When she was not riding or playing with her dogs or being taught subjects which did not interest her, Charlotte spent a great deal of time playing the piano and reading. ‘This is the only compagny I have…’ And a year later: ‘I apply to reading&musick more than ever, & am fonder of it. I play a great deal of Haydon’s musick and Mozart’s for piano and accompaniments.’ At Windsor she scraped together a small orchestra. ‘Col. Taylor comes generally every Sunday evening & brings his violincello [sic], so that together with the Griesbachs, we make up a tolerable concert.’
Her reading was varied and voracious. She found Madame de Staël’s ‘De la Littérature’ entertaining and instructive, while a Gothic novel, ‘The Sicilian Mysteries’, was ‘most interesting’. ‘It is in five vol.,’ she says, ‘full of mystery & remarkably well worked up.’ At the same time she was reading ‘Sense and Sensibility’ recommended by her uncle York. She shared her father’s appreciation of Jane Austen. ‘You feel quite one of the company,’ she says, and confesses that she identified herself with the emotional Maryanne. ‘I think Maryanne & me are very alike in disposition, that certainly I am not so good, the same imprudence, &c., however remain very like.’
Like most girls of her age, Charlotte admired Byron’s poetry, and went into ecstasies over each new work when it appeared. ‘I had the f i r s t that was issued,’ she said of ‘The Corsair’, ‘& d e v o u r e d it twice in the course of the day.’ The poet himself was her pin-up.
‘Have you seen a new print of Lord Byron? I have got it and look at it very often. I admire it so very much & think it so very beautiful…’
But, studying the portrait, she shows some discernment.
‘I try to trace the man&his mind in it, but c a n n o t; it belies what he is, for it looks so l o v i n g and l o v e a b l e & something so very much above the common sort of beauty or what is regularly handsome.’
[an extract from ‘Prinny’s Daughter: A Biography of Princess Charlotte of Wales’ by Thea Home]
Picture: Title page of Sense and Sensibility’s first edition.