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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.


( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 30th, 2010 01:03 pm (UTC)
From Linda on WWTTA:


Your blog on Grace Dalrymple Elliot was most interesting. She was apparently not only beautiful, but accomplished in many other ways. After reading Mistress of the Revolution, I'd like to know more about the French Revolution. I'll try to get hold of The Lady and the Duke, directed by Eric Rohmer, whom you also discuss in connection with The Marquise de O.

I didn't realize Rohmer died this past month, but as you said he had a full life. Nor did I realize he had done the films, Claire's Knee and The Collector, which I saw over 30 years ago. I never saw My Night at Maud's, but would like to, as well as Marquise de O.

Thanks for bringing our attention to these two unusual and outstanding individuals.

Jan. 30th, 2010 01:04 pm (UTC)
A decent intelligent person
And thank you, Linda, for your generous reply. I'd like to stop people treating this woman as a "scandalous woman!"

My goal with this and other early modern and 18th century women is to change the perspective or context in which they are discussed. "Scandal chronicle" and "scandalous women" is an absurdity and a left-over from an era where no women would be paid attention to with any respect who lived an openly independent life. Attitudes which support such labels lead to books like James Edward Austen-Leigh's where he presents his aunt as a virginal spinster with no or lttle knowledge of the outside world lest she be dissed -- and the Austen family's connections (respectability and chances at opportunities) hurt.

Grace Dalrymple Elliot was a decent intelligent human being who was given no opportunity for a permanent real niche for herself -- except had she stayed with that awful first husband to which she was in effect sold. A la Clarissa and Solmes. And her children were taken from her too.

My point is to help put a stop to categorizing and seeing such women as "scandals" and to bring respect to their books --- I thought JEAL meant to do the same for Jane Austen in his dim way.


Edited at 2010-01-30 01:32 pm (UTC)
Jan. 30th, 2010 02:47 pm (UTC)
I am very familiar with the book, My Lady Scandalous, and am glad to see it recognized as the scholarly achievement it is. I agree that Jo Manning's experience as a Regency romance novelist helped present Elliot's life in a very vivid and accessible way, but I think your criticism of the book's cover and its title is unfair, as is your suggestion that it had something to do with Manning's past as a romance novelist (which does not negate the possibility of producing a scholarly work; a good Regency romance novelist must do a great deal of research in order to seamlessly weave accurate historical detail into a satisfying story).

To me it would be illogical to do anything but put one of Gainsborough's images of Elliot on the cover. Modern biographies commonly put a photo on the cover. Other biographies of historical figures use portraits on the cover(Amanda Forman's Georgiana; Holmes' Wellington: The Iron Duke, for example). As to the title, My Lady Scandalous, it is designed to capture a reader's attention, much as does the title The Courtesan's Revenge, the biography of Harriette Wilson.

But it is misleading to assume that the author has made these decisions about cover and title. In such decisions, the wishes of the publisher are paramount. Choice of cover and title are designed to present the book in a manner that will ensure it will sell well to as wide an audience as possible. Publishers, after all, wish to make a profit on the books they produce.

Diane Gaston
Jan. 30th, 2010 03:00 pm (UTC)
In reply on the title and cover
It's a small point in a long blog to get so excited about. The reason Diane Gaston pays strong attention to my criticism is that this kind of cover imposes an attitude on the subject; she is a scandalous woman. More importantly, it positions the book in a way that keeps it from reaching the audience who could perhaps effect a change in attitude towards not only Grace Elliot but other women like her, the lives of women of this era, and their writing (often published after their death).

I'll stand by my critique: given her long-time position in publishing herself, she should have fought -- and probably could have -- harder to present her subject in a non-scandalous, simply humane light. But she herself apparently sees Grace Elliot in this way too -- as may be seen in her text and which I mentioned in my critique paragraph.

I can see Ms Manning has friends in publishing for mine is an obscure blog on a non-prestigious venue.

