Part 7 out of 10
find myself surrounded by my
songs. This piece was wholly in honour of the dauphiness, with
the exception of some flattering and gallant allusions to myself
and some gross compliments to my cousin the chancellor, who, in
new silk robe and a fine powdered wig, was also present at this fête.
The performers in this little piece, who were Favart, the actor,
and Voisenon, the priest, must have been fully satisfied with the
reception they obtained, for the comedy was applauded as though
it had been one of the
a private audience is very indulgent so long as the representation
lasts, but no sooner has the curtain fallen than they indulge in
a greater severity of criticism than a public audience would do.
And so it happened on the evening in question; one couplet had
particularly excited the discontent of the spectators, male and
female; I know not what prophetic spirit inspired the lines.
The unfortunate couplet was productive of much offence against
the husband and lover of madame Favart, for the greater part of
the persons present perfectly detested my poor cousin, who was
"to clip the wings of chicanery." Favart managed to escape just
in time, and the abbé de Voisenon, who was already not in very
high favour with his judges, was compelled to endure the full
weight of their complaints and reproaches; every voice was
against him, and even his brethren of the French academy, departing
from their accustomed indulgence upon such matters, openly
reprimanded him for the grossness of his flattery; the poor abbé
attempted to justify himself by protesting that he knew nothing
of the hateful couplet, and that Favart alone was the guilty
person upon whom they should expend their anger.
"I am always," cried he, "doomed to suffer for the offences of
others; every kind of folly is made a present to me."
"Have a care, monsieur l' abbé," exclaimed d'Alembert, who was
among the guests, "have a care! men seldom lavish their gifts
but upon those who are rich enough to return the original present
in a tenfold degree." This somewhat sarcastic remark was most
favourably received by all who heard it, it quickly circulated
through the room, while the poor, oppressed abbé protested,
with vehement action.
The fête itself was most splendidly and tastefully conducted,
and might have sent the different visitors home pleased and
gratified in an eminent degree, had not spite and ill-nature
suggested to madame de la Vauguyon, that as the chancellor and
myself were present, it must necessarily have been given with a
view of complimenting us rather than madame de Provence. She
even sought to irritate the dauphiness by insinuating the same
mean and contemptible observations, and so far did she succeed,
that when madame de Valentinois approached to express her hopes
that the entertainment which she had honoured with her presence
had been to her royal highness's satisfaction, the dauphiness
coolly replied, "Do not, madame, affect to style this evening's
fête one bestowed in honour of myself, or any part of my family;
'tis true we have been the ostensible causes, and have, by our
presence, given it all the effect you desired, but you will pardon
our omitting to thank you for an attention, which was in reality,
directed to the comtesse du Barry and M. de Maupeou."
FACSIMILE OF LETTER FROM MME. DU BARRY
TO THE DUC DE BRISSAC.
(photograph of original handwritten note omitted)
Heavens! my dear friend, how sad are the days
when I am deprived of the happiness of passing the time
with you, and with what joy do I watch for the moment
which will bring you to me. I shall not go to Paris
to-day, because the person I was going to see is
coming Thursday. As you will be going away, I shall
visit the barracks instead, for I believe you approve
of the object. Adieu. I await you with impatience,
with a heart wholly yours, which, in spite of your
injustice, could never belong to any other, even
if I had the wish. I think of you and that word of
yours which you will surely regret; and still another
regret is that I am deprived of you. That is the
watchword of each instant.
THE COUNTESS Du Barry
At Louvecienne, Noon.
Madame de Valentinois came to me with tears in her eyes to repeat
the cruel remark of the princess; the maréchale de Mirepoix,
who heard her, sought to console her by assurances, that it would
in no degree affect her interest at court. "Never mind, my good
friend," said she; "the pretty bird merely warbles the notes it
learns from its keeper la Vauguyon, and will as quickly forget as
learn them. Nevertheless, the king owes you recompense for the
vexation it has occasioned you."
Immediately that I found myself alone with the maréchale, I inquired
of her what was the nature of the reparation she considered
madame de Valentinois entitled to expect from the hands of his
majesty. She replied, "'Tis on your account alone that the poor
countess has received her late mortification; the king is therefore
bound to atone for it in the form of a pension. Money, my dear,
money is a sovereign cure at court; calms every grief and heals
I fully agreed with the good-natured maréchale; and, when I bade
the sorrowful madame de Valentinois good night, I assured her I
would implore his majesty to repair the mischief my presence had
caused. Accordingly on the following day, when the king questioned
me as to how far I had been amused with the fête given by madame
de Valentinois, I availed myself of the opening to state my entire
satisfaction, as well as to relate the disgrace into which she had
fallen, and to pray his majesty to bestow upon her a pension of
"Upon my word," exclaimed Louis XV, hastily traversing the chamber,
"this fête seems likely to prove a costly one to me."
"Nay, sire," said I, "it was a most delightful evening; and you
will not, I hope, refuse me such a trifle for those who lavished
so much for my amusement."
"Well," cried he, "be it so; the countess shall have the sum she requires, but upon
condition that she does not apply to me again."
"Really your majesty talks," replied I, "as though this trifling
pension were to be drawn from your own purse."
The king began to smile at my remark, like a man who knows himself
found out. I knew him well enough to be certain that, had he
intended the pension awarded madame de Valentinois to come from
his own privy purse, he would scarcely have consented to bestowing
on her more than a shabby pittance of a thousand livres per annum.
It is scarcely possible to conceive an idea of the excessive
economy of this prince. I remember, that upon some great occasion,
when it was requisite to support the public treasury, which was
failing, by a timely contribution, the duc de Choiseul offered the
loan of 250,000 livres, whilst the king, to the astonishment of
all who heard him, confined his aid to 2,000 louis! The maréchale
de Mirepoix used to assert that Louis XV was the only prince of
his line who ever knew the value of a crown. She had,
nevertheless, managed to receive plenty from him, although, I
must own, that she had had no small difficulty in obtaining them;
nor did the king part with his beloved gold without many a sigh
At the house of madame de Valentinois I met the maréchale de
Luxembourg, who had recently returned from Chanteloup. There
really was something of infatuation in the general mania which
seemed to prevail of treating the king's sentiments with
indifference, and considering his displeasure as an affair of no
consequence. Before the disgrace of the Choiseuls they were
equally the objects of madame de Luxembourg's most bitter hatred,
nor was madame de Grammont backward in returning her animosity;
yet, strange as it may seem, no sooner was the Choiseul party
exiled, than the maréchale never rested till she saw her name
engraved on the famous pillar erected to perpetuate the remembrance
of all those who had visited the exiles. She employed their
mutual friends to effect a reconciliation, which was at length
effected by letter, and a friendly embrace exchanged by proxy.
These preliminaries over, the maréchale came to the king to make
the request to which he had now become accustomed, but which did
not the less amuse him. Of course Louis XV made no hesitation in
granting her the request she solicited. Speaking to me of the
subject, he said, "The
and the maréchal de Luxembourg must indeed be an overpowering
sight; I only trust these two ladies may not drop the mask too
soon, and bite each other's ear while they are embracing."
Madame de Luxembourg, daughter of the duc de Villeroi, had been
first married to the duc de Boufflers, whose brows she helped to
adorn with other ornaments than the ducal coronet; nor whilst her
youth and beauty lasted was she less generous to her second
husband: she was generally considered a most fascinating woman,
from the loveliness of her person and the vivacity of her manners;
but behind an ever ready wit, lurked the most implacable malice
and hatred against all who crossed her path or purpose. As she
advanced in life she became more guarded and circumspect, until
at last she set herself up as the arbitress of high life, and the
youthful part of the nobility crowded around her, to hear the
lessons of her past experience. By the number and by the power
of her pupils, she could command both the court and city; her
censures were dreaded, because pronounced in language so strong
and severe, as to fill those who incurred them with no hope of
ever shining in public opinion whilst so formidable a
uttered against them; and her decrees, from which there was no
appeal, either stamped a man with dishonour, or introduced him as
a first-rate candidate for universal admiration and esteem, and
her hatred was as much dreaded as ever her smiles had been courted:
for my own part, I always felt afraid of her, and never willingly
found myself in her presence.
After I had obtained for madame de Valentinois the boon I solicited,
I was conversing with the king respecting madame de Luxembourg,
when the chancellor entered the room; he came to relate to his
majesty an affair which had occasioned various reports, and much
scandal. The viscount de Bombelles, an officer in an hussar
regiment, had married a mademoiselle Camp, Reasons, unnecessary
for me to seek to discover, induced him, all at once, to annul his
marriage, and profiting by a regulation which forbade all good
Catholics from intermarrying with those of the reformed religion,
He demanded the dissolution of his union with mademoiselle Camp.
This attempt on his part to violate, upon such grounds, the
sanctity of the nuptial vow, whilst it was calculated to rekindle
the spirit of religious persecution, was productive of very
unfavourable consequences to the character of M. de Bombelles;
the great cry was against him, he stood alone and unsupported in
the contest, for even the greatest bigots themselves would not
intermeddle or appear to applaud a matter which attacked both
honour and good feeling: the comrades of M. de Bombelles refused
to associate with him; but the finishing stroke came from his old
companions at the military school, where he had been brought up.
On the 27th of November, 1771, the council of this establishment
wrote him the following letter:--
"The military school have perused with equal
indignation and grief the memorials which have
appeared respecting you in the public prints. Had
you not been educated in this establishment, we
should merely have looked upon your affair with
mademoiselle Camp as a scene too distressing for
humanity and it would have been buried in our
peaceful walls beneath the veil of modesty and
silence; but we owe it to the youth sent to us by
his majesty, for the inculcation of those principles
which become the soldier as the man, not to pass
over the present opportunity of inspiring them with
a just horror of your misguided conduct, as well
as feeling it an imperative duty to ourselves not
to appear indifferent to the scandal and disgraceful
confusion your proceedings have occasioned in
the capital. We leave to the ministers of our
religion, and the magistrates who are appointed
to guard our laws. to decide upon the legality of
the bonds between yourself and mademoiselle Camp,
but by one tribunal you are distinctly pronounced
guilty towards her, and that is the tribunal of
honour, before that tribunal which exists in the
heart of every good man. You have been universally
cited and condemned. There are some errors which
all the impetuosity of youth is unable to excuse,
and yours are unhappily of that sort. The different
persons composing this establishment, therefore,
concur not only in praying of us to signify their
sentiments, but likewise to apprize you, that you
are unanimously forbidden to appear within these
The chancellor brought to the king a copy of this severe letter,
to which I listened with much emotion, nor did the king seem
more calm than myself.
