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John Paul Jones
Chapter XIX - 1779


"IN the blaze of his fame" Paul Jones arrived at Paris, to be lionised by society, congratulated by royalty, to he the idol of women high and low. He was bidden by the Duc and Duchesse de Chartres to be their guest at the Palais Royal, and occupied one of the splendid apartments of that historic dwelling during his stay in Paris; which distinction set tongues a-wagging at the unusual honour conferred upon one not of royal blood.

As soon as news of the Bonhomme Richard's victory reached Paris, in October 1779, the Duchesse de Chartres, "then living at the Palais Royal, made a grand illumination, gave a great ball, the invitations to which read, 'In Honour of Commodore Paul Jones,' and sent a bill of exchange for a large sum to the Commodore." Louis Philippe, who is the recorder of this gossip, tells of the Commodore's letter to his mother, concluding : "The enemy surrendered at thirty-five minutes past ten p.m. by your watch, which I consult only to fix the moment of victory."

The son of this charming Duchesse thought this "merely the flattery of a subtle courtier;" though his mother "accepted it as the homage of a knight like Bayard or Charles the Bold. The Duchesse de Chartres was one of the calmest persons I ever knew; but she almost went wild over the victory of Paul Jones in the Bonhomme Richard. One of my proudest memories is that, when a little boy, I enjoyed the society of that wonderful man."

But Louis Philippe, then at the mature age of six, would be too young to see the personal note in all this, or understand that a beautiful woman of twenty- seven might find more than a political pleasure in the victory of a daring sailor, who had every charm of the polished courtier, every trait of gallantry and consideration for her that her neglectful husband lacked. There must he a mental reservation in accepting the following statement: "Next to my poor unfortunate father (Egalité), my mother's affections were bestowed on Paul Jones," for the Duc and Duchesse had long been estranged, owing to the dissolute life of the former. Jones was—all unite in declaring-- a man of intensely chivalrous temperament, and he "held her in esteem far beyond the reach of flattery. Whatever expression he offered was his own conception of worship, of adoration, of that religious, I might say spiritual, devoutness which human beings usually pay to the divinities of their hearts and their faith! In her he saw only the goddess of his chivalric mythology. In him she saw, as she often said, only 'L'AcIiitle fougucux de I'Océan!' I am sure no one else ever appreciated or comprehended him as she did; no one else ever worshipped her as he did. it was a rare and beautiful relation between such a woman and such a man."

The recollections of a child of six, written some thirty-five years afterwards, and translated several times, cannot be relied upon as history, in fact as anything more serious than unreliable tittle-tattle. There is a little too much of the ultra-platonic specified, to be in accord with the spirit of the day and hour in which they both lived. The Duchesse was a neglected and openly insulted wife, if such terms can be used in describing one of so high rank, and Paul was the embodiment of chivalry, and thirty-two years of age. The manners of the Court did not frown on consolation--if discreetly offered. It would, indeed, be interesting to know to what extent the Duchesse permitted the respectful consolations of the Commodore to be offered.

The April that brought Paul to Paris proved too fickle in its tears and smiles for the fete champtre which the Duchesse had planned, and she changed the entertainment to a superb banquet in honour of Commodore Jones. As the evening waned he asked her Royal Highness if she remembered his promise, "if fortune should favour him he would lay an English frigate at her feet"? and on hearing her assent, turned to an attendant, who held the sword surrendered by Pearson, which he took and, dropping gracefully on one knee, presented to the beautiful Duchesse, by whose aid he had been able to achieve this end.

In a few well-turned sentences he expressed regret at not being able to keep his promise and lay the frigate in actual truth at Her Royal Highness's feet, but that being impossible he had the honour to "surrender to the loveliest of women" the sword surrendered by "one of the bravest of men," which the Duchesse forthwith accepted with that charming affability which she ever displayed towards the Commodore.

