Arts and Entertainment, British society, Childe Harold, Elizabeth Gunning, English literature, Lord Byron, Matthew Lewis, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Prince Regent, Queen Caroline, Romanticism, Walter Scott
— Yesterday I went to see –; all was well, even to her animals. What cause of thankfulness! — the vacuum in my existence, which one only circumstance can fill, still exists, and a low languor enfeebles body and mind, — but I hope, — nay, I am not ungrateful for the blessings given. — The Princess received a letter of twenty-eight pages, from the Princess Charlotte, which looked like the writing of a chambermaid, and appeared to me wholly illegible; but she said she could decipher it, and so she did in regard
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to understanding the general meaning, but I defy her powers or her patience to have made out literally, what those twenty-eight pages contained; — the whole of the matter was, that Princess Charlotte was to remain in town, from Saturday to Wednesday; from which the Princess of Wales concluded, that she is to go to the Opera to-might, and intends if she does to go also. There came likewise accounts of Miss Knight’s having accepted the place of sub-governess, which the royal mother and daughter are very glad of. The same post that brought all this intelligence, brought a letter also from Lady Oxford, and the Princess decided upon setting off immediately, to go to Mortimer House. Accordingly, though her Royal Highness had not been out for a fortnight, off she went, and her lady in waiting told me, when they arrived they found, as the Princess predieted, no one, except Lord Byron. ‘Tis sickening to hear of and see the ways of the world. The Princess immediately retired with Lord Byron and Lord Oxford, and her lady staid with Lady Jane, — the latter is a good musician, but sings dreadfully out of tune. Lady — told me that she thought Lord Byron was exceedingly wearied, and endeavoured to listen to the music, and escape from her Royal Highness and Lady O –, but the former would not allow him to do so, and he was desired to “come and sit;” and upon the whole, the Princess was not pleased with her visit.”
(Bury, Lady Charlotte Susan Maria Campbell, 1775-1861, Diary of Lady Charlotte Susan Maria Campbell Bury, December, 1812, in Diary Illustrative of the Times of George the Fourth Interspersed with Original Letters from…Queen Caroline [Amelie Elizabeth, Consort of George IV], vol. 1. London, England: H. Colburn, 1838, pp. 216. [Bibliographic Details] [Biography] [12-2-1812] S4420-D016)
by K. Mackenzie, published by Vernor, Hood & Sharpe
stipple engraving, published 1810
The quote above raises several interesting questions. In particular, who was the author and why was Lord Byron tired!
It is probably easier to deal with the latter. 1812 was a busy year for Lord Byron. It saw him make three speeches in the House of Lords – his maiden speech in February (the famous call to support the Nottinghamshire stocking weavers), and his later calls for Catholic emancipation and reform of Parliament. But it was also the year that Murray published Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage which resulted in the known rise of Byron’s celebrity status and dramatic personal life. So it is probable that when Lady Charlotte wrote:
“Tis’ sickening to hear of and see the ways of the world…Lord Byron was exceedingly wearied”
He was not pretending tiredness was actually “wearied” even when in the presence of Royalty!
Lady Charlotte is an interesting character who is often forgotten about when considering the female creative mind of the period.
Charlotte Campbell was born in January 1775 was the youngest daughter of John Campbell, 5th Duke of Argyll and Elizabeth Gunning, Dowager Duchess of Hamilton. She was described throughout her life as a beautiful, charming woman.
Her first husband was Col John Campbell MP for Ayr Burghs. On his death in March 1809 she was appointed Lady in Waiting to the Princess of Wales (later Queen Caroline).
A certain amount of scandal is likely to have ensued when in 1818 she married her son’s tutor, the Rev John Bury. Bury was became rector of Litchfield and died at the age of 42 in 1832.
John Bieri in Percy Bysshe Shelley: A Biography : Exile of Unfulfilled Reknown, 1816-1822 (p108) states that she was an early patron of Sir Walter Scott and that he and Matthew Lewis (author of The Monk) attended her Edinburgh salons. Lady Charlotte was, herself, an author and poet of such works as Self Indulgence, Flirtation and The Divorced. Bierei also mentions her travel poem The Three Great Sanctuaries of Tuscany, Valombros, Camaldoli, Laverna: A Poem with Historical and Legendary Notices which is considered to be the style of Shelley but which cites Milton, Scott and Byron.
Image from the 1833 poem The Three Great Sanctuaries of Tuscany
printed by John Murray
You can read this Romantic tale published anonymously in 1812
at Google Books
The Lady’s Magazine; or, Mirror of the Belles-Lettres, Fashions, Fine Arts, Music, Drama, Vol. 07 (1826) carries a review of another of Lady Charlotte’s creative output. Alla Gionarta, or To The Day. Firstly, it is notable that the review actually mentions the author by name (writing “under her present name of Berry”). The narrative is deemed to be unoriginal (young lady makes enemy of betrothed who she learns to be a cruel man) although, in keeping with the time, the emotion of the piece is said to be of a high standard and the description of the heroine well drawn. The critic also comments on “eloquent passage” detailing the current state of the author’s country:
Extract from the review of Alla Giornata
Charlotte Bury commented in 1818 that people had taken to writing novels as a form of amusement for themselves and the public.
It appears that her ladyship did not, unduly, suffer from her association with a literary output – although there may be more than one way to read the following notice from The Age in December 1827!
On her death in 1861 her literary contributions were acknowledged in her obituaries.
For a different view of Lady Charlotte why not look at her own cookbook which can be downloaded free
As a result of her standing in Society, her friendships with leading politicians, writers and others, together with her own artistic endeavours it is sad that little has been written about her in more recent times.