The Story of Nell Gwyn/Appendix A.
ON THE CHRONOLOGY OF THE ENGLISH PORTION OF
DE GRAMMONT'S MEMOIRS.
"Every thing has its place," was Walpole's remark to Pinkerton. "Lord Hailes, who is very accurate himself, observed to me that the chronology of the Memoirs de Grammont is not exact. "What has that book to do with chronology?" Mr. Hallam has said something very similar to this, "The Memoirs of Grammont, by Anthony Hamilton, scarcely challenge a place as historical. Every one is aware of the peculiar felicity and fascinating gaiety which they display."
Differing (unwillingly) from Walpole and Hallam in the value they would appear to attach to chronological exactness, in works like De Grammont, and deeming chronology certainly of some, though of minor importance, let us see what can be done in reducing the facts into an historical order of time. I shall confine what I have to say to the English portion of the work—by far the largest part of the book, and unquestionably the most important. The author, it must be observed, sets out by informing us that he has no intention of observing chronological exactness:—
"I farther declare, that order of the time and disposition of the facts, which give more trouble to the writer than pleasure to the reader, shall not much embarrass me in these Memoirs. It being my design to convey a just idea of my hero, those circumstances which most tend to illustrate and distinguish his character, shall find a place in these fragments just as they present themselves to the imagination, without paying any particular attention to their arrangement. For after all, what does it signify where the portrait is begun, provided the assemblage of parts form a whole, which expresses the original?"
This is all very excellent; but readers like myself have been long accustomed to invest these entertaining Memoirs with something of the character of history; and if we can show, in spite of a few chronological excesses, that the events in the book may be brought within a very short compass of years—seven at the most—that their accuracy may be supported, if not by a "cloud of witnesses," by the unquestionable evidences of one or more admitted authorities; surely the book must rise in value, and even in the interest which it gives the reader: for, take it up in what sense we will, as an episode in History, or as a book somewhat akin to Kenilworth or Ivanhoe, the nearer it approaches to truth it becomes invested with additional interest, and may be made to take its place either on the shelf of history or the shelf of fiction, as the fancy or the inclination of the reader may choose to place it.
Sir William Musgrave, the great print-collector, had paid considerable attention to the chronology of the De Grammont Memoirs. "From many circumstances," he says, "the events mentioned in these Memoirs appear to have happened between the years 1663 and 1665." But this is evidently too restricted; and I shall now endeavour to show that the several events may, with very few exceptions, be confined to the period of De Grammont's residence in England, from May 1662 to October 1669.
The author has divided his work into eleven very unequal chapters. The first five relate only Continental adventures; and the last six, by far the largest part of the work, are confined to the Count's adventures and amours in the court of Charles II. The author is very particular, it will be seen, in the period of the Count's arrival. "The Chevalier de Grammont arrived about two years after the Restoration." . . . . "It was in the height of the rejoicings they were making for this new queen [Catherine of Braganza] that the Chevalier de Grammont arrived, to contribute to its magnificence and diversions." Now Catherine landed at Portsmouth on the 14th May, 1662, and on the 21st of the same month was married at Portsmouth to King Charles II. On the 29th, the bridegroom and bride arrived at Hampton Court; and on the 2nd June the lord-mayor and aldermen made their addresses to the queen at Whitehall, "and did present her with a gold cup, £1000 in gold therein." The court therefore arrived in London about June or July, 1662.
The event of the Count's arrival is related in Chapter VI., the earliest English chapter of the book; and the only other occurrence mentioned in the same division, is the duel between young Harry Jermyn and Giles Rawlins. This was in August 1662, Pepys describing the duel under the 19th of that month and year.
Chapter VII., like Chapter VI., has only two events to attract the chronological student—the splendid masquerade given by the queen, at which Lady Muskerry appeared in the Babylonian dress; and the period "when the queen was given over by her physicians." Editors hitherto have only helped us to the latter of the two events; but the former is of far more importance. A masquerade at cornet was too great an occurrence to escape either Evelyn or Pepys.
"2 Feb. 1664-5.—I saw a masq perform'd at Court by 6 gentlemen and 6 ladies, surprising his Maty, it being Candlemas-day."—Evelyn.
