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Chelsea Hospital—Tour to Devonshire—Visit to Bath—Reminiscences—The Duchess of Devonshire—Return Home—Literary Pursuits resumed—Attempts at Tragedy—Social Engagements—Death of Sir Joshua Reynolds—A Public Breakfast at Mrs. Montagu’s—Mrs. Hastings—Mr. Boswell—Visit to Mrs. Crewe—The Burke Family—Meeting with Edmund Burke—Burke and the French Revolution—Charles Fox—Lord Loughborough—Mr. Erskine—His Egotism—The French Refugees in England—Bury St. Edmunds—Madame de Genlis—The Duke de Liancourt—The Settlement at Mickleham—Count de Narbonne—The Chevalier d’Arblay—Visit of Miss Burney to Norfolk—Death of Mr. Francis—Return to London.

Miss Burney returned to her father, who, with his wife and his youngest daughter Sarah, was then living in Chelsea Hospital. The family at this time occupied rooms on the ground-floor, which not long afterwards were exchanged for others in the top story. After resting three weeks at home, she set out on a tour to the southwest of England, under the care of her friend Mrs. Ord. The travellers journeyed by easy stages to Sidmouth, taking Stonehenge on their way, and stopping at the principal places which had been visited by the Court in the summer of 1789. Having spent eight or nine days on the coast of South Devon, they turned northwards, and proceeded by the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey to Bath. That most famous of English watering-places was greatly altered from what it had been when Fanny passed the season there with the Thrales eleven years before. The circumference, she tells us, had trebled, though the new buildings were scattered, and most of them unfinished. 279“The hills are built up and down, and the vales so stocked with streets and houses, that, in some places, from the ground-floor on one side a street, you cross over to the attic of your opposite neighbour. It looks a town of hills, and a hill of towns.” But the palaces of white stone rising up on every hand interested her less than the old haunts with which she was familiar—the North Parade, where she had lived with Mrs. Thrale; the houses in the Circus, where she had visited Mrs. Montagu and Mrs. Cholmley; the Belvedere, where she had talked with Mrs. Byron and Lord Mulgrave. Nearly a month slipped away in reviving old recollections, and in making some new acquaintances to replace the many that had disappeared. The retired official was much flattered by an introduction to the celebrated Duchess of Devonshire, and amused herself with the thought that her first visit after leaving the Queen should be paid to the greatest lady of the Opposition. Another month was divided between Mickleham and Norbury Park, and by the middle of October Miss Burney was again at Chelsea.

‘We shall expect you here to dinner by four,’ wrote her father. ‘The great grubbery will be in nice order for you, as well as the little; both have lately had many accessions of new books. The ink is good, good pens in plenty, and the most pleasant and smooth paper in the world!
‘“Come, Rosalind, oh, come and see
What quires are in store for thee!”’

Are we wrong in thinking that these words express Dr. Burney’s anxiety to see his daughter once more working as she had not worked since the last sheet of ‘Cecilia’ was corrected for the press? In the succeeding pages of the Diary we find more than one passage where the good 280man’s eagerness for some new fruit of her talents is plainly confessed. Friends had united to persuade him that he had but to recall her from the royal dressing-room to her study, and fresh laurels, with abundant riches, would surely and speedily be hers. He was naturally impatient for some fulfilment of these prophecies. Rosalind appeared: she wore out the quills, and covered the quires; but nothing came of her activity. Her health was now fairly restored, and, in the first ardour of composition, she felt that she could employ two pens almost incessantly. Unhappily, her industry was devoted to a mistaken purpose. She had brought with her from Windsor the rough drafts of two tragedies, and without pausing to correct these, she occupied herself in writing a third. A less hopeful enterprise could not have been conceived. She had before her eyes the warning example of Mr. Crisp’s failure. Had this old friend been living, he would doubtless have been wiser for his pupil than he was for himself. It is certain that Nature had not designed the Siddons for tragedy more distinctly than she intended Frances Burney for comedy. With the exception of one or two powerful scenes, such as the death of Harrel, Fanny’s chief successes had been won in the department of humorous writing. It was her misfortune that she had at this moment no literary adviser on whose judgment she could rely. Her acquaintance with Arthur Murphy seems to have ceased; the Hastings trial, and the debates on the Regency, had cooled her relations with Sheridan and Burke. ‘Mr. Sheridan,’ she wrote, ‘I have no longer any ambition to be noticed by.’ Her regard for Burke continued; but she had not yet met him since her deliverance from captivity. Dr. Burney was told only that she was engaged upon a play, and was made to understand that he must wait until it was 281finished before he was indulged with a sight of the manuscript. Towards the end of 1791 she writes: ‘I go on with various writings, at different times, and just as the humour strikes. I have promised my dear father a Christmas-box and a New Year’s gift; and therefore he now kindly leaves me to my own devices.’ We do not find that the anxious parent received either of the promised presents. The daughter’s fit of application seems to have soon died away: in the early part of 1792, her father was ill and occupied with his ailments; and by the time he was able to think of other things, Fanny had ceased to prepare for coming before the public. Her tragedies slept in her desk for three years: when, at the end of that period, the earliest of them, which had been begun at Kew and finished at Windsor, was put on the stage, it was produced without revision, and failed—as, no doubt, it would have done under any circumstances.

