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Some celebrated Irish beauties of the last century online

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APPENDIX ... 273

INDEX . 291



Elizabeth, Duchess of Hamilton and Brandon . . Frontispiece

Lady Belvedere 9

John Gunning 35

Miss Gunning . . . . . . . . . .51

Maria, Countess of Coventry to face 57

Lady Anne Foley ,,78

Elizabeth, Duchess of Hamilton .... ,,88

Countess of Derby (Lady Betty Hamilton) . . . .90

Miss Kitty Gunning 98

" Gunilda " Gunning 104

Mrs. Woffington to face 128

Dolly Monroe 143

Lord Townshend 153

The Three Montgomerys ...... to face 176

Countess of Lanesborough 193

H.R.H. The Duchess of Cumberland and Strathern (Anne

Luttrell) 216

Crook-an-Heire (The Gallows of the Heir) . . . .233
Miss Farren, Countess of Derby .... to face 256

I HAVE to acknowledge my indebtedness for much valuable
help to Mr. Algernon Graves, Mr. Colnaghi, and the Hon.
Gerald Ponsonby, and to the owners of the various Portraits,
who have been most courteous in giving every information.

April, 1895.


Thus often shall memory, in dreams sublime,
Catch a glimpse of the days that are over ;

Thus sighing, look through the waves of time,
For the long-faded glories they cover.


LOOKING back across the gulf of years which divides us from
the last century, we are struck by the total change that has
passed over society generally. No men like those giants in
intellect, Chatham, Fox, Swift, Johnson, now fill the canvas ;
no fine gentlemen, who, as Thackeray says, were in them-
selves a product of the past. And the women ! those
wondrously fair creatures, whose faces have been handed
down to us by Reynolds, Romney, Gainsborough, and who
smile at us from their gilt frames ! What witchery in the
almond-shaped eyes, long and languishing ; what pouting lips ;
what arched and lovely necks ; what queenly dignity in their
gait and carriage !

To this last the fashion of dress then prevailing contributed
not a little. The loose flowing robes and floating draperies
give an air of indescribable grace ; while the choice of
colours, the soft blues and browns, charm the eye. Setting
this aside, however, there can be no question that the women
of the last century possessed more of actual beauty than
is to be found amongst the belles of our day. There is
no lack of pretty faces, but beauty of the highest order is
rare ; so too is the lady of high degree with her brocaded
skirt, her courtly grace, and her grand air. She belongs to
the past, like the fine gentleman.

Many of these " goddesses " were Irishwomen not pure
Celts, but of a mixed race, born of the industrious planting
of English settlers upon Irish soil.

x Introduction.

In dealing with social life in Ireland during the last century
we are confronted with many difficulties. Its brighter aspects
are so inextricably mixed up with the graver and sadder past
that it is impossible to touch upon one portion without intro-
ducing subjects which might seem out of place in a book of
such slight pretensions as this purports to be. Still, if we
wish to gather a faithful picture of Irish society as it was
constituted more than a hundred and fifty years ago, we must
examine, be it ever so slightly, into the conditions of the
country before we shall be able to understand certain national

We have to recall, in the first place, that for many cen-
turies Ireland was the battle-field of four different races, each
of whom left its trace upon the conquered people and country.
Henry the Second, the most successful of these invaders, made
no attempt at either civilizing or subjugating the country he
had annexed. Neither did his immediate descendants, 1 who
contented themselves with maintaining an army of occupation
to keep the native tribes in order. The English . law was
confined to a level district round the capital containing the
small shires or counties of Louth, Meath, Kildare and Dublin.
To these was limited the jurisdiction of the viceroy or deputy ;
all beyond was supposed, in law, not to exist. In court
language, says the author of the Church in Ireland : " The
land of Ireland was synonymous with the Pale. Outside this
Pale ran an ample stripe (comprehending a third, and some-
times the half of each county) of borderland in which a
mixed code of English, Brehon and martial law prevailed/'

Outside the Pale, and occasionally within it, general chaos
prevailed. The country was held by chieftains, who made war
one upon another, and upon the descendants of Henry's army
of occupation ; these last were distinguished from the native
chiefs by nothing but superior skill in the arts of predatory

1 Richard III. was the first to make the experiment of an English
plantation. In his reign two from every family in England were
transplanted to Ireland at the king's charges. No Irishman was
to leave the country without a licence, and killing a mere Irishman was
punishable only by Brehon law.

Introduction. xi

warfare. Some of them had, in the course of years, renounced
the laws, the language, and the usages of their own country.
In the space of fifty years, eight Palatinates had been formed ;
within each the lord or chief possessed absolute rights. They
spent their time making forays upon their own country-
men of a better class, who were possessed of richer meadows
and finer cattle than the natives, and from them they carried
away corn and oxen.

James the First was the first to upset this state of anarchy.
Elizabeth ' had attempted the task, but had limited her efforts
to destroying, or trying to destroy, the power of the nobles.
James went to work thoroughly, and, with excellent in-
tentions, he visited the country, and made himself master of
the situation. Unfortunately he began at the wrong end.
It is true he abolished the Pale, and extinguished the Brehon
law ; but his transplanting bodily an English settlement, and
his forcing an English constitution all at once upon a half
savage people, was an experiment fraught with too much
risk to be prudently tried ; the result was shown in the great
rebellions, the bloody retribution of the Cromwellian army,
followed by a new .Cromwellian settlement, and the final
and disastrous struggle between James the Second and

When the din of war had ceased, and politicians and
thinking people gathered their senses so as to look round
them at what remained after the general upheaval, a strange
and wonderful change met their gaze. The face of the
country was entirely altered ; clans and chieftains had
disappeared ; the old oligarchy was extinct ; the surface of
society was entirely re-arranged upon a new and English
method; the whole proprietary of the island had become
British and Protestant ; the original owners had, with few
exceptions, descended to the middle class or peasant life,
and the new race of landlords, English and Scotch, were
mostly soldiers of fortune, adventurers, or younger sons of
English noblemen. 2

1 Elizabeth made an English plantation in Munster.
* James I. abolished the old feudal customs of Thanistry and
a 2

xii Introduction.

The minds of these men were filled with one idea. They
were, says a writer on the history of the Church in Ireland, 1
"imbued with the new doctrine of liberty, that undefined
quantity which is so easily stretched into total freedom from
all responsibility ; it was only natural that these men, flushed
with victory, new to power, and anxious to build up a fortune
for their families, should stretch the word to its most licen-
tious signification. Liberty meant to them liberty taken
with the rights of others, and a close observance and respect
for their own rights, together with an impatience of all
authority, and a decided appetite for power. They had nothing
to restrain them in pursuing the object of their desires ; the
Viceroy was not a resident official, and the length of the
Parliament, which lasted without a break through the life of

Gavelkind. By the law of Thanistry every man of noble blood was
eligible to be chief of his tribe : the law of Gavelkind was equally
liberal ; it gave to every vassal a fair share of tho land. For this
James substituted the English law of entail. Lord Chesterfield con-
sidered that it was unfair to exclude the Papists from the Gavel act ;
" it was," he said, "the only honest means of governing the country."
Ulster was planted by James. The word "undertaker," which will
appear often in this volume, dated from this plantation. Large estates
were assigned to the Scotch or English planters, and their heirs, and
in return, those of 2000 acres were to hold of the king in Capite ; those
of 1500 acres by knights service; those of 1000 in common socage.
The first named were to build a castle and strong courtyard, or
bawn within four years. The second named were to finish a house
and bawn within two years the third class to enclose a bawn.
The first were to plant upon their land, within three years, forty-eight
able men of English or Scotch birth, to be reduced to twenty families,
to keep a demesne of 600 acres in their own hands ; to have four fee
farmers on 120 acres each, six leaseholders, each on 100 acres, and on
the remainder, eight families of husbandmen, artificers, and cottagers.
James was ill-advised in breaking up the spirit of clanship which
was similar to that which prevailed (and still prevails in a modified
degree) in Scotland ; the principle of subordination was eradicated
and no adequate system substituted. Sir John Davies condemns the
system of transplanting people of a different nation, or even province, to
another, and lays the fault of all the troubles in Ireland upon " the
pride, covetousness, and ill counsel of the English planted there ; idle-
ness and fear," he adds, in his quaint manner, " made the Irish the
most inquisitive people after news in the world (a failing they possess
to this day), and because such miscarriers did, by their false intelli-
gence, many times raise troubles and rebellions, the statute of Kil-
kenny doth punish neustellers by the name of ' Skelaghes ' with fine
and ransom."

