Frances (Winckley) Shelley.

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of the estate would cease. In anticipation of that
event he continued to raise money in every direction.
Under these circumstances it is not surprising that,
when Sir John came of age, he found little to inherit
beyond an encumbered estate. The pressing need
of money at last compelled him to part with his
family place, Michelgrove, which was sold to Mr.
Walker, a Liverpool merchant, for ,£100,000. The
astute purchaser immediately cut down £"70,000 worth
of timber on the estate, without touching the orna-
mental timber, and with advantage to the estate
itself. The loss of Michelgrove affected Sir John
so much that he rarely mentioned its name, and
would not even allow me to visit it for many years
after our marriage.

In 1 8 14, Sir John inherited Maresfield, a beautiful
place near Uckfield, from his uncle Mr. Newnham.
We laid out £"70,000 in improving the place, which
henceforth became our home. It was with real
pleasure that I spent this enormous sum on Sir
John's new property, for it gave him a good posi-
tion in the county, and consoled him for his early
errors, which he never ceased to deplore.


Sir John Shelley's first appearance in public after
our marriage was at the Ascot Race Meeting, where he
received the congratulations of his many racing friends
At the end of the month we arrived in London, and
were presented at Court by old Lady Onslow, a
sister of Sir John's father. Every one seemed to
rejoice with our happiness, and life then appeared
to me to be a real Paradise. Our first country visit
was to Osterley Park, Lord and Lady Jersey's, where.
I began to feel that an evil spirit still pervaded the
world, and that my future life would not be all

Lady Jersey then, as always, required all her asso-
ciates to submit to her dictation, even in so small a
matter as a novel ; and " the country girl," as she
called me, was not allowed to differ in opinion from
that powerful Queen of Society. I soon perceived
that Lady Jersey tyrannised over her husband, who,
adoring his commanding wife, almost trembled in her
presence, and certainly never ventured to oppose her
opinions, or wishes. In deference to my husband's
request I patiently swallowed every affront, and bore
her impertinent curiosity with humility, which was
more feigned than real. She inquired into the amount
of my fortune, and of our expenditure, giving her
opinion as to what we should, or should not, do.

Unfortunately we were detained longer than we
wished at Osterley, by an accident which had hap-
pened to my husband. In playing tennis at Hampton
Court he twisted his ankle on a ball, which brought
on an attack of the gout, which he had never before
felt. He was helpless for months, and was compelled
to use crutches for some time. In this plight I had to
appear in London society, as a bride with a lame hus-
band ! this set all the gossips giggling, and accen-
tuated the objection which had always been made to
my marriage — namely, that Sir John was so much
older than myself! However, that could be borne;


and my only real annoyance was that he could not
amuse himself shooting at Rufford, where the broad
ditches over which we had both vaulted with a pole,
made even the use of a pony impossible. Eventually
we went into Norfolk, where, at Holkham, I had an
even more triste experience of the jealousy and spite
of the worldly people of that period, who were pre-
pared to hate me for having robbed them of their
former flirt and gay convive. These ladies practised
the refined art of social torture, without attracting my
husband's attention, and I had much to bear in silence.
The scandal, talked over their work-tables, disgusted
me. I often preferred the silence of my own room, or
a solitary stroll in the gardens, to their detestable con-
versation, when no one'-was spared, and which at last I
could not tolerate.

In vain these ladies bade my husband lecture me on
my lack of sociability. I turned the tables upon my
persecutors by caricaturing their manners, to his infinite
amusement. In spite of all they could say, or do, I kept
out of the reach of these scandal-mongers all the
morning, (when they were most objectionable) and
contented myself by driving out with some of them in
the afternoon.

In the evenings I allowed these old maids to cheat
me at " Vingt et un" until, at last, I felt it to be my duty
to refuse to play with them ; as I had already lost more
money than I could well afford. This new determina-
tion was regarded as a fresh affront, and fresh perse-
cutions were resorted to. I was very glad when our
visit came to an end, and we were free to pay far more
agreeable visits elsewhere.

