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BOOK THE FIRST.
GOSSIP, SOCIETY, AND MANNERS IN LETTERS.
I.-COURT OF LOUIS THE FOURTEENTH,
Madame de Sévigné to Madame de Grignan.
PARIS, July 29th, 1676. We have a change of the scene here which will gratify you as much as all the world. I was at Versailles last Saturday with the Villarses. You know the Queen's toilet, the mass, and the dinner? Well, there is no need any longer of suffocating ourselves in the crowd to get a glimpse of their majesties at table. At three, the King, the Queen, Monsieur, Madame, Mademoiselle, and every thing else which is royal, together with Madame Montespan and train, and all the courtiers, and all the ladies, all, in short, which constitutes the Court of France, is assembled in that beautiful apartment of the King's, which you remember. All is furnished divinely, all is magnificent. Such a thing as heat is unknown; you pass from one place to another without the slightest pressure. A game at reversis gives the company a form and a settlement. The King and Madame de Montespan keep a bank together; different tables are occupied by Monsieur, the Queen, and Madame de Soubise, Dangeau and
Madame de Sévigné to Madame de Grignan-Court of Louis the Fourteenth.
party, Langlé and party; everywhere you see heaps of louis d'ors—they have no other counters. I saw Dangeau play, and thought what fools we all were beside him. He dreams of nothing but what concerns the game; he wins where others lose; he neglects nothing, profits by every thing, never has his attention diverted; in short, his science bids defiance to chance. Two hundred thousand francs in ten days, a hundred thousand crowns in a month; these are the pretty memorandums he puts down in his pocket book. He was kind enough to say that I was partners with him, so I got an excellent seat. I made my obeisance to the King as you told me, and he returned it as if I had been young and handsome. The Queen talked as long to me about my illness, as if it had been a lying-in. The Duke said a thousand kind things, without meaning a word he uttered. Marshal de Lorges attacked me in the name of the Chevalier de Grignan ; in short, tulli quanti (the whole company). You know what it is to get a word from everybody you meet. Madame de Montespan talked to me of Bourbon, and asked me how I liked Vichi, and whether the place did me good. She said that Bourbon, instead of curing a pain in one of her knees, did mischief to both. Her size is reduced by a good half, and yet her complexion, her eyes, and her lips are as fine as ever. She was dressed all in French point; her hair in a thousand ringlets, the two side ones hanging low on her cheeks, black ribbons on her head, pearls (the same that belonged to Madame de l'Hôpital), the loveliest diamond ear-rings, three or four bodkins-nothing else on the head; in short, a triumphant beauty, worthy the admiration of all the foreign ambassadors. She was accused of preventing the whole French nation from seeing the King; she has restored him, you see, to their eyes; and you cannot con
Madame de Sévigné to Madame de Grignan-Court of Louis the Fourteenth,
ceive the joy it has given all the world, and the splendor it has thrown upon the Court. This charming confusion, without confusion, of all which is the most select, continues from three till six. If couriers arrive, the King retires a moment to read the despatches, and returns. There is always some music going on, to which he listens, and which has an excellent effect. He talks with such of the ladies as are accustomed to enjoy that honor. In short, they leave play at șix. There is no trouble in counting, for there is no sort of counters; the pools consist of at least five, perhaps six or seven hundred louis; the bigger ones of a thousand or twelve hundred. At first, each person pools twenty, which is a hundred; and the dealer afterwards pools ten. The person who holds the knave is entitled to four louis; they pass; and when they play before the pool is taken they forfeit sixteen, which teaches them not to play out of turn. Talking is inces
santly going on, and there is no end of hearts. How many hearts have you? I have two; I have three; I have one; I have four; he has only three then, he has only four; and Dangeau is delighted with all this chatter; he sees through the game, he draws his conclusions, he discovers which is the person he wants. Truly he is your only man for holding the cards. At six, the carriages are at the door. The King is in one of them, with Madame de Montespan, Monsieur and Madame de Thianges, and honest d'Hendicourt in a fool's paradise on the stool. You know how these open carriages are made; they do not sit face to face, but all looking the same way. The Queen occupies another, with the Princess; and the rest come flocking after as it may happen. There are then the gondolas on the canal, and music; and at ten they come back, and then there is a play; and twelve strikes, and they go to supper, and thus rolls round the
Lady Wortley Montagu to the Countess of Mar-The Birthnight Ball.
Saturday. If I were to tell you how often you were asked after, how many questions were put to me without waiting for answers, how often I neglected to answer, how little they cared, and how much less I did, you would see the iniqua corte (wicked Court) before you in all its perfection. However, it never was so pleasant before, and everybody wishes it may last.
October 31, 1723.
I write to you at this time piping-hot from the birthnight; my brain warmed with all the agreeable ideas that fine clothes, fine gentlemen, brisk tunes, and lively dances can raise there. It is to be hoped that my letter will entertain you; at least you will certainly have the freshest account of all passages on that glorious day. First you must know that I led up the ball, which you'll stare at; but what is more, I believe in my conscience I made one of the best figures there: to say truth, people are grown so extravagantly ugly, that we old beauties are forced to come out on show-days, to keep the Court in countenance. I saw Mrs. Murray there, through whose hands this epistle will be conveyed; I do not know whether she will make the same complaint to you that I do. Mrs. West was with her, who is a great prude, having but two lovers at a time; I think those are Lord Haddington and Mr. Lindsay; the one for use, the other for show.
The world improves in one virtue to a violent degree, I mean plain-dealing. Hypocrisy being, as the Scripture declares, a