Two days, sir.”

Unluckily he did not hear me, and repeated his question; and whether the second time he heard me or not, I don't know, but he made a little civil inclination of his head, and went back to Mrs. Delany. ..

A good deal of talk then followed about his own health, and the extreme temperance by which he preserved it. The fault of his constitution, he said, was a tendency to excessive fat, which he kept, however, in order by the most vigorous exercise and the strictest attention to a simple diet. When Mrs. Delany was beginning to praise his forbearance, he stopped her.

“No, no!” he cried. “'T is no virtue; I only prefer eating plain and little, to growing diseased and infirm.”

During this discourse I stood quietly in the place where he had first spoken to me. His quitting me so soon, and conversing freely and easily with Mrs. Delany, proved so delightful a relief to me that I no longer wished myself away; and the moment my first panic from the surprise was over, I diverted myself with a thousand ridiculous notions of my own situation. The Christmas games we had been showing Miss Dewes, it seemed as if we were still performing, as none of us thought it proper to move, though our manner of standing reminded one of "Puss in the corner." Close to the door was posted Miss P-; opposite her, close to the wainscot, stood Mr. Dewes; at just an equal distance from him, close to a window, stood myself; Mrs. Delany, though seated, was at the opposite side to Miss P-; and his Majesty kept pretty much in the middle of the room. The little girl, who kept close to me, did not break the order, and I could hardly help expecting to be beckoned with a “Puss! puss! puss!” to change places with one of my neighbors. This idea afterwards gave way to another more pompous. It seemed to me we were acting a play. There is something so little like common and real life, in everybody's standing, while talking, in a room full of chairs, and standing, too, so aloof from each other, that I almost thought myself upon a stage, assisting in the representation of a tragedy, - in which the king played his own part of the king; Mrs. Delany that of a venerable confidante; Mr. Dewes, his respectful attendant; Miss P—, a suppliant virgin, waiting encouragement to bring forward some petition; Miss Dewes, a young orphan, intended to

move the royal compassion; and myself, a very solemn, sober, and decent mute.

These fancies, however, only regaled me while I continued a quiet spectator, and without expectation of being called into play. But the king, I have reason to think, meant only to give me time to recover from my first embarrassment; and I feel myself infinitely obliged to his good breeding and consideration, which perfectly answered, for before he returned to me I was entirely recruited.

To go back to my narration. When the discourse upon health and strength was over, the king went up to the table, and looked at a book of prints from Claude Lorraine, which had been brought down for Miss Dewes; but Mrs. Delany, by mistake, told him they were for me. He turned over a leaf or two, and then said, -- "Pray, does Miss Burney draw, too?” The too was pronounced very civilly.

"I believe not, sir," answered Mrs. Delany. "At least she does not tell.”

“Oh!" cried he, laughing, “that's nothing! She is not apt to tell; she never does tell, you know! Her father told me that himself. He told me the whole history of her Evelina. And I shall never forget his face when he spoke of his feelings at first taking up the book! - he looked quite frightened, just as if he was doing it that moment! I never can forget his face while I live!” Then, coming up close to me, he said, “But what? what? How was it?"

“Sir," cried I. not well understanding him.
“How came you - how happened it? What? what?” "
“That was only, sir, only because --"

I hesitated most abominably, not knowing how to tell him a long story, and growing terribly confused at these questions.

.. The What! was then repeated with so earnest a look that, forced to say something, I stammeringly answered,

“I thought, sir, - it would look very well in print!”

I do really flatter myself this is the silliest speech I ever made! I am quite provoked with myself for it; but a fear of laughing made me eager to utter anything, and by no means conscious, till I had spoken, of what I was saying.

The sermon of the day before was then talked over. Mrs. Delany had not heard it, and the king said it was no great

loss. He asked me what I had thought of it, and we agreed perfectly, to the no great exaltation of poor Dr. L

Some time afterwards, the king said he found by the newspapers that Mrs. Clive was dead. Do you read the newspapers? thought I. Oh, king! you must then have the most unvexing temper in the world not to run wild.

This led on to more players. He was sorry, he said, for Henderson, and the more as Mrs. Siddons wished to have him play at the same house with herself. Then Mrs. Siddons took her turn, and with the warmest praise.

"I am an enthusiast for her,” cried the king, “quite an enthusiast. I think there was never any player in my time so excellent — not Garrick himself; I own it!” Then, coming close to me, who was silent, he said, “What? what?” — meaning, what say you? But I still said nothing. I could not concur where I thought so differently, and to enter into an argument was quite impossible; for every little thing I said the king listened to with an eagerness that made me always ashamed of its insignificancy. And, indeed, but for that I should have talked to him with much greater fluency, as well as ease.

