London: volume 2
XLVIII.-St. James's Palace.
XLVIII.-St. James's Palace.
The Court of St. James's is a phrase that has been heard far and wide, and has carried fear into stout hearts. In Mexico and Peru, in Hindustan, and possibly by this time even at Pekin, and in every capital of Europe, it has been known as the designation of a power not to be trifled with. A foreigner who had formed his notions of the local habitation of this talismanic word from its universal prevalence and might, must at all times have been struck with astonishment on seeing it. The dingy plainness of the structure itself--the suttling-shop bulging from its front--the utter absence of architectural pretensions in the surrounding houses, and the familiar manner in which they squeezed in upon it, were anything but calculated to harmonise with the high idea of the residence of the kings of the
who occupied a house of much greater pretensions --in the east, in . If not exactly such a shock as might be supposed to be received upon finding a monkey-god enshrined in a sanctuary rich with gold and jewels, the effect on the imagination was at least that produced by finding some very plain and homely person the central object of attention to a gorgeous train of richly-apparelled attendants.
if not, strictly speaking, of the things we owe to our
may at least be said to have come in with it. The ground on which the palace stands was acquired by Henry VIII., who erected thereon a
as was mentioned in our account of ; and
as it was long called, has ever since been part and parcel of the palatial establishment of the Kings of England. But it was not until the burning of in the reign of William III. that
| it became the royal residence--the scene of levees and drawing-rooms--the recognised seat of royalty. William resided mostly at , though he occasionally held councils at St. James's, and it was regarded as his town house. But Anne constantly resided there when in town; Caroline, Queen of George III died there; George IV. was born there. |
technically speaking, was held at St. James's during the whole reign of George III. (it still continues to be held there), but the domestic town residence of that monarch was Buckingham House. St. James's is now merely the pavilion containing the apartments used on occasions of state solemnity. The period during which it was a palace of Kings--a palace to live in as well as to see company in-includes only the reigns of William, Anne, and the Georges. The Palace of St. James's--the Court of St. James's--are phrases which belong to the Revolution era--to the time when, with the exception of female, our sovereigns were foreigners. It is an age not to be despised, for it is the age of Swift, Steele, Arbuthnot, and Addison--of Hogarth and Fielding--of old Colley Cibber and of young Horace Walpole-and of the
And though the nation could not well understand its sovereigns-either their language or their habits-and the sovereigns were but partially acclimatised, as gardeners or introducers of a new kind of farm-stock would phrase it--they had excellent sturdy qualities of their own-grotesque enough to move our laughter, and with enough of moral power and goodness to command our respect. But we must trace the history of the palace previous to the days of its greatest exaltation.
The Hospital of St. James, founded for the reception of
although a religious foundation, seems to have been honestly acquired by Henry VIII. In the year he gave Chattisham and other lands in Suffolk in exchange for the site of the Hospital; and when, having thus become master of the house, he turned the sisterhood out of doors, he had the grace to settle pensions upon them. The architect of St. James's is not known, but it is understood to have been erected under the direction of Cromwell Earl of Essex, and Holbein is said to have furnished the plan, though this has been doubted.
says Brayley in his
This association links the palace of St. James's with the culminating period of Henry's reputation. There was an ambition after good, or the appearance of it, that lent a certain degree of to the years of his reign. His entering the lists of controversial theology with Luther bespoke intellectual taste, if not talent. His love of stately and gorgeous pageants, like the field of the cloth of gold, stimulated men's imaginations. His bluff, bold, somewhat homely deportment, so long as his self--will had not ripened into the terrible, won the
|hearts of the commonalty. As yet he had been a faithful, and, to all external appearance at least, a kind and loving husband. And if aught were amiss-if some things were done which men could have wished undone, and duties neglected which ought to have been performed-why there stood Wolsey at the King's elbow, a full-blown scape-goat, to carry all the sins of his royal master, as well as his own, on his broad shoulders away into the wilderness.|
The divorce of Queen Catherine must have startled people a little at ; but then it was set off by the downfall of Wolsey, and the countenance which, from that time, was lent by the court to the innovating spirit abroad in the nation. Queen Catherine, a good, kind, pious lady, bore her wrongs in retirement, and the people, triumphant on account of the overthrow of a hated minister and the progress of popular doctrine, crowded round their monarch in the ripeness of manly strength, with his young and beautiful wife at his side, and all the splendour of his court around him. Allowance is always made for the waywardness of kings, and here was present popularity and a past good character to render men yet more tolerant, and much magnificence to obliterate the memory of the past; and the cold waves of the world's forgetfulness closed over the head of a wronged woman-but her God did not forget her. Poor Anne Boleyn, who sinned through vanity and want of thought, must have thought bitterly of the meekness of the queenly sufferer, and h:r own forgetfulness of woman's rights, when sharp sorrow was working out her own regeneration.
