DELAY AT DUNKIRK.
Our journey—Alexander's and mine—from Paris to Dunkirk was sad, from the cruel separation which it exacted, and the fearful uncertainty of impending events ; though I was animated at times into the liveliest sensations, in the prospect of again beholding my father, my friends, and my country. General d'Arblay, through his assiduous researches, aided by those of M. de Boinville and some others, found that a vessel was preparing to sail from Dunkirk to Dover, under Page 255
American colours, and with American passports and licence and, after privately landing such of its passengers as meant but to cross the channel, to proceed to the western continents. M. d'Arblay found, at the same time, six or seven persons of his acquaintance who were to embark in this vessel.
We all met, and severally visited at Dunkirk, where I was compelled, through the mismanagement and misconduct of the captain of the vessel, to spend the most painfully wearisome six weeks of my life, for they kept me alike from all that was dearest to me, either in France or in England, save my Alexander. I was twenty times on the point of returning to Paris; but whenever I made known that design, the captain promised to sail the next morning. The truth is, he postponed the voyage from day to day and from week to week, in the hope of obtaining more passengers ; and, as the clandestine visit he meant to make. to Dover, in his way to America, was whispered about, reinforcements very frequently encouraged his cupidity.
The ennui of having no positive occupation was now, for the first time, known to me; for though the first object of my active cares was with me, it was not as if that object had been a daughter, and always at my side ; it was a youth of seventeen, who, with my free consent, sought whatever entertainment the place could afford, to while away fatigue. He ran, therefore, wildly about at his pleasure, to the quay, the dockyard, the sea, the suburbs, the surrounding country - but chiefly, his time was spent in skipping to the " Mary Ann," our destined vessel, and seeing its preparations for departure. To stroll about the town, to call upon my fellow-sufferers, to visit the principal shops, and to talk with the good Dutch people while I made slight purchases, was all I could devise to do that required action.
THE MS. OF "THE WANDERER."
When I found our stay indefinitely protracted, it occurred to me that if I had the papers of a work which I had then in hand, they might afford me an occupation to while away my truly vapid and uninteresting leisure. I wrote this idea to my partner in all— as M. de Talleyrand had called M. d'Arblay; and, with a spirit that was always in its first youth where any service was to be performed, he waited on M. de Saulnier at the police office, and made a request that my manuscripts Page 256
might be sent after me, with a permission that I might also be allowed to carry them with me on board the ship. He durst not say to England, whither no vessel was supposed to sail; but he would not, to M. de Saulnier, who palpably connived at my plan and purpose, say America. M. de Saulnier made many inquiries relative to these papers; but on being assured, upon honour, that the work had nothing in it political, nor even national, nor possibly offensive to the government, he took the single word of M. d'Arblay, whose noble countenance and dauntless openness of manner were guarantees of sincerity that wanted neither seals nor bonds, and invested him with the power to send me what papers be pleased, without demanding to examine, or even to see them -a trust so confiding and so generous, that I have regretted a thousand times the want of means to acknowledge it according to its merit.
This work was "The Wanderer, or Female Difficulties," of which nearly three volumes were finished. They arrived, nevertheless, vainly for any purpose at Dunkirk; the disturbance of my suspensive -state incapacitating me for any composition, save of letters to my best friend, to whom I wrote, or dictated by Alexander, every day; and every day was only supported by the same kind diurnal return. But when, at length, we were summoned to the vessel, and our goods and chattels were conveyed to the custom-house, and when the little portmanteau was produced, and found to be filled with manuscripts, the police officer who opened it began a rant of indignation and amazement at a sight so unexpected and prohibited, that made him incapable to inquire or to hear the meaning of such a freight. He sputtered at the mouth, and stamped with his feet, so forcibly and vociferously, that no endeavours of mine could induce him to stop his accusations of traitorous designs, till, tired of the attempt, I ceased both explanation and entreaty, and stood before him with calm taciturnity. Wanting, then, the fresh fuel of interruption or opposition, his fire and fury evaporated into curiosity to know what I could offer. Yet even then, though my account staggered his violence into some degree of civility, he evidently deemed it, from its very nature, incredible ; and this fourth child of my brain had undoubtedly been destroyed ere it was born, had I not had recourse to an English merchant, Mr. Gregory, long settled at Dunkirk, to whom, Page 257
happily, I had been recommended, as to a person capable, in any emergence, to afford me assistance; he undertook the responsibility ; and the letter of M. d'Arblay, containing the licence of M. de Saulnier, was then all-sufficient for my manuscripts and their embarkation.
SPANISH PRISONERS AT DUNKIRK.
The second event I have to relate I never even yet recollect without an inward shuddering. In our walks out of the town, on the borders of the ocean, after passing beyond the dockyard or wharf, we frequently met a large party of Spanish prisoners, well escorted by gendarmes, and either going to their hard destined labour, or returning from it for repast or repose. I felt deeply interested by them, knowing they were men with and for whom our own English and the immortal Wellington were then fighting : and this interest induced me to walk on the bank by which they were paraded to and fro, as often as I could engage Alexander, from his other pursuits, to accompany me. Their appearance was highly in their favour, as well as their situation ; they had a look calmly intrepid, of concentrated resentment, yet unalterable patience, They were mostly strong-built and vigorous; of solemn, almost stately deportment, and with fine dark eyes, full of meaning, rolling around them as if in watchful expectation of insult; and in a short time they certainly caught from my countenance an air of sympathy, for they gave me, in return, as we passed one another, a glance that spoke grateful consciousness. I followed them to the place of their labour ; though my short-sightedness would not let me distinguish what they were about, whether mending fortifications, dykes, banks, parapets, or what not: and I durst not use my glass, lest I should be suspected as a spy. We only strolled about in their vicinity, as if merely visiting and viewing the sea.
The weather -it was now August-was so intensely hot, the place was so completely without shade, and their work was so violent, that they changed hands every two hours, and those who were sent off to recruit were allowed to cast themselves upon the burnt and straw-like grass, to await their alternate summons. This they did in small groups, but without venturing to solace their rest by any species of social intercourse. They were as taciturn with one another as with their keepers and taskmasters. Page 258
One among them there was who wore an air of superiority, ,grave and composed, yet decided, to which they all appeared to bow down with willing subserviency, though the distinction was only demonstrated by an air of profound respect whenever they approached or passed him, for discourse held they none. One morning, when I observed him seated at a greater distance than usual from his overseers, during his hour of release, I turned suddenly from my walk as if with a view to bend my way homewards, but contrived, while talking with Alexander and looking another way, to slant my steps close to where he sat surrounded by his mute adherents, and to drop a handful of small coin nearly under the elbow upon which, wearily, lie was reclining. We proceeded with alertness, and talking together aloud; but Alexander perceived this apparent chief evidently moved by what I had done, though forbearing to touch the little offering, which, however, his companions immediately secured.
After this I never met him that he did not make me a slight but expressive bow. This encouraged me to repeat the poor little tribute of compassion, which I soon found he distributed, as far as it would go, to the whole set, by the kindly looks with which every one thenceforward greeted me upon every meeting. Yet he whom we supposed to be some chief, and who palpably discovered it was himself I meant to distinguish, never touched the money, nor examined what was taken up by the others, who, on their part, nevertheless seemed but to take charge of it in trust. We were now such good friends, that this became more than ever my favourite walk and these poor unhappy captives never saw me without brightening up into a vivacity of pleasure that was to me a real exhilaration.
We had been at Dunkirk above five weeks, when one evening, having a letter of consequence to send to Paris, I begged Alexander to carry it to the post himself, and to deposit me upon the quay, and there to join me. As the weather was very fine I stood near the sea, wistfully regarding the element on which depended all my present hopes and views. But presently my meditations were interrupted, and my thoughts diverted from mere self by the sudden entrance, in a large body, of my friends the Spanish prisoners, who all bore down to the very place where I was stationed, evidently recognising me, and eagerly showing that it was not without extreme satisfaction. I saw their approach, in return, with lively Page 259
pleasure, for, the quay being, I suppose, a place of certain security, they were unencumbered by their usual turnkeys, the gendarmes, and this freedom, joined to their surprise at my sight, put them also off their guard, and they flocked round though not near me, and hailed me with smiles, bows, and hands put upon their breasts. I now took courage to speak to them, partly in French, partly in English, for I found they understood a little of both those languages. I inquired whence they came, and whether they knew General Wellington. They smiled and nodded at his name, and expressed infinite delight in finding I was English ; but though they all, by their head movements, entered into discourse, my friend the chief was the only one who attempted to answer me.
When I first went to France, being continually embarrassed for terms, I used constantly to apply to M. d'Arblay for aid, till Madame de Tess charged him to be quiet, saying that my looks filled up what my words left short, "de sorte que," she added, "nous la devinons;"(217) this was the case between my Spaniards and myself, and we -devin-d one another so much to our mutual satisfaction, that while this was the converse the most to my taste of any I had had at Dunkirk, it was also, probably, most to theirs of any that had fallen to their lot since they had been torn from their native country.
SURPRISED BY AN OFFICER OF POLICE.
While this was going on I was privately drawing from my purse all that it contained of small money to distribute to my new friends - but at this same moment a sudden change in the countenance of the chief from looks of grateful feeling, to an expression of austerity, checked my purpose, and, sorry and alarmed lest he had taken offence, I hastily drew my empty hand from my reticule. I then saw that the change of expression was not simply to austerity from pleasure, but to consternation from serenity - and I perceived that it was not to me the altered visage was directed; the eye pointed beyond me, and over my head startled, I turned round, and what, then, was my own consternation when I beheld an officer of the police, in full gold trappings, furiously darting forward from a small house at the entrance upon the quay, which I afterwards learnt was his official dwelling. When he came within two yards of us he stood still, mute and erect ; but with an air of menace, his eyes scowling first upon the chief,
then upon me, then upon the whole group, and then upon me again, with looks that seemed diving into some conspiracy.
My alarm was extreme - my imprudence in conversing with these unhappy captives struck me at once with foreboding terror of ill consequences. I had, however, sufficient presence of mind to meet the eyes of my antagonist with a look that showed surprise, rather than apprehension at his wrath.
This was not without some effect. Accustomed, probably, to scrutinize and to penetrate into secret plots, he might be an adept in distinguishing the fear of ill-treatment from the fear of detection. The latter I could certainly not manifest, as my compassion had shown no outward mark beyond a little charity - but the former I tried, vainly, perhaps, to subdue : for I well knew that pity towards a Spaniard would be deemed suspicious, at least, if not culpable.
We were all silent, and all motionless ; but when the man, having fixed upon me his eyes with intention to petrify me, saw that I fixed him in return with an open though probably not very composed face, he-spoke, and with a voice of thunder, vociferating reproach, accusation, and condemnation all in one. His words I could not distinguish; they were so confused and rapid from rage.
This violence, though it secretly affrighted me, I tried to meet with simple astonishment, making no sort of answer or interruption to his invectives. When he observed my steadiness, and that he excited none of the humiliation of discovered guilt, he stopped short and, after a pause, gruffly said,—
"Je me nomme d'Arblay."
"O est votre mari?"
"Il travaille aux Bureaux de l'Intrieur."
"Pourquoi le quittez-vous?"(218)
I was here sensibly embarrassed. I durst not avow I was going to England ; I could not assert I was really going to America. I hesitated, and the sight of his eyes brightening up with the hope of mischief, abated my firmness ; and, while he seemed to be staring me through, I gave an account, very imperfect, indeed, and far from clear, though true, that I came to Dunkirk to embark on board the "Mary Ann" vessel.
"Ah ha!" exclaimed he, "vous tes Anglaise?"(219)
Then, tossing back his head with an air of triumphant victory, "suivez-moi!"(220) he added, and walked away, fast and fierce, but looking back every minute to see that I followed.
INTERROGATED AT THE POLICE OFFICE.
Never can I forget the terror with which I was seized at this command; it could only be equalled by the evident consternation and sorrow that struck me, as I turned my head around to see where I was, in my poor chief and his group. Follow I did, though not less per force than if I had been dragged by chains. When I saw him arrive at the gate of the little dwelling I have mentioned, which I now perceived to belong to him officially, I impulsively, involuntarily stopped. To enter a police office, to be probably charged with planning some conspiracy with the enemies of the state, my poor Alexander away, and not knowing what must have become of me; my breath was gone; my power of movement ceased; my head, or understanding, seemed a chaos, bereft of every distinct or discriminating idea; and my feet, as if those of a statue, felt riveted to the ground, from a vague but overwhelming belief I was destined to incarceration in some dungeon, where I might sink ere I could make known my situation to my friends, while Alex, thus unaccountably abandoned, might be driven to despair, or become the prey to nameless mischiefs.
Again the tiger vociferated a "suivez-moi!" but finding it no longer obeyed, he turned full round as he stood upon ]its threshold, and perceiving my motionless and speechless dismay, looked at me for two or three seconds in scornful, but investigating taciturnity. Then, putting his arms a-kimbo, he said, in lower, but more, taunting accents, "Vous ne le jugez donc pas propos de me suivre?" (221)
This was followed by a sneering, sardonic grin that seemed anticipating the enjoyment of using compulsion. On, therefore, I again forced myself, and with tolerable composure I said, "Je n'ai rien, monsieur, je crois, faire ici?"(222)
"Nous verrons!"(223) he answered, bluffly, and led the way into a small hovel rather than parlour - and then haughtily seated himself at a table, on which were pen, ink, and paper, and, while I stood before him, began an interrogation, with the decided asperity of examining a detected criminal, of whom he was to draw up the proces verbal.
When I perceived this, my every fear, feeling, nay, thought, concentrated in Alexander, to whom I had determined not to allude, while I had any hope of self-escape, to avoid for us both the greatest of all perils, that of an accusation of intending to evade the ensuing conscription, for which, though Alex was yet too young, he was fast advancing to be amenable.
But now that I was enclosed from his sight, and there was danger every moment of his suddenly missing me, I felt that our only chance of safety must lie in my naming him before he should return. With all the composure, therefore, that I could assume, I said that I was come to Dunkirk with my son to embark in the "Mary Ann," an American vessel, with a passport from M. de Saulnier, secretary to the Duke de Rovigo, minister of police.
And what had I done with this son?
I had sent him to the post-office with a letter for his father.
At that instant I perceived Alexander wildly running past the window.
This moment was critical. I instantly cried, "Sir, there is my son!"
The man rose, and went to the door, calling Out, "Jeune homme!"(224)
Alex approached, and was questioned, and though much amazed, gave answers perfectly agreeing with mine.
I now recovered my poor affrighted faculties, and calmly said that if he had any doubt of our veracity, I begged he would send for Mr. Gregory, who knew us well. This, a second time, was a most happy reference. Mr. Gregory was of the highest respectability, and he was near at hand. There could be no doubt of the authenticity f such an appeal.
The brow of my ferocious assailant was presently unbent. I seized the favourable omen to assure him, with apparent indifference, that I had no objection to being accompanied or preceded to the Hotel Sauvage, where I resided, nor to giving him the key of my portmanteau and portfolio, if it were possible I had excited any suspicion by merely speaking, from curiosity, to the Spanish prisoners.
No, he answered, he would not disturb me; and then, having entered the name of Alexander by the side of mine, he let us depart. Speechless was my joy, and speechless was the surprise of Alexander, and we walked home in utter silence. Happily, this incident occurred but just before we set sail, for with it terminated my greatest solace at Dunkirk, the seeing and consoling those unhappy prisoners, and the regale of wandering by the sea-coast.
THE "MARY ANN" CAPTURED OFF DEAL.
Six weeks completely we consumed in wasteful weariness at Dunkirk; and our passage, when at last we set sail, was equally, in its proportion, toilsome and tedious. Involved in a sickening calm, we could make no way, but lingered two days and two nights in this long-short passage. The second night, indeed, might have been spared me, as it was spared to all my fellow voyagers. But when we cast anchor, I was so exhausted by the unremitting sufferings I had endured, that I was literally unable to rise from my hammock.
Yet was there a circumstance capable to have aroused me from any torpidity, save the demolishing ravage of sea-sickness for scarcely were we at anchor, when Alex, capering up to the deck, descended with yet more velocity than he had mounted to exclaim, "Oh, maman! there are two British officers now upon deck." But, finding that even this could not make me recover speech or motion, he ran back again to this new and delighting sight, and again returning 'cried out in a tone of rapture, "Maman, we are taken by the British! We are all captured by British officers!"
Even in my immovable, and nearly insensible state, this juvenile ardour, excited by so new and strange an adventure, afforded me some amusement. It did not, however, afford me strength, for I could not rise, though I heard that every other passenger was removed. With difficulty, even next morning, I crawled upon the deck, and there I had been but a short time, Page 264
when Lieutenant Harford came on board to take possession of the vessel, not as French, but American booty, war having been declared against America the preceding week. Mr. Harford, hearing my name, most courteously addressed me, with congratulations upon my safe arrival in England. These were words to rewaken all the happiest purposes of my expedition, and they recovered me from the nerveless, sinking state into which my exhaustion had cast me, as if by a miracle. My father, my brothers, my sisters, and all my heart-dear friends, seemed rising to my view and springing to my embraces, with all the joy of renovating reunion. I thankfully accepted his obliging offer to carry me on shore in his own boat; but when I turned round, and called upon Alexander to follow us, Mr. Harford, assuming a commanding air, said, "No, madam, I cannot take that young man. No French person can come into my boat without a passport and permission from government." My air now a little corresponded with his own, as I answered, "He was born, Sir, in England!"
"Oh!" cried he, " "that's quite another matter; come along, Sir! we'll all go together."
I now found we were rowing to Deal, not Dover, to which town we had been destined by our engagement: but we had been captured, it seems, chemin fuisant, though so gently, and with such utter helplessness of opposition, that I had become a prisoner without any suspicion of my captivity.
JOY ON ARRIVING IN ENGLAND.
We had anchored about half a mile, I imagine, from the shore ; which I no sooner touched than, drawing away my arm from Mr. Harford, I took up on one knee, with irrepressible transport, the nearest bright pebble, to press to my lips in grateful joy at touching again the land of my nativity, after an absence, nearly hopeless, of more than twelve years.
Of the happiness that ensued—my being again in the arms of my dearly loved father-in those of my dear surviving sisters—my brothers—my friends, some faint details yet remain in a few letters to my heart's confidant that he preserved: but they are truly faint, for my satisfaction was always damped in recording it to him who SO fondly wished to partake of it, and whose absence from that participation always rendered it incomplete.
And, on one great source of renovated felicity, I did not Page 265
dare touch even by inference, even by allusion—that of finding my gracious royal mistress and her august daughters as cordial in their welcome, as trustingly confidential, and as amiably condescending, I had almost said affectionate, as if I had never departed from the royal roof under which, for five years, I had enjoyed their favour. To have spoken of the royal family in letters sent to France under the reign of Bonaparte, might have brought destruction on him for whom I would a thousand times sooner have suffered it myself.
(Madame d'Arblay to Mrs. Broome.)(225) Aug. 15, 1812. In a flutter of joy such as my tender Charlotte will feel in reading this, I write to her from England! I can hardly believe it; I look around me in constant inquiry and doubt I speak French to every soul, and I whisper still if I utter a word that breathes private opinion. . . .
We set off for Canterbury, where we slept, and on the 20th(226) proceeded towards Chelsea. While, upon some common, we stopped to water the horses, a gentleman on horseback passed us twice, and then, looking in, pronounced my name - and I saw it was Charles, dear Charles! who had been watching for us several hours and three nights following, through a mistake. Thence we proceeded to Chelsea, where we arrived at nine o'clock at night. I was in a state almost breathless. I could only demand to see my dear father alone: fortunately, he had had the same feeling, and had charged all the family to stay away, and all the world to be denied. I found him, therefore, in his library, by himself-but oh! my dearest, very much altered indeed—weak, weak and changed- -his head almost always hanging down, and his hearing most cruelly impaired. I was terribly affected, but most grateful to God for my arrival. Our meeting, you may be sure, was very tender, though I roused myself as quickly as possible to be gay and cheering. He was extremely kind to Alex, and said, in a tone the most impressive, "I should have been very glad to have seen M. d'Arblay!" In discourse, however, he reanimated, and was, at times, all himself. But he now admits scarcely a creature but of his family, and will only see for a short time even his children. He likes quietly reading, and lies
almost constantly upon the sofa, and will never eat but alone. What a change!
YOUNG D'ARBLAY SECURES A SCHOLARSHIP.
(Madame d'Arblay to Dr. Burney.) March 16, 1813. How will my kindest father rejoice for me! for my dear partner— for my boy! The election is gained, and Alexander has obtained the Tancred scholarship. He had all the votes: the opponent retired. Sir D— behaved handsomely, came forward, and speechified for us. Sir Francis Milman, who was chairman, led the way in the harangue. Dr. Davy, our supporter, leader, inspirer, director, heart and head, patron and guide, spoke also. Mr H— spoke, too; but nothing, they tell me, to our purpose, nor yet against it. He gave a very long and elaborate history of a cause which he is to plead in the House of Lords, and which has not the smallest reference whatsoever to the case in point. Dr. Davy told me, in recounting it, that he is convinced the good and wary lawyer thought this an opportunity not to be lost for rehearsing his cause, which would prevent loss of time to himself, or hindrance of business, except to his hearers : however, he gave us his vote. 'Tis a most glorious affair.
THE QUEEN ALARMED BY A MAD WOMAN.
(Madame d'Arblay to Dr. Burney.) May 11, 1813. My own inclination and intention kept in mind your charge, , my dearest sir, that as soon as I was able I would wait upon Lady Crewe;(227) fortunately, I found her at home, and in her best style, cordial as well as good-humoured, and abounding in acute and odd remarks. I had also the good fortune to see my lord, who seems always pleasing, unaffected, and sensible, and to possess a share of innate modesty that no intercourse with the world, nor addition of years, can rob him of. I was much satisfied with my visit - but what I shall do for time, now once I have been launched from my couch, or sick chamber, I wot not.
What a terrible alarm is this which the poor tormented queen has again received!(228) I wrote my concern as soon as I heard of it, though I have not yet seen the printed account, my packet of papers reaching only to the very day before that event. My answer has been a most gracious summons to the Queen's house for to-morrow. Her majesty and two of the princesses come to town for four days. This robs me of my Chelsea visit for this week, as I keep always within call during the town residences, when I have royal notice of them, and, indeed, there is nothing I desire more than to see her majesty at this moment, and to be allowed to express what I have felt for her. My letter from Madame Beckersdorff says that such an alarm would have been frightful for anybody, but how much more peculiarly so for the queen, who has experienced such poignant horror from the effects of disordered intellects! who is always suffering from them, and so nearly a victim to the unremitting exercise of her duties upon that subject and these calls.
I have had a visit this morning from Mrs. Piozzi, who is in town only for a few days upon business. She came while I was out - but I must undoubtedly make a second tour, after my royal four days are passed, in order to wait upon and thank her.
I have been received more graciously than ever, if that be possible, by my dear and honoured queen and sweet Princesses Eliza and Mary. The queen has borne this alarm astonishingly, considering how great was the shock at the moment; but she has so high a character, that she will not suffer anything personal to sink her spirits, which she saves wholly for the calls upon them of others, and great and terrible have been those calls. The beloved king is in the best state possible for his present melancholy situation; that is, wholly free from real bodily suffering, or imaginary mental misery, for he is persuaded that he is always conversing with angels.
WEATHER COMPLAINTS. PROPOSED MEETING WITH LORD LANSDOWNE. (Madame d'Arblay to Dr. Burney.) Chenies-street, Alfred-place, May 23, 1813. Oh, how teased I am, my dearest padre, by this eternal unwalkable weather! Every morning rises so fairly, that at every noon I am preparing to quit my conjuring, and repair,
by your kind invitation, to prelude my promised chat by a repast with Sarah - when mizzling falls the rain, or hard raps the hail, and the day, for me, is involved in damps and dangers that fix me again to my dry, but solitary conjurations. I am so tired now of disappointments, that I must talk a little with my padre in their defiance, and in a manner now, thank God! out of their reach. Ah, how long will letters be any safer than meetings! The little world I see all give me hope and comfort from the posture of affairs but I am too deeply interested to dare be sanguine while in such suspense.
Lady Crewe invited me to her party that she calls Noah's ark; but I cannot yet risk an evening, and a dressed one too. She then said she would make me a small party with the Miss Berrys, and for a morning; and now she has written to Charles to make interest with me to admit Lord Lansdowne, at his own earnest request! I am quite non compos to know how I shall make my way through these honours, to my strength and re-establishment, for they clash with my private plan and adopted system of quiet. However, she says the meeting shall be in the country, at Brompton, and without fuss or ceremony. Her kindness is inexpressible, therefore I have not courage to refuse her. She has offered me her little residence at Brompton for my dwelling for a week or so, to restore me from all my influenzas : she may truly be called a faithful family friend. I hope dear Sarah and Fanny Raper will be of the party. If they are, charge them, dear sir, to let me hear their voices, for I shall never find out their faces.
What weather! what weather! when shall I get to Chelsea, and embrace again my beloved father?
This free-born weather of our sea-girt isle of liberty is very incommodious to those who have neither carriages for wet feet, nor health for damp shoulders. If the farmers, however, are contented, I must be patient. We may quarrel with all our wishes better than with our corn.
Adieu, my most dear father, till the sun shines drier.
A YOUNG GIRL'S ENTRY TO LONDON SOCIETY. MADAME DE STAEL.
(Madame d'Arblay to a friend.) London, August 20, 1813- . . .Your charming girl, by what I can gather, has seen, upon the whole, a great deal of this vast town and its
splendours,—a little more might, perhaps, have been better, in making her, with a mind such as hers, regret it a little less. Merit of her sort can here be known with difficulty. Dissipation is so hurried, so always in a bustle, that even amusement must be prominent, to be enjoyed. There is no time for development; nothing, therefore, is seen but what is conspicuous; and not much is heard but what is obstreperous. They who, in a short time, can make themselves known and admired now in London, must have their cupids, in Earl Dorset's phrase—
Like blackguard boys, Who thrust their links full in your face.
I had very much matter that I meant and wished to say to you upon this subject; but in brief—I do not myself think it a misfortune that your dear girl cannot move in a London round, away from your own wing: you have brought her up so well, and she seems so good, gentle, and contented, as well as accomplished, that I cannot wish her drawn into a vortex where she may be imbued with other ideas, views, and wishes than those that now constitute her happiness—and happiness! what ought to be held more sacred where it is innocent—what ought so little to risk any unnecessary or premature concussion? With all the deficiencies and imperfections of her present situation, which you bewail but which she does not find out, it is, alas! a million to one whether, even in attaining the advantages and society you wish for her, she will ever again, after any change, be as happy as she is at this moment. A mother whom she looks up to and doats upon—a sister whom she so fondly loves—how shall they be replaced? The chances are all against her (though the world has, I know, such replacers), from their rarity.
I am truly glad you had a gratification you so earnestly coveted, that of seeing Madame de Stael: your account of her was extremely interesting to me. As to myself, I have not seen her at all. Various causes have kept me in utter retirement; and, in truth, with respect to Madame de Stael, my situation is really embarrassing. It is too long and difficult to write upon, nor do I recollect whether I ever communicated to you our original acquaintance, which, at first, was intimate. I shall always, internally, be grateful for the partiality with which she sought me out upon her arrival in this country before my- marriage: and still, and far more, if she can forgive my dropping her, which I could not help Page 270
for none of my friends, at that time, would suffer me to keep up the intercourse! I had messages, remonstrances, entreaties, representations, letters, and conferences, till I could resist no longer; though I had found her so charming, that I fought the hardest battle I dared fight against almost all my best connections. She is now received by all mankind;—but that, indeed, she always was—all womankind, I should say—with distinction and pleasure. I wish much to see her "Essay on Suicide;" but it has not yet fallen in my way. When will the work come out for which she was, she says, chasse de la France?(229) Where did —- hear her a whole evening? She is, indeed, most uncommonly entertaining, and animating as well as animated, almost beyond anybody, "Les Mmoires de Madame de Stael" I have read long ago, and with singular interest and eagerness. They are so attaching, so evidently original and natural, that they stand very high, indeed, in reading that has given me most pleasure. My boy has just left me for Greenwich.(230) He goes in October to Cambridge; I wish to install him there myself. My last letter from Paris gives me to the end of October to stay in England.
ROGERS THE POET.
(Madame d'Arblay to Dr. Burney.) August 24, 1813. .....I was delighted by meeting Lady Wellington, not long since, at Lady Templetown's. Her very name electrified me with emotion. I dined at Mr. Rogers's, at his beautiful mansion in the Green Park, to meet Lady Crewe; and Mrs. Barbauld was also there, whom I had not seen many, many years, and alas, should not have known! Mr. Rogers was so considerate to my sauvagerie as to have no party, though Mr. Sheridan, he said, had expressed his great desire to meet again his old friend Madame d'Arblay! Lady Crewe told me she certainly would not leave town without seeking
another chattery with her old friend, Dr. Burney, whom she always saw with fresh pleasure.
INTERVIEW WITH MR. WILBERFORCE.
(Madame d'Arblay to Dr. Burney.) Sandgate, Sept., 1813. Let me steal a moment to relate a singular gratification, and, in truth, a real and great honour I have had to rejoice in. You know, my padre, probably, that Marianne Francis was commissioned by Mr. Wilberforce(231) to bring about an acquaintance with your F. d'A., and that, though highly susceptible to such a desire, my usual shyness, or rather consciousness of inability to meet the expectations that must have made him seek me, induced my declining an interview. Eh bien—at church at Sandgate, the day after my arrival, I saw this justly celebrated man, and was introduced to him in the churchyard, after the service, by Charles. The ramparts and martellos around us became naturally our theme, and Mr. Wilberforce proposed showing them to me. I readily accepted the offer, and Charles and Sarah, and Mrs. Wilberforce and Mrs. Barrett, went away in their several carriages, while Mr. Barrett alone remained, and Mr. Wilberforce gave me his arm, and, in short, we walked the round from one to five o'clock! Four hours' of the best conversation I have, nearly, ever enjoyed. He was anxious for a full and true account of Paris, and particularly of religion and infidelity, and of Bonaparte and the wars, and of all and everything that had occurred during my ten years' seclusion in France; and I had so much to communicate, and his drawing out and comments and episodes were all so judicious, so spirited, so full of information yet so unassuming, that my shyness all flew away and I felt to be his confidential friend, opening to him upon every occurrence and every sentiment, with the frankness that is usually won by years of intercourse. I was really and truly delighted and enlightened by him; I desire nothing more
than to renew the acquaintance, and cultivate it to intimacy. But, alas! he was going away next morning.
