Benjamin Disraeli.

Henrietta Temple: a love story online

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Produced by David Widger


By Benjamin Disraeli

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_Some Account of the Family of Armine, and
Especially of Sir Ferdinand and of Sir Ratcliffe._

THE family of Armine entered England with William the Norman. Ralph
d'Armyn was standard-bearer of the Conqueror, and shared prodigally in
the plunder, as appears by Doomsday Book. At the time of the general
survey the family of Ermyn, or Armyn, possessed numerous manors in
Nottinghamshire, and several in the shire of Lincoln. William D'Armyn,
lord of the honour of Armyn, was one of the subscribing Barons to the
Great Charter. His predecessor died in the Holy Land before Ascalon.
A succession of stout barons and valiant knights maintained the high
fortunes of the family; and in the course of the various struggles with
France they obtained possession of several fair castles in Guienne and
Gascony. In the Wars of the Roses the Armyns sided with the house of
Lancaster. Ferdinand Armyn, who shared the exile of Henry the Seventh,
was knighted on Bosworth Field, and soon after created Earl of
Tewkesbury. Faithful to the Church, the second Lord Tewkesbury became
involved in one of those numerous risings that harassed the last years
of Henry the Eighth. The rebellion was unsuccessful, Lord Tewkesbury was
beheaded, his blood attainted, and his numerous estates forfeited to the
Crown. A younger branch of the family, who had adopted Protestantism,
married the daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham, and attracted, by his
talents in negotiation, the notice of Queen Elizabeth. He was sent on a
secret mission to the Low Countries, where, having greatly distinguished
himself, he obtained on his return the restoration of the family estate
of Armine, in Nottinghamshire, to which he retired after an eminently
prosperous career, and amused the latter years of his life in the
construction of a family mansion, built in that national style of
architecture since described by the name of his royal mistress, at once
magnificent and convenient. His son, Sir Walsingham Armine, figured in
the first batch of baronets under James the First.

During the memorable struggle between the Crown and the Commons, in the
reign of the unhappy Charles, the Armine family became distinguished
Cavaliers. The second Sir Walsingham raised a troop of horse, and gained
great credit by charging at the head of his regiment and defeating
Sir Arthur Haselrigg's Cuirassiers. It was the first time that that
impenetrable band had been taught to fly; but the conqueror was covered
with wounds. The same Sir Walsingham also successfully defended Armine
House against the Commons, and commanded the cavalry at the battle
of Newbury, where two of his brothers were slain. For these various
services and sufferings Sir Walsingham was advanced to the dignity of
a baron of the realm, by the title of Lord Armine, of Armine, in the
county of Nottingham. He died without issue, but the baronetcy devolved
on his youngest brother, Sir Ferdinando.

The Armine family, who had relapsed into popery, followed the fortunes
of the second James, and the head of the house died at St. Germain. His
son, however, had been prudent enough to remain in England and support
the new dynasty, by which means he contrived to secure his title and
estates. Roman Catholics, however, the Armines always remained, and
this circumstance accounts for this once-distinguished family no longer
figuring in the history of their country. So far, therefore, as the
house of Armine was concerned, time flew during the next century with
immemorable wing. The family led a secluded life on their estate,
intermarrying only with the great Catholic families, and duly begetting

