"Chapter V." by Constance Hill
From: Juniper Hall: A Rendevous of Certain Illustrious Personages during the French Revolution Including Alexandre D'Arblay and Fanny Burney by Constance Hill. London & New York: John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1904.
A HAVEN OF REFUGE
IN the month of September 1792, Mrs. Phillips wrote from her cottage at Mickleham to her sister Fanny Burney: "We shall shortly, I believe, have a little colony of unfortunate (or rather fortunate, since they are safe) French noblesse in our neighbourhood. Sunday evening Ravely informed Mr. Lock that two or three families had joined to take Jenkinson's house (Juniper Hall), and that another family had taken a small house at Westhumble, which the people very reluctantly let upon the Christian-like supposition that, being nothing but French papishes, they would never pay. Our dear Mr. Lock, while this was agitating, sent word to the landlord that he would be answerable for the rent; however, before this message arrived, the family were admitted. The man said they had pleaded very hard indeed, and said if he did but know the distress they had been in, he would not hesitate.
"This house is taken by Madame de Broglie, [Page 38] daughter of the Maréchal who is in the army with the French Princes; or rather wife to his son,
Victor Broglie, till very lately General of one of the French armies, and at present disgraced, and fled nobody knows where. This poor lady came [Page 39] over in an open boat, with a son younger than my Norbury, and was fourteen hours at sea. She has other ladies with her, and gentlemen, and two little girls who had been sent to England some weeks ago; they are all to lodge in a sort of cottage, containing only a kitchen and parlour on the ground floor."
This cottage we think we have identified. Mrs. Phillips's and other contemporary descriptions, with information gained from an old chart of the district, all point to a small dwelling called "The Cottage" as being that inhabited by Madame de Broglie. It stands in a corner of ground formed by the junction of Westhumble Lane and the Dorking road. A new front, together with some extra rooms, has been added, so that, seen from the lane, it has a rather modern appearance; but at the back the original part of the cottage is to be seen just as we believe Madame de Broglie found it. The glass-door opening into the garden, seen in the accompanying drawing belongs to the little parlour mentioned by Mrs. Phillips. Above this parlour is a small room, whose low ceiling is supported by beams, which was, in all probability, Madame de Broglie's bedroom. Its tiny window, now wreathed in ivy, overlooks the cottage garden.
We seem to see this delicate French lady, who [Page 40] was accustomed to every luxury, in the Hôtel de Broglie, with "its salons, its tapestry furniture, and its vast gardens," settled with her children in this
humble dwelling, yet thankful for its safety and security after her dire adventures.
Mrs. Phillips continues:
"At Jenkinson's are - la Marquise de la Châtre, [Page 41] whose husband is with the emigrants at Coblentz; her son; M. de Narbonne, lately Ministre de la Guerre; M. de Montmorency; Charles or Theodore Lameth; Jaucourt; and one or two more, whose names I have forgotten, are either arrived to-day or expected. I feel infinitely interested for all these persecuted persons. Pray tell me whatever you hear of M. de Liancourt."
The Duc de Liancourt, who had been forced to fly from France, had taken up his residence in Bury St. Edmunds, in order to be near to his old friend, Mr. Arthur Young, of Bradfield Hall, the famous agriculturist and traveller. Mr. Young had visited him in former times at his château of Liancourt, and had witnessed with great interest the benevolent works carried on by this good landowner for the benefit of his tenantry. Among these was the manufacture of linen and cotton stuffs, introduced for the first time into that part of France by the Duke.
The friendship between these two men of such different types is striking. Liancourt, the statesman, courtier, and patriot - the elegant and accomplished Frenchman; and Arthur Young, the eccentric agriculturist and typical John Bull. Mr. Young was, as is well known, a warm friend of the Burney family, besides being brother-in-law to Dr. Burney's second wife. An unpublished letter written by him to Charlotte Burney on the [Page 42] occasion of her marriage puts the man before the reader, and is therefore given here :
"DEAR MADAM, - You know enough of me to be well assured that I can do nothing in a formal or complimentary style - so that if I must either write a letter of congratulation or be guilty of a terrible omission, ye choice is made as soon as thought of, and you must pronounce me guilty.
"Besides, congratulate upon what? Upon marrying? To be sure it is a good sort of a state for those who know how to make a proper use of it - but how should I know that you are in that number? Many things will be necessary to convince me that you are. Are you disposed to a country life? Or must you be gadding for ever to London?
