Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Wishing everyone a happy, safe and prosperous New Year! May all of your sewing projects be on time and under-budget!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

December 30, 1779

I have received several invitations to parties celebrating the new year, but knowing Thierry would be left out I have declined them in favor of a quieter evening with him. We shall instead celebrate a new beginning for us.

Comtesse de R-, hearing of my interest in acquiring a puppy informed me that one of her's has just whelped, and she says I may have one of the dear little ones when they are weaned from their mother. I am very excited, and have been to see the litter where I picked out a lovely red and white girl, who (if she survives) will go home with me to Auvergne.

Maman received a letter from her husband, Msr. Cordelay, who requested that she and Mattieu return home. Despite my own planned departure after the Christmas season, they left this morning. Mattieu will finish his studies in Riom, and they must decide very soon what next to do with him. I will miss being near to him.

It being now late in the morning and having had my tea, I must dress and see to some letters. Perhaps I will choose some fabric for my new anglais, but as it is cold I think I would much rather stay at home.

Olympe, Comtesse

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

December 28, 1779

I have always loved the turn of the year, and I think that with the beginning of a new decade we may well see the fulfillment of our hopes and desires. Thierry and I are considering returning to Auvergne, even though the roads will be difficult this time of year.

Being only two months along, Pauline is not yet showing her condition, but continues to be rather ill, especially in the mornings, which means that Marianne is wont to attend me alone. She, I am sure, would much prefer to remain in Paris, and will only put on airs as she did the last time we had been to town. I did finally receive a request from the footman, Gilbert Boucher, who was instrumental in the candle incident in August. He has requested the latest edition of the Encyclopedie, which I suspect he knows is actually several volumes. As I do like to see people educate themselves I will not spare the expense; I believe there is even an additional index now.

Msr. Poisson has assisted Thierry by once more giving him lodging at his own residence, but as I mentioned we are thinking of leaving soon anyhow. Maman has been in a temper, and I think the cold is getting into her bones. We are enjoying a very nice Christmas, but after a while one does long for home and the solitude of being away from people who give their opinions where they are not wanted.

The most pleasant thing is that Thierry and I have begun to discuss in earnest plans for marrying. This naturally figures into our desire to return home, where we may be together without comment or censure. I always have such high hopes for the new year, but never more so than now. Sometimes my own happiness frightens me, it is so tenuous.

Olympe, Comtesse

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Book Review ~ Passionate Minds

It is hard for me to write about all of the reasons that this was a great book without giving away spoilers. I was in the library picking up only a couple of things, when I saw it on a shelf and made the all-too-common mistake of stopping to look at it. As usual, I left with more than I went for. I then did what I almost never do, when after reading the introduction I promptly skipped to the end. I had to know if the book was going to break my heart.I won't tell you how it ends, but I read the entire thing even knowing the ending already, so that says something.

From the front cover of the book, I knew it was going to be a good story, and like many others, the true stories are often the best. "The great love affair of the Enlightenment, featuring the scientist Emilie du Chatelet, the poet Voltaire, sword fights, book burnings, assorted kings, seditious verse, and the birth of the modern world." How does that not sound like fun?

Engagingly-written, the pace is very quick, and I found myself wondering if the lives of the characters were so truly stuffed with interesting events, or if the periods of boredom merely went unmentioned. It delivered not only a fascinating story, but was not overly-colored by the opinions of the author, who let the words of the protagonists speak for themselves in many instances. It is a love story, a history of thought, and even the heavy physics and calculus are explained in an approachable way.

I highly recommend this book to any of my readers who have not already enjoyed it. I myself plan to add it to my collection very soon. I also received several books for Christmas, so expect more reviews soon!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

December 21, 1779

There is a kind of weightless joy from the reunion of good friends, and the clarification of desires. It has been days of celebration, with simple foods, cards, dancing, and we have laughed and laughed to be once more together. F&R have joined us most of the time, but some of the most enjoyable times have been when we are alone. It is so wonderful to have my Thierry again, I feel quite drunk with happiness!
Olympe, Comtesse

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happy Birthday, Olympe!

On December 18th, 1779 Olympe Catherine Gabrielle de la Tour d'Auvergne turned 29 years old. Happy birthday, Olympe!

December 17th, 1779

There has been an unexpected turn of events. This morning as I was preparing for my audience at Versailles, F&R arrived (R being much recovered from his wound). I was not in a mind to have a formal lever, but as they are such dear friends I instructed Pauline and Marianne to admit them.

Scarcely had Pauline opened the door, when in they burst and pulled me up from my dressing table. "We have an early birthday present for you!" they cried, and insisted on me dressing hurriedly without attending to anything else. In a very plain caraco rather than my court gown, they proceeded to grasp my hands and direct me to the Orangerie, despite my protests.

There, amidst the plants, was Thierry. He saw me, drew himself up, and then dropped to one knee. "Madame," he began. "Others may offer you titles and riches, but these you already have. I may only offer you a faithful and loving heart, but once those were riches enough. If you would have me, I am yours today, or else I shall trouble you no more."

He looked up at me with pleading eyes, and a stony expression. I, for my part, struggled for composure. Seeing him again made me long for the comfort of his arms. There was only one answer. "If you can still love a fool, then it is I who am yours."

We embraced, and F- said "There is nothing so cruel as not being able to have the one you love." This suddenly reminded me of my audience with the King, and I wondered aloud what to do. Together the four of us developed a plan.

I continued to prepare, being laced into my bodice with instructions to Marianne to make it increasingly tight; a duty I am sure she was only too happy to perform. Leaving T- at home the three of us took my carriage to Versailles.

Standing for a while in an antechamber, I made great show of fanning myself, and spoke to my companions of a heat which they denied. Admitted to the King's presence I took the prescribed steps, curtseyed, and promptly fell over as if I had fainted. I was, of course, quickly helped out of the room, and F&R fussed over me. Reviving slightly, I again pretended to faint dead away, whereupon my carriage was called for, and it was insisted that I return home to recover, as I had not been feeling well all day. Fearing an illness greater than a tightly-laced corset I was permitted to leave.

Returning home to T- we celebrated another successful plot with champagne, dancing, and much laughter in my rooms. When F&R left it was already past midnight, and T- and I retired to enjoy our own company and discuss our future together.

Olympe, Comtesse

December 16th, 1779

Despite the snow we unexpectedly had overnight, my hairdresser was still able to come and do something new with my hair. It is softer, and I do like it, but my melancholy remains. I lost terribly at cards today, which is doubtless one of the causes.

Tomorrow is my audience with the King. I find myself most unwilling to go through with it, but now I must.

Olympe, Comtesse

Friday, December 18, 2009

Get to Know- Andre Sebastien Cordelay

Andre Sebastien Cordelay (Fictitious)

Last time we met Mattieu, Olympe's youngest brother, and this time I'd like to introduce you to Andre, the elder one. The first child of Marie-Madeleine de Lespinasse and Guillame Renaud Cordelay, Andre was born in Riom on October 12, 1756. As this was only ten months after Olympe's own father's death, she had been sent away to a convent school, and would later attend St. Cyr where she remained far from her mother and brothers.

Andre grew up in Riom, and later attended the College Mazarin, where he met Caroline Delacour who was a singer. He left in 1774 and became a schoolmaster in the town of Ferney, where the Delacour family was from. He is trying to purchase a commission in the navy, but his changeable nature prevents Olympe from being willing to give him the necessary funds, and is a source of contention between them.

Due to the fact that they spent almost no time together as children, Olympe and Andre are not particularly close. When he was at school they had become friends and she would visit often, but in more recent years they have grown apart as they spent less time together.

Initially a happy and mischevious child, after his schooling Andre became withdrawn and bookish. Not an avid scholar himself, he is very unhappy as a teacher and looks forward to a different position, and refuses to marry Miss Delacour until he has a secure one. In contrast to his relationship with Olympe, he is very close to his younger brother, Mattieu, possibly as a result of seeing the deaths of three other siblings between them.

Andre's brooding nature and disatisfaction will become more and more evident as the events of the future continue to drive a wedge between him, and his sister, the Countess.

December 15th, 1779

It has been a day full of activity. First there was a full lever this morning, at which S- was absent yet again. I am convinced that I was mistaken in his attentions to me, and must look elsewhere for a husband. A few weeks ago I had many options, and now it appears I have none. This is likely due to the Menars incident.

I attended the salon of Marquise d'E-, who promised to have Comte F- there, but he was not. From there it was dinner at the Comtesse de R's, and then the Comedie, and back to Comtesse de R's for cards and a late supper. I tried to be of good cheer, but from the conversation of others I seem to have failed since nearly everyone asked me if I was well.

I cannot help but think that after a day such as this the quiet happiness of a book and T's conversation always made me feel better.

Olympe, Comtesse

December 14th, 1779

It being the Tuesday before my audience with the king, I had felt it necessary to break off the liason between Thierry and I. Therefore, with a firm heart, I called him to the library, where I resolutely gave him my reasons, and asked that he leave and not attempt to see me ever again.

Distraught though he was at this, he seemed to accept it. He left Sully shortly thereafter. Making plans to visit R- at his home where we moved him as soon as he was well enough I prepared to leave home. Hearing a commotion at the entrance I sent Pauline to inquire after it's cause. She returned shortly and informed me that Thierry had attempted to return and see me. I had taken the precaution of informing the household that he was not to be admitted, and so he was eventually persuaded to depart.

I myself left to see R- shortly thereafter, fearing that Thierry might stop the carriage or cause some kind of scene, but he did not appear. F- was there, and I spoke to both of them of my decision and impending audience, and also of the incident already related. They questioned my resolve, but I am proud to admit that I held firm.

Upon returning to Sully I received a letter from Mme Le Sang-Boeuf who said that a lackey had delivered it, and insisted that it should be read by none but me. Opening it I found that it was from Thierry. He wrote:-

"Mme la Comtesse,

I know not in what way I have offended you so deeply that you would seek to overthrow the life we have enjoyed. Time has not been our friend, and society has not welcomed us as we are, it is true; but we have always sought to rise beyond the bounds of formality and to live in accordance with our hearts and minds, rather than as others would have us do. You now tell me that you would prefer the company of one who will rule you, but I believe that this is only the pressure of others. I hope you will remember in time that while it may be of a selfish nature to insist on the life that you wish for, that it is a gift you alone may give. For my part, I am, as I shall always remain...

Your Friend,

I have read and re-read his words tonight, and they haunt me. I feel as if a great chasm has opened before, and I must surely fall, no matter what.

Olympe, Comtesse

Sunday, December 13, 2009

December 13, 1779

These are words which I had hoped not to have to write. I have arranged for an interview with the King, so that I might accept his offer of the Duchy of Bouillon, and in return I will marry within a year a man of my own class and with his permission, giving up any hope of self-reliance.

I am calm, I have cried all of my tears for this fact, and those events which have brought me to it. I am merely weary now. The interview is on Friday next, so I have nearly a week to prepare myself for a new life. As to my lord and master, I shall at least try to find a kind one. Perhaps S- will have me after all.

I should like to say that it all stems from the duel, but really there were doubts before that. Thierry, whose christian name I shall use no more after this, was not someone who could exist in my world. Happy though we undoubtedly were in Saint Saturnin, even in Riom we were always hiding our true relationship, and so much more so in Paris that he had to appear as my servant! Yes, it might have been possible for me to marry him, but society would never have accepted us, my own friends could no longer associate with me. I have seen enough of the happiness that such a marriage may offer from the example of my own mother, and enough to know she could never go back. I may attend anything, everything, but she is not the dowager Countess of Auvergne anymore, only Madame Cordelay. I do not wish to lose the life I know.

For my children also, this is a wise choice. I may say that I have given them a dear gift, a duchy, and the hope for a happy future, whatever the cost to myself. It would be selfish of me to deny them that so that I alone may be happy. The fact that I may one day have to counsel my own daughter toward an unpleasant duty, is somewhat harder.

The duel was only the finale to a realization which has been assailing me for months, which is that Thierry and I are not the same. I can be calm, I can be sensible of my duty and my best interests. I need not consult an unruly heart to find my course. He may chastise "my people" for how we spend our time, and lament the failure to attain that which I came for, but by doing this I will have attained so much more, only for someone else. If he is so unimpressed with us, then he will not feel much affect at being thus freed to pursue someone closer to his own nature.

I will be content with future I have thus chosen. I refuse to allow regret to steal my happiness away.

Olympe, Comtesse

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Book Review- Mme de Pompadour: Mistress of France

Usually I wait until I am finished reading a book to review it, which only seems fair, however having read this book a year and a half ago and only re-reading it now I am reminded of enough of the content and style to give it what I feel is a fair review.

Madame de Pompadour: Mistress of France by Christine Pevitt Algrant, is a work of charming depth and character. It follows a largely chronological timeline, which is somewhat necessary when tracing the life of a single person. Many biographers fall into the trap of excusing or elevating their subject, and ignoring their flaws, but Ms. Algrant largely avoids this showing us instead what we know of the true feelings and hardships of this remarkable woman, sometimes even giving us a glimpse of the contradictions of character that existed; such as how truly loved Louis XV was, and yet how indifferent to her own family Mme de Pompadour could be. There is, however, always a distance when looking at Madame de Pompadour, wherein we are not able to put ourselves in her shoes. So many of her actions are seen through the eyes of others, and the machinations she used were so well-concealed that they remain speculatory.

The one thing that I wish had been touched on more in the book was the relationship that Mme de Pompadour had with children, especially her own daughter, Alexandrine. It is reported almost in passing that Alexandrine was born, almost certainly the true daughter of Jean-Antoinette's husband, and that she died in 1754, around the same time that the King had a daughter with another mistress. Other than that though, there were less than five pages wherein Alexandrine was even mentioned, and then only in the context of her mother's ambitions. Perhaps this is because that is all that her daughter was to Mme de Pompadour, a chess piece to be manuevered; but if that were the case it still might bear more elaboration, but this is only my opinion.

Overall the book is an easy read at 291 pages, I actually zipped through it in one evening as soon as it arrived, but am now reading more slowly to savor the vignettes it offers. For a fairly thorough biography of a beautiful, intelligent and cunning woman who was a major player in her time, this is an excellent start.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

December 9, 1779

Though it threatened rain again today, it became merely clear and cold by afternoon. F- and R- were with me discussing the duel, when R- became impatient. He declared that the weather was caused by M- who was beleaguring God with prayers for delay. He swiftly sent a note by his man to the Marquis de Menars, accusing him of stalling, and saying that the weather was quite fine enough to die under if he would hazard it; or else that he could admit himself mistaken, take back his words, and all would be forgiven. By and by word came back that Menars would attend R- outside the city where there was less chance of being discovered.

Knowing this to be all the fault of my own petty game, I could not let them go without me. Nor could I in truth remain waiting for some fatal word to come. We took F's carriage, as they did not want to risk mine being recognized, and met with M- outside the gates, and thence some distance further into the country. I was ill at ease when I saw that we were near a church, but reasoned that at least there would be a priest at hand should one be needed.

