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This year, 1782, Rodney fought his celebrated battle in the West Indies. He arrived in England soon after this glorious affair, and landed at Kingroad. Our Race-Horse was at anchor there, when the Admiral ordered one of our boats to convey him to Bristol, and requesting some officer to accompany him, I offered my services which were accepted.
. The hero was extremely condescending in his manners. I took an opportunity of complimenting him on the glorious victory he had achieved. 6 I owe not a little of my success," said he, “to a countryman of yours, who sent to me a description of a plan, demonstrating that by breaking the centre of an enemy's fleet, either the van or rear would be compelled to fight. This gentleman's name is Clerk, a 'squire near Edinburgh, and who could not be supposed to know much of sea affairs ; but this plan appeared to me to be ingenious, and I put it in practice with success; and I intend writing to him to thank him for giving me the first opportunity of showing the effect of a mode of attacking fleets hitherto unpractised, and which in my opinion is a very important discovery."'--vol. i. p. 135.
Mr. Gordon accompanied his friend and patron, Lord Montgomery, to Italy, at the interesting period when Lombardy was in the occupation of the French armies. The party were enabled to reach Florence in safety, where our author had the satisfaction of inixing with some good society. Shortly after his arrival there, the celebrated and eccentric Bishop of Derry (the Earl of Bristol) took
his residence at the same hotel. Some anecdotes of the bishop are related by Mr. Gordon.
. In one of his journeys from Rome to Florence he halted at Sienna, and when sitting down to dinner, the procession of the Host happened to pass under the windows of his hotel. It would appear that his lordship had a particular aversion to the tinkling of bells. Probably without thinking of the consequences, he seized a tureen of pasta, and the sash being open, threw the contents in the midst of the holy groupe! Such a sacrilegious profanation of the most sacred of ceremonies, I need hardly observe, occasioned the greatest dismay among the priests and their assistants, as well as the spectators, who assailed the house en masse, determined to wreak their vengeance on the perpetrators of so monstrous an outrage. The bishop, however, had fortunately made his escape by a back way along with his valet, and by an ample distribution of his gold, found the means of concealing himself until night, and of procuring post horses to transport him from the Tuscan territories, never stopping till he reached Padua, at that time garrisoned by French troops.
• A report of this flagrant violation of the most sacred ceremony was immediately made to the Grand Duke, who issued an edict, “ banishing the perpetrator from the Tuscan dominions for ever, under pain of the galleys." —vol. i. pp. 173, 174.
' ? Our author next proceeded to Naples by sea, where he arrived very shortly after the memorable " Revolution” as it is called, during which Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton afforded protection on board to the royal family of that kingdom. Mr. Gordon presents us with a very unamiable view of Lady Hamilton. She seems, according to his account, to have been the merest puppet of
affectation--and to have been so uneducated and ignorant, as that when she claimed the relationship of a cousin to Lord Montgomery, she said to her husband, “ A'nt us, Sir William ?"
Either our author, or history, has grossly deceived us as to the intellectual character of this celebrated woman. Of the hero of the Nile himself, Mr. Gordon seems also to have adopted rather an unfavourable impression. Nelson he describes as being somewhat impertinent in his queries and remarks, and he gives the following as a specimen of the style of his conversation.
* After a few trifling queries about the burning of the gun-boats, Lord Nelson said to me, “ Pray, sir, have you heard of the battle of the Nile ?" I thought this a strange question, and could not help imagining for a moment that the great hero meant to quiz me; but I replied with equal gravity, “ that I had heard of two battles of the Nile, and that I had perhaps done more honour to them and to his lordship than any other individual as far as wine could testify loyalty, for I had quaffed at least half a dozen bottles on the occasions,” adding, “ that having been in Pisa in July, an account had been sent from Leghorn of a great victory at the mouth of the Nile, which was celebrated by a party of Englishmen, when it was discovered that the news was a fabrication, and I got a headache for nothing; but this
1 did not deter me from assisting at the celebration of the glorious victory, when it did happen a few weeks after.” I know not what his lordship thought of this speech, but he replied, “ that battle, sir, was the most extraordinary one that was ever fought, and it is unique, sir, for three reasons; first, for its having been fought at night; secondly, for its having been fought at anchor; and thirdly, for its having been gained by an Admiral with one arm. To each of these reasons I made a profound bow; but had the speech been made after dinner, I should have imagined the hero had imbibed an extra dose of champagne. It is very singular, however, that he made the exact same harangue to the Lord Mayor of London the following year, when a sword and the freedom of the city were presented to him.'- vol. i. pp. 202, 203.
