A letter from Lytton to Hankey

This note about the Ernsts  – from Bulwer Lytton to Thomson Hankey – is in my collection. Most of the explanatory notes were supplied by the autograph dealer Personalia in Newport on the Isle of Wight:

LYTTON, Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer first Baron Lytton (1803–1873), writer and politician. Autograph letter signed to [Thomson] Hankey, 8vo, 4 sides, with a date in pencil in another hand of April 1864:

Dear Hankey,

Pray accept for Mrs Hankey and yourself my apologies for your invitation for Apr. 22 and my regrets at being unable profit by it. I am still too unwell to venture out to evening parties and have been obliged to refuse all invitations for this week. I could have wished Madame Ernst (the wife of my friend the famous composer and violinist) to have heard Mad. Ernestine for Madame Ernst is by far the finest amateur Reader & Actress in French I have ever heard, & a most enlightened & generous Critic of the art of others. I don’t know if she could go were you kind enough to ask her, since her husband is an [erasure] Invalid and she cannot often leave him for an hour or two – But if you like to send her a card through me, I will forward it to them and I’m sure you and Mrs Hankey will like her as one of the most gifted artists and one of the very best women – it is possible to meet; – and as well most unaffected and agreeable. Their address is 21 Holles St. of course any card to her would include Ernst tho’ he is too ill to come.

E. Bulwer


I suspect the D. of Newcastle has got into a very awkward case about the Tuscaloosa – And one that would have upset some fools there who looked into it –

The C.S.S. Tuscaloosa was seized off Simon’s Town, South Africa late in 1863 as an uncondemned prize which had violated the neutrality of Her Majesty’s Government. As Secretary for the Colonies the Duke of Newcastle gave a ruling over the affair, but the controversy rumbled on until April 1864 when Parliament debated the issues, and the ship was finally released.

Bulwer’s correspondent was Thomson Hankey (1805–1893), a politician and political economist who joined his father’s firm of Thomson Hankey & Co., plantation owners and West Indies merchants, becoming a long-serving senior partner. He was elected a director of the Bank of England in 1835, and later served as deputy governor (1849–51) and as governor (1851–3). In 1853 he was elected as Liberal MP for Peterborough, a seat he held until 1868 and again between 1874 and 1880.

Madame Ernestine was an actress who specialized in dramatic solo readings of Shakespeare plays. Her first appearance in London was noted on 16/1/1864 in the West Middlesex Advertiser and Family Journal, p.2; and on 11th April 1864 she read selections from the Bard at London House, St James’s Square in the presence of the Bishop of Winchester (Cambridge District Press, 16/4/1864, p.5). This could well be the event to which Bulwer alludes. 

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)