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From Temple Bar. HORACE WALPOLE'S TWIN WIVES.
lively when she speaks," and the younger "agreeable, sensible, and almost hand
IT is generally and correctly-supposed that the brilliant cynic of Straw- Mary and Agnes were the daughters of berry Hill lived and died a bachelor. But Robert Berry, who began life with “ great there were two charming sisters who in expectations 99 from a maternal uncle later life he called his "wives," to whom named Ferguson; a Scotch merchant who his caustic pen was always gentle, for made £300,000, bought an estate in Fifewhose welfare he showed the most chival-shire, and married Miss Townshend of rous consideration, and who occupied his thoughts as constantly as Stellar and Vanessa did those of Swift, without their having to pay much of Stella and Vanessa's bitter penalty.
Some small portion of that penalty, indeed, fell on the sensitive and high-spirited Mary Berry and caused her acute pain. Envious and narrow-minded people professed to see mercenary motives in the friendship of a beautiful young woman for a septuagenarian, and were contemptuously incredulous of the intellectual sympathy which united them. As regards Horace Walpole himself, it seems possible that the suspicions of his jealous relatives had some foundation, and that for one brief moment he vainly urged Mary Berry to become the "wife" he loved to call her. If so, it does them both the greater honor that his loyal devotion never failed, from the meeting at which he "found her an angel," until, nine years later, she and her sister were the only comforters he desired by his deathbed.
Walpole's" sarcastic levity of tongue and frequent want of charity are familiar as household words; it is only fair to see him sometimes in the cordial and sympathetic mood which he showed consistently to Marshal Conway, Sir Horace Mann, and a few other friends, occasionally to some of his own family, but most warmly to the two favorite companions of his last years. As it is impossible to walk through the rich woods of Mapledurham without seeing in "the mind's eye " Pope loitering by the side of his
Fair-haired Martha and Theresa brown,
so the bowery gardens of Strawberry Hill, by the same winding Thames, are haunted by the spare form of Horace Walpole, with his keen face and observant eyes, attended by the graceful sisters the elder "sweet, with fine dark eyes that are very
Honnington Hall, but could never be persuaded to leave his gloomy house of busi ness in Austin Friars. Mr. Ferguson had no children, and his elder nephew, whom he sent to college, "bred to the law," and then despatched on a continental tour, was naturally regarded as his heir. But Robert displeased his uncle by marrying a portionless daughter of the Yorkshire Setons, and further disappointed him by having no sons himself, and by refusing to marry again immediately, when his beautiful young wife died in 1767, after four happy years.
Of my mother [writes Miss Berry] I have only the idea of having seen a tall, thin young woman in a pea-green gown, seated in a chair, seeming unwell, from whom I was sent away to play elsewhere. Of my own irreparable loss I never acquired a just idea till some years after, when my father told us that my mother, on hearing some one say I was a fine child and they hoped I should be handsome, replied, "All she prayed to Heaven for her child was that it might receive a vigorous understanding." This prayer of a mother of eighteen for her first daughter impressed on my mind all I must have lost in such a parent.*
Thenceforward Mr. Ferguson chose to consider as his heir William Berry, who married a rich wife of the house of Crawford, had two sons, and was “a sharp lad a mercantile training," altogether better suited to Austin Friars than his literary and indolent elder brother. An allowance of three hundred pounds a year was made to Robert, and
He was allowed to sink into the state of a disinherited man, without any of the pity such a state generally inspires. While yet a mere child [writes his daughter Mary] I suffered in spirits from the little privations his very narrow income entailed on us; every expense of
* Journals and Correspondence of Miss Berry, 17831852, vol. i., p. 5; edited by Lady Theresa Lewis. Longmans, 1866.
education was denied us, and all the thought lessness of youth was lost in the continual complaints I heard and difficulties I saw. . From my father's disposition his children had little to hope or to depend on, for he was quite as little careful about our future prospects and success as he could ever have been about his own.
