From The Notes and Queries: A Medium of Intercommunication for Literary Men, General Readers, Etc., Fourth Series. — Volume Seventh. January — June 1871; London; 1871; pp. 2-3.
DEAR MR. EDITOR —
In your interesting Miscellany you have recently introduced two letters from Nell Gwynne. I think it might please your readers to have a copy of her letter which is in my collection of autographs. It is, no doubt, authentic, and was formerly in the possession of Mr. Singer, at whose sale I bought it. It was so well illustrated by our dear mutual friend Mr. Bruce, and introduced by him, with some others, into the Camden Miscellany (vol. v.), that I add to it his valuable notes.
I also enclose another curious specimen, written by the famous Kitty Clive, addressed no doubt to her friend Miss Pope the actress, of whom Horace Walpole, writing to the countess of Ossory on July 15, 1783, says: —
“Miss Pope has been at Mrs. Clive’s this week, and I have not been able to call on them. I wrote a line of excuse, but hoped very soon to salute Miss Pope’s eye. Excuse my radotage, but what better can you expect?”
The glorious old gossip of Strawberry Hill, in a letter to Lady Ossory of Oct. 21, 1784, furnishes another account of the incident mentioned in Kitty’s letter: —
“It is very true Madam we are robbed in the face of the Sun, as well as at the going down thereof. I know hot how other districts fare, but for five miles round us we are in perpetual jeopardy. Two of our justices, returning from a Cabinet Council of their own, at Brentford, were robbed last week before three o’clock, at the gates of Twickenham: no wonder; I believe they are all hoodwinked, like their Alma Mater herself, and, consequently as they cannot see, it is not surprising that both she and they should often weigh out their goods with unequal scales.”
Can you or any of your readers tell me who Mrs. Hart was, and the “old Weasel which she left behind”?
43, Lowndes Square
pray deare Mr. Hide1 forgive me for not writeing to you before now for the reasone is I have bin sick thre months & sinse I recovered I have had nothing to intertaine you withall nor have nothing now worth writing but that I can holde no longer to let you know I never have ben in any companie wethout drinking your health for I loue yo with all my soule. the pel mel is now to me a dismale plase since, I have uterly lost Sr Car Scrope2 never to be recoured agane for he tould me he could not live allwayes at this rate & so begune to be a little uncivil, which I could not sufer from an uglye baux garscon. Ms Knights3 Lady mothers dead & she has put up a scutchin no beiger then my Lady grins4 scunchis.4a My lord 3 Rochester5 is gon in the cuntrei. Mr Savil6 has got a misfortune, but is upon recovery & is to mary an hairres, who I thinke wont wont [sic] have an ill time ont if he holds up his thumb. My lord of Dorscit7 apiers wonse in thre munths, for he drinkes aile with Shadwell8 & Mr Haris9 at the Dukes house all day long. my Lord Burford10 remimbers his sarvis to you. my Lord Bauclaire11 is is [sic] goeing into france. we are goeing to supe with the king at whithall & my lady Harvie.12 the King remembers his sarvis to you. now lets talke of state affairs, for we never caried things so cunningly as now for we dont know whether we shall have peace or war, but I am for war and for no other reason but that you may come home. I have a thousand merry conseets, but I cant make her.* write um & therfore you must take the will for the deed. god bye. your most loueing obedunt faithfull & humbel
“Twickenham Octr ye 17, 1784.
My dear Popy,
The Jack I must have, and I suppose the Cook will be as much delighted with it, as a fine Lady with a Birthday Suit; I send You Wallnuts which are fine, but pray be moderate in your admiration for they are dangerous Dainties; John has carried about to my Neighbours above six thousand and he tells me there [are] as many still left; indeed it is a most wonderfull tree Mrs Prince has been robd at Two o’Clock at Noon of her Gold Watch and four Guineas, and at the same time our two Justices of three and sixpence a Piece, they had like to be shott for not having more. Every body inquires after You and I deliver your Comps. Poor Mrs Hart is dead — well spoken of by every body. I pity the poor old Weassel that is left behind.
Adieu my dear Popy
The Jack must carry six or seven and twenty pounds, the waterman shall bring the money when I know what.
1 Mr. Hide is conjectured to have been the handsome Lory or Lawrence Hyde, second son of Lord Chancellor Clarendon, created Earl of Rochester in 1682. In May and June 1678 he was at the Hague on diplomatic business. (Correspondence of Clarendon and Rochester, i. 16, 20.)
2 Sir Carr Scrope was created baronet 1667-8, and died unmarried 1680. He was one of the witty companions of Charles II., and author of various poetical effusions, to be found in Dryden’s Miscellanies. Johnson notices him in his life of Rochester.