The distinguished assemblage was charmed with this little comedy, and for a few hours there was no crumple in the rose leaf. It was Paul's hour, and he enjoyed it to the full, with no thought of the morrow. And the Duchesse? Of all that company no heart beat so high as hers with pleasure, or with so varied emotions. In her journal she wrote:-

"Though the company at table was most distinguished, Commodore Jones, fresh from his marvellous victories, was easily the centre of attraction to all. I said to him that all the world had read the accounts of his exploits, and the more we read the more we marvelled. And I asked him what thought, what impulse, what inspiration could have sustained him to persevere when his ship was on fire and sinking under his feet, and his men almost all in the throes of death about him. To this he replied, with a profound bow and the gravest solemnity ' May it please Your Royal Highness, I could not be the first to strike the flag that I had been the first to exhibit in Europe; and, besides, surrender must have postponed the rapture of greeting you again!"

"Then I could only reply as I did, 'Ah, my dear Commodore, not Bayard or Charles Ia Teméraira himself could have laid his helmet at a lady's feet with such knightly grace!"

If his hard Scotch head could have been turned, Paul did not lack opportunity, for he was dined and wined by the highest in the land, and was made the lion of the hour because of his achievements, and, from sentiments naively expressed by the Duchesse de Chartres: "People usually do things either for love or hatred. I do these things for both. I love the Americans of my own accord, and I inherit the hatred my great-grandfather bore to the English.

He dominates the gossip and letters of the moment, for he possessed the heart of a hero—large enough to spare a little bit for every one of those adulating women who sang his praises, hung on his lightest words, and hampered his very footsteps when he appeared in public. The Commodore was something of a poet in his leisure moments, and there still are fragments of his effusions, no worse, no better than those of many others; in fact, warmly praised by Baron Grimm in his letters. These verses were addressed to those ladies with whom he kept up that half-amorously allegorical correspondence, so much in vogue among the Amintas and Phyllises and their swains. We have none of his verses to Aimee de Telluson; undoubtedly he wooed her in tenderer ways, but to a nymph with whom he exchanged endless billets-doux, who hides beneath the name of "Delia," he wrote a poem of some length, which began-----

"When Jove from high Olympus goes
To Ida, and the fair below,
All heav'n laments—but Juno shows,
A jealous and superior wo:

In vain to her all pow'r is given,
To female weakness ever dear
She scorns the sovereignty of heav'n,
Her God. her Jove, seems all to her!"

It continues through a couple of verses in this classically mythological strain, ending

Thus, when thy warrior, though no god,
Brings Freedom's standard o'er the main,
Long absent from thy blest abode,
Casts anchor in dear France again
O! thou more heavenly!—far more kind
Than Juno, as thy swain than Jove,
With what heart's transports, raptur'd mind
Shall we approach on wings of love!"

The poetic sailor was more sparing of his muse than of his grape and canister, for, changing:

"Cast anchor in dear France again"

by a twist of the quill to

"In fair Columbia moors again."

the poem served him equally at opposite ends of the globe, and there is little likelihood that the ladies to whom it was addressed ever compared notes.

Paul was besieged with invitations; his mail varied from long, solemn official documents to those giddy, heavily scented, three-cornered effusions, of which he received more than his share, with the interesting intimation that—

"Madame de H. begs M. Jones to pardon the liberty she takes in addressing him without having the honour of his acquaintance; and requests a moment's conversation with him at her apartments in the royal palace (Palais Royal?), or at the hotel of the Duchesse of . She asks a thousand pardons if she should be the means of giving him any trouble at the moment of his departure; but he must not be astonished that all are eager to profit by the present opportunity of seeing him." Alas! that there is no further detail of this willing dame.

For so busy a man Jones managed to carry on an enormous correspondence with all kinds and conditions of people. It has been suggested that the lady who concealed her identity under the name of "Delia" was one and the same as Aimee de Telusson, which is most unlikely, for a number of reasons. It would be easy to decide once and for all if the letters of the two ladies could have been compared. Whoever she was, the fair "Delia" would be considered rather a gushing writer in the present day and generation. She tells Paul—

