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.
"Sir, you give me inexpressible Sorrow for the Anguish with which I
see you overwhelmed. I am removed to all Intents and Purposes from
the Interests of human Life, therefore I am to begin to think like
one wholly unconcerned in it. I do not consider you as one by whose
Error I have lost my Life; no, you are my Benefactor, as you have
hasten'd my Entrance into a happy Immortality. This is my Sense of
this Accident; but the World in which you live may have Thoughts of
it to your Disadvantage, I have therefore taken Care to provide for
you in my Will, and have placed you above what you have to fear from
While this excellent Woman spoke these Words, Festeau looked as if he received a Condemnation to die, instead of a Pension for his Life. Madam de Villacerfe lived till Eight of [the] Clock the next Night; and tho she must have laboured under the most exquisite Torments, she possessed her Mind with so wonderful a Patience, that one may rather say she ceased to breathe than she died at that hour. You who had not the happiness to be personally known to this Lady, have nothing but to rejoyce in the Honour you had of being related to so great Merit; but we who have lost her Conversation, cannot so easily resign our own Happiness by Reflection upon hers. I am, SIR, Your affectionate Kinsman, and most obedient humble Servant, Paul Regnaud.
There hardly can be a greater Instance of an Heroick Mind, than the unprejudiced Manner in which this Lady weighed this Misfortune. The regard of Life itself could not make her overlook the Contrition of the unhappy Man, whose more than Ordinary Concern for her was all his Guilt. It would certainly be of singular Use to human Society to have an exact Account of this Lady's ordinary Conduct, which was Crowned by so uncommon Magnanimity. Such Greatness was not to be acquired in her last Article, nor is it to be doubted but it was a constant Practice of all that is praise-worthy, which made her capable of beholding Death, not as the Dissolution, but Consummation of her Life.
T.Translation of motto: