Baker, H. Barton
CHAPTER XXII: Mayfair
MAYFAIR: ITS STORIES, SURROUNDINGS, AND CELEBRITIES.
LONDON was anciently noted for its fairs; it had Bartholomew's in its central district, Southwark and Greenwich in its southern and Mayfair in the western. It was Edward I. who conferred upon the hospital of St. James's the privilege to hold a fair in St. James's Fields during six days in May, in honour of its patron saint.
Let me picture this patrician quarter in the days of George II.: a tract of waste ground lying behind the demesnes of Piccadilly, bounded on the west by a muddy country lane which divides it from Hyde Park, and then straggling away to Oxford Road. In the centre is Shepherd's Market, which is crowded withstalls for the sale of the usual fair commodities, while all around are booths for prize fighters, with swords and cudgels as well as fists, wild beasts, jugglers, fire-eaters, mountebanks of all kinds, bull baiting and dog fighting. To the north, just upon the spot where Hertford Street now stands, is an enclosure containing a duck pond, in which the cruel amusement of duck hunting by dogs is being carried on with great zest. The great attraction,
|for it is just after the rebellion of 1745, is "the beheading of the puppets". Three puppets, nearly as large as life, are made up to resemble the Lords Lovat, Balmerino and Kilmarnock, while a fourth represents the headsman; the figures lay their heads upon the block, down comes the axe, and the loyal spectators shout lustily. Not even the strong young Frenchwoman, who has an anvil set upon her breast and a horse shoe forged thereupon, lifts an enormous weight by twisting her long hair round it, and walks upon red-hot iron, can draw the crowd from those mimic executions. Neither can the boy on the stage of another booth attract much attention, though the few gathered round are convulsed by his comical antics. This is young Harry Woodward, who will by-and-by be one of the most celebrated members of David Garrick's company at Drury Lane, the greatest of speaking harlequins, the most dashing of Petruchios and Mercutios.|
But Mayfair at this time was also a metropolitan Gretna Green; it was as notorious for clandestine marriages as was the Fleet, and Dr. Keith, who had a chapel there, was as celebrated for rivetting matrimonial fetters as thereafter was the blacksmith of the Scotch border. All charges, inclusive, were only a guinea. The doctor was a kind friend to all ladies in distress; if sued for debt they could hire a husband who would leave them at the door of the chapel for a five shilling fee, so that they could plead coverture; if they had loved not wisely but too well. they could
|obtain a marriage certificate for the same fee, and by doubling it have the marriage that had never taken place entered in the books. A daughter of an Earl of Berkeley escaped from marrying a man of her father's choice by the last-mentioned device. At St. George's, Hanover Square, are some of Dr. Keith's registers in which are entered many noble names. One entry has a curious history attached to it. It is as follows: " 1752, February 14, James, Duke of Hamilton, and Elizabeth Gunning". Horace Walpole thus tells the story of this entry in a letter to Horace Mann: "About a fortnight since, at an immense assembly at my Lord Chesterfield's, made to show the house, which is really magnificent, Duke Hamilton made violent love at one end of the room while he was playing pharaoh at the other end; that is, he saw neither the bank nor his own cards, which were of £300 each; he soon lost £1000. I own that I thought that this parade looked ill for the poor girl [Miss Gunning] .. . However, two nights afterwards, being left alone with her while her mother and sister were at Bedford House, he found himself so impatient that he sent for a parson. The doctor refused to perform the ceremony without licence or ring; the duke swore he would send for the archbishop; at last they were married with a ring of the bed curtain, at half an hour after twelve at night, at Mayfair Chapel."|
The Misses Gunning, two portionless Irish ladies, were the most beautiful women of the day. "They
|can't walk in the park or go to Vauxhall but such mobs follow them that they are generally driven away," says Walpole.|
It was their mother's shrewdness that obtained for these young ladies their first introduction into high society. Some scoundrel, who had evil designs upon them, sent them a forged invitation to a great assembly at the Duchess of Bedford's. Mrs. Gunning detected the fraud, and resolved to turn it to her own account. Although unacquainted with her Grace, she went with one of her daughters to Bedford House, obtained an interview and showed the false invitation. The duchess was so struck by the girl's beauty, as well as by the infamy of the hoax, that she presented her with a genuine invitation for herself and sister. The Misses Gunning came and saw and conquered, and from that night every drawing-room was opened to them. " May the luck of the Gunnings attend you!" became an Irish blessing.
