Part 1 out of 10
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Letter from Lebel--Visit from Lebel--Nothing conclusive--Another
visit from Lebel--Invitation to sup with the king--Instructions
of the comte Jean to the comtesse
A slight preface--Arrival at Versailles--<"La toilette">--Portrait
of the king--The duc de Richelieu--The marquis de Chauvelin--The
duc de la Vauguyon-Supper with the king--The first night--The
following day--The curiosity of comte Jean--Presents from the
king--How disposed of
The king's message--Letter from the countess--A second supper at
Versailles--The duc d'Ayen--A short account of M. de Fleury--The
duc de Duras -Conversation with the king--The next day--A visit
from the duc de Richelieu--Visit from the duc de la Vauguyon--Visit
from comte Jean--Visit from the king--A third supper--Favor
The duc d'Aiguillon--The duc de Fronsac--The duchesse de
Grammont--The meeting--Sharp words on both sides--The duc de
Choiseul--Mesdames d'Aiguillon--Letter from the duc d'Aiguillon--
Reply of madame du Barry--Mademoiselle Guimard--The prince de
Soubise--Explanation--The Rohans--Madame de Marsan--Court friendships
The duc de la Vauguyon and the comtesse du Barry--The marquis
de Chauvelin and the comtesse--M. de Montbarrey and the comtesse--
Intrigues--Lebel--Arrival of the du Barry family--The comte
d'Hargicourt--The demoiselles du Barry--Marriage of the comtesse--
The marquis de Bonrepos--Correspondences--The broken glass
Journey to Choisy--The comtesse du Barry and Louis XV--The king
of Denmark--The czar Peter--Frederick II--The abbe de la Chapelle--
An experiment--New intrigues--Secret agents-The comtesse and
Louis XV--Of the presentation--Letter of the comtesse to the
duc d'Aiguillon--Reply--Prince de Soubise
The comtesse and the duc d'Aiguillon--M. de Soubise--Louis XV
and the duc d'Aiguillon--Letter from the comtesse to the king--
Answer of the king-The "
Louis XV--The supper--The court ladies mystified--The comtesse
and M. de Sartines
The sieur Ledoux--The
Madame de Langeac--M. de Maupeou--Louis XV--The comte Jean
The king of Denmark--The courtesans of Paris--The duc de Choiseul
and the bishop of Orleans--Witty repartees of the king of Denmark--
His visit to madame du Barry--"The court of king Petaud," a satire--
Letter of the duc d'Aiguillon to Voltaire--The duchesse de Grammont
mystified--Unpublished letter of Voltaire's
When is the presentation to take place?--Conversation on this
subject with the king--M. de Maupeou and M. de la Vauguyon--
Conversation on the same subject with the king and the duc de
Richelieu--M. de la Vrilliere--M. Bertin---Louis XV and the
comtesse--The king's promise--The fire-works, an anecdote--The
marquise de Castellane--M. de Maupeou at the duc de Choiseul's--
The duchesse de Grammont
A word concerning the duchesse de Choiseul--The apartment of the
Comte de Noailles--The Noailles--Intrigues for presentation--The
comte de Bearn--M. Morand once more--Visit of the comtesse Bearn
to the comtesse du Barry--Conversation--Interested complaisance--
The king and the comtesse du Barry--Dispute and reconciliation
The comtesse de Bearn--The supper--Louis XV--Intrigues against my
presentation--M. de Roquelaure--The scalded foot--The comtesse
d'Aloigny--The duc d'Aiguillon and madame de Bearn--Anger of the
king's daughters--Madame Adelaide and the comtesse du Barry--
Dissatisfaction of the king
Of the presentation--The king and the duc de Richelieu at comtesse
du Barry's--M. de la Vauguyon--Conversation--Letter of the duke to
the comtesse du Barry--Reply--The countess unites herself with the
Jesuit party--Madame Louise--Madame Sophie--M. Bertin--Madame
The princesses consent to the presentation of madame du Barry--
Ingenious artifice employed by the king to offer a present to the
duc de la Vauguyon--Madame du Barry's letter respecting it--The
duke's reply--The king's letter--The court in despair--Couplets
concerning madame du Barry--Her presentation--A change in public
opinion--An evening party at the house of the countess--Joy of her
partizans--Conversation with the chancellor respecting the lady of
the marechal de Mirepoix
The Comte de la Marche, a prince of the blood--Madame de
Beauvoir, his mistress--Madame du Barry complains to the prince
de Soubise of the princess de Guemenee--The king consoles the
countess for this--The duc de Choiseul--The king speaks to him of
madame du Barry--Voltaire writes to her--The opinions of Richelieu
and the king concerning Voltaire
Unpublished letter of Voltaire to madame du Barry--Reply of the
countess--The marechale de Mirepoix--Her first interview with
madame du Barry--Anecdote of the diamonds of madame de Mirepoix--
The king pays for them--Singular gratitude of the marechale--The
portfolio, and an unpublished letter of the marquise de Pompadour
Conversation of the marechale de Mirepoix with the comtesse du
Barry on court friendship--Intrigues of madame de Bearn--Preconcerted
meeting with madame de Flaracourt---Rage of madame de Bearn--
Portrait and conversation of madame de Flaracourt with the
comtesse du Barry--Insult from the princesse de Guemenee--Her
banishment--Explanation of the king and the duc de Choiseul
relative to madame du Barry--The comtesse d'Egmont
Intrigue of the comtesse d'Egmont with a shopman--His unhappy
fate--The comtesse du Barry protects him--Conduct of Louis XV
upon the occasion--The young man quits France--Madame du Barry's
letter to the comtesse d'Egmont--Quarrel with the marechal de Richelieu
Madame du Barry separates from madame de Bearn--Letters between
these ladies--Portrait of madame de l'Hopital--The ladder--The
bell--Conversation with madame de Mirepoix--First visit to Chantilly--
Intrigues to prevent the countess from going thither--The king's
Displeasure towards the princesses--The archbishop de Senlis
Unpublished letter of Louis XV--Madame du Barry's cousin, M. de
Maupeou--The comtesse du Barry saves the life of a young girl
seduced by the arts of the cure of her village--She obtains pardon
of the comte and comtesse de Louerne--The king presents her with
Lucienne--A second meeting with the youthful prophet--His further
predictions--He is sought for--His mysterious letter to the countess
Extraordinary anecdote of Louis XIV and madame de Maintenon--
The comtesse du Barry at Chantilly--Opinion of king and comte de
la Marche respecting the "Iron Mask"--Madame du Barry visits
madame de Lagarde
The chevalier de la Morliere--Portrait of the duc de Choiseul--
The duc de Choiseul and the comtesse du Barry--No reconciliation
effected--Madame du Barry and the duc d'Aiguillon--Madame du
Barry and Louis XV
Dorine--Mademoiselle Choin and the marechal d'Uxelles--Zamor--
M. de Maupeou's wig--Henriette--The duc de Villeroi and Sophie--
Letter from the comtesse du Barry to the duc de Villeroi--His
reply--The countess writes again--Madame du Barry and Sophie--
Louis XV and the comtesse du Barry
The prince des Deux Ponts--Prince Max--The dauphin and Marie
Antoinette--The comtesse du Barry and Bridget Rupert--The countess
and Genevieve Mathon--Noel--Fresh amours--Nocturnal adventure--
Conclusion of this intrigue
Madame du Barry succeeds in alienating Louis XV from the due de
Choiseul--Letter from madame de Grammont--Louis XV--The chancellor
and the countess--Louis XV and the abbe de la Ville--The marechale
de Mirepoix and madame du Barry
Baron d'Oigny, general post-master--The king and the countess
read the opened letters--The disgrace of de Choiseul resolved
of Spain--The duc de Choiseul banished--Visits to Chanteloup--The
princesses--The dauphin and dauphiness- Candidates for the ministry
The comte de la Marche and the comtesse du Barry--The countess
and the prince de Conde--The duc de la Vauguyon and the countess--
Provisional minister--Refusal of the secretaryship of war--Displeasure
of the king--The marechale de Mirepoix- Unpublished letter from
Voltaire to Madame du Barry--Her reply
A few words respecting Jean Jacques Rousseau--The comtesse du Barry
is desirous of his acquaintance--The countess visits Jean Jacques
Rousseau--His household furniture--His portrait--Therese--A second
visit from madame du Barry to Jean Jacques Rousseau--The countess
relates her visit to the king--Billet from J. J. Rousseau to madame
du Barry--The two duchesses d'Aiguillon
The king's friends--The duc de Fronsac--The duc d'Ayen's remark--
Manner of living at court--The marquis de Dreux--Breze--Education
of Louis XV--The
Mere Bompart--Livres expended on the
Fête given by the comtesse de Valentinois--The comtesse du Barry
feigns an indisposition--Her dress--The duc de Cosse--The comte
and comtesse de Provence--Dramatic entertainment--Favart and
Voisenon--A few observations--A pension--The marechale de
Luxembourg--Adventure of M. de Bombelles--Copy of a letter
addressed to him--Louis XV--M. de Maupeou and madame du Barry
Madame du Barry purchases the services of Marin the gazetteer
--Louis XV and madame de Rumas--M. de Rumas and the comtesse du
duc de Richelieu in disgrace--100,000 livres
A prefatory remark--Madame Brillant--The marechale de Luxembourg's
cat--Despair of the marechale--The ambassador, Beaumarchais, and
the duc de Chaulnes--the comte d'Aranda--Louis XV and his relics--The
abbe de Beauvais--His sermons--He is appointed bishop
M. D----n and madame de Blessac--Anecdote--The rendezvous and the
Ball--The wife of Gaubert--They wish to give her to the king--
Intrigues--Their results--Letter from the duc de la Vrilliere to
Conversation with the king--Marriage of the comte d'Artois--
Intrigues--The place of lady of honor--The marechale de Mirepoix--
The comtesse de Forcalquier and madame du Barry--The comtesse
de Forcalquier and madame Boncault
Marriage of madame Boncault--The comte de Bourbon Busset
--Marriage of comte d'Hargicourt--Disgrace of the comte de
Broglie--He is replaced by M. Lemoine--The king complains of
ennui--Conversations on the subject--Entry into Paris
Visit from a stranger--Madame de Pompadour and a Jacobinical
monk--Continuation of this history--Deliverance of a state
prisoner--A meeting with the stranger
A conspiracy--A scheme for poisoning madame du Barry--The four
bottles--Letter to the duc d'Aiguillon--Advice of the ministers--
Opinion of the physicians--The chancellor and lieutenant of
police--Resolution of the council
Conclusion of this affair--A letter from the
Examination--Arrest of Cabert the Swiss--He dies in the Bastille
of poison--Madame Lorimer is arrested and poisoned---The
innocence of the Jesuits acknowledged--Madame de Mirepoix and
the 100,000 francs--Forgetfulness on the part of the lieutenant of
police--A visit from comte Jean--Madame de Mirepoix
endeavours to direct the king's ideas--A supper at Trianon--
Table talk--The king is seized with illness--His conversation
with me--The joiner's daughter and the small-pox--My despair--
Conduct of La Martiniere the surgeon
La Martiniere causes the king to be removed to Versailles--The
young prophet appears again to madame du Barry--Prediction
respecting cardinal de Richelieu--The joiner's daughter requests
to see madame du Barry--Madame de Mirepoix and the 50,000
Interview with the joiner's daughter--Consultation of the physicians
respecting the king--The small-pox declares itself--the comte de
Muy--The princesses--Extreme sensibility of madame de Mirepoix--The
king is kept in ignorance of his real condition--The archbishop of
Paris visits Versailles
First proceedings of the council--The dauphin receives the prelates
with great coolness--Situation of the archbishop of Paris--
Richelieu evades the project for confessing the king--The friends
of madame du Barry come forward--The English physician--The
abbe Terray--Interview with the prince de Soubise--The prince
and the courtiers--La Martiniere informs the king of France the
true nature of his complaint--Consequences of this disclosure
Terror of the king--A complication--Filial piety of the princesses--
Last interview between madame du Barry and Louis XV--Conversation
with the marechale de Mirepoix--The chancellor Maupeou--The
The duc d'Aiguillon brings an order for the immediate departure
of madame du Barry--The king's remarks recapitulated--The countess
holds a privy council--Letter to madame de Mirepoix and the ducs
de Cosse and d'Aiguillon--Night of departure--Ruel--Visit from
madame de Forcalquier
The duc d'Aiguillon's first letter--The marechale de Mirepoix
--A second letter from the duc d'Aiguillon--Numerous visitors
A third letter from the duke--The king receives extreme unction--
Letter from madame Victoire to the dauphin--M. de Machault--A
promenade with the duc de Cosse--Kind attention from the prince
des Deux Pouts--A fourth letter from the duc d'Aiguillon--Comte
Jean bids me farewell--M. d'Aiguillon's fifth letter, containing an
account of the death of Louis XV--The duc de la Vrilliere--The
Special Introduction by Robert Arnot
Up to the time of the Du Barry the court of France had been the
stage where the whole political and human drama of that country
was enacted. Under Louis XV the drama had been transformed into
parades--parades which were of as much importance to the people
as to those who took part in them. The spectators, hitherto silent,
now began to hiss and be moved. The scene of the comedy was
changed, and the play was continued among the spectators. The old
theatre became an ante-chamber or a dressing-room, and was no
longer important except in connection with the Cardinal de Bernis
and the Duc de Richelieu, or Madame de Pompadour and Madame
The monarchy had still a step to take towards its downfall. It
had already created the
but had not yet descended to the Parisian house of prostitution.
It made this descent leaning on the arm of Madame du Barry.
Madame du Barry was a moral sister to Manon Lescaut, but instead
of taking herself off to Louisiana to repent, she plunged into the
golden whirlpool at Versailles as a finish to her career. Could
the coaches of a King mean more than the ordinary carriage of an
Jeanne Vaubernier--known in the bagnios by the name of Mademoiselle
Lange--was born at Vaucouleurs, as was Jeanne d'Arc. Better still,
this later Jeanne said openly at Versailles--dared she say otherwise?--
that she was descended in a straight line from the illustrious,
the venerated, the august, sacred, national maid, Jeanne.* "Why did
Du Barry come to Paris?'" says Leon Gozlan in that account of the
Château de Lucienne which makes a brilliant and learned chapter in
the history of France. "Does one ever know precisely why things are
done? She obeyed the magnet which attracts to Paris all who in
themselves have a title to glory, to celebrity, or to misfortune.
Du Barry had a pretty, provincial face, bright and charming, a face
astonished at everything, hair soft and ash-colored, blue eyes,
veiled and half open, and a skin fair with rose tints. She was a
child of destiny. Who could have said, when she crossed the great
town in her basket cart, which rolled lazily along on its massive,
creaking wheels, that some day she would have equipages more
beautiful than any of those which covered her with mud in passing,
and on her arms more laces and diamonds than any of these ladies
attended by footmen in liveries?"
*A claim which blithely ignored the fact that Jeanne
d'Arc had no children.--Gutenberg editor
When Jeanne left the provinces to come to Paris, she found her
native country. She was granted the freedom of the city, and
expanded in her joy like a delicate plant transplanted into a
hothouse. She found herself at home for the first time; and felt
that she could rule as a despot over all frequenters of the
streets. She learned fashion and love at one and the same time.
Gourdan had a hat made for her, and, as a reward, initiated her
into the customs. But she was called to other destinies.
One day, when she was walking in the Tuileries, a lunatic--and
lunatics have second sight--asked her favor when she should
become queen. Du Barry said to herself: "This man is mad." But
then she thought of the Pompadour, blushed--it was the only time--
and turned her eyes towards Versailles.
But Versailles was an unhoped-for shore to such a girl as this,
a girl known to all Paris. Would the King care to be the lover of
one who had ruled all his courtesans? Who could say? The King
often wearied of what he had. Had not a poet already been found
who compared her to Venus:
O Jeanne, thy beauty seduces
And charms the whole world;
In vain does the duchess redden
And the princess growl;
They know that Venus rides proudly
The foam of the wave.
The poet, while not Voltaire, was no less a man than Bouffiers.
While the King was seeking a mistress--a nocturnal reverse of
Diogenes, fleeing from the lanterns of the wise--he found Jeanne
Vaubernier. He thought he could love her for one evening. "Not
enough," said she, "you must love me until broad daylight." So
he loved her for a whole day. What should one eat in order to be
loved by royalty? Was it necessary to have a coat of arms? She
had them in number, because she had been loved by all the great
names in the book of heraldry. And so she begged the Viscount
Jean du Barry to give her the title of viscountess. "Better still,"
exclaimed Jean, "I will give you the title of countess. My brother
will marry you; he is a male scamp, and you are the female. What
a beautiful marriage!"
So they were united. The newly made countess was solemnly
presented at court by a countess of an ancient date, namely, the
Countess de Bearn. King Voltaire protested, in a satire entitled
it. The duc de Choiseul protested, France protested, but all
Versailles threw itself passionately at the feet of the new countess.
Even the daughters of the King paid her court, and allowed her to
call them by their pet names: Loque, Chiffe, and Graille. The King,
jealous of this gracious familiarity, wished her to call him by some
pet name, and so the Bacchante, who believed that through the
King she held all France in her hand, called him "La France," making
him a wife to his Gray Musketeers.
Oh, that happy time! Du Barry and Louis XV hid their life--like
the sage--in their little apartments. She honeyed his chocolate,
and he himself made her coffee. Royalty consecrated a new verb
for the dictionary of the Academy, and Madame du Barry said to
the King: "At home, I can love you to madness." The King gave
the castle of Lucienne to his mistress in order to be able to sing
the same song. Truly the Romeo and Juliet
Du Barry threw out her fish-wifely epithets with ineffable tenderness.
She only opened her eyes half way, even when she took him by the
throat. The King was enchanted by these humors. It was a new
world. But someone said to him: "Ah, Sire, it is easy to see that
your Majesty has never been at the house of Gourdan."
Yet Du Barry was adored by poets and artists. She extended both
hands to them. Jeanne's beauty had a penetrating, singular charm.
At once she was blonde and brunette--black eyebrows and lashes
with blue eyes, rebellious light hair with darker shadows, cheeks
of ideal contour, whose pale rose tints were often heightened by
two or three touches--a lie "formed by the hand of Love," as
anthology puts it--a nose with expressive nostrils, an air of
childlike candour, and a look seductive to intoxication. A bold
yet shrinking Venus, a Hebe yet a Bacchante. With much grace
"M. de la Borde tells me that you have ordered him
to kiss me on both cheeks for you:
"What! Two kisses at life's end
What a passport to send me!
Two is one too much, Adorable Nymph;
I should die of pleasure at the first.
"He showed me your portrait, and be not offended,
Madame, when I tell you that I have taken the liberty
of giving that the two kisses."
Perhaps Voltaire would not have written this letter, had he not
read the one written by the King to the Duc de Choiseul, who
refused to pay court to the left-hand queen:
"The discontent which your acts cause me forces me to
exile you to Chanteloup, where you will take yourself
within twenty-four hours. I would have sent you farther
away were it not for the particular esteem in which I
hold Madame de Choiseul. With this, I pray God, my
cousin, to take you into His safe and holy protection.
This exile was the only crime of the courtesan. On none of her
enemies did she close the gates of the Bastille. And more than
once did she place a pen in the hands of Louis XV with which to
sign a pardon. Sometimes, indeed, she was ironic in her compassion.
"Madame," said M. de Sartines to her one day, "I have discovered
a rogue who is scattering songs about you; what is to be done with him?"
"Sentence him to sing them for a livelihood."
But she afterwards made the mistake of pensioning Chevalier de
Morande to buy silence.
The pleasures of the King and his favorite were troubled only by
the fortune-tellers. Neither the King nor the countess believed in
the predictions of the philosophers, but they did believe in
divination. One day, returning from Choisy, Louis XV found
under a cushion of his coach a slip of paper on which was transcribed
this prediction of the monk Aimonius, the savant who could read
all things from the vast book of the stars:
"As soon as Childeric had returned from
Thuringia, he was crowned King of France
And no sooner was he King than he espoused
Basine, wife of the King of Thuringia.
She came herself to find Childeric. The
first night of the marriage, and before the King
had retired, the queen begged Childeric to look
from one of the palace windows which opened on a
park, and tell what he saw there. Childeric
looked out and, much terrified, reported to the
princess that he had seen tigers and lions.
Basine sent him a second time to look out.
This time the prince only saw bears and wolves,
and the third time he perceived only cats and dogs,
fighting and combating each other. Then Basine
said to him: I will give you an explanation of what
you have seen: The first figure shows you your
successors, who will excel you in courage and power;
the second represents another race which will be
illustrious for their conquests, and which will augment
your kingdom for many centuries; but the third denotes
the end of your kingdom, which will be given over to pleasures
and will lose to you the friendship of your subjects;
and this because the little animals signify a people who,
emancipated from fear of princes, will massacre them and
make war upon each other."
Louis read the prediction and passed the paper to the Countess:
"After us the end of the world," said she gaily. The King laughed,
but the abbe de Beauvais celebrated high mass at Versailles after
the carnival of 1774, and dared to say, in righteous anger: "This
carnival is the last; yet forty days and Nineveh shall perish."
Louis turned pale. "Is it God who speaks thus?" murmured he,
raising his eyes to the altar. The next day he went to the hunt
in grand style, but from that evening he was afraid of solitude
and silence: "It is like the tomb; I do not wish to put myself in
such a place," said he to Madame du Barry. The duc de Richelieu
tried to divert him. "No," said he suddenly, as if the Trappist's
denunciation had again recurred to him, "I shall be at ease only
when these forty days have passed." He died on the fortieth day.
