PREFACE

By Edith Oivier


ADVENTURES ARE for the Adventurous: and it is not only the strangeness of the story told twenty years ago by `Miss Morison' and `Miss Lamont' which made An Adventure famous at once, and makes it a book which calls for a new edition to-day. It was certainly a unique experience. Two women of the twentieth century found themselves walking together in the Trianon of 1789, and, there, coming upon figure after figure unaccountably arisen from that unfamiliar past. Yet, for any but people possessed of a painstaking resolve to get at the truth (which is most uncommon), the little episode would have been at an end when the gardens were left behind. It would have been considered, according to the preconceptions of the observers, as a series either of apparitions or of hallucinations--at any rate as something which could not be explained. And as one reads again the terse unvarnished records made at the time by `Miss Morison' and `Miss Lamont', it is possible to understand the point of view of a sceptic who remarked on first seeing them, that it was `not proved that there was anything supernormal at all...and not certain that the figures they saw were not real men and women'.
When I heard the story, and recorded it in my journal, a few months after it happened, it did seem futile to hope ever to discover the identity of that dark repulsive-looking man who scowled at the passers-by from his seat outside the Kiosk: or of the agitated messenger, who so urgently directed the visitors to turn to the right and cherchez la maison by crossing a rustic bridge which spanned a ravine containing a tiny cascade. The lady sketching near the house, who gave to the intruders a look of such supercilious distaste, did indeed sound as if she might have been the Queen; although it was disappointing to hear, from those who had so unexpectedly seen with their own eyes that well-spring of romance, that the face of Marie-Antoinette was not particularly attractive. The whole thing was intensely real to those who had experienced it, or to anyone who heard it, as I did, from their own lips; but how could one dream of finding for the story the support of any independent evidence?
But no sooner were `Miss Morison' and `Miss Lamont' convinced that they had seen something completely out of the common, than they embarked on a fresh adventure, and one which demanded from them courage, perseverance and severe study lasting over a period of several years. They resolved to ascertain the truth, if truth there were, which lay behind their vision. It was this second adventure which made their book into something far more important than a curious and romantic story; and it was an adventure, in some ways, even more eventful than that walk in the Trianon gardens itself. It is now possible to trace, step by step, the course of this second adventure. The original documents accumulated during those years of patient research are deposited in the Bodleian Library: and there one can follow month by month, and sometimes even day by day, the slow tracking down of one piece of evidence after another, and can share the amazed delight of the searchers as detail after detail was verified.
In writing their book, the authors grouped their evidence round the separate scenes and persons as each appears in the story, but it is even more exciting and convincing to come upon it, as one does in the Bodleian, chronologically and `in the raw'. No one who sees these papers can continue to support what Mr. Andrew Lang called `the sceptical theory' put forward by some early critics. This was (as he says in a letter which is now in the Bodleian) `that after you had acquired certain pieces of information about Trianon from research or in conversation, you unconsciously conceived yourselves to have remembered seeing corresponding details on August 10th, 1901, and then added these pseudo-reminiscences to your pages'. This theory was put forward by some critics, but it is, as Mr. Lang said after going through them, `wholly inconsistent' with the documents now in the Bodleian.
The present edition is the first in which the real names of the authors appear. At the time of the first publication of An Adventure, both the ladies held important educational posts, and they therefore preferred to use pseudonyms, although the fact that the book had been written by Miss Moberly and Miss Jourdain was well known to a large circle of their friends and acquaintances. There is now no motive for anonymity, and with the names of Miss Morison and Miss Lamont, there has vanished from the book its one touch of fiction.
Miss Ann Moberly is the seventh daughter of Dr. George Moberly, who was successively Head Master of Winchester College and Bishop of Salisbury. In Dulce Domum she published some twenty years ago a very remarkable record of the lives of her parents among their fifteen children, and its readers will recall the atmosphere, scholarly and spiritual, in which Miss Moberly grew up. Of her twelve brothers and brothers-in-law, four became Heads of Schools or Colleges, and two were Bishops, so the environment of learning continued, till in 1886 Miss Moberly herself became the first Principal of St. Hugh's College at Oxford. She built it up from its foundation, and resigned her Office in 1915 when the College moved into its fine new buildings. Miss Jourdain, who had been Vice-Principal for some years, succeeded her as Head of the College. She was a daughter of the Rev. Francis Jourdain, and was an early Scholar of Lady Margaret Hall. After acting for a time as Secretary to Mrs. Benson at Lambeth, she became Head of a large Girls' School at Watford, and subsequently M.A. of Oxford and a Doctor of the University of Paris. Distinguished for her learning, and a brilliant musician, Miss Jourdain's remarkable knowledge of the French language was not only a great advantage to her during the researches described in this book, but was greatly valued by the Government during the War. She was entrusted with much confidential work. She died of sudden heart failure in 1924.
