Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership

 

Title: Some Famous Love-Letters
Author: Marjorie Bowen
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1402301h.html
Language: English
Date first posted:  Jun 2014
Most recent update: Jun 2014

This eBook was produced by Colin Choat.

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html

To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au

GO TO Project Gutenberg Australia HOME PAGE


Some Famous Love-Letters

edited by

Marjorie Bowen

Cover Image

First published by Herbert Jenkins Ltd., London, 1937

This e-book edition: Project Gutenberg Australia, 2014



So Love emergent out of Chaos brought
The World to Light!
And gently moving on the waters wrought
All form to sight!
Love's appetite
Did beauty first excite
And left imprinted on the air
These signatures of good and fair
Which since have flowed, flowed forth upon the sense
To wonder first, and then to excellence
By virtue of divine intelligence.

—Ben Jonson.



CONTENTS

TABLE OF CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION

It would be an idle but pleasant amusement to wonder how many love letters have been written since reading and writing were invented, how many sheets of parchment, bark, papyrus, paper have been covered, and with how many millions of amorous words!

What survives must be a very small proportion of this vast output; probably the strangest and most beautiful love letters were those never seen save by the person to whom they were written and are long since dust; it is likely enough that hundreds of thousands of love letters lie at this moment folded away carefully in private possession—letters that would vie, for interest and charm, with any that have survived time and chance and any that have been published.

We have, however, to make an arbitrary selection; we have only those letters that have survived time and chance and those that have been published because the writers were famous people. It does not follow that they were the best writers of love letters; some man or woman quite forgotten may have written a more perfect letter than any that we possess. We are forced to content ourselves with what has been, often by the strangest chance, preserved.

Love letters by their very nature stand in constant danger of destruction; they may be perilous possessions, and that frequent injunction "burn this" has too often been obeyed, or, treasured for a lifetime, they may be tenderly destroyed lest they should fall into unsympathetic hands; or, if they are not sacrificed to fear or affection, they may be to indifference, and cast into the fire or on to the rubbish-heap by those to whom they are so much lumber. On the other hand, indifference may be the cause of the preservation of love letters; the Comte de Guibert put aside the packet from Julie de Lespinasse and presumably forgot it; after his death his widow found and published this famous correspondence; until then this love story, since so famous, was unknown. We owe the possession of Henry VIII's love letters to the skill of a Vatican spy who stole them; those of Mary II, left with other papers in a chest, were found by accident many years after her death.

The letters of Mary Wollstonecraft have a strange history; after her separation from her lover he returned most of her letters two years afterwards, and William Godwin, her husband, published them. Horace Walpole carefully concealed the strange love letters of Madame du Deffand, but did not destroy them, and they were found among his papers and published.

On the other hand, some love letters have been most jealously cherished; Lady Steele kept all those that her husband wrote to her, and their daughter edited them; professional writers were always likely, not only to give literary flavour even to their intimate correspondence but to see that it was preserved; it would not be fair, however, to think that the love letters of poets and novelists were written with one eye on the public; most of them indeed were written under circumstances that precluded any affectation, thought of the future or literary finish.

On the other hand, since the illiterate cannot write, our love letters must be those of at least partly educated people, and the finest letters are undoubtedly those of the most gifted, most cultured men and women. This is not a case where the pure outpourings of a simple heart can suffice; the text "I love you" may be laboured out by the knife of a rustic on the bark of a tree, written by a simpleton on a chance scrap of paper—these three words are too universally familiar, they can mean everything or nothing, they may express an immortal passion, a pretty convention or a foolish caprice. It is the expounding of the text that interests, that enthrals, the manifold, delicate variations on this common theme that enthrall and enchant, and the more intelligent, complex and refined the person who tries to put his or her emotion on paper, the more fascinating the result.

The vast bulk of available love letters that may justly be termed "famous" would take a lifetime to translate and edit; what is offered here is a selection—into which it is impossible to prevent personal taste from entering—of those that have most personal interest and most dramatic significance. Variety has also been sought for; in point of period this is not easy to find, the letters chosen fall mostly within the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Not only were early love letters seldom preserved, one suspects such letters were seldom written; the ladies were not very ready with the pen, and the men who were minded to pay them homage did so through song and verse, as in the notable examples of Dante to Beatrice, Petrarch to Laura, and Michael Angelo to Vittoria Colonna.

There were many difficulties in the way of a successful cultivation of the art of love-letter writing when marriages were arranged in early life, when women lived secluded, when means of communication were always tiresome and often impossible to find.

The most fortunate of love stories, those where the lovers were early and always together, have no need of expression on paper, and in periods of violence and lawlessness unfortunate love stories were usually ended brutally before there was any opportunity for an amorous correspondence.

There is another obstacle; not only have we the men expressing themselves in impersonal poetry and the women keeping silence, but we have, in the few letters that have come down to us, a strange idiom; the language is unfamiliar, and, in translating it, half the meaning disappears; the urgency of passion or affection, of joy or hate, is lost, the personality behind the writing is obscured and the letter becomes a curiosity or a matter of purely academic interest. For example, Henry VIII was a scholar and a versifier and has been praised as a master of fine English, but what is a modern reader to make of his letter to Anne Bullen, entered for sale at Messrs. Christie's but withdrawn on December 7, 1936?

It is here given verbatim in order that the reader may realise for himself the difficulties attendant on interpreting and understanding these early letters, difficulties much increased if the material is in a foreign language; when the scholars have removed the archaic disguise from missives such as this, what remains seems but a faint echo of the original intention.

"Darlyng I hartely recomende me to you assertaynyng now I am nott a lytyll perplexed with suche thynge as your brother shall on my part Declare Unto you to home I pray you gyffe full credence for it were to longe to wryte In my last letters I wrytte to you that I trustyd shortly to se you whyche is better knowne att London than with any that is abought me were off I not a lytill mervell but take off Dyscrette handelyng must nedes be the cause thereoff/ No more to you at thys tyme but that I trust shortly ours metyngs shall nott Depend uppon other menys lyght handyllings but uppon your owne/ Written with the hand off hys that longyth to be yours Henry."

In the following century the idiom becomes familiar and with but little adjustment can be understood by everyone; in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries letter writing becomes an art, women express themselves as elegantly, as profoundly and as passionately as men, and the difficulty becomes one of choice.

There are some letters that could not be omitted from any collection of this kind; apart from these and the question of obtaining variety, choice has been made of letters written not only by remarkable people, but in remarkable circumstances. Our contributors are not all young, handsome or romantic, some are middle-aged, ill and plain-featured, others are old, diseased and wretched, some write while waiting for a happy marriage, others while expecting death on the public scaffold; Dorothy Osborne writes to her future husband, Philip von Koenigsmarck to another man's wife, Julie de Lespinasse, faded, dying, writes to a faithless lover who has married a young wife, Nelson to the woman for whose sake he has sacrificed all, even glory, Emma Hart to a young gallant and an old husband.

The last refinement of ideal married love is seen in the correspondence of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, the extreme of cynic sophistication in the letters of Madame du Deffand, the crude arts of an adventuress in Emma Hart's coy missives and the agony of an overwhelming physical passion in the letters of Lord Nelson and in those of Mary Wollstonecraft, an intellectual who had lost her bearings.

The correspondence of Dean Swift with Vanessa reveals the tortured workings of one of the most remarkable minds in English literature, the letters to Lady Steele throw a charming light on a happy marriage, those of Madame de Bonneval illustrate the fastidious dawn of French romanticism, and those of George Sand and Alfred de Musset its fiery noonday. The letters of Charles I and Henrietta Maria show the affection and fidelity of a couple at first unhappy, afterwards steadfast in misfortune; those of another sovereign, Mary II, were written under unique circumstances and by a woman whose whole life revolved round her husband's love. The letters of the Comtesse de Bonneval were written to a husband who left her ten days after her marriage and whom she never met again; the letters of Philip von Koenigsmarck and Sophia Dorothea of Zell illustrate one of the most famous of illicit romances. Lord Derwentwater's letter is a heroic farewell to earthly affection, and those of Saint-Évremond and Ninon de Lenclos show love witty and brilliant in old age. The letters of Robert Burns reveal another aspect of love, the coquettish, artful woman, the flattered, reluctant man; those of Lord Byron are loaded with a theatricality that is none the less a sincere expression of the character of the writer.

The letters have been arranged in chronological order; the sources from which they have been obtained, a brief biography of the writer and an account of the circumstances under which they were written have been prefixed to each section, save in those cases where the letters have been often reprinted and are easily accessible. While in some cases there are only one or two letters available, in others a selection has had to be made from hundreds; in almost every instance the letters have been abridged; some are full of repetitions, others contain references to contemporary affairs no longer interesting—for example, those of Madame du Deffand contain complete "gazettes" of Parisian news and gossip, which would require copious elucidation, and those of Mary II accounts of contemporary English politics interesting only to the historian.

Where the correspondence covers a long period the extracts have been arranged in chronological order with a commentary to explain or clarify the story that they illustrate; the translations, save where otherwise stated, have been made afresh; the recognition of the loss incurred in a change from the original language has kept the choice of letters largely to English, though French literature offers tempting examples of every type of love letter. It is believed that some of the letters, notably those of the Comtesse de Bonneval, have not been translated before, or at least are not easily available.

No bibliography is given, as each group of letters is provided with references to its source.

It is notable that we are seldom fortunate enough to have both sides of the question in these letters; either the woman or the man is silent, and judgment has to go by default; only in a few instances is the correspondence complete, with question and reply; this lack not only upsets the emotional balance, but often leaves several points in the lovers' drama in doubt. The reader must resolve these according to his own taste or wit, as he must find his own favourites among these famous epistles, grave and merry, tender and tragic, light and gloomy, delicate and crude, written with warm feeling, fierce passion or delicate coquetry by hands that long ago were dust.

The editor's own preference is for the love-making of an English husband—search the world for love letters, none can be found to equal in charm, tact, grace and sweet courtesy those written by Sir Richard Steele to his wife.

Grateful acknowledgments are given to His Honour Sir Edward Parry for permission to include the letters from Dorothy Osborne to John Murray, for permission to use the letters from Elizabeth Barrett Barrett and Robert Browning, and to Messrs. Hutchinson for permission to reprint the letters of Philip von Koenigsmarck and Sophia Dorothea of Zell.

It is often difficult and sometimes impossible to discover if material is copyright or not and the editor ventures to hope that if anyone's rights have been infringed in this collection the matter may be adjusted—any such infringement is made in ignorance and due apologies are offered if, in any case, letters that are still personal property have been used.

MARJORIE BOWEN.
Richmond, Surrey.
June, 1937.



MARGERY PASTON (15th CENTURY)

Illustration

Blessed be simple life without dread!
Blessed be sober feast in quietness!
Who has enough, of no more has he need,
Though it be little in quantity.

—Robert Henryson (1450-1506)

* * * * * * *

These are two letters from the Paston Letters (various editions). These letters cover a period from 1422 to 1509 and were written by different members of a Norfolk family of courtiers and scholars. The first is to John Paston from his betrothed, Margery; the second is written by the same lady after she had become a wife.


* * *

LETTER I

Margery Brews unto my Right Well Beloved Valentine, John Paston, Esquire

Be this Bill delivered

Right reverend and worshipful and my right well beloved valentine. I recommend me unto you full heartily, desiring to hear of your welfare, which I beseech Almighty God long for to preserve unto His pleasure and your heart's desire. And if it please you to hear of my welfare, I am not in good hele of body nor of heart, nor shall be till I hear from you:

For there wots no creature what pain that I endure
And for to be dead I dare it not discure (discover).

And my lady my mother hath laboured the matter to my father full diligently, but she can no more get than ye know of; for the which God knoweth I am full sorry. But if that ye love me, as I trust verily that ye do, ye will not leave me therefor. For if that ye had not half the livelihood that ye have, for to do the greatest labour that any Woman alive might I would not forsake you:

And if ye command me to keep me true wherever I go
I wins I will do all my might you to love and never no mo
And if my friends say that I do amiss
They shall not let (prevent) so for to do.
Mine heart me bids ever more to love you
Truly over all earthly things
And if they be never so wroth
I trust it shall be better in time coming.

No more to you at this time, but the Holy Trinity have you in keeping. And I beseech you that this bill be not seen of none earthly creature save only yourself.

And this letter was indited at Toperoft, with full heavy heart

By your own
MARGERY BREWS.

* * *

LETTER II

Margery Paston to my Master, John Paston

RIGHT REVEREND AND WORSHIPFUL SIRE. In my most humble wise I recommend me to you, desiring to hear of your welfare, the which I beseech God to preserve to His pleasure, and so your heart's desire. Sir, I thank you for the venison that ye sent me; and your ship is sailed out of the haven as this day.

Sir, I send you by my brother William your stomacher of damask, As for your tippet of velvet, it is not here; Ann saith that ye put it in your casket at London.

Sir, your children be in good health, blessed be God. Sir, I pray you send me the gold that I spake to you of, by the next man that cometh to Norwich.

Sir, your mast that lay at Yarmouth is let to a ship of Hull for 13s. 4d., and if there fall any hurt thereto ye shall have a new mast therefore.

No more to you at this time, but Almighty God have you in His keeping. Written at Caistor, the 21st clay of January in the first year of King Henry VII, (1486).

By your servant,
MARGERY PASTON.

I pray God no ladies no more overcome you, that ye give no longer respite in your matters.


HENRY VIII, KING OF ENGLAND (1491-1547)

Illustration

Our vows so cheap with women, or the matter
Whereof they are made, that they all exist in water
And blown away with the water? Or doth their breath
(Both hot and cold at once) make life and death?

—JOHN DONNE

* * * * * * *

Henry Tudor was the second son of Henry VII; on the death of his elder brother, Arthur, Prince of Wales, Henry was contracted to marry his widowed sister-in-law, Catherine of Aragon; he married her on his accession 1509; she being six years his senior. This unfortunate princess had been married at sixteen years of age to a bridegroom of fifteen and had, on his death, been proposed as a wife for her father-in-law, Henry VII (1503); she was upright, pious, an excellent Latin scholar and had considerable ability. Julius II granted a papal dispensation for her second marriage, she bore and lost four children, was Regent in the King's absence during the campaign in France and bore a daughter, Mary, afterwards Queen of England, in 1516. Henry VIII was neither a kind nor a faithful husband, and was probably really troubled by doubts as to the validity of his marriage. Elizabeth Blount became his mistress and gave him a son, 1519, whom he afterwards created Duke of Richmond. The King probably was first attracted by Anne Boleyn (1507-36) in 1522 when she returned from France, where she had been in attendance on his sister Mary, second Queen of Louis XII. Anne was a daughter of Sir Thomas Bullen—afterwards Boleyn—a county gentleman of good birth; she was dark, vivacious, accomplished, unscrupulous and wanton. Her sister Mary was the King's mistress, and Anne took her place after 1529, it being understood that Henry was to marry her after his divorce had been obtained. These proceedings shook Europe from 1526, when Henry began to agitate for relief from his wife, until 1533, when Archbishop Cranmer finally declared the marriage null. Anne and Henry were secretly married in the spring of that year, the ceremony acknowledged in April, and Anne crowned with unusual pomp on Whit-Sunday. In the following September her only child to survive her was born; this was Elizabeth, afterwards Queen of England. In three years she bore two dead children. Henry tired of her and cast a favourable eye on Jane Seymour (1509?-37), daughter of Sir John Seymour of Wolf Hall, Savernake. Anne, whose conduct had been light and reckless, to say the least, was arrested on charges of adultery with several men, among whom was her own brother, Viscount Rochford, tried, found guilty and beheaded in the Tower 1536. The King married Jane Seymour immediately afterwards and she died the following year after the birth of her son, the future Edward VI. The seventeen love letters written during the divorce proceedings, but undated, were stolen by the Papal envoy and remained in the Vatican collection where they are now. Some are in English, some in French; they have often been translated and published, most recently in Letters of Henry VIII,edited by M. Byrne, London, 1906.

The following versions in modernised spelling and punctuation are from the Harleian Miscellany, as is the letter of Henry VIII to Jane Seymour. The letters offered nothing of use to the Papal Nuncio, Cardinal Campeggio, and have always been considered "wholly to the honour of the King and Anne Boleyn," but modern historians make no doubt that she was Henry's mistress.

It is supposed that the letters were sent to Anne when she had withdrawn from Court in order to silence gossip and was living in retreat on her father's estate; her brother, Lord Rochford, afterwards beheaded for intriguing with her, was the intermediary between her and the King; Anne left the Court—she was installed with almost royal honours at Greenwich Palace—in May 1528, and this may be taken as the date of the first letter; the sixth is believed to have been written in the September of that year, because of the mention of the Legate's visit to Paris. The King probably visited Anne soon after he wrote this letter; the last letter is tentatively placed in May 1529, after which date Anne returned to Court and accompanied the King everywhere during the four years that elapsed before her marriage. It is always possible that the letters are not in correct sequence but they have always been preserved in this order, in which they are now given.

These practical, almost business-like letters give little indication of character. They are expressed in the common lover's idiom of their time and show no originality of thought or expression; they do reveal, however, in their anxious pleadings, the deep engagement of the writer's passion. The letter to Jane Seymour is much quieter in tone and even more conventional in expression. The numbers in brackets are those of the letters in the Harleian Miscellany.


* * *

LETTER I [1]

MY MISTRESS AND FRIEND, I and my heart put ourselves in your hands, begging you to recommend us to your favour, and not to let absence lessen your affection to us. For it were a great pity to increase our pain, which absence alone does sufficiently, and more than I could ever have thought; bringing to my mind a point of astronomy, which is, That the farther the Moors are from us, the farther too is the sun, and yet his heat is the more scorching; so it is with our love, we are at a distance from one another, and yet it keeps its fervency, at least on my side. I hope the like on your part, assuring you that the uneasiness of absence is already too severe for me; and when I think of the continuance of that which I must of necessity suffer, it would seem intolerable to me, were it not for the firm hope I have of your unchangeable affection for me; and now, to put you sometimes in mind of it, and seeing I cannot be present in person with you, I send you the nearest thing to that possible, that is, my picture set in bracelets, with the whole device, which you know already, wishing myself in their place, when it shall please you. This from the hand of

Your servant and friend,
H. REX.

* * *

LETTER II [2]

TO MY MISTRESS,

Because the time seems to me very long, since I have heard from you, or concerning your health; the great affection I have for you has obliged me to send this bearer to be better informed, both of your health and pleasure, particularly because, since my last parting with you, I have been told, that you have entirely changed the opinion in which I left you, and that you would neither come to court with your mother, nor any other way; which report, if true, I cannot enough wonder at, being persuaded in my own mind, that I have never committed any offence against you; and it seems a very small return for the great love I bear you, to be kept at a distance from the person and presence of a woman in the world that I value the most; and, if you love me with as much affection as I hope you do, I am sure, the distance of our two persons would be a little uneasy to you. Though this does not belong so much to the mistress as the servant. Consider well, my mistress, how greatly your absence grieves me; I hope it is not your will that it should be so; but, if I heard for certain, that you yourself desired it, I could do no other than complain of my ill fortune, and by degrees abate my great folly; and so, for want of time, I make an end of my rude letter, desiring you to give credit to this bearer in all he will tell you from me. Written by the hand of your in tire servant.

* * *

LETTER III [4]

By turning over in my thoughts the contents of your last letters, I have put myself into a great agony, not knowing how to understand them, whether to my disadvantage as I understand them, whether to my disadvantage as I understood some others, or not; I beseech you now, with the greatest earnestness, to let me know your whole intention, as to the love between us two. For I must of necessity obtain this answer of you, having been above a whole year struck with the dart of love, and not yet sure whether I shall fail, or find a place in your heart and affection. This uncertainty has hindered me of late from naming you my mistress, since you only love me with an ordinary affection; but if you please to do the duty of a true and loyal mistress, and to give up yourself, body and heart, to me, who will be, as I have been your most loyal servant (if your rigour does not forbid me) I promise you that not only the name shall be given you, but also that I will take you for my mistress, casting off all others that are in competition with you, out of my thoughts and affection, and serving you only. I beg you to give an in tire answer to this my rude letter, that I may know on what and how far I may depend. But if it does not please you to answer me in writing, let me know some place where I may have it by word of mouth, and I will go thither with all my heart. No more for fear of tiring you. Written by the hand of him, who would willingly remain yours.

H. REX.

* * *

LETTER IV [7]

DARLING, though I have scant leisure, yet, remembering my promise, I thought it convenient to certify you breevly, in what case our affairs stand. As touching a lodging for you, we have gotten wone, by my lord cardinals's means, the like whereof could not have been found hereabouts for all causes, as this bearer shall more shew you. As touching our other affairs, I ensure you there can be no more done, or more diligence used, nor all manner of dangers better both foreseen and provided for, so that I trust it shall be hereafter to both our comforts, the specialities whereof were both too long to be written, and hardly by messenger to be declared. Wherefore till you repair hydder, I keep something in store, trusting it shall not be long to. For I have caused my lord, your father, to make his provisions with speed. And thus, for lake of tyme, darling, I make an end of my letter, writing with the hand of him, which I would were yours.

H. R.

* * *

LETTER V [8]

Though it does not belong to a gentleman to take his lady in the place of a servant, however, in following your desires, I willingly grant it, that so you may be more agreeably in the place that you yourself have chosen, than you have been in that which I gave you. I shall be heartily obliged to you, if you please to have some remembrance of me.

HENRY REX.

* * *

LETTER VI [11]

The approach of the time, which I have so long expected, rejoices me so much, that it seems almost ready come. However, the entire accomplishment cannot be till the two persons meet, which meeting is more desired by me than any thing in this world; for what joy can be greater upon earth, than to have the company of her who is my dearest friend? Knowing likewise that she does the same on her part, the thinking on which gives great pleasure. You may judge what an effect the presence of that person must have on me, whose absence has made a greater wound in my heart than either words or writing can express, and which nothing can cure, but her return; I beg you, dear mistress, to tell your father from me, that I desire him to hasten the appointment by two days, that he may be in court before the old term, or at farthest on the day prefixed; for otherwise I shall think, he will not do the lover's turn, as he said he would, nor answer my expectation. No more at present, for want of time; hoping shortly that by word of mouth I shall tell you the rest of my sufferings from your absence. Written by the hand of the secretary, who wishes himself at present privately with you, and who is, and always will be,

Your royal and most assured servant,
H. no other (AB) seeks Rex.

* * *

LETTER VII [17]

To informe you what joye it is to me to understand of your conformableness with reasone, and of the suppressing of your inulite and vain thoughts and fantacies with the bridle of reasone, I assure you all the good of this world could not counterpoise for my satisfaction the knowledge and certainty thereof; wherefore, good sweetheart, continue the same not only in this, but in all your doings hereafter, for thereby shall come both to you and me the greatest quietnesse that may be in this world. The cause why this bearer stayeth so long, is the business that I have had to dresse up geer for you, which 1 trust ere long to see you occupye, and then I trust to occupye yours, which shall be recompence enough to me for all my pains and labours. The unfayned sickness of this well-willing legate doth somewhat retard his accesse to your person, but I trust veryly, when God shall send him health, he will with diligence recompense his demure, for I know well where he hath said (lamenting the saying, and brute (Noyse) that he shall be thought imperial) that it shall be well known in this matter, that he is not imperial. And this for lake of tyme, farewell. Written with the hand which faine would be yours, and so is the heart.

H.R.

* * *

Henry VIII to Jane Seymour

(Written while Anne Boleyn was still his wife)

MY DEAR FRIEND AND MISTRESS,

The bearer of these few lines from thy entirely devoted servant will deliver into thy fair hands a token of my true affection for thee, hoping you will keep it for ever in your sincere love for me. Advertising you that there is a ballad made lately of great derision against us, which if it go much abroad and is seen by you, I pray you to pay no manner of regard to it. I am not at present informed who is the setter forth of this malignant writing but if he is found he shall be straitly punished for it. For the things ye lacked I have minded my lord to supply them to you as soon as he can buy them. This hoping shortly to receive you in these arms, I end for the present.

Your own loving servant and sovereign,
H. R.


ANNE BOLEYN, QUEEN OF ENGLAND (1507-1536)

Illustration

Many descrie, but few or none deserve
To cut the corn, not subject to the sickle,
Therefore take heed, let fancy never swerve
But constant stand, for mowers minds are fickle,
For this be sure, the crop being once obtain'd
Farewell the rest, the soil will be distained.

—SIR WALTER RALEIGH

* * * * * * *

The life of this unhappy Queen has been given under that of her husband. Her married life was embittered by jealousy; the King rudely bade her—"Shut her eyes as her betters had done" and soon sought for an excuse to be rid of her; her reckless coquetting afforded him an easy opportunity, he had taken a violent fancy for Jane Seymour and he was alarmed by his Queen's two still-born boys. The downfall of Anne was accomplished with brutal and cynical rapidity. On May Day, 1536, she played at a Tournament and gaily cast her handkerchief to one of her lords; at this the King left the spectacle suddenly. The following day Anne, her brother and several men alleged to be her lovers were arrested. Anne was brought to trial before the Peers; her marriage was declared invalid on May 17; on May 19 she was beheaded in the Tower precincts by a French swordsman especially fetched for the purpose. The body was placed in an old chest used formerly for holding arrows, and buried in the Chapel of St. Peter's-inChains in the Tower.

It is remarkable that her daughter, Queen Elizabeth, paid no honour to her memory and did not re-inter her dishonoured bones among the sovereigns at Westminster.

This remarkable letter is the best thing we know about "Nan, Tom Bullen's girl"; considering the horrible circumstances under which it was written it shows ability, dignity, courage and great accomplishment. Whether it had also that 'ring of truth' which is so difficult to discern each reader must decide for himself. At least the care of the doomed woman for her child and her fellow-prisoners does her honour; the question of her technical 'guilt' is still in debate, there can be no question that this gay, reckless, fascinating creature, not thirty years old, was judicially murdered, through the exercise of a brutal tyranny.

The letter is taken from the Harleian Miscellany.


* * *

Anne Boleyn's Last Letter to King Henry

SIR,

Your grace's displeasure, and my imprisonment, are things so strange unto me, as what to write, or what to excuse, I am altogether ignorant. Whereas you send unto me (willing me to confess a truth, and so obtain your favour) by such an one whom you know to be mine antient professed enemy; I no sooner received this message by him, than I rightly conceived your meaning, and if, as you say, Confessing a truth indeed may procure my safety, I shall with all willingness and duty perform your command.

But let not your grace ever imagine that your poor wife will ever be brought to acknowledge a fault, where not so much a thought thereof preceded. And to speak a truth, never prince had wife more loyal in all duty, and in all true affection, than you have ever found in Anne Boleyn, with which name and place I could willingly have contented myself, if God and your grace's pleasure had been so pleased. Neither did I at any time so far forget myself in my exaltation, or received queenship, but that I always looked for such an alteration as now I find; for the ground of my preferment being on no surer foundation than your grace's fancy, the least alteration, I knew, was fit and sufficient to draw that fancy to some other subject. You have chosen me from a low estate to be your queen and companion, far beyond my desert or desire. If then, you found me worthy of such honour, good your grace let not any light fancy, or bad counsel of mine enemies, withdraw your princely favour from me; neither let that stain, that unworthy stain of a disloyal heart, towards your good grace, ever cast so foul a blot on your most dutiful wife, and the infant princess, your daughter; try me, good king, but let me have a lawful trial, and let not my sworn enemies sit as my accusers and judges; yea, let me receive an open trial, for my truth shall fear no open shame; then shall you see, either mine innocency cleared, your suspicion and conscience satisfied, the ignominy and slander of the world stopped, or my guilt openly declared. So that, whatsoever God or you may determine of me, your grace may be freed from an open censure; and mine offence being so lawfully proved, your grace is at liberty, both before God and man, not only to execute worthy punishment on me as an unlawful wife, but to follow your affection already settled on that party, for whose sake I am now as I am, whose name I could some good while since have pointed unto; your grace being not ignorant of my suspicion therein.

But, if you have already determined of me, and that only my death, but an infamous slander must bring you the enjoying of your desired happiness; then I desire of God, that he will pardon your great sin therein, and likewise mine enemies, the instruments thereof; and that he will not call you to a strict account for your unprincely and cruel usage of me, at his general judgment-seat, where both you and myself must shortly appear, and in whose judgment, I doubt not (whatsoever the world may think of me), mine innocence shall be openly known, and sufficiently cleared.

My last and only request shall be, that myself may only bear the burden of your grace's displeasure, and that it may not touch the innocent souls of those poor gentlemen, who, as I understand, are likewise in strait imprisonment for my sake. If ever I have found favour in your sight; if ever the name of Anne Boleyn hath been pleasing in your ears, then let me obtain this request, and I will so leave to trouble your grace any further, with mine earnest prayers to the Trinity to have your grace in his good keeping, and to direct you in all your actions. From my doleful prison in the Tower, this sixth of May.

Your most loyal and ever faithful wife,
ANNE BOLEYN


ROBERT DEVEREUX, 2ND EARL OF ESSEX (1566-1601)

Illustration

O Fare you well, young man, she says
Farewell and I bid adieu;
Since ye've given a weed to me
Among the Summer flowers,
I will give a bane to you
Amid the Winter showers,
The new white snow to be your smock
Becomes your body best,
Your head shall be wrapt with the Eastern wind
And the cold rain on your breast.

—OLD BALLAD

* * * * * * *

The second Earl of Essex was the oldest son of the first 1 Earl and became a favourite of Queen Elizabeth in 1589, when he was made Master of the Horse. Two years later he married Frances, widow of Sir Philip Sidney, but retained the warm, if capricious friendship of the Queen. Lord Essex was handsome, brilliant, a poet, a soldier, a courtier, but ambitious, restless and far from level-headed. He brought his reckless playing with the Queen's caprice to a climax, when he engaged in a plot to raise the citizens of London and force Elizabeth to dismiss her councillors. It was impossible for the Queen to pardon this and Essex was beheaded within the Tower of London—February, 1601. The story that he sent a ring to the Queen as a plea for pardon and that this was withheld by Lady Nottingham is fiction, but there is no doubt that Elizabeth, then old, sick and embittered, was deeply affected by the death of Essex, whom she survived two years. Essex was a minor poet and patron of literature and the following letter is an admirable example of courtly compliment couched in the tones of gallantry.


* * *

To Queen Elizabeth

(1594?).

MADAM, The delights of this place cannot make me unmindful of one in whose sweet company I have joyed as much as the happiest man doth in his highest contentment; and if my horse could run as fast as my thoughts do fly, I would as often make mine eyes rich in beholding the treasure of my love, as my desires do triumph when I seem to myself in a strong imagination to conquer your resisting will. Noble and dear lady, tho' I be absent, let me in your favour be second unto none; and when I am at home, if I have no right to dwell chief in so excellent a place, yet I will usurp upon all the world. And so making myself as humble to do you service, as in my love I am ambitious I wish your Majesty all your happy desires. Croydon, this Tuesday, going to be mad and make my horse tame. Of all the men the most devoted to your service.

R. ESSEX.


CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE (1558?-1586)

Illustration

Vanquish'd and weary was my soul in me
And my heart gasp'd after its much lament,
When sleep at length the painful languor sent.
And, as I slept (and wept incessantly),—
Through the keen fixedness of memory
Which I had cherish'd ere my tears were spent,
I pass'd to a new trance of wonderment;
Wherein a visible spirit I could see,
Which caught me up, and bore me to a place
Where my most gentle lady was alone;
And still before us, a fire seemed to move,
Out of which methought there came a moan,
Uttering, "Grace, a little season, grace!
I am of one that bath the wings of love."

—GINO DA PISTOIA

(Translated D. G. ROSSETTI)

* * * * * * *

A Roman Catholic gentleman who joined the Babington Conspirators in their desperate attempt to free Mary Queen of Scots and set her on the English Throne; these men were mostly high-minded fanatics, and though Tichborne and five others undertook to assassinate Elizabeth, they were influenced by the Papal Ban on a woman considered by the Catholics as a heretic usurper and believed that they were acting under Heavenly guidance. It would be difficult to believe evil of the writer of the following letter penned in prison shortly before facing a barbarously cruel death.

* * *

Chidiock Tichborne to his Wife

(1586)

To the most loving wife alive, I commend me unto her, and desire God to bless her with all happiness, pray for her dead husband, and be of good comfort, for I hope in Jesus Christ this morning to see the face of my Maker and Redeemer in the most joyful throne of His glorious kingdom. Commend me to all my friends, and desire them to pray for me, and in all charity to pardon me, if I have offended them. Commend me to my siX sisters, poor desolate souls, advise them to serve God, for without Him no goodness is to be expected. Were it possible, my little sister Bab, the darling of my race, might be bred by her, God would reward her; but I do her wrong I confess, that hath by my desolate negligence too little for herself, to add a further charge unto her. Dear wife forgive me, that have by these means so much impoverished her fortunes; patience and pardon, good wife I crave—make of these our necessities a virtue, and lay no further burthen on my neck than hath already been. There be certain debts that I owe, and because I know not the order of the law, piteous it hath taken from me all, forfeited by my course of offence to Her Majesty, I cannot advise thee to benefit me herein, but if there fall out wherewithal, let them be discharged for God's sake. I will not that you trouble yourself with the performance of these matters, my own heart, but make it known to my uncles, and desire them, for the honour of God and ease of their soul, to take care of them as they may, and especially care of my sisters' bringing up the burthen is now laid on them. Now, Sweet-cheek, what is left to bestow on thee? A small jointure, a small recompense for thy deserving, these legacies following to be thine own. God of His infinite goodness give thee grace always to remain His true and faithful servant, that through the merits of His bitter and blessed passion thou mayst become in good time of His kingdom with the blessed women in heaven. May the Holy Ghost comfort thee with all necessaries for the wealth of thy soul in the world to come, where until it shall please Almighty God I meet thee, farewell loving wife, farewell the dearest to me on all the earth, farewell!

By the hand from the heart of thy most faithful loving husband,

CHIDIOCK TICHEBURN.


LADY ARABELLA STEWART (1575-1615)

Illustration

O subtle love l thy peace is war
It wounds and kills without a scar
It works unknown to any sense
Like the decrees of Providence
And with strange silence shoots me through
The fire of love doth fall like snow.

—HENRY VAUGHAN

* * * * * * *

This lady was the daughter of Charles Stewart, Earl of Lennox, younger brother of Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, husband of Mary Queen of Scots; her misfortune was that she was next heir to the English throne after James I. That monarch regarded her with a suspicion that was greatly increased by her secret marriage 1610 to William Seymour, who was also of royal descent. Arabella was confined in the Tower, under the pretext that she had married without royal consent. This extreme cruelty broke her heart and she died in prison after five years of captivity.


* * *

Lady Arabella Stewart to William Seymour

SIR, I am exceeding sorry to hear you have not been well. I pray you let me know truly how you do, and what was the cause of it. I am not satisfied with the reason Smith gives for it, but if it be a cold, I will impute it to some sympathy betwixt us, having myself gotten a swollen cheek at the same time with a cold. For God's sake, let not your grief of mind work upon your body. You may see by me what inconveniences it will bring one to; and no fortune, I assure you, daunts me so much as that weakness of body I find in myself! for, si nous vivons l'âge d'un veau, as Marot says, we may by God's grace, be happier than we look for, in being suffered to enjoy ourself with His Majesty's favour. But if we be not able to live to it, I, for my part, shall think myself a pattern of misfortune in enjoying so great blessing as you, so little awhile. No separation but that deprives me of the comfort of you. For wheresoever you be, or in what state soever you are, it sufficeth me you are mine! Rachel wept and would not be comforted, because her children were no more. And that, indeed, is the remediless sorrow, and none else! And therefore God bless us from that, and I will hope well of the rest, though I see no apparent hope. But I am sure God's book mentioneth many of his children in as great distress that have done well after, even in this world! I do assure you nothing the state can do with me can trouble me so much as this news of your being ill doth; and you see when I am troubled, I trouble you too with tedious kindness; for so I think you will account so long a letter, yourself not having written to me this good while so much as how you do. But, sweet sir, I speak not this to trouble you with writing but when you please. Be well, and I shall account myself happy in being

Your faithful loving wife,
ARB. S.


SIR WALTER RALEIGH (1552-1618)

Illustration

Now hath my life across a stormy sea,
Like a frail bark reached that wide port where all
Are hidden, ere the final reckoning fall
Of good or evil for eternity.
Now know I well how that fond fantasy
Which made my soul the worshipper and thrall
Of earthly art, is vain; how criminal
Is that which all men seek unwillingly.
Those amorous thoughts which were so lightly dressed
What are they when the double death is nigh?
The one I know for sure, the other dread
Painting nor sculpture now can lull to rest
My soul that turns to His great loss on high
Whose arms to clasp us on the Cross were spread.

—MICHAEL ANGELO BUONARROTI

(Translated J. A. SYMONDS)

* * * * * * *

The most beautiful letter was written on the eve of his execution by one of the most brilliant and famous of Elizabethans and Englishmen. Walter Raleigh was the son of a Devonshire gentleman and was educated at Oriel College, Oxford. His first 'voyage of discovery' was undertaken with his half brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, in 1578. His glorious career, packed with adventure, excitement and enterprises of every kind, was successful until the accession of James I, who imprisoned him in the Tower under a charge of high treason, 1603. He lived with some ease in the Bloody Tower and was allowed the company of his wife and daughter for thirteen years until his friends, among whom was the young Henry, Prince of Wales, persuaded the King to allow him to go to the Orinoco in search of gold for the royal treasury. Raleigh, his wife and a company of gentlemen adventurers found the money for this desperate venture, which was a complete failure. On Raleigh's return the Spanish Ambassador in London complained of the burning of the Spanish settlement of San Tomas by one of Raleigh's Commanders, Laurence Kemys, and James I, irritated by the disaster of the voyage, ordered the re-arrest of Raleigh on the old charge. He was beheaded in Westminster Palace Yard October 29, 1618, and buried in St. Margaret's Church, Westminster. His wife was Elizabeth Throgmorton, whom he married in 1593 to the great vexation of Queen Elizabeth. Of his large output of poetry only about thirty short pieces survive; he wrote accounts of his travels, many essays and a "History of the World" (to 130 B.C.), during his imprisonment.


* * *

Sir Walter Raleigh to his Wife

You shall now receive, my dear wife, my last words, in these my last lines, my love I send you, that you may keep it when I am dead, and my counsel that you may remember it when I am no more. I would not by my will present you with sorrows, dear Bess. Let them go into the grave with me, and be buried in the dust. And seeing it is not the will of God that I shall see you any more in this life, bear it patiently, and with a heart like thyself.

First, I send you all the thanks which my heart can conceive or my words can express for your many travails and care taken for me, which, though they have not taken effect, as you wished, yet my debt to you is not the less; but pay it I never shall in this world.

Secondly, I beseech you, for the love you bare me living, do not hide yourself many days after my death, but by your travails seek to help your miserable fortunes, and the right of your poor child. Thy mournings cannot avail me, I am but dust.

Thirdly, you shall understand that my land was conveyed bonâ-fide to my child. The writings were drawn at Midsummer twelve months, my honest Cousin Brett can testify so much, and Dalberrie, too, can remember somewhat therein. And I trust my blood will quench their malice that have thus cruelly murthered me; and that they will not seek also to kill thee and thine with extreme poverty.

To what friend to direct thee, I know not, for all mine have left me in the true time of trial; and I plainly perceive that my death was determined from the first day.

Most sorry I am, God knows, that being thus surprised with death, I can leave you in no better state. God is my witness, I meant you all my office of wines, or all that I could have purchased by selling it, half my stuff, and all my jewels; but some on't for the boy. But God hath prevented all my resolutions, and even that great God that ruleth all in all. But if you can live free from want, care for no more; the rest is but vanity.

Love God, and begin betimes, to repose yourself on Him, and therein shall you find true and lasting riches, and endless comfort. For the rest, when you have travailled and wearied all your thoughts over all sorts of worldly cogitations, you shall but sit down by sorrow in the end.

Teach your son also to love and fear God whilst he is yet young, that the fear of God may grow up with him; and the same God will be a husband to you, and a father to him, husband and a father which cannot be taken from you.

Baylie oweth me £200 and Adrian Gilbert £600. In Jersey, I have also much money owing me, besides the arrears of the Wines will pay my debts. And howsoever you do, for my soul's sake, pay all poor men.

When I am gone, no doubt you shall be sought by many; for the world thinks that I was very rich. But take heed of the pretences of men, and their affections; for they last not but in honest, and worthy men; and no greater misery can befall you in this life than to become a prey, and afterwards to be despised. I speak not this, God knows, to dissuade you from marriage, for it will be best for you, both in respect of the world and of God.

As for me, I am no more yours, nor you mine. Death hath cut us asunder; and God hath divided me from the world, and you from me.

Remember your poor child, for his father's sake, who chose you, and loved you in his happiest times.

Get those Letters (if it be possible) which I wrote to the Lords, wherein I sued for my life. God is my witness, it was for you and yours I desired life. But it is true that I disdain myself for begging it; for know it, dear wife, that your son is the son of a true man, and one, who in his own respect, despiseth death and all his misshapen and ugly shapes.

I cannot write much. God knows how hardly I steal this time, while others sleep; and it is also high time that I should separate my thoughts from the world.

Beg my dead body, which living was denied thee; and either lay it at Shirbourne (if the land continue) or in Exeter Church by my Father and Mother.

I can say no more, time and death call me away.

The everlasting, powerful, infinite and omnipotent God, that Almighty God who is goodness itself, the true life, and true light, keep thee, and thine; have mercy on me, and teach me to forgive my persecutors and accusers, and send us to meet in His glorious kingdom.

My dear wife, farewell. Bless my poor boy, pray for me, and let my good God, hold you both in His arms.

Written with the dying hand of sometime thy Husband but now (alas) overthrown.

WA. RALEIGH

Yours that was, but now not my own.
W. R.


CHARLES I (1600-1649)

Illustration

All kings, and all their favourites,
All glory of honours, beauties, wits,
The sun itself, which makes times as they pass,
Is elder by a year now than it was,
When thou and I last another saw.
All other things to their destruction draw,
Only our love bath no decay;
This no to-morrow bath, nor yesterday,
Running, it never runs from us away,
But truly keeps his first, last, everlasting day.

—JOHN DONNE

* * * * * * *

This letter was written by the King to his wife, after he had been forced to sign the Covenant, after his surrender to the Scots at Newark, 1646, in the fourth year of the Civil War. Henrietta Maria, daughter of Henry IV and Marie de' Medici, was the loyal helpmate and devoted ally of the King, all her considerable energies and resources were used in his cause, and, after his death in 1649, she turned them to the service of her sons and lived to see the elder, Charles II, restored to the throne of Great Britain in 1660. At the date at which this letter was written the Queen was actively engaged in trying to raise an army from the Duke of Lorraine and in obtaining money by pledging her jewels with Cardinal Mazarin. She retired into a Carmelite nunnery and died at Colombes, France, 1669.


* * *

Charles I to his Queen

NEWCASTLE, 10 June, 1646.

These two last weeks I heard not from thee, nor any about thee, which hath made my present condition the more troublesome, but I expect daily the contentment of hearing from thee. Indeed I have need of some comfort, for I never knew what it was to be barbarously baited before, and these five or six days last have much surpassed, in rude pressures against my conscience, all the rest since I came to the Scotch army; for, upon I know not what intelligence from London, nothing must serve but my signing the covenant (the last was, my commanding all my subjects to do it), declaring absolutely, and without reserve, for Presbyterian government, and my receiving the Directory in my family, with an absolute command for the rest of the kingdom; and if I did not all this, then a present agreement must be made with the parliament, without regard of me, for they said that otherways they could not hope for peace or a just war. It is true they gave me many other fair promises in case I did what they desired (and yet for the militia they daily give ground); but I answered them, that what they demanded was absolutely against my conscience, which might be persuaded, but would not be forced by anything they could speak or do. This was the sum of divers debates and papers between us, of which I cannot now give thee an account. At least I made them be content with another message to London requiring an answer to my former with an offer to go thither upon honourable and fast conditions. Thus all I can do is but delaying of ill, which I shall not be able to do long without assistance from thee. I cannot but again remind thee, that there was never man so alone as I, and therefore very much to be excused for the mentioning of any error, because I have reason to suspect everything that they advised me, and to distrust mine own single opinion, having no living soul to help me. To conclude, all the comfort I have is in thy love and a clear conscience. I know the first will not fail me, nor (by the Grace of God) the other. Only I desire thy particular help, that I should be as little vexed as may be; for if thou do not, I care not much for others. I need say no more of this, nor will at this time, but that I am eternally thine.


DOROTHY OSBORNE (1627-1695)

Illustration

Love is life's end—an end, but never ending
All joys, all sweets, all happiness awarding;
Love is Life's wealth, ne'er spent, but ere spending;
More rich by giving, taking by discarding,
Love's life's reward, rewarded in rewarding.

—PHINEAS FLETCHER

* * * * * * *

This delightful Englishwoman was the daughter of Sir Peter Osborne, a cavalier gentleman who lived at Chick-sands, Bedfordshire, and at one time commanded the Royalist forces in Guernsey. At the age of twenty-one she became betrothed to William Temple, who was one year her junior; but there were many difficulties in the way of their marriage and it was nearly seven years before it took place. During this period the lovers frequently corresponded and Dorothy's letters are preserved, though Temple's have been lost. They have long since been considered among the most charming in any language. Dorothy Osborne became the wife of William Temple on Christmas Day, 1654. The marriage was happy and Lady Temple lived to see her brilliant husband honoured and successful. Tragedy touched her in the sad death of her eldest son in 1689 and six years later she died herself, largely, it is said, from grief at the death of Mary II, one of her most intimate friends; she was then in her sixty-seventh year and had had forty years of married happiness. The following letters are but specimens of the delicate and gracious style of Dorothy Osborne; they are reprinted here by the deeply appreciated permission of His Honour Sir Edward Parry, the owner of the copyright of these letters. It is to Sir Edward Parry's book on Dorothy Osborne, which holds the position of a classic, that the reader is referred. Letters from Dorothy Osborne to Sir William Temple, edited with an introduction by Sir E. A. Parry.

Sir Edward Parry's book contains the complete correspondence of Dorothy Osborne with William Temple, with full particulars of her life and family; with loving care and diligent scholarship the editor of these famous letters has dated, arranged and annotated them until they form a biography of one of the most fragrant feminine personalities in English history.

The numbers in brackets refer to the numbers of the Letters in Sir Edward Parry's book.


* * *

LETTER I [19]

Dorothy Osborne to Sir William Temple

SIR,

I have been reckoning up how many faults you lay to my charge in your last letter, and I find I am severe, unjust, unmerciful, and unkind. Oh me, how should one do to mend all these! 'Tis work for an age, and 'tis to be feared I shall be so old before I am good, that 'twill not be considerable to anybody but myself whether I am so or not. I say nothing of the pretty humour you fancied me in, in your dream, because 'twas but a dream. Sure, if it had been anything else, I should have remembered that my Lord L. loves to have his chamber and his bed to himself. But seriously, now, I wonder at your patience. How could you hear me talk so senselessly, though 'twere but in your sleep, and not to be ready to beat me? What nice mistaken points of honour I pretend to, and yet could allow him a room in the same bed with me! Well, dreams are pleasant things to people whose humours are so; but to have the spleen, and to dream upon't, is a punishment I would not wish my greatest enemy. I seldom dream, or never remember them, unless they have been so sad as to put me into such disorder as I can hardly recover when I am awake, and some of those I am confident I shall never forget.

You ask me how I pass my time here. I can give you a perfect account not only of what I do for the present, but of what I am likely to do this seven years if I stay here so long. I rise in the morning reasonably early, and before I am ready I go round the house till I am weary of that, and then into the garden till it grows too hot for me. About ten o'clock I think of making me ready, and when that's done I go into my father's chamber, from thence to dinner, where my cousin Molle and I sit in great state in a room and at a table that would hold a great many more. After dinner we sit and talk till Mr. B. comes in question, and then I am gone. The heat of the day is spent in reading or working, and about six or seven o'clock I walk out into a common that lies hard by the house, where a great many young wenches keep sheep and cows, and sit in the shade singing of ballads. I go to them and compare their voices and beauties to some ancient shepherdesses that I have read of, and find a vast difference there; but, trust me I think these are as innocent as those could be. I talk to them, and find they want nothing to make them the happiest people in the world but the knowledge that they are so. Most commonly, when we are in the midst of our discourse, one looks about her, and spies her cows going into the corn, and then away they all run as if they had wings at their heels. I, that am not so nimble, stay behind; and when I see them driving home their cattle, I think 'tis time for me to retire too. When I have supped, I go into the garden, and so to the side of a small river that runs by it, where I sit down and wish you with me (you had best say this is not kind neither). In earnest, 'tis a pleasant place, and would be much more so to me if I had your company. I sit there sometimes till I am lost with thinking; and were it not for some cruel thoughts of the crossness of our fortunes that will not let me sleep there, I should forget that there were such a thing to be done as going to bed.

Since I writ this my company is increased by two, my brother Harry and a fair niece, the eldest of my brother Peyton's daughters. She is so much a woman that I am almost ashamed to say I am her aunt; and so pretty, that if I had any design to gain a servant, I should not like her company; but I have none, and therefore shall endeavour to keep her here as long as I can persuade her father to spare her, for she will easily consent to it, having so much of my humour (though it be the worst thing in her) as to like a melancholy place and little company. My brother John is not come down again, nor am I certain when he will be here. He went from London into Gloucestershire to my sister who was very ill, and his youngest girl, of which he was very fond, is since dead. But I believe by that time his wife has a little recovered her sickness and the loss of her child, he will be coming this way. My father is reasonably well, but keeps his chamber still, and will hardly, I am afraid, ever be so perfectly recovered as to come abroad again.

I am sorry for poor Walker, but you need not doubt of what he has of yours in his hands, for it seems he does not use to do his work himself. I speak seriously, he keeps a Frenchman that sets all his seals and rings. If what you say of my Lady Leppington be of your own knowledge, I shall believe you, but otherwise I can assure you I have heard from people that pretend to know her very well, that her kindness to Compton was very moderate, and that she never liked him so well as when he died and gave her his estate. But they might be deceived, and 'tis not so strange as that you should imagine a coldness and an indifference in my letters where I so little meant it; but I am not displeased you should desire my kindness enough to apprehend the loss of it when it is safest. Only I would not have you apprehend it so far as to believe it possible—that were an injury to all the assurances I have given you, and if you love me you cannot think me unworthy. I should think myself so, if I found you grew indifferent to me, that I have had so long and so particular a friendship for; but, sure, this is more than I need to say. You are enough in my heart to know all my thoughts, and if so, you know better than I can tell you how much I am

Yours,

* * *

LETTER II [30]

Undated. Assumed date Sunday, July 24, 1653.

SIR,

In my opinion you do not understand the laws of friendship right. 'Tis generally believed it owes its birth to an agreement and conformity of humours, and that it lives no longer than 'tis preserved by the mutual care of those that bred it. 'Tis wholly governed by equality, and can there be such a thing in it, as a distinction of power? No, sure, if we are friends we must both command and both obey alike, indeed a mistress and a servant sounds otherwise, but, that is ceremony and this is truth. Yet what reason had I to furnish you with a stick to beat myself withal, or desire that you should command, that do it so severely? I must eat fruit no longer than I could be content you should be in a fever;—is not that an absolute forbidding it me? It has frighted me just now from a basket of the most tempting cherries* that e'er I saw; though I know you did not mean I should eat none, but if you had I think I should have obeyed you. I am glad you lay no fault to my charge but indiscretion, though that be too much, 'tis a well-natured one in me. I confess it is a fault to believe too easily, but 'tis not out of vanity that I do it—as thinking I deserve you should love me and therefore believing it—but because I am apt to think people so honest as to speak as they mean, and the less I deserve it the more I think myself obliged. I know 'tis a fault in anyone to be mastered by a passion, and of all passions love is perhaps the least pardonable in a woman; but when 'tis mingled with gratitude 'tis sure the less to be blamed.

[* The "basket of tempting cherries" shows this was written in the summer, and the reference to the "Emperor" and the discourse on friendship place it in 1653. Readers of Sir William Temple's Essays will find many references there to the times and reasons for eating or abstaining from fruit. Cherries, he says, are to be eaten "without swallowing either skin or stone"—SIR EDWARD PARRY.]

I do not think if there were more that loved me I should love them all, but I am certain I could not love the most perfect person in the world, unless I did first firmly believe he had a passion for me. And yet you would persuade me I am not just, because I did once in my life deny you something. I'll swear you are not, if you do not believe that next the happy end of all our wishes, I desire to see you; but you know the inconveniency that will certainly follow, and if you can dispense with them I can, to show that my obedience is not less than yours.

I cannot hear too often that you are kind and noble enough to prefer my interest above your own, but, sure if I have any measure of either myself, the more liberty you give me the less I shall take. 'Tis most certain that our Emperor would have been to me rather a gaoler than a husband, and 'tis as true that (though for my own sake I think I should not make an ill wife to anybody) I cannot be a good one to any but one. I know not with what constancy you could hear the sentence of your death, but I am certain there is nothing I could not hear with more; and if your interest in me be dearer to you than your life, it must necessarily follow that 'tis dearer to me than anything in the world besides. Therefore you may be sure I will preserve it with all my care. I cannot promise that I shall be yours because I know not how far my misfortunes may reach, nor what punishments are reserved for my fault, but I dare almost promise you shall never receive the displeasure of seeing me another's. No, in earnest, I have so many reasons to keep me from that, besides your interest, that I know not whether it be not the least of the obligations you have to me. Sure the whole world could never persuade me (unless a parent commanded it) to marry one that I had no esteem for, and where I have any, I am not less scrupulous than your father, or I should never be brought to do them the injury as to give them a wife whose affections they could never hope for; besides that, I must sacrifice myself in't and live a walking misery till the only hope that would then be left me were perfected. Oh, me! this is so sad; it has put me out of all I had to say besides. I meant to chide you for the shortness of your last letter, and to tell you that if you do not take the same liberty of telling me of all my faults I shall not think you are my friend. In earnest, 'tis true, you must use to tell me freely of anything you see amiss in me; whether I am too stately or not enough, what humour pleases you and what does not, what you would have me do and what avoid, with the same freedom that you would use to a person over whom you had an absolute power, and were concerned in. These are the laws of friendship as I understand them, and I believe I understand them right, for I am certain no one can be more perfectly a friend than I am.

Yours,

* * *

LETTER III [44]

Had you the bit of paper I sent you from St. Albans? 'Twas a strange one I believe, as my humour was when I writ it. Well here I am, God knows for how long or how short a time, nor shall I be able to guess till all our company that we expect is come; then as I find their humours I shall resolve. Why did not you tell me how ill I looked? All people here will not believe but I have been desperately sick. I do not find I am ill though, but I have lost a collop that's certain, and now I am come to my own glass I find I have not brought down the same face I carried up. But 'tis no matter, 'tis well enough for this place.

I shall hear from you a Thursday, and next week I shall be able to say much more than I can this, both because I shall have more time, and besides I shall know more. You will send the picture and forget not that you must walk no more in the cloisters. No, in earnest, 'tis not good for you, and you must be ruled by me in that point. Besides if we do not take care of ourselves, I find nobody else will. I would not live, though, if I had not some hope left that a little time may breathe great alterations, and that 'tis possible we may see an end of our misfortune. When that hope leaves us then 'tis time to die, and if I know myself I should need no more to kill me. Let your letter be as much too long as this is too short, I shall find by that how I must write. I do not think this is sense, nor have I time to look it over.

I am yours,

* * *

LETTER IV [49]

Undated. Assumed date Sunday, December 4, 1653.

If you have ever loved me, do not refuse the last request I shall ever make you; 'tis to preserve yourself from the violence of your passion. Vent it all upon me; call me and think me what you please; make me, if it be possible, more wretched than I am. I'll bear it all without the least murmur. Nay, I deserve it all, for had you never seen me you had certainly been happy. 'Tis my misfortunes only that have that infectious quality as to strike at the same time me and all that's dear to me. I am the most unfortunate woman breathing, but I was never false. No; I call heaven to witness that if my life could satisfy for the least injury my fortune has done you (I cannot say 'twas I that did them you), I would lay it down with greater joy than any person ever received a crown; and if I ever forget what I owe you, or ever entertain a thought of kindness for any person in the world besides, may I live a long and miserable life. 'Tis the greatest curse I can invent; if there be a greater, may I feel it. This is all I can say. Tell me if be possible I can do anything for you, and tell me how I may deserve your pardon for all the trouble I have given you. I would not die without it.

For Mr. Temple.

Dear! shall we ever be so happy, think you? Ah! I dare not hope it. Yet 'tis not want of love gives me these fears. No, in earnest, I think (nay, I am sure) I love you more than ever, and 'tis that only gives me these despairing thoughts; when I consider how small a proportion of happiness is allowed in this world, and how great mine would be in a person for whom I have a passionate kindness, and who has the same for me. As it is infinitely above what I can deserve, and more than God Almighty usually allots to the best people, I can find nothing in reason but seems to be against me; and, methinks, 'tis as vain in me to expect it as 'twould be to hope I might be a queen (if that were really as desirable a thing as 'tis thought to be); and it is just it should be so.

We complain of this world, and the variety of crosses and afflictions it abounds in, and yet for all this who is weary on't (more than in discourse), who thinks with pleasure of leaving it, or preparing for the next? We see old folks, that have outlived all the comforts of life, desire to continue it, and nothing can wean us from the folly of preferring a mortal being, subject to great infirmity and unavoidable decays, before an immortal one, and all the glories that are promised with it. Is this not very like preaching? Well, 'tis too good for you; you shall have no more on't.


MARY II (1662-94)

Illustration

Lose the world's Life!—what a sad death
Thy absence is! to lose our breath
At once and die, is but to live
Enlarg'd, without the scant reprieve
Of pulse and air; whose dull returns
And narrow ends the soul mourns.
But to be dead alive, and still
To wish, but never have our will
To be possessed and yet to miss,
To wed a true but absent bliss
Are lingering tortures, and their smart
Dissects and racks and grinds the heart!
As soul and body in that state
Which unto us seems separate
Cannot be said to live, until
Re-union; which days fulfil
And slow paced seasons; so in vain
Through hours and minutes—Time's long train—
I look for thee and from thy light
As from my soul, for life and light,
For till thine eyes shine so on me
Mine are fast closed and will not see.

—H. VAUGHAN

* * * * * * *

Mary Stuart, Princess of Orange, then Queen-regnant of Great Britain, was the elder daughter and heiress of James II by his first marriage with Anne Hyde, daughter of the Earl of Clarendon. When she was a spoilt, wilful, rather hysterical girl of sixteen years, she was married to her first cousin, William Prince of Orange-Nassau and Stadtholder of the United Provinces. This Prince, then in his twenty-eighth year, was one of the most remarkable men of his age, already famous as soldier-statesman and as the linch-pin of the European opposition to the encroachments and pretensions of Louis XIV. William was austere, stately, absorbed in vast schemes and complicated policies, and his marriage was one of ambition as it set him, a grandson of Charles I, one step nearer the British throne, and gave him, as the husband of the heiress to that throne, a strong position in English home politics, which he used persistently to detach England from the French interest. The frivolous, ignorant Mary, brought up in the corrupt atmosphere of her uncle's court, entered with tears of distress and reluctance into what seemed likely to be an unhappy marriage. Within a short time, however, the emotional girl fell deeply in love with her husband and soon conceived for him a passion approaching idolatry, which blended with her passionate adherence to that Protestantism of which her husband was the professed champion.

During her residence of twelve years in Holland, Mary completely identified herself with her husband's aims and ideals, with his country and his faith. Her father never paid her an allowance and made continuous attempts to ruin her married life by spies and tale-bearers set in her household, and Mary became as estranged from him, as she was devoted to her husband. We have her word that she was "happier than she knew" in Holland, but a deep grief shadowed her entire life; this was the childlessness that followed the disappointed hopes of an heir and darkened the first years of her marriage. Mary was very handsome, fond of dancing, music and needlework—this to a passion—but she subdued herself to a quiet life of sober domesticity when in Holland, where her noble and lovable qualities made her extremely popular. Her private diaries and memoirs show an almost fanatic passion for her husband and a Protestant piety amounting to bigotry. In the crisis of 1688 Mary made her husband's expedition to England possible by letting it be known that she put all her claims second to those of her husband; it appears from her private papers that she was sincerely convinced that her father had foisted a 'pretender' upon the nation in the person of the infant Prince of Wales. She joined William in England in 1689 and said good-bye to her personal happiness with her reluctant acceptance, with William, of the joint sovereignty of Great Britain.

When James landed in Ireland, William went in person to command his forces, and Mary was left to govern a divided unsettled country, torn by plot and faction and threatened by foreign invasion. She was, at her own request, assisted by a Council, none of the members of which she wholly liked or trusted. Her letters contain careful accounts of home affairs, these have been omitted and only the personal passages retained. These give a vivid picture of the lonely, agitated woman in a difficult, distasteful position, surrounded by danger, enemies, spies and lukewarm friends and supported only by her intense love for her husband. She had to face the naval defeat off Beachy Head and the subsequent landing of the French, risings in the city, treachery among her advisers and the constant anxiety lest the news from Ireland should be of defeat or the death of husband or father. Without experience, education or training, Mary, by common consent, succeeded very well in her task, through ability, courage and sincere loyalty.

Her letters were found, long after her death, in a box known as 'King William's Chest'; they were reprinted, the first time by Sir John Dalrymple at the end of the eighteenth century. Not a line of William's correspondence to his wife remains; she burnt all her papers when she knew that she was stricken with small-pox; of this disease she died, aged thirty-two years—after a reign of six years. She always suffered from ill health, and agitation and melancholia had undermined her spirits. William displayed the most frantic grief at her death and never recovered from the shock of this terrible loss. There has recently been presented to the London Museum a wallet finely worked in tiny beads that William used during his campaigns; it was made by Mary, the most exquisite and industrious of needlewomen, and is in excellent preservation—the design consists of portraits of herself and her husband with symbols of separated lovers.


[ebook producer's note: The year 1690 was a year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar and a year starting on Wednesday of the 10-day slower Julian calendar. (Wikipedia). The paper book shows both dates with a vertical bar separating them. In this ebook a forward slash has been used as the separator.]

* * *

LETTER I

Queen Mary II to King William III

WHITEHALL, June 29/19, 1690.

You will be weary of seeing every day a letter from me, it may be; yet being apt to flatter myself, I will hope you will be as willing to read as I to write. And indeed it is the only comfort I have in this world, besides that of trust in God. I have nothing to say to you at present that is worth writing, and I think it unreasonable to trouble you with my grief, which I must continue while you are absent, though I trust every post to hear some good news or other from you; therefore, I shall make this very short, and only tell you I have got a swell'd face, though not quite so bad yet, as it was in Holland five years ago. I believe it came by standing too much at the window when I took the waters. I cannot enough thank God for your being so well past the dangers of the sea; I beseech him in his mercy still to preserve you so, and send us once more a happy meeting upon earth. I long to hear again from you how the air of Ireland agrees with you, for I must own I am not without my fears for that, loving you so entirely as I do, and shall till death.

* * *

LETTER II

Written on the eve of the defeat off Beachy Head

The news which is come to-night of the French fleet being upon the coast, makes it thought necessary to write you both ways; and I, that you may see how matters stand in my heart, prepare a letter for each. I think Lord Torrington has made no haste: And I cannot tell whether his being sick, and staying for Lord Pembroke's regiment, will be a sufficient excuse; But I will not take up your time with my reasonings, I shall only tell you, that I am so little afraid, that I begin to fear I have not sense enough to apprehend the danger; for whether it threatens Ireland, or this place, to me 'tis much at one, as to the fear; for as much a coward as you think me, I fear more for your dear person than my poor carcass. I know who is most necessary in the world. What I fear most at present is not hearing from you. Love me whatever happens, and be assured I am ever entirely yours till death.

* * *

LETTER III

On the same occasion

WHITEHALL, the 2 July/22 June, 1690, at half 10 at night.

As I was ready to go into my bed, Lord Nottingham came and brought me a letter, of which he is going to give you an account; for my own part, I shall say nothing to it, but that I trust God will preserve us, you where you are, and poor I here. Methinks Lord Torrington has made no haste; they say he stays for Lord Pembroke's regiment; He also has not been very quick, for he received it at 8 this evening, and kept it till now, that he has sent it open to Lord Nottingham. I thank God I am not much afraid; I think too little; which makes me fear it is want of apprehending the danger. That which troubles me most in all things is your absence and the fear I am in, something may be done to hinder us from hearing from you; in that case I don't know what will become of us. I will trust in God who is our only help. Farewell, I will trouble you with no more, but only desire you, whatever happens, to love me as I shall you to death.

* * *

LETTER IV

WHITEHALL, July 4/June 24, 1690.

Since I have writ this, I was called out to Lord Nottingham who brought me your dear letter of the 28th/18th, which is so welcome that I cannot express it, especially because you pity me, which I like and desire from you, and you only. As for the building, I fear there will be many obstacles; for I spoke to Sir J. Lowther this very day, and hear so much use for money, and find so little, that I cannot tell whether that of Hampton court will not be a little the worse for it, especially since the French are in the Channel, and at present between Portland and us, from whence the stone must come; but in a day or two, I hope to give you a more certain account, this being only my own conjecture. God be praised that you are so well, I hope in his mercy he will continue it. I have been obliged to write this evening to M. Schulenberg to desire him to advance money for the 6 regiments to march, which they say is absolutely necessary for your service as well as honour. The lords of the treasury have made me pawn my word for it, and that to-morrow 20,000 pounds will be paid him. It is now candle-light, and I dare say no more but that I am ever and entirely yours.

* * *

LETTER V

WHITEHALL, July 8/June 28, 1690.

Before I went out of the room, I received your dear letter from Lough-bricklin, but I cannot express what I then felt, and still feel, at the thoughts that now it may be you are ready to give battle, or have done it. My heart is ready to burst. I can say nothing, but pray to God for you. This has waked me who was almost asleep, and almost puts me out of any possibility of saying any more, yet I must strive with my heart to tell you, that this afternoon the ill news of the battle of Fleury came; I had a letter from the Prince of Waldeck, with a copy of the account he sent you, so that I can say nothing, but that God, in whose hands all events only are, knows best why he has ordered it so, and to him we must submit. This evening there has been a person with me, from whom you heard at Chester (probably Earl of Broadalbin) and whom you there ordered to come to me, as he says; he believes you will know him by this, and will by no means be named, and, what is worse, will name nobody, so that I fear there is not much good to be done, yet I won't give over so. I must end my letter, for my eyes are at present in somewhat a worse condition than before I received your letter: My impatience for another from you is as great as my love, which will not end but with my life, which is very uneasy to me at present, but I trust in God, who alone can preserve you and comfort me.

[This letter ends the long tension about the possibility of a French landing, noted in previous letters, with the news of the Battle of Beachy Head, when the French landed and burnt Teignmouth. This event nearly caused a panic in the capital, mainly calmed by the Queen's resolution and courage.]

[ebook producer's note: In the paper book it is unclear whether the above footnote refers to the previous letter or the next letter.]

* * *

LETTER VI

WHITEHALL, July 13/3, 1690.

Though by my letter it may be you would not think me so much in pain as I am, yet I must tell you I am very much so, but not for what Lord Monmouth would have me; he daily tells me of the great dangers we are in, and now has a mind to be sent to Holland (of which you will hear either this or the next post). I see everyone is inclined to it for a reason I have mentioned before; but to let that pass I must tell you again how he endeavours to fright me, and indeed things have but a melancholy prospect; but I am fully persuaded God will do some great thing or other, and it may be, when human means fail, he will show his power; this makes me, that I cannot be so much afraid as it may be I have reason for; but that which makes me in pain is fear for what is done may not please you. I am sure it is my chief desire, but you know I must do what others think fit, and I think they all desire as much as may be to act according to your mind. I long to hear from you, and know in what we have failed; for my own part, if I do anything what you don't like, 'tis my misfortune and not my fault; for I love you more than my life, and desire only to please you.

* * *

LETTER VII

WHITEHALL, July 15/5, 1690.

This is only to tell you I have received yours of the 28th, Old Stile, which puts me in many troubles that I shall not trouble you with at present; to-morrow night an express shall go to you that cannot possibly be dispatched to-night, and I am not sorry; for at this time I dare say but little by candle-light, and 'tis to-morrow the fifth Sunday of the month. I have really hardly had time to say my prayers, and was feign to run away to Kensington, where I had three hours of quiet, which is more than I have had together since I saw you. That place made me think how happy I was there, when I had your company; but now—I will say no more, for I shall but hurt my own eyes, which I want more now than ever. Adieu; think of me, and love me as much as I shall you, who I love more than my life. I should have sent this last post; but not seeing Madam Nienhuys, hindered me then, and makes me send it to you now, which I hope you excuse.

[Written on the eve of receipt of the news of the impending Battle of the Boyne and the King's wound.]

[ebook producer's note: In the paper book it is unclear whether the above footnote refers to the previous letter or the next letter.]

* * *

LETTER VIII

WHITEHALL, July 16/6, 1690.

I can never give God thanks enough as long as I live for your preservation; I hope in his mercy this is a sign he preserves you to finish the work he has begun by you; but I hope it may be a warning to you, to let you see you are exposed to as many accidents as others; and though it has pleased God to keep you once in so visible a manner, yet you must forgive me if I tell you that I should think it a tempting God to venture again without a great necessity; I know what I say of this kind will be attributed to fear; I own I have a great deal for your dear person, yet I hope I am not unreasonable upon the subject, for I do trust in God, and he is pleased every day to confirm me more and more in the confidence I have in him; yet my fears are not less, since I cannot tell if it should be his will to suffer you to come to harm for our sins, and when that might happen; For though God is able, yet many times he punishes the sins of a nation as it seems good in his sight. Your writing me word how soon you hoped to send me good news, shows me how soon you thought there might be some action, and that thought put me in perpetual pain. This morning when I heard the express was come, before Lord Nottingham came up, I was taken with a trembling for fear, which has hardly left me yet, and I really don't know what I do. Your letter came just before I went to chapel; and though the first thing Lord Nottingham told me was, that you were very well, yet the thoughts that you expose yourself thus to danger, fright me out of my wits, and make me not able to keep my trouble to myself: But for God's sake let me beg you to take more care for the time to come; consider what depends upon your safety; there are so many more important things than myself, that I think I am not worthy naming among them. But it may be the worst will be over before this time, so that I will say no more. I did not answer your letter by the post last night, because the express could not be dispatched; and I believe more hindrances are come, for Lord Steward and Lord Pembroke write word they will be here to-night; but I can say very little upon the subject at present, for really I had my head and heart so full of you, I could mind nothing else.

It is now past 10 o'clock; I don't tell you for an excuse, for I am not sleepy; my impatience is too great to hear from you again, that I am not master of it, nor indeed of myself; so that you must excuse me from saying more than is just necessary. Lord Nottingham will give you an account of all that has been done. Lord Carmarthen will write to you about a thing he has put in my head, and since I thought of it, I only fear that, and nothing else; I desired he would write it himself, believing what he said would have more weight with you than if it came from me, for you would believe I spoke most out of self-interest. I wish to God he could prevail. The Lords are come back from the fleet, of that I leave also Lord Nottingham to write; but I have undertook to say another thing to you, which is about who shall command it, for I find every body is so animated against Lord Torrington that 'tis not to be imagined; whether you will think fit to confine him after his behaviour, I don't know, but all the Lords believe you will not...These are all the names I remember, and when I have told them you I think I might as well have let it alone; it was only that they thought it better I should put you in mind of anybody else; you will please to resolve what shall be done as soon as possible; I hope you will forgive me if I forget half what I have to say, for really my concern for you has got the mastery, and I am not able to think of anything else, but that I love you in more abundance than my own life.

* * *

LETTER IX

Written on hearing the news of the Battle of the Boyne

WHITEHALL, July 17/7, 1690.

How to begin this letter I don't know, or how ever to render God thanks enough for his mercys; indeed, they are too great, if we look on our defects; but as you say, 'tis his own cause: And since 'tis for the glory of his great name we have no reason to fear but he will perfect what he has begun: For myself in particular, my heart is so full of joy and acknowledgment to that great God who has preserved you, and given you such a victory, that I am unable to explain it. I beseech him to give me grace to be ever sensible, as I ought, and that I and all may live suitable to such a mercy as this is. I am sorry the fleet has done no better, but 'tis God's providence, and we must not murmur, but wait with patience to see the event. I was yesterday out of my senses with trouble, I am now almost so with joy, so that I can't really as yet tell what I have to say to you, by this bearer, who is impatient to return. I hope in God, by the afternoon, to be in a condition of sense enough to say much more, but for the present I am not. When I writ the foregoing part of this, it was in the morning, soon after I had received yours, and now 'tis 4 in the afternoon; but I am not yet come to myself, and fear I shall lose this opportunity of writing all my mind, for I am still in such a confusion of thoughts, that I scarce know what to say, but I hope in God you will now readily consent to what Lord President wrote last night, for methinks there is nothing more for you to do. I will hasten Kensington as much as it's possible, and I will also get ready for you here, for I will hope you may come before that is done. I must put you in mind of one thing, believing it now the season, which is that you wou'd take care of the church in Ireland. Everybody agrees that it is the worst in Christendom: There are now bishopricks vacant, and other things, I beg you would take time to consider who you will fill them with. You will forgive me that I trouble you with this now, but I hope you will take care of those things which are of so great consequence as to religion, which I am sure will be more your care every day, now that it has pleased God still to bless you with success. I think I have told you before how impatient I am to hear how you approve what has been done here; I have but little part in it myself, but I long to hear how others have pleased you. I am very uneasie in one thing, which is want of somebody to speake my mind freely to, for it's a great constraint to think and be silent, and there is so much matter that I am one of Solomon's fools, who am ready to burst...

I have writ this at so many times that I fear you will hardly make sense of it. I long to hear what you will say to the proposition that will be sent you this night by the lords, and do flatter myself mightily with the hopes to see you, for which I am more impatient than can be expressed; loving you with a passion which cannot end but with my life.

* * *

LETTER X

WHITEHALL, July 20/10, 1690.

I wrote to you a Tuesday night by the post, only to show that I would miss no opportunity of doing it, and have kept Mr. Gray ever since, having nothing worth writing or troubling you with. I shall now begin by answering your letter by him and thank God with all my soul for the continuance of your good success and hope that you will have no more to do but come back here, where you are wish'd for by all that love you or themselves; I need not say most by me, it would be a wrong to me to suppose you doubt it. If the first part of your letter was extreme welcome, the next was not less so; for next to knowing your health and success, that of your being satisfied with what has been done here is the best news, and till then I was very much in pain.

* * *

LETTER XI

WHITEHALL, July 27/17, 1690.

Every hour makes me more impatient to hear from you, and everything I hear stir, I think brings me a letter. I shall not go about to excuse myself; I know 'tis a folly to a great degree, to be so uneasy as I am at present, when I have no reason to apprehend any ill cause, but only might attribute your silence to your marching farther from Dublin, which makes the way longer. I have stay'd till I am almost asleep in hopes; but they are vaine, and I must once more go to bed, and wish to be waked with a letter from you, which I shall at last get, I hope. Till I know whether you come or no, I can not resolve to write you all that has past this day, till which time I thought you had given me wrong characters of men, but now I see they answer my expectation of being as little of a mind as of a body. Adieu, do but love me, and I can bear any thing.

* * *

LETTER XII

WHITEHALL 1 Aug./22 July, 1690.

Last night I received your letter from Wels with so much joy, that it was seen in my face by those who knew the secret of it that you were coming. I will not take up more of your time with endeavouring to tell you what is impossible to be express'd; but you know how much I love you, and therefore will not doubt of my delight to think that I shall soon see you...I think it will be to no purpose to refer the thing by letter to you; You will be here yourself before an answer, and I don't know if this long letter will come to you; at least I hope 'twill meet you upon the way. After this long letter I must tell you, that 'tis impossible for Kensington to be ready for your first coming, though I will do my best you shall not stay long for it. When you are come I will make my apology for the matter when I see you. I shall now only tell you I am in great pain till I know if I have done well in this business or no. I am almost half asleep, for 'tis very late. Pardon all my faults, and believe I will commit none willingly; and that I love you more than my life.

* * *

LETTER XIII

WHITEHALL, Aug 9/July 30 1690.

You will not wonder that I did not write last night, when you know that at noon I received yours, by Mr. Butler, whose face I shall love to see ever hereafter, since he has come twice with such good news. That he brought yesterday was so welcome to me, that I won't go about expressing it, since 'tis impossible; But for my misfortune, I have now another reason to be glad of your coming, and a very strong one, if compared to anything but the kindness I have for your dear self, and that is the divisions which, to my thinking, encrease here daily, or at least appear more and more to me...

Thus the matter is, and thus you will find it, for since you are so near coming, I think it will not be proper to do anything that is not absolutely necessary, and when you do come, you will then be the best judge of the whole matter. I have one thing to beg, which is, that if it be possible, I may come and meet you upon the road, either where you dine, or anywhere else, for I do so long to see you, that I am sure had you as much mind to see your poor wife again, you would propose it; but do as you please; I will say no more, but that I love you so much it cannot encrease, else I am sure it would.

* * *

LETTER XIV

WHITEHALL, Aug. 12/2, 1690.

Unless I could express the joy I had at the thoughts of your coming, it will be in vain to undertake telling you of the disappointment 'fis to me that you do not come so soon. I begin to be in great pain lest you had been in the storm a Thursday night, which I am told was great (though its being a t'other side of the house hinder'd my hearing it), but was soon delivered by your letters of the 29th from Ch. I confess I deserve such a stop to my joy, since may be it was too great, and I not thankful enough to God, and we all here apt to be too vain upon so quick a success. But I have mortification enough to think your dear person may be again exposed at the passage of the Shannon, as it was at that of the Boyne: This is what goes to my heart; but yet I see the reasons for it so good, that I will not murmur, for certainly your glory would be the greater to terminate the war this summer, and the people here much better pleased, than if they must furnish next year for the same thing again. Upon these considerations I ought to be satisfied, and I will endeavour as much as may be to submit to the will of God and your judgment; but you must forgive a poor wife, who loves you so dearly, if I can't do it with dry eyes; yet since it has pleased God so wonderfully to preserve you all your life, and so miraculously now, I need not doubt but he will still preserve you; yet let me beg you not to expose yourself unnecessarily, that will be too much tempting that providence which I hope will still watch over you...

* * *

LETTER XV

WHITEHALL, Aug. 15/5, 1690.

Last night I received yours of the 3rd July, and with great satisfaction that it was so plain; your approving my anger is a great ease to me, and I hope may make things go on the better if it be possible; though there are great pains taken to hinder the persons named either from serving at all, or from agreeing, but I hope to little purpose. They now begin to engage Mr. Citters in the business, and tell him stories which will be worth your hearing when you come back; and Sir R. Hadock is now said to rail at the Dutch, of which he has, I think cleared himself...

Judge then what a joy it was to me to have your approbation of my behaviour, and the kind way you express it in, is the only comfort I can possibly have in your absence: What other people say I ever suspect, but when you tell me I have done well I could be almost vain upon it: I am sure I have all the reason in the world to praise God, who has sustained me in things so difficult to flesh and blood, and has given me more courage than I could have hoped for: I am sure 'tis so great a mercy that I can never forget it: We have received many: God send us grace to value them as we ought; but nothing touches people's hearts here enough to make them agree; that would be too much happiness. Lord Nottingham will give you an account of all things, and of some letters which by great luck are fallen into our hands. I must needs tell you upon the subject, that when it was first known you intended to come back, 'twas then said, What, leave Ireland unconquered, the work unfinished! now upon your not coming, 'tis wondered whose council this is, and why leave us thus to ourselves in our danger? Thus people are never satisfied; but I must not begin upon the subject which would take up volumes; and, as much as I was prepared, surprizes me to a degree that is beyond expression. I have so many several things to say to you if I live to see you, that I fear you will never have patience to hear half: But you will not wonder if I am surprized at things which though you are used to, are quite new to me. I am very impatient to hear again if you are over the Shannon; that passage frights me. You must excuse me telling my fears; I love you too much to hide them, and that makes all dangers seem greater it may be than they are. I pray God in his mercy to keep you, and send us a happy meeting here on earth, first before we meet in heaven.

If I could take more pains to preserve your kindness, that which you write would make me do it; but that has been ever so much my desire, that I can't do more for you, nor love you better.

* * *

LETTER XVI

WHITEHALL, Aug. 17/7, 1690.

I begin to grow extreme impatient to hear from you again, and till I do shall have little rest, for the passage of the river runs perpetually in my head. God grant I may hear good news...

I will not trouble you with a longer letter at present; God give you quick success, and a speedy return, are my constant prayers with due submission, I am unreasonable upon this subject, loving you too well to be at any ease till I hear from you again.

* * *

LETTER XVII

WHITEHALL, Aug. 19/9, 1690.

I have no letter from you since that of the 31st from Chapelford; what I suffer by it you cannot imagine. I don't say this by way of complaint, for I do believe you write as often as 'tis convenient or necessary, but yet I can't help being extremely desirous of hearing again from you. This passage of the river runs much in my mind, and gives me no quiet night or day; I have a million of fears, which are caused by that which you can't be angry at, and if I were less sensible I should hate myself, though I wish I were not so fear full, and yet one can hardly go without t'other; but 'tis not reasonable I should torment you with any of this...

As for Lord Mountjoy, I hope you will consider if anything can be done for him. I can never forget that I promised his son's wife to speak to you, and she nearly died of grief, which makes me pity her case; his family is in a miserable way, and I am daily solicited by his eldest daughter about him; If you would let Lord Portland give me some answer to this, I should be very glad, for I can't wonder at people's desiring to know some answer, though I am tormented myself. The business of the commission for Lord Torrington's tryal sticks still at the admiralty, who are appointed Monday morning to meet the civilians at council. I have staid till I am ready to go to bed, and now can put off sending my letter no longer. I pray God give me patience and submission; I want the first exceedingly, but I hope all is well, especially your dear self, who I love much better than life.

* * *

LETTER XVIII

WHITEHALL, Aug. 22/12, 1690.

You cannot imagine the miserable condition I was in last night; I think had not your letter come as it did, I should have fallen sick with fear for your person; but all that trouble made your news of the French having left Limmerick the more welcome, I will not say your letter, for those are ever so. I am sure this news affords new reason of praising God, since I hope it will prevent any more fighting. You speak of your coming back now in a way which makes me hope not only that it will be quickly, but that you come willingly, and that is a double joy to me, for before I confess, I was afraid to have seen you dissatisfied when you were here, and that would have been very unpleasant; but now I hope in God to see you soon, and see you as well pleased as this place will suffer you to be, for I fancy you will find people really worse and worse. Lord Stuard was with me this afternoon with whom I had a long conversation which will be worth your knowing when you come; but he has made me promise to write you now some part of it, which is, that he begs you to consider if you will not have a new parliament, for this one he is sure will do no good; this he says is his opinion. I see it is a thing they are mightily set upon. Lord President methinks has very good arguments to try this first, but of all this you will judge best when you come. I can't imagine how it comes to pass that you have not received my letter of the 26th of July; I am sure I write and that you will have had it by this time, or else there must be some carelessness in it which must be lookt after. I have had this evening Lord Anandale who is to tell all, and then I am to procure a pardon from you, but I think I shall not be so easily deceived by him as I fear Lord Melvill has been by Sir James Montgomery; but these are things to talk of when you come back, which I pray God may be very soon. 'Tis the greatest joy in the world to hear you are so well. I pray God continue it. I hope this will meet you upon your way back, so it goes by an express that it may not miss you. I can't express my impatience to see you; there is nothing greater but that which it proceeds from, which will not end but with my life.

* * *

LETTER XIX

WHITEHALL Sept. 5/Aug. 26, 1690.

My poor heart is ready to break every time I think in what perpetual danger you are; I am in greater fears than can be imagined by any who loves less than myself. I count the hours and the moments, and have only reason enough left to think, as long as I have no letters all is well. I believe, by what you write, that you got your cannon Friday at farthest, and then Saturday I suppose you began to make use of them; judge then what cruel thoughts they are to me to think what you may be exposed to all this while. I never do anything without thinking now, it may be, you are in the greatest dangers, and yet I must see company upon my sett days; I must play twice a week; nay, I must laugh and talk, tho' never so much against my will; I believe I dissemble very ill to those who know me, at least 'tis a great constraint to myself, yet I must endure it; all my motions are so watched, and all I do so observed, that I eat less, or speak less, or look more grave, all is lost in the opinion of the world; so that I have this misery added to that of your absence and my fears for your dear person, that I must grin when my heart is ready to break, and talk when my heart is so oppress'd I can scarce breathe. In this I don't know what I should do, were it not for the grace of God which supports me; I am sure I have great reason to praise the Lord while I live for this great mercy, that I don't sink under this affliction; nay, that I keep my health; for I can neither sleep nor eat. I go to Kensington as often as I can for air, but then I can never be quite alone; neither can I complain, that would be some ease; but I have nobody whose humour and circumstances agrees with mine enough to speak my mind freely to; Besides, I must hear of business, which being a thing I am so new in, and so unfit for, does but break my brains the more, and not ease my heart. I see I have insensibly made my letter too long upon my own self, but I am confident you love enough to bear with it for once; I don't remember that I have been guilty of the like fault before, since you went; and that is now three months, for which time of almost perpetual fear and trouble, this is but a short account, and so I hope may pass: 'Tis some ease to me to write my pain, and 'fis a great satisfaction to believe you will pity me, it will be yet more when I hear it from yourself in a letter, as I am sure you must if it were but out of common good nature; how much more then out of kindness, if you love me as well as you make me believe, and as I endeavour to deserve a little by that sincere and lasting kindness I have for you; But by making excuses I do but take up more of your time, and therefore must tell you that this morning, Lord Marlborough went away; as little reason as I have to care for his wife, yet I must pity her condition, having lain in but eight days; and I have great compassion for wives when their husbands go to fight...

* * *

LETTER XX

WHITEHALL, Sept. the 18th/8th, 1690.

Nothing can express the impatience I have to see you, nor my joy to think it is so near; I have not sleept all this night for it, though I had but five hours sleep the night before, for a reason I shall tell you. I had a compliment last night from the Queen Dowager who came to town a Friday; she sent it I believe with a better heart because Limmericke is not taken: For my part I don't think of that or anything else but you; God send you a good journey home and make me thankfull as I ought for all His mercies.


SOPHIA DOROTHEA OF ZELL,
ELECTRESS OF HANOVER (1666-1726)
AND
PHILIP VON KOENIGSMARCK (1660-1694)

Illustration Illustration

* * *

Love is a sour delight, a sugared grief,
A living death, an ever dying life;
A breach of reason's law, a secret thief,
A sea of tears, an everlasting strife;
A bait for fools; a scourge of noble wits,
A deadly wound, a shot which never hits.

—The Passionate Outcry of Love.
THOMAS WATSON

* * * * * * *

Sophia Dorothea of Zell was the daughter of George William, Duke of Zell, and Éléonore d'Olbreuse, a French lady of noble birth who was the Duke's morganatic wife. After eleven years of married life the Duke formally espoused Éléonore and thus made her his Duchess.

Sophia Dorothea was married at the age of sixteen years to George Louis, eldest son of the Electress of Hanover, 1682. Prince George Louis was brave, honest, sincere and profligate, his bride was frivolous, passionate and romantic; the marriage was loveless and the wife was dainty and beautiful, with an exquisite shape, masses of dark brown hair and large black eyes. In 1683 Sophia Dorothea bore a son, afterwards George II of England, and in 1686 a daughter, Sophia, who afterwards became the mother of Frederick the Great. The marriage was extremely unhappy, the Prince being openly unfaithful with many women conspicuous among whom was Melusina Ermengarda von Schulenberg, who became his official mistress; her he afterwards took to England with him and called Duchess of Kendal. Two years after the birth of her last child, Count Philip Christopher von Koenigsmarck came to the Court of Hanover and renewed a childhood's acquaintance with the Princess. This Swedish nobleman was of wealthy, brilliant, highly placed family. All the Koenigsmarcks were bold adventurers, handsome and unscrupulous. Philip was, in particular, restless, daring, beautiful and fascinating; he was a professional soldier and a professional gallant; he was also one of the richest men in Europe and thus was able to set off splendidly his gifts and charms. The neglected Princess, lovely, lively and twenty-two years old, and the dazzling cavalier fell in love. Koenigsmarck settled in Hanover, where he lived with ostentatious splendour and was given the colonelcy of the Hanoverian Guards. In 1689, Hanover joined the affiance formed by William III against France and Koenigsmarck went on active service; he frequently returned to Hanover and pressed his suit with the Princess, who, after some resistance, became his mistress. The difficult and dangerous love intrigue was carried on for two years when Koenigsmarck was murdered on leaving his mistress's bedchamber; she was divorced with ignominy and confined for the rest of her life at Schloss Ahlden where she died at the age of sixty-one years, fourteen years after her husband had ascended the British throne as George I. The correspondence between the tragic lovers begins in July 1691 and ends in December 1693. It was copied from the originals in the Library of the University of Lund by W. H. Wilkins, M.A., in 1898. The letters were by him translated from the French, arranged, edited, explained and published in a two-volume biography of Sophia Dorothea entitled, The Love of an Uncrowned Queen (Hutchinson's, 1900). To this exhaustive work the reader is referred for all further information as to the history of the lovers and of the letters. It is sufficient to say here that there is no question of the authenticity of this remarkable correspondence; the lovers sent their letters for safety to the Countess Aurora, Count Philip's sister; she preserved them and finally gave them to her sister, Countess Lewenhaupt, who handed them to her son; they were preserved in family archives until 1848 when they were given to the Library of the University of Lund, Sweden. A large mass of the correspondence was seized and destroyed after the murder of Koenigsmarck, and it is remarkable that this portion should have been saved. Some of the Princess's letters were dictated to her faithful confidante Fräulein von Knesebeck, others are in her own hand. Koenigsmarck wrote all his letters himself. The following is a brief selection from this correspondence taken, with permission, from the book mentioned above; the translation is that of Mr. Wilkins. The letters explain themselves, they were mostly written during the lover's absence at the war and reveal, vividly enough, the progress of this romantic and tragic love-story.


* * *

LETTER I

AHT, July 1.

I am in extremis, and the only thing that can save me is a few lines from your incomparable hand. If I had the good fortune to behold them I should forthwith be healed. I hope you will not be so cruel as to refuse me this favour, for, since it is you who cause my sufferings, it is only just that you should send me comfort. Were I not writing to one for whom my respect is as great as my love, I would find better terms to express my devotion; but, fearing to offend, I end here, only beseeching you not to forget me wholly, and to believe me always your slave.

* * *

LETTER II

Koenigsmarck to Sophia Dorothea

HANOVER, undated.

I am in the depths of despair at finding so little opportunity of speaking to you. I dare not even admire the eyes that give me life. For pity's sake let me see you alone, that I may say four words—only four small words. Oh! how dearly it costs me to love you! But the joy of speaking to you now and then makes amends for all the pain. I shall go away to-morrow. God knows if I shall ever see you again, my life, my goddess! The thought that we may never meet more is death to me. I feel ready to plunge a dagger into my heart: but since I must live, I pray that it may be always for you.

* * *

LETTER III

Koenigsmarck to Sophia Dorothea

BRUNSWICK, August 20/30.

No mortal was ever so happy as I when, on arriving here, I found your letter. I am now in your good graces, and am losing all the weak suspicions that tore my heart in twain. Do not doubt my love; God be my witness, I have never loved as I love you. Were you to see me now you would exclaim, "Is it possible that any man can be so downcast?" My dejection is wholly the result of absence from you. My noble travelling companion* could tell you of the state in which he sees me daily, though you may be sure that I hide from him the cause. You may not believe it, but on the word of a man of honour, I am often so overcome that I am near swooning away; and yesterday evening, when I was out walking, and thinking of the many days that I must pass before seeing you, I became so agitated that it brought on a palpitation of the heart, and I was obliged to return home. I know not what would have happened had not my servant brought me a cordial, and even then it was a long time before I recovered. Were it not for your dear letter, I should have utterly broken down. Your medicine is excellent for my malady; send me some oftener...I am ready to cast at your feet my life, my honour, my future, my fortune. I have forsworn all other women for you; if you doubt this, name anyone you would like me to abandon, and I will never speak to her again. Adieux emable Brune. La poste pars, il faux finir. Je vous embrasse les jenous.

[* Probably Prince Ernest Augustus, youngest son of the Duke of Hanover.]

* * *

LETTER IV

Koenigsmarck to Sophia Dorothea

Nothing could have comforted me more in my sickness than your sweet letter, I find it full of tenderness. I am sorry you have found the time so tedious. I suffer from the same misfortune, and have no chance of being happier to-day unless you wish to play. If my fever be not too great, I will pass under your windows in the hope of seeing you. You will not refuse me this grace; you know the sight of you will be a soothing balm in my sickness; a visit from you would be an infallible remedy. You speak to me of passion. Alas! it is for me to speak of it—mine is so great that it will consume me utterly at last. Oh! my dear, my dear! do you think that you love with as much passion as I love?...It is cruelly hard for me not to be with you always—I am compelled to keep away from you, God knows with what grief. The Count de Reuss* prevents me from ending my letter as I would.

[* The Count de Reuss was the uncle by marriage of Sophie Dorothea; he had married Angelica d'Olbreuse, sister of the Duchess of Zell.]

Of a truth I was ill pleased with the cold airs you treated me to yesterday, and I spent the night most miserably. I was in great sorrow and fain to weep, and all these emotions made me very feverish for nearly three hours. I vow, my divine beauty, that I never remember having been in such a pitiful plight before. "Alas!" I cried, "God burns me with sickness, and gives me no comfort, for He freezes the heart of my divinity, and life is intolerable." I threw myself on my knees, tears in my eyes, and prayed that if it were true that you loved me no longer, I might die...I cannot tell you, therefore the joy your letter gave me. I kissed it time and again. I hate myself for having thought you guilty of inconstancy; I cast myself at your feet, praying pardon, and I promise never to be so ready to believe things again.

I am awaiting Her Highness's commands.* When you give me leave I shall fly to you; and if I am not wanted, I shall show that I cannot attach myself to anyone else, for I shall take the first mail coach to join my regiment. I hope that in time Fortune will get tired of persecuting me so cruelly, and Fate will be in my favour; but whatever misfortunes may befall, I shall bear them with joy so long as the heart I adore remains constant to me.

[* i.e. the commands of the Princess.]

My happiness and fortune are there, my ambition is bounded there. For pity's sake believe me faithful. To convince you the better how I love you, how I worship you, I sign this with my blood. Whilst you love me, you will be worshipped by

KOENIGSMARCK.
(Written in blood.)

* * *

LETTER V

Koenigsmarck to Sophia Dorothea

I am the happiest man in the world. If it be true that you love me as you say, and your love will last always, where is the bliss to equal mine? I fear my joy will be too apparent, that everyone will see in my eyes it can only emanate from you. I will restrain myself as much as I can; but "when the heart is so proud the eyes play the traitor." Your eyes, more than I dared hope, declared to me last evening the feelings of your heart. I am so overjoyed that I am hardly able to express myself. I hope to tell you this evening all I am not writing.

* * *

LETTER VI

Koenigsmarck to Sophia Dorothea

With what grief I hear that you have been in other arms* than mine! I cannot express what I feel, but it must be so, I suppose; at least, you suffer it with regret and take care to tell me. I confess I should never have enough power over myself to endure the embraces of a person I did not love; I would rather see all the Furies than an object I detested. However, your promises reassure me of your affection, and give me comfort; without that small consolation I should be miserable indeed. I adore and love you to distraction, yet I must not see you! Are there any torments like this in hell? But I can endure the anguish by remembering my martyrdom is through you, and it is for love of you I suffer: you are well worth the pain. I am wrong to be so disturbed since you assure me of your love. "What will assure me of your constancy?" Your conduct is the guarantee I ask of you. It is superfluous for me to make new protestations of love and faithfulness, for I have given you solid and convincing proofs; but, if, haply, you will not believe these, believe the vows I made you and am ready to make at any time.

[* A reference to a suffered reconciliation of the Princess and her husband.]

* * *

LETTER VII

Koenigsmarck to Sophia Dorothea

The moments seem to me centuries. I cannot watch the daylight without raging. Why do not the hours shut up into moments? What would I not give for twelve o'clock to strike? Be sure to have ready de l'eau de la reine d'Hongrie, for fear my rapture may make me swoon away. What! I shall embrace to-night the loveliest of women. I shall kiss her charming mouth. I shall worship her eyes, those eyes that enslave me. I shall hear from her very lips that she loves me. I shall have the joy of embracing her knees; my tears will chase down her incomparable cheeks. I shall hold in my arms the most beautiful body in the world. Verily, Madame, I shall die of joy. But so long as I have time to tell thee that I die thy slave, I care for naught beside.

* * *

LETTER VIII

Koenigsmarck to Sophia Dorothea

I slept like a king, and I hope you did the same. What joy! what rapture! what enchantment have I not tasted in your sweet arms! Ye gods! what a night I spent! The memory of it blots out all my troubles, and for the moment I count myself the happiest man on earth. You see, it rests wholly with you to make me happy, and when I am sad you are the cause. Adieu, dear heart. How long the day will seem to me without seeing you! Adieu.

* * *

LETTER IX

Koenigsmarck to Sophia Dorothea

Verily I am overwhelmed by the tokens of love you have vouchsafed to me. I shall never be able to show you my gratitude, but shall always be your debtor. I love and I am loved. Is there any bliss approaching mine? I count myself the happiest of mortals, and even of the gods. Ah! most beautiful one! The tenderness you have shown me compels me to love you, and makes me despise the favours of good and the caprices of bad fortune. Time will bring no change in my love. I would abandon for you all ties—family, relations, women, even wife and children had I any. My passion intoxicates me. I can no longer think—words fail. I commit myself to your keeping; do with me as you will. I can scarcely keep my heart within bounds; it strives perpetually to burst away and thank you for its captivity, for it loves to be the slave of one who treats it so generously. I fear I shall lose it altogether, but as I cannot live without a heart, for pity's sake, Madame, give me yours in return, for without one or the other I shall die. Do not put off my seeing you this evening, I beseech you. You have convinced me so deeply that you love me, that I have never loved you so much before. You have never appeared to me so altogether lovely. With crossed hands and bended knees I thank you for all you have vouchsafed unto me. Suffer me therefore to see you again to-day, and do not put me off. I should die.

The Prince went away to-day at eight o'clock. He is angry because you wished to remain with your mother. All goes wonderfully well. Farewell.

* * *

LETTER X

Sophia Dorothea to Koenigsmarck

HANOVER, undated.

I spent the stillness of the night without sleeping, and all the day thinking of you, weeping over our separation. Never did a day seem so long to me; I do not know how I shall ever get reconciled to your absence. La Gouvernante* has just given me your letter; I received it with rapture. Rest assured I will do even more than I have promised, and lose no opportunity of showing you my love. If I could shut myself up while you are away and see no one, I would do so gladly, for without you everything is distasteful and wearisome. Nothing can make your absence bearable to me; I am faint with weeping. I hope to prove by my life that no woman has ever loved man as I love you, and no faithfulness will ever equal mine. In spite of every trial and all that may befall, nothing will sever me from you. Of a truth, dear one, my love will only end with my life.

[* This must have been another name for the Fräulein von Knesebeck, la Confidente.]

I was so changed and depressed to-day that even the Prince, my husband, pitied me, and said I was ill and ought to take care of myself. He is right,—I am ill; but my illness comes only from loving you, and I never wish to be cured. I have not seen anyone worth mentioning. I went to visit the Duchess (Sophia) for a little while, but returned home as soon as possible to have the joy of talking about you.* La Gazelle's husband** came to wish me good-bye; I saw him in my chamber, and he kissed my hand.

[* i.e. with la Confidente.]

[** La Gazelle may have been Countess von Lewenhaupt (so called because of her gazelle-like eyes), whose husband was about to march With the Duke of Zell's troops to Flanders.]

It is now eight o'clock, and I must go and pay my court. How dull I shall seem!—how stupid! I shall withdraw immediately after supper, so that I may have the pleasure of reading your letters again, the only pleasure I have while you are away. Farewell, my worshipped one. Only death will sever me from you; all human powers will never succeed. Remember all your promises, and be as constant as I will be faithful.

* * *

LETTER XI

Sophia Dorothea to Koenigsmarck

ZELL, July 25/August 4.

This is the third post, and still no letter! Surely so tender a lover as you always seemed to be cannot have wholly forgotten me—or are we betrayed? It positively must be one thing or the other. The suspense is so acute that I have not a moment's peace. But my great fear is that you have changed. I think of nothing else, nor of all that may happen to me. Is it possible that you have forgotten your vows of eternal fidelity? I strive to drive away my sad thoughts, but I am in such abject melancholy that I fear it is a foreboding of misfortune. If you love me no longer I shall never be comforted. But what is the use of telling you that? You know it, and perhaps the knowledge has not prevented you from becoming unfaithful. Why do you force me by your silence to believe the worst? I have not deserved this coldness, for none ever loved so tenderly before. If I receive no letter from you by the next post I shall no longer be able to doubt. What pleasure can you find in grieving me thus? What have I done to be treated in this way? Is it because I love you to madness and am faithful to you with a faithfulness that nothing will ever equal? I have not the strength to say more, for I am writing perchance to an ungrateful being, and the thought is death. Farewell. If no letters come by the first post I shall risk sending a note by Lenner, for if there should be treachery I fear that you have received none of mine. I send you this by the postmaster here.

* * *

LETTER XII

Sophia Dorothea to Koenigsmarck

ZELL, July 30/August 9.

I am the most unfortunate and unhappy of women. No sooner is my mind at rest about your constancy than I am plunged into terrible fear for your life. I have not closed my eyes all night. I am so downcast and melancholy that every one pities me: indeed, I am to be pitied, for the man who gives my life all its happiness is in danger every moment; perhaps I shall never see him again. It will kill me; I cannot endure this suffering. I shall surely not survive you, I implore you, in the name of the love I bear you, expose me not again to such anxiety, but leave me never more. I am weary of suffering so much. It is only right that you should give yourself wholly to me, for I have given myself all to you. My heart is breaking, I shall have no peace until I know that you are safe.

* * *

LETTER XIII

Koenigsmarck to Sophia Dorothea

DIST, October 31/November 10.

Since you bid me lose no time in coming to you, I have determined to start at once, without waiting for leave, whatever may happen. It is not very prudent, for it will give pretext them the retext they seek; but since you wish to see me, I fly, I rush to the spot where you are. Why cannot I be there to-night? You relieve me of my forebodings by saying that with prudence and wisdom we shall be able to outwit our enemies. Let me know your plans, and I will give you my views. My life and happiness depend on them. I am sorry your letters were delayed, for I suck from them much sweetness. Anima mia, what can I do to prove my gratitude? How happy I am, mine angel, my divinity, my delight, my sole consolation! Your merits are beyond all else in the world, your charms above all the sex, your beauty equal to that of the goddesses. I cannot live without you any longer. I am dying to be near you; but there are yet many days. Adieu, my soul, my life. Adieu.

* * *

LETTER XIV

Koenigsmarck to Sophia Dorothea

Pour la personne connue.

SUNDAY, November 6/16.

This is to give you warning that I shall arrive to-morrow evening. You understand me, do you not? Should this fall into your hands before ten o'clock to-morrow morning, Monday, let me have a line or two from you. On receiving your letter I will act accordingly; but should you receive mine after ten o'clock, I will await the usual signal Farewell.

En route, later

I hoped to have found post-horses here, but there are none. Therefore, instead of Monday, I shall not be with you until Tuesday the 8th. Do not let the seal alarm you; I opened the letter. Though the hasty journey will have tired me to death, I cannot let the night pass without throwing myself at your feet. Do not refuse me my prayer, or I shall die. You will see me in a mean guise, but I hope you will not mind. I can come in secretly, without anyone seeing me, and be hidden as long as you like. I only wait for a word in answer from la Confidente.* I will come according to your usual signal. The answer can be sent to my secretary. He will know where I am; it will be given me without fail. Farewell. I am pining for the hour.

[* Fräulein Knesebeck.]

* * *

LETTER XV

Koenigsmarck to Sophia Dorothea

HANOVER, Friday, June 30/July 10, Twelve o'clock midday.

The life I have been leading since the Court returned must, I fear, give you cause for much jealousy, for I am playing every night with ladies, and, without vanity, they are not ugly nor of mean rank. I crave your pardon, but I cannot live without a little pleasure, and one of them is so much like you that I cannot help being in her society. You will be curious to know her name, but I will not tell, for fear you may forbid me to pay her my court. I cannot forget those delectable moments at Brockhausen. What pleasure! what transports! what ardour! what rapture we tasted together! and with what grief we parted! Oh that I could live those moments over again! Would that I had died then, drinking deep of your sweetness, your exquisite tenderness! What transports of passion were ours!...I will always be your true lover, absent or present, wherever you may be, and whatever may befall. La Platen* has appeared dressed in a ridiculous yellow cloak.

[* The Countess von Platen, mistress to the Princess's father-in-law, and the prime instigator of the murder of Koenigsmarck.]

* * *

LETTER XVI

Sophia Dorothea to Koenigsmarck

HANOVER, August 5.

This is the sixth day since you left, and I have not had a word from you. What neglect and what disdain! In what way have I deserved such treatment? Is it for loving you to adoration, for having sacrificed everything? But of what use to remind you of this? My suspense is worse than death; nothing can equal the torments this cruel anxiety makes me suffer. What an ill fate is mine, good God! What shame to love without being loved! I was born to love you, and I shall love you as long as I live. If it be true that you have changed, and I have no end of reasons for fearing so, I wish you no punishment save that of never finding, wherever you may be, a love and fidelity equal to mine. I wish, despite the pleasures of fresh conquests, you may never cease to regret the love and tenderness that I have shown you. You will never find in the whole world anyone so loving and so sincere. I love you more than woman has ever loved man. But I tell you the same things too often; you must be tired of them. Do not count it ill, I implore you, nor grudge me the sad consolation of complaining of your harshness. I am very anxious for fear they have detained the letter you were to have written to me from Zell. I have not received a word; everything conspires to crush me. Perhaps in addition to the fact that you no longer love me, I am on the eve of being utterly lost. It is too much all at once; I shall break down under it. I must end this to-morrow; I shall go to Communion. Farewell. I forgive you all you make me suffer.

* * *

LETTER XVII

Koenigsmarck to Sophia Dorothea

HANOVER, Tuesday, Two o'clock after midnight.

Your conduct is not very kind. You appoint a rendezvous, and then leave me to freeze to death in the cold, waiting for the signal. You must have known that I was there from 11.30 till 1, waiting in the street. I know not what to think, but I can hardly doubt your inconstancy after having such icy proofs of it. You did not deign to look at me all the evening, you purposely avoided playing cards with me, and you wanted to get rid of me. I will go away quickly enough. Farewell, then. I start tomorrow morning for Hamburg.

The next morning

Having spent the whole night without sleeping, I have had time to think over my troubles. I determined to go, but then I remembered I once swore to you that I would never go away abruptly, and I want to know before I go the reason of your behaviour. That is why I am still here to-day. I shall not appear at Court, for I mortally hate it, and so you will not be able to give me the signal with your eyes; but the other way will let me know if I may come in. I am glad I did not continue my letter last night, for I was in so violent a rage that I should certainly have said some unpleasant things for which I should now be sorry.

* * *

LETTER XVIII

Koenigsmarck to Sophia Dorothea

HANOVER, undated.

For God's sake do not show me any coldness! I fancied that when you left the room you would not deign to look at me. How that seeming affront stung me! I am not the cause of what happened yesterday. You must blame the stars that rule our lives—you must blame them and not me, for I love and adore you, and think only, day and night, of how to please you. Behold my face, my conduct, my steps, my looks,—do you think I fail in the least trifle? do you notice any signs of weariness? Alas! far from that, I love you more than ever. My passion upsets my reason, and that is why I cannot conceal what I feel. Adorable one, I will love thee to the tomb! To-night thou shalt be mine—yea, though I perish.


ANNE DE LENCLOS (1620-1705)
AND
CHARLES DE MARQUETEL
DE SAINT-DENIS DE SAINT-ÉVREMOND (1613-1703)

Illustration Illustration

* * *

Tendre et friponne tour à tour,
Ninon eut trop d'amans pour connaître l'amour.

—M. Desmahis.
Epitaphe pour NINON DE LENCLOS

* * * * * * *

Anne De Lenclos was born at Paris of a good family; her mother was pious, her father a cultured, reckless libertine, who taught her to enjoy Montaigne and Charron before she was twelve years old. In 1652, M. de Lenclos fled France in consequence of a quarrel with a M. de Chabons, whom he killed; this gay philosopher and soldier had already moulded the character of his daughter, who shocked her mother by her witty mockery of both sacred and profane subjects.

Not very beautiful, but extremely charming and fascinating, Ninon, as she was called, resisted all the efforts of priests and wise friends to reform her sceptical turn of mind and her worldly inclinations. She was delicately made, graceful, and had, according to one who knew her, not only "a noble air," but an expression at once "tender and touching"; she had black hair and eyes, and that fine complexion usually described as 'dazzling.' At fifteen years of age she entered on a first love-affair with a debt-ridden officer in the light cavalry and also on a life of galanterie. Cardinal Richelieu was reputed to be among her earliest admirers. Ninon visited him dressed as a page. After this she shook off every vestige of maternal authority and established herself in handsome apartments in Paris, paid for by the generosity of her lovers, who included most of the notable men of the time. Her father returned secretly to France to die in his daughter's arms; he gave her some last advice of an extremely hedonistic nature; life was short, he declared, and he advised his willing Ninon—"to be never scrupulous as to the number, but only as to the choice of your pleasures."

In 1643 Madame de Lenclos died, and moved by grief and perhaps remorse, Ninon retreated into a convent, but soon re-entered the world and resumed her former mode of life, gaily throwing off all restraints and conventions and taking as her motto—"Feminine virtue is nothing but a convenient masculine invention."

Ninon de Lenclos became one of the most famous figures of her age; her adventures, her sayings, her lovers have become legendary and it is now difficult to distinguish truth from invention in the accounts of her long and successful career. There can be no doubt, however, that her intelligence, her charm, her wit, her good humour and tact brought her a well-deserved popularity among the gallant, the fastidious, the well-bred and the brilliant men and women of her time; Ninon was able to combine a succession of amorous affairs into which her heart did not enter at all with tender, affectionate friendships. Ninon had many accomplishments, like her father she was an exquisite lutanist; her dancing, particularly of the sarabande, was a marvel of grace; she was a most fascinating speaker and clever at both prose and verse; she was also, what is rare enough, an expert in love; of the great Condé, one of her gallants, she shrewdly remarked—"it requires much more genius to make love than to command armies." This genius she herself possessed to the full. To her own sex she gave this invaluable advice. "A love-affair is, of all dramas, that in which the acts are longest, the intervals shortest—how can these be filled save by cultivating one's talents?"

One of Ninon's closest friends was M. Charles de Saint-Évremond, 'a cadet of Normandy' and one of the gentlemen in the household of the duc d'Enghien. Epicurean and hedonist as Ninon herself, soldier and poet, the heartless and brilliant courtier was exiled to England by Louis XIV; there he lived on pensions from Charles II and William III and became the worshipper of Hortense Mancini, duchesse de Mazarin; he died at a considerable age in 1703 and is buried in Westminster Abbey. "He and I," said Ninon, "will write the world's epitaph."

Saint-Évremond remained always the loyal friend of Ninon, with whom he corresponded during his exile; to him she was the perfect amoureuse, the true goddess of love; "Qui a aimé aimera," he wrote of her; she seemed indeed for many of her contemporaries, immortal. Health, contentment and high spirits preserved her good looks to an extent that then seemed miraculous; some stories tell of her receiving a fresh lover on her eightieth birthday; but Voltaire, who saw her in the last years of her life, declared that she "had all the ugliest signs of old age." We know at least that she kept her pride and wit to the end and faded and died with cheerful decorum, leaving behind her such a reputation as few women have achieved. The following is a brief selection from her correspondence. The letters are taken and translated from:

Correspondance Authentique de Ninon de Lenclos.

—EMILE COLOMBEY, Paris, 1886.

The letters from Saint-Évremond are from the same source.


* * *

LETTER I

M. de Saint-Évremond to Mlle de Lenclos

1669.

Despite that old dreamer [Solon] who considered that no one could be judged happy until after his death, I consider you, in the midst of life, the happiest creature that ever existed. You have been loved by the finest men in the world and your love for them endured just long enough for you to enjoy all the pleasure of it, without feeling any of the disgusts of lassitude or satiety. No woman has ever carried so far the possibilities of the happiness peculiar to your sex, there are few princesses that would not find their condition hard compared to yours that would arouse their jealousy; perhaps there are even saints in convents who would willingly exchange the tranquillity of their minds for the agreeable troubles of your heart. The only torments that you have ever known have been those of love—and no one is better aware than you are that the torments of love are worth more than its pleasures. To-day, when the first flower of your youth has passed (the expression is discourteous, but I only repeat what you have several times told me yourself) you preserve so many charms in your person and so much that is delightful in your mind, that, were you not fastidious in your choice of friends, your apartments would be as crowded by disinterested people, as those of the wealthy are by flatterers. You mingle even virtues with your charms, and in the moment that a lover declares his passion to you, a friend can confide his secret. Your word is a bond on which anyone can safely rely—and when you give a hope of a hundred pistoles, one can count on them as if they were already received. With this exact word of honour you are willing to use an official falsehood for a friend. Perhaps, for instance, you saw, two days ago, someone buried three months since, and if anyone is impudent enough to say that he assisted at the funeral, you rigorously maintain that he mistook for an interment what was really a baptismal or wedding ceremony. With so many virtues I am astonished that Ministers of State merely dine with you. I am astonished because you do not yourself govern some great realm where the people would be as happy as they were in Cytherea, in the time of the good goddess Venus. Let us fly, my dear, let us hasten to the Indies, to practise the cult of these people; we should live there for centuries, and every moment would be full of pleasure. In that country, I declare, there is one admirable gain over ours, you are always three years younger than you think you are. Alas, have pity on us mortals, who add days on days to our age, as we hasten towards the end—whereas you, when your age seems to you a little advanced, you turn back, you throw off the years with as little trouble as it takes you to add another chemise to your toilet this cold weather. My years run ahead, but though I feel some loss of my former vigour, I console myself for what is gone by trying to preserve what is left. Would it please God that we were together in a clean, dainty little house in the sweet bonds of marriage...there are some examples here and in Madrid! We should, no doubt, devote much time to the delicacies of the mind, but we should also give a little attention to the body—if only in order that it did not become jealous of its companion. In any case, I should be able to put into your head my ideas of the Fortunate Isles—they would be better perhaps than the French realities. I have shown your assertion of his existence to the Comte de Riez who has been a little surprised at his resurrection; he has heard of that of Lazarus after three days, but did not believe that it was possible after three years. Adieu, I would much like to know if the lute goes well.

* * *

LETTER II

1670.

I feel the deepest vexation in the world not to have received the letter that I hear you had the goodness to write to me; it is, apparently, lost in the vicissitudes of the post, with several others. M. d'Hervart told me that you would send me fifty pistoles whenever I wished—I, therefore, always ready to follow your orders, at once wished for them. I do not, besides, know what will become of the other fifty, if I am not to have them. Relying on your promise, I left with a good heart M. Delbène, our dear friend and false creditor; his debt to me now amounts to 1,334 livres—your pistoles would put his conscience at rest. If you do not send me more than the fifty pistoles of which M. d'Hervart spoke to me, do not reproach yourself with having broken your word—it would be the fault of my star, not a lack in your good faith; the most honourable people, my friends, well intentioned gentlemen, would, if I had had need of promises, have made them just to do me a favour—and intended to keep them, too. It would be the fault of my accursed star, not theirs, if their inclinations changed and they felt forced to act against their natural dispositions. I have another consolation that turns my thoughts to a pleasant aspect of this gloomy subject; if I receive the entire sum, your exactitude and honour will absolve me from the position of a lover subject to your infidelity. If I receive nothing, my position will be too interested for me to remain your friend, and the good opinion of the surety in the affair will be lost.* The tone that you take is worthy of your wit and does justice to the part that I have always played with you—neither a mere friend, nor truly a lover. Perhaps you are too severe to allow the least hint of passion; I am accustomed to suffer such rigours, and if you will send me the other fifty pistoles as a sign that you condemn the tendernesses that I have had for you, I will coin you in these strictures and receive the pistoles as a mere friend that has no right to expect more than friendship. A friend, at least, I shall be all my life, and as there is more in reality than in imagination perhaps I shall be something more when I speak to you again.

[* In a letter to M. d'Hervart, Saint-Évremond explains this obscure passage that offended Ninon; he meant that he wished to be treated as a friend of Mademoiselle de Lenclos, who was always faithful to her word, and not as a lover of Ninon who was always unfaithful to her admirers, "the surety in the affair" is Ninon herself; she had guaranteed a loan of 100 pistoles from Saint-Évremond to Delbène.]

* * *

LETTER III

Ninon de Lenclos to M. Saint-Évremond

1671.

An honour that is too severe has always a slight air of ferocity and virtue only exists easily in an even temperature. I wrote you a very handsome letter in which I let you see all my merits as regards the premature payment demanded. Even though I did pass my word, I do not believe that Marcus Antony [sic] philosopher and Emperor besides, did not pay his creditors in advance.*

[* Ninon had guaranteed the loan on the strength of some money that she was herself expecting.]

Here, however, is what I have done for you and the poor Delbène. My sense of justice made me put myself in your place, though I might have put off everything until my business—from which I have not yet drawn a farthing—was settled. I thought, however, that we were both more to be pitied than I was and I send you a hundred pistoles of the thousand that I shall not, as I said, receive until the affair is concluded. This reflection shakes one's courage a little, it is true, but when one comes to think of it—it is dangerous to embroil oneself with a banker. The cold, a bad pen, M. d'Hervart's man, who waits to take this, prevents me from saying more, however, love me enough to enable you to resist my severity. I told you that my charms were changed into solid and serious qualities and you know that it is not permitted to trifle with a Personage.

[Probably the reference to Marc-Antonin should read Marcus Aurelius.

The next letter selected is that written by Saint-Évremond to Ninon when she was sixty-six years of age and he seven years older.]

* * *

LETTER IV

M. de Saint-Évremond to Mlle de Lenclos

1686 (London).

Your life, my dearest, has been too illustrious for it not always to remain so. Do not let the hell* of M. de la Rochefoucauld frighten you—this hell was only invented to make a maxim. Boldly pronounce the word 'love' and do not allow those—old women ever to leave your mouth. There is so much wit in your letter it is impossible to imagine the beginning of a decline. How ungrateful to be ashamed to mention love, to which you owe your merits and your graces.

[* M. de la Rochefoucauld had told Ninon: "Old age is a woman's hell."]

For, my beautiful guardian of the casket,* the reputation that you have for frivolity is particularly founded on the fact that though you have often resisted lovers you have always generously accommodated your friends with money. Admit then all your passions in order to have the benefit of all your virtues. However, you have only shown half your character. Nothing is warmer than your attitude towards your friends, nothing dryer than that you take towards your lovers. In a few verses, I give you your entire character; here it is, formed of all the qualities that you have or have had...do not let this diversity surprise you.

Indulgent and wise nature
Has formed the soul of Ninon,
With the voluptuousness of Epicurus
And the virtue of Cato.

[* Reference to an incident in which M. de Gourville left ten thousand écus in charge of Ninon and an equal sum in that of a saintly priest. On his return from abroad the holy man denied ever having received the money, but Ninon delivered up the sum intact. Some verses, almost impossible to translate adequately are omitted from the end of this letter; the last four lines are given.]

* * *

LETTER V

Mlle de Lenclos to M. de Saint-Évremond

January 1687.

I defy Dulcinea to feel more joy at the recollection of her knight*, than I at receiving your letter that has been welcomed as it deserves—and "the rueful countenance" has in no way diminished your sentiments. I am touched by their force and persistence—preserve them to the shame of those that dare to judge them. I believe with you that wrinkles are the marks of wisdom. I am ravished that your external virtues do not sadden you, I shall try to be the same. You have a friend (M. de Gramont) who owes his fortune to his charms; he is the only old man not considered ridiculous at Court...M. Delbène, whom you term the Cunctator, died in hospital. Is this what one calls the judgment of men?

[* An allusion to Don Quixote; in reference to his hero Saint-Évremond sometimes signed his letters—"the knight of the rueful countenance."]

If M. d'Olovne had been alive and had read the letter that you sent me, he would have continued to give you your title of his philosopher. M. de Lauzun is my neighbour; he will receive your compliments. I send you, very tenderly, those of M. de Charleval. I beg you warmly to remind M. de Rurigney* of his friend in the rue des Tournelles.

[* A Huguenot gentleman, exiled from France and in the service of Great Britain.]

* * *

LETTER VI

Mlle de Lenclos to M. de Saint-Évremond

1687.

I was alone in my room and very tired of reading, when they announced—"Here is a man from M. de Saint-Évremond." Judge if in that moment my boredom was dissipated. I had the pleasure of talking about you and I learnt what your letters did not tell me, your perfect health and your occupations. Happiness of mind brings strength, and your letter, as did M. d'Olovne when he visited you, assures me that England promises you another forty years of life; for it seems to me that only in England does one hear of people passing the natural span of years. I should like what remains to me of life with you, and if you had the same thought you would be here. It is, meanwhile, very delightful to recall the people whom one has loved and perhaps the separation of our bodies will give me another virtue to embellish my epitaph. I wish that the young preacher* had found me in the gloire de Niquée**—unchanged like that princess, for you seem to think that I, from the first, have been enchanted. Do not change your ideas, so favourable to me, on that point, and may your illusions—however unworthy philosophers consider them—last for ever.

[* M. Alphonse de Turretin, afterwards professor of theology at Geneva; the man from Saint-Évremond.]

[** A reference to the then popular romance of Amadis de Gaule. Niquée was a princess who, to escape the attentions of the son of the Sultan, was set by her aunt in an enchanted palace—like that of the sleeping beauty, where everyone remained inanimate, and the Princess, seated on a throne immobile, gazed into a magic mirror that showed her the picture of her true love, Amadis de Grèce. M. Turretin had waited on Ninon with an introduction from her friend and she wished he had found her insensible to his presence, staring into a mirror that reflected Saint-Évremond and dowered with the immortal youth with which her correspondent credited her so often.]

I showed M. Turretin the joy that I should have had to be useful to him in any way; some of my friends were here and found him worthy of the praises you give him. If he cares to profit by the scarcity of honest abbés in the absence of the Court, he will be treated as a man that you esteem. I read, in front of him, your letter, and with spectacles on, they did not misbecome me, I have always had a grave countenance. If he is in love with the merit that here they now term distinguished, perhaps your wish of his admiring me will be fulfilled, for with praises of my serious qualities everyone tries to console me for those that the years have taken from me. I see that you wish that La Fontaine was in England; he is not doing very well over here; his head is being very weak. That is the destiny of poets—as Tasso and Lucretius prove. I should think that La Fontaine had some love potion—he has thrown away all his money on women.

* * *

LETTER VII

M. de Saint-.Évremond to Mlle de Lenclos

1687.

M. Turretin was vastly obliged to me for procuring him your acquaintance—and I no less to him for being the excuse for gaining me the charming letter that you sent me. I do not doubt that he saw you with the same eyes as those with which I have always seen you—those eyes from which I always knew the new conquest of a lover, for they always then shone a little more brightly than usual.

We are still in Cytherea—

You will always be the same for me, and when nature, who pardons no one, has exhausted her power over you by producing some alteration in your features, my imagination will be for you the enchantment of la gloire de Niquée where you will remain unchanged. I can assure you that you need not concern yourself about your eyes and your teeth—your only need, in my judgment, is to realise the advantages of your mind that comes every day nearer perfection. You are more spiritual than was the young and witty Ninon.

Verses follow.

* * *

LETTER VIII

Mlle de Lenclos to M. de Saint-Évremond

M. de Charleval has just died, and I am so afflicted that I try to console myself by giving you a share of my grief. I saw him every day, his mind had all the charms of youth, and his heart all the goodness and tenderness desirable in true friends. We often spoke of you and all the good fellows of our time. His life and that which I lead now had much in common. Such a loss is worse than dying oneself. Send me your news. I am as interested in your life in London as if you were here—and old friends have a charm that one only realises when one loses them.

* * *

LETTER IX

M. de Saint-Évremond to Mlle de Lenclos

1696.

I have received the second letter that you wrote me—it is agreeable, gracious and spirituelle. I recognise the charms of Ninon and the good sense of Mlle de Lenclos. I know how the first lived and you tell me how the second passes her time. All contributes to make me regret the happy times that I have passed in your company, and to desire uselessly to see you again. I have not the strength to go to France and you have too much that is agreeable about you for you to wish to visit England. Madame de Bouillon will tell you that England has its charms and I should be ungrateful if I did not admit that I have found myself some pleasant things.* I learn with much pleasure that M. le Comte de Gramont has recovered his first health and become converted to religion. Up to now I have been quite grossly content to be a good fellow. I ought to be something more, and I only await your example to become converted too. You live in a country where it is wonderfully easy to save one's soul—where vice is not so fashionable as virtue. To sin is merely lack of knowledge of how to live—it shocks good manners as much as religion. Formerly it was enough to be wicked—but to get oneself damned in France nowadays one would have to be very stupid. Those who have no regard to another life are saved by a consideration for what is owing to appearances here. Enough of this subject brought to my mind by the conversion of M. de Gramont; I believe that he is honest and sincere. It will become a man no longer young to forget that he has ever been so. I cannot, however, accomplish this, on the contrary, the memory of my youthful years, of my past liveliness, helps to animate the languor of my old age. What I find, at this period of my life, the most tiresome, is that hope is lost—hope the sweetest of the passions and that which most contributes to the pleasures of life. The despair of ever seeing you again is what gives me the greatest pain. One must content oneself by relying on writing letters to sustain an affection that has resisted a length of time, a great distance between us and the usual silliness of old age. This last expression is only for myself; in you Nature begins to show that it is possible never to grow old. I beg you to assure M. le duc de Lauzun of my very humble services and to tell him that I should like to know if Madame la Maréchale de Créqui has paid him the five hundred écus that I owed him. I was written to about this a long time ago, I believe, but I am not quite sure.

[* Saint-Évremond did not wish, by a return to France, to jeopardise the pension and benefits that he received from William III; he was also in close attendance on Madame de Mazarin, whom William had allowed to remain in England after he had sent away the other French favourites of Charles II.]

* * *

LETTER X

M. de Saint-Évremond to Mlle de Lenclos

1697.

It is more than a year since I had any news of you and no one tells me anything save M. Bastide who says that you are very well, and adds that, if you no longer have so many lovers you content yourself with a large number of friends. The falsity of the last news makes me doubt the truth of the first. You were born to love all your life. Lovers and gamblers have something in common; qui a aimé, aimera—he who has loved will always love. If they had told me that you have become religious, I should have believed it. That would be to pass from a profane to a sacred passion, from love of man to love of God, and to give the soul some occupation; but not to love at all argues a species of nothingness that does not belong at all to your heart.

This languishing repose was never any good,
It is to find without dying a state of oblivion.

