Part 6 out of 10
kingdom, and to degrade it in the eyes of
"The noble firmness of sovereign courts is
odious to people of this class; thus you may
imagine the detestation in which they regard
the candid and loyal conduct of the duke. I
n the hopes of procuring the dismissal of my
brother, they have chosen for his successor
wretch loaded with crimes, a coward, an
extortioner, a murderer--the duc d'Aiguillon.
As for you gentlemen, who now constitute our
parliament, your places will soon be filled by a
magistracy drawn from the dregs of society; a
troop of slaves, deaf and blind, except
as he who pays them best will have them
exercise those powers.
"This is no time for indolent repose; we must
at once courageously and unanimously defeat
the guilty schemes of our enemies. So long as
my brother retains his present post he will
support you with his best interest; but, should
he be dismissed, your business will soon be finished.
"I beg my best remembrances, first, to your
excellent lady, and after her, to madame B.
and madame L., not forgetting the marquise de
Chalret, whose wit is truly Attic; nor the marquise
de P--s, who conceals beneath the graceful exterior
of a Languedocian the soul of one of Corneille's
Roman matrons. For yourself rely upon my warmest
friendship and endeavours to serve you. My brother
is most anxious to know you, after the flattering
manner in which I have mentioned you to him.
When will you gratify us both by visiting Paris?
Nothing could have arrived more for our purpose than
this letter. I was still engaged in its perusal when the king was
announced; I wished to hurry it back into the hands of M. de
Maupeou; but he, more crafty than I, requested I would keep it.
"It is fitting," said he, "that it should be seen by the right person."
Louis XV, astonished at the strange scene, inquired what it meant.
"A most shameful piece of scandal, sire," replied I.
"An infamous epistle," added the chancellor, "which one of my
friends managed to abstract from the post-office, and forwarded
to me: I brought it to madame la comtesse, that she might admire
the determined malice of our enemies."
"You excite my curiosity," cried Louis XV. "Madame, have the
kindness to allow me to see this paper."
"Indeed, sire," exclaimed I, "I know not whether I ought to obey
your majesty, so entirely has the writer of the letter forgotten
the respect duc to your sacred person."
"Oh," said the king, "I do not fear that; I am but too well used
to the offence to feel astonishment at its occurrence."
I placed the paper in the hand of Louis XV, whose eye easily
recognised the handwriting of madame de Grammont. "Ah, ah!"
cried he, "is it so? let us see what this restless lady has to
say of us all." I watched the countenance of the king as he read,
and saw the frown that covered it grow darker and darker;
nevertheless he continued to read on without comment till he
had reached the end; then sitting down and looking full at the
chancellor, he exclaimed,
"Well, M. de Maupeou, and what do you think of this business?"
"I am overwhelmed with consternation, sire," replied he, "when I
think that one of your majesty's ministers should be able to
conspire thus openly against you."
"Stay," cried Louis hastily, "that fact is by no means proved.
The duchesse de Grammont is a mad woman, who involves the safety
of her brother; if I only believed him capable of such treachery,
he should sleep this night in the Bastille, and to-morrow the
necessary proceedings should be commenced against him: as for his
sister, I will take care of her within four good walls, and avenge
myself for her past misconduct, by putting it out of her power to
injure me further."
"Sire," said I, in my turn, "remember she is a woman; I beseech
you to pardon her, and let the weight of your just indignation
fall upon her brother."
"Chancellor," cried the king, "this business must not be lightly
"Nor without due consideration," replied M. de Maupeou, "your
majesty may look upon this letter as the basis of a secret plot:
as for the duchess, I am of my cousin's opinion; despise her
audacious attempts, but spare not her brother; he alone is the
guilty as well as dangerous person."
The king made no answer, but rose, and crushing the letter in
his hand, threw it from him.
"Would," exclaimed he at last, "that the fiends had those who
take such delight in disgusting me with my very existence. Heavens!
how justly may I say I despise all men; nor have I a much better
opinion of your sex, madame la comtesse, I must warn you."
"Much obliged, sire," cried I; " really I was not prepared for
such gallantry. It is rather hard that you should quarrel with
me because this disagreeable duchess behaves ill! Upon my word
it is very unpleasant!"
"Come, come," said Louis XV, kissing my cheek, "don't you be a
naughty child; if I had not you, where should I turn for consolation
amidst the torments by which I am surrounded? Shall I tell you?
In the midst of all these perplexing affairs, there are moments
in which I fear I may not be promoting the happiness of my people."
"Your majesty is greatly mistaken," replied the chancellor; "the
nation in general must esteem themselves most happy under your
reign; but it will always happen that ill-disposed persons seek to
pervert the public opinion, and to lead men's minds astray. The
duchess, when travelling, was the faithful and active agent of
her brother. The duke, to secure his stay in the ministry, will
eagerly avail himself of every adventitious aid; within your
kingdom he seeks the support of the parliaments and philosophers;
without, he claims the succour of Germany and Spain. Your
majesty is certainly master of your own will, and it would ill
become me to point out the path you should tread; but my duty
compels me to say, that the duc de Choiseul is the greatest enemy
of the royal house: of this he gave me a convincing proof in the
case of your august son; and now, if he fancied he should find it
more advantageous to have the dauphin for his master--"
"Chancellor of France," cried Louis, much agitated, "do you
know what you are asserting?"
"The truth, sire," I exclaimed. "The public voice accuses the
duc de Choiseul of the death of your son; they declare--"
"How! you, too, madam!" exclaimed the king looking at
"And why not, sire? I am merely repeating what is in every
"I have heard this horrible charge before," added the king; "the
Jesuits informed me of it, but I could not give credit to such
"So much the worse," replied I; "in the world in which we live
we should always be on our guard."
"Sire," added the chancellor, with the most diabolical address, "I
am persuaded that M. de Choiseul is the most honourable man in
the world, and that he would shudder at the bare idea of any
attempt upon the life of your majesty; but his relations, friends,
and creatures believe, that, supported by the dauphiness, he
would continue in office under your successor. Who can answer
for their honour? Who can assure you, that some one among them
may not do that for the duke which he would never venture to
"This is the personal danger your majesty runs so long as M. de
Choiseul continues in office; were he dismissed, the world would
soon abandon the disgraced minister, and the dauphiness be
amongst the first to forget him."
The king was pale with agitation, and for some minutes continued
traversing the apartment with hasty strides; then he suddenly stopped.
"You are then convinced, M. de Maupeou," cried he, "that the duke
is leagued with the parliaments to weaken my authority?"
"There are palpable proofs to that effect," replied the chancellor;
"your majesty may recollect the skilful manner in which, on the
3d of last September, he avoided attending you to parliament;
most assuredly, had he not been the friend of rebels, he would
not have shrunk from evincing by his presence how fully he shared
your just indignation."
"That is but too true," cried Louis XV; "and I felt much annoyed
at the time, that he preferred going to amuse himself at the house
of M. de Laborde, when his duty summoned him to my side."
"Your majesty cannot fail to perceive how everything condemns
him; his personal conduct, equally with that of his sister, proves
how little he regards his royal master's interest; and should your
clemency resolve upon sparing him now, you may find your mercy
produce fatal effects to yourself."
"His dismissal," resumed the king, "would disorganize all my
political measures. Who could I put in his place? I know no
one capable of filling it."
"Your majesty's wisdom must decide the point," replied the
chancellor. "My duty is to lay before you the true state of
things; this I have done, and I know myself well enough not to
intrude my counsel further. Nevertheless, I cannot help remarking,
that in your majesty's court there are many as capable as M. de
Choiseul of directing affairs--M. d'Aiguillon, for example."
"Ah!" answered Louis XV; "this is not the moment, when M.
d'Aiguillon is smarting from his severe contest with the long robes,
to elevate him over the head of my hitherto-esteemed minister."
M. de Maupeou and myself perceived that we should best serve
my friend's cause by refraining from pressing the matter further,
and we therefore changed the conversation. Nevertheless, as what
had already passed had taken its full effect upon the king's mind,
he suggested an idea which I should never have dreamed of recommending;
and that was to consult the abbe de la Ville on the subject.
The abbe de la Ville, head clerk of foreign affairs, was a man
who, at the advanced period of fourscore, preserved all the fire
and vivacity of youth; he was acquainted with ministerial affairs
even better than M. de Choiseul himself. Having formerly belonged
to the Jesuits, to whom he was entirely devoted, he had appeared
to accelerate the period of their destruction; never had he been
able to pardon his patron the frightful part he had compelled
him to enact in the business. Years had not weakened his ancient
rancour, and it might be said, that he had clung to life with more
than natural pertinacity, as unwilling to lay it down till he had
avenged himself on de Choiseul. Louis XV wrote to him, desiring
he would avail himself of the first pretext that occurred to
request an audience. This note was forwarded by a footman,
the good abbe easily divined that this mystery concealed some
great design; he therefore hastened to solicit an audience as
desired. When introduced into the cabinet of the king, his
majesty inquired at once,
"Monsieur l' abbe, can I depend upon your discretion?"
"Sire," replied the abbe, with a blunt frankness, "I am sorry
your majesty can doubt it."
"Be satisfied, sir," replied the king, "I had no intention to
offend you; but I wish to consult you upon a point, the importance
of which you will fully appreciate; answer me without disguise.
Do you believe that the services of the duc de Choiseul are
useful to my kingdom, and that my interests would suffer were I
to dismiss him?"
"Sire," replied M. de la Ville, without hesitation, "I protest to
you, as a man of honour, that the presence of the duc de Choiseul
is by no means essential to the ministry, and that your majesty's
interests would sustain not the slightest injury by his absence."
After this the abbe de la Ville entered into particulars unnecessary
to repeat here; it is sufficient to say, that all
he advanced materially aided our wishes. He afterwards reaped
the reward of his friendly services, for when the duc d'Aiguillon
had displaced the duc de Choiseul, he bestowed on M. de la Ville
the title of
him, and the bishopric
did not, however, long enjoy his honours, but ended his career in 1774.
This conversation had been repeated to me; and, on my side, I
left no means untried of preventing Louis XV from placing further
confidence in his minister; but, feeble and timid, he knew not on
what to determine, contenting himself with treating the duke
coolly; he sought, by continual rebuffs and denials to his slightest
request, to compel him to demand that dismissal he had not the
courage to give.
Whilst these things were in agitation, madame de Mirepoix, who
had been for some days absent from Versailles, came to call upon
me. This lady possessed a considerable share of wit; and, although
on the most intimate terms with me, had not altogether broken off
with the des Choiseuls, to whom she was further bound on account
of the prince de Beauvau, her brother. It therefore excited in
me no surprise, when I heard that the des Choiseuls had called
on her to ascertain, whether it would not be possible, through her
mediation, to come to some terms with me.