INTENDED PUBLICATION OF "THE WANDERER."
(Madame d'Arblay to Dr. Burney.) Richmond Hill, Oct. 12, 1813. My most dear padre will, I am sure, congratulate me that I have just had the heartfelt delight of a few lines from M. d'Arblay, dated September 5th. I had not had any news since the 17th of August, and I had the melancholy apprehension upon my spirits that no more letters would be allowed to pass till the campaign was over. It has been therefore one of the most welcome surprises I ever experienced. He tells me, also, that he is perfectly well, and quite acabl with business. This, for the instant, gives me nothing but joy; for, were he not essentially necessary in some department of civil labour and use, he would surely be included in some leve en masse. Every way, therefore, this letter gives me relief and pleasure.
I have had, also, this morning, the great comfort to hear that my Alexander is " stout and well at Cambridge, where his kind uncle Charles still remains.
I am indescribably occupied, and have been so ever since my return from Ramsgate, in giving more and more last touches to my work, about which I begin to grow very, anxious. I am to receive merely 500 pounds upon delivery of the MS. the two following 500 by instalments from nine months to nine months, that is, in a year and a half from the day of publication. If all goes well, the whole will be 3000, but only at the end of the sale of eight thousand copies. Oh, my padre, if you approve the work, I shall have good hope.
GENERAL D'ARBLAY'S WOUNDED COMRADES.
(Madame d'Arblay to Mrs. Locke.) Dec. 16, 1813. Ah, my dearest friend, how is my poor cottage-how are my proofs— how is everything forced from my mind, except what necessity drives there, by this cruel stroke to my suffering partner! The world had power only in two instances to have given him quite so deadly a blow, dear to his heart of love as Page 273
are some, nay, many others; but here—for M. de Narbonne, it was a passion of admiration, joined to a fondness of friendship, that were a part of himself.(232) How he will bear it, and in our absence, perpetually occupies my thoughts. And I have no means to hear from, or to write to him!—none, absolutely none!
just before this wound was inflicted, I was already overwhelmed with grief for my poor Madame de Maisonneuve, A for M. d'Arblay himself, and for my own personal loss, in the death—premature and dreadful, nay, inhuman—of the noble, perfect brother of that Madame de Maisonneuve; General Latour Maubourg, a man who, like my own best friend was—is signalized among his comrades by the term of a vrai Chevalier Franais. He was without a blot; and his life has been thrown away merely to prevent his being made a prisoner! He had received a horrible wound on the first of the tremendous battles of Leipzic, and on the second he suffered amputation; and immediately after was carried away to follow the retreating army! In such a condition, who can wonder to hear that, a very few miles from Leipzic, he expired?(233)
DEATH OF DR. BURNEY.
[In the beginning of the year 1814, Madame d'Arblay published her fourth work, "The Wanderer," and nearly at the same time peace was declared between France and England. Her satisfaction at an event so long wished for, was deeply saddened by the death of her father, Dr. Burney; whom she nursed and attended to the last moment with dutiful tenderness.
Soon after the Restoration of the French royal family, Monsieur d'Arblay was placed by the Duke de Luxembourg in the French " gardes du corps." He obtained leave of absence towards the close of the year, and came to England
for a few weeks ; after which Madame d'Arblay returned with him to Paris, leaving their son to pursue his studies at Cambridge.]
(Madame d'Arblay to Mrs. ——) March(234) 19, 1814. Be not uneasy for me, nay tender friend: my affliction is heavy, but not acute - my beloved father had been spared to us something beyond the verge of the prayer for his preservation, which you must have read, for already his sufferings had far surpassed his enjoyments. I could not have wished him so to linger, though I indulged almost to the last hour a hope he might yet recover, and be restored to comfort. I last of all gave him up, but never wished his duration such as I saw him on the last few days. Dear blessed parent! how blest am I that I came over to him while he was yet susceptible of pleasure—of happiness! My best comfort in my grief, in his loss, is that I watched by his side the last night, and hovered over him two hours after he breathed no more; for though much suffering had preceded the last hours, they were so quiet, and the final exit was so soft, that I had not perceived it though I was sitting by his bedside, and would not believe when all around announced it. I forced them to let me stay by him, and his revered form became stiff before I could persuade myself that he was gone hence for ever.
Yet neither then nor now has there been any violence, anything to fear from my grief; his loss was too indubitably to be expected, he had been granted too long to our indulgence to allow any species of repining to mingle with my sorrow; and it is repining that makes sorrow too hard to bear with resignation. Oh, I have known it!
FAVOURABLE NEWS OF M. D'ARBLAY.
(Madame d'Arblay to Mrs. Locke.) April 3, 1814. I hasten to impart to my kind and sympathising friend that I received-last night good tidings of my best friend of friends; they have been communicated to me, oddly enough, through the Alien office! Mr. Reeves wrote them to my
reverend brother,(235) by the desire of an English lady now resident in Paris-Madame Solvyns (wife of a Frenchman), at the request of M. d'Arblay; they assure me of his perfect health...
Nothing could be so well timed as this intelligence, for my inquietude was beginning to be doubly restless from the accession of time that has fallen to me by having got rid of all my proofs, etc. it is only real and indispensable business that can force away attention from suspensive uneasiness. Another comfort of the very first magnitude, my sweet friend will truly, I know, participate in—my Alexander begins to listen to reason. He assures me he is now going on with very tolerable regularity; and I have given him, for this term, to soberize and methodize him a little, a private tutor ; and this tutor has won his heart by indulging him in his problem passion. They work together, he says, with a rapidity and eagerness that makes the hour of his lesson by far the most delightful portion of his day. And this tutor, he tells me, most generously gives him problems to work at in his absence: a favour for which every pupil, perchance, would not be equally grateful, but which Alexander, who loves problems algebraic as another boy loves a play or an opera, regards as the height of indulgence.
[Soon after the publication of " The Wanderer," Madame d'Arblay wrote as follows to a friend:—]
I beseech you not to let your too ardent friendship disturb you about the reviews and critiques, and I quite supplicate you to leave their authors to their own severities or indulgence. I have ever steadily refused all interference with public opinion or private criticism. I am told I have been very harshly treated ; but I attribute it not to what alone would affect me, but which I trust I have not excited, personal enmity. I attribute it to the false expectation, universally spread, that the book would be a picture of France, as well as to the astonishing clat of a work in five volumes being all bespoken before it was published. The booksellers, erroneously and injudiciously concluding the sale would so go on, fixed the rapacious price of two guineas, which again damped the sale. But why say damped, when it is only their unreasonable expectations that are disappointed ? for they acknowledge that 3600 copies are positively sold and paid for in the first half year. What must I be, if not far more than Page 276
contented? I have not read or heard one of the criticisms; my mind has been wholly occupied by grief for the loss of my dearest father, or the inspection of his MSS., and my harassing situation relative to my own proceedings. Why, then, make myself black bile to disturb me further? No; I will not look at a word till my spirits and time are calmed and quiet, and I can set about preparing a corrected edition. I will then carefully read all - and then, the blow to immediate feelings being over, I can examine as well as read, impartially and with profit, both to my future surveyors and myself.
MADAME D'ARBLAY'S PRESENTATION TO LOUIS XVIII AT GRILLON's HOTEL.
1814.-While I was still under the almost first impression of grief for the loss of my dear and honoured father I received a letter from Windsor Castle, written by Madame Beckersdorff, at the command of her majesty, to desire I would take the necessary measures for being presented to son altesse royale Madame Duchesse d'Angoulme,l who was to have a Drawing-room in London, both for French and English, on the day preceding her departure for France. The letter added, that I must waive all objections relative to my recent loss, as it would be improper, in the present state of things, that the wife of a general officer should not be presented; and, moreover, that I should be personally expected and well received, as I had been named to son altesse royale by the queen herself. In conclusion, I was charged not to mention this circumstance, from the applications or jealousies it might excite.
To hesitate was out of the question - and to do honour to my noble absent partner, and in his name to receive honour, were precisely the two distinctions my kind father would most have enjoyed for me. Page 277
I had but two or three days for preparation. Lady Crewe most amiably came to me herself, and missing me in person, wrote me word she would lend me her carriage, to convey me from Chelsea to her house in Lower Grosvenor-street, and thence accompany me herself to the audience. When the morning arrived I set off with tolerable courage.
Arrived, however, at Lady Crewe's, when I entered the room in which this dear and attached friend of my father received me, the heaviness of his loss proved quite overpowering to my spirits ; and in meeting the two hands of my hostess, I burst into tears and could not, for some time, listen to the remonstrances against unavailing grief with which she rather chid than soothed me. But I could not contest the justice of what she uttered, though my grief was too fresh for its observance. Sorrow, as my dearest father was wont to say, requires time, as well as wisdom and religion, to digest itself , and till that time is both accorded and well employed, the sense of its uselessness serves but to augment, not mitigate, its severity.
Lady Crewe purposed taking this opportunity of paying her own respects, with her congratulations, to Madame la Duchesse d'Angoulme. She had sent me a note from Madame de Gouvello, relative to the time, for presentation, which was to take place it Grillon's hotel in Albemarle-street.
We went very early, to avoid a crowd. But Albemarle-street was already quite full, though quiet. We entered the hotel without difficulty, Lady Crewe having previously demanded a private room of Grillon, who had once been cook to her lord. This private room was at the back of the house, with a mere yard or common garden for its prospect. , Lady Crewe declared this was quite too stupid, and rang the bell for waiter after waiter, till she made M. Grillon come himself. She then, in her singularly open and easy manner, told him to be so good as to order us a front room, where we might watch for the arrival of the royals, and be amused ourselves at the same time by seeing the entrances of the mayor, aldermen, and common councilmen, and other odd characters, who would be coming to pay their court to these French princes and princesses.
M. Grillon gave a nod of acquiescence, and we were instantly shown to a front apartment just over the street door, which was fortunately supplied with a balcony.
I should have been much entertained by all this, and Page 278
particularly with the originality, good humour, and intrepid yet intelligent odd fearlessness of all remark, or even consequence, which led Lady Crewe to both say and do exactly what she pleased, had my heart been lighter - but it was too heavy for pleasure; and the depth of my mourning, and the little, but sad time that was yet passed since it had become my gloomy garb, made me hold it a matter even of decency, as well as of feeling, to keep out of sight. I left Lady Crewe, therefore, to the full enjoyment of her odd figures, while I seated myself, solitarily, at the further end of the room.
GRATTAN THE ORATOR.
In an instant, however, she saw from the window some acquaintance, and beckoned them up. A gentleman, middle-aged, of a most pleasing appearance and address, immediately obeyed her summons, accompanied by a young man with a sensible look; and a young lady, pretty, gentle, and engaging, with languishing, soft eyes; though with a smile and an expression of countenance that showed an innate disposition to archness and sport.
This uncommon trio I soon found to consist of the celebrated Irish orator, Mr. Grattan,(237) and his son and daughter. Lady Crewe welcomed them with all the alertness belonging to her thirst for amusement, and her delight in sharing it with those she thought capable of its participation. This she had sought, but wholly missed in me; and could neither be angry nor disappointed, though she was a little vexed. She suffered me not, however, to remain long in my seclusion, but called me to the balcony, to witness the jolting out of their carriages of the aldermen and common councilmen, exhibiting, as she said, "Their fair round bodies with fat capon lined;" and wearing an air of proudly hospitable satisfaction, in visiting a king of France who had found an asylum in a street of the city of Westminster.
The crowd, however, for they deserve a better name than Page 279
mob, interested my observation still more. John Bull has seldom appeared to me to greater advantage. I never saw him en masse behave with such impulsive propriety. Enchanted to behold a king of France in his capital; conscious that le grand monarque was fully in his power; yet honestly enraptured to see that "The king would enjoy his own again," and enjoy it through the generous efforts of his rival, brave, noble old England; he yet seemed aware that it was fitting to subdue all exuberance of pleasure, which, else, might annoy, if not alarm, his regal guest. He took care, therefore, that his delight should not amount to exultation; it was quiet and placid, though pleased and curious : I had almost said it was gentlemanlike.
And nearly of the same colour, though from so inferior an incitement, were the looks and attention of the Grattans, particularly of the father, to the black mourner whom Lady Crewe called amongst them. My garb, or the newspapers, or both, explained the dejection I attempted not to repress, though I carefully forbade it any vent - and the finely speaking face of Mr. Grattan seemed investigating the physiognomy, while it commiserated the situation of the person brought thus before him. His air had something foreign in it, from the vivacity that accompanied his politeness ; I should have taken him for a well-bred man of fashion of France. Good breeding, in England, amongst the men, is ordinarily stiff, reserved, or cold. Among the exceptions to this stricture, how high stood Mr. Windham! and how high in gaiety with vivacity stood my own honoured father! Mr. Locke, who was elegance personified in his manners, was lively only in his own domestic or chosen circle.
A DEMONSTRATIVE IRISH LADY,
A new scene now both astonished and discomposed me. A lady, accompanied humbly by a gentleman, burst into the room with a noise, a self-sufficiency, and an assuming confidence of superiority, that would have proved highly offensive, had it not been egregiously ridiculous. Her attire was as flaunting as her air and her manner; she was rouged and beribboned. But English she was not - she was Irish, in its most flaunting and untamed nature, and possessed of so boisterous a spirit, that she appeared to be just caught from the woods—-the bogs, I might rather say.
When she had poured forth a volley of words, with a fluency and loudness that stunned me, Lady Crewe, with a. smile that seemed to denote she intended to give her pleasure, presented me by name to Madame la Baronne de M—
She made me a very haughty curtsey, and then, turning rudely away, looked reproachfully at Lady Crewe, and screamed out, " Oh, fie! fie, fie, fie!" Lady Crewe, astonished and shocked, seemed struck speechless, and I stood still with my eyes wide open, and my mouth probably so also, from a sort of stupor, for I could annex no meaning nor even any idea to such behaviour. She made not, however, any scruple to develop her motives, for she vehemently inveighed against being introduced to such an acquaintance, squalling out, "She has writ against the migrs!- -she has writ against the Great Cause! O fie! fie! fie!"
When she had made these exclamations, and uttered these accusations, till the indulged vent to her rage began to cool it, she stopped of her own accord, and, finding no one spoke, looked as if she felt rather silly; while M. le Baron de M—, her very humble sposo, shrugged his shoulders. The pause was succeeded by an opening harangue from Lady Crewe, begun in a low and gentle voice, that seemed desirous to spare me what might appear an undue condescension, in taking any pains to clear me from so gross an attack. She gave, therefore, nearly in a whisper, a short character of me and of my conduct, of which I heard just enough to know that such was her theme; and then, more audibly, she proceeded to state, that far from writing against the emigrants, I had addressed an exhortation to all the ladies of Great Britain in their favour.
"Oh, then," cried Madame de M—, "it was somebody else—it was somebody else!"
And then she screamed out delightedly, "I'm so glad I spoke out, because of this explanation!—I'm so glad! never was so glad!" She now jumped about the room, quite crazily, protesting she never rejoiced so much at anything she had ever done in her life. But when she found her joy, like her assault, was all her own, she stopped short, astonished, I suppose, at my insensibility; and said to me, "How lucky I spoke out! the luckiest thing in the world! I'm so glad! A'n't you? Because of this claircissement."
"If I had required any claircissement," I drily began.
"O, if it was not you, then," cried she, "'twas Charlotte Smith." Page 281
Lady Crewe seemed quite ashamed that such a scene should pass where she presided, and Mr. Grattan quietly stole away.
Not quietly, nor yet by stealth, but with evident disappointment that her energies were not more admired, Madame la Baronne now called upon her attendant sposo, and strode off herself. I found she was a great heiress of Irish extraction and education, and that she had bestowed all her wealth upon this emigrant baron, who might easily merit it, when, besides his title, he gave her his patience and obsequiousness.
INQUIRIES AFTER THE DUCHESS D'ANGOULEME.
Some other friends of Lady Crewe now found her out, and she made eager inquiries amongst them relative to Madame la Duchesse d'Angoulme, but could gather no tidings. She heard, however, that there were great expectations of some arrivals down stairs, where two or three rooms were filled with company. She desired Mr. Grattan, junior, to descend into this crowd, and to find out where the duchess was to be seen, and when, and how.
He obeyed. But, when he returned, what was the provocation of Lady Crewe, what my own disappointment, to hear that the duchess was not arrived, and was not expected ! She was at the house of Monsieur le Comte d'Artois, her father-in-law.
"Then what are we come hither for?" exclaimed her ladyship: "expressly to be tired to death for no purpose! Do pray, at least, Mr. Grattan, be so good as to see for my carriage, that we may go to the right house."
Mr. Grattan was all compliance, and with a readiness so obliging and so well bred that I am sure he is his father's true son in manners, though there was no opportunity to discover whether the resemblance extended also to genius. He was not, however, cheered when he brought word that neither carriage nor footman were to be found.
Lady Crewe then said he must positively go down, and make the Duc de Duras tell us what to do. In a few minutes he was with us again, shrugging his shoulders at his ill success. The king, Louis XVIII.,(238) he said, Page 282
was expected, and M. le Duc was preparing to receive him, and not able to speak or listen to any one.
Lady Crewe declared herself delighted by this information, because there would be an opportunity for having me presented to his majesty. "Go to M. de Duras," she cried, "and tell him Madame d'Arblay wishes it."
"For heaven's sake!" exclaimed I, "do no such thing! I have not the most distant thought of the kind! It is Madame la Duchesse d'Angoulme alone that I—"
"O, pho, pho!—it is still more essential to be done to the king—it is really important: so go, and tell the duke, Mr. Grattan, that Madame d'Arblay is here, and desires to be presented. Tell him 'tis a thing quite indispensable."
I stopped him again, and quite entreated that no such step might be taken, as I had no authority for presentation but to the duchess. However, Lady Crewe was only provoked at my backwardness, and charged Mr. Grattan not to heed me. "Tell the duke," she cried, "that Madame d'Arblay is our Madame de Stael! tell him we are as proud of our Madame d'Arblay as he can be of his Madame de Stael."
Off she sent him, and off I flew again to follow him and whether he was most amused or most teased by our opposing petitions, I know not - but he took the discreet side of not venturing again to return among us.
PREPARATIONS FOR THE PRESENTATIONS.
Poor Lady Crewe seemed to think I lost a place at Court, or perhaps a peerage, by my untamable shyness, and was quite vexed. Others came to her now, who said several rooms below were filled with expectant courtiers. Miss Grattan then earnestly requested me to descend with her, as a chaperon, that she might see something of what was going forwards.
I could not refuse so natural a request, and down we went, seeking one of the common] crowded rooms, that we might not intrude where there was preparation or expectation relative to the king.
And here, sauntering or grouping, meditating in silence or congratulating each other in coteries, or waiting with curiosity, or self-preparing for presentation with timidity, we found a multitude of folks in an almost unfurnished and quite unadorned apartment. The personages seemed fairly divided between the nation at home and the nation from abroad ; Page 283
the English and the French; each equally, though variously, occupied in expecting the extraordinary sight of a monarch thus wonderfully restored to his rank and his throne, after misfortunes that had seemed irremediable, and an exile that had appeared hopeless.
Miss Grattan was saluted, en passant, by several acquaintances, and amongst them by the son-in-law of her dear country's viceroy Lord Whitworth, the young Duke of Dorset; and Lady Crewe herself, too tired to abide any longer in her appropriated apartment, now descended.
We patrolled about, zig-zag, as we could; the crowd, though of very good company, having no chief or regulator, and therefore making no sort of avenue or arrangement for avoiding inconvenience. There was neither going up nor coming down; we were all hustled together, without direction and without object, for nothing whatsoever was present to look at or to create any interest, and our expectations were merely kept awake by a belief that we should know in time when and where something or somebody was to be seen.
For myself, however, I was much tormented during this interval from being named incessantly by Lady Crewe. My deep mourning, my recent heavy loss, and the absence and distance of my dear husband made me peculiarly wish to be unobserved. Peculiarly, I say; for never yet had the moment arrived in which to be marked had not been embarrassing and disconcerting to me, even when most flattering.
A little hubbub soon after announced something new, and presently a whisper was buzzed around the room of the "Prince de Cond." His serene highness looked very much pleased—as no wonder—at the arrival of such a day; but he was so surrounded by all his countrymen who were of rank to claim his attention, that I could merely see that he was little and old, but very unassuming and polite. Amongst his courtiers were sundry of the French noblesse that were known to Lady Crewe and I heard her uniformly say to them, one after another, Here is Madame d'Arblay, who must be presented to the king.
Quite frightened by an assertion so wide from my intentions, so unauthorised by any preparatory ceremonies, unknown to my husband, and not, like a presentation to the Duchesse d'Angoulme, encouraged by my queen, I felt as if guilty of taking liberty the most presumptuous, and with a forwardness and assurance the most foreign to my character. Yet to Page 284
control the zeal of Lady Crewe was painful from her earnestness, and appeared to be ungrateful to her kindness ; I therefore shrunk back, and presently suffered the crowd to press between us so as to find myself wholly separated from my party. This would have been ridiculous had I been more happy - but in my then state of affliction, it was necessary to my peace.
ARRIVAL OF Louis XVIII.
Quite to myself, how I smiled inwardly at my adroit cowardice, and was contemplating the surrounding masses of people, when a new and more mighty hubbub startled me, and presently I heard a buzzing whisper spread throughout the apartment of "The king!—le roi!"
Alarmed at my strange situation, I now sought to decamp, meaning to wait for Lady Crewe up stairs : but to even approach the door was impossible. I turned back, therefore, to take a place by the window, that I might see his majesty alight from his carriage, but how great was my surprise when, just as I reached the top of the room, the king himself entered it at the bottom!
I had not the smallest idea that this was the chamber of audience ; it was so utterly unornamented. But I now saw that a large fauteuil was being conveyed to the upper part, exactly where I stood, ready for his reception and repose.
Placed thus singularly, by mere accident, and freed from my fears of being brought forward by Lady Crewe, I felt rejoiced in so fair an opportunity of beholding the king of my honoured husband, and planted myself immediately behind, though not near to his prepared seat ; and, as I was utterly unknown and must be utterly unsuspected, I indulged myself with a full examination. An avenue had instantly been cleared from the door to the chair, and the king moved along It slowly, slowly, slowly, rather dragging his large and weak limbs than walking; but his face was truly engaging; benignity was in every feature, and a smile beamed over them that showed thankfulness to providence in the happiness to which he was so suddenly arrived; with a courtesy, at the same time, to the spectators, who came to see and congratulate it, the most pleasing and cheering.
The scene was replete with motives to grand reflections and to me, the devoted subject of another monarch, whose melancholy alienation of mind was a constant source to me of Page 285
sorrow, it was a scene for conflicting feelings and profound meditation.
THE PRESENTATIONS TO THE KING.
His majesty took his seat, with an air of mingled sweetness and dignity. I then, being immediately behind him, lost sight of his countenance, but saw that of every individual who approached to be presented. The Duc de Duras stood at his left hand, and was le grand maitre des crmonies; Madame de Gouvello stood at his right side; though whether in any capacity, or simply as a French lady known to him, I cannot tell. In a whisper, from that lady, I learned more fully the mistake of the hotel, the Duchesse d'Angoulme never having meant to quit that of her beaupre, Monsieur le Comte d'Artois, in South Audley-street.
The presentations were short, and without much mark or likelihood. The men bowed low, and passed on; the ladies curtsied, and did the same. Those who were not known gave a card, I think, to the Duc de Duras, who named them; those of former acquaintance with his majesty simply made their obeisance.
M. de Duras, who knew how much fatigue the king had to go through, hurried every one on, not only with speed but almost with ill-breeding, to my extreme astonishment. Yet the English, by express command of his majesty, had always the preference and always took place of the French ; which was an attention of the king in return for the asylum he had here found, that he seemed delighted to display,
Early in this ceremony came forward Lady Crewe, who being known to the king from sundry previous meetings, was not named ; and only, after curtseying, reciprocated smiles with his majesty, and passed on. But instead of then moving off, though the duke, who did not know her, waved his hand to hasten her away, she whispered, but loud enough for me to hear, "Voici Madame d'Arblay; il faut qu'elle soit prsente."(239) She then went gaily off, without heeding me.
The duke only bowed, but by a quick glance recognised me, and by another showed a pleased acquiescence in the demand.
Retreat' now, was out of the question; but I so feared my position was wrong, that I was terribly disturbed, and felt hot and cold, and cold and hot, alternately, with excess of Page 286
embarrassment. I was roused, however, after hearing for so long a time nothing but French, by the sudden sound of English. An address, in that language, was read to his majesty, which was presented by the noblemen and gentlemen of the county of Buckingham, congratulatory upon his happy restoration, and filled with cordial thanks for the graciousness of his manners, and the benignity of his conduct, during his long residence amongst them; warmly proclaiming their participation in his joy, and their admiration of his virtues. The reader was colonel Nugent, a near relation of the present Duke of Buckingham. But, if the unexpected sound of these felicitations delivered in English, roused and struck me, how much greater arose my astonishment and delight when the French monarch, in an accent of the most condescending familiarity and pleasure, uttered his acknowledgments in English also-expressing his gratitude for all their attentions, his sense of their kind interest in his favour, and his eternal remembrance of the obligations he owed to the whole county of Buckinghamshire, for the asylum and consolations he had found in it during his trials and calamities! I wonder not that Colonel Nugent was so touched by this reply, as to be led to bend the knee, as to his own sovereign, when the king held out his hand - for I myself, though a mere outside auditress, was so moved, and so transported with surprise by the dear English language from his mouth, that I forgot at once all my fears, and dubitations, and, indeed, all myself, my poor little self, in my pride and exultation at such a moment for my noble country.(240)
A FLATTERING ROYAL RECEPTION.
Fortunately for me, the Duc de Duras made this the moment for my presentation, and, seizing my hand and drawing me suddenly from behind the chair to the royal presence, he said, " Sire, Madame d'Arblay." How singular a change, that what, but the instant before, would have overwhelmed me with diffidence and embarrassment,
now found me all courage and animation ! and when his majesty took my hand—or, rather, took hold of my fist—and said, in very pretty English, "I am very happy to see you," I felt such a glow of satisfaction, that involuntarily, I burst forth with its expression, incoherently, but delightedly and irresistibly, though I cannot remember how. He certainly was not displeased, for his smile was brightened and his manner was most flattering, as he repeated that he was very glad to see me, and added that he had known me, "though without sight, very long: for I have read you—and been charmed with your books—charmed and entertained. I have read them often, I know them very well indeed; and I have long wanted to know you!"
I was extremely surprised,-and not only at these unexpected compliments, but equally that my presentation, far from seeming, as I had apprehended, strange, was met by a reception of the utmost encouragement. When he stopped, and let go my hand, I curtsied respectfully, and was moving on ; but he again caught my fist, and, fixing me, with looks of strong though smiling investigation, he appeared archly desirous to read the lines of my face, as if to deduce from them the qualities of my mind. His manner, however, was so polite and so gentle that he did not at all discountenance me : and though he resumed the praise of my little works, he uttered the panegyric with a benignity so gay as well as flattering, that I felt enlivened, nay, elevated, with a joy that overcame mauvaise honte.
The Duc de Duras, who had hurried on all others, seeing he had no chance to dismiss me with the same sans crmonie speed, now joined his voice to exalt my satisfaction, by saying, at the next pause, "et M. d'Arblay, sire, bon et brave, est un des plus devous et fidles serviteurs de votre majest."(241)
The king with a gracious little motion of his head, and with eyes of the most pleased benevolence, expressively said, "Je le Crois."(242) And a third time he stopped my retiring curtsey, to take my hand.
This last stroke gave me such delight, for my absent best ami, that I could not again attempt to speak. The king pressed my hand—wrist I should say, for it was that he grasped, and then saying, "Bon jour, madame la comtesse," let me go. Page 288
My eyes were suffused with tears, from mingled emotions I glided nimbly through the crowd to a corner at the other end of the room, where Lady Crewe joined me almost instantly, and with felicitations the most amiably cordial and lively.
We then repaired to a side-board on which we contrived to seat ourselves, and Lady Crewe named to me the numerous personages of rank who passed on before us for presentation. But every time any one espied her and approached,, she named me also; an honour to which I was very averse. This I intimated, but to no purpose; she went on her own way. The curious stares this produced, in my embarrassed state of spirits, from recent grief, were really painful to sustain ; but when the seriousness of my representation forced her to see that I was truly in earnest in my desire to remain unnoticed, she was so much vexed, and even provoked, that she very gravely begged that, if such were the case, I would move a little farther from her; saying, "If one must be so ill-natured to people as not to name you, I had rather not seem to know who you are myself."
AN IMPORTANT LETTER DELAYED.
When, at length, her ladyship's chariot was announced, we drove to Great Cumberland-place, Lady Crewe being so kind as to convey me to Mrs. Angerstein. As Lady Crewe was too much in haste to alight, the sweet Amelia Angerstein came to the carriage to speak to her, and to make known that a letter had arrived from M. de la Chtre relative to my presentation, which, by a mistake of address, had not come in time for my reception.(244)
This note dispelled all of astonishment that had enveloped with something like incredulity my own feelings and perceptions in my unexpected presentation and reception. The king himself had personally desired to bestow upon me this mark of royal favour. What difficulty, what embarrassment, what confusion should I have escaped, had not that provoking mistake which kept back my letter occurred
M. D'ARBLAY ARRIVES IN ENGLAND.
Madame d"Arblay to Mrs. locke.) April 30, 1814. My own dearest friend must be the first, as she will be among the warmest, to participate in my happiness—M. d'Arblay is arrived. He came yesterday, quite unexpectedly as to the day, but not very much quicker than my secret hopes. He is extremely fatigued with all that has passed, yet well ; and all himself, i.e., all that is calculated to fill my heart with gratitude for my lot in life. How would my beloved father have rejoiced in his sight, and in these glorious new events!(245)
A BRILLIANT ASSEMBLAGE.
