'On every face there was an expression of mixed reverence and alarm.'
THE OLDER AND DEAFER the Duke grew, the less he enjoyed parties in crowded country houses -- being 'quite unfit for a large society', as he said when declining an invitation to Stowe -- and the more pleasure he took in quiet days at home in the company of old friends who spoke clearly into his ear and of children whose chatter had no need of comprehension or response. He was hardly ever grumpy with children even now, however tiring he might find them on what he called his off days. On these days adults took care not to disturb him when he fell asleep, as he often did now, not only in the high-backed wing chair in his room but also in the drawing-room and even at balls at Apsley House. He still attended the Horse Guards, difficult as he found it to let himself down from the saddle on his arrival. Wearily the right leg scrambled, so to speak, over the croup of the saddle. Slowly and painfully it sank towards the ground, and then the whole body came down with a stagger . . . A little crowd always gathered to watch this proceeding, and on every face there was an expression of mixed reverence and alarm . . . Yet nobody presumed to touch or even to approach him.' 1 For it was well known that he hated being helped. 'You could scarcely offend him more than by offering to hold his overcoat or button his cloak when he was getting ready to return from a ball or a rout. "Let me alone," was the usual recognition of civility of some evident admirer, who sprang forward to help him out of a difficulty.'2
Algernon Greville said, 'If he drops his hat I should never think of stooping to pick it up.'3
Well aware of his 'hatred of all assistance', Lord Ellesmere was unsure what to do when he saw the Duke, who was then over eighty, struggling to clamber up the bank of a canal on a visit to Worsley Hall. 'I saw the moment he would slip into the canal,' Ellesmere wrote, 'so I seized hold of his hand and hauled him up. He did not say a word,