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THE THREE COURTS.
The fascinating person thus described was born in Ireland : he had already experienced some vicissitudes, which were renewed at the Revolution of 1688, when he fled to France-the country in which he had spent his youth—and died at St. Germains in 1720, aged seventy-four. His poetry and his fairy tales are forgotten; but his " Memoirs of the Count de Grammont” is a work which combines the vivacity of a French writer with the truth of an English historian.
Ormond Yard, St. James's Square, was the London residence of the Duke of Ormond : the garden-wall of Ormond House took up the greater part of York Street: the Hamilton family had a commodious house in the same courtly neighborhood, and the cousins mingled continually. Here persons of the greatest distinction constantly met; and here the “Chevalier de Grammont,” as he was still called, was received in a manner suitable to his rank and style; and soon regretted that he had passed so much time in other places; for, after he once knew the charming Hamiltons, he wished for no other friends.
There were three courts at that time in the capital; that at Whitehall, in the king's apartments ; that in the queen's, in the same palace; and that of Henrietta Maria, the Queen Mother, as she was styled, at Somerset House. Charles's was pre-eminent in immorality, and in the daily outrage of all decency; that of the unworthy widow of Charles I. was just bordering on impropriety; that of Katherine of Braganza was still decorous, though not irreproachable. Pepys, in his Diary, has this passage :“Visited Mrs. Ferrers, and stayed talking with her a good while, there being a little, proud, ugly, talking lady there, that was much crying up the queene-mother's court at Somerset House, above our queen’s; there being before her no allowance of laughing and mirth that is at the other's; and, indeed, it is observed that the greatest court nowadays is there. Thence to Whitehall, where I carried my wife to see the queene in her presence-chamber; and the maydes of honour and the young Duke of Monmouth, playing at cards."
Queen Katherine, notwithstanding that the first words she was ever known to say in English were “You lie !” was one of the gentlest of beings. Pepys describes her as having a modest, innocent look, among all the demireps with whom she was forced to associate. Again we turn to Pepys, an anecdote of whose is characteristic of poor Katherine's submissive, uncomplaining nature:
“With Creed, to the King's Head ordinary; ... pretty gentleman in our company, who confirms my Lady Castlemaine's being gone from court, but knows not the reason; he told us of one wipe the queene, a little while ago, did give
LA BELLE HAMILTON.
her, when she come in and found the queene under the dresser's hands, and had been so long. 'I wonder your majesty, says she, can have the patience to sit so long a-dressing ?' "I have so much reason to use patience,' says the queene, that I can very well bear with it.
It was in the court of this injured queen that De Grammont went one evening to Mrs. Middleton's house: there was a ball that night, and among the dancers was the loveliest creature that De Grammont had ever seen. His eyes were riveted on this fair form; he had heard of, but never till then seen her whom all the world consented to call “ La Belle Hamilton," and his heart instantly echoed the expression. From this time he forgot Mrs. Middleton, and despised Miss Warmestre: “he found," he said, that he had seen nothing at court till this instant."
“Miss Hamilton,” he himself tells us, was at the happy age when the charms of the fair sex begin to bloom; she had the finest shape, the loveliest neck, and most beautiful arms in the world; she was majestic and graceful in all her movements; and she was the original after which all the ladies copied in their taste and air of dress. Her forehead was open, white, and smooth; her hair was well set, and fell with ease into that natural order which it is so difficult to imitate. Her complexion was possessed of a certain freshness, not to be equaled by borrowed colors; her eyes were not large, but they were lively, and capable of expressing whatever she pleased."* So far for her person; but De Grammont was, it seems, weary of mere external charms: it was the intellectual superiority that riveted his feelings, while his connoisseurship in beauty was satisfied that he had never yet seen any one so perfect.
“Her mind," he says, “was a proper companion for such a form: she did not endeavor to shine in conversation by those sprightly sallies which only puzzle, and with still greater care she avoided that affected solemnity in her discourses which produces stupidity; but, without any eagerness to talk, she just said what she ought, and no more. She had an admirable discernment in distinguishing between solid and false wit; and far from making an ostentatious display of her abilities, she was reserved, though very just in her decisions. Her sentiments were always noble, and even lofty to the highest extent, when there was occasion; nevertheless, she was less prepossessed with her own merit than is usually the case with Those who have so much. Formed as we have described, she could not fail of commanding love; but so far was she from
* See De Grammont's Memoirs.
HER PRACTICAL JOKES.
courting it, that she was scrupulously nice with respect to those whose merit might entitle them to form any pretensions to her.”
Born in 1641, Elizabeth—for such was the Christian name of this lovely and admirable woman was scarcely in her twentieth year when she first appeared at Whitehall. Sir Peter Lely was at that time painting the Beauties of the Court, and had done full justice to the intellectual and yet innocent face that riveted De Grammont. He had depicted her with her rich dark hair, of which a tendril or two fell on her ivory forehead, adorned at the back with large pearls, under which a gauze-like texture was gathered up, falling over the fair. shoulders like a veil: a full corsage, bound by a light band either of ribbon or of gold lace, confining, with a large jewel or button, the sleeve on the shoulder, disguised somewhat the exquisite shape. A frill of fine cambric set off, while in whiteness it scarce rivaled, the shoulder and neck.
The features of this exquisite face are accurately described by De Grammont, as Sir Peter has painted them. The mouth
6 does not smile, but seems ready to break out into a smile. Nothing is sleepy, but every thing is soft, sweet, and innocent in that face so beautiful and so beloved.”
While the colors were fresh on Lely's palettes, James Duke, of York, that profligate who aped the saint, saw it, and henceforth paid his court to the original, but was repelled with fearless hauteur. The dissolute nobles of the court followed his example, even to the “lady-killer" Jermyn, but in vain. Unhappily for La Belle Hamilton, she became sensible to the at-: tractions of De Grammont, whom she eventually married.
Miss Hamilton, intelligent as she was, lent herself to the fashion of the day, and delighted in practical jokes and tricks. At the splendid masquerade given by the queen she continued to plague her cousin, Lady Muskerry; to confuse-and expose
; a stupid court beauty, a Miss Blaque; and at the same time to produce on the Count de Grammont a still more powerful effect than even her charms had done. Her success in hoaxing, —which we should now think both perilous and indelicateseems to have only riveted the chain, which was drawn around him more strongly.
His friend, or rather his foe, St. Evremond, tried in vain to discourage the chevalier from his new passion. The former tutor was, it appeared, jealous of its influence, and hurt that De Grammont was now seldom at his house.
De Grammont's answer to his remonstrances was very char- : acteristic. “My poor philosopher,” he cried, “you understand Latin well—you can make good verses--you are acquainted