Frances (Winckley) Shelley.

The diary of Frances lady Shelley (Volume 1) online

. (page 7 of 33)
Online LibraryFrances (Winckley) ShelleyThe diary of Frances lady Shelley (Volume 1) → online text (page 7 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


is idolatry, bribery and corruption are openly per-
mitted in every office, indeed nothing can be done
without them. Mr. Lyttelton met the French
prisoners, whom the Emperor Alexander had released.

1 Afterwards Lord Lyttelton.

2 Nut true: Paris, 1815. (Note by Lady Shelley.)



76 LADY SPENCER'S ACCOUNT OF NELSON [ch. vi

They were turned loose on the frontiers ; without
money, clothes, or food ; spreading over Germany
in formidable bands, they lived by begging, and often
by plunder. So much for Alexander's most mag-
nanimous act ! With respect to his forbearance in
not sacking Paris ; perhaps fear was at the bottom
of it.

The Empress-Mother received a letter from Alex-
ander written on his arrival at Paris, in which he said :
" The change is miraculous ; three days ago we would
have made peace with Napoleon on any terms, and
now we have possession of his capital ! "



CHAPTER VII

Admiral Hallowell ' is just arrived ; he is one of
Nelson's captains, and the only one not abused in the
letters of Lady Hamilton, published last year. He is
a thorough sailor, and a most intelligent, blunt, and
entertaining being. His arrival gave rise to a most
interesting conversation on the subject of Nelson,
which I will endeavour to give in Lady Spencer's own
words. " The first time I ever saw Nelson," said she,
"was in the drawing-room at the Admiralty; and a
most uncouth creature I thought him. He was just
returned from Teneriffe, after having lost his arm. He
looked so sickly, it was painful to see him ; and his
general appearance w r as that of an idiot ; so much so,
that when he spoke, and his wonderful mind broke
forth, it was a sort of surprise that riveted my whole
attention. I desired him to call next day, and he
continued to visit me daily, during his stay in England."
At last Lord Spencer appointed Nelson to the command
of the Mediterranean Fleet, to the great annoyance of
all the Admiralty Board, the Ministers, and even of
Mr. Pitt himself. "The day before he was to sail,"
said Lady Spencer, " he called upon me as usual, but,
on leaving, he took a most solemn farewell, saying that
if he fell, he depended upon my kindness to his wife—

' Admiral (afterwards Sir Benjamin) Hallowell, served chiefly in the
Mediterranean from 1781 to 1814. He commanded the Swift sure at the Battle
of the Nile. He presented Nelson with a coffin made of the timbers of the
French ship V Orient burnt at the Battle of the Nile. He became a rear-
admiral in 181 1, and took the name of Care w iu 1828.

77



78 NELSON AND HIS WIFE [ch. vh

an angel, whose care had saved his life ! I should
explain that, although during Lord Spencer's adminis-
tration, no sea captain ever returned without being
asked to dinner by us ; I made it a rule not to receive
their wives. Nelson said, that out of deference to my
known determination, he had not begged to introduce
Lady Nelson to me ; yet, if I would take notice of her,
it would make him the happiest man alive. He said
he felt convinced that I must like her. That she
was beautiful, accomplished ; but, above all, that her
angelic tenderness to him was beyond imagination.
He told me that his wife had dressed his wounds,
and that her care alone had saved his life. In short,
he pressed me to see her, with an earnestness of which
Nelson alone was capable.

" In these circumstances, I begged that he would bring
her with him that day to dinner. He did so, and his
attentions to her were those of a lover. He handed
her to dinner, and sat by her ; apologising to me, by
saying that he was so little with her, that he would
not, voluntarily, lose an instant of her society.

" The next day he set off, to take command in the
Mediterranean. After the Battle of the Nile, Nelson
went to Naples, and was bewitched by Lady Hamilton !

" On his return to England, everything was changed.
He treated the wife, for whom, at parting, he had
professed such deep affection, with every mark of
dislike, and even of contempt ! Her conduct during
Nelson's absence had been most exemplary.

" Some little time after his return, I invited Lady
Nelson, and him to dinner. Having, more than once,
declined the invitation, Nelson at last brought her.
Such a contrast I never beheld ! A trifling circum-
stance marked it very strongly.

" After dinner, Lady Nelson, who sat opposite to her
husband (by the way, he never spoke during dinner,
and looked blacker than all the devils), perhaps in-
judiciously, but with a good intention, peeled some



iSisj NELSON AND LADY HAMILTON 79

walnuts, and offered them to him in a glass. As she
handed it across the table Nelson pushed it away from
him, so roughly that the glass broke against one of the
dishes. There was an awkward pause ; and then, Lady
Nelson burst into tears!