Menars allowed one of his seconds to introduce himself, and then asked R- who his seconds were. F- was there, but in all of our haste we had not noticed the absence of Comte d'Antraigues who had agreed to stand as well. M- smiled condescendingly and inquired if we had at least remembered a sword. Flustered R- ordered that they begin.

The words exchanged, agreements to fight as gentlemen, though one man short they began. The first pass brought a wound on the hand for Menars, but when R- tried to call the duel on first blood he insisted that it was merely a scratch and that they must continue. The second exchange found Menar's sword tangled in R's sleeve. The third I did not see well, it happened so quickly, but after a flurry of action both men closed, and then slumped to the ground. F and I rushed to R who's shirt was soaked with blood and perspiration. He had a gash under his arm, but Menars was worse with a slash to the throat. The seconds met briefly and called the duel a draw as neither party could continue, and we rushed back to Paris to get a doctor for R.

Returning to Sully I was glad of the privacy of my living arrangements, for we were able to transport the weakened R- inside with very little chance of anyone seeing him. Duly the doctor was sent for, and while waiting for him to arrive I was greeted with the most unexpected news. Thierry was in Paris!

Unannounced he had come to Sully, and finding me out had agreed to come back later in the afternoon. I had, of course not informed my servants where I had gone or why, and so when Thierry returned he found the doctor hard on his heels. I had the doctor shown to R's bedside, and drew T- aside to explain what had happened.

Telling him the whole story, I was most suprised when he evinced anger and even blamed me for the entire event. There was an argument, and I suggested that he leave, but to my greater surprise he would not, he insisted on seeing R-. Feeling bewildered by his request I nevertheless did as he asked, and to my very great surprise, though he had not moments before condemned the practice of dueling, calling it "idiocy", he thanked R- for taking upon himself my own guilt.

This I was not, and am not still, inclined to like; and I was heartily embarassed that I should have made such an introduction. R- tried to be jovial, and teased me about my lover, but he was pale and breathed with difficulty. Finally the doctor left instructions for his care with my servants, and I paid him for his services as well as for his silence.

Thierry attempted some affection, but I have shut myself up in my room. His words will not leave me "This is how your people spend their time. What of your grand plan?" Word has come that Menars looks to survive, so that is something. I doubt that I shall sleep well tonight all the same.

Olympe, Comtesse

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

December 8, 1779

It has turned quite cold here, in fact there was snow on Sunday, and even some tonight. The weather waited just long enough, however for me to spring my plan on the unsuspecting M-. I had some suspicion that this would bring me guilt, especially as it is the season of Advent, but I did not guess at how different things might return to haunt me.

The weather being fine on Saturday, which was the 4th, I informed M- that I had planned for a walk in the Tuileries Gardens, and I even gave him an hour. I had intrigued with F- and R- to convince him that I could only be swayed by a man who was willing to make known his affection for me. Naturally there was only one conclusion the poor man could make.

In the afternoon I, along with both of my co-conspirators, took to the gardens, and there went also Menars. Finding us at last amongst the many promenaders, he proceeded to bend at the knee and offer verses of his own concoction in praise of my beauty. I did not immediately stop him, and so he continued to plead his love and beg of me release. Finally, seeing that we were the subject of some interest, I begged of him what encouragement I had given him that he might think me disposed to his suit, so much so that he would debase himself in public in such a way.

His blood drained from his face and then returned in force, as he realized that I never had publicly encouraged him, at least not more so than many others. He then turned on my companions and charged them with misleading him, but they also denied such things and professed astonishment at his words.

Then he made the mistake of saying to F- that he would demand satisfaction if he thought F- capable of holding a sword. R- stepped in quickly and said that he would answer for his friend, if M- sought satisfaction. Though aware of R's reputation as an excellent swordsman, M- addressed his challenge anew. The man named their seconds on the spot, and we withdrew in haste to Sully.

With some great trepidation I tried to convince them both to call it off, but they would not hear of it, and instead called for merriment, with many over-boastful jests in the manner that they should not look to live past the next day. I for my part could not pretend to be jovial, but instead found that I had no appetite for either food or laughter and retired to my rooms.

For the last few days now the duel has been postponed for the weather, but should it cease to rain, snow, and be terribly cold I know they will continue, for they talk of nothing else. I pray that it will come to a bloodless end.

Olympe, Comtesse

Thursday, December 3, 2009

And I Quote...

"You are beautiful
so half the human race will be your enemy
You are brilliant
and you will be feared
You are trusting
and you will be betrayed..."
-Voltaire "Epistle on Calumny", 1733

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

December 2, 1779

For the moment our plan has been thwarted by the weather. Yesterday was too cold and today it rained continuously, and I believe still does. This is a disappointment, but it comes with an unexpected benefit. S- canceled his plans for a hunting excursion, and instead hosted a supper party with entertainment in the form of a fortune-teller.

Everyone crowded around the little table where she sat, and one by one we took the seat across from her. She examined our palms, and spread the cards before her for us to choose from. My palm predicted many loves and a long life, but one line branching off she said indicated I would make a sudden change and go in a new direction. I am uncertain what that portends, but in any case it is a harmless amusement with no sigificance. My cards were very hopeful and she told me that nothing could stand in my way, that I was destined for great things. It would be nice were it true.

Olympe, Comtesse

Sunday, November 29, 2009

November 29, 1779

Such a busy week. S- is back at my lever, and M- has been successively frustrated by attempts to see me alone, only to find that his rivals abound. My dear friends F- and R- have been in on the plot, and they find great amusement in the farce. This week should bring the climactic event, if the weather favors our plans.
Having been thwarted in his desires by the presence of others, M- has managed to send me some very passionate notes. I have been careful not to commit any vows to paper, but with the favor I have shown him, I think it will be simple enough to bring the matter to it's conclusion.
Let men beware the cunning of women!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

November 22, 1779

After finding the behavior of some gentlemen, most recently the Marquis de Menars, troubling, I have determined a plan which I hope will at least give me some vengeance. If they take a lesson from the experience I will be both gratified and surprised. M- is somewhat younger than I, so one might be inclined to forgive his faults as the mistakes of youth, but as with all children I believe it is important to correct defects as soon as possible.

There was a dinner party tonight at the home of Mme de Sainte-Juste, and M- being invited I made sure I wore my prettiest anglaise, with the largest of my parrures to draw his gaze to my decolletage. I arrived slightly late, and made great show of greeting my hostess warmly. I was seated across the table and down by two chairs from M-, but managed to catch his gaze several times quite by accident. I smiled, jested with those on either side of me, and was sure to contribute to conversation as wittily as I could.

We retired to the salon after dinner, and I sang gaily, played cards, and found myself by degrees surrounded by several admirers, one of whom was M-. Teasing G- about his stock I touched him playfully under the chin. I left my fan on the harpsichorde and asked M- to retrieve it, thanking him off-handedly when he returned it to me. I inquired of C- the fate of his latest mistress, and declared I should never be so easily captured or dismissed by any man; a decree which I know will only inflame them to try harder.

When the first guests began to take their leave I excused myself saying I had an engagement with some letters. M- said that I should not trouble myself with something so unpleasant, and stay an hour more with them. I deemed him sweet but insisted upon returning home. Retrieving my manteau from a servant, I suggested that perhaps he would care to attend my lever tomorrow morning at noon. He enthusiastically agreed, not realizing that I had extended the same invitation to two others earlier in the evening, for 11am. He will find himself frustratingly surrounded by rivals come morning.

