The letters from George Eden to Lady Elisabeth Feilding, 1817-1820s
This article looks at letters which exist from George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland, to Charles Feilding and his wife Lady Elisabeth. Most of the letters are to Lady Elisabeth, and can be found in the Lacock archive, references 2664/3/3B/8, 10, 11 and 14. The letters are of great interest because they refer to current affairs, but are also friendly and sometimes flirtatious, which gives them further intrigue.
George Eden 1st Earl of Auckland 1784-1849.
1810-1814 MP for Woodstock In 1814 he succeeded to the title of 2nd Baron Auckland and took his seat in the House of Lords.
1830-1834 President of the Board of Trade and Master of the Mint.
1834-1835 and 1845-1849 First Lord of the Admiralty.
1836-1842 Governor General of India.
George Eden's History of Parliament entry can be found here.
Lady Elisabeth Theresa Feilding 1773-1846.
The mother of William Henry Fox Talbot by her first husband William Davenport Talbot. She married Charles Feilding in 1804 and they had two daughters Henrietta 1805-1851 and Caroline 1808-1881.
THE GOD BLESS YOU LETTERS (So named as that is how he ended each letter)
George Eden wrote to Elisabeth and Charles Feilding over a number of years and had a ready turn of phrase. This is just a glimpse into the correspondence that he sent to Elisabeth.
Excerpts from his travels
"The next morning I started with a Breton Courier who carries my portmanteau behind him and rode in about four hours to Chipes which really is very pretty as pretty as every place must be with rocks, coppice wood, a running stream, steep banks and a ruined castle. It is however a little defaced by a succession of proprietors who have indulged their taste from improvement by erecting Grecian temples and obelisks- But what I like in this county is the people. With high sugar loaf caps covered with broad white lapelles, with thick blue petticoats and red aprons and stomachers and waists as long as nature meant them to be the women if not very graceful are very picturesque and the men are dressed a little like Welshmen but with hats as wide as umbrellas- all come talkative and sociable and of those who are more than forty years old all have some story of adventures to tell and they do it general with great unaffectedness. - I left Chipon this morning at seven and arrived here at eleven and am now at breakfast eating eggs with a tablespoon which is great odds against the egg-"
"I’ve left Fontainebleau at eight and got to Orleans without incident or hindrance at ten at night. The post boys being very steady and the horses not very able and the roads detest-able, there was not an object of interest on the road except Monsieur de Maleshafes cha-teau which is now grown up with mauviases herbes not one manufacture of importance except that of lark pies at Pithiviers and they were out of season."
"Ever since I wrote to you I have been staying with the Comte de Colbert at Manlioere. He lives in the wing of a very fine chateau which was burnt in the Vendean war. They were really very pleasant and are the first French people I have thought perfectly estimable perhaps a little more ultra-royalist than quite suited me but not more so than is natural with people whose house has been burnt and property destroyed by the revolutionists.
I think I wrote to Fielding from Bagnere since that time I have been employed in making our house comfortable and have pretty well succeeded though we have still two or three rooms waiting for their bells and curtains. Our establishment consists of Mrs Wright, Robert, a cook whom I have taught to do without garlic, to boil potatoes a l’Irlandoise, to make hotch-potch to underdo beef and whom I hope to bring to the perfection of a plum pudding; before I had her she was tolerably acquainted with the dishes of this country- Then we have a fille who is learning to be a clean housemaid and is not yet quite perfect and Pierre who hews wood, draws water, waits on Bob and two horses and does everything that nobody else will do. In addition to all this there is an old attaché to the house who lived here forty years ago with the old demoiselle and who thinks fortunately that it is for the honour and that of the family that everything should be well and liberally done for us- we are a very babel of tongues. We have but little French spoken, but English, Basque and Bearnois in abundance."
"London is much as usual. I suppose people are making love as usual, in short all is as it used to be, Kean has run off with Alderman Cox’s wife. Henry Baring has grown jealous in his old age and has parted from Mrs Baring and means to proceed against Henry Webster."