When Mary and Agnes were twelve and eleven, the extreme precocity of his elder daughter led Mr. Berry to suppose that the cost of a governess could be dispensed with, and the sisters were left to their own devices,
To be as idle and read what books we pleased; for neither of us had the least religious education been at all thought of. It was the age of Voltaire, and his doctrines had been adopted by all the soi-disant Scotch wits. My dear grandmother, indeed, made me read the Psalms and chapters every morning, but as neither comment nor explanation of their history was given, I hated the duty and escaped it when I could. In 1774 my grandmother took me to visit Mr. Loveday, at Caversham, Berks, an old Tory country gentleman who had married a cousin of hers.
He saw much of all the clergymen in his neighborhood. At dinner the first toast was always" Church and King; "the second, "To the flourishing of the two Universities; the third, "To Maudlin College," where he had been educated. He was an accomplished scholar, and delighted to find me apt in recalling to his mind passages from the Roman poets.
In 1781 Mr. Ferguson died, aged ninetythree; William Berry inherited £300,000 in the funds and the Scotch estate of £4,000 a year, whilst Robert only received £10,000. William then settled a thousand a year on his brother, and Robert celebrated his improved circumstances by taking his daughters for a tour in England and a long visit to the Crawfords in Rotterdam, after which they went up the Rhine to Switzerland, and thence to Italy. From this period Mary Berry dates the awakening of her mind and the formation
of her character.
that I had to lead those who ought to have led me; that I must be a protecting mother instead of a gay companion to my sister, and to my father a guide and monitor, instead of finding in him a tutor and protector.
One cannot but suspect that the melancholy temperament, of which Miss Berry makes frequent and full confession, led her to exaggerate the disadvantages of her early years
or at all events their
lasting effects; for her success when she did enter society was marked and instantaneous. She and her sister were amongst the few English women who, without superlative rank, beauty, intellect, or wealth, held a salon to which the possessors of these advantages constantly crowded. For half a century they knew every one best worth knowing, and they had that sympathetic charm which creates reputations amongst contemporaries more difficult than any others to convey or explain to posterity.
While in Rome, where they arrived in November, 1783, the Berrys went to see the pope celebrate a high mass, at which the emperor Joseph (son of Maria Theresa), and the unfortunate Gustavus III. of Sweden were also spectators; and which Mary, with a touch of the Voltairianism she deprecated, calls "the grandest and best acted pantomime that can be imag. ined." They were presented to the pope (Pius VI.), and to the Duchess of Parma (a sister of Marie Antoinette), whom they found "tall, well-made, like the emperor, but not near so well-looking, ill and oddly dressed, rather masculine in her voice and manner, with a considerable degree of hauteur." Nelson's Caroline, queen of Naples, on the other hand, another daughter of "King Maria Theresa," was very gracious in her manner, and very ready at the necessary conversation."
The king of Sweden became friendly with the Berrys, accompanying them on several of their excursions, and showing himself an excellent traveller, always good-humored and regardless of bad
I felt my understanding and imagination in- weather. They "did" everything, whilst
crease every day [she says] but I soon found
* When the will was read the chief executor asked Robert Berry if he thought his share too much!
in Italy, with most praiseworthy energy -picture-galleries, ruins, churches, Herculaneum, and Vesuvius; besides the reigning royalties, they became acquainted
with the eclipsed greatness of Madame | talents. I must even tell you they dress D'Albany; with Madame de Staël,* then within the bounds of fashion, though fashMademoiselle Necker, sixteen years old, ionably, without the excrescences and balcoand "much neglected by the young En-nies with which modern hoydens overwhelm glish from the boldness of her manners," The first night I met them I and with General O'Hara — the most im- heard so much in their praise that I concluded would not be acquainted with them, having portant introduction of all, as regarded they would be all pretension. Now, I do not Mary's future happiness.