" When we retired to the drawing-room she told me
how she was situated."

The world was, at that time, divided in opinion as
to the nature of the intimacy, which existed between
Lady Hamilton and Nelson. In my opinion, the
letters, just published, put it beyond a doubt. Nelson
was always most anxious that the friendship should
be considered platonic. But Lady Spencer always
thought that it was criminal. She was often blamed
for this, by Lord Spencer's mother, who was firmly
convinced to the contrary.

One day, she came to her daughter-in-law, and said :
11 Lavinia, I think you will now agree that you have
been to blame, in your opinion of Lady Hamilton. I
have just assisted at a private Sacrament with them
both, which Nelson has taken before he embarks.
After the service was over, Nelson took Lady
Hamilton's hand, and, facing the priest, said : ' Emma,
I have taken the Sacrament with you this day, to
prove to the world that our friendship is most pure
and innocent, and of this I call God to witness !'"

What horrible sacrilege! And this is the man
whom Southey holds up, as a model for all sailors!
True, his public life is worthy of our highest admira-
tion. If only it were possible to draw a veil across
the private life of that great hero !

Alas ! a veil is so often necessary, in the domestic
history of the world's greatest men.

Lady Spencer, afterwards, gave me the following
account of their receiving the news of the Battle of
the Nile :

" During the whole spring and summer, Nelson had
missed the French fleet, (by a few hours,) every time



80 NEWS OF THE BATTLE OF THE NILE [ch. vii

it sailed. For this Lord Spencer was constantly
blamed. He was reproached for having appointed so
young an officer, when two others of greater experi-
ence were passed over to make way for Nelson. The
agony of suspense may be easily imagined !

" At last, a rumour spread about the town that
Nelson had gained a great victory ; but that seven line-
of-battle ships had been lost ! All the captains in the
fleet were our particular friends, and, for some of them
we felt the anxiety which we should have felt for a son.

" Many weeks passed before the official account came.
I was sitting in my drawing-room talking to Mr.
Grenville * over the pros and cons; when Mr. Harrison,
Lord Spencer's secretary, burst into the room, and
cried : ' Such a victory was never heard of — the Town
is in an uproar — my lord is in his office — the parti-
culars have not transpired.' And away he went !

" In about half an hour Lord Spencer sent for me.
1 found him stretched on his bed — pale as death !
He pressed my hand, and said : ' God be thanked ! '
At length my suspense was relieved. I heard full
particulars from the secretaries. They told me that
when Lord Spencer heard that there was not even one
ship lost, he turned round, without speaking, and had
scarcely got out of his office, when he fell on the floor
insensible. His joy had mastered him !

" We dined alone that night ; and, during dinner,
Mr. Pitt, who happened to be in the country when
the news arrived, came to see us. After he had read
the details, and heard of Captain Troubridge 2 being
aground, he exclaimed : ' It could not possibly have

1 Thomas Grenville (i 755—1846), First Lord of the Admiralty 1806-7. He
founded the Grenville Library in the British Museum.

2 Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Troubridge, Bart. (1758— 1807). Served in
the Culloden at the Battle of St. Vincent, 1797, where he led the line, and was
warmly praised for his gallant conduct. At the Battle of the Nile he struck on
a shoal ; but received a gold medal. lie assisted Nelson at Naples and
Malta. He was created a baronet in 1799. Was a Lord of the Admiralty
in 180 1. He was lost in the Blenheim while proceeding from Madras to the
Cape in 1807.



iSi 5 ] LORD AND LADY BYRON IN PICCADILLY 8r

happened to a better man than Troubridge in the
whole navy.' "

I have very feebly reproduced Lady Spencer's
eloquent, and dramatic, description of her own
feelings.

April 16, 1815.— At Mrs. Leigh's request I yesterday
accompanied her to Piccadilly Terrace, to call on
Lady Byron. As I had not previously made her
acquaintance, I feared that, perhaps, my visit might
not be welcome. But Mrs. Leigh was so insistent,
and reminded me of my brief acquaintance with her
brother at Newmarket, that I consented to accompany
her in paying my respects to the newly married
couple. On the way, Mrs. Leigh spoke a good deal
about Byron, to whom she is much attached. She is
by no means insensible to her brother's faults, and
hopes that a good wife will be his salvation. Very
few young men have been so run after, and spoilt by
women, as Lord Byron has been, and marriage will,
she hopes, have a sobering effect upon him. I fancy,
however, from the little I saw of him, that he will not
be at all easy to manage.

