LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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In Whig Society 1775-1818
Chapter IV.

Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
‣ Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
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In May 1803 the Peace concluded with France at Amiens was broken. Creevy1 asks—“How did the damned Corsican and the Doctor knock their heads together?” The famous scene which took place on March 13, 1803, between Napoleon and Lord Whitworth the English Ambassador at the Tuileries, gave an uneasy impression, and on May 18 war with France was declared.

Harriet Lamb died this year. Peniston had begun to show signs of ill health, though in 1802 he had been elected Member for Hertfordshire. Lady Melbourne, fond as she was of her eldest son, did not suffer as did Lord Melbourne, whose passionate adoration for his first-born was well known. In him he traced his own features, though Peniston’s were already refined and emaciated by the disease which killed him. We hear of Peniston sometimes as an amateur actor, in which pastime he and his brothers seem to have excelled, otherwise” he is but a shadowy figure, for none of his letters exist.

1 Creevy Memoirs, vol. i, p. 11.


William Lamb, the second and favourite son of Lady Melbourne, afterwards Prime Minister to Queen Victoria, was born on March 15, 1779, and was baptized at St. James’s according to Torrens, but whether in the Chapel Royal or St. James’s Church, Piccadilly, he does not say. He received the usual education of the sons of noblemen at that time. His early youth was passed in the glades of Brocket and among the stately surroundings of Petworth.

He was taught to read and write by an old Jersey woman who had been his mother’s governess. She was a sort of bonne and a very disagreeable woman, but his mother adored her. This old woman ended by marrying a Swiss clergyman who had travelled with Peniston as his tutor. He lived downstairs with the family, while she lived upstairs—“one couldn’t do that in these days,” said her pupil in later years.

In 1790 William was entered at Eton, where his contemporaries in class and game were Sumner, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Stuart, later Lord Stuart de Rothesay, and George, known later as “Beau,” Brummell.

As William grew up he was distinguished by his height, his marked features and brilliant dark flashing eyes, so unlike the fair and delicate face and soft blue eyes of his brother Peniston. William went to Cambridge, and on July 7, 1796, he was entered at Trinity College as a fellow
commoner. In spite of the indolence which is often mentioned by his contemporaries, his career both at Eton and at Cambridge was not undistinguished. While a student at the University he read hard in classics. He read for pleasure and from a love of information, and it may be that his indolence existed only in matters where neither his heart nor his taste was involved.

William paid a visit to Inverary Castle in October 1802, where Matthew Gregory Lewis, called the “Monk” from his poem, was also a guest, and wrote to Lady Melbourne a most amusing letter. He travelled with George, 8th Baron Kinnaird, a man known for his taste in art and his sympathy with the early views of the Revolution. About William’s age, he became deeply enamoured of his friend’s sister Emily.

The Duchess of Argyle, whose beauty was celebrated, for she was a Gunning, had died in 1790, but her daughters Lady Augusta Clavering and Lady Charlotte Campbell, who had married her cousin Campbell of Shawfield, seem to have been the hostesses. The tone and amusements of this country house were no doubt very pleasant to William, to whom a beautiful woman was always agreeable.

The “Monk” wrote:

