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HUGH SWINTON LEGARÉ. .
DIARY OF BRUSSELS.
Bruxelles, 16th May, 1833. As I have found, by experience on former occasions, that a diary is a very amusing thing, and not altogether unprofitable to him that keeps it, after the lapse of a few years, I am determined to struggle with my most supine indolence, so far as to fill up such a daily record of my actings and sayings. Forsan et hæc olim meminisse juvabit. I can go no further back than the first of the fifth month, and even then, for the fortnight past, my notice of things will be very general and inexact.
1st May-St. Philip. The ambassador of France, who is lately moved to a fine hotel at the corner of the Rue Ducale, opposite to that of Prince Auguste d'Arenberg, celebrates the fete of His Majesty, the King of France, by a grand diplomatic dinner in costume. Thirty odd persons are present, -all of them functionaries, civil or military. The English minister, Sir Robert Adair on the right, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, M. le Général Goblet on the left of the Count de LatourMaubourg; opposite to whom sat the newly-arrived Secretary of the French legation, Casimir Perier, son of the famous juste milieu Minister of State, feu. M. Casimir Perier. I sat, by M. de Latour-Maubourg's request, at the right hand of the Secretary. Table crowded,-salle-a-manger, like most of the other rooms in this part of Brussels, (at least) not large or long enough for a gala day. Service at table, though waiting-men (some in gala livery) 'sufficiently numerous, not very ready. Every thing I ate as cold as at a royal banquet Talked a good deal with Mr.
Perier, who has been three years in England, altaché to M. de Talleyrand, and with General Desprez, Chief of Etat-MajorGeneral, and, I believe, at the head of the army here in all respects. He is (par parenthèse) a French officer, and, because a child of the revolution and empire, has seen the manners and cities of many men, and, although a child, etc., is très instruit. He understands his own business, they say, thoroughly, being quite a scientific engineer, etc.; but, besides that, he is, for a Frenchman of his day, extremely well-informed in other matters, and even quotes Tacitus apropos. He speaks English comme ça, and speaks it without the least diffidence. M. Perier speaks it, of course, much better. This young gentleman has great expectations. He is about twenty-two or three years of age,--has 80,000 francs a year of his own, and a mother with the same income,--and the eclat of his father's name to help him forward to the high places which, no doubt, await him. He is very amiable, and does not seem too much pleased with London. Í told him our English circle here was almost our only society, and a very charming one,-English on the Continent being more English, (that is, less stupidly artificial and pedantic,) and, therefore, more estimable and agreeable than in the fashionable circles of their metropolis,— where one sees nothing but glare and glitter in the matériel, and envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness, taking the antic shape of systematized rudeness and coldness, under the name of "the thing", (bon-ton,) as to the moral.
In the evening, a little party at Mrs. Durham Calderwood's, a sweet little Scotch-woman,-a good house,-married to a naval officer, and now residing here a few months. All English. Marchioness of Hastings and two of her daughters, Lady Flora and Lady Adelaide, here. Have a long conversation with Lady Flora, who is a charming person,-tall, with blue eyes and fair hair, very much given to reading, perfectly acquainted (as far as a young lady can be) with the world, which she has travelled all over, and having the sort of manners befitting her birth and station. Lady Hastings herself was Countess of Loudoun in her own right.
Hotel of the French embassy illuminated. I ought to have mentioned that, by way of accompaniment to the dessert at dinner, M. Goblet proposed the health of the King of France, with some words expressive of the services he had rendered to the cause of Belgium ; and that, some time after, M. de LatourMaubourg returned the compliment, by proposing that of King Leopold. No more toasts were drunk, and tant mieux.
2d May. Rose at my usual hour, ---read until hall-past 8,-shaved, -took tea and dry tvast, etc. Nothing unusual about
me, and as I had recently gone to Antwerp and back again, spending three days after the fashion of travellers, I had some reason to expect that I should be pretty well for some time, until hard study, free living, etc., should make it necessary for me to change the air again. Mens cæca futuri! At half-past 11, while I was reading Pindar in my salon, I was seized, with the suddenness of a flash of lightning, with a most violent pain in my breast, piercing me through and through, but especially under the right shoulder-blade. Evening, still worse. Night, sleepless. Small party at Lady Charlotte Fitzgerald's. The Lady Hastings' there. Had a long conversation with Captain Hamilton, brother of the English Secretary of Legation, whom I had met with before, especially at Court, (dinner) on the 30th April. Very sensible and worthy man, of the conservative school. Tells me he hopes to see me again at Prince Auguste's, on Saturday,—the last day of his present visit to Brussels.
3d May. Horrible pain continues. I study through it, and, at night, to ensure my repose, take a few drops of laudanum. Well I do, for in spite of the narcotic, I repeatedly wake in pain, though the slumbrous influence of the anodyne prevents my sufferings being prolonged at any one time. Remember nothing.
4th May. Pain still acute. Study as usual ; finish Pindar and the diplomatic correspondence of the Revolution. Dine at Prince Auguste d'Arenberg's. Capt. Hamilton not there, --had been attacked much in the same way as myself. I mention this to his brother, who says he has suffered from some such thing hiinself. Tells me, when I express a regret at the Captain's absence, that it is mutual. Very warm to-day. The weather had hitherto been disagreeably and most unseasonably cold. The sudden change creates great complaints, but I tell the company it operates on me like the liveliest champagne.
5th May,--Sunday. Nothing particular. Write letters to America, against my next despatch day, (next Sunday).
