Friday, November 11, 2011

Letter To George Montagu, Esq. Strawberry Hill, Oct. 14, 1760
If you should see in the newspapers, that I have offered to raise a regiment at Twickenham, am going with the expedition, and have actually kissed hands, don't believe it; though I own, the two first would not be more surprising than the last. I will tell you how the calamity befell me, though you will laugh instead of pitying me. Last Friday morning, I was very tranquilly writing my Anecdotes of Painting,--I heard the bell at the gate ring--I called out, as usual, "Not at home;" but Harry, who thought it would be treason to tell a lie, when he saw red liveries, owned I was, and came running up: "Sir, the Prince of Wales is at the door, and says he is come on purpose to make you a visit!" There was I, in the utmost confusion, undressed, in my slippers, and my hair about my ears; there was no help, insanunt vetem aspiciet- -and down I went to receive him. Him was the Duke of York.
Behold my breeding of the old court; at the foot of the stairs I kneeled down, and kissed his hand. I beg your uncle Algernon Sidney's pardon, but I could not let the second Prince of the blood kiss my hand first. He was, as he always is, extremely good-humoured; and I, as I am not always, extremely respectful. He stayed two hours, nobody with him but Morrison; I showed him all my castle, the pictures of the Pretender's sons, and that type of the Reformation, Harry the Eighth's ----, moulded into a to the clock he gave Anne Boleyn. - But observe my luck; he would have the sanctum sanctorum in the library opened: about a month ago I removed the MSS. in another place.
All this is very well; but now for the consequences; what was I to do next? I have not been in a court these ten years, consequently have never kissed hands in the next reign. Could I let a Duke of York visit me, and never go to thank him?
I know, if I was a great poet, I might be so brutal, and tell the world in rhyme that rudeness is virtue; or, if I was a patriot, I might, after laughing at Kings and Princes for twenty years, catch at the first opening of favour and beg a place. In truth, I can do neither; yet I could not be shocking;
My servants are transported; Harry expects to see me first minister, like my father, and reckons upon a place in the Custom-house..
Louis, who drinks like a German, thinks himself qualified for a page of the back stairs--but these are not all my troubles. As I never dress in summer, I had nothing upon earth but a frock, unless I went in black, like a poet, and pretended that a cousin was dead, one of the muses. Then I was in panics lest I should call my Lord Bute, your Royal Highness. I was not indeed in much pain at the conjectures the Duke of Newcastle would make on such an apparition, even if he should suspect that a new opposition was on foot, and that I was to write some letters to the Whigs. Well, but after all, do you know that my calamity has not befallen me yet?
I could not determine to bounce over head and ears into the drawing-room at once, without one soul knowing why I cane thither. I went to London on Saturday night, and Lord Hertford was to carry me the next Morning; in the meantime I wrote to Morrison, explaining my gratitude to one brother, and my unacquaintance with t'other, and how afraid I was that it would be thought officious and forward if I was presented now, and begging he would advise me what to do; and all this upon my bended knee, as if Schutz had stood over me and dictated every syllable. The answer was by order from the Duke of York, that he smiled at my distress, wished to put me to no inconvenience, but desired, that as the acquaintance had begun without restraint, it might continue without ceremony. Now I was in more perplexity than ever! I could not go directly, and yet it was not fit it should be said I thought it an inconvenience to wait on the Prince of Wales. At present it is decided by a jury of court matrons, that is, courtiers, that I must write to my Lord Bute and explain the whole, and why I desire to come now--don't fear; I will take care they shall understand how little I come for. In the mean time, you see it is my fault if I am not a favourite, but alas! I am not heavy enough to be tossed in a blanket, like Doddington; I should never come down again; I cannot be driven in a royal curricle to wells and waters: I can't make love now to my contemporary Charlotte Dives; I cannot quit Mufti and my parroquet for Sir William Irby, and the prattle of a drawing-room, nor Mrs. Clive for Aelia Lalia Chudleigh; in short, I could give up nothing but an Earldom of EglingtOn; and yet I foresee, that this phantom of the reversion of a reversion will make me plagued; I shall have Lord Egmont whisper me again; and every tall woman and strong man, that comes to town, will make interest with me to get the Duke of York to come and see them.
