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Memoirs of a Highland Lady: Waterloo and the Return to Edinburgh

A view of the battlefield from the Lion’s mound (which did not exist in 1819). On the top right are the buildings of La Haye Sainte. 

Waterloo (as seen in 1819)

And then we went to Waterloo. Oh, will there ever be another war! At first sight there was nothing, as it seemed, to look at, a wide plain under crop, a few rising grounds wooded, a hamlet or two, and the forest of Soigny. An old man of the name of Lacoste—an old cheat, I believe—in a blouse, striped night cap, and immense shoes, came up as a guide to all the different points of interest, and did his pan well, although his pretension to having been the attendant of Buonaparte during the Battle and his director in his flight was a fable. He took us up to the ruins of Houguemont, to La Haie Sainte, to the hollow with the paved road in the bottom of it where the Guards felt themselves so at home, to the wide mound raised by the heaps of the slain, to the truncated column of black marble erected to the memory of an hero. At this distance of time I do not remember all we saw, and I did not attend to all he told, mistrusting his veracity. The scene was impressive enough gazed on silently; and then to think of the terrour in Brussels, of the despair in the neighbouring villages, of the two armies individually and collectively, of the two Commanders and all that hung upon the strife so lately ended! This was but the fourth year after the victory, the world was still full of the theme, but there was little trace of the struggle left upon the ground it had been fought on. Fine crops of corn had been this very Autumn waving there, though the plough still turned up relicks of the eventful day. Monsieur Lacoste had a sack full of trophies he said had been found upon the field. The feeling of the people most certainly did not go with the victors. They hated the Union with the Dutch, they hated the Dutch King ruling over them; the habits and manners of the two ill cemented nations were totally dissimilar, and with the French they amalgamated readily. The Emperour really lived in their hearts, spite of the Conscription, spite of his defeat, spite of his crimes, as we may call the consequences of his ambition.

“The morning after the battle of Waterloo”, by John Heaviside Clark, 1816

The Return from the Continent

Here [Rotterdam] we had a great deal to do… All the mornings my father was packing his old China, quantities of which he had picked up here and there in the course of our wanderings, always dispatching his purchases to Rotterdam to await our arrival. So heavy was then the duty upon foreign porcelaine, it would have cost a fortune to have sent all this Collection home through the Custom House—it was therefore to reach us by degrees, a barrel of butter or herring or such commodities as these plates and dishes could be packed amongst was to be entrusted to our old friend the skipper of the Van Egmont every return journey he made, and positively most of these treasures in time reached us, the skipper not always taking the trouble to put them up as directed.

We had a stormy passage, a pitchy sea, the result of a storm just lulling, with a wind ahead. Even I who never suffer at sea, was ill enough for an hour or two… Instead of landing at Harwich, we were put ashore some few miles up the coast at a small village… Our inn was village like—clean beds its greatest luxury. After the palace hotels we had been accustomed to of late, the little ill furnished parlours, the closet bedrooms, and the inferiour style of establishment altogether in these English Country inns, made an unfavourable first impression… The first church I saw abroad struck me as bare, so cold, with so much white washed wall and so very little ornament. The first I saw again at home seemed only like an aisle of the others, rich enough in carvings, pillars, stained glass, and so on, but so confined so narrow, so small, all stuffed up with seats for dignatories. I missed the grand space that to the unaccustomed eye had seemed desolate… I felt as if there were not room to move in the Cathedral, Lincoln, after being but a mite in the one at Antwerp.

post chaise, 1815

We had all through travelled in two divisions. My father, my Mother and I and Ward. And William, Jane, Mary and the Courier. With him, however, we had parted at Brussels… The people everywhere had taken us at first for two distinct families. My father and I they supposed to be man and wife, and my Mother was his Mother in law. William and Mary were the Monsieur and Madame of the other carriage, and Jane the sister in law; not bad guesses. My father looked like my Mother’s son, and I looked far too old to be his daughter. William infinitely too old to be his son, and Jane and William were so alike they could not be mistaken for brother and sister. We were quite amused at all these erroneous impressions, and the younger ones eager still further to mystify our hosts and hostesses and my father in the front of the fun, but we saw soon that it seriously annoyed my Mother. She had no idea of acting Madame mere to the whole party, so we had to restrain our mirth when she was by.

Memoirs of a Highland Lady

‘I was born on the 7th May 1797 of a Sunday evening at No. 5 N. side of Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, in my father’s own lately built house and I am the eldest of five children he and my mother raised to maturity.’ Thus opens one of the most famous set of memoirs ever written. Since its first bowdlerised edition in 1898, they have been consistently in print. This is the first ever complete text. Written between 1845 and 1854 the memoirs were originally intended simply for Elizabeth’s family, but these vivid and inimitable records of life in the early 19th century, and above all on the great Rothiemurchus estate, full of sharp observation and wit, form an unforgettable picture of her time. The story ends with the thirty-three-year-old Elizabeth finding her own future happiness in marriage to an Irish landowner, Colonel Smith of Baltiboys. ‘A masterpiece of historical and personal recall.’ Scotsman

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Memoirs of a Highland Lady: Rotterdam and Mr. George Canning

Travels on the Continent

I cannot recollect much else that is worthy of note before our little tour upon the Continent. We set out in August, and were two months a half away. My father was not inclined for such a movement at all, it was probably very inconvenient to the treasury, but my mother had so set her heart upon it, he, as usual, good naturedly gave way. Johnny was to spend his holidays with the Freres. Miss Elphick went to the Kirkman Finlays, her parting was quite a dreadful scene, screams, convulsions, sobs, hystericks. The poor woman was attached to some of us, and had of late been much more agreeable to the rest; but she was a plague in the house, did a deal of mischief, and was no guide, no help. She had been seven years with us, so there was a chain of habit to loosen at any rate.

