LADY GRANVILLE'S LETTERS.* WE presume that the increasing bulk of literature of which these volumes are but another specimen, finds more and more readers as time goes on. In days of such pronounced serious- ness, we can but say that the anomaly of the thing strikes one more forcibly than ever. The rebound of the bow, as we have in this journal more than once pointed out, may be found in the extreme levity of many of the forms of amusement which elicit the sense of fun as it appears to exist in the majority of mankind. But the exact excuse for publishing a series of private letters—confidentially and simply written, but, as far as we can see, in the present case without any especial literary merit or charm of style to give them a place apart in the pro- ductions of the letter-writer, or to attract to them the general reader—we do not know. Among our present weekly papers, and even amongst the dailies, are to be found some whose principal attraction lies apparently in a list of fashionable names, and of their owners' whereabouts and doings. The same unaccountable flavour of attraction must linger like a halo round the names of the fashionable, very much to the comfort of the House of Lords as it is, with one crowd shouting for its destruction, and another petitioning it to stand fast. Only Mr. Gilbert, with his ingenious theories of Topsyturveydom, has approached within measurable distance of existing England, or Lesser Britain, or whatever she may be allowed to christen herself, with due humility, in presence of the outraged Hibernian and the more than ever perfervid Scot. Deep indeed must be the attachment to the House of Lords of the student who finds comfort in such a letter as this :—
" I went to Devonshire House, and found the remains of a very dull dinner. Bessboroughs, W. Spencer, Lord John Townshend, and Mr. Chinnery. Lord John and Mr. Spencer whispering in a corner of the room, Mrs. Spencer acting nine-year-old with great success, and Mr. Chinnery faisant les frais with the rest of us. We dine there to-day, with probably a second edition of yester- day. Je ne ?Wen fais pas une fete, but we thought it right the last day."
Add to this style of paragraph, that every distinguished per- sonage du grand monde (we suppose we, too, may talk French in this connection) has one of those dreadful foot-notes to explain her, or him—as, for instance, these :- " (1.) He [Lord Carlisle] married Lady Caroline Leveson-Govier, • Lett rs nf Harriet, Connfees 1810-1845. Edited by her eon, the Hon. F. Leveson.Gower. In 2 vols. Vol. I. With Portrait. London: Long- inans and Co. 1894. a daughter of the first Marquis of Stafford and half-sister to Lady' Granville. He was Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland from 1780 to 1782. He wrote indifferent poetry, and was sneered at in English Bards and Scotch Reviewers by his relative and ward, Lord Byron."
" (2.) Lord Ossulston, who succeeded his father, Lord Tanker- vine, in 1822. He married in 1806 Mdlle. Corisande de Gramont, of whom there is frequent mention in these letters."
" (3.) Countess of Sutherland, married in 1785 to the second Marquis of Stafford, half-brother to Lord Granville. He was Ambassador in Paris from 1790 to 1792. He did what he could/ for Marie Antoinette when in prison."
" (4.) Elizabeth, Duchess of Devonshire."
" (5.) Lord and Lady Bessborough. She was daughter of the first Lord Spencer and aunt to Lady Granville."
That she was bland, passionate, and deeply religious, and likewise painted in water-colours, it would not astonish us to hear of any of the ladies of whom we thus spasmodically read. But it is fair to Lady Granville to say that she looks a sweetly pretty child in Conway's Gainsborough-like miniature as it adorns the frontispiece, and that Mr. Leveson- Gower states in his preface (written to her brothers and
sisters) that her letters were looked upon as so private, that, they were never given to be read by friends or relatives. "It would have been unpardonable to repeat the contents," he writes, " but their publication has now been made harm, less by lapse of time. It is too much the fashion of the day, when letters are published, to omit all that is not praise..
This practice appears to me objectionable, as it gives a false view of the society described, and it diminishes the value of the praise bestowed. There is not much scandal ; but where it occurs, I have, except in notorious cases, suppressed the names." We cannot agree with Mr. Leveson-Gower, that dis- cretion so thoroughly trusted at the time ought to be violated, if ever, after what is after all so brief an interval of years.
As we take that view, we do not wish to quote passages which we have come across about people whose children are as much living as the writer's son is living now, to whom the expres- sions used about their parents must be unpleasant, if not painful to the last degree. To the editor they are, we sup- pose, only examples of what he calls a keen sense of the ridiculous. To us they seem rather ill-natured, if criticism, upon such a point is challenged.