At length arose, in the person of the last Sir Ferdinand Armine, one
of those extraordinary and rarely gifted beings who require only an
opportunity to influence the fortunes of their nation, and to figure as
a Cæsar or an Alcibiades. Beautiful, brilliant, and ambitious, the young
and restless Armine quitted, in his eighteenth year, the house of
his fathers, and his stepdame of a country, and entered the Imperial
service. His blood and creed gained him a flattering reception; his
skill and valour soon made him distinguished. The world rang with
stories of his romantic bravery, his gallantries, his eccentric manners,
and his political intrigues, for he nearly contrived to be elected King
of Poland. Whether it were disgust at being foiled in this high object
by the influence of Austria, or whether, as was much whispered at the
time, he had dared to urge his insolent and unsuccessful suit on a still
more delicate subject to the Empress Queen herself, certain it is that
Sir Ferdinand suddenly quitted the Imperial service, and appeared at
Constantinople in person. The man whom a point of honour prevented from
becoming a Protestant in his native country had no scruples about his
profession of faith at Stamboul: certain it is that the English baronet
soon rose high in the favour of the Sultan, assumed the Turkish dress,
conformed to the Turkish customs, and finally, led against Austria a
division of the Turkish army. Having gratified his pique by defeating
the Imperial forces in a sanguinary engagement, and obtaining a
favourable peace for the Porte, Sir Ferdinand Armine doffed his turban,
and suddenly reappeared in his native country. After the sketch we have
given of the last ten years of his life, it is unnecessary to observe
that Sir Ferdinand Armine immediately became what is called fashionable;
and, as he was now in Protestant England, the empire of fashion was the
only one in which the young Catholic could distinguish himself. Let us
then charitably set down to the score of his political disabilities
the fantastic dissipation and the frantic prodigality in which the
liveliness of his imagination and the energy of his soul exhausted
themselves. After three startling years he married the Lady Barbara
Ratcliffe, whose previous divorce from her husband, the Earl of
Faulconville, Sir Ferdinand had occasioned. He was, however, separated
from his lady during the first year of their more hallowed union, and,
retiring to Rome, Sir Ferdinand became apparently devout. At the end of
a year he offered to transfer the whole of his property to the Church,
provided the Pope would allow him an annuity and make him a cardinal.
His Holiness not deeming it fit to consent to the proposition, Sir
Ferdinand quitted his capital in a huff, and, returning to England,
laid claim to the peerages of Tewkesbury and Armine. Although assured of
failing in these claims, and himself perhaps as certain of ill success
as his lawyers, Sir Ferdinand nevertheless expended upwards of 60,000L.
in their promotion, and was amply repaid for the expenditure in the
gratification of his vanity by keeping his name before the public. He
was never content except when he was astonishing mankind; and while he
was apparently exerting all his efforts to become a King of Poland,
a Roman cardinal, or an English peer, the crown, the coronet, and the
scarlet hat were in truth ever secondary points with him, compared
to the sensation throughout Europe which the effort was contrived and
calculated to ensure.

On his second return to his native country Sir Ferdinand had not
re-entered society. For such a man, society, with all its superficial
excitement, and all the shadowy variety with which it attempts to
cloud the essential monotony of its nature, was intolerably dull and
commonplace. Sir Ferdinand, on the contrary, shut himself up in Armine,
having previously announced to the world that he was going to write his
memoirs. This history, the construction of a castle, and the prosecution
of his claims before the House of Lords, apparently occupied his time to
his satisfaction, for he remained quiet for several years, until, on the
breaking out of the French Revolution, he hastened to Paris, became a
member of the Jacobin Club, and of the National Convention. The name
of Citizen Armine appears among the regicides. Perhaps in this vote he
avenged the loss of the crown of Poland, and the still more mortifying
repulse he may have received from the mother of Marie Antoinette. After
the execution of the royal victims, however, it was discovered that
Citizen Armine had made them an offer to save their lives and raise an
insurrection in La Vendue, provided he was made Lieutenant-general of
the kingdom. At his trial, which, from the nature of the accusation and
the character of the accused, occasioned to his gratification a great
sensation, he made no effort to defend himself, but seemed to glory in
the chivalric crime. He was hurried to the guillotine, and met his fate
with the greatest composure, assuring the public with a mysterious air,
that had he lived four-and-twenty hours longer everything would have
been arranged, and the troubles which he foresaw impending for Europe
prevented. So successfully had Armine played his part, that his
mysterious and doubtful career occasioned a controversy, from which only
the appearance of Napoleon distracted universal attention, and which,
indeed, only wholly ceased within these few years. What were his
intentions? Was he or was he not a sincere Jacobin? If he made the offer
to the royal family, why did he vote for their death? Was he resolved,
at all events, to be at the head of one of the parties? A middle course
would not suit such a man; and so on. Interminable were the queries and
their solutions, the pamphlets and the memoirs, which the conduct of
this vain man occasioned, and which must assuredly have appeased his
manes. Recently it has been discovered that the charge brought against
Armine was perfectly false and purely malicious. Its victim, however,
could not resist the dazzling celebrity of the imaginary crime, and he
preferred the reputation of closing his career by conduct which at once
perplexed and astonished mankind, to a vindication which would have
deprived his name of some brilliant accessories, and spared him to a
life of which he was perhaps wearied.

