Well, I had a look at the book when we went for dinner at a friend's beautiful apartment last Friday. I wish I could show you photographs of her place – of course, if anyone is to publish photographs of her place it is for Jennifer to do so, not me. Nonetheless, I wish someone would, because it is as elegant, welcoming and personal as a home can be. Books, books, and more books, all very neatly arranged on shelves and tables – so many books, I became a tad jealous (and not for the first time).
The room my friend in Washington meant is this one and he, not surprisingly, is right – it is a light, balanced, airy and welcoming. Who wouldn't want to spend a summer's evening here, scent from the garden drifting through the doors and moths flittering around the lamps? Or, better yet, a winter's night when apple logs burn in the grate, lamplight washes the gilt tooling of the book spines, and ice in whiskey, clinking as it melts, reflects the golden, shadowy, happy, and if I may say so, timeless, room. I wish, though, there were a better photograph of this library but is enough to see how wonderful a room it must be.
The library is that of the Vicomte de Noailles in the pavilion, known as the Hermitage, built for Madame de Pompadour.
"The great point of the Hermitage was its wonderful garden, all arrange for scent so that one heavenly smell led to another; it could be visited blindfold for the scent alone. Here she had fifty orange trees, lemons, oleanders single and double, myrtle, olives, yellow jasmine and lilac from Judea, and pomegranates, all in straight avenues with trellised palisades leading to a bower of roses surrounding a marble Apollo. Shrubs and flowers were brought to Madame de Pompadour from all parts of the French empire, chosen for scent; she especially loved myrtle, tuberoses, jasmine and gardenias. Labor was so cheap that flowers in the gardens were renewed every day, as we renew them now in a room; in the greenhouses at Trianon there were two million pots for bedding out.
"The Hermitage was very simply decorated, the hangings were all of cotton and the furniture of painted wood; it was meant to be rustic, a farm house. It was such a success that she soon built two others, on at Compiègne designed by by Gabriel, which has utterly disappeared, pulled down nobody even knows when or by whose orders, and one at Fontainebleau. The Fontainebleau Hermitage belongs now to the Vicomte de Noailles and it is the only habitation of Madame de Pompadour's which she could visit today without grief. She never much liked her rooms in the palace there, and lived a great deal in this little house. The King would pretend he was going out hunting, leave the palace early in the morning booted and spurred, and spend the whole day with her, sometimes cooking their supper himself. People who liked to carp at her love of building used to say that she only had this Hermitage in order to offer the King a boiled egg from time to time. She had there one of the farmyards of which she was so fond, cows, goats, and hens, and a donkey, whose milk was supposed to be particularly good for her."
Quotation from Madame de Pompadour by Nancy Mitford.
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