Erskine. 1744. The travels and adventures of Mademoiselle de Richelieu : cousin to the present Duke ... who made the tour of Europe, dressed in men's cloaths ... Done into English from the lady's own manuscript, by the translator of the Memoirs and adventures of the Marques of Bretagne. Dublin, Oli. Nelson.
This is a light-hearted stream-of-consciousness summary of my read-through of this 18th century novel. Parts of it are extracted from Twitter conversations.
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When last we saw our heroines, Arabella was going to meet privately with the girl they had declined to purchase (and whose family they instead set on the path to respectability by a charitable donation) to see if she really was romantically attached to her. Meanwhile Alithea goes off to do some sightseeing and to sulk a little. They meet again over dinner with their banker's family where Arabella is once more the object of longing sighs from the banker's daughters. Alone later together, Arabella assures Alithea that the girl could not be induced to express any preference between the two of them, though she did seem somewhat romantically moved by both. The two women are trying to quit Venice at this point but cannot escape without being entertained for a humble dinner by the family they have benefitted, during which they are quite mortifyingly embarrassed by the amount of gratitude shown. On their last evening before leaving town, Alithea once again gets snippy with Arabella about how the banker's daughters were so taken with her and Arabella assures her they'll get over it soon enough.
After 12 pages of travelogue through various cities and towns, they arrive at Rome where they plan to spend the winter. Letters of introduction see them received by the French ambassador who -- among their other touristy experiences -- gets them a brief audience with the Pope. (!) They pick up a local tour guide and we are entertained by 16 pages of the sights of Rome and surrounding attractions. Our heroines then settle down to more frivolous amusements and Alithea declares that she no longer finds it amusing to help Arabella attract women; she's going to work on her own behalf and Arabella can do the same. Arabella is amused by this and teases her about toying with women's affections when there is no hope of carrying through. Alithea gives a little speech to the effect that the anticipation of love is far more satisfying to ladies than the consummation would be anyway. Arabella then cautions her against jilting any lady too harshly as the Romans are known for taking somewhat violent revenge for these things. This gives Alithea pause, but she notes that they can get away with all manner of flirtations because, after all, they are French and it will only be expected of them.
There is then a somewhat amusing series of encounters where Alithea cozies up to a beautiful young widow who is disinclined to re-marry; convinces her to reconsider; and then, on being successful in this and being coyly solicited by the widow for suggestions for a potential husband, Alithea recants and says she's disconsolate to have turned the widow's mind toward marriage when now she (Alithea) has concluded she was right from the first. In turn-about, Arabella falls in with a lady who is quite interested in contemplating matrimony, while Arabella (who never was all that enthusiastic about the state, if you recall) argues against it. She is also successful, and her conversational partner then declares she's dead-set against marrying, whereupon Arabella implies that her heart is now broken as the lady had successfully changed her own heart. (This all occurs over several exchanges of letters and casual meetings at the opera.) Having had their amusement, our heroines determine to make sure to put an end to the flirtations in a firm but non-hazardous way.
While comparing notes over these adventures, Arabella makes the mistake of noting that the lady of her entanglement was so fair and sweet and virtuous that she could indeed have convinced her to marriage, if there were not the Obvious Impediment. "Next to yourself, my dear Alithea," she says, "I know no woman that I would sooner contract a friendship with." Well, now Alithea teases her sharply, "Tell me seroiusly, you whimsical waggish creature, if this girl would not tempt you if you were a man. I am sure she would me, for I think she possesses every thing that would make a man happy. Very well, Maria is to have Alithea's place in your heart and poor Alithea is no more Arabella's edearest friend." All this with "so grave an air that she really thought me serious and was so affected that the tear came in her eye."
Well. Arabella is much taken aback and embraces Alithea and assures her that no other woman on earth could rival her or take her place. Alithea sulks, "I am as jealous of you as a man could be of his mistress, and were you to get a husband I believe I should have difficulty enough to keep my temper." At which Arabella assures her that she has no intention ever to marry, but pledges that if she were ever to change her mind, she would swear never to do so unless Arabella gave her consent. They make this a mutual pledge.
There are no further romantic adventures mentioned for the remainder of the time they are in Rome, though there are some satirical comments on how given the Romans are to politics and religious mysteries.
Four pages of travelogue now carry us to Florence, where letters of introduction again bring them into the most elevated society and they become acquainted with the Marquis de Grimoalti and his most flirtatious wife. And that is as far as today's reading takes me.