Oh! dreadful, dreadful!  It is plain I never was a patriot, for I don't find my virtue a bit staggered by this first glimpse of court sunshine. Mr. Conway has pressed to command the new Quixotism on foot, and has been refused; I sing a very comfortable te Deum for it. Kingsley, Craufurd, and Keppel, are the generals, and Commodore Keppel the admiral. The mob are sure of being pleased; they will get a conquest, or a court-martial. A very unpleasant thing has happened to the Keppels; the youngest brother, who had run in debt at Gibraltar, and was fetched away to be sent to Germany, gave them the slip at the first port they touched at in Spain, surrendered himself to the Spanish governor, has changed his religion, and sent for a ---- that had been taken from him at Gibraltar; naturam expellas fure`a. There's the true blood of Charles the Second sacrificing every thing for popery and a bunter. Lord Bolingbroke, on hearing the name of Lady Coventry at Newmarket, affected to burst into tears, and left the room, not to hide his crying, but his not crying. Draper has handsomely offered to go on the expedition, and goes. Ned Finch, t'other day, on the conquest of Montreal, wished the King joy of having lost no subjects, but those that perished in the rabbits. Fitzroy asked him if he thought they crossed the great American lakes in such little boats as one goes to Vauxhall? he replied, "Yes, Mr. Pitt said the rabbits"--it was in the falls, the rapids. I like Lord John almost as well as Fred. Montagu; and I like your letter better than Lord John; the application of Miss Falkener was charming. Good night. P. S. If I had been told in June, that I should have the gout, and kiss hands before November, I don't think I should have given much credit to the prophet.
To George Montagu, Esq. Arlington Street. October 25, 1760 I tell a lie: I am at Mr. Chute's. Was ever so agreeable a man as King George the Second, to die the very day it was necessary to save me from a ridicule? I was to have kissed hands to-morrow-but you will not care a farthing about that now; so I must tell you all I know of departed majesty.
He went to bed well last night, rose at six this morning as usual, looked, I suppose, if all his money was in his purse, and called for his chocolate. A little after seven, he went into the water-closet; the German valet de chambre heard a noise, listened, heard something like a groan, ran in, and found the hero of Oudenarde and Dettingen on the floor, with a gash on his right temple, by falling against the corner of a bureau.
He tried to speak, could not, and expired. Princess Emily was called, found him dead, and wrote to the Prince. I know not a syllable, but am come to see and hear as much as I can. I fear you will cry and roar all night, but one could not keep it from you.
For my part, like a new courtier, I comfort myself, considering what a gracious Prince comes next. Behold my luck. I wrote to Lord Bute, just in all the unexpecteds, want Of ambition, disinteresteds, etc. that I could amass, gilded with as much duty affection, zeal, etc. as possible, received a very gracious and sensible answer, and was to have been presented to-morrow, and the talk of the few people, that are in town, for a week. Now I shall be lost in the crowd, shall be as well there as I desire to be, have done what was right, they know I want nothing, may be civil to me very cheaply, and I can go and see the puppet-show for this next month at my ease:
but perhaps you will think all this a piece of art; to be sure, I have timed my court, as luckily as possible, and contrived to be the last person in England that made interest with the successor. You see virtue and philosophy always prone to know the world and their own interest. However, I am not so abandoned a patriot yet, as to desert my friends immediately; you shall hear now and then the events of this new reign--if I am not made secretary of state--if I am, I shall certainly take care to let you know it. I had really begun to think that the lawyers for once talked sense, when they said the King never dies. He probably cot his death, as he liked to have done two years ago, by viewing the troops for the expedition from the wall of Kensington Garden. My Lady Suffolk told me about a month ago that he had often told her, speaking of the dampness of Kensington, that he would never die there.