The avowal that the joint authors of An Adventure are ladies whose standard of learning and respect for truth is necessarily so high, is in itself a reply to the only really adverse criticisms which the book received when it first appeared. Most people would agree with a writer in the Church Times who said that `the suppression of the names of witnesses inevitably injures their testimony'; and now that the true names are being made public, it seems the moment to refer to a very sympathetic notice which appeared in the Nation in January 1911. In the course of this the writer said: `There followed, if we are to believe the two ladies, a long and patient investigation.... What warrant have we that the vision preceded the research? Have Messrs. Macmillan seen any contemporary record of the visit to Versailles? Can they, by means of trustworthy witnesses, or letters which bear postmarks, bring contemporary evidence of their adventure? And then, can they show by testimony of those in charge of the Archives that it was some years later that they carried out their researches?'
With regard to the last of these questions, the required testimony is to be found in the records of the Archives Nationales and the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris, where Miss Jourdain was obliged to sign her name and give the date of each of her visits: while the other questions are completely answered by the papers in the Bodleian. Here can be see the originals of the two statements written and signed by Miss Moberly and Miss Jourdain in 1901: here are the actual letters from between twenty and thirty people (many of whose names are well known) testifying that they heard the story of the Trianon visit before any research began, and that its details were subsequently unaltered: here are the note-books in which Miss Jourdain entered day by day the results of her researches in the Archives: and here are all the original letters written to each other by Miss Moberly and Miss Jourdain while these researches were in progress.
These papers then are extremely convincing, but they are something more than this. They add greatly to the interest of the story, making one feel, as one turns them over, that one is actually taking part in the adventure.
In 1901, when Miss Moberly and Miss Jourdain wrote their accounts of their adventure at Trianon, they were not yet aware of what would eventually prove to be its most interesting aspect. They did not then know that the scenery was in any way abnormal. Their whole attention was focussed on the people they had seen, and it was only because they both happened to be particularly careful and conscientious observers that, to assist themselves in recalling their actual impressions of the people, they did, at the same time describe the places very clearly. They did this with such precision, that in my journal written the day I heard the story, I noted down several points in the landscape, although I then looked upon it as merely a background for the figures. In those early days, all the emphasis of the story rested upon the people; and one of the interesting things in the Bodleian papers is the way they show the gradual shifting of this emphasis to the scenery instead.
Because of this change of emphasis, some few people who had been told the story soon after it happened, and then read it in 1911, asserted that it was not what they had originally heard. They thought that the story had grown as the researches went on. The fact was that in the early days, the scenery had not appeared to them interesting enough to be remembered, and unless they turned back to the original narratives, they forgot that those points which had now come into prominence, had been there in the background from the first. It was this which made Andrew Lang exclaim when he first saw the original papers which had been written and signed in 1901, `Then you did mention the little bridge. We were told you had not.'
And the same papers are to-day in the Bodleian Library.
They open the series of documents stored there, and are followed by a letter written in November 1901 by Miss Jourdain, from her school at Watford, to Miss Moberly who was then at Oxford. This letter says that a French lady had told Miss Jourdain the day before, of a legend in Versailles to the effect that Marie-Antoinette can be seen on a certain day in August, sitting outside the garden front at Petit Trianon.
`I wonder if your pretty lady was Marie-Antoinette,' she wrote at once to Miss Moberly: `and I wonder if we chanced on that particular day.' A letter from Mrs. Graham Balfour (now Lady Balfour) states that she happened to go to see Miss Moberly the day she had heard from Miss Jourdain, and she describes her as breaking off in the middle of a business talk to tell of the Trianon visit, and of the letter received that morning which `contained the first fact which came as a verification of their strange experience'.
Miss Moberly at once determined to discover more. Her letter to Miss Jourdain, written the next day, says: `What about the gardeners? Are there gardeners and caretakers there now dressed as we saw them? My impression is of longish frock coats of lightish grey-green, and small three-cornered hats.... Didn't they direct us wrongly? Surely we ought to have been able to get to the drive (which we ultimately had to do) without going first to the back of the house. I should like to ascertain this.'
This is the first mention of there being anything unusual in the geography of the gardens, though Miss Moberly then only thought that for some reason the mysterious `gardeners' had given them wrong directions. Some years were yet to pass before the route taken assumed its true importance in the story.
On Miss Jourdain's second visit to Versailles, in January 1902, her experiences were all in another part of the grounds; and though she was at Trianon once or twice in the next two years, she did not attempt to follow the course of the original walk, and never got back to the old sites. It had not then occurred to her that a landscape could come and go, as well as those who pass across it. Both she and Miss Moberly were then reading Memoirs of the time, and studying portraits. They hoped to identify some of the people they had seen, and they left the gardens outside their researches.
But in 1904 the two friends were again together at Versailles, and they resolved once more to follow the paths which three years earlier had led them to such strange happenings. Then it was that they knew for the first time that the garden of Marie-Antoinette was gone. The buildings they had seen, the paths they had traversed, the bridge they had crossed, existed no more, if indeed they ever had existed. And to discover whether or not they had so existed, was the quest which these two intrepid ladies now set before themselves. Their second adventure really begins in 1904.
An amusing letter in the Bodleian from a niece of Miss Moberly's, Miss Dora Martin, describes her aunt as having been `quite lost' in the Trianon of the twentieth century, `as it was quite different from what she remembered and had always described'. She obviously felt some of that exasperation which possesses the middle-aged person who returns after long years to the home of his childhood, and who finds that new comers have completely altered it, and have killed the old romance with their new `improvements'. But what fills one with admiration in reading the Bodleian papers, is the stubborn determination with which Miss Moberly and Miss Jourdain insisted, in the teeth of the most contradictory evidence, that they were right in their recollections. They persisted until they were proved to have been accurate throughout. Their careful descriptions of the landscape had been made to assist themselves in retaining an accurate memory of how each of the people had appeared, and now the very landscape had vanished. Here was the ground literally cut away from under their feet. They might have been disconcerted, but not at all. They saw that their researches must go deeper than they had guessed. Some two years earlier, Mrs. Ady (the historian, Julia Cartwright) had written in her journal that Miss Moberly, when speaking of her Trianon experience, had said that `she could not help thinking it was of interest as a scientific fact', although `her brother Robert' (the Regius Professor of Pastoral Theology at Oxford) `did not much like that sort of thing, and felt it difficult to place an apparition of that sort'. The Adventure was indeed now assuming proportions far beyond the mere seeing of an `apparition'.
Miss Moberly and Miss Jourdain were busy people and they could not spend their lives pursuing what most sensible people would have agreed were mere will-o'-the-wisps at Versailles; so it was not till July 1906 that Miss Jourdain wrote from Paris to her friend that she had `really been doing something about Versailles'. She had obtained permission to read in the library there, and found that it contained `all the Queen's Trianon library, and many otherwise unavailable books'.
Her letter tells of her progress. She had not discovered very much. She found that as late as 1835, grass had grown up to the Terrace which was then shaded by large trees; and she had learnt that some green uniforms had been worn by the guards at Trianon. She had examined some old plans and maps with M. de Nolhac, the Curator of Versailles, and with his Coadjutor, M. Pératé; and although it was plain that the gardens had been much altered since the days of Marie-Antoinette, she could discover very little that was positive.
One important thing was, however, learnt during this visit. Miss Jourdain was given permission to see the inside of the chapel, and then she saw that the staircase to the doorway through which the `Chapel-man' had come on to the Terrace, was not in existence, and she found that it had been impossible to reach that door for many years. This fact was independently remarked by some friends of Sir Graham and Lady Balfour's who were at Trianon the next year: and it proved, what till then had not been suspected, that the super-normal conditions had continued until after that man appeared.