'This is, indeed," said he at length, "a very sad affair; we shall
have all the quarrels of Protestantism renewed, as if I had not
had already enough of those of the Jansenists and Jesuits. As
far as I can judge, M. de Bombelles is entitled to the relief he
seeks, and every marriage contracted with a Protestant is null
and void by the laws of France."
"Oh, sire," cried I, " would I had married a Protestant."
The king smiled for a moment at my jest, then resumed:
"I blame the military school."
"Is it your majesty's pleasure," inquired the chancellor, "that I
should signify your displeasure to them?"
"No, sir," replied Louis, "it does not come within your line of
duty, and devolves rather upon the minister of war; and very
possibly he would object to executing such a commission; for how
could I step forward as the protector of one who would shake off
the moral obligation of an oath directly it suits his inclinations
to doubt its legality? This affair gives me great uneasiness,
and involves the most serious consequences. You will see that I
shall be overwhelmed with petitions and pamphlets, demanding of
me the revocation of the edict of Nantes."
"And what, sire," asked the chancellor gravely, "could you do,
that would better consolidate the glory of your reign?"
"Chancellor," exclaimed Louis XV, stepping back with unfeigned
astonishment, "have you lost your senses? What would the clergy
say or do? The very thought makes me shudder. Do you then believe,
M. de Maupeou, that the race of the Clements, the Ravaillacs, the
Damiens, are extinct in France?"
"Ah, sire, what needless fears."
"Not so needless as you may deem them," answered the king. "I
have been caught once, I am not going to expose myself to danger
a second time. You know the proverb,--no, no, let us leave things
as my predecessors left them; besides, I shall not be sorry to
leave a little employment for my successor; he may get through it
how he can, and spite of all the clamouring of the philosophers,
the Protestants shall hold their present privileges so long as I
live. I will have neither civil nor religious war, but live in
peace and eat my supper with a good appetite with you, my fair
comtesse, for my constant guest, and you, M. de Maupeou, for t
his evening's visitor."
The conversation here terminated.
Madame du Barry purchases the services of Marin the gazetteer
--Louis XV and madame de Rumas--M. de Rumas and the comtesse du
duc de Richelieu in disgrace--100,000 livres
This Marin, a provençal by birth, in his childhood one of the
choristers, and afterwards organist of the village church, was,
at the period of which I am speaking, one of the most useful men
possible. Nominated by M. de St. Florentin to the post of censor
royal, this friend to the philosophers was remarkable for the
peculiar talent, with which he would alternately applaud and
condemn the writings of these gentlemen. Affixing his sanction
to two lines in a tragedy by Dorat had cost him twenty-four hours'
meditation within the walls of the Bastille; and for permitting
the representation of some opera (the name of which I forget) he
had been deprived of a pension of 2,000 francs; but, wedded to
the delights of his snug post, Marin always contrived, after
every storm, to find his way back to its safe harbor. He had
registered a vow never to resign the office of censor, but to keep
it in despite of danger and difficulty. I soon discovered that
he passed from the patronage of Lebel to that of Chamilly, and I
was not slow in conjecturing that he joined to his avocations of
censor and gazetteer that of purveyor to his majesty's
Spite of my indefatigable endeavors to render Louis XV happy and
satisfied with the pleasures of his own home, he would take
occasional wandering fits, and go upon the ramble, sometimes in
pursuit of a high-born dame, at others eager to obtain a poor and
but new to him, it mattered little what were her claims to youth,
beauty, or rank in life. The maréchale de Mirepoix frequently
said to me, "Do you know, my dear creature, that your royal
admirer is but a very fickle swain, who is playing the gay gallant
when he ought to be quietly seated at his own fireside. Have a
care, he is growing old, and his intellect becomes more feeble
each day; and what he would never have granted some few years
back, may be easily wrung from him now. Chamilly aspires at
governing his master, and Marin seconds him in his project."
At length, roused to a sense of impending evil, by the constant
reminding of the maréchale, I summoned Marin to my presence.
"Now, sir," said I, as he approached, "I would have you to know
that I am apprised of all your tricks: you and your friend Chamilly
are engaged in a very clever scheme to improve your own fortunes
at the expense of the king your master."
Marin burst into loud protestations of his innocence, declaring
that he was as innocent as the lamb just born. I refused to
believe this, and desired he would explain to me why he went so
frequently to the apartments of M. Chamilly.
"Alas, madam!" replied Marin, "I go thither but to solicit his
aid in craving the bounty of his majesty."
"You are for ever pleading poverty, miserly being," cried I; "you
are far richer than I am; but since you want money I will supply
you with it, and in return you shall be my secret newsman, and
royal censor in my service. Now understand me clearly; every
month that you faithfully bring me an account of certain goings
on, I will count into your hand five and twenty
I must confess that Marin only accepted my proposition with much
reluctance, but still he did accept it, and withdrew, meditating,
no doubt, how he should be enabled to satisfy both Chamilly
A long time elapsed before Marin brought me any news of importance,
and I began to feel considerable doubts of his fidelity, when he
came to communicate a very important piece of intelligence. He
had just learned that Chamilly frequently went to Paris, the
bearer of letters from the 'king to a young and pretty female,
named madame de Rumas, who resided in the old rue du Temple.
Here was a pretty discovery; the king actually engaged in a love
affair, letters passing between him and his mistress, whilst the
lovers. This indeed required some speedy remedy, and I lost no
time in summoning my privy counsellor, Comte Jean, whom I acquainted
with what had occurred, and begged his advice as to the best
measures to be pursued. "Indeed," replied my brother-in-law, "what
others would do in our place would be to throw M. Chamilly from
one of the windows of the château, and treat this his friend Marin
with a lodging in the Bastille; but, as we are persons of temper
and moderation, we will go more gently to work. I will, in the
first place, gain every information relative to the affair, that
I may satisfy myself Marin is not seeking to show his honest
claims to your gold, by imposing a forged tale upon your credulity;
when that is ascertained we will decide upon our next best step."
Comte Jean departed to seek the assistance of M. de Sartines,
who was at that time entirely devoted to my interests; and, after
having diligently searched the whole rue du Temple, he succeeded
in discovering madame de Rumas. He learnt that this lady had
recently married a person of her own rank, to whom she professed
to be violently attached; that they lived together with great
tranquillity, and had the reputation of conducting themselves as
persons of extreme propriety and regularity; paid their debts,
and avoided, by their air of neatness, order, and modest reserve,
the scandal of even their most ill-natured neighbors. The husband
was said to be a great religionist, which increased the suspicions
of Comte Jean. With regard to the epistolary correspondence
carried on by the lady, no information could be gleaned in in
Marin was again sent for by my brother-in-law, who questioned
and cross-questioned with so much address, that Marin found it
impossible to conceal any longer the remaining part of the affair,
of which he had before communicated but so much as his policy
deemed advisable. He confessed that he had originally mentioned
madame de Rumas (whom he himself had long known) to Chamilly,
had shown him several of her letters; and, as he expected, the
style of these epistles so pleased the head valet, that he expressed
a wish to see the fair writer. Marin accordingly introduced him
to the rue du Temple, where he was most graciously received, and
returned home enchanted with the lady: he spoke of her to the
king, strongly recommending his majesty to judge for himself.
Accordingly his majesty wrote to madame de Rumas, who received
the letter from the hands of her friend Chamilly with all pomp and
state, talked first of her own virtue and honor, and afterwards
of her dutiful respect for his majesty. She replied to the royal
note in so prudent yet obliging a manner, that the king was
enchanted. This effective billet was answered by a second letter
from the king, which obtained a reply even more tenderly charming
than the one which preceded it. An interview was next solicited
and granted; for a visit was such a trifle to refuse. The royal
guest became pressing and the lady more reserved, till the time
was lost in attempts at convincing each other. At the next
interview madame de Rumas freely confessed her sincere attachment
for his majesty, but added, that such was her desire to possess
his whole and undivided regard, that she could never give herself
up to the hope of keeping him exclusively hers whilst I interposed
between her and the king's heart--in a few words then she demanded
my dismissal. This was going too far; and Louis XV, who thought
it no scandal to have a hundred mistresses, was alarmed at the
thoughts of occasioning the bustle and confusion attendant upon
disgracing his acknowledged favorite and recognised mistress; he
therefore assured her, her request was beyond his power to grant.
Madame de Rumas now sought to compromise the affair, by talking
of a share in his favor. She asked, she said, but the heart of her
beloved monarch, and would freely leave me in possession of all
power and influence. The king whose heart was regularly promised
once a day, did not hesitate to assure her of his fidelity, and
his wily enslaver flattered herself, that with time and clever
management, she should succeed in inducing him to break off
those ties which he now refused to break.
Things were in this state when Marin divulged to us the intrigue
conducted by Chamilly, and directed, though in a covert manner,
by the maréchal duc de Richelieu. This spiteful old man possessed
no share of the talent of his family; and, not contented with the
favor bestowed on his nephew, thought only of his personal credit
and influence, which he fancied he should best secure by introducing
a new mistress to the king. This well-concocted scheme threw
both Comte Jean and myself into a perfect fury. We dismissed
Marin with a present of fifty louis, and my brother-in-law
besought of me to grant him four and twenty hours undisturbed
reflection, whilst, on my side, I assured him I should not rest
until we had completely discomfited our enemies.
On the following day Comte Jean laid before me several projects,
which were far from pleasing in my eyes; too much time was required
in their execution. I knew the king too well to be blind to the
danger of allowing this mere whim of the moment to take root in
his mind. One idea caught my fancy, and without mentioning it to
Comte Jean, I determined upon carrying it into execution.
The maréchale de Mirepoix happened at this moment not to be at
Paris at her hotel in the rue Bergere, but at her country house,
situated au Port à l'Anglaise. I signified to the king my intention
of passing a couple of days with the maréchale, and accordingly
set out for that purpose. Upon my arrival at Paris I merely
changed horses, and proceeded onwards with all possible despatch
to rejoin the maréchale, who was quite taken by surprise at my
unexpected arrival. After many mutual embraces and exchange of
civilities, I explained to her the whole affair which had brought
me from Versailles. The good-natured maréchale could not believe
her ears. She soon, however, comprehended the nature of my alarms;
and so far from seeking to dissipate them, urged me to lose no
time in crushing an affair, which grew more threatening from each
day's delay. I was fully of her opinion, and only asked her
assistance and co-operation in my plan of writing to M. de Rumas,
and inviting him to come on the following day to the house of
madame de Mirepoix.
