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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Princess de Lamballe

By Henry Austin Dobson (1840–1921)

From ‘Four Frenchwomen’

A TENDER wife, a loving daughter, and a loyal friend,—shall we not here lay down upon the grave of Marie de Lamballe our reverential tribute, our little chaplet of immortelles, in the name of all good women, wives, and daughters?

“Elle était mieux femme que les autres.” To us that apparently indefinite, exquisitely definite sentence most fitly marks the distinction between the subjects of the two preceding papers and the subject of the present. It is a transition from the stately figure of a marble Agrippina to the breathing, feeling woman at your side; it is the transition from the statuesque Rachelesque heroines of a David to the “small sweet idyl” of a Greuze. And, we confess it, we were not wholly at ease with those tragic, majestic figures. We shuddered at the dagger and the bowl which suited them so well. We marveled at their bloodless serenity, their superhuman self-sufficiency; inly we questioned if they breathed and felt. Or was their circulation a matter of machinery—a mere dead-beat escapement? We longed for the sexe prononcé of Rivarol—we longed for the showman’s “female woman!” We respected and we studied, but we did not love them. With Madame de Lamballe the case is otherwise. Not grand like this one, not heroic like that one, “elle est mieux femme que les autres.”

She at least is woman—after a fairer fashion—after a truer type. Not intellectually strong like Manon Philipon, not Spartan-souled like Marie de Corday, she has still a rare intelligence, a courage of affection. She has that clairvoyance of the heart which supersedes all the stimulants of mottoes from Reynel or maxims from Rousseau; she has that “angel instinct” which is a juster lawgiver than Justinian. It was thought praise to say of the Girondist lady that she was a greater man than her husband; it is praise to say of this queen’s friend that she was more woman than Madame Roland. Not so grand, not so great, we like the princess best. Elle est mieux femme que les autres.