"Lady Jersey has another daughter. The drawing room was put off last week, some say that the king was ill, others that he wished the young Conynhams to be present. He said to the Duke of Argyll “I quite like that young man; I have quite a parental sort of feeling to him.” “Much, the Duke of Argyll said “I suppose, as I feel towards my Jane”"
"Lord Londonderry and Cornet Bathyer have been out in Hyde Park, the cornet was unlucky and his pistol misfired and the affair has ended rather ridiculously than well for him.
Londonderry has an emu which has laid an egg and her gardener sent her word ”As your ladyship was not at home I put it under a goose”"
"Our greatest excitement has arisen from our Spanish Fancy Ball at Covent Garden with likely patrons and patronesses and with all the sway of Toryism most strongly acting against us which of course the Court and the Corp Diplomatique were supporting. Still however we succeeded and had the best and most brilliant ball ever seen, less full than it ought to have been, but full enough to send four hundred pounds to the Thermion’s (Trienio), who I confess are rather slow in making use of the musquets sent to them, yet I do not entirely despair that their climate, their mountains and there obstinacy will produce good at last, hopeless as it all looks at present- Lord Hartford gave the other day a grand theme boat party, Richmond with Jekyl on board, whose joke was to call him his much “steamed friend” He said too in the refreshment cabin that he was glad to see the Thames and the ices so well combined."
"It was funny the other day to hear some prosing naturalists discussing the fact in natural history that at one season in the year male goldfinches emigrate to one country and female goldfinches to another when Sydney Smiths most obstreperous voice exclaimed “That’s like Sir Humphrey and Lady Davy”"
"The Duke of Northumberland has had a serious quarrel with the Mayor of Newcastle- by ancient customaries the Mayor of Newcastle goes first from the dinner at the Mansion House. The Duke and the Duchess dined there. The Mayoress followed the old usage and went first, the Duke was indignant. The mayor a good honest tradesman wrote to explain and the duke wrote again and the mayor had the best of it and the end of the end is that Mrs Foster went first out of the room and the Duke is laughed at."
"Lansdowne was up all Sunday night attending at the Dukes particular request the Duchess of Kent’s accouchement. It was a comical scene. In the outer room, the door open, the poor lady groaning, the Duke of Wellington, two archbishops, Vansittant all dragged out of their beds and there they all were five hours when they had the honour of being presented to the new princess. The chancellor was not asked as it was a case that would not hear delay."
"The great gaiety of the week has been the fancy ball given by Lady Darnley at the Hanover Square rooms, which was really rather pretty though a little tiresome and much like what you have seen a hundred times. Lady Shelley as a peasant girl and Lord Nugent as a Turk and me as a courtier and Lady Castlereagh as Henry 8th."
"When I wrote last to you I was fighting off a water Party with the Duchess of Bedford but the weather cleared up and we set off very much expecting a vile rambling dinner, a noisy crowd and five guinea’s to pay for our amusements, to our great surprise we found fifty people assembled, a magnificent dinner prepared by the Duke of Bedford’s cook, all his servants to wait for us and everything as good and as fine as if we were at Woburn and as the Duke of Wellington was with us every soul in Greenwich was assembled under the windows to catch a glimpse at us. After dinner we all walked to the park where were tents and bands of music and tea and about ten thousand people who almost smothered us with curiosity and there we met and talked and walked till eleven and then rattled back to London and it was very pleasant. The best bon mot, I thought, was mine when some lady took off her spencer “That’s what they call white bait” I said."
"I will only try to amuse you with the incidents of the last two or three weeks. I think the most lively has been Lord Oxford’s letter to the patrons of a little society who wrote to ask him to be its president. It breaks in when the common cant of the day is to this effect- Sir I am both surprised and annoyed at your application, surprised because my well known character might have exempted me from such an application and annoyed because it compels me to enter into communication with you. I have been addicted to gambling. I have lately taken to the turf and I fear I frequently blaspheme and I never distribute religious tracts. All this was well known to you and the society and yet you have thought me a fit person to become your president. God forgive your hypocrisy! I would rather live in a land of sinners than of saints."