Du Barry believed neither in God nor in the devil, but she believed
in the almanac of Liege. She scarcely read any book but this--
faithful to her earliest habits. And the almanac of Liege, in its
prediction for April, 1774, said: "A woman, the greatest of
favorites, will play her last role." So Madame the Countess du
Barry said without ceasing: "I shall not be tranquil until these
forty days have passed." The thirty-seventh day the King went to
the hunt attended with all the respect due to his rank. Jeanne
wept in silence and prayed to God as one who has long neglected
Louis XV had not neglected his prayers, and gave two hundred
thousand livres to the poor, besides ordering masses at St.
Genevieve. Parliament opened the shrine, and knelt gravely
before that miraculous relic. The least serious of all these good
worshippers was, strange to say, the curate of St. Genevieve:
"Ah, well!" said he gaily, when Louis was dead, "let us continue
to talk of the miracles of St. Genevieve. Of what can you
complain? Is not the King dead?"
At the last moment it was not God who held the heart of Louis--it
was his mistress. "Ask the Countess to come here again," he said.
"Sire, you know that she has gone away," they answered.
"Ah! has she gone? Then I must go!" So he departed.
His end drew forth some maledictions. There were insults even
at his funeral services. "Nevertheless," said one old soldier, "he
was at the battle of Fontenoy." That was the most eloquent
funeral oration of Louis XV.
"The King is dead, long live the King!" But before the death of
Louis XVI they cried: "The king is dead, long live the Republic!"
Rose-colored mourning was worn in the good city of Paris. The
funeral oration of the King and a lament for his mistress were
pronounced by Sophie Arnould, of which masterpiece of sacred
eloquence the last words only are preserved: "Behold us orphaned
both of father and mother."
If Madame du Barry was one of the seven plagues of royalty, she
died faithful to royalty. After her exile to Pont aux Dames she
returned to Lucienne, where the duc de Cosse Brissac consoled
her for the death of Louis XV. But what she loved in Louis was
that he was a king; her true country was Versailles; her true
light was the sun of court life. Like Montespan, also a courtesan
of high order, she often went in these dark days to cast a loving
look upon the solitary park in the maze of the Trianon. Yet she
was particularly happy at Lucienne.
I have compared her to Manon Lescaut, and I believe her to have
been also a sister to Ganesin. All three were destroyed by passion.
One day she found herself still young at Lucienne, although her
sun was setting. She loved the duc de Brissac, and how many
pages of her past romance would she that day have liked to
erase and forget!
"Why do you weep, Countess?" asked her lover.
"My friend," she responded, "I weep because I love you, shall I
say it? I weep because I am happy."
She was right; happiness is a festival that should know no
to-morrow. But on the morrow of her happiness, the Revolution
knocked at the castle gate of Lucienne.
"Who goes there?"
"I am justice; prepare for destiny."
The Queen, the true queen, had been good to her as to everybody.
Marie Antoinette remembered that the favorite had not been wicked.
The debts of Du Barry were paid and money enough was given to her
so that she could still give with both hands. Lucienne became an
echo of Versailles. Foreign kings and Parisian philosophers came
to chat in its portals. Minerva visited shameless Venus. But
wisdom took not root at Lucienne.
For the Revolution, alas! had to cut off this charming head,
which was at one time the ideal of beauty--of court beauty.
Madame du Barry gave hospitality to the wounded at the arrest of
the queen. "These wounded youths have no other regret than that
they have not died for a princess so worthy as your Majesty," she
said. "What I have done for these brave men is only what they
have merited. I consoled them, and I respect their wounds when
I think, Madame, that without their devotion, your Majesty would
no longer be alive. Lucienne is yours, Madame, for was it not
your beneficence which gave it to me? All I possess has come to
me through the royal family. I have too much loyalty to forget it."
But negro Zamor became a citizen like Mirabeau. It was Zamor who
took to Du Barry her lover's head. It was Zamor who denounced her
at the club of the Jacobins. "The fealty (faith) of the black man is
white," said the negro. But he learned how to make it red. Jeanne
was imprisoned and tried before Dumas.
"Forty-two years." She was really forty-seven. Coquetry even
at the guillotine.
The public accuser, Fouquier Tinville, was not disarmed by the
sweet voluptuousness still possessed by this pale and already
fading beauty. He accused her of treason against the nation.
Could the defender of Du Barry, who had also defended Marie
Antoinette, find an eloquent word? No; Fouquier Tinville was
more eloquent than Chauveau-Lagarde. So the mistress of Louis
was condemned. It was eleven o'clock in the evening--the hour
for supper at Versailles when she was queen!
She passed the night in prayer and weeping, or rather in a frenzy
of fright. In the morning she said it was "too early to die"; she
wished to have a little time in order to make some disclosures.
The Comite sent someone to listen to her. What did she say?
She revealed all that was hidden away at Lucienne; she gave
word by word an inventory of the treasures she had concealed,
forgetting nothing, for did not each word give her a second of time?
"Have you finished?" said the inquisitor. "No," said Jeanne. "I
have not mentioned a silver syringe concealed under the staircase!"
Meanwhile the horses of destiny stamped with impatience, and
spectators were knocking at the prison gate. When they put her,
already half dead, on the little cart, she bent her head and grew
pale. The Du Barry alone--a sinner without redemption.
She saw the people in the square of Louis XV; she struck her
breast three times and murmured: "It is my fault!" But this
Christian resignation abandoned her when she mounted the
scaffold--there where the statue of Louis XV had been--and she
implored of the executioner:
"One moment, Mr. Executioner! One moment more!"
But the executioner was pitiless Sanson. It was block and the
knife--without the "one moment!"
Such was the last bed of the Du Barry. Had the almanac of Liege
only predicted to her that the one who would lead her to her bed
for the last time would not be a King but a citizen executioner, it
might have been--but why moralize?
Robert Arnot <--Editor*> *"Editor here means the author, who is assuming CHAPTER I Letter from Lebel--Visit from Lebel--Nothing conclusive--Another One morning comte Jean entered my apartment, his face beaming 'Read," said he, giving me a letter, "read, Jeannette: victory is "No, there are two of your countrymen whom you invited yesterday." "I will write and put them off. Morand alone must dine with "Brother-in-law," said I, laughing, "it is not unnecessary that "That only happens in Venice," replied the comte; "my brother "Very well; I am the comtesse Guillaume du Barry; that does After this conversation, comte Jean insisted on presiding at my *He seems to mean "gourmet" rather than "gourmand." At one o'clock I was under arms, and prepared to receive him on His serious air amused me much as he gazed at me some time in Soon afterwards the folding-doors were hastily opened, and a "Sister, this is M. Lebel, "And he confers a real pleasure on us," said I, looking smilingly "Well, sir, what think you of our celestial beauty?" "She is worthy of a throne," replied Lebel, bending his head "And of causing them to be seen by others," replied comte Jean. This was an opening which was not followed up by Lebel. His For my part I began to support the looks of Lebel with more assurance. I should tell you, however, that I never had occasion but to However, we dined, and Lebel praised me incessantly to the very After dinner, when we left the table, Lebel paid me some At this abrupt departure, comte Jean and I looked at each other "Well, comtesse," said he, "behold the number of your slaves "I hope we shall see him again," said comte Jean. "Do you doubt it?" "Assure him," said I, "of the pleasure it will afford us to Several persons entered, and M. Morand, profiting by the bustle "You are in possession of his heart, will you charge me with "M. Morand," was my reply, "what are you thinking of? A "No, certainly not; but you can send him a kind word, or some "I could not think of it; M. Lebel appeared to me a most agreeable Morand asked nothing more than this, and there our conversation ended. Two days elapsed without being marked by any event. Comte Jean At this news I was surprised and vexed. M. Lebel took me unawares; "It is only you, Madame, whom one might thus surprise. Your I replied to this compliment with (of course) much modesty, Fortune sent him to me. He was passing the street, when he saw "Sir," said Lebel to him, when he entered, "here is the lady "Is it anything I may hear for her?" said the comte, "Yes, I am the ambassador of a mighty power: you are the "I consent to anything that may come from such an ambassador." Comte Jean instantly led him into another room, and when they At these words comte Jean felt a momentary agitation, but soon "I am exceedingly obliged to you, sir, for the favorable disposition "Do not let that disturb you; it is not intended that she shall go "It would be a crime of "You may expect everything from the charms of the comtesse; I am "Your protection, however, is the only thing which encourages my "Instantly. The king is impatient to see the comtesse and I have "How is she to be introduced to the king?" "I am to entertain four of my friends." "Who are they?" "'First, the baron de Gonesse." "Who is he?" "The king himself." "Well, who next?" "The duc de Richelieu." "Who else?" "The marquis de Chauvelin." "Well?" "The duc de la Vauguyon." "What, the devotee?" "The hypocrite. But never mind: the main point is, that you must "Certainly; if she must sin, she had better do so with some reason." While these gentlemen were thus disposing of me, what was I My fears at once disappeared, and then I pictured myself sitting "Victory!" cried he, embracing me with transport. "Victory! my On this information I turned pale, my strength forsook me, and I On so important an occasion, comte Jean did not forget to repeat "Remember that it is on your first interview that your safety "All this is well enough," I replied, "but as yet I am nothing." " He pronounced this blasphemy in a laughing tone, and I confess I CHAPTER II A slight preface--Arrival at Versailles--<"La toilette">--Portrait The chances against our succeeding in our enterprise were at least Comte Jean, however, had passed a very different night; for once, "You are welcome," said the comte, "pray consider yourself as "I accept your augury," replied I, "it would be amusing enough "Well then," said my conductor, laughing, "I recommend you to "No, no, I thank you," answered I; "no falls if you please, they Whilst we were thus speaking, we were crossing a long suite of "Ah, madame!" cried he, "I began to fear you might not come, "Which can hardly equal mine," interrupted I; "for you were "It is better it should be so," added Lebel ; "do not seek either "How!" said I, with affected surprise, "not sup with us?" "Even so," replied Lebel; and then added with a laugh, " All this was but of small import to me. Nevertheless, I affected Lebel, with the most ceremonious gallantry, conducted me to a When I returned to the room in which Lebel was expecting me, his "You are, indeed," exclaimed he, "the new sun which is to rise "Excellent!" cried I, laughing extravagantly, "but like the planet * The comte entered, and joined his congratulations upon the beauty "The object of your attack approaches," said Lebel to me, "it The advice thus given was useless. Comte Jean, who bore the And first, Louis XVth, king of France (or as he was upon the The habit of commanding, and the prompt obedience he had ever met This nobleman, when in his seventy-second year, had preserved, He possessed a most