Dino Dorothée
Memoirs of the Duchesse de Dino (Afterwards Duchesse de Talleyrand et de Sagan), 1831-1835

Memoirs of the Duchesse de Dino (Afterwards Duchesse de Talleyrand et de Sagan), 1831-1835
Dino Dorothée

duchesse de Dorothée Dino

Memoirs of the Duchesse de Dino (Afterwards Duchesse de Talleyrand et de Sagan), 1831-1835


This history is composed of notes made in England during the Embassy of the Prince de Talleyrand and of fragments of letters addressed by my grandmother, the Duchesse de Dino (afterwards Duchesse de Talleyrand et de Sagan), during a period of thirty years, to M. Adolphe de Bacourt, who gave them to me by her desire.

Some months before her death in 1862 my grandmother, who was then fully aware of her condition, herself told me of the precious legacy which would be transmitted to me when she was gone by M. de Bacourt, her executor, and added her final instructions and advice.

A just judgment on conspicuous ideas and persons is possible only after the lapse of many years, and so I should willingly have postponed the publication of these Memoirs. But some years since, my niece, the Comtesse Jean de Castellane, published the story of the early years of the Duchesse de Dino, and as many readers desire to have the continuation, I have decided not to withhold it any longer, and it will be found in the following pages.

The book throws more light on the last years of the Prince de Talleyrand than any previous publication, and it speaks so well for itself that I need say nothing for it. The place which the Duchess occupied in the European Society of the first half of last century is also too well known to need to be recalled here. Her personal charm, like her intellectual distinction, has rarely been equalled, but the moral fascination which she exercised on all who knew her is less well known. Intellect is a great source of strength, but nobility of soul is a greater; and it was assuredly this which helped the Duchess in many difficult passages in her history.

It is this sense of nobility and distinction which, in my opinion, is the chief characteristic of her Memoirs.




Paris, May 9, 1831.– I am bewildered by the tumult of Paris. There is such a babel of words, such a crowd of faces, that I hardly recognise myself, and have the greatest difficulty in collecting my thoughts so as to discover where I am, where others are, whether the country is doing well or ill, whether the physicians are skilful enough, or whether the malady is beyond their art.

Twenty times I have stopped to think of Madeira; sometimes, too, my thoughts are of Valençay; but I can find no fixed resting-place, and it seems to me quite futile to prejudge anything before the great electoral crisis which preoccupies everybody. A propos of everything, people here say "after the elections," just as the gay world of London used to say "after Easter."

There was a little article in the Moniteur of yesterday; the attitude of the Ministry and that of the general public are both just and flattering to M. de Talleyrand, but reason is not the fashion nowadays, and less so in this country than elsewhere. In fact, if I were to let my thoughts wander over the thousand and one small complications which spoil and embarrass everything, the only conclusion I could arrive at would be that the country is very ill but that the doctor is excellent!..

London, September 10, 1831.– From Paris letters it appears that the indestructible Bailli de Ferette has at length taken his departure; likewise Madame Visconti, another extraordinary relic of the past.

I hear there have been émeutes of women; fifteen hundred of these horrible creatures made a commotion, and because of their sex the Garde Nationale would not use force. Fortunately, the rain settled the matter.

Yesterday came an express with a rigmarole about Belgium asking that the Dutch should retire still further, that Maestricht should be garrisoned by Dutch alone, expressing impatience at General Baudrand having had direct conversations in private with the English Ministers, and recalling him forthwith. He will not go, however, till after the Drawing-room.

Nothing new about Poland.

The Times tells of the ill-starred attempt in Portugal. A malison on Dom Miguel! What a shame it is that he should have triumphed!

The only news in London is that on the occasion of the coronation,[1 - Of King William IV.] the King allowed the Bishops to lay aside their ugly wigs. This has made them quite unrecognisable for the last week, for they were in such a hurry to avail themselves of the permission that they did not allow time for their hair to grow again. The result was that they cut a very odd figure, and were the delight of all the guests at the King's dinner.

London, September 11, 1831.– Everybody is still talking of nothing but the coronation; the Duke of Devonshire's return on foot all splashed with mud; the acts, words, and appearance of everyone are discussed, embellished, distorted, and reviewed with more or less charity: that is to say, with no charity at all. The Queen alone is left untouched; everyone says that she was perfect, and they are quite right.

I saw the Duke of Gloucester yesterday, and could get nothing out of him except that they had been trying to avoid having Van de Weyer (who makes the Duchess of Saxe-Weimar swoon) at the great diplomatic dinner to-day at Saint James's. They, therefore, hit on the plan of asking, besides ambassadors, only such ministers as are married; I thought this rather stupid.

All the venerable survivals are disappearing; there is Lady Mornington, mother of the Duke of Wellington, who died yesterday at the age of ninety. This event can make little difference to her son.

The Landgravine of Hesse-Homburg and the Duke of Saxe-Meiningen left yesterday by the steamer for Rotterdam; the Duchess of Cambridge leaves to-day for the Hague viâ Bruges. The great preoccupation of them all is to avoid Brussels.