Jan. 30th, 2010 07:01 pm (UTC)
From my friend, Kathy:

"I love your blog about Grace Dalrymple Elliot. She is a writer completely unknown to me and how fascinating that she was involved in the French Revolution. I'm very glad I read this; she's someone to put on my list. And maybe I'll read the e-text."
Jan. 31st, 2010 11:22 am (UTC)
double standard erases women's lives and works
Nancy Mayor of Janeites wrote:

But Grace was scandalous in living with several men who weren't her husband. or are you saying that being promiscuous is OK?
perhaps her books should be read as more than a record of sexual exploits but she defined her life by her liaisons, and not by her pen.
Nancy Mayer"

I'm saying that her memoir ought not to be judged in accordance with her sex life. There are two parts to this: yes, she had more than one lover, but so did the men she lived with, and she was sold originally to an old man to be his wife who wanted to isolate and use her. She got out. I'm saying that the values of the 18th century should no longer be ours, and the double standard by which she was used, thrown out, and managed to outlive and survive (meagrely in the end) is a deeply inhumane and wrong one.

And her memoir is a book of real interest about her life and times. What male document is treated this way? It's a form of erasure because her book does try to tell her story. It has unfortunately been censored to the point that we cannot quite tell what she wrote, but it tells enough.

This connects to JEAL's life of his aunt. It is in effect much of it lies and cover up due to the same double standard by which you, Nancy, are badmouthing the life and work of Grace Dalrymple Elliot.

Ellen Moody
Jan. 31st, 2010 11:40 am (UTC)
Linda from WWTTA wrote:

"Ellen seems to be saying that Elliot shouldn't be defined by her sexual behavior, but Nancy seems to be saying she defined herself by her sexual behavior and that she was a scandalous woman.

Was she shocking, disgraceful and shameful? That's the definite of scandalous in the online dictionary. By whose standards? By the people who upheld the status quo--of family and property. By the good womem who depended on their virtue to marry and stay married.

Women who flaunted the social code have always been admired by men and scorned by women. They usually pay a heavy price for deviating from the social code.I think the Janeites will come down hard on Elliot, while the Women Writers through the Ages group will have a more liberal outlook.

I think It's a leap in logic to assume that if one doesn't condemn someone for their sexual behavior they are saying promiscuity is okay. Also, that term implies a lack of discrimination, and I don't think Elliot was indiscriminate. I don't think most of us could attract a Duke of Orleans or a future king of England no matter how beautiful and/or promiscuous we were.

Even Wikipedia says the following about that term:

"It should be noted that while male promiscuity previously had glamorous connotations that acted as an affirmation of masculinity, female promiscuity was seen as a sign of emotional instability, and loose morals in women."

So it's the old double standard again. Think of Elizabeth Taylor--she lived with a lot of men, too, but because she married them, I haven't heard people calling her the ugly names usually applied to loose women.

I go to the beauty parlor and am startled by all the magazines devoted to the love lives of the movie stars. Who, I wonder, really cares about whom Jennifer Anniston is dating now? Well, apparently a great many people care, because these magazines are in print and selling. Are these women courtesans? Of course not--they're beautiful, rich, talented and self-supporting. Are they promiscuous? I would say so--if that mean's they've had a lot of sex partners. Are they scandalous--shocking, disgraceful and shameful? Of course not--it's Hollywood.

Jan. 31st, 2010 11:43 am (UTC)
Jo Manning
Ms Manning wrote me graciously as follows:

Dear Ms. Moody, thank you for your comments.

[There followed a comment on her relationship with Nancy Mayor and the Versailles and more blog]. Then she went on:

Grace's grand-daughter never "arranged" (I think Ms. DeLors means "edited") Grace's journal. It was handed over as is to Richard Bentley, the London publisher, and then she had nothing more to do with it. There was an effort on the part of Bentley and someone else (you can read it in my book) to get more information from the grand-daughter, but none was forthcoming. (My researcher in London, Barbara Rosenbaum, found me the correspondence relating to this.)

The most fascinating part of the story of the publication of Grace's memoir was that the last several pages (possibly one or more signatures) was roughly torn off. I suspect that Grace might have gone into more detail about her spying for the British government or had some juicy tidbits about the Cholmondeley family, but, who knows?

