Part 3 out of 10
"I was, you know," he began, "a very good-looking, a very wild
fellow: women have no objection to this. I was travelling, and
in my way thro' D----, M., the intendant of the city, insisted on
my taking up my abode at his house. His lady added her entreaties,
and I consented. I must tell you that the lady was handsome. I
had passed the night with her; but when, on the next morning, as
I sought to go out of her apartment, I found the outer door double
locked and bolted. I looked round me on all sides, but found no
egress. Whilst I was lamenting this with the lady's
saw in a detached closet a great many machines covered with paper,
and all of different shapes. On inquiry, I was informed that the
following Monday was the lady's birthday, which they were to
celebrate with fireworks. I looked at the beautiful fusees and
brilliant suns with much admiration. Suddenly, thinking of the
lady's honor which might be compromised, I took a light and set
fire to a Roman candle; in a moment the whole was in flames, and
everybody took alarm. Great was the consternation in the house,
which was turned out of windows; and in the uproar, the house-door
being broken open, a crowd of persons rushed in; I ran this way
and that way; everybody admired and praised my exertions. I was
compelled to quit the house at last, and ordered my carriage, whilst
M. the intendant was thanking me for the vast service I had rendered
him. I assure you, sire, that I never laughed more heartily."*
*The duc de Richelieu preserved his coolness and
talent at repartee in the most trivial circumstances.
The story is well known of the man who came to
ask for his aid, saying they were related. "How?"
asked the duke. "Sir, by Adam." "Give this man a
penny," said the duke, turning to a gentleman of his
train; "and if all of his relations give him as much
he will soon be a richer man than I am."
If our readers will turn to "Joe Miller," Page 45,
they will find this jest attributed to the witty
duke of Buckingham. It is a very good joke for a
duke, but savors more of a desire to be witty than
to be charitable.
This tale amused the king, and M. de Richelieu assured him that he
had never told it before. A thousand considerations had induced
him to keep it to himself until the present time. "But now," said
he, "the third generation of madame l'intendante is no longer
young, and I have no fear of being called out to fight a duel."
Next day there was a general rumor of my presentation. My friends
asserted that I had the king's promise. This was imprudent on
their part, and they injured my interest whilst they flattered my
vanity. They put the Choiseul cabal to work, who intrigued so
well that not a person could be found who would perform the
office of introductress. You know the custom: the presentation
is effected by the intermediation of another lady, who conducts
the person to be presented to the princesses, and introduces her.
This custom had passed into a law, and it would have been too
humiliating to me to have dispensed with it.
This was a dire blow for me: it distressed me sadly, and I wept
over it with my friends. The duc de Richelien said to me,
"With money and promises everything can be managed at court. There
is no place where they know better how to value complaisance, and
the price at which it is sold. Do not give yourself any uneasiness;
we shall find the lady we want."
And we did find her, but her compliance was dearly bought. Two
ladies who were applied to stipulated for most outrageous
conditions. One, the marquise de Castellane, consented to present
me, but demanded that she should be created a duchess, and have
a gift of five hundred thousand livres: the other, whose name I
forget, asked for her husband the order of the Holy Ghost and
a government, a regiment for her son, and for herself I forget
what. These ladies seemed to think, like Don Quixote and Sancho
Panza, that governments and five hundred thousand livres were to
be picked up on the highway. In truth, they spoke out
At this juncture the chancellor had a singular conversation
concerning me with the Choiseuls. He had been one morning to
call on the duke, and whilst they were discoursing, the duchesse
de Grammont came into her brother's apartment, and entered at
once into conversation.
"Ah, my lord, I am glad to see you. Your new friends carry you
off from your old ones. You are wrong to adore the rising sun."
'That was the idolatry of a great number of persons: but I beg of
you to be so very kind as not to speak to me in figures, if you
would wish me to understand you."
"Oh, you play off the ignorant. You know as well as I do what I
mean, and your daily visits to this
"Which, madame? There are so many at court!"
This sarcastic reply made the brother and sister smile; both of
them being fully competent to understand the merit of an epigram.
The duke fearing lest the duchess should go too far, judging by
what she had already said, thus addressed him:
"You are, then, one of the adorers of the comtesse du Barry?"
"Yes, monsieur le due; and would to God that, for your own
interest, you would be so too!"
"My brother set foot in the house of this creature!"
"Why not, madame? We see good company there; the prince de
Soubise, the ducs de la Trimouille, de la Vauguyon, Duras,
Richelieu, d'Aiguillon, and many others, not to mention the king
of France. A gentleman may be seen in such company without
"Monsieur le chevalier," replied the duke, "to speak candidly to
you, allow me to ask, if any one who would have the friendship of
our house would be seen in that of the lady in question?"
"Pardon me, duke; that is not the question. Allow me, in turn,
to ask you, why those of your house should not go there? This,
I think, is the real question."
"You offer us a splendid alliance!" said the duchess with anger.
"I offer nothing, madame: I only inquire. For my part, I see no
legitimate motive for this proscription of madame du Barry."
"A woman without character!"
"Character! Why, madame, who has any in these days? M. de Crebillon
the younger would be at a loss to tell us where to find it."
This reply made the duke and his sister smile again. The chancellor
went on thus:
"It appears to me that persons were less difficult in the times
of madame de Pompadour."
"But a creature who has been so low in society!"
"Have you seen her so, madame? And supposing it has been the
case, do we interdict all ladies of conduct not less blamable from
an introduction at court. How many can you enumerate, madame,
who have led a life much more scandalous? Let us count them on
our fingers. First, the marechale de Luxembourg, one; then--"
"Then the comtesse de Choiseul, my sister-in-law," added the
duke; "we know it as well as you, sir. But this is not the matter
in question. You are not ignorant that our enemies surround this
madame du Barry; and it is of your alliance with them that
"You see everything with a jaundiced eye, monsieur le duc. But
if you fear the influence of this lady with the king, why do you
not present yourself at her apartments? She would be delighted
to receive you."
"No, no!" cried the duchess, "my brother will never present
himself to such a creature. If he would degrade himself so low,
I would never forgive him as long as I live. Since you show
your gratitude for what has been done for you by leaguing yourself
with this woman, tell her from me that I detest her, and that I will
never rest until I have sent her back again to her dunghill."
"Madame," replied the chancellor, "I will evince my gratitude to
the duke by not delivering such a message"; and the chancellor
M. de Maupeou came to tell me the whole of this conversation,
it to the king. You will see in my next letter what resulted from
all this, and how the ill-timed enmity of the Choiseuls served my
interests most materially.
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
I showed the king this conversation, in which I had so shamefully
vilified by the duchesse de Grammont. Louis XV was very much
inclined to testify his disapprobation to this lady, but was withheld
by the consideration he felt for the duke and (particularly) the
duchesse de Choiseul. This latter lady was not beloved by her
husband, but her noble qualities, her good heart, made her an
object of adoration to the whole court. You could not speak to
any person of madame de Choiseul without hearing an eulogium in
reply. The king himself was full of respect towards her; so much
so, that, on the disgrace of the duke, he in some sort asked her
pardon for the chagrin which he had caused her. Good conduct is
no claim to advancement at court, but it procures the esteem of
the courtiers. Remember, my friend, this moral maxim: there is
not one of greater truth in my whole journal.
The king, unable to interpose his authority in a woman's quarrel,
was yet determined on giving a striking proof of the attachment
he bore to me. I had up to this period occupied Lebel's apartments
in the chateau: it was not befitting my station, and the king
thought he would give me those of madame de Pompadour, to which
I had some claim. This apartment was now occupied by the comte
de Noailles, governor of the chateau, who, as great fool as the
rest of his family, began to exclaim most lustily when the king's
will was communicated to him. He came to his majesty complaining
and lamenting. The king listened very quietly to his list of
grievances; and when he had moaned and groaned out his dolorous
tale, his majesty said to him,
"My dear count, who built the chateau of Versailles?"
"Why, sire, your illustrious grandfather."
"Well, then, as I am at home, I mean to be master. You may
establish the seat of your government where you will; but in two
hours the place must be free. I am in earnest."
The comte de Noailles departed much disconcerted, took away his
furniture, and the same evening I installed myself in the apartments.
You must think that this was a fresh cause of chagrin, and created
me more enemies. There are certain families who look upon the
court as their hereditary domain: the Noailles was one of them.
However, there is no grounds of pretension to such a right.
Their family took its rise from a certain Adhemar de Noailles,
by the exercise of his charge in 1459. The grandfather of these
Noailles was a domestic of M. de Turenne's, and his family was
patronized at court by madame de Maintenon. Everybody knows
this. But to return to my presentation.
M. de Maupeou, whose good services I can never sufficiently
vaunt, came to me one day, and said, "I think that I have found
what we want."
"Who is it?" said I, with joy.
"A comtesse d'Escarbagnas, a litigious lady, with much ambition
and avarice. You must see her, talk with her, and understand
"But where can we see her?"
"That is easy enough. She claims from the house of Saluces a
property of three hundred thousand livres: she is very greedy for
money. Send some one to her, who shall whisper in her ear that
I see you often, and that your protection can serve her greatly in
her lawsuit: she will come to you post haste."
I approved the counsel of the chancellor; and, in concert with
comte Jean, I once again made use of the ministry of the good M.
Morand, whom I had recompensed largely for his good and loyal
services. This was, however, the last he ever rendered me; for I
learned some months after my presentation that he had died of
indigestion: a death worthy of such a life and such a man.
