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Title: The Memoirs of François René Vicomte de Chateaubriand sometime Ambassador to England. v 2/6
       Being a Translation by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos of the
              Mémoires d'outre-tombe

Author: François René Chateaubriand
        Alexander Teixeira de Mattos

Release Date: May 26, 2017 [EBook #54788]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


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1768-1800 cont.)


I go to see my mother—Saint-Malo—Progress of the Revolution —My marriage—Paris—Old acquaintances and new—The Abbé Barthélemy—Saint-Ange—The theatres—Changes in Paris—The Club des Cordeliers—Marat—Danton—Camille Desmoulins—Fabre d'Églantine—M. de Malesherbes' opinion on the emigration—I play and lose—Adventure of the hackney-coach—Madame Roland—Barère at the Hermitage—Second Federation of the 14th of July—Preparations for the emigration—I emigrate with my brother—Adventure of Saint-Louis—We cross the frontier—Brussels—Dinner at the Baron de Breteuil's—Rivarol—Departure for the army of the Princes—The journey—I meet the Prussian army—I arrive at Trèves—The Army of the Princes—A Roman amphitheatre—Atala—The shirts of Henry IV.—A soldier's life—Last appearance of old military France—Commencement of the siege of Thionville—The Chevalier de La Baronnais—Continuation of the siege—A contrast—Saints in the woods—Battle of Bouvines—A patrol—An unexpected encounter—Effects of a cannon-ball and a shell—Market in camp—Night amid piled arms—The Dutch dog—A recollection of the Martyrs—The nature of my company—With the outposts—Eudora—Ulysses—Passage of the Moselle—A fight—Libba, the deaf and dumb girl—Assault of Thionville—The siege is raised—We enter Verdun—The Prussian evil—The retreat—Smallpox—The Ardennes—The Prince de Ligne's baggage-wagons—The women of Namur—I meet my brother at Brussels—Our last farewell—Ostend—I take passage for Jersey—I land at Guernsey—The pilot's wife—Jersey—My uncle de Bedée and his family—Description of the island—The Duc de Berry—Lost friends and relations—The misfortune of growing old—I go to England—Last meeting with Gesril

BOOK VIII 68-113

The Literary Fund—My garret in Holborn—Decline in health—Visit to the doctors—Emigrants in London—Peltier—Literary labours—My friendship with Hingant—Our excursions—A night in Westminster Abbey—Distress—Unexpected succour—Lodging overlooking a cemetery—New companions in misfortune—Our pleasures—My cousin de La Boüétardais—A sumptuous rout—I come to the end of my forty crowns—Renewed distress—Table d'hôte—Bishops-Dinner at the London Tavern—The Camden Manuscripts—My work in the country—Death of my brother—Misfortunes of my family—Two Frances—Letters from Hingant—Charlotte—I return to London—An extraordinary meeting—A defect in my character—The Essai historique sur les révolutions—Its effect—Letter from Lemierre, nephew to the poet—Fontanes—Cléry

BOOK IX 114-148

Death of my mother—I return to religion—The Génie du Christianisme—Letter from the Chevalier de Panat—My uncle, M. de Bedée: his eldest daughter—English literature—Decline of the old school—Historians—Poets—Publicists—Shakespeare—Old novels—New novels—Richardson—Sir Walter Scott—New poetry—Beattie—Lord Byron—England from Richmond to Greenwich—A trip with Peltier—Blenheim—Stowe—Hampton Court—Oxford—Eton College—Private manners—Political manners—Fox—Pitt—Burke—George III.—Return of the emigrants to France—The Prussian Minister gives me a false passport in the name of La Sagne, a resident of Neuchâtel in Switzerland—Death of Lord Londonderry—End of my career as a soldier and traveller—I land at Calais



BOOK I 151-190

My stay at Dieppe—Two phases of society—The position of my Memoirs—The year 1800—Aspect of France—I arrive in Paris—Changes in society—The year 1801—The MercureAtala—Madame de Beaumont and her circle—Summer at Savigny—The year 1802—Talma—The year 1803—The Génie du Christianisme—Failure prophesied—Cause of its final success—Defects in the work

BOOK II 191-255

The years 1802 and 1803—Country-houses—Madame de Custine—M. de Saint-Martin—Madame de Houdetot and Saint-Lambert—Journey to the south of France—M. de la Harpe—His death—Interview with Bonaparte—I am appointed First Secretary of Embassy in Rome—Journey from Paris to the Savoy Alps—From Mont Cenis to Rome—Milan to Rome—Cardinal Fesch's palace—My occupations—Madame de Beaumont's manuscripts—Letters from Madame de Caud—Madame de Beaumont's arrival in Rome—Letters from my sister—Letter from Madame de Krüdener—Death of Madame de Beaumont—Her funeral—Letters from M. de Chênedollé, M. de Fontanes, M. Necker, and Madame de Staël—The years 1803 and 1804—First idea of my Memoirs—I am appointed French Minister to the Valais—Departure from Rome—The year 1804—The Valais Republic—A visit to the Tuileries—The Hôtel de Montmorin—I hear the death cried of the Duc d'Enghien—I give in my resignation

BOOK III 256-293

Death of the Duc d'Enghien—The year 1804—General Hulin—The Duc de Rovigo—M. de Talleyrand—Part played by each—Bonaparte, his sophistry and remorse—Conclusions to be drawn from the whole story—Enmities engendered by the death of the Duc D'Enghien—An article in the Mercure—Change in the life of Bonaparte

BOOK IV 294-339

The year 1804—I move to the Rue de Miromesnil-Verneuil—Alexis de Tocqueville—Le Ménil—Mézy—Mérévil—Madame de Coislin—Journey to Vichy, in Auvergne, and to Mont Blanc—Return to Lyons—Excursion to the Grande Chartreuse—Death of Madame de Caud—The years 1805 and 1806—I return to Paris—I leave for the Levant—I embark in Constantinople on a ship carrying pilgrims for Syria—From Tunis to my return to France through Spain—Reflections on my voyage—Death of Julien



Portrait of

Napoleon Bonaparte
The Comte de Rivarol
Frederic William II
Peltier, editor of the Actes des Apôtres
William Pitt
Edmund Burke
George III
The Duc D'Enghien

Napoléon Bonaparte.

[Pg 3]


(PART THE FIRST 1768-1800 cont.)


I go to see my mother—Saint-Malo—Progress of the Revolution—My marriage—Paris—Old acquaintances and new—The Abbé Barthélemy—Saint-Ange—The theatres—Changes in Paris—The Club des Cordeliers—Marat—Danton—Camille Desmoulins—Fabre d'Églantine—M. de Malesherbes' opinion on the emigration—I play and lose—Adventure of the hackney-coach—Madame Roland—Barère at the Hermitage—Second Federation of the 14th of July—Preparations for the emigration—I emigrate with my brother—Adventure of Saint-Louis—We cross the frontier—Brussels—Dinner at the Baron de Breteuil's—Rivarol—Departure for the army of the Princes—The journey—I meet the Prussian army—I arrive at Trèves—The Army of the Princes—A Roman amphitheatre—Atala—The shirts of Henry IV.—A soldier's life—Last appearance of old military France—Commencement of the siege of Thionville—The Chevalier de La Baronnais—Continuation of the siege—A contrast—Saints in the woods—Battle of Bouvines—A patrol—An unexpected encounter—Effects of a cannon-ball and a shell—Market in camp—Night amid piled arms—The Dutch dog—A recollection of the Martyrs—The nature of my company—With the outposts—Eudora—Ulysses—Passage of the Moselle—A fight—Libba, the deaf and dumb girl—Assault of Thionville—The siege is raised—We enter Verdun—The Prussian evil—The retreat—Smallpox—The Ardennes—The Prince de Ligne's baggage-wagons—The women of Namur—I meet my brother at Brussels—Our last farewell—Ostend—I take passage for Jersey—I land at Guernsey—The pilot's wife—Jersey—My uncle de Bedée and his family—Description of the island—The Duc de Berry—Lost friends and relations—The misfortune of growing old—I go to England—Last meeting with Gesril.

I wrote to my brother in Paris giving him particulars of my crossing, telling him the reasons for my return, and asking him to lend me the money wherewith to pay my passage. My brother answered that he had forwarded my letter to my[Pg 4] mother. Madame de Chateaubriand did not keep me waiting: she enabled me to clear my debt and to leave the Havre. She told me that Lucile was with her, also my uncle de Bedée and his family. This intelligence persuaded me to go to Saint-Malo, so that I might consult my uncle on the question of my proposed emigration.

Revolutions are like rivers: they grow wider in their course; I found that which I had left in France enormously swollen and overflowing its banks: I had left it with Mirabeau under the "Constituent," I found it with Danton[2] under the "Legislative[3]" Assembly.

The Treaty of Pilnitz, of the 27th of August 1791, had become known in Paris. On the 14th of December 1791, while I was being tossed by the storms, the King announced that he had written to the Princes of the Germanic Body, and in particular to the Elector of Trèves, touching the German armaments. The brothers of Louis XVI., the Prince de Condé, M. de Calonne, the Vicomte de Mirabeau, and M. de Laqueville[4] were almost immediately impeached. As early as the 9th of November, a previous decree had been hurled against the other Emigrants: it was to enter these ranks, already proscribed, that I was hastening; others might perhaps have retreated, but the threats of the stronger have always made me take the side of the weaker: the pride of victory is unendurable to me.

On my way from the Havre to Saint-Malo I was able to observe the divisions and misfortunes of France: the country-seats were burnt and abandoned; the owners, to whom distaffs had been sent, had left; the women were living sheltered in the towns. The hamlets and small market-towns groaned under the tyranny of clubs affiliated to the central Club des Cordeliers, since amalgamated with the Jacobins. The antagonist of the latter, the Société Monarchique, or des[Pg 5] Feuillants, no longer existed; the vulgar nickname of sans-culotte had become popular; the King was never spoken of save as "Monsieur Veto" or "Monsieur Capet."

My marriage.

I was tenderly welcomed by my mother and my family, although they deplored the inopportune moment which I had selected for my return. My uncle, the Comte de Bedée, was preparing to go to Jersey with his wife, his son, and his daughters. It was a question of finding money to enable me to join the Princes. My American journey had made a breach in my fortune; my property was reduced to almost nothing, where my younger son's portion was concerned, through the suppression of the feudal rights; and the benefices that were to accrue to me by virtue of my affiliation to the Order of Malta had fallen, with the remainder of the goods of the clergy, into the hands of the nation. This conjuncture of circumstances decided the most serious step in my life: my family married me in order to procure me the means of going to get killed in support of a cause which I did not love.

There was living in retirement, at Saint-Malo, M. de Lavigne[5], a knight of Saint-Louis, and formerly Commandant of Lorient. The Comte d'Artois had stayed with him there when he visited Brittany: the Prince was charmed with his host, and promised to grant him any favour he might at any time demand. M. de Lavigne had two sons: one of them[6] married Mademoiselle de La Placelière. Two daughters, born of this marriage, were left orphans on both sides at a tender age. The elder married the Comte du Plessix-Parscau[7], a captain in the Navy, the son and grandson of admirals, himself to-day a rear-admiral, a red ribbon[8] and commander of the corps of naval cadets at Brest; the younger[9] was living with her grandfather, and was seventeen years of age when I arrived at Saint-Malo on my return from America. She was white, delicate, slender and very pretty: she wore her[Pg 6] beautiful fair hair, which curled naturally, hanging low like a child's. Her fortune was valued at five or six hundred thousand francs.

My sisters took it into their heads to make me marry Mademoiselle de Lavigne, who had become greatly attached to Lucile. The affair was managed without my knowledge. I had seen Mademoiselle de Lavigne three or four times at most; I recognised her at a distance on the "Furrow" by her pink pelisse, her white gown and her fair hair blown out by the wind, when I was on the beach abandoning myself to the caresses of my old mistress, the sea. I felt myself to possess none of the good qualities of a husband. All my illusions were alive, nothing was spent within me; the very energy of my existence had doubled through my travels. I was racked by the muse. Lucile liked Mademoiselle de Lavigne, and saw the independence of my fortune in this marriage:

"Have your way!" said I.

In me the public man is inflexible; the private man is at the mercy of whomsoever wishes to seize hold of him, and, to save myself an hour's wrangling, I would become a slave for a century.

The consent of the grandfather, the paternal uncle and the principal relatives was easily obtained: there remained to be overcome the objections of a maternal uncle, M. de Vauvert[10], a great democrat, who opposed the marriage of his niece with an aristocrat like myself, who was not one at all. We thought ourselves able to do without him, but my pious mother insisted that the religious marriage should be performed by a "non-juror" priest, which could only be done in secret. M. de Vauvert knew this, and let loose the law upon us, under pretext of rape and breach of the laws, and pleading the imaginary state of second childhood into which the grandfather, M. de Lavigne, had fallen. Mademoiselle de Lavigne, who had become Madame de Chateaubriand, without my having held any communication with her, was taken away in the name of the law and put into the Convent of Victory at Saint-Malo, pending the decision of the courts.

There was no rape, breach of the laws, adventure, nor love in the whole matter; the wedding had only the bad side of a novel: truth. The case was tried and the court pronounced the marriage civilly valid. The members of both families[Pg 7] being in agreement, M. de Vauvert abandoned the proceedings. The constitutional clergyman, lavishly feed, withdrew his protest against the first nuptial benediction, and Madame de Chateaubriand was released from the convent, where Lucile had imprisoned herself with her.

It was a new acquaintance that I had to make, and it brought me all that I could wish. I doubt whether a finer intelligence than my wife's has ever existed: she guesses the thought and the word about to spring to the brow or the lips of the person with whom she converses; to deceive her is impossible. Madame de Chateaubriand has an original and cultured mind, writes most cleverly, tells a story to perfection, and admires me without ever having read two lines of my works: she would dread to find ideas in them that differ from hers, or to discover that people are not sufficiently enthusiastic over my merit. Although a passionate judge, she is well-informed and a good judge.

Madame de Chateaubriand's defects, if she have any, proceed from the superabundance of her good qualities; my own very serious defects result from the sterility of mine. It is easy to possess resignation, patience, a general obligingness, equanimity of temper, when one interests himself in nothing, when one is wearied by everything, when one replies to good and bad fortune alike with a desperate and despairing "What does it matter?"

Madame de Chateaubriand is better than I, although less accessible in her intercourse with others. Have I been irreproachable in my relations with her? Have I offered my companion all the sentiments which she deserved and which were hers by right? Has she ever complained? What happiness has she tasted in reward for her consistent affection? She has shared my adversities; she has been plunged into the prisons of the Terror, the persecutions of the Empire, the disgraces of the Restoration; she has not known the joys of maternity to counterbalance her sufferings. Deprived of children, which she might perhaps have had in another union, and which she would have loved madly; having none of the honours and affections which surround the mother of a family and console a woman for the loss of her prime, she has travelled, sterile and solitary, towards old age. Often separated from me, disliking literature, to her the pride of bearing my name makes no amends. Timid and trembling for me alone, she is deprived, through her ever-renewed anxiety, of sleep and of the time to cure her ills: I am her chronic[Pg 8] infirmity and the cause of her relapses. Can I compare an occasional impatience which she has shown me with the cares which I have caused her? Can I set my good qualities, such as they are, against her virtues, which support the poor, which have established the Infirmerie de Marie-Thérèse in the face of all obstacles? What are my labours beside the works of that Christian woman? When the two of us appear before God, it is I who shall be condemned.

Upon the whole, when I consider my nature with all its imperfections, is it certain that marriage has spoilt my destiny?

I should no doubt have had more leisure and repose; I should have been better received in certain circles and by certain of the great ones of this earth; yet in politics, though Madame de Chateaubriand may have crossed me, she never checked me, for here, as in matters affecting my honour, I judge only by my own feeling. Should I have produced a greater number of works if I had remained independent, and would those works have been any better? Have there not been circumstances, as shall be seen, in which, by marrying outside France, I should have ceased to write and disowned my country? If I had not married, would not my weakness have made me the prey of some worthless creature? Should not I have squandered and polluted my days like Lord Byron[11]? To-day, when I am sinking into old age, all my wildness would have passed; nothing would remain to me but emptiness and regrets: I should be an old bachelor, unesteemed, either deceived or undeceived, an old bird repeating my worn-out song to whosoever refused to listen to it. The full indulgence of my desires would not have added one string more to my lyre, nor one more earnest note to my voice. The constraint of my feelings, the mystery of my thoughts have perhaps increased the forcefulness of my accents, quickened my works with an internal fever, with a hidden flame, which would have spent itself in the free air of love. Held back by an indissoluble tie, I purchased at first, at the cost of a little bitterness, the sweets which I taste to-day. Of the ills of my existence I have preserved only the incurable part. I therefore owe an affectionate and eternal gratitude to my wife, whose attachment has been as touching as it has been profound and sincere. She has rendered my life more grave, more noble, more honourable, by always inspiring me with respect for duty, if not always with the strength to perform it.

[Pg 9]

I was married at the end of March 1792, and on the 20th of April the Legislative Assembly declared war against Francis II.[12], who had just succeeded his father Leopold; on the 10th of the same month Benedict Labre[13] was beatified in Rome: there you have two different worlds. The war hurried the remaining nobles out of France. Persecutions were being redoubled on the one hand; on the other, the Royalists were no longer permitted to stay at home without being accounted as cowards: it was time for me to make my way to the camp which I had come so far to seek. My uncle de Bedée and his family took ship for Jersey, and I set out for Paris with my wife and my sisters Lucile and Julie.

We go to Paris.

We had secured an apartment in the little Hôtel de Villette, in the Cul-de-Sac Férou, Faubourg Saint-Germain. I hastened in search of my first friends. I saw the men of letters with whom I had had some acquaintance. Among new faces I noticed those of the learned Abbé Barthélemy[14] and the poet Saint-Ange[15]. The abbé modelled the gynecœa of Athens too closely upon the drawing-rooms at Chanteloup. The translator of Ovid was not a man without talent; talent is a gift, an isolated thing: it can come together with other mental faculties, it can be separated from them. Saint-Ange supplied a proof of this; he made the greatest efforts not to be stupid, but was unable to prevent himself. A man whose pencil I admired and still admire, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre[16], was lacking in intelligence, and unfortunately[Pg 10] his character was on a level with his intelligence. How many pictures in the Études de la nature are spoilt by the writer's limited mind and want of elevation of soul.

Rulhière had died suddenly, in 1791[17], before my departure for America. I have since seen his little house at Saint-Denis, with the fountain and the pretty statue of Love, at the foot of which one reads these verses:

D'Egmont avec l'Amour visita cette rive:
Une image de sa beauté
Se peignit un moment sur l'onde fugitive:
D'Egmont a disparu; l'Amour seul est resté[18].

When I left France the theatres of Paris were still ringing with the Réveil d'Épiménide[19], and with this stanza:

J'aime la vertu guerrière
De nos braves défenseurs,
Mais d'un peuple sanguinaire
Je déteste les fureurs.
À l'Europe redoutables,
Soyons libres à jamais,
Mais soyons toujours aimables
Et gardons l'esprit français[20].

When I returned, the Réveil d'Épiménide had been forgotten; and, if the stanza had been sung, the author would have been badly handled. Charles IX. was now the rage. The popularity of this piece depended principally upon the circumstances of the time: the tocsin, a nation armed with poniards, the hatred of the kings and the priests, all these offered a reproduction between four walls of the tragedy which was being publicly enacted. Talma, still at the commencement of his career, was continuing his successes.

While tragedy dyed the streets, the pastoral flourished on the stage; there was question of little but innocent shepherds[Pg 11] and virginal shepherdesses: fields, brooks, meadows, sheep, doves, the golden age beneath the thatch, were revived to the sighing of the shepherd's pipe before the cooing Tirces and the simple-minded knitting-women who had but lately left that other spectacle of the guillotine. Had Sanson had time, he would have played Colin to Mademoiselle Théroigne de Méricourt's[21] Babet. The Conventionals plumed themselves upon being the mildest of men: good fathers, good sons, good husbands, they went out walking with the children, acted as their nurses, wept with tenderness at their simple games; they lifted these little lambs gently in their arms to show them the "gee-gees" of the carts carrying the victims to execution. They sang the praises of nature, peace, pity, kindness, candour, the domestic virtues; these devout philanthropists, with extreme sensibility, sent their neighbours to have their heads sliced off for the greater happiness of mankind.


Paris in 1792.

Paris in 1792 no longer presented the outward aspect of 1789 and 1790: one saw no longer the budding Revolution, but a people marching drunk to its destinies, across abysses and by uncertain roads. The appearance of the people was no longer tumultuous, curious, eager: it was threatening. In the streets one met none but frightened or ferocious figures, men creeping along the houses so as not to be seen, or others seeking their prey: timid and lowered eyes were turned away from you, or else harsh eyes were fixed on yours in order to sound and fathom you.

All diversity of costume had ceased; the old world kept in the background; men had donned the uniform cloak of the new world, a cloak which had become merely the last garment of the future victims. Already the social license displayed at the rejuvenation of France, the liberties of 1789, those fantastic and unruly liberties of a state of things which is engaged in self-destruction and which has not yet turned to anarchy were levelling themselves beneath the sceptre of the people; one felt the approach of a plebeian tyranny, fruitful, it is true, and filled with expectations, but also formidable in a manner very different from the decaying despotism of the old monarchy: for, the sovereign people being ubiquitous, when it turns tyrant the tyrant[Pg 12] is ubiquitous; it is the universal presence of an universal Tiberius.

With the Parisian population was mingled an exotic population of cut-throats from the south; the advance-guard of the Marseillese, whom Danton was bringing up for the day's work of the 10th of August and the massacres of September, were recognisable by their rags, their bronzed complexions, their look of cowardice and crime, but of crime of another sun: in vultu vitium.

In the Legislative Assembly there was no one whom I recognised; Mirabeau and the early idols of our troubles either were no more or had been hurled from their altars. In order to put together the thread of history broken by my journey in America, I must trace matters a little further back.


The flight of the King, on the 21st of June 1791, caused the Revolution to take an immense step forward. Brought back to Paris on the 25th of that month, he was then dethroned for the first time, since the National Assembly declared that its decrees would have the force of law without there being any need of royal sanction or acceptance. A high court of justice, anticipating the revolutionary tribunal, was established at Orleans. Thenceforward Madame Roland[22] demanded the head of the Queen, until such time as her own head should be demanded by the Revolution. The mob-gathering had taken place in the Champ de Mars, to protest against the decree which suspended the King from his functions instead of putting him upon his trial. The acceptance of the Constitution, on the 14th of September, had no calming effect. There was a question of declaring the dethronement of Louis XVI.; had this been done, the crime of the 21st of January would not have been committed; the position of the French people in relation to the monarchy and in the eyes of posterity would have been different. The Constituents who opposed the dethronement thought they were saving the Crown, whereas they undid it; those who thought to undo it by demanding the dethronement would have saved it. In politics the result is almost invariably the opposite of what is foreseen.

On the 30th of that same month of September 1791, the[Pg 13] Constituent Assembly held its last sitting; the imprudent decree of the 17th of May previous, which prohibited the re-election of the retiring members, gave birth to the Convention. There is nothing more dangerous, more inadequate, more inapplicable to general affairs than resolutions appropriate to individuals or bodies of men, however honourable in themselves.

The decree of the 29th of September for regulating popular societies served only to make them more violent. This was the last act of the Constituent Assembly: it dissolved on the following day, bequeathing to France a revolution.


The Legislative Assembly.

The Legislative Assembly, installed on the 1st of October 1791, revolved within the whirlwind which was about to sweep away the living and the dead. Troubles stained the departments with blood; at Caen the people were surfeited with massacres and ate the heart of M. de Belsunce[23].

The King set his veto to the decree against the Emigrants and to that which deprived the non-juror ecclesiastics of all emolument. These lawful acts increased the excitement. Pétion had become Mayor of Paris[24]. The deputies preferred a bill of impeachment against the Emigrant Princes on the 1st of January 1792; on the 2nd, they fixed the commencement of the Year IV. of Liberty on that same 1st of January. About the 13th of February, red caps were seen in the streets of Paris, and the municipality ordered pikes to be manufactured. The manifesto of the Emigrants appeared on the 1st of March. Austria armed. Paris was divided into more or less hostile sections[25]. On the 20th of March 1792, the Legislative Assembly adopted the sepulchral piece of mechanism without which the sentences of the Terror could not have been executed; it was first tried on dead bodies, so that these might teach it its trade. One may speak of the instrument as of an executioner, since[Pg 14] persons who were touched by its good services presented it with sums of money for its support[26]. The invention of the murder-machine, at the very moment when it had become necessary to crime, is a noteworthy proof of the intelligence of co-ordinate facts, or rather a proof of the hidden action of Providence when it proposes to change the face of empires.

Minister Roland had been summoned to the King's Council at the instigation of the Girondins[27]. On the 20th of April, war was declared against the King of Hungary and Bohemia[28]. Marat published the Ami du peuple in spite of the decree by which he was stricken. The Royal German Regiment and the Berchiny Regiment deserted. Isnard[29] spoke of the perfidy of the Court, Gensonné[30] and Brissot[31] denounced the Austrian Committee. An insurrection broke out on the subject of the Royal Guard, which was disbanded[32]. On the 28th of May, the Assembly declared its sittings permanent. On the 20th of June, the Palace of the Tuileries was forced by the mob of the Faubourgs Saint-Antoine and Saint-Marceau, the pretext being the refusal of Louis XVI. to sanction the proscription of the priests; the King was in peril of his life. The country was declared in danger. M. de La Fayette was burnt in effigy. The federates of the second Federation were arriving; the Marseilleise, called up by Danton, were on the march: they entered Paris on the 30th of July and were billeted by Pétion at the Cordeliers.


By the side of the national tribune, two competing tribunes had sprung up: that of the Jacobins and that of the Cordeliers, then the more formidable because it sent members to the famous Commune of Paris and supplied it with means of[Pg 15] action. If the formation of the Commune had not taken place, Paris, for want of a point of concentration, would have split up, and the various mayoralties become rival powers.

The Club of Cordeliers.

The Club des Cordeliers had its abode in the monastery, whose church was built in the reign of St Louis, in 1259[33], with funds paid as damages for a murder: in 1590 it became the resort of the most famous Leaguers. Certain places seem to be the laboratories of factions: "Intelligence was brought," says L'Estoile (12 July 1593), "to the Duc de Mayenne[34] of two hundred Cordeliers newly arrived in Paris, supplying themselves with arms and concerting with the Sixteen[35], who held council daily at the Cordeliers of Paris.... On that day the Sixteen, assembled at the Cordeliers, cast aside their arms."

The fanatics of the League had therefore handed down the monastery of the Cordeliers to our philosophical revolutionaries as a dead-house.

The pictures, the carved and painted images, the veils, the curtains of the convent had been pulled down; the basilica, flayed of its skin, presented its bare skeleton to the eye. In the apsis of the church, where the wind and the rain entered through the broken panes of the rose-windows, some joiners' benches served as a table for the president, when the sittings were held in the church. On these benches lay red caps, with which each speaker covered his head before ascending the tribune. The latter consisted of four buttressed stop-planks, crossed at their X by a single plank, like a scaffolding. Behind the president, together with a statue of Liberty, one saw so-called instruments of ancient justice, instruments whose place had been supplied by one other, the blood-machine, in the same way as complicated machinery has been replaced by the hydraulic ram. The Club des Jacobins épurés, or purged Jacobin Club, borrowed some of these arrangements of the Cordeliers.


The orators, who had met for purposes of destruction, were unable to agree in electing their leaders or in the methods to be employed; they treated each other as scoundrels, pickpockets, thieves, butchers, to the cacophony of the hisses[Pg 16] and groans of their several groups of devils. Their metaphors were taken from the stock of murders, borrowed from the filthiest objects of every kind of sewer and dunghill, or drawn from the places consecrated to the prostitution of men and women. Gestures accentuated these figures of speech; everything was called by its name, with cynical indecency, in an obscene and impious pageantry of oaths and blasphemies. Destruction and production, death and generation, one distinguished naught else through the savage slang which deafened the ears. The speech-makers, with their shrill or thundering voices, had interrupters other than their opponents: the little brown owls of the cloisters without monks and the steeple without bells played in the broken windows, in the hope of booty; they interrupted the speeches. They were first called to order by the jingling of the impotent bell; but when they failed to stop their clamour, shots were fired at them to compel them to silence: they fell, throbbing, wounded and fatidical, in the midst of the pandemonium. Broken-down timber-work, rickety pews, ramshackle stalls, fragments of saints rolled and pushed against the walls, served as benches for the dirty, grimy, drunken, sweating spectators, in their ragged carmagnoles, with their shouldered pikes or bare crossed arms.

The most deformed of the band obtained the readiest hearing. Mental and bodily infirmities have played a part in our troubles: wounded self-love has made great revolutionaries.


Following this precedence of hideousness, there appeared in succession, mingled with the ghosts of the Sixteen, a series of gorgon heads. The former doctor of the Comte d'Artois' Bodyguards, the Swiss fœtus Marat[36], his bare feet in wooden clogs or hob-nailed shoes, was the first to hold forth, by virtue of his incontestable claims. Holding the office of "jester" at the Court of the people, he exclaimed, with an insipid expression and the smirk of trite politeness which the old bringing-up set on every face:

"People, you must cut off two hundred and seventy thousand heads!"

To this Caligula of the public places succeeded the atheistical shoemaker Chaumette[37]. He was followed by the[Pg 17] "Attorney-General to the Lantern," Camille Desmoulins, a stuttering Cicero, a public counsellor of murders worn out with debauchery, a frivolous Republican with his puns and jokes, a maker of graveyard jests, who said that, in the massacres of September, "all had passed off orderly." He consented to become a Spartan, provided the making of the black broth was left to Méot the tavern-keeper[38].

Fouché[39], who had hastened up from Juilly or Nantes, studied disaster under those doctors: in the circle of wild beasts seated attentively round the chair he looked like a dressed-up hyena. He smelt the effluvium of the blood to come; already he inhaled the incense of the procession of asses and executioners, pending the day on which, driven from the Club des Jacobins as a thief, an atheist and an assassin, he should be chosen as a minister.


When Marat had climbed down from his plank, that popular Triboulet[40] became the sport of his masters: they filliped him on the nose, trod on his feet, hustled him with "gee-ups," all of which did not prevent him from becoming the leader of the multitude, climbing to the clock of the Hôtel de Ville, sounding the tocsin for a general massacre, and triumphing in the revolutionary tribunal.

Marat, like Milton's Sin, was violated by death[41]: Chénier wrote his apotheosis, David[42] painted him in his blood-stained bath; he was compared to the divine Author of the Gospel. A prayer was dedicated to him: "Heart of Jesus, Heart of Marat; O Sacred Heart of Jesus, O Sacred Heart of Marat!" This heart of Marat had for a ciborium a costly pyx from the Royal Repository. In a grass-grown cenotaph, erected on the Place du Carrousel, were exhibited the divinity's bust, his bath, lamp, and inkstand. Then the wind changed: the unclean thing, poured from its agate urn into a different vase, was emptied into the sewer.


The scenes at the Cordeliers, of which I witnessed some[Pg 18] three or four, were dominated and presided over by Danton, a Hun of Gothic stature, with a flat nose, outspread nostrils, furrowed jaws, and the face of a gendarme combined with that of a lewd and cruel attorney. In the shell of his church, as it were the skeleton of the centuries, Danton, with his three male furies, Camille Desmoulins, Marat, and Fabre d'Églantine[43], organized the assassinations of September. Billaud de Varennes[44] proposed to set fire to the prisons and burn all those inside; another Conventional voted that all the untried prisoners should be drowned; Marat declared himself in favour of a general massacre. Danton was besought to show mercy to the prisoners:

"——the prisoners!" he replied.

As author of the circular of the Commune, he invited free men to repeat in the departments the enormities perpetrated at the Carmelites and the Abbaye.

Let us consider history: Sixtus V.[45] pronounced the devotion of Jacques Clément[46] to be equal, for the salvation of mankind, to the mystery of the Incarnation, even as Marat was compared to the Saviour of the World; Charles IX.[47] wrote to the governors of provinces to imitate the St. Bartholomew[48] massacres, even as Danton summoned the patriots to copy the massacres of September. The Jacobins were plagiaries; they were still more so when they offered up Louis XVI. in imitation of Charles I.[49] As these crimes were connected with a great social movement, some have, very unaptly, imagined that those crimes produced the greatness of the Revolution, of which they were but the hideous pasticcios: while watching[Pg 19] a fine nature suffering, passionate or systematic minds have admired only its convulsions.

Danton, more candid than the English, said:

"We will not try our King, we will kill him."

He also said:

"Those priests and nobles are not guilty, but they must die, because they are out of place; they trammel the movement of things and obstruct the future."

These words, beneath an appearance of horrible depth, possess no extent of genius, for they presume that innocence is nothing, and that moral order can be withdrawn from political order without causing the latter to perish, which is false.


Danton had not the conviction of the principles he maintained; he had donned the revolutionary cloak only to make his fortune.

"Come and 'brawl' with us," he advised a young man: "when you have grown rich, you can do as you please."

He admitted that, if he had not sold himself to the Court, it was because it would not pay a high enough price for him: an instance of the effrontery of a mind that knows itself and a corruption that reveals itself open-mouthed.

Though inferior, even in ugliness, to Marat, whose agent he had been, Danton was superior to Robespierre, without, like the latter, having given his name to his crimes. He preserved the religious sense:

"We have not," he said, "destroyed superstition to establish atheism."

His passions might have been good ones, if only because they were passions. We must allow for character in the actions of men; culprits with heated imaginations like Danton seem, by reason of the very exaggeration of their sayings and doings, to be more froward than the cool-headed culprits, whereas in fact they are less so. This remark applies also to the people: taken collectively, the people is a poet, author and ardent actor of the piece which it plays or is made to play. Its excesses partake not so much of the instinct of a native cruelty as of the delirium of a crowd intoxicated with sights, especially when these are tragic: a thing so true that, in popular horrors, there is always something superfluous added to the picture and the emotion.

Danton was caught in the trap himself had laid. It availed him nothing to flick pellets of bread at his judges' noses, to reply nobly and courageously, to cause the tribunal to hesitate, to endanger and terrify the Convention, to reason[Pg 20] logically upon crimes by which the very power of his enemies had been created, to exclaim, smitten with barren repentance, "It was I who instituted this infamous tribunal: I crave pardon for it of God and men!" a phrase which has been pilfered more than once. It was before being indicted before the tribunal that he should have declared its infamy.

It only remained to Danton to show himself as pitiless for his own death as he had been for that of his victims, to hold his head higher than the hanging knife: and this he did. From the stage of the Terror, where his feet stuck in the clotted blood of the previous day, after turning a glance of contempt and domination over the crowd, he said to the headsman:

"Show my head to the people; it is worth showing."

Danton's head remained in the executioner's hands, while the acephalous shade went to join the decapitated shades of his victims: a further instance of equality. Danton's deacon and sub-deacon, Camille Desmoulins and Fabre d'Églantine, died in the same manner as their priest.

Camille Desmoulins.

At a time when pensions were being paid to the guillotine, when one wore at the buttonhole of one's carmagnole, by way of a flower, a little guillotine in gold, or else a small piece of a guillotined person's heart; at a time when people shouted, "Hell for ever!" when they celebrated the joyful orgies of blood, steel and fury, when they toasted annihilation, when they danced the dance of the dead quite naked, so as not to have the trouble of undressing when about to join them; at that time one was bound in the end to come to the last banquet, the last pleasantry of sorrow. Desmoulins was invited to Fouquier-Tinville's[50] tribunal.

"What is your age?" asked the president.

"The age of the Sans-Culotte Jesus," replied Camille facetiously[51].

An avenging obsession compelled the assassins of Christians unceasingly to confess the name of Christ.

It would be unfair to forget that Camille Desmoulins dared to defy Robespierre and to atone for his errors by his courage. He gave the signal for the reaction against the Terror. A young and charming wife, full of energy, had, by making him capable of love, made him capable of virtue and sacrifice. Indignation instilled eloquence into the tribune's coarse and[Pg 21] reckless irony: he attacked in the grand manner the scaffolds he had helped to erect. Adapting his conduct to his speech, he refused to consent to his execution; he struggled with the headsman in the tumbril, and arrived at the edge of the last gulf with his clothes half tom from his back.

Fabre d'Églantine, author of a play which will live[52], displayed, quite contrary to Desmoulins, a signal weakness. Jean Roseau, public executioner of Paris under the League, who was hanged for lending his offices to the assassins of the Président Brisson[53], could not bring himself to accept the rope. It seems that one does not learn how to die by killing others.

The debates at the Cordeliers established for me the fact of a state of society at the most rapid moment of its transformation. I had seen the Constituent Assembly commence the murder of the kingship in 1789 and 1790; I found the body, still quite warm, of the old monarchy handed over in 1792 to the legislative gut-workers: they disembowelled and dissected it in the cellars of their clubs, as the halberdiers cut up and burnt the body of the Balafré[54] in the garret of Blois Castle.

Of all the men whom I recall, Danton, Marat. Camille Desmoulins, Fabre d'Églantine, Robespierre, not one is alive. I met them for a moment on my passage between a nascent society in America and an expiring society in Europe; between the forests of the New World and the solitudes of exile: before I had reckoned a few months on foreign soil, those lovers of death had already spent themselves in her arms. At the distance at which I now find myself from their appearance, it seems to me as though, after descending into[Pg 22] the infernal regions of my youth, I retain a confused recollection of the shades which I vaguely saw wander by the bank of Cocytus: they complete the varied dreams of my life, and come to be inscribed on my tablets of beyond the tomb.


It was a great pleasure to meet M. de Malesherbes again and speak to him of my old projects. I stated my plans for a second journey, which was to last nine years; all I had to do first was to take another little journey to Germany: I was to run to the Army of the Princes, and come back at a run to kill the Revolution; all this would be finished in two or three months, when I should hoist my sail and return to the New World, having got rid of a revolution and enriched myself by a marriage.

And yet my zeal exceeded my faith; I felt that the emigration was a stupidity and a madness:

"I was shaven on all hands," says Montaigne. "To the Ghibelin I was a Guelf, to Guelf a Ghibelin[55]."

My distaste for absolute monarchy left me with no illusions concerning the step I was taking. I cherished scruples, and, although resolved to sacrifice myself to honour, I desired to have M. de Malesherbes' opinion on the emigration. I found him much incensed: the crimes continued under his eyes had caused the friend of Rousseau to lose his political toleration; between the cause of the victims and that of the butchers he did not hesitate. He believed that anything was better than the existing state of things; he thought that, in my particular case, a man wearing the sword was bound to join the brothers of a King who was oppressed and delivered to his enemies. He approved of my returning to America, and urged my brother to go with me.

I raised the ordinary objections based upon the assistance of foreigners, the interests of the country, and so on. He replied and, passing from general arguments to details, quoted some awkward examples. He put before me the case of the Guelphs and Ghibhelinnes, relying on the troops of the Emperor and the Pope; in England, the barons rising against John Lackland. Finally, in our times, he quoted the case of the Republic of the United States imploring the assistance of France.

"In the same way," continued M. de Malesherbes, "the men most devoted to liberty and philosophy, the Republicans[Pg 23] and Protestants, have never considered themselves to blame when they have borrowed a force which could ensure the victory of their opinion. Would the New World be free today without our gold, our ships, and our soldiers? I, Malesherbes, who am speaking to you, did not I, in 1776, receive Franklin, who came to renew the relations entered into by Silas Deane[56], and yet was Franklin a traitor? Was American liberty any the less honourable for being assisted by La Fayette and won by French grenadiers? Every government which, instead of securing the fundamental laws of society, itself transgresses the laws of equity, the rules of justice, ceases to exist, and restores man to the state of nature. It is then lawful to defend one's self as best one may, to resort to the means that appear most calculated to overthrow tyranny and to restore the rights of one and all."

Talks with Malesherbes.

The principles of natural right as set forth by the greatest publicists, developed by such a man as M. de Malesherbes, and supported by numerous historical examples, struck me without convincing me; I yielded in reality only to the impulse of my age, to the point of honour. I will add some more recent examples to those of M. de Malesherbes: during the Spanish War of 1823, the French Republican Party went to serve under the banner of the Cortès, and did not scruple to bear arms against its own country; in 1830 and 1831, the Poles and the constitutional Italians invoked the assistance of France, and the Portuguese of the "Charter" invaded their country with the aid of foreign money and foreign soldiers. We have two standards of weight and measurement: we approve in the case of one idea, one system, one interest, one man of that which we condemn in the case of another idea, another system, another interest, another man.

These conversations between myself and the illustrious defender of the King took place at my sister-in-law's; she had just given birth to a second son, to whom M. de Malesherbes stood god-father and gave his name, Christian. I was present at the baptism of this child, which was to see its father and mother only at an age at which life leaves no memory and appears at a distance like an ill-remembered dream. The preparations for my departure lagged. They had thought that they were making me contract a rich marriage:[Pg 24] it appeared that my wife's fortune was invested in Church securities; the nation undertook to pay them after its own fashion. Not only that, but Madame de Chateaubriand had, with the consent of her trustees, lent the scrip of a large portion of these securities to her sister, the Comtesse du Plessix-Parscau, who had emigrated. Money was still wanting, therefore; it became necessary to borrow.

A notary procured ten thousand francs for us: I was taking them home to the Cul-de-sac Férou, in assignats, when, in the Rue de Richelieu, I met one of my old messmates in the Navarre Regiment, the Comte Achard. He was a great gambler; he proposed that we should go to the rooms of M——, where we could talk; the devil urged me: I went upstairs, I played, I lost all, except fifteen hundred francs, with which, full of remorse and humiliation, I climbed into the first coach that passed. I had never played before: play produced in me a sort of painful intoxication; if the passion had attacked me, it would have turned my brain. With half-disordered wits, I stepped out of the coach at Saint-Sulpice, and left my pocket-book behind, containing the remnant of my treasure. I ran home and said that I had left the ten thousand francs in a hackney-coach.

I went out again, turned down the Rue Dauphine, crossed the Pont-Neuf, feeling half inclined to throw myself into the water; I went to the Place du Palais-Royal, where I had taken the ill-omened vehicle. I questioned the Savoyards who watered the screws, and described my conveyance; they told me a number at random. The police commissary of the district informed me that that number belonged to a job-master living at the top of the Faubourg Saint-Denis. I went to the man's house; I remained all night in the stable, waiting for the hackney-coaches to return: a large number arrived in succession which were not mine; at last, at two o'clock in the morning, I saw my chariot drive in. I had hardly time to recognise my two white steeds, when the poor beasts, utterly worn out, dropped down upon the straw, stiff, their stomachs distended, their legs stretched out, as though dead.

The coachman remembered driving me. After me, he had taken up a citizen, whom he had set down at the Jacobins; after the citizen, a lady, whom he had taken to the Rue de Cléry, number 13; after that lady, a gentleman, whom he had put down at the Recollects in the Rue Saint-Martin. I promised the driver a gratuity, and, the moment[Pg 25] daylight had come, set out on the discovery of my fifteen hundred francs, as I had gone in search of the North-West Passage. It seemed clear to me that the citizen of the Jacobins had confiscated them by right of his sovereignty. The young person of the Rue de Cléry averred that she had seen nothing in the coach. I reached the third station without any hope; the coachman gave a tolerably good description of the gentleman he had driven. The porter exclaimed:

"It's the Père So-and-so!"

He led me through the passages and the deserted apartments to a Recollect who had remained behind alone to make an inventory of the furniture of his convent. Seated on a heap of rubbish, in a dusty frock-coat, the monk listened to my story:

"Are you," he asked, "the Chevalier de Chateaubriand?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Here is your pocket-book," said he. "I would have brought it when I had finished: I found your address inside."

An honest monk.

It was this hunted and plundered monk, engaged in conscientiously counting up the relics of his cloister for his proscribes, who restored to me the fifteen hundred francs with which I was about to make my way to exile. Failing this small sum, I should not have emigrated: what should I have become? My whole life would have changed. I will be hanged if I would to-day move a step to recover a million.

This happened on the 16th of June 1792. Obeying the promptings of my instinct, I had returned from America to offer my sword to Louis XVI., not to associate myself with party intrigues. The disbanding of the King's new guard, of which Murat[57] was a member; the successive ministries of Roland[58], Dumouriez, Duport du Tertre[59]; the little conspiracies[Pg 26] of the Court and the great popular risings filled me only with weariness and contempt. I heard much talk of Madame Roland, whom I never saw: her Memoirs show that she possessed an extraordinary strength of mind. She was said to be very agreeable: it remains to be known whether she was sufficiently so to make at all tolerable the cynicism of her unnatural virtues. Certainly the woman who, at the foot of the guillotine, asked for pen and ink to describe the last moments of her journey, to write down the discoveries she had made in the course of her progress from the Conciergerie to the Place de la Révolution, that woman displayed an absorption in futurity, a contempt for life, of which there are few examples. Madame Roland possessed character rather than genius: the first can give the second, the second cannot give the first.

On the 19th of June, I went to the Vale of Montmorency to visit the Hermitage of J. J. Rousseau: not that I delighted in the memories of Madame d'Épinay[60] and of that depraved and artificial society; but I wished to take leave of the solitude of a man whose morals were antipathetic to mine, although he himself was endowed with a talent whose accents stirred my youth. On the next day, the 20th of June, I was still at the Hermitage, and there met two men walking, like myself, in that deserted spot during the fatal day of the monarchy, indifferent as they were or might be, thought I, to the affairs of this world: one was M. Maret[61], of the Empire, the other M. Barère[62], of the Republic. The amiable Barère had come, far from the uproar, in his sentimental, philosophical way, to whisper soft revolutionary nothings to the shade of Julie. The troubadour of the guillotine, on whose report the Convention decreed that the Terror was the order of the day, escaped the same Terror by hiding in the head-basket; from[Pg 27] the bottom of the bloody trough, beneath the scaffold, he was heard only to croak the word, "Death!" Barère belonged to the species of tigers which Oppian represents as born of the wind's light breath: velocis Zephyri proles.

Ginguené, Chamfort, my old friends among the men of letters, were delighted with the 20th of June. La Harpe, continuing his lectures at the Lycée, shouted in a stentorian voice:

"Fools! To all the representations of the people you answered, 'Bayonets! Bayonets!' Well, you have them now, your bayonets!"

Although my travels in America had made a less insignificant personage of me, I was unable to rise to so great a height of principle and eloquence. Fontanes was in danger through his former connection with the Société Monarchique. My brother was a member of a club of enragés. The Prussians were marching by virtue of a convention between the Cabinets of Vienna and Berlin; a rather fierce engagement had already taken place between the French and Austrians near Mons. It was more than time for me to take a decision.

My brother and I emigrate.

My brother and I procured false passports for Lille: we were two wine-merchants and national guards of Paris, wearing the uniform and proposing to tender for the army supplies. My brother's valet, Louis Poullain, known as Saint-Louis, travelled under his own name; he came from Lamballe, in Lower Brittany, but was going to see his family in Flanders. The day of our emigration was settled for the 15th of July, the day after the second Federation. We spent the 14th in the Tivoli garden, with the Rosanbo family, my sisters and my wife. Tivoli belonged to M. Boutin[63], whose daughter had married M. de Malesherbes[64]. Towards the end of the day we saw a good many federates wandering about after disbanding; on their hats was written in chalk, "Pétion or death!" Tivoli, the starting-point of my exile, was to become a centre of amusements and fêtes. Our relations took leave of us without sadness; they were persuaded that we were going on a pleasure-trip. My recovered fifteen hundred francs seemed a treasure sufficient to bring me back in triumph to Paris.

[Pg 28]

On the 10th of July, at six o'clock in the morning, we climbed into the diligence: we had booked our seats in the front part, by the guard; the valet, whom we were supposed not to know, stuffed himself into the inside with the other passengers. Saint-Louis walked in his sleep; in Paris he used to go looking for his master at night, with his eyes open, but quite asleep. He used to undress my brother and put him to bed, sleeping all the time, answering, "I know, I know," to all that was said to him during his attacks, and waking only when cold water was thrown in his face: he was a man of about forty, nearly six feet high, and as ugly as he was tall. This poor fellow, who was very respectful by nature, had never served any master except my brother; he was quite confused when he had to sit down to table with us at supper. The passengers, great patriots all, talking of hanging the aristocrats from the lanterns, increased his dismay. The thought that, at the end of all this, he would be obliged to pass through the Austrian Army, in order to fight in the Army of the Princes, completely turned his brain. He drank heavily and climbed into the diligence again; we went back to the coupé.

In the middle of the night we heard the passengers shouting, with their heads out of the windows:

"Stop, postilion, stop!"

They stopped, the door of the diligence was opened, and immediately male and female voices exclaimed:

"Get down, citizen, get down! We can't stand this! Get down, you beast! He's a brigand! Get down, get down!"

We got down too, and saw Saint-Louis hustled, flung out of the coach, stand up, turn his wide-open but sleeping eyes around him, and take to flight in the direction of Paris, without his hat, and as fast as his legs would carry him. We were unable to acknowledge him, or we should have betrayed ourselves; we had to leave him to his fate. He was caught and taken up at the first village, and stated that he was the servant of M. le Comte de Chateaubriand, and that he lived in the Rue de Bondy, Paris. The rural police passed him on from brigade to brigade to the Président de Rosanbo's; the unhappy man's depositions served to prove our emigration, and to send my brother and sister-in-law to the scaffold.

The next day, when the diligence stopped for breakfast, we had to listen to the whole story a score of times:

[Pg 29]

"That man had a perturbed imagination; he was dreaming out loud; he said strange things; he was no doubt a conspirator, an assassin fleeing from justice."

The well-bred citizenesses blushed and waved large green-paper "Constitutional" fans. We easily recognised through these stories the effects of somnambulism, fear and wine.

We cross the frontier.

On reaching Lille, we went in search of the person who was to take us across the frontier. The Emigration had its agents of safety who eventually became agents of perdition. The monarchical party was still powerful, the question undecided: the weak and cowardly served, while awaiting the turn of events. We left Lille before the gates were closed: we stopped at a remote house, and did not start until ten o'clock at night, when it was quite dark; we carried nothing with us; we had a little cane in our hands; it was no more than a year since I, in the same way, followed my Dutchman in the American forests.

We crossed cornfields through which wound hardly traceable footpaths. The French and Austrian patrols were beating the country-side: we were liable to fall in with either, or to find ourselves in front of the pistols of a vedette. We saw single horsemen in the distance, motionless, weapon in hand; we heard the hoofs of horses in the hollow roads; laying our ears against the ground, we heard the regular tramp of infantry marching. After three hours spent alternately in running and in creeping along on tiptoe, we reached a cross-road in a wood where some belated nightingales were singing. A troop of uhlans, posted behind a hedge, fell upon us with raised sabres. We shouted:

"Officers going to join the Princes!"

We asked to be taken to Tournay, saying we were in a position to make ourselves known. The officer in command placed us between his troopers and carried us off. When day broke, the uhlans perceived our national guards' uniforms under our surtouts, and insulted the colours in which France was soon to dress her vassal, Europe.

In Tournaisis, the primitive kingdom of the Franks, Clovis resided during the early years of his reign; he set out from Tournay with his companions, summoned as he was to the conquest of the Gauls: "Arms always have right on their side," says Tacitus. Through this town, from which, in 486, the first King of the First Race[65] rode to found his long and[Pg 30] mighty monarchy, I passed in 1792 to go and join the Princes of the Third Race on foreign soil, and I passed through it again in 1815, when the last King of the French abandoned the kingdom of the first King of the Franks: omnia migrant.

When we reached Tournay, I left my brother to grapple with the authorities, and in the custody of a soldier visited the cathedral. In days of old, Odo of Orleans, the scholasticus of the cathedral, seated at night before the church porch, taught his disciples the course of the planets, and pointed out to them the Milky Way and the stars. I would rather have found this artless eleventh-century astronomer at Tournay than the Pandours. I delight in those days in which the chronicles tell me, under the year 1049, that, in Normandy, a man had been transformed into a donkey: that was like to have happened to me, as the reader knows, at the house of the Demoiselles Couppart, who taught me to read. Hildebert[66], in 1114, saw a girl from whose ears grew spikes of corn: perhaps it was Ceres. The Meuse, which I was soon to cross, was suspended in mid-air in the year 1118, as witness Guillaume de Nangis[67] and Albéric[68]. Rigord[69] assures us that, in 1194, between Compiègne and Clermont in Beauvoisis, there fell a storm of hail, mixed with ravens which carried charcoal and caused a fire. If the tempest, as Gervase of Tilbury[70] tells us, was unable to extinguish a candle on the window-sill of the priory of Saint-Michel "de Camissa," we also know through him that, in the Diocese of Uzès, there was a fair and clear spring which changed its place when anything unclean was thrown into it: our latter-day consciences do not put themselves out for so little.

Reader, I am not wasting time; I am chatting with you to keep you in patience while waiting for my brother, who is arranging things: here he comes, after explaining himself to the satisfaction of the Austrian commander. We[Pg 31] have leave to go on to Brussels, an exile purchased with too much care and trouble.



Brussels was the head-quarters of the upper Emigration: the most elegant women of Paris and the most fashionable men, those who were able to march only as aides-de-camp, were awaiting amid pleasures the moment of victory. They had fine brand-new uniforms; they paraded the very pedantry of frivolity. Considerable sums, enough to keep them for a few years, were squandered in a few days: it was not worth while economizing, since we should be in Paris directly. Those gallant knights, reversing the practice of the olden chivalry, were preparing for glory with successes in love. They scornfully watched us trudging on foot, knapsack on back, small provincial gentlemen that we were, or poor officers turned into private soldiers. Those Hercules sat at the feet of their Omphales spinning the distaffs which they had sent us and which we handed back to them as we passed, contenting ourselves with our swords.

In Brussels I found my scanty luggage, which had fraudulently passed the customs ahead of me: it consisted of my Navarre uniform, a little linen, and my precious papers, with which I could not part. I was invited with my brother to dine at the Baron de Breteuil's; I there met the Baronne de Montmorency, then young and beautiful, at this moment dying; martyr bishops in watered-silk cassocks and gold crosses; young magistrates transformed into Hungarian colonels; and Rivarol, whom I saw only once in my life. His name had not been mentioned; I was struck by the conversation of a man who held forth all alone and was listened to, with some right, as an oracle. Rivarol's wit was prejudicial to his talent, as his tongue was to his pen. Talking of revolutions, he said:

"The first blow aims at God, the second strikes only a senseless slab of marble."

I had resumed my uniform of a petty infantry subaltern; I was to start on rising from dinner, and my knapsack was behind the door. I was still bronzed by the American sun and the sea air; I wore my hair uncurled and unpowdered. My face and my silence troubled Rivarol; the Baron de Breteuil, perceiving his restless curiosity, satisfied it:

"Where does your brother the chevalier come from?" he asked my brother.

I answered:

"From Niagara."

[Pg 32]

Rivarol cried:

"From the cataract!"

I was silent. He hazarded an uncompleted question:

"Monsieur is going——?"

"Where they are fighting," I broke in.

We rose from table.

This fatuous Emigrant society was hateful to me; I was eager to see my peers, Emigrants like myself with six hundred francs a year. We were very stupid, no doubt, but at least we aired our sword-blades, and, if we had obtained any successes, we should have been the last to profit by victory.

My brother remained at Brussels with the Baron de Montboissier[71], who appointed him his aide-de-camp; I set out alone for Coblentz.

There is no more historic road than that which I followed; it recalled in every part some memory or greatness of France. I passed through Liège, one of those municipal republics which so often rose against their bishops or against the Counts of Flanders. Louis XI.[72], the ally of the Liégeois, was obliged to assist at the sack of their town in order to escape from his ridiculous prison of Péronne. I was about to join and to become one of the soldiers who glory in such things. In 1792, the relations between Liège and France were more peaceful: the Abbot of Saint-Hubert was obliged every year to send two hounds to King Dagobert's successors.

At Aix-la-Chapelle there was another offering, but on the part of France: the pall that had served at the funeral of a Most Christian King was sent to the tomb of Charlemagne as a vassal banner to the lord's fief. Our kings thus did fealty and homage on taking possession of the inheritance of Eternity: laying their hands between the knees of their liege-lady, Death, they swore to be faithful to her, after pressing the feudal kiss on her mouth. This, however, was the only suzerain of whom France acknowledged herself the vassal.

Le Comte de Rivarol.

The Cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle was built by Karl the Great and consecrated by Leo III[73]. Two prelates failing to[Pg 33] attend the ceremony, their places were filled by two Bishops of Maastricht, long deceased, and resuscitated for the purpose. Charlemagne, having lost a beautiful mistress, pressed her body in his arms and refused to be separated from it. His passion was attributed to a charm: the young corpse was examined, and a tiny pearl found beneath the tongue. The pearl was flung into a marsh; Charlemagne became madly enamoured of the marsh, and ordered it to be filled up: there he built a palace and a church, to spend his life in one and his death in the other. The authorities here are Archbishop Turpin[74] and Petrarch[75].

At Cologne I admired the cathedral: if it were finished, it would be the finest Gothic monument in Europe. The monks were the painters, the sculptors, the architects, and the masons of their basilicas; they gloried in the title of master-mason, cœmentarius. It is curious to hear ignorant philosophers and chattering democrats cry out to-day against the monks, as though those frocked proletarians, those mendicant orders to whom we owe almost everything, had been gentlemen!

Cologne reminded me of Caligula[76] and St. Bruno[77]; I have seen the remains of the dykes built by the former at Baiæ, and the deserted cell of the latter at the Grande Chartreuse.

I went up the Rhine as far as Coblentz: Confluentia. The Army of the Princes was no longer there. I crossed those empty kingdoms: inania regna; I saw the beautiful valley of the Rhine, the Tempe of the barbarian muses, where the knights appeared around the ruins of their castles, where one hears the clash of arms at night, when war is at hand.

Frederic William II.

Between Coblentz and Trèves, I fell in with the Prussian Army: I was passing along the column when, coming up with the guards, I noticed that they were marching in battle order, with cannon in line; the King[78] and the Duke of Brunswick[79] were in the centre of the square, composed of Frederic's[Pg 34] old grenadiers. My white uniform caught the King's eye: he sent for me; the Duke of Brunswick and he took off their hats and saluted the old French Army in my person. They asked me my name, my regiment, the place where I was going to join the Princes. This military welcome touched me: I replied with emotion that, on learning in America of my King's misfortunes, I had returned to shed my blood in his service. The generals and officers surrounding Frederic William made a movement of approbation, and the Prussian sovereign said:

"Sir, one always recognises the sentiments of the French nobility."

He took off his hat again and stood uncovered and motionless, until I had disappeared behind the mass of the grenadiers. Nowadays people cry out against the Emigrants: they are "tigers who rent their mother's bosom;" at the time of which I speak, men loved the examples of old, and honour ranked as high as country. In 1792, fidelity to one's oath was still accounted a duty; to-day, it has become so rare that it is regarded as a virtue.

A strange scene, already rehearsed with others than myself, almost made me retrace my steps. They refused to admit me at Trèves, where the Army of the Princes was:

"I was one of those men who await the course of events before making up their minds; I ought to have joined the cantonment three years ago; I came when victory was assured. They had no use for me; they had only too many of those heroes after the battle. Every day, squadrons of cavalry were deserting; even the artillery was melting away in a body; and, if that went on, they would not know what to do with those people!"

O prodigious illusionment of parties!

I met my cousin Armand de Chateaubriand: he took me under his protection, assembled the Bretons and pleaded my cause. They sent for me; I made my explanation: I told them that I had come from America to have the honour of serving beside my comrades; that the campaign was opened, not commenced, so that I was still in time for the first fire; that, however, I would go back if they insisted, but not before I had obtained satisfaction for an undeserved insult. The matter was arranged: as I was a good fellow, the ranks were[Pg 35] opened to receive me, and my only difficulty was to make my selection.

Frederic William II.


The Emigrant army.

The Army of the Princes was composed of gentlemen, classed by provinces and serving as private soldiers: the nobility was harking back to its origin and to the origin of the monarchy, at the very moment when both the nobility and monarchy were coming to an end, even as an old man returns to childhood. There were, moreover, brigades of Emigrant officers of different regiments, who had also become soldiers: among these were my messmates of Navarre, with their colonel, the Marquis de Mortemart, at their head. I was strongly tempted to enlist with La Martinière, even though he should still be in love; but Armorican patriotism won the day. I enrolled myself in the seventh Breton Company, commanded by M. de Goyon-Miniac[80]. The nobles of my province had furnished seven companies; to these was added an eighth consisting of young men of the Third Estate: the steel-grey uniform of this last company differed from that of the others, which was royal blue with ermine facings. Men attached to the same cause and exposed to the same dangers perpetuated their political inequalities by odious distinctions: the true heroes were the plebeian soldiers, since no consideration of personal interest entered into the sacrifice they made.

Enumeration of our little army:

Infantry of gentlemen-soldiers and officers; four companies of deserters, dressed in the different uniforms of the regiments from which they came; one company of artillery; a few officers of engineers, with some guns, howitzers, and mortars of various calibres (the artillery and engineers, almost all of whom embraced the cause of the Revolution, achieved its success across the borders). A very fine cavalry, consisting of German carabineers, musketeers under the command of the old Comte de Montmorin and naval officers from Brest, Rochefort, and Toulon, supported our infantry. The wholesale emigration of these last-named officers plunged naval France back into the condition of weakness from which Louis XVI. had extricated it. Never since the days of Duquesne and Tourville[81] had our[Pg 36] squadrons covered themselves with more glory. My comrades were delighted: I had tears in my eyes when I saw pass before them those ocean dragons, who no longer commanded the ships with which they had humbled the English and delivered America. Instead of going in search of new continents to bequeath to France, these companions of La Pérouse sank into the mud of Germany. They rode the horse dedicated to Neptune; but they had changed their element, and the land was not for them. In vain their commander carried at their head the tattered ensign of the Belle-Poule, the sacred relic of the White Flag, from whose shreds honour still hung, but victory had fallen.

We had tents; we lacked all beside. Our muskets, of German make, trumpery weapons and frightfully heavy, broke our shoulders, and were often not in a condition to be fired. I went through the whole campaign with one of these firelocks, the hammer of which refused to fall.

We remained two days at Trèves. It was a great pleasure to me to see Roman ruins after having seen the nameless ruins of Ohio, to visit that town so often sacked, of which Salvianus[82] said:

"O fugitives from Trèves, you ask again for theatres, you demand a circus of the princes: for what State, I pray you; for what people, for what city? Theatra igitur quæritis, circum a principibus postulatis? Cui, quæso, statut, cui populo, cui civitati?"

Fugitives from France, where was the people for which we wished to restore the monuments of St. Louis?

I sat down, with my musket, among the ruins; I took from my knapsack the manuscript of my travels in America; I arranged the separate sheets on the grass around me; I read over and corrected a description of a forest, a passage of Atala, in the fragments of a Roman amphitheatre, preparing in this way to make the conquest of France. Then I put away my treasure, the weight of which, combined with that of my shirts, my cloak, my tin can, my wicker bottle, and my little Homer, made me throw up blood.

I tried to stuff Atala into my cartridge-box with my useless ammunition; my comrades made fun of me, and pulled at the sheets which stuck out on either side of the leather cover. Providence came to my rescue: one night, after sleeping in a hay-loft, I found, when I woke, that my shirts[Pg 37] were no longer in my sack; the thieves had left the papers. I praised God: that accident assured my "fame" and saved my life, for the sixty pounds that pressed upon my shoulders would have driven me into a consumption.

"How many shirts have I?" asked Henry IV. of his body-servant.

"One dozen, Sire, and some of them are torn."

"And of handkerchiefs, is it not eight that I have?"

"There are only five left now."

The Bearnese won the Battle of Ivry[83] without shirts; the loss of mine did not enable me to restore his kingdom to his descendants.


We received orders to march on Thionville. We did five to six leagues a day. The weather was terrible; we tramped through the rain and slush singing, Ô Richard! ô mon roi! and Pauvre Jacques![84] On arriving at the encamping-place, having neither wagons nor provisions, we went with donkeys, which followed the column like an Arab caravan, to hunt for food in the farms and villages. We paid for everything scrupulously; nevertheless I had to do fatigue duty for taking two pears from the garden of a country-house without thinking. A great steeple, a great river and a great lord are bad neighbours, says the proverb.

We pitched our tents at random, and were constantly obliged to beat the canvas in order to flatten out the threads and prevent the water from coming through. We were ten soldiers to every tent; each in turn took charge of the cooking: one went for meat, another for bread, another for wood, another for straw. I made wonderful soup; I received great compliments on it, especially when I mixed milk and cabbage with the stew, in the Breton way. I had learnt among the Iroquois not to mind smoke, so that I bore myself bravely before my fire of green and damp boughs. This soldier's life is very amusing; I imagined myself still among the Indians. As we sat at mess in our tent my comrades asked me for tales of my travels; they told me some fine stories in return; we all lied like a corporal in a tavern, with a conscript paying the reckoning.

One thing tired me: washing my linen; it had to be done, and often, for the obliging robber had left me only one[Pg 38] shirt, borrowed from my cousin Armand, besides the one on my back. When I lay soaping my stockings, my pocket-handkerchiefs and my shirt by the edge of a stream, with my head down and my loins up, I was seized with fits of giddiness; the motion of the arms gave me an unbearable pain in the chest. I was obliged to sit down among the horsetails and watercress; and, in the midst of the stir of war, I amused myself by watching the water flow peacefully past. Lope de Vega[85] makes a shepherdess wash the bandage of Love; that shepherdess would have been very useful to me for a little birch-cloth turban which my Floridans had given me.

An army is generally composed of soldiers of nearly the same age, the same height, the same strength. Very different was ours, a jumbled gathering of grown men, old men, children fresh from the dovecot, jabbering Norman, Breton, Picard, Auvergnat, Gascon, Provençal, Languedocian. A father served with his sons, a father-in-law with his son-in-law, an uncle with his nephews, a brother with a brother, a cousin with a cousin. This arrière ban, ridiculous as it appeared, had something honourable and touching about it, because it was animated with sincere convictions; it presented the spectacle of the old monarchy and afforded a last glimpse of a dying world. I have seen old noblemen, with stern looks, grey hair, torn coats, knapsack on back, musket slung over the shoulder, drag themselves along with a stick and supported by the arm by one of their sons; I have seen M. de Boishue, the father of my schoolfellow killed at the States of Rennes in my sight, march solitary and sad, with his bare feet in the mud, carrying his shoes at the point of his bayonet for fear of wearing them out; I have seen young wounded men lie under a tree, while a chaplain, in surtout and stole, knelt by their side, sending them to St. Louis, whose heirs they had striven to defend. The whole of this needy band, which received not a sou from the Princes, made war at its own expense, while the decrees finished despoiling it and threw our wives and mothers into prison.

The old men of former times were less unhappy and less lonely than those of to-day: if, in lingering upon earth, they had lost their friends, there was but little changed around them besides; they were strangers to youth, but not to society. Nowadays, a lagger in this world has witnessed the death not[Pg 39] only of men, but of ideas: principles, manners, tastes, pleasures, pains, opinions, none of these resemble what he used to know. He belongs to a race different from that among which he ends his days.

Old France.

And yet, O nineteenth-century France, learn to prize that old France which was as good as you. You will grow old in your turn and you will be accused, as we were accused, of clinging to obsolete ideas. The men whom you have vanquished are your fathers; do not deny them, you are sprung from their blood. Had they not been generously faithful to the ancient traditions, you would not have drawn from that native fidelity the energy which has been the cause of your glory in the new traditions: between the old France and the new, all that has happened is a transformation of virtue.


Near our poor and obscure camp was another which was brilliant and rich. At the staff, one saw nothing but wagons full of eatables, met with none save cooks, valets, aides-de-camp. Nothing could have better reproduced the Court and the provinces, the monarchy expiring at Versailles and the monarchy dying on Du Guesclin's heaths. We had grown to hate the aides-de-camp; whenever there was an engagement outside Thionville, we shouted, "Forward, the aides-de-camp!" just as the patriots used to shout, "Forward, the officers!"

I felt a chill at my heart when, arriving one dark day in sight of some woods that lined the horizon, we were told that those woods were in France. To cross the frontier of my country in arms had an effect upon me which I am unable to convey. I had, as it were, a sort of revelation of the future, inasmuch as I shared none of my comrades' illusions, either with regard to the cause they were supporting or the thoughts of triumph with which they deluded themselves: I was there like Falkland[86] in the army of Charles I. There was not a Knight of the Mancha, sick, lame, wearing a night-cap under his three-cornered beaver, but was most firmly convinced of his ability, unaided, to put fifty young and vigorous patriots to flight. This honourable and agreeable pride, at another time the source of prodigies, had not attacked me: I did not feel so sure of the strength of my invincible arm.

[Pg 40]

We reached Thionville unconquered on the 1st of September; for we had met nobody on the road. The cavalry encamped to the right, the infantry to the left of the high-road running from the town towards Germany. The fortress was not visible from the camping-ground, but, six hundred paces ahead, one came to the ridge of a hill whence the eye swept the Valley of the Moselle. The mounted men of the navy joined the right of our infantry to the Austrian corps of the Prince of Waldeck[87], while the left of the infantry was covered by 1800 horse of the Maison-Rouge and Royal German Regiments. We entrenched our front with a fosse, along which the arms were stalked in line. The eight Breton companies occupied two intersecting streets of the camp, and below us was dressed the company of the Navarre officers, my former messmates.

When these field-works, which took three days, were completed, Monsieur and the Comte d'Artois arrived; they reconnoitred the place, which was called upon in vain to surrender, although Wimpfen[88] seemed willing to do so. Like the Grand Condé[89], we had not won the Battle of Rocroi, and so we were not able to capture Thionville; but we were not beaten under its walls, like Feuquières[90]. We took up a position on the high-road, at the end of a village which formed a suburb of the town, outside the horn-work which defended the bridge over the Moselle. The troops fired at each other from the houses; our post remained in possession of those which it had taken. I was not present at this first action. Armand, my cousin, was there and behaved well. While they were fighting in the village, my company was requisitioned to establish a battery on the skirt of a wood which capped the summit of a hill. Along the slope of this[Pg 41] hill, vineyards ran down to the plain joining the outer fortifications of Thionville.

The siege of Thionville.

The engineer directing us made us throw up a gazoned cavalier for our guns; we drew a parallel open trench to place us below the cannon-balls. These earthworks took long in making, for we were all, young officers and old alike, unaccustomed to wield the mattock and spade. We had no wheelbarrows and carried the earth in our coats, which we used as sacks. Fire was opened on us from a lunette; it was the more irksome to us in that we were unable to reply: eight-pounders and a Cohorn howitzer, which was outranged, formed all our artillery. The first shell we fired fell outside the glacis and aroused the jeers of the garrison. A few days later, we were joined by some Austrian guns and gunners. One hundred infantry men and a picket of the naval cavalry were relieved at this battery every twenty-four hours. The besieged prepared to attack it; we could distinguish a movement on the rampart through the telescope. When night fell, we saw a column issue through a postern and reach the lunette under shelter of the covert way. My company was ordered up as a reinforcement.

At daybreak, five or six hundred patriots began operations in the village, on the high-road above the town; then, turning to the left, they came through the vineyards to take our battery in flank. The sailors charged bravely, but were overthrown and unmasked us. We were too badly armed to return the fire; we pushed forward with fixed bayonets. The attacking party retreated, I know not why; had they held their ground, they would have wiped us out.

We had several wounded and a few dead, among others the Chevalier de La Baronnais[91], captain of one of the Breton companies. I brought him ill-luck: the bullet which took his life ricochetted against the barrel of my musket and struck him with such force as to pierce both his temples; his brains were scattered over my face. Noble and unnecessary victim of a lost cause! When the Maréchal d'Aubeterre[92] held the States of Brittany, he went to M. de[Pg 42] La Baronnais, the father, a poor nobleman, living at Dinard, near Saint-Malo. The Marshal, who had begged him to invite nobody, saw, on entering, a table laid for twenty-five, and scolded his host in friendly fashion.

"Monseigneur," said M. de La Baronnais, "I have only my children to dinner."

M. de La Baronnais had twenty-two boys and a girl, all by the same mother. The Revolution reaped this rich family harvest before it was ripe.


Waldeck's Austrian corps began operations. The attack became livelier on our side. It was a fine spectacle at night: fire-pots lit up the works of the place covered with soldiers; sudden gleams struck the clouds or the blue firmament when the guns were fired, and the bombs, crossing each other in the air, described a parabola of light. In the intervals between the reports, one heard drums rolling, gusts of military music, and the voices of the sentries on the ramparts of Thionville and at our own posts; unfortunately, they called out in French in both camps:

"Sentinelles, prenez garde à vous! All's well!"

When the fighting took place, at dawn, it would happen that the lark's morning hymn followed upon the sound of musketry, while the guns, which had ceased firing, silently stared at us, with gaping mouths, through the embrasures. The song of the bird, recalling the memories of pastoral life, seemed to utter a reproach to mankind. It was the same when I came across some dead bodies in the middle of fields of lucerne in flower, or by the edge of a stream of water which bathed the hair of the slain. In the woods, at a few steps from the stress of war, I found little statues of the Saints and the Virgin. A goat-herd, a neat-herd, a beggar carrying his wallet knelt beside these peace-makers, telling their beads to the distant sound of cannon. A whole township once came with its minister to present flowers to the patron of a neighbouring parish, whose image dwelt in a wood, opposite a spring. The curate was blind: a soldier in God's army, he had lost his sight in doing good works, like a grenadier on the battlefield. The vicar administered communion for his curate, because the latter could not have laid the consecrated wafer upon the lips of the communicants. During this ceremony, and from the depths of night, he blessed the light!

Our fathers believed that the patrons of the hamlets, John[Pg 43] "the Silent[93]," Dominic "Loricatus[94]," James "Intercisus[95]," Paul "the Simple[96]," Basil "the Hermit[97]," and so many others, were no strangers to the triumph of the arms which protect the harvests. On the very day of the Battle of Bouvines[98], robbers broke into a convent dedicated to St. Germanus[99] at Auxerre, and stole the consecrated vessels. The sacristan went to the shrine of the blessed bishop and said plaintively:

"Germanus, where wert thou when those thieves dared to violate thy sanctuary?"

A voice issuing from the shrine replied:

"I was near Cisoing, not far from Bouvines Bridge; together with other saints, I was helping the French and their King, to whom a brilliant victory has been given by our aid: cui fuit auxilio victoria præstita nostro."


Fierce fighting.

We beat the plain and pushed as far as the hamlets lying under the first entrenchments of Thionville. The village on the high-road crossing the Moselle was constantly being captured and recaptured. I took part in two of these assaults. The patriots abused us as "enemies of liberty," "aristocrats" and "Capet's satellites." We called them "brigands," "murderers," "traitors" and "revolutionaries." Sometimes we stopped fighting while a duel took place in[Pg 44] the midst of the combatants, who became impartial seconds: O strange French character, which even passions were unable to stifle!

One day, I was on patrol in a vineyard; twenty paces from me was an old sporting nobleman who banged the muzzle of his musket against the vine-stocks, as though to start a hare, and then looked sharply round, in the hope of seeing a "patriot" leap out: every one had brought his own habits with him.

Another day, I went to visit the Austrian camp. Between the camp and that of the naval cavalry, a wood spread its screen, against which the place was directing an inexpedient fire; the town was shooting too much, it believed us to be more numerous than we were, which explains the pompous bulletins of the commander of Thionville. While crossing this wood, I saw something move in the grass: a man lay stretched at full length with his nose against the ground, showing only his broad back. I thought he was wounded: I took him by the nape of the neck and half lifted his head. He opened a pair of terror-struck eyes and raised himself a little upon his hands. I burst out laughing: it was my cousin Moreau! I had not seen him since our visit to Madame de Chastenay.

He had lain flat on his stomach to escape a bomb, and found it impossible to get up again. I had all the difficulty in the world to set him on his legs; his paunch was three times its former size. He told me that he was serving on the commissariat, and that he was on his way to offer some oxen to the Prince of Waldeck. In addition to this, he carried a rosary. Hugues Métel[100] tells of a wolf which resolved to embrace the monastic condition, but which, failing to accustom itself to the fasting diet, became a canon.

As I returned to camp, an officer of engineers passed close by me, leading his horse by the bridle; a cannon-ball struck the animal in the narrowest part of the neck and cut it right off; the head and neck remained hanging in the officer's hand and dragged him to the ground with their weight. I had seen a bomb fall in the middle of a ring of naval officers who were sitting eating in a circle. The mess-platter disappeared; the officers, tumbling head over heels and run, as it were, on a sand-bank, shouted like the old sea captain:

[Pg 45]

"Fire starboard guns, fire larboard guns, fire all guns, fire my wig!"

These singular shots seem to pertain to Thionville. In 1558, François de Guise[101] laid siege to the place. Marshal Strozzi[102] was killed, "while talking in the trenches to the aforesaid Sieur de Guise, who had his hand on his shoulder at the time."


Market in camp.

A sort of market had been formed behind our camp. The peasants had brought octaves of white Moselle wine, which remained on the wagons: the horses were taken out and ate fastened to one end of the cart, while the soldiers drank at the other end. Here and there gleamed the fires of ovens. Sausages were fried in pans, hasty puddings boiled in basins, pancakes tossed on iron dishes, puffcakes swollen out on hampers. Cakes flavoured with aniseed, rye loaves at one sou, maize cakes, green apples, red and white eggs, pipes and tobacco were sold under a tree from whose branches hung coarse cloth great-coats, for which the passers-by haggled. Village women, seated astride portable stools, milked cows, while each presented his cup to the dairy-woman and waited his turn. Before the stoves roamed cutlers in smocks and soldiers in uniform. The canteen-women went about crying aloud in German and French. There were groups standing, others seated at deal tables planted askew on the uneven ground. One sought shelter at random under a packing cloth or under branches cut in the forest, as on Palm Sunday. I believe also that there were weddings in the covered wagons, in memory of the Frankish kings. The patriots could easily have followed Majorian's[103] example and carried away the bride's chariot: Rapit esseda victor, nubentemque nurum.[104] All sang, laughed, smoked. The scene was extremely gay at night, between the fires which lit up the earth and the stars shining overhead.

When I was neither on guard at the batteries nor on duty in the tent, I liked supping at the fair. There the[Pg 46] stories of the camp were told again; but under the influence of liquor and good cheer they became much finer. One of our fellows, a brevet-captain, whose name I have forgotten in that of "Dinarzade" which we gave him, was famous for his yarns; it would have been more correct to say "Scheherazade," but we were not so careful as that. As soon as we saw him, we ran up to him, fought for him: we vied with each other as to who should have him on his score. Short of body, long of leg, with sunk cheeks, drooping mustachios, eyebrows forming a comma at the outer angle, a hollow voice, a huge sword in a coffee-coloured scabbard, the carriage of a soldier poet, something between the suicide and the jolly dog, that solemn wag Dinarzade never laughed, and it was impossible to look at him without laughing. He was the necessary second in all the duels and the lover of all the barmaids. He viewed all he said on the dark side, and interrupted his recitals only to take a pull at a bottle, relight his pipe, or swallow a sausage.

One night, when it was drizzling, we were seated round the tap of a wine-cask tilted towards us in a cart with its shafts in the air. A candle stuck on the cask lighted us; a piece of packing-cloth, stretched from the end of the shafts to two posts, served us for a roof. Dinarzade, with his sword awry after the manner of Frederic II., stood between one of the wheels and a horse's crupper, telling a story to our great content. The canteen-women who brought us our rations stayed with us to listen to our Arab. The attentive group of bacchantes and Silenuses which formed the chorus accompanied the narrative with marks of its surprise, approval, or disapproval.

"Gentlemen," said the story-teller, "you all knew the Green Knight, who lived in the days of King John[105]?"

Every one said:

"Yes, yes."

Dinarzade swallowed down a rolled pancake, burning himself as he did so.

"This Green Knight, gentlemen, as you know, since you have seen him, was very good-looking: when the wind blew[Pg 47] back his ruddy locks over his casque, it looked like a twist of tow round a green turban."

The audience: "Bravo!"

Dinarzade's tales.

"One evening in May, he sounded his horn at the draw-bridge of a castle in Picardy, or Auvergne, no matter which. In that castle lived "the Lady of Great Companies." She welcomed the knight, told her servants to disarm him and lead him to the bath, and came and sat with him at a splendid table; and the pages-in-waiting were mute."

The audience: "Oh, oh!"

"The lady, gentlemen, was tall, flat, lean, and shambling, like the major's wife; otherwise she had plenty of expression and an arch look. When she laughed and showed her long teeth beneath her stumpy nose, one did not know what one was about. She fell in love with the knight and the knight with her, although he was afraid of her."

Dinarzade emptied the ashes of his pipe on the rim of the wheel and wanted to refill his cutty; they made him continue: "The Green Knight, utterly dumfoundered, resolved to leave the castle; but, before taking his leave, he asked the lady of the keep for an explanation of many strange things; at the same time he made her an offer of marriage, always provided she was not a witch."

Dinarzade's rapier was planted stiff and straight between his knees. Seated and leaning forward with our pipes, we made a garland of fire-flakes beneath him, like Saturn's ring. Suddenly Dinarzade shouted, as though beside himself:

"Well, gentlemen, the Lady of Great Companies was Death!"

And the captain, breaking the ranks and shouting "Death! Death!" put the canteen-women to flight. The meeting was closed: the uproar was great, the laughter prolonged. We approached Thionville amid the roar of the cannon of the place.


The siege continued, or rather, there was no siege, for the trenches were not opened, and troops were wanting to invest the place regularly. We reckoned on receiving intelligence, and waited for news of the successes of the Prussian Army or of Clerfayt's[106] Army, with which was the French[Pg 48] corps of the Duc de Bourbon. Our scanty supplies were becoming exhausted; Paris seemed to draw farther away. The bad weather never ceased; we were flooded in the midst of our works; I sometimes woke in a trench with water up to my neck: the next day, I was a cripple.

