Frances (Winckley) Shelley.

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my guardian, Mr. Hornby, became acquainted with
the state of things. The duties of a guardian to one
who was, after all, his nearest relation, sat very
lightly on that selfish old man. As his third son,
Geoffrey, was made by my father his heir, in the event
of my death before I became of age, my guardian
cared very little what became of me. To my surprise,
a letter arrived one day from Mr. Hornby to say
that he had determined to remove me from Major
Barrington's roof, and that I was henceforward to
reside at his own house, Winwick, in Lancashire.

Circa 1804. — My mother was in despair, in which I
fully sympathised, for she had now become very dear
to me. When we parted my heart was very sad, and
my mother wept. I never saw her again. She died
in less than a year after I had left her !

My guardian's house was about twenty miles dis-
tant from my brother's place, Rufford Hall, a con-
siderable distance in those days. Mr. Hornby's
mother was my father's sister. His son Geoffrey
had been educated for the Church, with a perfect
understanding of the art of rising in his high calling.
He paid assiduous court to the very ugly daughter
of Lord Strange, the eldest son of the Earl of Derby.
Having succeeded in marrying this young lady, he
received the great living of Winwick, at that time
worth above £7,000 a year. The parson squire
troubled himself but little in the parish ; but being
very clever, he preached sermons which were above
par, wore a shovel hat, a clerical-cut coat, and looked
every inch a Dean and embryo Bishop,



A merry party truly we were, after the first painful
two months of my sojourn in that large, clever, family
of five boys and six girls, who inherited their father's
talent, and their mother's plain looks. The second
daughter, Charlotte, married her first cousin, the late
Lord Derby. The sons were all distinguished, and came
home from college with their college friends. One of
them, Heber (afterwards the celebrated Bishop Heber), 1
had just written his prize poem " Palestine," which he
read to us around the winter fire. Edmond Hornby,
one of the sons, who afterwards married Lady Char-
lotte Stanley, was my champion, and protected me
from the rest, who had determined (as they have since
told me) to hate me, because I had deprived their
brother Geoffrey of my father's fortune. They were
determined that I should not live with them, except
in perfect submission and docility, eventually to be-
come their brother's wife. However, when they found
that they had to deal with one who would not be
bullied, and who quizzed their brother ; they, after
a time, ceased to persecute me, and we became the
dearest of friends. I removed with them to Knows-
ley, where Lord Derby liked to be surrounded by
all his relations. He kept open house, taking in
all the servants, and all the horses of his guests
and their children. From June till November the
table was always laid for about forty people, and on
Mondays the whole of the Liverpool neighbourhood
came, in turns, to visit him. On these occasions there
were often a hundred persons at his dinner-table.

There was no elegance of architecture, no modern
refinements of furniture in that old rambling house,
which had been built at different periods, and in
every style. Some portions dated from the time of
Henry VII., whose widowed Queen married the first

1 Reginald Heber (1783— 1826), died Bishop of Calcutta. His hymns first
appeared in the Christian Observer, 181 1. He wrote a life of Jeremy


Earl of Derby. The facade belonged to the time of
King William. The offices were screened by a terrace,
the scene of much social enjoyment to the family and
household of all ages. The ladies walked there, to
wave hands when the sportsmen departed in the
mornings, and watched the arrival and departure of
an endless variety of carriages, riding horses, etc., in
which the whole party dispersed after luncheon.
Lord Derby never allowed more than five brace of
partridges to be killed by any one of his guests. He did
this in order to ensure their returning to ride or drive
with the ladies. Dear old man ! his joyous tempera-
ment, and his love of society and good cheer, made his
guests as happy and merry as himself. He constantly
bantered the young ladies on their good looks, and about
their lovers, which, though not always in the refined
taste of modern times, so evidently proceeded from a
natural gaicte de coeur and kindness, that no one could
possibly have been offended.

