Слике страница
PDF
ePub

66

He was usually habited in a peach-coloured, single-breasted coat extending below the knee, leather breeches, and long topless boots, then worn by bishops and butchers. On his head was a small gold-laced three-cornered hat—this whole style of dress he might almost have worn when he was Lord of the Bedchamber to George the Third's father, Frederick Prince of Wales.' In this same period of his life Lord Albemarle places his cousin, Sir Robert Adair, well remembered even by the present generation, for he died in 1854 at past ninety.

· Like most of his mother's male relations, he was sent to Westminster School; and with a view to his future profession of diplomatist, finished his education at the University of Göttingen. On his return to England he became a constant guest of his uncle, Lord Keppel, and was staying at Elden when the Whigs came in for their short tenure of office in 1782. In the autumn of that same year, he went over to Euston to shoot pheasants in Fakenham wood. He there first became acquainted with his celebrated cousin, Charles James Fox. That most good-natured of men, seeing a shy youth, whom nobody knew or noticed, did all in his power to set him at his ease. “Well, young 'un," said Fox, “where do you spring from ?” “From Göttingen," was the reply. “Not much shooting there, I suppose ?” “Oh yes, we used to shoot foxes." “ Hush !” said Fox, never pronounce that word again, at least in this house, for if the Duke were to hear that you had killed one of my namesakes, he would swear it belonged to Fakenham wood.") Adair was the type of a Whig of the old school: but in spite of his Whiggism and of the U-niversity of Göttingen, Canning could find no better man to send to Turkey in 1808 ; and after the Belgian Revolution of 1830, this same ambassador was sent by Lord Palmerston to prevent

a collision between the Dutch and Belgian forces; he joined King Leopold, and at last made his way to the Dutch camp, flourishing his handkerchief for a flag of truce on the end of a soldier's ramrod. He shot .at, as he wrote to Mr. Coke, 'like a Holkham rabbit,' but he succeeded in obtaining a truce of forty-eight hours. Lord Albemarle thinks that this last stroke of diplomacy saved Europe from a general war. But his political account of the transaction might be controverted. The Prince of Orange certainly did not besiege King Leopold at Liège, for the Belgians were routed at Louvain, and Belgium was saved by Marshal Gérard's army.

Baron Stockmar relates that but for Adair's timely arrival, King Leopold and his remaining troops must have surrendered to the Dutch.

A greater man than Robert Adair yet lives in Lord Albemarlo's recollections. It must have been in the summer of 1806, when he was about seven years old, that his father took

was

him to St. Anne's Hill to see Mr. Fox. The account of this memorable visit occurs in Lord Albemarle's • Memoirs of

Lord Rockingham,' and we have quoted it before, in reviewing that work,* but it will bear repetition.

" It was at the time of our visit that the symptoms of dropsy, the disease of which Fox died a few months later, began to show themselves. His legs were so swollen that he could not walk; he used to wheel himself about in what was called a " Merlin chair;

" indeed out of this chair I never remember to have seen him. In many respects his personal appearance at this time, differed but little from that assigned to him in the many prints and pictures still extant of him. There were still the well-formed nose and mouth, and the same manly, open, benevolent countenance. But his face had lost that swarthy appearance, which in the caricatures of the day had obtained for him the name of “ Nigger : " it was very pale. His eyes, though watery, twinkled with fun and good humour. The “thick black “ beard of true British stuff" had become like that of Hamlet's father, "a sable silvered." He wore a single-breasted coat of a light grey colour, with plated buttons as large as half-crowns; a thick linseywoolsey waistcoat, sage-coloured breeches, dark worsted stockings, and gouty shoes coming over the ankles.

* Fox was not visible of a morning. He either transacted the business of his office, or was occupied in it, or reading Greek plays, or French fairy tales, of which last species of literature I have heard my father say he was particularly fond.

. At one o'clock was the children's dinner. We used to assemble in the dining-room ; Fox was wheeled in at the same moment for his daily basin of soup. That meal despatched, he was for the rest of the day the exclusive property of us children, and we all adjourned to the garden for our game at trap-ball. All was now noise and merriment. Our host, the youngest amongst us, laughed, chaffed, and chatted the whole time. As he could not walk, he of course had the innings, we the bowling and fagging out; with what glee would he send the ball into the bushes in order to add to his score, and how shamelessly would he wrangle with us whenever we fairly bowled him out!'

