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The Adventure of Living : a Subjective Autobiography By John St. Loe Strachey Characters: 39057

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

I have described how I came to London, how I became established at The Spectator Office, and what, before I succeeded to the Editorship of The Spectator, were my various extra activities in journalism and literature. I must now say something of my personal life. In 1887 I married. The year or so spent in my father-in-law's house, 14 Cornwall Gardens, where my first child was born, was very happy and delightful. As my people lived either in Somersetshire or on the Riviera, I knew "on my own" comparatively few people in London, though those I did know were for the most part people to whom special interest was attached.

It happened that my mother-in-law, Mrs. Simpson, was not only a very charming person in herself, but, partly owing to a natural gift for, and love of, Society, and partly owing to the fact that her father, Mr. Nassau-Senior, the conversationalist, had been one of the best-known men in the political-literary world of London and of Paris, from 1820 to 1860, she knew a very large number of distinguished men and women of the middle Victorian epoch. By this I mean such men as Thackeray, Matthew Arnold, Robert Browning, Leslie Stephen, Mr. Justice Stephen, Sir Mountstuart Grant-Duff, Sir Louis Mallet, Mr. Lecky, Lord Arthur Russell and his brothers-to choose a few names almost at random. The last- named, Lord Arthur Russell, was the most kindly and friendly of men. Probably without being conscious of it themselves, he and his distinguished wife formed what a pedantic social analyst might call the centre of a social group.

I shall, for this reason, choose the Arthur Russells for description in detail. They were very old friends of the Nassau-Seniors and so of Mrs. Simpson, and friends with a double liaison. Mr. Nassau-Senior and his family had been throughout his life on very friendly terms with Lady William Russell, one of the most remarkable women of Regency and Victorian London as regards her beauty, her intellectual ability, and her social qualities. When Byron wrote the graceful and lively stanza which so audaciously recommends the gilded youth, who want to know whether their partners' complexions are real or synthetic, to wait till the light of dawn comes through the ballroom windows and then note what it discloses, he breaks off to say that, at any rate, there is one lady who will always stand the test, and adds:

At the next London or Parisian ball

You're sure to see her cheek outblooming all.

That lady was Lady William Russell-sister, by the way, of the unhappy Lady Flora Hastings so cruelly caught in the meshes of an angry Court intrigue based on the natural, nay, inevitable, ignorance and want of worldly knowledge of a girl-Queen, the stupidity and lack of worldly wisdom of the Court Physicians, and the blundering bitterness of a group of Great Ladies-the whole assisted and inflamed by the baser type of party-politician.

Lady William Russell had three sons, each destined to play, if not great, yet important parts in the world. The eldest became the Duke of Bedford. Though he lived in many ways a sequestered, almost hermit-like, life, he was a man of singular ability. Of him Jowett was wont to record a curious piece of private history. The Duke had said to him, that in the course of his life he had lived upon all incomes from £300 to £300,000 a year and in each category had been happy and contented. Perhaps the best way to describe Hastings, Duke of Bedford, is to say that he was a typical Russell, though a man with a Melbourne-like mind would perhaps add that his untypicalness was the most typical thing about him. The next brother was Lord Odo Russell, who played a very distinguished, brilliant, and useful part in the diplomacy of the period marked by the rise first of Prussian and then of German power. His son is the present Lord Ampthill. The third son was Lord Arthur Russell. All three boys were brought up in what might be called a nursery or schoolroom friendship with the children of the Nassau-Senior family. My mother-in-law remained in touch with all three Russells throughout her life; but her special friend, partly because he always lived in England, and partly because he married a friend of the Seniors, was Lord Arthur.

Among Mr. Nassau-Senior's Parisian friends was the brilliant and distinguished Mme. de Peyronnet, an Englishwoman by birth, married to a man of distinguished French family, who occupied an official post in the post-Restoration Administration. Mme. de Peyronnet formed part of the memorable group of Liberals of which Tocqueville was one of the most distinguished members;-a group which from the latter part of Louis- Philippe's reign to the break-up of the Third Empire comprised as notable a body of intellectuals as were ever brought together even in the city of Paris-the natural home of Social intellectualism. This, too, was the group of which M. and Mme. Mohl were shining ornaments. M. de Peyronnet was, I believe, a very charming man, but somewhat eclipsed by his brilliant wife, whom I am glad to say I knew, and whose talk was to my mind one of the most delightful of mental experiences. Poignant, free, brilliant, and yet never pedantic or laboured, and, above all, never trivial, Mme. de Peyronnet's conversation was a perpetual source of joy to all who had the good fortune to know her and the ability to understand her. She had three daughters, who all inherited their mother's brilliancy and good looks.

Of these three daughters one, as I have said, married Lord Arthur Russell, the next, and she, I am glad to say, lives in full intellectual vigour, married Lord Sligo, a typical "great gentleman" of the middle Victorian period. Except for his perfect manners and absence of any traces of grandiloquence or pomposity, he might have stepped out of Disraeli's novels, or let us say an expurgated edition from which all the vulgarity and false-taste had been eliminated and only the picturesqueness and cleverness retained. The third sister, Mlle, de Peyronnet, never married, but remained the devoted companion of her mother.

I am not going to imitate the pomposity of Lord Beaconsfield, which I have just denounced, by talking nonsense about Salons, the Eighteenth Century, or of the spirit of Mme. du Deffand or of Mile. de Lespinasse living again in these fascinating women. I am content to take them as they were and quite prepared to believe that they were not only very much nicer women, but also quite as able and quite as brilliant as those whom the spirit of Convention would be sure to name as their prototypes. I am quite certain that, though they took a natural and proper interest in history, it never for a moment crossed the minds of any of them to talk like the ladies of the ancien régime or to imitate them in any sort or way. They were as natural and unsophisticated as they were incisive, intrepid, and amusing in their conversation.

Never has it been my good fortune to hear better talk than that which flowed so easily from them, and happily, in the case of Lady Sligo, still flows. What struck me most was the way in which anecdote, recollection, and quotation, though not frigidly or formally dismissed, kept a subordinate place in the talk and had to make way for comments which were actual, original, personal, and therefore in a high degree stimulating. Their talk had nothing of the flavour of the second-hand or of hearsay, however good.

I had been accustomed as a boy to hear the best type of what I may call old-fashioned after-dinner English conversation, from the mouth of a master, Abraham Hayward. Hayward was an excellent example of the special type of raconteur who first became famous in the Regency period. These men, who were chiefly anecdotal in their talk, are well described by Byron in the immortal account of the House-party, Don Juan- "Long-bow from Scotland, Strong-bow from the Tweed." Hayward was a man of real ability, though in a narrow sphere, and with a remarkable power of style. With him talk meant telling stories of Byron, Melbourne, Castlereagh, Cobden, Bright, Peel, and later Gladstone, Palmerston, and Lord John and other eminent Victorians. He told these with great intensive force and was vivacious as well as concise. All the same, the talk was anecdotal, and that can never be as stimulating as when it is spontaneous. It was the difference between fresh meat and tinned meat- the difference between a vintage claret on the day it is uncorked and the day after.

Do not let it be supposed that by this comparison I am suggesting that the talk of Mme. de Peyronnet and her daughters was naturalistic and so artless. It was nothing of the kind. Though original and spontaneous, it was the result, consciously or unconsciously, of a distinct artistic intention. When they talked, they talked their best, as does the writer of good familiar letters. Lady Arthur Russell was the most pungent talker of the three, Lady Sligo the most reminiscent and, in the proper, not the derived sense, the most woman-of-the-worldly. I mean by this that she dealt most with the figures of the great world, but by no means in a grandiloquent, consequential, or Beaconsfieldian sense. She had travelled a great deal and seen an enormous number of people in every country of Europe as well as in England, and, therefore, she was and is more cosmopolitan in her talk than were her sisters.

