Imatges de pÓgina

still on his first visit to London; but on quitting this city he entrusted certain other settings of words to Walsh, such as Jore, when he saw, and the arias out of his little opera L'Inconstanza Delusa, both of which compositions were published during his absence from England. When be returned, in 1760, he gave the world a great many new songs, followed in 1780 by a set of solos for the violin. He was an industrious and capable artist, and attracted a great deal of fashionable attention to himself both as composer and executant.

With regard to music, he not only played but composed; and both in a high taste. Nay, his very ideas were accommodated to the art ; and in those occurrences which had no relation to music he found means to express himself in figurative terms deduced from this science. There could not be a more artful way of showing his attention to the subject. I remember an incident which impressed it strongly on my memory. I had the honour to be at an assembly of Lady who to many other good and great accomplishments added a taste for music so delicate that she was made a judge in the dispute of masters. This stranger was to be of the party; and towards evening he came in his usual free and polite manner, but with more hurry than was customary, and with his fingers stopped in his ears. I can conceive easily that in most men this would have been a very ungraceful attitude, and I am afraid it would have been construed into an ungenteel entrance ; but he had a manner that made everything agreeable. They had been emptying a cartload of stones just at the door, to mend the pavement: he threw himself into a chair and, when the lady asked what was the matter, he pointed to the place and said, 'I am stunned with a whole cartload of discords.'

According to Madame de Pompadour Saint-Germain made his first appearance in France in 1749. Louis the Fifteenth thought him an entertaining and agreeable addition to his Court, and listened to his stories of adventures in every land and his gossip on the most intimate affairs of the European chanceries with delight. No one at the Court knew anything about the Count's history, but he seems to have made the chance acquaintance of Belle Isle and by him to have been introduced to Madame de Pompadour. A judicious bestowal of gifts quickly ingratiated him with his new patrons. He gave pictures by Velasquez and Murillo to Louis the Fifteenth, and to the Marquise ' gems of great value. His many accomplishments diverted the King. Sometimes he showed off his retentive memory by repeating pages of print after one reading ; sometimes he played the violin ; and sometimes he sang ; sometimes he wrote with both hands at once, and proved that the compartments of his brain worked independently by inscribing a love letter and a set of verses simultaneously. The only poem of that date attributed to him which is still extent is a

mystical sonnet.

Curieux scrutateur de la Nature entière,

J'ai connu du grand tout le principe et la fin.
J'ai vu l'or en puissance au fond de sa rivière,

J'ai saisi sa matière et surpris son levain.

? London Chronicle, June 1760.

J'expliquai par quel art l'âme aux flancs d'une mère

Fait sa maison, l'emporte, et comment un pépin
Mis contro un grain de blé, sous l'humide poussière ;

L'un plante et l'autre cep, sont le pain et le vin.

Rien n'était, Dieu voulant, rien devint quelque chose,
J'en doutais, je cherchai sur quoi l'univers pose.

Rien gardait l'équilibre et servait de soutien.

Enfin avec le poids de l'éloge et du blâme
Je posai l'éternel ; il appella mon âme :

Je mourrai, j'adorai, je ne savais plus rien."

Saint-Germain was credited with the possession of alchemical secrets, and he was said to practise the crystallisation of carbon. Madame de Hausset, who was as credulous as most of the Court ladies of that day, tells how Louis the Fifteenth showed the Count a large diamond with a flaw, remarking that it would be worth double if it were flawless. The alchemist promptly offered, in four weeks' time, to make it so, and begged that a jeweller might be summoned to act as judge in the matter. At the appointed time the jeweller, who had valued the diamond at 6000 francs in the first instance, offered the King 10,000 francs for the improved stone. Count Cobenzl was present at the transmutation of iron into a metal as beautiful as gold, and at least as good for all goldsmith's work.' Every one seemed to be convinced by ocular demonstration of the truth of Saint-Germain's pretensions, and when Quesnay dared to call him a quack he was severely reprimanded by the King.

