previous next


March 1, 1839.

Since my last date, I have dined with Lord Brougham. We had Lord Lyndhurst, Lord Stuart De Rothesay,1 Lord Denman, and Charles Phillips —of Irish eloquence. I should not forget Lady Brougham,—a large-featured, rather coarse-looking woman,—who of course presided at her own table. In the drawing-room, before we went down to dinner, appeared the daughter, the wretched representative of this great man. She is now seventeen, tall, and with features resembling her father's, even to the nose; but ill-health has set its mark upon her. She entered the room with short and careful steps, so as not to add to the palpitation of the heart with which she is afflicted, and in her motion very much reminded me of the appearance of a person who is carrying a vessel full of water which he is anxious not to spill. Her lips and cheeks are blue, which is caused by her strange disease, under the influence of which one of the bloods becomes stagnant in the system. It was one of the most melancholy sights I have for a long time beheld, and threw a gloom upon all present. I think I have never seen a woman in such apparent ill-health; and yet her father carries her to assemblies and parties, that she may see the world, thinking this may have a good effect upon her health; and one of the newspapers, chroniclers of fashion, has this day announced, as one of the youthful debutantes of the season in the world of fashion, ‘the Hon. Miss Brougham.’ To all who have seen her, such an annunciation seems like hanging a garland over one who is dying. On entering the room, she sank on a divan in the centre, and her father came to her and kissed her. He loves her well, and watches her tenderly. When dinner was announced, he stood before his child, as if to intimate that she would not be handed down, and we passed on. She was not at table. In the dining-room are four beautiful marble busts of Pitt, Fox, Newton, and Lord Brougham's mother; also a beautiful piece of sculpture,—Mercury charming Argus to sleep. Lord Lyndhurst2 has just returned from the Continent, where he has been for many months, so that this was my first meeting with him. Lord Brougham presented me in the quiet way in which this always takes place in English society,—‘Mr. Sumner; one of our profession,’—without saying of what country I was. We had been at table an hour or more before he was aware that I was an American. I alluded to America and Boston, and also to Lord Lyndhurst's relations there, with regard to whom Lord Brougham had inquired, when Lyndhurst said: ‘When were you in Boston?’ ‘It is my native place,’ I replied. ‘Then we are fellow-townsmen,’ said he, with a most emphatic knock on the table, and something like an oath. He left Boston, he told me, when a year old. I was afterwards [67] betrayed by the frankness of his manner into saying the rudest thing I have to my knowledge uttered in England. Brougham asked me the meaning and etymology of the word ‘caucus.’ I told him that it was difficult to assign any etymology that was satisfactory; but the most approved one referred its origin to the very town where Lord Lyndhurst was born, and to the very period of his birth,—in this remark alluding to his age, which I was not justified in doing, especially as he wears a chestnut wig. Lord Brougham at once stopped me. ‘Yes,’ said he, ‘we know what period you refer to,—about 1798.’ ‘Somewhere in the latter part of that century,’ I replied, anxious to get out of the scrape as well as I could by such a generality. I was gratified by Lyndhurst's calling upon me a few days afterwards, because it showed that he had not been disturbed by my unintentional impertinence. The style of intercourse between Lyndhurst and Brougham, these two ex-Chancellors, was delightful. It was entirely familiar. ‘Copley, a glass of wine with you.’ He always called him ‘Copley.’ And pointing out an exquisite gold cup in the centre of the table, he said: ‘Copley, see what you would have had if you had supported the Reform Bill.’ It was a cup given to Lord Brougham by a penny subscription of the people of England. It was very amusing to hear them both join in abuse of O'Connell, while Charles Phillips entertained us with his Irish reminiscences of the ‘Agitator,’ and of his many barefaced lies. ‘A damned rascal,’ said Lyndhurst, while Brougham echoed the phrase, and did not let it lose an added epithet. This dinner was on Sunday. On the next Sunday I was invited by Lady Blessington3 to meet these same persons; but I was engaged to dine at Lord Wharncliffe's, and so did not get to her Ladyship's till about eleven o'clock. As I entered her brilliant drawing-room, she came forward to receive me with that bewitching manner and skilful flattery which still give her such influence. ‘Ah, Mr. Sumner,’ said she, ‘how sorry I am that you are so late! Two of your friends have just left us,—Lord Lyndhurst and Lord Brougham; they have been pronouncing your éloge.’ She was, of course, the only lady present; and she was surrounded by D'Orsay, Bulwer, Disraeli, Duncombe, the Prince Napoleon, and two or three lords— Her house is a palace of Armida, about two miles from town. It once belonged to Wilberforce. The rooms are furnished in the most brilliant French style, and flame with costly silks, mirrored doors, bright lights, and golden ornaments. But Lady Blessington is the chief ornament. The world says she is about fifty-eight; by her own confession she must be over fifty, and yet she seems hardly forty: at times I might believe her twenty-five. She was dressed with the greatest care and richness. Her conversation was various, elegant, and sparkling, with here and there a freedom which seemed to mark her intercourse as confined to men. She has spoken with me on a former occasion about Willis, whom she still likes. She would have been happy to continue to invite him to her house, but she could [68] find no persons who would meet him. She thought some of his little poems exquisite. Indeed, she spoke of him in a way that would please him. I did not venture to introduce his name, for fear of stepping on forbidden ground; but she volunteered to speak of him. Count d'orsay4 surpasses all my expectations. He is the divinity of dandies; in another age he would have passed into the court of the gods, and youths would have sacrificed to the God of Fashion. He is handsome, refined, gallant, and intelligent. I have seen notes or letters from him, both in French and English, which are some of the cleverest I have ever read; and in conversation, whether French or English, he is excessively brilliant. Barry Cornwall, who is very simple in his tastes and habits, thinks D'Orsay a very remarkable person. Both he and Lady Blessington offered me letters for Italy. Into the moral character of these persons I do not enter, for I know nothing. Lady Blessington is never received anywhere; but she has about her Lords Wellesley, Lyndhurst, Brougham, Durham, &c., and many others less known on our side of the sea. You may suppose that I made no advance to Bulwer5 or Disraeli,6 and we did not exchange words. An evening or two afterwards I sat opposite Bulwer at dinner. It was at my friend Milnes's, where we had a small but very pleasant company,—Bulwer, Macaulay, Hare7 (called Italian Hare), O'Brien, and Monteith. I sat next to Macaulay, and opposite Bulwer; and I must confess that it was a relief from the incessant ringing of Macaulay's voice to hear Bulwer's lisping, slender, and effeminate tones. I liked Bulwer better than I wished. He talked with sense and correctness, though without brilliancy or force. His wife is on the point of publishing a novel, called ‘Cheveley; or, The Man of Honor,’ in which are made revelations with regard to her quarrels with her husband. She goes to the theatre, which is now echoing with the applause of his new play (the most successful one of the age, it is said), and attracts the attention of the whole house by her expressions of disapprobation.

