Frances (Winckley) Shelley.

The diary of Frances lady Shelley (Volume 1) online

. (page 5 of 33)
Online LibraryFrances (Winckley) ShelleyThe diary of Frances lady Shelley (Volume 1) → online text (page 5 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

been almost smothered by the female romps getting
him on the ground, and pommelling him with cushions.

1 Namely, the room in which she found Lady AsgUl.


To this succeeded 'Blind Man's Buff.' Triste,
disgusted, and cross, in spite of my good resolu-
tions to bear any amount of folly (dear Lady Sarah,
forgive me), I stole off to bed. As I passed along the
corridor, I almost expected that the picture of Lady
Rachel Russell would start from its frame, at seeing
her favourite residence turned into a guingette. But
the picture, and the representative of the House of
Russell are equally accustomed to, and unaffected by,
such scenes ; and living, as the Duke does, in the
languor created by the dearth of intellectual amuse-
ment, can you wonder that he should, in despair, try
to enjoy the physical distraction even of ' Blind Man's
Buff'? Thus far is for the Nest. 1 But what their
pure minds would think impossible is the disgusting
familiarity of Lady Asgill and Sir Thomas Graham,
who, though in the field a hero, is in love a dotard.
To give you a specimen — Lady Asgill yesterday said
to me, in speaking of the house at Woburn : ' We have
the apartments next yours. They all communicate,
which is extremely comfortable. Sir Thomas's is next
yours. I have the next, and my sister, Mrs. Wilmot,
the third.'

"You have seen too much of the world to be
surprised at anything, but to me this parade was both
new and disgusting. I set off to-morrow to my quiet
home with intense pleasure. God bless you, dear
Lady Spencer. You know that my anxieties are at
Althorp. May they soon end as happily as I finished
them last night in my dreams. 2

" Of course you will not think of writing to me ; but
tell the Refugees I shall expect long letters till we meet.

" Believe ever, dear Lady Spencer, in the affection
of your third daughter,

" F. Shelley."

While at Woburn I copied the following verses,
composed by the Duchess of Devonshire, and attached
to the pedestal of a bust of Fox :

" Here amidst the friends he loved, the man behold
In truth unshaken, and in virtue bold ;

' The schoolroom was called " The Nest."

s There was a probability of Lady Sarah Spencer being engaged to Mr,
Lyttelton. The}- were married on March 4, 1813.


Whose patriot zeal, and uncorrupted mind,
Dared to assert the freedom of mankind :
And whilst extending desolation far
Ambition spread the baneful flames of war ;
Fearless of blame, and eloquent to save,
'Twas he — 'twas Fox the warning counsel gave,
Midst jarring conflicts stemmed the tide of blood,
And to the menaced world a sea mark stood.

" Ah ! Had his voice in Mercy's cause prevail'd,
What grateful millions had the statesman hailed,
Whose wisdom bade the broils of nations cease,
And taught the world Humanity and Peace.
But, though he failed, succeeding ages here
The vain, yet pious, effort shall revere ;
Boast in their annals his illustrious name,
Behold his greatness, and confirm his fame."

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.

Althorp, Dec. 20, 18 13. —Lady Spencer has told me
an anecdote about Gibbon, which confirms my belief
that atheistical opinions, however strong, wane in
sickness, or at the approach of death. Gibbon was at
Althorp about three weeks before he died. During
his visit news came of an order which had been issued
during the French Revolution, to the effect that Death
should be regarded merely as a long sleep ; and that
friends and relations, instead of mourning for the
deceased, were to dance, and strew flowers on the
grave. Lord Spencer, turning to the historian, said :
11 Well, Mr. Gibbon, they have adopted your opinions,
for I believe you think the idea of Death being a long
sleep just and desirable ? "

" Yes," replied Gibbon, " provided one could be
sure of one's dreams."