Whatever we may think to-day of Saint-Germain's claims to be an alchemist we cannot doubt that he was a working chemist, for Madame de Genlis says : ‘He was well acquainted with physics and & very great chemist. My father, who was well qualified to judge, was a great admirer of his abilities in this respect.' She also narrates that he painted pictures in wonderful colours, from which he got “unprecedented effects.' It seems just possible that he may in some way have anticipated the discovery of Unverdorben and the practice of Perkins with regard to aniline dyes, for he produced brilliant results without the agency of either cochineal or indigo. Kaunitz, who in 1755 negotiated the pact between Vienna and Versailles, received a letter from his fellow-countryman Cobenzl expressing astonishment at Saint-Germain's discoveries and telling of experiments made in dyeing skins and other substances under his own eyes. The treatment of skins he asserted

was carried to a perfection which surpassed all the moroccos in the world ; the dyeing of silks was perfected to a degree hitherto unknown; likewise the dyeing of woollens ; wood was dyed in the most brilliant colours which penetrated through and through the whole. All this was accomplished without the aid of indigo or cochineal, but with the commonest ingredients and consequently at a very

3 Poèmes Philosophiques sur l'Homme. Chez Mercier, Paris. 1795.

moderate price. He composed colours for painting, making ultramarine as perfect as if made from lapis-lazuli ; and he could destroy the smell of painting oils, and making the best oil of Provence from the oils of Navette, of Cobat, and from other oils even worse. I have in my hand all these productions made under my own eyes.

Saint-Germain always attributed his knowledge of occult chemistry to his sojourn in Asia. In 1755 he went to the East again for the second time, and writing to Count von Lamberg he said, 'I am indebted for my knowledge of melting jewels to my second journey to India. On my first expedition I had but a very faint idea of this wonderful secret, and all the experiments I made in Vienna, Paris, and London were as such worthless.'

This journey to India was probably undertaken at the instance of Louis the Fifteenth, who for some years employed Saint-Germain as a secret agent. The Count says that he travelled out in the same ship as General Clive, under the command of Vice-Admiral Watson, in what capacity he does not inform us, but it may have been as ship's doctor. After learning all he could of the English schemes for the subjugation of India he returned to Europe in the year in which Calcutta was retaken and the battle of Plassy fought. Going straight to his employer in Paris he was immediately installed as a mark of royal favour in a suite of rooms at Chambord.

Books have been written on the secret service organised by the Duc de Broglie for Louis the Fifteenth, and many of the letters to the emissaries employed have been published. Either the King or De Broglie had an unusual gift for discerning men that were likely to serve them well in such undertakings. The notorious Chevalier d'Eon was commissioned as a secret agent to Russia before he entered the official diplomatic service, and it will be remembered that he remained for some months as “lectrice' to Catherine the Second before he was ordered to reassume man's dress and figure as secretary of embassy at Petersburg. Saint-Germain was employed on many private missions by Louis the Fifteenth, who both trusted his discretion and admired his wit. His apparent contempt for his fellow creatures pleased the King. “To entertain any esteem for men, Sire, one must be neither a confessor, a minister, nor a police officer,' he one day remarked. “You may as well add, Comte,' replied Louis

Sated with pleasure and bored with a life in which no wish, however faint, remained ungratified, Louis the Fifteenth found great entertainment after Cardinal Fleury's death in being his own minister for foreign affairs. He had been brought up to trust no one, and it gave of checking his accredited State officials. In consequence of the way in which his secret service was organised the King was often in possession of news earlier than his ministers, and could hardly refrain from

the Fifteenth,' a king.'

cynical laughter when belated information was tendered by them to him on matters of which he was already cognisant. Negotiations for peace and alliance were essayed in various countries; men were unofficially sounded, public sentiment quietly gauged, opinions dexterously extracted, in such a way that when open and official action was taken the King could predict in an omniscient manner the outcome of affairs.

