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A Slavery of Five Years

British Isles Genealogy | Critical And Historical Essays, Volume II

And now began a slavery of five years, of five years taken from the best part of life, and wasted in menial drudgery or in recreations duller than even menial drudgery, under galling restraints and amidst unfriendly or uninteresting companions. The history of an ordinary day was this. Miss Burney had to rise and dress herself early, that she might be ready to answer the royal bell, which rang at half after seven. Till about eight she attended in the Queen's dressing-room, and had the honor of lacing her august mistress's stays, and of putting on the hoop, gown, and neckhandkerchief. The morning was chiefly spent in rummaging drawers and laying fine clothes in their proper places. Then the Queen was to be powdered and dressed for the day. Twice a week her Majesty's hair was curled and craped; and this operation appears to have added a full hour to the business of the toilette. It was generally three before Miss Burney was at liberty. Then she had two hours at her own disposal. To these hours we owe great part of her Diary. At five she had to attend her colleague, Madame Schwellenberg, a hateful old toadeater, as illiterate as a chambermaid, as proud as a whole German Chapter, rude, peevish, unable to bear solitude, unable to conduct herself with common decency in society. With this delightful associate, Frances Burney had to dine, and pass the evening. The pair generally remained together from five to eleven, and often had no other company the whole time, except during the hour from eight to nine, when the equerries came to tea. If poor Frances attempted to escape to her own apartment, and to forget her wretchedness over a book, the execrable old woman railed and stormed, and complained that she was neglected. Yet, when Frances stayed, she was constantly assailed with insolent reproaches. Literary fame was, in the eyes of the German crone, a blemish, a proof that the person who enjoyed it was meanly born, and out of the pale of good society. All her scanty stock of broken English was employed to express the contempt with which she regarded the author of Evelina and Cecilia. Frances detested cards, and indeed knew nothing about them; but she soon found that the least miserable way of passing an evening with Madame Schwellenberg was at the card-table, and consented, with patient sadness, to give hours, which might have called forth the laughter and the tears of many generations, to the king of clubs and the knave of spades. Between eleven and twelve the bell rang again. Miss Burney had to pass twenty minutes or half an hour in undressing the Queen, and was then at liberty to retire, and to dream that she was chatting with her brother by the quiet hearth in Saint Martin's Street, that she was the centre of an admiring assemblage at Mrs. Crewe's, that Burke was calling her the first woman of the age, or that Dilly was giving her a check for two thousand guineas.

Men, we must suppose, are less patient than women; for we are utterly at a loss to conceive how any human being could endure such a life, while there remained a vacant garret in Grub Street, a crossing in want of a sweeper, a parish workhouse, or a parish vault. And it was for such a life that Frances Burney had given up liberty and peace, a happy fireside, attached friends, a wide and splendid circle of acquaintance, intellectual pursuits in which she was qualified to excel, and the sure hope of what to her would have been affluence.

There is nothing new under the sun. The last great master of Attic eloquence and Attic wit has left us a forcible and touching description of the misery of a man of letters, who, lured by hopes similar to those of Frances, had entered the service of one of the magnates of Rome. "Unhappy that I am," cries the victim of his own childish ambition: "would nothing content me but that I must leave mine old pursuits and mine old companions, and the life which was without care, and the sleep which had no limit save mine own pleasure, and the walks which I was free to take where I listed, and fling myself into the lowest pit of a dungeon like this? And, O God! for what? Was there no way by which I might have enjoyed in freedom comforts even greater than those which I now earn by servitude? Like a lion which has been made so tame that men may lead him about by a thread, I am dragged up and down, with broken and humbled spirit, at the heels of those to whom, in mine own domain, I should have been an object of awe and wonder. And, worst of all, I feel that here I gain no credit, that here I give no pleasure. The talents and accomplishments, which charmed a far different circle, are here out of place. I am rude in the arts of palaces, and can ill bear comparison with those whose calling, from their youth up, has been to flatter and to sue. Have I, then, two lives, that, after I have wasted one in the service of others, there may yet remain to me a second, which I may live unto myself?"

Now and then, indeed, events occurred which disturbed the wretched monotony of Frances Burney's life. The Court moved from Kew to Windsor, and from Windsor back to Kew. One dull colonel went out of waiting, and another dull colonel came into waiting. An impertinent servant made a blunder about tea, and caused a misunderstanding between the gentlemen and the ladies. A half-witted French Protestant minister talked oddly about conjugal fidelity. An unlucky member of the household mentioned a passage in the Morning Herald, reflecting on the Queen; and forthwith Madame Schwellenberg began to storm in bad English, and told him that he made her "what you call perspire!"

