by Kristine Hughes Patrone

Selected and edited by Adam Sisman, a New York Review Book, 2016 (available through Amazon)

I have so much to thank James Lees Milne for, really. It was through reading his diaries and letters that I have found so many flamboyant, larger-than-life, madcap and  interesting people. He introduced me to a circle of his friends and acquaintances and a time period that has become one of my favourite: England between and just after the War(s). One of the people Mr. Lees-Milne introduced me to is Patrick Leigh Fermor, whose author bio on Amazon reads thus:

“In December 1933, at the age of eighteen, Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011) walked across Europe, reaching Constantinople in early 1935. He travelled on into Greece, where in Athens he met Balasha Cantacuzene, with whom he lived – mostly in Rumania – until the outbreak of war. Serving in occupied Crete, he led a successful operation to kidnap a German general, for which he won the DSO and was once described by the BBC as ‘a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond and Graham Greene’. After the war he began writing, and travelled extensively round Greece with Joan Eyres Monsell whom he later married. Towards the end of his life he wrote the first two books about his early trans-European odyssey, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water. He planned a third, unfinished at the time of his death in 2011, which has since been edited by Colin Thubron and Artemis Cooper and published as The Broken Road.”

A potted history, to be sure, and a fuller bio can be found on Wikipedia. A respected British author and travel writer, PLF also felt a pull to Greece, where he travelled extensively and eventually built a house along with his wife, Joan.

Desk in Fermor’s garden near Kardamyli, 2007 copyright R. de Salis, Wikipedia

But it’s PLF’s circle of friends, also his correspondents, that make this book so interesting. Here again we meet Duff and Diana Cooper, the Devonshires, Andrew and Debo, Evelyn Waugh, Ann Fleming, Cyril Connolly, Lawrence Durrell and a host of others who seemingly all lived out sized lives and who are all people with whom one would have loved to share the odd shaker of martinis. The one slight quibble I had with this book is that it only contains PLF’s letters to people, and none from them, but this can hardly be seen as a flaw when the writing is this good.

While in an army hospital in Surrey recovering from pneumonia in February, 1940, PLF wrote the following to Adrian Pryce-Jones:

“Last night something marvellous happened. I am just being tucked up for the night, when I hear strange foreign noises outside the door, which opens, and in bursts Anne-Marie Callimachi (1) followed by Costa (2). She was dressed in black satin and dripping with mink, with pearls and diamonds crusted at every possible point, topped by the maddest Schiaparelli hat I’ve ever seen. Then Costa, who is very dark, with a huge grin, and quite white hair at the age of thirty. He was dressed in a bright green polo jersey over which he wore a very long black new coat with an immense astrakhan collar: both laden with huge presents. The nurses were struck dumb. Shrill squeals burst from us all, and then we were gabbling the parleyvoo like apes. The nurses fled in  disorder. Then, of course, they couldn’t get a taxi as Anne-Marie had left the Rolls Royces etc. in London; but they had their luggage, and stopped the night at the hospital! We all pretended they were married, so the Sister, with girlish squeaks, got their room ready, with screens coyly arranged between the beds. By this time Costa was telephoning to the Ritz to say Her Highness wouldn’t be back that night, his voice echoing down the passages. The sensation in the hospital was absolutely phenomenal. Huge princely coronets on the luggage – such nighties! Slippers! Oh!! The hospital hasn’t recovered yet, and my glamour value among the nurses is at fever pitch. . . . They left this morning, Anne-Marie leaving a munificent cheque for the Hospital Fund, which I tendered with a languid gesture to the head doctor. Their passage will not be forgotten for ages!”