In the month of August, then, of this year 1819 we set out on our foreign travels, my father, my Mother, William, Jane, Mary and I; rather too large a party as we found when we had more experience, particularly as we were attended by a man, a maid, and a dog. The maid, a thoroughly stupid creature, and the dog, poor Dowran, went with us; the man, a black, and a deal too clever, joined us in Holland, for to the Netherlands we were bound. My father had always had a passion for Dutch and Flemish paintings, farming, buildings, and politicks; besides, he was so very kind as to wish to take me to the waters at Aix la Chapelle. I had been attacked in the Spring with the same sort of strange suffering that has fallen upon me several times since, at intervals, after any disturbance of mind, a failure as it seemed of all powers of body, the whole system paralysed, as it were, without any apparent cause other than that reserve of disposition inherited from my Mother, which threw all grief back inwardly while the outward manner was unchanged.

We embarked at Leith in a common trading vessel, a tub, with but moderate accommodation, the Van Egmont, bound for Rotterdom. Its very slow rate of sailing kept us nine days at sea; luckily the weather the whole time was beautiful… We all did our best to make them pass cheerfully. We watched the land, the sea, the sky, the day’s work. Our skipper was extremely civil; his mate, a merry scapegrace, inventing all sorts of fun to amuse every body; the fare was good, the Cabin clean, and living out on deck in the open air even I regained an appetite.

Rotterdam

We arrived in the very midst of the Kermess, the annual fair, the most favourable of all times for the visit of strangers. The wares of all the world were exposed for sale in the streets of booths tastefully decorated, lighted up brilliant at night, and crowded at all hours by purchasers from every province in the two united kingdoms, all in their best and very handsome and perfectly distinct attire. Like Venice, Rotterdam is built in the water, long canals intersect it in every direction, on which the traffic is constant; there are mere footpaths on either side, with quantities of narrow bridges for the convenience of crossing. The tall houses forming the street must have been goomy abodes, just looking over the narrow stream to one another. Outside they were gay enough from the excessive cleanliness observed, and the bright paint, and the shining brass knockers, and the old fashioned solidity of the building.

Rotterdam, 1857, by Rouargue

The excessive cleanliness was almost more to be admired than all else; it pervaded the habits of the nation throughout. The streets were daily swept, the pavements daily washed, the windows daily rubbed, the brasses daily brightened. Within it was the same; no corner left unvisited by the busy maid, the very door keys were polished, like the small bunches we keep in our pockets, cupboards, closets, shelves, not only spotless but neatly ornamental; white paper with a cut fringe, or white linen frilled, laid along under the shining wares they were appropriated to hold. Yet nobody seemed overworked. In the afternoons all the women were spinning or knitting, as beautifully tidy in their own persons as was all the property around them. There were no dirty children, even no beggars.

[The father]* left a curious will. He ordered his daughters to marry into the peerage under the penalty of forfeiting all share of their inheritance should any of them give herself to a Commoner. How absurd are these meddlers with the future.

George Canning by Richard Evans

I went with [my father] along the Bompjes [waterfront] under the trees by the side of the water, and reaching the part at which the Harwich packet landed the passengers, who should step ashore but Mr Canning—the only time I ever saw him. He and my father seemed glad to meet, and while they were conversing of I had an opportunity of correcting all my imaginary impressions of the great man. He was not so tall and much more slender than I expected. His countenance was pale, anxious almost, and certainly no longer handsome; the high, well developed forehead alone reminded me of the prints of him. He was travelling with his sick son, a boy of seventeen or so, a cripple confined to a Merlin chair, and supported in that by many cushions. An elderly, very attentive servant never left the invalid’s side, while another looked after the luggage and a carriage fitted up with a sort of sofa bed. They did not come to Badthouse, so we saw no more of them; but I could not forget them, and often after, when the world was ringing with Mr Canning’s fame, this scene of his private life returned to me, for he lost the son… Mrs Canning, the wife, was sister to the Duchess of Portland and the Countess of Moray. They were co-heiresses with very large fortunes, something like a hundred thousand pounds apiece; indeed I believe the eldest sister had more… [The father]* left a curious will. He ordered his daughters to marry into the peerage under the penalty of forfeiting all share of their inheritance should any of them give herself to a Commoner. How absurd are these meddlers with the future. Mrs Canning, of course, lost her fortune, but her ennobled sisters each presented her with fifty thousand pounds as a wedding present.

*Major-general John Scott, British army officer and Scottish politician, reportedly won a million dollars at whist at White’s.

Memoirs of a Highland Lady

‘I was born on the 7th May 1797 of a Sunday evening at No. 5 N. side of Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, in my father’s own lately built house and I am the eldest of five children he and my mother raised to maturity.’ Thus opens one of the most famous set of memoirs ever written. Since its first bowdlerised edition in 1898, they have been consistently in print. This is the first ever complete text. Written between 1845 and 1854 the memoirs were originally intended simply for Elizabeth’s family, but these vivid and inimitable records of life in the early 19th century, and above all on the great Rothiemurchus estate, full of sharp observation and wit, form an unforgettable picture of her time. The story ends with the thirty-three-year-old Elizabeth finding her own future happiness in marriage to an Irish landowner, Colonel Smith of Baltiboys. ‘A masterpiece of historical and personal recall.’ Scotsman

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Memoirs of a Highland Lady: The Last Winter in Edinburgh

1818-1819

Picardy Place, where the Grants spent their last winter in Edinburgh. FYI: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born at 11 Picardy Place in 1859.