Mobs waited about to see them get into their chairs, rushed to the theatre when it was known they would be there; and mounted chairs and tables in drawingrooms wherever they were present to get a good look at them. When the new-made duchess was travelling with her lord to his Scotch castle, the same pen tells us that " 700 people sat up all night in and about an inn in Yorkshire to see her get into her chaise next morning". The elder was married to the Earl of Coventry. At Worcester a shoemaker made two guineas and a half by showing a shoe he was
|making for the countess, at the charge of a penny to each person. |
The Bishop of London excommunicated Dr. Keith, who was sent to prison; but his clerk carried on the business just as usual. The Marriage Act of 1754 put an end to it at last; on the day before the Act became law, this high priest of Hymen united no fewer than sixty-one couples ! During his reign at Mayfair Chapel he married 7000 people. That the life of this notable parson was in accordance with his practices may be easily imagined; nevertheless he attained to the age of ninety, and wrote a very pious treatise entitled The Guide; or, the Christian Pathway to Everlasting Life. Was his chapel the pathway?
When Lord Chesterfield built his grand mansion in South Audley Street in 1747, it stood in the midst of green fields, and had beautiful grounds attached to it, upon which Chesterfield's Gardens have risen. In the glorious library which is, I believe, still preserved, he wrote those famous letters to his son, which, to the good people who have never read them, are a kind of Mephistophelian catechism. Probably if they did read them they would be very disappointed. The letters are immoral only from
|an English point of view-a Frenchman or a German regards them in quite a different light-because certain inevitabilities of youth, which we ignore with most disastrous results, are recognised by a father. Yet they are full of admirable wisdom, and at times even noble and lofty sentiments are not lacking. Up that magnificent marble staircase all the famous men and women of the second half of the eighteenth century have passed, all the fashion, all the beauty, all the intellect. What a crowd of ghosts the thought conjures up!|
Among others, we see the ponderous person of Samuel Johnson, on a certain occasion when he came to solicit the earl's patronage for his projected dictionary, departed in a huff and wrote his wellknown letter. Much ink has been spattered over the incident, and it has been made the subject of a well-known picture; but Boswell's explanation puts quite a different complexion upon the event. Colley Cibber, who had entered the house by a private staircase, was closeted with the earl while Mr. Johnson was waiting in the anteroom; the modern Aristarchus always looked down upon actors with lofty contempt, not excepting David Garrick, and when the poet laureate came out he was so indignant that he would not wait to see the earl. But, in the first place, my lord did not know he was there, and Mr. Colley Cibber, one of the managers of Drury Lane, one of the finest comedians of his day, the author of "The Careless Husband" and other excellent
|comedies, was, after all, a far more important personage at that time than Mr. Samuel Johnson, who was then little more than a literary hack.|
No. 72 in the same street was the residence of Alderman Wood, and there " the injured queen" Caroline stayed while her trial was pending. Popular idols are usually of clay, and Caroline of Brunswick was a poor specimen even of that material. In The Paget Papers, recently published, there is a letter written by Mr. Paget to Lord St. Helens, concerning the then pending marriage of the Prince Regent, in which he states that it was well known in diplomatic circles that the Princess had already lost her character, and implores him to use his influence to prevent so undesirable a union. This "well-known" fact was, no doubt, the notorious scandal of the Princess and her chamberlain, Bergami, the Neapolitan. To which warning St. Helens replied, that "the engagement is too far advanced now to be dissoluble, and therefore we must make the best of it and hush up all bad stories ". Lady Maria Stuart, in some reminiscences, describes the wedding. " He [the Prince] was so agitated during the ceremony that it was expected he would burst into tears. .. ." When they passed out of the chapel, " the Prince looked like death, and full of confusion, as if he wished to hide himself from the looks of the whole world. I think he is much to be pitied." George loathed her from the beginningafter their first salute he had to take brandyand further acquaintance could not modify that
|impression. Can we not see her trapesing through the streets, all satin and tinsel, more like a queen of the maypole than a queen of England, with soiled, daggled petticoats, clothes and skin alike testifying to her dislike for soap and water; then the rabble rout of dingy foreigners, with the same hydrophobic tendencies as herself, that she foregathered with !|
If we step into Park Lane we may find there an explanation of the prince's death-like looks at his wedding. It was in the drawing-room of her house in that thoroughfare that George of Wales was married to Mrs. Fitzherbert. He had long raved, stormed and wept at the feet of the adorable Maria, who, at the age of twenty-four, in the zenith of her beauty, was a second time a widow. But she was not to be won on the same terms as poor Perdita Robinson. When he first offered her marriage, knowing what a royal marriage meant, she firmly refused, and forbade him her house. This sent the sweet youth-he was only twenty at the time-into a frenzy. One day a surgeon, Lord Onslow, Lord Southampton and others drove up in haste to Park Lane with terror-struck faces. " The prince has stabbed himself, and you alone, madam, can save his life," was their cry. But even then Mrs. Fitzherbert would not be induced to go with them to Carlton House unless escorted by a lady. So on the way they took up the Duchess of Devonshire. The prince had really stabbed himself-more or less, and raved like a bedlamite, and swore he would stab himself to the heart if she did not relent. Terrified at the sight of the blood
