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CHAPTER V.
Mrs. Delany—Her Childhood—Her First Marriage—Swift—Dr. Delany—The Dowager Duchess of Portland—Mrs. Delany a Favourite at Court—Her Flower-Work—Miss Burney’s First Visit to Mrs. Delany—Meets the Duchess of Portland—Mrs. Sleepe—Crisp—Growth of Friendship with Mrs. Delany—Society at her House—Mrs. Delany’s Reminiscences—The Lockes of Norbury Park—Mr. Smelt—Dr. Burney has an Audience of the King and Queen—The King’s Bounty to Mrs. Delany—Miss Burney Visits Windsor—Meets the King and Queen—‘Evelina’—Invention Exhausted—The King’s Opinion of Voltaire, Rousseau, and Shakespeare—The Queen and Bookstalls—Expectation—Journey to Windsor—The Terrace—Dr. Burney’s Disappointment—Proposal of the Queen to Miss Burney—Doubts and Fears—An Interview—The Decision—Mistaken Criticism—Burke’s Opinion—A Misconception—Horace Walpole’s Regret—Miss Burney’s Journals of her Life at Court—Sketches of Character—The King and Queen—Mrs. Schwellenberg—The Queen’s Lodge—Miss Burney’s Apartments—A Day’s Duties—Royal Snuff—Fictitious Names in the Diary—The Princesses—A Royal Birthday—A Walk on the Terrace—The Infant Princess Amelia.

We have mentioned Mrs. Delany in our list of the more remarkable friends made by Miss Burney during the winter succeeding the publication of ‘Cecilia.’ Burke followed a fashion then prevalent when he pronounced this venerable lady the fairest model of female excellence in the previous age. Mrs. Delany owed her distinction in a great measure to the favour which she enjoyed with the royal family. Born in 1700, she was early instructed in the ways of a Court, having been brought up by an aunt who had been maid-of-honour to Queen Mary, and had received for her charge the promise of a similar employment in the household of Queen Anne. Having missed this promotion, the girl next fell into the hands of her uncle, George Granville, Lord Lansdowne, who, though 133celebrated by Pope as ‘the friend of every Muse,’ was not gentleman enough to treat his brother’s child with decent consideration. He forced Mary Granville, at seventeen, into a marriage with Alexander Pendarves, a Cornish squire near sixty, of drunken habits and morose manners, who sought the match chiefly to disappoint his expectant heir. After a few years, this worthy died of a fit, to the great relief of all belonging to him, but, unfortunately for his wife, without having made the provision for her which, to do him justice, he appears to have intended. Some time later the widow paid a visit to Ireland, where she became acquainted with Dean Swift, and his intimate associate, Dr. Patrick Delany, who was famed as a scholar and preacher. After her return, Swift exchanged occasional letters with her so long as he retained his reason. In 1743, Dr. Delany, then himself a widower, came over to England to offer himself to her in marriage. She accepted him, in spite of her family, whose high stomach rose against a mésalliance with an Irish parson. Their influence, however, was subsequently used to procure for Delany the deanery of Down. On his death, which occurred in 1768, Mrs. Delany settled in London, and, at the time when Miss Burney was introduced to her, had a house in St. James’s Place. Her most intimate friend was the old Duchess of Portland, with whom she regularly spent the summer at her Grace’s dower house of Bulstrode. There she was presented to George III. and his Queen, both of whom conceived a strong regard for her. The King called her his dearest Mrs. Delany, and in 1782 commissioned Opie to paint her portrait, which was placed at Hampton Court.[61]

134While Frances Burney was having her first interview with Mrs. Delany, the Dowager Duchess of Portland condescended to appear upon the scene. This exalted personage, we are given to understand, had a natural aversion to female novel-writers, but, at her friend’s request, consented to receive homage from the author of ‘Cecilia.’ Her curiosity, in fact, got the better of her pride. Before her arrival, the conversation turned on the flower-work for which Mrs. Delany was famous among her acquaintances. This was a kind of paper mosaic, invented by the old lady, and practised by her until her eyesight failed. Some specimens of it were thought worthy of being offered, as a tribute of humble duty, to Queen Charlotte. The admiration freely bestowed on this trumpery, and the doubtful reception accorded to literary merit in a woman, illustrate the tone which prevailed in the highest society a hundred years ago. To cut out bits of coloured paper, and paste them together on the leaf of an album so as to resemble flowers, was considered a wonderful achievement even for a paragon of her sex. To have written the best work of imagination that had proceeded from a female pen was held to confer only an equivocal title to eminence. The Duchess, however, exerted herself to be civil. ‘She was a simple woman,’ says Walpole; but she did her best. She joined Mrs. Delany in recalling the characters that had pleased them most in ‘Cecilia;’ she dwelt on the spirit of the writing, the fire in the composition, and, ‘with a solemn sort of voice,’ declared herself gratified by the morality of the book, ‘so striking, so pure, so genuine, so instructive.’ Fanny, always impressed by grandeur, eager after praise, thankful for notice, was charmed with these compliments. She found her Grace’s manner not merely free from arrogance, but ‘free also from its mortifying 135deputy, affability.’ Yet the worship of rank, which belonged to that age, was, in little Miss Burney, always subordinate to better feelings. In her eyes the dignified visitor appeared by no means so interesting as her hostess.[62] Nor was it any air of courtliness that attracted her in Mrs. Delany, but a simple domestic association. Though not a person of genius, or, it should seem, of any extraordinary cultivation, this veteran of English and Irish society had preserved an unsullied, gentle, kindly spirit which showed itself in her face and carriage. Fanny could not remember to have seen so much sweetness of countenance in anyone except her own grandmother, Mrs. Sleepe. She at once began to trace, or to imagine, a resemblance between ‘that saint-like woman’ and her new friend, and gave herself up to the tenderness which the current of her thoughts excited.