Lady Belfast describes very amusingly the visit of the English yachts to Cherbourg and the welcome they had there. They were received by the authorities, who could not in the least understand what a Gentleman's Yacht Club in which the Government had no concern could be; in fact, they were near taking the members for pirates. However, they gave them a dinner and a ball. Lord Yarborough wished to return their hospitality on board his yacht, but all the provincial fair ladies declared that nothing would induce them to dance on the sea, that they would be certain to be horribly sick, and that the proposal was altogether barbarous. Finally, Lord Yarborough was obliged to yield, and gave his ball in a Cherbourg tavern, where, however, he managed to spend ten thousand francs in a single evening.

London, September 13, 1831.– Yesterday's Drawing-room was more crowded than ever, and consequently so long and fatiguing that Mexico, Spain, and Naples were successively placed hors de combat. The diplomatic ranks were so much thinned by these ladies fainting one after the other that one had to exert oneself more than usual.

Madame de Lieven boldly seated herself on the steps of the throne, whence she passed into the King's room, where she had lunch. She came back and told us that she was neither tired nor hungry. She all but added that our legs should be rested because hers were, and our stomachs satisfied because hers had been stayed.

The peeresses, as a rule, looked well in their robes. One unhappy creature paid dearly for the pleasure of exercising her right as a peeress to be received by the King whether he will or no. Lady Ferrers had been practically kept by her husband as his mistress before he married her, so Lord Howe told Lord Ferrers that the Queen would not receive his wife. Lord Ferrers replied, however, that peeresses had the entrée, and that could not be denied. He was warned, however, that the Queen would turn away as Lady Ferrers passed, and this is what happened. I must observe that even in this the Queen showed her kindness of heart, for she pretended to begin a conversation with the Princess Augusta just before Lady Ferrers came opposite to her. She did not interrupt her conversation, and it was possible to think that the poor woman had passed unperceived and not insulted. I thought it was very nice of the Queen.

The dinner was magnificent, and the exuberance of the King's good humour was really comic; he made several remarkable speeches in French, and I hear that, when the ladies had gone, the grossness of his conversation was beyond belief. I have never seen him so gay. I think that certain despatches from Paris which arrived a little before dinner, and brought to Lord Palmerston and M. de Talleyrand the news that the French troops would begin the evacuation of Belgium on the 27th and would all be back in France by the 30th, had something to do with the Royal hilarity. Lord Grey was radiant about it.

The news of the cholera is bad; it has got to Sweden viâ Finland, and at Berlin in three days thirty out of the sixty sick have died. There has been enough ado about it in Paris for M. Perier to make his appearance there on horseback in his ministerial uniform; his presence had a good effect.

It seems that the Belgian business is definitely settled, and M. de Talleyrand was saying yesterday that he would be in France at the end of October. But I have already seen so many ups and downs in these affairs that I no longer profess to predict anything a week ahead.

Tunbridge Wells, September 16, 1831.– I have just been visiting Eridge Castle,[2 - Eridge Castle is in the county of Sussex, and still belongs to the Abergavenny family.] which belongs to a rich and misanthropic octogenarian much persecuted by misfortune. His title is Earl of Abergavenny, but his family name is Neville. He is a cousin of Lord Warwick; the celebrated "King maker" was a Neville, and Eridge Castle was his. At a later date Queen Elizabeth was feasted there.

The foundations of the castle are ancient, and it has been restored in the ancient style, with great care, by the present owner. The effect of the whole is perfectly harmonious, and every detail is rich and elegant. The perfection of the carving and the beauty of the stained glass are wonderful. Lord Abergavenny's own apartments are extremely dismal. The castle occupies a very high point on the top of a hill, with a lake twenty acres in extent at the foot. But the low ground is surrounded by hills which are even higher than the one in the centre, on which the castle stands, and which are all covered with trees so splendid, so numerous, and stretching for so many miles, that they form a veritable forest. I have never seen a prospect so romantically wooded and at the same time so profoundly melancholy. It is not English, still less is it French; it is the Black Forest, it is Bohemia. I have never seen ivy like that which covers the towers, the balconies, and indeed the whole building. In short, I rave about it.

In the park, in the heart of a clump of tall and very sombre fir-trees, there is a mineral spring exactly like that at Tunbridge; and the park itself is not only full of deer but has also stags, any number of cows and sheep, and a fine herd of buffaloes.

Lord Abergavenny is very charitable. A hundred and twenty workmen are constantly in his employment; but since the visitors from Tunbridge came and damaged his garden he allows no one to see either his park or his house. Some time ago he refused admittance even to the Princesse de Lieven. Pleading notes from Countess Bathyány and from me touched his heart. He was out when we came, but had left orders for the servants to show us everything; we were guided through the woods by a man on horseback. His people are very fond of him; they have much to say of his goodness, and recount very impressively the story of the misfortunes which have afflicted their unhappy old master.