A more important occurrence was the King's visit to Oxford. Miss Burney went in the royal train to Nuneham, was utterly neglected there in the crowd, and could with difficulty find a servant to show the way to her bedroom, or a hairdresser to arrange her curls. She had the honor of entering Oxford in the last of a long string of carriages which formed the royal procession, of walking after the Queen all day through refectories and chapels, and of standing, half dead with fatigue and hunger, while her august mistress was seated at an excellent cold collation. At Magdalen College, Frances was left for a moment in a parlor, where she sank down on a chair. A good-natured equerry saw that she was exhausted, and shared with her some apricots and bread, which he had wisely put into his pockets. At that moment the door opened; the Queen entered; the wearied attendants sprang up; the bread and fruit were hastily concealed. "I found," says poor Miss Burney, "that our appetites were to be supposed annihilated, at the same moment that our strength was to be invincible."

Yet Oxford, seen even under such disadvantages, "revived in her," to use her own words, "a consciousness to pleasure which had long lain nearly dormant." She forgot, during one moment, that she was a waiting-maid, and felt as a woman of true genius might be expected to feel amidst venerable remains of antiquity, beautiful works of art, vast repositories of knowledge, and memorials of the illustrious dead. Had she still been what she was before her father induced her to take the most fatal step of her life, we can easily imagine what pleasure she would have derived from a visit to the noblest of English cities. She might, indeed, have been forced to travel in a hack chaise, and might not have worn so fine a gown of Chambery gauze as that in which she tottered after the royal party; but with what delight would she have then paced the cloisters of Magdalen, compared the antique gloom of Merton with the splendor of Christ Church, and looked down from the dome of the Ratcliffe Library on the magnificent sea of turrets and battlements below! How gladly would learned men have laid aside for a few hours Pindar's Odes and Aristotle's Ethics to escort the author of Cecilia from college to college! What neat little banquets would she have found set out in their monastic cells! With what eagerness would pictures, medals, and illuminated missals have been brought forth from the most mysterious cabinets for her amusement! How much she would have had to hear and to tell about Johnson, as she walked over Pembroke, and about Reynolds, in the antechapel of New College! But these indulgences were not for one who had sold herself into bondage.

About eighteen months after the visit to Oxford, another event diversified the wearisome life which Frances led at Court. Warren Hastings was brought to the bar of the House of Peers. The Queen and Princesses were present when the trial commenced, and Miss Burney was permitted to attend. During the subsequent proceedings a day rule for the same purpose was occasionally granted to her; for the Queen took the strongest interest in the trial, and when she could not go herself to Westminster Hall, liked to receive a report of what had passed from a person of singular powers of observation, and who was, moreover, acquainted with some of the most distinguished managers. The portion of the Diary which relates to this celebrated proceeding is lively and picturesque. Yet we read it, we own, with pain; for it seems to us to prove that the fine understanding of Frances Burney was beginning to feel the pernicious influence of a mode of life which is as incompatible with health of mind as the air of the Pomptine marshes with health of body. From the first day she espouses the cause of Hastings with a presumptuous vehemence and acrimony quite inconsistent with the modesty and suavity of her ordinary deportment. She shudders when Burke enters the Hall at the head of the Commons. She pronounces him the cruel oppressor of an innocent man. She is at a loss to conceive how the managers can look at the defendant, and not blush. Windham comes to her from the manager's box, to offer her refreshment. "But," says she, "I could not break bread with him." Then, again, she exclaims, "Ah, Mr. Windham, how can you ever engage in so cruel, so unjust a cause?" "Mr. Burke saw me," she says, "and he bowed with the most marked civility of manner." This, be it observed, was just after his opening speech, a speech which had produced a mighty effect, and which, certainly, no other orator that ever lived, could have made. "My curtsy," she continues, "was the most ungrateful, distant and cold; I could not do otherwise; so hurt I felt to see him the head of such a cause." Now, not only had Burke treated her with constant kindness, but the very last act which he performed on the day on which he was turned out of the Pay Office, about four years before this trial, was to make Dr. Burney organist of Chelsea Hospital. When, at the Westminster election, Dr. Burney was divided between his gratitude for this favor and his Tory opinions, Burke in the noblest manner disclaimed all right to exact a sacrifice of principle. "You have little or no obligations to me," he wrote; "but if you had as many as I really wish it were in my power, as it is certainly in my desire, to lay on you, I hope you do not think me capable of conferring them, in order to subject your mind or your affairs to a painful and mischievous servitude." Was this a man to be uncivilly treated by a daughter of Dr. Burney, because she chose to differ from him respecting a vast and most complicated question, which he had studied deeply during many years, and which she had never studied at all? It is clear, from Miss Burney's own narrative, that when she behaved so unkindly to Mr. Burke, she did not even know of what Hastings was accused. One thing, however, she must have known, that Burke had been able to convince a House of Commons, bitterly prejudiced against himself, that the charges were well founded, and that Pitt and Dundas had concurred with Fox and Sheridan, in supporting the impeachment. Surely a woman of far inferior abilities to Miss Burney might have been expected to see that this never could have happened unless there had been a strong case against the late Governor-General. And there was, as all reasonable men now admit, a strong case against him. That there were great public services to be set off against his great crimes is perfectly true. But his services and his crimes were equally unknown to the lady who so confidently asserted his perfect innocence, and imputed to his accusers, that is to say, to all the greatest men of all parties in the State, not merely error, but gross injustice and barbarity.

