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after dark. But one rainy and dark night the Countess of Buckenburgh, one of the German ladies, who was very fat, tripped and fell as she was walking home, and put her foot out of joint, and after that accident the Princess did not stay so late, but often had cards in the Queen's Gallery from nine till about half-past ten, to which she commanded a few of the inhabitants of the palace.
Sometimes, also, the Princess used to ask company to sup with her in the Countess of Buckenburgh's chamber. That lady, and indeed most of the German followers of the Court, detested the English, and were always loud in their abuse. On one occasion she declared before several English ladies that 6 English women do not look like women of quality, but make themselves look as pitifully and sneaking as they can; they hold their heads down and look always in a fright, whereas foreigners hold up their heads, and hold out their breasts, and make themselves look as great and stately as they can, and more nobly and more like quality than you English." To which Lady Deloraine, with a sarcastic reference to the countess's corpulence, replied, “We show our quality by our birth and titles, madam, and not by sticking out our bosoms.”
While the Princess received in the State Rooms, such of the ladies and gentlemen of the Court, as had not received the royal summons, made up parties in the private apartments of the palace to spend the evenings. Of these gatherings, Mrs. Howard's little supper parties were the most frequented and celebrated; and her apartments (which were known by her most intimate friends as the “Swiss Cantons,” and herself as “the Swiss,” perhaps on account of the neutral position which her prudence and discretion enabled her to maintain at Court) became the fashionable rendezvous of all the brilliant wits and beauties in the palace, to whom we have already referred, and who were attracted by her social talents and charms.
It was, indeed, a pleasant time, which long dwelt in the remembrance of those who took a part in its enjoyments. Of this we have many testimonies. Miss Howe, who was a maid of honour, and one of the wittiest of them, and cer-. tainly the greatest flirt at the palace at this time, thought that no other life was worth living. When she went away
REMINISCENCES OF MRS. HOWARD'S PARTIES. 367
to spend a month or two in the country, she wrote from her retreat to a friend : “One good thing I have got by the long time I have been here, which is, being more sensible than ever I was of my happiness in being a maid of honour. I won't say God preserve me so neither : that would not be so well.” It was to her that Pope addressed the lines in answer to the question, What is prudery ?-
''Tis a beldam Seen with youth and beauty seldom. 'Tis an ugly envious shrew
That rails at dear Lepell and you." Giles Earle, also, who belonged to Mrs. Howard's set, and afterwards became groom of the bedchamber to the Prince, writes to her the following summer, August 1oth, 1717, when the King and Prince were at Hampton Court together, saying, “Would to God I was at Hampton Court; I stupify myself by eternally thinking of that place.” And nearly twelve years after, Miss Lepell, in the meanwhile married to John, Lord Hervey, whom she used to meet at Hampton Court, dwells fondly on the reminiscences of the old days. She writes, in answer to a letter from Mrs. Howard from Hampton Court, as follows:
“The place your letter was dated from recalled a thousand agreeable things to my remembrance, which I flatter myself I do not quite forget. I wish I could persuade myself that you regret them, or that you could think the tea-table more welcome in the morning if attended, as formerly, by the Schatz [a nickname given to Lady Hervey when Miss Lepell]. .
“I pass my mornings at present as much like those at Hampton Court as I can, for I divide them between walking, and the people of the best sense of their time: but the difference is, my present companions [books) are dead, and the others are quite alive. If you would have the good nature to add, by your letter, the charms of Hampton Court to the pleasures of Ickworth, they will be received and acknowledged with gratitude by, dear Mrs. Howard,
“ Your faithful humble servant,
“M. Hervey." And in another letter to Mrs. Howard, a few days after, she says:
"My spirits, which you know were once very good, are so much impaired, that I question if even Hampton Court breakfasts could recover them."
