Susanna Haswell Rowson (17621824). Charlotte Temple: A Tale of Truth. 1905.
Historical and Biographical Introduction
VI. The Last Days of Montrésor and Montraville
AFTER his arrival home. Colonel Montrésor was often asked to give his views of the American war, and the causes of British defeat. Usually he did so in terms critical and even caustic, disclosing at times a bitterness of sentiment that seems to have sprung from disappointment at not securing promotion. He had ardently desired promotion in accordance with the duration and character of his services in America. Eventually he was made a colonel, but during the years in which he did his important work, including the period when he was Chief Engineer in America, his rank had been no higher than captain or major.
His failure to secure better rank could not have been due to want of a meritorious record. Nor does it seem likely that in that age of bold adventure and dissolute habits among British Army officers, the connection of his name with the tragedy of Charlotte Stanley, if known in London, would have done his professional reputation any serious harm. The more probable reason is that successful engineers in the British Army at that time were not advanced in rank after the manner of successful soldiers. In the present state of the engineer corps, said he, you can be but colonel, should you arrive to be even Chief Engineer of England.
Colonel Montrésor purchased an estate called Belmont, near Faversham, in Kent, and added to his purchase in the same neighborhood afterward. He also had a London house in Portland Place. Belmont some years later was burned, and the house of one of his sons near Belmont was also destroyed. Meanwhile he said his wifes family in America had been reduced from opulence to poverty for their loyalty to the Crown. Before the war he was in independent circumstances, but afterward had all his collateral connections to maintain, and was tormented by a court of inquisition at the Creditors Office.
In 1785 and 1786 he made a tour of France, England, and Switzerland with his family, meeting in Germany several Hessian officers with whom he had served in America, including Knyphausen, then in receipt of a pension of £300 from England, with whom he dined. He complains in his journal that from the Hessians (except Knyphausen) he did not receive the most hospitable treatment, altho he had brought letters from prominent Englishmen. At the Landgravines Court, his welcome, however, was most polite, and even friendly. He died in 1788, in his fifty-first year, his wife surviving him until 1826.
The later career of Montraville, as we obtain glimpses of it in Lucy Temple, published more than thirty years after Charlotte Temple, and in which he appears under the new name of Colonel Franklin (Franklin being the family name of the woman whom Montraville is represented as having married just before Charlotte died), accords somewhat closely with known facts in the life of Montrésor. For example, the author says his home was one of the most elegant in Portland Place, and Belmont is described as Bellview, a large, handsome, and commodious mansion in Faversham, Kent, with several well-tenanted farms, pleasure-house, fish-ponds, green and hot houses.
Colonel Franklin is represented as dying before his time, after a lingering illness. His character in general is summed up as that of a man possessed of patient, noble, and generous feelinga promise of everything that was excellent in character, and desirable in fortuneall blighted by once yielding to the impulses of guilty passion. He would have changed, not only his name, but his own self, could he have done it, so deeply had he desired to blot out the dark stain on his record.
The most striking scene in the book is that in which the author describes Franklins death. Lucy, when approaching her twentieth birthday, had become acquainted with Colonel Franklins son, a young lieutenant. Neither he nor she at the time knew of the relation between their parents, nor of the changes that had taken place in their own names.
Lieutenant Franklin made Lucy an offer of marriage. On her twenty-first birthday she accepted it, and her guardian the same day presented her with a miniature portrait of her mother, taken when she was sixteen years old, and bearing the initials C. T.a portrait she had never before seen. The arrangements for the marriage had been completed, when Lieutenant Franklin was called to London by news of the alarming condition of his father, who, as it proved, lay on his death-bed in the house in Portland Place. The young man had spoken to his father of his approaching marriage, when the following dramatic scene took place:
I have a picture of her mother, said he, putting his hand in his bosom, and it is a good resemblance of herself.
He drew forth the miniature and held it up before his father, who rose up, seized it with a convulsive grasp the moment the light fell on the features, and, looking upon the initials upon the back of it, shrieked out
It isit is come again to blast my vision in my last hour! The woman you would marry is my own daughter! Just heaven! Oh, that I could have been spared this! Go, my son; go to my private desk; you will there find the records of your fathers shame and your own fate.
Nature was exhausted by this effort. He fell back on the bed, supported by his trembling wife, and in a few moments the wretched Franklin, the once gay, gallant, and happy Montraville, was no more .
Closeted with his bosom friend, Edward Ainslie, young Franklin laid before him the manuscript which he had found by his fathers directions. It had been written in deep remorse, and its object was evidently to redeem from obloquy the memory of the unfortunate Charlotte Temple, mother of Lucy Temple Blakeney. He took the whole blame of her ill-fated elopement upon himself; he disclosed circumstances which he had discovered after her decease which proved her faithfulness to himself; and lamented in terms of the deepest sorrow that it was in his power to make her no better reparation for all her love and all her injuries, than the poor one of thus bearing testimony to her truth and his own cruelty and injustice.
Such are the known facts in Montrésors later biography, and such is the picture in Lucy Temple of the melancholy scenes amid which Colonel Franklins life came to its untimely close. These we may cite in support of Mrs. Rowsons statement that the last years of Montravilles life would tend to prove that retribution treads upon the heels of vice.
Of the substantial truth of the story told in Lucy Temple, as affecting Colonel Montrésors last days, there seems to be little room for serious doubt. Samuel L. Knapp who, shortly after Mrs. Rowsons death, wrote the memoir of her that accompanies the first edition of the book (published in 1828, and then called Charlottes Daughter,) knew Mrs. Rowson well. After quoting the remark, made by her in reply to Cobbetts assault, that from the most authentic sources I could now trace his [Montravilles] history from the period of his marriage to within a very few late years of his death, Mr. Knapp adds that the information which Mrs. Rowson thus declared to be within her personal knowledge, forms the basis of Charlottes Daughter.