Friday, March 31, 2006

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


This is the week that the sun rises in my face as I arrive at work. I bike up Captol Hill on Constitution Avenue. It's east-west and Romanly straight. At the Vernal Equinox the sun pops up at 6:00 am as I near the hilltop, or, as today, flares behind low clouds in a firey mass. I like it. You'd think this symbolic end of winter brings with it nothing but good: blossoms and warm breezes, but it also brings Daylight Saving Time next week, plunging the beginning of my day back into darkness for another month, and it brings the tree pollen that makes my respiratory system go haywire.

Click this link for photos of the equinox at the megalithic Loughcrew Cain in Ireland.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Diary of Lady Shelburne - 10th Post

This is the tenth blog post from the diary of Lady Shelburne. There are links to the others in the right-hand panel. As before, the entries come from the Fitzmaurice biography: Life of William, Earl of Shelburne, Afterwards First Marquess of Lansdowne, by Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice (London, Macmillan and Co. 1912) 2 Volumes.

Sophie is seven months pregnant when she starts writing this set of entries. At their close she mentions the Christening of their second son, William, styled The Honourable William Petty, who died before his tenth birthday but nonetheless outlived his mother by seven years.
Saturday, August 20th [1768]. I had the pleasure of coming to Shelburne House from whence I continue this Diary. My Lord was just going to Council as I arrived, with Lord Granby; we had some little conversation upon the steps, and I had full time to walk over and examine the house. It is very noble, and I am much pleas'd with it, tho' perhaps few people wou'd have come to live in it in so unfurnished a state.

August 25th. After dinner my Lord, Mr. Townshend, and Mr. Adams set out for Bowood, where he is also to give Lord Shelburne some plans of buildings, and of joyning the house and offices by an additional apartment.

September 18th. They told me of a very extraordinary match of Augustus Harvey with Miss Hunter. In order to its being accomplished it is necessary he should own his marriage, and be divorc'd from Miss Chudleigh, which it is said he sent to her to propose. She answered that she had no objection, but must in honour acquaint him that the moment he declar'd himself her husband, he would become responsible for a debt of sixteen thousand pounds.

October 20th. I should not omit a very essential event: Lord Shelburne's resignation of the Seals as Secretary of State. It was preceded a week before by Lord Chatham's of which, however my Lord had no intelligence, it being transacted very privately between him and the King, to whom he wrote himself. A report prevail'd in town of its having taken place in consequence of a letter to him from the Duke of Grafton, proposing to remove Lord Shelburne, which it is said Lord Chatham answered only by enclosing the above-mention'd letter of resignation to the Duke of Grafton, and desiring him to deliver it to the King.

November 6th. My Lord went this morning to Hayes to see Lord Chatham, return'd late, and dined only with Mr. Fitzmaurice and me, to whom he told part of his conversation with Lady Chatham, having had only a glympse of my Lord as he was coming down stairs. It tended to confirm the truth of the report I mention'd before, and to prove that neither the Chancellor nor my Lord Bristol had his authority for continuing to hold or accept a place with the present Administration. I was call'd away in the middle of this by the arrival of Lady Jane Macartney and of Miss Murray. After they were gone Lord Shelburne and Colonel Barré came and sat with me and renewed the conversation of Lord Chatham, till Mr. Price, whom we had sent for to christen our little boy, arrived from Wycombe and sup'd with us.

Tuesday, February 23rd. Lord Rochfort told Mme. de Viri the first of a very sad story that has since that time been but too truly verify'd, of Lady Sarah Bunbury having elop'd from Sir Charles with Lord William Gordon.

Notes on people, places, and events mentioned in these diary entries.

Shelburne House. This was the Shelburne's mansion on Berkeley Square in London, described and pictured in notes on the 6th Diary post. It later became (and still is) known as Lansdowne House. As she says, in Sophie's time, it was a work in progress. The Wikipedia article on it is concise and useful. This photo gives an idea of the interior. It shows part of the Robert Adam dining room, described here; click to enlarge

Lord Granby. This was John Manners, Marquess of Granby, famous British soldier and member of the cabinet.

Mr. Townshend. This is James Townshend, who was described in notes on the 3rd Diary post.

Mr. Adams. This is Robert Adam. About him, see notes on the 3rd Diary post.

Bowood. See notes on the 5th Diary post.

The very extraordinary match of Augustus Harvey with Miss Hunter. The name is usually given as Hervey. The portrait to the right shows Kitty Hunter. Here is the story from Robert Chambers in his Book of Days. It's rather long but quite good.

As an example of the adventuress, amid several notabilities of a like kind, in the earlier half of the reign of George III, Elizabeth Chudleigh, Duchess of Kingston, is prominently distinguished. She was the daughter of Colonel Chudleigh, a gentle-man of good family in Devonshire, who, through his friendship with Mr. Pulteney, obtained for his daughter the post of maid of honour to the Princess of Wales, mother of George III. Her natural talents and attractions were here cultivated and developed, and the charms of her manners and conversation soon surrounded her with a host of distinguished and enthusiastic admirers.

One of the most conspicuous of these was the Duke of Hamilton, who made her an offer of his hand, and was accepted. Circumstances, however, prevented their immediate union; the parties agreed to hold themselves as engaged, and the duke set out on a tour on the continent, from which he regularly corresponded with Miss Chudleigh. In the meantime, Captain Hervey, son of the Earl of Bristol, came forward as a suitor, under the auspices of Miss Chudleigh's aunt, Mrs. Hanmer, who is said to have intercepted the Duke of Hamilton's letters, and otherwise exerted her influence to the utmost with her niece, to induce her to discard him for the captain. A volatile and impetuous disposition, guided apparently by no high or abiding principle, induced Miss Chudleigh, without much difficulty, to receive Hervey's addresses, and they were privately married at Lainston, near Winchester. This ill-advised step proved the foundation of all her subsequent perplexities.

Fearing the effects of his father's anger, Captain Hervey dared not venture to acknowledge his marriage, and his wife had to endure all the inconveniences which a woman must submit to, who is placed in such a position. She seems almost immediately after the conclusion of the match, to have repented of her precipitancy. Indifference was followed by positive aversion, and though one son was born of the union, who soon quitted the world, as he had entered it, in secrecy and obscurity, a lasting estrangement took place between the parents.

Captain Hervey, whose jealousy was violently excited by the attentions paid to his wife as Miss Chudleigh, gradually changed his line of conduct, and threatened to proclaim their marriage to the public, whilst she became only more determined to find some pretext for its legal dissolution. With this view, she is said to have gained access to the register in which her wedding was recorded, and destroyed the evidence of it, by tearing out the leaf. The officiating clergyman was now dead. But not long afterwards, her husband succeeded, by the death of his father, to the earldom of Bristol, upon which a revulsion took place in her crooked policy, and she contrived, by bribing the officiating clerk, to get her marriage reinserted in the same register from which she had previously torn the record. So far for the first acts of this singular drama.

From the aristocratic circles amid which Miss Chudleigh reigned as queen, the Duke of Kingston now stepped forth, and proffered her his hand. He appears to have possessed many good qualities, being mild and unassuming in his manners, the very reverse of his mistress, whose love of admiration had been the great occasion of her errors. There can be no doubt that an illicit intercourse had subsisted for some time betwixt them; but the duke's attachment to her seems to have been sincere.

The Earl of Bristol had now himself become desirous of severing his nuptial tics, and he therefore was readily induced to concur in a process of jactitation of marriage in the ecclesiastical courts, which, by an adroit suppression of evidence, terminated in a decree of nullification. The path being thus, in their opinion, cleared, the union of the duke and Miss Chudleigh was publicly solemnised. For some years the duchess basked in all the sunshine of wealth and exalted position, when at last her husband died. By his will the duke was found to have devised his estates to one of his younger nephews, excluding the heir at law, and bequeathing to his wife the enjoyment of the rents of the property during her life.

The duchess being aware of the contents of the will, and of certain restrictions which had been imposed on her marrying again, had endeavoured, though ineffectually, to procure before the duke's death the execution of a more favourable deed. The elder nephew, whose claims to the succession had been ignored, resolved to dispute the validity of his uncle's will. Through information received from a Mrs. Cradock, who had been one of the witnesses to the marriage of Miss Chudleigh with Captain Hervey, and had afterwards, as she deemed, been rather shabbily treated by the duchess, he instituted against the latter an indictment for bigamy. She had previously to this quitted the kingdom for the continent, but on receiving intelligence of these proceedings, deemed it prudent to return to England, to avoid an outlawry.

The trial (pictured at right, click to enlarge) commenced on 15th April 1776, before the House of Peers, in Westminster Hall, which was filled by a distinguished audience, including Queen Charlotte and several members of the royal family. The evidence of the marriage with Captain Hervey having been produced, and the whole matter carefully sifted, the peers unanimously found the duchess guilty of bigamy, with the exception of the Duke of Newcastle, who pronounced her guilty 'erroneously but not intentionally.' The consequences of this sentence would have been the issuing of a writ Ne exeat regno to prevent her quitting the country, but before it could be completed, she contrived to escape to Calais, from which she never returned.

The heirs of the Duke of Kingston, having thus succeeded in nullifying his marriage, now endeavoured to get his will set aside; but in this they were thoroughly unsuccessful. The duchess was left to the undisturbed enjoyment of her large income, which she dissipated in the indulgence of all sorts of luxury. She had already purchased a house at Calais, but it was inadequate to her ideas of splendour, and she accordingly entered into terms for the purchase of another at Montmartre, in the suburbs of Paris. A dispute with the owner of this property gave rise to a litigation, during the dependence of which she made a journey to St. Petersburg, and there entered into some speculations connected with the distilling of brandy. She subsequently returned to France, and became the purchaser of a fine domain in the neighbourhood of Paris, belonging to a brother of Louis XVI, the reigning sovereign.