Among my fellow-Bretons I had met Ferron de La Sigonnière[107], my old class-fellow at Dinan. We slept badly under our tent; our heads went beyond the canvas and received the rain from that sort of gutter. I would get up and go with Ferron to walk in front of the stacked arms; for all our evenings were not so gay as those with Dinarzade. We walked in silence, listening to the voices of the sentries, looking at the lights of our streets of tents as we had formerly watched the lamps in the passages at our college. We discussed the past and the future, the mistakes that had been made, those that would still be made; we deplored the blindness of our Princes, who imagined that they could return to their country with a handful of adherents and consolidate the crown on their brother's head with the aid of the foreigner. I remember saying to my friend, in the course of these conversations, that France wished to imitate England, that the King would perish on the scaffold, and that our expedition before Thionville would probably be one of the principal counts in the indictment of Louis XVI. Ferron was struck by my prophecy: it was the first I ever made. Since that time, I have made many others quite as true, quite as unheeded: when the accident occurred, the others took shelter and left me to struggle with the misfortune which I had foreseen. When the Dutch encounter a squall on the open sea, they retreat to the interior of the ship, close the hatches, and drink punch, leaving a dog on deck to bark at the storm; the danger past, Trust is sent back to his kennel in the hold, and the captain returns to enjoy the fine weather on the quarter-deck. I have been the Dutch dog of the Legitimist ship.

The memories of my life as a soldier have engraved themselves upon my thoughts; I have related them in the sixth book of the Martyrs. Armorican barbarian in the Princes' camp as I was, I carried Homer with my sword; I preferred "my country, the poor, small isle of Aaron, to the hundred cities of Crete." I said with Telemachus:

[Pg 49]

"The harsh country which only feeds goats is dearer to me than those in which horses are reared[108]."

My words would have brought a smile to the lips of the warlike Menelaus: άγάθος Μενἐλαος.


The rumour spread that we were at last coming to action; the Prince of Waldeck was to attempt an assault while we were to cross the river and make a diversion by a feint attack on the place from the French side.

My company.

Five Breton companies, including mine, the company of the Picardy and Navarre officers, and the regiment of volunteers, composed of young Lorraine peasants and of deserters from various regiments, were ordered up for duty. We were to be supported by the Royal Germans, the squadrons of musketeers and the different corps of dragoons which covered our left: my brother was with this cavalry with the Baron de Montboissier, who had married a daughter of M. de Malesherbes, sister to Madame de Rosanbo, and therefore aunt to my sister-in-law. We escorted three companies of Austrian artillery with heavy guns and a battery of three mortars.

We started at six o'clock in the evening; at ten we crossed the Moselle, above Thionville, on a coppered pontoon bridge:

Amæna fluenta
Subterlabentis tacito rumore Mosellæ[109].

At daybreak, we were drawn up in order of battle on the left bank, with the heavy cavalry in echelons on both flanks, and the light cavalry in front. At our second movement, we formed in column and began to defile. At about nine o'clock, we heard a volley fired on our left. A carabineer officer came dashing up at full speed to tell us that a detachment of Kellermann's army was about to join issue with us, and that the action had already begun between the skirmishers. The officer's horse had been struck by a bullet on the forehead; it reared, with the foam streaming from its mouth and the blood from its nostrils: the carabineer, seated sword in hand on this wounded horse, was superb. The corps which had come out of Metz manœuvred to take us in flank: they had field-pieces with them, whose fire reached our volunteer regiment. I heard the exclamations of some recruits struck by the cannon-balls; the last cries of youth snatched living from life gave me a feeling of profound pity: I thought of the poor mothers.

[Pg 50]

The drums beat the charge, and we rushed in disorder upon the enemy. We came so close that the smoke did not prevent us from seeing the terrible expression on the faces of men ready to shed your blood. The patriots had not yet acquired the assurance that comes from the long habit of fighting and victory. Their movements were slack, they felt their way; fifty grenadiers of the Old Guard would have made head against an heterogeneous mass of undisciplined nobles, old and young: ten to twelve hundred foot-soldiers were taken aback by a few gun-shots from the Austrian heavy artillery; they retreated; our cavalry pursued them for two leagues.

A deaf-and-dumb German girl, called Libbe, or Libba, had become attached to my cousin Armand and had followed him. I found her sitting on the grass, which stained her dress with blood: her elbow rested on her upturned knees; her hand, passed through her tangled yellow tresses, supported her head. She wept as she looked at three or four killed men, new deaf-mutes, lying around her. She had not heard the clap of the thunderbolts of which she saw the effect, nor could she hear the sighs which escaped her lips when she looked at Armand; she had never heard the sound of the voice of him she loved, and she would not hear the first cry of the child she bore in her womb: if the grave contained only silence, she would not know that she had sunk into it.

For that matter, fields of slaughter lie on every hand: in the Eastern Cemetery[110] in Paris, twenty-seven thousand tombstones, two hundred and thirty thousand corpses, will show you the extent of the battle which death wages day and night at your doors.

The assault of Thionville.

After a somewhat long halt, we resumed our march, and arrived under the walls of Thionville at nightfall. The drums did not beat; the word of command was given in a whisper. The cavalry, in order to repulse any sortie, stole along the roads and hedges to the gate which we were to cannonade. The Austrian artillery, protected by our infantry, took up a position at fifty yards from the advanced works, behind a hastily thrown-up epaulement of gabions. At one o'clock on the morning of the 1st of September, a rocket, sent up from the Prince of Waldeck's camp on the other side of the place, gave the signal. The Prince commenced a smart fire, to which the town made a vigorous reply. We began to fire forthwith.

[Pg 51]

The besieged, not thinking that we had troops on that side, and not foreseeing this assault, had left the southern ramparts unprotected; we did not lose for waiting: the garrison armed a double battery, which penetrated our epaulements and dismounted two of our guns. The sky was aflame; we were shrouded in torrents of smoke. I behaved like a little Alexander: weakened by fatigue, I fell sound asleep, almost under the wheels of the gun-carriage where I was on guard. A shell, bursting six inches off the ground, sent a splinter into my right thigh. I awoke with the shock, but felt no pain, and perceived only by my blood that I was wounded. I bound up my thigh with my hand-kerchief. In the affair on the plain, two bullets had struck my knapsack during a wheeling movement. Atala, like a devoted daughter, placed herself between her father and the lead of the enemy: she had still to withstand the fire of the Abbé Morellet[111].

At four o'clock in the morning, the Prince of Waldeck's fire ceased: we thought the town had surrendered; but the gates were not opened, and we had to think of retiring. We returned to our positions, after a tiring march of three days.

The Prince of Waldeck had gone as far as the edge of the ditches, which he had tried to cross, hoping to bring about a surrender by means of the simultaneous attack: divisions were still supposed to exist in the town, and we flattered ourselves that the Royalist party would bring the keys to the Princes. The Austrians, having fired in barbette, lost a considerable number of men; the Prince of Waldeck had an arm shot off. While a few drops of blood flowed under the walls of Thionville, blood was flowing in torrents in the prisons of Paris: my wife and sisters were in greater danger than I.


We raised the siege of Thionville and set out for Verdun, which had been restored to the Allies on the 2nd of September. Longwy, the birthplace of François de Mercy[112], had fallen on the 23rd of August. Wreaths and festoons of[Pg 52] flowers bore evidence on every side of the passage of Frederic William. Among the peaceful trophies, I observed the Prussian Eagle affixed to Vauban's[113] fortifications: it was not to stay there long; as to the flowers, they were soon to see the innocent creatures who had gathered them fade away like themselves. One of the most atrocious murders of the Terror was that of the young girls of Verdun.

"Fourteen young girls of Verdun," says Riouffe[114], "of unexampled purity, who had the air of young virgins decked for a public festival, were led together to the scaffold. They disappeared suddenly and were gathered in their springtime; the 'Court of Women,' on the morrow of their death, looked like a garden-plot stripped of its flowers by a storm. Never have I witnessed such despair as that which this act of barbarity excited among us."

Verdun is famous for its female sacrifices. According to Gregory of Tours[115], Deuteric, to protect his daughter from the prosecution of Theodebert[116], placed her in a cart drawn by two untamed oxen and had her flung into the Meuse. The instigator of the massacre of the young girls of Verdun was the regicide poetaster Pons de Verdun[117], who was infuriated against his native city. The number of agents of the Terror supplied by the Almanach des Muses is incredible; the unsatisfied vanity of the mediocrities produced as many revolutionaries as the wounded pride of the cripples and abortions: a revolt analogous to that of the infirmities of mind and body. Pons attached the point of a dagger to his blunt epigrams. Faithful, as it seemed, to the traditions of Greece, the poet was willing to offer none save the blood of virgins to his gods: for the Convention decreed, on his motion, that no[Pg 53] woman with child could be put on her trial. He also caused the sentence to be annulled condemning Madame de Bonchamps to death, the widow of the celebrated Vendean general[118]. Alas, we Royalists in the train of the Princes attained the reverses of the Vendée without passing through its glory!

We had not at Verdun, to pass the time, "that famous Comtesse de Saint-Balmont[119], who laid aside her female apparel, mounted on horseback, and herself served as an escort to the ladies who accompanied her or whom she had left in her chariot..." We had no passion for "old Gallic," nor did we write "notes in the language of Amadis[120]."

The Prussian evil[121] communicated itself to our little army: I caught it. Our cavalry had gone to join Frederic William at Valmy. We knew nothing of what was happening, and were hourly expecting the order to march forward: we received the order to beat a retreat.

I am weakened by my wound.

Very greatly weakened, and prevented by my troublesome wound from walking without pain, I dragged myself as best I could in the wake of my company, which soon dispersed. Jean Balue[122], son of a miller at Verdun, left his father's house at a very early age with a monk, who burdened him with his wallet. On leaving Verdun, "Ford Hill" according to Saumaise[123], ver dunum, I carried the wallet of the Monarchy, but I did not become Comptroller of Finance, nor a bishop or cardinal.

If, in the novels which I have written, I have drawn upon my own history, in the histories which I have told I have placed memories of the living history in which I took part.[Pg 54] Thus, in my life of the Duc de Berry[124], I described some of the scenes which took place before my eyes:

"When an army is disbanded, it returns to its homes; but had the soldiers of Condé's Army any homes? Whither was the stick to lead them which they were hardly permitted to cut in the forests of Germany, after laying down the musket which they had taken up in defense of their King?...

"The time had come to part. The brothers-in-arms bade each other a last farewell, and took different roads on earth. All, before setting out, went to salute their father and captain, white-haired old Condé: the patriarch of glory gave his blessing to his children, wept over his dispersed tribe, and saw the tents of his camp fall with the grief of a man witnessing the destruction of his ancestral roof[125]."

Less than twenty years later, the leader of the new French Army, Bonaparte, also took leave of his companions: so quickly do men and empires pass, so little does the most extraordinary renown save one from the most common destiny!

We left Verdun. The rains had broken up the roads; everywhere one saw ammunition-wagons, gun-carriages, cannon stuck in the mire, chariots overturned, cutler-women with their children on their backs, soldiers dying or dead in the mud. Crossing a ploughed field, I sank down to my knees; Ferron and another comrade dragged me out despite myself: I begged them to leave me there; I had rather died.

On the 16th of October, at the camp near Longwy, the captain of my company, M. de Goyon-Miniac, handed me a very honourable certificate. At Arlon, we saw a file of wagons with their teams on the high-road: the horses, some standing, others kneeling down, others with their noses on the ground, were dead, and their bodies had grown stiff between the shafts: it was as though one saw the shades of a battlefield bivouacking on the shores of Styx.

Ferron asked me what I meant to do, and I answered that, if I could go as far as Ostend, I would take ship for Jersey, where I should find my uncle de Bedée; from there I should be able to join the Royalists in Brittany.

[Pg 55]

And catch the smallpox.

The fever was sapping my strength; I could only with difficulty support myself on my swollen thigh. I felt a new ailment lay hold of me. After twenty-four hours' vomiting, my face and body were covered with an eruption: confluent smallpox broke out; it appeared to be affected by the temperature of the air. In this condition, I set out on foot to make a journey of two hundred leagues, rich as I was to the extent of eighteen livres Tournois: all this for the greater glory of the Monarchy. Ferron, who had lent me my six small crowns of three francs, left me, he having arranged to be met in Luxembourg.


As I was leaving Arlon, a peasant took me up in his cart for the sum of four sous, and put me down five leagues farther on a heap of stones. I hopped a few paces with the aid of my crutch, and washed the bandage round my scratch, which had developed into a sore, in a spring rustling by the roadside, which did me a great deal of good. The smallpox had come quite out, and I felt relieved. I had not abandoned my knapsack, the straps of which cut my shoulders.

I spent that first night in a barn, and had nothing to eat. The wife of the farmer who owned the barn refused payment for my lodging. At daybreak she brought me a great basin of coffee and milk, with a black loaf which I thought excellent. I resumed my road quite merrily, although I often fell. I was joined by four or five of my comrades, who carried my knapsack; they were also very ill. We met villagers; by taking cart after cart we covered a sufficient distance in the Ardennes, in five days, to reach Attert, Flamizoul, and Bellevue. On the sixth day I found myself alone. My smallpox had grown paler and was less puffy.

After walking two leagues, which took me six hours, I saw a gipsy family encamped behind a ditch around a furze fire, with two goats and a donkey. I had no sooner reached them than I let myself drop to the ground, and the strange creatures hastened to succour me. A young woman in rags, lively, dark, and mischievous, sang, leaped, skipped around, holding her child aslant upon her breast, as though it were a hurdy-gurdy with which she was enlivening her dance; she next squatted on her heels close by my side, examined me curiously by the light of the fire, took my dying hand to tell me my fortune, and asked me for "a little sou:" it was too dear. It would be difficult to possess more[Pg 56] knowledge, charm, and wretchedness than my sybil of the Ardennes. I do not know when the nomads, of whom I should have been a worthy son, left me; they were not there when I woke from my torpor at dawn. My fortune-teller had gone away with the secret of my future. In exchange for my "little sou," she had laid by my head an apple which served to refresh my mouth. I shook myself, like John Rabbit, among the "thyme" and the "dew"; but I was not able to "browse," nor to "trot," nor to cut many "pranks[126]." Nevertheless, I rose with the intention of "paying my court to Aurora:" she was very beautiful and I very ugly; her rosy face proclaimed her good health; she was better than the poor Cephalus[127] of Armorica. Although both of us young, we were old friends, and I imagined that her tears that morning were shed for me.

I penetrated into the forest, feeling not too sad; solitude had restored me to my own nature. I hummed the ballad by the ill-fated Cazotte[128]:

Tout au beau milieu des Ardennes,
Est un château sur le haut d'un rocher[129].

Was it not in the donjon of this ghostly castle that Philip II. King of Spain imprisoned my fellow-Breton, Captain La Noue[130], who had a Chateaubriand for his grand-mother? Philip consented to release the illustrious prisoner if the latter consented to have his eyes put out; La Noue was on the point of accepting the proposal, so great was his longing to return to his dear Brittany. Alas! I was possessed with the same desire, and to lose my sight I needed only the ailment with which it had pleased God to afflict me. I did not meet "Sir Enguerrand coming from Spain[131]," but poor wretches, small pedlars who, like myself, carried their whole[Pg 57] fortune on their back. A wood-cutter, with felt knee-caps, entered the woods: he should have taken me for a dead branch and cut me down. A few carrion crows, a few larks, a few buntings, a kind of large finches, hopped along the road or stood motionless on the border of stones, watchful of the sparrow-hawk which hovered circling in the sky. From time to time, I heard the sound of the horn of the swine-herd watching his sows and their little ones acorning. I rested in a shepherd's movable hut; I found no one at home except Puss, who made me a thousand graceful caresses. The shepherd was standing a long way off, in the centre of a common pasture, with his dogs sitting at irregular distances around the sheep; by day that herdsman gathered simples: he was a doctor and a wizard; by night, he watched the stars: then he was a Chaldean shepherd.

A weary journey.

I stood still, half a league farther, in a pasturage of deer: hunters went by at the other end. A spring murmured at my feet; at the bottom of this spring Orlando (Inamorato, not Furioso) saw a palace of crystal filled with ladies and knights. If the paladin, who joined the dazzling water-nymphs, had at least left Golden Bridle[132] at the brink of the well; if Shakespeare had sent me Rosalind and the Exiled Duke[133], they would have been very helpful to me.

After taking breath I continued my road. My impaired ideas floated in a void that was not without charm; my old phantoms, having scarce the consistency of shades three parts effaced, crowded round me to bid me farewell. I had no longer the power of memory; I beheld at an indeterminate distance the aerial forms of my relations and my friends, mingled with unknown figures. When I sat down to rest against a mile stone, I thought I saw faces smile to me in the threshold of the distant cabins, in the blue smoke escaping from the roofs of the cottages, in the tree-tops, in the transparency of the clouds, in the luminous sheaves of the sun dragging its beams over the heather like a golden rake. These apparitions were those of the Muses coming to assist the poet's death: my tomb, dug with the uprights of their lyres under an oak of the Ardennes, would have fairly well suited the soldier and the traveller. Some hazel-hens, which had strayed into the forms of the hares under the privets, alone, with the insects, produced a few murmurs around me: lives as slender, as unknown, as my life. I could walk no farther;[Pg 58] I felt extremely ill; the smallpox was turning in and choking me.

Towards the end of the day, I lay down on my back, in a ditch, with Atala's knapsack under my head, my crutch by my side, my eyes fixed upon the sun, whose light was going out with my own. I greeted in all gentleness of thought the luminary which had lighted my first youth on my paternal moors: we retired to rest together, he to rise in greater glory, I, according to all appearances, never to wake again. I fainted away in a feeling of religion: the last sounds I heard were the fall of a leaf and the whistling of a bullfinch.


It seems that I lay unconscious for nearly two hours. The wagons of the Prince de Ligne[134] happened to pass; one of the drivers, stopping to cut a birch twig, stumbled over me without seeing me: he thought me dead and pushed me with his foot; I gave a sign of life. The driver called his comrades and, prompted by an instinct of pity, they threw me into a cart. The jolting revived me; I was able to talk to my deliverers; I told them that I was a soldier of the Princes' Army, and that if they would take me as far as Brussels, where I was going, I would reward them for their trouble.

"All right, mate," said one of them, "but you'll have to get down at Namur, for we're forbidden to carry anybody. We'll take you up again t'other side of the town."

I asked for something to drink; I swallowed a few drops of brandy, which threw the symptoms of my disease out again and relieved my chest for a moment: nature had endowed me with extraordinary strength.

We reached the suburbs of Namur at ten o'clock in the morning. I got down and followed the waggons at a distance; I soon lost sight of them. I was stopped at the entrance to the town. I sat down under the gateway, while my papers were being examined. The soldiers on guard, seeing my uniform, offered me a scrap of ammunition bread, and the corporal handed me some peppered brandy in a blue glass drinking-cup. I made some ceremony about drinking out of the cup of military hospitality:

"Catch hold!" he exclaimed angrily, accompanying his injunction with a Sackerment der Teufel!

[Pg 59]

My passage through Namur was a laborious one: I walked leaning against the houses. The first woman who saw me left her shop, gave me her arm with a pitying air, and helped me to drag myself along. I thanked her, and she replied:

"No, no, soldier,"

Soon other women came running up, bringing bread, wine, fruit, milk, soup, old clothes, blankets.

"He is wounded," said some, in their Brabançon French dialect.

"He has the smallpox," cried others, and kept back their children.

"But, young man, you will not be able to walk; you will die if you do; stay in the hospital."

The women of Namur.

They wanted to take me to the hospital, they relieved each other from door to door, and in this way helped me to the gate of the town, outside which I found the wagons again. You have seen a peasant-woman succour me; you shall see another woman show me hospitality in Guernsey. Women who have aided me in my distress, if you be still living, may God help you in your old age and in your sorrows! If you have departed this life, may your children share the happiness which Heaven has long refused me!

The women of Namur assisted me to climb into the wagon, recommended me to the driver's care, and compelled me to accept a woollen blanket. I noticed that they treated me with a sort of respect and deference: there is something superior, something delicate, in the nature of Frenchmen which other nations recognise.

The Prince de Ligne's men put me down for the second time on the road just outside Brussels, and refused to accept my last crown-piece. In Brussels, not one inn-keeper was willing to take me in. The wandering Jew, the popular Orestes, whom the ballad represents as going to that town:

Quand il fut dans la ville
De Bruxelle en Brabant[135],

met with a better reception than I, for he had always five sous in his pocket. I knocked: they opened; when they saw me they said, "Move on, move on!" and shut the door in my face. I was driven out of a café. My hair hung over[Pg 60] my face, hidden behind my beard and mustachios; I had a hay bandage round my thigh; over my tattered uniform I wore the blanket of the Namur women, knotted round my throat by way of a cloak. The beggar in the Odyssey was more insolent, but not so poor as I.

I had at first presented myself to no purpose at the hotel where I had stayed with my brother: I made a second attempt; as I approached the door I saw the Comte de Chateaubriand stepping from a carriage with the Baron de Montboissier. He was alarmed at my spectral appearance. They looked for a room outside the hotel, for the proprietor absolutely refused to admit me. A wig-maker offered me a den suited to my wretchedness. My brother brought me a surgeon and a doctor. He had received letters from Paris: M. de Malesherbes invited him to return to France. He told me of the day's work of the 10th of August, the massacres of September, and the political news, of which I knew not a word. He approved of my plan to cross to Jersey, and advanced me twenty-five louis. My impaired sight hardly permitted me to distinguish my brother's features; I believed that that gloom emanated from myself, whereas it was the shadow which Eternity was spreading around him: without knowing it, we were seeing each other for the last time. All of us, such as we are, have only the present moment for our own: the next belongs to God; there are always two chances of not seeing again the friend who is leaving us: our death and his. How many men have never reclimbed the staircase they have descended!

Death touches us more before than after the decease of a friend: it is a piece of ourselves that is torn away, a world of childish recollections, of familiar intimacy, of affections and interests in common, that dissolves. My brother preceded me in my mother's womb; he was the first to dwell in those same sainted entrails whence I issued after him; he sat before me by the paternal hearth; he waited several years to welcome me, to give me my name in the Name of Jesus Christ, and to ally himself with the whole of my youth. My blood, mingled with his blood in the revolutionary receptacle, would have had the same savour, like a draught of milk supplied by the pasturage of the same mountain. But, if men caused the head of my elder, my god-father, to fall before its time, the years will not spare mine; already my forehead is shedding its covering;[Pg 61] I feel an Ugolino, Time, stooping over me and gnawing at my skull:

... come'l pan perf ame si manduca[136].

The doctor could not recover from his astonishment: he looked upon that which did not kill me, which came to none of its natural crises, as a phenomenon unprecedented in the history of medicine. Gangrene had set in in my wound; they dressed it with quinine. Having obtained this first aid, I insisted on departing for Ostend. Brussels was hateful to me, I burned to leave it; it was once again filling with those heroes of domesticity who had returned from Verdun in their carriages, and whom I did not see in Brussels when I accompanied the King there during the Hundred Days.

I reached Guernsey.

I travelled pleasantly to Ostend by the canals: I found some Bretons there, my comrades-in-arms. We chartered a decked barge and went down the Channel. We slept in the hold, on the shingle which served as ballast. The strength of my constitution was at last exhausted. I could no longer speak; the motion of a rough sea broke me down completely. I swallowed scarce a few drops of water and lemon, and, when the bad weather compelled us to put in to Guernsey, they thought I was going to breathe my last: an emigrant priest read me the prayers for the dying. The captain, not wishing to have me die on board his ship, ordered me to be put down on the quay; they set me down in the sun, with my back leaning against a wall, and my head turned towards the open sea, facing that Isle of Alderney where, eight months before, I had beheld death in another shape.

It would seem that I was vowed to pity. The wife of an English pilot happened to pass by; she was moved and called her husband, who, assisted by two or three sailors, carried me into a fisherman's house: me, the friend of the waves; they laid me on a comfortable bed, between very white sheets. The young barge-woman took every possible care of the stranger: I owe her my life. The next day I was taken on board again. My hostess almost wept on taking leave of her patient: women have a heaven-born instinct for misfortune. My fair-haired and comely guardian, who resembled a figure in the old English prints, pressed my bloated and burning hands between her own, so cool and long; I was ashamed to touch anything so charming with anything so unseemly.

[Pg 62]

We set sail and reached the westernmost point of Jersey. One of my companions, M. du Tilleul, went to St. Helier's to my uncle. M. de Bedée sent a carriage to fetch me the next morning. We drove across the entire island: dying as I was, I was charmed with its groves; but I only talked nonsense about them, having fallen into a delirium.

I lay four months between life and death. My uncle, his wife, his son and his three daughters took it in turns to watch by my bedside. I occupied an apartment in one of the houses which they were beginning to build along the harbour: the windows of my room came down to the level of the floor, and I was able to see the sea from my bed. The doctor, M. Delattre, had forbidden them to talk to me of serious things, and especially of politics. Towards the end of January 1793, seeing my uncle enter my room in deep mourning, I trembled, for I thought we had lost one of our family: he informed me of the death of Louis XVI. I was not surprised: I had foreseen it. I asked for news of my relatives: my sisters and my wife had returned to Brittany after the September massacres; they had had great difficulty in leaving Paris. My brother had gone back to France, and was living at Malesherbes. I began to get up; the smallpox was gone; but I suffered with my chest, and a weakness remained which I long retained.

Jersey, the Cæsarea of the Itinerary of Antoninus[137], has remained subject to the Crown of England since the death of Robert, Duke of Normandy[138]; we have often tried to capture it, but always unsuccessfully. The island is a remnant of our early history: the saints coming to Brittany-Armorica from Hibernia and Albion rested at Jersey. St. Hélier[139], a solitary, dwelt in the rocks of Cæsarea; he was butchered by the Vandals. In Jersey, one finds a specimen of the old Normans; it is as though one heard William the Bastard[140] speak, or the author of the Roman du Rou.

[Pg 63]

The island is fertile: it has two towns and twelve parishes; it is covered with country-houses and herds of cattle. The ocean wind, which seems to belie its rudeness, gives Jersey exquisite honey, cream of extraordinary sweetness, and butter deep-yellow in colour and violet-scented. Bernardin de Saint-Pierre conjectures that the apple came to us from Jersey; he is mistaken: we have the apple and the pear from Greece, as we owe the peach to Persia, the lemon to Media, the plum to Syria, the cherry to Cerasus, the chestnut to Castanea, the quince to Canea, and the pomegranate to Cyprus.

And Jersey.

I took great pleasure in going out in the early days of May. Spring in Jersey preserves all her youth; she might still be called by her former name of Primavera, a name which, as she grew older, it left to her daughter, the first flower with which it crowns itself.


Here I will copy for you two pages from the Life of the Duc de Berry; it is as though I told you my own:

"After twenty-two years of fighting, the brazen barrier with which France was girt about was forced: the hour of the Restoration drew nigh; our Princes left their retreats. Each of them made for a different point of the frontier, like travellers who, at the risk of their lives, seek to penetrate into a country of which marvels are related. Monsieur set out for Switzerland; Monseigneur le Duc d'Angoulême for Spain, and his brother for Jersey. In that island, in which some of the judges of Charles I. died unknown to their fellow-men, Monseigneur le Duc de Berry found French Royalists grown old in exile and forgotten for their virtues, as in former days the English regicides for their crime. He met old priests, henceforth consecrated to solitude; he realized with them the fiction of the poet who makes a Bourbon land on the island of Jersey after a storm. One of these confessors and martyrs might say to the heir of Henry IV., as the hermit of Jersey said to that great king:

Loin de la cour alors, dans cette grotte obscure
De ma religion je viens pleurer l'injure[141].

"Monseigneur le Duc de Berry spent some months in Jersey; the sea, the winds, politics bound him there. Everything[Pg 64] opposed his impatience; he found himself on the point of renouncing his enterprise and taking ship for Bordeaux. A letter from him to Madame la Maréchale Moreau gives us a vivid idea of his occupations on his rock:

"'8 February 1814.

"'Here I am like Tantalus, in sight of that unhappy France which finds so much difficulty in breaking its chains. You whose soul is so beautiful, so French, can judge of my feelings; how much it would cost me to move away from that shore which I should need but two hours to reach! When the sun lights it, I climb the tallest rocks and, with my spy-glass in my hand, I follow the whole coast: I can see the rocks of Coutances. My imagination rises, I see myself leaping on shore, surrounded by Frenchmen, wearing the white cockade in their hats; I hear the cry of 'Long live the King!' that cry which no Frenchman has ever heard with composure; the loveliest woman of the province girds me with a white sash, for love and glory always go together. We march on Cherbourg; some rascally fort, with a garrison of foreigners, tries to defend itself: we carry it by assault, and a vessel puts out to fetch the King, with the White Ensign which recalls the days of France's glory and happiness! Ah, madame, when removed by but a few hours from so likely a dream, can one think of betaking himself elsewhere!'"


It is three years since I wrote these pages in Paris; I had gone before M. le Duc de Berry in Jersey, the city of the exiled, by twenty-two years; I was to leave my name behind me, since Armand de Chateaubriand was married, and his son Frédéric born there[142].

Gaiety had not abandoned the family of my uncle de Bedée; my aunt continued to nurse a big dog, descended from the one whose virtues I have related: as it bit everybody and had the mange, my cousins had it secretly hanged, notwithstanding its nobility. Madame de Bedée persuaded herself that some English officers, charmed with Azor's beauty, had stolen it, and that it was living, laden with honours and dinners, in the richest castle of the Three Kingdoms. Alas, our present hilarity was compounded only[Pg 65] out of our past gaiety! By recalling the scenes at Monchoix we found means of laughter in Jersey. The case is rare enough, for in the human heart pleasures do not keep up the same relations one to the other that sorrows do: new joys do not restore their springtime to former joys, but recent sorrows cause old sorrows to blossom over again.

For the rest, the Emigrants at that time excited general sympathy; our cause appeared to be the cause of European order: an honoured unhappiness, such as ours, is something.

M. de Bouillon[143] was the protector of the French refugees in Jersey: he dissuaded me from my plan of crossing over to Brittany, unfit as I was to endure a life of caves and forests; he advised me to go to England, and there seek the opportunity of entering the regular service. My uncle, who was very ill provided with money, began to feel straitened with his large family; he had found himself obliged to send his son to London to feed himself on starvation and hope. Fearing lest I should be a burden to M. de Bedée, I decided to relieve him of my presence.

I set sail for England.

Thirty louis, which a Saint-Malo smuggler brought me, enabled me to put my plan into execution, and I booked a berth on the packet for Southampton. I was deeply touched, on bidding farewell to my uncle: he had nursed me with the affection of a father; with him were connected the few happy moments of my childhood; he knew all I loved; I found in his features a certain resemblance to my mother. I had left that excellent mother, and was never to see her again; I had left my sister Julie and my brother, and was doomed to meet them no more; I was leaving my uncle, and his genial countenance was never again to gladden my eyes. A few months had sufficed to bring all these losses, for the death of our friends is not reckoned from the moment at which they die, but from that at which we cease to live with them.

Were it possible to say to Time, "Not so fast!" one would stop it at the hours of delight; but, as this is not possible, let us not linger here below; let us go away before witnessing the flight of friends and of those years which the poet considers alone worthy of life: Vitâ dignior ætas. That which[Pg 66] delights us in the age of friendships becomes an object of suffering and regret in the age of destitution. We no longer desire the return of the smiling months to the earth; we dread it rather: the birds, the flowers, a fine evening at the end of April, a fine night commencing in the evening with the first nightingale and ending in the morning with the first swallow, those things which give the need and longing for happiness kill one. You still feel their charms, but they are no longer for you: youth which tastes them by your side, and which looks down upon you with scorn, fills you with jealousy and makes you realize the completeness of your desolation. The grace and freshness of nature, while recalling your past happiness, adds to the unsightliness of your misery. You have become a mere blot upon that nature; you spoil its harmony and its suavity by your presence, by your words, and even by the sentiments which you venture to express. You may love, but you can no longer be loved. The vernal fountain has renewed its waters without restoring your youth to you, and the sight of all that is born again, of all that is happy, reduces you to the sorrowful remembrance of your pleasures.


The packet on which I embarked was crowded with Emigrant families. I there made the acquaintance of M. Hingant[144], an old colleague of my brother's in the Parliament of Brittany, a man of taste and intelligence, of whom I shall have much to say. A naval officer was playing chess in the captain's room; he did not recollect my features, so greatly was I changed; but I recognised Gesril. We had not met since Brest; we were destined to part at Southampton. I told him of my travels, he told me of his. This young man, born near me among the waves, embraced his first friend for the last time in the midst of the waves which were about to witness his glorious death. Lamba Doria[145], admiral of the Genoese, after beating the Venetian fleet, learnt that his son had been killed:

"Bury him in the sea," said this Roman father, as though he had said, "Bury him in his victory."

[Pg 67]

Gesril voluntarily left the billows into which he had flung himself only the better to show them his "victory" on shore.

And land at Southampton.

I gave the certificate of my landing from Jersey at Southampton at the commencement of the sixth book of these Memoirs. Behold me, therefore, after my travels in the forests of America and the camps of Germany, arriving, as a poor Emigrant, in 1793, in the land in which I am writing all this in 1822, and in which I am living to-day a splendid ambassador.

[1] This book was written in London between April and September 1822, and revised in February 1845 and December 1846.—T.

[2] Georges Jacques Danton (1759-1794), perhaps the least contemptible of the demagogues of the time.—T.

[3] The National or Constituent Assembly passed the Constitution on the 3rd of September 1791, the King accepting it on the 13th. This Constitution created a Legislative Assembly, which alone was to retain the power of making laws, subject to the veto of the Sovereign. On the 30th of September the Constituent Assembly was dissolved and immediately succeeded by the Legislative Assembly, which consisted of 745 deputies elected by the people, and sat from 1 October 1791 to 21 September 1792. It was in this assembly that the parties of the Mountain and the Gironde were formed.—T.

[4] Jean Claude Marin Victor Marquis de Laqueville (1742-1810) commanded the corps of the nobles of Auvergne under the Comte d'Artois. He was impeached on the 1st of January 1792. He returned to France under the Consulate, and lived in retirement until his death.—B.

[5] M. Buisson de La Vigne, a retired captain of the Indian Company's fleet, had been ennobled in 1776.—B.

[6] Alexis Jacques Buisson de La Vigne, the Indian Company's manager at Lorient, married in 1770 Mademoiselle Céleste Rapion de La Placelière, of Saint-Malo.—B.

[7] Anne Buisson de La Vigne (1772-1813) married, in 1789, Hervé Louis Joseph Marie Comte du Plessix de Parscau (1762-1831). She died at Lymington in Hampshire, and is buried there with seven of her thirteen children. In 1814, the Comte de Parscau married Mademoiselle de Kermalun, a lady of forty, for the sake of the six young children left to him.—B.

[8] Knight of St. Louis.—T.

[9] Céleste Buisson de La Vigne (1774-1847), who became Madame de Chateaubriand.—B.

[10] Michel Bossinot de Vauvert (1724-1809), formerly a king's counsel and attorney to the Admiralty. He was an uncle, "Brittany fashion," of Mademoiselle Buisson de La Vigne.—B.

[11] George Gordon, sixth Lord Byron (1788-1824), the poet.—T.

[12] Francis II. Emperor of Germany (1768-1835) ascended the Imperial Throne in 1792. In 1808 he renounced his title and assumed that of Emperor of Austria, as Francis I.—T.

[13] Blessed Benedict Joseph Labre (1748-1783) had died, after a life supported by unsolicited alms and spent in constant mortifications, of a tumour in the leg resulting from his habit of being always upon his knees.—T.

[14] The Abbé Jean Jacques Barthélemy (1716-1795), Keeper of the Royal Cabinet of Medals, member of the French Academy and the Academy of Inscriptions, and a distinguished archæologist. In 1788 he published his Voyage du jeune Anacharsis en Grèce vers le milieu du IVe. siècle avant l'ère vulgaire, which made his name. He spent the greater portion of his life with the Duc and Duchesse de Choiseul on their estate of Chanteloup, near Amboise.—T.

[15] Ange François Fariau (1747-1810), known as M. de Saint-Ange, became a member of the French Academy just before his death. His translations in verse of the Metamorphoses and other of Ovid's works are of great merit; but he appears to have been cursed with inordinate vanity, in addition to the stupidity of which Chateaubriand speaks.—T.

[16] Jacques Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre (1737-1814), the famous author of the Études de la nature and of Paul et Virginie. He preached virtue in all his works; his personal character and conduct were far from being irreproachable.—T.

[17] 30 January 1791.—B.

[18] "D'Egmont with Love one day this bank her presence gave;
For a moment the water stained
With the image of her beauty upon the fleeting wave:
Then D'Egmont disappeared; and Love alone remained.—T."

[19] By Carbon de Flins des Oliviers.—T.

[20] "Our brave defenders' warlike zeal
Wakes pride within my breast,
But when through gore the people reel,
Their fury I detest.
Let Europe of us dwell in fear,
Let us live ever free,
But Gallic wit our lives shall cheer,
And amiability."—T.

[21] Anne Joseph Terwagne, Demoiselle Théroigne de Méricourt (1762-1817), a formidable virago of the Revolution. She was fustigated and driven insane by her fellow-bacchanals in October 1792, and died mad at the Salpétrière.—T.

[22] Manon Jeanne Roland (1754-1793), née Philipon, wife of Jean Marie Roland de La Platière, Minister of the Interior in 1791. She and her husband espoused the party of the Girondins; and Madame Roland was guillotined at the instance of the Mountain, 8 November 1793. Her husband killed himself on hearing the news.—T.

[23] Major the Comte de Belsunce (d. 1790). He was cut up into pieces and his heart was eaten by a woman.—B.

[24] Jérôme Pétion de Villeneuve (1759-1794) was elected mayor on the 14th of November 1791. He took no step to suppress the insurrections of June and August 1792, nor the massacres of September. Having voted, however, at the trial of Louis XVI. for "death with delay and appeal to the people," he became odious to the revolutionaries and was proscribed with the Girondins, 31 May 1793. He fled and perished in the Bordeaux marshes, where his body was half eaten by wolves.—T.

[25] Before 1789, Paris was divided into 21 quarters. On the 23rd of April 1789 the King ruled that, for the convocation of the three Estates, the town should be divided into 60 arrondissements, or wards, and districts, for which, on the 27th of June 1790, the Constituent Assembly substituted 48 sections.—B.

[26] On the 17th of Germinal Year II. (6 April 1794) a citizen presented himself at the bar of the Convention and offered a sum of money "towards the expenses of the support and repairing of the guillotine" (Moniteur, 7 April 1794).—B.

[27] 23 March 1792.—B.

[28] Francis II., Emperor of Germany, etc., etc.—T.

[29] Maximin Isnard (1751-1825) voted for the death of the King, but, after distinguishing himself by the violence of his language and opinions, underwent a remarkable religious and political conversion. He was a member of the Council of Five Hundred, but took no part in public affairs after the advent of Bonaparte.—B.

[30] Armand Gensonné (1758-1793), the friend and confidant of Dumouriez, executed 31 October 1793.—T.

[31] Jean Pierre Brissot de Warville (1754-1793), at one time editor of the Moniteur and of the Patriote français, and prime mover in the declaration of war against Austria. He was guillotined on the same day as Gensonné.—T.

[32] The decree ordering the dissolution of the King's Constitutional Guard was voted 29 May 1792.—B.

[33] It was burnt down in 1580.—Author's Note.

[34] Charles de Lorraine, Duc de Mayenne (1554-1611), second son of François Duc de Guise, and head of the League.—T.

[35] A political club connected with the League and called the Sixteen from the number of its leading members, each of whom was put in charge of one of the then sixteen quarters of Paris.—T.

[36] Jean Paul Marat (1743-1793) was born either at Geneva or at Boudry, near Neufchâtel, in Switzerland.—T.

[37] Pierre Gaspard Chaumette (1763-1794), the inventor of the Feast of Reason, self-known as "Anaxagoras Chaumette," and guillotined 13 April 1794.—T.

[38] Méot kept the best tavern in Paris, in the Palais-Royal.—B.

[39] Joseph Fouché, Duc d'Otrante (1754-1820), had been a schoolmaster at Juilly and principal of the Oratorian College at Nantes, when he was sent to the Convention. He became subsequently a Conservative senator under Napoleon, a duke and a peer, and was Minister of Police under the Directory, Napoleon, and Louis XVIII.—T.

[40] Triboulet (1479-circa 1536), Court Fool to Louis XII. and Francis I.—T.

[41] Paradise Lost, II. 790-814, in which Sin is represented as being violated by her own offspring, Death.—T.

[42] Jacques Louis David (1748-1825), the great painter of the Revolution and the Empire.—T.

[43] Philippe François Nazaire Fabre d'Églantine (1755-1794), a light dramatic poet of no mean order, acted as Danton's secretary. He was subsequently traduced for accepting bribes from the Indian Company, and guillotined on the same day (5 April 1794) as Danton and Desmoulins, who protested at being "coupled with a thief."—T.

[44] Jacques Nicolas Billaud-Varenne (1756-1819), a very bloodthirsty member of the Convention. Billaud was transported with Collot d'Herbois to Cayenne, and succeeded in making his escape, after twenty years, to the Republic of San Domingo, the President of which gave him a pension.—T.

[45] Felice Peretti, Pope Sixtus V. (1521-1590), was elected to the Holy See on the death of Gregory XIII. in 1585. His short reign was marked by a magnificent internal administration. In France he patronized and encouraged the League.—T.

[46] Jacques Clément (1564-1589), the Dominican monk who assassinated Henry III. and was himself killed on the spot. It is a fact that some of the extreme Leaguers called for his canonization.—T.

[47] Charles IX. (1550-1574), elder brother and predecessor of Henry III.—T.

[48] 24 August 1572.—T.

[49] King Charles I. (1600-1649) was murdered on the 30th of January 1649; King Louis XVI. on the 21st of January 1793.—T.

[50] Antoine Quentin Fouquier-Tinville (1747-1795), Public Prosecutor to the Revolutionary Tribunal, guillotined 6 May 1795.—T.

[51] The blasphemy was not even accurate. Desmoulins was in his thirty-fourth year.—T.

[52] Le Philinte de Molière, ou, la suite du Misanthrope, a comedy in five acts, in verse, first performed at the Théâtre Français on the 22nd of February 1790, is Fabre d'Églantine's best piece: it is one of our good comedies of the second rank. What will live longest of Fabre d'Églantine's is his ballad, "Il pleut, il pleut, bergère" ("O shepherdess, 'tis raining").—B.

[53] Barnabé Brisson (1531-1591), made First President of the Parliament of Paris by the Sixteen (vide supra, p. 15), when Henry III. had left the capital, instead of Achille de Harlay, whom they had sent to the Bastille; but they were dissatisfied with him, owing to the attachment he preserved for the royal authority, and eventually murdered him by hanging him.—T.

[54] Henri de Lorraine, Duc de Guise (1550-1588), nicknamed the Balafré from a disfiguring scar which he received at the engagement of Dormans (1575). He was the son of François Duc de Guise, and brother to the Duc de Mayenne (vide supra, p. 15) and Louis de Lorraine, Cardinal de Guise. In 1576 he became the head of the newly formed League. In 1588, after conducting a long and active opposition to the Throne, he attended the States-General summoned by Henry III. at his castle at Blois, and was murdered by the royal guards at the door of the King's closet, 23 December 1588. His brother Louis II., Cardinal de Guise, Archbishop of Rheims, was put to death by the King's orders on the following day.—T.

[55] Florio's Montaigne, Booke III. chap. 12: Of Physiognomy.—T.

[56] Silas Deane (1737-1789), a member of the first American Congress, was sent to Paris to rally the Court of France to the cause of the insurgents. His negotiations were fruitless, and Franklin was sent to second him. The latter was more successful, and signed two treaties with the Cabinet of Versailles in February 1778.—B.

[57] Joachim Murat (1767-1815), later King of Naples. He was the son of an inn-keeper, enlisted at the commencement of the Revolution, and was a member of the King's Constitutional Guard for about a month in the spring of 1792. He was in command of the sixty grenadiers who dispersed the Council of Five Hundred, and Bonaparte rewarded him with the hand of his sister Caroline. When Bonaparte became Emperor, Murat received his marshal's baton and the title of prince. In 1808, Napoleon made him King of the Two Sicilies. He did not cross the Straits, but reigned peacefully on the mainland until 1812. In 1814, the Powers consented to leave him on the throne, but, declaring in favour of Napoleon on his return from Elba, he was defeated at Tolentino, captured at Pizzo in Calabria, and shot, by order of King Ferdinand II., on the 13th of October 1815.—T.

[58] Jean Marie Roland de La Platière (1734-1793), twice Minister of the Interior, and husband of the more famous Madame Roland. He committed suicide with a sword-stick on hearing of his wife's execution.—T.

[59] Louis François Duport du Tertre (1754-1793), Minister of the Interior from 1790 to 1792, and guillotined 28 November 1793. His wife committed suicide in despair a few days later.—T.

[60] Louise Florence Pétronille de La Live d'Épinay (1725-1783), née Tardieu d'Esclavelles, wife of Denis Joseph de La Live d'Épinay, a rich farmer-general. She built the Hermitage for Rousseau in the Forest of Montmorency, ten miles north of Paris, and lavished benefits upon him. Eventually, however, the philosopher grew jealous of Grimm, and turned ungrateful for the favours shown him.—T.

[61] Bernard Hugues Maret, Duc de Bassano (1763-1839). Bonaparte made him Secretary-general to the Consuls, and, in 1804, Secretary of State, in which capacity he accompanied the Emperor on all his campaigns. In 1811, he was created Duc de Bassano, and appointed Foreign Minister; in 1813, Minister for War. In 1815, he was exiled, returning to France in 1820. Louis Philippe made him a peer of France, and he held office for less than a week in 1834.—T.

[62] Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac (1755-1841), one of the meanest turn-coats and time-servers of revolutionary France. He was exiled on the Restoration, and returned to France on the usurpation of Louis-Philippe.—T.

[63] M. Boutin (d. 1794), Treasurer to the Navy, had built the Tivoli garden in the middle of the Rue de Clichy. He was guillotined 22 July 1794.—T.

[64] This is not accurate. Madame de Malesherbes was Françoise Thérèse Grimod, daughter of Gaspard Grimod, Seigneur de La Reynière, farmer-general. M. and Madame de Malesherbes were married on the 4th of February 1749.—B.

[65] Clovis I. (465-511), grandson of Merovius or Merowig, was the real founder of the First or Merovingian Race of Kings of France (418-752). The second was the Carlovingian Race or Dynasty (715-987); the third the Capetians (987), who were subdivided into numerous branches, and preserve their right to the French Throne to this day.—T.

[66] Hildebert, Archbishop of Tours (circa 1057-1134), author of a number of Latin treatises, letters, and poems.—T.

[67] Guillaume de Nangis (d. 1300), a Benedictine of Saint-Denis, author of a Chronicle of the Kings of France, etc.—T.

[68] Albéric, a Cistercian monk of the Abbey of Trois-Fontaines, near Châlons-sur-Marne, who lived in the thirteenth century, and wrote a Chronicle which goes from the Creation to 1241.—T.

[69] Rigord, Rigordus, or Rigoltus (d. circa 1207), author of a History of Philip Augustus, in Latin, continued by Guillaume le Breton.—T.

[70] Gervase of Tilbury (fl. 1211), author of the Otia Imperialia.—T.

[71] The Baron de Montboissier was Malesherbes' son-in-law, and uncle by marriage to Chateaubriand's brother.—B.

[72] Louis XI., King of France (1423-1479), who had incited the town of Liège to revolt, was enticed to Péronne by Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, on the pretext of a conference, held as a prisoner, and released only on condition that he accompanied the Duke to the siege of the insurgent city.—T.

[73] Pope Leo III. (d. 816), elected to the Papacy in 795, was driven from Rome by a conspiracy to murder him, and took shelter with Charlemagne. He consecrated the octagonal Cathedral of Aix in 799; and in 800, in Rome, crowned Charles Emperor of the West.—T.

[74] John Turpin, Archbishop of Rheims (d. circa 794), Charlemagne's secretary, friend, and comrade-in-arms. He was falsely reputed the author of the be Vitâ Caroli Magni et Rolandi, popularly known as Archbishop Turpin's Chronicle.—T.

[75] Francesco Petrarca, known as Petrarch (1304-1374), tells the legend in his poems.—T.

[76] Caligula (12-41) was the son of Germanicus and Agrippina, at whose instance Germanicus enlarged Cologne, calling it Colonia Agrippina.—T.

[77] St. Bruno (circa 1030-1101), founder of the Carthusian order, was born at Cologne.—T.

[78] Frederic William II., King of Prussia (1744-1797), nephew and successor (1786) of Frederic the Great.—T.

[79] Charles Frederick William, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (1735-1806), Commander-in-Chief of the allied Prussian and Austrian armies. He was mortally wounded at the Battle of Auerstadt (14 October 1806), and was the father of "Brunswick's fated chieftain" killed at Waterloo.—T.

[80] Pierre Louis Alexandre de Gouyon (not Goyon) de Miniac (circa 1754-1818).—B.

[81] Anne Hilarion de Contentin, Comte de Tourville (1642-1701), a famous French admiral; fought under Duquesne, commanded under the Maréchal de Vivonne at Palermo (1677), went to Ireland in 1690 to support the cause of James II., was defeated by the English at the Battle of the Hogue (1692), but defeated them at the first Battle of St. Vincent (1693).—T.

[82] Salvianus (circa 390-484), author of the treatises, De Gubernatione Dei, Adversus Avaritiam, and some letters—T.

[83] Henry IV. defeated the Leaguers at Ivry in 1590.—T.

[84] Words and music by the Marquise de Travanet, née de Bombelles, lady to Madame Élisabeth.—B.

[85] Lope Felix de Vega Carpia (1562-1635), the fertile Spanish poet, author of the Arcadia and some 2000 plays and an endless number of poems of every description.—T.

[86] Lucius Cary, second Viscount Falkland (1610-1643), Secretary of State to Charles I. Although at first favouring the rebellion, he joined the King's side and died fighting for Charles at Newbury.—T.

[87] Christian Augustus Prince of Waldeck (1744-1798), fought for Austria against the Turks and against the French, lost an arm at the siege of Thionville, took part in the attack on the lines of Weissemberg, replaced Mack, and went to Portugal, where he died.—T.

[88] Louis Félix Baron de Wimpfen (1744-1814), a Royalist brigadier in the Revolutionary service. He defended Thionville for fifty-five days, until he was relieved by the victory of Valmy. He concealed himself during the Terror. The Consulate restored him to his rank as general of division, and Napoleon appointed him inspector of studs, and created him a baron in 1809.—B.

[89] Louis II. Prince de Condé (1621-1686), known as the Grand Condé, captured Thionville in 1643, after first causing the Spaniards to raise the siege of Rocroi, and signally defeating them on the 19th of May.—T.

[90] Manassès de Pas, Marquis de Feuquières (1590-1639), besieged Thionville in 1639, but was defeated by the garrison, and himself wounded and taken prisoner. He died of his wounds a few months later.—T.

[91] The Chevalier de La Baronnais was one of the numerous sons of François Pierre Collas, Seigneur de La Baronnais, married in 1750 to Renée de Kergu. Chateaubriand is not quite accurate as to the proportions of his family. There were twenty children in all, twelve sons and eight daughters.—B.

[92] Joseph Henri Bouchard d'Esparbès, Maréchal Marquis d'Aubeterre (1714-1788), after fulfilling several important embassies, was appointed Commandant of Brittany in 1775.—T.

[93] St. John the Silent (454-circa 589), so called from his love of silence and retirement. At the age of twenty-eight he was consecrated Bishop of Colonus, near Athens, but resigned his see in nine years, and withdrew to the Monastery of St. Sabar in Jerusalem. His feast falls on the 13th of May.—T.

[94] St. Dominic Loricatus (d. 1060) spent his life in the Apennines, wearing a coat of mail, which he laid aside only to scourge himself. He is honoured on the 14th of October.—T.

[95] St. James Intercisus (d. 421). Born in Persia, he at first abjured Christianity in obedience to a decree of King Yezdedjerd I.; but, repenting of his apostasy, he resumed the faith, and was condemned to be cut to pieces while living, a martyrdom which he heroically endured on the 27th of November 421. His feast is celebrated on the anniversary of that day.—T.

[96] St. Paul the Simple (229-342) retired at the age of twenty-two to the Thebaïde Desert, where he became a disciple of St. Anthony and lived for ninety-one years. He is honoured on the 7th of March.—T.

[97] St. Basil the Hermit (d. circa 640), a native of Limousin, spent forty years wrestling with the Evil One in a retreat which he had built for himself in the neighbourhood of Verzy, in Champagne. His feast falls on the 26th of November.—T.

[98] Philip Augustus defeated the Emperor Otho IV. and his allies at Bouvines, 27 August 1214.—T.

[99] St. Germanus of Auxerre, Bishop of Auxerre (380-448), was Governor of the province of Auxerre for the Emperor of the West, when he was ordained priest by Amador, the bishop of the diocese, whom he succeeded after the latter's death in 418. He visited England in 428 and 446 to preach against the Pelagian heresy. He is honoured on the 26th of July.—T.

[100] Hugues Métel (1080-1157), a twelfth-century ecclesiastical writer. The allusion is to an apologue entitled, D'un loup qui se fit hermite, which stands at the head of the poems.—B.

[101] François de Lorraine, Duc de Guise (1519-1563), one of the greatest French captains, and leader of the Catholic army. He was assassinated at the siege of Orléans by a Huguenot nobleman called Poltrot de Méré.—T.

[102] Pietro Strozzi (1550-1558), a marshal in the French service, and commander-in-chief of the army of Pope Paul IV.—T.

[103] Julius Majorianus, known as the Emperor Majorian (d. 461) defeated Theodoric II., King of the Visigoths, in Gaul, and was about to attack Genseric, King of the Vandals, in Africa, when he was deposed and put to death by Ricimer, who had raised him to power.—T.

[104] Sidonius Apollinaris.—Author's Note.

[105] John II., King of France (1319-1364), known as John the Good, taken prisoner at the Battle of Poitiers by Edward the Black Prince (1356). Peace was concluded in 1360, and John returned to France, leaving his son as a hostage. The latter escaped, and King John voluntarily returned to London and surrendered, saying that "if good faith was banished from the earth, it should find an asylum in the hearts of kings." He died shortly after his arrival in London (8 April 1364).—T.

[106] François Sébastien Charles Joseph de Croix, Comte de Clerfayt (1733-1798), created, in 1795, a field-marshal in the Austrian Army. He was a native of Brussels, at that time the capital of the Austrian Netherlands, and was a very fine general. Not the least of his feats was his masterly retreat after the Battle of Jemmapes (6 November 1792). In 1795, he defeated three French army corps in succession, and relieved Mayence, which was besieged by one of them.—T.

[107] François Prudent Malo Ferron de La Sigonnière (1768-1815).—B.

[108] Cf. Odyssey, IV. 606.—T.

[109] Ausonius, Eidyllia, CCCXXXIV. 21, Ausonii Mosella.—T.

[110] Now known as the cemetery of Père Lachaise.—T.

[111] The Abbé André Morellet (1727-1819), a Member of the Academy, and at one time a leading member of Madame Geoffrin's circle. His attacks on Chateaubriand are mentioned later, when Chateaubriand speaks of the publication of Atala.—T.

[112] Field-Marshal Franz Baron von Mercy (d. 1645), one of the great generals of the seventeenth century. He took service under the Elector of Bavaria, and distinguished himself in the German wars against France. In 1645 he defeated Turenne at Mariendal, but was himself beaten by Condé in the plains of Nördlingen (7 August 1645), and received a wound of which he died the next day.—T.

[113] Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban (1633-1707), the famous French engineer. Longwy was one of the many fortifications constructed by Vauban along the German frontier. He was created a marshal in 1703 by Louis XIV., who in 1693 had founded the order of St. Louis at Vauban's instance.—T.

[114] Honoré Jean Riouffe (1764-1813), created a baron of the Empire in 1810; author of the Mémoires d'un détenu, pour servir à l'histoire de la tyrannie de Robespierre, from which the above quotation is taken.—B.

[115] St. Gregory of Tours (circa 540—circa 594), Bishop of Tours, and author of a History of the Franks extending from 417 to 591.—T.

[116] Theodebert I., King of Metz or Austrasia (d. 548).—T.

[117] Philippe Laurent Pons (1759-1844), known as Pons de Verdun, was, before the Revolution, a regular contributor to the Almanach des Muses. He was sent to the Convention by the Meuse and voted for the death of the King. As a member of the Council of Five Hundred, he rallied to the cause of Bonaparte, and became advocate-general to the Court of Appeal under the Empire.—B.

[118] Artus de Bonchamp (1769-1793), mortally wounded outside Cholet (17 October 1793).—T.

[119] Alberte Barbe d'Ercecourt, Dame de Saint-Balmon (1608-1660), took up arms during her husband's absence in the Thirty Years' War, and defended her house against the marauders.—B.

[120] Amadis of Gaul, hero of the famous prose romance written in the fourteenth century by different authors, partly in Spanish, partly in French.—T.

[121] A loathsome form of vermin.—T.

[122] Jean La Balue (1421-1491) became a bishop, Almoner to King Louis XI., Intendant of Finance, and was for many years virtual Prime Minister of France. He abolished the Pragmatic Sanction (1461), and was created a cardinal by Pope Pius II. Subsequently he corresponded with the King's enemies and (1469) was imprisoned by Louis XI. in an iron cage, from which he was released only upon the King's death, eleven years later. In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII. sent La Balue to France as legate in latere; but he was so badly received that he was obliged to return to Rome.—T.

[123] Claude de Saumaise (1588-1658), known as Salmasius, or the Prince of Commentators.—T.

[124] Charles Ferdinand Duc de Berry (1778-1820), second son of the Comte d'Artois, later Charles X., and father of the Duc de Bordeaux, known later as Comte de Chambord and Henry V. The Duc de Berry was assassinated by Louvel on leaving the Opera House in Paris, 6 February 1820.—T.

[125] Mémoires, lettres, et pièces authentiques touchant la vie et la mort de S. A. R. Ch. F. d'Artois, fils de France, Duc de Berry, II. viii.—B.

[126] La Fontaine's Fables, book VII., fab. 16: The Cat, the Weasel, and the Young Rabbit, 7—9.—T.

[127] Cephalus of Thessaly, husband of Procris, and beloved by Aurora because of his surpassing beauty.—T.

[128] Jean Cazotte (1720-1792), the facile Royalist poet, author of the Veillée de la Bonne femme; ou, le Réveil d'Enguerrand, which opens with the lines quoted.—T.

[129] "Right in the middle of the Ardennes
Stands a fine castle atop of a rock."—T.

[130] François de La Noue (1531-1591), nicknamed Bras-de-Fer, Iron Arm, a famous Calvinist captain. Fighting at the head of the army of the States-General against Spain, he was captured (1578) and kept prisoner for five years in the fortresses of Limburg and Charlemont. He was killed at the siege of Lamballe in Brittany, where he was sent by Henry IV.—T.

[131] Cazotte, La Veillée de la Bonne femme, supra.—T.

[132] Orlando's famous steed.—T.

[133] Most of the scenes in As You Like It are laid in the Forest of Arden.—T.

[134] Charles Joseph Prince de Ligne (1735-1844), a Flemish general in the Austrian service, famous for his wit, his personal graces, and his military talent. Francis II. created him a field-marshal in 1808.—T.

[135] "When he was in the town,
Brussels town in Brabant."—T.

[136] Dante, Inferno, XXXVII. 127.—T.

[137] Antoninus Pius, Emperor of Rome (86-161), author or originator of the Itinerarium Provinciarum.—T.

[138] Robert II., Duke of Normandy (circa 1056-1134), nicknamed Robert Curthose, eldest son of William the Conqueror. He was defeated by his brother, Henry I., at Tinchebray (1106), and imprisoned at Cardiff Castle until his death in 1134.—T.

[139] St. Helerius, hermit and martyr, patron saint of Jersey. His head was cut off by pirates. His feast falls on the 16th of July.—T.

[140] William I., the Conqueror, King of England (1027-1087), is generally called William the Bastard by French writers. He was the illegitimate son of Robert I. the Devil, Duke of Normandy, and Arlotta, a washerwoman of Falaise.—T.

[141] Voltaire, L'Henriade:

"Then, far removed from Court, to this obscure retreat,
I come to mourn the blows with which my creed has met." —T.

[142] Armand Louis de Chateaubriand married in Guernsey, 14 September 1795, Mademoiselle Jeanne le Brun, of Jersey; the young couple settled in Jersey, where were born Jeanne (16 June 1796) and Frédéric (11 November 1799).—B.

[143] Philippe d'Auvergne, Prince de Bouillon (1754-1816), born in Jersey, was the son of Charles d'Auvergne, a poor lieutenant in the British Navy, and had been adopted by the Duc Godefroy de Bouillon, who saw his race threatened with extinction. Philippe d'Auvergne devoted himself whole-heartedly to the cause of his new fellow-countrymen in their difficulties with the English governors of the island. His career was one of inconceivable adventures, and his end, which occurred in London, was mysterious.—B.

[144] François Marie Anne Joseph Hingant de La Tiemblais (1761-1827). No less than twenty-two members of his family suffered as victims of their religious and political faith. He furnished Chateaubriand with many of the materials for the Génie du Christianisme, and himself published some valuable literary and scientific works and an interesting novel (1826), entitled Le Capucin, anecdote historique.—B.

[145] Lamba Doria defeated Andrea Dandola, the Venetian admiral, before the island of Curzola, off the coast of Dalmatia, in 1298.—T.

[Pg 68]


The Literary Fund—My garret in Holborn—Decline in health—Visit to the doctors—Emigrants in London—Peltier—Literary labours—My friendship with Hingant—Our excursions—A night in Westminster Abbey—Distress—Unexpected succour—Lodging overlooking a cemetery—New companions in misfortune—Our pleasures—My cousin de La Boüétardais—A sumptuous rout—I come to the end of my forty crowns—Renewed distress—Table d'hôte—Bishops-Dinner at the London Tavern—The Camden Manuscripts—My work in the country—Death of my brother—Misfortunes of my family—Two Frances—Letters from Hingant—Charlotte—I return to London—An extraordinary meeting—A defect in my character—The Essai historique sur les révolutions—Its effect—Letter from Lemierre, nephew to the poet—Fontanes—Cléry.

A society has been formed in London for the assistance of men of letters, both English and foreign. This society invited me to its annual meeting[147]; I made it my duty to attend and to present my subscription[148]. H.R.H. the Duke of York[149] occupied the chair; on his right were the Duke of Somerset[150] and Lords Torrington[151] and Bolton[152]; I myself sat on his left. I met my friend Mr. Canning[153] there. The poet, orator, and illustrious minister made a speech in which occurred the following passage, which did me too great honour, and which was reported in the newspapers:

"Although the person of my noble friend, the Ambassador[Pg 69] of France, is as yet but little known here, his character and writings are well known to all Europe. He began his career by expounding the principles of Christianity, and continued it by defending those of monarchy; and now he comes amongst us to unite the two countries by the common bonds of monarchical principles and Christian virtues[154]."


The literary fund.

It is many years since Mr. Canning, the man of letters, improved himself by the political lessons of Mr. Pitt[155]; it is almost the same number of years since I began obscurely to write in that same English capital. Both of us have attained high station and are now members of a society devoted to the relief of unfortunate authors. Is it the affinity of our grandeurs or the relation of our sufferings that brought us together in this place? What should the Governor of the East Indies and the French Ambassador be doing at the banquet of the afflicted muses? It was rather George Canning and François de Chateaubriand who sat down to it, in remembrance of their former adversity and perhaps of their former happiness: they drank to the memory of Homer singing his verses for a morsel of bread.

If the Literary Fund had existed when I arrived in London from Southampton on the 21st of May 1793, it would perhaps have paid a doctor's visit to the garret in Holborn in which my cousin de La Boüétardais[156], son of my uncle de Bedée, harboured me. It had been hoped that the change of air would do marvels towards restoring to me the strength essential to a soldier's life; but my health, instead of recovering, declined. My chest became involved; I was thin and pale, I coughed frequently, I breathed with difficulty; I had attacks of perspiration and I spat blood. My friends, who were as poor as I, dragged me from doctor to doctor. These Hippocrates kept the band of beggars waiting at their door, and then told me, for the price of one guinea, that I must bear my complaint patiently, adding:

[Pg 70]

"That's all, my dear sir."

Dr. Goodwyn[157], famous for his experiments relating to drowning people, made on his own person by his own prescriptions, was more generous: he assisted me with his advice gratis; but he said to me, with the harshness which he employed towards himself, that I might "last" a few months, perhaps one or two years, provided I gave up all fatigue.

"Do not look forward to a long career:" that was the substance of his consultations.

The certainty of my approaching end thus acquired, while increasing the natural gloom of my imagination, gave me an incredible peace of mind. This inner disposition explains a passage of the note placed at the head of the Essai historique[158], as well as the following passage from the Essai itself:

"Smitten as I am with an illness which leaves me little hope, I behold objects with a tranquil eye; the calm atmosphere of the tomb is perceptible to the traveller who is but a few days' march removed from it[159]."

The bitterness of the reflections spread over the Essai will therefore arouse no astonishment: I wrote that work while lying under sentence of death, between the verdict and the execution. A writer who believed himself to be drawing near his end, amid the destitution of his exile, could scarcely cast a smiling glance upon the world.

But how to spend the days of grace that had been granted me? I might have lived or died promptly by my sword: I was forbidden to use it. What remained? A pen? It was neither known nor proved, and I was ignorant of its power. Would my innate taste for letters, the poems of my childhood, the sketches of my travels suffice to attract the public attention? The idea of writing a work on the comparative Revolutions had occurred to me; I turned it over in my mind as a subject more suited to the interests of the day; but who would undertake the printing of a manuscript with none to extol its merits, and who would support me during the composition of that manuscript? Even if I had but a few[Pg 71] days to spend on earth, I must nevertheless have some means of support for those few days. My thirty louis, already seriously curtailed, could not go very far, and, in addition to my own distress, I had to support the general distress of the Emigration. My companions in London all had occupations: some had embarked in the coal trade, others with their wives made straw hats, others again taught the French which they did not know. They were all merry. The fault of our nation, its frivolity, had at that moment changed into virtue. They laughed in Fortune's face: that thieving wench was quite abashed at carrying off something which she was not asked to restore.



Peltier, author of the Domine salvum fac regem[160] and principal editor of the Actes des Apôtres, continued his Parisian enterprise in London. He was not precisely vicious: but he was devoured by a vermin of small faults of which it was impossible to purify him; he was a rake, a good-for-nothing, earned a great deal of money and spent it as lavishly, was at the same time the adherent of the Legitimacy and the ambassador of the black King Christophe[161] to George III., diplomatic correspondent of M. le Comte de "Limonade," and drank up in champagne the salary which was paid him in sugar[162]. This sort of M. Violet playing the grand airs of the Revolution on a pocket violin came to see me, and offered his services as a Breton. I spoke to him of my plan of the Essai; he loudly approved of it:


"It will be superb!" he exclaimed, and offered me a room in the house of his printer, Baylis, who would print the work piece by piece as I wrote it.

Deboffe the bookseller should have the sale of it; he, Peltier, would trumpet it in his paper, the Ambigu, while one might obtain a footing in the London Courrier français, the editorship of which was soon to be transferred to M. de[Pg 72] Montlosier[163]. Peltier never entertained a doubt: he spoke of getting me the Cross of St. Louis for my siege of Thionville. My Gil Blas, tall, lean, lanky, with powdered hair and a bald forehead, always shouting and joking, put his round hat on one ear, took me by the arm, and carried me off to Baylis the printer, where, without any ceremony, he hired a room for me at a guinea a month.

I was face to face with my golden future; but how to bridge over the present? Peltier obtained translations from the Latin and the English for me; I worked at translating by day, and at night at the Essai historique, into which I introduced a portion of my travels and my day-dreams. Baylis supplied me with the books, and I laid out a few shillings to ill purpose on the purchase of old volumes displayed on the bookstalls.

Hingant, whom I had met on the Jersey packet, had become intimate with me. He cultivated literature, he was well informed, and he wrote novels in secret and read me pages of them. He had a lodging not far from Baylis, at the end of a street leading into Holborn. I breakfasted with him every morning at ten o'clock; we talked about politics and above all about my work. I told him how much I had built of my nocturnal edifice, the Essai; then I reverted to my labour of the daytime, the translations. We met for dinner, at a shilling a head, in a public-house; thence we made for the fields. Often also we walked alone, for we were both of us fond of musing.

I would then direct my steps towards Kensington or Westminster. Kensington pleased me; I wandered about its solitary part, while the part adjacent to Hyde Park became filled with a brilliant multitude. The contrast between my penury and the display of wealth, between my destitution and the crowd, was pleasant to me. I watched the young Englishwomen pass in the distance with that sense of desirous confusion which my sylph had formerly caused me to feel when, after decking her with all my extravagances, I scarce dared lift my eyes upon my handiwork. Death, which I thought that I was approaching, added a mystery to this vision of a world from which I had almost departed. Did ever a look rest upon the foreigner seated at the foot of a fir-tree? Did some fair woman divine the invisible presence of René?

[Pg 73]

A night in Westminster Abbey.

At Westminster I found a different pastime: in that labyrinth of tombs I thought of mine ready to open. The bust of an unknown man like myself would never find a place amid those illustrious effigies! Then appeared the sepulchres of the monarchs: Cromwell[164] was there no longer, and Charles I.[165] was not there. The ashes of a traitor, Robert of Artois[166], lay beneath the flagstones which I trod with my loyal steps. The fate of Charles I. had just been extended to Louis XVI.; the steel was reaping its daily harvest in France, and the graves of my kindred were already dug.

The singing of the choir and the conversation of the visitors interrupted my reflections. I was not able often to repeat my visits, for I was obliged to give to the guardians of those who lived no more the shilling which was necessary to me to live. But then I would turn round and round outside the abbey with the rooks, or stop to gaze at the steeples, twins of unequal height, which the setting sun stained red with its fiery light against the black hangings of the smoke of the City.

One day, however, it happened that, wishing towards evening to contemplate the interior of the basilica, I became lost in admiration of its spirited and capricious architecture. Dominated by the sentiment of the "dowdy vastitie of our churches[167]," I wandered with slow footsteps and became benighted: the doors were closed. I tried to find an outlet; I called the usher, I knocked against the doors: all the noise I made, spread and spun out in the silence, was lost; I had to resign myself to sleeping among the dead.

After hesitating in my choice of a resting-place I stopped near Lord Chatham's[168] mausoleum, at the foot of the rood[Pg 74] and of the double stair of Henry the Seventh's and the Knights' Chapel. At the entrance to those stairs, to those aisles enclosed with railings, a sarcophagus built into the wall, opposite to a marble figure of death armed with its scythe, offered me its shelter. The fold of a winding-sheet, also of marble, served me for a niche: following the example of Charles V.[169], I inured myself to my burial. I was in the best seats for seeing the world as it is. What a mass of greatnesses were confined beneath those vaults! What remains of them? Afflictions are no less vain than felicities: the hapless Jane Grey[170] is not different from the blithe Alice of Salisbury[171] save that the skeleton is less horrible because it has no head; her body is beautified by her punishment and by the absence of that which constituted its beauty. The tournaments of the victor of Crecy[172], the sports of the Field of the Cloth of Gold of Henry VIII.[173] will not be renewed in that theatre of funereal spectacles. Bacon[174], Newton[175], Milton[176] are interred as deeply, have passed away as completely, as their more obscure contemporaries. Should I, an exile, a vagabond, a pauper, consent to be no longer the petty, forgotten, sorrowful thing that I am in order to have been one of those famous, mighty, pleasure-sated dead? Ah, life is not all that! If from the shores of this world we cannot distinctly discern matters divine, let us not be astonished: time is a veil set between ourselves and[Pg 75] God, even as our eyelids are interposed between our eyes and the light.

Reflections and release.

Crouching under my marble sheet, I descended from these lofty thoughts to the simple impressions of the place and moment. My anxiety mingled with pleasure was analogous to that which I used to experience in winter in my turret at Combourg, as I listened to the wind: a breeze and a shadow possess a kindred nature. Little by little I grew accustomed to the darkness and distinguished the figures placed over the tombs. I looked up at the vaults of this English Saint-Denis, whence one might say that the years that have been and the issues of the past hung down like Gothic lamps: the entire edifice was as it were a monolithic temple of ages turned to stone.

I had counted ten o'clock, eleven o'clock by the abbey clock: the hammer rising and falling upon the bell-metal was the only living creature in those regions beside myself. Outside, the sound of a carriage, the voice of the watchman: that was all; those distant sounds of earth reached me as though from one world to another. The fog from the Thames and the smoke of coal crept into the basilica, and spread a denser dusk around.

At last a twilight spread out in a corner filled with the dimmest shadows: with fixed gaze I watched the progressive growth of the light; did it emanate from the two sons[177] of Edward IV., assassinated by their uncle? The great tragedian says:

"O thus," quoth Dighton, "lay the gentle babes,"—
"Thus, thus," quoth Forrest, "girdling one another
Within their alabaster innocent arms:
Their lips were four red roses on a stalk,
Which, in their summer beauty, kiss'd each other[178]."

God did not send me those two sad and charming souls; but the light phantom of a scarcely adolescent woman appeared carrying a light sheltered in a sheet of paper twisted shell-wise: it was the little bell-ringer. I heard the sound of a kiss, and the bell tolled the break of day. The ringer was quite terrified when I went out with her through the gate of the cloisters. I told her of my adventure;[Pg 76] she said she had come to do duty for her father, who was sick: we did not speak of the kiss.


I amused Hingant with the story of my adventure, and we made a plan to lock ourselves in at Westminster; but our distress summoned us to the dead in a less poetic manner.

My funds were becoming exhausted: Baylis and Deboffe had ventured, against a written promise of reimbursement in case of non-sale, to commence the printing of the Essai; there their generosity ended, and very naturally; I was even astonished at their boldness. The translations fell off; Peltier, a man of pleasure, grew weary of his prolonged obligingness. He would willingly have given me what he had, if he had not preferred to squander it; but to go looking here and there for work, to do patient acts of kindness, was beyond him. Hingant also saw his treasure diminishing; we were reduced to sixty francs between us. We cut down our rations, as on a vessel when the passage is prolonged. Instead of a shilling apiece, we spent only sixpence on our dinner. With our morning tea we reduced the bread by one half, and suppressed the butter. This abstinence vexed my friend's nerves. His wits went wool-gathering; he would prick his ears and seem to be listening to some one; he would burst out laughing in reply, or shed tears. Hingant believed in magnetism, and had disordered his brain with Swedenborg's[179] rubbish. He told me in the morning that he had heard noises during the night; if I denied his fancies he grew angry. The anxiety which he caused me prevented me from feeling my own sufferings.

These were great, nevertheless: that rigorous diet, combined with the work, chafed my diseased chest; I began to find a difficulty in walking, and yet I spent my days and a part of my nights out of doors, so as not to betray my distress. When we came to our last shilling, my friend and I agreed to keep it in order to make a pretense of breakfasting. We arranged that we should buy a penny roll; that we should have the hot water and the tea-pot brought up as usual; that we should not put in any tea; that we should not eat the bread, but that we should drink the hot water with a few little morsels of sugar left at the bottom of the bowl.

Five days passed in this fashion. I was devoured with[Pg 77] hunger; I burned with fever; sleep had deserted me; I sucked pieces of linen which I soaked in water; I chewed grass and paper. When I passed the bakers' shops, the torment I endured was horrible. One rough winter's night, I stood for two hours outside a shop where they sold dried fruits and smoked meats, swallowing all I saw with my eyes: I could have eaten not only the provisions, but the boxes and baskets in which they were packed.

On the morning of the fifth day, dropping from inanition, I dragged myself to Hingant's; I knocked at the door: it was closed. I called out; Hingant was some time without answering: at last he rose and opened the door. He laughed with a bewildered air; his frock-coat was buttoned; he sat down at the tea-table.

"Our breakfast is coming," he said in a strange voice.

I thought I saw some stains of blood on his shirt; I suddenly unbuttoned his coat: he had given himself a wound with a penknife, two inches deep, in his left breast. I called out for help. The maid-servant went to fetch a surgeon. The wound was dangerous.

This new misfortune obliged me to take a resolution. Hingant, who was a counsellor to the Parliament of Brittany, had refused to take the salary which the English Government allowed the French magistrates, in the same way that I had declined the shilling a day doled out to the Emigrants: I wrote to M. de Barentin[180] and disclosed my friend's position to him. Hingant's relations hurried to his assistance and took him away to the country. At that very moment my uncle de Bedée forwarded me forty crowns, a touching offering from my persecuted family. I seemed to see all the gold of Peru before my eyes: the mite of the French prisoners supported the exiled Frenchman.


My destitution had impeded my work. As I delivered no more manuscript, the printing was suspended. Deprived of Hingant's company, I did not keep on my room at Baylis' at a guinea per month; I paid the quarter that was due and went away. Below the needy Emigrants who had served as my first protectors in London were others who were even more necessitous. There are degrees among the poor as among the rich; one can go from the man who in winter keeps himself warm with his dog down[Pg 78] to him who shivers in his torn rags. My friends found me a room more suited to my diminishing fortune: one is not always at the height of prosperity! They installed me in the neighbourhood of Marylebone Street, in a garret whose dormer window overlooked a cemetery: every night the watchman's rattle told me of the proximity of body-snatchers. I had the consolation to hear that Hingant was out of danger.

Friends came to see me in my work-room. To judge from our independence and our poverty, we might have been taken for painters on the ruins of Rome; we were artists in wretchedness on the ruins of France. My face served as a model, my bed as a seat for my pupils. The bed consisted of a mattress and a blanket. I had no sheets; when it was cold my coat and a chair, added to my blanket, kept me warm. I was too weak to make my bed; it remained turned down as God had left it.

My cousin de La Boüétardais, turned out of a low Irish lodging for not paying his rent, although he had put his violin in pawn, came to ask me for a shelter against the constable: a vicar from Lower Brittany lent him a trestle-bed. La Boüétardais, like Hingant, had been a counsellor to the Parliament of Brittany; he did not possess a handkerchief to tie round his head; but he had deserted with bag and baggage, that is to say, he had brought away his square cap and his red robe, and he slept under the purple by my side. Jocular, a good musician with a fine voice, on nights when we could not sleep he would sit up quite naked on his trestles, put on his square cap, and sing ballads, accompanying himself on a guitar with only three strings. One night when the poor fellow was in this way humming Scendi propizia from Metastasio's[181] Hymn to Venus, he was struck by a draught; he twisted his mouth, and he died of it, but not at once, for I rubbed his cheek heartily. We held counsel in our elevated room, argued on politics, and discussed the gossip of the Emigration. In the evening, we went to our aunts and cousins to dance, after the dresses had been trimmed with ribbons and the hats made up.

They who read this portion of my Memoirs are not aware[Pg 79] that I have interrupted them twice: once to offer a great dinner to the Duke of York, brother of the King of England; and once to give a rout on the anniversary of the entry of the King of France into Paris, on the 8th of July. That rout cost me forty thousand francs. Peers and peeresses of the British Empire, ambassadors, distinguished foreigners filled my gorgeously-decorated rooms. My tables gleamed with the glitter of London crystal and the gold of Sèvres porcelain. The most delicate dainties, wines and flowers abounded. Portland Place was blocked with splendid carriages. Collinet and the band from Almack's enraptured the fashionable melancholy of the dandies and the dreamy elegance of the pensively-dancing ladies. The Opposition and the Ministerial majority had struck a truce: Mrs. Canning[182] talked to Lord Londonderry, Lady Jersey to the Duke of Wellington. Monsieur, who this year sent me his compliments on the sumptuousness of my entertainments in 1822, did not know in 1793 that, not far from him, lived a future minister who, while awaiting the advent of his greatness, fasted over a cemetery for his sin of loyalty. I congratulate myself to-day on having experienced shipwreck, gone through war, and shared the sufferings of the humblest classes of society, as I applaud myself for meeting with injustice and calumny in times of prosperity. I have profited by these lessons: life, without the ills that make it serious, is a child's bauble.


I was the man with the forty crowns; but since fortunes had not yet been levelled, nor the price of commodities reduced, there was nothing to serve as a counterpoise to my rapidly diminishing purse. I could not reckon on further help from my family, exposed in Brittany to the double scourge of the Chouans[183] and the Terror. I saw nothing before me but the workhouse or the Thames.

A contrast.

Some of the Emigrants' servants, whom their masters could no longer feed, had turned into eating-house keepers in order to feed their masters. God knows the merry meals that were made at these ordinaries! God knows, too, what politics were talked there! All the victories of the Republic[Pg 80] were turned into defeats, and, if by chance one entertained a doubt as to an immediate restoration, he was declared a Jacobin. Two old bishops, who looked like live corpses, were walking one morning in St James's Park:

"Monseigneur," said one, "do you think we shall be in France by June?"

"Why, monseigneur," replied the other, after ripe reflection, "I see nothing against it."

Peltier, the man of resource, unearthed me, or rather unnested me, in my eyry. He had read in a Yarmouth newspaper that a society of antiquarians was going to produce a history of the County of Suffolk, and that they wanted a Frenchman able to decipher some French twelfth-century manuscripts from the Camden[184] Collection. The parson at Beccles was at the head of the undertaking; he was the man to whom to apply.

"That will just suit you," said Peltier; "go down there, decipher that old waste-paper, go on sending copy for the Essai to Baylis; I'll make the wretch go on with his printing; and you will come back to London with two hundred guineas in your pocket, your work done, and go ahead!" I tried to stammer out some objections:

"What the deuce!" cried my man. "Do you want to stay in this palace, where I'm catching cold already? If Rivarol, Champcenetz, Mirabeau-Tonneau and I had gone about pursing up our mouths, a fine business we should have made of the Actes des Apôtres! Do you know that that story of Hingant is making the devil of a to-do? So you both wanted to let yourself die of hunger, did you? Ha, ha, ha! Pouf!.... Ha, ha!"

Peltier, doubled in two, was holding his knees with laughter. He had just received a hundred subscriptions to his paper from the colonies; he had been paid for them, and jingled his guineas in his pocket. He dragged me by main force, together with the apoplectic La Boüétardais and two tattered Emigrants who were at hand, to dine at the London Tavern. He made us drink port and eat roast beef and plum-pudding till we were ready to burst.

"Monsieur le comte," he asked my cousin, "what makes you carry your potato-trap askew like that?"

La Boüétardais, half shocked, half pleased, explained the[Pg 81] thing as best he could; he described how he had been suddenly seized while singing the words, "O bella Venere!" My poor paralytic looked so dead, so benumbed, so shabby, as he stammered out his "bella Venere" that Peltier fell back, roaring with laughter, and almost upset the table by striking it with his two feet underneath.

I go to Beccles.