Mlle. de Peyronnet was the most epigrammatic. She had the happy gift of improvising in a lightning-flash epigrams and jeux de mots which would not have discredited the best wits even of France. I think her repartee, or rather jeu de mot, at the dentist's, which went the round of London, the best example I can take by way of illustration. Most people are dreary and depressed in a dentist's chair. Not so Mlle. de Peyronnet. Even here she kept not only her good-temper, but also her brilliant imagination and, above all, her verbal felicity.

The scene passes in a Dental Atelier in Paris. Mlle. de Peyronnet must be imagined seated in the fateful chair, dreading the pain but hoping for the relief of an extraction. But, as Tacitus said, that morning she saw all things cross and terrible. The dentist, instead of doing his work deftly, bungled it, or else it was the fault of the patient's jaw. At any rate, the tooth broke off in the forceps, and the dentist had to confess to his patient that all the pain he had given her was useless. He had left in the root! "Ah, mademoiselle," he exclaimed, "quelle Tragédie!" But the patient, though suffering acute agony, was worthy of the occasion. She did not pause for an instant in her comment-"Une Tragédie de Racine!"

There have been, no doubt, greater and deeper witticisms than that, but could anything have been happier, neater, more good-tempered, more exactly appropriate?

I sometimes feel I would rather have said that than have written

Racine's Mithridates.

I have summarised the characteristics of each of the sisters' talk. Of Mme. de Peyronnet, who in many ways was more brilliant than her daughters, I will say only that she combined their several qualities. When I add that her talk, like that of her daughters, was original, it must not be supposed that she had not a proper appreciation of great events or of great people. Her memories naturally stretched a great deal further than those of her daughters. I remember well asking her whether she had seen any of the human remanets of the Revolution, some of whom, at any rate, must have been alive during her early married life in Paris. She told me that, though there were no reprisals after the Restoration, it was curious how few of the Terrorists were visible in the Paris of her youth. Some, of course, had gone to earth under aliases, but most of them were dead. The Terror which the Terrorists felt as much as inspired, the excitement, and probably also the debauchery of the time when everyone felt, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die," did not create an atmosphere in which people cultivated hygienic habits or studied rules of "how to live till eighty."

And then, I remember well, she corrected her denial. "Yes, but I did see one of the Terrorists," and then she told me how she actually saw in the flesh the man who was perhaps the worst of them all, the implacable, irresistible Fouché, the man who had been an incendiary, an extremist, and yet who was never in reality a fanatic or a profligate. Fouché always dressed in black, and in a fashion which seems to have resembled Cruikshank's caricatures of the Chadbands of the Regency period. He was a loyal, hard-working servant of any Government which employed him. If the policy of those he was working with was killing, he would kill in battalions, as indeed he did at Lyons. Yet all the time he felt no touch of the blood-lust which inspired men like Carrier. He would never have thought of killing for the sake of killing, or of committing acts of unnecessary cruelty. He was, indeed, a man of spotless private character. He was guilty of no excess except the awful excess of knowing no difference between right and wrong.

"What," I asked Mme. de Peyronnet," did he look like, and how did you come to see him?" Here is her reply.

When quite a young woman I was in the theatre one night and suddenly saw a great deal of commotion. People were standing up and looking about them and talking eagerly. This commotion, I soon saw, was caused by a very old man with white hair who was making his way through the crowd to his stall. As he moved, there ran through the house the excited whisper, "Cest le Duc d'Otranto."

That was the melodramatic title which Napoleon had conferred upon the man he could not trust, but dare not openly distrust or dismiss, any more than could Louis XVIII. Even in the calmest and most peaceful times the Duke of Otranto remained menacing and terrible. The background which I see when I think of Fouché is not the Convention or the Committee of Public Safety. I see him as he is described to us by the youth who went to Lyons, to plead with him for the right to cross into Switzerland. He found Fouché busy. He was doing his best to execute the command of the Convention to lay Lyons low, and to kill the greater part of her principal inhabitants. Fouché, always loyal and always punctiliously exact in his work, saw what a difficult job was the killing of seven or eight hundred men at once unless by a well thought-out plan. The mere collecting and dragging away the corpses for burial would be an immense task. The plan he ultimately devised was admirably simple. He first made the prisoners dig a long, wide, and deep trench-I understand that the Bolsheviks use the same method. He then lined them up at the very edge of the ditch. When the firing-party got to work their victims fell neatly backwards into their long grave. All that was needed was to shovel in the earth, which had been piled on the opposite side of the trench.

The young man of whose account I am thinking uses language in describing Fouché superintending the preparation of the trench which reads like a paraphrase of Tacitus' account of Tiberius at the trial of Piso and Placentia. "Nothing so much daunted Piso as to behold Tiberius, without mercy, without wrath, close, dark, unmovable, and bent against every access of tenderness." So stood Fouché.

When Mme. de Peyronnet saw him, the Terrorist had been entirely replaced by the "civilised Statesman." What passed before her eyes was a very old, white-haired man, with a regard deep and impenetrable. She added, however, "I remember noting that everyone seemed to treat him with the greatest awe." By that time, strange to say, he was one of the richest and most respected men in France. Further, he had by his second marriage entered one of the greatest families of the ancien régime, and had actually been accepted as "one of us" by the inner hierarchy of the French noblesse! He had even made his peace with the Church and become, at any rate in all outward forms, perhaps ex animo, a devout Catholic. What is even more astounding is that his second wife was as devoted to him as was his first, and so, apparently, was he to her. Fouché, indeed, may be said to have been an expert in domestic felicity. The man is as inexplicable as the Emperor to whom I have dared to compare him. Only, unfortunately for us, Fouché had no Tacitus to chronicle his deeds of horror and his ineffable treacheries and his complacent moderation in infamy. Would that the author of the Annals re- incarnated could have given us pictures not only of Fouché but of Robespierre, Marat, Saint-Just, Camille Desmoulins, Fouquier Tinville, and the rest!

Nothing was more fascinating than to hear Mme. de Peyronnet talk of the street-fighting in '48 and of how life went on, I had almost said, as usual, in the intervals of the fusillades. She told me, I remember, that when you were walking in a side-street and heard firing in the boulevard or main street at the end of it, it was almost impossible not to creep up what you thought or hoped was the safest side, and put your head round the corner and see what was happening. Who is getting the best of it in a fight is a question that will not be denied, though it may easily mean a stray bullet in your head.

Speaking of '48, though it breaks my rule, I must recall an account which I induced Lady Sligo to give last year to me and my son, of her recollections of Lamartine during this very period. I happened, if I remember rightly, to be comparing Lamartine's ceaseless flow of admirable oratory with that of Mr. Lloyd George. Both men seemed to find it possible to speak all day and manage affairs all night, without apparently exhausting themselves. Inexhaustibility in the matter of vital energy seemed to be the gift of each. Most men are soon pumped dry by skipping from China to Peru, from Upper Silesia to the Lower Congo, from Vladivostok to Washington. Not so Mr. Lloyd George, and certainly not so Lamartine. During his amazing tenure of the office of President of the Second Republic, he would make a perfectly correct and yet perfectly sympathetic speech to a deputation from Ireland in the early part of the morning, and to one from Chili in the afternoon. He always contrived to soothe men's minds, without really saying anything.

Full of my readings of the Poet-President's orations and Despatches, I asked Lady Sligo whether she had ever seen or heard the great man. She told us how, when a girl of fourteen or fifteen, M. Lamartine, either President or ex-President, I am not sure which, and his pleasant wife, took a great fancy to her and how on several occasions she drove out with them in their capacious landau. Lamartine's dress was marvellous. Apparently it chiefly consisted of white duck trousers, which were folded round his portly form in some extraordinary manner. There was also a white waistcoat, and, as far as I remember, something in the nature of a tight-waisted frock-coat. But what seems to have stuck most in her memory is that the pockets of the white pantaloons were stuffed with gold coins, and that these gold coins, whether in the carriage, in the armchairs, or on the sofas on which the great man was apt to fling himself, would tumble out on the floor. It was the duty of the younger portion of the family and friends to collect the product of these golden showers.

