Thomas Babington Macaulay Macaulay.

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fiiendly or uninteresting companions. The history
of an ordinary day was this. Miss Bumey had to
rise and dress herself early, that she might be ready
to answer the royal bell, which rang at half after
seven. Till about eight she attended in the Queen's
dressing room, and had the honour of lacing her
august mistress's stays, and of putting on the hoop,
gown, and neckhandkerchief. The morning was cliiefiy
spent in rummaging drawers and laying fine clothes
in their proper places. Then the Queen was to be
powdered and dressed for the day. Twice a week
her Majesty's hair was curled and craped ; and this
operation appears to have added a fiill hour to the
business of the toilette. It was generally three before
Miss Bumey was at hberty. Then she had two hours
at her own disposal. To these hours we owe gi*eat
part of her Diary. At five she had to attend her col-
league, Madame Schwellenberg, a hateful old toad-
eater, as illiterate as a chambermaid, as proud as a
whole German Chapter, rude, peevish, unable to bear
solitude, unable to conduct herself with conunon d^
cency in society. With this delightful associate,
Frances Bumey had to dine, and pass the evening.
The pair generally remained together from five to
eleven, and often had no other company the whole
time, except during the hour fi:om eight to nine, when



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284 DIARY AND LETTERS OF

the equerries came to tea. If poor Frances attempted
to escape to her own apartment, and to forget her
wretchedness over a book, the execrable old woman
railed and stormed, and complained that she was neg-
lected. Yet, when Frances stayed, she was constantly
"^issailed with insolent reproaches. Literary feme was,
in die eyes of the German crone, a blemish, a proof
that the person who enjoyed it was meanly bom, and
out of the pale of good society. All her scanty stock
of broken English was employed to express the con-
tempt with which she regarded the author of Evelina
and Cecilia. Frances detested cards, and indeed knew
nothing about them ; but she soon found that the least
miserable way of passing an evening with Madame
Schwellenberg was at the cardtable, and consented,
with patient sadness, to give hours, which might have
called forth the laughter and the tears of many genera-
tions, to the king of clubs and the knave of spades.
Between eleven and twelve the bell rang again. Miss
Burney had to pass twenty minutes or half an hour in
undressing the Queen, and was then at liberty to retire,
and to dream that she was chatting with her brother
by the quiet hearth in Saint Martin's Street, that she
was the centre of an admiring tissemblage at Mrs.
Crewe's, that Burke was calling her the first woman of
the age, or that Dilly was giving her a cheque for two
thousand guineas.

Men, we must suppose, are less patient than women ;
for we are utterly at a loss to conceive how any hu-
man being could endure such a life, while there re-
mained a vacant garret in Grub Street, a crossing in
want of a sweeper, a parish workhouse, or a parish
vault. And it was for such a life that Frances Bur-
ney had given up liberty and peace, a happy fireside*,



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MAJ)AME D'ARBLAV. 285

attached friends, a wide and splendid circle of acquaint-
ance, intellectual pursuits in whicli she was qualified to
excel, and tJie sui*e hope of what to her would have
been affluence.

There is notliing new under the sun. The last great
master of Attic eloquence and Attic wit has left us a
forcible and touching description of the misery of a man
of letters, who, lured by hopes similai* to those of Fran-
ces, had entered tlie service of one of tlie magnates of
Rome. " Unhappy that I am," cries the victim of his
own cliildish ambition : ^^ would nothing content me but
that I must leave mine old pui*suits and mine old com-
panions, and the life which was without care, and the
sleep which had no limit save mine own pleasure, and
the walks which I was free to take where I hsted, and
fling myself into tlie lowest pit of a dungeon like this ?
And, O God I for what ? Was there no way by which
I might have enjoyed in freedom comfQrts even greater
than those which I now earn by servitude ? Like a
lion which has been made so tame that men may lead
him about by a thread, I am dragged up and down,
with broken and humbled spirit, at the heels of those
to whom, in mine own domain, I should have been an
object of awe and wonder. And, worat of all, I feel
that here I gain no credit, that here I give no pleasure.
The talents and accomphshments, which charmed a
far different circle, are here out of place, I am rude in
the arts of palaces, and can ill bear comparison with
those whose calling, from dieir youth up, has been to
flatter and to sue. Have I, then, two hves, that,
after I have wasted one in the service of others, thei-e
may yet remain to me a second, which I may live unto
myself?"

