville, a man of fashion in those exclusive

188 TO PARIS ONCE MORE [ch. xiv

yourself and Lady F. Beresford. Pray kindly forgive
me. If you hear in town that I have sent any sort of
message, or apology to Holland House, and that I have
said the novel * shall be supprest, and the pages left
out, will you deny it positively ? as indeed it is
utterly false, and only spread by Lady Holland herself.
Every one says so to-day. Pray say you know it is
false, if you hear it. I never have, never will have,
and never wish to have any communication with her.
(The rest of this letter is missing.)

On June 18, 1816 — the first anniversary of the
Battle of Waterloo — Shelley and I embarked at
Brighton. Our vessel was quite full of passengers,
and we enjoyed to the full the humours of a packet
boat. I was shown into the State Cabin, which we
had engaged for the voyage, and where we had hoped
to sleep quietly. The hole dignified by that pompous
appellation contained two berths, one above the
other, and was located at the foot of the stairs. It
had a door at each end, which communicated with the
general saloon, where about thirty people were in all
the throes of sea-sickness. One glance was enough
for me, and I made up my mind to stay on deck.
Fortunately, our carriage was too large to stow
between decks, so I got into it, and passed a com-
fortable night. I awoke at daybreak and found that
we were only three leagues from the English coast.
Beachy Head, with its bold outlines, gave me the
sensation of home-sickness, and renewed the regrets
one feels at leaving those we love, even when we do
the thing we most wish. A fresh breeze sprang up;
and at about four o'clock in the afternoon we came in
sight of the French coast. An hour later we were

1 " Glenarvon " — a violent attack on Lord Byron and a satire on society —
was written by Lady Caroline Lamb, "under distressing circumstances," in
one month. It was published May 9, 1816, and gave widespread offence.
Lady Holland is therein portrayed as "The Princess of Madagascar."
According to Hobhouse (afterwards Lord Broughton), on June 22, 1816, Lady
Caroline was preparing a second edition.

iSi6] DIEPPE 189

tolerably near to the port of Dieppe. The fine out-
line of coast, with its ruined castles, and the lofty
buildings of the town, which is situated in a valley
between high cliffs, make the approach to Dieppe far
more impressive than that of Calais. A large fishing
smack had sunk, on the previous day, at the mouth of
the harbour. This made our approach very difficult,
as the entrance is at all times narrow, owing to the
mass of shingle collected there. In fact, we could not
have entered the harbour if it had not been high tide.
Fortunately there was plenty of water at that moment,
and we entered the river without difficulty.

The river is very narrow with high quays on each
side. The houses are painted every colour of the
rainbow, and the dresses of the women highly
coloured and picturesque. They wear snow-white
caps, which make a good contrast with their blood-
red petticoats. The fishing boats had just arrived,
laden with mackerel, dog-fish, and conger-eels. The
women were actively employed filling their baskets,
carrying, and spreading the nets. Some of the women
carried the nets in baskets fastened to their backs.
They were bending beneath the weight, but still they
trudged merrily along. Those women who were
unencumbered walked with heads erect and quick
steps in all directions. This made the scene inde-
scribably animating. We were very comfortably
lodged at the Hotel d'Angleterre.

After dinner we walked on the pier, and spoke with
some of the fishermen, who did not seem to be much
interested in the sunken vessel. The sea, which was
like a mirror, was studded with countless fishing
boats. As we left the pier we met crowds of people
coming from mass, who were out for their evening

Next morning, having cleared our carriage and
personal baggage from the Custom House, we set off
for Rouen. The view as you ascend the heights above

T9o ROUEN [ch. xiv

the town of Dieppe is superb. The sea lay at our
feet, calm as a lake. As we proceeded, numerous
country houses, woods, gardens, hills, valleys, and
green fields varied the scene unceasingly. The un-
ripe corn heightened the verdure, so much wanting
when last we were in France. The whole route was
beautiful, and the undulating landscape afforded
a pleasant relief to the eye from the usual straight
roads and wearisome avenues so characteristic of
French scenery. The whole country bears an aspect
of prosperity which was sadly wanting last year. In
many districts there are brick kilns and men busy at
work. Houses are being repaired, and neatly enclosed
cottage gardens are being brought into cultivation.
The country folk are well dressed, and look cheerful.
There are very few beggars on the road. I wonder
whether this improved state of things is as noticeable
in other parts of France as it is in Normand}^?

