misssylviadrake (misssylviadrake) wrote,

Grace Dalrymple Elliot's Journal de ma vie: originally a pro-revolution memoir?

Dear Friends and readers,

This is the story of a story that has been mistold.

I was reminded two nights ago of a woman who probably originally wrote a pro-revolution memoir, one which now appears  in its disjointed broken-backed way to be simply or unexaminedly royalist in outlook.  Grace Dalrymple Elliot's (ca 1754-1824) memoir, Journal de ma vie, reveals something of the life of a woman of the later 18th through early 19th century who lived richly and among the powerful of three different countries at the price of acceding to giving up most of her close relationships with others.  It is known for its concentration on a crisis time:  Paris during the beginning of the terror. It has, alas, been framed and presented as a scandal memoir of the later 18th century because the writer was a woman who lived a sexually free life.

Since the overwhelming number of memoirs by women (and men too) of the era are by people who excoriate the revolution, write of the injustices and tragedies they experienced, as in Marilyin Yalom's Blood Sisters, the memoir even in its present state is a valuable document.  The only two women beyond Elliot whom I know of who were for the revolution and left texts read today were Jeanne-Marie Roland and Olympe de Gouges -- who were guillotined for their forceful public stances.  Charlotte Corday may be said to have make visible a memoir she might have written by killing Marat -- her head was treated viciously after she was guillotined.   The irony is that Grace has been known by two super-luxurious paintings which frame her as the most privileged and secure of women -- something we do see in her memoir was anything but true.   Few who read or look at European art will not have come across:

Grace Dalrymple Elliot  (1778) by Gainsborough (at the Metropolitan Museum in NYC)

Her claim to fame recently has again come from her Journal de ma vie durant la Revolution francaise, this time because Eric Rohmer based one of his non-comic costume drama movies set in the 18th century upon it.  Rohmer is himself not so much leftist or rightist, as unconventional and radical in his outlook. He died this past week.  he's called idiosyncratic because it's hard to categorize him.  Another of his 18th century films, a film adaptation of Henrich von Kleist's Marquise d'O, about a woman who is raped during a seige by the man she thinks until the end of the story rescued her from rape: he changed the Kleist text into one which while it shows women just how tenuous and fragile is the respect and security they have in life, nonetheless exonerates the rapist and makes motherhood the woman's allpowerful role.

In the first the Marquise, hitherto the beloved trusted darling of her parents is shut out of the family circle, told to get out of the house with nothing; she is utterly disbelieved when she says she does not know how she got pregnant (she was drugged and raped while unconscious); in the second we see her defy her parents and brother.  Since she has been married once (not for love, to an older man) to someone who left her a small property, she can flee from society.  We see her finding peace and solace only by retreating from everyone.  Kleist's text is widlly parodic; Rohmer's is grave, taking the story and characters utterly seriously. Alas in theaters patrons often laugh at what they are watching as "cool" voyeurs; Rohmer probably failed to make them identify at all with what they are seeing since the myths of the rapist as deviant and the woman as complicit are so strong still today.

When I mentioned this film on my small yahoo lists (Women Writers through the Ages and Eighteenth Century Worlds), Catherine de Lors (of Versailles and more blog a novelist who has just brought out her second novel set in the 18th century) remarked "is it not weird that a daughter of Presbyterian Scotland was sent to a Catholic school?"  I thought of Laura in Austen's Love and Freindship wries "My father was a Native of Ireland and an inhabitant of Wales. My Mother was the natural Daughter of a Scotch Peer by an Italian Opera-girl.  -- I was born in Spain and received my Education at a Convent in France (the 3rd letter). Such a mixture and cross-country moves were not unknown to romance because they were not unknown in reality among the upper classes of the day.

Another member of WWTTA, Patricia Brody, a woman poet, wrote in to sympathize with and show respect for Elliot, and ask for more information and sources.  I was again reminded of Austen who in her parodic History of England asked herself what must Mary Stuart Queen of Scots be "whose only freind [sic] was then the Duke of Norfolk, and whose only ones are now Mr Whitaker, Mrs Lefroy, Mrs Knight and myself" (her History of England, "Elizabeth").  Grace Elliot now has four friends, well three since the death of Rohmer.

