He had been away nearer a year than six months; he returned to his little court improved by his travels, his dignity softened by the air of a man who knows the world, his hair dressed after the fashion of Paris, his speech adorned with delicate allusions to kings and queens; he brought with him an English valet, a set of diamonds presented to him by the Doge of Venice (these the most notable among other gifts), and the affectation of French. Hesse-Homburg approved. A principality as small as this that his Serene Highness ruled over is apt to be unduly proud; the castle of Hesse-Homburg was built after the plan of Marli or Meudon, the gardens laid out in the manner of Versailles; etiquette was supreme, the court complete from the Lord Chancellor to the black pages; Mr. Denton, the English valet, was reminded, on his arrival, of a performance of opera-bouffe where all the comedians appear as nobles and there is no one left to represent the citizens, so that the King and his train constitute the kingdom. Indeed, Mr. Denton had seen estates in England that would have divided between them two countries the size of Hesse-Homburg, but his admirable discretion allowed no hint of his discernment to appear. There was a ball given in honour of his Serene Highness's return; the fountains played and coloured lights swung in the trees; ladies and gentlemen were painted, perfumed, pomaded, and laced into brocaded clothes; there was an orchestra of French fiddles on one of the castle terraces, and dancing in the long hall hung with portraits of the Prince-Electors of Hesse-Homburg.
'In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages . . . '
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