By the unhappy victim of his vanity and passion Sir Ferdinand Armine
left one child, a son, whom he had never seen, now Sir Ratcliffe.
Brought up in sadness and in seclusion, education had faithfully
developed the characteristics of a reserved and melancholy mind.
Pride of lineage and sentiments of religion, which even in early youth
darkened into bigotry, were not incompatible with strong affections,
a stern sense of duty, and a spirit of chivalric honour. Limited in
capacity, he was, however, firm in purpose. Trembling at the name of his
father, and devoted to the unhappy parent whose presence he had scarcely
ever quitted, a word of reproach had never escaped his lips against the
chieftain of his blood, and one, too, whose career, how little soever
his child could sympathise with it, still maintained, in men's mouths
and minds, the name and memory of the house of Armine. At the death
of his father Sir Ratcliffe had just attained his majority, and
he succeeded to immense estates encumbered with mortgages, and to
considerable debts, which his feelings of honour would have compelled
him to discharge, had they indeed been enforced by no other claim. The
estates of the family, on their restoration, had not been entailed; but,
until Sir Ferdinand no head of the house had abused the confidence
of his ancestors, and the vast possessions of the house of Armine had
descended unimpaired; and unimpaired, so far as he was concerned, Sir
Ratcliffe determined they should remain. Although, by the sale of the
estates, not only the encumbrances and liabilities might have been
discharged, but himself left in possession of a moderate independence,
Sir Ratcliffe at once resolved to part with nothing. Fresh sums were
raised for the payment of the debts, and the mortgages now consumed
nearly the whole rental of the lands on which they were secured. Sir
Ratcliffe obtained for himself only an annuity of three hundred per
annum, which he presented to his mother, in addition to the small
portion which she had received on her first marriage; and for himself,
visiting Armine Place for the first time, he roamed for a few days with
sad complacency about that magnificent demesne, and then, taking down
from the walls of the magnificent hall the sabre with which his father
had defeated the Imperial host, he embarked for Cadiz, and shortly after
his arrival obtained a commission in the Spanish service.

Although the hereditary valour of the Armines had descended to
their forlorn representative, it is not probable that, under any
circumstances, Sir Ratcliffe would have risen to any eminence in the
country of his temporary adoption. His was not one of those minds born
to command and to create; and his temper was too proud to serve and to
solicit. His residence in Spain, however, was not altogether without
satisfaction. It was during this sojourn that he gained the little
knowledge of life and human nature he possessed; and the creed and
solemn manners of the land harmonised with his faith and habits. Among
these strangers, too, the proud young Englishman felt not so keenly the
degradation of his house; and sometimes, though his was not the fatal
gift of imagination, sometimes he indulged in day dreams of its rise.
Unpractised in business, and not gifted with that intuitive quickness
which supplies experience and often baffles it, Ratcliffe Armine, who
had not quitted the domestic hearth even for the purposes of education,
was yet fortunate enough to possess a devoted friend: and this was
Glastonbury, his tutor, and confessor to his mother. It was to him that
Sir Ratcliffe intrusted the management of his affairs, with a confidence
which was deserved; for Glastonbury sympathised with all his feelings,
and was so wrapped up in the glory of the family, that he had no greater
ambition in life than to become their historiographer, and had been for
years employed in amassing materials for a great work dedicated to their

When Ratcliffe Armine had been absent about three years his mother
died. Her death was unexpected. She had not fulfilled two-thirds of the
allotted period of the Psalmist, and in spite of many sorrows she was
still beautiful. Glastonbury, who communicated to him the intelligence
in a letter, in which he vainly attempted to suppress his own
overwhelming affliction, counselled his immediate return to England, if
but for a season; and the unhappy Ratcliffe followed his advice. By
the death of his mother, Sir Ratcliffe Armine became possessed, for the
first time, of a small but still an independent income; and having paid
a visit, soon after his return to his native country, to a Catholic
nobleman to whom his acquaintance had been of some use when travelling
in Spain, he became enamored of one of his daughters, and his passion
being returned, and not disapproved by the father, he was soon after
married to Constance, the eldest daughter of Lord Grandison.