Now and then, indeed, events occurred which dis-



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286 DIARY AND LETTERS OF

turbed the wretched monotony of Frances Bumey's life.
The court moved from Kew to Windsor, and from
Windsor back to Kew. One dull colonel went out of
waiting, and another dull colonel came into waiting.
An impertinent servant made a blunder about tea, and
caused a misunderstanding between the gentlemen and
the ladies. A half witted French Protestant minister
talked oddly about conjugal fidelity. An unlucky
member of the household mentioned a passage in the
Morning Herald, reflecting on the Queen ; and fbith-
with Madame Schwellenberg began to storm in bad
English, and told him that he made her " what you call
perspire ! "

A more important occurrence was the King's visit
to Oxford. Miss Burney went in the royal train to
Nuneham, was utterly n^lected there in the crowd,
and could with difficulty find a servant to show the
way to her bedroom, or a hairdresser to arrange her
curls. She had the honour of entering Oxford in the
last of a long string of carriages which formed the royal
procession, of walking after the Queen all day through
refectories and chapels, and of standing, half dead with
fatigue and hunger, while her august mistress was
seated at an excellent cold collation. At Magdalene
College, Frances was 1^ for a moment in a parlour,
where she sank down on a chair. A goodnatured
equerry saw that she was exhausted, and shared with
her some apricots and bread, which he had wisely put
into his pockets. At that moment the door opened ;
the Queen entered ; the wearied attendants sprang
up ; the bread and fruit were hastily concealed. ** I
found,'' says poor Miss Burney, "that our appetites
were to be supposed annihilated, at the same moment
that oar strenorth was to be invincible."



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MADAME D'ARBLAY. 287

Yet Oxford, seen even under such disadvantages,
" revived in her," to use her own words, " a conscious-
ness to pleasure which liad long lain nearly dormant."
She forgot, during one moment, that she was a wait-
ing maid, and felt as a woman of true genius might
be expected to feel amidst venerable remains of antiq-
uity, beautiful works of art, vast repositories of knowl-
edge, and memorials of the illustrious dead. Had she
still been what she was before her father induced her
to take the most fetal step of her life, we can easily
imagine what pleasure she would have derived fix^m a
visit to the noblest of English cities. She might, in-
deed, have been forced to travel in a hack chaise, and
might not have worn so fine a gown of Chambery
gauze as that in which she tottered after the royal
party ; but with what delight would she have then
paced the cloisters of Magdalene, compared the antique
gloom of Merton with the splendour of Christ Church,
and looked down from the dome of Raddiffe Library
on the magnificent sea of turrets and battlements be-
low ! How gladly would learned men have laid aside
for a few hours Pindar's Odes and Aristotle's Ethics,
to escort the author of Cecilia from college to college I
What neat little banquets would she have found set out
in their monastic cells ! With what eagerness would
pictures, medals, and illuminated missals have been
brought forth from the most mpterious cabinets for
her amusement ! How much she would have had to
hear and to tell about Johnson, as she walked over
Pembroke, and about Reynolds in the antechapel of
New College ! But these indulgences were not for one
who had sold herself into bondage.

About eighteen months after the visit to Oxford, an-
other event diversified the wearisome life which France



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288 DIARY AN^l) LETTERS OF

led at court. Warren Hastings was brought to the bar
of the House of Peers. The Queen and Princesses
were present when the trial commenced, and Miss Bur-
ney was permitted to attend. During the subsequent
proceedings a day rule for the same, purpose was occa-
sionally granted to her ; for the Queen took the strong-
est interest in the trial, and, when she could not go
herself to Westminster Hall, liked to receive a report of
what had passed from a person who had singular powers
of observation, and who was, moreover, acquainted with
some of the most distinginshed managers. The portion
of the Diary which relates to this celebrated proceeding
is lively and picturesque. Yet we read it, we own, with
pain ; for it seems to us to prove that the fine under-
standing of Frances Bumey was beginning to feel the
pernicious influence of a mode of life which is as
incompatible with health of mind as the air of the
Pomptine marshes with health of body. From the
first day she espouses the cause of Hastings with a pre-
sumi)tuous vehemence and acrimony quite inconsistent
with tlie modesty and suavity of her ordinary deport-
ment. She shudders when Burke enters the Hall at
tlie head of the Commons. She pronoimces him the
cruel oppressor of an innocent man. She is at a loss to
conceive how the managers can look at the defendant,
and not blush. Windham comes to her from the man-
ager's box, to offer her refreshment. " But," says she,
*' J could not break bread with him." Then, again,
she exclaims, *' Ah, Mr. Windham, how came you
ever engaged in so cruel, so unjust a cause ? " " Mr.
Burke saw me," slie says, " and he bowed with the
most marked civility of manner." This, be it ob-
gei'ved, was just after liis opening speech, a speech
which had produced a mighty effect, and which, cdr-



