Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Unnatural Natural Form


I felt that this entry deserved a big picture. With the high hair, heels, wide paniers, puffed skirts, cosmetics, and endless variety of adornment in the 18th century, getting dressed could be an ordeal. Fortunately women in France turned it into an event, called the Lever. More on that later.
Men, felt somewhat concerned that beneathe their powder and charm they didn't really know what their wives and sweethearts really might be, as this poem attests.
"Give Chloe a bushel of horsehair and wool
Of paste and pomatum a pound
Ten yards of gay ribbon to deck her sweet scull
And gauze to encompass it round.
Let her gown be tucked up to the hip on each side Shoes too high for to walk or to jump
And to deck the sweet charmer complete for a bride Let the cork cutter make her a rump
Thus finished in taste while on Chloe you gaze
you may take the dear charmer for life
but never undress her, for out of her stays
You’ll find you have lost half your wife
---The Lady's Magazine, 1777"
In response to such a possible situation the British government in 1770 proposed a law that read as follows:-
"An Act to protect men from being beguiled into marriage by false adornments. All women, of whatever rank, age, profession or degree, whether virgins, maids or widows, that shall, from and after such Act, impose upon, seduce or betray into matrimony, any of His Majesty's subjects, by the scents, paints, cosmetic washes, artificial teeth, false hair, Spanish wool, iron stays, hoops, high-heeled shoes and bolstered hips, shall incur the penalty of the law in force against witchcraft and like misdemeanours and that the marriage upon conviction shall stand null and void."
This wasn't the first time such a law had been proposed, or even enacted. The Italians had a similar law regarding specifically chopines (tall platform slippers) in the Renaissance. Fortunately the law in Britain was never passed. I guess the gentlemen prefered not knowing what their sweethearts might look like, confronted with definitely knowing what their wrath was like.

June 29, 1779


Five days I have been ill and confined to my room, if not my bed. The doctor was called, but pronounced it a passing fever and nothing more serious. I was not bled, but given emetics instead to rid myself of the illness. Finally, today I felt well enough to read some, play cards with Marianne, and attend to my letters, but I still have not left my room.

My steward informs me that the reacquisition looks increasingly ill-advised, as the King will not ignore the wishes of the Queen and her friends, in appropriating it for their use. I believe I still must try. T- also seems to believe that I cannot achieve this, which troubles me more than it should, but he is at least content to express his opinion and leave me to follow my own course.

A letter from Christine came today at last. She is well and busily enjoying the intellectual pursuits of Rome. I understand it is very hot in the summer, and she complains about that a little. Her sister’s wedding in October is also much on her mind, but before that she will come to Paris where it will be wonderful to see her again.

Another letter from my mother was surprisingly sweet, and she fondly recalls my early harp lessons, prompting me to practice once more. Without my harp here that will be hard to do, and I hardly think it practical to take it with me to Paris.
A warm bath this morning was a most welcome comfort, and so I believe I will ask Marianne to prepare another before I sleep. I look forward to perhaps rejoining the other guests tomorrow, or at least leaving my room for the gardens.
Olympe, Comtesse

June 24, 1779


Today was very beautiful, with hardly a cloud in the sky, and quite warm. I confess I know not what I did with all of my time, other than to read some in the shade, and write a few letters; most notably one rather long one to my steward on the subject of the reacquisition. Sometimes I believe I am certain to have it restored, and at other times I feel it is hopeless. I wish the whole business were done with already so that I might know and not have to wait and worry.

In the afternoon we received a treat as Adrienne’s cook had made ice cream, which we enjoyed somewhat raucously outside in the gardens. There was more than one stomach ache following the games and ice cream, and the greater part of the group retired to rest in the early evening, including myself.

We were awakened by cries of “Fire!” around 8 o’clock, but it was contained quickly and no real damage appears to have been done. Probably someone fell asleep reading with a candle or something similar. Ever since the fire at my estate, Opme, I have been very cautious regarding candles. No one wants to die by fire, and it would certainly be an ungracious way to thank our hostess were we to burn her house down.
Marianne brushed my gowns off today and washed my linen so I have fresh clothing once more. No word from my Marchande on my new clothes, so I hope they have not fallen behind on their orders. I am considering having someone in Briancon remake my anglaises into polonaises, that way I will have at least some halfway decent clothes when I arrive in Paris. I should also give some thought to hats.

It now being nearly 2 o’clock in the morning I shall put this down and prepare for bed, I think. And I will not forget to ensure the candle is out when I do; let us hope the other inhabitants are equally cautious.

Olympe, Comtesse

June 23, 1779


My letter from T- today confirms my suspicions that he is not very fond of little lapdogs, and would prefer a larger dog for himself. He also is concerned because his eyes have been bothering him quite a bit lately, and may need spectacles.

It was a gorgeous day, very sunny, and almost too hot. After enjoying one of my new chemises last night, I put on an old francais and walked in the gardens. Msr. Lamotte convinced me to accompany him down into town to have a peek at the market, which was interesting with its variety of people and things.

No news lately about the war, or much of anything really. It is a quiet summer, and I look forward often to the coming season which will find me once more at Versailles and in Paris where there is so much to do and see, that one could scarcely accomplish it all.

A letter from my mother today was of the usual nature, and she hints at wanting to accompany me on my trip, which I shall resist most strenuously. Matthieu, dear though he is to me, has turned out to be quite a dunce at his studies, and Maman went so far as to say that had I been a boy I would have been very successful, for I am the most intelligent of her children. Praise indeed. My brothers have not a province to care for, and so if any of us should have been blessed with useful faculties it ought to be me by rights.

My dear friend Lady Magdalena writes that she was surprised to hear of my plan to be away in the autumn, and had hoped to visit then. As Thierry will be staying at Saint Saturnin part of the time, I extended the invitation to include her, knowing them to be great friends as well. I find it amusing to think that the chateau will be more full in my absence than it regularly is while I am in residence.
Olympe, Comtesse

Lafayette, hero or villain?