From players he went to plays, and complained of the great want of good modern comedies, and of the extreme immorality of most of the old ones.

“And they pretend,” cried he, “to mend them; but it is not possible. Do you think it is? — what?

“No, sir, not often, I believe. The fault commonly lies in the very foundation.”

“Yes, or they might mend the mere speeches; but the characters are all bad from the beginning to the end.”

Then he specified several; but I had read none of them, and consequently could say nothing about the matter, till at last he came to Shakespeare.

"Was there ever,"cried he,“ such stuff as great part of Shakespeare? Only one must not say sol. But what think you? What? Is there not sad stuff? What? what?"

Yes, indeed, I think so, sir, though mixed with such excellences that

“Oh!” cried he, laughing good-humoredly, “I know it is not to be said! but it's true. Only it's Shakespeare, and nobody dare abuse him."


February 13, 1788. In the middle was placed a large table, and at the head of it the seat for the Chancellor, and round it seats for the judges, the Masters in Chancery, the clerks, and all who belonged to the law; the upper end, and the right side of the room, was allotted to the peers in their robes; the left side to the bishops and archbishops. Immediately below the Great Chamberlain's box was the place allotted for the prisoner. On his right side was a box for his own counsel, on his left the box for the managers, or committee, for the prosecution; and these three most important of all the divisions in the Hall were all directly adjoining to where I was seated. . .

The business did not begin till near twelve o'clock. The opening to the whole then took place, by the entrance of the managers of the prosecution; all the company were already long in their boxes or galleries. I shuddered, and drew involuntarily back, when, as the doors were flung open, I saw Mr. Burke, as Head of the Committee, make his solemn entry. He held a scroll in his hand, and walked alone, his brow knit with corroding care and deep laboring thought, - a brow how different to that which had proved so alluring to my warmest admiration when first I met him! so highly as he had been my favorite, so captivating as I had found his manners and conversation in our first acquaintance, and so much as I owed to his zeal and kindness to me and my affairs in its progress! How did I grieve to behold him now the cruel prosecutor (such to me he appeared) of an injured and innocent man!

Mr. Fox followed next, Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Wyndham, Messrs. Anstruther, Grey, Adam, Michael Angelo Taylor, Pelham, Colonel North, Mr. Frederick Montagu, Sir Gilbert Elliot, General Burgoyne, Dudley Long, etc. They were all named over to me by Lady Claremont, or I should not have recollected even those of my acquaintance, from the shortness of my sight.

When the committee box was filled, the House of Commons at large took their seats on their green benches, which stretched, as I have said, along the whole left side of the Hall. . . . Then began the procession, the clerks entering first, then the lawyers

according to their rank, and the peers, bishops, and officers, all in their coronation robes; concluding with the Princes of the Blood, — Prince William, son to the Duke of Gloucester, coming first, then the Dukes of Cumberland, Gloucester, and York, then the Prince of Wales; and the whole ending by the Chancellor, with his train borne. They then all took their seats.

A sergeant-at-arms arose, and commanded silence in the court, on pain of imprisonment. Then some other officer, in a loud voice, called out, as well as I can recollect, words to this purpose: “Warren Hastings, Esquire, come forth! Answer to the charges brought against you; save your bail, or forfeit your recognizance!” Indeed I trembled at these words, and hardly could keep my place when I found Mr. Hastings was being brought to the bar. He came forth from some place immediately under the Great Chamberlain's box, and was preceded by Sir Francis Molyneux, Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod; and at each side of him walked his bails, Messrs. Sullivan and Sumner. The moment he came in sight, which was not for full ten minutes after his awful summons, he made a low bow to the Chancellor and court facing him. I saw not his face, as he was directly under me. He moved on slowly, and, I think, supported between his two bails, to the opening of his own box; there, lower still, he bowed again; and then, advancing to the bar, he leant his hands upon it, and dropped on his knees; but a voice in the same moment proclaiming he had leave to rise, he stood up almost instantaneously, and a third time profoundly bowed to the court. ...

The crier, I think it was, made, in a loud and hollow voice, a public proclamation,“ that Warren Hastings, Esquire, late Governor-General of Bengal, was now on his trial for high crimes and misdemeanors, with which he was charged by the Commons of Great Britain; and that all persons whatsoever who had aught to allege against him were now to stand forth.”

The interest of this trial was so much upon my mind that I have not kept even a memorandum of what passed from the 13th of February to the day when I went again to Westminster Hall. . . . The prisoner was brought in, and Mr. Burke began his speech. It was the second day of his harangue; the first I had not been able to attend.

« ElőzőTovább »