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

Hunt, Leigh





WE have observed and regretted, that the interior of has been so modernized, as, with little exception, to retain no appearance of the antiquity to be expected from its appearance outside. We


found, nevertheless, so much to interest us in it (the conversation included of the gallant kinsman of the family, who was so kind as to do us the honour of being our cicerone,) that, as is too often the case with something one is bent upon recollecting, we forgot to ask for the chamber in which Addison died. We believe, however, it is among the few apartments that are not shown. Among those which are, is Charles Fox's bed-room; that of Mr. Rogers, (a frequent visitor,) with a poet's view over the country towards Harrow; and that of Sheridan, in the next room to which a servant was regularly in attendance all night; partly to furnish, we believe, a bottle of champagne to the thirsty orator in case he should happen to call for one betwixt his slumbers (at least we heard so a long while ago, and it was quite in keeping with


his noble host's hospitality; but we forgot to verify the anecdote on this occasion) and partly (of this there is no doubt) to secure the bed curtains from being set on fire by his candle.

A pleasanter apartment to contemplate, is the one in which Lord Holland used to hear his children say their lessons, and induct them into the beauties of Spenser-an unexpected trait in the predilections of a man of letters brought up in the town tastes of the eighteenth century. But his uncle Charles was fond of Spenser; and so was Burke, and the great Earl of Chatham. It is difficult to hinder great men from discerning the merits of greatness. The poetry of Spenser was to their other books what their parks and retirements were to the town itself.

The library must originally have been a


green-house or conservatory; for, in its first condition, it appears to have been scarcely anything but windows; and it is upwards of ninety feet long, by only seventeen feet four inches wide, and fourteen feet seven inches in height. The moment one enters it, one looks at the two ends, and thinks of the tradition about Addison's pacings in it to and fro. It represents him as meditating his " Spectators " between two bottles of wine, and comforting his ethics by taking a glass of each, as he arrived at each end of the room. The regularity of this procedure is, of course, a jest; but the main circumstance is not improbable, though Lord Holland seems to have thought otherwise. He says (for the words in Faulkner's Kensington are evidently his): " Fancy may trace the exquisite humour which enlivens his papers to the mirth inspired by wine; but there is too


much sober, good sense in all his lucubrations, even when he indulges most in pleasantry, to allow us to give implicit credit to a tradition invented, probably, as excuse for intemperance by such as can empty two bottles of wine, but never produce a 'Spectator' or a Freeholder." We shall return to Addison's alleged habit of drinking by and by.

The first Lord Holland made a family portrait gallery of this room; but the accumulated books of the late Lord forced the pictures into other apartments, though still he put many portraits above them, of friends, kinsfolk, and deceased men of letters, with Addison at their head. When we lately saw the room, there were no pictures at all; and the ceiling had been converted into a starry firmament; hardly, perhaps, the most suitable thing, either to the ceiling itself, which is full of concavities, or to the winter's enjoyment


of a book by the fireside. But the alterations of the house, we believe, are not yet final; and everybody surely would miss the presence of Addison.

The collection of books is celebrated for its abundance of Italian and Spanish authors, the former in particular. Among the curiosities in other languages are an "Editio Princeps" of Homer, which belonged to Fox; a copy of the same poet belonging to Sir Isaac Newton, with a distich in his handwriting on the fly-leaf; and a singularly interesting one of Camoens, which it is alleged must have been in the hands of the poet himself. At the bottom of the titlepage is a painful corroboration of the statements respecting his end. It is a manuscript note in an old Spanish hand, stating, that the writer " saw him die in a hospital, without even a blanket to cover him." "He


did this," says he, "after having triumphed in the East (Camoens served in various expeditions), and traversed five thousand five hundred leagues of ocean: and all for what, but to study day and night to no better purpose than spiders to catch flies ?"

A natural question enough to the first impulse of indignation. And the blush of Portugal at the fate of Camoens ought to be as great and lasting, as the glory with which he has covered her. But the death of a man is not his life; nor must the struggles of a poet make us forget his enjoyments. Camoens triumphed with his fellow-soldiers; was long the admiration of the circles in which he moved; knew the glory which awaited his name; and above all, must have so loved and enjoyed his gift of poetry, that in all probability, during the far greater part of his life, he would not have changed


lots with the most prosperous man in his country. His end, indeed, is most pitiable, enough to bring tears into the eyes of the gallantest fellow-soldier. It is said, that before he was taken to the hospital, a faithful servant used actually to go out and beg for him. It requires all the good and all the pleasure given to the world by such men's productions, to enable us to think of their sufferings with patience. But it does enable us. The ways of Providence are vindicated. The fine heart is broken; but the earth, to all time, is filled with its fragrance.

There are several curious manuscripts in the library, particularly three autograph letters of Petrarch, three autograph plays of Lope de Vega, the original copy of a play of the younger Moratin, and the music of Metastasio's "Olimpiade" beautifully written out by Jean Jacques Rousseau, at the


time when that "shaker of the thrones of Europe" got his livelihood by work of that kind.

It is by no means the least interesting circumstance connected with this library, that Lord Holland, its collector, really enjoyed his books. The reader might guess as much from the nature of them; and we shall have reasons for being assured of it as we go. At present, we have more to do with the house than with its possessors. The collection of pictures is not remarkable, except as containing a greater number of portraits of men of letters, Italians in particular, than is to be found perhaps in any other private abode. Among them is Addison, when he was young (a handsome face); Alfieri (in miniature), the Italian tragic poet, who was some time in England; his wife (another miniature), the Countess of


Albany, widow of the Pretender (a princess of the house of Stolberg); Sir Philip Francis; Robespierre (miniature), with his pert, insignificant look, on which nobody would have guessed that so much tragedy was hanging; Jerome Bonaparte (a narrowminded, repulsive countenance); two portraits, large and small, if we mistake not, of the (Louise de Querouaille, Charles the Second's mistress), quite making out, in one of them, the "baby face" of which Evelyn accuses her, nobody would have taken her for an ancestress of the manly-visaged Foxes; many portraits of the rest of the family; a fine one of Talleyrand, by Schetter; and one, by Gerard, of Napoleon at Fontainebleau.

There are also busts of , of Machiavel, and of Henry the Fourth, the last "looking like a goat ;" a curious paint-ing


by Sir Joshua (of which more by-and-bye), consisting of whole-length portraits of Charles Fox, when a youth, with his fair relatives, and ; and another, by Hogarth, representing Dryden's play of the "Indian Emperor," performed by children, one of whom is a grand-niece of , whose bust is on the chimney-piece. The play was performed for the amusement of the Duke of Cumberland, who is seated accordingly; and the governess playing with one of the children is Lady Deloraine, whom the reader will find acting a more curious part, when we come, in these memorabilia, to the Palace.