I began to think I ought to write something about Elliot in my blog although it had been two years since I read the recent biography by Jo Manning, and several more since I read the memoir when during our discussions of James-Edward Austen Leigh's 1870 memoir of Jane Austen, Diane Reynolds (of Austen-l and on my Women Writers through the Ages list too) asked about memoirs of the later 19th century and if I could cite others like JEAL's.  Well, I know that Anne Halkett, 17th century Scotswoman whose autobiographical fragment I've put on the Net in an etext edition, has been remembered partly because a mid-Victorian clergyman republished her 1701 book very much in the spirit of Austen's nephew; John Gough Nichols sought to defend Halkett by presenting her as conventional and caught up in a war and treacheries not of her own doing, not a woman who made a choice to live independently.  Grace Dalrymple Elliot's as another such a memoir.  Instead of turning what materials she had into a biography, her Victorian grand-daughter brought out a censored version of her grandmother's book which has survived because it was known as a scandal memoir. As I recall the memoir in French is clearly unfinished; it breaks off suddenly. 

We can known about Elliot because of her own book and Jo Manning's biography of her (foolishly, embarrassingly) called The Amazing Life and Outrageous Times of Grace Dalrymple Elliot, Royal Courtesan.  The author, Jo Manning, also wrote regency romances so this is her area.  She also worked for Readers Digest as the director of the research library for the general books division.

By placing what Manning tells us in the context of other women's memoirs of the era, Elliot's life and that of her daughter and granddaughter, plus what I know of the era, we can try to make sense of it. So I begin by retelling Grace's life and describing her Journal de ma vie using Manning's biography and various other sources.


Despite the regency cover and ludicrous title of Manning's book ("My Lady Scandalous" is also placed prominently on the cover), and more than occasional unexamined repeating of the scandal tradition's perspective,  Mannings book is a sympathetic and eye-opening treatment of this woman usually remembered because Gainsborough painted her twice. In one of them (just above) she looks stunningly aristocratic-beautiful in the mode of the later eighteenth century; in the other, she has a softly melancholy look.

Gainsborough again, and around the same era

More than one brief survey of Elliot's life may be also found online. What you discover is that Elliot's book is still classified and has until recently been treated like so many women's memoirs of the later eighteenth century where the woman lived a free sexual life outside marriage, as a scandalous lurid book no respectable intelligent person should go near, partly because ti's probably filled with lies.  I went to a session on these books which showed how valuable most of them are and how unfairly treated (like the Marquise d'O in fact). I've rescued a mid-17th century one by a woman named Anne Halkett, a Scots spy and doctor who was once known for rescuing James II from prison and probable death; and am in the midst of putting up a 6 volume autobiography by another, George Anne Bellamy, once a famous tragic actress.

Manning's book basically shows how marriage customs and laws (central to women's existence then and in most places still now) operated on behalf of wealthy and powerful families, especially the male heir and men in general.  She also paints pictures of the times; Manning's years as a regency novelist enable her to evoke places and she has good connections and her book is loaded with interesting illustrations.  She has unearthed all the documents about Elliott in France and you can fill in an outline of her time there and the places even if textual French support (from memoirs) is wanting. 

What I remember best is how often Grace Dalrymple Elliot was separated from this or that family member or friend: she grew up away from a nuclear family: when she was very young, her mother and father separated and she was sent to live wit maternal relatives (the maternal family got first chance at a child or were held more responsible); then when her mother died when she was around 11, she was sent to a convent school, perhaps France, perhaps Flanders. No one seems to have cared enough to make a record (the same held true of Aphra Behn who seems to have been sent to the continent for a convent education).