His wife was the celebrated Miss Farren, 1 of whom
it was once said that she was a lady on the stage,
and an actress off it. His first wife, who was a
daughter of the Duke of Hamilton, had been divorced
after the birth of a son and a daughter. By Miss
Farren, his second wife— the Lady Derby of my day
— there were three children. His daughter, Lady
Mary, who afterwards became Lady Wilton, was at
this time a poet's ideal of all that is most lovely and
attractive in girlhood. Not long after this happy visit
to Knowsley, my half-brother, Sir Thomas Hesketh,
fearing that the Hornbys would completely monopo-
lise me, and perhaps induce me to marry the brother,
invited me to live with him and his charming wife, at
Rufford. He secured a good Swiss governess for me,

1 Elizabeth Farren (1759 — 1829), a celebrated actress, appeared at the
Ilayinarket in 1777. She was the original Nancy Lovel in Colman's
"Suicide." She appealed at Drury Lane in 1778. In the following year
she married the twelfth Earl of Derby, and retired from the stage.


and, as no objection was made by my guardian, from
that time my brother's house became my home.

Here my mind had ample leisure to expand. We
had rarely any society, except his wife's family, who
lived upon him, and tried his patience sorely. His
wife was an adorable person, whose sweet, unselfish
nature surrounded my brother with an atmosphere of
love. From her I learned the charm and secret of a
wife's best privilege, to forgive and love as ever, even
when tried in the tenderest points. Her sweet way of
smoothing over difficulties, and bringing her husband
round to a proper sense of his duties, and obligations
towards her— for he was, in truth, a terrible flirt —
made me love her with all my heart. In her 1 found
a congenial spirit, with whom I spent two happy years
in mental, and moral improvement. We paid occasional
visits to my guardian, and long summer visits to

Lady Derby declared that, in accomplishments,
I had made very little progress, and that, in my
position, I ought to have the advantage of London
masters. I was therefore, when about fifteen years of
age, placed under the care of a Mrs. Olier, who received
four young heiresses. The fee for each pupil was
£1,000 a year. She resided in Gloucester Place,
Portman Square. On my entrance here Lady Sarah
Savile, afterwards Lady Warwick, Miss de Visme,
Miss Tarleton, and Miss Hicks-Beach of Somerset-
shire, were already inmates. Lady Sarah was lovely,
fascinating, and a most dangerous companion. Al-
though she was older than myself, and, from her
social position, more likely to influence a country
girl, she lacked common sense, and was constantly
getting into scrapes— flirting through the railings of
the Square with gentlemen whom she had met at her
mother's, the celebrated Lady Mexborough. This
alarmed Emily de Visme and myself, and made us
doubly circumspect. We had a carriage at our dis-


posal, and often during our drives in Hyde Park,
young officers of the Guards came to the carriage, and
attempted to make our acquaintance through Lady
Sarah. We often resented this by sending her
" to Coventry," as the saying was ; but her sweet,
pretty ways, and lovely face made us soon forget all
the annoyance she had caused, in the delight we felt
at her fascinating, childish character. In every
acquirement and accomplishment I was in advance
of her, though far behind Emily de Visme, who was
the most beautiful being I have ever beheld. Her
classic-shaped head, and Spanish air — her mother was
a Portuguese — added to a slight, and not too tall figure,
attracted much attention, and she was universally
admired. Her accomplishments were as remarkable
as her beauty. She played the harp exquisitely, and
excelled also on the piano, and in singing. She spoke
French and Italian fluently and with a perfect accent,
and was altogether the object of my fervent admiration.
The afterwards celebrated Sydney Smith 1 was a
nephew of Mrs. Olier, our preceptress, and often
came to dine at our table. He was then the most
agreeable of convives. He had lately married, and
was settled in London, where he wrote articles
for the Edinburgh Review, then in its first brilliancy.
He often preached at the chapel we attended, his
sermons being excellent moral essays. He would
afterwards enliven our Sunday evenings with his
fun, and not very clerical conversation. Mrs. Olier
doted on him, and allowed him to say whatever he
pleased. All the valuable part of my education and
training was accomplished in the two years that I
passed at this establishment. I studied so hard that
I scarcely ever left the house, and my health would
have suffered had it not been for the care of a dear old

1 Sydney Smith (1771 — 1845), Canon of St. Paul's. He started the
Edinburgh Review in 1802. He shone among the Whigs at Holland
House. He was honoured for his honesty and exuberant drollery and wit.


Swiss woman, who had been the maid of Emily de
Visme, and was so attached to her charge that, when
Emily's father died, she became the housekeeper, and
household drudge of our establishment, in order not to
be separated from her young mistress, and to watch
over her health and welfare.