Opinions on Nouveau Riche and Poor Relations

‘Uncle Adam,’ said she one day, ‘do you mean to leave Mary and me any thing in your Will?’

…Jane and I had spent a week… at Hermandstone, an ugly but comfortable place which Lord Gillies rented of Lord St Clair. I had been there before, and we were often there again, and when they were quietly leading a country life with only a few intimate friends visiting them, it was very pleasant. But when they had all their rich, grand, formal East Lothian neighbours, we young people hated going there. Lord Gillies was extremely fond of aristocratick company; the more grandees he could seat together at his very splendidly furnished table the better pleased he seemed to be. How often we see this in those of humble birth, as if the having risen to a place in that ‘charmed circle’ did not add a luster to it, when talents and probity such as his had been the passport. Mrs Gillies, well born and highly bred, took her position naturally, content with what contented him. Neither of them, for all this, ever neglected the poor relations. His one prosperous brother, the doctor and authour*, was never as kindly welcomed as poor William, and poorer, more primitive Colin. At this very time William Gillies’ three children found their home with their uncle Adam; for years they had had no other, the two girls going to the different classes while in Edinburgh, the boy placed first at the High School and then sent to the Charter House; and every Saturday when in town there was a dinner for the young family connexions, school boys and girls, and College boys, all made as welcome as the grandees, and appearing a good deal happier. Miss Bessy Clerk and others used to fear that young people like William Gillies’ children, brought up in such society, in a house so luxurious, would be spoiled for a ruder life, should such a change, as was most likely come to them. But it did not so turn out; the change did come, and they bore it perfectly. Robert the corn factor, Mary the Authouress, and Margaret the professional painter, have followed their different employments better than if if they had never had their intellects improved by their superiour education. The Authouress and the painter in particular benefited by the early cultivation of their taste, neither did I ever hear that Robert did less in Mark Lane because he was capable of enjoying in his Villa at Kensington the refinements of a gentleman’s leisure. Margaret was never agreeable, but she was very clever. She did not wait to be turned out of Lord Gillies’ house by his death or any accident. ‘Uncle Adam,’ said she one day, ‘do you mean to leave Mary and me any thing in your Will?’ ‘Perhaps a trifle,’ answered the Uncle. ‘Not an independence?’ pursued the niece. ‘Certainly not, by no means; these are strange questions, Margaret.’ ‘Necessary ones, Uncle. My father has nothing to give us; he has married a second wife. We shall have then to work for our bread some time; we had better begin now while we are young, have health, activity, and friends to help us. I go to London next week.’ She did, to her father’s, where she was not welcome; so she hired two rooms, sent for Mary, began painting dauby portraits while learning her art more thoroughly; and when I saw them in their pretty home at Highgate they told me they had never been in want, nor ever regretted the decisive step they had taken.** The friends were at first seriously displaced; but the success of the nieces in time appeased the Uncles, and both the doctor and Lord Gillies left them legacies.

*John Gillies (1747-1836) was, in fact, not an M.D.; he was an art historian who succeeded Principal Robertson as Historiographer Royal for Scotland.

Margaret Gillies, 1864

**Margaret Gillies (1803-87) earned a reputation as a miniaturist and water-colour painter. Her sister Mary, the author of many books for children (often using the pseudonym Harriet Myrtle), died in 1860.

Mrs. Siddons returns to the stage

But to see the great queen again we had never dreamed of. She had taken leave of the stage before we left London.

Mrs. Siddons

I think it was about May or June of this year that old Mrs Siddons returned to the stage for twelve nights to act for the benefit of her grandchildren. Henry Siddons [her son] was dead, leaving his affairs in much perplecity. He had purchased the theatre and never made it a paying concern, although his Wife [Harriet Siddons] acted perseveringly, and all the Kemble family came regularly and drew good houses. His ordinary company was not good; he was a dreadful stick himself, and he would keep the best parts for himself, and in every way managed badly. She did better after his death; her clever brother William Murray conducting affairs much more wisely for her, and certainly for himself in the end, slow as she was in perceiving this. Some pressing debts, however, required to be met, and Mrs Siddons came forward. We were all great play goers, often attending our own poor third rates, Mrs Harry redeeming all else in our eyes, and never missing the stars, John and Charles Kemble, Young, Liston, Matthews, Miss Stephens, etc. But to see the great queen again we had never dreamed of. She had taken leave of the stage before we left London. She was little changed, not at all in appearance, neither had her voice suffered; the limbs were just hardly stiffer, more slowly moved rather, therefore in the older characters she was the finest, most natural; they suited her age. Queen Catherine she took leave in. To my dying hour I never shall forget the trial scene; the silver tone of her severely cold ‘My Lord Cardinal,’ and then on the wrong one starting up, the scorn of her attitude, and the outraged dignity of the voice in which she uttered ‘To You I speak.’ We were breathless. Her sick room was very fine too. Then her Lady Macbeth, Volumnia, Constance—ah, no such acting since, for she was nature, on stilts in her private life. ‘Bring me some beer, boy, and another plate,’ is a true anecdote, blank verse and a tragick tone being her daily wear.

