Lady Caroline Lamb


Grace and Philip Wharton

From The Queens of Society, by Grace and Philip Wharton. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Co., 1890.

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LADY CAROLINE LAMB.

A Trick for Sheridan’s Election. — A Sleepy Courtier. — An Army of Disgusted Editors. — La Femme Incomprise and Lord Byron. — Marriage on a Short Lease. — Lady Caroline Stabs Herself. — The Poet Hardly Tried. — Lady Caroline’s Good Heart. — Pages and Teapots. — Lady Cork’s Pink, Blue, and Gray. — Brave Lady Charleville. — Sunday Parties. — Tempora Mutantur. — The Author of ‘Pelham.’ — Miss Benger’s Evenings. — Forbidden to be an Authoress. — Death.

WITH a fanciful head and a warm heart, the subject of this memoir represents the head of a clique which flourished during the time of Byron’s brief career in society; but which, for some years after his departure to Italy, continued to form one section of the beau monde in London. The daughter of Henrietta Frances Countess of Bessborough, and consequently the great grand-daughter of Sarah Duchess of Marlborough, and the niece of the celebrated Duchess of Devonshire, Lady Caroline derived some portion of her distinction from those connections; but for her celebrity she was indebted to another source. Her lustre was borrowed. With considerable natural talent, her works, had they been the production of one unknown to fashion, would have excited, perhaps, a transient attention: from the wife of William Lamb, afterwards Lord Melbourne, and from the enthusiastic admirer of Byron, almost any literary effort must have been thought worthy, at least, of a sensation. That they were not worthy of more, is evident from the obscurity into which ‘Glenarvon’ and its successor have dropped, in our own days of literary revivals and reprints.

Born during the latter part of the last century. Lady Caroline Ponsonby was reared amid the fading memories of Mrs. Montagu and the Barneys. Her mother had lived as much in an atmosphere of literature as in that of exclusiveness, and her children were brought up with an hereditary respect for genius. Most ladies of rank dabbled in verse: strong political and weak religious convictions were in vogue: the great world has since then been tamed down, and its eccentricities smoothed into uniformity. In the youth of Lady Caroline, the shadow of revolutionary France still hung over society — still darkened, still misled it; and women thought their glory consisted in being romantic and peculiar.

A Trick for Sheridan s Election.

The family whence Lady Caroline sprang were of Whig principles, and her grandfather. Lord Bessborough, was a member of Brookes’s. But, with all his liberalism, the earl disliked Sheridan; and an anecdote of his daughter-in-law. Lady Duncannon, Lady Caroline’s mother, is told, showing to what lengths female politicians will go on certain occasions.

When Sheridan’s name was put up as a candidate at Brookes’s two persons resolved to get it black-balled. These were Lord Bessborough and George Selwyn. They succeeded several times: the matter was to be put to the test again. The two foes resolved not to absent themselves during the time allowed by the regulations of the club for the ballot. In order to defeat them, Sheridan’s friends agreed to try stratagem, and enlisted into their scheme the fearless Lady Duncannon. Seeing the adverse couple at their posts one evening when Sheridan’s name was again put to the vote, they sent a chairman into the coffee-room with a note to Lord Bessborough, Written in the name of Lady Duncannon, saying that a fire had broken out in his house in Cavendish Square, and begging him to return home. Off started my lord, and getting into a sedan chair freed the club from his presence. He doubted not the cause for alarm, since Lady Duncannon lived in the same house with himself. Nearly at that precise moment came a verbal message to Selwyn to request his presence at home, ‘Miss Faginiani’ (his adopted daughter, who afterwards married Lord Yarmouth) ‘being seized with an alarming illness.’ No sooner had he made his exit than Sheridan was proposed and elected. The two enemies returned without delay on discovering the trick played on them, but the ballot was closed.

A Sleepy Courtier.

By so eager a partisan, so complete a woman of the world was Lady Caroline reared. Under the influence of her charming aunt, the Duchess of Devonshire, did she receive her first impressions of the life she was to enter upon. As she grew up, the amiable, popular manners, the love of poetry, the taste and talent which distinguished her aunt, gradually opened in Lady Caroline; but they were all weakened in their effect by peculiarity, and the absence of strong natural sense. It is almost a misfortune to have a desire to shine without the qualities to insure that end. Neither had Lady Caroline the beauty which, in her aunt and mother, set off everything they chose to do. She was delicate; with a small pensive face; never plain, yet not beautiful.

