Imatges de pÓgina

they presented themselves at the door, and were informed by Sir William Saunderson that the Chancellor had forbidden their ad. mittance.

The Duchess of Queensberry, as head of the squadron, pished at the illbreeding of a mere lawyer, and desired him to let them upstairs privately. After some modest refusals, he swore by G-- he would not let them in. Her Grace with & noble warmth answered, by G-- they would come in in spite of the Chancellor and the whole House.

After this the battle began in earnest. The Lords tried to tire the ladies out, closed the doors, and ordered that no persons at all were to be admitted till the siege was raised. These dauntless women, however, remained at their post till five in the afternoon, 'every now and then playing vollies of thumps, kicks, and raps against the door, with so much violence that the speakers in the House were scarce heard. These tactics failing, they had recourse to stratagem, and the two Duchesses commanded a dead silence of half an hour. The Lords fell into the trap, and, as the Commons were growing impatient, the doors were thrown open. In rushed the ladies

pushed aside their competitors, and placed themselves in the front rows of the gallery. They stayed there till after eleven, when the House rose ; and during the debate gave applause, and showed marks of dislike, not only by smiles and winks (which have always been allowed in these cases), but by noisy laughs and apparent contempts ; which is supposed the true reason why poor Lord Hervey spoke miserably.

Meanwhile the Duke of Queensberry had gone over to the Opposition, and attached himself openly to the Prince of Wales. The Duchess also continued her political intrigues fitfully, and there are some rambling and mysterious letters of hers in 1736 and 1737 to Ann Pitt and others.

Walpole's final overthrow in 1742 did not greatly affect the fortunes of the Queensberry family; but a few years later these were darkened by domestic calamities. In 1753 Lord Cornhury (who had then become Lord Hyde), to whom the Duchess was extremely attached, was killed in Paris by a fall from his horse. Eight months later he was followed to the grave by his father. In 1754 her eldest son, Lord Drumlanrig, shot himself accidentally with a pistol, leaving a widowed bride behind him. In the following year Lord Charles Douglas, her remaining son, narrowly escaped destruction in the Lisbon earthquake; but his fate was only deferred, for he died unmarried in 1756. And thus the dukedom passed away from their line to William Douglas, third Earl of March (the notorious 'old Q.' of later days), who succeeded to it in 1778 on the death of ‘Kitty's' husband. The Duchess felt the loss of her brother deeply, but she was prostrated with grief at the death of her eldest son. Mrs. Delany, who is rather fond of pious reflections, observes in reference to Lord Hyde's death that if it

should give the Duchess ' a serious and right way of thinking, the event, melancholy as it is, máy prove a happiness to her; and as she has good sense and many good qualities, I hope she will make a proper use of this great chastisement.' But hers was a nature not easily to be chastened ; and though misfortunes did not sour her affections, they seem to have made her more reckless in her waywardness. Never too careful about giving offence to her friends, she seemed at times positively to go out of her way to flout them. Even in her earlier days her hospitalities were often disfigured with affronts. On one occasion in 1745 she had sent an invitation to Lady Emily Lennox which her mother, the Duchess of Richmond, was unable to answer at once. Whereupon, as Horace Walpole relates, “the Queensberry then sent word that she had made up her company, and desired to be excused from having Lady Emily's ; but at the bottom of the card wrote “ Too great a trust."! We may perhaps detect an echo of the irritation caused by the Duchess's wayward hospitality in a letter of Pope's to Martha Blount, where he writes 'Pray ask the Duchess of Queensberry (if you can contrive to ask her without seeing her) what she means by forgetting you are as good a dancer as some she invites.' Horace Walpole thus describes to Mann one of her masquerades in 1748: 'The Duchess as mad as you remember her. She had stuck up notices about dancing, as you see at public bowling greens ; turned half the company out at twelve ; kept those she liked to supper; and, in short, contrived to do an agreeable thing in the rudest manner imaginable.' Her invitations, too, would contain irritating mistakes, some of which looked more like mischief than accident. The Duchess of Bedford seems to have resented some affront of this kind, whereupon she received the following couplet from her hostess :

Come with a whistle, and come with a call,
Come with a good will or come not at all.