Upon reflection, the advice of my fellow-countryman, a real character out of my other fellow-countryman, Le Sage[185], did not appear to me so bad. After three days spent in making inquiries and in obtaining some clothes from Peltier's tailor, I set out for Beccles with some money lent me by Deboffe, on the understanding that I was going on with the Essai. I changed my name, which no Englishman was able to pronounce, for that of Combourg, which had been borne by my brother, and which reminded me of the sorrows and pleasures of my early youth. I alighted at the inn, and handed the minister of the place a letter from Deboffe, who was greatly esteemed in the English book-world. The letter recommended me as a scholar of the first rank. I was very well received, saw all the gentlemen of the district, and met two officers of our Royal Navy who were giving French lessons in the neighbourhood.


My strength improved; my trips on horseback restored my health a little. England, viewed thus in detail, was melancholy, but charming; it was the same thing, the same outlook wherever I went. M. de Combourg was invited to every party. I owed to study the first alleviation of my lot. Cicero was right to recommend the commerce of letters in the troubles of life. The women were delighted to meet a Frenchman to talk French with.

The misfortunes of my family, which I learnt from the newspapers, and which made me known by my real name (for I was unable to conceal my grief), increased the interest which my acquaintances took in me. The public journals announced the death of M. de Malesherbes; of his daughter, Madame la Présidente de Rosanbo; of his granddaughter, Madame de Chateaubriand; and of his grandson-in-law, the Comte de Chateaubriand, my brother, all immolated together, on the same day, at the same hour, on the same scaffold[186]. M. de Malesherbes was an object of admiration and veneration among the English;[Pg 82] my family connection with the defender of Louis XVI. added to the kindness of my hosts.

My uncle de Bedée informed me of the persecutions endured by the rest of my relations. My old and incomparable mother had been flung into a cart with other victims and carried from the depths of Brittany to the gaols of Paris, in order to share the lot of the son whom she had loved so well. My wife and my sister Lucile were awaiting their sentence in the dungeons at Rennes; there had been a question of imprisoning them at Combourg Castle, which had become a State fortress: their innocence was accused of the crime of my emigration. What were our sorrows on foreign soil compared with those of the French who had remained at home? And yet, what unhappiness, amid the sufferings of exile, to know that our very exile was made the pretext for the persecution of our kin.

Two years ago my sister-in-law's wedding ring was picked up in the kennel of the Rue Cassette; it was brought to me, broken; the two hoops of the ring had come apart and hung linked together; the names were clearly legible engraved inside. How had the ring come to be found there? When and where had it been lost? Had the victim, imprisoned at the Luxembourg, passed by the Rue Cassette on her way to execution? Had she dropped the ring from the tumbril? Had the ring been torn from her finger after the execution? I was shocked at the sight of this symbol, which, both by its broken condition and its inscription, reminded me of a destiny so cruel. Something fatal and mysterious was attached to this ring, which my sister-in-law seemed to send me from among the dead, in memory of herself and my brother. I have given it to her son[187]: may it not bring him ill-luck!

Cher orphelin, image de ta mère,
Au ciel pour toi, je demande, ici-bas,
Les jours heureux retranchés à ton père
Et les enfants que ton oncle n'a pas[188].

[Pg 83]

This halting stanza and two or three others are the only present I was able to make my nephew on his marriage.

Execution of my brother.

Another relic remains to me of these misfortunes. The following is a letter which M. de Contencin wrote to me when, in turning over the city records, he found the order of the revolutionary tribunal which sent my brother and his family to the scaffold:

"Monsieur le vicomte,

"There is a sort of cruelty in awaking in a mind that has suffered much the memory of the ills which have affected it most painfully. This consideration made me hesitate some time before offering for your acceptance a very pathetic document, upon which I alighted in the course of my historical researches. It is a death-certificate, signed before the decease by a man who always displayed himself as implacable as death itself, whenever he found illustriousness and virtue united in the same person.

"I hope, monsieur le vicomte, that you will not take it too ill of me if I add to your family records a document which recalls such cruel memories. I presumed that it would have an interest for you, since it had a value in my eyes, and I at once thought of offering it to you. If I am not guilty of an indiscretion, I shall be doubly gratified, as this proceeding gives me the opportunity to express to you the feelings of profound respect and sincere admiration with which you have long inspired me, and with I am, monsieur le vicomte,

"your most humble, obedient servant,

"A. de Contencin.

"Prefecture of the Seine,

"Paris, 28 March 1835."

I replied to the above letter as follows:

"I had had the Sainte-Chapelle searched, monsieur, for the documents concerning the trial of my unfortunate brother and his wife, but the 'order' which you have been good enough to send me was not to be found. This order and so many others, with their erasures and their mangled names, have doubtless been presented to Fouquier before the tribunal of God; he will have been compelled to acknowledge his signature. Those are the times which people regret, and[Pg 84] on which they write volumes filled with admiration! For the rest, I envy my brother: he, at least, has since many a long year quitted this sad world. I thank you infinitely, monsieur, for the esteem which you have shown me in your beautiful and noble letter, and I beg you to accept the assurance of the very distinguished consideration with which I have the honour to be, etc."

This death order is, above all, remarkable for the proof which it affords of the levity with which the murders were committed: names are wrongly spelt, others are effaced. These defects of form, which would have been enough to stay the simplest sentence, did not stop the headsmen; all they cared for was the exact hour of death: "at five o'clock precisely." Here is the authentic document, I copy it faithfully:

"Executor of Criminal Judgments,


"The executor of criminal judgments will not fail to go to the house of justice of the Conciergerie, there to execute the judgment which condemns Mousset, d'Esprémenil, Chapelier, Thouret, Hell, Lamoignon Malsherbes, the woman Lepelletier Rosambo, Chateau Brian, and his wife [proper name effaced and illegible], the widow Duchatelet, the wife of Grammont, formerly duke, the woman Rochechuart [Rochechouart], and Parmentier;—14, to the penalty of death. The execution will take place to-day, at five o'clock precisely, on the Place de la Révolution in this city.

"H. Q. Fouquier,
"Public Prosecutor.

"Given at the Tribunal, 3 Floréal, Year II. of the French Republic.

"Two conveyances."

The 9 Thermidor saved my mother's days; but she was forgotten at the Conciergerie. The conventional commissary found her:

"What are you doing here, citizeness?" he asked. "Who are you? Why do you stay here?"

[Pg 85]

My mother replied that, having lost her son, she had not inquired what was going on, and that it was indifferent to her whether she died in prison or elsewhere.

"But perhaps you have other children?" said the commissary.

Release of my mother.

My mother mentioned my wife and sisters detained in custody at Rennes. An order was sent to place them at liberty, and my mother was compelled to leave the prison.

In the histories of the Revolution, the writers have omitted to set the picture of outer France by the side of the picture of inner France, to depict that great colony of exiles, changing its industry and its sorrows in accordance with the diversity of climate and the difference in national manners.

Outside France, everything operated by individuals: changes of condition, obscure afflictions, noiseless and unrewarded sacrifices; and, in this variety of individuals of every rank, age and sex, one fixed idea was preserved: that of Old France travelling with her prejudices and her faithful sons, as formerly the Church of God had wandered over the earth with her virtues and her martyrs.

Inside France, everything operated in the mass: Barère announcing murders and conquests, civil wars and foreign wars; the gigantic combats of the Vendée and on the banks of the Rhine; thrones toppling to the sound of the march of our armies; our fleets swallowed up by the waves; the people disinterring the monarchs at Saint-Denis and flinging the dust of the dead kings into the eyes of the living kings to blind them; New France, glorying in her new-found liberties, proud even of her crimes, steadfast on her own soil, while extending her frontiers, doubly armed with the headsman's blade and the soldier's sword.

In the midst of my family sorrows I received some letters from my friend Hingant, to reassure me as to his fate: letters very remarkable in themselves; he wrote to me in September 1795:

"Your letter of the 23rd of August is full of the most touching feeling. I showed it to a few people, whose eyes filled with tears on reading it. I was almost tempted to say what Diderot said on the day when J. J. Rousseau came and cried in his prison at Vincennes:

"'See how my friends love me.'

"My illness, as a matter of fact, was only one of those[Pg 86] nervous fevers which cause great suffering, and for which time and patience are the best remedies. During the fever I read extracts from the Phædo and Timæus, and I said with Cato:

"'It must be so, Plato; thou reason'st well[189]!'

"I had formed an idea of my journey as one might form an idea of a voyage to India. I imagined that I should see many new objects in the 'spirit world,' as Swedenborg calls it, and above all that I should be free from the fatigue and dangers of the journey."


Eight miles from Beccles, in a little town called Bungay, lived an English clergyman, the Rev. Mr. Ives[190], a great Hellenist and mathematician. He had a wife who was still young, with a charming appearance, mind and manners, and an only daughter, fifteen years of age. I was introduced to this household, and was better received there than anywhere else. We took our wine in the old English fashion, and sat two hours at table after the ladies had left. Mr. Ives, who had been to America, liked to tell of his travels, to hear the story of my own, to talk of Newton and Homer. His daughter, who had become learned in order to please her father, was an excellent musician, and sang as Madame Pasta[191] sings to-day. She reappeared in time to pour out tea, and charmed away the old parson's infectious drowsiness. Leaning against the end of the piano, I listened to Miss Ives in silence.

When the music was over, the young lady questioned me about France, about literature; asked me to set her plans of studies; she wished particularly to know the Italian authors, and begged me to give her some notes on the Divina Commedia and the Gerusalemme. Gradually I began to experience a timid charm that issued from the soul: I had decked the Floridans, I should not have ventured to pick up Miss Ives's glove; I grew confused when I tried to translate a passage from Tasso. I was more at my ease with that chaster and more masculine genius, Dante.

Charlotte Ives's age and my own were suited. Into friendships formed in the midst of one's career, there enters a certain melancholy; when two people do not meet at the[Pg 87] very outset, the memories of the person beloved are not mingled with that portion of our days in which we breathed without knowing her: those days, which belong to another society, are painful to the memory, and as though curtailed from our existence. When there is a disproportion of age, the drawbacks increase: the older of the two commenced life before the younger was born; the younger is destined to remain alone in his turn: one has walked in a solitude this side of a cradle, the other will cross a solitude that side of a tomb; the past was a desert for the first, the future will be a desert for the second. It is difficult to be in love in all the conditions that produce happiness: youth, beauty, seasonable time, harmony of hearts, tastes, character, graces, and years.

Having had a fall from my horse, I stayed some time with Mr. Ives. It was winter; the dreams of my life began to flee before reality. Miss Ives became more reserved; she ceased to bring me flowers; she would no longer sing.

Charlotte Ives.

If I could have been told that I should pass the rest of my life unknown in the bosom of this retiring family, I should have died of pleasure: love needs but permanency to become at once an Eden before the fall and an Hosanna without end. Contrive that beauty lasts, that youth remains, that the heart can never weary, and you reproduce Heaven. Love is so surely the sovereign felicity that it is pursued by the phantom of perpetuity; it will consent to pronounce only irrevocable vows; in the absence of joys, it seeks to make endless its sorrows; a fallen angel, it still speaks the language it spoke in the incorruptible abode; its hope is that it may never cease; in its twofold nature and its twofold illusion here below, it strives to perpetuate itself by immortal thoughts and never-failing generations.

I beheld with dismay the moment approach when I should be obliged to go. On the eve of the day announced for my departure, our dinner was a gloomy one. To my great surprise, Mr. Ives withdrew at dessert, taking his daughter with him, and I remained alone with Mrs. Ives: she was extremely embarrassed. I thought she was going to reproach me with an inclination which she might have discovered, although I had never mentioned it. She looked at me, lowered her eyes, blushed; herself bewitching in her confusion, there was no sentiment which she might not by right have claimed for herself. At last, overcoming with an effort the obstacle which had prevented her from speaking:

[Pg 88]

"Sir," she said in English, "you behold my confusion: I do not know if Charlotte pleases you, but it is impossible to deceive a mother's eyes; my daughter has certainly conceived an attachment for you. Mr. Ives and I have consulted together: you suit us in every respect; we believe you will make our daughter happy. You no longer possess a country; you have lost your relations; your property is sold: what is there to take you back to France? Until you inherit what we have, you will live with us."

Of all the sorrows that I had undergone, this was the sorest and greatest. I threw myself at Mrs. Ives's feet; I covered her hands with my kisses and my tears. She thought I was weeping with happiness, and herself began to sob for joy. She stretched out her arm to pull the bell-rope; she called her husband and daughter:

"Stop!" I cried. "I am a married man!"

She fell back fainting.

I went out and, without returning to my room, left the house on foot I reached Beccles and took the mail for London, after writing a letter to Mrs. Ives of which I regret that I did not keep a copy.

I have retained the sweetest, the tenderest, the most grateful recollection of that event. Before I made my name, Mr. Ives's family was the only one that bore me good-will and welcomed me with genuine affection. Poor, unknown, proscribed, with neither beauty nor attraction, I was offered an assured future, a country, a charming wife to take me out of my loneliness, a mother almost as beautiful to fill the place of my old mother, a father full of information, loving and cultivating literature, to replace the father of whom Heaven had bereaved me: what did I bring to set off against all that? No illusion could possibly enter into the choice they made of me; there was no doubt that I was loved. Since that time, I have met with but one attachment sufficiently lofty to inspire me with the same confidence. As to any interest of which I may subsequently have been the object, I have never been able to make out whether outward causes, a noisy fame, official finery, the glamour of a high literary or political position were not the covering which attracted the attentions shown to me.

For the rest, if I had married Charlotte Ives, my part on earth would have been changed: buried in an English county, I should have become a sporting gentleman; not a single line would have fallen from my pen; I should even[Pg 89] have forgotten my language, for I wrote in English, and my ideas were beginning to take shape in English in my head. Would my country have lost much by my disappearance? If I could put on one side that which has consoled me, I would say that I should already have numbered days of calm, instead of the troubled days that have fallen to my share. The Empire, the Restoration, the divisions and quarrels of France: what would all that have mattered to me? I should not each morning have to palliate faults, to contend with errors. Is it certain that I possess a real talent, and that that talent is worth the sacrifice of my whole life? Shall I outlast my tomb? If I do go beyond it, in the transformation which is now being brought about, in a changed world occupied with very different things, will there be a public to hear me? Shall I not be a man of the past, unintelligible to the new generations? Will not my ideas, my opinions, my very style seem tedious and antiquated to a scornful posterity? Will my shade be able to say, as the shade of Virgil said to Dante:

"Poeta fui e cantai: I was a poet and I sang?"[192]


I return to London.

I returned to London, but found no repose: I had fled from my fate as a miscreant from his crime. How painful it must have been to a family so worthy of my homage, of my respect, of my gratitude, to receive a sort of refusal from the unknown man whom they had welcomed, to whom they had offered a new home with a simplicity, an absence of suspicion, of precaution, almost patriarchal in character! I imagined Charlotte's grief, the just reproaches with which I was liable and deserved to be covered: for, after all, I had taken pleasure in yielding to an inclination of which I knew the insuperable unlawfulness. Had I, in fact, made a vain attempt at seduction, without taking into account the heinousness of my conduct? But whether I stopped, as I did, in order to remain an honest man, or overcame all obstacles in order to surrender to an inclination stigmatized beforehand through my conduct, I could only have plunged the object of that seduction into sorrow or regret.

From these bitter reflections I abandoned myself to other thoughts no less filled with bitterness: I cursed my marriage, which, according to the false perception of a mind at that time very sick, had thrown me out of my course and was robbing me of happiness. I did not reflect that, on[Pg 90] account of the ailing temperament to which I was subject, and the romantic notions of liberty which I cherished, a marriage with Miss Ives would have been as painful to me as a more independent union.

One thing within me remained pure and charming, although profoundly sad: the image of Charlotte; that image ended by prevailing over my revolts against my fate. I was tempted a hundred times to return to Bungay, not to appear before the troubled family, but to hide by the road-side to see Charlotte pass, to follow her to the temple where we had the same God, if not the same altar, in common, to offer that woman, through the medium of Heaven, the inexpressible ardour of my vows, to pronounce, at least in thought, the prayer from the nuptial benediction which I might have heard from a clergyman's lips in that temple:

"O God,... look mercifully upon this thy handmaid. ... now to be joined in wedlock.... May it be to her a yoke of love and peace.... May she be fruitful in offspring ... that they may both see their children's children unto the third and fourth generation, and arrive at a desired old age[193]."

Wavering between resolve and resolve, I wrote Charlotte long letters which I tore up. A few unimportant notes which I had received from her served me as a talisman; attached to my steps by my thought, Charlotte, gracious and compassionate, followed me along the paths of my sylph, purifying them as she went. She absorbed my faculties; she was the centre through which my intelligence made its way, in the same way as the blood passes through the heart; she disgusted me with all else, for I made of her a perpetual object of comparison to her advantage. A real and unhappy passion is a poisoned leaven which remains at the bottom of the soul, and which would poison the bread of the angels.

The spots by which I had wandered, the hours and words which I had exchanged with Charlotte, were engraved on my memory: I saw the smile of the wife who had been destined for me; I respectfully touched her black tresses; I pressed her shapely arms to my breast, like a chain which I might have worn round my neck. No sooner was I in some sequestered spot than Charlotte, with her white hands, came to sit by my side. I divined her presence, as at night one inhales the perfume of unseen flowers.

[Pg 91]

I had lost Hingant's company, and my walks, more solitary than before, left me full liberty to carry with me the image of Charlotte. There was not a common, a road, a church, within thirty miles of London, that I did not visit. The most deserted places, a field of nettles, a ditch planted with thistles, all that was neglected by men, became favourite spots for me, and in those spots Byron already drew breath. Leaning my head upon my hand, I contemplated the scorned sites; when their painful impression affected me too greatly, the memory of Charlotte came to enchant me: I was then like the pilgrim who, on reaching a solitude within view of the rocks of Mount Sinai, heard the nightingale sing.

In London, my habits aroused surprise. I looked at nobody, I never replied, I did not know what was said to me: my old associates suspected me of madness.


What happened at Bungay after my departure? What became of that family to which I had brought joy and mourning?

You will have remembered that I am at present Ambassador to the Court of George IV., and that I am writing in London, in 1822, of what happened to me in London in 1795.

Some matters of business obliged me, a week ago, to interrupt the narrative which I resume to-day. During this interval, my man came and told me one morning, between twelve and one o'clock, that a carriage had stopped at my door and that an English lady was asking to see me. As I have made it a rule, in my public position, to deny myself to nobody, I ordered the lady to be shown up.

Lady Sutton.

I was in my study, when Lady Sutton was announced; I saw a lady in mourning enter the room, accompanied by two handsome boys also in mourning: one might have been sixteen, the other fourteen years of age. I went towards the stranger; her perturbation was such that she could hardly walk. She said to me, in faltering accents:

"My lord, do you remember me?"

Yes, I remembered Miss Ives! The years which had passed over her head had left only their spring-time behind. I took her by the hand, I made her sit down, and I sat down by her side. I could not speak; my eyes were full of tears; I gazed at her in silence through those tears; I felt how deeply I had loved her by what I was now experiencing. At last I was able to say, in my turn:

[Pg 92]

"And you, madam, do you remember me?"

She raised her eyes, which till then she had kept lowered, and for sole reply gave me a smiling and melancholy glance, like a long remembrance. Her hand still lay between mine. Charlotte said to me:

"I am in mourning for my mother; my father has been dead many years. These are my children."

At these words, she drew away her hand and sank back into her chair, covering her eyes with her handkerchief. Soon she resumed:

"My lord, I am now speaking to you in the language which I practised with you at Bungay. I am ashamed: excuse me. My children are the sons of Admiral Sutton[194], whom I married three years after your departure from England. But I am not sufficiently self-possessed to-day to tell you the details. Permit me to come again."

I asked her for her address, and gave her my arm to take her to her carriage. She trembled, and I pressed her hand to my heart.

I called on Lady Sutton the next day; I found her alone. Then there began between us a long series of those "Do you remember?" questions which cause a whole life-time to revive. At each "Do you remember?" we looked at one another; we sought to discover in each other's faces those traces of time which so cruelly mark the distance from the starting-point and the length of the road traversed. I said to Charlotte:

"How did your mother tell you?"

Charlotte blushed, and hastily interrupted me:

"I have come to London to ask you to interest yourself on behalf of Admiral Sutton's children. The eldest would like to go to Bombay. Mr. Canning, who has been appointed Governor-General of India, is your friend; he might consent to take my son with him. I should be very grateful to you, and I should like to owe to you the happiness of my first child."

She laid a stress on these last words.

"Ah, madam," I replied, "of what do you remind me? What a subversion of destinies! You, who received a poor[Pg 93] exile at your father's hospitable board; you, who did not scorn his sufferings; you, who perhaps thought of raising him to a glorious and unhoped-for rank: it is you who now ask his protection in your own country! I will see Mr. Canning; your son, however much it costs me to give him that name, your son shall go to India, if it only depends on me. But tell me, madam, how does my new position affect you? In what light do you look upon me at present? That word, 'my lord,' which you employ seems very harsh to me."

Charlotte replied:

"I don't think you changed, not even aged. When I spoke of you to my parents during your absence, I always gave you the title of 'my lord;' it seemed to me that you had a right to bear it: were you not to me the same as a husband, 'my lord and master'."

Sentimental memories.

That graceful woman reminded me of Milton's Eve, as she uttered these words: she was not born in the womb of another woman; her beauty bore the imprint of the divine hand that had moulded it.

I went to Mr. Canning and to Lord Londonderry; they made as many difficulties about a small place as would have been made in France, but they promised, as people promise at Court. I gave Lady Sutton an account of the measures I had taken. I saw her three times more: at my fourth visit, she told me she was returning to Bungay. This last interview was a sad one. Charlotte talked to me once more of the past, of our secret life, of our reading, our walks, our music, the flowers of yester-year, the hopes of bygone days.

"When I knew you," she said, "no one spoke your name; now, who has not heard it? Do you know that I have a work and several letters in your handwriting? Here they are." And she handed me a packet. "Do not be offended if I prefer to keep nothing of yours." She began to weep. "Farewell, farewell," she said. "Think of my son. I shall not see you again, for you will not come to see me at Bungay."

"I will," I cried; "I shall come to bring you your son's appointment."

She shook her head with an air of doubt, and withdrew. On returning to the Embassy, I locked myself in and opened the packet. It contained only a few unimportant notes from myself and a scheme of studies, with remarks on the English and Italian poets. I had hoped to find a letter from Charlotte: there was none; but, in the margins of the[Pg 94] manuscript, I perceived some notes in English, French, and Italian: the age of the ink and the youthfulness of the hand in which they were written showed that it was long since they had been inscribed upon those margins.

That is the story of my relations with Miss Ives. As I finish telling it, it seems to me as though I were losing a second Charlotte in the same island in which I lost the first. But between that which I feel at this moment and that which I felt at the hours whose tenderness I have recalled lies the whole space of innocence: passions have interposed themselves between Miss Ives and Lady Sutton. I could no longer bring to an artless woman the candour of desire, the sweet ignorance of a love that did not surpass the limits of a dream. I was writing then on the wave of sadness; I am now no longer tossed on the wave of life. Well, if I had pressed in my arms, as a wife and a mother, her who was destined for me as a virgin and a bride, it would have been with a sort of rage, to blight, to fill with sorrow, to crush out of existence those seven-and-twenty years which had been given to another after having been offered to me.

I must look upon the sentiment which I have just recalled as the first of that kind which entered my heart; it was nevertheless in no way sympathetic with my stormy nature: the latter would have corrupted it and made me incapable of long enjoying such sacred delectations. It was then that, embittered as I was by misfortunes, already a pilgrim from beyond the seas, having begun my solitary travels, it was then that I became obsessed by the mad ideas depicted in the mystery of René, which turned me into the most tormented being on the face of the earth. However that may be, the chaste image of Charlotte, by causing a few rays of true light to penetrate to the depths of my soul, at first dissipated a cloud of phantoms: my dæmon, like an evil genius, plunged back into the abyss, and awaited the effects of time in order to renew her apparitions.


My relations with Deboffe in connection with the Essai sur les révolutions had never been completely interrupted, and it was important for me to resume them in London at the earliest possible moment to support my material existence. But whence had my last misfortune arisen? From my obstinate bent for silence. In order to understand this it is necessary to enter into my character.

At no time of my life have I been able to overcome the[Pg 95] spirit of reticence and of mental solitude which prevents me from talking of my private affairs.

My reserved nature.

No one can state without lying that I have told what most people tell in a moment of pain, pleasure, or vanity. A name, a confession of any seriousness never issues, or issues but rarely, from my lips. I never talk to casual people of my interests, my plans, my work, my ideas, my attachments, my joys, my sorrows, being persuaded of the profound weariness which one causes to others by talking of one's self. Sincere and truthful though I be, I am lacking in openness of heart: my soul incessantly tends to close up; I do not tell anything wholly, and I have never allowed my complete life to transpire, except in these Memoirs. If I try to begin a story, I am suddenly terrified at the idea of its length; after four words, the sound of my voice becomes unendurable to me, and I am silent. As I believe in nothing except religion, I distrust everything: malevolence and disparagement are the two distinctive qualities of the French mind; derision and calumny, the certain result of a confidence.

But what have I gained by my reserved nature? To become, because I was impenetrable, a fantastic something, having no relation with my real being? My very friends are mistaken in me, when they think that they are making me better known and when they adorn me with the illusions of their love for me. All the small intellects of the ante-chambers, the public offices, the newspapers, the cafés have assigned ambition to me, whereas I have none at all. Cold and dry in matters of everyday life, I have nothing of the enthusiast or the sentimentalist: my clear and swift perception quickly pierces men and facts, and strips them of all importance. Far from carrying me away, from idealizing apposite truths, my imagination disparages the loftiest events and baffles even myself; I see the petty and ridiculous side of things first of all; great geniuses and great things scarcely exist in my eyes. While I show myself polite, encomiastic and full of admiration for the self-conceited minds which proclaim themselves superior intelligences, my secret contempt laughs at all those faces intoxicated with incense, and covers them with Callot[195] masks. In politics, the warmth of my opinions has never[Pg 96] exceeded the length of my speech or my pamphlet. In the inner and theoretical life, I am the man of all the dreams; in the outer and practical life, I am the man of realities. Adventurous and orderly, passionate and methodical, I am the most chimerical and the most positive, the most ardent and the most icy being that ever existed, a whimsical androgynus, formed out of the different blood of my mother and my father.

The portraits, utterly without resemblance, that have been made of me, are due in the main to the reticence of my speech. The crowd is too thoughtless, too inattentive, to see individuals as they are. Whenever, by chance, I have endeavoured to rectify some of these false judgments in my prefaces, I have not been believed. In the ultimate result, all things being indifferent to me, I have not insisted; an "as you please" has always rid me of the irksomeness of persuading anyone or of seeking to establish a truth. I return to my spiritual tribunal, like a hare to its form: there I resume my contemplation of the moving leaf or the bending blade of grass.

I do not make a virtue of my guardedness, which is as invincible as it is involuntary: although it is not deceitful, it has the appearance of being so; it is not in harmony with natures happier, more amiable, more facile, more candid, more ample, more communicative than mine. It has often injured me in matters of sentiment and business, because I have never been able to endure explanations, reconciliations brought about by protests and elucidations, lamentations and tears, verbiage and reproaches, details and apologies.

In the case of the Ives family, this obstinate silence of mine concerning myself proved extremely fatal to me. A score of times Charlotte's mother had inquired into my family and given me the opportunity of speaking openly. Not foreseeing whither my silence would lead me, I contented myself, as usual, with replying in short, vague sentences. Had I not been the victim of that odious mental perversity, all misunderstanding would have become impossible, and I should not have appeared to wish to deceive the most generous hospitality; the truth, as I told it at the last moment, did not excuse me: genuine harm had none the less been done.

I resumed my work in the midst of my grief and of the just reproaches with which I covered myself. I even took pleasure in this work, for it struck me that, by achieving[Pg 97] renown, I should be giving the Ives family less cause to repent the interest which they had shown me. Charlotte, with whom I thus sought to be reconciled through my glory, presided over my studies. Her image was seated before me while I wrote. When I raised my eyes from the paper, I lifted them upon the adored image, as though the original were in fact there. The inhabitants of Ceylon one morning saw the luminary of day rise in extraordinary splendour; its orb opened out, and from it issued a dazzling being, who said to the Cingalese:

"I have come to reign over you."

Charlotte, issuing from a ray of light, reigned over me.

Let us leave these memories; memories grow old and dim like hopes. My life is about to change, to speed under other skies, in other valleys. First love of my youth, you flee with all your charms! I have just seen Charlotte again, it is true; but after how many years did I see her again? Sweet glimpse of the past, pale rose of the twilight which borders the night, long after the sun has set!


The Essai Historique.

Life has often been represented (by me first of all) as a mountain which we climb on one side and descend on the other: it would be as true to compare it to an Alp, to the bare, ice-crowned summit which has no reverse. Following up this figure, the traveller always climbs upwards and never down; he then sees more clearly the space which he has covered, the paths which he has not taken, although by doing so he could have risen by a gentler slope: he looks down with sorrow and regret upon the point where he commenced to stray. Thus I must mark at the publication of the Essai historique the first step which led me out of the peaceful road. I finished the first part of the great work which I had planned; I wrote the last word between the idea of death (I had fallen ill again) and a vanished dream: In somnis venit imago conjugis.[196] The Essai, printed by Baylis, was published by Deboffe in 1797[197]. This date marks[Pg 98] one of the turning-points in my life. There are moments at which our destiny, whether because it yields to society, or obeys the laws of nature, or begins to make us what we shall have to remain, suddenly turns aside from its first line, like a river which changes its course with a sudden bend.

The Essai offers the compendium of my existence as a poet, a moralist, a publicist, and a politician. To say that I hoped, in so far at least as I am capable of hoping, to make a great success with the work, goes without saying: we authors, petty prodigies of a prodigious era, make a claim to keep up intelligence with future races; but we do not, I firmly believe, know where posterity lives, and we put the wrong address. When we grow numb in our graves, death will freeze our words, written or sung, so hard that they will not melt like the "frozen words" of Rabelais.

The Essai was to be a sort of historical encyclopædia. The only volume published is in itself a fairly wide inquiry; I had the sequel in manuscript; then came, beside the researches and annotations of the annalist, the lays and roundelays of the poet, the Natchez, and so on. I am hardly able to understand to-day how I could give myself up to such extensive studies amid an active wandering life, subject to so many reverses. My obstinacy in working explains this fertility: in my young days I often wrote for twelve or fifteen hours without leaving the table at which I sat, scratching out and recommencing the same page ten times over. Age has not caused me to lose any part of this faculty of application: to this day my diplomatic correspondence, which in no way interrupts my literary composition, is entirely from my own hand.

The Essai made a stir among the Emigration: it was opposed to the opinions of my companions in misfortune; in the different social positions which I have occupied, my independence has nearly always offended the men with whom I went. I have by turns been the leader of different armies of which the soldiers did not belong to my side: I have led the Old Royalists to the conquest of the public liberties, and especially of the liberty of the press, which they detested; I have rallied the Liberals, in the name of that same liberty, to the standard of the Bourbons, whom they hold in abhorrence. As it happened, Emigrant opinion attached itself to my person through self-love: the English reviews having spoken of me with praise, the commendation was reflected over the whole body of the "faithful."

[Pg 99]

I had sent copies of the Essai to La Harpe, Ginguené, and de Sales. Lemierre[198], nephew of the poet of the same name[199], and translator of Gray's Poems, wrote to me from Paris, on the 15th of July 1797, that my Essai had had the greatest success. One thing is certain, that, if the Essai became for a moment known, it was almost immediately forgotten: a sudden shadow swallowed up the first ray of my glory.

Mrs. O'Larry.

As I had become almost a personage, the upper Emigration began to seek me out in London. I made my way from street to street; I first left Holborn and Tottenham Court Road, and advanced as far as the Hampstead Road. Here I stopped for some months at the house of Mrs. O'Larry, an Irish widow, the mother of a very pretty daughter of fourteen, and tenderly devoted to cats. Linked by this common passion, we had the misfortune to lose two beautiful kittens, white all over, like two ermines, with black tips to their tails.

Mrs. O'Larry was visited by old ladies of the neighbourhood with whom I was obliged to drink tea in the old-fashioned style. Madame de Staël has depicted this scene in Corinne at Lady Edgermond's:

"'My dear, do you think the water has boiled long enough to pour it on the tea?'

"'My dear, I think it is a little too early[200].'"

There also came to these evenings a tall and beautiful young Irishwoman, called Mary Neale, in the charge of her guardian. She noticed a wound lurking in my gaze, for she said to me:

"You carry your heart in a sling."

I carried my heart anyhow.

Mrs. O'Larry left for Dublin; then, moving once more from the neighbourhood of the colony of the poor Emigration of the east, I arrived, from lodging to lodging, in the quarter of the rich Emigration of the west, among the bishops, the Court families, and the West Indian planters. Peltier had come back to me: he had got married as a joke; he was the[Pg 100] same boaster as always, lavishly obliging, and frequenting his neighbours' pockets rather than their society. I made several new acquaintances, particularly in the society in which I had family connections: Christian de Lamoignon[201], who had been seriously wounded in the leg in the engagement at Quiberon, and who is now my colleague in the House of Lords, became my friend. He presented me to Mrs. Lindsay, who was attached to Auguste de Lamoignon[202], his brother: the Président Guillaume[203] was not installed in this fashion at Basville, in the midst of Boileau[204], Madame de Sévigné, and Bourdaloue[205].

Mrs. Lindsay, a lady of Irish descent, with a material mind and a somewhat snappish humour, an elegant figure and attractive features, was gifted with nobility of soul and elevation of character: the Emigrants of quality spent their evenings by the fireside of the last of the Ninons[206]. The old monarchy was going under, with all its abuses and all its graces. It will be dug up one day, like those skeletons of queens, decked with necklaces, bracelets and ear-rings, which they exhume in Etruria. At Mrs. Lindsay's I met M. Malouet[207] and Madame du Belloy, a woman worthy of affection, the Comte de Montlosier and the Chevalier de Panat[208]. The last had a well-earned reputation for wit, dirtiness, and gluttony; he belonged to that audience of men of taste who used formerly to sit with folded[Pg 101] arms in the presence of French society: idlers whose mission was to look on at everything and criticize everything; they exercised the functions which the newspapers fulfill to-day, without the same bitterness, but also without attaining their great popular influence.

The Comte de Montlosier.

Montlosier continued to ride cock-horse on his famous phrase of the "wooden cross," a phrase somewhat smoothed down by me, when I revived it, but true at bottom. On leaving France he went to Coblentz: he was badly received by the Princes, had a quarrel, fought a duel at night on the bank of the Rhine, and was run through. Being unable to move and quite unable to see, he asked the seconds if the point of the sword was sticking out behind:

"Only three inches," said they, feeling him.

"Then it's nothing," replied Montlosier. "Sir, withdraw your weapon."

Thus badly received for his royalism, Montlosier went to England, and took refuge in literature, the great almshouse of the Emigrants, in which I had a pallet next to his. He obtained the editorship of the Courrier français.[209] In addition to his newspaper, he wrote physico-politico-philosophical works: in one of these works he proved that blue is the colour of life, because our veins turn blue after death, life coming to the surface of the body in order to evaporate and return to the blue sky; as I am very fond of blue, I was quite charmed.

Feudally liberal, aristocratic and democratic, with a motley mind, made up of shreds and patches, Montlosier is delivered, with difficulty, of incongruous ideas; but, once he has succeeded in extricating them from their after-birth, they are sometimes fine, above all energetic: an anti-clerical as a noble, a Christian through sophistry and as a lover of the olden times, he would, in the days of paganism, have been an eager partisan of freedom in theory and of slavery in practice, and would have had the slave thrown to the lampreys in the name of the liberty of the human race. Wrong-headed, cavilling, stiff-necked, and hirsute, the ex-deputy of the nobles of Riom nevertheless indulges in condescendences to the powers that be; he knows how to look after his interests, but he does not suffer others to perceive this, and he shelters his weaknesses as a man beneath his honour as a gentleman. I do not wish to speak ill of my "smoky Auvernat," with his novels of the Mont-d'Or and his polemics of the Plaine; I[Pg 102] like his heteroclitous person. His long and obscure setting forth and twisting of ideas, with parentheses, clearings of the throat, and tremulous "oh, ohs," bore me (I abominate the tenebrous, the involved, the vaporous, the laborious); but, on the other hand, I am amused by this naturalist of volcanoes, this abortive Pascal, this mountain orator who holds forth in the tribune as his little fellow-countrymen sing in the chimney-tops[210]; I love this gazetteer of peat-bogs and castle-keeps, this Liberal explaining the Charter through a Gothic window, this shepherd-lord half married to his milkmaid, himself sowing his barley in the snow, in his little pebbly field; I shall always thank him for dedicating to me, in his chalet in the Puy-de-Dôme, an old black rock taken from a cemetery of the Gauls discovered by himself.

The Abbé Delille, another fellow-countryman of Sidonius Apollinarius, of the Chancelier de l'Hospital, of La Fayette, of Thomas, of Chamfort[211], had also come to settle in London, after being driven from the Continent by the inundation of the Republican victories. The Emigration was proud to number him in its ranks: he sang our misfortunes, a reason the more for loving his muse. He did a great deal of work; he could not help himself, for Madame Delille locked him up and did not release him until he had earned his day's keep by writing a certain number of verses. I called on him one day, and was kept waiting; then he appeared with very red cheeks: it is said that Madame Delille used to box his ears; I know nothing about it; I only say what I saw.

Who has not heard the Abbé Delille recite his verses? He told a very good story: his ugly, irregular features, lit up by his imagination, went admirably with his affected delivery, with the character of his talent, and with his clerical profession. The Abbé Delille's masterpiece is his translation of the Georgics, with the exception of the sentimental pieces; but it is as though you were reading Racine translated into the language of Louis XV.

The Abbé Delille.

The literature of the eighteenth century, saving a few fine talents which dominate it, standing as it does between the classical literature of the seventeenth century and the romantic literature of the nineteenth, without lacking naturalness[Pg 103] lacks nature; given up wholly to arrangements of words, it was neither sufficiently original as a new school, nor sufficiently pure as an ancient school. The Abbé Delille was the poet of the modern country-houses, in the same way as the troubadours were the poets of the old castles; the verses of the one and the ballads of the other point the difference which existed between aristocracy in its prime and aristocracy in its decrepitude: the abbé describes the pleasures of reading and chess in the manor-houses in which the troubadours sang of tourneys and crusades.

The distinguished persons of our Church militant were at that time in England: the Abbé Carron, who wrote the life of my sister Julie; the Bishop of Saint-Pol-de-Léon[212], a stern and narrow-minded prelate, who contributed more and more to estrange M. le Comte d'Artois from his country; the Archbishop of Aix[213], slandered perhaps because of his success in society; another learned and pious bishop, but so avaricious that, had he had the misfortune to lose his soul, he would never have bought it back. Nearly all misers are men of wit: I must be a great fool.

Among the Frenchwomen in the West End was Madame de Boigne[214], amiable, witty, filled with talent, extremely pretty, and the youngest of them all; she has since, together with her father, the Marquis d'Osmond[215], represented the Court of France in England much better than my unsociability has done. She is writing now, and her talents will reproduce admirably all that she has seen[216].

Mesdames de Caumont[217], de Gontaut[218], and du Cluzel also[Pg 104] inhabited the quarter of the exiled felicities, if at least I am mistaking Madame de Caumont and Madame du Cluzel, both of whom I had seen for a moment in Brussels. What is quite certain is that Madame la Duchesse de Duras[219] was in London at that time: I was not to know her till ten years later. How often in one's life one passes by that which would constitute its charm, even as the navigator cuts through the waters of a heaven-favoured land which he has only missed by one horizon and one day's sail! I am writing this on the banks of the Thames, and to-day a letter will go by post to tell Madame de Duras, on the banks of the Seine, that I have come across my first memory of her.


From time to time the Revolution sent us Emigrants of new kinds and opinions; different layers of exiles were formed: the earth contains beds of sand or clay left behind by the waves of the Deluge. One of those waves brought me a man whose loss I mourn to-day, a man who was my guide in literature, and whose friendship was both one of the honours and one of the consolations of my life.

You have read, in an earlier book of these Memoirs, that I had known M. de Fontanes in 1789: it was in Berlin, last year, that I learnt the news of his death. He was born at Niort of a noble Protestant family: his father had had the misfortune to kill his brother-in-law in a duel. Young Fontanes, brought up by a brother of great merit, came to Paris. He saw Voltaire[220] die, and that great representative of the eighteenth century inspired his first verses: his poetic attempts attracted the notice of La Harpe. He undertook some work for the stage, and became intimate with a charming actress, Mademoiselle Desgarcins. Living near the Odéon, wandering around the Chartreuse he celebrated its solitude. He had made a friend destined to become mine, M. Joubert[221]. When the Revolution occurred, the poet became entangled with one of those stationary parties which always remain torn[Pg 105] by the progressive party which pulls them forwards and the retrograde party which draws them back. The monarchists attached M. de Fontanes to the staff of the Modérateur. When the bad days began, he took refuge at Lyons, where he married. His wife was confined of a son: during the siege of the town, which the revolutionaries had called "Commune-Affranchie[222]," in the same way as Louis XI., when banishing the citizens, had called Arras "Ville-Franchise[223]," Madame de Fontanes was obliged to move her nursling's cradle in order to place it within shelter from the bombs. Returning to Paris after the 9 Thermidor, M. de Fontanes established the Mémorial[224] with M. de La Harpe and the Abbé de Vauxelles[225]. He was proscribed on the 18 Fructidor, and England became his haven of refuge.

The Marquis de Fontanes.

M. de Fontanes, together with Chénier, was the last writer of the classic school in the elder line: his prose and verse resemble each other and have a similar merit. His thoughts and images have a melancholy unknown to the century of Louis XIV., which knew only the austere and holy sadness of religious eloquence. That melancholy is mingled with the works of the chanter of the Jours des Morts, as it were the imprint of the period in which he lived: it fixes the date of his coming; it shows that he was born after Rousseau, while connected by taste with Fénelon. If the writings of M. de Fontanes were reduced to two very small volumes, one of prose, the other of verse, it would be the most graceful funeral monument that could be raised upon the tomb of the classic school[226].

Among the papers which my friend left are several cantoes of his poem of the Grèce Sauvée, books of odes, scattered poems, and so on. He would not have published any more himself: for that critic, so acute, so enlightened, so impartial when not blinded by his political opinions, had a horrible dread of criticism. He was superlatively unjust to Madame de Staël. An envious article by Garat[227] on the Forêt de[Pg 106] Navarre almost stopped him short at the outset of his political career. Fontanes, so soon as he appeared, killed the affected school of Dorat[228], but he was unable to restore the classic school, which was hastening to its end together with the language of Racine[229].

If one thing in the world was likely to be antipathetic to M. de Fontanes, it was my manner of writing. With me began the so-called romantic school, a revolution in French literature: nevertheless, my friend, instead of revolting against my barbarism, became enamoured of it. I could see a great wonderment on his face when I read to him fragments of the Natchez, Atala and René; he was unable to bring those productions within the scope of the common rules of criticism, but he felt that he was entering into a new world; he saw a new form of nature; he understood a language which he could not speak. He gave me excellent advice; I owe to him such correctness of style as I possess; he taught me to respect the reader's ear; he prevented me from falling into the extravagance of invention and the ruggedness of execution of my disciples.

It was a great joy to me to see him again in London, received with open arms by the Emigration; they asked him for cantoes from the Grèce Sauvée; they crowded to hear him. He came to live near me; we became inseparable. We were present together at a scene worthy of those days of misfortune: Cléry[230], who had lately landed, read us his Memoirs in manuscript. Imagine the emotion of an audience of exiles, listening to the valet of Louis XVI. telling, as an eye-witness, of the sufferings and death of the prisoner of the Temple! The Directory, alarmed by Cléry's Memoirs, published an interpolated edition, in which[Pg 107] it made the author talk like a lackey and Louis XVI. like a street-porter: this is, perhaps, one of the dirtiest of all the instances of revolutionary turpitude.

Emigrant society.

M. du Theil[231], who had charge of the affairs of M. le Comte d'Artois in London, had hastened to seek out Fontanes; the latter asked me to take him to the agent of the Princes. We found him surrounded by all the defenders of the Throne and the Altar who were idling about Piccadilly, by a crowd of spies and sharpers who had escaped from Paris under various names and disguises, and by a swarm of adventurers, Belgians, Germans, Irishmen, dealers in the Counter-revolution. In a corner of the crowd was a man of thirty or thirty-two, at whom nobody looked, and who himself seemed interested only in an engraving of the Death of General Wolfe. Struck by his appearance, I asked who he was: one of my neighbours answered:

"It's nobody; it's a Vendean peasant who has brought a letter from his leaders."

This man, who was "nobody," had seen the deaths of Cathelineau[232], the first general of the Vendée and a peasant like himself; Bonchamps, in whom Bayard had come to life again; Lescure[233], armed with a hair-cloth which was not bullet-proof; d'Elbée[234], shot in an armchair, his wounds not permitting him to embrace death standing; La Rochejacquelein[235], whose body was ordered to be "verified" in order to reassure the Convention in the midst of its victories. That man, who was "nobody," had assisted at two hundred captures and recaptures of towns, villages, and redoubts, at[Pg 108] seven hundred skirmishes, and seventeen pitched battles; he had fought against three hundred thousand regular troops and six or seven hundred thousand recruits and national guards; he had assisted in taking one hundred guns and fifty thousand muskets; he had passed through the "infernal columns," companies of incendiaries commanded by Conventional; he had been in the midst of the ocean of fire which, three several times, rolled its waves over the woods of the Vendée; lastly, he had seen three hundred thousand Hercules of the plough, the associates of his work, die, and one hundred square leagues of fertile country change into a desert of ashes.

The two Frances met upon this soil levelled by them. All that remained in blood and memory of the France of the Crusades fought against the new blood and hopes of the France of the Revolution. The conqueror recognised the greatness of the conquered. Turreau[236], the Republican general, declared that "the Vendeans would take their place in history in the first rank of soldier peoples." Another general wrote to Merlin de Thionville[237]:

"Troops which have beaten such Frenchmen as those may well hope to beat all other nations."

The legions of Probus[238], in their song, said as much of our fathers. Bonaparte called the combats of the Vendée "combats of giants."

A Vendean peasant.

In the crowd in the parlour, I was the only one to look with admiration and respect upon the representative of those ancient "Jacques[239]," who, while breaking the yoke of their lords, repelled the foreign invasion under Charles V.[240]: I seemed to see a child of the Commons of the time of Charles VII.[241], who, with the small provincial nobility, foot[Pg 109] by foot, furrow by furrow, reconquered the soil of France. He wore the indifferent air of the savage; his look was grey and inflexible as steel rod; his lower lip trembled over his clenched teeth; his hair hung down from his head like a mass of torpid snakes, ready, however, to dart erect again; his arms, hanging by his sides, gave nervous jerks to a pair of huge fists slashed with sword-cuts: one would have taken him for a sawyer. His physiognomy expressed a homely, rustic nature, employed, by force of manners, in the service of interests and ideas contrary to that nature; the native fidelity of the vassal, the Christian's simple faith were mingled with the rough plebeian independence accustomed to value itself and to take the law into its own hands. The feeling of liberty in him seemed to be merely the consciousness of the strength of his hand and the intrepidity of his heart. He spoke no more than a lion; he scratched himself like a lion, yawned like a lion, sat on his flank like a bored lion, and seemed to dream of blood and forests.

What men, in every party, were the French of that time, and what a race are we to-day! But the Republicans had their principle in themselves, in the midst of themselves, while the principle of the Royalists was outside France. The Vendeans sent deputations to the exiles; the giants sent to ask leaders of the pigmies. The rude messenger upon whom I gazed had seized the Revolution by the throat and cried:

"Enter; pass behind me; she will not hurt you; she shall not move; I have got hold of her!"

No one was willing to pass: then Jacques Bonhomme let go the Revolution, and Charette[242] broke his sword.


While I was making these reflections on this tiller of the soil, as I had made others of a different kind at the sight of Mirabeau and Danton, Fontanes obtained a private audience of him whom he pleasantly called "the controller-general of finance:" he came out of it greatly satisfied, for M. du Theil had promised to encourage the publication of my works, and[Pg 110] Fontanes thought only of me. It was impossible to be a better man than he: timid where he himself was concerned, he became all courage in matters of friendship; he proved this to me at the time of my resignation on the occasion of the death of the Duc d'Enghien[243]. In conversation, he burst into ludicrous fits of literary rage. In politics, he reasoned falsely: the crimes of the Convention had inspired him with a horror of liberty. He detested the newspapers, the band of false philosophers, the whole science of ideas, and he communicated that hatred to Bonaparte, when he became connected with the master of Europe.

We went for walks in the country; we stopped under some of those spreading elm-trees scattered about the fields. Leaning against the trunk of these elms, my friend told me of his early journey to England before the Revolution, and of the verses he then addressed to two young ladies who had grown old in the shadow of the towers of Westminster: towers which he found standing as he had left them, while at their base lay buried the illusions and the hours of his youth.

We often dined at some solitary tavern in Chelsea, on the Thames, where we talked of Milton and Shakespeare: they had seen what we saw; they had sat, like ourselves, on the bank of that stream, a foreign stream to us, the national stream to them. We returned to London, at night, by the faltering rays of the stars, drowned one after the other in the fog of the city. We reached our lodging, guided by uncertain glimmers which scarcely showed us the road across the coal smoke hovering red around every lamp: thus speeds the poet's life.

We saw London in detail; as an old exile, I acted as cicerone to the new recruits of banishment which the Revolution demanded, young or old: there is no legal age for misfortune. In the course of one of these excursions, we were surprised by a rain-storm, mingled with thunder, and obliged to take shelter in the passage of a mean house, of which the door had been left open by accident. There we met the Duc de Bourbon[244]: I saw for the first time, at this[Pg 111] Chantilly[245], a prince who was not yet the Last of the Condés.

The Duc of Bourbon.

The Duc de Bourbon, Fontanes and I, all three outlaws, seeking a shelter from the same storm, on foreign soil, under a poor man's roof! Fata viam invenient.

Fontanes was recalled to France. He embraced me, expressing wishes for a speedy meeting. On arriving in Germany, he wrote me the following letter:

"28 July 1798.

"If you have experienced any regrets at my departure from London, I swear to you that mine have been no less real. You are the second person in whom, in the course of my life, I have found an imagination and a heart corresponding to my own. I shall never forget the consolation you brought me in exile and in a foreign land. My fondest and most constant thoughts, since I have left you, have turned upon the Natchez. What you have read to me, especially of recent days, is admirable and will not leave my memory. But the charm of the poetic ideas which you left in my mind disappeared for a moment on my arrival in Germany.

"The most hideous news from France followed on that which I showed you on leaving you. I spent five or six days in the cruellest perplexity. I even feared for persecutions directed against my family. My fears are now greatly diminished. The evil has even been very slight; they threaten rather than strike, and it is not those of my 'date' whom they wish to see exterminated. The last post has brought me assurances of peace and good-will. I can continue my journey, and shall set out early next month. I shall live near the Forest of Saint-Germain, among my family, Greece, and my books: why can I not also say the Natchez! The unexpected storm which has just taken place in Paris was due, I am certain, to the follies of the agents and leaders you know of. I have a clear proof of this in my hands. Convinced as I am of this, I am writing to Great Pulteney Street[246] with all possible politeness, but also with all the caution which prudence demands. I wish to escape all correspondence in the coming month, and I leave the greatest doubt upon the steps which I am going to take and the residence which I intend to select.

[Pg 112]

"For the rest, I am again speaking of you in the accents of friendship, and I wish from the bottom of my heart that the hopes of future usefulness which they may place in me may revive the favourable dispositions which they showed me in this matter, and which are so certainly due to your person and your great talents. Work, work, my dear friend, and become illustrious. You have it in your power: the future is in your hands. I hope that the word so often given by the 'controller-general of finance' has been at least in part redeemed. That part consoles me, for I cannot bear the thought of a fine work delayed for the sake of a little assistance. Write to me; let our hearts be in communication, let our muses remain ever friends. Do not doubt but that, when I am able to move about freely in my country, I shall prepare a hive and flowers for you beside my own. My attachment is unalterable. I shall be alone so long as I am not with you. Talk to me of your work. I want to gladden you in conclusion: I wrote half of a new canto on the banks of the Elbe, and I am better pleased with it than with all the rest.

"Farewell, I embrace you tenderly, and am your friend.


Fontanes tells me that he wrote verses on changing the spot of his banishment. One can never take everything from the poet: he takes his lyre with him. Leave the swan his wings; each evening unknown streams will re-echo the melodious plaints which he would rather have sung to Eurotas.

"The future is in your hands": did Fontanes speak truly? Am I to congratulate myself on his prophecy? Alas! That promised future is already past: shall I have another?


Death of Fontanes.

This first and affectionate letter from the first friend whom I had in my life, the friend who walked by my side for twenty-three years from the date of that letter, reminds me painfully of my gradual isolation. Fontanes is no more; a profound sorrow, the tragic death of a son, cast him into an untimely grave. Almost all the persons of whom I have spoken in these Memoirs have disappeared; I am keeping an obituary register. A few years more and I, doomed to catalogue the dead, shall leave none to write my name in the book of the departed.

[Pg 113]

But if it must be that I remain alone, if not one being who has loved me is to stay by me to lead me to my last resting-place, I have less need than another of a guide: I have inquired the road, I have studied the places through which I should have to pass; I wished to see what happens at the last moment. Often, by the side of a pit into which a coffin was being lowered with ropes, I have heard the death-rattle of those ropes; next, I have caught the sound of the first spadeful of earth falling on the coffin: at each new spadeful the hollow sound decreased; the earth, as it filled up the vault, gradually drove the eternal silence to the surface of the grave.

Fontanes, you wrote to me, "Let our muses remain ever friends:" you have not written to me in vain.

[146] This book was written in London between April and September 1822, and revised in December 1846.—T.

[147] The anniversary dinner at the Freemasons' Tavern, 21 May 1822.—T.

[148] The amount of M. de Chateaubriand's donation was £20.—T.

[149] Field-Marshal Frederick Duke of York and Albany, Bishop of Osnaburg, K.G. (1763-1827), second son of George III., and Commander-in-Chief of the army. A military commander of no capacity; four defeats stand to his debit: Hondschoote (8th September 1793), Turcoing (1794), Alxmaar (1799), Castricum (1799), not to mention the scandals in connection with Mrs. Clarke and the sale of commissions in the army.—T.

[150] Edward Adolphus Seymour, eleventh Duke of Somerset, K.G. (1775-1855).—T.

[151] Vice-Admiral George Byng, sixth Viscount Torrington (1768-1831).—T.

[152] William Powlett Orde-Powlett, second Lord Bolton (1782-1850).—T.

[153] George Canning (1770-1827), appointed Viceroy of India, but did not take up the appointment. He became Premier in 1827.—T.

[154] Times, 22nd May 1822. Chateaubriand had asked Canning to return thanks on his behalf for the toast of "the illustrious foreign personages who honoured the society with their company." These were Chateaubriand and the Tripolitan Ambassador, who also "returned thanks through the medium of another gentleman."—T.

[155] Canning entered Parliament as a member of Pitt's party in 1793, and joined his ministry as Under-Secretary of State in 1796. Pitt used to speak of Canning and Arthur Wellesley as "the boys."—T.

[156] Marie Joseph Annibal de Bedée, Comte de La Boüétardais (1758-1809). He emigrated in 1790, after the death of his wife, never returned to France, and died in London, 6 January 1809.—B.

[157] Dr. Edmund Goodwyn (1756-1829), author of Dissertatio Medica de morte Submersorum (1786), and of a translation of the same work in English (1788). He is supposed to have been the original of Thackeray's Dr. Goodenough.—T.

[158] "For the rest, my health, disturbed by much travel and many cares, vigils and studies, is so deplorable that I fear I shall be unable to fulfil forthwith my promise concerning the other volumes of the Essai historique."—B.

[159] Essai historique sur les révolutions, Book I. part i., Introduction.—B.

[160] One of Peltier's first pamphlets, published October 1789, and denouncing the Duc d'Orléans and Mirabeau as the principal authors of the day's work of the 5th and 6th of October.—B.

[161] Henri Christophe (1767-1820), King of Haiti under the title of Henry I. He led the negro insurrection in 1790, caused himself to be proclaimed President in 1806, assumed the title of Emperor in 1811, and reigned until 1820, when he committed suicide to escape being put to death by his subjects.—T.

[162] Peltier was paid his salary as Haitian Minister by shipments of sugar and coffee, the sale of which brought him in some eight thousand pounds a year. One of his epigrams against Louis XVIII., who received him coldly after the Restoration, happening to be applicable to Christophe, the supplies were stopped together with his ministerial powers, and he died a poor man.—B.

[163] François Dominique Reynaud, Comte de Montlosier (1755-1838). He came to London after going through the campaign of the Princes, and became editor, not of the Courrier français, but of the Courrier de Londres, which had been founded by the Abbé de Calonne.—B.

[164] Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) was buried in Westminster, but dug up at the Restoration, hanged at Tyburn, and buried under the gallows.—T.

[165] The remains of King Charles I. are buried in St. George's Chapel, Windsor.—T.

[166] Robert, Count of Artois ( 1287-1343), endeavoured to recover from his brother-in-law, Philip VI. of France, the county of Artois, which had been taken from him in a former reign. He was sentenced to perpetual banishment, but had before this fled from the kingdom and began plotting against the King of France. Philip pursued him from county to county, causing the various princes to refuse him refuge, until he fled to England, where he was welcomed by Edward III. (1333). In 1336 Philip proclaimed Robert of Artois a traitor and an enemy of France, and forbade all his vassals of whatever rank, in or out of France, to receive or aid him on penalty of confiscation of their fiefs. Edward accepted the insult as addressed to himself, prepared for war, proclaimed himself King of France in 1337, and invaded France in 1339, thus commencing the Hundred Years' War.—T.

[167] Florio's Montaigne, Booke II. Chap. xii.: An Apologie of Raymond Sebond.—T.

[168] William Pitt, first Earl of Chatham (1708-1778). His monument by Bacon stands in the North Transept near the entrance to the chapels which lead to the Chapel of Henry VII. and the Knights of the Bath.—T.

[169] Charles V., Emperor of Germany (1500-1558), abdicated in 1556 and retired to the neighbourhood of the Monastery of San Yuste in Estremadura. One month before his death (which occurred on the 21st of September 1558) he was seized with a fancy for going through the ceremonies of his own funeral, and, attired in a monk's dress, he joined in the chants of the community around an empty coffin placed in the convent chapel.—T.

[170] Lady Jane Grey (1537-1554) was buried after her execution, together with her husband, Lord Guildford Dudley, in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London.—T.

[171] Catharine, not Alice, Countess of Salisbury (d. circa 1350), née Grandison, wife of William de Montacute, first Earl of Salisbury, and heroine of the spurious Garter story, was buried in her husband's foundation at Bisham.—T.

[172] Edward III., King of England (1312-1377), is buried in the Chapel of St. Edward the Confessor.—T.

[173] Henry VIII., King of England (1491-1547), is buried in St. George's Chapel, Windsor.—T.

[174] Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam, first Viscount St. Albans (1561-1626), is buried in St. Michael's Church, St. Albans.—T.

[175] Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) is buried in the North Aisle of Westminster Abbey. His monument is by Rysbrack.—T.

[176] John Milton (1608-1674) has a monumental bust by Rysbrack in Poets' Corner. He is buried in St. Giles's Church, Cripplegate.—T.

[177] Edward V. King of England (1471-1483) and Richard Duke of York (1474-1483), smothered in the Tower of London by order of their uncle Richard Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III. Some bones, presumed to be theirs, were found in the White Tower or Keep and removed to Henry the Seventh's Chapel at Westminster, where they now lie.—T.

[178] Shakespeare, Life and Death of King Richard III., Act IV. sc. 3.—T.

[179] Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), the mystic theosophist. His doctrines made a certain amount of way in England, and he died in London.—T.

[180] Charles Louis François de Barentin (1738-1819). He had opened the States-General, as Keeper of the Seals, in 1789. He emigrated after Mirabeau had denounced him, on the 15th of July, as an enemy of the people.—B.

[181] Pietro Bonaventure Trapassi (1698-1782), known as Metastasio, one of the most graceful and charming of the Italian dramatic poets. He settled in Vienna in 1730, by invitation of the Emperor Charles VI., who gave him the title of Poeta Cesareo, and there wrote a multitude of lyrical tragedies, operas, oratorios, and poems of all kinds.—T.

[182] Mrs. Canning, née Joan Scott, a sister to the Duchess of Portland, married to Mr. Canning 8 July 1800.—T.

[183] The insurrectionary Royalists in Brittany had adopted this name from their rallying-cry, which imitated the note of the chat-huant, or screech-owl. Their marauding excursions were somewhat indiscriminate, and their presence not always welcome even to the loyal inhabitants.—T.

[184] William Camden (1551-1623), the famous antiquary, first head-master of Westminster School and later Clarencieux King-at-Arms. He has been surnamed the Strabo and the Pausanias of England.—T.

[185] Alain René Le Sage (1668-1747), author of the Aventures de Gil Blas, to whom Peltier has already been compared by Chateaubriand. Le Sage was born at Sarzeau, in Brittany: hence Chateaubriand speaks of him as his "fellow-countryman."—T.

[186] 22 April 1794.—B.

[187] The Comte Louis de Chateaubriand (1790-1873) followed a military career. In 1823 King Louis XVIII. created him heir-presumptive to his uncle's peerage. In 1830 he resigned his commission at the same time that his uncle withdrew from the House of Peers. In 1870, when eighty years of age, he refused to leave Paris, and inscribed his name on the register of the defenders of the besieged capital. He died at the Château de Malesherbes, 14 October 1873.—B.

[188] "Dear orphan, of thy mother the close type,
Of Heaven above I ask for thee below
The happy days snatched from thy sire ere ripe,
The children whom your uncle may not know."—T.

[189] Addison, Cato, Act V. sc. I.—T.

[190] Rev. John Clement Ives (d. 1812) was incumbent of Ilketshall St. Margaret, near Bungay, and of Great Holland in Essex.—T.

[191] Giuditta Pasta (1798-1865), née Negri, a famous Italian operatic singer of Jewish birth. Her celebrity commenced in 1822, the year in which Chateaubriand is writing, and lasted until 1835, when she retired into private life.—T.

[192] Inferno, I.—B.

[193] Order of Marriage according to the Catholic ritual.—T.

[194] Admiral Sir John Sutton was gazetted an Admiral of the Blue on the 12th of August 1819. I have no certainty that either Ives or Sutton (spelt Sulton in the original) are the real names of the individuals of whom Chateaubriand speaks, although I have succeeded in establishing that there was a clergyman of the name of Ives residing at Bungay in 1795, and an Admiral Sir John Sutton on the Navy List in 1822.—T.

[195] Jacques Callot (1593-1635), a painter, engraver, and etcher of the first order; his works amount to nearly 1600 pieces, and include an array of immensely powerful grotesque subjects, in which he caricatures the vices and absurdities of mankind.—T.

[196] Vir., ‚Æn., I. 357.—B.

[197] Chateaubriand began to write the Essai in 1794; the work was printed in London in 1796, and published in the beginning of 1797. It formed one volume, large 8vo, of 681 pages, without counting prefaces, tables of contents, etc. The full title ran: Essai historique, politique et moral sur les Révolutions anciennes et modernes, considérées dans leur rapports avec la Révolution françaises. Dédié à tous les partis. With this epigraph: Experti invicem sumus ego et fortuna.Tacite. And at the foot of the title-page: A Londres: Se trouve chez J. Deboffe, Gerrard-Street; J. Debrett, Piccadilly; Mme. Lowes, Pall-Mall; A. Dulau et Co., Wardour-Street; Bodsey, Broad-Street; et J.-F. Fauche, à Hambourg. The author's name did not appear in the first edition.—B.

[198] Auguste Jacques Lemierre (circa 1760-1815). He also translated Thomson's Castle of Indolence and some German works. He died in hospital, under a false name, of a disease arising from his excesses.—T.

[199] Antoine Marin Lemierre (1723-1793), the author of two didactic poems and several tragedies, some of which achieved great success. His versification is considered incorrect and harsh, but some of his poems contain passages of great beauty.—T.

[200] Corinne, XIV. i.—B.

[201] Anne Pierre Christian Vicomte de Lamoignon (1770-1827), third son of Chrétien François de Lamoignon, Marquis de Basville. Louis XVIII. created him a peer of France in 1815. He never wholly recovered from his wound.—B.

[202] René Chrétien Auguste Marquis de Lamoignon (1765-1845), Christian's elder brother, made a peer of France by Louis-Philippe in 1832.—B.

[203] Guillaume I. de Lamoignon (1617-1677), First President of the Parliament of Paris, and founder of the Lamoignon-de Basville-de Malesherbes family.—T.

[204] Nicolas Boileau (1636-1711), surnamed Despréaux, the distinguished poet and critic, and friend of Lamoignon.—T.

[205] Louis Bourdaloue (1632-1704), the eminent Jesuit preacher.—T.

[206] Ninon de Lenclos (1616-1706) was a lady of loose morals and decent manners who retained her charms and her lovers to her dying day. Her salon was frequented by the ladies of Louis XIV.'s Court and the whole society of the time, and she was a distinguished protectress of the contemporary men of letters.—T.

[207] Pierre Victor Baron Malouet (1740-1814), Intendant of the Navy before the Revolution and Commissary-General of the Navy under Napoleon. Louis XVIII. appointed him Minister of the Navy in 1814, but he died shortly after his nomination.—T.

[208] The Chevalier de Panat (1762-1834) was a naval officer of distinction. He became a rear-admiral and Secretary-General to the Admiralty in 1814. He neglected his person to such an extent that Rivarol said of him that he would stain mud.—T.

[209] Or rather, the Courrier de Londres, as explained above.—B.

[210] The Auvergnat lads in Paris were employed as chimney-sweeps.—T.

[211] The Comte de Montlosier and the Abbé Delille were both born at Clermont-Ferrand in Auvergne; Sidonius Apollinarius (430-489) was born near Lyons, and became Bishop of Clermont; Michel de l'Hôpital (1505-1573), Chancellor of France, was born near Aigueperse in Auvergne; La Fayette was born in the same province, as were Thomas and Chamfort.—T.

[212] Jean François de La Marche, Comte de Léon (1729-1805), Bishop of Saint-Pol-de-Léon. The bishopric was suppressed in 1790 and was not restored.—T.

[213] Jean-de-Dieu Raymond de Boisgelin de Cicé (1732-1804), Archbishop of Aix, and a member of the French Academy. After the Concordat he became Archbishop of Tours and a cardinal.—T.

[214] Madame de Boigne was the wife of Bénoît, Comte de Boigne (1741-1831), who had seen service in India under one of the native princes, and returned laden with colossal riches.—B.

[215] The Marquis d'Osmond (1751-1838) was French Minister at the Hague at the outbreak of the Revolution. In 1791 he was appointed Ambassador in St. Petersburg, but resigned before going out, and emigrated. He filled several diplomatic posts under the Empire, was Minister at Turin under the First Restoration, and in 1815 was created a peer of France and Ambassador to England, where he remained until January 1819.—B.

[216] The Comtesse de Boigne wrote some novels, of which the chief was Une Passion dans le grand monde. They were published after her death under the Second Empire, none of them attaining the smallest success.—B.

[217] Marie Constance de Caumont La Force (1774-1823), née de Lamoignon, wife of François Philibert Bertrand Nompar de Caumont, Marquis de La Force.—B.

[218] The Duchesse de Gontaut, née de Montault Navailles, married the Vicomte de Gontaut-Biron in London in 1794. She became Governess of the Children of France under the Restoration after the birth of the Duc de Bordeaux, and Louis XVIII. gave her the rank and title of duchess.—B.

[219] Claire Duchesse de Duras (1777-1828), née Lechat de Kersaint, the friend of Madame de Staël, and author of two novels, Ottrika and Édouard, which attained a great success.—T.

[220] François Marie Arouet (1694-1778), known as Voltaire. He was refused burial in Paris, and his remains were interred in the abbey at Scellières and removed to the Panthéon, where they still lie, in 1791.—T.

[221] Joseph Joubert (1754-1824), author of the Pensées, published in 1838, thanks to the care of Chateaubriand.—T.

[222] 1793—The town was nearly destroyed, its 200,000 inhabitants almost decimated by the commissaries of the Convention, and its name changed as stated.—T.

[223] 1477.—T.

[224] The Mémorial historique, politique et littéraire ran from 20 May to 4 September 1797. It is full of articles of the rarest merit, especially those by La Harpe, which are masterpieces.—B.

[225] Jacques Bourlet, Abbé de Vauxelles (1734-1802).—T.

[226] It has been raised by the filial piety of Madame Christine de Fontanes. M. Sainte-Beuve has adorned the frontal of the monument with his ingenious notice.—Author's Note (Paris, 1839).

[227] Dominique Joseph Garat (1749-1833), Minister of Justice under the Revolution in succession to Danton, Minister of the Interior in succession to Roland, and a writer of merit. He was elected a member of the French Academy in 1806, but excluded at the Restoration.—T.

[228] Claude Joseph Dorat (1734-1780), an artificial, fastidious, and somewhat monotonous follower of Voltaire.—T.

[229] I omit a reference to Fontanes' Anniversaire de sa naissance and a quotation from that ode.—T.

[230] Jean Baptiste Cléry (1759-1809), the King's valet. His Memoirs were published in London, in 1799; with the title. Journal de ce qui s'est passé à la Tour du Temple pendant la captivité de Louis XVI., roi de France, and printed the same year in France. In order to destroy the interest attached to this publication, the Directory caused a spurious edition to be disseminated, entitled Mémoires de M. Cléry sur la détention de Louis XVI., and filled with matter calculated to injure the memory of the unhappy Sovereign and the Royal Family. Cléry protested against this with indignation so soon as it reached his ears, his protest appearing in July 1801 in the Spectateur du Nord, published in Hamburg.—B.

[231] Jean François du Theil (circa 1760-1822) emigrated in 1790, returned to France in 1792, during the captivity of Louis XVI., and exposed himself to the greatest dangers in order to communicate with the King. After escaping arrest, almost by a miracle, inside the Temple itself, he returned to Germany, where he joined the Comte d'Artois. He and the Duc d'Harcourt were together charged with the affairs of the Comte d'Artois and the Comte de Provence (Louis XVIII.) in connection with the British Government.—B.

[232] Jacques Cathelineau (1758-1793), a weaver by trade and Commander-in-Chief of the Vendéan Army. He was mortally wounded in the assault upon Nantes (29 June 1793).—T.

[233] Louis Marie Marquis de Lescure (1766-1793), a brilliant Vendéan general, killed at the Tremblaye (3 November 1793).—T.

[234] Gigot d'Elbée (1752-1794), nicknamed General Providence, from his habit of relying on Providence for victory. He succeeded Cathelineau as general-in-chief, but was a far from capable commander. He was wounded at Chollet, and captured and shot on the island of Noirmoutiers.—T.

[235] Henri du Vergier, Comte de La Rochejacquelein (1773-1794) succeeded Lescure and repeatedly defeated the troops of the Republic. He was killed at the fight of Nouaillé, near Chollet, 4 March 1794.—T.

[236] Louis Marie Baron Turreau de Garambouville (1756-1816), Commander-in-Chief of the Army of the West (1793). He was French Ambassador to the United States from 1804 to 1810.—T.

[237] Merlin de Thionville (1762-1833), the Conventional, so called to distinguish him from Merlin de Douay, the jurisconsult.—T.

[238] Marcus Aurelius Probus, Emperor of Rome (circa 232-282), conquered and pacified Gaul, restoring the vineyards destroyed by order of Domitian.—T.

[239] The "Jacquerie" was a faction which ravaged France during the captivity of King John in England (1358). It consisted of peasants who had revolted against their feudal lords, and was led by a certain Guillaume Caillet, nicknamed "Jacques Bonhomme," after whom the "Jacques" called themselves.—T.

[240] Charles V., King of France (1337-1380), known as Charles the Wise, son and successor of John II. He successfully resisted the English invasion under Edward III., and recovered a large portion of the country, leaving Bordeaux, Calais, Cherbourg, Bayonne, and several fortresses in the hands of the English at his death.—T.

[241] Charles VII., King of France (1403-1461), surnamed Charles the Victorious, with the assistance of Joan of Arc, drove the English out of all France, with the sole exception of Calais.—T.

[242] François Athanase Charette de La Contrie (1763-1796) was at the head of the Poitou peasants in the rising of the Vendée and joined forces with Cathelineau. Discords broke out between the Royalist chiefs, and Charette left the army with his division and fought alone, capturing the Republican camp at Saint-Christophe, near Challans, in 1794. In 1796, Hoche utterly destroyed his small force, and Charette himself was taken prisoner and shot at Nantes.—T.

[243] Louis Antoine Henri de Bourbon-Condé, Duc d'Enghien (1772-1804), son of the Duc de Bourbon and grandson of the Prince de Condé. He was arrested on neutral territory and shot, after a mock trial, at Vincennes, by order of Napoleon (21 March 1804). Chateaubriand resigned his diplomatic appointment, as will appear, immediately after learning the news of this crime.—T.

[244] The Duc de Bourbon, father of the Duc d'Enghien, became "the Last of the Condés" on the latter's death.—T.

[245] Chantilly was the seat of the Condé family: the Duc de Bourbon left it on his death (1830) to the Duc d'Aumale, who bequeathed it to the French Nation.—T.

[246] The street in which M. du Theil lived.—Author's Note.

[Pg 114]

BOOK IX[247]

Death of my mother—I return to religion—The Génie du Christianisme—Letter from the Chevalier de Panat—My uncle, M. de Bedée: his eldest daughter—English literature—Decline of the old school—Historians—Poets—Publicists—Shakespeare—Old novels—New novels—Richardson—Sir Walter Scott—New poetry—Beattie—Lord Byron—England from Richmond to Greenwich—A trip with Peltier—Blenheim—Stowe—Hampton Court—Oxford—Eton College—Private manners—Political manners—Fox—Pitt—Burke—George III.—Return of the emigrants to France—The Prussian Minister gives me a false passport in the name of La Sagne, a resident of Neuchâtel in Switzerland—Death of Lord Londonderry—End of my career as a soldier and traveller—I land at Calais.

Alloquar? audiero nunquam tua facta loquentem?
Nunquam ego te, vita frater amabilior,
Aspiciam posthac? At certe semper amabo[248].

I have just taken leave of a friend, I am about to take leave of a mother: one has constantly to repeat the verses which Catullus addressed to his brother. In our vale of tears, as in Hell, there is a strange, eternal wailing, which forms the accompaniment or the prevailing note of human lamentations; it is heard unceasingly, and it would continue when all other created sorrows had come to be silent.

A letter from Julie, which I received soon after that from Fontanes, confirmed my sad remark on my gradual isolation: Fontanes urged me to "work, to become illustrious;" my sister begged me to "give up writing:" one put glory before me, the other oblivion. This train of thought is described in the story of Madame de Farcy; she had grown to hate literature, because she regarded it as one of the temptations of her life.

"Saint-Servan, 1 July 1798.

"Dear, we have just lost the best of mothers: I grieve to inform you of this fatal blow. When you cease to be the object of our solicitude, we shall have ceased to live. If you knew how many tears your errors had caused our venerable[Pg 115] mother to shed; how deplorable they appear to all who think and profess not only piety, but reason: if you knew this, perhaps it would help to open your eyes, to induce you to give up writing; and if Heaven, moved by our prayers, permitted us to meet again, you would find in the midst of us all the happiness one is allowed on earth; you would give us that happiness, for there is none for us so long as you are not with us and we have cause to be anxious as to your fate."

Ah, why did I not follow my sister's advice? Why did I continue to write? Had my age remained without my writings, would anything have been changed in the events and spirit of that age?

And so I had lost my mother; and so I had distressed the last hour of her life! While she was drawing her last breath far from her last son, and praying for him, what was I doing in London? Perhaps I was strolling in the cool morning air at the moment when the sweat of death covered my mother's forehead without having my hand to wipe it away!

The Génie du Christianisme.

The filial affection which I preserved for Madame de Chateaubriand was deep. My childhood and youth were intimately linked with the memory of my mother. The idea that I had poisoned the old days of the woman who bore me in her womb filled me with despair: I flung copies of the Essai into the fire with horror, as the instrument of my crime; had it been possible for me to destroy the whole work, I should have done so without hesitation. I did not recover from my distress until the thought occurred to me of expiating my first work by means of a religious work: this was the origin of the Génie du Christianisme.


"My mother," I said, in the first preface to that work, "after being flung, at the age of seventy-two years, into dungeons where she saw part of her children die, expired at last on a pallet to which her misfortunes had reduced her. The recollection of my errors cast a great bitterness over her last days; when dying, she charged one of my sisters to call me back to the religion in which I was brought up. My sister acquainted me with my mother's last wish. When the letter reached me across the sea, my sister herself was no more; she too had died from the effects of her imprisonment. Those two voices from the tomb, that death which acted as death's interpreter impressed me. I became a Christian. I did not yield, I admit, to great supernatural enlightenment:[Pg 116] my conviction came from the heart; I wept and I believed."


I exaggerated my fault: the Essai was not an impious book, but a book of doubt, of sorrow. Through the darkness of that book glides a ray of the Christian light that shone upon my cradle. It needed no great effort to return from the scepticism of the Essai to the certainty of the Génie du Christianisme.


When, after receiving the sad news of Madame de Chateaubriand's death, I resolved suddenly to change my course, the title of Génie du Christianisme, which I found on the spot, inspired me: I set to work; I toiled with the ardour of a son building a mausoleum to his mother. My materials were since long collected and rough-hewn by my previous studies. I knew the works of the Fathers better than they are known in our times; I had even studied them in order to oppugn them, and having entered upon that road with bad intentions, instead of leaving it as a victor, I left it vanquished.

As to history properly so-called, I had occupied myself with it specially in composing the Essai sur les Révolutions. The Camden originals which I had lately examined had made me familiar with the manners and institutions of the Middle Ages. Lastly, my terrible manuscript of the Natchez, in 2393 pages folio, contained all that I needed for the Génie du Christianisme in the way of descriptions of nature; I was able to draw largely upon that source, as I had done for the Essai.

I wrote the first part of the Génie du Christianisme. Messrs. Dulau[249], who had become the booksellers of the French emigrant clergy, undertook the publication. The first sheets of the first volume were printed. The work thus begun in London in 1799 was completed only in Paris in 1802: see the different prefaces to the Génie du Christianisme. I was devoured by a sort of fever during the whole time of writing: no one will ever know what it means to carry at the same time in one's brain, in one's blood, and in one's soul, Atala and René, and to combine with the painful child-birth of those fiery twins the labour of conception attending the other parts of the Génie du Christianisme. The memory of Charlotte penetrated and warmed all that, and to give me[Pg 117] the finishing stroke, the first longing for fame inflamed my exalted imagination.

This longing came to me from filial affection: I wanted a great renown, so that it might rise till it reached my mother's dwelling-place, and that the angels might carry her my solemn expiation.

As one study leads to another, I could not occupy myself with my French scholia without taking note of the literature and men of the country in which I lived: I was drawn into these fresh researches. My days and nights were spent in reading, in writing, in taking lessons in Hebrew from a learned priest, the Abbé Capelan, in consulting libraries and men of attainments, in roaming about the fields with my everlasting reveries, in paying and receiving visits. If such things exist as retroactive and symptomatic effects of future events, I might have foreseen the bustle and uproar created by the book which was to make my name from the seething of my mind and the throbbing of my inner muse.

Reading aloud to others my first rough drafts helped to enlighten me. Reading aloud is an excellent form of instruction, when one does not take the necessary compliments for gospel. Provided an author be in earnest, he will soon feel, through the impression which he instinctively receives from the others, which are the weak places in his work, and especially whether that work is too long or too short, whether he keeps, does not reach, or exceeds the right dimensions.

A letter from Panat.

I have discovered a letter from the Chevalier de Panat on the readings from a work at that time so unknown. The letter is charming: the dirty chevalier's positive and scoffing spirit did not seem susceptible of thus rubbing itself with poetry. I have no hesitation in giving this letter, a document of my history, although it is stained from end to end with my praises, as though the sly author had taken pleasure in emptying his ink-pot over his epistle:


"Heavens, what an interesting reading I owed to your extreme kindness this morning! Our religion had numbered among its defenders great geniuses, illustrious Fathers of the Church: those athletes had wielded with vigour all the arms of reasoning; incredulity was vanquished; but that was not enough: it was still necessary to show all the charms of that admirable religion; it was necessary to show how suited it is to the human heart and what magnificent pictures it offers to the imagination. It is no longer a theologian in the school,[Pg 118] it is the great painter and the man sensitive to impressions who open up a new horizon for themselves. Your work was wanted, and you were called upon to write it. Nature has eminently endowed you with the great qualities which this work requires: you belong to another age....

"Ah, if the truths of sentiment rank first in the order of nature, none will have proved better than yourself those of our religion; you will have confounded the unbelievers at the gate of the Temple and introduced delicate minds and sensible hearts into the sanctuaries. You bring back to me those ancient philosophers who gave their lessons with their heads crowned with flowers, their hands filled with sweet perfumes. This is a very feeble image of your suave, pure and classic mind.

"I congratulate myself daily on the happy circumstance which made me acquainted with you; I can never forget that it was Fontanes who did me that kindness; I shall love him for it the more, and my heart will never separate two names whom the same glory is bound to unite, if Providence re-opens to us the doors of our native land.

"Chev. de Panat."

The Abbé Delille also heard some fragments of the Génie du Christianisme read. He seemed surprised, and did me the honour, soon after, to put into verse the prose which had pleased him. He naturalized my wild American flowers in his various French gardens, and put my somewhat hot wine to cool in the frigid water from his clear spring.

The unfinished edition of the Génie du Christianisme, commenced in London, was a little different, in the order of the contents, from the edition published in France. The consular censure, which soon became imperial, showed itself very touchy on the subject of kings: their persons, their honour and their virtue were dear to it beforehand. Already Fouché's police saw the white pigeon, the symbol of Bonaparte's candour and revolutionary innocence, descend from Heaven with the sacred phial. The true believers who had taken part in the Republican processions of Lyons compelled me to cut out a chapter entitled the Rois athées, and to distribute paragraphs from it here and there in the body of the work.


Before continuing these literary investigations I must interrupt them for a moment to take leave of my uncle de Bedée; alas, that means taking leave of the first joy of[Pg 119] my life: freno non remorante dies[250]! See the old sepulchres in the old crypts: themselves overcome by age, decrepit and without memory, having lost their epitaphs, they have forgotten the very names of those whose ashes they contain.

