Frances [Fanny] Burney

Peter Sabor (ed.), The Court Journals and Letters of Frances Burney, Vol. 1: 1786

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Monday, August 7th.

This has been the first chearful Day since the memorable & alarming attack of the 2d. of August. It was the Birth Day of the little Princess Amelia,308 & the fondness of the whole family for that lovely Child, & her own infantine enjoyment of the honours paid her, have revived the spirits of the whole House.

The manner of keeping the Birth Days here is very simple. All the Royal family are new Dressed, so,—at least so they appear,—are all their attendants,—the Dinners & Deserts are unusually sumptuous, & some of the principal officers of state, & a few of the Ladies of the Court, come to Windsor to make their Compliments, & at night there is a finer Concert, by an addition from Town of the musicians belonging to the Queen's Band.309 If the Weather is fine, all the family walk upon the Terrace, which is crowded with people of distinction, who take that mode of shewing respect, to avoid the trouble & fatigue of attending at the following Drawing Room.

Another method, too, which is taken, to express joy & attachment upon these occasions, is by going to the 8 o'clock prayers at the Royal Chapel. The congregation all assemble, after the service, in the opening at the foot of the great Stairs which the Royal Family descend from their Gallery, & there those who have any pretentions to notice, scarce ever fail to meet with it.

To Day this Stair-Case Drawing Room, as it is named by Major Price, was very much crowded; & it was a sweet sight to me, from my Windows, pg 79to see that the Royal Groupe, respectfully followed by many people of distinction who came on the occasion, &, at a still greater distance, encircled by humbler, but not less loyal congratulators, had their chief attention upon my dear aged venerable Mrs. Delany, who was brought in by the King & Queen, to partake with them the Birth-Day Breakfast.

I forgot to mention to you that one Evening, in coming out of the Court-yard to go to Mrs. Delany, I had been stopt by Miss Anguish;310 who made such request that she might call & see me in my new dwelling that I had no means of saying no, though the little time I have for society makes me more than ever anxious to bestow it only on that which I value.

This Morning she called; she is very much improved, & took so hearty a pleasure in the sight of what she concluded must make me happy,—my apartment, & situation,—that I felt too much obliged to her good-nature to let myself be vexed at her interruption.

Not long after her departure, I heard the voice of Major Price near my Door, saying "This is Miss Burney's room,—I'll rap <at it> for you to know if she's there herself."

I opened the Door,—& found at it Mrs. Fielding & her 3 Daughters. The Gentleman-Usher immediately decamped. The Ladies were all in high Gala-Dress; & so unbounded & irrepressible is curiosity in the mama, that she could not restrain her desire to know how I go on, & her hopes that it is not comfortably, within <decent> common decorum; she began at once the most gross questions of what I had to do & how I liked, & if I could bear it; & hearing nothing from me but general answers, that included not the shadow of a complaint, she bit her lips, & could scarce refrain expressing her disappointment.

Mrs. Delany suspects that she wished this employment for herself, & thought she could have held it, & have been Woman of the Bed Chamber at the same time; & indeed her behaviour leads me very much to the same notion, which is the only one that can at all excuse it.

The Daughters are handsome pert Girls: ruined poor things by their Mother's & their own admiration of their perfections.

In the Evening, for the first time since my arrival, I went upon the Terrace: under the Wing & protection of my dear Mrs. Delany, who was tempted to walk there herself, in order to pay her Respects on the little pg 80Princesses Birth Day. She was carried in her Chair to the foot of the Steps, & Miss Port & I walked by its side.

We were almost immediately met by Lord Courtown, & a Lady, who, after enquiring how Mrs. Delany did, whispered "Is that Miss Burney?" "Yes, ma'am." "Then pray introduce me to her."

"Shall I ?" cried Lord Courtown,—& then presented me to his lady; who seems extremely pleasing, well-bred, & amiable. She is much in favour with the Queen, who frequently has her at the Lodge, or visits her in her own apartment in the Round Tower.311

Mrs. Delany was desirous to save herself now for the Royal encounter; she therefore sate down on the first Seat, & Lady Courtown desired to join her; my lord walked on, & Miss Port & I also stayed, & spent our time in easy & pleasant discourse till the Royal party appeared in sight. We then of course stood up.

It was really a mighty pretty procession. The little Princess, just turned of 3 years old, in a robe Coat covered with fine muslin, a Dressed close Cap, white Gloves, & a Fan, walked on alone, & first, highly delighted in the Parade, & turning from side to side to see every body as she passed: for all the Terracers312 stand up against the Walls, to make a clear passage for the Royal family, the moment they come in sight. Then followed the King & Queen, no less delighted themselves with the joy of their little darling. The Princess Royal, leaning on Lady Elizabeth Waldegrave, followed at a little distance. This Princess, the second female in the Kingdom, has, I think, more marked respect & humility towards the King & Queen than any of the family. Next the Princess Augusta, holding by the Dutchess of Ancaster, & next the Princess Elizabeth, holding by Lady Charlotte Bertie. Office, here, takes place of rank, which occasioned Lady Elizabeth Waldegrave as Lady of her Bed Chamber, to walk with the Princess Royal. Then followed the Princess Mary with Miss Goldsworthy, & the Princess Sophia with Mlle. Monmoulon, & Miss Planta, then General Budé & the Duke of Montagu, & lastly Major Price, who, as Equery, always brings up the Rear, walks at a distance from the Groupe, & keeps off all crowd from the Royal Family.