For my part, my man Harry will always be a favourite: he tells me all the amusing news; he first told me of the late Prince of Wales's death, and to-day of the King's. Thank you, Mr. Chute is as well as can be expected--in this national affliction. Sir Robert Brown has left every thing to my Lady--aye, every thing, I believe his very avarice. Lord Huntingtower wrote to offer his father eight thousand pounds of Charlotte's fortune, if he would give them one thousand a-year in present, and settle a jointure on her. The Earl returned this truly laconic, for being so unnatural, an answer. "Lord Huntingtower, I answer your letter as soon as I receive it; I wish you joy; I hear your wife is very accomplished. Yours, Dysart." I believe my Lady Huntingtower must contrive to make it convenient for me, that my Lord Dysart should die--and then he will. I expect to be a very respectable personage in time, and to have my tomb set forth like the Lady Margaret Douglas, that I had four earls to my nephews, though I never was one myself. Adieu! I must go govern the nation.
To The Earl Of Strafford. Arlington Street, October 26, 1760   My dear lord, I beg your pardon for so long a silence in the late reign; I knew nothing worth telling you; and the great event of this morning you Z, will certainly hear before it comes to you by so sober and regular a personage as the postman. The few circumstances known yet are, that the King went well to bed last night; rose well at six this morning; went to the water-closet a little after seven -, had a fit, fell against a bureau, and gashed his right temple: the valet de chambre heard a noise and a groan, and ran in: the King tried to speak, but died instantly. I should hope this would draw you southward: such scenes are worth looking at, even by people who regard them with such indifference as your lordship and I. I say no more, for what will mix in a letter with the death of a King! I am my lady's and your lordship's most faithful servant.
To George Montagu, Esq. Arlington Street, Tuesday, October 28 ek ago; now it only diverted me. Even moralizing is entertaining, when one laughs at the same time; but I pity those who don't moralize till they cry. The deaths of kings travel so much faster than any post, that I cannot expect to tell you news, when I say your old master is dead. But I can pretty well tell you what I like best to be able to say to you on this occasion, that you are in no danger.
Change Will scarce reach to Florence when its hand is checked even in the capital. But I will move a little regularly, and then you will form your judgment more easily--This is Tuesday; on Friday night the King went to bed in perfect health, and rose so the next morning at his usual hour of six; he called for and drank his chocolate. At seven, for every thing with him was exact and periodic, he went into the closet to dismiss his chocolate. Coming from thence, his valet de chambre heard a noise; waited a moment, and heard something like a groan. He ran in, and in a small room between the closet and bedchamber he found the King on the floor, who had cut the right side of his face against the edge of a bureau, and who after a gasp expired. Lady Yarmouth was called.
She is very purblind, and more than a little deaf.  They had not closed his eyes: she bent down close to his face, and concluded he spoke to her, though she could not hear him-guess what a shock when she found the truth. She wrote to the Prince of Wales--and in general he has behaved with the greatest propriety, dignity, and decency. He read his speech to the council with much grace, and dismissed the guards on himself to wait on his grandfather's body. It is intimated, that he means to employ the same ministers, but with reserve to himself of more authority than has lately been in fashion. The Duke of York and Lord Bute are named of the cabinet council. The late King's will is not yet opened. To-day every body kissed hands at Leicester-house, and this week, I believe, the King will go to St. James's.
The body has been opened; the great ventricle of the heart had burst. What an enviable death! In the greatest period of glory of this country, and of his reign, in perfect tranquillity at home, at seventy-seven, growing blind and deaf, to die without a pang, before any reverse of fortune, or any distasted peace, nay, but two days before a ship load of bad news: could he have chosen such another moment?