Fourteen years later, in September 1954, such hobnobbing with the cream of society was still in full flow. PLF writing to Ann Fleming from Hydra:

“Diana’s (Lady Cooper) presence proved a magnet for other yachts, first of all Arturo Lopez (3) in a vast sodomitical-looking craft, done up inside like the Brighton Pavilion, a mandarin’s opium den and the alcove of Madame de Pompadour. . . but this is nothing compared to five days ago, when a giant steam yacht (with a aeroplane poised for flight on the stern) belonging to Onassis came throbbing alongside. . . . On board were Lilia Ralli, several blondes, a few of the zombie-men that always surround the immensely rich, Pam Churchill & Winston Jr.”

We can forgive PLF his forays into the world of the rich and famous, not only because they’re so amusing, but as these brief interludes are tempered with quiet, bucolic and often mundane passages. To Jessica Mitford, PLF wrote in 1983, “Went to a marvelous sheep sale yester’een with Debo (her sister, Deborah, nee Mitford, Duchess of Devonshire), it was wonderful, faces like the whole of Gilray and Rowlandson, and an auctioneer haranguing, in what sounded like Finnish but was just rustic north country. This is the sort of whirl I like to  live in.”

PLF’s friends were generous as well as amusing, several of them allowing he and Joan to use their homes whenever they chose, as was the case with Gadencourt, a manor house in Normandy owned by Sir Walter and Lady Smart – to Patrick Kinross, February 1952 – “They frightfully kindly  let me live here for the whole winter. Why don’t you come and move in on your way home?” He also often stayed at a mansion owned by artist Niko Ghika on Hydra. PLF wrote, “He was seldom there, and, with boundless generosity, he lent it to Joan and me for two years.” Additionally, PLF was a regular house guest of such friends as Lady Diana Cooper, staying at her house in Chantilly and the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, spending many Christmas’s with them at Chatsworth House. In February 1960 PLF wrote to Ann Fleming, “Christmas was glorious and went on for ages, consisting of Andrew, Debo and children, Andrew’s mother, Nancy (Mitford) and Mrs. Hammersley, for whom I developed a reciprocated passion. She strikes a wonderful note of bilious gloom about anything.”

Joan and Patrick would eventually build a house in Greece and spent many of their happiest years there, coming back to England regularly and staying at Joan’s family home in Devon. Occasionally, PLF stayed at the Easton Court Hotel in Devon, especially when he was seeking solitude in which to write. In a letter to Lady Diana Cooper, September 1956 –

” . . . . My muse and I are cloistered here, a gale howls down the chimney, cats and dogs come down on the sodden fields outside in an almost unbroken stream and a wind blows that would unhorn cows. I don’t think you’ve ever been here, but it’s a great retiring place for literary purposes, for E. Waugh, & Patrick Kinross and others – I first came here seven years ago with Patrick . . . and have been back several times in extremis . . . It is owned & run by an odd couple, Mrs. Carolyn Postlethwaite Cobb, an elderly American of very improbable shape, now largely bedridden, and her middle-aged ex-lover Norman Webb, a Devonshire chap she met a number of decades ago running a team of donkeys in Biskra or Fez. . . . ”

I found that PLF and I had a lot in common in the end, very odd considering that I’m neither a man, British nor a lover of all things Greek and that I come from a different generation. In a letter to his publisher, Jock Murray in July of 1953, PLF writes that he’d travelled through Greece, finally arriving in Missolonghi by sea:

“Here the great search for Byron’s shoes began. I hadn’t got Lady Wentworth’s (4) letter with me, containing the address . . . I asked all over the town – mayors, local bigwigs, etc. – for a old man who had a pair of Byron’s shoes. . . I tracked him down in the end, a very decent, wall-eyed old man called Charalambi Baigeorgas or Kotsakaris . . . along with a lot of scimitars, yataghans, pistols, powder horns, etc., he produced a parcel, already addressed, on the strength of my letters last year, to Baroness Wentworth. . . . Since then, though, he seems to have fallen in love with them, and (rather understandably) wants to leave them to his children. . . He undid the parcel, and produced a pair of slippers that looked more Turkish, or Moroccan or Algerian (or Burlington Arcade oriental) than Greek . . . . I enclose a sketch and a description of the colours . . . the age looks just about right. I made a tracing of both of them, also of the parts of the soles where the criss-cross tooling is worn smooth, in case it should corroborate, or conflict with, known facts about Byron’s malformation.”

