29 JUNE 1912, Page 11


Charlotte Sophie Countess Bentinck: her Life and Times, 1715-1800. Ty hor descendant, Mrs. Aubrey Le Blond. With 72 Illustrations. 2 ye' 3. (Hutchinson and Co. 24e. net.)—This book consists almost eatirely of letters. "My groat difficulty," says the compiler of the two very thick volumes before us, "has been in deciding which letters to print and which to omit." Mrs. Aubrey Le Blond has not erred on the side of omission. Charlotte Sophie Countess Bentinek—born Countess of Aldenburg—was born in the reign of Louis XIV. and lived to see Napoleon supreme in Europe. She was the intimate friend of a vast number of great and interesting people—of Maria Theresa, for instance, of Frederick the Great, of Voltaire. She must have been an able and charming woman, but unfortunately she was not a good letter- writer. She alludes in writing to events of surpassing importance, but she does not allude to them in a manner to fix the attention of her readers. Hero is a letter written from Hamburg just after the news of the execution of Mario Antoinette :— "'I am more dead than alive, ma chere petite chatte, on account of the death of the Queen and the frightful circumstances accom- panying it. I returned to town on Thursday, and on Friday I received this thunderbolt, as well as the news of the defeat of the left wing of the Prince of Coburg and the raising of the Siege of Matiberge. All these are the sad results of the failure at Dunkirk. I am prostrate through it. I spend my nights in the hands of the executioners. The thought of the daughter of Marie Therke on an infamous tumbril, beside an executioner, her hands tied at her Lack—no! this picture is too terrible, I dare not contemplate it.",

A week later she writes again: "The death of the Queen has overwhelmed me. I can hardly move, but Heaven has sent us a prince of the Empire for whom, for my sins, I must give a large dinner party." Those are typical specimens of her letters when there was news of general interest. The thing most worth reading in the two volumes is a letter written not by, but to, Charlotte Sophie describing the death of Frederick William of Prussia. It is unsigned. The scene is drawn so as to make the reader shudder. The contrast between the pen of Charlotte Sophie and that of her correspondent is striking.