Elliott, Grace Dalrymple (DNB00)

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ELLIOTT, GRACE DALRYMPLE (1758?–1823), was the youngest daughter of Hew Dalrymple, an Edinburgh advocate concerned in the great Douglas case, who was an LL.D. in 1771, and died in 1774. Her mother, on being left by her husband, had rejoined her parents, in whose house Grace was born. She was educated in a French convent, was introduced by her father on her return into Edinburgh society, and her beauty made such an impression on Dr. (afterwards Sir) John Elliott [q. v.], an opulent physician, that he made her an offer of marriage, 1771. Though much her senior he was accepted. Elliott mixed in fashionable circles, and his young wife was not proof against their seductions. After repeated intrigues she eloped in 1774 with Lord Valentia, upon which Elliott obtained a divorce with 12,000l. damages. Grace was then taken by her brother to a French convent, but seems to have been brought back almost immediately by Lord Cholmondeley, whose visit to Paris in November 1774 may have been made for that purpose. She became known as 'Dolly the tall,' and gave birth, probably about 1782, to a daughter, who was named Georgiana Augusta Frederica Seymour. The Prince of Wales claimed the paternity, albeit Charles Windham and George Selwyn were thought to have pretensions, not to speak of Cholmondeley himself, who appears to have represented to Horace Walpole that the child was his. The prince showed great interest in the girl, but according to Raikes prohibited her on her marriage from quartering the royal arms with the sign of bastardy. The prince probably introduced Mrs. Elliott to the Duke of Orleans (Egalité), who was in England for the third time in 1784, and about 1786 she settlod at Paris. The death of Sir John Elliott (1786) may have given her greater freedom of action, and she received, or continued to receive, 200l. from his estate, besides having a handsome allowance from the Prince of Wales. Her daughter, brought up in the Cholmondeley family, and married from their house in 1808 to Lord Charles Bentinck at Chester, is said to have paid her several visits in Paris and to have been noticed by Marie Antoinette. An anonymous tourist of 1788 speaks of Mrs. Elliott as 'an occasional solace' of Orleans. She remained in France all through the revolution, and in 1859 her granddaughter, Georgiana Augusta Frederica Bentinck (1811-1883), only child of Lady Charles, who had died in 1813, offered, against the wish of her family, first to the British Museum and then to the late Mr. Richard Bentley, a manuscript entitled 'Journal of my Life during the French Revolution.' It was stated to have been written about 1801, on Mrs. Elliott's return to England, for the perusal of George III, to whom Sir David Dundas had spoken of her experiences, and Miss Bentinck produced as confirmation of its authenticity her grandmother's miniature by Cosway, as also Orleans's miniature on a snuff-box presented by him to Mrs. Elliott. The manuscript was published by Mr. Bentley without alteration, except division into chapters and paragraphs, and the insertion of a short summary of Mrs. Elliott's life before and after the revolution, apparently based on Miss Bentinck's recollections of her grandmother's conversation or on hearsay. The lapse of time may have impaired these recollections, but when we find equal inaccuracies in the journal itself it is difficult to acquit Mrs. Elliott of habitually embellishing her stories. Her very title is a misnomer, for the work is confessedly a narrative written seven or eight years after the experiences it relates. She is not indeed directly responsible for the statement that she was born about 1765, which would make her nine years of age when divorced, nor for the suggestion that Bonaparte offered her marriage. She professes, however, to have been in four Paris prisons, whereas her name is not on the register of any of them. She describes as the most heartrending scene she ever witnessed the parting at the Carmelites of Custine and his wife, whereas Custine was never at the Carmelites, and his wife was not arrested till two months after his execution. This and other inaccurate stories were perhaps borrowed from a Mrs. Meyler or Miglia, the English widow of an Italian, who was really in captivity with Beauharnais, Josephine, and Santerre. Possibly this Mrs. Miglia was herself as imaginative as her friend. But Mrs. Elliott can be confronted not only by facts and dates but by her own testimony. She gives a highly piquant account of her imprisonment in the same room at Versailles with the octogenarian Dr. Gem, Huskisson's great-uncle, whom she represents as extremely self-possessed, going to bed (for want of candles) at seven, getting up at four to read Locke or Helvetius (in the dark?), and waking her at seven to try and argue her into scepticism. Now in 1796 she told Lord Malmesbury that Gem cried the whole time and was terrified to death, while Gem in his turn spoke to Malmesbury and Swinburne of his fellow-prisoner and her dogs, of which the lady says nothing. Nevertheless the book is very entertaining, and undoubtedly contains much that is true. She may be assumed to be correct when she alleges that she went to Brussels in 1790 to promote Orleans's pretensions to the dukedom of Brabant, and again later on with a message from Marie Antoinette to Monsieur (Louis XVIII). The addendum states that on her return to England the Prince of Wales was again enamoured of her, that she went back to France in 1814, and that in order to remain there she had to adopt a native, whereupon she selected the daughter of Orleans's English groom, born on French soil. This adoption, with its flimsy legal pretext, bears a suspicious resemblance to Madame de Genlis's adoption of Hermione, and we know that Orleans taught his mistresses the art of fabricating pedigrees for their children. Mrs. Elliott spent the last two years of her life at Ville d'Avray, near Sèvres, where she lodged with the mayor, Dupuis. She died there 16 May 1823. The register, written by an illiterate hand, styles her Georgette instead of Grace, and gives her age as sixty-three.

[Journal of my Life, &c.; R. Bentley's Letter in the Times, 28 Jan. 1859; H. Walpole's Letters; Journal of Thomas Raikes; Diaries of Lord Malmesbury; Ville d'Avray Register.]

J. G. A.