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[Illustration: _Elizabeth Duchess of Hamilton and Argyle née

"The Ladies"

A Shining Constellation of Wit and Beauty


E. Barrington

Illustrated with Portraits


The aim of these stories is not historical exactitude nor unbending
accuracy in dates or juxtaposition. They are rather an attempt to
re-create the personalities of a succession of charming women, ranging
from Elizabeth Pepys, wife of the Diarist, to Fanny Burney and her
experiences at the Court of Queen Charlotte. As I have imagined them, so I
have set them forth, and if what is written can at all revive their
perished grace and the unfading delight of days that now belong to the
ages, and to men no more, I shall not have failed. Much is imagination,
more is truth, but which is which I scarcely can tell myself. I have
wished to set them in other circumstances than those we know.

What would Elizabeth Pepys have felt if she had read the secrets of the
Diary? If Stella and Vanessa had met - Ah, that is a tenderness and terror
almost beyond all thinking! How would my Lady Mary's smarting pride have
blistered herself and others if the Fleet marriage of her eccentric
son - whose wife she never saw - had actually come between the wind and her
nobility? Was there no finer, more ethereal touch in Elizabeth Gunning's
stolen marriage with her Duke than is recorded in Horace Walpole's
malicious gossip? Could such beauty have been utterly sordid? What were
the fears and hopes of the lovely Maria Walpole as, after long concealment
of her marriage, she trembled on the steps of a throne? How did those
about her judge of Fanny Burney in the Digby affair? Did she wholly
conceal her heart? From her Diary we know what she wished to feel - very
certainly not entirely what she felt.

Perhaps of all these women we know best that Elizabeth who never
lived - Elizabeth Bennet. She is the most real because her inner being is
laid open to us by her great creator. I have not dared to touch her save
as a shadow picture in the background of the quiet English country-life
which now is gone for ever. But her fragrance - stimulating rather than
sweet, like lavender and rosemary - could not be forgotten in any picture
of the late eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries and among the women
whom all the world remembers. They, one and all, can only move in
dreamland now. Their lives are but stories in a printed book, and a
heroine of Jane Austen's is as real as Stella or the fair Walpole. So I
apologise for nothing. I have dreamed. I may hope that others will dream
with me.


Table of Contents

I. The Diurnal of Mrs Elizabeth Pepys
_Had she Read her Husband's Diary_

II. The Mystery of Stella
_Why might not she and Vanessa have met?_

III. My Lady Mary
_To Dispel the Mystery of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's quitting
England in 1739_

IV. The Golden Vanity
_A Story of the First Irish Beauties - the Gunnings_

V. The Walpole Beauty
_A Tale in Letters about Maria Walpole, Countess of Waldegrave,
Duchess of Gloucester, Niece of Horace Walpole_

VI. A Blue Stocking at Court
_Why Fanny Burney, Madame D'Arblay, retired from Court in 1791_

VII. The Darcys of Rosing
_A Reintroduction to some of the characters of Miss Austen's


Elizabeth Cunning
Portrait by Catherine Reed

Mrs Pepys as St. Katharine
Portrait by Hayts

Esther Johnson, "Stella"
Portrait by Kneller

Hester Vanhomrigh, "Vanessa"

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
Portrait by Kneller

Maria Gunning
Portrait by Cotes

Maria Walpole and Her Daughter, Elizabeth Laura
Portrait by Reynolds

Fanny Burney, Madame D'Arblay
After Portrait by E. F. Burney

Elizabeth Pepys

"So home to dinner with my wife, very pleasant and pleased with one
another's company, and in our general enjoyment one of another, better we
think than most other couples do."

Elizabeth St. Michel, daughter of a French Huguenot, was fifteen when
Pepys married her. She was only twenty-nine when she died. Pepys himself
at their marriage was twenty-two. It is the skirmishing of young folk that
he describes when he reports such animated scenes as the occasion when his
wife threatened him with the red-hot tongs. They had their brisk
encounters and their affectionate interludes as well, when "very merry we
were with our pasty, well-baked, and a good dish of roasted chickens;
pease, lobsters, strawberries."

In odd moments, Pepys applied himself to his wife's education. Dismissing
her dancing-master by reason of jealousy, he began instead a course in
Arithmetic. He himself taught her Addition, Subtraction, and the
Multiplication Tables; but, says he, "I purpose not to trouble her yet
with Division, but to begin with the Globes to her now."