"And you must not be angry with me," continued she, "for
and entertained no hopes of its success, but upon second thoughts,
I considered it better I should accept the mission; for, in case
of a negative being returned, it will be safe in my keeping, and
I will not add to the chagrin of a failure the shame of a defeat."
"It is my opinion," replied I, "that all propositions coming from
these people should be rejected; they have compelled me to raise
between them and myself an immense wall of hatred, not less
difficult to surmount than the grand wall of China."
"Yet," replied the marechale, smiling, "they are disposed to pay
any price for so doing."
"I have friends," said I, "from whom I can never separate myself."
"They are willing that your friends shall be theirs likewise,"
cried she, "for they see that M. de Maupeou, the duc de la
Vrilliere, and the abbe Terray, are provided for, and that the
duc d'Aiguillon alone remains to be suitably established; M. de
Choiseul would be happy to aid him in obtaining the post of
minister of naval affairs."
"Well, and the duchesse de Grammont," inquired I, "would she
"Oh, as to that, I know nothing about it, and can venture no
opinion; my commission does not extend so far."
"I understand you," said I; "she seeks for peace only as it
would enable her the better to carry on her hostilities against
me. I am sorry, madame la marechale, that I cannot accept
your terms for a reconciliation."
"Remember, I pray of you, that I have been an ambassadress, and
nothing more," said madame de Mirepoix; "recollect I have spoken
to you in the words of others, not my own. I must beg of you to
be secret; if you divulge the particulars of this morning's
conversation, it is I who will suffer by it: your friends will be
displeased with me for my interference; and I have no inclination
to provoke the anger of a party so powerful as yours."
I promised the marechale to observe an inviolable secrecy; and,
so well have I kept my promise, that you are the first person to
whom I ever breathed one syllable of the affair. I must own,
that it struck me as strange, that the duc de Choiseul should
abandon his cousin, and consent to take his seat beside the duc
d'Aiguillon, whom he detested: perhaps he only sought to deceive
us all by gaining time, till the death of the king. But what
avails speculation upon the words and actions of a courtier,
whose heart is an abyss too deep for gleam of light to penetrate?
Baron d'Oigny, general post-master--The king and the countess
read the opened letters--The disgrace of de Choiseul resolved
of Spain--The duc de Choiseul banished--Visits to Chanteloup--The
princesses--The dauphin and dauphiness--Candidates for the ministry
The interference of madame de Mirepoix, originating, as it did,
in the duc de Choiseul, let me at once into the secret of his
fears and the extent of my own power. The knowledge of the
weakness of my adversary redoubled my energy; and from this
moment, I allowed no day to pass without forwarding the great
work, till I succeeded in effecting the duke's ruin and securing my
own triumph. The pamphleteers in the pay of my enemies, and
those who merely copied these hirelings, assert that one evening
after supper, when Louis was intoxicated with wine and my seductions,
I prevailed upon him to sign a
minister, which he immediately revoked when the break of day had
restored to him his senses. This was a malicious falsehood.
You shall hear the exact manner in which the
On the evening of the 23d of December, his majesty having engaged
to sup with me, I had invited M. de Maupeou, the duc de la Vrilliere,
and the prince de Soubise. It appears, that the king, previously
to coming, had gone to visit the dauphiness; he had not mentioned
whither he was going, so that his attendants believed him to be
in my apartments, and directed M. d'Oigny, post-master general,
to seek him there. The baron brought with him a packet of opened
letters; when he saw me alone he wished to retire, for the servants,
believing him to be one of the expected guests, had ushered him in.
However, I would not permit him to go until the king's arrival;
and, half sportively, half seriously, I took from him his letters,
protesting I would detain them as hostages for his obedience to
my desires. At this moment Louis XV entered the room; and
M. d'Oigny, having briefly stated his business, bowed and departed.
The baron was a very excellent man, possessing an extensive and
intelligent mind; he wrote very pleasing poetry, and had not his
attention been occupied by the post he filled, he might have made
a conspicuous figure in literature.
When we were left to ourselves, I said to the king,
"Now, then, for this interesting and amusing budget; for such,
I doubt not, it will prove."
"Not so fast, madam, if you please," replied Louis XV; "perhaps
these papers may contain state secrets unfit for your eye."
"Great secrets they must be," said I, laughing, "confided thus to
the carelessness of the post." So saying, I broke the seal of
the envelope so hastily, that the greater part of the letters and
notes were scattered over the carpet.
"Well done," cried the king.
"I entreat your majesty's pardon," said I, "but I will repair
the mischief as far as I can."
I stooped to collect the fallen papers, and the king had the
gallantry to assist me: we soon piled the various letters upon a
tray, and began eagerly to glance over their contents. My good
fortune made me select from the mass those epistles addressed to
the members of the country parliaments; they were filled with
invectives against me, insulting mention of the king, and praises
of the duc de Choiseul. I took especial care to read them in a
loud and distinct voice.
"This really is not to be endured," cried Louis XV; "that the
mistaken zeal of these long-robed gentlemen should make them
thus compliment my minister at my expense."
"So much the worse for you, sire," replied I, "considering that
you continue to prefer your minister to every other consideration."
As I continued searching through the letters, I found and read
the following phrase:--"Spite of the reports in circulation, I do
not believe it possible that M. de Choiseul will be dismissed; he
is too necessary to the king, who, without him would be as
incapable as a child of managing his affairs: his majesty must
preserve our friend in office in spite of himself."
When I had finished, the king exclaimed, in an angry tone, "We
shall see how far the prophecy of these sapient gentlemen is
correct, and whether their 'friend' is so important to me that
I dare not dismiss him. Upon my word, my minister has placed
himself so advantageously before his master, as to exclude him
entirely from the eyes of his subjects."
Whilst these words were speaking, M. de Maupeou and M. de la
Vrilliere were announced; the king, still warm, let fall some words
expressive of his displeasure at what had happened. The gauntlet
was thrown; and so well did we work upon the irritated mind of
Louis XV, that it was determined M. de Choiseul should be dismissed
the following day, December 24, 1770. Chanteloup was chosen
for the place of his retreat, and M. de la Vrilliere, by the
dictation of the king, wrote the following letter to the duke:--
"Cousin,-, The dissatisfaction caused me by
your conduct compels me to request you will
confine yourself to your estate at Chanteloup,
whither you will remove in four and twenty
hours from the date hereof. I should have chosen
a more remote spot for your place of exile, were it
not for the great esteem I entertain for the duchesse
de Choiseul, in whose delicate health I feel much
interest. Have a care that you do not, by your
own conduct, oblige me to adopt harsher
measures; and hereupon I pray God to have you
in his keeping."
(and lower down) "PHILIPPEAUX"
When this letter was completed, I said to the king,
"Surely, sire, you do not mean to forget the duke's faithful ally,
M. de Praslin? It would ill become us to detain him when the
head of the family has taken leave of us."
"You are right," replied the king, smiling; "besides, an old broom
taken from a masthead would be as useful to us as he would."
Then, turning to M. de la Vrilliere, the king dictated the
following laconic notice:--
"COUSIN,--I have no further occasion for
your services; I exile you to Praslin, and
expect you will repair thither within four and
twenty hours after the receipt of this."
"Short and sweet," cried I.
"Now let us drop the subject," said Louis; "let madame de Choiseul
repose in peace to-night, and to-morrow morning, at eleven
o'clock, go yourself, M. de la Vrilliere, and carry my orders to
the duke, and bring back his staff of office."
"To whom will you give it, sire?" inquired the chancellor.
"I have not yet considered the subject," replied the king.
At this instant M. de Soubise was announced. "
the king, as M. de Soubise, little suspecting the nature of our
conversation, entered the room. I profited by his coming to slip
out of the room into my boudoir, from which I despatched the
following note to M. d'Aiguillon:
"MY DEAR DUKE,--Victoria! We are conquerors;
master and man quit Paris to-morrow. We shall
replace them by our friends; and you best know
whether you are amongst the number of them."
When I returned to the drawing-room, the king exclaimed,
"Come, madam., you are waited for; the prince de Soubise has a
very curious anecdote to relate, which befell a lady of his
acquaintance; I begged of him to defer telling it till you
"Are you afraid of ghosts?" inquired the marechal of me.
"Not this evening," replied I; "to-morrow, perhaps, or the next
day, I may be."
This jest amused the king and the duc de la Vrilliere, whilst M.
de Maupeou, who seemed to fear lest I should by any indiscretion,
reveal our secret, made a signal of impatience; to which I
replied, by shrugging up my shoulders. Poor M. de Soubise,
although he did not comprehend my joke, laughed at it as heartily
as heartily as the rest who saw its application. "Oh! you
courtier," thought I We then entreated of him to commence the
recital of his tale, which he did in the following words--
"There is in Lower Brittany a family gifted with a most singular
endowment: each member of the family, male or female, is warned
exactly one month previous to his or her decease of the precise
hour and day in which it will take place. A lady belonging to
this peculiar race was visiting me rather more than a month since;
we were conversing quietly together, when, all at once, she
uttered a loud cry, arose from her seat, endeavored to walk
across the room, but fell senseless upon the floor. Much grieved
and surprised at this scene, I hastily summoned my servants, who
bestowed upon the unfortunate lady the utmost attention, but it
was long ere she revived. I then wished to persuade her to take
some rest. 'No,' cried she, rising and giving me orders for her
immediate departure, "I have not sufficient time for rest; scarcely
will the short period between me and eternity allow me to set my
affairs in order.' Surprised at this language, I begged of her to
explain herself. 'You are aware,' said she, 'of the fatal power
possessed by my family; well, at the moment in which I was sitting
beside you on this sofa, happening to cast my eyes on the mirror
opposite, I saw myself as a corpse wrapped in the habiliments of
death, and partly covered with a black and white drapery; beside
me was an open coffin. This is sufficient; I have no time to lose:
farewell, my friend, we shall meet no more' Thunderstruck at these
words, I suffered the lady to depart without attempting to combat
her opinion. This morning I received intelligence from her son that
the prophecy had been fulfilled--she was no more."
When the marechal had finished, I exclaimed,
"You have told us a sad dismal tale; I really fear I shall not
be able to close my eyes at all to-night for thinking of it."
"We must think of some means of keeping up your spirits," answered
Louis XV. " As for your story, marechal, it does not surprise me;
things equally inexplicable are continually taking place. I read
in a letter addressed by Philip V, of Spain, to Louis XIV, "that
the spirit of Philip II, founder of the Escurial, wanders at
certain intervals around that building. Philip V affirms that
he himself witnessed the apparition of the spectre of the king."