I had written to my uncle on the subject of my mother's death: he replied with a long letter containing some touching words of regret; but three-quarters of his double folio sheet were devoted to my genealogy. He begged me above all, when I should return to France, to look up the title-deeds of the "Bedée quartering," entrusted to my brother. And so, to this venerable Emigrant, exile, ruin, the destruction of his kin, the sacrifice of Louis XVI. alike failed to make the fact of the Revolution clear to him; nothing had happened, nothing come to pass; he had gone no farther than the States of Brittany and the Assembly of the Nobles. This fixity of ideas in man is very striking in the midst and as it were in presence of the alteration of his body, the flight of his years, the loss of his relations and friends.

Death of my uncle de Bedée.

On his return from the Emigration, my uncle de Bedée went to live at Dinan, where he died, six leagues from Monchoix, without having seen it again. My cousin Caroline[251], the oldest of my three cousins, still lives. She has remained an old maid in spite of the formal requests for her hand made in her former youth. She writes me letters, badly spelt, in which she addresses me in the second person singular, calls me "chevalier," and talks to me of our good time: in illo tempore. She was endowed with a pair of fine dark eyes and a comely figure; she danced like the Camargo[252], and she seems to recollect that I bore a fierce passion for her in secret. I reply in the same tone, laying aside, in imitation of her, my years, my honours and my reputation:

"Yes, dear Caroline, your chevalier," etc.

It must be some six or seven lustres since we met: Heaven be praised for it, for God alone knows, if we came to embracing, what kind of figure we should cut in each other's eyes!

Sweet, patriarchal, innocent, creditable family friendship,[Pg 120] your age is past! We no longer cling to the soil by a multitude of blossoms, sprouts and roots; we are born and die singly nowadays. The living are in haste to fling the deceased to Eternity, and to be rid of his corpse. Of his friends, some go and await the coffin at the church, grumbling the while at being put out and disturbed in their habits; others carry their devotion so far as to follow the funeral to the cemetery: the grave once filled up, all recollection is obliterated. You will never return, O days of religion and affection, in which the son died in the same house, in the same arm-chair, by the same fireside where died his father and his grandfather before him, surrounded, as they had been, by weeping children and grandchildren, upon whom fell the last paternal blessing!

Farewell, my beloved uncle! Farewell, family of my mother, which are disappearing like the other portion of my family! Farewell, my cousin of days long past, who love me still as you loved me when we listened together to our kind aunt de Boistelleul's ballad of the Sparrow-hawk, or when you assisted at my release from my nurse's vow at the Abbey of Nazareth! If you survive me, accept the share of gratitude and affection which I here bequeath to you. Attach no belief to the false smile outlined on my lips in speaking of you: my eyes, I assure you, are full of tears.


My studies correlative to the Génie du Christianisme had gradually, as I have said, led me to make a more thorough examination of English literature. When I took refuge in England in 1793, it became necessary for me to redress most of the judgments which I had drawn from the criticisms. As regards the historians, Hume[253] was reputed a Tory and reactionary writer: he was accused, as was Gibbon, of over-loading the English language with gallicisms; people preferred his continuer, Smollett[254]. Gibbon[255], a philosopher during his lifetime, became a Christian on his death-bed, and in that capacity was duly convicted of being a sorry[Pg 121] individual. Robertson[256] was still spoken of, because he was dry.

English literature.

Where the poets were concerned, the "elegant extracts" served as a place of banishment for a few pieces by Dryden[257]; people refused to forgive Pope[258] for his verse, although they visited his house at Twickenham and cut chips from the weeping-willow planted by him and withered like his fame.

Blair[259] was looked upon as a tedious critic with a French style; he was placed far below Johnson[260]. As to the old Spectator[261], it was relegated to the lumber-room.

English political works have little interest for us. The economic treatises are less stinted in their scope: their calculations on the wealth of nations, the employment of capital, the balance of trade, are applicable in part to the different European societies. Burke[262] emerged from the national political individuality: by declaring himself opposed to the French Revolution, he dragged his country into the long road of hostilities which ended in the plains of Waterloo.

However, great figures remained. One met with Milton and Shakespeare on every hand. Did Montmorency[263], Byron[264], Sully[265], by turns French Ambassadors to the Courts of Elizabeth[266][Pg 122] and James I.[267], ever hear speak of a merry-andrew who acted in his own and other writers' farces? Did they ever pronounce the name, so outlandish in French, of Shakespeare? Did they suspect that there was here a glory before which their honours, pomps and ranks would become as nothing? Well, the comedian who undertook the part of the Ghost in Hamlet was the great spectre, the shade of the Middle Ages which rose over the world like the evening star, at the moment when the Middle Ages were at last descending among the dead: giant centuries which Dante[268] opened and Shakespeare closed.

In the Memorials of Whitelock[269], the contemporary of the singer of Paradise Lost, we read of "one Mr. Milton, a blind man, parliamentary secretary for Latin despatches."

Molière[270], the "stage-player," performed his Pourceaugnac in the same way that Shakespeare, the "buffoon," clowned his Falstaff.

Those veiled travellers, who come from time to time to sit at our board, are treated by us as ordinary guests; we remain unaware of their nature until the day of their disappearance. On leaving the earth, they become transfigured, and say to us, as the angel from heaven said to Tobias:

"I am one of the seven who stand before the Lord[271]."

But, though misunderstood by men on their passage, those divinities do not fail to recognise one another. Milton asks:

What needs my Shakespeare, for his honour'd bones,
The labour of an age in piled stones[272]?

[Pg 123]

Michael Angelo[273], envying Dante's lot and genius, exclaims:

Pur fuss'io tal...
Per l'aspro esilio suo con sua virtute
Darci del mondo più felice stato.

Tasso celebrates Camoëns, as yet almost unknown, and acts as his "Fame." Is there anything more admirable than the society of illustrious people revealing themselves, one to the other, by means of signs, greeting one another and communing with each other in a language understood by themselves alone?


Was Shakespeare lame, like Lord Byron, Sir Walter Scott[274], and the Prayers, the daughters of Jupiter? If he was so in fact, the "Boy" of Stratford, far from being ashamed of his infirmity, as was Childe Harold, is not afraid to remind one of his mistresses of it:

So I, made lame by fortune's dearest spite[275].

Shakespeare must have had many loves, if we were to count one for each sonnet. The creator of Desdemona and Juliet grew old without ceasing to be in love. Was the unknown woman to whom he addresses his charming verses proud and happy to be the object of Shakespeare's Sonnets? It may be doubted: glory is to an old man what diamonds are to an old woman; they adorn, but cannot make her beautiful. Says the English tragic poet to his mistress:

No longer mourn for me when I am dead
.      .      .      .      .      .
Nay, if you read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it; for I love you so,
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,
If thinking on me then should make you woe.
O, if, I say, you look upon this verse
When I perhaps compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse,
But let your love even with my life decay[276].

Shakespeare loved, but believed no more in love than he believed in other things: a woman to him was a bird, a zephyr, a flower, a thing that charms and passes. Through his indifference to, or ignorance of, his fame, through his condition, which set him without the pale of society and of a[Pg 124] position to which he could not hope to attain, he seemed to have taken life as a light, unoccupied hour, a swift and gentle leisure.

Shakespeare, in his youth, met old monks driven from their cloister, who had seen Henry VIII., his reforms, his destructions of monasteries, his "fools," his wives, his mistresses, his headsmen. When the poet departed from life, Charles I. was sixteen years of age. Thus, with one hand, Shakespeare was able to touch the whitened heads once threatened by the sword of the second of the Tudors and, with the other, the brown head of the second of the Stuarts, destined to be laid low by the axe of the Parliamentarians. Leaning upon those tragic brows, the great tragedian sank into the tomb; he filled the interval of the days in which he lived with his ghosts, his blind kings, his ambitious men punished, his unfortunate women, so as to join together, through analogous fictions, the realities of the past and of the future.

Shakespeare is of the number of the five or six writers who have sufficed for the needs and nutriment of thought: those parent geniuses seem to have brought forth and suckled all the others. Homer impregnated antiquity: ‚Æschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, Horace, Virgil are his sons. Dante engendered Modern Italy, from Petrarch to Tasso. Rabelais created French literature: Montaigne, La Fontaine, Molière descend from him. England is all Shakespeare, and in these later days he has lent his language to Byron, his dialogue to Walter Scott.

Men often disown these supreme masters; they rebel against them; they reckon up their faults: they accuse them of tediousness, of length, of extravagance, of bad taste, what time they plunder them and deck themselves in their spoils; but they struggle in vain against their yoke. Everything wears their colours; they have left their traces everywhere; they invent words and names which go to swell the general vocabulary of the nations; their expressions become proverbs, their fictitious characters change into real characters, with heirs and a lineage. They open out horizons whence burst forth sheaves of light; they sow ideas, the germs of a thousand others; they supply all the arts with imaginations, subjects, styles: their works are the mines or the bowels of the human mind.

These geniuses occupy the first rank; their vastness, their variety, their fruitfulness, their originality cause them to be accepted from the very first as laws, models, moulds, types[Pg 125] of the various forms of intellect, even as there are four or five races of men issuing from one single stock, of which the others are only branches. Let us take care how we insult the disorders into which these mighty beings sometimes fall: let us not imitate Ham, the accursed; let us not laugh if we see the sole and solitary mariner of the deep lying naked and asleep, in the shadow of the Ark resting upon the mountains of Armenia. Let us respect that diluvial navigator, who recommenced the Creation after the flood-gates of Heaven were shut up: let us, as pious children, blessed by our father, modestly cover him with our cloak.

Shakespeare, in his lifetime, never thought of living after his life: what signifies to him to-day my hymn of admiration? Admitting every supposition, reasoning from the truths or falsehoods with which the human mind is penetrated or imbued, what cares Shakespeare for a renown of which the sound cannot rise to where he is? A Christian? In the midst of eternal bliss, does he think of the nothingness of the world? A deist? Freed from the shades of matter, lost in the splendours of God, does he cast down a look upon the grain of sand over which he passed? An atheist? He sleeps the sleep without breathing or awakening which we call death. Nothing therefore is vainer than glory beyond the tomb, unless it have kept friendship alive, unless it have been useful to virtue, helpful to misfortune, unless it be granted to us to rejoice in Heaven in a consoling, generous, liberating idea left behind by us upon earth.


Samuel Richardson.

Novels, at the end of the last century, had been included in the general proscription. Richardson[277] slept forgotten: his fellow-countrymen discovered in his style traces of the inferior society in which he had spent his life. Fielding[278] maintained his success; Sterne[279], the purveyor of eccentricity, was out of date. The Vicar of Wakefield was still read[280].

If Richardson has no style, a question of which we foreigners are unable to judge, he will not live, because one lives only by style. It is vain to rebel against this truth: the[Pg 126] best-composed work, adorned with life-like portraits, filled with a thousand other perfections, is still-born if the style be wanting. Style, and there are a thousand kinds, is not learnt; it is the gift of Heaven, it is talent. But, if Richardson has only been forsaken because of certain homely turns of expression, insufferable to an elegant society, he may revive: the revolution which is being worked, in lowering the aristocracy and raising the middle classes, will render less apparent, or cause entirely to disappear, the traces of homespun habits and of an inferior language.

From Clarissa and Tom Jones sprang the two principal branches of the family of modern English novels: the novels of family pictures and domestic dramas, and the novels of adventure and pictures of general society. After Richardson, the manners of the West End invaded the domain of fiction: the novels became filled with country-houses, lords and ladies, scenes at the waters, adventures at the races, the ball, the opera, Ranelagh, with a never-ending chit-chat and tittle-tattle. The scene was rapidly changed to Italy; the lovers crossed the Alps amid terrible dangers and sorrows of the soul calculated to move lions: "the lion shed tears!" A jargon of good company was adopted.

Of the thousands of novels which have flooded England since the last fifty years, two have kept their places: Caleb Williams[281] and the Monk. I did not see Godwin during my stay in London; but I twice met Lewis[282]. He was a young member of the House of Commons, very pleasant, with the air and manners of a Frenchman. The works of Ann Radcliffe[283] are of a class apart Those of Mrs. Barbauld[284], Miss Edgeworth[285], Miss Burney[286], etc., have a chance of living.


"There should," says Montaigne, "be some correction appointed by the laws against foolish and unprofitable writers, as there is against vagabonds and loiterers; so should both my selfe and a hundred others of our people be banished....[Pg 127] Scribbling seemeth to be a symptome or passion of an irregular and licentious age[287]."


Sir Walter Scott.

But these different schools of sedentary novelists, of novelists travelling by diligence or calash, of novelists of lakes and mountains, ruins and ghosts, of novelists of cities and drawing-rooms, have come to be lost in the new school of Walter Scott, even as poetry has precipitated itself in the steps of Lord Byron. The illustrious painter of Scotland started his career in literature during my exile in London with his translation of Goethe's Berlichingen.[288] He continued to make himself known by poetry, and ultimately the bent of his genius led him towards the novel. He seems to me to have created a false manner: the romancer set himself to write historical romances, and the historian romantic histories. If, in reading Walter Scott, I am sometimes obliged to skip interminable conversations, the fault is doubtless mine; but one of Walter Scott's great merits, in my eyes, is that he can be placed in the hands of everybody. It requires greater efforts of talent to interest while keeping within the limits of decency than to please when exceeding all bounds; it is less easy to rule the heart than to disturb it.

Burke kept the politics of England in the past. Walter Scott drove back the English to the Middle Ages; all that they wrote, manufactured, built, became Gothic: books, furniture, houses, churches, country-seats. But the barons of Magna Charta are to-day the fashionables of Bond Street, a frivolous race camping in the ancient manor-houses while awaiting the arrival of the new generations which are preparing to drive them out.


At the same time that the novel was passing into the "romantic" stage, poetry was undergoing a similar transformation. Cowper[289] abandoned the French in order to revive the national school; Burns[290] commenced the same revolution in Scotland. After them came the restorers of the ballads. Several of those poets of 1792 to 1800 belonged to what was called the "Lake school," a name which survived, because the romantic poets lived on the shores of the Cumberland and Westmoreland lakes, which they sometimes sang.

[Pg 128]

Thomas Moore[291], Campbell[292], Rogers[293], Crabbe[294], Wordsworth[295], Southey[296], Hunt[297], Knowles[298], Lord Holland[299], Canning[300], Croker[301] are still living to do honour to English literature; but one must be of English birth to appreciate the full merit of an intimate class of composition which appeals specially to men born on the soil.

None is a competent judge, in living literature, of other than works written in his own tongue. It is in vain that you believe yourself thoroughly acquainted with a foreign idiom: you lack the nurse's milk, together with the first words which she teaches you at her breast and in your swaddling-clothes; certain accents belong to the mother country alone. The English and Germans have the strangest notions concerning our men of letters: they worship what we despise, and despise what we worship; they do not understand Racine nor La Fontaine, nor even Molière completely. It is ludicrous to know who are considered our great writers in London, Vienna, Berlin, St Petersburg, Munich, Leipzig, Göttingen, Cologne, to know what is read there with avidity and what not at all.

When an author's merit lies especially in his diction, no foreigner will ever understand that merit. The more intimate, individual, rational a talent is, the more do its mysteries escape the mind which is not, so to speak, that talent's fellow-countryman. We admire the Greeks and Romans on trust;[Pg 129] our admiration comes to us by tradition, and the Greeks and Romans are not there to laugh at our barbarian judgments. Which of us has an idea of the harmony of the prose of Demosthenes and Cicero, of the cadence of the verses of Alcæus and Horace, as they were caught by a Greek or Latin ear? Men maintain that real beauties are of all times, all countries: yes, beauties of feeling and of thought; not beauties of style. Style is not cosmopolitan like thought: it has a native land, a sky, a sun of its own.

Burns, Mason[302], Cowper died during my emigration, before 1800 and in 1800: they ended the century; I commenced it. Darwin[303] and Beattie[304] died two years after my return from exile.

James Beattie.

Beattie had announced the new era of the lyre. The Minstrel, or the Progress of Genius is the picture of the first effects of the muse upon a young bard who is as yet unaware of the inspiration with which he is tossed. Now the future poet goes and sits by the sea-shore during a tempest; again he leaves the village sports to listen in some lonely spot to the distant sound of the pipes. Beattie has run through the entire series of reveries and melancholy ideas of which a hundred other poets have believed themselves the discoverers. Beattie proposed to continue his poem; he did, in fact, write the second canto: Edwin one evening hears a grave voice ascend from the bottom of the valley; it is the voice of a solitary who, after tasting the illusions of the world, has buried himself in that retreat, there to collect his soul and to sing the marvels of the Creator. This hermit instructs the young minstrel and reveals to him the secret of his genius. Beattie was destined to shed tears; the death of his son broke his paternal heart: like Ossian, after the loss of his son Oscar, he hung his harp on the branches of an oak. Perhaps Beattie's son was the young minstrel whom a father had sung and whose footsteps he no longer saw on the mountain.


Lord Byron's verses contain striking imitations of the Minstrel. At the time of my exile in England, Lord Byron was living at Harrow School, in a village ten miles from London. He was a child, I was young and as unknown as[Pg 130] he; he had been brought up on the heaths of Scotland, by the sea-side, as I in the marshes of Brittany, by the sea-side; he first loved the Bible and Ossian, as I loved them; he sang the memories of his childhood in Newstead Abbey, as I sang mine in Combourg Castle:

When I roved a young Highlander o'er the dark heath.
And climb'd thy steep summit, O Morven of snow!
To gaze on the torrent that thunder'd beneath,
Or the mist of the tempest that gather'd below[305].

In my wanderings in the neighbourhood of London, when I was so unhappy, I passed through the village of Harrow a score of times, without suspecting the genius it contained. I have sat in the churchyard at the foot of the elm beneath which, in 1807, Lord Byron wrote these verses, at the time when I was returning from Palestine:

Spot of my youth! whose hoary branches sigh,
Swept by the breeze that fans thy cloudless sky;
Where now alone I muse, who oft have trod,
With those I loved, thy soft and verdant sod.
. . . . . . . .
When fate shall chill, at length, this fever'd breast,
And calm its cares and passions into rest,
. . . . . . . .
. . . . here my heart might lie;
Here might I sleep where all my hopes arose,
. . . . . . . .
Mix'd with the earth o'er which my footsteps moved;
. . . . . . . .
Deplored by those in early days allied,
And unremembered by the world beside[306].

And I shall say: Hail, ancient elm, at whose foot the child Byron indulged in the fancies of his age, while I was dreaming of René beneath thy shade, the same shade beneath which later, in his turn, the poet came to dream of Childe Harold! Byron asked of the churchyard, which witnessed the first sports of his life, an unknown grave: a useless prayer, which fame will not grant. Nevertheless, Byron is no longer what he has been; I had come across him in all directions living at Venice: at the end of a few years, in the same town where I had met with his name on every hand, I found him everywhere eclipsed and unknown. The echoes of the Lido no longer repeat his name and, if you ask after him of the Venetians, they no longer know of whom you speak. Lord Byron is entirely dead for them; they no longer[Pg 131] hear the neighing of his horse: it is the same thing in London, where his memory is fading. That is what we become.

If I have passed by Harrow without knowing that the child Byron was drawing breath there, Englishmen have passed by Combourg without suspecting that a little vagabond, brought up in those woods, would leave any trace. Arthur Young[307], the traveller, when passing through Combourg, wrote:

"To Combourg [from Pontorson] the country has a savage aspect; husbandry has not much further advanced, at least in skill, than among the Hurons, which appears incredible amidst inclosures; the people almost as wild as their country, and their town of Combourg one of the most brutal filthy places that can be seen; mud houses, no windows, and a pavement so broken as to impede all passengers, but ease none-yet here is a chateau, and inhabited; who is this Mons. de Chateaubriand, the owner, that has nerves strung for a residence amidst such filth and poverty? Below this hideous heap of wretchedness is a fine lake, surrounded by well-wooded inclosures[308]."

That M. de Chateaubriand was my father; the residence which seemed so hideous to the ill-humoured agriculturist is none the less a fine and stately home, sombre and grave though it may be. As for me, a feeble ivy-shoot commencing to climb at the foot of those fierce towers, would Mr. Young have noticed me, he who was interested only in inspecting our harvests?

Lord Byron.

Give me leave to add to the above pages, written in England in 1822, the following written in 1824 and 1840: they will complete the portion relating to Lord Byron; this portion will be more particularly perfected when the reader has perused what I shall have to say of the great poet on passing to Venice.

There may perhaps be some interest in the future in remarking the coincidence of the two leaders of the new French and English schools having a common fund of nearly parallel ideas and destinies, if not of morals: one a peer of England, the other a peer of France; both Eastern travellers,[Pg 132] not infrequently near each other, yet never seeing one another: only, the life of the English poet has been connected with events less great than mine.

Lord Byron visited the ruins of Greece after me: in Childe Harold he seems to embellish with his own pigments the descriptions in the Itinéraire. At the commencement of my pilgrimage I gave the Sire de Joinville's farewell to his castle: Byron bids a similar farewell to his Gothic home.

In the Martyrs, Eudore sets out from Messenia to go to Rome:

"Our voyage was long," he says; "... we saw all those promontories marked by temples or tombstones.... My young companions had heard speak of nought save the metamorphoses of Jupiter, and they understood nothing of the remains they saw before them; I myself had already sat, with the prophet, on the ruins of devastated cities, and Babylon taught me to know Corinth[309]."

The English poet is like the French prose-writer, following the letter of Sulpicius to Cicero[310]: a coincidence so perfect is a singularly proud one for me, because I anticipated the immortal singer on the shore where we gathered the same memories and celebrated the same ruins.

I have again the honour of being connected with Lord Byron in our descriptions of Rome: the Martyrs and my Lettre sur la campagne romaine possess, for me, the inestimable advantage of having divined the aspirations of a fine genius.

The early translators, commentators and admirers of Lord Byron were careful not to point out that some pages of my works might have lingered for a moment in the memory of the painter of Childe Harold; they would have thought that they were depreciating his genius. Now that the enthusiasm has grown a little calmer this honour is not so consistently refused to me. Our immortal song-writer[311], in the last volume of his Chansons, says:

[Pg 133]

"In one of the foregoing stanzas I speak of the 'lyres' which France owes to M. de Chateaubriand. I do not fear that that verse will be contradicted by the new poetic school, which, born beneath the eagle's wings, has often and rightly prided itself on that origin. The influence of the author of the Génie du Christianisme has also made itself felt abroad, and it would perhaps be just to recognise that the singer of Childe Harold belongs to the family of René."

In an excellent article on Lord Byron, M. Villemain[312] re-echoes M. de Béranger's remark:

"Some incomparable pages in René" he says, "had, it is true, exhausted that poetic character. I do not know whether Byron imitated them or revived them with his genius."

Literary affinity.

What I have just said as to the affinity of imagination and destiny between the chronicles of René and the singer of Childe Harold does not detract in the smallest degree from the fame of the immortal bard. What harm can my pedestrian and luteless muse do to the muse of the Dee[313], furnished with a lyre and wings? Lord Byron will live whether, a child of his century like myself, he gave utterance, like myself and like Goethe before us, to its passion and misfortune, or whether my circumnavigation and the lantern of my Gallic bark showed the vessel of Albion the track across unexplored waters.

Besides, two minds of an analogous nature may easily have similar conceptions without being reproached with slavishly following the same road. It is permitted to take advantage of ideas and images expressed in a foreign language, in order with them to enrich one's own: that has occurred in all ages and at all times. I recognise without hesitation that, in my early youth, Ossian[314], Werther[315], the Rêveries du promeneur solitaire[316] and the Études de la nature[317] may have allied themselves to my ideas; but I have hidden or dissimulated none of the pleasure caused me by works in which I delighted.

[Pg 134]

If it were true that René entered to some extent into the groundwork of the one person represented under different names in Childe-Harold, Conrad, Lara, Manfred, the Giaour; if, by chance, Lord Byron had made me live in his own life, would he then have had the weakness never to mention me[318]? Was I then one of those fathers whom men deny when they have attained to power? Can Lord Byron have been completely ignorant of me when he quotes almost all the French authors who are his contemporaries? Did he never hear speak of me, when the English papers, like the French papers, have resounded a score of times in his hearing with controversies on my works, when the New Times drew a parallel between the author of the Génie du Christianisme and the author of Childe-Harold?

No intelligence, however favoured it be, but has its susceptibilities, its distrusts: one wishes to keep the sceptre, fears to share it, resents comparisons. In the same way, another superior talent has avoided the mention of my name in a work on Literature[319]. Thank God, rating myself at my just value, I have never aimed at empire; since I believe in nothing except the religious truth, of which liberty is a form, I have no more faith in myself than in any other thing here below. But I have never felt a need to be silent, where I have admired; that is why I proclaim my enthusiasm for Madame de Staël and Lord Byron. What is sweeter than admiration? It is love in Heaven, affection raised to a cult; we feel ourselves thrilled with gratitude for the divinity which extends the bases of our faculties, opens out new views to our[Pg 135] souls, gives us a happiness so great and so pure, with no admixture of fear or envy.

For the rest, the little cavil which I have raised in these Memoirs against the greatest poet whom England has possessed since Milton proves only one thing: the high value which I would have attached to the recollection of his muse.

The real Byron.

Lord Byron started a deplorable school: I presume he has been as much distressed at the Childe-Harolds to whom he gave birth as I am at the Renés who rave around me.

The life of Lord Byron is the object of much investigation and calumny: young men have taken magic words seriously; women have felt disposed to allow themselves affrightedly to be seduced by that "monster," to console that solitary and unhappy Satan. Who knows? He had perhaps not found the woman he sought, a woman fair enough, a heart as big as his own. Byron, according to the phantasmagorial opinion, is the old serpent of seduction and corruption, because he sees the corruption of the human race; he is a fatal and suffering genius, placed between the mysteries of matter and mind, who is unable to solve the enigma of the universe, who looks upon life as a frightful and causeless irony, as a perverse smile of evil; he is the son of despair, who despises and denies, who, bearing an incurable wound within himself, seeks his revenge by leading through voluptuousness to sorrow all who approach him; he is a man who has not passed through the age of innocence, who has never had the advantage of being rejected and cursed by God: a man who, issuing reprobate from nature's womb, is the damned soul of nihility.

This is the Byron of heated imaginations: it is by no means, to my mind, the Byron of truth. Two different men are united in Lord Byron, as in the majority of men: the man of nature and the man of system. The poet, perceiving the part which the public made him play, accepted it and began to curse the world which at first he had only viewed dreamily: this progress can be traced in the chronological order of his works. His genius, far from having the extent attributed to it, is fairly reserved; his poetic thought is no more than a moan, a plaint, an imprecation; in that quality it is admirable: one must not ask the lyre what it thinks, but what it sings. His mind is sarcastic and diversified, but of an exciting nature and a baneful influence: the writer had read Voltaire to good purpose, and imitates him.

Gifted with every advantage, Lord Byron had little with which to reproach his birth; the very accident which made[Pg 136] him unhappy and which allied his superiority to the infirmity of mankind ought not to have vexed him, since it did not prevent him from being loved. The immortal singer knew from his own case the truth of Zeno's maxim: "The voice is the flower of beauty."

A deplorable thing is the rapidity with which, nowadays, reputations pass away. At the end of a few years-what am I saying?—of a few months, the infatuation disappears and disparagement follows upon it. Already Lord Byron's glory is seen to pale; his genius is better understood by ourselves; he will have altars longer in France than in England. Since Childe-Harold excels mainly in the depicting of sentiments peculiar to the individual, the English, who prefer sentiments common to all, will end by disowning the poet whose cry is so deep and so sad. Let them look to it: if they shatter the image of the man who has brought them to life again, what will they have left?


When, during my sojourn in London, in 1822, I wrote my opinion of Lord Byron, he had no more than two years to live upon earth: he died in 1824, at the moment when disenchantment and disgust were about to commence for him. I preceded him in life; he preceded me in death; he was called before his turn: my number was higher than his, and yet his was drawn first. Childe-Harold should have remained; the world could lose me without noticing my disappearance. On continuing my road through life, I met Madame Guiccioli[320] in Rome, Lady Byron[321] in Paris. Frailty and virtue thus appeared to me: the former had perhaps too many realities, the latter too few dreams.


Now, after having talked to you of the English writers, at the period when England served me as an asylum, it but remains for me to tell you of England herself at that period, of her appearance, her sites, her country-seats, her private and political manners.

The whole of England may be seen in the space of four[Pg 137] leagues, from Richmond, above London, down to Greenwich and below.

Below London lies industrial and commercial England, with her docks, her warehouses, her custom-houses, her arsenals, her breweries, her factories, her foundries, her ships; the latter, at each high tide, ascend the Thames in three divisions: first, the smallest; then, the middle-sized; lastly, the great vessels which graze with their sails the columns of the Old Sailors' Hospital and the windows of the tavern where the visitors dine.

Above London lies agricultural and pastoral England, with her meadows, her flocks and herds, her country-houses, her parks, whose shrubs and lawns are bathed twice a day by the rising waters of the Thames. Between these two opposite points, Richmond and Greenwich, London blends all the characteristics of this two-fold England: the aristocracy in the West End, the democracy in the East; the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey are landmarks between which is laid the whole history of Great Britain.


I passed a portion of the summer of 1799 at Richmond with Christian de Lamoignon, occupying myself with the Génie du Christianisme. I went on the Thames in a rowing-boat, or walked in Richmond Park. I could have wished that Richmond by London had been the Richmond of the treaty Honor Richemundiæ, for then I should have found myself in my own country, and for this reason: William the Bastard made a grant to Alan[322] Duke of Brittany, his son-in-law, of 442 English feudal estates, which since formed the County of Richmond[323]: the Dukes of Brittany, Alan's successors, enfeoffed these domains to Breton knights, cadets of the families of Rohan, Tinténiac, Chateaubriand, Goyon, Montboucher. But, in spite of my inclinations, I must look in Yorkshire for the County of Richmond, raised to a duchy by Charles II.[324] in favour of a bastard[325]: the Richmond on the Thames is the Old Sheen of Edward III. There, in[Pg 138] 1377, died Edward III., that famous King robbed by his mistress, Alice Perrers[326], who was not the same as the Alice or Catharine of Salisbury of the early days of the life of the victor of Crecy: you should only love at the age when you can be loved. Henry VIII. and Elizabeth also died at Richmond: where does one not die? Henry VIII. took pleasure in this residence. The English historians are greatly embarrassed by that abominable man: on the one hand, they are unable to conceal the tyranny and servitude to which the Parliament was subjected; on the other hand, if they too heartily anathematized the Head of the Reformation, they would condemn themselves in condemning him:

Plus l'oppresseur est vil, plus l'esclave est infâme[327].

In Richmond Park is shown the mound which served Henry VIII. as an observatory from which to spy for the news of the execution of Anne Boleyn[328]. Henry leapt for joy when the signal shot up from the Tower of London. What delight! The steel had cut through the slender neck, and covered with blood the beautiful tresses to which the poet-King had fastened his fatal kisses.

In the deserted park at Richmond I awaited no murderous signal, I would not even have wished the slightest harm to any who might have betrayed me. I strolled among the peaceful deer: accustomed to run before a pack of hounds, they stopped when they were tired; they were carried back, very gay and quite amused with this game, in a cart filled with straw. I went at Kew to see the kangaroos, ridiculous animals, the exact opposite to the giraffe: these innocent four-footed grass hoppers peopled Australia better than the old Duke of Queensberry's[329] prostitutes peopled the lanes of Richmond. The Thames bathed the lawn of a cottage half-hidden beneath a cedar of Lebanon and amidst weeping-willows: a newly married couple had come to spend the honeymoon in that paradise.

One evening, as I was strolling over the swards of[Pg 139] Twickenham, Peltier appeared, holding his handkerchief to his mouth:

"What an everlasting deuce of a fog!" he cried, so soon as he was within earshot. "How the devil can you remain here? I have made out my list: Stowe, Blenheim, Hampton Court, Oxford; with your dreamy ways, you might live with John Bull in vitam æternam and not see a thing!"

A journey with Peltier.

I asked in vain to be excused, I had to go. In the carriage, Peltier enumerated his hopes to me; he had relays of them; no sooner had one croaked beneath him than he straddled another, and on he would go, a leg on either side, to his journey's end. One of his hopes, the robustest, eventually led him to Bonaparte, whom he took by the coat-collar: Napoleon had the simplicity to hit back[330]. Peltier took Sir James Mackintosh[331] as his second; he was condemned by the courts, and made a new fortune (which he incontinently ran through) by selling the documents relating to his trial.

Blenheim[332] was distasteful to me; I suffered so much the more from an ancient reverse of my country in that I had had to endure the insult of a recent affront: a boat going up the Thames caught sight of me on the bank; seeing a Frenchman, the oarsmen gave cheers; the news had just been received of the naval battle of Aboukir: these successes of the foreigner, which might open the gates of France to me, were hateful to me. Nelson[333], whom I had often met in Hyde Park, wrapped his victories in Lady Hamilton's[334] shawl at Naples, while the lazzaroni played at ball with[Pg 140] human heads. The admiral died gloriously at Trafalgar[335], and his mistress wretchedly at Calais, after losing beauty, youth and fortune. And I, taunted on the Thames with the victory of Aboukir, have seen the palm-trees of Libya edging the calm and deserted sea which was reddened with the blood of my fellow-countrymen.

Stowe Park[336] is famous for its ornamental buildings: I prefer its shades. The cicerone of the place showed us, in a gloomy ravine, the copy of a temple of which I was to admire the original in the dazzling valley of the Cephisus. Beautiful pictures of the Italian school pined in the darkness of some uninhabited rooms, whose shutters were kept closed: poor Raphael, imprisoned in a castle of the ancient Britons, far from the skies of the Farnesina[337]!

At Hampton Court was preserved the collection of portraits of the mistresses of Charles II.: you see how that Prince took things on emerging from a revolution which cut off his father's head, and which was to drive out his House.

At Slough we saw Herschel[338], with his learned sister[339] and his great forty-foot telescope; he was looking for new planets: this made Peltier laugh, who kept to the seven old ones.

We stopped for two days at Oxford. I took pleasure in this republic of Alfred the Great[340]; it represented the privileged liberties and the manners of the literary institutions of the Middle Ages. We hurried through the twenty colleges, the libraries, the pictures, the museum, the botanic garden. I turned over with extreme pleasure, among the manuscripts of Worcester College, a life of the Black Prince, written in French verse by the Prince's herald-at-arms.

Oxford, without resembling them, recalled to my memory the modest Colleges of Dol, Rennes and Dinan. I had translated Gray's[341] Elegy written in a Country Church-yard:

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day[342],

[Pg 141]

which is imitated from Dante's

Squilla di lontano
Che paja'l giorno pianger che si musre[343].



Peltier had hastened to trumpet my translation in his paper. At sight of Oxford I remembered the same poet's Ode on a distant Prospect of Eton College:

Ah, happy hills! ah, pleasing shade!
Ah, fields beloved in vain!
Where once my careless childhood strayed,
A stranger yet to pain!

I feel the gales that from ye blow,
. . . . . .
My weary soul they seem to soothe,
And redolent of joy and youth,
To breathe a second spring.

Say, Father Thames,...
. . . . . .
What idle progeny succeed
To chase the rolling circle's speed
Or urge the flying ball?

Alas! regardless of their doom
The little victims play!
No sense have they of ills to come,
Nor care beyond to-day[344].

Who has not experienced the feelings and regrets here expressed with all the sweetness of the muse? Who has not softened at the recollection of the games, the studies, the loves of his early years? But can they be revived? The pleasures of youth reproduced by the memory are ruins seen by torchlight.


Separated from the Continent by a long war, the English at the end of the last century preserved their national manners and character. There was still but one people, in whose name the sovereign power was wielded by an aristocratic government; only two great friendly classes existed, bound by a common interest: the patrons and the dependents. That jealous class called the bourgeoisie in France, which is beginning to arise in England, was then not known: nothing came between the rich land-owners and the men occupied with their trades. Everything had not yet become machinery in the manufacturing professions, folly in the privileged classes. Along the same pavements[Pg 142] where one now sees dirty faces and men in surtouts, passed little girls in white cloaks, with straw-hats fastened under the chin with a ribbon, a basket on their arm, containing fruit or a book; all kept their eyes lowered, all blushed when one looked at them:

"Britain," says Shakespeare, is "in a great pool, a swan's nest[345]."

Surtouts without coats beneath were so little worn in London in 1793 that a woman who was weeping bitterly over the death of Louis XVI. said to me:

"But, my dear sir, is it true that the poor King was dressed in a surtout when they cut off his head?"

The "gentlemen farmers" had not yet sold their patrimony in order to come and live in London; in the House of Commons they still formed the independent fraction which, acting in opposition to the Ministry, kept up ideas of liberty, order and property. They hunted the fox or shot pheasants in autumn, ate fat geese at Christmas, shouted "Hurrah" for roast beef, grumbled at the present, praised the past, cursed Pitt and the war, which sent up the price of port, and went to bed drunk to begin the same life over again next day. They were firmly convinced that the glory of Great Britain would never fade so long as they sang God save the King, maintained the rotten boroughs, kept the game laws in vigour, and sent hares and partridges to market by stealth under the name of "lions" and "ostriches."

The Anglican clergy was learned, hospitable, and generous; it had received the French clergy with true Christian charity. The University of Oxford printed at its own cost and distributed gratis among the curés a New Testament, according to the Latin Vulgate, with the imprint, "In usum cleri Gallicani in Anglia exulantis." As to the life of the English upper classes, I, a poor exile, saw nothing of it but the outside. On the occasion of receptions at Court or at the Princess of Wales's[346], ladies went by seated sideways in Sedan chairs; their great hoop-petticoats protruded through the door of the chair like altar-hangings. They themselves, on those altars of their waists, resembled madonnas or pagodas. Those fine ladies were the daughters whose mothers the Duc de Guiche and the Duc de Lauzun had adored; those[Pg 143] daughters are, in 1822, the mothers and grandmothers of the little girls who now come to my house to dance in short frocks to the sound of Collinet's clarinet, swift generations of flowers.

William Pitt.

English statesmen.

The England of 1688 was, at the end of the last century, at the apogee of its glory. As a poor emigrant in London, from 1793 to 1800, I heard Pitt, Fox[347], Sheridan[348], Wilberforce[349], Grenville[350], Whitbread[351], Lauderdale[352], Erskine[353]; as a magnificent ambassador in London to-day, in 1822, I could not say how far I am impressed when, instead of the great orators whom I used to admire, I see those get up who were their seconds at the time of my first visit, the pupils in the place of the masters. General ideas have penetrated into that particular society. But the enlightened aristocracy placed at the head of this country since one hundred and forty years will have shown to the world one of the finest and greatest societies that have done honour to mankind[Pg 144] since the Roman patricians. Perhaps some old family, seated in the depths of its county, will recognise the society which I have depicted and regret the time whose loss I here deplore.

In 1792[354] Mr. Burke parted from Mr. Fox. The question at issue was the French Revolution, which Mr. Burke attacked and Mr. Fox defended. Never had the two orators, who till then had been friends, displayed such eloquence. The whole House was moved, and Mr. Fox's eyes were filled with tears when Mr. Burke concluded his speech with these words:

"The right honourable gentleman in the speech he has just made has treated me in every sentence with uncommon harshness ... by declaring a censure upon my whole life, conduct, and opinions. Notwithstanding this great and serious, though on my part unmerited, attack.... I shall not be dismayed; I am not yet afraid to state my sentiments in this House or anywhere else.... I will tell all the world that the Constitution is in danger.... It certainly is indiscretion at any period, but especially at my time of life, to provoke enemies, or to give my friends occasion to desert me; yet if my firm and steady adherence to the British Constitution places me in such a dilemma, I will risk all; and as public duty and public prudence teach me, with my last words exclaim, 'Fly from the French Constitution!'"

Mr. Fox having said that there was "no loss of friends," Mr. Burke exclaimed:

"Yes, there is a loss of friends! I know the price of my conduct; I have done my duty at the price of my friend; our friendship is at an end.... I warn the two right honourable gentlemen who are the great rivals in this House, that whether they hereafter move in the political atmosphere as two flaming meteors, or walk together like brethren hand in hand, to preserve and cherish the British Constitution, to guard against innovation, and to save it from the danger of these new theories[355]."

A memorable time in the world's history!

Edmund Burke.

Mr. Burke, whom I knew towards the close of his life, crushed by the death of his only son, had founded a school for the benefit of the children of the poor Emigrants. I went to see what he called his "nursery." He was amused at the vivacity of the foreign race which was growing up[Pg 145] under his paternal genius. Looking at the careless little exiles hopping, he said to me:

"Our boys could not do that."

And his eyes filled with tears. He thought of his son who had set out for a longer exile.

William Pitt.

Pitt, Fox, and Burke are no more, and the British Constitution has undergone the influence of the "new theories." One must have witnessed the gravity of the parliamentary debates of that time, one must have heard those orators whose prophetic voices seemed to announce a coming revolution, to form an idea of the scene which I am recalling. Liberty, confined within the limits of order, seemed to struggle, at Westminster under the influence of anarchical liberty, which spoke from the still blood-stained rostrum of the Convention.

Mr. Pitt was tall and thin, and wore a sad and mocking look. His utterance was cold, his intonation monotonous, his gestures imperceptible; nevertheless, the lucidity and fluency of his thought, the logic of his arguments, suddenly lighted with flashes of eloquence, raised his talent to something out of the common. I used often to see Mr. Pitt, when he went from his house on foot across St. James's Park, to wait upon the King. George III.[356], on his side, arrived from Windsor after drinking beer out of a pewter pot with the neighbouring farmers; he drove through the ugly court-yards of his ugly palace in a dowdy carriage followed by a few Horse-guards. That was the master of the Kings of Europe, as five or six City merchants are the masters of India. Mr. Pitt, in a black coat, a steel-hilted sword at his side, his hat under his arm, climbed the stairs, taking two or three steps at a time. On his way he found only three or four unemployed Emigrants: casting a scornful look in their direction, he went on, with his nose in the air, and his pale face.

The great financier maintained no order in his own affairs, had no regular hours for his meals or his sleep. Over head and ears in debt, he paid nobody, and could not bring himself to add up a bill. A footman kept house for him. Badly dressed, with no pleasures, no passions, greedy only for power, he scorned honours, and refused to be more than plain William Pitt.

Lord Liverpool, in the month of June last, 1822, took[Pg 146] me to dine at his country-place: when we were crossing Putney Heath, he showed me the little house in which died, a poor man, the son of Lord Chatham, the statesman who had taken Europe into his pay and with his own hand distributed all the millions in the world[357].

George III. survived Mr. Pitt, but he had lost his reason and his sight. Every session, at the opening of Parliament, the ministers read to the silent and moved Houses the bulletin of the King's health. One day I had gone to visit Windsor: a few shillings persuaded an obliging door-keeper to hide me so that I might see the King. The monarch, white-haired and blind, appeared, wandering like King Lear through his palace and groping with his hands along the walls of the apartments. He sat down to a piano, of which he knew the position, and played some portions of a sonata by Handel[358]: a fine ending for Old England!

I began to turn my eyes towards my native land. A great revolution had been operated. Bonaparte had become First Consul and was restoring order by means of despotism; many exiles were returning; the upper Emigration, especially, hastened to go and collect the remnants of its fortune: loyalty was dying at the head, while its heart still beat in the breasts of a few half-naked country-gentlemen. Mrs. Lindsay had left; she wrote to Messrs, de Lamoignon to return; she also invited Madame d'Aguesseau[359], sister of Messrs, de Lamoignon, to cross the Channel. Fontaines wrote to me to finish the printing of the Génie du Christianisme in Paris. While remembering my country, I felt no desire to see it again; gods more powerful than the paternal lares kept me back; I had neither goods nor refuge in France; my motherland had become to me a bosom of stone, a breast without milk: I should not find my mother there, nor my brother, nor my sister Julie. Lucile still lived, but she had married M. de Caud and no longer bore my name; my young "widow" knew me only through a union of a few months, through misfortune and through an absence of eight years.

George III.

Had I been left to myself, I do not know that I should[Pg 147] have had the strength to leave; but I saw my little circle dissolving; Madame d'Aguesseau proposed to take me to Paris: I let myself go. The Prussian Minister procured me a passport in the name of La Sagne, an inhabitant of Neuchâtel. Messrs. Dulau stopped the printing of the Génie du Christianisme, and gave me the sheets that had been set up. I separated the sketches of Atala and René from the Natchez; the remainder of the manuscript I locked into a trunk, of which I entrusted the deposit to my hosts in London, and I set out for Dover with Madame d'Aguesseau: Mrs. Lindsay was awaiting us at Calais.

I return to France.

It was thus that I quitted England in 1800; my heart was differently occupied from the manner in which it is at the time of writing, in 1822. I brought back from the land of exile only dreams and regrets; to-day my head is filled with scenes of ambition, of politics, of grandeurs and Courts, so ill suited to my nature. How many events are heaped up in my present existence! Pass, men, pass; my turn will come. I have unrolled only one-third of my days before your eyes; if the sufferings which I have borne have weighed upon my vernal serenity, now, entering upon a more fruitful age, the germ of René is about to develop, and bitterness of another kind will be blended with my narrative! What shall I not have to tell in speaking of my country; of her revolutions, of which I have already shown the fore-ground; of the Empire and of the gigantic man whom I have seen fall; of the Restoration in which I played so great a part, that Restoration glorious to-day, in 1822, although nevertheless I am able to see it only through I know not what ill-omened mist?

I end this book, which touches the spring of 1800. Arriving at the close of my first career, I see opening before me the writer's career; from a private individual I am about to become a public man; I leave the virginal and silent retreat of solitude to enter the dusty and noisy cross-roads of the world; broad day is about to light up my dreamy life, light to penetrate my kingdom of shadows. I cast a melting glance upon those books which contain my unremembered hours; I seem to be bidding a last farewell to the paternal house; I take leave of the thoughts and illusions of my youth as of sisters, of loving women, whom I leave by the family hearth and whom I shall see no more.

[Pg 148]

We took four hours to cross from Dover to Calais. I stole into my country under the shelter of a foreign name: doubly hidden beneath the obscurity of the Swiss La Sagne and my own, I entered France with the century[360].

[247] This book was written in London between April and September 1822, and revised in February 1845.—T.

[248] Cat. lxv. 9-11.—T.

[249] M. A. Dulau was a Frenchman, and had been a Benedictine at Sorèze College. He emigrated and opened a shop in Wardour Street, London.—B.

[250] OV., Fasti, VI. 772.—T.

[251] Charlotte Suzanne Marie de Bedée (1762-1849), whom Chateaubriand called Caroline, survived him, and died at Dinan on the 28th of April 1849.—B.

[252] Marie Anne Cuppi (1710-1770), known as the Camargo, and a famous dancer, was born in Brussels of a reputed noble Spanish family. She made her first appearance at the Opera in Pans in 1734, and continued to dance there until 1751, when she retired from her profession. Voltaire addressed a piece of verse to her.—T.

[253] David Hume (1711-1776). His History of England, published from 1754 to 1761, goes down to 1688, whence it is continued by Smollett.—T.

[254] Tobias George Smollett (1721-1771). That portion of his complete History of England which embraces the period from the Revolution to the death of George II. is generally treated as carrying on Hume's History, and is printed as a continuation of that work.—T.

[255] Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), author of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.—T.

[256] William Robertson (1721-1793), a "moderate" historian, author of a History of Scotland, a History of Charles V., and a History of America.—T.

[257] John Dryden (1631-1700), Poet-Laureate.—T.

[258] Alexander Pope (1688-1744). His house at Twickenham stood on the site of the modern Pope's Villa, now the property of Mr. Henry Labouchere, M.P. The willow became rotten and was cut down.—T.

[259] The Rev. Hugh Blair (1718-1800), Professor of Rhetoric at Edinburgh University, and author of the Lectures on Rhetoric and a collection of famous Sermons.—T.

[260] Dr. Samuel Johnson ( 1709-1783), author of the Dictionary and the Lives of the English Poets.—T.

[261] Addison and Steele's Spectator ran for nearly two years, from January 1711 to December 1712.—T.

[262] Edmund Burke (1729-1797), the great statesman. His Reflections on the Revolution in France appeared in 1790.—T.

[263] François Duc de Montmorency (circa 1530-1579) was Ambassador to England in 1572, when Shakespeare was still a child.—T.

[264] Charles de Gontaut, Duc de Biron (circa 1562-1602), was Ambassador from Henry IV. to Elizabeth at the close of the sixteenth century. He was beheaded, 31 July 1602, at the Bastille, for conspiring against the King.—T.

[265] Maximilien de Béthune, Duc de Sully (1560-1641), Henry IV.'s great minister.—T.

[266] Elizabeth, Queen of England (1533-1603), reigned from 1558 to 1603, and the plays produced by Shakespeare during her reign include Love's Labours Lost, the Comedy of Errors, King Henry VI., the Two Gentlemen of Verona, the Midsummer Alight's Dream, the Life and Death of King Richard III., Romeo and Juliet, the Life and Death of King Richard II., King John, the Merchant of Venice, King Henry IV., King Henry V., the Taming of the Shrew, the Merry Wives of Windsor, Much Ado about Nothing, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, or, What You Will, Julius Cæsar, All's Well that Ends Well, and Hamlet Prince of Denmark.—T.

[267] James I. King of England and VI. of Scotland (1566-1625). In his reign were produced Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida, Othello, the Moor of Venice, King Lear, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Timon of Athens, Pericles Prince of Tyre, Cymbeline, the Tempest, the Winters Tale, and King Henry VIII.—T.

[268] Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) flourished exactly three centuries before Shakespeare.—T.

[269] Bulstrode Whitelock (1605-1675), a prominent member of the Long Parliament, and author of the Memorials of the English Affairs, in which mention is made of the fact that the Swedish Ambassador complains, in 1656, of the delay caused in the translation of certain articles into Latin through their being entrusted to a blind man.—T.

[270] Jean Baptiste Poquelin (1622-1673), known as Molière, played the principal part in his own comedies. Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, one of the most farcical of these, was produced in 1669.—T.

[271] Tob. xiii. 15.—T.

[272] An Epitaph on the admirable Dramatic Poet William Shakespeare, 1-2.—T.

[273] Michael Angelo Buonarotti (1474-1563) left a number of slight poems in addition to his vast works of sculpture, painting, and architecture.—T.

[274] Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) lost the use of his right leg when eighteen months old.—T.

[275] Sonnets, xxxvii. 3.—T.

[276] Sonnets, lxxi. I, 5-12.—T.

[277] Samuel Richardson (1689-1761), the voluminous author of Pamela, Clarissa Harlowe, and the History of Sir Charles Grandison. Clarissa Harlowe was published in 1748.—T.

[278] Henry Fielding (1707-1754), author of Joseph Andrews, Tom Jones (1749), etc.—T.

[279] Laurence Sterne (1713-1768), author of Tristram Shandy (1759-1767), etc.—T.

[280] Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield had appeared in 1766.—T.

[281] Godwin's Caleb Williams was published in 1794.—T.

[282] Matthew Gregory Lewis (1773-1818), familiarly known as Monk Lewis from the Monk, his principal novel, published in 1795.—T.

[283] Mrs. Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823), née Ward, author of the Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)—T.

[284] Mrs. Anna Lætitia Barbauld (1743-1825), née Aiken, author of Evenings at Horne, etc.—T.

[285] Maria Edgeworth (1766-1849), author of Moral Tales, Castle Rackrent, Tales of Fashionable Life, etc., etc.—T.

[286] Madame Fanny d'Arblay (1752-1840), née Burney, author of Evelina (1778), Cecilia, and an interesting Diary and Letters.—T.

[287] Florio's Montaigne, Booke III. chap. IX.: Of Vanitie.—T.

[288] Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749-1832) published his tragedy of Goetz von Berlichingen in 1773; Sir Walter Scott's translation appeared in 1799.—T.

[289] William Cowper (1731-1800), author of the Task.—T.

[290] Robert Burns (1759-1796), the Ayrshire ploughman-poet.—T.

[291] Thomas Moore (1779-1852), the popular Irish poet, had published his translation of Anacreon at the time of which Chateaubriand writes. His Irish Melodies began to appear in 1807, and Lalla Rookh was published in 1817.—T.

[292] Thomas Campbell (1777-1844) had published his Pleasures of Hope in 1799.—T.

[293] Samuel Rogers (1763-1855), the banker-poet, was known at this time by the Pleasures of Memory, published in 1792.—T.

[294] George Crabbe (1754-1832) had published the Library and the Village.—T.

[295] William Wordsworth (1770-1850), Poet-Laureate (1843). The Lyrical Ballads, composed with Coleridge, whom Chateaubriand omits to mention, were published in 1798.—T.

[296] Robert Southey (1774-1843), Poet-Laureate (1813). Wat Tyler and Joan of Arc both appeared before the close of the eighteenth century.—T.

[297] James Henry Leigh Hunt (1784-1859) had not begun to write at this time.—T.

[298] James Sheridan Knowles (1784-1862), author of the Hunchback and other once much admired plays.—T.

[299] Henry Richard Vassall Fox, third Lord Holland (1773-1840), Lord Privy Seal in the ministry of his nephew Charles James Fox (1806), and author of some translations from the Spanish poets.—T.

[300] Canning was the author of a number of satirical poems, many of which appeared in the Anti-Jacobin.—T.

[301] John Wilson Croker (1780-1857), Secretary to the Admiralty from 1809 to 1829, and one of the founders of the Quarterly Review (1809) and of the Athenæum Club (1824). He published occasional poems on British victories, such as Trafalgar and Talavera.—T.

[302] William Mason (1724-1797), a minor poet, author of the English Garden and of two tragedies, Elfrida and Caractacus.—T.

[303] Dr. Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), grandfather of Charles Darwin, and author of the Botanic Garden and the Zoonomia, or the Laws of Organic Life.—T.

[304] James Beattie (1735-1803). The Minstrel appeared in 1774 to 1777.—T.

[305] Hours of Idleness, "When I roved a young Highlander," 1-4.—T.

[306] Hours of Idleness, "Lines written beneath the Elm in the Churchyard of Harrow," 1-4, 17-18, 24-25, 30, 33-34—T.

[307] Arthur Young (1741-1820), a famous writer on agriculture, and Secretary to the Board of Agriculture on its establishment in 1793.—T.

[308] Arthur Young, Travels in France during the Years 1787, 1788, 1789. The author passed by Combourg Castle on the 1st of September 1788.—T.

[309] Martyrs, book IV.—T.

[310] Ad Familiares, IV. 5: "In my return out of Asia, as I was sailing from Ægina towards Megara, I amused myself with contemplating the circumjacent countries. Behind me lay ‚Ægina, before me Megara; on my right I saw Piræus, and on my left Corinth. These cities, once so flourishing and magnificent, now presented nothing to my view but a sad spectacle of desolation" (Melmoth's translation).—T.

[311] Pierre Jean de Béranger (1780-1857), the national French song-writer. The extract quoted occurs in the notes to Béranger's song, À M. de Chateaubriand (September 1831), which is quoted in a later volume.—T.

[312] Abel François Villemain (1790-1870), perpetual secretary of the French Academy from 1835, and author of the notice of Lord Byron in the Biographie universelle, from which the above sentences are quoted.—T.

[313] Byron spent his childhood at Aberdeen.—T.

[314] Macpherson's Ossian was published in 1760.—T.

[315] Goethe's Sorrows of Werther appeared in 1774.—T.

[316] Rousseau's posthumous work, published in 1782.—T.

[317] By Bernardin de Saint-Pierre (1784).—T.

[318] Chateaubriand cannot have read the Age of Bronze: it is true that this poem was written in 1823, at Genoa, a year later than the earlier portion of these remarks. In Stanza XVI. of the Age of Bronze, or Carmen Seculare et Annus haud Mirabilis, treating of the Congress of Verona (1822), occur the following lines:

There Metternich, power's foremost parasite,
Cajoles; there Wellington forgets to fight;
There Chateaubriand forms new books of martyrs;
And subtle Greeks intrigue for stupid Tartars.

And Byron appends the following note:

"Monsieur de Chateaubriand, who has not forgotten the author in the minister, receives a handsome compliment at Verona from a literary sovereign: 'Ah! Monsieur C., are you related to that Chateaubriand who-who-who has written something?' (écrit quelque chose!). It is said that the author of Atala repented him for a moment of his legitimacy."—T.

[319] De la Littérature considérée dans ses rapports avec l'état moral et politique des nations, by Madame de Staël. As this book appeared in 1800, before Atala and the Génie du Christianisme, Madame de Staël may well be excused for not mentioning Chateaubriand's name in it.—B.

[320] Teresa Contessa Guiccioli (1799-1873), née Gamba, who became famous by her liaison with Lord Byron. In 1831, widowed of both her husband and Lord Byron, she married the Marquis de Boissy, who had been an attache to Chateaubriand's embassy in Rome. The Countess Guiccioli published her Recollections of Lord Byron in 1863.—B.

[321] Anne Isabella Lady Byron (1792-1860), née Milbanke, daughter of Sir Ralph Milbanke-Noel, and heiress of her mother, Judith Noel, Viscountess Wentworth. She married Lord Byron on the 2nd of January 1815, and left him in January 1816, soon after the birth of their daughter Augusta Ada.—T.

[322] Alan IV. Duke of Brittany (d. 1112), known as Alan Rufus, son-in-law and nephew of William the Conqueror, was created Earl of Richmond and founded the borough of Richmond or Rich Mount.—T.

[323] See Domesday Book.—Author's Note.

[324] Charles II. King of England (1630-1685) created the Duchy of Richmond in favour of...

[325] Charles Lennox, first Duke of Richmond (peerage of England) and Lennox (peerage of Scotland) in 1675. He was the illegitimate son of the King and of Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth and Duchesse d'Aubigny. This last title of Aubigny was re-confirmed to the fifth duke by King Louis XVIII. in 1816.—T.

[326] Alice Perrers (d. 1400), married later to William de Windsor, became Edward III.'s mistress in 1366. She stole the rings from off his fingers when he was dying.—T.

[327] La Harpe, Le Triomphe de la Religion, ou le Roi martyr:

"The viler the oppressor, the more infamous the slave."—T.

[328] Queen Anne Boleyn (1507-1536), second wife of Henry VIII., executed on Tower Hill for adultery.—T.

[329] William Douglas, fourth Duke of Queensberry, K.T. (1724-1810), known as "Old Q.," the notorious veteran debauchee.—T.

[330] Peltier attacked Bonaparte in the Ambigu, which he published in London at the end of 1802. The First Consul, then at peace with England, asked for his expulsion, or at least his indictment before a British jury. Peltier was brought before the Court of King's Bench, was brilliantly defended by Sir James Mackintosh, and was sentenced to pay a trifling fine (21 February 1803).—B.

[331] Sir James Mackintosh (1765-1832) abandoned medicine for the law. He received an Indian judgeship in 1804, and in 1811 returned to England, entering Parliament in 1812. He was the author of some masterly writings, including the famous Dissertation on Ethics in the Encyclopædia Britannica.—T.

[332] Blenheim was founded in 1704 and bestowed by Parliament on John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough, in recognition of his military and diplomatic services. It was named after the signal victory at Blenheim over the French and Bavarian troops (2 August 1704).—T.

[333] Admiral Horatio Viscount Nelson (1758-1805) destroyed the French fleet in the battle known indifferently as the Battle of Aboukir or the Nile (1 August 1798). For this he was created Baron Nelson by the King of England and Duke of Bronte by the King of Naples.—T.

[334] Emma Lady Hamilton (1763-1815), née Lyon or Hart, the beautiful mistress of Charles Greville and of his uncle, Sir William Hamilton, foster-brother to George IV., and Minister at Naples from 1764 to 1800. Sir William Hamilton married Emma Hart in 1791. Her intimacy with Nelson began in 1793, and their daughter Horatia was born in 1801.—T.

[335] 21 October 1805.—T.

[336] At that time the residence of the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos.—T.

[337] The Farnesina Palace, in Rome, where Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520) died.—T.

[338] Sir William Herschel (1738-1822), the famous astronomer, had discovered the planet Uranus in 1781.—T.

[339] Caroline Herschel (1750-1848), Sir William's sister, assisted him in recording his observations.—T.

[340] King Alfred (849-901), known as the Great, is said to have founded the University of Oxford in 872.—T.

[341] Thomas Gray (1716-1771).—T.

[342] Elegy, I.—T.

[343] Purgatorio, viii. 5.—B.

[344] Ode, 11-15, 18-21, 28-30, 51-55.—T.

[345] Cymbeline, iii. 4.—T.

[346] Queen Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (1768-1821) married the Prince of Wales, afterwards King George IV., in 1795. The Prince and Princess of Wales separated by mutual consent in 1796, after the birth of Princess Charlotte.—T.

[347] Charles James Fox (1749-1806) entered Parliament for Midhurst in 1768; held office under North, but left him and joined Burke in his opposition to the American War; was Foreign Secretary in the Rockingham Ministry; joined North's short-lived Coalition Ministry of 1783; and during the next fourteen years distinguished himself as the great and eloquent opponent of Pitt's Government. On Pitt's death, in 1806, he again came into office as Foreign Secretary, but himself died shortly after.—T.

[348] Richard Brinsley Butler Sheridan (1751-1816) had produced all his plays and was owner of Drury Lane Theatre when he entered Parliament in 1780 under Fox's patronage. In 1782 he became Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs in Rockingham's Ministry. His two most famous speeches were those impeaching Warren Hastings in 1787 and supporting the French Revolution in 1794.—T.

[349] William Wilberforce (1759-1833), the antagonist of the slave-trade, entered Parliament as Member for Hull in 1780. He first introduced his Abolition Bill in 1789; it was passed by the House of Commons in 1801 and by the House of Lords in 1807.—T.

[350] William Wyndham, first Lord Grenville (1759-1834), entered Parliament in 1782. In 1789 he was Speaker of the House of Commons. In 1790 Pitt made him Home Secretary and a peer; in 1791 he was Foreign Secretary, and Premier from 1806 to 1807.—T.

[351] Samuel Whitbread (1758-1815) entered Parliament in 1790 as Member for Bedford, and attached himself to Fox, to the maintenance of peace, and to the cause of the Princess of Wales. He cut his throat on the 6th of July 1815.—T.

[352] James Maitland, eighth Earl of Lauderdale, K.T. (1759-1839), entered the House of Commons in 1780 for Newport, and supported Fox. In 1789 he succeeded to the Scottish peerage and was elected a representative peer in 1790, and in 1806 created a peer of Great Britain and Ireland. He veered from Whig to Tory over the Queen Caroline question, and received the Thistle in reward.—T.

[353] Thomas first Lord Erskine (1750-1823) was Attorney-General to the Prince of Wales (1783), Chancellor of the Duchy of Cornwall (1802), and in 1806 became Lord Chancellor and a peer.—T.

[354] This should be 1791. Vide note infra.—T.

[355] 21 April 1791, in the course of an excursion on the French Revolution during the debate on the Quebec Government Bill.—T.

[356] George III., King of England (1738-1820). His frequent fits of insanity began in 1810.—T.

[357] Pitt died at his house at Putney on the 23rd of January 1806.—T.

[358] George Frederick Handel (1684-1759), a German musician who attained and still maintains great vogue in England.—T.

[359] Marie Catherine Marouise d'Aguesseau (1759-1849), née de Lamoignon, married to the Marquis d'Aguesseau, who became a senator of the Empire (1805) and a peer of the Restoration (1814).—B.

[360] 8 May 1800.—B.

[Pg 149]
[Pg 151]



BOOK I[361]

My stay at Dieppe—Two phases of society—The position of my Memoirs—The year 1800—Aspect of France—I arrive in Paris—Changes in society—The year 1801—The MercureAtala—Madame de Beaumont and her circle—Summer at Savigny—The year 1802—Talma—The year 1803—The Génie du Christianisme—Failure prophesied—Cause of its final success—Defects in the work.

You know that I have often moved from spot to spot while writing these Memoirs; that I have often described those spots, spoken of the feelings with which they inspired me, and recalled my memories, thus mingling the history of my thoughts and of my wandering habitations with the history of my life.

You see where I am living now. Walking this morning on the cliffs behind Dieppe Castle, I saw the postern which communicates with the cliffs by means of a bridge thrown over a ditch: Madame de Longueville[362] escaped by that way from Queen Anne of Austria[363]; embarking secretly at the Havre, she landed at Rotterdam, and joined the Maréchal de Turenne[364] at Stenay. The great captain's laurels were no[Pg 152] longer innocent, and the fair but caustic outlaw treated the culprit none too well.

Madame de Longueville, who had recovered from the Hôtel de Rambouillet, the Throne of Versailles, and the Municipality of Paris, became smitten with the author of the Maximes[365], and was as faithful to him as she was able. The latter lives less by his "thoughts" than by the friendship of Madame de La Fayette[366], Madame de Sévigné, the verses of La Fontaine, and the love of Madame de Longueville: see whither illustrious attachments lead.

The Princesse de Condé[367], when on the point of death, said to Madame de Brienne[368]:

"My dear friend, acquaint that poor wretch who is at Stenay of the state in which you see me, and let her learn how to die."

Fine words; but the Princess forgot that she herself had been loved by Henry IV., and that, when her husband carried her to Brussels, she had wanted to rejoin the Bearnese, "to escape at night by a window, and then to do thirty or forty leagues on horse-back;" she was at that time a "poor wretch" of seventeen.

Descending the cliff, I found myself on the high-road to Paris; it ascends swiftly on leaving Dieppe. On the right, on the rising slope of a bank, stands the wall of a cemetery; by the side of that wall was fixed the wheel of a rope-walk. Two rope-spinners, walking backwards in line, and swinging from leg to leg, were softly singing together. I listened: they had come to that couplet of the Vieux caporal, a fine poetic lie, which has brought us to our present state:

Qui là-bas sanglote et regarde?
Eh! c'est la veuve du tambour, etc[369].

[Pg 153]

Those men uttered the refrain:

Conscrits au pas; ne pleurez pas
. . . Marchez au pas, au pas[370],

in a voice so manly and so pathetic that the tears came to my eyes. Whilst themselves keeping step and twisting their hemp, they appeared to be spinning out the old corporal's dying moments: there was something, I cannot say what, in that glory peculiar to Béranger, thus lonesomely revealed by two sailors singing a soldier's death within view of the sea.


The cliff reminded me of a monarchical greatness, the road of a plebeian celebrity: I compared in thought the men at the two extremities of society, and I asked myself to which of those eras I should have preferred to belong. When the present shall have disappeared like the past, which of those two renowns will the most attract the notice of posterity?

And yet, if facts were all, if, in history, the value of names did not counterbalance the value of events, what a difference between my time and the time which elapsed between the deaths of Henry IV. and Mazarin[371]! What are the troubles of 1648 compared to that Revolution which has devoured the old world, of which it, the Revolution, will die perhaps, leaving behind it neither an old nor a new state of society? Had not I to paint in my Memoirs pictures of incomparably higher importance than the scenes related by the Duc de La Rochefoucauld[372]? At Dieppe itself, what was the careless and voluptuous idol of seduced and rebellious Paris by the side of Madame la Duchesse de Berry[373]? The salvoes of artillery which announced to the sea the presence of the royal widow resound no longer[374]; the flattery of powder and smoke has left nothing upon the shore save the moaning of the waves.

[Pg 154]

The two daughters of Bourbon, Anne Geneviève and Marie Caroline, have departed; the two sailors singing the song of the plebeian poet will plunge into the abyss; Dieppe no longer contains myself: it was another "I," an "I" of my early days, now past, that formerly inhabited these regions, and that "I" has succumbed, for our days die before ourselves. Here you have seen me, a sub-lieutenant in the Navarre Regiment, drilling recruits on the pebbles; you have seen me here again, exiled under Bonaparte; you shall find me here again when the days of July surprise me in this place. Behold me here once more; I here resume my pen to continue my confessions.

In order that we may understand one another, it is well to cast a glance at the present state of my Memoirs.


What happens to every contractor working on a large scale has happened to me: I have, in the first place, built the outer wings of my edifice, and then, removing and restoring my scaffoldings in different positions, I have raised the stone and the mortar for the intermediate structures: it used to take several centuries to complete a Gothic cathedral. If Heaven grant me life, the work will be finished by stages of my various years; the architect, always the same, will have changed only in age. For the rest, it is a punishment to preserve one's intellectual being intact, imprisoned in a worn-out material covering. St Augustine, feeling that his clay was falling from him, said to God, "Be Thou a tabernacle unto my soul," and to men he said, "When you shall have known me in this book, pray for me."

Thirty-six years must be reckoned between the things which commence my Memoirs and those upon which I am now engaged. How shall I resume with any spirit the narration of a subject formerly replete for me with passion and fire, when it is no longer with living beings that I am about to converse, when it becomes a question of arousing lifeless effigies from the depths of Eternity, of descending into a funeral vault there to play at life? Am I not myself almost dead? Have my opinions not changed? Do I see objects from the same point of view? Have not the general and prodigious events which have accompanied or followed the personal events that so greatly perturbed me diminished their importance in the eyes of the world, as well as in my own eyes? Whosoever prolongs his career feels his hours[Pg 155] grow cold; he no longer finds on the morrow the interest which he felt on the eve. When I seek in my thoughts, there are names and even persons that escape my memory, and yet they may have caused my heart to throb: vanity of man forgetting and forgotten! It is not enough to say to one's dreams, to love, "Revive!" for them to come to life again: the realm of shadows can be opened only with the golden bough, and it needs a young hand to pluck it.

Aucuns venants des Lares patries[375].

Aspect of France in 1800.

Imprisoned for eight years in Great Britain, I had seen only the English world, so different, especially at that time, from the European world. As the Dover packet approached Calais, in the spring of 1800, my gaze preceded me on shore. I was struck by the needy aspect of the country: scarce a few masts were to be seen in the harbour; inhabitants in carmagnole jackets and cotton caps came along the jetty to meet us: the conquerors of the Continent made themselves known to me by a clatter of wooden shoes. When we came alongside, the gendarmes and custom-house officers leapt on deck to inspect our luggage and our passports: in France a man is always suspected, and the first thing we perceive in our business, as well as in our amusements, is a cocked hat or a bayonet.

Mrs. Lindsay was waiting for us at the inn; the next day we set out with her for Paris: Madame d'Aguesseau, a young kinswoman of hers, and I. On the road one saw hardly any men; blackened and sun-burnt women, bare-footed, their heads bare or covered with a kerchief, were tilling the fields: one would have taken them for slaves. I ought rather to have been struck by the independence and virility of that land where the women wielded the mattock while the men wielded the musket. The villages looked as though a conflagration had passed over them; they were wretched and half demolished: mud or dust on every hand, dunghills and rubbish-heaps.

To the right and left of the road appeared overthrown country mansions; of their levelled thickets there remained only some squared trunks, upon which children played. One saw battered enclosure walls, deserted churches, from which the dead had been expelled, steeples without bells, cemeteries without crosses, headless saints that had been stoned[Pg 156] in their niches. The walls were smeared with those Republican inscriptions that had already grown old: LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY, OR DEATH. Sometimes they had attempted to efface the word DEATH, but the red or black letters showed through the coating of lime. This nation, which seemed on the point of extinction, was commencing a new world, like those peoples which issued from the dusk of the savagery and destruction of the Middle Ages.

Approaching the capital, between Écouen and Paris, the elms had not been cut down; I was struck by those fine roadside avenues, unknown on English soil. France was as new to me, as in former days, the forests of America. Saint-Denis was laid bare, its windows were broken; the rain penetrated into its grass-grown naves, and there were no more tombs: I have since seen there the bones of Louis XVI., the Cossacks, the coffin of the Duc de Berry, and the catafalque of Louis XVIII.

Auguste de Lamoignon came to meet Mrs. Lindsay. His well-appointed carriage formed a contrast with the clumsy carts, the dirty, broken-down diligences, drawn by hacks harnessed with ropes, which I had met since leaving Calais. Mrs. Lindsay lived at the Ternes. I was put down on the Chemin de la Révolte, and made my way to my hostess' house across the fields. I stayed with her for four-and-twenty hours; I there met a great fat Monsieur Lasalle, whom she employed in arranging emigrant business. She sent to inform M. de Fontanes of my arrival; in eight-and-forty hours he came to fetch me in a little room which Mrs. Lindsay had hired for me at an inn almost at her door.

Paris once more.

It was a Sunday: we entered Paris on foot by the Barrière de l'Étoile at about three o'clock in the afternoon. We have no idea to-day of the impression which the excesses of the Revolution had made on men's minds in Europe, and chiefly among those absent from France during the Terror: I felt literally as though I were about to descend into Hell. I had, it is true, witnessed the beginnings of the Revolution; but the great crimes had then not yet been accomplished, and I had remained under the yoke of subsequent events as these had been related in the midst of the peaceful and orderly society of England.

Proceeding under my false name, and convinced that I was compromising my friend Fontanes, to my great[Pg 157] astonishment, on entering the Champs-Élysées, I heard the sound of violins, horns, clarionets and drums. I saw public balls, at which men and women were dancing; farther on, the Tuileries Palace appeared to my eyes, against the background of its two great clumps of chestnut-trees. As for the Place Louis XV.[376], it was bare: it had the decay, the melancholy and deserted look of an old amphitheatre; one crossed it quickly; I was quite surprised to hear no moans; I was afraid of stepping in the blood of which not a trace remained; my eyes could not tear themselves from the place in the sky where the instrument of death had raised its head; I thought I saw my brother and my sister-in-law in their shirts, standing, bound, beside the blood-stained machine: it was there that the head of Louis XVI. had fallen. In spite of the gaiety in the streets the church-steeples were dumb; it seemed to me as though I had returned on the day of infinite sorrow, on Good Friday.

M. de Fontanes lived in the Rue Saint-Honoré, near Saint-Roch. He took me home with him, introduced me to his wife, and then took me to his friend, M. Joubert, where I found a temporary shelter: I was received like a traveller of whom one has heard speak.

The next day I went to the police, under the name of La Sagne, to lodge my foreign passport and to receive in exchange a permit to remain in Paris, which was renewed from month to month. In a few days I hired an entre-sol in the Rue de Lille, on the side of the Rue des Saints-Pères.

I had brought with me the Génie du Christianisme and the first sheets of the work, printed in London. I was directed to M. Migneret[377], a worthy man, who consented to recommence the interrupted printing, and to advance me something to live on. Not a soul knew of my Essai sur les révolutions, notwithstanding what M. Lemierre had written to me. I unearthed the old philosopher, Delisle de Sales, who had just published his Mémoire en faveur de Dieu, and went to call on Ginguené. He lodged in the Rue de Grenelle-Saint-Germain, near the Hôtel du Bon La Fontaine. His porter's box still bore this inscription:

"Here we honour each other with the title of citizen and say thee and thou. Shut the door behind thee, if you please."

[Pg 158]

I went up: M. Ginguené, who hardly recognised me, spoke to me from the height of the grandeur of all that he was and had been. I humbly retired, and did not endeavour to renew such disproportionate relations.

I continued at the bottom of my heart to cherish regretful memories of England; I had lived so long in that country that I had adopted its habits: I could not reconcile myself to the dirt of our houses, our staircases, our tables, to our uncleanliness, our noisiness, our familiarity, the indiscretion of our loquacity; I was English in manners, in taste, and to a certain degree in thought; for, if, as it is said, Lord Byron sometimes drew inspiration for his Childe-Harold from René it is also true to say that my eight years' residence in Great Britain, preceded by a journey in America, together with my long habit of talking, writing, and even thinking in English, had necessarily influenced the turn and expression of my ideas. But gradually I came to relish the good-fellowship for which we are distinguished, that charming, swift, easy commerce of thought, that utter absence of arrogance and prejudice, that heedlessness of fortune and names, that natural level of all ranks, that equality of mind which makes French society incomparable and redeems our faults: after a few months' residence among us, one feels that he can no longer live except in Paris.


I locked myself into my entre-sol and gave myself up entirely to work. In my intervals of rest, I went and reconnoitred in various directions. The Circus in the middle of the Palais-Royal had been filled up; Camille Desmoulins no longer held forth in the open air; one no longer saw bands of prostitutes going round, virginal attendants of the goddess Reason, and walking under the conduct of David, costumier and corybant. At the outlet of each alley, in the galleries, one met men crying sights: "galanty shows," "peep-shows," "physical cabinets," "strange animals;" in spite of all the heads that had been cut off, idlers still remained. From the cellars of the Palais-Marchand came bursts of music, accompanied by the double diapason of the big drums: it was perhaps there that dwelt the giants whom I sought, and whom immense events must necessarily have produced. I went down: an underground ball was jigging amidst seated spectators drinking beer. A little hunchback, perched on a table, played the violin[Pg 159] and sang a hymn to Bonaparte, which ended with these lines:

Par ses vertus, par ses attraits.
Il méritait d'être leur père[378]!

He was given a sou after the ritornello. Such is the ground-work of the human society which bore Alexander and was then bearing Napoleon.

Changes in Paris.

I visited the places where I had taken the reveries of my early years. In my old-time convents, the club-men had been driven out after the monks. Wandering behind the Luxembourg, my footsteps led me to the Chartreuse: its demolition was being completed. The Place des Victoires and the Place Vendôme mourned the missing effigies of the Great King; the community-house of the Capuchins was sacked: the inner cloisters served as a retreat for Robertson's[379] dissolving views. At the Cordeliers, I inquired in vain for the Gothic nave where I had seen Marat and Danton in their prime. On the Quai des Théatins[380], the church of that Order[381] had been turned into a café and a rope-dancers' theatre. At the door was a coloured poster representing acrobats dancing on the tight-rope, with, in big letters, ADMISSION FREE. I elbowed my way among the crowd into that perfidious cave: I had no sooner taken my seat than waiters entered, napkin in hand, shouting like mad-men—

"Give your orders, gentlemen, give your orders!"

I did not wait to be told a second time, and I pitiably made my escape amid the jeering cries of the assembly, because I had no money wherewith to "give my orders."


The Revolution has become divided into three parts which have nothing in common between them: the Republic, the Empire, and the Restoration; those three different worlds, each as completely finished as the others, seem separated by centuries. Each of these three worlds has had its fixed principle: the principle of the Republic was equality,[Pg 160] that of the Empire force, that of the Restoration liberty. The Republican era is the most original, and has made the deepest impression because it has been unique in history: never had there been seen, nor ever will be again, physical order produced by moral disorder, unity issuing from the government of the multitude, the scaffold substituted for the law and obeyed in the name of humanity.

In 1801, I assisted at the second social transformation. The jumble was a strange one: by an agreed travesty, a host of people became persons who they were not; each carried his assumed or borrowed name hung round his neck, as the Venetians at the carnival carry a little mask in their hand to show that they are masked. One was reputed an Italian or a Spaniard, another a Prussian or a Dutchman: I was a Swiss. The mother passed for her son's aunt, the father for his daughter's uncle; the owner of an estate was only its steward. This movement reminded me, in an opposite sense, of the movement of 1789, when the monks and religious issued from their cloisters and the old society was invaded by the new: the latter, after supplanting the former, was supplanted in its turn.

Nevertheless, the orderly world commenced to spring up again; people left the cafés and the streets to return to their houses; they gathered together the remains of their family; they readjusted their inheritance by collecting its remnants, as, after a battle, the troop is beaten and the losses counted. Such churches as remained whole were opened: I had the happiness to sound the trumpet at the gate of the Temple. One distinguished the old republican generations which were retiring, imperial generations which were coming to the front Generals of the Requisition[382], poor, rude of speech, stern of mien, who, from all their campaigns, had brought back nothing save wounds and ragged coats, passed officers glittering with the gold lace of the Consular Army. The returned Emigrant chatted quietly with the assassins of some of his kindred. The porters, all great partisans of the late M. de Robespierre, regretted the sights on the Place Louis XV., where they cut off the heads of "women who," my own concierge in the Rue de Lille told me, "had necks white as chicken's flesh."

The men of September, changing their names and their[Pg 161] districts, sold baked potatoes at the street-corners; but they were often obliged to pack off, because the people, recognising them, upset their stalls and tried to kill them. The Revolutionaries who had waxed rich began to move into the great mansions of the Faubourg Saint-Germain that had been sold. On the road to become barons and counts, the Jacobins spoke only of the horrors of 1793, of the necessity for chastising the proletarians and putting down the excesses of the populace. Bonaparte, placing the Brutuses and Scævolas in his police, was preparing to bedizen them with ribands, to befoul them with titles, to force them to betray their opinions and dishonour their crimes. Amid all this, sprang up a vigorous generation sown in blood and growing up to shed none save that of the foreigner: from day to day, the metamorphosis was accomplished which turned Republicans into Imperialists and the tyranny of all into the despotism of one.


My letter to Madame de Staël.

While occupied in curtailing, expanding, altering the sheets of the Génie du Christianisme, I was driven by necessity to busy myself with other work. M. de Fontanes was then editing the Mercure de France: he suggested that I should write in that paper. These combats were not without a certain danger: the only way to touch politics was through literature, and half a word was enough for Bonaparte's police. A singular circumstance, which prevented me from sleeping, lengthened my hours and gave me more leisure. I had bought two turtle-doves; they cooed a great deal: I enclosed them in vain at night in my little travelling-trunk; they only cooed the more. In one of the moments of sleeplessness which they caused me, I bethought myself of writing for the Mercure a letter to Madame de Staël[383]. This freak caused me suddenly to emerge from the shade; a few pages in a newspaper did what my two thick volumes on the Revolution had been unable to do. My head showed a little above obscurity.

This first success seemed to foretell that which was to follow. I was engaged in correcting the proofs of Atala (an episode contained, as was René, in the Génie du Christianisme), when I perceived that some sheets were missing. I[Pg 162] was seized with fright: I thought they had stolen my novel, assuredly a very ill-founded dread, for no one thought that I was worth robbing. Be this as it may, I determined to publish Atala separately, and I declared my resolution in a letter addressed to the Journal des Débats[384] and the Publiciste.

Before venturing to expose the work to the light of day, I showed it to M. de Fontanes: he had already read fragments of it in manuscript in London. When he came to Father Aubry's speech beside Atala's deathbed, he said brusquely, in a rough voice:

"That's not right; it's bad: write that over again!"

I went away disconsolate; I did not feel capable of doing better. I wanted to throw the whole thing into the fire; I spent from eight till eleven o'clock in the evening in my entresol, seated at my table, with my forehead resting on the back of my hands opened and spread out over my paper. I was angry with Fontanes; I was angry with myself; I did not even try to write, so great was my despair of self. Towards midnight, I heard the voice of my turtle-doves, softened by distance and rendered more plaintive by the prison in which I kept them confined: inspiration returned to me; I then and there wrote the speech of the missionary, without a single interlineation, without erasing a word, just as it remained and as it stands to-day. With a beating heart, I took it in the morning to Fontanes, who exclaimed:

"That's it, that's right! I told you you could do better!"

The noise which I have made in this world dates from the publication of Atala.[385] I ceased to live for myself and my public career commenced. After so many military successes, a literary success seemed a prodigy: people were hungering for it. The uncommon nature of the work added to the surprise of the crowd. Atala, falling into the midst of the literature of the Empire, of that classic school whose very sight, like that of a rejuvenated old woman, inspired boredom, was a sort of production of an unknown kind. People did not know whether to class it among the "monstrosities" or among the "beauties:" was it a Gorgon or a Venus? The assembled academicians discoursed[Pg 163] learnedly upon its sex and its nature, in the same way as they made reports upon the Génie du Christianisme. The old century rejected, the new welcomed it.


I publish Atala.

Atala became so popular that, with the Brinvilliers[386] she went to swell Curtius' collection[387]. The wagoners' inns were decorated with red, green and blue prints representing Chactas, Father Aubry, and the daughter of Simaghan. My characters were displayed in wax, in wooden boxes, on the quays, as images of the Virgin and the saints are displayed at the fair. In a boulevard theatre, I saw my savage woman, in a headdress of cock's feathers, talking to a savage of her own kind of "the soul of solitude," in a way that brought the sweat to my brow with confusion. At the Variétés, they played a piece in which a little girl and a little boy, leaving their boarding-school, went off by track-boat to get married in a small town; as, on landing, they spoke with a wild look of nothing but crocodiles, storks and forests, their parents thought that they had gone mad. I was overwhelmed with parodies, caricatures and ridicule. The Abbé Morellet, in order to confound me, took his maid-servant on his knees and was unable to hold the young virgin's feet in his hands, as Chactas held Atala's feet during the storm: if the Chactas of the Rue d'Anjou had had his portrait painted in this attitude, I would have forgiven him his criticism.

All this bustle served to increase the fuss attendant upon my appearance. I became the fashion. My head was turned: I was unaccustomed to the delights of self-love and became intoxicated with it I loved fame like a woman, like a first love. And yet, coward that I was, my affright equalled my passion: I was a conscript and stood the fire badly. My natural timidity, the doubts I have always had of my talent, made me humble in the midst of my triumphs. I shrank from my splendour; I wandered in lonely places, trying to extinguish the halo with which my head was crowned. In the evenings, with my hat thrust down over my eyes, lest the great man should be recognised, I went[Pg 164] to a public smoking-room to read my praises in secret, in some small, unknown paper. Alone with my renown, I prolonged my walks as far as the steam-pump at Chaillot[388], on the same road where I had suffered so much on going to Court: I was no more at my ease with my new honours. When my superiority dined for thirty sous in the Latin Quarter it swallowed its food the wrong way, troubled as it was by the staring of which it thought itself the object. I watched myself, I said to myself:

"And yet it is you, extraordinary being, eating like any one else!"

In the Champs-Élysées was a café which I liked because of some nightingales which hung in a cage inside the coffee-room; Madame Rousseau, who kept the place, knew me by sight, without knowing who I was. At ten o'clock in the evening, they used to bring me a cup of coffee, and I looked for Atala in the Petites-Affiches, to the sound of the voices of my half-dozen Philomelas. Alas! I soon saw poor Madame Rousseau die; our society of the nightingales and of the fair Indian who sang, "Sweet habit of loving, so needful to life!" lasted but a moment.

If success had no power to prolong in me this stupid infatuation of vanity, or to pervert my reason, it was attended with dangers of another kind: those dangers increased on the appearance of the Génie du Christianisme and on my resignation after the death of the Duc d'Enghien. Then came thronging around me, together with the young women who cry over novels, the crowd of Christian women, and those other noble enthusiasts whose breast beats high at the sight of an honourable action. The young girls of thirteen or fourteen were the most dangerous; for, knowing neither what they want nor what they want with you, they enticingly mingle your image with a multitude of fables, ribbons and flowers. Jean Jacques Rousseau speaks of the declarations which he received on the publication of the Nouvelle Héloïse[389] and of the conquests which were offered him: I do not know if empires would have been thus yielded to me, but I do know that I was buried beneath a heap of scented notes; if those notes were not, to-day, notes from so many grand-mothers, I should be puzzled how to relate, with becoming[Pg 165] modesty, how they fought for a line in my hand, how they picked up an envelope addressed by me, and how, blushing and with lowered head, they hid it beneath a flowing veil of long tresses. If I have not been spoilt, it must be because my nature is good.

And become the fashion.

Whether from genuine politeness or inquisitive weakness, I sometimes went so far as to think myself obliged to call and thank the unknown ladies who signed the flattery they addressed to me with their names. One day, I found a bewitching creature under her mother's wing, on a fourth floor, where I have never set foot since. A fair Pole received me in silk-hung rooms; half-odalisk, half-Valkyrie, she looked like a snowdrop with its white flowers, or like one of those graceful heather-blooms which replace the other daughters of Flora when the season of the latter has not yet come or has passed: that female chorus, varied in age and beauty, was the realisation of my former sylph. The two-fold effect upon my vanity and my feelings was so much the more to be dreaded inasmuch as, until then, excepting one serious attachment, I had been neither sought out nor distinguished by the crowd. At the same time I am bound to say that, even though it were easy for me to take advantage of a passing illusion, my sincerity revolted against the idea of a voluptuousness that would have come to me by the chaste paths of religion: to be loved through the Génie du Christianisme, loved for the Extrème Onction, loved for the Fête des Morts! I could never have been so shameful a Tartuffe.

I knew a Provençal physician, Dr. Vigaroux[390]; he had arrived at an age when every pleasure means the loss of a day, and he said "that he had no regret for the time thus lost; without troubling himself whether he gave the happiness which he received, he went towards the death of which he hoped to make his last delight." Nevertheless, I was a witness of his poor tears when he breathed his last; he could not hide his affliction from me; it was too late: his white hairs were not long enough to conceal and wipe away his tears. The only one to be really unhappy on leaving the earth is the unbeliever: for the man without faith, existence is terrible in this, that it carries a sense of annihilation; if one had not been born, he would not experience the horror of ceasing to be: the life of the atheist is a frightful lightning-flash, which serves but to reveal an abyss.

[Pg 166]

O great and merciful God, Thou hast not cast us upon earth for unworthy troubles and a miserable happiness! Our inevitable disenchantment admonishes us that our destinies are more sublime. Whatever may have been our errors, if we have preserved a serious spirit and thought of Thee in the midst of our weaknesses, we shall, whenever Thy goodness sets us free, be carried to that region where attachments endure for ever!


It was not long before I received the punishment of my literary vanity, the most detestable of all, if not the most foolish: I had thought that I should be able to relish in petto the satisfaction of being a sublime genius, not by wearing, as they do to-day, a beard and an eccentric coat, but by remaining dressed like decent people, distinguished only by superiority. Useless hope! My pride was to be chastened; the correction was administered by the political persons whom I was obliged to know: celebrity is a benefice with the cure of souls.

M. de Fontanes was acquainted with Madame Bacciochi[391]; he introduced me to Bonaparte's sister, and soon after to the First Consul's brother Lucien[392]. The latter had a country-place near Senlis le Plessis, where I was coerced to go and dine; the château had once belonged to the Cardinal de Bernis[393]. Lucien had in his garden the tomb of his first wife[394], a lady half German and half Spanish, and the memory of the poet-cardinal. The nutrient nymph of a stream[Pg 167] dug with the spade was a mule which drew water from a well: that was the commencement of all the rivers which Bonaparte was to cause to flow in his Empire. Efforts were being made to have my name struck off the lists; I was already called, and called myself aloud, Chateaubriand, forgetting that I ought to call myself Lassagne. Emigrants came to see me: among others, Messrs, de Bonald[395] and de Chênedollé[396]. Christian de Lamoignon, my companion in exile in London, took me to Madame Récamier: the curtain fell suddenly between her and me.

The Comtesse de Beaumont.

The person who filled the largest place in my existence, on my return from the Emigration, was Madame la Comtesse de Beaumont[397]. She lived during a part of the year at the Château de Passy, near Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, which M. Joubert inhabited during the summer. Madame de Beaumont returned to Paris, and expressed a wish to meet me.

So that my life might be one long chain of regrets, Providence willed it that the first person who received me kindly at the outset of my public career should also be the first to disappear. Madame de Beaumont opens the funeral procession of those women who have passed away before me. My most distant memories rest upon ashes, and they have continued to fall from grave to grave: like the Indian pundit, I recite the prayers for the dead until the flowers of my chaplet are faded.

Madame de Beaumont was the daughter of Armand Marc de Saint-Hérem, Comte de Montmorin, French Ambassador in Madrid, commandant in Brittany, member of the Assembly of Notables in 1787, and Foreign Minister under Louis XVI., by whom he was much liked: he perished on the scaffold, where he was followed by a portion of his family[398].

[Pg 168]

Madame de Beaumont was ill rather than well-favoured, and very like her portrait by Madame Lebrun[399]. Her face was thin and pale; her eyes were almond-shaped and would have perhaps been too brilliant, if an extraordinary suavity of expression had not half extinguished her glances and caused them to shine languidly, as a ray of light becomes mellowed by passing through crystal water. Her character had a sort of rigidity and impatience, which arose from the strength of her feelings and from the inward suffering which she experienced. Endowed with loftiness of soul and great courage, she was born for the world, from which her spirit had withdrawn through choice and unhappiness; but when a friendly voice evoked that secluded intelligence, it came and spoke to you in words from Heaven. Madame de Beaumont's extreme weakness made her slow of expression, and this slowness was touching. I knew this afflicted woman only at the moment of her flight; she was already stricken with death, and I devoted myself to her sufferings. I had taken a lodging in the Rue Saint-Honoré, at the Hôtel d'Étampes, near the Rue Neuve-du-Luxembourg. In this latter street, Madame de Beaumont occupied an apartment looking out upon the gardens of the Ministry of Justice. I called to see her every evening, with her friends and mine, M. Joubert, M. de Fontanes, M. de Bonald, M. Molé[400], M. Pasquier[401], M. de Chênedollé, men who have filled a place in literature and public life.

Joseph Joubert.

Full of oddities and eccentricities, M. Joubert will be an eternal loss to those who knew him. He had an extraordinary grip upon one's mind and heart; and, when once he had seized hold of you, his image was there, like a fixed thought, like an obsession that refused to be driven away. He made great pretensions to calmness, and no one was[Pg 169] so easily perturbed as he: he watched himself in order to stop those emotions of the mind, which he thought injurious to his health, and constantly his friends came and disturbed the precautions which he had taken to keep well, for he could not prevent himself from being affected by their sadness or joy: he was an egoist who troubled himself only about others. In order to recover his strength, he often thought himself obliged to close his eyes and refrain from speaking for hours at a time. Heaven knows what noise and movement passed inwardly within him during this repose and silence which he laid upon himself. M. Joubert at every moment changed his diet and regimen, living one day on milk, another on minced meat, causing himself to be jolted at full speed over the roughest roads, or drawn at a snail's pace along the smoothest alleys. When he read, he tore out of his books the leaves which displeased him, thus forming a library for his own use, composed of scooped-out works, contained in bindings too large for them.

A profound metaphysician, his philosophy, thanks to an elaboration peculiar to himself, became painting or poetry; a Plato with the heart of a La Fontaine, he had formed an idea of perfection which prevented him from finishing anything. In manuscripts found after his death, he said:

"I am like an ‚Æolian harp, which gives forth a few beautiful sounds and plays no tune."

Madame Victorine de Chastenay[402] maintained that "he had the appearance of a soul which had met with a body by accident, and put up with it as best it could:" a definition both charming and true.

We laughed at the enemies of M. de Fontanes, who tried to pass him off for a deep and dissembling politician: he was simply an irascible poet, frank to the pitch of anger, with a mind hedged in by contrariety, and as little able to conceal its opinion as to accept that of others. The literary principles of his friend Joubert were not his: the latter found some good everywhere and in every writer; Fontanes, on the contrary, held such and such a doctrine in abhorrence, and could not hear the names mentioned of certain authors. He was the sworn enemy of the principles of modern composition:[Pg 170] to place before the reader's eyes material action, the crime at work or the gibbet with its rope, seemed to him so many enormities; he maintained that objects should never be seen except amid poetic surroundings, as though under a crystal globe. Sorrow spending itself mechanically through the eyes seemed to him a sensation fit only for the Cirque or the Grève; he understood the tragic sentiment only as ennobled by admiration and changed, through the medium of art, into "a charming pity." I quoted the Greek vases to him: in the arabesques of those vases one sees Hector's body drawn behind the car of Achilles, while a little figure, flying in the air, represents the shade of Patrocles, consoled by the vengeance of the son of Thetis.

"Well, Joubert," cried Fontanes, "what do you say to that metamorphosis of the muse? How those Greeks respected the soul!"

Joubert thought himself attacked, and placed Fontanes in contradiction with himself by reproaching him with his indulgence for me.

These discussions, highly comical as they often were, never came to an end: one evening, at half-past eleven, when I lived on the Place Louis XV., in the attic floor of Madame de Coislin's house, Fontanes climbed up my eighty-four stairs again to come furiously, with many raps of his cane, to finish an argument which he had left interrupted: it concerned Picard[403], whom at that moment he placed far above Molière; he would have taken good care not to have written a single word of what he said: Fontanes talking and Fontanes pen in hand were two different men.

It was M. de Fontanes, I like to repeat, who encouraged my first attempts: it was he who announced the publication of the Génie du Christianisme; it was his muse which, full of astonished devotion, directed mine in the new paths along which it had precipitated itself: he taught me to conceal the deformity of objects by the manner of throwing light upon them; to put classic language into the mouths of my romantic characters as far as in me lay.

In former days there were men who were guardians of taste, like the dragons who watched over the golden apples in the garden of the Hesperides; they did not allow youth to enter until it was able to touch the fruit without spoiling it.

[Pg 171]

And other literary friends.

My friend's writings take you by a happy road: the mind experiences a sense of well-being, and finds itself in an harmonious situation where everything charms and nothing wounds. M. de Fontanes incessantly revised his productions; none was more convinced than that master of the old days of the excellence of the maxim, "Hasten slowly." What, then, would he say to-day when, both morally and physically, we exert ourselves to do away with distances, and when we think we can never go fast enough. M. de Fontanes preferred to travel at the will of a delicious measure. You have read what I said of him when I found him in London; the regrets which I expressed then I must repeat now: life obliges us ever to weep in anticipation or in remembrance.

M. de Bonald had a shrewd intelligence; his ingenuity was mistaken for genius; he had dreamt out his political metaphysics with the Army of Condé, in the Black Forest, in the same way as those Jena and Göttingen professors who have since marched at the head of their pupils and let themselves be killed for the liberty of Germany. An innovator, although he had been a musketeer under Louis XVI., he looked upon the ancients as children in politics and literature; and he maintained, while he was the first to employ the fatuousness of the language now in use, that the Grand-master of the University was "not yet sufficiently advanced to understand that."

Chênedollé, with knowledge and talent, not native but acquired, was so sad that he nicknamed himself the "Crow[404]:" he went freebooting in my works. We had[Pg 172] made a compact: I yielded him my skies, my mists, my clouds; but it was arranged that he should leave me my zephyrs, my waves, and my forests.

I am now speaking only of my literary friends; as to my political friends, I do not know whether I shall tell you about them: principles and speeches have sunk abysses between us!

Madame Hocquart[405] and Madame de Vintimille[406] came to the meetings in the Rue Neuve-du-Luxembourg. Madame de Vintimille, one of the women of olden time, of whom few remain, went into the world and brought us news of what was going on: I asked her if people were "still building cities." The descriptions of little scandals upon which she entered with a poignant but inoffensive raillery made us the more heartily appreciate our own security. Madame de Vintimille had been sung, together with her sister, by M. de La Harpe. Her language was guarded, her character restrained, her wit acquired; she had lived with Mesdames de Chevreuse[407], de Longueville, de La Vallière, de Maintenon[408], with Madame Geoffrin[409] and Madame du Defiant[410]. She blended well with a company whose charm depended upon the variety of its wits and the combination of their different values. Madame Hocquart had been fondly loved by Madame de Beaumont's brother[411], who had occupied himself with the lady of his thoughts to the very scaffold, as Aubiac had gone to the gallows kissing a sleeve of soft blue velvet which remained to him from the favours of Margaret of Valois[412].

[Pg 173]

Who are no more.

Never again will there assemble under the same roof so many distinguished persons belonging to different ranks and of different destinies, able to talk of the commonest as of the loftiest things: a simplicity of speech which came not from poverty but from choice. It is perhaps the last company in which the French genius of olden time has appeared. Among the new French will not be found that urbanity which is the fruit of education, and which was transformed by long usage into aptness of character. What has become of that company? Make plans, bring friends together: you but prepare for yourself an eternal mourning! Madame de Beaumont is no more, Joubert is no more, Chênedollé is no more, Madame de Vintimille is no more. I used to visit M. Joubert at Villeneuve during the vintage; I walked with him on the Yonne Hills; he picked mushrooms in the copses, and I yellow saffron in the fields. We talked of everything, and particularly of our friend Madame de Beaumont, for ever absent; we recalled the memory of our former hopes. At night we returned to Villeneuve, a town surrounded by broken-down walls, of the time of Philip Augustus[413], and by half-razed towers, from above which rose the smoke from the vintagers' hearths. Joubert showed me, in the distance from the hill, a sandy path among the woods which he used to take when going to see his neighbour, who hid herself at the Château de Passy during the Terror.

I have passed four or five times through the Senonais since the death of my dear host. I saw the hills from the high-road: Joubert walked there no longer; I recognised the trees, the fields, the vines, the little heaps of stones on which we used to rest ourselves. Driving through Villeneuve, I have cast a glance on the deserted street and the closed house of my friend. The last time when that happened, I was going on an embassy to Rome: ah, if he had been at home, I would have taken him with me to Madame de Beaumont's grave! It has pleased God to open a celestial Rome to M. Joubert, even better suited to his soul, which abandoned Platonism for Christianity. I shall not meet him again here below:

"I shall go to him rather: but he shall not return to me[414]."

[Pg 174]

The success of Atala having decided me to start afresh on the Génie du Christianisme, of which two volumes were already in print, Madame de Beaumont offered to give me a room in the country, in a house which she had hired at Savigny[415]. I spent six months with her in this retreat, with M. Joubert and our other friends.

The house stood at the entrance to the village, on the Paris side, near an old high-road known in that part as the Chemin de Henri IV.: it leant against a vine-clad slope, and faced Savigny Park, ending in a wooded screen, and crossed by the little River Orge. On the left, the plain of Viry spread out as far as the springs of Juvisy. In every direction, in this part of the country, lie valleys, where we used to go in the evenings in search of new walks.

In the morning, we breakfasted together; after breakfast, I withdrew to my work; Madame de Beaumont had the goodness to copy out the quotations which I marked for her. This noble woman offered me a shelter when I had none: without the peace which she gave me, I should perhaps never have finished a work which I had been unable to complete during my misfortunes.

I shall evermore remember certain evenings passed in this refuge of friendship: on returning from walking we gathered near a fresh-water basin, which stood in the middle of a grass-plot in the kitchen-garden. Madame Joubert, Madame de Beaumont and I sat down on a bench; Madame Joubert's son rolled on the grass at our feet; that child has already disappeared. M. Joubert walked alone on a gravel path; two watch-dogs and a cat played around us, while pigeons cooed on the edge of the roof. What happiness for a man newly landed from exile, after spending eight years in profound abandonment, excepting a few days quickly lapsed! It was generally on these evenings that my friends made me talk of my travels: I have never described the desert of the New World so well as at that time. At night, when the windows of our rustic drawing-room were opened, Madame de Beaumont noted different constellations, telling me that I should remember one day that she had taught me to know them: since I have lost her, I have several times, not far from her grave in Rome, in the midst of the Campagna, looked in the firmament for the stars whose names she told me: I have seen them shining above the[Pg 175] Sabine Hills; the protracted rays of those stars shot down and struck the surface of the Tiber. The spot where I saw them over the woods of Savigny, the spots where I have seen them since, the fitfulness of my destinies, that sign which a woman had left for me in the sky to remind me of her: all this broke my heart. By what miracle does man consent to do what he does upon earth, he who is doomed to die?

One day, in our retreat, we saw a man enter stealthily by one window and go out by another: it was M. de Laborie[416]; he was escaping from Bonaparte's claws. Shortly after appeared one of those souls in pain which are of a different species from other souls and which, on their passage, mingle their unknown misfortune with the vulgar sufferings of mankind: it was Lucile, my sister.

I meet my sisters.

After my arrival in France, I had written to my family to inform them of my return. Madame la Comtesse de Marigny, my eldest sister, was the first to come to me, went to the wrong street, and met five Messieurs Lassagne, of whom the last climbed up through a cobbler's trap-door to answer to his name. Madame de Chateaubriand came in her turn: she was charming, and full of the qualities calculated to give me the happiness which I found with her after we came together again. Madame la Comtess de Caud, Lucile, came next. M. Joubert and Madame de Beaumont became smitten with a passionate fondness and a tender pity for her. Then commenced between them a correspondence which ended only with the death of the two women who had bent over towards one another like two flowers of the same species on the point of fading away. Madame Lucile having stopped at Versailles on the 30th of September 1802, I received this note from her:

"I write to beg you to thank Madame de Beaumont on my behalf for the invitation she has sent me to go to Savigny. I hope to have that pleasure in about a fortnight, unless there be any objection on Madame de Beaumont's side."

Madame de Caud came to Savigny as she had promised.

I have told you how, in my youth, my sister, a canoness of the Chapter of the Argentière, and destined for that of[Pg 176] Remiremont, cherished an attachment for M. de Malfilâtre, a counsellor to the Parliament of Brittany, which, remaining locked within her breast, had increased her natural melancholy. During the Revolution she married M. le Comte de Caud, and lost him after fifteen months of marriage. The death of Madame la Comtesse de Farcy, a sister whom she fondly loved, added to Madame de Caud's sadness. She next attached herself to Madame de Chateaubriand, my wife, and gained an empire over the latter which became painful, for Lucile was violent, masterful, unreasonable, and Madame de Chateaubriand, subject to her caprices, hid from her in order to render her the services which a richer shows to a susceptible and less happy friend.

Lucile's genius and character had almost reached the pitch of madness of Jean Jacques Rousseau; she thought herself exposed to secret enemies: she gave Madame de Beaumont, M. Joubert, myself, false addresses at which to write to her; she examined the seals, seeking to discover whether they had not been broken; she wandered from one home to the other, unable to remain either with my sisters or my wife; she had taken an antipathy to them, and Madame de Chateaubriand, after showing her a devotion surpassing all that one could imagine, had ended by breaking down under the burden of so cruel an affection.

Another fatality had struck Lucile: M. de Chênedollé, then living near Vire, had gone to see her at Fougères; soon there was talk of a marriage, which fell through. Everything failed my sister at once, and, thrown back upon herself, she no longer had the strength to bear up. This plaintive spectre rested for a moment on a stone, in the smiling solitude of Savigny: there were so many hearts there which would have joyfully received her! They would so gladly have restored her to a sweet reality of existence! But Lucile's heart could beat only in an atmosphere made expressly for her and never breathed by others. She swiftly devoured the days of the world apart in which Heaven had placed her. Why had God created a being only to suffer? What mysterious relation can there be between a long-suffering nature and an eternal principle?

My sister had not changed in any way; she had only taken the fixed expression of her ills: her head had sunk a little, like a head on which the hours had weighed heavily. She reminded me of my parents: those first family memories, evoked from the grave, surrounded me like wraiths which[Pg 177] had gathered round at night to warm themselves at the dying flame of a funeral pile. As I watched her, I seemed to see in Lucile my whole childhood, looking out at me from behind her somewhat wild eyes.

The vision of pain faded away: that woman, borne down by life, seemed to have come to fetch the other dejected woman whom she was to take with her.



The summer passed: according to custom, I promised myself to begin it again next year; but the hand of the clock does not return to the hour which we would wish to call back. During the winter, in Paris, I made some new acquaintances. M. Jullien, a rich man, obliging, and a jovial table-companion, although belonging to a family in which they killed themselves, had a box at the Français; he used to lend it to Madame de Beaumont: I went four or five times to the play with M. de Fontanes and M. Joubert. When I entered the world, old-fashioned comedy was in all its glory; I found it again in a state of complete decomposition. Tragedy still kept up, thanks to Mademoiselle Duchesnois[417] and, above all, to Talma, who had attained the highest level of dramatic talent. I had seen him when he made his first appearances; he was less handsome and, so to speak, less young than at the age when I saw him again: he had acquired the distinction, the nobility, and the gravity of years.

The portrait of Talma which Madame de Staël has drawn in her work on Germany is only half true: the brilliant writer saw the great actor through a woman's imagination, and attributed to him what he lacked.

Of the intermediate world Talma did not know what to make: he did not understand the man of gentle birth; he did not know our old-time society; he had not sat at the table of high-born ladies, in the Gothic tower enshrined in the wood; he knew nothing of the flexibility, the variety of expression, the gallantry, the light charm of manner, the ingenuousness, the tenderness, the heroism based upon honour, the Christian devotion of chivalry: he was not Tancred, or Coucy, or at least he turned them into heroes of a middle-age of his own creation; his Othello was placed in the heart of Vendôme.

[Pg 178]

Then what was Talma? Himself, his century and antiquity. He had the deep and concentrated passions of love and of patriotism; they burst from his breast with the force of an explosion. He had the baleful inspiration, the deranged genius of the Revolution through which he had passed. The terrible spectacles with which he was once surrounded were renewed in his talent with the lamentable and distant accents of the choruses of Sophocles and Euripides. His grace, which was not conventional grace, took hold of you like misfortune. Dark ambition, remorse, jealousy, melancholy of soul, physical pain, madness produced by the gods and adversity, human affliction: those were what he knew. His mere entrance upon the stage, the mere sound of his voice were mightily tragic. Suffering and thought were mingled on his brow, breathed in his immovability, in his poses, his gestures, his steps. As a Greek, he would arrive, panting and ominous, from the ruins of Argos, an immortal Orestes, tormented for three thousand years by the Eumenides; as a Frenchman, he would come from the solitudes of Saint-Denis, where the Parcæ of 1793 had cut the thread of the sepulchral life of the Kings. The very picture of sorrow awaiting something unknown, but decreed by an unjust Heaven, he went his way, the galley-slave of fate, inexorably chained between fatality and terror.

Time casts an inevitable obscurity over the older dramatic masterpieces: its projected shadow changes the purest Raphaëls into Rembrandts[418]; but for Talma, a part of the marvels of Corneille and Racine would have remained unknown. Dramatic talent is a torch: it fires other half-extinguished torches and revives geniuses which enrapture you with their renewed splendour.

We owe to Talma the perfection of the actor's dress. But are stage realism and rigour of costume so necessary to art as is supposed? Racine's characters derive nothing from the cut of their clothes: in the pictures of the first painters, the back-grounds are neglected and the costumes incorrect. The "furies" of Orestes, or the "prophecies" of Joad, read in a drawing-room by Talma in a dress-coat, made as great an impression as when declaimed upon the stage by Talma in a Greek mantle or a Jewish robe.[Pg 179] Iphigenia was attired like Madame de Sévigné, when Boileau addressed those fine verses to his friend:

Jamais Iphigénie en Aulide immolée
N'a coûté tant de pleurs à la Grèce assemblée
Que, dans l'heureux spectacle à nos yeux étalé,
N'en a fait sous son nom verser la Champmeslé[419].

This correctness in the representation of inanimate objects is the spirit of the arts of our time: it points to the decadence of lofty poetry and of the true drama; we are content with lesser beauties, when we are impotent to achieve the greater; we imitate armchairs and velvet to perfection, when we are no longer able to paint the expression of the man seated on that velvet and in those armchairs. Nevertheless, once one has descended to that truthfulness of material forms, one finds one's self obliged to reproduce it; for the public, itself materialized, demands it.

Comments on the Génie.

Meanwhile I was finishing the Génie du Christianisme: Lucien asked to see some of the proofs; I sent them to him; he added some rather common-place notes in the margins.

Although the success of my big book was as brilliant as that of my little Atala, it was nevertheless more widely contested: this was a serious work, in which I no longer fought the principles of the old literature and of philosophy with a novel, but attacked them directly with arguments and facts. The Voltairean empire uttered a cry and flew to arms. Madame de Staël was mistaken as to the future of my religious studies: they brought her the work uncut; she pushed her fingers between the pages, came upon the chapter headed the Virginité, and said to M. Adrien de Montmorency[420], who was with her:

"Oh Heavens! Our poor Chateaubriand! That will fall to the ground!"

[Pg 180]

The Abbé de Boulogne[421], who was shown some portions of my work before it was sent to press, said to the bookseller who asked his opinion:

"If you want to ruin yourself, print that."

And the Abbé de Boulogne has since written an all too splendid eulogy of my book.

Everything, in fact, seemed to prophesy failure. What hope could I have, I with no name and no extollers, of destroying the influence of Voltaire, which had prevailed for more than half a century, of Voltaire, who had raised the huge edifice completed by the Encyclopædists and consolidated by all the famous men in Europe? What! were the Diderots, the d'Alemberts, the Duclos[422], the Dupuis[423], the Helvétius[424], the Condorcets[425] minds that carried no authority? What! was the world to return, to the Golden Legend, to renounce the admiration it had acquired for masterpieces of science and reason? How could I ever win a case which Rome armed with its thunders, the clergy with its might, had been unable to save: a case defended in vain by the Archbishop of Paris, Christophe de Beaumont[426], supported by the decrees of the Parliament and the armed force and name of the King? Was it not as ridiculous as it was rash on the part of an unknown man to set himself against a philosophical movement so irresistible as to have produced the Revolution? It was curious to see a pygmy "toughen his[Pg 181] little arms" to stifle the progress of a century, stop civilization, and thrust back the human race! Thank God, a word would be enough to pulverize the madman: wherefore M. Ginguené, when trouncing the Génie du Christianisme in the Décade[427] declared that the criticism came too late, since my tautologous production was already forgotten. He said this five or six months after the publication of a work which the attack of the whole French Academy, on the occasion of the decennial prizes, was not able to kill.

I publish my chief work.

It was amid the ruins of our temples that I published the Génie du Christianisme.[428] The faithful thought themselves saved: men at that time felt a need of faith, a thirsting for religious consolations, which arose from the want of those consolations experienced since long years. What supernatural strength was required to bear all the adversities undergone! How many mutilated families had to go to the Father of mankind in search of the children they had lost! How many broken hearts, how many solitary souls, were calling for a divine hand to cure them! One threw one's self into the house of God, as one enters a doctor's house on the outbreak of an infection. The victims of our disturbances (and how many different kinds of victims!) saved themselves at the altar: shipwrecked men clinging to the rock on which they seek for salvation.

Bonaparte, at that time hoping to found his power on the first basis of society, had just made arrangements with the Court of Rome: he at first raised no obstacle against the publication of a work calculated to enhance the popularity of his schemes; he had to struggle against the men about him and against the declared enemies of religion; he was glad therefore to be defended from the outside by the opinion called up by the Génie du Christianisme. Later, he repented him of his mistake; ideas of regular monarchy had sprung into being together with ideas of religion.

[Pg 182]

An episode in the Génie du Christianisme, which at the time caused less stir than Atala, fixed one of the characters of modern literature; but I may say that, if René did not exist, I should not now write it: if it were possible for me to destroy it, I would do so. A family of Renés, poets and prose-writers, has swarmed into being: we have heard nothing but mournful and desultory phrases; it has been a question of nothing but winds and storms, of unknown words directed to the clouds and the night. No scribbler fresh from college but has imagined himself the unhappiest of men; no babe of sixteen but has believed himself to have exhausted life and to be tormented by his genius, but has, in the abyss of his thoughts, abandoned himself to the "wave of his passions," struck his pale and dishevelled brow, and astonished stupefied mankind with a misfortune of which he did not know the name, nor they either.

In René I had laid bare one of the infirmities of my century; but it was a different madness in the novelists to try to make universal such transcendental afflictions. The general sentiments which compose the basis of humanity, paternal and maternal affection, filial piety, friendship, love, are inexhaustible; but particular ways of feeling, idiosyncrasies of mind and character, cannot be spread out and multiplied over wide and numerous scenes. The small undiscovered corners of the human heart are a narrow field; there is nothing left to gather in that field after the hand which has been the first to mow it. A malady of the soul is not a permanent nor natural state: one cannot reproduce it, make a literature of it, make use of it as of a general passion constantly modified at the will of the artists who handle it and change its form.

Be that as it may, literature became tinged with the colours of my religious paintings, even as public affairs have retained the phraseology of my writings on citizenship: the Monarchy according to the Charter has been the rudiment of our representative government, and my article in the Conservateur, on "Moral Interests and Material Interests," has bequeathed those two designations to politics.

Writers did me the honour of imitating Atala and René, in the same way that the pulpit borrowed my accounts of the missions and advantages of Christianity. The passages in which I show that, by driving the pagan divinities from the woods, our broader religion has restored nature to its solitudes; the paragraphs where I discuss the influence of[Pg 183] our religion upon our manner of seeing a painting, where I examine the changes wrought in poetry and eloquence; the chapters which I devote to inquiries into the foreign sentiments introduced into the dramatic characters of antiquity contain the germ of the new criticism. Racine's characters, as I have said, both are and are not Greek characters: they are Christian characters; that is what no one had understood.

Effects of the publication.

If the effect of the Génie du Christianisme had been only a reaction against doctrines to which the revolutionary misfortunes were attributed, that effect would have ceased so soon as the cause was removed; it would not have been prolonged to the time at which I am writing. But the action of the Génie du Christianisme upon public opinion was not confined to the momentary resurrection of a religion supposed to be in its grave: a more lasting metamorphosis was operated. If the work contained innovations of style, it also contained changes of doctrine; not only the manner, but the matter, was altered; atheism and materialism were no longer the basis of the belief or unbelief of young minds; the idea of God and of the immortality of the soul resumed its empire: whence came an alteration in the chain of ideas linked one to the other. A man was no longer riveted to his place by an anti-religious prejudice; he no longer thought himself obliged to remain a mummy of annihilation, wrapped in philosophical swathing-bands; he permitted himself to examine any system, however absurd it might seem to him, even though it were Christian.

Besides the faithful who returned at the sound of their shepherd's voice, there were formed, by this right of free examination, other à priori faithful. Lay down God as a principle, and the Word will follow. The Son proceeds necessarily from the Father.

The various abstract combinations succeed only in substituting for the Christian mysteries other mysteries still more difficult of comprehension. Pantheism, which, besides, exists in three or four shapes, and which it is the fashion nowadays to ascribe to enlightened intelligences, is the absurdest of Eastern dreams brought back to light by Spinoza[429]. One has but to read the article by the sceptic Bayle[430] on that Jew of Amsterdam. The positive tone in[Pg 184] which certain people speak of all these things would be revolting, were it not that it arises from want of study; they take up words which they do not understand, and imagine themselves to be transcendental geniuses. Be assured that Abélard, that St. Bernard, that St. Thomas Aquinas and their fellows brought to bear upon the study of metaphysics a superiority of judgment which we do not approach; that the Saint-Simonian[431], Phalansterian, Fourieristic[432], Humanitarian[433] systems were discovered and practised by the different heresies; that what is placed before us as progress and discovery is so much old lumber hawked about for fifteen centuries in the schools of Greece and the colleges of the Middle Ages. The misfortune is that the first sectaries could not succeed in founding their Neo-Platonic Republic, when Gallienus[434] permitted Plotinus[435] to make the experiment in Campania; later, people made the great mistake of burning the sectaries when they proposed to establish the community of goods and to pronounce prostitution holy, by urging that a woman cannot, without sin, refuse a man who asks of her a transient union in the name of Jesus Christ: all that was needed, said they, to accomplish this union was to annihilate one's soul and deposit it for a moment in the bosom of God.

The shock which the Génie du Christianisme gave to men's minds caused the eighteenth century to emerge from the old road and flung it for ever out of its path. People began again, or rather they began for the first time to study the sources of Christianity; on re-reading the Fathers (presuming that they had read them before) they were struck at meeting with so many curious facts, so much philosophical science, so many beauties of style of every kind, so many ideas which, by a more or less perceptible gradation, produced the transition from ancient to modern society:[Pg 185] an unique and memorable era of humanity, in which Heaven communicates with earth through the medium of souls set in men of genius.

Beside the crumbling world of paganism there arose, in former times, as though outside society, another world, looking on at those great spectacles, poor, retiring, secluded, taking no part in the business of life except when its lessons or its succour were needed. It was a marvellous thing to see those early bishops, almost all honoured with the name of saints and martyrs, those simple priests watching over the relics and cemeteries; those monks and hermits in their convents or in their caves, laying down laws of peace, morals, charity, when all was war, corruption, barbarism; going between the tyrants of Rome and the leaders of the Tartars and Goths, to prevent the injustice of the former and the cruelty of the latter; stopping armies with a wooden cross and a peaceful word; the weakest of men, and protecting the world against Attila[436]; placed between two universes to be the link that joined them, to console the last moments of an expiring society and support the first steps of a society in its cradle.


My own criticism.

It was impossible but that the truths unfolded in the Génie du Christianisme should contribute to a change of ideas. Again, it is to this work that the present love for the buildings of the Middle Ages is due: it is I who have called upon the young century to admire the old temples. If my opinion has been misused; if it is not true that our cathedrals approach the Parthenon in beauty; if it is false that those churches teach us unknown facts in their documents of stone; if it is madness to maintain that those granite memories reveal to us things that escaped the learned Benedictines; if by dint of eternally repeating the word Gothic people grow wearied to death of it: that is not my fault. For the rest, with respect to the arts, I know the shortcomings of the Génie du Christianisme; that portion of my work is faulty, because, in 1800, I was not acquainted with the arts: I had not seen Italy, nor Greece, nor Egypt. Also, I did not make sufficient use of the lives of the saints and of the legends, although they offered me a number of[Pg 186] marvellous instances: by selecting with taste, one could there reap a plentiful harvest. This field of the wealth of mediæval imagination surpasses the Metamorphoses of Ovid and the Milesian fables in fruitfulness. My work, moreover, contains some scanty or false judgments, such as that which I pronounce upon Dante, to whom I have since paid a brilliant tribute. In the serious respect, I have completed the Génie du Christianisme in my Études historiques, one of my writings that has been least spoken of and most plundered.

The success of Atala had delighted me, because my soul was still fresh; that of the Génie du Christianisme was painful to me: I was obliged to sacrifice my time to a more or less useless correspondence and to irrelevant civilities. A so-called admiration did not atone to me for the vexations that await a man whose name the crowd remembers. What good can supply the place of the peace which you have lost by admitting the public to your intimacy? Add to that the restlessness with which the Muses love to afflict those who attach themselves to their cult, the worries attendant upon a compliant character, inaptitude for fortune, loss of leisure, an uncertain temper, livelier affections, unreasonable melancholy, groundless joys: who, if he had the choice, would purchase on those conditions the uncertain advantages of a reputation which you are not sure of obtaining, which will be contested during your life, which posterity will refuse to confirm, and which your death will snatch from you for ever?

The literary controversy on innovations of style which Atala had aroused was renewed upon the publication of the Génie du Christianisme.

A characteristic feature of the imperial school, and even of the republican school, must be noted: while society advanced for better or for worse, literature remained stationary; foreign to the change of the ideas, it did not belong to its own time. In comedy, the squires of the village, the Colins, the Babets, or else the intrigues of the drawing-rooms, which were no longer known, were played, as I have already remarked, before coarse and blood-thirsty men, themselves the destroyers of the manners whose picture was presented to them; in tragedy, a plebeian pit interested itself in the families of nobles and kings.

Two things kept literature at the date of the eighteenth century: the impiety which it derived from Voltaire and the[Pg 187] Revolution, and the despotism with which Bonaparte struck it. The head of the State found a profit in those subordinate letters which he had put in barracks, which presented arms to him, which sallied forth at the command of "Turn out, the guard!" which marched in rank, and which went through their evolutions like soldiers. Any form of independence seemed a rebellion against his power; he would no more consent to a riot of words and ideas than he suffered insurrection. He suspended the Habeas Corpus for thought as well as for individual liberty. Let us also recognise that the public, weary of anarchy, was glad to submit again to the yoke of law and order.

New forms in literature.

The literature which expresses the new era did not commence to reign until forty or fifty years after the time of which it was the idiom. During that half-century, it was employed only by the opposition. It was Madame de Staël, it was Benjamin Constant[437], it was Lemercier[438], it was Bonald, it was myself, in short, who were the first to speak that language. The alteration in literature of which the nineteenth century boasts came to it from the Emigration and from exile: it was M. de Fontanes who brooded on those birds of a different species from himself, because, by going back to the seventeenth century, he had gained the strength of that fertile period and lost the barrenness of the eighteenth. One portion of the human intelligence, that which treats of transcendental matters, alone advanced with an even step with civilisation; unfortunately, the glory of knowledge was not without stain: the Laplaces[439], the Lagranges[440], the Monges[441],[Pg 188] the Chaptals[442], the Berthollets[443], all the prodigies, once haughty democrats, became Napoleon's most obsequious servants. Let it be said to the honour of Letters: the new literature was free, science was servile; character did not correspond with genius, and they whose thought had sped to the uppermost sky were not able to raise their souls above the feet of Bonaparte: they pretended to have no need of God, that was why they needed a tyrant.

The Napoleonic classic was the genius of the nineteenth century dressed up in the periwig of Louis XIV., or curled as in the days of Louis XV. Bonaparte had ordained that the men of the Revolution should not appear at Court save in full dress, sword at side. One saw nothing of the France of the moment; it was not order, it was discipline. Nor could anything be more tiresome than that pale resuscitation of the literature of former days. That cold copy, that unproductive anachronism, disappeared when the new literature broke in noisily with the Génie du Christianisme. The death of the Duc d'Enghien had for me this advantage that, by causing me to step aside, it left me free in my solitude to follow my own inspiration, and prevented me from enlisting in the regular infantry of old Pindus: I owed my moral to my intellectual liberty.

In the last chapter of the Génie du Christianisme, I discuss what would have become of the world if the Faith had not been preached at the time of the invasion of the Barbarians; in another paragraph, I speak of an important work to be undertaken on the changes which Christianity introduced in the laws after the conversion of Constantine[444].

Supposing religious opinion to exist in its present form, if the Génie du Christianisme were yet to be written, I would compose it quite differently: instead of recalling the benefits and the institutions of our religion in the past, I would show[Pg 189] that Christianity is the thought of the future and of human liberty; that that redeeming and Messianic thought is the only basis of social equality; that it alone can establish the latter, because it places by the side of that equality the necessity of duty, the corrective and regulator of the democratic instinct. Legality is no sufficient restraint, because it is not permanent; it derives its strength from the law: now, the law is the work of men who pass away and differ. A law is not always obligatory; it can always be changed by another law: as opposed to that, morals are constant; they have their force within themselves, because they spring from the immutable order: they alone, therefore, can ensure permanency.

I would show that, wherever Christianity has prevailed, it has changed ideas, rectified notions of justice and injustice, substituted assertion for doubt, embraced the whole of humanity in its doctrines and precepts. I would try to conjecture the distance at which we still are from the total accomplishment of the Gospel, by calculating the number of evils that have been destroyed and of improvements that have been effected in the eighteen centuries which have elapsed on this side of the Cross. Christianity acts slowly, because it acts everywhere; it does not cling to the reform of any particular society, it works upon society in general; its philanthropy is extended to all the sons of Adam: that is what it expresses with a marvellous simplicity in its commonest petitions, in its daily prayers, when it says to the crowd in the temple:

"Let us pray for every suffering thing upon earth."

What religion has ever spoken in this way? The Word was not made flesh in the man of pleasure, it became incarnate in the man of sorrow, with a view to the enfranchisement of all, to an universal brotherhood and an infinite salvation.

If the Génie du Christianisme had only given rise to such investigations, I should congratulate myself on having published it. It remains to be seen whether, at the time of the appearance of the book, a different Génie du Christianisme, raised on the new plan the outline of which I have barely indicated, would have obtained the same success. In 1803, when nothing was granted to the old religion, when it was the object of scorn, when none knew the first word of the question, would one have done well to speak of future liberty as descending from Calvary, at a time when people were still bruised from the excesses of the liberty of the passions?[Pg 190] Would Bonaparte have suffered such a work to appear? It was perhaps useful to stimulate regrets, to interest the imagination in a cause so misjudged, to call attention to the despised object, to render it endearing before showing how serious it was, how mighty and how salutary.

Now, supposing that my name leaves some trace behind it, I shall owe this to the Génie du Christianisme: with no illusion as to the intrinsic value of the work, I admit that it possesses an accidental value; it came just at the right moment. For this reason it caused me to take my place in one of those historic periods which, mixing an individual with things, compel him to be remembered. If the influence of my work was not limited to the change which, in the past forty years, it has produced among the living generations; if it still served to resuscitate among late-comers a spark of the civilizing truths of the earth; if the slight symptom of life which one seems to perceive was there sustained in the generations to come, I should depart full of hope in the divine mercy. O reconciled Christian, do not forget me in thy prayers, when I am gone; my faults, perhaps, will stop me outside those gates where my charity cried on thy behalf:

"Be ye lifted up, O eternal gates[445]!"

[361] This book was begun at Dieppe in 1836 and finished in Paris in 1837. It was revised in December 1846.—T.

[362] Anne Geneviève de Bourbon-Condé, Duchesse de Longueville (1619-1679), sister of the great Condé, had intrigued against the Court, and played a great part in the war of the Fronde (1648-1652). The escape took place in 1650. Eventually, Mazarin defeating all her intrigues, the Duchesse de Longueville withdrew into retirement and a convent—T.

[363] Queen Anne of Austria (1602-1666), daughter of King Philip III. of Spain, and wife of Louis XIII. of France, whom she married in 1615. She gave birth to Louis XIV. in 1638, after twenty-three years of marriage, and became Regent of the Kingdom on the death of Louis XIII. in 1643.—T.

[364] Henri de La Tour d'Auvergne, Maréchal Vicomte de Turenne (1611-1688), joined the Fronde on Madame de Longueville's persuasion, but returned to his allegiance the next year (1651). He was born a Protestant, was converted by Bossuet, but abjured the Catholic Faith in 1678.—T.

[365] François Duc de La Rochefoucauld (1605 or 1613-1680). He played a small part in the Fronde through his infatuation for Madame de Longueville. The Maxims were published in 1665, under the title of Réflexions et sentences, ou Maximes morales. He spent his old age in the society of Madame de La Fayette and Madame de Sévigné.—T.

[366] Marie Madeleine Comtesse de La Fayette (1634-1693), née Pioche de La Vergne, author of a number of successful novels and a History of Henrietta of England.—T.

[367] Charlotte Marguerite Princesse de Condé (1594-1650), née de Montmorency, and married in 1609 to Henry II. Prince de Condé, who removed her to Brussels out of the reach of King Henry IV. "That poor wretch," the Duchesse de Longueville, was her daughter.—T.

[368] Madame de Brienne was the wife of Henri Auguste Comte de Loménie de Brienne, author of the curious Memoirs.—T.

[369] Béranger, Le Vieux Caporal, 49, 50:

"Who is sobbing and weeping down yonder?
Ah, 'tis the drummer's widow so sad."—T.

[370] Béranger, Le Vieux Caporal, chorus:

"Conscripts, keep step; do not weep;
. . . Keep step, the step keep."—T.

[371] Jules Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661), Prime Minister to the Regent Anne of Austria, and eventual victor over the Fronde.—T.

[372] The Duc de La Rochefoucauld left Mémoires sur la règne d'Anne d'Autriche, in addition to the Maximes.—T.

[373] Marie Caroline Ferdinande Louise Duchesse de Berry (1798-1870), daughter of King Ferdinand I. of Naples, and married to the Duc de Berry in 1816.—T.

[374] The Duchesse de Berry brought Dieppe into fashion in the later years of the Restoration; she visited it yearly, with her children, during the bathing season.—B.

[375] Rabelais.—Author's Note.

[376] Now the Place de la Concorde.—T.

[377] Migneret's book-shop was at No. 1186, Rue Jacob. The houses were at that time numbered by districts, not by streets.—B.

[378] "Both through his virtues and his charms
To be their father he deserved." —T.

[379] Étienne Gaspard Robertson (1762-1837), a professor of physics who perfected or improved the Archimedean mirror, the magic-lantern, and the parachute.—T.

[380] Now the Quai Malaquais.—T.

[381] The Theatines, or "Regular Clerks," a very strict congregation, founded in 1524 by St. Cajetan and Giovanni Pietro Caraffa, Bishop of Chieti, or Theate, from which the Order takes its name.—T.

[382] The Requisition was a sort of levy in mass decreed by the Committee of Public Safety on the 23rd of August 1793, and produced 1,400,000 men. It was the immediate forerunner of the Conscription.—T.

[383] The title of this letter was Lettre à M. de Fontanes sur la deuxième édition de l'ouvrage de Mme. de Staël (De la littérature considérée dans ses rapports avec la morale, etc.), and it was signed, l'Auteur du Génie du Christianisme. It was printed in the Mercure of 1 Nivoise Year IX. (22 December 1800), and now figures in all the editions of the Génie du Christianisme. It is one of Chateaubriand's most eloquent writings.—B.

[384] The letter appeared in the Journal des Débats of 10 Germinal Year IX. (31 March 1801).—B.

[385] The volume is announced as "just out" in the Journal des Débats of 27 Germinal (17 April). It was a small duodecimo, of XXIV. +210 pages, with the title Atala, ou les Amours de deux sauvages dans le désert.—B.

[386] Marie Marguerite Marquise de Brinvilliers (1630-1676), née Dreux d'Avray, a famous poisoner, who with her lover, Gaudin de Sainte-Croix, poisoned the marquise's father, sister, and two brothers. The crimes were discovered on the death of Sainte-Croix in 1670. The Brinvilliers took to flight, but was captured at Liège, brought back to Paris, and tried and executed in 1676.—T.

[387] A waxwork show established in the Palais-Royal and on the Boulevard du Temple in 1770 by a German who called himself Curtius. The establishment on the Boulevard du Temple remained open until the end of the reign of Louis-Philippe. The figures are still sometimes met with at village fairs.—B.

[388] Chaillot, which now forms part of Paris, was at that time a village at the gates, to the west, on the road to Versailles.—T.

[389] The Nouvelle Héloïse, Rousseau's most popular work, was published in 1759—T.

[390] Dr. Joseph Marie Joachim Vigaroux (1759-1829), a native of Montpellier, in Provence, and author of some medical works of no special value.—T.

[391] Marie Anne Elisa Bacciochi (1774-1820), Bonaparte's eldest sister, married Felix Pascal Prince Bacciochi in 1797. Her husband became Prince of Lucca and Piombino in 1805, Elisa exercising the real power; and in 1808 Napoleon made her Grand-duchess of Tuscany. She was dethroned in 1814, and assumed the title of Countess of Compignano. Prince Bacciochi died in Rome in 1841.—T.

[392] Lucien Bonaparte (1775-1840), Napoleon's second brother, created Prince of Canino in 1804, a prisoner in England from 1810 to 1814. He was twice married to ladies of middle-class family (vide infra), by whom he had eleven children.—T.

[393] François Joachim Cardinal de Pierres de Bernis (1715-1794), Anacreontic poet and religious controversialist. He had been Madame de Pompadour's lover, and owed his advancement to her. Voltaire called him Babet la Bouquetière, owing to the profusion of flowers of rhetoric which he employed in his verses.—T.

[394] Madame Lucien Bonaparte (d. 1800), née Christine Éléonore Boyer, married Lucien in 1794, and was the sister of the woman who kept the inn at Saint-Maximin, where Lucien, then under age, was staying. The marriage took place without the consent of Madame Bonaparte, the mother, and was invalid by French law. Lucien's second wife, whom he married in 1802, was Marie Alexandrine Charlotte Louise Laurence de Bleschamp (1778-1855), the divorced wife of Jean François Hippolyte Jouberthon, a retired stockbroker.—B.

[395] Louis Gabriel Amboise, Vicomte de Bonald (1753-1840), a distinguished monarchical writer, created a peer of France in 1823, and a member of the French Academy.—T.

[396] Charles Lioult de Chênedollé (1769-1833), author of the Génie de l'homme and other poems.—T.

[397] Pauline Marie Michelle Frédérique Ulrique de Montmorin-Saint-Hérem, Comtesse de Beaumont (1768-1803).—T.

[398] The Comte de Montmorin did not die on the scaffold, but was butchered at the Abbaye on the 2nd of September 1792. On the next day his cousin, Louis Victor Hippolyte Luce de Montmorin, had his throat cut at the Conciergerie, where he had been taken after his acquittal by the Criminal Tribunal on the 17th of August. Madame de Montmorin, Madame de Beaumont's mother, was guillotined on the 10th of May 1794; her second son was guillotined with her. Her daughter, wife of the Comte de La Luzerne, died on the 10th of July 1794, at the Archbishop's Palace, which had been turned into the prison hospital.—B.

[399] Madame Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun (1756-1842), née Vigée, the famous French portrait painter. She left nearly 700 portraits, in addition to some historical pictures and a crowd of landscapes.—T.

[400] Matthieu Louis Molé (1781-1855), created a Count of the Empire in 1813, when he became Minister of Justice, and held successive ministries under the Restoration and Louis-Philippe. He was a moderate statesman of much dignity of character and of great distinction of person, manners, and speech. He was elected a member of the French Academy in 1840.—T.

[401] Étienne Duc Pasquier (1767-1862), appointed Prefect of Police in 1810. After holding various ministerial offices under the Restoration, he was made President of the Chamber of Peers by Louis-Philippe in 1830, Chancellor in 1837, and a duke in 1844. Elected to the French Academy in 1842.—T.

[402] Louise Marie Victorine Comtesse de Chastenay-Lanty (1771-1855) was never married. Her title of madame is due to the fact that she became a canoness at an early age (1785). Her observation to Chateaubriand on the subject of Joubert will be found repeated in almost precisely the same words in Madame de Chastenay's recently-published Memoirs (1896), vol. II. p. 82.—T.

[403] Louis Bénoît Picard (1769-1828), an actor, theatrical manager, and author of some eighty stage-plays of varying merit. He was received into the French Academy in 1807.—T.

[404] In the "small company" which, at the beginning of the century, met in the drawing-room of Madame de Beaumont, in the Rue Neuve-du-Luxembourg, or at Chateaubriand's, in his little apartment in the Hôtel Coislin, on the Place Louis XV., or again, in the summer, at Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, under M. Joubert's roof, each one, according to an ancient fashion, had his nickname. Chateaubriand was called le chat, the "Cat," by way of abbreviation of his name, or possibly because of his illegible handwriting; Madame de Chateaubriand, who had claws, was the "She-cat." Chênedollé and Gueneau de Mussy, more melancholy than René, had received the names of the "Big" and the "Little Crow;" sometimes also Chateaubriand was called the "Illustrious Crow of the Cordilleras," by allusion to his travels in America. Fontanes was thickset, and had something athletic in his short stature. His friends jestingly compared him to the boar of Erymanthus, and called him the "Boar." Thin and slender, skimming over the earth which she was soon to leave, Madame de Beaumont had received the nickname of the "Swallow." Joubert, a lover of the woods, and at that time a great walker, was the "Stag;" while his wife, who was goodness and wit personified, but of a somewhat fierce humour, laughed when she was called the "She-wolf." Never was so intellectual a collection of "animals" seen before.—B.

[405] Madame Hocquart was a lady possessed of many charms of beauty and mind. She was the daughter of Pourrat and the sister of Madame Laurent Lecoulteux.—B.

[406] The Comtesse de Vintimille du Luc, née de La Live de Jully, was niece to Madame Hocquart.—B.

[407] Marie Duchesse de Chevreuse (1600-1679), née de Rohan-Montbazon, married in 1617 to Albert Duc de Luynes, Constable of France, and in 1622 to Claude de Lorraine, Duc de Chevreuse. The Duchesse de Chevreuse was a favourite of Anne of Austria, and is famed for her beauty and her wit.—T.

[408] Françoise d'Aubigné, Marquise de Maintenon (1635-1719), the last mistress and eventual wife (1684-1685) of Louis XIV.—T.

[409] Madame Geoffrin (1699-1777), née Rodet, head of the famous literary salon in the Rue Saint-Honoré.—T.

[410] Marie Marquise du Deffant (1697-1780), née de Vichy-Chamroud, a celebrated leader of eighteenth-century society in France. Her correspondence with Walpole, Voltaire, d'Alembert, etc., was published in 1809 to 1811.—T.

[411] Antoine Hugues Calixte de Montmorin (1772-1794), guillotined 10th May 1794.—B.

[412] Margaret of Valois (1552-1615), Queen of France and Navarre, daughter of King Henry II. of France. She married in 1672 the Prince of Béarn, afterwards King of Navarre and of France (Henry IV.), who imprisoned her at Usson, in Auvergne, and eventually divorced her (1599). She left Memoirs of the period from 1565 to 1587, first published in 1658.—T.

[413] Philip II. (Augustus), King of France (1165-1223).—T.

[414] Kings XII. 23.—T.

[415] Chateaubriand and Madame de Beaumont took up their abode at Savigny on the 22nd of May 1801.—B.

[416] Antoine Athanase Roux de Laborie (1769-1840), a protégé of Talleyrand's, who attained to some distinction as a politician. He had been compromised in a Royalist conspiracy with the two brothers Bertin, with whom he afterwards founded the Journal des Débats.—T.

[417] Catherine Joséphine Rafin (1777-1835), known as Mademoiselle Duchesnois, made her first appearance in 1802 as Phèdre. She was an ugly woman, but a fine actress. She continued to play until 1830.—T.

[418] Paul Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1674); the allusion being to Rembrandt's famous distribution of light and shade.—T.

[419] "Ne'er did Iphigenia in Aulis laid dead
Cause so many tears in all Greece to be shed
As, in the fine spectacle shown us to-day,
We have wept at the bidding of our Champmeslé."

Marie Desmare (1644-1698), known as Mademoiselle Champmeslé, made her first appearance in 1669, and created the title-rôle in Racine's Iphigénie in 1674, under the poet's directions.—T.

[420] Anne Pierre Adrien Prince de Montmorency, later Duc de Laval (1767-1837), French Ambassador successively in Madrid (1814), Rome (1821), Vienna (1828), and London (1829). He became a member of the Chamber of Peers in 1820, in succession to his father, deceased, and resigned his peerage, together with his diplomatic functions, in 1830.—B.

[421] Étienne Antoine de Boulogne (1747-1825) was made Bishop of Troyes by Napoleon in 1808. In 1811, Bonaparte imprisoned him at Vincennes, until 1814, for protesting against the arrest of Pope Pius VII. He resumed his see under the Restoration, became Archbishop of Vienne in 1817, and was raised to the peerage in 1822.—T.

[422] Charles Pineau Duclos (1704-1772), admitted to the French Academy in 1747, and appointed its perpetual secretary in 1755, was author of the Considérations sur le Mœurs, etc., and took the leading part in the editing of the Dictionary.—T.

[423] Charles François Dupuis (1742-1809), member of the Institute and of the Academy of Inscriptions, and author of the Origine de tous les cultes, ou la Religion universelle.—T.

[424] Claude Adrien Helvétius (1715-1771), one of the leaders of the French philosophy of the eighteenth century, and author of the book De l'Esprit (1758), condemned by the Sorbonne, the Pope, and the Parliament of Paris, and burned by the public hangman in 1759.—T.

[425] Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet (1743-1794), perpetual secretary of the Academy of Science, and a principal contributor to the Encyclopædia. The best known of his voluminous works is the Esquisse des progrès de l'esprit humain. He was arrested as a Girondin, and poisoned himself in prison (28 March 1794).—T.

[426] Christophe de Beaumont (1703-1781), successively Bishop of Bayonne, Archbishop of Vienne, and Archbishop of Paris (1746), the redoubtable adversary of both the Jansenists and Philosophers.—T.

[427] In Nos. 27, 28, and 29 of the Year X. (1802) of the Décade philosophique, littéraire et politique. The articles were subsequently collected into a pamphlet.—B.

[428] It was published on the 24th of Germinal Year X. (14 April 1802), by Migneret, 28, rue du Sépulcre, Faubourg Saint-Germain and Le Normant, 43, rue des Prêtres-Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois, in five volumes 8vo (the fifth volume consisting entirely of notes and elucidations), with the title, Génie du Christianisme, ou Beautés de la religion chrétienne, by François Auguste Chateaubriand. The first page of each volume bore the following epigraph, suppressed in the later editions:

"Chose admirable! la religion chrétienne, qui ne semble avoir d'objet que la félicité de l'autre vie, fait encore notre bonheur dans celle-ci."

Montesquieu, Esprit des Lois, XXIV., iii.—B.

[429] Baruch, or Benedict, Spinoza (1632-1677), the Portuguese-Jewish philosopher of Amsterdam. His system of pantheism is set forth in his Ethica and other works.—T.

[430] Pierre Bayle (1647-1706) was born a Protestant, became a Catholic, and then a professional sceptic. His reputation rests upon his famous Dictionnaire historique et critique (1697), with which he paved the way for Voltaire and his friends.—T.

[431] Claude Henri Comte de Saint-Simon (1760-1825) was the founder of a sect, based upon more or less Socialistic principles, extinguished by ridicule, and finally dissolved by the Courts for its attacks upon public morals in 1833. Its author attempted suicide in 1823, but escaped with the loss of an eye.—T.

[432] Charles Fourier (1768-1837) was the author of the Phalansterian movement, based upon the Communistic principle.—T.

[433] The system maintaining the simple humanity of Christ, and denying His divinity.—T.

[434] Publius Licinius Gallienus, Roman Emperor (233-268), gave leave to Plotinus to build a town in Campania, to be recalled Platonopolis; but the project fell through.—T.

[435] Plotinus (circa 205—circa 270) opened his school of Neo-Platonic philosophy in Rome about the year 245.—T.

[436] Attila, King of the Huns (d. 453), when descending into Italy in 452 after his defeat in France, was stopped outside Rome by Pope St. Leo the Great, who persuaded him to return back after exacting a tribute from the Emperor Valentinian III.—T.

[437] Henri Benjamin Constant de Rebecque (1767-1830), the well-known publicist and Liberal politician.—T.

[438] Népomucène Louis Lemercier (1772-1840), a member of the French Academy, and author of a number of plays and poems all of a remarkable character. The finest is his tragedy of Agamemnon. He was one of the first to break through Boileau's rule of the three unities in dramatic literature.—T.

[439] Pierre Simon Marquis de Laplace (1749-1827), a profound geometrician and a protégé of d'Alembert, was Minister of the Interior for six weeks after the 18 Brumaire, entered the Senate in 1799, and became President of that body. He was a member of the French Academy, and was created a marquis and a peer by Louis XVIII. on becoming its President (1817).—T.

[440] Joseph Louis Comte Lagrange (1736-1813), another famous mathematician. He was for twenty years President of the Berlin Academy (1766-1786). Napoleon made him a Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, a count, and a senator. He and Laplace may be said to have completed Newton's work.—T.

[441] Gaspard Monge, Comte de Péluse (1746-1818), a member of the Academy of Science, was for a month Minister of Marine under the Revolution (1792). During the wars of the Republic he devoted his knowledge to elaborating the national means of defense, was one of the founders of the Polytechnic School, accompanied Bonaparte to Egypt, and became President of the Cairo Institute. Napoleon gave him his title, created him a senator, and loaded him with honours, all of which he lost at the Restoration.—T.

[442] Jean Antoine Chaptal, Comte de Chanteloup (1756-1832), a distinguished chemist and statesman. He was placed at the head of the gunpowder factory at Grenelle in 1793, and there displayed an incredible activity. In 1798 he became one of the original members of the Institute, Minister of the Interior in 1800, a senator in 1805, and a peer of France under the Restoration (1819).—T.

[443] Claude Louis Comte Berthollet (1748-1822), another celebrated chemist, worked with Monge and Chaptal in the fabrication of gunpowder and the multiplication of the means of defense during the Republican wars. He also accompanied Bonaparte to Egypt, where he made many important researches. The Emperor made him a senator in 1805, and he received his peerage under the Restoration.—T.

[444] Constantine I. Emperor of the West (274-337), known as Constantine the Great, was converted, by a sign of the Cross in the sky, in the year 312.—T.

[445] Ps. XXIII. 7, 9.—T.

[Pg 191]

BOOK II[446]

The years 1802 and 1803—Country-houses—Madame de Custine—M. de Saint-Martin—Madame de Houdetot and Saint-Lambert—Journey to the south of France—M. de la Harpe—His death—Interview with Bonaparte—I am appointed First Secretary of Embassy in Rome—Journey from Paris to the Savoy Alps—From Mont Cenis to Rome—Milan to Rome—Cardinal Fesch's palace—My occupations—Madame de Beaumont's manuscripts—Letters from Madame de Caud—Madame de Beaumont's arrival in Rome—Letters from my sister—Letter from Madame de Krüdener—Death of Madame de Beaumont—Her funeral—Letters from M. de Chênedollé, M. de Fontanes, M. Necker, and Madame de Staël—The years 1803 and 1804—First idea of my Memoirs—I am appointed French Minister to the Valais—Departure from Rome—The year 1804—The Valais Republic—A visit to the Tuileries—The Hôtel de Montmorin—I hear the death cried of the Duc d'Enghien—I give in my resignation.

My life became quite disturbed so soon as it ceased to belong to myself. I had a crowd of acquaintances outside my customary circle. I was invited to the country-houses which were being restored. One did as best he could in those half-unfurnished, half-furnished manor-houses, in which old arm-chairs and new stood side by side. Nevertheless, some of these manor-houses had remained intact, such as the Marais[447], which had come into the possession of Madame de La Briche[448], an excellent woman, whom happiness could never succeed in shaking off. I remember that my immortality went to the Rue Saint-Dominique d'Enfer to take a seat for the Marais in a wretched hired coach, where I met Madame de Vintimille and Madame de Fezensac[449]. At Champlâtreux[450] M.[Pg 192] Molé was having some small rooms on the second floor rebuilt. His father[451], who had been killed in the revolutionary style, was replaced, in a dilapidated drawing-room, by a picture in which Matthieu Molé was represented stopping a riot with his square cap: a picture which brought home the difference in the times. A splendid intersection of roads lined with lime-trees had been cut down; but one of the avenues still remained in all the magnificence of its old shade; new plantations have since been mixed with it: this is the age of poplars.

On returning from the Emigration, there was no exile so poor but laid out the winding walks of an English garden in the ten feet of land or court-yard which he had recovered: did I myself, in days past, not plant the Vallée-aux-Loups? Was it not there that I began these Memoirs? Did I not continue them in Montboissier Park, whose appearance, disfigured by neglect, its owners were then trying to revive? Did I not lengthen them in the park at Maintenon[452], quite recently restored, a new prey for the returning democracy? The castles burnt in 1789 ought to have warned what remained of the castles to remain hidden in their ruins: but the steeples of engulfed villages which pierce through the lava of Vesuvius do not prevent new steeples and new hamlets from being planted on the surface of that same lava.

The Marquise de Custine.

Among the bees adjusting their hive was the Marquise de Custine[453], the heiress of the long tresses of Margaret of Provence[454], wife of St. Louis, whose blood flowed in her veins. I was present when she took possession of Fervacques[455], and I had the honour of sleeping in the bed of the Bearnese, as I had of sleeping in Queen Christina's[456] bed at Combourg. The journey[Pg 193] was no trifling matter: we had to take on board the carriage Astolphe de Custine[457], then a child, M. Berstoecher, his tutor, an old Alsatian nurse, who spoke only German, Jenny, the lady's maid, and Trim, a famous dog which ate up the provisions for the journey. Would one not have thought that this colony was going to Fervacques for good? And yet the furnishing of the house was not quite finished when the signal for removal was given. I saw her who faced the scaffold with such great courage[458], I saw her, whiter than one of the Fates, dressed in black, her figure made thin by death, her head adorned only with her silken tresses; I saw her smile to me with her pale lips and her beautiful teeth when she left Sécherons, near Geneva, to breathe her last at Bex, at the entrance to the Valais; I heard her coffin pass at night along the deserted streets of Lausanne to take up its eternal place at Fervacques: she was hastening to hide herself in a property which she had possessed for but a moment, like her life. I had read on the corner of a chimney-piece in the château those bad rhymes attributed to the lover of Gabrielle:

La dame de Fervacques
Mérite de vives attacques[459].

The soldier-king had said as much to many others: passing declarations of men, soon effaced and descending from beauty to beauty down to Madame de Custine. Fervacques has been sold.

I also met the Duchesse de Châtillon[460], who adorned my valley at Aulnay during my absence in the Hundred Days. Mrs. Lindsay, whom I continued to see, introduced me to Julie Talma[461]. Madame de Clermont-Tonnerre invited me. We had a common grandmother, and she was good enough to call me cousin. The widow of the Comte de Clermont-Tonnerre[462],[Pg 194] she was married again, later, to the Marquis de Talaru[463]. She had converted M. de La Harpe in prison. It was through her that I knew Neveu, the painter, who was enrolled among the number of her cicisbei: Neveu brought me into momentary connection with Saint-Martin[464].

M. de Saint-Martin thought he had discovered in Atala a certain cant which was far from my thoughts, but which to his mind proved an affinity of doctrine between us. Neveu, in order to bring two brothers together, asked us to dinner in a top room which he occupied in the out-houses of the Palais-Bourbon. I reached the trysting-place at six o'clock; the heavenly philosopher was at his post. At seven o'clock, a discreet man-servant placed a tureen of soup upon the table, withdrew, and closed the door. We sat down and began to eat in silence. M. de Saint-Martin, who, for the rest, had a very fine manner, pronounced only a few oracular phrases. Neveu replied with exclamations, uttered with a painter's attitudes and grimaces. I said not a word.

After half an hour, the necromancer returned, removed the soup, and placed another dish on the table. The courses succeeded each other in this way, one by one, and at long intervals. M. de Saint-Martin, becoming gradually more excited, began to talk after the manner of an archangel; the more he talked, the more obscure did his language become. Neveu had hinted to me, squeezing my hand, that we should see extraordinary things, that we should hear sounds. For six mortal hours I listened and discovered nothing. At midnight, the man of visions suddenly rose to his feet. I thought that the spirit of darkness or the heavenly spirit was descending, that the bells were about to ring out through the mysterious passages; but M. de Saint-Martin declared that he was exhausted, and that we would resume the conversation another time: he put on his hat and went away. Unhappily for himself, he was stopped at the door and obliged to come back by an unexpected visit: nevertheless he was not long in disappearing. I never saw him again: he went off to die[Pg 195] in the garden of M. Lenoir-Laroche[465], my neighbour at Aulnay.

Swedenborgian nonsense.

I am a refractory subject for Swedenborgianism; the Abbé Faria[466], at a dinner at Madame de Custine's, boasted of being able to kill a canary by magnetizing it; the canary was the stronger of the two, and the abbé, beside himself, was obliged to leave the party for fear of being killed by the canary. The sole presence of myself, the Christian, had rendered the tripod powerless.

Another time, the celebrated Gall[467], again at Madame de Custine's, dined next to me, without knowing me, mistook my facial angle, took me for a frog, and tried, when he knew who I was, to patch up his science in a way which made me blush for him. The shape of the head can assist one in distinguishing the sex in individuals, in indicating what belongs to the beast, to the animal passions; as to the intellectual faculties, phrenology will never know them. If one could collect the different skulls of the great men who have died since the commencement of the world, and were to place them before the eyes of the phrenologists without telling them to whom they belonged, they would not forward one brain to its right address: the examination of the "bumps" would produce the most comical mistakes.

I feel conscience-smitten: I spoke of M. de Saint-Martin a trifle scoffingly; I am sorry for it. That love of scoffing, which I am constantly thrusting back and which incessantly returns to me, is a cause of suffering to me; for I hate the satirical spirit as being the pettiest, commonest, and easiest of all: of course, I am bringing no charge against high comedy. M. de Saint-Martin was, when all is said and done, a man of great merit, of noble and independent character. His ideas, when they were explicable, were lofty and of a superior nature. Ought I not to sacrifice the two foregoing pages to the generous and much too flattering declaration of the author of the Portrait de M. de Saint-Martin fait par lui-même[468]? I should not hesitate to suppress[Pg 196] them, if what I say were able to do the smallest hurt to the serious reputation of M. de Saint-Martin and to the esteem which will always cling to his memory. I am glad, for the rest, to see that my recollection has not deceived me: M. de Saint-Martin may not have received quite the same impressions as myself at the dinner of which I speak; but you will see that I have not invented the scene, and that M. de Saint-Martin's account resembles mine at bottom:

"On the 27th of January 1803," he says, "I had an interview with M. de Chateaubriand at a dinner arranged for the purpose at M. Neveu's, in the Polytechnic School[469]. It would have been a great advantage to me to have known him earlier: he is the only irreproachable man of letters with whom I have come into contact in my existence, and even then I enjoyed his conversation only during the meal. For, immediately afterwards, there came a visit which made him dumb for the rest of the evening, and I do not know when the occasion will return, because the king of this world takes great care to put a spoke in the wheel of my cart. For the rest, of whom do I stand in need except God?"

M. de Saint-Martin is worth a thousand of me: the dignity of his last sentence crushes my harmless banter with all the weight of a serious nature.

I had seen M. de Saint-Lambert[470] and Madame de Houdetot[471] at the Marais. Both represented the opinions and the freedom of days gone by, carefully packed up and preserved: it was the eighteenth century dying and married after its own fashion. One need but hold on to life for unlawfulness to become lawful. Men feel an infinite esteem for immorality because it has not ceased to exist and because time has adorned it with wrinkles. In truth, a virtuous husband and wife, who are not husband and wife, but who remain together out of consideration for their fellow-creatures, suffer a little from their venerable condition; they bore and detest[Pg 197] each other cordially with all the ill-humour of old age; that is God's justice:

Malheur à qui le ciel accorde de longs jours[472]!

Madame de Houdetot.

It became difficult to understand certain pages of the Confessions when one had seen the object of Rousseau's transports. Had Madame de Houdetot kept the letters which Jean Jacques wrote to her, and which he says were more brilliant than those in the Nouvelle Héloïse? It is believed that she made a sacrifice of them to Saint-Lambert.

When nearly eighty years of age, Madame de Houdetot still cried in agreeable verses:

Et l'amour me console!
Rien ne pourra me consoler de lui[473].

She never went to bed without striking the floor three times with her slipper and saying, "Good-night, dear!" to the late author of the Saisons. That was what the philosophy of the eighteenth century amounted to in 1803.

The society of Madame de Houdetot, Diderot, Saint-Lambert, Rousseau, Grimm[474], and Madame d'Épinay rendered the Valley of Montmorency insupportable to me, and though, with regard to facts, I am very glad that a relic of the Voltairean times should have come under my notice, I do not regret those times. I have lately again seen the house in which Madame de Houdetot used to live at Sannois; it is now a mere empty shell, reduced to the four walls. A deserted hearth is always interesting; but what can we gather from hearth-stones by whose side beauty has never sat, nor the mother of a family, nor religion, and whose ashes, if they were not dispersed, would carry back the memory only to days which were capable of nought save destruction?


A piracy of the Génie du Christianisme at Avignon took me to the south of France in the month of October 1802. I knew only my poor Brittany and the northern provinces through which I had passed when leaving my country. I was about to see the sun of Provence, the sky which was to[Pg 198] give me a fore-taste of Italy and Greece, towards which my instinct and my muse alike urged me. I was in a happy mood; my reputation made life seem light to me: there are many dreams in the first intoxication of fame, and one's eyes at first become rapturously filled with the rising light; but should that light become extinguished, it leaves you in the dark: if it last, the habit of seeing it soon renders you unmindful of it.

Lyons pleased me extremely. I renewed my acquaintance with those works of the Romans which I had not seen since the day when I read some sheets of Atala out of my knapsack in the amphitheatre at Trèves. Sailing-boats crossed from one bank of the Saône to the other, carrying a light at night; they were steered by women; a sailor lass of eighteen who took me on board, at each turn of the helm, adjusted a nosegay of flowers badly fastened to her hat. I was awakened in the morning by the sound of bells. The convents poised upon the slopes seemed to have recovered their solitary inmates. The son of M. Ballanche[475], the owner, after M. Migneret, of the Génie du Christianisme, had become my host: he has become my friend. Who does not know to-day the Christian philosopher whose writings glow with that placid clearness on which one loves to fix his eyes, as on the ray of a friendly star in the sky?

On the 27th of October the post-barge which was taking me to Avignon was obliged to stop at Tain, owing to a storm. I thought myself in America: the Rhone reminded me of my great wild rivers. I was put into a little river-side inn; a conscript was standing at the chimney-corner; he had his sack on his back, and was on his way to join the Army of Italy. I wrote with the bellows of the chimney for a table, opposite the landlady, who sat silently before me and showed her regard for the traveller by preventing the dog and cat from making a noise. What I was writing was an article which I had almost finished while going down the Rhone, and which related to M. de Bonald's Législation primitive. I foresaw what has since come to pass:

"French literature," I said, "is about to change its aspect; with the Revolution new thoughts will come into being, new[Pg 199] views of men and things. It is easy to foresee that our writers will become divided. Some will strive to leave the beaten paths; others will try to copy the old models, while nevertheless displaying them in a new light. It is very probable that the latter will end by getting the better of their adversaries, because, in leaning upon the great traditions and the great men, they will have surer guides and more fruitful documents."

The lines ending my travelling criticism are history; my mind was beginning to move with my century:

"The author of this article," I said, "cannot resist an image drawn from the circumstances in which he finds himself placed. At the very moment at which he is writing these concluding words he is descending one of the greatest rivers of France. On two opposite mountains stand two ruined towers; at the top of those towers are fastened little bells, which the mountaineers ring as we pass. This river, those mountains, those sounds, those Gothic monuments, divert the eyes of the spectators for a moment; but not one stops to go whither the bell-tower calls him. Thus the men who to-day preach morality and religion in vain give the signal from the top of their ruins to those whom the torrent of the age carries with it; the traveller is amazed at the grandeur of the ruins, at the sweetness of the sounds that issue from them, at the majesty of the memories that rise above them, but he does not interrupt his journey, and at the first turn in the stream all is forgotten[476]."


When I arrived at Avignon, on the eve of All Saints' Day, a child hawking books offered them to me: I then and there bought three different pirated editions of a little novel called Atala. By going from one bookseller to the other, I unearthed the pirate, to whom I was not known. He sold me the four volumes of the Génie du Christianisme at the reasonable price of nine francs per copy, and praised both book and author highly to me. He lived in a fine house standing in its own grounds. I thought I had made a great discovery: after four-and-twenty hours, I grew weary of following fortune, and made terms for next to nothing with the robber.

I saw Madame de Janson, a little wizened, white-haired,[Pg 200] determined woman, who struggled with the Rhone for her estate, exchanged musket-shots with the inhabitants of the banks, and defended herself against the years.

Avignon reminded me of my fellow-countryman. Du Guesclin was good for more than Bonaparte, because he rescued France from her conquerors. On reaching the city of the Popes with the adventurers whom his glory was leading to Spain, he said to the provost sent by the Pontiff to meet him:


"'Brother, do not deceive me: whence comes that treasure? Has the Pope taken it from his treasure?'

"And he answered no, and that the commons of Avignon had paid it, each his portion.

"'Then, provost,' said Bertrand, 'I promise you that we will not take a farthing of it as we live, and wish that this money got together be restored to them that paid it, and tell the Pope that he have it restored to them; for if I knew that any other were done, it would lie heavy on me; and had I crossed the sea, yet would I return thence.'

"Thus was Bertrand paid with the Pope's money, and his folk absolved again, and the said first absolution again confirmed."


In former days Avignon was considered the commencement of a Transalpine journey: it was the entrance to Italy. The geographies say:

"The Rhone belongs to the King, but the City of Avignon is watered by a branch of the river, the Sorgue, which belongs to the Pope."

Is the Pope very certain of long preserving the ownership of the Tiber? At Avignon they used to visit the Celestine[477] monastery. Good King René[478], who reduced the taxes when the tramontane wind blew, had painted a skeleton in one of the halls of the Celestine monastery: it was that of a woman of great beauty whom he had loved[479].


I looked for the Palace of the Popes and was shown the ice-house: the Revolution has done away with celebrated[Pg 201] places; the memories of the past are obliged to shoot up through it and to reblossom over dead bones[480]. Alas, the groans of the victims die soon after them! They scarcely reach some echo that causes them to survive a little while after the voice from which they issued is extinguished for ever. But, while the cry of sorrow was expiring on the banks of the Rhone, one heard in the distance the sound of Petrarch's lute: a solitary canzone, escaping from the tomb, continued to charm Vaucluse[481] with an immortal melancholy and the love sorrows of olden time.

Alain Chartier[482] had come from Bayeux to be buried at Avignon in the Church of St. Anthony. He had written the Belle Dame sans mercy, and the kiss of Margaret of Scotland[483] made him live.


From Avignon I went to Marseilles. What is left to be desired by a town to which Cicero addressed these words, of which the oratorical manner was imitated by Bossuet:

"Nor will I forget thee, O Massilia, who in virtue and dignity shouldst rank not only before Greece, but for aught I know before the whole world[484]!"

Tacitus, in the Life of Agricola, also praises Marseilles as combining the Greek urbanity with the economy of the Latin provinces. Daughter of Hellas, foundress of Gaul, celebrated by Cicero, captured by Cæsar, is not that sufficient glory united? I hastened to climb to Notre Dame de la Garde, to admire the sea which the smiling coasts of all the famous countries of antiquity line with their ruins. The sea, which does not move, is the source of mythology, even as the ocean, which rises twice a day, is the abyss to which Jehovah said:

"Thou shalt go no farther[485]."

In this same year, 1838, I climbed again to that summit; I saw again that sea which I now know so well, and at the end of which rose the Cross and the Tomb victorious. The mistral was blowing; I went into the fort built by Francis I., where no longer a veteran of the army of Egypt[Pg 202] kept guard, but where stood a conscript destined for Algiers and lost under the gloomy vaults. Silence reigned in the restored chapel, while the wind moaned without. The hymn of the Breton sailors to Our Lady of Succour returned to my mind; you know when and how I have already quoted that plaint of my early ocean days:

Je mets ma confiance,
Vierge, en votre secours.