That fine Palladian Palace, Holkham, was approached
through a triumphal arch, along a straight road, from
which the sea is seen in the far distance. Beyond the
Obelisk Wood lay a lake, with the church peeping out
of a large cluster of trees. Mr. Coke's skill and taste
have made the desert fertile, and the prospect pleasing.

i8o7] A GOLDEN RULE 39

Picturesque farm buildings, and browsing kine are
dotted along the seven miles of approach to the house.
When the aspect is viewed at the change of the leaf,
nothing can surpass its beauty. It is a veritable oasis
surrounded by the dreary Norfolk landscape, swarm-
ing with partridges, and other winged game, which
seem to rise out of wastes of sand bearded with
stunted corn. There were no fences to check the full
enjoyment of the shooting, when thirty or forty brace
a day fell to the guns of Holkham. In the battues the
slain were numbered by thousands.

There is one rule from which I have never deviated
during the whole course of my married life. I made
it a point never to interfere in any way with my
husband's mode of life ; and I never kept him from
the society even of persons whose conduct I could
not admire. Often have I urged him to accept invi-
tations, and go alone to dinner-parties where I knew
that he was more than welcome. In this I feel sure
that I acted wisely.

It was not, in those days, customary to have more
than three or four women at dinner-parties, where
there were eight or ten men ; and dinners were not, as
now, a jumble of pairs like the animals entering the
Ark. Dinners were then arranged with care and
thought, so as to secure the most agreeable conver-
sation. This lent an especial charm to those select

Tommy Moore, Luttrell, Rogers, and Sydney Smith,
were the regular " diners out." They were invited
especially to give the ton, and to lead the conversation,
whose brilliancy had often been prepared with as
much care as a fine lady bestows upon her Court
dress. The conversation was seldom impromptu —
like the talk of my lively, and most agreeable
husband — yet every one accepted its charm, without

TABLE TALK [ch. ii

scrutinising too closely the manner of its " get-

During my early life the dazzling brilliancy of table
talk shone brightly. Then came a change ; people
wished to hear their own voices, and dinner-table wit
sank away for ever !


After leaving the old Squire, Coke of Norfolk, to
repeat his oft-told tales at Holkham to an ever-approv-
ing audience, with whom his word was law, I found
myself at Houghton, in a cheerful society where
kindness, bieusc'ance, and the most spiritual conversa-
tion replaced the intense boredom of the great English
Commoner's entourage ; but le citable riy perdait rien.
It has been well said, that " vice to be hated needs but
to be seen." Here, like Devonshire House, tout etait
penjiis, avec bienseance. The hazard-table was called
" chicken-hazard " for the ladies' benefit, and dear,
good-natured Lady Cholmondeley played at it without
even a thought of the slightest harm. This celebrated
beauty, before her marriage, had been named " Black
Charlotte " by the Prince of Wales, Charles Wyndham,
and the beaux of that day, who all paid their court to
her. She gloried in their attentions, and received with
delight their questionable homage. Prior to her mar-
riage she had considered herself free to amuse herself,
without heed of consequences ; but, after her marriage
she turned over a new leaf, and became a perfectly
correct, and devoted wife. I note this as a curious trait
in the manners of that age, for she and her sister,
afterwards Lady Willoughby de Eresby, were grandcs
dames. By the death of their brother, the Duke of
Ancaster, they became immense heiresses, and the
Great Chamberlainship of England is vested in their


42 LORD VILLIERS [ch. hi

As a girl, Lady Tarleton was received as one of the
family, and then became the wife of the General who
gained his laurels in the American War of Indepen-
dence. 1 She was the illegitimate daughter of the
celebrated Mrs. Robinson, and the most spirituelle and
clever person I ever met with. She was very hand-
some and attractive. Lord Villiers had wished to
marry her ; but poverty, and perhaps family pride,
made this impossible. At that time Lord Villiers had
no income whatever. His father, Lord Jersey, being
utterly ruined, it became necessary for Lord Villiers,
when he afterwards inherited the family estates, to
discharge his father's debts at a tremendous personal
sacrifice. My warm-hearted husband, who loved
Villiers as a brother, came to his rescue, and, out of his
own slender resources, lent him £10,000 without any
formality, or interest. After twenty years, when the
money was repaid, my husband was thus reminded of
a loan which he had quite forgotten !

One day, it must have been in 1803, I came back
unexpectedly to my mother's sick-room, and saw, sitting
at her bedside, the most beautiful woman I had ever
beheld. She was dressed in the indecent style of the
French republican period. Tears were rolling down
her cheeks ; this heightened her beauty without
defacing the rouge which had been artistically applied.
Her sleeves were of the finest embroidered muslin, and
transparent drapery lay over a bust of ivory.