ignoble turn of mind; all feelings of an * The marquis de Chauvelin was equally skilful as a warrior and The fourth guest was the duc de la Vauguyon, the really Immediately after Lebel had conducted me into it, he was called It would have provoked a smile from any countenance to perceive The supper terminated, the king's friends remained some time My self-created brother-in-law understood as well as I did the "Madame la comtesse," said he, "is queen and mistress here. Not "And what does it contain?" asked I, with childish eagerness. "Oh, a trifle unworthy of her who is now the mistress of his "Will he then see me again?" inquired I. "To-morrow evening, if agreeable to you." "Only say that his wishes are mine." "Would you wish to see the comte Jean before you rise? He has "Let him come in." The comte entered, and I saw by the triumphant joy painted on My folly drew down on me his severe anger, and several oaths Our conversation terminated, I wished to return to Paris, and I Comte Jean and myself were well nigh stupefied with astonishment CHAPTER III The king's message--Letter from the countess--A second supper at Early the following day I received a message from the king, "The billet traced by your noble hands, renders me "COMTESSE Du Barry." The signature I adopted was a bold piece of falsehood, but it *A word of which the meaning has greatly changed over The moment the king was informed of my arrival, unable to restrain "Yes, sire"; replied the duke, "in the same manner as your majesty I never forgave him those words, dictated by a fiendish malice. The duc de Duras was not an ill-disposed person, but inconceivably *The royal astronomer --Gutenberg ed. As far as I am concerned, after saying so many unfavorable things This supper did not pass off so gaily as the former one. The duc When the duc d'Ayen quitted the room, 'That nobleman is by no "Do you really think so, my lovely comtesse?" "I am certain of it; and I already shudder at the bare anticipation "Reassure yourself," said the king, with the utmost tenderness, After this conversation the king and myself retired to rest, and That very day Henriette, whom I had sent for, and instituted as "Madame la comtesse," said he, bowing low, "I come to complain "If, indeed, my forgetfulness were a fault, monsieur le marechal, "That arose only from the dazzling increase of your beauty. The duke then made some slight allusion to the family of madame "You will, ere long," said he, "see the whole court at your feet, "How, monsieur le marechal, shall I mark my career by a murder?" "You take me too literally; I only mean that in your place I "Ah, monsieur le duc, I understand you now; yet it seems a bad "Alas! my fair comtesse, you are too good, too guileless for a "In that case the first object of my suspicion would be my old "Ah, madame! this is not fair usage, thus to turn my weapons Upon this the duke quitted me, and scarcely had he left the room, "For heaven's sake," said he, "let us not be the dupes of these "But, my good friend, I must be a married lady to obtain that honor." "And so you will be shortly, do not be uneasy about that. I I gave comte Jean to comprehend, by signs, that I left my destiny "You did not intrust me, my sweet friend," said he, "with the "Sire," replied I, "I was too much occupied with your majesty, My answer delighted him, he looked at me in the most "You would almost persuade me that you love me," said he, smiling. "Indeed, your majesty," said I, "I only pray that you desire the "In that case," replied he, kissing my hand with fervor, "you do These words flattered my vanity, and here I must declare that if Our supper on this night was again lively as the first had been. CHAPTER IV The duc d'Aiguillon--The duc de Fronsac--The duchesse de The duc de Richelieu, who was in haste to go to Guienne, lost no In proportion as the first sight of the uncle had prejudiced me Our first interview was lively. The marechal and he supported "My nephew," said he to the duke, "madame can do much for us, The tone in which the duc d'Aiguillon replied delighted me. He "But," he continued, "but we have to struggle with a powerful "Oh," exclaimed the duke, "my nephew's a second Amadis in The duc de Fronsac was justly hated by his father; he was what is The week glided away, and each day my fortune seemed more fully Passion never reasons; if it had common sense, it would perceive I was walking in the garden with Henriette, who had given me her "It must be a profitable business to sleep with every body." I was excessively nettled, and instantly retorted, "At least I The duchesse de Grammont, who had no further inclination to laugh, This latter was a lady of most superior merit, uniting to much These two ladies knowing this occurrence, the duc d'Aiguillon was
courtezan, the editor has deemed it best to confine the
memoirs to the years in her life which helped to make
the persona of the editor of the Comtesse's memoirs.
visit from Lebel--Invitation to sup with the king--Instructions of
the comte Jean to the comtesse
ours. News from Morand. Lebel is coming to Paris, and will
dine with us. Are we alone?"
Lebel; he ought to have a place at the feast which he furnishes
with such good music. Come, my dear girl, we touch the moment
of importance, it is in your beauty and power of pleasing that I
place all my hopes. I think I may rely on you; but, above all, do
not forget that you are my sister-in-law."
I should know decidedly to which of family I am married? The
custom in France is not that a woman be the undivided property
of three brothers."
Elie is too young, you must be the wife of Guillaume, my second
famously well; we like to know whom we are married to."
toilette. He acquitted himself of the task, with a most laughable
attention. During two good hours, at least, he tormented first
Henriette, and then the female hairdresser, for I had not yet
followed the mode, which began to be very general, of having
my hair dressed by a man. Comte Jean passed alternately from
my dressing-room to the kitchen. He knew Lebel was a gallant
and a gourmand*, and he was anxious to please him in all senses
whom my destiny depended. As soon as I reached the drawing-room,
comte Jean compelled me to submit to the test of a rigid examination.
solemn silence. At length his forehead relaxed, a smile of
satisfaction played on his lips, and extending his arms
to me, without venturing to touch me, "You are charming, divine,"
he said; "Lebel ought to go and hang himself if he does not fall
down at your knees."
servant announced M. Lebel,
Morand. The comte went to meet the arrivals, and as I now saw
Lebel for the first time, he presented him to me formally.
us the honor to come and dine with us."
on M. Lebel. My look had its effect, for Lebel remained mute and
motionless from admiration at my person. At length he stammered
out a few incoherent words, which I imagined to be compliments.
The comte watched Lebel anxiously, and Morand began to rub
his hands, saying:
before me, and taking my hand, which he pressed respectfully to
his lips. This reply was, perhaps, inadvertently made, but I took
it as a good augury. "Yes," added Lebel, "you are the most lovely
creature I ever met, though no one is more in the habit of seeing
handsome females than myself."
first enthusiasm having passed, he measured me from head to foot,
as if he would take an accurate description of my person.
He was a man of no particular "mark or likelihood," but had made
his way. Living at Versailles had given him a certain air of easy
impertinence, but you could not discover anything distinguished
in his manners, nothing which concealed his humble extraction. The
direction of the
king, who found the convenience of such a man, who was willing
to take upon himself all the disagreeable part of his clandestine
amours. His duties placed him in contact with the ministers, the
lieutenant of police, and the comptroller-general. The highest
nobility sought his friendship with avidity. They all had a wife,
a sister, a daughter, whom they wished to make the favorite
sultana; and for this it was necessary to get the ear of Lebel.
Thus, under a libertine prince, the destinies of France were
at the mercy of a
speak well of him, and that I have the utmost gratitude for all
he did for me. The attachment he testified on our first meeting
has never been altered. He gave me his protection as far as it
was necessary for me, and when the favor of the king had accorded
to me a station, whence all the court sought to hurl me, Lebel
seconded me with all his power in my efforts to preserve it. I
will say, that it is to his vigilance that I owe the overthrow of
more than one conspiracy against me. He was a warm and sincere
friend, and not at all interested in the services he rendered. He
did a great deal of good, as well as harm, in private. I know
poor families whom he has assisted with his own purse, when he
could obtain nothing for them from the king, for Louis was only
prodigal in his pleasures.
skies, and that with so much warmth, that I was fearful at one time
he would fall in love with me himself, and would not resign me to
another. Thank heaven, Lebel was a faithful servant.
compliments; then pulling out his watch, he spoke of an
appointment at the Marais, and left without saying a word of
seeing us again.
with astonishment. As for Morand, he was overjoyed.
increased by an illustrious adorer. You have made a conquest of
M. Lebel, and I am certain he has gone away deeply smitten."
receive him as he merits."
which their entrance occasioned, approached me, and said, in a
any message to him?"
woman of my rank throw herself at any person's head?"
man, and I shall be at all times delighted to see him."
had spent them with much anxiety. He was absent, when, on the
third morning, Henriette came hastily into my room. "Madame," she
and inquires if you will receive him."
my toilette was not begun. I gave a hasty glance at my mirror, "Let
M. Lebel come in"; and M. Lebel, who was on the heels of my maid,
entered instantly. After having saluted me, he said,
beauty needs no ornament, your charms are decoration sufficient."
according to custom. We entered into conversation, and I found
that Lebel really thought me the sister-in-law of comte Jean; and
I remarked the involuntary respect that attended even his familiarity.
I left him in his error, which was material to my interests. He
talked to me some time of my attractions, of the part which a
female like myself might assume in France. But fearing to
compromise myself, I made no reply, but preserved the reserve
which my character imposed upon me. I am not clever, my friend,
I never could conduct an intrigue: I feared to speak or do wrong;
and whilst I kept a tranquil appearance, I was internally agitated
at the absence of comte Jean.
at our door a carriage with the royal livery. Lebel always used
it when his affairs did not demand a positive incognito. This
equipage made him suspect a visit from Lebel, and he came in
opportunely to extricate me from my embarrassment.
whose extreme modesty refuses to listen to what I dare not
thus explain to her."
with a smiling air.
minister plenipotentiary of the lady, and with your leave, we
will go into your private room to discuss the articles of the
secret treaty which I have been charged to propose to you.
What says madame?"
were alone, Lebel said to him, "Do you know that your sister-in-
law is a most fascinating creature? She has occupied my thoughts
since I have known her, and in my enthusiasm I could not help
speaking of her in a certain quarter. So highly have I eulogized
her, that his majesty desires an interview with her, that he may
judge with his own eyes if I am an appreciator of beauty."
recovering himself, he replied:
you have evinced towards the comtesse du Barry. She and I have
as much respect as love for his majesty; but my sister-in-law has
not been presented, and, consequently, I can scarcely see how
she can be allowed to pay her respects to his majesty."
and partake of the magnificence of Versailles, but be admitted
to an intimacy much more flattering. Would you refuse to grant
him that pleasure?"
laughing, "and my family have too much respect for their monarch.