|and by her lover's frenzy, the young widow faltered. The duchess lent a ring, and a form of betrothal was gone through. But in the calm self-commune of the night the lady repented of her compliance; wrote a letter next morning saying that she could not abide by the arrangement, and fled to Aix-la-Chapelle. George, upon hearing that she had escaped him, tore his hair, gnashed his teeth, rolled upon the floor, and then got up and wrote a burning love-letter of thirty-seven pages and despatched it to the fair Atalanta by courier. But this fiery cross did not bring her back; nor another, nor another; indeed for eighteen months Cupid was ever on the wing. The genuineness of the prince's passion cannot be doubted, only a very big fire can be rendered more ardent by constant douches of cold water.|
Could any woman resist for ever such importunities from a frantic lover, more especially when that lover was a prince, young, handsome, fascinating?  So at
|last she returned to London, and on the 21st December, 1785, the ceremony was performed in her drawing-room in Park Lane. But by whom ? Aye, there's the rub! A roistering cleric, named Rosenhagen, had been asked to officiate, but got frightened at the thought of farmer George and grim Charlotte. It is said that the Rev. Mr. Burt of Twickenham confessed upon his deathbed that he had done the deed for a consideration of £500, that Mr. Orlando Bridgman, afterwards the Earl of Bradford, and General Keppel were present, and that, when the storm arose, they induced Mrs. Fitzherbert to cut their names from the certificate.|
"I never committed adultery in my life, unless it was with Mrs. Fitzherbert's husband. That is the Prince's true wife," said Queen Caroline in answer to the king's accusations against her. That is pretty strong evidence. After his brother's death it is said that William IV. gave her back all the documents which proved her true relations with the late king, and offered to make her a duchess; but her answer was, " I have never disgraced the name of Fitzherbert, and I will never change it".
When Charles James Fox, who had been induced to declare in the House of Commons that no marriage ceremony had been celebrated between the prince and Mrs. Fitzherbert, discovered that he had been made the cat's-paw of a lie, he did not speak to the royal liar for many months. As the Duke of Clarence
|lived upon Mrs. Jordan's salary, so did his brother of Wales live upon his wife's income. She was once arrested for debt through his extravagance. "We were very poor, but very happy," she said. It was a disgraceful business, but "the good king and queen," those divinities of Mrs. Grundy, refused to pay George's debts or give him any supplies unless he married Caroline of Brunswick. Really, I think these goody people do more mischief and make more unhappiness in the world than the wicked folks do. George never ceased to love his true wife; her miniature, when he lay dead, was found next his heart, and lies with him in the tomb.|
On 6th May, 1840, all London was thrown into consternation by the news that Lord William Russell had been found in his house in Norfolk Street, Park Lane, with his head nearly severed from his body. Lord William's household consisted of two women servants and a Swiss valet named Courvoisier. Bank notes and rings being found hidden in the butler's pantry, suspicion fell upon the valet. He was arrested, tried, condemned, and afterwards confessed the crime. Courvoisier had intended to rob the house and fly the country; he was found at midnight in the dining-room by his master under circumstances that left little doubt of his intentions. When Sir William had retired to his room the Swiss, knowing that his character was gone if Sir William discharged him, resolved upon murder. In the small hours of the morning he crept upstairs to his master's chamber,
|found him sleeping, and cut the old man's throat-he was seventy-three-with a carving knife. Death was instantaneous, a slight movement of the hand was all. Twenty thousand people witnessed Courvoisier's execution at Newgate.|
There are two highly interesting houses in Hertford Street, No. 10 and No. 35 (A). In the first Sheridan passed eight years of his life, 1797-1801. It was while living here that being found one night, or rather early morn, in the gutter by a guardian of the night -he had just come from Wattier's-he was asked his name, " Wilberforce," he hiccoughed, which would be about equal in these days for a bacchanalian to aver that he was the Archbishop of Canterbury! In this house died his first wife, the once beautiful Maria Linley, "St. Cecilia "; she of whom the Bishop of Norwich said that she seemed to him the connecting link between woman and angel. She was indeed a ministering angel to her husband, who was totally unworthy of such a treasure. But her loss was a blow from which he never recovered, the descensus Averni was indeed rapid after that. " I never saw more poignant grief," says Michael Kelly, "than that which Mr. Sheridan felt for the loss of his beloved wife. I have seen him sit night after night and cry like a child."