She was an amazing woman, a true survivor -- and those who nit-pick her Journal entirely miss its point -- but, alas, she WAS scandalous. Grace Elliott had a horrible reputation! She was trashed all over the magazines and tabloids of the day. Even the one cartoon I was able to locate had her sitting between two of the most notorious courtesans of the day. Her reputation -- and, of course, her scandalous divorce -- because, yes, divorcees were scandalous then -- were the factors that kept her from marrying her longtime paramour, Lord Cholmondeley.

As for the separation from her children... This is something we in the 20th/21st centuries can't really accept, but for women of Grace's social class, separation from one's children was not uncommon, nor was it censurable. (My Regency romance, Seducing Mr. Heywood, has a heroine who is separated from her children -- some reviewers of the book did not "get" that at all.)

Grace's daughter was brought up in a loving home; Cholmondeley's wife was very fond of her, and she fought for the right to take Grace's grand-daughter into her home. I am sure Grace wrote often to her child and her grandchild, but I cannot prove it because her letters have disappeared. (One of the things I hoped would happen upon publication of My Lady Scandalous was that someone would turn those up.)

I also have to tell you -- and I am sorry this has gone on so long, but there is a lot to say -- that a book title is not always the choice of the author, but I would not term the title "My Lady Scandalous", ludicrous. In fact, Colleen Denney's recent book on Victorian portraiture, aimed at an academic audience, uses the sub-title: My Lady Scandalous Reconsidered.

My contract with Simon & Schuster called for me to write a book for a general audience. I insisted on the Notes section -- I could not use footnotes -- and I also paid for the many illustrations. The sidebars on 18th-century history, mores, word meanings, etc., were also my idea, to help the contemporary reader better understand the 18th-century.

Again, I thank you for bringing my book to those who might not have had the opportunity to know about it. It was a true labor of love for almost 4 years and I still find myself tracking down items I could not find while I was engaged in the research and writing.

I do hope to run into you one of these days. It is always wonderful to find others interested in the lives of 18th-century women. Except for her Journal and for the Gainsborough portraits, she would have fallen straight through those awful cracks history reserves for women like her. (Gainsborough, by the way, was working on another one -- I have seen the sketches -- and I found one that is possibly Grace as an elderly woman. I came upon both, unfortunately, over a year after I'd turned in my manuscript.)

Best regards,
Jo Manning
Jan. 31st, 2010 11:43 am (UTC)
IN reply to Ms Manning
While it is true that in the later 18th century Grace Dalrymple Elliot was defined by her sex life, we are no longer living in the later 18th century. To keep with these terms is to keep with these norms and make no improvement in women's lives and the way their work is treated. After all slavery existed then; so too was it fine to sell a young woman to an older man as Grace was when young and expect her to be obedient to him while he lived a fulfilled life as he saw it and she did not. As we hope and work to change attitudes towards sexuality (central to women's secondary and controlled existence in our world), we are also hoping to bring down the persistence of large numbers of rapes. To keep presenting Grace as scandalous is to say the way all the men around her lived is fine, and the hierarchy which in the end threw her out with a meagre living was fine. Her life is very like that of Dora Jordan, and my view is Claire Tomalin treated that life the way Grace ought to be treated.

Her book, a sad remnant though it is, has something to say to us, and as long as we treat denigratingly -- which to categorize it in this way -- will not be heard. It becomes an incriminating document instead of something which gives us a glimpse of the hardships of women's lives then and to some extent now too. I understand that children were frequently parted from their parents at a very young age. Grace was. In the lower classes this happened too. It was a subsistence world -- one we are here in the west for more and more people beginning to return to as those who run the economic systems and have the military to back them up grind down the middle classes. But I've read enough to be persuaded that in fact many many people would have preferred to have a bond with their children such as nuclear families today enjoy. You can see them doing it when they can -- Genlis is a good instance of someone who had more wherewithal (connections, prestige, and an ability to manipulate) than Grace Elliot.

