« ZurückWeiter »
From Blackwood's Magazine. /venture to determine. And we may be MEMOIRS OF A TORY GENTLEWOMAN. well content to leave the inquiry alone. Peo
MANY of our readers who are now enter- ple do read Rasselas now-a-days in mature ing, or who have already entered, upon the age, we believe; some as a pleasure, more grand-paternal state, or its coeval period of as a duty. But Dinarbas has slipped out of bachelor-life, may remember that in the its honorable companionship, and, except days of their early youth, when George III. in old worn copies, is not to be found supwas king, they possessed a little volume, the plementing the Johnsonian classic. Miss gift, perhaps, of a venerable godmother, or Knight outlived her reputation as an the prize of successful industry, or reward thoress. But she did not outlive the esteem of moral conduct at school, on the back of in which she was held by a very large circle which were inscribed the words RASSELAS of friends, including kings and princes, and AND DINARBAS. That these two worthies the honorable of the earth of all ranks and had, somehow or other, been associated to- degrees. Few people have had so extengether in life, was long our profound con- sive an acquaintance as Miss Knight; and viction. We classed them, in our boyish when we say that her reminiscences extend imagination, with Damon and Pythias, Pyl- over a line of European worthies, beginning ades and Orestes, and other similar exem- with Oliver Goldsmith and ending with plars of antique friendship. But there was Benjamin Disraeli, no one will question that such a classical flavor about the names, the most attractive book which such a perthey were altogether so redolent of Lem- son can write, is a plain record of her perprière's Dictionary, that it was long before sonal experiences. we ventured to make acquaintance with any
And such a record we have now before part of the volume beyond the binding and us, in the shape of an unfinished autobiogthe frontispiece, which latter, we remember raphy, supplemented by the writer's journals well, was rather of the Oriental than of the from which the memoir was compiled. It is classical type; but this might have been a trite remark, that any person of ordinary the taste of the artist. Driven, however, at intelligence, with average social opportunilast, to closer investigation by a long con- ties, writing down his experiences from day tinuance of wet weather, we discovered that to day, can hardly fail to make, without Rasselas and Dinarbas were not of common meaning it, an interesting book. But Miss parentage, united on a single title-page ; but Knight's intelligence was not of an ordinary that their connection was principally such as character, and her opportunities were unan enterprising publisher had been pleased questionably great. It may be briefly stated to assign to them; that they were, in fact, what they were. In her early youth she was two works by two different writers. It is no noticed by Johnson, Goldsmith, Burke, Reysecret even to the present generation that nolds, and other members of the same literRasselas is a moral tale, written by the great ary circle. When she was about eighteen, Dr. Samuel Johnson ; but it is not equally she went abroad with her mother, and rewell known that Dinarbas was written by sided principally at Naples and Rome, mixMiss Ellis Cornelia Knight, whose Memoirs ing on terms of intimacy with the chief peoare now before us.*
ple of those cities. In 1798 she made the Whether any one of those young people, acquaintance of Nelson at Naples, and in for whose especial benefit it was considered the following year accompanied him and the in my younger days that these moral tales Hamiltons to England. In 1806 she became were written, ever made his way through a member of Queen Charlotte's family, and the whole of Rasselas, so as to come upon resided at Windsor, attached to the court, Dinarbas at all, or to what extent, having for six or seven years. She then, at the reaccomplished that first victory, he may have quest of the prince regent, transferred hersucceeded in overcoming the second diffi- self to the establishment which he had culty, is more than, after a confession of our formed for his daughter at Warwick House, own stumblings at the first stage, we can and thus became “Lady Companion” to
* The Aul obiography of Miss Cornelia Knight, the Princess Charlotte. When the princess Lndy-Companion to the Princess, Charlotte ; with ran away to her mother's house, Miss Knight Extracts frorn her Journals and Anecdote-Books. 2 vols. W. H. Allen & Co., London. 1861.