As Miss Burney’s strength returned, she seems to have fallen back into the indolent life of visiting and party-going which she was leading when she joined the Royal Household. She saw once more the failing Sir Joshua, who had worked at her deliverance as if she had been his own daughter; though he passed from the scene before she found an opportunity of thanking him for his exertions. She attended a great public breakfast given by Mrs. Montagu, whose famous Feather Room and dining-room were thronged by hundreds of guests, and looked like a full Ranelagh by daylight. At this entertainment she met Mrs. Hastings, whose splendid dress, loaded with ornaments, gave her the appearance of an Indian princess. At another breakfast Fanny encountered Boswell, who had excited her displeasure by his revelation of Johnson’s infirmities, and who provoked her again by 282telling anecdotes of the great Samuel, and acting them with open buffoonery. During the Session, she spent much of her time at the Hastings trial, listening to the defence conducted by Law, Dallas, and Plomer, and rallying Windham on the sarcasms aimed by Law at the heated rhetoric of Burke. The great orator himself she rarely encountered on these occasions. In June, 1792, however, she spent a day with him at Mrs. Crewe’s house on Hampstead Hill.

“The villa at Hampstead is small, but commodious. We were received by Mrs. Crewe with much kindness. The room was rather dark, and she had a veil to her bonnet, half down, and with this aid she looked still in a full blaze of beauty.... She is certainly, in my eyes, the most completely a beauty of any woman I ever saw. I know not, even now, any female in her first youth who could bear the comparison. She uglifies everything near her. Her son was with her. He is just of age, and looks like her elder brother! he is a heavy, old-looking young man. He is going to China with Lord Macartney.[108]

“My former friend, young Burke, was also there. I was glad to renew acquaintance with him; though I could see some little strangeness in him: this, however, completely wore off before the day was over. Soon after entered Mrs. Burke, Miss French, a niece, and Mr. Richard Burke, the comic, humorous, bold, queer brother of the Mr. Burke.... Mrs. Burke was just what I have always seen her, soft, gentle, reasonable, and obliging; and we met, I think, upon as good terms as if so many years had not parted us.

“At length Mr. Burke appeared, accompanied by Mr. Elliot. He shook hands with my father as soon as he 283had paid his devoirs to Mrs. Crewe, but he returned my curtsey with so distant a bow, that I concluded myself quite lost with him, from my evident solicitude in poor Mr. Hastings’s cause. I could not wish that less obvious, thinking as I think of it; but I felt infinitely grieved to lose the favour of a man whom, in all other articles, I so much venerate, and whom, indeed, I esteem and admire as the very first man of true genius now living in this country.

“Mrs. Crewe introduced me to Mr. Elliot: I am sure we were already personally known to each other, for I have seen him perpetually in the Managers’ Box, whence, as often, he must have seen me in the Great Chamberlain’s. He is a tall, thin young man, plain in face, dress, and manner, but sensible, and possibly much besides; he was reserved, however, and little else appeared.

“The moment I was named, to my great joy I found Mr. Burke had not recollected me. He is more near-sighted considerably than myself. ‘Miss Burney!’ he now exclaimed, coming forward, and quite kindly taking my hand, ‘I did not see you;’ and then he spoke very sweet words of the meeting, and of my looking far better than ‘while I was a courtier,’ and of how he rejoiced to see that I so little suited that station. ‘You look,’ cried he, ‘quite renewed, revived, disengaged; you seemed, when I conversed with you last at the trial, quite altered; I never saw such a change for the better as quitting a Court has brought about!’