Lady Wentworth

Do admit, these are the sort of lengths I might conceivably go to if the artifact involved Wellington. There’s no information in the book regarding the outcome or provability of the shoe’s being Lord Byron’s but there is PLF’s description of Lady Wentworth herself, and it’ s a pip –

To Lady Diana Cooper, March 1954: “. . . The house (Crabbet Park, Sussex) is untidy as a barn – trunks trussed, and excitingly labelled `LD BYRON’S papers – LDY BYRON’S papers’ in chalk, pictures stacked, furniture piled, wallpaper, curtains etc. exactly the colour and shape of coloured Phiz or Leech . . . . gilt, faded plum and canary, v. grand and dusty. We had rather a mouldy luncheon, ending up with spotted-dog, in a room as full of papers, pictures, horsey accoutrements and favours as a jackdaw’s nest. Lady Wentworth was wearing, as usual, gym-shoes from playing squash, a Badminton skirt to the ground, a woollen shawl, a gigantic and very dishevelled auburn wig that looked as though made of strands from her stallions’ tails gathered off brambles, and on top of this a mushroom-like, real Sairey-Gamp mob-cap, but made of lace and caught in with a Nile-green satin ribbon. Rather a fine, hawky Byronic face under all this, but scarlet patches on the cheeks as from a child’s paint-box; I think she’s eighty-two or three – and a very thin, aristocratic, bleak voice – `have some more spotted-dog?’ sounding like a knell.”

PLF  was a writer with projects constantly on the go, but he was easily distracted by passing fancies, often missing deadlines and being forced to write the dreaded mia culpa letter to editors or friends to which he’d promised pieces.  In a letter to Lady Diana Cooper in November of 1975, PLF confesses: “Michael Stewart has sent us the Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names, which I’ve been deeply immersed in for the last two days: all their derivations, etc.” And to her son, John Julius Norwich, PLF writes: “Last year Jock Murray suddenly told me that about two hundred pounds had mounted up (in royalties) so I blew the lot on the DNB (Dictionary of National Biography) . . . so give me a few minutes notice and I can be pretty knowing about almost anyone in England – before 1900 – up to William Tytler (1711-1792) . . . it would be hard to find a more fascinating and time-wasting acquisition.” Both examples could be me to a T.

A Life In Letters is a delight, some parts reading like a travel book, other parts a glimpse into a vanished lifestyle, all of which is bound up with great friendships, anecdotal offerings and humour.


So, what will I read next? In Tearing Haste, edited by Charlotte Mosley, was one of PLF’s last projects and is a compilation of the letters exchanged between himself and Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, over the course of a friendship that spanned more than forty years. However, having already read this when it was first published, I’m thankful that Patrick Leigh Fermor has led me to another possibility, as so often happens with the best books –

From a letter to Lawrence Durrell, November 1954 –

“. . . I’ve just got . . . Daphne’s (5) autobiography Mercury Presides . . . . which is rattling, splended stuff, not a bit the niminy-piminy society memoir you would think, but hell for leather, a mixture of lyrical charm and touchingness with a clumsy, rustic tough edge to it which is most engaging and terribly funny. Rather like the letters of Lady Bessborough or Caroline Lamb, half-sylph, half-stablehand.”

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  1. Rumanian Princess Anne-Marie Callimachi.
  2. Greek photographer Costa Achillopoulos.
  3. Arturo Lopez-Willshaw, Chilean millionaire.
  4. Judith Anne Dorothea Blunt-Lytton, whose mother had been Byron’s granddaughter.
  5. Daphne Fielding, formerly Marchioness of Bath.










by Kristine Hughes Patrone

One of my favourite painters is Edwin Landseer, who will always be associated with his Scottish paintings featuring wild landscapes and majestic deer, such as the Monarch of the Glen, pictured above,  painted following a visit to the Highlands of Scotland in 1824. So inspired was he, and so taken by the wild Scottish landscape and people, that Landseer continued to visit  Scotland every autumn for many years thereafter.

