Life And Letters Of Maria Edgeworth/Volume 1/Letter 40
MARIA EDGEWORTH to MRS. RUXTON.
PARIS, Dec. 1, 1802.
I have been treasuring up for some time everything I have seen and heard which I think would interest you; and now my little head is so full that I must empty it, or it would certainly burst. All that I have seen and heard has tended to attach me more firmly to you by the double effect of resemblance and of contrast. Every agreeable person recalls you; every disagreeable, makes me exclaim, how different, etc.
I wish I could paint the different people we have seen in little William's magic-lanthorn, and show them to you. At Madame Delessert's house there are, and have been for years, meetings of the most agreeable and select society in Paris: she has the courage absolutely to refuse to admit either man or woman of whose conduct she cannot approve; at other houses there is sometimes a strange mixture. To recommend Madame Delessert still more powerfully to you, I must tell you that she was the benefactress of Rousseau; he was, it is said, never good or happy except in her society: to her bounty he owed his retreat in Switzerland. She is nobly charitable, but if it were not for her friends no one would find out half the good she does. One of her acts of beneficence is recorded in Berquin's Ami des Enfans, but even her own children cannot tell in which story it is. Her daughter, Madame Gautier, gains upon our esteem every day.
Turn the handle of the magic-lanthorn: who is this graceful figure, with all the elegance of court manners, and all the simplicity of domestic virtue? She is Madame de Pastoret. She was chosen preceptress to the Princess in the ancien régime in opposition to the wife of Condorcet, and M. de Pastoret had I forget how many votes more than Condorcet when it was put to the vote who should be preceptor to the Dauphin at the beginning of the Revolution. Both M. and Madame de Pastoret speak remarkably well; each with that species of eloquence which becomes them. He was President of the First Assembly, and at the head of the King's Council: the four other ministers of that council all perished! He escaped by his courage. As for her, the Marquis de Chastelleux's speech describes her: "Elle n'a point d'expression sans grace et point de grace sans expression."
Turn the magic-lanthorn. Here comes Madame Suard and Monsieur, a member of the Academy: very good company at their house. Among others Lally Tolendal, who is exceedingly like Father Tom, and whose real name of Mullalagh he softened into Lally, said to be more eloquent than any man in France; M. de Montmorenci, worthy of his great name.
Push on the magic-lanthorn slide. Here comes Boissy d'Anglas: a fine head! Such a head as you may imagine the man to have who, by his single courage, restrained the fury of one of the National Assemblies when the head of one of the deputies was cut off and set on the table before him.
Next comes Camille Jordan, with great eloquence of pen, not of tongue;  and M. de Prony, a great mathematician, of whom you don't care to know more, but you would if you heard him.
Who comes next? Madame Campan, mistress of the first boarding-school here, who educated Madame Louis Buonaparte, and who professes to keep her pupils entirely separate from servants, according to Practical Education, and who paid us many compliments. Teaches drawing in a manner superior to anything I had any idea of in English schools: she gave me a drawing in a gilt frame, which I shall show to you. At Madame Campan's, as my father told you, we met the beautiful Madame Recamier, and at her dinner we met the most fashionable tragic and comic poet, and the richest man in Paris sat beside Charlotte. We went to the Opera with Madame Recamier, who produces a great sensation whenever she appears in public. She is certainly handsome, very handsome, but there is much of the magic of fashion in the enthusiasm she creates.
There is a Russian Princess here, who is always carried in and out of her carriage by two giant footmen, and a Russian Prince, who is so rich that he is never able to spend his fortune, and asks advice how he shall do it. He never thinks, it seems, of giving it away.
Who comes next? Kosciusko, cured of his wounds, simple in his manners, like all truly great men. We met him at the house of a Polish Countess, whose name I cannot spell.
Who comes next? M. de Leuze, who translated the Botanic Garden as well as it could be translated into Fénelon prose; and M. and Madame de Vindé, who have a superb gallery of paintings, and the best concerts in Paris, and a library of eighteen thousand volumes well counted and well arranged; and what charms me more than either the books or the pictures, a little grand-daughter of three years old, very like my sweet Fanny, with stockings exactly the same as those Aunt Mary knitted for her, and listing shoes precisely like what Fanny used to wear: she sat on my knee, and caressed me with her soft, warm little hands, and looked at me with her smiling intelligent eyes.
Dec. 3. Here I am at the brink of the last page, and I have said nothing of the Apollo, the Invalides, or Les Sourds et Muets. What shall I do? I cannot speak of everything at once, and when I speak to you so many things crowd upon my mind.
Here, my dear aunt, I was interrupted in a manner that will surprise you as much as it surprised me, by the coming in of Monsieur Edelcrantz, a Swedish gentleman, whom we have mentioned to you, of superior understanding and mild manners: he came to offer me his hand and heart!!
My heart, you may suppose, cannot return his attachment, for I have seen but very little of him, and have not had time to have formed any judgment, except that I think nothing could tempt me to leave my own dear friends and my own country to live in Sweden.
My dearest aunt, I write to you the first moment, as next to my father and mother no person in the world feels so much interest in all that concerns me. I need not tell you that my father,
- Such in this moment as in all the past,
is kindness itself; kindness far superior to what I deserve, but I am grateful for it.
- Orator and statesman, 1771-1821.
- The Polish patriot and leader, 1756-1817.