Her abortive attempt to elope at Mr A's urging -- ("this is not a matter to be be decided all at once like buying a yard of watered tabby or a new gown") could have taken place at Castle Blandings. Already very late for the rendezvous, she knocks over a table of china ornaments in the dark, and has to cower underneath the table till her awakened relatives, fearing thieves, decide to blame the cat; but at last reaching the rendezvous in pouring rain, there is "Gemini!..not a trace of my Lover or Chaise or any damned thing!"
"Parental Anger and Disappointed Love has made me tremble in every limb. Made myself a roguish cap with lavender ribbons."
Setting off via family in Derbyshire, then London and Bath, the Knoxes arrive in France, where "I am delighted at the newness of it all," and in Amiens, …"Two very genteel young officers escorted us around the Gothic Cathedral… Was gratified to notice that I can converse very Tolerably in French. Believe I shall be happy in this Country; if Mr. A. were but here."
They spend August at Chantaloupe, guests of the Duc and Duchesse de Choiseul.
"...Our mode of life is sumptuous and we pass our days in Elegant Leisure. Very dégagé except for Supper when we dress as Magnificently as if at Versaille."
"There was even a flock of lambs festooned with blue ribbons to give a bucolic air. The guests were all attired as Shepherds and Shepherdesses or Greek Gods and so on. Madame de Brinoy had the goodness to assist me with my costume. As Pomona, Nymph of Gardens, I wore a green gown ornamented with flowers, grapes in my hair and a silver pruning knife in one hand. Looked very passable indeed. A party of gypsies hired by the Duchess to tell fortunes in the Rose Garden. One swarthy hag seized my hand and poured out a stream of prophesy. …she declared that my fate was a handsome dark young man who loved me passionately, that there were difficulties in our path, but that if I wished for happiness, I must remain faithful to him. This without any doubts points most clearly to Mr. A."
Vertumnus (in his disguise as an old woman) and Pomona,
Jean Ranc, c. 1710-22 Musee Fabre, Montpellier
After "Gay Cruel Paris" where she was "astounded indeed at the swarms of ill-looking mob amidst all this splendour" and Christmas in Switzerland, the Knox family's Grand Tour ends in Venice in May:
"Apropos of the gondola, 'tis a most convenient mode of conveyance and takes the place of a chair. One would be very uneasy without them with all this Plaguey Water." A month later, after Carnival, balls, processions, gossip and more night-time escapades (masked and once in male attire), Cleone writes the last happy entry in her diary "Stupendous discovery! Mr. A. is in Venice."
When this eighteenth century diary was published in 1925 by a 'descendant' of the Knox family, it was likened to the discovery of Pepys' diary, and became a best seller and a cause celebre, since many critics doubted its authenticity. It was in fact written by a modern young girl, Magdalen King-Hall, to alleviate the boredom of living in Hove, her first published historical novel. She based Cleone's home beside the sea on childhood visits to her mother's Irish relatives, along with some family anecdotes, and research in Hove public library. Her best known novel, The Wicked Lady Skelton was made into a successful film, The Wicked Lady, starring James Mason and Margaret Lockwood, but for charm and wit her young Cleone Knox is a wonderful creation who leaps off the page.
The Diary of a Young Lady of Fashion in 1764-65 Quotations from the Folio Society edition, 1982