The authorities could say very little about the Kiosk, although M. Pératé pointed out upon an old map the site of what seemed to have been `a smaller Belvedere': and then, in the middle of a thicket, on a spot which corresponded with An Adventure, Miss Jourdain herself stumbled upon `a piece of stone column still standing, as if it had formed part of a building there. It can't have been put there lately,' she said, `as it was well inside the tree which was growing round it.' Miss Jourdain made a rough sketch in her letter of a fragment of a column with its base. The little drawing brings one very close to what must have been her feelings when she made this unexpected find.
`M. de Nolhac pointed out on a plan the supposed position of the Grotto where Marie-Antoinette is said to have been', wrote Miss Jourdain in this same letter; and her under-lining of the word `supposed' shows that she adhered to her own conviction that the traditional site was the wrong one.
The chief result of this visit was to show that clues could be discovered which might ultimately lead to the verification of many of the details described in the first accounts of their walk written by Miss Moberly and Miss Jourdain; and when the latter returned to Paris in the following spring she received a letter from Miss Moberly containing a detailed list of things to be investigated. I should like to have printed the whole of this letter from its original in the Bodleian; as it well illustrates the exactitude with which the search was made; an obvious ignorance of the facts before that search was begun; and also the insistence of the searchers on the discovery of original sources. Miss Moberly would not be satisfied with hearsay or with the evidence of compilations.
She wanted pictures showing patterns of ploughs and of carts used at Trianon in 1789, and also at the present time: Miss Jourdain was to find out how labourers were likely to have dressed in the days of Marie-Antoinette, and to ascertain who could have worn the green uniforms: she was if possible to learn whether there had been a gardener's cottage approached by steps on the site where one had been seen, and whether there had ever been a second bridge crossing a ravine which had now disappeared: she was to listen for any local tradition which might put the Grotto elsewhere than in the traditional place.
This one letter is overwhelming proof that the knowledge eventually possessed by the writers of An Adventure was (in the words of Sir Oliver Lodge), `the outcome of the investigation, and was not possessed prior to the super-normal occurrence'. But one of the charms possessed by the papers in the Bodleian is that, arranged as they are year by year as they were written, they carry one back into the years when the search was being made, and give the reader the impression that, like Miss Moberly and Miss Jourdain, he does not know what he is going to find until he has found it.
The enquiries as to the plough were disappointing at first. None appeared in the lists of tools bought for Trianon, and none seemed to have been used there in the Queen's day. Then it transpired that a plough did figure in the catalogue of the Trianon Sale after the King's death, and this was said to have been bought years earlier by Louis XV, who had amused himself by trying to work it, and who had had some lessons in ploughing given to his grandson, the little dauphin. But it was long before any illustration showing a plough of the period could be found. Long search only resulted in the discovery of a picture of the Emperor of China driving a plough! At last there was unearthed, in the shop of M. Gosselin on the Quai des Grands Augustins, a valuable old engraving which had never been reproduced. It was dated 1769, and shows the Dauphin (afterwards Louis XVI) actually driving the identical plough which was seen lying in the Queen's gardens at Trianon by two visitors who strayed into them out of another century.
Miss Jourdain had now been given access to the national archives, and her discoveries were made more rapidly, although her note-books indicate that the clues she followed led her alternately to successes and to disappointments. This makes them very dramatic reading.
The attempt to locate the Grotto, for instance, was extremely complicated, as it transpired that there had been in the Trianon gardens no less than three of these. There was, first of all, the small one beyond the Belvedere which was pointed out to Miss Moberly and Miss Jourdain in 1904 as the place where tradition said that the Queen had been sitting when she was recalled to the house on October 5th, 1789. This Grotto was the last built, as that part of the grounds was not laid out till 1781. From the first, the two ladies were convinced that this was not the correct site. Then there was an earlier Grotto, already existing in 1777, and this was much nearer to the place where they expected to find it, though even this did not exactly agree with their memories. And now it transpired that yet a third Grotto had been made in 1780. With delight Miss Jourdain wrote from Paris in the spring of 1908, `I have been over a good many papers in the Archives, and found the whole description of the making of the Grotto. I have copied it out, and it fits in with what we already know.'
A week later she wrote: `The map we found this morning at the Archives at Versailles, and one of Contant de la Motte, give the Grotto in the wrong place, but the papers I found at Paris seem to point the other way.'