We mounted the stairs, and were about to be ushered
into the drawing-room, when the door suddenly opened,
and Lord Byron stood before us. I was, for the
moment, taken aback at his sudden appearance ; but I
contrived to utter a few words, by way of congratula-
tion. Lord Byron did not seem to think that the matter
was adapted to good wishes ; and looked as though he
resented my intrusion into the house. At least I thought
so, as he received my congratulations so coldly, and the
expression on his face was almost demoniacal.

Lady Byron received us courteously, but I felt, at
once, that she is not the sort of woman with whom I
could ever be intimate. Mrs. Leigh seems to be fond
of her. At all events, she is very grateful to her for
taking the tremendous responsibility which such a
marriage entails. I was not sorry when the visit was
i—6



82 LADY BYRON COURTEOUS [ch. vii

over. I felt like a young person who has inadvertently
dipped her ringer into boiling water. 1

1 Looking back upon that day, these words read like a premonition of the
dark days that followed. I had, of course, no reason to think that Lord
Byron would not be happy in his married life. The preposterous accusation
which has lately been brought against Mrs. Leigh seems, to me, who knew
her well, as the height of absurdity. She was what I should call a religious
woman ; and her feeling for Byron was that of an elder sister towards a
wayward child. (Note by Lady Shelley, circa 1870.)



CHAPTER VIII

June 1815. — What wonderful changes! the battle of
Waterloo is gained ! and Wellington has beat
Bonaparte in person ; and with an inferior force.
This battle has raised the English character even
higher than it ever before stood, and makes one proud
indeed of having been born in the country which
produced a Wellington. This great General, who
never before showed such talents, returned to Brussels
after the battle ; and, when Mr. Creevey called upon
him, was walking distractedly about the room ex-
claiming : " Those Guards — those Guards, what fine
fellows ! " During dinner, the tears rolled down his
cheeks, and he could not recover his spirits at all.
The loss has indeed been great; but what a result!
One of the Life Guards, having got hold of a French
Eagle, was attacked by several French, but, rather
than let it go, he allowed his arm to be cut off. When
the wife of Major Nogg heard that her husband had
been killed, she did not speak, and died two days
afterwards !

Colonel Sir William De Lancey l need not have
ended his glorious career at Waterloo. He thought
that his wounds were mortal; and when the doctors
came to assist him, he begged them to attend to
others, who might be saved. He remained all night

' Colonel Sir William De Lancey served in Spain as Assistant Quarter-
M ast er -General 1809-14. He was present at the capture of Ciudad Rodrigo in
181 1, and the Battle of Vittoria in 1813. He died a few days after Waterloo.

83



84 BONAPARTE AFTER WATERLOO [ch. viii

on the field, and was trampled on by the cavalry.
They say that his wounds might have been healed !

Colonel Frederic Ponsonby's * escape was miracu-
lous. He was left for dead on the field, and was
ridden over the whole night. Fortunately, as he lay
on his side, he escaped serious injury, and they say he
will recover.

Lord Uxbridge displayed his usual gallantry; but
overworked his regiment, the 7th Hussars, who
were utterly exhausted by galloping over the field of
battle.

I am told that, during the battle, a false alarm was
raised, and the orderlies with the led horses all bolted.
The baggage being for a time left unprotected, the
Belgians began to plunder it. As a consequence our
officers, after the battle was over, were in great
distress.

A Prussian officer was at one time so close to
Bonaparte that the Emperor fired his pistol at him, and
then leapt on a horse belonging to one of his escort,
and escaped. When the Prussians seized Bonaparte's
carriage they found the travelling cap which he had
worn after the battle, but the wretch had escaped !

The following letter from Lord Jersey refers to the
death of Mr. Whitbread : 2

"July 3, 181 5.
" My dear Shelley,

" When I wrote yesterday, I did not know the
real state of poor Whitbread's end. His mind had
been gone for some time upon two subjects. He
fancied he should die in a workhouse, and that he had
ruined thousands in consequence of the affairs of

1 Major-General Sir Frederic Ponsonby entered the army in 1800, and
served in Spain. He distinguished himself at Talavera and Barossa. He
commanded the nth Light Dragoons at Waterloo. He was Governor of
Malta 1825-35.