It is certainly a very uncommon distinction for a nobleman, whom we still

have the pleasure to see in the House of Lords and in Hyde Park, not only to have fought under Wellington at Waterloo, but to have played trap-ball with Mr. Fox. Lord Russell and Sir Augustus Clifford appear to be the only other persons, now living, who personally knew Mr. Fox. Lord Eversley is reported to have heard Fox speak in the House of Commons: but the future Speaker merely cried out, • What is that fat gentleman in such a passion about?'

Westminster School was seventy years ago the great seedplot of Whig statesmen, and to Westminster George Thomas

* Edin. Rev. vol. xcvi. p. 137.

our own.

Keppel was in due time sent. He might pass for the Tom Brown of other days, and very different those days were from

A great deal of flogging, a great deal of fagging, not much to eat and not much to do, made up the school life of sixty years ago—a rough harsh life, to which a man looks back with pleasure, not because he enjoyed it, but because somehow or other he lived through it.

George Thomas, however, had a solatium in the shape of his two grandmothers. The Dowager Lady Albemarle was a stern but not ungenerous woman:

My other grandmother, the Dowager Lady de Clifford, was the very opposite of her in Berkeley Square. If the one was too hard upon my faults, the other erred in the opposite extreme. She was ever ready to help me out of my scrapes, and up to the time of her death, would fight my battles against all comers. She had passed much of her time abroad, and been acquainted with many of the notabilities of the Court of Louis the Sixteenth. Until age had impaired her faculties, she was full of anecdote, and a very agreeable companion. Moore, the poet, whom I introduced to her, has made honourable mention of her in his journal. She was a woman of great personal courage. When she was travelling with her dying husband through France by easy stages on her way to England, she stopped at a small roadside inn. Hearing a noise at midnight, she opened her door and saw a man stealing into her husband's bedroom. She seized him by the collar, threw him downstairs, ordered horses immediately, and proceeded on her journey.

'Not long before her death-she was then eighty-four--some robbers climbed over the garden wall which lines the north side of Hill Street, where it abuts on South Audley Street. They had nearly succeeded in gaining an entrance into the house, when the old lady threw open her window, discharged one of the pistols which she always kept loaded, and lustily cried “Thieves.” The rogues made off, no doubt resolving that when next they attacked a lone elderly woman, it should be one less ready to show fight.' In 1805 this Lady was appointed by the King to take charge of the Princess Charlotte-a task of no small difficulty, when the father, the mother, and the royal grandfather of her pupil were all on terms of the fiercest hostility. These volumes supply some additional indications of the selfishness, malignity, and vulgar passion which actuated every member of this illustrious family ; but we prefer to pass to the sketch of the young Princess herself, with whom Lady de Clifford's grandson was naturally brought into a childish intimacy. He was then about nine years old.

* In 1808 I first made the acquaintance of Princess Charlotte. It was on a Saturday, a Westminster half-holiday. From this time forth for the next three years many of my Saturdays and Sundays were passed in her company. She had just completed her twelfth year.

Her complexion was rather pale. She had blue eyes, and that peculiarly blonde hair which was characteristic rather of her German than of her English descent. Her features were regular, her face, which was oval, had not that fulness which later took off somewhat from her good looks. Her form was slender but of great symmetry; her hands and feet were beautifully shaped. When excited, she stuttered painfully. Her manners were free from the slightest affectation ; they rather erred in the opposite extreme. She was an excellent actress whenever there was anything to call forth her imitative power. One of her fancies was to ape the manners of a man. On these occasions she would double her fists, and assume an attitude of defence that would have done credit to a professed pugilist. What I disliked in her, when in this mood, was her fondness for exercising her hands upon me in their clenched form. She was excessively violent in her disposition, but easily appeased, very warm-hearted, and never so happy as when doing a kindness. Unlike her grandmothers, the Duchess of Brunswick and the Queen of England, she was generous to excess. There was scarcely a member of my family upon whom she did not bestow gifts. From Princess Charlotte I received my first watch ; from her, too, my first pony, an ugly but thoroughly good little animal, which, from its habit of "forging" in the trot, I named "Humphrey “ Clinker.” Poor old Humphrey! He did good service to the younger members of the family after I had reached man's estate. In speaking of the open handedness of the Princess, I must not omit to mention sundry tips," which I hardly think I should have accepted had I understood how near—our relative stations considered-her poverty was akin to my own.' * Thae waur daft days,' as old Ochiltree says, and now and then the boy and