When the lady saw me, she rose to her feet, rushed
towards me, and cried out impulsively : " Do let me
kiss my darling niece." She did so, of course, and the
odour of musk enchanted me.

This was the first and only time that I saw my

1 Sir Banastre Tarleton (1754 — 1833) entered army 1775 and accompanied
Cornwallis to America. Took part in the capture of New York and other
places, also in the seizure of General Lee. He defeated Lafayette near James
Town in 1781. Was Member for Liverpool 1780-81. Became a general


mother's unhappy sister, Grace Dalrymple Eliot.
Her story is full of romance. She was extremely
beautiful, had married a plain-featured little doctor,
who was double her age, and took no sort of trouble to
guide his young bride of only seventeen ! She unfor-
tunately attracted the attention of Lord Valentia, who
seduced her. She had passed from a convent in France
to an unsuitable marriage. After her divorce she re-
turned to France, and was brought back to England by
Lord Cholmondeley. In 1785 she went to Paris, and was
living there when the Revolution broke out. She was
on intimate terms with Madame Tallien, Josephine
Beauharnais, and many of the active spirits of those
days. 1 Poor woman ! whatever may have been her
faults — and it must be remembered that she had a very
imperfect bringing up — she became one of the minister-
ing Angels of the Revolution. Through her influence
over the Due d'Orleans, and Tallien, she saved many
lives at the risk of her own. She was imprisoned,
insulted, and threatened with an ignominious death.
Her hair had been cut ready for the guillotine, and she

' Grace Dalrymple was the eldest daughter of Hew Dalrymple, Attorney-
Geneial of Jamaica. The exact date of her birth is uncertain, but probably it
took place in 1 754. She had been educated in a convent in France, and when
she was about sixteen she had the misfortune to lose her mother. From that
time she fell into the hands of her impecunious and dissolute father. In 1 77 1,
when she was seventeen, her father induced her to marry Dr. John Eliot, who,
at that time, had a considerable practice in London. Dr. Eliot was exactly
double her age, and was of an unprepossessing appearance. The marriage was
not a happy one. In 1775 Grace Dalrymple Eliot was seduced by Lord
Valentia, and was d : vorced by her husband in the following year. Her father
had been dead two years ; she had no home, and she seems to have fallen into
bad hands. The Prince of Wales took great notice of her ; and, in 1783, she
gave birth to a girl who, as Georgiana Seymour, is frequently mentioned in
Lady Shelley's Diaries. At the outbreak of the French Revolution Grace
Dalrymple was living in Paris, under the protection of the Due d'Orleans, whom
she tried to save from his bad advisers. Her experiences during the Reign of
Terror, though written in 1801, it is said at the request of George III., were
not published until 1859, when they appeared under the title "Journal of My
Life during the French Revolution." After the Peace of Amiens, in 1801,
(Irace Dalrymple returned to England, where she remained until the Restora-
tion of the Bourbons in 1814. She died in Paris on May 16, 1823, in her
sixty ninth year.


would certainly have perished on the scaffold if Robes-
pierre had not fallen. She was then released (1794)
and came for a short time to England, after an absence
of many years. Her antecedents were not a bar to the
acquaintance of many distinguished people ; and her
portrait was painted by Gainsborough. Of course I
knew nothing then of my aunt's history, and could not
understand why my poor mother burst into tears,
and afterwards regretted this accidental rencontre.
Georgiana Seymour, whom I met at Houghton, was
her daughter, presumably by Lord Cholmondeley.
But the Prince of Wales also claimed to be her father;
and, in those profligate days, the mother was treated
semi-royal by those who wished to flatter his Royal

Although this misfortune had caused my mother
much pain, she did not refuse to allow me to visit
and play with my cousin ; and I used to go almost
daily to Cholmondeley House, in ignorance of the
family history. We used to go to Fragard's riding
school together, where I made the acquaintance of
Lady Sarah Fane, who had not yet been presented.
She was two years older than myself. I remember
when, one day, we were standing near the window
overlooking Piccadilly, Georgiana called me to look at
the three "elegants" of the day, who happened to be
passing : Lord Anglesey, Lord Villiers, and Sir John
Shelley, then in his great beauty.