But Lady Hamilton appears under the bold pencil of Mr. Gordon, not merely as an ignorant and vulgar person, but also as degraded by the coarsest taste. A dispatch from Paul, Emperor of Russia, happened to have been delivered to the Court of Naples by a Turk, whilst the king was at dinner with his British guests. Our author says, that Lady Hamilton flirted with the messenger, , whom he calls a savage monster.
The Turk dined next day with the Neapolitan minister.
“The only memorable event which occurred at the minister's entertainment, was this warrior getting drunk with rum, which does not come under the prohibition of the prophet. The monster, who had the post of honour at her Ladyship's side, entertained her through the interpretation of the Greek, with an account of his exploits; among others, that of his having lately fallen in with a French transport, conveying invalids and wounded soldiers from Egypt, whom he had brought on board his frigate; but provisions and water having run short, he found it necessary to get rid of his prisoners, and amused himself by putting them to death.
“With this weapon," said he, in his vile jargon, and drawing his shabola, "I cut off the heads of twenty French prisoners in one day! Look, there is their blood remaining on it!” The speech being translated, her Ladyship's eye beamed with delight, and she said, “Oh let me see the sword that did the glorious deed !” It was presented to her; she took it into her fair hand covered with rings, and looking at the encrusted Jacobin blood, kissed it and handed it to the hero of the Nile! Had I not been an eye-witness to this disgraceful act, I would not have ventured to relate it.'-vol. i. pp. 209, 210,
Nothing, perhaps, can justify such extravagance; but if Lady Hamilton felt, as she professed, passionate attachment for the Queen of Naples, it is only natural that she should have sympathized in the horror of the French name, which the sister of Marie Antoinette must have entertained.
From the voluptuous scenes of Neapolitan Court life, which even the atrocities of revolutionary insanity scarcely interrupted at the time we speak of, Mr. Gordon brings us to the British metropolis, to mingle with some of the most eminent of a peculiar class of wits, only to be found in London.
This order of persons has long since ceased to exist. It consisted for the inost part of men, who, destitute of the pretensions of birth and station, yet had the taste to form associations amongst themselves for the most respectable purposes of social union. Our author was intimate with the late Mr. Perry, the editor of the Morning Chronicle, and his partner, Mr. Gray, and he gives us a variety of anecdotes of these gentlemen, and their guests—and a good deal of the private history of the above journal. Professor Porson was by far the most remarkable of these individuals, and the following are amongst Mr. Gordon's recollections of that distinguished scholar,
* The adage—“sapientes aliquando stulti"--was strongly exhibited in Porson. He took fits and starts of dissipation. At one time he would sally forth from his den in the temple, and carouse with his friends for a week or two; after which he would shut himself up and disappear for three months.
• I had invited him to meet a party of friends in Sloane Street, where I lived, but the Professor had mistaken the day, and made his appearance in full costume the preceding one. We had already dined, and were at our cheese. When he discovered his error, he made his usual exclamation of a whooe! as long as my arm, and turning to me with great gravity, said, “ I advise you in future, Sir, when you ask your friends to dinner, to ask your wife to write your cards. Sir, your penmanship is abominable—it would disgrace a cobbler. I swear that your day is written Thursday, not Friday;" at the same time pulling the invitation out of his pocket. A jury was summoned, and it was decided nem. con., “ that for once the Professor was in the wrong," which he at length admitted. “ Your blunder," I replied, “ my friend, will cost me a beef-steak and a bottle of your favourite Trivity ale, so that you will be the gainer.”
as was his custom in the afternoon," till past midnight,
• He sat on,
emptying every flask and decanter that came in his way. As I knew there was no end to his bacchanalia when fairly seated with plenty of drink and a listener, I retired sans façon, leaving him to finish the remains of some half-dozen of bottles, for it was immaterial to the Professor the quality of the stuff, provided he had quantity. On my descending the following morning to breakfast, I was surprised to find my friend lounging on a sofa, and perusing with great attention a curious volume of Italian tales, which I had picked up in my travels. I learned that having found the liquor so choice, and the Novelle Antiche so interesting, he had trimmed his lamp, and remained on the premises. “ I think,” said he," that with the aid of a razor and a light coloured neckcloth and a brush, I shall be smart enough for your fine party."
• A pretty large company assembled in the evening, and Porson treated them with a translation (without book) of the curious tale which had excited his notice.
So extraordinary was his memory, that although there were above forty names introduced into the story, he had only
forgotten one. This annoyed him so much, that he started from the table, and after pacing about the room for ten minutes, he stopped short, exclaiming, “ Eureka!.. The Count's name is Don Francesco Averani!"
