Imatges de pÓgina
[ocr errors]

The Regent, Duke of Orleans, has so much of that striking singularity which arises from the mixture of brilliant and even amiable qualities with monstrous vices, that almost all decent particulars of him are acceptable.

26th September 1706.— The roes of romance are not more brave than the Duke of Orleans. He concealed his first wound, and was compelled to show the second, because his arm fell down on his side.'

In the year 1709, he obtained, through the instances of the Court of Madrid, a terre titrée (or a manor with a title of honour annexed to it) for his mistress, Mad. de Sercy, after a long contest with Mad. de Maintenon's morality, which fills a considerable space in this correspondence.

29th April 1709.— The Dutchess of Orleans is pregnant, at which Mad. de Sercy is said to be much offended.' This lady seems to have been one of the boldest of her profession. She lodged in the Palais Royal, exactly opposite to the Dutchess, and took furniture out of St Cloud for her own use.

In the year 1707, she tells her correspondent the circumstances of the death of Mad. de Montespan, and the sorrow of her children, as if she had never seen her, and with all the coldness and minuteness of a mere collector of news. In March 1711, the death of the most celebrated poet in France is thus drily, and almost contemptuously, notified. .. The satirist Des Preaux is dead a few days ago. The extraordinary mortality of the Royal Family, in the year 1712, is announced with little appearance of feeling, certainly with no affectation of it, and without any allusion to the horrible rumours of poison which prevailed at the time. The only anecdote which can be called literary is, that the second representation of Athalie (which had been first represented under the auspices of Mad. de Maintenon at St Cyr, more than twenty years before) took place at the Dutchess de Maine's private theatre, on the 3d of December 1714. So slow was the progress to fame of a tragedy, which is since become the boast of the drama, and perhaps of the literature, of France.

There was not in Spain, in 1707, a surgeon or a midwife to whom the Queen could be trusted. Even a nurse was sent from France. • The nurse whom we send to the Queen is the • reverse of most of her trade - modest, polite and respectful.' A great body of candidates, for the honour of being wet nurse to the Prince of Asturias, were collected and received at Madrid, in a manner so singular, that we shall leave Mad. des Ursins to describe it.

30th May 1707.--' ses for the Prince of Asturias were collected from the farthest parts of Spain. Twelve candidates have been procured, seven whose children are born, and five pregnant. I thought that creatures who were to suckle the first blood of the world ought to be the objects of general respect. I sent three of the Queen's carriages to meet them, and twelve gentlemen of the household to compliment them in form. They made their entry into Madrid amidst the acclamations and blessings of the people, and they came into the palace by a garden through which their Majesties only pass. I went to receive them into the Queen's gallery, and embraced them with all my heart. I then conducted them to her Majesty, who did not disdain to advance to receive them. The children made a great noise, and showed the goodness of their mother's milk, by the strength of their voices in crying. They knelt to thank her Majesty. Some of them wept for joy, others showed their gratitude by a thousand flattering, but natural speeches, which would have affected you. They then sat down to a great collation, of which they had much need. They were afterwards shown into their rooms, which were hung with the handsomest tapestries, and had every accommodation. The King came to visit them.

At their supper 1 sat at the head of the table, and tasted every thing myself, to see that nothing was too fat or high seasoned. Some of them had not disagreeable countenances ; none of them had spoiled teeth, and all were in good health.'

Among other needs which could not be supplied in Spain, the Queen earnestly begged Mad. de Maintenon to send her a cook, her chief cook being dead, and the second being spoiled by his long residence at Madrid, since his arrival in the train of Queen Louisa of Orleans. - The Queen makes a great figure at the Cabinet Council, where she regularly takes her

-Madame des Ursins seems to countenance the rumours of the horrible treatment experienced by the Princess of Orleans, the first Queen of Charles II.- When at the Escu

rial,' says she, “ I had not the courage to look at the place

where Queen Louisa was buried. If this Princess conse6 crated her misfortunes, as I believe she did, she must be a

saint, for she had terrible sufferings, and I do not believe there ever was a life more miserable than that which she led. '- I wonder how the Kings of Spain could leave Valladolid, an agreeable town, with a cheerful palace, and a beautiful neigh

bourhood, for Madrid, which is certainly the ugliest town • in the Spain.'

But to return to Versailles. The following observation of Mad. de Maintenon is, both for severity and sense, worthy of La Rochefoucault; and it has the merit (which he has not) of being free from the affectation of epigrammatic poignancy. • We must submit to live with deceitful, ungrateful, and wic• ked men; for the world is full of them. They abound most • in Courts, where passions are kept up by interests.'- The letters of both ladies allude to the excessive eating and irre

[ocr errors]

s seat.

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

gular hours of the young Dutchess of Burgundy, of whose gluttony so much is said, that we might be almost tempted to ascribe her premature death to that disgusting species of intemperance. It is from other authorities that we know the coarseness of her manners, and the nauseous grossness of her exhibitions.

Though Louis XIV. was the veriest tool in all public measures, he was to the last degree self-willed in the personal management of the Court. The affairs of France were ruled by Mad. de Maintenon; But in the arrangements of a journey to Fontainebleau, she was in her turn a slave. Her complaints are bitter, and show a very hardly-worked slave. My infir

mities might be borne, if I could pass a life more suitable to 'my age. But Versailles, Marly, Meudon, Trianon, and Fon

tainebleau, oblige me to live as if I were only twenty. I am • often obliged to get out of bed at Versailles, in order to seek

rest on my bed at St Cyr, and go, for form's sake, afterwards " to sleep at Marly.'

In August 1713, as she grew older and more infirm, she feels and speaks still more sharply.

Nothing but the extraordinary health and strength of the King could be a consolation for the manner in which he treats those he best loves. If he made me eat half so much as he eats himself, I should not long be alive. We must not speak of inconvenience. He thinks of nothing but show and symmetry, grandeur and magnificence. He would rather have all the winds blow through his doors, than that they should not be exactly opposite to each other. I have seen him in a room with four doors and four windows, very large, and of equal size, all open. We are going to Fontainebleau, which will be still worse. As there is no preparation for the winter, I expect to suffer much.'

At Rambouillet, in August 1714, she says,

« The King is, without exaggeration, better than he was twenty years ago. He eats as much as ever, especially at night, which makes one tremble. We are engaged in sports from morning to night. Every day the deer is cut up under my windows. Our Princesses are more robust than our soldiers, and add the freedom of a country life to the dissipątion of the town.'

We are tempted to extract the following anecdote, by the whimsical resemblance of some of its circumstances to a recent abduction in our own country,

8th June 1708.-" The Prince de Leon, eldest son of the Duc de Rohan, wished to marry Mad. de Roquelaure. The parents could not agree on the fortune ; but the parties exchanged promises of marriage. The young lady was placed in a convent in the Fauxbourg St An. toine, with orders that she was not to go abroad without her governess any where but to the house of Mad. de Vieuville. The

Prince de Leon dressed his servants in that lady's livery, and putting her arms on his carriage, sent it to fetch Mad. de Roquelaure to her mother, who was said by the servants to be waiting for her at Mad. de Vieuville's. She went with her governess, who, seeing that the carriage took the wrong road, attempted to stop it, and, not succeeding, cried out for help. She was gagged; and the Prince de Leon came up to the carriage and took the young lady to a country house, where they were married. The Roquelaure family threaten a prosecution. The Dutchess of Burgundy was transported with the story, and said she liked such adventures. When the noise has subsided, the best measure will be to submit to a regular marriage.'

The last sentence in these volumes written by Mad. de Maintenon, is the following,

Ilth September 1715.— I have seen the King die like a saint and a hero. I have quitted the world which I disliked. I am in the most agreeable retirement that I can desire, As to society, I can have none. The inmates of this house (St Cyr) know nothing of what I have seen, and are acquainted with nothing but the rules of their own community.'

She survived her Royal husband more than four years. The only celebrated visitor who disturbed her retirement was the Czar Peter. That illustrious barbarian, who could not perhaps have performed the grand part allotted to him in history without an apparently monstrous union of brutal grossness and savage ferocity, with the genius of a reformer and the magnanimous ambition of a lawgiver, was probably as much unfitted by his high as by his low qualities, to appreciate her character, or to comprehend the nature of her ascendant over a feebler though more civilized monarche

The Memoirs of the Prince de Montbarey contain the life of a silly and worthless man, written of necessity without talent, and never of the slightest value, except where it produces an effect the very reverse of that intended by the writer. He is an unwilling, and indeed unconscious witness against himself and his fellows. Perhaps the ideal ugliness of the character of a thorough-paced courtier was never more nearly embodied than in the person of M. de Montbarey. He wanted indeed the refinement, the delicacy, and the occasional vivacity or dignity which belong to the better specimens of the race. But no life could be divided between frivolity, profligacy, and servile ambition, with a more exact conformity to the most approved models. The instinct of the animal taught him to be content with the little, the vain, and the mean; never to vențure on deeds of energy or violence, and not to aspire so high as the perpetratïon of crimes.

try. Like

He was descended from a country gentleman's family in Franche Comte, of which he favours us with a genealogical tree. Some of them had, in a course of generations, risen to distinction in the army, and one had, on an extraordinary occasion, rendered a signal service to the house of Austria, the former sovereigns of the province. Some promise was then hastily made that he should be raised to the dignity of a prince of the empire, or at least the tradition of such a promise subsisted among

his own descendants. If it ever existed, it seems to have been unknown beyond the country house of the family, while they continued to be nothing more than provincial gen


other tales of the same nature, it served to amuse the insipid and insignificant lives of those who, though not within sight of objects of ambition, were yet too noble for any liberal pursuit or useful occupation. A genealogy through females has always a much better chance of really finding some distinguished person in one of its many lines; so that M. de Montbarey may be believed when he tells us, that the Baron de Montclar, a French adventurer, who became a grandee of Spain in the war of the Succession, was his maternal ancestor. Both these pretensions seem to have been watchfully preserved by the Montbareys, in the hope that one of them might at last be successfully used. A series of favourable circumstances at length enabled the author of these Memoirs to urge them both with effect.

In the year 1755, he married Madamoiselle de Mailley, a young beauty of the Court, of one of the families who subsisted on the King's bounties. She was immediately appointed to the household of Madame Adelaide, a daughter of Louis XV. Her younger sister was married to the Marquis, afterwards Duc d'Avarey, the favourite, or rather the friend of Louis XVIII., a Prince who was very early distinguished by a certain show of literary talent, on which he always valued himself. Montbarey tells us an anecdote on this subject, which is curious. The deputies of some province, who came to Versailles to present an address of congratulation to the King, in making the rounds of the Court, made their compliment to the three young Princes, then almost in a state of childhood, the sons of the Dauphin. In bestowing on all these children, as a matter of course, every talent and every virtue, they praised the Duc de Berry, afterwards Louis XVI., for his abilities, The child, with a modesty and fairness which gave promise of his subsequent character, interrupted the addresser, saying! I am much obliged to you, Sir. I am not the clever boy;

but my brother Provence. (Ce n'est pas moi qui ai de l'esprit;

« AnteriorContinua »