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The King, who was apparently unaware of the treatment that had been meted out to his daughter-in-law, now had to learn something of what had occurred. He desired above all things to avoid an open rupture, and suggested that they might at least reside under the same roof; but neither of the persons most directly concerned would entertain the suggestion.



The early acquaintances of the sisters—Their father, Robert Berry

The sisters meet Horace Walpole in 1787–His account of them—He soon becomes devoted to them-The“ twin-wives ”—They take up their residence at Little Strawberry Hill-Absurd scandal-mongeringMary Berry and Walpole—Talk of their marrying-Mary Berry's love-affair-General Charles O'Hara—Their correspondence—They become engaged—O'Hara leaves England on duty-Further letters, The engagement is broken off—Mary Berry's rebuke-O'Hara's later life-Walpole's legacies to the sisters—Mary Berry's publications The sisters' salon in London-Their deaths.

A VERY few years since,” Thackeray said in one of his lectures on The Four Georges,” which he first delivered in 1855, “I knew familiarly a lady who had been asked in marriage by Horace Walpole, who had been patted on the head by George III. This lady had knocked at Johnson's door ; had been intimate with Fox, the beautiful Georgina of Devonshire, and that brilliant Whig society of the reign of George III ; had known the Duchess of Queensberry, the patroness of Gay and Prior, the admired young beauty of the Court of Queen Anne. I often thought, as I took my kind old friend's hand, how with it I held on to the old society of wits and men of the world. I could travel back for sevenscore years of time-have glimpses of Brummell, Selwyn, Chesterfield, and the men of pleasure; of Walpole and Conway ; of Johnson, Reynolds, Goldsmith; of North, Chatham, Newcastle ; of the fair maids of honour of George II's Court; of the German retainers of George I's; where Addison was Secretary of State; where Dick Steele held a place; whither the great Marlborough came with his fiery spouse ; when Pope, and Swift, and Bolingbroke yet lived and wrote."

The lady in question was no less a person than Mary Berry, who was born in 1763 and survived until 1852, and so was in her prime in the days of the Regency. With her may be coupled her sister Agnes, who, born fourteen months later than Mary, predeceased her by less than a year.

They were the children of a dreamer who was more interested in literature than in following his fortune in his wealthy uncle's business, by a charming young girl, who died within a few years of her marriage. Robert Berry, the father, expected to be his uncle's heir, but that no doubt excellent man of affairs thought it well to leave his fortune to one more capable of looking after it, and Robert was cut off with a paltry three hundred a year, which he in no way ever attempted to increase.

Even on this small income Berry contrived to travel with his daughters, and in 1783 they, in a modest fashion, did a kind of Grand Tour that lasted for a couple of years. Then they stayed for a while in London; visited friends in the country. There is nothing of interest to relate until the winter of 1787, when, at the house of Lady Herries, they met Horace Walpole. In the following summer they rented a house at Twickenham, and the acquaintance with him ripened quickly into intimacy.

It is worth while to give an extract from the first letter, dated October II, 1788, in which Walpole mentioned his newly-made friends, if only because he gives descriptions of each of the three members of the family.

If I have picked up no recent anecdotes on our Common, I have made a much more, to me, precious acquisition. It is the acquaintance of two young ladies of the name of Berry. ... Mr. Berry has since carried his daughters

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for two or three years to France and Italy, and they are returned the best-informed and the most charming creatures I ever saw at their age. They are exceedingly sensible, entirely natural and unaffected, frank, and, being qualified to talk on any subject, nothing is so easy and agreeable as their conversation, nor more apposite than their answers and observations. The eldest, I discovered by chance, understands Latin, and is a perfect Frenchwoman in her language. The younger draws charmingly, and has copied admirably Lady Di [Beauclerk]'s gypsies, which I lent, though for the first time of her attempting colours. They are of pleasing figures ; Mary, the eldest, sweet, with fine dark eyes, that are very lovely when she speaks, with a symmetry of face that is the more interesting from being pale ; Agnes, the younger, has an agreeable, sensible countenance, hardly to be called handsome, but almost. She is less animated than Mary, but seems, out of deference to her sister, to speak seldom, for they dote on each other, and Mary is always praising her sister's talents. I must even tell you they dress within the bounds of fashion, though fashionably, but without the excrescences and balconies with which modern hoydens overwhelm and barricade their persons. In short, good sense, information, simplicity, and ease characterise the Berrys; and this is not particularly mine, who am apt to be prejudiced, but the universal voice of all who know them. The first night I met them I would not be acquainted with them, having heard so much in their praise that I concluded they would be all pretension. The second time, in a very small company, I sat next to Mary, and found her an angel both inside and out. Now I do not know which I like best, except Mary's face, which is formed for a sentimental novel, but is ten times fitter for a fifty

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times better thing, genteel comedy. This delightful family comes to me almost every Sunday evening, as our region is too proclamatory to play at cards on the seventh day. I do not care a straw for cards, but I do disapprove of this partiality to the youngest child of the week, while the other six poor days are treated as if they had no souls to save. I forgot to tell you that Mr. Berry is a little, merry man with a round face, and you would not suspect him of so much feeling and attachment.”

Horace Walpole was at this time in his seventy-second year; the young ladies aged twenty-five and twentyfour respectively. He soon grew devoted to thema man of many acquaintances but little affection had so far been his portion. They gave him devotion, and he lavished upon them all the tenderness he had stored up during his three-score years and ten. “I have received at once most kind letters from you both; too kind, for you both talk of gratitude,” he protested. “Mercy on me! Which is the obliged and which the gainer? Two charming beings, whom everybody likes and approves, and yet can be pleased with the company and conversation and old stories of a Methuselah ? or I, who at the end of my days have fallen into more agreeable society than ever I knew at any period of my life.” They were to him his “twin-wives"

or his " beloved spouses " ; Mary was “suavissima Maria"; Agnes, “my sweet lamb.”

The Berrys had a certain number of acquaintances in London before they met Horace Walpole, but it was Horace who launched these two middle-class young women in Society. Through him they met his intimates, the Conways, and so indirectly their friendship, and especially Mary's, with Mrs. Damer (née Anne Seymour Conway), was owing to his introduction.

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