“Your Darling arrived here on Wednesday
last dripping wet, but otherwise in good case and in good spirits. He is at present busily employed upon the composition of a Domestic Newspaper which has been lately established at Inverary and of which he has been appointed Editor for the present week. Three have already been published with great applause, but (in spite of all care) not without some heart-burning: the Fourth of course will possess all the merits of the three former, unaccompanied by any of their defects; for you know it would be impossible for
William not to do everything better than anybody else. To tell you the truth (but tell it not in Gath, & let it not be heard in the streets of Askalon) I have some difficulty not to be of the above opinion myself. Inverary is as full as it can hold—& fuller too as the Irishman said. Bed-rooms are in great request and William and Kinnaird being the last comers, are moved about from chamber to chamber, never knowing one night where they are to sleep the next. Whoever passes a few hours out of the Castle is certain of finding one of the two new-comers established in his room when he returns; & a formal complaint was lodged yesterday by a great Russian Count, that he only stept out for half an hour, and the first things which He saw lying on his bed when He came back, were a dozen pair of Kinnaird’s leather breeches. Our theatricals are in a flourishing condition: We played The Rivals last Monday, and though I say it, that should not say it, it was really very well acted. Lady Charlotte in particular played Julia as well as ever I saw it performed. Wm. Campbell was a capital Sir Anthony; and my Sister made a very good Mrs. Malaprop, only her wig not being
properly fastened, the strongest interest which the Audience seemed to take in the performance, while She was on the stage, seemed to rest upon the single doubt, whether her perruque would fall off or not. Among other dramatic schemes it was attempted to get up (what
Mr. Skeffington calls) a walking ballet, and a machine was actually made in which my Sister was to fly up into the clouds in the character of the Queen of the Fairies. Unluckily the want of an Orchestra put a stop to this daring attempt, to the great mortification of the Authoress, who had taken infinite pains in instructing her performers, though her exertions had been repaid with very little success, & very great ingratitude; for the story was voted extremely dull, and the actors made no scruple of wounding her feelings by telling her, that they thought it so. At length at the conclusion of a rehearsal, Lord Lorne being ordered to present her to the Queen of the Fairies, in order to be punished for her crimes, he made her offence sufficiently clear by saying at the same time ‘She composed this Pantomime.’ This gave it a death-blow, and the first excuse that presented itself, was seized to lay it aside.

“We are now preparing The Citizen and The Mock Doctor, in the latter of which I have persuaded William to play the part of Leander, but He obstinately refuses to be dressed as a shepherd with a wreath of roses & a bunch of cherry coloured ribbands ornamenting his hat, which I am clearly of opinion is the proper dress for the character. I purpose leaving this place with Beaujolois on Wednesday next; William and Kinnaird stay two days longer, when they set out in company with Lady Charlotte & her
suite. . . . I did not think it necessary to congratulate you on
Pen’s election-success, as I trust you are aware how sincerely I rejoice at whatever gives you pleasure; but I own, if asked my opinion, I should have said, as the Dissenter did to Frederick, ‘Truly, Sir, we should have liked your second Brother better.’

“Yours most truly,
M. G. Lewis.

“P.S.—William’s Newspaper has just appeared, in which He informs the Public that He is at length stationary in Lady Augusta’s Dressing-room.”

The law was assigned to William as a profession, though at one moment he appears to have been destined for the Church—a profession which was speedily vetoed by his mother’s friend Lord Egremont. His mother wished for a political career for her son and the law was a surer road, while the Church might lead to oblivion. William was entered as a student of law at Lincoln’s Inn on July 21, 1797.

He won the declamation prize in 1798 by an oration which was afterwards printed for private circulation. He left Trinity in 1799, having taken his degree, and then, through the wish and instrumentality of his mother, he was received as a resident pupil in the house of Professor Millar at Glasgow University. His brother Frederick,1 nearly three years younger than him-

1 Frederick, the third son, was born in 1782. After leaving Glasgow University he seems to have spent a short time in the

self, spent the winter of 1799 and part of that of 1800 there, and was his companion in his studies. History and metaphysics occupied their attention, and
William was a brilliant and distinguished debater. His days after he left Glasgow were spent in desultory reading, and his evenings in the delightful society open to him at Melbourne House, at Devonshire House and Holland House, where all the talent and the wit of the day were gathered.

George, the fourth son of Lady Melbourne, born on July 11, 1784, was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. He was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn, and went the Northern Circuit for a short time, but soon abandoned the law for literature. Miss Berry1 in her memoirs says he was a good amateur actor, and he produced a two act comic opera, Whistle Me First, at Covent Garden on April 10, 1807, which was performed some three times.

His cousin Lady Anne Wombwell wrote to Lady Melbourne, alluding to the opera in a letter filled with the sorrows of her sister Lady Lucan. She having allowed herself to be divorced by Bernard Howard, afterwards Duke of Norfolk, for the sake of Lord Lucan, now found that the latter “did not care if she had a

Royal Horse Guards through the good offices of the Prince of Wales, but in 1803 he took his M.A. degree from Trinity College, Cambridge, and entered the Diplomatic Service.