Grace did have a good education; someone taught her to write and she read, and so Grace Dalrymple (and she called herself Dalrymple in her last years) wrote a memoir of her experiences of the French revolution in its early phases and her time in prison (why she's remembered) which shows real talent and reading.  we learn she was a paid spy and acted with courage.  As with other women, it has been treated as an incriminating document which shows what a liar she is (some have denied she ever was in prison), but in fact as far as we can tell while she confuses dates and names at times, it's as accurate as such a document of hysteria and fear would be.  She saves one of the Duke's followers from capture by keeping him under the covers in her bed, a scene Rohmer used in his film adaptation of the journal.  At the time it was depicted satirically and coarsely, and (alas) Manning repeats this tradition by supplying a similar scene of Marie-Antoinette's escape as caricatured in the reactionary press:

How hilariouis to see people breaking into Marie-Antoinette's bedchamber and her fleeing. The man on the pillow with a devil near him is Richard Price, a supporter of the French revolution. Thisis the level with which such events were treated.  Price's house and books and life's work were destroyed by mobs incited by local governmental groups; eventually Antoinette too was guillotined -- after a trial which framed her as a incestuous vicious mother to her beloved son.

By contrast, Rohmer does takes Lady Elliot's experiences seriously and gravely:

Elliot's memoir concentrates on the 1790s and has been treated as an incriminating document which shows what a liar she is (some have denied she ever was in prison), but in fact as far as we can tell while she confuses dates and names at times, it's as accurate as such a document of hysteria and fear would be.   And as with so many other women, it was published in an era after she died, by her grandaughter, Georgina Augusta Frederica Cavendish-Bentinck, a Victorian spinster who spent a quiet life of reading within her family miliue, (1811-83) out of a love and respect for her grandmother,  but the granddaughter would have brought up to very different values and known that her grandmother would not be symnpathized with and probably censored the book.  The modern English version shows that it was sold as a titillating "scandal" document -- only there is hardly any sex and it's very upright in stance.  Elliot is made to appear simply a strong royalist, mistress for a number of years of Philippe d'Orleans.

When a teenager still, Grace was married off sheerly for money to an Irishman, George Elliot, man who cared nothing for her emotionally and showed it, and when she had a baby who died, she left him because she had been isolated and neglected. She was matched with John Elliott through manipulating family connections, and because she was stunningly beautiful.  He was apparently very short and drawn to owning such a trophy.  She never had any liking for the man; they were incompatible; Elliott was a Scots physician to very wealthy and powerful people. He kept her apart from others for a while, and in the end like him, she took lovers.  She had a baby girl who died very quickly.  He got to divorce her for adultery, but at the same time he had three mistresses and several children who he left his property to in his will. He left Grace an annuity of 200 pounds a year too.  It was fine for him to have affairs, but not her. 

She then became deeply involved with George James Cholmondeley: this one relationship did apparently last all their lives though they never married -- he did not let her starve or go quite homeless at the end of her life.  They were lovers on and off until the 1790s.  You find Cholmondeley applying for money for her while a spy; attempting to help her get her annuity paid, and when she died, paying for her burial.  Like Dora Jordan, she was in the end pensioned off cheaply and spent her last years in a French boarding house. 

It was in the 1790s that she went to France and and we hear of her as the mistress of the Duke de Chartres who then became Philipe d'Orleans or Egalite (and as such was guillotined).  She was a strong royalist and had been his mistress for a number of years, during which time she probably acquired the property in France which stood her in good stead or provided money at times. 

Rue de Miromesnil, a house Grace owned in 1794

Another girl was born, called Georgiana, out of an attempt to say publicly she was daughter to the Prince of Wales.  It is doubtful her daughter was the Prince of Wales's daughter, and whatever affair Grace had with the prince, it was was of brief duration (a mere brief encounter). She was separated from this daughter almost immediately; and never knew her or her granddaughter. This reminds me of Hugo's story of Fantine in his masterpiece, Les Miserables, also forced to separate herself from Cosette because the surrounding neighbors would not give Fantine a place to live, a job, any peace as long as she had an illegitimate daughter with her. The story that the child was the Prince's probably stood the infant in good stead. It helped find her a family who might see an interest in keeping her. It might have been Colmondoley's too.

This is sad. Late in life, this daughter, Georgiana, did leave notes suggesting she was aware her mother suffered financially and emotionally from this separation.  Brought up in the Cholmondoley family, the child probably had every financial advantage the family could give her, and some social ones too, but I doubt her origin was forgotten. And what about her mother?  At some point as we grow older, we want meaningful relationships that are rooted deeply in time, memory, affection.  Since it was the Cholomondoley family, one assumes the baby was not Orleans's either. In Grace's will we see a deep concern for her daughter and her daughter's daughter.  Parts of this will are reprinted by Manning.  Georgiana in order to marry and remain respectable did keep her sympathy for her mother to herself.