At her early death he mourned sincerely, and erected a memorial
celebrating the accomplished charms of Elizabeth, his wife, -

"Forma, Artibus, Linguis Cultissima."

[Illustration: Mrs Pepys as St. Katharine]


The Diurnal of Mrs. Elizabeth Pepys

2d _May_. - Sam'l now in great honour at the Navy Office, whereat my
heart do rejoice, and the less for the havings, which do daily increase,
than that I would willingly see him worshipfully received, the which
indeede his hard work do plentifully deserve, he sparing himselfe in
nothing for the advancing of his busyness.

And I do reason with myselfe that though he have faults many and great
(which God knowes is true) yet he do come up in the world and our gettings
are very good and do daily increase. How they go I know not, for that
little and grudging is spent on my clothes, and though Sam'l goes very
noble still it is not possible but much is saved, though he do lament
himself in very high wordes of our spendthrift way of life and small

But of this more anon.

Up and dressed a pease pudding with boyled rabbets and bacon to dinner for
want of a cook-mayde, Sarah leaving us at dawn, and he loving it mightily.
The which he should not have this day but that I have a month's mind to a
slashte wastcote which hitherto he hath soured upon. This done, a brave
dish of cream in the which he takes great delight; and so seeing him in
Tune I to lament the ill wear of my velvet wastcote as desiring a Better,
whereon he soured. We jangling mightily on this I did object his new
Jackanapes coat with silver buttons, but to no purpose. He reading in the
Passionate Pillgrim which he do of all things love. But angry to prayers
and to Bed.

But it is observable that this day I discover Sam'l in the keeping of a
Journal and very secret in this, and come at it I will, he being much
abroad on his occasions the while I sit at home.

3d. - This day awakes Sam'l in a musty humour as much over-served with meat
and Drink, and in great discontent calling me, do bid me rise and fetch
his Pills that olde Mother Wigsworth did give him at Brampton. I merry and
named him the Passionate Pillgrim from his love to these, whereupon he
flings the Pills in my face and all scattered, Deb grudging to gather them
it being Lord's Day. So I to churche, leaving him singing and playing
"Beauty, Retire" to his Viall, a song not worthy to be sung on a holy Day
however he do conceit his skill therein. His brown beauty Mrs Lethulier in
the pew against us and I do perceive her turn her Eye to see if Sam'l do
come after. She very brave in hanging sleeves, yet an ill-lookt jade if
one do but consider, but with the seeking Eye that men look to, and Sam'l
in especial. Fried Loyne of mutton to dinner, and Sam'l his head akeing I
did sit beside him discoursing of the new hangings for the small closet,
wherein great pleasure for it will be most neat and fine. And great
content have we in such discourse and in our house and the good we are
come to.

4th. - This day do Sam'l speak handsomely enough of his humour yesterday,
charging it upon the Rabbets, and so I left it. And strange it is how when
he do so repent my heart do take part with him though I would better
renounce him awhile to learn him manners. So he to the Exchange and buys
me a piece of Paragon to a pettycote, and though it be not what I would
have of my own choosing yet I do receive it with many goode words as
hoping all will yet be as I desire. So to sup on a good dish of beef _à
la mode_, and he well content, it appearing he have this day bestowed
upon himself at the Exchange a good Theorbo, four Bookes, and a payre of
Globes, talking very high how these be for my instruction rather than his
own liking. The which I receive smyling, but do think - Lord! what fools
men be that will have a woman so lightly deceived, fine wordes buttering
no parsnips. Sure they be but Children when all said and done, and their
Innocency in this a pleasant thing to see.

Comes Mr Collins with his new Wife, a pretty well-shaped Woman with black
hayre and Eyes, and she, much cried up for her skill on the Theorbo, do
after play a Lesson upon it, but very ill, and pretty to see Sam'l that
was hoping great things (loving musique) in pain and grief to hear her
mean false playing and yet making fine wordes of it to please her, and
they gone, do call her slut and baggage and I know not what all. So to
prayers and bed.

5th. - Sam'l this day reading over his vows not to drink strong waters or
wines nor yet go to the play for two weekes. But I do ask myself (though
not Sam'l) whether these vows be convenient. For I do surely think he do
it only because it is the greater pleasure to drink and see the play, it
being thus forbid. And in Saml' it is to be noted and methinks in other
Men also that they do suck more pleasure from a thing forbidden and hard
to come at than from the same thing when comely and convenient to be done
in the sight of all. This day, he being with his Lordship, I to gain a
sight of his Journal, he carelessly leaving it about, but took nothing by
my pains, it being writ in secret writing, which do plainly show it to be
what he would be shamed if known. Whereas mine owne is voide of all
offence, and I do lay it under the smocks in the great armoire only
because it is not seemly that Sam'l should know my thoughts, I having to
deal with him as best I may.

_Mem_. To ask of Mrs Jemimah Crosby if her father, being a scrivener,
knoweth and can instruct in secret writings.

Sam'l home late this day, and the supper, a calve's head, very good, with
a noble Barell of oysters, he bringing with him Mr S. Lucy, and so supt
very merry, and after in the garden, Sam'l to play on his flageolette, it
being full moon. So to bed, omitting prayers. A pleasant day and content

6th. - This day, seeing Mrs Jemimah Crosby, I to ask her earnestly if her
father the scrivener do teach the secret writing, and she replying that so
it was, I after the mayde's cleaning the house, do forth and to his
lodging behind Paternoster Row, he being a worthy olde Gentleman with a
long white bearde, very reverend. I enjoining him to be secret, which he
the more willingly promised that I have obliged him and Mrs Jem with
codiniac and quince marmalett of my own making, do tell him how my father
(which is unknown to him) have documents and papers which he would
willingly decipher but for his bad Eyes. Wherein God forgive me, for his
eyes are the best Part of him. Olde Mr Crosby thereon urgent that my
father entrust him with the worke, but I sticking at the expense, no more
said. So I to show him a line of Dots and hooks which I did copy from
Sam'l his Journal, and he reading it with ease, what should it prove to be
but this: -

"Took occasion to fall out with my wife very highly about her ribbands
being ill matcht and of two colours, and to very high words, so that
I did call her Beaste."

So finding all as I thought and it being very needful that I should know
Sam'l his thoughts (and indeed he is very simple to write them unless he
think he have a fool to his wife) I do covenant with the olde Gentleman
for Lessons which are dear enough, but to be paid from the housekeeping,
and indeed the better that Sam'l should live plaine awhile in
consideration of his ailing. So home in good time, and do find Sam'l and
our she-cousin Scott very merry with capping of Epitaphs and sayings,
wherein I also delighte. A very merry witty woman and harmlesse. Suppt on
a Westfalia Ham and so with prayers content to bed.

7th. - This day Sam'l returning from the Office takes me to a fine
collacion at Hamling's house, wherein the fine silver set forth upon the
table do give us great pleasure, but I a little shamed because the ladies
so brave, Mrs Hamling very Rich in an embroidered suit, and Mrs Pegg Penn
in flowered sattin, which God knows she do not become, and heads set out
with the new French frizzle. I very plain in my olde black silk new-laced
all over with black silk gimp, Sam'l declaring I am very pretty in this,
but I trust him not herein, he willing to save his Purse. One passage of
Sam'l kissing the little black beauty, Mrs Deakin, that he do call his
Morena, displeased me, she being known for a frolicsome jade. He later
singing, "Gaze not on Swans," and "Goe and be Hanged - that's Good-bye,"
all did applaud, and great mirth. It was observable that Captain Wade,
kissing me on parting, did a little detain my Hand, and for this Sam'l did
so betwit and becall me, returning in the Coach, that I pretended sleep,
which did put him in a great discontent and so angry and without Prayers
to bed. Yet sure this shows his good liking to me, and I think his heart
sound, though he do Friske as I would he did not.

8th. - This day hear that my Lady Sandwich is Delivered of a young Lady and
all well. Sam'l thinking (on some jest of my Lord's) to stand Godfather
and give the name - though how to call the Babe for him I see not - do at
once provide silver Spoons and a Porringer. Which, seeing he is not yet
bidden, doth I confesse, appear exceeding foolish and like a man that hath
more silly pride than sense, the rather that I lack a French mantle that
he hath promist but not performed. But I say nothing, according to the
olde wise saw of Goody Gorum, -

Nothing say,
But take your way.

He this day in his new Cote of the fashion and half cloth stockings going
to give my Lord joy, do indeed seem very brave and noble, and hath a neat
legg, and it pleases me to see him go as he should, for he is a personable
man when well set out. And if he did but consider how it is to his honour
that his Wife should go as fine as he I could the more rejoice therein,
but it is not so, and great dishonour it is to him to consider how this
quarter he hath spent fifty pounds on his clothes and but twelve on me, a
thing not fit to be said of him. But I wait my time.

10th. - This day Sam'l refuses me the French mantle as beyond his Purse,
but offers a payre of gloves - I refusing this. Slipt out for Lesson, olde
Mr Crosby being a worthy and patient teacher, but it is a science very
hard to be come at, and I weary enough in the learning of it, though
indeed it be so needful. Still, some progress, and he saying merrily I
would be at some mischief in this, with love Letters or such Toys, do make
me to blush, so as I never did but when Sam'l was courting me. Yet no
guilty deed, but what is very fitting for a woman. Was instant with the
olde Gentleman that he should speake of my Lessons to none, the more so (I
did say) that my father would not have these papers known to any, great
matters hanging on it. Which indeed is true though not as he takes it.

So I home and with Sam'l to the Play, where my Lady Castlemaine, which
indeed is a great Beauty, nor can I deny it, but sure it is not hard to be
a beauty in Clothes and jewels that do dazzle the Eyes of all that Gaze
upon her. But, Lord! to see how bold and unmannerly in staring upon
strangers and the men on the stage, and in fine do not please me with her
Freedoms. This Sam'l disputing very hotly after we had supt upon a Jowl of
Salmon, I to speake my mind, asking if he would have his Wife casting
oranges to the actors and blowing Kisses all about the house, and he not
knowing what to answer, I do say, "Then prayse it not in others, for, if
you will have me a bold Slut, no doubt but I will do my endeavours to
please you," and so whiskte off, he sitting astonied. And strange how men
will like in otheres what in their own Wives they love not but fear.

14th. - This day I by my Lady's desire to see the young Lady which is a
fine Babe and like to do well. But no word of Sam'l to stand Godfather,
and Sir J. Minnes and Lrd Brouncker spoke of, which is no more than I
thought, but will make Sam'l madd with his spoones. But no loss herein if
it do make him more biddable in women's matters. Her La'ship observing
that my Lutestring suit is well worn and do me no credit, I did adventure
to beseech her that she would break a word with Sam'l on his next waiting
upon her that he would give me a Gown of Moyre which is now all the
fashion, and this, with many good words she promist very lovingly,
desiring that I would come in a weeks time to learn how she hath sped. So
I home in good Tune as knowing he oweth his duty to my Lord and Lady and
will be said by her. In comes fayre Mrs Margaret Wight to sup on a dish of
Eggs and butter of Sparagus that Sam'l hath ate with my Lord Carlingford
and do highly commend. And indeed it is rare meat. After, we dancing and
very merry with Mrs Margaret, and she gone, I take occasion to tell Sam'l
of the Godfathers like to stand for the young Lady. Whereat he in a great
Tosse, but I willing to smoothe all betwixt him and my Lady do tell him
the honourable words she have spoke of him to myself and others, the more
especially of his Velvet suit with scarlet ribands. The which pleasing
him, we fall to discourse of what to do with the Spoons and Porringer,
resolving the spoons do go to Betty Michell where certayne it is I do
stand Godmother, and the Porringer to Mrs Lane, whose name I know not but
will come at shortly, and he do cry her up for a sober and God-fearing
woman. So pleasantly to bed and good frends.

16th. - This day comes my new cook-Mayd, Jane Gentleman, and heaven send
she prove worthy of her name, for I am drove almost madd with mayds that
are not mayds but Sluts and know not diligence nor cleanliness, to their
own undoing and mine. And strange it is to consider how in the olden days
before my mother and Grandmother (who suffered great horroures from the
like) the mayds were a peaceable and diligent folk, going about their
busyness to the great content of all housewives. But now it is not so. And
it is only two days sennight that I coming suddenly in did find Sarah
with my new silk Hood upon her Frowsy head and Will discoursing with her
and thrumming upon Sam'l his viallin. Whereat I did catch her a sound
souse of the Ear, but she never a whit the better of it and answering me
so sawcily that we parted on it, Sam'l upholding me in this, though it be
hard enough to fill her place the wench being a good Cooke-mayde, though

20th. - Sam'l to visit my Lady, who receives him with great content and
satisfaction, though she railed bitterly at my Lord that is so taken up
with his pleasures and amusements that he goeth not to Court as he should,
and she fears will be passed over and forgot for others that keep more
stir. Requiring Sam'l that he would deal plainly with my Lord on this,
making known to him that his Reputacion do hereby decay. But this methinks
is a difficult matter, and I do counsel Sam'l that he put not his finger
between the Bark and the Tree, lest it come by a shrewd squeeze, but let
rather my Lady deal with her Lord as a Wife should do. But he would not
harken, whereby I foresee trouble.

He then, pulling out of his pocket a little Packett, do say pleasantly,
"What, my Deare, shall you and I never go a-fairing again? What think you
I have here? And how many Kisses will you bid me for a sight?"

Much merriment and pleasure from this, he holding it high, and I leaping
for it like a Dogg. At the last he opens it, and lo a fine Lace of the new
fashion for my bosom, and I do well perceive that my Lady hath been at
him, and am well content I did break the matter to her, though an honest
gown had been more to my Purpose. Yet well begun is half done. Though but
half, as Sam'l shall find.

Our she-cousin Scott did visit me this day with sore complaints of her
husband's humours and constant drizzling, which is more than a woman can
or ought to bear. Therefore I should remember that with Sam'l it is not
so, but a spurt or flame of anger when he will be very high with me, yet
quickly snuft out and friends again. And generally, it is noticeable, with
some little gift for peacemaking, so that I have more than once of set
purpose Baited him to this end. Yet not often. Considering therefore the
husbands I do know, I think Sam'l no worse a bargain than any and better
than some, but shall be better assured in this when I shall come at his
Journal. My seventh lesson today in the secret writing, and progress made,
but it do make my head ake extremely and were it not needful would not
continue on therein.

Comes this day my old Mayd Gosnell that Sam'l and I do call our Marmotte,
she telling me that Jane my mayde is naught and she hath herself seen her
abroade in light company. Yet cooking as she cooks Sam'l sticks on this
and bids me wink my eyes and observe nothing, and such like are men!

21st. - This day Sam'l his feast for the recovery of his ailment which he
do always solemnly keep with great store of meat and Drink and company.
And this is a great day with him and a troublous one with me, and to the
Mayds also such as would madd a Saint. Yet all said and done a noble
Dinner, enough and to spare, being a dish of Marrowbones, a legg of
Mutton, a loin of Veal, a dish of fowl, being three Pullets and 24 Larks
all in a great dish, a Tart, a neat's tongue, a dish of anchovies, a dish
of Prawns and cheese. His company seven men (Captain Fenner and both Sir
Williams among them) and seven women and all reasonable merry. But I
beseeching Sam'l privately to eat and Drink sparingly for the pain in his
Toe, he do so becall me that it was ten to an Ace that I did hurle the
Spit and the birds withal into the fire. Yet knowing he would pay dear
next day, I said the less and so continued on, bidding him take his own
way and pay for his liking. But indeed great company and the Dinner well
cooked and served and they did drink my health on it. Also the house very
handsome with Plate displayed and fires where the Company did sit. And the
greatness of living we are come to did make Mrs Pierce's Mouth to water
though she in her flowered Lutestring and liking well of it. So she green
and yellow with spite as I did well perceive. Great Musique after, with
"Great, good and just," and Sam'l at the top of his Tune, and so to cards
and wine. Weary to bed, Sam'l starting up in the night with Nightmare not
knowing what he did, and did so shreeke and cry that the Mayds in affright
did run in, and the Watchmen passing called to know was any poor Soul
murthered within. But this no more than my Expectation, and so quietly to

22d. - This day a noble gift of Plate being two Candelsticks and a dish
from Capt Salmon, he looking for favour from Sam'l concerning the
Henrietta shippe that he would have on next going to Sea. Which do plainly
prove to what honour and advancement we are come to be so courted, and do
gladde his heart and mine. Sat long discoursing of this, and, turning the
case, what should fall out but a ring set with an Orient perle for me,
which as not expecting I received with great good will. Sam'l to the
office and I to my lesson wherein very diligent and commended of olde Mr
Crosby, and indeed I am come already to the reading of many wordes, yet
not glibbly. So home, but Sam'l coming home and I combing his hayre he did
say, "Who do I meet this day in Broade Street but olde Crosby, Mrs Jem's
father, that I did think long dead and buried, not having seen him this
year and more, and so to talk with him."

And, Lord! to see how I did redden, my heart so beating in my bosom as I
could have thought it would choak me, and do even sweat in the writing of
it. For sure it might well be the olde Gentleman would think Sam'l did
know all my father's business and speak thereon. But I could not speak and
my hand shaked so in the Combing that I did drop the comb. And he
continuing, "So I asked him how he did and he answered, 'Bravely'; and

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