"Why," I asked, "did M. Lamartine make himself into a kind of walking gold-reserve?" The answer w

as as curious as it was simple. Lamartine, it may be remembered, was not only President of the Provisional Government, but also the most popular man of letters of his day in France-a kind of Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, and Carlyle rolled into one exuberant whole. But Lamartine, though he made enormous sums by his books, also spent enormously, and in the middle part of his life, in order to augment his always insufficient income, he founded a kind of personal magazine, half newspaper and half institute, to which apparently people from all over France subscribed. There was, however, no actual office, except Lamartine's house, and the subscriptions, which were paid in advance in gold, poured literally into his pockets, and were either spent at once or put into some sort of receptacle which represented the immortal and inexhaustible French family stocking.

Lady Sligo had the good luck to hear one of the daily orations by which Lamartine governed France under ideal conditions. It will be remembered that in the worst part of '48, Lamartine literally kept France quiet by day and by night by speaking whenever and wherever an audience of fighters or revolters or simple citizens were gathered together. Often before have men incited mobs to violence by their subtle and deceiving tongues. Lamartine is probably the only man who spoke en permanence not to inflame, but to pacify, not to intoxicate with furious words, but to hypnotise into sobriety.

On one occasion when Monsieur and Madame were starting on an afternoon excursion in the great landau, with Mlle. de Peyronnet wedged between the white pantaloons and Mme. Lamartine's skirts (I presume I might at that date have said crinoline), a deputation of ouvriers suddenly appeared. Lady Sligo described them exactly as they are to be seen in Gavarni's wonderful drawings in The Illustrated London News of 1848-strange beings with long beards and rakish caps, sometimes of liberty and sometimes of less pronounced cut, with belts round their trousers through which their shirts were pulled, and heavy, strange- looking muskets in their hands. The queer crowd who surged round the carriage were a deputation who wished to put some of their special woes and difficulties before Lamartine, and to get his help and advice. Doubtless they also longed to see their leader face to face and to be soothed by the golden voice and fervent words. They greeted him with respect and enthusiasm but immediately the cry went up, "Un discours! Un discours!" Lamartine, who was always more ready to speak than even the Parisian mob to hear, at once stood up in the carriage and addressed the crowd. No doubt he harangued in that magnificently platitudinous manner of which he was the master. Lady Sligo could only remember the general impression made on her, which was that the great Lamartine spoke with deep feeling as well as with conspicuous charm. Very soon he had satisfied the wishes of the deputation and reduced them to that peculiar condition which newspapers of the day described as "fraternisation."

I have often wondered exactly what happened when it is recorded that "fraternisation" became general. Apparently it was not very much more than everybody shaking everybody else's hands and talking at once. You felt happy and full of brotherly affection, and exchanged the compliments of the Revolution with everyone you encountered. Even our own forefathers did this on occasion, and not merely when they were politically moved, but also at any emotional moment. Amazing as it sounds, I remember my mother-in-law, Mrs. Simpson, telling me that when she was a girl in the 'forties and 'fifties, she had seen people in the Covent Garden Opera House so moved by the singing and acting of Mario and Grisi as to rise in their places not merely to cheer, but to do something which I suppose would have been called "fraternisation." In a sudden burst of emotion they all shook hands with each other and, as it were, congratulated themselves on hearing the Diva's glorious song or Mario "soothing with the tenor note the souls in purgatory." And then we talk as if these same people of the 'forties and 'fifties were unendurably stuffy and stodgy! In truth, they were nothing of the kind.

Have I not myself heard the old Lady Stanley of Alderley describe how when she and her people were having their luggage examined at the Genoa Custom House, someone rushed in with the news that Byron was dead? Upon this, everybody present burst into tears-not merely the matron and the maid, but the men old and young. We all admire "le Byron de nos jours" very greatly (I shall not name him for fear of the consequences) but honestly I don't think you could now get the tiniest trickle of tears down the cheek of anyone at a Douane, or anywhere else, by announcing his demise. "Other times, other emotions."