I beg of you news of your health, of your occupations, of your honour, and all of this in a pretty long letter, where there shall be very little moralizing and plenty of affection for your old friend. They say here that the Comte de Gramont is dead—that vexed me considerably. If you know Barbin,* ask him why he prints under my name so many things that I never wrote. I have enough stupidities of my own to answer for without being bothered by those of others. For instance, they give me a piece against P. Boubours that I never wrote, nor thought of. There is not a writer that I esteem more than I do him. Our language owes him more than any other author, except Vaugelas. God grant that the news about the Comte de Gramont** is false and that about your good health true The Gazette de Hollande says that M. le Comte de Lauzun is about to be married; if this were true surely we should have heard of it from Paris—besides he is now Duke, not Count. If you have the goodness to write me something, you would oblige me by letting me know that you have given my compliments to M. de Gourville—if you still see him. As for news of war or peace, I do not ask for it, I will neither write nor receive it either. Adieu—from the truest of your servants who will be much the gainer if you have now no lovers, for then he will be first with you as the most devoted of your friends, despite an absence that promises to be eternal.

[* An unscrupulous publisher who, owing to the success of M. de Saint-Évremond's works, put out the efforts of hack writers under this name.]

[** It proved to be so. M. de Gramont died in 1707.]

* * *

LETTER XI

Mlle de Lenclos to M. de Saint-Évremond

1697.

I learn with pleasure that my soul is dearer to you than my body and that your good sense conducts you to the better part of me. The body, to tell the truth, is no longer worthy of attention but the soul has still some light that renders it sensible to the remembrance of a friend whose image has not been effaced by a long absence. I often tell old stories of M. Delbène, M. de Charleval and the chevalier de Pirière that amuse the present modern generation. You have a place in that good company, but, as you are a modern yourself, I take care not to praise you before the pedants that are devoted to the ancients. I have received your Prologue en Musique that I should much like to see on a Parisian theatre. Beauty—that is your subject—will make all that hear the piece envious. All our Helens cannot expect to find Homers and to be always goddesses of beauty. I have risen to heights—how shall I descend? My dear friend, must one not put a little heart into one's words? I assure you that I love you always far more than philosophy permits. Madame de Bouillon looks eighteen years old—the source of her charms is in the Mazarin blood. Now, when our Kings are friends,* cannot you make a little visit here? That for me would be the greatest success of the peace.

[* Allusion to the peace of Ryswyck, signed September 20, 1697.]

* * *

LETTER XII

M. de Saint-Évremond to Ninon de Lenclos

1698.

I take a lively pleasure in seeing around me young people that are handsome, pleasant, in their full bloom, who easily touch sincerely an old heart like mine. There is always a strong likeness between your taste, your humour, your sentiments and mine, and so I believe that you also will not be vexed to see a young cavalier who knows how to please all the ladies here. It is the Duke of St. Albans* whom I have begged, more for his own sake than for yours, to wait on you. If there are any friends of yours in the suite of M. de Tallard,** to whom I might be useful, command me. Let me know how our old friend M. de Gourville is, I have no doubt that he is doing very well in his business—if not so well in his health. I sympathise with him.

[* Charles Beauclerk, first Duke of St. Albans, son of Charles II by Nell Gwynn (1690-1726), soldier and diplomat, after the peace of Ryswyck sent to Paris by William III to compliment Louis XIV on the marriage of the Duke of Burgundy, December 7, 1699.]

[** Camille d'Hostun, duc de Tallard, French Ambassador to St. James from March, 1698.]

Dr. Morelli,* my particular friend, accompanies Lady Sandwich** who is going to France for her health. Her father, the late Lord Rochester, was the wittiest man in England, and Lady Sandwich has even more wit than her father, as generous as spirituelle and as amiable as spirituelle and generous. Here are a few of his qualities—I will tell you more of the doctor than of the invalid. Seven towns, as you know, dispute the honour of being the birthplace of Homer, seven great nations dispute that of Morelli: India, Egypt, Arabia, Persia, Turkey, Italy, Spain. Cold countries, temperate countries, such as France, England and Germany have no pretension to this honour. He knows all languages and speaks most of them. His lofty, grand, ornamented style makes me think that he was born among Orientals, and polished himself by taking all that is best among Europeans. He is a passionate lover of music and mad about poetry; expert in painting, to say the least and I know not what besides, a connoisseur at least. As for architecture, friends of mine who know, declare that he is as capable of exercising this art as all the others. I beg you to introduce him to the acquaintance of all our celebrities, if he has yours, I shall consider him very fortunate. You will not permit him to meet anyone that has less merit than yourself. I think that I recall that Epicurus found one of his greatest pleasures was in the remembrance of things past. There is certainly nothing better for a man a hundred years*** old as I am, but there are still consolations, to remember you and all that I have heard you say, is one of the greatest. I write to you about a good many things in which you can't be interested, but I don't think that they will bore you. It is enough for me that they please me—at my age one cannot hope to please others. My merit is that I am content—more than content when I write to you. Think of me when you drink wine with M. de Gourville. I am lodging with M. de l'Hermitage, one of his relations, a very honest fellow, who took refuge in England because of his religion. I am vexed that the conscience of French Catholics would not suffer him in Paris and that the delicacy of his own obliged him to leave it; he surely merits the approbation of his cousin.

[* Morelli, or Movalez, was a Jew born at Cairo and educated in Amsterdam; savant, wit and bon viveur, Morelli was accounted one of the most remarkable men of his time; he died at Kensington, 1715.]

[** Widow of the third Earl of Sandwich and daughter of the famous poet, courtier and wit, John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (1647-80).]

[*** Saint-Évremond, when he wrote this, was probably, as far as the date of his birth can be ascertained, eighty-two or eighty-four years old.]

* * *

LETTER XIII

Mlle de Lenclos to M. de Saint-Évremond

1698.

What made you think that the sight of a young cavalier would give me pleasure? Your senses deceive you as to the senses of others; I have forgotten all my lovers. If the word doctor had not reassured me, I should have sent you a reply by the abbé d'Hautefeuille and your English friends would have heard nothing of me. They would have been told at my door that I was not at home, had I not received your letter that rejoiced me more than any other that I have received from you. How I envy a drinker of good wine and how unfortunate I am not to be able to report a success! M. de Gourville no longer leaves his room, and is indifferent to any pleasure, a good friend always, but of the kind that one does not like to trouble for fear of giving him vexations. M. de Pallard was once my friend, but great affairs turn great men from useless things. They tell me that M. l'abbé Dubois goes with him; this is a subtle little man who will, I think, please you. I have twenty of your letters here, he has read them with much admiration. You see that good taste has not come to an end in France. I was charmed by your statement that you don't fear boredom—and that you no longer trouble to please others—though this can never be true of you. I have written to M. Morelli—if he has half the knowledge that you say he has, he is indeed a true doctor.

* * *

LETTER XIV

Mlle de Lenclos to M. de Saint-Évremond

1698.

I sent a reply to your last letter, Monsieur, by way of the abbé Dubois, and I fear that, as he was at Versailles, you have not received it. I should have been much troubled about your health, if I had not had a visit from the little librarian of Madame de Bouillon, who filled me with joy by showing me a letter from someone who knew my anxiety on your behalf. However much cause I have had, during my illness, to praise everyone—all my friends—nothing gave me more pleasure than this mark of goodness. Make out of that what you will—you have drawn the admission from me. I beg you to let me know yourself if you still feel that happiness of which one tastes so little at certain times. The source of it, however, can never be dry for you while you have the friendship of the delightful person* who sustains your life. How I envy those who go to England and how pleased I should be to dine once more with you! Is it not rather gross to wish for a dinner? The mind has great advantages over the body—but the body has also little tastes that support and console the soul in its saddest reflections. You have often mocked at my little material pleasures—I have banished them all. There is no longer time for them when one arrives at the last period of one's life—one must content oneself with to-day—when one lives. As you say, hopes for a few hours hence are worth more than those that are far ahead; they are more certain. Here is a fine moral; look after yourself, that is what all of it comes to, after all.

[* Madame de Mazarin.]

* * *

LETTER XV

Mlle de Lenclos to M. de Saint-Évremond

July 1698.

M. l'abbé Dubois has given me your letter, Monsieur, and also good reports of both your digestion and your mind. There comes a time when one thinks more of the first than of the second and I vow to my shame I am more happy to hear that you enjoy one than that you do the other. I have always believed that your mind would last you to the end of your life—I was not so sure of your bodily health, this was a subject on which I had some sad reflections. Unconsciously I feel embarrassed to repeat them—let us begin another chapter. There is a fine young fellow who, in his desire to see the good fellows of all countries, left his own opulent mansion, without taking leave of anyone. Perhaps you blame his curiosity, but the thing is done. He knows a number of things, he is ignorant of others that, at his age, ought to be ignored. I believe him worthy of seeing you—receive him if only to make him feel that he has not wasted his time in visiting England. Treat him well for love of me. I have begged him, by his elder brother, who is particularly my friend, to find out the news of Madame Mazarin and Madame Harvey, because they always wished to remember me.

* * *

LETTER XVI

M. de Saint-Évremond to Ninon de Lenclos

1698.

I have never seen a letter as full of good sense as yours is—you praise the digestion at the expense of the mind so warmly, that one would be ashamed to say one had a good wit unless one could also say one had a good stomach. I am obliged to M. l'abbé Dubois for giving me a good character in this respect. At eighty-eight* years of age I eat oysters every morning; I dine very well, I don't suffer badly—heroes have made their name on less merit than mine. When I was young, I admired the mind and was much less attached to the interests of the body than I ought to have been, to-day I try to repair the wrong I did to my body, by esteem and good usage. With you it has been different; your body was something to you in your youth, now you are occupied with the things of the mind. I do not know if you are right to think so much of them. One has read hardly anything worth retaining, one has said hardly anything worth listening to—miserable as my senses have now become, they are still capable of giving me much pleasure and I think that we do wrong to mortify them.

[* Another error in his age—eighty-two years was his age if born in 1616.]

The wish to do so is perhaps only the jealousy of the mind that finds that the body has the better part. M. Bernier, the prettiest philosopher I have ever known (pretty philosopher sounds odd, but his face, his figure, his manner, his conversation, render him worthy of this epithet), M. Bernier, in talking of the mortification of the senses, said to me one day, "I will tell you in confidence what I would not admit to Madame de La Sablière,* or even to Mademoiselle de Lenclos, whom I consider her superior, I tell you in confidence, that abstinence from pleasure appears to me a great sin." I was surprised by the novelty of this system that made some impression on me. If he had continued his discourse perhaps he would have let me taste his doctrine. Continue your friendship that has never altered—and that is rare enough in such a long intercourse as ours.

[* A 'grande amoureuse' of whom this was told: A relation rebuking her for her numerous love-affairs, exclaimed: "Eh, Madame, even the beasts are faithful for at least a season." "That is because," replied Madame de La Sablière, "they are beasts."]

* * *

LETTER XVII

M. de Saint-Évremond to Mlle de Lenclos

1699.

The last letter that I receive from Mademoiselle de Lenclos always seems to me the best, and this is not only because a present pleasure seems livelier than a past one—no, the real reason is that your intelligence strengthens every day. If your body is as good as your mind, I should ill sustain the competition of digestions that you speak of. I made a trial of mine against that of Lady Sandwich at a grand repast given by Lord Jersey; I was not defeated. Every one knows the intelligence of Lady Sandwich, I now realise, by the extraordinary esteem she has for you, her good taste. I was not defeated in the praises that we gave you, any more than I was in my appetite. You belong to all countries, as much to London as to Paris. You belong to all the periods, and while I claim you to do honour to mine, young people name you as one of the glories of theirs. You are therefore mistress of the past and the present, may you have considerable rights over the future! I do not mean by reputation, that is assured for all time. I am thinking of something more essential—life—eight days of it are worth more than eight centuries of glory after death. Your remark that if your present state of existence had formerly been proposed to you you would have hanged yourself, charmed me—however you content yourself with ease and repose after having known the liveliest emotions. There is no one who thinks more of youth than I do, but however often I remember it, I follow your example and accommodate myself to old age as well as possible. Would to God that Madame Mazarin had had your sentiments! She would still have been living, but she wished to die while she was still the most beautiful woman in the world. Lady Sandwich goes into the country, she leaves here admired in London as she was in Paris. Live, life is good when it is without grief. I beg you to give this note to M. l'abbé d'Hautefeuille, who is staying with Madame de Bouillon. I see sometimes the friends of M. l'abbé Dubois, they complain that he has forgotten them; assure him of my very humble respects.

* * *

LETTER XVIII

Mlle de Lenclos to M. de Saint-Évremond

1699.

Wit is very dangerous in friendship. Your letter would have spoilt anyone save myself. I know your astonishingly lively imagination but I had to remind myself that Lucian wrote in praise of the fly before I could accustom myself to your style. God be praised that you can think of me as you say you do! I am to surpass all the nations, indeed! But to you the true glory will belong, your last letter was a masterpiece, it made the chief subject of conversation among all the company that I have had in my rooms for the past month. You return to youth; you do well to love it; philosophy agrees well with the charms of the mind. It is not enough to be wise, one must please as well, and you will always please if you continue to think as you do now. Very few people resist the passing of the years, but they have not quite overwhelmed me. I wish like you that Madame Mazarin had thought more of her life without thinking so much of her face, that would always have been delightful from her intelligence though it might have been a little less brilliant. Lady Sandwich preserves the strength of her mind in losing that of her youth, at least so I think. Adieu, Monsieur, when you see Madame la comtesse de Sandwich, remind her of me, I should be very vexed to be forgotten.

* * *

LETTER XIX

M. de Saint-Évremond to Mlle de Lenclos

1700.

They have given me, in December, the letter that you wrote to me on the 14th of October. It is a little old, but good things are willingly received, even though they come a little late. You are serious—yet you please. You would give a charm to Seneca who was not used to having any. You call yourself old with all the grace, the good humour and wit of youth. I have one curiosity that you can satisfy. When you recall your youth does not the remembrance of the past give you certain ideas as far from the languor of indolence as from the trouble of passion? Do you not feel in your heart a certain opposition to the tranquillity that you think that you have given to your mind? These are my wishes for the first day of the year, a day when those who have nothing to give make their good wishes serve as presents.


SIR RICHARD STEELE (1672-1729)

Illustration

To Mrs. Mary Steele
A dedication

The tender mother,
The fond wife,
The prudent mistresse,
The frugall housekeeper,
The chearfull companion,
The happy slave to
Her powerful husband.

—RICHARD STEELE

* * * * * * *

Richard Steele described himself as "an Englishman born in Dublin." His father was an attorney, his mother, "a very beautiful woman, of a noble spirit," as her son said, had been a Mrs. Symes and was born Elinor Sheyles.

Steele was educated at Charterhouse and Christchurch, where he became the close friend of Joseph Addison. Entering the army as a trooper, Steele obtained a commission from Lord Cutts, "the salamander," and distinguished himself for valour and good humour in the wars of King William III against Louis XIV.

The writing of dramas and a little book, The Christian Hero, intended to safeguard the author against "unwarrantable pleasures," were Steele's first literary efforts. He married a wealthy widow, who soon died and left him her handsome estate.

Steele was frequently on active service, and when at home lived the life of a man about town—as a popular member of the Kit-Cat Club, experimenting in his laboratory at Poplar, and frequenting the circle of politicians, courtiers and literary men that included Swift, Gay, Prior and Addison. Steele obtained various Court sinecures amounting to about nine hundred pounds per annum, and lived very handsomely. In 1709 he married Mary Scurlock, who had some fortune; in 1709 he founded the Tatler; in 1711 this was replaced by the Spectator, in the editing of which Addison assisted his old school and college friend. The death of his mother-in-law left him richer by five hundred pounds per annum; he then boldly resigned his sinecures and entered Parliament as M.P. for Stockbridge, Hants; his political opponents, however, soon drove him out of the House. His party came into power after the death of Anne (1714) and Steele received the Deputy Lieutenantship of Middlesex, two Court appointments, was again returned to Parliament, and, in 1716, knighted. He also became Supervisor of the Royal Theatre and wrote several more comedies.

In 1718 Lady Steele died; the following year Steele quarrelled with Addison; soon after he fell into a state of invalidism and died in Wales 1729, aged fifty-seven years.

The dates of the births and deaths of the family that he and his Prue so tenderly loved make sad reading; Richard died the year before his mother, aged six years; Eugene in 1723 aged nine years; Mary in 1730 aged eighteen years; only the eldest, Elizabeth, lived to full age—as Lady Trevor she died in 1782.

The following letters, written by Steele to his second wife, require little commentary; they are selected from those he wrote during the period of his second marriage, one of eleven years, when the charming, brilliant man, extravagant, impetuous, full of zeal, enthusiasm and the tenderest affections, was struggling to fulfil his ambitions and to provide for his family. He was often in debt, often—as the letters show—in hiding from his creditors, he lived lavishly, gambled, drank and held his own with the finest society of the time, and his nature, candid, passionate, courteous with the exquisite courtesy of the spirit, just, sparkling and gay, is touchingly revealed in these beautiful letters to his wife; no more charming creature ever put pen to paper than Richard Steele, soldier, courtier, man of letters and gallant lover. We can well believe his Prue, who inscribed one of his letters: "He was, when he wrote the following letter, as agreeable and pleasant a man as any in England.—Oct. 1716."

Prue's own letters have been lost, but we can see her reflected in her husband's praise. Elizabeth Steele preserved her father's letters to her mother and they were published in 1787 and 1809, edited by John Nichols, who sent the MS. to the British Museum. The following version of this famous correspondence is from The Letters of Richard Steele, edited by R. Brimley Johnson. Quill Library, London, 1927.

Steele was a handsome, attractive man with a dark florid face and a robust figure, the type to set off well the trappings of his period—periwig, gold lace, scarlet coat, mechlin lace, silk sash and red-heeled shoes; he was the most delightful of companions, a wholesome honesty and a delicate sense of honour underlying all his zest for pleasure and worldly advancement.

The selection given here is from the first fourteen letters written during his brief courtship, the bulk of the others from London while he was chasing Fortune, and Prue waited anxiously at home. The last are addressed to Carmarthen, where Prue, then a dying woman, had been sent for that "change of air" in the efficacy of which the eighteenth century so firmly believed, while her husband was left in charge of the little family; she died within a short time of the date of his last letter, September 20, 1717. Prue was Steele's nickname for his wife because she tried to oppose "prudence" to his reckless extravagance.


* * *

Richard Steele to Mary Scurlock
(Afterwards Mrs. Steele).

TO MARY SCURLOCK

(Saturday, Aug. 9) 1707.

MADAM,

Your wit and beauty are suggestions which may easily lead you into the intention of my writing to you. You may be sure that I cannot be cold to so many good qualities as all that see you must observe in you. You are a woman of a very good understanding, and will not measure [my] thoughts by any ardour in my expressions, which is the ordinary language on these occasions.

I have reasons for hiding from my nearest relation any purpose I may have resolv'd upon of waiting on you if you permit it; and I hope you have confidence from mine, as well as your own character, that such a condescension should not be ill us'd by, Madam, yr most obedient ser'nt.

* * *

To the Same

(Aug. 14) 1707.

MADAM,

I came to your house this night to wait on you; but you have commanded me to expect the happiness of seeing you at another time of more leisure. I am now under your own roof while I write; and that imaginary satisfaction of being so near you, tho' not in your presence, has in it something that touches me with so tender ideas, that it is impossible for me to describe their force. All great passion makes us dumb; and the highest happiness, as well as highest grief, seizes us too violently to be expressed by our words.

You are so good as to let me know I shall have the honour of seeing you when I next come here. I will live upon that expectation, and meditate on your perfections till that happy hour. The vainest woman upon earth never saw in her glasse half the attractions which I view in you. Your air, your shape, your every glance, motion, and gesture, have such peculiar graces, that you possess my whole soul, and I know no life but in the hopes of your approbation: I know not what to say, but that I love you with the sincerest passion that ever entered the heart of man. I will make it the business of my life to find out means of convincing you that I prefer you to all that's pleasing upon earth. I am, Madam, your most obedient, most faithful humble ser'nt.

* * *

To the Same

CHELSEA, Aug. 25, 1707.

MADAM,

I am observed, by a friend who is with me, in every gesture and motion I make. I have stole a moment, while he is in the next room, to tell the charmer and inspirer of my soul I am her devoted, obedient ser'nt.

* * *

To the Same

ST. JAMES'S COFFEE-HOUSE, Sept. 1, 1707.

MADAM,

It is the hardest thing in the world to be in love, and yet attend businesse. As for me, all who speake to me find me out, and I must lock myself up, or other people will do it for me.

A gentleman asked me this morning, "What news from Lisbon?" and I answered, "She's exquisitely handsome." Another desir'd to know "when I had been last at Hampton-court?" I reply'd, "'Twill be on Tuesday come se'n night." Pr'y thee allow me at least to kiss your hand before that day, that my mind may be in some composure. Oh love!

A thousand torments dwell about thee,
Yet who would live, to live without thee?

Methinks I could write a volume to you; but all the language on earth would fail in saying how much, and with what disinterested passion, I am ever yours.

* * *

To the Same

Saturday Night (Aug. 30, 1707).

DEAR, LOVELY MRS. SCURLOCK,

I have been in very good company, where your unknown name, under the character of the woman I lov'd best, has been often drunk; so that I may say I am dead drunk for your sake, which is more than "I dye for you."

* * *

To the Same

Aug. 30, 1707.

MADAM,

I beg pardon that my paper is not [finer], but I am forc'd to write from a coffee-house where I am attending about business. There is a dirty crowd of busy faces all around me, talking politics and managing stocks; while all my ambition, all my wealth, is love! Love, which animates my heart, sweetens my humour, enlarges my soul, and affects every action of my life. 'Tis to my lovely charmer I owe, that many noble ideas are continually affixed to my words and actions; 'tis the naturall effect of that generous passion, to create some similitude in the admirer, of the object admired. Thus, my dear, am I every day to improve from so sweet a companion. Look up, my fair one, to that Heaven which made thee such, and join with me to implore its influence on our tender innocent hours, and beseech the Author of love, to blesse the rites he has ordain'd, and mingle with our happinesse a just sense of our transient condition, and a resignation to His will, which only can regulate our minds to a steddy endeavour to please [Him and] each other. I am for ever your faithful ser'nt.

* * *

To the Same

Oct. 16, 1707.

DEAREST BEING ON EARTH,

Pardon me if you do not see me till eleven of clock, having met a schoolfellow from India, by whome I am to be inform'd in things this night which extreamely concern your obedient husband.

* * *

To the Same

DEVIL TAVERN, TEMPLE BAR, Jan. 3, 1708.

DEAR PRUE,

I have partly succeeded in my businesse to-day, and enclose two guineas as earnest of more. Dear Prue, I can't come home to dinner. I languish for yr welfare, and will never be a moment carelesse more. Your faithful husband.

Send me word you have received this.

* * *

To the Same

TENNIS-COURT COFFEE-HOUSE, May 5, 1708.

DEAR WIFE,

I hope I have done this day what will be pleasing to you; in the mean time shall lye this night at a barber's, one Legg, over against the Devile tavern at Charing-cross. I shall be able to confront the fools who wish me uneasy, and shall have the satisfaction to see thee chearfull and at ease.

If the printer's boy be at home, send him hither; and let Mrs. Todd send by the boy my night-gown, slippers, and clean linnen. You shall hear from me early in the morning.

* * *

To the Same

Aug. 28, 1708.

DEAR PRUE,

The afternoon coach shall bring you ten pounds. Your letter shews you are passionately in love with me. But we must take our portion of life as it runs without repining; and I consider that good-nature, added to that beautifull form God has given you, would make an happinesse too great for human life. Yr most obliged husband, and most humble servant.

* * *

To the Same

Aug. 28, 1708.

DEAR PRUE,

I send you with this ten pounds, and should come to see you, as ungodly as you are, but that a mail is every moment expected, as you may gather from reading the last Gazette, which I enclose, and am, dear, dear Prue, sincerely yr fond husband.

* * *

To the Same

March 11, 1708-9.

DEAR PRUE,

I inclose five guineas, but cannot come home to dinner. Dear little woman, take care of thyself, and eat and drink cheerfully.

* * *

To the Same

Aug. 13, 1708, Four in the Afternoon.

DEAR PRUE,

I send you some tea, which I doubt not but you will find is very good. I am yr very affectionate husband, and most humble ser'nt.

This is my second letter to-day.

* * *

To the Same

Sept. 20, 1708.

DEAR PRUE,

If a servant I sent last night gott to Hampton-court, you receiv'd 29 walnutts and a letter from me. I inclose the Gazette, and am, with all my soul, yr passionate lover, and faithfull husband.

Since I writ the above, I have found half an hundred more of walnutts, which I send herewith.

My service to Binns.

* * *

To the Same

Half-hour after Ten, Sept. 28, 1708.

DEAR PRUE,

It being three hours since I writ to you, I send this to assure you I am now going very soberly to bed, and that you shall be last thing in my thoughts to-night, as well as the first to-morrow morning. I am, with the utmost fondnesse, yr faithfull husband.

* * *

To the Same

Oct. 25, 1708.

DEAR PRUE,

If you do not hear of me before three to-morrow afternoon, believe I am too fuddled to take care to observe yr orders; but, however, know me to be yr most faithfull, affectionate husband and ser'nt.

* * *

To the Same

(1709?)

Pray, Prue, look a little dressed, and be beautifull, or else everybody else will be entertained but the entertainer; but, if you please, you can outshine the whole company on any costly lustre. Come in good humour. Yrs.

* * *

To the Same

(1709?)

Whether I deserve it or not, I humbly desire you would smile upon me when I come into yr presence. I wait for yr answer, who am yrs tenderly.

* * *

To the Same

Nov. 18, 1712.

DEAR PRUE,

I am come from a committee where I have [been] chairman, and drank too much. I have the headach, and should be glad you would come to me in good-humour, which would always banish any uneasiness of temper from, dear Prue, yr fond fool of a husband.

* * *

To the Same

March 28, 1713.

DEAR PRUE,

I will do everything you desire your own way. Yrs ever.

* * *

To the Same

Dec. 18, 1716.

DEAR PRUE,

Whether I love you because you are the mother of the children, or them because you are their mother, I know not; but I am sure I am growing a very covetous creature for the sake of both of you. I am making haste to Scotland; have only a small affair, which I will acquaint you with in my next, and am, intirely yours.

* * *

To the Same

May 22, 1717.

DEAR PRUE,

Your son is now with me very merry in rags, which condition I am going to better, for he shall have new things immediately. He is extremely pretty, and has his face sweeten'd with something of the Venus his mother, which is no small delight to the Vulcan who begot him. Ever yours.

* * *

To the Same

Sept. 20, 1717.

MY DEAR PRUE,

I have yours of the 16th, and am heartily troubled that we share in a new calamity, to wit, having the same distemper. Pray take care of yourself, and you will find that we shall be in great plenty before another year turns round. My dear Wife, preserve yourself for him that sincerely loves you, and to be an example to your little ones of religion and virtue. If it pleases God to blesse us together with life and health, we will live a life of piety and cheerful virtue. Your daughter Besse gives her duty to you, and says she will be your comfort, but she is very sorry you are afflicted with the gout. The brats, my girls, stand on each side the table; and Molly says, that what I am writing now is about her new coat. Besse is with me till she has new cloaths. Miss Moll has taken upon her to hold the sand-box, and is so impertinent in her office, that I cannot write more. But you are to take this letter as from your three best friends,

BESSE, MOLL, AND THEIR FATHER.

Eugene was very well this morning.

Moll bids me let you know that she fell down just now, and did not hurt herself.

Betty and Moll give their service to Sam and Myrtle.


JAMES RADCLIFFE, 3RD EARL OF DERWENTWATER (1680-1716)

Illustration

Albeit that here in London town
It is my fate to die,
O carry me to Northumberland
In my father's grave to lie.
There chant my solemn requiem
In Hexham's holy towers,
And let six maids of fair Tynedale,
Scatter my grave with flowers.

And when the head that wears the crown
Shall be laid low like mine,
Some honest hearts may then lament
For Radcliffe's fallen line.
Farewell to pleasant Dilston Hall,
My father's ancient seat;
A stranger now must call thee his,
Which gars my heart to greet.

—LORD DERWENTWATER'S "Good-Night."
(Jacobite Ballad.)

* * * * * * *

The third Earl of Derwentwater was the richest and most influential of the great lords that joined the rising of 1715 in favour of James Stewart, only son of James II.

Lord Derwentwater was a friend of the young Prince's (who was exactly his own age), an ardent Roman Catholic, and through his mother, Lady Mary Tudor, natural daughter of Charles II, a royal Stewart. For these considerations, he left vast possessions, a young wife, a noble position, a charming existence, for he was amiable, attractive and gifted.

Arrested after the failure of the revolt, he was sent to the Tower, tried before his Peers, found guilty of high treason and condemned to be beheaded. He was offered a pardon on condition that he acknowledged George I and abjured his Faith, but steadfastly refused, a constancy in which he was encouraged by the pious exhortations of Bishop Gifford and Father Petre, two earnest Roman Catholic priests.

In a state of religious enthusiasm the young Earl renounced all earthly hopes and wrote the following letters to his wife, which she kept treasured with the endorsement—"Some few lines of my dear, dear Lord's."

He also wrote to his father and mother-in-law a letter dated "the night before execution," with a postscript headed "Execution day at five o'clock in the morning," that testifies to his deep love for his wife. This lady took her husband's body through the rough winter roads to Dilston, near Hexham; it was buried in the family chapel, which is still standing, though the remains of Lord Derwentwater were removed in 1874 to Thorden, Essex, the seat of Lord Petre. Lady Derwentwater was Anna Maria, daughter of Sir John Webb; she was married in 1712 and died of smallpox in 1723, leaving a son, the fourth Earl, who died unmarried in 1731, and a daughter, Anna Maria Barbara, who married Lord Petre.

Lord Derwentwater met his end on the scaffold with lofty courage, February 24, 1716; blond, slender and very pale, he appeared in a black velvet suit, a beaver with a long black plume over a flaxen peruke, stockings hand-knitted from thick black silk, and black leather shoes with silver buckles. A gold crucifix and several relics in crystal cases were hung round his neck.

His vast estates, confiscated by the Government, were granted to Greenwich Hospital.

These letters are taken, together with the above particulars, from: James Radcliffe, third Earl of Derwentwater. Major Francis John Angus Skeet. London, 1929.

The allusion to "the enclosed" in the first letter is to the Earl's accounts and statements of his affairs; he hoped that some of his property might be saved for his children, the younger of whom was unborn. Lord Scarborough was Lord Lieutenant of Durham and Northumberland, Lord Lumley, his second son, was Master of the Horse; these noblemen were Hanoverians, but true friends of Lord Derwentwater, who appointed them his trustees.


* * *

Lord Derwentwater to his Wife

23rd February, 1716.

MY DEAREST WORLDLY TREASURE,

I have sent you the enclosed, in which is contained all I know, but God knows I have as yet found little advantage by being a plain dealer, but on the contrary, have always suffered for it, except by my sincerity to you, my dear, for which you made me as happy as this world can afford; and now I offer up the loss I am likely to have of you as a means to procure my eternal happiness, where I pray God we may meet, after you have some years exercised your great virtues, to the edification of all that know you. I have corrected a few faults in Croft's accounts, but I leave it to you to order everything as you please, for I am mortally sure with the grace of God you will keep your promise. Somebody must take care of my poor brother Charles, to save him, if possible. I will recommend him, however, by a few circular lines to my acquaintance. Lord Nithisdale made his escape, upon which our unreasonable governor locked up the gates, and would not let me send the enclosed to you, and immediately locked us all up, though it was not eight of the clock, and could not be my fault, though it might prove my misfortune by his management. If you do not think the enclosed signifies anything, make what use you will of it.

Adieu my dear, dear, great comfort.

If anybody should take the enclosed make them promise to return it again.

[The letter is addressed for the Countess of Derwentwater, to be left at the Duchess of Cleveland's.]

[ebook producer's note: In the paper book it is unclear whether the above footnote refers to the previous letter or the next letter.]

* * *

The Same to the Same

MY DEAREST WORLD'S TREASURE,

Take courage, and call upon God Almighty. Do not let any melancholy thought get the better of your virtues and your courage which have been such a charming example to me. I deliver up my soul to God Almighty, and through the merits of my dear Saviour's passion, I hope to obtain everlasting happiness.

Tell Lord Scarborough and Lord Lumley, and shew them this, by which as a man dying, I desire them to be true to their trust, by assisting you my dear wife or Sir John Webb, against anything that may happen to disturb the bringing up of my dear children in my religion, and after what way you or Sir John shall think fit. This service is in their power, and I do not doubt of their being true to their trust; and the same of Nevill Ridley, to whom in some months give a present of ten or twenty guineas.


JUDITH-CHARLOTTE DE BIRON, COMTESSE DE BONNEVAL (1700-1741)

Illustration

Look how the flower which lingeringly doth fade,
The morning's darling late, the summer's queen,
Spoiled of that juice that kept it fresh and green,
As high as it did raise, bows low the head:
Right so my life, contentments being dead,
Or in their contraries but only seen,
With swifter speed declines than erst it spread;
And blasted, scarce now shows what it hath been.

—WILLIAM DRUMMOND OF HAWTHORNDEN

* * * * * * *

The Comte de Bonneval, son of a noble family in the Limousin, entered the French navy as a boy and was present at the battle of La Hogue. Handsome, brilliant, seductive, the turbulent young noble was dismissed from the navy for insubordination. At the outbreak of the war of the Spanish Succession, 1701, he brought an Infantry regiment and served in Italy under maréchal de Catinat; a quarrel with the duc de Vendôme sent the impetuous and rash soldier over to the enemy; he became one of the most admired lieutenants of Prince Eugène, Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial forces. This treachery (1706) was punished by Louis XIV by the hanging in effigy of Bonneval on the place de Grève. The dashing adventurer, however, covered himself with glory and was one of the heroes of the famous battle of Peterwardein.

After a dazzling career in the service of the Emperor, Bonneval, at the height of his fame, returned to Paris and was reinstated in his honours by the duc d'Orléans, then Regent of France. He was then forty-two years of age, brilliant in appearance, manners, reputation, and soon became the idol of frivolous Parisian society.

Wishing to consolidate his position by a conventional marriage, Bonneval, during this visit to Paris, married Judith de Gontaut, one of the twenty-six children of the duc de Biron and related to her husband.

She was then seventeen years of age, gentle, modest and delicate, with a pale complexion, dark blue eyes, blonde hair and that air of angelic sweetness which caused her to be likened to a painting by Carlo Dolci. The romantic girl fell deeply in love with her wayward husband. After ten days of marriage he left her in order to take part in the victorious assault on Belgrade; they never met again.

Bonneval made no effort to return to France; by 1724 he was embroiled with Prince Eugène and imprisoned by Imperial orders; he escaped, joined the Turks, "took the turban" and tried to introduce European ideas into the disorganised armies of the Sultan. Palace intrigue and Eastern indolence defeated him and he was exiled to Asia. Under the name of Pasha Oman he wrote memoirs on military tactics, and tried, after many adventures, to return to Europe and to make a journey to Rome in search of penitence and peace; he died while on his way to the Eternal City, aged seventy years.

His wife had predeceased him by six years; she had passed her life in retirement, thinking only of her husband, and she continued to write to him until he became a renegade, when she was silent, considering herself a widow as she said; she was only forty-one years of age when she died "sick and infirm" of a broken heart.

Bonneval sent only a few brief replies to her letters, but when they ceased he told a common friend that he missed them. Sainte-Beuve has celebrated Madame de Bonneval in his Causeries littéraires as "one of the rarest and purest female figures to be found during the Regency, one of the most gracious exceptions to the disorder and licence of the period."

There are fourteen of Madame de Bonneval's letters that have survived; some of them are not dated, but cover a period of years; they were taken from Pasha Oman's papers after his death and returned to the Biron family. The following extracts are translated from the complete letters given in: La Comtesse de Bonneval par Georgina Fullerton. Paris 1857.

The first letter was written immediately after the girl's marriage of ten days was ended by her husband's departure for foreign service; the season was May, the scene Paris; as M. de Bonneval had nothing but a tarnished name to give his adoring wife, she remained in her father's mansion, the hôtel de Biron; the writer of this delicate appeal was not without hope that "son maître" would return to Paris or permit her to join him in Vienna.


* * *

LETTER I

I cannot forbear trying to share with you my lively sorrow—perhaps I need to console yours—but, indeed, I cannot imagine any true consolation for those who love and are separated, and so I find my only pleasure in abandoning myself to all manner of sadness.

Believe me, my dear master, I am entirely absorbed by the thought of our separation and the distance that divides us—I wish only that you would feel something of what your absence makes me suffer—but no, I would not have you realising how it is with me—for I wish to spare you the chagrin such knowledge and pity would give you. Yet I must admit that the first grief of a heart hitherto tranquil is very cruel—I feel overburdened, but I will not complain. My deep tenderness for you in some sort consoles me in my violent grief that would be insupportable if I did not recall that my present misfortune is owing to past happiness. Nay, I'll not complain, yet my present situation is frightful—I'll not regret the peace that preceded it because there is nothing on earth that I care about, save being loved by you.

I flatter myself that I shall always enjoy this happiness—at least I shall occupy myself with nothing but trying to please you, and I swear to you, my dear master, a fidelity as durable as my attachment is violent. I can add nothing to the force of this expression, truly not knowing how to write what I feel. My sensations are so new to me that while acknowledging their power, I cannot define them. I beg you to explain to your own heart all the embarrassment of mine and often to tell yourself that you are, of all the men in the world, the most tenderly loved.

I add to these sentiments an esteem that must fetter a love whose only merit is its purity. Do not forget, I implore you, your poor little wife, and remember that I am, even more than I have admitted, in a state that merits pity. I swear that if I were only thinking of myself, death would seem the best way out, for surely in Glory I shall always have a formidable rival—at best we shall share your heart—when Glory commands you will risk your life whether I permit or not. Reflect on that, my dear master, recalling too that my sole hope lies in your safety, that you alone can make me happy.

I can talk of nothing but myself to-day, for I think of nothing but you—all else is to me insupportable. I embrace you with all my heart and would purchase with half my life a favourable reception for this letter.

THE COUNTESS DE BONNEVAL.

[Madame de Bonneval's second letter contained only a timid regret at the unkindness she was receiving from her jealous mother-in-law, the Marquise de Bonneval, and a timid hope that her husband would not be prejudiced against her by his mother's baseless complaints.

A short note from M. de Bonneval making light of her troubles was his wife's only comfort during the intense heat of that summer of 1707. Languishing in health the girl withdrew to the country with her sister, Madame de Gontaut. From Puteaux she wrote on July 16 to Bonneval, then commanding an infantry regiment in Vienna.]

* * *

LETTER II

I have been staying with M. le duc de Guiche and M. and Madame de Gontaut, my dear cousin, for three days. Into this solitude I have brought an inquiet heart, for you are careless and out of neglect you may allow one or two posts go without writing—indeed it is already three weeks since I even heard any news of you. All the other Frenchmen who are with your army write home with great regularity—this increases my uneasiness, surely you cannot be the only one that cannot find a moment to say how you are! I beg you to send a line by M. Prescheu, merely to say that you are well. You don't know how to love if you are not capable of so much attention; only put yourself for a moment in my place—and though you have much less tenderness for me than I have for you—imagine what my state must be! I know that you are exposed to constant peril and I have not your fortitude that could help me endure this anxiety. I deserve pity, too, because I have to endure your neglect—in that word lies all my torment. A nature such as mine is at the mercy of a happy life. I am likely, my dear master, to suffer through excess of tenderness for others—is it not true, though unjust, that one does always suffer when one loves sincerely? I know few that do so love, and truly, they are wise that avoid this rare virtue.

As for myself, I have not even sought any relief or cure, I have given myself entirely to this keen and sincere attachment in which my formal duty and my inclination blend so perfectly. In any case these complaints are your own fault, if you would write you would not receive them—without you, without your letters what can I have but complaints? My mother tells me that she will write to reproach you, she, my father and myself have already taken the liberty to blame your neglect—but if, when I am with my parents I agree with them, as soon as I am alone I make a thousand other—and sad—reflections.

To-morrow I shall go to Paris, so that, if there are any letters from you, I may have them a little sooner. M. and Madame de Gontaut wonder at your silence—everyone who loves you takes that licence. Our charming sister-in-law is so perfectly made to receive attention, that she is astonished when she does not do so. I can't finish, my dear cousin, without telling you, that you are, of all men, the most tenderly loved. If these sentiments vex you, summon all your patience, for I feel that they will be eternal.

THE COMTESSE DE BONNEVAL.

[The anxious journey to Paris proved in vain, and with an impulse of pride the Countess wrote:]

* * *

LETTER III

My vexation increases with your carelessness, and I am as persistent in tormenting myself as you are in neglecting me—however, though I cannot change my heart I can try to learn your maxims, one of which seems to be that one can love in perfect silence. You might have warned me of this before and so have spared me the surprise that such singular conduct arouses.

[No letter arrived, and, once more humble and resigned, Judith de Gontaut wrote again on August 6:]

* * *

LETTER IV

I have had no news from you by the last two posts. I am glad that the other Frenchmen in your army have not also forgotten their country—if it were not from what I hear of you from them, I should be in continual alarms as to your safety. But—if you love me you will understand that being reassured as to your health by strangers is a species of vexation and torment—however, as far as I can see, love is a stranger to you. As my reproaches may weary you, I must cease—besides, I believe them to be useless. I frequent all those families that receive letters from Hungary in the hopes of hearing some news of you. M. de la Blaud was a great help to me, for he received a letter from you dated July 2nd, and my last was June 25th.

I have quite a deal of news—M. Croizot often visits his son, and so do I, for they talk of you. You will think me very simple, but I love—and my duty supports my attachment. Adieu, my dear cousin, return to one her heart, to one who never gave it away but to you—a heart sacrificed without any return. The Chevalier de Fontanges sends you a thousand compliments, I like him very much, he is an honest fellow, for he says that your silence greatly angers him. M. de Lauzun will soon hate you if you do not write—he sends you a thousand greetings, as does his wife and the Abbé de Gontaut—yet he says that his blessing on our union was not very effective.

[M. de Bonneval did not write, but one of his friends, newly returned from Vienna, told the patient wife that her husband's silence was owing to the fact that her letters had gone astray; this the poor girl could not believe—besides, could he not have written on his own impulse?]

* * *

LETTER V

We act on very different principles, my dear cousin. I hear that you will not write to me in order to punish me for a supposed irregularity in sending to you—while I have been writing without receiving any replies. Either method might be meant tenderly, but custom is on the side of that I employ. I cannot understand what has become of my letters—ever since your departure I have written every week. I should have done so oftener, had I not feared to weary you with an affection I could never endure that you should find importunate. My tenderness, however, is so deep that it does not perish for lack of that return that I hardly dare now to hope for. How cruel are such sentiments! I feel nothing but fatigue, fear and a profound discouragement! I no longer live, and the feeble existence left to me I would willingly sacrifice if I might escape the torments I endure. Indeed I am in a lamentable condition and I will not write any more for I do not wish to sadden you.

[Belgrade fell, a peace was made with the Porte, and the Comte de Bonneval became one of the heroes of the hour and more than ever the idol of the French Court; his resplendent personality was exactly suited to the flamboyant taste of the times; in the midst of his joyous triumph the brilliant soldier remembered his wife and wrote to her after a silence of six months. She replied in a transport of delight.]

* * *

LETTER VI

It is difficult, my dear cousin, for a heart penetrated with tenderness to express itself—how many different emotions have I felt in how short a time! I have followed all your movements with a joy that I have not been able to moderate—yet I was alarmed for you and intolerably uneasy as to your safety—now I feel a little reassured, a little tranquil after the horror of alarmed suspense. What a delicious moment was that in which I learned not only of your good health but of the victory that everyone says was mainly due to you! Though I am not vain it was impossible not to feel flattered by all this talk about you—I could not take a step without hearing your eulogies!and these were given in a fashion that did, I must admit, seduce my ear and touch my heart. Is it not fair that I should have some part in the glory that you have acquired at such a cost to the tranquillity of my soul—for truly, as long as you were in danger, I could count more on your valour than on prudence that I know is confined to your regard of others and takes no care for your own safety—though you should consider this, as you do not belong to yourself alone...never was a situation equal to mine, nothing can express my feelings until I received your letter...I assure you, my dear master, that during the whole of my life I shall never forget your kindness in writing to me at a moment when that alone could have saved me from despair. If you could know how touched I am by this attention, you would not be wearied by learning the impression that it has made on my heart...I feel that I was born to love you to all eternity...It is in your power, my dear master, to render me—by your tenderness, the happiest of beings—I desire nothing but this and lack of it would prove my sole sorrow...though I owe some affection to my family, there is nothing in my heart but you, always you.

[Madame de Bonneval, waiting a reply to this letter, retired to her brother's country house at Choisy. From this retreat she wrote her next letter, so full of exquisite tact and delicate breeding.]

* * *

LETTER VII

CHOISY, Oct. 1st.

I am here, my dear cousin, in the most beautiful place in the world, and with the most charming company. I ought to be tranquil, but, amid all that used to satisfy me entirely, I find myself uneasy. I feel that it would cost me less to separate myself from all that I used to hold dear, than from my dear master. I am with my father, my mother and Madame de Gontaut, for whom I have an incomparable attachment—but there are sentiments so strong that all others must be sacrificed to them. I did not mean to write to you to-day, but the Parisian post arrives and leaves again so conveniently that I cannot forbear troubling you for a moment—a little moment. You are so continually in my heart—and my soul so accords with my heart—that I find in this correspondence a resource that before I was thus moved I had no need of—whether you write or no, I shall never cease to be preoccupied by the thought of you...

M. de Bonrepos passes, at present, his life in grief, my absence from Paris afflicts him profoundly, and even when he is with me he is very sad! Can you explain to me this profound sentiment? If you could see this manner of loving you might be a little uneasy—as for me, I am very touched and feel my fidelity a little endangered—I don't know, indeed I don't, if my tenderness for you will be proof against this sentiment—yet I could tell you, if you asked me.

I embrace you with all my heart, and vow a constancy proof against every temptation, even M. de Bonrepos.

[The subject of Madame de Bonneval's delicate coquetry was a very old man and devoted family friend, warmly attached to the forsaken young girl who, soon after writing the above letter, returned to Paris and the hôtel de Biron, where she lived retired from the world awaiting the letters that never came and obtaining news of her husband at second-hand.

She followed eagerly the details of the campaign in Hungary and prayed for a peace that would enable her to join her husband or him to return to Paris. Thus withdrawn from society, Madame de Bonneval devoted herself to charity and piety; she was sincerely religious and the absence of any reference to this side of her character in her letters is due to the fact that her husband forbade her to mention religion to him, declaring that he detested a pious woman.

No letters arrived from Hungary for Madame de Bonneval and she did not write again until the end of the year when she was slowly recovering from an attack of smallpox.]

* * *

LETTER VIII

Perhaps you have heard, my dear cousin, that you were nearly a widower. I was at the last extremity owing to an attack of smallpox, but I was not yet acceptable to God. I awaited the cruel approach of death, I received the Sacraments, and awaited, not without firmness, the fate that must come to all—a little sooner, a little later—is the same to me. As regards myself, I flatter myself that Time, the great consoler, would have promptly comforted you, and even, by an ordinary miracle, soon have persuaded you that you never had had a wife. That, my dear cousin, was the judgment that I made on your behalf, and it consoled me greatly in my regret in being forever separated from a happiness that was never anything but a flattering delusion. I only heard your news fifteen days after it arrived; my father kept your letters from me and I have not been able to do any of your business. My father told me, through the window where I see him sometimes (I am lodged near him) that he had done what he could, but I do not think that will be much...If you do not feel my pleasure in writing to you—do not tell me so, my affection, my attachment, merit a better return.

I caught the smallpox when I was staying with my father and at once left his house to lodge with M. de Saint-Frémont, who offered me his house—I forgot to tell you that this good friend is in the country, and so gave you a moment of cruel suspense on his behalf! Meanwhile, if your fortunate laziness permits you to send him a line on his kindness to me, it would be very well received—but, if this appears to you too burdensome, take it that I said nothing.

[The letters from her husband to which Madame de Bonneval refers were brief notes telling her to accustom herself to "an inevitable separation" and not to take life too seriously.

Some other such dry communications followed her restoration to health, and in February 1718 the young wife wrote again to Vienna, where her husband was in winter quarters.]

* * *

LETTER IX

I am a little better, my dear cousin, and am now allowed some company. I cannot too greatly praise your regularity in writing to me, but I fear that in showing you my gratitude I shall reveal also my distress. However, always believe that my heart, quick to feel both good and evil, always tries to incline to the first and to turn from all that is unpleasant.

I am continually preoccupied by everything that appertains to you. I no longer say much about our separation, for it is easier to be silent than to speak feebly of what one feels violently. However, as you have begun to think of me at all, continue—and imagine what my situation is! It is truly sad enough. I hardly knew you, I anticipated loving you, in telling you that you had all my heart. I then lost you through an absence as long as our acquaintance had been short. These reflections are hard for me to endure—but I hope that sometimes they will occur to you, though I do not ask of you that you allow them to make the impression on you that they do on me. I fear too much vexation of this kind will disgust you with the object that causes it—yet I hope that some such reflections will make you return to a little monster—for surely so I must appear to you after this long penitence.

[Soon after Madame de Bonneval wrote again, in an effort to be gay and amusing.]

* * *

LETTER X

I begin again the writing that was interrupted by the fête that the Duchess de Berri gave to the Duchess de Lorraine—she insisted on my going. Nothing could have been more magnificent, all the splendour of France dazzled there—they are all pleased with M. and Madame de Lorraine, who are very handsome...I wish very much that I had some amusing news to send to you, but there is little worthy of your attention...

Is Peace never to come? I see there is little hope of seeing you again, if you must continue this Hungarian campaign; it is not without pain that I make this renunciation and I believe that there are few examples of such a sacrifice—but have it as you wish! You always held that submission was a woman's part—I have my share when I give up that which is rightly mine and that I desire above everything. Necessity knows no law—and if one is born to obey one needs no lessons in obedience.

M. d'Aremberg's people say that you will never return to France. Is that true?...All your relations send you a thousand compliments—your mother is better in health. She was much moved by my illness, and when she thought I was lost, seemed to regret me. My mother embraces you and always loves you. As for my father, I do not concern myself with his messages, for we do not get on very well together. I cannot pardon him for being the pretext for your absence, and I often overwhelm him with reproaches—but he defends himself extremely well and at the end I feel there is truly no one to blame but yourself. So, indeed, I don't know what to do about it. You don't let me know if you have received the packet that I sent by M. le comte? I should like to know. You are not very precise in acknowledging what I send you, but I'll take care not to murmur, for I know the value of your time—and that if I insist too much upon myself I shall become an insupportable burden.

[The next letter is that which Madame de Bonneval wrote to her husband to congratulate him on his appointment to the command of the Imperial forces in Italy, news that he had curtly sent to her.]

* * *

LETTER XI

I have just received, my dear cousin, your letter of the 23rd of last month, in which you tell me that your future is decided in a fashion that is very flattering to the interests of Glory. I send you my compliments on a distinction that must mean much to a warrior attached since his birth to the god Mars—but find it reasonable—that a woman, brought up to render homage to other deities feels this joy troubled by all the fears that tenderness and timidity can inspire. I do not however wish you to think that I am insensible to the honour that you have received.

Adieu! Your Excellency will perhaps permit that I very respectfully embrace you.

[From this date the health of the Countess declined; her monotonous life continued unbroken by any hope; her next letter was written after some months.]

* * *

LETTER XII

I did not mean to write to-day, my dear cousin, fearing to weary you, but my father said that he was writing to you and asked me to add one of my letters to his—perhaps you will not disapprove of the impulse that makes me obey him—an impulse that proves that you still inspire me with tender sentiments, and are still the master of my heart and of all my actions. Your last letter shows me that you do not resent the reproaches that I made you on your silence. I am charmed that, though I never put you in the wrong, you allow me to be in the right. This is the happiest thing that could happen to me, for, if it came to an issue as to which of us was at fault, I should without hesitation decide against myself—you are guiltless and I have been too impatient in all that concerns us. Yet I cannot regret anything that was inspired by my deep tenderness, though I would have this expressed with all possible delicacy. This delicacy must, for my part, always exist between us—I promise you that it shall. I am very glad to hear that sometimes you not only speak of me but take my part. I hope that you do not follow too closely the example of a certain great Prince, who, when at the head of his armies, appears to think of nothing but fame—for it is whispered abroad that this hero does not disdain the tender passion—it is even said that he is not too difficult as to the object of his adoration.* I don't pretend to revenge my own pain by attacking the charms of a more fortunate creature, but it is said that if she inspires affection, so might I.

[* A reference to the friendship of Prince Eugène, a bachelor, with Madame de Bathzany, not celebrated for her beauty and an enemy to M. de Bonneval.]

The Imperial Ambassador dined with my father and we drank to your health—and, without rancour, that of Prince Eugène. My father forgot to ask you in his last letter, if he should send you by the post the snuff-box you wished for—he could send it as far as Strasbourg, but he does not know if it would reach your Germany. Let him know at once. You did not charge me with this commission—perhaps you were right in not thinking me capable of executing it—but M. Gontaut would have helped me. I am not vexed that you asked my father's aid, but, another time, remember that you are master of a creature who longs to perform your wishes, who is jealous of your orders and who is attached to you by the tenderest bonds that ever existed. The duc de Brancas complains of your silence—I tell you so that you can write to me if you judge proper. M. de Lauzun assures me that he will be vexed if I do not remember him to you in all my letters. I have had no news from you since the 16th of May—but I do not complain, for I shall never forget that you did write to me on the most important occasion of my life.*

[* Reference to her joy at receiving the news of his safety after the assault on Belgrade.]

[Three years passed before Madame de Bonneval again broke her silence; she had continued to live in deep seclusion amid the extravagant luxury of Regency Paris; Bonneval had meanwhile been living as "the idol of the hour" in Vienna without any attempt to see his wife, who remained so touchingly faithful to her marriage.

On the 8th November, 1721, Madame de Bonneval wrote the last of the letters to her husband that exist. It is in answer to a formal note from him.]

* * *

LETTER XIII

I am very much obliged to you, my dear cousin, for the attention that you have paid me by letting me know the honour that the Emperor has done you in allowing you the monopoly for your steel invention. I am charmed that this has procured me one of your letters. You have for a long while deprived me of these and I have attributed your silence to a natural indifference—the usual effect of a slight acquaintance and a long absence. It is, however, certain that I have not deserved it. I suffered much from the rumours I heard as to your embroilments with Prince Eugène, but I did not write to you about it as you said nothing of it to me. When our friends become our enemies I believe them very dangerous; I am disposed to believe that the first wrong was not yours, but I hope that the first overture will be. I wish very much that you would be friendly with this Prince, though I know you could not stoop to any falsity in order to be so—certainly, any such falsity would be worse than certain disgrace. I hope greatly that you will obtain the satisfaction that you require—but my star is not lucky and my wishes can do no more for your glory than they have been able to do for your personal happiness. Do not, however, my dear cousin, think that I envy my sisters their happy marriages—they are fortunate, but when one hears a certain name consecrated to glory one takes a pride in being sensible of it and learns patience for a grief that is without a remedy. I never thought that your destiny would be limited to your present situation. I hope that, sooner or later, you will be fully recompensed for your services, and I beg you to believe that this hope is for you more than for myself—my personal desires are so simple. In a very little time, in all good faith, I attached myself to you. I am sincere. This affection has cost me much suffering—but this has never effaced a sentiment that makes me always desire your kindness—as the only thing that can render me happy.

[Many years later Madame de Bonneval wrote to a common friend asking for news of her husband, then in exile and disgraced. Later still another friend told her that Bonneval, then an apostate, would like to hear from her again, and she wrote to him; as this letter was not among the others found at his death, he presumably destroyed it or ordered it to be buried with him.

She had never spoken his name after she learnt of his apostasy, to her so terrible. "I have lost everything at once!" she exclaimed, "the past and the future!"

She continued to live in solitude while her heart slowly broke; she died in 1741 after twenty-five years of fidelity to a marriage that had lasted ten days.]


JONATHAN SWIFT
DEAN OF ST. PATRICK'S, DUBLIN (1667-1745)
AND
ESTHER VANHOMRIGH (VANESSA)(1690-1723)

Illustration Illustration

Go on, obliging creatures, let me see,
All that disgrace my betters, met in me.

—ALEXANDER POPE

In all I wish, how happy I could be,
Thou grand deluder, were it not for thee!
So weak thou art, that fools thy power despise,
And yet so strong, thou triumphest o'er the wise.

—From "To Love" lines found in Esther Vanhomrigh's desk, in Dean Swift's handwriting, after her death.

* * *

ESTHER VANHOMRIGH (VANESSA)

1690-1723

Love, hitherto a transient guest,
Ne'er held possession of his breast;
So long attending at the gate,
Disdained to enter in so late.
Love why do we one passion call,
When 'tis a compound of them all?

—"Cadenus and Vanessa." DEAN SWIFT

* * * * * * *

Jonathan Swift, in the first rank of European men of letters and the foremost English satirist, was of a Yorkshire royalist family and was educated at Kilkenny Grammar School and Trinity College, Dublin. Through the influence of a relative, Swift, who had been born after his father's death and who was poor, proud and bitter, entered the elegant establishment of Sir William Temple at Moor Park, as secretary. The long credited story that he was shamefully treated there rests only on his own evidence and is almost certainly false. At Moor Park he met "Stella," Hester Johnson, the daughter of the housekeeper, or as some hinted, of more mysterious origin. Ambitious, jealous and restless, Swift, in the hope of rapid preferment, was ordained in 1694, and after being assured by his cousin, John Dryden, that he would never be a poet, returned to Moor Park, where he read and brooded while editing Temple's huge diplomatic correspondence. After writing two successful books, The Tale of a Tub and The Battle of the Books, on the death of Temple, Swift returned to Ireland where he obtained several small livings and took his D.D. at Dublin 1701. His vigorous talents as a political pamphleteer attracted the attention of the Whigs, and Swift allied himself with them and coming to London moved in the most brilliant and influential society of the day. His longed-for preferment did not, however, arrive and in disgust Swift allied himself with the Tories 1710. For the next four years the dangerous genius of Swift was active in the Tory cause, but again he received no reward; he was the most feared man in England and his position in the Church accorded so ill with the nature of his writings that even the most cynical of ministers would not have dared to give him a bishopric.

Furious and disgusted, Swift retired to Ireland on the death of the Queen (1714); he was soon followed by Esther Vanhomrigh, who had a small property in that country and who had fallen passionately in love with the dark, difficult and dazzling man.

Swift had been corresponding for years with Esther Johnson, then established modestly in Ireland with Mrs. Dingly. A whole literature has grown up round the relations of these three people; all that is certain is that Esther Vanhomrigh discovered the existence of Esther Johnson, and died of the shock occasioned by this and the fury with which Swift turned on her; Mrs. Vanhomrigh directed her executors to publish the poem "Cadenus and Vanessa" that Swift had written for her, which related their strange love-affair. It has been believed that Swift secretly married Stella and that the knowledge of this killed Vanessa, but there is no proof.

The three-cornered love story remains one of the great mysteries of literature; the solution is probably to be found in the character and physical disabilities of Swift himself, in his jaundiced, warped and bitter outlook and in those mean qualities that marred his greatness. He long survived both the women whose lives he gilded and ruined, became gradually insane and died, in the most miserable fashion, in an asylum. He left a considerable portion of his fortune to found a hospital for the insane. He was buried in St. Patrick's Cathedral, beside Stella, and underneath his own inscription, surely the bitterest ever permitted in a Christian church. His most famous works belong to the period after the death of Vanessa; Gulliver's Travels was published in 1726.

Esther Vanhomrigh was of Dutch descent; her father was a wealthy merchant and she was possessed of considerable property; her mother's house in London was used as freely as if it had been his own home by Swift, and Esther was encouraged to hope for marriage; delays, disappointments and bewilderment threw her into a state of nervous exasperation in which she lost control of reason and made the fatal mistake of pursuing and goading the dangerous man on whom she had set her affections until he turned on her and killed her with his violence.

She seems to have been a handsome, lively, elegant creature, something of a blue-stocking and something of a fool, but it is impossible to pronounce judgment on any of the characters in this ambiguous story. The letters of Swift and Vanessa appeared in the complete edition of Swift's works, edited by Sir Walter Scott—they were transcribed from the originals in the British Museum, dated and carefully edited by Mr. Martin Freeman in: Vanessa and her Correspondence with Jonathan Swift, Martin Freeman; Selwyn and Blount, 1921.

The difficult nature of the correspondence is increased by the fact that several letters have been lost on either side and it is not always possible to place correctly, as regards date, the order of those that remain. The sequence arranged by K. Martin Freeman has been followed in this selection, and the numbers in brackets refer to the numbers in his edition.

Swift's love letters to Stella are embodied in the famous "Journal to Stella" and often couched in the "little" or code language; the tender passages in these long letters are also often addressed to a dual personality, Mrs. Dingly and Stella. For these reasons it was found impossible to give coherent and interesting extracts from the journal in any form that could justly be termed love letters.

Some code words are obviously employed in the following letters, notably coffee. Many surmises have been made as to the meaning of this; the most likely seems to be love or love-making, but what kind, degree, or type of love it is impossible to decide; these lovers, though writing only for each other, never completely betray themselves.


* * *

LETTER I [2]

Swift to Vanessa

Addressed: To little Misessy

(18th December, 1711.)

I have writ three or four lies in as many lines. Pray seal up the letter to Mrs. L[ong], and let nobody read it but yourself. I suppose this packet will lie two hours till you awake. And pray let the outside starched letter to you be seen, after you have sealed that to Mrs. L[ong]. See what art people must use, though they mean ever so well. Now are you and Puppy lying at your ease, without dreaming anything of all this. Adieu till we meet over a pot of coffee or an orange and sugar in the Sluttery, which I have so often found to be the most agreeable chamber in the world.

* * *

LETTER II [4]

Swift to Vanessa

Addressed: To Misheskinage

Endorsed: 1st

(1st August, 1712.)

Mishessy is not to believe a word Mr. Lewis says in his letter. I would have writ to you sooner if I had not been busy and idle and out of humour, and did not know how to send to you without the help of Mr. Lewis, my mortal enemy. I am so weary of this place that I am resolved to leave it in two days, and not return in three weeks. I will come as early on Monday as I can find opportunity, and will take a little Grubstreet lodging, pretty near where I did before, and dine with you thrice a week; and will tell you a thousand secrets provided you will have no quarrels to me.

Adieu.

(Windsor) Friday, at Mr. Lewis's office.

Don't remember me to Moll, but humble service to your Mother.

* * *

LETTER III [6]

Vanessa to Swift

Endorsed: 1st

LONDON, Sept. ye 1st, 1712.

Had I a correspondent in China, I might have had an answer by this time. I never could think till now that London was so far off in your thoughts, and that twenty miles were by your computation equal to some thousands. I thought it a piece of charity to undeceive you in this point and to let you know, if you'll give yourself the trouble to write, I may probably receive your letter in a day. 'Twas that made me venture to take pen in hand the third time. Sure you'll not let it be to no purpose. You must needs be extremely happy where you are, to forget your absent friends; and I believe you have formed a new system and think there is no more of this world, passing your sensible horizon. If this be your notion I must excuse you; if not, you can plead no other excuse; and if it be so, I must reckon myself of another world; but I shall have much ado to be persuaded till you send me some convincing arguments of it. Don't dally in a thing of this consequence, but demonstrate that 'tis possible to keep up a correspondence between friends, though in different worlds, and assure one another, as I do you, that

I am
Your most obedient
and most humble servant,
E. VAN HOMRIGH.

* * *

LETTER IV [14]

Vanessa to Swift

Endorsed: 3rd

June, LONDON, 1713.