From , when Henry set his affections on Anne Boleyn, till , when he caused her head to be chopped off, there was a defection from the right path which might cause uneasiness to the stern moralist; but though the pill's of right principle were shaken, and a sense of insecurity must have pervaded the brilliant dream of those years, there was no omen or portent to warn men of the years of blood and brutality that were to ensue. A young man may wander from the straight path, and, after some hard lessons from experience, scramble in again; but when who has maintained a tolerably decent deportment begins to go wrong at , we may rest assured he will go on with his sinning. Such reflections, however, are always made too late. In Henry's case, as usual, men were too much taken up watching the run of luck in the great game they were playing, and at that time the public was winning. It was the holiday of victory over an old hierarchy, the triumph of free thought proclaiming ;itself abroad, not whispering, as before, in fear and trembling, in closets and corners. And the young Queen, to whom this change was in great part attributed, stood like Venus among her handmaids, the fairest of them all. And there were stately masques and solemn tournaments. And More's elegant learning and playful wit graced a part of the time, and Holbein survived it. And the chivalrous poet Surrey was yet unthreatened. These years were the time during which the drunkenness of absolute power was growing upon the faculties of Henry; and as wit, good-fellowship, and proud aspirations flash out most glowingly as the wine goes round--the bright lightning which presages approaching danger-so did Henry walk with a more free and stately bearing, and display his splendid tastes to more advantage, while, casting off his early sobriety, he allowed the intoxication of self--will to grow upon him. St. James's Manor, with the presence chamber, and its intertwined cipher of the monarch lover and his swan-like bride, was
|of the devices of this inspired time. It has stood a monument of the brief raptures bought by trampling upon sacred ties, and a witness of the retribution which fell on his children and lineage. It is not necessary to go back to the tale of the Atridae or of Oedipus for mysterious and terrific tales of fatality attendant upon regal houses: if rightly read, the cycle of events which dates from the lawless union of Henry VIII. and Anne Boleyn presents as splendid and awful a pageant as either we have named. The premature death of the puny Edward--the isolated and gloomy life of Mary, who had a heart and a faith, but finding none who could render affection for affection, dwindled in peevishness, grew weak and cruel, and left the name of Bloody Mary behind--the more vigorous Elizabeth, whose early feelings too were chilled, and whose mingled course of glory and meanness was lost, like the waters of some mighty stream in a parched desert-all might have traced the worm which gnawed at their hearts to the false position in which the vices of their father had placed them. And that development of popular intellect and popular power which he had encouraged, not out of generous sympathy, but because it seemed to favour his private lusts, spread and grew strong, till, after having quenched the proud self--will of of his race in his own blood, it finally shook the family in the direct line of inheritance from the throne.|
The history of , from the death of Henry to the Revolution, is merely a succession of scenes in this terrible drama--some of them deeply tragic, some of them gay, with a transient light like that which at times gilds for a moment the fierce black waves breaking over a stranded ship. To enumerate all would be to write a history of the government during that period; but we may be allowed to recall a few to the memories of our readers as contributing to lend a moral interest--to inform, with a human soul of sympathy and intelligence, those very commonplace walls which stand at the foot of , more like a county prison than a royal mansion.
