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His lyrical attempts are sad failures. He was the munificent patron and friend of Ben Jonson and Sir William Davenant, and lived long enough to succor Shadwell and befriend Dryden.
“He was,” says Clarendon, “a very fine gentleman, active, and full of courage, and most accomplished in those qualities of horsemanship, dancing, and sencing, which accompany a good breeding, in which his delight was, Besides that he was amorous in poetry and music, to which he indulged the greatest part of his time; and nothing could have tempted him out of those paths of pleasure, which he enjoyed in a full and ample fortune, but honor and ambition to serve the king when he saw him in distress, and abandoned by most of those who were in the highest degree obliged to him and by him.” . . . . . " He liked,” Clarendon adds, “the pomp and absolute authority of a general well, and preserved the dignity of it to the full ; and for the discharge of the outward state and circumstances of it, in acts of courtesy, altability, bounty, and generosity, he abounded; which, in the infancy of a war, became him, and made him, for some time, very acceptable to men of all conditions. But the substantial part and fatigue of a general he did not, in any degree, understand (being utterly unacquainted with war), nor could submit to, but referred all matters of that nature to the discretion of his lieutenant-general King, a Scotchman. In all actions of the field he was still present, and never absent in any battle; in all which he gave instances of an invincible courage and fearlessness in danger; in which the exposing himself notoriously did sometimes change the fortune of the day, when his troops begun to give ground. Such articles of action were no sooner over than he retired to his delightful company, music; or his softer pleasures, to all which he was so indulgent; and to his ease, that he would not be interrupted upon what occasion soever; insomuch as he sometimes denied admission to the chiefest officers of the army, even to General King himself for two days together, from whence many inconveniences fell out.”
The times pressed hard upon the marquis and his lady, as they did indeed upon every loyalist abroad. “The people would have pulled,” she says, “God out of heaven, had they had the power, as they pulled royalty out of his throne.” Of the large rental of his estate, not one farthing could the marquis get for his own use, and he lived on his credit abroad, which was large, till even it was exhausted. His wife was once left, she tells us, at Antwerp, as a pawn for his debts.
“He lived on credit,” says the duchess, “and outlived his trust, so that his steward
was forced at one time to tell him, ‘That he was not able to provide a dinner for him, for his creditors were resolved to trust him no longer.” Turning to his wife, he said, that I must of necessity pawn my clothes to make so much money as would procure a dinner. I answered that my clothes would be but of small value, and therefore desired my waiting-maid, Miss Chaplain, to pawn some small toys, which I had formerly given her, which she willingly did.”
It was at this time that the duchess went to England with her husband's only brother, Sir Charles Cavendish, to try and extract some money from the implacable Independents. The confiscated estates were at auction to any that would buy them, free, it was said, of any incumbrance, but the claims, and they were either few or rejected, of the wives and children of the old possessors. But the marchioness solicited in vain; Newcastle had been too steady a loyalist to receive any mark of favor or of justice from the Independent party, so that she had to return to her husband abroad with but a trisling produce from her mission.
“On my return,” she writes, “his creditors came clamorous round me, supposing I had brought a great store of money along with me.”
Even royalty itself was in a more reduced condition ; and the duchess relates a saying of Charles the Second's to her, when dining privately at the table of her lord, when his funds were at their lowest, “That he perceived my lord's credit could procure better meat than his own.”
When in London, she says,
“I gave some half-a-score of visits, and went with my lord's brother to hear music in one Mr. Lawes his house, three or four times [the Lawes that called Milton friend], as also some three or four times to Hyde Park with my sisters to take the air, else I never stirred out of my lodgings, unless to see my brothers and sisters; nor seldom did I dress myself, as taking no delight to adorn myself, since he I only desired to please was absent.”
