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“ The last Princess of the Stuart line who reigned in this country, has been accused of similar passion (for drink), if we may believe the secret history of that time, or trust to the couplet which was affixed to the pedestal of her statue in front of St. Paul's, by the satirical wits of 1714.” — Wraxall.
Note. - Brandy-faced Nan has left us in the lurch,
Her face to the brandy shop, and her — to the church.
VERSES ON CATHERINE OF RUSSIA.
D'un pouvoir odieux les enormes abus;
Elle se maintint par les vertus.
Her dazzling reign so brightly shone
Few sought to mark the crimes they courted;
She sat by Virtue's self supported.
“ The Countess Cowper was at this time distinguished by his (the Grand Duke Leopold's) attachment; and the exertion of his interest with Joseph the Second his brother, procured her husband, Lord Cowper, to be created soon afterwards a Prince of the German Empire.” — Wraxall.
Note. — She was beautiful when no longer a court favorite, in 1786. Her attachment was then to Mr. Merry, the highly accomplished poet, known afterwards by name of Della Crusca.
“ In 1779, Charles Edward exhibited to the world a very humiliating spectacle.” — Wraxall.
Note. — Still more so at Florence, in 1786. Count Alfieri had taken away his consort, and he was under the dominion and care of a natural daughter, who wore the Garter, and was called Duchess of Albany. She checked him when he drank too much, or when he talked too much. Poor soul! Though one evening he called Mr. Greatheed up to him, and said in good English, and a loud though cracked voice: ‘I will speak to my own subjects my own way, sare. Ay, and I will soon speak to you, Sir, in Westminster Hall. The Duchess shrugged her shoulders.
“It was universally believed that he (Rodney) had been distinguished in his youth by the personal attachment of the Princess Amelia, daughter of George the Second, who displayed the same partiality for Rodney which her cousin, the Princess Amelia of Prussia, manifested for Trenck. A living evidence of the former connection existed, unless fame had recourse to fiction for support. But detraction, in every age, from Elizabeth down to the present times, has not spared the most illustrious females.” — Wraxall.
Note. — Meaning, I suppose, the famous Miss Ashe, who, after many adventures, married Captain Falkner of the Royal Navy. She was a pretty creature, but particularly small in her person. Little Miss Ashe was the name she went by, yet I should think Rodney scarce old enough to have been her father. Her mother people spoke of with more certainty.
THE LYTTELTON GHOST STORY.
“ Lyttelton, when scarcely thirty-six, breathed his last at a country house near Epsom, called Pit Place, from its situation in a chalk-pit; where he witnessed, as he conceived, a supernatural appearance.” — Wraxall.
Note. — He did so; but here the author must pardon me, and so must you, dear Sir, if I presume to say I can tell this tale better, meaning with more exactness, for truth constitutes the whole of its value.
Lord Westcote and Lord Sandys both told it thus, and they were familiar intimates at Streatham Park, where now their portraits hang in my library.
Lord Lyttelton was in London, and was gone to bed I think upon a Thursday night. He rang his bell suddenly and with great violence, and his valet on entering found him much disordered, protesting he had been, or had fancied himself, plagued with a white bird fluttering within his curtains. When, however (continued he), I seemed to have driven her away, a female figure stood at my feet in long drapery, and said, “ Prepare to die, my Lord; you 'll soon be called. How soon ? how soon?'
said I; 'in three years ?' Three years!' replied she, tauntingly,
three days !' and vanished.” Williams, the man-servant, related this to his friends of course ; and the town-talk was all about Lord Lyttelton's dream; he himself ran to his uncle with it, to Lord Westcote, who confessed having reproved him pretty sharply for losing time in the invention of empty stories (such he accounted it), instead of thinking about the speech he was to make a few days after.
Lord Sandys was milder; saying, “My dear fellow, if you believe this strange occurrence, and would have us believe it, be persuaded to change your conduct, and give up that silly frolic which you told us of. I mean going next Sunday, — was it not ? to Woodcote; but I suppose 't is only one of your wondrous fine devices to make us plain folks stare; so drink a dish of chocolate and talk of something else.”
On Saturday, after we had talked this over at Streatham Park, a lady late from Wales dropt in, and told us she had been at Drury Lane last night. “ How were you entertained ? ” said I. “ Very strangely indeed," was the reply; “not with the play though, for I scarce knew what they acted, — but with the discourse of Captain Ascough or Askew, — so his companions called him, — who averred that a friend of his, the profligate Lord Lyttelton, as I understood by them, had certainly seen a spirit, who has warned him that he is to die within the next three days, and I have thought of nothing else ever since.”
