LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

My Friends and Acquaintance
Lady Blessington IV

Vol I Contents
Charles Lamb I
Charles Lamb II
Charles Lamb III
Charles Lamb IV
Charles Lamb V
Charles Lamb VI
Charles Lamb VII
Charles Lamb VIII
Charles Lamb IX
Charles Lamb X
Thomas Campbell I
Thomas Campbell II
Thomas Campbell III
Thomas Campbell IV
Thomas Campbell V
Thomas Campbell VI
Thomas Campbell VII
Lady Blessington I
Lady Blessington II
Lady Blessington III
‣ Lady Blessington IV
Lady Blessington V
R. Plumer Ward I
R. Plumer Ward II
R. Plumer Ward III
R. Plumer Ward IV
R. Plumer Ward V
R. Plumer Ward VI
Appendix vol I
Vol II Contents
R. Plumer Ward VII
R. Plumer Ward VIII
R. Plumer Ward IX
R. Plumer Ward X
R. Plumer Ward XI
R. Plumer Ward XII
R. Plumer Ward XIII
R. Plumer Ward XIV
R. Plumer Ward XV
R. Plumer Ward XVI
R. Plumer Ward XVII
R. Plumer Ward XVIII
R. Plumer Ward XIX
R. Plumer Ward XX
R. Plumer Ward XXI
R. Plumer Ward XXII
R. Plumer Ward XXIII
Horace & James Smith I
Horace & James Smith II
William Hazlitt I
William Hazlitt II
William Hazlitt III
William Hazlitt IV
William Hazlitt V
William Hazlitt VI
William Hazlitt VII
William Hazlitt VIII
Appendix vol II
Vol III Contents
William Hazlitt IX
William Hazlitt X
William Hazlitt XI
William Hazlitt XII
William Hazlitt XIII
William Hazlitt XIV
William Hazlitt XV
William Hazlitt XVI
William Hazlitt XVII
William Hazlitt XVIII
William Hazlitt XIX
William Hazlitt XX
William Hazlitt XXI
William Hazlitt XXII
William Hazlitt XXIII
William Hazlitt XXIV
William Hazlitt XXV
William Hazlitt XXVI
Laman Blanchard I
Laman Blanchard II
Laman Blanchard III
Laman Blanchard IV
Laman Blanchard V
Laman Blanchard VI
Laman Blanchard VII
Laman Blanchard VIII
R & T Sheridan I
R & T Sheridan II
R & T Sheridan III
R & T Sheridan IV
R & T Sheridan V
R & T Sheridan VI
R & T Sheridan VII
R & T Sheridan VIII
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It was shortly after her return to England that I was personally introduced to Lady Blessington by a mutual friend, and my acquaintance with her continued from that time till her departure from England a few weeks before her death.

At the period of my first introduction to Lady Blessington, she had just contributed to the New Monthly Magazine (then under the direction of her friend Sir Edward Bulwer) the “Conversations with Lord Byron,” and they had obtained her a reputation for literary talent, of which her previous efforts, two slight works entitled “The Magic Lanthorn,” and “A Tour in the Netherlands,” had given little or no promise. But these printed “Conversations” with Byron, characteristic as they are both of him and of herself, are flat and spiritless—or rather, marrowless—compared with Lady Blessing-
ton’s own viva voce conversations of him, one half-hour of which contained more pith and substance—more that was worth remembering and recording—than the whole octavo volume in which the printed “Conversations” were afterwards collected. In fact, talking, not writing, was Lady Blessington’s forte; and the “Conversations” in question, though the slightest and least studied of all her numerous productions, was incomparably the best, because the most consonant, in subject and material, with her intellectual temperament,—which was fluent and impulsive, rather than meditative or sentimental. After reading any one of her books (excepting the “Conversations,”) you could not help wondering at the reputation Lady Blessington enjoyed as the companion, on terms of perfect intellectual equality, of the most accomplished and brilliant writers, statesmen, and other celebrities of the day. But the first half-hour of her talk solved the mystery at once. Her genius lay (so to speak) in her tongue. The pen paralysed it, changing what would otherwise have been originality into a mere echo or recollection—
what would have awakened and excited the hearer by its freshness and brilliance, into what wearied and put to sleep the reader by its platitude and common-place. As a novel-writer Lady Blessington was but a better sort of
Lady Stepney or Lady C— B—. But as a talker she was a better sort of De Stael—as acute, as copious, as off-hand, as original, and almost as sparkling, but without a touch of her arrogance, exigence, or pedantry; and with a faculty for listening that is the happiest and most indispensable of all the talents that go to constitute a good talker; for any talk that is not the actual and immediate result of listening, is at once a bore and an impertinence.