was involved in the common disgrace which overtook all the household, and was dis- ness.” Of the mixture of vanity and simmissed. From that time she flitted about plicity, which was one of his most peculiar from place to place, taking up her residence characteristics, Miss Knight gives an amusfirst in one European capital, then in an- ing proof, which we believe has escaped the other; paying visits to her friends, and al- biographers. On a certain occasion, being ways being in intimate relations with the told that he must wear a silk coat, he purfirst people of the cities she frequented. chased one secondhand, which had belonged And so she went on up to the close of the to a nobleman, and wore it in public, not year 1837, seeing a great number of dis- perceiving that there was clearly marked on tinguished persons, and jotting down in her the breast the place where the late owner's journals and anecdote-books something or decoration had been worn. The mark of other that she had learnt about them, until the star told plainly enough the history of she passed her eightieth year, when, with the purchase, and Noll's vanity was sorely very little warning, she gently passed away vexed. from the scene, leaving behind her a boxful There is a better story than this, one of of papers, from which the volumes before Samuel Johnson, and which, as we may say us are compiled.
with tolerable confidence, has not been told If such opportunities as these had been before. We give it in Miss Knight's own turned to good literary account, one of the words :most attractive works ever published might “He was very curious to see the manner have been the result. But Miss Knight of living and the discipline on board a ship had more of the delicacy of the gentlewoman of war, and when my father was appointed than the tact of the litterateur. Though it to the command of the Ramilies, of seventywould appear that her autobiography had four guns, and to sail with the command of been written for publication, it is not sea
a squadron for Gibraltar, at the time when soned as Madame d’Arblay or Lady Char
a war with Spain was expected, Johnson
went to Portsmouth, and passed a week on lotte Campbell would have seasoned it
. It board with my father. He inquired into is a plain recital of fact, modestly and un- every thing, made himself very agreeable to ambitiously written, with a view rather to the officers, and was much pleased with his the information than the excitement of the visit. reader. It is interesting principally by rea
" When he was conveyed on shore, the son of its simplicity and directness of pur- young officer, whom my father had sent to pose ; and, above all, by the unmistakable accompany him asked if he had any further
commands. “Sir,' said Johnson have the fidelity of the narrative. It is impossible goodness to thank the commodore and all to doubt, much more to disbelieve, the the officers for their kindness to me, and tell writer. If the lady's character were not an Mr-(the first-lieutenant) that I beg he ample guarantee for the truth of her book, will leave off the practice of swearing.? its style would be a sufficient voucher. " The young man, willing, if possible, to
Cornelia Knight was but a child when justify, or at least excuse, his superior, reher intercourse with celebrated persons com
plied that, unfortunately, there was no makmenced; but, verging close upon octoge- strong language, and that his majesty’s ser
ing the sailors do their duty without using narianism, she still vividly remembered her vice required it. Then, pray, sir,' answered first experiences of literary society. “I rec- Johnson, “tell Mr- that I beseech him ollect,” she says in 1835, “ being delighted not to use one oath more than is absolutely with the conversation of Mr. Burke, amused required for the service of his majesty.” by the buffoonery of Goldsmith, and dis- The late Mr. Croker would have given a gusted with the satirical madness of manner good deal for this story, coming from so auof Baretti.” “Of all these personages,” she thentic a source. That very diligent editor says, a little further on, “the one whom I appears to have had a notion that Johnson liked best was Mr. Burke, perhaps because (visited a man-of-war off Plymouth, and that he condescended to notice me.” Goldsmith, he was much disgusted by the bad language she says, was very good-natured ; his behav- he heard. But here we have the story in iour easy and natural, removed from vul- proper shape, from the daughter of the man garity no less than from affectation. “His whose ship the great moralist visited, and buffoonery was a sort of childish playful. very characteristic it is. It may be added, that when Miss Knight first went abroad, ed in the conquest of Naples during the war Dr. Johnson gave her his blessing, and ex- between Spain and Austria, lived in a house horted her not to become a Roman Catholic adjoining our hotel, and there was a door of
He had adding that, if she extended her belief, she communication between them.
