An Inherited Talent

IN the year 1694 Madame de Sévigné repaired for the last time to the castle of Grignan, — that stately feudal dwelling in the hills above Montélimart, where her adored Marguérite had for years maintained the state and led the train of a petty queen. The fortunes of the noble house in question were understood at this time to be a good deal impaired, but no one had as yet presumed to forecast their ruin. That house was, indeed, so ancient and august, the family with which the brilliant marquise had complacently allied her darling was so unquestionably great, that there would have seemed to be something impertinent and subversive in the bare notion of its fall. The name of Grignan, by which the family was commonly known, or, as one may say, called “ for short,” was the least and most casual of its titles to distinction. They possessed the fief of Grignan, and chanced to have fixed their principal residence at the high-perched castle which dominated — and of which the imposing shell still dominates — the quaint little town of the same name. But when the heir and hope of the race, the gallant young Marquis de Grignan, precisely for whose wedding his courtly grandmother had come to the south, espoused the daughter of a rich financier, whose dot was relied upon to stop certain leaks in the household expenditures, the name by which he signed the marriage contract was Louis Provence d’ Adhémar de Monteil de Grignan. Adhémar denoted a descent from that Count of Orange who is renowned in song for having slain “ five Saracen kings ” with his own doughty hand; and it was probably through the coalescence of Adhémar with Monteil that the worthy city of Montélimart had acquired its name.

But the longest line must some day become extinct, and this one had arrived at the autumnal equinox of its history. The marriage of the young marquis (not a very happy one, as it proved, though the character of the bride was angelic) seemed to inaugurate a season of devastating calamity. A satisfactory alliance was indeed concluded, in 1696, for his sister Pauline, who became the wife of Louis, Marquis de Simiane. But Madame de Sévigné died in the same year, of smallpox, at Grignan ; her grandson died without issue, of the results of a wound received at the siege of Rochstedt, in 1704; and Françoise Marguérite de Sévigné, Comtesse de Grignan, a few months later. She was philosophic and a Jansenist, and had sometimes posed as a devotee, but she candidly told her friends that religion could afford her no consolation whatever for the death of her son. She too fell a victim to smallpox ; and, woman of reason that she had ever been, did she, perhaps, remember how easily she had been dissuaded from entering the chamber at Grignan where her mother met death with so serene a courage, and acknowledge the justice of the fate which overtook herself, when far away from home ?

The gallant old Comte de Grignan seemed to lose all care for repairing his embarrassed fortunes after it became certain that the illustrious name of Adhémar de Grignan would end with him. He was in his seventy-fifth year when his only son was killed, but he continued for a decade longer to serve his king on the field and in the council chamber, with the zeal which had always distinguished him. It was he who conducted, in 1707, the heroic defense of Toulon against the allied Austrian and Piedmontese armies, assisted by an English fleet in the Mediterranean, and a welltimed rising of the Protestants in the Cévennes. The siege, a famous one in the annals of war, lasted for several months, and the aged general performed feats of personal valor worthy of a youth with his spurs to win. He died at eightyfive, at an inn in Lambesc, when on his way to attend a session of the local assembly. He had been lieutenant-governor of Provence for forty-five years.

A year later, in 1715, when the Grand Monarque finally departed this life, and the Due d’Orléans became regent, the husband of Pauline de Simiane, who had been the first gentleman in waiting to the duke, was promoted to the same governorship which his father-in-law had held so long. But he also died, after three years of office, leaving his widow and her half - sister, Madame de Vibraye, the child of the Comte de Grignan’s first marriage, to conclude the best terms they could with the clamorous creditors of their father. They made a desperate effort to save from the wreck at least the castle of Grignan, but after an harassing struggle, which lasted a dozen years or more, they were compelled to consent to the sale of the place.