Here is another anecdote. The famous Prince de
Ligne was staying at the Court of the Emperor of
Austria, when a magnificent casket of jewels arrived,
as an offering from Bonaparte to his intended bride.
The prince, after examining the jewels closely, said :
" II faut avouer que le present vaut bien lefutur"

Mrs. D'Albiac, wife of the general of that name, has


followed her husband during the whole campaign in
Spain ; and, though she was always considered to be
very delicate while in England, has borne many
fatigues under which men have sunk. The retreat
from Burgos, however, very nearly destroyed her.
The following circumstances, that happened to her,
would make a fine opening to a poem on the Battle
of Salamanca. The night preceding the battle was
extremely sultry. Not a breath of air relieved the
oppression occasioned by the weight of the atmo-
sphere. A squadron of cavalry, commanded by
General D'Albiac, were picqueted on a height. Under
the shelter of their horses the men were sleeping,
while, lower down the hill stood some pieces of
artillery. A sudden flash of lightning, followed by a
violent thunderclap, awoke the men, and terrified the
horses, who broke away from their picquets. As they
galloped down the hill both officers and men, in
a wild panic, dispersed in all directions. General
DAlbiac, knowing that his wife's strength was not
sufficient to enable her to escape on foot, naturally
feared that she would be trampled to death. In an
instant he seized his wife in his arms, and placed her
upon one of the guns, while the terror-stricken horses
dashed by on each side, without hurting her in
any way.

From Althorp we went to Colonel Leigh's, near
Newmarket, for the shooting. We stayed there a few
days. The house is far too small even for the com-
pany it contained. Lord Byron was there. Mrs. Leigh
told me that he spent most of the night writing a poem
which is to be called " The Corsair." As he did not
leave his room until after mid-day, our intercourse was
restricted. He is decidedly handsome, and can be very
agreeable. He seems to be easily put out by trifles,
and, at times, looks terribly savage. He was very
patient with Mrs. Leigh's children, who are not in the
least in awe of him. He bore their distracting


intrusions into his room with imperturbable good
humour. Mrs. Leigh has evidently great moral in-
fluence over her brother, who listens to her occasional
admonitions with a sort of playful acquiescence. But
I doubt the permanence of their effect upon his way-
ward nature. Her manner towards him is decidedly
maternal ; it is as though she were reproving a thought-
less child. She looks very much older than her brother,
and does not make the most of herself. She is dowdy
in her dress, and seems to be quite indifferent to
personal appearances. She is extremely good, and I
like her much. Colonel Leigh is an old friend of
Shelley's, and belongs to that select coterie who can
boast of a close intimacy with the Prince of Wales.
My husband is never so gay, and apparently never so
happy, as when he is in the company of those who,
like Colonel Leigh, have been through the fire with
him. In spite of the ruin which the racecourse
brings to some of its votaries, it has an irresistible
charm for all. I felt something of this when, two years
ago, my husband won the Derby with Phantom, a
horse which he bred himself. Shall I ever forget the
excitement of that moment ?


April 22, 1814. — I am just returned from the King of
France's Levee at Grillon's Hotel in Albemarle Street.
I was enchanted by the grace and dignity of his
manners. On the King's retirement the whole room
rang with cries of " Vive le Roi," from the mixed
crowd that had been admitted to his apartment. The
entree was granted to any person who chose to enter,
and but few left the room with dry eyes.

I awaited the arrival of the Duchesse d'Angouleme,
who is grown quite pretty since the unexpected
change in their fortunes. " Le bonheur embellit tout."
I had not time to attend her Reception, which I regret,
as I was presented to her five years ago, by the
Duchess of York, at Carlton House. She then had
tears in her eyes nearly all night. Her eyes have been
so much weakened by weeping that they are still
inflamed. The Comte de Puysegur told me that when
Sir Charles Asgill l was presented to her she was
much affected. Puysegur said : " Madame, Sir Charles
Asgill desire vous etre pre'sente, il doit avoir encore plus
de respect pour votre Altesse qu'un autre, puisqu'il doit
la vie a notre malheureuse Reiner

At these words the Duchesse d'Angouleme covered
her face with her hands ; and it was some time before
she was calm enough to speak to him.

1 Sir Charles Asgill (1763 — 1823), an officer in the First Foot Guards.
Captured at the capitulation of York Town, 1781. Was sentenced to death
in retaliation for the execution of an American prisoner, but released. He
served in Flanders. Major-General in 1798.



When the King of France gave the Order of the
Saint-Esprit to the Prince Regent — an Order which
had never before been conferred on a Protestant Prince
— every one was struck by the elegance of the compli-
ment. The King told the Prince Regent that that
Order was the only thing, that he could call his own,
which the King of France had left to bestow.

