Part 3 out of 3
"You should publish it," said I.
"Burn it, then."
"I can't make up my mind to do so."
M. de Muralt took me to see the military evolutions gone through by
the citizens of Berne, who are all soldiers, and I asked him the
meaning of the bear to be seen above the gate of the town. The
German for bear is 'bar', 'bern', and the animal has given its name
to the town and canton which rank second in the Republic, although it
is in the first place for its wealth and culture. It is a peninsula
formed by the Aar, which rises near the Rhine. The mayor spoke to me
of the power of the canton, its lordships and bailiwicks, and
explained his own powers; he then described the public policy, and
told me of the different systems of government which compose the
"I understand perfectly well," I said, "that each of the thirteen
cantons has its own government."
"I daresay you do," he replied, "but what you don't understand any
more than I do is, that there is a canton which has four separate
I had an excellent supper with fourteen or fifteen senators. There
were no jokes, no frivolous conversation, and no literature; but law,
the commonweal, commerce, political economy, speculation, love of
country, and the duty of preferring liberty to life, in abundance.
I felt as if I were in a new element, but I enjoyed the privilege of
being a man amidst men who were all in honour to our common humanity.
But as the supper went on, these rigid republicans began to expand,
the discourse became less measured, there were even some bursts of
laughter, owing to the wine. I excited their pity, and though they
praised sobriety they thought mine excessive. However, they
respected my liberty, and did not oblige me to drink, as the
Russians, Swedes, Poles, and most northern peoples do.
We parted at midnight--a very late hour in Switzerland, and as they
wished me a good night, each of them made me a sincere offer of his
friendship. One of the company at an early period of the supper,
before he had begun to get mellow, had condemned the Venetian
Republic for banishing the Grisons, but on his intellect being
enlightened by Bacchus he made his apologies.
"Every government," said he, "ought to know its own interests better
than strangers, and everybody should be allowed to do what he wills
with his own."
When I got home I found my housekeeper lying in my bed. I gave her a
hundred caresses in witness of my joy, and I assured her practically
of my love and gratitude. I considered her as my wife, we cherished
each other, and did not allow the thought of separating to enter our
minds. When two lovers love each other in all freedom, the idea of
parting seems impossible.
Next morning I got a letter from the worthy Madame d'Urfe, who begged
me to call on Madame de la Saone, wife of a friend of hers--a
lieutenant-general. This lady had come to Berne in the hope of
getting cured of a disease which had disfigured her in an incredible
manner. Madame de la Saone was immediately introduced to all the
best society in the place. She gave a supper every day, only asking
men; she had an excellent cook. She had given notice that she would
pay no calls, and she was quite right. I hastened to make my bow to
her; but, good Heavens! what a terrible and melancholy sight did I
I saw a woman dressed with the utmost elegance, reclining
voluptuously upon a couch. As soon as she saw me she arose, gave me
a most gracious reception, and going back to her couch invited me to
sit beside her. She doubtless noticed my surprise, but being
probably accustomed to the impression which the first sight of her
created, she talked on in the most friendly manner, and by so doing
diminished my aversion.
Her appearance was as follows: Madame de Saone was beautifully
dressed, and had the whitest hands and the roundest arms that can be
imagined. Her dress, which was cut very low, allowed me to see an
exquisite breast of dazzling whiteness, heightened by two rosy buds;
her figure was good, and her feet the smallest I have ever seen. All
about her inspired love, but when one's eyes turned to her face every
other feeling gave way to those of horror and pity. She was fearful.
Instead of a face, one saw a blackened and disgusting scab. No
feature was distinguishable, and her ugliness was made more
conspicuous and dreadful by two fine eyes full of fire, and by a
lipless mouth which she kept parted, as if to disclose two rows of
teeth of dazzling whiteness. She could not laugh, for the pain
caused by the contraction of the muscles would doubtless have drawn
tears to her eyes; nevertheless she appeared contented, her
conversation was delightful, full of wit and humour, and permeated
with the tone of good society. She might be thirty at the most, and
she had left three beautiful young children behind in Paris. Her
husband was a fine, well-made man, who loved her tenderly, and had
never slept apart from her. It is probable that few soldiers have
shewn such courage as this, but it is to be supposed that he did not
carry his bravery so far as to kiss her, as the very thought made one
shudder. A disorder contracted after her first child-bed had left
the poor woman in this sad state, and she had borne it for ten years.
All the best doctors in France had tried in vain to cure her, and she
had come to Berne to put herself into the hands of two well-known
physicians who had promised to do so. Every quack makes promises of
this sort; their patients are cured or not cured as it happens, and
provided that they pay heavily the doctor is ready enough to lay the
fault, not on his ignorance, but at the door of his poor deluded
The doctor came while I was with her, and just as her intelligent
conversation was making me forget her face. She had already began to
take his remedies, which were partly composed of mercury.
"It seems to me," said she, "that the itching has increased since I
have taken your medicines."
"It will last," said the son of AEsculapius, "till the end of the
cure, and that will take about three months."
"As long as I scratch myself," said she, "I shall be in the same
state, and the cure will never be completed."
The doctor replied in an evasive manner. I rose to take my leave,
and holding my hand she asked me to supper once for all. I went the
same evening; the poor woman took everything and drank some wine, as
the doctor had not put her on any diet. I saw that she would never
Her good temper and her charming conversational powers kept all the
company amused. I conceived that it would be possible to get used to
her face, and to live with her without being disgusted. In the
evening I talked about her to my housekeeper, who said that the
beauty of her body and her mental endowments might be sufficient to
attract people to her. I agreed, though I felt that I could never
become one of her lovers.
Three or four days after, I went to a bookseller's to read the
newspaper, and was politely accosted by a fine young man of twenty,
who said that Madame de la Saone was sorry not to have seen me again
"You know the lady?"
"I had the honour to sup at her house with you."
"True; I remember you."
"I get her the books she likes, as I am a bookseller, and not only do
I sup with her every evening, but we breakfast together every morning
before she gets up."
"I congratulate you. I bet you are in love with her."
"You are pleased to jest, but she is pleasanter than you think."
"I do not jest at all, but I would wager she would not have the
courage to push things to an extremity."
"Perhaps you would lose."
"Really? I should be very glad to."
"Let us make a bet."
"How will you convince me I have lost?"
"Let us bet a louis, and you must promise to be discreet."
"Come and sup at her house this evening, and I will tell you
"You shall see me there."
When I got home I told my housekeeper what I had heard.
"I am curious to know," said she, "how he will convince you." I
promised to tell her, which pleased her very much.
I was exact to my appointment. Madame de la Saone reproached me
pleasantly for my absence, and gave me a delicious supper. The young
bookseller was there, but as his sweetheart did not speak a word to
him he said nothing and passed unnoticed.