That lady would doubtless have preferred my asking her to assist
me in any other way, but still she could not refuse to serve me
in the manner described: for I either bestowed on her all she
desired, or caused others to gratify her slightest request; and
how could she be sure, that were my reign to end, she might derive
the same advantages from any new favorite? Self-interest therefore
bound her to my service, and accordingly she wrote to M. de Rumas
a very pressing letter, requesting to see him on the following day
upon matters of the highest importance. This letter sent off, I
dined with the maréchale, and then returned to sleep at Paris.
On the following day. at an early hour, I repaired to the Port
à l'Anglaise; M. de Rumas arrived there a few minutes after
myself. He had the air and look of an honest man, but perhaps
no species of deceit is more easily detected than that quiet,
subdued manner, compressed lips, and uplifted eye. Now-a-days
such a mode of dissembling would be too flimsy to impose even on
children; and hypocrites are ever greater proficients in their
art than was even M. de Rumas.
Madame de Mirepoix left us alone together, in order that I might
converse more freely with him. I knew not how to begin, but
made many attempts to convey, in an indirect manner, the reasons
for his being summoned to that day's conference. However, hints
and insinuations were alike thrown away upon one who had determined
neither to use eye's nor ears but as interest pointed out the
reasonableness of so doing; and accordingly, unable longer to
repress my impatience, I exclaimed abruptly,
"Pray, sir, do you know who I am?"
"Yes, madam," replied he, with a profound bow, and look of the
deepest humility, "you are the comtesse du Barry."
"Well, sir," added I, "and you are equally well aware, no doubt,
of the relation in which I stand to the king?"
"Nay, sir, answer without hesitation; I wish you to be candid,
otherwise my exceeding frankness may displease you."
"I know, madam," replied the hypocrite, "that his majesty finds
great pleasure in your charming society."
"And yet, sir," answered I, "his majesty experiences equal delight
in the company of your wife. How answer you that, M. de Rumas?"
"My wife, madam!"
"Yes, sir, in the company of madame de Rumas; he pays her many
private visits, secretly corresponds with her--"
"The confidence of his majesty must ever honor his subjects."
"But," replied I, quickly, "may dishonor a husband."
"How, madam! What is it you would insinuate?"
"That your wife would fain supplant me, and that she is now the
mistress of the king, although compelled to be such in secret."
"Impossible," exclaimed M. de Rumas, "and some enemy to my wife
has thus aspersed her to you."
"And do you treat it as a mere calumny?" said I. "No, sir,
nothing can be more true; and if you would wish further confirmation,
behold the letter which madame de Rumas wrote to the king only
the day before yesterday; take it and read it."
"Heaven preserve me, madam," exclaimed the time-serving wretch,
"from. presuming to cast my eyes over what is meant only for his
majesty's gracious perusal; it would be an act of treason I am not
capable of committing."
"Then, sir," returned I, "I may reasonably conclude that it is with
your sanction and concurrence your wife intrigues with the king?"
"Ah, madam," answered the wily de Rumas, in a soft and expostulating
tone, "trouble not, I pray you, the repose of my family. I know
too well the virtue of madame de Rumas, her delicacy, and the
severity of her principles; I know too well likewise the sentiments
in which her excellent parents educated her, and I defy the blackest
malice to injure her in my estimation."
"Wonderfully, sir!" cried I; "so you determine to believe your
wife's virtue incorruptible, all the while you are profiting by
her intrigues. However, I am too certain of what I assert to
look on with the culpable indifference you are pleased to assume,
château; you shall hear of me before long. Adieu, sir."
So saying, I quitted the room in search of the maréchale, to
whom I related what had passed.
"And now, what think you of so base a hypocrite?" asked I, when
I had finished my account.
"He well deserves having the mask torn from his face," replied
she; " but give yourself no further concern; return home, and
depend upon it, that, one way or other, I will force him into
the path of honor."
I accordingly ordered my carriage and returned to Versailles,
where, on the same evening, I received the following letter
from the maréchale:--
"MY DEAR COUNTESS, --My efforts have been
attended with no better success than yours. Well
may the proverb say, 'There is none so deaf as he
who will not hear,' and M. de Rumas perseveres in
treating all I advanced respecting his wife as
calumnious falsehoods. According to his version
of the tale, madame de Rumas has no other
motive in seeing Louis XV so frequently, but to
implore his aid in favor of the poor in her
neighborhood. I really lost all patience when
I heard him attempting to veil his infamous conduct
under the mask of charity; I therefore proceeded at
once to menaces, telling him that you bad so many
advantages over his wife, that you scorned to
consider her your rival: but that, nevertheless,
you did not choose that any upstart pretender
should dare ask to share his majesty's heart.
To all this he made no reply; and as the sight of
him only increased my indignation, I at length
desired him to quit me. I trust you will pardon
me for having spoken in as queenlike a manner
as you could have done yourself.
"Adieu, my sweet friend."
This letter was far from satisfying me, and I determined upon
striking a decisive blow. I sent for Chamilly, and treating him
with all the contempt he deserved, I told him, that if the king
did not immediately give up this woman he might prepare for his
own immediate dismissal. At first Chamilly sought to appease my
anger by eager protestations of innocence,but when he found I
already knew the whole affair, and was firmly fixed in my
determination, he becamealarmed, threw himself at my knees, and
promised to do all I would have him. We then agreed to tell
Louis XV some tale of madame de Rumas that should effectually
deter him from thinking further of her.
In pursuance with this resolution, Chamilly informed the king,
that he had just been informed that madame de Rumas had a lover,
who boasted of being able to turn his majesty which way he pleased,
through the intervention of his mistress. Louis XV wrote off
instantly to M. de Sartines, to have a watchful eye over the
proceedings of the Rumas family. The lieutenant of police, who
had some regard for me, and a still greater portion of fear, was
faithful to my interests, and rendered to Louis XV the most
horrible particulars of the profligate mode of life pursued by
madame de Rumas; assuring him, that from every consideration of
personal safety, his majesty should shun the acquaintance. The
king, incensed at the trick put upon him by these seemingly
virtuous people, was at first for confining both husband and wife
in prison, but this measure I opposed with all my power; for,
satisfied with the victory I had gained, I cared for no further
hurt to my adversaries. I contrived, to insinuate to the worthy
pair the propriety of their avoiding the impending storm by a
timely retreat into the country, a hint they were wise enough to
follow up, so that I was entirely freed from all further dread
of their machinations.
All those who had served me in this affair I liberally rewarded;
Marin received for his share 500 louis. It is true he lost the
confidence of Chamilly, but he gained mine instead, so that it
will easily be believed he was no sufferer by the exchange. I
caused the maréchale to receive from the king a superb Turkey
carpet, to which I added a complete service of Sèvres porcelain,
with a beautiful breakfast set, on which were landscapes most
delicately and skilfully drawn in blue and gold: I gave her also
two large blue porcelain cots, as finely executed as those you
have so frequently admired in my small saloon. These trifles
cost me no less a sum than 2800 livres. I did not forget my
good friend M. de Sartines, who received a cane, headed with gold,
around which was a small band of diamonds. As for Chamilly, I
granted him his pardon; and I think you will admit that was being
After having thus recompensed the zeal of my friends, I had
leisure to think of taking vengeance upon the duc de Richelieu
for the part he had acted. He came of his own accord to throw
himself into the very heat of my anger. He had been calling on
the maréchale de Mirepoix, where he had seen with envious eyes
the magnificent carpet I had presented her with; the cupidity of
the duke induced him, after continually recurring to the subject,
to say, that where my friends were concerned, no one could accuse
me of want of liberality. "No, sir," answered I, "I consider that
no price can sufficiently repay the kind and faithful services of
a true friend, nor can baseness and treachery be too generally
exposed and punished." From the tone in which I spoke the old
maréchal easily perceived to what I was alluding. He was wise
enough to be silent, whilst I followed up this first burst of my
indignation, by adding,
"For instance, monsieur le duc, how can I sufficiently repay your
friendly zeal to supply the king with a new mistress?"
"Yes, sir, you; I am aware of all your kind offices, and only
lament my inability to reward them in a suitable manner."
"In that case I shall not attempt to deny my share in the business."
"You have then sufficient honor to avow your enmity towards me?"
"By no means enmity, madam. I merely admit my desire to contribute
to the amusement of the king, and surely, when I see all around
anxious to promote the gratification of their sovereign, I need
not be withheld from following so loyal an example. The duc de
Duras was willing to present his own relation for his majesty's
acceptance, the abbé Terray offers his own daughter, Comte Jean
his sister-in-law, whilst I simply threw a humble and modest
female in his majesty's path. I cannot see in what my fault
exceeds that of the gentlemen I have just mentioned."
"You really are the most audacious of men," replied I, laughing;
"I shall be obliged to solicit a
a prisoner in Guienne. Upon my word, your nephew and myself
have a valuable and trustworthy friend in you."
"Hark ye, madam," rejoined the maréchal. "I know not, in the
first place, whether his majesty would very easily grant you
You have served my nephew and neglected me; I wished to try the
strength of my poor wings, and I find, like many others, that I
must not hope to soar to any height."
While we were thus talking the maréchale de Mirepoix was announced.
I was still much agitated, and she immediately turned towards the
duke, as if to inquire of him the cause of my distress: upon which,
M. de Richelieu related all that had passed with a cool exactitude
that enraged me still further. When he had finished, I said,
"Well, madame la maréchale, and what is your opinion of all this?"
"Upon my word, my dear countess," answered madame de Mirepoix,
"you have ample cause for complaint, but still this poor duke is
not so culpable as you imagine him to be. He has large expenses
to provide for: and to obtain the money requisite for them he is
compelled to look to his majesty, whose favor he desires to win
by administering to his pleasures."
"Alas!" replied the duke, "can you believe that but for the
pressure of unavoidable circumstances I would have separated
myself from my nephew and my fair friend there?"
"Come, come," cried the maréchale, " I must restore peace and
harmony between you. As for you, my lord duke, be a true and
loyal subject; and you, my sweet countess, use your best endeavors
to prevail on the king to befriend and assist his faithful servant."