Sir Edwin Henry Landseer (1802-1873),  was an English painter, born the third son of John Landseer, A.R.A., a well-known engraver and writer on art. He was born at 71 Queen Anne Street East (afterwards 33 Foley Street), London, on March 7th 1802. His mother was Miss Potts, who sat to Sir Joshua Reynolds as the reaper with a sheaf of corn on her head, in “Macklin’s Family Picture,” or “The Gleaners.” So you might say that when it came to art, Edwin was ‘born to it.’









In 1815 Landseer began studying with the history painter, Benjamin Robert Haydon, and in the following year he entered the Royal Academy Schools at the age of fourteen. Landseer had a gift for painting animals, either as animals, or as animals in human attitudes, as in his Laying down the Law, shown here. Landseer was inspired to paint it after seeing Count d’Orsay’s French poodle, Montaigne, resting on the table. At the time, Lord Lyndhurst — who had held the Seals before, and would hold them again — remarked, “What a capital Lord Chancellor!” prompting Landseer to dash off the painting. At the request of the Duke of Devonshire, whose property it became, the artist afterwards introduced his Grace’s Blenheim spaniel just above the highly-bred greyhound. The painting now hangs in the visitor’s entrance Hall at Chatsworth House, while a sketch of Montaigne that Landseer had done for the painting was part of the contents of the Blessington/D’Orsay auction held in Spring of 1849 at Gore House when the couple fled to France to avoid their creditors, a la Brummell.


Another of Landseer’s famous canine portraits, and a personal favourite, is that of Eos, Prince Albert’s favourite greyhound, which he painted at the request of Queen Victoria, who gifted her husband with the painting. The Queen wished the Prince’s hat and gloves to be introduced into the composition, and sent them to Landseer’s studio for this purpose.

However, another favorite has always been the evocative 1837 painting titled, “The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner,” seen below. I found a color print in a magazine years ago, cut it out, framed it and have had it on my wall ever since. It’s so poignant, so heart tugging that you can really only look at it when you’re in a good mood. Gaze upon it when you’re even quasi in the dumps and you’re a goner.

The sense of pathos in this work is almost painful to behold. Beyond the pitiable dog, there is little to see in the scene – a room with a hard packed dirt floor, plaster, or daub, falling from the dingy walls, a discarded walking stick and hat and a bible. Though there are a simple wooden chair and a three-legged stool, the main piece of furniture in the scene, of course, is the coffin. With these few props – and the dog’s pose – Landseer managed to eloquently convey the life of the Old Shepherd and the sort of man the Old Shepherd must have been. Everyone who looks upon the scene will, quite naturally, form their own opinions on this. In my mind, I see the Old Shepherd as a loner, perhaps uncomfortable in the company of others. Making monthly trips to town for supplies, he spent his days in the company of his sheep and his faithful companion, his nights looking out at the distant mountains and stars or in reading his bible. Perhaps he indulged in the occasional wee dram of whisky and a pipe. However, the Old Shepherd must have possessed at least one good relative, neighbor or friend, for to me the soft woolen blanket that has been draped over the coffin and on which the dog rests his head seems too fine, and too clean, to have belonged to the Old Shepherd himself. How long had the Old Shepherd lain ill in his cottage before he had been discovered and someone had brought him food, water, a kind word and the blanket? Now that the Old Shepherd is gone and it has become apparent that the dog will not leave his side, this same someone has draped the blanket on the coffin for the sorrowing dog to rest his chin upon. In my personal imaginings, this same kind someone will take the dog home with them once the Old Shepherd has been buried and the dog will be grateful, but will ever after miss the company of the one who had loved him so singularly and so well.