"3 Feb. 1664-5.—Mrs. Pickering did at my Lady Sandwich's command tell me the manner of a masquerade before the king and court the other day. Where six women (my Lady Castlemaine and Duchess of Monmouth being two of them), and six men (the Duke of Monmouth, and Lord Avon, and Monsieur Blanfort, being three of them) in vizards, but most rich and antique dresses, did dance admirably and most gloriously."—Pepys.
The queen was given over by the physicians in October 1663, when she was so ill that her head was shaved, and pigeons put to her feet.
The events in Chapter VIII., to which in this investigation it is necessary to allude, are, first, the audience of the Muscovite ambassadors; second, the period when Lady Chesterfield was packed from Whitehall to Bretby in Derbyshire; third, the period when Margaret Brook was married to Sir John Denham. "The Earl of Chesterfield was informed," says Hamilton, "that he was to attend the Queen at an audience she gave to seven or eight Muscovite ambassadors." Now when was this? Let us see what Pepys and Evelyn can do for us in this emergency:—
"29 Dec., 1662.—Saw the audience of the Muscovite Ambassr which was with extraordinary state, his retinue being numerous, all clad in vests of several colours, with buskins after ye Eastern manners: their caps of furr; tunicks richly embrodred with gold and pearls made a glorious show."—Evelyn.
"5 Jany. 1662-3.—To the King's Chamber, whither by and by the Russian Ambassadors come."—Pepys.
The arrival of the Muscovite ambassadors, though not the particular audience, thus satisfactorily settled, the next event in the same chapter is the period when the Countess of Chesterfield (the heroine of the Memoirs) was sent into the country by her jealous-pated husband, as the wits and gallants of the court chose to call a courageous earl, unwilling to wink at the dishonour of his wife. The cause of the Countess of Chesterfield's retirement was her open and very indiscreet conduct with the Duke of York.
"3 Nov. 1662.—He [Pierce] tells me how the Duke of York is smitten in love with my Lady Chesterfield; and so much that the Duchess of York hath complained to the King and her father about it, and my Lady Chesterfield is gone into the country for it."— Pepys.
This was, perhaps, only a temporary banishment; for if Hamilton's narrative is correct, and there is no reason to doubt its accuracy in this matter, she was certainly in town when the Muscovite ambassador had his audience of the queen, nearly two months after the period assigned by Pepys. But this was too interesting an event to be concise upon. Pepys has more to say:—
"19 Jany. 1662-3.—This day, by Dr. Clarke, I was told the occasion of my Lord Chesterfield's going and taking his lady (my Lord Ormond's daughter) from court. It seems he not only hath been long jealous of the Duke of York, but did find them two talking together, though there were others in the room, and the lady by all opinions a most good virtuous woman. He the next day (of which the Duke was warned by somebody that saw the passion my Lord Chesterfield was in the night before) went and told the Duke how much he did apprehend himself wronged, in his picking out his lady of the whole court to be the subject of his dishonor; which the Duke did answer with great calmnesse, not seeming to understand the reason of complaint, and that was all that passed; but my lord did presently pack his lady into the country in Derbyshire near the Peake; which is become a proverb at court, to send a man's wife to the Peake when she vexes him."—Pepys.
It appears from the books of the Lord Steward's office, to which I have had access, that Lord Chesterfield set out for the country on the 12th May, 1663; and from his "Short Notes," referred to in the Memoirs before his Correspondence, that he remained at Bretby in Derbyshire with his wife throughout the summer of that year.
None of the biographers of Sir John Denham tell us when his second marriage took place. But we must not look to printed books for every kind of information. We must extend our inquiries further, and may sometimes do so with success. Denham's marriage to Margaret Brook is recorded in the register of Westminster Abbey, under the 25th of May, 1665. Poor Miss Brook! She was cold in her grave, like Lady Chesterfield, before De Grammont had married Miss Hamilton, or the period I am seeking to assign to these Memoirs had well-nigh closed.
The death of Lady Denham, mentioned in Chapter IX., took place 6th January, 1666-7: still within the limit I have named.
