Memoirs of Josef Boruwlaski - CHAP. VIII.
Visit to Blenheim; polite reception from the Duke and . Duchess of Marlborough -- Count Oginski patronizes a concert -- Interview with his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales -- Introduction to the Prince de Mecklenburgh -- Arrival at Norwich, and concert there -- Invitation to Braken, and kindness of Mrs. Brown -- Treacherous conduct of a Frenchman -- Description of Cambridge -- Arrival at Bury St. Edmunds; kindness of the family of Metcalfe -- Journey through York to Edinburgh -- Eulogium on Scotland -- Departure through England for France -- Arrival at Boulogne and Paris; departure thence to Cherburg and Guernsey. Description of the island and its inhabitants.
During the time I remained at Oxford, one day a gentleman came and desired me to go and spend the evening, at about eight or nine miles distance. He would not tell the place, but assured me, that a carriage should take me thither, and I should not repent my visit. I complied with his request; and how great was my surprise, when I found myself conveyed to the splendid palace of Blenheim, where their Graces the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough welcomed me in the most affable manner! The Duchess herself vouchsafed to shew me the apartments, and point out all the curiosities they contain.
On my return home from Blenheim, I was informed, that his Grace the Duke of Marlborough wished to have one of my shoes, to place in his cabinet among other rarities. I had too much reason to be flattered with this nobleman's affability, not to send him a pair of them immediately, to which I joined the only pair of boots I ever had made for me, which I brought from Poland; and his Grace was very well pleased, I heard, with this mark of attention.
At length I returned to London, after about three years' absence. I met there the Grand General of Lithuania, Count Oginski, who had shewn me so much kindness during my stay at Paris. He seemed to take much pleasure in seeing me again, and promised to assist me on all occasions with his name and credit. Therefore, this was a most favourable opportunity for me to perform another concert, under the patronage of this amiable Count, so approved for talents of every kind, and who had deigned to teach me the first principles of music.
The day appointed was the 30th of June, to the best of my recollection, and his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales promised, to be present. He had at dinner with him, on that day, his Highness the Prince de Mecklenburgh; and, wishing to introduce me to this Prince, he sent his carriage for me. I found their Highnesses at table, with whom I sat down a full hour, and from thence set out for the concert. Though it was tolerably well attended, and the company very select, yet I should have suffered a loss, if the generous Count Oginski had not paid Mr. Galini all the charges of it.
An erroneous report had been propagated of the Count, that he was king for three days; and there cannot be a doubt that, from his abilities and virtue, he was entitled to the crown. However, the fact is this,-- he was proposed as a candidate; but, according to my recollection, the Court of Petersburgh, having a friendship of many years' standing with Stanislaus Poniatowski, by whom Catherine Empress of Russia, obtained her influence in the political affairs of Poland, she appointed her friend Poniatowski to be King of Poland. Therefore, Count Oginski was disappointed, by the opposition of this strong party of 89,000 of the Russian army. I shall not enter into, a particular account of this proceeding, since I keep a journal merely of my own actions.
After the departure of Count Oginski, I set out for Norwich. On my arrival there, I was informed of the grand Oratorios, about which the whole town was in a state of rapture. Mrs. Siddons was also engaged to perform every night at the theatre.
The week after the Oratorios were over, Mr. Cramer, having heard of me, came to see me, and persuaded me to give a concert offering me every assistance in his power, and telling me, if I could get Mrs. Siddons to appear at the Assembly Rooms, I should have the whole town. So my good friend Cramer consulted with me what was best to be done. We applied to a lady of rank, and she wrote Mrs. Siddons a letter, replete with the most tender expressions: in the conclusion, she said, "I make no doubt, from your extreme fine feelings, of your complying with my request, and I expect much pleasure in seeing you at the concert." Mrs. S. returned an answer, that a previous engagement prevented her having the pleasure of attending it.
I regretted extremely that I was thus deprived of the powerful aid, which I should have received from the patronage of a lady, so universally admired for her unrivalled talents, and numbering so many persons of distinguished rank among her friends. Immediately after Mrs. Siddons's departure, it happened that Mr. Mathews, one of the most eminent comic actors of the age, arrived in Norwich and was announced to perform on the same night for which my concert was advertised. This gentleman, however, with his accustomed generosity and politeness; put off his performance to a future time, rather than I should suffer by the competition. I cannot omit this opportunity of paying my humble tribute of friendship to that Worthy individual, in whose society I have since passed many pleasant hours.
