Frances (Winckley) Shelley.

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thought worthy of receiving the English orders. We
keep up a petite guerre, which is very amusing. Count
Caraman, the French Ambassador, is one of the most
agreeable of our daily society.

" That strange woman, Princess Galitzin, is here ;
and also a sister of ChernichefFs, who is twice as
large as Lady Hertford. If you were here I think
we should have some excellent fun, and the Glass
Coach would be in great request, especially if you
brought Georgiana Lennox 2 with you.

" Believe me,

" Ever your attached
" Frances Shelley."

From the Duke of Wellington to Lady Shelley

"Cambray, October 25, 1816.
"My dear Lady Shelley,

" Your letters of the 8th and 25th September
reached me nearly at the same time a few days ago :
and I am very much flattered and obliged by the

1 Julie Zichy.

J Larly Georgiana, daughter of the Duke of Richmond She was born in


proofs that they afford of your constant recollection
of me. I assure you that I deserve it, in return for
my never-ceasing good wishes for you. I wish it
was in my power to go to Vienna to the Emperor's
marriage, not only because I have the greatest respect
and regard for His Majesty, and should be happy to
take this opportunity of showing it, but because you
appear desirous that I should come, and it would
give me the greatest pleasure to meet you again and
to pass some time with you. But it is not in my
power to quit home at present. I must wait to see
the result produced in the Chambers by the late
elections. The marriage and all its consequences
would be over long before I could possibly reach
Vienna. I must therefore wait with patience to see
you, till you come to this country on your return
to England. I hope that you will let me hear from
you sometimes, how you are going on ; and particu-
larly at about what time you expect to be at Paris,
or in France, on your return.

" I understand that Queen Willis 1 is gone to Italy,
where you will most probably see her. I have no
intention of going to Paris for some time ; but even
if I should meet her there, you may depend upon
my not quitting the opposition to the odious tyranny.
I believe I told you how she treated poor Calantha!
There is a story here of an innkeeper, in a quarrel
with an English lady, having called her canaille
vagabonde. This story has been told of the Queen ;
which shows what we think of her in this quarter
of the world.

" I don't know the story about Sir George Warrender;
is he a rival of the Prince's ? a

" I have finished my reviews, and am now settled
at Mont St. Martin for the winter, for the sake of
very bad hunting, etc. I had a very fine review in
this neighbourhood of the British, Danish, Saxon,
and Hanover contingents. The Dukes of Kent and
Cambridge came to it ; and we had some grand
dinners, balls, etc. Unluckily the weather for the
review was very bad, and the ground so deep that

1 Lady Jersey.

2 Sir George Warrender was a well-known figure in the society of the time.
Gronow says that he was a great gourmand, and went by the name of Sir
Gorge Provender. The "Prince" is Lord Stewart.


the troops could scarcely move ; but altogether they
looked remarkably well, and I was not dissatisfied
with them, or their performance. I wished much
for the company of my absent A.D.C. during this
review, which I think she would have enjoyed much.

" The Duchess of Richmond and all her daughters
are now at Mont St. Martin, and Lord and Lady E.
Somerset ; and I expect my brother and Lady Georgina
this da)', on their way to Spain.

11 God bless you, my dear Lady Shelley. Remember
me kindly to Shelley, and believe me

" Ever yours most sincerely,

" Wellington."


I will attempt to sketch those persons who formed
our delightful coterie at Vienna in 1816. Our petit
comite at the Metternichs' assembled usually at ten
o'clock. Tea was served by the Princess herself,
whose manner is most ungracious. She scarcely
deigns to notice the entrance of her guests. After her
invariable Prenez-vons du the? she wraps herself in a
shabby shawl, and creeps to a corner of the sofa,
where, if she has some one to listen to her, she drawls
out, in German, her grievances. More often than not,
she bores her listeners to death. Not so the Prince,
whose elegant address, courtly manners, and deep
politeness, joined to a fine person, at once prepos-
sess strangers, and secure the affection of those
admitted to a closer intimacy. A sparkling wit which
never wounds, an easy gaiety which inspires those who
talk to him, and the gift of drawing out whatever is
agreeable in those with whom he converses (thus
making them pleased with themselves) may be used
in the Cabinet for political purposes, but it is in
intimate society that these gifts inspire an attachment,
often feigned, but seldom felt, for an absolute minister.
Prince Metternich is beloved to an extraordinary
degree by all who do not smart under his diplomatic
talents. He is universally admitted to be the most
amiable man in Vienna. A Prime Minister at the
Austrian Court usually holds that position for life.

