"Chapter XVII." 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.
ON a Sunday morning, July 28, 1793, the marriage of Fanny Burney and Alexandre d'Arblay was solemnised in the village church of Mickleham.
The wedding, to which the company repaired from Mrs. Phillips' cottage, was quiet and private, but it was attended by some of the dearest friends or relatives of the bride and bridegroom - namely, by Captain James Burney, Fanny's eldest brother; by Captain and Mrs. Phillips, by Mr. and Mrs. Lock, and by M. de Narbonne. Mr. Lock, we are told, played the part of father to M. d'Arblay; and Captain Burney, in the absence of her father, gave his sister away.
We have looked upon the entry of that marriage in the Church Registry book for the year 1793, of which we give a facsimile. The date, as the reader will notice, is that of July 28, and not as given in the "Diaries" by some error as the 31st. Pieuchard (or Piochard as it is usually spelt) was [Page 166] M. d'Arblay's family name. The accompanying sketch from an old print of Mickleham Church enables us to realise the scene of that wedding.
The ceremony over, we fancy we see the little procession issuing out of the old Norman doorway and passing through the churchyard, out at the
wicket gate opposite the "Running Horse," and so, down the village street, to Mrs. Phillips' cottage at the bottom of the hill.
And again we seem to see them in the garden of that cottage with its trim lawn and gay flowerbeds, its clustering roses and its tall white foxgloves, holding happy converse one with another.
Two days later the marriage ceremony was, repeated, according to the Roman Catholic rites
[Page 167] in the chapel of the Sardinian Ambassador - a chapel adjoining what was formerly the Ambassador's house which faces Lincoln's Inn Fields. We have visited this quaint seventeenth-century building, with its double galleries and wooden
balustrades, and its small organ at the western end of the church, perched on the topmost gallery. The place is full of interesting historical associations which we talked over with one of the priests. By the kindness of this priest an old record volume was searched for and put into our hands, and there among the marriage entries for 1793 appeared the following
DIE 30 JULII, 1793.
"Nullo impedimento detecto in matrimonium [Page 168] conjuncti fuere Alexander Gabriel Pieuchard D'Arblay et Francisca Burney. Testibus Jacobo Burney et Louisa Maria Jacques et Felice Ferdinand.
"P. CAR: JULIAENS."
The name of M. Ferdinand has been already mentioned, as the reader may remember, among the Mickleham émigrés. We cannot obtain any information respecting that of Louisa Maria Jacques.
M. d'Arblay had taken rooms in a farmhouse called Phenice Farm, on the summit of Bagden Hill. Thence Fanny writes to an intimate friend on August 3 to announce her marriage. After mentioning the many difficulties that had opposed her marriage, she goes on to say: "Those difficulties, however, have been conquered; and last Sunday Mr. and Mrs. Lock, my sister and Captain Phillips, and my brother, Captain Burney, accompanied us to the altar in Mickleham Church; since which the ceremony has been repeated in the chapel of the Sardinian Ambassador, that if, by a counter-revolution in France, M. d'Arblay recovers any of his rights, his wife may not be excluded from their participation.
"You may be amazed not to see the name of my dear father upon this solemn occasion; but his apprehensions from the smallness of our income [Page 169] have made him cold and averse; and though he granted his consent, I could not even solicit his presence. I feel satisfied, however, that time will
convince him I have not been so imprudent as he now thinks me. Happiness is the great end of all our worldly views and proceedings, and no one can judge for another in what will produce it. To [Page 170] me wealth and ambition would always be unavailing; I have lived in their most centrical possessions, and I have always seen that the happiness of the richest and the greatest has been the moment of retiring from riches and from power. Domestic comfort and social affection have invariably been the sole as well as ultimate objects of my choice, and I have always been a stranger to any other species of felicity.
"M. d'Arblay has a taste for literature and a passion for reading and writing as marked as my own; this is a sympathy to rob retirement of all superfluous leisure, and insure to us both occupation constantly edifying or entertaining.
". . . Mr. Lock has given M. d'Arblay a piece of ground in his beautiful park, upon which we shall build a little neat and plain habitation. We shall continue, meanwhile, in his neighbourhood, to superintend the little edifice and enjoy the society of his exquisite house, and that of my beloved sister Phillips. We are now within two miles of both, at a farmhouse, where we have what apartments we require, and no more, in a most beautiful and healthy situation, a mile and a half from any town. The nearest is Bookham; but I beg that my letters may be directed to me at Captain Phillips', Mickleham, as the post does not come this way, and I may also miss them for a week." [Page 171]
The following is an unpublished letter preserved in the Burney family docketed by Madame d'Arblay, "Letter from my dearest, kindest Charles on my marriage, 1793." (Charles was then recovering from a severe illness.)
"With a hand debilitated by illness, but with an heart beating warm with affection and fraternal friendship, let me congratulate my beloved Fanny on her marriage, the news of which has just reached me by James and Sarah who are this moment arrived to see their half-alive brother. I can no more! My respects to Mr. d'Arblay, who I am most impatient to see, know, and love,
"Ever, ever, ever thine,
"CLIFTON, July 31st, 1793. Half-past one."
About this same time Fanny was gratified by receiving a letter, written by order of the Queen, in answer to her own letter announcing her marriage, which contained "the gracious wishes of the King himself, joined to those of the Queen and all the Princesses, for her health and happiness." Thus all anxiety respecting the continuance of her pension was removed.
Madame de Staël writes from Coppet (August 9) expressing her warmest sympathy and pleasure [Page 172] in the match. "And now," she says, "that you are become almost one of my own family, I hope, if I return to England, to see you as often as I can desire - that is to say, without ceasing. Memories of the past and hopes for the future all draw my heart out to Surrey. It is there that my earthly paradise is fixed. May yours be there also!"
In some lines addressed by Madame de Staël to "Norbury Park," she remarks:
"Douce image de Norbury, venez me rappeler qu'une félicité vive et pure peut exister stir la terre! . . . Dans cette retraite . . . j'ai trouvé quelques temps un asyle loin des crimes de la France . . . . Le respect, l'enthousiasme, dont mon âme est remplie, en contemplant l'ensemble des vertues morales et politiques qui constituent l'Angleterre; l'admiration d'un tel spectacle, le repos céleste qu'il me fasait goûter; ces sentiments si doux et si nécessaires après la tourmente de trois ans de revolution, s'unissent dans mon souvenir au delicieuse séjour, aux respectables amis, prés desquels je les ai éprouvés. Je les remercie de quatre mois de bonheur échappés au naufrage de la vie; je les remercie de m'avoir aimée."
Madame de Staël's admiration for England is well known - "the country par excellence," as she calls it, "of domestic happiness and of public liberty." [Page 173]
Lally-Tollendal, who writes to his friend d'Arblay from Twickenham, expresses unbounded satisfaction in the marriage. He goes on to say playfully: "But you have deprived me of an excellent argument for public debate. 'Give me an instance,' have I demanded hitherto with unruffled assurance, 'of any one man who has gained by the revolution.'
"This defiance at least cannot be uttered in the neighbourhood of Mickleham; for the tempest has carried you into a port that is better than that of your native shore, and the very demons themselves have thrown you at the feet of an angel who has raised you up. Your romance equals those of Miss Burney herself, and you act yours as effectively as she writes hers. Your destiny, my dear friend, is written in 'Cecilia,' and you will have as many witnesses of your felicity as 'Cecilia' has had readers . . . . Such profound knowledge of the human heart as its author possesses has naturally led her to discover the value of your heart and to appreciate your noble character.
"All our colony here [at Twickenham] have but one opinion and one sentiment respecting your marriage. The Prince is now writing to you, Malouet is about to write, and the Princesse begs that her name may be associated with all our congratulations." [Page 174]
There is an amusing postscript to this letter:
"When my father," writes M. de Lally, "commanded in India, he had reason to be much displeased with an officer who had been charged with a mission to the Dutch settlement, and who, through some grave error, had caused the mission to miscarry. My poor father, the best of men in action but the most irascible in speech, wrote to the officer, 'Should you commit this fault again, I warn you beforehand that if you possessed the head of my son on the shoulders of my father I would have it off!'
"As he was folding up his epistle, his steward entered the room, saying, 'I have just learnt, sir, that you are sending an express messenger to the Dutch Settlement. Our stock of coffee is nearly exhausted so I am come to ask if you will kindly order some more.' 'Certainly!' was the reply. And behold my father, who by this time had entirely forgotten his anger, reopens his letter and writes just below his startling declaration the following postscript: 'I beg you will be so obliging as to send me by bearer a bale of coffee.'
"To what does all this tend? Why to justify an incongruity equally flagrant which I, myself, am about to commit. My lackey has just come to me saying, 'I hear, sir, that you are writing to Mickleham. The last time you were [Page 175] there you left behind you a night-cap and a pair of slippers. Would you kindly request that they may be forwarded to you?' 'Certainly!' So behold me concluding my nuptial letter of congratulations with a request that the husband will give orders - I know not to whom - that these said slippers may be sent to London, No. 17 Norton Street."
1 Prince de Poix.
2 Princesse d'Hénin.
This chapter has been put on-line as part of the
BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative at the
Celebration of Women Writers.