Dear kind Madeleine ! I loved her as a mother, and
saw her constantly in after-years. She died at Emily
de Visme's villa at Wimbledon, at an advanced age,
and left all her savings to Emily de Visme's (then Mrs.
Henry Murray) children. Our old Italian master
had been a priest, was in Paris at the outbreak
of the Revolution, and had managed to escape
during the massacres of the Reign of Terror. Our
French master, the Abbe Giroux, was a distinguished
French emigre, and was devoted to the French Royal
family. He predicted the Restoration, tot on tard, and
often spoke of his adventures during the Terror. He
seemed to have been, in some way, employed at the
Tuileries, and was certainly cognisant of Pichegru's
plot, 1 for I well remember his agitation on one occasion
when he said he could not possibly give me my French
lesson, and that he believed at that moment the
tyrant Napoleon had been assassinated. I remember
his despair when the news arrived that the plot had
failed ! In after-years I had deep cause to thank the
Abbe Giroux for having taught me to speak French so
correctly, for I was complimented on my accent by the
Comte d'Artois, afterwards Charles X.,whom I met with
the Due de Berri and the Prince de Conde at Knowsley.
Our summer holidays were spent at Worthing,
where I first heard of Sir John Shelley, of Michelgrove,
at that time his magnificent ancestral home.

1 Charles Pichegru, a French general, joined in a conspiracy in 1804 with
the celebrated Chouan chief, Georges, for the restoration of the Bourbons by
overturning the Government of the First Consul. Fouche is said to have
encouraged the plot in order to expose it and gain the confidence of Bonaparte.
Early in the morning of April 6, 1804, General Pichegru was found strangled
in prison.

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Circa 1805. — At seventeen I left the Oliers', and
returned home to my brother at Rufford Hall, where I
entered into all the pleasant society of that neighbour-
hood. I passed a great part of the summer at Knowsley,
where a bedroom and sitting-room, called by my name,
were appropriated to my use whenever I chose, and
where my cousin and I sat in the mornings, one reading
aloud while the other drew, copying some of the fine
pictures and making unflattering likenesses of our
friends. That was indeed a happy period of my life ! I
rode in the fine park with Lord and Lady Derby, who
feted me in every way, and predicted that my first
London season would place me in the best society, etc.,
etc. These predictions flattered my vanity ; and yet I felt
the greatest humility as to my pretensions to a destiny
so enticing. I had made up my mind not to marry,
unless I could give my whole heart, and, for the rest,
I was content to wait, and accept with gratitude what-
ever fortune might bring.

I passed through the excitement of the races, county
balls, and dinner-parties quite heart-whole, and, in the
following January, my brother and Lady Hesketh took
me to London for the Season. They took a house in
Seymour Street, Portman Square, where we settled on
the 1 8th, Queen Charlotte's birthday, which was the
date fixed for the beginning of London gaiety. I well
remember our presentation to kind old King George I II.,
and the feeling of devoted loyalty with which I received
his salute. Cowper's cousin, Lady Hesketh, was the
chosen friend of Princess Elizabeth (since the Landgra-
vine), on whose account we were treated with marked
kindness by all the Royal family. We paid visits in pri-
vate to the Princesses, and were invited by their ladies to
select tea-parties in the Palace. Old Lady Harrington, 1

1 Caroline, daughter of the second Duke of Grafton, married in 1746 the
second Earl of Harrington (1719 — 1 779), a General in the Army, and Colonel
of the 2nd Troop of Horse Grenadier Guards. Lady Harrington's apaitments
were in Stable Yard, St. James's 1'alace.

I — 2


who had then an apartment in St. James's Palace
overlooking the gardens, was especially kind to
me. Her apartment has since been pulled down.
Here she gave tea in the afternoons, and I re-
member meeting Carry Vernon, an old Maid of
Honour, and Mrs. Boscawen, housekeeper of the
Palace. The dresses of the Stanhope boys were very
quaint — muslin, with bare legs and arms, like the Opera
dancers. Lady Harrington's figure was stout, and
decidedly ungraceful. The Court set, at Buckingham
House, was at that time so small and select, that of
course we were not admitted. But my future husband,
then unknown to me, was at that very time the favourite
partner of Princess Mary (afterwards Duchess of
Gloucester), then remarkable for her beauty, grace,
and the perfection of manners which still distinguish