know which I like best, except Mary's face, While at Naples they were much amused which is formed for a sentimental novel, but by two ballets at the Festino. In the first ten times better for a fifty times better thing Queen Caroline appeared as Ceres, at--genteel comedy. This delightful family tended by Minerva, Mars, and some comes to me almost every Sunday evening. groups of peasants, who united in hand. I forgot to tell you that Mr. Berry is a ing up to the king of Sweden's box on little merry man with a round face. the point of a spear, wreaths of artificial your ladyship insists on hearing the humors flowers bearing the inscriptions, "Au of my district you must indulge me with sending you two pearls I found in my path.* sauveur de sa Patrie;" "Au Protecteur des Beaux-Arts;" ""A l'Alliance perpétuelle." After supper the kings of Sweden and Naples, sixteen gentlemen and six bears, represented "The Hunters of Lapland." "Their dresses," writes Miss Berry, were elegant and characteristic, and both kings, men, and bears performed their parts admirably." They concluded by handing up to the queen in her box some garlands of flowers and a parcel of Swedish gloves.
In 1785 the Berrys returned to England, and three years later they took a house at Twickenham.
If I have picked up no recent anecdotes on our common [writes Walpole to Lady Ossory in October, 1788] I have made a much more precious acquisition. It is the acquaintance of two young ladies named Berry. . . . They were carried by their father for two or three years to France and Italy, and have returned the best informed and the most perfect creatures I ever saw at their age. They are exceedingly sensible, entirely natural and unaffected, frank, and qualified to talk on any subject. The eldest, I discovered by chance, understands Latin, and is a perfect Frenchwoman in her language. The younger draws charmingly... She is less animated than Mary, and seems, out of deference to her sister, to speak seldomer, for they dote on each other, and Mary is always praising her sister's
"From our great acquaintance in Italy with the
king of Sweden, we became very intimate with his ambassador in Paris, M. de Staël. He spoke to me in all confidence about his intended marriage with Mademoiselle Necker, asked my opinion and consulted me on the subject. But the match was already settled." (By the intervention, it was said, of Marie Antoinette. Journal, vol. i., p. 147.)
Even in the first of the series of published letters addressed by Walpole to the sisters, as in nearly all its successors, may be traced, says Lady Theresa Lewis:
The constant struggle in his mind between the tenderness with which he dwells on the pleasure of their society, and the fear of its expression making him ridiculous.
He concludes his letter thus:
If two negatives make an affirmative, why may not two ridicules compose one piece of sense? and therefore, as I am in love with you both, I trust it is a proof of the good sense of your devoted-H. WALPOLE.
A little later he writes:
You have not half the quickness that I thought you had, or, which is much more probable, I suspect that I am a little in love, and you are not, for I think I should have understood you in two syllables, which has not been your case. 1 had sealed my note, and was going to send it, when yours arrived with the invitation for Saturday. I had not time to break open my note, and so lifted up a corner and squeezed in I will. could those syllables mean, but that I will do whatever you please? Yes, you may keep them as a note of hand, always payable at sight of your commands or your sister's. For I am not less in love with my wife Rachel than my wife Leah; and though I had a little forgotten my matrimonial vows at the beginning of this note, and haggled a little about owning my passion, now I recollect that I have taken a double dose, I am mighty proud of it. And being more in the right than ever lover
* Letters of Horace Walpole, edited by Peter Cunningham, vol. ix., p. 153.
was, and twice as much in the right too, I avow my sentiments hardiment, and am- HYMEN, O HYMENÆE!
Sometimes, but very seldom, Walpole hardens his heart to scold his charming correspondents; but then he was only keeping a promise.
fect into my hands, to let you be spoilt by indulgence. All the world admires you, yet you have contracted no vanity, but are simple and good as Nature made you. Mind, you and yours are always, from my lips and pen, what grammarians call the common of two, and signify both.*
This intimacy now often determined the residence of the Berry's, and materially If I discover a fault you shall hear of it [he influenced their life. "His friends be-wrote in an early letter]. You came too percame their friends, and his neighbors their neighbors." Walpole took the warmest interest in all their plans, and forwarded all their wishes-provided they did not point to any lengthened separation from himself. "I pray that our papa may find a house at Twickenham," he writes; Hampton Court is half-way to Switzerland.' When they left London, in 1789, for a Yorkshire visit, he was in despair:
I passed so many evenings of the last fortnight with you that I almost preferred it to our two honeymoons, and am the more sensible to the deprivation. And how dismal was Sunday evening compared to those of last autumn! If you both felt as I do, we might surpass any event in the annals of Dunmow, Oh, what a prodigy it would be if a husband and two wives should present themselves and demand the" Flitch of Bacon," swearing that not one of the three in a year and a day wished to be unmarried! *
The sisters had promised to write to him whilst on their journey; but he did
not hear from them so soon as he had hoped, and the day after writing of the Flitch of Bacon, he resumes:
No letter to-day. . . . You see I think of you, and write every day, though I cannot despatch my letter till you have sent me a direction. Miss Agnes was not so flippant in promising me letters; but I do trust she will write, and then, Madam, she and I will go to Dunmow without you. Thursday night.
Despairing beside a clear stream, A shepherd forsaken was laid. Not very close to the stream, but within doors in sight of it. In this damp weather a lame old Colin cannot lie and despair with any comfort on a wet bank. . . . I wish Friday was come! 26th. Still I have no letter; you cannot all three be ill, and if any one is I should flatter myself another would have written. Jealous I am not, for two young ladies cannot have run away with their father to Gretna Green. Saturday. At last I have got a letter, and you are all well! I am so pleased that I forget the four uneasy days I have passed. I have neither time nor paper to say more, for our post turns on its heel and goes out the instant it has come in. Do not be frightened at the enormity of this, I shall not continue so four paginous in every letter. Pray present my duty to grandmamma, and let her know what a promising young grandson she has got.
* Journals and Correspondence of Miss Berry, vol. i., p. 461.
Accordingly he keeps a sharp watch over their culture, and declares:
If you grow tired of the "Arabian Nights," you have no more taste than Bishop Atterbury, who huffed Pope for sending him them, and fancied he liked Virgil better, who had no more imagination than Dr. Akenside. Read Sinbad the Sailor's Voyages, and you will be sick of Æneas's.
I do not know whether the " Arabian Nights are of Oriental origin or not; I should think not, because I never saw any other Oriental composition that was not bombastic without genius, and figurative without nature. Like an Indian screen, where you see little men in the foreground, and larger men hunting tigers above in the air, which they take for perspective.†
Sometimes he tries to excite their jealousy:
Such unwriting wives I never knew! a shame it is for an author, and what is more, a printer, to have a couple so unlettered. can find time amidst all the hurry of my shop to write.small quartos to them continually. In France, where nuptiality is not the virtue most in request, a wife will write to her consort, though the doux billet should contain but two sentences, for which I will give you a precedent. A lady sent the following to her spouse: Je vous écris, parceque je n'ai rien à faire; et je finis, parceque je n'ai rien à vous dire." I don't wish for quite so laconic a 'poulet; " besides, your ladyships can write. Mrs. Damer dined here yesterday, and had just heard from you. Brevity, mesdames, may be catching.
If I were not a man
of honor, though a printer, and had not promised you "Bonner's Ghost," I would be as silent as if I were in Yorkshire. Remember, too, that Miss Hannah More, though not so proper for the French Ambassador's Fête as Miss Gunning, can teach Greek and Latin as well as any young lady in the north of En
In the letters prepared for the press by Miss Berry many of the more eulogistic passages were omitted; they were replaced by Lady Theresa Lewis after her here are from Miss Berry's "Journals and Corresponddeath, and it will be understood that the extracts made "when not otherwise distinguished.
† Letters of Horace Walpole, vol. ix., p. 184.
A poem by Hannah More, which Walpole greatly admired, and printed at the Strawberry Hill Press.
gland, and might make as suitable a compan- | looking people I hardly ever ion for a typographer. gether," writes Mary- where they could hear nothing for the general hubbub.
At last he hears that the Berry family are coming back, and is all anxiety to find an adjacent house for them.