Going back to two previous subjects, let's take a moment to discuss the Marquis de Lafayette, whom many in America see as a patriotic hero, and whom royalists in France and abroad largely loathe. He's been mentioned by Olympe in her diary at least twice, and this is because during the American War of Independence he was a notable figure both in America and in France. Furthermore, he was from Riom, which was the largest city in Auvergne, so she has reason to feel a certain pride. He was a man who, despite some aristrocratic breeding, helped to set the wheels of the French Revolution in motion, and yet after the Flight to Varennes of the French Royal Family was forced himself to flee.
To begin with, he was born on September 6th, 1757, and named Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier. His father was the Marquis de La Fayette, and there is some argument as to whether the name was spelled La Fayette, LaFayette, or Lafayette, and even those who bore the name seem to have been indifferent to standardizing it. When he was two years old his father died, and when he was three his mother died, leaving him in the care of his maternal grandmother.
Educated in Paris at a special school for aristocratic boys, and later at the Versailles Military Academy, after which in 1771 he was commissioned as a second Lieutenant. In 1774 he married Marie Adrienne Francoise de Noailles, the daughter of the Duc de Noailles; an advantageous match for both as she was well-titled and he was well-monied. Their marriage came with the rank of captain and a commission in his father's Dragoons. He was soon sent to Italy, but determined to go to Spain and thence to America to fight for the cause of Liberty. Let's revisit that statement. The King and his father-in-law ordered him to go to Italy, and most specifically not to go to America, under pain of imprisonment, and yet he bought a ship (since none were prepared to take him) and left his (then pregnant) wife, and went to America anyhow. He finally arrived in South Carolina in June 1777.
Initially the Continental Congress did not want him, but using his money once again, he offered to serve without pay, at which point they could find no reason to refuse and commissioned him as a Major-General, but declined to give him a regiment, prompting him to consider returning to France. George Washington, however, on the advice of Benjamin Franklin who was hoping to use him to garner more support from the French, persuaded him that he would be very valued.
In 1779 Lafayette returned to France, and was promptly placed under house arrest for his earlier disregard for orders. This only lasted for two weeks, however, and he was largely considered a hero in his home country. This time with the King's blessing, he was restored to his position in the Dragoons and returned to America to fight under George Washington in 1781. After the end of the war he returned to France and was showered with honors and new ranks and even went so far as to name his daughter after Marie-Antoinette (on the recommendation of Thomas Jefferson).
In 1786 Louis XVI appointed Lafayette to the Assembly of Notables, but contrary to his expectations Lafayette argued against an increase in taxation to resolve the financial crisis, and instead called for a decrease in spending and an assembly that better represented all the classes of society. When the king called the Estates General the following year Lafayette was elected to represent the nobility of Riom, in Auvergne. When some members of the Assembly declared themselves a new group, the National Assembly, Lafayette joined them. July 13th of 1789 he was elected Vice President of the assembly, and the next day the Bastille was stormed, which was the beginning of the end for the French Monarchy.
As the situation of the royal family went from bad to worse, resulting in their imprisonment in the Tuileries Palace in Paris, Lafayette in his newest position as head of the National Guard succeeded in disarming the nobles who had gathered there to protect the king and his family. Shortly thereafter they attempted to flee to safety, but only succeed in going as far as Varennes. Brought back and further curtailed, the king was subject to far greater animosity from the mob than he had been previously.
Having been in charge of the family's "safety" Lafayette was viewed by many influential revolutionaries as culpable for their near-escape, especially with his aristocratic background, as the mood turned increasingly bloodthirsty. Forced to resign his command, he returned to Auvergne and was eventually forced to flee for his life as he was branded a traitor by the more radical elements of the French government. Imprisoned by Austria, he was finally released in 1797 at the behest of Napoleon, but woud not return to France until 1799.
He died on the 20th of May 1834 from complications following pneumonia. Lauded in America and shown full funerary honors, he was given a military funeral in France with mixed reactions. He had inspired men, fought for liberty, and helped, perhaps unintentionally, to topple a monarchy. Was he guilty of helping the royal family try to escape their fate, as the Revolutionaries believed? Was he guilty of helping to bring them and the aristocracy as a whole to the guillotine? Or was he simply a man with lofty ideals who found his truest legacy in the heart of another country?
I leave it to you to decide.


June 22, 1779


My chemises arrived today! One with the wide square neck and tight sleeves I requested for under my anglaises, and one with a drawstring neckline and full sleeves. I am well pleased, and look forward to the arrival of my new quilted petticoat next, followed by the mantelet.

Embroidered outside for several hours today, as the weather was only cloudy at times and the air was cool with a nice breeze. It was just a tad too windy to paint outside, but I did accomplish one miniature of myself with the aid of a mirror, but I am not satisfied with it.

Had a very large dinner and sang with the other guests, before retiring for a brief nap and some letter-writing. I wrote to T-, and M. Poisson at Versailles, whom I know from my last sojourn there, and who may be able to help me get my suit to the king’s attention.
Olympe, Comtesse

June 21, 1779


Inspired, perhaps, by last night’s opera, we guests determined this evening to provide our own musical entertainments. Much as I do not like to perform for others, even I sang, and have to say I was pleased with my voice. Others played or even recited poetry (some of which was daringly vulgar).

Today I embroidered until my hands hurt too much to continue. I am making a pair of pockets, though why something so hidden is so well-decorated I sometimes wonder. I also wrote to Andre, who seems dangerously infatuated with his new petite-amie. I pray so hard that he will not rush into anything unwise. Maman seems not to see the danger, but would rather encourage him to marry and produce grandchildren for her as soon as possible.

Jacqueline has nearly convinced Adrienne to acquire another dog, though I find her own to be rather ill-behaved. Still, I am struck by the loneliness of my own home in comparison to the warmth and companionship a sweet little dog can provide. Perhaps after the season I will acquire one of my own. I mentioned this in my most recent letter to T-, and we will see what he thinks of the idea. I doubt he will say anything against it as he mostly encourages me to do as I please. I suspect he is the kind of man who would prefer a large hunting dog to sleep by the fire, as my father did. I myself would like something smaller, that I can carry and keep on my lap while traveling in the carriage. I know that small dogs are very fashionable for ladies at present, and they say that Madame Victoire is never without hers.
Olympe, Comtesse

June 20, 1779


There is very little to tell from the last few days. My most recent letters have gone unanswered, except, of course, for Thierry’s. Missing him terribly, I wrote a particularly poignant one yesterday. I expect the arrival of my chemises from Paris in a few days, and if the weather would determine to remain fine for a whole day I might be able to do some painting, but otherwise rien a dit!

Yesterday Adrienne said to me that it was too bad I was so determined to go to Versailles for the season, as she would be glad of my company for a while yet. The very idea of remaining here instead of returning to Saint Saturnin or attending to business in Paris is unpleasant, to say the least. We did see an opera tonight, but it was a very small company and not well-executed. I look forward to some truly enchanting theatre once I reach Paris.
Olympe, Comtesse

The Year 1779


1779 was one day ahead of us in the week, for example if today is a Sunday then for them it was a Monday.
After the entrance of Spain into the American War of Independence (a de facto alliance, though not official), not much happened for the next month in terms of European politics. In America there continued to be battles, but really until the siege of Grenada by the French very little of it would have any impact at all on the life of those back in France.
For anyone reading and interested, like me, in what happened on any given day in history I refer you to the History Channel's website, which can be found by clicking the title at the top of this post.
The painting above is The Love Letter by Fragonard, who remains one of my favorite artists.

*June 17, 1779 Spain enters the war!


Two pieces of news came today, one of which concerned me and the other which concerned everybody. The most important thing was the announcement that, as rumored, Spain has declared war on England. This will lend further pressure, and help us in our war against them in the Americas. Poor England has enemies everywhere, and she must turn her attention home to Europe, I think, or be torn to pieces. I hope this indicates that our brave soldiers will be returning home shortly. It will not, I fear, help T- to gain the commission he was hoping for, as there will be more qualified men returning to occupy them.

The lingerie shop writes that my chemises are finished and they would like to know whether to send them at once, or wait for my complete order to be ready and send everything then. They have not yet received the latest order as I only sent it two days ago, and this letter was sent to me four days ago. I think I will have the chemises sent here, as I do hate to wait for new things, and I do not know how long it will take them to complete the order for my other clothes. I could use new chemises as it is.