In the wrong place! It is amusing to read this confident comment on the old maps, especially as la Motte's map was said to have been copied from a lost original made by Mique himself--the Queen's landscape gardener at Trianon. And the investigators had to wait till two years after the publication of the first edition of An Adventure before they saw Mique's map, drawn by his own hand. It had been found in 1903 hidden up a chimney in what is said to have been Rousseau's house at Montmorency. It was then proved at last, and without possibility of contradiction, that la Motte's copy had not been accurate. The Grotto, the ravine, and the bridge, had indeed stood where the two ladies had seen them in 1901.
The successive stages in the search for the Kiosk are even more exciting. Miss Moberly and Miss Jourdain were assured at first that the building they had seen was either the Belvedere or the Temple de l'Amour, but neither of these stood in the right position. Moreover, they neither of them resembled the Kiosk. The Belvedere is an elegant octagonal casino surmounted by a small balustrade, and with a door or a window in each of its eight surrounding walls. It has no pillars. The Temple de l'Amour consists of a domed roof supported by twelve Corinthian columns, and open on all sides. It has no walls. Now the Kiosk, as described from the first, and as depicted in a very slight sketch made at the time by Miss Moberly, was unlike either of these. It was `a small circular building, having pillars and a low surrounding wall'.
When Miss Jourdain was at Versailles in 1906, she was told by M. Pératé that a smaller Belvedere was indicated in an old map as having once existed in the gardens; and we know that during that same spring she had discovered that lost fragment of a broken column hidden in a thicket. Two years went by before she could write, in September 1908, that she had at last found in the Archives nationales `the detailed estimate for a petite ruine formant la naissance d'une ravine. It has seven columns with Ionic capitals, and a Voûte.'1 Then, in the Wages Book for 1787, came an entry recording that a workman had been sent to Versailles to fetch the Model of the `petite ruine', as if the building was about to begin. This discovery was followed by the finding in the Archives, of the actual sums paid for the erection not only of the Belvedere and the Temple de l'Amour, but of a third and much smaller building called the `Ruine'.
In Le Petit Trianon by Desjardins, Mique is said to have taken the design for this `Ruine' from `un édifice circulaire d'un dessin trésélégant. Voyez Les Ruines de Baalbec, par R. Wood, Londres. Planche 44.' This plate (which is reproduced in the present volume) was pronounced by Miss Jourdain to resemble `our Kiosk. Both were round, had low walls, pillars, and a roof with a slightly Chinese effect in the upward curve of the roof.'
I have gone with some length into the actual steps by which the truth was reached on these two or three points, as it seems that in no other way could I demonstrate the meticulous care with which every detail was pursued. All the results shown in the book were the fruit of the same methodical research, carried out by true and conscientious scholars.
But the Bodleian papers also include records of the honest examination which was given to successive `explanations' of the experience at the Trianon. The best known of these is the photographic, or Film, theory. Even to-day, this is sometimes alluded to as if it had definitely settled the question once for all. Its whole history can now be read.
It is opened by a letter to Miss Moberly from her friend Lady Waldegrave, written soon after An Adventure was first published. She says that at a luncheon party in Paris, her sister, Madame de Franqueville, had heard M. de Nolhac say that he could give a very prosaic explanation of the experiences of the two ladies, as he well remembered having given permission, in the summer of 1901, for photographs to be taken at Trianon of the actors in a Fête which had been held there. Miss Moberly at once realized that such an explanation was possible, although she did not think it met the facts. She wrote to ask Miss Jourdain to ascertain the actual day on which these photographs were taken, feeling such that a record of this must exist, which of course was the case. Miss Jourdain wrote to report that she had at once been to Versailles to see the authorities. In her letter she says: `I asked M. Pératé about permission to photograph. He said, Yes, if you were there in July. The Fête was in June, and the films were taken then, and soon after, in July. I looked up the dates in the Day-book of Permissions, and found that there was nothing except in June, and at the Hameau. I asked him if all were at the Hameau, and he said Yes. He showed me the pictures, which are in Versailles illustré, all ridiculously unlike, and in a different part of the gardens to where we were.' M. Pératé's very definite letter, asserting that no photographs were taken in August, is printed in An Adventure: and the original of this letter is with the other correspondence in the Bodleian.