A few days after my concert, Mrs. B-- a lady of great consequence, sent me an invitation to go to Braken, about six miles from the towns This amiable lady gave me a gracious reception. By her greatness of soul the public must know her; as she cannot disguise her bounty, it being written with indelible characters in the hearts of many unhappy creatures, whom she relieved from their calamities, both in town and country, in a manner as judicious as charitable. Perceiving that I had not been accustomed to dependence, even on the public, she considered my situation as the more painful and humiliating to my feelings. Her great goodness induced her to set forward a subscription; and, from this, I perceived a good prospect of a decent maintenance.
But here, may I be permitted to fix my reader's attention for a moment, and beg him to take notice of the cruel event which took place? Having soon afterwards visited Paris, a Frenchman, of the name of Dertreval (who possessed an amazing stock of wickedness in his mind), artfully laid a plan, which deprived me of the confidence of my protectress.
This fellow, renouncing all pretensions to honour as well as to virtue, and disgracing the name of his nation, like an evil spirit concealed under a human shape, watched for an opportunity to deceive, which he found the moment I arrived in the French metropolis. I fell dangerously ill; and when the physician gave little hopes of my recovery, this villain forged a letter in my name, and demanded the whole of the money from this benevolent, lady. My name was necessary at the bottom of the letter, as I had desired him to write for the sum of twenty pounds. He read to me a letter, which I thought a very proper one; but he had another artfully concealed, which he slipped into my hand, and I signed this treacherous letter, without perceiving the deception. Thus I became a victim to the wiles of a tempter, of whom I was totally ignorant; but if I have suffered in the opinion of the amiable Mrs. B-- , this will not acquit me of the gratitude I owe to her: the remembrance of her kindness must remain with me, and be carried in my heart.
I had long intended to travel through Scotland, for which country the same Mrs. B--, to whom I was under such obligations, gave me several letters of recommendation, and I set out for Scotland. But this being rather a long trip, I took, in my way, the University of Cambridge, where I stopped; for which place my benefactress, Miss Metcalfe, sent me a letter of introduction. This powerful letter opened me the door of the whole University; and if it is allowed to me to give a little sketch, I will try to describe some particulars which I recollect of it. There are twelve colleges, and four halls. The Senate-House is a most beautiful edifice. Trinity College, with its library is also a grand and noble structure. In the library of Corpus Christi College is a wonderful collection of manuscripts of the ancient writers, which was preserved at the destruction of the monasteries, as the master of the college informed me. This surprising University is not so wonderful for its architectural splendour, as for its antiquity and depth of science.
The town of Cambridge cannot be compared to Oxford, where the colleges give such advantage, and so beautify the place. As far as I recollect, Cambridge is not equal to it in that respect. But the affability of the gownsmen, and the politeness of the inhabitants, attract the attention of the stranger; and it is with regret he parts from them. What made me leave Cambridge sooner than I had intended, was this:-- I found that Bury St. Edmund's was not far off, where the worthy family of Metcalfe had a residence; and I considered this the best opportunity I could have to perform my duty, and pay my respects to them. Consequently, the day after my concert, which was very brilliant, I left Cambridge; and arrived in the evening at Bury St. Edmund's, and found that the whole of this amiable family was at their country seat, to the best of my recollection, about a mile from the town. They received me with an affability, which I found even much more gratifying, than the highest degree of their bounty. They condescended to procure me a comfortable lodging in the town; and, to prove the liberal sentiments of their mind, paid all expenses during my stay. I esteem it not the smallest favour, that Miss Margaret Metcalfe asked me many questions concerning the situation of my present affairs, dictated not by curiosity, but purely by the goodness of her mind, which took an entire interest in my welfare. I concealed nothing, but took the liberty to inform her of all particulars, and of the amiable Mrs. B-- having opened a subscription at Norwich.
