It was about this time that Manon became acquainted, through a school-friend, with M. Roland, who was the younger son of a poor, but noble family, and whose lot in life was not an easy one. He was now considerably advanced in years, and was superintendent of the manufactories at Rouen and Amiens. He had written several works upon these subjects, and was somewhat celebrated. She took great pleasure in his society, and after five years of friendship, respected, and perhaps loved him. He offered himself and was finally accepted. She says: “In short, if marriage was as I thought, an austere union, an association in which the woman usually burdens herself with the happiness of two individuals, it were better that I should exert my abilities and my courage in so honorable a task, than in the solitude in which I lived.”
The married couple visited Switzerland and England, and then settled down near Lyons, with her husband’s relations. She had one child—a daughter—and her life and happiness consisted in taking care of her and her husband. She thus gives a beautiful picture of her life:
“Seated in my chimney corner at eleven, before noon, after a peaceful night and my morning tasks—my husband at his desk, and his little girl knitting—I am conversing with the former, and overlooking the work of the latter; enjoying the happiness of being warmly sheltered in the bosom of my dear little family, and writing to a friend, while the snow is falling on so many poor wretches overwhelmed by sorrow and penury. I grieve over their fate, I repose on my own, and make no account of those family annoyances which appeared formerly to tarnish my felicity.”
The revolution came amid all their sweet and quiet pleasure, but found her ready for it. M. Roland was elected to the National Assembly, to represent Lyons. The family at once repaired to Paris, and the house of Roland was at once the rendezvous for the talented, the men of genius, but more especially the Girondists, as the more conservative of the republicans were called. The genius and beauty of Madame Roland soon became known, and made her house the fashionable resort of the elite of Paris. The arrest of the king filled her with alarm. She was not willing to push matters to such extremes. She was one of the noblest of republicans, out she was merciful and moderate in some of her views. Her husband again retired to the country—to-Lyons. Amid the solitude of their own home she grew discontented. She could not, having tasted the sweets of life in Paris, abandon it without a pang of sorrow. The following winter a new ministry was formed of the Girondists, and her husband was named minister for the interior. They again returned to Paris, and now in greater state. Roland was one of the most honest men of the revolution, but was so precise and methodical in his papers which were prepared for the public, that without the assistance of his wife, his success would have been far less than it was.