Lady Harriet Cavendish, as she was called till she married, Lord Granville, was the youngest daughter of the historical' and beautiful Duchess of Devonshire, whom she worshipped, we are told, with the truest devotion, and after her death, ana up to her own marriage, she lived chiefly with her sister, Lady Morpeth, to whom the great bulk of the letters are addressed. Her married life was a very happy one, and her expressions about her husband throughout are perhaps the most attractive part of her letters, though none the more suitable on that account for a circulating library popularity. For fifteen years they lived in England, making three short tours on the Continent, gathering round them what her editor de. scribes as a delightful society of prominent politicians, of witty men and attractive women, though to judge from, her remarks about most of them Lady Granville scarcely thought so herself. In 18124, Lord Granville went as Ambassador to the Hague, was transferred to Paris in the same year until 1828, and returned there from 1830. till 1840. In 1841, he retired through failing health, and died in 1846. his widow surviving him for fifteen years. Willingly accepting all we are told of her virtues, we again return to the charge hoping to find something worth reading, or more really worth extracting than the rest. But it is not easy. The Ambassadress writes to her brother from Paris Baronne Delmar the great thing, concerts charming. Madame de Flahault, the other great thing, soirees and the few French who show The poodle is worrying the pug, bub good-humouredly, and it is a great relief to have him here to do
the dirty work Madame Apponyi has sent to ask if I will see her, out of all rule and etiquette. Madame Castelcilala would see me d—d first, &c." Then we go to the notes for the valuable assurance that Baronne Delmar was a great beauty, sister of Sir William Rumbold, and married to a rich Jew, and that the pug was a nickname for Mr. Frederick Howard. And we do not see that the expression about Madame Castelcilala, however forcible, would be the worse for being edited out. When Lady Granville writes that. she believes exertion to be at once the secret of happi- ness, and the habit of mind most difficult to acquire. she
comes far nearer saying things fit for publication. It is amusing to contrast with it her complaints about some country house where she is obliged to eat too much, and can only look forward to a pill to follow. Amusing, too, as we have suggested, is the perpetual use of French expressions for no conceivable reason, which has since become the fashion with so many novelists, and the theme of so much satire. In letters so purely private, it can only have been a second nature.
" Trois petites pieces and a much cooler evening. Georgiana will return to London with little knowledge of Paris theatricals, but qu'est ce que c'est, ma chore Mary Berry is really charming, she is couleur de rose, and more
agreeable than I ever knew her Georgiana, intelligent and full of mind, has no excuse for her total abnegation de societg." Surely, "abnegation of society" is just as good. We feel inclined to take up Artemus Ward's " Why this
thusness ? " and turn it into "Pourquoi cette pourquoierie ?" That everybody is epris, and tres elegante, and so forth, is matter of course. Another amusing side of the letters to us is the inevitable tone of patronage, whenever any member of the artistic world is alluded to. Miss Cashman is disposed of in a foot-note as " an American actress ;" but perhaps the best opinion of the lady's critical judgment may be gathered from her remarks about a French actress, not unknown as Rachel. First, she saw in her "a very ugly girl, reading speeches out of Racine to M. de Delmar," and when she saw her act did not feel enthusiastic. "I think some things very good, but she has no natural attraction, no beauty, feeling, no entraineinent." Rachel without feeling or entrainment is certainly a new point of view; and perhaps after that we must not laugh in our sleeve too much over a letter from Rome to the Duke of Devonshire in 1843: "My dear Grace,—Would that I could write like you or Dickens ! How either of you would do justice to yesterday, the most dramatic day I ever passed." Certainly it is to be added that we fail to gather from the rest of the letter that Lady Granville had the pen of either of those great authors (it was not, it will be seen, the present Unionist chief), as the dramatic effect appears as nothing more remarkable than an overturned carriage and a disagreeable accident to the occupants ; but the point lies in the curious estimate of Dickens's literary powers. We do not know upon which of his dear Grace's published works the comparison may be based. Victor Hugo's Lucrece Borgia is pronounced odious, but " not without some power and cleverness ;" and in the interests of Art we feel quite grateful to Rossini, who comes off better with Lady Granville through her pleasure in his singing, and " being fat, lazy, and consequently averse to standing, took a chair and sate by the King" at the Brighton Pavilion. The courtiers were disgusted, and the society indignant ; but it is pleasant to be told that the King did not mind the least. " Society " is always, as her ladyship would have said, "plus royaliste que le roi " on these occasions. We are treated to one good thing of Sheridan's, who was nearly tempted by the atten- tions of one Lady Catherine to the salad, to ask the servants to "change the lady's trough ; " and we have some witti- cisms of a Mr. Sneyd, who was a favourite wag of Lady Granville's, and a decided improvement on Mr. Jekyll. The following was suggested by the two well-known Miss Berrys, Horace Walpole's two old ladies :—
" A pious throng by candle-light there went To good St. Louis' shrine one sunny day, By princely Berri's high commission sent
For his young daughter's threatened life to pray. The sceptred saint thrice shook his reverend head, When the petition of the crowd he heard, You've two Miss Berrys as it is,' he said, ' Nor heaven nor earth could tolerate a third.' "
And a really good anecdote, which strikes us as the best in the book, is of one Mr. Cotes, "the best old man in the world, adored in Staffordshire and Shropshire for his beauty, good humour, and welcome to everything that comes within a yard of him." He was fond of showing everybody his farm, and meeting a poor Welshman, whose face he did not recollect, asked him if he would like to see it. The man, who had been all over it, immediately took to his heels, calling out as he ran, " Hurs seen it, hors seen it !" One thinks at once of the country host who always wants to take you over his stables ; and amusing enough is Lady Granville's suggestion of the longing to call out over a " chestnut " or old story, Hurs heard it, liars heard it !" We will not further delay the reader from making acquaint. ance for himself with Lady Granville's book. He must not expect, to our thinking, to find any of the peculiar literary charm which attaches to such letters as those of Lady Bnrghersh, but if he likes to live in good society he will have enough, and to spare, of it. And we must transcribe, in con- clusion, a story, which is new to us, about Paul Potter's famous " Bull," the picture at the Hague. It appears that the Dutch authorities made a free present of it to Charles II. when he left them. When William of Orange came over and was good enough to be our King, he took occasion of his first longed-for visit to his own country to pack up the picture in his carriage and carry it bodily back again, there to remain. Sharp practice in the case of a present, perhaps, though we accept the story with a little doubt. As the bull is nearly life-size, the carriage must have been enormous. But between Orange Kings and Scotch Prime Ministers England has no lack of teachers in humility.