In 1805, a year before the death of the Duchess of Devon-shire, Lady Caroline was married to the Hon. William Lamb, afterwards Viscount Melbourne. This nobleman was then a rising member of the Lower House, and already noted for his talents as a debater. He was handsome and witty, with a singular placidity of character, almost amounting to apathy. As a statesman, his administration was marked by many notable legislative enactments; as a man his moral character was far from being defensible. At the period of his marriage with Lady Caroline, Mr. Lamb was one of the most agreeable of men. In his later years, either oppressed with business, or suffering from repletion, or from the effects of indulgence, he contracted a habit of sleeping, almost in society, and, it is said, even in the presence of the Queen, who graciously insisted on his not being disturbed. Whatsoever may have been the want of congeniality that soon exhibited itself between Lady Caroline and her husband, it never broke out into an open contest. He was wholly immersed in his career; and never, although he was the friend of most of the famous Edinburgh wits, appreciated modem literature. Late in life, when prime minister, it was suggested to him by a certain literary baronet that men of letters should be noticed, invited, and brought forward. ‘Who are they? Where do they live? What have they all written?’ was his answer. The editors of the leading journals were specified. ‘In France, journalists are raised by being made important — sometimes ennobled even,’ was also the remark. ‘Pray invite them, dear B——,’ was Lord Melbourne’s reply. They were invited, and they came. The august rulers of public opinion were ushered in, and specially introduced by their patron, the baronet. So much wit, so much criticism had never before sat round the dinner-table at Melbourne House. All were prepared, were primed to shine; but, before dinner was half over, his lordship was fast asleep: and soon after the repast was over, though not before the wine had gone freely round, the army of editors took their departure in some disgust.

La Femme Incomprise and Lord Byron.

In all her enthusiasm for what has been well called ‘maccaroni literature,’ Lady Caroline’s clever, witty, handsome hus-band did not, therefore, sympathize. The fashionable pair lived as much apart as decorum permitted; though Lady Caroline seems to have continued always on good terms with Lady Melbourne, her mother-in-law. Her time was passed between Brocket Hall and St. James’s Square, in all the luxurious delights of a youth without care, yet Lady Caroline was far from being happy; and the lady in ‘Ernest Maltravers,’ entitled ‘La femme incomprise,’ may certainly convey a notion of her character.

It was in the year 1813 that Lord Byron in his Diary refers to a friendship that probably had an unhappy interest on Lady Caroline’s existence. This was between Lord Byron and Lady Melbourne, her mother-in-law, of whom the poet speaks as ‘the best friend he ever had, and the cleverest of women.’ ‘To Lady Melbourne I write with most pleasure; and her answers are so sensible, so tactique. I never met with half her talent. If she had been a few years younger, what a fool she would have made of me, had she thought it worth her while; and I should have lost a valuable and most agreeable friend. Mem.— A mistress can never be a friend: while you agree you are lovers; and when it is over, anything but friends.’ To Lady Melbourne his works, and anything painful or agreeable that was said of them, were shown and confided. She was, like Lady Caroline, a neglected wife, treated externally with respect. Ladies of those days were well broken in to the position. There was no Judge Cress well to release them at short notice. In November, 1813, a few lines written by Byron in his Diary appear to refer to Lady Caroline Lamb. ‘ Two letters, one from, the other from Lady Melbourne, both excellent in their respective styles; contained also a very pretty lyric on “concealed griefs” — if not her own, yet very like hers. Why did she not say that the stanzas were, or were not, of her own composition? I do not know whether to wish them hers or not. I have no esteem for poetical persons, especially women: they have so much of the ideal in practice, as well as ethics.

Marriage on a Short Lease.

On the 10th of January, 1815, Byron wrote to Moore: ‘I was married this day week. The parson has pronounced it; Perry has announced it; and the “Morning Post,” also, under the head of “Lord Byron’s Marriage,” as if it were a fabrication, or the puff direct of a new staymaker.’

Such was his announcement of that infelicitous union, the disunion of which formed the topic of society for many a long day after the bond was for ever broken.