Nothing is settled about the Parliament; not even the necessary changes in the household. Committees of council are regulating the mourning and the funeral. The town, which between armies, militia, and approaching elections, was likely to be a desert all the winter, is filled in a minute, but every thing is in the deepest tranquility. People stare; the only expression. The moment any thing is declared, one shall not perceive the novelty of the reign. A nation without parties is soon a nation without curiosity. You may now judge how little your situation is likely to be affected. I finish
To George Montagu, Esq. Arlington Street, Oct. 31, 1760 When you have changed the cipher of George the Second into that of George the Third. and have read the addresses, and have shifted a few lords and grooms of the bedchamber, you are master of the history of the new reign, which is indeed but a new lease of the old one.
The favourite took it up in a high style; but having, like my Lord Granville, forgot to ensure either house of Parliament, or the mob, the third house of Parliament, he drove all the rest to unite. They have united, and have notified their resolution of governing as before: not but the Duke of Newcastle cried for his old master, desponded for himself, protested he would retire, consulted every body whose interest it was to advise him to stay, and has accepted to-day, thrusting the dregs of his ridiculous life into a young court, which will at least be saved from the imputation of childishness, by being governed by folly of seventy years growth.
The young King has all the appearance of being amiable. There is great grace to temper much dignity and extreme good-nature, which breaks out on all occasions. Even the household is not settled yet. The greatest difficulty is the master of the horse.
Our predecessors, the philosophers of ancient days, knew not how to be disinterested without brutality; I pique myself on founding a new sect. My followers are to tell kings, with excess of attention, that they don't want them, and to despise favour with more good breeding than others practise in suing for it. We are a thousand times a greater nation than the Grecians: why are we to imitate them! Our sense is as great, our follies greater; sure we have all the pretensions to superiority! Adieu! P. S. As to the fair widow Brown, I assure you the devil never sowed two hundred thousand pounds in a more fruitful soil: every guinea has taken root already. I saw her yesterday; it shall be some time before I see her again.
For the King himself, he seems all good-nature, and wishing to satisfy every body; all his speeches are obliging. I saw him again yesterday, and was surprised to find the levee-room had lost so entirely the air of the lion's den. This sovereign don't stand in one spot, with his eyes fixed royally on the ground, and dropping bits of German news; he walks about, and speaks to every body- I saw him afterwards on the throne, where he is graceful and genteel, sits with dignity, and reads his answers to addresses well; it was the Cambridge address, carried by the Duke of Newcastle in his doctor's gown, and looking like the M`edecin malgr`e lui.
Lord Litchfield and several other Jacobites have kissed hands; George Selwyn says, "They go to St. James's, because now there are so many Stuarts there." Do you know, I had the curiosity to go to the burying t'other night; I had never seen a royal funeral; nay, I walked as a rag of quality, which I found would be, and so it was, the easiest way of seeing it. It is absolutely a noble sight. The Prince's chamber, hung with purple, and a quantity of silver lamps, the coffin under a canopy of purple velvet, and six vast chandeliers of silver on high stands, had a very good effect. The ambassador from Tripoli and his son were carried to see that chamber. The procession through a line of foot-guards, every seventh man bearing a torch, the horse-guards lining the outside, their officers with drawn sabres and crape sashes on horseback, the drums muffled, the fifes, bells tolling, and minute guns,--all this was very solemn.
But the charm was the entrance of the abbey, where we were received by the dean and chapter in rich robes, the choir and almsmen bearing torches; the whole abbey so illuminated, that one saw it to greater advantage than by day; the tombs, long aisles, and fretted roof, all appearing distinctly, and with the happiest chiaro scuro. There wanted nothing but incense, and little chapels here and there, with priests saying mass for the repose of the defunct; yet one could not complain of its not being Catholic enough. I had been in dread of' being coupled with some boy of ten years old; but the heralds were not very accurate, and I walked with George Grenville, taller and older, to keep me in countenance.