1 Phelan's History of t lie Church of Rome.

Introduction. xiii

the Sovereign, offered no chance of redress to those whose
politics or religion placed them in a minority."

It was not surprising that this condition of things should
have brought on the result that usually follows upon a
dominant party pressing upon the weaker with the iron heel
of despotism; hatred was engendered between class and
creed, and showed itself in secret societies, assassinations,
rebellions. The story has been set forth by many historians,
by none with more clearness and intelligence than by Mr.
Lecky, in his admirable review of the eighteenth century.
Mr. Lecky puts before us, with all the fidelity of a photo-
graph, the true picture of the social and political condition
of Ireland as it was before the Union, as well as the causes
of the failure of all attempts to govern it. He writes with-
out the strong religious feeling which biassed Macaulay, or
the prejudice which influenced Froude ; his story, calmly
told, impresses the reader with its sincerity.

Socially, as well as politically, the Ireland of two hundred
years ago differed in all particulars from Ireland of to-day.
Up to the date of the union between the countries it was,
to all intents and purposes, a separate kingdom. In all
official documents it is spoken of as " this kingdom." The
sea that rolls between the two countries, and which is now
designated a fishpond, was then an effectual barrier to
English legislation, as it took days instead of minutes, to
know what was occurring, especially in the provinces. The
journey from London to Dublin was supposed to occupy four
days, but this was in case there were no accidents either on
sea or by land, and as accidents were the rule, delays spread
out the journey to a week or more. For this reason, as well
as for the more important one that the country to which they
were bound had the worst of reputations as to safety in
regard to life and limb, it was customary for strangers going
to Ireland to make their wills before undertaking the journey.
Once arrived, however, there was enough of enjoyment to
make them forget their fears. There were certain elements
of importance about Dublin that raised it above provincial
towns such as York, Bristol or Edinburgh, especially the fact

xiv Introduction.

of there being a Parliament with two Houses, the Lords
having one hundred members, the Commons three hundred,
with all necessary functionaries ; a Prime Minister, a hand-
some revenue, a Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1 and a set of
brilliant debaters, whose fame for wit and eloquence became
almost European. Add to this the standing army of Irish-
raised troops, paid by the Irish revenue, with a Commander-
in-Chief and a brilliant staff; and again the Viceregal Court,
provided with all officials necessary for the importance of
the mimic sovereign, chamberlains, secretaries, aides-^e-camp,
and " beef- eaters." The whole thing partook, perhap^ more or
less, of the Gilbert and Sullivan kingdoms, but witwa certain
character and distinction of its own.

All the important offices just named were heldf in deputy,
that is to say, the ostensible holders mostly resided in
London, visiting the country from which they drew large
salaries only once in two years, the duties being fulfilled by
paid deputies. Even the Viceroyalty was no exception to
this system of government, which was carried on all over the
kingdom, with the result that the people were overtaxed,
ground down, rack-rented, hunted, and ill-used by a set of
hirelings, whose only interest was to build up fortunes for
themselves. Lord Chesterfield, who during his short period

1 The Parliament House, as it was called (now the Bank of Ireland),
was built by Sir Arthur Chichester, one of the governors or deputies,
for his own dwelling house ; it was then of mean pretensions ; in the
25th year of Charles ll.'s reign it was bought by Government for the
sittings of the Parliament of Ireland ; it was rebuilt in 1728 from
designs originally made by Castle, and supposed to have been either
stolen or appropriated by Major Pearce. The first session was opened
by the Duke of Dorset, 1731. The Irish Parliament was highly
insubordinate. Lord Chesterfield thus describes it : " The House of
Lords is an hospital for incurables, but the Commons can hardly be
described. Session after session presents one unvaried waste of pro-
vincial imbecility." This may have been true to a certain extent, in
the days when the elegant Stanhope ruled, but later on the character
of the House stood very high in the estimation of even foreign powers
for the cleverness and eloquence of its members. Such men as Anthony
Malone, Flood, Grattan, Langrishe, Ponsonby, and Hely Hutchinson
could not have been stigmatized as " imbeciles." The debating was of
the first order. Unfortunately, there was a good deal of froth
in this effervescence of rhetoric, which disappeared, in some instances,
on the first application of silver.