The stream of events ran away rather from St. James's during the years of Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth, but with the prolific race of Stuarts it came to be used as a royal nursery. The , with all its appurtenances, except the Park and the Stables at , were granted, in , to Prince Henry, who occupied them till his premature death in . He was succeeded by his brother, afterwards Charles I., who retained through life a partiality for the mansion. In it was deposited the collection of statues which, with the assistance of Sir Kenelm Digby, he began to form. Here most of his children were born. And in the Chapel Royal, which he had fitted up in it, he attended divine service before he
on the morning of his execution. This theme has been often enough harped on. Its interest is undeniable;--it is we confess a sad sign of human inconstancy-but there has been so much emphatic moralising and sentimentalising, that we turn from the story of the father to welcome, as a change, the less hackneyed story of of his son's adventures.
The Duke of York was taken prisoner when Fairfax entered Oxford in . On the , being then in his year, he effected his escape from St. James's, as is narrated in the Stuart Papers:--
It is needless to pursue the adventure further in detail: suffice it to say that the Duke; in female attire, succeeded in reaching a Dutch vessel which was waiting for him below Gravesend.
There is something inexpressibly touching in this picture of the young Duke of Gloucester and his sister the Lady Elizabeth entirely taken up with their childish sports within the walls of what to them was a prison. Their father was a man aware of the deadly struggle in which he was engaged, but they knew not the jealous eyes that were upon them--they felt not the ruin impending over them. While all was dark around, their childish minds were lit up with gleetwin glowworms shining in the dark, stormy night. The premature closeness and self-command of their brother is a less pleasing object. Hard necessity had taught him selfishness and duplicity before his time. The craft he had to practise in self-defence in youth, and the success attending it, possibly encouraged him to engage in riper years in an undertaking beyond his very commonplace abilities. At the same time it is impossible to help enjoying the consternation caused among the greybeards who thought they had him in safe keeping on finding themselves outwitted by a mere boy. James himself has recorded, with a natural feeling of triumph, the pottering search set on foot as soon as he was missed.
Orders were also issued to guard all the ports, but James had left Gravesend before the despatches arrived. The pursuit was not relinquished till news arrived of his landing in Holland.
After the Restoration James occupied this building, which must have continually recalled the gratifying recollection of his successful exercise of that
| reserve which he afterwards indulged in to such an extent. It is spoken of by his contemporaries as splendidly furnished. room was embellished with pictures of court beauties by Sir Peter Lely. Here he lost sons--a bereavement which Coke huddles up in his narrative with a most incongruous assortment of other gossip. The King (Charles II.), he tells us, was returning from feeding his birds in the Park, followed by the narrator, when, at the farther end of , he was overtaken by Prince Rupert. |
The news of the Dutch fleet having arrived in the river had just reached the palace. James left St. James's for on the morning of his coronation; but it was in the former palace that his son was born who forced so many grave and conscientious people, who could not forgive themselves for keeping a legitimate prince out of his inheritance, to convince themselves he was not the son of his father by the vehemence of their own protestations and oaths to the contrary.
But amid the frivolities of the court of Charles II., as amid the sadness of his father's, the Destiny working out the completion of those events which had been set in motion by Henry VIII. was inexorably holding on the even tenor of its way. The self-willed James was the instrument which in a few years brought on the . Affairs were so ripe that his ejection was accomplished without a struggle. He walked out, and the prince under the new order of things walked in, entirely as a matter of course.
We have now arrived at the period when the Palace of St. James's became the principal residence of the English sovereigns : not because the Revolution dynasty thought it necessary to have a new abode of their own, in which the memory of the old should not haunt them at every turning; but because, having been accidentally burned soon after the accession of William, St. James's was at occupied as a temporary arrangement, protracted it may have been at from some doubts as to the permanence of the new order of things, and afterwards from the hurry of important business, which kept men from thinking of such a subordinate matter as the proper lodging of the sovereign. Until George III. the Revolution sovereigns (with the exception of Anne) never seem to have felt quite at home in England; and his reign was too busy a to leave much leisure for palace building.