Dignity and Impudence 1839 Sir Edwin Henry Landseer 1802-1873 Tate Museum, Bequeathed by Jacob Bell 1859

To evoke such thoughts and feelings in the viewer was one of Landseer’s greatest talents. Praise for Landseer is and was unanimous, with he and Stubbs still standing as the greatest English animal painters of all time, yet Landseer had no talent for business. It was his art patron and personal friend, Jacob Bell, who took Landseer in hand and arranged for him to put realistic prices on his paintings. Previously, Landseer had consistently undervalued his own work, a fact which benefited Bell early on as a collector. However, having purchased eighteen Landseer paintings, Bell left them all to the nation upon his death, including Dignity and Impudence, above, one of Landseer’s best known works. Another patron who benefited early on was John Sheepshanks, son of a wealthy Leeds clothier who became one of the age’s leading art collectors. He purchased the above mentioned The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner for a “ludicrously small” price, according to W.P. Frith. Thankfully, Sheepshanks also left his collection of art to the nation and The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner now hangs in the V&A for all to see

Bell and Sheepshanks had both inherited huge sums from their industrialist fathers, allowing them to buy and grow art collections by several contemporary painters. Their wealth also allowed them to socialize with the aristocracy and Landseer, by proxy, was given entree to that world early on, before his talent would no doubt have eventually opened some of the same doors.

Edwin Landseer by Sir Francis Grant, oil on board, circa 1852

By 1835, Landseer could boast some very important people amongst his clients, including the Dukes of Aberdeen, Argyll, Atholl, Devonshire and Wellington, but life changed significantly for Landseer the next year, after he was commissioned by the Duchess of Kent to paint a portrait of Dash, her daughter, the future Queen Victoria’s, King Charles Spaniel, which pleased Victoria greatly. Just months afterwards, Victoria took the throne and commissioned Landseer to paint a further portrait for her. She wrote in her diary: “Saw Lord Conyngham and Edwin Landseer, who brought a beautiful little sketch which he has done this morning, of a picture he is to paint for me of Hector and Dash. He is an unassuming, pleasing and very good-looking man, with fair hair.” Landseer must, indeed, have been pleasing to the new Queen, as she would go on to commission many further paintings and portraits from him, to invite him to stay at Windsor, at Osborne and in the Highlands and remained, to the last, one of Landseer’s most loyal patrons and his friend.

In addition to acting as friend to both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Landseer also taught them both to draw and, further, to engrave. His elder brother, Tom, was a well known engraver, as was their father, and with Tom’s help, and that of Henry Graves, the Royal couple were taught to engrave and press prints of their own making on a press set up in Buckingham Palace for just this purpose.

Queen Victoria by Edwin Landseer, commissioned as her engagement portrait


The Princess Royal with Eos and Dove, commissioned by Queen Victoria
Princess Alice with Dandy, commissioned by Prince Albert


The King of the Castle by Landseer with his dog, Brutus at centre

Landseer will always be thought of as a masterly painter of dogs, stags and, much later, lions, but it is by his dogs that he is most remembered. His own dog, Brutus, was a model for many of his early dog portraits,  followed by Lassie, a Scottish sheepdog and a pedigreed pooch called Breechin. Landseer owned dogs, and gained fame by painting dogs, which led people to believe that he had some special, uncanny connection to dogs, which prompted friends, and even strangers, to write to him for advice concerning their own problem pooches. Eventually, Landseer’s connection to dogs began to work against him, as critics began to complain that his later canine portraits were overly coy and/or sentimental. Landseer went from painting studies like The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner or even Eos, to endowing the dogs he put on canvas with overtly human expressions or attitudes. In Laying Down the Law, mentioned above, Landseer inserted the Duke of Devonshire’s spaniel into the finished picture at the Duke’s request. Some say that the inclusion ruined the symmetry of the composition. Regardless, such was the fate of an artist whose chief source of income were the commissions he received from wealthy and aristocratic clients who clamored to have their pets memorialized by the great man himself. Landseer continued to paint other subjects and to show them at the Royal Academy, but this may be where the rot began to seep in – more and more, Landseer began to doubt his own abilities, he became less sure of himself and often gave in to bouts of melancholy and drink. More frequently than not, he began to put off beginning a commissioned work and to miss promised deadlines, even though he was renowned for being able to deliver fully realized paintings in record time. The head of Odin took him two hours, to complete and Landseer tossed off Rabbits in three quarters of an hour.

