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The Good French Governess
by [?]

Among the sufferers during the bloody reign of Robespierre, was Mad. de Rosier, a lady of good family, excellent understanding, and most amiable character. Her husband, and her only son, a promising young man of about fourteen, were dragged to the horrid prison of the Conciergerie, and their names, soon afterward, appeared in the list of those who fell a sacrifice to the tyrant’s cruelty. By the assistance of a faithful domestic, Mad. de Rosier, who was destined to be the next victim, escaped from France, and took refuge in England–England!–that generous country, which, in favour of the unfortunate, forgets her national prejudices, and to whom, in their utmost need, even her ” natural enemies ” fly for protection. English travellers have sometimes been accused of forgetting the civilities which they receive in foreign countries; but their conduct towards the French emigrants has sufficiently demonstrated the injustice of this reproach.

Mad. de Rosier had reason to be pleased by the delicacy of several families of distinction in London, who offered her their services under the name of gratitude; but she was incapable of encroaching upon the kindness of her friends. Misfortune had not extinguished the energy of her mind, and she still possessed the power of maintaining herself honourably by her own exertions. Her character and her abilities being well known, she easily procured recommendations as a preceptress. Many ladies anxiously desired to engage such a governess for their children, but Mrs. Harcourt had the good fortune to obtain the preference.

Mrs. Harcourt was a widow, who had been a very fine woman, and continued to be a very fine lady; she had good abilities, but, as she lived in a constant round of dissipation, she had not time to cultivate her understanding, or to attend to the education of her family; and she had satisfied her conscience by procuring for her daughters a fashionable governess and expensive masters. The governess whose place Mad. de Rosier was now to supply, had quitted her pupils, to go abroad with a lady of quality, and Mrs. Harcourt knew enough of the world to bear her loss without emotion;–she, however, stayed at home one whole evening, to receive Mad. de Rosier, and to introduce her to her pupils. Mrs. Harcourt had three daughters and a son–Isabella, Matilda, Favoretta, and Herbert. Isabella was about fourteen; her countenance was intelligent, but rather too expressive of confidence in her own capacity, for she had, from her infancy, been taught to believe that she was a genius. Her memory had been too much cultivated; she had learned languages with facility, and had been taught to set a very high value upon her knowledge of history and chronology. Her temper had been hurt by flattery, yet she was capable of feeling all the generous passions.

Matilda was a year younger than Isabella; she was handsome, but her countenance, at first view, gave the idea of hopeless indolence; she did not learn the French and Italian irregular verbs by rote as expeditiously as her sister, and her impatient preceptress pronounced, with an irrevocable nod, that Miss Matilda was no genius. The phrase was quickly caught by her masters, so that Matilda, undervalued even by her sister, lost all confidence in herself, and with the hope of success, lost the wish for exertion. Her attention gradually turned to dress and personal accomplishments; not that she was vain of her beauty, but she had more hopes of pleasing by the graces of her person than of her mind. The timid, anxious blush, which Mad. De Rosier observed to vary in Matilda’s countenance, when she spoke to those for whom she felt affection, convinced this lady that, if Matilda were no genius, it must have been the fault of her education. On sensibility, all that is called genius, perhaps, originally depends: those who are capable of feeling a strong degree of pain and pleasure may surely be excited to great and persevering exertion, by calling the proper motives into action.