We should not be content with a fugitive favor."
certain they will have the utmost success; but for me, I can give
you no guarantee. You must run the chance."
sister-in-law in this affair. But tell me when is this meeting to
promised that she will sup with him to-morrow evening in my
apartment at Versailles."
not appear to recognize the king. Instruct your sister-in-law to
doing? Alone, in my room, I waited the result of their conference
with mortal impatience. The character I had to play was a superb
one, and at the moment was about to enter on the stage, I felt all
the difficulties of my part. I feared I should not succeed, but fail
amid the insulting hisses of the Versailles party.
on a throne, magnificently attired; my imagination wandered in
all the enchantments of greatness; --then, as if from remorse, I
recalled my past life. The former lover of Nicholas blushed
before the future mistress of Louis XV. A thousand different
reflections crowded upon me, and mingled in my brain. If to live
is to think, I lived a whole age in one quarter of an hour. At
length I heard some doors open, a carriage rolled away, and comte
Jean entered my chamber.
dear Jeanne, to-morrow you sup with the king."
was compelled to sit down, or rather to fall into a chair; for,
according to Jean Jacques Rousseau, my legs shook under me
which I betrayed. When I recovered a little, the comte Jean told
me the conversation he had had with Lebel. I joked about the title
of baron de Gonesse, and I promised to treat the king as if
ignorant of his incognito. One thing only made me uneasy, and
that was supping with the duc de Richelieu, who had seen me
before at madame de Lagarde's; but the idea that he would not
remember me gave me renewed courage.
his instructions over again. These are nearly his words, for I
think I learnt them by heart.
depends. Let him learn, through you, those utter tendernesses
which have been sought for him in vain heretofore. He is like
the monarch of old, who was willing to pay the half of his crown
for an unknown pleasure. Lebel is wearied in seeking every week
for new fruit. He is quite disposed to serve you, and will second
you in the best manner. You are about to become the centre of
attraction to all courtiers, and noble
expect that they will endeavor to cry you down, because you will
have carried off from them a gem to which every family has its
pretensions. You must at first stand firmly before the storm, but
afterward you will find all enlist themselves under your banner,
who have no wife, sister, nor daughter; that is, all who have no
mistress to offer to the king. You must attach these to you by
place and favor: they must be first thought of, and then you must
think of yourself and me, my dear girl."
Jean, with his determined energy. "But we must think about
this morrow. Make haste, noble comtesse; go to all the milliners,
seek what is elegant rather than what is rich. Be as lovely,
pleasing, and gay as possible; this is the main point, and God
will do all the rest."
could not help joining in the laugh, and then hastened to comply
with his directions.
of the king--The duc de Richelieu--The marquis de Chauvelin--The
duc de la Vauguyon-Supper with the king--The first night--The
following day--The curiosity of comte Jean--Presents from the
king--How disposed of
a thousand to one. The sea upon which, trusting to the favorable
influence of my leading star, we were about to venture, was filled
with rocks and shoals which threatened the poor mariner who should
direct his bark near them. In the first place, I had to dread my
obscure birth, as well as the manner in which my life had been
passed; and still more had I to fear the indifferent reputation of
comte Jean. There was more than sufficient in all this to disturb
a head far stronger than I could boast. However, thanks to my
thoughtfulness, no troublesome thoughts interfered to break my
rest on the night preceding a day so important to me, and I slept as
tranquilly as though upon waking I had no other occupation for my
time than a walk on the boulevards, or a drive to the Bois de Boulogne.
the whisperings of ambition had overcome even his natural
indifference and carelessness, and tired of tossing upon a
sleepless pillow, he arose at the first break of day, reproached
me for slumbering so long, and allowed me neither peace nor
rest till I joined him dressed for our journey. At length, we
set out according to our agreement with Lebel; I was closely
muffled up in my large
we reached Versailles, where we had for the last month engaged a
lodging, which might be useful to us in all events; we alighted,
and after vainly seeking a few moments' repose, proceeded on
foot to Lebel, in whose apartments we were to attire ourselves in
a suitable manner.
to find that my young prophet had predicted rightly."
manage a slip on the staircase, it would be taking possession
after the manner of the ancients."
are not propitious in France."
chambers, and reached the one at which we were expected. We
knocked cautiously at a door, which was opened to us with equal
caution. Scarcely had we entered, than Lebel came eagerly forward
to receive us.
you have been looked for with an impatience--"
prepared for your visitor, whilst I have yet to learn who is the
friend that so kindly desires to see me."
to guess or discover more, than that you will here meet with
some cheerful society, friends of mine, who will sup at my house,
but with whom circumstances prevent my sitting down at table."
I sit down to supper together! What an idea! No! you will find
that just as the guests are about to sit down at table, I shall
suddenly be called out of the room, and shall only return at
the close of the repast."
to regret the unavoidable absence of Lebel. In fact, I believe
that the first breath inspired at court is fraught with falsehood
and deceit, entirely destructive to every feeling of natural candor.
private dressing-room, where I found several females waiting to
assist me at my toilet; I abandoned myself to their cares, which
were, indeed, most skilfully exercised in my behalf. They wrought
wonders in my appearance, bathing me after the Eastern fashion,
adorning my hair and person, till I issued from their hands blooming
and beauteous as an houri.
surprise was almost overpowering.
you are pleased to compare me with, I must reserve my splendid
rising till I have obtained fresh powers from the aid of night."*
is the witty reply in the original, but which it is
impossible to render fully and piquantly through the
dilution of a translation.---tr.
of my appearance; all at once the hasty, sound of a bell, violently
pulled, was heard.
would be as well to reconnoitre a little. Remember, not a word
of his rank, no cast down, timid looks at his sovereign power;
no bending of knees, or faltering of voice."
reputation of, at least, a man of much cool impudence, was, I am
certain, more deficient than myself in courage upon the occasion,
and I verily believe, asked himself several times whether he dared
appear before his prince with one whom he was falsely asserting
to be his sister-in-law. However these thoughts might or might
not have disturbed him, we proceeded onwards till we reached the
apartment where our invited friends were expecting us; and here
I will, with the reader's permission, digress awhile, in order to
say a few introductory words respecting the four personages with
whom I had the honor of supping.
present occasion styled the baron de Gonesse), was one of those
sentimental egotists who believed he loved the whole world, his
subjects, and his family; while in reality, the sole engrossing
endowments, which might have disputed the palm with the most
lively and engaging personages of the court, he was yet devoured
by ennui, and of this he was well aware, but his mind was made up
to meet this ennui, as one of the necessary accompaniments of
royalty. Devoid of taste in literary matters, he despised all
connected with the
proportion to the number and richness of their armorial bearings.
M. de Voltaire ranked him beneath the lowest country-squire; and
the very mention of a man of letters was terrifying to his
imagination from its disturbing the current of his own ideas; he
revelled in the plenitude of power, yet felt dissatisfied with the
mere title of king. He ardently desired to signalize himself as
the first general of the age, and prevented from obtaining this (in
his opinion) highest of honors, entertained the utmost jealousy of
Frederick II, and spoke with undisguised spleen and ill-humor of
the exploits of his brother of Prussia.
with, had palled upon his mind, and impressed him with feelings of
indifference for all things which thus appeared so easily obtained;
and this satiety and consequent listlessness was by many construed
into melancholy of disposition. He disliked any appearance of
opposition to his will; not that he particularly resented the
opposition itself, but he knew his own weakness, and feared lest
he should be compelled to make a show of a firmness he was
conscious of not possessing. For the clergy he entertained the
most superstitious veneration; and he feared God because he had a
still greater awe and dread of the devil. In the hands of his
confessor he confidently believed was lodged the absolute power
to confer on him unlimited license to commit any or every sin.
He greatly dreaded pamphlets, satires, epigrams, and the opinion
of posterity and yet his conduct was that of a man who scoffs at
the world's judgment. This hasty sketch may with safety be taken
as the portrait of Louis XV, although much might be added; yet for
the present I will confine myself to the outline of my picture,
which I shall have frequent occasion to retouch in the course of
my journal; it is my intention to present him in all possible lights
before the reader, and I flatter myself I shall produce a perfect
resemblance of the man I seek to depict. Let us now proceed to
consider the duc de Richelieu.
even in so advanced an age, all his former pretensions to notice;
his success in so many love affairs, a success which he never
could have merited, had rendered him celebrated; he was now a
superannuated coxcomb, a wearisome and clumsy butterfly; when
however, he could be brought to exercise his sense by remembering
that he was no longer young, he became fascinating beyond idea,
from the finished ease and grace of his manner, and the polished
and piquant style of his discourse; still I speak of him as a mere
man of outward show, for the duke's attainments were certainly
superficial, and he possessed more of the jargon of a man of
letters than the sound reality. Among other proofs of consummate
ignorance he was deficient even in orthography, and was fool
enough to boast of so disgraceful a fact, as though it conferred
honor on him; perhaps, indeed, he found that the easiest way of
getting over the business.
elevated nature were wanting within him. A bad son, an unkind
husband, and a worse father, he could scarcely be expected to
become a steady friend. All whom he feared, he hesitated not to
trample under foot; and his favorite maxim, which he has a
hundred times repeated to me, was, that "we should never hesitate
to set our foot upon the necks of all those who might in any way
interfere with our projects--dead men [he would further add] tell
no tales!" There was one person, nevertheless, whom he detested
and flattered at the same time, and this was Voltaire, who well
repaid him in like coin. He called the duc de Richelieu, the
tyrant of the tennis-court* (), and the duke returned the
compliment by invariably designating him "Scoundrel" and "Poetaster";
the only difference was that the duc de Richelieu only treated the
poet thus in
conceal, either in his writings or conversation, his candid opinion
of the illustrious duke and peer; and he might justly accuse the
duke of ingratitude, for he, no doubt, owed a considerable portion
of the reputation he enjoyed as a general, to the brilliant verses
in which Voltaire had celebrated his exploits.
diplomatist. Gentle, graceful, and witty, he joined to the most
extreme versatility of talent the utmost simplicity of character.
Once known, he could not fail of being valued and esteemed, and
the king entertained the most lively regard for him. The noble
minded marquis was far from taking advantage of his sovereign's
favor, far from it; he neither boasted of it, nor presumed upon
it. This truly wonderful man died, unhappily, too soon for me,
for the king on whom he bestowed the sagest counsels, and for
foreign courts who knew and appreciated his worth. I shall have
occasion to speak of him hereafter; he had a brother, a wicked
little hump-backed creature, brave as Caesar, and a bitter enemy
to the Jesuits, whom he did not a little contribute to overturn in
the parliament of Paris, to which he belonged. The king detested
this man as much as he loved and cherished the brother, and that
is saying not a little.
four successively. He had displayed in the army both bravery and
talent, but he was a confirmed Jesuit, and conducted himself
towards me upon the strictest principles of his order. He will
appear again on the scene hereafter, but for the present I must
lay him aside, whilst I return to my
I was about to enter.
away, and quitted us. The king rose and approached me, saluting
me with the most admirable gallantry, and addressing to me the
most encouraging and gratifying words. His gentle, yet polished
manners, fine countenance, noble air, and the free and unrestrained
glances of admiration which sparkled in his eyes, communicated
to me a feeling of support and confidence which effectually
reassured me, and roused me from the involuntary emotion I had
felt at the moment when I first appeared in his presence. The
king addressed a few words to comte Jean, and then regarded him
steadily, as tho' he were trying to recall his features; but his
eye quickly turned on me again, upon whom he bestowed the most
intoxicating attention. Never was first sight more effective, and
never did a flame so rapidly increase as did the passion of my
noble adorer. Ere we had seated ourselves at the supper-table,
he was ages gone in love.
how the respect and admiration with which the three courtiers
regarded me increased in proportion as the sentiments of the king
towards me betrayed themselves more and more. At first I had
been considered as a person of little or no importance. Soon,
however, as their sagacious eyes discovered the state of their
master's mind, the air of familiarity with which they had regarded
me gave place to a more studied politeness, which, in its turn, as
matters progressed, was superseded by the most delicate attention;
and ere we rose from table these gentlemen watched my looks with
the most eager anxiety to obtain the honor of my notice, and hopes
of future patronage from one whom they easily foresaw would be
fully qualified to bestow it. Comte Jean observed all that was
passing in profound silence. As for me, I talked and laughed with
perfect freedom from restraint, and my frank unaffected mirth
appeared to enchant the king; I knew that he was weary of the
nice formalities of courtly beauty, and desired to refresh his
eyes and ears with something less refined, and I gratified him
to his heart's wish. The conversation became lively and animated,
the merits of men of letters were discussed, the French and
Italian theatre passed in review before us, and finally, we amused
ourselves with anecdotes relative to the intrigues of court. The
baron de Gonesse related to us a circumstance which had just
been communicated to him by a county magistrate. I must here
apprize the reader that these administrators of justice were
directed to collect all the facts, scandalous, horrible, ridiculous,
or piquant, which occurred within their jurisdiction, in order that,
being forwarded to the king, they might aid in distracting his
mind from the heavy cares of government. Alas! how many strange
and eventful things have I since learned by similar channels.
conversing with us. Whilst these noblemen were busily celebrating
my praises in words sufficiently loud to reach the king's ear, the
baron de Gonesse, standing by my side, was prosecuting his suit
in the most ardent terms. I received his overtures with becoming
grace and modesty. As I have before said, the exterior of the king
was very prepossessing, and what he wanted in youth, he made up
by all the mature graces of dignified royalty. At last Lebel
appeared, and made me a sign to rise from my seat. Up to this
period nothing had arisen to betray the incognito of the august
monarch, and in order to keep up my pretended ignorance of his
grandeur, I quitted the apartment with little ceremony. Lebel
conducted me to an adjoining chamber, furnished with the utmost
magnificence. When we were seated, he turned to the comte Jean,
who had followed us, and said, "It rests with yourself whether you
will return to Paris, or remain at Versailles. But as for
who seems much fatigued, she will, we trust, honor us by accepting
a bed at the castle."
significance of these words, and clearly read in their import how
far I had attracted the favor of the king. In order to have
rendered the impression more lasting, we could have wished that
matters had been less precipitated, but we were under a roof
where everything yielded to the caprices of its master, and
resignation to his will became a matter of course. And here I
trust I may be pardoned if I pass over certain details which
could not, at this lapse of time, interest or amuse any one;
besides, altho' I have found no difficulty in reciting former
events of my life, I find my pen more prudish and coy than were
my ears or mouth. All I shall say is, that the following day, as
soon as I was left alone in my chamber, Lebel entered, and
prostrating himself at the side of my bed,--
only has your noble lover failed to communicate to me the usual
signal of disgust or dislike, but he has spoken of you to me in the
most favorable light, declaring, that, for the first time in his life,
he felt the influence of a true and sincere affection; for this
reason he desired I would not convey to you the contents of
this casket, as originally intended."
warmest love; only a purse containing a hundred louis, and a
suit of emeralds worth a similar sum. He bade me say it might
have served to recompense a mere fleeting fancy, but that it is
unworthy of your charms, nor can he insult you by the offer of it."
been waiting with the utmost impatience to see you since seven
o'clock this morning."
his face, that Lebel had told him of propitious state of things.
He ran up to me with outstretched arms, congratulating me upon
my success, and putting at the same time several questions, to
which, either from mere womanly caprice, or presuming upon
my recent elevation to the character of prime favorite, I refused
escaped his lips, which, echoed back by walls so unused to similar
violence, struck Lebel with terror. That faithful ally placed his
hand over his mouth, imploring of him to recollect himself, and
the place he was in. As for me, dreading some foolish burst of
his impetuosity, I tried some of my sweetest smiles, and inviting
him to sit beside me, related to him and Lebel those particulars
which my pen refuses to retrace. Amongst other things, I told
them I had said to the king, that I had perfectly known who he
was all the preceding evening when supping with him, and that he
had the simplicity to say, "he was surprised I had not appeared
more embarrassed in his presence."
was, without further hindrance, allowed to depart. Scarcely had
I arrived there an hour, than I received from his majesty a
magnificent diamond agraffe, worth at least 60,000 francs, and
bank notes to the amount of 200,000 livres.
at the sight of such treasures; to us, who had never in our lives
possessed such sums, they appeared inexhaustible. My brother-in-law
divided them into two equal portions, one of which he put into
his pocket, and the other into my
I did not interfere; nothing seemed to me more simple than that he
should satisfy his need out of my superfluity. I bestowed two
thousand crowns upon Henriette, and expended in the course of
the day at least a quarter of my riches in trifles, as unnecessary
as useless; and all this without once remembering that as I owed
my present abundance to a momentary inclination on the part of
the king, so the turn of an hour, or a fresh fancy on the part of
my munificent adorer, might reduce me to the unprovided state
in which I had been so lately. That evening was passed
tete-a-tete with comte Jean; he thought, as I did, that the
foundation of our treasure was firm as a rock, and he gave me
many counsels for the future which I promised to observe; for
indeed it was to my own interest to do so. Upon how many follies
did we then debate, which, but a few days afterwards we found
practicable. The different ministers passed in review before us;
some we determined upon retaining, whilst others were dismissed,
and already I began in idea to act with sovereign power over these
illustrious personages, amongst whom I anticipated shortly playing
so important a part. "After all," said I, "the world is but an
amusing theatre, and I see no reason why a pretty woman should
not play a principal part in it."
Versailles--The duc d'Ayen--A short account of M. de Fleury--The
duc de Duras -Conversation with the king--The next day--A visit
from the duc de Richelieu--Visit from the duc de la Vauguyon--Visit
from comte Jean--Visit from the king--A third supper--Favor
accompanied with a bouquet of flowers tied round with a string
of diamonds. A short letter was annexed to this splendid gift,
which I would transcribe here, had it not been taken from me
with many others. My reply, which I wrote upon the spur of the
moment, was concise, and, as I preserved the rough copy, under
the impression of its being one day useful, I can give the reader
the exact words.
the happiest of women. My joy is beyond description.
Thanks, monsieur le Baron, for your charming flowers.
Alas! they will be faded and withered by to-morrow,
but not so fleeting and short-lived are the sentiments
with which you have inspired me. Believe me, the
desire you express to see me again is entirely mutual;
and in the impatience with which you await our next
interview, I read but my own sentiments. The ardor
with which you long to embrace me, is fully equalled
by the affection which leads me to desire no gratification
greater than that of passing my whole life in your
society. Adieu, monsieur le baron; you have forbidden
my addressing you as your rank and my respect would
have me, I will therefore content myself with assuring
you of the ardent affection of the
was too late to recede; besides, I was addressing myself in my
letter, not to the king, but to the baron de Gonesse; for Louis,
by I know not what unaccountable caprice, seemed to wish to
preserve his incognito. I have since learned that Francis I
assumed the same name, altho' upon a very different occasion.
Replying to a letter from Charles V, in which that emperor had
given himself a long string of high sounding titles, he contented
himself with simply signing his letter, "<"François, baron de
Gonesse.>" Louis XV was very fond of borrowed appellations.
Unlike the vanity so common to mankind, of seeking to set off
their pretensions by assumed titles, it is the pleasure of royalty
to descend to a lower grade in society when concealment becomes
desirable, either from policy or pleasure; and Louis sought in the
familiarity in which a plain baron might safely indulge, a relief
from the ennui attendant upon the rigid etiquette of a regal
state. I had omitted in my letter to the baron, to remind him
that we were to meet that very evening, but that did not prevent
my repairing to Versailles punctually at the appointed hour. I
was conducted into the same apartment as before, where I found
the same females who had then assisted at my toilet* again prepared
to lend their aid; and from this moment I had a regular
establishment of attendants appointed for my use.
the last two centuries. Here it means putting on her
clothing, makeup, jewelry, and so forth. Through most
of this book it is spelled "toilette."--Gutenberg ed.
his impatience, he hastened to me to assist at my dressing table,
and he continued standing beside me so long as the operation
lasted; I felt greatly embarrassed, not knowing whether I durst
take the liberty of requesting him to be seated. However, my
silence on the subject was greatly admired, and ascribed to my
perfect acquaintance with polished life, when in reality it
originated from mere timidity. My triumph was complete; the
monarch smiled at and admired every word as it fell from my lips,
kissed my hands, and played with the curls of my long hair,
sportively twisting his fingers amidst my flowing ringlets with
all the vivacity of a lover of twenty. The company upon this
evening was different from that of the former occasion, consisting
of the duc de Duras, first gentleman of the bedchamber, and the
duc d'Ayen, who had the reputation of being a great wit; however,
in my opinion, he was much more deserving the character of a real
fiend; his very breath was poisonous, and his touch venomous as
the bite of an adder. I well remember what M. de Fleury said of
him to the king in my presence. "Sire," said he, "the thing I
most dread in the world next to a bite from M. d'Ayen, is the
bite of a mad dog." For my own part, I did not in the end look
upon him with less terror, and well he paid me for my fears.
Upon one occasion, when the king was speaking of me to him, he
said, "I am well aware that I succeed St. Foix."
However, upon the evening of my first introduction to him, he
behaved to me with the most marked politeness. I was then an
object of no consequence to his interests, and his vision had not
yet revealed to him the height I was destined to attain. He looked
upon me but as one of those meteors which sparkled and shone in
the castle at Versailles for twenty-four hours, and sank to rise
stupid; indeed, wit was by no means a family inheritance. Both
father and son, good sort of people in other respects, were for
ever saying or doing some good thing in support of their reputation
for stupidity at court. One day the king quite jokingly inquired
of the duc de Duras, what was done with the old moons. "Upon
my word, sire," replied he," I can give you no idea, never having
seen, but with your majesty's permission, I will endeavor to learn
from M. de Cassini*!" To such a pitch did the poor man's simplicity
extend. Both father and son were nominated to attend the king of
Denmark, when on his road to visit France. The king observed to
a person who repeated it to me: "The French are generally styled
a clever, witty nation; I cannot say I should ever have been able
to discover it, had I been tempted to form my opinion from the
specimen they have sent me."
of the Messrs. de Duras, I must do them the justice to say, that
their conduct towards me was everything that could be desired.
I was always glad to see them; it gave my own imagination a sort
of sedative dose to converse with these two simple-minded beings,
whose interests I was always ready to promote by every means in
my power, and I trust the memory of what I have done will be
long remembered by the noble house of Duras.
de Duras spoke as little as possible, in the dread of making some
unlucky speech, and the duc d'Ayen sat devouring the spleen he
could not give vent to, and meditating fresh objects upon whom
to exercise his malignity; he vainly endeavored to lead me on to
make some ridiculous observation, but without success; happily
for him, the king did not perceive his aim. My royal lover was
indeed so entirely engrossed by me, that he lost all the duke's
manoeuvres; his transports appeared too much for his senses to
sustain, and he vowed that I should never quit him more, but
remain to be elevated by his power to the first place at court.