Fortunately, Madame de Sévigné’s little Pauline had inherited, and handed on to at least one of her own daughters, all the grandmaternal vivacity of mind and healthful buoyancy of temper. Hers was a spirit which trouble could not break, and money trouble least of all. She never lived at Grignan after her husband’s death, but sometimes at the neighboring Château de la Garde, — which had been left her by her uncle, the Marquis de la Garde Adhémar, and was doubtless one of the half dozen whose picturesque ruins now diversify the fine landscape commanded by the terrace of Grignan, — and sometimes at a villa near Marseilles, bearing the pretty name of Belombre. Finally she established herself at Aix, in a commodious house, which is yet standing, with the rooms which she occupied, and the decorations in the way of painting and gilding which she devised and commanded, almost unchanged. She was the sort of woman who, if she had fixed herself in a desert, would straightway have become the centre of an interesting society ; and Aix was a grand old city still, owning the prestige and cherishing the traditions of a provincial capital. One of her three daughters went into religion, — one of three daughters always did so in those days ; and perhaps, from the point of view then prevalent, it was not too large a proportion of a parent’s best to be given outright to God. The others eventually married in their own rank. With the second, Sophie, who became the wife, in 1723, of Alexandre Gaspard de Villeneuve, Baron de Vence, the relations of Madame de Simiane were always peculiarly sympathetic, tender, and gay. The autograph letters of Madame de Vence, which follow, have lately been discovered. They are interesting in themselves for the light they shed on the domestic life of the Old French nobility at the beginning of the last century ; but still more so for the remarkable illustration they afford of a specific talent transmitted to the fourth generation. They had been preserved, along with other precious documents, in the archives of the family of Vence until 1844, when the whole collection was put up at public sale. “The letters,” to quote the discreet language of their French editor, the Marquis de Saporta, “ passed, in the first instance, into the hands of persons who did not comprehend their value ; ” but subsequently they were rescued and purchased by a zealous autograph collector, M. Gabriel Lucas de Montigny, who permitted their transcription and publication. Apparently they all belong to the years 1730 and 1731, and are dated, with one or two exceptions, from the Château de Vence, where the young matron was living with her husband and children, her mother-in-law, and two uncles of the Baron de Vence, beside other hangers-on out of the great family connection. The first letter is dated at “ Vence, July 21,1730,” and the picture which it presents, of the bright young mother stitching away at her layette in the privacy of her own particular turret chamber, is a pleasant one.

“ Having first assured you, madame,1 of my most loving respect and my most respectful love, I shall have the honor of proceeding to inform you that you are much more fortunate than I ; for this is the second time that you will have had news of me, whereas I am in the same state as on the day I left, when you were never mentioned.

“ It will all be explained, of course. You will go down on your knees and ask a thousand pardons, — which is quite as it should be, — but meanwhile l must sit and twirl my thumbs ! Ah, well, madame, they shall be twirled, — that’s no great matter. But no, now I think of it, I will not twirl them, because on Saturday Madame de Vence2 received a letter from M. l’Abbé,3 informing her that he had had the honor of seeing you since my departure, and that you were much downcast over the loss of your unworthy child. You are very good, dear mamma, to miss her a little, and I ought to be in the depths of despair; and so I am, I assure you. All my hopes are fixed upon the month of November, and so far I see no reason why I should not return to Aix at that time. I dance a jig whenever I think of it, and meanwhile I am killing time by needle-pricks ! I have dealt more than two thousand of them since I have been established in my tower, and really I find it a great pleasure; and I no longer wonder that you sometimes keep it up till midnight. ’T is a consolation in affliction, a balm to the perturbed soul; and, in short, there ’s nothing like sewing ! But, would you believe it, madame, it is only for the last three days that I have been comfortably settled in my own little room. Quantities of visits, dinners at home and abroad, concerts and fêtes to be attended, — these things have held out until now ; but I am encouraged to believe that we are done with them for a while. I am in high favor with everybody except the provost of the chapter,4 who is mortified because I omitted to congratulate him on having gained fifty pounds. But how can one think of everything ! My nurse also is greatly disgusted with me for preferring to be confined at Aix. Yesterday, madame, the bishop begged me to assure you of his respects, and to entreat you to keep him in remembrance, as ail old friend of yours, who is, in fine, your humble servant. The Abbé Fort is the same as ever; I see him rather more often than I used. My son I found as handsome as an angel, but very ill behaved, all the same. M. de Vence sends you his respects, and I send mine to the chevalier and the baron and M. de la Boulié.5 I ’d like to know what the latter says about me to my mamma. Is he not sorry that I am here ? Adieu, mamma dear ! Go into the country, I beseech you ; and write, write, write !

