Monday, September 8, 2008

Pray tell

Princess Lieven to Earl Grey.

Oct. 11th/23rd, 1834.

The mail steamer has met with an accident, my dear lord, which prevents its leaving the day after to-morrow; the steamer from Lubeck, which we have been expecting for the last four days, has not yet come in, all of which means that I have little to say and nothing to answer. I must send you my letter by the land post, and I write because I imagine you wish to hear from me, that you like my letters because you love me, and because I myself feel the sad need of a little talk with you. I have absolutely nothing of news to tell you. I have not stirred out of this place, and my days run on in the manner I have already described to you. The only variety is on Sunday, when the high officials of the Court, and the Ministers, come out to pay us a visit, and among them comes Count Nesselrode, whose society is always like a holiday to me. The Emperor's return has been postponed; he is making an inspection of the central provinces, and reviewing some of the army corps. He is to make a short stay also at Moscow, and will in all probability only arrive here at the end of another fortnight.

Having now told you all about myself, let me put some questions in return. Pray tell me what is taking place in England. What is the position of things between the Government, the Radicals and the Tories? Is O'Connell content with it all? I should be much grieved if he were. Do you not somewhat regret the death of Don Pedro? I myself imagine there is no one in Portugal who inherits either his strong will or his energy; and certainly for keeping faction at bay the lack of these two qualities will make itself felt most disastrously. Pray tell me what you think about Portugal. As far as politics are concerned, she is too far away from us to interest me much; but I take some thought in the matter on account of my liking for Palmella. Louis Philippe is doing well to inaugurate the etiquette of a Court at Fontainebleau. This best of Republican Governments would have been greatly amazed four years ago had they been told that Court state would again be held in their midst! But heaven be praised that it has so fallen out; you would never imagine how fond I am become of courtly ways; possibly it is for that reason I so detest revolutions.

Oct. 24th.
Here is your letter No. 6 just arrived. Thank you a thousand times for it. You would be well pleased could you see how much happiness your letters give me. When they come I have such pleasant moments, for I make believe I am still at Ashburnham House. Heaven help me! Matuscewitz has arrived, and I hope to meet him to-day, and am all impatience to talk to him. Madame de Dino writes to me very regularly, but I do not gather from her letters, any more than you do, whether M. de Talleyrand is to return to London or not. He adores England, but then he hates Lord Palmerston; of that there is no doubt.

I do not understand why the French Government have shown themselves so adverse to Donna Maria marrying the Duke of Leuchtenberg. If I were the Portuguese, however, I should not approve of the marriage. The quarterings on his father's side leave much to be desired, and they are a proud race, those Portuguese. From what they all say, however, he is personally a very proper sort of person.

Adieu, my dear lord. A thousand kind messages to Lady Grey. I am fully of your opinion as regards Lord Harrowby, as long as he keeps to English; but when he talks French he bores me, for he is pretentious, is a purist in literature, recites verses, and has a grating voice, all of which are antipathetic to me. He has an excellent head for business, however, and has had great experience in dealing with people, so his advice is always worth listening to. His wife is charming, very witty, and full of good sense, without an atom of pretence. And, although she has never, I fancy, confessed it, she has always had a strong liking for you.

Adieu, once again. My love to Lady Georgiana, and a thousand kindest regards. My husband sends you many messages.

-from the Correspondence of Princess Lieven and Earl Grey edited and translated by Guy le Strange (London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1890) vol. 3, pp. 41-43.

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