When Sophie Arnould retired from the stage, she took a house near the Palais Royal, and extended as brilliant a hospitality as ever. She was as celebrated for her practical jokes as for her witticisms, of which the following freak is a good example: One evening in 1780 she gave a grand supper, to which, among others, she invited M. Barthe, author of “Les Fausses Infidelites,” and many similar pieces. He was inflated with vanity, though he was totally ignorant of everything away from the theatre, and was, in fact, one of those individuals who actually seem to court mystification and practical jokes. Mlle. Arnould instructed her servant Jeannot, and had him announced pompously under the title of the Chevalier de Medicis, giving M. Barthe to understand that the young man was an illegitimate son of the house of Medici. The pretended nobleman appeared to be treated with respect and distinction by the company, and he spoke to the poet with much affability, professing great admiration for his works. M. Barthe was enchanted. He was in a flutter of gratified vanity, and, to show his delight at the condescension of the chevalier, he proposed to write an epic poem in honor of his house. This farce lasted during the evening. The assembled company were in convulsions of suppressed laughter, which broke out when, at the moment of M. Barthe’s most ecstatic admiration and respect for his new patron, Sophie Arnould lifted her glass, and, looking at the chevalier, said, in a clear voice, “Your health, Jeannot!” The sensations of poor M. Barthe may readily be imagined. The incident became the story of the day in all circles, and the unlucky poet could not go anywhere for fear of being tormented about “Jeannot.”
At length she withdrew completely from the follies, passions, and cares of the world, and bought an ancient monastic building, formerly belonging to the monks of St. Francis, near Luzarches, eighteen or twenty miles from Paris. This grim residence she decorated luxuriously in its interior, and over the door inscribed the ecclesiastical motto, “Ite missa est.” Here she remained during the earlier storms of the Revolution, though she occasionally went to Paris at the risk of her head to gratify her curiosity about the republican management of opera, which presented some very unique features. The reader will be interested in some brief pictures of the revolutionary opera.