A week later she wrote again, as follows : —

July 28, 1730.

How is this, madame? You wish me to preserve my composure, and you write me letters which would melt stones! You tell me that you have no heart in your letter, and behold, your heart is the very first thing that I see there ! 6 Excuse me, madame, but I am not accustomed to hearts on letters, and I thought I should have died of the shock.

I will be much more careful of your sensibilities ; I will even go so far as to assure you that it would be impossible to be bored at Vence ! A few trifling regrets, not worth mentioning; a few floods of tears, and worries over which you would fret yourself into a fever, — nothing more. Otherwise I lead a gay life in my little room, from eight o’clock till noon, and then again from two o’clock until seven. I read, and write, and work, and train my children, who need it very much. For a short time past they have had a Paris governess, who knows her business well enough; but she is a dwarf, and the sight of her frightens me to death. Herewith, dear mamma, since you are so kind as to request it, is a description of the aforesaid children: —

My son is very handsome ; tall and well made, with a good carriage and an excellent seat on horseback, but no grace. My eldest daughter7 is plainer than ever, and, moreover, one of her shoulders is growing out a little ; but she Is very nice, and says that she is going to be good. The younger girl 8 is not quite as pretty as she was. She is a coarse beauty, like myself, but well formed and clever; in short, she is the image of me. I teach them to work, and I try to make them graceful ; and it will be their own fault if they are not so. I am very fond of them; and I beg of you, dear mamma, to accord them a little affection. Not as much, however, as their grandmother’s grandmother gave her daughter. I want that sort of thing for myself, and, on the whole, I think I deserve it.

I suppose, madame, that the furniture I am sending from here will reach Aix in about a fortnight. Madame de Vence has been very good about it, and refuses me nothing. Everything is now provided for except my own bed. Pray tell me, dear mamma, if you can kindly lend me one, together with the mattresses. It will be just so much saved for me. I am grosse, very much so indeed ; why should you doubt it? But I never tell lies, and it is not pleasant. I hear on all hands that you have bought M. d’Albert’s house. I should think you would have told me yourself, but there ’s no counting upon anything. I would not allude to it even now, if I had not to inform you, madame, that I took the ground floor of that house a month ago, and paid for it with my own money. If you need it for this winter, I shall permit you to remain there, for I have a good heart. But you will please hold yourself in readiness to turn out at any time! Also, when I am there, I shall insist on there being two kitchens ; for I never could manage with yours. My cooks could not turn round in it. You see that I speak frankly and without ceremony, as one should with those one loves. M. de Vence sends you his most tender and humble respects. I make my deepest courtesy to your assembled company, cut a caper for the benefit of M. Ginieis,9 and send a kiss to my niece.10 If you do not have the goodness, madame, either to write me yourself or get some one else to do so, I shall scream like an eagle. Adieu, dear mamma! I am very giddy, but, all the same, I love you with all my heart. I had a good laugh over your Conclave ” and your “ Cardinal.” Tell me such things as that. They amuse me immensely.


VENCE, August 4, 1730.

Oh, you write me twice a week, do you, madame, while I write you only once! A pretty thing for you to say, but it shall make no difference about my Fridays. We are busy people here, however, and have other things to do beside stitching and paying epistolary compliments. For, resolve as you will, madame, you know that you find me irresistible, and you flatter me, up and down, and round and about, until you can no more. But I, who am very self-conscious, — especially since the weather became so hot! — I take the greatest precaution, and look well to all my letters ; and I ‘ll be hanged if I love you occurs a single time. What do you suppose I have been doing all this week, madame ? I have been pondering that rag of a stocking-heel which you sent me, and which cost me fifty thousand crowns for carriage. Not that I would reproach you, madame! The expense is a bagatelle. . . .

