4 November 1789: Colonisation Projects & Economy of Social Success (Mme de Staël)

Wednesday… — This Morning two Persons call on me for Information and Advice respecting a Scheme on foot in this City for the Colonization of Lands between the Rivers Scioto and Ohio. They shew me the Projet and I am sorry to observe that those who embark will have too much Reason to complain of the Delusion. Say as little as possible on this Subject, but enough to save those who have asked my Advice, for that is certainly a Duty to them. (…) Thence to Club, where as usual there is a Diversity of Opinions on the State of public Affairs. Thence to Madame de Chastellux’s. The Dutchess [sic] reproaches me for going away early last Evening and coming late now. Has been here near two Hours and her Son Mons[ieu]r de Beaujolais is brought on Purpose to see me. He presents himself with a very good Grace, is enjoué et empressé. I kiss him several Times which he returns with Eagerness. He will make a pleasant Fellow some ten or a dozen Years hence for the petites Maîtresses of that Day. Puisignieu is here and after some Time Madame de Segur comes in. The Marechal is afflicted with the Gout. Madame de Chastellux is to take a Bouillon ToMorrow with her fair friend. Hence I am led to believe in the Possibility of a Marriage between her and the old Gentleman, which other Circumstances give much Room to imagine. Go hence to Madame de Stahl’s in Consequence of her Invitation of Yesterday. A great Deal of bel Esprit. The Bishop D’Autun declined coming this Morning when I asked him at Mad[am]e de Flahaut’s. I am not sufficiently brillant for this Constellation. The few Observations I make have more of Justice than Splendor and therefore cannot amuse. No Matter, they will perhaps remain when the others are effaced. I think there is a Road to Success here in the upper Region of Wits and Graces which I am half tempted to try. It is the Sententious Style. To arrive at Perfection in it one must be very attentive and either wait till one’s Opinion be asked or else communicate it in a Whisper. It must be clear, pointed and perspicuous and then it will be remembered, repeated and respected. This however is playing a Part not natural to me, I am not sufficiently an Œconomist of my Ideas. I think that in my Life I never saw such exuberant Vanity as that of Madame de Stahl upon the Subject of her Father [Necker – AE]. Speaking of the Opinion of the Bishop D’Autun on the Church Property which he has lately printed, not having had an Opportunity to deliver it in the Assembly, she says it is excelent, it is admirable, in short there are two Pages in it which are worthy of Mr Necker. Afterwards she says that Wisdom is a very rare Quality & she knows of no one who possesses it in a superlative Degree except her Father. This has been a rainy, disagreable Day, but the Evening is somewhat better.

A diary of the French revolution, by Gouverneur Morris, 1752-1816. Ed. by Beatrix Cary Davenport. Vol. 1 (Boston, 1939), p. 284-286.


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