The widower's affections were now centred in his child, a little girl. One night when a large party was assembled in Hertford Street a pale-faced servant whispered to his master that she was dying. In the silence of the night the distracted father was hanging
|over his dead child, who, as she lay in the calm beauty of her last sleep, was the image of her mother, as he remembered her in those early days at Bath, so pure, so fresh, so lovely. How his thoughts would have travelled back in that vigil to the time of their passionate love; to his duels with Captain Matthews; their elopement; her short-lived happiness-and his own brilliant youth marred by vice and folly. And all that remained of that beloved past was this dead child, soon to be hidden away for ever in the darkness of the grave.|
The other Hertford Street house referred to, No. 35 (A), is that in which Lord Lytton, then Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, went to live in 1835. Here he wrote Rienzi, Ernest Maltravers, Alice, and his great dramatic successes, The Lady of Lyons, Richelieu, and Money. He was a fop of the first water, could not pronounce the letter " r," was self-conscious and vainglorious; but he was a brilliant all-round man, and his novels, albeit their grandiose, high-falutin style render them impossible at the present day, are perhaps nearer akin to genius than those of either of his great rivals, Dickens and Thackeray. Willis, the American, in his Pencillings, describes him as rushing into a drawing-room joyous as a boy just let out of school, "gay, quick, various, half-satirical," talking because he could not help it, and infecting everybody with his high spirits. Here is Charles Reade's vivid thumbnail portrait of him taken at a later date: " He is comic beyond the power of pen to describe, goes off
|mentally into the House of Commons and harangues with an arm stretched out straight as a line. Puts on an artificial manner, 'Yaw, yaw, yaw,' and every moment exposes the artifice by exploding a laughloud, sudden, clear, fresh, naive, and catching as a ploughboy's."|
We fin-de-siecle people are always patting each other's backs over our superior education, culture and refinement; but what have we to compare with the society that gathered in the salons of Lady Holland, Lady Blessington and of Lansdowne House? What brilliant assemblies have gathered in that plainlooking house, No. 8 Seamore Place, between 1830 and 1836, when the Countess of Blessington held her court there. What a lovely woman she was in those days, with something of Juno blended with Aphrodite, with a grace of manner that was irresistible, and a ringing laugh that rivalled Jordan's or Nisbett's, a tact that set every guest at his ease however obscure he might be. Then the wonderful manner in which she would draw out clever people, and afford even the humblest an opportunity of saying something that would bring them into notice, while she herself would utter a smart sentence, throw off a bon mot, but would never for five minutes together monopolise the conversation. And her patronage of literature and art was not confined to mere pleasant receptions, for her purse and her interest were ever at the service of struggling talent. She herself made from £2000 to £3000 a year by her pen.
D'Orsay, who was then living with his wife-they were a most ill-assorted pair-in Curzon Street, was seldom absent from these reunions. If Lady Blessington was a Juno or an Aphrodite, he was as handsome as Apollo Belvidere; above six feet in height, modelled like a statue, and the dandy of all dandies. "When I used to see him driving in his tilbury through the Park," writes Gronow, "I fancied that he looked like some gorgeous dragon-fly skimming through the air, and, though all was dazzling and showy, yet there was a kind of harmony which precluded any idea or accusation of bad taste." His costume in the Park was a high-collared blue coat, with gilt buttons, thrown well back to show the wide expanse of shirt front and buff waistcoat; tight leathers and polished boots, wide-brimmed hat, white gloves, curled hair and whiskers. He was as careful in his toilette as a woman. It required two men to carry his gold dressing-case, and when he fought a duel he stipulated that his opponent should not aim higher than his breast. Though a dandy he was not a dude, but a man of brilliant wit, who could pen an epigram or utter a bon mot; a clever sculptor, a cleverer draughtsman, a masterly swordsman, horseman, whip, and one of the kindest-hearted and most generous of men. Disraeli has sketched him admirably under the name of Count Mirabel in Henrietta Temple.