This security causes him to disregard all petty



intrigues. It is universally felt at Vienna that even
the Emperor's death would make no change in the
Government of the country. Metternich would easily
guide the imbecile Heir-Apparent, as he now does the
sometimes refractory Emperor, who in some things,
especially in matters affecting Italy, is allowed to have
his own way for a time. The Chancellerie, where the
Prime Minister resides, adjoins the Palace. When
visitors arrive at the gate they never inquire whether
the Prince or Princess receive, as it is understood that
those who have the entree are admitted under any
circumstances. So completely does Society form one
family that the Prince's wishes are immediately known,
and, if he does not wish to receive, Society adjourns
to Madame Zichy's, that belle esprit of Vienna ! Unless
it was known that Prince Metternich did not receive,
his company mounted the great staircase as though
they were at their own homes, and without any
servant to announce them, they opened the door of
the salon. The ladies then trooped in, and seated
themselves at the tea-table, and began working at
tapestry, which had been spread out for that purpose.
This puts a stranger at her ease, and helps to fill in
occasional pauses in conversation.

Marie Metternich, who is nearly as cold in manner
as her mother, and as clever as her father's daughter
ought to be, is decidedly satirical, and, in consequence,
is not a general favourite. We got on very well
together, and the tears that filled her eyes when we
parted caused surprise at Vienna, an example of
feeling which no one had expected. She is very
accomplished, and joined in conversation as naturally
as a married woman would have done. Madame de
Marasec, a ci-devant humble companion of the Princesse
Bragation (though of the highest family), generally
took a silent place at the work-table, and acted as
chaperone to Marie, during the occasional absences
of the Princess. A glass screen, placed between the

3i2 METTERNICH AT HOME [ch. xvii

entrance door and the work-table, enabled us to see
those who entered the room. My seat was at the
farthest end of the long sofa on which sat Princess
Metternich. Between that screen and the tea-table a
little circle of my favourites was soon formed. Early
in the evening Metternich would walk up and down
the room, discussing diplomatic affairs with those who
wished to consult him. Meanwhile, I chiefly passed
the time in desultory conversation with one of my
favourites, among whom was occasionally the delight-
ful old Prince Ruffo, the Minister of Finance, Stadion,
Prince Hardenberg, Palfi, Wenzel, and Lichtenstein.
There was generally a whist table in one corner of
the room. Among the company there was sure to be
the Due de San Carlos, the Baron de Kuresmach, in
short, most of the Corps Diplomatique.

Before my arrival at Vienna, no females were admitted
at these gatherings. But as Metternich insisted upon
my passing every evening at his house, this rule was
broken. Towards eleven o'clock the Prince, who may
have been playing a rubber at whist, or had various
diplomatic promenades, established himself, for the
rest of the evening, in my little circle : unless indeed
he asked me to walk about with him through the long
suite of rooms. On these occasions he entertained
me with many interesting private anecdotes, giving
an account of his own feelings and conduct on various
occasions. It was evident to me that he was as
anxious to secure my good opinion as my affec-

I must confess that any indulgence in that pride of
virtue, which makes an Englishwoman in England
respected, by at once checking every effort at com-
pliments and hommage, would have been ridiculous at
Vienna. Perhaps the experiment was dangerous ;
but, as my husband was my confidant, and indeed
encouraged me to allow myself to be worshipped (a
circumstance which pleased him as much as it did me)


I indulged my vanity to the full, and by the little arts
of coquetterie pennise, I succeeded in turning the heads
of all those whom I have called my favourites. It was
a great amusement to me to keep them apparently
good friends, to excite their jealousy, de les /aire
oirager, and to keep myself out of the scrape of falling
in love ! This sin (if it were one) has left such
pleasant remembrances, that I cannot find it in my
heart to regret it. As I had the strength of mind
to pursue my plan, and to leave Vienna when I did,
my reputation remained intact. I had excited the
envy of none, and carried with me the regrets of both
sexes. Under these circumstances I trust it will be
thought a venial offence ; though undoubtedly a
dangerous precedent.