Horace Walpole’s experiences at one of her balls in 1764 shall be given in his own words :

The gallery where they danced was very cold. Lord Lorn, George Selwyn, and I retired into a little room, and sat comfortably by the fire. The Duchess looked in, said nothing, and sent a smith to take the hinges of the door off. We understood the hint, and left the room, and so did the smith the door. This was pretty legible.

Moreover she carried into social matters not only personal caprice but political prejudice. We learn from a private letter that in 1740 the Duke of Queensberry and some others organised a set of subscription dances at Heidegger's rooms. On the day before the first of these the Duchess wrote to Lord Conway desiring him to send word to Sir Robert Walpole to keep away, otherwise neither she nor any of her friends would come. Lord Conway politely declined to accede to this request ; whereupon the Duchess returned to the charge, offering on her part to keep Pulteney away; but Lord Conway remained obdurate. Finally she came with an ill grace, and took care to show it was so much à contre-cæur as to cast a cloud on the whole assembly.' In consequence of this disagreeable incident most of the subscribers withdrew their names.

It is easy to understand the irritation which conduct like this would arouse ; and yet the charm of the woman seemed to carry her through it all. Horace Walpole, who detested anything outrageous, thanked Heaven fervently that at Strawberry Hill the Thames was between him and the Duchess of Queensberry. But however severely he might criticise her behaviour, he always had the liveliest admiration for her beauty. Indeed her power of captivation was an appreciable asset of the Bolingbroke party. The elder Pitt, who joined the Patriots in 1735, when he was twenty-seven, seems to have been a good deal under her influence. Horace Walpole in 1746 speaks of Pitt's caprices being 'in excellent training ; for he is governed by her mad Grace of Queensberry. A year later we hear that Pitt was not present at the reading of the Bill for taking away the Heritable Jurisdictions in Scotland, 'the Duchess of Queensberry having ordered him to have gout.'

By the time George the Third came to be crowned she was sixty. one ; yet in the coronation procession--as Horace tells us-she still ' looked well, though her locks milkwhite.' Mrs. Delany writes to Mrs. Port, 'I am, thank God, well in health, and put as good a face upon ye matter as age and wrinkles will allow, though not so beautiful, young and blooming as my contemporary the Duchess of Queensberry.' This was in April, 1776, and on the 20th of July, 1777, the Duchess was dead. Her death was as strange as her life, for she died of a surfeit of cherries at the age of seventy-seven, and retaining to the end her extraordinary beauty. Two years after her death Horace Walpole writes to Lady Ossory :

Lady Jane Scott has found in a cabinet at Ham a most enchanting picture by Zincke of the Duchess of Queensberry, which the Duke always carried in his pocket.' It is as simple as my Cowley, in white with hairs all flowing, and beautiful as the Houris in Guido's ‘ Aurora,' and very like her to the last moment

In viewing her life as a whole, her eccentricities of course stand out prominently; but it would be a mistake to suppose that she was nothing but an intellectual crank or a social madcap. At the same time it is supremely difficult to arrive at a compact appreciation of her character. The most contradictory opinions passed current about her, and, strange as it may seem, they were all true. For her conflicting characteristics did not modify each other, but co-existed unchanged in a perpetual antagonism. She had many excellent qualities of head and heart. She was a blameless wife, a devoted

3 The Duke died on the 20th of October, 1778.

mother, an affectionate sister, and, where she gave her friendship, a loyal and loving friend. Swift's letters on the death of Gay are incredibly cold. 'I would endeavour to comfort myself,' he writes to Pope, ‘upon the loss of friends as I do upon the loss of money : by turning to my account book and seeing whether I have enough left for my support.' The warm-hearted Duchess, to whom the letter was shown, utterly repudiates this frigid view.