Gathered about these central orbs was a galaxy not inferior to themselves. There was the author of Vivian Grey, as great a dandy as the count himself,
|glorious in gold-brocaded waistcoat, his eyes black as night, hair black as his eyes and massed in ringlets upon his left cheek, his complexion lividly pale; a wonderful talker, with a power of description that held his hearers spellbound. Bulwer, bright and joyous, as I have just described him; Landor, burly, aggressive, but an intellectual giant; Tom Moore, singing his own Irish melodies with a pathos and tenderness that no other singer of them ever approached. And there was conversation in those days,-the art was declining, perhaps, but was not yet lost; men and women talked about books and art and on intellectual subjects of all kinds, brightly, cleverly, in well-chosen language, not in thieves' kitchen slang. In the parallel society of to-day there is nothing worth speaking about except "biking"; some idiotic book, or academy picture with a history to it; an inane " musical comedy " may obtain a few remarks, but literature and art are voted bores even among their professors. "There are some wits among us still," writes Shirley, "but no one cares to listen to their bons mots; the gay wisdom of Sidney Smith himself would fall flat in circles where a rude practical joke is treated with imbecile laughter."|
No. 4 Chesterfield Street is haunted by the shade of another dandy, the founder of the race, for it was here that Beau Brummell passed the better part of his butterfly existence. " These are our failures," said the valet, showing a basketful of unworn cravats, the tying of which had fallen short of the perfection
|required by the beau. It was he who first hit upon the felicitous idea of starching the limp bandage with which men had previously encircled their throats. Brummell was never outre; there was an exquisite propriety in his dressing that no other male leader of fashion ever quite attained, not even D'Orsay. And like him, Brummell was a man of brains; he was keen, shrewd, and associated with the cleverest men of the time.|
But in the earlier decades of the present century all notable men were more or less dandies; men of the highest intellect did not disdain to give serious attention to the cut of their coats; they took great pains with themselves-they did not slouch and moon through life, and they were highly appreciated by all classes. " I will take the men I have personally known of a far later date," says Lord Lamington. "Count D'Orsay, Lord Cantilupe, Lord Chesterfield, Lord Alvanley, Sir George Wombwell, Sir Henry Mildmay, Ridley Colborne, and others. They were all men of excellent accomplishments, and dress was the least part of their merit."
It is a mere platitude to say that the tailor does not make the gentleman; neither is it essential to a gentleman to dress like a groom; there is a subtle influence in outward form and ceremony, more potent than most people are able to conceive. Slovenly in one thing, slovenly in all; rough in dress, unrefined in manner. The disappearance of the genus gentleman during this century has been considerably hastened
|by the hideous garb which our youth has adopted for athletics as well as for ordinary wear.|
Listen to the words of the immortal Teufelsdroch: "From the soberest drab to the high flaming scarlet spiritual idiosyncrasies unfold themselves in choice of colour; if the cut betoken intellect and talent, so does the colour betoken temper and heart. In all which, among nations as among individuals, there is an incessant, indubitable, though infinitely complex working of cause and effect; every snip of the scissors has been regulated and prescribed by ever-active influences, which, doubtless, to intelligences of a superior order, are neither invisible nor illegible."
The dandies were a power; it was feared that there would be disturbances at the coronation of George IV.; so the king sent for Lord Gwydyr, one of the leaders, and very anxiously inquired what the feelings of the dandies were. " I care nothing for the mob, but I do for the dandies," he said. And the dandy was a very muscular Christian, who could use his fists, and if he were molested did not shelter himself behind a policeman's staff, but gave his insulter a good thrashing or took one without flinching-and did not think it " vulgar," an epithet most frequently upon the lips of underbred people, struggling against heredity.