M. Morand, after having found out the attorney of madame the
comtesse de Bearn, went to him under some pretext, and then
boasted of my vast influence with the chancellor. The lawyer, to
whom madame de Bearn was to pay a visit on that very day, did
not fail to repeat what M. Morand had told him. The next day the
comtesse, like a true litigant, called upon him: she related her
affair to him, and begged him to use his interest with me.
"I would do it with pleasure," said the worthy, "if I did not
think it better that you should see the comtesse du Barry yourself.
I can assure you that she will be delighted to aid you."
Madame de Bearn then came to me with M. Morand. Gracious heavens!
how simple we were to take so much pains with this lady: had we
known her better we should not have been so long in coming to the
point. Scarcely any thing was said at this first visit: I contented
myself with assuring her of my good will. On the same day the
vicomte Adolphe du Barry told his father that that the young de
Bearn had asked him the evening before, if I had found a
to present me; that in case I had not, his mother would not refuse
such a service, should it be desired by the king. Comte Jean and
I perfectly understood the lady. She came again, and I renewed
the expression of my desire to be useful to her. She replied in
a hackneyed phrase, that she should be charmed to prove her
gratitude to me. I took her word.
"Madame," said I to her, "you cannot be ignorant that I ardently
desire to be presented. My husband has sent in his proofs of
nobility, which have been received; I now only want a
(godmother); if you will officiate in that capacity, I shall owe
you a debt of gratitude all my life."
"Madame, I am at the king's orders."
"But, madame, the king has nothing to do with this. I wish to
be presented; will you be my introductress?"
"Madame, the first wish of my heart is to be agreeable to you; I
only desire that the king indicate in some way, no matter how
trifling, his will on this point."
"Well, then," I exclaimed, with impatience, "I see you will not
give me a direct reply. Why should you wish the king to interfere
in what does not concern him? Is it your intention to oblige me;
yes or no?"
"Yes, madame, certainly; but you must be aware of the tremendous
cabal which is raised against you. Can I contend against it alone,
and who will sustain me thro' it?"
"I will to the full extent of my power as long as I am here, and
the king will always do so. I can assure you, that he will be
grateful for your exertions in my behalf."
"I should like to have half a line from his majesty as a protection
"And that you will not get. The king's signature must not be
compromised in this affair, and I do not think I ought to ask
for it; let us therefore, madame, cease this discourse, since
you ask such terms for your complaisance."
The comtesse de Bearn rose; I did the same; and we parted mutually
dissatisfied with each other.
My friends, my brother-in-law, and his sisters, impatiently
awaited the result of my conversation with madame de Bearn. I
told them all that had passed; giving my opinion of this lady as
I thought her--a malicious provoking creature.
"How soon you torment yourself," said the chancellor to me. "Do
you not see that this woman wants a price to be bidden for her?
She is yours, body and soul, but first of all she must be paid."
"Let that be no obstacle," said comte Jean, "we will give her
money, but present us she must."
On this it was decided, that, on the following morning, my
brother-in-law should go to Paris to find M. Morand, and get
him to undertake the arrangement.
The next day my brother-in-law went to M. Morand's, and when he
had disclosed his message concerning the comtesse, the good
Morand began to laugh. He told the count, that the previous
evening this lady had sent for him; and, on going to her house,
madame de Bearn, as a set-off against the inconveniences which
might result to her from being the instrument of my presentation,
had stipulated for certain compensations; such, for instance, as
a sum of two hundred thousand livres, a written promise of a
regiment for her son, and for herself an appointment in the
establishment of the future
at by all the ambitious courtiers. Comte Jean thought these
conditions preposterous. He had a
desired M. Morand to offer the lady one hundred thousand livres,
and to add an assurance that the king should be importuned to place
young Bearn advantageously, and to station the mother to her
wishes; and thereupon my brother-in-law returned to Versailles.
The comte Jean had scarcely returned an hour, when we received a
letter from M. Morand, stating, that he had gone, in consequence
of the instructions of comte Jean, to the comtesse de Bearn; that
he had found the lady pliant enough on the first point, and disposed
to content herself with the half of the sum originally demanded;
that on point the second, I mean the appointments of herself and
son, she would come to no compromise, and stuck hard and fast to
the written promise of the king; that he, Morand, thought this an
obstacle not to be overcome unless we subscribed to her wishes.
This letter put me in an excessively ill-humor. I saw my presentation
deferred till doom's day, or, at least, adjourned
questioned my friends: the unanimous advice was that I ought to
mention it to the king at one of his evening visits; and I determined
to do so without loss of time.
When his majesty came I received him very graciously, and then
said to him,
"Congratulate me, sire; I have found my godmother."
"Ah, so much the better." (I know that, at the bottom of his
heart, he said "so much the
"And who," asked the king, with impatience, "may the lady be?"
"Madame de Bearn, a lady of quality in her own right, and of high
nobility on her husband's side."
"Yes, he was a
pages. Ah! she will present you then. That's well; I shall
feel favored by her."
"Would it not be best, sire, to tell her so yourself?"
"Yes, yes, certainly; but after the ceremony."
"And why not previously?"
"Why? because I do not wish to appear to have forced
"Well, then," I replied, striking the floor with my foot, "you will
not do for me what you would do for a woman who is a complete
stranger to you. Many thanks for your excessive kindness."
"Well, well, do not scold. Anger does not become you."
"No more than this indifference suits you; it is cruel. If you
recede from saying a word, what will you do when I tell you of
the conditions of madame de Bearn?"
"What does the good comtesse ask for?"
"Things past conception."
"She has stipulations unlimited."
"But what are they then?"
"A hundred thousand livres for herself."
"What, only that? We will grant so much."
"Then a regiment for her son."
"Oh, he is the wood they make colonels of, and if he behave well--"
"But then! She wishes to be annexed in some station or other to
the household of the future
"Oh, that is impossible: all the selections have been made: but
we will make an equivalent by placing one of her family about the
person of one of the princes, my grandson. Is this all?"
"Yes, sire, that is all, with one small formality excepted. This
lady, who is one of much punctilio, only considers
engagements as binding. She wishes for one word in your
"A most impertinent woman!" cried the king, walking with rapid
strides up and down my room.-- "She has dared not to believe me
on my word! Writing!--signature! She mistrusts me as she would
the lowest scribbler of France. A writing! My signature! My
grandfather, Louis XIV, repented having given his to Charost. I
will not commit a similar error."
"But, sire, when a prince has a real desire to keep his word, it
is of little import whether he gives it in writing."
At these words, Louis XV frowned sternly, but as he had the best
sense in the world, he saw that he was wrong; and having no reply
to make, he determined to flee away. I ran after him, and taking
him by the arm, he said, with assumed anger, which did not
"Leave me, madame, you have offended my honor."
"Well, then, monsieur la France," replied I, assuming also a
scolding tone, "I will give you satisfaction. Choose your time,
weapons, and place; I will meet you, and we shall see whether
you have courage to kill a woman who lives for you only, and
whom you render the most miserable creature in existence."
Louis XV gave me a kiss, and laughingly said, "I ought to make
you sleep in the Bastille to-night."
"I am then more merciful than you, for I think I shall make you
sleep in the couch you love best."
This reply amused the king excessively, and he himself proposed
to send for madame de Bearn. I should speak of my presentation
before him, and then without making any positive concession, he
would see what could be done to satisfy her.
For want of any other, I accepted this
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
M. Morand was again put in requisition, and went from me to ask
madame de Bearn to come and sup at my apartments. We were in
committee--my sisters-in-law, myself, and comte Jean. The comtesse
made some difficulties at first, under pretence that she was afraid
to refuse me a second time. Our messenger assured her by saying,
that a supper would not bind her to any thing, and that she should
still be at liberty to give any reply she pleased. Madame de Bearn
allowed herself to be persuaded, and sent me word that she would
accept my invitation. She would have reflected twice before she
so far committed herself, had she at all suspected the turn we
meant to serve her. But I saw by the wording of her note, that
she still hoped that the king would be induced to grant me the
written promise which I asked for her.
She came. I received her with all possible courtesy, and yet not
with much heartiness. I could not help remembering the vexatious
terms she set upon her complaisance. However, the supper was
gay enough, comte Jean and my sisters-in-law, who knew very well
how to dissemble, did the honors in a most agreeable way. On
leaving table we went into the drawing-room, and then began to
discuss the serious question which had brought us together. At
the first words which comte Jean uttered, madame de Bearn, taking
my hands with a respectful familiarity, said to me:--
"I hope, madame, that you will not have a bad opinion of me, if I
put such conditions to my desire of obliging you. The situation
of my family requires it, but it is only a trifle for the king to grant."
"Much more than you imagine, madame," I replied. "The king does
not care to involve himself in such engagements. He does not
like, moreover, that his sacred word should be doubted."
"Ah?" replied the cunning creature, "heaven forbid that I should
not blindly trust to the king's word, but his memory may fail, or
he, like other men, may forget."
"Madame," replied comte Jean, with the utmost gravity, "madame
is a lady as full of prudence as of kindness, but yet a little too
exacting. Madame wishes to have a promise signed for herself
and son: that is too much. Why does she not content herself in
dividing the difficulty, by satisfying herself with a verbal
promise for what concerns herself, and with a written engagement
for what relates to her son?"
arrange all to our mutual satisfaction. But his majesty would not
surely refuse the entreaties of madame for what I ask."
"I will speak to him of it the first time I see him."
"Oh, you are a charming woman. You will obtain all from the
king, and make a sure friend--"
"Whose friendship is very difficult to acquire," said I, interrupting her.
The countess would have replied to this, when my first
room, announced the king.
At this unexpected name my guest trembled, and in spite of the
thick rouge which covered her cheeks, I perceived she turned pale.
She then saw the scene we had prepared for her: she wished herself
a hundred leagues off: but she could do nothing, but remain where
she was. I took her by the hand, all trembling as she was, and
presented her to the king, saying,
"Sire, I now do for this lady, in my own drawing-room, what she
will have the kindness to do for me at the state-chamber."
"Ah," replied the king, "is it madame de Bearn that you present
to me? I am indeed delighted. Her husband was one of my faithful
servants: I was much pleased with her son when he was one of
pages, and I perceive that she herself is desirous of testifying
to me her attachment to my person. I thank you, madame; you
cannot confer a greater favor on me, and I shall embrace every
opportunity of proving to you how much satisfaction your conduct
Each word that the king uttered went to the heart of the countess.
However, making a virtue of necessity, she replied, that she was
proud and happy at what the king had said to her, and that it
would be her constant aim to please his majesty, flattering
herself that the king would remember the services of the Bearn
family, and would think of her in the dispensation of his bounties.
"You may rely on it, madame," replied Louis XV, "especially if
the comtesse du Barry applies to me in your behalf."
Then, turning towards me, "When, then, is this redoubtable
presentation to take place?"
"On the day, sire, when your majesty shall think proper," I replied.
"Well! I will send the duc de Richelieu to you, who will arrange
This settled, the subject was turned, but madame de Bearn lost
her tongue entirely. In spite of all her endeavors, her forehead
became contracted every moment, and I am sure she went away
vexed and disappointed.
The following morning, the comte Jean and my sister-in-law went
to her house. They testified their regret for what had occurred
the previous evening; they assured her that we would not take
any advantage of the conditionless engagement which she had made
to present me, and that altho' it was impossible to ask the
required guarantees from the king, still we should most undeviatingly
adhere to the clauses of the treaty: they added, that they came
to enquire when she should choose to receive the hundred thousand
livres. The countess replied, that in spite of the real disadvantage
which she must henceforward labor under in this affair, she felt
great friendship for me, and would not refuse to oblige me, and
she flattered herself that I would espouse her cause with the
king. The comte Jean assured her of this, and settled with her
the period of the payment of the hundred thousand livres, which
were to be paid at sight on her drawing on M. de la Borde, the
Thus then my presentation was an assured matter: nothing now
could prevent it, at least I fancied so to myself. I reckoned
without my host; I did not know yet all the malice of a courtier
lady or gentleman. As it was, however, M. de Choiseul and his
vile sister had gained over one of my servants, for they knew all
that had passed. They soon learned that madame de Bearn had come
to supper with me, and that after supper a visit of the king's had
decided this lady on my presentation: this they determined to prevent.
For this end, they despatched as ambassador the chevalier de
Coigny to the house of madame de Bearn. He, following the
instruction, sought by turns to seduce and intimidate the countess,
but all went for nothing. Madame de Bearn told the chevalier de
Coigny, that she had been with me to ask my influence with the
chancellor. The chevalier left her without being able to obtain
any other information.
This bad success did not dishearten the Choiseuls. They sent
this time to madame de Bearn, M. de Roquelaure, bishop of Senlis,
and grand almoner to the king. This prelate was much liked at
court, and in high favor with mesdames (the king's daughters). We
were good friends together at last, but in this particular he was
very near doing me great wrong. M. de Roquelaure having called
on madame de Bearn, told her that he well knew the nature of her
communications with me.
"Do not flatter yourself," said he, "that you will obtain thro'
the influence of the comtesse du Barry, all that has been promised
you. You will have opposed to you the most powerful adversaries
and most august personages. It cannot be concealed from you,
that mesdames contemplate the presentation of this creature with
the utmost displeasure. They will not fail to obtain great influence
over the future dauphin, and will do you mischief with him; so
that, whether in the actual state of things, or in that which the
age and health of the king must lead us to anticipate, you will
be in a most unfortunate situation at court."
The old bishop, with his mischievous frankness, catechised madame
de Bearn so closely, that at length she replied, that so much
respect and deference did she entertain towards the princesses,
that she would not present me until they should accord their
permission for me to appear. M. de Roquelaure took this reply
to the Choiseuls. Madame de Grammont, enchanted, thinking the
point already gained, sent madame de Bearn an invitation to supper
the next day, but this was not the countess's game. She was
compelled to decide promptly, and she thought to preserve a strict
neutrality until fresh orders should issue. What do you suppose
she did? She wrote to us, madame de Grammont and myself, that
she had scalded her foot, and that it was impossible for her to go
On receiving her note I believed myself betrayed, forsaken. Comte
Jean and I suspected that this was a feint, and went with all
speed to call on the comtesse de Bearn. She received us with her
usual courtesy, complained that we had arrived at the very moment
of the dressing of her wound, and told us she would defer it; but
I would not agree to this. My brother-in-law went into another
room, and madame de Bearn began to unswathe her foot in my
presence with the utmost caution and tenderness. I awaited the
evidence of her falsehood, when, to my astonishment, I saw a
horrible burn! I did not for a moment doubt, what was afterwards
confirmed, namely, that madame de Bearn had actually perpetrated
this, and maimed herself with her own free will. I mentally cursed
her Roman courage, and would have sent my heroic godmother to the
devil with all my heart.
Thus then was my presentation stopped by the foot of madame de
Bearn. This mischance did not dampen the zeal of my friends. On
the one hand, comte Jean, after having stirred heaven and earth,
met with the comtesse d'Aloigny. She consented to become my
godmother immediately after her own presentation, for eighty
thousand livres and the expenses of the ceremony. But mesdames
received her so unsatisfactorily, that my own feelings told me, I
ought not to be presented at court under her auspices.
We thanked the comtesse d'Aloigny therefore, and sent her, as a
remuneration, twenty thousand livres from the king.
Whilst comte Jean failed on one side, the duc d'Aiguillon
succeeded on another. He was someway related to madame de Bearn.
He went to visit her, and made her understand that, as the Choiseuls
neither gave nor promised her anything, she would be wrong in
declaring for them: that, on the other hand, if she declared for
me, I could procure for her the favor of the king. Madame de
Bearn yielded to his persuasions, and charged the duc d'Aiguillon
to say to me, and even herself wrote, that she put herself
entirely into my hands; and that, as soon as she was well, I
might rely on her. What, I believe, finally decided this lady
was, the fear that if she did not comply with what I required,
I should content myself with the comtesse d'Aloigny.
Now assured of my introductress, I only directed my attention to
the final obstacle of my presentation; I mean the displeasure of
mesdames. I do not speak of madame Louise, of whom I can only
write in terms of commendation; but I had opposed to me mesdames
Victoire and Sophie, and especially madame Adelaide, who, as the
eldest, gave them their plan of conduct. This latter, who had
given too much cause to be spoken of herself to have any right to
talk of others, never ceased haranguing about the scandal of my
life; and I had recently, unknown to myself, fallen into complete
disgrace with her. This is the case.
The apartment from which I had dislodged M. de Noailles had
been requested of the king by madame Adelaide. Ignorant of this
I had installed myself there. I soon learned that I had offended
the princess, and instantly hastened to offer her the apartments
she wished to have. She came into them; but as it was necessary
for me to be accommodated somewhere, the king gave me the former
apartments of his daughter. This was what madame Adelaide called
an act of tyranny; she made the chateau echo with her complaints:
she said I had driven her out, that I wished to separate her from
her sisters; that I should wean her father's affection entirely
from her. Such injustice distressed me excessively. I sent to
request the king to come to me; and when he entered I threw
myself at his feet, entreating him to appease his daughter on any
terms, and to let me go away, since I brought such trouble into
The king, irritated at madame Adelaide 's conduct, went to her,
and told her, in a private interview, that he would make certain
matters public if she did not hold her tongue; and she, alarmed,
ceased her clamor, or rather, contented herself in complaining
in a lower key.
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
This fit of anger of madame Adelaide had given additional courage
to the cabal. It began to exclaim and plot against me with
redoubled force; hoping thus to intimidate the king, and
effectually bar my presentation; but it only tended to hasten it.
One evening, when the king and the marechal de Richelieu were
with me, he said to me,
"A stop must be put to these clamors. I see that until you are
presented, there will be doubts perpetually arising and tormenting
us on the subject; and until it takes place I shall have no ease.
these malcontents to silence."
" Sire," replied the marechal, "make your will palpable, and you
will see all the court submit."
"Yes, but my daughters?"
"Mesdames know better than any persons the deference due to
"I assure you," replied the king, "that it will be an unpleasant
quarter of an hour for me to pass."
"Well, sire, then charge one of us with the mission: the bishop
of Senlis, for instance, or M. de la Vauguyon. I feel assured
that either of them will acquit himself admirably in the business,
with the previous understanding that your majesty will support
him with your authority."
"I will do so most assuredly; but it will be best not to use it
but at the last extremity. I have no wish to be made a bugbear
to my family."
"As to the selection of an ambassador," I interrupted, "I beg it
may not fall on M. de Roquelaure; he has been working against
me for some time."
"Why not send M. de Jarente?" inquired the king.
"Ah, sire," replied the duke, "because we cannot trust him; he
is a gay* fellow. Madame Sophie might tell him, that he only
took the part of madame du Barry, because he passes his life
Flippant, light-minded, unreliable. At the time this book
was written "gay" did not carry its present connotation of
homosexuality, nor did it always carry the connotation of
cheerful and happy that preceded the present connotation.
"True enough," said the king, "I prefer the duc de la Vauguyon:
he has a good reputation--"
"And well deserved," said the old marechal, sneering. "Yes, sire,
he is a pious man; at least, he plays his part well. "
"Peace, viper; you spare nobody."
"Sire, I am only taking my revenge."
"Why do you not like the governor of my grandsons?"
"In truth, sire, I must confess to you, that except yourself and
the ladies, I have not many likings at Versailles."
Louis XV smiled, and I pulled the bell; when a valet appeared,
"Go and find M. de la Vauguyon for his majesty."
When we were alone, "What, already? "said Louis XV.
"Madame is right," replied the duke, "we must strike while the
iron is hot."
The king began to pace up and down the room, which was his
invariable custom when anything disturbed him: then suddenly stopping,
"I should not be astonished at a point blank refusal from M. de
"Oh, sire, make yourself easy; the governor has no inclination to
follow the steps of Montausier or Beauvilliers. In truth you are
very candid; and I must tell you, that you have too good an
opinion of us."
At this moment M. de la Vauguyon entered. He saluted the king
with humility; and asked him, in a mild tone of voice, what his
pleasure was with him.
"A real mark of your zeal," was the king's reply.
"And of your gallantry," added the marechal, who saw the hesitation
of the king. Louis XV was enchanted that another should speak
for him. M. de Richelieu continued:
"His majesty, monsieur le duc, wishes that you should prepare
mesdames to receive our dear countess here, when she shall appear
before them to pay the homage of her respect and devotion."
The king, emboldened by these words, said, "Yes, my dear duke,
I can only find you in the chateau who have any influence over
the princesses, my daughters. They have much respect, and no
less friendship, for you. You will easily bring them to reason."
As M. de la Vauguyon seemed in no hurry to undertake the charge,
the marechal added,
"Yes, sir, to manage this business properly, you and M. de Senlis
are the only men in the kingdom."
The marechal had his reasons for saying this, for a secret jealousy
existed between the governor and the grand almoner. M. de la
Vauguyon made haste to say, that he could not resist his majesty's
orders, and his desire to be agreeable to me.
"Ah! you will then do something for me?" I replied. "I am
delighted and proud."
"Madame," replied the duke with much gravity, "friends are proved
"The present one proves your attachment to me," said I in my
turn; "and his majesty will not think it wrong of me, if, as a
recompense, I embrace you in his presence": and, on saying this,
I went up to the duc de la Vauguyon, and gave him two kisses,
which the poor man took as quietly as possible.
"That's well," said the king. "You are, la Vauguyon, a man of a
thousand. Listen attentively to me. I wish much that the
comtesse du Barry should be presented; I wish it, and that, too,
in defiance of all that can be said and done. My indignation is
excited beforehand against all those who shall raise any obstacle
to it. Do not fail to let my daughters know, that if they do not
comply with my wishes, I will let my anger fall heavily on all
persons by whose counsels they may be persuaded; for I only am
master, and I will prove it to the last. These are your credentials,
my dear duke, add to them what you may think fitting; I will
bear you out in any thing--"
"Mercy!" said the duc de Richelieu to me in an undertone, "the
king has poured forth all his energy in words; he will have none
left to act upon if he meets with any resistance." The marechal
knew the king well.
"I doubt not, sire," replied the duc de la Vauguyon, "that the
respectful duty of mesdames will be ready to comply with
"I trust and believe it will prove so," replied the king hastily.
"I am a good father, and would not that my daughters should give
me cause to be angry with them. Let madame Adelaide understand,
that she has lately had a mistaken opinion of me, and that she
has an opportunity of repairing her error in the present instance.
The princesses are not ignorant that I have often shut my eyes
upon certain affairs--. Enough; they must now testify their
attachment for me. Why should they oppose the presentation of
in the days of madame de Pompadour."
At these latter words I could not forbear laughing. La Vauguyon
and de Richelieu left us and here the conversation terminated.
The next morning they brought me a note from the duc de la Vauguyon.
Thus it ran:--
MADAME,--Ready to serve you, I wish to have a
few minutes' conversation with you. Be persuaded
that I will not tell you anything but what will be
agreeable and useful to you."
I instantly answered:--
"You are too good a friend for me to refuse to see
you willingly under any circumstances, and
particularly the present. Your conduct yesterday
assures you my eternal regard. Come instantly;
my grateful heart expects you with impatience."
My sister-in-law, to whom I showed this correspondence, said to
me, "This gentleman does not come to see you for your bright
eyes; and yet his visit is not disinterested."
"What interest can he have to serve?"
"None of his own, perhaps; but those villainous Jesuits."
"Don't you like them, sister of mine?"
"I hate nobody."
M. de la Vauguyon arrived; and as soon as we were alone, he said
"Well, madame, I am now on the point of going to fight your
battles. I have to deal with a redoubtable foe."
"Do you fear?"
"Why, I am not over confident; my position is a delicate one.
Mesdames will perforce obey the orders of the king, but they
will not find much pleasure in seeing me the ambassador sent to
them: all the Choiseul party will vociferate loudly. Nevertheless,
to prove my devotion to you, I brave it all."
"You may rely on it that I will never forget the service you are
about to render me."
"I have only one favor to ask of you. Authorize me to say to
mesdames, that if the pleasures of life distract your attention
from religious duties, your soul is in truth fully devoted to our
holy religion; and that far from supporting the philosophers, you
will aid, by your influence with the king, every measure advantageous
to the society of Jesuits."
The hypocritical tone in which this was uttered, almost compelled
me to burst out into a fit of laughter; but the serious posture of
my affairs induced me to preserve my gravity, and I answered in
a serious tone,
"Not only, monsieur le duc, do I authorize you to say so much, but
I beg you to declare to mesdames that I am already filled with
love and respect for the Jesuits, and that it will not be my fault
if they do not return amongst us."
"Ah, you are a treasure of wisdom," replied the duke, kissing my
hand with fervor; "and I am disgusted at the way you are calumniated."
"I know no reason for it, for I have never done harm to any
person. Assure mesdames that I am sincerely grieved that I am
not agreeable to them, and would give half my life to obtain, not
their friendship, of which I do not feel myself worthy, but their
indifference. Deign also to tell them, that at all times I am at
their disposal, and beseech them to consider me as their
"It is impossible to behave more correctly than you do; and I am
confident that mesdames will soon discard their unjust prejudices.
Thus, it is well understood that our friends will be yours."
"Yes, yes, provided they are really mine."
"Certainly. I answer for them as I answer for you."
And thus, my friend, did I find myself allied to the Jesuitical party.
The duke commenced the attack with madame Louise, the most
reasonable of the king's daughters. This angelic princess, already
occupied with the pious resolution which she afterwards put into
execution in the following year, contented herself with saying
some words on the commotion occasioned by my presence at Versailles,
and then, as if her delicacy had feared to touch on such a subject,
she asked the duc de la Vauguyon, if the king ordered her to
receive the comtesse du Barry.
"Yes, madame," replied the duke; "it is the express will of
"I submit to his wish: the lady may come when she will."
The duke, contented with his success so far, went next to madame
Sophie. This princess was not unkind, but subject to attacks of
the nerves, which from time to time soured her natural disposition:
she had her caprices of hatred, her fits of love. The day when
the duke talked to her of my presentation she was very much
provoked against me; and after the opening speech of the ambassador,
flung in his teeth the report of the apartments, which I have
already told you. The duke explained to her, and that too without
saying anything unfavorable of madame Adelaide, and concluded by
begging her to concede the favor I besought. Madame eluded this,
by saying, that before she gave a definite reply she wished to
confer with her sisters.
Madame Victoire was not more easily persuaded. This princess had
amiable qualities, solid virtues which made her loved and respected
by the whole court; but she had but little will of her own, and
allowed herself to be led by the Choiseuls; who, to flatter her,
told her that she alone had inherited the energy of her grandfather,
Louis XIV. She was advised to display it in this instance, and,
she would willingly have done so. The comtesse de Bercheny, one
of her ladies in waiting, was the person who urged her on to the
greatest resistance. This lady did not cease to exclaim against
me, and to fan the flame of displeasure which, but for her,
would never have appeared. I was informed of the mode adopted by
madame de Bercheny to injure me. I sent for M. Bertin, who was
devoted to my service, and begged him to go and speak to the lady;
he went, and made her understand that the king, enraged against
her, would expel her from Versailles, if she were not silent.
The comtesse de Bercheny was alarmed; and under pretence of taking
a tour, left the court for a month. You will see anon the result
of all these conferences.
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 departure of the comtesse de Bercheny was announced to the
princesses in the manner least likely to provoke their regrets.
Nevertheless, a rumor never slept at Versailles, a whisper was
quickly circulated thro'-out the castle, that this sudden and
unexpected journey had originated in the king's weariness of her
continual philippics against me; and it was clearly comprehended
by all, that a similar disgrace would be the portion of those who
should offend the monarch whilst seeking to procure my humiliation.
This show of firmness was sufficient to repress the daring flights
of those self-constituted heroines, whose courage lasted only
whilst the king was silent, and who trembled like a leaf before
the slightest manifestation of his will. Still the cabal against
me, tho' weakened, was not destroyed; it was too strong for the
present shock to dissolve it; and altho' none was sufficiently
hardy to declare open war, plots were constantly going on to
Meanwhile madame Victoire, left to herself, could not long support
such excessive animosity; and the duc de la Vauguyon profiting by
the species of lassitude into which she appeared to have fallen,
led her without difficulty to act in conformity to the king's wishes.
