Letters from England

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Author: Elizabeth Davis Bancroft

Letter: to I.P.D. February 21st

My dear Uncle: . . . I wrote [J.D.] a week or two before I heard of his death, but was unable to tell him anything of Lord North, as I had not met Lady Charlotte Lindsay. I have seen her twice this week at Baron Parke’s and at Lord Campbell’s, and told her how much I had wished to do so before, and on what account. She says her father heard reading with great pleasure, and that one of her sisters could read the classics: Latin and, I think, Greek, which he enjoyed to the last. She says that he never complained of losing his sight, but that her mother has told her that it worried him in his old age that he remained Minister during our troubles at a period when he wished, himself, to resign. He sometimes talked of it in the solitude of sleepless nights, her mother has told her.

On Tuesday morning we were invited by Dr. Buckland, the Dean of Westminster, to go to his house, and from thence to the Abbey, to witness the funeral of the Duke of Northumberland. The Dean, who has control of everything in the Abbey, issued tickets to several hundred persons to go and witness the funeral, but only Lord Northampton’s family, the Bunsens (the Prussian Minister), and ourselves, went to his house, and into the Dean’s little gallery.

After the ceremony there were a crowd of visitors at the Dean’s, and I met many old acquaintances, and made many new ones, among whom were Lady Chantrey, a nice person. After the crowd cleared off, we sat down to a long table at lunch, always an important meal here, and afterward the Dean took me on his arm and showed me everything within the Abbey precincts. He took us first to the Percy Chapel to see the vault of the Percys. . . . From thence the Dean took us to the Jerusalem chamber where Henry IV died, then all over the Westminster school. We first went to the hall where the young men were eating their dinner. . . . We then went to the school-room, where every inch of the wall and benches is covered with names, some of them most illustrious, as Dryden’s. There were two bunches of rods, which the Dean assured me were not mere symbols of power, but were daily used, as, indeed, the broken twigs scattered upon the floor plainly showed. Our ferules are thought rather barbarous, but a gentle touch from a slender twig not at all so. These young men looked to me as old as our collegians. We then went to their studyrooms, play-rooms, and sleeping-rooms. The whole forty sleep in one long and well-ventilated room, the walls of which were also covered with names. At the foot of each bed was a large chest covered with leather, as mouldering and time-worn as the Abbey itself. Here are educated the sons of some of the noblest families, and the Archbishop of York has had six sons here, and all of them were in succession the Captain of the school. . . .

On Wednesday evening we went first to our friends, the Bunsens, where we were invited to meet the Duchess of Sutherland with a few other persons. Bunsen is very popular here. He is learned and accomplished, and was so much praised in the Biography of Dr. Arnold, the late historian of Rome, that he has great reputation in the world of letters. . . . Although we have great pleasure in the society of Chevalier and Madam Bunsen, and in those whom we meet at their house. On this occasion we only stayed half an hour, which I passed in talking with the Bishop of Norwich and his wife, Mrs. Stanley, and went to Lady Morgan’s without waiting till the Duchess of Sutherland came. There we found her little rooms full of agreeable people. . . . The next day, Thursday, there was a grand opera for the benefit of the Irish, and all the Diplomatic Corps were obliged to take boxes. Lady Palmerston, who was one of the three patronesses, secured a very good box for us, directly opposite the Queen, and only three from the stage.

We took with us Mrs. Milman and W.T. Davis, to whom it gave a grand opportunity of seeing the Queen and the assembled aristocracy, at least all who are now in London. "God save the Queen," sung with the whole audience standing, was a noble sight. The Queen also stood, and at the end gave three curtsies. On Friday Captain and Mrs. Wormeley, with Miss Wormeley, dined with us, with Mr. and Mrs. Carlyle, Miss Murray, the Maid of Honor, Mr. and Mrs. Pell of New York, with William T. and Mr. Brodhead. William was very glad to see Carlyle, who showed himself off to perfection, uttering his paradoxes in broad Scotch.

Last evening we dined at Mr. Thomas Baring’s, and a most agreeable dinner it was. The company consisted of twelve persons, Lord and Lady Ashburton, etc. I like Lady Ashburton extremely. She is full of intelligence, reads everything, talks most agreeably, and still loves America. She is by no means one of those who abjure their country. I have seen few persons in England whom I should esteem a more delightful friend or companion than Lady Ashburton, and I do not know why, but I had received a different impression of her. Lord Ashburton, by whom I sat at dinner, struck me as still one of the wisest men I have seen in England. Lady Ashburton, who was sitting by Mr. Bancroft, leant forward and said to her husband, "WE can bring bushels of corn this year to England." "Who do you mean by WE?" said he. "Why, we Americans, to be sure."

Monday Evening

Yesterday we dined at Count St. Aulair’s, the French Ambassador, who is a charming old man of the old French school, at a sort of amicable dinner given to Lord and Lady Palmerston. Lord John Russell was of the party, with the Russian Ambassador and lady, Mr. and Madam Van de Weyer, the Prussian and Turkish Ministers. The house of the French Embassy is fine, but these formal grand dinners are not so charming as the small ones. The present state of feeling between Lord Palmerston and the French Government gave it a kind of interest, however, and it certainly went off in a much better spirit than Lady Normanby’s famous party, which Guizot would not attend. It seems very odd to me to be in the midst of these European affairs, which I have all my life looked upon from so great a distance.

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Chicago: Elizabeth Davis Bancroft, "Letter: To I.P.D. February 21st," Letters from England, ed. Symons, Arthur, 1865-1945 and trans. Elwes, R. H. M. (Robert Harvey Monro), 1853- in Letters from England (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1904), Original Sources, accessed February 25, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=9HNYN8F2EHCILTD.

MLA: Bancroft, Elizabeth Davis. "Letter: To I.P.D. February 21st." Letters from England, edited by Symons, Arthur, 1865-1945, and translated by Elwes, R. H. M. (Robert Harvey Monro), 1853-, in Letters from England, Vol. 3, London, Smith, Elder & Co., 1904, Original Sources. 25 Feb. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=9HNYN8F2EHCILTD.

Harvard: Bancroft, ED, 'Letter: To I.P.D. February 21st' in Letters from England, ed. and trans. . cited in 1904, Letters from England, Smith, Elder & Co., London. Original Sources, retrieved 25 February 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=9HNYN8F2EHCILTD.