"7 Jany. 1666-7.—Lord Brouncker tells me that my Lady Denham is at last dead. Some suspect her poisoned, but it will be best known when her body is opened to-day, she dying yesterday morning. The Duke of York is troubled for her, but hath declared he will never have another public mistress again, which I shall be glad of, and would the King would do the like."—Pepys.The lampoons of the day, some of which are to be found in Andrew Marvell's works, more than insinuated that she was deprived of life by a mixture infused into some chocolate. She "was poisoned," says Aubrey, "by the hands of the co. of Roc. with chocolatte." I cannot imagine for a moment to whom Aubrey alludes; not the Countess of Rochester, surely, for there was no Countess of Rochester at the time. A Key to Count Grammont's Memoirs (8vo, 1715) says that "the Duchess of York was strongly suspected of having poisoned her with powder of diamonds." But the question is, was she poisoned? Her body was opened, and at her own desire, but no sign of poison found. This curious piece of information, hitherto overlooked by all who have written on the subject, is contained in a letter from Lord Orrery to the Duke of Ormond, dated Charleville, January 25, 1666-7. His Lordship's words are, "My Lady Denham's body, at her own desire, was opened, but no sign of poison found."
The same chapter contains Miss Hobart's celebrated sketch of the principal persons at court: "to the best," she says, "of my knowledge, without injury to any one, for I abominate the trade of scandal." Of Aubrey de Vere, Earl of Oxford, Miss Hobart observes—she is addressing Miss Temple:—
Here is a good deal of confusion, to which further confusion has been added by the annotators. Roxana is a character in Lee's Rival Queens; but the Rival Queens was brought out at the King's Theatre, not the Duke's; and the actress seduced by the Earl of Oxford belonged, Hamilton tells us, to the Duke's Theatre. We are assured by the annotators, that the actress thus seduced was Mrs. Marshall, who acted Roxana in Lee's Rival Queens; but Malone had disposed of this belief in a note to one of Dryden's Letters; and it is very curious how Scott, who had Malone's edition of Dryden pretty well by heart, should have missed it when he was seeing his edition of De Grammont through the press. After disposing of Mrs. Marshall's claim, Malone makes a very near guess when he names Mrs. Frances Davenport instead:—
"The person seduced probably was Mrs. Frances Davenport, an eminent actress in the Duke of York's company, who was celebrated for her performance of Roxolana in Davenant's Siege of Rhodes, 1662, and in another Roxolana in Lord Orrery's Mustapha in 1665. She acted in Dryden's Maiden Queen in 1668, but her name is not found in any of the plays performed by the Duke of York's servants after they removed to Dorset Gardens in 1671, and Downes, the prompter of that playhouse, mentions it in his quaint language, that she was before that time 'by force of love erept from the stage.'"
The editor of the last English edition has had some idea glimmering in his mind that Roxolana, and not Roxana, was the lady seduced by the founder of the regiment still distinguished from his colonelcy as the Oxford Blues. He inserts, without remark, the following extract from Evelyn:—
"9 Jan. 1661-2.—I saw the third part of the Siege of Rhodes. In this acted ye faire and famous comedian, called Roxolana, from ye part she perform'd; and I think it was the last, she being taken to be the Earl of Oxford's misse, as at that time they began to call lewd women."
To this I must add that Pepys, as usual, comes in to support the accuracy of his friend and fellow memorialist:— "18 Feb. 1661-2.—To the Opera and saw The Law against Lovers, a good play and well performed, especially the little girls (whom I never saw act before) dancing and singing; and were it not for her, the loss of Roxolana would spoil the house.
" 2 April, 1662.—To the Opera and there saw The Bondman most excellently acted . . . Ianthe acting Cleron's part very well now Roxolana is gone."
"19 May, 1662.—To the Opera, and there saw the second part of the Siege of Rhodes, but it is not so well done as when Roxolana was there, who, it is said, is now owned by my Lord of Oxford."
"27 Dec. 1662.—With my wife to the Duke's Theatre, and saw the second part of Rhodes done with the new Roxolana; which do it rather better in all respects for person, voice, and judgment, than the first Roxolana."
