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The Helicon of which he drank the gushing and that it exhibited a graceful and animated literapure stream, was stirred into mire by the slippers ture, that it was characterized by striking advances of school-girls, city-apprentices, and chambermaid- in national power, and that towards its close it poetesses of every shade of character.
gave the world a Chatham, as if to reconcile us to A new Malthus for the express purpose of ex- its existence, and throw a brief splendor over its tinguishing, by strangulation or otherwise, the close. whole race of annual travellers in Normandy, But no period of British history developed more Picardy, up the Seine and down the Seine, up unhappily those vices which naturally ripen in the the Loire and down the Loire, on the shores of hotbed of political intrigue. The names of Harthe Mediterranean, and in the Brenner Alps, ley, Bolingbroke, Walpole, and Newcastle night would be a benefactor to society.
head a general. indictment against the manliness, Whether England would be the wiser and hap- the integrity, and the honor of England. The pier if, instead of being separated from the conti- low faithlessness of Harley, who seems to have nent by a channel, she were separated by an been carrying on a Jacobite correspondence at the ocean, is a question which we leave to the philos- foot of the throne—the infamous treachery of his opher; but there can be no doubt of the nature brother-minister, St. John—the undenied and unof its answer by the historian. It will be found deniable corruption of Walpole, and the half-imthat the national character had degenerated in becility which made the chicane of Newcastle every period when that intercourse increased, and ridiculous, while his perpetual artifice alone saved that it resumed its vigor only in the periods when his imbecility from overthrow-altogether form a that intercourse was restricted.
congeries, which, like the animal wrecks of the It would not be difficult to exemplify this prin- primitive world, almost give in their deformity a ciple, from the earliest times of English indepen- reason for its extinction. dence. But our glance shall be limited to the There can be no question of the perpetual vilera of the reformation, when England began first lany which then assumed the insulted name of to assume an imperial character.
politics ; none, of the utter sacrifice of public inElizabeth was always contemptuous of the for- terests to the office-hunting avarice of all the suceigner, and boasted of the defiance ; the national cessive parties ; none, of the atrocious corruptimind never rose to a higher rank than in her illus- bility of them all; none, of that general decay of trious reign. James renewed the connections of religion, morals, and national honor, which was the the throne with France, and Charles I. renewed result of a time when principle was laughed at, the connection of the royal line. It may have and when the loudest laugher passed for the been for the purpose of checking the national con- wisest man of his generation. tagion of the intercourse, that rebellion was suf- The
was obvious. Charles II. had fered to grow up in his kingdom. But whatever brought with him from France all the vices of might be the origin, the effect was to break off the a court, where the grossest licentiousness found intercourse with France and her corruptions, and its grossest example in the person of the sovto exhibit a new energy and purity in the people. ereign. Profligate as private life naturally is in Cromwell raised a sudden barrier against France all the dominions of a religion where every by his political system, and the nation recovered crime is rated by a tariff, and where the confesits daring and its character in its contempt for the sional relieves every man of his conscience, the foreigner.
conduct of Louis XIV. had made profligacy the In the reign of Charles II, the intercourse was actual pride of the throne. resumed, and corruption rapidly spread from The feeble and frivolous Charles was more a France to the court, and from the court to the Frenchman than an Englishman ; more a courtier people. England, proud and powerful under the than a king; and fitter to be a page in the seragprotectorate, became almost a rival to France in lio than either. infidelity and profligacy in the course of the reign. The royal robe on the shoulders of such a'monAgain the war of William with France closed the arch, instead of concealing his vices, only made continent upon the national intercourse, and the them glitter in the national eyes; and the morals manliness of the national character partially re- of England might have been irretrievably stained, vived. But with the death of Anne the inter- but for that salutary judgment which interposed course was renewed, and the result was a renewal between the people and the dynasty, and by drivof the corruption. The war of the French revo- ing James into an ignominious exile, placed a man Intion again and utterly broke off the intercourse of principle on the throne. Unfortunately, the for the time ; and it is undeniable that the national reign of William was too busy and too brief to character suddenly exhibited a most singular and produce any striking change in the habits of the striking return to the original virtues of the coun- people. His whole policy was turned to the great try—to its fortitude, to its patriotism, and to the terror of the time, the daring ambition of France. purity of its religious feelings.
