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LIFE AT GEORGE II.'S COURT DESCRIBED.
usual between the Princesses Amelia and Carolina ; Lord Grantham strolls from one room to another (as Dryden says), “like some discontented ghost that oft appears and is forbid to speak," and stirs himself about, as people stir a fire, not with any design, but in hopes to make it burn brisker, which his lordship constantly does, to no purpose, and yet tries as constantly as if it had ever once succeeded.
At last the King comes up; the pool finishes, and everybody has their dismission: their Majesties retire to Lady Charlotte and my Lord Lifford ; the Princesses, to Bilderbec and Lony; my Lord Grantham to Lady Frances and Mr. Clark; some to supper, and some to bed ; and thus (to speak in the scripture phrase) the evening and the morning make the day.'
Lord Hervey, who fills such a large space in the Court life of this period, was occupied, in the summer of 1733 at Hampton Court in other ways, besides attending on the King and Queen, and writing memoirs, letters, and Court verses. For, throughout the month of August, he was busy composing a satire, entitled "An Epistle to a Doctor of Divinity from a Nobleman at Hampton Court, August 28, 1733,” in which he sought to reply to the attacks made against him by Pope. There can be no doubt that he was most justly irritated by the way in which the poet, without any provocation on his part, had referred to him several times in his satiric pieces, under the opprobrious sobriquet of "Lord Fanny," laughing at his taste for versifying, hinting at his physical infirmities, and maligning, in the most odious terms, his friend Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. · The principal lines in which Hervey was aimed at, and which impelled him to compose his reply, were these :
The lines are weak, another 's pleased to say,
Lord Fanny spins a thousand such a day;' and, again,
“Like gentle Fanny's was my flowery theme." Accordingly, he set to work, with no very great prudence, to attack, in the heroic couplet, the poet who handled that form of verse with such masterly effect. But his lordship’s satire, though no doubt the best he could produce, was disastrously unequal to such a contest. In the whole epistle there are scarcely any lines of more vigour than the following, in which he disparages Pope's claims to be regarded as a poet on account of his translation of Homer's
“Such Pope himself might write, who ne'er can think,
What Dacier construed, and what Homer thought.” Such verse is indeed "impar congressus Achilli,” and is only worth remembering from the fact of its having drawn from Pope, in prose, the “Letter to a Noble Lord,” one of the keenest pieces of ironical writing in the English language, and in poetry, the terrible character of Sporus, perhaps the most powerful, and at the same time the most brutal, piece of satiric invective in the whole range of modern literature.
In the meanwhile Queen Caroline occupied herself with her various pursuits of art, literature, and gardening; and she took up, especially, with the prevailing fashion of landscape gardening, of which Kent, who was no better horticulturist than painter or architect, was the prophet and oracle. It was about this time, and we may assume through her influence, that the large plain lawns were substituted for the numerous fountains and the elaborately figured flower-beds of scroll-work and lace-pattern, in the semicircular parterre in the Great Fountain Garden.
The alterations were carried out in deference to the taste adverted to by Pope, in the “Epistle to the Earl of Burlington”:
“Tired of the scene parterres and fountains yield,
He finds at last, he better likes a field.” But Pope was a critic difficult to please; and though he himself contributed somewhat to bringing the new style into vogue, he was as severe in his condemnation of these plain grass plats as of the figured beds, which they superseded. Thus, in another couplet, he censures him who—
“One boundless green or flourished carpet views,
With all the mournful family of yews.” And, in a note of his own to this last line, animadverts on these "pyramids of dark green, continually repeated, not unlike a funeral procession.” How apposite was this criticism to the gardens at Hampton Court, will at once strike the reader on looking at the annexed plate, taken from a print published soon after the alterations were carried out, about the year 1736.
VIEW, LOOKING EASTWARD, OF THE DIAGONAL WALKS, IN THE GREAT FOUNTAIN GARDEN OF HAMPTON COURT, IN
THE TIME OF GEORGE II. (From an old engraving published about 1740.)
Again, in the same satire, Pope seems to point at these gardens, where statues of the fighting and the dying gladiators were placed, on stone pedestals, in the centres of the lawns :
“Ilere Amphitrite sails through myrtle bowers,
There gladiators fight, or die in flowers. It is fortunate, however, that the alterations were of this superficial nature, and that no attempt was made to follow every varying caprice of gardening fashion, which has ever been to destroy, in one generation, what the previous one " with incessant toil and hands innumerable scarce performed.”
After the death of Queen Caroline, which took place in November, 1737, we hear little of George II. and his Court residing at Hampton Court; and although it was not till the accession of George III. that the sunshine of royalty was permanently withdrawn, its decline in royal favour may be said to have begun from that time. Occasionally, however, George II. would come down to the palace to spend the day, especially in the summer on Saturday afternoons.
At other times the King would pass a few days here, though he never stayed long. The bedroom he occupied on these occasions still exists, pretty much in the state it then was; and in a room near it is the bed of crimson silk, which he used when last at Hampton Court, with his portmanteau placed at the foot of it. “ After dinner,” if we may believe Wraxall, “the King always took off his clothes, and reposed himself for an hour in bed of an afternoon. In order to accommodate himself to this habit, Mr. Pitt, when, as Secretary of State, he was sometimes necessitated to transact business with the King during the time he lay down, always knelt on a cushion by the bedside—a mark of respect which contributed to render him not a little acceptable to his Majesty. At his rising, George II. dressed himself completely a second time, and commonly passed the evening at cards with a select party."
As George II. grew older his temper did not improve, and when irritated by his ministers or attendants, he would kick his hat or wig about the room. With his grandson, afterwards George III., his anger sometimes became quite
OCCASIONAL VISITS TO THE PALACE.
uncontrollable; and once, in the State Apartments of Hampton Court Palace, he so far forgot his kingly dignity as to box the ears of the youthful heir of the throne. This insult, it is said, so disgusted George III. with the place that, according to his son the Duke of Sussex, he could never after be induced to think of it as a residence; and it is to this, therefore, that is due the fact that, since the death of George II., Hampton Court has never been inhabited by any sovereign of these realms, and that the history of Wolsey's palace, which for nearly three centuries had formed part of the majestic current of English national life, has, during the last hundred years or more, flowed in a quiet and uneventful channel of its own.
Previous, however, to the accession of the third George, the palace had gradually, as a consequence of the continued absence of the Court after the death of Queen Caroline, became more and more of a show place, to which excursions were frequently made from London and the neighbouring towns and country houses. At this period visitors were conducted through the State Rooms by the deputy-housekeeper, who, for her services, exacted a fee, the greater part of which found its way into the pockets of the lady housekeeper, whose post was consequently one much sought after and
very lucrative. Horace Walpole, who lived within three miles at Strawberry Hill, always took much interest in Hampton Court, and frequently came over to look at the pictures and study the architecture and archæology of the palace; and to him we are indebted for a number of valuable observations on these topics, elucidatory of its history, art, pictures, and curiosities, which have been duly noticed in the course of
He records also an amusing story of the Misses Gunning, the famous beauties, who, when the furore about them was at its height, could not walk in the streets or the park without being followed by hundreds of people; who found crowds collected at their door to see them get into their chairs; and whose rumoured presence at the theatre caused a run on the seats.
“As you talk of our beauties," wrote he to Sir Horace Mann on August 31st, 1751, “I will tell you a new story of