Our acquaintance in London was almost entirely
confined to the Lancashire and Cheshire families. I
thought them very dull, and aspired to enter the
charmed circle of the haute volee, of which I caught an
occasional glimpse at Lady Derby's, old Lady Hare-
wood's, and Lady Cholmondeley's. But my brother
was much too proud, and with too high an idea of his
own dignity, to make any advances to strangers ; nor
would he allow me to go anywhere without his wife
and himself. We had an Opera box, and dined out a
good deal. At last, the end of the hunting season
brought Lord and Lady Sefton to town. These dear
people had made up their minds that I was the wife
most likely to suit, and to steady their beloved Sir John
Shelley. Accordingly, to my great delight (for Lady
Sefton was my beau ideal 'of perfection) we were invited
to dine in Arlington Street. Little did I suspect the
ordeal which awaited me !

A party had been invited to decide upon my
qualifications for admission into their set (as Shelley's
prospective wife) — a set most exclusive and super-


fine! Old Meynell, the arbiter of fashion, was
there. He was both Master of Hounds and of hearts,
supposed to be irresistible with women ; though ugly,
he was said to require but half an hour to drive from
the field the handsomest man in London. This extra-
ordinary man was the reputed father of many of the
peers ! I did not know him at that time, so I conversed
with him sans gene, with that natural kindness and
reverence for age which seem to have pleased him.
He at once decided in my favour.

This brief allusion to Mr. Meynell may be supple-
mented by information from other sources. It appears
that Mr. Hugo Meynell was born in 1727. In 1758, he
became the first Master of the Ouorn Hunt ; a position
which he held until a few years before his death, in
1808. He was considered to be the foremost fox-
hunter of his da}- ; and was the first Master to
establish order and discipline in the hunting field.
He succeeded more by his good-humoured pleasantry,
than by the assumption or exercise of authority over
others. It is said that, on one occasion, when two
young and dashing riders had headed the hounds,
Meynell drily remarked : " The hounds were follow-
ing the gentlemen, who had very kindly gone forward
to see what the fox was doing." Horace Walpole,
writing to George Montagu, on June 23, 1759, says :
11 You will be diverted by what happened to Mr.
Meynell lately. He was engaged to dine at a formal
old lady's, but stayed so late hunting that he had
not time to dress, but went as he was, with forty
apologies. The matron, very affected, and meaning
to say something very civil, cried, 'Oh, sir! I
assure you I can see the gentleman through a pair
of buckskin breeches as well as if he was in silk
or satin.' "

Mr. Meynell had been acquainted with Dr. Johnson,
who used to repeat Meynell's remark, that " the chief
advantage of London lies in the fact that a man is



always so near his own burrow." After the French
emigres had been some time in England, Meynell
remarked : " I am so tired of these visitors, that I
wish we were safe at war again." He brought the
mansion at Quorndon from Earl Ferrers, and, fifty
years later, he sold it to Lord Sefton. He died in his
eighty-first year, universally lamented. 1

A distinguished-looking young man, with powder
covering a rather bald head of hair, took me into
dinner, and placed me beside my country friend Lord
Sefton. My companion seemed to me to be a most
agreeable man, perhaps the most entertaining of
any man I ever conversed with. Old Meynell sat
opposite, doubtless much amused. It was not
until near the end of dinner that my pleasant com-
panion, in speaking of music, took from his pocket
a subscriber's ticket of admission to the Ancient
Music ; on that ticket I read the name of Sir John
Shelley !

Afterwards the Chevalier la Canea, the celebrated
tenor, came with others, and there was music. Sir
John Shelley took part in the duetts, and we
joined in the choruses, as we had always done at
Knowsley and Croxteth. From that time amateur
music brought us much together, and even my brother
could not resist the fascination of Sir John Shelley's
manner, although he warned me repeatedly against
engaging myself to a gambler, spendthrift, etc., who
only sought my fortune. But I knew, by intuition, that
my money was not Shelley's object in paying me
flattering attentions, although my fortune was partly
the cause of the Seftons' anxiety that we should
marry, for they loved him. Sir John's careless
disposition and warm heart were, in truth, so lovable,
that they wished to find him a wife whom he could
truly love, and who would, at the same time, prevent

