LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The “Pope” of Holland House
Lady Catherine Mackintosh to John Whishaw, 22 December 1814

Chapter I: 1813
Chapter II: 1814
Chapter III: 1815
Chapter IV: 1816
Chapter V: 1817
Chapter VI: 1818
Chapter VII: 1819
Chapter VIII: 1820
Chapter IX: 1821
Chapter X: 1822
Chapter XI: 1824-33
Chapter XII: 1833-35
Chapter XIII: 1806-40
Chapter XIV: Appendix
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Produced by CATH
Great George Street,
Thursday, Dec. 22, 1814.

My dear Sir,—I have this instant received your letter and have put aside the one I am writing to Mackintosh, that I may have time to tell you some more of the ex-Emperor’s conversation to Mr. Vernon and his friends Douglas2 and Fazakerley and other matters, an account of which I received from M. yesterday or the day before. I have begun giving my little details in two successive letters to Mrs. Smith and Miss Fox, and as they will probably

1 Lady Mackintosh was Catherine, daughter of J. Allen, of Creselly, a sister of Madame Sismondi.

2 The Hon. Frederick Sylvester North Douglas, only son of Lord Glenbervie—who had married the only daughter of Lord North, the Prime Minister. Through the influence of the Norths he was returned to Parliament for their pocket borough of Banbury, at the elections of 1812 and 1818. He soon became prominent as a fierce opponent of Napoleon, but was a Whig in domestic politics. He died in October, 1819, in his twenty-ninth year. He had inherited the classical attainments and playful humour of Lord North, and great expectations had been formed of his future career. For two years he was absent from England, and, after having visited Spain and Portugal, spent more than a year in Greece and Turkey. He published an essay on certain points of resemblance between the ancient and modern Greeks, which led Lord Byron to call him “The modern Greek.”

Napoleon in Elba
follow Miss Fox to Bowood, you will be likely to see the whole at once of what I have to communicate. My account is from Douglas, who went to the Gulf of Spezzia, and by Lucca and Pisa to Leghorn, where he embarked in a British sloop of war which brought him in twelve hours to Porto Ferraio. He sent a note to the Governor to inform him that Mr. Douglas, a member of the British Parliament, was desirous of the honour of being presented to his Imperial Majesty. In two days after he received an appointment to go to the Palace at eight in the evening. He found the house mean, a single sentinel at the door, who showed him to a kind of antechamber, of which the furniture consisted of a broken sofa and two chairs, lighted by one lamp with two burners of which one only was lighted. In a quarter of an hour Buonaparte came from an inner room; the ground floor consisting of only two rooms and the rooms above being occupied by the
Princess Pauline.

He overwhelmed Douglas with a rattle of questions about George III., but, in the manner of all sovereigns, did not wait for the answers, Douglas’s family, the place he represented in Parliament, the cause of his travelling, &c. He showed an unaccountable knowledge of the difference of Scotch and English law, and a most unaccountable ignorance of the most important parts of the British Constitution.

He thought the Peers had a right of nominating a certain number of members of the House of Commons, and that some Peers had the right of sitting in either House as they pleased. He said
Napoleon in Elba
that England had humbled France enough, by imposing upon her the yoke of the Bourbons without also wresting from her all her conquests, and that it was vain to think of compressing her within her ancient limits, “Que c’était comprimer l’air dans des bornes trop étroites qui échapperait avec le bruit de tonnerre.” “La France n’est pas épuisée; elle contient une jeunesse passionée pour la guerre; elle a 500,000 hommes accoutumés aux armes, un coup de vent s’élèvera du sein de la France qui bouleversera une seconde fois l’Europe.” (I trust his said Majesty is no more a prophet than a saint.) Then changing his tone and lowering his voice he said, “Mais cela me ne regarde pas. Je suis mort.”

This would have been effective from the mouth of a better man. He spoke with bitterness of the Emperor Alexander, whom he called fier et faux. We were right, he said, in supposing that there was a secret article in the Treaty of Tilsit by which it was agreed that Russia should immediately declare war against Great Britain. Douglas said (I think not very delicately) that he had met the Empress Marie Louise in Switzerland. Buonaparte made no answer, but as soon as Douglas mentioned the Princess of Wales as being of the party, he eagerly asked what was the truth of that strange story. On receiving general evasive answers, he said, “Il parait que vous aimez les vielles femmes en Angleterre. La Lady Hertford est elle véritablement la mère de ce Yarmouth que nous avons vu a Paris? Est il possible que votre Prince peut choisir de telles maîtresses dans un pays ou on dit qu’il y a de telles belles femmes.” You
Napoleon in Elba
see he talks en Turc, and has no idea that in his gross sense of the word Lady Hertford is probably no more the Prince’s mistress than the youngest and most beautiful woman in England, which is at least my opinion, and I believe is theirs whose opinion is rather more decisive on this double point of the morals of our ladies and the tastes of our Princes.

On Vernon’s1 saying that Metternich was “un bon politique,” Buonaparte said, “Non, mon cher, il n’est pas, il a de l’esprit, de l’esprit francois, il est aimable, mais il ment trop, il ne sait que mentir, on peut mentir une fois, meme deux, trois, mais on fini par etre connu, et on ne peut rien faire d’avantage.”

How well he seems acquainted with the theory as well as the practice of lying. You know, like the E.I.2 servants, he never told the truth if a lie did as well.

He asked Vernon about his travels. When he said he had been in Switzerland, he asked him if he had been at Coppet, and had seen Madame de Staël, and added, “She speaks as ill of the Bourbons as she did of me.” “No,” said Vernon, “she expects money from the Bourbons. You must allow, mon cher,” he replied, “that she is not an interested woman.” There was something generous in this reply.

He talked of his “military errors,” but could not

1 March 18, 1861. I dined on Sunday with Lady Waldegrave. George Harcourt (the “Vernon” of Lady Mackintosh’s letter) gave me an amusing account of the interview he and Fazakerley had with the Emperor Napoleon at Elba. (“More leaves from H. Greville’s Journal.”)

2 The East Indian.

Dr. Holland in Italy
number among them his confidence in Marmont, “A wretch to whom he had given bread from his childhood.”

Buonaparte has converted Douglas, who speaks with warmth of his gracious smiles, of his animated eloquence, and of his calm fortitude in his present condition, and with compassion of the meanness of his establishment.

Adieu, I will continue to-morrow; I must now resume my letter to M., who will be at home very shortly; he has swallowed so much of Paris that he is sick of it.

C. M.