Memoirs of a Highland Lady

‘I was born on the 7th May 1797 of a Sunday evening at No. 5 N. side of Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, in my father’s own lately built house and I am the eldest of five children he and my mother raised to maturity.’ Thus opens one of the most famous set of memoirs ever written. Since its first bowdlerised edition in 1898, they have been consistently in print. This is the first ever complete text. Written between 1845 and 1854 the memoirs were originally intended simply for Elizabeth’s family, but these vivid and inimitable records of life in the early 19th century, and above all on the great Rothiemurchus estate, full of sharp observation and wit, form an unforgettable picture of her time. The story ends with the thirty-three-year-old Elizabeth finding her own future happiness in marriage to an Irish landowner, Colonel Smith of Baltiboys. ‘A masterpiece of historical and personal recall.’ Scotsman

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Mary Darby Robinson: The Mistletoe—A Christmas Tale

The Mistletoe—A Christmas Tale

By Laura Maria (Mary Darby Robinson)

A Farmer’s Wife, both young and gay,

And fresh as op’ning morn of May!

Had taken to herself a Spouse,

And taken many solemn vows,

That she, a faithful mate would prove,

In meekness, duty, and in love;

That she, despising joy and wealth,

Would be, in sickness and in health,

His only comfort, and his friend—

But mark the sequel, and attend.

This Farmer, as the story’s told,

Was somewhat cross, and somewhat old;

His was the wintry hour of life,

While Summer smil’d before his Wife;

He was both splenetic and crusty,

She, buxom, blooming, blithe, and lusty;

A contrast, rather form’d to eloy

The zest of matrimonial joy!

‘Twas Christmas time, the Peasant

Assembled gay, with dance and song,

The Farmer’s kitchin long had been

Of annual sports the busy scene;

The wood fire blaz’d, the chimney wide,

Presented seats on either side;

Long rows of wooden trenchers, clean,

Bedeck’d with belly-boughs, were seen;

The shining tankard’s foamy ale

Gave spirits to the goblin tale,

While many a rosy cheek grew pale.

It happen’d that, some sport to shew,

The ceiling held—a Mistletoe:

A magic bough, and well defign’d

To prove the coyest maiden kind:

A magic bough, which Druids old

In sacred mysteries enroll’d;

And which, or gssip Fame’s a liar,

Still warms the soul with vivid fire,

Still promises celestial bliss,—

While bigots snatch their idols kiss.

The Mistletoe was doom’d to be

The talisman of destiny!

Beneath its ample boughs, we’re told,

Full many a timid swain grew bold;

Full many a roguish eye askance,

Beheld it with impatient glance;

And many a ruddy cheek consest

The trimphs of the beating breast;

And many a rustic rover sigh’d,

Who ask’d the kiss—and was denied.

First Marg’ry smil’d, and gave her lover

A kiss—then thank’d her stars, ‘twas over!

Next Kate, with a reluctant pace,

Was led towards the mystic place/

Then Sue, a merry laughing jade,

A dimpled, yielding blush display’d;

While Joan, her chastity to shew,

Wish’d the “bold knaves would serve her so!

She’d teach the rogues such wanton play,”

And well she could, she knew the way!

The Farmer, mute with jealous care,

Sat sullen in his wicker chair;

Hating the noisy gamesome host,

Yet fearful to resign his post;

He envied all their sportive strife,

But most he watch’d his blooming wife;

And trembled, lest her steps should go,

Incautious, near the Mistletoe.

Now Hodge, a youth of rustic grace,

Of form athletic, mainly face,

On Mistress Homespun turn’d his eye,

And breath’d a soul-declaring sigh;

Old Homespun mark’d his list’ning fair,

And nestled in his wicker chair;

Hodge swore she might his heart command,

The pipe was dropp’d from Homespun’s hand!

Hodge prest her slender waist around,

The Farmer check’d his draught, and frown’d;

And now beneath the Mistletoe

‘Twas Mistress Homespun’s turn to go,

Old Surly shook his wicker chair—

And sternly utter’d,—“Let her dare!”

Hodge to the Farmer’s wife declar’d

Such husbands never should be spar’d;

Swore, they deserv’d the werst disgrace,

That lights upon the wedded race,

And vow’d, that night, he would not go,

Unblest, beneath the Mistletoe.

The merry group all recommend

A harmless life, the strife to end:

“Why not?” says Marg’ry, “who would fear

“A dang’rous moment once a year?”

Susan observ’d, that “ancient folks

“Were seldom pleas’d by youthful jokes.”

But Kate, who, till that fatal hour,

Had held o’er Hodge unrivall’d pow’r,

With curving lip, and head aside,

Look’d down, and smil’d in conscious pride,

Then, anxious to conceal her care,

She humm’d—What fools some women are!

Now Mistress Homespun, sorely vex’d,

By pride and jealous rage perplex’d;

And angry, that her peevish spouse

Should doubt her matrimonial vows;

But, most of all, resolv’d tomake,

An envious Rival’s bosom ache,

Commanded Hodge to let her go,

Nor lead her near the Mistletoe,

“Why should you ask it o’er and o’er?”

Cried she, “we’ve been there twice before!”

‘Tis thus to check a Rival’s sway,

That women oft themselves betray!

While, Vanity alone pursuing,

They rashly prove their own undoing!