1 See Horace Walpole's Letters : and the Appendix to the Life of Thomas
Assheton Smith.


the impending ruin which his gambling propensities
threatened. 1

Sir John was seventeen years older than I. At
the time of my birth he had already been launched
into the stirring times of the French Revolution.
At Eton he had been the friend of Canning,
Morpeth, Bobus Smith, John Hookham Frere, Dal-
keith — all clever men who did his exercises for him,
and who petted, and spoiled him. His happy tem-
perament, and his handsome face, captivated even the
form masters, w T ho rarely punished him. He had not
a care, and never thought of the future. His mind
and feelings expanded in the brilliancy of a coterie
never surpassed in talent. They all loved him, as
boys only can love, in the freshness of schooldays.
From Eton he went to Clare College, Cambridge,
but only remained one term. Gaming, drinking, and
every kind of licentiousness were the fashion of those
days. Shelley's guardian, the first Lord Chichester,
one day asked him if he thought that he did any
good there? On learning the state of things, Lord
Chichester quite approved of Shelley's wish to leave
Cambridge. In 1787, he went to Geneva, to study
under the celebrated Professor Pictet, the friend of
de Saussure. While at Geneva, Shelley had the good
fortune to accompany de Saussure on his remarkable
ascent of Mont Blanc.

Geneva was, in those days, much frequented by the
best society in England. There his mind expanded ;
and he acquired that tone of good breeding which dis-
tinguished him through life. At Geneva began his
close friendship with Villiers — afterwards Lord Jersey
—a friendship which endured to the end of his life.
In 1790, he received a commission in the Coldstream
Guards, at that time in Flanders, under the command

1 Sir John Shelley, sixth Baronet ( 1 77 1 — 1 852) of Michelgrove and Maresfield,
Sussex. Well known on the Turf. He twice won the Derby (181 1 and
1824) with horses bred on his estate.


of the Duke of York. In passing through Paris,
Shelley was present at the Confederation in the
Champ de Mars, to celebrate the taking of the Bastille.

Shelley, who had been present at all the battles
which preceded the Siege of Valenciennes, greatly
distinguished himself on that occasion, by leading the
storming party through the sally-port. For the gal-
lantry with which he had held an outpost previous to
the assault, he was complimented by Lord Lake, and
afterwards received the thanks of the Duke of York,
at the head of his Company.

When, a little later, Sir John Shelley returned home
on promotion, he seems to have carried all the Duke's
good fortune with him. From that time a series of
disasters occurred to the army in Flanders, a coinci-
dence which caused his brother officers to regret the
loss of one whom they had nicknamed " Howitzer
Shell." 1 Amongst those who took notice of Sir
John Shelley was Colonel Wellesley, afterwards Duke
of Wellington, who at that time commanded the 33rd

On the day that Sir John arrived in England, the
bearer of dispatches from the army in Flanders, his
old friend, the Duchess of Gordon, invited him to
dine with her and Pitt, alone. I have often heard
Shelley speak of that great Minister's amusement
when, as they emptied their bottles, after the
departure of the Duchess, Shelley frankly gave
his opinion as to the prospects of the army in
Flanders. It was indeed pretty cool for a young
officer to give his views of the condition of things
at the front — but it must be owned that his prediction,
"that no good would result from the troops remaining
there much longer," was amply verified within the 3' , ear.

1 One day, Sir John and a companion were surprised by a shell, which fell
close to where they were standing. In the impulse of a moment, Shelley
dragged his comrade to the ground. When the shell burst it did no harm to


My brother, and all my friends, objected strongly to
my receiving the marked attentions of Sir John
Shelley. For that reason I was very reserved as to
my feelings, which were, at that time, only so far
engaged as to make me refuse and discourage other
offers which my family wished me to accept. Our
opera box was always so full of pretcndants, that Sir
John could hardly ever penetrate beyond the door.
But he invariably was there at the right moment, to
take me to the carriage ; which was then an affair
of passing at least an hour together in the Crush
Room. Except during the Newmarket meetings,
which he always attended, Sir John never missed the
Saturday operas. On these occasions, and some-
times at dinner-parties, we met; but otherwise seldom.
As my brother did not belong to the Devonshire
House set, then in all its glory, and where Sir John
was always welcome, our meetings were not frequent.
One of my first convictions that he was serious in
his attentions to me arose from his leaving Devonshire
House, to come and dance with me at a sort of

Online LibraryFrances (Winckley) ShelleyThe diary of Frances lady Shelley (Volume 1) → online text (page 2 of 33)