It is necessarily difficult to track the footsteps of any secret agent, and except for occasional glimpses caught of Saint-Germain during the Seven Years' War through the despatches of generals we cannot know much of his doings. He was anxious that France should make an alliance with Prussia, and it will be remembered that at this time there were two policies pulling against each other at the French Court—that of Choiseul, whose first act as Prime Minister was to ratify the treaty of peace with Maria Theresa (1758) made by his predecessor Bernis (1756), and that of the Belle-Isles, who were incessantly intriguing to get a special covenant made with Prussia, and so to break up the alliance between France and Austria, on which the credit of Choiseul rested. This special treaty was, after a while, drawn up, and Saint-Germain, who received the document in cypher from the King's own hand, was despatched to discuss the negotiation with Frederick the Great. Choiseul, though he was unaware of this transaction, was naturally angry at the favour shown to Saint-Germain by his master, and determined to compass his downfall, and he did not regret the antics of a young Englishman, Lord Gower, at that time resident in Paris, who posed as 'der Wundermann,' boasting that he had been present at the Council of Trent, and had the secret of immortality, as well as doing all kinds of ridiculous things which indirectly brought discredit on Saint-Germain. It seems possible that some knowledge of the Count's mission to the Prussian King may have leaked out, for Voltaire, in a letter to that monarch, said :

Your ministers doubtless are likely to have a better look-out at Breda than I: Choiseul, Kaunitz, and Pitt do not tell me their secret. It is said to be only known by Saint-Germain, who supped formerly at Trenta with the Council Fathers, and who will probably have the honour of seeing your Majesty in the course of fifty years. He is a man who never dies and who knows everything.

Saint-Germain greatly disturbed the peace of mind of foreign generals and ministers, who became uneasy and suspicious when he discussed affairs with them, for no one knew how far the Count was empowered by the French King to treat of State business. A secret agent, after all, may at any moment be disavowed, and must always be viewed by the official world in the light of a spy. General Yorke, who was commanding the English forces in this campaign, wrote to his chief, Lord Holdernesse, several times on the subject of SaintGermain, and it seems possible from the nature of Lord Holdernesse's reply that they may have had information in England as to SaintGermain's real position with the King. Writing from the Hague in March 1760, General Yorke says :

Your lordship knows the history of that extraordinary man known by the name of Count Saint-Germain, who resided some time in England, where he did nothing ; and has within these two or three years resided in France, where he has been upon the most familiar footing with the French King, Madame de Pompadour, Monsieur de Belle-Isle, &c. ; which has procured him a grant of the Royal Castle of Chambord, and has enabled him to make a certain figure in that country. He appeared for some days at Amsterdam, where he was much caressed and talked of, and upon the marriage of Princess Caroline he alighted at the Hague. The same curiosity created the same attention to him here. ... Monsieur d'Affry treats him with respect and attention, but is very jealous of him, and did not so much as renew my acquaintance with him.*

Saint-Germain discussed the possibilities of peace with General Yorke, but when the Englishman showed himself secretive and undesirous of committing himself to a confidential talk the Count produced two letters from Belle-Isle by way of credentials. In these letters the English general remarked that great praise was bestowed on SaintGermain. The Count told Yorke that the King, the Dauphin, Madame de Pompadour, and the Court desired peace with England, and that the only two ministers who wished to avoid this consummation were Choiseul and Bernis. Yorke did not enjoy confiding in Saint-Germain, and talked but in vague and general terms in reply to his advances. Lord Holdernesse approved this caution, but said that His Majesty (George the Second) did not think it unlikely that Saint-Germain might have real authorisation to talk as he has done, but that General Yorke should be reminded that he cannot be disavowed by his Government, as Saint-Germain may be whenever it pleases Louis the Fifteenth so to do.

Choiseul, rather naturally, did not like being undermined by Louis the Fifteenth's secret agents, and was especially incensed over SaintGermain's action at the Hague. He went so far as to write to the official French representative, D'Affry, to order him to demand the States-General to give up Saint-Germain, and that being done to bind him hand and foot and send him to the Bastille. D'Affry meanwhile had written to Choiseul a despatch bitterly reproaching him for allowing a peace to be negotiated under his very eyes at the Hague, without informing him of it. This despatch Choiseul read in Council, after which he repeated his own instructions to D'Affry on the extradition of Saint-Germain, and said, looking at Louis the Fifteenth and Belle-Isle : 'If I did not give myself time to take the orders of the King it is because I am convinced that no one here would be rash enough to negotiate a treaty of peace without the knowledge of your Majesty's Minister for Foreign Affairs.'

"Lord Holdernesse's Despatches, 1760. 6818 plut. P.L. clxviii. 1 (12). Mitchell

Papers, vol. xv.

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