The other news which concerned me was that one of the Polignac set is interested in the same land I am, and being so close to the royal family one doubts very little but that they shall have it. I pray that the information is incorrect, but regardless my mind is made up and I shall attempt to make my case to the best of my abilities, and if I fail then I shall be no worse off than I was, or at least very little. I have sent my steward very specific instructions, and am taking advice from a friend already at court on the appropriate people to bribe. There is little that I would not do to ensure that all of Auvergne returns to and remains in the hands of my own family.

One's province is like a child. You nurture it, love it unconditionally whether crops grow or fail, seek to improve it in a hundred different ways, and it is ever present in your heart and mind. Wondering constantly whether I have made the right choices for Auvergne and its people, I nevertheless flatter myself that I have been good to them all. When the land is restored to us, I think it likely that I shall be able to do more. I will create more schools and be more charitable, but really my own finances are so strained that I can barely support all that I do now. I look forward to more prosperous and fertile days, personally.

I have been so maternal lately, dreaming, again and again, of a daughter of my own with Thierry’s brilliant green eyes. Of course a daughter is not what is needed, a son to carry my name and make our heritage more secure is what I should hope for, and yet more than anything I wish to hold my own daughter in my arms. In the quiet moments of the day and night I think of her name, and I think of the kind of mother I would be. I see no reason to educate her less thoroughly than a boy, but only to add to a man’s accomplishments that of music and embroidery and the running of an estate. I would show her everything, tell her everything, and she would be my gift to the world. Maybe she would have her father’s gift for true compassion; but were she unintelligent, unrefined, and less than beautiful I know that I would love her no less, for she would be mine.

Oh, when will life truly begin? The things I wish for I am forever waiting to come to me. I reach out my hands to receive them, but they are just beyond my fingertips. I do not ask for much; only my home to be in one piece again, the man I love, and a family of my own. I seek not diamonds, or kingdoms, or the fame of discovery, nor additional titles, position, or the favor of kings. Yet I feel that I want the world. I want there to be no time so that I might not fear its passing, or land that I might not be encumbered by it, or money that I might not owe it, or age that I might not feel it. My heart is weighed down by its own desires. When my mother was my age my father had already died.

It stormed today, and this evening I put on an old caraco and went bare-headed into it. Just to feel the water seep into my skin, warm and heavy, as if I could hold it in my hands like a string of pearls. It was beautiful, and I laughed and laughed to feel it so. The world can be beautiful in all kinds of weather. And I can no more grasp my dreams and ambitions than I can hold onto the rain. I will simply wait, for there is nothing else I can do.

Olympe, Comtesse

June 15, 1779



The swatches from my Marchande des Modes arrived today! I spent most of the day delighting in their contents, though as my steward warned me the prices are very high. I think that the best course of action would be to have only a few new things made up in advance of the journey and to order the rest when I arrive. I will also have several of my old gowns made into new polonaises, as those are easily done and very fashionable.
I have already sent another order for my mantelet au lever and a new quilted petticoat. I decided once I saw the swatch board to have it made in a beautiful cream silk embroidered in pink and green flowers, as I have a fondness for that color combination. It will be trimmed in a lovely wide, soft blonde lace, double edged sheer passementerie, and green velvet ribbon.

I requested that the quilted petticoat be made in cream with pink stitching, and should feature a dusty pink ruffle on the bottom half. I become cold so easily, and will be in town for the fall and at least through the New Year celebrations, so I need as many warm articles of clothing as possible.

My court gown will be in red and gold, as those are the colors of the family crest, but the exact fabric and trims have not yet been chosen. I think that’s one of the things I will have made to suit once I arrive, so that I may take full advantage of seeing the latest fashions. I will request a traveling costume, but wait on the new hunting costume as I do not expect to participate in that activity too promptly.

The day, though rainy, involved much merriment. The evening brought cards, dancing, and far too much champagne and wine from the estate. Robert Saint Mikkael returned this afternoon, and brought with him a letter in which he profusely apologized and pledged himself to expiating his breach of conduct. Finding him genuinely remorseful I see no reason to be unkind, though I will not seek to spend much time alone with him.

I am very happy tonight, and thank God for all that providence has blessed me with.
Olympe, Comtesse

June 14, 1779


It having been three days since my last entry I have much to report. We did make it to the lake at last on the twelfth and a pleasant day was spent feasting and playing games, until late in the afternoon when a sudden rainstorm caused us to run for the carriages. No one paid much attention to which carriage they occupied and with whom, and so it was that I found myself alone in the equipage of Msr. Saint Mikkael; or rather not alone, but with only him.

We commented briefly on the weather and how well the outing had been going. He paid me some trifling compliments, which I thought I answered with appropriate grace and formality. He sat across from me, and when the rain had ceased helped me to descend from the carriage. I felt almost badly for ignoring his advances, but some men, it seems, need more brutal rebuttals.

It was decided soon thereafter that we should return to Beau Monte, and in the course of preparing to go mine was the last carriage to depart, with only myself inside. On the way back we fell behind the others, and as fate would have it one of the traces broke, necessitating a stop to fix it. Being hungry and in the vicinity of a smaller village I determined to rest there while the replacement was attended to. It was due to this delay that I arrived back well after the others; at which point I was met by Msr. SM who offered to escort me to my room with a candelabra. Having enjoyed my day prior to the accident and feeling gracious I accepted his offer, which I realize now I should not have done.

We reached the door to my room, which I opened with one hand, and turned to say good night, only to find him descending upon me. In short, we stumbled backward into the room, his arms around me and his lips seeking a kiss I was most unwilling to give. In a panic I called for Marianne, who thankfully appeared in a prompt manner; at which point I extricated myself from the unwanted embrace and bade Msr. SM a good night, indicating therefore that he should leave. Mercifully, he did.

Somewhat shaken, I sat down precipitously and let Marianne fetch me a cordial from the decanter in my room. After a little while I retired to bed, but did not sleep well, fancying myself secure from further insults by only a door and one lock.

The morning of the thirteenth I rose early, dressed, and found Msr. SM breakfasting with some others. After we had all retired to the parlor to think on the day’s activities I inquired as to whether he would be amenable to a walk in the gardens. His demeanor was perhaps humbled, but if so I did not perceive it. He agreed.

We walked a little ways from the house, and when I was certain that we would not be seen, I faced him and did what I have never done before in my life, never having found it necessary. I slapped him across the face. My fingers being slightly curled at impact left small scratches from the nails. At first he looked angry, but I gave him no time to speak. I told him that I had never sought nor encouraged his company in any particular, and that I was not in the habit of suffering such inexplicable breaches of propriety or courtesy. In short, that I was a lady and entitled to be treated as such. I strongly suggested that he should in the future avoid my company, unless he was prepared to be vastly more civil. He stammered an apology and returned to the house, and I did not see him for the rest of the day.

He left this morning, early, and Msr. Lamotte commented that he may have gone to see a young lady to whom he is intending to propose marriage. If that is indeed true, I feel for her, as I doubt he will be a constant husband. It made me miss Thierry and wonder anew about our future. A letter full of romantic enthusiasm came, as if in response to my concern, and has brightened my day considerably. I hope that this is the last such incident I shall have to handle.