After supper we went out together, and he told me on the way that if
I liked he would satisfy me the next morning at eight o'clock. "Call
here, and the lady's maid will tell you her mistress is not visible,
but you have only to say that you will wait, and that you will go
into the ante-chamber. This room has a glass door commanding a view
of madame's bed, and I will take care to draw back the curtains over
the door so that you will be able to see at your ease all that passes
between us. When the affair is over I shall go out by another door,
she will call her maid, and you will be shewn in. At noon, if you
will allow me, I will bring you some books to the 'Falcon,' and if
you find that you have lost you shall pay me my louis." I promised
to carry out his directions, and we parted.
I was curious to see what would happen, though I by no means regarded
it as an impossibility; and on my presenting myself at eight o'clock,
the maid let me in as soon as I said that I could wait. I found a
corner of the glass door before which there was no curtain, and on
applying my eye to the place I saw my young adventurer holding his
conquest in his arms on the bed. An enormous nightcap entirely
concealed her face--an excellent precaution which favoured the
When the rascal saw that I had taken up my position, he did not keep
me waiting, for, getting up, he presented to my dazzled gaze, not
only the secret treasures of his sweetheart, but his own also. He
was a small man, but where the lady was most concerned he was a
Hercules, and the rogue seemed to make a parade of his proportions as
if to excite my jealousy. He turned his victim round so that I
should see her under all aspects, and treated her manfully, while she
appeared to respond to his ardour with all her might. Phidias could
not have modelled his Venus on a finer body; her form was rounded and
voluptuous, and as white as Parian marble. I was affected in a
lively manner by the spectacle, and re-entered my lodging so inflamed
that if my dear Dubois had not been at hand to quench my fire I
should have been obliged to have extinguished it in the baths of La
When I had told her my tale she wanted to know the hero of it, and at
noon she had that pleasure. The young bookseller brought me some
books I had ordered, and while paying him for them I gave him our bet
and a Louis over and above as a mark of my satisfaction at his
prowess. He took it with a smile which seemed to shew that he
thought I ought to think myself lucky to have lost. My housekeeper
looked at him for some time, and asked if he knew her; he said he did
"I saw you when you were a child," said she. "You are the son of M.
Mignard, minister of the Gospel. You must have been ten when I saw
"You did not care to follow your father's profession, then?"
"No madam, I feel much more inclined to the worship of the creature
than to that of the Creator, and I did not think my father's
profession would suit me."
"You are right, for a minister of the Gospel ought to be discreet,
and discretion is a restraint."
This stroke made him blush, but we did not give him time to lose
courage. I asked him to dine with me, and without mentioning the
name of Madame de la Saone he told his amorous adventures and
numerous anecdotes about the pretty women of Berne.
After he had gone, my housekeeper said that once was quite enough to
see a young man of his complexion. I agreed with her, and had no
more to do with him; but I heard that Madame de Saone took him to
Paris and made his fortune. Many fortunes are made in this manner,
and there are some which originated still more nobly. I only
returned to Madame de la Saone to take my leave, as I shall shortly
I was happy with my charmer, who told me again and again that with me
she lived in bliss. No fears or doubts as to the future troubled her
mind; she was certain, as I was, that we should never leave each
other; and she told me she would pardon all the infidelities I might
be guilty of, provided I made full confession. Hers, indeed, was a
disposition with which to live in peace and content, but I was not
born to enjoy such happiness.
After we had been a fortnight at Berne, my housekeeper received a
letter from Soleure. It came from Lebel. As I saw she read it with
great attention, I asked her what it was about.
"Take it and read it," said she; and she sat down in front of me to
read my soul by the play of my features.
Lebel asked her, in concise terms, if she would become his wife.
"I have only put off the proposition," said he, "to set my affairs in
order, and to see if I could afford to marry you, even if the consent
of the ambassador were denied us. I find I am rich enough to live
well in Berne or elsewhere without the necessity of my working;
however I shall not have to face the alternative, for at the first
hint of the matter M. de Chavigni gave his consent with the best
He went on begging her not to keep him long waiting for a reply, and
to tell him in the first place if she consented; in the second,
whether she would like to live at Berne and be mistress in her own
house, or whether she would prefer to return to Soleure and live with
the ambassador, which latter plan might bring them some profit. He
ended by declaring that whatever she had would be for her sole use,
and that he would give her a dower of a hundred thousand francs. He
did not say a word about me.
"Dearest," said I, "you are at perfect liberty to choose your own
course, but I cannot contemplate your leaving me without considering
myself as the most unhappy of men."
"And if I lose you I should be the most unhappy of women; for if you
love me I care not whether we are married or no."
"Very good; but what answer are you going to make."
"You shall see my letter to-morrow. I shall tell him politely but
plainly that I love you, that I am yours, that I am happy, and that
it is thus impossible for me to accept his flattering propositions.
I shall also say that I appreciate his generosity, and that if I were
wise I should accept him, but that being the slave of my love for you
I can only follow my inclination."
"I think you give an excellent turn to your letter. In refusing such
an offer you could not have better reasons than those you give, and
it would be absurd to try and persuade him that we are not lovers, as
the thing is self-evident. Nevertheless, my darling, the letter
"Because I have not a hundred thousand francs to offer you."
"I despise them; and if you were to offer me such a sum, I should
only accept it to lay it at your feet. You are certainly not
destined to become miserable, but if that should come to pass, be
sure that I should be only too happy to share your misery."
We fell into one another's arms, and love made us taste all its
pleasures. Nevertheless, in the midst of bliss, some tinge of
sadness gained upon our souls. Languishing love seems to redouble
its strength, but it is only in appearance; sadness exhausts love
more than enjoyment. Love is a madcap who must be fed on laughter
and mirth, otherwise he dies of inanition.
Next day my sweetheart wrote to Lebel in the sense she had decided
on, and I felt obliged to write M. de Chavigni a letter in which
love, sentiment, and philosophy were mingled. I did not conceal from
him that I loved the woman whom Lebel coveted to distraction, but I
said that as a man of honour I would rather die than deprive my
sweetheart of such solid advantages.
My letter delighted the housekeeper, for she was anxious to know what
the ambassador thought of the affair, which needed much reflection.
I got on the same day the letters of introduction I had asked Madame
d'Urfe to give me, and I determined, to the joy of my dear Dubois, to
set out for Lausanne. But we must hark back a little.
When one is sincerely in love, one thinks the beloved object full of
deserts, and the mind, the dupe of the feelings, thinks all the world
jealous of its bliss.
A. M. de F----, member of the Council of the Two Hundred, whom I had
met at Madame de la Saone's, had become my friend. He came to see me
and I introduced him to my dear Dubois, whom he treated with the same
distinction he would have used towards my wife. He had presented us
to his wife, and had come several times to see us with her and her
daughter Sara. Sara was only thirteen, but she was extremely
precocious, dark complexioned, and full of wit; she was continually
uttering naivetes, of which she understood the whole force, although
looking at her face one would have thought her perfectly innocent.
She excelled in the art of making her father and mother believe in
her innocence, and thus she enjoyed plenty of liberty.