Lady Graham who had been two years separated from her husband left her reticule in a "shop and it was taken to Sir Bellingham’s house and found to be full of love letters from Punch Greville to her, these he read to everybody and talks of an action. At first it was supposed she had sent them in a fit of jealousy and all the world was furious with her. Now it is known to have been done by accident and Punch is supposed to have been harsh and cold to her (punch a la Romaine) and the world is furious with him, and in another week it will be all forgotten. Our last anecdote is of the Queen of the Sandwich Islands ,that she went out to buy herself some finery and came home with a fine pair of man’s attires in black velvet saying” See what a fine headdress I have bought”"
"Peel has been talked of for Lady Georgina Bathurst but it is not true- Frederick Douglas pro-posed in writing and ended “Do not speak to me but hold out your hand to me and I shall know that I am happy” He came into the room. She continued hemming her pocket handkerchief; he put his two hands to his face and was rushing out of the room. She jumped up took his hands and shook them violently. It was too much for him and he burst into tears. “Isn’t it pretty?” and if you could picture yourself the drama!!"
"The yacht people have been quarrelling about cups, it is supposed that the yachts will be all armed next year that they may fight their disputes more properly out- as it is, the only mischief done is that Lady Belfast cuts Lord Anglesea."
"I do little else but eat, drink shoot and play chess. It is wonderful to me how much Lord Henry loves it. The chess board is his mistress or rather the thirty pieces are his mistresses. The greater ones are those whom he loves and hugs to his heart, only sixteen of them, the pawns are the flirts whom he wins or loses without feeling any extremity of joy or pain-"
"Lord Byron is expected to arrive any day in this county- he is supposed to be coming to see the revolution of which Hobham has written him word and he will find us quiet with only now and then a few burglaries and robberies such as have been in all distressed times which the courier magnifies into insurrection movements."
Lady Hertford dined at Carlton House the other day and Lady Winchester and the Duchess of Clarence were asked to meet her and they sat of course next to the King who thus protected himself from reproaches. Mr Coke has an old claim to all the napkins at the coronation. Lord Cholmondeley told him there would be no napkins for him-“you shall go halves in all I get “said Mr Coke and Lord Cholmondeley is ……… himself before the council and everywhere in favour of Mr Coke and his napkins- Lord Worcester is very nearly done up- the Duke of Beaufort has tied up his estate from giving him any further relief. Lady Weymouth was married last Thursday and went to the Lyceum theatre and then got drunk with noyan- he sent off the entail to the estates for 25,000 and this is nearly spent already-"
Many of the letters are undated and therefore difficult to put into context. I have given a small taster below however contained in many of the letters are further thoughts on Parliamentary affairs.
1824. "Lord Liverpool has been in some danger as his pulse was low. They tried a speech in the House of Lords and a physician was in attendance but the pulse remained the same. He has since been to Bath with Lady Liverpool and has returned with a better pulse."
1819. "Politics have taken a lively turn in the House of Commons. Plunkett has been well exposed and punished. The Catholic question has been well shuffled off for it ought not to have been tried this year. Charles Wynne and Peel have squabbled with much anger and Canning has lost temper and proved himself utterly unequal to the situation. The Duke of Wellington perfection of bad writing is amusing as well as his appeal for money on the ground that if the liberal party here did but know how he was maltreated by the illiterals at perona, The opposition is still in want of good leadership and therefore of cooperation, the government still fighting off by expedients the difficulties of the day and doing nothing great or good, the Country gentlemen still in distress but more shabby and servile even than discontented, our finances still desperate, the House of Commons still noisy, the House of Lords idle and everything following its customary course. We had a debate upon Saturday with which I was not pleased, though glad to hear a cutting sarcasm of Lord Holland upon the Duke of Buckingham in an incidental comparison between him and Lord Fitzwilliam in which the courtly favour of one was finely contrasted with the universal affection and respect towards the other. We passed the first Insurrection bill- no one having read it- all lamenting its necessity if necessity did exist and all admitting the horrors to which it might lead. Holland and Lord Lansdowne did not quite agree but we had a division in which they coincided and we all voted for the shortest period possible."