I allowed myself to be managed like a child; and instead of
scratching the face of M. de Richelieu, I obtained for him a
grant of 100,000 livres, which the court banker duly counted
out to him.
A prefatory remark--Madame Brillant--The maréchale de Luxembourg's
cat--Despair of the maréchale--The ambassador, Beaumarchais, and
the duc de Chaulnes--the comte d'Aranda--Louis XV and his relics--The
abbé de Beauvais--His sermons--He is appointed bishop
When I related to comte Jean my reconciliation with the duc de
Richelieu, and the sum which this treaty had cost me, my
brother-in-law flew into the most violent fury; he styled the
maréchal a plunderer of the public treasury. Well may the scripture
tell us we see the mote in our neighbor's eye, but regard not
the beam which is in our own eye. I was compelled to impose
silence on comte Jean, or in the height of his rage he would
have offered some insult to the old maréchal, who already most
heartily disliked him for the familiarity of his tone and manner
towards him. I did all in my power to keep these two enemies
from coming in each other's way, counselled to that by the
maréchale de Mirepoix, whose line of politics was of the most
pacific nature; besides I had no inclination for a war carried
on in my immediate vicinity, and, for my own part, so far from
wishing to harm any one, I quickly forgave every affront offered
But hold! I perceive I am running on quite smoothly in my own
praise. Indeed, my friend, it is well I have taken that office
upon myself, for I fear no one else would undertake it. The
most atrocious calumnies have been invented against me; I have
been vilified both in prose and verse; and, amongst the great
number of persons on whom I have conferred the greatest obligations,
none has been found with sufficient courage or gratitude to stand
forward and undertake my defence. I do not even except madame de
Mirepoix, whose conduct towards me in former days was marked by
the most studied attention. She came to me one evening, with a
face of grief.
"Mercy upon me," cried I, "what ails you?"
"Alas!" replied she, in a piteous tone, "I have just quitted a
most afflicted family; their loss is heavy and irreparable. The
maréchale de Luxembourg is well nigh distracted with grief."
"Good heavens!" exclaimed I, "can the duchesse de Lauzun be dead?"
"Perhaps poor madame de Boufflers?"
"No, my friend."
"Who then is the object of so much regret? Speak; tell me."
"A friend of the old maréchale 's?"
"More than a friend," replied madame de Mirepoix; "her faithful
companion; her only companion; her only beloved object, since
her lovers and admirers ceased to offer their homage--in a word,
"Bless me!" cried I, "how you frightened me! But what sort of a
cat could this have been to cause so many tears?"
"Is it possible that you do not know madame Brillant, at least
"I assure you," said I, "this is the very first time I ever heard
"Well, if it be so, I will be careful not to repeat such a thing
to madame de Luxembourg; she would never pardon you for it.
Listen, my dear countess," continued madame de Mirepoix; "under
the present circumstances it will be sufficient for you to write
your name in her visiting-book."
I burst into a fit of laughter.
"It is no joke, I promise you," exclaimed the maréchale; "the
death of madame Brillant is a positive calamity to madame de
Luxembourg. Letters of condolence will arrive from Chanteloup;
madame du Deffant will be in deep affliction, and the virtues and
amiable qualities of the deceased cat will long furnish subjects
"It was then a singularly engaging animal, I presume?"
"On the contrary, one of the most stupid, disagreeable, and
dirty creatures of its kind; but still it was the cat of madame
And after this funeral oration the maréchale and myself burst
into a violent fit of laughter.
When the king joined us, I acquainted him with this death, and my
conversation with the maréchale. Louis XV listened to my recital
with an air of gravity; when I had finished, he said, "The present
opportunity is admirably adopted for satisfying the request of one
of my retinue, one of the best-hearted creatures, and at the same
time one of the silliest
men in the kingdom."
"I beg your pardon, sire," cried I, "but what is his name? For
the description is so general, that I fear lest I should be at
a loss to recollect of whom you are speaking."
"You are very ill-natured," cried Louis XV, "and I hardly know
whether you deserve to be gratified by hearing the name of the
poor gentleman: however, I will tell it to you; he is called Corbin
de la Chevrollerie. A few days since this simple young man,
having solicited an audience, informed me, that he was desirous
of marrying a rich heiress, but that the young lady's family were
resolved she should marry no one who was not previously employed
as an ambassador. I expressed my surprise at so strange a caprice,
but the poor fellow endeavored to vindicate his bride's relations,
by stating that that they were willing to consider him as my
ambassador if I would only commission him to carry some message
of compliment or condolence. Accordingly I promised to employ
him upon the occasion of the first death or marriage which should
take place in a ducal family. Now, I think I cannot do better
than make him the bearer of my inquiries after the maréchale
This idea struck me as highly amusing, and I immediately dispatched
a servant to summon M. de la Chevrollerie to the presence of the
king. This being done, that gentleman presented himself with all
the dignity and importance of one who felt that a mission of high
moment was about to be entrusted to him.
His majesty charged him to depart immediately to the house of madame
de Luxembourg, and to convey his royal master's sincere condolences
for the heavy loss she had sustained in madame Brillant.
M. Corbin de la Chevrollerie departed with much pride and
self-complacency upon his embassy: he returned in about half an hour.
"Sire," cried he, "I have fulfilled your royal pleasure to madame
de Luxembourg. She desires me to thank you most humbly for your
gracious condescension: she is in violent distress for the severe
loss she has experienced, and begged my excuse for quitting me
suddenly, as she had to superintend the stuffing of the deceased."
"The stuffing!" exclaimed the king; "surely you mean the embalming?"
"No, sire," replied the ambassador, gravely, "the stuffing."
"Monsieur de la Chevrollerie," cried I, bursting into a violent
fit of laughter, "do you know in what degree of relationship the
deceased madame Brillant stood to madame de Luxembourg?"
"No, madam," replied the ambassador, gravely, "but I believe she
was her aunt, for I heard one of the females in waiting say, that
this poor madame Brillant was very old, and that she had lived
with her mistress during the last fourteen years."
Thus finished this little jest. However, Louis XV, who was
extremely kind to all about him, especially those in his service,
shortly after recompensed his simple-minded ambassador, by
intrusting him with a commission at once profitable and honorable.
Another event which took place at this period, caused no less
noise than the death of madame Brillant. At this time, mademoiselle
Mesnard was, for her many charms of mind and person, the general
rage throughout Paris. Courtiers, lawyers, bankers, and citizens
crowded alike to offer their homage. Frail as fair, mademoiselle
Mesnard received all kindly, and took with gracious smiles the
rich gifts showered upon her by her various adorers. The first
noblemen of the court, knights of the different orders, farmers-
general, all aspired to the honor of ruining themselves for her.
She had already satisfied the ruinous propensities of at least a
dozen of lovers, when the duc de Chaulnes entered the lists, and
was fortunate enough to eclipse all his rivals. He might long
have enjoyed the preference thus obtained, but for an act of the
greatest imprudence of which a lover could be guilty. He was so
indiscreet as to invite several of his most intimate friends to
sup with himself and Mademoiselle Mesnard. Amongst the number
was Caron de Beaumarchais, a man possessed of the grace of a
prince and the generous profusion of a highwayman. Caron de
Beaumarchais attracted the fancy of the fickle mademoiselle
Mesnard, a mutual understanding was soon established between
them, and in a snug little cottage surrounded by beautiful grounds
in the environs of Pere la Chaise, the enamored lovers frequently
met to exchange their soft vows.
Happily the deity who presided over the honor of the duke was
carefully watching their proceedings. This guardian angel was no
other than madame Duverger, his former mistress, who, unable to
bear the desertion of her noble admirer, had vowed, in the first
burst of rage and disappointment, to have revenge sooner or later
upon her triumphant rival. With this view she spied out all the
proceedings of mademoiselle Mesnard, whose stolen interviews
and infidelity she was not long in detecting; she even contrived
to win over a
enabled to obtain possession of several letters containing
irrefragable proofs of guilt, and these she immediately forwarded
to the duc de Chaulnes.
This proud and haughty nobleman might have pardoned his mistress
had she quitted him for a peer of the realm and his equal, but to
be supplanted by a mere man of business, an author, too!--the
disgrace was too horrible for endurance. The enraged lover flew
to Beaumarchais, and reproached him bitterly with his treachery;
the latter sought to deny the charge, but the duke, losing all
self-possession, threw the letters in his face, calling him a base
liar. At this insult, Beaumarchais, who, whatever his enemies may
say of him, was certainly not deficient in courage, demanded
instant satisfaction. The duke, by way of answer, seized the man
of letters by the collar, Beaumarchais called his servants, who,
in their turn, summoned the guard, which speedily arrived accompanied
by the commissary, and with much difficulty they succeeded in
removing M. de Chaulnes. (who appeared to have entirely lost
his reason) from the room.
The conduct of the duke appeared to us completely out of place,
and he would certainly have answered for it within the walls of
the Bastille, had not his family made great intercession for him.
On the other hand, Beaumarchais, who eagerly availed himself of
every opportunity of writing memorials, composed one on the
subject of his quarrel with M. de Chaulnes, complaining that a
great nobleman had dared to force himself into his house, and lay
forcible hands on him, as though he were a thief or a felon. The
whole of the pamphlet which related to this affair was admirably
written, and, like the "Barber of Seville," marked by a strongly
sarcastic vein. However, the thing failed, and the duc de la
Vrillière, the sworn enemy of men of wit and talent, caused
Beaumarchais to be immediately confined within Fort 1'Eveque.
So that the offended party was made to suffer the penalty of
In the same year the comte de Fuentes, ambassador from Spain to
the court of Louis XV, took leave of us. He was replaced by the
comte d'Aranda, who was in a manner in disgrace with his royal
master: this nobleman arrived preceded by a highly flattering
reputation. In the first place, he had just completed the destruction
of the Jesuits, and this was entitling him to no small thanks and
praises from encyclopedists. Every one knows those two lines
"Aranda dans l'Espagne instruisant les fidèles,
A l'inquisition vient de rogner les ailes." *
*"Aranda in Spain instructing the faithful
at the Inquisition has just clipped wings."
The simplicity of comte d'Aranda indemnified us in some degree
for the haughty superciliousness of his predecessor. Although no
longer young, he still preserved all the tone and vigor of his
mind, and only the habit which appeared to have been born with
him of reflecting, gave him a slow and measured tone in speaking.
