The Crying Duchess

Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Mrs. Creevey to (her daughter) Miss Ord.

12 Sept., 1806.
“… I am going to Somerset House to enquire after poor Sheridan, who went from this house very ill at 12 o’clock last night. . . . He complained of sore throat and shivering, and his pulse was the most frightful one I ever felt; it was so tumultuous and so strong that when one touched it, it seemed not only to shake his arm, but his whole frame. … I lighted a fire and a great many candles, and Mr. Creevey, who was luckily just come home from Petty’s, began to tell him stories. . . . Then we sent for some wine, of which he was so frightened it required persuasion to make him drink six small glasses, of which the effect was immediate in making him not only happier, but composing his pulse. … In the midst of his dismals he said most clever, funny things, and at last got to describing Mr. Hare, and others of his old associates, with the hand of a real master, and made one lament that such extraordinary talents should have such numerous alloys. He received a note from Lady Elizabeth Forster, with a good account of Mr. Fox. It ended with—’try to drink less and speak the truth.’ He was very funny about it and said: ‘By G-d! I speak more truth than she does, however.’ Then he told us how she had cried to him the night before, ‘because she felt it her severe duty to be Duchess of Devonshire!’ *

Lady Elizabeth Foster by Angelica Kaufman

* Georgina, the Duchess of Devonshire, had died in March of this year. Lady Elizabeth married the Duke, but not till three years later, in 1809.

2 thoughts on “The Crying Duchess”

  1. Technology is so wonderful, but these people knew how put their hearts on paper. In two hundred years when people look at our handwritten letters, will they assume very few of us could actually write? Oh, I do still get tiny letters. “Mom, I need your car Friday” and “I borrowed a 20” but I doubt these correspondences will survive two hundred years.

    Have a great week. Perhaps, I’ll go write a letter to my sister.

  2. Mary – Letter writing was an art! So many were so good at making their thoughts and experiences sound so immediate that they bordered on real conversation. And think of all the time and effort that went into writing them. Alas, I fear you're right, our abbreviated emails and tweets don't bear preservation. IMHO.

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