"Our Irish politics are in a mess, The Catholic association working on quietly and formidably. The common people with full confidence in O’Connell and his friends and neither murdering nor burning nor rebelling. The Orangemen are in alarm at the unnatural quiet of the Country and wishing for the slightest insurrection as excuse for force. If anything is to be granted by parliament it will be granted in fear and it will be but little and will do but little good. Canning has prevailed in obtaining the recognition of independence for the South American states. The country is full of money and is in consequence mad about speculations. The best seem to be in South American mines which promise immense results and may alter all the pecuniary relations of society. The country is to be intersected with railways and we shall travel by steam in all direction at the rate of twelve miles an hour."
1820. "The Queen was begged the other day not to stay as long without eating something at the house. She said “No, but I should like to take a chop at the Kings Head on my way home". The Queen has this very day received addresses signed by 52,000 people so that the feeling against her is not diminished by the evidence yet."
1821. "The King sent to Liverpool and told him that he intended to make four new green ribbons. He answered that he would lay the proposition before the Council ”No you need not, I have settled it myself and given away three of them and you may have the fourth” So Lauderdale has the reward of his business- Their present quarrel is about the Chamberlains and they have declared they will resign if it is given to Lord Conyingham and they propose the Duke of Montrose.” Why the rascals come in” the King says ”because the Whigs would not let me appoint Lord Hertford” and so they squabble. - I am told the scene in the Abbey was comical enough. The King winking to Lady Conyingham and she doing the honours of it all- and he keeping a ring upon his fingers which she had given him and all this in the middle of the Communion Service and all the Bishops- and all the world paying court to her. It is very humiliating and disgraceful. In London everything seems to have succeeded in different parts of the Country the people rejected beef and beer and crowned girls for Queens and Jackapes for kings but altogether till the bills come in I should say that the success of the coronation has been complete and the journey to Ireland promises still more completely to turn the Kings head."
1822. "The King’s probable marriage to Lady E Conyingham is more and more the topic of conversation. He quotes Mr Cokes success as a precedent-"
1823. "The grounds for the trial of Captain Harris are amusing- The King was furious that the order of the 1st esprit reached the King of Portugal before that of the garter and remonstrated with the foreign office which laid the blame on the Admiralty which laid the blame on Mr Edward Thornton who found fault with Captain Harris who begged to be tried and laid the blame on all the others again."
Undated letters: "We have heard no more of our Court lately than if we had been living in a republic except perhaps that the King had had the gout on driving Lady Conyingham in his chaise at the cottage but he is now in London and there are rumours of balls at Carlton Palace."
"It was settled yesterday in the House of Lords that we should proceed in the Queens affairs on the 17th August, that all the press should be summoned and the defaulters will be subject to a heavy fine off to the Tower, consequently we shall have a merry August, but it is still possible that the Queen may ask for a delay and then we shall revert to our old plans. The witnesses against the Queen have arrived and we had a placard yesterday beginning with “Arrival of the Wretches”. The common people are prepared to disbelieve everything against her and the soldiers are inclined to favour her and unless the case against her is clear as the sun at noon day we shall have a stormy time of it in August, even in that case we were involved in such an awkward mode of proceeding that much must arise to excite anger and suspicion."
"Strange rumours from Brighton and probably none of them true but we hear that the Dean of Salisbury or Sir Knighton are not agreed which is making love to Lady Conyngham, that the King has turned from her to Lady Lowe that Sir Hudson is to be made Marques of Sir Helena, all of which is probably pure invention except that Lady Conyngham has certainly come rather suddenly to town and by her suspicious earnestness to account naturally for her arrival does not disarm remark."
I would like to finish with some personal remarks between George Eden and Lady Elisabeth Feilding. What the relationship between them was I shall leave the reader to decide.
1822: "I am delighted to hear you are coming and when I know the precise time for your arrival will make every disposition for your comfortable reception. Lady Selkirk will be out of my house at the end of the month and in the present difficulty of letting houses I think it will be strange if we have not one between us, so let me know what your prudery says to Grosvenor Street. At all events you must sleep in my sheets (which will tell but add to the world) for Richard tells me all your linen is locked up.
I was glad you felt some regret at leaving England and would preach as usual against the excess of foreign travel if I thought it could be of use."
