May 1.--Breakfasted with Lord and Lady Leveson Gower, and enjoyed the splendid treat of hearing Mrs. Arkwright sing her own music, which is of the highest order--no forced vagaries of the voice, no caprices of tone, but all telling upon and increasing the feeling the words require. This is "marrying music to immortal verse." Most people place them on separate maintenance.
I met the Roxburghe Club, and settled to dine with them on 15th curt. Lord Spencer in the chair. We voted Lord Olive a member.
May 2.--I breakfasted with a Mr. Bell, Great Ormond Street, a lawyer, and narrowly escaped Mr. Irving, the celebrated preacher. The two ladies of the house seemed devoted to his opinions, and quoted him at every word. Mr. Bell himself made some apologies for the Millennium. He is a smart little antiquary, who thinks he ought to have been a man of letters, and that his genius has been mis-directed in turning towards the law. I endeavoured to combat this idea, which his handsome house and fine family should have checked. Compare his dwelling, his comforts, with poor Tom Campbell's!
I dined with the Literary Society; rather heavy work, though some excellent men were there. I saw, for the first time, Archdeacon Nares, long conductor of the _British Critic_, a gentlemanlike and pleasing man. Sir Henry Robert Inglis presided.
May 3.--Breakfasted at my old friend Gally Knight's, with whom, in former days, I used to make little parties to see poor Monk Lewis. After breakfast I drove to Lee and Kennedy's, and commissioned seeds and flowers for about £10, including some specimens of the Corsican and other pines. Their collection is very splendid, but wants, I think, the neatness that I would have expected in the first nursery-garden in or near London. The essentials were admirably cared for. I saw one specimen of the Norfolk Island pine, the only one, young Lee said, which has been raised from all the seed that was sent home. It is not treated conformably to its dignity, for they cut the top off every year to prevent its growing out at the top of the conservatory. Sure it were worth while to raise the house alongst with the plant.
Looked in at Murray's--wrote some letters, etc., and walked home with the Dean of Chester, who saw me to my own door. I had but a few minutes to dress, and go to the Royal Academy, to which I am attached in capacity of Professor of Antiquities. I was too late to see the paintings, but in perfect time to sit half-an-hour waiting for dinner, as the President, Sir Thomas Lawrence, expected a prince of the blood. He came not, but there were enough of grandees besides. Sir Thomas Lawrence did the honours very well, and compliments flew about like sugar-plums at an Italian carnival. I had my share, and pleaded the immunities of a sinecurist for declining to answer.
After the dinner I went to Mrs. Scott of Harden, to see and be seen by her nieces, the Herbert ladies. I don't know how their part of the entertainment turned out, but I saw two or three pretty girls.
May 4.--I breakfasted this morning with Sir Coutts Trotter, and had some Scottish talk. Visited Cooper, who kindly undertook to make my inquiries in Lyons. I was at home afterwards for three hours, but too much tired to do the least right thing. The distances in London are so great that no exertions, excepting those which a bird might make, can contend with them. You return weary and exhausted, fitter for a siesta than anything else. In the evening I dined with Mr. Peel, a great Cabinet affair, and too dignified to be very amusing, though the landlord and the pretty landlady did all to make us easy.
May 5.--Breakfasted with Haydon, and sat for my head. I hope this artist is on his legs again. The King has given him a lift by buying his clever picture of the election in the Fleet prison, to which he is adding a second part, representing the chairing of the member at the moment it was interrupted by the entry of the guards. Haydon was once a great admirer and companion of the champions of the Cockney school, and is now disposed to renounce them and their opinions. To this kind of conversation I did not give much way. A painter should have nothing to do with politics. He is certainly a clever fellow, but somewhat too enthusiastic, which distress seems to have cured in some degree. His wife, a pretty woman, looked happy to see me, and that is something. Yet it was very little I could do to help them.
Dined at Lord Bathurst's, in company with the Duke. There are better accounts of Johnnie. But, alas!
May 7.--Breakfasted with Lord Francis Gower, and again enjoyed the great pleasure of meeting Mrs. Arkwright, and hearing her sing. She is, I understand, quite a heaven-born genius, having scarce skill enough in music to write down the tunes she composes. I can easily believe this. There is a pedantry among great musicians that deprives their performances of much that is graceful and beautiful. It is the same in the other fine arts, where fashion always prefers cant and slang to nature and simplicity.
Dined at Mr. Watson Taylor's, where plate, etc., shone in great and somewhat ostentatious quantity. C[roker] was there, and very decisive and overbearing to a great degree. Strange so clever a fellow should let his wit outrun his judgment! In general, the English understand conversation well. There is that ready deference for the claims of every one who wishes to speak time about, and it is seldom now-a-days that "a la stoccata" carries it away thus.
I should have gone to the Duchess of Northumberland's to hear music to-night, but I felt completely fagged, and betook myself home to bed.
I learned a curious thing from Emily, Lady Londonderry, namely, that in feeding all animals with your hand, you should never wear a glove, which always affronts them. It is good authority for this peculiarity.
May 8.--Breakfasted at Somerset House with Davies Gilbert, the new preses of the Royal Society. Tea, coffee, and bread and butter, which is poor work. Certainly a slice of ham, a plate of shrimps, some broiled fish, or a mutton chop, would have been becoming so learned a body. I was most kindly received, however, by Dr. D. Gilbert, and a number of the members. I saw Sir John Sievwright--a singular personage; he told me his uniform plan was to support Ministers, but he always found himself voting in Opposition. I told him his deference to Ministers was like that of the Frenchman to the enemy, who, being at his mercy, asked for his life:--"Anything in my power excepting that, sir," said Monsieur. Sir John has made progress in teaching animals without severity or beating. I should have liked to have heard him on this topic.
Called at Northumberland House and saw the Duke. According to his report I lost much by not hearing the two rival nightingales, Sontag and Pasta, last night, but I care not for it.
