LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

In Whig Society 1775-1818
Sir Robert Adair to Lady Melbourne, 27 September 1802

Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
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“First of all let me say how rightly I think you judged respecting a message from the Duchess of Devonshire through me. It was all that could be desired, and would have been taken most kindly, but I have received no authority, & to tell you the truth do not expect any, for my name seems to be the signal of oblivion with a

1 The last surviver of Fox’s friends, died 1855.

certain great and amiable lady, & any promise made to me, or to do anything where I am concerned, is soon numbered with the years beyond the flood. I could much have wished in the present instance that this was not so, as I find since
Lady Holland’s departure that she is not supposed to have behaved by any means kindly to Mrs. Fox. I am so very blind a person that I should not most probably have found it out in a thousand years, but I hear it from foreigners & women who have no sort of interest in telling fibs of her. The grand object of jealousy, I fancy, was the intended presentation to Madme. B[onaparte] on the same day. This Her Ladyship did not much like, & whether Mrs. Fox’s dress really was not ready, or whether she gave the point up I cannot tell, but it did not take place as it had been projected & Lady Holland alone was presented. I take it, however, that she left Paris in great dudgeon, for she fully expected that, after the ceremonial was over, she would have been asked to the private parties. In this she was greatly disappointed, & perhaps Mrs. F[ox] has it all visited upon her. As to Frederick’s account, I do not suppose it will differ much from mine, but as I understand your letter, it seems as if he had mentioned their meeting as something formal. Now I do not agree in this, for they met and dined together continually; and whatever tracasseries have taken place they passed more behind each others backs than face to face. I am hurt at these fooleries, for they vex both Fox & lord H[olland] excessively.

“The Duchess of Cumberland has behaved most infamously, saying and doing all manner of ill-natured things.


“To finish with lady H[olland], I am sorry to confess that I could not have done without her at Paris. I requested the Duchess, as the only favour she had it in her power to confer upon me, to give me letters. She promised them, with the greatest apparent joy to think she could do anything to please me. From that time to this I have heard nothing about them, and not being a very forward person, should undoubtedly have found no means of introduction whatever had it not been for lady Holland. I own I had rather have been indebted to the Duchess, but I cannot be ungrateful where I have received favours.

“I wrote a few words to the Duchess by Sir Francis Baring. I had before written to lady Eliz[abeth] Foster, and given her some account of a dinner we had at Madme. Cabarrus’s. In my letter to her I did not say a word about O’Connor, but between my writing to lady E. & my writing to the duchess, it was all about Paris that Mr. Fox had brought him in his hand, & introduced him as his particular friend. Such an abominable lie made me determine to contradict it, so I wrote to the duchess, to state the fact exactly as it was. It seems that O’Connor is travelling about with lady Oxford, in company with a strange sort of a man whom she has with her to teach her Greek, having heard, I suppose, that it is nothing for a lady to have a turn for philosophy & metaphysicks unless she can read the Greek alphabet. From her rank, & her pretended enthusiasm with respect to Fox, Madme. Cabarrus thought she could not do better than to invite her, & lady O[xford] thought she could do nothing so well as to invite O’Connor. She brought him therefore, greatly to the annoyance
of every body there, especially
Erskine who carried the matter too far on the other side. Since this, the gossips of Paris have talked of nothing else, and I have no doubt that, among ten thousand other misrepresentations, a fine story will be made out of it for the old women of London. It is very singular but I find that excuses are readily received for every body’s conduct except Chas. Fox’s, and if he happens to err on the side of good nature, the clamour is only so much the louder. Does Mr. Pitt conduct the Government from blunder to blunder untill the whole power & consequence of his country is destroyed?—Why people are mighty sorry for it, & trust he will do better another time;—but if Fox is commonly civil to a man who is proscribed by the rest of the world, then it is instantly said that he is making common cause with him, & is just as bad and dangerous a person himself. I used to be worn to death by this nonsense, but it is now over. Thank God his Character is too big to mind these childish Criticisms. I wish indeed it were otherwise, as who does not wish, in reading Shakespeare, that he had omitted many irregularities in his composition? But why is such a cruel exception to be made in regard to Fox, and why, like every other Man, is he not to be judged upon the great total of his Character? I perceive I am getting angry, but Erskine has made me so by helping on all this folly with his fears. . . .

“Among other great men who are walking about the streets of Paris just now, I fell in the other day with General Massena; and of him I will mention an anecdote which he himself acknowledged to Mr. Fox was true. Within ten days of his Capitulation of Genoa, an Austrian General
Officer was admitted into the Garrison upon some business relative to an exchange of prisoners or some other matter of no great consequence. As he was in conference with Massena, he took occasion to tell him that it was very foolish to have held out so long, that no relief was at hand and that the state of their provisions was accurately known in the Austrian Camp. ‘In short,’ said the officer, ‘we know you have only provisions for ten days.’ ‘For ten days,’ said Massena, ‘Why we have not yet begun upon the Monks!’ I like both him and
Moreau very much. They are plain unaffected men, without any fanfaronade. Menou is the stupidest hound you ever saw.”