At hearing this last part of my affairs reported, my benefactress was much gratified; and, soon after, honoured me with an additional proof of her liberality, by raising a sum of money, and sending it to Mrs. B--, at Norwich. I found my soul deeply impressed with admiration of her kindness, conferred in so noble a way; and my heart was ready to cry out with joy, when I reflected how carefully my welfare was watched over by my protectress. For, as the sun peeps through the gloomy sky, to ripen the little mustard seed; so did the brightness of her eye, beaming with generosity, shine on my humble merits, and disperse the dark cloud of my adversity. During my stay at Bury St. Edmund's, this excellent family honoured me so far, as to interest themselves in patronising my concert; and gave me an immediate proof of their eagerness to serve me, by presiding at my benefit. The company was brilliant and numerous: I cannot compare it to any thing but a London audience. But this was not surprising, as all the town and its environs waited for an opportunity to oblige them; so far had they gained the affection of their friends, by a goodness which is deserving every blessing.
After this profitable concert, which enabled me to pay all expenses, more than what were incurred on my journey to Scotland, I in a few days took leave of my benefactors, and set out for Edinburgh; but, as Bury St. Edmund's was rather out of my road, I was obliged to cross Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire, and to come to York, where I found the direct road to Edinburgh.
On my arrival in the Scottish metropolis, I paid my respects to Lord Dumfries; and, having delivered a letter of recommendation, I was made truly happy by the most gracious and cordial reception. This illustrious house of Dumfries, comprehending the Countess of Loudon, at present Lady Moira, deigned immediately to introduce me among the circle of their first friends; where I had the honour to become acquainted with the amiable Colonel Hope and his worthy brother, who seemed to take the most lively interest and the greatest pleasure, in all that related to me. The Colonel conferred on me the honour of his patronage; and, finding that a concert would be more proper than any thing that could be done, he took the management of it entirely into his own hands, and conducted the business for my welfare. To give his own endeavours additional strength, he moved the hearts of his friends, among whom were their Graces the Duke and Duchess of Buccleugh, the Countess of Loudon, and, through her influence, Lord Moira, Commander in Chief in Scotland; therefore, it was impossible for the concert to fail under such noble auspices. In fact, the Colonel's powerful influence and exertions procured me a numerous and brilliant assembly. For this generous conduct of Colonel Hope, I am bound to entertain the most lively sentiments of gratitude. This concert terminated with a ball; which procured me two advantages -- a considerable sum of money, and the opportunity of forming an acquaintance with the most respectable persons of that city. I passed some weeks in Edinburgh most pleasantly, and was so fortunate as to attract the particular attention of that generous and amiable people.
My sentiments by no means accord with those of the great Dr. Johnson, from whom, I am afraid, the Scottish nation did not meet with an equal return, for the kindness he received from their generous hearts; for I have been told, he wrote a Journey, in which, thinking it would be beneath him to acknowledge some obligations due to them, he employed his pen in a description of their manner of living, education, and Universities, so low and so offensive, as to disoblige the whole nation. But, for my part, I at first gave little credit to this report, concerning a man of such knowledge, as I expected more liberal sentiments from the high abilities, and strength of sense and reason, which he was known to possess. Therefore, I could not help taking his part, and I defended his cause with some degree of enthusiasm; at which time, a gentleman, in whom I found a very strenuous opponent, and who was a bitter enemy of Dr. Johnson, obliged me to give up my defence; and proved to me, that the Doctor, with all his scholastic learning, was a good deal similar to highly polished steel at Sheffield: for when this beautiful work is divested of its polish, we find only a rough and unsightly appearance. At hearing this, I was put to silence, and was soon brought to acknowledge my error; finding Scotland equal to any nation, both in the richness of its soil, and beauty of its situation: their manner of living is splendid and luxurious; and the candour, probity, frankness, and affability, of this truly amiable and benevolent nation, would render a desert delightful.
My mind differs in sentiment from this great writer, Dr. Johnson; and how can I disguise the truth! for I feel myself full of gratitude, when I reflect on the gracious reception I met with. If I am asked, (as indeed I expect to be,) how I could boldly venture to compare the richness of the soil of Scotland to that of other countries, I could easily reply -- that they who are best acquainted with Scotland, very well know that that nation never begs assistance of her neighbours, to support her wants, either in agriculture or in science, as she has both in the greatest perfection. Their Universities, however ungenerously described, have, in fact, Professors of the greatest knowledge. At the University of Edinburgh, Dr. Hope is particularly eminent for his depth in science. It must be understood, too, that the Scotch nation is as rich in agriculture as in science, having very experienced farmers.