Besides this similarity, she bethought her of another recollection which she could with propriety impart to the ladies before her. She had often heard Mr. Crisp speak of his former intercourse with the Duchess and Mrs. Delany. The latter, she learned on inquiry, had been chiefly intimate with Crisp’s sisters; but the Duchess had known Crisp himself well, and was curious to learn what had become of so agreeable and accomplished a man. Her questions gave the shy, silent Fanny a theme on which she could enlarge with animation. ‘I spared not,’ she writes, ‘for boasting of my dear daddy’s kindness to me.’ The accounts she had received from the 136Crisp family, she told Mrs. Delany, had first made her desire the acquaintance that day commenced. She ran on to relate the story of Crisp’s disappearance, painted his way of life in his retreat, and entertained the company with a description of Chesington Hall, its isolated and lonely position, its ruinous condition, its nearly inaccessible roads, its quaint old pictures, and straight long garden paths.[63] Her flow of spirits banished all reserve, and that evening laid the foundations of a friendship that partly consoled her for the death of Crisp and the desertion of Mrs. Thrale.

The attachment between Mrs. Delany and the favourite of Chesington and Streatham grew up rapidly. The entries in Fanny’s Diary show that she very soon became a constant visitor in St. James’s Place. She is flattered at being so much in favour there as to find its mistress always eager to fix a time for their next and next meeting. Yet, while profuse in praise of her venerable friend, she dwells more on the qualities of the old lady’s heart than on any accomplishments of mind or manner; she loves even more than she admires her; possibly some touches of high-breeding were lost on the music-master’s daughter; at any rate, the first impression abides with her, and in the noted pattern of antique polish and taste[64] she sees always the image of the departed Mrs. Sleepe.

Except in the presence of her young grand-niece Mary Port,[65] Mrs. Delany’s house had little charm of liveliness. The chief persons that frequented it belonged to the 137same generation as the Duchess of Portland, who spent most of her evenings there. A sombre figure in that peculiar assembly was Lady Wallingford, the impoverished widow of a gaming peer, and a daughter of the speculator Law. This lady, who never opened her lips, invariably appeared in full mourning dress, wearing a black silk robe, a hoop, long ruffles, a winged cap, and other appendages of an attire that even then was obsolete. Another visitor was the Countess of Bute, wife of George III.’s early favourite, and daughter of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. The elderly wit Horace Walpole often joined a circle in which his old-fashioned pleasantry was still received with the old applause. Fanny, who had met him elsewhere, thought that he never showed to such advantage as when surrounded by those stately dowagers. And while Horace, and most of the other callers, had, more or less, the air of having outlived their age, the lady to whom they paid their respects had passed the better portion of her life in a still more remote period. She encouraged Miss Burney to turn over Swift’s letters to her; and her most interesting anecdotes related to the days of the Dean, and Pope, and Young.

Perhaps it was, in part, some memory of the time when she herself had shared the talk of men of letters, that made her take to the young writer who had done more to raise the literary credit of women than Mrs. Montagu, or Hannah More, or the whole tribe of blue-stockings united. The admired of Johnson, Burke and Reynolds was both a more entertaining guest, and a greater ornament to her drawing-room, than the respectable Mrs. Chapone, the learned Mrs. Carter, or even ‘the high-bred, elegant’ Mrs. Boscawen. And, whatever may have been said at a later date by distant connections of Mrs. Delany, soured by a peevish family pride which she 138disdained, her own published letters prove that she not merely appreciated Fanny’s talents, but understood and valued her character. At one time she declares that ‘Evelina’ and ‘Cecilia,’ excellent as she finds them, are their author’s meanest praise, and goes on to extol ‘her admirable understanding, tender affection and sweetness of manners;’ after three years’ experience she writes of her companion: ‘Her extreme diffidence of herself, notwithstanding her great genius, and the applause she has met with, adds lustre to all her excellences, and all improve on acquaintance.’ It is scarcely too much to say that the correspondence in which these lines occur would never have been printed but for Miss Burney. The love and esteem expressed in her Diary have almost alone saved Mrs. Delany’s name from utter oblivion; it would be strange indeed had such regard gone unrequited by its object.

Frances Burney had certainly a remarkable capacity for friendship. Not long after her introduction in St. James’s Place, she formed another acquaintance, which ripened steadily, and became, on Mrs. Delany’s death, the chief intimacy of her life outside her own family. It seems to have been in the summer of 1783 that Dr. Burney and his now celebrated daughter first met with Mr. and Mrs. Locke, of Norbury Park. From some cause or other, we do not get so vivid a picture of these worthy persons as we do of most of Fanny’s other friends. This is perhaps partly explained by the fact that Mr. Locke was a man of reserved and retiring temperament. But though silent in general society, he had a benevolent heart and a cultivated taste; was a great lover of the picturesque, and a collector of works of art. Dr. Burney paid his first visit to Norbury in company with Sir Joshua Reynolds; and many years afterwards Sir 139Thomas Lawrence told Madame d’Arblay that in all his experience he had never seen a second Mr. Locke. The eldest son of the house, William Locke, was an amateur artist of some skill. Miss Burney’s particular friend was, naturally, Mrs. Locke. The sketch transmitted to us of this lady is even more faint than that of her husband, whom, we are told, she strongly resembled. She was lovely, of course, and amiable: Fanny sometimes calls her bewitching; but we search in vain for anything more distinctive. After the summer of 1784, Miss Burney, except during her employment at Court, was often at Norbury. It pleased her to think that when there she was only six miles from Chesington. And while the place was still new to her, her sister Susan, who had been abroad for her health, returned, and settled with her husband, Captain Phillips, in the village of Mickleham, hard by the gates of Norbury Park. Thenceforth the Park banished all regrets for Streatham. The Thrales themselves were never more hospitable or kinder than the excellent Lockes proved to be. If we cannot get to know the latter as we know the former, it is a satisfaction, at least, to learn that Mr. Smelt, who had been sub-governor to the Prince of Wales, spoke of them to Fanny as ‘that divine family.’

Mr. Smelt, previously a slight acquaintance of the Burneys, had lately shown a disposition to cultivate their society. Such attention on the part of a confidential royal servant, though easily accounted for by the fame of ‘Cecilia,’ was among the omens which befell about this time of what the fates had in store for the author. Another premonitory incident occurred at the beginning of 1785, when Dr. Burney was admitted to a private audience of the King and Queen, in order that he might present to them copies of his narrative of the Handel 140Commemoration, which had taken place in the preceding year. The good-natured monarch, according to his wont on such occasions, entered into a familiar and discursive conversation with the Doctor. The last topic discussed was the story of the publication of Evelina. ‘And is it true,’ asked the King eagerly, ‘that you never saw Evelina before it was printed?’ ‘Nor even till long after it was published,’ was the reply. The King then drew from the gratified father a detailed account of Evelina’s first introduction to the world, which, as the Doctor reported, afforded the greatest amusement to the Queen, as well as to his inquiring Majesty.