The investment proved a good one, the immense number of rabbits on the property furnishing a most lucrative return. As much as 300 guineas is said to have been realized by her from this source alone in the first week of her possession. But the end was now approaching. In the midst of this temporal prosperity, intelligence was one day brought her, that judgment had been pronounced against her in the suit regarding the house at Montmartre. So great an agitation was produced on her by this news, that she ruptured a blood. vessel, and was obliged to confine herself to her bed. In the course of a few days she seemed to rally, and insisted on getting up and having herself dressed. Her attendant vainly endeavoured to dissuade her, and she then called for a glass of Madeira, which she drank, and insisted on a second being brought. This also she drank off, and then said she should like to lie down. Having stretched herself on a couch, she soon appeared to fall asleep, and remained in this state for some time, when her servants felt an unusual coldness in her hands, and on examining more closely, found that she had passed away. Such was her end, to die among strangers in a foreign land—a fitting termination, perhaps, to her chequered and singular career.

One circumstance in connection with the Duchess of Kingston ought not to be passed over in silence. We allude to her well-known fracas with Samuel Foote. That celebrated wit and dramatist, who derived a considerable portion of his fame from the personalities which he introduced into his literary lucubrations, produced a farce, entitled A Trip to Calais, in which he brought forward the duchess under the title of 'Lady Kitty Crocodile.' His procedure in this transaction reflects little credit either on his character as a man or policy as a schemer. The duchess would have willingly paid him a handsome sum to withdraw the piece; but, in the hopes of obtaining a larger consideration, he out-maneuvered himself; whilst she, by her interest with parties in power, contrived to have the representation of the play interdicted by the lord-chamberlain, and also its publication, for the time at least, prevented.

Lord Shelburne's resignation of the Seals. The author of the Shelburne biography explains in a footnote: "Chatham had resigned on the ground that he believed that Shelburne was about to be dismissed, and he treated Shelburne's resignation under the circumstances as practically the same thing as a dismissal, and in any case as carrying with it the same results as regarded American policy" (i, 398).

Lord Chatham. Victorian Web's article on Grafton describes the political events of this time well.

Duke of Grafton. Pictured at right. See these sites on him: Victorian Web, Wikipedia, and Archontology.

Hayes. This was Chatham's family home and his birthplace.

Mr. Fitzmaurice. Shelburne's brother, Thomas.

Lady Chatham. This was Hester Pitt, Baroness Chatham, wife of William Pitt, who had just become first earl of Chatham. She wss daughter of Hester countess Temple.

Lord Bristol. This was George Hervey, 2nd Earl of Bristol, who preceeded Lord Townshend as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

Lady Jane Macartney. Daughter of the 3rd Earl of Bute, She had just married George Macartney, 1st Earl Macartney. He was a colonial administrator and diplomat.

Miss Murray. Not identified.

Colonel Barré. On Colonel Issac Barré, see the 3rd Diary post.

Mr. Price. This was Richard Price, dissenting minister, moral and political philosopher, and one of the savants in the Bowood Circle which Shelburne had brought together. Others included Jeremy Bentham and Joseph Priestly.

Our little boy. As I say above, this was the Shelburne's second son, William, styled The Honourable William Petty, who died before his tenth birthday but nonetheless outlived Sophie by seven years.

Wycombe. This was a second country estate of the Shelburne's. See note in the 5th Diary post.

Lord Rochfort. Not identified.

Mme. de Viri. Not identified.

Lady Sarah Bunbury, Sir Charles Bunbury, and Lord William Gordon. Lady Sarah's elopment caused a stir:
[The divorce of] Lady Sarah Lennox 1745-1826 and her first husband Sir Charles Bunbury 1740-1821 was one of the most notorious [of the 18th century]. She was sued for divorce because of her adultery with William Gordon. During the trial, interestingly, the Bunbury servants were called on to give evidence against their former mistress.
Lady Sarah Bunbury, being of a loose and abandoned disposition and beiing wholly unmindful of her conjugal vow etc., did carrry on a lewd and adulterous conversation with Lord William Gordon.
Bunbury still sued despite the fact that he knew Gordon was not wealthy, despite being a member, like Sarah of a Ducal family. Lady Sarah's marriage contract was nullified and any future issue was unable to claim on Bunbury's estate, though her daughter, legally Bunbury's, was actually Gordon's child and Sarah had split from Gordon in 1769, the Divorce Act went through only in 1776. This was the year that Lady Sarah met the aristocratic George Napier 1751-1804, by whom she had a large and respectable family who founded a dynasty of great soldiers.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Northern cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis

Just this minute I saw my first cardinal of the season, out in the backyard. A female on a low branch. Then a male with her. They always come in pairs I said to myself. But then another male. And another. Swooping around each other. Staking out territory or competing for a mate? Dunno. I just appreciate the first sighting and look forward to my springtime rides to work, quarter to six, cardinals seeking roadside breakfast; sets my day off on the right foot.

These are, as they say, stock photos, click to enlarge.

Dottie and Lillie, Lillie and Dottie

Arts & Letters Daily points us all to a good long article on this subject. Here's a citation and some extracts:


[Despite the difference in their ages,] theirs was an old-fashioned female friendship, characterized by Victorian good manners. It was respectful. It was civilized. Never, Hellman remembered, did they exchange an unpleasant word: "I enjoyed her more than I have ever enjoyed any other woman." As the years passed, Hellman and Parker became legends.

A gifted writer of well-made plays, Hellman [was] to some, ... America's Ibsen. Parker, meanwhile, was everybody's darling, her reputation as one of the country's foremost wits resting on a mountain of poetry, short stories, criticism, and screenplays, along with her quotable one-liners from the Algonquin Round Table days. Both women were Hollywood hotshots earning as much as twenty-five hundred dollars a week, a plush salary in the depths of the Depression. Those were the sweet years of Beverly Hills mansions, country houses in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania, shiny Packard convertibles and Picassos and Utrillos.

They also shared leftist political views. In the '30s, for example, they helped organize the Screen Writers Guild, joined the Communist Party, and protested Fascism through their impassioned support of the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War, all in all making intense, dangerous commitments that eventually resulted in blacklisting and gigantic troubles with the House Un-American Activities Committee during the McCarthy period.

[Dottie remained highly quotable. After her husband died in 1963.] a silly woman began gushing over [his] death and asking what she could get for her. "Get me a new husband," Parker croaked. That was a "disgusting remark," the woman replied. "Sorry," said Dottie. "Then run down to the corner and get me a ham and cheese on rye and tell them to hold the mayo."

Having collaborated with Arnaud d'Usseau on The Ladies of the Corridor, a pre–woman's liberation drama set in a hotel where dogs are preposterously pampered, she knew something about women marooned with nothing to do but sink into empty old age. Some years earlier, she had told a friend, the writer Quentin Reynolds, that somebody ought to build a chute connecting the Volney [her hotel, full of old widows and their dogs] with Frank Campbell's funeral home, a few blocks away on Madison Avenue. Now, a tottery seventy-one, her jokes had grown creepier—and funnier. The hotel's tiny elevator couldn't possibly accommodate a corpse, she insisted. And it would not surprise her, she said, to learn that the deceased were removed, along with the trash, in the service elevator.

[As Dottie aged,] Hellman [was not always] such a "faithful friend," she later admitted. When she did swoop in for a visit, Dottie would pretend to greet her cheerfully: "Oh, Lilly, come in quick. I want to laugh again."

[After her death] Parker's will was read. It was no surprise that she appointed Hellman as literary executor—a shrewd, high-energy businesswoman, she was the obvious choice to oversee the estate.

Her entire estate, including any copyrights and royalties from her writings, was left to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man she had never met but admired tremendously. In the event of King's death, it was to go to the NAACP. King was puzzled. He had no idea who Parker was.

[Lillie,] in a gloves-off mood, didn't mince words with playwright Howard Teichmann: "That goddamn bitch Dorothy Parker. . . . You won't believe what she's done. I paid her hotel bill at the Volney for years, kept her in booze, paid for her suicide attempts—all on the promise that when she died, she would leave me the rights to her writing. . . . But what did she do? She left them directly to the NAACP. Damn her!"

That those statements were inaccurate misses the point: Hellman felt that Parker owed her something.

[Hellman blocked all efforts at a Parker biography, telling all acquainances not to cooperate.] She feared that an intrepid biographer digging through Parker's life might expose her own deceptions, and that was something she could not risk. For a while she triumphed—as she nearly always did. But eventually the fabrications were caught by her own biographers.

[Lillie never disposed of Dottie's ashes.] Parker was finally laid to rest twenty-one years, seven months, and thirteen days after her death. Her friends were unable to attend because nearly all of them were dead.

The saga of Dottie and Lilly may be sad, but it's almost comical, too. Probably the first to smile about it would be Parker herself. She always imagined the hereafter as paradise, a sort of luxury hotel with hot and cold running dogs. Little did she imagine that settling permanently would require a Homeric journey of twenty-one years. More galling, her real-life coda—afterlife in a tin can—doomed her to spend fifteen of those years hanging around Wall Street, the symbol of everything she hated, followed by eternal rest in Baltimore, another place not to her taste, a short distance from a parking lot (Parker didn't drive). One of her oh-let's-kill-ourselves verses (aptly titled "Coda") concludes with the polite request: "Kindly direct me to hell."

She should have been a lot more careful about what she asked for.


Marion Meade is the author of Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This? (Villard, 1987) and editor of the most recent edition of The Portable Dorothy Parker (Penguin, 2006).

Dottie with Groucbo and the other Marx Brothers

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

every one runs upon tick

This is an update to the post -- directly below -- on my search in Notes and Queries for information on Thomas Coulinan Phœnix (or Phoenix).