2 Samuel Whitbread, politician (1758 — 1815). A leading spirit in
opposition to Pitt's Government. ,He made the acquaintance of Caroline
Princess of Wales, and constituted himself her champion in the House of
Commons. He was closely associated with the rebuilding of Drury Lane
Theatre from 1809.



i8i5] DEATH OF WHITBREAD 85

Drury Lane not going on prosperously. He had not
slept for three weeks and Lady Elizabeth had not
disclosed his situation to any one. At Vauxhall, on
Monday last, the people hissed at something; and he
said, ' Don't you hear? they are hissing me,' and drew
his hat down upon his face. He is a great loss, both
in private as well as public. No man ever did more
good amongst the people around him, altho' it was
not always done in the most gracious way.

" Yours ever,

"Jersey."

I must add to this the opinion of his particular
friend (King Killer) Smith ; that the disappointment oi
Whitbread's political predictions had preyed upon his
mind. I have reason to believe this to be true, though
I despise the man who could thus besmirch the
memory of a former friend, in order to flatter the rival
whose success had destroyed him. It was at Lord
Castlereagh's table at Paris, in a large company, that
Mr. Smith, addressing Lord Castlereagh across the
table, held up the memory of Mr. Whitbread to
ridicule. I was present on that occasion.

I also believe that the attention Whitbread had
given to the complicated, and, as it was believed,
inextricable, accounts of Drury Lane, had absolutely
worn out his faculties. That his mental derangement
was only occasional, was proved by the speech which
he made on the vote of thanks to Wellington, on the
Tuesday before he destroyed himself. Wellington's
merits extorted, even from Whitbread, a full recanta-
tion of his former sarcasms ; and it is a satisfaction to
feel that he was able to make this amende. My firm
conviction is that Whitbread was an honest man,
though a mischievous politician. He would never have
acted long with any party. He had not been for some
time on speaking terms with Lord Grey. Whitbread's
character for integrity stood so high in the country,
that his death is an irreparable loss to the Opposition.
Integrity is, unfortunately, their weak side.



CHAPTER IX

Every wish of my early years had centred in a tour
on the Continent ; and even since my marriage I felt
that the comforts of my happy home might, for a time,
be both pleasantly and profitably exchanged for a
rambling life, which would enlarge my mind, and make
me a pleasanter companion by the fireside of old age.
The change in the political world in 1814, at last pro-
mised to gratify my wishes in that respect ; and we
determined to devote two years to travelling over
France, Germany, and Italy.

Alas ! the death of a near relative, and the necessary
arrangement of our affairs due to a change of residence,
(for my husband had inherited Maresfield), compelled
us to defer our tour until the following spring. When»
in March i8i5,wewere on the point of departure, news
arrived that Bonaparte had escaped from Elba, and had
actually arrived in Paris.

Of course every sense of personal inconvenience and

disappointment was drowned by the anxiety, which

every one felt, for the success of our army ; and for the

safety of the Duke of Wellington, with whom we had,

in the previous year, become intimately acquainted. It

was a bitter disappointment indeed, to have lost the

opportunity of visiting Paris during his embassy there.

Luckily, the affairs of the Congress at Vienna had

removed our hero from Paris, before Napoleon's

arrival there; for there is reason to believe that his,

86



i8i 5 J "WELLINGTON IS SAFE" 87

life would have been attempted. As it was, the
Duke's presence in the Austrian capital was most
beneficial to the safety of Europe. His promptitude,
energy, and firmness fixed the wavering policy of
Courts ; and caused the Sovereigns to act, instead
of allowing their Ministers to talk. The moment
that the Treaty of Vienna was signed, the Duke of
Wellington set out for Brussels.

The glorious 18th June, 181 5, has restored Europe to
liberty ; and placed the English and Prussian troops
in the capital of France.

" Wellington is safe ! " cried the London mob, as
they followed Colonel Percy's carriage, bearing the
Eagles taken on the field of Waterloo. " W T e don't
know what the news is," they cried, " but Wellington
is safe ! "

There were many in the crowd who remembered the
tragic story of Trafalgar. Thus the words, " Welling-
ton is safe," had a deep, and peculiar significance ! But
the anxiety was terrible ; owing to Wellington's rapid
advance upon Paris, and the consequent delay in pub-
lishing the names of those gallant fellows who had
fallen on the field of battle. Our losses were known
to be immense ; and to this painful uncertainty was
added the prospect of fresh engagements, wherein
many of the gallant survivors of Waterloo might
perish ! No one, at that time, could have guessed
that the French army would have been annihilated
on the field of Mont St. Jean; or that Wellington's
triumphal march to Paris would have been wholly
unopposed !