But his lordship was not idle abroad. He lived at Antwerp, and in great state, in the house “which belonged to the widow of Van Ruben, a famous picture-drawer.” His horses were of the finest breed. He was attended by all skilled in a knowledge of the stable, of the noble art of horsemanship, and the science of fencing.” It was Newcastle who taught the profligate Williers the cunning of the sword. Nor was his time misemployed in writing his noble book on horsemanship, a work, as Horace Walpole observes, “read by those who scarce know any other author.” The duchess, too, learnt much from his tuition; “for I being young,” she says, “when your lordship married me, could not have much knowledge of the world. But it pleased God to command his servant Nature to indue me with a poetical and philosophical genius, even from my very birth ; for I did write some books in that kind before I was twelve years of age, which, for want of good method and order, I would never divulge.”
* Rubens' house, still stown at Antwerp.
The year of the Restoration was the sixteenth of the exile of the loyal marquis, and the year, too of his return. His lordship was among the first of the exiled loyalists to land, and so eager was he, though then sixty-six, to set his foot once more on English ground, that he left his wife to follow him at her own leisure, and crossed the Channel in a leaky vessel. How interesting is the duchess's picture of her lord's return :
“My lord (who was so transported with the joy of returning into his native country, that he regarded not the vessel), having set sail from Rotterdam, was so becalmed, that he was six days and six nights upon the water, during which time he pleased himself with mirth, and passed his time away as well as he could; provisions he wanted none, having them in #. store and plenty; at last, being come so far that he was able to discern the smoke of London, which he had not seen for a long time, he merrily was pleased to desire one that was near him to jog and awake him out of his dream, “sor surely,” said he, “I have been sixteen years asleep, and am not thoroughly awake yet.' My lord lay that night at Green wich, where his supper seemed more savory to him than any meal he had hitherto . and the noise of some scraping fiddlers he thought the pleasantest harmony that ever he had heard.”
Her ladyship soon followed her lord, and in the general joy, the marquis, whose services for the king had been unsurpassed throughout the war, was elevated by Charles, whose governor he had been, to a dukedom. The house at Clarkenwell received once more its rightful owner, and the people
* Ben Jonson has two commendatory epigrams to the duke, on his horsemanship and on his fencing.—Gur road's Jonson, viii. 444: ix. 17.
about Welbeck and its neighborhood rejoiced again at the return of the princely proprietor. But from the court and the general intoxication which followed the restoration of the king, the duke and duchess absented themselves as much as possible. For this they were made the laughing-stock of the Willierses and Wilmots, the Ethereges and the Sedleys, that frequented the courts of St. James's and Whitehall. Even the king joined in the general ridicule of his satellites, and Sir Walter Scott, in his Peveril of the Peak, has entered into this feeling with his usual exactness, with his wonted vivacity and vigor.
Now and then the duchess made her appearance in public. One of her visits was to the Royal Society, and Birch, in his History, has recorded the visit, and the day on which it took place. Evelyn was there, and in his Diary has commemorated the occurrence :
“May 30, 1667.-To London, to wait on the Duchess of Newcastle (who was a mighty pretender to learning, poetry, and philosophy, and had in both published divers books), to the Royal Society, whither she came in great pomp, and being received by our Lord president at the door of our meeting-room—the mace, &c., carried before him—had several experiments showed to her. I coducted her grace to her coach, and returned home.”
But Pepys has the superiority over Evelyn :—
“30th May, 1667–After dinner I walked to Arundel House, the way very dusty, where I find very much company, in expectation of the Duchess of Newcastle, who had desired to be invited to the Society, and was after much debate pro and con, it seems many being against it; and we do believe the town will be full of ballads of it. Anon comes the duchess, with her women attending her; among others the Ferabosco, of , whom so much talk is, that her lady would bid her shew her face and kill the gallants. She is, indeed, black, and hath good black little eyes, but otherwise but a very o do think, but they say sings well. he duchess hath been a good, comely woman; but her dress so antick, and her deportment so ordinary, that I do not like her at all: nor did I hear her say any thing that was worth hearing, but that she was full of admiration—all admiration. Several fine experi
ments were shewn her of colors, loadstones, microscopes, and of liquors: among others, of one that did, while she was there, turn a piece of roasted mutton into pure blood, which was very rare . . . After they had shewn her many experiments, and she cried still she was full of admiration, she departed, being led out and in
“18th April, 1667.-I went to make court to the Duke and Duchess of Newcastle at their house at Clerkenwell, being newly come out of the North. They received me with great kindness, and I was much pleased with the extraordinary fanciful habit, garb, and discourse of the duchess.”. . . .