Unfortunately the item in N & Q on Thomas Coulican Phœnix is disappointing. The author quotes the entry from Lady Shelburne's diary as an instance in which Phœnix is used for a person's last name. Here's the item in full.
Phœnix. -- Some time ago there was a correspondence in "N. & Q." as to the origin of the family name Phœnix. The following quotation, from Lady Shelburne's diary may therefore perhaps be of interest to some of your readers: --

"November 25 [1768]. -- This morning I had christened at St. George's Church, a little negro boy of five years old, that was given me by Mr. Richard Wells on Friday last, by the names of Thomas Coulican Phœnix; the latter he had been called after the ship he was brought in. He is pretty, and very good humoured, and I hope by proper care will turn out well." -- Life of William, Earl of Shelburne, by Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, ii. 181.

A. O. V. P.

Source: Notes and Queries, 5th Series, Vol VII, p.186 (Mar 10, 1877).

Addendum: Notes and Queries had many contributors like A. O. V. P. who took an interest in the origins of names. The index has lots of entries for unusual names of people and places. There's also a lot of interest in the origins of words, and phrases, songs, obscure expressions, and the like. I think N & Q attracted much the same folks as those who keep Wikipedia going strong.

Another of A. O. V. P.'s short pieces is on the phrase "on tick" meaning obtained on credit rather than paid for in cash. He writes:
"On tick." -- It is commonly thought that the phrase to buy "on tick" is modern slang. It occurs, however, in the year 1696 in the Diary of Abraham de la Pryme, published by the surtees Society: -- "Here is very little or no new monney comes yet down amonst us, so that we scarce know how to subsist. Every one runs upon tick and those that had no credit a year ago has credit enough now." -- p.100.

Source: Notes and Queries, 5th Series, Vol. VII, p. 46 (Jan 20, 1877).

Some links:

Wikipedia on Abraham de la Pryme

Find the Diary of Abraham de la Pryme in a library (not where I work!)

On the shortage of silver coin in 1696 see: MINTS and the recoinage of 1696

Old coins, the ones that Abraham de la Pryme found to be scarce.

New coins, minted in the reign of William and Mary at roughly the time de la Pryme was writing his complaint. (It took time for the new coins to penetrate to his locale.)

Monday, March 20, 2006

occasion turneth a bald noddle

A while ago I pointed to Paul Ford's essay on distraction and now I've firm evidence that though the Web be a time sink, it's one with a venerable heritage.

I've been looking up the names of people, places, and events in Lady Shelburne's Diary. This in itself is an excellent distraction, but it's not my topic.

Occasionally I'll try Google Scholar or Google Book Search as sources when the Web proper yields naught and I lately tried them to find what I could about Thomas Coulinan Phœnix (or Phoenix) and was given a tiny snippet of text from a page in Notes and Queries, no series, volume, year, or page number given. (The Google Book Search project leaves a lot to be desired with respect to this publication.) It took little time to track down the Wikipedia entry for the periodical which told me that it's a journal which has been published since 1859. Wikipedia names three online sources: (1) Internet Library of Early Journals which is frustrating because poorly organized, having a bad search interface, and ultimately inaccessible because the server holding its images is down, or down at the moment anyway, (2) Oxford University Press (publisher of the journal) which has an excellent search interface but which charges money to view pages, and (3) Project Gutenberg, which is redoing the ILEJ in a better interface, with slightly better searching, and full accessiblity to OCR'ed pages. {Note: A Web search also turned up this useful page: The Online Books Page SERIAL ARCHIVE LISTINGS for Notes and Queries.} Neither ILEJ nor Gutenberg has yet gotten to the piece on Thomas Coulinan Phœnix (or Phoenix) however. They are working chronologically. The Oxford Press search shows that it appeared on page 186 in series 5, vol. VII, 1877, and the digitization projects are a decade or more behind.

Before I tracked down the online versions, I retrieved a copy from the collections of the library where I work. I didn't then know which volume to look in so I asked for the first. It, of course, didn't have anything about Thomas Coulinan Phœnix (or Phoenix), but -- here's the distraction -- Notes and Queries turns out to be a little like a blog and a lot like a Usenet Newsgroup or listserv. I opened it to a page which contained a note on Francis Bacon's essay, On Delays, wherein Bacon quotes a "common verse" to this effect:—"Occasion turneth a bald noddle after she hath presented her locks in front, and no hold taken."

That's my distraction.

And here is the whole brief essay:
Sir Francis Bacon
Essays (1625)
Essay 21
Of Delays
by Francis Bacon

Fortune is like the market; where many times if you can stay a little, the price will fall. Again, it is sometimes like Sibylla's offer; which at first, offereth the commodity at full, then consumeth part and part, and still holdeth up the price. For occasion (as it is in the common verse) turneth a bald noddle, after she hath presented her locks in front, and no hold taken or at least turneth the handle of the bottle, first to be received, and after the belly, which is hard to clasp. There is surely no greater wisdom, than well to time the beginnings, and onsets, of things. Dangers are no more light, if they once seem light; and more dangers have deceived men, than forced them. Nay, it were better, to meet some dangers half way, though they come nothing near, than to keep too long a watch upon their approaches; for if a man watch too long, it is odds he will fall asleep. On the other side, to be deceived with too long shadows (as some have been, when the moon was low, and shone on their enemies' back), and so to shoot off before the time; or to teach dangers to come on, by over early buckling towards them; is another extreme. The ripeness, or unripeness, of the occasion (as we said) must ever be well weighed; and generally it is good, to commit the beginnings of an great actions to Argus, with his hundred eyes, and the ends to Briareus, with his hundred hands; first to watch, and then to speed. For the helmet of Pluto, which maketh the politic man go invisible, is secrecy in the counsel, and celerity in the execution. For when things are once come to the execution, there is no secrecy, comparable to celerity; like the motion of a bullet in the air, which flieth so swift, as it outruns the eye.

Here's a sample page from the issue for June 18, 1870. Note Dante G. Rossetti's mildly intemperate reply to someone's query (click to enlarge).

a trillion here, a trillion there

Here's a companion to the post on Chicken Little. In an article on the vote in Congress to raise the debt ceiling, USA Today published some dramatic graphs.

Here's a citation to the article and some extracts:
Senate OKs raising federal debt limit to about $9 trillion
By Richard Wolf, USA TODAY


[Gross domestic product is a nation's annual economic output. The debt is now] more than the gross domestic product of China, the world's second-richest nation. It's more than the combined GDP of Japan and India, the next richest nations. [The debt is now 2/3 of the US GDP, up from 1/3 in 1981.]

U.S. Treasury obligations are viewed as one of the safest investments in the world. Lured by the stability of the U.S. economy, foreign governments, banks, companies and individuals have sharply increased their U.S. debt holdings. As recently as 1970, foreigners owned only 5% of the debt held by the public — that's the portion of the debt that doesn't include the amount the government owes itself, in the form of IOUs to entities such as the Social Security trust fund. By 2005, foreigners had increased their share to 45%.

In 2005, interest on the debt was $184 billion, which made it the fifth biggest item in the federal budget, behind defense, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

No comment necessary (from the Washington Post): Lawmakers boost spending after raising debt ceiling.

WASHINGTON - With no brakes on spending and no moves afoot to raise taxes, the federal debt is now rising at an unprecedented clip. Congress raised the limit on the federal government's borrowing by $781 billion Thursday, and then lawmakers voted to spend well over $100 billion on the war in Iraq, hurricane relief, education, health care, transportation and heating assistance for the poor without making offsetting budget cuts.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Russian Anna

In this week's Washington Post Book World Michael Dirda reviews a new biography of Anna Akhmatova. In it he gives a short version of the story of her meeting with Isaiah Berlin in 1945. It's a good one; worth a fuller treatment than Dirda had space for. Here's an authoritative version.
The Guest from the Future:

In November 1945, Isaiah Berlin, then First Secretary at the British Embassy in Moscow, was visiting Leningrad and learnt from a conversation in a bookshop that Anna Akhmatova was living nearby. Telephoned, she invited him to call at her flat in the old Fontanny Palace on the Fontanka.

Their meeting that afternoon was interrupted, as he describes in his Personal Impressions: ‘Suddenly I heard what sounded like my first name being shouted somewhere outside. I ignored this for a while - it was plainly an illusion - but the shouting became louder and the word "Isaiah" could be clearly heard. I went to the window and looked out, and saw a man whom I recognized as Randolph Churchill. He was standing in the middle of the great court, looking like a tipsy undergraduate, and screaming my name.' Berlin hurriedly led him away, but himself returned that evening to continue his conversation with the poet.

They talked all night of their respective Russian childhoods, of such of her early friends as Modigliani and Salomé Andronikova, of the war, of Tolstoy, of what she had written - and read him - of ‘Poem without a Hero'. In the small hours of the morning they were joined by her son, Lev Gumilev, bringing the only food they had in the flat.

This meeting, because of Churchill's interruption, came to Stalin's attention (‘So our nun is receiving visits from foreign spies'), altering the course of Akhmatova's life and, she believed, the course of history. She became convinced that, fuelling Stalin's paranoia, they had caused the first move in the Cold War.

Berlin came to say goodbye to her, before leaving the Soviet Union, on 5 January 1946. The next day, uniformed men screwed a microphone into her ceiling. That summer she was denounced by the Central Committee of the Communist Party and expelled from the Writers' Union.

On 6 November 1949, her son Lev was arrested for the third time and the following day Akhmatova committed her poems finally to memory before burning their manuscripts; among them, the completed ‘Poem without a Hero' in which Berlin appears as ‘The Guest from the Future'.