Princess Charlotte's manners are as bad and hoy-
denish as possible. She is very clever, and wilful.
The Prince Regent, who has a quick knowledge of her
character, knows exactly how to manage her. He
never appears to wish the thing he has determined she
shall do. It was thus that her marriage with the
Prince of Orange was brought about. They never
allowed Princess Charlotte to see him ; but she had
heard so much of his distinguishing himself in Spain
that, at last, she begged her father to invite him to

The Prince Regent evaded the question for some
time. At last he said that he would not invite the
Prince of Orange, as he felt sure that she would dis-
like him, and would show it. On several occasions
Princess Charlotte returned to the subject, and pro-
mised good behaviour. After a time, the Prince Regent
appeared to relent, and the Prince of Orange was

At his first entrance (as he is plain) Princess
Charlotte was beginning her impertinence, but a
glance from the Prince Regent checked her. Before
dinner was over the two young people began whis-
pering, and spent the whole evening in conversation.
The Princess at last went up to her father and insisted
upon his making a proposal at once to the Prince
of Orange, for her. This the Prince Regent refused
point-blank ; and told her to wait, and sleep over it.
She never closed her eyes that night, and wrote
three notes to the Prince of Orange before next
morning broke.


The Prince of Orange next day spoke to the Prince
Regent, and told him that he had never seen a woman
with whom he was so much struck. The Prince
thereupon sent for his daughter, and the engagement
was arranged. This is the Prince Regent's own
account of the affair, and may be relied upon in every

After the debate on the question of Norway, when
Lord Grey made a most eloquent speech which
lasted over three hours, Comte Meerfeldt, the Austrian
Ambassador, who is full of dry fun and pleasantry, said
to him in a tone of the deepest compliment : " Milord,
il faut avoir de bien bons poumons pour parler aussi

Lord Grey told this story very good-humouredly,
though he was not particularly flattered at the com-
pliment to his physique, an depots du moral.

May 14, 1 8 14. — I last night saw Prince Carl of
Wirtemberg, brother to the Prince Royal, who has so
much distinguished himself. Prince Carl is tolerably
good-looking, but is the greatest coxcomb and the
most impertinent prince, and puppy, that I ever beheld.
He made his debut at Mrs. T. Hope's on Friday. He
danced all night extremely ill, and endeavoured to
teach about forty people a new and complicated dance
which no one present had ever before seen. He thinks
it de bon air to abuse everything English. On being
called upon to admire the house — which is certainly a
fine one — he said : " C'est assez bien pour l'Angle-
terre." He holds Devonshire House in nearly equal

He described the assembly as " Une foule inoui'e " —
" le temps, un froid inoui' ! " He described u l'agrement
de la societe de Paris — ' inoui ' — deux mille etrangers."
He said : " On ne voit pas du tout les anglais. lis ne
sont pas faits pour la societe; il n'y a que deux ou
trois qu'on voit" — and so on. His intense vanity is
shown by the following remarks : " C'etait un coup


d'oeil sublime de nous voir a diner chez le roi de
France. Imaginez-vous, madame, nous etions trente-
et-un Souverains et Princes — trcnte-ct-un Souverains et
Princes I Le beau coup d'ceil ! " I hope, as he pre-
tends to dislike England so much, that he will soon
take his departure.

At Lady Jersey's, the other night, they danced the
quadrille known as " The Battery." Count Meerfeldt
told me that the last time he danced it was with
Bonaparte, Princess Borghese, and others at Monza,
a country house near Milan. Bonaparte danced
extremely ill, but he kept it up until two in the
morning, and danced every description of contredanse
franc aise.

Baron Tripp ! told me last night that he honestly
believed that Bonaparte's reason for rejecting the
advantageous terms of peace offered by the Allies —
conduct which will always appear incomprehensible
— was that he did not consider empire worth having,
unless it embraced the whole world. Baron Tripp
quoted an expression of Bonaparte's, " Je suis las de
ce vieil Europe ! Je ne veux pas regner sur un empire
fletri!" How characteristic of the mind of that
wonderful being ! Such a thought could not enter
into the brain of any other man ; and, for that reason,
I believe Bonaparte to have used these expressions.
Bonaparte expressed the highest admiration for
England, and was most anxious to reside here. Would
that he were safe in this island ! Can such a man ever
remain inactive? Only Providence, who created him
to be the scourge of the world, and who has now
annihilated him for His own wise purposes, can keep
him so. The events of the present moment seem to
set at defiance the wisdom of Ages. Every political
calculation gives way under the overruling hand of