London, September 17, 1831.– On my way back from Tunbridge yesterday I visited Knole, one of the most ancient castles in England, built by King John. The oldest part of the existing building dates from this time. Knole was for long in the possession of the Archbishops of Canterbury, but Cranmer, finding that his magnificence excited popular discontent, restored it to the Crown. Elizabeth gave it to the Sackvilles, the eldest of whom she made Earl of Dorset; and it has remained in that family until the present day. It has just come into the hands of Lady Plymouth, sister of the Duke of Dorset, who was killed in the hunting-field, and left no children. The present Duke of Dorset, an old man, is the uncle of his predecessor; he has inherited the title without the estate.

When I choose I can be as meticulous as anybody! I condescended to read up the guide-book, and put myself in the hands of the housekeeper. This ancient fairy-godmother is very good at showing off the venerable and lugubrious house of Knole, which for melancholy has no rival. Even the part which has been fitted up for the present occupants is no exception to this; much more profound, therefore, is the gloom of that which is given up to memories of the past. Everything there is genuine antique; there are five or six bedrooms, the hall, three galleries, and a saloon full of Jacobean furniture. Panelling, furniture, and pictures all date authentically from this period. The rooms occupied by James I. when he visited the first Earl of Dorset are magnificent; they are decorated with Venetian mirrors; there is a state bed of gold and silver brocade, a filigree toilet-set, ivory and ebony cabinets, and many other curious and beautiful things. There are portraits here of all England, and among a vast quantity of rubbish some dozen splendid examples of Van Dyck and Sir Robert Leslie. The park is large, but in no way remarkable; a rapid visit is quite sufficient.

London, September, 1831.– I am always unlucky in my return to London. I got back the day before yesterday, in time to learn of the capture of Warsaw;[3 - Warsaw, capital of the Duchy of the same name, had been ceded to the Russians in 1815. In November 1830 a terrible insurrection broke out there, which liberated Poland for several months; but, in spite of a glorious campaign against Diebitsch, Warsaw was finally retaken by Parkéwitch on September 8, 1831.] and to-day I arrived from Stoke[4 - Stoke is situate in the county of Stafford, and has a great porcelain manufactory founded by Wedgwood.] to hear of the new and serious disorders which had taken place in Paris on the occasion of the defeat of the Poles. The condition of the city was grave at the time of writing, from the details given in this morning's Times. I may add that M. Casimir Perier bravely saved Sébastiani from the gravest peril by taking him into his carriage. When they got to the Place Vendôme they were forced to take refuge in the Hôtel de l'État Major; there were loud cries of "à bas Louis-Philippe!"

To-day the fate of the Ministry will probably be decided in the Chamber. I know that M. de Rigny was very anxious, the previous sitting having been very unfavourable.

I have also received a very sad letter from M. Pasquin.

Our forebodings are turning out only too true.

London, September 20, 1831.– Count Paul Medem arrived yesterday and spent much of the day with me.

He left Paris on Saturday evening. I had plenty of time to question him, and found his judgment sound and cold as usual; he thinks that in France nothing as yet is either lost or saved. It is all, he thinks, a matter of chance; and one can depend on nothing. He brings ill news of the unpopularity of the King and of the ignorance and presumption of everybody. He thinks nothing of anyone but Casimir Perier, and even he makes no secret of his disgust at the little help he gets. I had a sad account of the social and commercial condition of Paris. Everything there is unrecognisable; dress, manners, tone, morals and language – all is changed. The men spend their whole lives in the cafés, and the women have vanished. New expressions have become the fashion. The Chamber of Deputies is termed La Reine Législative; the Chamber of Peers, L'Ancienne Chambre. The latter, as a power in the land, has ceased to exist. It is said that the King was more ready than anyone to abandon the hereditary principle in the peerage, hoping in this way to gain popularity and get a better civil list. No one supposes, however, that it will exceed twelve millions, and in the meantime he is drawing fifteen hundred thousand francs a month.

Several theatres are closed; the Opera and the Italiens still draw, but if the stars continue to appear on the stage it is only the seamy side of society that is seen in the boxes.

It is understood that the Czar Nicolas will only put to death such Poles as murdered Russian prisoners in the course of the sanguinary scenes enacted at the clubs. Siberia will receive the others. What a host of miserable creatures we shall see invading Europe, and more especially France! It is natural to want to shelter them, but it must be admitted that in the present state of France they can only be a new element of disorder. They say that when an émeute occurs the refugees from all countries always play a leading part.

The news from Rio de Janeiro is bad for the children[5 - (1) Doña Jennaria, born 1819; (2) Doña Paula, born 1823; (3) Doña Francisca, born 1824; (4) Dom Pedro, born 1825, who in 1831 became Emperor of Brazil under a regency.] left by Dom Pedro. A revolt of the negroes has led to much disorder.

The scenes in Switzerland[6 - On the occasion of the Revolution in France in 1830, new agitations arose in Switzerland. Bâle divided itself in 1831 into Bâle-Ville and Bâle-Campagne.] are deplorable.

Things have been happening at Bordeaux.

Miaulis[7 - Miaulis had retired to Paros, and had put himself at the head of the rebellious Hydriotes.] has blown up his fleet rather than obey Capo d'Istria.