My Recollections by Adeline Horsey Countess Cardigan 1824 1915 Chapter XI: Random Recollections is in My Recollections by Adeline Horsey Countess Cardigan 1824 1915.
I am often asked by my friends if I can re-member any stories, grave or gay, about Society as I knew it, but I have never kept a diary or hoarded up any old letters, so I must rely solely on memory to come to my aid and help me to jot down some of my random recollections.
I have enjoyed my life thoroughly, and at eighty-four years of age I am still capable of entertaining my friends in both town and country. I can amuse myself with singing and playing; my business faculties are as keen as ever; I have a good digestion and can enjoy my dinner, heedless of any new-fashioned fads about food. I sleep as peacefully as a child, and my old friend Dr. Pink says I shall live to be a hundred ! I do not even feel old, perhaps that is because I know the secret of the joie de vivre. I have kept pace with the changing years, and not entrenched myself behind the past, and I think the gift of keeping young at heart is the most valuable asset in life.
The modern woman, who has her own particular club, may be interested in hearing about a certain "Parrot Club" which existed in the 'fifties. It had the smallest membership of any club, I should imagine, and its short history was in some ways an amusing one. Three ladies — Mrs. D— W, Lady P, and Lady K, had become rather tired of their husbands, and transferred their affections to three charming lovers, Lord Strathmore, Captain Vivian, and another gen- tleman whose name I forget.
As married lovers' meetings generally lead to the Divorce Court, one of the sextette hit upon the idea of renting a furnished house which would be a safe place for assignations. A house in Seymour Street Portman Square, was therefore taken, and it was afterwards, for some unknown reason, called "The Parrot Club"..
The arrangement answered splendidly for a time, as the ladies were all friends and their husbands never suspected them. Hence, each cheerfully believed that his wife's long absences from home were accounted for by shopping or theatre parties with one or other of her two friends.
The course of true love ran with great smoothness at Seymour Street until Lady K, who liked variety, commenced to change her lovers with such alarming rapidity that the other two members were obliged to ask her to resign.
Captain Vivian and Lord Strathmore still enjoyed Mrs. D W's and Lady P's society, but unfortunately the unexpected happened which terminated the club's existence. One morning Captain Vivian, who was smoking an after-breakfast cigar and possibly thinkinor of his next visit to the delightful "Parrot Club", was told by his man that Mrs. D W's maid had called with a letter from her mistress.
" I'll see her at once", said the Captain; the maid was shown in, and with a smile which betrayed intimate knowledge and infinite dis- cretion, she handed him a delicate little note. Directly John Vivian broke the seal and glanced at the contents, his face changed, and no wonder, for this is what he read:
" My dear Strathmore, — Come to Seymour Street at 3. I'll be all alone"..
Now, as the name Vivian bears no resemblance to that of Strathmore, there was only one possible interpretation of the matter, and the furious lover turned to the trembling maid and said fiercely:
"Your mistress gave you two letters to deliver; this is Lord Strathmore's. Where's mine?" In vain the girl protested that she had no other, but Vivian made her give up the note directed to him. He opened it and, alas for the duplicity of women, this is what it contained:
" Dear old Johnny, — Don't come to Seymour Street to-day, because I am spending the day with my mother-in-law"..
It is almost superfluous to add that the house in Seymour Street was soon " To Let", and that a crestfallen lady's-maid was looking for another situation.
Frances, Lady Waldegrave (18), was a very charming woman I knew in those far-off days. She was the eldest daughter of John Braham (66), the famous tenor, and she was married four times.
Her first husband was John James Waldegrave, of Navestock, Essex; and in 1840 she married George, seventh Earl of Waldegrave (23). In 1847 Lady Waldegrave (18) took as her third husband George Granville Harcourt (54), the eldest son of the Archbishop of York. The one love of her life, however, was Mr. Chichester Fortescue (16), and she married him as her fourth husband in 1871. Mr. Fortescue was afterwards Lord Carlingford, but the title became extinct in 1898.
When Lady Waldegrave was a young girl a gipsy told her that she would be married four times and leave her fourth husband a widower. The prediction came true, for she died in 1879, and Mr. Fortescue survived her.
After 1842 Lady Waldegrave (20) resided at Strawberry Hill with her third husband, and she was very fond of the place and its associations with Horace Walpole.
The Strawberry Hill estate and the Walpole Collection had been sold in 1842, but Lady Waldegrave was always trying to obtain any objects from it which came into the sale-rooms from time to time, in order that she might restore them to their old home.
She was a very handsome Jewess, with a perfectly fascinating manner, and she was a great favourite in Society owing to her infinite tact, which made her say and do exactly the right thing at the right moment.
She possessed a keen sense of humour, and one evening when she was at the Dublin theatre with Mr. Chichester Fortescue (18) a wag in the gallery who recognised her called out, " Arrah, my Lady, and which of the four husbands did ye like the best? " Without a moment's hesitation Lady Waldegrave (20) stood up and, turning in the direction of the speaker, called out with delightful sang-froid, " Why, the Irish one, of course". Loud applause greeted this rejoinder, and she was very popular in Dublin afterwards.
16 Jul 1864. Those days were rather noted for elopements, and two of my friends, Baroness Rose Somerset (35) and Lady Adela Villiers (36), were among the numerous romantic girls who were married in haste and sometimes repented at leisure. Florence Paget's (21) elopement with the last Marquis of Hastings (21) on the eve of her marriage with Henry Chaplin (23) is too well known for me to repeat the story.
The grandfather of the present Duke of Westminster had the reputation for being rather mean, notwidistanding his great wealth. A story was told about his once looking at a pair of trousers his valet was wearing and saying, "These are very good trousers, did I give them to you?" "Yes, my Lord", "Well, here's a shilling for you", said the stingy nobleman, "I'll have them back again"..
I often met Croker, the famous friend of Sir Robert Peel. I knew Sir Robert well, and I remember hearing the news of his death when I was driving in the Park on the day he was killed. His loss was greatly felt by the nation, for he had always been a great political personality, and he loomed largely in the mind of the people. Sir Robert Peel was painfully shy with strangers, which seemed very remarkable in a man who was always before the public eye. He excelled in all kinds of sports, and I have heard that he was unequalled both as a walker and a shot.
Lord and Lady Palmerston gave delightful parties, to which I was often invited. Lady Palmerston was a daughter of the first Viscount Melbourne, and she married the fifth Earl Cowper as her first husband. It was generally known that she had been Palmerston's mistress for many years, but she was a charming woman and proved herself an ideal helpmeet to him. Her manner was most genial, and she always appeared grateful to her husband's friends for their support. She possessed that peculiar art of making each euest feel that he or she was the one particular person she wished most to see; so the dinners and receptions of this perfect hostess were always very pleasant functions.
At one of her parties Lord Palmerston presented Lady Palmerston's son, William Cowper, to a foreign ambassador, who, not catching the name, looked at him and then at Lord Palmerston and said with a smile, " On voit bien, monsieur, que c'est votre fils, il vous ressemble tant ! " [Note. Losely translated "I can see that he is your son. He looks like you".].
John Lyster used to visit us at Upper Grosvenor Street; he was very wealthy, but he speculated and lost everything he possessed. He came to dine with us one evening, outwardly as charming and cheerful as ever, but the next day, before people knew he was ruined, he left England and went to America, and was never heard of again.
I remember often meeting Lady Charlotte Cadogan, who ran away with Lord Anglesey; they lived together for some years until Lady Anglesey divorced her husband, and he was free to marry Lady Charlotte. Lady Anglesey, who was a daughter of the Earl of Jersey, afterwards married the sixth Duke of Argyll, but she was a great invalid and quite a cripple during the latter part of her life.
My girlhood's friend, the Marquis of Granby, was very much in love with his cousin, Miss Forester, but as his father did not approve of cousins marrying, Lord Granby promised the Duke not to think of her as a wife. Miss Forester married the Earl of Bradford, but she and Granby indulged in a very romantic flirtation after her marriage, both posing as the unfortunate victims of a stern father's caprice. Lady Bradford did not like me and always snubbed me as much as she dared. One day at Melton I met her at Egerton Lodge when she was uncommonly disagreeable. Lady Wilton asked me to play and of course I willing complied. Lady Bradford and Jim Macdonald were sitting near the pianoforte, and under cover of the music I heard the heroine of Granby's blighted love affair say in languishing tones, "Oh, Jim, whenever I meet you I always take off my wedding ring and forget I'm married". Of course I was highly amused, and the next time I met Lady Bradford with Granby in attendance I could not resist saying quite innocently, " Oh, Lady Bradford, what did you mean the other day when you told Jim Macdonald that you always took off your wedding ring and forgot you were married when you saw him?".
It was rather mean of me, but I had not forgotten my undeserved snubbings from her Ladyship.
An amusing story was told me by a friend who, when crossing one of the " smart " squares, noticed that straw was being laid down on all sides of it. D was puzzled at the unusual sight, and said to the man who was putting down the last load, "Why are you covering all the square, is there a very bad case of illness?" "Well, sir, replied the man, the lady at No. -- has just had a child, and as four gentlemen have sent straw I thought it better to put it all down, so as not to favour anybody"..
I remember a lovely lady with a reputation for being rather more than a flirt once convulsing a roomful of people with her naive account of driving home with a well-known M.F.H. "Such an odd man", said the guileless one; "he didn't talk much, but at last he said to me, ' I think you ought to know I'm a married man.' " And yet she wondered why everybody laughed !
I remember meeting Lady Harriet Cowper, who first married Count d'Orsay when she was only fifteen years of age. The marriage was arranged by her stepmother, the famous Lady Blessington, who forced Lady Harriett to marry the man who was popularly supposed to be her own lover. Old Lord Blessington made a very liberal marriage settlement on his only daughter, but it really benefited the Count, and not his child bride. Their union was most disastrous and was almost immediately followed by a separation.
After Count d'Orsay's death his widow married Mr. Cowper, who owned Sandringham. She had one daughter by him, and her second matrimonial venture was a happy one. Lady Harriett was a most kind-hearted woman, and among her most charitable actions she endowed a home for twelve young working girls who needed rest and change.
I have been singularly free from illness all my life, but although I have met with accidents from fire and water I never experienced any ill results. I remember being once nearly suffocated through a faulty spirit-lamp which set the bedroom curtains alight, and I had to escape through dense clouds of smoke. Another time I was alone in my boat with my dog, who upset the boat just as I got into the boat-house, which was half full of water. I fell in up to my neck, but although I was hampered by my heavy serge dress I managed to climb up and hold on to a rail, by which means I gradually worked my way round to the door, and luckily was none the worse for my adventure.