I differ with you, that it is possible to comfort oneself for the loss of friends as one does upon the loss of money. I think I could live on very little nor think myself poor, or be thought so; but a little friendship could never satisfy me ; and I could never expect to find such another support as my poor friend. In almost everything but friends, another of the same name may do as well ; but friend is more than a name if it be anything.

Her tender care of Gay shows that this was not mere lip-service at friendship's shrine. And moreover, we learn incidentally that she nursed Mrs. Delany through a troublesome illness, preparing 'tisans and balsamic draughts' for the patient with her own hands. Her native faults were aggravated by her environment, which allowed them to run riot; but had they been subjected to a wholesome control, freer play would have been given to the better elements of her character. Imperium, nisi imperasset, comparasset. She might have won a worthier reputation in a humbler sphere, whose conditions would have taught her to obey before she essayed to command. But the greatness of her position and the homage paid to her beauty were a bad discipline for a nature like hers. Had she been duly schooled by criticism and reproof, instead of being pampered by wholesale adulation, the vigour which went to emphasise her defects might well have given strength and stability to her virtues. For with all her pride, her intolerance, and her self-will, she had a sensitive and sympathetic nature. Often enough she showed scanty consideration for her friends, but none the less she winced under their reproaches.

She owns also to some feminine fears which she nevertheless tries to conquer. Thus she forces herself to ride, though she is a nervous horsewoman. And always in wait for her were her headaches, under which she would at times break down completely, even in the middle of a letter. Her flatterers were a servile tribe, who frequently reviled her behind her back. Lady Suffolk remarks to Gay, 'I am much more her humble servant than those who tell her so every day.' Pope, who often deserved Atterbury's bitter description of him

Mens curva in corpore curvo '-could not, in spite of his outward friendship with the Duchess, resist launching a spiteful epigramanonymously—at her.

Did Cælia's person and her senso agree
What mortal could behold her and be free?
But nature has in pity to mankind
Enrich't tho image and debas't tho mind.

The sneer was not only spiteful but untrue. The Duchess's intelleet was not of the first order, but it was bright and alert, and not in the least debased. Young, of the Night Thoughts, was another of her humble servants-to her face. Behind her back he writes to the Duchess of Portland :

The Duchess is, as your Grace says, very entertaining, and so are all oddities; peovishness and pride are in their own nature the most ridiculous things in the world, and therefore must be extremely entertaining to such as only see, not suffer from them. If Mr. Foot would take her Grace well off, you would find her much more entertaining still.

Ungenerous as these remarks were in the mouth of a professed friend, it is impossible to deny that there was some ground for them. Lady Suffolk repeatedly declared, and Gay echoes the comment, that the Duchess thought better of herself than of anybody else. This was not only true in itself, but it was the true explanation of much that was least amiable in her character. For her self-esteem did not rest on a dignified appreciation of her own powers, but on the extravagant assumptions of an untamed arrogance. Still we cannot withhold some sympathy for a character which, with so many lovable qualities, yet failed to attract much love, and a life which, surrounded by all the conditions of success, yet ended more or less in failure. There is a quaint summary of her by the Dowager Countess of Gower in a letter to Mrs. Delany informing her of the Duchess's death :

Her Grace of Queensberry departed last ffriday morn. I sent to know if report said true ; yo servi confirm'd it, y' after five days illness she was just dead of a complaint on her breast. There went a soul of whim! but no life of pleasure! for tho' all at home was at her devotion, she never seem'd to be sensible of ye hapiness, from her own disposition. An extensive triffling genius, innumerable plans, all productive of disapointm".

This is certainly the impression which her career leaves upon us : a career lit up by many bright spots, and darkened less by positive misdeeds than by failures ; the failures of an extensive genius which frittered itself away in trifling pursuits. A pettier character than hers might have emerged unscathed, but for her large nature this misdirected energy brought an inexorable penalty of weariness and ennui. And as we take leave of her we cannot but feel that if there is much in her life to condemn, there is also much to admire, and perhaps still more to pity.


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