been very attentive to us, and we met exmight in time become a Turk.
cellent society at his table, for he delighted We may pass over the earlier years of in giving dinner-parties. We knew his Miss Knight's residence, Both in the auto- anxiety to receive the earliest accounts of biography, and in the extracts from the the meeting of the two fleets, and my mothjournals and anecdote-books, there is a good er desired me to give him the first intellideal of interesting information illustrative gence. I ran to the door, and the servant of the state of society in Rome towards the who opened it, and to whom I delivered my close of the last century, with many por- were heard in the dining-room, where the
message, uttered exclamations of joy, which traits of the most celebrated personages of general was entertaining a large party of the times. As far as possible, we shall con- Officers. The secretary was instantly sent fine our notice to those who are distinguished to me, and I was obliged to go in and tell in the annals of our own country; and my story. Never shall I forget the shouts, we may fitly begin the catalogue with Ho- the bursts of applause, the toasts drunk, the ratio Nelson. Miss Knight was at Naples glasses broken one after another by the sec
retary in token of exultation, till the
generwhen news arrived of the victory of the Nile
. al, laughing heartily, stopped him by saying Their situation at that place had long been that he should not have a glass left to one of extreme danger, and, week after drink Nelson's health in on his arrival.” week, month after month, had the eyes of the residents been turned towards the sea, versal, and the impatience for the arrival of
“ The joy,” says Miss Knight,
was uni in the hope of catching sight of a white spot the victors daily increased in intensity. on the horizon that might prove to them Two ships of the line at length appeared in that succor was at hand. They knew that
sight.” These were the Culloden and the an engagement between the two fleets was imminent, but they looked in vain for tidings Ball. The royalty of Naples went out to
Alexander, commanded by Troubridge and of the result. At last, one morning, Miss
meet them. Knight discerned through her glass a sloop- William Hamilton, and his beautiful wife,
The English minister, Sir of-war in the offing, with a blue ensign went out also, in another barge, taking Miss hoisted, and presently a boat put off from Knight with them. “The shore was lined the beach and pulled alongside the vessel, with spectators, who rent the air with joyand two British officers dropped down her side, and were rowed to shore. “We clearly "God save the King'and “Rule Britannia.?"
ous acclamations, while the bands played distinguished,” she writes, “a gold epaulet The king of Naples did not go on board on the shoulder, and this was quite suffi- but saluted the British officers from his cient to convince us that one was the commander of the sloop, and the other a captain barge ; and when Sir William Hamilton going home with dispatches. News of as There, lads, is the king whom you have
pointed him out to the seamen, saying, victory, no doubt.”
The two officers were Hoste and Capel-afterwards admirals and Jack characteristically answered, “Very
saved, with his family and his kingdom," K.C.B's--and the news they brought was that of the victory of the Nile. Never was
glad of it, sir-very glad of it!” not perany news more welcome since the world be haps, without some mental reservation engan. All classes were roused to the high
gendered of a belief as to his being a “ Mounest pitch of enthusiasm, and the excitement
A few days afterwards—that is, on the everywhere was boundless. One scene, in which Miss Knight herself had a part, may
22d September, 1798_Nelson himself apbe given here as an illustration of the gen- tion in Miss Knight's own words. It is in
peared. We give the account of his receperal joy with which these glad tidings were received :
teresting for more reasons than one :
“ Two or three days later (September 22) “Old General di Pietra, one of the few the Vanguard, with the flag of Sir Horatió survivors of the gallant band who had assist- Nelson, came in sight; and this time the
concourse of barges, boats, and spectators, then nearly nine years old. After the king was greater than before. The Vanguard had taken his leave, Sir William Hamilton was followed by two or three ships of the asked the admiral to make his house his line which had been in the engagement. It head-quarters, and accordingly Sir Horatio would be impossible to imagine a more beau- accompanied us ashore.” tiful and animated scene than the Bay of
Our readers will not fail to note what is Naples then presented. Bands of music played our national airs. With God save here said about Caraccioli. A second time the King' they had long been familiar, but it was Nelson's lot to take the wind out of for the present occasion they had learned the prince's sails ; and Miss Knight appears • Rule Britannia' and 'See, the conquering to have been convinced that jealousy of Nelhero comes.' No Englishman or English- son was the real cause of the prince's dewoman can hear those airs without emotion sertion. The royal family were not safe at in a foreign land, however trifling may the effect they produce in our own country: Naples, and it was necessary, therefore, to but under such circumstances as these they convey them to Palermo. This was an create a powerful excitement.
honor which Caraccioli coveted for himself, “We rowed out to a considerable dis- but it was conferred on the English adtance, following the king, who was anxious miral. There are some graphic touches in to greet his deliverers, as he did not scruple the concluding lines of this brief extract :to call them. Sir Horatio Nelson received his majesty with respect, but without em- “ Like a dark cloud announcing a trebarrassment, and conducted him over every mendous storm, the enemy kept gradually part of the vessel, with which he seemed approaching. A very indifferent undermuch pleased, and particularly so with the standing existed between the Austrians and kindness and attention shown io the wound- Russians in those parts of Italy where they ed seamen, of whom there were several on were acting in assumed co-operation. The board. The king afterwards sat down with populace of Naples, and many of the higher us to a handsome breakfast, at which I re-orders, indeed, stoutly affirmed that they marked a little bird hopping about on the would never suffer their king and his family table. This bird had come on board the to fall into the hands of the enemy; but Vanguard the evening before the action, still it was thought more prudent to make and had remained in her ever since. The preparations for departure. Unfortunately, admiral's cabin was its chief residence, but there was no English ship of war then in it was fed and petted by all who came near the bay, except that which bore the flag of it ; for sailors regard the arrival of a bird as Lord Nelson, and a frigate with a Turkish the promise of victory, or at least as an ex- ambassador on board, attended by a numercellent omen. It flew away, I believe, soon ous suite. A Portuguese squadron, howafter the ship reached Naples.
ever, was lying there, and also a fine "Just before we sat down to breakfast Neapolitan man-of-war, commanded by the Bailli Caraccioli made his appearance, Prince Caraccioli, and likewise another ship and congratulated Sir Horatio on his victo- of the line ; but it was the opinion of the ry with seemingly genuine sincerity. That court that although the Bailli himself was unfortunate man, however, had before this trustworthy, the same reliance could not be conceived a jealous resentment against the placed in his crew. It was therefore rehero of the Nile. We had been in the habit solved that the royal family should go with of meeting him at General di Pietra's, and Lord Nelson. How far these suspicions some days before the arrival of the Van- were well founded I cannot say, but I have guard he told me that in the engagement no doubt that this step hastened the deseroff Corsica, in which he, as commander of tion of Prince Caraccioli. We met him a Veapolitan frigate, had joined the squad about this time at a dinner party at General ron under Admiral Hotham, Nelson had di Pietra's, and I never saw any man look passed before him, contrary to the direc- so utterly miserable. He scarcely uttered a iions previously issued. This he thought word, ate nothing, and did not even unfold very unfair, because British officers had fre- his napkin. However, he took the ships quent opportunities of distinguishing them- safe to Messina, where they were laid up in selves, which was not the case with his own ordinary.” service. He was a man of noble family, about fifty years of age, a Bailli of the Or
Miss Knight and her mother followed the der of Malta, and a great favorite at court, royal family and the British minister to Pabeing charged with the nautical education lermo, and remained there when the king, of Prince Leopold, the king's second son, Nelson, and the Hamiltons returned to Naples, to re-establish the authority of the name to particular dresses : but it did not first. During their absence from Palermo, appear to me that the English nation was at Lady Knight died ; and Cornelia took up all popular. The people generally were opher abode in Sir William Hamilton's house. posed to the war with France, which had
proved so unfavorable to them ; for although “ When Sir William Hamilton and Lord the troops were brave and loyal, they were Nelson came to take leave of her before not well commanded. We had often music, their departure for Naples, she had particu- as the best composers and performers were larly commended me to their care, and, pre- happy to be introduced to Sir William and vious to their embarkation, Sir William and Lady Hamilton. I was much pleased with Lady Hamilton had left directions with Mrs. Haydn. He dined with us, and his converCadogan that, in case I should lose my sation was modest and sensible. He set to mother before their return, she was to take music some English verses, and, amongst me to their house. That lady came for me, others, part of an ode I had composed after and I went with her to our minister's, know- the battle of the Nile, and which was deing that it was my mother's wish that I scriptive of the blowing up of L'Orient :should be under his protection; and I must say that there was certainly at that time no
«• Britannia's leader gives the dread command ;
Obedient to his summons flames arise : impropriety in living under Lady Hamil
The fierce explosion rends the skies, ton's roof. Her house was the resort of the
And high in air the pond'rous mass is throin. best company of all nations, and the atten
The dire concussion shakes the land : tions payed to Lord Nelson appeared per. Earth, air, and sea, united groan; fectly natural. He himself always spoke of The solid pyramids confess the shock, his wife with the greatest affection and re- And their firm bases to their centre rock.' spect; and I remember that, shortly after the battle of the Nile, when my mother said
"Haydn accompanied Lady Hamilton on to bim that no doubt he considered the day the piano when she sang this piece, and the of that victory as the happiest in his life, effect was grand. He was staying at that he answered, ' No, the happiest was that time with Prince Esterhazy, and presided on which I married Lady Nelson.'
over the famous concerts given by that
nobleman at his magnificent palace in HunIt is only right to infer from this that gary. At one time the prince had an intenLady Hamilton's conduct, during the pe- tion of giving up these concerts, and told riod of her residence at Naples, was alto- Haydn that the next one would be the last.
Towards the congether blameless, and that she was regarded It was a very fine one. as a person with whom the most scrupulous clusion, Haydn composed a finale so melanmight live upon terms of intimate relation
choly-so touching, that it drew tears from
many of the audience; and he had given ship. A few pages further on, Miss Knight orders that while it was playing the lights says of her, that “she made herself very should be gradually extinguished; all of useful in public affairs during the distressing which made such an impression upon the circumstances which took place in conse- mind of the prince, that he abandoned his quence of the French Revolution. Alto- intention of discontinuing these concerts." gether she was a singular mixture of right That the intimacy between Nelson and and wrong."
Lady Hamilton greatly increased during the In April, 1800, Miss Knight embarked, time spent on board the Foudroyant, and with the Hamiltons, on board Nelson's ship, on the journey to England, is well known. the Foudroyant, bound for Malta, touching Miss Knight was no unconcerned spectator at Syracuse. They returned to Palermo, of their growing affection ; and when she and thence sailed to Leghorn. From that reached home she felt herself in a distressplace they proceeded by land to England. ing position, and hardly knew what to do. The account of this homeward journey is It is right, however, to observe, that it apinteresting, as an episode in Nelson's life pears to have been this lady's opinion that whereof his biographers have not taken they neither of them foresaw the height to much account. One passage, at least, is which their imprudence was fated to reach, worthy of quotation :
but almost unconsciously drifted into the " At Vienna, whenever Lord Nelson ap- sea of danger, which at last engulfed them. peared in public, a crowd was collected, and Such commonly is the downward course of his portrait was hung up as a sign over evil. And then, too, Miss Knight says that many shops-oven the milliners giving his matters were aggravated by the evil tongue