1 A Belgian general who commanded the Belgian Carabineers at Water-


The French head-dresses, half a yard high, are the
universal topic of conversation. Grassini x assures me
they are not worn in good society. She considers
herself as leading the ton, which was really the case
at Paris. She appeared at the opera, on Tuesday,
in what she regards as, the Roman costume. If so,
it was not that of the time of Gli Orazi, which she
intended to portray. The chaste sister of the Roman
patriot would have felt contaminated by being in the
same room with any female in such habiliments. She
wore a pair of tight flesh-coloured pantaloons, close to
the shape ; and, over them, the thinnest white shawl
drapery, which clung in loose folds to her form,
making nakedness more nude. Her acting with Tra-
mezzani was the finest thing 1 ever saw, and I could
not repress my tears. In the beginning of the opera,
and in the bravuras, I missed Catherine's astounding
powers. But at the close, when wholly absorbed by
the interest of the scene, the illusion was complete, and
her distinct articulation, and the beauty of language
enhanced the melting tones of recitation. For a time
I forgot that I was at the opera ! Last night Grassini
appeared at Lady Heathcote's, and was the sole object
of attention.

Yesterday, at six o'clock, I witnessed the arrival
of the Emperor of Russia. He had been to Carlton
House, and was on his way to the Pulteney Hotel.
He drove in Count Lieven's carriage. I at once
recognised him by his likeness to his sister, the Grand
Duchess. He is very gentlemanlike-looking, and
complied, very gracefully, with the wishes of the mob
by appearing on the balcony, and bowing repeatedly.

June 8, 1 8 14. — To-day I saw the Emperor of Russia
and his sister go in the Prince Regent's state carriage,

1 Grassini, and Tramezzani, who was an agreeable tenor, were for several
years very popular in England. A capable critic (" Musical Reminiscences,"
by the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe, 3rd edition, 1828, p. 96) has pronounced
Grassini's acting in the last scene of " Gli Orazi e Curiazi," by Cimarosa, as a
chef cCauvre. They both left England in 1814.


to call on the Queen at Buckingham House. On
their return, the King of Prussia, accompanied by his
three sons, went there in state. He is a fine-looking
man, apparently not more than thirty years of age.
His sons are pleasant-looking boys, and all the
suite — as one might have expected — are very soldier-
like in appearance.

We also went to look at Blucher — a venerable-
looking man, rather short, with the finest silver hair,
and a beautiful countenance.

He came to the door to please the mob, who had
been drawing him about the streets all the morning.
Lord Burghersh had accompanied him ; and it was all
they could do to get Blucher safe into the house, as he
was nearly crushed to death. He told Lord Burghersh
that he had never before been so frightened ! Lord
Burghersh told me this himself.

Every day is passed in seeing these great people.
The whole population of London is in the streets !

Sunday, June 12. — I have been riding in the Park
to see the Emperor, the King of Prussia, and all
the great men ; a service of no trifling danger.
But it was worth it, for I never beheld so lovely
a sight.

The number of people in Hyde Park even exceeded
the countless multitudes which have filled the streets
during the past week ; to say nothing of the crowds of
horsemen and carriages. The brightness of the sun
added much to the gaiety of the scene. Old PlatofF,
the Hetman of the Cossacks, appeared on the scene
with two of his attendants, armed with long spears.
As he speaks no language but Russ, he is not so much
attended as the rest. I am told that in his own
country he can muster soldiers, or vassals, to the
number of eighty thousand, and that he keeps twenty
thousand horses. They form the chief part of his
revenue. He is a fine-looking man, apparently under
forty years of age, although I am told that he is


sixty-four. He rode the white horse, sixteen years
old, which he has ridden in all the campaigns. It
is a beautiful animal. Old Blucher came next, attended
by Burghersh, and Sir C. Stewart. He was mounted
on the charger which he rode during this campaign,
in all the great battles. His seat is very good, and
he is the broadest, stoutest old fellow that ever was
seen. I rode with him at the risk of my neck, as the
people followed him in troops, both on horseback and
on foot.

