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The Lady of La Garaye. Norton, Caroline Sheridan, 1808–1877.
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The Lady of La Garaye

By the

Hon. Mrs. Norton.

London: Macmillan and Co. 1866.

[The Right of Translation and Reproduction is reserved.]
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  • FRIEND of old days, of suffering, storm, and strife,
  • Patient and kind through many a wild appeal;
  • In the arena of thy brilliant life
  • Never too busy or too cold to feel:
  • Companion from whose ever teeming store
  • Of thought and knowledge, happy memory brings
  • So much of social wit and sage’s lore,
  • Garnered and gleaned by me as precious things:
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  • Kinsman of him whose very name soon grew
  • Unreal as music heard in pleasant dreams,
  • So vain the hope my girlish fancy drew,
  • So faint and far his vanished presence seems.
  • To thee I dedicate this record brief
  • Of foreign scenes and deeds too little known;
  • This tale of noble souls who conquered grief
  • By dint of tending sufferings not their own.
  • Thou hast known all my life: its pleasant hours,
  • (How many of them have I owed to thee!)
  • Its exercise of intellectual powers,
  • With thoughts of fame and gladness not to be.
  • Thou knowest how Death for ever dogged my way,
  • And how of those I loved the best, and those
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  • Who loved and pitied me in life’s young day,
  • Narrow, and narrower still, the circle grows.
  • Thou knowest—for thou hast proved—the dreary shade
  • A first‐born’s loss casts over lonely days;
  • And gone is now the pale fond smile, that made
  • In my dim future, yet, a path of rays.
  • Gone, the dear comfort of a voice whose sound
  • Came like a beacon‐bell, heard clear above
  • The whirl of violent waters surging round;
  • Speaking to shipwrecked ears of help and love.
  • The joy that budded on my own youth’s bloom,
  • When life wore still a glory and a gloss,
  • Is hidden from me in the silent tomb;
  • Smiting with premature unnatural loss,
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  • So that my very soul is wrung with pain,
  • Meeting old friends whom most I love to see.
  • Where are the younger lives, since these remain?
  • I weep the eyes that should have wept for me!
  • But all the more I cling to those who speak
  • Like thee, in tones unaltered by my change;
  • Greeting my saddened glance, and faded cheek,
  • With the same welcome that seemed sweet and strange
  • In early days: when I, of gifts made proud,
  • That could the notice of such men beguile,
  • Stood listening to thee in some brilliant crowd,
  • With the warm triumph of a youthful smile.
  • Oh! little now remains of all that was!
  • Even for this gift of linking measured words,
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  • My heart oft questions, with discouraged pause,
  • Does music linger in the slackening chords?
  • Yet, friend, I feel not that all power is fled,
  • While offering to thee, for the kindly years,
  • The intangible gift of thought, whose silver thread
  • Heaven keeps untarnished by our bitterest tears.
  • So, in the brooding calm that follows woe,
  • This tale of LA GARAYE I fain would tell,—
  • As, when some earthly storm hath ceased to blow,
  • And the huge mounting sea hath ceased to swell;
  • After the maddening wrecking and the roar,
  • The wild high dash, the moaning sad retreat,
  • Some cold slow wave creeps faintly to the shore,
  • And leaves a white shell at the gazer’s feet.
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  • Take, then, the poor gift in thy faithful hand;
  • Measure its worth not merely by my own,
  • But hold it dear as gathered from the sand
  • Where so much wreck of youth and hope lies strown.
  • So, if in years to come my words abide—
  • Words of the dead to stir some living brain—
  • When thoughtful readers lay my book aside,
  • Musing on all it tells of joy and pain,
  • Towards thee, good heart, towards thee their thoughts shall roam,
  • Whose unforsaking faith time hath not riven;
  • And to their minds this just award shall come,
  • ’Twas a TRUE friend to whom such thanks were given!
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IT is pleasant to me to be able to assure my readers that the story I have undertaken to versify is in no respect a fiction. I have added nothing to the beautiful and striking simplicity of the events it details. I have respected that mournful “romance of real life” too much to spoil its lessons by any poetical licence. Nothing is mine in this story but the language in which it is told. The portrait of the Countess de la Garaye is copied from an authentic picture preserved in one of the religious houses of Dinan, in Brittany, where the Hospital of Incurables, page: 10 founded by her and her husband, still subsists. The ruined château and its ivy‐covered gateway are faithfully given, without embellishment or alteration, as they appeared when I saw them in the year 1860. The château is rapidly crumbling. The memory of the De la Garayes is fresh in the memory of the people. They died within two years of each other, and were buried among their poor in the district of Taden; having, both during their lives and by will after death, contributed the greater part of their fortune to the wisest and most carefully conducted charities. Among the bequests left by the Count de la Garaye, was one especially interesting to this country; for he left a large sum to the prisoners of Rennes and Dinan, consisting principally of English officers and soldiers who where suffering, in these crowded foreign jails, all the horrors page: 11 which the philanthropic Howard endeavoured to reform in his own land; and which at one time caused a sort of plague to break out in Dinan. This humane bequest is the more remarkable, as the Count was, in spite of the gentleness and generosity of his feelings towards imprisoned foes, patriotic enough to insist on marching to oppose the landing of the English on the coast of France in 1746, though he was then upwards of seventy years of age!

He was of noble family, being the younger son of Guillaume Marot, Count de la Garaye, Governor of the town and castle of Dinan;—that strong fortress which Anne of Brittany, in her threatened dominions, playfully termed the “key of her casket.” By the death of his elder brother, he became inheritor of the family honours, and married Mademoiselle de la Motte‐Piquet, niece page: 12 of the Chevalier de la Motte‐Piquet, who so greatly distinguished himself in the American war. Claude‐Toussaint, Count de la Garaye, was a man personally attractive in appearance and manner, and very dexterous in fencing and feats of horsemanship. To the plaintive beauty of his wife’s portrait I have scarcely been able to render justice, even with the advantage of its being engraved by Mr. Shaw.

Those who may desire to read the narrative in plain prose, will find a notice of the Château de la Garaye in the “Recherches sur Dinan et ses Environs,” by Luigi Odorici, Curator of the Museum of that town, and in the travelling guide lately issued by M. Peignet, both works published on the spot. Allusion is also made to the story, or rather to the beneficient works of charity performed by the De la Garayes, in page: 13 Madame de Genlis’ “Adèle et Théodore;” but inasmuch as she has totally altered the real circumstances, and attributed these holy deeds to the result of grief for the loss of a daughter, even while admitting in a foot‐note that she is aware the De la Garayes never had a child, and that all is her own invention, I do not think it necessary further to allude to her version of the tale; more striking in its unadorned beauty than all the art of the poet or romancist could make it.

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