3 Mrs. Knight, a singer of great celebrity, and a rival to Nell Gwynne in the tender regard of Charles II. She is mentioned by both Evelyn and Pepys, although the latter had not heard her sing up to the period at which his diary closes. The name of her Lady-mother has not been found.
4 Lady Greene, who escaped the researches of MR. BRUCE, has been identified by MR. J. G. NICHOLS (“N. & Q.” 3rd S. viii. 413). She was another favourite of Charles II., by whom she was the mother of his son Charles Fitx-Charles, created in 1675 Earl of Plymouth, and of a daughter Katherine. Lady Greene was Katherine, daughter of Thomas Pegge, Esq. of Yeldersley, co. Derby; became the wife of Sir Edward Greene, Bart. of Sampford in Essex, who died in Flanders in 1676. Lady Greene herself had probably died shortly before this letter was written. ED. “N. & Q.”
4a Probably the writer misplaced the n in this word, writing scunchis for scuchins.
5 John Wilmot, the poetical Earl of Rochester, who, as Johnson remarked, “blazed out his youth and his health in lavish voluptuousness,” and with “avowed contempt of all decency and order.” The history of the contrast presented by the close of his life is a well-known book by Bishop Burnet. He died on the 26th July, 1680, at the age of 34.
6 The gentleman who could govern by rule of thumb was Henry Savile, the future Vice-Chamberlain, for whom see the Savile Correspondence, edited by Mr. W. D. Cooper for the Camden Society in 1858. The projected marriage did not come off.
7 The Earl of Dorset was one of the wildest of the mad companions of the merry monarch. His doings are written at large in all the scandalous chronicles of that period. Nell Gwynne was living with him as his mistress when the king took a fancy to her, and the terms of the bargain and sale by which she was transferred to the sovereign may be read in Cunningham, p. 68. Dorset or Buckhurst, for the latter was his title whilst Nell Gwynne lived with him, is more creditably known by his song “To all you ladies now at land,” and by his conduct at the time close of the reign of James II. His life is included among Johnson’s Lives of the Poets.
8 Thomas Shadwell the poet, who owed to the influence of the Earl of Dorset his appointment as laureate on the ejection of Dryden at the Revolution of 1688. However mean his poetry, his conversation is said to have been highly witty and amusing. From his companionship with Rochester and Dorset, it is not to be wondered at that it was also often indecent and profane.
9 Joseph Harris, the celebrated actor, who drew sword for Charles I. at Edgehill, and lived to delight the town, after the Restoration, with his Othello, Alexander, Brutus, and Catiline. Pepys’ describes him as a man of most attractive qualities. “I do find him a very excellent person, such as in my whole acquaintance I do not know another better qualified for converse, whether in things of his own trade or of other kind; a man of great understanding and observation, and very agreeable in the manner of his discourse, and civil as far as is possible. I was mightily pleased with his company.” Lord Braybrooke stated in a note to Pepys (ii. 196) that Harris probably died or left the stage about 1676. The present letter postpones that date for a year or two, and Dr. Doran in his most amusing treasury of information respecting the drama (Their Majesties Servants, vol. i. p. 63), dates his retirement from the stage in 1682, and his interment at Stanmore Magna in 1683.
10 Lord Burford, as we have already noticed, was the elder of Nell Gwynne’s two children by the king. He was born 8th May, 1670, created Lord Burford on the 27th December, 1676, and Duke of St. Alban’s on the 10th Jan. 1683-4.
11 Lord Beauclerk, Nell Gwynne’s younger son, was born 25th December, 1671, and died, as we have before remarked, at Paris in September, 1680.
12 Lady Harvey was Elizabeth, sister of Ralph third Lord Montagu of Boughton, afterwards Earl and Duke of Manchester. Elizabeth married Sir Daniel Harvey, a conspicuous person at that time; as ranger of Richmond Park he gave shelter in his house to Lady Castlemaine during her quarrels with Charles II. Her ladyship, according to Pepys, rewarded Lady Harvey by encouraging “Doll Common,” or Mrs. Cory, who was the distinguished representative of that character, to mimic Lady Harvey on the stage, in the character or Sempronia. Lady Harvey “provided people to hiss her and fling oranges at her,” and, that being unsuccessful, procured the Lord Chamberlain to imprison her. Lady Castlemaine “made the king to release her,” and a great disturbance was excited both in the theatre and at court. In the mean time Sir Daniel Harvey was sent away ambassador to Constantinople.
* Elf. Query. Note the difference in the caliber of spelling between these two letters 100 years apart.
Question - is the ‘her’ that won’t write a ‘thousand merry conceets’ actually referring to a person who is penning the letter for Nell?