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!