Sara had declared that she was in love with my housekeeper, and as
her parents laughed at her she lavished her caresses on my dear
Dubois. She often came to breakfast with us, and when she found us
in bed she would embrace my sweetheart, whom she called her wife,
passing her hand over the coverlet to tickle her, telling her that
she was her wife, and that she wanted to have a child. My sweetheart
laughed and let her go on.
One day I told her jokingly that she would make me jealous, that I
thought she really was a man, and that I was going to make sure. The
sly little puss told me that I was making a mistake, but her hand
seemed rather to guide mine than to oppose it. That made me curious,
and my mind was soon set at rest as to her sex. Perceiving that she
had taken me in and got exactly what she wanted, I drew back my hand,
and imparted my suspicions to my housekeeper, who said I was right.
However, as the little girl had no part in my affections, I did not
push the thing any farther.
Two or three days after, this girl came in as I was getting up, and
said in her usual simple way,
"Now that you know I am not really a man you can not be jealous or
have objection to my taking your place beside my little wife, if she
will let me."
My housekeeper, who looked inclined to laugh, said,
In the twinkling of an eye she was undressed and in the arms of her
little wife, whom she proceeded to treat as an amorous husband. My
sweetheart laughed, and Sara, having contrived in the combat to rid
herself of her chemise and the coverlet, displayed herself to me
without any veil, while at the same time she shewed me all the
beauties of my sweetheart. This sight inflamed me. I shut the door,
and made the little hussy witness of my ardour with my sweetheart.
Sara looked on attentively, playing the part of astonishment to
perfection, and when I had finished she said, with the utmost
"Do it again:"
"I can't, my dear; don't you see I am a dead man?"
"That's very funny," she cried; and with the most perfect innocence
she came over, and tried to effect my resurrection.
When she had succeeded in placing me in the wished-for condition, she
said, "Now go in;" and I should doubtless have obeyed, but my
housekeeper said, "No, dearest, since you have effected its
resurrection, you must make it die again."
"I should like to," said she, "but I am afraid I have not got enough
room;" and so saying she placed herself in a position to shew me that
she was speaking the truth, and that if she did not make me die it
was not her fault.
Imitating her simplicity I approached her, as if I wished to oblige
her, but not to go too far; but not finding any resistance I
accomplished the act in all its forms, without her giving the
slightest evidence of pain, without any of the accidents of a first
trial, but, on the contrary, with all the marks of the utmost
Although I was sure of the contrary, I kept my self-possession enough
to tell my housekeeper that Sara had given me what can only be given
once, and she pretended to believe me.
When the operation was finished, we had another amusing scene. Sara
begged us not to say a word about it to her papa or mamma, as they
would be sure to scold her as they had scolded her when she got her
ears pierced without asking their leave.
Sara knew that we saw through her feigned simplicity, but she
pretended not to do so as it was to her own advantage. Who could
have instructed her in the arts of deceit? Nobody; only her natural
wit, less rare in childhood than in youth, but always rare and
astonishing. Her mother said her simplicities shewed that she would
one day be very intelligent, and her father maintained that they were
signs of her stupidity. But if Sara had been stupid, our bursts of
laughter would have disconcerted her; and she would have died for
shame, instead of appearing all the better pleased when her father
deplored her stupidity. She would affect astonishment, and by way of
curing one sort of stupidity she corroborated it by displaying
another. She asked us questions to which we could not reply, and
laughed at her instead, although it was evident that before putting
such questions she must have reasoned over them. She might have
rejoined that the stupidity was on our side, but by so doing she
would have betrayed herself.
Lebel did not reply to his sweetheart, but M. de Chavigni wrote me a
letter of four pages. He spoke like a philosopher and an experienced
man of the world.
He shewed me that if I were an old man like him, and able to insure a
happy and independent existence to my sweetheart after my death, I
should do well to keep her from all men, especially as there was so
perfect a sympathy between us; but that as I was a young man, and did
not intend to bind myself to her by the ties of marriage, I should
not only consent to a union which seemed for her happiness, but that
as a man of honour it was my duty to use my influence with her in
favour of the match. "With your experience," said the kind old
gentleman, "you ought to know that a time would come when you would
regret both having lost this opportunity, for your love is sure to
become friendship, and then another love will replace that which you
now think as firm as the god Terminus.
"Lebel," he added, "has told me his plans, and far from disapproving,
I have encouraged him, for your charming friend won my entire esteem
in the five or six times I had the pleasure of seeing her with you.
I shall be delighted, therefore, to have her in my house, where I can
enjoy her conversation without transgressing the laws of propriety.
Nevertheless, you will understand that at my age I have formed no
desires, for I could not satisfy them even if their object were
propitious." He ended by telling me that Lebel had not fallen in
love in a young man's style, that he had reflected on what he was
doing, and that he would consequently not hurry her, as she would see
in the letter he was going to send her. A marriage ought always to
be undertaken in cold blood.
I gave the letter to my housekeeper, who read it attentively, and
gave it back to me quite coolly.
"What do you think of his advice, dearest?"
"I think I had better follow it: he says there is no hurry, and delay
is all we want. Let us love each other and think only of that. This
letter is written with great wisdom, but I cannot imagine our
becoming indifferent to each other, though I know such a thing is
"Never indifferent; you make a mistake there."
"Well, friends, then; and that is not much better after being
"But friendship, dearest, is never indifferent. Love, it is true,
may be in its composition. We know it, as it has been thus from the
beginning of the world."
"Then the ambassador was right. Repentance might come and torment us
when love had been replaced by calmer friendship."
"If you think so, let us marry each other to-morrow, and punish
thereby the vices of our human nature."
"Yes, we will marry, but there is no hurry; fearing lest hymen should
quicken the departure of love, let us enjoy our happiness while we
"You speak admirably, my angel, and deserve the greatest good
"I wish for no greater than what you procure me."
We went to bed, continuing our discussions, and when we were in each
other's arms we made an arrangement which suited us very well.
"Lausanne," said she, "is a little town where you would meet with the
warmest hospitality, and during your fortnight's stay you will have
nothing to do but to make visits and to go to suppers. I am known to
all the nobility, and the Duke of Rosebury, who wearied me with his
love-making, is still there. My appearance with you will make
everybody talk, and it will be as annoying for you as for me. My
mother lives there, too. She would say nothing, but in her heart she
would be ill-pleased to see me as the housekeeper of a man like you,
for common sense would inform everyone that I was your mistress."
I thought she was right, and that it would be well to respect the
rules of society. We decided that she should go to Lausanne by
herself and stay with her mother, that in two or three days I should
follow her, and should live by myself, as long as I liked, having
full liberty to see her at her mother's.
"When you leave Lausanne," said she, "I will rejoin you at Geneva,
and then we will travel together where you please and as long as our
In two days she started early in the morning, sure of my constancy,
and congratulating herself on her discretion. I was sad at her
leaving me, but my calls to take leave served to rouse me from my
grief. I wished to make M. Haller's acquaintance before I left
Switzerland, and the mayor, M. de Muralt, gave me a letter of
introduction to him very handsomely expressed. M. de Haller was the
bailiff of Roche.
When I called to take leave of Madame de la Saone I found her in bed,
and I was obliged to remain by her bedside for a quarter of an hour.
She spoke of her disease, and gave the conversation such a turn that
she was able with perfect propriety to let me see that the ravages of
the disease had not impaired the beauty of her body. The sight
convinced me that Mignard had need of less courage than I thought,
and I was within an inch of doing her the same service. It was easy
enough to look only at her body, and it would have been difficult to
behold anything more beautiful.
I know well that prudes and hypocrites, if they ever read these
Memoirs, will be scandalized at the poor lady, but in shewing her
person so readily she avenged herself on the malady which had
disfigured her. Perhaps, too, her goodness of heart and politeness
told her what a trial it was to look at her face, and she wished to
indemnify the man who disguised his feelings of repugnance by shewing
him what gifts nature had given her. I am sure, ladies, that the
most prudish--nay, the most virtuous, amongst you, if you were
unfortunate enough to be so monstrously deformed in the face, would
introduce some fashion which would conceal your ugliness, and display
those beauties which custom hides from view. And doubtless Madame de
la Saone would have been more chary of her person if she had been
able to enchant with her face like you.
The day I left I dined with M---- I----, and was severely taken to
task by pretty Sara for having sent her little wife away before me.
The reader will see how I met her again at London three years later.
Le Duc was still in the doctor's hands, and very weak; but I made him
go with me, as I had a good deal of property, and I could not trust
it to anybody else.
I left Berne feeling naturally very sad. I had been happy there, and
to this day the thought of it is a pleasant one.
I had to consult Dr. Herrenschwand about Madame d'Urfe, so I stopped
at Morat, where he lived, and which is only four leagues from Berne.
The doctor made me dine with him that I might try the fish of the
lake, which I found delicious. I had intended to go on directly
after dinner, but I was delayed by a curiosity of which I shall
inform the reader.
After I had given the doctor a fee of two Louis for his advice, in
writing, on a case of tapeworm, he made me walk with him by the
Avanches road, and we went as far as the famous mortuary of Morat.
"This mortuary," said the doctor, "was constructed with part of the
bones of the Burgundians, who perished here at the well-known battle
lost by Charles the Bold."
The Latin inscription made me laugh.
"This inscription," said I, "contains an insulting jest; it is almost
burlesque, for the gravity of an inscription should not allow of
The doctor, like a patriotic Swiss, would not allow it, but I think
it was false shame on his part. The inscription ran as follows, and
the impartial reader can judge of its nature:
"Deo. opt. Max. Caroli inclyti et fortisimi Burgundie duds
exercitus Muratum obsidens, ab Helvetiis cesus, hoc sui
monumentum reliquit anno MCDLXXVI."
Till then I had had a great idea of Morat. Its fame of seven
centuries, three sieges sustained and repulsed, all had given me a
sublime notion of it; I expected to see something and saw nothing.
"Then Morat has been razed to the ground?" said I to the doctor.
"Not at all, it is as it always has been, or nearly so."
I concluded that a man who wants to be well informed should read
first and then correct his knowledge by travel. To know ill is worse
than not to know at all, and Montaigne says that we ought to know
But it was the following comic adventure which made me spend the
night at Morat:
I found at the inn a young maid who spoke a sort of rustic Italian.
She struck me by her great likeness to my fair stocking-seller at
Paris. She was called Raton, a name which my memory has happily
preserved. I offered her six francs for her favours, but she refused
the money with a sort of pride, telling me that I had made a mistake
and that she was an honest girl.
"It may be so," said I, and I ordered my horses to be put in. When
the honest Raton saw me on the point of leaving, she said, with an
air that was at once gay and timid, that she wanted two louis, and if
I liked to give her them and pass the night with her I should be well
"I will stay, but remember to be kind."
When everybody had gone to bed, she came into my room with a little
frightened manner, calculated to redouble my ardour, but by great
good luck, feeling I had a necessity, I took the light and ran to the
place where I could satisfy it. While there I amused myself by
reading innumerable follies one finds written in such places, and
suddenly my eyes lighted on these words:--
"This tenth day of August, 1760, the wretched Raton gave me the what-
d'-you-call-it: reader, beware."
I was almost tempted to believe in miracles, for I could not think
there were two Ratons in the same house. I returned gaily to my room
and found my sweetheart in bed without her chemise. I went to the
place beside the bed where she had thrown it down, and as soon as she
saw me touching it she begged me in a fright not to do so, as it was
not clean. She was right, for it bore numerous marks of the disease
which infected her. It may be imagined that my passion cooled, and
that I sent her away in a moment; but I felt at the same time the
greatest gratitude to what is called chance, for I should have never
thought of examining a girl whose face was all lilies and roses, and
who could not be more than eighteen.
Next day I went to Roche to see the celebrated Haller.
M. Haller--My Stay at Lausanne--Lord Rosebury--The Young Saconai--
Dissertation on Beauty--The Young Theologian
M. Haller was a man six feet high and broad in a proportion; he was a
well-made man, and a physical as well as a mental colossus. He
received me courteously, and when he had read M. de Muralt's letter,
he displayed the greatest politeness, which shews that a good letter
of introduction is never out of place. This learned man displayed to
me all the treasures of his knowledge, replying with exactitude to
all my questions, and above all with a rare modesty which astonished
me greatly, for whilst he explained the most difficult questions, he
had the air of a scholar who would fain know; but on the other hand,
when he asked me a scientific question, it was with so delicate an
art that I could not help giving the right answer.
M. de Haller was a great physiologist, a great doctor, and a great
anatomist. He called Morgagni his master, though he had himself made
numerous discoveries relating to the frame of man. While I stayed
with him he shewed me a number of letters from Morgagni and
Pontedera, a professor of botany, a science of which Haller had an
extensive knowledge. Hearing me speak of these learned men whose
works I had read at an early age, he complained that Pontedera's
letters were almost illegible and written in extremely obscure Latin.
He shewed me a letter from a Berlin Academician, whose name I have
forgotten, who said that since the king had read his letter he had no
more thoughts of suppressing the Latin language. Haller had written
to Frederick the Great that a monarch who succeeded in the unhappy
enterprise of proscribing the language of Cicero and Virgil from the
republic of letters would raise a deathless monument to his own
ignorance. If men of letters require a universal language to
communicate with one another, Latin is certainly the best, for Greek
and Arabic do not adapt themselves in the same way to the genius of
Haller was a good poet of the Pindaric kind; he was also an excellent
statesman, and had rendered great services to his country. His
morals were irreproachable, and I remember his telling me that the
only way to give precepts was to do so by example. As a good citizen
he was an admirable paterfamilias, for what greater proof could he
give of his love of country than by presenting it with worthy
subjects in his children, and such subjects result from a good
education. His wife was still young, and bore on her features the
marks of good nature and discretion. He had a charming daughter of
about eighteen; her appearance was modest, and at table she only
opened her mouth to speak in a low tone to a young man who sat beside
her. After dinner, finding myself alone with M. Haller, I asked him
who this young man was. He told me he was his daughter's tutor.