"Your letter of , which I received on Sunday the 20th, lacerates my heart, and increases my despair; I kissed with sad and concentrated grief the traces of thy precious tears, and shed a flood of the bitterest drops that ever flowed from a breaking heart." She describes her mind as "plunged in a chaos of doubt and fears," and vehemently declares, "No! never did I feel, never did I love until that moment, at once so dear and so fatal to my repose, when fate presented you to my ravished sight: that moment fixed my destiny for ever. Yes! my tender and adorable friend ! On you alone depends that destiny; you alone have the power to make my happiness or misery. Pardon this frank confession, oh! my dear Jones; and be persuaded that deeming thee incapable of a mean action, I love, esteem, and even respect thee; never otherwise would I have revealed thus freely all thy power over every faculty of my being. I adore thee, I again repeat; and never did any other mortal possess such sway over my heart—this, my dear and only friend, is my pledge of faith; I am thine and thine only during my whole life." She beseeches him to "be careful of thy life, and remember that mine depends on it. . . . I incessantly address myself to heaven for your safe arrival in America; if you are satisfied with that government, you will continue in its service; if not, resign, and rejoin your faithful friend; the whole world beside may forsake you, but her heart is eternally yours; I swear it by that sacred flame which will never be extinguished in my breast.

"You ask how you can render me happy;—take care of yourself, love me--study the means of enabling us to pass our days together, and never forget that my life is bound up in yours, and that the moment which deprives me of you will put an end to all my miseries. Your health is dear—ten thousand times dearer to me than my own; if you love me, do not neglect it. I have received your letter of the 16th, which increases my solicitude on this point; in the name of all that is sacred take care of your precious self. Rely on my heart; it is yours—and nothing can operate a change in its sentiments. I adore you for yourself alone, and it is thus that you should be loved. If I was capable of thinking otherwise, I would not suffer you to depart and to expose your invaluable life. The thought of your danger brings back all the weakness of my sex; and I confess that my anxiety and frightful alarms for the object of all my wishes will, without a doubt, hasten my death. The terror and solicitude that I feel for my lover are indescribable. Dear Jones! adieu; I am forced to leave thee; I cannot go on. The Chevalier assures you of his respect and friendly sentiments; he sets out to-morrow evening, alas! happier than his unfortunate sister; he will soon see you. God! she would willingly be the lowest of your crew."

Jones replies to Delia from America in 1781, a letter in which details of a new ship he has to command take first place, which is not to be wondered at, as he says, "It is now more than twelve months since I left France; yet I have not received a single letter from thee in all that time, except the one written in answer to my letter of leave-taking. That one is a tender letter, and does honour to thy matchless heart! I read often and always with transport the many charming things that are so well expressed in thy letters; but especially the last. . . . I rest, therefore, sure that absence will not diminish, but refine the pure and spotless friendship that binds our souls together, and will ever impress each to merit the affection of the other. Remember and believe my letter at parting. it was but a faint picture of my heart. I will find opportunities to write, and be everything thou canst wish," etc. But somehow the letter does not ring with that rugged feeling which brings the blood smarting to cheeks pale with anxiety and longing. It rather seems as if "Delia" was the one who "held the cheek," for on his return to Paris, nearly two years later, he received a note, which he put away with the remark, "From her apartments in the Boulevard," and the date endorsed on it in his systematic handwriting.

"Is it possible that you are then so near me, and that I am deprived of the sight of a mortal who has constituted the misery of my life for four years? O most amiable and most ungrateful of men, come to your best friend, who burns with the desire of seeing you. You ought to know that it is but eight days since your Delia was at the brink of the grave. Come, in the name of heaven."

It is more than likely that Paul went, though the gushing "Delia" was but one of his many irons in the fire.

The critic must be lenient. "Nor is it possible to look on the tear-stains that blot those crooked characters, traced by a hand then trembling with youthful passion, and over which the grave must long since have closed, without a feeling of pity and kindness for the fair writer, so devoted, so eloquent, and probably so unfortunate." Was she married, single, or a consolable widow? We do not know, though from the tone of her writings she was not a jezoze flue, since none but those of the lowest class could have been as independent as she, and her letters show a woman of refinement and education. In comparison with those written by Aimee de Telusson, she betrays a much less controlled temperament, and one in which self-repression was lacking. If " Delia" had been a widow, she would not have been constantly in affright lest her portrait and letters should be seen by some other eye than that for which they were intended. "Delia" had an income of eight thousand livres a year, and "alleges her liberality of disposition as the cause of her narrow fortune." Aimee de Telusson at this time lived with the Marquise de Marsan, as she had no fortune of any sort. "Delia" repeatedly offers her lover assistance, influence; "she has trinkets and effects;" she was eager to make a holocaust of them all, though the sacrifice certainly does not seem to have been accepted. The only link which might serve to connect her with Aimee is in the letter where she says, "the Chevalier sets off to-morrow . . . happier than his unfortunate sister, as he will soon see you." Aimée's half-sister was married to the Chevalier de Thouvenot, an officer in the Marine Artillery, but surely this is too thin a thread to weight with such surmises; and again, her anxious desire for secrecy argues fear of detection from one to whom she was bound "till death do them part."