There is a movement among women scholars to change the designation of these memoirs and to study women's autobiographies as worthy and interesting and valuable documents. The delayed publication and the uncertainty about who actually edited Grace's document is typical of women's memoirs. I'm in the middle of putting up another: George Anne Bellamy's, and the stories are analogous. I think we have an edited version a very long book she did in fact write. Lots of people have just repeated the "scandal" gossip of the era which of course denied she could write such a document and ignored much that is in it.

I've gone on now. I can understand how you must have had to fight to have the notes. I too pay myself for most of what I have done in my life towards scholarship.

We must stop talking about "women like her," Jo. She is us. We are her. Your book is an important document in bringing out precious material which can be used to demonstrate that.

Ellen Moody
Jan. 31st, 2010 01:34 pm (UTC)
From Ms Manning again:

"Dear Ms. Moody, we are basically in agreement. My book was never meant to denigrate Grace Elliott. I hailed her as triumphant in many ways, a survivor in an era where few women had choices as to how to live their lives.

Grace had no mentor, no older female, to advise her. She was shunted off to convent school upon the death of her mother and when she came back, to London, to be with her dissolute lawyer father, he could not wait to marry her off. There are several villains in her story, chief among them her father; then her husband, Dr. John Eliot, the physician who thought so highly of himself; after him, Lord Valentia, her seducer, so typical of many aristocratic men of the era. She was very much a victim of these men and of her times, but she survived them all.

I truly admired her, as did the fine actress who portrayed her in Rohmer's film so sensitively, and I do hope that your interest in her life will draw others to the biography I wrote, with, I believe, such care. I wanted to show readers -- women, particularly -- that the "scandalous" women of the 18th-century were, in fact, women much like them.

I still hope to find her letters -- if they indeed exist -- because I think they will further illuminate what an intelligent and witty woman I think she was. I continue to give presentations about her and other women of that time; the talks are always well received and demonstrate to me that there is a continuing interest in these marvelous women. As I mentioned to you, I will be giving a talk at Dr. Johnson's House in May. That museum has been supportive of my book, which is sold in their shop.

We are not so far apart in our goals, you and I.

Best regards, Jo Manning"
Jun. 26th, 2010 02:56 am (UTC)
I have never read something like this.
Great stuff!
Jan. 31st, 2010 01:35 pm (UTC)
In reply,

Dear Jo,

I know you didn't mean to denigrate the woman :). Far from it. You have provided much needed information and your book is a goldmine. It's basically the category and title and front of the book that gives the wrong impression, but these do "feed" into the dismissal of her, and it doesn't need much. On her Janeites list, Nancy Mayor this morning asked (abruptly), was I "for" promiscuity.

You see it's hard to struggle against since the larger frames often lead the way for ordinary readers' thinking (or lack of examination).

I do put ads on my list for Dr Johnson's house regularly.

I do my little bit by putting etexts on the Net, going to conferences and giving papers (and then putting these papers on the net), writing reviews for journals, and these blogs. I have several of this type on this Reveries under the Sign of Austen at this point.

Progress for women is such a slow process that sometimes there seems to be very little.

Feb. 1st, 2010 12:37 pm (UTC)
From my friend, Nick:

"The Grace Dalrymple Elliott blog is terrific of course - a wonderful 'rescue' job."
Feb. 2nd, 2010 02:24 pm (UTC)
Versailles and more
See also Catherine de Lors's blog with the large pictures and more information and insight:


Feb. 3rd, 2010 03:26 am (UTC)
From an Austen friend:

"I am now fully acquainted with the Grace story in all its permutations. Very interesting to know about this life, and I do appreciate your summing it up succinctly. Shades of Eliza de Feuillide."
Feb. 7th, 2010 12:48 am (UTC)
From Aneilka:

"I read Grace Dalrymple Eliot's autobiography last year - also bought and dipped into My Lady Scandalous. Indeed it might have been me that raked her up recently, so to speak, as I was investigating the possibility last year that her character is used in Persuasion (Dalrymple connected with Elliot being key names) and posted about this at Austen-L.

Th funniest thing was, having read the autobiography first, I hadn't a clue she was a spy (as I am told by others she was) and I was very moved by her time in France in prisons and felt she was a very compassionate, brave person who seemed to have stared death in the face several times and yet managed to escape with a degree of nobility and dignity, particularly in the way she nursed for and cared for others less fortunate than herself. How is it everyone else knew she was a spy?

From the autobiography I didn't get the faintest whiff of scandal. She seemed very accomplished and somehow sensible. I realise she probably glossed-over or omitted the seedier chapters of her conduct. ("She would say that wouldn't she?") However, to be shocking, disgraceful and shameless/shameful suggests a disregard for propriety.

Is it possible to be a courtesan and not be shocking, disgraceful and shameless? Are the two synonymous or can one be an elegant and discreet harlot with a degree of social cache?

Can one be a shocking courtesan and a spy? Or do you have to be a discrete courtesan to make the grade as a spy?

Men who are involved in espionage are more common: the thrill and the adventure and a masculine definition of Self are common. But what about women? What goes on in the heart of a women when she says "I know. I'll prostitute myself around foreign countries in return for secrets which I'll then hand over to ...men!" Or does she get money? Fortune rather than fame, as Jane might say.

PS I notice that in My Lady Scandalous it says the term "come-atable" means prostitute. Yep. That's who Mr. Woodhouse was asking over to Hartfield. "the most come-at-able of whom were Mrs. and Miss Bates and Mrs. Goddard, three ladies almost always at the service of an invitation from Hartfield" No really, I'm not joking. Mrs. Goddard runs a brothel. Read the description!


Feb. 8th, 2010 12:49 pm (UTC)
Rohmer's film
Linda on WWTTA:

"I was fortunate to be able to get hold of this The lady and the Duke [English translation], recommended by Ellen and Catherine, and watch it last evening. My reading of Mistress of the Revolution, my viewing of Marie Antoinette with Kirsten Dunst, and our lively discussions of Grace Elliot all put me in the mood to appreciate this film, and I found it almost thrilling.

It was made in 2001, directed by Eric Rohmer, and stars Lucy Russell and Jean-Claude Dreyfus.

The back cover of the case calls it "visually opulent"--and it is certainly that. The colors of the movie are wonderful. The background, too--from the drawing rooms to the streets of old Paris and the mob scenes--all transport the viewer to another world.

The movie focuses on Grace and her now former lover, the Duke, and their special friendship. Together they face the tense political atmoshere brewing at this time in France. Grace is portrayed as extremely bright, articulate and political, as well as beautiful. And, of course, charming. She talks her way out of more than one difficult situation.

I found the movie at a video store going out of business and am planning to donate it to our library, so that others can share this marvelous viewing experience. I hate to sound like a book review, but I have to say it is a must for French history enthusiasts. And I want to thank those who recommended it to me. It is one of the better movies I've ever seen.


Catherine deLors replied:

"I am delighted to hear you enjoyed the film so much, Linda! I would describe it as perfectly accomplished in terms of direction, performances, screenplay and respect for its subject. The most amazing thing is that the - outstanding - crowd scenes and special effects were done on an independent film budget."

Edited at 2010-02-08 12:50 pm (UTC)
Jan. 17th, 2011 05:42 pm (UTC)
More on the movie
From Caroline B:

I just watched _The Lady and the Duke_, which got such rave reviews from Ellen and everyone who responded to her blog about Grace Dalrymple Elliot. The movie was very good. Even knowing how the memoir ends, I found myself caught up in the suspense, eager to see how Grace and the Duke would respond to the next event. I know that Grace Elliot was courageous, but Lucy Russell's performance
made me see Grace as even braver because she was scared. She hid the marquis despite being terrified, shaking, in tears. She knew what she risked and did it anyway.

The costumes and coiffures were exquisite, too. Such style! I'm of course grateful not to be wearing that many extra pounds of clothes, and I'd hate having someone help me dress every day. But they were gorgeous, and the film
conveyed that.

