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NOTES ON WRAXALL'S “HISTORICAL MEMOIRS
OF MY OWN TIME.”
I SEND Wraxall with the quartos, that you may read something written of your poor friend as well as something written by her. His book will be a relief when you get into the dark ages of “ Retrospection.” – Mrs. Piozzi to Sir James Fellowes.
Her note on Wraxall's statement relating to Marie Antoinette's first confinement is :
You see how cautious Sir N. Wraxall is — but you may likewise see through his caution. He knew, no doubt, better than myself, that about this time a swathed baby made of white marble was laid at the bedchamber door, with this inscription:
“ Je ne suis point de Cire — subintelligitur Sire,
Je suis de pierre — subintelligur Pierre.” A Life Guard Man as I was informed.
The Dauphin, who died very young, and the other, who lived to suffer still more — whom every one pities, are mentioned in the 2d Vol., but I can't find the place now. Ils étoient vrais Descendans de Louis XIV., mais comment ? Juste Ciel !
In reference to Wraxall's description of the celebrated women of the day, she has pasted in (besides the verses Vol. I. p. 49) copies of the following:
(Said to be written by Charles Fox.)
(Said to be written by Mr. Chamberlayne, who threw himself out of the window.)
With charming Cholmondeley well one might
By love was once betrayed,
For cool indifference prayed :
So selfish and confined ?
Have prayed for all mankind. The verses on Henrietta de Coligny, Comtesse de la Suze, are quoted by Wraxall :
Quæ Dea sublimi vehitur per inania curru ?
Si spectes oculos, Mater Amoris erit.
Her birth examined, Juno we discern,
Her learning not Minerva's self denies :
But that Love's mother laughs in both her eyes.
Note. — When the King of Sweden was murdered in a ballroom, by Ankerstroom, about the year 1792, there was a comically impudent caricature published representing George the Third, with a letter in his hand and a label out of his mouth, What, what, what! Shot, shot, shot !
“ 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