"A tutor like that and so pretty a pupil might easily become lovers."
"Yes, please God."
This Socratic reply made me see how misplaced my remark had been, and
I felt some confusion. Finding a book to my hand I opened it to
restore my composure.
It was an octavo volume of his works, and I read in it:
"Utrum memoria post mortem dubito."
"You do not think, then," said I, "that the memory is an essential
part of the soul?"
"How is that question to be answered?" M. de Haller replied,
cautiously, as he had his reasons for being considered orthodox.
During dinner I asked if M. de Voltaire came often to see him. By
way of reply he repeated these lines of the poet:--
"Vetabo qui Cereris sacrum vulgarit arcanum sub usdem sit trabibus."
I spent three days with this celebrated man, but I thought myself
obliged to refrain from asking his opinion on any religious
questions, although I had a great desire to do so, as it would have
pleased me to have had his opinion on that delicate subject; but I
believe that in matters of that kind M. Haller judged only by his
heart. I told him, however, that I should consider a visit to
Voltaire as a great event, and he said I was right. He added,
without the slightest bitterness,
"M. de Voltaire is a man who ought to be known, although, in spite of
the laws of nature, many persons have found him greater at a distance
than close at hand."
M. de Haller kept a good and abundant though plain table; he only
drank water. At dessert only he allowed himself a small glass of
liqueur drowned in an enormous glass of water. He talked a great
deal of Boerhaave, whose favourite pupil he had been. He said that
after Hypocrates, Boerhaave was the greatest doctor and the greatest
chemist that had ever existed.
"How is it," said I, "that he did not attain mature age?"
"Because there is no cure for death. Boerhaave was born a doctor, as
Homer was born a poet; otherwise he would have succumbed at the age
of fourteen to a malignant ulcer which had resisted all the best
treatment of the day. He cured it himself by rubbing it constantly
with salt dissolved in his own urine."
"I have been told that he possessed the philosopher's stone."
"Yes, but I don't believe it."
"Do you think it possible?"
"I have been working for the last thirty years to convince myself of
its impossibility; I have not yet done so, but I am sure that no one
who does not believe in the possibility of the great work can be a
When I left him he begged me to write and tell him what I thought of
the great Voltaire, and in, this way our French correspondence began.
I possess twenty-two letters from this justly celebrated man; and the
last word written six months before, his too, early death. The
longer I live the more interest I take in my papers. They are the
treasure which attaches me to life and makes death more hateful
I had been reading at Berne Rousseau's "Heloise," and I asked M.
Haller's opinion of it. He told me that he had once read part of it
to oblige a friend, and from this part he could judge of the whole.
"It is the worst of all romances, because it is the most eloquently
expressed. You will see the country of Vaud, but don't expect to see
the originals of the brilliant portraits which Jean Jacques painted.
He seems to have thought that lying was allowable in a romance, but
he has abused the privilege. Petrarch, was a learned man, and told
no lies in speaking of his love for Laura, whom he loved as every man
loves the woman with whom he is taken; and if Laura had not contented
her illustrious lover, he would not have celebrated her."
Thus Haller spoke to me of Petrarch, mentioning Rousseau with
aversion. He disliked his very eloquence, as he said it owed all its
merits to antithesis and paradox. Haller was a learned man of the
first class, but his knowledge was not employed for the purpose of
ostentation, nor in private life, nor when he was in the company of
people who did not care for science. No one knew better than he how
to accommodate himself to his company he was friendly with everyone,
and never gave offence. But what were his qualifications? It would
be much easier to say what he had not than what he had. He had no
pride, self-sufficiency, nor tone of superiority--in fact, none of
those defects which are often the reproach of the learned and the
He was a man of austere virtue, but he took care to hide the
austerity under a veil of a real and universal kindness. Undoubtedly
he thought little of the ignorant, who talk about everything right or
wrong, instead of remaining silent, and have at bottom only contempt
for the learned; but he only shewed his contempt by saying nothing.
He knew that a despised ignoramus becomes an enemy, and Haller wished
to be loved. He neither boasted of nor concealed his knowledge, but
let it run like a limpid stream flowing through the meadows. He
talked well, but never absorbed the conversation. He never spoke of
his works; when someone mentioned them he would turn the conversation
as soon as he conveniently could. He was sorry to be obliged to
contradict anyone who conversed with him.
When I reached Lausanne I found myself enabled to retain my incognito
for a day at any rate. I naturally gave the first place to my
affections. I went straight to my sweetheart without needing to ask
my way, so well had she indicated the streets through which I had to
pass. I found her with her mother, but I was not a little astonished
to see Lebel there also. However, my surprise must have passed
unnoticed, for my housekeeper, rising from her seat with a cry of
joy, threw her arms about my neck, and after having kissed me
affectionately presented me to her worthy mother, who welcomed me in
the friendliest manner. I asked Lebel after the ambassador, and how
long he had been at Lausanne.
He replied, with a polite and respectful air, that his master was
quite well, and that he had come to Lausanne on business, and had
only been there a few hours; and that, wishing to pay his regards to
Madame Dubois's mother, he had been pleasantly surprised to see the
daughter there as well.
"You know," he added, "what my intentions are. I have to go back to-
morrow, and when you have made up your minds, write to me and I will
come and take her to Soleure, where I will marry her."
He could not have spoken more plainly or honourably. I said that I
would never oppose the will of my sweetheart, and my Dubois,
interrupting me, said in her turn that she would never leave me until
I sent her away.
Lebel found these replies too vague, and told me with noble freedom
that we must give him a definite reply, since in such cases
uncertainty spoils all. At that moment I felt as if I could never
agree to his wishes, and I told him that in ten days I would let him
know of our resolution, whatever it was. At that he was satisfied,
and left us.
After his departure my sweetheart's mother, whose good sense stood
her instead of wit, talked to us in a manner that answered our
inclinations, for, amorous as we were, we could not bear the idea of
parting. I agreed that my housekeeper should wait up for me till
midnight, and that we could talk over our reply with our heads on the
My Dubois had a separate room with a good bed and excellent
furniture. She gave me a very good supper, and we spent a delicious
night. In the morning we felt more in love than ever, and were not
at all disposed to comply with Lebel's wishes. Nevertheless, we had
a serious conversation.
The reader will remember that my mistress had promised to pardon my
infidelities, provided that I confessed them. I had none to confess,
but in the course of conversation I told her about Raton.
"We ought to think ourselves very fortunate," said she, "for if it
had not been for chance, we should have been in a fine state now."
"Yes, and I should be in despair."
"I don't doubt it, and you would be all the more wretched as I should
never complain to you."
"I only see one way of providing against such a misfortune. When I
have been unfaithful to you I will punish myself by depriving myself
of the pleasure of giving you proofs of my affection till I am
certain that I can do so without danger."
"Ah! you would punish me for your faults, would you? If you love me
as I love you, believe me you would find a better remedy than that."
"What is that?"
"You would never be unfaithful to me."
"You are right. I am sorry I was not the first to think of this
plan, which I promise to follow for the future."
"Don't make any promises," said she, with a sigh, "it might prove too
difficult to keep them."
It is only love which can inspire such conversations, but
unfortunately it gains nothing by them.
Next morning, just as I was going out to take my letters, the Baron
de Bercei, uncle of my friend Bavois, entered.
"I know," said he, "that my nephew owes his fortune to you; he is
just going to be made general, and I and all the family will be
enchanted to make your acquaintance. I have come to offer my
services, and to beg that you will dine with me to-day, and on any
other day you please when you have nothing better to do, and I hope
you will always consider yourself of the family.
"At the same time I beg of you not to tell anybody that my nephew has
become a Catholic, as according to the prejudices of the country it
would be a dishonour which would reflect on the whole family."
I accepted his invitation, and promised to say nothing about the
circumstance he had mentioned.
I left my letters of introduction, and I received everywhere a
welcome of the most distinguished kind. Madame de Gentil-Langalerie
appeared the most amiable of all the ladies I called on, but I had
not time to pay my court to one more than another. Every day
politeness called me to some dinner, supper, ball, or assembly. I
was bored beyond measure, and I felt inclined to say how troublesome
it is to have such a welcome. I spent a fortnight in the little
town, where everyone prides himself on his liberty, and in all my
life I have never experienced such a slavery, for I had not a moment
to myself. I was only able to pass one night with my sweetheart, and
I longed to set off with her for Geneva. Everybody would give me
letters of introduction for M. de Voltaire, and by their eagerness
one would have thought the great man beloved, whereas all detested
him on account of his sarcastic humour.
"What, ladies!" said I, "is not M. de Voltaire good-natured, polite,
and affable to you who have been kind enough to act in his plays with
"Not in the least. When he hears us rehearse he grumbles all the
time. We never say a thing to please him: here it is a bad
pronunciation, there a tone not sufficiently passionate, sometimes
one speaks too softly, sometimes too loudly; and it's worse when we
are acting. What a hubbub there is if one add a syllable, or if some
carelessness spoil one of his verses. He frightens us. So and so
laughed badly; so and so in Alzire had only pretended to weep."
"Does he want you to weep really?"
"Certainly. He will have real tears. He says that if an actor wants
to draw tears he must shed them himself."
"I think he is right there; but he should not be so severe with
amateurs, above all with charming actresses like you. Such
perfection is only to be looked for from professionals, but all
authors are the same. They never think that the actor has pronounced
the words with the force which the sense, as they see it, requires."
"I told him, one day, that it was not my fault if his lines had not
the proper force."
"I am sure he laughed."
"Laughed? No, sneered, for he is a rude and impertinent man."
"But I suppose you overlook all these failings?"
"Not at all; we have sent him about his business."
"Sent him about his business?"
"Yes. He left the house he had rented here, at short notice, and
retired to where you will find him now. He never comes to see us
now, even if we ask him."
"Oh, you do ask him, though you sent him about his business?"
"We cannot deprive ourselves of the pleasure of admiring his talents,
and if we have teased him, that was only from revenge, and to teach
him something of the manners of good society."
"You have given a lesson to a great master."
"Yes; but when you see him mention Lausanne, and see what he will say
of us. But he will say it laughingly, that's his way."
During my stay I often saw Lord Rosebury, who had vainly courted my
charming Dubois. I have never known a young man more disposed to
silence. I have been told that he had wit, that he was well
educated, and even in high spirits at times, but he could not get
over his shyness, which gave him an almost indefinable air of
stupidity. At balls, assemblies--in fact, everywhere, his manners
consisted of innumerable bows. When one spoke to him, he replied in
good French but with the fewest possible words, and his shy manner
shewed that every question was a trouble to him. One day when I was
dining with him, I asked him some question about his country, which
required five or six small phrases by way of answer. He gave me an
excellent reply, but blushed all the time like a young girl when she
comes out. The celebrated Fox who was then twenty, and was at the
same dinner, succeeded in making him laugh, but it was by saying
something in English, which I did not understand in the least. Eight
months after I saw him again at Turin, he was then amorous of a
banker's wife, who was able to untie his tongue.
At Lausanne I saw a young girl of eleven or twelve by whose beauty I
was exceedingly struck. She was the daughter of Madame de Saconai,
whom I had known at Berne. I do not know her after history, but the
impression she made on me has never been effaced. Nothing in nature
has ever exercised such a powerful influence over me as a pretty
face, even if it be a child's.
The Beautiful, as I have been told, is endowed with this power of
attraction; and I would fain believe it, since that which attracts me
is necessarily beautiful in my eyes, but is it so in reality? I
doubt it, as that which has influenced me has not influenced others.
The universal or perfect beauty does not exist, or it does not
possess this power. All who have discussed the subject have
hesitated to pronounce upon it, which they would not have done if
they had kept to the idea of form. According to my ideas, beauty is
only form, for that which is not beautiful is that which has no form,
and the deformed is the opposite of the 'pulchrum' and 'formosum'.
We are right to seek for the definitions of things, but when we have
them to hand in the words; why should we go farther? If the word
'forma' is Latin, we should seek for the Latin meaning and not the
French, which, however, often uses 'deforme' or 'difforme' instead of
'laid', ugly, without people's noticing that its opposite should be a
word which implies the existence of form; and this can only be
beauty. We should note that 'informe' in French as well as in Latin
means shapeless, a body without any definite appearance.
We will conclude, then, that it is the beauty of woman which has
always exercised an irresistible sway over me, and more especially
that beauty which resides in the face. It is there the power lies,
and so true is that, that the sphinxes of Rome and Versailles almost
make me fall in love with them. though, the face excepted, they are
deformed in every sense of the word. In looking at the fine
proportions of their faces one forgets their deformed bodies. What,
then, is beauty? We know not; and when we attempt to define it or
to enumerate its qualities we become like Socrates, we hesitate. The
only thing that our minds can seize is the effect produced by it, and
that which charms, ravishes, and makes me in love, I call beauty. It
is something that can be seen with the eyes, and for my eyes I speak.
If they had a voice they would speak better than I, but probably in
the same sense.
No painter has surpassed Raphael in the beauty of the figures which
his divine pencil produced; but if this great painter had been asked
what beauty was, he would probably have replied that he could not
say, that he knew it by heart, and that he thought he had reproduced
it whenever he had seen it, but that he did not know in what it
"That face pleases me," he would say, "it is therefore beautiful!"
He ought to have thanked God for having given him such an exquisite
eye for the beautiful; but 'omne pulchrum difficile'.
The painters of high renown, all those whose works proclaim genius,
have excelled in the delineation of the beautiful; but how small is
their number compared to the vast craved who have strained every
nerve to depict beauty and have only left us mediocrity!
If a painter could be dispensed from making his works beautiful,
every man might be an artist; for nothing is easier than to fashion
ugliness, and brush and canvas would be as easy to handle as mortar
Although portrait-painting is the most important branch of the art,
it is to be noted that those who have succeeded in this line are very
few. There are three kinds of portraits: ugly likenesses, perfect
likenesses, and those which to a perfect likeness add an almost
imperceptible character of beauty. The first class is worthy only of
contempt and their authors of stoning, for to want of taste and
talent they add impertinence, and yet never seem to see their
failings. The second class cannot be denied to possess real merit;
but the palm belongs to the third, which, unfortunately, are seldom
found, and whose authors deserve the large fortunes they amass. Such
was the famous Notier, whom I knew in Paris in the year 1750. This
great artist was then eighty, and in spite of his great age his
talents seemed in all their freshness. He painted a plain woman; it
was a speaking likeness, and in spite of that those who only saw the
portrait pronounced her to be a handsome woman. Nevertheless, the
most minute examination would not have revealed any faithlessness to
the original, but some imperceptible touches gave a real but
indefinite air of beauty to the whole. Whence does that magic art
take its source? One day, when he had been painting the plain-
looking "Mesdames de France," who on the canvas looked like two
Aspasias, I asked him the above question. He answered:--
"It is a magic which the god of taste distils from my brains through
my brushes. It is the divinity of Beauty whom all the world adores,
and which no one can define, since no one knows of what it consists.
That canvas shews you what a delicate shade there is between beauty
and ugliness; and nevertheless this shade seems an enormous
difference to those unacquainted with art."
The Greek painters made Venus, the goddess of beauty, squint-eyed,
and this odd idea has been praised by some; but these painters were
certainly in the wrong.
Two squinting eyes might be beautiful, but certainly not so beautiful
as if they did not squint, for whatever beauty they had could not
proceed from their deformity.
After this long digression, with which the reader may not be very
well pleased, it is time for me to return to my sweetheart. The
tenth day of my visit to Lausanne, I went to sup and sleep with my
mistress, and that night was the happiest I remember. In the
morning, while we were taking coffee with her mother, I observed that
we seemed in no hurry to part. At this, the mother, a woman of few
words, took up the discourse in a polite and dignified manner, and
told me it was my duty to undeceive Lebel before I left; and at the
same time she gave me a letter she had had from him the evening
before. The worthy man begged her to remind me that if I could not
make up my mind to separate from her daughter before I left Lausanne,
it would be much more difficult for me to do so when I was farther
off; above all, if, as would probably be the case, she gave me a
living pledge of her love. He said that he had no thoughts of
drawing back from his word, but he should wish to be able to say that
he had taken his wife from her mother's hands.
When I had read the letter aloud, the worthy mother wept, and left us
alone. A moment's silence ensued, and with a sigh that shewed what
it cost her, my dear Dubois had the courage to tell me that I must
instantly write to Lebel to give up all pretensions to her, or to
come and take her at once.
"If I write and tell him to think no more of you, I must marry you
With this no she arose and left me. I thought it over for a quarter
of an hour, I weighed the pros and cons and still my love shrank from
the sacrifice. At last, on consideration that my housekeeper would
never have such a chance again, that I was not sure that I could
always make her happy, I resolved to be generous, and determined to
write to Lebel that Madame Dubois had decided of her own free will to
become his wife, that I had no right to oppose her resolution, and
that I would go so far as to congratulate him on a happiness I envied
him. I begged him to leave Soleure at once and come and receive her
in my presence from the hands of her worthy mother.
I signed the letter and took it to my housekeeper, who was in her
mother's room. "Take this letter, dearest, and read it, and if you
approve its contents put your signature beside mine." She read it
several times, while her good mother wept, and then, with an
affectionate and sorrowful air, she took the pen and signed. I
begged her mother to find somebody to take the letter to Soleure
immediately, before my resolution was weakened by repentance.
The messenger came, and as soon as he had gone, "Farewell," said I,
embracing her, with my eyes wet with tears, "farewell, we shall see
each other again as soon as Lebel comes."
I went to my inn, a prey to the deepest grief. This sacrifice had
given a new impetus to my love for this charming woman, and I felt a
sort of spasm, which made me afraid I should get ill. I shut myself
up in my room, and I ordered the servants to say I was unwell and
could see no one.
In the evening of the fourth day after, Lebel was announced. He
embraced me, saying his happiness would be due to me. He then left
me, telling me he would expect me at the house of his future bride.
"Excuse me to-day, my dear fellow," said I, "but I will dine with you
When he had left me, I told Le Duc to make all preparations for our
leaving the next day after dinner.
I went out early on the following day to take leave of everybody, and
at noon Lebel came to take me to that sad repast, at which, however,
I was not so sad as I had feared.
As I was leaving I begged the future Madame Lebel to return me the
ring I had given her, and as we had agreed, I presented her with a
roll of a hundred Louis, which she took with a melancholy air.
"I should never have sold it," she said, "for I have no need of
"In that case I will give it back to you, but promise me never to
part with it, and keep the hundred Louis as some small reward of the
services you have rendered me."
She shook my hand affectionately, put on my finger her wedding ring,
and left me to hide her grief. I wiped my tears away, and said to
"You are about to possess yourself of a treasure which I cannot
commend too highly. You are a man of honour; you will appreciate her
excellent qualities, and you will know how to make her happy. She
will love you only, take care of your household, and keep no secrets
from you. She is full of wit and spirits, and will easily disperse
the slightest shadow of ill humour which may fall on you."
I went in with him to the mother's room to take leave of her, and
Madame Dubois begged me to delay my departure and sup once more with
her. I told her that my horses were put in and the carriage waiting
at my door, and that such a delay would set tongues talking; but that
if she liked, she, her future husband and her mother, could come and
see me at an inn two leagues off on the Geneva road, where we could
stay as long as we liked. Lebel approved of the plan, and my
proposition was accepted.
When I got back to my inn I found my carriage ready, and I got in and
drove to the meeting-place, and ordered a good supper for four, and
an hour later my guests arrived.
The gay and even happy air of the newly betrothed surprised me, but
what astonished me more was the easy way with which she threw herself
into my arms as soon as she saw me. It put me quite out of
countenance, but she had more wit than I. However, I mustered up
sufficient strength to follow her cue, but I could not help thinking
that if she had really loved me she would not have found it possible
to pass thus from love to mere friendship. However, I imitated her,
and made no objections to those marks of affection allowed to
friendship, which are supposed to have no tincture of love in them.
At supper I thought I saw that Lebel was more delighted at having
such a wife than at the prospect of enjoying her and satisfying a
strong passion. That calmed me; I could not be jealous of a man like
that. I perceived, too, that my sweetheart's high spirits were more
feigned than real; she wished to make me share them so as to render
our separation less bitter, and to tranquillise her future husband as
to the nature of our feelings for one another. And when reason and
time had quieted the tempest in my heart, I could not help thinking
it very natural that she should be pleased at the prospect of being
independent, and of enjoying a fortune.
We made an excellent supper, which we washed down so well that at
last the gaiety which had been simulated ended by being real. I
looked at the charming Dubois with pleasure; I regarded her as a
treasure which had belonged to me, and which after making me happy
was with my full consent about to ensure the happiness of another.
It seemed to me that I had been magnanimous enough to give her the
reward she deserved, like a good Mussulman who gives a favourite
slave his freedom in return for his fidelity. Her sallies made me
laugh and recalled the happy moments I had passed with her, but the
idea of her happiness prevented my regretting having yielded my
rights to another.
As Lebel was obliged to return to Lausanne in order to get back to
Soleure in two days, we had to part. I embraced him and asked him to
continue his friendship towards me, and he promised with great
effusion to be my friend till death. As we were going down the
stair, my charming friend said, with great candour,
"I am not really gay, but I oblige myself to appear so. I shall not
be happy till the scar on my heart has healed. Lebel can only claim
my esteem, but I shall be his alone though my love be all for you.
When we see each other again, as from what you say I hope we shall,
we shall be able to meet as true friends, and perhaps we shall
congratulate each other on the wise part we have taken. As for you,
though I do not think you will forget me, I am sure that before long
some more or less worthy object will replace me and banish your
sorrow. I hope it will be so. Be happy. I may be with child; and
if it prove to be so, you shall have no cause to complain of my care
of your child, which you shall take away when you please. We made an
agreement on this point yesterday. We arranged that the marriage
should not be consummated for two months; thus we shall be certain
whether the child belongs to you or no, and we will let people think
that it is the legitimate offspring of our marriage. Lebel conceived
this plan that he might have his mind at rest on the supposed force
of blood, in which he declares he believes no more than I do. He has
promised to love the child as if he were its father. If you write to
me, I will keep you acquainted with everything; and if I have the
happiness to give you a child, it will be much dearer to me than your
We wept, and Lebel laughed to see us.
I could only reply by pressing her to my breast, and then I gave her
over to her future husband, who told me as he got into the carriage
that our long talk had pleased him very much.
I went to bed sadly enough. Next morning when I awoke, a pastor of
the Church of Geneva carne to ask me to give him a place in my
carriage. I agreed, and was not sorry I had done so.
This priest was an eloquent man, although a theologian, who answered
the most difficult religious questions I could put to him. There was
no mystery with him, everything was reason. I have never found a
more compliant Christianity than that of this worthy man, whose
morals, as I heard afterwards at Geneva, were perfectly pure. But I
found out that this kind of Christianity was not peculiar to him, all
his fellow-Calvinists thought in the same way.
Wishing to convince him that he was a Calvinist in name only, since
he did not believe that Jesus Christ was of the same substance as the
Father, he replied that Calvin was only infallible where he spoke 'ex
cathedra', but I struck him dumb by quoting the words of the Gospel.
He blushed when I reproached him with Calvin's belief that the Pope
was the Antichrist of the Apocalypse.
"It will be impossible to destroy this prejudice at Geneva," said he,
"till the Government orders the effacement of an inscription on the
church door which everybody reads, and which speaks of the head of
the Roman Church in this manner."
"The people," he added, "are wholly ignorant; but I have a niece of
twenty, who does not belong to the people in this way. I shall have
the honour of making you known to her; she is a theologian, and
pretty as well."
"I shall be delighted to see her, but God preserve me from arguing
"She will make you argue, and I can assure you that it will be a
pleasure for you!"
"We shall see; but will you give me your address?"
"No sir, but I shall have the honour of conducting you to your inn
and acting as your guide."
I got down at Balances, and was well lodged. It was the 20th of
August, 1760. On going to the window I noticed a pane of glass on
which I read these words, written with the point of a diamond: "You
will forget Henriette." In a moment my thoughts flew back to the
time in which Henriette had written these words, thirteen years ago,
and my hair stood on end. We had been lodged in this room when she
separated from me to return to France. I was overwhelmed, and fell
on a chair where I abandoned myself to deep thought. Noble
Henriette, dear Henriette, whom I had loved so well; where was she
now? I had never heard of her; I had never asked anyone about her.
Comparing my present and past estates, I was obliged to confess that
I was less worthy of possessing her now than then. I could still
love, but I was no longer so delicate in my thoughts; I had not those
feelings which justify the faults committed by the senses, nor that
probity which serves as a contrast to the follies and frailties of
man; but, what was worst of all, I was not so strong. Nevertheless,
it seemed that the remembrance of Henriette restored me to my
pristine vigour. I had no longer my housekeeper; I experienced a
great void; and I felt so enthusiastic that if I had known where
Henriette was I should have gone to seek her out, despite her
Next day, at an early hour, I went to the banker Tronchin, who had
all my money. After seeing my account, he gave me a letter of credit
on Marseilles, Genoa, Florence and Rome, and I only took twelve
thousand francs in cash. I had only fifty thousand crowns, three
hundred francs, but that would take me a good way. As soon as I had
delivered my letters, I returned to Balances, impatient to see M. de
I found my fellow-traveller in my room. He asked me to dinner,
telling me that I should have M. Vilars-Chandieu, who would take me
after dinner to M. de Voltaire, who had been expecting me for several
days. I followed the worthy man, and found at his house excellent
company, and the young theologian whom the uncle did not address till
I will endeavour to report as faithfully as possible the young
"What have you been doing this morning, my dear niece?"
"I have been reading St. Augustine, whom I thought absurd, and I
think I can refute him very shortly."
"On what point?"
"Concerning the mother of the Saviour."
"What does St. Augustine say?"
"You have no doubt remarked the passage, uncle. He says that the
Virgin Mary conceived Jesus Christ through the ears."
"You do not believe that?"
"Certainly not, and for three good reasons. In the first place
because God, being immaterial, had no need of a hole to go in or come
out by; in the second place, because the ear has no connection with
the womb; and in the third place, because Mary, if she had conceived
by the ear, would have given birth by the same channel. This would
do well enough for the Catholics," said she, giving me a glance, "as
then they would be reasonable in calling her a virgin before her
conception, during her pregnancy, and after she had given birth to
I was extremely astonished, and my astonishment was shared by the
other guests. Divine theology rises above all fleshly
considerations, and after what we had heard we had either to allow
her this privilege, or to consider the young theologian as a woman
without shame. The learned niece did not seem to care what we
thought, as she asked for my opinion on the matter.
"If I were a theologian and allowed myself an exact examination into
the miracles, it is possible I should be of your opinion; but as this
is by no means the case, I must limit myself to condemning St.
Augustine for having analysed the mystery of the Annunciation. I may
say, however, that if the Virgin had been deaf, St. Augustine would
have been guilty of a manifest absurdity, since the Incarnation would
have been an impossibility, as in that case the nerves of the ear
would have had no sort of communication with the womb, and the
process would have been inconceivable; but the Incarnation is a
She replied with great politeness that I had shown myself a greater
theologian than she, and her uncle thanked me for having given her a
lesson. He made her discuss various subjects, but she did not shine.
Her only subject was the New Testament. I shall have occasion to
speak of this young woman when I get back to Geneva.
After dinner we went to see Voltaire, who was just leaving the table
as we came in. He was in the middle of a court of gentlemen and
ladies, which made my introduction a solemn one; but with this great
man solemnity could not fail to be in my favour.