But no sooner were the photographs of the Fête disposed of, than a writer in Chambers' Journal asserted that Messrs. Pathé had made a film in the gardens on the day in question. An enquiry addressed to them brought the laconic reply: `Le Filme a été tourné le jeudi 24 janvier 1910.' This date was a mere nine years too late.
An Adventure was adversely reviewed in the Journal of Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, for June 1911. The rules of the Society prevent my quoting from the Journal; but after reading this review, Sir William Barrett wrote in the first edition of his volume on Psychical Research in the Home University Library, that `this Narrative, when examined by the S.P.R., appears to be based on slender evidence and trivial incidents, undesignedly amplified by the authors, and cannot be accepted as of any real evidential value.'
It is, however, shown conclusively by the Bodleian papers that the evidence had not actually been `examined' at all; and that the writer of the review had not seen any of these original and contemporary records of the research. The opinion of those members of the Council who did subsequently examine them, was fundamentally altered by them. Sir William Barrett wrote in October 1912 (the letter being now in the Bodleian):
`I am surprised to hear that the S.P.R. never examined the testimonies you offered to send them.... The evidence seems absolutely conclusive of the recital of your narrative immediately after your first visit to Versailles. Unreservedly therefore I will withdraw the statement in my little book.'
The papers in the Bodleian decisively prove that these documents were offered to the S.P.R., and were not accepted by them; and in the later editions of Psychical Research Sir William Barrett's withdrawal appears. He writes as follows:
`The remarkable book entitled An Adventure written by two ladies, gives an account of their visit to Versailles in the year 1901, when they found themselves transported to the times of Louis XVI and saw the surroundings of the Petit Trianon as they were at that date. Without knowing the fact at the time, this collective hallucination was shared by both ladies, and extended to the people seen, the dresses they wore, and the words they spoke to the ladies. On a second visit by one of the ladies, six months later, a somewhat similar hallucination was experienced, but on later visits both the ladies only saw the buildings, ground and people as they are now. The critical review by Mrs. Henry Sidgwick, published by the S.P.R., considered this case an illustration of Hypothesis No. 5 ("Illusion or imagination, stimulated by expectancy, and the hallucination transferred from one person to anther through the influence of suggestion or even telepathy") and I was strongly disposed at first to agree with this view. Having since read the narrative written independently by each of the percipients, shortly after their strange experience, together with other documents supplied to me by the ladies, I am now more inclined to regard this case as a singular instance of retrocognitive vision.'
Mr. Andrew Lang, who was President of the S.P.R. in 1911 when An Adventure was published, wrote after seeing the originals of the November narratives that `they seem to me wholly inconsistent with the theory that they owe anything at all to information from tradition, records, books of costume, and so forth.'
Some years later, a letter from Sir Oliver Lodge says: `It is well for future science that the record of so carefully noted an Adventure should have been made available.'
As one turns over these letters, written at different dates during the last twenty years, the impression given is that while the story itself, with its crowd of substantiating evidence, is to-day as alive and vivid as ever it was: the criticisms, on the other hand, are singularly dead and out of date. The story was first told to a world very unlike the world of to-day. The nineteenth century, with its definite distinctions between matter and spirit, the real and the unreal, the proven and the non-proven, was dead, but not yet buried, in 1911. Serious critics feared being thought credulous if they swallowed a `Ghost Story'; and it was as a Ghost Story that they one and all considered An Adventure, although it was admitted to be an unusually well-authenticated one. Such a view is impossible to-day. For the book does not contain a ghost story, and now-a-days, no well-educated person would think that it could be explained by calling it one. It is the record of an unexplained extension of the limits of human experience: and it describes an experience of a type with which science is more and more concerning itself. From the first, Miss Moberly hoped that what she had seen might some day be of value to scientists, and that hoped-for day has now arrived. The theories of Relativity and of Serialism are altering our conceptions of Time and Space, and the new view which is emerging seems to point towards a solution of some of the problems which are raised by the experience described in An Adventure. Mr. J. W. Dunne, the distinguished author of An Experiment with Time, has generously permitted me to close this introduction with a Note that he has written on some aspects of Serialism which indicate the lines upon which such a solution might be reached.

  1. Mique says he gave the estimate in 1780, but the Queen did not approve. The project was revived in 1787. ^