His reserved and embarrassed manners were but ill-calculated
to show the man as he really was, and it required all the
advantages of intimacy to see him in his true value. You may
attach so much more credit to what I say of this individual, as I
can only add, that he was by no means one of my best friends.
When Louis XV heard of the nomination of the comte d'Aranda to
the embassy from Spain to France, he observed to me,
"The king of Spain gets rid of his Choiseul by sending him to me."
"Then why not follow so excellent an example, sire?" replied I; "
and since your Choiseul is weary of Chanteloup, why not command
him upon some political errand to the court of Madrid."
"Heaven preserve me from such a thing," exclaimed Louis XV. "Such
a man as he is ought never to quit the kingdom, and I have been
guilty of considerable oversight to leave him the liberty of so
doing. But to return to comte d'Aranda; he has some merit I
understand; still I like not that class of persons around me; they
are inexorable censors, who condemn alike every action of my life."
However, not the king's greatest enemy could have found fault
with his manner of passing his leisure hours. A great part of
each day was occupied in a mysterious manufacture of cases for
relics, and one of his
intrusted with the commission of purchasing old shrines and
reliquaries; he caused the sacred bones, or whatever else they
contain, to be taken out by Grandelatz, one of his almoners,
re-adjusted, and then returned to new cases. These reliquaries
were distributed by him to his daughters, or any ladies of the
court of great acknowledged piety. When I heard of this I mentioned
it to the king, who wished at first to conceal the fact; but, as
he was no adept at falsehood or disguise, he was compelled to
admit the fact.
"I trust, sire," said I, "that you will bestow one of your
prettiest and best-arranged reliquaries on me."
"No, no," returned he, hastily, "that cannot be."
"And why not?" asked I.
"Because," answered he, "it would be sinful of me. Ask anything
else in my power to bestow, and it shall be yours."
This was no hypocrisy on the part of Louis XV, who, spite of his
somewhat irregular mode of life, professed to hold religion in
the highest honor and esteem; to all that it proscribed he paid
the submission of a child. We had ample proofs of this in the
sermons preached at Versailles by the abbé de Beauvais, afterwards
bishop of Senetz.
This ecclesiastic, filled with an inconsiderate zeal, feared not
openly to attack the king in his public discourses; he even went
so far as to interfere with many things of which he was not a
competent judge, and which by no means belonged to his jurisdiction:
in fact, there were ample grounds for sending the abbé to the
Bastille. The court openly expressed its dissatisfaction at this
audacity, and for my own part I could not avoid evincing the
lively chagrin it caused me. Yet, would you believe it, Louis XV
declared, in a tone from which there was no appeal, that this
abbé had merely done his duty, and that those who had been less
scrupulous in the performance of theirs, would do well to be
silent on the subject. This was not all; the cardinal de la
Roche Aymon, his grand almoner, refused to sanction the nomination
of M. de Beauvais to the bishopric, under the pretext of his not being
M. de Beyons, bishop of Carcassone, a prelate of irreproachable
character, was deeply distressed to find that the want of birth
would exclude M. de Beauvais from the dignities of his holy
profession. He went to discuss the matter with the grand almoner,
who again advanced his favorite plea for excluding M. de Beauvais.
"My lord," replied M. de Beyons, "if I believed that nobility of
descent were the chief requisite for our advancement in our
blessed calling, I would trample my crosier under foot, and
renounce for ever all church dignities."
M. de Beyons sought the king, and loudly complained to him of
the infatuation and obstinacy of M. de la Roche Aymon. Louis XV
however commanded that M. de Beauvais should be appointed to
the first vacant see, and when the grand almoner repeated his
objections to the preferment, the king answered, "Monsieur le
cardinal, in the days of our blessed Saviour the apostles had no
need to present their genealogical tree, duly witnessed and
attested. It is my pleasure to make M. de Beauvais a bishop;
let that end the discussion of the matter."
The command was too peremptory to admit of any course but
instant and entire submission.
M. D----n and madame de Blessac--Anecdote--The rendezvous and the
Ball--The wife of Gaubert--They wish to give her to the king--
Intrigues--Their results--Letter from the duc de la Vrillière to
Amongst the pages of the chapel was one whom the king distinguished
so greatly, that he raised him to the rank of a gentleman of the
bedchamber, and confided to his charge the cabinet of medals,
for which he had imbibed a taste since his liaison with madame
de Pompadour. This esteemed page was named M. D-----n, who united
to the most amiable wit a varied and deep knowledge of men and
things. He had had adventures at an age when they are usually
just understood, and talked of them with the utmost indiscretion.
But this so far from doing him any injury in the eyes of the world
only served to make him the more admired; for women in general
have an inclination for those who do not respect their reputation.
At the period I allude to a madame de Blessac, a very well-looking
woman, took upon herself to be very kindly disposed towards the
gentleman-in-waiting. She told him so, and thereupon M. de
D------n ranged himself under her banner, and swore eternal
constancy. However, the lady, by some accident, became greatly
smitten with the prince de la Trimouille, and without quitting
the little keeper of medals, gave him a lord for a substitute.
M. D------n soon learnt this fact, that he was not the sole
possessor of a heart which formed all his joy and glory. He
found he was deceived, and he swore to be revenged.
Now the prince de la Trimouille had for his mistress mademoiselle
Lubert, an opera-dancer, very pretty and extraordinarily silly.
M. D------n went to her; "Mademoiselle," said he, "I come to
offer my services to you in the same way that M. de la Trimouille
has offered his to madame de Blessac, with whom I was on
exceedingly intimate terms."
The services of young D------n were accepted, and he was happy.
He then wrote to his former mistress, saying, that anxious to give
her a proof of his sincere attachment he had visited mademoiselle
Lubert, that he might leave her at leisure to receive the visits
of the prince de la Trimouille.
Madame de Blessac, stung to the quick, quarrelled with the prince,
who was excessively enraged with his rival; and there certainly
would have been an affair between these two gentlemen, had not
the king preserved the peace by sending his gentleman to St.
Russia, therefore, and on his return came to see me, and is now one
of the most welcome and agreeable of the men of my private circle.
As to madame de Blessac, she continued to carry on the war in
grand style. Her husband dying she married again a foolish count,
three parts ruined, and who speedily dissipated the other quarter
of his own fortune and the whole of his wife's. Madame Ramosky
then attacked the rich men of the day one after another. One
alone stood out against her; it was M. de la Garde, who had been
one of my admirers. Madame Ramoski wrote to him; he did not
answer. At length she determined on visiting him, and wrote him
a note, to say that she should call upon him about six o'clock in
the evening. What did M. de la Garde? Why he gave a ball on
that very evening; and, when madame Ramoski reached his hotel,
she found it illuminated. As she had come quite unprepared she
was compelled to return as she came, very discontentedly.
But to leave madame de Blessac and M. D------n, and to talk of
my own matters. We had at this period a very great alarm at the
château, caused by the crime of a man, who preferred rather to
assassinate his wife than to allow her to dishonor him. It is
worthy of narration.
A pretty shopkeeper of Paris, named Gaubert, who lived in the
rue de la Montagne Sainte- Geneviève, had recently married a
woman much younger than himself. From the Petit Pont to the rue
Mouffetard, madame Gaubert was talked of for her lovely face and
beautiful figure; she was the Venus of the quarter. Everybody
paid court to her, but she listened to none of her own rank, for
her vanity suggested that she deserved suitors of a loftier rank.
Her husband was very jealous. Unfortunately M. Gaubert had for
cousin one of the valets of the king: this an, who knew the taste
of his master, thought how he could best turn his pretty cousin
to account. He spoke to her of the generosity of Louis XV, of
the grandeur of Versailles, and of the part which her beauty
entitled her to play there. In fact, he so managed to turn the
head of this young woman, that she begged him to obtain for her
a place in the king's favor. Consequently Girard (that was his
name) went to madame de Laugeac, and told her the affair as it
was. She pleased with an opportunity of injuring me, went to
Paris, and betook herself
She found her charming, and spoke of her to the duc de la
Vrillière, and both agreed to show her portrait to his majesty.
But how to procure this portrait? Her husband was her very shadow,
and never left her.
was shut up in Fort l'Evéque. It was not until the portrait was f
inished that he was set at liberty.
He returned to his home without guessing at the motives of his
detention, but he learned that his wife had had her portrait
painted during his absence, and his jealousy was set to work.
Soon a letter from Girard, a fatal letter, which fell into his
hands, convinced him of the injury done him. He took his wife
apart, and, feigning a resignation which he did not feel, "My
love," he said, "I loved thee, I love thee still: I thought, too,
that thou wert content with our competence, and wouldst not have
quitted thine husband for any other in the world: I have been
convinced otherwise. A letter from Girard informs me, that with
thine own consent the king, whom thy portrait has pleased, desires
to see thee this very day. It is a misfortune, but we must
submit. Only before thou art established at Versailles, I should
wish thee to dine with me once more. You can invite cousin
Girard, too, for I owe him something for what he has done for thee."
The young wife promised to return and see her husband. That
evening at the performance at the court she was seated in the
same box with the marquise de Laugeac; the king's glass was
directed towards her the whole time, and at the termination of
the spectacle it was announced to her, that she was to sleep at
the château the next evening. The project was never realized.
The next day, according to promise, the young wife went to Paris
with the valet. She informed her husband of the success which
had befallen her, and he appeared delighted. Dinner being ready,
they seated themselves at table, ate and drank. Girard began to
laugh at his cousin for his complaisance, when suddenly all desire
to jest left him. He experienced most horrible pains, and his
cousin suffered as well as himself. "Wretches!" said Gaubert to
them, "did you think I would brook dishonor? No, no! I have
deceived you both the better to wreak my vengeance. I am now
happy. Neither king nor valet shall ever possess my wife. I have
poisoned you, and you must die." The two victims implored his
pity. "Yes," said he to his wife, "thy sufferings pain me, and
I will free you from them." e then plunged a knife to her heart;
and, turning to Girard, said, "As for thee, I hate thee too much
to kill thee; die. "And he left him.
The next day M. de Sartines came and told me the whole story. He
had learnt them from the valet, who had survived his poisoning for
some hours. Gaubert could not be found, and it was feared that
he would attempt some desperate deed. No one dared mention it to
the king, but the captain of the guards and the first gentleman
in waiting took every possible precaution; and when Louis XV
asked for the young female who was to be brought to him, they
told him that she had died of a violent distemper. It was not
until some days afterwards that the terror which pervaded the
château ceased. They had found the body of the unfortunate
Gaubert on the banks of the Seine.