About Mary Darby Robinson and this Painting

From the Wallace Collection:

Mary Robinson (1758-1800) was one of the best known actresses and writers of the 18th century. She was also one of the most painted and caricatured woman of the period. Having first appeared on stage in 1776, it was a later performance in The Winter’s Tale for which the actress became particularly famous; a part which earned her the nickname ‘Perdita’. It was in this role that Mrs Robinson first caught the attention of the Prince of Wales (later George IV), with whom she went on to have a brief but notorious affair.

This portrait was commissioned in 1781 by the Prince of Wales (later George IV). He had ended a brief affair with Mrs Robinson, who then sought financial compensation from him; after Robinson resorted to blackmail, he eventually agreed to a settlement in August of that year. Mrs Robinson is depicted holding a miniature portrait of the Prince (1735-1789), a gift from him during their liaison.

Gainsborough’s fluid brushwork and loose composition are particularly notable. The sitter appears to melt into the landscape, imparting a poetic dimension to the picture. Although it is recognised today as one of the artist’s masterpieces, he withdrew the portrait from the Royal Academy exhibition in 1782 after it was criticised for not conveying an exact physical likeness of the sitter, and was unfavourably compared to portraits of the same sitter by Reynolds and Romney.

The painting was presented to the 2nd Marquess of Hertford by the Prince Regent in 1818.

 

Memoirs of a Highland Lady: Queen of Sweden

The book Désirée  by Annemarie Selinko was one of the first historical fiction books I read. I loved the movie version of the book starring Jean Simmons and Marlon Brando. My favorite scene is when Désirée throws champagne on Josephine’s dress because she knows it will stain. (She should know, as the daughter of a silk merchant.) A close second is when she runs away and is thinking of jumping from a bridge when her future husband finds her and pretty much announces that they’ll be married. I guess that’s not the way it really happened, but I love it nonetheless.

So imagine my surprise when I’m reading Memoirs of a Highland Lady and dear Désirée appears!

Bernardine Eugénie Désirée Clary was the daughter of a silk merchant in Marseille, France. She was briefly engaged to Joseph Bonaparte and her sister Julie to Napoleon Bonaparte, but then they switched partners. Julie married Joseph Bonaparte and Napoleon eventually broke his engagement to Désirée to marry Josephine instead. Désirée instead married a General of France, Jean-Baptiste-Jules Bernadotte, who was eventually adopted by the childless King of Sweden as heir to the throne. Désirée did not enjoy living in Sweden and returned to France without her husband and son in 1811.

Jean-Baptiste-Jules Bernadotte

At one point she apparently fell in love with the French prime minister, but the affection was not answered by Richelieu, who referred to her as his “crazy Queen”. According to Laure Junot, she did not dare to speak to him or approach him, but she followed him wherever he went, tried to make contact with him, followed him on his trip to Spa and had flowers placed in his room. She followed him around until his death in 1822.

Elizabeth Grant writes:

On reading over my travels, I find I have left out a good many little incidents that in their due place would have materially lightened the rather meager narrative, but they are in themselves too trifling to stand alone in a list of omissions—excepting indeed two incidents which really should not be forgotten. Our dinner at the Dutch merchant’s at Rotterdam, for he kept his word that chance acquaintance of ours of the table d’hôte at Maestricht, and the singular behaviour of two people who, one or the other of them, crossed our path in almost every direction, the queen of Sweden and the Duc de Richelieu.

Bernadotte Eugénie Désirée Clary Bernadotte

She was the Wife of Bernadotte, once Mademoiselle Le Clerk of Marseilles. Monsieur de Richelieu had, ‘twas said, been her lover and she was constant still, age though detracting from her charms not having chilled her heart. He had tired of the business and he was now intent on flying, while she pursued. He had a light carriage and travelled post with small attendance and he must have had a staff of intelligence Agents all along the road besides, for frequently when he seemed quite settled comfortably in the same hotel with ourselves at different places, Aix, Liège, Spa, he would suddenly interrupt all his quiet arrangements, pack up and be off without leaving a trace behind and just get out of sight before the queen arrived in her more stately equipage, a well loaded Berline. Her stay was always short, her manners hurried, the many imperials were no sooner unpacked and carried up to her apartment than they were down again and replaced upon the carriage, and her Majesty and suite hastening after them, when away they rolled upon their fruitless search. While we were in the habit of encountering them, he had always the start of her, always escaped her. She was a pretty little woman, no longer young but well preserved, beautifully dressed and had something attractive about her air though he was not in the least dignified. It was odd altogether such proceedings in a queen, for there seemed to be no attempt at any concealment of the object of her cross journeyings, the enquiries concerning the pursued being quite open and most minute. We set the whole affair down to the account of foreign manners.