While watching the film, I kept thinking about what the radicals in England were saying about the French Revolution. Some of them--Charles Pigott, Margaret Coghlan, and so forth--defended the excesses of 1793 as necessary counter-revolutionary measures. This film shows that nothing can justify such
blind vengeance.

Jan. 17th, 2011 05:45 pm (UTC)
the problems with "scandal" women biographies
From Caroline:

"What a great blog on Grace Dalrymple Elliot! Like Ellen and others on this list, I really enjoyed Jo Manning's biography. She beautifully captured Elliot's spirit and helpfully situated her within her historical context.
Although some scholars sneered at the sidebars, I thought they were an effective way of making this material accessible to a wider audience. And isn't that the
ultimate goal?

I also agree that Manning's biography treats Elliot more sensitively than Martin Levy's short entry in the _Oxford Dictionary of National Biography_. While the
_DNB_ is known as the go-to book for biography, I have been disappointed in its biographies of many eighteenth-century women, particularly those classed as courtesans. The entry on Mary Anne Clarke, for instance, is full of
inaccuracies, even claiming that one of her works was ghost-written by an enemy. Apparently, "scandalous women" don't deserve serious scholarly treatment.

But Ellen, Jo Manning, and others are working to correct that. I'd like to add to this list another spectacular biography: Wendy Moore's _Wedlock: The True Story of the Disastrous Marriage and Remarkable Divorce of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Coutness of Strathmore_. Moore's scholarship is excellent, and her narrative is
more gripping than any novel that I've read this year. She portrays Bowes as a brilliant woman caught in a bad marriage who then makes an even worse marriage to one of the most brutal men of the century. Since Bowes was notorious for her personal conduct, it took her contemporaries a while to accept that her husband
truly abused her. Her courage--and that of the servants who helped her escape--is breathtaking. But I'm a relative newcomer here, so perhaps you've all read this?

In any case, I'd like to second and third Ellen's concerns about the way that we write about "scandalous women," especially those women's writings. Frequently
their memoirs are confused with their lives, so we don't fully attend to what they say: Elliot was notorious, so her record of a political event is overlooked. My research runs very much along this track, so I felt energized by reading this blog. Thanks!

Jan. 17th, 2011 05:47 pm (UTC)
In reply on the state of women's "scandal" memoirs & biographies
And let me thank you in turn, Caroline. I didn't know about Moore's _Wedlock_ and have found a copy for about $6 and bought it and await it. I am no expert but I did try to read a lot of these autobiographies in
excerpts in the anthologies that have come out when I wrote my paper on Anne Murray Halkett. I have at times bought this and that text of these women when they come out inexpensively, as well as -- with an attempt at being
judicious and scouting about to see if the modern biography is just another rehash of hostilely told "scandal" or a genuinely researched intelligent humane book -- and I have a bunch of them now (maybe as many as 8) which I've yet to read. I do tend to read the original texts when I get them much quicker than the secondary biographies and those quicker than historical

Not that I'm degrading historical novels. Sometimes a novel can cast more light on a subject than a biography: a good example of this is Colm Toibin's The Master which gets far closer to the truth of James's inner life than
most of the biographies I've read -- Toibin's shorter essays are gems too. It's in something of this spirit I've been so longing to read _Life Mask_ and have started it (and read some more last night): there is much
information left about Elizabeth Farren, Anne Damer and a number of the people in her book left memoirs, Donoghue has used all these. She's having fun at the opening having her characters enact in a private theatrical
Arthur Murray's _The Way to Keep Him_. Well Donoghue has read the play (so have I) and it's fun to see her characters chose parts that illuminate their

I agree that Jo Manning is one of the rescuers and I did write my blog because of that. But I have to say that the emphases in the portrait in my blog are mine; I put the story together differently than she did. She did
not see Elliot as a minimally successful survivor in the way I did, but emphasized the sexual manipulation and was somewhat anachronistic in her treatment of Elliot's enforced estrangement from her child. So one reason I
wrote the biography I did was to counter Manning's: no where on the Net has Manning's book been taken seriously. There has been no review in a peer-edited journal. The book is packaged as if it were another "woman's
romance" of the scandalous type. That hurts it as does her own buying into a number of stubborn myths about women in the book.

