harriet arbuthnot

[September 14; 1852]

Mrs. Arbuthnot, who was often the Duke’s adviser, and gave him her clear and honest opinion on matters of which others were afraid to speak – views inspired by her clear brain – was invaluable to the Duke. Their intimacy may have given gossips an excuse for scandal; but I, who knew them both so well, am convinced that the Duke was not her lover. He admired her very much – for she had a manlike sense – but Mrs. Arbuthnot was devoid of womanly passions, and was,, above all, a loyal and truthful woman. She had, from her childhood, been accustomed to live in the society of clever old people. She married, when very young, old Arbuthnot, who found her so perfectly discreet, that he and Lord Castlereagh – when in office – talked openly in her presence, with a sense of absolute security. The Duke of Wellington fell into the same habit at her house, and would see people there, without the fuss of an interview which would have found its way into the newspapers. We three together formed a perfect union, where no jealousy or littleness of feeling ever intruded to destroy its harmony.

When I recovered my health Mrs. Arbuthnot and I were much together. One day I told her that she need never be afraid of my taking the Duke’s friendship from here, although I was far more devoted to him than she was. Mrs. Arbuthnot used to laugh at my reverence for, and my shyness with the Duke: she had no such feeling.

The Diary of Frances Lady Shelley, 1818 – 1873, edited by Richard Edgcumbe, p. 310 et seq.

“‘That’s the beast you named Talleyrand?’ She laughs at the comparison. Charles replies that it made sense at the time. ‘My dear, you could not have found a worse comparison to that erudite, if crafty, politician. But I suppose that is what you were aiming for? To amuse people with the antic? You know, sir, had I known when I married you that you would prove impish I would have – I know not, but I am certain I would have had an opinion on it.’

‘I’ve no doubt, ma’am, but as it is, we’re stuck with each other. I couldn’t have hoped for better but you know this and abuse the knowledge shamefully.’

‘Is that a hint of an attitude I hear? Fie, sir, I cannot let you alone for a fortnight without mischief being made. Come, introduce me to your animal.’

He leads her to the wall and, taking an apple from pocket, holds it out to Talleyrand. The bull ambles over slowly, its bulk making  it a gentle mover though lacking grace. He eats the apple and suffers Harriet’s affectionate pets to his head.

‘He is striking, Charles. I give you leave to purchase another although I reserve the right to name it.’

‘I was thinking a cow. Dempsey, poor man, knows someone who is willing to part with two or three for a reasonable price. Do you reserve the right to name all of them?’

‘Perhaps just the first one. Arthur,’ she waves the duke over. ‘You can name one of Charles’ cows!’

‘An honour I have no doubt.’

‘It is. Arthur, this is Talleyrand. How does he compare to the original?’

Arthur blinks at the bull. Looks to Charles and Harriet then back to the cow. At last he laughs sharply, ‘you are joking, surely.’

‘I am not.’ Charles is indignant. Or feigns it. ‘This is Talleyrand and isn’t he a magnificent beast?’”

No one let Charles Arbuthnot name their animals. 

“Kitty Wellesley blinks at Harriet. Harriet smiles in return. Kitty then catches herself and smiles back and says, ‘oh well that certainly sounds like a thing.’

‘It was. Absolutely a whirlwind. And our time here, too.’

‘A whirlwind?’

‘A whirlwind. Just so. It was for Charles last year as well. Had to do something or other for Horse Guards. And he purchased a cow. Did you hear that he purchased a cow? I cannot know what he is thinking but he wrote me and explained that he went in on a bull and it is making itself at home in the south field. He’s named it Talleyrand which is something I am not sure how to take. I told Arthur and he just did that mysterious laugh of his and said it to be fitting but then he worried that Charles was becoming too friendly with Bonaparte for the fellow was mentioned twice.’

‘Oh dear.’

‘Indeed! Oh dear indeed! It is not that Bonaparte will lead Charles astray only I worry about the wretched man’s Whig tendencies. With Liverpool so precarious and the government teetering this is not the time to be bandying about the countryside purchasing farm stock with a former Jacobite revolutionary.’”

I have finally gotten to my rewriting of Pale where Harriet and Arthur et al show up. FINALLY. 

Also Harriet calm down, give the woman time to respond.