• The party sat till three o'clock in the morning, but Porson would not stir; and it was with no small difficulty that my brother could prevail on him to take his departure at five, having favoured me with his company exactly thirty-six hours ! During this sederunt, I calculated that he finished a bottle of alcohol, two of Trinity ale, six of claret, besides the lighter sort of wines, of which I could take no account; he also emptied a half-pound canister of snuff, and during the first night smoked a bundle of segars ! Previous to this exhibition, I had always considered the powers of man as limited to a certain extent !--vol. 1.
265–267. To this we subjoin what Mr. Gordon says of the Professor's matrimonial adventure.
• But to return from this digression. I'he circumstance of Mr. Porson's marriage with a sister of his friend Mr. Perry, a widow, is another proof of his eccentricity, as regards the mode of his deciding on this important step: The Professor was not supposed to be likely to commit matrimony, and especially a marriage of inclination.
• One night, however, while he was smoking his pipe at the cider-cellar in Maiden-Iane, (his favourite haunt,) with my brother, they had called for a second go, when, addressing his companion, he said, “ Friend George, do you
not think the widow L—n an agreeable sort of personage as times go?” throwing out a huge volume of smoke. An affirmative nod and a compliment to the lady was the reply. “ In that case you must meet me at St. Martin's in the fields to-morrow morning at 8 o'clock,” rejoined the other; and so saying, and finishing his go, he threw down his reckoning and retired.
My brother, who knew his man well, though not a little astonished, determined to attend to the invitation, and, at the hour fixed, repaired to the church, where he found the Professor and the fair widow attended by a female friend, with the parson and his clerk.
*The license being produced, the ceremony (a very short one) took place,
when the parties separated, the bride and her friend retiring by one door, and Porson and his man by another.'—vol. i. pp. 280, 281. Mr. Gordon, we fear, possesses one of the most inconvenient
the least of it) qualities of a biographer; he is always disposed to take the most unfavourable view of every man's character and conduct. This tendency of his is indulged very often, at the expence of truth and justice, as must, indeed, be admitted to be the case, when we state that, of the multitude of persons whom he brings before the public, scarcely a single one, save his patron, Lord Montgomery, comes off with a good word. The account of Peter Finnerty is flagrantly unjust; and any one who reads these volumes will be astonished, when he is told that poor Finnerty was the companion of Mr. Perry in his last moments, and consoled him in his sufferings at a time when those were far off who had often paid assiduous court to that gentleman in his days of health and hospitality. Of some other individuals, associates of Finnerty, Mr. Gordon affects to know a good deal, but his anecdotes have run the gauntlet of the newspapers over and over again.
Nothing very particular is related by Mr. Gordon until, in the course of his rambling narrative, he conducts us to Rome, where, of course, something about pictures is to be said. To all those noblemen and gentlemen who have been ever inoculated with the love of virtu, we recommend the following confessions, which, we have no doubt, may be the means of a great deal of saving to them, not merely of money, but of ridicule.
'I shall mention an extraordinary instance of the gullibility of John Bull. A young artist at Florence, a Frenchman, Monsieur Averani, had extraordinary talent for copying miniatures, giving them all the force of oil. I had frequently seen him at work in the gallery, and I purchased a clever copy of the Fornarina ” of Raphael, and one from the Venus
“ “ Vesita” of Titian, in the Pitti palace, said to be the only miniature ever painted by this great man. It had a good deal of the character of Queen Mary Stuart, was painted on a gold ground, had great force, and was highly finished, I gave the artist his price, six sequins, and brought it to England. When I disposed of my virtu in Sloane Street, previous to my settling in Scotland, this miniature made a flaming appearance in the catalogue, and my friend, the late Mr. Christie, puffed it so well, that a certain Mr. F. a sort of broker, became the proprietor of this gem for fifty-five guineas. I thought I had done pretty well by this
I transaction, until I saw it advertised in the Morning Chronicle; a flaming puff, stating “ that an original portrait of Mary, Queen of Scotland, the undoubted work of Titian, value 1,000 guineas, was to be seen at No. 14, Pall Mall-price of admission 2s. 6d."
The bait took : Mr. F. put three or four hundred pounds in his pocket by the exhibition, and sold the portrait for 7001. or 8001.
“ Here was I, an innocent accessory to the greatest imposition that ever was practised on the public. a work of art it was worth all I got for it; and I was offered nearly that sum from a friend, who knew its whole history: I understood that Lord R-k was the purchaser of this beau
. tiful miniature.