There is some new evidence which tends to show that Francis was the author of ‘Junius.’ I find that most people here believe Sir Philip to be the man. That is Lord Lansdowne's opinion. He told me that it was a mistake to suppose that the late Lord Grenville knew any thing about the authorship. Lord Grenville had solemnly assured him that he was entirely ignorant with respect to it. You must observe that Channing's writings are making their way here. Lady Sidmouth8 has been reading his sermons to her husband, and said: ‘I do not see any thing bad in Unitarianism.’ A [69] Tory peer, Lord Ashburnham, asked me if I knew ‘a Mr. Channing.’ His Lordship had been reading with great admiration the discourse on ‘Self-Culture.’ Among the opposite contacts which I have had, was meeting at dinner the Earl of Haddington, the last Tory Viceroy of Ireland; and the next morning, while at breakfast with Lord Morpeth, encountering Lord Ebrington (now Lord Fortescue), who has just been sent to Ireland by the present ministry. Two days before, I had met the last Whig Viceroy, the Marquis of Normanby, at Lord Durham's.

Let me acknowledge, in this already overgrown letter, the receipt of Felton's verses.9 I first gave them to Lord Brougham, and have also sent them to Lord Leicester at Holkham; to Mr. Justice Williams, now on his circuit; and to the Bishop of Durham: so that they are in the hands of the best anthologists in the kingdom. I mentioned them one day at dinner to Sir Francis Chantrey;10 and he prayed oyer, though he does not know a word of Greek. I have, accordingly, given him a copy. I do not know if I have ever spoken of Chantrey in my letters. He is an unlettered person, who was once a mere joiner, but has raised himself to a place in society, and to considerable affluence. He lives well, and moves in the highest circles. In personal appearance he is rather short and stout, without any refinement of manner; but he is one of the best-hearted men I have ever known. He has shown me the casts of all his works, and explained his views of his art. He gave me the history of his statue of Washington.11 He requested West to furnish him with a sketch for that: the painter tried, and then delayed, and then despaired, till Chantrey undertook it himself. The covering which I have sometimes heard called a Roman toga is nothing but a cloak. Chantrey laughed at the idea of its being a toga, saying that he had never seen one; it was modelled from a cloak,—a present from Canova to Chantrey. This cloak was stolen by a servant of an inn where the sculptor was changing horses. I shall send you some of Sir Henry Halford's verses:12 you know that he is one of the best Latin versifiers in England. They are a translation of Shakspeare's ‘To be, or not to be,’ &c., and of ‘Ay, but to die, and go we know not where.’

