But a nemesis was destined to overtake the pair. Money flowed through Lady Blessington’s hands like water, and she could never be brought to understand that what she had might not last for ever. Finally, it was all gone, yet her extravagance continued. Debts were heaped up mountain-high. She signed notes of hand without even reading them. She incurred obligations of every sort without a moment’s hesitation.
For a long time her creditors held aloof, not believing that her resources were in reality exhausted; but in the end there came a crash as sudden as it was ruinous. As if moved by a single impulse, those to whom she owed money took out judgments against her and descended upon Gore House in a swarm. This was in the spring of 1849, when Lady Blessington was in her sixtieth year and D’Orsay fifty-one.
It is a curious coincidence that her earliest novel had portrayed the wreck of a great establishment such as her own. Of the scene in Gore House Mr. Madden, Lady Blessington’s literary biographer, has written:
Numerous creditors, bill-discounters, money-lenders, jewelers, lace-venders, tax-collectors, gas-company agents, all persons having claims to urge pressed them at this period simultaneously. An execution for a debt of four thousand pounds was at length put in by a house largely engaged in the silk, lace, India-shawl, and fancy-jewelry business.
This sum of four thousand pounds was only a nominal claim, but it opened the flood-gates for all of Lady Blessington’s creditors. Mr. Madden writes still further:
On the 10th of May, 1849, I visited Gore House for the last time. The auction was going on. There was a large assemblage of people of fashion. Every room was thronged; the well-known library-salon, in which the conversaziones took place, was crowded, but not with guests. The arm-chair in which the lady of the mansion was wont to sit was occupied by a stout, coarse gentleman of the Jewish persuasion, busily engaged in examining a marble hand extended on a book, the fingers of which were modeled from a cast of those of the absent mistress of the establishment. People, as they passed through the room, poked the furniture, pulled about the precious objects of art and ornaments of various kinds that lay on the table; and some made jests and ribald jokes on the scene they witnessed.
At this compulsory sale things went for less than half their value. Pictures by Lawrence and Landseer, a library consisting of thousands of volumes, vases of exquisite workmanship, chandeliers of ormolu, and precious porcelains—all were knocked down relentlessly at farcical prices. Lady Blessington reserved nothing for herself. She knew that the hour had struck, and very soon she was on her way to Paris, whither Count d’Orsay had already gone, having been threatened with arrest by a boot-maker to whom he owed five hundred pounds.