Met Sir W. K[nighton], returned from the Continent. He gives me to understand I will be commanded for Sunday. Sir W.K. asked me to sit for him to Northcote, and to meet him there at one to-morrow. I cannot refuse this, but it is a great bore.
Dined with Mrs. Alexander of Ballochmyle, Lord and Lady Meath, who were kind to us in Ireland, and a Scottish party,--pleasant, from hearing the broad accents and honest thoughts of my native land. A large party in the evening. A gentleman came up to me and asked "if I had seen the 'Casket,' a curious work, the most beautiful, the most highly ornamented--and then the editor or editress--a female so interesting,--might he ask a very great favour," and out he pulled a piece of this pic-nic. I was really angry, and said for a subscription he might command me--for a contribution no; that I had given to a great many of these things last year, and finding the labour occupied some considerable portion of my time, I had done a considerable article for a single collection this year, taking a valuable consideration for it, and engaged not to support any other. This may be misrepresented, but I care not. Suppose this patron of the Muses gives five guineas to his distressed lady, he will think he does a great deal, yet takes fifty from me with the calmest air in the world, for the communication is worth that if it be worth anything. There is no equality in the proposal.
I saw to-day at Northumberland House, Bridge the jeweller, having and holding a George, richly ornamented with diamonds, being that which Queen Anne gave to the Duke of Marlborough, which his present representative pawned or sold, and which the present king bought and presented to the Duke of Wellington. His Grace seemed to think this interesting jewel was one of two which had been preserved since the first institution of that order. That, from the form and taste, I greatly doubt. Mr. Bridge put it again into his coat pocket, and walked through the street with £10,000 in his pocket. I wonder he is not hustled and robbed. I have sometimes envied rich citizens, but it was a mean and erroneous feeling. This man, who, I suppose, must be as rich as a Jew, had a shabby look in the Duke's presence, and seemed just a better sort of pedlar. Better be a poor gentleman after all.
May 9.--Grounds of Foote's farce of the Cozeners. Lady ----. A certain Mrs. Phipps audaciously set up in a fashionable quarter of the town as a person through whose influence, properly propitiated, favours and situations of importance might certainly be obtained--always for a consideration. She cheated many people, and maintained the trick for many months. One trick was to get the equipage of Lord North, and other persons of importance, to halt before her door as if the owners were within. With respect to most of them, this was effected by bribing the drivers. But a gentleman, who watched her closely, observed that Charles J. Fox actually left his carriage and went into the house, and this more than once. He was then, it must be noticed, in the Ministry. When Mrs. Phipps was blown up, this circumstance was recollected as deserving explanation, which Fox readily gave at Brooks's and elsewhere. It seems Mrs. Phipps had the art to persuade him that she had the disposal of what was then called a hyśna--that is, an heiress--an immense Jamaica heiress, in whom she was willing to give or sell her interest to Charles Fox. Without having perfect confidence in the obliging proposal, the great statesman thought the thing worth looking after, and became so earnest in it, that Mrs. Phipps was desirous to back out of it for fear of discovery. With this view she made confession one fine morning, with many professions of the deepest feelings, that the hyśna had proved a frail monster, and given birth to a girl or boy--no matter which. Even this did not make Charles quit chase of the hyśna. He intimated that if the cash was plenty and certain, the circumstance might be overlooked. Mrs. Phipps had nothing for it but to double the disgusting dose. "The poor child," she said, "was unfortunately of a mixed colour, somewhat tinged with the blood of Africa; no doubt Mr. Fox was himself very dark, and the circumstance might not draw attention," etc. etc. This singular anecdote was touched upon by Foote, and is the cause of introducing the negress into the _Cozeners_, though no express allusion to Charles Fox was admitted. Lady ------ tells me that, in her youth, the laugh was universal so soon as the black woman appeared. It is one of the numerous hits that will be lost to posterity. Jack Fuller, celebrated for his attempt on the Speaker's wig, told me he was editing Foote, but I think he has hardly taste enough. He told me Colman was to be his assistant.
Went down in the morning to Montagu House, where I found the Duke going out to suffer a recovery. I had some fancy to see the ceremony, but more to get my breakfast, which I took at a coffee-house at Charing Cross.
I sat to Northcote, who is to introduce himself in the same piece in the act of painting me, like some pictures of the Venetian school. The artist is an old man, low in stature, and bent with years--fourscore at least. But the eye is quick and the countenance noble. A pleasant companion, familiar with recollections of Sir Joshua, Samuel Johnson, Burke, Goldsmith, etc. His account of the last confirms all that we have heard of his oddities.
Dined with Mr. Arbuthnot, where met Duke of Rutland, Lord and Lady Londonderry, etc. etc. Went to hear Mrs. Arkwright at Lady Charlotte Greville's. Lockhart came home to-day.
May 10.--Another long sitting to the old Wizard Northcote. He really resembles an animated mummy. He has altered my ideas of Sir Joshua Reynolds, whom, from the expressions used by Goldsmith, Johnson, and others, I used to think an amiable and benevolent character. But though not void of generosity, he was cold, unfeeling, and indifferent to his family: so much so that his sister, Miss Reynolds, after expressing her wonder at the general acceptance which Sir Joshua met with in society, concluded with, "For me, I only see in him a dark gloomy tyrant." I own this view of his character hurt me, by depriving me of the pleasing vision of the highest talents united with the kindest temper. But Northcote says his disagreeable points were rather negative than positive--more a want of feeling than any desire to hurt or tyrannise. They arose from his exclusive attachment to art.
Dined with a pleasant party at Lord Gower's. Lady Gower is a beautiful woman, and extremely courteous. Mrs. Arkwright was of the party. I am getting well acquainted with her, and think I can see a great deal of sense mixed with her accomplishment.
May 11.--Breakfasted with Dr. Maltby, preacher in Lincoln's Inn. He was to have been the next Bishop, if the Whigs had held their ground. His person, manners, and attainments would have suited the lawn sleeves well. I heard service in the chapel, which is a very handsome place of worship; it is upstairs, which seems extraordinary, and the space beneath forms cloisters, in which the ancient Benchers of this Society of Lincoln's Inn are entered. I met my old friend Sir William Grant, and had some conversation with him. Dr. Maltby gave us a good sermon upon the introduction of the Gospel. There was only one monument in the chapel, a handsome tablet to the memory of Perceval. The circumstance that it was the only monument in the chapel of a society which had produced so many men of talents and distinction was striking--it was a tribute due to the suddenness of his strange catastrophe. There is nothing very particular in the hall of Lincoln's Inn, nor its parlour, which are like those of a college. Indeed the whole establishment has a monastic look.
Sat to Northcote, who only requires (_Deo gratias_) another sitting. Dined with his Majesty in a very private party--five or six only being present. I was received most kindly as usual. It is impossible to conceive a more friendly manner than his Majesty used towards me. I spoke to S.W.K. about the dedication of the collected works, and he says it will be highly well taken.
I went after the party broke up to Mrs. Scott of Harden, where I made acquaintance with her beautiful kinswoman, Lady Sarah Ponsonby, whose countenance is really seraphic and totally devoid of affectation.
May 12.--Old George II. was, as is well known, extremely passionate. On these occasions his small stock of English totally failed him, and he used to express his indignation in the following form: "G--d--n me, who I am? Got d--n you, who you be?" Lockhart and I visited a Mrs. Quillinan, with whom Wordsworth and his wife have pitched their tent. I was glad to see my old friend, whose conversation has so much that is fresh and manly in it. I do not at all acquiesce in his system of poetry, and I think he has injured his own fame by adhering to it. But a better or more sensible man I do not know than W.W.
Afterwards Lockhart and I called on Miss Nicolson, and from thence I wandered down into that immense hash of a city to see Heath, and fortunately caught hold on him. All this made me too late for Northcote,--who was placable, however.
Dined at Sir John Shelley's, _ŗ petit couvert_. Here were the Duke of Wellington, Duke of Rutland, and only one or two more, particularly Mr. and Mrs. Arbuthnot. The evening was very pleasant, and did not break up till twelve at night.
May 13.--Breakfasted with Sir George Philips--there was Sydney Smith, full of fun and spirit, and his daughter, who is a good-humoured agreeable girl. We had a pleasant breakfast party.
The Catholics have carried their question, which I suppose will be thrown out in the Lords. I think they had better concede this oft-disputed point, and dissolve the league which binds so many people in opposition to Government. It is a matter of great consequence that men should not acquire the habit of opposing. No earthly advantage would arise to Ireland from ceding what is retained, where so much has been already yielded up. Indeed the Catholic gentry do not pretend that the granting the immunities they require would tranquillise the country, but only that it would remove from men of honour all pretext for countenancing them. This is on the principle of the solicitor of the unhappy Rajah Nuncomar, who after extorting as much money as he could, under pretence of bribing persons to procure his pardon, facilitate his escape, etc., found himself pressed by his victim for a final answer. "The preparations for death are ready," said the Rajah; "I fear, notwithstanding all you have told me, their intention is to take my life." "By G--d," replied the trusty solicitor, "if they do I will never forgive them." So if there are further disturbances after the Catholic claims are granted, I suppose those by whom they are now advocated will never forgive their friends the Pats; and that will be all John Bull will get for it. I dined with Lady Stafford, for whom I have much regard. I recollect her ever since she stood at her aunt Lady Glenorchy's window, in George Square, reviewing her regiment of Sutherland giants. She was, as she ever is, most attentive and kind.
May 14.--I carried Lockhart to Lady Francis Gower's to hear Mrs. Arkwright sing, and I think he admired her as much as his nature permits him to love anything musical, for he certainly is not quickly moved by concord of sweet sounds. I do not understand them better than he, but the _voce del petto_ always affects me, and Mrs. A. has it in perfection. I have received as much pleasure from that lady's music as sound could ever give me. Lockhart goes off for Brighton. I had a round of men in office. I waited on the Duke at Downing St., and I think put L. right there, if he will look to himself. But I can only tee the ball; he must strike the blow with the golf club himself. I saw Mr. Renton, and he promised to look after Harper's business favourably. Good gracious, what a solicitor we are grown!
Dined with Lady Davy--a pleasant party; but I was out of spirits; I think partly on Johnnie's account, partly from fatigue. There was William Henry Lyttelton amongst others; much of his oddity has rubbed off, and he is an honoured courtly gentleman, with a great deal of wit; and not one of the fine people who perplex you by shutting their mouths if you begin to speak. I never fear quizzing, so am not afraid of this species of lying-in-wait. Lord have mercy on me if I were!
May 15.--Dined at the Roxburghe Club. Lord Spencer presided, but had a cold which limited his exertions. Lord Clive, beside whom I sat, was deaf, though intelligent and good-humoured. The Duke of Devonshire was still deafer. There were many little chirruping men who might have talked but went into committee. There was little general conversation. I should have mentioned that I breakfasted with kind, good Mr. Hughes, and met the Bishop of Llandaff--strongly intelligent. I do not understand his politics about the Catholic question. He seems disposed to concede, yet is Toryissimus. Perhaps they wish the question ended, but the present opinions of the Sovereign are too much interested to permit them to quit it.
May 16.--Breakfasted with Mr. Reynolds; a miscellaneous party. Wordsworth, right welcome unto me was there. I had also a sight of Godwin the philosopher, grown old and thin--of Douglas Kinnaird, whom I asked about Byron's statue, which is going forward--of Luttrell, and others whom I knew not. I stayed an instant at Pickering's, a young publisher's, and bought some dramatic reprints. I love them very much, but I would [not] advise a young man to undertake them. They are of course dear, and as they have not the dignity of scarcity, the bibliomaniacs pass them by as if they were plated candlesticks. They may hold as good a light for all that as if they were real silver, and therefore I buy them when I can light on them. But here I am spending money when I have more need to make it. On Monday, the 26th, it shall be Northward ho!
Dined at Lady Georgiana and Mr. Agar Ellis's. There were Lord and Lady Stafford there, and others to whom I am sincerely attached.
May 17.--A day of busy idleness. Richardson came and breakfasted with me like a good fellow. Then I went to Mr. Chantrey, and sat for an hour to finish the bust. Thereafter, about twelve o'clock, I went to breakfast the second, at Lady Shelley's, where there was a great morning party. A young lady begged a lock of my hair, which was not worth refusing. I stipulated for a kiss, which I was permitted to take. From this I went to the Duke of Wellington, who gave me some hints or rather details. Afterwards I drove out to Chiswick, where I had never been before. A numerous and gay party were assembled to walk and enjoy the beauties of that Palladian [dome?]; the place and highly ornamented gardens belonging to it resemble a picture of Watteau. There is some affectation in the picture, but in the _ensemble_ the original looked very well. The Duke of Devonshire received every one with the best possible manners. The scene was dignified by the presence of an immense elephant, who, under charge of a groom, wandered up and down, giving an air of Asiatic pageantry to the entertainment. I was never before sensible of the dignity which largeness of size and freedom of movement give to this otherwise very ugly animal. As I was to dine at Holland House, I did not partake in the magnificent repast which was offered to us, and took myself off about five o'clock. I contrived to make a demi-toilette at Holland House rather than drive all the way to London. Rogers came to dinner, which was very entertaining. The Duke of Manchester was there, whom I remember having seen long ago. He had left a part of his brain in Jamaica by a terrible fracture, yet, notwithstanding the accident and the bad climate, was still a fine-looking man. Lady Holland pressed me to stay all night, which I did accordingly.
May 18.--The freshness of the air, the singing of the birds, the beautiful aspect of nature, the size of the venerable trees, all gave me a delightful feeling this morning. It seemed there was pleasure even in living and breathing, without anything else. We (_i.e._ Rogers and I) wandered into a green lane bordered with fine trees, which might have been twenty miles from a town. It will be a great pity when this ancient house must come down and give way to brick works and brick-houses. It is not that Holland House is fine as a building; on the contrary, it has a tumble-down look; and, although decorated with the bastard Gothic of James I.'s time, the front is heavy. But it resembles many respectable matrons, who, having been absolutely ugly during youth, acquire by age an air of dignity;--though one is chiefly affected by the air of deep seclusion which is spread around the domain. I called on Mr. Peel as I returned home, and after that on Lord Melville. The latter undertook for Allan Cunningham's son's cadetship, for which I am right glad.
Dined at Mr. and Lady Sarah Ponsonby's, who called on us last year at Abbotsford. The party was very pleasant, having Lord and Lady Gower, whom I like, Mr. and Lady Georgiana Ellis, and other persons of distinction. Saw Wordsworth too, and learned that Tom Moore was come to town.
May 19.--A morning of business. Breakfasted with Dumergue and one or two friends. Dined by command with the Duchess of Kent. I was very kindly recognised by Prince Leopold. I was presented to the little Princess Victoria,--I hope they will change her name,--the heir apparent to the Crown as things now stand. How strange that so large and fine a family as that of his late Majesty should have died off and decayed into old age with so few descendants! Prince George of Cumberland is, they say, a fine boy about nine years old--a bit of a pickle, swears and romps like a brat that has been bred in a barrack yard. This little lady is educated with much care, and watched so closely by the Duchess and the principal governess, that no busy maid has a moment to whisper, "You are heir of England." I suspect if we could dissect the little head, we should find that some pigeon or other bird of the air had carried the matter. She is fair, like the Royal Family, but does not look as if she would be pretty. The Duchess herself is very pleasing and affable in her manners. I sat by Mr. Spring Rice, a very agreeable man. He is a great leader among the Pro-Catholics. I saw also Charles Wynn and his lady--and the evening, for a Court evening, went agreeably off. I am commanded for two days by Prince Leopold, but will send excuses.
May 20.--I set out for Brighton this morning in a light coach, which performed the distance in six hours--otherwise the journey was uncomfortable. Three women, the very specimens of womankind,--I mean trumpery,--a child who was sick, but afterwards looked and smiled, and was the only thing like company. The road is pleasant enough till it gets into the Wealds of Sussex, a huge succession of green downs which sweep along the sea-coast for many miles. Brighton seems grown twice as large since 1815. It is a city of loiterers and invalids--a Vanity Pair for pipers, dancing of bears, and for the feats of Mr. Punch. I found all my family well excepting the poor pale Johnnie; and he is really a thing to break one's heart by looking at--yet he is better. The rest are in high kelter.
My old friend Will Rose dined with us, also a Doctor Yates and his wife--the Esculapius of Brighton, who seems a sensible man. I was entertained with the empire he exerted over him as protector of his health. I was very happy to find myself at Sophia's quiet table, and am only sorry that I must quit her so soon.
May 21.--This being a fine day, we made some visits in the morning, in the course of which I waited on Mrs. Davies, sister of Mrs. Charlotte Smith, and herself the author of the _Peacock at Home_, one of the prettiest and liveliest _jeux d'esprit_ in our language. She is a fine stately old lady--not a bit of a literary person,--I mean having none of the affectation of it, but like a lady of considerable rank. I am glad I have seen her. Renewed my acquaintance with Lady Charlotte Hamilton, _nťe_ Lady Charlotte Hume, and talked over some stories thirty years old at least. We then took a fly, as they call the light carriages, and drove as far as the Devil's Ditch. A rampart it is of great strength and depth, enclosing, I presume, the precincts of a British town that must have held 30,000 men at least. I could not discover where they got water.
We got home at four, and dined at five, and smoked cigars till eight. Will Rose came in with his man Hinvaes, who is as much a piece of Rose as Trim was of Uncle Toby. We laughed over tales "both old and new" till ten o'clock came, and then broke up.
May 22.--Left Brighton this morning with a heavy heart. Poor Johnnie looks so very poorly that I cannot but regard his case as desperate, and then God help the child's parents! Amen!
We took the whole of one of the post-coaches, and so came rapidly to town, Sophia coming along with us about a new servant. This enabled me to dine with Mr. Adolphus, the celebrated barrister, the father to my young friend who wrote so like a gentleman on my matters. I met Mr. Gurney, Archdeacon Wrangham, and a lawyer or two besides. I may be partial, but the conversation of intelligent barristers amuses me more than that of other professional persons. There is more of real life in it, with which, in all its phases, people of business get so well acquainted. Mr. Adolphus is a man of varied information, and very amusing. He told me a gipsy told him of the success he should have in life, and how it would be endangered by his own heat of temper, alluding, I believe, to a quarrel betwixt him and a brother barrister.
May 23.--I breakfasted with Chantrey, and met the celebrated Coke of Norfolk, a very pleasing man, who gave me some account of his plantations. I understand from him that, like every wise man, he planted land that would not let for 5s. per acre, but which now produces £3000 a year in wood. He talked of the trees which he had planted as being so thick that a man could not fathom them. Withers, he said, was never employed save upon one or two small jobs of about twenty acres on which every expense was bestowed with a view to early growth. So much for Withers. I shall have a rod in pickle for him if worth while. After sitting to Chantrey for the last time, I called on Lady Shelley, P.P.C., and was sorry to find her worse than she had been. Dined with Lady Stafford, where I met the two Lochs, John and James. The former gave me his promise for a cadetship to Allan Cunningham's son; I have a similar promise from Lord Melville, and thus I am in the situation in which I have been at Gladdies Wiel, where I have caught two trouts, one with the fly, the other with the bobber. I have landed both, and so I will now. Mr. Loch also promised me to get out Shortreed as a free mariner. Tom Grenville was at dinner.
May 24.--This day we dined at Richmond Park with Lord Sidmouth. Before dinner his Lordship showed me letters which passed between the great Lord Chatham and Dr. Addington, Lord Sidmouth's [father]. There was much of that familiar friendship which arises, and must arise, between an invalid, the head of an invalid family, and their medical adviser, supposing the last to be a wise and well-bred man. The character of Lord Chatham's handwriting is strong and bold, and his expressions short and manly. There are intimations of his partiality for William, whose health seems to have been precarious during boyhood. He talks of William imitating him in all he did, and calling for ale because his father was recommended to drink it. "If I should smoke," he said, "William would instantly call for a pipe;" and, he wisely infers, "I must take care what I do." The letters of the late William Pitt are of great curiosity, but as, like all real letters of business, they only _allude_ to matters with which his correspondent is well acquainted, and do not enter into details, they would require an ample commentary. I hope Lord Sidmouth will supply this, and have urged it as much as I can. I think, though I hate letters and abominate interference, I will write to him on this subject.
I have bought a certain quantity of reprints from a bookseller in Chancery Lane, Pickering by name. I urged him to print the controversy between Greene and the Harveys. He wished me to write a third part to a fine edition of Cotton's _Angler_, for which I am quite incompetent.
I met at Richmond my old and much esteemed friend Lord Stowell, looking very frail and even comatose. _Quantum mutatus!_ He was one of the pleasantest men I ever knew.
Respecting the letters, I picked up from those of Pitt that he was always extremely desirous of peace with France, and even reckoned upon it at a moment when he ought to have despaired. I suspect this false view of the state of France (for such it was), which induced the British Minister to look for peace when there was no chance of it, damped his ardour in maintaining the war. He wanted the lofty ideas of his father--you read it in his handwriting, great statesman as he was. I saw a letter or two of Burke's in which there is an _ťpanchement du cúur_ not visible in those of Pitt, who writes like a Premier to his colleague. Burke was under the strange hallucination that his son, who predeceased him, was a man of greater talents than himself. On the contrary, he had little talent and no resolution. On moving some resolutions in favour of the Catholics, which were ill-received by the House of Commons, young Burke actually ran away, which an Orangeman compared to a cross-reading in the newspapers:--Yesterday the Catholic resolutions were moved, etc., but, the pistol missing fire, the villains ran off!
May 25.--After a morning of letter-writing, leave-taking, papers destroying, and God knows what trumpery, Sophia and I set out for Hampton Court, carrying with us the following lions and lionesses--Samuel Rogers, Tom Moore, Wordsworth, with wife and daughter. We were very kindly and properly received by Walter and his wife, and a very pleasant party.
May 26.--An awful confusion with paying of bills, writing of cards, and all species of trumpery business. Southey, who is just come to town, breakfasted with us. He looks, I think, but poorly, but it may be owing to family misfortune. One is always tempted to compare Wordsworth and Southey. The latter is unquestionably the greater scholar--I mean possesses the most extensive stock of information, but there is a freshness, vivacity, and spring about Wordsworth's mind, which, if we may compare two men of uncommon powers, shows more originality. I say nothing of their poetry. Wordsworth has a system which disposes him to take the bull by the horns and offend public taste, which, right or wrong, will always be the taste of the public; yet he could be popular if he would,--witness the Feast at Brougham Castle,--Song of the Cliffords, I think, is the name.
I walked down to call, with Rogers, on Mrs. D'Arblay. She showed me some notes which she was making about her novels, which she induced me to believe had been recollected and jotted down in compliance with my suggestions on a former occasion. It is curious how she contrived to get _Evelina_ printed and published without her father's knowledge. Her brother placed it in the hands of one Lowndes, who, after its success, bought it for £20!!! and had the magnanimity to add £10--the price, I think, of _Paradise Lost_. One of her sisters betrayed the secret to her father, who then eagerly lent his ears to hear what was said of the new novel, and the first opinion which saluted his delighted ears was the voice of Johnson energetically recommending it to the perusal of Mrs Thrale.
At parting, Rogers gave me a gold-mounted pair of glasses, which I will not part with in a hurry. I really like Rogers, and have always found him most friendly. After many petty delays we set off at last and reached Bushy Grove to dine with my kind and worthy family friend and relative, David Haliburton. I am delighted to find him in all the enjoyment of life, with the vivacity of youth in his sentiments and enjoyments. Mr. and Mrs. Campbell Marjoribanks are the only company here, with Miss Parker.
May 27.--Well, my retreat from London is now accomplished, and I may fairly balance the advantage and loss of this London trip. It has cost me a good deal of money, and Johnnie's illness has taken away much of the pleasure I had promised myself. But if I can judge from the reception I have met with, I have the pleasure to know that I stand as fair with the public, and as high with my personal friends, as in any period of my life. And this has enabled me to forward the following objects to myself and others:--
1st. I have been able to place Lockhart on the right footing in the right quarter, leaving the improvement of his place of vantage to himself as circumstances should occur.
2d. I have put the Chancery suit in the right train, which without me could not have been done.
3d. I picked up some knowledge of the state of existing matters, which is interesting and may be useful.
4th. I have succeeded in helping to get a commission for James Skene.
5th. I have got two cadetships for the sons of Allan Cunningham.
6th. I have got leave to Andrew Shortreed to go out to India.
7th. I have put John Eckford into correspondence with Mr. Loch, who thinks he can do something for his claim.
8th. I have been of material assistance to poor Terry in his affairs.
9th. I have effectually protected my Darnick neighbours and myself against the New Road Bill.
Other advantages there are, besides the great one of scouring up one's own mind a little and renewing intercourse with old friends, bringing one's-self nearer in short to the currency of the time.
All this may weigh against the expenditure of £200 or £250, when money is fortunately not very scarce with me.
We went out for a most agreeable drive through the Hertfordshire Lanes--a strange intricate combination of narrow roads passing through the country, winding and turning among oaks and other large timber, just like pathways cut through a forest. They wind and turn in so singular a manner, and resemble each other so much, that a stranger would have difficulty to make way amongst them. We visited Moor Park (not the house of Sir William Temple, but that where the Duke and Duchess of Monmouth lived). Having rather a commanding situation, you look down on the valley, which, being divided into small enclosures bordered with wood, resembles a forest when so looked down on. The house has a handsome entrance-hall, painted by Sir James Thornhill, in a very French taste, yet handsome. He was Hogarth's father-in-law, and not easily reconciled to the match. Thornhill's paintings are certainly not of the first class, yet the practice of painting the walls and roof of a dwelling-house gives, in my eyes, a warm and rich air to the apartments. Lord Grosvenor has now bought this fine place, once Lord Anson's--hence the Moor Park apricot is also called Ansoniana. After seeing Moor Park we went to the Grove, the Earl of Clarendon's country-seat. The house looks small and of little consequence, but contains many good portraits, as I was told, of the Hyde family. The park has fine views and magnificent trees.
We went to Cashiobury, belonging to the Earl of Essex, an old mansion, apparently, with a fine park. The Colne runs through the grounds, or rather creeps through them.
"For the Colne Is black and swollen, Snake-like, he winds his way, Unlike the burns From Highland urns That dance by crag and brae."Borthwick-brae came to dinner from town, and we had a very pleasant evening. My excellent old friend reminded me of the old and bitter feud between the Scotts and the Haliburtons, and observed it was curious I should have united the blood of two hostile clans.
May 28.--We took leave of our kind old host after breakfast, and set out for our own land. Our elegant researches carried us out of the high-road and through a labyrinth of intricate lanes,--which seem made on purpose to afford strangers the full benefit of a dark night and a drunk driver,--in order to visit Gill's Hill, famous for the murder of Mr. Weare.
The place has the strongest title to the description of Wordsworth:--
"A merry spot, 'tis said, in days of yore, But something ails it now--- the place is cursed."The principal part of the house has been destroyed, and only the kitchen remains standing. The garden has been dismantled, though a few laurels and garden shrubs, run wild, continue to mark the spot. The fatal pond is now only a green swamp, but so near the house that one cannot conceive how it was ever chosen as a place of temporary concealment of the murdered body. Indeed the whole history of the murder, and the scenes which ensued, are strange pictures of desperate and short-sighted wickedness. The feasting--the singing--the murderer with his hands still bloody hanging round the neck of one of the females--the watch-chain of the murdered man, argue the utmost apathy. Even Probert, the most frightened of the party, fled no further for relief than to the brandy bottle, and is found in the very lane, and at the spot of the murder, seeking for the murderous weapon, and exposing himself to the view of the passengers. Another singular mark of stupid audacity was their venturing to wear the clothes of their victim. There was a want of foresight in the whole arrangement of the deed, and the attempts to conceal it, which argued strange inconsideration, which a professed robber would not have exhibited. There was just one single shade of redeeming character about a business so brutal, perpetrated by men above the very lowest rank of life--it was the mixture of revenge which afforded some relief to the circumstances of treachery and premeditation which accompanied it. But Weare was a cheat, and had no doubt pillaged Thurtell, who therefore deemed he might take greater liberties with him than with others.
The dirt of the present habitation equalled its wretched desolation, and a truculent-looking hag, who showed us the place, and received half-a-crown, looked not unlike the natural inmate of such a mansion. She indicated as much herself, saying the landlord had dismantled the place because no respectable person would live there. She seems to live entirely alone, and fears no ghosts, she says.
One thing about this mysterious tragedy was never explained. It is said that Weare, as is the habit of such men, always carried about his person, and between his flannel waistcoat and shirt, a sum of ready money, equal to £1500 or £2000. No such money was ever recovered, and as the sum divided by Thurtell among his accomplices was only about £20, he must, in slang phrase, have _bucketed his pals_.
We came on as far as Alconbury, where we slept comfortably.
May 29.--We travelled from Alconbury Hill to Ferry Bridge, upwards of a hundred miles, amid all the beauties of "flourish" and verdure which spring awakens at her first approach in the midland counties of England, but without any variety save those of the season's making. I do believe this great north road is the dullest in the world, as well as the most convenient for the traveller. Nothing seems to me to have been altered within twenty or thirty years, save the noses of the landlords, which have bloomed and given place to another set of proboscises as germane us the old ones to the _very welcome_,--_please to light_--_'Orses forward,_ and _ready out_. The skeleton at Barnby Moor has deserted his gibbet, and that is the only change I recollect.
I have amused myself to-day with reading Lockhart's _Life of Burns_, which is very well written--in fact, an admirable thing. He has judiciously slurred over his vices and follies; for although Currie, I myself, and others, have not said a word more on that subject than is true, yet as the dead corpse is straightened, swathed, and made decent, so ought the character of such an inimitable genius as Burns to be tenderly handled after death. The knowledge of his vicious weaknesses or vices is only a subject of sorrow to the well-disposed, and of triumph to the profligate.
May 30.--We left Ferry Bridge at seven, and turning westwards, or rather northwestward, at Borough Bridge, we roach Rokeby at past three. A mile from the house we met Morritt looking for us. I had great pleasure at finding myself at Rokeby, and recollecting a hundred passages of past time. Morritt looks well and easy in his mind, which I am delighted to see. He is now one of my oldest, and, I believe, one of my most sincere, friends, a man unequalled in the mixture of sound good sense, high literary cultivation, and the kindest and sweetest temper that ever graced a human bosom. His nieces are much attached to him, and are deserving and elegant, as well as beautiful young women. What there is in our partiality to female beauty that commands a species of temperate homage from the aged, as well as ecstatic admiration from the young, I cannot conceive, but it is certain that a very large proportion of some other amiable quality is too little to counterbalance the absolute want of this advantage. I, to whom beauty is and shall henceforth be a picture, still look upon it with the quiet devotion of an old worshipper, who no longer offers incense on the shrine, but peaceably presents his inch of taper, taking special care in doing so not to burn his own fingers. Nothing in life can be more ludicrous or contemptible than an old man aping the passions of his youth.
Talking of youth, there was a certain professor at Cambridge who used to keep sketches of all the youths who, from their conduct at college, seemed to bid fair for distinction in life. He showed them, one day, to an old shrewd sarcastic Master of Arts, who looked over the collection, and then observed, "A promising nest of eggs; what a pity the great part will turn out addle!" And so they do; looking round amongst the young men, one sees to all appearance fine flourish--but it ripens not.
May 31.--I have finished Napier's _War in the Peninsula_. It is written in the spirit of a Liberal, but the narrative is distinct and clear, and I should suppose accurate. He has, however, given a bad sample of accuracy in the case of Lord Strangford, where his pointed affirmation has been as pointedly repelled. It is evident he would require probing. His defence of Moore is spirited and well argued, though it is evident he defends the statesman as much as the general. As a Liberal and a military man, Colonel Napier finds it difficult to steer his course. The former character calls on him to plead for the insurgent Spaniards; the latter induces him to palliate the cruelties of the French. Good-even to him until next volume, which I shall long to see. This was a day of pleasure and nothing else. After breakfast I walked with Morritt in the new path he has made up the Tees. When last here, his poor nephew was of the party. It hangs on my mind, and perhaps on Morritt's. When we returned we took a short drive as far as Barnard Castle; and the business of eating and drinking took up the remainder of the evening, excepting a dip into the Greta Walk.
 See _ante_, vol. i. p. 14. Lady Francis Leveson Gower was the eldest daughter of Charles Greville.
 Mr. Lockhart writes:--"Among other songs Mrs. Arkwright delighted Sir Walter with her own set of--
'Farewell! farewell! the voice you hear Has left its last soft tone with you; Its next must join the seaward cheer, And shout among the shouting crew,' etc.
He was sitting by me, at some distance from the lady, and whispered, as she closed, 'Capital words--whose are they? Byron's, I suppose, but I don't remember them.' He was astonished when I told him they were his own in _The Pirate_. He seemed pleased at the moment, but said next minute, 'You have distressed me--if memory goes, all is up with me, for that was always my strong point.'"--_Life_, vol. ix. p. 236.
 Milton's _L'Allegro,_ ver. 137, 294.
 Afterwards second Earl Powis.
 Regarding the Chancery business, see _infra_, p. 191, _n_.
 Sir Walter had shortly before been one of the contributors to a subscription for Mr. Haydon. The imprisonment from which the subscription released the artist produced, I need scarcely say, the picture mentioned in the Diary.--J.G.L. Haydon died in June 1846. See his _Life_, 3 vols., 1853, edited by Tom Taylor.
 The Duke of Wellington, in after years, said to Lord Mahon, "He had observed on several occasions that Sir Walter was talked down by Croker and Bankes! who forgot that we might have them every day."--_Notes_, p. 100.
 _Romeo and Juliet_, Act III. Sc. 1.
 Sir W. Knighton, as a Devonshire man, naturally wished to have the portrait painted by Northcote, who was a brother Devonian. Cunningham said of tins picture that the conception was good, and reality given by the introduction of the painter, palette in hand, putting the finishing touch to the head of the poet. "The likenesses were considered good."--_Cunningham's Lives_, vol. vi. p. 124. It was exhibited in 1871 in Edinburgh; its size is 4 ft. 2 in. x 3 ft. 2 in. Mr. David Laing, differing from Allan Cunningham, considered that the picture presented "anything but a fortunate likeness." Northcote died July 13th, 1831, in his eighty-fifth year.
 Act III. Sc. 2.
