IN the autumn of 1913 a Life of Lord Clarendon was published, and among many of his letters were a few written to him by an old friend, Miss Eden. It was thought that a further selection of Emily Eden’s letters might be of interest.
She was a keen politician of the Whig order, clever, amusing, critical, an excellent friend and a devoted sister. Her father, William Eden, was the third son of Sir Robert Eden, Bart., of West Auckland, Durham, and he married in 1776 Eleanor Elliot, a sister of the 1st Earl of Minto. Two years later, Eden went as a Commissioner to America. He was Chief Secretary in Ireland under Lord Carlisle; Minister-Plenipotentiary in 1785 to the Court of Versailles; in 1788 Ambassador to Spain, and in the following year Ambassador to Holland; he was given a peerage in 1789 (Baron Auckland). Mrs. Eden, from her own account, was evidently a first-rate traveller; she took great interest in her husband’s work, and she had a child, often amidst much discomfort, in every country to which they were sent.
Emily was born in 1797. Her parents were settled at Eden Farm, Beckenham, Kent, and her father now devoted his time to politics. Her mother took great trouble to rear and educate her family of fourteen, leaving a detailed account in her Diary of their upbringing, diseases and marriages. Evidently her sense of humour and cheerfulness helped her through much misery.
“Out of fourteen I suckled thirteen. Eleven of the children had smallpox during their wanderings, also cow-pox, whooping-cough, measles and scarlet fever.”
In 1786, Eden, who was then in Paris, wrote to his friend Lord Sheffield: “Mrs. Eden is just returned from passing nearly a week in the Circle and Society of the whole Court of Versailles without feeling a moment’s discomposure. It is impossible to describe to you all the glorious attentions with which she is honoured by the Queen of France, not only in presents, but in what she values more, in admiration of her children. She and the little Frenchman are both well, and we have now as many nations in our Nursery as were assembled at the Tower of Babel.” Another friend also wrote:
“Every report says Mrs. Eden’s Nursery is the admiration of the Court and the Town, that they make parties to see it, that she had made domestic life quite fashionable”; and there are constant allusions to the Brattery, the Light Infantry, and the little Parisians.