No further accounts reached Streatham Park till Monday morning, when every tongue was telling how a Mrs. Flood and two Miss Amphlets, demirep beauties, had passed over Westminster Bridge by the earliest hour, looking like corpses from illness occasioned by terror, and escorted by this Captain Ascough to town. The man Williams's constant and unvarying tale tallied with his, who said they had been passing the time appointed in great gayety; some other girls and gentlemen of the country having in some measure joined the party for dinner only, but leaving these before midnight. That on Sunday Lord Lyttelton drew out his watch at eleven o'clock, and said, “ Well, now I must leave you, agreeable as all of you are ; because I mean to meditate on the next Wednesday's speech, and have actually
brought some books with me.” “O, but the ghost! the ghost!” exclaimed one of Miss Amphlets, laughing. “O, don't you see that we have bilked the bitch," says Lord Lyttelton, showing his watch, and running from them up stairs, where Williams had set out the reading-table, &c., and put his master on the yellow nightgown, which he always used. Lord Lyttelton then said, “ Make up my five grains of rhubarb and peppermint water and leave me; but, did you remember to bring rolls enough from London?” “I brought none, my Lord; I have found a baker here at Epsom that makes them just as your Lordship likes,” — describing how, and stirring the mixture as he spoke. “What are you using?” cries my Lord, “a toothpick !” “A clean one, indeed, my Lord.” “ You lazy devil, — go fetch a spoon directly ;” he did so; but heard a noise in the room and hastened back, to find his master fallen over the table, books and all. He raised him; “ Speak to me, my Lord, — speak for God's sake, dear my Lord.” “Ah, Williams !” was his last and only word. Williams ran down to the dissolute company below, his watch in his hand. “ Not twelve o'clock yet,” he exclaimed, “and dead, dead.”
They all bore witness that no violence came near the man, and I do think that some judicial process then proclaimed him, — “ Dead by the visitation of God.” This, however, might be my hearing those words from friends and acquaintances relating the incident; but when it was reported, twenty years after, that Lord Lyttelton committed suicide, I knew that was an error, or a falsity.
Of this event, however, few people spoke after the first bustle ; and I had changed my situation and associates so completely, that it lay loose in my mind, — never forgotten, though in a manner unremembered.
Chance, however, threw me into company of the gay and facetious Miles Peter Andrews, with whom and Mr. Greatheed's family, and Mrs. Siddons, and Sir Charles Hotham, and a long et cetera, an entertaining day had been passed some time in the year 1795, if I remember rightly; and Mrs. Merrick Hoare, assuming intimacy, said, “ Now, dear Mr. Andrews, that the Pigous are gone, and everybody is gone but ourselves, do tell my mother your own story of Lord Lyttelton.” He hesitated, and I pressed him, urging my long past acquaintance with his Lordship’s uncles, - the bishop and Lord Westcote. He looked uneasily at me, but I soothed, and Sophia gave him no quarter; so with something of an appeal to her that the tale would be as she had learned it from her friends the Pigous and from himself, he began by saying: “Lord Lyttelton and I had lived long in great familiarity, and had agreed that whichever quitted this world first should visit the other. Neither of us being sick, however, such thoughts were at the time of his death, poor fellow ! furthest from my mind.
“ Lord Lyttelton had asked me to make one of his mad party to Woodcote or Pitt Place, in Surrey, on such a day, but I was engaged to the Pigous you saw this evening, and could not go. They then lived in Hertfordshire; I went down thither on the Sunday, and dined with them and their very few, and very sober friends, who went away in the evening. At eleven o'clock I retired to my apartment: it was broad moonlight and I put out my candle : when just as I seemed dropping asleep, Lord Lyttelton thrust himself between the curtains, dressed in his own yellow night-gown that he used to read in, and said in a mournful tone, “Ah, Andrews, it's all over. "O, replied I quickly, “are you there, you dog ?' and recollecting there was but one door to the room, rushed out at it — locked it, and held the key in my hand, calling to the housekeeper and butler, whose voices I heard putting the things away, to ask when Lord Lyttelton arrived, and what trick he was meditating. The servants made answer with much amazement, that no such arrival had taken place; but I assured them I had seen, and spoken to him, and could produce him, 'for here,' said I, “ he is; under fast lock and key.' We opened the door, and found no one, but in two or three days heard that he died at that very moment, near Epsom in Surrey.”
“ After a pause, I said very seriously to Mr. Andrews, “ Were you quite sober, Sir?' 'As you are now,' replied he; and I did think I saw Lord Lyttelton as I now think that I see you.'
Did think, Sir? do you now think it?' 'I should most undoubtedly think it, but that so many people for so many years have told me I did not see him,' said he. We made a few serious reAlections and parted.”