But to return to Houghton. Georgiana Seymour
and Harriet Cholmondeley were the bright stars in
that firmament. The latter was the daughter of
Lord Cholmondeley, and afterwards married the great
parti of the day, Mr. Lambton. She and Priscilla,
afterwards Lady Tarleton, were adopted daughters
of the Cholmondeleys, and were brought up with
Lady Cholmondeley's own children. They cer-
tainly made Houghton the pleasantest house I
ever stayed at. Its society was like that of an old


French chateau, where every lady laid out her best
accomplishments to please the assembled guests. It
was there that I first met Beau Brummell. 1 He was
supposed to be painting a miniature of George IV.,
after Cosway ; but he made so little progress that
we declared he never touched it. He then began
to make an album which contained many vers dc
socicte, and led to much banter and fun, so the days
passed very agreeably. The gentlemen of the party
apparently submitted to old Cholmondeley's atrocious
wines in order to enjoy the agrements of Houghton.

I saw a great deal of the beautiful Georgiana
Seymour here, and also in London. She was always
wishing to have me as a companion, and as we lived
close to the corner of Down Street and Piccadilly, I
was often at Cholmondeley House, which was after-
wards the residence of the Duke of Cambridge.

As the parentage of this beautiful girl was claimed
both by the Prince of Wales, and by Lord Cholmondeley
(who were equally devoted to her), all the men of ton,
and many women, received, and courted her mother,
Grace Dalrymple Eliot, thereby hoping to obtain
access to the Prince's favour. I knew this from my
husband, who witnessed it. He was often in Grace
Dalrym pie's society, but he was then too volage to
become captive to her charms.

In 1808 Georgiana Se3'mour married Lord William
Bentinck, 2 and died in December 1813.

1 George Bryan Brummell (1778 — 1840), a celebrated wit and leader of
fashion, once an intimate friend of the Prince Regent. His album, in which
he collected poems by the most celebrated persons of his day, was in itself
a proof of his popularity. Brummell was utterly ruined by gambling at
Watier's Club. In 1816 he took flight, crossed over to Calais, and led a
miserable existence for some years. He died imbecile, in an asylum at Caen,
in his sixty-second year.

7 Lord William Charles Bentinck, a son of the Duke of Portland, was
Treasurer of the King's Household and a colonel in the army.


Colonel Cadogan tells me that before the Battle of
Salamanca, when the French and English armies were
in sight of each other, Lord Wellington, having made
every arrangement, retired to his tent to take some
rest and refreshment. He had given orders to be
called in the event of any movement by the enemy.
The French kept up a cannonade, which bore so
immediately upon Wellington's tent that his servants
did not dare to wait at table. While he was in the
act of carving a chicken an aide-de-camp came to tell
Wellington that Marmont had made a movement to
the left. Wellington sprang to his feet, ran out of the
tent, with the chicken on his fork, and exclaimed,

" Then we have them, by G ! "

Colonel Cadogan also tells me that Wellington is
now in winter quarters behind Ciudad Rodrigo, and
amuses himself with hunting. In order to enjoy the
sport in safety, videttes are stationed at intervals over
a district of ten miles. Wellington and his officers
seldom have a good run, as the foxes are too fat, and
are either killed immediately, or are run to ground
among the rocks. Colonel Cadogan says that Lord
Wellington is particularly gay, and playful in conver-
sation ; enjoys fun, and is always the first to promote
amusement. Like Henri IV. and other great men, he
seems to be able to sleep at any moment. When rolled
in his cloak on the bare ground, his slumbers are as

peaceful and profound as those of a child. When he

4 6


awakes he is immediately in possession of all his
faculties. I mention these trifles, believing that
everything relating to so great a character is worthy
of remembrance.

About three years ago, after one of the conscriptions
in France, nearly one hundred young men of family
and fortune had, at considerable expense, procured
substitutes, who had left for the front. Soon after-
wards all those young men attended a grande chasse
near Paris, at which Bonaparte was present with the
Parisian world. When Bonaparte caught sight of
those young men, in all the glory of their hunting
costumes, he sent for one of his generals and inquired:
" Que font la tous ces jeunes faineants ? qu'on les
envoye a l'armee demain matin." In vain the
case was stated to him. They were all sent off
on the following morning ! Mr. Montgomerie, who
happened to be present, knew some of them inti-

Miss Caroline Neville, afterwards Lady Wenlock,
told me the following anecdote about Princess Char-
lotte of Wales :

Her Royal Highness was playing at "Commerce"
with the Queen, Princesses, etc., at Windsor, not long
after the appearance of the Prince Regent's letter, in
which, speaking of his early friends, he said : " I have
no predilections to indulge." Princess Charlotte was
so long in making up her mind which card she should
take, that the Queen became impatient. " Come,
come, my dear," said she, "why don't you decide, and
take one of them ?" Upon which Princess Charlotte,
with more quickness than respect, replied: "Why
really, ma'am, I can't decide, I've no predilections."
Her manner in public is extremely forward. She
drives about Windsor in a phaeton with a pair of
ponies, nodding, and kissing her hand to everybody
she meets. When George Neville, who does not
know her, met her, he, of course, took off his hat.