Anna Akhmatova by Zinaida Serebryakova, 1922

Diary of Lady Shelburne - 9th Post:

This is the ninth blog post from the diary of Lady Shelburne. There are links to the others in the right-hand panel. As before, the entries come from the Fitzmaurice biography: Life of William, Earl of Shelburne, Afterwards First Marquess of Lansdowne, by Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice (London, Macmillan and Co. 1912) 2 Volumes.
July 19th, 1768. [appears out of order in Fitzmaurice biography] My Lord's business calling him to town, he left me very early this morning with no other company to supply his place than my dear little boy, who after the solitude of the first day was past, has done it better than could have been imagined. I spend my time as follows: At eight I rise, dress and take the child without his nurse one turn round the shrubbery before breakfast. Immediately after, I go out with him again till a little after eleven, when he sleeps. I then read my chapters in my blue dressing room below stairs, and from that time till two, the Mémoires de Mlle de Montpensier; then go to see Lord Fitzmaurice dine, and teach him afterwards to spell words, till it is time to dress for my own dinner; after which I have twice taken the air, or walk'd with him, and amused myself in planting Chinese seeds, which Mr. Sulivan gave me, in pots for the hothouse, and after working some of my Paris net trimming, and seeing the child put to bed, walk in the shrubbery till nine o'clock, and then come in and read the Adventurer, or Les Caractères de la Bruyère till supper. I have seen none of my neighbours since my Lord went. My greatest amusement has, therefore, been receiving two very kind letters from my Lord by Thursday and Saturday's posts.

September 26th [1768]. My Lord returned (to Bowood) and brought with him Mr. Hume; they read office papers together in the evening while we drew and worked.

November 25th. This morning I had christened, at St. George's Church, a little negro boy of five years old, that was given me by Mr. Richard Wells on Friday last, by the names of Thomas Coulican Phoenix; the latter he had been called after the ship he was brought in. He is pretty and very good humoured, and I hope by proper care will turn out well.

Christmas Day. I could no longer delay the pleasure I proposed, in giving my watch to my Lord, and accordingly produced it at breakfast, when he was vastly pleased with it, and did me the honour to accept it. Here he remained till Sunday, January the third, and in the course of that time walked out very constantly till Thursday the last of December, when a fall of snow like that of the preceding year began. Our visitors in the course of that time were Lord Clare and Sir William Codrington, Sir John Hort, Mr. Parker, Mr. Fitzmaurice, Mr. Dunning, Mr. Townshend, Mr. Radcliffe, and Col. Barré, besides ourselves, and now and then an accidental visit from our country neighbours, Dr. Rolt, Mr. Daniel Bull, &c. The intense cold killed in one night our poor ourangoutang, or man of the wood, and possibly in some measure hastened the death of old Mr. Bull, which is a serious loss to Lord Shelburne, he being a most faithful, able, and zealous agent.

Some notes on people, places, and events mentioned in these diary entries.

Mémoires de Mlle de Montpensier. The Mémoires De Mlle De Montpensier, covered much of the reign of Louis XIV in France. The duchesse de Montpensier, also called "la grande Mademoiselle," was a member of the French royal family who, amazingly, had a military career in the middle of the 17th century which included capture of Orléans and command of the Bastille. The Wikipedia article on her says:
On July 2, 1652, the day of the battle of the Faubourg Saint Antoine, between the Frondeurs under Condé and the royal troops under Turenne, Mademoiselle saved Condé and his beaten troops by giving orders for the gates under her control to be opened and for the cannon of the Bastille to fire on the royalists. In the heat of the émeute which followed she installed herself in the Hôtel de Ville, and played the part of mediatrix between the opposed parties.
la grande Mademoiselle {click to enlarge}

Lord Fitzmaurice. Sophie's son was then 3 and a half years old.

Chinese seeds, which Mr. Sulivan gave me. Chinese plants might have been of interest because of the publication in 1750 of Story of the Stone, by Cao Xuequin, a novel having descriptions of Chinese gardens.

Walk in the shrubbery. The Shelburne estate at Bowood was impressive. The grounds and gardens, designed by Capability Brown, included a walled garden with rare trees and pleasure grounds. It's probably to these that Sophie refers.

The Adventurer. This was a periodical by John Hawkesworth, published as a bi-weekly successor to The Rambler. See and

The Les Caractères de la Bruyère were observations of society, a 17th-century satire of the court, of the nobility, clergy, and even of King Louis XIV himself. The book is the subject of a TV documentary by Eric Rohmer (1965).

Mr. Hume. See Diary of Lady Shelburne 2nd Post.

Richard Wells. It's just possible that this was Richard Wells of Virginia.

Thomas Coulican Phoenix. I've found nothing about this boy or the ship after which he was named.

Lord Clare. See Diary of Lady Shelburne 5th Post.

Sir William Coddrington. I don't know more about him than is given in this family tree: Sir William Codrington.

Sir John Hort. He was a cousin. About him the Fitzmaurice biography gives an interesting anecdote. Shelburne's aunt, Lady Arabella Fitzmaurice, left her chamber clock to Hort (her nephew) because "he values time and makes good use of it." (i, 5). The Hort family had close ties to the Shelburnes. Shelburne left an autobiographical fragment which Fitzmaurice prints saying that the father of Sir John Hort, who was handsome and well-mannered, "made himself acceptable to some of the first ladies in London." Shelburne made Hort a baronet and consul-general to Lisbon. (i, 12)

Mr. Parker. A Master Parker is a student at Eton in the entry given in the 2nd Post. This may be his father.

Mr. Fitzmaurice. You can tell by the name that this is a relative; otherwise not identified.

Mr. Dunning. See Diary of Lady Shelburne 2nd Post.

Mr. Townshend. See Diary of Lady Shelburne 3rd Post.

Mr. Radcliffe. Not identified

Col. Barré. See Diary of Lady Shelburne 3rd Post.

Our country neighbours, Dr. Rolt, Mr. Daniel Bull, &c. Not identified.

Our poor ourangoutang. The Shelburnes kept a menagerie for exotic animals designed by Robert Adam. Wikipedia says: "He furnished Bowood ... with superb collections of paintings and classical sculpture, and commissioned Robert Adam to decorate the grander rooms in Bowood and to add a magnificent orangery, as well as a small menagerie for wild animals where a leopard and an orangutan were kept in the 18th century."

Saturday, March 18, 2006

the game of chicken and the mind of Chicken Little

We now have a report on America's current account balance from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The news is worse than expected and once again we're being informed that this "huge debt owed by the United States to the rest of the world" is being financed by foreigners who buy US securities. Here's a graphic from the BE report:

Economists know the debt can't keep increasing at this accelerated rate and they know the US can't keep relying on foreigners to balance the account. The US government, the Chinese government, the European Union, the oil-rich countries. and the emerging economies of the world all need to take action. Raghuram Rajan of the IMF writes and speaks persuasively about this need. Only the Chinese have done anything worth reporting on and that was meager. I'm thinking there's a breathtakingly-large game of chicken in progress. All the players know that concerted action is needed and none of them wants to take the lead. Of all the players, the US is the one with the most pressing need to begin this concerted action and, as the world's most powerful nation, the one from whom most others expect first action.

However, as we all know, in the US it's a classic situation of short-term gratification trumping long-term payoff. As with our broken system of entitlements (e.g., Social Security and Medicare), the government doesn't have the stomach to face up to future disaster when this distant harm is pretty much invisible here and now. Harvard Magazine has a current article on behavioral economics that explains this phenomenon. The author, Craig Lambert, quoting behavioral economist David Laibson writes: “There’s a fundamental tension, in humans and other animals, between seizing available rewards in the present, and being patient for rewards in the future. It’s radically important. People very robustly want instant gratification right now, and want to be patient in the future. If you ask people, ‘Which do you want right now, fruit or chocolate?’ they say, ‘Chocolate!’ But if you ask, ‘Which one a week from now?’ they will say, ‘Fruit.’ Now we want chocolate, cigarettes, and a trashy movie. In the future, we want to eat fruit, to quit smoking, and to watch Bergman films.”

You might say this lack of discipline is a short-coming of democracy, but although it makes sense for the US to take the lead, it also seems inevitable that the other players -- many of them single-party states -- can't afford to sit back and wait for this to happen. So far, that's what they're doing however. With China and the others reluctant to act, it's probably -- as I say -- more of a game of chicken: one in which everyone is hoping one of the others will be the first to be forced to act.

Here are a couple of items from the news warning Americans to be less like grasshoppers and more like ants. {Note: There are also items in the news showing how well our economy is growing, how low is our rate of unemployment, and how strong is our stock market. I put these on the grasshopper side of the equation, but you might not.}

Item 1.

The current BEA report was preceeded a week ago by another giving the following news:
The U.S. goods and services deficit widened in 2005. The deficit increased $106.0 billion from $617.6 billion in 2004 to $723.6 billion in 2005, as imports increased nearly twice as much as exports. As a percentage of U.S. gross domestic product, the goods and services deficit increased from 5.3 percent in 2004 to 5.8 percent in 2005.

This BEA graphic, strikingly like the one above, gives the general idea.

{click to enlarge}

Item 2.

As Steven Pearlstein says "being American means not giving a damn about what the rest of the world thinks about us."
Foreign Owners Overboard?
[click graphic to enlarge}
In Blocking Dubai Ports World, America Ignores Its Debtor Status
By Steven Pearlstein
Friday, March 10, 2006; Page D01


Members of Congress, reflecting the fears and prejudices of their constituents, [have] succeeded in blocking a Dubai-owned company from taking over management of terminals at six American ports. The global message it sends -- and, in particular, to friendly Arab and other Muslim countries -- is that we don't really need your money, and in this post-9/11 world we're going to be very picky about whom we do business with.

[There are plenty of other examples of this nose-thumbing.] Maybe it was possible to get away with this noxious blend of arrogance and ignorance when the United States was the world's only economic superpower. But now that we've become the biggest debtor nation in the history of civilization, we might want to give a bit more thought to whom we tell to buzz off.

It was more than a bit ironic that on the very day that Dubai Ports World threw in the towel and agreed to sell off its U.S. operations, the Commerce Department announced yet another record monthly trade deficit for January, putting us on course to exceed last year's record deficit of $724 billion. At this rate, we are adding to our debt to the rest of the world at the rate of $2,500 a year for every man, woman and child in America.