A Dialogue at Waterloo exhibited 1850 Sir Edwin Henry Landseer 1802-1873, Tate Museum, Presented by Robert Vernon 1847

Queen Victoria had offered Landseer a knighthood in 1842, which he humbly refused to accept until 1850. That same year, he was still taking canine commissions from the Queen and it was also the first year that he was invited to stay at Balmoral and to bring with him “his drawing materials.” In this same year, Landseer’s contribution to the Royal Academy show as his Dialogue at Waterloo, commissioned by his patron Robert Vernon for the princely sum of three thousand pounds. The outsized picture (six feet by 12 feet in size) was produced by Landseer in response to Vernon’s request for a Waterloo painting. Vernon had made much of his fortune by supplying horses to the military and he was also an admirer of the Duke of Wellington. However, Landseer knew full well that his strengths as an artist did not translate to full blown battle scenes. Instead, he portrayed the elderly Wellington revisiting the field at Waterloo on horseback, accompanied by his daughter-in-law, the Marchioness of Douro – a nice sentiment, however the scene never actually took place outside of Landseer’s creative imagination. Regardless, the subsequent engraving sold extremely well.

Landseer at work on the Trafalgar Square Lions, John Ballantyne c. 1865

Increasingly, Landseer suffered bouts of melancholia, causing him to isolate himself within his home in St. John’s Wood and to turn to alcohol and drugs for relief. Despite this, Landseer enjoyed popularity throughout the Victorian era and, although he had no previous experience as a sculptor, in 1859 Landseer was commissioned by the government to make the four huge bronze lions for the base of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London. It took him eight years to complete the work. Lions were not a new animal for Landseer – he had been given the carcass of a Regent’s Park zoo lion by it’s keeper after it had died of old age in 1848. After 1859, Landseer managed to acquire another elderly lion, still living, which he kept in his garden. He also made visits to the Regent’s Park zoo to study their still living lions. Landseer completed other works over the course of the eight years, in between bouts of melancholy, but once again, he stalled for time on the most important work in progress. Finally, the clay models were completed and were cast in bronze by Baron Marochetti, whose experience to that point had largely been confined to casting large equestrian statues for public spaces. The lions were put in place and unveiled in Trafalgar Square on 25 January, 1867.

To this day, rumours persist that Landseer’s lions are not anatomically correct and that, unable to secure an actual lion as model, Landseer instead used a common variety house cat as his study. The facts prove this to be untrue. In actual fact, though Landseer had models to hand, he was most likely unable to bestir himself to make use of them. As with his Dialogue at Waterloo, he solved the problem in the end by using a sort of “bait and switch” tactic – the Art-Journal got right to the heart of the matter: “it appears that one body only has been modelled, while two heads were made, each of which served for two bodies. Thus the same body was cast in bronze four times, and the heads twice each.” Another reason for the persistence of the cat rumour can be traced back to early complaints that resting lions do not place their paws flat on the ground, as house cats do, but instead have them angled inwards. Despite The Illustrated London News having published photographs showing zoo lions with their paws in both positions, the rumours refuse to die.