Miss Milbanke was the niece of Lady Melbourne, and must, of course, have frequently been in the society of Lady Caroline Lamb. Lord Byron, heart-sick, in debt, weary of a vicious life, and eager to form ties to which a disposition naturally affectionate impelled him, as it were, anticipated much felicity. Miss Milbanke was ‘ the paragon of only daughters,’ to use his own words, and had been for some time attached to him, which he had not known, and had, indeed, thought her of a cold disposition, which he then found she was not. When he offered, he had not seen her for ten months; perhaps when he did see her, especially with all the odious preliminary of settlements on his hands, the charm was broken. The day of his marriage, he described himself as awaking with a heavy heart, and becoming more deeply dejected on glancing at his wedding suit laid out before him. His feelings at the ceremony have been described by himself

‘I saw him stand

Before an altar with a gentle bride;

Her face was fair, but was not that which made

The starlight of his boyhood.’

Nevertheless, in the very early days of that inauspicious marriage, Byron wrote: ‘Swift says, no wise man ever married; but, for a fool, I think it is the most ambrosial of all possible future states. I still think one ought to marry upon lease; but am very sure I should renew mine at the expiration, though next term were for ninety and nine years.’

Alas! his term was soon ended. A year afterwards we find Byron ‘at war with all the world and my wife;’ and begging his friend Moore neither to believe all he heard of him, nor to defend him.

Lady Caroline Stabs Herself.

While these events were going on, the peace of Lady Caroline Lamb was destroyed by one of those infatuations to which bereaved women, whose affections cannot turn into the one great natural channel, and neglected wives, are liable. Many were the rumours on the state of Lady Caroline’s feelings for Lord Byron; and it was even reported that, being wounded by his indifference, she had attempted to stab herself in frenzy, during a large evening party. A romantic predilection, indulged to the extent of monomania, certainly existed. Any other woman’s reputation would have been crushed by it; but it was regarded as the result of an eccentric and not wholly accountable mind: and although Lady Caroline, from that time, lost caste, she incurred rather ridicule than censure, and the incident was in due time suffered to die away in the public mind. Moore has carefully abstained from a reference to it, or, indeed, to Lady Caroline Lamb at all; so that upon recollection alone the occurrence rests.

The novel of ‘Glenarvon,’ in two volumes, is said to be a transcript of Lady Caroline’s own mind. It is a powerful tale, verging on the immoral; romantic and improbable. It riveted Lady Caroline to that literary society which she henceforth found more to her taste than the aristocratic sphere in which she was born. Perhaps she thought with Byron, who thus refers to some of the most brilliant of those assemblies in London:—

‘Last night, party’ (Tuesday, March 22nd, 1814) ‘at Lansdowne House. To-night, party at Lady Charlotte Greville’s: —deplorable waste of time, and something of temper — nothing imparted — nothing acquired — talking without ideas — if anything like thought in my mind, it was not on the subjects on which we were gabbling. Heigho! and in this way half London pass what is called life.’

The Poet Hardly Tried.

Lady Caroline’s literary circle comprised Holland House. Lady Charleville’s, Lord Ward’s, Lord Lansdowne’s, and others of a similar grade. Of these reunions Byron formed the prominent attraction. But the crash had come. As little could be known of the real origin of the storm which chased Byron for ever from the chances of happiness in life, as of the changes of the wind, ‘which bloweth where it listeth.’ At the close of January, 1816, Lady Byron left Lord Byron to visit her father: they parted in kindness. On the road she wrote him a letter of playful fondness. A few days after her arrival at Sir Ralph Milbanke’s seat, Byron received a letter to say that she would return to him no more.

Nine executions in his house within that year are thought to have accelerated this blow, though they ought to have stayed the hand that dealt it. As usual, Byron referred to its effect in few but telling words. He had parted with his books when he spoke: his embarrassments were at their climax. ‘I shall be very glad to see you,’ he wrote to Rogers, ‘if you like to call, though I am at present contending with the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” some of which have struck at me from a quarter I did not expect them. But, no matter, “there is a world elsewhere,” and I will cut my way through this as I can.’

Next we hear of his parting from his sister — his beloved, and, in domestic life, almost equally unhappy Augusta — to whom he addressed those exquisite lines. She had been his solace — she clung to him when ‘all the world and his wife,’ abjured him. So true is Lamartine’s description of family ties, of the blood which binds far more strongly than any other human links.

‘Though the rock of my last hope is shivered,

And its fragments are sunk in the wave;

Though I feel that my soul is delivered

To pain — it shall not be its slave.

