A Celebration of Women Writers

"Chapter VI." 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.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

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CHAPTER VI

AN ENGLISH WELCOME

MRS. PHILLIPS writes to her sister Fanny Burney; from Mickleham (November 1792): "It gratified me very much that I have been able to interest you for our amiable and charming neighbours.

"Mrs. Lock has been so kind as to pave the way for my introduction to Madame de la Châtre, and carried me on Friday to Juniper Hall, where we found M. de Montmorency, a ci-devant duc, and one who gave some of the first great examples of sacrificing personal interest to what was then considered the public good. I know not whether you will like him the better when I tell you that from him proceeded the motion for the abolition of titles in France; but if you do not, let me, in his excuse, tell you he was scarcely one and twenty when an enthusiastic spirit impelled him to this, I believe, ill-judged and mischievous act."

This motion was carried on August 4, 1789. It is said that Talleyrand, meeting Montmorency shortly afterwards, accosted him by his family [Page 53]  name of Mathew Bouchard. "But I am a Montmorency," exclaimed the young duke, and he at once mentioned his great ancestors who had fought at Bouvines and St. Denis. "Yes, yes, my dear Mathew," interrupted the wit, "you are the first member of your family who has laid down his arms."

Mrs. Phillips continues: "My curiosity was greatest to see M. de Jaucourt because I remembered many lively and spirited speeches made by him during the time of the Assemblée Legislative, and that he was a warm defender of my favourite hero M. Lafayette.

"Of M. de Narbonne's abilities we could have no doubt from his speeches and letters whilst Ministre de la Guerre, which post he did not quit till last May. By his own desire he then joined Lafayette's army and acted under him; but on August 10 he was involved, with perhaps nearly all the most honourable and worthy of the French nobility, accused as a traitor by the Jacobins, and obliged to fly from his country.

"M. d'Argenson was already returned to France, and Madame de Broglie had set out the same day, hoping to escape the decree against the emigrants.

"Madame de la Châtre received me with great politeness. She is about thirty-three, an elegant figure, not pretty, but with an animated and [Page 54]  expressive countenance; very well read, pleine d'esprit, and, I think, very lively and charming.

"A gentleman was with her whom Mrs. Lock had not yet seen, M. d'Arblay. She introduced him, and when he had quitted the room, told us he was Adjutant-General to M. Lafayette, Maréchal de camp, and, in short, the first in military rank of those who had accompanied that General when he so unfortunately fell into the hands of the Prussians; but not having been one of the Assemblée Constituante, he was allowed with four others to proceed into Holland, and there M. de Narbonne wrote to him: 'Et comme il l'aime infiniment,' said Madame de la Châtre, 'il l'a prié de venir vivre avec lui.' He had arrived only two days before. He is tall, and has a good figure, with an open and manly countenance; about forty, I imagine.

"It was past twelve. However, Madame de la Châtre owned she had not breakfasted - ces messieurs were not yet ready. A little man who looked very triste indeed, in an old-fashioned suit of clothes, with long flaps to his waistcoat embroidered in silk, no longer very brilliant, sat in a corner of the room. I could not imagine who he was, but when he spoke was immediately convinced he was no Frenchman. I afterwards heard he had been engaged by M. de Narbonne for a year, to teach him and all the party English.

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ALEXANDRE G. P. D'ARBLAY

[Page 55]  He had had a place in some College in France at the beginning of the Revolution, but was now driven out and destitute. His name is Clarke. He speaks English with an accent tant soit peu Scotch.

"Madame de la Châtre, with great franchise, entered into details of her situation and embarrassment whether she might venture like Madame de Broglie to go over to France, in which case she was dans le cas où elle pouvait toucher sa fortune immediately. She said she could then settle in England, and settle comfortably. M. de la Châtre, it seems, previous to his joining the King's brothers, had settled upon her his whole fortune. She and all her family were great favourers of the original Revolution; and even at this moment she declares herself unable to wish the restoration of the old régime with its tyranny and corruptions - persecuted and ruined as she and thousands more have been by the unhappy consequences of the Revolution.

"M. de Narbonne came in. He seems forty, rather fat, but would be handsome were it not for a slight cast in one eye. He was this morning in great spirits . . . . He came up very courteously to me and begged leave de me faire sa cour at Mickleham, to which I graciously assented.

"Then came M. de Jaucourt, whom I instantly knew by Mr. Lock's description. He is far from [Page 56]  handsome, but has a very intelligent countenance, fine teeth, and expressive eyes. I scarce heard a word from him, but liked his appearance exceedingly, and not the less for perceiving his respectful and affectionate manner of attending to Mr. Lock; but when Mr. Lock reminded us that Madame de la Châtre had not breakfasted, we took leave, after spending an hour in a manner so pleasant and so interesting that it scarcely appeared ten minutes."