The old Duchess of Portland died in July, 1785. Her will made no provision for her older friend, whom no doubt she had expected to survive; and this accident indirectly determined the great mistake of Miss Burney’s life. The loss of her summer quarters at Bulstrode, which for the half of every year had been her constant home, was a serious inconvenience for Mrs. Delany, whose income barely sufficed for the maintenance of her London establishment during the winter. Informed of this, the King caused a house belonging to the Crown at Windsor, near the Castle, to be fitted up for the use of his aged favourite, and settled a pension of three hundred pounds a year upon her for the rest of her days, that she might be enabled to enjoy a country life without giving up her accustomed residence in St. James’s Place. The royal bounty was so complete that Mrs. Delany’s maid was commanded to see that her mistress brought nothing with her but her clothes: everything else was to be provided; and when supplies were exhausted, the abigail was to make a requisition for more. The King himself superintended the workmen: when his new neighbour arrived, he was on the spot to welcome her; and she 141found that her benefactor had not only caused the house to be furnished with plate, china, glass, and linen, but the cellars to be stocked with wine, and the cupboards stored with sweetmeats and pickles.[66] Such was the plainness, and such the generosity, of George III.

Miss Burney was on a visit to her friend while these arrangements were in progress; when the latter left London for Windsor, she herself went to her father at Chesington Hall, in which old haunt Dr. Burney was then employed on his still unfinished History. In the following December, Fanny rejoined Mrs. Delany at Windsor, and during her stay there was introduced to the King and Queen. It seems that etiquette forbade her being formally presented to them, except at a drawing-room; but they were desirous of making her acquaintance, and it was at length arranged that when next their Majesties called on her hostess, as they were in the habit of doing, she should remain in the room. On the first occasion that occurred, her courage failed her at the critical moment, and she fled. A few days later, Mrs. Delany returned from her afternoon nap to find her nephew, Mr. Bernard Dewes, his little daughter, and Miss Port, engaged in the drawing-room with Miss Burney, who was teaching the child some Christmas games, in which her father and cousin joined. The Diary proceeds:
142

“We were all in the middle of the room, and in some confusion;—but she had but just come up to us to inquire what was going forwards, and I was disentangling myself from Miss Dewes, to be ready to fly off if anyone knocked at the street-door, when the door of the drawing-room was again opened, and a large man, in deep mourning, appeared at it, entering and shutting it himself without speaking.

“A ghost could not more have scared me, when I discovered by its glitter on the black, a star! The general disorder had prevented his being seen, except by myself, who was always on the watch, till Miss Port, turning round, exclaimed, ‘The King!—Aunt, the King!’

“Oh, mercy! thought I, that I were but out of the room! which way shall I escape? and how pass him unnoticed? There is but the single door at which he entered, in the room! Everyone scampered out of the way: Miss Port, to stand next the door; Mr. Bernard Dewes to a corner opposite it; his little girl clung to me; and Mrs. Delany advanced to meet his Majesty, who, after quietly looking on till she saw him, approached, and, inquired how she did.

“He then spoke to Mr. Bernard, whom he had already met two or three times here.

“I had now retreated to the wall, and purposed gliding softly, though speedily, out of the room; but before I had taken a single step, the King, in a loud whisper to Mrs. Delany, said, ‘Is that Miss Burney?’—and on her answering, ‘Yes, sir,’ he bowed, and with a countenance of the most perfect good humour, came close up to me.”

Having put a question to her, and received an inaudible reply, he went back to Mrs. Delany, and spoke of the Princess Elizabeth, who, incredible as it sounds, was then 143recovering from an illness after having been blooded twelve times in a fortnight:

“A good deal of talk then followed about his own health, and the extreme temperance by which he preserved it. The fault of his constitution, he said, was a tendency to excessive fat, which he kept, however, in order by the most vigorous exercise, and the strictest attention to a simple diet.

“When Mrs. Delany was beginning to praise his forbearance, he stopped her.

“‘No, no,’ he cried, ‘’tis no virtue; I only prefer eating plain and little, to growing diseased and infirm.’

“During this discourse, I stood quietly in the place where he had first spoken to me. His quitting me so soon, and conversing freely and easily with Mrs. Delany, proved so delightful a relief to me, that I no longer wished myself away; and the moment my first panic from the surprise was over, I diverted myself with a thousand ridiculous notions of my own situation.

“The Christmas games we had been showing Miss Dewes, it seemed as if we were still performing, as none of us thought it proper to move, though our manner of standing reminded one of Puss in the corner. Close to the door was posted Miss Port; opposite her, close to the wainscot, stood Mr. Dewes; at just an equal distance from him, close to a window, stood myself; Mrs. Delany, though seated, was at the opposite side to Miss Port; and his Majesty kept pretty much in the middle of the room. The little girl, who kept close to me, did not break the order, and I could hardly help expecting to be beckoned, with a puss! puss! puss! to change places with one of my neighbours.

“This idea, afterwards, gave way to another more 144pompous. It seemed to me we were acting a play. There is something so little like common and real life, in everybody’s standing, while talking, in a room full of chairs, and standing, too, so aloof from each other, that I almost thought myself upon a stage, assisting in the representation of a tragedy—in which the King played his own part of the king; Mrs. Delany that of a venerable confidante; Mr. Dewes, his respectful attendant; Miss Port, a suppliant virgin, waiting encouragement to bring forward some petition; Miss Dewes, a young orphan, intended to move the royal compassion; and myself, a very solemn, sober, and decent mute.

“These fancies, however, only regaled me while I continued a quiet spectator, and without expectation of being called into play. But the King, I have reason to think, meant only to give me time to recover from my first embarrassment; and I feel myself infinitely obliged to his good breeding and consideration, which perfectly answered, for before he returned to me I was entirely recruited....

“The King went up to the table, and looked at a book of prints, from Claude Lorraine, which had been brought down for Miss Dewes; but Mrs. Delany, by mistake, told him they were for me. He turned over a leaf or two, and then said:

“‘Pray, does Miss Burney draw too?’