She had, it is true, occasionally seen Mr. Hastings, and had found his manners and conversation agreeable. But surely she could not be so weak as to infer from the gentleness of his deportment in a drawing-room, that he was incapable of committing a great State crime, under the influence of ambition and revenge. A silly Miss, fresh from a boarding school, might fall into such a mistake; but the woman who had drawn the character of Mr. Monckton should have known better.

The truth is that she had been too long at Court. She was sinking into a slavery worse than that of the body. The iron was beginning to enter into the soul. Accustomed during many months to watch the eye of a mistress, to receive with boundless gratitude the slightest mark of royal condescension, to feel wretched at every symptom of royal displeasure, to associate only with spirits long tamed and broken in, she was degenerating into something fit for her place. Queen Charlotte was a violent partisan of Hastings, had received presents from him, and had so far departed from the severity of her virtue as to lend her countenance to his wife, whose conduct had certainly been as reprehensible as that of any of the frail beauties who were then rigidly excluded from the English Court. The King, it was well known, took the same side. To the King and Queen all the members of the household looked submissively for guidance. The impeachment, therefore, was an atrocious persecution; the managers were rascals; the defendant was the most deserving and the worst used man in the kingdom. This was the cant of the whole palace, from Gold Stick in Waiting, down to the Table-Deckers and Yeoman of the Silver Scullery; and Miss Burney canted like the rest, though in livelier tones, and with less bitter feelings.

The account which she has given of the King's illness contains much excellent narrative and description, and will, we think, be as much valued by the historians of a future age as any equal portion of Pepys's or Evelyn's Diaries. That account shows also how affectionate and compassionate her nature was. But it shows also, we must say, that her way of life was rapidly impairing her powers of reasoning and her sense of justice. We do not mean to discuss, in this place, the question, whether the views of Mr. Pitt or those of Mr. Fox respecting the regency were the more correct. It is, indeed, quite needless to discuss that question: for the censure of Miss Burney falls alike on Pitt and Fox, on majority and minority. She is angry with the House of Commons for presuming to inquire whether the King was mad or not, and whether there was a chance of his recovering his senses. "A melancholy day," she writes; "news bad both at home and, abroad. At home the dear unhappy king still worse; abroad new examinations voted of the physicians. Good heavens! what an insult does this seem from Parliamentary power, to investigate and bring forth to the world every circumstance of such a malady as is ever held sacred to secrecy in the most private families! How indignant we all feel here, no words can say." It is proper to observe, that the motion which roused all this indignation at Kew was made by Mr. Pitt himself. We see, therefore, that the loyalty of the Minister, who was then generally regarded as the most heroic champion of his Prince, was lukewarm indeed when compared with the boiling zeal which filled the pages of the backstairs and the women of the bedchamber. Of the Regency Bill, Pitt's own bill, Miss Burney speaks with horror. "I shuddered," she says, to hear it named." And again, "Oh, how dreadful will be the day when that unhappy bill takes place! I cannot approve the plan of it." The truth is that Mr. Pitt, whether a wise and upright statesman or not, was a statesman; and whatever motives he might have for imposing restrictions on the regent, felt that in some way or other there must be some provision made for the execution of some part of the kingly office, or that no government would be left in the country. But this was a matter of which the household never thought. It never occurred, as far as we can see, to the Exons and Keepers of the Robes, that it was necessary that there should be somewhere or other a power in the State to pass laws, to preserve order, to pardon criminals, to fill up offices, to negotiate with foreign governments, to command the army and navy. Nay, these enlightened politicians, and Miss Burney among the rest, seem to have thought that any person who considered the subject with reference to the public interest, showed himself to be a bad-hearted man. Nobody wonders at this in a gentleman usher; but it is melancholy to see genius sinking into such debasement.