How many events it had needed to bring me back to the feet of the "Star of the Sea," to whom I had been vowed in my childhood! When I gazed at those votive offerings, those paintings of ship-wrecks hung all around me, it was as though I were reading the story of my life. Virgil places the Trojan hero beneath the Porches of Carthage, moved at the sight of a picture representing the burning of Troy, and the genius of the singer of Hamlet has made use of the soul of the singer of Dido.

I no longer recognised Marseilles at the foot of that rock once covered with a forest sung by Lucan: I could no longer lose my way in its long, wide, straight streets. The harbour was crowded with ships; thirty-six years ago I should with difficulty have found a "boat," steered by a descendant of Pytheas[486], to carry me to Cyprus like Joinville[487]: time rejuvenates cities, reversing its action upon men. I preferred my old Marseilles, with its memories of the Bérengers[488], the Duke of Anjou[489], King René, Guise and d'Épernon[490], with the monuments of Louis XIV. and the virtues of Belsunce[491]: the wrinkles on its brow pleased me. Perhaps, in regretting the years which it has lost, I but bewail those which I have found. Marseilles received me graciously, it is true; but the rival of Athens has grown too young for me.

[Pg 203]

If the Memoirs of Alfieri[492] had been published in 1802 I should not have left Marseilles without visiting the rock from which the poet used to bathe. That rugged man once succeeded in attaining the charm of reverie and of expression:

"After the performance," he writes, "one of my amusements, at Marseilles, was to bathe almost every evening in the sea; I had found a very agreeable spot, on a neck of land situated to the right of the harbour, where, seated on the sand, with my back leaning against a rock, which prevented me from being seen from the land side, I could behold the sky and sea without interruption. Between those two immensities, embellished by the rays of the setting sun, I passed delicious hours dreaming of future delights; and there I might unquestionably have become a poet, could I have given any language whatever to my thoughts and feelings[493]."

Jean Reboul.

I returned through Languedoc and Gascony. At Nîmes, the Arena[494] and the Maison Carrée[495] had not yet been extricated: in the present year, 1838, I have seen them exhumed. I have also looked up Jean Reboul[496]. I had my doubts concerning those workmen poets, who are generally neither poets nor workmen: I owe M. Reboul a reparation. I found him in his bakery; I spoke to him without knowing whom I was addressing, failing to distinguish him from his fellow-worshippers of Ceres. He took my name and said he would go and see if the person for whom I was asking was there. He returned soon after and introduced himself: he took me into his shop; we wended our way through a labyrinth of flour-sacks, and clambered up a sort of ladder into a little closet resembling the upper room of a wind-mill. There we sat down and talked. I was as happy as in my garret in London, and happier than in my ministerial armchair in Paris. M. Reboul drew a manuscript from a chest of drawers, and read me some powerful verses from a poem[Pg 204] which he is writing on the Dernier Jour. I congratulated him on his religion and his talent[497].

I had to take leave of my host, not without wishing him the gardens of Horace. I would have better loved to see him dream beside the Cascade at Tivoli than gather the wheat crushed by the wheel above that cascade. It is true that Sophocles was perhaps a blacksmith in Athens, and that Plautus, in Rome, was a harbinger of Reboul at Nîmes[498].

Between Nîmes and Montpellier, I passed, on my left, Aigues-Mortes, which I have visited in 1838. This town is still quite intact, with its towers and its surrounding rampart; it resembles a large ship stranded on the sands where St. Louis, time and the sea have left it. The Saint-king gave "usages" and statutes to the town of Aigues-Mortes:

"He wills that the prison be such that it serve not for the extermination of the person, but for its safe-keeping; that no information be granted for mere injurious words; that adultery itself be not enquired into, except in certain cases; and that he who violates a maid, volente vel nolente, shall not lose his life, nor any of his members, sed alio modo puniatur."

At Montpellier I again saw the sea, to which I would gladly have written in the words of the Most Christian King to the Swiss Confederation: "My trusty ally and well-beloved friend." Scaliger[499] would have liked to make Montpellier "the nest of his old age." It received its name from two virgin saints, Mons puellarum: hence the beauty of its women. Montpellier[500], falling before the Cardinal de Richelieu, witnessed the death of the aristocratic constitution of France.

On the road from Montpellier to Narbonne, I had a return to my native disposition, an attack of my dreaminess. I should have forgotten that attack if, like certain imaginary invalids, I had not entered the day of my crisis on a tiny bulletin, the only note of that time which I have found to aid my memory. This time it was an arid space covered with fox-gloves that made me forget the world: my eyes glided over that sea of purple stalks, and encountered at the distance only the blue chain of the Cantal Mountains. In nature, with the exception of the sky, the sea and the sun, it is not the immense objects that inspire me; they give me[Pg 205] only a sensation of greatness, which flings my own littleness distraught and disconsolate at the feet of God. But a flower which I pick, a stream of water hiding among the rushes, a bird alternately flying and resting before my eyes lead me on towards all kinds of dreams. Is it not better to be moved for no definite reason than to go through life seeking blunted interests, chilled by their repetition and their number? All is worn out nowadays, even misfortune.

At Narbonne I reached the Canal des Deux-Mers[501]. Corneille, singing this work, adds his own greatness to that of Louis XIV.[502]


At Toulouse, from the bridge over the Garonne, I could see the line of the Pyrenees; I was to cross it four years later: our horizons succeed one another like our days. They offered to show me, in a cave, the dried body of Fair Paule[503]: blessed are they that have not seen and have believed! Montmorency[504] had been beheaded in the courtyard of the town-hall: that head struck off must have been very important, since they still speak of it after so many other heads have been taken off? I do not know if, in the history of criminal proceedings, there exists an eye-witness' evidence which has more clearly established a man's identity:

"The fire and smoke which covered him," said Guitaut, "prevented me from recognising him; but seeing a man who, after breaking six of our ranks, was still killing soldiers in the seventh, I thought that it could be only M. de Montmorency; I knew it for certain when I saw him thrown to the ground under his dead horse."

The deserted Church of St. Sernin impressed me by its[Pg 206] architecture. This church is connected with the history of the Albigenses, which the poem so well translated by M. Fauriel[505] revives:

"The gallant young count, his father's heir and the light of his eyes, with the cross and the sword, enter together by one of the doors. Not a single young girl remains in chamber or on landing; the inhabitants of the town, great and small, all come out to gaze upon the count as on a fair and blooming rose."

It is to the time of Simon de Montfort[506] that the loss of the langue d'Oc dates back:

"Simon, seeing himself lord of so many lands, bestowed them among the gentle men, both French and others, atque loci leges dedimus," say the eight signatory archbishops and bishops.

I should have liked to have had time to inquire at Toulouse after one of my great admirations, Cujas[507], writing, flat on the ground, with his books spread around him. I do not know whether the memory has been preserved of his twice-married daughter Suzanne. Constancy had no great attractions for Suzanne, she set it at naught; but she kept one of her husbands alive with the same infidelities which caused the other's death. Cujas was protected by the daughter of Francis I.[508], Pibrac by the daughter of Henry II.[509]: two Margarets of the blood of the Valois, the true blood of the Muses. Pibrac[510] is famous through his quatrains, which have been translated into Persian. I was perhaps lodged in[Pg 207] the house of the president his father. That "good Lord of Pibrac," according to Montaigne, was "a man of so quaint and rare wit, of so sound judgment, and of so mild and affable behaviour." His mind was "so dissonant and different in proportion from our deplorable corruption, and so farre from agreeing with our tumultuous stormes[511]." And Pibrac wrote the apology of St. Bartholomew's Night!

I hurried on without being able to stop: fate threw me back to 1838 to admire in detail the city of Raimond de Saint-Gilles[512], and to speak of the new acquaintances I made there: M. de Lavergne[513], a man of talent, wit, and sense; Mademoiselle Honorine Gasc[514], the Malibran of the future. The latter reminded me, in my new quality of a follower of Clémence Isaure[515], of those verses which Chapelle and Bachaumont[516] wrote in the isle of Ambijoux, near Toulouse:

Hélas! que l'on serait heureux
Dans ce beau lieu digne d'envie,
Si, toujours aimé de Sylvie,
On pouvait, toujours amoureux,
Avec elle passer sa vie[517]!

Let Mademoiselle Honorine be on her guard against her beautiful voice! Talents are "gold of Toulouse:" they bring misfortune.


Bordeaux was as yet scarce rid of its scaffolds and its dastardly Girondins. All the towns which I saw had the appearance of beautiful women lately risen from a violent malady, and hardly commencing to breathe again. In Bordeaux, Louis XIV. had caused the Palais des Tutelles[Pg 208] to be razed, in order to build the Chateau Trompette[518]; Spon[519] and the lovers of antiquity groaned:

Pourquoi démolit-on ces colonnes des dieux,
Ouvrage des Césars, monument tutélaire[520]?

There were but a few remains of the Arena to be seen. Were we to offer a token of regret to all that falls, life would be too short for our tears.

I took ship for Blaye. I saw the castle, then unknown, to which in 1833 I addressed these words:

"O captive of Blaye[521], I am sorrow-stricken to be able to do nothing to forward your present destinies!"

I travelled towards Rochefort, and went on to Nantes through the Vendée.

This district bore the mutilations and scars due to its valour, like an old warrior. Bones bleached by time and ruins blackened by fire met the gaze. When the Vendeans were on the point of attacking the enemy, they knelt down to receive the blessing of a priest. Prayers uttered under arms were not reckoned as weakness, for the Vendean who raised his sword towards Heaven asked for victory, not for life.

The diligence in which I found myself interred was full of travellers who related the rapes and murders with which they had glorified their lives in the wars of the Vendée. My heart throbbed when, after crossing the Loire at Nantes, we entered Brittany. I passed by the College of Rennes, which witnessed the last years of my childhood. I was able to remain for only four-and-twenty hours with my wife and sisters, and I returned to Paris.


I arrived in time for the death of a man who belonged to those superior names of the second rank in the eighteenth century which, forming a solid rear-line in society, gave it a certain fulness and consistency.

I had known M. de La Harpe in 1789: like Flins, he had become smitten with a great passion for my sister, Madame la Comtesse de Farcy. He used to come up with three large volumes of his works under his little arms, quite astounded to find that his glory did not triumph over the most rebellious hearts. Loud-voiced, and eager in manner, he thundered against every abuse, ordered an omelette to be[Pg 209] made for him at the ministers' houses when the dinner had not been to his taste, eating with his fingers, dragging his cuffs in the dishes, talking philosophical scurrilities to the greatest lords, who doted on his impertinences; but, when all was said, his was an upright and enlightened mind, impartial amid all its passions, with a quick sense for talent, capable of admiration, of shedding tears over fine poetry or a fine action, and possessing a foundation fit to support repentance. He was not wanting at the end; I saw him die the death of a brave Christian, with his taste enlarged by religion, and retaining no pride except as against impiety, no hatred except that of "Revolutionary language[522]."

Death of M. de La Harpe.

On my return from the Emigration, religion had disposed M. de La Harpe in favour of my works: the illness which attacked him did not prevent him from working himself; he read me passages from a poem which he was writing on the Revolution[523]; in it occurred notably some pithy lines directed against the crimes of the age and the "worthy men" who had permitted them:

Mais s'ils ont tout osé, vous avez tout permis:
Plus l'oppresseur est vil, plus l'esclave est infâme[524].

Forgetting that he was ill, dressed in a wadded spencer, with a white cotton night-cap on his head, he recited with all his might; then, dropping his copy-book, he said in a voice that hardly reached the ear:

"I can't go on; I feel a grip of iron in my side."

And if, unfortunately, a maid-servant should happen to pass by, he would resume his stentorian voice and roar:

"Go away! Shut the door!"

I said to him one day:

"You will live for the good of religion."

"Ah, yes," he replied, "it would certainly be for God; but He does not wish it, and I shall die within these few days."

Falling back into his chair, and drawing his night-cap over his ears, he expiated his former pride by his present resignation and humility.

At a dinner at Migneret's, I had heard him speak of himself with the greatest modesty, declaring that he had[Pg 210] done nothing out of the common, but that he believed that art and the language had not degenerated in his hands.

M. de La Harpe quitted this life on the 11th of February 1803; the author of the Saisons died almost at the same time, fortified with all the consolations of philosophy, as M. de La Harpe died fortified with all the consolations of religion: the one was visited by men, the other by God.

M. de La Harpe was buried on the 12th of February 1803 in the cemetery at the Barrière de Vaugirard. The coffin was placed beside the grave on the little mound of earth that was soon to cover it, and M. de Fontanes delivered a funeral oration. It was a dismal scene: whirling snow-flakes fell from the clouds and covered the pall with white, while the wind blew it upwards, to allow the last words of friendship to reach the ears of death. The cemetery has been destroyed and M. de La Harpe disinterred: there was hardly anything left of his poor ashes. M. de La Harpe had been married under the Directory, and had not been happy with his beautiful wife; she had been seized with loathing at the sight of him, and had persisted in refusing him any of his rights[525].

For the rest, M. de La Harpe, like everything else, had diminished by the side of the Revolution, which was ever growing in dimensions: reputations hastily shrank away before the representative of that Revolution, even as dangers lost their power before him.


While we were engrossed with vulgar life and death, the gigantic progress of the world was being realized; the Man of the Time was taking the head of the table at the banquet of the human race. Amid vast commotions, precursors of the universal displacement, I had landed at Calais to bear my part in the general action, within the limits set to each soldier. I arrived, in the first year of the century, at the camp where Bonaparte was beating the destinies to arms: soon after, he became First Consul for life.

[Pg 211]

After the adoption of the Concordat by the Legislative Body in 1802, Lucien, then Minister of the Interior, gave an entertainment to his brother; I was invited, as having rallied the Christian forces and led them back to the charge. I was in the gallery when Napoleon entered: he struck me pleasantly; I had never seen him except at a distance. His smile was beautiful and caressing; his eyes were admirable, owing especially to the manner in which they were placed beneath his forehead and framed in his eyebrows. There was as yet no charlatanism in his glance, nothing theatrical or affected. The Génie du Christianisme, which was then making a great stir, had worked upon Napoleon. A prodigious imagination animated that so frigid politician: he would not have been what he was, if the Muse had not been there; reason but carried out the poet's ideas. All those men who lead the large life are always a compound of two natures, for they must be capable of inspiration and of action: one conceives the plan, the other accomplishes it.

The First Consul.

Bonaparte saw me and recognised me, I know not by what. When he turned in my direction no one knew whom he was making for; the ranks opened successively; each hoped that the Consul would stop at him; he appeared to feel a certain impatience with those misconceptions. I hid behind my neighbours; suddenly Bonaparte raised his voice and said:

"Monsieur de Chateaubriand!"

I then remained standing out alone, for the crowd withdrew, and soon formed again in a circle around the speakers. Bonaparte addressed me with simplicity: without paying me any compliments, without idle questions, without preamble, he spoke to me at once of Egypt and the Arabs, as though I had been one of his intimates, and as though he were only continuing a conversation already commenced between us.

"I was always much impressed," he said, "when I saw the sheiks fall on their knees in the middle of the desert, turn towards the East, and touch the sand with their foreheads. What was that unknown thing which they worshipped in the East?"

Bonaparte interrupted himself and broached another idea without any transition:

"Christianity! Have not the ideologists tried to make a system of astronomy of it? And if that should be so, do they think they can persuade me that Christianity is small? If Christianity is the allegory of the movement of the spheres,[Pg 212] the geometry of the stars, the free-thinkers may say what they please: in spite of themselves, they have still left tolerable greatness to 'the infamous thing.'"

Incontinently Bonaparte moved away. As with Job, in my night "a spirit passed before me, the hair of my flesh stood up. There stood one whose countenance I knew not ... and I heard the voice as it were of a gentle wind[526]."

My days have been but a series of visions; Hell and Heaven have continually opened up beneath my feet or over my head, without giving me time to explore their darkness or their light. One single time, on the shore of the two worlds, I met the man of the last and the man of the new century: Washington and Napoleon. I conversed for a moment with each; both sent me back to solitude: the first through a kindly wish, the second through a crime.

I observed that, when going round among the crowd, Bonaparte cast deeper glances on me than those which he had fixed upon me while talking to me. I too followed him with my eyes:

Chi è quel grande che non par che curi

In consequence of this interview, Bonaparte thought of me for Rome: he had decided at a glance where and how I could be of use to him. It mattered little to him that I had no experience of public affairs, that I was entirely unacquainted with practical diplomacy; he believed that a given mind always understands and has no need of apprenticeship. He was a great discoverer of men: but he wished them to possess talent only for him, and even then on condition that that talent was not much discussed; jealous of every renown, he regarded it as an usurpation over his own: there was to be none save Napoleon in the universe.

Fontanes and Madame Bacciochi spoke to me of the pleasure the Consul had found in "my conversation:" I had not opened my mouth; that meant that Bonaparte was pleased with himself. They urged me to avail myself of fortune. The idea of being anything had never occurred to me; I flatly refused. Then they persuaded an authority to speak whom it was difficult for me to resist.

The Abbé Émery[528], the superior of the Seminary of Saint-Sulpice,[Pg 213] came and entreated me, in the name of the clergy, to accept, for the good of religion, the post of first secretary to the embassy which Bonaparte had reserved for his uncle, Cardinal Fesch[529]. He gave me to understand that the cardinal's intelligence was not very remarkable and that I should soon find myself the master of affairs. A singular chance had brought me into connection with the Abbé Émery: I had crossed to the United States with the Abbé Nagat and several seminarists, as you know. That remembrance of my obscurity, my youth, my life as a traveller, which reflected itself in my public life, seized hold of my imagination and my heart. The Abbé Émery, who was esteemed by Bonaparte, was subtle by nature and by reason of his cloth and of the Revolution; but he used that threefold subtlety only on behalf of his true merit; ambitious only to do good, he acted only in the most prosperous circle of a seminary. Circumspect as he was in his actions and words, it would have been superfluous to do violence to the Abbé Émery, for he always held his life at your disposal, in exchange for his will, which he never surrendered: his strength lay in waiting for you, seated on his tomb.

I am sent to Rome.

He failed in his first attempt; he returned to the charge, and his patience ended by persuading me. I accepted the place which he had been commissioned to offer me, without being in the smallest degree convinced of my usefulness in the post to which I was called: I am no good at all in the second rank. I might perhaps have again withdrawn, if the thought of Madame de Beaumont had not come to put an end to my scruples. M. de Montmorin's daughter was dying; she had been told that the climate of Italy would be favourable to her; if I went to Rome she would make up her mind to cross the Alps. I sacrificed myself to the hope of saving her. Madame de Chateaubriand prepared to come to join me; M. Joubert spoke of accompanying her; and Madame de Beaumont set out for Mont-Dore[530], in order afterwards to complete her cure on the banks of the Tiber.

[Pg 214]

M. de Talleyrand[531] occupied the Ministry for Foreign Affairs; he sent me my nomination. I dined with him: he has always maintained in my mind the place which he occupied at our first meeting. For the rest, his fine manners made a contrast with those of the ruffians of his environment; his profligacy assumed an astounding importance: in the eyes of a brutal gang, moral corruption seemed genius, frivolity profundity. The Revolution was over-modest; it did not sufficiently appreciate its superiority: it is not the same thing to stand above crimes or beneath them.

I saw the ecclesiastics attached to the cardinal's person; I remarked the gay Abbé de Bonnevie[532]: formerly, in his capacity as chaplain to the Army of the Princes, he had taken part in the retreat from Verdun; he had also been grand-vicar to the Bishop of Châlons, M. de Clermont-Tonnerre[533], who set out behind us in order to claim a pension from the Holy See, in his quality as a "Chiaramonte[534]." So soon as my preparations were completed I started: I was to precede Napoleon's uncle to Rome.


In Lyons I again saw my friend M. Ballanche. I witnessed the revival of Corpus Christi: I felt as though I had in some way contributed to those posies of flowers, to that joy of Heaven which I had called back to earth.

I continued my journey, finding a cordial welcome wherever I went: my name was linked with the restoration of the altars. The keenest pleasure which I have experienced has been to feel myself honoured in France and abroad with marks of serious interest. It has sometimes happened that, while resting in a village inn, I saw a father and mother enter with their son: they told me they were bringing their child to thank me. Was it self-conceit that then gave me the pleasure of which I speak? How did it affect my vanity that lowly and honest people should give me a token of their satisfaction on the high-road, in a place[Pg 215] where none overheard them? What did touch me, at least I venture to think so, was that I had done some little good, consoled a few distressed, caused the hope to revive in a mother's yearnings of bringing up a Christian son: that is to say, a submissive son, respectful, attached to his parents. Should I have tasted this pure joy if I had written a book which morals or religion would have had cause to bewail?

My journey to Rome.

The road is somewhat dreary on leaving Lyons: after leaving the Tour-du-Pin, as far as Pont-de-Beauvoisin, it is shady and wooded. At Chambéry, where Bayard's chivalrous soul showed itself so fine, a man was welcomed by a woman, and by way of payment for the hospitality received at her hands, thought himself philosophically obliged to dishonour her. That is the danger of literature: the desire to make a stir gets the better of generous sentiment; if Rousseau had never become a celebrated writer, he would have buried in the valleys of Savoy the frailties of the woman who had fed him; he would have sacrificed himself to the very faults of his friend; he would have relieved her in her old age, instead of contenting himself with giving her a snuff-box and running away. Ah, may the voice of friendship betrayed never be raised against our tombstones!

After passing Chambéry, one comes to the stream of the Isère. On every hand, in the valleys, one meets with road-side crosses and lady-statues fixed in the trunks of the pine-trees. The little churches, surrounded with trees, form a touching contrast with the great mountains. When the winter whirlwinds come sweeping down from those ice-laden summits, the Savoyard takes shelter in his rustic temple and prays.

The valleys which one enters above Montmélian are hemmed by mountains of different shapes, sometimes half bare, sometimes clad in forests. Aiguebelle seems to shut in the Alps; but, on turning round an isolated rock, fallen in the middle of the road, you catch sight of new valleys attached to the course of the Arc. The mountains on either side stand erect; their flanks become perpendicular; their barren summits begin to display a few glaciers: torrents come rushing down to swell the Arc, which runs madly along. Amid this tumult of the waters, one remarks a light cascade which falls with infinite grace beneath a curtain of willows.

[Pg 216]

After crossing Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne I arrived towards sunset at Saint-Michel, and found no horses. I was obliged to stop, and went for a stroll outside the village. The air became transparent on the ridge of the mountains; their denticulation was outlined with extraordinary clearness, while a great darkness, issuing from their feet, rose towards their crests. The note of the nightingale was heard below, the cry of the eagle above; the blossoming lote-tree stood in the valley, the white snow on the mountain. A castle, popularly believed to be the work of the Carthaginians, showed upon the sheer-cut redan. There, incorporated with the rock, had stood one man's hatred, overcoming all obstacles. The vengeance of the human race weighed down upon a free people, which was able to build its greatness only with the slavery and blood of the rest of the world.

I left at day-break and arrived at about two o'clock in the afternoon at Lans-le-Bourg, at the foot of Mont Cenis. On entering the village, I saw a peasant who held an eaglet by the feet; a pitiless band struck the young king, insulted his youthful weakness and fallen majesty; the father and mother of the noble orphan had been killed. They offered to sell him to me: he died of the ill-treatment to which he had been subjected before I was able to deliver him. I then remembered poor little Louis XVII.; to-day I think of Henry V.: what swiftness of downfall and misfortune!

Here one begins to ascend Mont Cenis and leave the little River Arc, which brings you to the foot of the mountain. On the other side of Mont Cenis, the Dora opens the entrance of Italy to you. Rivers are not only "moving high-roads," as Pascal calls them, but they also mark the road for men.

Standing for the first time on the summit of the Alps, I was seized with a strange emotion. I was like the lark which had just crossed the frozen upland, and which, after singing its little burden of the plains, had alighted amid the snows, instead of dropping down upon the harvest. The stanzas with which those mountains inspired me in 1822 reflect with some accuracy my feeling on the same spot in 1803:

Alpes, vous n'avez point subi mes destinées!
Le temps ne vous peut rien;
Vos fronts légèrement ont porté les années
[Pg 217]Qui pèsent sur le mien.

Pour la première fois, quand, rempli d'espérance,
Je franchis vos remparts,
Ainsi que l'horizon, un avenir immense
S'ouvrait à mes regards.

L'Italie à mes pieds, et devant moi le monde[535]!

That world, have I really penetrated into it? Christopher Columbus saw an apparition which showed him the land of his dreams before he had discovered it; Vasco de Gama met the giant of the storms on his road: which of those two great men presaged my future? What I should have loved above all would have been a life glorious through a brilliant result, and obscure through its destiny. Do you know which were the first European ashes to rest in America? They were those of Bjorn the Scandinavian: he died on landing at Winland, and was buried by his companions on a promontory. Who knows that[536]? Who knows of him whose sail preceded the vessel of the Genoese pilot to the New World? Bjorn sleeps on the point of an unknown cape, and since a thousand years his name has been handed down to us only by the sagas of the poets, in a language no longer spoken.



I had begun my wanderings in an opposite direction to that of other travellers. The old forests of America had displayed themselves to me before the old cities of Europe. I happened upon the latter when they were at the same time renewing their youth and dying in a fresh revolution. Milan was occupied by our troops; they were completing the demolition of the castle, that witness to the wars of the Middle Ages.

The French army was settling in the plains of Lombardy as a military colony. Guarded here and there by their comrades on sentry, these strangers from Gaul, with forage-caps[Pg 218] on their heads and sabres by way of reaping-hooks over their round jackets, presented the appearance of gay and eager harvesters. They moved stones, rolled guns, drove waggons, ran up sheds and huts of brushwood. Horses pranced, curveted, reared among the crowd, like dogs fawning on their masters. Italian women sold fruit on their flat baskets at the market of that armed fair; our soldiers made them presents of their pipes and steels, saying to them as the ancient barbarians, their ancestors, said to their beloved:

"I, Fotrad, son of Eupert, of the race of the Franks, give to thee, Helgine, my dear wife, in honour of thy beauty (in honore pulchritudinis tuæ), my dwelling in the quarter of the Pines[537]."

We are curious enemies: we are at first considered rather insolent, rather too gay, too restless; but we have no sooner turned our backs than we are regretted. Lively, witty, intelligent, the French soldier mixes in the occupations of the inhabitant on whom he is billeted: he draws water at the well, as Moses did for the daughters of Madian, drives away the shepherds, takes the lambs to the washing-place, chops the wood, lights the fire, watches the pot, carries the baby in his arms, or sends it to sleep in its cradle. His good humour and activity put life into everything; one grows to look upon him as a conscript of the family. Does the drum beat? The lodger runs to his musket, leaves his host's daughters weeping on the threshold, and quits the cabin of which he will never think again until he is admitted to the Invalides.

On my passage through Milan, a great people aroused was for a moment opening its eyes. Italy was recovering from her sleep, and remembering her genius as it were a heavenly dream: useful to our reviving country, she brought to the shabbiness of our poverty the grandeur of the Transalpine nature, nurtured as she was, that Ausonia, on the master-pieces of the arts and the lofty reminiscences of the famous motherland. Austria has come; she has again laid her cloak of lead over the Italians; she has forced them back into their coffin. Rome has re-entered her ruins, Venice her sea. Venice sank down, while beautifying the sky with her last smile; she set all charming in her waves, like a star doomed to rise no more.

[Pg 219]

General Murat was in command at Milan. I had a letter for him from Madame Bacciochi. I spent the day with the aides-de-camp; these were not so poor as my comrades before Thionville. French politeness reappeared under arms; it was bent upon showing that it still belonged to the days of Lautrec[538].

I dined in state, on the 23rd of June, with M. de Melzi[539], on the occasion of the christening of a son of General Murat[540]. M. de Melzi had known my brother; the manners of the Vice-President of the Cisalpine Republic were distinguished; his household resembled that of a prince who had never been anything else. He treated me politely and coldly; he found me in exactly the same disposition as himself.

First glimpses of Rome.

I reached my destination on the evening of the 27th of June, the day before the eve of St. Peter's Day[541]. The Prince of Apostles was awaiting me, even as my indigent patron[542] received me since at Jerusalem. I had followed the road of Florence, Siena, and Radicofani. I hastened to go to call upon M. Cacault[543], whom Cardinal Fesch was succeeding, while I was replacing M. Artaud[544].

On the 28th of June, I ran about all day, and cast a first glance upon the Coliseum, the Pantheon, the Trajan Column, and the Castle of St. Angelo. In the evening, M. Artaud took me to a ball at a house in the neighbourhood of the Piazza San-Pietro. One saw the fiery girandole of the dome of Michael Angelo in between the whirling waltzes spinning before the open windows; the rockets of the fireworks on the Molo d'Adriano spread out brilliantly at Sant' Onofrio,[Pg 220] over Tasso's tomb: silence, solitude and night filled the Roman Campagna.

The next day, I assisted at the St. Peter's Mass. Pius VII.[545], pale, sad and religious, was the real pontiff of tribulations. Two days later I was presented to His Holiness: he made me sit beside him. A volume of the Génie du Christianisme lay open, in an obliging fashion, upon his table. Cardinal Consalvi[546], supple and firm, gently and politely resistant, was the living embodiment of the old Roman policy, minus the faith of those days and plus the tolerance of the century.

When going through the Vatican, I stopped to contemplate those staircases which one can ascend on mule-back, those sloping galleries folding one upon the other, adorned with master-pieces, along which the popes of old used to pass with all their pomp, those loggie decorated by so many immortal artists, admired by so many illustrious men, Petrarch, Tasso, Ariosto, Montaigne, Milton, Montesquieu, and queens and kings, mighty or fallen, and a whole people of pilgrims from the four quarters of the globe: all that now without movement or sound; a theatre whose deserted tiers, open to solitude alone, are scarce visited by a ray of the sun.

I had been advised to take a walk by moonlight: from the top of the Trinità-del-Monte, the distant buildings looked like a painter's sketches or like softened coast-lines seen from the deck of a ship at sea. The orb of night, that globe supposed to be an extinct world, turned its pale deserts above the deserts of Rome; it cast its light upon streets without inhabitants, closes, squares, gardens where none passed, monasteries where the voices of the cenobites were no longer heard, cloisters as mute and desolate as the porticoes of the Coliseum.

What happened, eighteen centuries ago, at this very hour and in this very spot? What men have here crossed the shadow of those obelisks, after that shadow had ceased to fall upon the sands of Egypt? Not only is Ancient Italy[Pg 221] no more, but the Italy of the Middle Ages has disappeared. Nevertheless, traces of the two Italies still linger in the Eternal City: where modern Rome shows its St. Peter's and its master-pieces, ancient Rome boasts its Pantheon and its remains; where, on the one hand, the consuls walked down from the Capitol, on the other, the pontiffs issued from the Vatican. The Tiber separates the two glories: seated in the same dust, pagan Rome sinks deeper and deeper into its tombs, and Christian Rome glides slowly into its catacombs.


Cardinal Fesch had hired the Palazzo Lancelotti, not far from the Tiber: I have since seen the Principessa Lancelotti there, in 1828. The top floor of the palace was allotted to me; when I entered, so large a number of fleas hopped on to my legs that my white trousers were quite black with them. The Abbé de Bonnevie and I did the best we could to get our lodging washed down. I had a feeling as though I had returned to my kennel in the New Road; this memory of my poverty was not altogether unpleasant. Once settled in this diplomatic corner, I began to deliver pass-ports and to busy myself with functions of similar importance. My handwriting was an obstacle to my talents, and Cardinal Fesch shrugged his shoulders whenever he saw my signature. As I had almost nothing to do in my aerial chamber, I looked across the roofs at some washing-girls in a neighbouring house, who made signs to me; a future opera-singer, practising her voice, persecuted me with her everlasting solfeggio; I was happy when some funeral passed by for a change! From my lofty window I saw, in the abyss of the street below, the convoy of a young mother: she was carried, her face uncovered, between two files of white pilgrims; her new-born babe, dead too and crowned with flowers, lay at her feet.

My work at the embassy.

I committed a great mistake: I very innocently believed it my duty to call upon illustrious personages; I coolly went and paid the tribute of my respects to the ex-King of Sardinia[547]. This unusual proceeding caused a terrible hubbub; the diplomatists all drew themselves up.

[Pg 222]

"He is lost! he is lost!" whispered all the train-bearers and attachés, with the charitable pleasure which men take in the mishaps of any of their fellow-creatures. No diplomatic dunce but thought himself superior to me by the full height of his stupidity. Every one hoped for my fall, notwithstanding that I was nobody and counted as nobody; no matter, it was some one who fell, and that is always agreeable. I, in my simplicity, had no notion of my crime, nor, as ever since, would I have given a straw for any place whatever. Kings, to whom I was believed to attach so great an importance, had in my eyes only that of misfortune. My shocking blunders were reported from Rome to Paris: luckily I had to do with Bonaparte; what should have been my ruin saved me.

However, if at once and at the first leap to become First Secretary of Embassy under a prince of the Church, an uncle of Napoleon, seemed something, it was nevertheless as though I had been a copying-clerk in a prefect's office. In the contests that were at hand, I might have found work; but I was initiated into no mysteries. I was perfectly satisfied to be set to the litigious business of the chancellerie: but what was the use of wasting my time over details within the capacity of all the clerks?

On returning from my long walks and my rambles along the Tiber, all that I found to interest me was the cardinal's parsimonious worrying, the heraldic boasting of the Bishop of Châlons, and the incredible lying of the future Bishop of Morocco[548]. The Abbé Guillon, taking advantage of a similarity between his name and one almost identical in sound, pretended that he was the man who, after escaping by a miracle from the massacre at the Carmes, gave absolution to Madame de Lamballe[549] at the Force. He bragged that he had been the author of Robespierre's[Pg 223] speech to the Supreme Being. I bet one day that I would make him say that he had been to Russia: he did not quite agree to this, but he modestly confessed that he had spent a few months in St. Petersburg.

M. de La Maisonfort[550], a man of intelligence, then in hiding, applied to me for assistance, and soon M. Bertin the Elder[551], proprietor of the Débats, helped me with his friendly offices in a painful circumstance. Exiled to the island of Elba by the man who, when himself returned from Elba, drove him to Ghent, M. Bertin, in 1803, had obtained from the Republican M. Briot[552], whom I have known, leave to complete his exile in Italy. With him I visited the ruins of Rome, and was present at the death of Madame de Beaumont: two things which have connected his life with mine. A refined critic, he gave me, as did his brother, excellent advice about my works. Had he been elected to Parliament, he would have shown a real talent for oratory. He had long been a Legitimist, had undergone the trial of imprisonment in the Temple and transportation to Elba, and his principles have in reality remained the same. I will be true to the companion of my sad days; it would be paying too high a price for all the political opinions of the world to sacrifice one hour of sincere friendship: it is enough that my opinions will never vary, and that I shall remain attached to my memories.

The Princesse Borghèse.

About the middle of my stay in Rome, the Princesse Borghèse[553] arrived; I had some shoes to deliver to her from[Pg 224] Paris. I was presented to her; she made her toilet in my presence; the slippers which she put on her young and pretty feet were but for a moment to tread this ancient soil.

At last a sorrow came to give me occupation: we can always rely upon that resource.


At the time of my departure from France we had greatly blinded ourselves regarding Madame de Beaumont's condition; she cried much, and her will has proved that she believed herself to be condemned. Nevertheless her friends, refraining from communicating their fears to one another, sought to console each other; they believed in the miraculous powers of the waters, to be perfected later by the Italian sun; they separated and took different roads; appointments were made in Rome.

Fragments written by Madame de Beaumont in Paris, at Mont-Dore, in Rome, and discovered among her papers, display her state of mind:


"For some years past my health has been perceptibly declining. Symptoms which I thought to be the signal for departure have supervened before I am ready to depart. The illusions increase as the illness progresses. I have seen many examples of that singular weakness, and I perceive that they will avail me nothing. Already I find myself taking remedies which are as irksome as they are insignificant, and I shall doubtless have no greater strength to protect myself against the cruel remedies with which they never fail to martyrize those condemned to die of consumption. Like the others, I shall abandon myself to hope: to hope! Can I, then, wish to live? My past life has been a series of misfortunes, my present life is full of excitements and disturbances: peace of mind has fled from me for ever. My death would be a momentary sorrow to a few, a boon to others, and the greatest of boons to myself.

"This 21st of Floréal, 10 May, is the anniversary of the death of my mother and brother:

Je péris la dernière et la plus misérable[554]!

[Pg 225]

Illness of madame de Beaumont.

"Oh, why have I not the courage to die? This illness, which I was almost weak enough to dread, has subsided, and perhaps I am condemned still to live long; it seems to me, nevertheless, that I would gladly die:

Mes jours ne valent pas qu'il m'en coûte un soupir[555].

"None has more cause than I to complain of nature: by refusing me everything, it has given me the sense of all I lack. At every moment I feel the weight of the complete mediocrity to which I am condemned. I know that self-content and happiness are often the price of this mediocrity of which I complain so bitterly; but by not adding to it the gift of illusion, nature, in my case, has turned it into a torture. I am like a fallen creature who cannot forget what he has lost, and who has not the force to recover it. That absolute lack of illusion, and hence of enthusiasm, is the cause of my unhappiness in a thousand ways. I judge myself as a stranger might do, and I see my friends as they are. My only value lies in an extreme kindness of heart, which is not active enough to command appreciation, nor to be of any real use, and which loses all its charm owing to the impatience of my character: my suffering from the misfortunes of others is greater than my power to relieve them. Nevertheless, I owe to it the few real joys that have occurred in my life; I owe to it especially my ignorance of envy, the common attribute of conscious mediocrity."

"Mont Dore.

"I had intended to enter into a few details concerning myself, but ennui causes the pen to drop from my fingers.

"All the bitterness and painfulness of my position would change to happiness if I were sure that I had but a few months to live.

"Even if I had the strength myself to end my sorrows in the only possible way, I should not exert it: it would be defeating my own intention, showing the measure of my suffering, and leaving too grievous a wound in the heart which I have deemed worthy to sustain me in my trials.

"I 'beseech myself in tears' to take a step which is as rigorous as it is inevitable. Charlotte Corday says that 'every act of self-sacrifice bestows more pleasure in the execution than it has cost pain in the conception;' but her[Pg 226] death was near at hand, and I may still live long. What will become of me? Where can I hide? What tomb shall I choose? How can I shut out hope? What power can block up the door?

"To go away in silence, to court oblivion, to bury myself for ever, that is the duty laid upon me which I hope to have the courage to fulfill. If the cup is too bitter, once I am forgotten, nothing can compel me to empty it to the dregs, and who knows but my life may, after all, not be so long as I fear.

"If I had decided upon the place of my retirement, I believe I should be more calm; but the difficulty of the moment adds to the difficulties that arise from my weakness, and it requires something supernatural to act against one's self with vigour, to treat one's self as harshly as a violent and cruel enemy could do."

"Rome, 28 October.

"During the past ten months I have never ceased to suffer. During the last six, all the symptoms of consumption, and some in the last degree: I lack only the illusions, and maybe I have some!"

M. Joubert, alarmed at this desire for death which was torturing Madame de Beaumont, addressed these words to her in his Pensées:

"Love life and respect it, if not for its own sake, at least for that of your friends. In whatever state your own may be, I shall always prefer to know that you are occupied in spinning it out rather than in tearing it to pieces."

At the same time my sister was writing to Madame de Beaumont. I have the correspondence, which death placed in my hands. The poetry of the ancients pictures one of the Nereids as a flower floating on the deep; Lucile was that flower. In comparing her letters with the fragments just quoted, one is struck by the similarity of heart-heaviness expressed in the different language of those unhappy angels. When I think that I have lived in the company of such minds as those, I am surprised at my own insignificance. My eyes never light without bitter grief upon those pages written by two superlative women, who vanished from this earth at a short distance one from the other.

[Pg 227]

"Lascardais, 30 July.

"I was so much charmed, madame, at last to receive a letter from you that I did not allow myself the time to have the pleasure of reading it through at once: I interrupted its perusal to go and tell all the inmates of this house that I had heard from you, without considering that my gladness is of but little importance here, and that hardly anyone even knows that I am in correspondence with you. Seeing that I was surrounded by indifferent faces, I went back to my room, and determined to be glad by myself. I sat down to finish reading your letter, and, although I have read it over many times, in truth, madame, I do not know the whole contents. The joy which I constantly feel at the sight of this so long desired letter interferes with the attention which I ought to give to it.

Letters from Lucile.

"And so you are going away, madame? Do not, once you have reached Mont-Dore, forget your health; give it all your care, I entreat you, with all the fervour and affection of my heart. My brother has written to me that he hopes to see you in Italy. Fate and nature alike are pleased to distinguish him from me in a very favourable manner. But at least I will not yield to my brother the happiness of loving you: that I will share with him all my life. Alas, madame, how oppressed and downcast is my heart! You cannot know the good your letters do me, the contempt with which they inspire me for my ills! The idea that you think of me, that you are interested in me, exalts my courage extraordinarily. Write to me therefore, madame, so that I may cherish an idea so essential to me.

"I have not yet seen M. Chênedollé; I long greatly for his arrival. I shall be able to tell him of you and of M. Joubert: that will be a great pleasure to me. Allow me, madame, once more to urge you to think of your health, the bad condition of which incessantly afflicts me and occupies my thoughts. How can you not love yourself? You are so lovable and so dear to all: have the justice, then, to do much for yourself.


"2 September.

"What you tell me, madame, of your health alarms and saddens me; however, I reassure myself by thinking of your youth and remembering that, although you are very delicate, you are full of life.

[Pg 228]

"I am disconsolate at your being in a country which you do not like. I would wish to see you surrounded with objects calculated to distract and to cheer you. I hope that, when your health recovers, you will become reconciled to Auvergne: there is no spot incapable of presenting some beauty to such eyes as yours. I am now living at Rennes: my loneliness suits me fairly well. I change my residence frequently, madame, as you see; it looks much as though I were out of place on the earth: in reality, it is long since I first began to look upon myself as one of its superfluous products. I believe, madame, that I spoke to you of my sorrows and perturbations. At present, all that is over, and I enjoy an inward peace of which none has it any longer in his power to rob me. In spite of my age, having, through circumstances and taste, almost constantly led a solitary life, I knew nothing whatever, madame, of the world: I have at last made that disagreeable acquaintance. Fortunately, reflection came to my aid. I asked myself in what way that world could be so formidable and where lay the worth of a world which can never, in evil and good alike, be aught but an object of pity. Is it not true, madame, that man's judgment is as shallow as the rest of his being, as changeable and of an incredulity as great as its ignorance? All these reasons, good or bad, have enabled me to fling behind me with ease the fantastic garment in which I had arrayed myself. I found myself full of sincerity and strength; I am no longer capable of being troubled. I am working with all my might to recover possession of my life, to obtain entire control of it.

"You must also, madame, believe that I am not too much to be pitied, since my brother, the best part of myself, is agreeably placed, and since I have eyes left with which to admire the marvels of nature, God for my support, and for an asylum a heart full of peace and gentle memories. If you have the kindness, madame, to continue to write to me, that will be a great added happiness to me."


Mystery of style, a mystery everywhere perceptible, nowhere present; the revelation of a painfully privileged nature; the ingenuousness of a girl whom one might imagine to be in her first youth; and the humble simplicity of a genius unaware of its own power, all breathe out of these letters, a large number of which I have suppressed. Did Madame de Sévigné write to Madame de Grignan with a more grateful affection than Madame de Caud to Madame de[Pg 229] Beaumont? "Her tenderness might well pretend to keep pace with her own." My sister loved my friend with all the passion of the tomb, for she felt that she was going to die. Lucile had hardly ever left the neighbourhood of the Rochers[556]; but she was the daughter of her century and the Sévigné of solitude.


A letter from M. Ballanche, dated 30 Fructidor, informed me of the arrival of Madame de Beaumont, who had come from Mont Dore on her way to Italy. He told me that I need not fear the misfortune which I dreaded, and that the health of the sufferer seemed to be improving. On reaching Milan, Madame de Beaumont met M. Bertin, who had been called there on business: he had the kindness to take charge of the poor traveller and to escort her to Florence, where I had gone to meet her. I was shocked at the sight of her. She had but sufficient strength left to smile. After a few days' rest, we left for Rome, travelling at a foot-pace, in order to avoid the jolting. Madame de Beaumont received assiduous attentions everywhere: a charm interested you in this lovable woman, so suffering and so forlorn. The very maids at the inns gave way to this sweet commiseration.

Mournful days.

My feelings may be easily guessed: we have all accompanied friends to the grave, but they were mute, and no remnant of inexplicable hope came to render your sorrow more keen. I no longer saw the fine landscape through which we passed. I had taken the Perugian road: what was Italy to me? I still thought her climate too severe, and, if the wind blew ever so little, its breezes seemed storms to me. At Terni, Madame de Beaumont spoke of going to see the cascade; she made an effort to lean on my arm, and sat down again, saying:

"We must leave the waters to flow without us."

I had hired for her in Rome a lonely house near the Piazza d'Espagna, at the foot of the Monte Pincio[557]; it had a little garden with orange-trees growing against the walls, and a court-yard in which stood a fig-tree. There I set down my dying charge. I had had much difficulty in procuring this retreat, for there is a prejudice in Rome against diseases of the chest, which are considered as infectious.

At that period of the revival of social order, all that had[Pg 230] belonged to the old monarchy was sought after. The Pope sent to inquire after the daughter of M. de Montmorin; Cardinal Consalvi and the members of the Sacred College followed His Holiness' example; Cardinal Fesch himself showed Madame de Beaumont, to the day of her death, marks of deference and respect which I should not have expected of him. I had written to M. Joubert of the anxiety with which I was torn before Madame de Beaumont's arrival:

"Our friend writes to me from Mont Dore," I said, "letters that shatter my soul: she says that she feels 'that there is no more oil in the lamp;' she speaks of 'the last throbs of her heart.' Why was she left alone on this journey? Why did you not write to her? What will become of us if we lose her? Who will console us for her? We realize the value of our friends only at the moment when we are threatened with their loss. We are even mad enough, when all is well, to think that we can leave them with impunity. Heaven punishes us; it snatches them from us, and we are appalled at the solitude which they leave around us. Forgive me, my dear Joubert: to-day I feel as though my heart were twenty years old; this Italy has made me young again; I love all that is dear to me with the same vehemence as in my early years. Sorrow is my element: I am myself again only when I am unhappy. My friends at present are of so rare a sort that the mere dread of seeing them taken from me freezes my blood. Bear with my lamentations: I am sure you are as unhappy as I. Write to me, and write also to that other Breton unfortunate."

At first, Madame de Beaumont felt a little relieved. The sufferer herself began again to believe in her life. I had the satisfaction of thinking that at least Madame de Beaumont would not leave me again: I expected to take her to Naples in the spring, and from there to send in my resignation to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. M. d'Agincourt[558],[Pg 231] that true philosopher, came to see the light bird of passage, which had stopped at Rome before proceeding to the unknown land; M. Boquet, already the oldest of our painters, called. These relays of hope kept up the sufferer, and lulled her with an illusion which at the bottom of her soul she no longer retained. Letters, cruel to read, expressing hopes and fears, reached me from every side. On the 4th of October, Lucile wrote to me from Rennes:


Letters from Lucile.

"I commenced a letter for you the other day; I have just made a useless search for it; in it I spoke to you of Madame de Beaumont, and complained of her silence towards me. Dear, what a sad, strange life I have led for some months! And the words of the prophet are constantly recurring to my mind: 'He will crown thee with tribulation, he will toss thee like a ball[559].' But let us leave my troubles and speak of your anxieties. I cannot persuade myself that they are justified. I always see Madame de Beaumont full of life and youth, and almost incorporeal; my heart can feel no foreboding where she is concerned. Heaven, which knows our feelings for her, will doubtless preserve her for us. Dear, we shall not lose her; I seem to have an inward sense that that is certain. I sincerely hope that, when you receive this letter, your anxiety will have disappeared. Tell her from me of all the real and tender interest I take in her; tell her that to me her memory is one of the most beautiful things in this world. Keep your promise and do not fail to let me have news of her as often as possible. Alas, what a long time will elapse before I receive a reply to this letter! How cruel a thing is distance! What makes you speak of your return to France? You are trying to humour me, you are deceiving me. Amid all my troubles there arises one sweet thought, that of your friendship, the thought that I exist in your memory in the shape in which it has pleased God to fashion me. Dear, I see no other safe shelter for me upon earth but your heart; I am a stranger and unknown to all the rest. Adieu, my poor brother. Shall I see you again? This idea does not present itself to my mind very distinctly. If you see me again, I fear you will find me quite out of my senses. Adieu, you to whom I owe so much! Adieu, unmixed felicity! O memories of my happy days, can you not now lighten a little my sad hours?

[Pg 232]

"I am not one of those who exhaust all their sorrow at the moment of separation; each day adds to the grief which I feel at your absence and, if you were to stay in Rome a hundred years, you would not come to the end of that grief. In order to delude myself as to absence, not a day passes but I read some pages of your work: I make every effort to imagine that I hear you speak. My love for you is very natural: ever since our childhood you have been my protector and my friend; you have never cost me a tear, never made a friend but he has become mine. My kind brother, Heaven, which is pleased to make sport of all my other felicities, wills that I should find my happiness wholly in you, that I should trust myself to your heart. Give me news soon of Madame de Beaumont. Address your letters to me at Mademoiselle Lamotte's, although I do not know how long I shall be able to remain there. Since our last separation, I have always, where my house is concerned, been like a quicksand that gives way beneath my feet: assuredly to anyone who does not know me I must appear incomprehensible; nevertheless I vary only in form, for inwardly I remain constantly the same."

The song of the swan preparing to die was conveyed by me to the dying swan: I was the echo of that last ineffable music!


And Madame de Krüdener.

Another letter, very different from the above, but written by a woman who has played an extraordinary part, Madame de Krüdener[560], shows the empire which Madame de Beaumont, with no strength of beauty, fame, power, or wealth, exercised over people's minds:

[Pg 233]

"Paris, 24 November 1803.

"I learnt two days ago from M. Michaud[561], who has returned from Lyons, that Madame de Beaumont was in Rome and that she was very, very ill: that is what he told me. I was deeply grieved by this; I had a nervous shock, and I thought a great deal of this charming woman, whom I had not known long, but whom I loved truly. How often have I wished for her happiness! How often have I hoped that she might cross the Alps and find beneath the sky of Italy the sweet and profound emotions which I myself have there experienced! Alas, can she have reached that delightful country only to know pain and to be exposed to dangers which I dread! I cannot tell you how this idea grieves me. Forgive me if I have been so much absorbed by this that I have not yet spoken to you of yourself, my dear Chateaubriand; you must know my sincere attachment for you, and to show you the genuine interest which I take in Madame de Beaumont is to touch you more than I should have done by writing of yourself. I have that sad spectacle before my eyes; I have the secret of sorrow, and my soul is always torn at the sight of those souls to which nature gives the power of suffering more than others. I had hoped that Madame de Beaumont would enjoy the privilege which she had received, of being happier; I had hoped that she would recover some little health with the sun of Italy and the happiness of having you by her side. Ah, reassure me, speak to me; tell her that I love her sincerely, that I pray for her! Has she had my letter written in reply to hers to Clermont? Address your answer to Michaud: I ask you only for one word, for I know, my dear Chateaubriand, how sensitive you are, and how you suffer. I thought she was better; I did not write to her; I was overwhelmed with business; but I thought of the happiness she would find in seeing you again, and I imagined how it would be. Tell me something of your own health; believe in my friendship, in the interest which I have vowed to you for ever, and do not forget me.

"B. Krüdener."

The improvement which the air of Rome had produced[Pg 234] in Madame de Beaumont did not last: true, the indications of an immediate dissolution disappeared; but it seems that the last moment always lingers as it were to deceive us. Two or three times, I had tried the effect of a drive with the patient; I strove to divert her thoughts by pointing out the country and the sky to her: she no longer cared for anything. One day I took her to the Coliseum: it was one of those October days that are to be seen only in Rome. She contrived to alight, and went and sat upon a stone facing one of the altars placed in the circle. She raised her eyes and turned them slowly around those porticoes which had themselves so many years been dead, and which had seen so many die; the ruins were adorned with briers and columbines saffroned by autumn and bathed in light. The dying woman next lowered her eyes, which had left the sun, stage by stage, till they came to the arena; she fixed them upon the altar cross, and said:

"Let us go; I am cold."

I took her home again; she went to bed and rose no more. I was in correspondence with the Comte de La Luzerne[562]; I sent him from Rome, by each mail, the bulletin of his sister-in-law's health. He had taken my brother with him when Louis XVI. charged him with a diplomatic mission to London: André Chénier was a member of this embassy.

The doctors, whom I called together again after the experiment of the drive, declared to me that nothing but a miracle could save Madame de Beaumont. She was impressed with the idea that she would not outlive All Souls' Day, the 2nd of November; then she remembered that one of her kinsmen, I do not know which, had died on the 4th of November. I told her that her imagination was troubled; that she would come to see the falsity of her alarms; she replied, to console me:

"Ah, yes, I shall go farther!"

She noticed a few tears which I was trying to conceal from her; she held out her hand to me, and said:

"You are a child; were you not prepared for it?"

On the eve of her death, Thursday the 3rd of November, she seemed more composed. She spoke to me of the disposal of her property, and said, speaking of her will, "that[Pg 235] all was settled, but that all had to be done, and that she would have liked to have had only two hours in which to see to it."

In the evening, the doctor told me that he felt obliged to warn the sufferer that the time had come for her to think of setting her conscience in order: I broke down for a minute; I was staggered by the fear of hastening the few moments which Madame de Beaumont had still to live by the formal preparations for death. I railed at the doctor, and then entreated him to wait at least till the next day.

I passed a cruel night, with this secret locked in my bosom. The patient did not permit me to spend it in her room. I remained outside, trembling at every sound I heard: when the door was half opened, I perceived the feeble gleam of an expiring night-light.

The last scene.

On Friday the 4th of November, I entered, followed by the doctor. Madame de Beaumont observed my agitation, and said:

"Why do you look like that? I have had a good night."

The doctor thereupon intentionally told me aloud that he wished to speak to me in the next room. I went out: when I returned, I no longer knew if I lived. Madame de Beaumont asked me what the doctor wanted. I flung myself at her bedside and burst into tears. She lay for a moment without speaking, looked at me, and said in a firm voice, as though she wished to give me strength:

"I did not think that it was quite so near; well, the time has come to say good-bye. Send for the Abbé de Bonnevie."

The Abbé de Bonnevie, having obtained powers, went to Madame de Beaumont. She told him that she had always had a deep religious feeling at heart, but that the extraordinary misfortunes which had befallen her during the Revolution had led her for some time to doubt the justice of Providence; that she was ready to admit her errors and to recommend herself to the eternal mercy; that she hoped, however, that the ills which she had suffered in this world would shorten her time of expiation in the next. She made a sign to me to withdraw, and remained alone with her confessor.

I saw him come back an hour later, wiping his eyes, and saying that he had never heard more beautiful language, nor seen such heroism. The parish priest was sent for to administer the sacraments. I returned to Madame de Beaumont. When she saw me, she asked:

[Pg 236]

"Well, are you pleased with me?"

She spoke feelingly of what she deigned to call "my kindness" to her: ah, if I had at that moment been able to buy back a single one of her days by the sacrifice of all my own, how gladly would I have done so! Madame de Beaumont's other friends, who were not present at this sight, had at all events but once to weep for her: whereas I stood at the head of the bed of pain in which man hears his last hour strike, and each smile of the patient restored me to life and made me lose it again as it died away. One lamentable thought distracted me: I noticed that Madame de Beaumont had not until her last breath suspected the real attachment which I bore for her; she did not cease to show her surprise, and she seemed to die disconsolate and charmed. She had believed herself a burden to me, and had wished to go to set me free.

The priest arrived at eleven o'clock: the room filled with that indifferent crowd of idlers which cannot be prevented from running after the priest in Rome. Madame de Beaumont faced the formidable solemnity without the least sign of fear. We fell upon our knees, and the patient received Communion and Extreme Unction at once. When all had retired, she made me sit on the edge of her bed and spoke to me for half an hour of my affairs and of my plans with the greatest elevation of mind and the most touching friendship; she urged me, above all, to live with Madame de Chateaubriand and M. Joubert: but was M. Joubert himself to live?

She asked me to open the window, as she felt oppressed. A sun-ray came and lit up her bed: this seemed to cheer her. She then reminded me of plans for retiring to the country which we had sometimes discussed, and she began to cry.

Between two and three in the afternoon, Madame de Beaumont asked to be changed to another bed by Madame Saint-Germain[563], an old Spanish lady's-maid, who waited on her with the affection worthy of so kind a mistress: the doctor forbade this, fearing lest Madame de Beaumont might die during the moving. She then told me that she felt the agony approach. Suddenly she flung back her blanket, held out her hand to me, pressed mine convulsively; her eyes[Pg 237] wandered. With her one free hand she made signs to some one whom she saw standing at the foot of her bed; then, bringing the hand back to her breast, she said:

"It is there!"

Death of madame de Beaumont.

Dismayed, I asked her if she knew me: a faint smile broke through her delirium; she gave me a little nod of the head: her speech already was no longer of this world. The convulsions lasted only a few minutes. We supported her in our arms, the doctor, the nurse, and myself: one of my hands lay upon her heart, which could be felt against her wasted frame; it beat swiftly, like a clock winding off its broken chain. Oh, moment of fear and horror, I felt it stop! We let down upon her pillow the woman who had found rest; her head drooped. Some locks of her uncurled hair fell over her forehead; her eyes were closed, night had set in for ever. The doctor held a mirror and a light to the stranger's mouth: the mirror was not dimmed with the breath of life and the light remained unmoved. All was ended.


Generally those who weep are able to indulge their tears in peace; there are others to take upon themselves to attend to the last cares of religion: as representing for France the Cardinal Minister, then absent, and as the sole friend of M. de Montmorin's daughter and responsible to her family, I was obliged to superintend everything; I had to fix the place of burial, to look after the depth and width of the grave, to order the winding-sheet and to give the carpenter the dimensions of the coffin.

Two monks watched by the coffin, which was to be carried to San Luigi dei Francesi. One of these fathers was from Auvergne and a native of Montmorin itself. Madame de Beaumont had expressed the wish to be buried in a piece of cloth which her brother Auguste[564], the only one to escape the scaffold, had sent her from the Mauritius. This cloth was not in Rome; only a piece of it was found, which she always carried with her. Madame Saint-Germain fastened this strip around the body with a cornelian containing some of M. de Montmorin's hair. The French ecclesiastics were invited; the Princesse Borghèse lent the funeral car of her family; Cardinal Fesch had left orders, in case of an accident but too clearly foreseen, to send his livery and his carriages. On Saturday the 5th of November, at seven o'clock in the[Pg 238] evening, by the gleam of torch-light and amidst a large crowd, Madame de Beaumont passed along the road where we have all to pass. On Sunday the 6th of November, the burial mass was celebrated. The funeral would have been less French in Paris than it was in Rome. That religious architecture which displays in its ornaments the arms and inscriptions of our ancient country; those tombs on which are inscribed the names of some of the most historic families of our annals; that church, under the protection of a great saint, a great king and a great man: all this did not console misfortune, but honoured it. I had wished that the last scion of a once exalted race should at least find some support in my humble attachment, and that friendship should not fail it as fortune had done.

The people of Rome, accustomed to strangers, accept them as brothers and sisters. Madame de Beaumont left a pious memory behind her on that soil so hospitable to the dead; she is still remembered: I have seen Leo XII.[565] pray at her tomb[566]. In 1828[567], I visited the monument of her who was the soul of a vanishing society; the sound of my footsteps around this silent monument, in a lonely church, was a warning to me:

"I shall always love thee," says the Greek epitaph; "but thou, among the dead, drink not, I pray thee, of the cup which would cause thee to forget thy former friends[568]."

If the calamities of a private life were to be measured by the scale of public events, those calamities would hardly deserve a word in a writer's Memoirs. Who has not lost a friend? Who has not seen him die? Who could not recall a similar scene of mourning? The comment is just, yet no one has ever corrected himself of telling his own adventures: sailors on board the ship that carries them have a family on shore of whom they think and of whom they talk with one another. Every man has within himself a world apart, foreign to the laws and to the general destinies of the ages. It is, moreover, a mistake to believe that revolutions, famous accidents, resounding catastrophes are the only records of[Pg 239] our nature: we all labour singly at the chain of our common history, and all these separate existences together compose man's universe in the eyes of God.

Letters of sympathy.

To collect regrets around the ashes of Madame de Beaumont is but to lay upon her tomb the wreaths intended for her:

M. de Chênedollé to Chateaubriand.

"You can have no doubt, my dear', unhappy friend, of the great part which I take in your affliction. My grief is not so great as yours, because that is impossible; but I am very deeply afflicted by this loss, which darkens yet further this existence which for so long has been nothing but suffering to me. It is thus that all that is good, lovable and sensitive vanishes from the face of the earth. My poor friend, hasten back to France; come and seek consolation with your old friend. You know how well I love you: come.

"I was excessively anxious about you: it was more than three months since I had heard from you, and three of my letters have remained unanswered. Have you received them? Madame de Caud suddenly ceased writing to me two months ago. This hurt me mortally, and yet I cannot think that I have done anything to offend her. But, whatever she may do, she can never take from me the fond and respectful friendship which I have vowed to her for life. Fontanes and Joubert also no longer write to me; so that all whom I loved seem to have combined to forget me at once. Do not you forget me, O my good friend: leave me one heart upon which I can rely in this vale of tears! Farewell, I embrace you weeping. Be sure, my good friend, that I feel your loss as it should be felt.

"23 November 1803."

M. de Fontanes to Chateaubriand.

"I share all your regrets, my dear friend: I feel the painfulness of your position. To die so young, and after outliving all her family! But, at any rate, that interesting and unhappy woman did not lack the help and the remembrance of friendship. Her memory will live in hearts worthy of her. I have forwarded to M. de La Luzerne the touching account intended for him. Old Saint-Germain, your friend's servant, has taken it with him. That faithful attendant made me shed tears when talking of his mistress. I told him that he had a legacy[Pg 240] of ten thousand francs; but he did not give it a single thought. If it were possible to talk of money matters under such mournful circumstances, I would say that it would have been very natural to have given you at least the use of a fortune which will have to pass to distant and almost unknown collaterals[569]. I approve of your conduct; I know your delicacy; but I cannot be as disinterested for my friend as he is for himself. I confess that this omission surprises and pains me[570]. Madame de Beaumont spoke to you on her death-bed, with the eloquence of a last farewell, of the future and of your destinies. Her voice must needs have greater strength than mine. But did she advise you to throw up a salary of eight or ten thousand francs just when your path was cleared of its first thorns? Could you rashly, my dear friend, take so momentous a step? You know what a pleasure it would be to me to see you again. Were I only to consult my own happiness, I would say, 'Come at once.' But your interests are as dear to me as my own, and I see no immediate prospects for you which could make good the advantages which you are voluntarily surrendering. I know that your talents, your name and your industry will never leave you in want of the first necessities; but in all that I see more fame than fortune. Your education, your habits, demand some little expenditure. Reputation alone will not provide the wants of life, and the wretched science of 'bread and cheese' takes precedence of all others, if you want to be independent and at ease. I trust that nothing will persuade you to seek your fortune among foreigners. Believe me, my friend, after the first blandishments, they are worth even less than one's fellow-countrymen. If your loving friend made all these reflections, her last moments must have been somewhat disturbed; but I hope that, at the foot of her grave, you will find lessons and lights superior to any which your remaining friends could give you. That amiable woman loved you: she will advise you well. Her memory and your heart will be a safe guide to you: I have no more concern if you listen to them both. Adieu, my dear friend, I embrace you tenderly."

M. Necker wrote me the only letter which I ever received[Pg 241] from him. I had witnessed the delight of the Court at the dismissal of this minister, the disregard of whose honest warnings contributed to the overthrow of the monarchy. He had been M. de Montmorin's colleague. M. Necker was shortly to die at the place whence his letter was dated; not at that time having Madame de Staël by his side, he found some tears for his daughter's friend:

M. Necker, Madame de Staël.

M. Necker to Chateaubriand.


"My daughter, when setting out for Germany, asked me to open any packets of large size that might be addressed to her, so as to decide whether they were worth the trouble of forwarding by post. This is the reason of my learning the news of Madame de Beaumont's death before she does. I forwarded your letter to her, sir, at Frankfort, whence it will probably be sent on farther to her, perhaps to Weimar or Berlin. Do not, therefore, be surprised, sir, if you do not receive a reply from Madame de Staël as early as you have the right to expect. You must be assured, sir, of the grief which Madame de Staël will feel on hearing of the loss of a friend of whom I have always heard her speak with profound feeling. I join in her sorrow, I join, sir, in yours, and I have my own particular share when I think of the unhappy fate of the whole family of my friend M. de Montmorin.

"I see, sir, that you are on the point of leaving Rome to return to France: I hope you will choose your road through Geneva, where I shall spend the winter. I should be very eager to do you the honours of a town where you are already known by reputation. But where, sir, are you not so known? Your last work, sparkling with incomparable beauties, is in the hands of all who love to read.

"I have the honour, sir, to offer you the assurance and the homage of my most distinguished sentiments.


"Coppet, 27 November 1803."

Madame de Staël to Chateaubriand.

"Frankfort, 3 December 1803.

"Ah, Heavens, my dear Francis[571] with what sorrow was I smitten on receiving your letter! Already, yesterday, this[Pg 242] frightful news was burst upon me through the papers, and now comes your heart-rending narrative to engrave it for ever in letters of blood on my heart. Can you, can you speak to me of different opinions on religion, on the priests? Are there two opinions where there is but one sentiment? I have read your account through the most sorrowful tears. My dear Francis, think of the time at which you felt the greatest friendship for me; above all, do not forget that at which my whole heart was drawn towards you, and tell yourself that those feelings, more tender, more profound than ever, remain for you at the bottom of my soul. I loved, I admired the character of Madame de Beaumont: I knew not one more generous, more grateful, more passionately sensitive. Since I first entered into the world, I never ceased to have relations with her, and I always felt, even in the midst of some differences, that we held together by the same roots. My dear Francis, give me a place in your heart. I admire you, I love you, I loved her whom you regret. I am a devoted friend, I will be a sister to you. I must respect your opinions more than ever. Matthieu[572], who holds them, has been an angel to me in this last sorrow which I have felt. Give me a new reason for showing them my consideration: let me be useful or agreeable to you in some way. Did you hear that I had been banished to a distance of forty leagues from Paris[573]? I have taken the occasion to go round Germany; but in the spring I shall have returned to Paris itself, if my exile be ended, or near Paris, or to Geneva. Arrange that, in some manner, we may meet. Do you not feel that my mind and my soul understand yours, and do you not feel wherein we resemble each other, notwithstanding the differences? M. de Humboldt[574] wrote me a letter a few days ago in which he spoke to me of your work with an admiration which must flatter you in a man of his merit and opinions. But why speak to you of your successes at such a moment? Yet she loved those successes of yours, and attached her own fame to them. Farewell, my dear François. I will write to you from Weimar, in Saxony. Write to me there, to the care of Messrs. Desport, bankers. What harrowing phrases your story contains! And then your resolve to keep poor[Pg 243] Saint-Germain: you must bring her to my house one day.

"Farewell, affectionately: and sorrowfully, farewell.

"M. de Staël."

This eager and affectionately informal letter, written by an illustrious woman, redoubled my emotion. Madame de Beaumont would have been very happy at that moment had Heaven permitted her to return to life! But our attachments, which are perceived by the dead, cannot free them from their bonds: when Lazarus rose from the tomb he was bound feet and hands with winding-bands, and his face was bound about with a napkin; but friendship cannot say, as Christ said to Martha and Mary:

"Loose him and let him go[575]."

My consolers have also passed away, and they claim for themselves the regrets which they gave to another.


My grief.

I had determined to leave this official career in which personal misfortunes had come in addition to the triviality of the work and to paltry political annoyances. One does not know what desolation of the heart means until one has remained alone, wandering through spots once inhabited by a person who accepted your life: you seek her and do not find her; she speaks to you, smiles to you, accompanies you; all that she has worn or touched presents her image; between her and you there is only a transparent curtain, but so heavy that you cannot raise it. The remembrance of the first friend who has left you on the road is a cruel one; for if your days have been prolonged, you have necessarily suffered other losses: the dead who have followed each other become linked to the first, and you mourn at one time and in one person all those whom you have successively lost.

At this distance from France, the arrangements which I was making progressed slowly; meanwhile I remained forlorn among the ruins of Rome. When I first walked out, the aspect of things seemed changed to me: I did not recognise the trees, nor the monuments, nor the sky; I wandered through the fields, along the cascades and aqueducts, as I had done before beneath the overhanging forests of the New World. Then I re-entered the Eternal City, which now added one more extinguished life to so many spent existences. By dint of my many rambles in the solitudes[Pg 244] of the Tiber, they became so clearly engraved upon my memory that I was able to describe them fairly accurately in my Letter to M. de Fontanes[576]:

"If the traveller be unhappy," I said, "if he have mingled the ashes that he loved with so many ashes of the illustrious, what a charm will he not find in passing from the tomb of Cæcilia Metella to the grave of an ill-fortuned woman!"

It was also in Rome that I first formed the idea of writing the Memoirs of my Life; I find a few lines jotted down at random, from which I decipher these few words:

"After wandering over the world, spending the best years of my youth far from my native land, and suffering nearly all that man can suffer, not excluding hunger, I returned to Paris in 1800."

In a letter to M. Joubert[577] I thus sketched my plan:

"My only pleasure is to snatch a few hours wherein to busy myself with a work which alone can bring some assuagement to my grief: it is the Memoirs of my Life. Rome will have a place in it; it is in this way only that I can henceforth speak of Rome. Have no fear; there will be no confessions likely to give pain to my friends: if I am to count for anything in the future, my friends' names will therein appear glorified and respected. Nor shall I entertain posterity with the details of my frailties; I shall say of myself only what becomes my dignity as a man, and, I dare say it, the elevation of my heart. One should show to the world only what is beautiful; it is no lie against God to unveil of one's life no more than may lead our fellows towards noble and generous feelings. Not that, in truth, I have anything to conceal: I have not caused the dismissal of a servant-girl for a stolen ribbon, nor left my friend to die in the street, nor dishonoured the woman who sheltered me, nor taken my bastards to the Foundling Hospital[578]; but I have had my moments of weakness, of faint-heartedness: one sigh over myself will be sufficient to make others understand[Pg 245] those common miseries, meant to be left behind the veil. What would society gain by the reproduction of sores that occur on every side? There is no lack of examples, where it is a question of triumphing over our poor human nature."


I decide to write my memoirs.

In this plan which I made for myself I omitted my family, my childhood, my youth, my travels, and my exile: yet these are the recitals in which I took most pleasure.

I had been like a happy slave: accustomed to apply his liberty to the vine-stocks, he no longer knows what to do with his leisure when his chains are broken. Whenever I decided to set to work, a figure came and placed itself before me, and I could not take my eyes from it: religion alone held me by its gravity and by the reflections of a higher order which it suggested to me.

And yet, while occupied with the thought of writing my Memoirs, I felt the price which the ancients attached to the value of their name: there is perhaps a touching reality in this perpetuity of the memories which one may leave on the way. Perhaps, among the great men of antiquity, this idea of an immortal life among the human race supplied the place of the immortality of the soul which for them remained a problem. If fame is but a small thing when it relates to ourselves, it must nevertheless be agreed that to give an imperishable existence to all that it has loved is one of the finest privileges attached to the friendship of genius.

I undertook a commentary upon certain books of the Bible, beginning with Genesis. Upon the verse, "Behold, Adam is become as one of us, knowing good and evil: now, therefore, lest perhaps he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever[579]," I remarked the tremendous irony of the Creator: "Behold Adam is become as one of us, etc. Lest perhaps the man put forth his hand and take of the tree of life." Why? Because he has tasted of the fruit of knowledge, and knows good and evil, he is now loaded with ills: "therefore, lest perhaps he live for ever." What a blessing from God is death!

There are prayers begun, some for "disquietude of soul," others "to strengthen one's self against the prosperity of the wicked." I sought to bring back to a centre of repose the thoughts which strayed beyond me.

As God was not pleased to let my life end there, reserving[Pg 246] it for prolonged trials, the storms which had arisen abated. Suddenly the Cardinal Ambassador changed his manner towards me; I had an explanation with him, and declared my resolve to resign. He opposed this: he maintained that my resignation at that moment would have the appearance of a disgrace; that I should be delighting my enemies, that the First Consul would take offense, which would prevent me from remaining undisturbed in the places to which I proposed to retire. He suggested that I should go to spend a fortnight or a month at Naples.

Just at this moment, I was being sounded on behalf of Russia with a view to my accepting the place of governor to a grand-duke: it was as much as I would have done had I proposed to sacrifice to Henry V. the last years of my life.

While wavering between a thousand resolutions, I received the news that the First Consul had appointed me Minister to the Valais. He had at first flown into a passion on the faith of some denunciations; but, returning to his senses, he understood that I was of the race which is of value only in the front rank, that I should not be mixed with others, as otherwise I could never be used to advantage. There was no place vacant: he created one, and, choosing it in conformity with my instinct for solitude and independence, he placed me in the Alps; he gave me a Catholic republic, in a world of torrents: the Rhone and our soldiers would cross at my feet, the one descending towards France, the others climbing towards Italy, while the Simplon opened its daring road before me. The Consul was to allow me as frequent leave as I might wish to travel in Italy, and Madame Bacciochi sent me a message through Fontanes that the first important embassy available was reserved for me. I thus won this first diplomatic victory without either expecting or intending it; true that, at the head of the State, was a lofty intelligence, which was not willing to sacrifice to official intrigues another intelligence which it knew to be but too well disposed to secede from the government.

Cardinal Fesch.

This remark is all the more true in that Cardinal Fesch, to whom I do justice in these Memoirs in a manner upon which, perhaps, he did not reckon, had sent two malicious dispatches to Paris, almost at the very moment at which his manners had become more obliging, after the death of Madame de Beaumont. Did his true thought lie in his conversations, when he gave me leave to go to Naples, or in his diplomatic missives? The conversations and the missives bear the[Pg 247] same date and are contradictory. It would have been easy for me to set M. le Cardinal, right with himself by destroying all traces of the reports that concerned me: I had but to remove the Ambassador's lucubrations from the cartons at the time when I was Minister for Foreign Affairs; I should have done only what M. de Talleyrand did in the matter of his correspondence with the Emperor. I did not consider that I had the right to turn my power to my own advantage. If, by chance, any one should look up these documents, he would find them in their place. That this conduct is self-deceiving I readily admit; but, in order not to make a merit of a virtue which I do not possess, I must say that this respect for the correspondence of my detractors arises more from my contempt than from my generosity. I have also seen, in the archives of the Berlin Embassy, offensive letters from M. le Marquis de Bonnay concerning myself: far from considering my own feelings, I shall make them public.

M. le Cardinal Fesch was no more reticent as to the poor Abbé Guillon (the Bishop of Morocco): the latter was marked out as "a Russian agent." Bonaparte called M. Lainé[580] "an English agent:" these are instances of the gossip of which that great man had taken the bad habit from the police reports. But was there nothing to be said against M. Fesch himself? The Cardinal de Clermont-Tonnerre was at Rome like myself, in 1803: what did he not write of Napoleon's uncle! I have the letters.

For the rest, to whom do these contentions, buried since forty years in worm-eaten files, matter? Of the several actors of that period, one alone will remain: Bonaparte. All of us who make pretensions to live are dead already: can the insect's name be read by the feeble light which it sometimes drags with it as it crawls?

When M. le Cardinal Fesch met me again I was Ambassador to Leo XII.; he gave me marks of his esteem: I on my side made a point of outdoing him in deference. It is natural, moreover, that I should have been judged with a severity which I have never spared myself. All this is past and done with: I do not wish even to recognise the[Pg 248] handwriting of those who, in 1803, served as official or semi-official secretaries to M. le Cardinal Fesch.

I set out for Naples: there began a year without Madame de Beaumont, a year of absence to be followed by so many others! I have never seen Naples again since that time, although I was on the threshold of that same town in 1828, having promised myself to go there with Madame de Chateaubriand. The orange-trees were covered with their fruits, the myrtles with their flowers. Baie, the Campi Elysei, and the sea were delights of which I no longer had any one to whom to speak. I have described the Bay of Naples in the Martyrs.[581] I climbed Vesuvius and descended into its crater. I pilfered from myself: I was enacting a scene in René.

At Pompeii I was shown a skeleton in irons, and mutilated Latin words scribbled by soldiers on the walls. I returned to Rome. Canova[582] permitted me to visit his studio while he was working at the statue of a nymph. Elsewhere the models for the marbles of the tomb which I had ordered had already attained much expression. I went to pray over ashes at San Luigi, and I left for Paris on the 21st of January 1804, another day of misfortune.

Behold a prodigious misery: five and thirty years have sped since the date of those events. Did not I flatter myself, in those distant days of grief, that the bond just broken would be my last? And yet how soon have I, not forgotten, but replaced what was dear to me! Thus man goes from weakness to weakness. When he is young and drives his life before him, a shadow of an excuse remains to him; but when he gets between the shafts and laboriously drags it behind him, how is he to be excused? The poverty of our nature is so intense that in our volatile infirmities, in order to express our new affections, we can employ only words which we have already worn threadbare in our former attachments. There are words, nevertheless, which ought to be used but once: they become profaned by repetition. Our betrayed and neglected friendships reproach us with the new companionships that we have formed; our hours arraign one another: our life is one perpetual blush, because it is one continued fault.

[Pg 249]

As my intention was not to remain in Paris, I alighted at the Hôtel de France[583], in the Rue de Beaune, where Madame de Chateaubriand came to join me to accompany me to the Valais. My former society, already half dispersed, had lost the link which held it together.

Bonaparte was marching towards the Empire; his genius rose in the measure that events increased in importance: he was able, like gunpowder when it expands, to carry away the world; already immense, and yet not feeling himself at his zenith, he was tormented by his strength; he groped, he seemed to be feeling his way; when I arrived in Paris he was dealing with Pichegru and Moreau; through petty envy he had consented to admit them as rivals: Moreau, Pichegru, and Georges Cadoudal, who was greatly their superior, were arrested.

This vulgar train of conspiracies, which we encounter in all the affairs of life, was very distasteful to me, and I was glad to seek flight in the mountains.

The council of the town of Sion wrote to me. The simplicity of this despatch has made a document of it to me; I was entering politics through religion: the Génie du Christianisme had opened the doors for me.

I am promoted.


"Sion, 20 February 1804.

"Council of the Town of Sion.

"To Monsieur Chateaubriand, Secretary of Legation of the French Republic in Rome.


"An official letter from our High Bailiff apprizes us of your nomination to the post of French Minister to our Republic. We hasten to express to you the very complete satisfaction which this choice gives us. We see in this nomination a precious token of the good-will of the First Consul towards our Republic, and we congratulate ourselves on the honour of having you within our walls: we draw from it the happiest auguries for the welfare of our country and of our town. In order to give you a proof of these sentiments, we have resolved to have a provisional lodging prepared for you, worthy to receive you, fitted with furniture and effects suited[Pg 250] for your use, in so far as the locality and our circumstances permit, pending the time when you will yourself have been able to make arrangements to your own convenience.

"Pray, sir, accept this offer as a proof of our sincere inclination to honour the French Government in the person of its envoy, the choice of whom must needs be peculiarly pleasing to a religious people. We beg you to be so good as to acquaint us with the date of your arrival in this town.

"Accept, sir, the assurances of our respectful consideration.

"De Riedmatten,

"President of the Town Council of Sion.

"By order of the Town Council:

"De Torrenté,

"Secretary to the Council."

Two days before the 21st of March[584], I dressed to go to take leave of Bonaparte at the Tuileries; I had not seen him again since the moment during which he had spoken to me at Lucien's. The gallery in which he was receiving was full; he was accompanied by Murat and a principal aide-de-camp; he passed through almost without stopping. As he approached me, I was struck by the alteration in his face: his cheeks were sunk and livid, his eyes hard, his complexion pale and muddy, his aspect gloomy and terrible. The attraction which had previously urged me towards him ceased; instead of remaining on his passage, I made a movement to avoid him. He threw a glance at me as though to seek to recognise me, took a few steps towards me, then turned and walked away. Had I appeared to him as a warning? His aide-de-camp noticed me: when the crowd covered me, the aide-de-camp tried to catch sight of me between the persons standing before me, and again drew the Consul in my direction. This sport continued for nearly a quarter of an hour, I always drawing back, Napoleon always following me without knowing it. I have never been able to explain to myself what idea had struck the aide-de-camp. Did he take me for a suspicious man whom he had never seen? Did he, if he knew who I was, wish to force Bonaparte to speak to me? However this may be, Napoleon[Pg 251] passed on to another apartment. Content to have done my duty in presenting myself at the Tuileries, I withdrew. From the joy which I have always felt at leaving palaces, it is evident that I was not made to enter them.


On returning to the Hôtel de France, I said to several of my friends:

"Something strange must be happening, of which we do not know, for Bonaparte cannot have changed to that extent, unless he be ill."

M. de Bourrienne[585] knew of my singular foresight: he has only confused the dates; here is his sentence:

"On returning from the First Consul's, M. de Chateaubriand declared to his friends that he had remarked a great alteration in the First Consul, and something very sinister in his look[586]."

Yes, I remarked it: a superior intelligence does not bring forth evil without pain, because that is not its natural fruit, and it ought not to bear it.

Two days later, on the 21st of March[587], I rose early, for the sake of a memory that was sad and dear to me. M. de Montmorin had built himself a house at the corner of the Rue Plumet, on the new Boulevard des Invalides. In the garden of that house, which was sold during the Revolution, Madame de Beaumont, then almost a child, had planted a cypress-tree, and she had sometimes taken pleasure in showing it to me as we passed: it was to this cypress-tree, of which I alone knew the origin and the history, that I went to bid adieu. It still exists, but it is pining away, and scarce rises to the level of the casement beneath which a hand which has vanished loved to tend it. I distinguish that poor tree from among three or four others of its species; it seems to know me and to rejoice when I approach; mournful breezes bend its yellowed head a little towards me, and it murmurs at the window of the deserted room: a mysterious intelligence reigns between us, which will cease when one or the other shall have fallen.

Having paid my pious tribute, I went down the Boulevard and Esplanade des Invalides, crossed the Pont Louis XV.[Pg 252] and the Tuileries Gardens, which I left, near the Pavilion Marsan, by the gate which now opens into the Rue de Rivoli. There, between eleven and twelve o'clock in the morning, I heard a man and a woman crying official news; passers-by were stopping, suddenly petrified by these words:

"Verdict of the special military commission summoned at Vincennes, condemning to pain of death the man known as Louis Antoine Henri de Bourbon, born on the 2nd of August 1772 at Chantilly."

Death of the Duc D'Enghien.

This cry fell upon me like a thunderbolt; it changed my life, as it changed Napoleon's. I returned home; I said to Madame Chateaubriand:

"The Duc d'Enghien has been shot."

I sat down to a table and began to write my resignation[588]. Madame de Chateaubriand raised no objection, and with great courage watched me writing. She did not blind herself to my danger: General Moreau and Georges Cadoudal were being prosecuted[589]; the lion had tasted blood, this was not the moment to irritate him.

M. Clausel de Coussergues[590] arrived in the interval; he also had heard the sentence cried. He found me pen in hand: my letter, from which, out of compassion for Madame de Chateaubriand, he made me suppress certain angry phrases, was despatched; it was addressed to the Minister of Foreign Relations. The wording mattered little: my opinion and my crime lay in the fact of my resignation:[Pg 253] Bonaparte made no mistake as to that. Madame Bacciochi exclaimed loudly on hearing of what she called my "disloyalty;" she sent for me and made me the liveliest reproaches. M. de Fontanes at first went almost mad with fear: he already saw me shot, with all the persons who were attached to me. During several days, my friends went in dread of seeing me carried off by the police; they called on me from one minute to the other, always trembling as they approached the porter's lodge. M. Pasquier came and embraced me on the day after my resignation, saying he was happy to have such a friend as I. He remained for a fairly considerable time in an honourably moderate opposition, removed from place and power.

Nevertheless, the movement of sympathy which impels us to praise a generous action came to an end. I had, in consideration of religion, accepted a place outside France, a place conferred upon me by a mighty genius, the conqueror of anarchy, a leader sprung from the popular principle, the consul of a republic, and not a king continuing an usurped monarchy; at that time I stood alone in my feeling, because I was consistent in my conduct; I retired when the conditions to which I was able to subscribe altered; but, so soon as the hero had changed himself into a murderer, there came a rush for his ante-chamber. Six months after the 21st of March, one might have thought that there was only one opinion in society, but for a few malicious jests in which people indulged in private. Fallen persons pretended to have been violated, and only they, it was said, were violated who possessed a great name or great importance, and each one, to prove his importance or his quarterings, contrived to be violated by dint of solicitation.

Those who had most loudly applauded me fell away; my presence was a reproach to them: prudent people find imprudence in those who yield to honour. There are times in which loftiness of soul is a real infirmity; no one understands it; it passes for a sort of narrowness of mind, for a prejudice, an unintelligent trick of education, a crotchet, a whim which interferes with the judgment: an honourable imbecility, perhaps, but a stupid helotism. What capacity can any one find in shutting your eyes, in remaining indifferent to the march of the century, to the movement of ideas, to the change of manners, to the progress of society? Is it not a deplorable mistake to attach to events an importance which they do not possess? Barricaded behind your[Pg 254] narrow principles, your mind as limited as your judgment, you are like a man living at the back of a house, looking out only on a little yard, unaware of what happens in the street or of the noise to be heard outside. That is what a little independence reduces you to, an object of pity to the average man: as to the great minds with their affectionate pride and their haughty eyes, oculos sublimes[591], their compassionate disdain forgives you, because they know that "you cannot hear[592]." I therefore shrank back humbly into my literary career, a poor Pindar destined in my first Olympic to praise "the excellence of water," leaving wine to the happy.

I resign my Embassy.

Friendship put fresh heart into M. de Fontanes; Madame Bacciochi placed her kindness between her brother's anger and my resolution; M. de Talleyrand, through indifference or calculation, kept my resignation for several days before speaking of it: when he announced it to Bonaparte the latter had had time to reflect. On receiving from me the only direct sign of blame from an honest man who was not afraid to defy him, he uttered merely these two words:

"Very well."

Later, he said to his sister:

"Were you very much alarmed for your friend?"

Long after, in conversation with M. de Fontanes, he confessed that my resignation was one of the things that had impressed him most M. de Talleyrand had an official letter sent to me in which he gracefully reproached me for depriving his department of my talents and services[593]. I returned the expenses of installation, and all was apparently finished. But, in daring to leave Bonaparte, I had placed myself upon his level, and he was incensed against me with all the strength of his perfidy, as I against him with all that of my loyalty. Till the day of his fall, he held the sword[Pg 255] suspended over my head: sometimes he returned to me by a natural leaning and tried to drown me in his fatal prosperity; sometimes I was drawn to him by the admiration with which he inspired me, by the idea that I was assisting at a transformation of society, not at a mere change of dynasty: but antipathetic in so many respects, our respective natures gained the upper hand, and if he would gladly have had me shot, I should have felt no great compunction in killing him.

Death makes a great man or unmakes him; it stops him on the stair which he was about to descend, or on the step which he was about to climb: his is a destiny that has succeeded or failed; in the first case, one is reduced to examine what it has been, in the second to conjecture what it might have become.

If, in doing my duty, I had been prompted by far-seeing views of ambition, I should have deceived myself. Charles X. learnt only at Prague what I had done in 1804: he had but lately been King.

"Chateaubriand," he said to me at the Castle of Hradschin, "had you served Bonaparte?"

"Yes, Sire."

"Did you resign on the death of M. le Duc d'Enghien?"

"Yes, Sire."

Misfortune instructs or restores the memory. I have told you how one day in London, when I had taken shelter with M. de Fontanes in a passage during a storm, M. le Duc de Bourbon came and sought cover under the same refuge: in France, his gallant father and he, who so politely thanked whoever wrote a funeral oration on M. le Duc d'Enghien, did not send me one word of remembrance; they were doubtless unaware of my conduct: true, I never told them of it.

[446] This book was commenced in Paris in 1837, continued and completed in Paris in 1838, and revised in February 1845 and December 1846.—T.

[447] The Château du Marais was built by M. Le Maître, a very rich man, who left it to Madame de La Briche, his niece. It stands in the commune of the Val-Saint-Maurice, canton of Dourdan, Department of Seine-et-Oise, and is now the property of the Dowager Duchesse de Noailles.—B.

[448] Adélaïde Edmée de La Briche, née Prévost, widow of Alexis Janvier de La Live de La Briche, Introducer of Ambassadors and Private Secretary to the Queen.—B.

[449] Louise Joséphine Comtesse de Montesquiou-Fezensac (1764-1832), née de La Live de Jully, sister to Madame de Vintimille.—B.

[450] The Château de Champlâtreux, in the commune of Épinay-Champlâtreux, canton of Luzarches, Department of Seine-et-Oise, was the old seat of the Molé family. It belongs now to M. le Duc de Noailles. The Comte Molé died there, 25 November 1855.—B.

[451] Édouard François Matthieu Molé de Champlâtreux (d. 1794), a President in the Parliament of Paris, guillotined 20 April 1794.—B.

[452] The domain, now in the Department of Eure-et-Loir, presented to Madame de Maintenon by Louis XIV.—T.

[453] Louise Éléonore Mélanie Marquise de Custine (1770-1826), née de Sabran, married in 1787 to Amand Louis Philippe François de Custine, guillotined 4 January 1794.—B.

[454] Margaret Queen of France (1219-1295), daughter of Raymond Berengarius IV. Count of Provence, and married in 1234 to King Louis IX.: a virtuous queen in every way worthy of her spouse.—T.

[455] The Château de Fervacques is near Lisieux in Calvados. Madame de Custine bought it of the Duc de Montmorency-Laval and his sister the Duchesse de Luynes. It is now the property of M. le Comte de Montgomery.—T.

[456] Christina Queen of Sweden (1626-1689) spent some years in France after her abdication in 1654.—T.

[457] Astolphe Louis Léonor Marquis de Custine (1793-1857), author of an excellent book on La Russie en 1839, in 4 volumes (1843), and many other remarkable works that obtained a well-deserved success.—B.

[458] Madame de Custine had been imprisoned at the Carmelites and had escaped execution thanks only to the Revolution of 9 Thermidor.—T.

[459] "The lady of Fervacques
Deserves a brisk attack."—T.

[460] Afterwards Madame de Bérenger.—B.

[461] Louise Julie Talma (d. 1805), née Carreau, married Talma on the 19th of April 1791. They were divorced on the 6th of February 1801 by mutual consent. Talma married next year (16 June 1802) Charlotte Vanhove, the divorced wife of Louis Sébastien Olympe Petit, from whom he was also separated shortly afterwards on the same terms.—B.

[462] Stanislas Marie Adélaïde Comte de Clermont-Tonnerre (1747-1792), a Monarchical member of the Constituent Assembly, butchered by the populace on the 10th of August 1792.—T.

[463] Louis Justin Marie Marquis de Talaru (1769-1850), for some time French Ambassador in Madrid under the Restoration. He was created a peer of France on the same day as Chateaubriand (17 August 1815).—B.

[464] Louis Claude de Saint-Martin (1743-1803), known as the Unknown Philosopher, the exponent of "pure spiritualism." His principal works are Des Erreurs et de la vérité (1775), the Homme de désir (1790), and the Ministère de l'Homme-Esprit (1802).—T.

[465] Jean Jacques Comte Lenoir-Laroche (1749-1825) held office for a few days in 1797, was a Conservative member of the Senate (1799-1814), was made a count by Napoleon, and a peer of France by Louis XVIII. (4 June 1814). On the 31st of August 1817, this dignity was declared hereditary in his family.—B.

[466] The Abbé Joseph Faria (circa 1755-1819), a native of Goa, and a famous magnetizer. He plays an important part in Monte Cristo, in which Dumas makes him die at the Château d'If. He died, in fact, in Paris.—B.

[467] Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828), a German doctor (naturalized a Frenchman in 1819) who invented the science of craniology, now known as phrenology.—T.

[468] Mon portrait historique et philosophique, M. de Saint-Martin's posthumous work, printed in a very much mutilated and incomplete form.—B.

[469] The Polytechnic School was installed at the time at the Palais-Bourbon, and removed to the building of the former Collège de Navarre in 1804.—B.

[470] Henri François Marquis de Saint-Lambert (1717-1803), author of a poem, the Saisons, which secured his admission to the French Academy (1770), and of several philosophical works of a pronounced materialistic tendency.—T.

[471] Élisabeth Françoise Sophie Comtesse de Houdetot (1730-1813), née de La Live de Bellegarde. She married Lieutenant-General the Comte de Houdetot in 1748. She was the author of a few Pensées, but owes her reputation rather to the lively passion with which she inspired Rousseau and to her liaison with Saint-Lambert, which lasted nearly half a century.—T.

[472] "Woe be unto him to whom Heaven grants long days!" —T.

[473] "And love consoles me still!
But nought will e'er console me for love's loss." —T.

[474] Friedrich Melchior Baron Grimm (1723-1807), the friend of Rousseau and Diderot, created a baron by the Duke of Saxe-Gotha, whom he represented at the French Court from 1776-1790. In 1795 the Empress Catherine II. made him her minister in Lower Saxony. His diverting correspondence with both potentates was published in 1812-1813.—T.

[475] Pierre Simon Ballanche (1778-1847) started life as a printer at Lyons, where he published the second and third editions of the Génie du Christianisme. He began to devote himself to literature in 1813, wrote several notable works of Christian philosophy, and became elected a member of the French Academy in 1844.—T.

[476] The article on the Législation primitive appeared in the Mercure of the 18 Nivôse Year XI. (8 January 1803).—B.

[477] The Celestines were suppressed in 1778. They were founded in 1244 by Pietro di Murrhone, the hermit Pope, who was elected to the Holy See in 1294, when nearly eighty years of age, and assumed the title of Celestine V. He was canonized in 1313.—T.

[478] René I. Duke of Anjou, titular King of Naples (1408-1480), known as Good King René, and father of Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI. of England.—T.

[479] I omit two or three pages devoted mainly to quotations from Petrarch.—T.

[480] A terrible revolutionary massacre took place at Avignon in 1791.—T.

[481] Petrarch immortalized the source of the Sorgue, which rises near Vaucluse, and is known as the Fountain of Vaucluse.—T.

[482] Alain Chartier (1386-1458), the "Father of French Eloquence," an early French poet, and Secretary to the Household to King Charles VI. Margaret kissed him on the mouth, as he lay sleeping, to show the value she set upon the mouth from which so many fair speeches had issued.—T.

[483] Margaret of Scotland (1418-1445), daughter of James I. King of Scots, was married to the Dauphin, later King Louis XI. of France, as a child, in 1428, but was not united to him until 1436. He made her very unhappy.—T.

[484] Pro. L. Flacco, xxvi. 36.—T.

[485] Job xxxviii. II.—T.

[486] Pytheas (circa 350 B.C.), the famous Greek navigator, was a native of Massilia or Marseilles.—T.

[487] Jean Sire de Joinville (circa 1223—circa 1319) accompanied St. Louis on the Seventh Crusade (1248), which took Cyprus in its course.—T.

[488] Berengarius I. and II., Kings of Italy and Marquises of Ivrea in the tenth century.—T.

[489] Louis II., Duke of Anjou and titular King of Naples (1377-1417), father of Good King René.—T.

[490] Jean Louis de Nogaret de La Valette, Duc d'Épernon (1554-1642), one of the favourites of Henry III., was the head of a Languedoc family and governor of Provence, of which Marseilles was one of the chief cities.—T.

[491] Henri François Xavier de Belsunce de Castel Moron, Bishop of Marseilles (1671-1755), distinguished himself by his courage and zeal during the plague which ravaged the city in the years 1720 and 1721, and by his vigorous opposition to the Jansenistic doctrines.—T.

[492] Vittorio Conte Alfieri (1749-1803), the Italian tragic poet, secretly married in 1788 to the Countess of Albany, widow of Prince Charles Edward Stuart. His Memoirs were published in 1804.—T.

[493] Alfieri, Memoirs, chap. IV.—T.

[494] The Roman amphitheatre or bull-arena at Nîmes was laid in ruins by the English during their occupation in 1417.—T.

[495] The famous Roman remains, in the Corinthian style.—T.

[496] Jean Reboul (1796-1864), the baker-poet, author of Poésies (1836), the Dernier Jour (1839), the Martyre de Vivia, a mystery play, performed at the Odéon (1850), and the Traditionnelles (1857). He continued his trade throughout. In 1848 he was sent to the Constituent Assembly as Royalist member for the Department of the Gard.—B.

[497] I omit a quotation from Reboul.—T.

[498] Plautus spent some years in the service of a baker in Rome.—T.

[499] Joseph Justus Scaliger (1540-1609), the Protestant philosopher, Professor of Literature at the University of Leyden, a distinguished philologist and founder of the system of modern chronology.—T.

[500] 1622.—T.

[501] The Canal des Deux-Mers, also known as the Canal du Midi or de Languedoc, joins the Atlantic and Mediterranean.—T.

[502] The project of the canal, first formed under Francis I., was executed by Colbert's orders under Louis XIV. in the years 1666-1681. I omit the quotation from Corneille.—T.

[503] Paule Baronne de Fontenille (1518-1610), née de Viguier, nicknamed Fair Paule by King Francis I., who saw her as a child. She married first the Sire de Bayganuet, and later Philippe de Laroche, Baron de Fontenille. Her beauty, which she retained until extreme old age, was so intense that her resolution to stay at home, in order to save herself from being pestered with the admiration of the people, was checkmated by a resolution of the Capitouls or municipal officers of Toulouse, who ordered her to show herself in public, with uncovered features, two days in the week. La Belle Paule was as virtuous as she was beautiful.—T.

[504] Henri II. Maréchal Duc de Montmorency (1595-1632), revolted against Louis XIII., was defeated and taken prisoner at Castelnaudary, and tried and beheaded at Toulouse.—T.

[505] Claude Fauriel (1772-1844), a capable literary critic and considerable linguist. He translated and published in 1837 the Histoire de la croisade contre les hérétiques albigeois, écrits en vers provençaux par un poète contemporain, from which the above extract is taken.—T.

[506] Simon Baron, later Comte, de Montfort (d. 1218), known as the Machabee of his century, the leader of the crusade against the Albigenses, of whom he put some 60,000 or more to the sword. Simon de Montfort was killed at Toulouse, 25 June 1218.—T.

[507] Jacques de Cujas (1522-1590), the famous jurist.—T.

[508] Margaret of France, Duchesse de Berry, afterwards Duchess of Savoy (1523-1574), married in 1559 to Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy. Her subjects named her the Mother of the Peoples.—T.

[509] Margaret of Valois, Queen of Navarre (1552-1615), married in 1572 to the Prince of Béarn, afterwards Henry IV., and III. King of France and Navarre.—T.

[510] Gui du Faur, Seigneur de Pibrac (1529-1584), represented France at the Council of Trent and accompanied Henry III. to Poland. His Quatrains moraux have been universally translated, and he also published various political writings.—T.

[511] Florio's Montaigne, the Third Booke, chap. IX.: Of Vanitie.—T.

[512] Raymond IV. Count of Toulouse, Duke of Bordeaux, and Marquis of Provence (circa 1042-1105), one of the leaders of the First Crusade (1096), and one of the first to storm the walls of Jerusalem.—T.

[513] Louis Gabriel Léonce Guilhaud de Lavergne (1809-1880), a member of the Right in the Chamber of Deputies, became "reconciled" to the Republic, and was ultimately elected a Life Senator in 1875.—B.

[514] Mademoiselle Honorine Gasc, the owner of an admirable voice, married Herr Ol de Kop, Danish Consul at Bordeaux and Paris.—B.

[515] Clémence Isaure, a wealthy lady of Toulouse, who restored the Floral Games at Toulouse in 1490, and left large sums of money to the town to provide for the expenses of annual competitions in the art of poetry.—T.

[516] Claude Emmanuel Luillier Chapelle (1626-1686) and François Le Coigneux de Bachaumont (1624-1702), joint authors of the Voyage and other Epicurean pieces.—T.

[517] "Ah, how happy one would be
In this fair seductive spot
If, by Sylvia ne'er forgot,
Loving to eternity,
With her he could cast his lot!"—T

[518] The Chateau Trompette has also since been destroyed.—T.

[519] Joseph Spon (1647-1685), a French Protestant antiquarian.—T.

[520] "Ah, why do they throw down those columns of the gods,
The work of the great Cæsars, a tutelary shrine?"—T.

[521] The Duchesse de Berry was imprisoned at Blaye Castle in 1833.—T.

[522] In 1797 La Harpe had published his eloquent Du Fanatisme dans la langue révolutionnaire.—B.

[523] This poem appeared in 1814, with the title, Le Triomphe de la Religion, ou le Roi martyr.—B.

[524] "But if they ventured all, 'twas you permitted all:
The viler the oppressor, the more infamous the slave."—T.

[525] On the 9th of August 1797, La Harpe, then a widower and fifty-seven years of age, married, at the instance of his friend M. Récamier, Mademoiselle de Hatte-Longuerue, a very beautiful girl of twenty-three. Her mother, a penniless widow, concealed from the bridegroom any repugnance that Mademoiselle de Longuerue entertained for the match; but three weeks after the marriage the latter declared this repugnance to be invincible, and asked for a divorce. La Harpe behaved like a gallant gentleman and a Christian: he was unable to lend himself to the divorce, forbidden as it was by the religious law; but he allowed it to take place, and forgave the young lady the outcry and scandal produced by this rupture.—B.

[526] Job iv. 15, 16.—T.

[527] Dante, Inferno, xiv. 46.—B.

[528] The Abbé Jacques André Émery (1732-1811), author of the Esprit (later Pensées) de Leibnitz, the Christianisme de Bacon, the Pensées de Descartes, and many other works of a religious tendency.—T.

[529] Joseph Cardinal Comte Fesch, Archbishop of Lyons (1763-1839), was the half-brother of Madame Bonaparte, Napoleon's mother. He was made Archbishop of Lyons in 1802, a cardinal and Ambassador to Rome in 1803, Grand Almoner of the Empire, a count, and a senator in 1805. Later he refused the Archbishopric of Paris, opposed Napoleon's wishes with regard to Pius VII. in 1810, was disgraced and sent into exile in his diocese, where he remained till 1814. After the Emperor's abdication, he retired to Rome, where he lived for twenty-five years, refusing to surrender his archbishopric till the day of his death, 13 May 1839.—T.

[530] In Auvergne.—T.

[531] Talleyrand was Foreign Minister from 1796 to 1807.—T.

[532] The Abbé Pierre Étienne de Bonnevie (1761-1849), a great friend of M. and Madame de Chateaubriand, and a very witty priest.—B.

[533] Anne Antoine Jules Duc de Clermont-Tonnerre, Bishop of Châlons-sur-Marne (1749-1830). Before returning from the Emigration, he had placed his resignation in the hands of the Sovereign Pontiff, in accordance with the terms of the Concordat. Under the Restoration he became a peer of France (1814), Archbishop of Toulouse (1820), and a cardinal (1822).—B.

[534] Pope Pius VII. (vide infra, p. 220) was a Chiaramonti. This name is the Italian equivalent for Clermont.—T.

[535] "Alps, ye have not by my hard fate been torn!
On you time leaves no sign;
The years have lightly by your brows been borne
That heavy weigh on mine.

When first across your rugged walls I passed,
Dazzled with hope's bright rays,
Like the horizon, a future, boundless, vast,
Lay spread before my gaze."

Italy at my feet, and all the world before me!"—T.

[536] Chateaubriand himself had probably not known "that" long, and had learnt it from his young friend Jean Jacques Ampère, the only man in France who at that time interested himself in Scandinavian matters.—B.

[537] This "Fotrad, son of Eupert," is a little far-fetched. When the author was writing this part of his Memoirs his mind was still full of his long and learned researches preparatory to the writing of his Études historiques and his chapters on the Franks.—B.

[538] Odet de Foix, Maréchal Vicomte de Lautrec (1485-1528), was Lieutenant-General in Italy under Francis I., and subdued a part of the Duchy of Milan.—T.

[539] Francesco di Melzi, Duca di Lodi (1753-1826), was Vice-president of the Cisalpine Republic, organized by General Bonaparte in 1797, which in 1802 took the name of the Italian Republic. When, in 1805, it became the Kingdom of Italy, with Napoleon for its King and Eugène de Beauharnais for its Viceroy, Melzi was appointed Grand Chancellor and Keeper of the Seals. In 1807 he was created a duke.—B.

[540] Napoleon Charles Lucien Prince Murat (1803-1873), second son of Joachim Murat, was born 16 May 1803. He was made a senator in 1852, and a member of the civil family of the Emperor Napoleon III. in 1853, with the title of Imperial Highness. He was Grand Master of Freemasons from 1852 to 1862.—B.

[541] The feast of SS. Peter and Paul falls on the 29th of June.—T.

[542] St. Francis of Assisi, honoured on the 4th of October.—T.

[543] François Cacault (1743-1805), French Minister Plenipotentiary in Rome from 1801 to 1803.—B.

[544] The Chevalier Artaud de Montor, author of several works, of which the most important is his Histoire du pape Pie VII.—B.

[545] Gregorio Luigi Barnaba Chiaramonti, Pope Pius VII. (1740-1823), was elected to the Papacy in 1800. He signed the Concordat with Bonaparte in 1801, crowned him Emperor in Paris in 1804, but excommunicated him in 1809, after the invasion of the Papal States. Napoleon had him kidnapped and taken to Savona, and thence to Fontainebleau, where Pope Pius was kept in captivity until 1814. On returning to his States he had the generosity to give an asylum to the members of his persecutor's family.—T.

[546] Ercole Cardinal Consalvi (1757-1824), Secretary of State to Pius VII., and one of the greatest statesmen of the century. He too signed the famous Concordat, and he too was imprisoned for some time by Napoleon. He represented the Pope at the Congress of Vienna in 1814.—T.

[547] Charles Emanuel IV., King of Sardinia (1751-1819), succeeded his father Victor Amedeus III. in 1796, was obliged to surrender his continental possessions to the French Republic in 1798, and retired to Sardinia. In 1802 he abdicated and was succeeded by his brother Victor Emanuel I. He ended his days in Rome as a Jesuit. Charles Emanuel IV. became Heir in Line of the House of Stuart on the death of the Cardinal of York (Henry IX.) in 1807, and appears in the Jacobite Calendars as Charles IV. King of England.—T.

[548] The Abbé Nicolas Silvestre Guillon (1760-1847) had been chaplain, reader, and librarian to the Princesse de Lamballe. He hid himself under the Terror and reappeared in 1801 to publish his Recherches sur le Concordat, which caused him to be confined in the Temple for four months. On returning from Rome he became Professor of Rhetoric at the new University. In 1810 he was appointed to the Faculty of Theology in Paris, and for thirty years professed sacred eloquence in that faculty, of which he ultimately became the dean. He became chaplain to the Orleans Family in 1818, and in 1831 Louis-Philippe named him for the See of Beauvais, which, owing to a technical misdemeanour, he was not allowed to accept. Having confessed his error, he was in the course of the next year installed as Bishop of Morocco in partibus.—T.

[549] Marie Thérèse Princesse de Lamballe, née Princesse de Savoie-Carignan (1749-1792), was murdered at the prison of the Force in September 1792.—T.

[550] Antoine François Philippe Dubois-Descours, Marquis de La Maisonfort (1778-1827), had returned from the Emigration at the commencement of the Consulate, and was arrested and confined in the island of Elba, whence he escaped to Rome. Under the Restoration, he sat for a time in Parliament and represented France as Minister Plenipotentiary at Florence.—B.

[551] Louis François Bertin (1766-1841), usually known as Bertin the Elder, to distinguish him from his brother Pierre Louis Bertin de Vaux, together with whom he bought the Journal des Débats in 1799, and immeasurably improved the property. He was deprived of it in 1811, but revived the paper in 1814, and vigorously supported the Restoration until 1830, when he allied himself to Louis-Philippe and the new monarchy.—T.

[552] Pierre Joseph Briot (1771-1827) opposed Bonaparte in the Council of the Five Hundred, but nevertheless obtained his appointment as Government Commissary-General in Elba through the influence of Lucien Bonaparte. On Napoleon's coronation as Emperor, Briot went to Italy, and held various offices under Joseph and Joachim Murat, Kings of Naples. He refused to accept titles or decorations from either of these monarchs, which is probably the reason why Chateaubriand speaks of him as "the Republican" Briot.—B.

[553] The Princesse Pauline Borghèse (1780-1825), née Bonaparte, was Napoleon's second sister. She married General Leclerc in 1797, and shortly after his death married Prince Camille Borghèse (1803), from whom she soon separated, leaving Italy to reside at the Château de Neuilly. She enjoyed the title of Duchess of Guastalla from 1806 to 1814. In the latter year, she devoted herself wholly to Napoleon, accompanying him to Elba, and placing her diamonds at his disposal. In her later years, she became reconciled to her husband and lived with him at Florence. Pauline Borghèse was one of the most beautiful of women of her time. She sat to Canova for a nude Venus, and was doubtless in no way shy of "making her toilet" before Chateaubriand.—T.

[554] "I perish last and most wretched of all!"—T.

[555] "My days do not warrant the price of a sigh."—T.

[556] Madame de Sévigné's seat in Brittany.—B.

[557] This house stood near the Trinità-del-Monte, and was known by the name of the Villa Margherita.—B.

[558] Jean Baptiste Louis Georges Seroux d'Agincourt (1730-1814), a distinguished antiquarian and archæologist. He had been a farmer-general under Louis XV., and amassed a huge fortune, which he devoted to study and the cultivation of the arts. After visiting England, Holland, Germany, and Italy, he settled in Rome, in 1778, where he became intimate with the Cardinal de Bernis and Azara, the Spanish Ambassador and art-patron, and compiled his great work, the Histoire de l'Art par les Monuments, depuis le IVe siècle jusqu'au XVIe, in 6 volumes folio, with 336 plates.—T.

[559] Isaias xxii. 18.—T.

[560] Barbara Juliana Baroness Krüdener (1764-1824), née von Vietinghoff-Scheel, a famous Russian mystic, was married, when fourteen years of age, to Baron Krüdener, Russian Ambassador in Berlin. After leading a very dissipated life, and publishing her well-known novel, Valérie, ou Lettres de Gustave de Linar à Ernest de G. (1803), she suddenly, in 1807, withdrew from the world, gave way to exalted devotion, and pretended to have received from Heaven a mission for the regeneration of Christianity. She travelled through Germany, visiting the prisons, preaching in the open air, and converting men by the thousand. In 1814, she came into contact with the foreign sovereigns then in Paris, exercised a great ascendant over the Emperor Alexander, foretold to him the return of Napoleon from Elba and his ultimate fall, and inspired him with the idea of the Holy Alliance. She next resumed her travels through Switzerland and the various States of Germany, but her extraordinary influence began to be dreaded, and she was expelled wherever she went. In 1822, she took refuge in the Crimea, where she founded an institution for sinners and criminals, and died at Karasu-Bazar on Christmas Day 1824.—T.

[561] Joseph Michaud (1767-1839), author of the Printemps d'un proscrit and a History of the Crusades, and a member of the French Academy. In 1795, he was condemned to death for professing Royalist opinions in his paper, the Quotidienne, but succeeded in evading execution of the sentence, which was revoked in 1796. He was appointed Press Censor under the Restoration.—T.

[562] The Comte Guillaume de La Luzerne, who in 1787 married Madame de Beaumont's elder sister, Mademoiselle Victoire de Montmorin, was the nephew of the Comte de La Luzerne, the ambassador, and son of César Henri de La Luzerne, Minister of Marine under Louis XVI. Chateaubriand appears to have confused the two.—B.

[563] The Saint-Germains, husband (Germain Couhaillon) and wife, had been for thirty-eight years in the service of the Montmorin family. Chateaubriand afterwards took them into his own service, which they never left.—B.

[564] Auguste de Montmorin (d. 1793), a naval officer, had perished in a storm when returning from the Mauritius.—B.

[565] Annibale della Genga, Pope Leo XII. (1760-1829), succeeded Pope Pius VII. in 1823.—T.

[566] This tomb, which faces that of the Cardinal de Bernis at San Luigi dei Francesi, was erected by Chateaubriand himself at a cost of some nine thousand francs.—B.

[567] And not in 1827, as is given in all the earlier editions of the Memoirs. Chateaubriand spent the whole of the year 1827 in Paris. It was not until 1828, under the Mortignac Ministry, that he was appointed to the Embassy in Rome.—B.

[568] Greek Anthology, VII. 346.—B.

[569] M. de Fontanes' friendship goes much too far: Madame de Beaumont knew me better; she no doubt felt that, if she had left me her fortune, I should not have accepted it.—Author's Note.

[570] Madame de Beaumont left her books to Chateaubriand in her will, dated Paris, 15 May 1802.—B.

[571] The words italicized are in English.—T.

[572] Baron Matthieu de Staël, Madame de Staël's second son, who died while still very young.—T.

[573] In 1802, for her opposition to Bonaparte.—T.

[574] Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Karl Ferdinand Baron von Humboldt (1767-1835), the eminent Prussian diplomatist and philologist, and the friend and correspondent of all the literary eminences of his time.—T.

[575] John xi. 44.—T.

[576] The Lettre à M. de Fontanes, on the Roman Campagna, is dated to January 1804, and first appeared in the Mercure de France, in its issue of March 1804.—B.

[577] Rome, December 1803.—B.

[578] Cf. Rousseau's Confessions.—T.

[579] Gen. III. 22.—T.

[580] Jean Henri Joachim Hostein Vicomte Lainé (1767-1835) displayed considerable independence in the Legislative Body, of which he was a member for the Department of the Gironde. Under the Restoration, he was Minister of the Interior from 1816 to 1818. In 1823, he was made a viscount and a peer of France. He had become a member of the French Academy in 1818, although he had never produced any literary work, properly speaking.—T.

[581] Martyrs, V.—B.

[582] Antonio Canova (1757-1822), the famous sculptor. In 1819 he was sent to Paris as a special ambassador from the Pope.—T.

[583] Now the Hôtel de France et de Lorraine, at No. 5, Rue de Beaune.—B.

[584] Not the 20th, as the previous editions and the manuscript of the Memoirs have it. This was clearly a slip of the pen. The execution of the Duc d'Enghien took place, not on the 20th, but on the 21st of March 1804.—B.

[585] Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne (1769-1834), private secretary to Napoleon I. and Minister of State under Louis XVIII. The Revolution of 1830 and the consequent loss of his fortune caused him to lose his reason, and he died in a madhouse. His Memoirs, written by himself and revised by M. de Villemarest were published in ten volumes, 1829-1831.—T.

[586] Mémoires de M. de Bourrienne, vol. V. p. 348.—B.

[587] Here again the manuscript gives the 20th of March in error.—B.

[588] Chateaubriand's letter of resignation ran as follows:

"Citizen Minister,

"The doctors have just stated that Madame de Chateaubriand's state of health is such as to raise fears for her life. As it is absolutely impossible for me to leave my wife in these circumstances, or to expose her to the danger of a journey, I beg Your Excellency to approve that I return to you the credentials and instructions which you have sent me for the Valais. I also trust to your extreme kindness to persuade the First Consul to accept the painful reasons which prevent me to-day from undertaking the mission with which he was pleased to honour me. As I do not know whether my position requires me to take any other steps, I venture to appeal to your usual indulgence, Citizen Minister, for orders and advice; I shall receive these with the gratitude which I shall not cease to feel for your past kindnesses.

"I have the honour to greet you respectfully,


"Hôtel de France, Rue de Beaune, Paris.

"1 Germinal Year XII [22 March 1804]."—B.

[589] Moreau had been arrested on the 15th of February; Pichegru on the 28th of February; and Georges Cadoudal on the 9th of March 1804.—B.

[590] Jean Claude Clausel de Coussergues (1759-1846), a distinguished magistrate and orator. Under the Restoration, he became a deputy and a member of the Court of Appeal. He resigned after the Revolution of 1830.—B.

[591] Prov. VI. 17.—T.

[592] John viii. 43.—T.

[593] Talleyrand's letter did not arrive until ten days after the letter of resignation, and was thus worded:

"12 Germinal [2 April 1804].


"I have brought to the notice of the First Consul the motives which prevent you from accepting the Legation in the Valais, to which you had been appointed.

"The Citizen Consul had been pleased to give you a proof of confidence. The same feelings of good-will have caused him to learn with regret the reasons which do not permit you to fulfill that mission.

"I must also express to you the great interest which I attached to the new relations which I should have had to maintain with you; and to this regret, which is personal to myself, I add that of seeing my department deprived of your talents and services."—B.

[Pg 256]


Death of the Duc d'Enghien—The year 1804—General Hulin—The Duc de Rovigo—M. de Talleyrand—Part played by each—Bonaparte, his sophistry and remorse—Conclusions to be drawn from the whole story—Enmities engendered by the death of the Duc D'Enghien—An article in the Mercure—Change in the life of Bonaparte.

Like the migratory birds, I am seized in the month of October with a restlessness which would oblige me to change my clime, were I still strong on the wing and swift as the hours: the clouds flitting across the sky make me long to flee. In order to cheat this instinct, I made for Chantilly. I have wandered on the lawn, where old keepers crawl along the border of the woods. Some crows, flying in front of me over broom, coppice and glades, have led me to the Commelle Ponds. Death has breathed upon the friends who used to accompany me to the castle of Queen Blanche[595]: the sites of these solitudes were but a sad horizon, half-opened for a moment on the side of my past. In the days of René, I should have found mysteries of life in the little stream of the Thève: it steals hidden among horse-tails and mosses; reeds screen it from sight; it dies in the ponds which it feeds with its youth, ever expiring, ever renewed: those ripples used to charm me when I bore within myself the desert with the phantoms which smiled to me, for all their melancholy, and which I decked with flowers.

Walking back along the hedges, now scarcely traced, I was surprised by the rain; I took shelter beneath a beech: its last leaves were falling like my years; its top was stripping itself like my head; its trunk was marked with a red circle, to be cut down like myself. Now that I have returned to my inn, with a harvest of autumn plants and in a mood[Pg 257] little suited for joy, I will tell you of the death of M. le Duc d'Enghien while within sight of the ruins of Chantilly.


Protest of Louis XVIII.

This death at first froze all hearts with terror; men dreaded a return of the reign of Robespierre. Paris thought it was seeing again one of those days which men do not see more than once, the day of the execution of Louis XVI. Bonaparte's servants, friends and family were struck with consternation. Abroad, though the language of diplomacy promptly stifled the popular feeling, the latter none the less stirred the hearts of the crowd. In the exiled family of the Bourbons, the blow struck through and through: Louis XVIII. returned to the King of Spain[596] the Order of the Golden Fleece, with which Bonaparte had just been decorated; it was accompanied by a letter which did honour to the royal mind:

"Sir and dear Cousin,

"There can be nothing in common between me and the great criminal whom audacity and fortune have placed on a throne which he has had the barbarity to stain with the blood of a Bourbon, the Duc d'Enghien. Religion may prompt me to forgive an assassin; but the tyrant of my people must always be my enemy. Providence, for inexplicable reasons, can condemn me to end my days in exile; but never shall my contemporaries nor posterity be able to say that I showed myself in time of adversity unworthy to occupy, till my last breath, the throne of my ancestors."

We must not forget another name connected with that of the Duc d'Enghien: Gustavus Adolphus[597], since dethroned and exiled, was the only one of the kings then reigning who dared to raise a voice to save the young French Prince. He[Pg 258] dispatched an aide-de-camp from Carlsruhe bearing a letter for Bonaparte; the letter arrived too late: the last of the Condés was no more. Gustavus Adolphus returned the ribbon of the Black Eagle to the King of Prussia[598], as Louis XVIII. had returned the Golden Fleece to the King of Spain. Gustavus declared to the heir of Frederic the Great that, "according to the laws of chivalry, he could not consent to be the brother-in-arms of the butcher of the Duc d'Enghien[599]." There is an inexpressibly bitter irony in these almost mad memories of chivalry, everywhere extinct, save in the heart of an unhappy king for a murdered friend; honour to the noble sympathies of misfortune, which stand aloof, not understood, in a world unknown to men!

Alas, we had undergone too many different tyrannies; our characters, broken by a succession of hardships and oppressions, lacked sufficient energy to allow our grief long to wear mourning for the death of young Condé: gradually the tears dried up; fear overflowed with congratulations on the dangers from which the First Consul had just escaped; it wept with gratitude at having been saved by a so sacred immolation. Nero[600], at Seneca's[601] dictation, wrote to the Senate a letter of apology for the murder of Agrippina[602]; the Senators, delighted, heaped blessings upon the magnanimous son who had not feared to pluck out his heart by so salutary an act of parricide! Society soon returned to its pleasures; it was afraid of its mourning: after the Terror, the victims who had been spared danced, forced themselves to appear happy and, fearing lest they should be suspected guilty of the crime of memory, displayed the same gaiety as when they went to the scaffold.

The Duc D'Enghien's arrest.

The Duc d'Enghien was not arrested point-blank and[Pg 259] without precautions: Bonaparte had had a report drawn up of the number of Bourbons in Europe. In a council to which Messieurs de Talleyrand and Fouché were summoned, it was recognised that the Duc d'Angoulême was at Warsaw, with Louis XVIII.; the Comte d'Artois and the Duc de Berry in London, with the Princes de Condé and de Bourbon. The youngest of the Condés was at Ettenheim, in the Duchy of Baden. It was found that two English agents, Messrs. Taylor and Drake, had conducted intrigues in that quarter. On the 16th of June 1803 the Duc de Bourbon[603] warned his grandson against a possible arrest by means of a note addressed to him from London, which is still preserved. Bonaparte summoned the two Consuls, his colleagues, to his side. He first bitterly reproached M. Réal[604] for having left him in ignorance of what was being planned against him. He patiently listened to the objections. The one to express himself with the greatest vigour was Cambacérès[605]. Bonaparte thanked him and took no further notice. This is what I have seen in the Memoirs of Cambacérès, which one of his nephews, M. de Cambacérès, a peer of France, has permitted me to consult with an obligingness of which I retain a grateful recollection. The bomb once thrown does not return: it goes where the engineer flings it, and falls. To execute Bonaparte's orders, it was necessary to violate the territory of Germany, and the territory was violated forthwith. The Duc d'Enghien was arrested at Ettenheim. With him were found, instead of General Dumouriez, only the Marquis de Thumery and some other Emigrants of little note: this ought to have shown the mistake. The Duc d'Enghien was[Pg 260] taken to Strasburg. The beginning of the catastrophe of Vincennes has been narrated by the Prince himself: he has left a little road-journal from Ettenheim to Strasburg; the hero of the tragedy steps before the curtain to recite this prologue:

"Thursday 15 March, at Ettenheim, my house surrounded," says the Prince, "by a detachment of dragoons and some pickets of gendarmes, total about two hundred men, two generals, the colonel of the dragoons, Colonel Chariot of the Strasburg Gendarmerie, at five o'clock[606]. At half-past five, doors broken in, taken to the Mill, near the Tile-works. My papers taken away, sealed up. Taken in a cart, between two lines of fusiliers, to the Rhine. Put on board a boat for Rhisnau. Landed and marched on foot as far as Pfortsheim. Breakfasted at the inn. Got into a carriage with Colonel Chariot, the quarter-master of the gendarmes, a gendarme on the box and Grunstein. Arrived at Strasburg, at Colonel Chariot's, about half-past five. Transferred half an hour after, in a hackney-coach, to the citadel.

. . . . . . . .

"Sunday 18, they come to fetch me at half-past one in the morning. They do not give me time to dress. I embrace my unhappy companions, my servants. I leave alone with two officers of gendarmes and two gendarmes. Colonel Chariot told me that we were going to the general of division, who has received orders from Paris. Instead of that, I find a carriage with six post-horses in the Church Square. Lieutenant Petermann gets in beside me, Blitersdorff the quarter-master on the box, two gendarmes inside, the other out."

Here the ship-wrecked man, on the point of being engulfed, interrupts his log.

The carriage arrived at about four o'clock in the evening at one of the barriers of the capital, where the Strasburg road ends, and instead of driving into Paris, followed the outer boulevard and stopped at Vincennes Castle. The Prince alighted from the carriage in the inner court-yard and was taken to a room of the fortress, where he was locked in and went to sleep. As the Prince was approaching Paris, Bonaparte affected an air of calmness which was not natural.

[Pg 261]

On the 18th of March, which was Palm Sunday, he went to the Malmaison. Madame Bonaparte[607], who, with all her family, was informed of the Prince's arrest, spoke to him of this arrest. Bonaparte replied:

"You don't understand politics."

Colonel Savary[608] had become one of Bonaparte's intimates. Why? Because he had seen the First Consul weep at Marengo. Exceptional men should distrust their tears, which place them beneath the yoke of vulgar men. Tears are one of those weaknesses which enable an eyewitness to make himself master of a great man's resolutions.

He is taken to Vincennes.

They say that the First Consul himself had all the orders for Vincennes drawn up. One of these orders provided that, if the expected sentence was a death sentence, it was to be executed on the spot.

I believe this version, although I cannot vouch for its truth, since those orders are missing. Madame de Rémusat[609], who was playing chess with the First Consul at the Malmaison on the evening of the 20th of March, heard him mutter some verses on the clemency of Augustus[610]; she thought that Bonaparte was coming to himself again and that the Prince was saved[611]. No, destiny had pronounced its oracle!

[Pg 262]

When Savary reappeared at Malmaison, Madame Bonaparte divined the whole misfortune. The First Consul had locked himself up alone for many hours. And then the wind blew, and all was ended.


An order of Bonaparte, dated 29 Ventôse, Year XII[612], had decreed that a military commission, consisting of seven members appointed by General the Governor of Paris[613] should meet at Vincennes to try "the ci-devant Duc d'Enghien, accused of bearing arms against the Republic," etc.

In fulfilment of this decree, Joachim Murat on the same day, 29 Ventôse, appointed the seven officers who were to form the said commission, namely:

General Hulin[614], commanding the Foot Grenadiers of the Consular Guard, president;

Colonel Guitton, commanding the 1st Regiment of Cuirassiers;

Colonel Bazancourt, commanding the 4th Regiment of Light Infantry;

Colonel Ravier, commanding the 18th Regiment of Infantry of the Line;

Colonel Barrois, commanding the 96th Regiment of Infantry of the Line;

Colonel Rabbe, commanding the 2nd Regiment of the Municipal Guard of Paris;

Citizen Dautancourt, Major of the Gendarmerie d'Élite, with the functions of captain-judge-advocate.

Captain Dautancourt, Major Jacquin of the Légion d'Élite, two foot gendarmes of the same corps, Lerva and Tharsis, and Citizen Noirot, a lieutenant in the same corps, went to the Duc d'Enghien's and awoke him: he had but four hours to wait before returning to his sleep. The judge-advocate, assisted by Molin, a captain in the 18th Regiment,[Pg 263] chosen as registrar by the aforesaid judge-advocate, examined the Prince.

And examined.

Asked: His surname, Christian names, age, and birthplace?

Answered: That his name was Louis Antoine Henri de Bourbon, Duc d'Enghien, born 2 August 1772 at Chantilly.

Asked: Where he had resided since he left France?

Answered: That, after accompanying his relations, Condé's Corps having been formed, he had served through the whole war, and that, before that, he had been through the campaign of 1792, in Brabant, with Bourbon's Corps.

Asked: If he had not gone to England, and if that Power did not still allow him a salary?

Answered: That he had never been there; that England still allowed him his pay, which was all he had to live upon.

Asked: What rank he filled in Condé's Army?

Answered: Commander of the Advance Guard in 1796; before that campaign, as a volunteer at his grandfather's headquarters; and, ever since 1796, Commander of the Advance Guard.

Asked: If he knew General Pichegru, and if he had had relations with him?

Answered: "I have never seen him, to my knowledge. I have had no relations with him. I know that he wished to see me. I am glad that I never knew him, because of the base methods which he is said to have wished to employ, if true."

Asked: If he knew ex-General Dumouriez, and if he had had relations with him?

Answered: "Not with him either."


"Whence," continues the report, "were drawn up these presents, which have been signed by the Duc d'Enghien, Major Jacquin, Lieutenant Noirot, the two gendarmes, and captain-judge-advocate.

"Before signing this present report the Duc d'Enghien said:

"'I earnestly make a request to be granted a private audience of the First Consul. My name, my rank, my way of thinking and the horror of my situation make me hope that he will not refuse my request.'"


At two o'clock on the morning of the 21st of March, the Duc d'Enghien was taken to the room in which the commission sat, and repeated what he had said in examination by[Pg 264] the judge-advocate. He persisted in his declaration: he added that he was willing to make war, and that he wished for service in the new war of England against France.

"Asked whether he had anything to put forward in the plea of his defense; answered that he had nothing more to say.

"The president ordered the prisoner to withdraw; the council deliberated with closed doors; the president took the votes, commencing with the junior in rank; next, the president having given his opinion last, the Duc d'Enghien was unanimously declared guilty, and the Court applied Article ... of the law of the... thus worded.... and in consequence condemned him to the penalty of death. Ordered, on the demand of the captain-judge-advocate, that the present sentence, after being read to the condemned man, shall be executed directly, in presence of the different detachments of the corps of the garrison.

"Given, concluded, and tried at one sitting, at Vincennes, on the day, month and year as above, as witness our hands."


The grave having been "dug, filled up, and closed," ten years of forgetfulness, of general assent and of unexampled glory sat down upon it; the grass sprang up to the sound of the salvoes which proclaimed victories, by the light of the illuminations which shed their lustre over the pontifical coronation, the marriage of the daughter of the Cæsars[615], and the birth of the King of Rome[616]. Only some rare sympathizers rambled in the wood, hazarding a furtive glance at the bottom of the moat in the direction of the lamentable spot, while a few prisoners watched them from the top of the donjon in which they were confined. Then came the Restoration: the earth of the tomb was stirred, and with it men's consciences; each then thought it his duty to explain himself.

Duc D'Enghien.

M. Dupin the Elder[617] published his Discussion; M. Hulin,[Pg 265] the president of the military commission, spoke; M. le Duc de Rovigo entered into the controversy by accusing M. de Talleyrand; a third party replied on behalf of M. de Talleyrand; and Napoleon raised his mighty voice on the rock of St. Helena.

These documents must be reproduced and studied, in order to assign to each the part due to him and the place which he should occupy in this drama. It is night, and we are at Chantilly; it was night when the Duc d'Enghien was at Vincennes.

M. Dupin's pamphlet.

When M. Dupin published his pamphlet he sent it to me with the following letter:

"Paris, 10 November 1823.

Monsieur le Vicomte,

"Pray accept a copy of my publication relative to the murder of the Duc d'Enghien.

"It would have appeared long ago, had I not desired above all to respect the wish of Monseigneur le Duc de Bourbon, who, having been informed of my work, had communicated to me his desire that this deplorable affair might not be disinterred.

"But Providence having permitted others to take the initiative, it has become necessary to make the truth known, and after assuring myself that it was no longer insisted that I should remain silent, I have spoken with frankness and sincerity.

"I have the honour to be, with profound respect,
"monsieur le vicomte,

"Your Excellency's most humble and obedient servant,


M. Dupin, whom I congratulated and thanked, revealed in his covering letter an unknown and touching instance of the noble and merciful virtues of the victim's father. M. Dupin commences his pamphlet thus:

[Pg 266]

"The death of the unfortunate Duc d'Enghien is one of the most afflicting events that ever befel the French nation: it dishonoured the consular government.

"A young prince, in the flower of his age, surprised by treachery on foreign soil, where he was sleeping in peace under the protection of the Law of Nations; dragged violently to France; indicted before pretended judges, who could in no case be his; accused of imaginary crimes; denied the assistance of counsel; examined and sentenced behind closed doors; put to death at night in the moat of the castle which was used as a State prison; so many virtues unheeded, such fond hopes destroyed, will ever stamp this catastrophe as one of the most revolting acts that an absolute government ever ventured to commit.

"If no form was respected; if the judges were incompetent; if they did not even take the trouble to mention in their judgment the date and text of the laws upon which they affected to ground their condemnation; if the unhappy Duc d'Enghien was shot in pursuance of a sentence signed in blank.... and only made regular after execution! then we have to do not only with the innocent victim of judicial error; the thing assumes its true name: it is an odious murder."

This eloquent exordium brings M. Dupin to the examination of the documents. He first proves the illegality of the arrest: the Duc d'Enghien was not arrested in France; he was in no way a prisoner of war, since he had not been taken with arms in his hands; he was not a prisoner in the civil sense, for no extradition had been demanded; it was a violent seizure of the person, comparable to the captures made by the pirates of Tunis and Algiers, an inroad of robbers, incursio latronum.

The jurist proceeds to discuss the incompetency of the military commission: cognizance of alleged plots hatched against the State has never been conferred upon military commissions.

Next follows the analysis of the judgment.


"The examination," continues M. Dupin, "took place on the 29 Ventôse at midnight. On the 30 Ventôse, at two o'clock in the morning, the Duc d'Enghien was brought before the military commission.

"On the minutes of the judgment we read, 'This day, the 30 Ventôse, Year XII of the Republic, at two o'clock in the morning.' The words, 'at two o'clock in the morning,' which were[Pg 267] only inserted because it was in fact that time, are obliterated on the minutes without being replaced by any other indication.

"Not a single witness was heard or produced against the prisoner.

"The accused 'was declared guilty!' Guilty of what? The judgment does not say.

"Every judgment that pronounces a penalty is bound to contain a reference to the law by virtue of which such penalty is inflicted.

A scathing indictment.

"Well, in this case, none of these forms has been fulfilled: nothing in the official report bears witness that the commissioners had a copy of the law before them; nothing shows that the president read the text of the law before applying it. Far from it: the judgment in its material form affords the proof that the commissioners convicted without knowing either the date or the tenor of the law; for, in the minutes of the judgment, they have left in blank the date of the law, the number of the article, and the place in which the precise words should have been quoted. And yet it was on the minutes of a sentence framed in this state of imperfection that the noblest blood was shed by butchers!

"The deliberation must be secret, but the judgment must be pronounced in public: again, it is the law that speaks. Now the judgment of the 30 Ventôse certainly says, 'The council deliberated with closed doors;' but it does not mention that the doors were opened again, or intimate that the result of the deliberation was pronounced in a public sitting. Even had it said so, who would believe it? A public sitting at two o'clock in the morning, in the donjon of Vincennes, while all the issues of the castle were being guarded by gendarmes d'élite! But the fact is that they did not even take the precaution to resort to a lie: the judgment is silent on this point.

"This judgment is signed by the president and the six other commissioners, including the judge-advocate; but observe that the minutes are not signed by the registrar, whose concurrence, however, is necessary to give them authenticity.

"The sentence concludes with this terrible formula: 'shall be executed Forthwith, under the care of the captain-judge-advocate.'

"Forthwith! Cruel word, the work of the judges! Forthwith! And an express law, that of the 15 Brumaire, Year VI, granted the right of appeal for a new trial against any military judgment!"

[Pg 268]

Passing to the execution, M. Dupin continues as follows:

"Examined at night and tried at night, the Duc d'Enghien was also killed at night. This horrible sacrifice was to be consummated in the dark, in order that it might be said that all laws had been infringed, all, even those which prescribed that executions shall take place in public."

The jurist comes to the irregularities in the preliminaries:

"Article 19 of the law of the 13 Brumaire, Year V, declares that, after closing the examination, the judge-advocate shall tell the prisoner to 'choose a friend as his defender.' The prisoner shall have 'the power to choose that defender' among every class of citizen present on the spot; if he declares that he is unable to make that choice, the judge-advocate shall make it for him.

"Ah, no doubt the Prince had no friends[618] among those who surrounded him; this fact was cruelly declared to him by one of the abettors of that horrible scene!... Alas, why were we not present! Why was the prince not allowed to make an appeal to the bar of Paris! There he would have found friends of his unhappiness, defenders of his misfortune. ... It was apparently with a view to making the judgment presentable in the eyes of the public that a new edition was drawn up at leisure.... The tardy substitution of a second form of judgment, in appearance more regular than the first (although equally unjust), in no way detracts from the heinousness of having put the Duc d'Enghien to death by virtue of a rough draft of a judgment, hastily signed, and not even signed by all the requisite parties."


Such is M. Dupin's luminous pamphlet. Nevertheless I do not know that, in an act of the nature of that which the author examines, the greater or lesser regularity holds an important place: whether the Duc d'Enghien was strangled in a post-chaise between Strasburg and Paris or killed in the wood of Vincennes makes no difference. But is it not providential to see men, after long years, some showing the irregularity of a murder in which they had taken no part, others[Pg 269] hastening, unasked, to the bar of public accusal? What, then have they heard? What voice from on high has summoned them to appear?


After the great jurist, here comes a blind veteran: he has commanded the Grenadiers of the Old Guard; what that means brave men know. His last wound he received from Malet[619], whose powerless lead remained lost in a face which had never turned from the fire. "Afflicted with blindness, withdrawn from the world, consoled only by the care of his family," to use his own words, the judge of the Duc d'Enghien appears to issue from his tomb at the call of the sovereign judge; he pleads his cause[620] without self-delusion or excuses:

General Hulin's pamphlet.

"Let there be no mistake," he says, "as to my intentions. I am not writing through fear, since my person is under the protection of laws emanating from the Throne itself, and since, under the government of a righteous king, I have nothing to dread from violence or lawlessness.... I write to tell the truth, even in what may be to my own detriment! So I do not pretend to justify even the form or the substance of the judgment; but I wish to show under what a powerful union of circumstances it was delivered; I wish to remove from myself and my colleagues the suspicion of having acted as party men. If we are still to receive blame, I wish also that men should say of us:

"'They were very unfortunate.'"


General Hulin asserts that he was appointed president of a military commission without knowing its object; that when he arrived at Vincennes he was no wiser; that the[Pg 270] other members of the commission knew as little; that M. Harel[621], the governor of the castle, told him, on being asked, that he knew nothing himself, adding:

"What can I do? I am nobody here now. Everything is done without my orders or participation: another man is in command here."

It was ten o'clock at night when General Hulin was relieved from his uncertainty by the communication of the documents. The hearing was opened at midnight, when the examination of the prisoner by the judge-advocate had been finished.

"The reading of the documents," says the president of the commission, "gave rise to an incident. We observed that, at the end of his examination before the judge-advocate, the Prince, before signing, wrote with his own hand some lines in which he expressed a wish to have an explanation with the First Consul. One of the members proposed that this request should be forwarded to the Government. The commission agreed; but at the same moment General ————, who had come and placed himself behind my chair, pointed out to us that this request was 'inopportune.' Moreover, we found no provision in the law authorizing us to suspend judgment. The commission therefore proceeded, reserving to itself the right to satisfy the prisoner's wishes after the trial."


So far General Hulin. Now, in a pamphlet by the Duc de Rovigo we read the following passage:

"There were, indeed, so many people that, as I arrived among the last, I found it difficult to make my way to the back of the president's chair, where I ultimately placed myself."

And so it was the Duc de Rovigo who had "placed himself behind the chair" of the president? But had he, or any other not forming one of the commission, the right to interfere in the proceedings of the commission, and to point out that a request was "inopportune"?

[Pg 271]

Let us hear the commander of the Grenadiers of the Old Guard speak of the courage of the young son of the Condés; he was a judge of it:

The Duc D'Enghien's courage.

"I proceeded to examine the prisoner; I must say that he stood up to us with a noble confidence, spurned the accusation that he had been directly or indirectly implicated in a plot to assassinate the First Consul; but also admitted that he had borne arms against France, saying, with a courage and a pride which did not for a moment permit us, in his own interest, to shake him on this point, 'that he had supported the rights of his family, and that a Condé could never re-enter France without arms in his hands. My birth and convictions,' he added, 'make me for ever the enemy of your government.'

"His resolute confessions distressed his judges to the utmost. Ten times did we give him the opportunity to revise his statements, but throughout he persisted unshaken:

"'I perceive,' he said at intervals, 'the honourable intentions of the members of the commission; but I cannot avail myself of the terms they offer me.'

"And on being warned that military commissions judged without appeal:

"'I know that,' he replied, 'and I am quite aware of the danger which I am running; I only wish to have an interview with the First Consul.'"

Does the whole of our history contain a more pathetic page? New France sitting in judgment upon Old France, doing homage to her, presenting arms to her, saluting her colours, even while condemning her; the tribunal set up in the fortress in which the great Condé, when a prisoner, cultivated flowers; the General of the Grenadiers of Bonaparte's Guard seated face to face with the last descendant of the victor of Rocroi, feeling himself moved with admiration before the prisoner left without a defender and abandoned by the world, questioning him while the sound of the gravedigger digging the grave mingled with the young soldier's firm replies! A few days after the execution, General Hulin exclaimed:

"Oh, the brave young man! What courage! I should like to die like that!"

General Hulin, after speaking of the "minutes" and of the "second edition" of the judgment, says:

[Pg 272]

"As to the second edition, the only true one, as it did not convey the order for immediate execution, but only for the immediate reading of the judgment to the condemned man, the immediate execution could not have been the act of the commission, but only of those who took upon themselves the responsibility of hastening the fatal execution.

"Alas, our thoughts were engaged elsewhere! The judgment was scarcely signed when I began to write a letter in which, with the unanimous consent of the commission, I wrote to inform the First Consul of the desire which the Prince had expressed to have an interview with him, and also to entreat him to remit a penalty which the difficulty of our position did not permit us to elude.

"At that moment a man, who had never left the council-hall, and whom I would name at once did I not consider that, even when defending myself, I ought not to become an accuser, approached me and asked:

"'What are you doing there?'

"'I am writing to the First Consul,' I replied, 'to convey to him the wishes of the council and of the condemned man.'

"'Your business is done,' said he, taking the pen; 'this is now my affair.'

"I protest that I thought, as did several of my colleagues, that he meant to say, 'This is my affair, to inform the First Consul.' Taken in this sense, the reply left us the hope that the information would be none the less conveyed. And how could it have occurred to us that there was any one among us that had orders to neglect the formalities prescribed by law?"

The whole secret of this mournful catastrophe lies in this deposition. The veteran who, in daily expectation of dying on the battlefield, had learned from death the language of truth, concludes with these final words:

"I was talking of what had just happened, in the lobby adjoining the hall in which we had deliberated. Separate conversations were going forward; I was waiting for my carriage, which had not been allowed to drive into the inner court-yard, nor had those of the other members, thus delaying my departure and theirs. We were closed in, none of us having means to communicate with the outside, when an explosion was heard: a terrible noise that resounded at the bottom of our souls and froze them with terror and affright.

[Pg 273]

"Yes, I swear, in the name of all my colleagues, that this execution was not authorized by us: our judgment stated that a copy of it should be sent to the Minister for War, to the Chief Judge the Minister for Justice, and to the General-in-Chief the Governor of Paris.

"The order of execution could be given regularly only by the last-named; the copies had not yet been dispatched; they could not be finished before a portion of the day had elapsed. On my return to Paris I should have gone in search of the Governor, the First Consul, anybody! And suddenly a dreadful sound comes to reveal to us that the Prince no longer lives!

"We did not know whether he who so cruelly hastened on this fatal execution had orders: if he had none, he alone was responsible; if he had orders, the commission, knowing nothing of those orders, the commission, forcibly and illegally detained, the commission, whose last wish was for the Prince's safety, could neither foresee nor prevent their effect. It cannot be accused of the result.

"The lapse of twenty years has not allayed the bitterness of my regret!... Let me be accused of ignorance, of error, I acquiesce; let me be reproached with an obedience from which to-day, under similar circumstances, I should certainly know how to escape; with my attachment to a man whom I thought destined to promote the happiness of my country; with my loyalty to a government which I then considered lawful, and which had received my oath; but let some allowance be made to me, and also to my colleagues, for the fatal circumstances under which we were summoned to decide."

A weak defense, but you repent, general: peace be with you! If your sentence became the marching-orders of the last of the Condés, you will join the last conscript of our old mother-land in the advance-guard of the dead. The young soldier will gladly share his couch with the grenadier of the Old Guard: the France of Freiburg[622] and the France of Marengo will sleep together.

Enter the Duc de Rovigo.

M. le Duc de Rovigo, beating his breast, takes his place in the procession that comes to confess at the tomb. I had long been under the power of the Minister of Police; he fell[Pg 274] under the influence which he supposed to be restored to me on the return of the Legitimacy: he communicated a portion of his Memoirs to me. Men in his position speak with wonderful candour of what they have done; they have no idea of what they are saying against themselves: accusing themselves without perceiving it, they do not suspect the existence of an opinion differing from theirs, both as regards the functions which they had undertaken and the line of conduct which they have observed. If they have been wanting in loyalty, they do not think that they have broken their oath; if they have taken upon themselves parts which are repugnant to other characters, they believe that they have done great services. Their ingenuousness does not justify them, but it excuses them.

M. le Duc de Rovigo consulted me on the chapters in which he treats of the death of the Duc d'Enghien: he wished to know my mind, precisely because he knew how I had acted; I valued this mark of his esteem and, repaying frankness with frankness, I advised him to publish nothing:

"Leave all this," said I, "to die out; in France, oblivion is not slow in coming. You imagine that you will clear Napoleon of a reproach, and throw back the fault upon M. de Talleyrand; but you do not sufficiently exonerate the former, nor do you sufficiently accuse the latter. You lay yourself open to attack from your enemies; they will not fail to reply to you. Why need you remind the public that you were in command of the Gendarmerie d'Élite at Vincennes? They were not aware of the direct part which you played in this fatal deed, and now you tell them of it. Throw the manuscript into the fire, general: I speak in your own interest."

Steeped in the maxims of the imperial government, the Duc de Rovigo thought that those maxims could be as well applied to the legitimate throne; he felt convinced that his pamphlet[623] would reopen the doors of the Tuileries to him.

It is partly by the light of this publication that posterity will trace the outlines of the phantoms of grief. I offered to hide the suspect who had come to ask shelter of me during the night; he did not accept the protection of my house.

M. de Rovigo tells the story of the departure of M. de Caulaincourt[624], whom he does not mention by name: he[Pg 275] speaks of the kidnapping at Ettenheim, the prisoner's passing through Strasburg, and his arrival at Vincennes. After an expedition on the coast of Normandy, General Savary had returned to the Malmaison. He was summoned, at five o'clock in the evening of the 19th of March 1804, to the closet of the First Consul, who handed him a sealed letter to be carried to General Murat, the Governor of Paris. He flew to the general, crossing with the Minister of Foreign Relations on his way, and received the order to take the Gendarmerie d'Élite and go to Vincennes. He went there at eight o'clock in the evening, in time to see the members of the commission arrive. He soon made his way into the hall where the Prince was being tried, at one o'clock in the morning of the 21st, and took a seat behind the president. He gives the Duc d'Enghien's replies in about the same terms as they are given in the report of the one sitting. He told me that the Prince, after making his final explanations, with a quick movement took off his cap, laid it on the table and, with the air of a man resigning his life, said to the president:

His pitiful defense.

"I have nothing more to say, sir."

M. de Rovigo insists upon it that this sitting was in no way secret:

"The doors of the hall," he declares, "were open and free to any who cared to attend at that hour."

M. Dupin had already pointed out the confusion of this argument. In this connection M. Achille Roche[625], who appears to write for M. de Talleyrand, exclaims:

"The sitting was in no way secret! At midnight! Held in the inhabited portion of the castle, in the inhabited portion of a prison! Who, then, was present at this sitting? Gaolers, soldiers, executioners!"


No one was in a position to give more exact details concerning the moment and place of the thunder-clap than M. le Duc de Rovigo; let us hear what he says:

[Pg 276]

"After sentence had been pronounced, I withdrew with the officers of my corps, who like myself had been present during the proceedings, and joined the troops stationed on the esplanade of the castle. The officer who commanded the infantry of my legion came and told me, with deep emotion, that a piquet of men was required of him to execute the sentence of the military commission:

"'Give it,' I replied.

"'But where am I to post it?'

"'Where you may be sure to hurt nobody.'

"For already the roads were full of inhabitants of the populous environs of Paris on their way to attend the different markets.

"After carefully examining the ground, the officer chose the moat as the place where there was least danger of any one being hurt. M. le Duc d'Enghien was taken there by the stairs of the entrance-tower, on the park side, and there heard the sentence pronounced, which was put into effect."


Below this paragraph, the author of the memorial appends the following footnote:

"Between the passing of the sentence and its execution, a grave was dug, which gave rise to the report that it had been prepared prior to the judgment."

Unfortunately, we meet here with deplorable inaccuracies:

"M. de Rovigo contends," says M. Achille Roche, M. de Talleyrand's apologist, "that he obeyed orders! Who conveyed to him the order for the execution? It appears that it was a certain M. Delga, killed at Wagram. But whether it be M. Delga or not, if M. Savary is mistaken in mentioning M. Delga to us, no one, doubtless, to-day, will lay claim to the fame conferred upon that officer. M. de Rovigo is accused of having hastened the execution; it was not he, he replies: a man who is now dead told him that orders had been given to hasten it."

The Duc de Rovigo is not well inspired on the subject of the execution, which he describes as taking place in daylight; that would, besides, have altered nothing in the fact, and would simply mean the absence of a torch at the punishment.

"At the hour of sunrise, in the open air," asks the general, "what need was there for a lantern to see a man at six[Pg 277] paces! Not that the sun," he adds, "was altogether bright and clear; a fine rain had fallen all night, and a damp mist still retarded, in some degree, its appearance. The execution took place at six o'clock in the morning: this fact is witnessed by irrefutable documents."


The execution.

But the general neither produces these documents nor tells us where to find them. The course of the trial shows that the Duc d'Enghien was tried at two o'clock in the morning and shot forthwith. Those words, "two o'clock in morning," which originally appeared on the first minutes of the sentence, were subsequently erased from the minutes. The official report of the exhumation proves, by the depositions of three witnesses, Madame Bon, the Sieur Godard and the Sieur Bounelet (the latter had helped to dig the grave), that the death penalty was effected at night. M. Dupin the Elder records the circumstance of a lantern fastened over the Duc d'Enghien's heart to serve as a mark, or held, with the same object, in the Prince's firm hand. Stories were told of a heavy stone taken from the grave with which the victim's head was crushed in. Lastly, the Duc de Rovigo is supposed to have boasted of possessing some of the spoils of the sacrifice; I myself have believed in these rumours; but the legal documents prove that they were unfounded.

From the official report, dated Wednesday the 20th of March 1816, of the physicians and surgeons entrusted with the exhumation of the corpse, it has been certified that the skull was broken, that "the upper jaw, separated entirely from the facial bones, contained twelve teeth; that the lower jaw, fractured in the middle, was divided in two, and showed only three teeth."

The body was lying flat upon its abdomen, the head being lower than the feet; there was a gold chain around the vertebrae of the neck.

The second official report of the exhumation (of the same date, 20 March 1816), "the general report," states that with the remains of the skeleton were found a purse in morocco-leather containing eleven pieces of gold, seventy pieces of gold enclosed in sealed rolls, some hair, shreds of clothing, remnants of his cap bearing marks of the bullets by which it had been pierced.

M. de Rovigo therefore took none of the spoils; the earth which had held them has restored them, and has borne witness to the general's honesty; no lantern was fastened[Pg 278] over the Prince's heart, its fragments would have been found, as were those of the perforated cap; no heavy stone was taken from the grave; the fire of the piquet at six paces was enough to blow the head to pieces, to "separate the upper jaw from the facial bones," and so on.

To complete this mockery of human vanities were needed only the similar immolation of Murat, the Governor of Paris, the death of Bonaparte in captivity, and the inscription engraved upon the Duc d'Enghien's coffin:

"Here lies the body of the most high and mighty Prince of the Blood, Peer of France, died at Vincennes, 21 March 1804; aged 31 years, 7 months and 19 days."

The "body" was mere bare and shattered bones; the "high and mighty Prince," the broken fragments of a soldier's carcase; not a word to recall the catastrophe, not a word of blame or grief in this epitaph carved by a sorrowing family; a prodigious result of the respect which the century shows to the works and susceptibilities of the Revolution! In the same way, no time was lost in removing all traces of the mortuary chapel of the Duc de Berry.

What a sum total of annihilation! Bourbons, who returned to so little purpose to your palaces, you have busied yourselves with naught save exhumations and funerals: your time of life was passed. God has willed it so! The ancient glory of France perished beneath the eyes of the shade of the Great Condé, in a moat at Vincennes: perhaps at the very place where Louis IX., "to whom men resorted as to a saint.... seated himself at the foot of an oak, and where all who had any business with him came without ceremony and without hindrance from any usher or others; and whenever he heard anything that could be amended in the speeches of those who pleaded for others he most graciously corrected it himself, and all the people who had a cause to bring before him stood round him[626]."

The Duc d'Enghien asked leave to speak to Bonaparte: "he had a cause to bring before him;" he was not heard! Who, standing at the edge of the ravelin, looked down into the moat upon those muskets, those soldiers dimly lighted by a lantern in the mist and gloom, as in night everlasting? Where was the light placed? Did the Duc d'Enghien stand over his open grave? Was he obliged to step across it to place himself at the distance of "six paces" specified by the Duc de Rovigo.

[Pg 279]

There exists a letter written by M. le Duc d'Enghien, at the age of nine, to his father the Duc de Bourbon; he says:

"All the Enguiens[627] are lucky; the one[628] of the Battle of Cerizoles, the one who won the Battle of Rocroi[629]: I hope to be so too."

Is it true that the victim was refused a priest? Is it true that he only with difficulty found a hand willing to convey to a woman a last pledge of affection? What did the executioners care for sentiments of religion or love? They were there to kill, the Duc d'Enghien to die.

The Duc d'Enghien had been secretly married, through the offices of a priest, to the Princesse Charlotte de Rohan[630]: in those days of a roving mother-land, a man, by the very reason of his elevation, was impeded by a thousand political obstacles; to enjoy that which society accords to all, he was obliged to hide himself. This lawful marriage, to-day no more a secret, enhances the splendour of a tragic doom; it substitutes the glory for the clemency of Heaven: religion perpetuates the pomp of misfortune when, after the catastrophe has been accomplished, the cross rises on the deserted spot.


The Duc de Talleyrand.

M. de Talleyrand, according to M. de Rovigo's pamphlet, had presented a vindicatory memorial to Louis XVIII.; this memorial, which I have not seen, should have thrown light upon everything, and threw light upon nothing. In 1820, when I was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to Berlin, I discovered in the archives of the embassy a letter from "the Citizen Laforest[631]," addressed to "the Citizen Talleyrand,"[Pg 280] on the subject of the Duc d'Enghien. This strongly-worded letter does its author the more credit in that he did not fear to compromise his career, without earning the reward of public opinion, since the step he had taken was to remain unknown: a noble act of self-denial on the part of a man who, through his very obscurity, had relegated to obscurity the good which he had done.

M. de Talleyrand took his lesson, and kept silence; at least, I found nothing from him in the same archives concerning the death of the Prince. The Minister of Foreign Relations had nevertheless, on the 2 Ventôse, informed the Minister of the Elector of Baden "that the First Consul had thought it necessary to order some detachments to proceed to Offenburg and Ettenheim, there to seize the instigators of the scandalous conspiracies which, by their character, place without the pale of the Law of Nations all those who have manifestly taken part in them."

A passage from Generals Gourgaud[632], Montholon[633], and D. Ward, brings Bonaparte upon the scene:

"My Minister," says the latter, "strongly represented to me the need for seizing the Duc d'Enghien, although he was upon neutral territory. But I continued to hesitate, and the Prince de Bénévent twice brought me the order for his[Pg 281] arrest for signature. Nevertheless I consented to sign it only after convincing myself of the urgency of this act."

According to the Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène[634], the following words must have dropped from Bonaparte:

"The Duc d'Enghien bore himself before the tribunal with great gallantry. On his arrival at Strasburg, he wrote me a letter; this letter was handed to Talleyrand, who kept it until the execution."


I have no great belief in this letter: Napoleon probably turned into a letter the request made by the Duc d'Enghien to speak to the conqueror of Italy, or rather the few lines expressing this request which, before signing the examination undergone before the judge-advocate, the Prince had written with his own hand. Nevertheless, the fact that this letter was not to be found should not lead us too vigorously to conclude that it was never written:

"I know," says the Duc de Rovigo, "that in the early days of the Restoration, in 1814, one of M. de Talleyrand's secretaries was incessantly making researches in the archives under the gallery of the Museum. I have this fact from the man who received the order to pass him in. The same thing was done at the repository of the War Office for the documents of the trial of M. le Duc d'Enghien, of which only the sentence remained."

Talleyrand's complicity.

The fact is true; all the diplomatic papers, and notably the correspondence of M. de Talleyrand with the "Emperor" and the "First Consul," were transferred from the archives of the Museum to the house in the Rue Saint-Florentin[635]; part of them were destroyed; the remainder were put into a stove, to which they forgot to set light; this was all that the Minister's prudence could do against the Prince's indifference. The documents that were not burned were recovered; some one thought it was right to preserve them: I have held in my hands and read with my eyes a letter from M. de Talleyrand, dated 8 March 1804, and treating of the arrest, not yet carried out, of M. le Duc d'Enghien. The Minister invites the First Consul to deal vigorously with[Pg 282] his enemies. I was not permitted to keep the letter, and I have retained only these two passages in my memory:

"If justice obliges us to punish vigorously, policy exacts that we should punish without exception...... I will suggest to the First Consul M. de Caulaincourt, to whom he might give his orders, and who would execute them with as much discretion as fidelity."

Will this report of the Prince de Talleyrand one day be published in full? I do not know; but what I do know is that it was in existence no more than two years ago.

There was a meeting of the Council for the arrest of the Duc d'Enghien. Cambacérès, in his unpublished Memoirs, declares, and I believe him, that he opposed the arrest; but, while recording what he said, he does not say what the others replied.

For the rest, the Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène denies the entreaties for mercy to which Bonaparte is said to have been exposed. The pretended scene of Joséphine on her knees asking for pardon for the Duc d'Enghien, clinging to the skirt of her husband's coat and allowing that inexorable husband to drag her about, is one of those melodramatic inventions with which our latter-day fabulists compose veracious history. Joséphine did not know, on the evening of the 19th of March, that the Duc d'Enghien was to be judged; she only knew that he had been arrested. She had promised Madame de Rémusat to interest herself in the Prince's fate. As this lady was returning to the Malmaison with Joséphine on the evening of the 19th, it was noticed that the future Empress, instead of being preoccupied solely with the perils of the prisoner of Vincennes, frequently put her head to the window of the carriage to look out at a general riding in her suite: a woman's coquetry had carried elsewhere the thought which might have saved the Duc d'Enghien's life. It was not until the 21st of March that Bonaparte said to his wife:

"The Duc d'Enghien has been shot."

These Memoirs of Madame de Rémusat, whom I have known, contained extremely curious details on the inner life of the imperial Court. The author burnt them during the Hundred Days[636], and afterwards wrote them anew: they[Pg 283] are now no more than memories reproduced by memories; their colour has faded; but Bonaparte is throughout exposed to the light and judged with impartiality.

Men attached to Napoleon say that he knew of the death of the Duc d'Enghien only after the Prince's execution: this story would seem to derive some value from the anecdote related by the Duc de Rovigo concerning Réal's going to Vincennes, if the anecdote were true[637]. Once the death had taken place through the intrigues of the revolutionary party, Bonaparte recognised the accomplished fact, so as not to irritate men whom he thought powerful: this ingenious explanation is not admissible.


Bonaparte's responsibility.

Now, to resume these facts, here is what they have proved to me: Bonaparte wished the Duc d'Enghien's death; no one had made that death a condition of his mounting the throne. To suppose this condition is one of the subtleties of the politicians who claim to find occult causes for everything. Nevertheless it is probable that certain compromised persons did not without a certain pleasure see the First Consul sever himself for good from the Bourbons. The Vincennes sentence was an instance of Bonaparte's violent temperament, an outburst of cold anger fed by the reports of his Minister.

M. de Caulaincourt is guilty only of having executed the order for the arrest.

Murat has to reproach himself only with conveying general orders and with not having had the strength to withdraw: he was not at Vincennes during the trial.

The Duc de Rovigo found himself charged with the execution; he probably had secret orders: General Hulin hints as much. What man would have dared to take upon himself to order the execution forthwith of a sentence of death upon the Duc d'Enghien, if he had not acted on an imperative mandate?

[Pg 284]

As to M. de Talleyrand, priest and nobleman, he inspired and prepared the murder by persistently alarming Bonaparte: he feared the return of the Legitimacy. It would be possible, by collecting what Napoleon said at St. Helena and the letters written by the Bishop of Autun, to prove that the latter took a very great part in the death of the Duc d'Enghien. It would be vain to object that the Minister's light-heartedness, character, and education ought to make him averse to violence, that his corruption ought to take away his energy; it would remain none the less a fact that he persuaded the Consul to the fatal arrest. This arrest of the Duc d'Enghien on the 15th of March was not unknown to M. de Talleyrand: he was in daily communication with Bonaparte and conferred with him; during the interval that elapsed between the arrest and the execution, did M. de Talleyrand, he, the instigating Minister, repent, did he say a single word to the First Consul in favour of the unhappy Prince? It is natural to believe that he applauded the execution of the sentence.

The military commission sentenced the Duc d'Enghien, but with sorrow and repentance.

This, conscientiously, impartially and strictly considered, is the exact part played by each. My fate has been too closely connected with this catastrophe that I should not endeavour to throw light upon its dark places and to lay bare its details. If Bonaparte had not killed the Duc d'Enghien, if he had brought me closer and closer to him (and his inclination prompted him to do so), what would have been the result for me? My literary career would have been ended; I should at one jump have entered the political career, in which I have proved what I could have done by the Spanish War; and I should have become rich and powerful. France might have been the gainer by my association with the Emperor; I should have been the loser. Possibly I might have succeeded in maintaining some ideas of liberty and moderation in the great man's head; but my life, ranking among those which are called happy, would have been deprived of that which has constituted its character and its honour: poverty, strife and independence.


Lastly, the principal accused rises after all the others; he brings up the rear of the blood-stained penitents. Suppose that a judge were to have brought up before him "the man named Bonaparte," as the captain-judge-advocate had brought up before him "the man named d'Enghien;" suppose that[Pg 285] the minutes of the later examination copied upon the former had been preserved to us; compare and read:

Asked: His surname and Christian names?

Answered: That his name was Napoleon Bonaparte.

Asked: Where he had resided since he had left France?

Answered: At the Pyramids, in Berlin, Madrid, Vienna, Moscow, St Helena.

Asked: What rank he filled in the army?

Answered: Commander in the advance-guard of the armies of God. No other reply issues from the prisoner's lips.


Bonaparte defended.

The different actors in the tragedy mutually accused each other: Bonaparte alone throws the blame for it upon nobody; he preserves his greatness beneath the weight of malediction; he does not bow his head but stands erect; he exclaims with the stoic, "Pain, I will never admit that thou art an evil!" But that which, in his pride, he refuses to admit to the living he is constrained to confess to the dead. This Prometheus, with the vulture at his breast, who stole the fire from heaven, thought himself superior to all things, and he is compelled to reply to the Duc d'Enghien, whom he has made into dust before his time: the skeleton, the trophy over which he stumbled, questions him and dominates him by a providential dispensation.

Personal attendance and the army, the ante-room and the tent had their representatives at St. Helena: a servant, estimable for his fidelity to the master he had chosen, had come to place himself near Napoleon as an echo at his service. Simplicity repeated the fable, while giving it an accent of sincerity. Bonaparte was "Destiny;" like the latter, he deceived men's fascinated minds in outward form, but at the bottom of his impostures this inexorable truth was heard to resound: "I am!" And the universe felt its weight.

The author of the most credited work on St. Helena sets forth the theory which Napoleon invented for the murderer's benefit; the voluntary exile accepts as Gospel truth an homicidal talk, with pretensions to profundity, which would only explain Napoleon's life as he wished to arrange it, and as he contended that it should be written. He left instructions for his neophytes: M. le Comte de Las Cases[638] learnt his lesson[Pg 286] without being aware of it; the stupendous captive, wandering along solitary paths, drew his credulous worshipper after him by means of lies, even as Hercules hung men to his mouth by chains of gold.


"The first time," says the honest chamberlain, "that I heard Napoleon pronounce the name of the Duc d'Enghien, I turned red with embarrassment. Fortunately I was walking behind him in a narrow path; otherwise, he would certainly have observed my confusion. Nevertheless, when the Emperor for the first time developed the whole of this incident, with all its details and accessories; when he set forth his various motives with his close, luminous, persuasive reasoning, I must confess that the matter seemed to me gradually to assume a new aspect.... The Emperor often resumed this subject, which gave me an opportunity of observing in him certain very pronounced shades of character. I was able on this occasion, and repeatedly, most distinctly to see in him the private individual struggling with the public man, and the natural sentiments of his heart contending against those of his pride and of the dignity of his position. In the confidence of intimacy, he did not show himself indifferent to the unfortunate Prince's fate; but so soon as it became a question of the public, it was quite a different thing. One day, after talking with me of the untimely end and of the youth of this ill-fated man, he concluded by saying:

"'And I have since learnt, my dear fellow, that he was rather in my favour; I have been told that he spoke of me with some admiration; such is retributive justice here below!'

"And the last words were spoken with so much feeling, all the features of his face displayed such harmony with the words that, if he whom Napoleon was pitying had at that moment been in his power, I am quite sure that, whatever his intentions or his acts, he would have been eagerly pardoned.... The Emperor used to consider this matter from two very different points of view: that of common law, or the[Pg 287] established rules of justice, and that of the law of nature, or acts of violence...."

By the Comte de Las Cases.

"To us, in the intimacy of private conversation, the Emperor would say that the blame in France might be ascribed to an excess of zeal in those around him, or to private objects or mysterious intrigues. He said that he had been precipitately urged in this affair; that they had as it were taken his mind unawares, hastened his measures, anticipated their result....

"'Without doubt,' he said, 'if I had been informed in time of certain particulars concerning the Prince's opinions and disposition; more still, if I had seen the letter which he wrote to me and which, God knows for what reason, was not handed to me until after he was no more, I should most certainly have pardoned him.'

"It was easy for us to see that it was the Emperor's heart and nature alone which dictated these words, and that they were intended only for us; for he would have felt humiliated to think that any one could for an instant believe that he was trying to shift the burden from his own shoulders, or condescending to justify himself; his fear in this respect, or his susceptibility, was such that, in speaking of it to strangers, or dictating on this matter for the public, he confined himself to saying that, if he had known of the Prince's letter, he would perhaps have pardoned him, in view of the great political advantages which he could have derived from it; and when, writing with his own hand his last thoughts, which he concludes will be recorded in the present age and reach posterity, he states, with reference to this subject, which he regards as one of the most delicate for his memory, that, if it were to be done over again, he would do it again."

This passage, in so far as the writer is concerned, possesses all the characteristics of the most perfect sincerity; this shines through to the very phrase in which M. le Comte de Las Cases declared that Bonaparte would have eagerly pardoned a man who was not guilty. But the theories of the master are subtleties by aid of which an effort is made to reconcile the irreconcilable. In making the distinction between "common law or established justice, and natural law or the errors of violence," Napoleon seemed to be content with a piece of sophistry which in reality did not content him! He was unable to subject his conscience as he had subjected the world. A weakness natural to superior men and to little[Pg 288] men, when they have committed a fault, is to wish to represent it as a work of genius, a vast combination beyond the understanding of the vulgar. Pride says those things, and folly believes them. Bonaparte doubtless regarded as the mark of the ruling mind the sentence which he delivered in his great man's compunction: "My dear fellow, such is retributive justice here below!" O truly philosophical emotion! What impartiality! How well it justifies, by laying it to the charge of destiny, the evil which has sprung from ourselves! A man nowadays thinks it an all-sufficient excuse to exclaim, "After all, it was my nature, it was the infirmity of mankind." When he has killed his father he repeats, "I am made like that!" And the crowd stands open-mouthed, and they examine the mighty man's bumps, and they recognise that he was "made like that." And what care I that you are made like that! Must I submit to this manner of being? The world would be a fine chaos if all the men who are "made like that" were to take it into their heads to force themselves one upon the other. Those who are unable to wipe out their errors deify them: they make a dogma of their evil-doing, they turn acts of sacrilege into religion, and they would think themselves apostates were they to renounce the cult of their iniquities.


There is a serious lesson to be drawn from Bonaparte's life. Two actions, both bad, began and caused his fall: the death of the Duc d'Enghien and the war with Spain. It was vain for him to ride over them with his glory: they remained there to ruin him. He perished on the very side in which he thought himself strong, profound, invincible, when he violated the moral law while neglecting and scorning his real strength, that is, his superior qualities of order and equity. So long as he confined himself to attacking anarchy and foreigners hostile to France, he was victorious; he found himself robbed of his vigour so soon as he entered upon the paths of corruption: the shaving of the locks by Delilah is nothing other than the loss of virtue. Every crime bears within itself a radical incapacity and a germ of misfortune: let us then practise good to be happy, and let us be just to be able.

In proof of this truth, observe that, at the very moment of the Prince's death, commenced the dissent which, growing in proportion to ill-fortune, decided the fall of the ordainer of the tragedy of Vincennes. The Russian Cabinet, in reference to the arrest of the Duc d'Enghien, addressed vigorous representantions[Pg 289] against the violation of the territory of the Empire: Bonaparte felt the blow, and replied in the Moniteur with a fulminating article bringing up the death of Paul I[639]. A funeral service had been celebrated in St. Petersburg for young Condé. On the cenotaph was read:

"To the Duc d'Enghien quem devoravit bellua Corsica."

The two mighty adversaries subsequently became reconciled in appearance; but the mutual wound which policy had inflicted and insult-enlarged remained in their hearts. Napoleon did not think himself revenged until he came to sleep in Moscow; Alexander[640] was not satisfied before he entered Paris.

European indignation.

The hatred of the Cabinet of Berlin arose from the same origin: I have spoken of the noble letter of M. de Laforest, in which he told M. de Talleyrand of the effect which the murder of the Duc d'Enghien had produced at the Court of Potsdam. Madame de Staël was in Prussia when the news from Vincennes arrived:

"I was living in Berlin," he said, "on the Spree Quay, and my apartment was on the ground floor. At eight o'clock one morning, they woke me to tell me that Prince Louis Ferdinand[641] was under my windows on horse-back, and asked me to come and speak to him....

"'Do you know,' he asked, 'that the Duc d'Enghien has been kidnapped on Baden territory, handed over to a military commission, and shot within four-and-twenty hours after his arrival in Paris?'

"'What nonsense!' I replied. 'Do you not see that this can only be a rumour spread by the enemies of France?'

"In fact, I admit that my hatred of Bonaparte, strong as it was, did not go so far as to make me credit the possibility of his committing so great a crime.

"'As you doubt what I tell you,' replied Prince Louis, 'I will send you the Moniteur, in which you can read the sentence.'

[Pg 290]

"With these words he left me, and the expression of his face was the presage of vengeance or death. A quarter of an hour later, I had in my hands the Moniteur of the 21st of March (30 Pluviôse), which contained a sentence of death passed by the military commission, sitting at Vincennes, upon 'the man called Louis d'Enghien!' It was thus that Frenchmen described the descendant of heroes who were the glory of their country! Even if one were to abjure all the prejudices in favour of illustrious birth which the return of monarchical forms would necessarily recall, was it possible thus to blaspheme the memories of the Battle of Lens[642] and of Rocroi? This Bonaparte, who has won so many battles, does not even know how to respect them; for him there is neither past nor future; his imperious and scornful soul will recognise nothing for opinion to hold sacred; he admits only respect for the force in power. Prince Louis wrote to me, beginning his note with these words: 'The man called Louis of Prussia begs Madame de Staël,' etc. He felt the insult offered to the Blood Royal whence he sprang, to the memory of the heroes among whom he was longing to enroll himself. How, after this horrible deed, could a single king in Europe ally himself with such a man? Necessity, you will say. There is a sanctuary in the soul to which its empire may not penetrate; were this not so, what would virtue be upon this earth? A liberal amusement, suited only to the peaceful leisure of private men[643]."

This resentment on the part of the Prince, for which he was to pay with his life, was still lasting when the Prussian Campaign opened in 1806. Frederic William, in his manifesto of the 9th of October, said:

"The Germans have not revenged the death of the Duc d'Enghien; but the memory of that crime will never fade among them."

These historical particulars, rarely observed, deserved to be so; for they explain enmities of which one would be puzzled to discover the primary cause elsewhere, and at the same time they disclose the steps by which Providence leads a man's destiny from the crime to the expiation.


Happy, at least, my life, which was not troubled by fear, nor attacked by contagion, nor carried away by examples![Pg 291] The satisfaction which I experience to-day at what I did then is my warrant that my conscience is no illusion. More content than all those potentates, than all those nations fallen at the feet of the glorious soldier, I turn again with pardonable pride to this page, which I have retained as my only belonging and which I owe only to myself. In 1807, with my heart still moved by the murder which I have just related, I wrote the following lines; they caused the Mercure to be suppressed, and jeopardized my liberty once more:

I utter my protest.

"When, amid the silence of abjection, no sound is heard save that of the chains of the slave and the voice of the informer; when all tremble before the tyrant, and when it is as dangerous to incur his favour as to deserve his displeasure, the historian appears, entrusted with the vengeance of the nations. Nero prospers in vain, Tacitus already is born within the Empire; he grows up unknown beside the ashes of Germanicus, and already a just Providence has surrendered to an obscure child the glory of the master of the world. If the historian's part is fine, it is often dangerous; but there are altars such as that of honour which, although deserted, demand further sacrifices: the god is not annihilated because the temple is empty. Wherever there remains a chance for fortune, there is no heroism in trying it; magnanimous actions are those of which adversity and death are the foreseen result After all, what do reverses matter, if our name, pronounced by posterity, makes one generous heart beat two thousand years after our life[644]?"

The death of the Duc d'Enghien, by introducing a new principle into Bonaparte's conduct, marred the correctness of his intelligence: he was obliged to adopt as a shield maxims of which he had not the whole force at his disposal, for his glory and his genius incessantly blunted them. He was looked upon with suspicion, with fear; men lost confidence in him and in his destiny; he was constrained to see, if not to seek out, men whom he would never have seen, and who, through his action, considered themselves to have become his equals: the contagion of their defilement was overtaking him. His great qualities remained the same, but his good dispositions became impaired and no longer upheld his great[Pg 292] qualities: under the influence of the corruption of that original stain his nature deteriorated. God commanded his angels to disturb the harmonies of that world, to change its laws, to tilt it on its poles. As Milton says:

They with labour push'd
Oblique the centric Globe: some say, the Sun
Was bid turn reins from th' equinoctial road
Like distant breadth. . . . .
. . . . . . . .
Boreas and Cæcias and Argestes loud
And Thrascias rend the woods, and seas upturn[645].

Will the ashes of Bonaparte be exhumed, as were those of the Duc d'Enghien? If I had been the master, the latter victim would still be sleeping unhonoured in the moat of Vincennes Castle. That "excommunicated one" would have been left, like Raymond of Toulouse, in an open coffin; no man's hand would have dared to conceal beneath a plank the sight of the witness to the incomprehensible judgments and angers of God. The abandoned skeleton of the Duc d'Enghien and Napoleon's deserted tomb at St Helena would be the counterpart of each other: there would be nothing more commemorative than those remains, face to face, at opposite ends of the earth.

At least the Duc d'Enghien did not remain on foreign soil, like the exiled of kings: the latter took care to restore the former to his country, a little harshly, it is true; but will it be for ever? France (how much dust winnowed by the breath of the Revolution bears witness to it) is not faithful to the bones of the dead. Old Condé, in his will, declares "that he is not sure which country he will be inhabiting on the day of his death." O Bossuet, what would you not have added to the masterpiece of your eloquence, if, when you were speaking over the grave of the Great Condé, you had been able to foresee the future!


It was at this very spot, at Chantilly, that the Duc d'Enghien was born: "Louis Antoine Henri de Bourbon, born 2 August 1772, at Chantilly," says the sentence of death. It was on this lawn that he played in childhood; the traces of his footsteps have become obliterated. And the victor of Friburg, of Nördlingen, of Lens, of Senef, where has he gone with his "victorious and now feeble hands"? And his descendants, the Condé of Johannisberg and of Bentheim[646],[Pg 293] and his son, and his grandson, where are they? That castle, those gardens, those fountains "which were silent neither by day nor by night:" what has become of them? Mutilated statues, lions with a claw or a jaw restored; trophies of arms sculptured in a crumbling wall; escutcheons with obliterated fleurs-de-lis; foundations of razed turrets; a few marble coursers above the empty stables no longer livened by the neighing of the steed of Rocroi; near a riding-school, a high unfinished gate: that is what remains of the memories of an heroic race; a will tied with a rope changed the owners of the inheritance[647].

The whole forest has repeatedly fallen under the axe. Persons of bygone times have run over those once resounding chases, mute to-day. What was their age, what their passions, when they stopped at the foot of those oaks? O my useless Memoirs, I should not now be able to say to you:

Qu'à Chantilly Condé vous lise quelquefois;
Qu'Enghien en soit touché![648]

Obscure men that we are, what are we beside those famous men? We shall disappear never to return; you, sweet William, who lie upon my table beside this paper, whose belated little flower I have gathered among the heather will blossom again; but we, we shall not come to life again with the perfumed solitary which has diverted my thoughts.

[594] This book was written at Chantilly in November 1838.—T.

[595] Blanche of Castile, Queen of France (1187-1252), daughter of Alphonsus IX. King of Castile, wife of Louis VIII. King of France, and mother of St. Louis IX. A hunting-lodge, at Chantilly, stands on the site of the old Castle of Queen Blanche, near the Commelle Ponds.—T.

[596] Charles IV. King of Spain (1748-1819). On the 18th of March 1808, forced by the revolt of Aranjuez, he abdicated in favour of his son Ferdinand. Napoleon compelled him to withdraw this abdication and to make a fresh one in favour of himself (5 May 1808), after which Napoleon's brother Joseph was placed on the throne of Spain. Charles IV. was sent to Compiègne and Marseilles, and died in Rome in 1819. On the fall of Joseph, in 1813, Charles's son Ferdinand VII. ascended the throne.—T.

[597] Gustavus IV. (1778-1837) was the last Legitimist King of Sweden. A revolt of the nobles in 1809 compelled him to abdicate, and his uncle, the Duke of Sudermania, was proclaimed King with the title of Charles XIII., ultimately adopting General Bernadotte as his heir. Gustavus spent the remaining years of his life in Germany, Holland, and Switzerland, under the names of Count of Holstein-Gottorp and Colonel Gustawson. He died at Saint-Gall in 1837.—T.

[598] Frederic William III. King of Prussia (1770-1840), son of Frederic William II. and grand-nephew to Frederic the Great. He was married to the beautiful Queen Louisa, daughter of the Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.—T.

[599] Bonaparte had the Black Eagle.—Authors Note.

[600] Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus Nero, later Nero Claudius Cæsar Drusus Germanicus, Roman Emperor (37-68), son of Domitius Ahenobarbus and Agrippina, by whose uncle and third husband, the Emperor Claudius, he was adopted, succeeding him, to the exclusion of the natural heir, Britannicus, in 54.—T.

[601] Lucius Annæus Seneca (3-65), the Stoic philosopher, was Nero's tutor and principal minister. He is accused, not only of writing the apology for the murder of Agrippina, but of approving the poisoning of Britannicus in 55.—T.

[602] Julia Agrippina (circa 15-59 or 60), daughter of the Emperor Germanicus and of Agrippina, grand-daughter of Augustus. She poisoned Claudius to secure the Empire for Nero, her son by her first husband, and was herself murdered by Nero's orders in 59.—T.

[603] The Duc de Bourbon was the Due d'Enghien's father, not his grandfather. The grandfather was the Prince de Condé, the writer of the letter in question. Chateaubriand's mistake is due to a slip of the pen, which we occasionally find in more than one other historian of the period.—B.

[604] Pierre François Comte Réal (1765-1834) was an attorney at the Châtelet at the outbreak of the Revolution. He attached himself to Danton and became Public Accuser and Solicitor to the Commune of Paris. He was imprisoned by Robespierre and released on the 9 Thermidor. Bonaparte made him a State Councillor and appointed him a deputy at the Ministry of Police. In 1804 Réal discovered the conspiracy of Georges Cadoudal. He was made Prefect of Police during the Hundred Days, and was exiled under the Second Restoration. He returned to Paris in 1818.—T.

[605] Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès (1753-1824), an eminent jurist and a moderate revolutionary, who voted for the reprieve at the trial of Louis XVI. He was Minister of Justice under the Directory. Bonaparte chose him as Second Consul in 1799, with Lebrun as Third Consul. When Napoleon became Emperor he appointed Cambacérès Arch-chancellor and created him a Prince of the Empire and Duke of Parma. Cambacérès is responsible for the greater portion of the Code civil. He was exiled by the Bourbons and recalled in 1818.—T.

[606] In the morning.—Author's Note.

[607] Madame Joséphine Bonaparte (1763-1814), née Tascher de La Pagerie, and widow of Alexandre Vicomte de Beauharnais, who was guillotined in 1794. She married Bonaparte in 1796, was crowned Empress in 1804, and was divorced in 1809.—T.

[608] Anne Jean Marie René Savary, Duc de Rovigo (1774-1833), was in 1804 Colonel of the Gendarmerie d'Élite, in which capacity he was charged with the execution of the sentence on the Duc d'Enghien. At the battle of Marengo (14 June 1800) he was aide-de-camp to General Desaix, and was by his side when that general was shot through the heart. He became a general of brigade in 1803, a general of division in 1805, a duke in 1808, and succeeded Fouché as Minister of Police in 1810. He followed the Emperor on to the Bellérophon in 1815, but was separated from him and kept a prisoner for seven months in Malta, where he drew up the plan of his Memoirs (published in 1828). On the Restoration, he was sentenced to death in his absence. He returned to France in 1819 in order to obtain the quashing of the sentence. A pamphlet which he subsequently wrote upon the death of the Duc d'Enghien, accusing Talleyrand of complicity, brought about his disgrace, and he was obliged to retire to Rome. He returned once more to France after the Revolution of 1830, and in 1831 received from Louis-Philippe the command-in-chief of the Army of Algiers, which he retained till his death in 1833.—T.

[609] Claire Élisabeth Jeanne Comtesse de Rémusat (1780-1821), née Gravier de Vergennes, wife of the Comte de Rémusat, Chamberlain to Napoleon and Superintendent of Theatres, and lady-in-waiting to the Empress Joséphine. She was the author of an Essai sur l'éducation des femmes (1823) and of some excellent Memoirs (1880).—T.

[610] Cf. Corneille, Cinna, Act II. Sc. I.—T.

[611] Cf. Mémoires de Madame de Rémusat, vol. I.—B.

[612] 20 March 1804.—B.

[613] Murat.—Author's Note.

[614] Lieutenant-General Pierre Auguste Comte Hulin (1758-1841) was one of the foremost among the conquerors of the Bastille on the 14th of July 1789, and at the end of the same year was made Commander of the National Guard of Paris. He accompanied Bonaparte to Italy as Adjutant-General, was appointed Commander of Milan in 1797 and 1798, and in 1803 became a general of division and Commander of the Consular Guard. He took part in the several German campaigns, and was selected for the command of the places around Vienna and of Berlin (1806). He was at the head of the armed forces in Paris when the Malet conspiracy broke out in 1812, and caused the plot to fail, having his lower jaw shattered by Malet with a pistol-shot. Hulin lost the command of the City of Paris on the return of the Bourbons, and was obliged to leave France in 1816. He returned in 1819, and ended his days in retirement.—T.

[615] Marie Louise Empress of the French (1791-1847), daughter of Francis I. Emperor of Austria, and married to Napoleon in 1810. She left him after his first abdication, protested against his restoration and, in reward for her docility, received the Duchy of Parma at the hands of the Congress of Vienna. There she spent the remainder of her days, living with the Count von Niepperg, whom she married morganatically after Napoleon's death.—T.

[616] Francis Charles Joseph Napoleon Duke of Reichstadt (1811-1832), son of Napoleon and Marie Louise, was proclaimed King of Rome at his birth. On his father's abdication there was an idea of proclaiming him Emperor, as Napoleon II.; but this was speedily abandoned and he was brought up at the Court of his maternal grandfather, who in 1818 gave him the title of Duke of Reichstadt, together with a regiment of cavalry.—T.

[617] André Marie Jean Jacques Dupin (1783-1865), known as Dupin the Elder, was a deputy from 1827 to 1848, a member of the Constituent Assembly of 1848 and of the Legislative Assembly of 1849, a senator of the Second Empire (1857), and Attorney-General to the Court of Appeal from 1830 to 1852. He resigned the latter post in order to dissociate himself from the decrees confiscating the possessions of the Orleans Family; but resumed it five years later when summoned to the Imperial Senate. He had been a member of the French Academy since 1832. The pamphlet to which Chateaubriand refers was published in 1823, and entitled, Pièces judiciaires et historiques relatives au procès du duc dEnghien, avec le Journal de ce prince depuis l'instant de son arrestation; précédées de la Discussion des actes de la commission militaire instituée en l'an XII, par le gouvernement consulaire, pour juger le duc d'Enghien, par l'auteur de l'opuscule intitulé: "De la Libre Défense des accusés."—B.

[618] An allusion to the abominable reply said to have been made to M. le Duc d'Enghien.—Author's Note.

The Duke is reported to have cried, "Shoot straight, my friends," to the soldiers about to fire their volley.

"You have no friends here," replied the officer in command!—T.

[619] General Claude François de Malet (1754-1812) played a distinguished part in the campaigns of the Revolution, became a general of brigade in 1799, and was appointed Governor of Pavia by Masséna in 1805. His republicanism, however, made him suspect in the eyes of Napoleon, who had him imprisoned in Paris in 1808. Availing himself of the facilities awarded him by his transfer to a mad-house, he organized a conspiracy against the Empire, involving Generals Guidal and Lahorie in the plot. He escaped from prison on the night of the 23rd of October 1812, rapidly visited the Paris barracks, spreading the news of Napoleon's death, and was on the point of succeeding, when the resistance of General Hulin, who was at the head of the Staff, caused the whole plot to fail. Malet was brought before a military commission and shot on the 29th of October 1812.—T

[620] General Hulin's pamphlet, published in 1823, is entitled, Explications offertes aux hommes impartiaux par M. le Comte Hulin, au sujet de la Commission militaire institute en l'an XII pour juger le duc d'Enghien.—B.

[621] Jacques Harel (b. 1755) had received the command of Vincennes Castle in 1800 as his reward for his services in betraying his fellow-conspirators in a plot to kill the First Consul. The story is told at length in the Memoirs of M. de Bourrienne.—B.

[622] Freiburg-in-Breisgau (Baden), where the great Condé defeated the Imperial forces in 1644.—T.

[623] Savary's pamphlet appeared in the same year as General Hulin's and M. Dupin's, and was entitled, Extrait des Mémoires du duc de Rovigo, concernant le catastrophe de M. le duc d'Enghien.—B.

[624] Armand Augustin Louis Marquis de Caulaincourt, Duc de Vicence (1773-1827), had in his youth been a page to the Prince de Condé. He took part in nearly all the wars of the Revolution, and was made Master of the Horse by Napoleon when the latter assumed the imperial crown, a general of division, a duke (1805), and Ambassador to Russia (1807). In 1813, he became Foreign Minister, and represented France at the Congress of Châtillon in 1814.—T.

[625] Achille Roche (1801-1834), a publicist and secretary to Benjamin Constant. The work from which Chateaubriand quotes is a pamphlet entitled, De Messieurs le duc de Rovigo et le prince de Talleyrand.—B.

[626] Joinville, Memoirs of Louis IX., King of France, Part I.—T.

[627] Misspelt as printed: Enguiens for Enghien, proper names not taking the plural in French.—T.

[628] François de Bourbon-Vendôme, Comte d'Enghien (1519-1545), brother of Anthony de Bourbon, King of Navarre, defeated the Imperial forces at Cérisoles in 1544—T.

[629] The Great Condé was Duc d'Enghien when he defeated the Spaniards at Rocroi in 1643.—T.

[630] The Princesse Charlotte de Rohan-Rochefort. The Prince de Condé refused to acknowledge the marriage, although he himself had married a Rohan. After the death of the Duc d'Enghien, the Duc de Bourbon tardily offered to acknowledge his son's marriage, but the Princess refused the offer. Nevertheless she visited the Duchesse de Bourbon in the early days of the Restoration, when the latter addressed her as "my daughter" (Cf. Muret, Histoire de l'armée de Condé). The Duchess of Madrid (de jure Queen of Spain and France), née Princesse Marie Berthe de Rohan, and married to the Duke of Madrid in 1894, is a member of the same (Rochefort) branch of the Rohan family. Their motto is, Roi ne puis, prince ne daigne, Rohan suis.—T.

[631] Antoine René Charles Mathurin Comte de Laforest (1756-1846) entered the diplomatic service under Louis XVI. He was Consul-General in the United States, Secretary of Legation to Joseph Bonaparte at the Congress of Lunéville, and Chargé-d'affaires Extraordinary at Munich and Ratisbon. He was Ambassador in Berlin from 1805 to 1808, and in Madrid from 1808 to 1813. Napoleon created him a count in 1808. On the fall of the Empire, in 1814, he directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for six weeks ad interim, and was charged by the King to prepare the Treaty of Paris. Under the Second Restoration, he was sent as Minister Plenipotentiary to various Powers. He was made a peer of France in 1819, and a minister of State and privy councillor in 1825. He lost his places and dignities at the Revolution of 1830.—B.

[632] Gaspard Baron Gourgaud (1783-1852), a distinguished artillery officer who had twice saved Napoleon's life, at Moscow and Brienne. He accompanied Napoleon to St. Helena, where he remained until 1817, and where he wrote the Campagne de 1815, published in 1818, which was the cause of his being struck off the roll of the French army by Louis XVIII. Louis-Philippe reinstated him and made him his aide-de-camp, and in 1840 he accompanied the Prince de Joinville to St. Helena to bring back the remains of Napoleon. On his return, he was raised to the peerage. Gourgaud is part-author, together with Montholon, of the Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire de France sous Napoléon (1823-1825), from which the above quotation is taken.—T.

[633] Charles Tristan Comte de Montholon (1782-1853), Gourgaud's collaborator, was one of Napoleon's bravest and most reckless officers. He too accompanied Napoleon to St Helena, remained with him to the day of his death, and was one of his executors and the depositary of his manuscripts, which were subsequently published in eight volumes under the title given in the preceding note. In 1840, Montholon took part in Louis Napoleon's futile descent at Boulogne, and suffered a short confinement.—T.

[634] Las Cases, Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène (8 volumes, 1822-1824).—T.

[635] Talleyrand's residence.—T.

[636] Lest they should compromise her friends. See M. Paul de Rémusat's Preface to the Memoirs.—T.

[637] This is the anecdote:

"After the execution of the sentence," says the Duc de Rovigo, "I took the road back to Paris. I was approaching the barriers, when I met M. Réal going to Vincennes in the dress of a councillor of State. I stopped him to ask him where he was going:

"'To Vincennes,' he replied; 'I received orders yesterday to repair there to examine the Duc d'Enghien.'

"I told him what had just happened, and he appeared as much astonished at what I had told him as I at what he had told me. I began to ponder. My meeting with the Minister of Foreign Relations at General Murat's recurred to my mind, and I began to doubt whether the death of the Duc d'Enghien was the work of the First Consul."—B.

[638] Emmanuel Augustin Dieudonné Comte de Las Cases (1766-1842) was a lieutenant in the navy when he emigrated in 1789 and joined Condé's Army. He returned to France after the 18 Brumaire, and devoted himself for several years to literary work, until in 1809 he enlisted as a volunteer to assist in repelling the English, who were threatening a descent upon Flushing. He attracted the notice of Napoleon, who made him one of his chamberlains, and he was one of the four men who followed Napoleon into exile. He remained eighteen months at St. Helena, gathering the talk that fell from Napoleon's lips into his famous Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène; but losing favour with Sir Hudson Lowe, he was removed from Napoleon's service, taken to the Cape of Good Hope, and thence to Europe, where he was kept for some time in confinement. Las Cases was not allowed to return to France until after the Emperor's death. In 1830 he was returned for the Seine to the Chamber of Deputies, where he sat in the Opposition.—T.

[639] Paul I. Emperor of Russia (1754-1801), son of Catherine II. and Peter III. On the death of Catherine in 1796, he placed himself at the head of the second coalition against France; but in 1799, suddenly smitten with a passionate admiration for Bonaparte, he contracted an alliance with him, and paved the way for the treaties of Lunéville and Amiens. He was strangled by some of his nobles on the 23rd of March 1801.—T.

[640] Alexander I. Emperor of Russia (1777-1825), was at war with Napoleon from 1805 to 1807, and in alliance with him from 1807 to 1812, when war broke out anew. The retreat from Moscow took place in the latter year, and Alexander entered Paris at the head of the allied forces on the 31st of March 1814.—T.

[641] Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia (1772-1806), son of Prince Ferdinand, brother to Frederic the Great, was killed in 1806 at the Battle of Saalfeld.—T.

[642] The Great Condé defeated the Imperial forces at Lens in 1648.—T.

[643] Madame de Staël, Dix années d'exil.—B.

[644] These lines are taken from the article, published by Chateaubriand in the Mercure of 4 July 1807, on M. Alexandre de Laborde's Voyage pittoresque et historique en Espagne.—B.

[645] Milton, Paradise Lost, X., 670-673, 698-699.—T.

[646] The Prince de Condé co-operated with the Prince de Soubise in winning the Battle of Johannisberg, during the Seven Years' War, in 1762, and performed prodigies of valour to no purpose at Bentheim in 1799.—T.

[647] The Duc de Bourbon was found hanged or strangled in his apartment a few days after the Revolution of 1830. He left Chantilly and the greater part of his fortune to the late Duc d'Aumale, fourth son of Louis Philippe.—T.

[648] Boileau, Ep. vii. A.M. Racine:

"May Condé sometimes at Chantilly read you;
And may Enghien be touched."—T.

[Pg 294]

BOOK IV[649]

The year 1804—I move to the Rue de Miromesnil-Verneuil—Alexis de Tocqueville—Le Ménil—Mézy—Mérévil—Madame de Coislin—Journey to Vichy, in Auvergne, and to Mont Blanc—Return to Lyons—Excursion to the Grande Chartreuse—Death of Madame de Caud—The years 1805 and 1806—I return to Paris—I leave for the Levant—I embark in Constantinople on a ship carrying pilgrims for Syria—From Tunis to my return to France through Spain—Reflections on my voyage—Death of Julien.

Henceforth removed from active life, and nevertheless saved from Bonaparte's anger by the protection of Madame Bacciochi, I left my temporary lodging in the Rue de Beaune and went to live in the Rue de Miromesnil. The little house which I hired was occupied later by M. De Lally-Tolendal and Madame Denain, his "best-beloved," as they said in the days of Diane de Poitiers[650]. My garden abutted on a timber-yard, and near my window I had a tall poplar-tree, which M. de Lally-Tolendal, in order to breathe a less moist air, himself felled with his coarse hand, which to his eyes was transparent and fleshless: it was an illusion like any other. The pavement of the street at that time came to an end before my door; higher up, the street or road wound across a piece of waste-land called the Butte-aux-Lapins, or Rabbit Hill. The Butte-aux-Lapins, sprinkled with a few isolated houses, joined on the right the Jardin de Tivoli, whence I had set out with my brother for the emigration, and on the left the Parc de Monceaux. I strolled pretty often in that abandoned park, where the Revolution had commenced among the orgies of the Duc d'Orléans: this retreat had been embellished with marble nudities and mock ruins, a symbol of the light and vicious policy which was about to cover France with prostitutes and wreckage.

[Pg 295]

I busied myself with nothing: at the utmost I conversed in the park with some pine-trees, or talked of the Duc d'Enghien with three rooks at the edge of an artificial river hidden beneath a carpet of green moss. Deprived of my Alpine Legation and of my Roman friendships, even as I had been suddenly separated from my attachments in London, I did not know how to dispose of my imagination and my feelings; I sent them every evening after the sun, and its rays were unable to carry them over the seas. I returned indoors and tried to fall asleep to the sound of my poplar tree.

Nevertheless my resignation had increased my reputation; in France a little courage always looks well. Some of the members of Madame de Beaumont's former company introduced me to new country-houses.

The Tocqueville family.

M. de Tocqueville[651], my brother's brother-in-law, and guardian of my two orphaned nephews, occupied Madame de Senozan's[652] country-seat[653]. On every hand were scaffold legacies. There I saw my nephews grow up with their three Tocqueville cousins, among whom Alexis[654], the author of the Démocratie en Amérique, was prominent. He was more spoilt at Verneuil than I had been at Combourg. Is this the last renown that I shall have seen unknown in its swaddling clothes? Alexis de Tocqueville has travelled through the civilized America, of which I have travelled through the forests.

Verneuil has changed masters; it has become the property of Madame de Saint-Fargeau, famous through her[Pg 296] father[655] and through the Revolution, which adopted her as its daughter.

Near Mantes, at the Ménil[656], was Madame de Rosanbo: my nephew, Louis de Chateaubriand, eventually married Mademoiselle d'Orglandes there, niece to Madame de Rosanbo; the latter no longer airs her beauty around the pond and under the beeches of the manor: it has passed. When I went from Verneuil to the Ménil, I came to Mézy[657] on the road: Madame de Mézy was romance wrapped up in virtue and maternal grief. If only her child, which fell from a window and broke its head, had been able, like the young quails which we shot, to fly over the château and take refuge in the Île-Belle, the smiling island of the Seine: Coturnix per stipulas pascens!

On the other side of the Seine, not far from the Marais, Madame de Vintimille had introduced me to Méréville[658]. Méréville was an oasis created by the smile of a muse, but of one of those muses whom the Gallic poets call "the learned fairies." Here the adventures of Blanca[659] and of Velléda were read before fashionable generations which, falling one from the other like flowers, to-day listen to the wailing of my years.

By degrees my brain, wearying of rest in my Rue de Miromesnil, saw phantoms form before it in the distance. The Génie du Christianisme inspired me with the idea of proving that work by mixing Christian and mythological characters together. A shade which long afterwards I called Cymodocée sketched itself vaguely in my head; not one of its features was fixed. Cymodocée once conceived, I shut myself up with her, as I always do with the daughters of my imagination; but, before they have issued from the dreamy[Pg 297] state and arrived from the banks of Lethe through the ivory portals, they often change their shape. If I create them through love, I undo them through love, and the one cherished object which I, later, present to the light is the offspring of a thousand infidelities.

I remained only a year in the Rue de Miromesnil, because the house was sold. I arranged with Madame la Marquise de Coislin[660], who let me the top floor of her house on the Place Louis XV[661].


The Marquise de Coislin.

Madame de Coislin was a woman of the grandest air. She was nearly eighty years of age, and her proud and domineering eyes bore an expression of wit and irony. Madame de Coislin was in no way lettered, and took pride in the fact; she had passed through the Voltairean age without being aware of it; if she had conceived any idea of it whatever, it was that of a time of a voluble middle-class. Not that she ever spoke of her birth; she was too great to make herself ridiculous: she very well knew how to see "small people" without compromising her rank; but, after all, she was born of the Premier Marquis of France[662]. If she was descended from Drogon de Nesle, killed in Palestine in 1096; from Raoul de Nesle[663], the Constable, knighted by Louis IX.; from Jean II. de Nesle, Regent of France during the last crusade of St. Louis, Madame de Coislin vowed that this was a stupidity on the part of fate for which she ought not to be held responsible; she was naturally of the Court, as others, more happy, are of the streets, as one may be a thorough-bred mare or a cab-hack: she could not help this accident, and had no choice but to endure the ill with which Heaven had been pleased to afflict her.

[Pg 298]

Had Madame de Coislin had relations with Louis XV.? She never owned so much to me: she admitted, however, that she had been very much loved, but she pretended that she had treated the royal lover with the utmost harshness.

"I have seen him at my feet," she would say to me; "he had charming eyes, and his language was seductive. He offered one day to give me a porcelain dressing-table, like that which Madame de Pompadour had.

"'Oh, Sire,' cried I, 'then I must use it to hide under!'"

By a singular chance I came across this dressing-table at the Marchioness Conyngham's in London; she had received it from George IV., and showed it to me with amusing simplicity.

Madame de Coislin occupied in her house a room opening under the colonnade corresponding to the colonnade of the Wardrobe. Two sea-pieces by Vernet[664], which Louis "the Well-beloved" had given to the noble dame, were hung up on an old green satin tapestry. Madame de Coislin remained lying till two o'clock in the afternoon in a large bed, with curtains also of green silk, seated and propped up by pillows; a sort of nightcap, badly fastened to her head, allowed her grey hairs to escape. Sprigs of diamonds mounted in the old-fashioned way fell upon the shoulder-pieces of her bed-cloak, all covered with snuff, as in the time of the fashionable ladies of the Fronde. Around her, on the bed-clothes, lay scattered the addresses of letters, torn off the letters themselves, and on these addresses Madame de Coislin wrote down her thoughts in every direction: she bought no stationery, the post supplied her with it. From time to time a little dog called Lili put her nose outside the sheets, came to bark at me for five or six minutes, and crept back growling into her mistress' kennel. Thus had time settled the young loves of Louis XV.

Madame de Châteauroux[665] and her two sisters were cousins of Madame de Coislin; the latter would not have[Pg 299] been of the humour, as was Madame de Mailly[666], repentant and a Christian, to reply to a man who insulted her with a coarse name in the church of Saint-Roch:

"My friend, since you know me, pray to God for me."

Madame de Coislin, miserly as are many people of wit, piled up her money in cupboards. She lived all devoured by a vermin of crown-pieces which clung to her skin; her servants relieved her. When I found her plunged in a maze of figures, she reminded me of the miser Hermocrates[667], who, when dictating his will, appointed himself his own heir. Nevertheless she gave a dinner occasionally; but she would rail against coffee, which nobody liked, according to her, and which served only to prolong the repast.

Madame de Chateaubriand took a journey to Vichy with Madame de Coislin and the Marquis de Nesle; the marquis went on ahead, and had excellent dinners prepared. Madame de Coislin came after, and asked only for half a pound of cherries. On leaving, she was presented with huge bills, and then there was a terrible outcry. She would not hear of anything except the cherries; the landlord maintained that, whether you ate or did not eat, the custom was, at an inn, to pay for your dinner.

Madame de Coislin had invented a form of illuminism to her own taste. Credulous and incredulous, she was led by her want of faith to laugh at those beliefs the superstition of which frightened her. She had met Madame de Krüdener; the mysterious Frenchwoman was illuminated only under reserve; she did not please the fervent Russian, whom she herself liked no better. Madame de Krüdener said passionately to Madame de Coislin:

"Madame, who is your inside confessor?"

"Madame," replied Madame de Coislin, "I know nothing about my inside confessor; I only know that my confessor is in the inside of his confessional."

Thereupon the two ladies saw each other no more.

Madame de Coislin prided herself on having introduced a novelty at Court, the fashion of floating chignons, in spite of Queen Marie Leczinska[668], who was very pious and who[Pg 300] opposed this dangerous innovation. She held that formerly no genteel person would ever have thought of paying her doctor. Crying out against the plentifulness of women's linen:

"That smacks of the upstart," she said; "we women of the Court had only two shifts: when they were worn out, we renewed them; we were dressed in silk gowns, and we did not look like grisettes, like the young ladies of nowadays."

Madame Suard[669], who lived in the Rue Royale, had a cock whose crowing annoyed Madame de Coislin. She wrote to Madame Suard:

"Madame, have your cock's throat cut."

Madame Suard sent back the messenger with this note:

"Madame, I have the honour to reply to you that I shall not have my cock's throat cut."

The correspondence went no further. Madame de Coislin said to Madame de Chateaubriand:

"Ah, my heart, what a time we live in! And yet it's that Panckoucke girl, the wife of that member of the Academy[670], you know."

M. Hennin[671], a former clerk at the Foreign Office, and as tedious as a protocol, used to scribble fat novels. One day he was reading a description to Madame de Coislin: a tearful and abandoned love-lorn woman was mournfully fishing a salmon. Madame de Coislin, who was growing impatient, and who disliked salmon, interrupted the author and said with the serious air which made her so comical:

"Monsieur Hennin, could you not make that lady catch a different fish?"

[Pg 301]

The stories which Madame de Coislin told could not be recollected, for there was nothing in them; all lay in the pantomime, the accent, and the expression of the narrator: she never laughed. There was one dialogue between "Monsieur and Madame Jacqueminot," the perfection of which surpassed everything. When, in the conversation between the husband and wife, Madame Jacqueminot rejoined, "But, Monsieur Jacqueminot!" the name was pronounced in such a tone that you were seized with immoderate laughter. Obliged to let this pass, Madame de Coislin gravely waited, taking snuff.

Reading in a newspaper of the death of several kings, she took off her spectacles, and blowing her nose, said:

"There is an epizootic among crowned cattle."

Death of Madame de Coislin.

At the moment when she was ready to breathe her last, they were maintaining by her bedside that one succumbed only through letting one's self go; that, if one paid great attention, and never lost sight of the enemy, one would not die at all.

"I believe it," she said; "but I fear that something would distract me."

She expired.

I went down to her room the next day; I found Monsieur[672] and Madame d'Avaray, her brother-in-law and sister, sitting before the fire-place, with a little table between them, counting the louis in a bag which they had taken from a hollow wainscoting. The poor dead woman was there in her bed, behind the half-closed curtains: she no longer heard the sound of the gold which ought to have awaked her, and which fraternal hands were counting.

Among the thoughts written down by the defunct on margins of printed paper and addresses of letters were some which were extremely beautiful. Madame de Coislin showed me what remained of the Court of Louis XV. under Bonaparte and after Louis XVI., even as Madame de Houdetot had enabled me to see what still lingered, in the nineteenth century, of philosophic society.


In the summer of the year 1805, I went to join Madame[Pg 302] de Chateaubriand at Vichy, where Madame de Coislin had taken her, as I have said. I did not find Jussac, Termes, Flamarens there, whom Madame de Sévigné had "before and behind her" in 1677: they had been sleeping since one hundred and twenty and so many years. I left my sister, Madame de Caud, in Paris, where she had fixed her residence since the autumn of 1804. After a short stay at Vichy, Madame de Chateaubriand proposed that we should travel, in order to be away for some time from the political troubles.

Two little Journeys[673] which I then took in Auvergne and to Mont Blanc have been collected in my works. After an absence of thirty-four years, I have lately received at Clermont, from men unacquainted with my person, the reception usually shown to an old friend. He who has long occupied himself with the principles which the human race enjoys in common has friends, brothers and sisters in every family; for, if man is thankless, humanity is grateful. To those who have connected themselves with you through a kindly reputation, and who have never seen you, you are always the same; you have always the age which they ascribed to you; their attachment, which is not disturbed by your presence, always beholds you young and beautiful, like the sentiments which they love in your writings.

When I was a child, in my Brittany, and heard speak of Auvergne, I imagined it a very distant, very distant country, where one saw strange things, where one could not go without great danger, and travelling under the protection of the Blessed Virgin. I never meet without a sort of melting curiosity those little Auvergnats who go to seek their fortunes in this great world with a small deal chest. They have little besides hope in their box, as they climb down their rocks: lucky are they if they bring it back with them!

Alas, Madame de Beaumont had not lain two years on the bank of the Tiber when I trod her natal soil in 1805; I was at but a few leagues from that Mont Dore where she had come in search of the life which she lengthened a little in order to reach Rome. Last summer, in 1838, I once more travelled through this same Auvergne. Between those two dates, 1805 and 1838, I can place the transformations which society has undergone around me.

We left Clermont and, on our way to Lyons, passed[Pg 303] through Thiers and Roanne. This road, then little frequented, followed at intervals the banks of the Lignon. The author of the Astrée[674], who is not a great genius, nevertheless invented places and persons that live: such is the creative power of fiction, when it is appropriate to the age in which it appears. There is, moreover, something ingeniously fantastic in that resurrection of the nymphs and naiads who mingle with shepherds, ladies and knights: those different worlds go well together, and one is agreeably pleased with the fables of mythology united to the lies of fiction; Rousseau has related how he was taken in by d'Urfé.


At Lyons, we again found M. Ballanche: he made the excursion to Geneva and Mont Blanc with us. He went wherever one took him, without having the smallest business there. At Geneva, I was not received at the gate of the city by Clotilda, the betrothed of Clovis: M. de Barante, senior[675], had become Prefect of the Léman. At Coppet, I went to see Madame de Staël: I found her alone, buried in her castle, which was built round a melancholy court-yard. I spoke to her of her fortune and of her solitude as a precious means of independence and happiness: I offended her. Madame de Staël loved society; she looked upon herself as the most wretched of women, in an exile with which I should have been enchanted. Where in my eyes was the unhappiness of living on one's property with all the comforts of life? Where was the misfortune of enjoying fame, leisure, peace, in a sumptuous retreat within sight of the Alps, in comparison with those thousands of breadless, nameless, helpless victims, banished to all the corners of Europe, while their parents had perished on the scaffold? It is sad to be attacked by an ill which the crowd cannot understand. For the rest, that ill is therefore only the more intense: it is not lessened by being confronted with other ills; one is not judged by another's pain; that which afflicts the one rejoices the other; hearts have varied secrets, incomprehensible to other hearts. Let us deny none his sufferings;[Pg 304] it is with sorrows as with countries: each man has his own.

Madame de Staël called the next day on Madame de Chateaubriand at Geneva, and we left for Chamouny. My opinion on the scenery of the mountains caused it to be said that I was seeking to make myself singular. It will be seen, when I come to speak of the Saint-Gothard, that I have kept to my opinion. In the Voyage au Mont-Blanc appears a passage which I will recall as linking together the past events of my life and the events of that same life then still future, and to-day also past:

"There is one circumstance alone in which it is true that the mountains produce an oblivion of earthly troubles: that is when one withdraws far from the world to consecrate himself to religion. An anchorite devoting himself to the service of mankind, a saint wishing to meditate in silence on the greatness of God, may find peace and joy on desert rocks; but it is not then the tranquillity of the spot that passes into the soul of those solitaries: it is, on the contrary, their soul that diffuses its serenity through the region of storms....

"There are mountains which I would still visit with extreme pleasure: those, for instance, of Greece and Judæa. I should like to go over the spots with which my new studies lead me daily to occupy myself: I would gladly seek, upon the Tabor and Taygetus, other colours and other harmonies, after painting the unfamed mountains and unknown valleys of the New World."

The last phrase foretold the voyage which, in fact, I performed in the next year, 1806.

The Comte de Forbin.

On our return to Geneva, without being able to see Madame de Staël again at Coppet, we found the inns crammed. But for the cares of M. de Forbin[676], who arrived unexpectedly and procured us a bad dinner in a dark waiting-room, we should have left the birth-place of Rousseau without eating. M. de Forbin was at that time in a state of beatitude; he displayed in his looks the inner felicity with which he was inundated; his feet did not touch the ground. Wafted on his talent and his blissfulness, he came down[Pg 305] from the mountain as though from the sky, with his close-fitting painter's jacket, his pallet on his thumb, his brushes in a quiver. A good fellow, nevertheless, although excessively happy, preparing to imitate me one day, when I should have made my voyage to Syria, wishing even to go as far as Calcutta, to make his loves return to him by an uncommon road, when they failed him on the beaten track. His eyes showed a protecting pity: I was poor, humble, uncertain of myself, and I did not hold the hearts of princesses in my mighty hands. In Rome, I have had the honour of returning M. de Forbin his lake-side dinner; I had the merit of having become an ambassador. In these days one sees the poor devil whom one has left that morning in the street turned into a king by evening.

The noble gentleman, a painter in right of the Revolution, began that generation of artists who dress themselves up like sketches, grotesques, caricatures. Some wear prodigious mustachioes: one would think they were going to conquer the world; their brushes are halberds, their erasing-knives sabres: others have huge beards, and hanging or puffed-out hair; they smoke a cigar by way of vulcano. These "cousins of the rainbow," as our old Régnier[677] says, have their heads filled with deluges, seas, rivers, forests, cataracts, tempests, or else with carnages, executions and scaffolds. In their rooms they have human skulls, foils, mandolines, morions, and dolmans. Bragging, pushing, uncivil, liberal (as far as the portrait of the tyrant whom they are painting), they endeavour to form a separate species between the ape and the satyr; they are anxious to make it understood that the secrecy of the studio has its dangers, and that there is no safety for the models. But how handsomely do they not redeem these oddities by a fevered existence, a suffering and sensitive nature, an entire abnegation of self, an incalculable devotion to the miseries of others, a delicate, superior, idealized manner of feeling, a poverty proudly welcomed and nobly endured; lastly, sometimes by immortal talents: the offspring of work, passion, genius, and solitude!

Leaving Geneva at night to return to Lyons, we were stopped at the foot of the Fort de l'Écluse, waiting for the gates to be opened. During this stay of the witches in Macbeth on the heath, strange things passed within me. My[Pg 306] dead years came to life again and surrounded me like a band of phantoms; my burning seasons returned to me in their flame and sadness. My life, hollowed out by the death of Madame de Beaumont, had remained empty: airy forms, houris or dreams, issuing from that abyss, took me by the hand and led me back to the days of the sylph. I was no longer in the spot which I occupied, I dreamed of other shores. Some secret influence urged me to the regions of the Dawn, whither I was drawn besides by the plan of my new work and the religious voice which released me from the vow of the village woman, my foster-mother. As all my faculties had extended, as I had never misused life, it superabounded with the pith of my intelligence, and art, triumphing in my nature, added to the poet's inspirations. I had what the Fathers of the Thebaïde called "ascensions" of the heart. Raphael—forgive the blasphemy of the simile—Raphael, before the Transfiguration only sketched upon the easel, could not have been more electrified by his master-piece than was I by Eudore and Cymodocée, whose names I did not yet know and whose images I dimly saw through an atmosphere of love and fame.

Thus does the native genius which tormented me in the cradle sometimes return on its steps after deserting me; thus are my former sufferings renewed; nothing heals within me; if my wounds close instantly, they open again suddenly like those of the crucifixes of the Middle Ages, which bleed on the anniversary of the Passion. I have no alternative, to obtain relief during these crises, but to give a free course to the fever of my thoughts, in the same way as one has his veins lanced when the blood rushes to the heart or rises to the head. But of what am I speaking! O religion, where then are thy powers, thy restraints, thy balsams! Am I not writing all these things at a distance of countless years from the hour at which I gave birth to René? I had a thousand reasons to believe myself dead, and I live! 'Tis a great pity. Those afflictions of the isolated poet, condemned to suffer the spring in spite of Saturn, are unknown to the man who does not go outside the common laws; for him the years are ever young:

"The young kids," says Oppian, "watch over the author of their being; when he comes to fall into the huntsman's net, they offer him in their mouths the tender, flowering grass, which they have gone to gather from afar, and bring[Pg 307] him in their lips fresh water, drawn from the adjacent brook[678]."


On my return from Lyons I found letters from M. Joubert: they informed me that it was not possible for him to be at Villeneuve before September. I replied:

Lyons and M. Saget.

"Your departure from Paris is too remote and distresses me; you well know that my wife will never consent to arrive at Villeneuve before you: she has a head of her own, and since she has been with me, I find myself at the head of two heads very difficult to govern. We shall remain at Lyons, where they make us eat so prodigiously that I hardly have the courage to leave this excellent town. The Abbé de Bonnevie is here, back from Rome; he is wonderfully well; he is merry, he preachifies, and no longer thinks of his woes; he embraces you and will write to you. In short, everybody is in high spirits, except myself; you are the only one to grumble. Tell Fontanes that I have dined with M. Saget."

This M. Saget was the providence of the canons; he lived on the hill of Sainte-Foix, in the district of the good wine. The way to his house led up near the spot where Rousseau had spent the night on the banks of the Saône:

"I remember," he says, "spending a delightful night outside the town, on a road which skirted the Saône. Gardens raised terrace-wise bordered the road on the opposite side: it had been very warm that day; the evening was charming, the dew moistened the parched grass; no wind, a quiet night; the air was cool without being chill; the sun after setting had left red vapours in the sky, and their reflection made the water rose-coloured; the trees on the terraces were laden with nightingales which replied one to the other. I walked along in a sort of ecstasy, abandoning my senses and my heart to the enjoyment of all this, and only sighing a little with regret at enjoying it alone. Absorbed in my sweet reverie, I prolonged my walk well into the night, without perceiving that I was tired. I perceived it at last: I lay down voluptuously on the shelf of a sort of niche or false door, sunk into a terrace-wall; the canopy of my bed consisted of the tops of the trees, a nightingale was exactly over my head; I fell asleep to its singing: my slumbers were sweet,[Pg 308] my awakening even more so. It was broad day-light: my eyes on opening beheld the water, the verdure, an admirable landscape."


With Rousseau's charming itinerary in one's hand, one arrived at M. Saget's. This ancient and lean bachelor, formerly married, wore a green cap, a grey camlet coat, nankeen pantaloons, blue stockings and beaver shoes. He had lived long in Paris, and had been intimate with Mademoiselle Devienne[679]. She wrote him very witty letters, scolded him, and gave him very good advice: he ignored it, for he did not take the world seriously, believing apparently, like the Mexicans, that the world had already used four suns, and that at the fourth (which is lighting us at present) men had been changed into maggots. He did not trouble his mind about the martyrdom of St. Pothin[680] and St. Ireneus[681], nor of the massacre of the Protestants drawn up side by side by order of Mandelot[682], the Governor of Lyons, all of them having their throats cut on the same side. Opposite the field of the shooting at the Brotteaux[683], he would tell me details of it, while strolling among his vines, mingling with his narrative verses of Loyse Labbé[684]: he would not have missed a single mouthful during the last misfortunes of Lyons, under the Charte-Vérité.

On certain days a certain calf's head was served up at Sainte-Foix, after being soused for five nights, boiled in madeira, and stuffed full of exquisite things; very pretty peasant-girls waited at table; they served excellent homegrown wine out of demi-johns the size of three bottles. We swooped upon the Saget banquet, I and the cassocked chapter: the hill-side was quite black with us.

[Pg 309]

Our dapifer soon came to the end of his provisions: in the ruin of his last moments he was taken in by two or three of the old mistresses who had plundered his life, "a kind of women," says St. Cyprian[685], "who live as though they could be loved: quæ sic vivis ut possis adamari."


The Grande Chartreuse.

We tore ourselves from the delights of Capua to go and see the Chartreuse, still accompanied by M. Ballanche. We hired a calash whose disjointed wheels made a lamentable noise. On reaching Voreppe we stopped at an inn at the top of the town. The next morning, at break of day, we mounted on horseback and set out preceded by a guide. At the village of Saint-Laurent, at the bottom of the Grande-Chartreuse, we crossed the threshold of the valley, and passing between two walls of rocks, followed the road leading up to the monastery. When speaking of Combourg, I have told you what I experienced in that spot. The deserted buildings were cracking under the supervision of a kind of farmer of the ruins. A lay-brother had remained to take care of an infirm solitary who had just died: religion had imposed loyalty and obedience upon friendship. We saw the narrow grave freshly covered over: Napoleon was just about to dig a huge one at Austerlitz. We were shown the convent enclosure, the cells, each with its garden and workshop; we noticed joiners' boards and turners' wheels: the hand had dropped the chisel. In a gallery were displayed the portraits of the superiors of the Chartreuse. The ducal palace at Venice preserves the series of the ritratti of the doges: what different spots and memories! Higher up, at some distance, we were taken to the chapel of Le Sueur's[686] immortal recluse[687].

After dining in an immense kitchen, we set out again and met, carried in a palanquin like a rajah, M. Chaptal, formerly an apothecary, then a senator, next owner of Chanteloup and inventor of beetroot sugar, the greedy heir of the beautiful Indian reed-canes of Sicily, perfected by the Otaheitan sun. As I descended from the forests, my[Pg 310] thoughts turned to the cenobites of old; for centuries, they carried, together with a little earth, in the skirts of their gowns, fir plants which have grown into trees on the rocks. Happy O ye who travelled noiselessly through the world, nor even turned your heads in passing!

No sooner had we reached the entrance to the valley than a storm burst; a deluge dashed down, and vexed torrents rushed roaring from every ravine. Madame de Chateaubriand, becoming reckless for very fear, galloped through the flint stones, the water and the lightning-flashes. She had flung away her umbrella the better to hear the thunder; the guide cried to her:

"Recommend your soul to God! In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost!"

We reached Voreppe to the sound of the tocsin; what remained of the cloven storm lay before us. In the distant landscape, we saw a blazing village and the moon rounding out the upper portion of his disc above the clouds, like the pale, bald forehead of St. Bruno, the founder of the order of silence. M. Ballanche, all dripping with rain, said with his immovable placidity:

"I am like a fish in the water."

I have just seen Voreppe again, in this year 1838: the storm was there no longer; but two witnesses of it still remain, Madame de Chateaubriand and M. Ballanche. I mention this because I have too often, in these Memoirs, had to call attention to the dead.

On returning to Lyons we left our companion there, and went to Villeneuve. I have told you about this little town, my walks and my regrets on the banks of the Yonne with M. Joubert. Three old maids used to live there, Mesdemoiselles Piat; they reminded me of my grandmother's three friends at Plancoët, saving the difference in social position. The virgins of Villeneuve died one after the other, and I thought of them when I saw a grass-grown flight of steps, running up outside their empty house. What used these village damsels to talk about in their time! They spoke of a dog, and of a muff which their father had once bought them at Sens Fair. To me this was as charming as the council of the same town at which St. Bernard had Abélard, my fellow-Breton, condemned. The maids of the muff were Heloïses perhaps; perhaps they loved, and their letters, brought to light, will one day entrance posterity. Who knows? Perhaps they wrote to their "lord, also their father, also their brother,[Pg 311] also their spouse: domino suo, imo patri," etc., that they felt honoured by the name of friend, by the name of "mistress" or of "courtesan: concubinæ vel scorti."

"In the midst of his learning," says a grave doctor, "I find that Abélard played an admirably foolish prank when he suborned with love his pupil Héloïse."

Illness of Lucile.

A great and new sorrow surprised me at Villeneuve. To tell it you, I must go back to a few months before my Swiss journey. I was still occupying the house in the Rue Miromesnil when, in the autumn of 1804, Madame de Caud came to Paris. The death of Madame de Beaumont had finished the affecting of my sister's reason; she was very near refusing to believe in the death, suspecting some mystery in the disappearance, or including Heaven in the number of the enemies who mocked at her misfortunes. She had nothing; I had chosen an apartment in the Rue Caumartin for her, deceiving her as to the rent and as to the arrangements which I told her to make with the keeper of an eating-house. Like a flame ready to expire, her genius shed the brightest light; she was all illumined with it. She would write a few lines which she threw into the fire, or else copy from books some thoughts in harmony with the disposition of her soul. She did not remain long in the Rue Caumartin; she went to live with the Dames Saint-Michel, in the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Jacques: Madame de Navarre was the superior of the convent. Lucile had a little cell overlooking the garden: I noticed that she followed with her eyes, with I know not what gloomy longing, the nuns who walked in the enclosure around the vegetable beds. One could guess that she envied the saints and, going further, aspired to the angels. I will sanctify these Memoirs by deposing in them, as relics, the following letters of Madame de Caud, written before she had taken flight for her eternal country:

"17 January.

"I had placed all my happiness in you and in Madame de Beaumont; I fled from my cares and my sorrows in the thought of you two: my whole occupation was to love you. Last night I made long reflections upon your character and your ways. As you and I are always near each other, it needs some time, I think, to know me, such is the variety of ideas in my head! Such is the opposition of my timidity and my peculiar external weakness to my real inner strength! Too much about myself. My illustrious brother, accept[Pg 312] my fondest thanks for all the favours and all the marks of friendship which you have never ceased to show me. This is the last letter you will receive from me in the morning. Albeit I communicate my ideas to you, they nevertheless remain quite completely within myself."

(No date.)

"Do you seriously, dear, think me safe from some impertinence on the part of M. Chênedollé? I am quite determined not to invite him to continue his visits; I resign myself to look upon Tuesday's as the last. I do not wish to trouble his politeness. I am closing for ever the book of my fate, and sealing it with the seal of reason; I shall now consult its pages no more on the trifles than on the important things of life. I give up all my foolish notions; I wish neither to occupy nor to vex myself with those of other people; I will abandon myself with heart and soul to all the events of my passage through this world. What a pity that I should pay myself so much attention! God can now afflict me only in you. I thank Him for the precious, kind and dear present which He has made me in your person and for having preserved my life without stain: those are all my treasures. I could take for an emblem of my life the moon in a cloud, with this device: 'Often obscured, never tarnished.' Farewell, dear. You will perhaps be surprised at my words since yesterday morning. Since I saw you, my heart has raised itself to God, and I have laid it wholly at the foot of the Cross, its sole and true place."


"Good-morning, dear. What colour are your ideas this morning? As for me, I remember that the only person who was able to relieve me when I was fearing for Madame de Farcy's life was she who said to me, 'But it is within the range of possible things that you may die before her.' Could any one have spoken more to the point? There is nothing, dear, like the idea of death to rid us of the future. I hasten to rid you of myself this morning, for I feel myself too much in the mood to say fine things. Good-bye, my poor brother. Keep joyful."

(No date.)

"While Madame de Farcy lived, always by her side, I had not noticed the need of being in communion of thought[Pg 313] with some one. I possessed that advantage unconsciously. But since we lost that friend, and circumstances having separated me from you, I have known the torture of never being able to refresh and renew one's mind in some one's conversation; I feel that my ideas hurt me when I am unable to get rid of them; this has surely to do with my bad organization. Nevertheless I am fairly satisfied, since yesterday, with my courage. I pay no attention to my grief and to the sort of inward faintness which I feel. I have abandoned myself. Continue to be always kind to me: before long it will be humanity. Good-bye, dear. Till soon, I hope."

Lucile's letters.

(No date.)

"Be easy, dear; my health is recovering visibly. I often ask myself why I take so much pains to bolster it up. I am like a madman who should build a fortress in the middle of a desert. Farewell, my poor brother."

(No date.)

"As I have a bad headache to-night, I have just simply, and at haphazard, written down some thoughts of Fénelon's for you, so as to keep my promise:

'"We are confined within narrow limits when we shut ourselves up in our own existence; on the contrary, we feel at liberty when we quit this prison to enter into the immensity of God.'

"'We shall soon find once more all that we have lost We are daily approaching it with rapid strides. Yet a little while, and we shall no more have cause to weep. It is we who die: what we love still lives and shall never die.'

"'You impart to yourself a deceitful strength, such as a raging fever gives to a sick man. For some days past, a sort of convulsive movement has been visible in you, from the effort to affect an air of gaiety and courage, whilst a silent anguish filled your soul.'

"That is as much as my head and my bad pen permit me to write to you this evening. If you like, I will begin again to-morrow, and perhaps tell you some more. Good-evening, dear. I shall never cease telling you that my heart prostrates itself before that of Fénelon, whose tenderness seems to me so profound, and his virtue so exalted. Good-bye, dear.

"I am awake, and offer you a thousand loves and a[Pg 314] hundred blessings. I feel well this morning and am anxious as to whether you will be able to read me, and whether those thoughts of Fénelon's will seem to you well chosen. I fear my heart has concerned itself too much with the selection."

(No date.)

"Could you think that since yesterday I have been madly occupied in correcting you? The Blossacs have trusted me with one of your novels in the greatest secrecy. As I do not think that you have made the most of your ideas, I am amusing myself by trying to render them in their full value. Can audacity go further than that? Forgive me, great man, and remember that I am your sister, and that I have some little right to make an ill use of your riches."


"I will no longer say, 'Do not come to see me again,' because, having from now but a few days to spend in Paris, I feel that your presence is essential to me. Do not come to-day until four; I expect to be out till then. Dear, I have in my head a thousand contradictory ideas touching things which seem to me to exist and not to exist, which to me have the effect of objects of which one only caught sight in a glass, and of which, consequently, one could not make sure, however distinctly one saw them. I wish to trouble about all this no longer; from this moment I abandon myself. Unlike you, I have not the resource of changing banks, but I feel sufficient courage to attach no importance to the persons and things on my shore, and to fix myself entirely and irrevocably in the Author of all justice and all truth. There is only one displeasure to which I fear that I shall grow insensible with great difficulty, that of unintentionally, in passing, striking against the destiny of some other person, not because of any interest that might be taken in me: I am not mad enough for that."


"Dear, never did the sound of your voice give me so much pleasure as when I heard it yesterday on my staircase. My ideas then strove to overcome my courage. I was seized with content to feel you so near me; you appeared, and my whole inner being returned to orderliness. I sometimes feel a great repugnance at heart to drinking my cup. How can that heart, which is so small a space, contain so much existence[Pg 315] and so much grief? I am greatly dissatisfied with myself, greatly dissatisfied. My affairs and my ideas carry me away; I scarcely occupy myself with God now, and I confine myself to saying to Him a hundred times a day, 'O Lord, make haste to hearken unto my prayer, for my spirit waxeth faint.'"

More letters from Lucile.

(No date.)

"Brother, do not grow weary of my letter, nor of my company; think that soon you will be for ever released from my importunities. My life is casting its last light, like a lamp which has burnt out in the darkness of a long night, and which sees the rise of the dawn in which it is to die. Please, brother, cast a single glance at the early moments of our existence; remember that we have often been seated on the same lap, and pressed both together to the same bosom; that already you added tears to mine, that from the earliest days of your life you protected and defended my frail existence, that our games united us and that I shared your first studies. I will not speak to you of our adolescence, of the innocence of our thoughts and of our joys, nor of our mutual need to see each other incessantly. If I retrace the past, I candidly confess, brother, that it is to make me revive the more in your heart. When you left France for the second time, you placed your wife in my hands, you made me promise never to part from her. True to this dear engagement, I voluntarily stretched out my hands to the irons, and entered into the regions destined alone for the victims vowed to death. In those abodes I have had no anxiety save as to your fate; incessantly I questioned the forebodings of my heart touching yourself. When I had recovered my liberty, amidst the ills which came to overwhelm me, the thought alone of our meeting kept me up. To-day, when I am irretrievably losing the hope of running my course by your side, bear with my griefs. I shall become resigned to my destiny, and it is only because I am still fighting against it that I suffer such cruel anguish; but when I shall have grown submissive to my fate.... And what a fate! Where are my friends, my protectors and my treasures! To whom matters my existence, that existence abandoned by all, and weighing down entirely upon itself? My God, are not my present woes enough for my weakness, without yet adding to them the dread of the future? Forgive me, my too dear friend, I will resign myself;[Pg 316] I will fall asleep, in a slumber as of death, upon my destiny. But, during the few days which I have to spend in this town, let me seek my last consolations in you; let me believe that my presence is sweet to you. Believe me, among the hearts that love you, none approaches the sincerity and tenderness of my impotent friendship for you. Fill my memory with agreeable recollections, which prolong my existence beside you. Yesterday, when you spoke to me of coming to you, you seemed to me anxious and serious, while your words were affectionate. Why, brother, could I be to you also a subject of aversion and annoyance? You know it was not I that proposed the amiable distraction of going to see you, and that I promised you to make no ill use of it; but, if you have changed your opinion, why did you not tell me so frankly? I have no courage to set against your politeness. Formerly you used to distinguish me a little more from the common herd and to do me more justice. As you reckon upon me to-day, I will come to see you presently, at eleven o'clock. We will arrange together what seems best to you for the future. I have written to you, feeling sure that I should not have the courage to say to you a single word of what this letter contains."

This so affecting and quite admirable letter is the last which I received; it alarmed me through the increase of sadness of which it bears the impress. I hurried to the Dames Saint-Michel; my sister was walking in the garden with Madame de Navarre; she went in when she knew that I had gone up to her room. She made visible efforts to collect her ideas, and at intervals she had a slight convulsive movement of the lips. I entreated her to return entirely to reason, to cease writing such unjust things to me, things that rent my heart, to cease thinking that I could ever grow weary of her. She appeared to grow a little calmer at the words which I repeated to distract and console her. She told me that she believed that the convent was doing her harm, that she would feel better living alone, in the neighbourhood of the Jardin des Plantes, there where she could see doctors and walk about. I urged her to please her own taste, adding that in order to help Virginie, her maid, I would give her old Saint-Germain. This proposal seemed to give her great pleasure, in memory of Madame de Beaumont, and she assured me that she would go to look out for her new lodging. She asked me how I was thinking of spending[Pg 317] the summer. I said that I should go to Vichy to join my wife, and then to M. Joubert at Villeneuve, to return to Paris from there. I suggested to her to accompany us. She answered that she wished to spend the summer alone, and that she was going to send Virginie back to Fougères. I left her; she was more at ease.

Madame de Chateaubriand left for Vichy, and I prepared to follow her. Before leaving Paris I went again to see Lucile. She was affectionate; she spoke to me of her little writings. I encouraged the great poet to work; she kissed me, wished me a good journey, made me promise to come back soon. She saw me to the landing of the staircase, leant over the baluster, and quietly watched me go down. When I reached the bottom I stopped, and lifting my head, cried to the unhappy woman who was still looking at me:

"Farewell, dear sister! I shall see you soon! Take great care of yourself! Write to me at Villeneuve. I will write to you. I hope that next winter you will agree to live with us."

Death of Lucile.

That evening I saw the worthy Saint-Germain; I gave him orders and some money, so that he might secretly reduce the prices of anything she might require. I enjoined him to keep me informed of everything and not to fail to call me back in case he should want to see me. Three months passed. When I reached Villeneuve, I found two fairly tranquillizing letters about Madame de Caud's health: but Saint-Germain forgot to speak to me of my sister's new lodging. I had begun to write her a long letter, when suddenly Madame de Chateaubriand fell dangerously ill: I was at her bedside when I was brought a new letter from Saint-Germain; I opened it: a withering line told me of the sudden death of Lucile.

I have cared for many tombs in my life: it fell to my lot and to my sister's destiny that her ashes should be flung to the skies. I was not in Paris when she died; I had no relations there; kept at Villeneuve by my wife's critical condition, I was unable to go to the sacred remains; orders sent from a distance arrived too late to prevent a common burial. Lucile knew no one and had not a friend; she was known only to Madame de Beaumont's old servant: it was as though he had been charged to link two destinies. He alone followed the forsaken coffin, and he himself was dead before Madame de Chateaubriand's sufferings allowed me to bring her back to Paris.

[Pg 318]

My sister was buried among the poor: in what grave-yard was she laid? In what motionless wave of an ocean of dead was she swallowed up? In what house did she die, after leaving the community of the Dames de Saint-Michel? If, by making researches, if, by examining the archives of the municipalities, the registers of the parishes, I should come across my sister's name, what would that avail me[688]? Should I find the same keeper of the cemetery? Should I find the man who dug a grave that remained nameless and unlabelled? Would the rough hands that were the last to touch so pure a clay have remembered it? What nomenclator of the shades could point out to me the obliterated tomb? Might he not make a mistake as to the dust? Since Heaven has willed it so, let Lucile be for ever lost! I find in this absence of locality a distinction from the burials of my other friends. My predecessor in this world and in the next is praying to the Redeemer for me; she is praying to Him from the midst of the pauper remains among which her own lie confounded: even so does Lucile's mother and mine rest lost among the preferred of Jesus Christ. God will certainly have been able to recognise my sister; and she, who was so little attached to earth, ought to leave no trace there. She has left me, that sainted genius. Not a day has passed but I have wept for her. Lucile loved to hide herself; I have made her a solitude in my heart: she shall leave it only when I shall have ceased to live[689].

Those are the true, the only events of my real life! What mattered to me, at the moment when I was losing my sister, the thousands of soldiers falling on the battlefields, the destruction of thrones, the changes in the face of the world?

Lucile's death struck at the sources of my soul: it was my childhood in the midst of my family, the first vestiges of my existence, that were disappearing. Our life resembles[Pg 319] those frail buildings, shored up in the sky by flying buttresses: they do not crumble at once, but become loose piecemeal; they still support some gallery or other, while already they have become separated from the chancel or vault of the edifice. Madame de Chateaubriand, still bruised by Lucile's imperious whims, saw only a deliverance for the Christian who had gone to rest in the Lord. Let us be gentle if we would be regretted; the loftiness of genius and the higher qualities are mourned only by the angels. But I cannot enter into the consolation of Madame de Chateaubriand.


My journey to the East.

When, returning to Paris by the Burgundy road, I caught sight of the cupola of the Val-de-Grâce and the dome of Sainte-Geneviève, which overlooks the Jardin des Plantes, my heart was broken: one more companion of my life left on the wayside! We went back to the Hôtel de Coislin, and although M. de Fontanes, M. Joubert, M. de Clausel, M. Molé came to spend the evenings with me, I was distraught by so many memories and thoughts that I was utterly exhausted. Remaining alone behind the objects that had quitted me, like a foreign mariner whose engagement has expired, and who has neither home nor country, I struck the shore with my foot; I longed to swim in a new ocean to refresh myself and cross it. Nursed on Mount Pindus, a crusader to Hierosolyma, I was impatient to go to mingle my loneliness with the ruins of Athens, my tears with those of the Magdalen.

I went to see my family[690] in Brittany, returned to Paris, and left for Trieste on the 13th of July 1806; Madame de Chateaubriand accompanied me as far as Venice, where M. Ballanche came to join her.

As my life is set forth hour by hour in the Itinéraire, I should have no more to say here, if I had not kept some hitherto unknown letters written or received during and after my voyage. Julien, my servant and companion, wrote his own Itinerary side by side with mine, just as passengers on a vessel keep their private logs on a journey of discovery. The little manuscript which he places at my disposal will serve as a check upon my narrative: I shall be Cook, he will be Clarke[691].

[Pg 320]

In order to bring into clearer light the different manner in which one is impressed according to one's place in the social order and in the intellectual hierarchy, I will mingle my narrative with Julien's[692]. I shall let him begin by speaking first, because he relates some days' sailing without me from Modon to Smyrna.

Julien's Itinerary.

"We went on board[693] on Friday the 1st of August; but, the wind not being favourable to leave harbour, we waited until daybreak the next morning. Then the harbour-pilot came to tell us that he could bring us out. As I had never been on the sea, I had formed an exaggerated idea of the danger, for I saw none during two days. But, on the third, a tempest rose; lightning, thunder and, in short, a terrible storm attacked us and beat up the sea frightfully. Our crew consisted of only eight sailors, a captain, a mate, a pilot and a cook, and five passengers, including Monsieur and myself, which made seventeen men in all. Then we all set ourselves to help the seamen in furling the sails, in spite of the rain with which we were soon drenched, having taken off our coats to move more freely. This work filled my thoughts and made me forget the danger, which, indeed, is more terrible through the idea which one forms of it than it is in reality. The storms followed one another during two days, which seasoned me in my first days of sea-faring; I was in no way inconvenienced. Monsieur was afraid lest I should be ill at sea; when calm set in again, he said to me:

"'Now I am reassured about your health; as you have borne these two stormy days so well, you can set your mind at rest as to any other mischance.'

"None occurred during the remainder of our crossing to Smyrna. On the 10th, which was a Sunday, Monsieur made[Pg 321] them heave-to near a Turkish town called Modon, where he landed to go to Greece. Among the passengers who were with us were two Milanese, who were going to Smyrna to follow their trade of tinmen and pewter-founders. One of the two, called Joseph, spoke the Turkish language fairly well, and Monsieur proposed that he should go with him as servant interpreter, and mentions him in his Itinéraire. He told us, on leaving us, that the journey would only take a few days, that he would join the vessel at an island where we were to pass in four or five days, and that he would wait for us in that island if he arrived there before us. As Monsieur found that man to suit him for that short journey[694], he left me on board to continue my voyage to Smyrna and to look after all our luggage. He had given me a letter of recommendation to the French Consul, in case he did not join us, which was what happened. On the fourth day, we arrived at the appointed island and Monsieur was not there. We passed the night and waited for him till seven o'clock in the morning. The captain went back on shore to leave word that he was compelled to go on, having a fair wind and being obliged to take his crossing into consideration. Besides, he saw a pirate who was trying to approach us, and it was urgent that we should place ourselves promptly on the defensive. He made the men load his four pieces of cannon and bring on deck his muskets, pistols and side-arms; but, as the wind favoured us, the pirate gave us up. We arrived, on Monday the 18th, at seven o'clock in the evening, at the port of Smyrna."



After crossing Greece, and touching Zea and Chio, I found Julien at Smyrna. To-day I see Greece in my memory as one of those dazzling circles which one sometimes beholds on closing one's eyes. Against that mysterious phosphorescence are outlined ruins of a delicate and admirable architecture, the whole rendered still more resplendent by I know not what brightness of the Muses. When shall I see again the thyme of Mount Hymettus, the oleanders of the banks of the Eurotas? One of the men whom I have left with the greatest envy on foreign shores is the Turkish custom-house officer of the Piræus: he lived alone, the guardian of three deserted ports, turning his gaze over bluey isles, gleaming promontories, golden seas. There I heard nought save the sound of the billows in the shattered tomb of Themistocles and the murmur of distant memories;[Pg 322] in the silence of the ruins of Sparta, fame itself was dumb.

In the cradle of Melesigene I left my poor dragoman, Joseph, the Milanese, at his tinman's shop, and set out for Constantinople. I went to Pergamos, wishing first to go to Troy, from motives of poetic piety; a fall from my horse awaited me at the commencement of my road; not that Pegasus stumbled, but I slept. I have recalled this accident in my Itinéraire; Julien relates it also, and he makes remarks concerning the roads and the horses to the exactness of which I can certify.

Julien's Itinerary.

"Monsieur, who had fallen asleep on his horse, tumbled off without waking. His horse stopped forthwith, as did mine, which followed it. I at once alighted to know the reason, for it was impossible for me to see it at a fathom's distance. I saw Monsieur half asleep beside his horse, and quite astonished to find himself on the ground; he assured me that he had not hurt himself. His horse did not try to run away, which would have been dangerous, for there were precipices very near to the spot where we were."

On leaving the Soma, after passing Pergamos, I had the dispute with my guide which I describe in the Itinéraire. Here is Julien's version:

Julien's Itinerary.

"We left that village very early, after renewing our canteen. A little way from the village, I was greatly surprised to see Monsieur angry with our guide; I asked him the reason. Monsieur then told me that he had arranged with the guide, at Smyrna, that he would take him to the plains of Troy on the way, and that he was now refusing, saying that the plains were infested with brigands. Monsieur declined to believe a word of it, and would listen to no one. As I saw that he was getting more and more out of temper, I made a sign to the guide to come near the interpreter and the janissary to explain to me what he had been told about the dangers to be risked in the plains which Monsieur wished to visit. The guide told the interpreter that he had been assured that one had to be in great[Pg 323] numbers not to be attacked; the janissary told me the same thing. Thereupon I went to Monsieur and told him what they had all three said, and that, besides, we should find a little village at a day's march where there was a sort of consul who would be able to inform us of the truth. After this statement, Monsieur composed himself, and we continued our road till we reached that place. He at once went to the consul, who told him of all the dangers he would risk if he persisted in his wish to go in such small numbers to those plains of Troy. Thereupon Monsieur was obliged to abandon his project, and we continued our road for Constantinople."


I arrived at Constantinople.

My Itinerary.

"The almost total absence of women, the dearth of wheeled carriages, and the packs of ownerless dogs were the three distinctive characteristics that first struck me in this extraordinary town. As nearly every one walks in papouches, as there is no noise of carriages and carts, as there are no bells and scarcely any hammering trades, the silence is continual. You see around you a voiceless crowd which seems to wish to pass unnoticed, and which always looks as though it were stealing away from its master's sight. You constantly come to a bazaar or a cemetery, as though the Turks were only there to buy, sell, or die. The cemeteries, unwalled and placed in the middle of the streets, are magnificent cypress-woods: the doves build their nests in the cypress-trees and share the peace of the dead. Here and there one discovers some ancient monuments which have no connection with the modern men, nor with the new monuments by which they are surrounded; it is as though they had been transported to this eastern town by the working of a talisman. No sign of joy, no appearance of happiness shows itself to your eyes; what you see is not a people but a herd whom an iman drives and a janissary slays. Amidst the prisons and the gaols rises a seraglio, the capitol of servitude: it is there that a sacred guardian carefully preserves the germs of pestilence and the primitive laws of tyranny."

Julien does not soar so near the clouds[695].

[Pg 324]

My Itinerary.

"We were about two hundred passengers on the ship, men, women, children and old people. As many mats lay ranged in rows on both sides of the steerage. In this kind of republic, each kept house as he pleased: the women looked after their children, the men smoked or prepared their dinners, the popes talked together. On every side was heard the sound of mandolines, fiddles and lyres. They sang, they danced, they laughed, they prayed. Every one was joyful. They said to me, 'Jerusalem!' pointing to the south; and I replied, 'Jerusalem!' In short, but for the fright, we should have been the happiest people in the world; but at the least wind the seamen furled the sails, the pilgrims cried, 'Christos, Kyrie eleison!' When the storm had passed, we resumed our boldness."

Here I am beaten by Julien.

Julien's Itinerary.

"We had to busy ourselves with our departure for Jaffa, which took place on Thursday the 18th of September. We embarked on board a Greek ship, where there were at least, men, women, and children, one hundred and fifty Greeks who were going on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, which caused much disturbance on board.

"Like the other passengers, we too had our supply of provisions and our cooking utensils, which I had bought in Constantinople. I had, besides, a further and fairly complete supply which M. l'Ambassadeur had given us, consisting of very fine biscuits, hams, sausages, saveloys, different sorts of wine, rum, sugar, lemons, and even quinine-wine against the fever. I was therefore furnished with a very plentiful provision, which I husbanded and only consumed with great economy, knowing that we had more than this one crossing to make: everything was locked up where the passengers were not allowed to go.

"Our crossing, which lasted only thirteen days, seemed very long to me through all sorts of unpleasantness and uncleanliness on board. During several days of bad weather which we encountered, the women and children were sick, throwing up everywhere, so much so that we were obliged to leave our cabin and sleep on deck. There we took our[Pg 325] meals much more comfortably than elsewhere, as we decided to wait until all our Greeks had finished their littering."

Mount Carmel.

I passed through the Dardanelles, touched at Rhodes, and took a pilot for the Syrian coast. We were stopped by a calm below the Asiatic continent, almost opposite the old Cape Chelidonia. We remained two days at sea without knowing where we were.

My Itinerary.

"The weather was so fine and the air so mild that all the passengers spent the night on deck. I had contended for a place on the quarter-deck with two fat caloyers, who yielded it to me only after much grumbling. I was lying asleep there at six o'clock in the morning on the 30th of September, when I was aroused by a confused noise of voices: I opened my eyes, and saw the pilgrims looking towards the prow of the vessel. I asked what it was; they shouted 'Signor, il Carmelo!' Mount Carmel! The wind had risen at eight o'clock the previous evening, and