The jealousy which I evoked had some small political
consequences. Chernicheff was sent away on his
mission sooner than he wished, as Prince Metternich
desired to get him away from Vienna for a time. Part
of my fun was to hear this from interested parties, and
to exercise my diplomatic talents, by evading the
insidious inquiries of the different persons concerned.
In every instance I was true to my trust, and never
permitted myself to be drawn into the vortex of
speculation, or to betray a secret that had been com-
mitted to my care. I must admit that in the abondance
de cceur the mouth was often unguarded, but I returned
the chivalrous adoration of my soupirants with a
sincere and true friendship.

I am naturally romantic ; and at Vienna I had beau
feu, such as seldom falls to the lot of woman. I fear
that if I had remained there much longer, this state of
things could not have continued ; but, while it did,
life was an enchantment. I had felt a pleasure and
pride in thus vindicating the character of my country-
women, who, at the last Congress, had through their
prudery and vulgarity contrived to leave an unfavour-
able impression. I endeavoured to show that love ol


society, equal to that of their own amiable women, was
not inconsistent with perfect modesty and virtue. 1

I fear that I have digressed, and made personal
reflections, which may seem to be outside the scope
of my original plan. But if these remarks are ever
published, it will be long after my death, long after
the death of those whom I have mentioned in my
diary. If, in accordance with my resolution to
keep nothing back that might elucidate my character,
I have betrayed a weakness, perhaps under the
circumstances it may be pardoned.

I will now return to my little corner. Metternich is
beginning an interesting subject of conversation. There
is no political news at Vienna, mainly owing to the
irregularity of the post, and the tampering with letters
en route. New books never arrive. Society is so
exclusive that none but the very highest nobility are
admitted into it, and gossip, if it may be called so,
especially that which relates to distinguished per-
sonages, forms almost the sole topic of conversation.
Bonaparte and his Court were often discussed. Any
new discoveries in science were explained, romantic
stories were told ; while charades, j'eux tf esprit, each in
turn, enliven our evenings. Although there were no
conteurs de profession, each member of the society had
some anecdote to relate. My part was usually that of
an animated and admiring listener. The enjoyment
that I felt, and expressed, seemed to excite fresh dis-
cussion : while un petit mot place a propos (which was
often inspired by the encouragement I received) gained
for me a reputation for conversation at which I am
often, when I think of it, astonished.

There is a bonte, the groundwork of the German
character, which is most attractive. I experienced it
particularly in the women, some of whom I had

1 This impression I left, and have had the happiness of hearing this year
that it still remains ; and that the inigmie (for such I was called) is stijl
talked of with enthusiasm. (Note by Lady Shelley, 1819.)


unintentionally supplanted in their love affairs. Alas !
I had drawn away Monsieur de Caraman, who pre-
viously had lived entirely in their set, but who now
devoted himself exclusively to me. And yet, the greater
the loss, the more amiable was the friendly kindness
of the lady to whom he was devoted — a lady with
whom I could have no pretensions to vie, as she had
far more wit than I had. Alas ! all her attractions did
not preserve her from the mortification of losing the
best, and most elevated man of this age. I have no
hesitation in saying that goodness and talent are
rarely found so united as in Victor de Caraman.
His parents, with a truly liberal spirit, had relieved
the greater part of their tenants from feudal vassalage.
They possessed the land of Languedoc, a mine of
inexhaustible wealth. Every gift of fortune, added to
a handsome person, failed to ruin this man, or to
render him as frivolous as the rest of his nation.
Strong passions, and an ungovernable temper, made
him at the age of fifteen a torment to his governor.
His father, a man of great judgment, perceiving that
common measures would not succeed, determined to
throw him upon his own resources. He called him
one day into his study, and told him that he was his
own master, that for the future he must answer to the
world, and above all to God, for his conduct. This
discourse affected Caraman so much, that after the
lapse of many years he repeated it to me word for
word. His father's reproof made so deep an impression
on the youth's character and feelings, that he instantly
became an altered being. His father gave him a com-
mission, and obtained the King's permission that he
should travel for some years. He gave him letters for
the Court of Berlin, where Frederick the Great reigned,
in the plenitude of his great renown. Caraman's
introduction to that monarch may here be given. The
details are characteristic of both.