48 LADY SPENCER [ch. iv

Princess Charlotte gave him a familiar nod by
which he was much flattered, and deemed it a compli-
ment paid to his beaux yenx. But on his return
home he was . told by the fat chaplain (Mr. H.)
that, as he was standing with the alehouse keeper
at the door of the inn, giving his horse some
water, they each received a similar condescending

As she was driving, a few days later, through the
streets of Windsor, one of her ponies became a little
restive. The groom, of course, went instantly to its
head. Her Royal Highness, who was indignant that
the collected crowd should suppose her to be unequal
to manage it, gave the poor groom a smart cut across
his face, and dashed furiously on.

Does this indicate strength of character, or the
wilfulness of an ill-educated child ? Time will show.

Among the most agreeable of the visits which we
paid at this time was to Althorp, with its magnificent
library and grand shooting-parties. Lord Spencer
was head of the Admiralty when Nelson assumed
the Mediterranean command, and, as will be seen
presently, both he and Lady Spencer had much to
say about that fine sailor.

The following letter was written from Woburn,
after one of Lady Shelley's visits to Althorp :

" WOBURN, December 1812.

" My dear Lady Spencer,

" Though I feel that I have no right to occupy
your time, when I already enjoy the privilege of
writing to dear Lady Sarah, yet one letter you must
permit, that I may endeavour to express some part
of the gratitude I feel, and also my regret at leaving
Althorp, where I discovered that, happy as my
married life had always been, it was still capable of
increased enjoyment by the addition of a family of
friends. Indeed, my warmest affection and interests,
hitherto confined within so small a circle, are now
extended to all that belongs to you and those amiable


girls. While Shelley and I could talk of you, which
we did during the whole of our journey, I did not
half know how grieved I was to leave you. But on
my arrival here, the force of contrast made quite a
fool of me.

" We were very late, and a formal reception prepared
the way for a silent dinner of twenty people. You
will guess from this that I now know what your
1 Noah's Ark ' is ; for they were all in pairs, and I
the solitary snipe. During dinner every one whispered
to his next neighbour, and I was obliged to do the
same, from the dread of hearing my own voice. But
when evening came, God knows, I had no longer the
same fear, for a scene of such vulgar noise, and riot, I
never beheld !

" As soon as we left the dining-room, the Duchess
went to her nursing employment (after a little edifying
conversation on the subject) and we dispersed into
different parties, through an enfilade of six rooms.
The gentlemen soon joined us, and in the first, Shelley
got a companion at billiards. In the next, Lady Asgill
established herself in an attitude, lying on the sofa
with Sir Thomas Graham at her feet. In the next,
a sober rubber at whist. In the next, Lady Jane and
Miss Russell at a harp and pianoforte (both out of
tune), playing ' The Creation ' ! Alas ! It was chaos
still ! And, in the long gallery, a few pairs were dis-
persed on the sofas ; others sauntered from room to
room. I joined the latter, and talked of furniture, china,
and ormolu, till the subject was exhausted. I was
bored to death, and triste a mourir\ the tete-a-tete forming
a barrier to the billiard-room ! l At last I established
myself at a writing-table in the card-room. Scarcely
was I seated, when the Duchess entered ; and, collect-
ing her romping force, of girls and young men, they all
seized cushions, and began pelting the whist players.
They defended themselves by throwing the cards and
candles at her head ; but the Duchess succeeded in
overthrowing the table, and a regular battle ensued,
with cushions, oranges, and apples. The romp was at
last ended by Lady Jane being nearly blinded by an
apple that hit her in the eye ! Shelley, before that, had

Online LibraryFrances (Winckley) ShelleyThe diary of Frances lady Shelley (Volume 1) → online text (page 4 of 33)