In the evening we went to a dress party at Lady
Salisbury's to meet the Royalties. They did not
come till late, and stayed less than an hour. The
Emperor of Russia, and the King of Prussia, appear
less well in society, particularly the former, who is
shy, and very deaf. He has a bad figure, tightened
in at the waist, and has a chest like a woman. His
epaulets are large, and placed very forward ; and his
arms hang in front very awkwardly. Lord Salisbury
presented an ice on a salver. The Emperor insisted
on putting down the glass himself. He expressed
delight at the crush of an English assembly, which he
preferred to the stiffness of a Paris circle. The Prince
Regent was there, covered with orders, as were the
others. The King of Prussia, who had a very short
waist, wore the Garter over very loose, white panta-
loons, and large ill-made boots, which looked bad.
But his countenance is extremely interesting. The
young Princes of Prussia are fine creatures, and, I am
told, are as brave as lions. In the last campaign the
eldest, more than once, led a charge of cavalry ; first to
a successful attack, and then, wheeling round, led a
body of infantry with the same result. The Crown
Prince has a pretty, chubby, childish face, full of
animation and gaiety. The charming Grand Duchess
was there, and honoured me by her remembrance.
Although I stood quite at the back of the circle she
gave me two or three gracious bows, and smiles.


Before they arrived Lady Pembroke, sister to the
distinguished General Woronzow, 1 told me that the
Grand Duchess's illness arose from her being confined
with her youngest child at a palace near Moscow while
the city was burning. She has ever since been subject
to these dreadful epileptic fits, which at first were
extremely frequent during the day, but now only seize
her on alternate days at the same hour. Her attendants
endeavoured to deceive her, by putting the clocks
forward, and by procuring the actual person, or thing,
she was most anxious to see at that ver}^ time ; but
hitherto without success. Bayley, who is inexorable
about ladies' fancies, says there is no affectation
in this.

The Grand Duchess was dressed last night in the
most magnificent pearls I ever saw — scattered all over
her head in large bunches and drops. She wore a
necklace of egg-shaped pearls of enormous size. Her
shoulders are very forward, like her brother's, whom
she closely resembles ; but he has not her astonishing
quick eye. They all talked a great deal to the Duchess
of Wellington, upon whom they had called in the
morning. The Prussian-French is very bad indeed.

June 14. — This morning I went, at eight o'clock, to
Mrs. Tomb's at Whitehall to see the embarkation of
the Royalties for Woolwich, from Whitehall stairs.
It was a most brilliant sight. The royal barge was
gorgeously gilded. Its awning was of purple silk,
embroidered in gold, while the flag displayed the arms
of England. In the barge sat the Emperor, the Grand
Duchess, the King of Prussia, the Prince Regent, the
Duke of York, Lord Castlereagh, Countesses Lieven,
and Taticheff, and two other men. As they entered
the barge the sun shone out, and the whole party
appeared on the steerage. While passing under the

1 General Count Woronzow, Ambassador to England 1793. A celebrated
Russian general, who played a prominent part in the overthrow of Bonaparte
in 1814.


Strand Bridge * (of which three arches are now turned,
and the piles of the others laid) they were greeted
with vociferous cheering. The boats in attendance
comprised the barges, and gigs of the men-of-war
lying in the river ; also barges of the different boards —
about sixty in all — most magnificently decorated,
besides scores of boats filled with spectators.

The only drawback to the splendour of the welcome
which these Princes received, was the unfortunate
renouvellement of the dispute between the Regent and
the Princess of Wales. Until this happened the tide of
popularity ran strongly in the Prince Regent's favour,
and as strongly against the Princess. But the Regent's
ill-judged letter, in which he declared that he would
never meet his wife, either in public, or in private,
turned the whole city against him. At the Opera, the
other night, when the Sovereigns were present, the
Princess made her appearance in the opposite box,
and curtseyed to the Royalties, upon which they all
bowed. Let this satisfy John Bull, for she is not worth
a thought in any case, and less than ever in these
momentous times.

If I have been led away by the popular cry in
favour of the Emperor of Russia, let me now retract
my opinion. Each succeeding day dispersed the halo
of glory with which fancy had exalted the magnanimous
Alexander. Reality, and a nearer approach, proves
him to be a foolish, good-natured, dancing Dandy.
Although he has more good qualities than bad, he is
but a weak, vain coxcomb. Personally, he is as brave
as a lion, but entirely under petticoat government.
His sister, the Grand Duchess, has complete power
over him ; and, shocking as the notion is to English
morals, is generally regarded as his evil genius.

Although the Grand Duchess is very fascinating,
she remained in England rather too long for my
enthusiasm about her to endure. The other day, in

1 Now known as Waterloo Bridge.


spite of the well-known repugnance of the ungallant
citizens of London, she insisted on accompanying the

Online LibraryFrances (Winckley) ShelleyThe diary of Frances lady Shelley (Volume 1) → online text (page 5 of 33)