(Madame d'Arblay to M. d'Arblay) June 18, 1814. Ah, mon ami! you are really, then, well?—really in Paris?— really without hurt or injury? What I have suffered from a suspense that has no name from its misery shall now be buried in restored peace, and hope, and happiness. With the most fervent thanks to providence that my terrors are removed, and that I have been tortured by only false apprehensions, I will try to banish from my mind all but the joy, and gratitude to heaven, that your safety and health inspire. Yet still, it is difficult to me to feel assured that all is well ! I have so long been the victim to fear and anguish, that my spirits cannot at once get back their equilibrium. . . .
Hier j'ai quitt ma retraite, trs volontiers, pour(246) indulge myself with the sight of the Emperor of Russia. How was I charmed with his pleasing, gentle, and so perfectly unassuming air, manner, and demeanour! I was extremely gratified, also, by seeing the King of Prussia, who interests us all here, by a look that still indicates his tender regret for the partner of his hopes, toils, and sufferings, but not of his victories and enjoyments. It was at the queen's palace I saw them by especial and most gracious permission. The Prussian princes, six in number, and the young prince of Mecklenburg, and the Duchess of Oldenbourg, were of the party. All our royal Page 290
dukes assisted, and the Princesses Augusta and Mary. The Princess Charlotte looked quite beautiful. She is wonderfully improved. It was impossible not to be struck with her personal attractions, her youth, and splendour. The Duchess of York looked amongst the happiest; the King of Prussia is her brother.
M. D'ARBLAY ENTERS Louis XVIII.'S BODY-GUARD.
(Madame d'Arblay to Mrs. locke.) London, July, 1814. After a most painful suspense I have been at length relieved by a letter from Paris. It is dated the 18th of June, and has been a fortnight on the road. It is, he says, his fourth letter, and he had not then received one of the uneasy tribe of my own.
The consul-generalship is, alas, entirely relinquished, and that by M. d'Arblay himself, who has been invited into the garde du corps by the Duc de Luxembourg, for his own company an invitation he deemed it wrong to resist at such a moment ; and he has since been named one of the officers of the garde du corps by the king, Louis XVIII., to whom he had taken the customary oath that very day—the 18th.
The season, however, of danger over, and the throne and order steadily re-established, he will still, I trust and believe, retire to civil domestic life. May it be speedily! After twenty years' lying by, I cannot wish to see him re-enter a military career at sixty years of age, though still young in all his faculties and feelings, and in his capacity of being as useful to others as to himself. There is a time, however, when the poor machine, though still perfect in a calm, is unequal to a storm. Private life, then, should be sought while it yet may be enjoyed; and M. d'Arblay has resources for retirement the most delightful, both for himself and his friends. He is dreadfully worn and fatigued by the last year; and he began his active services at thirteen years of age. He is now past sixty. Every propriety, therefore, will abet my wishes, when the king no longer requires around him his tried and faithful adherents. And, indeed, I am by no means myself insensible to what is so highly gratifying to his feelings as this mark of distinction bien plus honorable, cependant,(247) as he adds, than lucrative. . . . . .
(Madame d'Arblay to Mrs. Locke.) August 9, 1814. The friends of M. d'A. in Paris are now preparing to claim for him his rank in the army, as he held it under Louis XVI., of marchal de Camp; and as the Duc de Luxembourg will present, in person, the demand au roi, there is much reason to expect it will be granted.
M. de Thuisy, who brought your letter from Adrienne, has given a flourishing account of M. d'A. in his new uniform, though the uniform itself, he says, is very ugly. But so sought is the company of the garde du corps du roi that the very privates, M. de T. says, are gentlemen. M. d'A. himself has only the place of sous-lieutenant; but it is of consequence sufficient, in that company, to be signed by the king, who had rejected two officers that had been named to him just before he gave his signature for M. d'A.
August 24, 1814. M. d'Arblay has obtained his rank, and the kind king has dated it from the aera when the original brevet was signed by poor Louis XVI. in 1792.
[Here follows, in the original edition, a long letter in French from M. d'Arblay to his wife, dated " Paris, August 3 0, 1814. " He records the enthusiasm manifested by the people of Paris on the arrival of the king and the Duchess of Angoulme, and the flattering reception given by the king to the Duke of Wellington. "After having testified his satisfaction at the sentiments which the duke had just expressed to him on the part of the prince regent, and told him that he infinitely desired to see the peace which had been so happily concluded, established on solid foundations, his majesty added, 'For that I shall have need of the powerful co-operation of his royal highness. The choice which he has made of you, sir, gives me hope of it. He honours me. . . . I am proud to see that the first ambassador sent to me by England is the justly celebrated Duke of Wellington."' M. d'Arblay counts with certainty upon his wife's joining him in November, and ventures upon the unlucky assertion that " the least doubt of the stability of the paternal government, which has been so miraculously restored to us, is no longer admissible."-ED.]
(214) Lyons rebelled against the Republic in the summer of 1793: against Jacobinism, in the first instance, and guillotined its jacobin leader, Chalier; later it declared for the king. After a long siege and a heroic defence, Lyons surrendered to the Republicans, October 9, 1793, and Fouch was one of the commissioners sent down by the Convention to execute vengeance on the unfortunate town. A terrible vengeance was taken. "The Republic must march to liberty over corpses," said Fouch; and thousands of the inhabitants were shot or guillotined. -ED.
(215) The reputed assassin of the Duc d'Enghien. ["Assassin" is surely an unnecessarily strong term. The seizure of the Duke d'Enghien on neutral soil was illegal and indefensible: but he was certainly guilty of conspiring against the government of his country. He was arrested, by Napoleon's orders, in the electorate of Baden, in March, 1804; carried across the frontier, conveyed to Vincennes, tried by court-martial, condemned, and shot forthwith.-ED.]
(216) The disastrous campaign in Russia. Napoleon left Paris on the 9th Of May, 1812.-ED.
(217) "So that we divine her meaning."
(218) "Who are you?
"My name is d'Arblay."
"Are you married?"
"Where is your husband?"
"Who is he?"
"He works in the Home Office."
"Why are you leaving him?"
(219) "You are English?"
(220) "Follow me!"
(221) "You do not think proper to follow me, then?"
(222) "I have nothing to do here, sir, I believe."
(223) "We shall see!" "
(224) "Young Man!"
(225) Her sister Charlotte, formerly Mrs. Francis.-ED.
(226) The 20th of August.-ED.
(227) Mrs Crewe's husband, John Crewe of Crewe Hall, cheshire, had been created a peer by the title of Baron Crewe of Crewe, in 1806.-ED.
(228) An attempt to enter her apartment by a crazy woman.
(229) " Hunted out of France." The work in question was Madame de Stael's book on Germany (De l'Allemagne), which had been printed at Paris, and of which the entire edition had been seized by the police before its publication, on the plea that it contained passages offensive to the government. The authoress, moreover, was ordered to quit France, and joined her father at Coppet in Switzerland-ED.
(230) No doubt, for his uncle's school. Dr Charles Burney had left Hammersmith and established his school at Greenwich in 1793.-ED.
(231) William Wilberforce, the celebrated philanthropist, was born at Htill in 1759. He devoted his life to the cause of the negro slaves; and to his exertions in Parliament were chiefly due the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, and the total abolition of slavery in the English colonies in 1833. He died in the latter year, thanking God that he "had seen the day in which England was willing to give twenty millions sterling for the abolition of slavery."-ED.
(232) Narbonne was appointed by Napoleon, during the campaign of 1813, governor of the fortress of Torgau, on the Elbe. He defended the place with great resolution, even after the emperor had been obliged to retreat beyond the Rhine, but unhappily took the fever, and died there, November 17, 1813.-ED.
(233) This proved to be a false report. General Victor de Latour Maubourg suffered the amputation of a leg at Leipzic, where he fought bravely in the service of the Emperor Napoleon. But he did not die of his wound, and we find him, in 1815, engaged in raising volunteers for the service of Louis XVIII.-ED.
(234) Here is evidently a mistake as to the month: the date, no doubt, should be April 19. Dr. Burney died on the 12th of April, 1814.-ED.
(235) Dr. Charles Burney.-ED.
(236) Marie Thrse Charlotte, Duchess of Angoulme, was the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. She was born in 1778, and, after the execution of her father and mother she was detained in captivity in Paris until December, 1795, when she was delivered up to the Austrians in exchange for certain French prisoners of war. in 1799 she married her cousin, the Duke of Angoulme, son of Louis XVI's brother, the Count d'Artois, (afterwards Charles X. of France). On the return of Napoleon from Elba, the Duchess of Angoulme so distinguished herself by her exertions and the spirit which she displayed in the king's cause, that Napoleon said of her " she was the only man in her family."-ED.
(237) Henry Grattan, the Irish statesman, orator, and patriot. Already one of the most distinguished members of the Irish Parliament, he vigorously opposed the legislative union of Great Britain and Ireland in 1800. He sat in the Imperial Parliament as member for Dublin from 1806 until his death in 1820, in his seventy-fourth year. As an orator, Mr. Lecky writes of him, "He was almost unrivalled in crushing invective, in delineations of character, and in brief, keen arguments; carrying on a train of sustained reason he was not so happy."-ED.
(238) Louis XVIII., formerly known as the Count of Provence, was the brother of the unfortunate Louis XVI. "Louis XVII" was the title given by the royalists to the young son of Louis XVI., who died, a prisoner, in June, 1795, some two years after the execution of his father.-ED.
(239) "There is Madame d'Arblay; she must be presented."
(240) What a moment for her noble country, and what a subject for pride and exultation! Were we not very sure of Fanny's sincerity, it were scarcely possible to read with patience such passages as this and others similarly extravagant. Her common sense seems to take flight in the presence of royalty.-ED.
(242) "And M. d'Arblay, Sire, good and brave, is one of your majesty's most devoted and faithful servants."