'Tis unexpressible the concern I am in ever since I heard from Mr. Lewis that your head is so much out of order. Who is your physician? For God sake don't be persuaded to take many slops. Satisfy me so much as to tell me what medicines you have taken and do take. How did you find yourself whilst a shipboard? I fear 'tis your voyage has discomposed you, and then so much business following so immediately, before you had time to recruit 'twas too much. I beg, make all haste imaginable to the country; for I firmly believe that air and rest will do you more good than anything in the world besides. If I talk impertinently, I know you have goodness enough to forgive me when you consider how great an ease ''tis to me to ask these questions, though I know it will be a great while before I can be answered—I am sure I shall think it so. Oh! what would I give to know how you do at this instant. My fortune is too hard: your absence was enough, without this cruel addition.

Sure the powers above are envious of your thinking so well, which makes them at some times strive to interrupt you. But I must confine my thoughts, or at least stop from telling them to you, or you'll chide, which will still add to my uneasiness. I have done all that was possible to hinder myself from writing to you till I heard you were better, for fear of breaking my promise, but 'twas all in vain; for had [I] vowed neither to touch pen, ink or paper, I certainly should have had some other invention. Therefore I beg you won't be angry with me for doing what is not in my power to avoid.

Pray make Parvisol write me word what I desire to know, for I would not for the world have you hold down your head. I am impatient to the last degree to hear how you are. I hope I shall soon have you here.

* * *

LETTER V [15]

Vanessa to Swift

Endorsed: 4th

June, LONDON, 1713.

SIR,

Mr. Lewis assures me that you are now well, but will not tell me what authority he has for it. I hope he is rightly informed; though ''tis not my usual custom, when a thing of consequence is in doubt, to fix on what I earnestly wish. But I have already suffered so much by knowing that you were ill, and fearing you were worse then, I hope, you have be[en], that I will strive to change that thought, if possible, that I may have a little ease; and more, that I may not write you a splenetic letter.

Pray why would not you make Parvisol write me word how you did, when I begged it so much? And if you were able yourself, how could you be so cruel, to defer telling me the thing of the world I wished most to know? If you think I write too often, your only way is to tell me so, or at least to write to me again, that I may know you don't quite forget me; for I very much fear that I never employ a thought of yours now, except when you are reading my letters, which makes me ply you with them. Mr. Lewis complains of you too. If you are very happy it is ill-natured of you not to tell me so, except 'tis what is inconsistent with mi[ne]. But why don't you talk to me? That, you know, will please me. I have often heard you say that you would willingly suffer a little uneasiness, provided it gave another a vast deal of pleasure. Please remember this maxim, because it makes for me. This is now the fourth letter I have wrote to you. They could not miscarry, for they were all under Mr. Lewis's cover; nor could you avoid opening them, for the same reason.

Pray what have you done about the two livings? Have you recovered them or no? You know I love law-business. I have been with lawyers since I saw you, but have not yet had their answers, therefore won't trouble you with what I have done till I can tell you all. Pray let me know when you design coming over, for I must beg you to talk to Mr. P[artinton] and settle some affairs for me. Pray let me hear from you soon, which will be an unexpressible joy to her that is always—

[With the next letter the correspondence takes on a new and dangerous turn; Vanessa is in pursuit, the Dean in retreat; a note of passion on her side, of impatient alarm on his, breaks through the ambiguous badinage of the former letters. Swift, already disgusted with his expectations of Court patronage, had left London and Vanessa was becoming desperate in an endeavour to bring him to an issue with regard to herself. She still knew nothing about the existence of Stella.]

* * *

LETTER VI [16]

Swift to Vanessa

Addressed: To Miss Hessy

Endorsed: 3rd

LARACOR, July 8th, 1713.

I stayed but a fortnight in Dublin, very sick, and returned not one visit of a hundred that were made me—but all to the Dean, and none to the Doctor. I am riding here for life, and think I am something better, and hate the thoughts of Dublin, and prefer a field-bed and earthen floor before the great house there, which they say is mine. I had your last spleenatic letter. I told you when I left England, I would endeavour to forget everything there, and would write as seldom as I could. I did indeed design one general round of letters to my friends, but my health has not yet suffered me. I design to pass the greatest part of the time I stay in Ireland here in the cabin where I am now writing, neither will I leave the kingdom till I am sent for; and if they have no further service for me I will never see England again. At my first coming I thought I should have died with discontent, and was horribly melancholy while they were installing me; but it begins to wear off, and change to dulness. My river walk is extremely pretty, and my canal in great beauty, and I see trouts playing in it.

I know not any one thing in Dublin; but Mr. Ford is very kind, and writes to me constantly what passes among you. I find you are likewise a good politician; and I will say so much to you, that I verily think, if the thing you know of had been published just upon the Peace, the Ministry might have avoided what hath since happened. But I am now fitter to look after willows, and to cut hedges, than meddle with affairs of state. I must order one of the workmen to drive those cows out of my Island, and make up the ditch again; a work much more proper for a country vicar than driving out factions and fencing against them. And I must go and take my bitter draught to cure my head, which is spoilt by the bitter draughts the public bath given me.

How does Davila go on? Johnny Clark is chosen portreeve of our town of Trim; and we shall have the assizes there next week, and fine doings; and I must go and borrow a horse to meet the judges, and Joe Beaumont and all the boys that can get horses will go too. Mr. Warburton has but a thin school. Mr. Percival has built up the other side of his house, but people whisper that is is but scurvily built. Mr. Steers is come to live in Mr. Melthorp's house, and 'tis thought the widow Melthorp will remove to Dublin.

Nay, if you do not like this sort of news, I have no better. So go to your Dukes and Duchesses, and leave me to Goodman Bumford and Patrick Dolan of Clonduggan.

Adieu.

* * *

LETTER VII [23]

Swift to Vanessa

Addressed: To Mrs. Hessy Van

Endorsed: 4th

(? End of 1714.)

I will see you in a day or two, and believe me, it goes to my soul not to see you oftener. I will give you the best advice, countenance and assistance I can. I would have been with you sooner if a thousand impediments had not prevented me. I did not imagine you had been under difficulties: I am sure my whole fortune should go to remove them. I cannot see you, I fear, to-day, having affairs of my place to do; but pray think it not want of friendship or tenderness, which I will always continue to the utmost.

Monday morn.

* * *

LETTER VIII [24]

Vanessa to Swift

Endorsed: 4th

DUBLIN, 1714.

You cannot but be sensible, at least in some degree, of the many uneasinesses I am slave to—a wretch of a brother, cunning executors and importunate creditors of my mother's—things I can no way avoid being subject to at present, and weighty enough to sink greater spirits than mine without some support. Once I had a friend that would see me sometimes, and either commend what I did or advise me what to do, which banished all my uneasiness. But now, when my misfortunes are increased by being in a disagreeable place, amongst strange, prying, deceitful people, whose company is so far from an amusement that it is a very great punishment, you fly me, and give me no reason but that we are amongst fools and must submit. I am very well satisfied that we are amongst such, but know no reason for having my happiness sacrificed to their caprice. You once had a maxim, which was to act what was right and not mind what the world said. I wish you would keep to it now. Pray what can be wrong in seeing and advising an unhappy young woman? I can't imagine. You can't but know that your frowns make my life insupportable. You have taught me to distinguish, and then you leave me miserable. Now all I beg is that you will for once counterfeit (since you can't otherwise) that indulge[nt] friend you once were till I get the better of these difficulties, for my sister's sake; for were not she involved (who I know is not so able to manage them as I am), I have a nobler soul then sit struggling with misfortunes, when at the end I can't promise myself any real happiness. Forgive me; and I beg you'd believe it is not in my power to avoid complaining as I do.

[The tragic affair draws rapidly to a climax; Vanessa has appealed to Swift for his help and protection in her domestic troubles and he is holding back, quoting the terrors of gossip and so on; Vanessa tries to rush her fences; why cannot he come into the open as her friend, as her lover? She begins, perhaps insensibly, to adopt the tone of the injured, abandoned woman; of all others this is the most odious to the pursued man; at her passionate advance, he falls back, disillusioned, embittered. His next letter is written almost in a panic, while her answer tries to involve him further in love.]

* * *

LETTER IX [26]

Vanessa to Swift

Endorsed: 6th

DUBLIN, 1714.

Well, now I plainly see how great a regard you have for me. You bid me be easy, and you'd see me as often as you could. You had better said, as often as you could get the better of your inclinations so much, or as often as you remembered there was such a one in the world. If you continue to treat me as you do you will not be made uneasy by me long. 'Tis impossible to describe what I have suffered since I saw you last; I am sure I could have bore the rack much better than those killing, killing words of yours. Sometimes I have resolved to die without seeing you more; but those resolves, to your misfortune, did not last long. For there is something in human nature that prompts one so to find relief in this world, I must give way to it, and beg you'd see me and speak kindly to me; for I am sure you'd not condemn anyone to suffer what I have done, could you but know it. The reason I write to you is because I cannot tell i[t] you, should I see you; for when I begin to complain, then you are angry, and there is something in your look so awful, that it strikes me dumb. Oh! that you may but have so much regard for me left, that this complaint may touch your soul with pity. I say as little as ever I can: did you but know what I thought, I am sure it would move you. Forgive me, and believe I cannot help telling you this, and live.

* * *

LETTER X [39]

Vanessa to Swift

CELBRIDGE, 1720.

Believe me 'tis with the utmost regret that I now complain to you, because I know your good nature such, that you cannot sec any human creature miserable without being sensibly touched. Yet what can I do? I must either unload my heart and tell you all its griefs, or sink under the unexpressible distress I now suffer by your prodigious neglect of me. 'Tis now ten long, long weeks since I saw you, and in all that time I have never received but one letter from you, and a little note with an excuse. Oh —— how have you forgot me! You endeavour by severities to force me from you; nor can I blame you, for with the utmost distress and confusion I behold myself the cause of uneasy reflections to you. Yet I cannot comfort you, but here declare that 'tis not in the power of art, time or accident to lessen the unexpressible passion which I have for ——. Put my passion under the utmost restraint, send me as distant from you as the earth will allow, yet you cannot banish those charming ideas, which will ever stick by me whilst I have the use of memory. Nor is the love I bear you only seated in my soul, for there is not a single atom of my frame that is not blended with it. Therefore don't flatter yourself that separation will ever change my sentiments, for I find myself unquiet in the midst of silence, and my heart is at once pierced with sorrow and love. For Heaven's sake tell me what has caused this prodigious change in you, which I have found of late. If you have the least remains of pity for me left, tell me tenderly. No, don't tell it, so that it may cause my present death; and don't suffer me to live a life like a languishing death, which is the only life I can lead if you have lost any of your tenderness for me.

[Vanessa here declares her passion and appeals to the pity of the man whom she loves; there is no answer and she writes again.]

* * *

LETTER XI [40]

Vanessa to Swift

CELBRIDGE, 1720.

Tell me sincerely if you have once wished with earnestness to see me since I wrote to you. No, so far from that, you have not once pitied me, though I told you how I was distressed. Solitude is unsupportable to a mind which is not easy. I have worn out my days in sighing, and my nights with watching and thinking of —, —, —, ——, (sic) who thinks not of me. How many letters must I send you before I shall receive an answer? Can you deny me in my misery the only comfort which I can expect at present? Oh! that I could hope to see you here, or that I could go to you. I was born with violent passions, which terminate all in one—that unexpressible passion I have for you. Consider the killing emotions which I feel from your neglect of me, and shew some tenderness for me, or I shall lose my senses. Sure, you cannot possibly be so much taken up but you might command a moment to write to me, and force your inclinations to do so great a charity.

I firmly believe, could I know your thoughts (which no human creature is capable of guessing at, because never anyone living thought like you), I should find that you have often in a rage wished me religious, hoping then I should have paid my devotions to Heaven. But that would not spare you, for was I an enthusiast, still you'd be the deity I should worship. What marks are there of a deity but what you are to be known by? You are present everywhere; your dear image is always before eyes; sometimes you strike me with that prodigious awe, I tremble with fear; at other times a charming compassion shines through your countenance, which revives my soul. Is it not more reasonable to adore a radiant form one has seen, than one only described?

[Swift does not appear to have answered these desperate appeals; the next letter from him is one of condolence on the death of Mary Vanhomrigh, 'Malkin,' who was buried on March 3, 1720-1.]

* * *

LETTER XII [48]

Swift to Vanessa

Addressed: To Mrs. Vanhomry

August 7th, 1722.

I am this hour leaving my present residence, and if I fix anywhere, shall let you know it; for I would fain wait till I get a little good weather for riding and walking, there never having been such a season as this remembered; though I doubt you know nothing of it but what you learn by sometimes looking out at your back windows to call your people. I had your last, with a spleenatic account of your law affairs. You were once a better solicitor, when you could contrive to make others desire your consent to an Act of Parliament against their own interest to advance yours. Yet at present you want neither power nor skill, but disdain to exercise either. When you are melancholy, read diverting or amusing books: it is my receipt, and seldom fails. Health, good humour and fortune are all that is valuable in this life, and the last contributes to the two former.

I have not rode in all above poor four hundred miles since I saw you, not do I believe I shall ride above two hundred more till I see you again. But I desire you will not venture to shake me by the hand; for I am in mortal fear of the itch, and have no hope left, but that some ugly vermin called ticks have got into my skin, of which I have pulled out some and must scratch out the rest. Is not this enough to give one the spleen? for I doubt no Christian family will receive me. And this is all a man gets by a northern journey. It would be unhappy for me to be as nice in my conversation and company as you are, which is the only thing wherein you agree with Glass-heel, who declares there is not a conversable creature in Ireland except Cad——. What would you do in these parts, where politeness is as much a stranger as cleanliness?

I am stopped, and this letter is intended to travel with me, so adieu till the next stage.

August 8th.—Yesterday I rode 28 miles without being weary, and I wish little Heskinage could do as much. Here I leave this letter to travel one way while I go another, but where I do not know, nor what cabins or bogs are in my way. I see you this moment as you are visible at ten in the morning; and now you are asking your questions round, and I am answering them with a great deal of affected delays; and the same scene has passed forty times, as well as the other from two till seven, longer than the first by two hours, yet each has ses agrémens particuliers.

A long vacation, law lies asleep, and bad weather: how do you wear away the time? Is it among the fields and groves of your country seat, or among your cousins in Town, or thinking in a train that will be sure to vex you and then reasoning and forming teasing conclusions from mistaken thoughts? The best companion for you is a philosopher, whom you would regard as much as a sermon. I have read more trash since I left you than would fill all your shelves, and am abundantly the better for it, though I scarce remember a syllable. Go over the scenes of Windsor, Cleveland Row, Ryder Street, St. James's, Kensington, the Sluttery, the Colonel in France, etc. Cad thinks often of these, especially on horseback, as I am assured. What a foolish thing is Time, and how foolish is man, who would be as angry if time stopped as if it passed. But I will not proceed at this rate, for I am writing and thinking myself fast into the spleen, which is the only thing I would not compliment you by imitating. So adieu till the next place I fix in, if I fix at all till I return, and that I leave to fortune and the weather.

[This is the last letter known to exist in this correspondence; within a year of its being written, the rupture had taken place between Vanessa and Swift and she was dead of the disease that had killed her sister, which had no doubt been, all melodramatic fictions allowed for, hastened by her abortive love-affair.]


JULIE JEANNE-ÉLÉONORE DE LESPINASSE (1732- 1776)

Illustration

"To M. D'Alembert. Thursday. 6 o'clock in the morning.

"I wish to be buried with the ring that I have on my finger.
Send all these packets to their addresses. Farewell, my friend, for ever."

Last lines written by Julie de Lespinasse
on the morning of the day she died
or a week before—10th or 22nd May, 1776.

*

Go, if you must!—but stay—and know
And mind before you go, my vow,
To everything but Heaven and you
With all my heart I bid adieu!

—HENRY VAUGHAN

*

J'aime pour vivre, et je vis pour aimer.

—JULIE DE LESPINASE

* * * * * * *

Julie De Lespinasse was given to dwelling with bitter gloom on the circumstances of her birth that deprived her of all the privileges belonging to her rank, and sent her, penniless, into a world where she had no legitimate place. All that is known for certain of her parentage is that she was the daughter of a noble lady, the Comtesse d'Albon, who bore her in secret, using an assumed name, in Lyon, November 18, 1732. Julie was registered as the child of two non-existent people; but the name of the fictitious father, Lespinasse, was also that of one of Madame d'Albon's estates, and that which the child always bore. The childhood of Julie de Lespinasse is obscure, but her mother found means to keep her near her and to give her a brilliant education, probably in the establishment of her half-brother, the Vicomte d'Albon. On the death of her mother in 1747, Julie, then old enough to realise the mystery of her origin and the misery of her position, was sent to live with her half-sister, Diane, eldest legitimate daughter of Madame d'Albon, who had married the Marquis de Vichy-Chamrond and lived with him at his manor house of Avauges, near Lyon. This nobleman was the brother of the famous Madame du Deffand; his wife was ten years the senior of Julie, then aged seventeen years, and there was a family of three children, the eldest of whom was eight years old. Julie had handed over to her half-brother a large sum in cash that her mother had given her when dying, and so had nothing but an annual income of a hundred écus that Madame d'Albon had left her by will. She took up a position as governess with the de Vichy-Chamrond and became very attached to her pupils, but the five years that she spent at Avauges were, under a monotonous appearance, tragically unhappy for Julie, who never spoke of them without horror or disgust, and afterwards declared that no romance by Prèvost or Richardson could equal the terrors of life with the de Vichys and that she preferred to throw herself into a cloister to continuing to live with them.

The dark secrets at which Julie so passionately hinted were never disclosed during her lifetime nor for many years afterwards, but it is now believed that M. de Vichy Chamrond was Julie's father; that, after having been the lover of Madame d'Albon, he married her daughter, Diane, and was therefore Julie's father and her brother-in-law. This peculiar relationship does not seem to have been handled tactfully or kindly, and Julie, outraged in pride and sentiment, was glad to accept the offer of Madame du Deffand—her paternal aunt—to live with her as her companion in the Convent Saint-Joseph, Paris. This was in 1754 and for ten years the charming and brilliant young woman was the faithful slave of the blind, jealous and exacting Marquise. Then came a complete rupture between these two remarkable women; Madame du Deffand discovered that her poor companion was entertaining her choicest friends secretly when she, the Marquise, was sleeping.

Julie de Lespinasse, then firmly established as "the Muse" of the Parisian intellectuals, left the convent of Saint-Joseph and established her own salon in the rue Saint-Dominique. All Madame du Deffand's friends gathered round Julie who contrived an elegant modest existence on her little pensions (she had two from the Court) and an income of a thousand écus yearly given her by Madame Geoffrin—"that was all her fortune." A year after she had left Madame du Deffand, Julie accepted the famous d'Alembert as a lodger in her apartment and he resided with her until her death; he was forty-one years of age, in poor health, shy and timid with women; he cherished a deep affection for Julie; whether she was, as David Hume crudely stated, his mistress, or merely his friend and his nurse, is not certain. It was Mademoiselle de Lespinasse's wish and hope to make a marriage suitable to her charms and social success, but a difficulty in the way was the mystery of her birth and the penury of her circumstances; after a brief tenderness for an Irishman, M. Taaffe, Julie engaged herself to a noble Spaniard, N. Pignatelli, Marquis de Mora, eldest son of the Spanish plenipotentiary to France, the Comte de Fuentes. She was then thirty-five years of age and her lover was ten years younger. They were passionately in love, but the Marquis, handsome, gifted, brilliant, wealthy, found it impossible to induce his family to consent to his union with the socially non-existent middle-aged, sickly, pock-marked woman with whom he was so deeply enamoured.

The betrothal was kept so secret that even d'Alembert did not know of it and Mora left for Spain shortly before his father's term of office was over in 1792, without any arrangement having been made for his marriage. He had already shown symptoms of the disease—tuberculosis—from which his mother had recently died, and was soon sent to the soft airs of Valencia in the hopes of curing his illness and causing him to forget the French enchantress.

These hopes proved fruitless, Mora's disease increased steadily and his burning passion for Julie did not diminish; nor did she cease to think of him with tenderness and affection. Meanwhile, however, she had met the man who was the hero of fashionable Paris, a brilliant soldier, a second-rate writer, a virile fascinating personality, the darling of the Court and the salons, Jacques, Comte de Guibert. Julie, thirty-eight years of age, in poor health and pledged to Mora, fell, nevertheless, into a headlong passion for de Guibert. The short remainder of her life is the story of her struggle between these two loves. The Comte de Guibert was eleven years younger than Julie, of an ardent, volatile temperament and idolised by all the fashionable beauties of France. Julie de Lespinasse, however, succeeded in firing him with something of her own burning ardour and the two became lovers in February 1774; at almost the same time, M. de Mora, defying his doctors, tried to reach Paris in order to see his beloved again and died on the journey, at Bordeaux, May 27 of that year. This news overwhelmed Julie with regret, with remorse and horror, and she threw herself more frantically than ever into her love-affair with de Guibert; jealousy of her handsome, fascinating and popular lover was added to her torments, she began to take opium to relieve her sufferings and the last two years of her life were little else than a continual delirium produced by the passions of her heart and soul acting on her feeble body. Her death-blow was the marriage of de Guibert with Mademoiselle de Courcelles (May 1775); this was supposed to be merely a mariage de convenance but de Guibert soon fell in love with the fresh charms and the exquisite tenderness of his young bride. Tortured now beyond endurance, Mademoiselle de Lespinasse increased her suffering by larger doses of opium, and after long-drawn-out agonies died in May 1776. None of her friends knew of her love-affair with de Guibert, and it was not until after his death that his widow found and published a large portion of the letters (1809) that Julie had written during the stormy progress of her secret tragedy. They were published again in 1811 together with a eulogy of Julie, written in the style of Sterne by M. de Guibert, and some fragments, also in the manner of Sterne, by Julie herself. These letters (a hundred and eighty in the first edition) are perhaps the most famous love letters ever written; for fire, sincerity, wit, depth of feeling, a passionate abandonment to emotion and a remarkable felicity of expression they have never been surpassed. In their sequence over three years, they tell and illustrate a story full of drama, romance, remorse, jealousy and lofty idealism struggling with physical passion that makes other love stories pale beside it; the complete sincerity of these letters cannot be doubted; they were written for one reader only, in complete secrecy, with no thought that any other eye would see them. This is in great contrast to the care with which the letters of Madame' Sand and Alfred de Musset were preserved for posterity by their writers. Most of de Guibert's side of the correspondence is lacking; the inference is that Julie destroyed it; he does not seem to have behaved as meanly as might appear on the surface, but merely according to the standard of the times, and the licence allowed to a 'hero' of his brilliance and success. He never ceased to treat Julie with tenderness and respect, even when he was most unfaithful, and it seems probable that Julie forced the pace and swept him into a passion that he would not have sought himself. Julie de Lespinasse was a plain woman, sadly disfigured by smallpox, tall, thin, elegant with a sumptuous taste in dress; she owed her charm, which amounted to an enchantment, to the fire and animation of her words and gestures, to that exquisite vivacity that showed in all that she did or wrote, to that mingled intelligence and passion which made her one of the most celebrated women of her time.

The following letters are selected from the most famous of this famous correspondence; they are translated from Lettres de Mlle de Lespinasse, Edited by Eugène Asse; Paris, 1909.

The letters are numbered in brackets according to the arrangement followed in this edition.


* * *

LETTER I [2]

Sunday, May 22, 1773.

If I were young, pretty and very charming, I should not fail to find much artifice in your conduct towards me, but as I am nothing of that, as I am the opposite of that, I find in you a kindness, an honesty that will give you—for ever—a right over my soul which you have filled with gratitude, esteem, with sensibility, and with all the sentiments that put intimacy and confidence in a friendship. I shall not speak so well as Montaigne on the subject of friendship, but, believe me, we shall feel it better. If you had been in his place could you have consented to live after the loss of such a friend?* But that is no matter, what concerns me is you, is the grace, the delicacy, the propriety of your quotation. You come to my aid, you do not wish me to be wrong in my own eyes, you do not want your memory to be a sad reproach to my heart, an offence, perhaps, to my self-respect; in a word, you want me to enjoy in peace the friendship that you offer, and that you prove by so much gentleness and pleasantness; yes, I accept it, I shall turn it to my advantage, it will console me, and if ever I enjoy your society, that will be a pleasure that I shall feel and relish above all others. I much hope that you will pardon me a wrong that I have not done. You must feel that it would be impossible to suspect you of anything that would be against goodness and honesty. I have, however, made such accusation against you—it only proves that I am weak and wrong, and above all that I am troubled to the point of not being able to preserve my presence of mind or the freedom of my understanding. You see things too well and too quickly for me to need to fear that you will ever believe yourself despised by me; I am sure, indeed, that your soul will never have to complain of the feelings that animate mine.

[* An allusion to Etienne de Boétie, for whom Montaigne wrote his famous chapter, De l'Amitié.]

I know that you only left on Thursday at half-past five o'clock. I was at your door two minutes after you left; I sent that morning to know what time you had left on Wednesday, and to my great surprise I learnt that you were still in Paris, and that it was not even certain that you would go on Thursday. I went myself to learn if you were, perhaps, ill, and what will seem frightful to you, I even wished that you were so. However, by an inconsequence that I cannot explain to you, I was comforted to learn that you had left. Yes, your absence has restored my calm, but it has increased my sadness. You must pardon this, and feel content about it; I do not know if I regret you; but I wish for you, as I would for a pleasure, and I believe that energetic and sensitive souls attach themselves very strongly to that; it is not the idea of the length of your absence that afflicts me, my thought does not fly so far ahead; it is merely the present that burdens my soul, that saddens it, weighs it down and leaves me without even enough energy to desire a better disposition. But how horribly personal I have been! Here are three pages full of myself, and yet I believe that it is you that I am occupied with; at least I feel the need of knowing how you are, the state of your health. When you read this—good Heavens, how far away you will be! Your body will be only three hundred leagues away, but how far your thoughts will have gone! What new objects, ideas and reflexions will surround you! I feel as if I spoke to your shadow. All that I have known of you has disappeared, and you will with difficulty find any trace in your memory of the affection that agitated and animated you during the last days that you passed in Paris. You know well that we convinced ourselves that sensibility is a sign of mediocrity and your character destines you to be great—your talents condemn you to celebrity. Abandon yourself, then, to your destiny, and firmly assure yourself that you were not made for that sweet, intimate life which demands tenderness and sentiment. There is but little pleasure and no glory in living for a single object. When one reigns only in one heart, one does not reign in public opinion. Some names were made to be written in history; yours will, one day, excite admiration. When I let this thought absorb me it moderates a little the interest that you have inspired in me. Farewell.

Having thus opened a correspondence with de Guibert, Mademoiselle de Lespinasse continued it while he was with the army; from May to October she wrote sixteen more letters full of a growing passion; with the late autumn the army went into winter quarters and de Guibert returned to Paris; popular and fascinating as he was, he was enchanted by the letters of Mademoiselle de Lespinasse and they met as declared lovers, as is shown by the following letter written soon after his return from Vienna.

* * *

LETTER II [20]

Half-past eight o'clock, 1773. (November.)

My friend, I shall not see you, and you will tell me that it is not your fault!—Ah, if you had the thousandth part of my desire for a meeting, you would be here and I should be happy. No, I am wrong. I should suffer, but I should not envy all the pleasures of Heaven. My love, I love you as one ought to love, to excess, with madness, with transports, with despair. You have put my soul to the torture all these past days, I saw you this morning and all was forgotten and it seemed to me that I did not do enough for you in loving you with all my soul, in being ready to live or to die for you. You are worth more than all that; yes, if I only knew how to love you it would indeed be nothing, for what is pleasanter and more natural than to love to madness one that is so fitted to inspire love? But, my love, I can do better than love, I can suffer, I know how to renounce my own pleasure for your happiness...do you know why I write to you? Because it pleases me. You would never have doubted it, even if I had not told you so. But, good Heavens, where are you? If you enjoy happiness, I must no longer complain that you have taken mine away.

[The progress of the tempestuous love-affair can be traced in the glowing letters that Julie de Lespinasse wrote; the following is:]

* * *

LETTER III [23]

1774 (Autumn).

My love, when I returned home yesterday I found your letter. I did not expect this good fortune, but what afflicts me is the number of days that must pass before we see one another again. Ah, heavens, if you knew what the days are like when they are denuded of the interest and pleasure of seeing you! My love, for your occupations, dissipations—movement is sufficient, but as for me, my happiness is in you, only in you; I would not wish to live if I could not see you, love you every moment of my life...

* * *

LETTER IV [24]

1774.

I yield to the need of my heart, my love; I love you, I feel as much pleasure and as much torture as if it were the first and last time of my life that I pronounced these words. Ah, why have you condemned me? Why am I reduced to this? You will understand one day—alas, you understand now. It is frightful to me to be no longer free to suffer for you and through you. Is it enough to love you? Farewell, my love.

* * *

LETTER V [15]

(1778.) Every instant of my life.

My love, I suffer, I love you and wait for you.

* * *

LETTER VI [45]

Thursday, half-past eight, 1774.

My love, I love you; I feel that now in a painful manner. Your chill, your painful chest, shake me to the soul; I am full of terror and this frightful sentiment has been so often justified that I know not how to calm myself. If you leave to-night, you will not sleep and that will fever you. Ah, heavens, why cannot I suffer all that I fear so that you need not suffer at all? My love, when you change horses at Orleans, send word how you are, and if your chest is better. My tender interest in you does not permit you to neglect your health. I die of regret in thinking that I shall not see you again, I have no means of reassuring myself about you. I shall not see you. I shall know nothing of you. Ah, it was sweet to love you yesterday, it is cruel to love you to-day, to-morrow and always! My love, pardon my weakness, see if my superstition can excuse it; it was Friday August 17th, 1772, that M. de Mora left Paris*; it was Friday May 9th this year that he left Madrid, and on the 29th of that month I lost him for ever. Imagine if that terrible word carries terror into my soul when it is joined to the thought of him whom I love more than life, more than happiness, more, far more than I have words to express. My love, if, by some chance, you do not go until Saturday, I shall see you to-morrow. What a horrible project I had conceived—not to see you! That would be impossible, as you well know. You also well know that when I hate you it is because I love you with a degree of passion that unsettles my reason. Farewell, farewell, my love, never were you loved and cherished with so much tenderness. Look after yourself, remember that for you to take care of your chest is to save my life. To-morrow! That is to me a frightful thought. Yes, I love you, a thousand times more than I can tell you.

[* On his last journey from France; Julie de Lespinasse never saw him again.]

* * *

LETTER VII [56]

Monday, October 3rd, 1774.

Ah, my love, my soul is sick! I have no more words, I have no more lamentations. I have read, I have re-read, I shall read your letter a hundred times. Ah, my love, how much evil mingled with good, what pleasure joined with the most cruel bitterness! This reading has increased, redoubled all the agitations of my heart, I can no longer calm myself. You have alternately entranced and torn my soul; never have I found you more lovable, more worthy of being loved; and never have I been filled by a more bitter, profound, sharp sorrow evoked by the memory of M. de Mora. Yes, I shall die of it, my heart was so oppressed last night that I lost my reason; an emotion so violent must kill me or make me insane. Alas, I fear neither death nor madness; if I loved you less, if my regrets were less dear to me, with what delirium, with what transport I should deliver myself from this life that overwhelms me! Ah, never, never, has any creature lived in this torture and this despair. My love, we turn to poison the only good in nature, the only good that man cannot spoil or corrupt. Everything in the world is valued and paid for in terms of money; respect, happiness, friendship, virtue even, all that is bought, paid for, judged of in terms of gold; there is only one thing that is above opinion, that must remain stainless as the sun, which it rivals in a life-giving heat that vivifies the soul, enlightens it, makes it stronger, greater. Ah, my love, have I any need to name this gift of nature? When it does not make the happiness of the soul that it fills, one must die. Ah, yes, one must die, I submit, I have need of death; you have been so cruel! What do you mean to do with the life that you have saved? Fill it with trouble and tears? Add the torment of remorse to the most frightful unhappiness? Make me detest every second of my days? And yet bind me with a passion that devours my heart, that, twenty times a day, presents itself before me like a crime? Ah, God, I am guilty and the Heavens be my witness that nothing is dearer to me than virtue and that it is only you that have dazzled me astray! And you believe that I threw myself alone into the abyss? I must not, then, impute to you either my faults or my misfortunes. Ah, I wish to expiate them. I saw the terror of my miseries when I hated you. I was stronger than death. Why, by what fatality have I found you again? Why did my fear that you were ill soften my soul? And, last, why do you destroy and console me at the same time? Why this brutal mingling of pleasure and grief, poison and balm? All this works with too much violence on a soul already exalted by passion and misfortune, all this helps to destroy an organism already exhausted by sickness and lack of sleep. Alas, I tell you, in the depth of my trouble that I do not know if it is you or death whose pity I implore, or if it is by you or by death that I must be cured for ever; nature can do nothing more for me. Alas, does there remain to me a wish, a desire, a regret, a thought of which neither you nor M. de Mora is the object? My love, I have believed that my soul was dead, I assure you, I found some sweetness in that oblivion. But, dear God, how fugitive was that respite! It was but the effect of prolonged doses of opium. Truly, I shall return to my senses and entirely lose that calm. But, tell me, how is it possible that I have not yet spoken of you? That I have not said that I fear a return of your fever, that I hope to have news of you to-day, when the post arrives? If I do not receive any, I shall not blame you, but I shall suffer until Wednesday. Farewell, my love. Your goodness, your gentleness, your truthfulness have filled my heart with tenderness and sensibility.

* * *

LETTER VIII [70]

Sunday, ten o'clock at night. Nov. 13th, 1774.

Ah, my love, you wrong me—and for us both this sentiment that animates me is indeed a curse. You are right to tell me that you have no need to be loved as I know how to love, not, that is not to your measure; you are so perfectly charming that you must be, or will become, the first object of the affections of those delightful ladies, who put outside their heads more than what they have inside, and who are so amiable that they love themselves above everyone else. You are the pleasure, the last gratification of the vanity of nearly every woman. By what fatality did you recall me to life, only to make me die of trouble and grief? My love, I do not complain of you, but it afflicts me that you do not put any value on my peace of mind; this thought alternately preys and tears me. How can one have an instant's peace with a man whose behaviour is as reckless as his driving, who cares nothing for dangers, who never foresees anything, who is incapable of little cares, of any exactitude, who never puts through a project, in a word a man attracted by everything but whom nothing can stop or fix? Oh, my God, my God, it is in your wrath, in the excess of your vengeance, you have condemned me to love, to adore one that must become the torment and the despair of my soul. Yes, my love, what you term your faults may kill me, but they will never make me cold towards you. If my will, my reason, my reflection were of any use to me, should I love you? Alas, in how short a time have I been thrust into, cast down the abyss of unhappiness! I still shudder! The only means of recalling a sweet feeling in my soul, would be to think that I might see you to-morrow; but is it worth while to count on this happiness? Perhaps your carriage has broken down, perhaps some accident has happened to you, perhaps you are still at Chanteloup, in brief, I fear everything, and nothing consoles me. My love, it is not enough for you to vex me, you must also confuse me. First I am to write to you at Chanteloup, and then in your last letter from Bordeaux you say that perhaps you will not go to Chanteloup. Ah, well, heavens, what does it serve to bring you to book, if you corrected your faults should I love you less? Good night. Every time anyone opened my door this evening my heart began beating fast, there were some moments when I feared to hear your name, others when I was overwhelmed not to hear it. All these opposite feelings, all these contradictions are explained in three words—I love you.

* * *

LETTER IX [92]

Midnight (Feb. 10), 1775.

Midnight strikes, and I, my love, am struck by a memory that freezes my blood. It was on the tenth of February last year that I was intoxicated with a poison the effects of which I still feel.* In this moment it alters the circulation of my blood which it carries with increased violence to my heart, filling it with agonising regrets. Alas, by what fatality must the sentiment of the liveliest pleasure be joined to the most overwhelming unhappiness! What a frightful union! Should I not say to myself when I recall that moment of mingled horror and pleasure—I saw a young man, with a glance full of life and sensibility, come towards me, his face expressed sweetness and tenderness, his soul seemed animated by passion. At this sight I was filled with fright mingled with pleasure—I dared to raise my eyes, to fix my glance on him, I advanced, my senses, my soul, were frozen, I saw him advance, sorrow, in a mourning habit, held his arm, she stopped me, tried to hold me off, yet, by a fatal attraction I was drawn on. Speaking from the depth of my distress, I asked, "Who art thou, who fillest my soul with alarm and tenderness, terror and charm! What news dost thou bring me?" "Unfortunate one," he replied with a sombre air and a sad accent, "I am your Destiny. He who animated your life is now struck by Death." Yes, my love, I heard these fatal words—they are engraved on my heart, which still shudders, which loves you! In pity let me see you tomorrow; I am full of sadness and trouble. Ah, my God, that hour was just a year ago when M. de Mora was struck the mortal blow, and I, in the same instant, two hundred leagues away, I was more cruel, more guilty than the ignorant barbarians who killed him. I perish with regret; my eyes and my heart are full of tears. Farewell, my love. I ought not to love you.

[* It is usually supposed that this is a reference to the occasion when Julie de Lespinasse became the mistress of de Guibert, though some commentators on this tragic story think that the relationship was always platonic.]

* * *

LETTER X [120]

My love, I delight in looking for and meeting you everywhere, in talking to you incessantly, in seeing you, and listening to you—always. I wrote to you at Bordeaux, at Montauban, and then again to-day to Bordeaux, and all this uselessly, perhaps, for if you must be here on the first, you will be on the way by the 26th or the 27th. Better so. You will not have my letters, but I shall see you, and it is difficult for me to believe that this pleasure will only end in pain—you are so gentle, so amiable, so sensible that perhaps I shall not feel anything but delight. But why have I not had your news by the last courier? Do you never have any time to come to the help of someone who suffers? Yes, yes, I suffer, I suffer greatly, my entrails do their best to distract me from the suffering of my soul. I had yesterday frightful pains; I passed the morning in my bath and so obtained a little ease. My friend, return—but, even if you do, I shall not see you—there will be some other woman, a tragedy to get on the boards, your duties—after these what time will you have for an unhappy creature who only exists to suffer and to love? Yes, I feel that I am condemned to love you as long as I breathe, when my strength is exhausted by pain I love you with tenderness, when I am animated, when my soul has some energy, I love you with passion. My love, the last sigh I breathe will be an expression of this sentiment. Farewell. If you read this, reply to it and do not think that you will arrive sooner than your letter. My love, be careful not to come to see me when I have people here. I left you here, I have frightful pains. I love you, and I believe that this is not merely because I have loved you.

* * *

LETTER XI 161]

1776.

My love, you are very kind. When you are with me, I see, I hear, nothing but you. But when left to myself, I become the prey of grief, remorse, regrets. I know all that can torment a soul without detaching it from the body—that is the torture to which you have condemned me. If I had some news from you, how obliged I should be! But depart, then, you always arrive too late.

* * *

LETTER XII [164]

Half-past nine, 1776.

I understand very well, you write me charming notes, but you are killing me. I am cold, so cold that my thermometer is 20 degrees below that of Réaumur. This concentrated cold, this state of perpetual torture, casts me into such a profound discouragement that I have not the strength to wish for relief. In truth, what could I wish for? All that remains for me to feel is not worth the trouble of experiencing it, ah yes, one must reach oblivion. I do not repulse either your pity or your generosity. I believe that you do wrong in refusing them to me. You ought to preserve at least the illusion that you could comfort me; one would do as much for an enemy that one had overwhelmed...

* * *

LETTER XIII [165]

1776.

I freeze, I tremble, I die of cold, the waters go over me. You reanimate that part of me that is most sorely sick; my heart is cold, rent, and sorrowful, and I can say with the madwoman in Balam—'it suffers so that it must break.' My love, it seems to me a century since yesterday, yesterday morning, and I fear that I shall never reach this evening. I shall see you then; and my torments will be eased. Ah, Heavens, my body has no longer the strength to support my soul—it kills me. Good day, my love, I love you more deeply, better than you have ever been loved before. Yes, my cough shakes me, I have been ill, but I shall see you. Ah, you will be occupied elsewhere until this evening, and I, I shall have only one thought that will make me say incessantly, "How slowly, for the unhappy, time passes!" My love, see if you can drive with me to the Comte de ——'s; choose the day; I should prefer Monday, but your wish shall decide.

* * *

LETTER XIV [166]

I am only just now alone, so I could not keep your lackey waiting. I am so sad, so inclined to believe in misfortune, that though there is little foundation not to credit your reassurances, I feel that you are not well, that Madame your wife is ill. It seems to me that her health is very delicate, that makes her more interesting. I have begged M. d'Alembert to go and learn your news, because I feared that I should not have a moment to write to you. He will let me know if you are going to Versailles...Good Heavens! It is late indeed for you to concern yourself about my misfortunes. Forget the cause of them and you will not be troubled by the consequences; all I ask of you is to remain well disposed. That should be easier to you, than finding great opportunities of serving me, great dangers to incur for me. No, I will have nothing from you but that little which suffices to attach me to life.

* * *

LETTER XV [167]

Ah, if any kindness remains to you, pity me; I know nothing more, I cannot any longer reply to you; body and soul I am extinct. Release me from my bond, hold me to it, what you please, it is all a matter of indifference to me. Ah, my God, I no longer know myself.

* * *

LETTER XVI [171]

I must write to you! But, truly, that is like saying to me, you must fly to the moon! My love, I have given in, and to my regret, not entirely to your entreaties. This—yes—has drawn tears from me, you will pardon them. But I shall not revive. Why this eagerness to make me live? The answer may be, that no one has loved better than I have. Ah, Heavens! this merit has been repaid by thirty years of suffering, with death at the end. I do not know if that will encourage our scribbling ladies. I shall see Bordeu* to-morrow at four o'clock; that is to feel the knife at one's throat. Do not come here then...Good night, you are so charming, that only one profoundly experienced could distrust you—so many attentions, so much warmth, the tone, the expression of emotion! And for whom, good Heavens, is all that employed? For a creature whom death has at last claimed...farewell, my love—your news!

[* A celebrated physician and a friend of d'Alembert's.]

* * *

LETTER XVII [172]

Why do you suppose that I am inspired by a frightful intention?* Consider if I have either the strength or the disposition! And it would show lack of delicacy and of tact to allow myself to feel resentment when I have arrived at the point where I have no need of either defence or vengeance. My love, I am dying; that satisfies everything, that fulfils everything. But do you know what should be the outcome of the frightful suspicion that you have had? Calm for yourself—to whom my danger has given a moment of rigour; you must become colder, harder and fly from an unhappy creature who can no longer inspire anything but sadness and alarm. Yes, indeed, you must thus steel yourself, so that when my end arrives you do not suffer. This is what my generosity and my interest for your tranquillity advises and it comes from the bottom of my soul.

[* Suicide. Mademoiselle de Lespinasse was taking large quantities of opium; her sufferings at this time were terrible, and de Guibert had witnessed, or heard of, frightful attacks due to the abuse of opium.]

Do not try to deny the moral of this, my friend, one owes nothing more to one who has renounced everything, all ties, all pacts, all, all are broken. As you see! No, my soul is closed to every consolation, with difficulty can I persuade myself that my physical hurts will ever be eased—I believe them as incurable as those in my heart. I had yielded to friendship 2 in seeing Bordeu, in a little while that same friendship will lament the uselessness of his skill. Good night, I suffer greatly, I hope indeed that the same cannot be said of you. Remember that to-morrow is your Thursday. You have the kindness to forget it, I must remind you.

[* Reference to d'Alembert, who was frantic with grief at the illness of Mademoiselle de Lespinasse, and ignorant of the real cause of it, the secret love-affair with de Guibert.]

* * *

LETTER XVIII [173

Six o'clock in the evening, 1776.

Yes, I well understand your generosity. You want another to recall me to life, or, at least, to snatch me from death. How many benefits I owe you! Hatred would have better served my peace, my happiness. I should have thanked Heaven if you had replied by hatred to these indiscreet, ill-judged advances! That would have been less fatal to me than these efforts to persuade me to return to life. But it is not all this that I wished to say to you—but only to thank you for your news and to send you mine—it is worse than ever, but still too good.

* * *

LETTER XIX [174]

At half-past six, 1776.

I could neither read nor write nor dictate at eight o'clock when I received your note. I was in a convulsion of coughing and pain that only passed an hour after I received your letter. My agonies were at such a point this morning, that I was threatened with an inflammation. I did everything possible to obtain some relief, and you will understand that, in this crisis, my door had to be closed to everyone; the Archbishop of Aix and two other people were refused two hours before you came. Eh, good Heavens, what do you ask—why I exclude you? And you did not see me yesterday! All this concern, these sentiments are only reasonable when one believes that one is loved or expects happiness, and in my condition there is no longer expectancy or hope, I only sigh after a little ease...Good day, then, I am going to bed, do not come to-morrow morning; until four o'clock (in the afternoon) my doors will be closed to everyone without exception. I am no longer mistress of my ills, they have taken possession of me, and I have surrendered to them. Do not imagine that I have no desire to see you, but I die of regret in thinking of the sad manner in which you passed the other evenings with me, when you have your own home, and all manners of pleasures. No sacrifices, my friend! Sick people repulse all these efforts to help them—nothing can do much for them!

[After writing this letter Julie de Lespinasse did not see again (save for one or two brief glimpses) de Guibert, who showed the deepest grief and concern at her state. By a supreme coquetry she denied herself this last pleasure; she was disfigured by pain, delirious, distorted by convulsions, and she often did not wish to leave a hideous image of herself in her lover's memory. She contrived, however, to write at least seven more letters to de Guibert, who called constantly at her apartments; her health was a matter of so much concern to all fashionable and intellectual Paris, that his attentiveness was not noticed.]

* * *

LETTER XX [176]

It is not your fault or mine, my friend, if you did not receive my news at Versailles. I received your note this morning at eleven o'clock. There was not time to send to Versailles then, and I thought that you would have gone home before coming here, I had sent there my thanks for your attention, so charming, so full of kindness. Your concern touches me so much that I am sorry that I cannot please you by saying that I am better; but I cannot do so, the coughing convulsions nearly killed me yesterday. Last night the fever was so strong that my ideas were even wilder and more confused than ever; I saw my doctor, at eleven o'clock this morning; he found more fever than I usually have, due to irritation—my chest, my entrails are as burnt up, as distressed as my soul. But, my dear, I love you, and if you could return that love, I should have the strength of a martyr—I should suffer, I should prefer my agonies to all the happiness there is in the world...Ah, my love, look after yourself, do not torment me any more, do me no more harm—but, do not go to the other extreme, do not make me believe that my life is necessary to you. I should then be too much to be pitied, for I feel the need to die...Come, come, you have more power over me than Logistile over Roland,* than opium over pain, and, on my honour I believe that you could dispute me with Death himself.

[* Orlando Furioso.]

* * *

LETTER XXI [177]

I fell into oblivion yesterday; this state of exhaustion resembles death, but, unhappily, it was not. I thought that you were near me, at six o'clock—but perhaps, in thought, you were very far away—sometimes, when one is together in the same room, one is very far apart. My love, do not come at ten o'clock to-night, come earlier...

[The next letter refers to the last glimpse the lovers had of each other; de Guibert was allowed for a moment to approach the death-bed of Julie de Lespinasse.]

* * *

LETTER XXII [178]

Ten o'clock in the morning (Monday), 1776.

My love, you saw me very weak, very wretched. Usually your presence eases my pains and stays my tears. To-day I succumbed, and know not which was worse, my body or my soul. This suffering goes so deep that I have come to refuse even the consolation of friendship, to prefer to be alone to speaking to you, to be in my bed, to lamenting and sharing—with sweet sadness—my sorrow with you—I remember that you told me that you liked to stay at home on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Your kindness made you forget this, but I remind you—I give you back your promise. My love, never have I less wished you to make sacrifices for me. Alas, you see that I am not in a state to enjoy anything! I only beg you, do not turn the knife in my wound. That is the limit of all my wishes. It seems to me that if you wished, you might go to Versailles less frequently—My friend, if I see you to-morrow, bring me the rest of your Travels and my blue booklet; if you have them ready to your hand, give them to my servant...Indeed, I have hardly the strength to hold my pen, all my faculties are employed in suffering. Ah, I have arrived at the end of my life and it is nearly as painful to die as to live; I fear pain too much. The sufferings of my soul have exhausted my strength. My love, support me, but do not suffer in doing so, that would increase my grief—I repeat to you—kindly, simply—do not take to-morrow evening from your family—to-morrow is Tuesday.

* * *

LETTER XXIII [180]

Four o'clock, 1776.

You are very good, very amiable, my love. You want to reanimate, to sustain a soul that at last succumbs under the heavy weight of sorrow...I feel all the value of your emotion, but I no longer deserve it. There was a time when to have been loved by you would have left me nothing to wish for. Alas, perhaps that would have stifled my regrets, or at least have lessened their bitterness, and I should have wished to live. To-day I only wish to die. There is no recompense for, no possible softening of, the loss that I have had; it cannot be survived. This, my dear, is the only trace of bitterness against you, that I find in my soul—I should like to know your future—I much hope that you will be happy. I received your letter at one o'clock; I had then a burning fever. I cannot tell you how much pain and time it took to read it, it nearly made me delirious, but I did not wish to put it off until to-day. I await your news this evening. Farewell, my love. If ever I return to life, I shall employ it again in loving you, but now there is no longer time.

[This is, according to the incomplete edition of Mademoiselle de Lespinasse's letters published by Madame de Guibert in 1809, the last letter written by Julie to her lover. M. de Ségur, however, who made exhaustive researches into this famous love story, dates the above letter May 11 and says that Julie scribbled a few more lines to de Guibert on the morning of the day that she died, May 23; this does not agree with the account given by La Harpe, an eye-witness of the last scenes of Julie's illness, that she was incapable even of movement for the last three days of her life. In any case the above letter is clearly intended as a farewell and as that is left here. La Harpe relates that Julie's last words during a brief interval of consciousness were: "Do I still live?"

Her implacable enemy, Madame du Deffand, gave Julie a bitter epitaph—"A pity that she could not have died fifteen years earlier, then I should not have lost d'Alembert."

D'Alembert himself came to regard the memory of Julie with bitterness, almost with horror; on going through her papers he found evidences of her love for de Mora. "I have wasted fifteen years of my life!" he wrote; "and I am sixty years old...all that was mine is lost and nothing remains for me but to die."

M. de Ségur's Julie de Lespinasse, which contains extracts from letters written by the Comte de Guibert, was translated into English and published in London 1907.

A complete edition of the letters taken from the originals, together with many of de Guibert's replies, and without the abridgements and suppressions made by Madame de Guibert, has been published under the editorship of M. de Guibert Villeneuve with the assistance of M. de Ségur.]


MARIE DE VICHY CHAMROND,
MARQUISE DU DEFFAND (1697-1780)

Illustration

Malheur à qui le ciel accorde de longs jours!
Celui qui mourut jeune était aimé des dieux.

—SAINT LAMBERT

*

The elderly goat is indifferent grave at first, because of his beard.

—BEN JONSON

* * * * * * *

MADAME DU DEFFAND

Marie de Vichy Chamrond was born into the ranks of the highest French aristocracy; her family came from Burgundy; the Duchesse de Choiseul was her grandmother, her nephew was Cardinal Loménie de Brienne; one of her brothers became a maréchal de camp, the other treasurer of the Sainte-Chapelle, Paris; one of her aunts was the Duchesse de Luynes, the intimate friend of Marie Leczinska, Queen of Louis XV. Thus closely connected with the great ones of France during the period of its most flashing brilliance, Mademoiselle de Vichy Chamrond received the orthodox education accorded to girls of her noble birth; she was trained in the Parisian convent of la Madeleine de Trenelle and there developed not only a lively wit and a piquant beauty but a fashionable scepticism in religious matters. While very young she was married to a wealthy noble, the Marquis du Deffand, whom she soon discovered to be feeble and tedious; taking advantage of the cynic licence of society under the Regent—the duc d'Orléans—Madame du Deffand soon left her husband and established herself as one of the famous salonnières of the day. She shared with Mesdames de Tenein and Geoffrin the honour of entertaining, amusing and inspiring most of the famous men of the century, among whom were Diderot, Fontenelle, Montesquieu, d'Alembert, Turgot and Mormontel. Her wit, her elegance, her culture, her cynicism, her fine taste, were all exquisitely in harmony with her time and greatly pleased her contemporaries. Her love-affairs were graceful, heartless and brief; she was believed to have held the volatile fancy of the Regent himself for a fortnight and to have benefited by this to the extent of a pension for life.

Among her many caprices was a brief return to her husband; the reunion lasted six weeks and the light cold woman, soon bored by convention, returned to a licence that scandalised even her friends and tarnished a reputation that had been early breathed upon.

She then formed a permanent connexion with M. Hénault; it was said that her affection for him lasted because never having had life it could not die—this long liaison became a matter of habit to the cold lovers and was founded on a common respect for each other's intelligence and wit.

At the age of fifty-five this selfish, dissipated woman, who had no ties, no responsibilities nor any cares beyond those of procuring her own pleasures, became totally blind. Her brilliant mind surmounted even this calamity; she retired to a suite of apartments in the convent of Saint-Joseph in the rue Saint-Dominique and gathered round her the most interesting, gifted and important people of the day, the grands seigneurs, the philosophers, artists, men of letters and all foreigners of distinction and prestige; Madame du Deffand neither loved nor esteemed this brittle, dazzling world, but it amused her and helped her to keep at bay the gnawing boredom that was the result of her selfish, dry heart, her mocking, malicious wit.

As she could not, however, always be presiding at suppers or be incessantly the centre of a gathering of brilliant intellectuals, the blind Marquise sought for a constant companion or rather slave to serve her as eyes. She found this in a poor young girl then established in the household of her brother, the Comte de Vichy Chamrond, in Burgundy. This Julie de Lespinasse, as she was named, was illegitimate, of an origin then completely mysterious; it is now believed that she was the daughter of M. de Vichy Chamrond by the Comtesse d'Albon, whose daughter Diana he afterwards married. The life of the blind woman was at first greatly enriched by the company of this charming creature, who, however, soon obtained a social success that roused the malice of her exacting mistress, who became with increasing years and infirmities more and more difficult, arbitrary and jealous. The Marquise literally "turned night into day"; since her perpetual darkness made all hours the same to her she fell into the habit of beginning her entertainments about midnight, going to bed at ten o'clock in the morning and rising at six o'clock in the evening.

These hours not suiting everyone, Mademoiselle de Lespinasse gradually came to receive visitors while the Marquise was in bed; this being discovered, Madame du Deffand cried out on the black ingratitude of her protégée and dismissed her; Mademoiselle de Lespinasse established a salon of her own and though she was too poor to offer the simplest refreshment, Madame du Deffand's friends nearly all forsook her for her younger rival; even M. Hénault chose the fascinating Julie, and Madame du Deffand received, in one icy blast, that heartlessness which she had herself meted out in several portions to others. As she refused to receive anyone who went near Mademoiselle de Lespinasse, her circle of acquaintance became drastically limited; she remained, however, in the centre of the intellectual and social life of France, had intimate connexions in Court and politics and was visited by nearly all foreigners with any claim to importance who visited Paris.

Among these was Horace Walpole (1709-97), third son of Sir Robert Walpole, dilettante, flâneur, man of fashion and one of the finest and most penetrating wits of the day. When he presented himself before the blind woman in the hooded chair, who was approaching her seventieth year, Walpole was himself fifty years of age, disillusioned, troubled by gout, nearly as cynical and heartless as Madame du Deffand herself. Educated at Eton and Christ Church, Cambridge, Walpole had early received several lucrative sinecures and had travelled extensively and fastidiously in France and Italy with Thomas Gray. Three times member of Parliament, he settled at Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, in 1749, where he built himself a little Gothic castle or abbey, to house his remarkable collection of curios.

Here he set up his private press and here he wrote his elegant opus, including the famous sham Gothic romance The Castle of Otranto, and compiled the incomparable letters that are his surest title to remembrance; his romance appeared in 1764, and the following year he visited Paris and began his friendship with Madame du Deffand.

This love story—for so it was, on the woman's side at least—was surely one of the strangest ever to be recorded. She seventy, he nearly fifty, both cold, dry, cynical, lazy, selfish, finding a bitter amusement in observing the failings and miseries of others, despising everything but the bric-à-brac of the mind, and the pretty objets d'art that could be handled, valuing nothing but wit, bon ton and any fastidious escape from engulfing boredom—both without ties, affections or loyalties.

Walpole, pale, elegant, effeminate, had been handsome and attractive in his youth, but at fifty he was vexed and fretted by gout, ravaged by sourness of spirit, roused to a peevish celibacy and very cynical in his temper. Moreover, his conversational honours in French were limited and he neither read nor wrote this language with facility; despite these handicaps the blind old woman loved the heartless Englishman as she had never loved before—loved him beyond the natural limits of her physical decay and those of her atrophised senses. Since she never saw him she must have formed some image of him in her own mind that was entirely satisfactory to herself; his personality as expressed in his letters and conversation she adored, and for the remaining fifteen years of her life he was her major interest, a passion, and several times an obsession. During this period he visited Paris—1769-71, and gave some of his time to waiting on the old, blind woman in her apartments in the convent Saint-Joseph; between these meetings they corresponded with great regularity; three hundred and forty-eight of her letters have been preserved; only a few of his remain, but his part of the correspondence must have been voluminous. Walpole was fascinated and flattered by the devotion of this celebrated woman, but he was also extremely afraid of being made ridiculous by it, and lived in constant dread lest the correspondence should be discovered by some unkind wit; he frequently, and with a harshness that amounted to cruelty, rebuked Madame du Deffand for the warmth of her sentiments and the romantic turn of her attachment. It is indeed doubtful if he would have tolerated her at all had it not been for the baits that she offered in the form of the long detailed accounts of contemporary affairs in France that she continually sent him. These were based on inside information and were couched in that language of wit and cynicism which alone was tolerable to the Lord of Strawberry Hill, and he could not resist these regular gazettes from Paris that furnished him with such delicious material for commentary and gossip when he retailed them to his exclusive circle.

While, therefore, Madame du Deffand's cry was all for an exchange of tenderness, of exquisite sentiments, of all the delicate nuances of a platonic and intellectual love-affair, his cry was for news and more news; she satisfied him to the best of her exceptional opportunities and her brilliant abilities and these portions of her letters form invaluable material for the social historian; the selections given here are from the emotional passages that give them the right to be called love letters and are taken from the entire correspondence, of which, owing to limitations of space, they can give no more than a general idea.

Madame du Deffand's letters to Horace Walpole were published in London, 1810, by his friend and legatee, Miss Mary Berry, in four volumes in the original French with notes in English; an abridged French edition appeared in 1811, a complete French edition in 1824. The following translations have been made from Lettres de Madame du Deffand à Horace Walpole, etc., Paris, 1864.

This fine edition contains an account of the Marquise by M. A. Thiers and copious quotations from the letters of Horace Walpole taken from his correspondence, published in London, 1810. These—in as far as they were to Madame du Deffand—are fragmentary; and none addressed to the Marquise appear in Peter Cunningham's edition of Walpole's correspondence in nine volumes, London, 1857-9. A complete edition, containing a large number of letters discovered since 1854, of Madame du Deffand's letters to Horace Walpole, appeared in Paris, 1912.

It appears probable that either Madame du Deffand herself or her executors destroyed the bulk of these letters, and that only a few were returned to the Walpole estate. M. Wiart, the Marquise's faithful gentleman and servitor, wrote most of these letters from the blind woman's dictation; she was 'dame en chambre,' and during the period covered by this strange correspondence and towards the end of her life, hardly left her apartments in the rue Saint-Dominique, where she passed her time between her hooded chair and her bed; her sole close companions, besides Wiart, were her cat and her dog, both detested by Walpole, who, however, finally gave an asylum to the latter.

Racked by gout, tormented by insomnia, embittered by scepticism and disillusionment, snatching at anything that, in Lord Byron's phrase, helped to assist her to avoid conjugating the verb 'ennuyer,' Madame du Deffand was only held to life by her affection for a man whom she had never seen, whom she rarely met and with whom she could only communicate with difficulty.

A strange pendant to this strange story is the episode of Miss Mary Berry. About five years after the death of the Marquise, Horace Walpole, then seventy years of age, conceived the same belated and desolate tenderness for Mary Berry that Madame du Deffand had conceived for him, and offered to the young woman the shrivelled hand and shrunken heart that the Marquise would so eagerly have accepted; he was then (1791) Earl of Oxford, but the charming Miss Berry refused the offer with a delicacy that gave no offence, and she and her sister lived at Little Strawberry Hill on the terms of the pleasantest friendship with the ancient invalid, who left them and their father, Robert Berry, all his papers and manuscripts, including the letters from Madame du Deffand. Miss Berry also published the letters that Walpole wrote to herself and her sister; she died in 1852, at ninety years of age.

THE MARQUISE DU DEFFAND

The first letter that Madame du Deffand wrote to Horace Walpole is dated two days after he had left Paris, after a stay of eight months, and indicates the stern rules he had laid down before he permitted any exchange of letters at all.


* * *

LETTER I [1]

Saturday, 19th April, 1766.

I was surprised to receive your letter yesterday; I did not expect it; but I see that one may expect anything from you.

I begin by assuring you of my prudence, I do not find anything disobliging in your recommendation of this; no one shall know anything of our correspondence, and I will follow exactly all that you prescribe. I have begun already by hiding my grief and care from the President (Hénault) and except Madame de Lonsac, to whom I was forced to mention you, I have not breathed your name to a soul. With anyone save yourself, such a declaration would be repugnant to me, but you are the best of men and have such good intentions, that none of your words or actions can possibly be suspect. If you had admitted a little sooner what you felt for me, I should have been calmer, and, in consequence, more reserved. The desire of acquisition and of retaining an acquisition gives one an activity that touches, doubtless, imprudence—there is my story as regards yourself. Add to this explanation my age, my wish not to appear crazy, and ask yourself if you are not secure from any ridicule that I might bring on you. This being understood, and no one overhearing us, allow me to become completely at my ease and to tell you that it is not possible to love more tenderly than I love you. I believe that we are all, sooner or later, rewarded according to our merits, and the tenderness and sincerity of my heart have at last been satisfied, at the end of my life. Because of the happiness that I desire from you, I will not weary you with my thoughts, but only say that my pleasure is touched with sadness, for I know that you are likely to be long absent from me. I do not wish to make this letter into an elegy, however, therefore only beg you to keep your promise to write to me with the greatest freedom and to remember that I belong more to you than I do to myself. For my part, I shall render an account of all that happens to me, and chat with you as easily as if we were together again in the chimney corner...I do not ask you to write often; Saint Augustine declared "Love me and do as you please" and that is one of his best sayings.

Remember that you are my guardian, my tutor, and do not neglect my education; I shall always be very submissive, but, above all, teach me what I can do to hasten and facilitate your return.

[This letter proved too outspoken for the taste of Walpole and drew forth a rebuke, to which Madame du Deffand replied in:]

* * *

LETTER II [2]

(Letter from Amiens.)

Monday, 21st April, 1766.

In reply to you—if you were a Frenchman I should not hesitate to believe you to be an imbecile, as you are an Englishman I shall merely consider you stupid. What do you mean, I beg you, by saying that I am given up to indiscretions and romantic transports? For the indiscretions—let that pass, but as for romantic transports—that makes me furious, and I should willingly scratch out those eyes of yours which they tell me are so handsome, but which you, surely, cannot think have turned my head. I try to think of something ingenious to write to you, but in vain—I am no longer at my ease in writing to you; you are so infatuate with your blessed "Notre Dame de Serig"* that I feel handicapped, not only can I not hope to be compared with her, but I feel that your passion for her makes all that does not resemble her appear flat and dull.

[* Madame de Sévigné, with whose letters Walpole was enraptured.]

Let us return to your charge—romantic transports indeed! This to one the declared enemy of the least romantic trait; have I not always detested this ridiculous affectation and all who indulge in it, and now, at this time of day, I am accused of it!...Return, return to Paris and you shall see how I shall conduct myself, I feel, I vow, a great impatience for you to see the effects of your lessons and my indignation. I have from now on begun a new plan of conduct; I shall never more pronounce your name—that will vex me a little, I admit. I should have much pleasure in reading your letters over with someone who would appreciate their merit and laugh with me over them, but, in truth, were I to give rein to my natural imprudence and look for such a person, I should not be able to find anyone worthy of this confidence. Since your departure, all those about me appear more stupid than ever. I am afraid of falling into an insupportable boredom. When you were with me, I could divine what you thought, you knew what I thought and we did not hesitate to tell each other so. That time is passed, and God knows when it will return. Be Abélard, if you wish, but do not count on me for what I can never be, Héloïse. Did I ever tell you the dislike I have for their letters? I have been persecuted by every translation made of them and forced to listen to them; this medley or rather this galimatias of piety, metaphysics and sensuality seems to me false, exaggerated, disgusting. Please do not play Abélard with me—but if you wish—Saint-François de Sales, whom I like very much. I will readily be your Philothée—but enough of this. You know that I expect a letter from Calais? But that which I look forward to with real impatience is that which will be dated London.

[On these lines and these terms the correspondence continued; Madame du Deffand wrote to Strawberry Hill five or six times a month and all her letters were of considerable length, some even were written "de ma propre main," for she was able to trace a readable script, all, between the witty, brilliant, elegant gossip that she anxiously collected to please her exacting friend, contain heartfelt appeals for tenderness, for sympathy, for Walpole's return to Paris. His frequent attacks of illness rend her with pitiful anxiety, but any manifestation of this was harshly rebuked and Walpole refused, in peevish alarm, her suggestion that Wiart should be sent as a sort of liaison officer to Strawberry Hill. "Heavens, what have I become!" he wailed, "a hero of romance, a figure of comedy—and if I am either, who is the heroine?"

Madame du Deffand, using courage, finesse and the grace of a great lady, persisted in sending the letters that frightened, mortified and yet fascinated Horace Walpole. The following note is given in the packet listed as:]

* * *

LETTER III [17]

Saturday, November 1st, 1766, at four o'clock.

What a misfortune, what a great misfortune for me, is the friendship that I feel for you. Ah, mon Dieu, this feeling is very far from romantic and you knew me very little when you took it to be so! I love you only because I esteem you and believe that I have found in you all the good qualities that, during fifty years, I searched for, in vain, in others. This discovery charmed me so much that I allowed myself to become attached to you, despite my common sense that warned me that I was committing a folly and that a thousand obstacles separated us—that it would always be impossible for me to go to you, and that it would be useless for me to expect a friendship strong enough to draw you away from your country, your old friends, your Strawberry Hill in order to see—what?an old Sibyl withdrawn in the recesses of a convent. Ah, in the bottom of my soul, I have always known what I am worth. Your letter from Chantilly gave me some hope but it was followed by others that destroyed hope so effectively that your last, which is charming, cannot revive it. No—I shall not see you again—you say that you will come in April, but there will be a thousand thousand difficulties on your part—and perhaps a large one on mine; Ah, my tutor, I have so much hoped that before I make my long journey you will make a short one to France. You see to what a pitch my sadness grows—don't take it in ill part and allow me the liberty of showing myself as I am—Is there any happiness, any pleasure, equal to that of opening one's heart to a friend on whom one can entirely rely? Farewell, my tutor, I have no more paper.

* * *

LETTER IV [28]

PARIS, Saturday, May 23, 1767.

You hope that I may live to be eighty! Mon Dieu! What a cursed wish! Don't you know that I detest life, that I am wretched at having lived so long, that I wish that I had never been born? I was not made for this world, I don't know if there is another, but if there is, I dread it, whatever it may be. One can never be at peace, either with other people or with oneself—one displeases everyone, some because they believe that one does not sufficiently esteem or like them, others for the opposite reasons. To get along at all one must feign different sentiments for different people, and I am not capable of this. Naturalness and simplicity are praised and those who practise these virtues are hated. One knows all this and yet one fears death and why? Not only because of the uncertainty of the future, but because of the great repugnance one feels towards the prospect of the destruction of the mind. Ah, the mind! the mind! What is it? What power has reason over our speech, our actions, what triumph over our passions? What benefit does it procure us? If it checks the movements of our soul, is it not more hurtful to our happiness—a hundred times—than these passions can be? To live by reason is to live in a state of negation—and negation is good only because it is—negation. Here is three farthings' worth of metaphysics and I very humbly beg your pardon, you would be right to tell me—content yourself with loving yourself, abstain from boring others...

[In August 1767 Walpole visited Paris which he left in the following October; Madame du Deffand wrote the day of his departure.]

* * *

LETTER V [34]

PARIS, Friday, 9th Oct., 1767. Ten o'clock in the morning.

How much that was lazy, feeble and ridiculous did I allow you to see in me! And I promised myself so much the contrary...but, but, my tutor, forget all that, pardon me, and only think of your little old woman when you can tell yourself that she is reasonable and be certain that she is obedient and, above all, grateful, that her respect for you, yes, I say respect, her tender but serious attachment, will be, until her last moment, the happiness of her life. What does it matter if one is old, if one is blind? What does it matter where one lives? What does it matter if those who surround one are stupid or extravagant? When the soul is profoundly moved it requires nothing but the object that moves it—and when this object responds to what one feels for him—there is nothing left to be desired...

* * *

LETTER VI [59]

PARIS, 14 January, 1769.

May I die if it has ever been my intention to complain of you or to vex you; my esteem for you reaches respect and even fear; but I have often an excess of hatred for myself—fits of sadness, penitence, remorse; I believe that everyone finds me insupportable and discovers me to be as detestable as I really am...Ah, why, you'll ask me, are you so fearful, why don't you avoid all quarrels, all annoyance? Alas, alas, when one is doing wrong one does not perceive one's fault, afterwards there comes repentance, remorse and one ages ten years in eight days—one advances with a giant's pace towards oblivion—one dies, no one regrets one, and so the story ends...do not grumble at me, my friend, I beg you, do not call me' Madame,' that is an odious punishment for me, as dreaded as the cane by children. You are too severe a tutor, you are intolerant. I don't know why I so obstinately continue to care for you. Adieu.

[In 1769 Walpole again came to Paris. In expectancy of this visit Madame du Deffand wrote:]

* * *

LETTER VII [68]

I will not speak of your arrival, for I won't wish to dissipate my pleasure by anticipation, all that I think and feel shall be reserved for you—but do not fear that I shall be effusive—I shall leave you to guess my joy and my greatest care will be to control it; we shall have so many subjects of conversation that it will be easy for you not to talk of me. Two years have passed since I saw you and yet, by I know not what enchantment, it seems only a short time since we were separated—only with difficulty can I recall what has happened during your absence—all these events have left but a slight trace on me; the moment of your departure, that of your arrival, these are my only two epochs—everything between them is nearly effaced, when I try to think of a fact, of a date, I can place it by considering if it is before or after your going away—you see you help my memory.

Adieu; my pleasure is a little troubled, I fear that you make this visit only in an excess of complaisance.

[Complaisance was all that Horace Walpole could extend towards Madame du Deffand; she was forced—though timidly—to complain of his severity, dryness and extreme caution; his gauche handling of the delicate affair, his timid egotism would have disgusted most Frenchwomen of the finish and wit, the birth and experience, of the Marquise, but she was as humble in love as any schoolgirl and only rarely was roused to a protest, as in:]

* * *

LETTER VIII [82]

Nothing could be—permit me to say—more extravagant than your two last letters. I expect that the next I shall receive will be in the same style, but I certainly promise myself that it shall be the last, for I shall no longer write to you all that comes into my head and therefore you will not be able to complain of my indiscretion. Yes, yes, I am prudent enough, at least as prudent as you are, I am no more variable than you are, and worse for you, my head is as steady as yours that is upset, that turns, on the least excuse; I am stupid enough to confide in you, and no longer talking of yourself—for several reasons, the principal of which is that I had nothing to complain of there—I made some complaints of others, or more correctly, I told you quite frankly what I thought of everyone. You seem to think that my letters are public sheets and that the mob reads them as easily as you do. But to my justification...is it my fault if M. Hervey makes a bad joke,* and says what he thinks I think of you and what he thinks he feels for me? Your niece told me a hundred times that he was enamoured of me, and before everyone—if I or anyone else had been scandalised at this it would have been very ridiculous or very stupid—but you have not a talent for pleasantry and seem besides to think that my esteem and friendship dishonour you.

[* Felton Hervey had said that he was in love with Madame du Deffand, but that she was in love with Walpole.]

I must then try to do the impossible and endeavour to prevent your name from being mentioned in front of me—then we shall see what fresh quarrels you will try to force on me...I don't know if you have received my last letter of twelve pages—but I indeed think not, and I await a terrible reply; I try to arm myself with courage that I may read it without chagrin or anger; I certainly promise that I shall not again expose myself to such a trial. However, despite all this, I am very satisfied with you, my friend, because you are willing to accept my friendship despite the bad opinion that you have of my character—as this doesn't seem to stand between us, it doesn't afflict me very much—I should be pleased, though, if you did not think me—"so vain, so tyrannical, so imprudent"—I have faults a little in the way of an intimate connexion. What can I do to make you change your opinion? Shall I never speak again to you of myself, ask nothing more of you, tell you nothing more of anyone? Thus you will be relieved of letters of a dozen pages and no longer able to tell me that I shut the gates of Paris for you. Ah, my friend, what am I to conclude from all this?—is it that I am not worthy of a friend like yourself—that you believe that you owe me a certain interest and that, not being able to find it in sentiment, take it in my faults. It might easily be that you were wearied of an intercourse that causes you little pleasure, but much fatigue, tedium and disgust. I do not think that I am either vain or tyrannical—I admit that I have often been imprudent—but I have done my best to correct myself. I am very far from thinking myself without faults, I am full of them, and, to my great misfortune, know it; I am more disgusted with myself than you or anyone else can be, and I only endure my life because I know that it can't last long now.

[Soon afterwards, however, Madame du Deffand committed another of her 'imprudences' and suggested that during his next visit to Paris Walpole should occupy the suite of apartments next to hers in the Convent Saint-Joseph; this brought bitter reproaches from the self-conscious Englishman, who lived in terror lest this—to him—dangerous correspondence should be tampered with.]

* * *

LETTER IX [83]

PARIS, April 4th, 1770.

My friend, my only friend, in the name of God let us make peace. I would rather think you crazy than unjust, but pray don't be one or the other—give me again all your friendship. If I have done wrong I will admit it and you shall pardon me, but in truth I am not guilty. I have never spoken of you—your English people thought that they were doing you a pleasure by speaking of my esteem for you—those who like, admire you, don't try to vex you—the good Hervey thought that he was performing wonders of good will—I forgive him freely the harm he has done to me. As regards my indiscreet question—it could not be understood by anyone, besides it was not in one of the letters sent through the post, but in one of those of twelve pages that you received by a safe hand. Have a better opinion of me, my friend, you have corrected so many of my faults and I have only one thought, one wish, one desire, to be until my last sigh your best friend. Do not fear that I shall ever abuse your friendship or your kindness. Never shall I press you to come to see me—ah, mon Dieu, I know only too well how difficult these journeys are for you, how many inconveniences they involve you in. I thought only to ease one of the most insupportable, the noises of the inns. Here nothing would appear more simple and more reasonable than the arrangement that I proposed.*

[* That Walpole should stay in the Convent Saint-Joseph.]

I did not even intend to allow you to perceive that we were under the same roof—well! we will think no more of P...I hope, my friend, that after this explanation everything will be as it used to be between us and that no disputes will again vex our poor heads, let us make one another happy, to this end I will redouble my prudence and do you be a little more indulgent and never tell me that we do not suit each other. Remember the distance that separates us, and that when I receive a severe letter, full of reproaches, of suspicions, of coldness, I am unhappy for eight days and when at the end of that time I receive an even more vexing letter, I lose my head altogether. I do not like the sentiment of compassion—but do sometimes remember my age and my misfortunes and that it lies in your power to render me—despite them, very happy.

[Horace Walpole, however, found it impossible to make Madame du Deffand 'very happy'; he found her, or pretended to find her, still vain, tyrannical and maddeningly exacting, and though now and then he sent her kind letters which filled her with joy, she more often received letters on her faults and rebukes as to her failings. 'Yawning in her hooded chair' or shuddering at the desolate thoughts roused in her by the melancholy rattling of her windows in the gales that swept Paris, the blind old woman clung to this strange, last love which bound her to a life of which she was totally weary. In February 1771, she wrote:]

* * *

LETTER X [102]

A...our characters are not in the least alike—you have control over yourself—you were born under a happy star, you are gay, you have many talents, you are at ease, everywhere you are completely self-sufficient while I am exactly the contrary to all this, and if I were to make a frank confession which would probably surprise you, it would be that I know I have all the faults of which you accuse me, and that I endure myself with even more difficulty than others do. I often ask myself how it is possible that you have given me your friendship, even your affection, a fact that gives me a little merit even when I have most displeased you. O Altitudo! I do not understand it at all. But it is not necessary that I should understand it—it is enough for me that it is so...(February 1771).

Saturday, 16th, at eight o'clock in the morning.

...there is only one word left to say, that I will never speak of myself again. I passionately desire to see you, I dread with almost equal passion the tedium and fatigue that a journey would mean to you.

Sunday, 17th.

...before concluding I want to tell you that I am very pleased with you. I see that you wish to love me, that you know yourself well enough, and know me well enough also, you tell me frankly all that could disgust you, and all that could increase your affection—I like this, and am much obliged to you for taking this tone towards me. I much prefer it to those protestations that deceive those who make them as much as they deceive the recipient.

* * *

LETTER XI [110]

PARIS, Wednesday, 1st May, 1771.

...Be assured that if you come here, as you give me some hopes that you may, you will be satisfied on all the points that depend on me—no stupidities, no importunities of any sort—nothing shall disturb your tranquillity or impinge on your liberty...you paint a pathetic picture in your description of the delights of old age—when you give the occupations and possessions proper to that age—a dog, a cat, an apothecary, a priest, gossiping neighbours—I have none of these save the last; I shall soon have a cat, I should like a dog, but I don't wish for the two others. I congratulate you and applaud the happy situation of your soul—you are truly a philosopher. I don't know if you ought to be more grateful to nature or to experience. For myself, I owe nothing to either one or the other; I am empty-headed and cannot praise myself for anything; I pass my life in making mistakes, trying to repair them and then making them all over again. I have lost all hope, all idea of happiness—the only thing that consoles me is that I don't see that anyone is more fortunate than myself. Except yourself, everyone is bored, no one is self-sufficient, and it is this detestable boredom that pursues everyone and that everyone is trying to escape from that makes the perpetual movement...Ah, I understand your repugnance to write. I often feel it; for the last twelve or fifteen days I have not been able to put together one page to my liking. It is a misfortune reserved entirely for you that you are the only person to whom I can express myself with the facility that gives me the strength, when I write to you, to fill four pages—though to-day there are only three, for I don't wish to tax your patience or mine by relating all that I have done, all that I have heard, all that I have said. All that is deadly wearisome. Adieu.

[The 10th July, 1771, Walpole again visited Paris, leaving it on the 2nd of the following September; the correspondence was taken up again on exactly the same terms.]

* * *

LETTER XII [117]

PARIS, 23 September, 1771.

Yes, I want to be reasonable, but what must I do to appear so? I believed that you were charmed with my conduct, that you found a change in it, and that you even praised me a little in a way that I didn't deserve, in order to soften your censures which, perhaps, I didn't deserve, either. You tell me, that I can't endure contradiction. I am always ready to submit when I find it reasonable to do so; but I cannot support injustice, obstinacy and harshness. I like a gentle, more polished tone, I must admit, but I am not exacting and I am quite ready to submit to the advice of others when that seems to me reasonable. Do you want me never to argue again? Do you wish me to change my character? No, you don't wish it. It is better to be a bad original than a good copy—one must train one's natural disposition, regulate and control it, but one must never lose it; I was born imprudent, I must correct that into frankness, but never pretend to be a reserved, mysterious creature. Recollect, my friend, all those persons who are perfect, who are so on their guard that they pass twenty-four hours without committing a fault, and put me beside them—me who commit more faults than God pardons the righteous—and see which of us pleases you better. Be reasonable in your turn, my friend, be content with the progress that you found in me during your last visit, and hope to find further improvement when you come again. Always tell me the truth, but no longer affect a severity for which there is no longer any need. Don't think of me in the terms of the rebuke we give to children—when one gives you an inch you take an ell. Oh, no, no, you have nothing more to fear—alas, entirely the contrary—I am very far from abusing myself with flattery, but I am always ready to fall into excessive lack of self-confidence. But is it not here that you begin to yawn? Let us come to news, to proper names, etc.

[*Here follows Madame du Deffand's usual gazette of "news" or "society gossip."]

* * *

LETTER XIII [135]

PARIS, Wednesday, 22 April, 1772.

I am a monster, a mad woman, frantic—if you send me to the right-about, if you refuse ever to hear of me again you will be justified, I shall not have the right to complain, but I shall be in the last despair. Yes, I am convinced that my letter of Tuesday 15* is the height of folly and impertinence and do not pretend to excuse it. However, if anything could do so, it would be the state of my health. I was overcome with the vapours, and your letter of the loth that I received on that day appeared to me harsh, of a great severity. You wrote that you attributed my boredoms to my character, that you were fatigued with my complaints, that you trembled when you saw my letters—all was dryness and disgust: temper misled me and I wrote you a mass of impertinences. Every sin can be pardoned, though, my friend, follow the example of our Lord with the Magdalene, say with Him—Her sins are pardoned, because she has l...Ah, I won't finish that sentence—I shall further spoil my affairs instead of mending them. In the name of God, don't grumble at me, or, at least, what would be far worse, don't cast me off. We got on so well together! I did very wrong. I admit it—but you must pardon me, you must acknowledge that I am not incorrigible.

[* This letter has been lost.]

Yesterday—Holy Thursday,—I received your two little boxes...I opened them with great excitement. The spirit kettle was found charming. Immediately I placed it in the middle of the table, the cups were arranged round it—only a jug was needed to make the set complete; at once, quickly, I sent out to Madame Poisier's to get one. Madame de Mirepoix, who had been told of the arrival of the kettle, called at six o'clock and asked for tea—from then on I held a public tea party and everyone admired the kettle—Oh if you had been in your place. I should have had nothing more to desire; my joy, however, was troubled by my remorse, I wrote a long letter full of regret, of gratitude. I satisfied myself by writing this letter, but as it could not go until Monday's post, I had too much time for reflection. I began to fear that this letter would displease you more than the one that caused me so much remorse. I threw it into the fire and resolved to wait until to-day to write...Ah, mon Dieu, I have many faults and it is late in the day for me to... you know that I intend the very beautiful fan that you sent me as a present for the fête of Madame de Luxembourg, which will be held on July 22nd—in my wakeful nights, I imagined myself fastening a bouquet of lily-of-the-valley and marjoram to this gift, and her ill-humour inspired some verses that I have not however yet sent her—they are to the tune of—Long live wine—Long live love—the same air to which I have already made those verses that you know and that begin:

Despite the flight of love—

Do you not find this pleasant?...but they are indeed trifles that I recount to you and already you are weary of them...

[In the Spring of 1772 Madame du Deffand decided on what was, to her, a great adventure, a journey to Chanteloup, the sumptuous estate of M. de Choiseul; several long letters to Walpole relate the details of her travel from Paris to Tours, in a berline, by way of Etampes and Orleans; even amid the caresses and attentions of her princely relations, Madame du Deffand did not for a second forget her overmastering passion for Horace Walpole. On Thursday, June i i, 1772, she wrote from Chanteloup:]

* * *

LETTER XIV [139]

Indeed I don't know what line to take. Nothing could equal your severity—your punishments surpass the crimes by much. I'll not repeat what I wrote you in the other letters that I sent you while I've been here—what is the use? It would only fatigue you and bring new rebukes on me. If I were not convinced of your sincerity, of your honesty—dare I add—of your friendship—I should believe that your anger—your silences—that I now endure meant that you wished to break with me. Is it that you did not wish me to come here?—dreading apparently inconveniences that could not have occurred...my stay has passed off very well—all has turned out as pleasantly as I could have wished—but one can't detail one's affairs unless one is persuaded that one has an interested listener—your conduct shows the most perfect indifference to mine—however, you found time to write a billet to Mademoiselle Sanadon. That gave me a little inkling of how matters were; she told me that she would let me know what you had written, but never sent the letter; I asked her if you had forbidden her to do so, or if she thought that the contents of your note would cause me too much chagrin.—She replied, I was not forbidden, but your second guess was right.

I don't know what all this means—if I am not altogether effaced from your memory, you can judge of my situation. You have sometimes heard me say that, if I were to love truly, I should have to fear also the person that I loved—to-day I find the dose a little too strong, I dare neither speak nor keep silence; it seems to me that whatever I do I do wrong. If I receive one of your letters I tremble as I open it—I know that in it I shall find a full exercise of your severity and that you will give me a great deal of pain. When I return to Paris, it will be a desert to me—I can hope for nothing agreeable save the re-establishment of our correspondence. This is the sole hope that determines me to leave this place where I am overwhelmed by cares, by attentions, and where they want to keep me permanently—or at least until October...I hope to endure the fatigues of the return journey better than I supported those of coming here, but what I can't endure, is your anger, or worse, your indifference. This letter shall not share the same fate as so many others, no, it shall not be torn up, it shall be sent—I pray God that His grace may go with it—and that it may receive yours when it arrives.

Adieu, my friend, I beg you not to let me give you this name in vain. How can one hesitate to make a decision on which depends another's happiness or grief?

[Madame du Deffand tore herself away from the flatteries and joys of Chanteloup and arrived in Paris the 22nd of June. The following day she wrote:]

* * *

LETTER XV [142]

PARIS, Tuesday, 23rd June, 1772.

Your pen is iron tempered with steel. Good God! What a letter!—there can never have been one more wounding, drier or ruder—I have indeed paid for the impatience with which I wished to receive it. I arrived home yesterday at five o'clock in the evening, feeling marvellously well and not in the least fatigued from the journey, with much pleasure at finding myself at home again, with much happiness in recalling my stay at Chante-loup, with great hopes of finding a letter from you—and there it was, to complete my satisfaction. Ah, my God, there was a surprise for me! The letter had a contrary effect to what I had expected! All my happiness was destroyed—one instant did me more harm than five weeks of enjoyment had done me good.

Wednesday, 24th.

...I am closing this letter, but I cannot do so without once more speaking frankly. You make me much too unhappy. Is it your intention to do so? You tell me that you feel many obligations towards me—what are these?—is there any save my friendship? And your return?—it is your refusal to send me your news? If you have ever experienced any such uneasiness as that of suspense—you'll understand my unsupportable suffering—I ask your pity not to condemn me to this anguish. I don't know what reason of complaint I have given you, unless it is my journey. I have a head more easily disturbed even than yours—don't, pray, expose me to the risk of doing something that may displease you.

* * *

LETTER XVI [143]

PARIS, July 8th, 1772.

My last letter, Monsieur, might have assured you that there was no need to write what I have now received—it ought to have freed you for ever from the fear that I should ever make you ridiculous. As you have no doubt that what we write to each other forms the amusement of the post-office, and then is smiled over at Court, I will explain myself as clearly as you have done and not leave to our audience the impression that you have given them of me. Here then, Monsieur, is my declaration. I have sincerely loved you. I believed that I was loved by you—never have my sentiments gone beyond friendship, and if you compare my letters to those of Madame de Sévigné or read those I have written to Madame la duchesse de Choiseul, you will find that in my letters to you are no expressions warmer than those a mother uses to a daughter, or a woman to another woman. Besides, my age puts me beyond—far beyond any suspicion and frees me from the risk of any ridiculous interpretations. But now, all is over, I have known for some time that you wished to end our connexion. Everything indicated the change in you. I do not complain of that, Monsieur, you are perfectly free, but what I do complain of, and what offends me extremely, is your manner of making this rupture; one does not treat a woman of my age, and one who holds a certain place in society, in a manner so contemptuous. Many of your letters have been very disobliging as was the last—but that* sent before the last wounded me mortally, I return it to you in order that you may see for yourself so that you may judge for yourself if I could have replied other than I have done. This that I have received to-day has not changed my disposition in the least. Your grievances are so puerile that one can hardly reply to them. "These uneasinesses about my health—you have asked three times running if I have read a certain portion of your letter (I don't remember this at all) this is, you say, the manner of a coquette. This ennumeration of my crimes will doubtless make the officials of the post-office laugh. Again, you say—'You love only yourself, you only want to make slaves, and as I won't be a slave and only love myself we shall never come to an agreement.'

[* This letter has been lost.]

Very well, Monsieur, let us disagree and end a correspondence that for you has for a long time only been a persecution.

Your reproach that I am romantic would make those who know me smile—never has there been anyone who has been less suspected of this, I am indeed surprised that you know me so little—I should never have guessed that you were the person, of all others, who understood me so little and esteemed me even less—a great coquette as I am, Monsieur, I often remember my age—this reflection consoles me for the chagrins and disgusts of life—I shall not have to support them much longer.

I end by assuring you that you need not fear to receive often letters from me; you will only have replies to yours.

[By the 30th August, however, Madame du Deffand was forced by her affection to forget her injured pride.]

* * *

LETTER XVII [144]

Am I never to have any more news from you? I begin to believe so. Are the faults with which you reproach me of a kind to merit such a punishment? I suggest that we make peace—let us both forget the past. Send me your news; remember that you have told me a thousand times that you would be always my friend. Despite all appearances to the contrary I cannot believe that you are so no more.

[Walpole did not reply, and on October 1 the forlorn old woman wrote again.]

* * *

LETTER XVIII [145]

I was doubtful—I believe I should under other circumstances have been sure—but I took your long silence merely as a penance imposed on me for my faults. Thus I explained this silence, and in the very moment that I awaited a hoped-for letter, I was composing a reply and preparing to tell you, in case you continued to mock me and treat me as the Turks treat the Moors, that as the people among whom I live are not so enlightened as you, I hoped you would not point out to them the faults in me that had escaped them—the romantic strain, for instance—for everyone who knows me believes that the little wit I have is simple, sincere and far indeed removed from all eccentricity and affectation. I should add that your silence does not give me any pain, because I don't wish for any complaisance from you—and for me to have any wish to write to you or to receive your letters, you would have to desire this very much yourself.

One thing more—I should again wish to say that I have one favour to ask of you, that is that you give me your word of honour that if you were ever ill, or even in some inconvenience, you would let me know it, so that, during this time that I never even hear you spoken of, I can feel sure that you are well, so that I shall not have two anxieties at the same time—one as to your health, one as to—that execrable word—I wish that I could emulate you and have as happy a character as you have; but, unfortunately one has to be content with that given one by nature that does not consult one when one is born—I should never have rejected her gifts had I been able to accept them...The duchesse de Sully, daughter of M. Poyanne, died last night, aged twenty years; she had been ill fifteen days following her accouchement. Madame de Poix passed these fifteen days by her bedside, only sleeping for an hour or two during the twenty-four—when her friend appeared more at ease. M. and Madame Beauveau were to have dined with me this evening, but they will not come now. They cannot leave her (Madame de Poix), she is in an affliction that amounts to despair. Where do you place this sentiment? It will not appear credible to you—do you dare to call it romantic? It will not appear so to anyone and least of all, I vow, to me...

[Soon after this date Walpole deigned to renew the correspondence while he remained in retreat in Strawberry Hill, a prisoner to the gout; Madame du Deffand was careful to adopt a sober tone in her letters, but she still received reproofs from Walpole about the warmth of her feelings, and drew from him the testy declaration that he preferred "an acquaintance to a friend." No signs of age appear in Madame du Deffand's letters, and it is notable that she makes no reflections—save occasionally and indirectly—on her blindness and, despite her keen and melancholy sense of her advancing years, she continues to dwell on the future and the one hope that it held for her—another visit from Horace Walpole.]

* * *

LETTER XIX [201]

Tuesday, September l0th, 1774.

It is a long while since I gave up all hopes of seeing you. After letting the spring and the summer pass, I dared not hope that you would choose the summer to come here. It is the season when you have just cause to dread the gout—I must admit that I greatly fear its return. You are wrong to dread the importunity of my entreaties, you have nothing more to fear in that direction, you have led me to become as reasonable as you could desire. I admit that I am surprised when I find in your letters some signs of discontent—you can have no other than the tedium that writing too often gives you. I realise the price that you pay for this complaisance and I will not abuse it; no one, as you tell me, has such condescension.

* * *

LETTER XX [205]

PARIS, Sunday, 6 November, 1774.

There can only have been a few details in my last letters that could have displeased you, but there must have been a thousand that you found agreeable—but I have long since remarked that it is never those to which you reply. Eh, well, I promise you that when I am at the point of death with the vapours, I shall die without telling you anything about it. Ha! Ha! I trouble your gaiety, and you dread my letters like poison! Permit me to believe nothing of this, and don't take from me the little pleasure that remains to me—that of our correspondence...In the name of God, don't grumble any more. As you are naturally gay, do not change your character in writing to one who was born melancholy, and tolerate, pray, the sad things that you find in my letters—and I will try to keep them out as much as possible. Your severity makes me tremble. Reassure yourself as to my indiscretions and be sure that my actions will always conform.

* * *

LETTER XXI [206]

PARIS, 4 December, 1774.

Ah, mon Dieu, mon Dieu! I consent I will never talk to you of yourself, still less of myself—this will be a droll correspondence. You will not come next year, of that I feel sure—you will find a misplaced stop or comma in my letters, that will cause some equivocation and—good-bye to your journey...I have re-read your letter, it is decidedly energetic; it is rare to find anyone expressing himself with such clarity, and even, one might say, in such an ingenious fashion, in a foreign language. You only say precisely what you want to—neither more nor less—I know only one other, Voltaire, that renders his thoughts as well as you do; it is difficult to imagine a character like yours—it is unique in the world, I am sure.

* * *

LETTER XXII [207]

18 December, 1774.

I flattered myself that I should have a letter and I didn't deceive myself—here is one with which I am entirely pleased—if it cost you nothing to write it. My friend, to write at such length when one is suffering is an excess of goodness that I don't wish from you. I can clearly see that you wish to reassure me, and I will show my gratitude for your attention by not dwelling on my anxiety. If you wish to oblige me, send me your news twice a week, once to me, once to your cousin. I thought all last night (for I did not close an eye) that though it was wretched to be sleepless, you had much more than that to complain of—I can't understand how one supports both vexation and pain, I am so feeble in mind and body, that I could not resist either one or the other...

* * *

LETTER XXIII [216]

Friday, March 10th, 1775.

Your last letter was full of common sense. I am sure that you take an interest in my happiness; you do yourself a violence to contribute to it, but you make me feel that a little too much—your letters cost you, and your journey here would cost you, too dear. I perceive with much chagrin, that you find but little amusement here, if I had a little more generosity I should beg you to dispense with this visit, but I admit that I desire to see* you once more. I want you to judge for yourself the change in me, in order that you may be spared the tedium of talking about it...

[* Madame du Deffand always ignores her blindness and writes thus—Je désire de vous voir.

You are right when you say that age and experience have had no effect on me—'tis true indeed, for age has but disfigured me, and experience has made me disgusted with the world without rendering society less necessary to me.—Company is indeed more than ever needful to me and you cannot prevent me from regretting my poor Pont-de-Veyle, he listened to me, he replied to me, he loved me better than everyone else, I was necessary to him, and if anyone had abandoned me, he would have remained faithful. Besides he had a certain knowledge of the world, that, without being profound, was, under the circumstances, quite sufficient. Too much penetration sometimes irritates—there is danger in going too deep, it is usually better to keep to the surface of others and only to show one's own. I don't know if I express my thought well—usually I don't when I try to repine but you know how not to take me literally...

* * *

LETTER XXIV 220]

Wednesday, 1775.

Nothing could be more shocking than your eternal excuses for the insipidity of your letters—how can they, how can the letters of a friend, be insipid? It is constraint, awkwardness, complaisance that produces insipidity...I re-read the memories of Sully. I find them supportable. I also read The Order of the Holy Ghost. I think the anecdotes pleasant enough, but there are so many of them, that one makes one forget the other—it is difficult to pass the time, death and living are both insipid.

* * *

LETTER XXV [225]

I am not surprised at your irresolution—I shall feel like that myself if you decide to come here. Your years are not enough to age you but more than enough to efface the traces of a friendship that was never, on your part, profound, and that is already undermined by your singular interpretations of my behaviour. You say that I am the only person that never ages; you greatly deceive yourself in taking me out of the class of decrepitude—I have all the symptoms of that state, above all a distaste for all amusements and a deep boredom against which I cannot find any resource. No pleasure tempts me, I am not to be drawn from my hooded chair, but company is necessary to me above all in the evening; all reading wearies me, history, because I have no curiosity, moralities, because these ideas seem to me commonplace or unnatural, fictions, because all belonging to gallantry appears faded and tales of passion sadden me. In brief, I tell you the truth when I tell you that what enables me to endure my condition, is the certainty that it cannot last long. I try to sweeten my situation by meditations, but these don't help, as they always lead me to conclude that my vexations and the discontent that I feel in all about me are entirely my own fault. Here is a picture of my soul. It is interrupted by a visit.

Sunday, 2nd.

I'll not take back anything I wrote yesterday, I flatter myself that you won't be shocked; it is only fair that sometimes I should be allowed to speak of myself and of the truth; I shall not abuse this liberty, you can flatter yourself that you have succeeded in my education—it is tiresome that you did not undertake it sooner...

[Horace Walpole arrived in Paris August 19, 1775, and left it on the following October 12; the visit passed off well; they never met again. The day of her friend's departure Madame du Deffand wrote:]

* * *

LETTER XXVI [228]

Thursday, six o'clock.

Adieu—this world is sad enough—remember that you leave here someone who loves you above all, and whose happiness or unhappiness depends on your thoughts of her—send me news as soon as possible. I am well, I have slept a little, my night is not yet finished; I am very exact to my régime, I shall take care of myself as you are interested in me.

* * *

LETTER XXVII [229]

Monday, 23 October, 1776.

Fifteen hours at sea, a night without going to bed—that is what I caused you to endure—memories of you in every place where you have been, these are my gains for which I can never be sufficiently grateful.

At last you have returned to good health, you enjoy the pleasure of seeing your friends again, do not forget those whom you have left behind, or the hopes you gave them. My health improves every day and I live carefully by rule, every day I take a little broth in memory of you, I am not altogether free from my giddiness, or from certain black vapours—it seems to me that all that happened since the 19th August was an unforgettable dream—and one must regret that it was only a dream.

* * *

LETTER XXVIII [252]

Thursday, March 21, 1776.

...You give me praises of which I am quite unworthy—you misunderstand me on every point. I am not difficult, I should accommodate myself to everyone—if everyone was not ridiculous...Only affectation, absurdity and pretension shock me—and I find nothing else. I also perceive very clearly that I am losing all the faculties of my intelligence, little by little—memory, application, facility of expression—all gradually fail me. I no longer wish to be loved, I know that I am no longer loved, I no longer love myself. I do not exact from others the sentiments that I cannot give them—what destroys all hope of happiness for me, is the boredom that, like a worm, gnaws away all that might have made me happy. This simile should be explained, but I cannot clarify this thought...

* * *

LETTER XXIX [242]

I sympathise with you—I have a wish to write to you. I have had your last letter re-read to me; if it is not a masterpiece of good French, it is one of excellent English. Apart from the praises that you give me, all that you say is very true, very profound and proceeds from a very clear intelligence—but what profit can I make of it? Have we any power over ourselves? If that were so, every intelligent person would be happy. I begin with you—I ask you if you are happy—I should have difficulty in believing that you were. However, one must not judge others by oneself. I, for example, when my soul is without sentiment, I am without ideas, without tastes, without thoughts and I fall into that emptiness which I term boredom. If one could make oneself happy by reason and reflection—one would see the contrary of what one does see, for every day, in looking out, I see that the fools are most content with themselves and with others, and that they know best how to be self-sufficient. You mock me very harshly as to the importance that I put on tender friendship, and in the end you persuade me that you are right, but in destroying my illusions I don't know what to put in their place—there is, I believe, happiness in mistaking dead leaves for gold. I laughed at your recapitulation of all my reasons for happiness—that of long life, for instance, some day you may know what that is worth. And in regard to the consideration that I enjoy the esteem that people have for me, the attentions that I receive...But in fact when it is a question of acquaintances, of connexions, of friends, it is not the number that satisfies. That is what I want to say to you to-day, and from the moment that you have read it, you will have done with me....

* * *

LETTER XXX [248]

22 May, 1776.

I feel a wish to write to you, it seems to me that I ought to render you an account of everything that interests me, I don't quite know why. Mademoiselle de Lespinasse died last night, at two hours after midnight. Formerly this would have been an event for me, to-day it is nothing at all.

[The long letters, full of news, of complaints of melancholia, of boredom, of affection, continued to be sent to Strawberry Hill, though Madame du Deffand began to feel the weariness of old age and even the faithful Wiart was sometimes ill with rheumatism and chills; Walpole, on his side, continued to be tormented with the gout and did not fail, now and then, to find fault with the letters from Paris; these complaints did not disturb Madame du Deffand as deeply as they had once done.]

* * *

LETTER XXXI [313]

...I am vexed, my friend, that I have written several letters that have displeased you; I am no longer mistress of my moods, I can now neither conceal nor suppress them. My letters must be disagreeable to you, because you want them to resemble those of Madame de Sévigné. Apart from the fact that I have not her wit, I have not the passion that she put into everything, the interest that she took in everything that she saw. I feel an utter indifference towards everything that happens, a vast contempt for everything that I hear, no desire to repeat it, besides I am prevented from writing of this or that, because you infer something to my disadvantage from what I say. You are much inclined to believe me not only jealous, but envious—admit the truth, you thought better of me in the beginning of our acquaintance than you do to-day? The resolution that you have taken never to see me again—you do not wish to avow this, but you know quite well that I have divined it, clouds your entire disposition towards me and makes you interpret ill all that I tell you. Is this metaphysics? I fear so. Adieu till to-morrow morning.

[Madame du Deffand's last letter to Walpole is:]

* * *

LETTER XXXII [348]

22 August, 1780.

I have received your letters of the 13th and 14th. I told you, in my last, that I did not feel well; to-day I am worse. I have no fever, at least, so they think, but I am very feeble and quite exhausted; my voice is faint, I can hardly hold myself upright, I can scarcely move, my heart feels stifled; it is difficult not to believe that this state announces my approaching end. I have not the strength to feel alarmed, and as there was no hope of my seeing you again, I have nothing to regret. My present circumstances are very lonely, all my acquaintances are dispersed...Assure yourself, my friend, as best you can, and do not afflict yourself about me. We are already nearly lost to each other, we should never have seen each other again; you will regret me, because it is very pleasant to know that one is beloved. Perhaps after this Wiart will send my news; dictation fatigues me.

P.S.—Wiart did not wish such a sad letter to be sent, but could not gain his point. Without doubt Madame is very feeble, but not as ill as she believes; she is full of vapours and sees everything in black. M. Bouvard ordered her two ounces of cassia; she took half this evening, she will take the other half to-morrow morning. She continued to take a good plateful of potage and a little biscuit; she is now a little stronger; she was in a bad disposition when she wrote. Wiart will be sure to post a bulletin until Madame's health is restored to its ordinary condition.

[The following letter written by Wiart to Horace Walpole concludes this strange love story.]

* * *

LETTER XXXIII

Paris, October 23, 1780.

You have asked me, Monsieur, details of the illness and death of your worthy friend. If you still have the last letter that she wrote to you, re-read it, and you will see that she made an eternal farewell; this letter is, I believe, dated the 23rd August; she had then no fever, but one could see that she felt her end approaching, when she told you that you would have all future news from me. I cannot tell you the pain I felt in writing that letter from her dictation; I was not able to re-read it after having written it, for my words were choked by sobs. She said to me: You love me then? This scene was sadder for me than a tragedy, for when witnessing one, we know that it is a fiction, but here was the sad truth—a truth that pierced my soul. Her death followed the course of nature, she had no disease, or, at least, no sufferings; when I heard her complain I always asked her if she was in pain in some part of her body and she always replied—no. The last eight days of her life were passed in a total lethargy; she was quite unconscious. She had the gentlest of releases from a long disease—life. You must not think, Monsieur, that she desired any honours after her death; in her will she ordered the simplest funeral. Her orders have been obeyed; as she wished, she reposed in the Church of Saint-[?] that was that of her parish. The local clergy were not altogether willing that she should receive any mark of distinction after her death. However, her curé saw her every day, and had begun to confess her; he could not conclude this, as she soon lost consciousness, this also prevented her from receiving the sacraments; M. le curé behaved very well; he had not believed that the end was so near. I will look after Toutou [Madame du Deffand's dog] until the departure of M. Thomas Walpole; I am taking the greatest care of him. He is very gentle; he will bite no one, he was only fierce when near his mistress. I remember very well, Monsieur, that she begged you to take him when she was no more.


EMMA HART, LADY HAMILTON (1761-1815)

Illustration

Thy flattering picture, Phryne, is like to thee
Only in this, that you both painted be.

—JOHN DONNE

*

How many pictures of one nymph we view,
All how unlike each other—all how true!
Arcadia's Countess here in ermined pride
Is here Pastora by a fountain's side;
Here Faunia leering on her own good man,
And there a naked Leda with a swan.

—ALEXANDER POPE

* * * * * * *

This celebrated beauty was born Amy Lyon, daughter of a blacksmith on the Welsh border; she came to London as a servant-girl and after various adventures went to live at Up Park, under the protection of Sir Harry Featherstonehaugh. After a quarrel with him she returned, penniless and expecting a child, to her grandmother's cottage at Hawarden. During her stay at Up Park, she had met Charles Greville, second son of the Earl of Warwick; he gave her a franked letter addressed to himself and told her to write to him in case of need. This she did and after the birth and death of her infant, Amy Lyon, who then called herself Emma Hart, came to London and lived with Greville at Paddington. He also housed Emma's mother as housekeeper and put to school her little daughter, child of some unknown father. Emma was carefully educated and trained by Greville and finally sent to Naples with her mother to learn music under the care of Sir William Hamilton, Greville's uncle and British Ambassador at Naples. The gorgeous Emma, whose fame had been spread by the series of portraits George Romney had painted of her, became the mistress and then the wife (1791) of Sir William Hamilton. She first met Horatio Nelson in 1793, became intimate with him after the battle of the Nile, made a good deal of mischief and was responsible for much cruelty owing to her friendship with Queen Caroline; helped the royal family during the revolution of 1799 and the flight to Palermo, and when her husband, then in his dotage, was recalled to England, accompanied him and Nelson to England. Soon after, January 1800, she gave birth to Horatia, whom Nelson believed to be his child. The three, the Hamiltons and Nelson, lived together on the latter's money. After her husband's death, Emma and Nelson became definitely outcast from society, which took the part of the deserted Lady Nelson. After the death of Lord Nelson, Emma pressed her claims "for services rendered" on the British Government, but these though passionately endorsed by Nelson—he left her and Horatia as a legacy to the nation—were ignored by the Ministry. Emma had been left very well provided for, by both Hamilton and Nelson, but her boundless extravagance involved her in hopeless difficulties and she escaped from King's Bench jurisdiction to Calais, where she died in obscurity, though not in penury. If not the most beautiful woman of her age, her beauty was better advertised than that of any other woman, and her famous 'attitudes,' posings with a few properties, were admitted, even by those who disliked her, to be really extraordinary for grace and dramatic feeling.

Written from Hawarden after Emma's rupture with Featherstonehaugh; she had already sent an appeal to Greville, now lost, and this was her second aide coeur after Greville's cautious kindness.


* * *

LETTER I

Emma Hart to Charles Greville

MY DEAR GREVELL,

Yesterday did I receve your kind letter. It put me in some spirits, for, believe me, I am allmost distracked. I have never hard from Sir H., and he is not at...now, I am sure. What shall I dow? Good God! what shall I dow? I have wrote 7 letters, and no answer. I can't come to town caus I [am] out of mony. I have not a farthing to bless my self with, and I think my friends looks cooly on me. I think so. O Grevell, what shall I dow? what shall I dow? O how your letter affected me, when you wished me happiness. O Grevell, that I was in your possession as I was in Sir H's [...]! What a happy girl would I have been!—girl indeed! what else am I but a girl in distres—in reall distres? For God's sake, G[revell] write the minet you get this, and only tell me what I am to dow...I am allmos mad. O, for God's sake, tell me what is to become on me. O dear Grevell, write to me. Grevell adue, and believe [me] yours for ever—Emly Hart.

Don't tell my mother what distress I am in, and dow aford me some comfort.

[The following eight letters were written by Emma when she had been sent away by Greville to the sea in order that she might cure a disfiguring rash; she had with her her little daughter whom she afterwards utterly neglected; after her marriage, Sir William paid for "little Emma," who fades out of history very soon. It is doubtful if her mother ever saw her again after this Welsh holiday. While Emma was sea-bathing, Greville and Hamilton, then in England, were arranging her future. Delicate negotiations were taking place between the two heartless men of the world; Greville's debts were to be paid by his uncle, and Emma was to be lured to Naples under a promise that Greville would soon join her there. Greville had polished a rough jewel into a priceless gem that he could no longer afford to keep, and thought that he was providing handsomely for Emma by putting her under the protection of his wealthy, well-placed uncle. He did not for a moment foresee that marriage would be the outcome of the association; indeed, one of his objects in putting Emma in Sir William's way was to prevent that withered old elegant from marrying again.]

* * *

LETTER II

Emma Hart to Charles Greville

CHESTER, Saturday morning (12th of June 1784).

MY DEAR GREVILLE,

I have had no letter from you yett, which makes me unhappy. I can't go to Abbergelly, as it is forty miles, and a very uncumfortable place, and I am now going to Parkgate, as it is the only place beside High Lake I can go to; but I will try to go there. Pray, my dear Greville, do write directly and lett it be left at the Post Office, Parkgate, tell calld for. God bless you! I have got my poor Emma with me and I have took leave of all my friends. I have took her from a good home, and I hope she will prove worthy of your goodness to her and her mother. I should not write now tell I got to Parkgate, only I want to hear from you. Pray write, my dear Greville, directly, and send me word how to bile that bark; for parting with you made so unhappy, I forgot the book. I can't stop to write, for the coach is waiting. My dear Greville, don't be angry, but I gave my granmother 5 guineas; for she had laid some [money] out on her [i.e. the child—Ed.], and I would not take her awhay shabbily. But Emma shall pay you. Adue my ever dear Greville, and believe you. ever truly—EMMA HART.

I will write on Monday again. My love to Sir W[illiam], and say everything that you can. I am low-spirited; so do excuse me. My dear Greville, I wish I was with you. God bless you.

* * *

LETTER III

The Same

PARKGATE, June the 15, 1784.

MY DEAREST GREVILLE,

You see by the date where I am gott and likely to be; and yett it is not through any neglect of seeking after other places. As to Abbergely it is 4o miles, and so dear that I could not with my mother and me and the child have been there under 2 guines and a half a week. It is grown such a fashionable place. And High Lake as 3 houses in it, and not one of them as is fit for a Christian. The best is a publick-house for the sailers of such ships as is oblidged to put in there, so you see there is no possibility of going to either of those places. Has to where I am, I find it very comfortable, considering from you. I am in the house of a Laidy, whoes husband is at sea. She and her grammother live to-gether, and we board with her at present, till I hear from you. The price is high, but they don't lodge anybody without boarding; and as it is comfortable, decent and quiet, I thought it would not ruin us, tell I could have your oppionon, which I hope to have freely and without restraint, as, believe me, you will give it to one, who will allways be happy to follow it, lett it be what it will. As I am sure you would not lead me wrong, and though my little temper may have been sometimes high, believe me, I have allways thought you in the right in the end, when I have come to reason. I bathe, and find the water very soult. Here is a great many ladys bathing, but I have no society with them, as it is best not. So pray, my dearest Greville, write soon and tell me what to do, as I will do just what you think proper; and tell me what to do with the child. For she is a great romp, and I can hardly master her. I don't think she is ugly, but I think her greatly improved. She is tall [has] good eyes and brows, and as to lashes she will be passible; but she has over-grown all her cloaths. I am makeing and mending all as I can for her. Pray, my dear Greville, do lett me come home as soon as you can, for I am all most brokenhearted being from you. Indeed I have no plasure nor happiness. I wish I could not think on you, but, if I was the greatest laidy in the world, I should not be happy from you. So don't lett me stay long. Tell Sir William everything you can, and tell him I am sorry out sittuation prevented [me] from giving him a kiss, but my heart was ready to break. But I will give it him, and entreat if he will axcept it. Ask him how I looked, and lett him say something kind to me when you write. Indead, my dear Greville, you don't know how much I love you. And your behaviour to me, wen we parted, was so kind, Greville, I don't know what to do; but I will make you a mends by my kind behaviour to you. For I have grattude, and I will show it you all I can. So don't think of my faults, Greville. Think of all my good, and blot out all my bad: for it is all gone and berried, never to come again. So, good-by, dear Greville. Think of nobody but me, for I have not a thought but of you. God bless you and believe me Your Truly & Affectionately—EMMA H—T.

P.S.—Poor Emma gives her duty to you. I bathe her. The people is very civil to ous. I give a guinea and half a week for ous all together, but you will tell me what to do. God bless you, my dear Greville. I long to see you, for endead I am not happy from you, tho I will stay if you like till a week before you go home, but I must go first. I hay had no letter from you, and you promised to write to me before I left home. It made me unhappy, but I thought you might [have no] time. God bless you once more, dear Greville. Direct for me at Mrs. Darnwood's, Parkgate near Chester, and write directly.

* * *

LETTER IV

The Same

PARKGATE, June the 22nd, 1784.

MY EVER DEAR GREVILLE,

How tedious does the time pass awhay tell I hear from you. I think it ages since I saw you—years since I heard from you. Endead I should be miserable, if I did not recollect in what happy terms we parted—parted but to meet again with tenfould happiness. Oh, Greville, when I think on your goodness, your tender kindness, my heart is so full of grattitude, that I want words to express it. But I have one happiness in vew, which I am determined to practice, and that is eveness of temper and steadiness of mind. For, endead, I have thought so much of your amiable goodness, when you have been tried to the utmost, that I will, endead I will, manage myself and try to be like Greville. Endead, I can never be like him. But I will do all I can towards it, and I am sure you will not desire more. I think, if the time would come over again, I would be different. But it does not matter. There is nothing like buying experience. I may be happier for it hereafter, and I will think of the time coming and not the time past, except to make comparrasone, to show you what alterations there is for the best. So, my dearest Greville, don't think on my past follies; think on my good—little as it has been. And I will make you amends by my kind behaviour; you shall never repent your partiality. If you had not behaved with such angel-like goodness to me at parting, it would not have had such effect on me. I have done nothing but think of you since. And, oh, Greville, did you but know, when I so think, what thoughts—what tender thoughts [I have], you would say "Good God! and can Emma have such feeling sensibility? No, I never could think it. But now I may hope to bring her to conviction, and she may prove a valluable and amiable whoman!" True, Greville! and you shall not be disapointed. I will be everything you can wish. But mind you, Greville, your own great goodness has brought this about. You don't know what I am. Would you think it, Greville?—Emma—the wild unthinking Emma is a grave thoughtful phylosopher. 'Tis true, Greville, and I will convince you I am, when I see you. But how I am runing on. I say nothing about this giddy wild girl of mine. What shall we do with her, Greville? She is as wild and as thoughtless as somebody, when she was a little girl; so you may gess how that is. Whether she will like it or no, there is no telling. But one comfort is [that she is] a little afraid on me. Would you believe, on Satturday whe had a little quarel. I mean Emma and me; and I did slap her on her hands, and when she came to kiss me and make it up, I took her on my lap and cried. Now do you blame me or not? Pray tell me. Oh, Greville, you don't know how I love her. Endead I do. When she comes and looks in my face and calls me "mother," endead I then truly am a mother; for all the mother's feelings rise at once, and tells [me] I am and ought to be a mother. For she has a wright to my protection, and she shall have it as long as I can, and I will do all I can to prevent her falling into the error her poor once miserable mother fell into.

But why do I say miserable? Am I not happy abbove any of my sex, at least in my situation? Does not Greville love me, or at least like me? Does not he protect me? Does not he provide for me? Is not he a father to my child? Why do I call myself miserable? No, it whas a mistake, and I will be happy, chearful and kind, and do all my poor abbility will lett me, to return the fatherly goodness and prottection he has shewn [me]. Again, my dear Greville, the recollection of past scenes brings tears in my eyes. But they are tears of happiness. To think of your goodness is too much. But, once for all, Greville, I will be good to you.

It is near bathing time, and I must lay down my pen. I won't finish till I see when the post comes, whether there is a letter. He comes in abbout one a clock. I hope to have a letter so to-day.

I must not forgett to tell you my knees is well, as I may say. There is hardly a mark, and my elbows is much better. I eat my vittuels very well, and I am quite strong and feel hearty, and I am in hopes I shall be very well. You can't think how souk the watter is. And there is a many laidys bathing here. But, Greville, I am obliged to give a shilling a day for the bathing horse and whoman, and twopence a day for the dress. It is a great expense, and it fretts me now I think of it. But when I think how well I am, and my elbows likely to gett well, it makes me quite happy. For at any rate it is better than paying the docter. But wright your oppinion truly and tell me what to do. Emma is crying because I won't come and bathe. So, Greville, adue tell after I have dipt. May God bless you, my dearest Greville, and believe me faithfully, affectionately and truly yours only,

—EMMA H.

* * *

LETTER V

The Same

Thursday Morning.

And no letter from my dear Greville. Why, my dearest Greville, what is the reason you don't wright? If you knew my uneasyness, you would. You promised to write before I left Howeden, and I was much disapointed you did not, but thought you might have a opportunity being at Wandower [? Wendover] Hill. I have sent 2 letters to Haverford West, and has never had no answer to them, and it is now 3 weeks since I saw you. Pray, my dearest Greville, wright to me and make me happy; for I am not so att present, though my arm is quite well.

I think if I could but hear from you, I should be happy. So make [me] happy do, pray. Give my dear kind love and compliments to Pliney, and tell him. I put you under his care, and he must be answerable for you to me, when I see him. I hope he has [not] fell in love with any rawboned Scotchwoman, whoes fortune would make up for the want of beauty, and then he may soon through her [die] in a decline—Mum! For he is fond of portraits in that whay, and then he must be fond of originals, and it will answer every purpose. But don't put him in mind of it, for fear—. But offer and say everything you can to him for me, and tell him I shall allways thinks on him with gratitude and remember him with pleasure, and allways regret laeving is [leaving his] good company. Tell him I wish him every happiness this world can afford him, that I will pray for him, and bless him as long as I live. I am wrighting, 'tis true, but I don't know when you will ever gett it. For I can't send itt, till I hear from you, and the Post won't be in tell to morro. Pray, my dear Greville, lett me go home soon. I have been 3 weeks and if I stay a fortnight longer, that will be 5 weeks, you know; and then the expense is above 2 guineas a week, with washing and bathing whoman and everything; and I think a fortnightt or three weeks longer I shall not have a spot.

* * *

LETTER VI

The Same

Friday morning: 12 o'clock (25th June).

With what impatienc do I sett down to wright tell I see the postman. But sure I shall have a letter to-day. Can you, my dear Greville—no you can't—have forgot your poor Emma allready. Tho' I am but for a few weeks absent from you, my heart will not one moment leave you. I am allways thinking of you, and could almost fancy I hear you, see you; and think, Greville, what a disapointment when I find myself deceived, and ever nor never heard from you. But my heart won't lett me scold you. Endead, it thinks on you with two much tenderness. So do wright, my dear Greville. Don't you remember how you promised? Don't you recollect what you said at parting?—how you should be happy to see me again? O Greville, think on me with kindness! Think how many happy days weeks and years—I hope—we may yett pass. And think out of some that is past, there [h]as been some little pleasure as well as pain; and, endead, did you but know how much I love you, you would freily forgive me any passed quarrels. For I now suffer for them, and one line from you would make me happy. So pray do wright, and tell me when you will be returning, as I shall be happy to see you again. For whilst Emma lives, she must be gratefully and ever affectionately Your

EMMA HART.

P.S.—This shall not go tell I have a letter from you, which I hope to have in half an hour. Adue, my dear kind Greville.

* * *

LETTER VII

The Same

Sunday Morning (27th June).

MY DEAR GREVILLE,

I had a letter on Friday from my granmother, and she sent me one from you, that had been there a fortnight. I am much obliged to you for all the kind things you say to me, and tell Sir William I am much oblidged to him for saying I looked well. I hope he will allways think so; for I am proud of [his] good word, and I hope I shall never forfeit it. I will at least study to deserve it. I am in hopes [to] have a letter from you, for it is a great comfort to me to hear from you. My dear Greville, it is now going on for a month since I saw you. But I think how happy I shall be to see you again, to thank you for your kindness to my poor Emma and me. She shall thank you, Greville, she shall be gratefull, she shall be good, and make you amends for all the trouble her mother has caused you. But how am I to make you amends? God knows, I shall never have it in my power. But, Greville, you shall have no cause to complain. I will try, I will do my utmost;and I can only regrett that fortune will not put it in my power to make a return for all the kindness and goodness you have showed me. Good-by. My dearest Greville...Emma is much obliged to you for remembering her, and she hopes you will give her a oppertunity of thanking you personally for your goodness to her. I think you won't be disappointed in her; though mothers (Lord bless me, what a word for the gay wild Emma to say!) should not commend, but leave that for other people to do.

* * *

LETTER VIII

The Same

PARK GATE, July 3rd, 1784.

I was very happy, my dearest Greville, to hear from you, as your other letter vexed me; you scolded me so. But it is over, and I forgive you. I am much obliged to you for all the kind things you say to me, and I am very happy to think we shall meet soon again, happy, good-humerd and chearfull. I will be so, and I think there is no fear of you. You don't know, my dearest Greville, what a pleasure I have to think that my poor Emma will be comfortable and happy; and, Greville, and if she does but turn out well, what a happiness it will be! And I hope she will for your sake, and [I] will teach her to pray for you as long as she lives; and if she is not grateful and good, it won't be my fault. What you say is very true:—a bad disposition may be [made] good by good example, and Greville would not put her any wheer to have a bad one. I come into your way a-thinking [that] hollodays spoils children. It takes there attention of from scoal. It gives them a bad habbit when they have been a month and goes back. This does not pleas them, and that is not wright, and they do nothing but think wen they shall go back again. Now Emma will never expect what she never had. So I hope she will be very good, mild and attentive, and we may have a deal of comfort. And, Greville, if her poor mother had ever had the luck and prospect mearly in having a good edducation that she has, what a whoman might she have been! But I won't think...My happiness now is Greville, and to think that he loves me makes me a recompense for all; for if he did not love me, would he be so kind and affectionate? No, 'tis impossible. Therefore I will have it so. I have said all my say about Emma, yet only she gives her duty. And I will now tell you a little about myself. I have not took but 2 of those things from Mr. W——, as the sea-water has done me so much good. I have drunk a tumbler glas every morning fastings, walked half an hour, and then bathed and breakfasted. I have the tang [?] appleyd to my knees and elbows every night going to bed, and every day [I have] washed them tweice a day in the sea-water, and they ar just well. Therefore as long as I stay, I had better go on in my old what, for I can take Mr. W's prescription at home, but not sea-water, tang, &c. I am very wel, looks well, has a good appetite and is better than ever I was in my life. I have no society with anybody but the mistress of the house, and her mother and sister. The latter is a very genteel yong lady, good-natured, and does everything to pleas me. But still I would rather be at home, if you was there. I follow the old saying, home is home though 'tis ever so homely. I must go to diner. Therefore I will say no more, but that I long to see you and dear Sir W[illiam]. Give my kind love to him. Tell him [that] next to you I love him abbove anybody, and that I wish I was with him to give him a kiss. Don't be affronted, Greville. If I was with you I would give you a thousand, and you might take as many as you pleased, for I long—I mean I long to see you. My mother gives her compts to you and Sir W[illiam]. Say everything that is kind and well render me dear to him. To more than you can say my heart with gratitude assents, and I must ever remain

Your ever affectionate and sincerely

E. H.

P.S.—Good-by, my dear Greville. I hope we shall meet soon, happy and well. Adue! I bathe Emma and she is very well and grows. Her hair will grow very well on her forehead, and I don't think her nose will be very snub. Her eye is blue and pretty. She don't speak through her nose, but she speaks countrified. We squable sometimes, still she is fond of me, and endead I love her, for she is sensible. So much for Beauty. I long to see you.

* * *

LETTER IX

The Same

EDGWARE Row, Tuesday, August 10th, 1784.

I received you kind letter last night, and my dearest Greville I want words to express to you, how happy it made me. For I thought I was like a lost sheep and everybody had forsook me. I was eight days confined to my room very ill, but am, thank God! very well now and a deal better for your kind instructing letter, and I own the justness of your remarks. You shall have your appartment to yourself. You shall read wright or set still, just as you please; for I shall think myself happy to be under the same roof with Greville, and do all I can to make it agreable, without disturbing him in any pursuits that he can follow, to employ himself in at home or elsewhere. For your absence has taught me that I ought to think myself happy if I was within a mile of you. So as I could see the place as contained you, I should think myself happy abbove my...So, my dear G., come home, and you shall find your home comfortable to receave you. You shall find me good, kind, gentle and affectionate, and everything you wish me to do I will do. For I will give myself a fair trial, and follow your advice, for I allways think it wright. Therefore that shall ensure happiness for us boath. Don't think, Greville, this is the wild fancy of a moment's consideration, as it is not, I have thoroughly considered ever-thing in my confinement, and I say nothing now but what I shall practice.

I must now inform you abbout my illness. My dear Greville, I had a rash out all over me and a fevour, and I should have been worse, if I had not had the rash out. But I think I am better for it now; for I look fair and seem better in health than I was before. I dare say I should have been very dangerously ill, if it had not come out. Pray, my dearest Greville, do come to see me, as soon as ever you come to town, for I do so long to see you. You don't know how it will make me to be happy,—I mean if you should come before diner. Do come [to dinner], because I know you will come at night. I have a deal to say to you when I see you. Oh, Greville, to think it is nine weeks since I saw you. I think I shall die with the pleasure of seeing you. Indeed, my dearest Greville, if you knew how much I think of you, you would love [me] for it, for I am allways thinking on you, of your goodness. In short, Greville, I truly love you, and the thought of your coming home so soon makes me so happy. I don't know what to do.

Good-by, my ever dearest Greville. May God preserve you and bless you, for ever prays your ever affectionately and sincerely...

EMMA.

My kind love to Sr. William; and tell him if he will come soon, I will give him a thousand kisses. For I do love him a little. Emma is very well and is allways wondering why you don't come home. She sends her duty to you. Good-by, my Dearest Greville. Pray, pray come as soon as you come to town. Good-by, God bless you! Oh, how I long to see you.

[The above is the last of the letters Emma wrote to Greville while in England; in the next series she writes from Naples, where she was surrounded with luxury and flattery, but waiting impatiently for her lover to join her as he had promised.]

* * *

LETTER X

The Same

NAPLES, April the 30th, 1786.

MY DEAREST GREVILLE,

I arrived at this place on the 26th, and I should have begun to write sooner, but the post does not go till tomorrow, and I dreaded setting down to write, for I try to apear as chearful before Sir William as I could, and I am sure to cry the moment I think of you. For I feel more and more unhappy at being separated from you, and, if my fatal ruin depends on seeing you, I will and must [see you] in the end of the summer. For to live without you is imposible. I love you to that degree, that at this time there is not a hardship upon hearth, either of poverty, hunger, cold death, or even to walk barefooted to Scotland, to see you, but what I would undergo. Therefore, my dear, dear Greville, if you do love me, for my sake try all you can to come hear as soon as possible. You have a true friend in Sir William, and he will be happy to see you, and do all he can to make you happy; and for me, I will be everything you can wish for. I find it is not either a fine horse, or a fine coach, or a pack of servants, or plays or operas can make happy. It is you that [h]as it in your power either to make me very happy or very miserable. I respect Sir William, I have a great regard for him, as the uncle and friend of you, and he loves me, Greville. But he can never be anything nearer to me than your uncle and my sincere friend. He never can be my lover.