The south and west parts of Scotland abound in minerals, and are extremely fertile, and the ground is well cultivated; but I observed, not only this part of the country, but in general all the kingdom, to be well provided with corn. I include the islands of Shetland, the Orknies, and the Hebrides; the soil of which abundantly furnishes the inhabitants with corn, and also with vegetables, and other productions of the garden. There are likewise marle, slate, and quarries of marble and of freestone, together with tin, lead, and silver mines. The lakes and rivulets abound with excellent fish. Gentlemen of property may live there with elegance, having good things in profusion; and the common people, very comfortably. The buildings in these islands are much superior to what Dr. Johnson has described them to be; and the manners of the inhabitants, civil and hospitable; -- but that is their national character. I recollect, with pleasure, my first introduction to Scottish society, at Colonel Hope's; where I found elegant apartments, adorned with beautiful women, polite in their manners, and lively in their conversation. The natural bloom of their complexions, their majestic air, and graceful behaviour, must strike every foreigner with admiration: in short, in my journey through Scotland and its islands, I found every thing to my satisfaction.
I was now bound for France; and I resolved to stay at some town, with a view to defray the expenses of so long and tedious a journey. I succeeded pretty well at York, Bath, and some other places upon my road; where I received both pleasure and profit, as I had done before, in several parts of this kingdom.
I landed at Boulogne early in the spring, and succeeded in. forming an acquaintance with some amateurs in music; who, among many favours, procured me a concert, and very politely performed themselves, to save my expenses. I then set out for Lisle, in Flanders, where I formed an acquaintance with the manager of the playhouse, who offered me his assistance, lent me his stage, and provided performers for my concert; but he wished to go half and half in the expenses and profits. I made no objection, but immediately agreed to his proposal. Meantime, I could not have thought this gentleman so learned and deep in his profession as I found him to be: indeed, so admirable a proficient was he in the science of arithmetic, particularly in division, that I could not find any thing for my share of this benefit, but a cypher. Therefore, after this experience from my master, whom I found rather dark in his method of teaching the art of reckoning money, I made my stay short. It was just after the commencement of the revolution, and that extraordinary event engrossed the attention of all: I thought, therefore, I might succeed better in going to Paris.
I arrived in the capital, in June the same year, and had once more the pleasure to see many noblemen, who knew me when I was there before, and who now renewed their civilities. The Marquis D'Amazaga, interested himself in my behalf. I then attempted a concert, which, by no means, answered my expectation, though seconded by the Duchess of Orleans, no less eminent for her benevolence than for her rank; and on mature reflection, I clearly perceived, that all Paris, the ladies not excepted, were absorbed in contemplating their new form of constitution, and that this grand object banished every other idea. I had little to expect from the accustomed urbanity of the French nobility; and my purse, being very low since the twist given it by Dertreval, must have been totally exhausted, had I remained much longer there.
I found that I was swimming against the stream, and therefore resolved to go to Cherburg, which is the nearest French port to Guernsey, where I wished to be; and having made a bargain dear enough with the master of a smack, I went on board the 24th of March; but, meeting with bad weather, I did not arrive till the 29th at night. Though many in my place would enumerate the imminent dangers they had experienced in this voyage of fifty-four miles, I shall content myself with just saying, I was not sorry when I got on shore. No other loss was sustained, than that of a fowl, which finding itself too closely pent up in the hold, jumped over board, to be more at liberty. I had no room to lie down in this vessel, though only three passengers were on board: however, I was never sea-sick. Our vessel was worked by the Captain, without a sailor. It was called the Little St. John; but the inhabitants of Guernsey gave it a more proper name, and called it a hencoop.
When I arrived on the island, I delivered my letters of recommendation, addressed to some of the principal inhabitants. I remained there two months, and gave a concert. The number of handsome ladies who attended it, made a beautiful appearance in the room. This charming island is twenty-one miles in circumference, and the country pleasant and fruitful; for, in so small a compass, they make yearly two hundred and fifty barrels of cyder. The air is good, the water excellent, and trade flourishing. There was a citadel, besides other forts, with batteries of cannon, surrounding this island, though well fortified by nature.
The Governor kindly gave me an invitation on St. George's day, to meet all the officers of the garrison, who were invited to celebrate the King's birthday. He shewed me every attention, and the rest of the gentlemen were by no means deficient. The favourable reception I met with from the inhabitants of Guernsey, and the pains they took to serve me, particularly those to whom I was recommended, claim my sincere and most respectful acknowledgments; and I esteem myself much indebted to them.