“Ah! thought I, this is simply a mistake from reasoning according to your own feelings. I only seemed altered for the worse at the trial, because I there looked coldly and distantly, from distaste and disaffection to your proceedings; and I here look changed for the better, only because I here meet you without the chill of disapprobation, 284and with the glow of my first admiration of you and your talents!

“Mrs. Crewe gave him her place, and he sat by me, and entered into a most animated conversation upon Lord Macartney and his Chinese expedition, and the two Chinese youths who were to accompany it. These last he described minutely, and spoke of the extent of the undertaking in high, and perhaps fanciful, terms, but with allusions and anecdotes intermixed, so full of general information and brilliant ideas, that I soon felt the whole of my first enthusiasm return, and with it a sensation of pleasure that made the day delicious to me.

“After this my father joined us, and politics took the lead. He spoke then with an eagerness and a vehemence that instantly banished the graces, though it redoubled the energies, of his discourse. ‘The French Revolution,’ he said, ‘which began by authorizing and legalizing injustice, and which by rapid steps had proceeded to every species of despotism except owning a despot, was now menacing all the universe and all mankind with the most violent concussion of principle and order.’ My father heartily joined, and I tacitly assented to his doctrines, though I feared not with his fears.

“One speech I must repeat, for it is explanatory of his conduct, and nobly explanatory. When he had expatiated upon the present dangers, even to English liberty and property, from the contagion of havoc and novelty, he earnestly exclaimed, ‘This it is that has made ME an abettor and supporter of Kings! Kings are necessary, and, if we would preserve peace and prosperity, we must preserve THEM. We must all put our shoulders to the work! Ay, and stoutly, too!’...

“At dinner Mr. Burke sat next Mrs. Crewe, and I had the happiness to be seated next Mr. Burke; and my other neighbour was his amiable son.

285“The dinner, and the dessert when the servants were removed, were delightful. How I wish my dear Susanna and Fredy[109] could meet this wonderful man when he is easy, happy, and with people he cordially likes! But politics, even on his own side, must always be excluded; his irritability is so terrible on that theme that it gives immediately to his face the expression of a man who is going to defend himself from murderers....

“Charles Fox being mentioned, Mrs. Crewe told us that he had lately said, upon being shown some passage in Mr. Burke’s book which he had warmly opposed, but which had, in the event, made its own justification, very candidly, ‘Well! Burke is right—but Burke is often right, only he is right too soon.’

“‘Had Fox seen some things in that book,’ answered Mr. Burke, ‘as soon, he would at this moment, in all probability, be first minister of this country.’

“‘What!’ cried Mrs. Crewe, ‘with Pitt?—No!—no!—Pitt won’t go out, and Charles Fox will never make a coalition with Pitt.’

“‘And why not?’ said Mr. Burke dryly! ‘why not this coalition as well as other coalitions?’

“Nobody tried to answer this.

“‘Charles Fox, however,’ said Mr. Burke, afterwards, ‘can never internally like the French Revolution. He is entangled; but, in himself, if he should find no other objection to it, he has at least too much taste for such a revolution.’...

“Mr. Richard Burke related, very comically, various censures cast upon his brother, accusing him of being the friend of despots, and the abettor of slavery, because he had been shocked at the imprisonment of the King of France, and was anxious to preserve our own limited 286monarchy in the same state in which it so long had flourished.

“Mr. Burke looked half alarmed at his brother’s opening, but, when he had finished, he very good-humouredly poured out a glass of wine, and, turning to me, said, ‘Come, then—here’s slavery for ever!’ This was well understood, and echoed round the table with hearty laughter.

“‘This would do for you completely, Mr. Burke,’ said Mrs. Crewe, ‘if it could get into a newspaper! Mr. Burke, they would say, has now spoken out; the truth has come to light unguardedly, and his real defection from the cause of true liberty is acknowledged. I should like to draw up the paragraph!’

