Friday, May 2, 1712. Steele.
Lugere ubi esset aliquis in lucem editus
Humanae vitae varia reputantes mala;
At qui labores morte finisset graves
Omnes amices laude et laetitia exequi.’
Eurip. apud Tull.
As the Spectator is in a Kind a Paper of News from the natural World, as others are from the busy and politick Part of Mankind, I shall translate the following Letter written to an eminent French Gentleman in this Town from Paris, which gives us the Exit of an Heroine who is a Pattern of Patience and Generosity.
Paris, April 18, 1712.
It is so many Years since you left your native Country, that I am to tell you the Characters of your nearest Relations as much as if you were an utter Stranger to them. The Occasion of this is to give you an account of the Death of Madam de Villacerfe, whose Departure out of this Life I know not whether a Man of your Philosophy will call unfortunate or not, since it was attended with some Circumstances as much to be desired as to be lamented. She was her whole Life happy in an uninterrupted Health, and was always honoured for an Evenness of Temper and Greatness of Mind. On the 10th instant that Lady was taken with an Indisposition which confined her to her Chamber, but was such as was too slight to make her take a sick Bed, and yet too grievous to admit of any Satisfaction in being out of it. It is notoriously known, that some Years ago Monsieur Festeau, one of the most considerable Surgeons in Paris, was desperately in love with this Lady: Her Quality placed her above any Application to her on the account of his Passion; but as a Woman always has some regard to the Person whom she believes to be her real Admirer, she now took it in her head (upon Advice of her Physicians to lose some of her Blood) to send for Monsieur Festeau on that occasion. I happened to be there at that time, and my near Relation gave me the Privilege to be present. As soon as her Arm was stripped bare, and he began to press it in order to raise the Vein, his Colour changed, and I observed him seized with a sudden Tremor, which made me take the liberty to speak of it to my Cousin with some Apprehension: She smiled, and said she knew Mr. Festeau had no Inclination to do her Injury. He seemed to recover himself, and smiling also proceeded in his Work. Immediately after the Operation he cried out, that he was the most unfortunate of all Men, for that he had open’d an Artery instead of a Vein. It is as impossible to express the Artist’s Distraction as the Patient’s Composure. I will not dwell on little Circumstances, but go on to inform you, that within three days time it was thought necessary to take off her Arm. She was so far from using Festeau as it would be natural to one of a lower Spirit to treat him, that she would not let him be absent from any Consultation about her present Condition, and on every occasion asked whether he was satisfy’d in the Measures [that] were taken about her. Before this last Operation she ordered her Will to be drawn, and after having been about a quarter of an hour alone, she bid the Surgeons, of whom poor Festeau was one, go on in their Work. I know not how to give you the Terms of Art, but there appeared such Symptoms after the Amputation of her Arm, that it was visible she could not live four and twenty hours. Her Behaviour was so magnanimous throughout this whole Affair, that I was particularly curious in taking Notice of what passed as her Fate approached nearer and nearer, and took Notes of what she said to all about her, particularly Word for Word what she spoke to Mr. Festeau, which was as follows.