When we came to the chapel of Henry the Seventh, all solemnity and decorum ceased; no order was observed, people sat or stood where they could or would; the yeomen of the guard were crying out for help, oppressed by the immense weight of the coffin; the bishop read sadly, and blundered in the prayers; the fine chapter, Man that is born of a woman, was chanted, not read; and the anthem, besides being immeasurably tedious, would have served as well for a nuptial.
The real serious part was the figure of the Duke of Cumberland, heightened by a thousand melancholy circumstances. He had a dark brown adonis, and a cloak of black cloth, with a train of five yards. Attending the funeral of a father could not be pleasant: his leg extremely bad, yet forced to stand upon it near two hours; his face bloated and distorted with his late paralytic stroke, which has affected, too, one of his eyes, and placed over the mouth of the vault, into which, in all probability, he must himself so soon descend; think how unpleasant a situation! he bore it all with a firm and unaffected countenance.
This grave scene was fully contrasted by the burlesque Duke of Newcastle. He fell into a fit of crying the moment he came into the chapel, and flung himself back in a stall, the archbishop hovering over him with a smelling-bottle; but in two minutes his curiosity got the better of his hypocrisy, and he ran about the chapel with his glass to spy who was or was not there, spying with one hand, and mopping his eyes with the other. Then returned the fear of catching cold; and the Duke of Cumberland, who was sinking with heat, felt himself weighed down, and turning round, found it was the Duke of Newcastle standing upon his train, to avoid the chill of the marble.
It was very theatric to look down into the vault, where the coffin lay, attended by mourners with lights. Clavering, the groom of the bedchamber, refused to sit up with the body, and was dismissed by the King's order.
To George Montagu, Esq. Strawberry Hill, Monday, Nov. 24, 1760  Unless I were to send you journals, lists, catalogues, computations of the bodies, tides, swarms of people that go to court to present addresses, or to be presented, I can tell you nothing new. The day the King went to the House, I was three quarters of an hour getting through Whitehall; there were subjects enough to set up half-a-dozen petty kings: the Pretender would be proud to reign over the footmen only; and, indeed, unless he acquires some of them, he will have no subjects left; all their masters flock to St. James's.
The palace is so thronged, that I will stay tilt some people are discontented. The first night the King went to the play, which was civilly on a Friday, not on the opera-night, as he used to do, the whole audience sung God save the King in chorus. For the first act, the press was so great at the door, that no ladies could go to the boxes, and only the servants appeared there, who kept places: at the end of the second act, the whole mob broke in, and seated themselves; yet all this zeal is not likely to last, though he so well deserves it. Seditious papers are again stuck up: one t'other day in Westminster Hall declared against a Saxe-Gothan Princess. The Archbishop, who is never out of the drawing-room, has great hopes from the King's goodness, that he shall make something of him, that is something bad of him.
Did I tell you that the Archbishop tried to hinder the "Minor" from being played at Drury Lane? for once the Duke of Devonshire was firm, and would only let him correct some passages, and even of those the Duke has restored some.
One that the prelate effaced was, "You snub-nosed son of a bitch." Foote says, he will take out a license to preach Tam. Cant, against Tom. Cant. The first volume of Voltaire's Peter the Great is arrived. I weep over it. It is as languid as the campaign; he is grown old.
He boasts of the materials communicated to him by the Czarina's order--but alas! he need not be proud of them. They only serve to show how much worse he writes history with materials than without. Besides, it is evident how much that authority has cramped his genius. I had heard before, that when he sent the work to Petersburgh for imperial approbation, it was returned with orders to increase the panegyric. I wish he had acted like a very inferior author.
Knyphausen once hinted to me, that I might have some authentic papers, if I was disposed to write the life of his master; but I did not care for what would lay me under such restrictions. It is not fair to use weapons against the persons that lend them; and I do not admire his master enough to commend any thing in him, but his military actions. Adieu!

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