So it was the granddaughter, her daughter's daughter, Georgina Cavendish-Bentink (1811-1883), who never married herself who was responsible for publishing Dalrymple Elliott's memoir of her time in prison and experiences in France during the French revolution.  The book is said to have been rejected by the British Library.  Bentley, the Victorian publisher published it; the manuscript may have survived, but is now in unknown hands.  Like many of these women's memoirs, it begins abruptly; is apparently cut off or censored (the last part is missing) and we cannot tell what was tampered with. 

Manning tells the life of Grace's Victorian granddaughter among the rich of Great Britain and France very well -- with respect and empathy for a reading woman.  You can see Manning's gifts as a woman's novelist coming out there.

Cholmondoley Castle, 1837 engraving

When I was in my 20s and very naive, an older male friend who was involved in politics told me that men want power so they can ride around in limousines, and be bowed to by everyone. Idealist that I was I scoffed and said surely some people have a desire to serve the public or an agenda.  He laughed. Now I think he had it somewhat wrong.  What many men and women too want is a the great house engulfed in the beautiful landscape (or, barring that, a luxurious apartment near a park) with a lot of servants to do all their work. Is this not the symbol of film adaptations of the past (and present too)?


Manning has a good annotated bibliography where she describes her sources and many books about women who did not lead "respectable" lives.  It would seem she was also partly inspired to write about Grace by Rohmer's movie, L'Anglaise et le Duc, and her book includes an interview with the actress who played Grace in the movie,

Lucy Russell as Grace Elliot

There is also a thoughtful film studies essay on the movie in Manning's appendix. 


On ECW and WWTTA, talking about the Manning's biography and Elliot's memoir, I critiqued the biography:  Manning's book marred by repeated assertions of ideas the very text disproves (such as beauty provides permanent wealth and power) and by a kind of cliched language seen in the title; my guess is this comes from popular regency romances (Manning has published two successful ones).  More seriously, she provides no French context: she has nothing of French women's memoirs, and does not appear to have read Madame de Genlis's memoir -- of enormous importance here.  Genlis was also mistress to Philipe d'Orleans around the same time Elliot was.  Grace Dalrymple Elliott spent a long time in France -- twice. This is Manning's one hole.  We don't really get the feeling of how Grace became a Frenchwoman from her early schooling and again later in life (as did Fanny Burney later in life -- except for Claire Harman's book on Burney, one does not really get a sense of Burney as thoroughly French in many ways from her other biographers).  The title and general look of the book may make it sell more widely but it also has perhaps been an obstacle for its being taken as seriously as its content should make it.  I could find no reviews in journals and fear that it won't help bolster Elliot's reputation the way it could have. It does not treat the Memoir in a way that would stop it from being look at as a scandal chronicle. Far from that, the title re-emphasizes this category ("My Lady Scandalous").

I enjoyed Elliot's Memoir.  I have it in English but read in the French version:  Grace Elliot, Journal de ma vie durant la Revolution francaise, introduced by Eric Rohmer (Les Editions de Paris, Max Chaleil, 2002);  Grace Dalrymple Elliot, Journal of My Life During the French Revolution (The Rodale Press, no date and the translator into English is not named). The French version is disjointed but is probably truer to the original manuscript. It's in very easy French.  I felt it was the kind of French where I sense the person is half-thinking in English as he or she writes. The grammar of the sentences is reminiscent of English rather than French; that combined with the deliberate keeping to a general more limited vocabulary (like say Voltaire), so typical of the era, makes it a swift read. (Another author whose French reads like English grammatically is Henry Green.)

I also sent the ODBN life to the list (see below) saying that Martin Levy does not respect his subject nor have any understanding of what a woman's life is or frame it in any proper context (such as I have just provided).

Catherine answered at first:

I haven't read Manning's biography, but I did read Grace's Memoirs, or Souvenirs, as they are translated into French. The context is interesting: she was recounting her adventures in France to the English royal family, 20 years after the fact, and then decided to write down those narratives. They were apparently not meant for publication.

This is to say that she largely tailored her own story to fit her narrow audience. Many things in the Memoirs are obvious lies (MA trusting her, the mistress/confidante of her arch-enemy the Duc d'Orleans, with confidential missions) though some do ring true (the story of her arrest and the prison scenes).

I suspect her politics during the Revolution were much closer to those of the Duc, that is radical, than she cared to admit to her English friends decades later. The spying part is also swept under the carpet though one can guess at it (letter from Fox).

Martin Levy's piece shows a complete lack of understanding of the French political situation, maybe based on a literal reading of her Memoirs. And yes, it is disrespectful. At the very least, one has to give her  credit for a lot of assurance, and a great sense of humor: registering her daughter as being the offspring of the Prince of Wales was something.

I sometimes wonder if the Memoirs are not likewise an exercise in making fun of her audience.

And then she added:

Here's what my (French) edition of the Journal says: the text was "arranged" by Grace's granddaughter. Fresh from our reading of JEAL's Memoir, I wonder about a Victorian bowdlerization.  '

The foreword also says some of the prison scenes were not lived by Grace herself, but were transposed from the experiences of two of her friends.  So this is a hybrid memoir/fiction. These were verbal narratives made to the British royal family as "anecdotes", later written down upon the request of George III in 1801 (I was wrong about it being written decades later, in fact 10 years, more or less, but I maintain my take on Grace's shifting political opinions).

Published in the UK in 1859 and right away (1861) translated in French, with multiple French editions thereafter. It was obviously a successful book here.

My edition (Editions de Paris Marc Chaleil) also has good  scholarly endnotes and a preface by Rohmer. What a pity he died lately, I loved many of his films and he certainly could reconcile costume drama and great cinema. But a full life and great career, which age barely slowed down.

As for the style of the Journal, it is consistent with a quickly jotted down verbal narrative, without any writerly self-editing. I assume Grace was perfectly bilingual, since she had been sent to a French convent as a child. In the Rohmer film, she is played by an English actress with an English accent, but Grace probably spoke unaccented French.


To conclude, Jane Austen uses the name Dalrymple for the pompous and petty Irish aristocracy the Elliots are so sycophantic before in Persuasion .So much for these aristocrats and their ways  She does show what a small world it was. this is one of several cases where we find Austen using well-known aristocratic names.

And what it's worth, the ODNB life by Martin Levy:

Elliott [Eliot; née Dalrymple], Grace [nicknamed Dally the Tall] (1754?–1823), courtesan and writer, was probably born in Edinburgh, the youngest daughter of Hew or Hugh Dalrymple (d. 1774), lawyer, and his wife, Grisel Craw (d. c.1765). She had at least one sister, Jacintha (d. 1802), mother of the diarist Frances, née Winckley, Lady Shelley. Her father, who claimed descent from a kinsman of the first earl of Stair, was later an author and attorney-general of Grenada or of the Bahamas. Either shortly before her birth or in her early childhood, her parents separated and Grace was probably brought up at her maternal grandfather's house. Following the death of her mother, she was sent about 1765 to a convent school in either France or Flanders. She was a tall, good-looking girl, apparently religious, but vivacious and susceptible, and fond of fashion and amusements. On 19 October 1771 she married the physician John Eliot (1733x6?–1786) of the parish of St Clement Danes, London, by special licence at St Pancras Church, and moved to his house in Knightsbridge. On 24 September 1772 she gave birth to a child who died soon after. Unfortunately the marriage was not a success. Apparently Eliot bored his young wife, and in February 1774 she embarked on an affair with the libertine Arthur Annesley, eighth Viscount Valentia in the Irish peerage (1744–1816). Eliot subsequently collected a mass of evidence against his wife and Lord Valentia; they were traced to a ‘bawdy house’ in Berkeley Row and to a bagnio in Leicester Fields; when she returned home it was noticed that her hair and clothes were dishevelled (LMA, DL/C/177), and during May the couple separated. In May or June 1774 Eliot commenced a suit for adultery against Valentia in the king's bench, and in December he applied to the London consistory court in order to divorce his wife. The libel, however, was unproved and it was only after the case had gone to appeal that the judge was given leave to proceed to judgment. On 23 February 1776 Eliot was granted his divorce. His lawyers then presented a petition to the House of Lords and on 21 March 1776 a bill was passed in parliament. The case turned Mrs Eliot into a celebrity and she was much talked about in society. ‘Lord Valentia has preferred Dr Elliot's pretty wife to his own plain one’, wrote Horace Walpole on 19 June 1774, ‘but I do not find that there was much preference on her side, but rather on the Doctor's, for he has selected Valentia from several other lords and gentlemen who have been equally kind to the fair one’ (Walpole, Corr., 35.423).