So then I have counted every stitch on that heel, and I cannot make it otherwise than fifteen stitches on either side, counting the seam-stitch on one. Moreover, all the heels we have ever made are done in the same way, and they are all right. For what would become of the poor seam-stitch, if there were fourteen on either side without it ? . . . Your theological friend sends you his respects, and is delighted that you propose knitting some stockings for him. You will have to set them up on three needles, with four stitches on a needle ; widening seventy-four stitches on the first half of the leg, and so on in proportion, until you reach the foot, which must be knitted on four needles, with forty-three stitches to a needle. Not that his foot and leg are ill shaped, but he has a fancy for having his stockings made so. Yours will be finished very soon.

We shall be off in about two hours. To-day being Thursday and to-morrow Friday, I wanted to leave my weekly letter here. We shall go first to Tourettes,11 and perhaps thence to Le Bar,12 to see those ladies who have such fine manners. I will tell you all about them if we go, which is not certain. The bishop is to accompany us. All the house, my turret included, presents its respects to you, and I mine to whoever may chance to be with you, always provided they are occupying the sofa! Otherwise I say nothing. You are longing for the month of November, you say, madame. How droll! I too, I do assure you, experience something of the nature of a desire, — and will it not be fun? Adieu, then, madame, — adieu, my own dear mamma ! On my word, I love you with my whole heart. Ah, what have I said! Well, it must stand, but don’t ever tell any one, or I shall die of shame!


August 11, 1730.

Well, madame, we set off last Thursday, at six in the evening, intending to pass the night at Tourettes. The Bishop of Vence was with us, and at half past seven we arrived. We played quadrille, had supper, went to bed, and nothing extraordinary happened. The next day, at the same hour, we took horse for Le Bar. I should like nothing better than to describe the roads; but, being your very humble servant, it is not my place to tell disagreeable things. Suffice it to say, madame, that a full hour before arriving at the castle one begins to mount stairs, of which there are exactly three hundred and two; for I had the curiosity to count, both going and coming. Well, and so having gotten to the top, I find myself in a courtyard, in presence of Madame la Marquise de Grasse,13 Madame la Comtesse du Bar, her daughter-in-law, M. le Comte, whom you know, his son, and their niece. We tumble off our horses, prostrate ourselves, and make four reverential courtesies to each person. Then we inquire for Madame la Comtesse du Bar, the mother-in-law, and are informed that she has broken her leg. Deep woe is at once depicted on the countenances both of those who tell and those who hear these doleful tidings. We now enter a hall on a level with the ground ; for, madame, the stairs we have been climbing are all in the roadway. This hall has a circumference of two or three hundred feet, and is lugubriously lighted by two candles at the farther end. Between these candles we find Madame du Bar, belle-mère, who waves us, with her hands, a most polite and gratifying welcome. I sit down beside her on a chair of the same date as the tapestry, inherited from an ancestor, some five hundred years old, for which she has refused twenty thousand crowns. I deemed myself settled, at least until supper, but not a bit of it! A moment later in came the two dames whom I had left in the courtyard, accompanied by four young ladies, all relatives of the family, each of whom made four more courtesies. You can reckon up, if you will, how many that makes; but, at all events, you will perceive that I did not long remain sitting. These preliminaries accomplished, we had a maigre supper, all in fine style, and served with much elegance and ceremony. After this I humbly begged permission to go to bed, and was forthwith conducted to a chamber a trifle larger than the hall, and planted out with roses and jasmine. My heart died within me, but what of that ? I fancied this was another hall, which I was merely to pass through, so I plunged into the fireplace, supposing that to be my bedroom. They rallied me a little, as they pulled me out of that dreadful fireplace, whereupon, perceiving my own utter ignorance, I submitted to be guided, and, after a quarter of an hour’s walk, found myself in the vicinity of my bed, whereto I climbed by the aid of a chair, and so fell asleep.

The next day it was the same thing over again ; and in the evening, at the same hour, I re-descended the stairs, and returned to this place. So much for my journey, madame; but since ’t was to the house of friends and relatives of the family, I beg you, in all seriousness, my dear mamma, to repeat not a word of what I have said.


September 22, 1730.

How sweet it was of my brother Sinéty,14 dear mamma, to forego the pleasure of your society, and stop over for a whole day in order to give me news of you ! This is the sort of favor I never forget, because sometimes I have the misfortune — and I know none greater — of not hearing my mamma so much as mentioned for a week at a time. So madame is giving parties,— which is very proper of madame ; and I should like to be with madame when madame does that sort of thing, and also when she does not; for ’t is a great pleasure to be with madame. We must be patient until November; but, dear, dear! it is very cruel to think of a whole long month and a half to be gotten through before I spring into the arms of a mother who is good enough to love me with all my faults. Until that day arrives, pray continue to support me, as heretofore, by letters flowing with milk and honey, and by the assurance that you are well; for, madame, you have not said one word upon that subject. . . . For my part, I tell you everything, and you must know a great deal more about my health than I know myself; as, for instance, that I was bled yesterday, and feel the better for it today. I have still that obstinate weakness in my eye; and I have the Chevalier de Vence and M. de Bompar,15 who will no more leave me than I can leave them. M. de Vence presents you his respects. Madame de Vence is engaged in spinning for my chemises. In a quarter of an hour my children are all to be whipped for having broken a lookingglass which I gave them. The bishop remarked yesterday that if I failed to mention him in every one of my letters to you he should quarrel with me. The Abbé Fort also desires his very, very humble compliments. Permit me to present mine to your circle. . . . Adieu, dear mamma. Rest assured that nobody will ever love you as devotedly as I do. I know that I am speaking the truth because I am sensible of loving you to distraction ; and they say one can do no more. . . . The Abbé de Vence brings news of my aunt, the nun,16 and says that she suffers more and more. I am very sorry for her, dear mamma, but equally so for you, who will see her in that state on your return. I am afraid it will be bad for you. Forgive me, dear mamma, if I venture to advise you to wait a little in order to see how it turns.


October 6, 1730.

Here, madame, is something like a letter, for the last two scraps which they did me the honor to send on your behalf do not count, inasmuch as they contained not a word from your own beautiful white hand. In the letter which I received on Tuesday I found your thoughts, your words, your writing ; and, best of all, at the end, those delightful tidings about the feather bed ! I am deeply grateful, madame, and I expect to sleep in it next month, unless some quite unforeseen accident should arrive, which would greatly distress me. To Aix I will go, madame, for I am impatient to behold the happiness in store for you, which you are so fondly anticipating. What this is I cannot imagine, beat my brains as I will, but when I know I will tell you. I am surprised that you make no allusion to my neighbor the Duke of Savoy,17 and all his performances. I fancied he would end by coming to spend the summer at Vence, and I hoped he might. Still, I advised him, as a friend, to wait until next summer ; because, if he did all his fine things this year, there would be nothing left for another. Do you not recognize here the good sense for which I have ever been distinguished ?

So you are going to Aix, madame, and perhaps you are already there. I should really like to know if you are still lodging in the house of M. du Muy.18

I should be delighted to find you on the same floor as myself ; and that for reasons which you might discern without an opera-glass. . . . And I shall see you. What joy! I laugh all by myself when I think of it, I am so pleased. We will knit stockings together, and, in short, amuse ourselves like queens! I await your congratulations, madame, on the new dignity of the Abbé de Vence, and I send you beforehand my very humble thanks. I am much pleased about it, and he is even more so. M. de Vence desires his respects, and so do my old gentlemen ; for I have some, as well as you, and I like them much better than I do yours, — especially than M. le Chevalier, who has not done me the honor of writing once.

Adieu, madame ! I love you with all my heart, if you will permit me so to express myself, but my chief desire is to say so face to face. I had not previously mentioned it in my letter, and I feel a certain delicacy about doing so, arising from the softness of my heart, which might have caused me to succumb to an affection which might have degenerated into — in short, you know what I mean.19


VENCE, October 12, 1730.

To-day is the 12th of October, and it is already quite cold ; excellent omens for me! A few more days and a little more cold, and I shall be with you.

And so you are at Aix, dear mamma, — or at least so far as I can see from here; and I fancy that I behold your fine new mansion. It is very pretty, but I long for a nearer view. Be so kind as to invite a good many people to meet me : I am used to seeing such a portentous number here. Just fancy, madame, that at this present moment we actually have the ladies of Le Bar, who have tumbled out of their castle into ours ! They are now in their dressing-room, with the professor ; and this is why I have the honor of writing to you. Otherwise, madame, upon my word, I would not desert them for a kingdom. It would be very impolite of me, for when I was at Le Bar they never quitted me for an instant, not even when I was in the state they are in now. But, madame, what would one not do for a lady of your merits ! Beside the dames above mentioned we have six gentlemen, and expect more. But I neither know nor care about anything now except what concerns ourselves; I mean your love for me, and my most respectful tenderness for you. I shall never get it out of my head or my heart, the longest day I live, and however I may be situated. I am looking for news of you with the utmost impatience; and meanwhile, madame, I have the honor to be — much more yours than my own.

It is plain that Madame de Vence’s passionately cherished hope of going to her mother for her confinement was somehow frustrated, after all; and the next letter is merely a string of the most vivacious expressions of disgust and disappointment : “Ma colère, ma fureur, mon désespoir,” etc. This letter is dated November 30, year not named, but plainly the same ; and it is only a fragment. It may very likely have been interrupted by the arrival of the expected event. But Madame de Vence had certainly recovered both her health and her spirits on the 9th of February, 1731, when she writes as follows : —

You express a wish for letters, madame, and I admit that you ought to have them ; but you might ask for them a little more politely than you did in your note to my husband. You were very rude, madame, and I am excessively offended. But what might not be forgiven you, in view of the delightful speeches which you have lavished on me, since my illness. I have just re-read them all, from beginning to end, and I am more than ever enchanted with them. No, no, madame, it is not lawful to be so witty, and if you go on like this you and I will be as like as two peas ! Ah, madame, why have I no more performers for the second act of the Carnival ? My own rôle is a charming one; but it will be awkward appearing quite alone, for everybody is going away, and there will be no one even to hear me. But stay; I am not so completely alone, either, for here comes my uncle. Now listen to our dialogue, if you please. And there are two more gentlemen coming. Quite a company, after all.


Dramatis Personœ. The Pèere de Vence. The Marquis de Vence. M. de Bompar. The Chevalier de Vence. Madame de Vence.


Scene I. Madame de Vence’s Chamber.

Père de V. Good-morning, my dear niece. You have a beautiful color today. You look better than usual. Charmed to see it, I am sure, but it makes me anxious to think of your traveling. And you have the air of a person who is on the move.

Madame de V. Thank you so much, dear uncle! I shall be distressed at leaving you ; but go I must, for I can no longer contain my impatience for my mamma.

Père de V. My advice to you would be to wait until your health is quite reëstablished.

Madame de V. Ah, dear uncle, don’t talk like that, or we shall quarrel!

Scene II. Bompar, the Chevalier de V., Madame de V.

Bompar. I am very sorry, madame, that I cannot have the honor of being your escort. Were it not that I have been here six months already, and that I am afraid of being arrested at Toulon, I would make the trip with pleasure. I should be charmed to pay my respects to Madame de Simiane.

The Chevalier. Parbleu, Bompar, you are right! That would be the thing to do. I should like it as well as you, only you know that I have to go to Grasse.

Bompar. Oh, yes, of course! One must follow the strongest attraction !

Madame de V. I am forced to interrupt you, gentlemen, or you will be giving me the history of your love affairs. Have done, please, and let us talk about my journey. The only love affair I have is there.

Scene III. All the Actors.

Père de V. Well, my dear niece, and when do you start ?

Madame de V. My plan, dear uncle, is this : on Sunday, I shall go to eight o’clock mass ; on Monday, I shall write to the Abbé de Vence to order carriages to meet me. I shall entreat him to be as expeditious as possible, and you can reckon for yourself how soon I am likely to get off.

The Chevalier. A truce to reckoning, and come and play piquet, or I shall have to go.

Bompar. You are in a great hurry, mon cher. Let madame alone, can’t you ? I am very much interested.

Madame de V. Oh, I have nothing more to say, gentlemen. Bring out the cards.

All. We have the honor to wish you a very good morning.

There is one more short note, written from Toulon, in which Madame de Vence congratulates herself on having at last found a place where one spends nothing at all. “ For you know how it was at Aix, dear mamma; though you were so kind as to have us dine and sup regularly with you, the—de Vence” (apparently the Abbé) “always managed to have something to eat by himself.”

And this is the last word, for us, from the lively pen of Madame de Sévigné’s great-granddaughter. She lived until 1769.

There is now in the possession of Mademoiselle de Courcière at Aix an admirable portrait by Arnulphi, representing Madame de Simiane in full middle life, with a little girl of five or six at her side. The lady wears the semi-conventual but extremely beautiful widow’s dress of the early half of the eighteenth century. A white cap with a fine fluted border is surmounted by a veil of black gauze, which droops upon the shoulders and is tied loosely over the bust. The close-fitting gown of rich black stuff is cut low in front, with a white fluted stomacher. The straight sleeves come to the elbow, and have very full double ruffles of white muslin, falling back from a finely tapering forearm. The carriage of the head is such as beseems an Adhémar de Grignan; the face, although not regularly handsome, is brilliant with intelligence, yet full of dignity, and so strongly individualized that one cannot doubt the excellence of the likeness. But the curly-headed and mischievous-looking little maiden, with a goldfinch perched upon one finger, and a pair of cherries dangling from the other hand, can hardly have been one of Madame de Simiane’s daughters, — the disparity of years is too great; she too has her stiff stomacher and her full elbow ruffles, according to the quaint fashion of the time ; and I think that M. de Saporta has conclusively shown that this is Madame de Simiane’s granddaughter, the little Julie de Vence, whom her mother describes as “ a coarse beauty ” and “ the image of me.”

Harriet Waters Preston.

  1. This formal address was de rigueur on the part of a child at that time, like the " honored sir ” and “ honored madam ” of our grandparents. But the manner in which the conventional title is repeated and played with in all the letters seems to show that there was also some cherished joke about it between the mother and daughter.
  2. This was the dowager marquise, a widow since 1707.
  3. Probably Alexandre de Villeneuve-Vence, canon at Aix.
  4. Alexandre Isnard, Bisbop of Vence.
  5. Friends of Madame de Simiane at Aix.
  6. Apparently there was a heart on the seal.
  7. Pauline : born 1725 ; married Joseph André Ours de Villeneuve.
  8. Julie married the Président de Saint-Vincens.
  9. An ardent Jansenist: afterward imprisoned for a long time, both at Vincennes and in the Bastille.
  10. Pouponne, daughter of Julie de Simiane, married to a kinsman, Jean Baptiste Castellane, Marquis d’Esparron, This is the gentleman who is credited with having destroyed the originals of Madame de Sévigné’s letters to her daughter and son-in-law.
  11. Tourettes-les-Vence, so called from its three towers, was the residence of a branch of the family of Villeneuve-Vence.
  12. Le Bar, the capital of the canton of the Maritime Alps. The imposing feudal castle, with its flanking towers, is still standing.
  13. Charles Joseph de Grasse had assumed the title of Comte du Bar when he married Marie Véronique, only child and heir of the last count.
  14. This was probably Jean Baptiste Elzéar de Sinéty, born 1703, who served, in his boyhood, as page to the Duchesse de Berry, and was afterward Chevalier de Saint Louis and Commissioner of Marine. He was about the same age as Madame de Vence, who knew him intimately, no doubt, when the Simianes were attached to the household of the Duc d’Orléans.
  15. A distinguished naval officer,
  16. This was Madame de Sévigné’s favorite grandchild, the engaging little Marie Blanche, whom she had ranch with her both in Paris and at Les Rochers, and whose ruthless consecration the grandmother half resented. She became a sister of the Visitandine convent at Aix, where she died in 1735.
  17. Victor Amadeus II. abdicated September 2, 1730, in favor of Ins son, Charles Emanuel. The next year he attempted to resume the crown, but was arrested by his son. and died November 10, 1732.
  18. This M. du Muy eventually became the purchaser of Grignan. His town house adjoined the one which Madame de Simiane bought at Aix.
  19. “ Vous m’en entendez bien ” was the refrain of a song then popular.