Introduction. xv

of Viceroyalty studied the conditions of Irish life, left it as his
opinion that the poor people were used worse than negroes by
their lords and masters and " deputies of deputies of deputies"
Arthur Young, who made an exhaustive study of the peasan-
try during his tour through Ireland, adds that this system
" formed an insolent, reckless, unprincipled type of character."
Drunkenness and extravagance went hand in hand amongst
the gentry (especially the lower gentry), who treated the un-
fortunate peasants as slaves, allowing them no rights; the
Irish landlord was in fact an absolute despot ; his tenants
were serfs. So far as they were concerned, he yielded
obedience to no law.

The passion for horse-racing and gambling was so great, that
in 1739 Parliament framed some laws to check the day labourers
from taking part in these idling amusements ; but these had
little effect; the whole nation being given up to a passion for
sporting, drinking, cock-fighting, and dancing. Young adds, "a
strong preference of brilliancy, reckless daring and generosity
to public spirit, high principle, order, sobriety or economy/'

In the early part of the eighteenth century, Dublin, as it now
is, did not exist. It was a straggling, ill- built, ill-smelling
place, the streets as narrow as lanes, the houses tall and in
some parts near the quays almost touching those on the oppo-
site side of the street, so narrow was the pathway between.
A cynic of the day wrote some halting lines which give us
an idea of the city :

Mass-houses, churches, mixed together,

Streets unpleasant in all weather,

The church, the Four Courts and hell l contiguous,

1 Hell, a name given to a passage close to the Four Courts. Over
the entrance there was a black image of the devil. This is alluded to
in Burns' story of Death and the Horn-book where he says :
" But this that I am gaun to tell,
Which lately on a night befell,
Is just as true as the Deil's in Hell,
In Dublin City."

The presence of his Satanic Majesty in the neighbourhood is thus ac-
counted for : Near to where the Law Court stood there had been a
church dedicated to St. Michael Le Poule or Le Paule. Over the arch-
way or entrance, two statues were placed, one of St. Michael, the other

xvi Introduction.

Castle, College-green, and Custom-house gibbous ;

Few things here are to tempt ye,

Tawdry outsides, pockets empty.

Five theatres, little trade, and jobbing arts,

Brandy and Snuff-shops, post-chaises and carts ; .

Warrants, bailiffs, bills unpaid,

Masters of their servants afraid ;

Rogues that daily rob and cut men,

Patriots, gamesters, and footmen ;

Women lazy, drunken, loose,

Men in labour slow, of wit profuse,

Many a scheme that the public must rue it,

This is Dublin, if ye knew it.

At this time only a portion of Stephen's Green was finished.
Nassau Street and its surroundings, including Merrion Square,
were not begun until 1728, and up to this period the tide of
fashion flowed in a totally different quarter, the nobility and
wealthy citizens living for the most part in what was then
called the Liberties (this name indicating that there was a
royal immunity from all taxation). In this now obsolete part
of the town beyond St. Patrick's Cathedral, there are remains
of some fine houses once belonging to the great nobility.
Here lived the Earls of Kildare in what was called the Carbric,
one of the Cage houses, which was only taken down when the
family removed to Leinster House. In Lord Heath's liberty
there was also a family mansion, and the Bishop's liberty in-
cluded the Cathedral with that strange rookery of streets and
small alleys which surrounded it. These were inhabited
by men of property and position, for, writes Arthur
Young, " the nobility and gentlemen of Ireland live in a
manner that a man of 700 a year in England would dis-
dain." Mrs. Pendarves (better known as Mrs. Delany), who
visited Mrs. Clayton, the Bishop of Killaloe's wife, in 1731,
gives a graphic picture of Dublin city as it then was. The
streets are narrow and the houses dirty looking, but she adds

of his adversary, the Devil. Cromwell's troopers, in their zeal for the
destruction of images, threw the effigy of the saint into the Liffey, but
left undisturbed his adversary, who remained over the archway until the
Law Courts were removed to the quays in 1786. A gentleman living
in Dublin remembered seeing in 1837, the figure thrown into a corner
of the old archway the boys of the neighbourhood amusing themselves
by making an Aunt Sally of it. Subsequently it was moved to the
museum in Trinity College. Gilbert's " History of Dublin."