At the monarch's sign, the two guests withdrew.
means to my taste," said I to the king, "he has the air of a spy,
who wishes me no good."
of an enemy having access to your majesty's ear."
"in me you have a sure defender, who will never forsake you; look
upon me from this minute as your natural protector, and woe to
him on whose head your displeasure shall fall."
when he quitted me in the morning, he entreated me not to return
to Paris, but to give him my company for a whole week. Lebel
made his appearance to beg I would consider myself mistress of
the apartments I occupied, and that he had received orders to
provide me with an establishment upon the most handsome scale.
my head waiting-woman, informed me, that an old gentleman, attired
as tho' for a grand gala, but who refused to send in his name,
begged to be permitted to pay his respects. I bade her admit
him; it was the duc de Richelieu.
of your want of condescension; unless, indeed, your memory has
been at fault. Was it possible that when I had the honor of
supping with you the other night, you did not recollect your
former old friend?"
it was one in which you bore an equal share; you were not more
forward than myself in displaying marks of recognition."
You were but a nymph when last my eyes had beheld you, and now
you are matured into a goddess."
Lagarde, but guessing with his admirable tact, that such
reminiscences could not be particularly agreeable to me, he
dexterously turned the conversation, by requesting permission to
present to me his nephew, the duc d'Aiguillon, that he might leave
a worthy substitute and champion near the king when state affairs
called him into Gascony; he craved my kind offices to obtain the
intimate acquaintance of comte Jean. They were subsequently at
daggers drawn with each other, but this haughty overbearing lord
conducted himself at first with the most abject servility. The
third favor he had to solicit was that I would name him to the
king as frequently as opportunities occurred to form one of our
supper parties. All this I engaged to do, nor indeed could I
refuse after the violent protestations of friendship he made me.
but beware of considering them all as your friends; have a care,
above all, of the duchesse de Grammont. She has been long
endeavoring to obtain the king's affections, and she will see
with hatred and fury another more worthy engrossing the place
she has so vainly contended for; she and her impertinent brother
will call in the aid of the devil himself to dispossess you of your
elevated seat; you are lost if you do not twist both their necks."
would not be at the trouble of keeping any terms with them."
augury to have to begin my reign by cabals and intrigues."
court life; between ourselves we are all hypocrites more or less;
mistrust every one, even those make the finest protestations."
and esteemed friend the marechal de Richelieu."
against myself, and to fight me with my own arms."
when the duc la Vauguyon entered. This gentleman offered me no
advice; he contented himself by styling the Jesuits his "very good
friends," and continually turning the conversation upon their
merits. I allowed him to express his attachment, without
interruption, for these disagreeable men, whom I determined
in my own mind to have nothing to do with, recollecting all I had
heard of their dislike to our sex. After an hour passed in amusing
talk, the duc de la Vauguyon retired, well pleased with his visit,
and his place was immediately supplied by comte Jean, to whom I
communicated all that had passed between my late visitors and myself.
great lords; before we range ourselves under the banners of either
of them let us secure our own footing; let us wait till you
have written to my brother William to set out without delay for
Paris. Your swain will be easily induced to marry you. What
do you think of that?"
in his hands, and he kissed my hands and withdrew. The king
managed to steal a few minutes to converse with me.
circumstance of your having formerly known the duc de Richelieu;
less reserved on the subject than you were, he told me he had seen
you at the house of madame Lagarde, who considered you one of
her dearest friends."
to think of any other person in the world."
continuance of my affection."
but partake of my tenderness for you."
I never felt for the king that violent attachment which is termed
love, I ever entertained for him the warmest esteem. He was so
attentive, so kind to me, that I must have been a monster of
ingratitude could I have looked upon him with indifference.
The duc de Richelieu entertained us with several amusing anecdotes;
not that they contained any thing very piquant, but the duke
related them well, and we were all in the humor to be pleased,
and laughed heartily at what he said. Comte Jean, whose eye
constantly followed me, appeared perfectly satisfied with all I
said or did. As for the king, he seemed enchanted with me, and
seemed wholly occupied in watching my looks, that he might
anticipate my wants. After supper, in the < tete-a-tete > which
followed, he explained himself in terms which left me no doubt
how securely my empire over him was established. Had he been
less explicit on the subject, the flattering marks of favor, and
the adulatory compliments I received from all on the following
day, would well have assured me of it. I was no longer an obscure
and friendless individual, but the beloved mistress of the king;
I was, to use the expression of Lebel, a new sun which had arisen
to illumine horizon of Versailles. I could no longer doubt my
power when I saw noble personages present themselves to solicit
the most servile employments about my person. Amongst others, I
might instance a certain lady de St. Benoit, who continued first
lady of my chamber, during the whole time of my regency;--my
justly-valued Henriette being contented to take the second place
Grammont--The meeting--Sharp words on both sides--The duc de
Choiseul--Mesdames d'Aiguillon--Letter from the duc d'Aiguillon--
Reply of madame du Barry--Mademoiselle Guimard--The prince de
Soubise--Explanation--The Rohans--Madame de Marsan--Court friendships
time in presenting to me the duc d'Aiguillon. He was not young,
but handsome and well made, with much amiability and great
courage. A sincere friend, no consideration could weaken his
regard; an adversary to be dreaded, no obstacle could repress his
boldness. His enemies--and amongst them he included the whole
magistracy--his enemies, I say, have used him shamefully, but he
treated them too ill for them to be believed in any thing they say
of him. If he were ambitious, he had the excuse of superior merit,
and if he showed himself too severe in one particular, it proceeded
from an energy of mind which did not allow him to have more
pity for others than they had for him. Do not, my friend, think
that the attachment I had for him can transport me beyond just
limits. Since he is in his grave, my illusions, if I had any, have
dissipated. I only give to my deceased friends the tribute due
to them--truth and tears. But really, without thinking of it, I
am attributing to myself these virtues without necessity, forgetting
that you are not one of those who would fain render me as black
as possible in the eyes of posterity.
against him, so much more did it propitiate me towards the nephew.
I saw in him a generous heart, and a genius capable of lofty actions
which you would vainly have sought for in the marechal de Richelieu.
No doubt at the beginning of our
only saw in me a woman who could be useful to his projects and
plans; but soon his heart joined the alliance, and a devotion of
calculation was succeeded by a vehement passion, of which I was
justly proud, as it subdued to my chains the most accomplished
the conversation with much gaiety. M. de Richelieu, as I have
already told you, had neither wit nor information, but possessed
that ease of the first circles, those manners of high breeding,
those courtly graces, which often surpass wit and information.
but we must first do something for her. Without support, without
friends, she will be lost at Versailles; let us be her partisans
if she will allow it, and let her youth have the benefit of
said he was but too happy to serve me, and begged me to rely on
him as I would on myself.
party. The duchesse de Grammont and her brother are not the
persons to give up the field without striking a blow. But, madame,
by the assistance of your happy and lovely star, I will enter the
lists with pleasure, and if a glance of your eyes will recompense
a conqueror, I shall be he."
gallantry, and of undaunted courage. You will be satisfied
with him, madame, much more than with my son, who only
resembles the family in his defects."
called a decided scamp, without one redeeming point or virtue.
Dissipated without agreeableness, a courtier without address, a
soldier without courage, he thoroughly deserved his bad reputation.
He was not hated, because hatred implies a species of honor, but he
was universally despised. His father hated him; he hated his father.
The reciprocity was edifying. I have often seen the duc de Fronsac,
and always with disgust. He had incurred the extremity of
punishment; when trying to carry off a butcher's daughter, he
rendered himself guilty of the triple crimes of arson, rape, and
robbery. This was the most splendid deed of his life, at least his
father said so, the only one in which he had shown--guess what
for, my friend, I will not pen the cynical word made use of by his
father. It must be confessed that we sometimes kept very bad
company at Versailles. The king, who abhorred degrading actions,
did not like the duc de Fronsac, but was full of kindly feeling
towards the duc d'Aiguillon. The latter experienced the extent
of his favor in his long and obstinate struggle with the parliament
of Bretagne. It must be owned, that if he gained the victory at
court, he decidedly lost it in the city, and I was publicly
insulted on this account in the most brutal manner. However,
the friendship which his first interview inspired me with, I have
always preserved unaltered.
assured. The love of the king increased, he heaped presents on
me perpetually, and seemed to think he never could do enough for
me. The bounties of Louis XV were known, and instantly aroused
against me the two enemies with whom I had been threatened--the
duc de Choiseul and the duchesse de Grammont, his sister. I must
say, however, that, at first, the brother contented himself with
despising me, but the duchesse was furious; I had offended her
feminine self-love, and she could not forgive me. I have told you
that she obtained possession of the king by stratagem. This is
fact. She was in a place of concealment during a regal debauch,
and when Louis left the table, with his head heated by wine, she
awaited him in his bed to commit a sort of violence on him. What
curious ambition! As soon as this noble lady learned my position,
she was desirous of knowing who I was, and I have been told
since all the measures she took to learn this. She did not
confine her search to the circle of Versailles, but hastened to
prosecute her inquiries in Paris with M. de Sartines. The
lieutenant of police not suspecting the favor that awaited me,
as well as that which I already enjoyed, and on the other hand
persuaded of that of the Choiseul family, set all his bloodhounds
on my traces. They did not fail to bring him back a thousand
horrible tales about me, with which he gratified the duchesse,
who, thinking thereby to do me a severe injury, spread in the
chateau a multitude of prejudicial tales against me, hoping that
they would reach the ears of the king and disgust him with his
amour. It was at this juncture that appeared in the "
the Collection of Bachaumont. From the same source proceeded
the songs which filled Paris, and were sung
about everywhere. These scandals produced no other effect than
increasing the attachment which the king had for me, and to
diminish that which he felt for the duc de Choiseul.
that it cannot disgust a lover by vilifying his mistress, but, on
the contrary, interests his self-love in supporting her. Thus
all these intrigues scathed me not; I did not mention to my
counsellor comte Jean an insult which I met with in the park
at Versailles from madame de Grammont. I did not tell it to the
king, not wishing to create any disturbance at court. I avenged
myself by myself, and think I conducted myself remarkably well
in this adventure, which was as follows:
arm; it was early in the morning, and the walks appeared solitary.
We walked towards the side of the Ile d'Amour, when we
heard the steps of two persons who came behind us. Henriette
turned her head and then said to me, "Here are mesdames de Brionne
and de Grammont." I knew the latter but very slightly, and the
former not at all. Certainly she could not have been there by
chance; they knew I should be there, and wished to see me closely.
Not suspecting what was to follow, I was delighted at the rencontre.
They passed us with head erect, haughty air; looked at me with a
disdainful stare, laughed rudely and walked away. Altho' such
behavior offended me, it did not put me out of humor; I thought
it very natural for madame de Grammont to be irritated against me.