We have already observed that the presence chamber is understood to be part of the
erected by Henry VIII. The north gateway also formed a part of that building. For many years after its erection it stood quite in the country. An idea of its appearance in this its state of isolation may be gathered from the engraving at the head of this paper.
By degrees, however, houses sprung up along the north side of , and on both sides of . After the Restoration, Jermyn, afterwards Earl of St. Alban's, contrived to obtain a grant of a large piece of ground, between and , on which he began to build and several streets. King Charles's grant of the site of a house on the south of
| to Nell Gwynn seems to have been the beginning of the row of houses on that side of the street, as his grant of the site on which gridgewater House lately stood seems to have been the beginning of the range of building fronting the western wing of the Palace. Thus it came that in the time of Queen Anne and the Georges the Palace was as completely in town as it now is. Nor does an attempt seem at any time to have been made to render the housed in its vicinity specimens of architectural taste. Possibly a modest forbearance rendered the subjects (with the exception of the Duke of Marlborough-and old Sarah may have been at the bottom of that) reluctant to outshine their Sovereign. Evelyn, who was a commissioner for improving the streets of and London, bears testimony to the shameful state of in his day. Bubb Doddington, with his wonted solemn emphasis, notes in his Diary, that he had been attending a committee, which had in view to pave Pall Mall-out of which, as out of most undertakings Bubb engaged in, nothing seems to have come. A paragraph in the Chronicle department of the Annual Register for , apparently extracted from some newspaper of the day, after announcing the alterations made in , by |
thus proceeds :--
Seeing what still is, and bearing in mind how many improvements have been made upon it since , the reader may, by tie reflected light of this puff portentous, be able to see it in something approaching to the likeness of its earlier days; or, if his imagination fail him, the back ground of Hogarth's picture of the Rake, arrested by bailiffs, will help to supply its deficiencies.
The environs of seem to have been every way worthy of it; and learns rather to sympathise with than wonder at the indignation of the King of Denmark's favourite, Count Holcke, at seeing his master trundled into it on his arrival in this country in .
says the editor of Brown's Secret History of the Courts of Sweden and Denmark,
The most remarkable feature of the Court of St. James's during the period that the Revolution dynasty was undergoing a process of naturalization-becoming English--is the unimportant part played by the Sovereign in the Court pageant. There was a Court, and there was a Sovereign; but the Sovereign, with reverence be it spoken, much resembled a dummy at whist, or a chair set up as the representative of the dancer wanted to make up a quadrille. The courtiers agreed to go through their wonted ceremonies round an impersonation of royalty, that took marvellous little part or concern in what was going forward.
Queen Anne was English, and might have been a real acting and speaking Queen, had she not been phlegmatic and somewhat timid. During the part of her reign she was domineered over by the Duchess of Marlborough, and during the latter part by Mrs. Masham, Harley, and their coadjutors. The poor woman, after long suffering, broke from her termagant mistress, to subject herself to a horde of taskmasters. Swift's
shows the state of incessant alarm in which the party lived into whose arms the Queen had ,thrown herself, lest she should return to her old friends; and the language in which they speak of her does not augur much deference or regard for her feelings in the means adopted to keep her fast. She seems to have felt relieved when an opportunity offered of taking refuge at or Windsor; and when the from St. James's broke in upon her retreat, her attitude very much resembles that of an unfortunate hare surprised in its form.
says Swift, writing from Windsor,
The poor woman had been so unceremoniously pulled about in the struggle between Whig and Tory to seize or retain hold of her, that she felt alarm when any of them came near her.