Was "Delia" the Comtesse de la Vandhal, one of the prettiest young women in that magic circle to which Paul had the entie Madame was nothing loath to indulge "a little harmless gallantry on the part of the famous American Commodore," and their flirtation was noted and reported by the indefatigable Miss Edes-Herbert, supposed to be the author of those gossipy letters which many think written by some journalist of the day, so quickly did they appear in print. Miss Edes-Herbert was then living in the house of the Comtesse de la Vandhal, where she gave English lessons.

"Since my last, Paul Jones drank tea and supped here. If am in love with him, for love I may die; I have as many rivals as there are ladies, but the most formidable is still Lady (the Comtessc de la Vandhal), who possesses all his heart. . . . They correspond, and their letters are replete with elegance, sentiment and delicacy. She drew his picture (a striking likeness), and wrote some lines under it, which are much admired, and presented it to him, who, since he received it, is, he says, like a second Narcissus, in love with his own resemblance; to be sure, he is the most agreeable sea-wolf one would wish to meet with. . . . The king has given him a magnificent gold sword, which, lest it should fall into the hands of the enemy, he has begged leave to commit it to the care of her ladyship—a piece of gallantry which is here highly applauded."

"We believe that even the most finished French coquette would feel rather startled at the eclat of an appearance like the above in an English periodical, published within the month."

Paul was essentially a man of action, and let no grass grow under his feet. It may be inferred from the tenor of the following letter the Comtesse had, like so many of her sex, aroused the ready sympathies of the Chevalier with that old but ever effective plea that the souls of her lawful mate and her own did not form that exquisite affinity so greatly to be desired, for he writes her-

"I am deeply concerned in all that respects your happiness; I therefore have been, and am, much affected at some words that fell in private conversation from Miss Edes the evening I left Versailles. I am afraid that you are less happy than I wish, and am sure you deserve to be. I am composing a cipher for a key to our future correspondence, so that you will be able to write me very freely, and without risk." Then he begs her to "accept the within lock. I am sorry that it is now eighteen inches shorter than it was three months ago. If I could send you my heart itself, or anything else that could afford you pleasure, it would be my happiness to do so." At these protestations the lady took alarm, kept the lock of hair, the cipher and letter, replying that she was surprised at the audacity of his letter, which must have been misdirected! Begged him to be of service to her husband, who was on his way to l'Orient. "She would be obliged to the Chevalier to show him every civility."

The cautious Scotchman—who had kept a copy of his letter, referred to it, confessing himself "still at a loss, and cannot conceive what part of the letter itself could have occasioned your imagining I had mistaken the address. As to the little packet it contained, perhaps it might better have been omitted: if so, it is easily destroyed. If my letter has given you even a moment's uneasiness, I can assure you that to think so would be as severe a punishment as could be inflicted on me. . . . I was greatly honoured by the visit of the Count . . . and am so well convinced of his superior understanding that I am glad to believe Miss Edes was mistaken. I admire him so much that I should esteem myself very happy indeed to have a joint expedition with him, etc. . . ." Surely this was rubbing it into her ladyship! The friendship was allowed to languish by Jones, and there is nothing more than a couple of ceremonious letters, written in 1783, mostly in reference to the lady's husband, as she was not backward in soliciting favours for him.