"Will the admiration of a heap of fools weigh in the scale against ye friendship of one worthy man? Are you in the midst of poultry? Do you know your best cow? Are your lambs safe from foxes? Are you planting shrubs and making walks? and can you pun as well in Norfolk as in London? Then, on the other hand, there is your husband - What sort of man is he? 'Tis true I hear many excellent things of him; but does he farm hugely? Are his turnips clean? Are his lands forward for beans and oats? Does he plough with oxen? You must confess that
[Page 43] these are points much more to the purpose than the common rubbish of character ye common mortals attend to. Hence you see, my friend, that instead of congratulating you, I give you a sheaf of reasons for doing no such thing.
"Then why write this letter? I'll tell you; it is because Bradfield lies half-way between London and Aylesham; and as your husband has settled in Norfolk (one good point in his character) we must have some farming discourse together. You can tell him I am a plain man not abounding in speeches, and can assure him there is nothing but plain sincerity in the wish that he would make this house his home on every occasion that suits him; he will meet only farmer's fare, but always garnished with a farmer's welcome. Adieu, you see I am as queer a fellow as usual.
"Yours, with great truth,
On arriving at Bradfield Hall Fanny Burney writes to Mrs. Phillips: "Sarah, who was staying with her aunt, Mrs. Young, expected me, and came running out before the chaise stopped at the door, and Mr. Young following with both hands full of French newspapers. He welcomed me with all his old spirit and impetuosity . . . . . [Page 44] The rest of the day we spoke only of French politics. Mr. Young is a severe penitent of his democratic principles."
From her host Fanny heard the details of Liancourt's escape from France. He was in Rouen, at the head of his troops, when news reached him of the doings of the 10th of August. He at once summoned his officers and men, and standing in the midst of them "he took off his hat and called out aloud, 'Vive le Roi!' His officers echoed the sound - all but one! - yet not a soldier joined. Again he waved his hat, and louder and louder called 'Vive le Roi!' and then every soldier repeated it after him." But the one dissentient officer called out, "As an officer of the Nation I forbid this - 'Vive la Nation!'" Soon afterwards a friend came to Liancourt in private and conjured him to fly the country. "The Jacobin party of Rouen," he said, "have heard of your indiscretion, and a price is this moment set upon your head!"
Liancourt's bold outspoken temperament had been shown to King as well as people. It was he who, on July 14, 1789, announced to Louis XVI. the fall of the Bastille.
"It is a revolt!" exclaimed the King.
"Sire," replied the Duke, "it is a revolution."
"In what manner," writes Miss Burney, "he effected his escape out of Rouen he has never
[Page 45] mentioned." Arrived at the sea-coast a faithful young groom arranged means for his crossing the Channel. At midnight both Liancourt and his groom embarked in a small boat, manned by two sailors. They "planted themselves in the bottom of the boat and were covered with faggots," and thus remained "till they thought themselves at a safe distance from France. The poor youth, then looking up, exclaimed: 'Ah! nous sommes perdus! they are carrying us back to our own country.' The Duke started up, he had the same opinion, but thought opposition vain; he charged him to keep silent and quiet, and after about another league they found this, at least, a false alarm owing merely to a thick fog or mist.
"At length they landed at Hastings, I think. The boatman had his money, and they walked on to the nearest public-house. The Duke, to seem English, called for 'Pot Portere.' It was brought him, and he drank it off in two draughts, his drought being extreme; he called for another instantly. That also, without any suspicion or recollection of consequences, was as hastily swallowed, and what ensued he knows not. He was intoxicated, and fell into a profound sleep. His groom helped the people of the house to carry him upstairs and put him to bed.
"How long he slept he knows not, but he awoke in the middle of the night without the [Page 46] smallest consciousness of where he was, or what had happened. France alone was in his head - France with its horrors, which nothing, not even English porter and intoxication and sleep, could drive away.
"He looked round the room with amaze at first, and soon after with consternation. It was so unfurnished, so miserable, so lighted with only one small bit of a candle, that it occurred to him he was in a maison de force - thither conveyed in his sleep.
"The stillness of everything confirmed this dreadful idea. He arose, slipped on his clothes, and listened at the door. He heard no sound. He was scarce yet, I suppose, quite awake, for he took the candle and determined to make an attempt to escape. Downstairs he crept, neither hearing nor making any noise; and he found himself in a kitchen; he looked round, and the brightness of a shelf of pewter plates struck his eye; under them were pots and kettles shining and polished. 'Ah!' cried he to himself, 'Je suis en Angleterre!' The recollection came all at once at sight of a cleanliness which, in these articles, he says, is never met with in France.
"He did not escape too soon, for his first cousin, the good Due de la Rochefoucault, was massacred the next month. The character he has given of this murdered relation is the most [Page 47] affecting in praise and virtues that can possibly be heard. They had been élèves together, and loved each other as the tenderest brothers.
"The Duke accepted the invitation for to-day," continues Miss Burney, "and came early on horseback. Mrs. Young was not able to appear; Mr. Young came to my room-door to beg I would waste no time; Sarah and I, therefore, proceeded to the drawing-room.