Where do you think that $724 billion comes from? Let me tell you: It comes from the people who have the dollars. And in case you hadn't noticed, tops on that list are the Japanese who are selling us all those cars, Arabs selling us all that expensive oil, and the Chinese selling us the shirts on our backs, the athletic shoes on our feet and all those computers and flat-screen TVs in front of our noses.

If these folks suddenly get the idea that we don't really trust them enough to do business with them, and begin acting the way human beings do when they get poked in the eye, you could be looking at 8 percent mortgage rates, 6 percent unemployment, $4 gasoline, a $1.50 euro and a 9000 Dow.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

on personal freedom

There has been lots of discussion about the Web-trouble that kids can get themselves into and on why they're tempted to engage in dangerous Web activities. The article which I quote from below focuses on the confinement we've imposed on kids; it resonates with me. I recall ranging freely from the time age 10 or so. I had a huge amount of latitude to decide what I'd do and where and with whom I'd do it. Things have changed so very much. Here's a cite and some extracts:
Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace
danah boyd
American Association for the Advancement of Science
February 19, 2006


Adults often worry about the amount of time that youth spend online, arguing that the digital does not replace the physical. Most teens would agree. It is not the technology that encourages youth to spend time online - it's the lack of mobility and access to youth space where they can hang out uninterrupted.

In this context, there are three important classes of space: public, private and controlled. For adults, the home is the private sphere where they relax amidst family and close friends. The public sphere is the world amongst strangers and people of all statuses where one must put forward one's best face. For most adults, work is a controlled space where bosses dictate the norms and acceptable behavior.

Teenager's space segmentation is slightly different. Most of their space is controlled space. Adults with authority control the home, the school, and most activity spaces. Teens are told where to be, what to do and how to do it. Because teens feel a lack of control at home, many don't see it as their private space.

To them, private space is youth space and it is primarily found in the interstices of controlled space. These are the places where youth gather to hang out amongst friends and make public or controlled spaces their own. Bedrooms with closed doors, for example.

Adult public spaces are typically controlled spaces for teens. Their public space is where peers gather en masse; this is where presentation of self really matters. It may be viewable to adults, but it is really peers that matter.

Teens have increasingly less access to public space. Classic 1950s hang out locations like the roller rink and burger joint are disappearing while malls and 7/11s are banning teens unaccompanied by parents. Hanging out around the neighborhood or in the woods has been deemed unsafe for fear of predators, drug dealers and abductors. Teens who go home after school while their parents are still working are expected to stay home and teens are mostly allowed to only gather at friends' homes when their parents are present.

Additionally, structured activities in controlled spaces are on the rise. After school activities, sports, and jobs are typical across all socio-economic classes and many teens are in controlled spaces from dawn till dusk. They are running ragged without any time to simply chill amongst friends.

By going virtual, digital technologies allow youth to (re)create private and public youth space while physically in controlled spaces. IM serves as a private space while MySpace provide a public component. Online, youth can build the environments that support youth socialization.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Diary of Lady Shelburne - 8th Post

This is the eighth blog post from the diary of Lady Shelburne. Here are links to the others: first, second, third, fourth , fifth, sixth, and seventh. As before, the entry comes from the Fitzmaurice biography: Life of William, Earl of Shelburne, Afterwards First Marquess of Lansdowne, by Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice (London, Macmillan and Co. 1912) 2 Volumes.

Sophia Carteret, Lady Shelburne writes:
Wednesday, January 21st, 1768. I went in the evening to Madame de Walderen's, where everybody was talking of Lady Newnham's accident on the Sunday evening in her chair going from the French Ambassador's, where I had seen her. She was pursued from Soho Square to the narrow passage by Conduit Street, by a man who ran against her chair and her servants, and was several times push'd by them, once so as to be thrown down. In the passage he attack'd her first footman and stabbed him in the breast; she found herself immediately set down and surrounded by a mob who took the man. She went directly to her father Lord Vernon's house, where was only one woman servant, and remain'd there in the greatest distress, till the wounded man could be carried home and properly assisted. The wound appears not to be mortal, and the man who gave it to be a Mr. Ross, an attorney in the City, of good character, but very much in liquor. Amongst the many greater blessings I have to be thankful for to Providence, I rank this escape as one subject more of gratitude, having very much the same route as Lady Newnham to take that evening, but leaving the French Ambassador's later.
Here is information on the people, places, and events in this entry.

Madame de Walderen is not identified. The name is Dutch, or possibly German.

Lady Newnham and Lord Vernon. Lady Newnham was Elizabeth Vernon, daughter of George Venables-Vernon, 1st Baron Vernon. In 1765 she had married George Simon Harcourt, the eldest son of the 1st Earl Harcourt, who was then Lord Newnham. She was 18 years old at the time of the attack.

Pursued from Soho Square to the narrow passage by Conduit Street. Here's a map showing Lady Newnham's probable route. Soho Square is off the bottom left corner. Her chair would have been pursued by Mr. Ross all along the blue line from lower left up to the end of Conduit Passage, where the line ends.

Since this map was made 50 years after Sophie wrote, it contains some landmarks, like the British Museum, that were not present in her time. {click to enlarge}

Mr. Ross is not identified.


So many, many ways to pass the time. At work I give my Blogines feeds a quick once-over and post the interesting stuff to a work blog. I add a miscellany of internal news, minutes, and the like. The result is an intranet digest that's supposed to keep others up-to-date and save their time. At home I try to scan Arts Journal and Arts & Letters at least a few times a week; and take a look at Crooked Timber and Cliopatria. As I said in another post, Gobbergo is also on my must-read list.

There's more, but my point is that it's enough. I don't need or want there to be more. I relish what Paul Ford says on distractions: the Web "lets you wander so far afield that getting work done if you are, like me, the distractable sort of person -- getting work done is almost impossible"; and so he puts it "aside for a few hours a day so that I can think without the world humming in my ear."

So? So I am not exactly pleased to discover Alun's Archeoastronomy blog. He's currently hosting Carnivalesque, and it shows me just how richly interesting a blog can be, not just interesting -- laugh provoking, attractive, challenging, and giving an opening to pursuits new and (quite likely) both intellectually and emotionally gratifying.

How did I find this treasure? I sent Alun a email about my Lady Shelburne posts since the Carnivalesque celebrates Women's History month. Normally, this Carnivalesque would be devoted to ancient history, but women's history topics from more modern periods were also invited. It's hugely flattering that he puts his mention of the Diary up with an article by the prolific Natalie Bennett whom I first found through her writings on London and her blog Philobiblion.

I'm tempted to show you what's in Alun's Carnivalesque. It's full of good stuff: Davenant making a feeble attempt to feminize the Restoration stage or Kristine on early modern reading habits. One of the links led me to the irresistible The Secret Lives of Fonts. Another to an eerily beautiful Celtic God Mask. There isn't time.

Just take a moment. Open Alun's blog. See what I mean.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Diary of Lady Shelburne - 7th Post

Here is the seventh set of extracts from Lady Shelburne's diary. Links to the previous six diary posts can be found in the right-hand panel.

Since the diary entries are short, I've put below them what few facts I've been able to find about Sophie. Here then are the entries.
June 16th [1766]. Bowood. As soon as breakfast was over we took a walk and were vastly pleased with the effect of the water which flows into a magnificent river, and only wants now to rise to its proper height, which it comes nearer to every day.

July 14th. This morning at seven o'clock Mr. Taylor knocked at the door and brought in a letter for my Lord, come by an express. It was from Mr. Pitt.

Here is information about the people, places, and events she mentions:

Bowood. This was the main country estate of the Shelburnes. Acquired in 1754 by the 1st Earl of Shelburne, it was a huge set of buildings on a 4,000-acre estate near Calne in Wiltshire. See post 5 in this series for a photo of the lake. Capability Brown created the design for the lake and directed the work of creating he. He had the ground leveled outside the main house and created the lake by damming two streams.

Mr. Taylor. As is apparent from context, he was Shelburne's secretary.

Mr. Pitt. See Post 3. This was the younger William Pitt, later Lord Chatham.

"A letter for my Lord, come by an express." This refers to Shelburne's position in a new administration with Pitt as prime minister. Fitzmaurice, the author of the biography, gives the context behind this section of the diary. He says: "
To understand the contents of this letter it is necessary to leave Lady Shelburne and return to politics." Click here to read on.

Here are some facts and inferences about Sophie.

I'm enlarging upon the brief introduction I gave in the first diary post. There's little to be found about her in published or online sources. Some mentions are trivial, as when her step-sister writes in February 1767 that she has the measles, "but favourably." Some are frustrating in their brevity: of her death Shelburne's biographer says simply "In the midst of the [political] contests just described Lady Shelburne died and Shelburne himself, whose health had since been suffering severely, resolved to leave England as soon as his duties allowed him to do so." Fitzmaurice, Life of William, Earl of Shelburne, (v.i, p.424).

Here's a brief time line for her short life:
  • Born 26 August 1745
  • Mother died 7 October 1745
  • Father died 1763
  • Married 3 February 1765
  • Gave birth 6 December 1765 to a son
  • Measles 15 February 1767
  • Gave birth to a second son 1768
  • Died 5 January 1771
I haven't found a portrait. Horace Walpole said she resembled her half sisters. The thumbnail at right gives some idea what one of them looked like. It's of Lady Georgiana Caroline Carteret, Countess Cowper (who was almost 30 years older than Sophie).

Here's Walpole's full description: "There is an approaching wedding notified between Lord Shelburne and Lady Sophia Carteret, the only child of our old friend Lady Sophia Fermor by Lord Granville. Her face is like the beauty of neither, and is like her half-sisters, but her air and person would strike you from the strong resemblance to her mother. Their children will have the seeds in them of some extraordinary qualities, look whither you will." (Walpole to Mann, 13th January 1765, Correspondence, viii, 319.)

