Слике страница
PDF
ePub

country house is a series of meals mitigated by the new dresses of the ladies”; and Mrs. Disraeli confided to Sir William Fraser (as Mr. Buckle reminds us) that “ennui and indigestion often cut short her husband's stay.” There was sometimes another reason for departure, of which happily Mrs. Disraeli was not aware. There was in some houses a tendency to chaff Lady Beaconsfield, and at the first signs of this irreverent habit the statesman found urgent business which called him away. Yet Disraeli should not have been ungrateful to country houses, for it was at Raby, dancing a breakdown on a wet afternoon to amuse the ladies, that “Monty” Corry jumped into the ken of the great man. According to contemporary accounts, Disraeli did not contribute much to the gaiety of these house parties: he was generally silent and obviously preoccupied, though he was always glad to listen to the political talk of a big-wig. Indeed, it was for the purpose of “feeling the pulse.” of leading men that he submitted himself to a round of visits, which to an exhausted man, who neither ate, nor drank, nor smoked, must have been sufficiently tiresome. Lord Derby, who in his hours of ease liked racing and sporting talk and chaff, or what is called in modern slang “rotting,” was told that the Disraelis were coming to Heron's Court. His countenance fell, and he said crossly: “Ah, now we shall have to talk politics.”

Lord Beaconsfield's favorite hostesses The Fortnightly Review.

were the sisters, Lady Bradford and Lady Chesterfield, with whom he was really happy and with whom he corresponded intimately. He also appeared to be quite at home at Woburn, once the headquarters of his old enemies the Whigs, and at Hatfield, in the time of the parents of his colleague and successor. In 1863 he wrote to Mrs. Williams:

. We are now going to Hatfield, where we shall make a rather longer visit than usual, as I have a great deal to do: and Lord and Lady Salisbury, who are real friends, let me do what I like, and not come down to breakfast, and all that sort of thing, so that I can work and prepare for the coming campaign. . . . I have this advantage at Hatfield, that it is a palace, full of company, changing every day and all the most distinguished persons in the country, especially of my own party, in turn appearing. I meet and converse with all these, after the solitude of the morning, every day at dinner, and in the evening, which is very advantageous and suggestive. It allows me to feel the pulse of the ablest on all the questions of the day.

The days are past never to return when England was governed by London society and the great country houses. It is all the more interesting historically to retain these pictures of the aristocratic age. I finish, as I began, by saying that unless we return to the practical simplicity of Elizabethan days by welcoming the paying guest, the glory of the country houses must pass.

Arthur A. Baumann.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

at Windsor; and the riot and profusion of Arlington would no more have been possible at Bowood at the close of the eighteenth century than it would be today. Nothing is more creditable to Lord Shelburne than his discovery and patronage of Jeremy Bentham. It was the homage of rank to intellect, and we need not inquire how far both parties at the outset were influenced by the expectation of assistance. During some twenty years Bentham was regularly invited to Bowood, and his visits never lasted less, and often more, than a month. At the time when he first called on the astonished student at his chambers in Lincoln's Inn, Lord Shelburne was the head of the Chathamites, the forlorn friends of the dead statesman, Lord Camden, the Duke of Grafton, General Conway, young William Pitt, Banks, the second Lord Chatham, Dunning. As Lord Shelburne had been Chatham's Secretary of State, and was looked on as a likely Minister if Lord North should fall, Bowood became a political center for one section of the Opposition. It was due to his host that it became something more, an intellectual center, where distinguished men of all callings and all countries were welcomed with the stately simplicity which was the note of the house. Often the party consisted of no more than Lord and Lady Shelburne, little Henry Petty, one year old, whom Bentham found “very clean,” and therefore quite pleasant to dandle, and a girl or two, a sister or niece, Miss Vernon or Miss Fox, to talk or read or play the harpsichord with my lady. At other times neighbors would drive or ride over to breakfast or dinner, or for a night or two, the Pembrokes (separately) from Wilton, a bevy of Sturts from Crichel, Beckford from Fonthill, Banks from Kingston Hall, Sir Edward Baynton, and Bull, the election agent, from Calne. Lord Shelburne had two

hangers-on who were nearly always there—Colonel Barré, member for one of the Calne seats, a bull-dog of House of Commons celebrity, and Captain Blankett, a toady of the bluff and breezy naval type. Sometimes a foreign Minister would arrive, “a Mr. Ernest, a heavy-looking, goodhumored sort of a German” (Minister for Saxony), bringing a still heavier German as his servant, who got so drunk in the housekeeper's room that he had to be dragged out by the philosopher and two footmen. Sometimes lawyers and politicians would converge on Bowood from all points of the compass—Dunning, “piping hot” from Bristol Assizes and gloating over the hanging of two wretches, Lord Camden and his daughter from London, Banks, young Pratt, the second Lord Chatham and his brother “the orator” from Kingston Hall, and Elliot of Port Elliot with his seven Cornish boroughs in his pocket. The atheistical Bishop of Derry, Lord Bristol, was sometimes there, rather mad and much a liar, but very good company. Lord Dartrey, the Dublin banker (afterwards Lord Cremorne) was a frequent guest, and discussed Irish politics with Barré and Lord Bristol. He had lent Lord Shelburne £300,000, but he pushed the bottle about so briskly after dinner that even his hospitable and courtly debtor protested. Strangers are lodged in a part of the house quite separate from that which is inhabited by the family. Adjoining to my bedchamber I have a dressingroom and should have a servant's room if I had one to put in it. Thore plain but neat, spacious, venient. The dressing-ros my study. People here ( they please–eat their with the family or in thei ments. The only géne I f dressing twice a dayeats time.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

