Smith in the City: Le Monde

Among the many people Horace Walpole encountered on Wednesday, March 26 was Smith’s close friend and confidant, the Abbé Colbert, for Walpole’s journal entry for that day reads: “To Mme d’Usson, Duke of Buccleuch etc. Abbé Colbert, and M. de Barbantane, and Mme de Gacé there.”[1] Does the “etc.” in this entry refer just to Duke Henry’s younger brother (Hew Campbell Scott), or does it also include his tutor Adam Smith? Either way, Walpole’s entry contains an eclectic assembly of French aristocrats, members of le monde who must have also been in Smith’s social circle in Paris. (As an aside, this bygone world is recreated in a famous oil painting titled “Reading of Voltaire’s tragedy of the Orphan of China in the salon of Marie Thérèse Rodet Geoffrin in 1755” by Anicet Charles Gabriel Lemonnier, circa 1812, which is pictured below.)

The two women in this group, “Madame d’Usson” and “Madame de Gacé,” are cases in point. “Madame d’Usson,” for example, most likely refers to Margarethe Cornelia van de Poll (1726-1793),[2] who was married to Pierre Chrysostome d’Usson-Bonac (1724-1782), the Comte de Usson.[3] According to Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis, the editor of Horace Walpole’s correspondence, Margarethe Cornelia van de Poll was a wealthy woman, with an income of 100,000 florins (about £8000), and she a cousin by marriage of the Duke of Richmond, who was Britain’s ambassador to France from November 1765 to April 1766.[4]

“Madame de Gacé” most likely was Diane-Jacqueline-Louise-Josèphe de Clermont-d’Amboise (1733-1804), the widow of Marie François d’Auguste de Matignon, the Comte de Gacé (1731-1763). She remarried in 1766, marrying Pierre Charles Etienne Maignard, the Marquis de La Vaupalière, who was first second lieutenant of the King’s musketeers. [5] In 1769, this Parisian power couple would move to a hôtel particulier at 85 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, now known as the Hôtel de La Vaupalière. [6] For his part, “M. de Barbantane” may refer to Joseph Balthazard de Puget (1723-1811), marquis de Barbentane, a captain of the King’s cavalry who was appointed ambassador to Tuscany in 1766.[7]

But of all these high society types, the closest one to Adam Smith–the one who knew Smith most intimately–was the Abbé Colbert. I will have more to say about Colbert when I resume my “Smith in the City” series on Tuesday, May 31.

File:Salon de Madame Geoffrin.jpg

[1] See Lewis 1939, p. 309.

[2] See Lewis 1939, Vol. ***, p. 102 n.5 (Letter of Horace Walpole addressed to Lady Hervey dated February 3, 1766), available at p. https://libsvcs-1.its.yale.edu/hwcorrespondence/page.asp?vol=31&page=102, and reprinted in Cunningham 1906, Vol. 4, pp. 473-474.

[3] The Comte de Usson was a major-general in the King’s infantry, and in 1774, he was appointed ambassador to Sweden in 1774, where he served until his death in 1782. Leche, et al., 1905, p. 1122.

[4] See Lewis 1939, Vol. ***, p. 102 n.5.

[5] See Sandret 1868, p. 262. See also Généalogiede la Cour de Balleroy (Normandie), par L. J. Bort [2007], p. 13.

[6] This physical address of this historic town-house is now “25 avenue Matignon.” See Coignard 2007; Bougault 2008.

[7] See de la Chenaye Desbois 1870, p. 497. See also Klibansky & Mossner 1954, p. 84 n.1. His son, Hilarion-Paul-François-Bienvenu du Puget de Barbantane (1754–1828), was promoted to brigade general during the Revolution. See Broughton 2006.

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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