Of George I. Lady Mary Wortley Montague avers that he
He must have felt in England like a fish out of water. At his council board there was only minister (Mr. Wortley) of whom it is affirmed with certainty that he could speak French: in the to Lord Wharncliffe's edition of Lady Mary's Letters, it is hesitatingly suggested that
Lord Halifax spoke it also. German was out of the question. Walpole is said always to have conversed with his Majesty in Latin--of the purity of which his loss of half-a-guinea to Pulteney,
| by solemn decision of the Speaker in face of the assembled , on a wager respecting the accuracy of a Latin quotation, is not calculated to convey a very exalted idea. So the King left matters of state, in so far as Great Britain was concerned, to be managed by his ministers. Lady Mary-but point was of more weight with her in retailing a story than truth-alleges that he never felt quite easy on the score of his right to the throne. |
He lived in like a quiet private gentleman of independent fortune. His evening parties consisted of the Germans who formed his familiar society, a few English ladies, and fewer Englishmen; who amused themselves
as Lady Townley would say, at cards, under the presidency of Mademoiselle de Schulenberg, afterwards Duchess of Kendal, whom he was suspected to have married with the left hand. When seeking pleasure out of doors of an evening he
Yet even into this dull circle did livelier thoughts intrude. The old King, who Lady Mary says was
liked to look upon a pretty face, and therefore affected her society much in the same way that the Laird of Dumbiedikes stuck to the apron string of Jeannie Deans. In the work already quoted a descendant of that lively lady has recorded a pleasing incident, the memory of which has been preserved by family tradition:--
George II. could speak English after a fashion, but he was, nevertheless, scarcely less taciturn than his predecessor. Father and son brought with them a coolness from Germany. Lady Mary attributes it--to the anxiety of the Princess (afterwards Queen Caroline) to isolate her husband from his family, in order to obtain an entire ascendancy over him: probably, however, the conduct of his, father towards his mother was the commencement of the domestic feud. Whatever the source of the quarrel, it ended in such a coldness towards his family as left him entirely under the government of his wife. The indolent Elector contented himself with showing his resentment by his silence towards him; and this was the situation the family appeared in when they came to England. The strong common sense, integrity, and repressed energy of the character of George II. were things Lady Mary either could not discern or could not appreciate: to the foibles and of that Prince she was lynx-eyed. Perhaps disappointment sharpened her apprehension-he had betrayed unequivocal symptoms of warm admiration till he learned that the lady frequented his father's private parties, after which he grew cool and distant.
The pride which prevented him explaining or defending any action, however startling it might appear to others, as for example the suppression of his father's will, left the parties opposed to him in all his quarrels, domestic or public, to tell their own story. He was not a man to conceal his dislikes. From the energetic mode in which he expressed them, and his carelessness of appearances, an unfavourable impression of his temper went abroad. His only marriage, however, was a marriage of affection; and till the day of his death he never attempted to describe a beautiful woman but he unconsciously drew a picture of his wife. He was stern to his son; but the boisterous emptiness of that unfortunate Princethe
of the lampoons of his day-converted by faction into a thorn in his father's side, was sufficiently provoking. The simple statement of Horace Walpole, who entertained no very kindly feelings towards George II., indicates a terrible convulsion in the breast of the cold, silent monarch, when told of his son's death:--
His unwonted gentleness and constant kindness to the widow show that the impression was lasting. Everything in his history betrays the working of an energetic character under a rigid exterior; but the courtiers who surrounded him for the most part saw only the external effigy of a man; his thoughts were not about the matters in which they took an interest, and were not communicated to them.
A court is always more or less a scene of . Its habitual frequenters seek to relieve the heavy sense of the formality of etiquette by turning it into jest in their asides. In a court where the monarch, even when present in the body, might be conceived to be absent in the spirit, this disposition naturally run riot. Poor timid Anne was not a person to impose much restraint by her presence. Liberties were taken with her more energetic successors, partly because it was presumed that they did not understand what was going on, partly because the pert frivolities of the court, in an age when the aristocracy had gained so striking a Victory over the Crown, could not bring themselves to believe that the great feudatories of the empire were of a higher nobility than the Peers of England, and made mockery of manners which differed from their own. The German monarchs remained through life exotics caged in St. James's as palpably as any canaries brought from the Rhine. Their attendants frisked in their presence with as little care and deference for them as sparrows testify in the presence of a wooden eagle.
