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The Lady of La Garaye. Norton, Caroline Sheridan, 1808–1877.
page: 9


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.