"The Duke was playing with a favourite dog - the thing probably the most dear to him in England; for it was just brought him over by his faithful groom, whom he had sent back upon business to his son. He is very tall, and were his figure less would be too fat, but all is in proportion. His face, which is very handsome, though not critically so, has rather a haughty expression when left to itself, but becomes soft and spirited in turn, according to whom he speaks, and has great play and variety. His carriage is peculiarly upright and his person uncommonly well made.
"His first address was in the highest style. I shall not attempt to recollect his words. With Sarah he then shook hands. She had been his interpretess here on his arrival, and he seems to have conceived a real kindness for her; an honour of which she is extremely sensible, and with reason. [Page 48]
"A little general talk ensued, and he made a point of curing Sarah of being afraid of his dog. He made no secret of thinking it affectation, and never rested till he had conquered it completely. He called the dog round her, made it jump on her shoulder, and amused himself as in England only a schoolboy or a professed foxhunter would have dreamt of doing. Then he tranquilly drew a chair next mine, and began a sort of separate conversation which he suffered nothing to interrupt till we were summoned to dinner. His subject was 'Cecilia,' and he seemed not to have the smallest idea I could object to discussing it, any more than if it had been the work of another person. I answered all his demands and interrogatories with a degree of openness I have never answered any others upon this topic. Mr. Young listened with amaze and all his ears to the many particulars and elucidations which the Duke drew from me.
"At length we were called to dinner.
"The French of Mr. Young at table was very comic; he never hesitates for a word, but puts English wherever he is at a loss, with a mock French pronunciation. Monsieur Duc, as he calls him, laughed once or twice, but clapped him on the back, called him un brave homme, and gave him instructions, as well as encouragement, in all his blunders. [Page 49]
"Mr. Young would hardly let Sarah and me retreat; however, we promised to meet soon to coffee.
"I went away full of concern for his injuries and fuller of amazement at the vivacity with which he bore them.
"When, at last, we met in the drawing-room I found the Duke all altered. Recollections and sorrow had retaken possession of his mind; and his spirit, his vivacity, his power of rallying were all at an end. He was strolling about the room with an air the most gloomy, and a face that looked enveloped in clouds of sadness and moroseness.
"Not to disturb him we talked with one another, but he soon shook himself and joined us.
"Sarah spoke of Madame Brulard, and, in a little malice to draw him out, said her sister knew her very well. The Duke, with eyes of fire at the sound, came up to me; 'Comment, Mademoiselle! vous avez connu cette coquine de Brulard?' And then he asked me what I thought of her.
"I frankly answered that I had thought her charming, gay, intelligent, well-bred, well-informed and amiable. He instantly drew back as if sorry he had named her so roughly, and looked at Sally for thus surprising him; but I immediately continued that I could now no [Page 50] longer think the same of her, as I could no longer esteem her.
"'Ah!' he cried, "with her talents, her knowledge, her parts, had she been modest, reserved, gentle, what a blessing might she have proved to her country! But she is devoted to intrigue and cabal, and proves its curse.'"
Madame de Genlis, under her feigned name of Brulard, had been staying in Bury, together with Mdlles. Egalité, Pamela, Henrietta Circe, and several others, "who appeared as artists, gentlemen, domestics, and equals on various occasions. The history of their way of life is extraordinary, and not very comprehensible; probably owing to the many necessary difficulties which the new system of equality produces." Probably the lady was unwilling to encounter the Duc de Liancourt, for she left Bury in all haste on hearing of his expected arrival. "She did not even wait to pay her debts, and left poor Henrietta Circe behind, as a sort of hostage, to prevent alarm. The creditors, however, finding her actually gone, entered the house, and poor Henrietta was terrified into hysterics.
"Madame Brulard then sent for her, remitted money and proclaimed her intention of returning to Suffolk no more. The Duke is now actually in her house. There was no other vacant that suited him so well." [Page 51]
Fanny mentions an invitation which Liancourt had received through Mr. Young from the Duke of Grafton, pressing him to make Euston his abode while in England, and offering him every means of comfort and privacy in his power. "He seemed much gratified with the invitation," she remarks, "but I see he cannot brook obligations; he would rather live in a garret and call it his own. The Duke told me, however, with an air of some little pleasure, that he had received just such another letter from Lord Sheffield. I believe that both these noblemen had been entertained at Liancourt some years ago."
Fanny concludes this letter to her sister with the following words: "He (Liancourt) inquired very particularly after your Juniper colony and M. de Narbonne, but said he most wished to meet with M. d'Arblay, who was a friend and favourite of his eldest son."
1 The name assumed by Me. de Genlis.
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