In 1775 or early 1776 Mrs Elliott (as she usually signed herself) began an affair with George James Cholmondeley, fourth earl of Cholmondeley (1749–1827), a whig peer and perhaps the most fashionable of her early admirers. Gossip intimated that she hoped to marry the libidinous earl, and month after month the newspapers chronicled her movements. In 1778 she was said to be pregnant and living with Cholmondeley at his house in Piccadilly (ibid., 33.181n), and he commissioned her portrait from Thomas Gainsborough. During the spring of 1779 she went to France, where she made conquests of the comte d'Artois and the Anglophile duc de Chartres, and for a while the couple were separated. She returned to London with Cholmondeley in June 1781, and so began her reign as Dally the Tall, among the most notorious of London's courtesans. Like her rival Mary Robinson (Perdita) and her friends Elizabeth Armitstead and Gertrude Mahon (the Bird of Paradise), she pursued her vocation at the highest level, counting George, prince of Wales (later George IV) among her lovers. In the summer of 1781 she briefly succeeded Mrs Armitstead as the prince's chère amie, and during the autumn she was again said to be pregnant. ‘The Dalrymple has declared herself pregnant’, reported the Morning Herald on 24 December, ‘and taken care to have it well understood that Lord C---y cannot possibly lay claim to a single feature of the amorous produce’ (Bass, 192). Contemporaries puzzled over the child's paternity­the most probable candidates were Charles William Wyndham, Cholmondeley, or the prince; Mrs Elliott claimed that the prince was the father. On 30 March 1782 she gave birth to a daughter, whom she had baptized with the feminine forms of the prince's names at St Marylebone Church on 30 July: Georgina Augusta Frederica Elliott. The child was brought up by Cholmondeley with his other children, and no later than 1798 was given the surname of Seymour, when it was reported that she was to be presented at court under that name. Although the prince denied that the child was his, he was actively interested in her welfare. In 1808 Georgina made a splendid marriage to one of the sons of the third duke of Portland, Lord Charles William Cavendish-Bentinck. She died at her husband's house in Grosvenor Place on 10 December 1813, leaving one daughter, who was also named after the prince: Georgina Augusta Frederica Cavendish-Bentinck.

During the next few years Mrs Elliott continued to divide her time between London and France, before settling down towards the end of 1786 with the duc de Chartres (now d'Orléans) in Paris. For many years she occupied a house in the rue de Miromesnil and a villa in the arrondissement of Versailles at Meudon. Her intimacy with Orléans and other aristocrats brought her the patronage of Marie Antoinette, and she was a close observer of the machinations of Orléans during the revolution. Her Journal of my Life during the French Revolution (published in 1859) is a novelized account of her conduct during these crucial years and is an important, if unreliable, source of social and political history. Some of her opinions on the revolution may have been formed with hindsight: her politics were royalist; she argued that the duke was not naturally wicked but the dupe of more clever men, and that following the storming of the Bastille he should have offered Louis XVI his services. Some of Elliott's best stories have been attributed to her friend the widow Mrs Meyler, and she has been accused of factual inaccuracy (The Times, 26–7 Jan 1859) or of falsification (Bleackley, 234–6). She was, however, undoubtedly brave. She apparently witnessed some of the revolution's most evocative events, such as the return of the royal family to Paris after their flight to Varennes (1791) and the public display of the princess de Lamballe's body following her atrocious murder (1792). She records acting as an agent for Orléans and for Queen Marie Antoinette, carrying messages to royalist groups, and, on the queen's behalf, to the Austrian government in Brussels in 1790. Her concealment of the marquis de Chansenets at her house in the rue de Miromesnil in 1792 was noted in London during June 1793:

He fell out of a window on a heap of dead bodies, & continued there till every body was gone away, & then got to Mrs Elliot's who put him into her matress & laid upon the bed when [the guards] came into the room to search for him. (Earl of Bessborough and A. Aspinall, eds., Lady Bessborough and her Family Circle, 1940, 94)

During the terror Elliott's connection with Orléans exposed her to harassment and threats, and at some point she was imprisoned in the Recollects at Versailles and possibly in other prisons. In the Recollects she met the elderly atheist Richard Gem, who ‘cried the whole time’ (Diaries and Correspondence of … Malmesbury, 3.304). Each day she suspected would be her last, and the privations she endured until her release on 4 October 1794 were cruel and horrifying. Yet she was comforted by her religion. During the winter of 1796 she met the diplomat Sir James Harris, and was full of ‘curious anecdotes’ about the duc de Lauzun, the duc d'Aremberg, Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and Orléans. A later report says that she was followed round Paris by a ‘numerous Court of Frenchmen’, and that she sparked an affair with one of Napoleon's brothers­merely, she said, to have something to talk about (Granville, 1.285). She was in England in 1798, 1800, perhaps in 1802, and possibly thereafter. Her niece Lady Shelley, who met her about 1802, describes her as ‘the most beautiful woman’ she had ever beheld, and dressed in the ‘indecent style of the French republican period’ (Diary, 1.42). Apparently this was the only time that Elliott met her admiring niece, as family visits were not encouraged. Although Elliott received annuities from her late husband's estate and from the prince of Wales, she experienced financial difficulties during her last years. She died at Ville d'Avray near Paris on 15 May 1823, after what appears to have been a long illness, and was buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery, Paris. Her tombstone was removed in 1992.

Sources: H. Bleackley, Ladies fair and frail (1909) · G. D. Elliott, Journal of my life during the French Revolution (1859) · LMA, DL/C/177, 203, 279, 557, and 639; P89/MRY1/007 · LPL, Aa71/10, B18/48, D669, E41/152, and G142/28–30 · JHL, 34 (1774–6) · Diary of Frances, Lady Shelley, ed. R. Edgcumbe, 2 vols. (1912–13) · Lord Granville Leveson Gower: private correspondence, 1781–1821, ed. Castalia, Countess Granville [C. R. Leveson-Gower], 2nd edn, 2 vols. (1916) · Diaries and correspondence of James Harris, first earl of Malmesbury, ed. third earl of Malmesbury [J. H. Harris], 4 vols. (1844) · The manuscripts of the earl of Carlisle, HMC, 42 (1897) · Walpole, Corr. · R. D. Bass, The green dragoon: the lives of Banastre Tarleton and Mary Robinson (New York, 1957) · Royal Arch., GEO/30272 · The correspondence of George, prince of Wales, 1770–1812, ed. A. Aspinall, 8 vols. (1963–71) · Ramblers Magazine (1782–3) · Ramblers Magazine (1785) · Town and Country Magazine, 6 (1774) · Town and Country Magazine, 9–10 (1777–8) · Town and Country Magazine, 14–15 (1782–3) · private information (2006) [J. Manning] · J. Manning, My lady scadalous (New York, 2005) · A. Stewart, ed., The minute book of the Faculty of Advocates, 3: 1751–1783, Stair Society, 46 (1999)

Archives Nationales, Paris · LMA, consistorial court MSS, corresp. · LPL, corresp. [copies] · Royal Arch.

Likenesses: T. Gainsborough, oils, 1778, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York · T. Gainsborough, oils, 1782, Frick Collection, New York [see illus.] · J. Brown, engraving, 1859 (after R. Cosway), BM, NPG; repro. in Elliott, Journal of my life 

Martin J. Levy, ‘Elliott , Grace (1754?–1823)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, May 2006 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/8675, accessed 19 Aug 2007]

Grace Elliott (1754?–1823): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/8675


This has been the story of a story that is still being mistold.
Tags: costume drama, film adaptation, women's memoirs

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