At this moment supper was announced. "Come, gentlemen," said I,
"let us seek to banish these gloomy ideas around our festive
board." Upon which the king conducted me to the supper-room,
the rest of the company following us. Spite of all my efforts
to be gay, and induce others to be so likewise, the conversation
still lingered upon this dismal subject.
"Heaven grant," exclaimed the chancellor, "that I may not soon
have to dread a visit from the ghost of the deceased parliament;
however, if such were the case, it would not prevent my sleeping."
"Oh!" cried the king, "these long-robed gentlemen have often
more effectually robbed me of sleep than all the spectres in the
world could do; yet one night--"
"Well, sire," said I, seeing that Louis was silent, "and what
happened to you that night?"
"Nothing that I can repeat," answered Louis XV, glancing around
with a mournful look.
A dead silence followed, which lasted several minutes; and this
evening, which was to usher my day of triumph, passed away in the
most inconceivable dullness. What most contributed to render me
uneasy was the reflection, that, at the very moment when we had
freed ourselves of our enemies, we were ignorant who would fill
their vacant places. This was an error, and a great one. My
friends would not listen to the nomination of the Comte de Broglie,
the Comte de Maillebois, the duc de la Vauguyon, any more than
either M. de Soubise or M. de Castries. The abbe Terray, having
upon one occasion proposed the marechal duc de Richelieu, he
very narrowly escaped having his face scratched by M. d'Aiguillon,
who cared very little for his dear uncle; but I have unintentionally
wandered from the thread of my narrative; I will therefore
resume it at once.
I had hoped that the king would this night have retired to his
own apartment, and that I should have been enabled to hold a
secret council with M. de Maupeou, and the ducs de la Vrilliere
and d'Aiguillon; but no such thing. Imagining, no doubt, that I
should be kept awake by my fear of ghosts, his majesty insisted
upon remaining with me, and I was compelled to acquiesce. He
passed a very agitated night, much more occupied with the des
Choiseuls than me; he could think of nothing, speak of nothing,
but the sensation which their disgrace would produce; he seemed
to dread his family, the nobility, the nation, Europe, and the
whole world. I strove to re-assure him, and to inspire him with
fresh courage; and, when he quitted me in the morning, I felt
convinced that he would not again alter his determination.
As soon as Louis XV had left me, Comte Jean entered. Although
concealed behind the curtain, and apparently not on the best terms
with me, my brother-in-law nevertheless directed my actions, and
gave me most excellent advice. It was not long ere the duc
d'Aiguillon arrived; he had seen M. de Maupeou during the night,
and learned from him the exile of the late minister, but beyond
that fact he knew nothing. He inquired of me, with much uneasiness,
whether anything had been decided in his behalf. I replied, that
the king was as yet undecided in his choice of ministers, but
that, if the duc d'Aiguillon came into office, he would, in all
probability, be nominated to the administration of foreign affairs:
the direction of the war-office had been my noble friend's
Whilst we were thus conversing together on the 24th of December,
1770, eleven o'clock struck; and we could, from the windows,
perceive M. de la Vrilliere taking his way towards that part of
the building occupied by M. de Choiseul when at the castle. This
latter was in conversation with M. Conzie, bishop of Arras, when
the arrival of the duc de la Vrilliere, bearing the king's commands,
was signified to him. The prelate, not doubting but the mission
related to affairs of importance, took his leave; de la Vrilliere
then presented the
remarks of his own upon the talents of the minister, and his regret
at being selected for so unpleasant an office. "A truce to your
feigned regrets, my lord duke," replied the disgraced minister,
sarcastically, "I am well assured my dismissal could not have been
brought me by hands more ready to discharge the trust than yours."
Saying this, M. de Choiseul placed his credentials in the hands
of the duke, and slightly bowing, turned his back upon him, as
though he had forgotten his presence. M. de Choiseul then retired
to summon his sister, to communicate to her and his wife the
misfortune which had befallen him: he then set out for Paris, to
make the necessary preparations for removing to Chanteloup.
There an officer from the king, charged to accompany him to his
place of exile, gave him his majesty's orders that he should see
no person, and receive no visits.
This order did not proceed from me, but was the work of the duc
de la Vrilliere, who sought, by this paltry action, to avenge himself
upon M. de Choiseul for the reception he had given him. It was
wholly useless, however, for in the exile of the duke was seen a
thing unheard of, perhaps, before, and, in all probability, unlikely
ever to occur again--the sight of a whole court espousing the part
of an exiled minister, and openly censuring the monarch who could
thus reward his services. You, no doubt, remember equally well
as myself the long file of carriages that for two days blocked up
the road to Chanteloup. In vain did Louis XV express his dissatisfaction;
his court flocked in crowds to visit M. de Choiseul.
On the other hand, the castle was not in a more tranquil state.
At the news of the dismissal and banishment of M. de Choiseul, a
general hue and cry was raised against me and my friends: one
might have supposed, by the clamours it occasioned, that the
ex-minister had been the atlas of the monarchy; and that, deprived
of his succour, the state must fall into ruins. The princesses
were loud in their anger, and accused me publicly of having
conspired against virtue itself! The virtue of such a sister and
brother! I ask you, my friend, is not the idea truly ludicrous?
The dauphiness bewailed his fall with many tears; at least, so I
was informed by a lady of her suite, madame de Campan. This
lady was a most loquacious person; she frequently visited my
sister-in-law; and, thanks to her love of talking, we were always
well-informed of all that was passing in the household of Marie
Antoinette. However, the dauphin was far from sharing the grief
Of his illustrious spouse. When informed of the dismissal of the
duke, he cried out, "Well, madame du Barry has saved me an infinity
of trouble--that of getting rid of so dangerous a man, in the event
of my ever ascending the throne." The prince did not usually
speak of me in the most flattering terms, but I forgave him on
the present occasion, so much was I charmed with his expression
relative to the late minister; it afforded me the certainty that
I should not have to dread the possibility of his recalling de Choiseul.
Whilst many were bewailing the downfall of the des Choiseuls,
others, who had an eye more to self-interest, presented themselves
to share in the spoils of his fortune. There were the princes
de Soubise and de Conde, the duc de la Vauguyon, the comtes de
Broglie, de Maillebois, and de Castries, the marquis de Monteynard
and many others, equally anxious for a tempting slice of the
ministry, and who would have made but one mouthful of the finest
The marquise de 1' Hopital came to solicit my interest for the
prince de Soubise, her lover. I replied, that his majesty would
rather have the marechal for his friend than his minister; that,
in fact, the different appointments had taken place; and that, if
the names of the parties were not immediately divulged, it was
to spare the feelings of certain aspirants to the ministry: madame
de 1' Hopital withdrew, evidently much disconcerted at my reply.
Certainly M. de Soubise must have lost his reason, when he supposed
that the successor of M. de Choiseul would be himself, the most
insignificant prince of France; he only could suppose that he was
equal to such an elevation. However this may be, he took upon
himself to behave very much like an offended person for some days;
but, finding such a line of conduct produced no good, he came
round again, and presented himself as usual at my parties, whilst
I received him as though nothing had occurred.
I had more difficulty in freeing myself from the importunities
of Messieurs de Broglie and de Maillebois. I had given to each
of them a sort of promise; I had allowed them to hope, and yet,
when the time came to realize these hopes, I told them, that I
possessed much less influence than was generally imagined; to
which they replied, that they knew my power to serve them was
much greater than I appeared to believe. After a while, I
succeeded in deadening the expectations of M. de Broglie, but
M. de Maillebois was long ere he would abandon his pursuit. When
every chance of success had left him, he gave way to so much
violence and bitterness against M. d'Aiguillon, that the duke was
compelled to punish him for his impudent rage. I will mention
the other candidates for the ministry at another opportunity.
The comte de la Marche and the comtesse du Barry--The countess and
the prince de Conde--The duc de la Vauguyon and the countess--
Provisional minister--Refusal of the secretaryship of war--Displeasure
of the king--The marechale de Mirepoix--Unpublished letter from
Voltaire to Madame du Barry--Her reply
The comte de la Marche had always evinced the warmest regard for
me, and he sought, on the present occasion, to be repaid for his
attachment. Both he and the prince de Conde had their ambitious
speculations in the present change of ministers; and both fancied,
that because their relation, the duke, had governed during the
king's minority, the right to the several appointments now vacant,
belonged as a matter of course to their family. The count had
already sent to solicit my interest, through the mediation of
madame de Monaco, mistress to the prince de Conde; and, as I
shrewdly suspect, the occasional
this measure did not produce all the good he expected, he came,
without further preface, to speak to me himself about it. Unwilling
to come to an open rupture with him, I endeavoured to make him
comprehend, that the policy of the sovereign would never permit
his placing any of the administrative power in the hands of the
princes of his family; that he had consented, most reluctantly, to
investing them with military command, and that it would be fruitless
to urge more.
The comte de la Marche appeared struck by the justness of my
arguments; he replied,
"Well, madam, since I cannot be a minister, I must e'en give up
my wishes; but, for the love of heaven intreat of the king to
bestow his favours in the shape of a little pecuniary aid. Things
look ill at present; they may take a worse turn, but he may
confidently rely on my loyalty and devotion: the supreme courts,
driven to the last extremity, will make a stand, and princes and
peers will range themselves under the banners. We well know
how much this resistance will displease his majesty; I pledge
myself never to forsake your cause, but to defend it with my life;
that is, if my present pressing necessity for money be satisfied.
How say you, madam; can you procure it for me?"
"Very probably I may be enabled to assist you," replied I; "but
you must first inform me how much will satisfy you."
"Oh," answered he, carelessly, "something less than the mines of
Peru will suffice; I am not extravagant, and merely ask for so
much as is absolutely necessary. In the first place 60,000
livres paid down, and secondly, a yearly payment of 200,000 more."
This demand did not appear to me unreasonable, and I undertook
to arrange the matter to the prince's satisfaction, well pleased
on my own side to secure so illustrious an ally at so cheap a
rate, I procured the assent of the king and the comptroller-general;
the 60,000 livres were bestowed on the comte de la Marche in two
separate payments, the pension settled on him, and, still further,
an annuity of 30,000 livres was secured to madame de Monaco; and
I must do the count the justice to say, that he remained faithful
to our cause amidst every danger and difficulty; braving alike
insults, opprobrium, and the torrent of pamphlets and epigrams
of which he was the object; in fact, we had good reason for
congratulating ourselves upon securing such devotion and zeal at
so poor a price.