Armand-Emmanuel Duke of Richelieu

Memoirs of a Highland Lady

‘I was born on the 7th May 1797 of a Sunday evening at No. 5 N. side of Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, in my father’s own lately built house and I am the eldest of five children he and my mother raised to maturity.’ Thus opens one of the most famous set of memoirs ever written. Since its first bowdlerised edition in 1898, they have been consistently in print. This is the first ever complete text. Written between 1845 and 1854 the memoirs were originally intended simply for Elizabeth’s family, but these vivid and inimitable records of life in the early 19th century, and above all on the great Rothiemurchus estate, full of sharp observation and wit, form an unforgettable picture of her time. The story ends with the thirty-three-year-old Elizabeth finding her own future happiness in marriage to an Irish landowner, Colonel Smith of Baltiboys. ‘A masterpiece of historical and personal recall.’ Scotsman

Amazon

Memoirs of a Highland Lady: Resentment and Recovery

1815-1816

Had I been left in quiet, to time—my own sense of duty, my conviction of having acted rightly, a natural spring of cheerfulness, with occupation, change, etc., all would have acted together to restore lost peace of mind, and the lesson, severe as it was, would have certainly worked for good, had it even done no more than to have sobered a too sanguine disposition. Had my father’s judicious silence been observed by all, how much happier would it have been for every one. Miss Elphick returned to us in June, and I fancy received from my Mother her version of my delinquencies, for what I had to endure in the shape of rubs, snubs, and sneers and other impertinences, no impulsive temper suh as mine could possibly have put up with. My poor Mother dealt too much in the hard hit line herself, and she worried me with another odious lover. Defenceless from being blameable, for I should have entered into no engagement unsanctioned, I had only to bear in silence this never ending series of irritations. Between them, I do think they crazed me. My own faults slid into the shade comfortably shrouded behind the cruelties of which I was the victim, and all my corruption rising, I actually in sober earnest formed a deliberate plan to punish my principal oppressor—not Miss Elphick, she could get a slap or two very well by the way. My resolve was to wound my Mother where she was most vulnerable, to tantalize her with the hope of what she most wished for, and then to disappoint her. I am ashamed now to think of the state of mind I was in; I was astray indeed with none to guide me, and I suffered for it, but I caused suffering, and that satisfied me. It was many a year yet before my rebellious spirit learned to kiss the rod.

Our first three weeks at home [Doune] were very quiet, no company arriving, and my father being absent at Inverness, Forres, Garmouth, etc. on business. We had all our humble friends to see, all our favourite spots to visit. To me the repose was delightful, and had I been spared all those unkind jibes, my irritated feelings might have calmed down and softened my temper; exasperated as they continually were by the most cutting allusions, the persuasion that I had been most unjustly treated and was now suffering unjustly for the faults of others, grew day by day stronger and stronger, and estranged me completely from those of the family who so perpetually annoyed me. Enough of this. So it was, so it ever was, blame me who will.

[Edinburgh] A long illness beginning with a cold confined me there during the early part of the winter, and when I began to recover I was so weakened dear and kind Dr Gordon, who had attended me with the affection of a brother, positively forbade all hot rooms and late hours. It was a sentence I would have bribed him to pronounce, for I was sick of those everlasting gaieties, and with his encouragement and the assistance of a few other friends I was making for my self, I was able to find employment for time infinitely more agreeable than that round of frivolous company… My Mother did not at all approve of this secluded life. In heart she loved both dress and visiting; besides, she did not wish it to be thought that I was breaking my heart, or had had it broken by cruel parents. Spectre as I was, she really believed half my illness feigned.

By the end of February, this winter of 1816, I was able to indulge my Mother with my company even to a Ball or two. Though received by the world with as much indulgence as before, I had the prudence to dance little, generally sitting by Mrs Rose… There was one I seldom refused—no lover, but a most true and agreeable friend, the best dancer in Edinburgh, Campbell Riddell, who, the a younger son and very little likely to make a living at the Bar, a profession quite unsuitable to him, was the favourite of all the belles, and more than tolerated by the mothers. We were very happy, he and I, together, I was hardly so intimate with any other young man, and long years after when we met in Ceylon we both recollected with equal pleasure the days of our innocent flirtation.

1816-1817

Atholl Crescent in Edinburgh

Another friend I made this year who remembered to ask about me very lately, Adam Hay, now Sir Adam. He was Sir John Hay’s third son when I knew him. John died. Robert the very handsome sailor was drowned, so the Baronetcy fell to Adam… Adam Hay tried to shake my integrity; he advocated as he thought, the cause of his dearest friend, whose mother, dear excellent woman, having died, their sophistry persuaded them so had my promise. We had many grave conversations on a sad subject, while people thought we were arranging our matrimonial excursion. He told me I was blamed, and I told him I must bear it; I did add one day, it was no easy burden, he should not seek to make it heavier. His own sister, some time after this succeeded to my place; lovely and most loveable she was, and truly loved I do believe. Adam Hay told me of it when he first knew it, long afterwards, and I said, so best; yet the end was not yet. I had never had female friends, I don’t know why; I never took to them unless they were quite elderly.

Note: Sir Adam Hay was M.P. for Linlithgow burghs (1826-30). This tantalizing hint as to the identity of E.G.’s lover), alas does not appear to fit any of his four married sisters.

From Wikipedia:

Sir Adam Hay, 7th Baronet (14 December 1795-18 January 1867) was a Scottish baronet and politician.

He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Lanark Burghs from 1826 to 1830.

He was the brother of Sir John Hay, 6th Baronet (1788-1838).

He lived at 12 Atholl Crescent in Edinburgh’s West End.

From Wikipedia:

Campbell Drummond Riddell (9 January 1796 – 1858) was an Australian Colonial public servant who served as Colonial Treasurer.

Riddell was the son of Thomas Milles Riddell (d.1796) and Margaretta, née Campbell. He was the grandson of Sir James Riddell Bt who was created first baronet, of Ardnamurchan, Argyllshire, Scotland.

He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, but he did not take a degree. Upon joining the Colonial Service he served in Ceylon, where he met and married his wife, and later in Sydney, New South Wales where he served as the Colonial Treasurer.

