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Madame d’Arblay to Miss Planta.
Paris, April 27, 1802. A WEEK have I been here, my dear Miss Planta, so astonishingly engaged, so indispensably occupied, or so suffering from fatigue, that I have not been able till now to take up my pen, except to satisfy my dear father of our safe arrival. To give you some idea of these engagements, occupations, and
fatigues, I must begin with the last.
We were a whole long, languid day, a whole restless, painful night, upon the sea; my little Alex. sick as death, suffering if possible yet more than myself, though I had not a moment of ease and comfort. My little Adrienne de Chavagnac was perfectly well all the time, singing and skipping about the cabin, and amusing every one by her innocent enjoyment of the novelty of the scene.
At Calais we spent a day, and half a night to refit; and
pray try to imagine my pleased emotion and surprise, when, as soon as we were seated to dinner at the hotel, a band of musicians came to the window, with French horns and other instruments, and struck up “ God save the King.” So unexpected a sound in a foreign country, and a country so lately hostile, affected me with uncommon pleasure.
As to my occupations ;—my little apartment to arrange, my trunks and baggage to unpack and place, my poor Adrienne to consign to her friends, my Alex. to nurse from a threatening malady; letters to deliver, necessaries to buy; a femme de chambre to engage; and, most important of all! my own sumptuous wardrobe to refit, and my own poor exterior to reorganize! I see you smile, methinks, at this hint; but what smiles would brighten the countenance of a certain young lady called Miss Rose, who amused herself by anticipation, when I had last the honour of seeing her, with the changes I might have to undergo, could she have heard the exclamations which followed the examination of my attire! “ This won't do! That you can never wear! This you can never be seen in ! That would make you stared at as a curiosity !- Three petticoats! no one wears more than one !-Stays ? everybody has left off even corsets !-Shift-sleeves ? not a soul now wears even a chemise !” &c. &c. In short, I found all that I possessed seemed so hideously old fashioned, or so conically rustic, that as soon as it was decreed I must make my appearance in the grand monde, hopeless of success in exhibiting myself in the costume Français, I gave over the attempt, and ventured to come forth as a Gothic Anglaise, who had never heard of, or never heeded, the reigning metamorphoses.
As to my engagements ;-when should I finish, should I tell of all that have been made or proposed, even in the short space of a single week? The civilities I have met with, contrary to all my expectations, have not more amazed me for myself, than gratified me for M. d'Arblay, who is keenly alive to the kind, I might
say distinguished, reception I have been favoured with by those to whom my arrival is known.
Your favourite hero is excessively popular at this moment from three successive grand events, all occurring within the short time of my arrival,--the Ratification of the Treaty of Peace--the Restoration of Sunday, and Catholic Worship-and the amnesty of the Emigrants. At the Opera Buffa, the loge in which I sat was exactly opposite to that of the First Consul; but he and his family are all at Malmaison.
(Addressed to Dr. Burney.)
Paris, April 1, 1802. Almost immediately after my arrival in Paris, I was much surprised by a visit from the ci-devant Prince de Beauveau, Madame his wife, and Mademoiselle de Mortemar her sister, all brought by Madame d'Henin. If gratified in the first instance by a politeness of attention so little my due and so completely beyond my expectations, how was my pleasure enhanced when I found they all three spoke English with the utmost ease and fluency, and how pleased also at the pleasure I was able to give them in reward of their civility, by a letter I had brought from Mrs. Harcourt, which was received with the warmest delight by Mademoiselle de Mortemar; and a message from a young lady named Elizabeth, with the profoundest gratitude.
This morning Madame d'Henin was so kind as to accompany us in making our visit to Madame de Beauveau her niece, and Mademoiselle de Mortemar. We found them at home with M. de Beauveau, and they indulged me with the sight of their children, who are the most flourishing and healthy possible, and dressed and brought up with English plainness and simplicity.
The visit was very pleasant, and Madame d'Henin made a party for us all to meet again the next day, and go to the Opera Buffa.
Upon our entrance into the Hotel Marengo, we met M. Lajard, who came to introduce one of his brothers to me, and to offer us places in a loge to the Théâtre Feydeau. We went late, and arrived in the middle of an opera of which I know not the name, but which was quite in the heroics, though the airs were mixed with speeches not recitative. All my pleasure, I confess, was from the after-piece, in which the heroics were omitted. It is called La Maison à vendre, and two very agreeable singers and charming actors, Martin and Elleviou, delighted the whole audience, and would have had me amongst their strongest admirers if I were capable of following them in the words which make so much the chief charm of their performance; but I have not yet acquired the use of listening with much profit to the sense conveyed by lengthened tones in the French language.
M. Charles de Poix announced to us that Paesiello was just arrived in Paris.
I have heard much of the visit of Mrs. Damer and the Miss B——s to Paris, and their difficulty to get
introduced to the First Consul. A lady here told us she had been called upon by Miss B-, who had complained with much energy upon this subject, saying, “We have been everywhere-seen everything-heard everybody-beheld such sights ! listened to such discourse! joined such society! and all to obtain his notice! Don't you think it very extraordinary that he should not himself desire to see Mrs. Damer ?”
“Madame,” replied the lady, “perhaps if you had done but half this, the First Consul might have desired to see you
both.” “ But you don't imagine,” answered she, laughing, we came over from England to see you ci-devants ? We can see such as you at home !"
She was gone before our arrival; and, as I understand, succeeded at last in obtaining an introduction. They were both, Mrs. Damer and Miss B-, as I am told, very gay and agreeable, as well as enterprising, and extremely well répandues.
I was not much better in the evening, but the party for the Opera Buffa being formed by Madame d'Henin on my account, my going was indispensable. She had borrowed the loge of M. de Choiseul, which, being entailed upon the family à perpétuité, has in a most extraordinary manner continued unalienated through the -whole course of massacres and proscriptions to the present day, when the right owner possesses it. It is the largest and best box, except that which is opposite to it, in the theatre. M. and Madame de Beauveau, Mademoiselle de
and M. Malhouët, made the party invited;