The new Roxolana was Mrs. Betterton; the old Roxolana, "Lord Oxford's misse," either Frances or Elizabeth Davenport; for there were two sisters of that name on the stage of the Duke's Theatre at this time. I suspect, however, that the old Roxolana was the younger sister, Betty. The elder was on the stage in 1668:—
"7 April, 1668.—The eldest Davenport is, it seems, gone to be kept by somebody, which I am glad of, she being a very bad actor."—Pepys.
Now it appears from Lilly's Nativities in the Ashmolean Museum, that the Earl of Oxford's son by Roxolana was born 17th April, 1664, and Roxolana herself 3rd March, 1642. Whenever a new edition of De Grammont is again required (and a new one is very much needed), I hope to see no more confusion in this matter.
Chapter X. of the Memoirs is equally true to the chronology of history. Here we have the story of Lord Rochester's residence as a German doctor in Tower Street, and that famous adventure of Miss Jennings and Miss Price disguised as orange-girls. No one has told us when Rochester assumed the part of Alexander Bendo, and issued his bill detailing what he had done and what he could do; but there is reason to believe that it was before the 26th May, 1665, when he ran off with the heiress he subsequently married. Rochester was at the attack on Bergen on the 2nd August, 1665, at the great fight at sea in 1666, and married to Elizabeth Mallet, "the melancholy heiress," as Hamilton calls her, before the 4th February, 1666-7, when Pepys records his seeing them at court as man and wife. Hamilton connects the two events,—Rochester's City residence, and Miss Jennings and Miss Price's disguise as orange-girls. Pepys is silent about the German doctor, but Miss Jennings' adventure did not escape him:—
"21 Feb. 1664-5.—My Lady Sandwich tells me what mad freaks the mayds of honour at court have: that Mrs. Jennings, one of the Duchesse's maids, the other day dressed herself like an orange wench, and went up and down and cried oranges; till falling down, or by some accident, her fine shoes were discerned, and she put to a great deal of shame."
Hamilton's description is in keeping with the narrative in Pepys:—
"He [Brouncker] was, however, surprised to see them have much better shoes and stockings than women of that rank generally wear, and that the little orange-girl, in getting out of a very high coach, showed one of the handsomest legs he had ever seen."
Miss Jennings was not very likely to have made a second disguise of this description, so that we may assume fairly enough that Pepys and Hamilton record the same adventure. It deserves to be remembered that this Miss Jennings was afterwards the reduced Duchess of Tyrconnel, who sat at the New Exchange and played the part of the "White Milliner," an adventure still more notorious than her trip to the German, Alexander Bendo.
The visit of the Court to Tunbridge Wells, also described in Chapter X., must have taken place before the 3rd June, 1665, because Lord Muskerry, who was killed in the action of 3rd June, 1665, attended the Court on that occasion with his wife, the celebrated Babylonian Princess of the Memoirs, The Court was at Tunbridge in July, 1663, and again in July, 1666. Hamilton has confounded, I fancy, the two visits. Lord Muskerry and Nell Gwyn, he says, were both present. Now Lord Muskerry was dead before the second visit, and Nell was unknown when the first took place. Another historical event referred to in this chapter was the visit of the Duke of York to the city whose name he bore. This took place in August, 1665, A third is the death of Edward Montagu before Bergen, 2nd August, 1665; a fourth, the Duchess of York's amour with Henry Sydney, discovered while the Court was at York in August, 1665; and a fifth, the commencement of the Duke's partiality for Arabella Chm-chill, another consequence of his visit to the north.
In the same chapter we are told that Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, made love (love, shall we call it?) to a niece of one of the Mothers of the Maids. Her name is not given: she is only called Miss Sarah. She had some disposition, it is said, for the stage; and Hamilton tells us, that after Lord Rochester "had entertained both the niece and the aunt for some months in the country, he got her entered in the king's company of comedians the next winter; and the public was obliged to him for the prettiest, but at the same time the worst actress in the kingdom." This, the annotators tell us, was Mrs. Barry—"famous Mrs. Barry," as she was called; and we have a long, rambling, incorrect history of the lady in consequence. Surely, however, the description is not at all applicable to Mrs. Barry, who was so far from being the prettiest and the worst actress, that she was the ugliest and the best. Look at her portrait at Hampton Court in Kneller's large picture of King William on horseback! She was anything but pretty. "And yet this fine creature," says Tony Aston, "was not handsome, her mouth opening most on the right side, which she strove to draw in t'other way,"—a very indifferent account of the "prettiest actress."