1 Extracts from the Journals and Correspondence of Miss Berry, 1783-1852.

bed to sleep on.” Poor
George Lamb! his opera was not very successful and became more famous from Lord Byron’s biting sarcasms than from its own merit. In Byron’s “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers” he satirized it as follows:
Not that a title’s charm can save
Or scrawl or scribbler from an equal grave;
This Lamb must own since his patrician name
Failed to preserve the spurious farce from shame;
and later in the poem speaks of “Lamb’s Bœotian head,” and compared him to
Upton, who wrote the songs for the performers at Astley’s Circus, because, being one of the Committee of Management of “Mary Jane,” he wrote the prologues for the revivals of old English plays.

Byron calls this rudeness “a lucky hit” in the margins of the second, third and fourth editions of his poem. And yet Byron wrote of George in 1810—“He’s a very good fellow and, his mother and sister excepted, the best of the set to my mind.” Lord Minto, who also met him at a supper at Lady Caroline Lamb’s, said he was a good lad.

Some lines from an Epilogue to Whistle Me First found among his mother’s papers may have been written by him, and give an amusing picture of the Society of the day.

. . . I chang’d a Misses trammel’d life
For all the glorious license of a Wife;
And every candid female here allows
How hard a Misses life, who seeks a spouse.
At Operas, plays, and routs we never fail,
Put up, alas! to everlasting sale.
First in Hyde Park, sent by Maternal care,
At Noon we walk, and seem to take the air,
Or Bond Street’s gay resort, for game we try
And call at many a shop and seem to buy,
While, like a Dealer, the good Matron shews
Our shapes, and paces, to the chapmen Beaux,
Well skill’d th’ unfitting suitor to dispatch,
And to allure the Eligible Match.
At night again, on us all pleasures pall;
Bid for by inch of candle at a ball—
And e’en when fashion’s toilsome revels cease,
For us no pause, no liberty, no peace—
Then when the Matrons speak of suppers small,
“A few choice friends besides ourselves—that’s all,”
This language in plain truth they mean to hold
“A girl by private contract to be sold.”

(Endorsed:Epilogue which was afterwards altered.”)

George was one of those people who seem to be always in trouble of a small kind. In a letter to his mother on January 14, 1808, from Lincoln’s Inn he complains:

“I perceive you very well understand the advantage of beginning to call names first, and have quite got the whip-hand of me by your early statement of John Bird’s ideotcy, though really it seems to me that people who knowing my linen is in the country, and I am in town, cannot remember to send it by any one of the numerous convenient conveyances, are much more ideotical than he. Particularly too as there must be an
estimate of my stock of shirts procured, before the feasibility of being prepared with one or two can be established against him. However if you mix the ideotcy of both parties together, and bestow it upon one man, he will not in my opinion be half such an ideot as
Canning. As you say, he will certainly be praised for it. The robbery of Copenhagen was quite, I believe, unjustifiable and impolitic enough to be very popular, but it will be nothing to this.”

George married, in 1809, Caroline Rosalie St. Jules, daughter of Lady Elizabeth Foster. The marriage was fairly successful, but later “Caro George,” as she was called in the family, complained much, as did “Caroline William,” of the indifference of her husband.

Thus in 1803 Lady Melbourne knew her sons launched in the world, well placed by her own exertions and the aid of powerful friends. But she was not wholly satisfied with them as men. William, especially, was indolent, and in 1799 Lady Holland describes him as “pleasant though supercilious.” In 1800 she calls him “very clever and pleasing & will improve when he gets out of his love of singularity.” That Lady Holland was sufficiently interested in the young men to take trouble about them is evident by Lady Melbourne’s letter to her on October 15, 1802, in which she says:

William will be very much flatter’d by your
remembrance, he is still in Scotland, & I hope at this time at
Ld Lauderdales on his way Home. His intention is to put himself immediately under a Special Pleader, & to study from morng till night for a year—which is not a very agreeable prospect tho’ it may turn out very useful. I am extremely obliged to you for thinking of my young men & for all yr kindness to them, & altho’ I have ye highest opinion of yr skill yet I believe even you would find bringing them to what is call’d polish a very arduous undertaking.”

Pre-eminent among those of Lady Melbourne’s friends on whom she depended for assistance in the fortunes of her sons were Lord Egremont and George Prince of Wales. The former had early fallen under her sway. He was a discerning patron of the Arts, and his great wealth enabled him to enrich the collection of pictures at Petworth as well as to own a singularly successful racing stable. He was above all a good landlord, and his interest in his tenants and the promotion of agricultural experiments made his death, according to Greville, more keenly felt in the county of Sussex than any individual loss had ever been before. His interest in William’s career was great, and Lady Melbourne consulted him frequently. But she had also continued the friendship, which began at Eton, where she danced with him in a “cowlike stile,” with George Prince of Wales, and in 1783, when to give her pleasure he made her husband a Lord of the Bed-
chamber to himself, it was said that he admired her more than any other lady of the period. Though in a year or so he transferred his admiration to the
Duchess of Devonshire he continued his friendship with Lady Melbourne. She gave him a great proof of the value she placed on it in 1790 when the Duke of York, backed up by the Prince of Wales, asked her to exchange houses. A less astute woman would probably have refused, for she had spared neither pains nor money on the decoration of Melbourne House, Piccadilly.1

“It stood,” says Torrens in his Life of Lord Melbourne, “next Burlington House. The courtyard in front was at that time enclosed by gates, and the space now covered by the chambers of the Albany, was a garden having an entrance opposite Savile Row. On its adornment large sums were lavished by Lady Melbourne with no ordinary taste and skill. Cipriani undertook to paint the ceiling of the ball-room. Wheatley embellished several of the other apartments, while to Rebecca,2 fast rising into note as a humorist in fresco, the remaining decorations were assigned.”

But Lady Melbourne had willingly given way.

1Memoirs of Viscount Melbourne, by W. M. Torrens, chap, i, p. 12.

2 Biagio Rebecca, 1735-1808—a well-known painter and Associate of the Royal Academy.

Kindness such as this was not forgotten, and Lady Melbourne often felt able to ask favours, which were not refused. In November 1803 the
Prince wrote to her from Brighton:

“The invariable & boundless affection (if you will allow me to speak the truth) my ever dearest Lady Melbourne, which is so strongly imprinted in my Heart towards you, as well as the extreme desire I feel from the sincerity of my regard, & attachment to every Individual of your Family, would have made me most happy had it been in my power to have contrived anyhow upon the occasion of the Vacancy in the Stannaries1 to have offer’d William anything worthy of his acceptance, but I am & have been so cruelly situated respecting the Duchy of Cornwall that my hands are quite tied, & with sorrow to myself do I say it, must I am afraid continue so for a length of time. All this I will explain to you when we meet, as it is too long a topic for any Letter to contain. However, rest assured of this, that whilst I live I never will neglect an opportunity in which I can be of use to any of yours or in which I can forward any wish of yours, or Melbourne’s, as you well know, my ever dearest Friend, at least I hope so, that I can be depended upon.

“Your &c.,
George P.

1 The districts comprising the tin-mines and smelting works of Cornwall and Devon, formerly under the jurisdiction of the Stannary Courts.


And later, in 1805, an amusing letter about Frederick’s career:

“I was prevented Dst. Lady Melbourne by the presence of Ly. Eliz. from speaking to you respecting our dear Frederick Lamb. It occurr’d to me yesterday morning, the promotion in the Blues being so uncommonly slow at all times, & this being the moment of all others in which all young Men that are Subalterns in the Army are endeavouring to raise Men for Rank in particular Regiments, that is to say for any Regt. of Cavalry they may fancy, it would be a very desirable circumstance for Frederick to raise his quantum of men for a Lietcy. which will cost a mere trifle, as they have a right to take the advantage of the Govt. Bounty which is 13 gs. & the quantum that he is to produce to obtain his Ltcy. is only 15 men to the best of my recollection, so that it cannot put him to more than a couple Hundred Pounds expense, were it even to be done in the most extravagant manner. He would come, if it was his wish to raise men for the 10th1 very high in the Regt. & would not run the risk of being detached from Mackenzie as his Aid de Camp, & which by what I can learn should he remain in the Blues is now most likely to happen, as there is an idea that one of the K—’s absurd fancies, is, that no officer in that Regt. shall be Aid de Camp, in order to make all the Officers join to have the Regt. complete in Officers, & always to continue so, as their future permanent Quarters is to be Windsor; this I should imagine might not be quite what our Friend

1 10th Hussars.

Fred would like, &, I have therefore taken the earliest opportunity of acquainting you with what is possibl done upon this subject, & more especially so as I yesterday mention’d it to the great Greenwood, who said that it would be an excellent thing for Frederick.

“I hope you will be able dearest Ly. Melbourne to be able to read & comprehend what I have been writing though I am scribbling in the greatest hurry. Pray speake to Fred upon the business, & ask him what his inclinations & fancies are upon this head. I can explain to You other advantages also which he may expect from following this plan, but which would take up too much room at this instant to venture to enter upon them; this I will do if I find you alone Tomorrow.

“Yours &c.,
G. P.
Carlton House.
Wedy. ¼ pt. 7 p.m.
Feby. 6th, 1805.”

In 1787 Amelia Mary, or Emily as she was called, Lady Melbourne’s first daughter, was born. She was best known to the world in later years as Viscountess Palmerston, the wife of the Prime Minister, but in 1802 she was but a girl of 15 who had inherited her mother’s charm, her social talent, her insight into character, and if it may be said of one so kind, her worldliness.

At the time of her birth her eldest brother
Peniston was 18, and her dearly beloved brothers William and Frederick were 8 and 5 years old. George was only 3 and would have seemed nearer as a companion, but Emily, William and Frederick were always united in a bond of affection more special and more enduring; though, as life went on, neither of the brothers hesitated to criticize the actions of their sister, and Frederick constituted himself her mentor.

Her beauty has been questioned, but her grace and charm were ever famous and have remained a tradition. She says of herself that Lady Melbourne described her, when a baby, as “a little thing all eyes.” Her picture painted by Lawrence at the age of 17 shows her looking over her shoulder with a laughing charm, and even in the later days when Hoppner painted her as a young matron, there is a brightness in her serious grace which shows the radiant, delightful atmosphere she must have shed round her everywhere. Lord Melbourne was very proud of her. Queen Victoria once said to him that she had never admired her much in her youth. He replied, “She could beat any of them now. She was always like a pale rose.”

As we have seen, Lady Melbourne combined her political preoccupation with due care for the future of her children. When Emily married she had already had another suitor. William’s friend Lord Kinnaird had asked her in marriage, and in 1803 she wrote an account of the scene to her brother Frederick, in whom she confided everything:

Dearest Fred,

You never could accuse me of weakness again, had you been witness of the scene I bore yesterday. I had no conception of anything like it, & indeed I almost wonder that I could so steadily keep my resolutions, but there is a firmness about me that I can bring forward on great occasions and particularly on this as I was backed by your warning. No, on some occasions I can sacrify my happiness to that of others—but this is too serious, and besides I should only sacrify myself to make him unhappy—for I never could feign what I did not feel—so we parted yesterday in a most desperate manner,—& tho’ I was really unhappy all the evening & had a most dreadful headache yet I put on my usual composure. This morning he sent to beg a conference with Mama & one more with me. This was acceded to—but with considerable nervousness on my part—it began worse than yesterday’s with a great many oaths on his part taking heaven & earth to witness that he could love only me. I endeavour’d to compose him & to explain the case, namely that I would love if I could but that I could not & that my friendship he should have. He only begged me to forget everything that had passed, that he repented having spoken to me—that he only desired to see me as he had done, that I would behave to him with as much confidence as usual & that he was quite sure in time I should love him. I said I could not say anything as to the latter but that
all I wished was to live with him on the same terms as formerly, & this is decided. Tho I plainly told him that I did not feel myself the least bound, & that I desired he would not feel so either, nor that he would not hope that I should love him, & that I never would marry unless it was to a man whom I loved better than all the world besides—he said he never would accuse me of giving him false hopes whatever might happen as I had plainly detailed the case, so here we rest—quite independant—& indeed I wish I did love him for nobody ever appeared so sincere or so deserving—but somehow it is a feeling that cannot be commanded. He pressed me hard to know if I loved no one else; this I denied as indeed I can with perfect truth—he then desired to know whether I liked no one as well or near as well as him—this I would not answer, as I thought it more than I could with safety say. Dearest
Fred, I don’t think you can disapprove me, indeed I don’t think you will—for I have acted so very steadily that I should not care if every word I said to him was published to the whole town, but however let me beg you to keep your own counsel & to let nobody know anything about the whole transaction. I tell nobody for I think it is acting dishonourably towards him, & Mama says she knows nothing about it, so dearest Fred be secret & write to me; if this is not clear or detailed enough I am ready to scribble quires, only tell me. I wish you would come to town that I might sit in your room of a morning; it is so very comfortable, besides this is the month you was to return.

Yrs. ever affectly.,
Em. L.

It is possible that Lady Melbourne had always had other intentions for her daughter. As early as 1801 she was receiving communications from the Duchess of Devonshire about Peter Leopold, 5th Earl Cowper, who had just appeared in London Society; a man of much personal beauty and the owner of great possessions. He was then about 23 years old. The Whig Circle pounced on this charming fellow, and the Duchess of Devonshire wrote enthusiastically from Chatsworth on December 17, 1801, to say that he was handsomer than Lord Granville Leveson Gower, the Adonis of his day, who it was supposed had broken countless hearts. This was very high praise. She also comforted Lady Melbourne by saying that Lady Andover, the beautiful daughter of Thomas Coke of Holkham and the young widow of Lord Andover, the eldest son of Lord Suffolk, who had met a tragic death in 1802 by the bursting of his gun, had made no impression on Lord Cowper, adding that he had also been frightened by Lady Harrington out of any inclination for her daughter:

“I was quite ill yesterday & am not well today. I saw dr. L[or]d C[owper] however & Luttrel—& I cannot tell you how we all, aye, all, Ld. Morpeth & Granville included, regret him. As for Bess she has not yet been seen tho’ brilliant Hunting is going on & G.1 has just told me she believes that Calypso ne pent se consoler du depart d’ Ulysses.

1 Lady Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess’ daughter.


“He is indeed one of the most amiable creatures I ever knew & the one almost without exception who improves the most on acquaintance. His understanding is not only good but cultivated—& yet so unassuming that you must draw him out to know all he knows. His manners are so gentlemanlike & his good nature so evident that I defy him not to be lov’d—as to person, the Duke & all the young ladies have given it in his favour even thinking him handsomer than Ld. Granville—& Georgiana is quite, quite regretting him. Luttrel1 told me he should not wonder if I still found him in London. I do not know why I wish it, but I do. He is so amiable that I will not be selfish & if it is better for him to go I must wish it.

“For God’s sake write a letter to Adair2 for me—or he will be gloomier than ever and really, poor Devil, he means to keep to the letter of his duty & I shd. be miserable if he thought I had misrepresented him to you. I hear since my absence he has been very gloomy. He much dislikes C[owper]’s general success.

“I hope Ld. Cowper liked us as we did him. I was really quite nervous at his going. He entered so well into our way of life & seemed to mind so little our irregularities, that I feel as if we had lost one of ourselves. Luttrel has often opend about him. He said Ly. Harrington had taken the true mode of frightening him, & that she cried one day to Luttrel at Ld. Cowper’s change, tho in fact he said there was no change for that he never had any fancy about the girl

1 Henry Luttrel, wit and poet of Society, 1765-1851, natural son of Lord Carhampton.

2Sir Robert Adair, 1763-1855.

Ly. Andover. As to you he certainly feels most sensibly all the full power of your amabilite, & is no icicle in talking of you—but Luttrel I have no doubt keeps a good watch. What does he mean to do with him?

“He told me Ld. C. was the most open creature in the world & had no misterys and reserves. I like Luttrel. I think him very pleasant & Ld. C. has told me very noble traits of him—but how foolish it would be in him to try to keep him from all attachment or to fancy his own friendship is to suffer from any other inclination. Ld. Cowper will not marry early I daresay and Luttrel seems to dislike the idea of the 2 marriages I mention’d—in short they are rather riddles. But the woman will be happy whose fate depends on C. [MS. damaged] the only fear for him is that by being thrown [MS. damaged] these dinners &c., he may hurt his health.”

Lord Cowper kept up a more or less regular correspondence with Lady Melbourne, and must have seen much of Emily. Early in 1805 his letter asked for permission to visit Brighton, where she was staying with Emily; and in May he wrote to her saying:

“A thousand thanks for your kind letter. I really cannot thank you for it as I ought, for I am nearly the same person that you saw me on Monday, and you may easily judge therefore how unfit I am to do justice to the kindness it conveys. I shall be extremely happy to come to Brocket on Friday and stay till Monday when I think the whole may be declared. Pray do not mention
it before we meet. . . . I shall certainly get it all arranged before we go to town; you must not go to D. House tomorrow night or I know very well that your looks will betray you.

“Don’t you think that if the above proposal is right that the communication between the lawyers ought to be deferr’d till we get to town. I own it goes to my very soul that a moment should be lost and I am hardly able to resist such a triumph as impatience would have over prudence in such a case, but I believe after all it will be best. I am glad Lord Dorchester is not here, for I believe it would kill me. Pray burn this.

“Yrs. most affectly.
Wednesday. 1805.”

Next night he wrote to Emily, almost doubting his own happiness:

“Pray is it a dream or not? for as I am quite alone here I am so distrustful of my own thoughts that I cannot decide which. I shall not therefore be easy till our meeting at Brocket tomorrow (if indeed so delightful a thing is to happen) convinces me that I am no longer to doubt of the happiness which I now contemplate indistinctly. The last thing that I remember with certainty is that you promised at Devonshire House to carry a bottle of Champagne in your pocket to Mrs ——’s ball by way of encouragement to me to dance, & as that ceremony has not taken place I feel half persuaded that there has been some good reason to prevent it.


“Thank you a thousand times for your very pretty plans of bridges: I think they are admirably suited to the character of the place but as the choice of everything here remains with you I will not pretend to have an opinion about the execution of them. There was a great smoke this morning from the Welwynl side of the country, but whether it proceeded from the burning of turf at Digswell,2 or Mr. Johnes’s fire and faggot I do not know—you will allow that the latter is at least as likely as the former. Good bye my dearest Emily till we meet & believe me always “Yours most affectionly.


The marriage took place in the drawing-room at Melbourne House on July 6, 1805, when the bride was only 18. In a letter written on her honeymoon, she speaks of her great happiness and thanks her mother, through whom this joy has come to her: “It is owing to you dearest Mama, that I can thus sign my name inside this pledge of happiness ‘Emily Cowper’”—the name written inside the drawing of a wedding ring.

In spite of her charm, and perhaps for this very reason, Emily had not been a popular girl. Lady Bessborough, sister of the Duchess of Devonshire, who at that time was taking out her sister’s daughter Harriet, afterwards the wife of Lord Granville Leveson Gower, accused her of being deceitful, and complained of her

1 Welwyn, Herts, on the Brocket estate.

2 Digswell, on the Panshanger estate belonging to Lord Cowper.

being unkind about her niece Harriet. Harriet herself did not like Emily and also accused her of insincerity. When writing to her sister,
Lady Carlisle, in 1807, Harriet could not forbear giving a sly dig at Emily Cowper, who, though very nervous on a strange horse, had chosen to ride instead of drive, because she “so much preferred the society of gentlemen to ladies.” The strain may have been too great, as we learn later that when Lady Cowper went to Chatsworth in 1813 she took her own horses.