_Armine Described_.

AFTER his marriage Sir Ratcliffe determined to reside at Armine. In one
of the largest parks in England there yet remained a fragment of a vast
Elizabethan pile, that in old days bore the name of Armine Place. When
Sir Ferdinand had commenced building Armine Castle, he had pulled down
the old mansion, partly for the sake of its site and partly for the sake
of its materials. Long lines of turreted and many-windowed walls, tall
towers, and lofty arches, now rose in picturesque confusion on the
green ascent where heretofore old Sir Walsingham had raised the fair
and convenient dwelling, which he justly deemed might have served the
purpose of a long posterity. The hall and chief staircase of the castle
and a gallery alone were finished, and many a day had Sir Ferdinand
passed in arranging the pictures, the armour, and choice rarities of
these magnificent apartments. The rest of the building was a mere shell;
nor was it in all parts even roofed in. Heaps of bricks and stone and
piles of timber appeared in every direction; and traces of the sudden
stoppage of a great work might be observed in the temporary saw-pits
still remaining, the sheds for the workmen, and the kilns and furnaces,
which never had been removed. Time, however, that had stained the
neglected towers with an antique tint, and had permitted many a
generation of summer birds to build their sunny nests on all the coignes
of vantage of the unfinished walls, had exercised a mellowing influence
even on these rude accessories, and in the course of years they had been
so drenched by the rain, and so buffeted by the wind, and had become so
covered with moss and ivy, that they rather added to then detracted from
the picturesque character of the whole mass.

A few hundred yards from the castle, but situate on the same verdant
rising ground, and commanding, although well sheltered, an extensive
view over the wide park, was the fragment of the old Place that we have
noticed. The rough and undulating rent which marked the severance of
the building was now thickly covered with ivy, which in its gamesome
luxuriance had contrived also to climb up a remaining stack of tall
chimneys, and to spread over the covering of the large oriel window.
This fragment contained a set of pleasant chambers, which, having been
occupied by the late baronet, were of course furnished with great taste
and comfort; and there was, moreover, accommodation sufficient for a
small establishment. Armine Place, before Sir Ferdinand, unfortunately
for his descendants, determined in the eighteenth century on building
a feudal castle, had been situate in famous pleasure-grounds, which
extended at the back of the mansion over a space of some hundred acres.
The grounds in the immediate vicinity of the buildings had of course
suffered severely, but the far greater portion had only been neglected;
and there were some indeed who deemed, as they wandered through the
arbour-walks of this enchanting wilderness, that its beauty had been
enhanced even by this very neglect. It seemed like a forest in a
beautiful romance; a green and bowery wilderness where Boccaccio would
have loved to woo, and Watteau to paint. So artfully had the walks been
planned, that they seemed interminable, nor was there a single point in
the whole pleasaunce where the keenest eye could have detected a limit.
Sometimes you wandered in those arched and winding walks dear to
pensive spirits; sometimes you emerged on a plot of turf blazing in
the sunshine, a small and bright savannah, and gazed with wonder on the
group of black and mighty cedars that rose from its centre, with
their sharp and spreading foliage. The beautiful and the vast blended
together; and the moment after you had beheld with delight a bed of
geraniums or of myrtles, you found yourself in an amphitheatre of
Italian pines. A strange exotic perfume filled the air: you trod on the
flowers of other lands; and shrubs and plants, that usually are only
trusted from their conservatories, like sultanas from their jalousies,
to sniff the air and recall their bloom, here learning from hardship
the philosophy of endurance, had struggled successfully even against
northern winters, and wantoned now in native and unpruned luxuriance.
Sir Ferdinand, when he resided at Armine, was accustomed to fill these
pleasure-grounds with macaws and other birds of gorgeous plumage; but
these had fled away with their master, all but some swans which still
floated on the surface of a lake, which marked the centre of this
paradise. In the remains of the ancient seat of his fathers, Sir
Ratcliffe Armine and his bride now sought a home.