girl broke out into high jinks, which remind us of a scene in Paul de Kock. Lord Albemarle (the father) lived at that time at Earl's Court, Brompton, which is thus described :

Our house, with the grounds attached, would comprise, I suppose, about two acres. A small gate leads out of the garden into the road; next come two large entrance gates, which open upon a court, forming a carriage drive to the house. Further on are gates leading to the stables. From the stables is a subterraneous passage which communicates with a small orchard. Encircling the orchard is a gravel walk and a garden. A semicircular plot of ground laid out in flower-beds faces the drawing-room windows. This description of the locality is prefatory to the narrative of an event which occurred there one Sunday afternoon.

* In her visits to Earl's Court the Princess usually came in my grandmother's carriage, but on this occasion in her own. The scarlet liveries soon brcught opposite to the entrance gate a crowd of people anxious to get a glimpse of the Heiress Presumptive to the throne. Soon after her arrival at Earl's Court I happened to pass outside the gates.

I was asked by the bystanders, “ Where is the Princess ?” I told her how anxious the people were to have a sight of her. “ They shall soon have

that pleasure," was the reply. Slipping out of the garden gate inte the road, she ran in among the crowd from the rear, and appeared more anxious than anyone to have a peep at the Princess. I would fain have stopped her, but she was in boisterous spirits, and would have her own way: she proceeded to the stable entrance, saddled and bridled my father's hack herself, and armed with the groom's heavy riding-whip led the animal through the subterranean passage to the garden gravel walk. She now told me to mount. I, nothing loth, obeyed. But before I could grasp the reins or get my feet through the stirrup leathers, she gave the horse a tremendous cut with the whip on the hindquarters. Off set the animal at full gallop, I on his back, or rather on his neck, holding on by the mane and roaring lustily. The noise only quickened his pace. I clung on till I came to the plot in front of the drawingroom windows, when the brute threw his heels into the air and sent me flying over his head. At the same moment the Princess emerged from the rose bushes, panting for breath. She had hoped, by making a short cut, to intercept the horse and its rider before they came into view. My cries brought the whole family on to the lawn. Of course the Princess got a tremendous scolding from Lady de Clifford. That she was used to, and took coolly enough. Unluckily for her up came my father, in whose good graces she was desirous to stand high. By looks rather than words he expressed his disapprobation. In a short time quiet was restored, and my people returned to the house. But no sooner were the Princess and I alone again, than the heavy ridingwhip was once more put into requisition, and she treated my father's son exactly as she had just been treating my father's horse.' We are not much surprised that, after a few adventures of this kind, George Thomas should one day have remarked to his illustrious friend, ‘A pretty Queen you'll make !' But the Princess was capable of higher things, and the following letter, written by Her Royal Highness at sixteen, is really of great historical interest and value, for it demonstrates that at the very time when her father, the Regent, was casting off his Whig principles, she adhered to them with increased firmness, partly, no doubt, out of the royal spirit of contradiction.

"She lost no opportunity, as far as her state of seclusion would allow, of identifying herself with her Royal Sire's former private and political friends. Shortly before the anniversary of Mr. Fox's birthday she gave my father a bust of that patriot. In answer to his acknowledgment of the present with which he had been honoured, she wrote to him what was evidently intended to be a manifesto of her political creed. Princess Charlotte to William Charles Lord Albemarle.

Warwick House : January 17, 1812. MY DEAR LORD ALBEMARLE,— I have been very much vexed at not being able to answer your letter immediately, which my wishes would have led me to do, but I delay no longer taking up my pen and expressing the emotions of satisfaction and pleasure I received on reading

6

« ПретходнаНастави »