In spite of what had passed, the duc de la Vrillière had the
impudence to present himself to me. I treated him with disdain,
reproaching him and Laugeac for their conduct. He left me in
despair, and wrote me the following letter:--
"MADAME LA COMTESSE,-Your anger kills me. I am
guilty, but not so much so as you may imagine. The
duty of my office compels me to do many things
which are disagreeable to me. In the affair for
which you have so slightingly treated me there
was no intent to injure you, but only to procure
for the king an amusement which should make him
the more estimate your charms and your society.
Forgive a fault in which my heart bore no share; I
am sufficiently miserable, and shall not know
repose until I be reinstated in your good graces.
"As for the poor marchioness she is no more to
blame than myself. She feels for you as much esteem
as attachment, and is anxious to prove it at any
opportunity. I beseech you not to treat her
rigorously. Think that we only work together for
the good of the king, and that it would be unjust
of you to hate us because we have endeavored to
please this excellent prince. I hope that, contented
with this justification, you will not refuse to grant
me the double amnesty which I ask of your goodness."
I replied thus:--
"Your letter, monsieur le duc, seduces me no
more than your words. I know you well, and
appreciate you fully. I was ignorant up to this
time, that amongst the duties of your office,
certain such functions were imposed upon you.
It appears that you attend to them as well as to
others, and I sincerely compliment you thereupon;
I beg of you to announce it in the 'Court Kalendar.'
It will add, I am convinced, to the universal esteem
in which you are held.
"As to madame de Laugeac, she is even more
insignificant than you, and that is not saying much.
I thank her for her esteem and attachment, but
can dispense with any marks of them; no good can
come from such an one as she. Thus, M. le duc,
keep quiet both of you, and do not again attempt
measures which may compromise me. Do your
business and leave me to mine.
"I am, with all due consideration,
"COMTESSE DU BARRY"
I mentioned this to the king, who insisted on reconciling me with
sought, out of regard for Louis XV; but from that moment the
contempt I felt for the duke increased an hundredfold.
Conversation with the king--Marriage of the comte d'Artois--
Intrigues--The place of lady of honor--The maréchale de Mirepoix--
The comtesse de Forcalquier and madame du Barry--The comtesse de
Forcalquier and madame Boncault
The king was much annoyed at the indifference I evinced for all
state secrets, and frequently observed to me, "You are not at all
like madame de Pompadour: she was never satisfied unless she
knew all that was going on, and was permitted to take an active
part in every transaction; she would frequently scold me for not
telling her things of which I was myself ignorant. She was at
the bottom of the most secret intrigues, and watched every turn
of my countenance, as though she sought to read in my eyes the
inmost thoughts of my mind. Never," continued the king, "did
woman more earnestly desire supreme command; and so completely
had she learned to play my part, that I have frequently surprised
her giving private instructions to my ambassadors, differing
altogether from what I myself had dictated to them. Upon the same
principle she maintained at various courts envoys and ministers,
who acted by her orders, and in her name; she even succeeded in
obtaining the friendship of the grave and austere Marie Thérèse,
who ultimately carried her condescension so far, as only to address
the marchioness by the title of 'cousin' and 'dear friend.' I must
confess, however, that these proceedings on the part of madame
de Pompadour were by no means agreeable to me, and I even prefer
your ignorance of politics to her incessant interference with them."
This was said by Louis XV upon the occasion of the approaching
marriage of the comte d'Artois, the object of universal cabal and
court intrigue to all but myself, who preserved perfect tranquillity
amidst the general excitement that prevailed.
Various reasons made the marriage of this prince a matter of
imperative necessity. In the first place, the open gallantry of
the young count had attracted a crowd of disreputable personages
of both sexes to Versailles, and many scandalous adventures
occurred within the château itself; secondly, a motive still more
important in the eyes of Louis XV, originated in the circumstance
of neither the marriage of the dauphin nor that of the comte de
Provence having been blest with any offspring. The king began
to despair of seeing any descendants in a direct line, unless
indeed heaven should smile upon the wedded life of the comte
d'Artois. Louis XV disliked the princes of the blood, and the
bare idea that the duc d'Orleans might one day wield his sceptre
would have been worse than death.
Many alliances were proposed for the prince. Marie Josèphe,
infanta of Spain, was then in her twentieth year, and consequently
too old. The princess Marie- Françoise-Bénédictine-Anne-Elizabeth-
Josèphe-Antonine-Laurence-Ignace- Thérèse -Gertrude-Marguerite-
Rose, etc., etc., of Portugal, although younger than the first-
mentioned lady, was yet considered as past the age that would
have rendered her a suitable match for so young a bridegroom.
The daughter of any of the electoral houses of Germany was not
considered an eligible match, and the pride of the house of Bourbon
could not stoop to so ignoble an alliance. There was no
alternative left therefore, but to return to the house of Savoy,
and take a sister of the comtesse de Provence. This proposal
was well received by the royal family, with the exception of
the dauphiness, who dreaded the united power and influence of
the two sisters, if circumstances should ever direct it against
herself or her wishes; and I heard from good authority, that
both the imperial Marie Thérèse and her daughter made many
remonstrances to the king upon the subject. "The empress," said
Louis XV, one day, "believes that things are still managed here
as in the days of the marquise de Pompadour and the duc de
Choiseul. Thank heaven, I am no longer under the dominion of my
friend and her pensionaries. I shall follow my own inclinations,
and consult, in the marriage of my grandson, the interests of
France rather than those of Austria."
The little attention paid by Louis XV to the representations of
Marie Thérèse furnished my enemies with a fresh pretext for
venting their spleen. They accused me of having been bribed by
the court of Turin, which ardently desired a second alliance with
France. I was most unjustly accused, for I can with truth affirm,
that the comte de la Marmora, ambassador from Piedmont to Paris,
neither by word nor deed made any attempt to interest me in his
success. The king was the first person who informed me of the
contemplated marriage, and my only fault (if it could be called
one) was having approved of the match.
More than one intrigue was set on foot within the château to
separate the princes. Many were the attempts to sow the seeds
of dissension between the dauphin and the comte d'Artois, as
well as to embroil the dauphin with
attempt proved abortive, but the faction against
succeeded so far as to excite a lasting jealousy and mistrust
in the mind of Marie Antoinette. This princess was far from
contemplating the marriage of the comte d'Artois with any feelings
of pleasure, and when her new sister-in-law became a mother, she
bewailed her own misfortune in being without children with all
the feelings of a young and affectionate heart. Heaven did not,
however, always deny her the boon she so ardently desired.
You will, readily believe that the same anxiety prevailed upon
the occasion of this approaching marriage as had existed at the
unions of the dauphin and the comte de Provence, to obtain the
various posts and places the ambition of different persons led
them to desire in the establishment of the newly married pair.
Wishing on my own part to offer the maréchale de Mirepoix a proof
of my high estimation of her friendship towards me, I inquired
of her whether a superior employment about the person of the
comtesse d'Artois would be agreeable to her?
"Alas! my dear creature," replied the good-natured maréchale, "I
am too old now to bear the toil and confinement of any service.
The post of lady of honor would suit me excellently well as far
as regards the income attached to it, but by no means agree with
my inclinations as far as discharging its functions goes. You see
I am perfectly candid with you. Listen to me; if you really wish
to oblige me, you can do this--give the title to another, and
bestow the pecuniary part of the engagement on me. In that
manner you will be able to gratify two persons at the same time."
"I will endeavor," said I, "to meet your wishes as far as I
possibly can, and you may be assured that you shall derive some
advantage from this marriage."
And I kept my word by shortly after obtaining for the maréchale
a sum of 50,000 livres; a most needful supply, for the poor
maréchale had to re-furnish her house, her present fittings-up
being no longer endurable by the eye of modish taste: she likewise
received an augmentation of 20,000 livres to her pension. This
proceeding was highly acceptable to her, and the king afforded
his assistance with the best possible grace. He could be generous,
and do things with a good grace when he pleased.
The refusal of the maréchale, which it was agreed we should keep
secret, obliged me to cast my eyes upon a worthy substitute, and
I at length decided upon selecting the comtesse de Forcalquier,
a lady who possessed every charm which can charm and attract,
joined to a faultless reputation; and, setting aside her strict
intimacy with myself, the court (envious as it is) could find no
fault with her. I was convinced she would not be long in
acquiring an ascendency over the mind of the princess and I was
equally well assured she would never turn this influence against
myself; this was a point of no small importance to me.
Madame de Forcalquier most ardently desired the place of lady of
honor, without flattering herself with any hopes of obtaining it;
and, not liking to ask me openly for it, she applied to the duc
de Cossé. I felt some regret that she had gone to work in so
circuitous a manner, and in consequence wrote her the
"MADAM, --I am aware that you are desirous of
obtaining the post of lady of honor. You should
not have forgotten that I am sufficiently your
friend to have forwarded your wishes by every
possible exertion. Why did you apply to a third
person in preference to seeking my aid? I really
am more than half angry with you for so doing.
Believe me, my friends need not the intervention
of any mediator to secure my best services. You,
too, will regret not having made your first
application to me, when I tell you that I was
reserving for you the very place you were seeking
by so circuitous a route. Yes, before you had asked
it, the post of lady of honor was yours. I might
have sought in vain for a person more eminently
qualified for the office than yourself, or one in
whom I could place more unlimited confidence.
Come, my friend, I pray of you, not to thank me,
who have found sufficient reward in the pleasure
of obliging you, but to acknowledge the extreme
kindness and alacrity with which his majesty has
forwarded your wishes.
"Believe me, dear madam,
"Yours, very sincerely,
"THE COMTESSE Du Barry."
Madame de Forcalquier was not long in obeying the summons contained
in my note; she embraced me with the warmest gratitude and
friendship, delighted at finding herself so eligibly established
at court, for at that period every person regarded the comte
d'Artois as the only hope of the monarchy; and blinded by the
universal preference bestowed on him, the young prince flattered
himself that the crown would infallibly ornament his brows. I
have been told, that when first the queen's pregnancy was
perceived, a general lamentation was heard throughout the castle,
and all ranks united in deploring an event which removed the
comte d'Artois from the immediate succession to the throne.