There is many a pang to pursue me;

They may crush, but they shall not contemn;

They may torture, but shall not subdue me —

’Tis of thee that I think — not of them.’

On the 25th of April he sailed for Ostend; and the dream, the folly, perhaps the sin of Lady Caroline’s imagination was removed; and Lord Byron, for the second and the last time, quitted this country.

Lady Caroline’s Good Heart.

Henceforth Lady Caroline’s life was more prosaic, but perhaps more calm than when under the influence of this absorbing enthusiasm. Lady Morgan, who knew her well, does justice to the goodness of a heart that was often mistaken by ethers, or, as she terms it, the ‘spontaneous outbreak of a good and kind heart, which, in serving and giving pleasure to others, obeys the instinctive impulse of a sanguine and genial disposition; waiting for no rule or maxim; not opening an account for value expected; doing unto others what you wish them to do unto you. This, in one word, is Lady Caroline Lamb, for if she does not always act wisely for herself, she generally acts only too well for others.’

Lady Caroline passed some of her time at Brockett Hall, which she describes as a paradise, full of flowers and fruit. It stands, indeed, in one of those noble parks peculiar to England, rich in ancestral trees, with green herbage, and picturesque with noble alleys; but the house is heavy, flat in architecture, with a poor entrance, smallish windows, a plain red brick exterior, all denoting the utilitarian spirit which came in with the last century. It is turned scrupulously away from a view; and overlooks a piece of artificial water, with sloping pleasure-grounds on its brink. In London, Lady Caroline, when Lady Morgan visited her in 1818, received her friends in her bedroom at Melbourne House, at Whitehall, looking over the Park. In the bow-window stood the chair in which Lord Byron sat for his picture to Sanderson: it was fastened to the ground. Lady Caroline reclined on a couch, rather than a bed, wrapped in fine muslin. Her manners were always cordial and winning; but she was by no means less singular than in her earlier life. She embraced Lady Morgan with all the cordiality of sisterhood in letters. As the interview went on, an amusing scene occurred. It was the custom, among certain fine ladies of that day, to have a page, a boy of fifteen or so, always within call: Lady Holland, Lady Cork, and others, each kept this pair of hands and pair of feet for their peculiar use. Lady Cork, who had figured as the ‘Honourable and charming Miss Monckton,’ in Pages and Teapots. Miss Burney’s Memoirs (in which the original sin of toadyism perpetually appears), was now a dowager advancing in years, wishing to part with a page, whom she now sent for inspection to Lady Caroline, who was reported to have broken the head of her own page with a teapot some time previously. Lady Morgan had already been the vehicle of several attempts on the part of Lady Cork to get rid of her page. Like most ladies of that day, her ladyship had weak eyes: Lady Morgan was her amanuensis. ‘What! get rid of your page?’ cried Sydney. ‘Don’t talk, child, but do as I ask you: first, then, to the Duchess of Leeds:— “My dear Duchess: This will be presented to you by my little page, whom you admired so the other night. He is about to leave me. Only fancy, — he finds my house not religious enough for him! and that he can’t get to church twice on Sundays. I am certainly not so good a Christian as your Grace, but as to Sundays, it is not true. But I think your situation would just suit him, if you are inclined to take him. Yours, M. Cork and Orrery.”

‘Now, my dear, for another note to your friend Lady Caroline.’ Lady Caroline having been justified by Lady Morgan from the calumny of Lady Cork about breaking the page’s head, Sydney began to smile.

‘It was a Tory calumny. Lady Cork: and Lady Caroline was at Brockett, not at Whitehall, where the adventure was said to have happened.’

‘I don’t care whether true or not, my dear. All pages are the better for having their heads broken sometimes. So please write.’ So a coaxing note was sent off to Lady Caroline, inviting her, after sounding the page’s praises, to one of Lady Cork’s blue parties, and giving her leave to bring any one—Mr. Moore, if she liked — to those famous receptions where ‘tea and wax lights’ in abundance, were all that Lady Cork thought of moment. The letter was signed, ‘Yours in all affection,’ although at the same time the teapot anecdote had been related.