Now to write Christine, for she will find great amusement in all of this. I only hope the rest of the plans unfolds as smoothly.

Olympe, Comtesse

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Get to know- Matthieu Alexandre Cordelay

I've decided to start a new series of posts about the characters of the diary, both historical and fictitious. Having spent a pleasant day with him, I am starting with Matthieu.

Matthieu Alexandre Cordelay (aka Mattieu)
Fictitious. Mattieu is the youngest of Olympe's two half-brothers. This being prior to the acceptance of standardized spelling his name can be spelled with an 'h' or without, but is pronounced the same way; "MAT-ew". Born in 1765 in Riom in Auvergne, the last child of Marie-Madeleine de Lespinasse (de la Tour d'Auvergne) Cordelay, and Guillame Renaud Cordelay, he is fourteen years younger than Olympe, who was away at school at the time of his birth. He has always shown himself to be a poor student, perhaps as a result of having been spoiled due to his place as the baby of the family. Unlike many boys his age, he was given private tutors at home, an expense Olympe provided, feeling guilty for her absence in his life. He is exceptionally fond of music and plays several instruments reasonably well. He and Olympe are devoted to each other, though he is probably closer to his brother, Andre.

Matthieu has a mechanical mind, and enjoys taking things apart and reassembling them to see how they work, but would happily spend an afternoon at the theatre. His inquistive nature typifies the curiosity of the Enlightenment, though in his case it lacks ambition. A generally pleasant boy, on the verge of manhood, his happy disposition makes him very likeable, and foreshadows none of the dangers of the Revolution to come.

November 21, 1779

The trouble with Society is that it is hard to know whom to trust. S-, who showed great favor last week, has not been seen at my lever for days, yet I know that he is in town.
I was at R-'s salon yesterday and had been losing terribly at cards, when the Marquis de M- declared he could play no more, and left me his money to play with while he and another gentleman went into a different room. My luck turned after that, and having won back much that I had lost I took M-'s money to give back to him, in a fine humor. The door to the other room was open, but there was a screen just inside, preventing me from seeing them, or them from seeing anyone approaching. The rest of the group was in the midst of another game, so being occupied in the salon they were quiet enough that I accidentally overheard M-'s conversation. I stopped short at what I heard
"Well, women are hardly ever any good at cards."
"True, so you may reasonably assume you'll never get the money back."
"Undoubtedly, but that wasn't really the point."
A pause followed before the other gentleman said "She does have many charms."
"And a charming inheiritance."
They laughed and their footsteps echoed across the floorboards towards the door. I froze between fleeing and confronting him. In the end I fled back to the other room. When M- returned he slid beside me and inquired as to how I had fared. I hid my disdain and held his hand out for him, being careful to touch him lingeringly with my ungloved fingers, and dropped the money into it with my other. Then I smiled and walked away. The surprise on his face was almost worth the effort it took to be sweet.
Sometimes I think I should like to learn fencing, then at least I could dream of what it would be like to stab men like him.
Olympe, Comtesse

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

November 17, 1779

Being apart for so long is difficult for Thierry and I. Our letters have become less frequent, but what troubles me most is how little that concerns me. I do not doubt his fidelity, he is not a man to betray another, but I doubt the wisdom of pursuing a life of so much trouble if the love will only languish and die. For such an ending I might consent to a match the king will approve and earn a duchy for my heirs. The desire for love and the right to control my own inheiritance weighs on my reason.

I confess that though I had all of these considerations before, they have been brought to mind again by the presence in my social circle of other desireable options. The Marquis of S- called on me a few mornings ago, and was present again at the opera, even inviting my entire party to sit in his box when he saw where our seats were. I was disappointed to find that he did not attend the supper afterwards, though he promises to host one of his own soon.

I was surprised to discover recently that Comte F- is in town. The Marquise d'E- mentioned that she had invited him to her salon, as he was a lover of music and she has been keeping a musician of some sort. I promptly wrote to him and we are arranging a day to meet next week. I have not seen him in years, as he was not in Paris the last time I came here. He spent some time traveling, which is why I was surprised to find him back here, since he had evinced some disgust with Paris, but then it is my experience that he is never happy anywhere, and will soon tire of any country or city.

I myself am tired, but merely because it is past my bedtime. I will retire, and save further musings for tomorrow.

Olympe, Comtesse

Saturday, November 14, 2009

November 13, 1779

I am expecting delivery of my new robe a la francaise today, which I shall wear to the opera tomorrow. Comtesse de R- is hosting a supper party afterwards and promises us the excitement of having some of the singers there as well.
Pauline continues to feel ill, which has made it difficult for her to perform her duties; and just as I feared, by whatever source the news of that small crisis has found its way into the world. I know this because the Comtesse de L- (who will be attending the supper as well) asked me in a whisper just this week if it wasn't true that I had to force my maid into marriage for the sake of her condition. I replied that it would be more true to say that I forced my footman. I stopped just short of saying that MY footmen in Auvergne marry without my request.
The Marquis of S- just arrived for my Lever, so I suppose I must start my day.
Olympe, Comtesse

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

Olympe de la Tour, Comtesse D'Auvergne 1778

November 8, 1779

Today has been a day much more in keeping with my quiet life back in Auvergne. There have been no crying servants, no sudden summons, no disquieting suitors, and certainly no rushed marriages. I rose late, very late in fact as it was past eleven, and lingered over breakfast with my letters. Maman came in to see me, as she does not sleep past nine in the morning unless she is ill, and we conversed for a while. I asked for a bath to be drawn, which Marianne did as Pauline was feeling unwell. A long leisurely soak ended with me deciding to have my hair washed, as it has been quite some time since it was last done.

That being accomplished I read some, wrote to my steward, visited the Orangerie to look in on the flowers still blooming there, and spend a good part of the day embroidering a pair of pockets that I have been meaning to finish for months. I also sent Marianne to inquire after a fan I had ordered a while ago and which should have been completed by now.

I was, in the midst of the peaceful solitude, disquieted by the thought that I came here to Paris with a plan and a purpose. I must, it seems, return to Auvergne unsuccessful and with a concern for having rejected the King's very generous offer and what that may bring. I have spent the last few months enjoying society and its many divertissements, instead of helping my case; as I could not help it in any conceivable way. Have I wasted the time I came here to fullfill, or could I truly not have done otherwise? My conclusion is that I have done what I could, but I cannot deny that I have taken every opportunity to enjoy myself as well. No, for that I will not be ashamed. In many ways it has been wonderful, and I should not be sorry to return.

Olympe, Comtesse

Saturday, November 7, 2009

And I Quote...

"We saw a huge expanse of houses beneathe a cloud of steam. I asked my father what it was. It was Paris, a big city, so big that not all of it could be seen from where we stood. Oh! How big Paris was! My father said it was as big as from Vermanton to Sacy and Sacy to Joux. At least that big. Oh! What a lot of people! There are so many people that nobody knows anybody else, not even in the same neighborhood, not even in his own house."

- Restif de la Bretonne

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

November 3, 1779 The servants

Having written last early in the day I could not have know it, but this Wednesday has proven to contain more activity than one may find at the Comedie Francais!

I sat at my dressing table this morning, finished my journal entry around 11am. Usually Marianne and Pauline are already there to assist me, though sometimes it is only Pauline of late, today I was amazed to find myself quite alone. I rang for someone, and by and by Pauline arrived, quite red in the face. I asked why no one was prepared to help me dress, and was perhaps sharper than I meant to be in my tone, for all at once she began to cry in a torrent of apologies and I gathered from her appearance that she had likely been crying already. I am I admit not always sure how to treat those in distress; I try to give to the poor, and consider myself a fair mistress, and though my steward handles most of the income from the estates I do talk to my tenants to find out how they are treated.