I was requested to give my evidence as that of an expert upon a question of admiralty law, to be used before the High Court of Admiralty. On grounds which I specified, I declined to do this, but gave my opinion in writing at some length. It was a subject with which I was quite at home. I received a most complimentary letter, and a professional fee of two guineas enclosed, and was told that the case was settled. I promptly returned the fee. [70] The delicacy with which the affair was managed by the English proctors13 was admirable,—most unlike what I experienced in Paris, or what would happen, in casu consimili, in America. Tell Washington Allston that a brother artist of great distinction—Mr. Collins14—inquired after him in a most affectionate manner, and wished to be remembered to him. Southey told Collins that he thought some of Allston's poems were among the finest productions of modern times. Mr.Knight and Mrs. Gaily Knight are reading Prescott, and admire him very much. I know few people whose favorable judgment is more to be valued than his. I have spoken with Macaulay about an American edition of his works. He has received no communication from any publisher on the subject, and seemed to be coy and disinclined. He said they were trifles, full of mistakes, which he should rather see forgotten than preserved.15 I have just heard that he has concluded a contract with a bookseller for his history of England. If this is so, farewell politics,— for a while at least. He is said to have all the history in his mind, for fifty or sixty years following the Revolution, so as to be able to write without referring to a book. Lord Brougham is revising his characters in the ‘Edinburgh Review’ for publication in a volume.16 The booksellers have offered him five hundred guineas!

Miss Martineau's novel of ‘Deerbrook’ will be published in a few days. I have already, I believe, borne my testimony to her; I think she has been wronged in America. I have mingled in her society much, and have been happy to find her the uniform and consistent friend of our country, and much attached to many of its inhabitants. I am also glad to confess my obligations to her for much kindness. I have always found her heartily friendly. I should like to write you about Parliamentary orators, all of whom I have heard again and again.

Tell Felton I have not written him, because he will read this letter. I thank him for his Greek. Remember me to all my friends. You will get very few letters more from me; my whole time will be occupied. Besides, the books of travel will tell you about Italy. I have scores of letters to all sorts of people on my route, but am sated with society, and shall look at things.17

1 1779-1845; grandson of the third Earl of Bute, and at one time English ambassador at Paris.

2 John Singleton Copley, 1772-1863; son of the painter, and born in Boston, Mass.; entered Parliament in 1818; became Solicitor-General in 1819; was a prosecutor of Queen Caroline; became Attorney-General in 1824 and Master of the Rolls in 1826; was created Lord Chancellor and raised to the peerage as Baron Lyndhurst in 1827; resigned the great seal with a change of ministry, in 1830; was appointed Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer in 1831; Lord Chancellor again in 1834, and still again in 1841, and resigned the great seal in 1846. He was, during his life, devoted to the Tory or Conservative party.

3 Countess of Blessington, 1789-1849. She lived at Gore House, Kensington, from 1836 to April 14, 1849; and, being pressed by creditors, left for Paris, where she died, June 4, following.—‘Autobiography of John F. Chorley,’ Vol. I. pp. 173-178.

4 1801-52. He was an artist by profession, but was better known as a leader of fashion. In 1827 he married Lady Blessington's daughter, and became Lady Blessington's intimate friend and companion, living in her house.

5 Sir Edward George Lytton Bulwer, 1816-73. He was raised to the peerage as Baron Lytton in 1866.

6 Benjamin Disraeli, author and statesman, born in 1805, and twice Prime-Minister of England.

7 Francis George Hare, 1786-1842; eldest brother of Augustus and Julius Hare.

8 The second wife of Viscount Sidmouth (Henry Addington, Prime-Minister of George III. after Pitt's resignation). She was the only daughter of Lord Stowell, and died in 1842. Lord Sidmouth died two years later.

9 On ‘Chantrey's Woodcocks,’ ante, Vol. I. p. 378.

10 Sir Francis Chantrey, 1781-1841. Among his works are ‘The Sleeping Children,’ in Lichfield Cathedral, and statues of William Pitt, Canning, and Washington.

11 In the State House, at Boston.

12 1766-1844. He was the brother of Mr. Justice Vaughan and of Sir Charles R. Vaughan, and exchanged his family name for that of a relative, from whom he had inherited a large fortune. He was physician to four successive sovereigns,—George III., George IV., William IV., and Victoria. He was President of the College of Physicians from 1820 until his death. His professional income is said to have been ten thousand pounds a year. He practised Latin composition in prose and verse.

13 Messrs. Crockett & Son.

14 William Collins, 1787-1847. A memoir of this landscape painter has been written by his son, William Wilkie Collins, the novelist.

15 An edition by Carey & Hart, of Philadelphia, was published in 1841, and preceded any English edition.

16 Sketches of Statesmen of the Time of George the Third.

17 For the remainder of this letter, which was continued March 9, see post, p. 77.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1841 AD (6)
1842 AD (4)
1827 AD (4)
1873 AD (2)
1866 AD (2)
1863 AD (2)
1852 AD (2)
April 14th, 1849 AD (2)
1849 AD (2)
1847 AD (2)
1846 AD (2)
1845 AD (2)
1844 AD (2)
March 1st, 1839 AD (2)
1836 AD (2)
1834 AD (2)
1831 AD (2)
1830 AD (2)
1826 AD (2)
1824 AD (2)
1820 AD (2)
1819 AD (2)
1818 AD (2)
1816 AD (2)
1805 AD (2)
1801 AD (2)
1798 AD (2)
1789 AD (2)
1787 AD (2)
1786 AD (2)
1781 AD (2)
1779 AD (2)
1772 AD (2)
1766 AD (2)
June 4th (2)
March 9th (2)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: