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prove the most imbecile, or the most depraved of men; that their private favourites should be in some degree objects of reasonable affection; that their political servants should be tolerably capable of public service; that their society should be at least an average sample of the morals and intellect of the well educated classes in the country which they rule. The reasonableness of this test can be disputed only by those who hold it to be possible that a nation may be permanently well governed by weak or wicked men. To this test then let us recur; and for the greater safety, let us receive no evidence against courts, but such as issues from witnesses who are the most deeply interested in upholding their character. Let the character of courts stand or fall by the testimony of courtiers: and let us take it only from their confidential correspondence, or from memoirs which they withheld from their contemporaries. No more favourable treatment of courts can be imagined, than that their merit should be decided by the testimony of those who are best acquainted with them, and most prejudiced in their favour; who condemn themselves by their own evidence; who have the power of suppressing what they think most odious, and of give ing their own colouring to the facts which they choose to disclose; and where their suppressions or misrepresentations are secured from detection, generally for a long time, and often for
Their confession is spontaneous; if they be condemned, it is out of their own mouths. If they all bear false witness against each other, their malice and falsehood is a still stronger proof of the depravity of their body, than the truth of their res lation could have been. If, in confessing their own misdeeds, they believe that they are commemorating their virtues, what shall we think of a society which thus teaches its members to glory in their shame,'' to call good evil, and evil good ?' After making every deduction that justice and lenity can dictate, these Memoirs and Correspondence, the best and indeed the only evidence possessed by the world on this subject, must be perfectly decisive of the character of courts; and they will be found to afford the strongest presumption against the possibility of any other than a very popular government, continuing for a considerable time to be tolerably administered.
The grand magazine of proof, is the collection of French memoirs from the latter part of the sixteenth to the end of the eighteenth century. France was the greatest civilized country subject to despotism. The people were in the unnatural condition of intellectual and enlightened slaves. No other nation at once suffered the evils of slavery, and had the talent to record them. The general information of the people reached even the courtiers. The subjection of the press, and the impossibility of
safe publication, drove many to the composition of those Journals and Memoirs, which, after a time, were published to amuse the world, and now serve to instruct it—a remarkable instance of the truth, that the feelings of mankind, if dammed up in the more obvious channels, will always find or force some other outlet. These documents have disenchanted the reign of Louis XIV., which splendid victories and flattering eloquence had surrounded with false glory, and of which the colours were, in the last generation, freshened by the brilliant work of Voltaire. The publication of the Memoirs of the Duc de St Simon, in the year 1788, first materially forwarded this severe but salutary process. That singular man, full of family pride, and an enemy to arbitrary power, a Jansenist (or, as we should now speak, an Evangelical) in religion, and yet the bosomfriend of the Regent, has preserved much from personal observation in the latter part of that reign, and many traditions of its earlier and more glorious period, which are of great vaĮue, though they be more strongly coloured by his antipathies than his partialities, and which have a strong hold on the reader, by his incorrect but often animated and picturesque diction. The Letters of the Princess Palatine (Dutchess of Orleans), the niece of the Princess Sophia, to Caroline, afterwards the Queen of George II., have still more torn aside the veil which concealed the depravity of a Court where many disdained to stoop so low as the practice of common and natural vices. In the first edition of this Correspondence, published about the same time with St Simon, the most abominable passages were suppressed. Even in the late republication, there is some reason to believe that sacrifices have been made to decency or to policy; but enough remains, in the nature of the facts related, and in the freedom of the narrative, to place the book on a footing with Suetonius. Nothing but irresistible proof could justify us in imputing to the lowest and most infamous of
women, the passages in which this lady, the first Princess of the blood-royal of France, describes the vices of the Duc de Vendome, and the almost prodigious effrontery of the Abbess of Maubuisson, who was her own aunt. The Journal of the Marquis de Dangeau has been published since the Restoration by Madame de Genlis, who, however, thought fit to suppress, without notice, about a thousand articles-forming the only instructive part of that equally dull and trifling diary, The suppressed passages, since published by M. Lemontey, contribute also not a little to unmask Louis XIV.
* A writer of considerable ability, who, in the reign of Napoleon, long enjoyed a free access to the French archives, for the purposes of his His
All these books, it is true, like every other secret history, require to be read with more than ordinary caution, and with a constant regard to the prejudices of the writer: But taken together, after every due deduction is made, they form a body of evidence which is supported by other trust-worthy writers, where that can be expected-and is seldom at variance with any testimony not tainted by adulation. They sufficiently show, that the Court of Louis XİV, differed more in show than in substance from the society of the Regent and the vulgar rule of Madame Dubarry. Under Louis, the public indeed were less inquisitive, and the Court submitted to somewhat more hypocrisy. The King lived in a perpetual violation of every moral duty. But during his effective reign of fifty-five years, he never ate meat on a fast day, but when ill; and never was absent å single day from mass, but once, on a very long march of his army !* • Justice and mercy' were not, it should seem, numbered by him among the weightier matters of the law.' The head fared as ill as the heart. The very stupid person called, with ludicrous adulation, the Great Dauphin, was the pupil of Bossuet, who composed eloquent works for his improvement. But after his education he never read a syllable of print, but the births and deaths in the Paris Gazette !
Of the two books of which the names are placed at the head of this Article, the first is the genuine production of the principal actor in his Court and councils, during his last thirty years; and the second will afford a short but decisive proof that, in spite of the example of a regular and domestic Prince, Versailles maintained its ancient character, till its inhabitants were dispersed by the tempest of the Revolution. For the intermediate period, the excesses of the Regency are well known; and the Memoirs of Mad. DuHausset, the attendant of Mad. de Pompadour, is of itself sufficient to characterize the middle part of the reign of Louis XV.
tory of Louis XV. On his recent death, the Government is said to have seized on his work, on pretext that, as it contained extracts from the Archives, it was the property of the State! If this suppression of historical truth has really occurred, and proves finally successful, it will leave the negligent public still at the mercy of Lacretelle, one of the most shallow and slavish of rhetoricians. It will also be peculiarly unfortunate for English History; as M. Lemontey was accustomed to boast that he possessed evidence of a very extraordinary nature respecting the means by which the peace of 1762 was obtained from England.
St Simon, I. Memoires de L'Abbe de Choisy-a good-humoured and lively writer, perhaps the most amusing of his very amusing elass..
The French Court, which was the model of all others, may be taken as a specimen of them. Direct evidence of their moral condition might easily be collected, in every case when their insignificance does not elude inquiry. The general dissolution of manners in Spain and Italy is too well known to leave the least doubt as to the state of their Courts-even if the recent history of Madrid and Naples were less notorious. The coarse licentiousness of the smaller Courts of Germany is exemplified, almost beyond belief, in the life of the firsť Saxon King of Poland ; it is fully displayed in the Memoirs of the Margravine of Bareuth; and would, indeed, be sufficiently attested, if we had no other proof of it, by the contents and style of the correspondence between two German Princesses of such high rank as the Dutchess of Orleans and Queen Caroline.
Before proceeding to Mad, de Maintenon's Letters, it may be convenient to remind our readers of a few particulars of her remarkable history. Frances D'Aubigné, who became so well known as Marquise de Maintenon, was born, in 1635, in the prison of Niort, where her father was confined, seemingly for debt. Her family, though thus impoverished, was that of a respectable country gentleman. Her grandfather, Theodore Agrippa D’Aubigné, was one of the chiefs of the French Protestants, and the historian of the civil wars, by which that ill requited body placed the House of Bourbon on the throne of France. Her first four years were spent in prison; the next six at a little plantation in Martinique, where her unfortunate father died. One of her aunts educated her for some time as a Calvinist;-her mother, a zealous Catholic, by importunity, and at last by severity, extracted from her an abjuration of heresy, to which one of her objections was, that she could not bring herself to believe that her kind aunt would be damned ! Scarron, a deformed and distempered buffoon, poor, though of good family, and then known by his parodies and burlesque writings, purely from a generous wish to give her a station in society, offered his hand to her, which the young beauty was compelled thankfully to accept. In this situation, she guarded herself against bold advances, by a parade of austerity ;-—often in Lent, eating a single salted herring at dinner, and instantly retiring to her chamber. • The desire,' she afterwards said,
of making a name was then my passion.' The death of her husband, left her, at twenty-five, in the splendour of her beauty, admired for her talents and maņners, and without daily bread. She was surrounded by lovers, of whom one was Barillon, afterwards ambassador in England. Her passion for a name seems to have supported her; and she obtained a small pension, as a decayed gentlewoman, from Anne of Austria, at whose death she was once more plunged into hopeless poverty. • After Scarron's death,' says St Simon,
s she was indeed received in houses of distinction, but not on a footing of equa• lity. She was sent out of the drawing-room, sometimes to
order firewood, sometimes to call a carriage, sometimes to • ask if dinner was ready, and on a thousand other little er
rands, which the use of bells has since made needless.' Louis XIV., who had resisted all applications in her favour, was at length persuaded by Mademoiselle de Montespan to grant a pension to Scarron's widow, who, at his command, some time after undertook the education of his children by that lady. In the course of this education, which was at first conducted with mysterious secrecy, Mademoiselle de Montespan sometimes brought her to the King, who conceived a strong prejudice against her, as a Precieuse, or as we should now say, a Blue. The natural good sense of that Prince concurred with his extreme ignorance, in disposing him to dread women of superior attainments, which were then seldom unattended with pedantry. But she gradually softened his dislike by quiet and submission ;-she stole with patient and wary steps imperceptibly into his good opinion ;-he unconsciously began to take refuge in her sensible conversation and modest demeanour from his haughty and capricious mistress, who was first displeased, then made jealous, and at length incensed by the growing favour of her humble friend, while she disgusted him by furious eruptions of jealousy, and contributed to the advancement of her new rival by every fresh insult. Such were the prudence and moderation of Madame de Maintenon, that she ingratiated herself at the same time with the Queen, who died in her arms in July 1683. Her exertions to reclaim the King from his habitual vices, which were probably well intended, and proceeded from a sincere regard to his welfare, by a singular fortune contributed to the ruin of her rival, and to her own extraordinary elevation. Religion estranged the King from the mistress; and she who converted him became gradually the object of a grateful and tender friendship. Agitated by remorse, and flying from licentious love, he sought an aid to his penitence, and a substitute for his decaying passions, in a calmer and more pure
affection for his instructress. Her ambition was then awakened. • At forty-five,' says she to a correspondent, a woman can no longer inspire love. But he gives me • the fairest hopes. I send him away always in sorrow, but
* Memoire de Choisy.