Page images
PDF
EPUB

Hugh S. Legaré to his Sisters-Visit of the Queen of France to Brussels.

wore a more modest uniform, with swords at their sides), and the table itself covered with gold and silver, and at the dessert with Sèvres china. This last, which is the most beautiful painted china, manufactured near Paris, at a cost of near three hundred francs a plate, was a bridal present to the Queen from her father. A grand band of music played the most fashionable and admired pieces of the great German and Italian masters, at intervals during the dinner, which, in all other respects, went off just as Court dinners always do, with the gravest decorum; a conversation confined to two-with no variety except an occasional change from right to left, when one or the other of your neighbors, as it happens, is run out of small talk-and carried on, of course, in a sort of whisper. Certainly, however, it must be confessed that a vast table, covered with so much magnificence, and surrounded by ladies and gentlemen-the former sparkling with diamonds, the latter all in court embroidery-presents a very brilliant coup d'œil. I was never before so much struck with the effect of precious stones in a lady's toilette, as with the richly colored beams of light that glittered about the neck and head of the Duchess d'Arenberg, a very fine woman about thirty-five, who was arrayed in more than the glory of Solomon. The worst of a dinner at Court is that, after having got through the tedious formalities of the reception, and the execution (they endure a couple of hours or so), the whole company is marched back into the salle de reception, where coffee is served with liqueurs, and there are sometimes kept standing (for none but the ladies, who take their places at the Queen's round table after dinner, in the middle of the room, are allowed to sit), sometimes for another hour, or hour and a half. For me, whose habit is, and always has been, if possible, to stretch myself off at full length upon a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Hugh S. Legaré to his Sisters-Visit of the Queen of France to Brussels.

sofa, or at least recline quite at my ease after dinner, this part of my diplomatic duties, aggravated as it is by being buttoned up close in a uniform coat made last summer, when I was by no means in such good case as I am now, is quite a serious task.

But I never suffered so much from it as at a concert given at Court two days after the dinner I speak of. All guests invited to a palace, but especially the members of the diplomatic corps, are expected to be very punctual, for, as Louis XVIII. is said to have remarked, "Punctuality is the politeness of kings." We were invited then to the said concert at three-quarters past seven o'clock, and what with the presentations, the slow progress of the processions through a suite of a half dozen rooms, and the musical performance itself, I was standing four mortal hours. To be sure I did not suffer alone, there being five or six hundred people present. The ladies had seats on two rows of benches at the two sides of a vast hall, leaving a space between for the circulation of the gentlemen invited, the waiters with refreshments, in short, every thing but air; for although it was freezing and snowing out of doors, our artificial atmosphere was so disagreeably heated, that our little Queen, in her delicate situation, could not bear it, and had to leave us amidst our excruciating delight at the various performance. The rest of the party exhibited a very tender solicitude at this untoward event, and went out with her but soon after they all returned except the King, and even he after a delay of some time longer. I own I was not overpowered by the music, though to be sure I had heard most of the performers before. They were all very good, but a concert is too stupid in itself for any thing but remarkable and exciting talent to make agreeable. *

And thus ends my

[ocr errors]

*

long history of the Queen of the French at Brussells.

William H. Prescott to Miss Prescott-Young Ladies in England. The Ascot Races.

XLIV.-YOUNG LADIES IN ENGLAND. THE ASCOT RACES.*

William H. Prescott to Miss Prescott.

LONDON, June 24th, 1850.