She enjoyed many advantages: Friendly, outgoing, and well-connected; having wealthy parents and a large and supportive family including numerous aunts and cousins as well as the half-sisters; blessed with a superior education for the times; and, possessing substantial wealth directly under her own control. The diary shows that she loved her first-born son dearly and enjoyed a rich social life; that she liked to travel; and that she was frequently occupied with what seems to have been the pleasant task of directing the men (including Robert Adam and Capability Brown) who renovated the family homes and properties. Does this make up for the tragedy of a life cut off so young (she was 25 when she died)? Does it make up for her never knowing her own mother (who died when she was less than three months old)? Did she enjoy or regret her husband's part in the tumultuous events of the time (those leading up to the American rebellion in which Shelburne was deeply involved)? She was only 19 at her wedding. This was comparatively young. Did she sometimes wish she'd had more chance to enjoy life as an independent young woman? I do not know.

She took on responsibilities as wife of a wealthy and politically ambitious Earl before having much experience of life herself. During the years covered in the diary, she managed large households and abundant social engagements while also bearing and raising their two sons. So far as I can tell, she did all this very well.

Her success was made likely by the ambience of her youth. Her father was a highly-respected and eccentric aristocrat. He mother was a fashionable beauty, called the "reigning toast" of London society. Her aunts, half-sisters, and cousins were socially prominent. The family was also intellectually gifted. Her father was said to have "a certain contempt, partly aristocratic and partly intellectual, for commonplace men and ways."

In writing about Walpole's letters, Macaulay is characteristically readable on this man's special attributes:
Critical and Historical Essays Volume 1
by Thomas B. Macaulay
These letters contain many good stories, some of them no doubt grossly exaggerated, about Lord Carteret; how, in the height of his greatness, he fell in love at first sight on a birthday with Lady Sophia Fermor, the handsome daughter of Lord Pomfret; how he plagued the Cabinet every day with reading to them her ladyship's letters; how strangely he brought home his bride; what fine jewels he gave her; how he fondled her at Ranelagh; and what queen-like state she kept in Arlington Street. Horace Walpole has spoken less bitterly of Carteret than of any public man of that time, Fox, perhaps, excepted; and this is the more remarkable, because Carteret was one of the most inveterate enemies of Sir Robert. In the Memoirs, Horace Walpole, after passing in review all the great men whom England had produced within his memory, concludes by saying, that in genius none of them equalled Lord Granville. Smollett, in Humphrey Clinker, pronounces a similar judgment in coarser language. "Since Granville was turned out, there has been no minister in this nation worth the meal that whitened his periwig."

Walpole wrote that one of Sophie's aunts was "cleverest girl in the world." This aunt, Lady Charlotte, was the royal governess who, says Jill Shefrin in the Dictionary of National Biography, was something of an educational innovator: "The royal children's instruction incorporated creative play into a diverse curriculum that included, for the princesses as well as their brothers, most of the arts and sciences, as well as the more traditional subjects and accomplishments. The court thus helped to set a fashion for new educational theories and practices." (DNB, Lady Charlotte Finch)

Sophie would have benefitted from her aunt's intelligence and educational theories, though I can't say how much. It's definite that she benefitted from the court fashion for educational theories, since a famous French educator, Mme. Leprince de Beaumont, was retained as her governess. Sources say Sophie became Leprince de Beaumont's star pupil. Characterized as "Ladi Sensée," she figures in some of that woman's voluminous writings. There seems to have been a mutual appreciation between teacher and pupil because there's a story that Sophie organized a trip to Paris to recognize Mme. Leprince de Beaumont's 60th birthday, though there's a date problem with the story because the birthday occurred in April 1771, three months after Sophie died. There's a lot written about Mme Leprince de Beaumont. Do a search in Google Scholar to see what I mean. She was best known for her version of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale and a web site on this tale has a useful short bibliography of books on her.

The appellation Ladi Sensée suggests a person more practical than glamorous (as you'd expect from Walpole's description) and this is borne out by a comment in one source that she was an "amiable, virtuous woman".

It's obvious from the diary that she was modest since the diary almost never refers to her accomplishments. Other aristocratic diaries from the time seem to have been more self-serving (from my limited experience of them). In fact the diary has a deliberate and formal style of a sort we don't usually associate with youth. She seems to have written the it for her own use, but at one point in the diary she mentions a responsibility she feels toward "posterity, if this Diary should by any means descend to them."

In the extracts within the Shelburne biography there's only one mention of her writing habits. There, she merely mentions that she returned home to write in it while waiting for Shelburne's return one evening.

spring break

We know that interest groups attempt to frame the news and the news media generally play along. This is a common topic in journals about the news, other academic journals, and communication courses. Remember when gun control was a hot issue and purveyors adjusted their rhetoric to achieve maximum impact in framing treatment of the issue? We see this jostling all the time.

Kieran Healy writing in Crooked Timber looks at spring break through this aperture.
Credible Sources


This article in the Times is about the dangers to children, real and imagined, of social networking websites. The usual ping-pong back-and-forth about MySpace, etc. I liked the tag-line, though: “Parents fear Web predators. Some Internet experts, and some kids, call that fear overblown.” ... Compare these reassurances to their near-perfect complement, stern warnings from the AMA to 19-year-olds about to head off to Rocky Point for the week: “The American Medical Association is warning girls not to go wild during spring break after conducting a survey in which 83 percent of college women and graduates admit spring break involves heavier-than- usual drinking, and 74 percent saying the break results in increased sexual activity.” You don’t say! Both these messages will be put through the well-developed Bayesian filter located in the brains of their intended audience—parents in the first case, spring-breakers in the second—where the probability of the information being worthwhile is weighted by its source and then immediately disregarded.

Friday, March 10, 2006

topsy turvy weather

We've had a classic March so far, if anything even more dramatic than usual.

It's 75 degrees F. outside as I write. So it's appropriate, I guess, to send you over to the National Weather Service Spring Coundown Page

Here are historic topsey-turvy quotes from the Oxford English Dictionary:

1530 PALSGR. 843/1 Topsy tyrvy, ceu dessus dessoubz. 1555 EDEN Decades 46 They say that..they see the houses turne topsy turuye, and men to walke with theyr heeles vpwarde. 1615 G. SANDYS Trav. III. 205 The huge wals and arches turned topsie turuey, and lying like rockes vpon the foundation. 1747 MRS. DELANY in Life & Corr. (1861) II. 450 As soon as I got into my chair, the chairmen fairly overturned it:..Lord Westmoreland..found me topsy turvy. 1847 ALB. SMITH Chr. Tadpole ix, Wondering how the flies could walk topsy-turvy on the ceiling. 1848 DICKENS Dombey vi, A chaos of carts, overthrown and jumbled together, lay topsy-turvy at the bottom of a..hill. 1871 R. ELLIS Catullus xvii. 9 Catullus adjures thee Head~long into the mire below topsy-turvy to drown him. 1907 Verney Mem. I. 297 He writes topsy-turvy in sympathetic ink, between the lines of a letter ostensibly full of public news.
Addendum: Notice the OED quote by Mrs. Delany in 1747. I've been reading out of her correspondence lately because it includes a couple of references to Sophia Carteret (author of the diary of Lady Shelburne). Seems the well-to-do had constantly fear being overturned in their sedan chairs. Sophie's diary tells a story about an acquaintance whose attendants were attacked by a drunkard while she was a-chair. On Jan. 21, 1768, Sophie wrote:
Everybody was talking of Lady Newnham's accident on the Sunday evening in her chair going from the French Ambassador's, where I had seen her. She was pursued from Soho Square to the narrow passage by Conduit Street, by a man who ran against her chair and her servants, and was several times push'd by them, once so as to be thrown down. In the passage he attack'd her first footman and stabbed him in the breast; she found herself immediately set down and surrounded by a rough mob who took the man. She went directly to her father Lord Vernon's house, where was only one woman servant, and remain'd there in the greatest distress, till the wounded man could be carried home and properly assisted. The wound appears not to be mortal, and the man who gave it to be a Mr. Ross, an attorney in the City, of good character, but very much in liquor.

on kittens and distractions

It's Friday quote-of-the-week time. Paul Ford - a geek, a columnist, a blogger - sort of, and always very readable - did a piece last fall on distractions which I've been saving. It has so many quotable bits that it's hard to select just one. So here are a bunch:
Friday, October 14, 2005
By Paul Ford


I'm getting so much spam. Hundreds of messages a day trying to seduce me by appealing to my darkest lusts and my greed. So I've gone back to basics. I stopped using my fancy word processor and installed WordPerfect for DOS, which was last updated about a decade ago, and which lets me type in gray letters on a blue screen without using any windows and without the need of a mouse. It never crashes. ... There is no Wikipedia, no email, no constantly changing the MP3s I'm listening to, no downloading going on. The spam still piles up but I'm not aware of it, because my email program is shut down until I want to send a message.

Being the geek that I am I have looked closely at the blog posts and articles about Web 2.0 and I understand what's going on, the new paradigms. I enjoy seeing all of the creativity going into these new dynamic To-do lists and calendars and forums. ... It's not because I'm nostalgic for the old days of Web 1.0. They came and went and it was fun to be part of something so exciting as the early blossoming of the Internet, when everything seemed possible and young people could become rich just by willing it. But more and more I want my computer to do less and less. ... I grew up with computers, started hacking away when I was twelve. I always thought that the Internet would make me more productive, more aware of the world around me but instead I'm using technology that was laughable in 1995 and getting much more done.

I figure there are two different kinds of distractions: the wide kind and the narrow kind. The Internet is the widest possible distraction because it lets you wander so far afield that getting work done if you are, like me, the distractable sort of person -- getting work done is almost impossible. ... [W]hen wide distractions are available I avoid the narrow distractions, and those are the useful distractions. Let's say you're thinking hard about a concept--say, kittens. Kittens are young cats. They have paws and they are sometimes friendly. Your stepmother, you remember, didn't let you have a kitten. Why was that? Was she allergic, or did she really just hate you? Now, that's something worth thinking about. A concept worth exploring. That's a narrow distraction, a good distraction.