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MADAME D'ABBLAY. 28i)

taijily, no otlier orator that ever lived <x>ald hare made.
** My curts)'," she continues, ** was the most ungrate-
liil, distant, and cold ; I could not do otherwise ; so
hurt I felt to see him the head of such a cause."
Now, not only had Burke treated her with constant
kindness, but the very last act which he performed on
the day on which he was turned out of the Pay Office,
about four years before this trial, was to make Doctor
Barney organist of Chelsea Hospital. When, at the
Westminster election. Doctor Bum^ was divided be-
tween his gratitude for this fevour and his Tory opin-
ions, Burke in the noblest manner disclaimed all right
to exact a sacrifice of principle. ^^ You have little or
no obligations to me," he wrote ; ^^ but if you had as
many as I really wsh it were in my power, as it is cer-
tainly in my desire, to lay on you, I hope you do not
think me capable of conferring them, in order to sub-
ject your mind or your af&irs to a painful and mis*
chievous servitude." Was this a man to be uncivilly
treated by a daughter of Doctor Bumey, because she
chose to differ from him respecting a vast and most
compKcated question, which he had studied deeply
during many years, and which she had never studied
at all ? It is clear, firom Miss Bumey's own narrative,
that when she behaved so unkindly to Mr. Burke, she
did not even know of what Hastings was accused.
One thing, however, she must have known, that Burke
had been able to convince a House of Commons, bit-
terly prejudiced against himself, tJiat the charges were
well founded, and that Pitt and Dundas had concurred
with Fox and Sheridan, in supporting tlie impeachment.
Surely a woman of far inferior abilities to Miss Burney
might have been expected to see that this never could
have happened unless there had been a strong case

roL. T. 13



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290 DIARY AND LKTTEBS OK

against the late Governor General. And there was, as
all reasonable men now admit, a strong case against
him. That there were great public services to be set
off against his great crimes is perfectly true. But his
services and his crimes were equally unknown to the
lady who so confidently asserted his perfect innocence,
and imputed to his accusers, that is to say, to all the
greatest men of all parties in the state, not merely errcr,
but gross injustice and barbarity.

She had, it is true, occasionally seen Mr. Hastings,
and had found his manners and. conversation agreea*
ble. But surely she could not be so weak as to infer
from the gentleness of his deportment in the drawing
room, that he was incapable of committing a great
state crime, under the influence of ambition and re-
venge. A silly Miss, fresh from a boarding school,
might fall into such a mistake ; but the woman who
had drawn the character of Mr. Monckton should have
known b^ter.

The truth is that she had been too long at Court.
She was sinking into a slavery worse tlian that of
the body. The iron was beginning to enter into the
Boul. Accustomed during many months to watch the
eye of a mistress, to I'eceive with boundless gratitude
the slightest mark of royal condescension, to feel
wretched at every symptom of royal displeasure, to
associate only with spirits long tamed and broken in,
she was degenerating into something fit fbr her place.
Queen Charlotte was a violent partisan of Hastings,
had received presents from him, and had so far departeil
from the severity of her virtue as to lend her counte-
nance to his wife, whose conduct had certainly been as
reprehensible as that of any of the frail beauties who
were then rigidly excluded from the English Court.



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BiADAME D-ARBLAT. 291

The King, it was well known^ took the same side. To
the King and Queen ail the members of the household
k>oked submissively fur guidance. The impeacliment,
therefore, was an atrocious persecution ; the managei*s
were rascals; the defendant was the most deserving
and the worst used man in the kingdom. This was
tlie cant of the whole palace, from Gokl Stick in Wait-
ing, down to the Table Deckers and Yeomen of the
Silver Scullery ; and Miss Buniey canted hke the rest,
though in livelier tones, and with less bitter feelings.

