Chateaubriand's memoirs, XLII, 5

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Mémoires d'Outre-tombe

Book XLII- Chapter 5
VARIOUS WOMEN: A Lady from Louisiana

Preparing to complete my collection of portraits, and casting a glance around me, I glimpse various women I have involuntarily neglected; angels grouped at the foot of my painting, they lean on the frame to view the end of my life.

In the past I have met women variously known and celebrated. Women today are altered in manner: for the better or for the worse? It is simply that I incline towards the past; but the past is clothed with a mist in which objects take on a complexion pleasant but often deceptive. My youth, to which I cannot return, has left with me impressions of my grandmother; I barely remember her and should be delighted to see her again.

A lady from Louisiana arrived from the Mississippi to see me: I thought I was meeting the virgin of last love. Célestine wrote me several letters; they might have been dated the Moon of flowers; she showed me fragments of her memoirs composed in the savannahs of Alabama. Some time later, Célestine wrote saying that she was dressing for her presentation at Philippe’s court: I had donned my bearskin. Célestine had been changed into an alligator from the Florida swamps: may Heaven bring her peace and love, as long they endure!