You do not know how good Sir William is to me. He is doing everything he can to make me happy. He [h]as never dined out since I came hear; and endead, to speake the truth, he is never out of my sight. He breakfasts, dines, supes, and is constantly by me, looking in my face. I can't stir a hand, leg or foot; but he is marking [it] as graceful and fine; and I am sorry to say it, he loves me now, as much as ever he could Lady Bolingbroke. Endead, I am sorry, for I cannot make him happy. I can be civil, oblidging, and I do to make myself as agreable as I can to him. But I belong to you, Greville, and to you only I will belong, and nobody shall be your heir-apearant. You do not know how glad I was to arrive hear the day I did. It was my birthday, and I was very low-spirited. Oh God! that day that you used to smile on me, and stay at home, and be kind to me—that [on] that day I should be at such a distance from you! But my comfort is, I rely upon your promise, and September or October I shall see you. But I am quite unhappy at not hearing from you;—no letter for me yet, Greville! But I must wait with patience. We have had company [al]most every day since I came:—some of Sir William's friends. The[y] are all very much pleased with me; and poor Sir William is never so happy as when he is pointing out my beauties to them. He thinks I am grown much more [h]ansome then I was. He does nothing all day but look at me and sigh. Yes, last night we had a little concert. But then I was so low, for I wanted you to partake of our amusement. Sir Thomas Rumbold is hear with [h]is son, who is dying of a decline. It is a son he had by his first wife; and, poor young man! he canot walk from the bed to the chair; and Lady Rum-bold, like a tender-hearted wretch, is gone to Rome, to pass her time there with the English, and [h]as took the coach, and all the English servants with her, and left poor Sir Thomas hear with [h]is heart broken, waiting on [h]is sick son. You can't think what a worthy man he is. He din'd with ous, and likes me very much, and every day [h]as brought [h]is carridge or phaeton, which he [h]as bought hear, and carries me and mother and Sir William out, and shows ous a deal of civilities; for you are to understand I have a carridge of Sir William's, a English one, painting, and new liverys, and new coachman and footman, &c.—the same as Mrs. Damer had of her own, for she did not go with [h]is. For if I was going abbout in [h]is carridge, the[y] would say I was either his wife or mistress. Theirfore as I am not nor ever can be either, we have made a very good establishment. I have a very good apartment of 4 rooms, very pleasant-looking to the sea. Our boat comes out to-day for the first time, and we shall [be]gin to bathe in a day or two, and we are going for one day or two to Caserta. I was at Paysilipo yesterday. I think it a very pretty place.

Sir William [h]as give me a camel-shawl like my old one, I know you will be pleased to hear that, and he [h]as given me a beautiful gown cost 25 guineas (India painting on wite sattin), and several little things of Lady Hamilton's, and is going to by me some muslin dresses loose, to tye with a sash, for the hot weather—made like the turkey dresses, the sleeves tyed in fowlds with ribban and trimd with lace. In short, he is always contriving what he shall get for me. The people admire my English dresses. But the blue hat, Greville, pleases most. Sir William is quite inchanted with it. Oh, how he loves you! He told me he had made [h]is will, and left you everything belonging to him. That made me very happy for your sake. Pray, my dear Greville, do write me word, if you want any money. I am affraid I distressed you. But I am sure Sir William will send you some, and I told him he must help you a little now, and send you some for your journey hear, and he kissed me, and the tears came into [h]is eyes, and he told me I might command anything, for he loved ous boath dearly; and, oh! how [happy] shall I be, when I can once more see you, my dear, dear Greville. You are everything that is dear to me on hearth, and I hope happier times will soon restore you to me, for endead I would rather be with you starving then from you in the greatest splendour in the world.

I have only to say I enclose this [which] I wrote yesterday, and I will not venture myself now to wright any more, for my mind and heart are torn by different passions, that I shall go mad. Only, Greville, remember your promise of October. Sir William says you never mentioned to him abbout coming to Naples at all. But you know the consequence of your not coming for me. Endead, my dear Greville, I live but in the hope of seeing you, and if you do not come hear, lett whatt will be the consequence, I will come to England. I have had a conversation this morning with Sir William, that has made me mad. He speaks—no, I do not know what to make of it. But, Greville, my dear Greville, wright some comfort to me. But onely remember, you will never be loved by anybody like

Your affectionate and sincere,

EMMA.

P.S.—Pray for God's sake, wright to me and come to me, for Sir William shall not be anything to me but your friend.

* * *

LETTER XI

The Same

NAPLES, July the 22nd, 1786.

MY EVER DEAREST GREVILLE,

I am now onely writing, to beg of you for God's sake to send me one letter, if it is onely a farewell. Sure I have deserved this, for the sake of the love you once had for me. Think Greville, of our former connexion, and don't despise me. I have not used you ill in any one thing. I have been from you going of six months, and you have wrote [only] one letter to me—enstead of which I have sent fourteen to you. So pray, let me beg of you, my much-loved Greville, only one line from your dear, dear hands. You don't know how thankful I shall be for it. For, if you knew the misery [I] feel, oh! your heart would not be intirely shut up against me; for I love you with the truest affection. Don't let anybody sett you against me. Some of your friends—your foes, perhaps; I don't know what to stile them—have long wisht me ill. But, Greville, you never will meet with anybody that has a truer affection for you than I have, and I onely wish it was in my power to shew you what I could do for you. As soon as I know your determination, I shall take my own measures. If I don't hear from you, and that you are coming according to promise, I shall be in England at Christmass at farthest. Don't be unhappy at that. I will see you once more, for the last time. I find life is unsuportable without you. Oh, my heart is intirely broke. Then, for God's sake, my ever dear Greville, do write to me some comfort. I don't know what to do. I am now in that state, I am incapable of anything. I have [a] language-master, a singing-master, musick, &c. but what is it for? If it was to amuse you, I should be happy. But, Greville, what will it avail me? I am poor, helpeless and forlorn. I have lived with you for 5 years, and you have sent me to a strange place, and no one prospect, but thinking you was coming to me. Instead of which, I was told I was to live, you know how, with Sir William. No, I respect him, but no never shall he peraps live with me for a little wile like you, and send me to England. Then what am I to do? what is to become of me?—But excuse me, my heart is ful. I tell you—give me one guiney a week for everything, and live with me, and I will be contented. But no more, I will trust to providence; and whereve[r] you go, God bless you, and preserve you, and may you allways be happy! But write to Sir William. What as he done to affront you?

If I have spirits, I will tell you something concerning how we go on, that will make my letter worth paying for. Sir William wants a picture of me, the size of the Bacante, for his new apartment, and he will take that picture of me in the black gown at Romney's, and I have made the bargain with him, that the picture shall be yours, if he will pay for it. And he will. And I have wrote to Romney, to send it.

Their is two painters now in the house, painting me. One picture is finished. It is the size of the Bacante, setting in a turbin and Turkish dress. The other is in a black rubin hat with wite feathers, blue silk gown, &c. But as soon as these is finished, ther is two more to paint me,—and Angelaca, if she comes. And Marchmont is to cut a head of me, for a ring. I wish Angelaca would come; for Prince Draydrixtou from Veina is here, and dines with us often, and he wants a picture of me. He is my cavaliereservente. He is much in love with me. I walk in the Villa Reale every night. I have generally two Princes, two or 3 nobles, the English minister, and the King with a crowd beyound us. The Q[ueen] likes me much, and desired Prince Draydrixtou to walk with me near her, that she might get a sight of me. For the Prince, when he is not with ous, is with the Queen and he does nothing but entertain her with my beauty, the accounts of it, &c. But, Greville, the King [h]as eyes, he [h]as a heart, and I have made an impression on it. But he [is] told the Prince Hamilton is my friend, and she belongs to his nephew, for all our friends knows it, and the Prince desires his best compliments to you. I must tell you a piece of gallantry of the K...On Sunday he dines at Paysilipo, and he allways come every sunday before the casina in his boat to look at me. We had a small deplomatic party, and we was sailing in our boat, the K. directly came up, put his boat of musick next us, and made all the French horns and the wholl band play. He took of his hat, and sett with his hatt on his knees, all the wile, and when we was going to land he made his bow, and said it was a sin he could not speak English. But I have him in my train every night at the Villa or Oppera.

I have been to Pompea, &c. &c., and we are going next week round the Island Carprea, Ischea, &c. We shall be awhay a little wile. I should feil pleasure in all this, if you was heare. But that blessing I have not, and so I must make the best of my lot. God bless you! I would write a longer letter. But I am going to Paysylipo to diner, and I have a conversazzione to-night and a concert.

I bathe ever day. I have not any irruptions, and—what will surprise you—I am so remarkably fair, that everybody says I put on red and white. We have no English hear but Lord Hervey, who is a lover of mine. I had a letter from Sir Thomas Rumbold last week, who is coming hear in October, and desired me to write him what I wanted from England, and he would bring it me. I am pleased with the fate of Fitzgerald. It shews the very little partiality the[y] have in England for the rich. In Naples he would not have suffered.

We have had dreadful thunder and lightning. It fell at the Maltese minister[s] just by our house and burnt [h]is beds and wires [?], &c. I have now persuaded Sir William to put up a conductor to his house. The lava runs a little, but the mountain is very full and we expect an irruption every day. I must stop, or else I should begin and tell you my ideas of the people of Naples. In my next I will. But, Greville, [of] fleas and lice their is millions. I shall write you an Italian letter soon. God bless you. Make my compliments to your brother and all your friends that's my friends. Pray, write to Yours Ever—With the truest and sincerest affection—God bless you—write my ever dear, dear Greville.—EMMA.

* * *

LETTER XII

The Same

NAPLES, the 1st of August, 1786.

I have received your letter, my dearest Greville, at last, and you don't know how happy I am at hearing from you, however I may [not] like some parts of your letter. But I won't complain. It is enough, I have [the] paper that Greville [h]as wrote on. He [h]as folded [it] up. He wet the wafer. How I envy thee to take the place of Emma's lips, that she would give worlds had she them, to kiss those lips! But if I go on this whay I shall be incapable of writing. I onely wish that a wafer was my onely rival. But I submit to what God and Greville pleases. I allways knew, I have ever had a forboding, since first I began to love you, that I was not destined to be happy; for their is not a King or Prince on hearth, that could make me happy without you. So only consider, when I offer to live with you on the hundred a year Sir William will give me, what you desire. And this from a girl that a King &c. is sighing for! As to what you write to me, to oblidge Sir William, I will not answer you. For, oh! if you knew what pain I feel in reading those lines! where you advise me to W—— Nothing can express my rage! I am all madness! [You] Greville, to advise me!—you that used to envy my smiles! How, with cool indifference, to advise me to go to bed to him, Sir William! Oh, that [is the] worst of all! But I will not, no I will not rage. If I was with you, I would murder you and myself booth. I will leave of, and try to get more strength; for I am now very ill with a cold...I won't look back to what I wrote. I only say I have had 2 letters in 6 months, nor nothing shall ever do for me, but going home to you. If that is not to be, I will except [sic] nothing, I will go to London, their go into every excess of vice tell I dye. My fate is a warning to young whomen never to be two good. For now you have made me love you, [now] you [have] made me good, you have abandoned me; and some violent end shall finish our connexion if it is to finish. But, oh! Greville, you cannot, you must not give me up. You have not the heart to do it. You love me, I am sure; and I am willing to do everything in my power—and what will you have more? And I onely say this for the last time. I will [n]either beg [n]or pray, do as you like.

I am very sorry Lord Brook is dead, and I am sincerely sorry for Sir James and Lady Peachy. But the W[arwic]k family won't mind it much. We have been 7 weeks in doubt, whether he was dead or no. For Sir William had a letter from Lord Warwick, and he said Lord Brook was better. So I suppose he must have had a relapse. Poor little boy, how I envy him his happiness!

We have a deal of rain hear and violent winds. The oldest people hear never remember such a summer. But it is lucky for us. The Queen is very poorly, with a cold caught in the Villa Reale, and mine is pretty much like it. We don't dine at Palsylipa [sic] to-day, on account of my cold. We are closely besieged by the K...in a roundabout manner. He comes every Sunday to P—pa, but we keep the good-will of the other party mentioned abbove, and never give him any encouragement. Prince Draydrixtous [is] our constant friend. He allways enquires after you. He speaks English; he says I am a dymond of the first watter, and the finest creature on the hearth; he attends me to the bath, to the walk, &c.

I have such a head-ache to-day with my cold. I don't know what to do. I shall write next post by Sir William. Only I can't lett a week go without telling you how happy I am at hearing from you. Pray, write as often as you can, and come as soon as you can. If you come, we shall all go home together; for Sir William will go to England in 2 years, and go throug Spain, and you will like that. Pray, write to me and don't write in the stile of a friend, but a lover. For I won't hear a word of friend. It shall be all love and no frienship. Sir William is ever freind. But we are lovers. I am glad you have sent me a Blue Hat and gloves. My hat is universaly admired throug Naples. God bless you, my dear Greville, prays your ever truly and affectionate

EMMA HART.

P.S.—Pray write, for nothing will make me so angry (as your silence): and it is not to your interest to disoblige me for you don't know the power I have hear. Onely I never will be his mistress. If you affront me, I will make him marry me.—God bless you for ever.

[* This letter represents a climax in Emma's life; she had realised that Greville had abandoned her and that she was destined for Sir William Hamilton. There may be sincerity behind the melodramatic phrases—culled from trashy novels—in which Emma expresses herself, but her nature was very shallow and her experiences had not been such as to teach her delicacy or refinement of feeling. In a few months she had reconciled herself to a position sufficiently dazzling to turn the head of any servant-girl, however pretty or carefully trained.

The following letters are written to Sir William Hamilton when she had become his mistress.]

* * *

LETTER XIII

Emma Hart to Sir William Hamilton, at Persano

NAPLES, Sunday might (7th of January) '87.

Endead, my Sir William, I am angry. I told you one line would satisfie me, and when I have no other comfort then your letters, you should not so cruely disapoint me; for I am unhappy and I don't feil right without hearing from you, and I won't forgive you; no, that I won't. It is a very cold night, and I am just returned from Hart's. He was very cevil to me; there was an Abbé and a very genteel man, a friend of Andreas, and an Englishman I did not know; but they was all very polite, and such a profusion of diner that it is impossible to describe. I sett next to Hart, who would help me to everything, and poor man could not see, but to the best of his power paid me a number of compliments, and produced me as a specimen of English beauty. After diner he fetched an Italian song, that was made on Lady Sophi Jenner [?] forty years past, and he had translated it to English and would sing it; and when he came to dymond eyes and pearl teeth, he looked at me and bid the others look at me; and he is going to dedicate the English to me, and oh! you can't think, just as if he could see me and as if I was the most perfect beauty in the world. Endead, I heard the Abbé say to the others I was perfectly beautiful and elagantly behaved in my manners and conversation. And so the[y] all admired me. But Hart is quite gone. He is come [? coming] to see me to-night. Poor Tierny is very poorly.

Monday morning—Oh, thank you my dear Sir William, for your letter. Endead, I forgive you and am sorry I scolded you. The wind made me so sleepy that I slept till eight a clock, and was fast asleep when Vinchenzo brought your letter, and I read it in bed, and give it a good hug. But I wished you had been there. But I gave it a kiss or z. But I hope you will believe me sencere when I write to you; for endead, everything flows from my heart, and I cannot stop it. I am glad you had some good sport. I should like to see that that is zoo weight, for it must be a fine one; but the other z, that got of wounded, the[y] must be somewhere in great pain. Adio, my dear Sir William. Lying in bed so long [h]as made me hurry as this goes in half a minet. I was in bed last night at 8 a clock and slept till eight this morning.

Yours ever,

E. H.

* * *

LETTER XIV

The Same

Monday night, Jany. the 8th, 1787.

MY DEAR SIR WM.

I don't know how you like this excessive cold wether; but I do think I never felt much colder in Inghilterra; for to-day it was impossible to keep one's self warm; and I pittied you much, for if you have not [had] a good sport you must be frose with standing still. The ice is lying abbout the streets in Naples, just as it is in London the hardest frosts there is. I now see that everything you say is true: for you told me to stop tell Jany. and then I should feil, and to-day [h]as fuly proved it.

I was at Caletalino's to-day. She will make a very great likeness, and very pretty it will be. It shall not be two naked, for it would not be so interesting, and as you will have it in a box, it will be seen a good deal and those beautys that only you can see shall not be exposed to the common eyes of all and while you can even more than see the originals others may pass al them, for the are sacred to all but you, and I wish the was better for your sake. But I should not know how to mend them if I could though you don't like sugar loaves.

Mr. Greffer was here yesterday, and z of his children. He enquired for you abbout money, and I told him, if he could stop or go to Borely or Marn Bem [?], but he says he will make shift tell he sees you, and I think he is right, if he can, for I would not go to those creatures for a grain, tho' it is a pitty you should be trubled with them.—Showrawky gives a diner to-moro to all his musick people, even the harpscord tuner, at Torre-del-Greco. All the Caletalinos go there, and I fancy there will be a fine mess of them altogether, for I don't hear of any body of fashion that is going. But he will be master of the Band, and they] will flatter him, and he will be in his kingdom come. It is a pitty he is so od, for I believe he [h]as a good heart. He has given Hackert the finest new sattin dress lined with sable besides a hundred guines a-pece for z little pictures, that I should think twenty enough for them, for I am of your opinion, I would pay for good things, but not for bad ones, and the[y] are pretty but not fine painting.

I have Gallucey from nine to ten, from ten to twelve at the Caletalinos, from twelve to one my lesson, and between 2 and 3 my diner. I dine frequently upstairs, for Gasperino said a fire in that room must be to air it well, and the diner is cold before it gets to our room. So I have my diner very comfortable, endead. For if you was to know how kind everybody behaves to me, you would love them—Tuesday morn:—I have just received your kind letter, my dear Sir Wm. But how I was frightened in reading abbout those men. Sure they won't die. Oh low endead I will never bite your lips or your fingers no more. Good God! what a passion the[y] must have been in, but there ought to be some punishment to prevent them from such dreadful work. I am sorry you had not any sport. To stay out in the cold yesterday must be enugh to kill you. How I wish'd to give you some warm punch and settle you in my arms all night to make up for your bad day.

I wish you would tell me something to say to Cune or Curney your man, in answer to what I wrote to you, or will you write to Gasperino to tell Sesos Maître d'Hotel the[y] shall not take his room from him? I am sorry to truble you. But as he asked me, I could not denigh to write to you. Adio and believe me

Yours affectionately, my dearest Sir William, for ever,

EMMA.

P.S.—I am sorry you don't hear of coming home. But patienza.

* * *

LETTER XV

Emma, at Naples, to Sir William Hamilton, at Persan

Wednesday, Zany. the loth, 1787.

MY DEAR SIR WM.

I had hardly time to thank you for your kind letter of this morning, as I was buisy prepairing for to go on my visit to the Convent of S. Romita; and endead I am glad I went, tho' it was a short visit. But to-morrow I dine with them in full assembly. I am quite charmed with Beatrice Acquaviva. Such is the name of the charming whoman I saw to-day. Oh, Sir William, she is a pretty whoman. She is 29 years old. She took the veil at twenty, and does not repent to this day, though, if I am a judge of physiognomy, her eyes does not look like the eyes of a nun. They are allways laughing, and something in them vastly alluring and I wonder the men of Naples would suffer the[ir] onely pretty whoman who is realy pretty to be shut in a convent. But it is like the mean-spirited ill taste of the Neapolitans. I told her I wondered how she would be lett to hide herself from the world, and I dare say thousands of tears was shed, the day she deprived Naples of one of its greatest ornaments. She answered with a sigh, that endead numbers of tears was shed, and once or twice her resolution was allmost shook, but a pleasing comfort she felt at regaining her friends, that she had been brought up [with], and religious considerations strengthened her mind, and she parted with the world with pleasure, and since that time one of her sisters had followed her example, and another—which I saw—was preparing to enter soon. But neither of her sisters is so beautiful as her, tho' the[y] are booth very agreable. But I think Beatrice is charming, and I realy feil for her an affection. Her eyes, Sir William, is I don't know how to describe them. I stopt one hour with them and I had all the good things to eat, and I promise you they don't starve themselves. But there dress is very becoming, and she told me that she was allowed to wear rings and mufs and any little thing she liked, and endead she displayed to-day a good deal of finery, for she had 4 or 5 dimond rings on her fingers, and seemed fond of her muff. She has excelent teeth, and shows them, for she is allways laughing. She kissed my lips, cheeks, and forehead, and every moment exclaimed "charming fine creature," admired my dress, said I looked like an angel, for I was in clear wite dimity and a blue sash. She admired my hat and fine hair, and she said she had heard I was good to the poor, and generous and noble-minded. "Now," she says, "it would be worth wile to live for such a one as you. Your good heart would melt at any trouble that befel me, and partake of one's greef or be equaly happy at one's good fortune. But I never met with a freind yet, or I ever saw a person I could love tell now, and you shall have proofs of my love." In short I sat and listened to her, and the tears stood in my eyes, I don't know why, but I loved her at that moment. I thought what a charming wife she would have made, what a mother of a family, and what a freind, and the first good and amiable whoman I have seen since I came to Naples for to be lost to the world—how cruel! She give me a sattin pocket-book of her own work, and bid me think of her when I saw it and was many miles far of; and years hence when she peraps should be no more, to look at it, and think the person that give it had not a bad heart. Did not she speak very pretty? but not one word of religion; but I shall be happy to-day, for I shall dine with them all, and come home at night. It is a beautiful house and garden, and the attention of them was very pleasing. There is sixty whomen and all well-looking, but not like the fair Beatrice. "Oh Emma," she says to me, "the[y] brought here the vieve [?] minister's wife, but I did not like the looks of her at first. She was little, short, pinched-face, and I received her cooly. How different from you, and how surprised was I in seeing you tall in statue [sic]. We may read your heart in your countenance, your complexion, in short, your figure and features is rare, for you are like the marble statues I saw, when I was in the world." I think she flatered me up, but I was pleased.—Thursday Morning:—I have just received your kind letter, and I am pleased and content that you should write to me, tho' it is onely one or two lines a day. Be assured I am grateful. I am sorry you had bad sport, and I shall be most happy to see you at home, to warm you with my kisses, and comfort you with my smiles and good humer, and oblidge you by my attentions, which will be the constant pleasure of, my Dear Sir William, your truly affectionate—EMMA.

P.S.—Cuny's duty to you, and thanks you abbout the Masquis Sesos—(you may look big upon it).

* * *

LETTER XVI

Emma Hart to Charles Greville

NAPOLI, Agosto 4th, (1787).

Alltho you never think me worth writing to, yet I cannot so easily forget you, and whenever I have had any particular pleasure, I feil as tho I was not right, tell I had communicated it to my dearest Greville. For you will ever be dear to me, and tho' we cannot be together, lett ous corespond as freinds. I have a happiness in hearing from you, and a comfort in communicating my little storeys to you, because I flatter myself that you still love the name of that Emma, that was once very dear to you, and, but for unfortunate evils, might still have claimed the first place in your affections. And I hope still, you will never meet with any person that will use you ill. But never will you meet with the sincere love that I shew'd you. Don't expect it; for you canot meet with it. But I have done. Onely think of my words;—you will meet with more evils than one, for, as Sir William says, that one is the devil...

P.S.—I send you a kiss on my name. It's more than you deserve. Next post I write to your Brother—abbout Wite, as he is my friend and I have assisted them a good deal and will more. Pray give my love to your brother, and compliments to Legg, Banks, Tollemache, &c. Tell them to take care of their hearts, when I come back. As to you, you will be utterly undone. But Sir William allready is distractedly in love, and indead I love him tenderly. He deserves it.—God bless you!

[The above letter, written about a year after Emma's frantic outburst at Greville's treachery, shows that she had accepted her fate with philosophy and good humour; she continued to keep up a long correspondence with Greville, though after sending this she wrote him no more love letters.]


MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT GODWIN (1719-1797)

Illustration

Women are most fools when they think they're wisest.

—"The Scournful Lady."
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER

*

Love me little, love me long,
Is the burden of my song.

—Old Ballad.

* * * * * * *

Chiefly remembered now as the author of a famous book, The Rights of Woman, as the mother of Shelley's second wife, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was considered of some importance by her contemporaries. Of gentle birth but brought up in the miserable home of a drunkard, Mary Wollstonecraft tried to gain independence as a companion, a governess, as a book-writer employed by Joseph Johnson, the bookseller and publisher. Fired by the French Revolution and by Tom Paine's Rights of Man she wrote Rights of Woman which gained her some fame and much abuse. She was then over thirty years of age—charming, handsome and unloved; full of theories and blinded by idealism she went to Paris to study "liberty at its source" and there met and fell passionately in love with Captain Gilbert Imlay, an American of about her own age. Yielding to a passion that she glossed over with an appearance of principle, Mary lived with this man as his wife. Soon after the birth of their child, he began to tire of her; Mary with desperate persistency tried to keep him; they returned to England and Mary tried to poison herself. A reconciliation was patched up and Mary and her child went to Norway on Imlay's business. On her return she discovered that her lover was living with a strolling actress and again tried to commit suicide, this time by throwing herself off Putney Bridge. She was rescued, parted finally from Imlay, who returned to France, and in despair married William Godwin, the philosopher and novelist, author of Caleb Williams and Political Justice; shortly afterwards Mary Godwin died at the birth of her daughter Mary. Imlay had returned her love letters; she gave these to her husband and he published them after her death, with the comment that they were as good as The Sorrows of Werther, the fashionable romantic novel of the day, and with a few discreet deletions.

It is from this first edition that the following selection has been made: Posthumous Works of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, 1798. The Letters to Imlay have also been edited by C. Kegan Paul, and by him published 1879. The letters have been renumbered here, the numbers of the original collection being given in brackets.

The first seven letters given here are selected from those written while Mary was happy in her love; from Letter VIII, the note of disillusion begins to sound; with Letter IX she is back in England, whither she had with her child followed the evasive and reluctant Imlay. The following letters show increasing doubt and trouble, Letter XII is written on the point of sailing to Norway after the first attempt at suicide. The next show an increasing despair that rises steadily to the final farewell that was, without doubt, Mary's death sentence.


* * *

LETTER I [2]

Mary Wollstonecraft to Gilbert Imlay

PARIS, August 1793.

Past twelve o'clock Monday night.

I obey an emotion of my heart, which made me think of wishing thee, my love, good night! before I go to rest, with more tenderness than I can tomorrow, when writing a hasty line or two under Colonel ——'s eye. You can scarcely imagine with what pleasure I anticipate the day, when we are to begin almost to live together; and you would smile to hear how many plans of employment I have in my head, now that I am confident my heart has found peace in your bosom. Cherish me with that dignified tenderness, which I have only found in you; and your own dear girl will try to keep under a quickness of feeling, that has sometimes given you pain. Yes, I will be good, that I may deserve to be happy; and whilst you love me, I cannot again fall into the miserable state which rendered life a burthen almost too heavy to be borne.

But, good night! God bless you! Sterne says that is equal to a kiss—yet I would rather give you the kiss into the bargain, glowing with gratitude to Heaven, and affection to you. I like the word affection, because it signifies something habitual; and we are soon to meet, to try whether we have mind enough to keep our hearts warm.

I will be at the barrier a little after ten o'clock to-morrow.

Yours,

* * *

LETTER II [6]

PARIS, December 1793.

Friday morning.

I am glad to find that other people can be unreasonable as well as myself, for be it known to thee, that I answered thy first letter the very night it reached me (Sunday), though thou couldst not receive it before Wednesday, because it was not sent off till the next day. There is a full, true and particular account.

Yet I am not angry with thee, my love, for I think that it is a proof of stupidity, and, likewise, of a milk-and-water affection, which comes to the same thing, when the temper is governed by a square and compass. There is nothing picturesque in this straight-lined equality, and the passions always give grace to the actions.

Recollection now makes my heart bound to thee; but, it is not to thy money-getting face, though I cannot be seriously displeased with the exertion which increases my esteem, or rather is what I should have expected from thy character. No; I have thy honest countenance before me—Pop—relaxed by tenderness; a little—little wounded by my whims; and thy eyes glistening with sympathy. Thy lips then feel softer than soft, and I rest my cheek on thine, forgetting all the world. I have not left the hue of love out of the picture—the rosy glow; and fancy has spread it over my own cheeks, I believe, for I feel them burning, whilst a delicious tear trembles in my eye, that would be all your own, if a grateful emotion, directed to the Father of nature, who has made me thus alive to happiness, did not give more warmth to the sentiment it divides. I must pause a moment.

Need I tell you that I am tranquil after writing thus? I do not know why, but I have more confidence in your affection, when absent than present; nay, I think that you must love me, for, in the sincerity of my heart let me say it, I believe I deserve your tenderness, because I am true, and have a degree of sensibility that you can see and relish.

Yours sincerely,

MARY.

* * *

LETTER III [7]

PARIS, December 29, 1793. Sunday Morning.

You seem to have taken up your abode at Havre. Pray sir! when do you think of coming home? or, to write very considerately, when will business permit you? I shall expect (as the country people say in England) that you will make a power of money to indemnify me for your absence.

Well! but, my love, to the old story—am I to see you this week, or this month? I do not know what you are about, for, as you did not tell me, I would not ask Mr. ——, who is generally pretty communicative.

I long to see Mrs. ——; not to hear from you, so do not give yourself airs, but to get a letter from Mr. ——. And I am half angry with you for not informing me whether she had brought one with her or not. On this score I will cork up some of the kind things that were ready to drop from my pen, which has never been dipt in gall when addressing you; or, will only suffer an exclamation—"The creature!" or a kind look to escape me, when I pass the slippers, which I could not remove from my salle door, though they are not the handsomest of their kind.

Be not too anxious to get money! for nothing worth having is to be purchased. God bless you.

Yours affectionately,

MARY.

* * *

LETTER IV [12]

PARIS, January 1794. Wednesday Morning.

I will never, if I am not entirely cured of quarrelling, begin to encourage "quick-coming fancies," when we are separated. Yesterday, my love, I could not open your letter for some time; and, though it was not half as severe as I merited, it threw me into such a fit of trembling, as seriously alarmed me. I did not, as you may suppose, care for a little pain on my own account; but all the fears which I have had for a few days past, returned with fresh force. This morning I am better; will you not be glad to hear it? You perceive that sorrow has almost made a child of me, and that I want to be soothed to peace.

One thing you mistake in my character, and imagine that to be coldness, which is just the contrary. For, when I am hurt by the person most dear to me, I must let out a whole torrent of emotions, in which tenderness would be uppermost, or stifle them altogether; and it appears to me almost a duty to stifle them when I imagine that I am treated with coldness.

I am afraid that I have vexed you, my own love. I know the quickness of your feelings—and let me, in the sincerity of my heart, assure you, there is nothing I would not suffer to make you happy. My own happiness wholly depends on you; and, knowing you, when my reason is not clouded, I look forward to a rational prospect of as much felicity as the earth affords, with a little dash of rapture into the bargain, if you will look at me, when we meet again, as you have sometimes greeted your humbled, yet most affectionate

MARY.

* * *

LETTER V [18]

1794. HAVRE, Thursday Morning, March 12.

We are such creatures of habit, my love, that, though I cannot say I was sorry, childishly so, for your going, when I knew that you were to stay such a short time, and I had a plan of employment; yet I could not sleep. I turned to your side of the bed, and tried to make the most of the comfort of your pillow, which you used to tell me I was churlish about; but all would not do. I took, nevertheless, my walk before breakfast, though the weather was not inviting—and here I am, wishing you a finer day, and seeing you peep over my shoulder, as I write, with one of your kindest looks—when your eyes glisten, and a suffusion creeps over your relaxing features.

But I do not mean to dally with you this morning. So God bless you! Take care of yourself, and sometimes fold to your heart your affectionate

MARY.

* * *

LETTER VI [27]

PARIS, 1794. October 26.

MY DEAR LOVE,

I began to wish so earnestly to hear from you, that the sight of your letters occasioned such pleasurable emotions, I was obliged to throw them aside till the little girl and I were alone together; and this said little girl, our darling, is become a most intelligent little creature, and as gay as a lark, and that in the morning too, which I do not find quite so convenient. I once told you, that the sensations before she was born, and when she is sucking, were pleasant; but they do not deserve to be compared to the emotions I feel, when she stops to smile upon me, or laughs outright on meeting me unexpectedly in the street, or after a short absence. She has now the advantage of having two good nurses, and I am at present able to discharge my duty to her, without being the slave of it.

I have therefore employed and amused myself since I got rid of ——, and am making a progress in the language, amongst other things. I have also made some new acquaintance. I have almost charmed a judge of the tribunal, R——, who, though I should not have thought it possible, has humanity, if not beaucoup d'esprit. But let me tell you, if you do not make haste back, I shall be half in love with the author of the Marseillaise, who is a handsome man, a little too broad-faced or so, and plays sweetly on the violin.

What do you say to this threat? Why, entre nous, I like to give way to a sprightly vein when writing to you, that is, when I am pleased with you. "The devil," you know, is proverbially said to be "in a good humour when he is pleased." Will you not then be a good boy, and come back quickly to play with your girls? but I shall not allow you to love the new-comer best.

My heart longs for your return, my love, and only looks for, and seeks happiness with you; yet do not imagine that I childishly wish you to come back before you have arranged things in such a manner that it will not be necessary for you to leave us soon again, or to make exertions which injure your constitution.

Yours most truly and tenderly,

MARY.

P.S.—You would oblige me by delivering the inclosed to Mr. ——, and pray call for an answer. It is for a person uncomfortably situated.

* * *

LETTER VII [24]

PARIS, 1794. Evening, September 23.

I have been playing and laughing with the little girl so long, that I cannot take up my pen to address you without emotion. Pressing her to my bosom, she looked so like you (entre nous, your best looks, for I do not admire your commercial face), every nerve seemed to vibrate to the touch, and I began to think that there was something in the assertion of man and wife being one—for you seemed to pervade my whole frame, quickening the beat of my heart, and lending me the sympathetic tears you excited.

Have I anything more to say to you? No; not for the present—the rest is all flown away; and indulging tenderness for you, I cannot now complain of some people here, who have ruffled my temper for two or three days past.

* * *

LETTER VIII [32]

PARIS, 1795. January 9.

I just now received one of your hasty notes; for business so entirely occupies you, that you have not time, or sufficient command of thought, to write letters. Beware! you seem to be got into a whirl of projects and schemes, which are drawing you into a gulf that, if it do not absorb your happiness, will infallibly destroy mine.

Fatigued during my youth by the most arduous struggles, not only to obtain independence, but to render myself useful, not merely pleasure, for which I had the most lively taste—I mean the simple pleasures that flow from passion and affection—escaped me, but the most melancholy views of life were impressed by a disappointed heart on my mind. Since I knew you I have been endeavouring to go back to my former nature, and have allowed some time to glide away, winged with the delight which only spontaneous enjoyment can give. Why have you so soon dissolved the charm?

I am really unable to bear the continual inquietude which your and ——'s never-ending plans produce. This you may term want of firmness, but you are mistaken; I have still sufficient firmness to pursue my principle of action. The present misery, I cannot find a softer word to do justice to my feelings, appears to me unnecessary, and therefore I have not firmness to support it as you may think I ought. I should have been content, and still wish, to retire with you to a farm. My God! anything but these continual anxieties, anything but commerce, which debases the mind, and roots out affection from the heart.

I do not mean to complain of subordinate inconveniences; yet I will simply observe that, led to expect you every week, I did not make the arrangements required by the present circumstances, to procure the necessaries of life. In order to have them, a servant, for that purpose only, is indispensable. The want of wood has made me catch the most violent cold I ever had; and my head is so disturbed by continual coughing, that I am unable to write without stopping frequently to recollect myself. This, however, is one of the common evils which must be borne with—bodily pain does not touch the heart, though it fatigues the spirits.

Still, as you talk of your return, even in February, doubtingly, I have determined, the moment the weather changes, to wean my child. It is too soon for her to begin to divide sorrow! And as one has well said, "despair is a freeman," we will go and seek our fortune together.

This is not a caprice of the moment, for your absence has given new weight to some conclusions that I was very reluctantly forming before you left me. I do not choose to be a secondary object. If your feelings were in unison with mine, you would not sacrifice so much to visionary prospects of future advantage.

* * *

LETTER IX [33)

PARIS, 1795. January 15.

I was just going to begin my letter with the fag end of a song, which would only have told you what I may as well say simply, that it is pleasant to forgive those we love. I have received your two letters, dated the 26th and 28th of December, and my anger died away. You can scarcely conceive the effect some of your letters have produced on me. After longing to hear from you during a tedious interval of suspense, I have seen a superscription written by you. Promising myself pleasure, and feeling emotion, I have laid it by me, till the person who brought it left the room, when—behold! on opening it, I have found only half-a-dozen hasty lines, that have damped all the rising affection of my soul.

Well, now for business—

My animal is well; I have not yet taught her to eat but nature is doing the business. I gave her a crust to assist the cutting of her teeth; and now she has two, she makes good use of them to gnaw a crust, biscuit, etc. You would laugh to see her; she is just like a little squirrel; she will guard a crust for two hours; and, after fixing her eye on an object for some time, dart on it with an aim as sure as a bird of prey—nothing can equal her life and spirits. I suffer from a cold; but it does not affect her. Adieu! Do not forget to love us—and come soon to tell us that you do.

* * *

LETTER X [35]

PARIS, 1795. February 9.

The melancholy presentiment has for some time hung on my spirits, that we were parted for ever; and the letters I received this day, by Mr. ——, convince me that it was not without foundation. You allude to some other letters, which I suppose have miscarried; for most of those I have got, were only a few hasty lines, calculated to wound the tenderness the sight of the superscriptions excited.

I mean not however to complain; yet so many feelings are struggling for utterance, and agitating a heart almost bursting with anguish, that I find it very difficult to write with any degree of coherence.

You left me indisposed, though you have taken no notice of it; and the most fatiguing journey I ever had, contributed to continue it. However, I recovered my health; but a neglected cold, and continual inquietude during the last two months, have reduced me to a state of weakness I never before experienced. Those who did not know that the canker-worm was at work at the core, cautioned me about suckling my child too long. God preserve this poor child, and render her happier than her mother!

But I am wandering from my subject; indeed my head turns giddy, when I think that all the confidence I have had in the affection of others is come to this. I did not expect this blow from you. I have done my duty to you and my child; and if I am not to have any return of affection to reward me, I have the sad consolation of knowing that I deserved a better fate. My soul is weary, I am sick at heart; and, but for this little darling, I would cease to care about a life, which is now stripped of every charm.

You see how stupid I am, uttering declamation, when I meant simply to tell you, that I consider your requesting me to come to you, as merely dictated by honour. Indeed I scarcely understand you. You request me to come, and then tell me that you have not given up all thoughts of returning to this place.

When I determined to live with you, I was only governed by affection. I would share poverty with you, but I turn with affright from the sea of trouble on which you are entering. I have certain principles of action; I know what I look for to found my happiness on. It is not money. With you I wished for sufficient to procure the comforts of life, as it is, less will do. I can still exert myself to obtain the necessaries of life for my child, and she does not want more at present. I have two or three plans in my head to earn our subsistence; for do not suppose that, neglected by you, I will lie under obligations of a pecuniary kind to you! No; I would sooner submit to menial service. I wanted the support of your affection; that gone, all is over! I did not think, when I complained of ——'s contemptible avidity to accumulate money, that he would have dragged you into his schemes.

I cannot write. I inclose a fragment of a letter, written soon after your departure, and another which tenderness made me keep back when it was written. You will see then the sentiments of a calmer, though not a more determined moment. Do not insult me by saying, that "our being together is paramount to every other consideration! "Were it, you would not be running after a bubble, at the expense of my peace of mind.

Perhaps this is the last letter you will ever receive from me.

* * *

LETTER XI [37]

PARIS, 1795. February 19.

When I first received your letter, putting off your return to an indefinite time, I felt so hurt that I know not what I wrote. I am now calmer, though it was not the kind of wound over which time has the quickest effect; on the contrary, the more I think, the sadder I grow. Society fatigues me inexpressibly. So much so, that finding fault with everyone, I have only reason enough to discover that the fault is in myself. My child alone interests me, and, but for her, I should not take any pains to recover my health.

As it is, I shall wean her, and try if by that step (to which I feel a repugnance, for it is my only solace) I can get rid of my cough. Physicians talk much of the danger attending any complaint on the lungs, after a woman has suckled for some months. They lay a stress also on the necessity of keeping the mind tranquil—and, my God! how has mine been harassed! But whilst the caprices of other women are gratified, "the wind of heaven not suffered to visit them too rudely," I have not found a guardian angel, in heaven or on earth, to ward off sorrow or care from my bosom.

What sacrifices have you not made for a woman you did not respect! But I will not go over this ground. I want to tell you that I do not understand you. You say that you have not given up all thoughts of returning here—and I know that it will be necessary—nay is. I cannot explain myself; but if you have not lost your memory, you will easily divine my meaning. What! is our life then only to be made up of separations? and am I only to return to a country, that has not merely lost all charms for me, but for which I feel a repugnance that almost amounts to horror, only to be left there a prey to it!

Why is it so necessary that I should return? brought up here, my girl would be freer. Indeed, expecting you to join us, I had formed some plans of usefulness that have now vanished with my hopes of happiness.

In the bitterness of my heart, I could complain with reason, that I am left here dependent on a man, whose avidity to acquire a fortune has rendered him callous to every sentiment connected with social or affectionate emotions. With a brutal insensibility, he cannot help displaying the pleasure your determination to stay gives him, in spite of the effect it is visible it has had on me.

Till I can earn money, I shall endeavour to borrow some, for I want to avoid asking him continually for the sum necessary to maintain me. Do not mistake me, I have never been refused. Yet, I have gone half a dozen times to the house to ask for it, and come away without speaking—you must guess why. Besides, I wish to avoid hearing of the eternal projects to which you have sacrificed my peace—not remembering, but I will be silent for ever—

* * *

LETTER XII [39]

1795. BRIGHTHELMSTONE, Saturday, April 11.

Here we are, my love, and mean to set out early in the morning; and, if I can find you, I hope to dine with you to-morrow. I shall drive to ——'s hotel, where —— tells me you have been —— and, if you have left it, I hope you will take care to be there to receive us.

I have brought with me Mr. ——'s little friend, and a girl whom I like to take care of our little darling, not on the way, for that fell to my share. But why do I write about trifles? or anything? are we not to meet soon? What does your heart say?

Yours truly,

MARY.

I have weaned my Fanny, and she is now eating away at the white bread.

* * *

LETTER XIII [41]

May 27, 1795. Wednesday.

I inclose you the letter which you desired me to forward, and I am tempted very laconically to wish you a good morning, not because I am angry, or have nothing to say; but to keep down a wounded spirit. I shall make every effort to calm my mind, yet a strong conviction seems to whirl round in the very centre of my brain, which, like the fiat of fate, emphatically assures me that grief has a firm hold of my heart.

God bless you!

Yours sincerely,

MARY.

* * *

LETTER XIV [77]

LONDON, December 1795.

You must do as you please with respect to the child. I could wish that it might be done soon, that my name may be no more mentioned to you. It is now finished. Convinced that you have neither regard nor friendship, I disdain to utter a reproach, though I have had reason to think that the "forbearance" talked of has not been very delicate. It is, however, of no consequence. I am glad that you are satisfied with your own conduct.

I now solemnly assure you, that this is an eternal farewell. Yet I flinch not from the duties which tie me to life.

That there is "sophistry" on one side or another, is certain; but now it matters not on which. On my part it has not been a question of words. Yet your understanding or mine must be strangely warped, for what you term "delicacy," appears to me to be exactly the contrary. I have no criterion for morality, and have thought in vain of the sensations which lead you to follow an ancle or step, be the sacred foundation of principle or affection. Mine has been of a very different nature, or it would not have stood the brunt of your sarcasms.

The sentiment in me is still sacred. If there be any part of me that will survive the sense of my misfortunes, it is the purity of my affections. The impetuosity of your senses may have led you to term mere animal desire, the source of principle; and it may give zest to some years to come. Whether you will always think so, I shall never know.

It is strange that, in spite of all you do, something like conviction forces me to believe that you are not what you appear to be.

I part with you in peace.

* * *

LETTER XV [53]

GOTHENBURG, 1795. June 29.

I wrote to you by the last post, to inform you of my arrival; and I believe I alluded to the extreme fatigue I endured on ship-board, owing to Marguerite's illness and the roughness of the weather. I likewise mentioned to you my fall, the effects of which I still feel, though I do not think it will have any serious consequences.

—— will go with me, if I find it necessary to go to Stromstad. The inns here are so bad, I was forced to accept an apartment in his house. I am overwhelmed with civilities on all sides, and fatigued with the endeavours to amuse me, from which I cannot escape.

My friend—my friend, I am not well; a deadly weight of sorrow lies heavily on my heart. I am again tossed on the troubled billows of life; and obliged to cope with difficulties, without being buoyed up by the hopes that alone render them bearable. "How flat, dull and unprofitable" appears to me all the bustle into which I see people here so eagerly enter! I long every night to go to bed, to hide my melancholy face in my pillow; but there is a canker-worm in my bosom that never sleeps.

* * *

LETTER XVI [69]

LONDON, November 1795.

I write you now on my knees; imploring you to send my child and the maid with ——, to Paris to be consigned to the care of Madame ——, Rue ——, Section de ——. Should they be removed —— can give their direction.

Let the maid have all my clothes without distinction.

Pray pay the cook her wages, and do not mention the confession which I forced from her; a little sooner or later is of no consequence. Nothing but my extreme stupidity could have rendered me blind so long. Yet, whilst you assured me that you had no attachment, I thought we might still have lived together.

I shall make no comments on your conduct or any appeal to the world. Let my wrongs sleep with me! Soon, very soon, I shall be at peace. When you receive this, my burning head will be cold.

I would encounter a thousand deaths, rather than a night like the last. Your treatment has thrown my mind into a state of chaos; yet I am serene. I go to find comfort, and my only fear is, that my poor body will be insulted by an endeavour to recall my hated existence. But I shall plunge into the Thames where there is the least chance of my being snatched from the death I seek.

God bless you! May you never know by experience what you have made me endure. Should your sensibility ever awake, remorse will find its way to your heart; and, in the midst of business and sensual pleasure, I shall appear before you, the victim of your deviation from rectitude.

[The above letter was written after a frightful scene with Imlay. Mary's cook had told her where Imlay kept his new mistress, Mary had gone to this house and caught the lovers together; on her return Mary passed a night of delirium and the next morning wrote the above note that she left with the maid for Imlay. She then went out, hired a boat, and rowing up the Thames to Putney cast herself off the bridge; she was rescued by some watermen.]

* * *

LETTER XVII [70]

LONDON, November 1795. Sunday Morning.

I have only to lament, that, when the bitterness of death was past, I was inhumanly brought back to life and misery. But a fixed determination is not to be baffled by disappointment; nor will I allow that to be a frantic attempt which was one of the calmest acts of reason. In this respect, I am only accountable to myself. Did I care for what is termed reputation, it is by other circumstances that I should be dishonoured.

You say, "that you know not how to extricate ourselves out of the wretchedness into which we have been plunged." You are extricated long since. But I forbear to comment. If I am condemned to live longer, it is a living death.

It appears to me that you lay much more stress on delicacy than on principle; for I am unable to discover what sentiment of delicacy would have been violated by your visiting a wretched friend, if indeed you have any friendship for me. But since your new attachment is the only sacred thing in your eyes, I am silent—Be happy! My complaints shall never more damp your enjoyment; perhaps I am mistaken in supposing that even my death could, for more than a moment. This is what you call magnanimity. It is happy for yourself, that you possess this quality in the highest degree.

Your continually asserting that you will do all in your power to contribute to my comfort, when you only allude to pecuniary assistance, appears to me a flagrant breach of delicacy. I want not such vulgar comfort, nor will I accept it. I never wanted but your heart—That gone, you have nothing more to give. Had I only poverty to fear, I should not shrink from life. Forgive me then, if I say, that I shall consider any direct or indirect attempt to supply my necessities, as an insult which I have not merited, and as rather done out of tenderness for your own reputation, than for me. Do not mistake me; I do not think that you value money, therefore I will not accept what you do not care for, though I do much less, because certain privations are not painful to me. When I am dead, respect for yourself will make you take care of the child.

I write with difficulty—probably I shall never write to you again. Adieu!

God bless you!

[Written after she had been revived from her attempt at suicide and Imlay had shown some concern as to her plight. It is remarkable that he should have returned to her these letters and that she should have preserved them.]

* * *

LETTER XVIII [71]

LONDON, November 1795. Monday morning.

I am compelled at last to say that you treat me ungenerously. I agree with you, that...

But let the obloquy fall on me. I fear neither poverty nor infamy. I am unequal to the task of writing and explanations are not necessary...

My child may have to blush for her mother's want of prudence, and may lament that the rectitude of my heart made me above vulgar precautions; but she shall not despise me for meanness. You are now perfectly free. God bless you!

* * *

LETTER XIX [76]

LONDON, December 1795.

As the parting from you for ever is the most serious event of my life, I will once more expostulate with you, and call not the language of truth and feeling ingenuity!

I know the soundness of your understanding, and know that it is impossible for you always to confound the caprices of every wayward inclination with manly dictates of principle.

You tell me "that I torment you." Why do I? Because you cannot estrange your heart entirely from me, and you feel that justice is on my side. You urge "that your conduct was unequivocal." It was not. When your coolness has hurt me, with what tenderness have you endeavoured to remove the impression! and even before I returned to England, you took great pains to convince me that all my uneasiness was occasioned by the effect of a worn-out constitution; and you concluded your letter with these words, "Business alone has kept me from you. Come to any port, and I will fly down to my two dear girls with a heart all their own."

With these assurances, is it extraordinary that I should believe what I wished? I might, and did think that you had a struggle with old propensities; but I still thought that I and virtue should at last prevail. I still thought that you had a magnanimity of character, which would enable you to conquer yourself.

Imlay, believe me, it is not romance, you have acknowledged to me feelings of this kind. You could restore me to life and hope, and the satisfaction you would feel would amply repay you.

In tearing myself from you, it is my own heart I pierce; and the time will come, when you will lament that you have thrown away a heart, that, even in the moment of passion, you cannot despise. I would owe everything to your generosity, but, for God's sake, keep me no longer in suspense! Let me see you once more!

[Receiving no response to this passionate appeal Mary wrote once more, and for the last time.]


HORATIO, VISCOUNT NELSON (1758-1805)

Illustration

Fame's but a hollow echo; gold pure clay;
Honour the darling but of one short day;
Beauty, tho' eyes' idol, but a damask'd skin;
State, but a golden prison, to live in,
And torture free born minds.

—WALTER RALEIGH
Letters to Emma, Lady Hamilton

* * * * * * *

Lord Nelson has one of the most famous names and one of the most unattractive characters in British history. Those who wish to preserve the conventional view of him had better leave the facts of his life alone. A great sailor, maddened by ill health and ambition, jealousy and vanity, his showy naval successes were all Pitt's Government had to show the people for a long, costly and badly managed war. Nelson, however, ruined his chances of climbing those social heights towards which he always had looked so longingly by his open infatuation for Lady Hamilton, a married woman with an ugly past, and the subsequent breach with his own wife. Lady Hamilton's story is told in front of her own letters to Greville and her husband. The following letters were written at sea during the last four years of Lord Nelson's life; they form a small selection from the huge correspondence that passed between the hero and his 'divine Lady,' and exclude the hysterical "Thompson" letters, the authenticity of which has been in dispute. The letters given here are taken from: Memoirs of the Life of Vice-Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson, K.B., Thomas Joseph Pettigrew, 2nd Volume, London, 1848.

The history of the letters is as follows:

In 1806, a journalist, by name Harrison, put out a life of Lord Nelson, with the sanction of Lady Hamilton, who supplied much of the material. In 1814 this same Harrison published a collection of Nelson's letters which had either been sold to him by Lady Hamilton or by him stolen from her while he worked with her on the "Life." Their authenticity can hardly be questioned, however. The letters, together with many others, were published by Sir Harris Nicolas, and then came into the hands of Dr. Pettigrew, who published them "with a mass of correspondence" in 1848. The first thirteen letters date from 1801 when Lord Nelson, recently created a Vice-Admiral, was sent to attack Copenhagen; the Hamiltons were then living in his houses at Merton and London. At the end of the year an Armistice was signed; Nelson was created a Viscount, and returned to Merton and Emma.

In 1803 Sir William Hamilton died, and Nelson, appointed to the Mediterranean Fleet, kept watch on Toulon. From off this port, he wrote Letter XIV with anxious thought for the provision of his loved ones. Letter XV shows the weariness of the exile and the last five letters were written on board the Victory, during Nelson's last voyage. Letter XX is Nelson's farewell to Emma, written two days before the Battle of Trafalgar.


* * *

LETTER I

Lord Nelson to Lady Hamilton

AXMINSTER, January 14th, 1801. 8 o'clock.

MY DEAR LADY HAMILTON,

We set off from Southampton at eight o'clock this morning, and got to Mr. Rose's* at half-past nine, but found him gone to London, therefore I had my trouble for nothing but the pleasure of trying to serve my brother. Anxiety for friends left, and various workings of my imagination gave me one of those severe pains of the heart that all the windows were obliged to be put down, the carriage stopped, and the perspiration was so strong that I never was wetter, and yet dead with cold. However, it is gone off, and here I am, and while I live, your affectionate,

NELSON.

[* Afterwards the Rt. Hon. Sir George Rose of the Treasury.]

* * *

LETTER II

The Same

April 5th, 1801.

MY DEAREST FRIEND,

I am really tired out. Would to God it was all over, and I safely landed in England. On the 3rd I was sent on shore to talk to the Prince Royal. I believe I told him such truths as seldom reach the ears of princes. The people received me as they always have done; and even the stairs of the palace were crowded, huzzaing, and saying, God bless Lord Nelson. I rather believe these kind salutations were not very pleasing to the Royal ears, nor Count Bernstorf,1 to whom I gave a very broad hint that his proceedings were very foolish. However, he was very civil. The Prince, upon many points, seemed to quake; for on his question, "for what is the British fleet come into the Baltic?" my answer was not to be misunderstood:—"To crush the formidable armament, of which Denmark is to contribute her part, preparing against Great Britain."

[* Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs.]

However, it has brought forward a negotiation; and if they have not enough, we must try and get at their arsenal and city, that will sicken them if they have not had enough. The carnage was dreadful on board all their vessels. I saw on shore a Captain Biller, now a Commodore, who commanded a Danish frigate at Naples; he inquired kindly after you and Sir William; he had often been at your house; aye, who had not that happiness? for you ever was, and ever I am sure will be good. You must know you have been in the battle: for your two pictures, one done by Miss Knight, crowning the Rostral Column, the other done at Dresden (I call them my Guardian Angels; and I believe there would be more virtue in the prayers of Santa Emma, than any saint in the whole Calendar of Rome), I carried on board the Elephant with me, and they are safe, and so am I, not a scratch. To-day I have been obliged to write a letter to Lord St. Vincent, which I hope will touch his heart. God knows it has mine; it was recommending to his protecting hand the widows and orphans of those brave men who lost their lives for their King and country under my orders. It positively made my heart run out of my eyes—it brought fresh to my recollection, that only when I spoke to them all, and shook hands with every Captain, wishing them all with laurel crowns, alas! too many are covered with cypress. The Commander-in-Chief has just told me that the vessel goes to England this night if possible. May the heavens bless you, &c., &c.

NELSON AND BRONTE.

My best regards to Sir William, the Duke, Lord William, and all my friends. Kindest regards to Mrs. Nelson, if she is with you, which I hope she is.

* * *

LETTER III

The Same

"St. George," KIOGE BAY, June 12th, 1801.

MY DEAREST FRIEND,

I am writing a last line as the Pylades is getting under sail, and in the moment a cutter is reported to be in sight. I am all now anxiety, therefore cannot get on, so you must excuse my short letter of this day, but since I wrote yesterday not a piece of news, nor a boat has been on board. Let me have good, good news, it cannot be too good. Yes, then it would distract me with happiness—if bad from you it would so grieve me that I should become melancholy. Thirty-seven days, not a scrap of a pen. Bear me up.

Ever your faithful,

NELSON AND BRONTE.

* * *

LETTER IV

The Same

MY DEAREST FRIEND,

I am overjoyed. I shall be better and happier than ever, and be as soon in England as possible. I have sent off four letters this day, two by Troubridge, and two by Davison—this makes five.

Ever yours,

NELSON AND BRONTE.

* * *

LETTER V

The Same

Judy 29th, 1801.

MY DEAREST EMMA,

Your letter of yesterday naturally called forth all those finer feelings of the sort which none but those who regard each other as you and I do can conceive, although I am not able to write so well, and so forcibly mark my feelings as you can. Not one moment I have to myself, and my business is endless. At noon I set off for Faversham to arrange the Sea Fencibles on that part of the coast; at nine o'clock I expect to be at Deal to arrange with Admiral Lutwidge various matters; and to-morrow evening, or next day morning, to sail for the coast of France, that I may judge from my own eye, and not from those of others. Be where I may, you are always present to my thoughts—not another thing, except the duty I owe to my country, ever interferes with you.

Yours,

NELSON AND BRONTE.

* * *

LETTER VI

The Same

"Medusa," off BOULOGNE, August 4th, 1801.

MY DEAREST EMMA,

Boulogne is evidently not a pleasant place this morning. Three of their floating batteries are sunk; what damage has been done to the others, and the vessels inside the pier, I cannot say, but I hope and believe that some hundreds of French are gone to hell this morning; for if they are dead assuredly they are gone there. In fire or out of fire I am,

Yours,

NELSON AND BRONTE.

Tell the Duke and Lord William that the embarkation of the French army will not take place at Boulogne. Beyond this I cannot say. In my visits to the bombs in my barge, my friends think the French have been very attentive to me, for they did nothing but fire at the boat and the different vessels I was in, but God is good.

* * *

LETTER VII

The Same

"Medusa," off CALAIS, 7 o'clock, August 4th, 1801.

MY DEAREST EMMA,

Your kind and affectionate letters up to yesterday are all received. Ten times ten thousand thanks for them, and for your tender care of my dear little charge Horatia. I love her the more dearly, as she is in the upper part of her face so like her dear good mother, who I love, and always shall with the truest affection. I am on my way to Ostend and Flushing, and shall probably be off Margate on Friday. Captain Gore is very kind and good to me, for I must be a great plague to him. I have to thank him even for a bed. I have only one moment to write this, as Admiral Lutwidge sent his own boat with my letters of this day's post. Best regards to Mrs. Nelson, kind love to Horatia, and believe me.

Yours,

NELSON AND BRONTE.

* * *

LETTER VIII

The Same

"St. George," at sea, March 6th, 1801.

MY DEAREST FRIEND, how tiresome and alone I feel at not having the pleasure of receiving your dear, kind, friendly, and intelligent letters. I literally feel as a fish out of water. Calms and foul winds have already prolonged our passage, from what is often done in fourteen hours to three days, and yet no appearance of our arrival this day. It now snows and rains, and nearly calm. All day yesterday I was employed about a very necessary thing; and I assure you it gave me pleasure, instead of pain, the reflection that I was providing for a dear friend. I have given you, by will, £3,000, and three diamond boxes, and the King of Naples's picture in trust, to be at your disposal, so that it is absolutely your own. By the codicil, I have given you the money owing me by Sir William, likewise in trust. The trustees are, Mr. Ryder, a very eminent law man, and Mr. Davison; they will be my executors. If you like anybody else, say so, and it shall be done. The star I have given you to wear for my sake. You must not think, my dearest friend, that this necessary act hastens our departure, but it is a right and proper measure.

Half-past eight. Just anchored in the sea, thick as mud.

Noon. Under sail, steering for Yarmouth, but cannot arrive before 5 o'clock.

Three o'clock. Sight of Yarmouth.

Yours,

N. & B.

I am wet through and cold.

* * *

LETTER IX

The Same

"St. George," off the SCAW, March 19th, 1801.

MY DEAREST FRIEND,

I have bought your picture,* for I could not bear it should be put up at auction, and if it had cost me 300 drops of blood I would have given it with pleasure. I think the picture had better be delivered to Mr. Davison packed up, and I have charged him not to mention it, or to chew it to any soul breathing. I design it always to hang in my bedchamber, and if I die it is yours. After we get into the Baltic it may be very dangerous writing, for if the vessel is taken, which is very probable, my correspondence will certainly be published, therefore I shall never sign my name in future. Heavens bless you. Send my letter and order to Mr. Christie directly.

[* By Madame Le Brun.]

* * *

LETTER X

The Same

"Amazon," September 29th, 1801.

MY DEAREST EMMA,

I send by the coach a little parcel containing the keys of the plate chest and the case of the tea urn, and there is a case of Colebrook Dale breakfast set, and some other things. Mr. Dods had better go to the house for he is Davison's man. Will you have your picture carried to Merton? I should wish it, and mine of the Battle of the Nile. I think you had better not have Sir William's books, or anything but what is my own. I have sent in the parcel by the coach this day, two salt-cellars, and two ladles, which will make four of each, as two are in the chest. You will also find spoons and forks sufficient for the present. If sheets are wanting for the beds, will you order some and let me have the bill. I also think that not a servant of Sir William's I mean the cook, should be in the house, but I leave this and all other matters to your good management. Would to God I could come and take up my abode there, and if such a thing should happen that I go abroad, I can under my hand lend you the house that no person can molest you, not that I have at present any idea of going anywhere but to Merton. Do you take black James? Do as you please. I have no desire one way or the other. Our dear Parker's circumstances are a little out of order, but I have undertaken to settle them if the creditors will give me time, for the poor father is worse than nothing. I have given him money to buy mourning and to pay his passage home again. I trust in God that he will never let me want, for I find no man who starts up to assist me. I can with a quiet conscience when all is gone, live upon bread and cheese. Never mind so long as I have your friendship warm from the heart. I have got some of dear Parker's hair, which I value more than if he had left me a bulse of diamonds. I have sent it in the little box, keep some of it for poor Nelson.

Noon, blows strong. I have just received your kind letters, they indeed comfort me, and I hope we shall live to see many, many happy years.

Ever yours,

NELSON AND BRONTE.

* * *

LETTER XI

The Same

"Victory," SPITHEAD, August 18th, 1805.

I am, my dearest Emma, this moment anchored, and as the post will not go out until eight o'clock, and you not get the letter till eleven or twelve o'clock to-morrow, I have ordered a Post-office express to tell you of my arrival. I hope we shall be out of quarantine to-morrow, when I shall fly to dear Merton. You must believe all I would say, and fancy what I think; but I suppose this letter will be cut open, smoked and perhaps read. I have not heard from you since last April by Abbé Campbell. I have brought home no honour for my country, only a most faithful servant; nor any riches—that the Administration took care to give to others—but I have brought home a most faithful and honourable heart. The boat is waiting, and I must finish. This day two years and three months I left you. God send us a happy meeting, as our parting was sorrowful.

Ever yours,

NELSON AND BRONTE.

* * *

LETTER XII

The Same

"Victory," September 16th, 1805. Off DUNMORE.

MY BELOVED EMMA,

I cannot even read your letter. We have fair wind, and God will, I hope, soon grant us a happy meeting. The wind is quite fair and fresh. We go too swift for the boat. May Heaven bless you and Horatia with all those who hold us dear to them. For a short time, farewell,

Ever yours,

NELSON AND BRONTE.

* * *

LETTER XIII

The Same

"Victory," off TOULON, September 8th, 1803.