The prince de Conde, surrounded by a greater degree of worldly
state and consideration, was equally important to us, although
in another way. He had in some degree compromised popularity
by attaching himself to me from the commencement of my court
favour, and the reception he bestowed on me at Chantilly had
completed his disgrace in the eyes of nobility. He visited at my
house upon the most friendly footing; and whenever he found me,
he would turn the conversation upon politics, the state of affairs,
and the great desire he felt to undertake the direction of them
in concert with me; he would add, "You might play the part of
madame de Pompadour, and yet you content yourself with merely
attempting to do so; you are satisfied with possessing influence
when you might exercise power and command. Your alliance with a
prince of the blood would render you sole mistress in this kingdom;
and should I ever arrive, through your means, to the rank of
prime minister, it would be my pleasure and pride to submit all
things to you, and from this accord would spring an authority
which nothing could weaken."
I listened in silence, and, for once, my natural frankness received
a check; for I durst not tell him all I knew of the king's sentiments
towards him. The fact was, Louis XV was far from feeling any
regard for the prince de Conde; and, not to mince the matter, had
unequivocally expressed his contempt for him. He often said to
me, when speaking of him, "He is a conceited fellow, who would
fain induce persons to believe him somebody of vast importance."
Louis XV had prejudices, from which no power on earth could have
weaned him; and the princes of the house of Conde were amongst
his strongest antipathies: he knew a score of scandalous anecdotes
relating to them, which he took no small pleasure in repeating.
However, all the arguments of the prince de Conde were useless,
and produced him nothing, or, at least, nothing for himself,
although he procured the nomination of another to the ministry,
as you will hear in its proper place; but this was not sufficient
to allay the cravings of his ambition; and, in his rage and
disappointment, when open war was proclaimed between the king
and his parliament, he ranged himself on the side of the latter.
He soon, however, became weary of his new allies; and, once more
abandoning himself to the guidance of interest, he rejoined our
party. Well did M. de Maupeou know men, when he said they all
had their price; and great as may be the rank and title of princes,
with plenty of money, they too may be had.
But amongst all the candidates for the ministry, the one who
occasioned me the greatest trouble was the duc de la Vauguyon,
who insisted upon it that he had done much for me, and complained
bitterly of his unrequited services, and of my having bestowed
my confidence on others. Up to the moment of the disgrace of the
des Choiseuls, he had been amongst the most bitter of the
malcontents; but no sooner were they banished from court than
M. de la Vauguyon forgot every thing, and hastened to me with
every mark of the warmest friendship.
"Ah!" exclaimed he," I have much to scold you for, but I will
forgive you all your past misdeeds, if you will perform your
promise to me."
"My dear father," cried I (for I used jestingly to style him so,
in the same manner as I designated the bishop of Orleans
naughty: for you know I love you with all my heart."
"If it be true that you entertain any regard for me, why have
you evinced so little towards me? Am I not of the right materials
for making ministers? Why, then, have you never procured my
appointment to any of the vacant situations?"
"Stay, stay, my dear father," cried I, "how you run on! To hear
you talk, any person would suppose that places and appointments
rained down upon me, and that I had only to say to you, my dear
duke, choose which you please; then, indeed, you might complain
with justice; but you know very well, that all these delightful
things are in the hands of the king, who alone has a right to
bestow them as he judges best, whilst I am wholly powerless in
"Say, rather," replied the duke, quickly, "that you find it suits
your present purpose to put on this want of power. We all know,
that your veto is absolute with his majesty, and it requires
nothing more to obtain whatsoever you desire."
The duc de la Vauguyon was powerful, and represented the whole
of a party--that of the religionists, which was still further
supported by the
triumvirate, consisting of messieurs d' Aiguillon, de Maupeou,
and the abbe Terre, would not have accepted his services at
The good duke returned several times to the charge; sometimes
endeavouring to move me by gentle intreaties and, at others,
holding out threats and menaces; good and bad words flowed from
his lips like a mixture of honey and gall, but when he found that
both were equally thrown away upon me, he retired offended; and
by the expression of his rage and disappointment, succeeded in
incensing both the dauphin and dauphiness against me. May
heaven preserve you, my friend, from the anger of a bigot!
I think I have detained you long enough with the relation of the
intrigues by which I was surrounded upon the dismissal of the
des Choiseuls, and I will now return to the morning of the 24th
of December. When the exiles were fairly out of Paris, the king
found himself not a little embarrassed in the choice of a prime
minister. Those who would have suited our purposes did not meet
with the king's approbation, and he had not yet sufficient courage
to venture upon electing one who should be disagreeable to us; he
therefore hit upon a curious provisional election; the abbe Terray,
for instance, was placed at the head of the war department. This
measure was excused by the assertion, that it would require the
head of a financier to look into and settle the accounts, which
the late minister had, no doubt, left in a very confused state.
Upon the same principle, M. Bertin was appointed to the direction
of foreign affairs, and M. de Boynes was invested solely with the
management of naval affairs. This man, who was counsellor of
state, and first president of the parliament of Besancon, knew
not a letter of the office thus bestowed upon him, but then he
was bound body and soul to the chancellor; and it was worth
something to have a person who, it might be relied on, would
offer no opposition to the important reforms which were to be set
on foot immediately. We required merely automata, and M. de Boynes
answered our purpose perfectly well; for a provisional minister
nothing could have been better.
The king had at length (in his own opinion), hit upon a very
excellent minister of war; and the person selected was the
chevalier, afterwards comte de Muy, formerly usher to the late
dauphin: he was a man of the old school, possessing many sterling
virtues and qualities. We were in the utmost terror when his
majesty communicated to us his election of a minister of war,
and declared his intention of immediately signifying his pleasure
to M. de Muy. Such a blow would have overthrown all our projects.
Happily chance befriended us; the modern Cato declared that he
should esteem himself most honored to serve his sovereign by every
possible endeavour, but that he could never be induced to enter
my service upon any pretext whatever. The strangeness of this
refusal puzzled Louis XV not a little. He said to me. "Can you
make out the real motive of this silly conduct? I had a better
opinion of the man; I thought him possessed of sense, but I see
now that he is only fit for the cowl of a monk; he will never be
a minister." The king was mistaken; M. de Muy became one under
the auspices of his successor.
Immediately that the prince de Conde was informed of what had
passed, he recommenced his attack; and finding he could not be
minister himself, he determined, at least, to be principally
concerned in the appointment of one; he therefore proposed the
marquis de Monteynard, a man of such negative qualities, that the
best that could be said of him was, that he was as incapable of a
bad as of a good action; and, for want of a better, he was elected.
Such were the colleagues given to M. de Maupeou to conduct the
war which was about to be declared against the parliaments. I
should tell you,
had only increased, and that the parliament of Paris had even
finished by refusing to decide the suits which were referred to
them; thus punishing the poor litigants for their quarrel with
Meanwhile, the general interest expressed for the duc de Choiseul
greatly irritated the king.
"Who would have thought," said he to me, "that a disgraced minister
could have been so idolized by a whole court? Would you believe
that I receive a hundred petitions a day for leave to visit at
Chanteloup? This is something new indeed! I cannot understand it."
"Sire," replied I, "that only proves how much danger you incurred
by keeping such a man in your employment."
"Why, yes," answered Louis XV; "it really seem as though, had he
chosen some fine morning to propose my abdicating the throne in
favour of the dauphin, he would only have needed to utter the
suggestion to have it carried into execution. Fortunately for me,
my grandson is by no means partial to him, and will most certainly
never recall him after my death. The dauphin possesses all the
obstinacy of persons of confined understanding: he has but slender
judgment, and will see with no eye but his own."
Louis XV augured ill of his successor's reign, and imagined that
the cabinet of Vienna would direct that of Versailles at pleasure.
His late majesty was mistaken; Louis XVI is endowed with many
rare virtues, but they are unfortunately clouded over by his
timidity and want of self-confidence.
The open and undisguised censure passed by the whole court upon
the conduct of Louis XV was not the only thing which annoyed his
majesty, who perpetually tormented himself with conjectures of
what the rest of Europe would say and think of his late determinations.
"I will engage," said he, "that I am finely pulled to pieces at
Potsdam. My dear brother Frederick is about as sweet-tempered as
a bear, and I must not dismiss a minister who is displeasing to
me without his passing a hundred comments and sarcastic remarks.
Still, as he is absolute as the Medes and Persians, surely he can
Have no objection to us poor monarchs imitating him; and allow me
the same privilege in mine. After all, why should I need his or
any other person's opinion; let the whole world applaud or condemn,
I shall still act according to my own best judgment."
On my side I was far from feeling quite satisfied with the
accounts I continued to receive from Chanteloup; above all I
felt irritated at the parade of attachment made by the prince
de Beauvau for the exiles, and I complained bitterly of it to
the marechale de Mirepoix.
"What can I do to help it," said she; "my sister-in-law is a
simpleton; who, after having ruined her brother, will certainly
cause the downfall of her husband. I beseech you, my dear, out
of regard for me, to put up with the unthinking conduct of the
prince de Beauvau for a little while; he will soon see his error
and amend it." He did indeed return to our party, but his
obedience was purchased at a heavy price.
Some days after the disgrace of the duc de Choiseul, I received
a letter from M. de Voltaire. This writer, who carped at and
attacked all subjects, whether sacred or profane, and from whose
satires neither great nor small were exempt, had continual need
of some powerful friend at court. When his protector, M. de
Choiseul, was dismissed, he saw clearly enough that the only
person on whom he could henceforward depend to aid and support
him, was she who had been chiefly instrumental in removing his
first patron. With these ideas he addressed to me the following
letter of condolence or, to speak more correctly, of congratulation.
It was as follows:--
"MADAME LA COMTESSE,--Fame, with her hundred
tongues, has announced to, me in my retreat the fall
of M. de Choiseul and your triumph. This piece of
news has not occasioned me much surprise, I always
believed in the potency of beauty to carry all before
it; but, shall I confess it? I scarcely know whether
I ought to congratulate myself on the success
you have obtained over your enemies. M, de
Choiseul was one of my kindest friends, and his
all-powerful protection sufficed to sustain me
against the malice of my numerous enemies.
May a humble creature like me flatter himself
with the hope of finding in you the same generous
support? for when the god Mars is no longer
to be found, what can be more natural than to
seek the aid of Pallas, the goddess of the line arts?
Will she refuse to protect with her aegis the
most humble of her adorers?
"Permit me, madam, to avail myself of this
opportunity to lay at your feet the assurance
of my most respectful devotion. I dare not
give utterance to all my prayers in your behalf,
because I am open to a charge of infidelity
from some, yet none shall ever detect me
unfaithful in my present professions; at my
age, 'tis time our choice was made, and our
affections fixed. Be assured, lovely countess,
that I shall ever remain your attached friend;
and that no day will pass without my teaching
the echoes of the Alps to repeat your
"I have the honour to remain, malady, yours, etc., etc."
You may be quite sure, my friend, that I did not allow so singular
an epistle to remain long unanswered. I replied to it in the
"SIR,--The perusal of your agreeable letter made me
almost grieve for the disgrace of the duc de
Choiseul. Be assured, that to his own conduct,
and that of his family, may be alone attributed
the misfortune you deplore.
"The regrets you so feelingly express for the
calamity which has befallen your late protector
do honour to your generous heart; but
recollect that your old friends were not the
only persons who could
appreciate and value your fine talents; to
be esteemed worthy the honourable appellation
of your patron is a glory which the proudest
might envy; and, although I cannot boast of
being a Minerva, who, after all, was possibly
no wiser than the rest of us, I shall always
feel proud and happy to serve you with my
utmost credit and influence.
"I return you my best thanks for the wishes
you express, and the attachment you so kindly
profess. You honour me too much by repeating
my name amidst the bosom of the Alps! be assured,
that I shall not be behindhand in making the saloons
of Paris and Versailles resound with yours. Had I
leisure for the undertaking, I would go and
teach it to the only mountain worthy of re-echoing
it--at the foot of Parnassus.
"I am, sir, yours, etc., etc."
You perceive, my friend, that I intended this reply should be
couched in the wittiest style imaginable, yet, upon reading it
over at this lapse of time, it appears to me the silliest thing
ever penned; nevertheless, I flattered myself I had caught the
tone and manner in which M. de Voltaire had addressed me: he
perceived my intention, and was delighted with the flattering
deference it expressed. You know the vanity of men of letters;
and M. de Voltaire, as the first writer of the age, possessed,
in proportion, the largest portion of conceit.
A few words respecting Jean Jacques Rousseau--The comtesse du Barry
is desirous of his acquaintance--The countess visits Jean Jacques
Rousseau--His household furniture-- His portrait--Therese-- second
visit from madame du Barry to Jean Jacques Rousseau--The countess
relates her visit to the king--Billet from J. J. Rousseau to madame
du Barry--The two duchesses d'Aiguillon
Spite of the little estimation in which I held men of letters,
generally speaking, you must not take it for granted that I
entertained an equal indifference for all these gentlemen. I
have already, I fear, tired your patience when dwelling upon my
ardent admiration of M. de Voltaire; I have now to speak to you
of that with which his illustrious rival, Jean Jacques Rousseau,
inspired me--the man who, after a life so filled with constant
trouble and misfortunes, died a few years since in so deplorable
a manner. At the period of which I am now speaking this man,
who had filled Europe with his fame, was living at Paris, in a
state bordering upon indigence. I must here mention, that it was
owing to my solicitation that he had been permitted to return
from his exile, I having successfully interceded for him with
the chancellor and the attorney-general. M. Seguier made no
difficulty to my request, because he looked upon Jean Jacques
Rousseau as the greatest enemy to a set of men whom he mortally
hated--the philosophers. Neither did M. de Maupeou, from the
moment he effected the overthrow of the parliament, see any
objection to bestowing his protection upon a man whom the
parliaments had exiled. In this manner, therefore, without his
being aware of it, Rousseau owed to me the permission to
re-enter Paris. Spite of the mortifying terms in which this
celebrated writer had spoken of the king's mistresses, I had a
lively curiosity to know him; all that his enemies repeated of
his uncouthness, and even of his malicious nature, far from
weakening the powerful interest with which he inspired me, rather
augmented it, by strengthening the idea I had previously formed
of his having been greatly calumniated. The generous vengeance
which he had recently taken for the injuries he had received
from Voltaire particularly charmed me.* I thought only how I
could effect my design of seeing him by one means or another,
and in this resolution I was confirmed by an accident which befell
me one day.
*Jean Jacques Rousseau in his journey through
Lyons in June 1770 subscribed for the statue
It was the commencement of April, 1771, I was reading for the
fourth time, the "
probably, twelfth, the account of the party on the lake, when
the marechale de Mirepoix entered the room. I laid my open
volume on the mantel-piece, and the marechale, glancing her eye
upon the book I had just put down, smilingly begged my pardon for
disturbing my grave studies, and taking it in her hand, exclaimed,
"Ah! I see you have been perusing '
have just been having more than an hour's conversation respecting
"What were you saying of him?" asked I.
"Why, my dear, I happened to be at the house of madame de
Luxembourg, where I met with the comtesse
"Yes, I remember," said I, "the former of these ladies was the
particular friend of Jean Jacques Rousseau."
"And the second also," answered she; "and I can promise you, that
neither the one or the other spoke too well of him."
"Is it possible?" exclaimed I, with a warmth I could not repress.
"The duchess," resumed madame de Mirepoix, "says he is an ill-bred
and ungrateful man, and the countess insists upon it he is a
'Shameful, indeed," cried I; "but can you, my dear friend,
account for the ill-nature with which these ladies speak of
"Oh! Yes," replied the marechale, "their motives are
easily explained, and I will tell you a little secret, for
the truth of which I can vouch. Madame de Luxembourg had at
one time conceived the most lively passion for Jean Jacques."
"Indeed!" cried I; "and he--"
"Did not return it. As for madame de Bouffiers, the case was
exactly reversed; and Rousseau has excited her resentment by
daring long to nurse a hopeless flame, of which she was the
object: this presumption on the part of the poet our dignified
countess could never pardon. However, I entreat of you not to
repeat this; remember, I tell you in strictest secrecy."
"Oh, be assured of my discretion," said I; "I promise you not to
publish your secret" (which, by the way, I was very certain was
not communicated for the first time when told to me).
This confidence on the part of the marechale had, in some
unaccountable manner, only increased the ardent desire I felt
to see the author of the "
to madame de Mirepoix, that I had a great curiosity to be
introduced to Rousseau.
"I fear," said she, "you will never be able to persuade him to
visit at the chateau."
"How then can I accomplish my desire of seeing this celebrated man?"
"By one simple method; if he will not come to you, you must go
to him. I would willingly accompany you, but he knows me, and
my presence would spoil all. The best thing you can do is to
dress yourself quite plainly, as a lady from the country, taking
with you one of your female attendants. You may take as a
pretext for your visit some music you would wish to have copied.
Be sure to treat M. de Rousseau as a mere copyist, and appear
never to have heard of his superior merit: do this, and you will
receive the best possible reception."
I greatly approved of the marechale 's advice, which I assured
her I would delay no longer than till the following day to put
into practice; and, after some further conversation upon
J. J. Rousseau, we parted.
Early the next day I set out for Paris accompanied by Henriette;
there, in pursuance of the suggestion of madame de Mirepoix, I
dressed myself as a person recently arrived from the country, and
Henriette, who was to accompany me, disguised herself as a villager.
I assure you, our personal attractions lost nothing by the change
of our attire. From the rue de la Jussienne to the rue Platriere
is only a few steps; nevertheless, in the fear of being recognised,
I took a hired carriage. Having reached our place of destination,
we entered, by a shabby door, the habitation of Jean Jacques Rousseau:
his apartments were on the fifth floor. I can scarcely describe
to you, my friend, the emotions I experienced as I drew nearer
and nearer to the author of "Heloise." At each flight of stairs
I was compelled to pause to collect my ideas, and my poor heart
beat as though I had been keeping an assignation. At length,
however, we reached the fifth story; thereafter having rested a
few minutes to recover myself, I was about to knock at a door
which was opposite to me, when, as I approached, I heard a sweet
but tremulous voice singing a melancholy air, which I have never
since heard anywhere; the same voice repeated the romance to
which I was listening several times. When it had entirely ceased
I profited by the silence to tap with my knuckles against the door,
but so feeble was the signal, that even Henriette, who was close
behind me, could not hear it. She begged I would permit her to
ring a bell which hung near us; and, having done so, a step was
heard approaching the door, and, in a minute or two, it was
opened by a man of about sixty years of age, who, seeing two
females, took off his cap with a sort of clumsy gallantry, at
which I affected to be much flattered.
"Pray, sir," said I, endeavouring to repress my emotion, "does a
person named Rousseau, a copier of music, live here?"
"Yes, madam; I am he. What is your pleasure?"
"I have been told, sir, that you are particularly skilful in
copying music cheaply; I should be glad if you would undertake
to copy these airs I have brought with me."
"Have the goodness to walk in, madam."
We crossed a small obscure closet, which served as a species of
antechamber, and entered the sitting-room of M. de Rousseau,
who seated me in an arm-chair, and motioning to Henriette to sit
down, once more inquired my wishes respecting the music.
"Sir," said I, "as I live in the country, and but very rarely
visit Paris, I should be obliged to you to get it done as early
"Willingly, madam; I have not much upon my hands just now."
I then gave to Jean Jacques Rousseau the roll of music I had
brought. He begged I would continue seated, requested permission
to keep on his cap, and went to a little table to examine the
music I had brought.
Upon my first entrance I had perceived a close and confined smell
in these miserable apartments, but, by degrees, I became accustomed
to it, and began to examine the chamber in which I sat with as
strict a scrutiny as though I had intended making an inventory
of its contents. Three old elbow-chairs, some rickety stools, a
writing-table, on which were two or three volumes of music, some
dried plants laid on white-brown paper; beside the table stood an
old spinet, and, close to the latter article of furniture, sat a
fat and well-looking cat. Over the chimney hung an old silver
watch; the walls of the room were adorned with about half a
dozen views of Switzerland and some inferior engravings, two
only, which occupied the most honourable situations, struck me;
one represented Frederick II, and under the picture were written
some lines (which I cannot now recollect) by Rousseau himself;
the other engraving, which hung opposite, was the likeness of a
very tall, thin, old man, whose dress was nearly concealed by the
dirt which had been allowed to accumulate upon it; I could only
distinguish that it was ornamented with a broad riband. When I
had sufficiently surveyed this chamber, the simplicity of which,
so closely bordering on want and misery, pained me to the heart,
I directed my attention to the extraordinary man who was the
occasion of my visit. He was of middle height, slightly bent by
age, with a large and expansive chest; his features were common
in their cast, but possessed of the most perfect regularity. His
eyes, which he from time to time raised from the music he was
considering, were round and sparkling but small, and the heavy
brows which hung over them, conveyed an idea of gloom and severity;
but his mouth, which was certainly the most beautiful and fascinating
in its expression I ever saw, soon removed this unfavourable
impression. Altogether there belonged to his countenance a
smile of mixed sweetness and sadness, which bestowed on it an
To complete my description, I must not forget to add his dress,
which consisted of a dirty cotton cap, to which were fixed strings
of a riband that had once been scarlet; a pelisse with arm-holes,
a flannel waistcoat, snuff-coloured breeches, gray stockings, and
shoes slipped down at the heel, after the fashion of slippers.
Such was the portrait, and such the abode of the man who believed
himself to be one of the potentates of the earth and who, in fact,
had once owned his little court and train of courtiers; for, in
the century in which he lived, talent had become as arbitrary as
sovereign power--thanks to the stupidity of some of our grandees
and the caprice of Frederick of Prussia.
Meanwhile my host, undisturbed by my reflections, had quietly
gone over his packet of music. He found amongst it an air from "
half turned towards me and looking steadfastly at me, as if he
would force the truth from my lips.
"Madam," said he, "do you know the author of this little composition?"
"Yes," replied I, with an air of as great simplicity as I could
assume, "it is written by a person of the same name as yourself,
who writes books and composes operas. Is he any relation to you?"
My answer and question disarmed the suspicions of Jean Jacques,
who was about to reply, but stopped himself, as if afraid of
uttering a falsehood, and contented himself with smiling and
casting down his eyes. Taking courage from his silence, I ventured
to add,--"The M. de Rousseau who composed this pretty air has
written much beautiful music and many very clever works. Should I
ever know the happiness of becoming a mother I shall owe to him
the proper care and education of my child." Rousseau made no
reply, but he turned his eyes towards me, and at this moment the
expression of his countenance was perfectly celestial, and I could
readily imagine how easily he might have inspired a warmer sentiment
than that of admiration.
Whilst we were conversing in this manner, a female, between the
age of forty and fifty, entered the room. She saluted me with
great affectation of politeness, and then, without speaking to
Rousseau, went and seated herself familiarly upon a chair on the
other side of the table: this was Therese, a sort of factotum,
who served the master of these apartments both as servant and
mistress. I could not help regarding this woman with a feeling
of disgust; she had a horrible cough, which she told us was more
than usually troublesome on that day. I had heard of her avarice;
therefore to prevent the appearance of having called upon an
unprofitable errand, I inquired of Jean Jacques Rousseau how
much the music would cost.
"Six sous a page, madam," replied he, "is the usual price."
"Shall I, sir," asked I, "leave you any cash in hand for the
purchase of what paper you will require?"
"No, I thank you, madam," replied Rousseau, smiling; "thank
God! I am not yet so far reduced that I cannot purchase it for
you. I have a trifling annuity--"
"And you would be a much richer man," screamed Therese, "if you
would insist upon those people at the opera paying you what they
owe you." These words were accompanied with a shrug of the
shoulders, intended to convey a vast idea of her own opinion.
Rousseau made no reply; indeed he appeared to me like a frightened
child in the presence of its nurse; and I could quickly see, that
from the moment of her entering the room he had become restless
and dejected, he fidgeted on his seat, and seemed like a person
in excessive pain. At length he rose, and requesting my pardon
for absenting himself, he added, "My wife will have the honour
to entertain you whilst I am away." With these words he opened
a small glass-door, and disappeared in the neighbouring room.
When we were alone with Therese, she lost no time in opening
"Madam," cried she, "I trust you will have the goodness to excuse
M. Rousseau; he is very unwell; it is really extremely vexatious."
I replied that M. Rousseau had made his own excuses. Just then
Therese, wishing to give herself the appearance of great utility,
"Am I wanted there, M. Rousseau?"
"No, no, no," replied Jean Jacques, in a faint voice, which died
away as if at a distance.
He soon after re-entered the room.
"Madam," said he, "have the kindness to place your music in other
hands to copy; I am truly concerned that I cannot execute your
wishes, but I feel too ill to set about it directly."
I replied, that I was in no hurry; that I should be in Paris some
time yet, and that he might copy it at his leisure. It was then
settled that it should be ready within a week from that time;
upon which I rose, and ceremoniously saluting Therese, was
conducted to the door by M. Rousseau, whose politeness led him
to escort me thither, holding his cap in his hand. I retired,
filled with admiration, respect, and pity.
When next I saw the duc d'Aiguillon, I could not refrain from
relating to him all that had happened. My recital inspired him
with the most lively curiosity to see Rousseau, whom he had
never met in society. It was then agreed, that when I went to
fetch my music he should accompany me, disguised in a similar
manner to myself, and that I should pass him off as my uncle. At
the end of the eight days I repaired early as before to Paris;
the duke was not long in joining me there. He was so inimitably
well disguised, that no person would ever have detected the most
elegant nobleman of the court of France beneath the garb of a
plain country squire. We set out laughing. like simpletons at
the easy air with which he wore his new costume; nevertheless
our gaiety disappeared as we reached the habitation of J. J.
Rousseau. Spite of ourselves we were compelled to honour and
respect the man of talent and genius, who preferred independence
of ideas to riches, and before whom rank and power were compelled
to lay aside their unmeaning trappings ere they could reach his
presence. When we reached the fifth landing-place I rang, and
this time the door was opened by Therese, who told us M Rousseau
"But, madam," answered I, "I am here by the direction of your
husband to fetch away the music he has been engaged in copying
"Ah, madam," exclaimed she, "is it you? I did not recollect you
again; pray walk in. M. Rousseau will be sure to be at home for you."
"So, then," thought I, "even genius has its visiting lists." We
entered; Jean Jacques formally saluted us, and invited us to be
seated. He then gave me my music; I inquired what it came to;
he consulted a little memorandum which lay upon the table, and
replied, " So many pages, so much paper, eighteen livres twelve
sous;" which, of course, I instantly paid. The duc d'Aiguillon,
whom I styled my uncle, was endeavoring to lead Rousseau into
conversation, when the outer bell rang. Therese went to open
the door, and a gentleman entered, of mature age, although still
preserving his good looks. The duke regarded him in silence and
immediately made signs for me to hasten our departure; I obeyed,
and took leave of Rousseau, with many thanks his punctuality. He
accompanied us as before to door, and there I quitted him never
to see him more. As we were descending the staircase, M. d'Aiguillon
told me that the person who had so hastened our departure was
Duclas, and that his hurry to quit Rousseau arose from his dread
of being recognised by him. Although M. Duclas was a very excellent
man, I must own that I owed no small grudge for a visit which had
thus abridged ours.
In the evening the duc d'Aiguillon and myself related to the king
our morning's pilgrimage. I likewise recounted my former visit,
which I had concealed until now. Louis XV seemed greatly interested
with the recital of it; he asked me a thousand questions, and would
fain hear the most trifling particulars.
"I shall never forget," said Louis XV, "the amazing success
obtained by his '
beautiful airs", and the king began to hum over the song of
" "Yes, madam," continued his majesty, " I promise you, that had "Pardon me," replied I; " but I cannot believe that would have "And why not?" asked the king; "he was a man of great talent." "Doubtless, sire, but not of the kind to compete with Voltaire." The king then changed the conversation to Therese, inquiring "None whatever, sire," replied the duke; "at least none that we "In that case," rejoined his majesty, "she must have charmed her I made no secret with the comte Jean of my visit, and he likewise "MADAM,--I send back the present you would force "I have the honour to remain, madam, yours, etc., etc., "J. J. ROUSSEAU." This was rather an uncouth manner of refusing; nevertheless, when I must now speak to you of a new acquaintance I made about this I cannot equally boast of the treatment I received from the duchess The marechale de Mirepoix used to say, that a caress from madame Adieu, my friend; if you are not already terrified at the CHAPTER XXIX The king's friends--The duc de Fronsac--The duc d'Ayen's remark-- I was now firmly fixed at court, the king, more than ever devoted The duc de Duras, although a man of little wit, was yet gay and The prince de Terigny, the comte d'Escars, the duc de Fleury, The saints of Versailles--the duc de la Vauguyon, the duc d'Estissac, There was in the chateau a most singular character, the grand Since this word The vices of Louis XV were the result of bad education. When an * The countess alludes to the Never had courtier so much courtiership as he. He saw the As soon as the courtiers knew of the existence and purposes of A female styled the The Madame of my time was a woman of noble appearance, tall, The general term The noble damsels were served with peculiar etiquette, their After She was in correspondence with all sorts of persons, with the The A short time after my sojourn at Versailles, when I was the "You must do as the marquise de Pompadour did, and as the duc de "In truth, my dear brother-in-law, you would be in your element; Comte Jean began to laugh, and then seriously advised me to I decided on doing so. I sent for Madame. She came with all the CHAPTER XXX Fête given by the comtesse de Valentinois--The comtesse du Barry My present situation was not a little embarrassing; known and The comtesse de Valentinois, flattered by the kindness of the Every hour my friends brought me in fresh anecdotes of the avidity One very important object of consideration was my dress for the At the hour fixed upon I set out, conducted by the ducs d'Aiguillon My entrance was a complete The marechale de Mirepoix, to whom I had confided my secret, and "Upon my word," said I, smiling, "I do not wonder at the kind "Pray, my dear," answered the marechale, "be under no mistake:
Rousseau after his success chosen to step forward as a candidate
for public favour, he would soon have overthrown Voltaire."
been possible under any circumstances."
whether she possessed any attractions?
master by some of those unseen perfections which take the deepest
hold of the heart; besides I know not why we should think it
strange that others see with different eyes to ourselves."
expressed his desire to know a man so justly celebrated, and, in
its proper place, you, may hear how he managed to effect this,
and what befell him in consequence--but, to finish for the present
with Rousseau, for I will not promise that I shall not again
indulge in speaking of him. I will just say, that after the lapse
of two or three days from the time of my last visit, the idea
occurred to me of sending him a thousand crowns in an Indian
casket. This I sent by a servant out of livery, whom I strictly
enjoined not to name me but to say simply that he came from a
lady. He brought back the casket to me unopened, and the following
billet from Rousseau:--
upon my acceptance in so concealed a manner; if it
be offered as a testimony of your esteem I may
possibly accept it, when you permit me to know
the hand from which it comes. Be assured, madam,
that there is much truth in the assertion of its being
more easy to give than to receive.
at this distance of time I review the transaction, I cannot help
admitting that I well deserved it. Perhaps when it first occurred
I might have felt piqued, but since I have quitted the court I
have again read over the works of J. J. Rousseau, and I now
speak of him, as you see, without one particle of resentment.
Period--that of the two duchesses d'Aiguillon. From my first
entrance into the chateau until the close of 1770, madame
d'Aiguillon, the daughter-in-law, observed a sort of armed
neutrality towards me; true, she never visited me, but she always
met me with apparent satisfaction at the houses of others; thus she
managed to steer clear of one dangerous extreme or the other till
the downfall of the des Choiseuls; when the duc d'Aiguillon having
been nominated to the ministry, she perceived that she could not,
without great ingratitude, omit calling to offer me her acknowledgments,
and accordingly she came. On my side, I left no means untried
of rendering myself agreeable to her; and so well did I succeed,
that from that moment her valuable friendship was bestowed on me
with a sincerity which even my unfortunate reverses have been
unable to shake; and we are to this day the same firm and true f
friends we were in the zenith of my power. Not that I would seek
to justify the injury she sought to do our queen, but I may and
do congratulate myself, that the same warmth which pervades her
hatreds likewise influences her friendships.
dowager d'Aiguillon, who, as well as her daughter-in-law, came
to see me upon the promotion of her son. She overloaded me with
caresses, and even exceeded her daughter-in-law in protestations
of devotion and gratitude. You should have heard her extol my
beauty, wit, and sweetness of disposition; she, in fact, so
overwhelmed me with her surfeiting praises, that at last I
became convinced that, of the thousand flattering things she
continually addressed to me, not one was her candid opinion;
and I was right, for I soon learned, that in her circle of intimates
at the houses of the Beauffremons, the Brionnes, and above all,
the marquise du Deffant, she justified her acquaintance with me,
by saying it was a sacrifice made to the interests of her son, and
amused these ladies by censuring my every word and look. The
dowager's double-dealing greatly annoyed me; nevertheless, not
wishing to vex her son, or her daughter- in-law, I affected to be
ignorant of her dishonourable conduct. However, I could not
long repress my indignation, and one day that she was praising
me most extravagantly, I exclaimed, "Ah, madam, how kind it
would be of you to reserve one of these pretty speeches to repeat
at madame du Deffant's." This blow, so strong yet just, rather
surprised her; but, quickly rallying her courage, she endeavoured
to persuade me that she always spoke of me in the same terms. "It
may be so," replied I; "but I fear that you say so many flattering
things to me, that you have not one left when out of my sight."
d'Aiguillon was not less to be dreaded than the bite of M. d'Ayen.
Yet the duchess dowager has obtained a first-rate reputation for
goodness; every one styled her
And why, do you suppose? Because she was one of those fat,
fresh, portly-looking dames of whom you would have said, her
very face and figure bespoke the contented goodness of her
disposition; for who would ever suspect malice could lurk in so
lady expired whilst bathing, of an attack of apoplexy, in the
month of June, 1772. Her son shed many tears at her loss, whilst
I experienced but a very moderate share of grief.
multiplicity of the letters which compose my journal, I have yet
much to say; and I flatter myself the continuance of my adventures
will be found no less interesting than those you have perused.
Manner of living at court--The marquis de Dreux -Breze--Education
of Louis XV--The
Bompart--Livres expended on the
to me, seemed unable to dispense with my constant presence. I
had so successfully studied his habits and peculiarities, that my
empire over him was established on a basis too firm to be shaken,
whilst my power and unbounded influence convinced my enemies,
that, so long as the present monarch sat upon the throne of France,
their attempts at diminishing my credit and influence would only
recoil upon themselves. Louis XV generally supped in my apartments
every evening, unless indeed, by way of change, I went to sup with
him. Our guests were of course of the first order, but yet not
of the most exemplary morals. These persons had tact, and saw
that, to please the king, they must not surpass him; so that, if
by chance he should reflect on himself, he would appear to
advantage amongst them. Poor courtiers! It was labour in vain.
The king was in too much fear of knowing himself to understand
that study: he knew the penetration and severity of his own
judgment, and on no account would he exercise it at his own expense.
always lively. He amused me; I liked his buoyant disposition,
and forgave him although he had ranged himself with the protesting
peers. In fact, I could not be angry with him. The folly of
opposition had only seized on him because it was epidemic. The
dear duke had found himself with wolves, and had begun to howl
with them. I am sure that he was astonished at himself when he
remembered the signature which he had given, and the love he had
testified for the old parliament, for which, in fact, he cared no
more than Jean de Vert. God knows how he compensated for this
little folly at the chateau. It was by redoubling his assiduities
to the king, and by incessant attentions to me. In general, those
who wished to thrive at court only sought how to make their
courage remembered; M. de Duras was only employed in making
were not the least amusing. They kept up a lively strain of
conversation, and the king laughed outrageously. But the vilest
of the party was the duc de Fronsac. Ye gods! what a wretch!
To speak ill of him is no sin. A mangled likeness of his father,
he had all his faults with not one of his merits. He was perpetually
changing his mistresses, but it cannot be said whether it was
inconstancy on his part, or disgust on theirs, but the latter
appears to me most probable. Though young, he was devoured by
gout or some other infirmity, but it was called gout out of
deference to the house of Richelieu. They talked of the duchess
de ------, whose husband was said to have poisoned her.
and M. de Durfort--did like others. These persons practised
religion in the face of the world, and abstained from loose
conversation in presence of their own families; but with the king
they laid aside their religion and reserve, so that these hypocrites
had in the city all the honours of devotion, and in the royal
apartments all the advantages of loose conduct. As for me, I
was at Versailles the same as everywhere else. To please the
king I had only to be myself. I relied, for the future, on my
uniformity of conduct. What charmed him in the evening, would
delight again the next day. He had an equilibrium of pleasure,
a balance of amusement which can hardly be described; it was
every day the same variety; the same journeys, the same fetes,
the balls, the theatres, all came round at fixed periods with the
most monotonous regularity. In fact, the people knew exactly
when to laugh and when to look grave.
master of the ceremonies of France. His great-grandfather, his
grandfather, his father, who had fulfilled these functions for a
century, had transmitted to him their understanding and their
duties. All he thought of was how to regulate the motions and
steps of every person at court. He adored the dauphin and dauphiness,
because they both diverted and fatigued themselves according to
the rules in such cases made and provided. He was always preaching
to me and quoted against me the precedents of Diane de Poitiers,
or Gabrielle d'Estrees. One day he told me that all the misfortunes
of Mademoiselle de la Valliere occurred in consequence of her
neglect of etiquette. He would have had all matters pass at court
during the old age of Louis XV as at the period of the childhood
of Louis XIV, and would fain have had the administration of the
you something of it. Do you know, my friend, that but little is
known of this place, of which so much has been said. I can tell
you, better than any other person, what it really was, for I, like
the marquise de Pompadour, took upon myself the superintendence
of it, and busied myself with what they did there. It was,
much pain to describe.
infant, they gave him for governor the vainest, most coxcombical,
stupidest of men--the duc de Villeroi, who had so well served the
famous defeat, "
(Ed.) i.e., author
young prince from morning till night, and. from morning till
night he was incessantly repeating in his ears that his future
subjects were born for him, and that they were all dependent on
his good and gracious pleasure. Such lessons daily repeated,
necessarily destroyed the wise instructions of Massillon. When
grown up, Louis XV saw the libertinism of cardinal Dubois and
the orgies of the regency: madame de Maillis' shameless conduct
was before his eyes and Richelieu's also. Louis XV could not
conduct himself differently from his ministers and his family. His
timid character was formed upon the example of others. At first
he selected his own mistresses, but afterwards he chose some one
who took that trouble off his hands. Lebel became purveyor in
chief to his pleasures; and controlled in Versailles the house
known as the
this house, they intrigued for the control of it. The king laughed
at all their efforts, and left the whole management to Lebel, under
the superintendence of the comte de Saint-Florentin, minister of
the royal household. They installed there, however, a sort of
military chief, formerly a major of infantry, who was called,
jestingly, M. de Cervieres; his functions consisted in an active
surveillance, and in preventing young men from penetrating the
seraglio. The soldiers at the nearest station had orders to
obey his first summons. His pay was twelve thousand livres a year.
domestic affairs; she ruled with despotic sway; controlled the
expenses; preserved good order; and regulated the amusement of
her charges, taking care that they did not mix one with the other.
She was an elderly canoness of a noble order, belonging to one of
the best families in Burgundy. She was only known at the
after the decease of Mme. De Pompadour, she had succeeded in
this employ a woman of low rank, who had a most astonishing mind.
Louis XV thought very highly of her, and said that if she were a
man he would have made her his minister. She put the harem on
an admirable system, and instructed the
ascetic, with a keen eye and imperious manner. She expressed a
sovereign contempt for all the low-born beauties confided to her
trust. However, she did not treat her wards ill, for some one of
them might produce a passion in the heart of the king, and she
was determined to be prepared for whatever might fall out. As to
the noble ladies, they were her favourites. Madame did not divide
her flock into fair and dark, which would have been natural, but
into noble and ignoble. Besides Madame, there were two
under-mistresses, whose duties consisted in keeping company with
the young ladies who were placed there. They sometimes dined
with new comers, instructed them in polite behaviour, and aided
them in their musical lessons or in dancing, history, and literature
in which these
women of lower station, creatures for any service, half waiting
women, half companions, who kept watch over the young ladies,
and neglected nothing that could injure each other at every
opportunity. The work of the house was performed by proper
servants and male domestics, chosen expressly for their age and
ugliness. They were paid high, but in return for the least
indiscretion on their part, they were sent to linger out their
existence in a state prison. A severe watch was kept over every
person of either sex in this mysterious establishment. It was
requisite, in fact, that an impenetrable veil should be cast over
the frailties of the king; and that the public should know nothing
of what occurred at the
were kept there. They were of all ages from nine to eighteen
years. Until fifteen they were kept in total ignorance of the
city which they inhabited. When they attained that age, no more
mystery was made of it; they only endeavoured to prevent them
from believing that they were destined for the king's service.