But I have wandered far from the family of Arthur Russell and the double ties, French and English, which bound them to my wife's family. Quite apart from my marriage connection, I came in touch with the Arthur Russells. Lord Arthur was a close friend of Sir Louis Mallet, and I have already described my friendship with Sir Louis, first through his son, and then through my own admiration for that able and delightful man-a great charmer as well as a great thinker in the region of Political Economy, "a social creature," as Burke might have called him, as well as a wise man-a man who could be an earnest devotee of Cobden on the one side of his nature, and on the other fastidious in a high degree in his social outlook. But if I go on to express my admiration of Sir Louis Mallet this will cease to be an autobiography and become something in the nature of Bossuet's eulogies, so ardent was my cult for Cobden's friend.

The Russells were also on intimate terms with the Grant-Duffs, with whom I had become acquainted through the Mallets, and also through Sir Mountstuart's eldest son, the present Arthur Grant-Duff, who was at Balliol with me. He soon entered the Diplomatic Service, in which, like his brother Evelyn, he has had an honourable and useful career. I had, therefore, every sort of reason for liking the Arthur Russell family. They were friends of my friends as well as friends of my relations. But Lord Arthur Russell and his family were destined to be to me much more than "friends-in-law." I had not been more than two or three times in the company of Lord Arthur without feeling that attraction towards him which a young man sometimes experiences, and if he does, always with high satisfaction, in the case of a man or woman belonging to an older generation. I am proud to think that he liked me almost at first sight, I am not vain enough to say, as much as I liked him, but, at any rate, quite enough to create a sense of social relationship exceedingly flattering as well as exceedingly delightful. I was just entering the intellectual world of London, and knew that it was no small thing to get at once on the best of terms with a man like Arthur Russell. He had known and knew almost everybody worth knowing in London, in Paris, and in most of the European capitals from Berlin to Rome. By this I do not mean social grandees, but the true men of light and leading, in science, literature, the Arts, philosophy, and politics.

Though Lord Arthur never held office, he had been for many years a Liberal Member of Parliament, and had also been a member of almost every literary and political club in London, such as "The Club," "Grignon's," "The Breakfast Club," and so on. Besides his literary and historical sympathies and interests, he was a man devoted to natural history, and had a great many friends on this side of knowledge. He was also a friend both of Hutton and of Townsend, always a diligent reader and a fairly frequent contributor to the columns of The Spectator, which made yet another tie between us. Finally, Lord Arthur, hitherto a very loyal, if sometimes critical, supporter of Mr. Gladstone, became, as I had become, a Liberal Unionist. He followed, that is, Lord Hartington into opposition on the Home Rule question. But I, as a member of the Liberal Unionist Committee and Editor of The Liberal Unionist,-the organ of our new Party,-had a position amongst Liberal Unionists rather above what might have been expected at my age. I was then about twenty- seven-a position which brought me into touch with Lord Hartington, Mr. Bright, the Duke of Argyll, Mr. Chamberlain, and, in fact, all the Liberal and Radical Unionists of the day. Finally and, as it were, to cement my wife's old and my new friendship with the Arthur Russells, I bought a piece of land on which to build a Saturday-to-Monday cottage, which, though I did not fully realise it at the moment, was close to the Arthur Russells' Surrey house, The Ridgeway.

No sooner had we pitched our tent in what was then the fascinating wilderness of Newlands Corner, than we discovered that we were only an easy Sunday afternoon walk from our friends. Soon it became a fixed habit with us, from which I think we never varied, to descend from our Downs every Sunday and walk by a series of delightful bridle-paths to The Ridgeway for tea-a serious institution in a family where there were two girls and four boys.

At the Arthur Russells, when re-enforced by Mme. and Mile, de Peyronnet, Lady Sligo, who had also settled in Surrey, one heard talk such as I have never known bettered and very seldom equalled. Nothing could have been easier or more stimulating. Those were gatherings at which no one assumed the attitude described in The Rejected Addresses:

I am a blessed Glendoveer.

'Tis mine to speak and yours to hear.

I was, except for the Russell boys and girls and my own wife, the youngest member of the party, but I was always made to feel at The Ridgeway that they were as willing to hear as even I was willing to talk, which, as my friends will vouch, was saying a good deal. I was, in truth, bursting to give my view, as a young man should be, on a hundred subjects. The intellectual world lay all before me. But though Providence was my guide, I was not yet confined to any fixed course, but with joyous inconsequence raced up and down the paths of the Dialectical Paradise as unconscious and as unashamed as a colt in a green meadow.

Lord Arthur Russell, though a man of a gentle, tranquil spirit, had a great sympathy with youth. He was, like all his race, a Whig, and a Moderate, in every human function and aspiration. He did not, however, allow that liberal spirit to be dimmed by fear or by selfishness. He was one of those fortunate men who are not awed by rumour or carried away by prejudice. Still less was there any touch of pride or vulgarity in his nature Meanness and commonness of mind were as far from him as from any man I have ever known. Yet there was nothing either of the recluse or of the saint about him. He was not afraid to look on life, and its realities, and he took the very greatest interest, not only in what concerned homo sapiens, but also homo natumlis. He loved good stories and told good stories, and loved also to analyse and comment upon the actions of the great men of his own day and of past days, for it need hardly be said that as the nephew of Lord John Russell, the son of Lady William Russell, and the cousin of half the politicians of his day, he was the repository of every sort of social and political tradition. He was an extraordinarily accurate man, and by no means willing to pick up, or record, or pass on stray pieces of gossip about historical people, without verification.

Lord Arthur's first-hand and personal recollections, though never of the tiresome kind, had often great poignancy and actuality. I remember being thrilled by an account which he had had direct from his uncle, Lord John Russell, of the latter's visit to Napoleon at Elba in the early part of 1815. The interview, of course, made a great impression upon him and the account he gave was vivid and picturesque. I must omit a detail which shows what a dirty savage Napoleon was, and how he maintained even in his little palazzo at Elba the manners not only of the camp, but of the rudest soldier. In describing this episode, which would have been too trivial for narration if not so nasty, Lord John was wont to say, "I was very much surprised." It must be remembered here that not only in 1815, but even fifty years before (witness the testimony both of Dr. Johnson and Horace Walpole), Englishmen were apt to be shocked by continental habits in the matter of personal cleanliness.

Another detail, however, is quite fit to tell. Napoleon knew quite well that the brother of the Duke of Bedford and a Member of the House of Commons was an important person, and was accordingly exceedingly civil to the young man. But Lord John told his nephew that very early in the conversation Napoleon seized him by the ear and held it almost all the time he was talking, or rather, pouring forth one of his streams of familiar eloquence as to the harshness and cruelty of the Allies. Napoleon, when he was cross, would sometimes wring people's ears till they screamed for pain. Talleyrand, for example, was on one occasion, when held by the ear, so much hurt as to be deprived of his habitual insensibility to Napoleon's insults, and gave vent to the famous aside, "What a pity that so great a man should have been so badly brought up!"

In any case, Lord John's ear, though held for ten or twelve minutes, was not screwed up. I remember when I heard the story, thirty years ago, at once asking the question, "Which ear was it he held?" That sounded almost to myself as I asked it a silly question, but, as the reply showed, it was not. Lord Arthur replied, "That is curious. It is exactly the question I asked my uncle, and he, instead of treating it as trivial, answered as if it was a matter of the first importance, 'My left ear.'" Certainly it seems to me a strong link with the past. Here was Lord Arthur, who would not have been much over eighty if he had lived till today, who had seen a piece of human flesh which had actually been held by the Corsican Tamerlane.