“‘And add,’ said Mr. Burke, ‘the toast was addressed to Miss Burney, in order to pay court to the Queen!’”... After a stroll:

“The party returned with two very singular additions to its number—Lord Loughborough, and Mr. and Mrs. Erskine. They have villas at Hampstead, and were met in the walk; Mr. Erskine else would not, probably, have desired to meet Mr. Burke, who openly in the House of Commons asked him if he knew what friendship meant, when he pretended to call him, Mr. Burke, his friend?

“There was an evident disunion of the cordiality of the party from this time. My father, Mr. Richard Burke, his nephew, and Mr. Elliot entered into some general discourse; Mr. Burke took up a volume of Boileau, and read aloud, though to himself, and with a pleasure that soon made him seem to forget all intruders: Lord Loughborough joined Mrs. Burke, and Mr. Erskine, seating himself next to Mrs. Crewe, engrossed her entirely, yet talked loud enough for all to hear who were not engaged themselves.

287“For me, I sat next Mrs. Erskine, who seems much a woman of the world, for she spoke with me just as freely, and readily, and easily as if we had been old friends.

“Mr. Erskine enumerated all his avocations to Mrs. Crewe, and, amongst others, mentioned, very calmly, having to plead against Mr. Crewe upon a manor business in Cheshire. Mrs. Crewe hastily and alarmed, interrupted him, to inquire what he meant, and what might ensue to Mr. Crewe? ‘Oh, nothing but the loss of the lordship upon that spot,’ he coolly answered; ‘but I don’t know that it will be given against him: I only know I shall have three hundred pounds for it.’

“Mrs. Crewe looked thoughtful; and Mr. Erskine then began to speak of the new Association for Reform, by the friends of the people, headed by Messrs. Grey and Sheridan, and sustained by Mr. Fox, and openly opposed by Mr. Windham, as well as Mr. Burke. He said much of the use they had made of his name, though he had never yet been to the society; and I began to understand that he meant to disavow it; but presently he added, ‘I don’t know whether I shall ever attend—I have so much to do—so little time; however, the people must be supported.’

“‘Pray, will you tell me,’ said Mrs. Crewe dryly, ‘what you mean by the people? I never knew.’

“He looked surprised, but evaded any answer, and soon after took his leave, with his wife, who seems by no means to admire him as much as he admires himself, if I may judge by short odd speeches which dropped from her. The eminence of Mr. Erskine seems all for public life; in private, his excessive egotisms undo him.

“Lord Loughborough instantly took his seat next to Mrs. Crewe; and presently related a speech which Mr. Erskine has lately made at some public meeting, and 288which he opened to this effect:—‘As to me, gentlemen, I have some title to give my opinions freely. Would you know what my title is derived from? I challenge any man to inquire! If he ask my birth,—its genealogy may dispute with kings! If my wealth, it is all for which I have time to hold out my hand! If my talents,—No! of those, gentlemen, I leave you to judge for yourselves!’

“But I have now time for no more upon this day, except that Mr. and Mrs. Burke, in making their exit, gave my father and me the most cordial invitation to Beaconsfield in the course of the summer or autumn. And, indeed, I should delight to accept it.”

The second half of this year was consumed by a round of visits, commencing in town, and ending in Norfolk. On leaving London, Miss Burney accompanied her eldest sister into Essex, where they spent some time together at Halstead Vicarage. From this place, Fanny went alone to stay at Bradfield Hall, near Bury St. Edmunds, with the family of the agriculturist, Arthur Young,[110] who had married a sister of the second Mrs. Burney.