He fought on the outposts of Europe. All his The period from the Treaty of Utrecht to the ideas were continental. The singular constitution war of the French Revolution, has always ap- of his nature gave him the spirit of a warrior, peared to us a blot on the annals of England. It combined with the seclusion of a monk. Solitary it true that it contained many names of distinction, even in camps, what must he be in the trivial
bustle of a court ?--and, engrossed with the larg- manners was effectively restored, and the nation est interests of nations, what interest could he had to thank the monarch for the example and for attach to the squabbles of rival professors of licen- the restoration. tiousness, to giving force to a feeble drama, or Lady Sundon was of an obscure family, of the regulating the decorum of factions equally corrupt name of Dyves. Her portrait represents her as and querulous, and long since equally despised handsome, and her history vouches for her cleverand forgotten?
It was probably owing to both that she The reign of Anne made some progress in the was married to Mr. Clayton, then holding an apnational restoration. But it was less by the influ- pointment in the treasury, and also the agent for ence of the queen than by the work of time. The the great Duke of Marlborough's estate, both of "gallants” of the reign of Charles were now a them appointments which implied a certain degree past generation. Their frolics were a gossip's of intelligence and character. He also at one petale ; their showy vices were now as tarnished as riod was deputy-auditor of the exchequer. Mrs. their wardrobe, and both were hung out of sight. Clayton soon obtained the confidence of that most The man who, in the days of Anne, would have impracticable of all personages, Sarah, Duchess of ventured on the freaks of Rochester, would have Marlborough. finished his nights in the watch-house, and his On the death of Queen Anne, the duke and years in the plantations. The wit of the past age duchess had returned to England, but, repulsed was also rude, vulgar, and pointless to the polished shortly after by the ungracious manner of the unsarcasm of Pope, or even to the reckless sting of grateful George I., they soon abandoned public life. Swift. Yet manners were still coarse, and the Still it was difficult for so stirring a personage as queen complained of Harley's coming to her after the duchess altogether to abandon court intrigue, dinner—" troublesome, impudent, and drunk." and probably for the purpose of obtaining some Her court exhibited form without dignity, and her shadow of that influence which she might afterparliaments the most violent partisanship in politics wards turn into substance, she contrived to obtain and religion, without sincerity or substance in for her correspondent and dependant, Mrs. Clayton, either. But the long peace threw open the flood- the place of bedchamber-woman to Caroline, wife gates of frivolity and fashion once more, and France of the heir-apparent. again became the universal model.
It is obvious that such a position might give all On glancing over the history of public men the advantages of the most confidential intercourse through this diversified period, the astonishment to a clever woman, who had her own game to of an honest mind is perpetually excited at the un- play. The princess herself was in a position which blushing effrontery with which the most scandalous required great dexterity. She was the wife of a treacheries seem to have been all but acknowl- brutish personage whom it was impossible to reedged. France was still the great corrupter, and spect, and yet with whom it was hazardous to French money was lavished, not more in under- quarrel. She was the daughter-in-law of a prince mining the fidelity of public men, than in degrading utterly incapable of popularity, yet singularly jealthe character of the nation. But when Charles ous of power.
She was surrounded by a court, was an actual pensioner of the French king, and half Jacobite, and wholly unprincipled ; and exJames a palpable dependent on the French throne, posed to the constant observation of a people still the force of example may be easily conceived, dubious of the German title to the throne, conamong the spendthrift and needy officials, one half temptuous by nature of all foreign alliances, disof whose life was spent at the gaming table. gusted with the manners of the court, and still
On those vilenesses history looks back with an disturbed by the struggles of the fallen dynasty. eye of disgust. But they were the natural results It was obviously of high importance to such a of an age when religion was at the lowest ebb personage, to have in her employ so clear-headed, in Europe ; when our travelled gentry only brought and at the same time so stirring an agent as Mrs. back with them that disregard of Christianity which Clayton. There seems even to have been a strong they had learned in Paris and Rome, and when similitude in their characters—both keen, both inVoltaire's works were found on the toilet of every telligent, both fond of power, and both exhibiting woman in high life.