Lord Arthur once showed his belief in my discretion and also his divination that I was not one of the supercilious intellectuals who think details of family history are tiresome and unimportant, in a way which greatly pleased me. He confided to me the true story, which he had had from various people of the older generation who knew the facts, as to the relations between the two Duchesses of Devonshire. The elder Duchess, Georgiana, was the Juno of the Whigs. It would be folly to call her the Madonna of the Whigs. It was at her eyes that the coal porter at the Westminster Election wanted to light his pipe. Sir Joshua immortalised her in his picture of the young mother and her child. To her the mystic poet and philosopher bent the knee of admiration, in the enchanting couplet:

Oh, lady, nursed in pomp and pleasure, Where got you that heroic measure?

The other Duchess was born Elizabeth Harvey-the woman whose eyes still scintillate also from Sir Joshua's canvas, with an energy so overwhelming as to be uncanny-the woman who fascinated without actual beauty, but whose smile might have embroiled the world-the woman who stirred even the sluggish Gibbon and made him say, with a personal vivacity and poignancy which is unique in his writings, that if she had entered the House of Lords and beckoned the Lord Chancellor to leave the Woolsack and follow her, he must have obeyed. Gibbon had evidently racked his brains to think of the most audacious act of which a woman could be capable, and that quaintly proved in his case to be the enchantment of a Lord Chancellor! If, at the present moment, there is a lady possessed of charms equal to those of Elizabeth Duchess of Devonshire, let us hope that the precincts of both the Lords and the Commons Houses are well guarded!

I shall not on the present occasion say more than that Lord Arthur gave me a note of the true facts of the story, to which many allusions, generally incorrect, have appeared in various memoirs-a story of incidents which, strangely enough, quite possibly affected the history of the world. These incidents had as their sequel the appointment of the son of a well-known Scottish doctor, Dr. Moore, to an Infantry regiment. That Infantry subaltern became Sir Thomas Moore the man who lost his life in saving the British Empire, and first taught the people of these islands and then, what is more important, the whole of Europe, that there was nothing invincible about the troops of Napoleon, when they were faced by British regiments properly trained, as Moore trained them at Shorncliff. Just as the destruction of the Spartan Hoplites in the Island of Sphacteria broke the military spell cast by the armies of Sparta, so Moore's victorious retreat to, and action at, Corunna broke the spell of the Napoleonic Legions.

Though I have Lord Arthur's notes, and though he in no way bound me to secrecy, they want an interval longer than a hundred and ten years "prior to publication." Therefore they will rest in my safe, or wherever else they may have been affectionately mislaid, and where it would probably take a day's hard work to find them. There is no such secrecy and security as "filing for future reference." When the notes are found by my literary executors, they will please remember that they should not be given to the public until they have ample assurance that the head of the Devonshire family sees no objection. It is not a family skeleton in any sense, but till family facts become historic, the utmost discretion is demanded alike by courtesy and good feeling.

I had, alas! no sooner fully realised that I had made a friend in Lord Arthur and that I might look forward to many years of intimate intercourse with a man of knowledge and sympathy, from whom I could learn much and in the most fascinating and delightful way, than the end came. A short illness, followed by a rapid operation-hopeless, or almost hopeless-cut short this honourable and gracious life. I was one of the very few people whom Lord Arthur asked to see in the few days allowed him between life and death. He wanted to see me out of pure friendliness, to talk about his children and to show me, as only such an act could, that he, like me, had hoped much from our friendship. He was the kind of man who would be sure to prefer saying this by deed rather than by word.

But for the simplicity and essential nobility of character which he possessed, he might well have sent for me to see how a good man could die. There was everything to strengthen and so to quiet one in the way in which he faced the message which comes to all-a message so deeply dreaded by most of us, yet which, when it does come, proves to be not a sentence, but a reprieve-the mandatory word that does not imprison us, but sets us free, which flings the gates and lets us see the open heaven, instead of the walls and vaulted ceiling of the cells of which we have been the inhabitants.

But though the very last thing that Lord Arthur was thinking about was the impression upon my mind, that impression was intense both in kind and in degree. That short last talk at his bedside, in which so little was said, so much felt by both of us, has never left my memory. If for no other reason, it must be recorded here for it had, I feel, an essential if undefinable influence upon my life.

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