(243) "I believe it."
(244) This letter, addressed to Mrs. Angerstein, was to the effect that the Duchess of Angoulme would be very pleased to receive Madame d'Arblay, at 72 South Audley-street, between three and half-past three ; and that the king (Louis XVIII.) also desired to see her, and would receive between four and five.-ED.
(245) M. d'Arblay returned to France in the following June. -ED.
(246) Yesterday I left my retreat, very willingly, to-"
(247) "Far more honorable, nevertheless—-"
Page 292 SECTION 24. (1815)
MADAME D'ARBLAY AGAIN IN FRANCE: BONAPARTE'S ESCAPE FROM ELBA.
(The two following sections contain Fanny's account of her adventures during the " Hundred Days " which elapsed between the return of Napoleon from Elba and his final downfall and abdication. This narrative may be recommended to the reader as an interesting supplement to the history of that period. The great events of the time, the triumphal progress of the emperor, the battles which decided his destiny and the fate of Europe, we hear of only at a distance, by rumour or chance intelligence ; but our author brings vividly before us, and with the authenticity of personal observation, the disturbed state of the country, the suspense, the alarms, the distress occasioned by the war. To refresh our readers' memories, we give an epitome, as brief as possible, of the events to which Madame d'Arblay's narrative forms, as it were, a background.
When Napoleon abdicated the imperial throne, in April, 1814, the allied powers consented by treaty to confer upon him the sovereignty of the island of Elba, with a revenue of two million francs. To Elba he was accordingly banished, but the revenue was never paid. This disgraceful infringement of the treaty of Fontainebleau, joined to the accounts which he received of the state of public feeling in France, determined him to make the attempt to regain his lost empire. March 1, 1815, he landed at Cannes, with a few hundred men. He was everywhere received with the utmost enthusiasm. The troops sent to oppose him joined his standard with shouts of "Vive l'empereur!" March 20, he entered Paris in triumph, Louis XVIII having taken his departure the preceding evening, "amidst the tears and lamentations of several courtiers."(248)
The congress of the allied powers at Vienna proclaimed the emperor an outlaw, not choosing to remember that the treaty which they accused him of breaking, had been first violated by themselves. To his offers of negotiation they replied not. The Page 293
English army under the Duke of Wellington, the Prussian under Prince Blcher occupied Belgium; the Austrians and Russians were advancing in immense force towards the Rhine. Anxious to strike a blow before the arrival of the latter Napoleon left Paris for Belgium, June 12. His army amounted to about one hundred and twenty thousand men. On the 15th the fighting commenced, h and the advanced guard of the Prussians was driven back. On the 16th, Blcher was attacked at Ligny, and defeated with terrible loss; but Marshal Ney was unsuccessful in an attack upon the combined English and Belgian army at Quatre Bras. Sunday, June 18, was the day of the decisive battle of Waterloo. After the destruction of his army, Napoleon hastened to Paris, but all hope was at an end. He abdicated the throne for the second time, proceeded to Rochefort, and voluntarily surrendered himself to Captain Maitland, of the English seventy-four, Bellerophon. He was conveyed to England, but was not permitted to land, and passed the few remaining years of his life a prisoner in the island of St. Helena.-ED.]
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE DUCHESS OF ANGOULEME.
I come now to my audience with Madame, Duchesse d'Angoulme.(249) As I had missed, through a vexatious mistake, the honour she had herself intended me, of presentation in England, my own condescending royal mistress, Queen Charlotte, recommended my claiming its performance on my return to Paris. M. d'Arblay then consulted with the Vicomte d'Agoult, his intimate early friend, how to repair in France my English deprivation. M. d'Agoult was cuyer to her royal highness, and high in her confidence and favour. He advised me simply to faire ma cour as the wife of a superior officer in the garde du corps du roi, at a public drawing-room; but the great exertion and publicity, joined to the expense Of such a presentation, made me averse, in all ways, to this proposal; and when M. d'Arblay protested I had not anything in view but to pay my respectful devoirs to her royal highness, M. d'Agoult undertook to make known my wish. It soon proved that this alone was necessary for its success, for madame la duchesse Page 294
instantly recollected what had passed in England, and said she would name, with pleasure, the first moment in her power - expressing an impatience on her own part that an interview should not be delayed which had been desired by her majesty Queen Charlotte of England. . . .
I have omitted to mention that on the Sunday preceding, the Duchess d'Angoulme, at Court, had deigned to tell my best friend that she was reading, and with great pleasure, Madame d'Arblay's last work. He expressed his gratification, and added that he hoped it was in English, as her altesse royale so well knew that language. No, she answered, it was the translation she read; the original she had not been able to procure. On this M. d'Arblay advised me to send a copy. I had none bound, but the set which had come back to me from my dear father. This, however, M. d'A. carried to the Vicomte d'Agoult, with a note from me in which, through the medium of M. d'Agoult, I supplicated leave from her royal highness to lay at her feet this only English set I possessed. In the most gracious manner possible, as the Vicomte told M. d'Arblay, her royal highness accepted the work, and deigned also to keep the billet. She had already, unfortunately, finished the translation, but she declared her intention to read the original.
Previously to my presentation, M. d'Arblay took me to the salon of the exhibition of pictures, to view a portrait of Madame d'Angoulme, that I might make some acquaintance with her face before the audience. This portrait was deeply interesting, but deeply melancholy.
ARRIVAL AT THE TUILERIES.
All these precautions taken, I went, at the appointed hour and morning, about the end of February, 1815, to the palace of the Tuileries, escorted by the most indulgent of husbands we repaired instantly to the apartment of the Duchesse de Serrent, who received us with the utmost politeness; she gave us our lesson how to proceed, and then delivered us over to some page of her royal highness.
We were next shown into a very large apartment. I communicated to the page a request that he would endeavour to make known to M. de Montmorency that I was arrived, and how much I wished to see him. In a minute or two came forth a tall, sturdy dame, who Page 295
immediately addressed me by my name, and spoke with an air, that demanded my returning her compliment. I could not, however, recollect her till she said she had formerly met me at the Princess d'Henin's. I then recognised the dowager Duchesse de Duras, whom, in fact, I had seen last at the Princesse de Chimay's, in the year 1812, just before my first return to England; and had received from her a commission to acquaint the royal family of France that her son, the duke, had kept aloof from all service under Bonaparte, though he had been named in the gazettes as having accepted the place of chamberlain to the then emperor. Yet such was the subjection, at that time, of all the old nobility to the despotic power of that mighty ruler, that M. de Duras had not dared to contradict the paragraph.
She then said that her altesse royale was expecting me; and made a motion that I should pursue my way into the next room, M. d'Arblay no longer accompanying me. But before I disappeared she assured me that I should meet with a most gracious reception, for her altesse royale had declared she would see me with marked favour, if she saw no other English whatsoever; because Madame d'Arblay, she said, was the only English person who had been peculiarly recommended to her notice by the Queen of England.
In the next, which was another very large apartment, I was received by a lady much younger and more agreeable than Madame de Duras, gaily and becomingly dressed, and wearing a smiling air with a sensible face. I afterwards heard it was Madame de Choisy, who, a few years later, married the Vicomte d'Agoult.
Madame de Choisy instantly began some compliments, but finding she only disconcerted me, she soon said she must not keep me back, and curtsied me on to another room, into which she shut me.
I here imagined I was to find M. de Montmorency, but I saw only a lady, who stood at the upper end of the apartment, and slightly curtsied, but without moving or speaking. Concluding this to be another dame de la cour, from my internal persuasion that ultimately I was to be presented by M. de Montmorency, I approached her composedly, with a mere common inclination of the head, and looked wistfully forward to the further door. She inquired politely after my Page 296
health, expressing good-natured concern to hear it had been deranged, and adding that she was bien aise de me voir.](250) I thanked her, with some expression of obligation to her civility, but almost without looking at her, from perturbation lest some mistake had intervened to prevent my introduction, as I still saw nothing of M. de Montmorency.
She then asked me if I would not sit down, taking a seat at the same time herself. I readily complied; but was too much occupied with the ceremony I was awaiting to discourse, though she immediately began what was meant for a conversation. I hardly heard, or answered, so exclusively was my attention engaged in watching the door through which I was expecting a summons; till, at length, the following words rather surprised me (I must write them in English, for my greater ease, though they were spoken in French)—"I am quite sorry to have read your last charming work in French."
My eyes now changed their direction from the door to her face, to which I hastily turned my head, as she added,—"Puis-je le garder le livre que vous m'avez envoy?"(251)
A DISCOVERY AND A RECTIFICATION.
Startled, as if awakened from a dream, I fixed her and perceived the same figure that I had seen at the salon. I now felt sure I was already in the royal presence of the Duchesse d'Angoulme, with whom I had seated myself almost cheek by jowl, without the smallest suspicion of my situation.
I really seemed thunderstruck. I had approached her with so little formality, I had received all her graciousness with so little apparent sense of her condescension, I had taken my seat, nearly unasked, so completely at my ease, and I had pronounced so unceremoniously the plain "vous," without softening it off with one single "altesse royale," that I had given her reason to think me either the most forward person in my nature, or the worst bred ]In my education, existing.
I was in a consternation and a confusion that robbed me of breath; and my first impulse was to abruptly arise, confess my error, and offer every respectful apology I could devise; but as my silence and strangeness produced silence, a pause ensued that gave me a moment for reflection, which represented Page 297
to me that son altesse royale might be seriously hurt, that nothing in her demeanour had announced her, rank; and such a discovery might lead to increased distance and reserve in her future conduct upon other extra audiences, that could not but be prejudicial to her popularity, which already was injured by an opinion extremely unjust, but very generally spread, of her haughtiness. It was better, therefore, to be quiet, and to let her suppose that embarrassment, and English awkwardness and mauvaise honte, had occasioned my unaccountable manners. I preserved, therefore, my taciturnity, till, tired of her own, she gently repeated, "Puis-je le garder, cette copie que vous m'avez envoy?" civilly adding that she should be happy to read it again when she had a little forgotten it, and had a little more time.
I seized this fortunate moment to express my grateful acknowledgments for her goodness, with the most unaffected sincerity, yet scrupulously accompanied with all the due forms of profound respect.