But let us come to dates. When was Mrs. Barry born? She departed this life, her monument at Acton tells us, on the 7th of November, 1713, aged fifty-five years. She was, consequently, born in 1658, and was only eleven years old in 1669, the date of the last event related in the De Grammont Memoirs. Now Mrs. Barry came first upon the stage, there is every reason to believe, in 1674; and the events in the De Grammont Memoirs may all be said to have taken place (as I have shown) prior to October, 1669. Mrs. Barry's name was Elizabeth, not Sarah. "Miss Sarah" therefore was not Mrs. Barry. Who, then, was she? Unquestionably Sarah Cooke, an actress at the King's House, who spoke the prologue on the first night of Rochester's Valentinian, and the new prologue on the second night. She seems to have been but an indifferent actress, and her parts were generally restricted to prologues and epilogues. She is mentioned in the State Poems; by Dryden in a letter to Tonson; and by Sir George Etherege, not very decently, in a MS. letter now before me. Count Hamilton is not inexact in his chronology: it is his annotators who are wrong.
The eleventh and last chapter preserves the same historical consistency to the seven years over which the events recorded in the Memoirs may safely be confined;—the marriage of the Duke of Monmouth (20th April, 1663); the visit of the Court to Bristol in September, 1663; the birth of Henry Fitzroy, Earl of Euston and Duke of Grafton (20th September, 1663); the return of the Court to London (2nd October, 1663); the mention of the fitting out of the Guinea fleet in August, 1664; the expedition against Gigery in October, 1664; the marriage of La Belle Stuart in March, 1667; the duel of the Duke of Buckingham and the Earl of Shrewsbury (16th January, 1667-8); Lord Buckhurst's carrying off Nell Gwyn in July, 1667; the attack on Henry Killigrew, 18th May, 1669; and the marriage of Count Grammont to Elizabeth Hamilton in 1668. Here the Memoirs end, De Grammont returning to France with his wife and family in October, 1669.
I have thus reduced a book which, as Walpole says, has really nothing to do with chronology, into something like chronological exactness. A few events, however, still remain unnoticed,—such as the creation of the Countess of Castlemaine to be Duchess of Cleveland, somewhat antedated in the Memoirs, for the creation did not take place till the 3rd August, 1670; the intrigue of the Duchess with Colonel Churchill apparently placed some seven or eight years beforehand; the letter to Lord Cornwallis about his father-in-law, Sir Stephen Fox, which could scarcely have been written before the 27th December, 1673, when Lord Cornwallis married Sir Stephen Fox's daughter, and the reference in the last page but one to the publication of Ovid's Epistles, "translated into English verse by the greatest wits at Court;" when it is known that the earliest printed edition of Ovid's Epistles in English verse was published in 1680, sixteen years too late to have suggested to Miss Jennings her parody on the "Epistle of Ariadne to Theseus," addressed to the perfidious Jermyn, and containing a description of the perils and monsters that awaited him in Guinea. Perhaps, after all, no reference whatever was intended to a printed edition; and that the word published must be taken in its ordinary sense of circulated, though now commonly applied to what is printed:—and this, I see every reason to think, was the case.