At a loss for what to do I invited her to sit down on a chair, which she did, her eyes cast low. I explained patiently that I was not really angry with her, especially as I had no fixed engagements for the day, but that I only found it disappointing that as late as I have grown accustomed to rising no one was available to help me dress. At this she wiped her nose with her hands, and her hands on her apron (a disconcerting habit), and proffered her understanding that I had been very kind to bring her to Paris with me and she would do her utmost etc etc.

She then inquired very calmly if I intended that we should return to Auvergne at the end of the year as planned. Perhaps hoping to strengthen my own resolve through the admission I said that I did, and she promptly burst into tears again. Quite at a loss I could only assume that she had grown fond of the city, as country girls are wont to do I understand, and I mentioned that we might return again in the spring. "Not I." She said. Whereupon I, seated with my back to my dressing table and my hands folded in my lap, assured her again that I was not so angry that I would not bring her back. To this she answered that her mother would never let her return.

At this my heart dropped into the pit of my stomach and I asked her why not with some trepidation. After a moment she admitted to me what I had feared; she was with child. Pauline, the child of fifteen that I brought with me from quiet Saint Saturnin, seemed to have fallen prey to the iniquities of the city, and I felt in some way responsible. As I opened my mouth to ask who the father of this child was Marianne came rushing in, rather disheveled. It took her only a moment to realize what our conversation was about, and her guilty conscience showed plainly in her features.

I rose to my feet and with an anger I had not known I felt remarked how well she had looked after Pauline, as I had charged her when we left home. Probably I felt some guilt myself, but I now saw more that I should have realized sooner. The late arrivals, the tousled appearance, the new ribbons every week with which they adorned themselves; they both had lovers under my own roof. I asked Marianne how long she had known of Pauline's...I could not bring myself to say the word disgrace in front of the girl, upset as she was, so I left it unfinished. Marianne stammered an excuse, averting her eyes also. "There will be no lovers in my house." I declared, thinking how like a miserable old maid I sounded, even as the words came out. I instructed them that they must forswear the company of those they had so warmly welcomed, and that I should like to know the name of the father of Pauline's child. Pauline sniffled, and Marianne stood as stiffly as a statue, her eyes on the ground.

I turned and appealed to Pauline herself to tell me the name, and when she did I was ashamed to find that I did not know it. The man, it turns out, is one of my footmen; or rather, one of those hired for me by Mme Le Sang-boeuf for l'hotel de Sully during my stay in town. Both of my maids were then dismissed, though I had to call Marianne back again as I had forgotten I still needed to dress.

While she dressed me I forced the rest of the story out of her. It turns out that Pauline was not upset about being unable to return to Paris, but that she had hoped to find a solution to having the baby, or at least to have it here and abandon it anonymously before returning to her family who would then be none the wiser of her indiscretion. I suspect very strongly that the plan was that of Marianne's, who I wonder at more the longer we are here, as she has grown increasingly more sullen and inattentive.

I then withdrew to the library where I tried to look over my new books, but found that I had to deal with the problem before me. I called on the footman in question, Robert (I am finding that Roberts are never any good), and received him with all of the disapproving dignity that I could muster. I asked him if he was aware of the condition of my maid, and he pretended not to know. I then informed him that she had named him as the father, and though I feared that he would deny it, he did not. I then asked him if he was married or free, and in another fortunate turn he was free. I then dismissed him and called for Abbe Girard, who presently arrived. Explaining the situation to him I asked if he could marry the couple without bans that very afternoon, and as there was a child involved he said he would.

Marianne was sent to the orangerie for some blossoms, as it is too cold to find them in the gardens now, and I sent for Pauline and Robert. He in his livery and she in her nicest caraco were married in the library, while I, Marianne, and a footman named Guillaume stood witness. Marianne looked very sour the entire time and I had half a mind after this affair to dismiss her, but reasoned that I would be short one maid in due time as it is. It being nearly dinnertime after the ceremony I informed the cook that there would be three more at table and invited the Abbe and the couple to dine with me, which they did.

I gave the Abbe Girard a large donation to take back with him, but do not doubt that the news shall be all over town tomorrow at the latest. The couple retired for the remainder of the day, and I returned to the library to write another letter to Christine and attempt to find some solace in a book, which eluded me. I shall now have to write to Pauline's mother and explain all of this to her, which is an obligation I love not. I shall ask Pauline to enclose a message of her own, as I feel is only right. I hope that I have acted in accordance with good principles and sound judgement, but I fear it will reflect badly on me nonetheless. May tomorrow hold less excitement.

Olympe, Comtesse

November 3, 1779

After all of the festivities for the Queen's birthday yesterday I have been most fatigued all day, on top of it all I think I may be coming down with a cold. It is just as well, for I have no engagements for the next few nights and can rest at home. I have been very productive last few days, having been to the bookseller to better stock my library here in town, as well as seeing my Marchande des Modes. I did a rather silly thing and bought a muff and hat without having anything to wear them with, so now I needs must have at least one new outfit made to match. Of course my marchande is only to happy to oblige me with that dilemma.

I wrote to Christine and told her I was to visit our old school, St. Cyr, but I have not yet set a date on which to do so. The visit to the bookseller did furnish me with enough educational volumes to make a sizeable donation, so I think I am bereft of excuses and must now make the visit itself. It will at least silence Maman who has been encouraging me to do so, in her usual and unrelenting way.

The more I think on it the more I am convinced that I do not want to give up the Hotel de Sully, or failing that should at least keep some residence in Paris. Even more so I realize that such a decision remains mine to make, and the money to do so mine to spend, only because I remain independent of a husband. No, as I wrote before, I never sought the Duchy now dangled before me and even if it means the loss of the reacquisition I did come here to pursue, I can ensure a future for myself that is within my control by marrying Thierry as planned. My only fear is that in refusing so apparently generous an offer I will incur the displeasure of those who may take the little I have. A quiet wedding in Auvergne, and some time to let society accustom itself to Thierry and I, and I do believe that everything will be well. I pray that it will be.

Olympe, Comtesse

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I'm a winner!

Thanks to Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide (click title for link) I will soon be the proud owner of my own copy of Madame de Pompadour: Mistress of France! Having used this book as a source for a paper I wrote in graduate school I already know it is one I love. Now I won't have to check it out of the library and obsessively renew it everytime I want to read it.
Thanks Lauren!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

October 27, 1779

Thierry has been and gone, and during his stay I debated whether or not to tell him of the King's proposal. Finally I did, and the result was a very unsatisfactory argument when we both would have much prefered to take pleasure in our short time together. He has gone back to Auvergne for the time being, but may come again at a later date. As to me, I have not decided on a course of action; an all too common situation recently it seems.

Comtesse de R- has a sweet little dog, and I am reminded of my desire this summer to have a small companion of my own, so perhaps I will soon. I need some creature to love me.

The cold weather along with recent troubles has made me very melancholy of late. Friday, however, brings a visit from my marchande des modes so perhaps that will cheer me. A lucky run at cards has made me feel that I may allow myself some frivolity, but I will temper it with some charity as I have determined to visit St. Cyr, where Christine and I were at school together, and will bring them some books for the students and money for the Sisters. Perhaps then I will feel happier.