Introduction. xvii

there are some good ones scattered about. " One of these is
Bishop Clayton's, on the south side of Stephen's Green, with
a frontage like Devonshire House and a flight of steps leading
up. There is a good hall ; a room eighteen feet square
wainscoted with oak panels carved ; doors and chimney finished
with very fine high carving, ceiling stucco, window curtains,
chairs, yellow gemma velvet ; portraits and landscapes well
done round the room. Marble tables, looking-glasses, the
busts and pictures the bishop brought from Italy. The living
too is good six dishes of meat for dinner, and the same for
supper. The generality of people are anything but solicitous
to have good houses or good furniture more than is necessary,
hardly so much, but they make it up in eating and drinking."

The immense consumption of wine in Ireland was a national
calamity, nine gentlemen in ten, writes Chesterfield, are im-
poverished by the great quantity of claret which from mis-
taken notions of hospitality and dignity they think it necessary
should be drunk in their houses. If the upper classes were
badly housed and consumed hogsheads l of claret, the poor
were lodged worse, and spent all the small wages they earned
in whisky. This vice, together with the overcrowding in
the miserable alleys where they were huddled, and the
general filth in which they lived, generated the most terrible
epidemics from which Dublin was rarely free, and which deci-
mated the half-starved and drunken population of the narrow
lanes near the Liffey.

In spite of all these drawbacks, Dublin was a pleasant little
city, with its mimic Court, its theatres, and its concerts, for
the Irish have always been a music-loving people. Early in
the eighteenth century a musical club society was formed in
Dublin called the Bull's Head Society ; it was principally for
catch singing; in 1741, this Society erected by means of sub-

1 The claret was generally imported in hogsheads, and in most country
houses in Ireland at the time of which I am writing there was a cellar
underneath the dining-room. By means of a trap-door, the host could
descend and bring up bottle after bottle of wine. Lord Chester field wit-
tily said, that except in providing that their claret should be three or four
years old, the Irish gentry thought less of three years hence than any
people under the sun.

xviii Introduction.

scriptions, in Fishamble Street, a large hall, for the perform-
ance of their concerts. Shortly after it was opened the great
Maestro Handel came on the invitation of the then Viceroy,
the Duke of Devonshire, to Dublin ; he remained nine months
and produced several of his great works. The f< Messiah " 1 was
performed for the first time at Fishamble Street, on April 15th,
to an audience of 600 people ; the ladies were induced to come
without hoops, the gentlemen without swords. Signora Avolio,
Mrs. Gibber, Mrs. Church, and Ralph Roseingrave were the
soloists. Jennens, the librettist, was not satisfied with the
music : " It was not near so good as it might and ought to have
been. I have with great difficulty made him correct some of
the grossest faults, but he retained his overture obstinately,
in which there are passages far unworthy of Handel, but much
more unworthy of the ' Messiah/ " 2 It was felt to be an honour
to Dublin that such a work should have been produced there,
and the inhabitants showed their appreciation by doing all
honour to the great master. " I cannot sufficiently express/'
he writes to his friends, " the kind treatment I receive here ;
but the politeness of this generous nation cannot be unknown
to you. So I let you judge of the satisfaction I receive, pass-
ing my time with honour, profit and pleasure." 3

The Dublin Evening Post in its notice of the performance
says :

" On Tuesday last Mr. Handel's oratorio of the ' Messiah '
was performed in the new Musical Hall, Fishamble Street; the

Online LibraryFrances A GerardSome celebrated Irish beauties of the last century → online text (page 1 of 28)