The Old Court Suburb, or Memorials of Kensington, Regal, Critical, and Anecdotical, Volume II

Hunt, Leigh





MEANTIME, alas! matters may not be going on so pleasantly in the interior of the palace. We take them, in ordinary, to have been like the matters in most houses; a mixture of sweet and sour, of insipidity and


vivacity, of love, and dispute, and gossiping, and a predominance of good or ill-according as the most amiable or unamiable person has the ascendancy of the hour. But in those days, and in the innermost rooms of that house, flourished a certain Lord of the Bed-chamber, called Hervey; who held the office of secret purveyor of news, gossip, and flattery, to the Queen and Princesses; and it pleased this purveyor, who was a gentleman of so ill a habit of body as to be forced to live on chicken and milk-and-water, to keep a record of what he saw daily going on round about him, in the house-especially of what was not flattering to anybody, foe or friend-and to " pot it up," with a secrecy beyond his office, for the benefit of posterity. Posterity has been in the habit of thinking, that a description which Pope wrote of this


Lord Hervey was unpardonably severe; and we, for one, were of the same opinion.

The record, from feelings of family deli cacy, transpired only six years ago. It is entitled, "Memoirs of the Reign of George the Second, from his Accession, to the Death of Queen Caroline;" and though still in a mutilated state, owing to the like feelings, posterity has begun to entertain considerable doubts, whether Pope's description, at least as far as the gossipping went, was not perfectly just.

Pope calls Hervey an insect, annoying the witty and the fair with his buzz; a reptile, who

"At the ear of Eve, familiar toad, Half froth, half venom, spits himself abroad"

in lying, tale-bearing, and spite (Eve is


Queen Caroline); an effeminate, "amphibious thing,"

"That, acting either part, The trifling head, or the corrupted heart, Fop at the toilette, flatt'rer at the board, Now trips, a lady; and now struts, a lord. Eve's tempter thus the Rabbins have express'd, A cherub's face, a reptile all the rest; Beauty that shocks you, parts that none will trust, Wit that can creep, and pride that licks the dust."

Lord Hervey, assisted by Lady Mary Wortley Montague, with whom Pope had quarrelled, endeavoured to retaliate: but the joint noble wits could not satirize like the son of the linen-draper. Among other things which they thought very severe, they said of his verses, that they were

" Hard as his heart, and as his birth obscure ;"


which, besides the glaring falsehood, was an anti-climax of the most absurd description, and only served to show the meanness into which aristocratical pride could fall. Pope, however, on his part, was not magnanimous enough to let the blow pass without retaliation.

The secret of excessive personal severity, where parties have been acquainted, is generally to be found in mortified self-love. Lady Mary had wounded that of the infirm little poet, in its tenderest point: Hervey, we doubt not, had talked of Pope to Queen Caroline; and with this caution, both against the court-gossip and his assailant, we proceed to extract some notable passages from the "Memoirs," respecting the life led in Kensington Palace by the royal persons who admitted Hervey into their confidence, and to whom, besides daily bowing to and flattering


them, he of course took care never to intimate, in the remotest degree, what things he meant to leave on record about them, when they were dead and gone.

The reader will see that the passages increase in interest at every step.

"Sir Robert Walpole (according to Hervey) told him, that the King one day, at Kensington, shut himself up in a closet, leaving the door ajar, in order that he might overhear a conversation between Sir Robert and the Queen."

"In the absence of the King (at Hanover) the Queen had taken several very bad pictures out of the great drawing-room at Kensington, and put very good ones in their places: the King, affecting, for the sake of contradiction, to dislike this change, or, from his extreme ignorance in painting, really disapproving it,


told Lord Hervey, as Vice Chamberlain, that he would have every new picture taken away, and every old one replaced. Lord Hervey, who had a mind to make his court to the Queen by opposing this order, asked if his Majesty would not give leave for the two Vandykes, at least, on each side of the chimney to remain, instead of those two sign-posts, done by nobody knew who, that had been removed to make way for them. To which the King answered, ' My Lord, I have a great respect for your taste in what you understand, but in pictures I beg leave to follow my own; I suppose you assisted the Queen with your fine advice when she was pulling my house to pieces, and spoiling all my furniture; thank God, at least she has left the walls standing! As for the Vandykes, I do not care whether they are changed or


not; but for the picture with the dirty frame over the door, and the three nasty little children, I will have them taken away, and the old ones restored; I will have it done to-morrow morning, before I go to London, or else I know it will not be done at all.'