On sight of Mrs. Delany, the King instantly stopt to speak to her. The Queen of course, & the little Princess; & all the rest stood still, in their ranks. They talked a good while with the sweet old lady; during which pg 81time, the King once or twice addressed himself to me;—I caught the Queen's Eye, & saw in it a little surprise, but by no means any displeasure, to see me of the party. The little Princess went up to Mrs. Delany, of whom she is very fond, & behaved like a little Angel to her; she then, with a look of enquiry & recollection, slowly, of her own accord, came behind Mrs. Delany to look at me;—"I am afraid, said I, in a whisper, & stooping down, your Royal Highness does not remember me?"

What think you was her answer? —An arch little smile, & a nearer approach, with her lips pouted out to kiss me.—I could not resist so innocent an invitation, but the moment I had accepted it, I was half afraid it seem, in so public a place, encouraging an improper liberty; however, there was no help for it. —She then took my Fan, & having looked at it on both sides, gravely returned it me, saying "O,—a Brown Fan!"

The King & Queen then bid her Courtsie to Mrs. Delany, which she did most gracefully, & they all moved on: each of the Princesses speaking to Mrs. Delany as they passed, & condescending to courtsie to her companion.

We afterwards met the Heberdens, Fieldings, Egertons, Lord Walsingham & Dr. Lind, whom I have but once before seen since my residence here, for I have never had leisure to return his Wife's visit to me, which was made long ago; & I dare not receive one from him, as he is among those injudicious enjoyers of the Present Hour that never consider whom they inconvenience. Lord Walsingham gave me a pretty palpable hint or two of being willing to honour me with a Call; but I pretended not to understand him. I am forced to that method of slack comprehension continually, to save myself from more open & awkward declinings.

Mrs. Delany was too much fatigued to return to the Lodge to Tea, but Miss Port accompanied me back. Mrs. Fielding & her 3 Daughters, Lord Courtown, Mr. Fisher, the General & the Major made up our set.

Mrs. Schwellenberg was very ill. She declined making Tea, & put it into the hands of the General.

I had always kept back from that office, as well as from presiding at the Table, that I might keep the more quiet, & be permitted to sit silent; which, at first, was a repose quite necessary to my depressed state of spirits,—& which, as they grew better,—I found equally necessary to keep off the foul fiends of Jealousy & Rivality in my Colleague: who apparently never wishes to hear my voice, but when we are Tête á Tête, & then never is in good-humour when it is at rest.

pg 82I could not, however, see this feminine ocupation in masculine Hands, & not, in shame, propose taking it upon myself. The General readily relinquished it, & I was fain to come forth & do the honours.

Lord Courtown sate himself next me, & talked with me the whole time, in <a> well bred & pleasant discourse. The Major waited upon me as assiduously as if he had been as much my Equery as the King's, & all went smooth, well, & naturally.—Except that the poor sick lady grew evidently less & less pleased with the arrangement of things, & less & less in humour with its arrangers.—So obvious, indeed, was the displeasure, that the Cypher313 should become a Number, that—had my own mind314 been easy, I should have felt much vext to observe what a Curb was placed over me; for hitherto, except when she has been engaged herself, & only to Major Price & Mr. Fisher, that Cypher had word spoke never one.—'tis wonderful, my dearest Susan, what wretched Tempers are to be met with! wretched in & to themselves, wretched to & for all that surround them.—And that I, thus again, should be placed immediately under the power & influence of such a one! —However, while only to be stupid & silent will do, we shall not be at variance.—were I happier— perhaps I might comply with more difficulty.—So be not sorry, my Susan,—nor you, my sweet Fredy,—if by & bye you should hear me complain. It will be a very good sign.—

Lord Courtown talked to me of Mr. Cambridge,—he said he should see him the next Day, & asked if I had any commands for him.—

Miss Port went into my Room to Supper.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
308 Princess Amelia's third birthday.
Editor’s Note
309 Queen Charlotte had had her own Band of Music, which included violin, cello, double bass, oboe, and harpsichord, since her marriage in 1761.
Editor’s Note
310 Catherine Anguish (1764–1837), daughter of Thomas Anguish (c.1724–86), Master and Accountant General of the Court of Chancery, and Sarah Henley. FB had been acquainted with the Anguish family for over ten years.
Editor’s Note
311 In 1788, Lady Courtown would be appointed as Lady in Waiting to Queen Charlotte.
Editor’s Note
312 FB's use of this word in the sense of 'one who stands or walks on a terrace' is the earliest example recorded in OED.
Editor’s Note
313 'An arithmetical symbol or character (0) of no value by itself, but which increases or decreases the value of other figures according to its position' (OED).
Editor’s Note
314 '<spirit>' is deleted; 'mind' is inserted above the line.
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