On the day that we heard that Paris had sur-
rendered, we prepared to start ; and, if possible, be the
first to see, and to congratulate the hero.

Leaving Maresfield on July 13, 181 5, we slept at
Canterbury, and reached Dover by noon on the
following day. At three o'clock in the morning of the
15th, we sailed ; and landed at Calais in three hours.



88 CALAIS ASLEEP [ch. is

At that early hour there were only market people
in the streets ; and I was much struck by the
pretty dresses of the women. Although the sabots
are less common than formerly, the bonnet rond, and
short petticoats of different colours, are still very
striking ; and the children are decidedly pretty. Calais
had been shut up for three days preceding our arrival ;
and the inhabitants fully expected the English to throw
shells into it. But they were now quite at their ease,
and showed us every attention. The tricolor flag was
still flying at Calais, but the Bourbon standard of Peace
was daily expected.

When we left Dover, at three o'clock in the morning,
the beacon was still burning on the South Foreland.
As the sun rose, the sea presented the most sub-
lime spectacle, and one which I had long wished to
witness. When we approached the pier of Calais
harbour, a pilot-boat came alongside. The French
sailors chattered incessantly; thus forming a strong
contrast between that voluble, and excitable people
and the sedate Englishmen who manned our vessel.

Although it was early morning, I was surprised to find
so few people on the shore. I had expected, from the
novelty incidental to the arrival, at Calais, of an English
packet, to see the pier crowded by inquisitive people.
When one has risen before sunrise, one is apt to
wonder how anybody can lie in bed, and thus lose
the delicious freshness of a summer's morning. But
we forget that the day before, and perhaps the day
after, we did, and will again do, likewise.

Am I really in France? It is hard to believe it, for
all the people at the inn — the " Lion d'Argent" — speak
English. The rooms are remarkably clean,; the break-
fast excellent, and the bill quite as extravagant as at
Salt Hill! As I stood by the window, watching the
water-carriers, whose monotonous cry : " Eau, eau,
bonne eau ! " had attracted my attention, I saw the
smart-looking bourgeoises going to market, bearing



i8i5) POST-BOYS IN THE OLD STYLE 89

on their backs immense baskets of vegetables, ap-
pearing scarcely to feel a weight which our English
women would faint under. They were picturesquely
dressed, in short coloured petticoats, blue stockings
and sabots, and, on their comely heads bore the white
bonnet rond. They marched along the street with a
short, quick step. I was struck b}' the scarcity of men,
and a multitude of squalid, and clamorous beggars,
whose importunities at last drove me from the window.
We waited patiently until the Custom House officers
gave us permission to depart. The people at Calais
seemed very pleased to see English people, although
the garrison was still loyal to Bonaparte. The
governor had kept the gates closed for three days
previous to our arrival, in full expectation of an attack
by sea.

Our baggage has been examined with French
politeness, instead of English severity. The pole of
our carriage has been exchanged for shafts. We went
to see Quillack's Hotel, celebrated in every book of
travels as the scene of many strange adventures. At
last we entered our carriage ; but, as the post had not
been regularly served, our Courier was obliged to
mount one of the leading horses. In this fashion we
set off, at a trot, through the narrow streets of
Calais.

The road from Calais to the first post, Beaupre, lies
through a country like Norfolk. It is very broad,
straight, and elevated, having deep ditches on each
side.

Owing to the great run upon this road, we had
several post-boys in quite the old style, which amused
us very much. Although each post-boy stopped half
a dozen times, at starting, to alter the length of the
rope traces ; the hemp never broke, as do our English
leather traces. The postilions wore huge jack-boots,
and urged their strong, fine beasts with strange noises.
The reins are the most useless part of the equipment,



9 o BEGGARS AT SAUMUR [ch. ix

for they are never used. The horses turn to the word
of command, and seem to have been wonderfully
trained. The road is extremely tiresome, but we
were amused by watching the post-boys driving
their horses along at a steady pace. On our arrival
at Beaupre, our carriage was surrounded by a horde
of beggars, whose incessant cries of "Je meurs de
faim," "Je n'ai pas de pain," " Un sol pour l'amour
de Dieu," were heartrending. We were detained here
by some trifling mishap, which an English blacksmith
would have rectified in a few minutes, but which a
Frenchman took more than half an hour to accom-
plish. All this time we were under a heavy fire of
supplications, which I should have thought impossible
in a country like France, if we had not had an
extended experience at Saumur. There the impor-



Online LibraryFrances (Winckley) ShelleyThe diary of Frances lady Shelley (Volume 1) → online text (page 7 of 33)