Extract from Ellen W. Randolph Coolidge’s London Travel Diary

We dined yesterday with Mr Davis in Spanish Place with a set of old Indians. A yellow-faced General Somebody half deaf & half tipsy; A doctor, in shape and movement like a huge turtle; A Captain who seemed a cross between a Spaniel & a Donkey, fawning as the one, dull as the other. There were several others, men and women, all in some way connected with East India affairs, or with other persons so connected. What I have seen of these oriental occidentals does not impress me greatly in their favor. Their day is passing. The company at Mr Davis dinner however, were not all of a piece with the General, the Captain & the Doctor, and I had the good fortune to have seated next to me a sensible, gentlemanly man. One subject discussed at table was the visit of the Lord Mayor and his satellites to Buckingham House and the Queen. After dinner the same subject was renewed among the ladies and the character and manners of the Queen very freely commented upon. The little Sovereign is losing her popularity. In every company I hear some new fault found with her, and the most absurd stories are afloat of her passionate & imperious temper. Such straws however, shew which way the wind blows. One day she is missed by her ladies and is at last found in her dressing room, on her knees, washing her Lap Dog. One of the ladies ventures on a respectful remonstrance and has the dog thrown at her head and her ears boxed by the Queen’s soapy hands. This out-queen’s Queen Bess! Another young lady is reproved by the little Victoria for a trick that she has of playing with her chain, and the influence of habit, stronger even than her fear of the Queen, causing her to repeat the offence she is peremptorily ordered off to her chamber. A friend intercedes in her behalf—“If your Majesty only knew how very unhappy poor Miss — is! She is crying dreadfully—” “Then you had better go and console her—” and the second lady is dismissed to share the disgrace of the first. All this is abundantly ridiculous but shews as I have said, that people take pleasure in hearing and repeating things that place the Queen in an unfavorable light.

What is not ridiculous however, but exceedingly disgraceful, is the history of Lady Flora Hastings published at length in the Morning Post of the 25th March. Sad doings and sayings for the Court of a Maiden Queen. Poor young girl! She seems surrounded by a wretched set. An impotent Ministry to dictate her public measures and shed their unpopularity upon her, and a knot of talking, meddling, indiscreet women to influence her in private. Her Court seems a perfect school for Scandal, with fewer Lady Teazles than Mrs Candours & Sir Benjamin Backbites.

I think we shall not sail before the 10th of April so that I have more time than I thought for. I think too that Josephine will go with me. There is however, notwithstanding this reprieve, a great deal to do in a short few days.—To-morrow we dine with Mr Sheepshanks & take another look at his beautiful pictures. On Good Friday—Mrs Searle’s wedding day, we dine with her. On salt-fish I suppose, of course—with plenty of good things besides.

MS (MHi: Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Diary, Ms N-1027); in Coolidge’s hand. Published in Thomas Jefferson’s Granddaughter in Queen Victoria’s England: The Travel Diary of Ellen Wayles Coolidge, 1838–1839, Ann Lucas Birle and Lisa A. Francavilla, eds. (2011), 336–8.

In Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s school for scandal (1777), the corrupting influences of Sir Benjamin Backbite and Mrs. Candour threaten the character and morals of Lady Teazle.