« PreviousContinue »
that, therefore, as he could not speak of that singer favourably in his account, he had been wholly silent on his subject; as had been his practice in other similar instances. The Queen seemed perfectly to understand, and much to approve, the motive for this mild method of treating want of abilities and powers to please, where the will was good, and where the labour had been gratuitous. The King expressed much admiration that the full fortes of so vast a band, in accompanying the singers, had never been too loud, even for a single voice; when it might so naturally have been expected that the accompaniments even of the softest pianos, in such plenitude, would have been overpowering to all vocal solos. He had talked, he said, both with musical people and with philosophers upon the subject; but none of them could assign a reason, or account for so astonishing a fact.
Something, then, bringing forth the name of Shakspeare, the Doctor mentioned a translation of his plays by Professor Eichenberg. The King, laughing, exclaimed, “ The Germans translate Shakspeare! why we don't understand him ourselves: how should foreigners?” The Queen replied, that she thought Eichenberg had rendered the soliloquies very exactly. “ Aye;" answered the King, “that is because, in those serious speeches, there are none of those puns, quibbles, and peculiar idioms of Shakspeare and his times, for which there are no equivalents in other languages."'~vol. iii. p. 17-20.
Our readers will agree with us in thinking, that his Majesty gave a very ingenious critical solution of a difficulty generally acknowledged, but never, that we remember, better explained. Ducis conveys to a French audience some idea of the heroic passages of Hamlet, and Rowe has not much deteriorated Andromaque; but no Frenchinan has ever ventured on · The Merry Wives of Windsor,' and no Englishman on Les Plaideurs; and of all the contrasts we have met with in the performances of the same writer, we know none more extraordinary than that presented in the excellence, the wonderful excellence, of Schlegel's translations of the tragic parts—and the crude poverty of his attempts on the comic vein-of Shakspeare.
Shortly after this interview, the place of Master of the King's Band again became vacant, and Dr. Burney was advised to present himself to his Majesty's notice on the terrace of Windsor Castle, and to take his daughter with him. The following is the somewhat clumsy description of a scene of affectionate and easy intercourse between a British sovereign and his people, now vanished, never, we fear, to return :. When the hour came for the evening walk on the Terrace, Dr. Burney took the arm of Dr. Lind; and Mrs. Delany consigned his daughter' (Madame d'Arblay) to the charge of Lady Louisa Clayton, a sister of Lady Charlotte Finch, Governess of the Princesses. All the Royal Family were already on the Terrace. The King and Queen,
and and the Prince of Mecklenburgh, her Majesty's brother, walked together ; followed by a procession of the six lovely young Princesses, and some of the Princes; exhibiting a gay and striking appearance of one of the finest families in the world. Everywhere as they advanced, the crowd drew back against the walls on each side, making a double hedge for their passage : after which, the mass re-united behind, to follow.
When the King and Queen approached towards the party of Lady Louisa Clayton, her ladyship most kindly placed by her own side the Memorialist; without which attention she had been certainly unnoticed; for the moment their Majesties were in sight, she instinctively looked down, and drew her hat over her face. The courage with which their graciousness had invested her in the interviews at Mrs. Delany's, where she was seen by them through their own courtesy, and at their own desire, all failed her here—where she came with personal, or, rather, filial views, and felt terrified lest they might appear to be presumptuous. The Doctor was annoyed by the same feeling ; and looked so conscious and embarrassed, that though he attained the honour of a bow from the King, and a curtsey from the Queen, every time they passed him, he involuntarily hung back, without the smallest attempt at even looking for further notice. Thus, and almost laughably, each of them, after coming so far merely with the hope of being recognized, might have gone back to their cells, without raising a surmise that they had ever quitted them, but for the considerate kindness of Lady Louisa Clayton; who, in taking under her own wing the Memorialist, gave her a post of honour too conspicuous to be unremarked. And, as soon as the Queen had stopped, and spoken to Lady Louisa in general terms, her Majesty, in a whisper, demanded, “ Who is with you, Lady Louisa ?” And when Lady Louisa answered, “ Miss Burney, Ma'am,” her Majesty smilingly stepped nearer, with gentle and condescending inquiries. The King, then, having finished his discourse with some other party, repeated the same question to Lady Louisa ; and, having received the same answer, immediately addressed himself to the Memorialist, to ask whether she were come to Windsor to make any stay? “No, Sir; not now.” “I was sure,” cried the Queen, “ she was not come to stay, by seeing her father, who has so little time.” “And when shall you come again,” said the King, “ to Windsor ? ” “Very soon-I hope, Sir!” “And-andand” added he, half-laughing, and hesitating significantly, while he flourished his hand and fingers as if wielding a pen; “pray-how goes on-the Muse?” To this she only answered by laughing also ; but he would not be so evaded, and repeated the interrogatory. She then replied, “Not at all, Sir!” “No?—but why?-why not?”. " I am afraid, Sir!” she stammered. “And why ?” repeated he, surprised : “ Of what are you afraid ?-of what?”- vol. iii. p. 74-77.
To this and some similar questions, repeated with gentle civility' by the King, Miss Burney was still unable to find any answer or even evasion, which is a little surprising when we
recollect that she was now thirty-four years old, and had been brought to the spot for the special purpose of being noticed. Her diffidence, however, did her no injury with the good King and Queen; the place of Master of the Band had been given away, but they consoled the Doctor, and gratified their own desire of patronizing merit, by conferring on the Doctor's second daughter' herself, the place of Keeper of the Robes to her Majesty. We wish we could find space for the interesting, though long and confused, account given of the condescension and goodness with which the whole Royal Family honoured Miss Burney, whose chief, if not sole, recommendations to their favour were her literary merits and her personal manners *. She held this office for a few years, but was forced by ill health to resign it, and was, after she had done so, still treated with a benignity which made her feel that, though no longer a servant, she was looked upon as almost a friend.
But we must hasten to a conclusion, and have only room to extract the following :
• Charles Fox being mentioned, Mrs. Crewe told us that lately, upon his being shewn a passage upon some subject that, erst, he had warmly opposed, in Mr. Burke's book, but which, in the event, had made its own justification, he very candidly said, “ Well, Burke is right! —but Burke is often right-only he is right too soon!” “ Had Fox seen some things in that book," answered Mr. Burke, “ as soon, he would at this moment, in all probability, be first minister of this country.” " What! cried Mrs. Crewe, “ with Pitt ? No, no!-Pitt won't go out; and Charles Fox will never make a coalition with Pitt.” “ And why not?” said Mr. Burke, drily, almost severely, “ why not that coalition, as well as other coalitions ?" Nobody tried to answer this. The remembrance of Mr. Fox with Lord North, Mr. Pitt with Lord Rockingham, &c., rose too forcibly to every mind; and Mrs. Crewe looked abashed. “Charles Fox, however," said Mr. Burke, after this pause, “ can never, internally, like this French Revolution. He is” She stopped for a word, and then added, “ entangled !—but, in himself, if he could find no other objection to it, he has, at least, too much taste for such a revolution."
• Mr. Richard Burke then narrated, very comically, various censures that had reached his ears upon his brother, concerning his last and most popular work; accusing him of being the abettor of despots, because he had been shocked at the imprisonment of the King of
* Madame d'Arblay hints more than once, that she was indebted for the notice of their Majesties to the romance' and 'eccentricity of her first opening adventure into life, meaning the circumstances attending the publication of Evelina.' It is clear that her Royal patrons partook of the general opinion that this work had been produced in extreme youth. Had it been known that the author had completed her twenty-fifth year before. Evelina,' and her thirtieth before Cecilia,' came forth, there would, we presume to think, have appeared nothing at all romantic' in the matter.
France ! France ! and the friend of slavery, because he was anxious to preserve our own limited monarchy in the same state in which it so long had flourished! Mr. Burke had looked half alarmed at his brother's opening, not knowing, I presume, whither his odd fancy might lead him ; but, when he had finished, and so inoffensively, and a general laugh that was excited was over, he—The Burke-good-humouredly turning to me, and pouring out a glass of wine, cried, “Come, then, Miss Burney! here's slavery for ever!” This was well understood, and echoed round the table. “This would do for you completely, Mr. Burke,” cried Mrs. Crewe, laughing, “if it could but get into a newspaper! Mr. Burke, they would say, has now spoken out! The truth has come to light over a bottle of wine! and his real defection froin the cause of true liberty is acknowledged ! I should like," added she, laughing quite heartily, “to draw up the paragraph myself!” “ Pray, then,” said Mr. Burke, “complete it by putting in, that the toast was addressed to Miss Burney !-in order to pay my court to the queen !”—vol. iii. p. 166-168.
Miss Burney, it must be recollected, was at this time in the queen's family.
Our evening finished more curiously than desirably, by a junction that robbed us of the conversation of Mr. Burke. This was the entrance of Lord Loughborough and of Mr. and Mrs. Erskine, who, having villas at Hampstead, and knowing nothing of Mrs. Crewe's party, called in accidentally from a walk. If not accidentally, Mr. Erskine, at least, would probably have denied himself a visit that brought him into a coterie with Mr. Burke; who openly, in the House of Commons, not long since, upon being called by Mr. Erskine his Right Hon. Friend, sternly demanded of him, whether he knew what friendship meant ? From this time there was an evident disunion of cordiality in the party. My father, Mr. Elliot, Mr. Richard Burke, and young Burke, entered into some general discourse, in a separate group. Lord Lough borough joined Mrs. Burke. My new young partizan sat with Miss Crewe and Miss Townshend ; but the chair of Mrs. Erskine being next to mine, she immediately began talking to me as chattily and currently as if we had known each other all our lives. Mr. Erskine confined his attention exclusively to Mrs. Crewe. Mr. Burke, meanwhile, with a concentrated, but dig. nified air, walked away from them all, and threw himself on a settee in a distant part of the room. Here he picked up a book, which he opened by chance, and, to my great astonishment, began reading aloud! but not directing his face, voice, or attention to any of the company. On the contrary, he read with the careless freedom from effort or restraint that he might have done had he been alone; and merely aloud, because the book being in verse, he was willing to add the pleasure of sound to its sense. But what to me made this seem highly comic, as well as intrepidly singular, was that the work was French. It was a volume of Boileau, which he had opened at the famed and incomparable Epître à mon Jardinier; and he read it not
only with the English accent, but exactly as if the two nations had one pronunciation in common of the alphabet.'
This we take leave to doubt; when Miss Burney wrote this she herself had never been in France, and Mr. Burke had frequently visited that country, and, indeed, was generally supposed to have been educated at St. Omers—an error which never could have prevailed, had he been so strangely ignorant of the French language as he is here represented to have been. Madame d'Arblay proceeds :-
· Yet, while the delivery was so amusing, the tone, the meaning, the force he gave to every word were so winning to my ears, that I should have listened to nothing else, if I had not unavoidably been engrossed by Mrs. Erskine ; though from her, too, I was soon called off by a surprise and half alarm from her celebrated husband.
Mr. Erskine had been enumerating, fastidiously, to Mrs. Crewe, his avocations, their varieties, and their excess; till, at length, he mentioned, very calmly, having a case to plead soon against Mr. Crewe, upon a manor business in Cheshire. Mrs. Crewe hastily interrupted him, with an air of some disturbance, to inquire what he meant ? and what might ensue to Mr. Crewe? “O, nothing but losing the lordship of that spot;" he coolly answered ; “ though I don't know that it will be given against him. I only know, for certain, that I shall have three hundred pounds for it!” Mrs. Crewe looked thoughtful; and Mr. Erskine then, finding he enjoyed not her whole attention, raised his voice, as well as his manner, and began to speak of the New Association for Reform by the Friends of the People ; discanting in powerful, though rather ambiguous terms, upon the use they had thought fit, in that association, to make of his name; though he had never yet been to the society; and I began to understand that he meant to disavow it: but presently he added, " I don't know-I am uncertain—whether ever I shall attend. I have so much to doso little time—such interminable occupation! However, I don't yet know, I am not decided; for the people must be supported !” “ Pray will you tell me,” said Mrs. Crewe, coolly, " what you inean by The People ? for I never know."
Whether she asked this with real innocence, or affected ignorance, I cannot tell; but he was evidently surprised by the question, and evaded any answer. Probably he thought he might as well avoid discussing such a point before his friend, Mr. Burke ; who, he knew well, though lying perdu from delicacy to Mrs. Crewe, would resistlessly be ready, upon the smallest provocation, to pounce with a hawk's power and force upon his prey, in order to deliver a counter interpretation to whatever he, Mr. Erskine, might reply of who and what were meant by the people. I conjecture this from the suddenness with which Mr. Erskine, after this interrogatory, almost abruptly made his bow. Lord Loughborough instantly took his vacated seat on the sofa next to Mrs. Crewe ; and presently, with much grave, but strong humour, recited a speech which Mr. Erskine had lately made at some