no delicacy whatever with regard to the means for The accession of George III. was, in this view, its possession. Mrs. Clayton never shrank from of incalculable value to England. Contempt for intercourse with those profligate persons who then the marriage tie is universally the source of all abounded at court, when she had a point to carry; popular corruption. The king instantly discoun- and Caroline, as queen, endured for thirty years tenanced the fashionable levity of noble life. No the notorious irregularities of her lord and master, man openly stigmatized for profligacy, dared to without a remonstrance. She even went further. appcar before him. No woman scandalized by She pretended, in the midst of those gross offences, her looseness of conduct was suffered to approach to be even tenderly attached to him, talked of “ not the drawing-room. The public feeling was sud- valuing her children as a grain of sand in compardenly righted. The shameless forehead was sent ison with him," and not merely acquiesced in coninto deserved obscurity. The debased heart felt duct which must have galled every feeling of virtue that there was a punishment which no rank, wealth, in a pure heart, but involved herself in the natural or effrontery could resist. The decorum of public suspicion of playing a part for the sake of power, and forgetting the injuries of the wife in order to lishment. It is to the honor of later times, that retain the influence of the queen.
such offences could not now be committed with There can be no doubt that this policy had its impunity. But the example of Louis XIV, had reward. The king gave her power, or at least sanctioned all royal excesses, and the conduct of never attempted to disturb the power belonging to his successor was an actual study of the most her rank, while it left him the full indulgence of reckless profligacy. The constant intercourse of his vices. She thus obtained two objects—to the the English nobility with Paris, to which allusion world she appeared a suffering angel, to the king has already been made, had accustomed them to a submissive wife. In the mean time she managed such scenes, and persons of the highest condition, both court and king, possessed vast patronage, per- of the most important offices of the state, and haps more general court popularity than any queen even of the most respectable private character, of the age; led a pleasant life, enjoying the sweets such as respectability was in those days, associwithout the responsibilities of royalty ; and by ju- ated with those mistresses, corresponded with dicious liberality of purse, and equally dexterous them, and even submitted to be assisted by their flexibility of opinion, contrived to carry some de influence with the king. gree of public respect with her, while she lived, We shall give but one example ; that of Henand be followed by some degree of public regret rietta Hobart, afterwards Lady Suffolk. A baro to her grave.
nei's daughter, and poor, she had married in early But this example was productive of palpable life the son of the Earl of Suffolk, nearly as poor evil. The example of the higher ranks always as herself. In their narrowness of means, their operates powerfully on the lower. The toleration only resource was some court office, and to obtain exhibited by the highest female in the kingdom for this, and probably to live cheap, they went to the most notorious vices, gave additional effect to Hanover, to lay the foundation of favor with the that fashion of flexibility, which is the besetting future monarch of England. To some extent sin of polished times. If the queen had firmly they succeeded. For, on the accession of George set her face against the offences of her husband, the First, Mrs. Howard was appointed bedchamor if she had shown the delicacy of a woman of ber woman to Caroline the Princess of Wales. virtue in keeping aloof from all intercourse with Courts, in all countries, seem to be dull places ; women whom the public voice had long marked ceremonial fails as a substitute for animation, and as criminal, she might have, partially at least, re- dinners of fifty covers become a mere tax on time, formed the corruptions of her profligate period. taste, and common sense. Etiquette is only ennui
But this indifference to all the nobler feelings under another name, and the eternal anticipation was the style of the day. Religion was scarcely of enjoyment is the death of all pleasure. Miss more than a form ; its preachers were partisans ; Burney's narrative has let in light on the sullen its controversies were court feuds, its principles mysteries of the maid of honor's life, and her penwere politics, and its objects were stoles and mi-cil has evidently given us only the picture of what tres. In an age when Sacheverel, with his ram- had been in the times of our forefathers, and what pant nonsense, had been a popular apostle, and will be in the times of our posterity. Swift, with his pungent abominations, had been a Mrs. Howard was well-looking without the inchurch adviser of the cabinet, and when Hoadley vidious attribute of great beauty, and lively withwas regarded alternately as a pillar and as a sub- out the not less invidious faculty of wit. All the verter of the faith, we may easily conjecture the court officials crowded her apartments in the national estimate of Christianity.