Marianne seems to feel that I should be flattered by the passionate manner of his attempt, but I find it more frightening than anything. What would have happened had she not appeared? He hardly gave me a chance to speak, and I cannot think how I have encouraged him to think that such a demonstration would be well received. These country parties are, I think, just as dangerous and provide more opportunities for clandestine behavior than anything Paris has to offer. I wonder at the company he has previously kept, to encourage him to think such manners acceptable.
Olympe, Comtesse

Time Brings All Things to an End


It is interesting to me, as I write this little diary, how I cannot change who this person is, but having foreknowledge of approaching events I can see how devastated she will be. I mean, truly, she is devoted to her province and believes herself to be good to the people who live there, yet these same people are going to rise up and overthrow her and she will be forced to flee her beloved home or die.
She seeks to gain part of the land back, but she can't hold it for long even if she succeeds. She loves a man who is sort of in that hazy area between aristocracy and bourgeoisie, so she can be a traitor to her class, or he can be a traitor to his, but either way they're both going to suffer. She thinks things are bad now, but they are going to get a whole lot worse.
She wants the American colonists to win and the french soldiers to come home, but they are going to bring back ideas and precedents that will turn her world upside down. She thinks Lafayette is a hero, but he's going to help lead France into chaos.
It's like a train on a track that has been destroyed; there's just no avoiding the wreck ahead, and she's in the dining car wondering about supper with no idea what she's headed for.

June 11, 1779


It did rain yesterday, and all day today, so our excursion to the lake was postponed; but it did allow some of the other guests to practice their little play to the point that they felt ready to perform it tonight. It was a pleasantly boring little piece, and I wonder how they will amuse themselves after this. Hopefully not with any further dramatic attempts.

I have spent most of my time reading and writing letters. I wrote to Maman, Thierry, Christine, Annemarie, and Mme Le Sang-Boeuf. I finally received a letter in return from Mme S-B, and so my last letter, when it reaches her, will be quite unnecessary. In short, all is in order for my visit to Versailles and Paris after the summer. Trim and fabric samples are on their way to me so I may order the rest of my wardrobe; and my mantelet, chemises, and Marianne and Pauline’s clothes have been ordered and begun.

Thierry writes to me that his father is very ill, and so I pray for him, but know that this will likely mean I will hear from him much less for a while. His youngest sister is recently married and expecting her first child in October, and oh how I envy her that happiness. His family can trace their roots all the way back to Charlemagne, but are much fallen from that high position. Time may make peasants of us all, and raise peasantry to lofty places; witness Mme Du Barry, who began her life in a brothel and became the mistress of the king. Still, I understand that she is very course, unlike Pompadour.

Christine writes that she is lonely in Rome, and seeks amorous adventure. No doubt that is because she spends her hours ensconced in libraries and laboratories, instead of at parties and more public places. I miss my dear friend terribly and look forward to our reunion in Paris. Being somewhat younger than myself she is only just beginning to think on marriage, no doubt spurred on by her younger sister’s impending nuptials.
Olympe, Comtesse

June 9, 1779 Lafayette and the Americans


Still have not made a decision about that order for my Marchande des Modes. I would like to have my mantelet au lever made in embroidered taffeta with green trim and ruffles, but that may be too much as no one seems to make theirs in color. I may do it anyhow; why fear to be different?

Today I rose early as I could not sleep and had breakfast with some of the party. Made up a few details about my supposed renovations, and went for a walk into the village with Msr. Lamotte, who was in high spirits, until a rainstorm forced us to return home abruptly. Napped afterwards for a few hours, and then wrote letters to my steward, my brothers, and my mother.

News of my reclamation has spread it seems, and there are even wagers, I hear, on whether I will succeed or not. Rumor has it that the king may be disposed to my suit, but how anyone would know that I am uncertain and do not trust such intelligence.

As to other rumors, Spain is supposedly considering going to war against England, in which case these American colonists may have a chance after all. With our support and such distractions for their enemies, one would think they could hardly fail; or perhaps I give our fine commanders too much credit. One hears such stories of Lafayette, but I can hardly help but be proud of such a distinguished citizen of my own dear province. When he returns from this war I think I shall have to have the pleasure of meeting him.

Tomorrow we are to visit the lake, if it does not rain. The stormy weather seems to have passed, and Msr. Lamotte has promised to bring his chess board that we might play. I think it will be a very pleasant day. A few days at home were all I needed to make me feel right again.

Olympe, Comtesse

June 8, 1779


Feeling compelled enough after my last entry to flee for home, I did just that. I left a note for my hostess early the next morning saying that I had business with the renovations of Saint Saturnin that I had to attend to personally, and that I would return in a few days. This time of year, especially on dry roads, travel is not so unpleasant, and the borders of Auvergne are not so far from Briancon. Taking the road through Lyon will put one there after hardly the better part of a day, and so in this way I was able to enjoy nearly two whole days at Saint Saturnin.
I am not currently renovating either the exterior or interior of the chateau, much as I wish I were, but I think that when the additional land is restored I will celebrate by utilizing the extra money to do just that. It seemed as likely an excuse as any to be made.

It is good to relax in one’s own home. Having not given much warning of my arrival, my servants were not really prepared to receive me, having shut up my room and covered things in expectation that I would be gone for the better part of the summer. I arrived in the evening and after changing my gown enjoyed a simple meal, while my rooms were readied. Conversed with Nanette and inquired of her if she thought she could spare her daughter so that I might take her with me for the season. The girl’s name is Pauline, which I had forgotten, and Nanette was very happy for the opportunity to let her travel, so I think that settled. I took the opportunity the next day to have her fitted for clothes so that I know she will be appropriately attired. I will order such items as necessary for her and Marianne shortly, perhaps as early as this week.
By some providence I had accidentally requested that the Galerie des Modes fashion plates be sent to Saint Saturnin instead of directly to Beau Monte, and they arrived the day after I did, so I was able to peruse them and have brought them back with me. Pelisses have not changed much, and yellow is very much in favor. The Polonaise style continues to be very popular, which is good as it means I will not need to have as many gowns remade.
Wigs are ever higher and more complicated, so the services of a good hairdresser and wigmaker are absolutely essential; much more so for when I am there as coiffures change daily it seems. I am not much in favor of these large bonnets and caps being worn on top of it all, but will probably purchase a few of those for my morning lever at least. There is a good picture of a mantelet au lever de l’aurore, upon which I think I will base the order my own. It is to be white and cream and light green, with lace and ribbon. I am trying to decide between a wide neckline, ruffled, or a higher neck closed with a parfait-contentement. As soon as I have decided I will send the order for that. Hopefully my chemises have been started by now.

I returned to Beau Monte this evening rather late, and we are fortunate that traveling mostly in darkness we encountered no wolves and none of the traces broke. Ascending the stairs to my room I was met by Msr. Saint Mikkael and several others, who seemed very happy to see me. My solitary respite at home has reminded me, however, of the affection I feel for T-, and the future I dream we may have. For my part, I would like a daughter of my own, but with his beautiful green eyes.

I also returned to find a letter from dearest Christine, which I read with much enthusiasm. She hopes to meet me in Paris or at Versailles after the summer, which she is spending abroad in Rome, hence the delay of her reply. I will take the time tomorrow to respond to her, and found her letter to be very comforting and with all of the amusements I have come to anticipate from her correspondence.

