Imatges de pÓgina
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Other diplomats who met Saint-Germain at the Hague also wrote to the Foreign Secretaries of their respective countries for instructions. It was so puzzling to them and to every one else that M. Affry should at first have welcomed Saint-Germain and then have nothing to say to him, and that Choiseul should go out of his way to discredit him by demanding his arrest. Bentinck, the President of the Deputy Commissioners of the Province of Holland, who was most friendly with Saint-Germain, was extremely grieved that a plea for his arrest should have been laid before the States-General by M. d'Affry at the instance of the French Government, and immediately assisted the Count to escape from the Hague. A few days after Saint-Germain had started for England M. d'Affry was recalled by his Court.

Kauderbach wrote to Prince Galitzin on the matter :

A certain Count Saint-Germain has appeared here lately (the Hague), and been the subject of much discourse, from his being suspected of having some private commission relating to the peace. He pretended to be very intimate with Madame Pompadour and in great favour with the King. At first he was much taken notice of by M. d'Affry; and had insinuated himself into families of fashion, both here and at Amsterdam. But within these few days M. d'Affry has been with the Pensionary and with me, and has showed us a letter from M. de Choiseul, in which he says that the King had heard of Saint-Germain's conduct with indignation ; that he was a vagabond, a cheat, and a worthless fellow, and that the King ordered him (M. d'Affry) to demand him of Their High Mightinesses, and to desire that he may be arrested and sent immediately to Lisle, in order to his being brought from thence and confined in France. The gentleman having got some ground to suspect what was preparing for him, went off, and it is thought he is gone to England, where he may probably open some new scene.

Later on in the same day Kauderbach discovered that Bentinck had assisted him to escape, that he was with Saint-Germain till one hour past midnight one morning, and that four hours later a carriage with four horses came to convey the Count to Helvoet Sluys. He further wishes Galitzin joy of the adventurer.

I think him at the end of his resources. He has pawned coloured stones here, such as opals, sapphires, emeralds, and rubies, and this is the man who pretends he can convert mountains into gold who has lived like this at the Hague ! He lies in a scandalous way, and he tried to convince us that he had completely cured a man who had cut off his thumb. He picked up the thumb thirty yards away from its owner and stuck it on again with strong glue, ex ungue leonem. I have seen the papers by which he pretends he authorised to be confidential negotiator ; they consist of a passport from the King of France and two letters from Marshal Belle-Isle, which, after all, stand for nothing, as the Marshal is always corresponding with the most vile newsmongers.

Kauderbach's opinion was not held by every one, for SaintGermain had greatly impressed a Dutch nobleman, who was beyond

The Hague, the 18th of April, 1760. Series Foreign Ambassadors (Intercepted). Extract from copy of letter from M. Kauderbach to Prince Galitzin, received the 22nd of April, 1760.

measure distressed at his sudden departure from the Hague. Writing to England Count de la Watn 'said, “ I know that you are the greatest man on earth, and I am mortified that these wretched people annoy you and intrigue against your peace-making efforts. I hear that M. d'Affry has been unexpectedly summoned by his Court. I only hope he may get what he deserves.' Saint-Germain meanwhile went to England, where he suffered arrest. "His examination has produced nothing very material,' wrote Lord Holdernesse to Mitchell, the British envoy in Prussia, but he still thought it advisable for the Count to leave England. This he apparently did not do, for the London papers of June 1760 tell stories of his behaviour and make guesses as to his origin and mission.

Whatever may have been the business of a certain foreigner here about whom the French have just made or have affected to make a great bustle, there is something in his most unintelligible history that is very entertaining ; and there are accounts of transactions which bound so nearly upon the marvellous that it is impossible but that they must excite the attention of this Athenian age. I imagine this gentleman, against whom no ill was ever alleged, and for whose genius and knowledge I have the most sincere respect, will not take umbrage at my observing that the high title he assumes is not the right of lineage or the gift of royal favour ; what is his real name is perhaps one of those mysteries which at his death will surprise the world more than all the strange incidents of his life ; but himself will not be averse, I think, to own this, by which he goes, is no more than a travelling title.

There seems something insulting in the term un inconnu, by which the French have spoken of him ; and the terms we have borrowed from their language of an avanturier and a chevalier d'industrie always convey reproach, as they have been applied to this—I had almost said nobleman. It is justice to declare that in any ill sense they appear to be very foreign from his character. It is certain that, like the persons generally understood by these denominations, he has supported himself always at a considerable expense, and in perfect independence, without any visible or known way of living ; but let those who say this always add that he does not play ; nor is there perhaps a person in the world who can say he has enriched himself sixpence at his expense.