palace. Chesterfield, young Churchill, Lord HerUnfortunately, a considerable proportion of the vey, Lord Scarborough, all hurried to the tea-table correspondence in these volumes is from clerical of the well-bred bedchamber-woman, to escape the candidates for personal services; and if singular dreary duties and monotonous moping of attendeagerness in pursuit of preferment, and singular ance on the throne. Lady Walpole, Mrs. Selhomage to the influence of the queen's bed-cham-wyn, Mary Lepell, and Mary Bellenden, formed a ber-woman, could stamp them with shame, the part of this coterie--all women of presumed charbrand would be at once broad and indelible. But acter, yet all associating familiarly with women it must be remembered, that there are contemptible of none. Of Mrs. Howard, Swift observed in his minds in every profession, that these men acted in acid style" That her private virtues, for want direct violation of the principles of their religion, of room to operate, might be folded and laid up and that the church is no more accountable for the clean, like clothes in a chest, never to be put on ; delinquencies of its members, than the courts of till satiety, or some reverse of fortune, should dislaw for the morals of the jail.
pose her to retirement." Another repulsive feature of the period was the Then, probably in reference to the prudery conduct of conspicuous females. The habits of with which she occasionally covered her conduct, Germany in its higher ranks were offensive to all -"In the mean time," said he, “it will be her purity. The Brunswick princes had brought prudence to take care that they be not tarnished those habits to St. James'. Born and educated and moth-eaten, for want of opening and airing, in Germany, they were regardless even of the and turning, at least once a year.” feeble decorums of English life, and a king's mis- Those matters seem to have sought no concealtress was an understood portion of the royal estab ment whatever. “Es regolar,” says the Span
jard, when his country is charged with some session of what secret Lady Sundon has preserved especial abomination. Howard, the husband, such an ascendant over the queen.” though a roué, at last went into the quadrangle at Mrs. Clayton possessed at least one merit (if St. James' and publicly demanded his wife. He merit it be) in a remarkable degree, that of prothen wrote to the archbishop. His letter was viding for her relatives. She was of a poor famgiven to the queen, and by her to Mrs. Howard. ily, and she contrived to get something for them Yet all this scandal never interrupted the lady's all. Her three nieces had court places, one of intercourse with the highest personages of the them that of a maid of honor ; one brother obcourt. Mrs. Howard continued to be the queen's tained a cornetcy in the Horse Guards; another bedchamber-woman; the queen suffered her per- a chief clerkship in the annuity office ; and her sonal attendance; her carriage was escorted by nephew was sent out with Lord Albemarle to John Duke of Argyle ; her husband obtained a Spain. A more remarkable relative was Clayton, pension to hold his tongue; and even when the Bishop of Clogher, who evidently knew the value king grew tired of the liaison, and wished to get of her patronage, for a more importunate suitor, rid of her, actually complaining to the queen, and a more persevering sycophant, never kissed “ that he did not know why she would not let hands. Finally, she obtained a peerage for her him part with a deaf old woman, of whom he was husband, a distinction in which, of course, she weary,” the politic Caroline would not allow him herself shared, but which probably she desired to give her up, “ lest a younger favorite should merely to throw some eclat round a singularly gain a greater ascendancy over him.” After this submissive husband. we must hear no more of the delicacy of Queen Yet there was no slight infusion of pleasanCaroline. Virtue and religion scarcely belonged try in the minds of some of the royal household. to her day.