The Chevalier Paul Jones, as he became after the King had decorated him with the Order of Military Merit—" never before conferred on any one who had not actually borne arms under the commission of France," was easily the most-talked-of man in Paris. He had been given a magnificent gold sword by the King, with the inscription," Vindicati Mans Ludovicus XVI Remunerator strenuo vindici." So, to put it poetically, Mars and Venus sought to do him honour, and he basked in the sunshine of favour. Miss Edes Herbert, who had been "taught to regard Captain Jones as a rough, desperate renegade, if not pirate," confessed herself "amazed to meet a most courteous, graceful gentleman of slight build, and rather delicate, not to say effeminate, cast of features, faultlessly dressed, exquisitely polite, altogether handsome, and speaking French fluently, though with an indifferent accent, and many lapses of grammar. However, his French was better than that of most English persons of quality, who pretend to speak the language in the drawing-rooms of London. For some reason he was quite attentive to me, and we danced twice. Naturally we avoided political subjects, though once he asked me if I had heard or read anything about the affair of taking the Earl of Selkirk's plate at St. Mary's Isle in the cruise of the Ranger. I said I had, and he then told me that his relation to the affair was not correctly understood, and he would do himself the honour to send to me copies of all the papers in the case, in order that I might be able to form a right judgment. And, by way of compliment, I suppose, he added that, while under the circumstances that existed he was compelled to be indifferent to the estimation in which Englishmen held him, he was as sensitive as ever to the sentiments of Englishwomen; also, that, while he might be at war with my countrymen as a nation, he could never be anything but at peace with their daughters. Altogether I was quite charmed with him. He was quite impartial in his attentions to the ladies. However, his preference for her ladyship, our gracious hostess (Aimee de Telusson), could not be quite hid; it was not even partly veiled. Neither, I must say, was her ladyship's reciprocity of it. A few days afterward he called on my father to initiate a scheme for exchanging the crew of the Serapis for American prisoners in England. I did not see him on this occasion, but my father informed me that he was deeply impressed by him, and could not help seeing in him genius of the first order. My father spoke of his manner as extremely cold, reserved, and wholly official, which was the exact reverse of his deportment toward me at the reception. My father said that when he told Captain Jones, as he had to, that our Government had not given him authority to recognise the right of cartel to the American insurgents, the Captain replied:-

"'Very well, sir; but, as Voltaire says, the future is much longer than the present.'"

Jones had been knighted on June 28, 1780, and, with "his blushing honours thick upon him," was the hero of a garden party, given by the Comtesse d'Houdetot, the fourteenth of the following month, at her château of Montmorency. "Though there was all the afternoon and evening a throng of the noblesse and persons of quality in all stations of eminence, no one gained so much notice or was so sought after for introductions as the American Commodore, Paul Jones, now titled 'Monsieur Ie Chevalier.'

"As on the occasion of our previous meeting at the Marquise de Marsan's, he was now especially polite to me; so much so, that many of the ladies rallied me on what they were pleased to term my 'conquest of the conqueror.' Finally I ventured to say to him: 'Monsieur le Chevalier, you will not think it strange if I am not so cheerful as these French ladies are in paying devotion to you, because all these honours are in compliment to your victory over my own people.'

"To this he instantly replied, not in French, which we had been speaking, but in English: 'My dear Miss Edes-Herbert, I most fully comprehend and appreciate your sentiments. And permit me to say also that had my adversary on the occasion you speak of been any but a countryman of yours, I would not be thought entitled to so much credit as they seem to give me for the victory. Therefore, my dear lady, instead of being sad you should he buoyant in the thought that it is only upon those who have defeated Englishmen that such honours are bestowed. And beyond doubt the extreme infrequency of such events has much to do with the extravagance of praise the French now bestow upon me.'

"While this conversation was going on, we were seated together on a rustic bench apart from the throng, and Mile. de Telusson came to present the Commodore to some other ladies. As soon as the introductions were made I repeated to the whole party what he had just said to me.

"'What beautiful sentiments!' exclaimed Mile. Aimee. 'No one else in the world could be chivalric enough to entertain them! But it is like him; and he has no equal among men!

This, according to Miss Edes, was said with "passionate vehemence and entire disregard of environment that left no doubt in my mind as to what had become of Aimée's heart. As for the Chevalier, he listened with a half affectionate, half amused expression, and said only in reply that it was not in his power to suitably express the sentiments that such honours stirred within him. 'And,' he added, 'you know, ladies, that I am but a simple sailor, unaccustomed to such graces as yours.'"

It is strange that two lovers whose devotion lasted fourteen years should have never married; each was independent, and there would have been no family council to raise obstacles. Is there truth in the whisper that, in his very early days, the Chevalier fell desperately in love with some one with whom marriage was out of the question—and remained single for memory's sake? Was the mystery over his birth the restraining influence, or was glory the mistress he loved before any other? Paul carefully destroyed the numerous letters received from Aimee during so long a time, which would have been of the greatest interest, covering, as they did, many years of their lives, and but few of his to her survive.

Jones constantly received unsolicited requests from all sorts of men, begging to be allowed to join any expedition he thought of organising, for the distinction of serving under his banner.

He met and patched up a truce with John Adams at one of those economical and intellectual suppers given by Franklin, where the board was more graced by wit and learning than groaning under good cheer, and Adams, to some extent, helped him with his prize-money claims. But, under the surface, Adams always disliked the Commodore, and at this moment (1779) wrote of him as "ambitious and intriguing." These feelings he had the tact to keep to himself, for Paul was much too popular for it to be prudent to disparage him openly. The substratum of jealousy, the wounded vanity in Adams's puritanical nature, never forgave Jones, and as long afterwards as 1813 he referred to the dead man as "a foreigner of the south arrogating to himself merit that belongs to New England sailors." But where, one asks, would the "New England sailors" have been, had their commander been one of Adams's inefficient captains on such occasions as the fights with the Drake and the Serapis?

Paul's Parisian stay was brief, filled to the last minute with innumerable hospitalities, and he returned to l'Orient, missed by those who loved him, who daily poured their plaints on to sheets of stiff white paper, carefully folded and sealed with the hearts, cupids and other devices suitable to the contents.

His chère Airnée wrote on the 28th August, 1780—

"Since your departure, my dear Commodore, I have done little else than answer inquiries concerning you from your legion of feminine worshippers. 'Is he going to sea again?' 'Has the King given him a new command?' 'When will he return hither?' are questions constantly addressed to me by all the fair world. In vain I expostulate that I am not your gaoler! That you honour me only as you do them, with your society betimes, and regale me only as you do them, with your exhaustless wit and graces.

"They will not have it so, but declare one and all that I am the chosen one. Only yesterday the Comtesse de la Vendhal said to me: 'Alas, my poor husband; he is so good, and withal so dull! What would I not give to be, as you are, enshrined in the affections of a heart like that of Paul Jones; to know that devotion and affection for me were cherished in that same bosom that holds the courage that made him conquer in a battle the like of which is unheard of? Do not fail, my dearest Aimee, to plume yourself upon your conquest. You are, as we all know, the daughter of a king. But, far more than that, you are, as all equally know, the beloved of a hero!

"Now, my dear Commodore, what can I say in reward of such compliments? Surely I can say nothing that would be adequate. But I never permit myself to doubt that what all say must be true. I could not doubt it without despair. Fortuneless as I am, and dependent upon the charity of a benefactress who, I believe, has taken me in place of a child of her own, denied to her in the providence of God, I am richly content so to be, if only I may trustfully believe that I have your affection.

"Her Royal Highness (Duchesse de Chartres) has told me since you went away that there is no doubt of your receiving command of another squadron by direct order of his Majesty and without interference of M. de C or any other interested person. She tells me H. M. (the King) has said you shall have the Serapis as soon as she is fitted out; your own prize, gained by such desperate valour—by valour like unto the legend of La Tour d'Auvergne.

Necessarily I hope so. It will take you once more away from me, amid perils no one can foresee the end of; but all in pursuit of glory and in defence of our common cause. For that, and that alone, I am willing to deny myself all; even the rapture of being with you soon again.

"When you are in readiness with your new argosy to sail in quest of another Golden Fleece, may not your poor little Aimée Adele come to l'Orient to say 'Bon Voyage? True, I cannot, indulge the fancy that such a parting would in any way influence your chivalry, which needs not reinforcement; but it would enable a poor little waif who loves you to see for once her hero with his armour on in all panoply of battle.


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