Fanny Burney, Evelina : Vol. 1, Ch. 16

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Letter XVI

EVELINA TO THE REV. MR. VILLARS Queen Ann Street, Thursday morning,
April 14.

BEFORE our dinner was over yesterday Madame Duval came to tea; though it will lessen your surprise, to hear that it was near five o'clock, for we never dine till the day is almost over. She was asked into another room while the table was cleared, and then was invited to partake of the dessert.

She was attended by a French gentleman, whom she introduced by the name of Monsieur Du Bois: Mrs. Mirvan received them both with her usual politeness; but the Captain looked very much displeased; and after a short silence, very sternly said to Madame Duval, "Pray who asked you to bring that there sparkw with you?"

"O," cried she, "I never go no where without him."

Another short silence ensued, which was terminated by the Captain's turning roughly to the foreigner, and saying, "Do you know, Monseer, that you are the first Frenchman I ever let come into my house?"

Monsieur Du Bois made a profound bow. He speaks no English, and understands it so imperfectly, that he might possibly imagine he had received a compliment.

Mrs. Mirvan endeavourd to divert the Captain's ill-humour, by starting new subjects: but he left to her all the trouble of supporting them, and leant back in his chair in gloomy silence, except when any opportunity offered of uttering some sarcasm upon the French. Finding her efforts to render the evening agreeable were fruitless, Mrs. Mirvan proposed a party to Ranelaghw. Madame Duval joyfully consented to it; and the Captain though he railed against the dissipation of the women, did not oppose it; and therefore Maria and I ran up stairs to dress ourselves.

Before we were ready, word was brought us that Sir Clement Willoughby was in the drawing-room. He introduced himself under the pretence of inquiring after all our healths, and entered the room with the easy air of an old acquaintance; though Mrs. Mirvan confessed that he seemed embarrassed when he found how coldly he was received, not only by the Captain, but by herself.

I was extremely disconcerted at the thoughts of seeing this man again, and did not go downstairs till I was called to tea. He was then deeply engaged in a discourse upon French manners with Madame Duval and the Captain; and the subject seemed so entirely to engross him, that he did not, at first, observe my entrance into the room. Their conversation was supported with great vehemence; the Captain roughly maintaining the superiority of the English in every particular, and Madame Duval warmly refusing to allow of it in any; while Sir Clement exerted all his powers of argument and of ridicule, to second and strengthen whatever was advanced by the Captain: for he had the sagacity to discover, that he could take no method so effectual for making the master of the house his friend, as to make Madame Duval his enemy; and indeed, in a very short time, he had reason to congratulate himself upon his successful discernment.

As soon as he saw me, he made a most respectful bow, and hoped I had not suffered from the fatigue of the ridotto: I made no other answer than a slight inclination of the head, for I was very much ashamed of that whole affair. He then returned to the disputants; where he managed the argument so skilfully, at once provoking Madame Duval, and delighting the Captain, that I could not forbear admiring his address, though I condemned his subtlety. Mrs. Mirvan, dreading such violent antagonists, attempted frequently to change the subject; and she might have succeeded, but for the interposition of Sir Clement, who would not suffer it to be given up, and supported it with such humour and satire, that he seems to have won the Captain's heart; though their united forces so enraged and overpowered Madame Duval, that she really trembled with passion.

I was very glad when Mrs. Mirvan said it was time to be gone. Sir Clement arose to take leave; but the Captain very cordially invited him to join our party: he had an engagement, he said, but would give it up to have that pleasure.

X [w] spark

"A beau, lover, or suitor." OED

 

X [w] Ranelagh

Places

The pleasure garden in Chelsea, one of the London delights Evelina had anticipated in her petition to Villars, Letter VIII. The first attached print from the shop of Thomas Bowles offers a long view of the Rotunda on the right and the gardens fronting on the Thames.   The second, also from Bowles, "The Chinese House, the…

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