After retiring from the colonial service he was appointed to the New South Wales Legislative Council. He also served as President of the Australian Club.

He died in England in 1858.

Memoirs of a Highland Lady

‘I was born on the 7th May 1797 of a Sunday evening at No. 5 N. side of Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, in my father’s own lately built house and I am the eldest of five children he and my mother raised to maturity.’ Thus opens one of the most famous set of memoirs ever written. Since its first bowdlerised edition in 1898, they have been consistently in print. This is the first ever complete text. Written between 1845 and 1854 the memoirs were originally intended simply for Elizabeth’s family, but these vivid and inimitable records of life in the early 19th century, and above all on the great Rothiemurchus estate, full of sharp observation and wit, form an unforgettable picture of her time. The story ends with the thirty-three-year-old Elizabeth finding her own future happiness in marriage to an Irish landowner, Colonel Smith of Baltiboys. ‘A masterpiece of historical and personal recall.’ Scotsman

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Memoirs of a Highland Lady: “the short romance which changed all things in life to me.”

In which our heroine discovers an ancient feud…

and becomes the victim of her parents’ shortcomings

The first year my brother was at College he made acquaintance with a young man a few years older than himself, the son of one of the Professors. His friend was tall, dark, handsome, very engaging in his manners, very agreeable in his conversation, and considered by all who had been employed in his education to possess abilities quite worthy of the talented race he belonged to. The Bar was to be his profession, more by way of occupation for him in the meanwhile than for any need he would ever have to practise Law for a livelihood. He was an only son. His father was rich, his mother had been an heiress, and he was the heir of an old, nearly bedrid bachelour Uncle who possessed a very large landed property on the banks of the Tweed. Was it fair, when a marriage was impossible, to let two young people as him and me pass day after day for months familiarly together.

When we all removed to Edinburgh William lost no time in introducing his friend to us; all took to him amazingly; he was my constant partner, joined us in our walks, sat with us every morning, was invited frequently as company and was several times asked to stay and partake of the family dinner. It never entered my head that his serious attentions would be disagreeable, nor my Mother’s, I really believe, that such would ever grow out of our brother and sister intimacy.

Then came Miss Baillie’s fête, and the poem in which I figured so gracefully. It was in every mouth, for it itself it was a gem, and I was so completely the genius of it, none but a lover could have mingled so much tenderness with, his admiration. On the poet’s next visit my Mother received him very coldly. At our next meeting she declined his now regular attendance. At the next party she forbade my dancing with him: after the indelicate manner in which he had brought my name before the publick in connexion with his own, it was necessary to meet so much forwardness by a reserve that would keep such presumption at a proper distance. I listened in silence, utterly amazed, and might in such perfectly submission habits of obedience had we been brought up, have submitted sorrowfully and patiently, but she went too far. She added that she was not asking much of me, for this disagreeable young man had no attaching qualities; he was neither good looking, nor well bred, nor clever, nor much considered by persons of judgment, and certainly by birth no way the equal of a Grant of Rothiemurchus.

I left the room, flew to my own little attick, what a comfort that corner all to myself was then and often afterwards to me. I laid my head upon my bed, and covering my face with my hands, vainly trying to keep back the tears… Long I staid there, half thinking, half dreaming, till a new turn took me, the turn of unmitigated anger. Were we puppets, to be moved about with strings. Where we supposed to have neither sense nor feeling. Was I so poor in heart as to be able to like today, and loathe tomorrow, so deficient in understanding as to be incapable of seeing with my eyes, hearing with my ears, judging with my own perceptions. This long familiar intimacy permitted, then suddenly broken upon false pretences. They don’t know me, thought I; alas, I did not know myself. To my mother throughout that miserable day I never articulated one syllable. My father was in London.

My first determination was to see my poet and inquire of him whether he were aware of any private enmity between our houses. Fortunately he also had determined on seeking an interview with me in order to find out what it was my mother had so suddenly taken amiss in him. Both so resolved, we made our Meeting out, and a pretty Romeo and Juliet business it ended in. There was an ancient feud, a College quarrel between our fathers which neither of them had ever made a movement to forgive. It was more guessed at from some words his mother had dropt than clearly ascertained, but so much he had too late discovered, that a more intimate connexion would be as distasteful to the one side as the other.

We were very young, we were very much in love, we were very hopeful. Life looked so far, it had been latterly so happy. We could conceive of no old resentments between our parents that would not yield to the welfare of their children. He remembered that his father’s own marriage was an elopement followed by forgiveness and a long lifetime of perfect conjugal felicity. I recollected my mother telling me of the Montague and Capulet feud between the Neshams and the Ironsides, how my grandfather had sped so ill for years in his wooing, and how my grandmother’s constancy had carried the day, and how all parties had ‘as usual’ been reconciled… These lessons had made quite as much impression as more moral ones. So, reassured by these arguments, we agreed to wait, to keep up our spirits, to give time to be true and faithful to each other, and to trust to the Chapter of accidents.

In all this there was nothing wrong, but a secret correspondence in which we indulged ourselves was a step into the wrong, certainly… One of these stray notes from him tome was intercepted by my mother, and some of the expressions employed were so starting to her that in a country like Scotland, where so little constitutes a marriage, she almost feared we had bound ourselves by ties sufficiently binding to cause considerable annoyance, to say the least of it. She therefore consulted Lord Gillies as her confidential advisor, and he had a conference with Lord Glenlee, the trusted lawyer on the other side, and then the young people were spoken to, to very little purpose.