Lady Cork, then in or near her sixtieth year, seemed to belong to another age, even in 1818, than that of Lady Caroline, beside whose soft muslins she must have come out like an old picture by Houbraken near a modern portrait of Hoppner’s or Lawrence’s. Pink, Blue, and Gray. Her ancient form is still present among us, with her quaint manners, her native insincerity, her passion for society, and her predilection for stolen goods — not from any wish to steal, but from that slight aristocratic tinge of craziness, that ‘bee in the bonnet,’ which we find in most old families in every part of the world, in none more so than in Germany and England. Lady Cork having survived the Burneys and their clique, had a way of collecting her friends in detachments. Her pink, that is, her titled guests; her blue, that is, her literary soirees; her gray, that is, her religious tea-parties, were the amusement of the town almost until, in 1840, she at last went to the grave of her fathers. She was a very useful member of society in bringing pleasant people together. In England a little title usually dilutes a great deal of dulness; but Lady Cork’s parties were more odd than dull. Who could ever regret passing some hours where, before a huge grand piano, a small form, with a broadish Irish face, a blue beaming eye, sat down, and playing, softly, almost a nominal accompaniment, sang one of his own lyrics in a voice of no compass, yet exquisitely musical, the artist of nature? Such was Thomas Moore, amusing when he talked, captivating when he sang. Mrs. Billington was quavering in one room at Lord Ward’s, Moore in another, one evening: the professional singer was deserted, the poet’s piano was thronged.

Yet there must have been more satisfaction to be found in the salon of the estimable Lady Charleville, another lady eminent in that day for her influence in society, than in that of Lady Cork. A daughter of the house of Cremorne, Lady Charleville, had been associated with all that was witty, eloquent, patriotic in Ireland during the infelicitous close of the last century. Lord Clive and Grattan, the opposite poles in politics, were her friends. She stood by Grattan’s death-bed when Lord Castlereagh assured him that he should be buried in Westminster Abbey. She had joined her husband in his peril, as one of the district generals, accompanied only by her maid, and armed with pistols, when the whole country was in tumult. Like Charlotte de la Tremouille, Countess of Derby, of old, she remained in her husband’s castle when danger threatened, Brave Lady Charleville. and recurred to those perils of her life with pleasure. Devoted to Protestantism, yet free from uncharitable prejudice, Lady Charleville endeavoured, by establishing schools for both persuasions, to benefit alike the Catholic and the Protestant. It was her firm belief at that time that the State provision for the Romanist clergy was indispensable. The result of years has not confirmed her views. Ireland is more Protestant than it was, and the Romish Church there is still unendowed.

Before the period of middle life arrived, Lady Charleville had lost the use of her lower limbs from rheumatism. When her drawing-rooms were thronged with the elite of London it was sad to see this excellent woman wheeled about in a chair, her son, the handsome Lord Tullamore, who married one of the beautiful daughters of Lady Charlotte Bury, performing that office. Yet she still pursued the accomplishment of painting; she still cultivated her comprehensive mind; still enjoyed the society of the good and the lettered, and until her latest hour the power of enjoyment was spared to her. Her fancy, her judgment, her heart were untouched by time. Lady Charleville took a very different position in the world to that occupied by the eccentric Lady Cork, or the kind but injudicious Lady Caroline Lamb. She was as much respected as beloved. At her conversazioni, Milman, the Canon of Westminster, at first as a young poet, then in the graver character of an historian, finally in all the sanctity of a ‘Very Reverend,’ delighted to converse with the gifted but unaffected hostess. Jekyl, the wit, par excellence, of that day, and the personal friend of the Prince Regent, there laid aside politics, and appeared to Lady Morgan ‘the most delightful creature she had ever met with.’ Luttrell formed also one of the clique of Cavendish Square.

