Gossip Between Lady Shelley and Mrs. Arbuthnot

Harriette, Mrs. Arbuthnot by Richard Cosway
copyright Artchives.com

Mrs. Arbuthnot to Lady Shelley

Woodford, Wednesday [no date].
“My Dear Lady Shelley,
What an age it is since I have written to you! but my house has been so full; and I have been so full of regret at not being in the north hearing all the speeches and witnessing all the applause with which the Duke was received everywhere. Lady Bathurst and Sir Henry Harding have written me long accounts of it, all which is lucky for the Duke (of Wellington), as I should (very unjustly) be in a fury with him, for he enters into no details. To be sure one could not expect him to plume himself on his success; and, as I have heard it from others, I am satisfied. They are all enchanted with him, and he has done everything quite right, as he always does. I have Lord and Lady Francis Gower here and Mr. Greville and Lady Charlotte. Do you not think Mr. Greville the most agreeable man you know? I do; he has so much gossip, and tells a story so well. He has just been saying, God forgive me! but I wish Canning had lived to undergo the mortification of this visit of the Duke’s to the north; it would have been a good lesson to him, and would have killed him.’ He is in very good humour, and bears with my small house with the greatest fortitude. I am quite sorry they are going, which they do tomorrow for Chatsworth. Lady Charlotte is grown fearfully old and wrinkled. Lord Westmorland comes here to-morrow and stays till Saturday, on which day we go to Drayton.

We go to Apethorpe (pictured above) on Wednesday next. How all the ladies seem to be increasing in these days of over-population; it is quite surprising, and Mrs. Griffiths is in despair, for I understand they all come together. Lady Jersey, you know, always publishes it immediately. I did not know the Duke had been so sly about his visit there, but I am greatly amused at your not daring to quiz him; I did not think you had been so shy! especially with him. Do you know any news of our wise Ministers? what they mean to do with Turkey and Portugal? Never was such a condition as they have placed us in, I think, but they may thank the master mind for that. Poor Lord Dudley must be at his wits’ end, I think, with these perpetual conferences and interviews that one reads of. Pray write and tell me the London news, for I hear none of the Newmarket news. I see Sir John has a match. Ever, my dear Lady Shelley,

“Yours very affly.,
“H. A.”
George Canning
August 10, 1827.
“My Dear Lady Shelley,
“Thank you for sending me an account of the Duke. I am very glad you think he looks well. He writes me word he is quite well again. I got both your letters the same day, as he did not frank your Monday one till Tuesday. Poor Mr. Canning! I daresay you will not agree with me, but I am really very sorry for him. In the first place I had much rather have had a fight with him next session, and beat him in that way, and secondly, I hate to have anybody die. I cannot feel rancour against the dead; and, fatally mischievous as he has been to us, I cannot help pitying him. He has suffered so horribly, mind as well as body! depend upon it his has been a bed of thorns; nothing can have been more humiliating and degrading than all he has endured in the last four months. He was the vainest man that ever lived, with the quickest and most irritable feelings, and I know he felt his position most acutely. I have quite longed to write to Planta, to enquire after him; but I have not, for I should very likely have been accused of hypocrisy. I only hope our newspapers will not abuse him, tho’ to be sure the abuse heaped upon us just now by the Times is quite laughable. One thing I do rather enjoy, and that is the consternation in which our rats must be, such as your friend Sir George Clerk, etc., etc., etc. I have no guess what will happen, but I do not expect the King will send for any of us now. It will be, to use his own words, poor man, a curious coincidence if he dies the same day as Queen Caroline! Metternich’s remark about our luck is certainly just; but how he made out that the new parliament in South America could have anything to do with the Berlin Decrees I don’t understand. I am delighted to hear Mr. Peel has taken Maresfield; he cannot fail to like it, and the joy of getting it off your hands will help to restore you. I have been reading ‘Falkland.’ I like it very much, all but the ghost. 1 don’t suppose it is very moral, but I think it is natural and well written. Have you read it? I have also read ‘Judge Jeffreys,’ which I don’t like at all, and think it very ill done; I have no patience with the author who apologises for such an inhuman beast. I am now reading General Foy, who puts me in a rage with his fulsome praise of French soldiers and their mildness and kindneartedness! I had a letter from the Duke of Rutland to-day. Lady C. Powlett had been there for a night; she went from here. I think I shall put her nose, and Mrs. Foxs’, out of joint in that quarter, and yours too; His Grace writes so very tenderly. I don’t know how I shall manage them in Derbyshire; I shall have to sing the old song ‘ How happy could I be with either, were t’other dear Duke but away’—but that would be a copy of my countenance; there is but one Duke worth thinking about in the world, in my opinion. But do not show up that I joke about the other; it is only to amuse you, and he is very goodnatured and kind to me, and I like him, and would not laugh about him on any account, but you know he has a sentimental way with him. I shall write to the Duke about Mr. L. Wellesley, for a madman is never to be despised. I hope nothing fresh has happened?
Ever, my dear Lady Shelley, Yours affly.,
“H. A.”

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