Caraman was asked by the French Ambassador at


Berlin (to whom he had been recommended) whether
he would like to be presented at Court. Without
much reflection the young man assented ; and at a
fixed time he went to Potsdam. On his arrival
Caraman was shown, much to his surprise, into an
empty room. He asked the servant where he could
find the Ambassador who was to present him, and
was told that it was Frederick's custom to receive
all strangers alone. He was requested to wait, until
the King's arrival. I can well imagine this young
man's dismay, and it was amusing to hear his own
description of what passed. On the King's entry he
rose and made a profound bow, which the King
acknowledged by a wave of the hand. Caraman
felt very nervous, but after a few minutes of obliging
conversation the King put him at his ease. Then
Frederick the Great, as was his custom, began to
try his understanding by one of those insidious
questions, upon the reply to which depended his
future favour.

" Dites-moi, done, Monsieur de Caraman," said he,
" est-ce qu'il y a encore de bons generaux en France?"
This question addressed to a youth of seventeen, by
the hero whose renown had spread all over Europe,
convinced Caraman that a trap had been set to catch
him. With wonderful presence of mind he replied :
" Sire, a mon age, on ne sait que les obeir, on ne sait
pas les juger."

" Le grand Frederic," said Caraman, " etait si
content de cette reponse, que depuis cette entrevue
il m'honora de son attention particuliere, et de ses
conseils pour ma conduite ; ce qui acheva de la
former. Le Roi me permit de l'accompagner aux
revues de ses troupes, au grand etonnement de toute
la Cour, puisque cette faveur, a laquelle il admettait
un enfant de seize ans, n'etait que rarement obtenue par
les etrangers les plus distingues."

One day Frederick the Great observed Caraman


in a contemplative mood, fixing his attention on an
object before him. The King asked him what he
was thinking about. Caraman told him that he was
interested in the little pointed hats, which belonged
to other times, worn by the King's soldiers. He was
wondering why the King still allowed them to be
worn, since they were of no use for defence, and were
not ornamental.

" Le Roi me repondit avec bonte : ' Vous avez
raison, et j'en ai merae eu l'idee ; mais depuis long-
temps je suis convaincu qu'un mal qui reste vaut
mieux qu'un bien qui change.' "

There is a depth of observation in that remark
which is verified by our daily experience. The
difficulty of obtaining perfection either in men, or
things, ought to teach one to rest satisfied with
known defects, rather than, by changing the object,
discover perhaps greater ones hitherto unsuspected.
Those pointed hats of Frederick the Great have been a
little object-lesson to me, for they have often served
to check in my mind that love of change which is
inherent in human nature.

From the Court of Frederick, Caraman proceeded
to that of Catherine of Russia. He passed man}'
years in that atmosphere. He visited his intimate
friend the Due de Richelieu, in the Crimea. Caraman
assured me that it was a sense of patriotism
that at last induced the Due to leave that happy
little kingdom of his own creation, where he was
idolised, and where he had resided for twenty years,
to assume the helm of government in France. Mean-
while the French Revolution broke out, and the lands
of Languedoc were among the first to be forfeited
for the so-called "Good of the Nation." As they
were divided among small investors in national
property, those lands are lost to Caraman for ever.

Young Caraman was employed in various negotia-
tions for the Princes ; and even after Bonaparte's


Consulship, he twice traversed France. On his
return, the second time, he was arrested near the
frontier, and confined in a castle in the Alps for
many years.

After a time he was allowed, on parole, to make
excursions among the mountains. Here all that was
noble in his mind and character developed. Solitude
and misfortune effaced every trace of frivolity in his
nature, and he became a model of all that is noble,
honourable, and gentlemanlike in man. When his
friend the Due de Richelieu came into power, he
appointed M. de Caraman French Ambassador at
Vienna, where he is universally beloved and esteemed.
The many hours of conversation that I had with him
during his almost daily visits, the memory of which
will never fade, helped to cultivate my mind, and
laid the foundation of whatever power I may happen
to possess of making myself agreeable in my inter-
course with others. I discovered through him that
conversation is an art which requires cultivation.