"' Would your Majesty,' said Lord Hervey, 'have the gigantic fat Venus restored too?'

" Yes, my Lord; I am not so nice as your Lordship. I like my fat Venus, much better than anything you have given me instead of her.' "[1] 

Lord Hervey thought, though he did not dare to say, that, if his Majesty had liked his fat Venus as well as he used to do, there would have been none of these disputations.


However, finding his jokes on this occasion were as little tasted, as his reasonings approved, and that the King, as usual, grew more warm and peremptory on everything that was said to cool and alter him, his Lordship was forced to make a serious bow; and though he knew the fat Venus was at Windsor, some of the other pictures at Hampton Court, and all the frames of the removed pictures cut or enlarged to fit their successors, he assured his Majesty that everything should be done without fail, next morning, just as he had ordered.

"Lord Hervey told the Queen, next morning at breakfast, what had passed the night before; who affected to laugh, but was a good deal displeased, and more ashamed. She said, 'The King, to be sure, was master of his own furniture;' and asked Lord Hervey if the


pictures were changed; who told her, no, and why it was impossible they should. She charged him not to tell the King why, but to find out some other reason. Whilst they were speaking, the King came in, but, by good luck, said not one word of the pictures; his Majesty stayed about five minutes in the gallery; snubbed the Queen, who was drinking chocolate, for being always stuffing; the Princess Emily for not hearing him; the Princess Caroline for being grown fat; the Duke of Cumberland for standing awkwardly; Lord Hervey for not knowing what relation the Prince of Sultzbach was to the Elector Palatine; and then carried the Queen to walk, and be re-snubbed, in the garden. * * *

" When the Queen declared she intended to stay at Kensington till the King came back


(from another of his visits to Hanover), the Prince (of Wales, Frederick, father of George the Third), who had a mind to go to London for the same reason that the Queen avoided it, which was, because he thought his Majesty would dislike it, told the Queen, his expenses at Kensington were so great, and his lodgings there were so damp, that he intended to remove to London; and would fain have drawn her in, either to consent to this design, or to lay her commands upon him not to put it into execution; but he could bring neither of these things about-she declined both" ..... The Prince, therefore, "made Kensington his sejour principal (as he called it), for the rest of the time the Court stayed at Kensington; that is, he left the Princess's Maids of Honour, and some of the male servants constantly there; but the Princess


and he seldom lay there above one or two nights in the week."

What sort of visitor this young man was considered by the family, may be supposed, from the dismal fact, that he was hated by every one of them, father and another not excepted. His sisters openly avowed their contempt for him: the king pronounced him a "puppy," "fool," and "scoundrel:" and the Queen " cursed the hour in which he was born." Even the good-natured minister described him as a " poor, weak, irresolute, false, lying, dishonest, contemptible wretch." Unfeeling levity appears to have been the main point of his character. It is the expression of his face in his portraits. One of his modes of annoying his mother at Kensington, was by coming too late to chapel, and making his


wife, instead of entering by another door, squeeze to her seat, between the Queen and her Majesty's prayer-book. He afterwards, for similar spiteful reasons, hazarded his wife's existence by bringing her from Hampton Court to St. James's, almost in the very instant of child-birth.

Looking out, one day, from a window in Kensington Palace, and seeing title-hunting Bubb Doddington go by, he said, "That man is reckoned one of the most sensible men in England; and yet, with all his cleverness, I have just nicked him out of £5000."

Traits like these made his parents call to mind what an honest governor said of him when he was a boy. The governor complained of some tricks which he had been playing; the mother, not seeing what such


conduct foreshadowed, said, good-naturedly, "Ah, those are pages' tricks, I conceive." "Pages' tricks !" cried the governor; "I wish to God, madam, they were. They are tricks of lacqueys and rascals."

The nicker of Bubb Doddington nicked himself, at the age of forty-nine, out of life and a throne, by putting on a thin dress during cold weather, because he felt himself hot with a pleurisy!

If Pope, who had been introduced to this Prince, and who took his part against his mother, had but seen these and other notices of him, the truth of which is now admitted by every body, he never would have said a word against the poor Queen, even though himself had been more injured in her estimation by Hervey's venom, than we have no doubt he was.


[1] This inuendo would seem to charge Lord Hervey with being one of the procurers of Mistresses for his Majesty.