If the worst comes to the worst, I can secure you a house at Teddington, more agreeable than that at Bushy; at least, more agreeable to my Lord Castlecomer, for it is nearer to me by half. That proverb I must explain to you for your future use. There was an old Lady Castlecomer who had an only son, and he had a tutor, who happened to break his leg. A visitor lamented the accident to her ladyship. The old Rock replied, "Yes, indeed, it is very inconvenient to my Lord Castlecomer." This saying was adopted forty years ago into the phraseology of Strawberry, and is very expressive of the selfish apathy towards others which refers everything to its own centre.
His negotiations were ratified, and he says:
I jumped for joy; that is, my heart did, which is all that remains of me in statu jump ante, at the news that you approve of the house at Teddington. You ask how you have deserved such kind attentions? Why, by deserving them. By every kind of merit, and by that superlative one to me, your consenting to throw away so much time on a forlorn antique; you, too, who without specifying particulars (and you must at least be conscious that you are not two frights) might expect any fortunes and distinctions, and do delight all companies.
In 1790 Mr. Berry and his daughters resolved to re-visit the Continent, and Horace Walpole who had been watching the progress of the French Revolution with a horror intensified by his personal regard for many of its victims, felt alarm as well as regret, and vainly endeavored to shake their purpose. In October they left England, and in a letter dated "The day of your departure," Walpole wrote:
In happy days I smiled and called you my dear wives- now I can only think on vou as darling children, of whom I am bereaved. As such I have loved, and do love you, and charming as you are, I have had no occasion to remind myself that I am past seventy-three. If I live to see you again you will then judge whether I am changed; but a friendship so rational as mine is, and so equal for both, is not likely to have any of the fickleness of youth.
The travellers only spent two days in Paris, which they found" much in déshabille." But they managed to see the foundations of the Bastile dug up by the mob, and to visit the National Assembly "such a set of shabby, ill-dressed, strange
Walpole's relief was great when he heard of their safe arrival in Italy; for them he revived his early recollections, urging them to see and to enjoy everything most worth the seeing; but frankly admitting that he would not really know an easy moment until they had again crossed the channel,* and fretting at the breaks in their correspondence, unavoid"If I toable in such a troubled time. day say, 'How do you do?' it will be one or two and forty days before you answer, 'Very well, thank you.' Nevertheless, he was careful to amuse them with all the "talk of the town; "" the many romantic inventions connected with the Gunning marriages; the arrival of Sheridan at Isleworth, where he had taken a house for £400 a year, on being expelled from Bru. ton Street by an unpaid and indignant landlord; and the approaching marriage of the Duke of York, which the Duke of Clarence called at Strawberry Hill to announce. I asked the page at what hour it would be proper to call on him and thank him. He answered, 'Between ten and eleven!' Mercy on me, to be dressed and at Petersham before eleven !"
de Bourbon +-"a civil, good-humored, While in Turin the Berrys met the Duc gentlemanlike, stupid man." At a royal hunting party they saw a noticeable group: Victor Amadeus III., who rode up to speak to the friend with whom they were driving, and was then
dignified in his manner.
A very gentlemanlike old man, easy and The Prince de Piedmont is the oddest, ugliest-looking being I ever beheld; il abuse du privilège non-seulement comme les hommes, mais les princes, d'être laids. They say he has a great deal of natural wit, penetration, and cleverness. The Prince de ing young man; the Comte d'Artois a great Carignan is grown a great awkward, ill-lookdeal fatter and better-looking than when we saw him in Paris; his two sons (Duc d'Angoulême and Duc de Berri), charming, pretty boys, on horseback. They were all in uniforme de chasse, red, faced with blue, and a broad silver lace. Ugly in itself, but gay and pretty in the field.
In this correspondence Walpole's fresh
"Precious as our insular situation is, I am ready to wish with the Frenchman that you could somehow or other get to it by land: Oui, c'est un isle toujours, je le sçais bien. Mais, par exemple, en allant d'alentour, n'y auroit-il pas moyen d'y arriver par terre?'"
The father of the ill-fated Duc d'Enghien. He was living in England at the time of his son's execution, but returned to France in 1814, and hanged himself in his Château de St. Leu in 1830.