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news from England, but of robberies; the numbers of disbanded soldiers and sailors have all taken to the road, or rather to the street. People are almost afraid of stirring after it is dark. My Lady Albemarle was robbed the other night in Great Russell Street by nine men. The King gave her a gold watch and chain the next day. She says 'the manner was all;' and indeed so it was, for I never saw a more frippery present, especially considering how great a favourite she is, and my Lady Yarmouth's friend." So frequent, at this period, were highway robberies, even in the most populous thoroughfares of London, that, on the very day preceding the date of Walpole's letter, a proclamation appeared in the London Gazette offering a reward of 100%. for the apprehension of any offender. Singular as these facts may appear, there is no doubt that, favoured by the ill-lighted and illprotected state of the streets, highway robberies were committed in the heart of London up to a much later period than we have usually any notion of. Less than half a century ago, a near relative of the author, accompanied by a friend (both of whom are still living to corroborate the fact), were on their way to Ranelagh, when, in Piccadilly, opposite to St. James's Church, the hackney-coach in which they were seated, was suddenly stopped, two men with pistols presenting themselves, one at each door, while a third jumped on the box to overawe the coachman. Without the means of defence, they were compelled to satisfy the ruffians by delivering
up their watches and money, and, at their departure, drove to the nearest police-station to give information of the robbery. Here but little hopes of redress were held out to them. Their tale was listened to as if it had been one of nightly occurrence; and, as regarded the evidence of the coachman, they had the satisfaction of learning that very little doubt existed but that he was in league with the robbers.
To return to Great Russell Street. In this street John Le Neve, the antiquary, was born on the 27th of December 1679; and here Speaker Onslow died, in February 1768. Here, too, was the residence of the great actor, John Philip Kemble, principally conspicuous from its double windows in the library, which drew from the late James Smith the following lively lines :
Rheumatic pains make Kemble halt;
Ah! who from fell disease can run?
Kemble's house, No. 89, afterwards the residence of Sir Henry Ellis, the principal librarian of the British Museum, was taken down in 1847, to make room for the new buildings required by the Museum. At No. 72, Great Russell Street, Sir Sidney Smith was residing in 1828.
The great object of interest in Great Russell Street is unquestionably Montague House, now converted into the British Museum. This magnificent mansion was originally built in 1678, by Ralph first Duke of Montague, ambassador to France in the reign of William the Third. A few years afterwards we find it leased by the Duke, then Lord Montague, to William fourth Earl of Devonshire, during whose occupancy it was destroyed by fire on the morning of the 19th of January 1686. The Countess, a daughter of the great Duke of Ormond, and her children, after a very narrow escape with their lives, were carried in blankets to Southampton House, where they were hospitably received by their neighbour, Lady Russell, who has left us an account of the catastrophe in one of her letters to Dr. Fitzwilliam. The mansion was shortly afterwards rebuilt by Lord Montague with increased splendour. The architect was a M. Poughet, who laid out the buildings and gardens entirely on the French model. Even the staircase and ceilings at Montague House were painted by French artists, Rousseau and La Fosse.
In Montague House resided, for many years, the eccentric Lady Elizabeth Cavendish, daughter and co-heir of Henry Duke of Newcastle, and successively Duchess of Albemarle and Montague. She had been contracted in early youth to Christopher, only son of the celebrated George Monk, Duke of Albemarle. This marriage had been a favourite project of the old Duke; and when
he felt himself dying, his anxiety to see it completed seems to have been the only object which bound his affections to the world. Finding himself daily growing more feeble, he expressed so ardent a desire for the immediate solemnization of the marriage, that it was performed in his sick chamber on the 30th of December 1669, only four days before he breathed his last; the bridegroom being only sixteen, and the bride probably considerably younger. Their union was not a happy one. His life, being embittered by the fretfulness and illtemper of his imperious wife, the Duke sought a refuge from his domestic unhappiness in the pleasures of the bottle, and subsequently accepted the appointment of Governor of Jamaica, where he died in 1688. After his death his Duchess, whose wealth must have been immense, publicly expressed her determination to marry no one but a sovereign prince. Among her suitors were the reprobate Lord Rosse and Lord Montague. In order to flatter her insane fancies, the latter is said to have courted her as Emperor of China, which produced from his angry competitor the following lines:
Insulting rival! never boast
Thy conquest lately won;
No wonder if her heart was lost,
From one that 's under Bedlam's laws,
For love of thee was not the cause,
Of her insanity there can be no doubt: indeed, her second husband placed her in confinement with an allowance of 3000l. a year. She was indulged in her phantasies, and, to the last, was served on the knee as a sovereign princess. The apartments which she occupied in Montague House were on the ground-floor. Her death took place in 1734, at a very advanced age, at Newcastle House, Clerkenwell, her paternal property.
It was in the meadows behind Montague House that Aubrey mentions the following incident occurring in 1694. "The last summer," he says, the day of St. John the Baptist, I accidentally was walking in the pasture behind Montague House. It was twelve o'clock. I saw there about two or three and twenty young women, most of them well habited, on their knees very busy, as if they had been weeding. I could not presently learn what the matter was; at last a young man told me that they were looking for a coal under the root of a plantain, to put under their heads that night, and they should dream who would be their husbands. It was to be found that day and hour."
In the middle of the last century, the ground behind the north-west of Russell Street was occupied by a farm belonging to two old maiden sisters of the name of Capper. They wore riding-habits," we are told, "and men's hats. One rode an old grey mare; and it was her spiteful delight to ride, with a pair of shears, after boys who were flying their kites, purposely to cut their strings: the other