The Whigs and Tories of the days of Queen Anne bandied angry looks even in her presence. Swift, in his
has an entry under the date , which indicates the terms on which the hostile factions mingled within the walls of St. James's:--
It was only, however, for great occasions that strong expressions of feeling were reserved. They were more accustomed like cats to deal a sudden, and by the bystanders scarcely noticed scratch, from a paw of velvet. The letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montague, and Horace Walpole, and their noble contemporaries, are the perfection of the habitual style of conversation in the circles in which they moved. The genius of no single man (
) could have accumulated such stores of satirical gossip. The literary talents of the writers we have named enabled them to give a lasting form to the rich materials which the collective gossips of the Court had been accumulating for half a century; and the language they employed had been polished and pointed by the successive efforts of Hervey, Chesterfield, and a whole host of kindred spirits. It was an age of lampoons: the members of the Court circle, not contented with laughing at each other, called in the public to share in the sport.
says Lady Louisa Stuart,
--or were purchased by people of rank to pass off as their own.
The costume of the age assisted the development of this highly-prized talent for . The wearers of such solid frames of whalebone and buckram must have felt whenever they put them on that they were arming themselves to do battle. They could not converse out of them, without feeling that they were pitted against each other like controversial divines stuck up face to face in opposing pulpits. Feeling themselves armed, the impulse to lay about them was irresistible. A court so attired could not fail to grow up into a huge
And on the other hand, can scarcely conceive the spirit which animates that comedy fully developed in the pliable, accessible, modern dress. Shut up with themselves, and shut out from others by these barricades, people could not get near enough each other to acquire a fellow-feeling. This was, in great part, the secret of the constant interchange of polished sarcasms among the Chesterfields, Lady Mary Wortley Montagues, and Horace Walpoles. This tone could not survive the change of costume. When court dresses came to be assumed only upon the occasion of visits to court, their wearers did not feel sufficiently at home in them to turn them to account. Once was it our lot to see a
for Birmingham, on quitting a , unable to find a coach, and obliged to walk uneasily and shamefacedly through the crowd of modern dresses; the very picture of David, essaying in vain to walk in the armour of Saul. Cumbrous it was, the costume of the Georgian era, but not so utterly fantastic and uncomfortable as men now deem it. The dress, though it looks stiff to us, sat lightly on those accustomed to it. Its wearers were not altogether assimilated to their outward integuments. They had minds above buttons, though encased in embroidered coats and -fold hoops: they could laugh at their own figures:--
(the narrator is Swift, and the time )
And what was defective in that age's costume in form, was made up by its richness and variety in colour; even clergymen looked more gaily then than beaux do now :--
says Swift, giving an account of a pleasure excursion in Windsor Park,
There have been awkward cubs in all times. In the age of chivalry, there were knights so awkward as to be sure to be unhorsed, whoever laid spear in rest against them; and in the
of England there were individuals
| upon whom court dresses and court costumes sat uneasily. |
The feeling is universal every helpless awkward lout is a Sampson in civilised society-drawn ,out to make mirth to the Philistines. Not that they were
to whom at times it fell to be
Bubb Doddington was no fool: he could take tolerably good care of number , and had a taste for books and splendid furniture. His rich birthday suits, say his biographers, were cut up to make hangings for his state-beds. But Bubb was
and the sufferings of the grave Malvolio, among the high fantastical inmates of the house of the Lady Olivia are but typical of the lot of all that tribe--the men who have more weight in manner than in matter. Bubb was so exquisite in his--kind, that for the flouters of his day to think of improving him seems almost like the thought of gilding refined gold, and adding a perfume to the violet. The gravity and good faith with which, when entering in his Diary the defeat of some of his
he adds, with all the resignation of a saint, his determination to retire into private life, because
seems unsurpassable. Yet the wicked wits of his day did sometimes contrive to take their game out of Bubb.