The country of this stranger is as perfectly unknown as his name ; but concerning both, as also of his early life, busy conjecture has taken the place of knowledge ; and as it was equal what to invent, the perverseness of human nature and perhaps envy in those who took the charge of the invention has led them to select passages less favourable than would have been furnished by truth. Till more authentic materials shall have been produced it will be proper that the world suspend their curiosity, and charity requires not to believe some things which have no foundation.

All we can with justice say is : This gentleman is to be considered as an unknown and inoffensive stranger, who has supplies for a large expense, the sources of which are not understood.

Many years ago he was in England, and since that time has visited the several other European kingdoms, always keeping up the appearance of a man of fashion, and always living with credit.

The reader who remembers Gil Blas's master who spent his money without anybody's understanding how he lived, 'tis applicable in more respects than one to this stranger, who, like him, has been examined also in dangerous times, but found innocent and respectable. But there is this difference, that the hero of our story seems to have his money concentrated, as chymists keep their

powerful menstruums, not in its natural and bulky form, for no carts used to come loaded to his lodgings.

He had the address to find the reigning foible always of the place where he was going to reside, and on that he built the scheme of rendering himself agreeable. When he came here and he found music was the hobby of this country, and took the fiddle with as good grace as if he had been a native player in whom true virtù reigns ; and there he appeared a connoisseur in gems, antiques, and medals ; in France he was a fop, in Germany a chymist.

By these arts he introduced himself in each of those countries, and to his high praise it must be owned that to whichever of them or to whatsoever else it may have been that he was bred, yet whichever he chose for the time seemed to have been the only employment of his life.

'Twas thus in all the rest ; among the Germans, where he played chymistry, he was every inch a chymist ; and he was certainly in Paris every inch a fop. From Germany he carried into France the reputation of a high and sovereign alchymist, who possessed the secret powder, and in consequence the universal medicine. The whisper ran the stranger could make gold. The expence at which he lived seemed to confirm that account ; but the minister at that time, to whom the matter had been whispered as important, smiling answered he would put it on a short issue. He ordered an enquiry to be made whence the remittances he received came, and told those who had applied to him that he would soon show them what quarries they were which yielded this philosopher's stone. The means that great man took to explain the mystery, though very judicious, served only to increase it ; whether the stranger had accounts of the enquiry that was ordered and found means to evade it, and by what other accident 'tis not known, but the fact is that in the space of two years, while he was thus watched, he lived as usual, paid for everything in ready money, and yet no remittance came into the kingdom for him.

The thing was spoken of and none now doubted what at first had been treated as a chimera ; he was understood to possess, with the other grand secret, a remedy for all diseases, and even for the infirmities in which time triumphs over the human fabric.

One diplomat, who was as curious as every one else in London, wrote home to say that the Count frequented the houses of the best families in England,' that he was 'well dressed, modest, and never ran into debt.' Another secretary of embassy, Von Edelsheim, received a letter from his master, Frederick the Great, commenting on the political phenomenon—' a man whom no one has been able to understand, a man so high in favour with the French King that he bail thought of presenting him with the Palace of Chambord.' The secret, if secret there was, of Saint-Germain's life was well kept, for no one knew more about him in London after he had been there several months than they did when he arrived. When his business in England was over he went to France, and in the following year the Marquis d’Urfé met him in the Bois de Boulogne. From Paris he went to Petersburg to help the daughter of his old friend Princess Anhalt-Zerbst to mount the throne of Russia. This daughter, Catherine, had for seventeen miserable years been married to a drunken and dissolute husband, who, on the death of his aunt, the Tsarina Elizabeth, in 1762, became the Tsar Peter. In this year his wife, together with the Orloffs and Saint-Germain, planned his overthrow. The royal guards were incited to revolt; Peter was coerced into abdication; the priests were won over and were persuaded to anoint Catherine as proxy for her son. The Orloffs completed the coup d'état by strangling Peter and proclaiming Catherine Empress in her own right. Gregor Orloff, who was the Tsarina's lover, told the Margrave of Brandenburg-Anspach how large a part in this revolution SaintGermain played. Catherine the Second lived to enjoy the throne she had seized for twenty-nine years (1762-91), and during at least the earlier portion of that time she gave her protection to the masonic and illuminist societies founded by Saint-Germain and his accomplices within her realm, though later she turned violently against them. From Petersburg the Count went to Brussels, where he spent Christmas 1762. Cobenzl, who renewed acquaintance with him about this time, found him the most singular man' he had ever known, and announced that he believed him to be the son of a clandestine union in a powerful and illustrious family. Possessed of great wealth, he lives in the greatest simplicity; he knows everything and shows an uprightness and a goodness of soul worthy of admiration. Cobenzl was particularly interested in Saint-Germain's chemical experiments, and longed to put some of his inventions to practical money-making uses. He begged the Count to set up an industry at Tournay, and recommended him to a 'good and trustworthy merchant' there of his acquaintance. His friend, who at that time was known as M. de Zurmont, acceded to his request and set up a factory where a dyeing business was carried on with profitable results. While SaintGermain was living at Tournay Casanova arrived at the town, and being informed of the presence of the Count within it desired to be presented to him. On being told that M. de Zurmont received no one he wrote to request an interview, which was granted on the condition that Casanova should come incognito, and that he should not expect to be invited to partake of food. The Count, who was dressed during this interview in Armenian clothes, and who wore a long beard, talked much of his factory and of the interest which Graf Cobenzl took in the experiment.

