« PoprzedniaDalej »
destroy the diary, and the reason given for its destruction was, “ lest at any time the ideas there expressed should be put forth as his matured opinions.” Byron, in a letter to Moore, dated April 2, 1823, thus refers to the arrival at Genoa of the Blessingtons, and Count D'Orsay, a French Count, “who has all the air of a cupidon déchaine, and is one of the few specimens I have ever seen of our ideal of a Frenchman before the Revolution.”
To Lord Blessington, his Lordship writes :
“ April 5th, 1823. “ MY DEAR LORD, “How is your gout? or rather how are you? I return the Count D'Orsay's journal, which is a very extraordinary production, and of a most melancholy truth in all that regards high life in England. I know, or knew personally, most of the per-. sonages and societies which he describes ; and after reading his remarks, have the sensation fresh upon me as if I had seen them yesterday. I would, however, plead in behalf of some few exceptions, which I will mention by and bye. The most singular thing is how he should have penetrated not the facts, but the mystery of the English ennui, at two and twenty. I was about the same age when I made the same discovery, in almost precisely the same circles—for there is scarcely a person whom I did not see nightly or daily, and was acquainted more or less intimately with most of them—but I never could have discovered it so well, Il faut être Francais to effect this. But he ought also to have been in the country during the hunting season, with a 'select party of distinguished guests,' as the papers term it. He ought to have seen the gentlemen after dinner (on the hunting days), and the soirée ensuing thereupon-and the women looking as if they had hunted, or rather been hunted; and I could have wished that he had been at a dinner in town, which I recollect at Lord Cowper's—small, but select, and composed of the most amusing people Altogether, your friend's journal is a very formidable production. Alas ! our dearly-beloved countrymen have only discovered that they
are tired, and not that they are tiresome; and I suspect that the communication of the latter unpleasant verity will not be better received than truths usually are. I have read the whole with great attention and instruction, I am too good a patriot to say pleasure-at least I won't say so, whatever I may think. I showed it (I hope no breach of confidence) to a young Italian lady of rank, tres instruite, also ; and who passes, or passed, for being one of the most celebrated belles in the district of Italy, where her family and connections resided in less troublesome times as to politics (which is not Genoa, by the way), and she was delighted with it, and says that she has derived a better notion of English society from it, than from all Madame de Stäel's metaphysical disputations on the same subject, in her work on the Revolution. I beg that you will thank the young philosopher, and make my compliments to Lady B. and her sister. “ Believe me, your very obliged and faithful,
“ Byrox." In subsequent letters to Lord Blessington, Byron repeatedly returns to the subject of the Count's English journal. One written on the 6th of April (the very day after that before quoted), to condole with the Earl of Blessington on the death of his only son, thus concludes : “I beg my compliments to Lady Blessington, Miss Power, and to your Alfred. I think, since his Majesty of the same name, there has not been such a learned surveyor of our Saxon society.” Again, on the 9th, “ I salute the illustrious Chevalier Count D'Orsay, who, I hope, will continue his History of his Own Times. There are some strange coincidences between a part of his remarks, and a certain work of mine now in MS. in England (I do not mean the hermetically sealed memoirs, but a continuation of certain cantos of a certain poem), especially in what a man may do in London with impunity, while he is à-la-mode.” And in a letter which Mr. Moore did not print at length, Byron said of D'Orsay, “ He seems to have all the qualities requisite to have figured in his brother-in-law's ancestor's Memoirs"-alluding to the famous Memoirs of Grammont.
Byron's approbation of D’Orsay's diary was given in the following characteristic terms:
“ April 22, 1823.—My dear Count D'Orsay (if you will permit me to address you so familiarly), you should be content with writing in your own language, like Grammont, and succeeding in London as nobody has succeeded since the days of Charles the Second, and the records of Antonio Hamilton, without deviating into our barbarous language,—which you understand and write, however, much better than it deserves. 'My approbation, as you are pleased to term it, was very sincere, but perhaps not very impartial; for, though I love my country, I do not love my countrymen-at least, such as they now are. And besides the seduction of talent and wit in your work, I fear that to me there was the attraction of vengeance. I have seen and felt much of what you have described so well. I have known the persons and the réunions described,—(many of them, that is to say,) and the portraits are so like, that I cannot but admire the painter no less than his performance. But I am sorry for you; for if you are so well acquainted with life at your age, what will become of you when the illusion is still more dissipated ?"
The illusion was wholly dissipated, but only a few months before D'Orsay's death.
On the 6th of May following, his Lordship writes to Lady Blessington :
"I have a request to make my friend Alfred (since he has pot disdained the title), viz. that he would condescend to add a cap to the gentleman in the jacket—it would complete his costume, and smooth his brow, which is somewhat too inveterate a likeness of the original, God help me!"
The diary of Count D'Orsay, illustrative of London fashionable life, which was pronounced by such competent authority to be equal to anything Count de Grammont has left us about
cotemporary frivolity, is said by others to have surpassed the memoirs of the latter in genuine wit and humour.
The Duchesse de Grammont has the papers of Count D'Orsay, and a portion of the effects; most of the latter were sold to pay debts. His journal was burnt by himself some
years back. *
It was on the occasion of D'Orsay's first visit to London, that he made the acquaintance of Lord and Lady Blessington, not in garrison in France, as has generally but erroneously been stated; neither is the assertion true that it was to accompany them to Italy, that he abandoned the intention of joining the expedition to Spain, there being no question of his doing so at the period of that visit.
At the earnest desire of Lord and Lady Blessington, the young Frenchman became one of the party in their tour through France and Italy. During their journey and prolonged sojourn in the latter country, the companionable qualities, and that peculiar power of making himself agreeable, which he possessed to a degree almost unequalled, so endeared him to his English friends, that a union was at length proposed by Lord Blessington between the Count and one of his daughters, both of whom were then in Ireland, with Lady Harriet Gardiner, the sister of Lord Blessington.
* In the Athenaeum of. February 3, 1855, the following notice of this diary is to be found :—“ Brilliant and shrewd any journal kept by Count D'Orsay must have been ; though, possibly, in his compliments, Byron may have somewhat exaggerated his admiration, according to his
usage ; but the author of the Literary Life’ before us gives a death-blow to curiosity, by stating that Count D'Orsay's Diary exists no more, having been burnt by its writer some years since. If this be the case, it should have been added, that the MS. was destroyed in no fit of spleen (for never was diarist, to the last, less splenetic than Count D'Orsay); but out of gentlemanly regard for the society in which, long after the journal of a passing stranger was written, its writer made himself at home. Yet more, it cannot have been burnt without cogent temptations offered to its writer to adopt the contrary course. believe that during the later part of Count D'Orsay's residence in England, when his embarrassments were notorious, he might again and again have coined money on the pages of a MS. reputed (on no less an authority than Byron's) to be so piquant. We have heard him again and again declare that he never would sell the people at whose houses he had dined !' and think it possible that the diary may have been destroyed by himself, in order to render all temptation impossible
"What's done we partly can compute,
But know not what's resisted.'”
This proposition meeting the approval of the Count's family, it was finally decided that Lady Harriette, the younger daughter, should become his wife, and she was accordingly sent for to Italy, where the marriage was celebrated.*
After a long continental tour, and a sojourn of some years in Italy, Lord and Lady Blessington, with the Count and Countess D'Orsay, came to reside in Paris, where, in 1829, Lord Blessington died of apoplexy.
During the revolution of 1830, the events of which are related by Lady Blessington in the “ Idler in France,” Count D'Orsay, during the most dangerous moments, was constantly in the streets; and on more than one occasion, when recognized, though known to be the brother-in-law of the Duc de Guiche, one of the staunchest of the legitimists, he was greeted by the people with the shouts of “ Vive le Comte D'Orsay !” such was the influence which his mere presence produced. One of the proofs of the effect on others
* We find in the “ Annual Register" for 1827, an account of the marriage ceremony having been performed at Naples, by the chaplain of the British Ambassador. “At Naples, in December 1827, Count Alfred D'Orsay, only son of General Count D'Orsay, to the Lady Harriette Anne Frances Gardiner, daughter of the Right Hon. the Earl of Blessington." of this unhappy marriage an account has been given in the preceding memoir, and the sentiments of the author in regard to it have been expressed there. Of the greatness of the calamity of that union, and the grievous wrong done by it to one almost a child in years, experi. ence, and understanding, the author has nothing more to say than has been already said by him, on that painful subject.--R. R. M.