I begin to wish I had never asked for the reacquisition. No one made any demands on me at home in quiet Saint Saturnin. But there, I am being melancholy again and must cease. I am tired, nothing more.

Olympe, Comtesse

Monday, October 26, 2009

Although this blog mainly deals with the eighteenth century it is pertinent following the last journal entry to talk about Olympe's famous ancestor, Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne; often simply known as, Turenne. A man well-respected both in his own time, as well as the eighteenth century, he was refered to in the writings of La Chalotais and Turgot, and admired by Napoleon.

Henri was born on September 11th 1611, the second son of Henri Duc de Bouillon, Prince of Sedan. His mother was Elizabeth, daughter of William the Silent, Prince of Orange. From an early age he admired the great generals of antiquity, like Alexander the Great, but was crippled by physical disability as well as a speech impediment. Educated as a Huegenot, he utilized great personal discipline to overcome his physical ailment, but was never able to shake his speech impediment. His father died in 1623, but being a younger son this didn't have much discernible effect, and he went to war as a bodyguard to his uncle the Prince of Orange.

When Frederick of Orange died his brother Marice succeeded him, and in 1626 gave Turenne a captaincy. In 1630 after garnering some acclaim for his siege technique he shifted his focus from the Netherlands to France, in part at his mother's behest. Cardinal Richelieu gave him the rank of colonel of an infantry regiment, which he soon proved he deserved by his great courage in 1634 earning the rank of Marechal de Camp.

By 1642 he had gained a reputation as one of the most valiant and able commanders in France, and had achieved the rank of Lieutenant General; but the implication of his brother, the Duc de Bouillon, in the conspiracy of Cinq-Mars dampened his prospects of promotions somewhat, as did his staunch Huegenot background, and refusal to marry into either the family of Cardinal Richelieu or Mazarin. Nevertheless on December 19th 1643 he was entrusted with the rank of Marshal of France. It must have been a proud moment for the boy who had once dreamed of the glories of Caesar and Alexander.

When Mazarin died in 1661 Louis XIV appointed Turenne as Marshal General, and even offered to revive the office of connetable of France, but only if the marshal would become a Roman Catholic. Turenne refused. He had, however, finally submitted to matrimony in 1652 to Charlotte de Caumont. Both he and his wife always struggled with the divisions of the Christian church. She died in 1662 having never found resolution, but in 1668 Henri finally converted to Catholicism, submitting to pressure by his nephew the Abbe de Bouillon.

In 1672 Henri's past and present collided, when Louis XIV's Dutch Wars brought Turenne into conflict with the Prince of Orange. The fighting was bitter, and the Dutch went so far as to flood the country around Amsterdam to prevent the French from holding it. In response Turenne allowed his troops to sack the countryside everywhere they persued the enemy. Historians and contemporaries have sometimes criticized this heavy-handedness on his part, but it is hard to go into the many factors that played into his military decisions. The reader is welcome to decide based on further research.

At the battle of Salsbach on July 27th, 1675 Henri de Turenne was hit by one of the first shots fired, and died. Mourned in France and beyond, he was remembered with love by his troops who felt a kinship with him unlike many superior officers. His fellow officers for years to come would praise his prowess and brilliance. He was undoubtedly the most famous member of the De la Tour d'Auvergne family, and one that Olympe could rightly be proud of.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

October 21, 1779

It is has been a day full of important letters, two days, in fact. The most important coming yesterday, the first was from T- confirming his arrival on Saturday the 23rd. Much to Maman's displeasure he will be staying here at the Hotel de Sully, in the guise of a messenger from my steward. He does bring word from Monsieur Ficheux, as he is traveling directly from Saint Saturnin. I suggested that he stop in Riom on his way north to visit his sister Eleanore and her first-born son delivered safely a week past, but he remains uninterested in the expansion of his family.

The other letter yesterday was by far the most exciting as it was a summons to court. I dressed quickly as soon as I received it (you may only imagine the uproar!) and arriving at court was conducted into His Majesty's presence. Apparently when I received word that the reacquisition could not be determined until after the surveyors had completed their tasks in Auvergne and Limousin he had not finished reading my case. The surveyors will complete their task, but in the meantime an intriguing proposition has been made.

In 1651 my cousin, Henri de Turenne, the most illustrious general of our nation, was promised the title of Duc de Bouillon. Objections from other very powerful Dukes prevented him from ever taking true posession of the title or lands, but the King has made a suggestion. If I rescind my claim to the land in Limousin, and marry within a year a peer with the King's blessing it is within his gift to grant me the Duchy of Bouillon for my heirs. I do not know if he is aware of my intended marriage to Thierry, who is not a peer, and I have never sought to grasp that title when so many other blood relatives have a greater claim to it. If I do not accept his offer I can marry Thierry, go back to Auvergne, and probably will never have the reacquisition after all. If I accept, I must give up Thierry, or become like those Lords and Ladies who bow their heads at breakfast and sup with sin come night.

Even if I were to be a chaste wife and dutiful subject, the Duchy would never be mine. I would have a husband who would outrank me and control all that I now call mine, and there is no more guarantee that the promise for my heirs would be upheld than it was for Turenne, as great and good a servant as he was well known to be. It seems I cannot win either way, nor can I remain still and make no move for an answer must be given.

As if in answer to my concerns the first person at my lever today was M. Poisson. He offered to lodge T- at his home in Paris, in the hopes that it would allow him to better seek employment and not cast dispersions on my good name. I will speak with T- about this when he arrives, but I hope he will accept. I begin to feel that a quick marriage would be best, without the pressures of a disapproving society.

A letter from Christine in answer to mine has also offered consolation, at time when I needed it the most, though she cannot have known it when she wrote the words. She encourages me to remain steady in my aim, and to not allow the will of others to overcome my own strength. The question is, can I win anything in this situation, or am I fated to lose what I most want? I never sought a Duchy, I came only for a parcel of land. Not a title, or a lord, or kingly promises. I only wanted to better my own small province, but glory it seems will be thrust upon me, or misery. I should be most interested to know what lordly husband would be foisted upon me, should I chose the path of fortune.

Olympe, Comtesse

Monday, October 19, 2009

Back to the research

Finally! My two major projects for the opera are finished, and I can get back to researching and posting more.
The book I am currently trying to find time to read, France in the Enlightenment, is a wonderful source and covers many diverse areas with some depth; from geography to economics, society to education, and more. I think I am going to have to give up on constantly renewing the library's copy, and just buy it for myself. It's well worth the investment, and available in the original French as well as translated into English.

Friday, October 16, 2009

And I quote...

"Don't forget to show my head to the people. It's well worth seeing."

- Danton's last words to his executioner

Sunday, October 11, 2009

October 10, 1779

I can scarcely believe how long it has been since last I have written my thoughts here. It is now October and the weather has turned, but not before one very interesting night.

I attended the opera with the Comtessse of R- and some friends (with whom I am pleased to have become rather close), and finding it very pleasant we were loathe to return home. Rather than spending the rest of the evening at someone's home for supper however, the Marquis de L- invited us to his own revel. With few instructions we followed him in our own few carriages out of Paris itself. You can only imagine, our coaches following upon each other by sight of their lanterns only, with us in excited trepidation wondering at the adventure. We arrived by and by at a secluded field outside of the city itself. L- informed us that it had been or was going to be used to grow potatoes! For what reason I can only wonder at, as they are a food fit only for animals as everyone knows.