Every morning after breakfast General Chernicheff
paid me a visit, and sta3^ed until driven away by some
of the rivals ; for he never could endure their presence,
and stormed at what he was pleased to call my coquetry
in treating all alike with civility and attention. 1 will
attempt to sketch this extraordinary character, but
the task is not an easy one.

Cariaccioli thus described his nation : " Un Russe
est un singe greffe sur un ours." That may perhaps
not be an unfair description of Russians in general ;
but the character of Chernicheff has been much
softened by experience. He has great talents, and
many good qualities ; this, in a measure, redeems
his good opinion of himself, a failing that is
certainly very pronounced. He is extremely hand-
some ; though with a trace of Scythian origin, in
the width between the eyes, which are small and
dark. He has a clearj brown complexion, and the


finest figure that can be imagined for an Apollo.
He performs even' manly exercise to perfection, and
dances a ravir. His success with the fair sex goes
far to justify his excessive vanity. But his love of
glory on the field of battle is the absorbing passion
of his life, and in this he has been most successful.
It is well known in the army that Platoff's Cossacks
were led to victory by ChernichefT, who persuaded
the former to abandon his share of the command, and
to allow him to command the whole. ChernichefT
with his Cossacks was first in every attack, and per-
formed some extraordinary services, while Platoff
remained smoking in the rear. He captured towns
at a time when he was supposed to be hundreds of
miles from the field of action. He combines the
courage of the lion with the wisdom of the serpent.
The feats he performed resembled those pertaining
to the Age of Chivalry — in which individual prowess
shone so conspicuous — rather than the regularity and
precision of modern warfare. I listened by the hour —
with every faculty strained — to the animated and lucid
descriptions which he gave, of the principal events
connected with the momentous campaigns of 1S13-14.
ChernichefT with the map before him was in his
element, and was supremely happy in fighting all
his battles o'er again. His conspicuous merit as a
soldier was recognised by the Emperor. He took
ChernichefT into his especial favour, and emplo3'ed
him on every secret mission — indeed, he is supposed,
by the enemies of Alexander, to be one of his most
dangerous agents. ChernichefFs wonderful diplo-
matic talents were shown early in life. At the age
of twenty, he was sent to Paris, after the Peace of
Tilsit. lie contrived so completely to deceive
Bonaparte — by an assumed frivolity, and by reckless
amours and coxcombry — that, during several years,
he obtained copies of every despatch that was drafted
in the Office of Foreign Affairs, and forwarded them


to Russia. His information of Bonaparte's intention
to march into Russia was at the time considered
so improbable, at a time of profound peace between
the two countries, that the intelligence was dis-
believed. It was not until Chernicheff furnished
his government with particulars as to the route
which Bonaparte's army would take, that the Emperor
of Russia could be prevailed upon to take any pre-
cautions. Meanwhile Chernicheffs proceedings in
Paris began to create suspicion, and he would
certainly have been arrested if he had not flown
from that city two hours before the order for his
detention was given. He managed to escape in
safet} 7 ', having previously destroyed every letter
except one. That document remained unconsumed
in the fireplace, sheltered, apparently, by the ashes
of the rest ! That letter incriminated two unfortunate
men, the victims of their own treachery, who were
executed by orders of Bonaparte. They undoubtedly
deserved their fate. Chernicheff has been much
censured for this carelessness, but, from his own
story as told to me, his betrayal of their treachery
was an accident. After all, these men had been
bought by Russian gold, and are therefore not much
to be pitied. And yet one must regret that the
crooked paths of diplomacy should have occasioned
to Chernicheff an enduring remorse.

As he was proud, haughty, and vain to excess, it
was not easy to keep my chains over him, and yet
prove to him that his charms were not irresistible.
With a deep knowledge of the foibles of women, he
tried to mortify and make me jealous, by his apparent
preference for another. He ostentatiously broke
away, only to resume his chains in a few hours !

Online LibraryFrances (Winckley) ShelleyThe diary of Frances lady Shelley (Volume 1) → online text (page 25 of 33)