From the Pen of Horace Walpole

Princess Amalie


A Letter from Horace Walpole to the Earl of Hertford
Strawberry Hill, Easter Sunday, April 7, 1760
Your first wish will be to know how the King does: he came to Richmond last Monday for a week; but appeared suddenly and unexpected at his levee at St . James’s last Wednesday; this was managed to prevent a crowd. Next day he was at the drawing-room, and at chapel on Good Friday. They say, he looks pale; but it is the fashion to call him very well:—I wish it may be true. The Duke of Cumberland is actually set out for Newmarket to-day: he too is called much better; but it is often as true of the health of princes as of their prisons, that there is little distance between each and their graves. There has been a fire at Gunnersbury, which burned four rooms: her servants announced it to Princess Amalie (daughter of King George III) with that wise precaution of “Madam, don’t be frightened!—” accordingly, she was terrified. When they told her the truth, she said, “I am very glad; I had concluded my brother was dead.”—So much for royalties!

Northumberland House
. . . . . Now, for my disaster; you will laugh at it, though it was woeful to me. I was to dine at Northumberland-house, and went a little after hour: there I found the Countess, Lady Betty Mekinsy, Lady Strafford; my Lady Finlater, who was never out of Scotland before; a tall lad of fifteen, her son; Lord Drogheda, and Mr. Worseley. At five, arrived Mr. Mitchell, who said the Lords had begun to read the Poorbill, which would take at least two hours, and perhaps would debate it afterwards. We concluded dinner would be called for, it not being very precedented for ladies to wait for gentlemen:—no such thing. Six o’clock came,—seven o’clock came,— our coaches came,— well! we sent them away, and excuses were we were engaged. Still the Countess’s heart did not relent, nor uttered a syllable of apology. We wore out the wind and the weather, the opera and the play, Mrs. Cornelys’s and Almack’s, and every topic that would do in a formal circle. We hinted, represented—in vain. The clock struck eight: my lady, at last, said, she would go and order dinner; but it was a good half-hour before it appeared. We then sat down to a table for fourteen covers; but instead of substantiate, there was nothing but a profusion of plates striped red, green, and yellow, gilt plate, blacks and uniforms!

James Ogilvy, 5th Earl of Findlater

My Lady Finlater, who had never seen these embroidered dinners, nor dined after three, was famished. The first course stayed as long as possible, in hopes of the lords: so did the second. The dessert at last arrived, and the middle dish was actually set on when Lord Finlater and Mr. Mackay arrived! — would you believe it?—the dessert was remanded, and the whole first course brought back again !— Stay, I have not done:—just as this second first course had done its duty, Lord Northumberland, Lord Strafford, and Mekinsy came in, and the whole began a third time! Then the second course, and the dessert! I thought we should have dropped from our chairs with fatigue and fumes! When the clock struck eleven, we were asked to return to the drawing-room, and drink tea and coffee, but I said I was engaged to supper, and came home to bed. My dear lord, think of four hours and a half in a circle of mixed company, and three great dinners, one after another, without interruption;—no, it exceeded our day at Lord Archer’s! Mrs. Armiger, and Mrs. Southwell, Lady Gower’s niece, are dead, and old Dr. Young, the poet. Good night!

3 thoughts on “From the Pen of Horace Walpole”

  1. In re: the wonderfully gossipy Horace Walpole… Do go to see the newly renovated Strawberry Hill, just outside of London in Twickenham! Worth the trip.

  2. Oh I have been collecting information about Strawberry Hill for years. I find it fascinating. But his description of the dinner made me laugh out loud! He has such a way with words!

    Yes, Jo, Strawberry Hill is on my bucket list of places to see!

Leave a Reply