Today I was backtracking, re-reading some correspondence of Sir Walter Scott. In 1815 he was meeting for the first time some of the family of Lord Compton — future husband to Margaret Maclean Clephane.
It was his description of Lady Frances Compton that made me seek out some more information. And unearthed this lovely little miniature of her!
In the Smith letters, Lady Frances hovers around the edges. She is often abroad (sometimes in company with Aunt Emma, I dare say). The siblings call her ‘Aunt Frances’. Funnily enough, Walter Scott seems to write of her as “Lady Francis Compton”. Maybe not an inappropriate spelling, given his story….
First, here is a glimpse of Lady Frances, at “Her Majesty’s Drawing-Room“, reported in La Belle Assemblée (1816):
Lady Frances Compton.
A petticoat of white satin, with draperies of embroidered silver net; train of Saxon blue satin, trimmed with silver lama lace.
The occasion celebrated the marriage of HRH the Princess Charlotte.
Walter Scott’s comment on the lady is rather remarkable; he is writing a year earlier, in April 1815:
I have missed the post and cannot help myself till Monday there being none tomorrow in this God fearing and religious capital. I will see Lord G. after breakfast tomorrow perhaps before for I thought it necessary to accustom Lady Francis [sic] Compton to the voracity of a Scotchman at breakfast that she may not be surprised at the cousins whom the Isle of Mull may send upon an occasional visit and at breakfast you know I can match any highland man of them all. She is a spirited old lady fond of dogs and horses and had a pair of loaded pistols to defend her house in person when it was threatened in the corn bill riots.
(the miniature, left, sold at Sotheby’s in 2006)
Lady Frances died in February 1832, aged 74 – making her about 57 when Scott found her “a spirited old lady”. I like the fact that she could wield a brace of pistols!