I soon found, on becoming personally acquainted with her, that another of the attractions which contributed to give Lady Blessington that unique position in London society which she held for so many years, and even more exclusively and conspicuously after her husband’s death than before it, was that strong personal interest which she felt, and did not scruple to evince, on every topic on which she was called upon to busy herself,
—whether it was the fashion of a cap or the fate of nations. In this her habit of mind was French rather than English—or rather it was Irish—which is no less demonstrative than the French, and infinitely more impressible. Of French demonstrations of sudden interest and goodwill you doubt the sincerity, even while you accept and acknowledge them. They are the shining small change of society, which you accept for their pleasing aspect, but do not take the trouble of carrying them away with you, because you know that before you can get them home they will have melted into thin air. But there was no doubting the cordiality and sincerity of Lady Blessington, while their outward demonstrations lasted; which is perhaps all one has any right to require in such matters.

In giving a few extracts from my occasional correspondence with Lady Blessington, I cannot do better than commence them by one of the notes that I received from her at a very early stage of our acquaintance; because it will (in my own estimation, at least) exonerate me from the charge of any unwar-
rantable intrusion on private life in these public notices of one whose social celebrity at least had acquired a European reputation.

I am not able to call to mind the occasion of the following graceful note, except that it related to something which had appeared in a newspaper I conducted at that time:—

The Countess of Blessington to P. G. Patmore.
“Seamore Place, Friday Evening.

Dear Sir,—I do not think will —— —— feel any objection to the mention you have made of him. Of one thing I am quite sure,—which is, that neither he nor I could mistake the motive of any use made of our names by you.

“I am, indeed, sorry to hear that your connexion with the —— is coming to a crisis, if that crisis leads to a separation; because I wish well to the journal, and so wishing, must desire your continuance in it.

“I have been wishing to see you for some time, and shall be glad when you can make it convenient to call. I have reason to think that Mr. —— has been misrepresented to me. But more of this when we meet.

“Believe me,
“Very sincerely yours,
“M. Blessington.”

The two following letters relate to the subject glanced at in the preceding one. Circumstances make it proper that I should not dissipate the little mystery that involves them, further than to say that they refer to one of those literary intrigues which are met with even in the “best regulated” republic of letters:—

The Countess of Blessington to P. G. Patmore.
“Monday, Dec. 10, 1832.

Dear Sir,—Since I last saw you, I have heard nothing on the subject we then talked of. I have not seen the person who gave me the information I reported to you, and probably shall not for some weeks or months, as I do not see him often, and in the last six months have not seen him more than twice or thrice. Of the truth of the intelligence he gave me I
have not the slightest doubt, as during two years that I have known him I have never had the least cause to call his veracity in question, and I believe him incapable of any underhand or unhandsome conduct. As I know nothing of one of the parties, and have had no reason to think favourably of the other, I must give the preference of belief to the person of whom I entertain a good opinion.

“Believing Mr. —— to be incapable of deception or misrepresentation, I can see no objection to your seeking an interview with him, and stating your feelings. Mr. ——, in seeking a position which he was led to believe you were on the point of losing, violated no duty to you, as he was neither your friend nor acquaintance; but I am quite sure he would not seek the position had he not been assured that you are to leave it; and I am equally sure that he never addressed himself to Mr. —— on the subject, but that it was proposed to him by his friends, who represented themselves as being in Mr. ——’s confidence.