I have, my dearest Emma, done what I thank God I have had the power of doing—left £4,000 to my dear Horatia, and desire that she may be acknowledged as my adopted daughter, and I have made you her sole guardian; the interest of the money to be paid you until she is eighteen years of age. I trust, my dearest friend, that you will (if it should please God to take me out of this world) execute this great charge for me and the dear little innocent, for it would add comforts to my last moments to think that she would be educated in the paths of religion and virtue, and receive as far as she is capable, some of those brilliant accomplishments which so much adorn you. You must not allow your good heart to think that although I have left you this important charge I fancy myself nearer being knocked off by the French Admiral. I believe it will be quite the contrary, that God Almighty will again and again bless our just cause with victory, and that I shall live to receive your kind and affectionate congratulations on a brilliant victory. But be that as it may I shall support, with God's help, my unblemished character to the last, and be,

Yours,

NELSON AND BRONTE.

* * *

LETTER XIV

"Victory," October 19th, 1805. Noon, CADIZ, E.S.e. 16 leagues.

MY DEAREST BELOVED EMMA, the dear friend of my bosom. The signal has been made that the enemy's combined fleet are coming out of port. We have very little wind, so that I have no hopes of seeing them before tomorrow. May the God of battles crown my endeavours with success; at all events, I will take care that my name shall ever be most dear to you and Horatia, both of whom I love as much as my own life. And as my last writing, before the battle, will be to you, so I hope, in God, that I shall live to finish my letter after the battle. May Heaven bless you, prays your

NELSON AND BRONTE.

October 20th. In the morning we were close to the mouth of the Straits, but the wind had not come far enough to the westward to allow the combined fleets to weather the shoals off Trafalgar; but they were counted as far as forty sail of ships of war, which I suppose to be thirty-four of the line, and six frigates. A group of them was seen off the lighthouse of Cadiz this morning, but it blows so very fresh, and thick weather, that I rather believe they will go into the harbour before night. May God Almighty give us success over these fellows, and enable us to get a peace.


NAPOLEON BONAPARTE (1769-1821)

Illustration

Love, the brightest jewel of a crown,
That fires ambition and adores renown:
That with sweet hopes does our harsh pains beguile,
And 'midst of javelins makes the souldier smile.

—NAT. LEE

* * * * * * *

Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica, soon after it had been annexed to France; his family was noble and distinguished by the abilities of its members. At the age of eleven Napoleon was sent to France, as a cadet at the Military Academy of Brienne. Here he distinguished himself by brilliant gifts and an intense application to study; after a further period of training in the Military College at Paris, the young Corsican was commissioned to the regiment of La Fère. Wide reading, intense study and frequent visits to his widowed mother and financially embarrassed family in Corsica filled the young soldier's life until the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789. Napoleon at once showed Republican fervour and during one of his visits to Ajaccio threw himself into the democratic rising of the Corsicans under Paoli; later, however, disgusted by Paoli's turning for help to England, Napoleon raised a party against him, with the result that the Bonaparte family took refuge in France, with which country the young soldier henceforth identified himself (1793).

His stand against Paoli brought Napoleon to the notice of some of the extremists then in power, among them Robespierre, and he was sent in command of the artillery with the army employed to suppress the Girondin revolt.

In the end of 1793 Napoleon scored his first success by forcing the English to evacuate Toulon which had been delivered into their hands by the Royalists; Napoleon did further brilliant work on the Mediterranean coast, but was reduced to inactivity on the fall of Robespierre, July 1794. On the establishment of the Directory, however, Napoleon was appointed second in command to Barras of the Army of the Republic, soon after, at the instance of that man of genius, Lazare Carnot, he was given command of the Army sent to invade Italy, where the enemies of the French Government were installed. In 1794 he had met Josephine Beauharnais, and before he left for Italy in 1796 he married her; this lady, born in the isle of Martinique in 1763, had been married at the age of fourteen years to the Vicomte de Beauharnais by whom she had two children, Eugène and Hortense. During the revolution she and her husband were imprisoned and de Beauharnais was beheaded. In prison Madame Beauharnais had met the future Madame Tallien, and when the two ladies were released they became leaders in the reckless post-revolutionary society where the brilliant and fascinating Josephine was "gayest of the gay."

Napoleon fell passionately in love with her and she responded dazzled either by his personality or by his rising star, but, during his absence in Italy her coquetry, if it was no more, gave him sharp cause for jealousy. She used her influence, however, to aid his ambitions, and was on the whole a loyal good-natured wife, if an extravagant and reckless woman. She remained by Napoleon's side during all the triumphs of his astounding career as the most powerful military dictator that Europe has known, and was crowned with him in Notre Dame, Paris, 1804. Five years later Napoleon, wishful of an heir and to unite himself to the ancient House of Hapsburg, divorced Josephine, who had brought him no children, and married Marie Louise, daughter of the Emperor Francis. In 1815 Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo and died in exile in St. Helena 1821—during a violent hurricane. In 1840 his remains were transported with great pomp to Paris, where they were placed in the tomb designed by Pradier in the Chapel of the Invalides.

After her divorce Josephine retired to the charming little country house of Malmaison; her former husband wrote to her, and even saw her occasionally and her behaviour was resigned and dignified; she said farewell to the Emperor in January 1814, a few months before he was sent to Elba, and she died in the May of that year. The letters given here were written by Napoleon in 1796, one before his marriage, the others during the Italian campaign.

Their history is as follows; they were given to Charles Tennant by a Polish nobleman who had been with the Empress at the time of her death and published as an appendix to the second volume of Mr. Tennant's book: A Tour through Parts of the Netherlands, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Savoy and France, in the year 1822. London.

The author gives the literal translation here used, the French originals and facsimiles of the letters, together with documents to prove their authenticity. Napoleon's handwriting was extremely difficult and the lacunae represent words that Mr. Tennant was unable to decipher, though subsequent editors have made attempts to do so.

A complete collection of Napoleon's letters to his first wife, translated into English, is given in: Napoleon's Letters to Josephine 1796-1831, Edited by H. F. Hall, London, 1901.

The dates above the letters are those given in Mr. Tennant's literal translation and taken from the originals; those beneath are those given by Mr. Hall, who has carefully annotated the correspondence.


* * *

LETTER I

7 o'clock in the Morning.*

[* Napoleon was married on March 9, and on March 11 left Paris to join the Army.]

I awake thinking only of you. Your portrait and the recollection of the intoxicating evening of yesterday have deprived my senses of rest. Sweet and incomparable Josephine, what a singular impression do you make upon my heart! Are you angry? are you sad? are you uneasy? My soul is broken with grief, and there is no more comfort for your friend;—but is there more for me when, giving myself up to the deep feeling which overcomes me, I pour out upon your lips, upon your heart, a flame which consumes me? Ah! it was last night that I discovered that your portrait was not you.

You set off at noon—I shall see you in three hours. In the meanwhile, my sweet love, receive a thousand kisses, but do not give me any, for they consume my blood.

N. B.

To Madame Beauharnais.

* * *

LETTER II

PORT MAURICE, the 14th Germinal. [March]*

[* March 14, 1796.]

I have received all your letters; but not one of them has affected me so much as your last—do you think, my adorable love, of writing to me in such terms? Do you imagine, then, that my situation is not already cruel enough without an increase of my sorrows and an overthrow of my soul? What a style! What sentiments do you describe—they are of fire—they burn my poor heart. My only Josephine;—far from thee there is no joy—far from thee the world is a desert, where I remain an isolated being, without enjoying the sweets of confidence. You have deprived me of more than my soul;—you are the only thought of my life. If I am tired of the troubles of business, if I dread the result, if mankind disgust me, if I am ready to curse this life, I place my hand upon my heart,—there thy portrait beats.—I look at it, and love becomes to me absolute happiness; all is smiling save the time when I am separated from my beloved.

By what art is it that you have been able to captivate all my faculties, and to concentrate in yourself my moral existence? It is a magic, my sweet love, which will finish only with my life. To live for Josephine—there is the history of my life. I am trying to reach you,—I am dying to be near you. Fool that I am, I do not perceive that I increase the distance between us. What lands, what countries separate us! What a time before you read these weak expressions of a troubled soul in which you reign? Ah! my adorable wife, I know not what fate awaits me, but if it keep me much longer from you it will be insupportable,—my courage will not go so far. There was a time when I was proud of my courage, and sometimes when contemplating all the ills that man could do me, or the fate which destiny could reserve for me, I fixed my eyes steadfastly on the most unheard-of misfortunes without a frown, without alarm;—but now the idea that my Josephine may be unwell, the idea that she may be ill, and above all the cruel, the fatal thought that she may love me less, withers my soul, stops my blood, renders me sad, cast down, and leaves me not even the courage of fury and despair. Formerly I used often to say to myself, men could not hurt him who could die without regret; but, now, to die without being loved by thee, to die without that certainty is the torment of hell; it is the lively and striking image of absolute annihilation—I feel as if I were stifled. My incomparable companion, thou whom fate has destined to make along with me the painful journey of life, the day on which I shall cease to possess thy heart will be the day on which parched nature will be to me without warmth or vegetation.

I stop, my sweet love, my soul is sad; my body is fatigued; my head is giddy; men disgust me; I ought to hate them,—they separate me from my beloved.

I am at Port Maurice near Oneille; to-morrow I shall be at Albenga; the two armies are in motion—We are endeavouring to deceive each other—Victory to the most skilful! I am pretty well satisfied with Beaulieu—If he alarm me much he is better man than his predecessor. I shall beat him I hope in good style. Do not be uneasy—love me as your eyes—but that is not enough—as yourself, more than yourself, than your thought, your mind, your sight, your all. Sweet love, forgive me,—I am sinking; nature is weak for him who feels strongly, for him whom you love!

N. B.

Sincere regards to Barras, Sussi, Madame Tallien—Compliments to Madame Château Renard; best love to Eugène and Hortense.

Adieu, adieu, I am going to bed without thee; I shall sleep without thee—pray let me sleep. Many times have I held thee in my arms,—happy dream! but,—but it is not thee.

To Citoyenne Bonaparte.

* * *

LETTER III

ALBENGA, the 16 Germinal. [March]*

[* April 5, 1796.]

It is one hour after midnight—they have brought me a letter—it is sad—my soul is affected by it—it is the death of Chauvet. He was Commissaire Ordinateur-in-chief of the army—you have seen him sometimes at Barras'. My love, I feel the want of consolation—that is to be obtained by writing to you, to you alone, the thought of whom can so much influence the moral state of my thoughts, on whom I must pour out my troubles. What is the future? What is the past? What are we? What magic fluid is it that surrounds us, and hides from us those things which it concerns us most to know? We are born, we live, we die, in the midst of the wonderful! Is it astonishing that priests, astrologers, charlatans, should have profited by this inclination, by this singular circumstance, to lead our ideas, and to direct them according to their passions? Chauvet is dead! He was attached to me. He has rendered essential services to his country. His last words were that he was setting off to join me.—But yes, I see his shade—it wanders around me everywhere—it whistles in the air—his soul is in the clouds—he will be propitious to my destiny! But insensible, I shed tears to friendship, and who shall tell me that I have not already to weep an irreparable loss? Soul of my existence, write to me by every courier, otherwise I cannot live. I am here very much occupied. Beaulieu moves his army. We are in sight. I am a little fatigued. I am every day on horseback. Adieu, adieu, adieu—I am going to sleep to thee. Sleep consoles me—it places me at thy side—I press thee in my arms.—But alas! on waking, I find myself three hundred leagues from thee. Say everything to Barras, to Tallien and his wife.

N. B.

To Citoyenne Bonaparte, etc.

* * *

LETTER IV

ALBENGA, the 18 Germinal. [March]*

[* April 7, 1796.]

I received a letter which you break off, to go, say you, into the country, and after that you assume the tone of being jealous of me, who am here overwhelmed with business and fatigue. Ah! my sweet love —— it is true, I am in the wrong. During the Spring the country is beautiful, and then the lover of 19 years would there find doubtless the means of snatching an instant more to write to him who, distant 300 leagues from you, lives, enjoys, exists only by the remembrance of you, who reads your letters as one devours a favourite dish after six hours' hunting. I am not satisfied. Your last letter is cold as friendship. I do not there find that fire which brightens your looks, that fire which I have there oftentimes fancied that I saw. But what is my waywardness! I found that your former letters weighed too heavily on my mind. The revolution which they there produced destroyed my repose, and enslaved my senses. I desired colder letters, but they give me the chill of death. The fear of not being loved by Josephine, the idea of seeing her inconstant, of ——. But I am forging troubles—there are so many real ones, is it necessary to fabricate more? You cannot have inspired me with boundless love without partaking of it, and with your soul, your thought, and your reason, one cannot...of the abundance of devotion, give...the stroke of death.*

[* Mr. Hall's translation: "You cannot have inspired a boundless love without sharing it, for a cultured mind and a soul like yours cannot requite complete surrender and devotion with the death blow."]

I have received the letter of Mde. Château Renard. I have written to the minister of...I will write tomorrow to the former, to whom you will present the usual compliments.—Real friendship to Mde. Tallien and Barras.

You do not speak of your wretched stomach.—I hate it. Adieu, till to-morrow, my sweet love.—A remembrance of my unequalled wife, and a victory over destiny—these are my wishes—an only wish, entirely worthy of him who every moment thinks of thee.

My brother is here. He has heard of my marriage with pleasure. He is most anxious to know you. I am trying to decide him to come to Paris. His wife has been brought to bed of a girl. He sends you a present of a box of Genoese sugar-plums. You will receive some oranges, some perfumes, and some orange-flower water, which I send you.

Junot, Murat present you their respects.

* * *

LETTER V

At Head-Quarters—CARRU—the 5th Floreal, 4th year of the French Republic. [April]*

[* April 24, 1796.]

TO MY SWEET LOVE,

My brother will give you this letter. I have the warmest regard for him. I hope he will obtain yours. He merits it. Nature has endowed him with a character gentle, equal and unchangeable, good. He is made up of good qualities. I have written to Barras that he may be named Consul in some Port of Italy. He wishes to live with his little wife far away from the great whirlwind, and from great affairs. I recommend him to you.

I have received your letters of the 16th and 21st. You have been many days without writing to me. What have you been doing? Yes, my good good love, I am not jealous, but sometimes uneasy. Come quickly—I warn you that if you delay you will find me ill—fatigue and your absence are too much at once. Your letters are the delight of my days, and my happy days are not frequent. Junot carries to Paris 22 standards. You must return with him. Do you understand?—if that is not disagreeable to you. Should he not come, misfortune without remedy, grief without consolation, endless suffering if I should have the misfortune to see him come alone! My adorable love, he will see thee—he will breathe in thy temple; perhaps, even you will grant him the rare and invaluable favour of kissing thy cheek; and I, I shall be alone, and very, very far away—but you are coming, are you not?—you will be here, by my side, upon my heart, in my arms—Take wings—come! come!—but travel gently—the road is long, bad and fatiguing. If you were to be overturned, or to be taken ill,—if the fatigue—go gently, my adorable love, but be often...with me in thought.

I have received a letter from Hortense. She is quite lovely. I am going to write to her. I love her dearly, and I will soon send her the perfumes that she wishes to have.

N. B.

I do not know whether you want money, for you have never spoken to me of business. If you do, ask my brother for some, who has zoo louis of mine.

N. B.

If you wish to place anyone you may send him here I will place him. Château Renard may come also.

To Citoyenne Bonaparte, etc.

* * *

LETTER VI

Head-Quarters—TORTONA—Noon, 27th Prairial, 4th year of the French Republic. [June]*

[* June 15, 1796.]

TO JOSEPHINE,

My life is a perpetual nightmare. A fatal foreboding hinders me from breathing. I no longer live. I have lost more than life, more than happiness, more than repose. I am almost without hope. I send you a courier—He will remain only four hours at Paris, and will then bring me your answer. Write me ten pages; that alone will console me a little. You are ill;—you love me;—I have made you unhappy. You are with child, and I do not see you! This idea confounds me. I have committed so many faults towards you, that I know not how to expiate them. I accuse you of having remained in Paris, and you are there ill. Forgive me, my darling;—the love with which you have inspired me has taken away my reason;—I shall never recover it; one never cures of that complaint. My forebodings are so sad, that I would limit myself to seeing you, to pressing you for two hours to my heart, to dying together! Who takes care of you? I suppose you have sent for Hortense. I love that sweet child a thousand times more since I think that she can afford you some little consolation. As for me, there is no consolation, no repose, no hope, until I have received the courier that I send you, and until you explain to me by a long letter what your illness is, and to what extent it is serious. If it be dangerous, I warn you, I set off instantly for Paris. My arrival will be a match for your illness. I have always been fortunate. Never has my fortune resisted my will, and to-day I am struck where alone I was vulnerable. Josephine, how can you remain so long without writing to me? Your last laconic letter is of the 3rd of the month. It is also afflicting for me. I have it, however, always in my pocket. Your portrait and your letters are incessantly before my eyes. I am nothing without you. I can hardly imagine how I existed without knowing you. Ah! Josephine, if you had known my heart you would not have waited from the 29th to the 16th to set off. Is it possible that you should have listened to false friends, who wished, perhaps, to keep you far from me? I own to all the world,—I have an antipathy to everybody who is near you. I calculated your departure on the 5th, and your arrival at Milan on the 15th.

Josephine, if you love me, if you believe that everything depends upon your preservation, take care of yourself. I dare not tell you not to undertake so long a journey and in the hot weather;—at least, if you are in a situation to travel, go short days' journeys. Write to me at every sleeping-place, and send me your letters in advance.

All my thoughts are concentrated in thy alcove, in thy bed, on thy heart—Thy illness! that is what occupies me night and day—without appetite, without sleep, without interest for friendship, for glory, for country, thou, thou and the rest of the world exist no more for me than if it were annihilated. I prize honour, because you prize it; victory, because it gives you pleasure, without which I should have quitted all to throw myself at your feet.

Sometimes I say to myself that I am alarmed without reason,—already is she recovered,—she is setting off,—she has set off,—she is already, perhaps at Lyons. Vain imagination! you are in your bed suffering; more beautiful, more interesting, more adorable. You are pale, and your eyes are more languishing—but when will you be well? If one of us must be ill, should it not be I? More robust and more courageous, I could have borne sickness more easily—Destiny is cruel. She strikes me through you.

What sometimes consoles me is, that it is in the power of fate to make you ill, but that no power can oblige me to survive you.

In your letter, my good love, take care to tell me that you are convinced that I love you, that I love you beyond what it is possible to imagine, that you are persuaded that every moment of my life is consecrated to you; that an hour never passes without my thinking of you; that the idea of thinking of any other woman has never entered my head; that they are all to my eyes without grace, without beauty, without wit; that you, you, nothing but you, such as I see you, such as you are, could please me and absorb all the faculties of my mind; that you have affected it all over; that my heart has no recess that you do not see; no thoughts of which you are not the mistress; that my strength, my arms, my soul are altogether yours; that my soul is in your body, and that the day on which you change or cease to live, will be that of my death; that nature, the earth, is beautiful to my eyes only because you inhabit it.—If you do not believe all that, if your mind is not convinced of it, penetrated, you grieve me, you love me not. There is a magnetic fluid between the persons who love each other. You know very well that I could never bear to let you have a lover, much less to offer you one. To tear his heart and to see him would be to me the same thing; and then, if I should dare to lay my hand upon your hallowed person—no, I should never dare to do it, but I would quit a life where that which is most virtuous should have deceived me.

But I am sure and proud of thy love. Misfortunes are the trials which expose all the violence of our mutual passion. A child, adorable as its mamma, is about to see day, and may pass many happy years in thy arms. Unhappy! I would be contented with a day. A thousand kisses upon thy eyes, upon thy lips, upon thy heart—Adorable woman! what is thy ascendancy! I am very ill of thy illness. I have, besides, a burning fever. Do not keep Le Simple...more than six hours. Let him return directly to bring the cherished letter of my Queen.

Do you remember the dream in which I was your shoes, your clothes, and I fancied that you entered quite into my heart? Why did not nature arrange in that way? There are many things to do.

N. B.

To Citoyenne Bonaparte, etc.

* * *

LETTER VII

At Head-Quarters, PISTOIA, in TUSCANY, the 8th Messidor, 4th year of the French Republic. [June]*

[* June 26, 1796.]

To JOSEPHINE.

For a month past I have received from my good love only two notes of three lines each—Is she so busy? She does not then find it necessary to write to her good friend, much less to think of him.—To live without thinking of Josephine! that would be to your husband to be dead, not to exist. Your image adorns my thoughts, and enlivens the black and sombre picture of melancholy and grief.—A day, perhaps, will come when I shall see you, for I doubt not that you are still at Paris—well, on that day I will show you my pockets full of letters which I have not sent to you, because they were too stupid; aye, that's the word. Good heavens! tell me, you who know so well how to make others love without loving in return, do you know how to cure me of love???—I will pay for this remedy dear enough.

You should have set out on the 5th Prairial,—Good man that I was, I waited till the 13th, as if a pretty woman could give up her habits, her friends, and Madame Tallien, and a dinner at Barras', and a representation of a new piece, and Fontane, yes, Fontane! You love everything better than your husband—you have for him only a little esteem, and a portion of that kindness with which your heart abounds. Every day I recapitulate your unkindness, your faults. I flog myself that I may love you no longer—bah, do I not love you still more? In short, my incomparable little mamma, I am going to tell you my secret. Laugh at me: remain at Paris; have lovers; let all the world know it; never write to me.—Ah, well! I shall love you for it ten times more.—Is that this folly, fever, madness!! and I shall never cure of it.—Oh yes! by heaven I shall cure of it; but don't take it into your head to tell me that you are ill; don't attempt to justify yourself. Good heaven! you are forgiven—I love you to folly, and never will my poor heart cease to give all to love;—if you loved me not, my fate would be wretched indeed. You have not written to me;—you were ill;—you are not arrived...would not let you—and then your illness, and then the little child which was so much on the move that it made you ill. But you have passed Lyons,—you will be at Turin on the l0th, on the 12th at Milan, where you will wait for me—You will be in Italy, and I shall still be far from you—Adieu, my well beloved—a kiss upon thy mouth, another upon thy heart, and another upon thy little infant.

We have made peace with Rome, who gives us money—We shall be to-morrow at Leghorn, and as soon as possible in thy arms, at thy feet, on thy bosom.

To Citoyenne Bonaparte.

* * *

LETTER VIII

11 o'clock at Night. [Without date]

I am beside myself—I set out in an hour for Vercelli—Murat will be at Novara this evening—the enemy is all in confusion—he has no idea of our intentions.—In ten days I hope to be in the arms of my Josephine, who is always very good when she does not cry, and does not play the coquette. Your son arrived this evening—I have had him examined; he is quite well. A thousand tender wishes.

I have received M——'s letter—I will send her by the next courier a pound of excellent cherries. We are here;—in less than two months, for Paris!

Entirely thine,

N. B.

To Madame Bonaparte.


ROBERT BURNS (1759-1796)
AND
AGNES M'LEHOSE (1759-1841)

Illustration Illustration

You shall never take a woman without her answer,
unless you take her without her tongue.

"As You Like It."
SHAKESPEARE

* * *

Go on, sweet bird, and soothe my care,
Thy cheerful notes will hush despair;
Thy tuneful warblings, void of art,
Thrill sweetly through my aching heart.
Now choose thy mate and fondly love,
And all the charming transport prove;
These sweet emotions all enjoy,
Let Love and Song thy hours employ;
Whilst I a lovelorn exile, live,
And rapture nor receive nor give.
Go on, sweet bird, and soothe my care,
Thy cheerful notes will hush despair.

—To a Blackbird singing on a Tree.
Morningside, 1784.
AGNES M'LEHOSE

* * * * * * *

Robert Burns was born at Alloway to a humble cottar, a man of remarkable and sterling character, who educated his son himself. Robert began life as a farm labourer, and as a writer of verses in the old Scotch ballad tradition; after trying his hand at surveying and farming and leading a life far too convivial for the taste of his friends, Burns obtained a position as overseer on a Jamaica plantation 1786. In order to raise the money for the passage to the West Indies for himself and his proposed bride, Mary Campbell, Burns had his poems printed. Mary died and Burns went to Edinburgh to enjoy the success made by his poetry. As he was handsome, attractive, full of zest and vitality, he was much sought after by both the intellectuals and the good fellows of the capital, and became acceptable in both the drawing-rooms and the Masonic and drinking-clubs. He continued his success with his verses and songs; in 1787 he travelled extensively in his own country and on returning to Edinburgh began his romantic exchange of letters with Margaret Chalmers and Agnes M'Lehose, "Peggy" and "Clarinda," though deeply engaged at the time to Jean Armour, whom he married in 1788. He returned to farming until 1791 when he took the job of exciseman at £70 per annum. His hard drinking habits increased, and in 1796 he contracted rheumatic fever as the result of exposure after a carouse and died miserably oppressed by poverty and anxiety.

Agnes M'Lehose was born in Glasgow, her maiden name was Craig, her family was well connected, of her education we are told that "her education was much neglected" and consisted largely in learning "that laborious idleness called sampler work." She lost her mother when she was fifteen years of age and was brought up by her father, who married her to Mr. James M'Lehose, a "young man of respectable connexions", whom she accepted in 1776. The youthful couple soon passionately disagreed and were separated by 1780, after the birth of four children. Mrs. M'Lehose, then only twenty-one years of age, returned to her father's house, her children were "distributed among her husband's relations," while Mr. M'Lehose himself indulged "in every species of dissipation." By 1782 the death of her father had rendered the romantic Agnes independent and she removed from Glasgow to Edinburgh. Her husband soon went to Jamaica, where he made himself 'comfortable with a black mistress,' and the deserted wife supported the three surviving children with the generous help of a kinsman, Lord Craig. The lovely and interesting Agnes soon joined "a social circle in Edinburgh of which she became an ornament," and "at this period she began cultivating the muses." 'Address to a Blackbird' was her first and most admired effort. Mrs. M'Lehose presided over a salon where the intellectuals of the day gathered; towards the end of 1787 Robert Burns met Mrs. M'Lehose at the house of a common friend, Miss Nimmo. Soon after he met with an accident that prevented his proposed departure from Edinburgh and confined him to the house; the 'Clarinda' and 'Sylvander' correspondence then began. When he recovered a flirtation more or less discreet ensued, after several months of this Burns, tired, one may suppose, of the fine drawn nonsense, where a man of genius and a silly woman met on equal terms, left Edinburgh and married Jean Armour, who had for some time been his mistress. Clarinda met her swain once again in 1791, and was his 'occasional correspondent' until shortly before his death.

Clarinda's subsequent history was not romantic; after trying in vain to obtain money from her husband, she decided to join him in Jamaica; she sailed from Leith in 1792, and "suffered much from the voyage." Her husband's reception of her was so cold that she fell into a "complication of nervous disorders" from which there was fear for her reason or her life. One of the causes of her agitation was the sight of her husband's coloured family. "A source of mortification and annoyance." After three months in Jamaica Agnes returned to Scotland; she had now lost two other children and devoted herself to her surviving son, Andrew. The erring husband died in 1812. Agnes survived him twenty-nine years, outliving her son and his family. Her old age was serene; shortly before her death "she quoted the tenth verse of the nineteenth Psalm with great accuracy and emphasis."

Agnes M'Lehose was a pretty woman; this was the reason of Robert Burns's interest in her; she was short, fair, delicate with a soft pleasing voice; her contemporaries credited her with too much sensitiveness and too great a vivacity. She seems to have borne some likeness to Eliza Draper. On December 6, 1831, she noted in her diary, "This day I can never forget. Parted with Burns in the year 1791, never more to meet in this world—Oh! may we meet in Heaven! "

The following letters are selected from the complete correspondence arranged and edited by her grandson, W. C. M'Lehose: The Correspondence between Burns and Clarinda, Edinburgh, 1843.

The letters were, in this edition, printed for the first time from the originals, that were somewhat damaged from being handed round among the curious and somewhat mutilated by autograph hunters. We are not told if Clarinda kept copies of her effusions or if Burns returned her the originals. The numbers of the letters in this collection have been retained in brackets. The above note on the life of Clarinda is abridged from the memoir of her grandson.

To Clarinda
(With a present of a pair of drinking glasses.)

Fair Empress of the Poet's soul,
And Queen of Poetesses,
Clarinda, take this little boon,
This humble pair of glasses;

And fill them high with generous juice,
As generous as your mind,
And pledge me in the generous toast,
"The whole of humankind!"

"To those who love us!" second fill,
But not to those whom we love;
Lest we love those who love not us.
A third, "To thee and me, love!"

ROBERT BURNS.


* * *

LETTER I [7]

Sylvander to Clarinda

(December 21st.)

I beg your pardon, my dear "Clarinda," for the fragment scrawl I sent you yesterday. I really don't know what I wrote. A gentleman for whose character, abilities, and critical knowledge, I have the highest veneration, called in just as I had begun the second sentence, and I would not make the porter wait. I read to my much-respected friend several of my own bagatelles, and, among others, your lines, which I had copied out. He began some criticisms on them, as on the other pieces, when I informed him they were the work of a young lady in this town; which I assure you, made him stare. My learned friend seriously protested, that he did not believe any young woman in Edinburgh was capable of such lines; and if you know anything of Professor Gregory, you will neither doubt of his abilities nor his sincerity. I do love you, if possible, still better for having so fine a taste and turn for poesy. I have again gone wrong in my usual unguarded way; but you may erase the word, and put esteem, respect, or any other tame Dutch expression you please in its place. I believe there is no holding converse, or carrying on correspondence with an amiable woman, much less a gloriously-amiable fine woman, without some mixture of that delicious passion, whose most devoted slave I have more than once had the honour of being. But why be hurt or offended on that account? Can no honest man have a prepossession for a fine woman, but he must run his head against an intrigue? Take a little of the tender witchcraft of love, and add it to the generous, the honourable sentiments of manly friendship, and I know but one more delightful morsel, which few, few in any rank ever taste. Such a composition is like adding a cream to strawberries; it not only gives the fruit a more elegant richness, but has a peculiar deliciousness of its own.

I enclose you a few lines I composed on a late melancholy occasion. I will not give above five or six copies of it at all; and I would be hurt if any friend should give any copies without my consent.

You cannot imagine, Clarinda (I like the idea of Arcadian names in a commerce of this kind), how much store I have set by the hopes of your future friendship. I don't know if you have a just idea of my character, but I wish you to see me as I am. I am, as most people of my trade are, a strange will-o'-wisp being; the victim, too frequently, of much imprudence, and many follies. My great constituent elements are pride and passion; the first I have endeavoured to humanise into integrity and honour; the last makes me a devotee, to the warmest degree of enthusiasm, in love, religion, or friendship; either of them, or altogether, as I happen to be inspired. 'Tis true I never saw you but once; but how much acquaintance did I form with you at that once? Do not think I flatter you, or have a design upon you, Clarinda; I have too much pride for the one, and too little cold contrivance for the other; but of all God's creatures I ever could approach in the beaten way of acquaintance, you struck me with the deepest, the strongest, the most permanent impression. I say the most permanent, because I know myself well, and how far I can promise either on my prepossessions or powers. Why are you unhappy?—and why are so many of our fellow-creatures, unworthy to belong to the same species with you, blest with all they can wish? You have a hand all-benevolent to give,—why were you denied the pleasure? You have a heart formed, gloriously formed, for all the most refined luxuries of love,—why was that heart ever wrung? O Clarinda! shall we not meet in a state, some yet unknown state of being, where the lavish hand of Plenty shall minister to the highest wish of Benevolence, and where the chill north-wind of Prudence shall never blow over the flowery fields of enjoyment? If we do not, man was made in vain! I deserved most of the unhappy hours that have lingered over my head: they were the wages of my labour. But what unprovoked demon, malignant as hell, stole upon the confidence of un-mistrusting, busy fate, and dashed your cup of life with undeserved sorrow?

Let me know how long your stay will be out of town: I shall count the hours till you inform me of your return. Cursed etiquette forbids your seeing me just now; and so soon as I can walk I must bid Edinburgh adieu. Lord, why was I born to see misery which I cannot relieve, and to meet with friends whom I can't enjoy! I look back with the pangs of unavailing avarice on my loss in not knowing you sooner. All last winter,—these three months past,—what luxury of intercourse have I not lost! Perhaps, though, 'twas better for my peace. You see I am either above, or incapable of dissimulation. I believe it is want of that particular genius. I despise design, because I want either coolness or wisdom to be capable of it. I am interrupted. Adieu, my dear Clarinda!

SYLVANDER.

Friday Evening.

* * *

LETTER II [8]

Clarinda to Sylvander

Friday Evening (December 21).

I go to the country early to-morrow morning, but will be home by Tuesday—sooner than I expected. I have not time to answer yours as it deserves; nor, had I the age of Methusalem, could I answer it in kind. I shall grow vain. Your praises were enough—but those of a Dr. Gregory superadded! Take care: many a "glorious" woman has been undone by having her head turned. "Know you"!" I know you far better than you do me. Like yourself, I am a bit of an enthusiast. In religion and friendship quite a bigot—perhaps I could be so in love too; but everything dear to me in heaven and earth forbids! This is my fixed principle; and the person who would dare to endeavour to remove it I would hold as my chief enemy. Like you, I am incapable of dissimulation; nor am I, as you suppose, unhappy. I have been unfortunate; but guilt alone could make me unhappy. Possessed of fine children—competence,—fame,—friends, kind and attentive,—what a monster of ingratitude should I be in the eye of Heaven were I to style myself unhappy! True, I have met with scenes horrible to recollection—even at six years' distance; but adversity, my friend, is allowed to be the school of virtue. It oft confers that chastened softness which is unknown among the favourites of Fortune! Even a mind possessed of natural sensibility, without this, never feels that exquisite pleasure which nature has annexed to our sympathetic sorrows. Religion, the only refuge of the unfortunate, has been my balm in every woe. O! could I make her appear to you as she has done to me! Instead of ridiculing her tenets, you would fall down and worship her very semblance wherever you found it!

I will write you again at more leisure, and notice other parts of yours. I send you a simile upon a character I don't know if you are acquainted with. I am confounded at your admiring my lines. I shall begin to question your taste, but Dr. G.! When I am low-spirited (which I am at times) I shall think of this as a restorative. Now for the simile:

The morning sun shines glorious and bright,
And fills the heart with wonder and delight!
He dazzles in meridian splendour seen,
Without a blackening cloud to intervene.
So, at a distance viewed, your genius bright,
Your wit, your flowing numbers give delight.
But ah! when error's dark'ning clouds rise,
When passion's thunder, folly's lightning flies,
More safe we gaze, but admiration dies.
And as the tempting brightness snares the moth,
Sure ruin marks too near approach to both.

Good night; for Clarinda's "heavenly eyes" need the earthly aid of sleep.

CLARINDA.

P.S.—I entreat you not to mention our corresponding to one on earth. Though I've conscious innocence, my situation is a delicate one.

* * *

LETTER III [20]

Sylvander to Clarinda

(January 12.)

You talk of weeping, Clarinda: some involuntary drops wet your lines as I read them. Offend me, my dearest angel! You cannot offend me,—you never offended me. If you had ever given me the least shadow of offence, so pardon me my God as I forgive Clarinda. I have read yours again; it had blotted my paper. Though I find your letter has agitated me into a violent headache, I shall take a chair and be with you about eight. A friend is to be with us at tea, on my account, which hinders me from coming sooner. Forgive, my dearest Clarinda, my unguarded expressions! For Heaven's sake, forgive me, or I shall never be able to bear my own mind.

Your unhappy,

SYLVANDER.

* * *

LETTER IV [21]

Clarinda to Sylvander

Sunday Evening

(January 13).

I will not deny it, Sylvander, last night was one of the most exquisite I ever experienced. Few such fall to the lot of mortals! Few, extremely few, are formed to relish such refined enjoyment. That it should be so, vindicates the wisdom of Heaven. But, though our enjoyment did not lead beyond the limits of virtue, yet to-day's reflections have not been altogether unmixed with regret. The idea of the pain it would have given, were it known to a friend to whom I am bound by the sacred ties of gratitude (no more), the opinion Sylvander may have formed from my unreservedness; and, above all, some secret misgivings that Heaven may not approve, situated as I am—these procured me a sleepless night; and, though at church, I am not at all well.

Sylvander, you saw Clarinda last night, behind the scenes! Now, you'll be convinced she has faults. If she knows herself, her intention is always good; but she is too often the victim of sensibility, and, hence, is seldom pleased with herself.

* * *

LETTER V [31]

Clarinda to Sylvander

Sunday, Eight Evening (27th).

Sylvander, when I think of you as my dearest and most attached friend, I am highly pleased: but when you come across my mind as my lover, something within gives a sting resembling that of guilt. Tell me why is this? It must be from the idea that I am another's. What! another's wife. Oh cruel Fate! I am, indeed, bound in an iron chain. Forgive me, if this should give you pain. You know I must (I told you I must) tell you my genuine feelings, or be silent. Last night we were happy beyond what the bulk of mankind can conceive. Perhaps the "line" you had marked was a little infringed,—it was really; but, though I disapprove, I have not been unhappy about it. I am convinced no less of your discernment, than of your wish to make your Clarinda happy. 'I know you sincere, when you profess horror at the idea of what would render her miserable for ever. Yet we must guard against going to the verge of danger. Ah! my friend, much need had we to "watch, and pray!" May those benevolent spirits, whose office it is to save the fall of Virtue struggling on the brink of Vice, be ever present to protect and guide us in right paths!

I had an hour's conversation to-day with my worthy friend Mr. Kemp.* You'll attribute, perhaps, to this, the above sentiments. 'Tis true, there's not one on earth has so much influence on me, except—Sylvander; partly it has forced me "to feel along the Mental Intelligence." However, I've broke the ice. I confessed I had conceived a tender impression of late—that it was mutual, and that I had wished to unbosom myself to him (as I always did), particularly to ask if he thought I should, or not, mention it to my friend? I saw he felt for me (for I was in tears), but he bewailed that I had given my heart while in my present state of bondage; wished I had made it friendship only; in short, talked to me in the style of a tender parent, anxious for my happiness. He disapproves altogether of my saying a syllable of the matter to my friend,—says it could only make him uneasy; and that I am in no way bound to do it by any one tie. This has eased me of a load which has lain upon my mind ever since our intimacy. Sylvander, I wish you and Mr. Kemp were acquainted,—such worth and sensibility! If you had his piety and sobriety of manners, united to the shining abilities you possess, you'd be "a faultless monster which the world ne'er saw." He, too, has great talents. His imagination is rich—his feelings delicate—his discernment acute; yet there are shades in his, as in all characters: but these it would ill become Clarinda to point out. Alas! I know too many blots in my own.

[* The Reverend John Kemp, minister of the Tolbooth Church, Edinburgh, a man of acknowledged acquirements and ability, and of high standing in society. He twice intermarried with the nobility.]

Sylvander, I believe nothing were a more impracticable task than to make you feel a little of genuine gospel humility. Believe me, I wish not to see you deprived of that noble fire of an exalted mind which you eminently possess. Yet a sense of your faults—a feeling sense of them!—were devoutly to be wished. Tell me, did you ever, or how oft have you smote on your breast, and cried, "God be merciful to me a sinner"? I fancy, once or twice, when suffering from the effects of your errors. Pardon me if I be hurting your "intrinsic dignity"; it need not—even "divine Clarinda" has been in this mortal predicament.

Pray, what does Mr. Ainslie think of her? Was he not astonished to find her merely human? Three weeks ago, I suppose you would have made him walk into her presence unshod: but one must bury even divinities when they discover symptoms of mortality!—(Let these be interred in Sylvander's bosom.)

My dearest friend, there are two wishes uppermost in my heart; to see you think alike with Clarinda on religion, and settled in some creditable line of business. The warm interest I take in both these, is, perhaps, the best proof of the sincerity of my friendship—as well as earnest of its duration. As to the first, I devolve it over into the hands of the Omniscient! May he raise up friends who will effectuate the other! While I breathe these fervent wishes, think not anything but pure disinterested regard prompts them. They are fond but chimerical ideas. They are never indulged but in the hour of tender endearment, when

...Innocence
Looked gaily smiling on, while rosy Pleasure
Hid young Desire amid her flowery wreath,
And poured her cup luxuriant, mantling high
The sparkling, Heavenly vintage—Love and Bliss.

'Tis past ten—and I please myself with thinking Sylvander will be about to retire, and write to Clarinda. I fancy you'll find this stupid enough; but I can't be always bright—the sun will be sometimes under a cloud. Sylvan-der, I wish our kind feelings were more moderate; why set one's heart upon impossibilities? Try me merely as your friend (alas, all I ought to be). Believe me, you'll find me most rational. If you'd caress the "mental intelligence" as you do the corporeal frame, indeed, Sylvander you'd make me a philosopher. I see you fidgeting at this violently, blasting rationality. I have a headache which brings home these things to the mind. To-morrow I'll hear from you, I hope. This is Sunday, and not a word on our favourite subject. O fy, "divine Clarinda." I intend giving you my idea of Heaven in opposition to your heathenish description (which, by the by, was elegantly drawn). Mine shall be founded on Reason and supported by Scripture; but it's too late, my head aches, but my heart is affectionately yours.

Monday Morning.

I am almost not sorry at the Excise affair misgiving. You will be better out of Edinburgh—it is full of temptation to one of your social turn.

Providence (if you be wise in future) will order something better for you. I am half glad you were schooled about the Inscription; 'twill be a lesson, I hope in future. Clarinda would have lectured you on it before, "if she dared." Miss Nimmo is a woman after my own heart. You are reconciled to the world by her "friendly prattle"? How can you talk so diminutively of the conversation of a woman of solid sense? what will you say of Clarinda's chit-chat? I suppose you would give it a still more insignificant term if you dared; but it is mixed with something that makes it bearable, were it even weaker than it is. Miss Nimmo is right in both her conjectures. Ah, Sylvander! my peace must suffer—yours cannot. You think, in loving Clarinda, you are doing right; all Sylvander's eloquence cannot convince me that it is so? If I were but at liberty—Oh how I could indulge in all the luxury of innocent love! It is, I fear, too late to talk in this strain, after indulging you and myself so much; but would Sylvander shelter his Love in Friendship's allowed garb, Clarinda would be far happier.

To-morrow, didst thou say? The time is short now—is it not too frequent? do not sweetest dainties cloy soonest? Take your chance—come half-past eight. If anything particular occur to render it improper to-morrow, I'll send you word, and name another evening. Mr. —— is to call to-night, I believe. He, too, trembles for my peace. Two such worthies to be interested about my foolish ladyship 1 The Apostle Paul, with all his rhetoric, could not reconcile me to the great (little souls) when I think of them and Sylvander together; but I pity them.

If e'er ambition did my fancy cheat,
With any wish so mean, as to be great,
Continue, Heaven, far from me to remove
The humble blessings of that life I love.

Till we meet, my dear Sylvander, adieu!

CLARINDA.

* * *

LETTER VI [26]

Sylvander to Clarinda

Thursday Morning (Jan. 24).

"Unlavish Wisdom never works in vain."

I have been tasking my reason, Clarinda, why a woman, who, for native genius, poignant wit, strength of mind, generous sincerity of soul, and the sweetest female tenderness, is without a peer; and whose personal charms have few, very few parallels among her sex; why, or how, she should fall to the blessed lot of a poor harum-scarum poet, whom Fortune had kept for her particular use to wreak her temper on, whenever she was in ill-humour.

One time I conjectured that, as Fortune is the most capricious jade ever known, she may have taken, not a fit of remorse, but a paroxysm of whim, to rase the poor devil out of the mire where he had so often, and so conveniently, served her as a stepping stone, and given him the most glorious boon she ever had in her gift, merely for the maggot's sake, to see how his fool head and his fool heart will bear it.

At other times, I was vain enough to think that Nature, who has a great deal to say with Fortune, had given the coquettish goddess some such hint as—"Here is a paragon of female excellence, whose equal, in all my former compositions, I was never lucky enough to hit on, and despair of ever doing so again; you have cast her rather in the shades of life. There is a certain poet of my making; among your frolics, it would not be amiss to attach him to this masterpiece of my hand, to give her that immortality among mankind, which no woman of any age ever more deserved, and which few rhymesters of this age are better able to confer."

Evening, Nine o'clock.

I am here—absolutely unfit to finish my letter—pretty hearty, after a bowl which has been constantly plied since dinner till this moment. I have been with Mr. Schetki the musician, and he has set the song* finely. I have no distinct ideas of anything, but that I have drunk your health twice to-night, and that you are all my soul holds dear in this world.

SYLVANDER.

[* To Clarinda

Clarinda, mistress of my soul,
The measured time is run!
The wretch beneath the dreary pole
So marks his latest sun.

To what dark cave of frozen night
Shall poor Sylvander hie,
Deprived of thee, his life and light—
The sun of all his joy!

We part—but by those precious drops,
That fill thy lovely eyes!
No other light shall guide my steps,
Till thy bright beams arise.

She, the fair sun of all her sex,
Has blest my glorious day;
And shall a glimmering planet fix
My worship to its ray?]

* * *

LETTER VII [27]

Thursday Forenoon (January 24th).

Sylvander, the moment I waked this morning, I received a summons from Conscience to appear at the Bar of Reason. While I trembled before this sacred throne, I beheld a succession of figures pass before me in awful brightness! Religion, clad in a robe of light, stalked majestically along, her hair dishevelled, and in her hand the Scriptures of Truth, held open at these words—"If you love me, keep my commandments." Reputation followed: her eyes darted indignation, while she waved a beautiful wreath of laurel, intermixed with flowers, gathered by Modesty in the Bower of Peace. Consideration held her bright mirror close to my eyes, and made me start at my own image! Love alone appeared as counsel in my behalf. She was adorned with a veil, borrowed from Friendship, which hid her defects, and set off her beauties to advantage. She had no plea to offer, but that of being the sister of Friendship, and the offspring of Charity. But Reason refused to listen to her defence, because she brought no certificate from the Temple of Hymen! While I trembled before her, Reason addressed me in the following manner: "Return to my paths, which alone are peace; shut your heart against the fascinating intrusion of the passions; take Consideration for your guide, and you will soon arrive at the Bower of Tranquillity."

Sylvander, to drop my metaphor, I am neither well nor happy to-day; my heart reproaches me for last night. If you wish Clarinda to regain her peace, determine against everything but what the strictest delicacy warrants.

I do not blame you, but myself. I must not see you on Saturday, unless I find I can depend on myself acting otherwise. Delicacy, you know, it was which won me to you at once: take care you do not loosen the dearest, most sacred tie that unites us? Remember Clarinda's present and eternal happiness depends upon her adherence to Virtue. Happy Sylvander! that can be attached to Heaven and Clarinda together. Alas! I feel I cannot serve two masters. God pity me!!

* * *

LETTER VIII [28]

Sylvander to Clarinda

(January 25.)

Clarinda, my life, you have wounded my soul. Can I think of your being unhappy, even though it be not described in your pathetic elegance of language, without being miserable? Clarinda, can I bear to be told from you that "you will not see me to-morrow night—that you wish the hour of parting were come"? Do not let us impose on ourselves by sounds. If, in the moment of fond endearment and tender dalliance, I perhaps trespassed against the letter of Decorum's law, I appeal, even to you, whether I ever sinned, in the very least degree, against the spirit of her strictest statute? But why, my love, talk to me in such strong terms; every word of which cuts me to the very soul? You know a hint, the slightest signification of your wish, is to me a sacred command.

Be reconciled, my angel, to your God, yourself, and me; and I pledge you Sylvander's honour—an oath, I daresay, you will trust without reserve, that you shall never more have reason to complain of his conduct. Now, my love, do not wound our next meeting with any averted looks or restrained caresses. I have marked the line of conduct—a line, I know, exactly to your taste—and which I will inviolably keep: but do not you show the least inclination to make boundaries. Seeming distrust, where you know you may confide, is a cruel sin against sensibility.

"Delicacy, you know, it was which won me to you at once; take care you do not loosen the dearest, most sacred tie that unites us." Clarinda, I would not have stung your soul—I would not have bruised your spirit as that harsh crucifying "Take care" did mine; no, not to have gained heaven! Let me again appeal to your dear self, if Sylvander, even when he seemingly half transgressed the laws of decorum, if he did not show more chastised, trembling, faltering delicacy, than the many of the world do in keeping these laws!

Oh Love and Sensibility, ye have conspired against my Peace t I love to madness, and I feel to torture! Clarinda, how can I forgive myself, that I have ever touched a single chord in your bosom with pain! would I do it willingly? Would any consideration, any gratification, make me do so? Oh, did you love, like me, you would not, you could not, deny or put off a meeting with the man who adores you;—who would die a thousand deaths before he would injure you; and who must soon bid you a long farewell!

I had proposed bringing my bosom friend, Mr. Ainslie, to-morrow evening, at his strong request, to see you; as he has only time to stay with us about ten minutes, for an engagement. But I shall hear from you; this afternoon, for mercy's sake!—for, till I hear from you, I am wretched. O Clarinda, the tie that binds me to thee is intwisted, incorporated with my dearest threads of life!

SYLVANDER.

* * *

LETTER IX [41]

(February 13th.)

MY EVER DEAREST CLARINDA,—I make a numerous dinner-party wait me while I read yours* and write this. Do not require that I should cease to love you, to adore you in my soul; 'tis to me impossible: your peace and happiness are to me dearer than my soul. Name the terms on which you wish to see me, to correspond with me, and you have them. I must love, pine, mourn, and adore in secret; this you must not deny me. You will ever be to me—

Dear as the light that visits those sad eyes,
Dear as the ruddy drops that warm my heart.

[* The letters of Clarinda referred to in this and the three following letters, were not found by the Editor among the papers of Mrs. M'Lehose, when delivered to him.]

I have not patience to read the Puritanic scrawl. Damned sophistry. Ye heavens, thou God of nature, thou Redeemer of mankind! ye look down with approving eyes on a passion inspired by the purest flame, and guarded by truth, delicacy, and honour; but the half-inch soul of an unfeeling, cold-blooded, pitiful Presbyterian bigot cannot forgive anything above his dungeon-bosom and foggy head.

Farewell! I'll be with you to-morrow evening; and be at rest in your mind. I will be yours in the way you think most to your happiness. I dare not proceed. I love, and will love you; and will, with joyous confidence, approach the throne of the Almighty Judge of men with your dear idea; and will despise the scum of sentiment, and the mist of sophistry.

SYLVANDER.

* * *

LETTER X [45]

Sylvander to Clarinda

(February 15th.)

When matters, my love, are desperate, we must put on a desperate face—

On reason build resolve,
That column of true majesty in man—

or, as the same author finely says in another place,

Let thy soul spring up,
And lay strong hold for help on him that made thee.

I am yours, Clarinda, for life. Never be discouraged at all this. Look forward: in a few weeks I shall be somewhere or other, out of the possibility of seeing you: till then, I shall write you often, but visit you seldom. Your fame, your welfare, your happiness, are dearer to me than any gratification whatever. Be comforted, my love! the present moment is the worst; the lenient hand of time is daily and hourly either lightening the burden, or making us insensible to the weight. None of these friends—I mean Mr. —— and the other gentleman—can hurt your worldly support: and of their friendship, in a little time you will learn to be easy, and by and by to be happy without it. A decent means of livelihood in the world, an approving God, a peaceful conscience, and one firm trusty friend—can anybody that has these be said to be unhappy? These are yours.

To-morrow evening I shall be with you about eight, probably for the last time till I return to Edinburgh. In the meantime, should any of these two unlucky friends question you respecting me, whether I am the man, I do not think they are entitled to any information. As to their jealousy and spying I despise them.

Adieu, my dearest Madam!

SYLVANDER.

* * *

LETTER XI [49]

Clarinda to Sylvander

EDINBURGH, Friday Evening (22d Feb.)

I wish you had given me a hint, my dear Sylvander, that you were to write me only once in a week. Yesterday I looked for a letter, to-day, never doubted it; but both days have terminated in disappointment. A thousand conjectures have conspired to make me most unhappy. Often have I suffered much disquiet from forming the idea of such an attention, on such and such an occasion, and experienced quite the reverse. But in you, and you alone, I have ever found my highest demands of kindness accomplished; nay even my fondest wishes, not gratified only, but anticipated! To what, then, can I attribute your not writing me one line since Monday?

God forbid that your nervous ailment has incapacitated you for that office, from which you derived pleasure singly; as well as that most delicate of all enjoyments, pleasure reflected. To-morrow I shall hope to hear from you. Hope blessed hope, thou balm of every wo (sic), possess and fill my bosom with thy benign influence.

I have been solitary since the tender farewell till to-night. I was solicited to go to Dr. Moyes's lecture with Miss Craig and a gallant of hers, a student; one of the many stupid animals, knowing only in the Science of Puppyism, "or the nice conduct of a clouded cane." With what sovereign contempt did I compare his trite, insipid frivolity with the intelligent, manly observation which ever marks the conversation of Sylvander. He is a glorious piece of divine workmanship, Dr. Moyes. The subject to-night was the origin of minerals, springs, lakes and the ocean. Many parts were far beyond my weak comprehension, and indeed that of most women. What I understood delighted me, and altogether raised my thoughts to the infinite wisdom and boundless goodness of the Deity. The man himself marks both. Presented with a universal blank of Nature's works* his mind appears to be illuminated with Celestial light. He concluded with some lines of the Essay on Man: "All are but parts of one stupendous whole," etc., a passage I have often read with sublime pleasure.

[* Dr. Moyes was blind.]

Miss Burnet* sat just behind me. What an angelic girl! I stared at her, having never seen her so near. I remembered you talking of her, etc. What felicity to witness her "softly speak and sweetly smile!" How could you celebrate any other Clarinda! Oh, I would have adored you, as Pope of exquisite taste and refinement, had you loved, sighed, and written upon her forever! breathing your passion only to the woods and streams. But Poets, I find, are not quite incorporeal, more than others. My dear Sylvander, to be serious, I really wonder you ever admired Clarinda, after beholding Miss Burnet's superior charms. If I don't hear to-morrow, I shall form dreadful reasons. God forbid! Bishop Geddes was within a foot of me, too. What field for contemplation—both!

[* This young lady died of consumption in 1790, at the age of twenty-five. She was second daughter of the eccentric Lord Monboddo, and refused several advantageous offers of marriage, to nurse his declining years. She was a rare combination of beauty, grace, and goodness.]

Good night. God bless you, prays

CLARINDA.

* * *

LETTER XII [59]

Sylvander to Clarinda

March 9th, 1789.

MADAM,—The letter you wrote me to Heron's carried its own answer in its bosom; you forbade me to write you, unless I was willing to plead guilty to a certain indictment that you were pleased to bring against me. As I am convinced of my own innocence, and, though conscious of high imprudence and egregious folly, can lay my hand on my breast and attest the rectitude of my heart, you will pardon me, Madam, if I do not carry my complaisance so far, as humbly to acquiesce in the name of Villain, merely out of compliment to your opinion; much as I esteem your judgment, and warmly as I regard your worth.

I have already told you, and I again aver it, that, at the period of time alluded to, I was not under the smallest moral tie to Mrs. B——; nor did I, nor could I then know, all the powerful circumstances that omnipotent necessity was busy laying in wait for me. When you call over the scenes that have passed between us, you will survey the conduct of an honest man, struggling successfully with temptations, the most powerful that ever beset humanity, and preserving untainted honour, in situations where the austerest virtue would have forgiven a fall; in situations that, I will dare to say, not a single individual of all his kind, even with half his sensibility and passion, could have encountered without ruin; and I leave you to guess, Madam, how such a man is likely to digest an accusation of perfidious treachery.

Was I to blame, Madam, in being the distracted victim of charms which, I affirm it, no man ever approached with impunity? Had I seen the least glimmering of hope that these charms could ever have been mine; or even had not iron necessity—But these are unavailing words.

I would have called on you when I was in town, indeed I could not have resisted it, but that Mr. Ainslie told me, that you were determined to avoid your windows while I was in town, lest even a glance of me should occur in the street.

When I shall have regained your good opinion, perhaps I may venture to solicit your friendship: but, be that as it may, the first of her sex I ever knew shall always be the object of my warmest good wishes.

* * *

LETTER XIII [67]

Clarinda to Sylvander

25th January, 1792.

Agitated, hurried to death, I sit down to write a few lines to you, my ever dear, dear friend! We are ordered abroad on Saturday,—to sail on Sunday. And now, my dearest Sir, I have a few things to say to you, as the last advice of her, who could have lived or died with you! I am happy to know of your applying so steadily to the business you have engaged in; but, oh remember, this life is a short, passing scene! Seek God's favour,—keep His Commandments,—be solicitous to prepare for a happy eternity! There, I trust, we will meet, in perfect, and never-ending bliss. Read my former letters attentively: let the religious tenets there expressed sink deep into your mind; meditate on them with candour, and your accurate judgment must be convinced that they accord with the words of Eternal Truth! Laugh no more at holy things, or holy men: remember, "without holiness, no man shall see God." Another thing, and I have done; as you value my peace, do not write me to Jamaica, until I let you know you may with safety. Write Mary often. She feels for you! and judges of your present feelings by her own. I am sure you will be happy to hear of my happiness: and I trust you will—soon. If there is time, you may drop me a line ere I go, to inform me if you get this, and another letter I wrote you, dated the 21st, which I am afraid of having been neglected to be put into the office.

So it was the Roselle you were to have gone in! I read your letter to-day, and reflected deeply on the ways of Heaven! To us they oft appear dark and doubtful; but let us do our duty faithfully, and sooner or later we will have our reward, because "the Lord God Omnipotent reigns": every upright mind has here cause to rejoice. And now, adieu. May Almighty God bless you and yours! take you into His blessed favour here, and afterwards receive you into His glory!

Farewell. I will ever, ever remain.

Your real friend,

A. M.

* * *

LETTER XIV [37]

Sylvander to Clarinda

(4th February, 1788.)

...I am a discontented ghost, a perturbed spirit. Clarinda, if ever you forget Sylvander, may you be happy, but he will be miserable.

Oh, what a fool I am in love!—what an extravagant prodigal of affection! Why are your sex called the tender sex, when I never have met with one who can repay me in passion? They are either not so rich in love as I am, or they are niggards where I am lavish.

O, Thou, whose I am, and whose are all my ways! Thou see'st me here, the hapless wreck of tides and tempests in my own bosom: do Thou direct to thyself that ardent love, for which I have so often sought a return, in vain, from my fellow-creatures! If Thy goodness has yet such a gift in store for me, as an equal return of affection from her who, Thou knowest, is dearer to me than life, do Thou bless and hallow our band of love and friendship; watch over us, in all our outgoings and incomings, for good; and may the tie that unites our hearts be strong and indissoluble as the thread of man's immortal life!

I am just going to take your Blackbird,* the sweetest I am sure, that ever sung, and prune its wings a little.

[* The verses on a Blackbird, by 'Clarinda.']

SYLVANDER.


AMANTINE AURORE DUDEVANT
(GEORGE SAND) (1804-1876)
AND
CHARLES LOUIS ALFRED VICOMTE DE MUSSET (1810-1857)

Illustration Illustration

Porte ta vie ailleurs, o toi qui fus ma vie.
Verse ailleurs ce trésor que j'avais pour tout bien,
Va chercher d'autres lieux, toi qui fus ma patrie,
Va fleurer au soleil, o ma belle chérie!
Fais riche un autre amour et souviens toi du mien.

Laisse mon souvenir te suivre loin de France;
Qu'il parte sur ton coeur, pauvre bouquet fané.
Lorsque tu l'as cueilli j'ai connu l'esperénce,
Je croyais au bonheur, et toute ma souffrance
Est de l'avoir perdu sans te l'avoir donné.

—Verses by Alfred de Musset, dictated to George Sand,
January 10, 1835.

* * * * * * *

Amantine Aurore, Baronne Dudevant, was a descendant of Maurice de Saxe, maréchal de France, and was brought up in the château de Nohant, in Berri, France. Beautiful, fearless, brilliant and a considerable heiress, this strange woman was married in the orthodox manner, bore two children, left her husband and came to Paris where she led a life of complete independence that amazed and fascinated her contemporaries. In a series of seductively written novels that dealt with grace, skill and fire with romantic passion, Madame Dudevant, using the nom de guerre George Sand, made herself famous throughout Europe. The money that she earned by her success enabled her to take a succession of lovers, mostly distinguished men, and to defy her husband and all conventions. Her bold personality, her dazzling charm, her eccentric habits, among which were cigar smoking and the wearing of masculine attire, made this arch-romantic in many ways the wonder of an age that had not seen any such audaciously successful assertion of feminine independence.

George Sand's theories that love as an end justifies any means and that infidelity to an individual is of no matter if fidelity to love be maintained, were passionately and entrancingly expressed in her famous romances, regarded by one section of the public as poison, by another as nectar. Her generally successful attempts to live as the heroines of her own novels were carried out with skill, courage and good humour. None of her lovers left her, it was always she that tired first of the glorious experiment.

In 1836 George Sand brought proceedings against her husband for the recovery of her dowry and was successful; after taking part on the side of the republicans in the revolution of 1840, she retired to Nohant where she played the part of châtelaine with much grace.

Charles Louis Vicomte Alfred de Musset was born in Paris and studied in the collège de Henri Quatre, where one of his closest friends was the future Louis Philippe, King of the French. De Musset's first literary effort was a drama founded on de Quincey's Confessions of an Opium Eater, and this introduced him to the men who then formed the romantic school in France, Victor Hugo, Lamartine, Alfred de Vigny and many others. Alfred de Musset soon made a brilliant reputation for himself and became one of the most dazzling of Parisian celebrities. His health, however, was not good and when George Sand met him he was already addicted to what the romantics termed 'the emerald poison'—that is, absinthe, then a novel stimulant among educated people. The celebrated poet met George Sand, then in the first splendour of her peculiar glory of emancipated womanhood, at a dinner given by Buloz, the editor of La Revue des Deux Mondes, at the restaurant Les Frères Provençaux. Shortly afterwards George Sand sent her newly published Lélia to de Musset, and within a few months they were declared lovers, living together in a state of rapturous happiness. In December, 1834, they left together on the famous journey to Italy that they intended to be the perfect romance in a perfect setting. By way of Lyons and Avignon they arrived at Genoa, then travelled on to Leghorn, Pisa and Florence. On the 19th of January, 1834, they were in Venice; here George Sand was taken ill with fever and dysentery which lasted several weeks; she had scarcely recovered when she had her companion on her hands with a disease that proved to be brain fever brought on by drink. The lovers were then lodging in the Hotel Danieli on the Riva degli Schivoni, and alarmed by the condition of de Mus set, his mistress sought and found a doctor, a certain Pietro Pagello who was extremely interested in the voluptuously attractive woman of thirty years with her black hair and eyes and the blond youth—de Musset was aged twenty-three—who was so dangerously ill that for fifteen days and nights Pagello and George Sand took the watch by his bed in turns. The physician was young, handsome, charming and a poet; George Sand soon declared her passion for him in a letter of three pages that she gave to him addressed—"To the stupid Pagello." They became lovers, and as soon as de Musset was out of danger he set out for Paris while Pagello and his magnificent mistress left together for Lago di Garda.

George Sand and Pagello afterwards came to Paris, but she soon tired of the blond Venetian who found himself stranded in France without friends or money; he returned to Italy, took a practice at Belluno, was twice married and died at a great age in 1898. It was only in the last years of his life that Dr. Pagello consented to speak of his brief liaison with George Sand and to disclose the details of the affair. His correspondence with the novelist, however, was lost or destroyed. Only the letter—described as "a burning hymn to Eros"—here given, was preserved.

Alfred de Musset survived his Venetian adventure; he died at the age of forty-eight years; his constitution, nervous and delicate as it was, having resisted for so long the alcoholism that Dr. Pagello had found chronic in the youth whom he visited in Venice.