“25th April.—Visited again the Duke of Newcastle, with whom I had been acquainted long before in France, where the duchess had obligation to my wive's mother for her marriage there; she was sister to Lord Lucas, and maid of honor then to the queen-mother; married in our chapel at Paris. My wise being with me, the duke and duchess would both needs bring her to the very court.”. . . .
“27th April.—In the afternoon I went again with my wife to the Duchess of Newcastle, who received her in a kind of transport, suitable to her extravagant humor and dress, which was very singular.”
“When young,” says the duchess, “I took great delight in attiring, fine dressing, and fashions, especially such fashions as I did invent myself, not taking that pleasure in such fashions as were invented by others: also I did dislike any should follow my sashions, for 1 always took delight in a singularity, even in accoutrements of habits.”
“At Welbeck,” says Walpole, “there is a whole-length of the duchess in a theatric habit, which, tradition says, she generally wore.” .
Pepys, the most entertaining of journalists, has spoken of the duchess and her doings in several places throughout his intercsting Diary :
“30th March, 1667–To see the silly play of my Lady Newcastle's, called The Humorous Lorers: the most silly thing that ever came upon a stage. I was sick to see it, but yet would not have but seen it, that I might the better understand her.”* . . . *11th April.-To Whitehall, thinking there to have seen the Duchess of Newcastle's coming this night to court to make a visit to the ueen, the king having been with her yesteray, to make her a visit since her coming to town. The whole story of this lady is a romance, and all she does is romantic. Her footmen in velvet coats, and herself in an antique
* The Humorous Lorers is the work of the duke, not of the duchess.
dress, as they say; and was the other day at her own play, The Humorous Lorers; the most ridiculous thing that ever was wrote, but yet she and her lord mightily pleased with it: and she at the end made her respects to the players from her box, and di I give them thanks. There is as much expectation of her coming to court, that so people may come to see her as if it were the Queen of Sweden; but I lost my labor, for she did not come this night.”
On the 26th of the same month and the same year (April, 1667,) Pepys saw his romantic duchess for the first time. His entry is in his usual short picturesque style:
“Met my Lady Newcastle going with her coaches and footmen all in velvet; herself (whom I never saw before), as I have heard her often described (for all the town-talk is nowa-days of her extravagancies), with her velvet cap, her hair about her ears; many black patches, because of pimples about her mouth; naked necked, without any thing about it, and a black just-au-corps. She seemed to me a very comely woman; but I hope to see more of her on May-day.”
Well, May-day came, and Pepys and his friend Sir William Penn went by “coach, Tiburne way, into the Park, where a horrid dust, and number of coaches, without pleasure or order. That which we, and almost all went for, was to see my Lady Newcastle; which we could not, she being followed and crowded upon by coaches all the way she went, that nobody could come near her; only I could see she was in a large black coach adorned with silver instead of gold, and so white curtains, and every thing black and white, and herself in her cap.” “On the 10th,” says Pepys, “I drove hard towards Clerkenwell, thinking to have overtaken my Lady Newcastle, whom I saw before us in her coach, with a hundred boys and girls running looking upon her; but I could not; and so she got home before I could come up to her. But I will get a time to see her.” If this time ever came, Mr. Pepys overlooked its entry. His last notice of the duchess refers to the biography of her husband:—
“18th March, 166S.-Home, and, in favor to my eyes, stayed reading the ridiculous history of my Lord Newcastle, wrote by his wise ; which shows her to be a mad, conceited, ridiculous woman, and he an ass to sufler her to write what she writes to and of him.”
The plays, poems, letters, essays, and philosophical fancies of the duchess fill some twelve folio volumes; all are scarce and all are interesting.
“My great desire,” says the duchess, “is to be had in remembrance in after-ages. All I desire is fame; I would rather venture an indiscretion, than lose the hopes of a fame.”