says Horace Walpole, writing of the events of ,
Strictly speaking, this is firing a shot out of bounds, for this occurred at Carlton House--but it is characteristic of the class which frequented both houses. What follows occurred in St. James's, and to Lord Chesterfield-for --even adroit courtiers are caught napping. The Countess of Yarmouth, we learn from Horace Walpole,
This system of laughing and tilting at each other with lances made of wasp-stings was reserved for the especial amusement of
It is customary to regard the aristocracy of Great Britain as less exclusive, less antique, than that of some continental nations. This is a mistake. The individual creations may be most of them comparatively recent, but in a great majority of instances the parties raised to the peerage have belonged already to the class which has the --cadet branches of older houses; or if of unadulterated plebeian origin, the title has generally had to perform a sort of semi-quarantine, until by dint of intermarriages it was held that a sufficient quantity of noble blood had been transfused into the veins of its wearer. It is not exactly the possession or want of a
| title that ennobles in England; there are country gentlemen of old family whom a new title would degrade in point of real rank. This comparative unimportance of the mere title renders, in England, the line of demarcation between commoners and the aristocracy more fluctuating and undefined; there is perhaps a wider-range for the nondescript to occupy, but those within the pale do not the less on this account hug themselves on their privileges. Read what Byron, Horace Walpole, and Lady Mary say of plebeian authors who dare say a word in disparagement of |
or (what seems more unpardonable still) in favour of it, and as if they were acquainted with its habits and feelings. It was only these high-born or high-bred personages, who were understood to be framed of china-biscuit instead of ordinary clay, in whom such liberties were tolerated. An attempt on the part of of the vulgar to join in the merriment immediately made the whole circle compose their features, and draw themselves up with as much reserved dignity as the Vicar of Wakefield's daughters when Miss Carolina Wilhelmina Amelia Skeggs and her accomplished companion sailed into farmer Flamborough's kitchen. Even the audacious Swift, who was never at peace except when engaged in a squabble, was made to feel this and quail before it.
he says, in the
This is written in the overweening confident spirit which characterises the whole of the the dream that he was advancing rapidly along the high road to fortune. What follows, written after the lapse of a fortnight, reminds irresistibly of Launce, leading his disgraced dog out of the Duke's palace-only Swift did not, like his prototype, take the whipping on himself:--
It peeps out here that the proud man of letters fretted and chafed at the position which he felt he occupied at Court. He tells Stella that he had got into a scrape by speaking his mind too freely of the quality of the wine served out to the palace-tables to which he was admitted; and he affords us a peep at the style in which his official brethren, the chaplains,: were entertained:--
The Court chaplains seem to have stood nearly on the same footing in the royal establishment as the `Sir Rogers of the old comedies did in the families of
Though Swift kicked against the state of vassalage, there have been genuine Sir Rogers among the courtly brotherhood, as witness a note appended in some editions of Swift's works to the passage just quoted, with the signature N.:--
It may be remarked by the way that about the time of Swift's venting this groan, the
was fighting stoutly for a more decorous treatment of domestic chaplains, in virtue of their sacred office. It is not improbable that these remonstrances had some effect, and that they began to be treated in gentlemen's families more as equals, for i:--a very short time the office fell into abeyance.
The maids of honour who received the jokes of the chaplains so snappishly were no unapt analogous of the Abigails who, in the old comedies above alluded to, are generally introduced as counterparts to the ghostly official. These mawkins burrowed in St. James's like does in a rabbit-warren, and each Princess of Wales had her complement. Miss Chudleigh, the celebrated Duchess of Kingston, may be considered as the ideal of this malapert sect. A story is told which, whether true or false, is characteristic both of George II. and of the lady's transcendant impudence. Apartments in Palace having been allotted to her mother, the King good-naturedly asked Miss Chudleigh day how the old lady felt in her new abode:--
said the King. On this hint the maid of honour (who continued a maid of honour for years after her clandestine marriage with the Hon. Mr. Hervey, afterwards Earl of Bristol) acted; and in due time there appeared among the royal household accounts,
The King who, though decidedly fond of money, was a man of his word, paid the bill, but remarked, that if Mrs. Chudleigh found the bed as hard as he did, she would never sleep in it. It would require a whole book to recapitulate the scrapes and escapades of these volatile inmates of the palace.