MY DEAR LIZZIE: As your mother tells me that you are to write to me this week, I will do the same good turn to you. What shall I tell you about? there are so many things that would interest you in this wonderful city. But first of all, I think, on reflection, you judged wisely in not coming. You would have had some lonely hours, and have been often rather awkwardly situated. Girls of your age make no great figure here in society. One never, or very rarely, meets them at dinner parties; and they are not so numerous in the evening parties as with us, unless it be the balls. Six out of seven women whom you meet in society are over thirty, and many of them over forty and fifty, not to say sixty. The older they are the more they are dressed and diamonded. Young girls dress little, and wear very little ornament indeed. They have not much money to spend on such costly luxuries. At the Ascot races yesterday, I happened to be next to Lady, a very pleasing girl, the youngest sister of Lord She seemed disposed to bet on the horses; so I told her I would venture anywhere from a shilling to a sovereign. She said she never bet higher than a shilling, but on this occasion would go as high as half a crown. So she did, and lost it. It was quite an exciting race between a horse of Lord Eglinton's, named "Flying Dutchman," and a little mare of Lord Stanley's, named "Canezon." The former had won on several occasions, but the latter had lately begun to

[ocr errors]

* This letter is taken from the biography of Mr. Ticknor, the most interesting literary biography probably in our language.--H.

William H. Prescott to Miss Prescott-Young Ladies in England. The Ascot Races.

make a name in the world, and Lord Stanley's friends were eagerly backing her. It was the most beautiful show in the world.

But I will begin with the beginning. I went with the LawWe went by railway to Windsor, then took a carriage

to Ascot, some half dozen miles distant. The crowds of carriages, horses, etc., on the road, filled the air with a whirlwind of dust, and I should have been blinded but for a blue veil which was lent me to screen my hat and face. The Swedish Minister, who furnished these accommodations, set the example by tying himself up. On reaching Ascot we were admitted to the salon, which stands against the winning post, and which is occupied by the Queen when there. It was filled with gay company, all in high spirits. Lord Stanley was looking forward to a triumph, though he talked coolly about it. He is one of the ablest, perhaps the ablest debater in Parliament, and next Monday will make a grand assault on the Cabinet. This is the way he relieves himself from the cares of public life. I suspect he was quite as much interested in the result of the race yesterday as he will be in the result of the parliamentary battle on Monday.

The prize, besides a considerable stake of money from subscription, was a most gorgeous silver vase, the annual present of the Emperor of Russia for the Ascot races. It represents Hercules taming the horses of Diomed, beautifully sculptured, making an ornament for a sideboard or a table some five feet in height, and eighteen inches square. What a trophy for the castle of the Earl of Derby or for the Eglinton halls in Scotland !

The horses were paraded up and down before the spectators; betting ran very high-men and women, nobles and commoners, who crowd the ground by thousands, all entering into it. Five

rences.

[ocr errors]

William H. Prescott to Miss Prescott-Young Ladies in England. The Ascot Races.

horses started on a heat of two miles and a half. The little bay mare led off gallantly-"Flying Dutchman" seemed to lose ground-the knowing ones began to shake—and the odds rose in "Canezon's" favor, when, just as they were within half a mile of the goal, Lord Eglinton's jockey gave his horse the rein, and he went off in gallant style-not running, but touching the ground in a succession of flying leaps that could hardly have brushed the wet from the grass, for it began to rain. There was a general sensation; bets changed; the cry was for the old favorite; and as the little troop shot by us, "Flying Dutchman' came in at the head, by the length of several rods, before all the field. Then there was a shouting and congratulations, while the mob followed the favorite horse as if they would devour him. He was brought directly under our windows, and Lady Eglinton felt, I have no doubt, as much love for him at the moment as for any of her children. It was a glorious triumph, and the race was hers, or her lord's, whom I did not see. Now I do not feel the least excited by all this, but excessively tired, and I would. not go to another race if I could do it by walking into the next street; that is, if I had to sit it out, as I did here, for three mortal hours. How hard the English people are driven for amusement!

Coming home, we drove through the Royal Park at Windsor, among trees hundreds of years old, under which troops of deer were lazily grazing, secure from all molestation. The Thames is covered with swans, which nobody would dare to injure. How beautiful all this is! I wish, dear Lizzie, you could have a peep at the English country, with its superb, widestretching lawns, its numerous flocks of sheep everywhere dotting the fields, and even the parks in town, and the beautiful

« PreviousContinue »