I've found too that you can't even trust respected sources like the ONDB to tell a woman's life accurately. It is hard to tell the realities from the fictions: so much has grown up. And we still have a hard time shedding false ideas about what women want, what makes them happy or unhappy -- endlessly with the implication it must be different from men.

A case in point is all the misinformation swirling still around Aphra Behn. In a recent double whammy article (I"m using this phrase again) Germaine Greer showed that much that we say about Behn is hearsay with no evidence or
documents and even improbable.

I do love women's memoirs of the later 18th century and novels that use this material. I think they are my favorite sort of book, and as I wrote in the Burney letter once I began to read Austen seriously and love her when I placed her amid these books. I love the French women's memoirs even more than the English; I enjoy European women when they leave some. The tone appeals. The French are much less inhibited than the others..

Jan. 17th, 2011 05:54 pm (UTC)
L'anglaise et le duc
Again in reply,

It may be that those who have seen the movie and are interested in women's memoirs overpraised it :) The thing is it's so rare to see someone treat a woman like Elliot this so respectfully. Since we've had threads on this list and C18-l about this aspect: Rohmer also doesn't use her life as an occasion to damn the French people or revolution -- which he could easily have done.

It's been a while but one thing I remember liking is how he behaved like Bresson when it came to his "stars." He really directed everyone to vanish into their characters so that you were not aware this was this particular star (e.g., with all my love for him as an actor Colin Firth never loses his baggage because it serves him well). Also that it was unstressed, nothing over-the-top melodramatic (as right now the super popular Downton Abbey is). You were allowed to watch contemplatively.

Another one I've talked about a lot here is _La Nuit de Varennes_: that does play up sexuality at moments, but it even more has a quality of diurnal life in the midst of the journey.


If you know how to download movies, you can get this on the Net: I now have a copy with French subtitles.

Jan. 18th, 2011 02:55 pm (UTC)
Rohmer's Lady and Duke & Marquise de O
Carlo wrote on ECW:

"Yes, Rohmer doesn't damn the French revolution, overtly. But it is curious that a French director chooses the memoirs of an English (Scottish?) monarchical gentlewoman for his only "historical" film. And the revolutionaries appear as the bad guys: that was the way Grace Elliott saw
them, so it's ok. In Italy Rohmer's film was mostly praised, as all his films, but many people felt that his was a reactionary point of view. This is debatable, of
course, and Rohmer most likely didn't mind of that.
My very personal and debatable feelings: very fine, "cold", a little boring and, yes, a bit reactionary.


I'm actually glad to be brought up short sometimes, Carlo. Living as I do in the US I often assume a generally rightist point of view I am responding to, so when I said at least Rohmer doesn't lambast the French revolution (as just now a book I'm reading does -- Elizabeth Gaskell's My Lady Ludlow), I'm thinking in US terms. But of course in a way he does damn it or doesn't give a damn about it. He is over-praised. The actress was another of these types he likes: thin, frail, blonde; we have Chloe in the Afternoon again. What he loves to show best is inconsequence.

It's a relief to respond to another point of view which does not assume the French revolution has to justify itself somehow -- it doesn't as history before explains it fully.

I did know I was guilty of overpraising if I wrote what seemed a rave review. Partly my husband loves Rohmer's films too. Rohmer is probably overpraised in general -- as is Bresson who is also (in my view) deeply reactionary. Bergman isn't -- so there's an "Auteur" type who is not.

Rohmer's Percevial was very cold. He didn't present the medieval world on film -- most directors don't at all, but a substitute of his own obsessions and art -- as I recall but not much else.