When they got rid of the stately pedantry of CarIn a court of this intolerable worldliness, the oline, and the smooth hypocrisy of her confidante, worldly must thrive, and Mrs. Clayton advanced when the gross and formal monarch was shut out, year by year in the imitation of her mistress, and and the younger portion of the court were left to in power. She, as well as Lady Suffolk, adopted their own inventions, they seem to have enjoyed Caroline's patronage of letters, and corresponded themselves like children at play. There was a a good deal with the clever men of the time. We vast deal of flirtation of course, for this folly was quote one of Lady Suffolk's letters addressed to as much the fashion of the time as rouge. But Swift, apparently in answer to some of his perpet- there was also a great deal of verse-writing, corual complaints of a world, which used him only respondence of all degrees of wit, and now and too well after all.
then caricature with pencil and pen. Mary “September, 1727.
Lepell, in one of those jeux d'esprit, described “I write to you to please myself. I hear you the “ Six Maids of Honor” as six volumes bound are melancholy, because you have a bad head and in calf. The first, Miss Meadows, as mingled deaf ears.
These are two misfortunes I have la- satire and reflection; the second, as a plain treabored under these many years, and yet never was tise on morality; the third, as a rhapsody ; the peevish with either myself or the world., Have I fourth, (supposed to be the future Lady Pemmore philosophy and resolution than you? Or am I so stupid that I do not feel the evil?
broke,) as a volume, neatly bound, of “ The whole “ Answer those queries in writing, if poison or Art of Dressing ;” the next, à miscellaneous other methods do not enable you soon to appear in work, with essays on Gallantry;" the sixth, a person. Though I make use of your own word, poi- folio collection of all the “ Court Ballads." But son, yet let me tell you, it is nonsense, and I desire there were some women of a superior stamp in the you will take more care for the time to come. court circle. One of those was Lady Sophia FerNow, you endeavor to impose on my understanding mor, the daughter of Lady Pomfret, who seems by taking no care of your own."
to have been followed by all the men of fashion, The value of a keen and active confidante in a and loved by some of them. But, like other procourt of perpetual intrigue was obvious, and Mrs. fessed beauties, she remained unmarried, until at Clayton was the double of the queen. But a last she accepted Lord Carteret, a man twice ber deeper and more painful reason is assigned for her age. Yet the match was a brilliant one in all confidence. The queen had a malady which is other points, for Carteret was secretary of state, not described in her memoirs, but which we sup- and perhaps the most accomplished public man of pose to have been a cancer, which she was most his time. anxious to hide from all the world. Walpole dis- “Do but imagine,” observes that prince of goscovered it, and the discovery exhibits his skill in sips, Horace Walpole, “ how many passions will human nature.
be gratified in that family ; her own ambition, On the death of Lady Walpole, the queen, who vanity, and resentment—love, she never had any ; was about the same age, asked Sir Robert many the politics, management, and pedantry of her questions as to her illness; but he remarked, that mother, who will think to govern her son-in-law she frequently reverted to one particular malady, out of Froissart. Figure the instructions which which had not been Lady Walpole's disease. she will give her daughter. Lincoln (one of her “When he came home,” (his son writes,) " he admirers) is quite indifferent, and laughs.” said to me-now, Horace, I know by the pos- While the marriage was on the tapis, the beautiful Sophia was taken ill of the scarlet fever, and to go about in that bribe !” Lady Wortley keenly Lord Carteret of the gout. Nothing could be less and promptly answered—"Madam, how can people amatory than such a crisis.
But his lordship was know where wine is to be sold, unless where they all gallantry; he corresponded with her, read her see the sign?" letters to the privy council, and tired all the world Another of the curiosities of this court menagwith his passion.