Under the inspiration of this double love-affair George Sand wrote, while still in Venice, Jacques and Lettres d'un voyageur, while de Mus set put his side of the case in On ne Badine pas avec l'Amour, and La Confession d'un Enfant du siècle; George Sand used the subject in Elle et Lui and de Musset retorted with Lui et Elle. The lovers were accused, with some justice, of making "copy" out of their much advertised passion.

After the death of Alfred de Musset, George Sand permitted the publication of the genuine letters on which so much fiction had been based. It is impossible to decide how far these are the sincere expression of sincere feelings, and impossible to judge what standard of sincerity these self-conscious romantics possessed. The letter to Pagello, written in such strange circumstances, is certainly the expression of an outburst of genuine passion felt by a most remarkable woman.

The George Sand, de Musset, Pagello roman à trois has been called the typical love story of the nineteenth century as that of J. J. Rousseau and Madame d'Houdetot was the typical love story of the eighteenth century. This is a French point of view, but no collection of love letters could exclude some pages from this 'grand roman de passion' though the letters do not translate well and lose half their flavour and point in an English dress. The use of the second person singular has not been retained, as this sounds stilted in English. The letters from George Sand and Alfred de Musset are taken from: Correspondante de George Sand et d'Alfred de Musset, edited Felix Decori, Brussels, 1904.

The letter from George Sand to Dr. Pagello is from: Le Cabinet Secret de l'Histoire, Dr. Cabanes, 4th Series, Paris N.D.

The collected correspondence of George Sand and Alfred de Musset was given by the former to M. Emile Aucante, after it had been read over and arranged by herself, in order that he might publish it when he thought proper. De Musset had returned to his mistress all the letters that she had written to him, so that the correspondence was complete.

The first part of this consists of eleven letters written by Alfred to George while they were in Paris, the second part begins after the failure of the roman à trois and the rupture at Venice, when the lady had gone to live with Dr. Pagello; the first of these letters is from de Musset.


* * *

LETTER I

From Alfred to George

VENICE to VENICE without date. (1834.)

Farewell, my child—I think that you will stay here—Whatever may be your hate or your indifference towards me, if the kiss of farewell that I gave you to-day is the last of my life, you must know that with the first realisation that I had lost you for ever, I felt that I deserved to do so and that nothing could be too hard for me. If it matters little to you if your memory remains with me or not—it matters to me, to-day, when you disappear from me, to tell you that nothing impure shall remain in that episode of my life where you have passed, and that he who did not know how to honour you when he possessed you, can now see clearly through his tears and honour you in his heart where your image will never be effaced. Farewell, my child.

* * *

LETTER II

George to Alfred

Written in pencil on the back of above.

To Signor A. de Musset

In a gondola, off the PIAZZETTA.

No! Do not leave like that. You are not yet healed. I do not want you to go alone. Why should we quarrel, mon Dieu? Am I not always your brother George, the friend of old times?

* * *

LETTER III

Alfred to George

You told me to go and I went; you tell me to live and I live. We stopped at Padua; it was eight o'clock in the evening and I was tired. Do not doubt my courage. Write me a word to Milan, cherished brother, beloved George!

* * *

LETTER IV

George to Alfred

To M. Alfred de Musset

Poste restante at MILAN.

I wanted to follow you from afar, my child. On returning to Venice, I ought to have left for Vicenza with Pagello to find out how you passed your first, sad day. But I had not the courage to spend the night in the town where you were, without going to embrace you once more in the morning. I nearly died of the desire to do so, but I feared to renew for you the emotions, the sufferings, caused by our separation. And then, I was so ill myself when I returned home, that I feared that I should not have the strength. M. Rebizzo came to see me and insisted that I should sleep at his place. They were very kind to me, and talked of you with so much interest that I felt a little better. I write now from Treviso. I left Venice this morning at six o'clock. I shall certainly be at Vicenza this evening and I shall go to the inn where you stayed. I ought to find there a letter from Antonio, to whom I strongly recommended that he should leave your news for me. I am obliged to remain here an hour or two because Pagello has a visit to make and begged me to take this way, that, according to him, is no longer than the other. I shall not be tranquil until this evening—and then—what tranquillity! So long a journey and you still so weak! Good Heavens! Good Heavens! Shall I pray to God from the morning to the evening. I hope that He will hear me. I shall find your letter to-morrow at Venice. It will arrive there about the same time as I shall. Do not be anxious about me. I am as strong as a horse, but do not tell me to be gay and tranquil. I cannot be that so soon. Poor angel, how did you pass last night? I hope that you slept through sheer fatigue. Be sensible and prudent, and good, as you promised me. Write to me from every town where you stop or, if that wearies you, at least let Antonio write to me. I shall write to Geneva or Turin according as you let me know what route you take when you write from Milan. Farewell, farewell, my angel. May God protect you, guide you and one day lead you here, where I am. In any case, I shall certainly see you in the holidays. And with what happiness? Do we not love each other well, my little brother, my child? Ah, who will take care of you and who will look after me? Who will need me, and whom shall I cherish now? How shall I do without both the good and evil you did to me? And you, can you forget the sufferings that I have caused you and remember only the good days? These last are balm for me at least and soothe my wounded heart. Farewell, my little bird, always love your poor old George.

I add nothing on behalf of Pagello, only that he weeps for you almost as much as I do and that when I told him all that you charged me to say to him...he rushed away in a passion and sobbing.

Dated from TREVISO, March 30.

* * *

LETTER V

Alfred to George

GENEVA, April 5th, 1834.

MY BELOVED GEORGE, I am at Geneva. I left Milan without having found a letter of yours at the post. Perhaps you have written to me, but I booked our places in advance, as by chance the post from Venice, that usually arrives two hours before the departure of the coach to Geneva, was, this time, much delayed. I beg you, if you have written to me at Milan, to write the Postmaster there to forward your letter to Paris. I want it, if it is only two lines. Write to me at Paris, my love, I left you very fatigued, very exhausted from those two months of sorrow; besides, you have told me that you have much to say to me. Above all tell me that you are tranquil, that you are happy. You know that I supported the journey very well, Antonio will have told you that. I am strong, well, almost happy. Shall I tell you that I have not suffered, that I have not very often wept in those sad nights spent in inns? To do so would be to boast myself a brute and you would not believe that of me. I still love you passionately, George. In four days there will be three hundred leagues between us, so why should I not speak to you frankly? At this distance there can be no more violence or attacks of nerves; I love you, I know that you are with a man whom you love and yet I am calm. While I write tears stream over my hands, but they are the sweetest, the dearest tears that I have ever shed. I am calm; it is not a child exhausted from fatigue that talks thus to you. I declare that the sun in its orbit is no brighter than that light I have in my heart. I did not want to write to you until I was sure of myself, so many things have passed through this poor head! I awaken from such a strange dream. This morning I hastened through the street of Geneva, gazing into the shops; a new waistcoat, a fine edition of an English book—these attracted my attention. Chancing to see myself in a mirror, I recognised the child that I once was. What have you done, my poor friend? Was this the man that you wanted to love! Your heart was saddened with ten years of suffering, for ten years you had longed for happiness, and I was the reed on which you leant! You to love me! My poor George, that makes me tremble. I have made you so unhappy! And what greater miseries was I not about to cause you! I shall see it for a long time, my George, that face blanched by the watches spent beside my couch! I shall for a long time see you in that fatal chamber where so many tears have been shed.

Poor George! Poor dear child! You deceived yourself; you believed that you were my mistress, and you were only my mother; heaven made us, one for the other; our minds met in their elevated sphere, and recognising one another like the mountain birds, flew towards one another, but the embrace was too powerful; we committed incest. Oh, well, my only love, I have been as a tormentor for you, at least recently, I have made you suffer so much, but God be praised, what I might have done that would have been worse still, that I did not do. Oh, my child, you live, you are beautiful, you are young, you are under the most beautiful sky in the world, leaning on a man that has a heart worthy of you. Splendid young man! Tell him how much I like him and that I cannot restrain my tears in thinking of him. Ah, well, I have not cheated Providence, I have not turned from you the hand that you needed for your happiness to clasp! In leaving you I did perhaps the simplest thing in the world, but my heart dilates—despite my tears—to think that I have done it. I took with me two strange companions—sorrow and a limitless joy. When you pass the Simplon, George, think of me. It was there that the eternal spectres of the Alps rose before me in all their strength and calm. I was alone in the cabriolet, I do not know how to express what I felt. It seemed to me that these giants spoke to me of all the grandeurs that leave the hand of God. I am no more than a child, I cried to myself, but I have two great friends and they are happy. Write to me, my George. Be sure that I shall look after your affairs. May my friendship never be unfortunate to you. Respect it, this friendship more ardent than love, it is all that is good in me, think of that; it is the work of God. You are the thread that attaches me to Him; think of the life that awaits me.

[This ardent correspondence continued on these lines until July 1834, when George Sand and Dr. Pagello went to Paris; cordial letters had been exchanged between the two men and the lady whom they both loved confessed that her heart was really divided between them, as the following letter shows.]

* * *

LETTER VI

George to Alfred

VENICE, May 1834.

...I have here, near to me, my friend, my support, he does not suffer, he is not feeble, he is not suspicious, he has never known the bitternesses that used to corrode your heart; he has no need of my strength, he has his own calm and his own virtue. He loves me peacefully, he is happy without causing me suffering, without my having to work for his happiness. Ah, well, I need to suffer for someone, I need to employ my excess of energy and sensibility. I have need to use this sense of maternal solicitude that is used to watching over some weary, suffering creature Oh, why can I not live between you both and make you both happy, without belonging to either one or the other? I could have lived ten years like that...Alas, how the things of this world are vain and deceitful and how the heart of man changes when it hears the voice of God! I have listened for this, and I think that I have heard it. And yet men cry low words after me: Horror, madness, scandal, lies!—What does this mean? What is the cause of all these maledictions? Of what now am I accused:—I remember when I was in a convent, the rue Saint-Marceau passed behind our chapel. When the market women raised their voices one could hear their blasphemies even in the depth of the sanctuary. But for me it was merely a sound striking the outer walls that drew me from my prayers in the evening silence. I heard the noise, I understood nothing of the coarse oaths, I turned again to my devotions without either my ear or my heart being soiled by these blasphemies. Since, I have retired into love as into a sanctuary, and sometimes the foul abuse outside has made me raise my head, but it has not interrupted the hymn that I address to Heaven and I merely say to myself, these are the vulgar hucksters that pass by.

It is too late for me to go to Constantinople. The heat has come before my money arrived. I shall go another season, with Pagello, who hopes, perhaps with reason, to find some fortune out of such a journey. A steam boat service is being organised to take the passengers from Venice to Trieste through all the islands of the Archipelago. Be then, at peace for the present. I am still at Venice and I look after myself, for I am not absolutely well. I am always suffering, as you know—but you, how are you? I hope that you don't travel alone, and that you always keep Antonio with you. You still have him? You are pleased with him? He did not know what he meant to me when he left Venice—this hairdresser that took my place! Alas! Alas! Perhaps the most bitter and profound sigh of my life was in the sound of the wave that detached me from the bank of Fusina! Yes, we will return there in August, whatever happens, shall we not? You will then perhaps be engaged in another love-affair. I want that and yet I fear it. My child, I do not know what feelings are roused in me when I think of that possibility. If I could clasp her hand and tell her how you must be cherished and loved.

But she would be jealous. She will say to you—¬'Don't speak to me of Madame Sand, she is an infamous woman.' Ah, I, at least, can talk of you continually, without ever seeing a clouded brow, without hearing a bitter word. Your memory is like a sacred relic here, your name is a solemn word that I whisper sometimes in the evenings, across the silent lagoons, and that is answered by a faint voice, saying brief, sweet, simple words Io l'amo (I love you) that seem to me so beautiful! It does not matter, my child, love, be loved and may my memory never poison any of your joys. Sacrifice this memory, if you must. God be my witness, however, that I should despise anyone that suggested that I should not only curse you, but forget you.

Farewell, my little angel, if you rejoin God before I do, keep a little place up there for me, near to you—and be sure if I go first I shall keep a good one for you. Pagello charges me to say that he does not write to you for fear of troubling you, but that he embraces you with all his heart. As for me, I press you to my heart and bless you. I was about to write you another letter for the Revue. Tell me where I should address it, I want you to be the first to read it in manuscript. But if you are in Switzerland, so much travelling may destroy it. If you go to Aix, write to me from there and I will send it there: and you can send it direct to Buloz. Send me, with the other things that I asked for, some cigarette papers, my Beethoven symphonies, Weber's Valse Sentimentale and Vaccai's Juliette. You can bring the case with you and send it from Lyons or Geneva, so that it will cost me only half the carriage. Have you still our little birds?

The third part of the correspondence opens with the farewell letter written by Alfred de Musset about a month after the return of George Sand and Pagello to Paris.

* * *

LETTER VII

Alfred to George

PARIS to PARIS (August 1834).

Georgette, yesterday, on leaving you, I asked from my mother the means to go to the Pyrenees. She gave it to me and I leave in four days. It is no one's fault, but I feel neither fear nor false shame in saying to you—' I counted too much on myself when I wished to see you again, and I have received the final blow.'

I must again begin another sad task—after five months of struggle and suffering; I shall place, for the second time, sea and mountains between us. This will be the final test; I do not know what it will cost me, but my Father above, when I appear before Him, will not call me a coward. I have done all that is needful to enable me to live. I shall wait for money over there, and if God permits, I shall see my mother again, but I shall never re-visit France. I have seen you happy, I have heard you say that you are so. It would have been sweet for me to have remained your friend and to know that your souls in their gentle joy were kindly disposed towards my sorrow. But Destiny does not relent. The world shall know my story for I shall myself write it; perhaps it will not be of any use to anyone, but those who follow my path will see where it leads, those who walk on the edge of the abyss will blench perhaps, when they hear me fall. That was my mission. Do you fear that I shall ever accuse you—you for whom I accomplished it! You must be life or death to me; your choice is right, it was what I made myself.

The day that I left Venice you gave up entirely to me. Now I leave for ever, I go alone, without a companion, without even a dog. I ask of you an hour and a last kiss. If you fear a moment of sadness, if my demand vexes Pierre [Pagello] do not hesitate to refuse me. It will be hard, but I shall not complain. But if you have any courage, receive me alone, in your own home, or elsewhere, where you will. Why should you fear to hear the solemn voice of Destiny speak aloud? Did you not weep yesterday when this Destiny murmured the sad air of my poor valse through that half-open window? Do not think ever to find either an offended pride or an importunate sorrow in me. Receive me on your heart, and we will speak neither of the past, nor the present nor the future. It will not be the farewell of M. This and Madame That, but that of two suffering minds, two wounded eagles who meet in the heavens and exchange a cry of grief before separating for all eternity. It will be an embrace chaste as celestial love, profound as human sorrow. Oh my betrothed! Place the crown of thorns gently on my brow and farewell! The last memory of your old age will be of a child no longer there.

* * *

LETTER VIII

Alfred to George

I thank you for granting my request. As for my resolution to go away, do not let us talk of it, for it is irrevocable. I took it yesterday evening on going to bed; this morning I opened my windows and looked at the sun, which from the height of the celestial spheres has seen nothing that can change my resolution. Though you have known me as a child, believe that to-day I am a man. I deceive myself in nothing, I fear nothing, I hope for nothing. That I shall be familiar with despair is possible—but it will not be an inward despair, but one that I feel, that I can calculate on, that I can control. I beg you, no word of that subject, and do not fear that one shall escape me You tell me that I am deceived as to my feelings. Now that is not so. I feel the only love that I shall ever have in my life. I tell you this, aloud and frankly, because I have reasoned with this love, day by day, minute by minute, in solitude and in crowds, for five months and I know it to be invincible. But so is my will. They can only destroy one another, but it depends on me which will triumph. Do not give yourself the trouble to think of all this,—that I have thought of for so long. When I took the risk of wishing to see you I calculated every hazard—this is what came out. Do not afflict yourself, however, and be assured that not a drop of bitterness remains in my heart. I have written to Buloz and I dine with him to-day, to discuss business, so that I can have some money sent to me when I am away. It is probable that I shall go first to Toulouse, to stay with my uncle, of whom I have often spoken to you, from there to the Pyrenees, and then, in a month or two to Cadiz, by water. Write to me when you wish to see me. I leave Wednesday or Thursday at the latest. Farewell, my well beloved Georgette. Your child, Alfred.

[Madame Sand, despite these two ardent letters, hesitated to accord the farewell interview, and de Musset wrote again.]

* * *

LETTER IX

It is too much or too little. Do you lack courage? Let us meet and I will give you some. Speak or do not speak, the lips of men cannot form words that I am afraid of. You admit that you do not fear to wound Pierre [Pagello] in seeing me. What is it then? Your position is not changed? My self-respect, you say? Listen, listen, George, if you have any heart, let us meet somewhere, in my house, in yours, in the Botanical Gardens, in the cemetery, by the tomb of my father—it is there that I would wish to say farewell to you. Open your heart, without reluctance or suspicion. Listen to my vow to die with your love in my heart, a last kiss and farewell! What do you fear? Oh, my child, recall that sad evening in Venice, when you told me that you had a secret. You thought that you spoke to a stupid, jealous creature. No, my George, to a friend—Providence changed suddenly the man to whom you spoke. Remember that. In the midst of this life of misery and suffering, God has, perhaps, accorded me the consolation of being, in a way, useful to you. Be sure of it, yes, I feel it, I am not your evil genius. Who knows what Heaven wants with us? Perhaps I am yet destined to give you repose again. Remember that I go away, my child. Do not lightly close eternal gates. And more! After having suffered, during five months, and now leaving to suffer again, leaving for ever, knowing you unhappy when I have sacrificed everything to make you tranquil—am I to go without a farewell! Ah, it is too much, too much! I am very young—dear God, what have I done to deserve this?

* * *

LETTER X

George to Alfred

A pencil note in reply to the above.

Yes, we must part for ever. He [Pagello] is troubled, he who has done no wrong, because of your trouble, and he sees that this is making me ill. My God, how would it be possible that I should not be ill? But I am going to Nohant, to pass the holidays there with my children. I do not want to be the cause of your exile. I have told him all. He is good, he understands everything He wishes me to see you—without him—for the last time, and wishes me to try to persuade you to stay, at least until I return from Nohant. Come then and see me. I am too ill to leave the house and the weather is frightful. Ah, your friendship, your dear friendship! Have I lost it, because you suffer—near me!

[The farewell interview took place, and the following day de Musset wrote again.]

* * *

LETTER XI

Alfred to George

I send you a last farewell, my well-beloved, and I send it to you with confidence, not without grief, but without despair. The cruel agonies, the poignant struggles, the bitter tears have been replaced by a tender companion, pale and gentle Melancholy. This morning, after a tranquil night, I found her at my bedside, with a sweet smile on her lips. This is the friend that will go with me. She bears your last kiss on her forehead. Why should I fear to tell you so? Was it not as chaste, as pure as your beautiful soul, oh my well-beloved? You will never reproach yourself with those two sad hours that we have passed together. You will keep the memory of them. They were poured on my wounds like a healing balm. You will never repent having left to your poor friend a memory that he will carry like a talisman between the world and himself, during all the pains and joys of the future. Our love is consecrated, my child; yesterday it received, before God, the holy baptism of our tears. It is immortal as He is. I neither hope nor fear any more. I have done with the earth. No greater happiness is in store for me. Oh, my cherished sister, I am leaving my country, my mother, my friends, the world where I spent my youth, I go away alone, for ever, and I thank God. He that is loved by you can no longer curse. George, I can still suffer now, but I can no longer curse. As to our future relations, you alone shall decide all that regards my life, speak, say the word, my child, my life is yours.

Write to me that I must go and die in silence in a corner of the earth, three hundred leagues away from you and I will do it. Consult your heart, if you believe that God tells you to do so, cease to defend our poor friendship, only send me from time to time a handclasp, a word, a tear—all, these are my only blessings. But if you believe that you must sacrifice our friendship, if my letters, sent even from beyond France, trouble your happiness, or only your repose, do not hesitate to forget me. I tell you that I can suffer much, at present, without complaining. Be happy at all costs. Oh, be happy, well-beloved of my soul! Time is inexorable, Death is avaricious, and the last years of youth pass more quickly than do the first. Be happy, but, if you cannot, forget that happiness is possible. Yesterday you told me that you had never been so! What did I reply? I do not know, alas! It is not for me to speak of this. Those condemned to death do not deny their God. Be happy, be brave, have patience, have pity. Try to vanquish a just pride. Restrain your heart, my noble George, you have too much heart for a human bosom. But if you renounce life, if you ever find yourself alone in face of unhappiness, recall the vow that you made me—"I will not die without you." Remember that, remember that, you promised it to me before God.

But I shall not die, no, not without having written my book, on myself, on you—you above all, no, my beautiful, my sainted betrothed, you shall not rest beneath the cold earth before that earth knows what it has borne. No, no, I swear by my youth and my genius, only stainless lilies shall grow on your tomb. I with these hands will place a marble to bear your epitaph—a marble whiter than the statues of our glories of a day. Posterity will repeat our names together with those of immortal lovers who were as one, as Romeo and Juliet, as Héloïse and Abélard. They will never speak of one without the other. This will be a marriage more sacred and chaste than any that the priests make, the imperishable marriage of Intelligence. The people of the future will recognise the symbol of the only God that they adore. Has not someone said that the resolutions of the human spirit are always announced to their century by heralds? Ah, well, the century of Intelligence has arrived. She rises, this sovereign of the future, from the ruins of the world; she will engrave our portraits on one of the stones of her necklace.

She will be the priest that blesses us, that will lay us in the tomb as a mother leads her daughter to her marriage bed. She will write our initials on the new bark of the tree of life. I shall end my story with a hymn of love. I shall make an appeal, from the bottom of a heart twenty years old to all the children of the earth; I shall sound in the ears of this blaze [sic], corrupt, atheistic and dissolute century, the trumpet of human resurrection, the trumpet that Christ left at the foot of his cross. Jesus! Jesus! I too am the son of thy Father! I offer Thee the kisses of my betrothed. It is thou that hast sent them to me, across so many dangers, across so many distances that she has faced to come to me. I shall make, for her, for myself, a tomb that will always be green, and perhaps future generations will repeat some of my words, perhaps some day they will bless those who have struck with the myrtle of love at the door of liberty!

[De Musset left Paris and wrote again from Baden.]

* * *

LETTER XII

Alfred to George

Sept. 1st (1834).

It is eight days since I left and you have not yet written. I waited for a calm moment, there are no more such. I wished to write to you gently, tranquilly, on a beautiful morning, to thank you for the farewell that you sent me, it was so good, so sad, so sweet; my dear beloved, you have the heart of an angel. I want to talk to you only of my love; ah George, what love! Man has never loved as I love you. I am lost, understand that, I am drowned, swamped in love; I no longer know if I live, if I eat, if I walk, if I breathe, if I speak; I only know that I love. Ah, if all your life you have had a yearning for inexhaustible happiness, if it is a happiness to be loved, if you have ever asked this love of Heaven, oh, my life, my blessing, my well-beloved, look at the sun, the flowers, the grass, all the world, and know that you are loved, as all these will tell you, loved as God might be by his Levites, his saints, his martyrs! I love you, oh, my flesh and my blood! I die of love, of an endless nameless love, an insensate, desperate lost love! You are loved, adored, idolised till death! No, I shall never be cured, no, I shall not try to live, I love better than that, to die loving you is worth more than living. I know well enough what they are saying. They say that you have another lover. I know it well, I die of it, but I love, I love, I love. Who are they to prevent me from loving? Understand, when I left you, I was not suffering, there was no place in my heart for that. I had held you in my arms, oh, my adored one! I had pressed you to this cherished wound! I left you without knowing what I did. I do not know if my mother was sad—I think not, I embraced her, I left without saying anything—I had the breath from your lips on mine, I still breathed your perfume. Ah, George, you are tranquil and happy there, you lost nothing. But do you know what it is to wait five months for a kiss? Do you know what a poor heart endures, that for five months has felt, day by day, hour by hour, life abandon it, the cold of the tomb descend slowly in the solitude, death and oblivion falling drop by drop like snow? Do you know what it feels like for a heart that has almost ceased to beat, to dilate for a moment, to re-open like a poor dying flower, to drink again a drop of heaven sent-dew? Oh, my God, I know it well, I have felt it; we must not see each other again. However, now all is finished. I said to myself that I must try to take up life again, try to find another love, forget yours, to have courage. I tried, I made the attempt, at least. But now, understand me, I prefer my sufferings to life, you have permitted me to love you, it will avail you nothing to retract that promise, you even wish me to love you, your heart wishes it, you cannot deny this, and I, I am lost. You understand, I can no longer answer for anything.

What am I trying to do, wandering here and there? What do all these mountains, trees and all these Germans with their rigmarole mean to me? What to me is this inn room? They say that this is fine, that the view is charming, the promenade agreeable, that the women dance and the men smoke, drink and sing and that horses gallop. All this is not life—it is only the sound of life. Listen, George, no more, I beg you, not a word to dissuade me, no more consolations, no more talk of youth, glory, the future, hope—no more good advice or reproaches. All that only reminds me that I am young, that I have believed in happiness, that I have a mother, all that makes me wish to weep and I have no more tears. I am not mad, as you know, I shall struggle all that I can. I have still some strength; but one's strength, of what use is that when it turns against a man? Nothing, nothing. I implore you, do not make me suffer, do not recall me to life. 1 promise you, I swear to struggle, if I can. Do not say that I write in a moment of fever or delirium and that I shall become calmer, for eight days I have been waiting for one quarter of an hour of calm—one moment even, in which to write to you. I know very well that I am young, that I have aroused hopes in some loving hearts—I well know that they have some claims. Have I not done what I could? I have gone away, I have left everything. What have they to say? What happens now concerns only myself. It would be too cruel to say to a wretch that dies of love that he must not die. The bulls wounded in the circus have permission to go to a corner and die there in peace with the matador's sword in their shoulder. So, I beg you, not a word; listen, all this does not prevent you from taking your travelling coat, horse or a little carriage, and coming here. I look in vain—I am seated here before this little table, in the midst of your letters, with your portrait that I always carry! You tell me that we shall see one another again, that you will not die without embracing me again: you see that I suffer, you weep with me, you allow me to cherish sweet illusions, you talk of our coming together again, all that is good, my angel, all that is sweet; God will repay you for it. But I can well gaze at my door, you do not come to knock at it, do you? You do not take a scrap of paper, no longer than a hand and write on it—'Come!' There are between us I know not what phrases, I know not what duties, I know not what events—there is also between us a hundred and fifty leagues. Ah, well, all that is perfect—it does not take long to say this—I cannot live without you, that is all. How long all this can still continue, I do not know. I wished to write my book, but I have first to know in detail, and according to the different periods, the story of your life; I know your character, but I only have a confused idea of your life; I do not know everything, and what I do know I know imperfectly. I must see you and you must tell me everything. If you like I could hire, in the suburbs of Moulins or Châteauroux, an attic with a table, a bed, and you, on horseback, could come to see me, once or twice, alone. I should see no other living soul, I should write, weep—everyone would believe me in Germany. There would be some beautiful moments. I hope that you would not feel that you were betraying anyone; the last time you saw me die of love in your arms, have you anything with which to reproach yourself? But all the dreams that I can dream are chimeras, nothing is real, but phrases, duties, things, it is well, it is better thus. Oh, my betrothed, I ask of you, however, one thing. Go out one fair evening, alone, as the sun sets, go into the country, seat yourself on the grass, under some green willow, look into the east and think of your dying child. Try to forget everything else; re-read my letters, if you still have them, or my little book, ponder, give way to your tender heart, allow me a tear, then return home, quietly, light your lamp, take your pen, give an hour to your poor friend. To make an effort to do this will not be a crime. You can even tell me more than you feel, I shall not know it and that would be no crime either since I am lost. But let there be nothing in your letter but your friendship for me, your love, George, do you not call it love? Write to poste restante, Grand Duchy of Baden, frank it as far as the frontier and put—near Strasbourg. It is twelve leagues from Strasbourg, I shall go neither farther nor nearer. But let me have this letter, containing nothing but your love; and tell me that you give me your lips, your hair, all that face that I have possessed, and tell me that we embrace—you and I! O God, O God, when I think of it, my throat closes, my sight is troubled; my knees fail, ah, it is horrible to die, it is also horrible to love like this! What longing, my George, what longing I have for you! I beg you to let me have the letter I ask. I am dying, farewell. Poste restante, Grand Duchy of Baden, near Strasbourg.

Oh, my life, my life, I press you to my heart. Oh, my George, my beautiful mistress! My first, my last love!

[George Sand replied to this letter in a long and tender epistle in which she detailed the rupture with Pietro Pagello, who had returned to Italy; de Musset read this as a final farewell and replied in a mood of rage and despair; in his answer, however, he announced his return to Paris and asked for an interview in the hopes of resuming his former relationship with Madame Sand.

This closes the third part of the correspondence; the last covers the winter of 1834-5, when the lovers were together in Paris and opens with a letter from the lady that strikes the first note of realism in the correspondence and gives her version of the famous rupture in Venice and the beginning of the roman à trois now ended by Dr. Pagello's return to Italy.]

* * *

LETTER XIII

George to Alfred

PARIS (Autumn 1834).

I was sure that reproaches would follow the dreamed of, promised happiness, and that you would make a crime out of what you accepted as a right. And have we, good Heavens, already come to this! Well, do not let us go any further, rather, let us part. I wished for that yesterday—in my mind I had resolved on an eternal farewell. Remember your former despair, and all that you said in order to induce me to believe that I was necessary to you, that without me you were lost; and once again I was crazy enough to wish to save you. But you are more ruined than you were formerly and, as soon as I satisfied you, it is against me that you turn your rage and your despair. What's to do, good Heavens? Ah, I have had enough of life! What do you want now, what do you ask of me? Questions, suspicions, recriminations, already, already! And why do you talk to me of Pierre [Pagello] when I have forbidden you ever to mention him? What right, besides, have you to question me as to what happened in Venice? Was I yours ever when we were at Venice? Did you not, the very first day, when you saw that I was ill, show temper and say that nothing was more gloomy and tiresome than a sick woman? And was not that first day the beginning of our rupture? My child, I do not wish to use recriminations, you, even you, who forget so easily what has happened, must remember this. I don't wish to tell you of your wrongdoings; never have I reproached you with anything, never have I reproached you with anything, never have I complained of having been taken from my children, my friends, my work, my affections and my duties, to be conducted three hundred leagues and then abandoned, with offensive, heartbreaking words, merely because I had a tertian fever, downcast eyes and was profoundly sad because of your indifference. I never complained, I hid my tears from you, but a certain evening that I shall never forget, in the casino Danieli, these words were spoken: "George, I have deceived myself, I ask your pardon, but I do not love you." If I had not been ill, if I had not been waiting to be bled on the next day, I should have left then. But you had no money, I did not know if you would accept any from me, and I would not, I could not, leave you alone in a strange country, without a sou and without knowing the language. The doors of our rooms were then closed between us and we tried to take up our former life of good companions. But that was no longer possible. You became bored; I never knew where you went in the evenings and one day you told me that you feared...[words effaced in MS.). We were sad. I said to you—Let us go, I will take you as far as Marseilles, and you replied—Yes, that is the best way out, but now that we are here, I should like to work a little first. Pierre [Pagello] came to see me, he looked after me. You thought nothing of being jealous, and I thought nothing of loving him. But, since I did love him, since I was his from that moment—will you tell me what accounts I have to render you, you who termed me 'tedium personified,' 'a dreamer,' 'a nun,' 'a beast,' I know not what? You so wounded and offended me that I said to you—'We no longer love, we are no longer loved.' And, now, at this time, you want the story, day by day and hour by hour, of my liaison with Pierre, and I do not recognise your right to question me. I should degrade myself by making a confession as if I were a woman who had deceived you. Admit all that you like that can torment us, I have only this to reply: from the first day that I loved Pierre, until after your departure, I told you that it was my secret and that, no longer belonging to you, I could be his without accounting to you for anything. I said that I loved him with a perhaps, because he was involved with former ties, with former mistresses, and I did not wish to engage myself to him in any way that might involve him in difficult or disagreeable situations. Thus there has been from the first, a sincerity on my part that I now recall to your mind, which your letters save my conscience by bearing witness to. In Venice I did not permit you to ask the least detail—as to whether on a certain day we kissed on the eyes or the forehead and so on—and I forbid you then to enter into a phase of my life where, as far as you are concerned, I have the right to drop the veils of modesty. When we became again as brother and sister, we lived as chastely as if we had been so, and now, when I become again your mistress, you must not expect me to tear aside those veils that, as regards Pierre, and with regard to myself, it is my duty to preserve. Do you think that if he had asked me the secrets of our affair I should have answered him?...Did I not warn you in the past that events you exalted into a beautiful poem, when I refused myself to you, would seem only like a nightmare when you had seized me once more as your prey?

Come, let us part. If not, we shall be unhappier than ever. If I am wanton and perfidious, as you seem to tell me, why so obstinately insist on taking me again and in keeping me? I do not wish to love any more; I have suffered too much. Ah, if I were a coquette you would be less unhappy, for you want me to lie to you, to say" I never loved Pierre, I never belonged to him." Why do I not say this and make you believe it? It is because I have been sincere that you are tortured. We cannot, therefore, love under these conditions, and all that I have done to restore our friendship has been illusory! What remains to us, then, of a tie that seemed to us so beautiful? Ah, Heaven, neither love nor friendship.

[A desperate letter from de Musset follows, then a short note telling of his sudden illness and imploring Madame Sand to visit him; this she promised to do, and de Musset replied:]

* * *

LETTER XIV

Alfred to George

Happiness, happiness, and death afterwards or even at the same time! Yes, you pardon me, you love me! You live, oh, my soul, and you will be happy! Yes, in the name of God, be happy through me. Yes, I am twenty-three years old, and why am I in the full flower of my age if it is not that my life may be drunk from my lips by you?...Come, that I may throw myself on my knees, that I may implore you to live, to love, to pardon! This evening, this evening.

* * *

LETTER XV

George to Alfred

Six o'clock.

Why did we leave each other so sadly? Shall we see each other this evening? Can we be happy? Can we love one another? You have said—yes—and I tried to believe it, but it seems as if there was no sequence in your ideas, at the least sufferings you become indignant with me, as with a burden. Alas, my child! We love each other, that is the only certain thing between us. Time and separation have not prevented and never will prevent our love. But is our life together possible? Is mine possible with anyone? That thought frightens me, I am sad and alarmed by turns; you make me hope and despair at the same time. What shall I do? Do you want me to go away? Would you try again to forget me? I should not try to do that, but I could be silent and go away. If I do not fly, I feel that I shall lose you again as I used to. I shall perhaps kill you and myself, consider that well...There are times, I admit, when fear is stronger than love, and I feel myself paralysed like one on the crest of a mountain that dare neither advance nor retreat between two abysses. Love with you and a feverish life for us both, perhaps, or else solitude and despair for me alone. Tell me do you believe that you could find happiness elsewhere? Yes, it is true, you are twenty-three years old and the most beautiful women in the world, the best women, perhaps, might belong to you. While I have nothing with which to attach you to me, but the little good and the great evil that I have done to you. It is a sad dowry that I bring you. Say the word, my child, send me away. This time you will have no violence on my part to fear, and I shall never demand an account of a happiness that I have renounced. Tell me what you want, do what you want and do not occupy yourself with me; I shall live for you as long as you wish me to do so, and when you do no longer wish it, I shall go away without ever ceasing to cherish you and to pray for you. Consult your heart, your mind, too, your future, your mother; think of all that you have besides myself and do not sacrifice anything to me. If you do return to me, I can only promise you one thing, that I shall try to make you happy. But you would have to have patience and indulgence for my moments of fear and sadness, which no doubt I should still have, and such patience hardly belongs to your age. Consult with yourself, my angel. My life belongs to you, and, whatever happens, know that I love you and shall always love you.

Do you want me to come down there at ten o'clock?

* * *

LETTER XVI

Alfred to George

Leave me, if you wish. But as you love me, that would be madness, and I should never have the strength. Write me a word. I would give I know not what, to have you here. If I can get up I will go to see you.

* * *

LETTER XVII

Alfred to George

MY ADORED ANGEL, I send you your money that Buloz has sent me. I love you, I love you, I love you. Farewell, oh my George, is it then true? I love you, however. Farewell, farewell, my life, my dear. Farewell, my lips, my heart, my love. I love you so much, O God! Farewell. Ah, you, you, you, do not mock a poor fellow.

* * *

LETTER XVIII

George to Alfred

Reply to above.

All this, you see, is only a game that we play but our hearts and our lives serve as the stakes, and so it is not quite so good a pleasantry as it seems Do you want us to go and blow out our brains together at Franchart's? That would be soon done...

* * *

LETTER XIX

Alfred to George

MY DEAR GEORGEOT, I am going away. I am so miserable that I have not even the courage to wait for your departure. I have packed my small baggage, and my seat is booked for this evening. Although to-day we were overwhelmed with deep sadness, will you give me a quarter of an hour for farewell? But only if this does not frighten you. If you cannot, write me a word, so that I do not part without a hand-clasp, a last memory.

* * *

LETTER XX

George to Alfred

Reply to above.

...Oh, Heavens, Oh, Heavens! I reproached you that suffered so much! Pardon me, my angel, my unfortunate well-beloved. I have suffered so much myself that I know not what to do. I complain to God, I ask miracles of Him, He does not grant them, He abandons us. What is to become of us? One of us ought to have the strength either to love or to cure love, and do not deceive yourself, neither of us has this strength. You believe, in the hope that comes in the morning, that you can love me, and every evening you deny it. You are twenty-three years old and I am thirty-one and how many misfortunes, how many sobs, how many heart-breaks lie behind me! Where are you going? What do you hope from solitude and indulgence in a grief already so poignant? Alas, here I am, limp and useless as a broken cord, prone on the ground, with my desolate love like a corpse attached to me, and I suffer so much that I cannot rise either to bury it or to recall it to life...And what do you hope? To rise again, perhaps?...Ah well, you are young, you are a poet, you are in the flower of your beauty and strength. Try then. As for me, I must die. Farewell, farewell, I will neither take you nor leave you, I want nothing, nothing, my knees are on the earth and my heart is broken; I can no longer speak of anything, I wish to embrace the earth and weep. I no longer love you, but I shall always adore you...Adieu, go, stay, only do not tell me that I do not suffer, for indeed there is nothing could make me suffer any more. My only love, my brother, my life's blood, go your ways, but as you go, kill me.

* * *

LETTER XXI

Alfred to George

MY CHILD, come to see me this evening, I beg you. I wrote without reflection, and if I spoke hastily to you, it was without meaning to do so.

* * *

LETTER XXII

Alfred to George

It is to your house, my child, that I shall go to say farewell. I write to you not to ask you to come here, but only to make sure of seeing you for a second. Do not alarm yourself. I have not the strength to kill anyone to-day.

* * *

LETTER XXIII

Alfred to George, in Italian

Without seeing, and without speaking, touch the hand of a madman who leaves to-morrow.

* * *

LETTER XXIV

George to Alfred

No, no, it is enough! Poor unhappy creature, I have loved you as if you had been my son. It was a mother's love. My heart bleeds from it still. I pity you, I pardon everything, but we must part. If we did not, I should become indignant. You have told me that it would be better so, and that when you are most outrageous towards me I ought to box your ears. But I don't know how to struggle any longer. God made me gentle, yet proud. Now my pride is broken and my love has become merely pity. I tell you, I must cure it altogether. Sainte-Beuve is right. Your conduct is deplorable, impossible. My God, to what kind of life do I leave you? Drunkenness—wine—women—and again, and always! But I can do nothing more to save you, and must we prolong what has become a shame for me, and a torment for yourself? My tears only irritate you. And then, at any trifle, your crazy jealousy, in the middle of all that! The more you lose the right to become jealous, the more you become so! This seems like God's punishment on you, poor creature. But I still have my children. Oh, my children, my children! Farewell, farewell, unhappy that you are. My children, my children...

[The last letter in this correspondence was written by Madame Sand.]

* * *

LETTER XXV

George to Alfred

MY DEAR CHILD, with people that one neither likes nor esteems one can make exacting demands without giving any reasons for them. It has never been thus between you and me and I should never ask anything of you without knowing first from you yourself that you approved my demand...I approve decidedly your idea about our letters. It would have been very bitter to me to return yours, and if I could believe that mine had the same value in your eyes, I should not ask for them. But nothing of that matters much. Your letters are at La Chatre, deposited in a casket and in the charge of a woman who is devoted to me and believes them to be jewels. These letters are sealed and bear your superscription; I have never re-read them without sealing them again immediately afterwards and replacing them in this sure and inviolable place. I do not think that they would be so well guarded in my own home, death can surprise one at any minute, and one never knows what hand will rifle one's drawers as soon as one's eyes are closed. I could then be, better than you could, the guardian of this double deposit. At the same time as I sealed them, I should send you the address of the woman from whom you must claim them, if, as is probable, I leave before you for the longest voyage of all. First of all, when I am in the country, I will send you your letters so that you can delete what you wish. If you will send me mine while I am here you will spare me taking a heavy package to the post at La Chatre. If you would prefer to await the arrival of yours, do as you will.

Farewell, my child, God be with you.

* * *

George Sand to Pietro Pagello

[Written in less than an hour by the bedside of Alfred de Musset, then seriously ill with delirium tremens and given to Dr. Pagello, who was present, as a declaration of love. This letter was long cherished by Dr. Pagello, though he had come to regard the memory of George Sand with indifference, and it was not without difficulty that Dr. Cabanes obtained permission to copy and to publish the letter that had lain for fifty years in an album belonging to the Pagello family, then resident at Belluno.

It appeared for the first time in Le Cabinet Secret de l'histoire, 4th Series, Paris, N.D., by Dr. Cabanes. It is not dated, but was written in the summer of 1834; the hybrid word with which it begins is believed to be the Frenchwoman's phonetic version of the Italian en amore. An inscription on the original MS. seems to indicate that Dr. Pagello at once presented this letter to another woman; it is, in Italian:]

Venice, July 10th, 1834. Pietro Pagello has given this manuscript by George Sand to Antonietta Segato.

En Moree

Born under different skies we have neither the same thoughts nor the same language—have we, perhaps, hearts that resemble one another?

The mild and cloudy climate from which I come has left me with gentle and melancholy impressions; what passions has the generous sun that has bronzed your brow given you? I know how to love and how to suffer, and you, what do you know of love?

The ardour of your glances, the violent clasp of your arms, the fervour of your desire, tempt me and frighten me. I do not know whether to combat your passion or to share it. One does not love like this in my country; beside you I am no more than a pale statue that regards you with desire, with trouble, with astonishment. I do not know if you truly love me, I shall never know it. You can scarcely speak a few words of my language and I do not know enough of yours to enter into these subtle questions. Perhaps, even if I knew perfectly the language that you speak, I should not be able to make myself understood. The place where we have lived, the people that have taught us, are, doubtless, the causes that we have ideas, sentiments and needs, inexplicable one to the other. My feeble nature and your fiery temperament must produce very different thoughts. You must be ignorant of, or despise, the thousand trivial sufferings that so disturb me; you must laugh at what makes me weep. Perhaps you even do not know what tears are. Would you be for me a support or a master? Would you console me for the evils that I have endured before meeting you? Do you understand why I am sad? Do you understand compassion, patience, friendship? Perhaps you have been brought up in the idea that women have no souls. Do you think that they have? You are neither a Christian nor a Mussulman, neither civilised nor a barbarian—are you a man? What is there in that masculine bosom, behind that superb brow, those leonine eyes? Do you ever have a nobler, finer thought, a fraternal pious sentiment? When you sleep, do you dream that you are flying towards Heaven? When men wrong you do you still trust in God? Shall I be your companion or your slave? Do you desire me or love me? When your passion is satisfied will you thank me? When I have made you happy, will you know how to tell me so? Do you know what I am and does it trouble you not to know it? Am I for you an unknown being who must be sought for and dreamt of, or am I in your eyes a woman like those that fatten in harems? In your eyes, in which I think to see a divine spark, is there nothing but a lust such as these women inspire? Do you know that desire of the soul that time does not quench, that no excess deadens or wearies? When your mistress sleeps in your arms, do you stay awake to watch over her, to pray to God and to weep? Do the pleasures of love leave you breathless and brutalised or do they throw you into a divine ecstasy? Does your soul overcome your body when you leave the bosom of her whom you love? Ah, when I shall observe you withdrawn quiet, shall I know if you are thoughtful or at rest? When your glance is languishing will it be tenderness or lassitude? Perhaps you realise that I do not know you and that you do not know me. I know neither your past life, nor your character, nor what the men that know you think of you. Perhaps you are the first, perhaps the last among them. I love you without knowing if I can esteem you, I love you because you please me, and perhaps some day I shall be forced to hate you. If you were a man of my country, I should question you and you would understand me. But perhaps I should be still more unhappy, for you would mislead me. As it is, at least you will not deceive me, you will make no vain promises and false vows. You will love me as you understand love, as you can love. What I have sought for in vain in others, I shall not, perhaps, find in you, but I can always believe that you possess it. Those looks, those caresses of love that have always lied to me in others, you will allow me to interpret as I wish, without adding deceitful words to them. I shall be able to interpret your reveries and fill your silences with eloquence. I shall give to your actions the intentions that I wish them to have. When you look at me tenderly, I shall believe that your soul is gazing at mine; when you glance at heaven, I shall believe that your mind turns towards the eternity from which it sprang. Let us remain thus, do not learn my language, and I shall not look for, in yours, words to express my doubts and my fears. I want to be ignorant of what you do with your life and what part you play among your fellow-men. I do not even want to know your name Hide your soul from me that I may always believe it to be beautiful.


GEORGE NOEL GORDON
LORD BYRON (1788-1824)

Illustration

Fare thee well, and if for ever,
Then forever, fare thee well.

—BYRON

* * * * * * *

George Gordon was born in London, educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and at Harrow, afterwards at Cambridge. In 1798, he succeeded to the title, in 1803 proposed to and was rejected by Mary Chaworth. After publishing a few 'fugitive verses,' and already deeply in debt, he settled in the family seat, Newstead Abbey, 1808. Soon after he went on his travels with John Carn Hobhouse and did not return to London until 1811. The publication of his poems brought him great fame, his beauty, wit and some mysterious charms in his personality made him an unprecedented social success. He was refused by Miss Milbanke in 1812, but married her in 1815. Dissipation, extravagance, ill temper and the scandal roused, even in Regency London, by his too ardent friendship with his half-sister, Augusta Leigh, brought about a social ostracism from which he fled, after his wife had left him in 1816. There were at this time questions raised as to his sanity. Living an eccentric life of crude debauchery and writing Childe Harold and Don Juan, Byron roamed about the continent until 1819 when he met the young Countess Teresa Guiccioli, with whom he formed a more or less permanent connexion. In 1823 he offered to join the Greeks, then in rebellion against Turkey; in January of the following year he landed at Missolonghi, where he died of marsh fever in the next April. Three specimens of his love letters have been selected; one to Lady Caroline Lamb (17851828) a daughter of Lord Bessborough and wife of William Lamb, afterwards Lord Melbourne. Separated from her husband, she lived in retirement after Byron's exile, and is said to have died from the shock of meeting his funeral procession—though she survived this incident several years. The second and third letters are selected from those Byron wrote to his wife during their long, final separation; and the' fifth is to the lady who held Byron's affection during the last years of his life.


* * *

Lord Byron to Lady Byron

PISA, November 17, 1821.

I have to acknowledge the receipt of 'Ada's hair,' which is very soft and pretty, and nearly as dark already as mine was at twelve years old, if I may judge from what I recollect of some in Augusta's possession, taken at that age. But it don't curl, perhaps from its being let grow.

I also thank you for the inscription of the date and name, and I will tell you why;—I believe that they are the only two or three words of your hand-writing in my possession. For your letters I returned; and except the two words, or rather the one word, 'Household,' written twice in an old account book I have no other. I burnt your last note, for two reasons:—firstly, it was written in a style not very agreeable; and, secondly, I wished to take your word without documents, which are the wordly resources of suspicious people.

I suppose that this note will reach you somewhere about Ada's birthday—the -loth of December, I believe. She will then be six, so that in about twelve more I shall have some chance of meeting her;—perhaps sooner, if I am obliged to go to England by business or otherwise. Recollect, however, one thing, either in distance or nearness;—every day which keeps us asunder, should after so long a period, rather soften our mutual feelings, which must always have one rallying-point as long as our child exists, which I presume we both hope will be long after either of her parents.

The time which has elapsed since the separation has been considerably more than the whole brief period of our union, and the not much longer one of our prior acquaintance. We both made a bitter mistake; but now it is over, and irrevocably so. For, at thirty-three on my part, and a few years less on yours, though it is no very extended period of life, still it is one when the habits and thought are generally so formed as to admit of no modification; and as we could not agree when younger, we should with difficulty do so now.

I say all this, because I own to you, that notwithstanding everything, I considered our re-union as not impossible for more than a year after the separation;—but then I gave up the hope entirely and for ever. But this very impossibility of re-union seems to me at least a reason why, on all the few points of discussion which can arise between us, we should preserve the courtesies of life, and as much of its kindness as people who are never to meet may preserve perhaps more easily than nearer connexions. For my own part, I am violent, but not malignant; for only fresh provocations can awaken my resentments. To you who are colder and more concentrated, I would just hint, that you may sometimes mistake the depth of a cold anger for dignity, and a worse feeling for duty. I assure you that I bear you now (whatever I may have done) no resentment whatever. Remember, that if you have injured me in aught, this forgiveness is something; and, that if I have injured you, it is something more still, if it be true, as the moralists say, that the most offending are the least forgiving.

Whether the offence has been solely on my side, or reciprocal, or on yours chiefly, I have ceased to reflect upon any but two things—viz. that you are the mother of my child, and that we shall never meet again. I think if you also consider the two corresponding points with reference to myself, it will be better for all three.

Yours ever,

NOEL* BYRON.

[* On the death of his mother-in-law on January 28, 1822, Byron, by royal licence, assumed the name of Noel.]

* * *

Lord Byron to Lady Caroline Lamb*

[* Lady Caroline's affair with Byron had become so notorious that her relatives wished her to leave England.]

August, 1812(?).

MY DEAREST CAROLINE,

If tears which you saw and know I am not apt to shed,—if the agitation in which I parted from you,—agitation which you must have perceived through the whole of this most nervous affair, did not commence until the moment of leaving you approached—if all I have said and done, and am still but too ready to say and do, have not sufficiently proved what my real feelings are, and must ever be towards you, my love, I have no other proof to offer. God knows, I wish you happy, and when I quit you, or rather you, from a sense of duty to your husband and mother, quit me, you shall acknowledge the truth of what I again promise and vow, that no other in word or deed shall ever hold the place in my affections, which is, and shall be, most sacred to you till I am nothing. I never knew till that moment the madness of my dearest and most beloved friend; I cannot express myself; this is no time for words, but I shall have a pride, a melancholy pleasure, in suffering what you yourself can scarcely conceive, for you do not know me. I am about to go out with a heavy heart, because my appearing this evening will stop any absurd story which the event of the day might give rise to. Do you think now I am cold and stern and artful? Will even others think so? Will your mother ever—that mother to whom we must indeed sacrifice much, more, much more on my part than she shall ever know or can imagine? 'Promise not to love you!' ah, Caroline, it is past promising. But I shall attribute all concessions to the proper motive, and never cease to feel all that you have already, witnessed, and more than can ever be known but to my own heart—perhaps to yours. May God protect, forgive and bless you. Ever, and even more than ever,

Your most attached,
BYRON.

P.S.—These taunts which have driven you to this, my dearest Caroline, were it not for your mother and the kindness of your connexions, is there anything on earth or heaven that would have made me so happy as to have made you mine long ago? and not less now than then, but more than ever at this time. You know I would with pleasure give up all here and all beyond the grave for you, and in refraining from this, must my motives be misunderstood? I care not who knows this, what use is made of it,—it is to you and to you only that they are yourself [sic]. I was and am yours freely and most entirely, to obey, to honour, love,—and fly with you when, where, and how you yourself might and may determine.

* * *

Lord Byron to Lady Byron

VENICE, March 5th, 1817.

A letter from Mr. Hanson apprises me of the result of his correspondence with Sir Ralph Noel (of which he has transmitted a copy), and of his interviews with Dr. Lushington* on the subject of our daughter. I am also informed of a bill in Chancery** filed against me last Spring by Sir Ralph Noel, of which this is the first intimation, and of the subject of which I am ignorant.

[* Dr. Stephen Lushington, the lawyer who advised the separation.]

[** The purpose of which was to make Ada a ward in Chancery.]

Whatever may be the result of these discussions and the measures, which have led to them, and to which they may lead, remember, that I have not been the first to begin; but, being begun neither shall I be the first to recede. I feel at length convinced that the feeling which I had cherished through all and in spite of all, namely 'the hope of a reconciliation and reunion however remote—is indubitably useless; and although all things considered, it could not be very sanguine, still it was sincere, and I cherished it as a sickly infatuation: and now I part with it with a regret, perhaps bitterer of [than] that which I felt in parting with yourself.

It was generally understood, if not expressed, that all legal proceedings were to terminate in the act of our separation: to what then I am to attribute the bill, of which I am apprised, I am at a loss to conjecture. The object, however, is evident; it is to deprive me of my paternal right over my child, which I have the less merited, as I neither abused nor intended to abuse it. You and yours might have been satisfied with the outrages I have already suffered, if not by your design, at least by your means. I know your defence and your apology—duty and Justice; but Qui n'est que juste, est dur: or if the French aphorism should seem light in the balance, I could refer you to an older language and a higher authority for the condemnation of conduct, which you may yet live to condemn in your own heart.

Throughout the whole of this unhappy business, I have done my best to avoid the bitterness, which, however, is yet amongst us; and it would be as well if even you at times recollected, that the man who has been sacrificed in fame, in feelings, in everything, to the convenience of your family, was he whom you once loved, and who—whatever you may imagine to the contrary—loved you. If you conceive that I could be actuated by revenge against you, you are mistaken; I am not humble enough to be vindictive. Irritated I may have been, and may be—is it a wonder? but upon such irritation, beyond its momentary expression, I have not acted, from the hour that you quitted me to that in which I am made aware that our daughter is to be the entail of our disunion, the inheritor of our bitterness. If you think to reconcile yourself to yourself by accumulating harshness against me, you are again mistaken: you are not happy, nor even tranquil, nor will you ever be so, even to the very moderate degree which is permitted to general humanity. For myself, I have a confidence in my Fortune, which will yet bear me through.*

[* Chance arranges things better than we do—Menander, Monostichoi, 726.]

The reverses, which have occurred, were that I should have expected; and, in considering you and yours merely as the instruments of my more recent adversity, it would be difficult for me to blame you, did not everything appear to intimate a deliberate intention of as wilful malice on your part as could well be digested into a system. However, time and Nemesis will do that, which I would not, even were it in my power remote or immediate. You will smile at this piece of prophecy—do so, but recollect it; it is justified by all human experience. No one was ever even the involuntary cause of great evils to others, without a requital; I have paid and am paying for mine—so will you.

* * *

Lord Byron to the Countess Guiccioli*

[* This letter was written in the last page of the Countess's copy of Madame de Staël's Corinne.]

BOLOGNA, August 25, 1819.

MY DEAR TERESA,

I have read this book in your garden;—my love, you were absent, or else I could not have read it. It is a favourite book of yours, and the writer was a friend of mine. You will not understand these English words, and others will not understand them—which is the reason I have not scrawled them in Italian. But you will recognise the handwriting of him who passionately loved you, and you will divine that, over a book which was yours, he could only think of love. In that word, beautiful in all languages, but most so in yours—Amor mio—is comprised my existence here and hereafter. I feel I exist here, and I fear that I shall exist hereafter,—to what purpose you will decide; my destiny rests with you, and you are a woman, eighteen years of age, and two out of a convent. I wish that you had stayed there, with all my heart,—or, at least, that I had never met you in your married state.

But all this is too late. I love you, and you love me,—at least, you say so, and act as if you did so, which last is a great consolation in all events. But I more than love you, and cannot cease to love you.

Think of me, sometimes, when the Alps and the ocean divide us,—but they never will, unless you wish it.

BYRON.


MICHAEL FARADAY (1791-1867)

Illustration

Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition.

—ADAM SMITH

* * * * * * *

One of the greatest names in the world, of humble birth, a bookseller's assistant, then patronised by Sir Humphry Davy. In 1831 he discovered magneto-electricity and after a life of brilliant achievement of invaluable benefit to humanity, died in a house given to him by Queen Victoria at Hampton Court. Faraday was a handsome, pleasant-mannered, lovable man; the following letter was written to the lady who afterwards became his wife.


* * *

Michael Faraday to Sarah Barnhard

Royal Institution, Thursday Evening.

MY DEAR SARAH,—It is astonishing how much the state of the body influences the powers of the mind. I have been thinking all the morning of the very delightful and interesting letter I would send you this evening, and now I am so tired, and yet have so much to do, that my thoughts are quite giddy, and run round your image without power of themselves to stop and admire it. I want to say a thousand kind and, believe me, heartfelt things to you, but am not master of words fit for the purpose; and still, as I ponder and think on you, chlorides, trials oil, Davy, steel, miscellanea, mercury, and fifty other professional fancies swim before me farther and farther into the quandary of stupidness.

Ever your affectionate,

MICHAEL.


ROBERT BROWNING (1812-1889)
AND
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING (1806-1861)

Illustration Illustration

But I am yours, your own; and it is impossible, in my belief, that I can ever fail you so, as to be less yours, on this side the grave or across it.

—ELIZABETH BARRETT TO ROBERT BROWNING
July 3, 1846.

* * *

DEAREST BA, my very own, I love you with a love not to die before any sorrow! Perhaps that is the one remaining circumstance with power to heighten it! May God bless you for me.

—ROBERT BROWNING TO ELIZABETH BARRETT
July 30th, 1846.

* * * * * * *

These two letters are given as specimens of what is probably the most famous as it is certainly the most high-minded and noble of all English correspondence on the subject of love. Miss Barrett was a poetess of some renown and Mr. Browning well established as a poet when they met in 1845. But she was an invalid and considerably his senior; it was not considered possible to broach even a hint of marriage to her family and for a long time the lady was alarmed and hesitant herself. Finally the robust, cheerful, strong affection of her suitor overcame her scruples, and after a secret marriage they eloped to Italy in 1846. The marriage was ideally happy; Mrs. Browning died at Florence, 1861, leaving one son. Her Sonnets from the Portuguese are a noble tribute from her to her husband, and she was the inspiration of most of his poetry and is directly addressed in the dedication to The Ring and the Book. These two letters were written soon after the secret ceremony that took place in Marylebone Church, September 12, 1846.


* * *

Robert Browning to Elizabeth Barrett

1 p.m. Saturday (Post-mark, September 12, 1846).

You will only expect a few words—what will those be? When the heart is full it may run over, but the real fulness stays within.

You asked me yesterday 'if I should repent?' Yes—my own Ba,—I could wish all the past were to do over again, that in it I might somewhat more,—never so little more, conform in the outward homage to the inward feeling. What I have professed...(for' I have performed nothing) seems to fall short of what my first love required even—and when I think of this moment's love...I could repent, as I say.

Words can never tell you, however,—form them, transform them anyway,—how perfectly dear you are to me—perfectly dear to my heart and soul.

I look back, and in every one point, every word and gesture, every letter, every silence—you have been entirely perfect to me—I would not change one word, one look.

My hope and aim are to preserve this love, not to fall from it—for which I trust to God who procured it for me, and doubtlessly can preserve it.

Enough now, my dearest, dearest, own Ba! You have given me the highest, completest proof of love that ever one human being gave another. I am all gratitude—and all pride (under the proper feeling which ascribes pride to the right source) all pride that my life has been so crowned by you.

God bless you prays your very own R.

I will write to-morrow of course. Take every care of my life which is in that dearest little hand; try and be composed, my beloved.

Remember to thank Wilson* for me.

[* Lily Wilson was Miss Barrett's faithful maid; she and Flush, the spaniel, accompanied the eloping pair to Italy.]

* * *

Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Robert Browning

Sunday (Post-mark, September 14, 1846).

MY OWN BELOVED, if ever you should have reason to complain of me in things voluntary and possible, all other women would have a right to tread me underfoot, I should be so vile and utterly unworthy. There is my answer to what you wrote yesterday of wishing to be better to me...you! What could be better than lifting me from the ground and carrying me into life and the sunshine? I was yours rather by right than by gift (yet by gift also, my beloved!); for what you have saved and renewed is surely yours. All that I am, I owe you—if I enjoy anything now and henceforth, it is through you. You know this well. Even as I, from the beginning, knew that I had no power against you...or that, if I had it was for your sake.

Dearest, in the emotion and confusion of yesterday morning, there was yet room in me for one thought which was not a feeling—for I thought that, of the many, many women who have stood where I stood, and to the same end, not one of them all perhaps, not one perhaps, since that building was a church, has had reasons strong as mine, for an absolute trust and devotion towards the man she married,—not one! And then I both thought and felt, that it was only just, for them...those women who were less happy,...to have that affectionate sympathy and support and presence of their nearest relations, parent or sister...which failed to me,...needing it less through being happier!

All my brothers have been here this morning, laughing and talking, and discussing this matter of the leaving town,—and in the room, at the same time, were two or three female friends of ours, from Herefordshire—and I did not dare to cry out against the noise, though my head seemed splitting in two (one-half for each shoulder), I had such a morbid fear of exciting a suspicion. Treppy too being one of them, I promised to go to see her tomorrow and dine in her drawing-room if she would give me, for dinner, some bread and butter. It was like having a sort of fever. And all in the midst, the bells began to ring. 'What bells are those?' asked one of the provincials. 'Marylebone Church bells,' said Henrietta, standing behind my chair.

And now...while I write, having escaped from the great din, and sit here quietly,—comes...who do you think?—Mr. Kenyon.

He came with his spectacles, looking as if his eyes reached to their rim all the way round; and one of the first words was, 'When did you see Browning?' And I think I shall make a pretension to presence of mind henceforward; for, though certainly I changed colour and he saw it, I yet answered with a tolerably quick evasion...He was here on Friday '—and leapt straight into another subject, and left him gazing fixedly on my face. Dearest, he saw something, but not all. So we talked, talked. He told me that the 'Fawn of Sertorius' (which I refused to cut open the other day) was ascribed to Landor and he told me that he meant to leave town again on Wednesday, and would see me once before then. On rising to go away, he mentioned your name a second time...'When do you see Browning again?' To which I answered that I did not know.

Is not that pleasant? The worst is that all these combinations of things make me feel so bewildered that I cannot make the necessary arrangements, as far as the letters go. But I must break from the dream-stupor which falls on me when left to myself a little, and set about what remains to be done.

A house near Watford is thought of now—but, as none is concluded on, the removal is not likely to take place in the middle of the week even, perhaps.

I sit in a dream, when left to myself. I cannot believe, or understand. Oh! but in all this difficult, embarrassing and painful situation, I look over the palms to Troy—I feel happy and exulting to belong to you, past every opposition, out of sight of every will of man—none can put us asunder, now, at least. I have a right now openly to love you, and to hear other people call it a duty, when I do,...knowing that if it were a sin, it would be done equally. Ah—I shall not be first to leave off that—see if I shall! May God bless you, ever and ever dearest! Beseech for me the indulgence of your father and mother, and ask your sister to love me. I feel so as if I had slipped down over the wall into somebody's garden—I feel ashamed. To be grateful and affectionate to them all, while I live, is all that I can do, and it is too much a matter of course to need to be promised. Promise it however for your very own Ba whom you made so happy with the dear letter last night.

But say in the next how you are—and how your mother is.

I did hate so, to have to take off the ring! You will have to take the trouble of putting it on again, some day.


L'ENVOI

They yield to Time, and so must all
As night to sport, day doth to action call,
Which they the rather do obey
Because the morn with roses strews the way.

—BEN JONSON


THE END

This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia