« ZurückWeiter »
Sir Robert began to decline in the political horizon; when the falling ininister could no longer command overwhelming majorities in the House of Commons, nor the shouts of the populace in the streets, Lord Hervey seems to have been among the first to forsake the fortunes of his benefactor and friend. On the 7th of January, 1742, exactly five weeks before Sir Robert resigned, we find Horace Walpole writing to Sir Horace Mann,—“I forgot to tell you, that upon losing the first question, Lord Hervey kept away for a week: on our carrying the next great one, he wrote to Sir Robert, how much he desired to see him; ‘not upon any business, but Lord Hervey longs to see Sir Robert Walpole.” And in the same letter, he writes,—" Lord Hervey, is too ill to go to operas; yet, with a coffin-face, is as full of his dirty politics as ever. He will not be well enough to go to the house till the majority is certain somewhere, but lives shut up with my Lord Chesterfield and Mr. Pulteney, a triumvirate who hate one another more than any body they could proscribe, had they the power. I dropped in at my Lord Hervey's the other night, knowing my lady had company: it was soon after our defeats. My Lord, who has always professed particularly to me, turned his back on me, and retired for an hour into a whisper with young Hammond,* at the end of the room. Not being at all amazed at one whose heart I knew so well, I stayed on to see more of this behaviour; indeed, to use myself to it. At last he came up to me, and begged this music, which I gave him, and would often again, to see how many times I shall be ill and well with him within this month."
* James Hammond, the poet: he died in less than six months from the date of Walpole's letter.
Lord Hervey survived the date of this letter only eighteen months. His constitution had never been strong, and, probably, the excitement produced by passing events and the loss of his appointment of Privy Seal, served to hasten his end. He lingered in a wretched state of health, till the 8th of August, 1743, when he expired in the fortyseventh year of his age.
M A RY LEPEL,
Daughter of General Lepel.—Born in 1700.-Appointed at an
early age Maid of Honour to the Princess of Wales, afterwards Queen Caroline, and Mistress of the Robes, on the Princess's accession. — Miss Lepel's extraordinary beauty and accomplishments.-Extracts from the Suffolk Correspondence.-Pope's admiration of the young beauty.—His moonlight walk with her in the gardens at Hampton Court, and letter on the subject.-His poetical address to Miss Howe.-Compliments by Gay and Voltaire to Miss Lepel.—Lord Chesterfield's praises of her manners and accomplishments. ---Lively verses addressed to her by Lords Chesterfield and Bath. Her marriage in 1720 to Lord Hervey.-Extract from Lady Montagu's Letters.—Quarrel with Lady Hervey.—Singular particulars respecting its origin. - Lady Hervey's French tastes and partialities.—Her education of her children.—Her irreligious feelings, and repeated attacks of illness. Churchill's eulogium on her youngest daughter, Lady Caroline.—Lady Hervey's death in 1768.—Posthumous publication of her Letters. Their character.
MARY LEPEL, so celebrated at the Court of the first George for her beauty and wit, was a daughter of Brigadier-general Nicholas Lepel. She was born on the 26th of September, 1700 ; and at an early age was named one of the Maids of Honour to Queen Caroline, then Princess of
Wales, to whom, on her accession to the throne, she was appointed Mistress of the Robes.
Were we to place credit in half the encomiums which have been heaped on Lady Hervey by her contemporaries, a more gifted or more charming person can scarcely be conceived. Those who knew her best, describe her as possessing, in an eminent degree, that peculiar fascination of manner, which an union of perfect high-breeding and good humour can alone confer: they speak of her, moreover, as on all occasions tempering her extraordinary vivacity with discretion and strong sense; and as uniting all the graceful accomplishments of a woman of fashion, with the qualifications requisite to confer happiness on social life. In point of beauty and good humour, her charming friend, Miss Bellenden was the only one of her contemporaries who could compete with her; while, as regards her wit and general powers of pleasing, even Horace Walpole, difficult as he is to please, awards her unqualified praise, and Gay, Pope, and Voltaire grow equally warm in describing the idol of the day.
Even her friends, when they have occasion to find some slight fault with her, involuntarily mingle praise with their complaints. Mrs. Brad
gust, 1720,—“I met Madam Lepel coming into town last night: she is a pretty thing, though she never comes to see me, for which, tell her, I will use her like a dog in the winter.” And
again, Mrs. Howard writes to Lady Hervey herself, a few years afterwards,—" You see I cannot forgive you all the wit in your last letter. Is it because I suspect your sincerity ?-or do I envy what I cannot possess ? No matter which; you may still always triumph: the world, though you allow it to be but sometimes in the right, will do you a justice that I deny you. You will always be admired; and even I, that condemn you, find I must love you with all my heart.”*
Long before she had attained to a fixed rank in society by becoming the wife of Lord Hervey, the lively conversation and extreme beauty of the young Maid of Honour, appear to have excited universal attention. Pope was among the foremost of her admirers, and in one of the most pleasing of his letters, describes his satisfaction at being permitted a walk of three hours with her by moonlight, in the gardens at Hampton Court. “I went by water,” he says, “ to Hampton Court, unattended by all but my own virtues, which were not of so modest a nature as to keep themselves, or me, concealed; for I met the Prince,to with all his ladies on horseback, coming from hunting. Miss Bellenden and Miss Lepel took me into their protection; (contrary to the laws against harbouring Papists,) and gave me a dinner, with something I liked better, an opportunity of conversation with Mrs. Howard. We all agreed that the life of a maid of honour was of all
* Suffolk Correspondence, vol. i. pp. 69, and 323.
+ The Prince of Wales, afterwards George II. VOL. II.