Juniper Hall, where these interesting people met together on that November day, stands, within its smooth lawns and gay flower-beds, a little back from the main road between Mickleham and Burford Bridge, being half hidden from view by a group of magnificent wide-spreading cedars. At one time this house was an inn, bearing the sign of the "Royal Oak," but a purchaser of the property in the middle of the eighteenth century - Sir Cecil Bishopp - enlarged the building and fitted it up with much taste and elegance for his private residence. From Sir Cecil it passed into the hands of a Mr. Jenkinson, "an affluent lottery-office keeper," who, as we have seen, let it to the émigrés.

Although Juniper Hall has been much altered of late years, some of the more important rooms remain almost the same as when occupied by Madame de la Châtre and her friends. The [Page 57] 


THE SCULPTURED DRAWING-ROOM, JUNIPER HALL

[Page 59]  walls and ceiling of the large drawing-room still retain the delicate sculptured wreaths and scrolls of the Adam style of decoration, and its tall chimney-piece of carved grey and white marble belongs to the same period.

About three-quarters of a mile from Juniper Hall, at the lower end of the pretty village of Mickleham, stands the modest dwelling once occupied by Mrs. Phillips and her family. We have been able to identify it by the description given by Madame d'Arblay in the "Memoirs" of her father, and also by reference to an old tithe map. The dwelling known as "Mickleham Cottage" stands just where the high road takes a sharp turn towards Leatherhead, and is separated from Norbury Park by the river Mole. In former times there was a ford at this point where the bridge now stands.

Fanny speaks of her sister as "settled at Mickleham in a house at the foot of Norbury Park," and she also mentions its being opposite "the ford." In the tithe map this ford is marked, the only one in that neighbourhood, and the cottage is also marked exactly in the position mentioned by Fanny, the only building so placed.

The cottage has been enlarged in later years, but it is still a cottage with quaint low rooms, which open into a sunny garden bounded by an [Page 60]  old wall covered with roses, above which rise the sheltering elms of Norbury Park.

Mrs. Phillips's husband, Molesworth Phillips, was a Captain of Marines. He had travelled far and wide before marrying and settling in his country home. He had made the voyage round the world in company with Captain Cook, and was actually standing by the side of that good man when he was murdered by the natives of Owhyhee.

The author of the "History of Captain Cook's Last Voyage," after describing the terrible scene of his death, goes on to say: "It has been already related that four of the marines who attended Captain Cook were killed by the islanders. The rest, with Mr. Phillips, their Lieutenant, threw themselves into the water, and escaped under cover of a smart fire from the boats. On this occasion a remarkable instance of gallant behaviour, and of affection for his men, was shown by that officer. For he had scarcely got into the boat when, seeing one of the marines who was a bad swimmer struggling in the water, and in danger of being taken by the enemy, he immediately jumped into the sea to his assistance, though much wounded himself; and after receiving a blow on the head from a stone which had nearly sent him to the bottom, he caught the man by the hair, and brought him safe off." [Page 61] 


THE HOUSE OF CAPTAIN AND MRS. PHILLIPS

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It was during the voyage of Captain Cook that Phillips became acquainted with James Burney, the eldest brother of his future wife who was serving under Captain Cook, and in whose honour one of the newly discovered islands was called Burney Island.

Norbury House, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Lock, stands on the summit of a range of wooded hills and dominates the valley of Mickleham.

Mr. Lock was a generous patron of art and literature. Sir Joshua Reynolds had been his guest, introduced by Dr. Burney, and Sir Thomas Lawrence, when a young man, received from him hospitality and encouragement.

In after life Sir Thomas remarked to one of the Burney family, "I have seen much of the world since I was first admitted to Norbury Park, but I have never seen another Mr. Lock!"

We shall visit this hospitable household later on, in company with the émigrés, but for the moment, we would ask the reader to take a peep into the cottage of Mrs. Phillips. That lady writes to her sister Fanny on Wednesday, November 7: "Phillips was at work in the parlour, and I had just stepped into the next room for some papers, when I heard a man's voice, and presently distinguished these words: 'Je ne parle pas trop bien l'Anglais, Monsieur.' [Page 64]  I came forth immediately to relieve Phillips, and then found it was M. d'Arblay.

"I received him de bien bon coeur, as courteously as I could. The Adjutant of M. Lafayette, and one of those who proved faithful to that excellent


MRS. PHILLIPS' DRAWING-ROOM

General, could not but be interesting to me. I was extremely pleased at his coming, and more and more pleased with himself every moment that passed. He seems to me a true militaire, franc et loyal - open as the day - warmly affectionate to [Page 65]  his friends - intelligent, ready and amusing in conversation, with a great share of gaité de coeur, and at the same time of naiveté and bon foi.