There remained now therefore but madame Adelaide to overcome,
and the task became more difficult in proportion to the elevated
rank she occupied at court. By priority of birth she held the
first place there; and hitherto this superiority had been ceded
to her without dispute, more particularly since the hand of death
had removed both the queen her mother, and the dauphiness her
sister-in-law. She therefore could only view with uneasiness the
prospect of another appearing on the stage whose influence would
be greater than hers; and who (until the young dauphiness should
attain to years of maturity) might deprive her of all honors but
those due to her birth. Madame Adelaide was gifted with good
sense, affability of manners, and a kind and compassionating
heart towards all who needed her aid; her disposition was good,
but she loved dominion, and the least show of resistance to her
wishes was painful and offensive to her. She was determined to
uphold the duc de Choiseul; and my decided manner towards that
minister plainly evinced how little I should feel inclined to
support her view of things. There were therefore several reasons
for my presence at court being unpleasant to madame Adelaide.
Against her therefore did the duc de la Vauguyon direct his
batteries. She received his attack with the most determined
obstinacy; all was in vain, she was unconquerable, and the most
skilfully devised plans were insufficient to surmount her resistance;
it was therefore necessary to have recourse to the clergy, who
were at that time completely led by the Jesuits; each member of
the church, up to the archbishop of Paris, was called upon to
interfere, or their names were employed in default of their
presence. It was pointed out to madame Adelaide that I possessed
good intentions with feelings of religion, which, however stifled
by the freedom of the age, only required careful management to
produce a rich development. The success of this last mode of
attack astonished the duke himself; and madam, dazzled by the
hopes of my conversion, as well as weary of hostilities, yielded
her consent to my being presented. After these private negotiations
the four sisters met at the house of the elder one; and there they
decided that since the king had so expressly manifested his
pleasure relative to my presentation, they should conform to the
desire of their father, by receiving me with every possible mark
The duc de la Vauguyon hastened to communicate to me this happy
state of things; and my joy was so great, that I embraced him
with the sincerest warmth, assuring him that I should always look
upon him as my best friend, and seek to testify my regard at every
opportunity that fell in my way of forwarding his interests.
Some days afterwards the king brought me a splendid ring, worth
thirty-six thousand livres.
"You must send this jewel to your good friend the duke," said he.
"I dare not," replied I. "I fear lest it should draw forth
"No, no," cried the king, "'tis not the fashion at court to construe
gifts like this into insults, but I should wish this trifle to be
presented in an indirect manner" ; and, after having considered a
moment, "I have it," exclaimed he, "I have thought of a clever
expedient; let us put this ring upon the finger of that Chinese
mandarin before us, and give the figure with the ring, considering
it merely an appendage to it. Assuredly the most disinterested
man cannot refuse to accept a china figure."
I extolled the king's idea as being a most happy one; and he
immediately fitted the ring upon the little finger of the mandarin,
which I caused to be carried to the duc de la Vauguyon with the
"MONSIEUR LE DUC,--You have been my best friend;
'tis to your kind offices that I owe the confirmation
of my happiness; but I would secure the continuance
of your valuable friendship, and for that purpose I
send you a little magical figure, which, placed in
your cabinet, will compel your thoughts to occupy
themselves with me in spite of yourself. I am
superstitious enough to rely greatly upon the
talismanic virtue of the charmed porcelain; and further,
I must tell you, that I was not its purchaser in the
first instance, neither did I adorn it for your
acceptance. I should not have ventured to offer more
than the assurance of my everlasting esteem and regard
for your acceptance. The trifle sent comes from a
higher source; and the august hand so dear to both of
us, deigned to preside over the arrangement. Should
there be in it anything at all repugnant to your
feelings, I beseech you bear me no ill will for it;
for truly, I may say, I should never have summoned
courage to do that which has just been done by him
whom all unite in loving and esteeming."
The duke replied,-
"Your talisman is welcome; yet its magic power, far
from augmenting the warmth of my feelings towards
you, would have diminished it on account of a certain
accessory with which my friendship could have well
dispensed: however, what you say on the subject closes
my lips. I gratefully acknowledge the daily favors
bestowed upon me from the august hand of whom you
speak; and I receive with the deepest respect (mingled
with regret) the gracious present he deigns to convey
to me by you. I own that I should have preferred,
to the splendid jewel which bedecked the finger of
your deity, a Chinese counterpart, which might indeed
have enabled all admiring gazers to say, 'these two
are truly a pair.' As for yourself, who would fain
pass for nobody in the munificent gift, I thank you at
least for the flattering place you assign me in your
recollection. Be assured I feel its full value, and
you may confidently reckon upon the disposal of my
poor credit as well as command the little influence I
may be said to possess in the castle. Adieu, madame,
I entreat your acceptance of the expression of my
most sincere and respectful devotion."
The king, having read M. de la Vauguyon's letter, sent immediately
to the china manufactory to purchase the fellow mandarin so much
coveted by the duke, and caused it to be conveyed to him with the
"MY DEAR GOVERNOR--You are a kind-hearted creature
I know, and a great promoter of domestic harmony; to
fain unite the wife with the husband. Heaven grant
that such a measure may indeed bring about your
proposed felicity! However, by way of furthering your
schemes, I send the Chinese lady, whose beauty I trust
will not disturb your repose, for in spite of your
sanctity, I know you can be as gallant as the rest of
us, and possibly this beautiful mandarin may prove to
be more lovely in your eyes, than in those of the
husband for whom she is destined; but, in sober
earnestness, I would wish you to be convinced that
my intention is not to attempt payment for the
services rendered me, but simply to evince my sense of
their value. There is one beside me at this moment
who has given me a kiss to transmit to you--You will
easily guess who has had the audacity to enlist me
into her service upon such an occasion."
This was one of the recompenses offered to the duc de la Vauguyon,
as a compensation for the public clamor and dislike which sprung
up against him in consequence of his zeal for my service. At
Versailles, the general ferment was at its height, when it became
generally known that I had triumphed over all obstacles, and that
my presentation was certainly to take place. In the midst of all
this the desperate odium fell upon the duc de la Vauguyon, and
a general attack was made upon him: his virtues, reputation,
talents, qualities, were made the subject of blame and scandal--
in a word, he was run down by public opinion. But the leaders
of the cabal were not the less struck by the news of my success,
which sounded in their ears like the falling of a thunder-bolt.
The silly princess de Guemenee, who, with her husband, has since
become a bankrupt to so enormous and scandalous an amount, flew
without delay to convey the tidings of my victory to the duchesse
de Grammont, to whom it was a death-blow. All her courage forsook
her; she shed bitter tears, and displayed a weakness so much the
more ridiculous, as it seemed to arise from the utmost despair.
She repaired to madame Adelaide, before whom she conducted herself
in the most absurd and extravagant manner. The poor princess,
intimidated by the weakness she herself evinced, in drawing back
after she had in a manner espoused the opposite party, durst not
irritate her, but, on the contrary, strove to justify her own
change of conduct towards me, by urging the impossibility of
refusing obedience to the express command of the king.
The other princesses did not evince greater firmness when overwhelmed
by the complaints of the cabal, and in a manner bent their knee
before the wives of the French nobility, asking their pardon for
their father's error in selecting a mistress from any rank but
theirs. About this period a song, which I admired greatly, was
circulated abroad. My enemies interpreted it to my disadvantage,
but I was far from being of the same opinion. It was successively
attributed to the most clever men in Paris, and I have myself met
with four who each asserted himself to be the author; in justice
it should be ascribed to him who appeared the most calculated
to have written it, and who indeed claimed it for his own--the
chevalier de Boufflers. I do not know whether you recollect the
lines in question. I will transcribe them from memory, adding
another couplet, which was only known amongst our own particular
circle, but which proves most incontestably the spirit of kindness
with which the stanzas were composed.
Lise, ta beaute seduit,
Et charme tout le monde.
En vain la duchesse en rougit,
Et la princesse en gronde,
Chacun sait que Venus naquit
De l'ecume de l'onde.
En rit-elle moins tous les dieux.
Lui rendre un juste hommage!
Et Paris, le berger fameux,
Lui donner l'avantage
Meme sur la reine des cieux
Et Minerve la sage?
Dans le serail du grand seigneur.
Quelle est la favorite?
C'est la plus belle au gre de coeur
Du maitre qui l'habite.
C'est le seul titre en sa faveur
Et c'est le vrai merite.
Que Grammont tonne contre toi,
La chose est naturelle.
Elle voudrait donner la loi
Et n'est qu' une mortelle;
Il faut, pour plaire au plus grand roi,
Sans orgueil etre belle.*
*From those readers who may understand this chanson
in the original, and look somewhat contemptuously on
the following version, the translator begs to shelter
himself under the well-known observation of Lord
Chesterfield, "that everything suffers by translation,
but a bishop!" Those to whom such a dilution is
necessary will perhaps be contented with the
skim-milk as they cannot get the cream.- TRANS.
Thy beauty, seductress, leads mortals astray,
Over hearts, Lise, how vast and resistless thy sway.
Cease, duchess, to blush! cease, princess, to rave--
Venus sprang from the foam of the ocean wave.
All the gods pay their homage at her beauteous shrine,
And adore her as potent, resistless, divine!
To her Paris, the shepherd, awarded the prize,
Sought by Juno the regal, and Pallas the wise.
Who rules o'er her lord in the Turkish
Reigns queen of his heart, and e'er basks in his smile?
'Tis she, who resplendent, shines loveliest of all,
And beauty holds power in her magic thrall.
Then heed not the clamors that Grammont may raise,
How natural her anger! how vain her dispraise!
'Tis not a mere mortal our monarch can charm,
Free from pride is the beauty that bears off the palm.
This song was to be found in almost every part of France. Altho'
the last couplet was generally suppressed, so evident was its
partial tone towards me, in the midst of it all I could not help
being highly amused with the simplicity evinced by the good
people of France, who, in censuring the king's conduct, found
nothing reprehensible but his having omitted to select his mistress
from elevated rank.
The citizens resented this falling off in royalty with as much
warmth and indignation as the grandees of the court; and I could
enjoy a laugh on the subject of their angry displeasure as soon
as my presentation was decided upon.
The intrigues carried on by those about the princesses, and the
necessity of awaiting the perfect recovery of madame de Bearn,
delayed this (to me) important day till the end of the month of
April, 1770. On the evening of the 21st the king, according to
custom, announced a presentation for the following day; but he
durst not explain himself more frankly; he hesitated, appeared
embarrassed, and only pronounced my name in a low and uncertain
voice; it seemed as tho' he feared his own authority was insufficient
to support him in such a measure. This I did not learn till some
time afterwards; and when I did hear it, I took the liberty of
speaking my opinion upon it freely to his majesty.
On the next day, the 22d, I was solely engrossed with my dress:
it was the most important era of my life, and I would not have
appeared on it to any disadvantage. A few days previously, the
king had sent me, by the crown jeweller, Boemer, a set of diamonds,
valued at 150,000 livres, of which he begged my acceptance.
Delighted with so munificent a present I set about the duties of
the toilette with a zeal and desire of pleasing which the importance
of the occasion well excused. I will spare you the description of
my dress; were I writing to a woman I would go into all these
details; but as I know they would not be to your taste, I will
pass all these uninteresting particulars over in silence, and
proceed to more important matter.
Paris and Versailles were filled with various reports. Thro'out
the city, within, without the castle, all manner of questions
were asked, as tho' the monarchy itself was in danger. Couriers
were dispatched every instant with fresh tidings of the great
event which was going on. A stranger who had observed the general
agitation would easily have remarked the contrast between the rage
and consternation of my enemies and the joy of my partizans, who
crowded in numbers to the different avenues of the palace, in
order to feast their eyes upon the pageantry of my triumphal
visit to court.
Nothing could surpass the impatience with which I was expected;
hundreds were counting the minutes, whilst I, under the care of
my hairdresser and robemaker, was insensible to the rapid flight
of time, which had already carried us beyond the hour appointed
for my appearance. The king himself was a prey to an unusual
uneasiness; the day appeared to him interminable; and the eagerness
with which he awaited me made my delay still more apparent. A
thousand conjectures were afloat as to the cause of it. Some
asserted that my presentation had been deferred for the present,
and, in all probability, would never take place; that the princesses
had opposed it in the most decided manner, and had refused upon
any pretense whatever to admit me to their presence. All these
suppositions charmed my enemies, and filled them with hopes
which their leaders, better informed, did not partake.
Meanwhile the king's restlessness increased; he kept continually
approaching the window to observe what was going on in the
court-yard of the castle, and seeing there no symptoms of my
equipage being in attendance, began to lose both temper and
patience. It has been asserted, that he gave orders to have the
presentation put off till a future period, and that the duc de
Richelieu procured my
partly false. Whilst in ignorance of the real cause of my being
so late, the king said to the first gentleman of the chamber,
"You will see that this poor countess has met with some accident,
or else that her joy has been too much for her, and made her too
ill to attend our court to-day; if that be the case, it is my pleasure
that her presentation should not be delayed beyond to-morrow."
"Sire," replied the duke, "your majesty's commands are absolute."
These words, but half understood, were eagerly caught up, and
interpreted their own way by those who were eager to seize anything
that might tell to my prejudice.
At length I appeared; and never had I been more successful in
appearance. I was conducted by my godmother, who, decked like
an altar, was all joy and satisfaction to see herself a sharer in
such pomp and splendor. The princesses received me most courteously;
the affability, either real or feigned, which shone in their eyes
as they regarded me, and the flattering words with which they
welcomed my arrival, was a mortal blow to many of the spectators,
especially to the ladies of honor. The princesses would not suffer
me to bend my knee before them, but at the first movement I
made to perform this act of homage, they hastened to raise me,
speaking to me at the same time in the most gracious manner.
But my greatest triumph was with the king. I appeared before him
in all my glory, and his eyes declared in a manner not to be
misunderstood by all around him the impetuous love which he felt
for me. He had threatened the previous evening to let me fall
at his feet without the least effort on his part to prevent it.
I told him that I was sure his gallantry would not allow him to
act in this manner; and we had laid a bet on the matter. As soon
as I approached him, and he took my hand to prevent me, as I
began to stoop before him, "You have lost, sire," said I to him.
"How is it possible to preserve my dignity in the presence of so
many graces?" was his reply.
These gracious words of his majesty were heard by all around
him. My enemies were wofully chagrined; but what perfected their
annihilation was the palpable lie which my appearance gave to
their false assertions. They had blazoned forth everywhere that
my manners were those of a housemaid; that I was absurd and
unladylike in my conduct; and that it was only requisite to have
a glimpse of me to recognize both the baseness of my extraction,
and the class of society in which my life had been hitherto spent.
But I showed manners so easy and so elegant that the people soon
shook off their preconceived prejudice against me. I heard my
demeanor lauded as greatly as my charms and the splendor of my
attire. Nothing could be more agreeable to me. In a word, I
obtained complete success, and thenceforward learnt experimentally
how much the exterior and a noble carriage add to the consideration
in which a person is held. I have seen individuals of high rank
and proud behavior who carried no influence in their looks,
because their features were plain and common place; whilst persons
of low station, whose face was gifted with natural dignity, had
only to show themselves to attract the respect of the multitude.
Nothing about me bespoke that I was sprung from a vulgar stock,
and thus scandal of that kind ceased from the day of my presentation;
and public opinion having done me justice in this particular, slander
was compelled to seek for food elsewhere.
That evening I had a large circle at my house. The chancellor,
the bishop of Orleans, M. de Saint-Florentin, M. Bertin, the
prince de Soubise, the ducs de Richelieu, de la Trimouille, de
Duras, d'Aiguillon, and d'Ayen. This last did not hesitate to
come to spy out all that passed in my apartments, that he might
go and spread it abroad, augmented by a thousand malicious
commentaries. I had also M. de Sartines, my brother-in-law,
etc. The duc de la Vauguyon alone was absent. I knew beforehand
that he would not come, and that it was a sacrifice which he thought
himself compelled to make to the cabal. The ladies were mesdames
de Bearn and d'Aloigny, with my sisters-in-law. Amongst the
ladies presented they were the only ones with whom I had formed
any intimacy; as for the rest I was always the "horrible creature,"
of whom they would not hear on any account.
The king, on entering, embraced me before the whole party. "You
are a charming creature," said he to me, "and the brilliancy of
your beauty has to-day reminded me of the device of my
This was a flattering commencement; the rest of the company
chimed in with their master, and each tried to take the first
part in the chorus. The duc d'Ayen even talked of my grace of
manner. "Ah, sir," said I to him, "I have had time to learn it
from Pharamond to the reigning king."
This allusion was bitter, and did not escape the duke, who turned
pale in spite of his presence of mind, on finding that I was aware
of the malicious repartee which he had made to the king when
talking of me, and which I have already mentioned to you. The
chancellor said to me,
"You have produced a great effect, but especially have you
triumphed over the cabal by the nobility of your manners and the
dignity of your mien; and thus you have deprived it of one of its
greatest engines of mischief, that of calumniating your person."
"They imagined then," said I to him, "that I could neither speak
nor be silent, neither walk nor sit still."
"As they wished to find you ignorant and awkward they have set
you down as such. This is human nature: when we hate any one, we
say they are capable of any thing; then, that they have become
guilty of every thing; and, to wind up all, they adopt for truth
to-day what they invented last night."
"Were you not fearful?" inquired the king.
"Forgive me, sire," I answered, "when I say that I feared lest I
should not please your majesty; and I was excessively desirous of
convincing mesdames of my respectful attachment."
This reply was pronounced to be fitting and elegant, altho' I had
not in any way prepared it. The fact is, that I was in great
apprehension lest I should displease the king's daughters; and I
dreaded lest they should manifest too openly the little friendship
which they had towards me. Fortunately all passed off to a miracle,
and my good star did not burn dimly in this decisive circumstance.
Amongst those who rejoiced at my triumph I cannot forget the duc
d'Aiguillon. During the whole of the day he was in the greatest
agitation. His future destiny was, in a measure, attached to my
fortune; he knew that his whole existence depended on mine; and
he expected from me powerful support to defend him against the
pack of his enemies, who were yelping open-mouthed against him.
He stood in need of all his strength of mind and equanimity to
conceal the disquietude and perplexity by which he was internally agitated.
The comte Jean also participated in this great joy. His situation
at court was not less doubtful; he had no longer reason to blush
for his alliance with me, and could now form, without excess of
presumption, the most brilliant hopes of the splendor of his
house. His son, the vicomte Adolphe, was destined to high fortune;
and I assure you that I deeply regretted when a violent and
premature death took him away from his family. My presentation
permitted his father to realize the chimera which he had pursued
with so much perseverance. He flattered himself in taking part
with me. I did not forget him in the distribution of my rewards;
and the king's purse was to him a source into which he frequently
dipped with both hands.
The next day I had a visit from the chancellor.
"Now," said he, "you are at the height of your wishes, and we
must arrange matters, that the king shall find perpetual and varied
amusements, with you. He does not like large parties; a small
circle is enough for him; then he is at his ease, and likes to see
the same faces about him. If you follow my advice you will have
but few females about you, and select that few with discernment."
"How can I choose them at all when I see so very few?" was my
reply. "I have no positive intimacy with any court lady; and
amongst the number I should be at a loss to select any one whom
I would wish to associate with in preference to another."
"Oh, do not let that disturb you," he replied: "they leave you
alone now, because each is intent on observing what others may
do; but as soon as any one shall pay you a visit, the others will
run as fast after you as did the sheep of Panurge. I am greatly
deceived if they are not very desirous that one of them shall
devote herself, and make the first dash, that they may profit
by her pretended fault. I know who will not be the last to come
and station herself amongst the furniture of your apartment. The
marechale de Mirepoix was too long the complaisant friend of
madame de Pompadour not to become, and that very soon, the friend
of the comtesse du Barry."
"Good heaven," I exclaimed, "how delighted I should be to have
the friendship of this lady, whose wit and amiable manners are so
greatly talked of."
"Yes," said de Maupeou, laughing, "she is a type of court ladies,
a mixture of dignity and suppleness, majesty and condescension,
which is worth its weight in gold. She was destined from all
eternity to be the companion of the king's female friends."
We both laughed; and the chancellor went on to say: "There are
others whom I will point out to you by and by; as for this one, I
undertake to find out whether she will come first of the party.
She has sent to ask an audience of me concerning a suit she has
in hand. I will profit by the circumstances to come to an explanation
with her, about you. She is not over fond of the Choiseul party;
and I augur this, because I see that she puts on a more agreeable
air towards them."
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
Amongst those personages who came to compliment me on the evening
of my presentation was M. the comte de la Marche, son of the prince
du Conti, and consequently prince of the blood. He had long been
devoted to the will of Louis XV. As soon as his most serene
highness had wind of my favor he hastened to add to the number of
my court; and I leave you to imagine how greatly I was flattered
at seeing it augmented by so august a personage.
This conquest was most valuable in my eyes, for I thus proved to
the world, that by attracting the king to me I did not isolate him
from the whole of his family. It is very true that for some time
the comte de la Marche had been out of favor with the public, by
reason of his over complaisance towards the ministers of the king's
pleasure; but he was not the less a prince of the blood, and at
Versailles this rank compensated for almost every fault. He was
a lively man, moreover, his society was agreeable, and the title
he bore reflected his distinction amongst a crowd of courtiers.
I felt, therefore, that I ought to consider myself as very fortunate
that he deigned to visit me, and accordingly received him with
all the civility I could display; and the welcome reception which
he always experienced drew him frequently to my abode.
The friendship with which he honored me was not agreeable to my
enemies; and they tried by every possible means to seduce him
from me. They got his near relations to talk to him about it; his
intimate friends to reason with him; the females whom he most
admired to dissuade him from it. There was not one of these
latter who did not essay to injure me in his estimation, by saying
that he dishonored himself by an acquaintance with me. There was
amongst others a marquise de Beauvoir, the issue of a petty
nobility, whom he paid with sums of gold, altho' she was not his
mistress by title. Gained over by the Choiseuls, she made proposals
concerning me to the prince of so ridiculous a nature, that he said
to her impatiently: "I' faith, my dear, as in the eyes of the world
every woman who lives with a man who is not her husband is a ------,
so I think a man is wise to choose the loveliest he can find; and
in this way the king is at this moment much better off than any
of his subjects."
Only imagine what a rage this put the marquise de Beauvoir in: she
stormed, wept, had a nervous attack. The comte de la Marche
contemplated her with a desperate tranquillity; but this scene
continuing beyond the limits of tolerable patience, he was so tired
of it that he left her. This was not what the marquise wished; and
she hastened to write a submissive letter to him, in which, to justify
herself, she confessed to the prince, that in acting against me she
had only yielded to the instigations of the cabal, and particularly
alluded to mesdames de Grammont and de Guemenee.
The comte de la Marche showed me this letter, which I retained
in spite of his resistance and all the efforts he made to obtain
possession of it again. My intention was to show it to the king;
and I did not fail to give it to him at the next visit he paid me:
he read it, and shrugging up his shoulders, as was his usual custom,
he said to me,
"They are devils incarnate, and the worst of the kind. They try
to injure you in every way, but they shall not succeed. I receive
also anonymous letters against you, they are tossed into the
post-box in large packets with feigned names, in the hope that
they will reach me. Such slanders ought not to annoy you: in the
days of madame de Pompadour, the same thing was done. The same
schemes were tried to ruin madame de Chateauroux. Whenever I
have been suspected of any tenderness towards a particular female,
every species of intrigue has been instantly put in requisition.
Moreover," he continued, "madame de Grammont attacks you with too
much obstinacy not to make me believe but that she would employ all
possible means to attain her end."
"Ah," I exclaimed, "because she has participated in your friendship
you are ready to support her."
"Do not say so in a loud tone," he replied laughingly; "her joy
would know no bounds if she could believe it was in her power
to inspire you with jealousy."
"But," I said, "that insolent Guemenee; has she also to plume
herself on your favors as an excuse for overpowering me with her
hatred, and for tearing me to pieces in the way she does?"
"No," was the king's answer; "she is wrong, and I will desire her
father-in-law to say so."
"And I will come to an explanation with the prince de Soubise on
this point; and we will see whether or not I will allow myself to
have my throat cut like an unresisting sheep."
I did not fail to keep my word. The prince de Soubise came the
next morning; chance on that day induced him to be extraordinarily
gallant towards me; never had he praised me so openly, or with so
much exaggeration. I allowed him to go on; but when at length he
had finished his panegyric, "Monsieur le marechal," said I to him,
"you are overflowing with kindness towards me, and I wish that all
the members of your family would treat me with the same indulgence."
Like a real courtier he pretended not to understand me, and made
no reply, hoping, no doubt, that the warmth of conversation would
lead me to some other subject; but this one occupied me too fully
to allow me to divert my attention from it; and, seeing that he
continued silent, I continued: "Far from treating me as well as you
do, madame your daughter-in-law behaves towards me like a declared
enemy; she assails me by all sorts of provocation, and at last will
so act, that I shall find myself compelled to struggle against her
with open force."
You must be a courtier, you must have been in the presence of a
king who is flattered from morning to night in all his caprices, to
appreciate the frightful state in which my direct attack placed the
prince de Soubise. Neither his political instinct, nor the tone of
pleasantry which he essayed to assume, nor the more dangerous
resource of offended dignity, could extricate him from the
embarrassment in which he was thrown by my words. He could do
nothing but stammer out a few unintelligible phrases; and his
confusion was so great and so visible, that the marquis de Chauvelin,
his not over sincere friend, came to his assistance. The king, equally
surprised at what I had just said, hastily turned and spoke to Chon,
who told me afterwards, that the astonishment of Louis XV had
been equal to that of the prince de Soubise, and that he had evinced
it by the absence of mind which he had manifested in his discourse
M. de Chauvelin then turning towards me, said, "Well, madame, on
what evil herb have you walked to-day? Can it be possible that
you would make the prince, who is your friend, responsible for the
hatred which ought to be flattering rather than painful to you, since
it is a homage exacted towards your brilliant loveliness?"
"In the first place," I replied, "I have no intention to cast on
monsieur le marechal, whom I love with all my heart, the least
responsibility relative to the object of which I complain. I only
wished to evince to him the regret I experienced at not seeing all
the members of his family like him: this is all. I should be in
despair if I thought I had said anything that would wound him;
and if I have done so, I most sincerely ask his pardon."
On saying these words I presented my hand to the prince, who
instantly kissed it.
"You are," said he, "at the same time cruel and yet most amiable:
but if you have the painful advantage of growing old at court, you
will learn that my children have not all the deference and respect
towards me which they owe to their father; and I often am pained
to see them act in a manner entirely opposite to my desires,
however openly manifested. If my daughter does not love you, it
is to me, most probably, that you must look for the
you. I have committed an error in praising you before her, and
her jealousy was not proof against it."
"That is very amiable in you," said I; "and now whatever may be
my feelings against the princesse de Guemenee, I will endeavor to
dissemble it out of regard for you; and, I assure you, that however
little consideration your daughter-in-law may testify towards me, I
will show her a fair side: endeavor to make peace between us. I
only ask to be let alone, for I do not seek to become the enemy
of any person."
Altho' M. de Soubise said that he had no influence over the
princesse de Guemenee, I learned, subsequently, that the day after
this scene he testified to the Guemenee some fears as to his future
destiny at court. He begged her not to oppose herself to me; to
be silent with respect to me, and to keep herself somewhat in the
shade if she would not make some advances towards me. His daughter-
in-law, whose arrogance equalled her dissipation and dissolute
manners, replied, that she was too much above a woman of my sort
to fear or care for me; that my reign at the chateau would be but
brief, whilst hers would only terminate with her life: that she
would never consent to an act of weakness that would be derogatory
to her character and rank. In vain did the prince try to soften
her, and make her consider that my influence over the king was
immense: he preached to the desert, and was compelled to abandon
his purpose without getting any thing by his endeavors.
I now return to my conversation with him. During the time it lasted
the king did not cease talking to Chon, all the time listening with
attention to what the prince and I were saying; and he did not
approach us until the intervention of M. de Chauvelin had terminated
this kind of a quarrel. He returned to his seat in front of the
fire; and when we were alone, said to me,
"You have been very spiteful to the poor marechal, and I suffered
"You are an excellent friend; and, no doubt, it is the affection
you bear to M. de Soubise which makes you behave so harshly to me.
Can I not, without displeasing you, defend myself when I am attacked?"
"I did not say so; but is it necessary that he must be responsible
for the follies of his relations?"
"In truth, sire, so much the worse for the father who cannot make
his children respect him. If the marechal was respected by the
public, believe me he would be so by his family."
This retort was perhaps too severe. I found this by the silence
of the king; but as, in fact, it imported little, and, by God's
help, I was never under much constraint with him, I saw him blush,
and then he said to me,
"Now, I undertake to bring madame de Guemenee into proper order.
The favor I ask is, that you would not meddle. I have power
enough to satisfy you, but, for heaven's sake, do not enter into
more quarrels than you have already. It seems to me that you
ought to avoid them instead of creating such disturbances."
He had assumed a grave tone in reading me this lecture: but as we
were in a place in which majesty could not be committed, I began
to laugh heartily, and to startle him, I said that henceforward I
would pilot my bark myself, and defend myself by openly assailing
all persons who testified an aversion to me. How laughable it
was to see the comic despair in which this determination threw the
king. It seemed to him that the whole court would be at loggerheads;
and he could not restrain himself from exclaiming, that he would a
hundred times rather struggle against the king of Prussia and the
emperor of Germany united, than against three or four females of
the chateau. In a word, I frightened him so completely, that he
decided on the greatest act of courage he had ever essayed in my
favor: it was, to desire the intervention of the duc de Choiseul
in all these quarrels.
The credit of this minister was immense, and this credit was based
on four powerful auxiliaries; namely the parliament, the philosophers,
a public and private protector. The parliaments had themselves a
great many clients, and their voices, given to the duc de Choiseul,
gave him great power in the different provinces. The philosophers,
ranged under the banner of Voltaire, who was their god, and of
d'Alembert, their patriarch, knew all his inclinations for them, and
knew how far they might rely on his support in all attempts which
they made to weaken the power of the clergy, and to diminish the
gigantic riches which had been amassed by prelates and monasteries.
The writers were equally devoted to him: they progressed with the
age, and as on all sides they essayed to effect important reforms,
it was natural that they should rally about him in whose hands
was the power of their operations.
The ladies admired his gallantry: in fact, the duc de Choiseul was
a man who understood marvellously well how to combine serious
labors with pleasure. I was, perhaps, the only woman of the court
whom he would not love, and yet I was not the least agreeable nor
the most ugly. It was very natural for them to exalt his merit
and take him under their especial protection. Thus was he
supported in every quarter by them; they boasted of his measures,
and by dint of repeating in the ears of every body that M. de
Choiseul was a minister
monarchy, they had contrived to persuade themselves of the truth
of their assertion. In fact, if France found herself freed from
the Jesuits, it was to the duc de Choiseul that this was owing, and
this paramount benefit assured to him universal gratitude.
The king was fully aware of this unanimity of public opinion in
favor of his minister. He was, besides, persuaded, that in
with the imperial house, the duc de Choiseul had evinced admirable
diplomatic talents, and rendered France real, and important, service.
His attachment to him was incumbent, and rested on solid
foundations. If, at a subsequent period, he dismissed him, it was
because he was deceived by a shameful intrigue which it will cost
me pain to develop to you, because I took by far too much a leading
part in it, which now causes me the deepest regret.
Now, by the act of my presentation, the duc de Choiseul would be
compelled to meet me often, which would render our mutual situation
very disagreeable. On this account the king sought to reconcile
us, and would have had no difficulty in effecting his wishes had
he only had the resistance of the minister and his wife to
encounter. The lady had not much influence over her husband, and
besides she had too much good sense to struggle against the wishes
of the king: but the duchesse de Grammont was there, and this
haughty and imperious dame had so great an ascendancy with her
brother, and behaved with so little caution, that the most odious
reports were in circulation about their intimacy.
It could scarcely be hoped that we could tame this towering spirit,
which saw in me an odious rival. Louis XV did not flatter himself
that he could effect this prodigy, but he hoped to have a greater
ascendancy over his minister. It was to the duc de Choiseul,
therefore, that he first addressed himself, desirous of securing
the husband and wife before he attacked the redoubtable sister.
The next morning, after my warm assault on the prince de Soubise,
he profited by an audience which the duke requested at an unusual
hour to introduce this negotiation of a new kind, and the details
I give you of this scene are the more faithful, as the king gave
them to me still warm immediately after the conversation
The state affairs having been concluded, the king, seeking to
disguise his voluntary embarrassment, said to the duke, smiling,
"Duc de Choiseul, I have formed for my private hours a most
delightful society: the most attached of my subjects consider
themselves highly favored when I invite them to these evening
parties so necessary for my amusement. I see with pain that you
have never yet asked me to admit you there."
"Sire," replied the duke, "the multiplicity of the labors with
which your majesty has charged me, scarcely allows me time
for my pleasures."
"Oh, you are not so fully occupied but that you have still some
time to spend with the ladies, and I think that I used to meet you
frequently at the marquise de Pompadour's."
"Sire, she was my friend."
"Well, and why, is not the comtesse du Barry? Who has put it into
your head that she was opposed to you? You do not know her: she
is an excellent woman: not only has she no dislike to you, but even
desires nothing more than to be on good terms with you."
"I must believe so since your majesty assures me of it; but, sire,
the vast business with which I am overwhelmed--"
"Is not a sufficing plea; I do not allow that without a special
motive, you should declare yourself against a person whom I honor
with my protection. As you do not know her, and cannot have any
thing to urge against her but prejudices founded on false rumors
and scandalous fabrications, I engage you to sup with me at her
apartments this evening, and I flatter myself that when I wish it
you will not coin a parcel of reasons in opposition to my desire."
"I know the obedience that is due to your majesty," said
de Choiseul, bowing low.
"Well, then, do first from duty what I flatter myself you will
afterwards do from inclination. Duc de Choiseul, do not allow
yourself to be influenced by advice that will prove injurious to
you. What I ask cannot compromise you; but I should wish that
with you all should be quiet, that no one should struggle against
me, and that too with the air of contending against a person's
station. Do not reply, you know perfectly what I would say, and
I know what belongs to myself."
Here the conversation terminated. The duc de Choiseul did not
become my friend any the more, but behaved towards me with all
due consideration. He used grace and
without mingling with it anything approaching to nonsense. He never
allowed himself, whatever has been said, to dart out in my face any
of those epigrams which public malignity has attributed to him.
Perhaps like many other persons in the world, he has said many
pleasantries of me which have been reported as said in my presence,
but I repeat that he never uttered in my society a single word with
which I had cause to be offended.
At this juncture I received a letter of which I had the folly to be
proud, altho' a little reflection should have made me think that
my situation alone inspired it: it was from M. de Voltaire. This
great genius was born a courtier. Whether he loved the protection
of the great, or whether he thought it necessary to him, he was
constantly aiming, from his youth upwards, at obtaining the
countenance of persons belonging to a high rank, which made him
servile and adulatory whilst they were in power, and full of
grimace towards them when the wind favor ceased to swell their
sails. It was in this way that mesdames de Chateauroux and de
Pompadour had had his homage. He had sung their praises, and,
of course, he could not forget me. You will recall to mind the
letter which he wrote to the duc d'Aiguillon, on occasion of the
piece of poetry entitled "
having composed it, but this denial had not been addressed directly
to me. Having learnt, no doubt, that my credit was increasing, he
thought himself obliged to write to me, that he might rank me with
his party. He might have availed himself of the intermediation of
the duc d'Aiguillon, but preferred putting the duc de Richelieu into
his confidence, and begged him to fulfil the delicate function of
literary Mercury. I was alone when the marechal came to me with
an assumed air of mystery. His first care was to look around him
without saying a word; and it was not until after he had shaken
the curtains, and peeped into every corner of the apartment, that
he approached me, who was somewhat surprised at his monkey tricks.
"I am the bearer," he said, in a low voice, "of a secret and
important communication, which I have been entreated to deliver
after five or six hundred cautions at least: it is a, defection
from the enemy's camp, and not the least in value."
Fully occupied by my quarrel with the ladies of the court, I
imagined that he had brought me a message of peace from some
great lady; and, full of this idea, I asked him in haste the name
of her whose friendship I had acquired.
"Good," said he, "it is about a lady, is it? It is from a personage
fully as important, a giant in power, whose words resound from
one extremity of Europe to another, and whom the Choiseuls
believe their own entirely."
"It is M. de Voltaire," I said.
"Exactly so: your perspicacity has made you guess it."
"But what does he want with me?"
"To be at peace with you; to range himself under your banner,
secretly at first, but afterwards openly."
"Is he then afraid openly to evince himself my friend?" I replied,
in a tone of some pique.
"Rather so, and yet you must not feel offended at that. The
situation of this sarcastic and talented old man is very peculiar;
his unquiet petulance incessantly gives birth to fresh perils. He,
of necessity, must make friends in every quarter, left and right,
in France and foreign countries. The necessary consequence is,
that he cannot follow a straight path. The Choiseuls have served
him with perfect zeal: do not be astonished if he abandon them
when they can no longer serve him. If they fall, he will bid them
good evening, and will sport your cockade openly."
"But," I replied, "this is a villainous character."
"Ah, I do not pretend to introduce to you an Aristides or an
Epaminondas, or any other soul of similar stamp. He is a man of
letters, full of wit, a deep thinker, a superior genius, and our
reputations are in his hands. If he flatters us, posterity will
know it; if he laugh at us, it will know it also. I counsel you
therefore to use him well, if you would have him behave so