For now though the journey has tired me, and I’m sure I will have to give a full account of these supposed renovations to the company tomorrow. I will look at these Galerie copies once again and think on my new wardrobe before sleep claims me.
Olympe, Comtesse

Book Recommendation: Galerie des Modes



I couldn't recommend this book any more highly! Not only does it feature facsimiles of the real plates that were published in Paris over roughly a ten year span, but the additional information it provides is pretty comprehensive too. The plates in the book are but a sampling, and run from 1778-1787.
As with runway fashions today, I think it is important to note that these are ideas of what people were wearing, and often represent not only the highest classes of society, but also the most extravagant and unusual concoctions, designed to attract the attention (and sous) of the bourgeoisie and those outside of the capital.
In addition to stunning full-color replicas on each page with their original captions, there is a list of plates with translations (which seem accurate to me), and a glossary for when you need to know what a chapeau a la Grenade was, or where the redingote en backmann got its name.
It's enough to inspire any Countess, especially this one, to have some new clothes made!

June 5, 1779


I am so unhappy tonight that I can hardly persuade myself to write. It is not as if something terrible has happened, but rather a pervasive sadness that has been creeping over me. I’m sure the revelation about Msr. Lamotte has something to do with it, but can hardly be blamed as the only cause.
The weather continues very gray, and there was hardly anything today but more play rehearsals. I lost every hand of cards tonight, and retired early from the table to avoid losing more money. The rest of the party left for a ball in town a few hours ago, but I decided I did not feel well enough for it, and have remained behind.

I do not miss Thierry tonight, I thought I might, but found instead that it was the affection he provided which I have been seeking instead. Msr. Lamotte was kinder than he has ever been, as if sensing what I have been feeling and wishing to make things right. I want to be held in someone’s arms, and that he cannot give me. The other reason that I did not attend the ball with the others is that one of the gentlemen, Robert Saint Mikkael, has been showing me rather too much attention; much more so than I would wish, and I would like to discourage him. I cannot seem to have the ones I want, or dissuade the ones I do not want. Nothing is right.

No letters today, and so I remain rather lonely despite the constant company. Could not seem to keep my mind on reading or anything, but only pined and sighed as if I were younger; the thought of which only made me feel worse. I’m afraid that perhaps I do not want to marry Thierry after all, in which case my trip to Versailles may be in search of more than just land. I am tired of showing a pleasant and happy face when inside I am so distraught. I long for the peace of Saint Saturnin where I may be happily alone. I cannot seem to write my sorrow away tonight.
Olympe, Comtesse

June 4, 1779


Feeling rather foolish, I must admit to a terrible mistake. Before I had a chance to ask Adrienne about Msr. Lamotte, Marianne gave me a piece of gossip from Colette’s maid, as Colette knows him from previous encounters. Apparently the reason he is so reluctant to speak about his family or where he is from is that he is no longer welcome by either, because it became known that he prefers the company of young men to that of women. That is to say, that he would not court or marry any woman, and rather than hide the true reason, chose to allow his family to disinherit him!

Naturally I spent the remainder of the day in his company trying to ascertain by his actions if this was in fact true, and I fear to admit that I think it may be. As much as I would like to think otherwise, I suspect the rumor is correct. Heartbreaking, in light of even greater affection on his part today, I think I must in the future guard myself from such rash attachments. He is a dear man, and I hope that I shall be able to help him, as his situation must be very difficult indeed and I know not how he supports himself in light of these revelations. I do wish it were otherwise, and it has not stopped me so far from imagining things that were best left to T-.

It rained all day, and so painting was delayed again, and we spent the afternoon playing cards and making music. Tomorrow I must have Marianne wash my chemises and brush my gowns as they are in sore need of it. Another week and I think I will have run out of clothing not previously worn on this visit, with the exception of some nicer gowns for which I have not had the occasion.

No letters arrived or were sent today, though I did arrange for the payment of some debts which will make me feel much better, as I hate to owe anybody money, even merchants. They will be sent tomorrow when a secure courier can be found.

I do feel so very foolish, and I’m sure that my partiality cannot have gone unnoticed by others. I can only hope that it was taken for a deepening friendship, which is what I anticipate it may yet become. Oh but I am so very humiliated and disappointed!
Olympe, Comtesse

June 3, 1779 Some family history


This may be a short entry as I find myself with a headache tonight and will probably retire to bed early. Was not able to do any painting as I had planned due to the weather, which was very cloudy and which rained from time to time, preventing me from painting at all outdoors and which made the light inside very bad indeed.

It did, however, mean that the entire party was forced to spend the day inside together; Msr. Lamotte and myself included. Trapped in the salon during one excessively boring rehearsal of that play we traded discreet conversation on our dislike of the venture. He too finds Beau Monte somewhat stifling and will probably leave us shortly, which made me very sad; but he showed no particular inclination for where to go after that so I believe I may persuade him to stay a while yet.

I have not succeeded in encouraging him to talk about his parents or situation yet, which seems to be a subject of some distaste to him. When I am next able to speak with Adrienne alone I will inquire of her his story, but until then I am left to conjecture that he is the bastard son of noble parentage, or else a younger son of lesser inheritance. I seem to be drawn to men of few means.

Everyone else being occupied we were able to spend the majority of the day unobserved. I wore my blue satin anglaise, but deliberately left my fichu in my room. Complaining that I was cold, he was prompted to inquire if rubbing my hands for me might warm them; a liberty I could not in the end encourage for fear of appearing very forward. Our desire not to disturb those practicing led him to lean forward and whisper into my ear several times, and the proximity of his lips was enticing. Our conversation was light and teasing, and I do think he seemed in a happier and more affectionate mind than yesterday. He had not the opportunity, however, to practice his charms on anyone else, and so I’m sure the perceived favoritism is incidental.

A letter from T- informs me that he is considering a military commission, but one which would not require him to travel very often. Such a post must be very expensive and require better friends than I can provide to secure it. I wonder if he has told me everything. Dear Thierry was inspired by my last letter to express his affections in writing, but I will savor those words elsewhere. How can I be so enticed by two different men at the same time? Very different men, I may say.

My steward writes that the grain shortages may work to our advantage, as Auvergne is at least capable of offering better prices and fair proximity to Paris (and indeed to most of the kingdom), than Provence farther south. He also writes that it will likely cost me twice what I had hoped for this trip to Versailles, as prices have risen steeply there in the last six months. With this grain business to bargain around I don’t know that any amount of money would dissuade me from my venture, as no better time may present itself. I have made it my personal goal, that as Comtesse d’Auvergne my contribution to the deeds of my ancestors shall be the reclamation of our purloined land and the wealth it brings.

I think my father would have preferred that I contribute a husband to take our name and many, many male heirs; but that will come in time. Having died when I was only five years of age, I did not know him very well, but one of my only memories of him was being in his study and hearing him bemoan the fact that for generations we have been only one heir away from the throne claiming all of Auvergne.
He was an only surviving child, as was his father, and his father before him. If Anne de la Tour had not married her cousin, Gabriel de la Tour, the name at least would have been lost; and the lands inherited by her aunt, Catherine de Medici. My poor parents I’m sure intended to have many children, but only I was born of their five short years of marriage, before the smallpox which took my father and scarred me. Mother, having remarried Msr. Cordelay less than a year after quickly proved herself capable of sons, though of the five she bore only two remain.

I said that this would not be long, but it is and my headache is not any better. Some cordial and rest I think is necessary. Perhaps some drawing or painting tomorrow. I may forget my shawl again.

Olympe, Comtesse

Why all the pictures?


Why indeed!?
You may have noticed that at the start of each diary entry the picture is of some article of clothing, a full outfit, or an original painting from the 18th century. All of these date to the 1770s or early 1780s, in accordance with our year of 1779, so I like to think of them as what Olympe is either wearing or seeing in her world.
It is interesting to note the continued use of the robe a la francais, which was at the zenith of its popularity when Olympe was born, but which remained in use long after, especially for court occasions. Though supplanted by the more fitted robe a l'anglais, the francais could be easily looped up to convert it into the style of a polonaise, which was extremely popular in the 1770s. So when Olympe talks about having her dresses remade, this is exactly what she intends; for even the rich knew it was less-expensive to adapt clothing than to have all new ones made.
The whole idea of the blog is, after all, to get a better sense of what the life of someone in her position would have been like on a very personal level. There is a lot of research still to do, always, but I find that to be part of the fun!

June 2, 1779


I had the opportunity today to meet Adrienne’s two daughters; Emiline, who is 13, and Bethanie-Marie, who is 11. I know she has also a son, Charles, but he was not with them, and is very much younger than the girls. They have a common kind of prettiness about them, though it remains to be seen how they may blossom into womanhood. Seeing them I felt both maternal and also old. I am reminded of my half-brothers; Andre and Matthieu. Maman tells me that Andre may soon be married, but she has been saying that for years; I think the only difference is that she approves of his latest interest.
Matthieu is so much older now than I wish him to be, nearly a man himself at thirteen. Mother intends him for the church, I think, but he has always had an inclination for music that I hope may do him some good. Twice married now, Maman has little else to occupy her time it seems than to devise futures for us all.

Much of the day was spent on that irritating play, which we are now calling “The School for Brides” after Moliere’s “School for Wives”. I never cared for that play, preferring his “Tartuffe” above all others. It is all old in any case; a new formula is needed, but I am alone in this opinion, and do not care enough about the result to assert my ideas.

I continue to wait for the arrival of the fashion plates from Paris, which ought to have been sent by now. Hopefully my new chemises have been started, or the whole of my wardrobe will be delayed by it.

I did see Msr. Lamotte today, but found him somewhat less affectionate than I wished. He did at one point brush my cheek with his hand, but only to remove something that should not have been there. I wanted to ascribe much more to that, but could not with any real reason do so. His hand was warm and gentle, as always. I cannot seem to remember what T- is like anymore. Msr. Lamotte left us for town later in the day, and I did not even see him go. I think the anticipation of seeing him again is what currently guides me from day to day, otherwise it is very monotonous.

Sent a letter to Mme le Sang-Boeuf today to try and arrange everything for Paris, but will likely have to wait a while for a response as this is the second letter that I have sent her in two weeks. I hope to take a house in town as Versailles can be very crowded, and if I do not attend the Queen after all, I will need to have accommodations elsewhere, and would prefer that they not be at court. A letter to my dear friend Anne-Marie and one to my estate manager at Opme completed my correspondence for the day.

I wonder if Msr. Lamotte finds this play business as tiring as I do. We could arrange other entertainments for ourselves if so; but that would be a selfish pursuit, and I doubt well-received by the other guests. Marianne seems to be enjoying herself, as she has new gossip for me nearly every day. I should remember to ask her if she is in need of new clothing for our trip to Paris. Doubtless she will say yes whether she does or not, and I may order a few new caracos and a quilted cape for her. Probably some shoes as well. I need to remember to ask about a calash for me. I may take Nanette’s daughter with me, as I will need another maid and I don’t think she has ever left Auvergne before.

My mind wanders tonight, and I am in a mood to paint, but shall save that for tomorrow when the light is better. I also miss my harp at home, but I’m sure that desire will pass as it usually does even when I am there to play it.
Olympe, Comtesse

June 1, 1779 A Little Feminism


Spent a leisurely day in my own company. Slept very late, into the afternoon, and in fact woke and rang for Marianne at half past noon, only to fall asleep again before she arrived. Rose at the ridiculous hour of 2 o’clock, bathed and dressed, and then wrote letters to my mother, my steward, and T-. I received a short note from T- also, but it imparted little of consequence. He encouraged me to read more of Msr. Rousseau’s works, though so far I find La Nouvelle Heloise to be uninteresting. Perhaps his philosophy will be more to my liking.

Dined alone and walked in the gardens from 5 o’clock until half past seven. Read outside on a bench and enjoyed the very fine weather. I had some hopes that perhaps I might see Msr. Lamotte, but that did not occur and I think that it is well. The good weather and pleasant greenery reminded me of my dear Saint Saturnin. When shall I see it again? If I travel directly from here to Paris perhaps I can make a stop in Auvergne on the way. Of course I will. I need to visit with my mother in any case, and so a few days delay in Riom and at Saint Saturnin will not be amiss.

Returned to my room and dined alone again later. Attended to the business which my steward sent me, and napped from 9 o’clock until half past ten. Rose and wrote more letters and it now being past midnight I might be expected to retire to bed, but my earlier nap has refreshed me, and so I think that I may trouble my eyes with reading some more. Tonight my thoughts are all where they should not be, so perhaps a book will divert them.

And yet, I cannot let that be the final word. I am forever censoring myself, afraid that someone will read this. I would be a happier bride than many, mistress of my own choice, free to choose a younger man than my mother could, if not a more handsome man. Will he ever ask? When he does will I still want him to? My mind and heart are straying, and I think it is because I am tired of waiting. I feel myself becoming an old maid, and I have had offers from others that I would not take, believing myself destined for better things. Have I been wrong? Are my charms now to diminish with age while I wait for a treasure not to be found?

I long for home, for Saint Saturnin and the valleys of Auvergne. Do I want to go to Versailles? I was in Paris not long ago but did not enjoy it, will this visit be different? Will my efforts bring any result? If they do not, then the money will have been wasted and we will be in a worse situation than we were before. That land has always belonged to Auvergne, and if Auvergne was not held by a woman I believe it would have been returned long ago. Men may assert their rights in bolder voice than women can. We fight with powder and charm, where they may take up arms or argue the law on their own behalf.

I spent a peaceful day, but the night finds in me all of the dissatisfaction and fear that linger beneath the surface. They may think us vain and silly creatures who do nothing but play at amiable vices all day, when in fact if I could work I would accomplish so much more than they may dare. My course is different from theirs, but my aim is steady and fixed.
Olympe, Comtesse

May 31, 1779


I have not written in this in too long, but I have been both ill and tired lately. Ill for several days from the 26th to the 28th; and then there have been hunting parties the last three days. A new gentleman has joined our party, by the name of Robert Lamotte. He has a face like a wolf, and we have played chess nearly every day after returning from the hunt. I fear to say that even a letter from my dear T- did not have as much of an effect on me lately as a smile from this new gentleman. Perhaps I am only tired of waiting, and besides which Msr. Lamotte shows at least as much attention to Colette as to me.

Still I find myself painting my face more carefully, and worrying that with only two or three hunting combinations he will have seen me in the same clothes too often to notice their appeal. I confess I long to know what a kiss from him would feel like. I am not at all certain of his situation, and know myself not to be rational. I have been restrained, but I wonder how much more so I would be if his affections were offered.

It is no matter. There is a new picture of the Queen by Vigee-Lebrun and my Marchande des Modes promises me that I can have a court gown very like it. We are deciding on colors and trims currently, but I wonder if the expense will not be very great. Hopefully an appearance at court later in the season will help my cause, and restore all of our ancient rights and privileges. The news lately has been all ill on that front.

Interminable rehearsals of the play continue on, but not acting in it myself I am able to avoid some of them. Other times I act as audience, but I do not think my suggestions are taken very seriously. More to the point, I have ceased to care. My thoughts are on Versailles, Auvergne, and other things.
Olympe, Comtesse

Saint Saturnin and other estates


Olympe, what is that beautiful picture at the top of your blog?
So glad you asked! (Even though you didn't) It is the Chateau of Saint-Saturnin, ancestral seat of the De la Tour family, who were, in actuality, Counts and Countesses of Auvergne.

Auvergne, as a region, is located sort of in the lower middle of France. It was a very volcanic area eons ago, and so there are a lot of mountains and good, black volcanic earth for growing crops.

There are four major regions within the province, and it can get confusing sometimes when researching Auvergne because the boundaries now aren't quite the same as before the revolution. Shocker.
Saint-Saturnin the village, is located in the area known as Puy de Dome, referring of course to those aforementioned dead volcanoes. Technically the de la Tour family bred too many girls and lost the County and castles to the French crown when Catherine de Medici inherited their claims, but in my alternate history they continued to hold it at least up until Olympe marries and transfers it to the control of her husband's family. They could, on the other hand, make an agreement similar to many others (like the Bowes-Lyons of England) and insist that any man marrying her has to take their family name as well, hyphenated of course. This was quite common, which is how you get people with names like 'Cretien de la Motte de Viviers Sur la Loire, Comte de Provence" Okay, I made that one up, but it happened.

The page for Saint Saturnin is http://www.route-chateaux-auvergne.org/Chateau_de_Saint_Saturnin_anglais.htm I bookmarked the English version for you, so enjoy. Of course, in my version since the family continued to hold it, the castle has undergone slightly more renovation, but I imagine the outside would look largely the same.

Naturally, holding the whole region, they have other castles, but this one is their seat and remains Olympe's preference, outside of Riom (the capital of Auvergne), and Versailles (ostensibly the capital for french nobility at the time). For information on other possible castles see http://pagesperso-orange.fr/chateau.de.la.vigne/en/index.htm http://www.chateau-de-val.com/ http://www.route-chateaux-auvergne.org/Chateau_de_Lespinasse_anglais.htm http://www.route-chateaux-auvergne.org/Chateau_Opme_anglais.htm

Or for a complete list of the castles of Auvergne itself (not necessarily related to the family), see http://www.route-chateaux-auvergne.org/liste_anglais.htm.

May 24&25, 1779


As predicted, my last two days have been much busier than the week proceeding them. Sunday I went to hear mass said with the entire party, men included. We returned in time for a very nice meal, after which many a pleasant hour was spent on reading, listening to others play music, and a few games of cards at which I did well for once.

After dinner, as rehearsals for the play were just getting under way, I received a letter from T-. I excused myself and rather devoured than read it in the privacy of my own room. Delightfully I was informed that he was coming to the area that very night and would be staying near the lake that the rest of the party had visited the day of my arrival here. I had Marianne pack a few things for me, and informed Adrienne that my steward was arriving nearby the next day, and that I would be going to meet him precipitously on urgent business. I don’t know if she entirely believed me, especially as he could have just as well come here, but I convinced her that I did not wish to trespass further on her hospitality for the sake of my steward only. The rest of the night was spent in great anticipation.

I never was fully given the reason for his visit this far south, but the reunion was wonderful. I left Beau Monte early Monday morning and reached the lake before noon. We shared several private meals in his hotel, spoke for hours, walked along the banks together, and when it came time to say good-bye, never was parting so difficult. He loves me. I am sure of it. He only waits for the surety of his commission to ask for my hand. I am reassured, however temporarily.
More practically, T- had seen my steward and brought a letter from him, as well as the paints I had requested, more clothes, and some of the latest fashion plates to help me order for the season.

Arriving back at Beau Monte this evening around midnight, I have already written up an order for the lingerie shop in Paris where my last chemises were made. A new chemise a dormir and dressing robe are desperately needed, as Versailles is hardly a private place, and I would not want anybody to see me in what I currently wear. Perhaps soon…, but that is a wicked thought, and I will not complete it. I have such hopes for the future, I fear their disappointment.

Olympe, Comtesse

May 23, 1779


Uneventful day. My hands hurt me a great deal so I have avoided doing too much. News came that the conflict drags on in the American colonies. I wonder how our Lafayette is doing. This son of Riom will either be a hero or a disappointment, but I have no doubt he will be noticed wherever he goes.

The play plans carry on, though I think it a silly thing. I wish now that I had not arranged this visit with Adrienne, but she seemed so desperately to want company for the season. If I had known how many guests she would have I never would have felt obligated to accept the invitation, when I had so much business at home to attend to.

Sent to my Marchand des Modes in Paris for suggestions for my new wardrobe. Read a little. Played some cards with the others. Listened to endless discussion of the play. In short, rien! I hope my paints and embroidery arrive soon so that I may better amuse myself. In addition, last night I distinctly heard wolves, but am reassured that they are beyond the walls of the town.
Must sleep now, for it is far too late, and tomorrow will hold a great deal more than today.

Olympe, Comtesse

May 22, 1779


Am very tired and must rest soon, but before I do a little note to say that today I walked to the cemetery, which, like most cemeteries, says so much about a town. The most recent burial was an infant daughter, which is very sad; but the sun being warm and the sky so blue it was hard to stay sad for long.

Arrived home to find a letter from my steward saying that the crops are not growing as well as they should, our taxes are due to be collected soon, and it will take more money than we thought to bring about the re-acquisition. This coupled with some personal annoyance towards my fellow guests makes me want to return home all the more.

Another visit to the theatre tonight, but did not join the others for a late supper afterwards. Retired to my room and had a tray brought in. Am trying to make the numbers work in my favor, but I wonder if they ever will. Perhaps the re-acquisition was a bad idea.

Olympe, Comtesse


And you thought knowing which fork to use was confusing?


Brought to you by our friends at Historic Foods, this excerpt not only traces the development of the "dessert" and "fruit" courses at the end of a meal, but also illuminates the etymology of the words themselves. Like all the best English words, they're French. Naturellement!


"The Court Dessert in Eighteenth Century France"


"The elaborate dessert course of the eighteenth century was a direct descendant of the voidée, a court ritual of the medieval period, when the sovereign rose at the end of the meal to consume sugared anise and carraway seeds (dragées) and spiced wine (hippocras). As well as these medicinal aids to royal digestion, he also ate a wafer (gaufre) with the sweet wine, as a eucharist-like thanksgiving. After washing his hands the king then left the table, which was cleared. Both the verbs voider and desservir mean to clear the table - so dessert is a later synonym for voidée. However, in the eighteenth century the word dessert was considered to be a bourgeois term, the correct name at court for this final service of the meal being 'fruit'."


Be sure to follow the link to their website and check out the full article, not mention their incredible displays!

May 21, 1779




Spent the entire day at the estate after rising very late in the morning. Finally hung my paintings with the help of Marianne and a manservant of the house. Had Marianne try a new hairstyle with my hair, but did not end up liking it. Read, but could not stay interested in it.
Joined the group at luncheon, after which we retired to the salon to discuss the proposed entertainment. One of the ladies is writing a new play for the occasion, as none could be found which all would agree upon. It is to be a comedy on the nature of love, and how to persuade a man into marriage. I wondered when it was proposed if Marianne had been gossiping about my situation, but am hoping it is unfounded worry. Spent the largest part of the day thus engaged.

Dinner was unappetizing, so I sent Marianne to the kitchen later for something upon which to nibble, and have done so most of the evening, while playing cards. I also made out my order for new clothes for the season and will send the request in a day or so after I have thought about it more fully. I anticipate joining the court at Versailles in a few months when the weather in Paris has cooled somewhat. I even anticipate that I may attend the Queen upon occasion, so my wardrobe must be made acceptable.

Find Briancon and Beau Monte very boring, despite the continued good weather, but having arrived less than five days ago I cannot abandon my kind hostess for a while yet. I suspect that this entertainment is a result of similar feelings on the part of the other guests, but naturally it is not a subject I can easily broach with them. I did finally meet with the husbands of several of the ladies this evening after dinner. They have been away on a hunting excursion, and do not associate much with the ladies in any case.

Tomorrow I must remember to read the script that Jeanne has written, and give it to Serafine who is making copies for everyone. The edits are my full contribution.

Olympe, Comtesse

May 20, 1779


Accomplished very little today, beginning with my rising very late in the morning. Marianne had brought breakfast in, but it was cold by the time I tried it. Briancon being in the mountains, is somewhat colder than I had anticipated, so I dressed more warmly today than the last two, but throughout the day found it increasingly warm and regretted my decision. Received a letter from my steward in regards to the expense of the land restoration we are seeking, but it is worth it if those areas formerly part of Auvergne are reunited with us.

Much of the talk today was of the entertainment we are considering making. I am not as enthusiastic as some, but will gladly take a part, if only to distract myself from thinking on T-. A comedy is largely considered the most popular choice, further discouraging me from taking the stage myself, as I do not like to be laughed at. Luncheon with Jacqueline was satisfying, though I find her focus on financial details a trifle prying, but perhaps I am overly-sensitive to it.

A letter to T- and one to my mother in Riom completed my correspondence for the day. Still have not hung those paintings, but perhaps I will tomorrow. Found the steep streets of town too much after a while today, and called on my carriage to carry me to the baker this afternoon, where I picked out some small cakes. Delicious, and I would worry more about my waist if I were not walking so much, over such mountainous terrain. Ate far too much at a small supper gathering at an establishment in town as well. The little sausages reminded me of home.

The carriage wheel stuck between some cobblestones on the way home, and I was afraid I would have to get out and walk the rest of the way, but it was fixed quickly enough. Some of the party played and sang until 9 tonight, and then we made our ways to an early bed; but Marianne and I played cards for some time after that and it being after midnight I am only now considering retiring to bed. No doubt it will be late in the day again before I rise tomorrow.

Olympe, Comtesse

May 19, 1779

Rose at 9:30 this morning and took breakfast with my hostess and some other guests who arrived back from a visit to a local lake late last night. I heard the carriages pull up with their occupants sometime after midnight, but did not get out of bed to look.

After breakfast I was shown around the estate, which is small but comfortable, much like my quarters. It does boast a winery which I think I will visit again tomorrow. Made a pleasant acquaintance in Jacqueline D’Orsay, niece by marriage of the Comte D’Orsay; as well as Colette Maupassin, and Jeanne D’Eglantine. Jacqueline and I spent most of the day together talking; she about her two deceased husbands and her beloved black hunting hound, Lucille, whom she is rarely without.

Dinner was served at 3:30 and showed a distinctly German influence, and was fairly provincial. I read in my room until after 5 and then dressed, and accompanied everyone into town for a small theatrical performance, which was tolerable. There was afterwards talk of putting on a small theatrical amusement of our own, as they do at Trianon; but it remains to be seen what comes of that.

Returned, exhausted, at 11 to find my room both dark and cold. After a brief conversation with Marianne everything was arranged appropriately and a bath filled for me, very hot as I like it, and very quickly as I was not in a mood to wait still longer. Managed another letter to my Steward while enjoying some biscuits, and received a note from Jacqueline suggesting I meet her for luncheon tomorrow afternoon. Will retire after writing this, and hope that tonight I am warmer and sleep more soundly than the last.

Olympe, Comtesse

May 18, 1779

May 18, 1779

Arrived at the estate shortly after noon, and was surprised to find no one here to greet me. A letter had been left with instructions and my room key, but sans even the housekeeper to show me around, as if I were a boarder. Expected little from my rooms and was not disappointed. Country houses that have not been much cared for in many years can only hope to be comfortable, but I will hang some of the pictures I brought with me tomorrow to brighten things up.

Unfortunately am located near to some foul odor, so one of my first acts was to find some flowers to mask the smell, and secondly to request some herbs to burn in the fireplace. Things are much nicer now. Explored the library and found it typically provincial, but picked up a book called La Nouvelle Heloise, which ought to be a diverting romance at least.

In the course of finding the flowers walked down into the village. There is a charming old cemetery which I hope to visit in a day or two. Wrote a letter to dearest Christine and sent it, hoping she is not too unhappy for the lateness of my reply to her last letter of some weeks ago. Also sent word to my steward about the management of those acquisitions while I am absent, am hoping the business with the adjoining land will come to a firm and expedient close.

My maid, Marianne, is convinced that being away for a few months will
encourage Monsieur D to finally ask for my hand. Having the title, but little money, and no male relatives to keep it all from the Crown I am beginning to be concerned that I am growing too old for matrimony and heirs of my own body. Have no doubts that some peers of the realm would never consider a member of the Third Estate for themselves or their daughters, but titles will not sustain forever in the same way that coin does, and his star is rising.

Having had only a few biscuits before my walk into town I nevertheless waited until five in the evening to order supper in my room. Simple, it came accompanied by tiny, puffed cakes of which I regret to say I ate far too many. Read comfortably in my room until sundown, and played cards alone. Being tired from the journey I will retire shortly to bed.

Tomorrow I see my hostess, Adrienne, and a few other guests in the party, but beyond that I am uncertain what to expect. The weather promises to be fine for at least a few more days, which is just as well since I seem to have forgotten my heavy shawl, and the nights can be cold in this part of the country. I may send for it from home as well as for my painting supplies and that face cream I love so well.

I admit to some heartache at being so far from T- but it is born of fatigue and boredom and may soon pass as divertissements present themselves. Perhaps he will be able to join me in a while.

Olympe, Comtesse d’Auvergne