The late Marchioness of Hertford, the favourite of the then Prince Regent, and one of the most courtly and stately of ladies of doubtful conduct, was received by Lady Charleville, and even thought to do honour by her presence! The late Marchioness of Salisbury, famous for her beauty in youth, for her Sunday parties, her rouge, and her hauteur, also looked in, and was ‘civil’ This lady was burnt to death, in her old age at Hatfield. These ‘Queens of Fashion’ had mingled at Lady Charleville’s Sunday Parties. in their youth with the comic muse, Mrs. Abington, and with Miss Farren, afterwards Lady Derby — ladies, in their way, of as high ton as the stately though fallible Hertford, or as Lady Salisbury. Old people can remember Manchester Square and the Terrace of Piccadilly thronged with carriages on Sunday evenings: when whist and even faro were fearlessly played at parties to which every one scrambled for invitations. William Spencer, the descendant of Sarah Duchess of Marlborough, was the fashionable wit, poet, and Adonis of the day, before Byron appeared. His poetry was like himself, polished, gay, slight: his wit enlivened many a country house, set at ease many a heavy dinner-table. Amid this varied throng attention was changed outwardly into respect when, met at the hall door by Lord Tullamore, and received on the very landing by Lady Charleville in her arm-chair, Lady de Ameland, who had in 1794 been obliged to lay down her title of Duchess of Sussex, walked in. Old Dr. Parr over his strange dinners at Hatton used to descant upon the noble qualities of this much-injured woman, who, he affirmed, had more royalty in her port than any of the English princesses. Beautiful as well as majestic, there was in her fine face, it is said, a trace of her ancestral relationship to Mary Queen of Scots: for she was lineally descended from the Regent Murray. Not far from this courteous and charming woman, Mrs. Fitzherbert’s marked, high features, and clear blue eyes, serene as if no thunder-cloud hovered over her head, might be recognized. Then, led in, came the graceful Lady Sarah Bunbury, with whom George III. had fallen in love as she was haymaking at Holland House, but now blind, aged, yet still displaying traces of former loveliness: she mixed among a generation new to her, and seemed among them like a memorial of past hopes, and interests, and disappointments.

Time rolled away. Lady Cork survived; Lady Charleville survived. Some of those who have thus been briefly enumerated, but whose separate histories would each form a subject of biography, had passed away. A fresh generation of authors, fine gentlemen, wits, poets, churchmen, and politicians waited upon Lady Caroline in her maze of white muslin at Melbourne House, or went to laugh at Lady Cork’s gray or pink or blue parties, or visited Lady Charleville in her decline, in respect and regret.

Tempora Mutantur.

In the early part of the reign of George IV. a sort of resuscitation of literature succeeded a long interval of intellectual darkness. Scott, indeed, has illumined the Regency, and never can the effect produced by his ‘Waverley’ be forgotten. Its appearance brought new life into society; new light to the study; a source of pure happiness to the young; a veritable consolation to the old. He was in the wane when ‘Pelham’ was produced. Previous to its appearance, its author, one of the most wonderful men of our time, had circulated amongst friends a volume of poems, among which was one addressed to ‘Caroline.’ This was to Lady Caroline Lamb. Her vicinity when at Brockett Hall to Knebworth; her opportunities of meeting the author of ‘Pelham’ in the society of her husband; or at Lord Cowper’s; or among a clique less distinguished for some other qualities than for wit; or at Lord Dacre’s and elsewhere; inspired her with sanguine expectations of that celebrity which has been so complete and so varied. She patronized and she admired the young poet, and she was his confidante in his attachment, his fatal attachment, to her whom he afterwards made his wife.

Little coteries were then formed at the house of Miss Benger in the far-off regions of Doughty Street. Miss Benger was among the first of those lady historians who, in spite of the lash of the author in ‘Fraser’s Magazine,’ ‘that women should not write history,’ have contributed much to our knowledge of the past. Without Agnes and Eliza Strickland, without Lucy Aikin, without Miss Freer and Mrs. Everett Green, and even without the humble and half-forgotten Miss Benger, how imperfect would have been our knowledge of female manners and of female influence in the middle ages! To women we owe the most readable biographical works of the day. Men deal better with history, but they are as much at fault in memoirs as in fashionable letter writing.

Those who remember the reading-room of the British Museum in the days of Sir Henry Ellis — that dingy room, in which one took leave of cleanliness and light when one put off one’s Miss Benger’s Evenings. clogs at the door — will recall Miss Benger — a thin, worn woman, more than middle-aged, with a sparkling eye, a countenance rather benignant than intelligent — the traces of poverty, but genteel poverty, in her dress, patiently reading through dusty tomes to compile her ‘Elizabeth of Bohemia;’ then, as the clock struck four, folding up her portfolio, and retreating, till regaining her umbrella, she found herself on the road again to Doughty Street

Her evenings were, however, enlivened by inexpensive, easy, willing company. Of these Lady Caroline Lamb was the pale and pensive star. Her perfect dress, correct in taste, though her fancy was so fantastic in other matters, her gentle, courteous manners, her title, her carriage, and the thunders of her two smart footmen, all gave success to the petits comites of Doughty Street. There Dr. Kitchener, a neighbour, dropped in; a useful, conceited man, the precursor of Soyer in his general views, a sort of Combe in cookery, with just and wholesome ideas founded on nature. There L. E. L.1 was first introduced to the literary circle of Doughty Stieet by a little woman in a turban, with sparse light locks, and faded gray eyes, and the slightest of all literary pretensions, Miss Spence — poor Miss Spence! — Lady Caroline’s shadow and worshipper — the friend of the kind Miss Benger, and of that woman of rare beauty and talent, whose fate the world then coupled with the author of ‘Pelham.’