Blankets were spread on the ground and a bonfire had been started in a great heap, which served to warm us, and more than one gentleman removed his cloak to better protect the ladies from the chill night air. L-'s servants were there in advance of us and had laid out a delightfully rustic feast of fruits, cakes, partridge, venison and, of course, wine. There was singing and dancing, and some couples took advantage of the darkness to engage in more clandestine activities away from the fire. I know I saw the Marquise de T- (whose husband is much older and never leaves the house) with the Comte de C-, and they not only stole away for quite a while, but left together with her carriage following his.

I completely ruined a pair of yellow embroidered shoes dancing in the muddy field, but it was worth it to pass such a pleasant night in jovial company. I returned to the Hotel de Sully shortly before dawn, as the sky was turning from black to blue. There is something so wonderful about laying down as the birds begin to sing. No, I should not be sorry to stay here. With T- coming to visit in a few weeks perhaps that is a future worth hoping for.

Olympe, Comtesse

Sunday, September 27, 2009

September 27th, 1779

It is almost October now and there is a chill in the air early and late. Autumn has always been my favorite season, which I believe probably is because of how undeniably beautiful Auvergne is at that time of year. It troubles me that I will miss the season at home; which would be a small price to pay if some success in our venture could be assured, but it is not. I am still struggling with questions of returning or staying. I have informed most of my acquaintance that I will be here until the end of the year, and so to run home sooner might indicate a defeat I am not willing to admit.

Mass yesterday was interesting in that I had offers from several gentlemen to accompany me home, all of which I refused for fear of showing favoritism. If I were more of a coquette I would favor first one and then another in a different way, thus holding them all hopeful but distant. Alas, I am not of such a mind! I miss T- but our letters have become less frequent. I do not lack for offers, and am all too aware that an unmarried woman with land and a title is desirable at any age. Is it wrong of me to believe that I may have the man I desire, and the future that I want? Must I compromise; or is that selfish of me? God seems to give little indication of the correct path. Maman, on the other hand, is not bereft of advice on the subject, but I will not tax myself with remembering that aggravation.

A letter from Christine last week brightened my spirits considerably, and I think I must answer it soon. She gives me great solace, even from afar, and as with people who do not offer their advice too pressingly, I am inclined to listen to the suggestions she makes.

Msr. Poisson's advice on the subject of the reacqusition is to wait. I have said to everyone I've met in the last several weeks "I will wait and see what happens." Again and again, the same phrase, but I long for soem decisive action. I cannot believe that any commander in history won a battle, much less a war, by waiting to see what transpired. Which reminds me, the gossip from the colonies is that we are doing well, but nothing more decisive than that has been heard.

I have new silk stockings and a red silk fan which is charming, but I am bored with my hair and must get my hairdresser to do something different with it. It is past noon and I should see to my appointments. There is a dinner party tonight given by the Countess of Rochechouart, who is a very interesting woman, and I should not be sorry to know her better.

Olympe, Comtesse

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

September 23, 1779

So much has happened, and yet nothing at all! The king read my petition and the answer is that he has already sent surveyers to Auvergne and Limousin to determine old and new boundaries. I expected upon hearing this that it might take some time to complete the work, but was not prepared for the answer that some surveyers have been working on areas of France for years! I now must decide if it is worthwhile to remain in Paris, and if so should I pursue a swifter course of resolution? Can I return to Auvergne without any sense of accomplishment?

More and more I begin to wonder if returning to Saint Saturnin holds as much appeal as it once did. Paris is the beating heart of France. Auvergne is beautiful and peaceful, but there is time enough in life to seek peace and stillness. In Paris I need never be lonely. It lacks only T-, and that could be easily rectified if we marry. There are opportunities for him here, and I can always return to Auvergne when I feel I miss it.

However, more fiscal concerns bind me. The harvest was not as expected, and so we have not made as much money as we had hoped. T- is out of money, and so I must support him myself, which neither of us enjoy in our present arrangement. If I do stay more permanently in Paris I will be near to Versailles to press my case when the serveyers are finished. Matthieu is also blossuming unexpectedly in a new city, which I would not wish to reverse given the trouble he has always had with his schooling. There are better opportunities here for everyone.

What if I have to give up the reacqisition? Should I stay or go home? Where is home now?
Olympe, Comtesse

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Quote of the week

"The first man who took it in mind to fence in a field and say this is mine and who found people simple enough to believe was the true founder of civil society...beware of such imposters."
- Rousseau

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Accused Has Something to Say

I thought that the picture The Complain of the Watch was appropriate for this defense, both because it is from the 1770s, and also because my whole case rests on the fact that I have been too busy to post.
I work for an Opera company which shall, for the moment, remain nameless, and we open the first show of the season tonight. I have been coordinating costumes for volunteers as well as actors, and preparing for the gala ball tonight. So basically I've been busy, and in real life that is why I have neglected to post.
However, I promise that coming up shortly I will resume both diary entries and tidbits from the eighteenth century world. I just have to get back into my research.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

September 4, 1779

I knew that once I reached Paris I would find my time so full that I would neglect my journal. My planned visit with Christine was wonderful, as we walked the Tuileries gardens, then had tea at l'Hotel de Sully, and then we attended the Comedie Francais, and finally we finished with a long conversation over some very fine wine at her residence. Dear Christine is much missed already, having determined to return to Sweden to visit her aunt and uncle who have been as parents to her since the passing of her own. As always, there are moments when her intelligence so far surpasses my understanding that I can only wonder at how different we are, but if distance cannot kill it then the friendship will remain, as it has to this point, unshakeable.

No word on the war in the colonies, but the general opinion in Paris is that it is going well, despite being a somewhat unpopular expenditure in certain circles. Perhaps by the end of the year it will be over, but there is hardly any more reason to suppose that than there was last year.

So many dinners, so many parties, theatre excursions, visits back and forth, how to tell of them all. I rise early, am busy throughout the day, and return home exhausted without the will to write of all that transpires. I have had a lucky run at cards of late, to the extent that I have nearly won back all that I lost previously, but am in fear of losing it all again. I dare not admit to my steward how much I have been playing, for he will only chide me. I know it is strange to fear what the man might say, but I feel my authority is truly very tenuous at times.

Next week there is a ball, and I am to be fit for a new gown today. I have asked Maman to be present, as I feel we hardly see each other, but I do hope she is enjoying her time in Paris. Matthieu has returned to his studies, and today has a music lesson. I believe his teacher has just arrived, which means that I am late. I had promised myself some time alone in the library this morning, and have not been at home to guests for that reason. It shall be a waste if I do not take the time now.

Olympe, Comtesse

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Does buying materials count as sewing?

I ordered a new fan and some boning for my next pair of stays. As these are both for outfits they count as sewing right? Right?
I think that if I have to convince myself, it's not really true. Tomorrow I am fabric shopping for some fabric for a Russian costume project. A little out of period, but I may post pictures anyhow if people are interested.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Battle of Procrastination

So, new plan. I find far too many excuses, like most people, to avoid the sewing I need to be doing. In order to better combat this tendency I'm going to report every day on the sewing that I have accomplished. No one should have to sew every day, so I give myself free reign to take three days off per week from sewing (extraordinary circumstances excepted, of course). You all are encouraged to yell at me if you see that I am not keeping to this.
Tonight I took the body of my last chemise and sewed one sleeve on, and French seamed the side of it to finish. Then I skipped ahead a bit because the linen was starting to unravel more than I liked and I hemmed the bottom. I have one more sleeve to put in, finish the other side seam, make some bias for the neckline, gather the front and back necklines and sandwich between the bias, finish the bottoms of the sleeves by gathering them to the sleeve bands, then add the lace to the neckline to finish.
Wow, I didn't realize how much was left. Good thing I have three other chemises done and no set deadline for this other than that I need it before I can start my court manteau.