-------- g = ------ * *

- - *- ----
- = a---

.* or to

- o " * ---

hought H.M.S. way

[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]

one's house but his own, unless he has some object to gain—political, financial, or social. The great authority for country-house visiting in the preVictorian period is Creevey, who tramped cheerily round the houses of the Whig magnificoes with his carpetbag and his budget of political scandal. The Lambtons were one of those Northern families who in the first quarter of the last century were suddenly transformed from plain squires into millionaires by the discovery of coal-beds under their parks. The first Lord Durham, who married Lord Grey's daughter and was a member of the Reform Cabinet, was a man of undoubted ability, but by the testimony of his contemporaries he was not amiable. He was indeed the victim of his own temper. On complaining of his unhappiness to Creevey, the philosopher observed that Lambton had a good many of the articles men in general considered as the ingredients of happiness. “I don't know that,” was the reply, “but I do know that it's damned hard that a man with £80,000 a year can't sleep.” A host of that gloomy kind can make his guests thoroughly uncomfortable, as the following descriptions of Lambton Castle show:

I got here on Monday night, the company being at dinner and in the second course. However King Jog, hearing I was arrived, left his throne, came out and took me in with him. I found nearer 30 than 20 people there, in a very long and lofty apartment— the roof highly Collegiate, from which hung the massive chandeliers—the curtain drapery of dark-colored velvet fringed with gold, and much resembling palls. The company sitting at a long and narrowish table, never uttered a single, solitary sound for long and long after I was there: so that it really might have been the family vault of the Lambtons, and the company the male and female Lambtons

who had been buried in their best cloaths and in a sitting position.

During his second visit Creevey lost his temper and nearly made a scene:

You must know by a new ordinance livery servants are proscribed the dining-room; so our Michael and Frances were none the better for their two Cantley footmen, and this was the case too with Mrs. General Grey whom I handed out to dinner. Soup was handed round—from where God knows; but before Lambton stood a dish with one small haddock and three small whitings in it, which he instantly ordered off the table, to avoid the trouble of helping. Mrs. Grey and myself were at least ten minutes without any prospect of getting any servant to attend to us, altho' I made repeated applications to Lambton, who was all this time eating his own fish as comfortably as could be. So my blood beginning to boil, I said: “Lambton, I wish you would tell me what quarter I am to apply to for some fish.” To which he replied in the most impertinent manner:—“The servant, I suppose.” I turned to Mills and said pretty loud, “Now, if it was not for the fuss and jaw of the thing, I would leave the room and the house this instant,” and I dwelt on the damned outrage.

It should not be supposed that Lambton was a typical country house; Durham was a détraqué, as his public career discovered; and Creevey tells of many pleasant visits to Knowsley, Croxteth, Raby, and Lowther, where magnificence was tempered, if not with comfort, at least with courteous hospitality. It is, however, almost impossible to make very large houses comfortable, except with such a retinue as Evelyn describes at Euston in the seventeenth century.

Disraeli regarded country-house visits as part of his duties as leader of the Tories, but he makes one of the characters in Lothair say that “life in a

[ocr errors][merged small]

country house is a series of meals mitigated by the new dresses of the ladies”; and Mrs. Disraeli confided to Sir William Fraser (as Mr. Buckle reminds us) that “ennui and indigestion often cut short her husband's stay.” There was sometimes another reason for departure, of which happily Mrs. Disraeli was not aware. There was in some houses a tendency to chaff Lady Beaconsfield, and at the first signs of this irreverent habit the statesman found urgent business which called him away. Yet Disraeli should not have been ungrateful to country houses, for it was at Raby, dancing a breakdown on a wet afternoon to amuse the ladies, that “Monty” Corry jumped into the ken of the great man. According to contemporary accounts, Disraeli did not contribute much to the gaiety of these house parties: he was generally silent and obviously preoccupied, though he was always glad to listen to the political talk of a big-wig. Indeed, it was for the purpose of “feeling the pulse.” of leading men that he submitted himself to a round of visits, which to an exhausted man, who neither ate, nor drank, nor smoked, must have been sufficiently tiresome. Lord Derby, who in his hours of ease liked racing and sporting talk and chaff, or what is called in modern slang “rotting,” was told that the Disraelis were coming to Heron's Court. His countenance fell, and he said crossly: “Ah, now we shall have to talk politics.”

Lord Beaconsfield's favorite hostesses The Fortnightly Review.

were the sisters, Lady Bradford and Lady Chesterfield, with whom he was really happy and with whom he corresponded intimately. He also appeared to be quite at home at Woburn, once the headquarters of his old enemies the Whigs, and at Hatfield, in the time of the parents of his colleague and successor. In 1863 he wrote to Mrs. Williams:

. We are now going to Hatfield, where we shall make a rather longer visit than usual, as I have a great deal to do: and Lord and Lady Salisbury, who are real friends, let me do what I like, and not come down to breakfast, and all that sort of thing, so that I can work and prepare for the coming campaign. . . . I have this advantage at Hatfield, that it is a palace, full of company, changing every day and all the most distinguished persons in the country, especially of my own party, in turn appearing. I meet and converse with all these, after the solitude of the morning, every day at dinner, and in the evening, which is very advantageous and suggestive. It allows me to feel the pulse of the ablest on all the questions of the day.

The days are past never to return when England was governed by London society and the great country houses. It is all the more interesting historically to retain these pictures of the aristocratic age. I finish, as I began, by saying that unless we return to the practical simplicity of Elizabethan days by welcoming the paying guest, the glory of the country houses must pass.

Arthur A. Baumann.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
« ПретходнаНастави »