Evening. Call at Mr. Seymour's. On my return, see the card of Mr. Davezac, brother of Mrs. Edward Livingston, and Chargé d'Affaires of the United States at the Hague.
6th May. From this date, the order of my studies changed. Read Greek, henceforth, before breakfast. After, law of nations, civil and common law, politics, etc., etc. Begin the Odyssey, Vattel, Letters on English Chancery. Translate diplomatic pieces out of French into English, in order to re-translate into French. At 11, Mr. Davezac comes in. I invite him to dine, which he consents to do. Long conversation ; find him a very sensible, well-informed man, with decided marks of usage of the world and literary taste united. After he goes away, and just as I am about to send for two Polish officers, one of whom, Count Lenowski, having been attached to the Russian legation at the Hague, is an old acquaintance of Mr. Davezac's, a young American gentleman, Mr. Ritchie, sends up his card. Receive him, and find that he is the son of Mr. Ritchie of the Richmond Enquirer. Invite him to meet Mr. Davezac, at 3 o'clock. Call on him in my calèche, and take him to see the town, the Boulevard, and the Allée Verte. Dinner at half-past 5. Count Lenowski there. Davezac extremely entertaining. Upon my asking how he got on here and at the Hague with his former principal, Mr. Preble, (whose Secretary of Legation he had been,) gave us a most lively and diverting sketch of his character and manners. I told him, after he had done, that he deserved the eternal gratitude of his country,—that I had conceived a very inadequate idea of what he had suffered in her service, etc., etc.
7th May. Non mi ricordo : only ill of a cold and the old rheumatism.
8th May. Very indisposed still. Dine at Prince Auguste's. Ask him, at dinner, if he has read Mr. Nothomb's (Secretary General in the department of Foreign Affairs) Essay on the Revolution. Answers by asking if I have read the preface. 1 reply affirmatively; whereupon he tells me I am able to judge of the whole work from that precious specimen of garrulous egotism and superficial pretension. The Prince, however, is sometimes morose, always entêté, and most thoroughly antediluvian in his politics,-by which ingenious epithet I would have all, who have neither learned nor forgotten any thing since the débordement of '89, to be designated. He is an excellent specimen, by the way, of la vieille cour,-active mind, quick perception, love of reading-conversation lively, diversified, piquante sans emphase,-taste for the "news of the day,” (chronique scandaleuse,)perfectly versed in the forms of life and manners of the world, and apparently acquainted with the history of every prominent person in it. He is now octogénaire, but in most perfect preservation. Lives "like a prince”; gives dinners perpetually, but never accepts an invitation. Has the best of cooks, service of silver plaque, and half a dozen serving-men, in brilliant livery, with two valets—but no other fuss or show about his table. Seldom invites as many as 16-sometimes 12, generally 10, and the same set (with occasional variations as to some of the individuals that compose it) always. The English Ambassador and his Secretary of Legation, (Sir George Hamilton, the reigning and all-prevailing favorite of the Prince,) consider themselves as regularly “abonnés”, and refuse all other invitations on the Prince's days, (Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays,) and the invariable guest is Sir Henry Seton, the King's Secretary,-a dry, sly, droll
, diverting Scotchman, blasé in the circles of London fashionable life, and bearing its stamp in his manners and character. But the Prince. Speaking of him the other day at Madame Latour-Maubourg's, with Count Henry de Mérode—(àpropos, I had heard the Prince talk, more than once, with great freedom and some severity, of the busy-body readiness with which certain members of this old and prominent family (they are connected with M. de La Fayette) presented themselves, wherever they heard of a row in any part of Europe,)--this very amiable gentleman remarked, with his usual douceur and diffidence, "he (the Prince) has at present a great horror of recollections, but it was not always so. In '89, (the Prince was, at Paris, a favorite of Maria-Antoinette, as Count de la March, --see Gouverneur Morris' correspondence, he was not a little affected with the reigning mania." However, all this by the way.-I only mean to record why I received his placitum as to M. le Secrétaire-Général's (a creation of the late convulsion, who, besides being as self-complacent as if he were well-born, is an avocat, wears a dirty shirt, unwashed hands, etc., etc.) cum grano salis. After dinner, shews me the work inter-leaved, and garnished cum commentario perpetuo, in MS., the said commentary being what the Prince had dictated to his secretary in reading it. Run over some pages of the MS., and find them worthy of more deliberate attention. The Prince, after some time, calls out to me to have done; that he did not mean to impose a task upon me, etc. Besides, if I be so inclined, he will lend me the whole when it shall have been finished. I shall not fail to ask for it, for I was interested in what I read.
Sir R. Adair comes up to me and says, I have a design upon you. The Prince has been talking to me of a work of Tacitus I never heard of,-a discourse on Eloquence. O yes, say I; a dialogue of orators, or, as it is more appropriately termed, de causis corrupte eloquentia, an admirable piece of criticism, sometimes attributed, though I never could understand why, to the great historian of despotism. In my opinion, the pretensions of Quinctilian, or Pliny the younger, or any body else, etc., are much more plausible. Afterwards, Sir Robert states what I say to the Prince, who seems pleased at it, and refers to a passage about the necessity of disorders in a State to the existence of true eloquence, which soars highest, like certain birds, (I had an eye, to confess the truth, to our own dear Carolina buzzards) upon the wings of the tempest. I cite in the original the passage referred to: Magna illa et notabilis eloquentia, alumna licentiæ, comes seditionum, etc., etc.