The lion debate could not have done anything to soothe Landseer’s nerves and his mental health deteriorated further and he isolated himself further from both friends and the art world. When his drinking was worst, Landseer’s elder brother, Charles, sent him to a home in Surrey, to dry out. and confided to his friend, T.S. Cooper, that Landseer was a perfect wreck and suffering from the D. T.s. Still, Cooper was shocked by what he found when he visited Landseer and realized that Charles had not been exaggerating the artist’s condition. However, Landseer had not lost his skill. As Lord Frederick Hamilton recalled: “On another occasion there was some talk about a savage bull. Landseer, muttering ‘Bulls, bulls, bulls,’ snatched up an album of my sister’s and finding a blank page in it made exquisite little drawings of a charging bull. The disordered brain repeating, ‘Bulls, bulls, bulls,’ he then drew a bulldog, a pair of bullfinches surrounded by bullrushes and a hooked bull trout fighting furiously for freedom. That page has been cut out and framed . . . ”

In 1872, Landseer’s health had broken down to the point where his family had him certified as insane and he died the following year.  The Times wrote: ‘Sir Edwin has been long known to be in a most precarious state of health but the news will not the less shock and grieve the worlds of both art and Society in which he was an equal favourite.’ Landseer was buried with full honours in St Paul’s Cathedral and his lions guarding Nelson’s Column were hung with black wreaths.


On the 8th of February, 1750, an earthquake was felt in London, followed exactly a month afterwards by a second and severer one, when the bells of the church clocks struck against the chiming-hammers, dogs howled, and fish jumped high out of the water. Horace Walpole, in a letter to Sir Horace Mann, draws a lively picture of the effect created by the event, and we cannot do better than borrow his narration:

“. . . . . as far as earthquakes go towards lowering the price of wonderful commodities, to be sure we are over-stocked. We have had a second, much more violent than the first; and you must not be surprised if, by next post, you hear of a burning mountain springing up in Smithfield. In the night between Wednesday and Thursday last, the earth had a shivering fit between one and two; but so slight that, if no more had followed, I don’t believe it would have been noticed. I had been awake, and had scarce dozed again,—on a sudden I felt my bolster lift my head. I thought somebody was getting from under my bed, but soon found it was a strong earthquake that lasted nearly half a minute, with a violent vibration and great roaring. I got up and found people running into the streets, but saw no mischief done. There has been some; two old houses flung down, several chimnies, and much earthenware. The bells rang in several houses. Admiral Knowles, who has lived long in Jamaica, and felt seven there, says this was more violent than any of them. The wise say, that if we have not rain soon we shall certainly have more. Several people are going out of town, for it has nowhere reached above ten miles from London: they say they are not frightened, but that it is such fine weather, “Lord, one can’t help going into the country!” The only visible effect it has had was in the Ridotto, at which, being the following morning, there were but 400 people.

“A parson who came into White’s the morning after earthquake the first, and heard bets laid on whether it was an earthquake or the blowing up of powder mills, went away exceedingly scandalised, and said, “I protest they are such an impious set of people, that I believe, if the last trumpet was to sound, they would bet puppet-show against judgment!” The excitement grew intense: following the example of Bishops Seeker and Sherlock, the clergy showered down sermons and exhortations, and a country quack sold pills “as good against an earthquake.” (Walpole himself advised anyone who would listen to “take bark”). A crazy Life-guardsman predicted a third and more fatal earthquake at the end of four weeks after the second, and a frantic terror prevailed among all classes as the time drew near.”

Horace Walpole

On the evening preceding the 5th of April, the roads out of London were crowded with vehicles, spite of an advertisement in the papers threatening the publication “of an exact list of all the nobility and gentry who have left or shall leave this place through fear of another earthquake.” “Earth-quake gowns “—warm gowns to wear while sitting out of doors all night—were in great request with women. Many people sat in coaches all night in Hyde Park, passing away the time with the aid of cards and candles; and Walpole asks his correspondent, ‘What will you think of Lady Catherine Pelham, Lady Frances Arundel, and Lord and Lady Galway, who go this evening to an inn ten miles out of town, where they are to play brag till four o’clock in the morning, and then come back, I suppose, to look for the bones of their husbands and families under the rubbish?’