Up to the present moment I knew Madame de Forcalquier only as
one whose many charms, both of mind and person, joined to great
conversational powers and the liveliest wit, had rendered her the
idol of society, and obtained for her the appellation of
in appearance, was capable of one of those lively and sincere
attachments, which neither time nor change of fortune could
destroy or diminish. She had a particular friend, a madame
Boncault, the widow of a stockbroker, and she was anxious to
contribute to her well-doing. With this view she solicited of me
the place of lady in waiting for this much-esteemed individual.
Astonished at the request I put a hasty negative on it.
"If you refuse me this fresh favor," said madame de Forcalquier,
"you will prevent me from profiting by your kindness to myself."
"And why so?" inquired I.
"I owe to madame Boncault," answered she, "more than my life; I
am indebted to her for tranquillity, honor, and the high estimation
in which the world has been pleased to hold me. I have now an
opportunity of proving my gratitude, and I beseech of you to
assist my endeavors."
"But tell me, first," cried I, "what is the nature of this very
important service you say madame de Boncault has rendered you;
is it a secret, or may I hear it?"
"Certainly," replied the countess, "although the recital is
calculated to bring the blush of shame into my cheek. Are we
alone, and secure from interruption?"
I rang and gave orders that no person should be suffered to
disturb us; after which madame de Forcalquier proceeded
"I was scarcely seventeen years old, when my parents informed me
that they had disposed of my hand, and that I must prepare myself
to receive a husband immediately. My sentiments were not inquired
into, nor, to confess the truth, was such an investigation usual,
or deemed a matter of any import. A young female of any rank
has no voice in any transaction till the day which follows her
marriage; until then her wishes are those of her family, and her
desires bounded by the rules of worldly etiquette. I had scarcely
conversed twice or thrice with my future lord, and then only for
a few minutes at a time, before he conducted me to the foot of
the altar, there to pronounce the solemn vow which bound me his
for life. I had scarcely seen him, and barely knew whether he
was agreeable or disagreeable. He was neither young nor old,
handsome nor ugly, pleasing nor displeasing; just one of those
persons of whom the world is principally composed; one of those
men who enter or leave a saloon without the slightest curiosity
being excited respecting him. I had been told that I ought to
love my husband, and accordingly I taught myself to do so; but
scarcely had the honeymoon waned, than my fickle partner transferred
his affections from me to one of my attendants; and to such a
height did his guilty passion carry him, that he quitted his home
for Italy, carrying with him the unfortunate victim of his seductive
arts. It was during his absence that I first became acquainted
with madame Boncault; she was my own age, and equally unfortunate
in her domestic life; the same tests, griefs, and a great similarity
of temper and disposition soon united us in the bonds of the
firmest friendship; but as she possessed a stronger and more
reasonable mind than I did, she forgot her own sorrows to administer
to mine. However, if the whole truth must be owned, I ought to
confess that my chief consolation was derived from a young cousin
of my own, who freely lavished upon me that unbounded affection
I would fain have sought from my husband.
"Meanwhile, wearied of his folly, this latter returned; and,
after having transferred his capricious fancies to at least half
a dozen mistresses, he finished where he should have begun by
attaching himself to her, who, as his wife, had every claim to
his homage. Men are unaccountable creatures, but unfortunately
for my husband his senses returned too late; my heart was too
entirely occupied to restore him to that place he had so hastily
vacated. My affections were no longer mine to bestow, but equally
shared by my estimable friend madame Boncault and my young and
captivating cousin. I was a bad hand at dissimulating, and M. de
Forcalquier perceived enough of my sentiments to excite his jealous
suspicions, and immediately removed with me to one of his estates.
"However, my cousin (whom my husband was far from suspecting) and
madame Boncault accompanied me in my retreat; there myself and
my admirer, more thrown together than we had been at Paris, began
insensibly to lay aside the restraint we had hitherto imposed on
our inclinations, and commenced a train of imprudences which
would quickly have betrayed us had not friendship watched over
us. The excellent madame Boncault, in order to save my reputation,
took so little care to preserve her own, that M. de Forcalquier
was completely caught by her manoeuvre. One morning, finding
me alone, he said,
"' Madam, I am by no means satisfied with what is going on here.
Your friend is wholly devoid of shame and modesty; she has been
with us but one short fortnight, and is now the open and confessed
mistress of your cousin.'
"'Sir,' exclaimed I, trembling for what was to follow, 'you are,
you must be mistaken: the thing is impossible. Madame Boncault
"'Nonsense, madam,' replied M. de Forcalquier; 'I know what I am
saying. Several things have induced me to suspect for a long
while what I now assert with perfect confidence of its truth; but
if you are still incredulous, behold this proof of guilt which I
found just now in your cousin's chamber.'
"So saying, my husband put into my hands a letter written by my
cousin evidently to some female in the château, whom he solicited
to admit him that evening to the usual place of rendezvous, where
he flattered himself their late misunderstanding would be cleared up.
"After having read, or, to speak more correctly, guessed at the
contents of this fatal letter, I conjured my husband to replace
it where he had found it, lest his guests should suspect him of
having dishonorably obtained possession of their secret. He
quitted me, and I hastened in search of my friend: I threw myself
on my knees before her, and related all that had passed, accusing
myself of the basest selfishness in having consented to save my
honor at the expense of hers; then rising with renewed courage I
declared my intention of confessing my imprudence to my husband.
Madame Boncault withheld me. 'Do you doubt my regard for you?'
asked she; 'if indeed you do justice to my sincere attachment to
you, permit me to make this one sacrifice for your safety. Leave
your husband at liberty to entertain his present suspicions
respecting me, but grant me one favor in your turn. Speak to
your cousin; request him to quit the château, for should he
remain the truth will be discovered, and then, my friend, you are
lost past my endeavors to save you.'
"Less generous than madame Boncault, I consented to follow her
advice. However, I have never forgotten her generous devotion;
and now that the opportunity has presented itself of proving my
gratitude, I beseech of you, my dear countess, to aid me in the
discharge of my debt of gratitude."
As madame de Forcalquier finished speaking, I threw myself into
her arms. "From this moment," cried I, "madame Boncault is my
dear and esteemed
the mind of the king, she shall be appointed lady in waiting to
our young princess. Such a woman is a treasure, and I heartily
thank you for having mentioned her to me."
Marriage of madame Boncault--The comte de Bourbon Busset --Marriage
of comte d'Hargicourt--Disgrace of the comte de Broglie--He is
replaced by M. Lemoine--The king complains of ennui--Conversations
on the subject--Entry into Paris
Spite of the merit of madame Boncault, and the many eulogiums I
bestowed on her whilst relating her history to the king, I could
not immediately obtain the post madame de Forcalquier had requested
for this paragon of friends. His majesty replied to me by saying,
that no doubt so many virtues merited a high reward, but that
ere madame Boncault could be appointed lady in waiting to his
granddaughter, she must be presented at court under some other
name than the one she now bore.
"Oh, if that be all, sire,"' replied I, "it will soon be effected.
Ladies who have the good fortune to possess a rich dowry and
powerful friends need never look far for a choice of husbands.
Only let madame Boncault have reason to reckon upon your patronage,
and she will have no lack of admirers."
The king, always ready to oblige me, caused it to be understood
throughout the château that he was desirous of seeing madame
Boncault well established, as he had it in contemplation to confide
to her a place of great trust. Immediately a score of suitors
presented themselves; the preference was given to the comte de
Bourbon Busset as the person most calculated in every respect to
answer our purpose; he possessed elegant manners, an unblemished
reputation, and a descent so illustrious as to be traced even to
the reigning family. No sooner were the celebrations of this
marriage over, than I procured the formal appointment of madame
de Bourbon Busset to the post of lady in waiting to the new
princess. This nomination tended greatly to increase the high
opinion entertained of the judgment and discrimination of the
comtesse de Forcalquier, and you may easily believe, from the f
riendship I bore this lady, that I fully entered into her triumph
on the occasion.
When the comtesse de Bourbon Busset came to return me her
acknowledgments for what I had done, she accompanied it with a
request for a fresh interference on my part: this was to obtain
for her husband the title of duke and peer. Accordingly I
mentioned her wishes to the king, observing at the same time how
very surprising it was that one so nearly related to the house of
Bourbon should not have reached the honors of the ducal peerage:
to which Louis XV replied, that he had no desire to increase the
number of princes of the blood, of whom there were quite sufficient
of legitimate birth without placing the illegitimate upon the same
footing; that Louis XIV had been a sufficient warning of the folly
of acting too indulgently towards these latter, who were only so
many additional enemies to the royal authority. To all this I
answered, that it was not fitting to treat the family of Bourbon
Busset, however illegitimate might be its origin, as though it
merely belonged to the
were in vain, and, as the proverb says, "I talked to the wind."
My friends recommended me not to press the subject, and the matter
ended there. However, in order to smooth the refusal as much as
possible, I procured M. de Bourbon Busset the appointment of first
gentleman usher to the young prince.
The establishment of the comtesse d'Artois was now formed. M.
de Chéglus, bishop of Cahors, had the post of first almoner; and
strange to say, although a prelate, was a man of irreproachable
virtue; he had little wit but strong sense, and was better known
by his many charitable deeds than by the brilliancy of his
sayings. He was eminently suited for the office now conferred on
him; and those who knew him best were the least surprised to find
the nomination had fallen on him.
I also procured a post in the establishment of the young couple
for my sister-in-law, the comtesse d'Hargicourt. Her maiden
name was Fumel, an ancient family in Guienne, and M. de Fumel,
her father, was governor of the château Trompette at Bordeaux.
This marriage had at first encountered many difficulties from the
deadly hatred which existed in the château against us. Comte
Jean, perceiving that things were going against us, applied to
the king himself for assistance in the affair. Louis XV could
not endure him, but his dislike was manifested only by an uneasy
timidity in his presence, and he freely granted any request that
would the soonest free him from his presence. The king acted
upon the same principle in the present conjuncture; he bestowed
a million of livres upon the comte d'Hargicourt, that is to say,
500,000 livres to be employed in paying the debts of the comte de
Fumel, and in freeing his estates from a dowry of 60,000 livres to
be paid to his daughter on her marriage, with various other
clearances and payments; besides this my brother-in-law, comte
d'Hargicourt, was appointed captain in the prince's Swiss guards,
one of the most honorable commissions that could have been
conferred on him.