“I have now told you all I know. * * *


“I shall be glad to see you, to talk over more fully your future prospects, and remain,

“Dear sir, very sincerely yours,
“M. Blessington.”
The Countess of Blessington to P. G. Patmore.
“Seamore Place, Monday Night.

“Dear Sir,—I agree with you in believing that the whole story was a plot got up by the contemptible family in question, and that Mr. ——, who is, as far as I have had an opportunity of judging, an honourable well-intentioned young man, was the dupe of it.

“I wish, as an act of justice, to impress on your mind that Mr. —— behaved in the whole affair in a very gentlemanly manner; and it will give me pleasure to say as much for Mr ——. * * * * *

“I have such a dread of even the most remote contact with plotters and intriguantes, that I bless my stars I am no longer exposed to the vulgar observations of the persons who have already made free with my name. It will be my own fault if, after the experience I have lately had, I commit myself again.
* * * I shall be glad to hear that you are going on amicably, and, always anxious to be of use to you,

“Believe me, dear sir, sincerely yours,

“M. Blessington.”

The following notes relate to the same early period of my acquaintance with their writer. I make no apology for the seeming egotism of not expunging the personal compliments to myself which these and other of Lady Blessington’s notes contain, because my object in these Recollections is to mark the intellectual character and habits of the writer: and nothing does this more than little points of this nature.

The Countess of Blessington to P. G. Patmore.
“Seamore Place, Sept. 10.

“Dear Sir,—I have this moment received a very beautiful volume entitled ‘The Album Wreath,’ and beg you will do me the favour of making my acknowledgment to Mr. Francis, whose address I do not know. The present is enhanced, from the
circumstance of its coming to me through the medium of yourself, of whose health and prosperity it will always give me pleasure to hear.

“Believe me, dear Sir,
“Very sincerely yours,
“Marguerite Blessington.”

The following note marks one of Lady Blessington’s favourite studies—that of genealogy:—

The Countess of Blessington to P. G. Patmore.
“Seamore Place, Wednesday.

“Dear Sir,—A great mistake has crept into the notice of the death of Captain Lock.* He is stated to have been the grandson of the Duke of Leinster. This was not the case. The mother of Captain Lock was Miss Jennings, daughter of the celebrated Dog Jennings—so-called from having brought to this country the famous marble known as

* The singularly beautiful William Lock, of Norbury Park, who was drowned in the Lake of Como, in sight of his newly-wedded bride.

the Dog of Alcibiades. The brother of Captain Lock’s father, the late
Charles Lock, Esq., married Miss Ogilvie, daughter of the Duchess Dowager of Leinster. You have no idea how much importance people attach to such trifles as these, which after all are of no consequence. I happen to have so very numerous an acquaintance that I am au fait of genealogies—a stupid, but sometimes useful knowledge.

“I shall be glad to see you when you have leisure, and remain,

“Dear Sir, very sincerely yours,
“M. Blessington.”
The Countess of Blessington to P. G. Patmore.
“Seamore Place, Monday Evening.

Dear Sir,—By mistake I directed my note of Monday morning to Camden Hill instead of Craven Hill Have you got it?

“The forthcoming dissection of my ‘Conversations,’ announced, is said to be from the pen of Mr. ——; and I think it not unlikely, for he is a reckless person who has
nothing to lose, and who, if common fame speaks true, is a man
‘Who dares do more than may become a man,’
or a gentleman, at least. Having been at Genoa while we were there, he is probably hurt at not being named in the ‘Conversations.’ But the truth is,
Byron fought so shy of admitting the acquaintance to us, though we knew it existed, that I could say nought but what must have been offensive to his feelings had I named him.

“It was one of the worst traits in Byron, to receive persons in private, and then deny the acquaintance to those whom he considered might disapprove of it. This was in consequence of that want of self-respect which was his bane, but which was the natural consequence of the attacks he had experienced, acting on a very irritable and nervous constitution.

“I have letters from Naples up to the 2nd. Lord Bentinck died there on that day, and is succeeded in his title and fortune by his brother, Mr. Hill, who has been our minis-
ter at Naples since 1825 up to the appointment of
Lord Ponsonby.