During more than two years after the King's recovery, Frances dragged on a miserable existence at the palace. The consolations which had for a time mitigated the wretchedness of servitude were one by one withdrawn. Mrs. Delany, whose society had been a great resource when the Court was at Windsor, was now dead. One of the gentlemen of the royal establishment, Colonel Digby, appears to have been a man of sense, of taste, of some reading, and of prepossessing manners. Agreeable associates were scarce in the prison house, and he and Miss Burney therefore naturally became attached to each other. She owns that she valued him as a friend; and it would not have been strange if his attentions had led her to entertain for him a sentiment warmer than friendship. He quitted the Court, and married in a way which astonished Miss Burney greatly, and which evidently wounded her feelings, and lowered him in her esteem. The palace grew duller and duller; Madame Schwellenberg became more and more savage and insolent; and now the health of poor Frances began to give way; and all who saw her pale face, her emaciated figure, and her feeble walk, predicted that her sufferings would soon be over.

Frances uniformly speaks of her royal mistress, and of the princesses, with respect and affection. The princesses seem to have well deserved all the praise which is bestowed on them in the Diary. They were, we doubt not, most amiable women. But "the sweet Queen," as she is constantly called in these volumes, is not by any means an object of admiration to us. She had undoubtedly sense enough to know what kind of deportment suited her high station, and self-command enough to maintain that deportment invariably. She was, in her intercourse with Miss Burney, generally gracious and affable, sometimes, when displeased, cold and reserved, but never, under any circumstances, rude, peevish, or violent. She knew how to dispense, gracefully and skillfully, those little civilities which, when paid by a sovereign, are prized at many times their intrinsic value; how to pay a compliment; how to lend a book; how to ask after a relation. But she seems to have been utterly regardless of the comfort, the health, the life of her attendants, when her own convenience was concerned. Weak, feverish, hardly able to stand, Frances had still to rise before seven, in order to dress the sweet Queen, and to sit up till midnight, in order to undress the sweet Queen. The indisposition of the handmaid could not, and did not, escape the notice of her royal mistress. But the established doctrine of the Court was, that all sickness was to be considered as a pretence until it proved fatal. The only way in which the invalid could clear herself from the suspicion of malingering, as it is called in the army, was to go on lacing and unlacing till she fell down dead at the royal feet. "This," Miss Burney wrote, when she was suffering cruelly from sickness, watching, and labor, "is by no means from hardness of heart; far otherwise. There is no hardness of heart in any one of them; but it is prejudice, and want of personal experience."

Many strangers sympathized with the bodily and mental sufferings of this distinguished woman. All who saw her saw that her frame was sinking, that her heart was breaking. The last, it should seem, to observe the change was her father. At length, in spite of himself, his eyes were opened. In May 1790, his daughter had an interview of three hours with him, the only long interview which they had had since he took her to Windsor in 1786. She told him that she was miserable, that she was worn with attendance and want of sleep, that she had no comfort in life, nothing to love, nothing to hope, that her family and her friends were to her as though they were not, and were remembered by her as men remember the dead. From daybreak to midnight the same killing labor, the same recreations, more hateful than labor itself, followed each other without variety, without any interval of liberty and repose.

The Doctor was greatly dejected by this news; but was too good-natured a man not to say that, if she wished to resign, his house and arms were open to her. Still, however, he could not bear to remove her from the Court. His veneration for royalty amounted in truth to idolatry. It can be compared only to the groveling superstition of those Syrian devotees who made their children pass through the fire to Moloch. When he induced his daughter to accept the place of keeper of the robes, he entertained, as she tells us, a hope that some worldly advantage or other, not set down in the contract of service, would be the result of her connection with the Court. What advantage he expected we do not know, nor did he probably know himself. But, whatever he expected, he certainly got nothing. Miss Burney had been hired for board, lodging, and two hundred a year. Board, lodging, and two hundred a year, she had duly received. We have looked carefully through the Diary, in the hope of finding some trace of those extraordinary benefactions on which the Doctor reckoned. But we can discover only a promise, never performed, of a gown: and for this promise Miss Burney was expected to return thanks, such as might have suited the beggar with whom Saint Martin, in the legend, divided his cloak. The experience of four years was, however, insufficient to dispel the illusion which had taken possession of the Doctor's mind; and between the dear father and the sweet Queen, there seemed to be little doubt that some day or other Frances would drop down a corpse. Six months had elapsed since the interview between the parent and the daughter. The resignation was not sent in. The sufferer grew worse and worse. She took bark; but it soon ceased to produce a beneficial effect. She was stimulated with wine; she was soothed with opium; but in vain. Her breath began to fail. The whisper that she was in a decline spread through the Court. The pains in her side became so severe that she was forced to crawl from the card-table of the old Fury to whom she was tethered, three or four times in an evening for the purpose of taking hartshorn. Had she been a negro slave, a humane planter would have excused her from work. But her Majesty showed no mercy. Thrice a day the accursed bell still rang; the Queen was still to be dressed for the morning at seven, and to be dressed for the day at noon, and to be undressed at midnight. But there had arisen, in literary and fashionable society, a general feeling of compassion for Miss Burney, and of indignation against both her father and the Queen. "Is it possible," said a great French lady to the Doctor, "that your daughter is in a situation where she is never allowed a holiday?" Horace Walpole wrote to Frances, to express his sympathy. Boswell, boiling over with good-natured rage, almost forced an entrance into the palace to see her. "My dear ma'am, why do you stay? It won't do, ma'am; you must resign. We can put up with it no longer. Some very violent measures, I assure you, will be taken. We shall address Dr. Burney in a body." Burke and Reynolds, though less noisy, were zealous in the same cause. Windham spoke to Dr. Burney; but found him still irresolute. "I will set the club upon him," cried Windham; "Miss Burney has some very true admirers there, and I am sure they will eagerly assist." Indeed the Burney family seem to have been apprehensive that some public affront such as the Doctor's unpardonable folly, to use the mildest term, had richly deserved, would be put upon him. The medical men spoke out, and plainly told him that his daughter must resign or die.

At last paternal affection, medical authority, and the voice of all London crying shame, triumphed over Dr. Burney's love of courts. He determined that Frances should write a letter of resignation. It was with difficulty that, though her life was at stake, she mustered spirit to put the paper into the Queen's hands. "I could not," so runs the Diary, "summon courage to present my memorial; my heart always failed me from seeing the Queen's entire freedom from such an expectation. For though I was frequently so ill in her presence that I could hardly stand, I saw she concluded me, while life remained, inevitably hers."

At last with a trembling hand the paper was delivered. Then came the storm. Juno, as in the Aeneid, delegated the work of vengeance to Alecto. The Queen was calm and gentle; but Madame Schwellenberg raved like a maniac in the incurable ward of Bedlam! Such insolence! Such ingratitude! Such folly! Would Miss Burney bring utter destruction on herself and her family? Would she throw away the inestimable advantage of royal protection? Would she part with privileges which, once relinquished, could never be regained? It was idle to talk of health and life. If people could not live in the palace, the best thing that could befall them was to die in it. The resignation was not accepted. The language of the medical men became stronger and stronger. Dr. Burney's parental fears were fully roused; and he explicitly declared, in a letter meant to be shown to the Queen, that his daughter must retire. The Schwellenberg raged like a wild cat. "A scene almost horrible ensued," says Miss Burney. "She was too much enraged for disguise, and uttered the most furious expressions of indignant contempt at our proceedings. I am sure she would gladly have confined us both in the Bastille, had England such a misery, as a fit place to bring us to ourselves, from a daring so outrageous against imperial wishes." This passage deserves notice, as being the only one in the Diary, so far as we have observed, which shows Miss Burney to have been aware that she was a native of a free country, that she could not be pressed for a waiting-maid against her will, and that she had just as good a right to live, if she chose, in Saint Martin's Street, as Queen Charlotte had to live at Saint James's.