“The too was pronounced very civilly.

“‘I believe not, sir,’ answered Mrs. Delany; ‘at least, she does not tell.’

“‘Oh!’ cried he, laughing, ‘that’s nothing! She is not apt to tell; she never does tell, you know! Her father told me that himself. He told me the whole history of her Evelina. And I shall never forget his face when he spoke of his feelings at first taking up the book!—he 145looked quite frightened, just as if he was doing it that moment! I never can forget his face while I live!’

“Then coming up close to me, he said:

“‘But what?—what?—how was it?’

“‘Sir,’ cried I, not well understanding him.

“‘How came you—how happened it?—what?—what?

“‘I—I only wrote, sir, for my own amusement—only in some odd, idle hours.’

“‘But your publishing—your printing—how was that?’

“‘That was only, sir—only because——’

“I hesitated most abominably, not knowing how to tell him a long story, and growing terribly confused at these questions—besides, to say the truth, his own “what? what?” so reminded me of those vile Probationary Odes,[67] that, in the midst of all my flutter, I was really hardly able to keep my countenance.

“The What! was then repeated with so earnest a look, that, forced to say something, I stammeringly answered:

“‘I thought—sir—it would look very well in print!’

“I do really flatter myself this is the silliest speech I ever made! I am quite provoked with myself for it; but a fear of laughing made me eager to utter anything, and by no means conscious, till I had spoken, of what I was saying.

“He laughed very heartily himself—well he might—and walked away to enjoy it, crying out:

“‘Very fair indeed! that’s being very fair and honest!’

“Then, returning to me again, he said:

“‘But your father—how came you not to show him what you wrote?’

146“‘I was too much ashamed of it, sir, seriously.’

“Literal truth that, I am sure.

“‘And how did he find it out?’

“‘I don’t know myself, sir. He never would tell me.’...

“‘What entertainment you must have had from hearing people’s conjectures before you were known! Do you remember any of them?’...

“‘I heard that Mr. Baretti laid a wager it was written by a man; for no woman, he said, could have kept her own counsel.’

“This diverted him extremely.

“‘But how was it,’ he continued, ‘you thought most likely for your father to discover you?’

“‘Sometimes, sir, I have supposed I must have dropped some of the manuscript: sometimes, that one of my sisters betrayed me.’

“‘Oh! your sister?—what, not your brother?’

“‘No, sir; he could not, for——’

“I was going on, but he laughed so much I could not be heard, exclaiming:

“‘Vastly well! I see you are of Mr. Baretti’s mind, and think your brother could keep your secret, and not your sister.... But you have not kept your pen unemployed all this time?’

“‘Indeed I have, sir.’

“‘But why?’

“‘I—I believe I have exhausted myself, sir.’

“He laughed aloud at this, and went and told it to Mrs. Delany, civilly treating a plain fact as a mere bon mot.”

The King asked several other questions about Evelina, and the prospect of anything further appearing from the 147author’s pen. A change of subject led to the mention of hunting, when, looking round on the party, he said: ‘Did you know that Mrs. Delany once hunted herself, and in a long gown and a great hoop?’ As he spoke, a violent thunder was heard at the door. Fanny again felt herself sinking into the carpet. Miss Port slid out of the room backwards, and lights shone in the hall. Enter the Queen. Her Majesty drops a profound reverence to the King, holds out both hands to her dear Mrs. Delany, and then turns her face on the short-sighted stranger, who, uncertain whether she has received a salute or not, is bewildered what to do. The King comes to her relief, repeats to his consort all that Miss Burney has already told him, and proceeds with a further catechism. The Queen, more curious about the future than the past, has questions of her own to put. ‘Shall we have no more?—nothing more?’ she asks. Fanny can only shake her head in reply, and when gracious phrases of regret and encouragement are uttered, is unable to find a word of acknowledgment. Presently the conversation, becoming general, ranges over a variety of topics, from the exemplary behaviour of the Princess Sophia, aged nearly nine, in guarding her music-master’s great nose from ridicule, to Bishop Porteous’s sermons, which the King thought that admired preacher would do wrong to publish, because every discourse printed would diminish his stock for the pulpit.

Three days later the King made an evening visit. The Diary describes the mode of his reception on these occasions. ‘The etiquette always observed on his entrance is, first of all, to fly off to distant quarters; and next, Miss Port goes out, walking backwards, for more candles, which she brings in, two at a time, and places upon the tables and pianoforte. Next she goes out for 148tea, which she then carries to his Majesty, upon a large salver, containing sugar, cream, and bread and butter and cake, while she hangs a napkin over her arm for his fingers. This, it seems, is a ceremony performed, in other places, always by the mistress of the house; but here neither of their Majesties will permit Mrs. Delany to attempt it.’ While drinking his tea, the King ran on, in his usual discursive vein, about authors, actors, books, and plays. Concerning the tendency of Voltaire’s works, and the personal character of Rousseau, he expressed the current opinions of English society; calling the former a monster, and telling anecdotes to illustrate ‘the savage pride and insolent ingratitude’ of the latter. He vexed Miss Burney by pronouncing Mrs. Siddons the most excellent player of his time, not even excepting the divine Garrick. From players he went to plays, and having deplored the immorality of the old English comedies, and the poverty of the new ones, he came at length to Shakspeare.

“‘Was there ever,’ cried he, ‘such stuff as great part of Shakspeare? only one must not say so! But what think you? What? Is there not sad stuff? What? What?’

“‘Yes, indeed, I think so, sir, though mixed with such excellences, that——’

“‘Oh!’ cried he, laughing good-humouredly; ‘I know it is not to be said! but it’s true. Only it’s Shakspeare, and nobody dares abuse him.’

“Then he enumerated many of the characters and parts of plays that he objected to; and, when he had run them over, finished with again laughing, and exclaiming: ‘But one should be stoned for saying so!’”

The following afternoon, the Queen came, and was also in a mood for literary criticism. She talked of the 149‘Sorrows of Werter,’ and Klopstock’s ‘Messiah,’ and mentioned, with praise, another book, saying:

‘I picked it up on a stall. Oh, it is amazing what good books there are on stalls!’

‘It is amazing to me,’ said Mrs. Delany, ‘to hear that.’

‘Why, I don’t pick them up myself; but I have a servant very clever; and if they are not to be had at the bookseller’s, they are not for me any more than for another.’

In May, 1786, the Mastership of the King’s Band, which had formerly been promised to Dr. Burney, once more became vacant. The Doctor was again a candidate for the appointment. We gather from his having accepted so small a post as that of Organist to Chelsea Hospital, and from some other indications, that his circumstances had not improved as he grew older. He was now sixty years of age: he must have found the work of tuition at once less easy to be met with, and more laborious to discharge, than it had been in his younger days; we cannot be mistaken in supposing that he was eager to obtain, not merely promotion, but also some permanent and lighter occupation. In his anxiety he had recourse to Mr. Smelt, who counselled him to go to Windsor, not to address the King, but to be seen by him. ‘Take your daughter in your hand,’ said the experienced courtier, ‘and walk upon the Terrace. Your appearing there at this time the King will understand, and he is more likely to be touched by such a hint than by any direct application.’ Burney lost no time in acting on the advice thus given. When he and Fanny reached the Terrace in the evening, they found the Royal Family already there. The King and Queen, the Queen’s mother, and the Prince of Mecklenburg, her Majesty’s brother, 150all walked together. Behind them followed six lovely young princesses,[68] with their ladies and some of the young princes, making, in the eyes of loyal subjects, ‘a very gay and pleasing procession of one of the finest families in the world.’ “Every way they moved,” continues the narrator, “the crowd retired to stand up against the wall as they passed, and then closed in to follow. When they approached, and we were retreating, Lady Louisa Clayton placed me next herself, making her daughters stand below—without which I had certainly not been seen; for the moment their Majesties advanced, I involuntarily looked down, and drew my hat over my face. I could not endure to stare at them; and, full of our real errand, I felt ashamed even of being seen by them. Consequently, I should have stood in the herd, and unregarded; but Lady Louisa’s kindness and good breeding put me in a place too conspicuous to pass unnoticed. The moment the Queen had spoken to her, which she stopped to do as soon as she came up to her, she inquired, in a whisper, who was with her. The Queen then instantly stepped near me, and asked me how I did; and then the King came forward, and, as soon as he had repeated the same question, said:

“‘Are you come to stay?’

“‘No, sir; not now.’

“‘I was sure,’ cried the Queen, ‘she was not come to stay, by seeing her father!’

“I was glad by this to know my father had been observed.

“‘And when,’ asked the King, ‘do you return again to Windsor?’

151“‘Very soon, I hope, sir.’

“‘And—and—and,’ cried he, half laughing and hesitating significantly, ‘pray, how goes on the Muse?’

“At first I only laughed too; but he repeated the inquiry, and then I answered:

“‘Not at all, sir.’

“‘No? But why?—why not?’

“‘I—I—I am afraid, sir,’ stammered I.

“‘And why?’ repeated he;—‘of what?’

“I spoke something—I hardly know what myself—so indistinctly that he could not hear me, though he had put his head quite under my hat from the beginning of the little conference; and after another such question or two, and no greater satisfaction in the answer, he smiled very good-humouredly, and walked on, his Queen by his side.

“We stayed some time longer on the Terrace, and my poor father occasionally joined me; but he looked so conscious and depressed that it pained me to see him. He was not spoken to, though he had a bow every time the King passed him, and a curtsey from the Queen. But it hurt him, and he thought it a very bad prognostic; and all there was at all to build upon was the graciousness shown to me.” Much dejected, the Doctor posted back to town with his daughter; and, on reaching home, heard that the place he sought had been disposed of by the Lord Chamberlain, in whose gift it was.

Miss Burney was persuaded that the King was displeased with the action of his official, but we venture to doubt the correctness of her belief. Beyond question, Mr. Smelt had had good reason for implying that the daughter, rather than the father, was the object of favour at Windsor. Dr. Burney was by no means a sound enough Handelian to satisfy George III. And, to say the 152truth, the account of the Handel Centenary Festival was but a poor performance. On the other hand, Fanny’s literary success, and her manner of carrying it, had pleased and interested the royal pair. It is probable, if not absolutely certain, that the design of finding her some employment at Court had already been entertained, and that this was considered to render her father’s suit for himself inopportune.

The first thought was to settle her with one of the princesses, in preference to the numerous candidates of high birth and station, but small fortune, who were waiting and supplicating for places about the persons of the King’s daughters. But in the month following Dr. Burney’s disappointment, a vacancy occurred in the Queen’s own Household. The office of Keeper of the Robes was jointly held by two Germans, Mrs. Schwellenberg and Mrs. Haggerdorn, who had accompanied Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, when she came to England. The health of Mrs. Haggerdorn broke down about this time, and in June, 1786, it was arranged that she should retire, and return to her own country. Who should succeed her was a matter of eager speculation and fierce competition in Court circles; but without consulting anyone, the Queen commissioned Mr. Smelt to make an offer to Frances Burney. This trusted agent was instructed to express her Majesty’s wish to attach the young lady permanently to herself and her family: he was to propose to her to undertake certain duties, which were in fact those of Mrs. Haggerdorn; and he was to intimate that in case of her accepting the situation designed for her, she would have apartments in the palace, would belong to the table of Mrs. Schwellenberg, with whom the Queen’s own visitors—bishops, lords, or commons—always dined; would be allowed a separate footman, and 153the use of a carriage in common with her senior colleague; and would receive a salary of two hundred pounds a year.