The account which she has given of the King's ill-
oess contains much excellent narrative and description,
and will, we think, be as much valued by the historian?
of a future age aa any equal portion of Pepys' or Eve-
lyn's Diaries. That account shows also how affec-
tionate and compasstooate her nature was. But it
shows ako, we must say, that her way of life was rap-
idly impairii^ her powers of reasoning and her sense
of jusdce. We do not mean to discuss, in this place,
the question, whether the views of Mr. Pitt or those
of Mr. Fox respeetiiBg the r^ency were the more coi*^
rect. It is, indeed, quite needless to discuss that qiie»*
tion : for the censure of Miss Bumey falls alike on Pitt
and Fox, on majority and minority. She is angry with
the House of Commons for presuming to inquire
whether the King was mad or not, and whether there
was a chance of his recovering his senses. ^^ A melan-
choly day," she writes ; ^^ news bad both at home and
abroad. At homa the dear unhappy king still worse ;
abroad new examinations voted of the physicians.
Good heavens 1 what an insult does this seem from
Parliamentary power, to investigate and bring forth to
tlie world every circumstance of such a malady as is
e?ver held sacred to secrecy in the most private families !



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292 DIARY AND LETTERS OF

How indignant we all feel here, no words can say." 1\
is proper to obser\*e, that the motion wliich roused oU
this indignation at Kew was made by Mr. Pitt himself.
We see, therefore, that the loyalty of the mhiist^r, who
was then generally regarded as the most heroic chanv
pion of his Prince, was lukewarm indeed when com-
pared with the boiling zeal which filled die pages ot
the backstairs and the women of the bedchamber. Of
the Regency bill, Pitt's own bill, Miss Bumey speaks
with Itorror, "I shuddered," she says, **to hear it
named.'' And again, ^^ Oh, how dreadful will be tlie
day when that unhappy bill takes place I I cannot ap-
prove the plan of iu" The truth is, that Mr. Pitt,
whether a wise and upright statesman or not, was a
statesman ; and whatever motives he might have for
imposing restrictions on the r^ent, fislt that in isome
way or other there must be scmie provision made for
the execution of some part of the kingly office, or tliat
no government would be left in the country. But this
was a matter of which the household never thought.
It never occurred, as far as we can see, to the Exons
and Keepers of the Robes, that it was necessary that
there should be somewhere or otiier a power in the
state to pass laws, to preserve order, to pardon crim-
inals, to fill up offices, to negotiate with foreign govern-
ments, to command the army and navy.. Nay, these
enlightened politicians, and Miss Bumey among the
rest, seem to have thought that any person who consid*
ered the subject with reference to the public interest,
showed himself to be a badhearted man. Nobody wor-
ders at this in a gentleman usher ; but it is melancholy
to see genius sinking into such debasement.

During more tlian two years after the King's re-
covery, Frances dragged on a miseiuble existence at



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MADAMK D'AKBLAT. 293

the palace. The consolations, which had for a time
mitigated the wretchedness of servitude, were ont; by
one withdrawn. Mrs. Delany, whose society had been
a great resource when the Court was at Windsor, was
now dead. One of the gentlemen of the royal estab-
lishment. Colonel Digby, appears to have been a man
of sense, of taste, of some reading, and of prepossessing
manners. Agreeable associates were scarce in the
prison house, and he and Miss Bumey therefore natu-
rally became attached to each other. She owns that
she valued him as a firiend ; and it would not have been
strange if his attentions had led her to entertain for him
a sentiment warmer than friendship. He quitted the
Court, and married in a way which astonished Miss
Bumey greatly, and which evidently wounded her feel-
ings, and lowered him in her esteem. The palace
grew duller and duller; Madame Schwellenberg be-
came more and more savage and insolent ; and now the
health of poor Frances began to give way ; and all who
saw her pale face, her emaciated figure, and her feeble
walk, predicted that her sufferings would soon be over.
Frances uniformly speaks of her royal mistress, and
of the princesses, with respect and affection. The
princesses seem to have well deserved all the praise
which is bestowed on them in the Diary. They were,
we doubt not, most amiable women. But ^^ the sweet
qeieen," as she is constantly called in these volumes, is
iiot by any means an olijeot of admiration to us. She
had undoubtedly sense enough to know what kind of
deportment suited her high station, and self-command
enough to maintain that deportment invariably. She
was, in her intercourse with Miss Burney, generally
gracious and affable, sometimes, when displeased, cold
and reserved, but never, under any circumstances, rude.