The Queen promised that, after the next birthday, Miss Burney should be set at liberty. But the promise was ill kept; and her Majesty showed displeasure at being reminded of it. At length Frances was informed that in a fortnight her attendance should cease. "I heard this," she says, "with a fearful presentiment I should surely never go through another fortnight, in so weak and languishing and painful a state of health. . . . As the time of separation approached, the Queen's cordiality rather diminished, and traces of internal displeasure appeared sometimes, arising from an opinion I ought rather to have struggled on, live or die, than to quit her. Yet I am sure she saw how poor was my own chance, except by a change in the mode of life, and at least ceased to wonder, though she could not approve." Sweet Queen! What noble candor, to admit that the undutifulness of people, who did not think the honor of adjusting her tuckers worth the sacrifice of their own lives, was, though highly criminal, not altogether unnatural!

We perfectly understand her Majesty's contempt for the lives of others where her own pleasure was concerned. But what pleasure she can have found in having Miss Burney about her, it is not so easy to comprehend. That Miss Burney was an eminently skilful keeper of the robes is not very probable. Few women, indeed, had paid less attention to dress. Now and then, in the course of five years, she had been asked to read aloud or to write a copy of verses. But better readers might easily have been found: and her verses were worse than even the Poet Laureate's Birthday Odes. Perhaps that economy, which was among her Majesty's most conspicuous virtues, had something to do with her conduct on this occasion. Miss Burney had never hinted that she expected a retiring pension; and indeed would gladly have given the little that she had for freedom. But her Majesty knew what the public thought, and what became her own dignity. She could not for very shame suffer a woman of distinguished genius, who had quitted a lucrative career to wait on her, who had served her faithfully for a pittance during five years, and whose constitution had been impaired by labor and watching, to leave the Courts without some mark of royal liberality. George the Third, who, on all occasions where Miss Burney was concerned, seems to have behaved like an honest, good-natured gentleman, felt this, and said plainly that she was entitled to a provision. At length, in return for all the misery which she had undergone, and for the health which she had sacrificed, an annuity of one hundred pounds was granted to her, dependent on the Queen's pleasure.

Then the prison was opened, and Frances was free once more. Johnson, as Burke observed, might have added a striking page to his poem on the Vanity of Human Wishes, if he had lived to see his little Burney as she went into the palace and as she came out of it.

The pleasures, so long untasted, of liberty, of friendship, of domestic affection, were almost too acute for her shattered frame. But happy days and tranquil nights soon restored the health which the Queen's toilette and Madame Schwellenberg's card-table had impaired. Kind and anxious faces surrounded the invalid. Conversation the most polished and brilliant revived her spirits. Traveling was recommended to her; and she rambled by easy journeys from cathedral to cathedral, and from watering-place to watering-place. She crossed the New Forest, and visited Stonehenge and Wilton, the cliffs of Lyme, and the beautiful valley of Sidmouth. Thence she journeyed by Powderham Castle, and by the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey to Bath, and from Bath, when the winter was approaching, returned well and cheerful to London. There she visited her old dungeon, and found her successor already far on the way to the grave, and kept to strict duty, from morning till midnight, with a sprained ankle and a nervous fever.

At this time England swarmed with French exiles, driven from their country by the Revolution. A colony of these refugees settled at Juniper Hall, in Surrey, not far from Norbury Park, where Mr. Lock, an intimate friend of the Burney family, resided. Frances visited Norbury, and was introduced to the strangers. She had strong prejudices against them; for her Toryism was far beyond, we do not say that of Mr. Pitt, but that of Mr. Reeves; and the inmates of Juniper Hall were all attached to the constitution of 1791, and were therefore more detested by the royalists of the first emigration than Petion or Marat. But such a woman as Miss Burney could not long resist the fascination of that remarkable society. She had lived with Johnson and Windham, with Mrs. Montague and Mrs. Thrale. Yet she was forced to own that she had never heard conversation before. The most animated eloquence, the keenest observation, the most sparkling wit, the most courtly grace, were united to charm her. For Madame de Stael was there, and M. de Talleyrand. There too was M. de Narbonne, a noble representative of French aristocracy; and with M. de Narbonne was his friend and follower General D'Arblay, an honorable and amiable man, with a handsome person, frank soldierlike manners, and some taste for letters.

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Critical And Historical Essays, Volume II, Thomas Babbington Macaulay, 1843

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