Fanny listened, and was struck with consternation. “The attendance,” she wrote to her dear Miss Cambridge, “was to be incessant, the confinement to the Court continual; I was scarce ever to be spared for a single visit from the palaces, nor to receive anybody but with permission; and what a life for me, who have friends so dear to me, and to whom friendship is the balm, the comfort, the very support of existence!’ It was not the sacrifice of literary prospects that alarmed her. She did not even think of ‘those distinguished men and women, the flower of all political parties, with whom she had been in the habit of mixing on terms of equal intercourse,’[69] and from whose society she would be exiled. Her mind dwelt only on the pain of being separated from her family and intimate friends: from Susan and the Lockes; from the old familiar faces at Chesington; from her sister Charlotte, now married and settled in Norfolk; from her correspondent at Twickenham. ‘I have no heart,’ she says, ‘to write to Mickleham or Norbury. I know how they will grieve: they have expected me to spend the whole summer with them.’ Good Mr. Smelt, who, in the words of Macaulay, seems to have thought that going to Court was like going to heaven, was equally surprised and mortified at the mournful reception accorded to his flattering proposals. Mrs. Delany, in whose town house they were delivered, was not less astounded. The recipient, however, had but one thought, that, which ever way her own feelings inclined, the matter must be referred to her father, as the only person entitled to decide it. Dr. Burney, as might have been anticipated, was enraptured by the honour done to his family, and the vista which, in 154his sanguine view, was opened before his daughter. Meanwhile, Mr. Smelt had gone down to Windsor, and brought back word that the Queen desired a personal interview with Miss Burney. Fanny had her audience, and it ended, as she foresaw must be the case, in her submission. When her Majesty said, with the most condescending softness, ‘I am sure, Miss Burney, we shall suit one another very well,’ there was nothing to be done, but to make a humble reverence, and accept. The Queen told Mrs. Delany: ‘I was led to think of Miss Burney, first by her books, then by seeing her; then by always hearing how she was loved by her friends; but chiefly by your friendship for her.’

Of course, the proposition and the acceptance were alike mistaken. The service required was unworthy of the servant, nor was she competent for the service. On the one hand, the talents of a brilliant writer were thrown away in a situation where writing was neither expected nor desired. On the other, a novice of puny figure, imperfect sight, extreme nervousness, and small aptitude for ordinary feminine duties, was most unlikely to become distinguished in the profession of a lady-in-attendance. Under the most favourable circumstances, the gains and advantages attached to her constrained life at Court were not to be compared with those which might be looked for from the diligent use of her pen in the freedom of home. Yet allowing all this, we cannot disguise from ourselves that much heedless rhetoric has been expended by several critics on the folly of Miss Burney’s choice, and the infatuation of her parent. These critics, we conceive, have been led astray, partly by those more extreme trials of her servitude which no prudence could have foreseen, but principally by an erroneous estimate of her position at the time when she closed with the Queen’s offer.

155The picture which has been imagined of Frances Burney sending forth, at short intervals, a series of ‘Cecilias,’ and receiving for each a cheque of two thousand guineas, is attractive, but purely visionary. It would, we venture to say, have tickled her fine sense of humour amazingly. We are not to think of her as of a favourite novelist of to-day, whom the booksellers and the editors of magazines conspire to keep constantly employed. Her longing to see herself in print seems to have been satiated by the appearance of ‘Evelina.’ Her second work was a much less spontaneous production. Indeed, it is not clear that ‘Cecilia’ would have been written but for the urgency of Crisp, seconded by other friends. Her two fathers were agreed that she ought to exert herself while her powers and her fame were fresh; but how much stimulus was applied after Crisp’s death, we are not informed. Hers was not a very energetic nature, and she had some misgiving that her invention was exhausted. At any rate, she had now let four years go by without attempting anything new. Her third book was not published for the space of a lustrum after her release from Court, and then only under strong pressure of the res angusta domi. There had been some talk of laying out the amount paid for ‘Cecilia’ in the purchase of an annuity. But we do not find that this saving plan was executed. What has been contemptuously called ‘board, lodging, and two hundred a year,’ was no bad provision for a single lady of thirty-four, who was producing nothing, and had no income of her own. Boswell, it is true, declared that he would farm her out himself for double or treble the money; but then Boswell did not know a great deal of female authors. Burney was much better aware what to expect from his daughter’s enterprise and resolution; and we are by no means sure that, in accepting for her the offered place, he 156proved himself a less practical man than the ‘irresponsible reviewers’ who have derided him as a moon-struck worshipper of royalty. Burke, who certainly did not undervalue Miss Burney, and who knew something of her family circumstances, was delighted at the news, and thought that the Queen had never shown more good sense than in appointing Miss Burney to her service; though he afterwards owned to having miscalculated, when the service turned out to mean confinement to such a companion as Mrs. Schwellenberg.

But neither the irksomeness of the duty, nor the character of Mrs. Schwellenberg, was known to the outer world. Both required experience to make them understood. How by degrees they disclosed themselves to Miss Burney, we shall learn presently. For the feud which sprang up between the two ladies, it must, in fairness, be owned that the elder was not wholly answerable. Miss Burney—we ought now properly to call her Mrs. Burney—had been appointed second Keeper of the Robes. She seems to have supposed that this put her on a level with Mrs. Schwellenberg, giving the latter the advantage of formal precedence only. But whatever had been the relation of Mrs. Haggerdorn to her colleague, it appears clear that Fanny, a much younger, and quite inexperienced person, was intended to be subordinate. Thus, when she expresses a fear that, by want of spirit to assert it, she had lost a right to invite guests to table, we cannot but remember that, in the terms proposed to her, the table had been described as Mrs. Schwellenberg’s. The chief Keeper, as we shall see, was coarse and offensive in speech, domineering and tyrannical in action, but her junior sometimes resented a tone of superiority and command which their royal mistress evidently thought natural and reasonable.

157Whatever injury Miss Burney may have sustained by entering the palace, her readers at least have no cause to complain. ‘I am glad for her interest,’ wrote Walpole, ‘though sorry for my own, that Evelina and Cecilia are to be transformed into a Madame de Motteville, as I shall certainly not live to read her Memoirs, though I might another novel.’ But what was to Horace a source of regret, may be to us matter for congratulation. Fanny’s Diaries are now much more studied than her novels. Few of us would wish to exchange the journal of her life at Court for another fiction from her pen. The Harrels, the Delvilles, the Briggses, about whom Burke and Reynolds and Mrs. Delany talked as if they were real personages, are for most of us names that call up no association. Queen Charlotte and stout King George are better known to us than any other royal pair mentioned in English history. And for this we are in great measure indebted to the little lady who joined their household in July, 1786. The likeness of the Queen, which we remember as well as we do the features of our mothers, is entirely of her drawing; while she contributes not a few of the sketches which are combined in our impression of the monarch who loved music, and backgammon, and homely chat, and Ogden’s sermons, as much as he detested popery, and whiggery, and freethinking, and Wilkes. Nor are characters of another kind wanting in this journal. Mrs. Schwellenberg’s arrogance, her insolence, her peevishness, her ferocious selfishness, her broken English, are more familiar to the present generation than the humours, the affectations, the piebald dialect of Madame Duval, or than the traits of any of the other figures in Evelina. The Senior Robe-keeper was no doubt as indifferent to posthumous reputation as she was to the contemporary opinion of all who could not displace 158her. That she ran any risk from the satire of her timorous assistant was a thought which never occurred to her illiterate mind. She hardly knew what satire meant. She flattered herself that Harry Bunbury could not caricature her because she had no hump. For writers of imagination she had an unbounded contempt. ‘I won’t have nothing what you call novels,’ she once cried in Fanny’s presence, ‘what you call romances, what you call histories—I might not read such what you call stuff—not I!’ Had she been one degree less callous, or one degree less ignorant, she might have been slower to provoke the hostility of Johnson’s ‘little character-monger.’ Well! we have her portrait, most carefully executed. And we have also, by the same cunning hand, vivid delineations of many other persons, more or less notable, and of several interesting scenes that fell under the artist’s view during her connection with the Queen. We do not go to Miss Burney’s record of those five years for secrets of state, or politics, or even Court scandal—with which last, indeed, she seems to have busied herself as little as with the first two—but for a picture of the domestic life and manners of the Sovereign and his consort. It is no small proof of the journalist’s tact and discretion that she was able to produce so candid a narrative of what she experienced and witnessed without giving offence to the family concerned. The Duke of Sussex is reported to have said, that he and the other surviving children of George III. had been alarmed when the Diaries of Madame d’Arblay were announced for publication, but pleased with the book when it appeared; ‘though I think,’ added his Royal Highness, ‘that she is rather hard on poor old Schwellenberg.’ The Duke, of course, had seen the Schwellenberg only in her part of an abject toad-eater. Yet there may be something in his 159observation. Fanny had a light touch, but, like other women, was unforgiving towards an enemy of her own sex.

Our readers must not suppose that Miss Burney, on her appointment, went to live in Windsor Castle. Some years before that time, the Castle had been forsaken by the royal family as uninhabitable. A sort of makeshift palace, known as the Upper Lodge, or the Queen’s Lodge,[70] was erected hard by, opposite the South Terrace; a long narrow building, with battlements fronting northward towards the old towers, and southward towards a walled garden, at the further end of which was placed the Lower Lodge, a smaller building of similar character, appropriated to the use of the Princesses. Fanny, as an attendant on the person of the Queen, was quartered in the Upper Lodge. “My Windsor apartment,” she wrote, “is extremely comfortable. I have a large drawing-room, as they call it, which is on the ground-floor, as are all the Queen’s rooms, and which faces the Castle and the venerable Round Tower, and opens at the further side, from the windows, to the Little Park. It is airy, pleasant, clean, and healthy. My bedroom is small, but neat and comfortable; its entrance is only from the drawing-room, and it looks to the garden. These two rooms are delightfully independent of all the rest of the house, and contain everything I can desire for my convenience and comfort.” The sitting-room had a view of the walk leading to the Terrace, access to which was obtained by a flight of steps and an iron gate. Mrs. Delany’s door was at a distance of less than fifty yards from the Queen’s Lodge. The paltry and uncomfortable barracks erected under George III. no longer discredit the Crown of England. The restoration 160of Windsor Castle was commenced in 1800, and occupied a good many years. ‘In 1823 the Queen’s House was pulled down, and the present royal stables, built in 1839, occupy part of the site. It is, indeed, very difficult to identify any of the landmarks now; everything has been so completely changed. The steps and the iron gate, the railings and the Princesses’ garden, have all disappeared as completely as the Upper and Lower Lodges.’[71]

In the following passage we have a summary of the new Robe-keeper’s usual round of daily duties:

“I rise at six o’clock, dress in a morning gown and cap, and wait my first summons, which is at all times from seven to near eight, but commonly in the exact half-hour between them. The Queen never sends for me till her hair is dressed. This, in a morning, is always done by her wardrobe-woman, Mrs. Thielky, a German, but who speaks English perfectly well. Mrs. Schwellenberg, since the first week, has never come down in a morning at all. The Queen’s dress is finished by Mrs. Thielky and myself. No maid ever enters the room while the Queen is in it. Mrs. Thielky hands the things to me, and I put them on. ’Tis fortunate for me I have not the handing them! I should never know which to take first, embarrassed as I am, and should run a prodigious risk of giving the gown before the hoop, and the fan before the neckerchief. By eight o’clock, or a little after, for she is extremely expeditious, she is dressed. She then goes out to join the King, and be joined by the Princesses, and they all proceed to the King’s chapel in the Castle, to prayers, attended by the governesses of the Princesses, and the King’s equerry. Various others at times attend; but 161only these indispensably. I then return to my own room to breakfast. I make this meal the most pleasant part of the day; I have a book for my companion, and I allow myself an hour for it.... At nine o’clock I send off my breakfast-things, and relinquish my book, to make a serious and steady examination of everything I have upon my hands in the way of business—in which, preparations for dress are always included, not for the present day alone, but for the Court-days, which require a particular dress; for the next arriving birthday of any of the Royal Family, every one of which requires new apparel; for Kew, where the dress is plainest; and for going on here, where the dress is very pleasant to me, requiring no show nor finery, but merely to be neat, not inelegant, and moderately fashionable. That over, I have my time at my own disposal till a quarter before twelve, except on Wednesdays and Saturdays, when I have it only to a quarter before eleven.... These times mentioned call me to the irksome and quick-returning labours of the toilette. The hour advanced on the Wednesdays and Saturdays is for curling and craping the hair, which it now requires twice a week. A quarter before one is the usual time for the Queen to begin dressing for the day. Mrs. Schwellenberg then constantly attends; so do I; Mrs. Thielky, of course, at all times. We help her off with her gown, and on with her powdering things, and then the hairdresser is admitted. She generally reads the newspapers during that operation. When she observes that I have run to her but half dressed, she constantly gives me leave to return and finish as soon as she is seated. If she is grave, and reads steadily on, she dismisses me, whether I am dressed or not; but at all times she never forgets to send me away while she is powdering, with a consideration not to spoil my clothes, that one 162would not expect belonged to her high station. Neither does she ever detain me without making a point of reading here and there some little paragraph aloud.... Few minutes elapse ere I am again summoned. I find her then always removed to her state dressing-room, if any room in this private mansion can have the epithet of state. There, in a very short time, her dress is finished. She then says she won’t detain me, and I hear and see no more of her till bedtime....

“At five, we have dinner. Mrs. Schwellenberg and I meet in the eating-room. We are commonly tête-à-tête.... When we have dined, we go upstairs to her apartment, which is directly over mine. Here we have coffee till the terracing is over: this is at about eight o’clock. Our tête-à-tête then finishes, and we come down again to the eating-room. There the equerry, whoever he is, comes to tea constantly, and with him any gentleman that the King or Queen may have invited for the evening; and when tea is over, he conducts them, and goes himself, to the concert-room. This is commonly about nine o’clock. From that time, if Mrs. Schwellenberg is alone, I never quit her for a minute, till I come to my little supper at near eleven. Between eleven and twelve my last summons usually takes place, earlier and later occasionally. Twenty minutes is the customary time then spent with the Queen: half an hour, I believe, is seldom exceeded. I then come back, and after doing whatever I can to forward my dress for the next morning, I go to bed—and to sleep, too, believe me: the early rising, and a long day’s attention to new affairs and occupations, cause a fatigue so bodily, that nothing mental stands against it, and to sleep I fall the moment I have put out my candle and laid down my head.”

The best-known writer of that day was wounded at 163first by having to ‘answer the bell,’ like any chambermaid; and she had cast on her another burden, which even her loyalty could not consider dignified. She had to mix the Queen’s snuff. To perform this task belonged to her place, and it was an inflexible rule with her Majesty that discipline must be preserved. We cannot help thinking that there was a touch of regret in the King’s voice when he said:

‘Miss Burney, I hear you cook snuff very well.’

‘Miss Burney,’ exclaimed the Princess Elizabeth, ‘I hope you hate snuff; for I hate it of all things in the world.’

Thus we see that disaffection lurked even in members of the Royal House.

We pause here for a moment to notice that a precaution adopted by Mrs. Phillips, in her replies to her sister’s Court Journal, of giving fictitious names to some of the persons mentioned, was imitated, when the Diary was printed, by substituting the names invented by Susan for the real ones which occurred in the original. Thus, in the published volumes from which our extracts are taken, Mr. Turbulent stands for M. de Guiffardière,[72] a clergyman who held the office of French reader to the Queen and the Princesses; Colonel Welbred is Colonel Greville; and Colonel Fairly is the Honourable Stephen Digby, who lost his first wife, a daughter of Lord Ilchester, in 1787, and married Miss Gunning, called in the Diary Miss Fuzilier, in 1790.

Next to the King and Queen, the most important figures in Fanny’s new life are their fair daughters, the Princesses who inhabited the Lower Lodge. ‘The history 164of the daughters,’ says Thackeray, ‘as little Miss Burney has painted them, is delightful. They were handsome—she calls them beautiful; they were most kind, loving, and ladylike; they were gracious to every person, high and low, who served them. They had many little accomplishments of their own. This one drew: that one played the piano: they all worked most prodigiously, and fitted up whole suites of rooms—pretty smiling Penelopes—with their busy little needles.... The prettiest of all, I think, is the father’s darling, the Princess Amelia, pathetic for her beauty, her sweetness, her early death, and for the extreme passionate tenderness with which the King loved her.’ Three weeks after Miss Burney entered on her post, occurred the birthday of this favourite child. On such festivals, when the weather was fine, the Royal Family never failed to walk on the Terrace, which was crowded with persons of distinction, who, by this mode of showing respect, escaped the necessity of attending the next Drawing-room. On the present occasion, Mrs. Delany was carried in her sedan—the gift of the King—to the foot of the stairs, and appeared on the promenade with the new Keeper of the Robes by her side. “It was really a mighty pretty procession,” writes Fanny. “The little Princess, just turned of three years old, in a robe-coat covered with fine muslin, a dressed close cap, white gloves, and a fan, walked on alone and first, highly delighted in the parade, and turning from side to side to see everybody as she passed: for all the terracers stand up against the walls, to make a clear passage for the Royal Family, the moment they come in sight. Then followed the King and Queen, no less delighted themselves with the joy of their little darling. The Princess Royal, leaning on Lady Elizabeth Waldegrave, followed at a little distance; next the Princess Augusta, holding 165by the Duchess of Ancaster; and next the Princess Elizabeth, holding by Lady Charlotte Bertie. Office here takes place of rank, which occasioned Lady Elizabeth Waldegrave, as lady of her bedchamber, to walk with the Princess Royal. Then followed the Princess Mary with Miss Goldsworthy,[73] and the Princess Sophia with Mademoiselle Montmoulin and Miss Planta;[74] then General Budé and the Duke of Montague;[75] and, lastly, Major Price, who, as equerry, always brings up the rear, walks at a distance from the group, and keeps off all crowd from the Royal Family.”

‘One sees it,’ adds Thackeray: ‘the band playing its old music; the sun shining on the happy loyal crowd, and lighting the ancient battlements, the rich elms, and purple landscape, and bright green sward: the royal standard drooping from the great tower yonder; as old George passes, followed by his race, preceded by the charming infant, who caresses the crowd with her innocent smiles.’

The Diary proceeds: ‘On sight of Mrs. Delany, the King instantly stopped to speak to her. The Queen, of course, and the little Princess, and all the rest, stood still, in their ranks. They talked a good while with the sweet old lady; during which time the King once or twice addressed himself to me. I caught the Queen’s eye, and saw in it a little surprise, but by no means any displeasure, to see me of the party.

“The little Princess went up to Mrs. Delany, of whom she is very fond, and behaved like a little angel to her: she then, with a look of inquiry and recollection, slowly, of her own accord, came behind Mrs. Delany to look at 166me. ‘I am afraid,’ said I, in a whisper, and stooping down, ‘your Royal Highness does not remember me?’

“What think you was her answer? An arch little smile, and a nearer approach, with her lips pouted out to kiss me. I could not resist so innocent an invitation; but the moment I had accepted it, I was half afraid it might seem, in so public a place, an improper liberty: however, there was no help for it. She then took my fan, and having looked at it on both sides, gravely returned it me, saying, ‘O! a brown fan!’”


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