Unfortunately, her knowledge was more multifarious than exact; and her reason, overruled by an overflowing fancy, controlled by no kind of judgment or taste. She was indebted to herself for all her thoughts, reading little, and talking but with her lord or her attendants. Yet this masculineminded but misdirected woman lived on in the belief—the pleasing belief—that she would stand high with posterity as an authoress.
“Perchance,” she says, “many that read this book will hardly understand it. . . . . . I verily believe that ignorance and present envy will slight my book, yet I make no question, when envy is worn out by time, but understanding will remember me in after-ages.”
The work by which the duchess is best known is the Life of her husband, the ridiculous history to which Pepys, as we have seen, alludes. Nor is the title the least curious part of this curious compilation ; Jones's magnificent portico to St. Paul's was not more stately or taking than this doorway of the duchess:—
THE LIFE of the Thrice Noble, High and Puissant Prince William CAvex dish E, Duke, Marquess, and Earl of Newcastle; Farl of Ogle, Wiscount Mansfield; and Baron of Bolsover, of Ogle, Bothal, and Hepple; Gentleman of His Majesties Bed-chamber; one of His Majesties most Honorable Privy-Councel; Knight of the most Noble Order of the Garter; His Majesties Lieutenant of the County and Town of Nottingham ; and Justice in Ayre Trent-North; who had the honor to be Governor to our most Glorious King, and Gracious Soveraign, in his Youth, when He was Prince of Wales ; and soon aster was made Captain General of all the Provinces beyond the River of Trent, and other Parts of the Kingdom of England, with Power, o a special Commission, to make nights.
WRITTEN By the Thrice Noble, Illustrious and Earcellent Princess, MARGARET, Duchess of Newcastle, His WIFE.
- London Printed by A. Maxwell, in the year 1667. [folio]
This is lengthy and pompous enough; but no one page is free from vanity, from folly, affectation, and good sense.
“Such a book, for instance,” says Charles Lamb, “as the Life of the Duke of Newcastle by his Duchess ; no casket is rich enough, no casing sufficiently durable, to honor and keep safe such a jewel.”
“When i first intended,” says the duchess, “to write this history, knowing myself to be noscholar, and ignorant of the rules of writing histories, I desired my lord, that he would be pleased to let me have some elegant and learned historian to assist me; which request his grace would not grant me; saying, that having never had any assistance in the writing of my former books, I should have no other in the writing of his life, but the informations from
himself and his secretary, of the chief transac
tions and fortunes occurring in it, to the time he married me. I humbly answered. that without a learned assistant the whole history would be defective; but he replied, that truth could not be defective. I said again, that rhetoric did adorn truth; and he answered, that rhetoric was fitter for falsehoods than truths. Thus was I forced by his grace's commands to write this history in my own plain style, without elegant flourishings or exquisite method.”
Her grace went resolutely to work at once :—“I am resolved to write in a natural, plain style, without Latin sentences, moral instructions, politic designs, or feigned orations.” “I write it,” she says, “whilst my noble lord is yet alive, and at such a time wherein truth may be declared and falsehood contradicted; and I challenge any one (although I be a woman) to contradict any thing I have set down, or prove it to be otherwise than truth.” But for the composition and style, she says:—“Nobody can certainly be more ready to find faults in this work than I am to confess them.”
Of the principal passages of his life his lordship himself informed her; other intelligence she had from Rolleston, his secretary. It is not our intention to inquire into these; “they are as full of truth as of words,” she herself says, and at this distance of time it would be unfair to question or impugn in any way her statements. We are told, and there can be no doubt of the fact, that the annual rental of his lordship's estates was about 22,2931. 10s. 1d. (for. stewards' accounts deal always in pence,) and that in three entertainments to Charles I. he had spent the income of a year. Lord
* ELIA. Reading.