1 Letitia Elizabeth Landon.

Sometimes the coterie removed to Little Quebec Street, where, in a small room up three stories. Miss Spence, in her invariable turban, welcomed the noted and the aspiring of the day. L. E. L., then a girl of seventeen; the author of ‘Pelham;’ such other young men as she could entrap to her tea and muffins — reviewers, chiefly, or dilettante authors; sundry old ladies calling themselves ‘ honourable,’ but with a gone-by demeanour; inferior professional musicians; and Lady Caroline Lamb, ever polite, ever well-bred, and seemingly unconscious that she was not in the circles of Holland House and Brockett; — these composed the circle.

These evenings composed the interludes between stately dinners and brilliant soirees; and the incense she met with from litterateurs, probably soothed Lady Caroline for a severe Forbidden to be an Authoress. vexation. After the excitement produced by ‘Glenarvon’ had subsided, her friends forbade her to write. Lady Caroline had written a small brochure called ‘Ada Reis,’ and wished to publish it with Murray. ‘All I have asked of Murray,’ she wrote to Lady Morgan, ‘is a dull sale or a still birth. This may seem strange, and it is contrary’ to my own feelings of ambition; but what can I do? I am ordered peremptorily by my own family not to write.’

One cannot but think that Lady Caroline’s family were not far wrong; yet descended, as she boasted, in a right line from the poet Spenser, from John Duke of Marlborough, and with all the Cavendish and Ponsonby blood to boot, she thought it excusable to be a little rebellious — since her ancestors were people of spirit; and then to be told to hold her tongue and not write by all her relations united — ‘what is to happen?’

Certainly poor Lady Caroline’s letters displayed at this time a mournful and lonely spirit. We do not cite, in support of this assertion, those touching though unequal verses printed in ‘Glenarvon,’ in which these lines seem to refer to her own unhappy attachment —

‘Weep for thy fault, in heart and mind degraded,

Weep if thy tears can wash away the stain;

Call back the scenes in which thy soul delighted.

Call back the dream that blessed thy early youth.’

We cannot rest on poetry, however rung from the heart, that pines and moans: a slight fact speaks more plainly. ‘I am returned from riding alone,’ she wrote one evening from Melbourne House, ‘to find myself in these large rooms alone; but I sent for some street minstrels to sing to me.’ ‘I would,’ she wrote to Lady Morgan, ‘we had stayed a few days longer: your head, with far more of genius, has much better sense in it than mine; and besides, you have a better temper, and you have gone through more, formed yourself more, seen the necessity of in some degree considering opinions, although, as for the matter of that, you have got yourself exiled, so that you have not sacrificed your principles to your interest.’

The life that had so much of excitement at one time, of melancholy at another, was not destined to be a long one. Four years before Lady Caroline Lamb’s death, Lord Byron Death. expired at Missolonghi, One would fain know with what emotions she heard of this event: whether the folly of her youth had passed away; or whether she viewed, in the solemn summons to this gifted man to quit a life he had not well employed, a warning, a call to the worldly, the thoughtless, to seek forgiveness and reconcilement where alone is mercy.

Lady Caroline died in 1828. Her husband became the Prime Minister of England. He never married again, and his title is extinct. The early death of his only son left no direct representative either of his talent or of her social virtues.

We regard Lady Caroline Lamb as the victim of a mistaken education. She had some talent, great attractiveness, and a gentle nature. But her mind was weakened by the worst sentimentalism; her time was wasted in brooding over her own feelings. The absence of domestic happiness, perhaps, made her more useful to the society which was essential to her than a happier woman would have been. She had good aspirations, but no judgment; literary tastes, but no foundation of careful and accurate study. Her letters are scarcely intelligible from their involved style, but they display kindness, candour, and refinement

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