Enough has been said to show that the Palace of St. James's during the time that it was the royal residence, notwithstanding the dullness of its outward appearance, as grotesque and stiff as the old grenadiers stuck up at its gateway in some old prints, has witnessed merry doings within its walls. Somewhat incline they did to romping. In a court where a stately, self-admiring monarch like Louis XIV. was the central point of observation, and the sovereign arbiter of conduct, a well-ordered stateliness reigned. But,--
--in a Court where the sovereign was little more than an effigy of state, it was to be expected that the attendants would enact
To such a pitch had their waywardness risen, about the time of the accession of George III., that it had attracted the attention of Selina Countess of Huntingdon; the good lady made desperate efforts to establish a mission within the walls--to introduce Whitfield-and at time, it would appear from her letters, she even flattered herself that she had made an impression upon the mind of maid of honour. The project failed. The Methodists made something of the ragged rascality of , but the devils which possessed the demireps of St. James's were not for their casting out. But what the preaching of the pious Countess could not accomplish, was effected in a good measure by the watchful and wary discipline of the consort of George III. Queen Charlotte succeeded at least in enforcing upon her maids of honour the observance of external decorum.
Having no wish to walk upon concealed embers, we refrain from touching upon
|the Court of George III. The Big-endians and Little-endians are still too fierce in their controversy regarding the merits of the good old King and his bob-wig to admit an impartial writer being allowed to discuss the merits of the latter with impunity. The higher affairs of state of which the memories haunt the walls of St. James's belong rather to a history of Great Britain than of London. Pass we them, then, unsung, from the appearance of the King and Queen at the balcony to see the treasure captured by the Hermione in the Spanish galleons go down and along , to the imposing procession of the periwig makers of London, to present their petition that His Majesty (then in his year) would most graciously condescend to wear a wig for the encouragement of their trade--from the assault of the maniac Margaret Nicholson upon her sovereign to the ceremony of dubbing the Hatfield knights. If in the days of its glory St. James's was an unsightly husk containing a rich kernel, its local position was in excellent keeping with its character; for was there not its own stately park behind, and the shop in which Gilray's caricatures were exposed for sale before it?|
Long may the structure remain undefaced by the Vandal. hands of men of taste--a monument of an age of which Great Britain has no reason to be ashamed. As yet Reynolds was not, nor Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Scott; and yet, without the reflected radiance of imaginative art and literature, a court did exist which for sturdy intrinsic worth and social polish was quite as good as that of any Augustuses, or Medici, or Louises of them all. Something there might be in its external appearance more akin to Hogarth than to Raffaelle--to Fielding than to Ariosto; but a fine spirit may be found inhabiting an uncouth form. The courtiers who inspired the graceful pictures of Pope were no clowns. It must have been a finished grace in the deportment of Miss Chudleigh that enabled her to win the admiration even of the fastidious Richardson.
must have been beautiful in reality as in song. The Gunnings, Lady Mary Wortley Montague, Miss Peggy Bankes--they were less lucky in sprightly wits to celebrate their charms, but no less charming in reality than their predecessors of the court of Charles II. Nor were the men themselves to be despised. Braver soldiers than the Stairs and Conways no monarch need wish to see at his side, or more gracefully, fervidly ambitious than the Pulteneys and Pitts. Chesterfield and Horace Walpole stand high among those who knew how to lend an additional charm to the small talk of society by giving it an elegant . And was there not George Selwyn, unrivalled in any age in his own peculiar line, with his for executions and his stories innumerable? They were good times, and deserve to be held in honoured remembrance; as we may make our own, if we follow the example set us by the men who then lived-be what we really are, and seek our own happiness after our own fashion, without thinking too curiously
There was a glorious self--will about the English mind in the half of the eighteenth century, which, if it produced much that was grotesque, gave birth to much that had the charm of a hearty sincerity about it. May the dingy walls of St. James's long stand the express image of those times!