The following correspondence is from The Despatches, Correspondence, and Memoranda of Field Marshal Arthur, Duke of Wellington
Wellington’s letter to Mr. Bankhead
London, 9th Aug.. 1822
Dear Sir: I called upon you with the intention of talking to you about Lord Londonderry, and of requesting you would call upon him. He promised me that he would send for you, but, lest he should not, I entreat you to find some pretence for going down to him. I entertain no doubt that he is very unwell. It appears that he has been overworked during the session, and that his mind is overpowered for the moment and labours under a delusion. I state the impression made upon me in the interview I have just had with him. I told him that this was my impression, and I think it is his own, and he will probably communicate it to you; but, lest he should not, I tell you what I think, begging you never to mention to anybody what I have told you. I am setting out this moment for the Netherlands; I would have stayed with Lord Londonderry, but he would not allow me. I shall be very much obliged to you if you will write me a line and have it left at my house to let me know how you find him, and particularly if you think I am mistaken.
Ever, dear Sir, yours most faithfully,
Mr. Bankhead to Field Marshall the Duke of Wellington
Lower Brook Street, 9th Aug., 1822
I am this moment (8 o’clock) returned to my own house from Lord Londonderry’s, where I have been for two hours; and I lose not a moment in answering the letter which your Grace has condescended to write to me. Thirty years intimacy with Lord Londonderry makes me know his peculiarities intimately. His nerves are never unstrung unless when he has some bodily indisposition. I conceive that at this moment he has a preternatural fullness of the vessels of the head, and that this (rather than the wear and tear of work) makes him nervous. I have had him cupped, and he experiences the greatest possible relief in the feelings of his head and of his mental competency.
He is gone down to Cray with Lady Castlereagh, and I purpose to see him there to-morrow. Perhaps a feverish affection of a few days may follow this casual derangement of the system, but knowing the natural soundness of Lord Londonderry’s constitution, I have no doubt but that by quietness and ordinary care of a few days he is likely soon again to be reinstated in his general health.
I know that Lady Londonderry has written a few lines to your Grace before she left St. James’s Square.
I have the honour to be,
your Grace’s most obedient humble servant,
To the Duke of Wellington from the Marchioness of Londonderry
London, 9th Aug., 1822.
My Lord: From your kind feeling with respect to Lord Londonderry I am sure you will be glad to hear that he saw Bankhead, who ordered him to be cupped. The blood resembled jelly, and he was instantly relieved, and I have hopes that he will be well in a few days; but I really think he was upon the verge of a brain fever.
Yours most sincerely,
Lord Fitzroy Somerset to Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington.
London, 12th August, 1822.
My Dear Lord
It is with great concern that I have to announce to you the melancholy intelligence of the death of Lord Londonderry, which took place, by his own hands, this morning between seven and eight o’clock.
I enclose a copy of Bankhead’s statement, which will show you what occurred from the time you first sent him to attend Lord Londonderry, and will prove to you that you were right in the apprehensions you expressed to Bankhcad that his mind was not what it ought to be.
Lord Liverpool, whom I saw as soon as he arrived from Combe Wood, desired me to communicate this lamentable event to you, and to express to you his wish that you should return to England immediately. He is in the greatest distress. His first idea was to set off for Scotland immediately, and break the intelligence to his Majesty himself; but upon reflection he has thought it best not to leave London, but to depute Mr. Peel to do that office for him. He laments your absence amazingly, and would have requested you to go to the King if you had been in the way. As it is, however, his Majesty is better prepared for the shock than anybody else, for he mentioned to Lord Liverpool on Saturday, that he had seen Lord Londonderry the day before, and was quite convinced that he was not right in his mind, and that he felt great alarm for the consequences of the break up of such a mind as Lord Londonderry’s.
Lord Liverpool has written to the King, and entreated his Majesty not to make any arrangement for filling Lord Londonderry’s office till his return from Scotland, assuring him that
he will keep the machine going till that time in the best way he can.
I understand from Bankhead that Lady Londonderry apprehended the possibility of Lord Londonderry’s making away with himself, and placed everything out of his reach that she thought him likely to make use of; but unfortunately he had in one of his despatch-boxes the knife with which eventually he put an end to his life. He had got up in the night and gone into the dressing-room to wash his face, and then returned quietly to his bed.
I presume you will be able to arrive here between Thursday and Friday. Lord Liverpool looks forward to your return with great anxiety. Lord Westmorland and Lord Maryborough are the only ministers in town. The latter would have written to you, but Lord Liverpool has employed him to write to Lord Harrowby and Lord Wellesley; and as I am writing, he thinks it unnecessary to do so.
Your most faithful and affectionate,
Fife House, 12th Aug., 1822.
From the time Dr. Bankhead first saw Lord Londonderry on Friday evening last he was satisfied that his head was seriously affected, and that he laboured under very general mental delusion. He had been cupped in his house in St. James’s Square on that evening, from which he seemed much relieved; and in the quiet of the evening Lord and Lady Londonderry went down to Cray, Dr. Bankhead promising to follow them the next day, and to stay at Cray all Sunday. On Friday night Lord Londonderry was restless, and asking many questions during the night, which manifested incoherence and delirium. On Saturday morning he took some opening medicine which Dr. Bankhead had sent him, remained in his bed all the day, and was kept particularly quiet, using slops only as nourishment, and barley-water as drink.
When Dr. Bankhead arrived at Cray in the afternoon of Saturday he found Lord Londonderry rather better from the favourable operation of the cooling medicine, but still there was heat and fever, great thirst, and an unusual watchfulness and suspicion of manner, and a constant anxiety lest he should not be well enough to go abroad in the appointed time. He asked several questions very irrelevant and quite at variance with his usual calm manner. In the night of Saturday he had some refreshing sleep, but on the whole of Sunday his fever still continued, as well as the delirium and unhappiness of mind and manner. Dr. Bankhead quitted his room about midnight, leaving his Lordship tolerably comfortable, and Lady Londonderry in the room with him, both retiring to rest. Dr. Bankhead slept in a room close to his Lordship, and on the morning of this day, about 7 o’clock, Lady Londonderry’s maid called him, saying that Lord Londonderry wished to see him. Dr. Bankhead instantly repaired to the bedroom, but found that his Lordship had that moment gone into the dressing-room adjoining to the bedroom. On entering this instantly, the Doctor saw Lord Londonderry standing opposite to the window with his face to the ceiling, having on his dressing-gown. The Doctor immediately ran towards him, saying, “My dear Lord, why do you stand so?” upon which, without turning, he answered, “Bankhead, let me fall upon your arm; it is all over.” In the agony of the moment, Dr. Bankhead caught him on his arm, and, dreadful to relate, saw a short-bladed knife in his right hand fiercely clenched, with which he had deeply divided the carotid artery; and from the sudden effusion of blood he fell instantly from Dr. Bankhead’s arms on his face upon the floor, and was instantly dead without a struggle.
The Duke then wrote:
13th Aug., 1822.
I saw Lord Londonderry frequently during the last days of his life.
I dined with him on Saturday, the 3rd of August, at Cray, and sat next to him at dinner. There was a very large party, and I thought Lord Londonderry was in particularly good spirits at dinner.
I had occasion, both before and after dinner, to talk to him on subjects on which the delusions of his mind would have appeared, if he had at that time laboured under any. They related to certain anonymous letters received by Mr. Arbuthnot and others of the Treasury, which were known to come from a person by the name of Jennings, who had been under examination before a committee of the House of Commons; and although I thought Lord Londonderry was cold in his manner on the subject of some of these letters, which was not unusual with him, I never saw him more decided or more clear in his opinion. I saw a letter from him to Mr. Arbuthnot on the same subject the next day, Sunday, the 4th of August, in which he expressed himself with more than usual clearness and decision.
I did not see Lord Londonderry on Monday the 5th, but on Tuesday the 6th he came to the Ordnance office early, to a meeting of certain persons to consider of the means of reforming the commissariat in Canada. Upon this occasion I thought him very low. He took no part in the discussion, and manifested no interest in it. After the meeting had broken up he waited to talk to Mr. Arbuthnot and me about Jennings’s letters, about which he showed that he felt more than I thought he had on the preceding Saturday, but there was no appearance of agitation respecting them.