In this same Chesterfield Street, No. 3, Mrs. Norton, one of the three beautiful Sheridan girls, though the least lovely of the trio, passed thirty years of her life. Hers was an Italian type of beauty, with blue-black hair, and framed in gold-coloured silk, shaded and
|softened by black lace draperies, head, neck and arms adorned with Etruscan gold ornaments, her usual toilette, it was a queen-like type. Caroline Norton inherited much of her grandsire's brilliancy, combined with a fine touch of poetical genius all her own. Tom Sheridan, her father, was as great a scapegrace as his awful dad, and like him a gambler and a spendthrift, while her mother was meek and lymphatic; Tom never had a guinea, was always in debt, and perpetually shadowed by bumbailiffs. Two of the girls, by their marriages with the Duke of Somerset and Lord Dufferin, escaped from this harassing degradation; but poor Caroline was less fortunate, for she married a brute. A year or two ago her name was brought up rather prominently in a discussion as to whether she really betrayed the secret of Sir Robert Peel's Cabinet-his intention to propose the repeal of the corn laws-confided to her by Sidney Herbert, her devoted admirer, and sold it to The Times. But Lord Dufferin distinctly denies it, and proofs are on his side. Lord Melbourne was another attached friend, and his attentions brought about divorce proceedings, but they came to nothing.|
Many a pleasant little dinner, that might have delighted Lucullus by the choiceness of its viands, and Horace by the flavour of its wit, not to forget its Falernian, was given by Sidney Smith at No. 33 Clarges Street, between 1836 and 1839. The Church has always loved good eating and drinking, and no old Benedictine ever more enjoyed the pleasures of
|the table than did Canon Smith. When Luttrell spoke lightly of veal soup he took him aside and gravely reasoned with him upon his levity, but in vain. "To speak the truth," he says, " Luttrell is not steady in his judgment on dishes. A person of more calm judgment thinks not only of what he is consuming at the moment, but of the soups of a like kind he has met with in a long course of dining, and which have gradually and justly elevated the species. I am perhaps making too much of this, but the failures of a man of sense are painful." He loved to draw his figures of speech from the menu. Speaking to Tom Moore of the excellent way in which a certain host mixed his guests, " That is the use of a good conversational cook who says to his company, ' I'll make a good pudding of you; it's no use what you came into the bowl as, you must come out a pudding'. 'Dear me,' says one of the ingredients, 'wasn't I an egg just now? ' But he feels the batter sticking to him." "Give him melted butter with his turbot for a twelvemonth instead of lobster sauce," was his proposed punishment for an offending alderman. It was Sydney Smith who christened Monckton Milnes, when the poet was young, "the cool of the evening "..|
Stanhope Street calls up many memories of Lord Brougham, who resided at No. 4. Those who are familiar with the old cartoons of Punch will recall that gruesome face, ugly as a gargoyle, and those inevitable plaid trousers. Greville considered him to be the most remarkable man whom he had ever met,
|full of gaiety, humour, animal spirits. Rogers said of him after he had left one day: "This morning Solon, Lycurgus, Demosthenes, Archimedes, Sir Isaac Newton, Lord Chesterfield, and a great many more went away in a post-chaise". Brougham once told Lord|
|Lamington, "if I were sentenced to be guillotined at ten o'clock, I would not think of it until eight o'clock. On the occasion of my speech on the queen's trial, when all my reputation depended upon it, I deter-|
|mined to banish it from my mind. I slept so sound the night before that I awoke in the morning only in time to get into court."|
Sir Robert Peel resided for some years at No. 12, and married Miss Floyd in the drawing-room. He was curiously reserved and shy in his manner, which gave him an appearance of coldness; but he was warm-hearted and generous for all that. Witness his tenderness to poor Tom Hood on his deathbed. Not knowing of his danger he wrote the poet a noble and touching letter announcing that a pension had been conferred upon him and ending with: " One return, indeed, I shall ask of you-that you will give me the opportunity of making your personal acquaintance". "Sir R. Peel came from Burleigh on Tuesday night," wrote Hood to a friend, "and went down to Brighton on Saturday. If he had written by post I should not have had it till to-day, so he sent on a servant with the enclosed on Saturday night. Another mark of his considerate attention." And the great statesman kept his word and came to the bedside of the dying humorist and poet, as Thackeray says, " speaking noble words of respect and sympathy, and soothing the last throbs of that tender honest heart". On that fatal day on which Peel was thrown from his horse, the Duke of Wellington, hearing of the accident, hurried to Whitheall Gardens. When told that Sir Robert's condition was desperate the old man said with a husky voice: " He was the soul of truth ". Edmund Kean passed the early days of his delirious
|success at No. 12 Clarges Street, gave his little son guineas and bank notes to play with--a few months before he had scarcely ever known what it was to possess one-and drove backwards and forwards to Drury Lane in a coach and four; dined at the Marquis of Hertford's or Holland House, and supped with Tom Cribb or perhaps at Stunning Joe Banks's in the Rookery, though in that respect he might have excused himself behind such illustrious examples as the Prince Regent and Brinsley Sheridan.|
Bourdon Manor House, which stands at the corner of Bourdon and Davies Streets, is closely connected with the fortunes of the Westminsters. On that spot stood Bourdon Farm, the owner of which was a man named Davies. In 1676 Sir Thomas Grosvenor married Davies' daughter, Mary, who inherited the farm and lands. A century and a half before William conquered England the ancestors of Sir Thomas held the high post of Le Grosveneur, or head huntsman, to the Dukes of Normandy, but the few acres of meadow and swamp and ditch which Sir Thomas inherited with his wife did more for the Grosvenors than all they had gained or acquired in all the previous eight centuries of their existence, for on that ground his descendants built the whole of Belgravia and Eatonia.