On the 18th of March in the same year an earthquake was felt at Portsmouth, Southampton, and the Isle of Wight. In April, Cheshire, Flintshire, and Yorkshire were startled in like manner: this was followed by an earthquake in Dorsetshire in May, by another in Somersetshire in July, and in Lincoln-shire in August, the catalogue being completed on the 30th. of September by an earthquake ex-tending through the counties of Suffolk, Leicester, and Northampton.

N.B. The feared third London earthquake did not occur.


As many of you know, I always make time to visit Apsley House when I’m in London, either dropping in on my own or scheduling the visit as a stop on one of my tours. In April 2018, we’ll be visiting Apsley House as part of the 1815 Waterloo Tour, but our group will be far from the first tourists to pay a call in order to admire the stunning interiors and artwork. In fact, tourists have been trying to gain entry into Apsley House since the time when the first Duke still lived there. Oddly enough, it seems that people were commonly writing to the owners of various houses in the hopes of being allowed inside and of being given a tour of the premises. Horace Walpole was plagued by applications for admission to his Strawberry Hill and owners of other unique properties were also applied to for the same purpose.
In 1850, the Duke of Wellington replied to a letter written to him by Lady Salisbury inquiring as to how best she and Lord Salisbury should deal with those who applied to them with requests to see their home, Hatfield House. In other words, how best to deal with 19th century tourists. The Duke answered her thusly:
London, July 27, 1850
  ” . . . . . I permit my servants to show the House and Place to whom they please and as they please. But I avoid to give an order that anything should be shown to anybody. I enclose the Lithograph answer sent to every application. You will find some regulation of the same description very convenient to yourself and Lord Salisbury. . . . . . “
Copy of Lithograph
   Field Marshal The Duke of Wellington presents his 
compliments. He is not in the habit of giving orders 
to his Servants to show his House or its contents to 
Gentlemen with whom he is not acquainted. They 
are responsible for the good, cleanly and safe 
keeping thereof, and they must form their own 
judgment as to whom they will admit to see it, taking 
care always that those whom they may admit do 
not interfere with the convenient occupation of their 
apartments by his son, his daughter-in-law and himself. 
Unfortunately, the Duke was also plagued with requests from tourists at Walmer Castle, as the following letter to Lady Salisbury the following September illustrates –
Walmer, September 19, 1850
     “. . . . . You are amused by the applications made to me. I have had a most curious one from one of the young ladies who were in the habit, as children, of coming to my Garden Gate in Hyde Park. This young lady is now with some friends a Broadstairs! and she insists upon my sending her an order that the interior of Walmer Castle should be shewn to her and her friends during the time that I am residing there; at which time, she has heard that the interior of the Castle is not usually shewn.
I have told her that my Predecessor in the office of Lord Warden had fitted up part of this Castle as a residence for the Lard Wardens, which I now occupy! that I have one room in this Residence, in which I sleep, dress and write all day! that the remainder of the House is occupied by my daughters-in-law and their Children or by other visitors, male or female! That I permitted the Servants to shew to whom they pleased, excepting when inhabited. But at such periods only when not inconvenient to the inhabitants. I added that I believed that I was the only individual in England who would be required by anybody to make a shew of his Bed Room and Dressing Room; and that I doubted much whether my daughters-in-law, or their Children, or any Ladies or Gentlemen, inhabitants of Rooms in this Residence, would much like the proposition that their Rooms should be made a shew of while they should inhabit them. I have received no answer.”
Alas, visitors are no longer allowed into the private apartments at Apsley House, though Wellington’s room at Walmer Castle has been preserved as it was at the time of his death and is still on view. As our visit will be confined to viewing the public rooms only at Apsley House during the 1815 Waterloo Tour, I like to think that the Duke won’t mind our presence too much. Complete details regarding the upcoming Tour can be found here.