The approach to Rouen is along a fine avenue, at
the end of which we saw vessels of large berth
anchored in close proximity to the shore. The town
has all the appearance of antiquity. The streets are
very narrow, the houses lofty, and the shops, entirely
open in front, display their wares very much in the
fashion of a Turkish bazaar. I must say that our
postilion — who drove like a novice — was especially
unlucky in his debut. I cannot imagine a more
difficult undertaking than to drive through the streets
of Rouen in a voiture a fleche. We very nearly met
with a bad accident. While we were passing through
one of the streets, a little child jumped off the
doorstep of a house under the feet of one of the
horses. This wonderful animal instinctively leapt
with its forefeet over it, and then stood perfectly still,
the child remaining unhurt between its legs. In an
instant several people came up and rescued the child.
I cannot say how much I admire those dear French
post-horses, of whose sagacity I have had so many


proofs. As we proceeded we ran one of the shafts of
our carriage through a shoemaker's window, and
broke several panes of glass. We finally ended up
by driving into the house court, instead of the carriage
court, of the hotel.

After these alarms I needed rest, so we resolved to
sleep at Rouen, there being no other resting place
nearer than Mantes.

As the table d'hote happened to be served at that
moment, I persuaded Shelley to dine at it, and we
were much amused in consequence. Four gentlemen
and ourselves formed the party. One of these men
was Colonel Dupot, who had served under Napoleon
at Waterloo. He now resides at Rouen, under
surveillance of the police, in consequence of some
remarks which he had made at Amiens. He evidently
merits attention, for he is conspicuously Bonapartist,
and takes but little trouble to conceal his sentiments.
The conversation, during dinner, did not happen to
turn on French politics, which was perhaps fortunate
for General Dupot. It turned on the conduct of the
English towards their prisoners of war. The other
members of the party at table consisted in a man who
was evidently a regular frequenter of the table
d'hote— for he cut up the dishes, and did the honours —
and an old man in spectacles, whom I afterwards
heard was a Monsieur des Ornevaux, who was full of
anecdotes about the actresses at the Rouen theatre.
He also spoke a good deal about a cure, who had
lately been condemned at Rouen to five years' im-
prisonment for seditious remarks upon the Govern-
ment. The mention of the cure led to conversation
on religion, for which they all professed respect in
the abstract, although they quizzed its ministers
unmercifully! The other gentleman of the party,
who joined in all this conversation, spoke French so
fluently, and with such excellent toumure de phrase,
that 1 suspected him oi being English, When the


conversation turned upon the ill-treatment of the
French prisoners by the English, this gentleman
proclaimed his nationality.

He told us that he was, in fact, an Englishman who
had been detained at Verdun for ten years as a
prisoner of war. 1 My countryman had evidently
profited by his detention, as he spoke French admir-
ably. Monsieur Dupot, when asked whether he
believed the statements made in General Pillet's book,
replied so evasively as to convince us that, in French
company, he would have endorsed every S3dlable. He
said that he could not justify Excelmans and others for
breaking their parole, but he at the same time brought
forward many things which, in his opinion, justified
conduct which would have been dishonourable if the
English had not, after exacting their parole, still kept
them under surveillance. To this Sir Thomas Webb
replied that neither Excelmans nor Lebrun had been
kept under surveillance, as he had seen them both at
a ball at Chatsworth on the night of their evasion.
They were allowed to go about, practically, as much
as they pleased. On the night of the ball, a post-

Online LibraryFrances (Winckley) ShelleyThe diary of Frances lady Shelley (Volume 1) → online text (page 15 of 33)