Note by Dunne 
Authors Preface 
Chapter I 

Author's Preface

MANY YEARS have passed since the incidents occurred which were recorded in An Adventure, but our interest in them has not diminished; on the contrary, it has increased. Our view that we had witnessed something unusual yet in accordance with historical fact, generally unknown and quite unknown to us at the time, has been corroborated by fresh evidence.
Finding that on our repeated visits to the Petit Trianon we could never again discover many of the places in which we had been on the first occasion, we took the trouble to ascertain whether the conditions we had known were identical with the historical conditions of the place. This called for first-hand evidence bearing on more than seventy points of minute historical detail, mostly concerning changes in the arrangement of the ground. At that date information on this subject was very scanty. Many of the French histories and biographies of a hundred years ago, now so common, as well as descriptive accounts and illustrations of the place, were published later than our visit in 1901. We had to read original documents. The result of this showed us that everything we had described by word and in writing before the research began was in agreement with the conditions of the place in 1789, many of which had not persisted later than that date. This seemed sufficiently interesting to be recorded, for even if we had been deceived in one or two details, it was difficult to believe that we could have been deceived in all.
One explanation was freely offered to us: it was suggested that preparations for a cinematograph film were taking place whilst we were in the grounds of the Petit Trianon. Though we knew that such a solution did not tally with the facts as we had experienced them, yet before publishing the book in 1911 we consulted the authorities at Versailles about such a possibility. From them we learned definitely that no leave to take photographs for a film was granted during August 1901. Later, we received a letter from the Château de Versailles confirming the fact. `Je n'ai aucun souvenir de scènes historiques photographiées à Versailles ou aux Trianons en août 1901; je suis convaincu qu'il s'agit de la fête donnée au Hameau de Marie Antoinette au mois de juin de cette année-là; et je crains bien qu'il ne soit très difficile d'en trouver des photographies.'
The municipal records show that there had been a fête with historically dressed groups in June 1901, and that some photographs of these groups were taken the following month.1 A note was added that the fête had taken place at the Hameau. The names of photographers in Paris who were most likely to know about this were supplied to us, but, on enquiry, we were assured that none of them had taken photographs at the Trianon on 10th August 1901, nor did they know of any having been taken at that time.
A definite statement was subsequently made to us that a film was taken by MM. Pathé Frères for a well-known cinematograph `just at the time' we were at Versailles. A letter to MM. Pathé Frères brought the answer that the film referred to `a été tourné le jeudi, 24 janvier 1910 à Versailles au Petit Trianon' (not in 1901). Again, more recently, a French journal quoted in several English newspapers, asserted that `exactly at that date' a film was being taken at the Trianon. The date given was 1905. As we were not in France that year, nor have we ever walked in the Trianon gardens `par un soir d'automne orageux...à la tombée de la nuit', the incident referred to has no bearing on our story.
All these suggestions were made in reference to the persons we met. There were eight in all, but never more than two at once. We recognized no one; and while thinking them very French, they were not in such costumes as to remind us of historical personages. Greater and more accurate knowledge, gradually acquired, proved that most of them were in the morning dress of 1789. We have never seen them exactly portrayed in any pictures of costumes of that period.
The most interesting part of our narrative, however, has to do with the change of scenery from what it is now to what it was a hundred years back. Some of it had only existed for sixteen or seventeen years, created by Marie Antoinette and destroyed immediately after her death. The chief features of our experience on that pleasant afternoon were the impressions of exceptional loneliness, and the extreme silence and stillness of the place. These impressions have never been renewed in the same localities.
The Hameau (which we did not see that year) is a part of the grounds having a sheet of water, open glades of trees, and a picturesque background of interesting cottages. It was arranged by Mique, the Queen's architect,2 and is left untouched save by natural decay. But we were not in that part of the little domain. We were walking on high ground between the Queen's theatre and the smaller lake with the Belvédère. It was a narrow path, having rocks on one side and deeply shaded by trees, completely shutting out any view. For this reason we could not see the Belvédère, or the Temple de l'Amour, or the Rocher bridge which crosses one end of the smaller lake. This overshadowed pathway was (we now know) destroyed by Louis Philippe when he finally levelled the grottos which had been destroyed immediately after the Queen's death. The original formation of it is told in some detail in the gardener's wages-book, which was placed after the King's death in the National Archives at Paris, where we studied it several years after our first visit to Versailles.
By the recovery in 1903 of Mique's original manuscript plan for the laying out of the Petit Trianon gardens, valuable information has been obtained about the position of the little ravine in the Queen's grotto, exactly confirming our remembered impression. The account given to us by the local authorities of the recovery of this map is a great additional piece of evidence.3 So, also, is the testimony of the French colonel who with his friend walked with us, in 1913, over that part of the garden. They gave us quite invaluable information about the uniforms worn by the gardes des portes in 1789 and about other things.4
We have been allowed to add an account of the experiences of three persons in 1908 who, all three together, twice saw the lady spoken of in An Adventure, never doubting that she was ghostly, on account of the manner in which she appeared and disappeared. Other details of their story were very like ours, of which at the time they had not heard.5
Though on the afternoon of our first visit to the Petit Trianon there were moments of oppression, yet we were not asleep, nor in a trance, nor even greatly surprised--everything was too natural. Astonishment came later, when we knew more. We were walking briskly during that half-hour or so, talking about other matters, whilst observing with quiet interest our surroundings, which undoubtedly made an indelible impression on our minds. Neither of us had previously made any special study of that period of French history or of the place. We had never heard the latter described, and had not even read Baedeker on the subject. But it is a point of real interest to us that our walk that day and the subsequent researches awoke a very keen interest in French history and literature. It has therefore sometimes been supposed that we knew beforehand the intimate history that we really learned later than that date. But the awakening of a special interest in the history of French thought has made us believe that the incident owed its origin rather to a passing extension of the senses than to any withdrawal of them.
We record these things in order that they may be considered whenever the time shall come when a true explanation of our story may become possible.
We have to thank many friends in England and France who have kindly communicated with us concerning various points of historical detail, which no ordinary histories of the time and place could supply.


  1. The photographs in question when shown to us were entirely unlike anything that we had seen. ^
  2. Guillotined, 1794. ^
  3. Appendix II. ^
  4. Appendix III. ^
  5. Appendix IV. ^