A dark memory attaches to No. 45 Berkeley Square, in which the great Lord Clive, the founder of our Indian Empire, tortured by enemies and the ingratitude of the nation he had by his genius enriched with a priceless treasure, put an end to his
|life at the age of forty-nine. Such was the reward of the man who had saved India from the French, and had raised a mere trading company, living upon suffrage in a remote land, to be masters of a mighty empire. England in the past was rarely grateful to her great men, but never so ungrateful as to those who won for her the brightest jewel in the English crown. She drove Clive to suicide, and she persecuted Warren Hastings with a malignancy as diabolical as recent researches have proved to have been unjust. When the Britisher has one of his awful sentimentally virtuous fits upon him he is as dangerous as a mad dog, and invariably turns upon his best friends.|
No. 11 was the town house of Horace Walpole from 1779 until his death.
Lady Jersey, one of the most noted leaders of bon ton in the reign of George IV., and a royal favourite, resided in Berkeley Square, and entertained there all the most brilliant people of her time. Byron was her frequent visitor, and she used to relate that one evening, just after his separation from his wife, when he left the seat he had occupied next to her, the ladies lifted their dresses that they might not be polluted by touching the floor he had passed over! No wonder Childe Harold anathematized society.
" The haunted house in Berkeley Square," which, I think, stood on the western side, was much talked about years ago. More than once tenants quitted it in all haste. It was asserted that one gentleman was driven raving mad by something he had seen in the
|haunted room. But what that something was never seems to have transpired. Among the stories told was one to the effect that a policeman who had been put in as caretaker cut his throat when delirious, and|
|that it was his apparition that was supposed "to walk".|
The last of the old aristocratic mansions of London that stands within its own grounds is Lansdowne
|House, which forms one side of Berkeley Square. It was built by that much-hated minister, Lord Bute, scandal said with the money he drew from France for bringing about the shameful Peace of Paris, by which we forfeited so much that the splendid genius of the elder Pitt had won for us. In his own fortunes he was as poor as a church mouse; and though the cher ami of the Princess of Wales and the despotic governor of the weak young king, he could not have made the money out of them. Before long he sold the mansion to the Earl of Shelburne, afterwards Marquis of Lansdowne.|
It was under the third marquis that Lansdowne House became so celebrated as a centre of literary society and Whig politics; it was equally renowned for its splendid collection of works of art. Rush, in his Residence at the Court of London, writes: " In the dining-room were ancient statues, standing in niches. These time-honoured masterpieces of genius and art had been obtained from Rome. As we walked into dinner through a suite of apartments, the entire aspect was of classic beauty."
Lansdowne House was likewise one of the chief rallying-places of the Young England party, who believed that by improving and brightening the social condition of the peasantry and reviving old games and pastimes there could be brought back something of "the Merrie England" of our ancestors. At the head of it was the ardent and dreamy George Sydney Smythe, supported by such choice spirits as Lord
|John Manners, Baillie Cochrane, Beresford Hope, Mr. Peter Borthwick, and Benjamin Disraeli. But it was "Ben Dizzy" who, by his brilliant novel, Coningsby, of which Sydney Smythe was the hero, became the animating spirit of the movement. In those last days, when the veteran statesman passed the great house on the way to his home in Curzon Street, how often he must have recalled the dreams of that band of young enthusiasts, who, like all other enthusiasts, past, present, and to come, were convinced that in them and in their ideas alone lay the regeneration of humanity. He must often have pictured himself as he appears in that well-known sketch of Maclise's-the handsome dandy, cynical, daring, insolent-" Vivian Grey". But beneath that foppish mask was concealed an inflexible purpose. " What do you intend to be? " inquired Lord Melbourne of the boy "Dizzy". "Prime Minister of England," was the quick reply. And to attain that object was the purpose of his life. Equally prompt was his answer to a supercilious opponent on the hustings at High Wycombe. "What does this gentleman stand upon?" was the sneering query. "On my head," was the retort. " Audace, audace, toujours audace," was his motto. But in those last days, when Azriel was already shadowing him, he had realized that all human ambitions crumble into dust in the grasping, and the truth of his own axiom: " Youth is a blunder, manhood a struggle, old age a regret".|
It was in Curzon Street, No. 19, that Lord Beacons-
|field died. Sir William Fraser in his Recollections gives us a striking picture of "Dizzy" in his closing days: " During his last premiership I dined with him in Downing Street; on entering he replied to my hope that he was no worse for the bitter weather with a feeble groan. I ventured to say that I found him surrounded by his illustrious predecessors; he groaned again. 'Sir Robert Walpole over the mantelpiece ? He feebly bleated the word 'Walpole'. At first I thought he must be dying. I waited for a minute or two and then was followed by the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, his intimate personal friend from boyhood; his words bore resemblance to my own; to my relief he replied in the same ghastly manner. I felt that he could not survive the night. Within a quarter of an hour, all being seated at dinner, I observed him talking to the Austrian Ambassador, Count Apponyi, with extreme vivacity. During the whole of dinner their conversation was kept up; I saw no sign of flagging. . . . One theory has been that Disraeli took carefully measured doses of opium, these being calculated to work at a given time, that the effect of the subtle drug was as I have described. I never saw the phenomena in any other person." Another anecdote, which would help to confirm Sir William's theory, is to be found in Mr. Raikes's recently published Reminiscences. On the day that Disraeli, then in opposition, made his great speech at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, he requested a friend to get him three bottles of white brandy; it was only|
|after much searching that two could be procured. They were taken to the hall and put under the table, and Disraeli told his friend to keep the tumbler constantly filled with brandy and water in equal proportions.|
"Stronger, stronger!" muttered Dizzy as he continually drank; and by the time the speech was ended both bottles were emptied. But no one else knew that he had taken anything but water.
Horace Walpole's great friends, the two Misses Berry, resided at No. 8 Curzon Street, where they gave most brilliant receptions. The female element, however, frequently preponderated to such an extent as to embarrass the hostesses, much as it does their successors. When enough and to spare of the sex had arrived, Miss Berry would call out, "No more petticoats! " upon which the footman extinguished the lamp over the door and not another woman was admitted. This exclusion, however, did not extend to the men. As every reader of the great letter writer knows, the Misses Berry lived for many years at Twickenham, and were great favourites with the master of Strawberry Hill, who offered his hand and coronet to one, but was refused. One of the sisters survived until 1852, dying at the age of ninety, thus forming an extraordinary link between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
 That any beauty, however remarkable, should excite such a sensation seems incomprehensible, but the explanation is not far to seek. It was so great a rarity at that time to meet with a woman not deeply pitted by small-pox that a smooth skin combined with good features was quite a phenomenon. " Conscientious" people are bidding fair to bring us back to the same condition within the next few years.
 That George IV., in his youth, was gifted with a remarkable fascination is testified to by contemporaries who were superior to the arts of flattery, and by men who even disliked him. The prince was highly accomplished, well read in ancient and modern literature, a fine musician, with a taste in music far beyond his time. He was one of the first to appreciate Weber, and was an enthusiastic admirer of that composer's compositions when the management of Covent Garden had to omit some of the finest concerted pieces from Oberon, and were doubtful even of the delicious "Mermaid's Song" because they feared that "the public would not stand them ". Sensual by nature, condemned to idleness and uselessness, and finally united to a woman he loathed, one can scarcely wonder that George finally sank into a mere gross voluptuary. No one would attempt to palliate much of his conduct, but we must remember the age in which he lived, its manners, usages and standard of morality. George IV. was not quite so black as he has been painted.
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|TO THE READER|
|CHAPTER I: The Story of St. Paul's|
|CHAPTER II: Round About St. Paul's Churchyard and Paternoster Row|
|CHAPTER III: The Blackfriars Theatre, Etc.|
|CHAPTER IV: Smithfield and Clerkenwell|
|CHAPTER V: The Fleet-Its Associations and Surroundings|
|CHAPTER VI: Ely Place--Hatton Garden, Etc.|
|CHAPTER VII: Fleet Street--Its Ancient Life, Etc.|
|CHAPTER VIII: Fleet Street (continued)|
|CHAPTER IX: Chancery Lane--Lincoln's Inn, Etc.|
|CHAPTER X: Covent Garden|
|CHAPTER XI: St. Giles's--The Churchyard, Etc.|
|CHAPTER XII: Soho--Its Streets and Reminiscences|
|CHAPTER XIII: Leicester Square and its Associations|
|CHAPTER XIV: Temple Bar--The Strand|
|CHAPTER XV: The Strand (continued)|
|CHAPTER XVI: Whitehall--Its History, Etc.|
|CHAPTER XVII: Westminster Abbey and Palace, Etc.|
|CHAPTER XVIII: The Haymarket--St. James's Square, Etc.|
|CHAPTER XIX: The Ghosts of St. James's Palace|
|CHAPTER XX: St. James's Street|
|CHAPTER XXI: Piccadilly|
|CHAPTER XXII: Mayfair|
|CHAPTER XXIII AND LAST: Brook Street--Hill Street, Etc.|