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Lord Mountjoy's second marriage was entered into after an acquaintance that had commenced many years previously in Ireland, and had been long interrupted.
The lady of his love was then twenty-eight years of age, in the perfection of matured beauty—that bright and radiant beauty which derives its power not so much from harmony of features and symmetry of form, as from the animating influences of intelligence beaming forth from a mind full of joyous and of kindly feelings, and of brilliant fancies—that kind of vivid loveliness which is never found where some degree of genius is not. Her form was exquisitely moulded, with an inclination, to fulness; but no finer proportions could be imagined; her movements were graceful and natural at all times - in her merriest as well as in her gravest moods.
The peculiar character of Lady Blessington's beauty seemed to be the entire, exact, and instantaneous correspondence of every feature, and each separate trait of her countenance, with the emotion of her mind, which any particular subject of conversation or object of attention might excite. The instant a joyous thought took possession of her fancy, you saw it transmitted, as if by electrical agency, to her glowing features; you read it in her sparkling eyes, her laughing lips, her cheerful looks; you heard it expressed in her ringing laugh, clear and sweet as the gay, joy-bell sounds of childhood's merriest tones.
There was a geniality in the warmth of her Irish feelings, an abandonment of all care, of all apparent consciousness of her powers of attraction, a glowing sunshine of good humour, and of good nature in the smiles and laughter, and the sallies of the wit of this lovely woman in her early and her happy days and medical attendant of Curran, Grattan, and Ponsonby, a gentleman most highly respected by all who knew him, and by none more than the writer of these lines, died in 1829, in his sixty-ninth year.
(those of her Italian life, especially from 1823 to 1826), such as have been seldom surpassed in the looks, gesture, or expression of any other person, however beautiful. The influence of her attraction was of that kind described by the poet:
“When the loveliest expression to features are joined,
By nature's most delicate pencil designed,
Her voice was ever sweetly modulated and low—“ an excellent thing in woman!” Its tones were always in harmonious concord with the traits of her expressive features. There was a cordiality, a clear silver-toned hilarity, a correspondence in them, apparently with all her sensations, that made her hearers feel “ she spoke to them with every part of her being," and that their communication was with a kindly-hearted, genial person, of womanly feelings and sentiments. The girlish-like joyousness of her laugh, the genuine gaiety of her heart, of her“ petit ris follatre,” the éclats of those Jordan-like outbursts of exuberant mirthfulness which she was wont to indulge in - contributed not a little to her power of fascination. All the beauty of Lady Blessington, without the exquisite sweetness of her voice, and the witchery of its tones in pleasing or expressing pleasure, would have been only a secondary attraction.
Mirabeau, in one of his letters, descants on the perfections of a French lady –une dame spirituelle, of great powers of attraction :
" When she talks, she is the art of pleasing personified. Her eyes, her lips, her words, her gestures, are all prepossessing; her language is the language of amiableness; her accents are the accents of grace; she embellishes a trifle ; interests upon nothing; she softens a contradiction; she takes off the insipidity of a compliment, by turning it elegantly; and when she has a mind, she sharpens and polishes the point of an epigram better than all the women in the world.
“ Her eyes sparkle with pleasure; the most delightful sallies flash from her fancy; in telling a story she is inimitable—the motions of her body and the accents of her tongue are equally genteel and easy ; an equable flow of sprightliness keeps her constantly good-humoured and cheerful, and the only objects of her life are to please and be pleased. Her vivacity may sometimes approach to folly, but perhaps it is not in her moments of folly she is least interesting and agreeable.”
Mirabeau goes on enlarging on one particular faculty which she possessed, and for which she was remarkable, beyond all comparison with other women-a power of intellectual excitation which roused up any spark of talent in the minds of those around her :
" She will draw out wit from a fool; she strikes with such address the chords of self-love, that she gives unexpected vigour and agility to fancy, and electrifies a body that appears DOD-electric.” *
Lady Blessington might have sat for the portrait of the spiritual French-woman that Mirabeau has sketched with so much animation !
Soon after their marriage, Lord Blessington took his bride over to Ireland, to visit his Tyrone estates ; but that was not the first occasion of the lady's visit to Mountjoy Forest.
The union had been so far kept a secret, that many of Lord Blessington's friends were not aware of it at the time of his arrival in Dublin. He invited some of those with whom
* Mirabeau's Letters during his Residence in England, translated, in 2 vols. London, 1832.
he was most intimately acquainted, to a dinner at his house in Henrietta Street. *
Some of those friends of his were only made acquainted with the recent marriage, when Lord Blessington entered the drawing-room with a lady of extraordinary beauty, dressed in bridal costume, leaning on his arm, whom he introduced as Lady Blessington.
Among the guests, there was one gentleman who had been in that room only a few years before, when the walls were hung in black, and in the centre, on an elevated platform, was placed a coffin, with a gorgeous velvet pall, with the remains in it, of a woman,-once scarcely surpassed in loveliness by the lady then present—radiant in beauty, and decked out in rich attire. Stranger events and more striking contrasts are often to be encountered in brilliant circles, and in noble mansions too, than are to be met with in books of fiction.
The Blessingtons proceeded from Dublin to the county of Tyrone. But preparations were previously made by his Lordship for the reception of his bride at Mountjoy Forest, of a most costly description.
Speaking of these extravagant arrangements of her husband,
* The Gardiner family owned the fee simple of the whole street, nearly, and the house No. 10 at the west end, and north side of Henrietta Street, which now constitutes the Queen's Inns Chambers, formerly held by the Right Honourable Luke Gardiner, Lord Mountjoy, and subsequently in the possession of the late Right Honourable Charles John, Earl of Blessington. The house was sold in 1837 to Tristram Kennedy, Esq., for £1700. Immediately in front of Lord Blessington's abode, the noted Primate Boulter erected his palace, which he makes mention of in his letters. The worthy primate wanted only the scholar. ship and munificence of Wolsey, and the great intellectual powers and political wisdom of Richelieu, to have been a very distinguished tem. porally-minded churchman, a most astute and unspiritualized sa
sacer. dotal statesman.
Lady Blessington has observed, in one of her works, “The only complaint I ever have to make of his taste, is its too great splendour; a proof of which he gave me when I went to Mountjoy Forest on my marriage, and found my private sitting-room hung with crimson Genoa silk velvet, trimmed with gold bullion fringe, and all the furniture of equal richness—a richness that was only suited to a state-room in a palace."
Some of the frieze-coated peasantry of the Mountjoy Forest estate, still surviving on the wrecked property (that has lately been sold to pay off the incumbrances), but now living in penury, in wretched hovels, who remember the great doings in the house of their lord on the occasion of the visit above referred to, speak of “the wonderful doings ” of his Lordship, and of “the terrible waste of money,” and “the great folly of it,” that was witnessed by them.
Folly, indeed, there was abundant proofs of, in the lavish expenditure, which Lady Blessington attributed to rather too great a taste for splendour. I consider these things as evidences of a state of insanity of Lord Blessington, partially developed, even at that early period, manifested subsequently on different occasions, but always pointing in one direction. The acts of Lord Blessington, on several occasions, in matters connected with both his marriages, it always appeared, were the acts of a man of an unsound judgment, that is to say, of a man insane on subjects which he had allowed to obtain entire possession of his mind, and with respect to objects which he had devoted all his energies to attain, wholly irrespective of future consequences.
At the time of Lord Blessington's marriage, his fortune was embarrassed to some extent, as he imagined, through the mismanagement of his agents, but, in point of fact, by his
* The Idler in France, vol. i. p. 117.