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damages in a breach-of-promise suit she had brought against Mr. Hayne-known as Pea-Green Hayne.
This was a large sum for those days, but a far larger one was the £10,000 awarded to an actress who, some thirty years ago, brought an action against
the heir to a modern earldom.
Other actresses who had married well were the widow of Sir William Becher, Bart.; Mrs. Nisbett, the relict of the bold Sir William Boothby; and Miss Tree, whose husband, Mr. Bradshaw, was at one time M.P. for Canterbury.
Since those days matrimonial alliances between the aristocracy and the stage have become so frequent as now scarcely to attract attention. It cannot justly be said that this is altogether a bad thing, for many actresses, besides being girls possessed of a good deal of sense-a quality scarcely conspicuous in the majority of young men who take their wives from the musical-comedy stage-are also healthy young women likely to produce fine offspring to their lords. Many an old family has gained fresh vigour from an infusion of fresh blood, and some of these alliances have been accompanied by considerable romance. An extraordinary story is the history of the second marriage of Henry Cecil, tenth Earl of Exeter, who, after being divorced from his wife, owing to her misconduct in 1791, retired to Bolas Magna, a quiet Shropshire village, being almost broken-hearted at the whole affair.
At that time, of course, he was not Lord Exeter,
for he only succeeded to the earldom on the death of his uncle, the ninth Earl, in 1793.
For some reason or other at Bolas, Cecil, about forty years old, became a farm-servant to one Thomas Hoggins, who, besides his farm, had a mill in pretty full employ. Cecil's chief work was in this mill, and he laboured, like any other servant, fairly to earn his wages. He had frequently to call at the house of the Rev. Mr. Dickenson, the clergyman of Bolas, where, according to the custom of the time and place, he was always invited to rest in the kitchen and take "a mug of ale." He seldom was tempted to enter into conversation, but spoke so well, when he did converse, that Mr. Dickenson's household gave him the name of "Gentleman Harry." It was not long before this nickname and its cause became known to Mr. Dickenson, who put himself in the way of meeting this strange miller's man, and became so much interested in him that, instead of being asked to rest and refresh in the kitchen, "Gentleman Harry" was regularly invited into the study, where the good pastor used to join him in a draught of home-brewed ale and a pipe.
The miller Hoggins' only daughter Sarah was about twenty and a beauty, indeed she was known as the beauty of Bolas. She was not uneducated for her day-knew some French and could play the harpsichord; it was not, therefore, very strange that she should have preferred Cecil to the louts of her native village.
THE PEASANT COUNTESS
Soon he loved her too, with the result that he called at the parsonage one evening to consult with Mr. Dickenson-in a word, to entreat him to marry them privately; and then, making a clean breast of it, "Gentleman Harry" confessed that he was Mr. Henry Cecil, next heir to the earldom and estates of Exeter. He bound over the clergyman to secrecy, not allowing him to disclose his personal secret to Mr. Hoggins, not even to the fair Sarah. It was a difficult matter to obtain the miller's consent to the marriage, which was celebrated on the 30th October 1791, at St. Mildreds, Bread Street. The happy couple lived upon a small farm during the following two years, until Mr. Cecil casually learnt from a Shrewsbury paper that the death of his uncle had placed a coronet upon his brow and the palatial residence of Burghley at his disposal.
The miller's daughter, who, however, did not live very long, became known as the "Peasant Countess"; Tennyson somewhat idealized the whole affair in his "Lord of Burleigh." Another aristocratic romance is the story of Miss Cochrane. Her father, Sir John, taken prisoner fighting in Argyle's rebellion against James II, was sentenced to be hanged. His daughter Grizzle, having obtained information that the death-warrant was expected from London by the coach, dressed herself up in man's clothes, and twice attacked and robbed, between Belford and Berwick, the mails which conveyed the death-warrants. This gave time to Sir John Cochrane's father, the
Earl of Dundonald, to negotiate with Father Peter, a Jesuit priest and the King's confessor, who, for the sum of £5000, agreed to intercede with his royal master in favour of Sir John Cochrane, and to obtain his pardon, which was granted. The great-granddaughter of this lady, Miss Stuart of Allen Bank, was the grandmother of the well-known banker, Mr. Thomas Coutts, whose grandchild was the late Baroness Burdett-Coutts.
In the old days gentlemen were supposed only to go into certain professions-one of the most popular of which, of course, was the Army, then quite easily entered by any dunce owing to the existence of the Purchase system, abolished about thirty-two years ago. An ensign's commission in a regiment of the line, as far I can remember, cost something under £500, the cavalry cost more, and to obtain a cornetcy of hussars necessitated the payment of about £800.
Though at the present time this system seems outrageous in practice, it did not work so badly. Moltke, himself of course a highly trained and scientific officer, I believe once declared that the abolition of Purchase would mean the ruin of the British Army. Probably he thought it produced brave, dashing officers likely to be popular with their men. Certainly not a few of the aristocracy who had purchased their commissions served their country well. In the Purchase days regulations about age were not very strict-for instance, Lord Cardigan, of
Balaclava fame, did not go into the Army till he was twenty-seven. His promotion was very rapid.
A cornet in 1824, he became a lieutenant in the next year, a captain in 1826, a major in 1830, and a lieutenant-colonel in 1834-thus, in the short space of ten years, rising to the command of a regiment. Purchase officers, it should be added, when they had means, often spent their money very freely. Lord Cardigan, during his Lieutenant-Colonelcy of the 11th Hussars, is said to have spent no less than £10,000 a year upon that gallant corps.
In the eighteenth century, of course, the aristocracy obtained commissions without being ever troubled to pay for them. Mere children commanded companies, and Lord Armadale, one of the Scotch judges, had a son who, at the age of eleven or twelve, rose to the rank of major. One morning his mother, hearing a noise in the nursery, rang to know the cause of it. "It is only," said the servant, "the major greeting (crying) for his porridge."
The Purchase officers were for the most part generous and easy-going, and very often reluctant to enforce some of the terrible punishments which were considered necessary for the maintenance of discipline, when ruthless floggings were not unknown. The whole system, of course, according to modern ideas was rather barbarous.
At the time when Major Dreyfus underwent the ordeal of public degradation, considerable surprise was expressed in England that such a barbarous