The principal chamber of Armine Place was a large irregular room, with
a low but richly-carved oaken roof, studded with achievements. This
apartment was lighted by the oriel window we have mentioned, the upper
panes of which contained some ancient specimens of painted glass,
and having been fitted up by Sir Ferdinand as a library, contained a
collection of valuable books. From the library you entered through an
arched door of glass into a small room, of which, it being much out of
repair when the family arrived, Lady Armine had seized the opportunity
of gratifying her taste in the adornment. She had hung it with some
old-fashioned pea-green damask, that exhibited to a vantage several
copies of Spanish paintings by herself, for she was a skilful artist.
The third and remaining chamber was the dining-room, a somewhat gloomy
chamber, being shadowed by a neighbouring chestnut. A portrait of Sir
Ferdinand, when a youth, in a Venetian dress, was suspended over the
old-fashioned fireplace; and opposite hung a fine hunting piece by
Schneiders. Lady Armine was an amiable and accomplished woman. She had
enjoyed the advantage of a foreign education under the inspection of a
cautious parent: and a residence on the Continent, while it had afforded
her many graces, had not, as unfortunately sometimes is the case,
divested her of those more substantial though less showy qualities of
which a husband knows the value. She was pious and dutiful: her manners
were graceful, for she had visited courts and mixed in polished circles,
but she had fortunately not learnt to affect insensibility as a system,
or to believe that the essence of good breeding consists in showing your
fellow-creatures that you despise them. Her cheerful temper solaced the
constitutional gloom of Sir Ratcliffe, and indeed had originally won his
heart, even more than her remarkable beauty: and while at the same
time she loved a country life, she possessed in a lettered taste, in a
beautiful and highly cultivated voice, and in a scientific knowledge of
music and of painting, all those resources which prevent retirement from
degenerating into loneliness. Her foibles, if we must confess that she
was not faultless, endeared her to her husband, for her temper reflected
his own pride, and she possessed the taste for splendour which was also
his native mood, although circumstances had compelled him to stifle its

Love, pure and profound, had alone prompted the union between Ratcliffe
Armine and Constance Grandison Doubtless, like all of her race, she
might have chosen amid the wealthiest of the Catholic nobles and gentry
one who would have been proud to have mingled his life with hers; but,
with a soul not insensible to the splendid accidents of existence, she
yielded her heart to one who could repay the rich sacrifice only with
devotion. His poverty, his pride, his dangerous and hereditary gift of
beauty, his mournful life, his illustrious lineage, his reserved and
romantic mind, had at once attracted her fancy and captivated her heart.
She shared all his aspirations and sympathised with all his hopes; and
the old glory of the house of Armine, and its revival and restoration,
were the object of her daily thoughts, and often of her nightly dreams.

With these feelings Lady Armine settled herself at her new home,
scarcely with a pang that the whole of the park in which she lived was
let out as grazing ground, and only trusting, as she beheld the groups
of ruminating cattle, that the day might yet come for the antlered
tenants of the bowers to resume their shady dwellings. The good man and
his wife who hitherto had inhabited the old Place, and shown the castle
and the pleasaunce to passing travellers, were, under the new order of
affairs, promoted to the respective offices of serving-man and cook,
or butler and housekeeper, as they styled themselves in the village.
A maiden brought from Grandison to wait on Lady Armine completed the
establishment, with her young brother, who, among numerous duties,
performed the office of groom, and attended to a pair of beautiful white
ponies which Sir Ratcliffe drove in a phaeton. This equipage, which was
remarkable for its elegance, was the especial delight of Lady Armine,
and certainly the only piece of splendour in which Sir Ratcliffe
indulged. As for neighbourhood, Sir Ratcliffe, on his arrival, of course
received a visit from the rector of his parish, and, by the courteous
medium of this gentleman, he soon occasioned it to be generally

Online LibraryBenjamin DisraeliHenrietta Temple: a love story → online text (page 1 of 34)