"We went up into the drawing-room with him and met Willy on the stairs, and Norbury capered before us. 'Ah, Madame!' cried M. d'Arblay, 'la jolie petite maison que vous avez, et les jolis petits hôtes!' looking at the children, the drawings, &c. &c. He took Norbury on his lap and played with him. I asked the child if he was not proud of being so kindly noticed by the Adjutant-General of M. Lafayette.

"'Est-ce qu'il sait le nom de M. Lafayette?' said he, smiling. I said he was our hero.

"'Ah! nous voilà donc bons amis! There is not a better man upon the earth than Lafayette.'

"'And how shamefully he has been treated,' cried I. A little shrug and his eyes cast up was the answer. I said I was thankful to see at least one of his faithful friends here. I asked if M. Lafayette was allowed to write and receive letters. He said yes, but they were always given to him open.

"Norbury now (still seated on his knee) took courage to whisper to him: 'Were you, sir, put in prison with M. Lafayette?' 'Oui, mon ami.' 'And - was it quite dark?' I was obliged, laughing, to translate this curious question. M. [Page 66]  d'Arblay laughed too. 'Non, mon ami,' said he, ' we were placed in a tolerably comfortable room. That was at Nivelle.'

"'You were there, sir, with M. Lafayette?'

"'Yes, Madame, for a few days; after that we were separated.'

"Upon my mentioning," writes Mrs. Phillips, "the sacrifices made by the French nobility, and, by a great number of them, voluntarily, he said no one had made more than M. de Narbonne; that previous to the Revolution he had more wealth and more power than almost any except the Princes of the Blood."

Narbonne, whose mother was Dame d'Honneur to Madame Adelaide (daughter of Louis XV.), had been brought up at Court, where he was looked upon almost as a relation by the Royal family. M. le Dauphin (father of Louis XVI.) had "deigned himself to superintend the child's early studies," and, in after life, Narbonne dwelt with pleasure on the fact that he had received from him his first lessons in the Greek language.

After speaking of his own property M. d'Arblay continued: "And now, Madame, you see me reduced to nothing save a little ready money and but little of that. What Narbonne may be able to rescue of his shattered fortune I cannot tell but whatever it be we shall share it between us.

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MR. LOCK OF NORBURY PARK

[Page 67]  I shall make no scruple of doing this since we have always made common cause together and have loved each other like brothers.[1]

"I wish I could paint to you the manly franchise with which these words were spoken; but you will not find it difficult to believe that they raised MM. de Narbonne and d'Arblay very high in my estimation.

"The next day," she continues, "Madame de la Châtre was so kind as to send me the French papers, by her son, who made a silent visit of about five minutes. Friday Morning. I sent Norbury [to Juniper Hall] with the French papers, desiring him to give them to M. d'Arblay. He stayed a prodigious while, and at last came back attended by M. de Narbonne, M. de Jaucourt, and M. d'Arblay. M. de Jaucourt is a delightful man - as comic, entertaining, unaffected, unpretending, and good-humoured as dear Mr. Twining, [2] only younger and not quite so black. He is a man likewise of first-rate abilities - M. de Narbonne says perhaps superior to Vaublanc - and of very uncommon firmness and integrity of character."

On his resigning his membership of the Legislative [Page 68]  Assembly when "all hope of justice and order seemed to be lost," he was "thrown into the Prison of the Abbaye, where, had it not been for the extraordinary and admirable exertions of Madame de Staël . . . he would infallibly have been massacred . . . . This lady was indefatigable in her efforts to save every one she knew from this dreadful massacre.

*           *           *           *          *

"M. de Narbonne brought me two volumes of new 'Contes Moraux' by Marmontel, who is yet living; they are printed at Liège, and in this year (1792). He was in very depressed spirits, I saw, and entered into some details of his late situation with great openness . . . . Last May il donna sa démission of the place of Ministre de la Guerre being annoyed in all his proceedings by the Jacobins, and prevented from serving his country effectually by the instability of the King, for whom he, nevertheless, professes a sincere personal attachment. 'But I found,' said Narbonne, 'that it was impossible to serve him. All his best friends have found it so, and this on account of his very virtues as well as his faults. Indeed, to speak the truth, the King did not even rely upon himself, and in consequence he was distrustful of all others.'"

"M. d'Arblay was the officer on guard at [Page 69]  the Tuileries the night on which the King, &c., escaped to Varennes, and ran great risk of being denounced and perhaps massacred, though he had been kept in the most perfect ignorance of the King's intention."


[Old Houses on the Seine]

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Footnotes

[Page 67]

1 Mrs. Phillips usually gives the conversations of the émigrés in French. It has been thought well for the most part to render them in English.

2 The Rev. Thomas Twining, an accomplished Greek scholar and translator of Aristotle's "Poetics."

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