Henriette had less magnanimity. She repeated so often how
impertinent it was thus to insult a female honored by the bounties
of the king, and so far excited my feelings, that instead of
returning as prudence suggested, I followed the steps of these
ladies. I did not proceed far before I rejoined them; they were
seated on a bench, awaiting my arrival as it appeared. I passed
close to them, and at that moment the duchesse de Grammont,
raising her voice, said,
cannot be accused of making a forcible entry into any person's
bed." The arrow went to the mark and penetrated deeply. The
whole countenance of the duchesse turned pale, except her lips,
which became blue. She would have said something foolish, but
madame de Brionne, more cool because touched less nearly, placed
her hand over her companion's mouth. I in my turn walked away
with Henriette, laughing till tears came into my eyes at this
told the whole to her brother. He, who loved her excessively, too
much so perhaps, reprimanded her, nevertheless, and pointed out
to her the disadvantage in an open struggle with me. Madame de
Brionne was enjoined to secrecy, but that did not prevent her from
confiding the affair to the dowager duchesse d'Aiguillon.
wit more solid acquirements. She spoke English like a native.
Her death, which happened in 1772, was a great misfortune to her
son, to whom she gave the most excellent counsel. She told my
adventure to her daughter-in-law, who, excessively ambitious, saw,
without any pain, the increasing attachment of her husband for
me. I must tell you, in a parenthesis, that I always lived on the
best terms with her, and that, in my disgrace, her friendship did
not weaken. I must do her this justice. All my
have not been equally faithful towards me.
not long kept in ignorance that something had happened. He came
in haste to see me, and inquired what it was. But he asked in vain,
I would not tell him. My secrecy hurt him, and on his return home
he wrote to me. As I have great pleasure in telling you all that
recalls this amiable gentleman to my mind, I will transcribe his
letter, which will give you an opportunity of judging of the turn
of his mind.
*"Editor here means the author, who is assuming
Letter from Lebel--Visit from Lebel--Nothing conclusive--Another
One morning comte Jean entered my apartment, his face beaming
'Read," said he, giving me a letter, "read, Jeannette: victory is
"No, there are two of your countrymen whom you invited yesterday."
"I will write and put them off. Morand alone must dine with
"Brother-in-law," said I, laughing, "it is not unnecessary that
"That only happens in Venice," replied the comte; "my brother
"Very well; I am the comtesse Guillaume du Barry; that does
After this conversation, comte Jean insisted on presiding at my
*He seems to mean "gourmet" rather than "gourmand."
At one o'clock I was under arms, and prepared to receive him on
His serious air amused me much as he gazed at me some time in
Soon afterwards the folding-doors were hastily opened, and a
"Sister, this is M. Lebel,
"And he confers a real pleasure on us," said I, looking smilingly
"Well, sir, what think you of our celestial beauty?"
"She is worthy of a throne," replied Lebel, bending his head
"And of causing them to be seen by others," replied comte Jean.
This was an opening which was not followed up by Lebel. His
For my part I began to support the looks of Lebel with more assurance.
I should tell you, however, that I never had occasion but to
However, we dined, and Lebel praised me incessantly to the very
After dinner, when we left the table, Lebel paid me some
At this abrupt departure, comte Jean and I looked at each other
"Well, comtesse," said he, "behold the number of your slaves
"I hope we shall see him again," said comte Jean.
"Do you doubt it?"
"Assure him," said I, "of the pleasure it will afford us to
Several persons entered, and M. Morand, profiting by the bustle
"You are in possession of his heart, will you charge me with
"M. Morand," was my reply, "what are you thinking of? A
"No, certainly not; but you can send him a kind word, or some
"I could not think of it; M. Lebel appeared to me a most agreeable
Morand asked nothing more than this, and there our conversation ended.
Two days elapsed without being marked by any event. Comte Jean
At this news I was surprised and vexed. M. Lebel took me unawares;
"It is only you, Madame, whom one might thus surprise. Your
I replied to this compliment with (of course) much modesty,
Fortune sent him to me. He was passing the street, when he saw
"Sir," said Lebel to him, when he entered, "here is the lady
"Is it anything I may hear for her?" said the comte,
"Yes, I am the ambassador of a mighty power: you are the
"I consent to anything that may come from such an ambassador."
Comte Jean instantly led him into another room, and when they
At these words comte Jean felt a momentary agitation, but soon
"I am exceedingly obliged to you, sir, for the favorable disposition
"Do not let that disturb you; it is not intended that she shall go
"It would be a crime of
"You may expect everything from the charms of the comtesse; I am
"Your protection, however, is the only thing which encourages my
"Instantly. The king is impatient to see the comtesse and I have
"How is she to be introduced to the king?"
"I am to entertain four of my friends."
"Who are they?"
"'First, the baron de Gonesse."
"Who is he?"
"The king himself."
"Well, who next?"
"The duc de Richelieu."
"The marquis de Chauvelin."
"The duc de la Vauguyon."
"What, the devotee?"
"The hypocrite. But never mind: the main point is, that you must
"Certainly; if she must sin, she had better do so with some reason."
While these gentlemen were thus disposing of me, what was I
My fears at once disappeared, and then I pictured myself sitting
"Victory!" cried he, embracing me with transport. "Victory! my
On this information I turned pale, my strength forsook me, and I
On so important an occasion, comte Jean did not forget to repeat
"Remember that it is on your first interview that your safety
"All this is well enough," I replied, "but as yet I am nothing."
He pronounced this blasphemy in a laughing tone, and I confess I
A slight preface--Arrival at Versailles--<"La toilette">--Portrait
The chances against our succeeding in our enterprise were at least
Comte Jean, however, had passed a very different night; for once,
"You are welcome," said the comte, "pray consider yourself as
"I accept your augury," replied I, "it would be amusing enough
"Well then," said my conductor, laughing, "I recommend you to
"No, no, I thank you," answered I; "no falls if you please, they
Whilst we were thus speaking, we were crossing a long suite of
"Ah, madame!" cried he, "I began to fear you might not come,
"Which can hardly equal mine," interrupted I; "for you were
"It is better it should be so," added Lebel ; "do not seek either
"How!" said I, with affected surprise, "not sup with us?"
"Even so," replied Lebel; and then added with a laugh, "
All this was but of small import to me. Nevertheless, I affected
Lebel, with the most ceremonious gallantry, conducted me to a
When I returned to the room in which Lebel was expecting me, his
"You are, indeed," exclaimed he, "the new sun which is to rise
"Excellent!" cried I, laughing extravagantly, "but like the planet
The comte entered, and joined his congratulations upon the beauty
"The object of your attack approaches," said Lebel to me, "it
The advice thus given was useless. Comte Jean, who bore the
And first, Louis XVth, king of France (or as he was upon the
The habit of commanding, and the prompt obedience he had ever met
This nobleman, when in his seventy-second year, had preserved,
He possessed a most ignoble turn of mind; all feelings of an
The marquis de Chauvelin was equally skilful as a warrior and
The fourth guest was the duc de la Vauguyon, the really
Immediately after Lebel had conducted me into it, he was called
It would have provoked a smile from any countenance to perceive
The supper terminated, the king's friends remained some time
My self-created brother-in-law understood as well as I did the
"Madame la comtesse," said he, "is queen and mistress here. Not
"And what does it contain?" asked I, with childish eagerness.
"Oh, a trifle unworthy of her who is now the mistress of his
"Will he then see me again?" inquired I.
"To-morrow evening, if agreeable to you."
"Only say that his wishes are mine."
"Would you wish to see the comte Jean before you rise? He has
"Let him come in."
The comte entered, and I saw by the triumphant joy painted on
My folly drew down on me his severe anger, and several oaths
Our conversation terminated, I wished to return to Paris, and I
Comte Jean and myself were well nigh stupefied with astonishment
The king's message--Letter from the countess--A second supper at
Early the following day I received a message from the king,
"The billet traced by your noble hands, renders me
"COMTESSE Du Barry."
The signature I adopted was a bold piece of falsehood, but it
*A word of which the meaning has greatly changed over
The moment the king was informed of my arrival, unable to restrain
"Yes, sire"; replied the duke, "in the same manner as your majesty
I never forgave him those words, dictated by a fiendish malice.
The duc de Duras was not an ill-disposed person, but inconceivably
*The royal astronomer --Gutenberg ed.
As far as I am concerned, after saying so many unfavorable things
This supper did not pass off so gaily as the former one. The duc
When the duc d'Ayen quitted the room, 'That nobleman is by no
"Do you really think so, my lovely comtesse?"
"I am certain of it; and I already shudder at the bare anticipation
"Reassure yourself," said the king, with the utmost tenderness,
After this conversation the king and myself retired to rest, and
That very day Henriette, whom I had sent for, and instituted as
"Madame la comtesse," said he, bowing low, "I come to complain
"If, indeed, my forgetfulness were a fault, monsieur le marechal,
"That arose only from the dazzling increase of your beauty.
The duke then made some slight allusion to the family of madame
"You will, ere long," said he, "see the whole court at your feet,
"How, monsieur le marechal, shall I mark my career by a murder?"
"You take me too literally; I only mean that in your place I
"Ah, monsieur le duc, I understand you now; yet it seems a bad
"Alas! my fair comtesse, you are too good, too guileless for a
"In that case the first object of my suspicion would be my old
"Ah, madame! this is not fair usage, thus to turn my weapons
Upon this the duke quitted me, and scarcely had he left the room,
"For heaven's sake," said he, "let us not be the dupes of these
"But, my good friend, I must be a married lady to obtain that honor."
"And so you will be shortly, do not be uneasy about that. I
I gave comte Jean to comprehend, by signs, that I left my destiny
"You did not intrust me, my sweet friend," said he, "with the
"Sire," replied I, "I was too much occupied with your majesty,
My answer delighted him, he looked at me in the most
"You would almost persuade me that you love me," said he, smiling.
"Indeed, your majesty," said I, "I only pray that you desire the
"In that case," replied he, kissing my hand with fervor, "you do
These words flattered my vanity, and here I must declare that if
Our supper on this night was again lively as the first had been.
The duc d'Aiguillon--The duc de Fronsac--The duchesse de
The duc de Richelieu, who was in haste to go to Guienne, lost no
In proportion as the first sight of the uncle had prejudiced me
Our first interview was lively. The marechal and he supported
"My nephew," said he to the duke, "madame can do much for us,
The tone in which the duc d'Aiguillon replied delighted me. He
"But," he continued, "but we have to struggle with a powerful
"Oh," exclaimed the duke, "my nephew's a second Amadis in
The duc de Fronsac was justly hated by his father; he was what is
The week glided away, and each day my fortune seemed more fully
Passion never reasons; if it had common sense, it would perceive
I was walking in the garden with Henriette, who had given me her
"It must be a profitable business to sleep with every body."
I was excessively nettled, and instantly retorted, "At least I
The duchesse de Grammont, who had no further inclination to laugh,
This latter was a lady of most superior merit, uniting to much
These two ladies knowing this occurrence, the duc d'Aiguillon was