“Very sincerely yours,
“M. Blessington.”

I will now give a few extracts from my later epistolary intercourse with Lady Blessington; the object I have in view in the choice of them being, like all the rest of these Recollections, to mark those features of her intellectual character which cannot be gathered from her published writings.

Though Lady Blessington’s poetical talents were not above mediocrity, she had a fine perception and an enthusiastic admiration of the poetical faculties of others, and never missed an opportunity of testifying her feelings.

The Countess of Blessington to P. G. Patmore.
“Gore House, June 14, 1844.

My dear Mr. Patmore,—I congratulate you on the charming poems of your son. They are indeed beautiful, and as fresh and original as beautiful. My friend Mr.
Procter had prepared me for something charming, but these poems, I confess, surpass my expectations, although they were greatly raised. I hope you will make me personally acquainted with the young poet when you and he have leisure. Believe me,

“My dear Mr. Patmore,
“Very sincerely yours,
“M Blessington.”

The note below refers to an inquiry I had been led to make relative to a criticism on “Chatsworth,” said to have been written by Lady Blessington, and attributing that work to my esteemed friend Mr. Plumer Ward, who had requested me to learn, if possible, whether the graceful and gratifying things said of him in the critique in question were really written by her.

The Countess of Blessington to P. G. Patmore.
“Gore House, July 6, 1844.

My dear Mr. Patmore,—I have no interest whatever in the —— —— beyond that of wishing it may prove a successful
speculation to the owner, the
Baroness de Calabrella, who is an acquaintance of mine. I have never written a notice of any book in the paper; and a few paragraphs of fashionable movements, communicated to the baroness at her earnest request, and without any remuneration, have been the extent of my aid to the paper.

“With a fervent admiration of Mr. Plumer Ward, be assured that, had an occasion offered, I should have expressed it. Believe me,

“My dear Mr. Patmore,
“Very truly yours,
“M. Blessington.”

Few readers will expect to find a work like Jerrold’s Magazine lying on the gilded tables of Gore House. But the following note will show that Lady Blessington’s sympathies extended to all classes:—

The Countess of Blessington to P. G. Patmore.

My dear Mr. Patmore,—I have been reading with great interest and pleasure your ‘Recollections’ of Hazlitt. They are full of
fine tact and perception, as well as a healthy philosophy. I wish all men of genius had such biographers—men who, alive to their powers of mind, could look with charity and toleration on their failings. Your ‘Recollections’ of him made me very sad, for they explained much that I had not previously comprehended in his troubled life. How he must have suffered!

“What a clever production ‘Jerrold’s Magazine’ is, and how admirable are his own contributions! Such writings must effect good.

“Very sincerely yours,
“M. Blessington.”

The following little bit of domestic history refers to a matter (the relinquishment of her house in St. James’s Square by the Wyndham Club) which reduced Lady Blessington’s income by five hundred a year. It may be here proper to remark that nothing could be more erroneous than the impressions which generally prevailed as to the supposed extravagance of Lady Blessington in her equipage, domestic arrangements, &c. There were few
more careful or methodical housekeepers, and probably no one ever made a given income go further than she did,—not to mention the constant literary industry she employed in increasing it.

The Countess of Blessington to P. G. Patmore.
“Gore House, Saturday, April 15.

My dear Mr. Patmore,—The house in St. James’s Square has been resigned by me to the executors of Lord Blessington, Messrs. Norman and Worthington, North Frederick Street, Dublin. They may be written to. Another party is in treaty for the house—a Sir W. Boyd; so that if your friend wishes to secure it, no time should be lost. There are about four years of the lease to expire. The rent paid for the house is 840l. a year, unfurnished and exclusive of taxes. The Wyndham Club paid 1350l. for it furnished. The furniture is now in a bad state, and the executors would let it either with or without the furniture, for the whole term, for little more than the rent they pay.

“I regret exceedingly to hear that you
have been unwell, and shall have great pleasure in an opportunity of judging that your health is quite re-established, whenever you have time to call at Gore House.

“Believe me, dear Mr. Patmore,

“Very sincerely yours,
“M. Blessington.”