6 • Anecdotes of a Mysterious Stranger,' London Chronicle, the 31st of May to the 3rd of June, 1760.

'Dated from Freyberg. Euvres posthumes de Fréd. II, Roi de Prusse, vol. iii. p. 73. Berlin, 1783.

Madame de Pompadour during her life had extended both to SaintGermain and Casanova a protective and kindly patronage, and at her death Saint-Germain disappeared from France for four years. During this disappearance from obvious life he was most probably carrying out those larger activities to which his whole being was devoted. The founding of new masonic lodges, the initiation of illuminates, the organisation of fresh groups in different parts of Europe, as well as the share he took in Weishaupt's great scheme for the amalgamation of secret societies, kept him constantly occupied and continuously travelling. His advantages as an illuminate agent were enormous, and he could work more effectively for the emancipation of man from

the ancient tyrannies than almost any one of his generation. As a political agent he gained the ear and heard the views of the most inaccessible ministers in Europe ; as a man of fashion he was received in every house; as an alchemist and magician he invested himself in the eyes of the crowd with awe and mystery; as a musician he disarmed suspicion and was welcomed by the ladies of all courts ; but these various activities seem to have served only as a cloak for the great work of his life, served but to conceal from an unspeculative generation the seriousness of his real mission. In 1768 the course of his journeyings took him to Berlin, where the celebrated Pernetti was living. This learned Benedictine, who was a freethinker and in favour of the secularisation of his order, had left Avignon a short while before to become librarian to the encyclopædist King. He welcomed the arrival of Saint-Germain with delight, and 'was not slow in recognising in him the characteristics of an adept.' Thiébault says that during the year of his stay in Berlin they had marvels without end, but never anything mean or scandalous.'

From Berlin he went to Italy, travelling under the name of D'Aymar or Bellamare, and Graf von Lamberg discovered him near Venice experimenting in the bleaching of flax. It appears that he had found time to organise a small industry there since leaving Germany, for he had over a hundred hands in regular employment. Von Lamberg persuaded Saint-Germain to travel with him, and they visited Corsica in the year of Napoleon's birth (1769). A newsletter from Tunis shows that after exploring that island they went to Africa. "Graf Max. v. Lamberg, having paid a visit to Corsica to make various investigations, has been staying here (Tunis) since the end of June in company with the Signor de Saint-Germain, celebrated in Europe for the vastness of his political and philosophical knowledge.'

The mystery of his life became deeper when he recrossed the Mediterranean to meet the Orloffs at Leghorn, for while with them he wore the uniform of a Russian general. The Russians at the time were fighting the Turks by sea as well as on the Kaghul, and the Orloffs were waiting to embark for the war. It was observed that they addressed Saint-Germain as Count Soltykoff. The Count became renowned at this time for his recipe for ' Acqua Benedetta (anglice Russian Tea), an infusion used on Russian men-of-war to preserve the health of the troops in the severe heat. The English Consul at Leghorn secured the recipe, and wrote home in triumph to announce the fact.

On the fall of his old enemy Choiseul the Count hastened to Paris (1770), where he established himself splendidly and soon became an effective figure in the fashionable world. His generosity and manner of life excited the admiration of the people, and his intimacy with the old and now decrepit King gave him an importance that impressed the vulgar. After two years of French life he went on a

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Le Notize del Mondo, Florence, July 1770.

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