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Among the guests, I was informed by tenant farmers on the estates, who have a recollection of these circumstances, were Mr. Corry, Major and Mrs. Purves, Colonel Stewart of Killymoon, Mrs. Farmer, and also Captain Jenkins.*
The most extravagant expense was gone into, in fitting up and decorating the Cottage, for some weeks previously to the arrival of his Lordship and his guests.
The walls were hung with costly drapery; the stairs and passages were covered with fine baize. Nothing could exceed the elegance of the decorations, and furnishing of an abode that was destined only for a residence of a few weeks.
During the sojourn of Lord Blessington and his friends at the Cottage, several gentlemen of the neighbourhood were entertained.
Among the visitors was an old clergyman, Father O'Flagherty, parish priest of Cappagh, a simple-minded good man, who was the dispenser of the bounty of Lord Blessington among the poor of the estate, long subsequently to this visit.
Lord Blessington had no sectarian feelings-it never entered his mind what the religion of a man was, by whom assistance was needed; and his worthy Roman Catholic alınoner, although a man by no means highly cultivated, polished in his manners, or peculiarly happy in his style of epistolary correspondence, enjoyed the full confidence and strong regard of Lord Blessington, and also of his lady.
Lady Blessington, on her subsequent visit, was the means of procuring for her great favourite, Father O'Flagherty, a donation from his Lordship, that enabled the good priest either to repair or rebuild the Catholic place of worship of his parish. He continued to correspond with the Blessingtons when they resided in London, and for some time while they were on the Continent.
* A Captain Montgomery, of the Navy, a very intimate friend of the Blessingtons, at some period was on a visit to the Cottage ; but the precise date I do not know.
In 1823 Lord Blessington, unaccompanied by Lady Blessington, visited his Tyrone estates; he came to the cottage accompanied by Colonel Stewart of Killymoon.
In 1825 his Lordship again, and for the last time, visited his Tyrone estates. He was accompanied then by General Count D'Orsay, the father of the Count Alfred D'Orsay, and also by a young French nobleman, the Count Leon.
From some cause or other, Lady Blessington appeared to have formed a strong antipathy, on the occasion of her last visit, to Mountjoy Forest, as a place of residence even for a few weeks. She prevailed on Lord Blessington to return to London, perhaps earlier than he had intended, and expressed her determination never again to return to Mountjoy Forest, if she could help it.
After a few weeks spent in Tyrone, the Blessingtons returned to London. The new-married lady having exchanged her abode in Manchester Square for the noble mansion in St. James's Square, found herself suddenly, as if by the magic wand of an enchanter, surrounded by luxuries, gorgeous furniture, glittering ornaments, and pomp and state almost regal. The transition was at once from seclusion and privacy, a moderate establishment and inexpensive mode of life, into brilliant society, magnificence and splendour-to a conditiin, in short, little inferior to that of any lady in the land.
The éclat of the beauty of Lady Blessington, her remarkable mental qualities, and the rare gifts and graces with which she was so richly endowed, was soon extensively diffused over the metropolis.
Moore, in his Diary of April, 1822, mentions visiting the Blessingtons in London, at their mansion in St. James's Square. The fifth of the month following, he says he called, with Washington Irving, at Lady Blessington's, “who is
growing very absurd ! I have felt very melancholy and ill all this day,' she said. "Why is that ?' I asked. • Don't you know?
· It is the anniversary of my poor Napoleon's death.'”
Any one acquainted with Lady Blessington will perceive in this remark a great want of knowledge of her character and opinions, and will not fail to discover in her observation, evidences of that peculiar turn for grave irony, which was one of her characteristics. I have seldom met a literary person so entirely free from all affectation of sentimentality as Lady Blessington.
In the new scenes of splendour and brilliancy which her Ladyship had been introduced into, on her marriage with Lord Blessington, she seemed as if it was her own proper atmosphere, to which she had been accustomed from infancy, in which she now lived and moved.
Greatness and magnificence were not thrust upon hershe seemed born to them. In all positions, she had the great art of being ever perfectly at home. There was a naturalness in her demeanour, a grace and gentleness in her mind and manner-a certain kindliness of disposition, and absence of all affectation—a noble frankness about her, which left her in all circles at her ease--sure of pleasing, and easily amused by agreeable and clever people.
In 1818, then, Lady Blessington was launched into fashionable life, and all at once took her place, if not at the head of it, at least among the foremost people in it.
For three years, her mansion in St. James's Square, nightly thronged by men of distinction, was the centre of social and literary enjoyments of the highest order in London. Holland House had its attractions for the graver spirits of the times, but there was no lack of statesmen, sages, scholars, and politicians, at the conversaziones of Lady Blessington.
Charleville House, too, had its charms for well-established authors-for. blue-stocking ladies especially—for distinguished artists and noble amateurs—for foreign ministers and their attachés.
But Lady Blessington had certain sovereign advantages over all Aspasian competitors in society—she was young and beautiful, witty, graceful, and good-humoured; and these advantages told with singular effect in the salon; they tended largely to establish her influence in society, and to acquire for her conversation in it, a character it might never otherwise have obtained.
The Blessingtons' splendid mansion in St. James's Square in a short time became the rendezvous of the elite of London celebrities of all kinds of distinction; the first literati, statesmen, artists, eminent men of all professions, in a short time became habitual visitors at the abode of the new-married Lord and Lady
Among the distinguished foreigners who visited the Blessingtons in St. James's Square, in the latter part of 1821, or the commencement of 1822, were the Count de Grammont (the present Duc de Guiche) and his brother-in-law, a young Frenchman of remarkable symmetry of form, and comeliness of face, and of address and manners singularly prepossessing, the Count Alfred D'Orsay, then in the prime of life, highly gifted, and of varied accomplishments, truly answering Byron's designation of him, a “cupidon dechainè.” The Count's sojourn in London at that time was short; but the knowledge he seems to have gained of its society, if the account given of his diary be true, must have been considerable. This was the beginning of an intimate acquaintance with the Blessingtons, one in many respects of great moment to them and to others connected with them; an intimacy which terminated only in death.
* This acquaintance did not commence, as it has been generally asserted, by accident, in a French hotel, when the Blessingtons were on their way to Italy.
Two royal English Dukes condescended, not unfrequently, to do homage at the new shrine of Irish beauty and intellect in St. James's Square. Canning, Lord Castlereagh, the Marquis of Lansdowne, Lords Palmerston and Russell, Burdet and Brougham, Scarlett and Jekyll, Erskine and Curran, and many other celebrities, paid their devoirs there. Whig and Tory politicians and lawyers, forgetful of their party feuds, and professional rivalries for the nonce, came there as gentle pilgrims. Kemble, Mathews, Lawrence, Wilkie, Rogers, Moore, and Luttrell, were among the votaries who paid their vows, in visits there, not angel-like, for theirs were neither “ few nor far between." B
But among all the distinguished persons who visited Lady Blessington, none were more devoted in their attachment to her, or ardent in their admiration of the talents and traits, intellectual and personal, of the fair lady, than the late Earl Grey.