Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

noble ac

[ocr errors]

gagement will deprive him of the pleasure of dining with Mrs. Fry on Thursday next. No apology, however, was necessary for the early hour named in her note, as it is two hours later than Mr. R. is accustomed to dine in Virginia; and he has not yet been long enough in London to learn how to turn day into night, and vice versa.''

I told Randolph, next day, that I had seen his note. “Well, sir," said he, “and was I not right to be candid? Mrs. Fry is a most sen. sible woman, sir, and she shows her good taste by opposing the foolish customs of the aristocracy; and I wanted her to know that I agreed with her, sir. I can go all but the late dinners; they are killing me, sir; and I must quickly run away from London, or cut my quaintances." Before my arrival in London, Lord L-, meeting Randolph

one night, under the gallery of the House of Commons, introduced himself to him, and they became very intimate. His lordship said to me one day afterwards, “I have never met with so thoroughly well-informed a gentleman as your friend Randolph, no matter what the subject-history, belles-lettres, biography; but, sir, the most astonishing part of all is, that he possesses a minute local knowledge of England and Ireland. I thought that I knew them well, but I assure you I was obliged to yield the palm to him. I have purposely tried to puzzle or confuse bim, but all in vain. His conversational powers are most dazzling, even in London, sir, where we pride ourselves on good talkers. I never have been so much struck with any stranger; and although a high tory, I always forgot that he was a republican. By the way, not a very bigoted one, sir. I never heard him abuse the aristocracy! I was so much pleased with him, on our first interview, I determined to pay him a mark of respect, which I was sure would gratify his Virginia pride. I solicited permission from the Lord Chancellor, to introduce Mr. Randolph, as a distin. guished American, into the House of Lords, by the private entrance, near the throne, instead of obliging him to force his way, with the crowd, at the common entrance. Having obtained his lordship's consent, I then introduced Mr. Randolph to the door-keeper, and desired him to admit him whenever he presented himself, without requiring him to cxhibit any special order. His figure and whole appearance are so singular, I ran no risk in having any counterfeit Randolphs,and I said so to the door-keeper, as some excuse for omitting our

a

usual practice. When I told him of his privilege, I saw at once that I had won my way to his heart; and amply has he repaid me, sir, by the richness of his conversations whenever we have since met."

A few days after my arrival in London, continues Mr. Harvey, I had an opportunity of testing the value of this privilege of private entry. It will be recollected that George Canning, in the year 1822, just previous to his intended departure as governor-general of India (which never took place, owing to Lord Castlereagh's death), introduced, and carried through the House of Commons, the “ Roman Catholic Peers' bill," as it was called, which he intended as a fare. well legacy to his countrymen. It passed by a handsome majority. and was then sent to undergo the fiery ordeal of the House of Lords. The subject engrossed public attention, and there was great anxiety to attend the debate on the appointed night. The Marquis of Lwas kind enough to present me with an order to admit two personsmyself and friend—and I returned to our lodgings in great glee. There I found Randolph, told him of my good luck, and offered him the unoccupied half of my order.

“Pray, sir," said he “at which door do you intend to enter the House ?

“ At the lower door, of course," replied I “where all strangers enter.”

“Not all strangers if you please,” said he, "for I shall enter at the private door, near the throne !" " Oh, my dear sir," replied I, "your privilege, I dare say, will answer on any common occasion ; but tonight the members of the House of Commons will entirely fill the space around the throne, and no stranger, depend upon it, will be admitted there. So be wise, and don't refuse this chance, or you will regret it."

“ What sir," retorted he,“ do you suppose I would consent to struggle with and push through the crowd of persons who, for two long hours, must fight their way in at the lower door ? Oh no, sir! I shall do no such thing; and if I cannot enter as a gentleman commoner, I go not at all !"

After vainly endeavoring to induce him to change his mind, we separated; he for the aristocratic entrance, I for the common one. With great difficulty, and wondering how I had preserved my coat-tails whole, I finally squeezed myself into the House, half suffocated, and