Hampton Court, in the month of August, 1717, was again visited by the Prince and Princess of Wales and all their suite, as well as by the King. But the presence of his Majesty did not at all conduce to the cheerfulness of the palace. On the contrary, the endeavours of his son and daughter-in-law in this direction met with no encouragement, and, indeed, were entirely neutralized, by the overwhelming dulness which pervaded every place where George I. ever resided. Besides, he regarded with no sort of favour the efforts which the Prince and Princess were making to gather a Court about them, and to acquire popularity by their gaiety and condescension. Pope, who came to visit Hampton Court at this time, records his impressions of the dreariness of the life at Court in a letter to Teresa and Martha Blount, written on September 13th, 1717:
“I went by water to Hampton Court, unattended by all but my own virtues, which were not of so modest a nature as to keep themselves, or me, concealed ; for I met the
Prince with all his ladies, on horseback, coming from hunting. Mrs. B. [Bellenden) and Mrs. L. (Lepell] took me into protection, contrary to the laws against harbouring papists, and gave me a dinner, with something I liked better, an opportunity of conversing with Mrs. H[oward). We all agreed that the life of a Maid of Honour was of all things the most miserable : and wished that every woman who envied it had a specimen of it. To eat Westphalia ham in a morning, ride over hedges and ditches on borrowed hacks, come home in the heat of the day with a fever, and (what is worse a hundred times) with a red mark on the forehead from an uneasy hat ! all this may qualify them to make excellent wives for foxhunters, and bear abundance of ruddy complexioned children. As soon as they can wipe off the sweat of the day, they must simper an hour and catch cold in the Princess's apartment; from thence (as Shakespeare has it) to dinner, with what appetite they may ;-and after that, till midnight, walk, work, or think, which they please. I can easily believe no lone house in Wales, with a mountain and a rookery, is more contemplative than this Court; and as a proof of it, I need only tell you Miss L[epell] walked with me three or four hours by moonlight, and we met no creature of any quality but the King, who gave audience to the Vice-Chamberlain, all alone, under the garden walk.
“In short, I heard of no ball, assembly, basset table, or any place where two or three were gathered together, except Madam Kilmansegg's, to which I had the honour to be invited, and the grace to stay away.'
In the meanwhile the differences between the King and the Prince, which had been smouldering for some time, were now about to break out into an open flame. The exact GEORGE I.'S THEATRE IN THE GREAT HALL. 369 cause of the quarrel is unknown, but it is probable that the King conceived a jealousy of his son showing so much fondness for acting the king, and being so eager to win popular favour; while towards his daughter-in-law, whom he was accustomed to speak of as “cette diablesse la Princesse,” he had always nourished an inveterate dislike.
At any rate, after they had spent a couple of months with the King at Hampton Court, the mutual relations of the various members of the royal family became so strained that the Prince and Princess, with their attendants and adherents, retired altogether from the palace, while the King put a notice into the “Gazette ” that he would not receive at his Court anyone who should visit the Prince.
When the King came to Hampton Court again, in the summer of the succeeding year, 1718, the Prince held an opposition Court at Richmond. His Majesty's, however, was, for this one occasion at least, the gayer of the two; for he had ordered a theatre to be erected in the Great Hall, which was opened on the 23rd of September, with “Hamlet”; and on the ist of October “Henry VIII., or the Fall of Wolsey,” was represented on the very spot which had been the scene of the Cardinal's greatest splendour. Cibber, in his amusing “Apology for his Life,” remarks of the theatricals here, “This throwing open a theatre in a royal palace, seemed to be reviving the old English hospitable grandeur, where the lowest ranks of neighbouring subjects might make merry at Court, without being laughed at themselves.” “Still," as he goes on to observe, “a play presented at Court or acted on the public stage is a very different entertainment. For at Court, where the Prince gives the treat, and honours it with his own presence, the audience is under the restraint of a circle where laughter or applause raised higher than a whisper would be stared at. This coldness and decency,” he continues, " of attention at Court, I observed, had but a melancholy effect upon the impatient vanity of some of our actors, who seemed inconsolable when their flashy endeavours to please had passed unheeded : their not considering where they were quite disconcerted them ; nor could they recover their spirits till from the lowest rank of the audience some gaping John or Joan in the fulness of their hearts roared out their approbation.”