The Count de Grammont, who died on the 30th January, 1707, is said to have dictated these Memoirs to his vivacious brother-in-law. "I only hold the pen," says Hamilton, "while he directs it to the most remarkable and secret passages of his life." This is in Chapter I.; in the eleventh and last chapter he says, "We profess to insert nothing in these Memoirs but what we have heard from the mouth of him whose actions and sayings we transmit to posterity." And a little farther on the same page he observes, "For my own part I should never have thought that the attention of the Count de Grammont, which is at present so sensible to inconveniences and dangers, would have ever permitted him to entertain amorous thoughts upon the road, if he did not himself dictate to me what I am now writing." No one has thought for a moment that De Grammont was, in point of fact, the author of the Memoirs which bear his name. His excellence as a man of wit was entirely limited to conversation. He is said, however, to have sold the MS. for 1500 livres; and it is added that when the MS. was brought to Fontenelle, then censor of the press, he refused to license it on account of the scandalous conduct imputed to the Court in a party at quinze, described in the third chapter.It is a somewhat singular omission on the part of all the English editors and annotators of De Grammont, that they do not tell us when the first edition of the Memoirs appeared. If the book was printed in De Grammont's lifetime, which the story of the license granted by Fontenelle to the Count himself certainly supposes, there must have been an edition before 1707, the year in which the Count died; whereas the earliest edition described by Watt, and, what is more, the earliest edition preserved in the British Museum, is an edition in 12mo., printed at Cologne in 1713. I am inclined to think that there is no edition of a prior date; and for this reason, that, had the book been published in the Count's lifetime, we should have had an English translation of it before that of Boyer in 1714, unquestionably the earliest English translation of the work. I was once willing to think that the publication had been withheld to that year from motives of delicacy towards many mentioned in the work, who were still alive. For instance, the Earl of Chesterfield, who makes so conspicuous a figure in the work, and Progers, another person not very delicately referred to, were both removed by death in 1713, the year in which the first edition was published. But this supposition is, I have since found, of very little value, for when the first English translation appeared, eight different persons particularly referred to in the work were still alive: Sir Stephen Fox and Sir Charles Lyttelton, both of whom died in 1716; Lady Lyttelton (Miss Temple that was), who died in 1718; the great Duke of Marlborough, who died in 1722; Mrs. Godfrey (Arabella Churchill) and Mademoiselle de la Garde, both of whom died in 1730; the Duchess of Tyrconnel (Frances Jennings), who died in 1731; and the Duchess of Buccleuch (the widow of Monmouth and the Earl of Cornwallis), the last survivor of Hamilton's heroes and heroines, who died on the 6th of February, 1731-2, in the eighty-first year of her age. To three ladies, Jennings, Temple, and Arabella Churchill, the Memoirs of de Grammont must have been a very unwelcome publication; and any delicacy that existed towards Lord Chesterfield must have been felt in a much stronger degree for the ladies who were still alive to remember and regret the follies and frailties of their youth. It is almost unnecessary to add, that the work attracted a great deal of attention at the time,—so much attention, indeed, that a tract, price two-pence, was published in 1715, called, A Key to Count Grammont's Memoirs, and Boyer's bald translation of the book was reprinted in 1719. If a "key" was necessary then, still more necessary is it now, for very few books stand so much in need of historical illustration.
- Walpoliana, vol. ii. p. 31.
- Hallam, Hist. of Lit., vol. iv. p. 604.
- Letters, &c. vol. ii. p. 319.
- Orrery State Papers, fol. 1742, p. 219.
- That of Bohn in 1846.
- I may add, that the next editor will do well to refer to Malone's note about the age of the Earl of Oxford, proving from indisputable evidence that Lord Oxford was seventy-five instead of being, as the annotators inform us, upwards of eighty at his death.
- There cannot, I think, be any doubt of the intrigue of the Duchess of York (Anne Hyde) with Harry Sidney, afterwards Earl of Romney, brother of Algernon Sidney and of Waller's Sacharissa. See on what testimony it rests. Hamilton more than hints at it; Burnet is very pointed about it in his History; Reresby just mentions and Pepys refers to it in three distinct entries and on three different authorities. But the evidence is not yet at an end. "How could the Duke of York make my mother a papist?" said the Princess Mary to Dr. Burnet. "The Duke caught a man in bed with her," said the Doctor, "and then had power to make her do anything." The Prince, who sat by the fire, said "Pray, Madam, ask the Doctor a few more questions." Spence's Anecdotes, ed. Singer, p. 329.
- Genest's History of the Stage, i. 157.
- State Poems, 8vo. 1703, p. 136.
- Malone, ii. p. 24.
- Addit. MSS. in British Museum, No. 11,513.
- Mr. Bolton Corney is also of this opinion (Notes and Queries, vol. iv. p. 261).