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John Paul Jones
Chapter VIII - 1777


IT seems odd that, save for the fleeting amours of the sailor, there is no woman's name linked with that of the gallant Paul Jones in his early life. Rover as he was, he could have had his choice of the fair in many strange lands, from the prim Puritan, to the more informal, grass petticoated, bead-necklaced, dusky belle of the tropics. Was there some hidden love? Is it she to whom he alludes in his letter to the Countess of Selkirk as "hopes of a domestic bliss"? All is now so vague that we shall have to be content with the romantic and very intense affair which kept his heart in France until the day of his death.

Aimée de Telusson, a fit love for this man of mystery and strange fascination, was a king's daughter. Supported by a pension from the Court, and living with her protectress, Madame de Marsan, under the patronage of great ladies, such as the Duchesse de Chartres, the Queen, Madame de Lafayette and others, she enjoyed a unique position in society.

Louis XV, of gay memory, had in his service a confidential valet—sometimes called by a more classical name—le Bel, who, in company with Madame de Pompadour, looked after the well-being of that unique retreat, le parc aux cerfs, and saw that the inmates thereof were, literally, "to the King's taste." Le Bel, one day lounging about the gardens of the Tuileries, ever with an eye on the main chance, saw a most lovely child, about twelve years of age. After some negotiation he bought her from her parents, who were impoverished members of the lesser nobility of Provence, and assumed all the expenses of her education. She was put in the hands of a Madame Bertrand, who taught her the polite accomplishments and what she considered fitting, and the girl passed two years under her influence, growing more beautiful as time went on. When she was fourteen it was arranged that she should be introduced into the palace by the accommodating le Bel, where she at once charmed the critical and jaded taste of the blasé King, and, with the connivance of Madame de Pompadour, always obliging in these affairs, was given apartments in the vast palace, where one girl more or less was not heeded.

Louis XV, unlike his illustrious grandfather, had a saving and thrifty disposition. His predecessor had legitimised and dowered the large family of natural children of whom he was the reputed father, so they finally became a fearful drain on France, and a scandal to the Courts of Europe. But this King inherited the thrift of his mother, Adelaide of Savoie, and when such a contretemps happened, gave the lady a specified sum of money, a present of jewels, and there the matter ended. He never saw mother or child again. More often than not, the girls were able to marry very well, for the dowry provided by the King closed the eyes of would-be husbands to early misfortunes. Madame de Pompadour generally managed these maria qes de convenance, as she did the parc aux cerfs, and other details of the secret history of the palace.

A strange connection, that—a royal lover, bored with his mistress, yet retreading the familiar way to her apartments from sheer force of habit. The favourite, weary of the monarch, but clinging to her empire, cared so little that she found playthings for him, and by this cunning in providing the toy of an hour, was able to keep her inflexible hand on the reins of power, which she so long and so despotically handled. With her lettres-de-cachet, her court of sycophants, her undisputed power, la. Marquise de Pompadour was satisfied. She had never been a woman of amorous temperament, and her confidences about the chocolate are both spicy and edifying.

Mademoiselle de Tiercelin, upon being taken under the King's protection, was commanded to assume the name of de Bonneval. The King behaved generously to her when her brief reign was over, providing amply for the child, which was born in 1758. Mademoiselle de Bonneval, at the age of fifteen, found herself with a daughter and a personal annuity of twelve thousand livres a year, separate provision being made for the child. Shortly after this the Due de Choiseul, for some reason which does not seem very clear, accuses de Tiercelin of being in correspondence with Frederick the Great's Court, and sends him and his daughter to the Bastille. Thanks to her powerful protector, the lady was released immediately. It is not unlikely the pretext of corresponding with Frederick the Great was used as a cloak for de Tiercelin's disappearance, as he was inclined to boast and presume on the fact of being grandfather to the child of a king. The bar-sinister was no drawback in the eyes of the many, and once before for the same reason he had been obliged to retire to the shadows of the Bastille.

Madame de Pompadour in 1761 arranged a marriage for "Mademoiselle de Bonneval" with an official in the Clzaizcelleiie de la Marine, a M. de Telluson, widower with two children, and her child was afterwards known by this name. So we come to Aimee de Telusson.

The girl was well educated, thanks to the provision of the King, constantly under the unsparing eye of the Pompadour, and shared the every-clay life of her mother's step-children. Possibly Madame 'de Pompadour had her part in life arranged, but that lady's death in 1764 altered the complexion of her future. All went well until she reached the age of sixteen, in 1774, when her father, the King, died in circumstances too generally known to need relating. In a moment Aimee was without income of any sort, though her mother's annuity continued. It seems odd that this money, which, like the allowance for her daughter's maintenance and education, was paid out of the King's privy purse, should have been continued by Louis XVI, while Aimée was left penniless. There were ructions of some sort, for Mademoiselle de Telusson instantly left her step-father's house to live with the Marquise de Marsan, who treated her as a daughter. Her education was lavishly completed by the generosity of this good lady, and Aime's passion for music encouraged in every way. She sang charmingly and was, later, "spoken of as the most finished performer on the guitar at Court."

Though without fortune, she did not lack suitors, hut, with the indifference of a girl who has never loved, paid little heed to their wooing. To those who delight in constancy, it may be said that Paul Jones was her first lover, her only love. It was at a ball given by the Duchesse de Chartres in 1778 that Aimée first met the man of whom France was talking.

Paul, from all accounts, was very much of a ladies' man; as keen a pursuer of Venus as in war he was a follower of Mars. He had only to pick and choose, and danced from flower to flower like the lightest butterfly of fashion. There were adoring dames and 'damsels ready to strew his path with roses and cast themselves under the wheels of the conqueror's chariot at a nod from the head they would fain have weighted with laurels. But the Captain was wise in his generation, and, though he burned his incense at many a shrine, was most circumspect.

The "dashing Comtesse 'de la Vandhal" seemed to have no objection to indulge a little harmless gallantry on the part of the famous American Commodore. She was a clever miniature painter, one of Van der Huyt's pupils, and either she or her master painted the best miniature of the hero which exists. This she gave to Jones, who declared himself so enraptured with the work of art that he was like a "second Narcissus, in love with his own resemblance." He spared no effort to make himself popular, at the same time not completely hiding his penchant for Mademoiselle de Telusson from eyes that had no other aim in life than to ferret out the secrets of those who surrounded them. From her parentage Aimée 'de Telusson enjoyed a certain notoriety, making her movements remarked inseparably from the sensation caused by her beauty, which was of a most striking type. Allowing for that difference between masculine and feminine good looks, she may be said to have strongly resembled her father, who as a youth was considered the ideal of manly perfection. She was "petite, extremely vivacious, and of most charming temper, and possessed of all the polite accomplishments." Her hair, which fell in rippling masses almost to the ground, was of a "deep auburn, often in a bright light having the hue of red gold." Her eyes "were large, dark and lustrous, and her complexion the perfection of pink and white, and—most important detail in feminine eyes—" though in her twenty-sixth year, she passes everywhere for a girl of twenty," the description being written about 1784. Thanks to her lover's interest, she perfected herself in English and also Spanish, singing melting little ballads in the tongue of fair Andalusia, to the soft strum of the guitar, an instrument undeniably invented for the display of her charms.

There has been much speculation as to the relations of this extraordinary pair; the child of a king—and Paul Jones. From what is known of the manners of the late eighteenth century, the tempestuous emotions of a man of his type in the prime of life, and a girl of her ancestry, speculation seems idle. The affair lasted fourteen years, until his death in 1792. It endured through absence, through the miserable farce of his command in the Russian navy, where, for two years, he never received a letter from her or from one of his friends, so determined were his enemies to cut him off from the world. Aware of the espionage to which all correspondence was subjected in France, his epistles are models of discretion. He writes of her frequently in his letters to Jefferson, some ten years later, when the latter was American Minister to France, and Paul in New York. He provided financially for her, when by Madame de Marsan's death she was left penniless, and, well aware that the contents of his letter would he back-stairs gossip before it reached the "fair mourner," wrote to console her in the pedantic style then in vogue.

New York, September 4, 1787.

"MY DEAR MADAME,
"No language can convey to my fair mourner the tender sorrow I feel on her account. The loss of our worthy and noble friend is indeed a fatal stroke! It is an irreparable misfortune which can only be alleviated by the one reflection that it is the will of God, whose providence I hope may yet have blessings in store for us. The noble Marquise was more than a mother to you. We have lost her. Let us cherish her memory, and send up grateful thanks to the Almighty that we once had such a friend."

Through the influence of her friends at Court, it had been arranged some time previously that Mademoiselle de Telusson should be received by the King, who, it was hoped in the circumstances, would order some provision to be made for her, and this Jones alludes to, saying I cannot but flatter myself that you have yourself gone to the King in J Lily, as he appointed audience for you. 1 am sure that your present loss and bereavement will newly induce him to protect you and render to you justice. He will hear you, I am sure, and you may safely unbosom yourself to him, telling him frankly all your relations, and asking his advice, which cannot but he agreeable to him to give you."

Is it probable that the suggestion, "tell him all your relations," could point to the fact of a contemplated marriage between the lovers? Or was she to explain to the King the already existing relations? The only other "relations" Aimée had, were her half-sisters, her step-father and mother, and Jones would not have troubled himself about them. And, again, why did they never marry Though Mademoiselle de Telusson had no fortune, the Chevalier, as he was then, had means for an establishment, and with his opportunities could have assured his future.

A streak of jealousy creeps out in the advice, "Tell him"—the King—"that you must now look to him as your father and protector. If it were necessary, I think that the Comte d'Artois, his brother, would on your personal application render you good office by speaking in your favour. I should like it better, however, if you do without him." This is rather amusing, as the Comte d'Artois was in reality a nephew, a la main gauche, to Aimée. Canny Paul, like the rest of the world, knew the reputation borne by this prince, whose affability towards all charming dames made him as popular among the ladies of the Court as with those of the opera, for whose entertainment he spared no expense in furnishing those wonderful petites maisons, which scandalous whispers proclaimed more amazing than the glories of the Arabian Nights.

Paul laments the depression prevailing in the United States in i 87, "where for thirty-six thousand livres of prime securities I am offered fifteen thousand," declaring himself "puzzled for, and at this moment almost without, money," and, while not "resourceless by any means, cannot realise on my securities quickly without sacrifices, I am not willing to make.

"I have written to Dr. Bancroft in London, who has in his hands over forty thousand livres for me in ready cash, to assist me in meeting your present needs. When this reaches you, call on Al. le Grand, and presenting this as a credential, ask him to hand you 4000 livres from my Holland account. He will know what that means. I enclose a bit of paper in cipher with my signature. I need not translate it to you, but it is a form of order for the amount mentioned.

I do this and mention these facts with infinite regret, and for no other reason than because it is impossible for me to transmit to you all supply under my present circumstances.

This is my fifth letter to you since I left Paris.

Finally, my dearest friend, summon all your resolution. Exert yourself and plead your own cause. You cannot fail of success. The justice of your cause and the charm of your entreaties would move a heart of flint! . . Present my tender respects to your sister. . . . I persuade myself that she will continue her tender care of her sweet little godson and that you will cover him all over with kisses from me. . .

Who was the "sweet little godson" whom the writer wished to have covered with kisses? There was such a holocaust of every kind of record during the Revolution, that what proof there may have been has vanished; we can only surmise. There is the question, if there was a child, why is there not even the briefest mention of him in all the voluminous papers the Chevalier left?

It is quite probable that the child died from one of the many infantile complaints so little understood then, or, that the papers relating to him, if he was their child, were destroyed by Aimée or perished in the Revolution, which carried everything relating to law and order before its tidal wave, on which, at last, we lose sight of the fair Aimée herself.

Being always in the glare of publicity, if the child was hers, it is odd that he was not even alluded to by some of the light pens scratching so incessantly. There was little fuss made about a child born in or out of wedlock, for, if all accounts are to be believed, the chubby little cherubs appeared in families with the promiscuousness of rabbits. Mademoiselle de Telusson's step-sister, just mentioned, was some years her senior, and the wife of an officer in the Marine Artillery, the Chevalier de Thouvenot.

There are constant allusions to Aimee and the Chevalier Jones in the memoirs written around 1787, when he came to France as agent to adjust the unsettled prize-money claims. Some say he never lived under the same roof with her, merely cherishing her with his natural tender gallantry towards all women. It is unnecessary to add that this anaemic view of their relations is not the suggestion of their French contemporaries. Like most women of her ardent colouring, she was not lacking in temperament. She could hate, and she could love. The charm of royal blood was hers, and at times a touch of quick, though unconscious arrogance, which would not have disgraced her father, displayed over some trivial concern, charmed and amused her lover, who in the end she would cajole with an imploring appeal for the opinion of "mon Paul." She was a woman of great intelligence, and no small aid in guiding her lover through those niceties of French society to which, from her childhood, she had been accustomed, and that Paul never made a faux pas may he owing to this feminine influence.

She was a remarkable woman, this dainty Aimee, with her rippling "sun-kissed tresses," her enchanting coquetries, and her taper fingers, made to he kissed. Though domineering at times, she idolised Paul. Shortly before his death he settled an annuity on her, giving her a house in the Rue de Provence, a street opened a few years before. Here she lived after his death, attracting a distinguished circle around her living the life of the world, while her heart was with her dead.

When in 1799 Capelle published his book on Paul Jones, she aided him with much general information relating to the Russian campaign, including letters from Potemkin, Marshal Suwarrow and the Semiramis of the North, and allowed him to publish a few of her lover's letters to herself. As they invariably began, "My dear Madame," except in one or two, where he called her his "Dear Adele," and were mostly about current affairs, she could have no hesitancy in letting them be read by the world. Where she was during the height of the Revolution is not known. Perhaps she left France, for, being of royal blood, the mob would not have spared her had its thoughts flown that way. It is unlikely her annuity was derived from French sources, as her lover was a man of much business acumen and probably invested in English or Dutch securities. With the curtailment of Marie Antoinette's retinue, when the Court moved to the Tuileries, Aimee lost her post of reader, which she had filled for some time. From T792 to 1799 she disappeared, but we find her in the latter year teaching English to the young ladies at Madame de Campan's school. Her lover had insisted that she should perfect herself in his tongue, and, besides teaching her himself, employed Miss Edes-Herbert to give her lessons during the sojourn of that lady in Paris. After this she taught the ladies of Josephine's gaudy mushroom Court, also giving them lectures on the Court of Louis XVI and the American War of 1775-83.

Aimée was consulted by Barre very frequently, when he was editor of Napoleon's official gazette, and translated for him those articles from the English papers which the policy of the First Consul found wise to lay before the French nation. She had the entree of the Imperial Court as she had enjoyed the friendship of those former great ones Napoleon so loved to gather about him, no matter how high the price of their favour.

"Loose as the morals of the Bourbon Courts were, Aimee de Telusson held her head up as proudly as any woman of less clouded birthright might have done. She was the pet of such women as the Duchesse de Chartres, the Comtesse de Bourbon, the Princesse de Lamballe, the Marquise de Marsan, Madame de Lafayette, and a host of others—social leaders like them, and she even enjoyed the sympathy, if not the patronage, of the cold and prudish Marie Antoinette herself.

"But little knowledge of the real character of Paul Jones, but little insight into the alike fierce and gentle chivalry that was the inspiration of all his conduct, are needed to perceive that his public attentions to the lovely woman who gave herself to him with a singleness of devotion seldom seen, would naturally have been of the most discreet character and studiously planned to mask any relation, or semblance of one, equivocal.

"As for the absence of contemporary animadversions, we think it may be concisely accounted for by the knowledge, general at the time, of the Commodore's abrupt and not always altogether harmless methods of adjusting personal affairs, either on his own behalf or on that of those who might claim his protection or enjoy his affection."


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