All over the country, in the autumn of 1792, two subjects only were talked of, the Revolution in France, and the adventures of the emigrants to England. Little settlements of refugees had been, or were being, formed in various districts. One coterie had established themselves at Richmond, where they received much attention from Horace Walpole. Other unfortunates found their way to Bury. A third colony, and not the least important, sought retirement in the Vale of Mickleham. The fugitives, of course, were not only of different ranks, but of different political complexions. The Revolution had begun to 289devour its children; and some of the exiles had helped to raise the passion which swept them away. Suffolk had been visited in the spring by the celebrated Countess of Genlis, governess to the children of Philip Egalité, Duke of Orleans. This lady, who was now called Madame de Sillery, or Brulard, hired a house at Bury for herself and her party, which included an authentic Mademoiselle d’Orléans, besides the Pamela who afterwards married Lord Edward Fitzgerald, and another young girl. Her establishment also comprised a number of men, who were treated by the ladies sometimes as servants, sometimes as equals. The vagaries of this curious household and its mistress provoked comments which drove them from the county before Miss Burney entered it. It was rumoured that Madame Brulard’s departure was hastened by the arrival of the Duke de Liancourt, who warmly denounced her influence over her infamous protector as a principal cause of the French anarchy. Yet the nobleman just named was himself known as a friend of the people. He it was who, bursting into the King’s closet to report the fall of the Bastille, had been the first to utter the word Revolution. Arthur Young, who, like most other well-to-do Englishmen at that moment, was ready to forswear every popular principle he had formerly professed, inveighed against the Duke’s folly, while he pitied the misfortunes of a man to whom his travels had laid him under obligation. Fanny met the new-comer at her host’s table, and heard from his own lips the story of his escape from France. Being in command at Rouen when news of the bloody Tenth of August reached that city, and finding a price set on his head by the Jacobins, De Liancourt, with some difficulty, made his way to the sea, where he embarked in an open boat, and set sail, covered with faggots, for the opposite coast. He entertained his friends at Bradfield 290Hall with an account of his landing at Hastings, describing how he had walked to the nearest public-house, and, to seem English, had called for ‘pot portère,’ and then, being extremely thirsty, for another; how, overcome by the strange liquor, he had been carried upstairs in a helpless state, and put to bed; how he had woke up before day-break in a miserable room, and fancied himself in a French maison de force; how, on creeping cautiously below, the sight of the kitchen, with its array of bright pewter plates and polished saucepans, had convinced him that he must be in a more cleanly country than his native land. What had brought the Duke to Bury we are not informed: he certainly would not have been at home with Walpole’s friends, who seem to have been staunch adherents of the ancien régime.

Some, though not all, of the strangers at Mickleham had advanced several degrees beyond the timid constitutionalism of the Duke de Liancourt. The origin and early history of this settlement were communicated to Fanny by the journalizing letters of her sister, Mrs. Phillips. Two or three families had united to take a house near the village, called Juniper Hall, while another family hired a cottage at West Humble, which the owner let with great reluctance, ‘upon the Christian-like supposition that, being nothing but French papishes, they would never pay.’ The party at the cottage were presided over by Madame de Broglie, daughter-in-law of the Maréchal who had commanded the Royalist troops near Paris. Among the first occupants of Juniper Hall were Narbonne, recently Constitutionalist Minister of War, and Montmorency, ci-devant duc, from whom had proceeded the motion for suppressing titles of nobility in France. When Mrs. Phillips made the acquaintance of her new neighbours, they had been reinforced by fresh arrivals, including 291an officer of whom she had not yet heard. This was M. d’Arblay,[111] who, Susan was told, had been Adjutant-General to her favourite hero, Lafayette, when that leader surrendered himself to the Allies. On the chief being sent prisoner to Olmutz, the subordinate was permitted to withdraw into Holland, whence he was now come to join his intimate friend and patron, Count Louis de Narbonne. ‘He is tall,’ wrote Mrs. Phillips to her sister, ‘and a good figure, with an open and manly countenance; about forty, I imagine.’

The letters from Mickleham were soon full of this General d’Arblay, who won the heart of good Mrs. Phillips by his amiable manners, and his attention to her children, while he fortified her in her French politics, which, to say the truth, were too advanced for Fanny’s acceptance. Both the General and Narbonne were attached to their unfortunate master, but considered that they had been very badly treated by Louis, and that it was impossible to serve him, because he could not trust himself, and in consequence distrusted everybody else. D’Arblay had been the officer on guard at the Tuileries on the night of the famous Flight to Varennes. He had not been let into the secret of the plan, but was left, without warning, to run the risk of being denounced and murdered for having assisted the King’s escape.

Miss Burney was now in Norfolk with her sister Charlotte. But this visit to her native county proved the reverse of joyful. Soon after her arrival at Aylsham, Mr. Francis, her brother-in-law, was seized with an attack of apoplexy, which ended in his death. During his illness, she interested herself in the accounts of Juniper Hall—she 292had already heard something of M. d’Arblay from the Duke de Liancourt—but her attention was mainly engrossed by the distress of those around her. When all was over, she remained to assist the widow in settling her affairs, and at the close of the year accompanied her and the children to London.


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