I did (as I recall) have ambivalent feelings about his film adaptation of Kleist's Marquis of O -- and do recall that. Did you see that? again at least he dealt with rape directly, did not turn the story into one of a false accusation; we see what a raw rough deal this raped young woman gets and how she survives only because the family cannot take her property from her but by the end Rohmer has bought into the great "mother" image and we are to forgive this guy partly because the rape is not shown. I wrote in my paper on Rape in Clarissa: Rohmer changes the radical parodic meaning of Kleist's text so as to empower the heroine through her motherhood and exonerate the hero through his supposed helpless sexual impulses and abject guilt afterwards, see Mary Rhiel, “The Author-Function as Security Agent in Rohmer's Die Marquise von O …, The German Quarterly 64:1 (1991):10-15 especially.

Jan. 19th, 2011 05:00 pm (UTC)
Rohmer, Duke and Lady, the Revolution
Dear Ellen,

I hope my bad command of English when far from dictionaries has not made my remarks to seem offensive or harsh.

As I usually read liberal newpapers and magazines, whose judgment on Rohmer's The Lady and the Duke was as I said: good film/reactionary ideas, I have endorsed it because I feel that way. There is a problem with the French
revolution: bar Renoir's The Marseillaise, the revolution fares generally bad in movies: bloodthirsty populace goes around killing and arresting dignified noblemen and noblewomen. Even the films released during the bicentenary, as far as I saw some of them in Italy, were ambiguous: good (liberal) 1789 against bad (radical) 1793. But then I am afraid you have a problem alike with the Civil War; and in Italy no one dare film the
so-called brigandage in Southern Italy after the unification: a three-years civil war, with guerrillas, storming of towns, kidnappings, coldblood killing of soldiers and civilians, reprisals, firing parties and so on.

I have not seen neither The Marquis von O nor Perceval, so I thought, wrongly, that The Lady and the Duke was Rohmer's only "period" film. I know some of Rohmer's comedies: very "light" stories, delightful; but when they
get to the end one (I, for instance) may ask himself: and so, what was that about? Of course I cannot judge Rohmer's art as a filmmaker because it's not my field of studies: I am only a spectator, and a very simple one, not a critic, and besides I have my bias. But I may suspect that some filmmakers are praised anyhow. Rohmer is one. (May Manoel de Oliveira be another?).

Jan. 19th, 2011 05:10 pm (UTC)
Rohmer, Duke and Lady, the Revolution
IN response to Carlo,

Not at all. You were not harsh at all. I found what you wrote refreshing and it reminded me of so often I get this unexamined rightest point of view that I forget one need not bow to it everywhere.

I read liberal papers too: in the US, The Nation, the Progressive Populist are what I subscribe to in paper copies.

You're right that when revolutionary wars are presented, it's hard to get an intelligent or unbiased take. The American civil war is a "hot spot" still because of racism, the reactionary politics of the south. Where I live in Alexandria, Va, we still have a statue to a confederate soldier at the center of a traffic interchange. He stands there looking sullen, pouting, facing south. He refuses to acknowledge the north. Alexandria City is a liberal place as US cities go, and we have mostly nowadays non-southerners. But everytime it comes up for a vote, enough people protest intensely that the statue stays there -- it impedes traffic and causes accidents too.

Films that are "historical" are about today and today's quarrels.

In my blog on Elliot's Journal I suggested that perhaps hers was an unusual pro-revolutionary journal (Roland's was, there were some, Helen Maria Williams's Letters from France published in 1792- I think are pro-revolution) but that since they exist in this remnant censored state, published by someone else after her death, like so many women's memoirs, we can't know what was the original perspective.

I've not read anywhere near enough of Italian texts to make any comment on the presentation of the civil wars you mention. I do love Il Gattopardo but know it's reactionary -- wouldn't you agree with that? Lampedusa is a marvelous stylist -- I did read it in Italian.

Rohmer is an interesting film-maker -- his films set in present time are like little realistic stories, slices of life. You should try _Marquis of O_. It's worth watching.

Sep. 29th, 2018 08:27 pm (UTC)
Grace Elliott
Thanks for the extensive essay on Grace. I'm curious as to where you got the reference to Grace's body being removed form Père-Lachaise Cemetery in 1992? Many thanks! Steve
Sep. 29th, 2018 09:21 pm (UTC)
Re: Grace Elliott
I no longer remember. Ellen
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