Detached Thoughts on Books and
Clarendon bears testimony to the magnificence of these feasts. A pound then was equal to five pounds of our money. The duchess's admiration of her husband, whom she had looked up to from the first, is perhaps pardonable,_it certainly is amusing. “His behavior,” she says, “is manly without formality, and free without constraint.” “I have observed,” she says in another place, “that many, by flattering poets, have been compared to Caesar, without desert; but this I dare freely, and without flattery, say of my lord, that though he had not Caesar's fortune, yet he wanted not Caesar's courage, nor his prudence, nor his good-nature, nor his wit. Nay, in some particulars he did more than Caesar ever did.” After this we may expect to hear her say, as say she does, that “he was the best lyric and dramatic poet of his age 1" without wonder. Nor can one refrain from a smile when they read that Archbishop Laud (who had left her husband a diamond pin of the value of 200l.) once said to King Charles, and the bequest confirmed the observation, “That my lord was one of the wisest and prudentest persons that ever he was acquainted with.” All this is, as Lamb thought, exquisitely delightful. But the duchess is not always in the vein of exorbitant panegyric, but lets us see at times a little of domestic portraitpainting in words. “In short,” she says, “I knew him not addicted to any manner of vice, except that he has been a great lover and admirer of the female sex; which, whether it be so great a crine as to condemn him for it, I'll leave to the judgment of young gallants and beautiful ladies.” She then enlarges on the elegance of his exterior, the becomingness of his dress, on his diet, and discourse. Of his diet, she writes, “He makes but one meal a-day, at which he drinks two good glasses of smallbeer, one about the beginning, the other at the end thereof, and a little glass of sack in the middle of his dinner; which glass of sack he also uses in the morning for his breakfast, with a morsel of bread. His supper consists of an egg and a draught of small-beer.” The duchess herself lived on boiled chickens and water; her mind, she says, was so active, that her appetite became passive. There is much of what Fanny Kemble calls dear good little me in all her ladyship's writings. Thus, she tells us (and how desirable is the information) that she cared not for cards or for revellings:—
“As for dancing, although it be a graceful art, and becometh unmarried persons well, yet, for those that are married it is too light an action, disagreeing with the gravity thereof.” . . . “I am as fearful as a hare; sor I start at the noise of a pop-gun, and shut my eyes at the sight of a sword, and run away at the least alarm.” . . . . “I speak but little, because I am given to contemplation; and though I have seen much company, I have conversed with sew, for my nature being dull and heavy, and my disposition not merry, makes me think myself not fit for company; for I take conversation to be in talking, which I have not practised very much, unless it be to particular friends, for naturally I am so wedded to contemplation, that many times, when I have been in company, I had not known one word they have said, by reason my busy thoughts had stopped the sense of my hearing.”
In learning languages she had a natural stupidity.
“I understand no other language than my own; not French, although I was in France five years. Neither do I understand my own native language very well; for there are many words I know not what they signify.” . . . “I think it against nature,” she says in another place, “for a woman to speak right; for my part, I confess, I cannot. . . . . . . “As for the grammar part, I confess I am no scholar.” . . . “My fancy is so quick, that it is quicker than the pen with which I write ; insomuch, that my ideas are many times lost through the slowness of my hand, and yet I write so fast, as I stay not so long as to make perfect letters.”
What she was writing, she tells us, she uttered audibly, and that her waiting-maids deciphered her hieroglyphics, and at times took down the wisdom that fell from her lips. “Many times,” she confesses, “I did not peruse the copies that were transcribed, lest they should distract my following conceptions; by which neglect many errors have slipt into my works.”
She has defended her own authorship, however, and ably, too.
“Instead,” she says, “ of running, like other wives, from church to church, from ball to ball, [rom collation to collation, gossiping from house to house, I dance a measure with the Muses, ..", the Sciences, and sit and discourse with the Arts. Our sex takes so much delight in dressing and adorning themselves, as we, for the most part, make our gowns our books, our laces our lines, our embroideries our letters, and our dressings are the time of our study; and instead of turning over solid leaves, we turn our hair into curls.” . . . “Sure this kind of work,” she apologetically adds, “is better than to sit still and censure my neighbor's actions, which nothing concerns me, or to condemn their humors because they do not