What passed in the other house I could only guess at from after circumstances. In ours, Lord Gillies was left by my Mother in the room with me; he was always gruff, cold, short in manner, the reverse of agreeable and no favourite with me, he was ill selected for the task of inducing a young lady to give up her lover… He counseled me, by every consideration of propriety, affection, and duty, to give ‘this foolish matter up.’ Ah, Lord Gillies, thought I, did you give up Elizabeth Carnegie? did she give up you. When you dared not meet openly, what friend abetted you secretly*. I wish I had had the courage to say this, but I was so nervous at his knowing my story, so abashed at our conversation that words would not come, and I was silent. To my mother I found courage to say that I had yet heard no reasons which would move me to break the word solemnly given, the troth plighted, and could only repeat what I had said at the beginning that we were resigned to wait.

Lord Glenlee had made as little progress; he had had more of a storm to encounter, indignation having produced a flow of eloquence. Affairs therefore remained at a stand still. The fathers kept aloof—mine indeed was still in London; but the mothers agreed to meet and see what could be managed through their agency. Nothing very satisfactory. I would promise nothing, sign nothing, change nothing, without an interview with my betrothed to hear from his own lips his wishes. As if my mind had flown to meet his, he made exactly the same reply to similar importunities. No interview would be granted, so there we stopt again. A growing fancy early perceived might have been easily diverted. It was a matter of more difficulty to tear asunder two hearts too long united.

At length his mother proposed to come and see me, and to bring with her a letter from him, which I was to burn in her presence after reading, and might answer, and she would carry the answer back on the same terms. I knew her well, for she had always been kind to me and had encouraged my intimacy with her daughters; she knew nothing of my more intimate relations with her son. The letter was very lover like, very tender to me, very indignant with every one else, very undutiful and very devoted, less patient than we had agreed on being, more audacious than I dared to be. I read it in much agitation—read it, and then laid it on the fire. ‘and now before you answer it, my poor dear child,’ said this most excellent and most sensible woman, ‘listen to the very words I must say to you,’ and then in the gentlest manner, as a tender surgeon might cautiously touch a wound, rationally and truthfully, she laid all the circumstances of our unhappy case before me, and bade me judge for my self on what was fitting for me to do. She indeed altered all my high resolves, annihilated all my hopes, yet she soothed while she probed, she roused while seeming to crush and she called forth feelings of duty, of self respect, of proper self sacrifice, in the place of the mere passion that had hitherto governed me. She told me that although she had considered my education to have been in many respects faulty, the life I led frivolous and that there was much in my own unformed character to condemn, she would have taken me to heart as her daughter, for the pure, simple nature that shone through all imperfections, and for the true love I bore her son. She knew there was a noble disposition beneath the little follies, but her husband she said would never think so, never ever endure an alliance with my father’s child. They had been friends, intimate friends, in their School and College days; they quarreled, on what grounds neither of them ever had been known to give to any human being the most distant hint, but in proportion to their former affection was the inveteracy of their after dislike… My father had written to my mother that he would rather see me in the grave than the wife of that man’s son. Her husband had said to her that if that marriage took place he would never speak to his son again, never notice him, nor allow of his being noticed by the family. She told me her husband had a vindictive as well as a violent and a positive temper, and that she suspected there must be a touch of the same evil dispositions in my father, or so determined an enmity could not have existed… At their age she feared there was no cure… She said we had been cruelly used, most undesignedly; she blamed neither so far, but she had satisfied her judgment that the peculiar’ situation of the families now demanded from me this sacrifice; I must set free her son, he could not give me up honourably.… She said what she liked, for I seldom answered her; my doom was sealed; I was not going to bring misery in my train to any family, to divide it and humiliate myself, destroy perhaps the future of the man I loved, rather than give him or myself some present pain…

I told her I would write what she dictated, sign Lord Glenlee’s ‘renunciation,’ promise to hold no secret communication with her son. I kept my word; she took back a short note in which… I gave him back his troth. He wrote, and I never opened his letter; he came and I would not speak, but as a cold acquaintance. What pain it was to me those who have gone through the same ordeal alone could comprehend. His angry disappointment was the worst to bear; I felt it was unjust, and yet it could not be explained away, and pacified. I caught a cold luckily, and kept my room awhile. I think I should have died if I had not been left to rest a bit.

Adam Gillies, Lord Gillies (1760-1842)

*I searched in vain for any information about Lord Gillies’ illicit marriage to Elizabeth Carnegie. Lord Gillies was a Scottish judge (and somewhat of a hypocrite, it seems).

Memoirs of a Highland Lady

‘I was born on the 7th May 1797 of a Sunday evening at No. 5 N. side of Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, in my father’s own lately built house and I am the eldest of five children he and my mother raised to maturity.’ Thus opens one of the most famous set of memoirs ever written. Since its first bowdlerised edition in 1898, they have been consistently in print. This is the first ever complete text. Written between 1845 and 1854 the memoirs were originally intended simply for Elizabeth’s family, but these vivid and inimitable records of life in the early 19th century, and above all on the great Rothiemurchus estate, full of sharp observation and wit, form an unforgettable picture of her time. The story ends with the thirty-three-year-old Elizabeth finding her own future happiness in marriage to an Irish landowner, Colonel Smith of Baltiboys. ‘A masterpiece of historical and personal recall.’ Scotsman

Amazon