Rivarol, Louisa Henrietta de (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 48
Rivarol, Louisa Henrietta de

by John Goldworth Alger

RIVAROL, LOUISA HENRIETTA Madame de (1749?–1821), was the only child of a Scotsman, Mather Flint, a teacher of English, who in 1720, at the age of eleven, accompanied to France his uncle, George Flint. This George Flint, whom his niece describes as being ‘known all over Europe,’ was apparently the author of ‘Robin's Last Shift’ (1717). Her father permanently settled in Paris about 1734, and published between 1750 and 1756 several works on English grammar and pronunciation. Eventually, after his wife's death, he apparently became a priest, and was appointed ‘curé du Mesnil-le-roi.’ Thus designated, he subscribed in 1776 to Letourneur's translation of Shakespeare (see list of subscribers in vol. i.).

Louisa, born at Remiremont before 1750, translated into French one of Shakespeare's plays, with Dr. Johnson's notes (probably the ‘Merchant of Venice,’ published in 1768). On 31 March 1769 Johnson wrote her a letter in French, thanking her for her eulogiums, and playfully complaining that she detained in Paris Sir Joshua Reynolds's sister Fanny [see under Reynolds, Sir Joshua, ad fin.] In the autumn of that year Reynolds, while in Paris, exchanged visits with her father and mother. About 1780 the daughter married the so-called Comte de Rivarol, the future satirist of the revolution. He was then twenty-seven, while she is described as older, but very handsome, and in the enjoyment of a competency. He is said to have compared her to Juno for jealousy and Xantippe for violence, and shortly after she had given birth to a son he quitted her for ever. For two years she was dependent on a nurse named Lespagnier, to whom the French academy on 25 Aug. 1783 consequently awarded the Montyon prize. Rivarol was much mortified at the stigma thus cast on him, and did his utmost to prevent the prize from being awarded; but all that he could effect was the omission of his wife's name from the report. During the revolution she was imprisoned for three months in 1794, but on her release obtained a divorce as the wife of an émigré. After her husband's death at Berlin in 1801 she published a ‘Notice sur Rivarol,’ in which she complained of his brother and other mischief-makers as the cause of the estrangement, affected great admiration and love for him, and protested bitterly, notwithstanding the divorce, against her exclusion from his will. In straitened circumstances, she translated several English works into French, and in 1801 offered to write for Suard's ‘Publiciste.’ After the Restoration she obtained a small pension, and she died in Paris on 21 Aug. 1821. Her son Raphael, who resembled his father in wit and good looks, joined Rivarol at Hamburg at the end of 1794, and served first in the Danish and then in the Russian army. He died in Russia in 1810.

[Cotton's Reynolds and his Works, p. 103; Northcote's Reynolds; Hill's Letters of Dr. Johnson; Grimm's Correspondance Littéraire; Notice sur Rivarol; Lescure's Rivarol; Le Breton's Rivarol; Alger's Englishmen in the French Revolution, App. E.]

J. G. A.