I met Lord Londonderry at the Cabinet on Wednesday the 7th of August. The subject of discussion was the instructions for himself on his mission to Vienna. Lord Liverpool read them to the Cabinet, and there was some discussion upon them; but Lord Londonderry took no part in the discussion, and he appeared very low, out of spirits, and unwell. There was, however, no appearance of agitation. After the Cabinet was over I went into Mr. Beckett’s, and after leaving him I met Lord Londonderry as he was coming out by the back door of his office. We walked together through the Park and the Ordnance office to his own house. Lord Londonderry was remarkably low and silent. He held me by the arm, but scarcely said a word; but there was no symptom of agitation.
After leaving him at his door I returned to my office, and in about half an hour went to Carlton House to take leave of the King previous to my departure for the Netherlands. I found Lord Londonderry at Carlton House. The King was gone out, and I walked with Lord Londonderry back to his own house, where I left him. He was equally low as before.
I had occasion, in about an hour afterwards, to go to my own house, and as I was returning down the Park I stopped to speak to his Royal Highness the Duke of York, who was in his buggy. Lord Londonderry came up the Park on horseback, and joined us, and in a few seconds I left him and the Duke of York together; he then appeared very low and out of spirits.
I did not see him on Thursday the 8th of August.
On Friday the 9th I was proceeding on horseback through St James’s Square from the Ordnance office to my own house, to set out for the Continent at about four o’clock in the afternoon. Lady Londonderry called to me, and was talking to me from her window, when Lord Londonderry passed me in rather a quick and hurried pace, and told me he wanted to speak to me. I followed him into his house and his room.
I cannot give a better account of what passed in this interview than by copying a letter which I wrote to Mr. Arbuthnot (who had left London that evening) immediately after it was concluded, before I set out for Dover:—
London, 9th August, 1822.
My Dear Arbuthnot
“I am just setting off, but I cannot go without making you acquainted with the impression made upon my mind by an interview I have just had with Lord Londonderry.
“It appears to me that his mind and body have been overpowered by the work of the session, and that he is at this moment in a state of mental delusion. He took me into his house to talk to me about the same story that he told to you and to Lord Liverpool; and, strange to say, he imagined from my manner at the last Cabinet and afterwards walking home with him that I had heard of something against him and believed it. He thought the same of the Duke of York; and he told me some strange story of a man telling him this day that his horses were waiting for him when he was coming out of Carlton House, of his not having ordered his horses to town, and of the arrival of the horses, and of his being informed of their arrival, as proofs that the person who had ordered up his horses, and that the person who informed him they were waiting, thought there was so much against him that he ought to fly the country. This impression was so strong upon his mind that he rung the bell to desire that inquiry might be made as to who had ordered up his horses, and the delusion was not removed till he was informed that the horses were not in town.
“He is certainly very unwell, and I did not conceal from him my opinion that he was so, and that his mind was not in its usual and proper state. I offered to stay with him, but he would not allow me, as he said it would make people believe that there was some reason for it. I begged him to send for Dr. Bankhead, and, between ourselves, I have informed Dr. Bankhead that it is my opinion that he is labouring under a temporary delusion. He cried excessively while talking to me, and appeared relieved by it and by his conversation with me, and he promised me to see Bankhead.
“I am afraid that he has mentioned the story above referred to, to more persons than Lord Liverpool, you, and me. I have entreated him to say no more about it to anybody, but I fear he will.
“I write you all this in order to urge you to see him as soon as you can after you will return to London and observe him well, and see if his mind is quite right. If it is not, and he should go abroad, I think you ought to make him take Bankhead with him; and, if that is not accomplished, I think you ought to mention the matter to Planta. Otherwise, it is my opinion that this impression of mine should never go beyond ourselves.
“He is quite clear and right about public matters, but agreed with me that his mind had been overpowered by the work of the session, and that he was labouring under a delusion.
“Destroy this letter, and believe me, etc. Wellington.”
The remains of the noble Marquess, after lying in state for several days, were removed from his house in St. James’s Square, followed by the Ministers of State, principal Nobility, and private friends of his Lordship, in carriages, and interred, with funeral pomp, in Westminster Abbey, on Thursday, the 22d of August, 1822.
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