The comte de Crussel and the prince d'Henin were named captains
of the guard to M. d'Artois. This prince d'Henin was of such
diminutive stature that he was sometimes styled, by way of jest,
the "prince of dwarfs," "the dwarf of princes." He was the
beloved nephew of the maréchale de Mirepoix, whose fondness
could not supply him with the sense he so greatly needed; he was
besides very profligate, and continually running into some
difficulty or other by his eager pursuit after pleasure. It is
related of him, that the duc de Lauragnais, wearied with seeing
the prince d'Henin for ever fluttering about his mistress,
mademoiselle Arnoult, drew up a consultation, to inquire whether
it were possible to die of ennui: this he submitted to several
physicians and celebrated lawyers, who having united in replying
affirmatively, he caused the consultation with its answer to be
forwarded to the prince d'Henin, warning him henceforward to
cease his visits to mademoiselle Arnoult; or, in the event of her
death, he would certainly be taken up as a party concerned in
The opposite party was now more irritated than ever by the many
places and employments I caused to be given either to my own
friends, or to those for whom they solicited my interest. The
duchesse de Grammont, flattering herself that she might now take
the field against me with advantage, arrived in Paris one fine
morning from Chanteloup. Those about me were full of wrath, I
know not for why, at her arrival, but I explained to them, that
they were mistaken in supposing madame de Grammont an exile; she
had voluntarily accompanied her brother into his retreat, and when
that was no longer agreeable to her she returned to Paris. However,
her journey did neither good nor harm; she had many invitations
to fêtes given in honor of herself, was frequently asked to dinners,
balls, etc., but that was all; no person set their wits to work to
reinstate her in the good graces of the king. I soon comprehended
the forlorn hopes of my poor enemy, and my former animosity soon
gave way to the play with which she inspired me.
About the period of the marriage of the comtesse d'Artois, an
individual of some eminence fell into disgrace; this was the
comte de Broglie. This gentleman, as you know, was private
minister to Louis XV, intrusted for some time past with his
correspondence, and affected the airs of a favorite. He solicited
upon the present occasion the honor of going to meet the princess
at the bridge of Beauvoisin, a request which was granted. This
was not sufficient for him; he begged for a month's leave of
absence, with permission to proceed to Turin: this depended on
the duc d'Aiguillon, who was by no means partial to the comte de
Broglie. He said to me when speaking of him,
"I feel no inclination to oblige this minister; on the contrary,
he may wait long enough for what he desires as far as I am concerned.
"I fear he will be greatly offended with you," answered I.
"Oh, never mind that," replied the duke; "if he grows sullen
about it, why well; if he is loud and vehement, better still;
and should his anger lead him to the commission of any act of
folly, depend upon it we will take advantage of it."
As I foresaw, the comte de Broglie was deeply offended, and wrote
to the duc d'Aiguillon a letter full of imprudent expressions. This
was exactly what this latter desired, who eagerly carried and read
the paper to the different members of the council, who heard it
with every expression of surprise and displeasure; the king viewed
it as a piece of open rebellion, and resolved to punish the writer
with his heaviest displeasure; the duc d'Aiguillon asked nothing
better, and ere an hour had elapsed, the duc de la Vrillière
received orders to draw up a
king expressed his discontent of the comte de Broglie, deprived
him of the commission he had given him to go and receive the
princess of Savoy, and exiled him to Buffée, one of his estates
This was a matter of great talk at the château; no one could
imagine what had made the comte de Broglie conduct himself so
foolishly. It was at this period that M. d Marchault said of
him, when he saw him pass his house on his way to Buffée, "He has
the ministry by the tail."
M. de Broglie having gone, his majesty was compelled to look out
for another confidant, and raised to that eminence M. Lemoine,
clerk of his closet. M. Lemoine, in an inferior station had shown
himself competent to fill the highest offices in the state. Such
abilities are rare. He was an excellent lawyer, admirable
chancellor of exchequer, and had the king said to him, "I make
thee a general," he would, the next day, have commanded armies
and gained victories. Despite his merit he lived long unknown:
the reason was obvious--he knew nothing of intrigue; and his wife,
though pretty, was discreet; and these are not the means to advance
a man at court.
Louis XV, who knew something of men when he chose to study them.,
was not slow in detecting the talent of Lemoine, and in consequence
gave him that station in which de Broglie had been installed. No
sooner had Lemoine glanced over the affairs submitted to his
control, than he became master of them, as much as though they
had occupied the whole of his life, and in a short time he gave
to his situation an importance which it had never before reached.
Unwilling, however, to incur hatred, he enveloped himself in
profound mystery, so much so that nobody, with the exception of
Messrs. d'Aiguillon and de Sartines, knew anything of his labors.
This pleased the king, who was averse to publicity.
The duc d'Aiguillon could not conceal his joy at being freed
from de Broglie, his most troublesome colleague. It was a grand
point gained for him, as he could now make sure of the post of
secretary-at-war, the main object of his ambition. He wished to
be placed in the duc de Choiseul's position, and to effect this
he redoubled his attentions towards the king, who, though not
really regarding him, at length treated him as the dearest of his
subjects. There are inexplicable mysteries in weak characters;
obstinacy alarms them, and they yield because they hate resistance.
The king was
heavy. I saw his gloom without knowing how to disperse it, but
it did not make me particularly uncomfortable. Occupied with my
dear duc de Brissac I almost forgot his majesty for him: the
maréchale de Mirepoix, who had more experience than I had in the
affairs at Versailles, and who knew the king well, was alarmed
at my negligence, and spoke to me of it.
"Do you not see," she said, one day, "what a crisis is at hand?"
"What crisis?" I asked.
"The king is dying of ennui."
"Does it not alarm you?" said the maréchale.
"Why should it?"
"What makes him so? Think well when I tell you that your mortal
enemy has seized Louis XV; your most redoubtable enemy,
"Very well; but what would you have me do?"
"You must amuse him."
'That is easier said than done."
"You are right, but it is compulsory. Believe me, kings are not
moulded like other men: early disgusted with all things, they
only exist in a variety of pleasures; what pleases them this evening
will displease them tomorrow; they wish to be happy in a different
way. Louis XV is more kingly in this respect than any other.
You must devise amusements for him."
"Alas," I replied, "how? Shall I give him a new tragedy of la
Harpe's,--he will yawn; an opera of Marmontel,--he will go to
sleep. Heavens! how unfortunate I am!"
"Really, my dear," replied the maréchale, "I cannot advise you;
but I can quote a powerful example. In such a case madame de
Pompadour would have admitted a rival near the throne."
"Madame de Pompadour was very amiable, my dear," I replied, "and
I would have done so once or twice, but the part of Mother Gourdan
does not suit me; I prefer that of her young ladies."
At these words the maréchale laughed, whilst I made a long grave
face. At this instant comte Jean entered, and exclaimed,
"Really, ladies, you present a singular contrast. May I ask you,
sister, what causes this sorrow? What ails you?"
"Oh, brother!" was my response, "the king is dying of ennui."
"That is no marvel," said my brother-in-law.
"And to rouse him," I added, "it is necessary, the maréchale says,
that I must take a pretty girl by the hand, and present her to
the king with these words: 'Sire, having found that you grow
tired of me, I present this lady to you, that you may amuse
yourself with her."
'That would be very fine," replied comte Jean; "it would show
him that you had profited by my advice." Then, whispering in my
ear, "You know, sister, I am capable of the greatest sacrifices
for the king."
"What are you saying, Comte Jean?" asked the maréchale, who
had heard some words.
"I said to my sister," answered he, coolly, "that she ought to be
executed to please the king."
"And you, too, brother," I cried.
"Yes, sister," said he, with a theatrical tone, "I see the dire
necessity, and submit to it unrepiningly. Let us yield to fate,
or rather, let us so act as to make it favorable to us. The
king requires some amusement, and let us find him a little wench.
We must take heed not to present any fine lady: no, no; by all
the devils--! Excuse me, maréchale, 'tis a habit I have."
"It is nature, you mean," replied the maréchale: "the nightingale
is born to sing, and you, comte Jean, were born to swear; is it
After this conversation the maréchale went out, and Comte Jean
departed to arrange his plans for the king's amusement.
However, the ennui of Louis XV was somewhat dissipated by the
tidings of the various incidents which occurred at the grand entry
of the dauphin and dauphiness into Paris. We learnt that the duc
de Brissac, as governor of Paris, on receiving the dauphiness, said,
"Madam, you see about you two hundred thousand lovers." He was
right; the princess looked like an angel. I had taken a mortal
aversion to her. Alas! circumstances have too fully avenged me:
this unfortunate queen loses popularity daily; her perfidious
friends have sacrificed her to their interests. I pity her.
Visit from a stranger--Madame de Pompadour and a Jacobinical
monk--Continuation of this history--Deliverance of a state prisoner--
A meeting with the stranger
One day, at an hour at which I was not accustomed to see any person,
a lady called and requested to see me; she was informed that I was
visible to no person. No matter, she persisted in her request,
saying that she had to speak to me upon matters of the first
importance, and declared, that I should be delighted with her
visit. However, my servants, accustomed to the artifices practised
by persons wishing to see me for interested purposes, heeded
very little the continued protestations of my strange applicant,
and peremptorily refused to admit her; upon which the unknown
retired with the indication of extreme anger.
Two hours afterwards a note, bearing no signature, was brought
me, in which the late scene was described to me, and I was further
informed, that the lady, so abruptly repulsed by my servants,
had presented herself to communicate things which concerned not
only my own personal safety but the welfare of all France; a
frightful catastrophe was impending, which there was still time
to prevent; the means of so doing were offered me, and I was
conjured not to reject them. The affair, if treated with
indifference, would bring on incalculable misfortunes and horrors,
to which I should be the first victim. All this apparent mystery
would be cleared up, and, the whole affair explained, if I
would repair on the following day, at one o'clock, to the Baths
of Apollo. A grove of trees there was pointed out as a safe
place of rendezvous, and being so very near my residence, calculated
to remove any fears I might entertain of meeting a stranger, who,
as the note informed me, possessed the means of entering this
secluded spot. I was again conjured to be punctual to the appointed
hour as I valued my life.
The mysterious and solemn tone of this singular epistle struck
me with terror. Madame de Mirepoix was with me at the moment I
received it. This lady had a peculiar skill in physiognomy, and