I am arranging a costume sale at work to get rid of old stock we're not using and make some money for the department. The gentleman who was helping me said that I should feel free to take anything reasonably small I wanted. I know there's a bunch of stuff I'm going to end up buying, but when I saw this set of pin and earrings I had to have them. They are embroidered in the style which I believe is called Petite Point and would make lovely buttons for an 18th century robe a la Turque methinks. I also scored some pristine brown kid-leather gloves which are causing me to rethink the color scheme for my traveling outfit. Funny how one accessory can change the aesthetic of a whole costume.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

August 27, 1779

Nothing but bad news of late it seems. Msr. Poisson was unable to make our first meeting after all, which I did not receive notice of until my morning lever. (I feel that I would accomplish so much more at a coucher, as I think better at night.) We did meet a few days later, but it turned out that mostly he was requesting more money to bribe people with. I gave him part of what he asked for and told him to see what he could do. Meanwhile I have attempted to find some small service with the Queen. Nothing has come of that yet.

A wheel has cracked on my main carriage, just today, which will be expensive to repair I am told. T- writes that he has not heard any news about a commission and is very worried. If he is worried enough to tell me so plainly, then I know it to be true. He knows not when he will be able to come visit Paris, but it increasingly seems that he must in order to find work.

My steward also wrote, as he does nearly daily, and informs me that I must cease gambling if we are to make the money last until December. If only I had won more, but I expect everyone who loses feels that way. I sent out some pearls to be worked into a necklace, but am now told that they are very demode. I cannot keep up with these constantly changing fashions.

The only good news is that Christine is in town, and we are to meet in the Tuileries Gardens Sunday after mass. I have missed her so, it will cheer me considerably to see her again!

Olympe, Comtesse

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sevres Porcelain at Hillwood Estate

I am going with a dear friend this Saturday to visit Hillwood Estate in Washington, DC. This has many advantages:-
1) It's a beautiful turn-of-the-century mansion with a dining room larger than my apartment at home and gorgeous gardens perfect for meandering in.
2) They serve a royal tea complete with both a selection of tea and champagne, and plenty of nibbly confections, savory and sweet.
3) They have a lovely collection of Sevres porcelain on display (I love Sevres porcelain).
4) They will be featuring the porcelain dessert service of Cardinal Prince Louis de Rohan!
5) Ivan Day at Historic Foods is doing an eighteenth century table setting for them! Have you seen his sugar sculptures?!
Anyone in the DC area is strongly encouraged to check it out. The Sevres dessert display does not officially go up until October, so I know I will be back for that, but in the meantime the house, gardens, tea, and good company are pleasures enough.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Countess' New Clothes - A Neck Ruff

Because actually finishing the projects in front of me would be far too responsible.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

August 20, 1779

Today I finally made a formal visit to Versailles. Having been presented when I reached my majority, there was no need to go through a formal presentation; though I know it has been too many years since I was last here and I have changed somewhat (for the better, I think).

There was, however, the presentation of some few ladies and gentlemen before Their Majesties, and attendant Princes of the Blood, necessitating that I wear the only mantua I had brought with me. I felt very ill at ease due to the fact that it was not made recently in Paris, but then these court costumes have not changed signigicantly in many years. Perhaps it was only the hours of standing and making our obeisance that made me feel poorly.

The ceremony took the better part of the day, from morning until late afternoon, afterwhich I and six or seven others went and watched the royal family dine, and returned home to change our clothes. Having done so I spent my first truly leisurely evening at home with Maman and Mattieu.

Leaving Maman to her embroidery and reading, Mattieu and I walked the gardens and explored the Orangerie at Sully. We even broke into a race at one point, but my slippers were ill-suited to the task and he outran me quickly. Going in I found that a note had come from Msr. Poisson suggesting that he come to Sully tomorrow to discuss getting my petition before the King. I, naturally, sent one back at once accepting this arrangement and am now eagerly awaiting the day.

Olympe, Comtesse

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

August 18, 1779

I must find a way to cease playing cards for a while, as I have lost much more than I have won. Every night I go to bed far later than I mean to, and am obliged to rise for my Lever far earlier than I want to. Maman is allowing Mattieu a short holiday to enjoy the capital before he resumes his lessons, but next week he will have to return to his studies.

Still have not made a formal visit to Versailles, and my court gown is still in progress as the shop is overrun with orders for the season. I did manage to find a good wigmaster, and am very pleased with the results. I think that I enjoy favorable company in part because of my rank and freedom, but were I less free with my money that might soon cease to be the case. It is hard to know who to trust in the city. No one speaks of the reacquisition to me, but I am fairly sure they must know that that is why I have come.

Olympe, Comtesse

Sunday, August 16, 2009

August 16, 1779

The week has been so busy, so full of events, that I hardly have had the will to write of it. Maman and Mattieu are with me now, having just arrived. It has been a pleasant reunion thus far, in part because she has not yet seen the amount I have lost at cards of late. Several days ago I won quite a lot, but then lost most of it, and only two nights ago I lost again, which means I have now lost more than I gained originally. It is a treacherous past time.

I have been to the opera, and found it as delightful as I remembered, though a great deal more German seems to be performed, and no one doubts but that it is the Queen's influence. I have visited Versailles informally, but have yet to make a more formal appearance.

I have been obliged to hold a lever every morning, and do not expect that to cease, as I have been overwhelmed by the number and types of people who attend each day, and I doubt I truly even know half of them. I sent out for a new chocolate service, as one young gallante disrupted it yesterday morning and broke a cup. It was somewhat older in any case, and I have requested an oriental pattern for the new set as they are very much in vogue. I have also acquired a new fan which is painted on ivory, to replace the one that broke in Auvergne.

T- writes that he is desolate without me and may visit in two or three weeks. I hope that he will come with good news about his commission, but so far nothing has been heard. He calculates that we have spent 200 days apart, and barely 6 days together all summer. I wonder if that can be entirely true, as it seems to me we had a whole week prior to my departure. Still, I am relieved that he misses me, and I must confess to thinking on him often.

The other day I invited several people to dine with me in the afternoon, afterwhich we played a game in the gardens. One of the gentlemen, G, suggested a game called "Garters", in which the ladies each removed one garter (while the gentlemen retired behind some shrubbery for modesty's sake) and they guessed who it belonged to. I thought it was perhaps a little risque, but did not want to appear prudish. Mine was fourth guessed, but Msr. G guessed Mme. S right away, and she appeared very annoyed. Later I chanced to overhear them in a heated discussion, and saw him return a garter to her. We had received our garters back after the game, so I wondered if it was not the sister to the one from the game, and how he came by it.

I dine with the Comtesse de Boufflers tonight, who keeps a most interesting list of visitors and is very admired in paris. The Prince de Conti was her lover, but since his death she comes to Paris but rarely.

Must go, Paris has been exciting and pleasurable thus far, may it also be helpful to our cause.

Olympe, Comtesse

Hotel de Sully

I was going to post about the beautiful Roccoco building known as the Hotel de Sully, where Olympe is living during her stay in Paris. I was going to research it well and thoroughly and write up it's history, post pictures, etc. I was.
Then I found Msr. Louis La Vache's page and his wonderful article on the Hotel itself.
The only thing I have to add is that my research indicates that in 1779 the hotel was being let by the Sully family, and was therefore available to visiting aristocracy, thus Olympe's residence. For more information, especially for those in the area and wishing to visit, I recommend this walking tour site.