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294 DIARY AND LETTEBS OF

{•eevish, or violent. She knew how to dispense, giace*
fully and skilfully, those little civihties whidi, when
[>aid by a sovereign, are prized at many times their in*
trinsic value ; how to pay a coiu|>lhnent ; liow to lend
a book ; how to ask after a relation. But she seems
to have been utterly regardless of the comfiMt, tlie
health, the hfe of her attendaats, when her own con*
venience was conc^ned. Weak, feverish, hardly able
to stand, Frances had still to rise before seven, in orfler
to dress the sweet Qaeen^ and to jsit up till midnight, in
ord^ to undress the sweet Queen. The indisposition
of the liandmaid could not, aad did not, escape the no-
tice of her royal mistress. But the established doctrine
of the Court was, tjbat all sickness was to be ooosidered
as a pretence until it proved fsital. The cmly way in
which the invalid could clear hearself from the suspicion
of maUngering, as it L9 called in the army, was to go on
lacing and unlacing, till ahe fell down dead at the royal
feet. " This," Miss Bumey wrote, wluen she was sa£*
fering cruelly from sickness, watching, and labour, ^ is
by no means from hardness of heart ; far odierwise*
There is no hardness of heart in any one of them ; but
it is prejudice and want of personal experience.'*

Many stmngers sympathized with die bodily and
mental sufferings of this distinguished woman. All
who saw her saw that her frame was sinking, that her
heart was breaking. The last, it should seem, to ob-
serve the change, was her father. At length, in spite
of himself, his eyes were opened. In May, 1790, his
daughter had an interview of three hours with him,
the only long interview which they had had since he
took her to Windsor in 1786. She told him that she
was miserable, that she was worn with attendance and
want of sleep, tliat she had no comfort in life, nothing



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MAi>AM£ D'A&BLAT. 295

to love, nothing to hope, that her &mily and frieudi
were to her as though they were not, and were remem*
bered by her as men remember the dead. From day-
bi*eak to midnight the same killing labour, the same
recreations, more liateAil than labour itself, followed
each oUier without variety, without any interval of
liberty and repose.

The Doctor was greatly dejected by this newa; but
was too goodnatured a man not to say that, if she
wished to resign, his house and aims were open to her.
Still, however, he could not bear to I'emove her from
the Court. His veneration for royalty amounted in
truth to idolatry. It can be compared only to the
grovelling superstition of those Syrian devotees who
made their children pass through the fire to Moloch.
When he induced his dsmghter to accept the place of
keeper of the robes, lie entertained, as she telb us, a
hope that some worldlj^ advantage or ot)ier, not set
down in the contract of service, would be tlie result
of her connection with the Court. What advantage
he expected we do not know, nor did he probably know
liimself. But, wluiiever he expected, he certainly got
nothing. Miss Bumey had been hired for board, lodgw
ing, and two hundred a year. Board, lodging, aiid two
hundred a year, she had duly received. We have
looked careAUly through the Diary, in Uie hope of
finding some trace of tliose extraordinaiy l)enefactions
on which the Doctor reckoned. But we can discover
only a promise, never pertomied, of a gown : and for
this promise Miss Burney was expected to return
thanks, such as miglit have suited the beggar with
whom Saint Martin in the legend, divided his cloak.
The experience of four years was, however, insufficient
to dispel the illusion which l»id taken possession of the



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296 DIARY AND LETTERS OF

Doctor's mind ; and, between the dear father and the
sweet Queen, there seemed to be little doubt that
some day or oth^ Prances would drop down a corpse.
Six months had elapsed ssnce the interview between
the parent and the daughter. The resignation was not
sent in. The sufferer grew worse and worse. She
took bark ; but it soon ceased to produce a beneficial
effect. She was stimulated with wine ; she was soothed
with opium ; but in vain. Her breath began to fail.
The whisper that she was in a dechne spread throu^i
the Court. The pains in her side became so severe
that she was forced to crawl from the cardtable of the
old Fury to whom she was tethered, three or four
times in an evening, for the purpose of taking harts-
horn. Had she been a negro slave, a humane planter
would have excused her from work. But her Majesty
showed no mercy. Thrice a day the accursed bell still
rang ; the Queen was still to be dressed for the morn-
ing at seven, and to be dressed for the day at noon, and
to be undressed at midnight.

But there had arisen, in Kterary and fashionabU
society, a general feeling of compassion for Misf



Online LibraryThomas Babington Macaulay MacaulayCritical, historical, and miscellaneous essays → online text (page 22 of 84)