G

was fortunate enough (being then young and active) to secure a stand at the bar, from whence I could see my noble lord's face, and hear every word that was spoken. Casting a glance towards the throne soon after my entrance, to my no small surprise and envy, I beheld “ Randolph of Roanoke" in all his glory, walking in most leisurely, and perfectly at home, along-side of Canning, Lord Castlereagh, Sir Robert Peel, and many other distinguished members of the House of Commons. Some of these gentlemen even selected for him a prominent position, where he could see and hear perfectly, and I observed many courtesies passing between them during the night. Very shortly after Mr. Randolph's arrival in London, a splendid ball was given, under the immediate patronage of George the Fourth and the principal nobility, for the benefit of the poor Irish peasantry of Munster and Connaught, who were suffering from the effects of famine, attended as usual by disease. It was a magnificent affair, Randolph attended, glad of an opportunity to give his mite, and to behold at the same time the congregated aristocracy of Great Britain. “ It was cheap, sir, very cheap” said he to me, “ actors and actresses innumerable, and all dressed out most gorgeously. There were jewels enough, sir, there, to make new crowns for all the monarchs of Europe! And I, too, republican though I am, must needs go in court-dress! Well sir, don't imagine that I was so foolish as to purchase a new suit, at a cost of twenty-five or thirty guineas. Oh no! I have not studied London life for nothing. I have been told, sir, that many a noble lady would appear at the ball that night with jewels hired for the occasion ; and I took the bint, sir, and hired a full court-dress for five guineas. When I beheld myself in the glass, I laughed at the oddity of my appearance, and congratulated my. self that I was three thousand miles from Charlotte Court-House. Had I played the harlequin there, sir, I think my next election would be doubtful. I stole into the room, with rather a nervous walk, and was about selecting a very quiet position in a corner, when your countryman, Lord Castlereagh, seeing my embarrassment, came forward, and with an air of the most finished politeness, insisted upon being my chaperon. For one hour he devoted himself to me, and pointed out all persons of notoriety in the crowd as they passed us in review. Such was the fascination of his manners, I forgot, for the moment, that I was speaking to the man who had sold his country's independence and his own ; who had lent his aid to a licentious monarch to destroy his queen, who, if guilty, might point to her husband's conduct as the cause of her fall. But, sir, I was spellbound for that hour, for never did I meet a more accomplished gentlenian; and yet he is a deceitful politician, whose character none can admire. An Irish tory, sir, I never could abide." Miss Edgeworth and Randolph met together for the first time at the breakfasttable of a very distinguished Irish member of Parliament (now a peer of the realm). The gentleman to whom I refer, told me that it was an intellectual feast, such as he had rarely enjoyed before. To use his own words:

“Spark produced spark, and for three hours they kept up the fire, until it ended in a perfect blaze of wit, humor, and repartee. It appeared to me that Mr. R. was more intimately acquainted with Miss Edgeworth's works than she was herself. He frequently quoted passages where her memory was at fault; and he brought forward every character of any note in all her productions: but what most astonished us was, his intimate knowledge of Ireland. Lady Tand myself did nothing but listen; and I was really vexed when some public business called me away.”

“Who do you think I met under the gallery of the House of Commons ?” said Randolph to me one day. “ You can't guess, and so I'll tell you. There was a spruce, dapper little gentleman sitting next to me, and he made some trifling remark, to which I replied. We then entered into conversation, and I found him a most fascinating witty fellow. He pointed out to me the distinguished members who were unknown to me, and frequently gave them a friendly shot. At parting, he handed me his card, and I read with some surprise,

Mr. Thomas Moore.' Yes, sir, it was the · Bard of Erin ;' and upon this discovery I said to him, "Well, Mr. Moore, I am delighted to meet you thus; and I tell you, sir, that I envy you more for being the author of the “Twopenny Post-bag” and “ Tom Crib's Memorial to Congress,” than for all your beautiful songs, which play the fool with young ladies' hearts. He laughed heartily at what he called my singular taste,' and we parted the best friends imaginable."

Mr. Randolph was present at a large meeting of the African Institution at London. Mr. Wilberforce, after speaking with his usual ability and eloquence on the appropriate subjects of the occasion, concluded by pronouncing a warm panegyric upon the example set by the United States of America, in making the slave-trade piracy, and upon Mr. Randolph's great efforts in promoting that act.

6

6

[ocr errors]

Mr. Randolph then rose to return thanks for the mark of respect towards the United States of America. After a few appropriate remarks, he thanked the meeting for the grateful sense they had expressed towards America ; and also assured them that all that was exalted in station, in talent, and in moral character among his countrymen, was (as was also to be found in England) firmly united for the suppression of this infamous traffic. It was delightful to him to know that Virginia, the land of his sires, the place of his nativity, had for half a century affixed a public brand and indelible stigma upon this traffic, and had put in the claim of the wretched objects of it to the common rights and attributes of humanity.

The plainness of Mr. Randolph's appearance, says a London paper, his republican simplicity of manners, and easy and unaffected address, attracted much attention, and he sat down amidst a burst of applause

Mr. Randolph travelled extensively in England and Scotland, met a flattering and distinguished reception wherever he went, was pleased with every thing, and delighted every body with his cordial manner and fascinating conversation. He returned to the United States about the last of November, and was present during the last session of the serenteenth Congress, which, on the 3d of March, 1823, was closed; but he did not open his lips on any occasion whatever ; indeed there was no discussion of any importance during the session. Immediately on the adjournment he hurried off to Virginia, and spent some days with his friend, William R. Johnson, in Chesterfield, who was then in high training for the great match race between the North and the South. The exercise and excitement of mind in anticipation of his favorite sport produced an evident change in Mr. Randolph's health ; it was much improved; he slept better than he had

for ten years.

[ocr errors]

“ To that night,” says he, “ spent on a shuck matress in a little garret room at Chesterfield Court-house, Sunday, March the 9th, 1823, I look back with delight. It was a stormy night. The windows clattered, and William R. Johnson got up several times to try and put a stop to the noise, by thrusting a glove between the loose sashes. I heard the noise; I even heard him; but it did not disturb me. I enjoyed a sweet nap of eight hours, during which, he said, he never heard me breathe. N B. I had fasted all dav, and supped (which I have not done since) on a soft egg and a bit of biscuit. My

« AnteriorContinuar »