But with a wide distraction you think about kittens and all of a sudden your email pops up and you're thinking about Viagra, and about how horrible the world is and how it's filled with rapacious greedy spammers. You're not able to think about kittens any more so you check out the news to find out that China has a manned space program. Click. And that peak oil is a real problem and we might be living in an age where electricity becomes prohibitively expensive. Click. And that Apple just released a new iPod again, and everyone is all aflutter. There's really no way to bring all of that back to kittens. You've been broadly distracted. You might as well play some solitaire and go to bed.

Distraction is necessary. Minds need to wander to get anything done. But the Internet is sort of the mental equivalent of the snack aisle at a convenience store, filled with satisfying fatty chips and tasty cream-filled cakes. God knows I've spent enough time with both the Internet and cream-filled cakes to see the similarities. And I now know that what I want, mentally, is a well-cooked meal. A book gives me that, a well-written, carefully-edited book. ... This is not to condemn blogs. They are often great. But there are so many of them, and I will be dead for a long, long time. ...

It is a wonder of the world, the Web. [F]or every idea there are a dozen articles and Wikipedia entries to read that allow me to avoid thinking for myself. And it's not like any of that is going away, nor will I be staying away from it. Just putting it aside for a few hours a day so that I can think without the world humming in my ear, sitting in front of my blue screen with gray text, or stretched in bed with my little portable keyboard, a working setup so bland it's actually inspiring.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


GobberGo, my favorite blog, gets better and better. The wall poem series is always good (look for it Monday or Tuesday of the week) -- this week's one of the best.

GobberGo doesn't have anything to do with Goobers except that the one brings the other to mind. With that little connection, here are the candy and an image from a cartoon called Galactic Goobers.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

good things in today's Book World

1. "The true progenitor of a movie is not the director but the screenwriter," says Dennis Drabelle: Talking Pictures: It's the Writer, Stupid.

2. A letter expounds on black birds as written words. The author says that Richard Wilbur, in his poem An Event,
likens the writing of words on a page to a group of black birds alighting on a field and then rolling through the sky, "as if refusing to be caught/In any singular vision of my eye/Or in the nets and cages of my thought." As an editor, I am especially fond of the poem's final lines, which evoke one of the intangible benefits of the writing process:

"It is by words and the defeat of words,/Down sudden vistas of the vain attempt,/That for a flying moment one may see/By what cross-purposes the world is dreamt."
The letter writer is Anne Mattison, Falls Church, Va., An Event appears in Wilbur's 1956 collection Things of This World.

3. Robert Pinsky's Poet's Choice column gives us three forms of poetic wit from Robert Herrick's Corinna's Going a-Maying, Elizabeth Bishop's Crusoe in England, and Sarah Arvio's new book, Sono.

Of the last named, Pinsky says, "Sono -- Italian for "I am" -- raises that process to an unusual, expressive intensity. In the accelerating riffs of these poems, the sounds of words express, in addition to comedy and insight, a nearly frantic pursuit of control. This is wit under duress, wrought to an extreme, less like a cool or amusing remark than a crying out." To demonstrate, he gives us the poem Amourette.

Here's an extract from that poem. The speaker tells of an old affair which "lasted many moons," but "never morphed into marriage."
in the end I think I was mortified.
Speaking of petite mort, there was also
petty murder. O ambrosia. I was
amortized, you know, or slowly murdered
while waiting for a metamorphosis.
It was disarming that it was over.
There was harm in him, and a dose of smarm--
that I wasn't dead was the miracle.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

something to think about (hard work & contentment)

If you read the IMF book forum transcript which I noted the other day, you will know that one of the commenters, Sebastian Mallaby, brought up the happiness principal of Professor Lord Layard who discusses the well known paradox that people want more income, yet richer people do not report themselves to be happier than they were before. Mallaby summarizes Professor Layard's conclusion from this: increased incomes generally result from hard work and happiness does not come with hard work. To the contrary, happiness is the freedom from hard work. Here's the explanation in Mallaby's words:
Why? Because if I work hard, then my neighbor has to work hard too, in order to keep up, and if he falls behind, he will feel unhappy. So my working hard has this norm-creating effect of forcing everybody else to work hard, so that we arrive at a terrible equilibrium where we're all working too hard and we're all stressed out. If we could only just, you know, calm down and all cut our working hours we'd all be happier. [The audience laughed at this.]
Mallaby uses this argument as a critique of the book under discussion, but that's not the focus of this post.

It just happens there's a review article in last week's New Yorker called PURSUING HAPPINESS. One of it's conclusions is that far from being antagonistic to happiness, hard work is happiness.

A few extracts:
Two scholars explore the fragility of contentment.
The New Yorker
Issue of 2006-02-27
Posted 2006-02-20

“Bad is stronger than good” is an important principle of design by evolution. This is one of the reasons that human beings make heavy weather of being happy. We have been hardwired to emphasize the negative, and, for most of human history, there has been a lot of the negative to emphasize.

Most humans have had little control over their fate; a sniffle, a graze, or a bad piece of meat, let alone a major emergency such as having a baby—all were, for most of our ancestors, potentially lethal.

When your attention is fully concentrated on questions of survival, you don’t have the time or the inclination even to formulate the idea of happiness. You have to begin to feel that you have some control over your circumstances before you begin to ask yourself questions about your own state of mind. Socrates made the question of happiness one of full accord between an individual and the good: to be happy was to lead a good life, one in keeping with higher patterns of being. [During the Middle Ages scholars promoted] the alignment of individual conduct and the heavenly order. The Enlightenment “translated the ultimate question ‘How can I be saved?’ into the pragmatic ‘How can I be happy?’

[It's obvious today that] instead of getting happier as they become better off, people get stuck on a “hedonic treadmill”: their expectations rise at the same pace as their incomes, and the happiness they seek remains constantly just out of reach.

A co-founder of positive psychology, Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi, made people carry a pager, and told them that every time it went off they should write down what they were doing and how much they were enjoying it. The idea was to avoid the memory’s tendency to focus on peaks and troughs, and to capture the texture of people’s lives as they were experiencing them, rather than in retrospect. The study showed that people were most content when they were experiencing what Csikzentmihalyi called “flow” — in Haidt’s definition, “the state of total immersion in a task that is challenging yet closely matched to one’s abilities.” We are at our happiest when we are absorbed in what we are doing; the most useful way of regarding happiness is, to borrow a phrase of Clive James’s, as “a by-product of absorption.”

Friday, March 03, 2006

Diary of Lady Shelburne -6th Post

This is the sixth set of entries from the diary of Lady Shelburne, written in 1766-69. Here are links to the others: first, second, third, fourth and fifth. As before, the entries come from the Fitzmaurice biography: Life of William, earl of Shelburne, afterwards first marquess of Lansdowne, by Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice (London, Macmillan and Co. 1912) 2 Volumes.
January 22nd [1766]. Lady Louisa went to Miss Lowther in the morning to learn the tambour work. Mr. Bull and a Mr. Brooks dined here. Lord Shelburne spent the evening with me. Lady Louisa went out and came home again, and heard part of Abernethy's sermon and of Thucydides' history. Lord Shelburne looked over my fine map-book; we then went to supper, and were going to retire at twelve when Colonel Clarke came and staid with Lord Shelburne till four.

February 14th. Lord Shelburne went this morning with Colonel Barré to Mr. Pitt at Hayes and dined out. I invited Miss Sophia and Miss Harriett to come to me, and Lady Louisa dined with Lady Charlotte. Major Fitzmaurice was of our party when they were gone I made a short visit to Lady Egmont, and carried Lady Catherine Perceval to Northumberland House, from whence I returned home by half an hour past ten. Lord Dunmore supped with us.

February 23rd. I had a cold and did not go to church. Lady Juliana Dawkins came to see Lord Fitzmaurice, and admired him as he deserves. I dressed him in garter blue, as the colour that becomes him best. Mr. Nugent sent me his little girl who is very much improved. Lord Shelburne and I dined at the French Ambassador's, where we met Lord and Lady Rockingham, Lady Sandys, Sir John and Lady Griflin, the Count and Comtesse de Saldern, the Duke of Kingston, Lord Ashburnham, Mr. Fitzmaurice, and some foreigners; from thence I went to Lady Hervey's, where I met Lady Bateman and Lady Mary Fitzgerald, Lord Newnham, Mr. Crawford, and some other men I did not know. I staid about twenty minutes and then went to Lady Windsor's; from thence I came home to Lord Shelburne, who read me a sermon out of Barrow against judging others, a very necessary lesson delivered in very persuasive and pleasing terms.
The entry for February 28th is given in post 2.
March 5th. Lady Louisa and I went to Law, the linen draper, to give him the first breadth of the gown she is working for me in the tambour to be calendered, and from thence we went to see a picture begun of Lord Shelburne at Reynolds's, and a famous table at Mayhew's in which I was disappointed. Lord Dunmore and Colonel Barré dined here. Lady Charlotte came to see Lord Fitzmaurice in the morning, admired him, and assured me he was much bigger than any of the Princes had been and than Prince William is even now, though allowed to be a very fine child. She farther flattered me by saying she saw a strong likeness to Lord Shelburne. General Clerke came afterwards and looked at him, and was polite about him; Lord Shelburne spent the evening with us and we had no other company. Lord Shelburne met Lord Winchelsea [President of the Council in the Rockingham administration] at the House of Lords today, who told him in conversation that he was seventy-eight years old. He also told Lord Shelburne that the Earl of Devonshire declared in the House of Lords, when the son of King James II. was alluded to as supposititious, that it never was his opinion that he was an imposture, he believed him to be the son of the King, and for that reason urged the more his exclusion. Lord Winchelsea likewise said that the Earl of Devonshire's principal motive was Lord Russell's execution, whose intimate friend he was, and from the moment of his death vowed to avenge it, being himself a man of as great courage as ever lived, a gambler too, and a very lively man.

Sunday, April 6th. This day past like the rest till we had just finished tea at seven o'clock in the evening, when Mr. Dunning arrived from the Bristol circuit. I left them to converse together till ten o'clock.

Tuesday, April 8th. We arrived in town. I was quite surprised at the improvement in my dear little child, who now takes notice of a watch. Mr. Nugent and Colonel Barré dined with us.

Wednesday, April 9th. Lord Fitzmaurice was put into a tub of water and bore it much better than I expected. General Clerke supped here.

Monday, April 14th. We all went, after breakfast, to walk over the house in Berkeley Square, after which I came home. After dinner my Lord came up and called me out of the room and told me that he had received a letter from the country with an account of Mr. Duckett's death, which made it necessary for him to go down the next day as he was to bring in the new member, which would be Mr. Calcraft, as he was under a sort of engagement to him, and if that met with difficulty, Mr. Dunning. That evening he went to Mr. Pitt.

Notes on people, places, and events

Lady Louisa: Sophie's aunt. She stayed with the family quite often.

Miss Lowther - not identified.

Tambour work. The "tambour" is a frame used to hold a piece of fabric. Tambour means drum and the fabric is stretched like the head of a drum. As you'd expect, the word tamourine is related.

Tambour Embroidery
employs a continuous chain stitch on a piece of fabric.

The lady on the right is doing tambour work.

Mr. Bull - not identified.

Mr. Brooks - not identified.

Abernethy's sermon - see post 3.

Thucydides' history - see post 3.

My fine map-book. This shows what a page in a 1766 map book was like
{click to enlarge}

Colonel Clarke - not identified. It could be General Thomas Clarke. He was a Lieutenant Colonel at the time of Sophie's writing.

Colonel Barré and Mr. Pitt - see post 3. Hayes was Pitt's birthplace

Miss Sophia and Miss Harriett. Miss Sophia is probably a cousin, Sophia Finch. Miss Harriett was probably Harriet Herring who married Sir Francis Baring, a supporter of Shelburne.

Lady Charlotte - see post 3.

Major Fitzmaurice - not identified. He's very likely a relative. Fitzmaurice was Shelburne's baptismal name, though his style at this time was General Sir William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne.

Lady Egmont - not identified.

Lady Catherine Perceval - not identified.

Northumberland House - see post 3. Do take a look at the enlarged version of this very interesting painting
{click to enlarge}

Lord Dunmore. This was John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore.

Lady Juliana Dawkins - not identified.

Lord Fitzmaurice. Her baby boy. He was born December 6, 1765 and was thus almost three months old at time of writing.

Lord Newnham - not identified.

Mr. Nugent. This may have beenGeorge Nugent-Temple-Grenville, although I don't know what could be meant by "his little girl" since he was unmarried at this time. He was active in politics and frequently sided with Shelburne.

Rockingham. Shelburne had recently turned down an offer of the Board of Trade in the Rockingham administration.

Lady Sandys - not identified.

Sir John and Lady Griflin - not identified.

Count and Comtesse de Saldern - not identified.

Duke of Kingston - not identified.

Lord Ashburnham - not identified.

Mr. Fitzmaurice. This was Shelburne's brother, Dean of St. Asaph (see Fitzgerald biography of Shelburne, v. ii, p. 379).

Lady Hervey. This was Lady Louisa Theodosia Hervey who died June 12, 1821.

Lady Bateman - not identified.

Lady Mary Fitzgerald - not identified.

Mr. Crawford - not identified.

Lady Windsor - not identified.

A sermon out of Barrow against judging others. Henry Barrow (1550-90) was a separatist and martyr. Here are some extracts from his SERMON 4: OF CONTENTMENT:-PART 3::
I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. If we would diligently compare our state with the state even of those whom we are apt most to envy, it would afford matter of consolation. What is the state of the greatest persons, (of the world's grandees,) but a state encompassed with snares and temptations; which, without extreme caution, and constancy, and command of all appetites and passions, cannot be avoided? What, but a state of pompous troubles; of living in continual noise and stir, subject to the urgency of business, and the tediousness of ceremony; of being abused by perfidious servants, and mocked by vile flatterers; of being exposed to common censure and obloquy, to misrepresentation, misconstruction, and slander, having the eyes of all men intent upon their actions, and as many severe judges as watchful spectators; of being pestered and pursued with pretences, with suits, with complaints, the necessary result whereof is to displease many, to satisfy few; of being frequently engaged in resentments of ingratitude, of treachery, of neglects, of defects in duty, and breaches of trust toward them; of being constrained to comply with the humors and opinions of men; of anxious care to keep, and fear of losing all; of wanting the most solid comforts of life, true friendship, free conversation, privacy, and retiredness: In fine, of being paid with false coin for all their cares and pains, receiving for them scarce any thing more but empty shows of respect, and hollow acclamations: (whence the Psalmist might well say, 'Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree a lie;' a lie, for that their state cheateth us, appearing so specious, yet being really so inconvenient and troublesome.) Such is the state of the greatest men such as has made wise Princes weary of themselves, and ready to acknowledge, that if men knew the weight of a crown, none would take it up; such indeed as, in sober judgment, we cannot prefer before the most narrow and inferior fortune. How then can we reasonably be displeased with our condition, when we may even pity Emperors and Kings; when, in reality, we are as well, perhaps much better than they?

Calendared Fabric. A process of pressing fabric between rollers or plates to smooth and glaze.

Picture begun of Lord Shelburne at Reynolds. Here's a reproduction of the finished product.

Famous table at Mayhew's - not identified. Here's a Mayhew table
{click to enlarge}

General Clerke - not identified.

Earl of Devonshire. He was one of Rockingham's party, the Most Noble William Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Devonshire. He married The Hon. Rachel Russell (1674–1725), daughter of William, Lord Russell.

Lord Winchelsea. He was President of the Council in the Rockingham administration of the time: John Finch, 6th Earl of Winchilsea.

Lord Russell. Horace Walpole, Memoirs of the Reign of George II, ii, 22. "The first Duke, besides being the finest gentleman of the age, had succeeded to the merits of his friend Lord Russell's martyrdom." Russell was put to death by James II in the period leading up to the Glorious Revolution. Wikipedia explains:
On March 26, 1681, in the parliament held at Oxford, Russell again seconded the Exclusion Bill. Upon the dissolution of parliament he retired into privacy at his country seat. ... Upon the violation of the charters in 1683, he began seriously to consider as to the best means of resisting the government, and on one occasion attended a meeting at which treason, or what might be construed as treason, was talked. Monmouth, Essex, Hampden, Sidney and Howard of Escrick were the principal of those who met to consult.
      On the breaking out of the Rye House Plot, of which neither he, Essex, nor Sidney had the slightest knowledge, he was accused by informers of promising his assistance to raise an insurrection and bring about the death of the king. Refusing to attempt to escape, he was sent on June 26, 1683 to the Tower of London, where he prepared himself for his death. Monmouth [illegitimate son of Charles II] offered to returned to England and be tried, if doing so would help Russell, and Essex refused to abscond for fear of injuring his friend's chance of escape. Russell was executed on July 21, 1683. He was lauded as a martyr by the Whigs, who claimed that he was put to death in retaliation for his efforts to exclude James from succession to the crown.

The son of King James II. There was controversy about the son of James II. Wikipedia says: "When the young prince was born, a rumour was immediately spread that the call for a 'warming-pan' had been the pretext for a substitution, the real baby having allegedly been born dead. There is no historical evidence for this. However, within weeks of his birth, the child was sent to France for safety, and his father was fighting unsuccessfully to retain his crown."

Mr. Dunning. This is John Dunning, 1st Baron Asburton. At the time Sophie is writing, Dunning is recorder of Bristol. A supporter of Shelburne, he went out of office with him in 1770. Like Barré, he was an excellent speaker in the House of Commons. It was he who moved, in 1780, "that the influence of the crown had increased, was increasing, and ought to be diminished," which he carried by a majority of eighteen.

On April 9, the baby was 4 months old.

This is the house they were remodeling on Berkeley Square.

Of it, Wikipedia says: "Lansdowne House is a building to the south west of Berkeley Square in central London. ... The positioning of the property was rather unusual. It had a large front garden occupying the whole of the southern side of the square, which it faced side on. This arrangement gave Devonshire House on Piccadilly an open aspect to the square."

A letter from the country with an account of Mr. Duckett's death - not identified.

Mr. Calcraft. This was John Calcraft, politician - friend and associate of Shelburne. He was retured in this election and Dunning succeeded him in 1768.

Thomas Gray wrote a poem in which Calcraft and Shelburne are mentioned:

On Ld H's Seat near Me, Kt ["On L[or]d H[olland']s Seat near M[argat]e, K[en]t"]
Old and abandoned by each venal friend,
Here H[olland] took the pious resolution
To smuggle some few years and strive to mend
A broken character and constitution.
On this congenial spot he fixed his choice;
Earl Godwin trembled for his neighbouring sand;
Here sea-gulls scream and cormorants rejoice,
And mariners, though shipwrecked, dread to land.
Here reign the blustering North and blighting East,
No tree is heard to whisper, bird to sing:
Yet nature cannot furnish out the feast,
Art he invokes new horrors still to bring.
Now mouldering fanes and battlements arise,
Arches and turrets nodding to their fall,
Unpeopled palaces delude his eyes,
And mimic desolation covers all.
Nor Shelburne's, Rigby's, Calcraft's friendship vain,
Far other scenes than these had blessed our view
And realised the ruins that we feign.
Purged by the sword and beautified by fire,
Then had we seen proud London's hated walls:
Owls might have hooted in St Peter's choir,
And foxes stunk and littered in St Paul's."