1823: "Thank you for your last (letter), all of which I liked except that strong predilection for foreign parts which for the sake of you and yours as usual I lament- and as usual I remain in my old happy opinion in which I have no wish (if wrong) to be undeceived, that this is the best and the happiness spot on the face of the earth, though I confess the climate to be a little variable and the Tories to be too numerous but nothing is perfect in this world."
"Thank Fielding for his letter. I should not broken out into so violent a tirade upon foreign residences if it had not been for your letter in which you seemed to lay yourself out your perpetual exile."
"You never gave me any particulars of adventure on Vesuvius and though I have admired your courage and shuddered at your escape I should be able to do so much effectively if you would but describe the danger which menaced you."
Extracts from undated letters: "Thank you for your tender recollection of our last romantic walk in the forest- Pity it should have been sullied by erroneous opinions upon the non-residence of the Clergy."
"I wish I could penetrate your plans after the 10th of Oct if you have any, It is becoming absolutely necessary for me to settle days and hours and make engagements the result of all will be that I shall entirely miss you- The needle may be subject to variations but the Pole ought not to be unsettled"
"I do not like this non intercourse and do not see why you should not give me an occasional sign of life and recollection particularly as Lord Malmesbury’s brother always brings the letters to me myself. I have not anything to tell you that your imagination could not reach- you can see me in several places which you have hallowed to me and can be almost present to me – but old pitcher occasionally interferes with your idea. We are very merry and pleasant here but I feel that I sometimes want something and suppose that something to be you."
"My mind dwells upon last Tuesday morning as upon the happiest recollection of my life,
I have been obeying you by running over Le lasane du coin du feu and admire the Dukes address though I think that in real life he would hardly have been successful, now unhappily in real life would he with the temptation before him have drawn distinctions between love and passion, or even drawing them have hesitated to give all the necessary quantity of sincere possession. Nevertheless the temptation not before me and unsolicited I am ready enough to write to you the words “Je t’aime” and think the expression weak- but all this you know and I should not have written to you again but I like to think that I am with you at a quarter past eight o clock when I am sitting alone at my own coin de feu where except in imagination le husant has never favoured me-"
"Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and Friday and no letter. It is very difficult for me to write to you- I feel that I have much right to be offended with you but for the life of me I cannot act up to my right – I might retort upon you with justice I think some of your unkindness but I cannot spite of my reason muster one unkind thought or word against you – I had pictured pleasure to us both in meeting though but for a minute on Tuesday and I will not cease to anticipate this pleasure. Though I feel that over all this you have thrown a mist, which one kind word from you might dispel but which must otherwise cloud all that you would or used to wish warmest and brightest.
"Here’s my Moorish ditty which will not unluckily fit into your vignette but nevertheless with all its faults upon its head here it is:
Loves first kiss.
Oh yes twas worth ages of commoner blessing
That moment when parting still further to rove
I seized amidst blushes and struggles confessing
Thy tempest of feeling the first kiss of love
There seemed though you looked not as if to be pitied
A tear scarcely formed in each eyelid to name
An your soul had the seat of its empire quitted
And it hung on your lips and was mingled with mine
I’ve seen thee when passion more strongly was burning
I’ve held thee when sense was in rapture subdued
I’ve watched the first impulse of reason returning
And found it was nothing but fondness renewed
But still would I picture the form most beguiling
That ere roused the senses or beamed on the night
I would be thine when I held thee convulsively smiling
And matched from thy lips the first taste of delight"
"I have the room you had two years ago, I wish they had given me last years I am every-where reminded of you………. Do not say that you have been bad company or that I do not see your merits. You have been all perfection."
"Eyes now forget the gentle ray
They wore on Courtships early day
And voices lose the tome that should
A tenderness round all they said
Till first declining one by one
The sweetness of love are gone
And hearts so lately mingles seem
Like broken clouds or like the stream
That smiling left the mountains brow
As though kits waters ne’er could sever
Breaks into flood and parts for ever."
"How can you be so foolish as to let the nonsense of the friend who haunts me have weight with you for a moment. I thought you had more experience- She wrote me a letter some weeks ago full of some such absurdities and I put it into the fire and peace be to its ashes. And so will this slight but well deserved scold we will dismiss the subject."