The Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford — Volume 3 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 890 pages of information about The Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford Volume 3.

(963) Madame du Deffand had sent Mr. Walpole a snuff-box, on the lid of which was a portrait of Madame de S`evign`e, accompanied by a letter written in her name from the Elysian Fields, and addressed to Mr. Walpole; who did not at first suspect Madame du Deffand as the author, but thought both the present and the letter had come from the Duchess of Choiseul. ("One of the principal features, and it must be called, when carried to such excess, one of the principal weaknesses of Mr. Walpole’s character, was a fear of ridicule—­a fear which, , like most others, often leads to greater dangers than that which it seeks to avoid.  At the commencement of his acquaintance with madame du Deffand, he was near fifty, and she above seventy years of age, and entirely blind.  She had already long passed the first epoch in the life of a Frenchwoman, that of gallantry, and had as long been established as a bel esprit; and it is to be remembered that, in the ante-revolutionary world of paris, these epochs in life were as determined, and as strictly observed, as the changes of dress on a particular day of the different seasons; and that a woman endeavouring to attract lovers after she ceased to be galante, would have been not less ridiculous as her wearing velvet when the rest of the world were in demi-soisons.  Madame du Deffand, therefore, old and blind, had no more idea of attracting Mr. Walpole to her as a lover than she had of the possibility of any one suspecting her of such an intention; and indeed her lively feelings, and the violent fancy she had taken for his conversation and character, in every expression of admiration and attachment which she really felt, and which she never supposed capable of misinterpretation.  By himself they were not misinterpreted; but he seems to have had ever before his eyes a very unnecessary dread of that being so by others—­a fear lest madame du Deffand’s extreme partiality and high opinion should expose him to suspicions of entertaining the same opinion of himself, or of its leading her to some extravagant mark of attachment; and all this, he persuaded himself, was to be exposed in their letters to all the clerks of the post-office at paris and all the idlers at Versailles.  This accounts for the ungracious language in which he often replied to the importunities of her anxious affection; a language so foreign to his heart, and so contrary to his own habits in friendship:  this too accounts for his constantly repressing on her part all effusions of sentiment, all disquisitions on the human heart, and all communications of its vexations, weaknesses, and pains.”  Preface to “Letters of Madame du Deffand to Mr. Walpole."-E.

(964) Vous avez si bien fait,” replied Madame du Deffand, “par vo le`cons, vos pr`eceptes, vos gronderies, et, le pis do tous, par vos ironies, que vous `etes presque parvenu `a me rendre fausse, ou, pour le moins, fort dissimul`ee."-E.

Letter 309 To George Montagu, Esq.  Arlington Street, July 10, 1766. (page 485)

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