 John Fuller, long M.P. for Surrey, an eccentric character, and looked upon as standing jester to the House of Commons. Scott first met him in Chantrey's studio in 1820.--See _Life_, vol. vi. pp. 206, 207. He died in his 77th year, in 1831, without apparently having carried out his intention of editing Foote.
 A process in English copyhold law.
 Hazlitt said of Northcote, that talking with him was like conversing with the dead: "You see a little old man, pale and fragile, with eyes gleaming like the lights hung in tombs. He seems little better than a ghost, and hangs wavering and trembling on the very verge of life; you would think a breath would blow him away, and yet what fine things he says!"--_Conversations_.
 Born 1752, died 1832; Master of the Rolls from 1801 to 1817.
 The _Magnum Opus_ was dedicated to George IV.--J.G.L.
 Whose son afterwards married Dora, Wordsworth's daughter.
 At the last sitting Northcote remarked, "You have often sat for your portrait?"
"Yes," said Sir Walter; "my dog Maida and I have sat frequently--so often that Maida, who had little philosophy, conceived such a dislike to painters, that whenever he saw a man take out a pencil and paper, and look at him, he set up a howl, and ran off to the Eildon Hill. His unfortunate master, however well he can howl, was never able to run much; he was therefore obliged to abide the event. Yes, I have frequently sat for my picture."--Cunningham's _Painters_, vol. vi. pp. 125-6.
 See _ante_, May 1st, p. 170, note.
 Mr. Ellis, afterwards created Baron Dover, was the author of _Historical Inquiries into the Character of Lord Clarendon_. 8vo, Lond., 1827.
 Sir F. Chantrey was at this time executing his _second_ bust of Sir Walter--that ordered by Sir Robert Peel, and which is now at Drayton.--J.G.L.
 Lady Shelley of Maresfield Park. Mr. Lockhart says the young lady was Miss Shelley, who became in 1834 the Hon. Mrs. George Edgcumbe.
 Scott had dined at Holland House in 1806, but in consequence of some remarks by Lord Holland in the House of Lords in 1810, on Thomas Scott's affairs, there had apparently been no renewal of the acquaintanceship until now.
 See _Miscellaneous Prose Works_, vol. iv. p. 20.
 David Hinves, Mr. W. Stewart Rose's faithful and affectionate attendant, furnished Scott with some hints for his picture of Davie Gellatly in _Waverley_.
Mr. Lockhart tells us that Hinves was more than forty years in Mr. Rose's service; he had been a bookbinder by trade and a preacher among the Methodists.
"A sermon heard casually under a tree in the New Forest contained such touches of good feeling and broad humour that Rose promoted the preacher to be his valet on the spot. He was treated more like a friend than a servant by his master and by all his master's intimate friends. Scott presented him with all his works; and Coleridge gave him a corrected (or rather an altered) copy of _Christabel_ with this inscription on the fly-leaf: 'Dear Hinves,--Till this book is concluded, and with it _Gundimore_, a poem by the same "author," accept of this _corrected_ copy of _Christabel_ as a _small_ token of regard; yet such a testimonial as I would not pay to any one I did not esteem, though he were an emperor.
"'Be assured I will send you for your private library every work I have published (if there be any to be had) and whatever I shall publish. Keep steady to the FAITH. If the fountainhead be always full, the stream cannot be long empty.--Yours sincerely, S.T. COLERIDGE.
"'11 _November_ 1816, _Mudford.'"--Life,_ vol. iv. pp. 397-8.
Hinves died in Mr. Rose's service _circa_ 1838, and his master followed him on the 30th April 1843, a few weeks after his friend Morritt.
 An analysis of these letters was published by Mr. Lockhart in the _Life_, vol. vi. pp. 346-386.
 Created Earl of Leicester in 1837.
 It is worth noting that Sir Walter first wrote "grasp"--and then deleted the word in favour of the technical term--"fathom."
 W. Withers had just published a _Letter to Sir Walter Scott exposing certain fundamental errors in his late Essay on Planting_,--Holt: Norfolk, 1828.
 A deep pool in the Tweed, in which Scott had had a singular nocturnal adventure while "burning the water" in company with Hogg and Laidlaw. Hogg records that the crazy coble went to the bottom while Scott was shouting--
"An' gin the boat were bottomless, An' seven miles to row."
The scene was not forgotten when he came to write the twenty-sixth chapter of _Guy Mannering_.
 This refers to the splendid edition of Walton and Cotton, edited by Nicolas, and illustrated by Stothard and Inskipp, published in 1836 after nearly ten years' preparation, in two vols. large 8vo.
 Sir William Scott, Lord Stowell, died 28th January 1836, aged ninety.
 Moore writes: "On our arrival at Hampton (where we found the Wordsworths), walked about,--the whole party in the gay walk where the band plays, to the infinite delight of the Hampton _blues_, who were all _eyes_ after Scott. The other scribblers not coming in for a glance. The dinner odd; but being near Scott I found it agreeable, and was delighted to see him so happy, with his tall son, the Major," etc. etc,--_Diary_, vol. v. p. 287.
 The author of _Evelina_ died at Bath in 1840, at the age of eighty-eight. Subsequent to this meeting with Scott she published memoirs of her father, Dr. Burney (in 1832). It is stated that for her novel _Camilla_, published in 1796, she received a subscription of 3000 guineas, and for the _Wanderer_, in 1814, £1500 for the copyright. This was the year in which _Waverley_ appeared, for the copyright of which Constable did not see his way to offer more than £700.
 This item refers to money which had belonged to Lady Scott's parents.
 It contains half of Chancellor Clarendon's famous collection--the other half is at Bothwell Castle.
 William Elliot Lockhart of Cleghorn and Borthwick-brae, long M.P. for Selkirkshire.
 Weare, Thurtell, and the rest were professed gamblers. See _ante_, July 10, 1826, and _Life_, vol. viii. p. 381.
 The first volume had just been published in 1828. The book was completed in 6 vols. in 1840.
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