At length both recovered, and erie, was Katherine, Duchess of Buckingham. the lady had all the enjoyments which she could She was a daughter of James the Second by find in ambition. Carteret obtained an earldom, Katherine Sedley, daughter of the wit, Sir Charles. lost his place, but became only more popular, per- James, who with all his zeal for popery was a sonally distinguished, and politically active. The scandalous profligate, and as shameless in his concountess then became the female head of the op- tempt of decent opinion as he was criminal in his position, and gave brilliant parties, to the infinite contempt for his coronation oath ; gave this illoannoyance of the Pelhams. For a while, she was gitimate offspring the rank of a duke's daughter, the “observed of all observers.” But her career and the permission to bear the royal arms! She came to a sudden and melancholy close. She had found a husband in the Earl of Anglesea, from given promise of an heir, which would have been whom she was soon separated ; the earl died, and doubly a source of gratification to her husband ; as she took another husband, John Sheffield, Duko his son by a former wife was a lunatic. But she of Buckingham, certainly not too youthful a bridewas suddenly seized with a fever. One evening, groom. The duke, always a wit, had been in as her mother and sister were sitting beside her, early life one of the most dissipated men of his she sighed and said, “I feel death coiing very day, and through all the varieties and vexations fast upon me.” This was their first intimation of of a life devoted to pleasure, had reached his 59th her danger. She died on the same night! year. Yet, this handsome wreck, almost the last
Walpole is the especial chronicler of this time. relic of the court of Charles the Second lived a Such a man must have been an intolerable nuisance dozen years longer, and left the duchess guardian in his day, but his piquant impertinence is amusing of his son. in ours.
He was evidently a wasp, pretending to His lordly dowager afforded the world of high perform the part of a butterfly, and fluttering over life perpetual amusement. Her whole life was an all the court flowers, only to plant his sting. As unintentional caricature of royalty. Beggarly behe was a perpetual flirt, he dangled round the yond conception in her private affairs, she was as Pomfret family ; and probably received some se- pompous in public as if she had the blood of all vere rebukes from their mother, for he describes the thrones of Europe in her veins. She evidently her with all the venom of an expelled dilettante. regarded the Brunswicks as usurpers, and hated
He speaks of her as all that was prim in ped- them; while she affected a sort of superstitious antry, and all that was ridiculous in affectation ; homage for the exiled dynasty, and gave themas, on being told of some man who talked of noth- everything but her money. She once made a sort ing but Madeira, gravely asking, “What language of pilgrimage to visit the body of James, and prethat was ;” and as attending the public act attended to shed tears over it. The monk who Oxford (on the occasion of her presenting some showed it, adroitly observed to her, that the velvet statues to the university) in a box built for her pall which covered the coffin was in rags, but her near the vice-chancellor, “ where she sat for three sympathies did not reach quite so far, and she days together, to receive adoration, and hear her- would not take the hint, and saved her purse. self for four hours at a time called Minerva.” In At the opera, she appeared in a sort of royal this assembly, adds the wit, in his peculiar style, robe of scarlet and ermine, and everywhere made “she appeared in all the tawdry poverty and frip- herself so supremely ridiculous, that the laughers pery imaginable, and in a scoured damask robe," called her Princess Buckingham. Even the deepest and wondered “that she did not wash out a few domestic calamity could not tame down this outwords of Latin, as she used to fricassee French and rageous pride. When her only son died of conItalian ;” or, that “she did not torture some learned sumption, she sent messengers to all her circle, simile,” as when she said, that " it was as difficult telling them, that if they wished to see him lie in to get into an Italian coach, as it was for Cæsar state, “ she would admit them by the back stairs." to take Attica, by which she meant Utica." On this melancholy occasion, her only feeling
But Lady Pomfret is said also to have employed seemed to be her vanity. She sent to the Duchess her talents upon more substantial things than ped- of Marlborough to borrow the triumphal car, which antry. She had an early intercourse with the had conveyed the remains of the great duke to the immaculate Mrs. Clayton, with whom she was grave. This preposterous request was naturally supposed to have negotiated the appointment of refused by the duchess, who replied, “ that the Lord Pomfret as master of the horse, for a pair car which had borne the Duke of Marlborough's of diamond rings, worth £1,400. The rumor dead body, should never be profaned by another.” appears to have obtained considerable currency ; On her own death-bed, she declared her wish for one day when she appeared at the Duchess of to be buried beside her father James the Second. Marlborough's with the jewels in her ears, the “ George Selwyn, shrewdly said, that to be buried Duchess (Old Sarah) said to Lady Wortley Mon- by her father, she need not be carried out of Engtague, “How can the woman have the impudence land,” (she was supposed to be actually the