Sometimes they were told that they were imprisoned as well as
their family; sometimes, a lover rich and powerful kept them
concealed to satisfy his love. One thought she belonged to a
German prince, another to an English lord. There were some,
however, who, better informed, either by their predecessors, or
by chance, knew precisely what was in store for them, and accordingly
built some exceedingly fine castles in the air. But when they
were suspected to be so knowing, they were sent away, and either
married (if pregnant), or compelled to enter a cloister or chapter.
servants wore a green livery. Those who belonged to the ignobles,
had their valets clothed only in gray. The king had arranged this,
and applauded it as one of the most admirable decisions of his
life, and contended with me that the families who paid this impost
for his pleasures, were greatly indebted to him for it. I assure
you, my friend, that there are often very peculiar ideas in the
head of a king.
lady, who had no title in the house, because she "carried on the
war" out of doors, but still was a most useful personage. In
very truth la Mere Bompart was a wonderful animal. Paint to
yourself a woman rather small than large, rather fat than lean,
rather old than young, with a good foot, a good eye, as robust as
a trooper, with a decided "call" for intrigue, drinking nothing
but wine, telling nothing but lies, swearing by, or denying God,
as suited her purpose. Fancy such an one, and you will have before
noted pimps. She treated Lebel as her equal, went familiarly to
M. de Sartines and occasionally condescended to visit M. de
Saint-Florentin. Everybody at court received her graciously;
everybody but the king and myself, who held her in equal horror.
was calculated at 150,000 livres, to pay only the functionaries
and the domestics, the education and the board of the < eleves >,
etc. This does not include the cost of the
the indemnities paid to families, the dowry given with them in
marriage, the presents made to them, and the expenses of the
illegitimate children: this was enormous in cost, at least 2,000,000
livres a year, and yet I make the lowest estimation. The
annually 4 or 5,000,000 livres, and that will amount to
nearly 150,000,000 (£ 6,250,000). If you think I mistake, go
through the calculation.
acknowledged mistress of the king, the duc de Richelieu asked me
if I had heard of the
what he meant, and if I could procure any account of the place.
He then told me of the care which madame de Pompadour bestowed
On the place, the advantage she drew from it, and assured me of
the necessity for following her example. I spoke of this to comte
Jean, and begged his advice. My brother-in-law replied:--
Richelieu has advised. They spend a vast deal of money in this
house, and I undertake to look over their accounts. Nominate me
your prime minister, and I shall be the happiest of men. It is
impossible but there must be something to be gleaned from
money to handle and young girls to manage. What more could you
covet? You will establish a gaming table at the
and never quit it again."
follow the plain counsel of the duc de Richelieu.
dignity of an abbess of a regally founded convent. But in spite
of her pretensions, I only saw in her the rival of Gourdan and
Paris, and treated her as such; that is, with some contempt, for
with that feeling her office inspired me. She told me all I have
described to you, and many other things which have since escaped
me. At that time there were only four < eleves > in the house.
When she had given me all the details I wished, I sent her away,
desiring to be informed of all that passed in her establishment.
feigns an indisposition--Her dress--The duc de Cosse-The comte
and comtesse de Provence--Dramatic entertainment--Favart and
Voisenon--A few observations--A pension--The marechale de Luxembourg
--Adventure of M. de Bombelles--Copy of a letter addressed to him--
Louis XV--M. de Maupeou and madame du Barry
recognised as the mistress of the king, it but ill accorded with
my feelings to be compelled to add to that title the superintendent
of his pleasures; and I had not yet been sufficiently initiated
into the intrigues of a court life to accept this strange charge
without manifest dislike and hesitation. Nevertheless, whilst so
many were contending for the honour of that which I condemned,
I was compelled to stifle my feelings and resign myself to the
bad as well as the good afforded by my present situation; at a
future period I shall have occasion again to revert to the
present I wish to change the subject by relating to you what
befell me at a fete given me by madame de Valentinois, while she
feigned to give it in the honour of madame de Provence.
dauphiness's manner towards her, and wishing still further to
insinuate herself into her favour, imagined she should promote
her object by requesting that princess would do her the honour
to pass an evening at her house; her request was granted, and
that too before the duchesse de la Vauguyon could interfere to
prevent it. Furious at not having been apprized of the invitation
till too late to cause its rejection, she vowed to make the triumphant
countess pay dearly for her triumph; for my own part I troubled
myself very little with the success of madame de Valentinois,
which, in fact, I perceived would rather assist than interfere
with my projects. Hitherto I had not made my appearance at any
of the houses of the nobility when the princesses were invited
thither; this clearly proved to the public, in general, how great
was the opposition I experienced from the court party. I was
now delighted to prove to the Parisians that I was not always to
lead the life of a recluse, but that I could freely present myself
at those parties to which other ladies were invited. However,
as my friends apprehended that the comtesse de Provence might
prevail upon her lady of honour not to invite me, by the advice
of the chancellor and the minister for foreign affairs, it was
arranged that I should for a week previous to the fete feign a
severe indisposition. It would be impossible to describe the joy
with which these false tidings were received by my enemies. We
are all apt to picture things as we would have them, and already
the eager imaginations of the opposing party had converted the
account of my illness into an incurable and mortal disease.
with which the rumour of my dangerous state had been received,
whilst I lay upon what the credulous hopes of my enemies had
determined to be my death-bed, laughing heartily at their folly,
and preparing fresh schemes to confound and disappoint their
coming occasion. The king presented me with a new set of jewels,
and himself selected the materials for my robe and train, which
were to be composed of a rich green satin embroidered with gold,
trimmed with wreaths of roses, and looped up with pearls; the lower
part of this magnificent dress was trimmed with a profusion of
the finest Flemish lace. I wore on my head a garland of full blown
roses, composed of the finest green and gold work; round my
forehead was a string of beautiful pearls, from the centre of
which depended a diamond star; add to this a pair of splendid ear-rings,
valued at 100,000 crowns, with a variety of jewels equally costly,
and you may form some idea of my appearance on that eventful
evening. The, king, who presided at my toilette, could not
repress his admiration; he even insisted upon clasping my necklace,
in order that he might, as he said, flatter himself with having
completed such a triumph of nature and art.
and de Cosse and now I remember I have introduced this latter to
you for the first time, however I will promise that it will not
be for the last; he possessed, and still possesses all the virtues
of his noble house, he was impetuous from a deeply feeling heart,
and proud from a consciousness of being properly appreciated.
Young, handsome, and daring, he was pre-eminently calculated both
to inspire love, and to feel it; it was quite impossible for him
to fail in winning the affections of any female he exerted himself
to please, and even at the present time that he has lost some of
his earlier graces, he is still irresistible as ever; his naturally
gay disposition was but ill suited to nourishing grave or philosophic
reasoning, but then he was the soul of company, and possessed a
fine and delicate wit which ever vented itself in the most brilliant
sallies. M. de Cosse like the knights of old, was wholly devoted
to his king and his mistress, and would, I am sure, had the
occasion required it, have nobly died in defence of either; I only
pray he may never be put to the proof. I saw much of him at the
beginning of our acquaintance, but as his many amiable qualities
became better known, I found myself almost continually in his
society, indeed as I have something to confess in the business, I
could hardly choose a better opportunity than the present, did I
not recollect that the good duc d'Aiguillon is waiting all this
while for me to announce the < entree > of our party into the
ante-room of Madame de Valentinois.
imagined languishing on the bed of sickness, yet there I stood
in all the fulness of health and freshness of beauty. I could
very easily read upon each countenance the vexation and rage my
appearance of entire freedom from all ailment excited; however,
I proceeded without any delay to the mistress of the house, whom
I found busily engaged in seating her visitors, and playing the
amiable to the dauphiness. This princess seemed equally astonished
at my unexpected apparition; nevertheless, taken off her guard,
she could not prevent herself from courteously returning the
profound salutation I made her. As for the duchesse de la
Vauguyon, when she saw me, she turned alternately from red to
white, and was even weak enough to give public vent to her fury.
The comte de Provence, who had been told that I was not expected,
began to laugh when he perceived me, and taking the first
opportunity of approaching me, he said, "Ah, madame! so you too
can mystify your friends, I see! Have a care; the sight of charms
like yours is sufficient to strike terror into any adversaries,
without having recourse to any expedient to heighten their effect."
Saying this he passed on without giving me the opportunity of
replying, as I could have wished to have done.
of whose fidelity I was assured, was present at the fete. I availed
myself of the offer of a seat near her and directly we were seated,
"You are a clever creature," said she, "for you have completely
bewildered all the female part of this evening's society, and by
way of a finishing stroke will run away with the hearts of all the
flutterers here, before the fair ladies they were previously
hovering around, have recovered their first astonishment."
looks with which the ladies favour me, if my presence is capable
of producing so much mischief."
you might be as much beloved as others are, if you did not
monopolize the king's affections; the consequence is, that every
woman with even a passable face looks upon you as the usurper of
"Yes, madam," continued his majesty, " I promise you, that had
"Pardon me," replied I; " but I cannot believe that would have
"And why not?" asked the king; "he was a man of great talent."
"Doubtless, sire, but not of the kind to compete with Voltaire."
The king then changed the conversation to Therese, inquiring
"None whatever, sire," replied the duke; "at least none that we
"In that case," rejoined his majesty, "she must have charmed her
I made no secret with the comte Jean of my visit, and he likewise
"MADAM,--I send back the present you would force
"I have the honour to remain, madam, yours, etc., etc.,
"J. J. ROUSSEAU."
This was rather an uncouth manner of refusing; nevertheless, when
I must now speak to you of a new acquaintance I made about this
I cannot equally boast of the treatment I received from the duchess
The marechale de Mirepoix used to say, that a caress from madame
Adieu, my friend; if you are not already terrified at the
The king's friends--The duc de Fronsac--The duc d'Ayen's remark--
I was now firmly fixed at court, the king, more than ever devoted
The duc de Duras, although a man of little wit, was yet gay and
The prince de Terigny, the comte d'Escars, the duc de Fleury,
The saints of Versailles--the duc de la Vauguyon, the duc d'Estissac,
There was in the chateau a most singular character, the grand
Since this word
The vices of Louis XV were the result of bad education. When an
* The countess alludes to the
Never had courtier so much courtiership as he. He saw the
As soon as the courtiers knew of the existence and purposes of
A female styled the
The Madame of my time was a woman of noble appearance, tall,
The general term
The noble damsels were served with peculiar etiquette, their
She was in correspondence with all sorts of persons, with the
A short time after my sojourn at Versailles, when I was the
"You must do as the marquise de Pompadour did, and as the duc de
"In truth, my dear brother-in-law, you would be in your element;
Comte Jean began to laugh, and then seriously advised me to
I decided on doing so. I sent for Madame. She came with all the
Fête given by the comtesse de Valentinois--The comtesse du Barry
My present situation was not a little embarrassing; known and
The comtesse de Valentinois, flattered by the kindness of the
Every hour my friends brought me in fresh anecdotes of the avidity
One very important object of consideration was my dress for the
At the hour fixed upon I set out, conducted by the ducs d'Aiguillon
My entrance was a complete
The marechale de Mirepoix, to whom I had confided my secret, and
"Upon my word," said I, smiling, "I do not wonder at the kind
"Pray, my dear," answered the marechale, "be under no mistake: