Frances d'Arblay (1752-1840) was een Britse schrijfster. Haar dagboeken zijn gepubliceerd als The Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay.
Kew Palace, Monday, Feb. 2.-What an adventure had I this morning! one that has occasioned me the severest personal terror I ever experienced in my life.
Sir Lucas Pepys still persisting that exercise and air were absolutely necessary to save me from illness, I have continued my walks, varying my gardens from Richmond to Kew, according to the accounts I received of the movements of the king. For this I had her majesty's permission, on the representation of Sir Lucas. This morning, when I received my intelligence of the king from Dr. John Willis, I begged to know where I might walk in safety? "In Kew gardens," he said, "as the king would be in Richmond."
"Should any unfortunate circumstance," I cried, "at any time, occasion my being seen by his majesty, do not mention my name, but let me run off without call or notice." This he promised. Everybody, indeed, is ordered to keep out of sight. Taking, therefore, the time I had most at command, I strolled into the gardens. I had proceeded, in my quick way, nearly half the round, when I suddenly perceived, through some trees, two or three figures. Relying on the instructions of Dr. John, I concluded them to be workmen and gardeners; yet tried to look sharp, and in so doing, as they were less shaded, I thought I saw the person of his majesty!
Alarmed past all possible expression, I waited not to know more, but turning back, ran off with all my might. But what was my terror to hear myself pursued!—to hear the voice of the king himself loudly and hoarsely calling after me, "MISS Burney! Miss Burney!
I protest I was ready to die. I knew not in what state he might be at the time; I only knew the orders to keep out of his way were universal; that the queen would highly disapprove any unauthorized meeting, and that the very action of my running away might deeply, in his present irritable state, offend him. Nevertheless, on I ran, too terrified to stop, and in search Of some short passage, for the g)arden is full of labyrinths, by which I might escape.
The steps still pursued me, and Still the poor hoarse and altered voice rang in my ears:—more and more footsteps sounded frightfully behind me,—the attendants all running to catch their eager master, and the voices of the two Doctor Willises loudly exhorting him not to heat himself so unmercifully.
Heavens, how I ran! I do not think I should have felt the hot lava from Vesuvius—at least not the hot cinders—hadd I so run during its eruption. My feet were not sensible that they even touched the ground.
Soon after, I heard other voices, shriller, though less nervous, call out "Stop! stop! stop!"
I could by no means consent: I knew not what was purposed, but I recollected fully my agreement with Dr. John that very morning, that I should decamp if Surprised, and not b named. My own fears and repugnance, also, after a flight and disobedience like this, were doubled in the thought of not escaping; I knew not to what I might be exposed, should the malady be then high, and take the turn of resentment. Still, therefore, on I flew; and such was my speed, so almost incredible to relate or recollect, that I fairly believe no one of the whole party could have overtaken me, if these words, from one of the attendants, had not reached me, "Doctor Willis begs you to stop!"
"I cannot! I cannot!" I answered, still flying on, when he called out, "You must, ma'am; it hurts the king to run."
Then, indeed, I stopped—in a state of fear really amounting to agony. I turned round, I saw the two doctors had got the king between them, and three attendants of Dr. Willis's were hovering about. They all slackened their pace, as they saw me stand still; but such was the excess of my alarm, that I was wholly insensible to the effects of a race which, at any other time, would have required an hour's recruit.
As they approached, some little presence of mind happily came to my command it occurred to me that, to appease the wrath of my flight, I must now show some confidence: I therefore faced them as undauntedly as I was able, only charging the nearest of the attendants to stand by my side.
When they were within a few yards of me, the king called out,
"Why did you run away?"
Shocked at a question impossible to answer, yet a little
assured by the mild tone of his voice, I instantly forced myself forward, to meet him, though the internal sensation which satisfied me this was a step the most proper, to appease his suspicions and displeasure, was so violently combated by the tremor of my nerves, that I fairly think I may reckon it the greatest effort of personal courage-I have ever made.
The effort answered : I looked up, and met all his wonted benignity of countenance, though something still of wildness in his eyes. Think, however, of my surprise, to feel him put both his hands round my two shoulders, and then kiss my cheek ! * I wonder I did not really sink, so exquisite was my affright when I saw him spread out his arms! Involuntarily, I concluded he meant to crush me: but the Willises, who have never seen him till this fatal illness, not knowing how very extraordinary an action this was from him, simply smiled and looked pleased, supposing, perhaps, it was his customary salutation!
I believe, however, it was but the joy of a heart unbridled, now, by the forms and proprieties of established custom and sober reason. To see any of his household thus by accident, seemed such a near approach to liberty and recovery, that who can wonder it should serve rather to elate than lessen what yet remains of his disorder!
He now spoke in such terms of his pleasure in seeing me, that I soon lost the whole of my terror; astonishment to find him so nearly well, and gratification to see him so pleased, removed every uneasy feeling, and the joy that succeeded, in my conviction of his recovery, made me ready to throw myself at his feet to express it.
What conversation followed! When he saw me fearless, he grew more and more alive, and made me walk close by his side, away from the attendants, and even the Willises themselves, who, to indulge him, retreated. I own myself not completely composed, but alarm I could entertain no more.
Everything that came uppermost in his mind he mentioned; he seemed to have just such remains of his flightiness as heated his imagination without deranging his reason, and robbed him of all control over his speech, though nearly in his perfect state Of mind as to his opinions. What did he not say !—He opened
his whole heart to me,—expounded all his sentiments, and acquainted me with all his intentions.
The heads of his discourse I must give you briefly, as I am sure you will be highly curious to hear them, and as no accident can render of much consequence what a man says in such a state of physical intoxication. He assured me he was quite well—as well as he had ever been in his life ; and then inquired how I did, and how I went on? and whether I was more comfortable? If these questions, in their implications, surprised me, imagine how that surprise must increase when he proceeded to explain them! He asked after the coadjutrix, laughing, and saying "Never mind her!—don't be oppressed—I am your friend! don't let her cast you down!—I know you have a hard time of it—but don't mind her!"
Almost thunderstruck with astonishment, I merely curtsied to his kind "I am your friend," and said nothing. Then presently he added, "Stick to your father—stick to your own family—let them be your objects."
How readily I assented! Again he repeated all I have just written, nearly in the same words, but ended it more seriously: He suddenly stopped, and held me to stop too, and putting his hand on his breast. in the most solemn manner, he gravely and slowly said, "I will protect you!— I promise you that—and therefore depend upon me!"
I thanked him ; and the Willises, thinking him rather too elevated, came to propose my walking on. "No, no, no!" he cried, a hundred times in a breath and their good humour prevailed, and they let him again walk on with his new Companion.
He then gave me a history of his pages, animating almost into a rage, as he related his subjects of displeasure with them, particularly with Mr. Ernst, who he told me had been brought up by himself. I hope his ideas upon these men are the result of the mistakes of his malady.
Then he asked me some questions that very greatly &stressed me, relating to information given him in his illness, from various motives, but which he suspected to be false, and which I knew he had reason to suspect: yet was It most dangerous to set anything right, as I was not aware what might be the views of their having been stated wrong. I was as discreet as I knew how to be, and I hope I did no mischief; but this was the worst part of the dialogue.
He next talked to me a great deal of my dear father, and made a thousand inquiries concerning his "History of Music." This brought him to his favourite theme, Handel; and he told me innumerable anecdotes of him, and particularly that celebrated tale of Handel's saying of himself, when a boy, "While that boy lives, my music will never want a protector." And this, he said, I might relate to my father. Then he ran over most of his oratorios, attempting to sing the subjects of several airs and choruses, but so dreadfully hoarse that the sound was terrible.
Dr. Willis, quite alarmed at this exertion, feared he would do himself harm, and again proposed a separation. " "No! no! no!" he exclaimed, "not yet; I have something I must just mention first."
Dr. Willis, delighted to comply, even when uneasy at compliance, again gave way. The good king then greatly affected me. He began upon my revered old friend, Mrs. Delany and he spoke of her with such warmth—such kindness! "She was my friend!" he cried, "and I loved her as a friend! I have made a memorandum when I lost her—I will show it YOU."
He pulled out a pocket-book, and rummaged some time, but to no purpose. The tears stood in his eyes—he wiped them, and Dr. Willis again became very anxious. "Come, sir," he cried, "now do you come in and let the lady go on her walk,-come, now you have talked a long while,-so we'll go in,—if your majesty pleases."
"No, no!" he cried, "I want to ask her a few questions ; —I have lived so long out of the world, I know nothing!"
This touched me to the heart. We walked on together, and he inquired after various persons, particularly Mrs. Boscawen, because she was Mrs. Delany's friend! Then, for the same reason, after Mr. Frederick Montagu,(303) of whom he kindly said, "I know he has a great regard for me, for all he joined the opposition." Lord Grey de Wilton, Sir Watkin Wynn, the Duke of Beaufort, and various others, followed. He then told me he was very much dissatisfied with several of his state officers, and meant to form an entire new establishment. He took a paper out of his pocket-book, and showed me his new list.
This was the wildest thing that passed ; and Dr. John Willis now seriously urged our separating; but he would not consent he had only three more words to say, he declared, and again he conquered.
He now spoke of my father, with still more kindness, and told me he ought to have had the post of master of the band, and not that little poor musician Parsons, who was not fit for it: "But Lord Salisbury," he cried, "used your father vary ill in that business, and so he did me! However, I have dashed out his name, and I shall put your father's in,—as soon as I get loose again!"
This again—how affecting was this!
"And what," cried he,"has your father got, at last? nothing but that poor thing at Chelsea?(304) O fie! fie! fie! But never mind! I will take care of him. I will do it myself!" Then presently he added, "As to Lord Salisbury, he is out already, as this memorandum will Show you, and so are many more. I shall be much better served and when once I get away, I shall rule with a rod of iron!"
This was very unlike himself, and startled the two good doctors, who could not bear to cross him, and were exulting at seeing his great amendment, but yet grew quite uneasy at his earnestness and volubility. Finding we now must part, he stopped to take leave, and renewed again his charges about the coadjutrix. "Never mind her!" he cried, "depend upon me! I will be your friend as long as I live—I here pledge myself to be your friend!" And then he saluted me again just as at the meeting, and suffered me to go on.
What a scene! how variously was I affected by it! but, upon the whole, how inexpressibly thankful to see him so nearly himself— so little removed from recovery!
I went very soon after to the queen to whom I was most eager to avow the meeting, and how little I could help it. Her astonishment, and her earnestness to hear every particular, were very great. I told her almost all. Some few things relating to the distressing questions I could not repeat nor
many things said of Mrs. Schwellenberg, which would much, very needlessly, have hurt her.
This interview, and the circumstances belonging to it, excited general curiosity, and all the house watched for opportunities to beg a relation of it. How delighted was I to tell them all my happy prognostics!
But the first to hasten to hear of it was Mr. Smelt; eager and enchanted was the countenance and attention of that truly loyal and most affectionate adherent to his old master. He wished me to see Lady Harcourt and the general, and to make them a brief relation of this extraordinary rencounter but for that I had not effort enough left.
I did what I Could, however, to gratify the curiosity of Colonel Wellbred, which I never saw equally excited. I was passing him on the stairs, and he followed me, to say he had heard what had happened—I imagine from the Willises. I told him, with the highest satisfaction, the general effect produced upon my mind by the accident, that the king seemed so nearly, himself, that patience itself could have but little longer trial. He wanted to hear more particulars: I fancy the Willises had vaguely related some: "Did he not," he cried, "promise to do something for you?" I only laughed, and answered, "O yes! if you want any thing, apply to me;—now is my time!"