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The Empress Josephine by Louise Muhlbach

Part 8 out of 10

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1800 (18th Pluviose, year VIII.). This constitution named Bonaparte
as consul for ten years, and with him two other consuls, who were
more his secretaries than his colleagues. Next to him was
Cambaceres, as second consul for ten years, and then Lebrun, as
third consul for five years.

With these two consuls, Bonaparte, on the 19th of February, 1800,
made his solemn entry into the Tuileries. The old century, with its
Bourbon throne, its bloody revolution, its horrors, its party
passions, had passed away, and the new century found in the
Tuileries a hero who wanted to crush all parties with a hand of
iron, and to place his foot on the head of the revolution, so as to
close the abyss which it had opened, in order to build himself an
emperor's throne over it.

He was for the present satisfied to hear himself called "First
Consul;" he was willing for a short time to grant to the two men who
sat at his side in the carriage drawn by the six imperial grays,
that they should share the power with him, and should consider
themselves vested with the same authority. But Cambaceres and Lebrun
had a keen ear for the joyful shouts with which the people followed
their triumphal march from the Luxemburg to the Tuileries. They knew
very well that these shouts and acclamations were not addressed to
them, but only to General Bonaparte, the conqueror of Lodi and
Arcola, the hero of the pyramids, the "savior of society," who, on
the 18th Brumaire, had rescued France from the terrorists. Both
consuls were shrewd enough to draw a lesson from this enthusiasm of
the people, and willingly to fall back into the shade rather than to
be forced into it. The Tuileries had been appointed for the
residence of the three consuls, but the next day after their
triumphal entry Cambaceres left the royal palace to take up his
abode in the Hotel Elboeuf, on the Place de Carrousel. Lebrun, who
at first made the Flora Pavilion his headquarters, soon found it
more advisable to take his lodgings elsewhere, and he left the
Tuileries, to make his residence in the Faubourg St. Honore.



The Tuileries had again found a master; the halls where Marie
Antoinette received her joyous guests, her beautiful lady-friends,
were now again alive with elegant female figures, and resounded with
gay voices, cheerful laughter, and unaffected pleasantry. The
apartments in which Louis XVI. had passed such sad and fearful days,
where he had laid with his ministers such nefarious schemes, and
where royalty had been trodden down under the feet of the infuriated
populace--these rooms were now occupied by the hero who had subdued
the people, slain the revolution and restored to France peace and

The Tuileries had again found a master--the throne-room was still
vacant and empty, for the first consul of the republic dared not yet
lay claim to this throne which the revolution had destroyed, and
which the republic had forever removed from France. But if there was
no throne in the Tuileries, there was at least a court; and "Madame
Etiquette," driven away from the royal palace since the days of the
unfortunate Marie Antoinette, had again, though with modest and
timid step, slipped into the Tuileries. It is true, she now
clandestinely occupied a servant's room; but the day was not far
distant when, as Egeria, she would whisper advice and dictate laws
to the ear of the new Numa Pompilius; when all doors would be open
to her, and when she alone would, at all times, have access to the
mighty lord of France.

In the Luxemburg, the fraternity and the equality of the revolution
had been set aside, as, long before, on the 13th Vendemiaire, the
liberty of the revolution had been cast away. In the Luxemburg the
"citoyenne" Bonaparte had become "Madame" Bonaparte, and the young
daughter of the citizeness Josephine heard herself called
"Mademoiselle" Hortense!

After the entrance into the Tuileries, fraternity and equality
disappeared rapidly, and the distinctions of gentlemen and servants,
rulers and subjects, superiors and subordinates, were again
introduced. The chief of the administration was surrounded with
honors and distinctions; the court, with all its grades, degrees,
and titles, was there; it had its courtiers, flatterers, and
defamers; and also its brilliant festivities, splendors, and pomp!

It is true this was not the work of a moment, nor so rapid an
achievement as the transition from the Luxemburg to the Tuileries,
but the introduction of the words "madame" and "monsieur" removed
the first obstacle which held the whole French nation bound to the
same platform; and a second obstacle had fallen, when permission was
granted to all the emigres, with the exception of the royal family,
to return to their native country.

The aristocrats of old France returned in vast numbers; they, the
bearers of old names of glory, the legitimists, who had fled before
the guillotine, now hoped to win again the throne from the

They kept themselves, however, aloof from the consul, whose
greatness and power were derived from the revolution, and who was to
them a representative of the rebellious, criminal republic; but they
presented themselves to his wife, they brought their homage to
Josephine, the born aristocrat, the relative and friend of so many
emigrant families, and they hoped, through her influence, to obtain
what they dared not ask from the first consul--the re-establishment
of the throne of the Bourbons.

These aristocrats knew very well that Josephine longed for the
return of the royal family; that in her heart she cherished love and
loyalty to the unfortunate royal couple; and that, without any
personal ambition, without any desire for fame, but with the
devotedness of a royalist, and the affection of a noble, sensitive
woman, she sighed for the time when Bonaparte would again restore to
the heir of Louis XVI. the throne of the lilies, and recall to
France the Count de Lille, to replace him as king on his brother's

In fact, Josephine had faith in this fairy-tale of her royal heart;
she believed in those dreams with which her tender conscience lulled
her to repose, whenever she reproached herself, that she, the
subject, now walked and gave orders as mistress in this palace of
royalty! "Why, indeed, could she not believe in the realization of
those dreams, since Bonaparte himself seemed to cherish no further
wishes than to rest on his laurels, and to enjoy, in delightful
privacy, the peace he had given to France?

"I am looked upon as ambitious," said Bonaparte one day, in the
confidential evening conversations with his friends in Josephine's
drawing-rooms, "I am looked upon as ambitious, and why? Listen, my
friends, to what I am going to tell you, and which you may repeat to
all. In three years I shall retire from public life; I shall then
have about fifty thousand livres income, and that is sufficient for
my mode of living. I will get a country residence, since Josephine
loves a country life. One thing only I need, and this I claim--I
want to be the justice of the peace for my circuit. Now, say, am I

Every one laughed at the strange conceit of Bonaparte, who wished to
exchange his present course for the position of a justice of the
peace, and Bonaparte chimed in heartily with the laughter.

But Josephine believed those words of Bonaparte, and their echoes
had perchance penetrated even to Russia, to the ears of the
pretender to the French throne, the Count de Lille, and to the ears
of the Count d'Artois, his brother, and they both therefore based
their hopes on Josephine's winning her husband to the cause of the

Both sent their secret emissaries to Paris, to enter into some
compact with Josephine, and to prepare their pathway to the throne,
after having failed to negotiate directly with Bonaparte, who had
repelled all their efforts, and with haughty pride had answered the
autograph letter of the Count de Lille.

The Count d'Artois, enlightened by the fruitless efforts of his
brother, resorted to another scheme. He sent a female emissary to
Paris--not to Bonaparte, but to Josephine. Napoleon himself speaks
of it, in his Memorial of St. Helena, as follows:

"The Count d'Artois made his advances in a more eloquent and refined
manner. He sent to Paris the Duchess de Guiche, a charming woman,
who by the elegance of her manners and by her personal attractions
was well calculated to bring to a favorable result the object of her
mission. She easily obtained an introduction to Madame Bonaparte,
who was acquainted with all the persons of the old court. The
beautiful duchess was therefore invited to a dejeuner at Malmaison;
and during breakfast, when the conversation ran upon London, the
emigrants, and the princes, Madame de Guiche stated that a few days
before she had called upon the Count d'Artois. They had spoken of
current events, of the future of France, of the royal family, and
one of the confidants had asked the prince what would be the reward
of the first consul if he re-established the Bourbons! The prince
answered: 'First of all he would be created connetable, with all the
privileges attached to that rank, if that were agreeable to him. But
that would not be enough; we would erect to him on the Place de
Carrousel a tall and costly column, and on it we would raise the
statue of Bonaparte crowning the Bourbons.' A short time after the
dejeuner the consul entered, and Josephine had nothing more pressing
to do than to relate to him all these details. 'And have you
inquired,' asked her husband, 'whether this column would have for a
pedestal the corpse of the first consul?' The beautiful duchess was
still present, and with her winning ways she was well calculated to
carry her point. 'I shall ever be happy,' said she, 'and grateful
for the kindness of Madame Bonaparte in having granted me the
opportunity of gazing upon and listening to a great man--a hero.'
But it was all in vain; the Duchess de Guiche the same night
received orders to depart immediately; and the beauty of this
emissary appeared to Josephine too dangerous for her urgently to
intercede in her behalf. Early next morning Madame de Guiche was on
her way to the frontier." [Footnote: "Memorial de Ste. Helene," vol.
i., p. 34.]

The Count de Lille chose for his mediator a very devoted servant,
the most skilful of all his agents, the Marquis de Clermont
Gallerande. He also was kindly received by Josephine, and he found
access to her ear. With intense sympathy, and tears in her eyes, she
bade him tell her the sad wanderings of that unfortunate man, "his
majesty the King of France," and who as a fugitive was barely
tolerated, roaming from court to court, a protege of the good-will
of foreign potentates. Drawn away by her generous heart, and by her
unswerving loyalty to the faith of her childhood, she spoke
enthusiastically of the young royal couple who once had ruled in the
Tuileries; and she went so far as to express the hope that Bonaparte
would again make good what the revolution had destroyed, and that he
would restore to the King of France his lost throne.

The Marquis de Clermont, to prove to her what confidence he reposed
in her, and what consideration the King of France entertained for
the first consul and his adored wife, communicated to her a letter
from the Count de Lille to him, which was in itself a masterpiece,
well calculated to move the heart of Josephine.

The Count de Lille portrayed in this letter first the dangers which
would threaten Bonaparte if he should allow himself to be drawn into
the inconsiderate and criminal step of placing the crown of France
on his own head, and then continued:

"Sitting upon a volcano, Bonaparte would sooner or later be
destroyed by it if he hastens not in due time to close the crater.
Sitting upon the first step of the throne restored by his own hand,
he would be the object of a monarch's gratitude; he would receive
from France the highest regards, the more pure since they would be
the result of his administration and of public esteem. No one can
convince him of these truths better than she whose fortune is bound
up with his, who can be happy only in his happiness and honored only
in his reputation. I consider it a great point gained if you can
come into some relation with her. I know her sentiments from days of
old. The Count de Vermeuil, ex-governor of the Antilles, whose
judgment as you know is most excellent, has told me more than once
that in Martinique he had often noticed how her fealty to the crown
deepened nearly to distraction; and the protection which she grants
to my faithful subjects who appeal to her, entitles her justly to
the name you give her, 'an angel of goodness.' Let my sentiments be
known to Madame Bonaparte. You will not surprise her, but I flatter
myself that her soul will rejoice to know them." [Footnote:
Thibaudeau, "Histoire de la France, et de Napoleon Bonaparte," vol.
ii., p. 202.]

The Count de Lille was not deceived. Josephine's heart was filled
with joy at this confidence of the "King of France;" she was pleased
that the Marquis de Clermont had fulfilled his wishes, and that he
should with this letter have sent her a present. She read it with a
countenance full of enthusiasm, and with a tremulous voice, to her
daughter Hortense, whom she had educated to be as good a royalist as
herself; and both mother and daughter besieged, with earnest
petitions, with tears and prayers, and every expression of love, the
first consul to realize the hopes of the Count de Lille, and to
recall the exiled prince to his kingdom.

Bonaparte usually replied to all these requests with a silent smile;
sometimes also, when they were too violent and pressing, he repelled
them with unwilling vehemence.

"These women belong entirely to the devil!" said he, in his anger to
Bourrienne, "they are mad for royalty. The Faubourg St. Germain has
turned their heads, they are made the protecting genii of the
royalists; but they do not trouble me, and I am not displeased with

Bourrienne ventured to warn Josephine, and to call her attention to
this, that she might not so strongly plead before Bonaparte for the
Count de Lille, but Josephine answered him with a sad smile: "I wish
I could persuade him to call back the king, lest he himself may have
the idea of becoming such; for the fear that he may do this always
awakens in me a foreboding of evil, which I cannot banish from my
mind." [Footnote: Bourrienne, vol. iv., p. 108.]

But until the king was really recalled by the first consul,
Josephine had to be pleased to assume the place of queen in the
Tuileries, and to accept the homage which France and soon all Europe
brought to her. For now that the republic was firmly established,
and had made peace with the foreign powers, they sent their
ambassadors to the republic, and were received in the name of France
by the first consul and his wife.

It was indeed an important and significant moment when Josephine for
the first time in her apartments received the ambassadors of the
foreign powers. It is true no one called this "to give audience;" no
one spoke yet in genuine courtier's style of "great levee" or
"little levee;" the appellation of "madame" was yet in use, and
there was no court-marshal, no maids of honor, no chamberlains of
the palace. But the substance was the same, and, instead of the high
court-marshal, it was Talleyrand, the secretary for foreign affairs,
who introduced to Josephine the ambassadors, and who called their

This introduction of the ambassadors was the first grand ceremony
which, since the revolution, had taken place in the Tuileries. With
exquisite tact, Josephine had carefully avoided at this festivity
any pomp, any luxury of toilet. In a plain white muslin dress, her
beautiful brown hair bound up in a string of white pearls, and
holding Talleyrand's hand, she entered the great reception hall, in
which the foreign ambassadors, the generals, and the high
dignitaries of the republic were gathered. She came without
pretension or ostentation, but at her appearance a murmur of
admiration ran through the company, and brought on her cheeks the
timid blush of a young maiden. With the assurance of an accomplished
lady of the world she received the salutations of the ambassadors,
knew how to speak to each a gracious word, how to entertain them,
not with those worn-out, stereotyped phrases customary at royal
presentations, but in an interesting, intellectual manner, which at
once opened the way to an exciting, witty, and unaffected

Every one was enchanted with her, and from this day not only the
French aristocracy, but all distinguished foreigners who came to
Paris, were anxious to obtain the honor of a reception in the
drawing-room of the wife of the first consul; from this day
Josephine was the admiration of Europe, as she had already been that
of France and Italy. As the wife of the first consul of France she
could be observed and noticed by all Europe, and it is certainly a
most remarkable and unheard-of circumstance that of all these
thousands of eyes directed at her, none could find in her a stain or
blemish; that, though neither beautiful nor young, her sweet
disposition and grace so enchanted every one as to be accepted as
substitutes for them, while on account of her goodness and
generosity her very failings and weaknesses were overlooked, being
interwoven with so many virtues.

Constant, the first chamberlain of Bonaparte, who, at the time
Bonaparte was elected first consul, entered his service, describes
Josephine's appearance and character in the following manner:

"Napoleon's wife was of medium size; her figure was moulded with
rare perfection; her movements had a softness and an elasticity
which gave to her walk something ethereal, without diminishing the
majesty of a sovereign. Her very expressive physiognomy mirrored all
the emotions of her soul without losing aught of the enchanting
gentleness which was the very substance of her character. At the
moment of joy or merriment she was beautiful to behold. Never did a
woman more than she justify the expression that the eyes were the
mirror of the soul. Hers were of a deep-blue color, shadowed by
long, slightly-curved lids, and overarched by the most beautiful
eyebrows in the world, and her simple look attracted you toward her
as if by an irresistible power. It was difficult for Josephine to
give to this bewitching look an appearance of severity, yet she knew
how to make it imposing when she chose. Her hair was beautiful,
long, and soft; its light-brown color agreed marvellously well with
her complexion, which was a mixture of delicacy and freshness. At
the dawn of her lofty power the empress was fond of putting on for a
head-dress a red Madras, which gave her the piquant appearance of a
creole. But what more than any thing else contributed to the charm
which invested her whole person was the sweet tone of her voice. How
often it has happened to me and to many others amid our occupations,
as soon as this voice was heard, to remain still for the sake of
enjoying the pleasure of hearing it! It might be said, perhaps, that
the empress was not a beautiful woman; but her countenance, so full
of expression and goodness, the angelic grace which was shed over
her whole person, placed her among the most charming women of the

Further on, speaking of her character, he continues:

"Goodness was as inseparable from her character as grace from her
person. Good even to weakness, sensitive beyond all expression,
generous to extravagance, she was the delight of all those who were
round about her; certain it is that there never was a woman more
loved and more deservedly loved by those who approached her than
Josephine. As she had known what adversity was, she was full of
compassion for the sorrows of others; with a pleasant, equable
temperament, full of condescension alike to foe and friend, she
carried peace wherever discord or disunion existed; if the emperor
was displeased with his brothers, or with any other person, she
uttered words of affection, and soon restored harmony. She possessed
a wondrous tact, a rare sentiment of what was becoming, and the
soundest and most unerring judgment one can possibly imagine.
Besides all this, Josephine had a remarkable memory, to which the
emperor would often appeal. She was a good reader, and had a
peculiar charm of her own which accorded with all her movements.
Napoleon preferred her to all his other readers." [Footnote:
Constant, "Memoires," vol. i., pp. 21, 39; vol. ii., p. 70.]

The Duke de Rovigo, the Duchess d'Abrantes, Mdlle. Ducrest, the
niece of the Countess de Genlis, Mdlle. d'Avrillon, General
Lafayette, in a word, all who have written about that period who
knew Josephine, bear similar testimony to her amiable disposition
and her superior virtues.

In the same manner the man for whom, as Mdlle. Ducrest says, "she
would gladly have given her life," Napoleon, in his conversations
with his confidential friends at St. Helena, ever spoke of her. "In
all positions of life, Josephine's demeanor and actions were always
pleasant or bewitching," said he. "It would have been impossible
ever to surprise her, however intrusive you might be, so as to
produce a disagreeable impression. I always found her in the same
humor; she had the same amiable complacency; she was good, gentle,
and ever devoted to her husband in true affection. He never saw her
in bad humor; she was always constantly busy in endeavoring to
please him." [Footnote: "Memorial de Ste. Helene," vol. i. pp. 38,

And she pleased him more than any other woman; he loved her in these
happy days of the consulate with all the affection of the first days
of his marriage; his heart might now and then be drawn aside from
her to other women, but it always returned true and loving to her.

And this woman, whom the future King of France called an "angel of
goodness," and the future Emperor of France, "grace in person," is
the one who entered the Tuileries at Bonaparte's side to bring again
into France the tone of good society, refinement of manners,
intellectual conversation, and a love for the arts and sciences.

She was fully conscious of this mission, and devoted herself with
all the strength, energy, and perseverance of her character. Her
drawing-room soon became the central rendezvous of men of science,
art, learning, politics, and diplomacy, and to each Josephine knew
how to address friendly and captivating words; she knew how to
encourage every one by her noble affability, by her respectful
interest in their works and plans--so much so that all strove to do
as well as possible, and in her presence appeared more amiable than
they otherwise would perhaps have been. Alongside of the
distinguished men of every rank were seen the choicest company of
ladies, young, beautiful, and captivating; the most intelligent
women of the Faubourg St. Germain were not ashamed to appear in the
drawing-room of the wife of the first consul, and thought that the
glory of their old aristocratic names would not be tarnished by
association with Madame Bonaparte, who by birth belonged to them,
and formed a sort of connecting link between the departed royalty of
the last century and the republicans of the present.

This republicanism was soon to hide itself behind the columns and
mirrors of the large hall of reception in the Tuileries. Bonaparte--
the first consul, and shortly to be consul for life--would have
nothing to do with this republicanism, which reminded him of the
days of terrorism, anarchy, and the guillotine; and the words
"Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity," which the revolution had
written over the portals of the Tuileries, were obliterated by the
consul of the republic. France had been sufficiently bled, and had
suffered enough for these three words; it was now to rest under the
shadow of legal order and of severe discipline, after its golden
morning-dream of youth's enchanting hopes.

Bonaparte was to re-establish order and law; Josephine was to
remodel society and the saloon; her mission was to unite the
aristocracy of ancient France with the parvenues of the new; she was
to be to the latter a teacher of refinement, and of the genuine
manners and habits of so-called good society.

To accomplish this, the wife of the first consul needed the
assistance of some ladies of those circles who had remained in
lofty, haughty isolation; she needed the co-operation of the ladies
of the Faubourg St. Germain. It is true they made their morning
calls, and invited the former Viscountess de Beauharnais, with her
daughter, to their evening receptions; but they carefully avoided
being present at the evening circles of Madame Bonaparte, where
their exclusiveness was beset with the danger of coming in contact
with some "parvenu," or with some sprig of the army, or of the
financial bureaus. Josephine therefore had to recruit her troops
herself in the Faubourg St. Germain, so as to bring into her saloon
the necessary contingent of the old legitimist aristocracy, and she
found what she desired in a lady with whom she had been acquainted
as Viscountess de Beauharnais, and who then had ever shown herself
kind and friendly. This lady was the Countess de Montesson, the
morganatic wife of the Duke d'Orleans, the father of the Duke
Philippe Egalite, who, after betraying the monarchy to the
revolution, was betrayed by the revolution, and, like his royal
relatives, Louis and Marie Antoinette, had perished on the scaffold!

Soon after his entrance into the Tuileries, the first consul
invited, through his wife, the Countess de Montesson to visit him,
and when she was announced he advanced to meet her with an unusual
expression of friendship, and endeavored with great condescension to
make her say in what manner he could please her or be of service to

"General," said Madame de Montesson, much surprised, "I have no
right whatever to claim any thing from you."

Bonaparte smiled. "You are mistaken," said he; "I have been under
many obligations to you for a long time past. Do you not know that
to you I am indebted for my first laurels? You came with the Duke
d'Orleans to Brienne for the purpose of distributing the prizes at
the great examination, and when you placed on my head the laurel-
crown, which has since been followed by others, you said, 'May it
bring you happiness!' It is commonly believed that I am a fatalist;
it is therefore very natural that I should not have forgotten my
first coronation, and that it is still fresh in my memory. It would
afford me much pleasure to be of service to you; besides, you can be
useful to me. The tone of good society has nearly perished in
France; we would like to renew it again with your assistance. I need
some of the traditions of days gone by--you can assist my wife with
them; and when a distinguished foreigner comes to Paris you can give
him a reception which will convince him that nowhere else can so
much gentleness and amiableness be found." [Footnote: "Memoires de
Mdlle. Ducrest," vol. i., p. 9.]

That Madame de Montesson might have a striking proof of Bonaparte's
good-will, he renewed her yearly pension of one hundred and eighty
thousand francs, which the duke had donated to her in his will, and
which Bonaparte restored to her as the property which the revolution
had confiscated for the nation's welfare. She manifested her
gratitude to the first consul for this liberal pension by opening
the saloons to the "parvenues of the Tuileries;" and leading the
aristocrats of the Faubourg St. Germain into the drawing-rooms of
Josephine, and then assisting her to form out of these elements a
court whose lofty and brilliant centre was to be Josephine herself.
The ladies of the Faubourg St. Germain were no longer ashamed to
appear at the new court of the Tuileries, but excused themselves by
saying: "We flatter Josephine, so as to keep her on our side, and to
strengthen her loyalty to the king. She will, by her entrancing
eloquence, persuade the consul to recall our King Louis XVIII., and
give him his crown."

But too soon, alas! were they made aware of their error. It was not
long before they became convinced that, if Bonaparte's hands were
busy in raising a throne, in lifting up from the earth the fallen
crown of royalty, he was not doing this to place it on the brow of
the Count de Lille; he had a nearer object in view--he considered
his own head better suited to wear it.

The conqueror of terrorism and of the revolution was not inclined to
be defeated by the enemies of the republic, who were approaching the
frontiers of France, to restore the Bourbons. He took up the glove
which Austria had thrown down--for she had made alliance with

On the 6th of May, 1800, Bonaparte left Paris, marched with his army
over Mount St. Bernard, and assumed the chief command of the army in
Italy, which recently had suffered so many disastrous defeats from
Suwarrow and the Archduke Charles.

At Marengo, on the 14th of June, Bonaparte obtained a brilliant
triumph. Soon after, at Hohenlinden, Moreau also defeated the
Austrians. These two decisive victories forced Austria to make peace
with France, to abandon her alliance with England--that is to say,
with the monarchical principles; and, at the peace ratified in the
beginning of the year 1801 at Limeville, to concede to France the
grand-duchy of Tuscany.

In July, Bonaparte returned in triumph to France, and was received
by the people with enthusiastic acclamations. Paris was brilliantly
illuminated on the day of his return, and round about the Tuileries
arose the shouts of the people, who with applauding voices demanded
to see the conqueror of Marengo, and would not remain quiet until he
appeared on the balcony. Even Bonaparte was touched by this
enthusiasm of the French people; as he retreated from the balcony
and retired into his cabinet, he said to Bourrienne. "Listen! The
people shout again and again; they still send their acclamations
toward me. I love those sounds; they are nearly as sweet as
Josephine's voice. How proud and happy I am to be loved by such a
people!" [Footnote: Bourrienne, vol. v., p. 35.]



The victory of Marengo, which had pleased the people, had filled the
royalists with terror and fear, and destroyed their hopes of a
speedy restoration of the monarchy, making them conscious of its
fruitless pretensions. With the frenzy of hatred and the bitterness
of revenge they turned against the first consul, who was not now
their expected savior of the monarchy, but a usurper who wanted to
gain France for himself.

The royalists and the republicans united for the same object. Both
parties longed to destroy Bonaparte: the one to re-establish the
republic of the year 1793, and the other the throne of the Bourbons.
Everywhere conspiracies and secret associations were organized, and
the watchful and active police discovered in a few months more than
ten plots, the aim of which was to murder Bonaparte.

Josephine heard this with sorrow and fear, with tears of anxiety and
love. She had now given her whole heart and soul to Bonaparte, and
it was the torment of martyrdom to see him every day threatened by
assassins and by invisible foes, who from dark and hidden places
drew their daggers at him. Her love surrounded him with vigilant
friends and servants, who sought to discover every danger and to
remove it from his path.

When he was coming to Malmaison, Josephine before his arrival would
send her servants to search every hiding-place in the park, to see
if in some shady grove a murderer might not be secreted; she
entreated Junot or Murat to send scouts from Paris on the road to
Malmaison to remove all suspicious persons from it. Yet her heart
trembled with anxiety when she knew him to be on the way, and, when
he had safely arrived, she would receive him with rapture, as if he
had just escaped an imminent danger, and would make him laugh by the
exclamations of joy with which she greeted him as one saved from

In the anxiety of her watchful love she made herself acquainted with
all the details of the discovered conspiracies of both the Jacobins
and royalists. She knew there were two permanent conspiracies at
work, though their leaders had been discovered and led into prison.

One of these conspiracies had been organized by the old Jacobins,
the republicans of the Convention; and these bands of the "enraged,"
as they called themselves, numbered in their ranks all the enemies
of constitutional order, all the men of the revolution of 1789; and
all these men had sworn with solemn oaths to kill Bonaparte, and to
deliver the republic from her greatest and most dangerous enemy.

The other conspiracy, which had its ramifications throughout France,
was formed by the royalists. "The Society of the White Mantle" was
mostly composed of Chouans, daring men of Vendee, who were ever
ready to sacrifice their lives to the mere notion of royalty, and
who like the Jacobins had sworn to murder Bonaparte.

Chevalier, who, with his ingenious infernal machine, sought to kill
Bonaparte on his way to Malmaison, belonged to the Society of the
White Mantle. But he was betrayed by his confidant and associate
Becyer, who assisted the police to arrest him. To the conspiracy of
the "enraged" belonged the Italians Ceracchi, Arena, and Diana, who
at the opera, when the consul appeared in his loge, and was greeted
by the acclamations of the people, were ready to fire their pistols
at him. But at the moment they were about to commit the deed from
behind the side-scenes, where they had hidden themselves, they were
seized, arrested, and led to prison by the police. Josephine, as
already said, knew all these conspiracies; she trembled for
Bonaparte's life, and yet she could not prevent him from appearing
in public, and she herself, smiling and apparently unsuspecting, had
to appear at Bonaparte's side at the grand parades, in the national
festivities, and at the theatrical performances; no feature on her
face was to betray the anxiety she was enduring.

One day, however, not only Bonaparte's life but also that of
Josephine, was imperilled by the conspirators; the famous infernal
machine which had been placed on their way to the opera, would have
killed the first consul and his wife, if a red Persian shawl had not
saved them both.

At the grand opera, that evening, was to be performed Joseph Haydn's
masterpiece, "The Creation." The Parisians awaited this performance
with great expectation; they rushed to the opera, not only to hear
the oratorio, the fame of which had spread from Vienna to Paris, but
also to see Bonaparte and his wife, who it was known would attend
the performance.

Josephine had requested Bonaparte to be present at this great
musical event, for she knew that the public would be delighted at
his presence. He at first manifested no desire to do so, for he was
not sufficiently versed in musical matters for it to afford him much
enjoyment; and besides, there was but one kind of music he liked,
and that was the Italian, the richness of whose melody pleased him,
while the German and French left him dissatisfied and weary.
However, Bonaparte gave way to the entreaties of Josephine, and
resolved to drive to the opera. The dinner that day had been
somewhat later than usual, for besides Josephine, her children, and
Bonaparte's sister Caroline, Murat, the Generals Bessieres and
Lannes, as well as Bonaparte's two adjutants, Lebrun and Rapp, had
been present. Immediately after dinner they wanted to drive to the
opera; but as Josephine lingered behind, busy with the arrangement
of her shawl, Bonaparte declared he would drive in advance with the
two Generals Bessieres and Lebrun, while Rapp was to accompany the
ladies in the second carriage. With his usual rapidity of action he
seized his hat and sword, and, followed by his companions, left the
room to go to the carriage, which was waiting.

Josephine, who imagined that Bonaparte was waiting for her at the
carriage, hurriedly put on, without troubling herself any longer
about the becoming arrangement of the folds, a red Persian shawl,
which Bonaparte had sent her as a present from Egypt. She was going
to leave, when Rapp, with the openness of a soldier, made the remark
that she had not put on her shawl to-day with her accustomed
elegance. She smiled, and begged him to arrange it after the fashion
of Egyptian ladies. Rapp laughingly hastened to comply with her
wishes; and while Josephine, Madame Murat, and Hortense, watched
attentively the arrangement of the shawl in the hands of Rapp,
Bonaparte's carriage was heard moving away.

This noise put a speedy end to all further movements, and Josephine,
with the ladies and Rapp, hastened to follow Bonaparte. Their
carriage had no sooner reached the Place de Carrousel, than an
appalling explosion was heard, and a bright flame like a lightning-
flash filled the whole place with its glare; at the same moment the
windows of the carriage were broken into fragments, which flew in
every direction into the carriage, and one of which penetrated so
deep into the arm of Hortense, that the blood gushed out. Josephine
uttered a cry of horror--"Bonaparte is murdered!" At the same moment
were heard loud shrieks and groans.

Rapp, seized with fear, and only thinking that Bonaparte was in
danger, sprang out of the carriage, and, careless of the wounded and
bleeding, who lay near, ran onward to the opera to find out if
Bonaparte had safely reached there. While the ladies, in mortal
agony, remained on the Place de Carrousel, not knowing whether to
return to the Tuileries or to drive forward, a messenger arrived at
full speed to announce that the first consul had not been hurt, and
that he was waiting for his wife in his loge, and begged her to come
without delay. Meanwhile Rapp had reached the opera, and had
penetrated into the box of the first consul. Bonaparte was seated
calmly and unmoved in his accustomed place, examining the audience
through his glass, and now and then addressing a few words to the
secretary of police, Fouche, who stood near him. No sooner did
Bonaparte see Rapp, than he said hastily, and in a low voice--

At that moment she entered, followed by Madame Murat and Hortense.
Bonaparte saluted them with a smile, and with a look of unfathomable
love he extended his hand to Josephine. She was still pale and
trembling, although she had no conception of the greatness of the
danger which had menaced her.

Bonaparte endeavored to quiet her by stating that the explosion was
probably the result of some accident or imprudence; but at this
moment the prefect of the police entered who had been on the spot,
and had come to give a report of the dreadful effects of the
explosion. Fifteen persons had been killed, more than thirty had
been severely wounded, and about forty houses seriously damaged.
This was all the work of a so-called infernal machine--a small
barrel filled with powder and quicksilver--which had been placed in
a little carriage at the entrance of the Hue St. Nicaise.

Until now Josephine did not realize the extent of the danger which
had threatened her and her husband. Had the explosion taken place a
few moments before, it would have killed the consul; if it had been
one minute later, Josephine and her companions would have been
involved in the catastrophe. It was the shawl which Rapp was
arranging on her shoulders according to the rules of art, which
caused them to retard their departure, and thus saved her life.

An inexpressible horror now seized her and made her tremble; her
looks, full of love and deep anguish, were fixed on Bonaparte, who,
in a low voice, entreated her to compose herself, and not to make
her distress public. Near Josephine sat Hortense, pale and agitated,
like her mother; around her wounded arm was wrapped a handkerchief,
stained here and there with blood. Madame Murat was quiet and
composed, like Bonaparte, who was then giving instructions to the
prefect of police to provide immediate assistance for the
unfortunate persons who had been wounded.

No one yet in the audience knew the appalling event. The thundering
noise had been heard, but it was presumed to have been an artillery
salute, and no evil was suspected, for Bonaparte, with his usual
guards, had entered his box, and, advancing to its very edge, had
saluted the public in a friendly way. This act of the first consul
had its ordinary effect: the audience, indifferent to the music,
rose and saluted their hero with loud acclamation and applause. Not
till Josephine entered the loge had the acclamations subsided, and
the music begun again. A few minutes after, the news of the fearful
event spread all over the house: a murmur arose, and the music was
interrupted anew.

The Duchess d'Abrantes, who was present at this scene, gives a
faithful, eloquent, and graphic picture of it:

"A vague noise," says she, "began to spread from the parterre to the
orchestra, and from the amphitheatre to the boxes. Soon the news of
the occurrence was known all over the house, when, like a sudden
clap of thunder, an acclamation burst forth, and the whole audience,
with a single undivided look of love, seemed to desire to embrace
Bonaparte. What I am narrating I have seen, and I am not the only
one who saw it. ... What excitement followed this first explosion of
national anger, which at this moment was represented by the
audience, whose horror at the dark plot cannot be described with
words! Women were seen weeping and sobbing; men, pale as death,
trembled with vengeance and anger, whatever might have been the
political standard which they followed; all hearts and hands were
united to prove that difference of opinion creates no difference in
the interpretation of the code of honor. During the whole scene my
eyes were fixed on the loge of the consul. He was quiet, and only
seemed moved when public sentiment gave utterance to strong
expressive words about the conspiracy, and these reached him. Madame
Bonaparte was not fully composed. Her countenance was disturbed;
even her attitude, generally so very graceful, was no longer under
her control. She seemed to tremble under her shawl as under a
protecting canopy, and in fact it was this shawl which had saved her
from destruction. She was weeping; however much she endeavored to
compose herself, she could not repress her tears; they would flow,
against her will, down her pale cheeks, and, whenever Josephine
fixed her eyes upon her husband, she trembled again. Even her
daughter seemed extremely agitated, and Madame Murat alone preserved
the family character, and seemed entirely herself." [Footnote:
Duchess d'Abrantes, "Memoires," vol. ii., p. 66.]

At last, when the public excitement was somewhat abated, and the
music was again resumed, the audience turned its attention to
Hadyn's masterpiece. But Josephine had not the strength to bear this
effort, and to submit to it quietly. She entreated her husband to
retire with her and the ladies; and when at last he acceded to her
request, and had quietly left the loge with her, Josephine sat by
him in the carriage, opposite Caroline and Hortense, and, sobbing,
threw herself on Bonaparte's breast, and cried out in her anguish:

"What a life, where I must ever be trembling for you!"

The infernal machine did not kill the first consul, but it gave to
liberty and to the republic a fatal blow; it scattered into
fragments what remained of the revolutionary institutions from the
days of blood and terror. France rose up in disgust and horror
against the party which made of assassins its companions, and
consequently this conspiracy failed to accomplish what its
originators had expected. They wanted to destroy Bonaparte and ruin
his power, but this abortive attempt only increased his popularity,
enlarged his power, and deepened the people's love for him who now
appeared to them as a protecting rampart, and a barrier to the flood
of anarchy.

France gave herself up trembling, and without a will of her own,
into the hands of the hero to whom she was indebted for fame and
recognition by foreign powers, and through whom she hoped to secure
domestic peace. France longed for a strong arm to support her;
Bonaparte gave her this arm, but it not only supported France, it
bowed her down; and from this day he placed the reins on the wild
republican steed, and let it feel that it had found a master who had
the power and the will to direct it entirely in accordance with his

Bonaparte was determined to put an end to the seditions and
conspiracies of the republicans, whom he hated because they had for
their aim the downfall of all legitimate authority; and in turn was
hated by them because he had abandoned their standard and turned
against the republic with the faithlessness of a son who attacks the
mother that gave him birth. Bonaparte maintained that it was the
republicans who had set the infernal machine on his path, and paid
no attention to the opinion of Fouche, who ascribed to the royalists
the origin of the plot. Bonaparte wished first to do away with his
most violent and bitter enemies, the republicans of the year 1789;
he desired to possess the power of punishing such, and to render
them harmless, and now the horror produced by this criminal act came
to his assistance in carrying out this plan.

The council of the state adopted the legislative enactment that the
consuls should have "the power to remove from Paris those persons
whose presence they considered dangerous to the public security, and
that all such persons who should leave their place of banishment
should be transported from the country!"

Under this law, George Cadoudal, Chevalier, Arena, Ceracchi, and
many others were executed; and one hundred and thirty persons, whose
only crime was that of being suspected of dissatisfaction toward the
administration of the consuls, and considered as Bonaparte's
enemies, were transported to Cayenne.

Such were for France the results of this infernal machine, the
object of which was to assassinate the Consul Bonaparte, instead of
which it had only the effect of destroying his enemies and
strengthening his power.



As mighty events always exercise an influence on minor ones, so this
fearful attempt at murder became the occasion for the introduction
into France of a new branch of industry, which had hitherto drawn
millions from Europe to the East.

Josephine, gratefully remembering her truly wonderful deliverance
through the means of her Persian shawl, wore it afterward in
preference to any other. Until then she had never fancied it, for
when Bonaparte sent it to her from Egypt, she wrote to him: "I have
received the shawl. It may be very beautiful and very costly, but I
find it unsightly. Its great advantage consists in its lightness. I
doubt, however, if this new fashion will meet with approbation.
Notwithstanding, I am pleased with it, for it is rare and warm."
[Footnote: "Memoires sur l'Imperatrice," par Mademoiselle Ducrest,
vol. iii., p. 227.]

But after it had saved her life, she no longer thought it unsightly,
she was fond of wrapping herself up in it, and the natural
consequence was, that these Persian shawls soon formed the most
fashionable and costly article of apparel.

Every lady of the higher classes considered it a necessity to cover
her tender shoulders with this valuable foreign material, and it
soon became "comme il faut" a duty of position, to possess a
collection of such Persian shawls, and to wear them at the balls and
receptions in the Tuileries.

The desire to possess such a precious article of fashion led these
ladies oftentimes to "corriger la fortune" and to obtain, by some
bold but not very creditable act, possession of such a shawl, which
had now become in a certain measure the escutcheon of the new French

The Duchess d'Abrantes, in reference to this matter, relates two
thefts which at that time troubled the aristocratic society of the
Tuileries, which prove that the ladies had taken instructions from
the gentlemen, and that dishonest persons of both sexes were
admitted into the society of heroes and their beautiful wives!

At a morning reception in the Tuileries, the shawl of the Countess
de St. Martin had been stolen; and this lady was very much
distressed at the loss, for this cashmere was not only a present
from Madame Murat, but was one of uncommon beauty, on account of the
rarity of the design, consisting of paroquets in artistic groups,
instead of the ordinary palm. The countess was therefore untiring in
recounting to every one her irreparable loss, and uttered bitter
curses against the bold female who had stolen her treasure.

"A few weeks later," relates the duchess, "at a ball given by the
minister Talleyrand, the countess came toward me with a bright
countenance and told me that she had just now found her shawl, and,
strange to say, upon the shoulders of a young lady at the ball!

"'But,' said I to her, 'you will not accuse this lady before the
whole company!'

"'And why not?'

"'Because that would be wrong. Leave this matter to me.'

"She would not at first, but I pressed the subject on her
consideration, and she agreed at length to remain somewhat behind,
while I approached the young lady, who stood near the door, and was
just going to leave the ballroom. I told her in a low voice that in
all probability she had made a mistake; that she had perhaps mislaid
her own cashmere, and had through carelessness taken the shawl of
the Countess de St. Martin.

"I was as polite as I could possibly be in such a communication; but
the young lady looked at me unpleasantly for such an impertinent
intrusion, and replied that 'since the time the Countess de St.
Martin had deafened the ears of every one with the story of her
stolen shawl, she had had ample leisure to recognize as her property
the cashmere she wore.' Her mother, who stood a few steps from her,
and was conversing with another lady, turned toward her when she
heard her daughter speak in so loud a voice. But the Countess de St.
Martin, who had overheard that she 'had deafened the ears of every
one with the story of her stolen shawl,' rushed in to the rescue of
her case.

"'This cashmere belongs to me,' said she, haughtily--seizing, at the
same time, the shawl with one hand, while the young lady with her
fist thrust her back violently. I saw that in a moment they would
come to blows.

"'It will be easy to end this difficulty,' said I to the Countess de
St. Martin. 'Madame will be kind enough to tell us where she has
purchased this shawl which is so much like yours, and then you will
see your mistake, and be satisfied.'

"'It does not suit me to tell where I got this shawl,' replied the
lady, looking at me contemptuously; 'there is no necessity for my
telling you where I purchased it.'

"'Well, then,' exclaimed eagerly the Countess de St. Martin, 'you
confess, madame, that the shawl really belongs to you?'

"The other answered with a sarcastic smile, and drew the shawl
closer to her shoulders. A few persons, attracted by the strangeness
of such a scene, had gathered around us, and seemed to wait for the
end of so extraordinary an event.

"The countess continued with a loud voice:

"'Well, then, madame, since the shawl belongs to you, you can
explain to me why the name of Christine, which is my first name, is
embroidered in red silk on the small edging. Madame Junot will be
kind enough to look for this name.'

"The young woman became pale as death. I shall never during my life
forget the despairing look which she gave me, as with trembling hand
she passed me the shawl, just as her father appeared from a room
near the place of the scene. I took the cashmere with an unsteady
hand, and sought reluctantly for the name of Christine, for I
trusted she would at least have taken it out; but the deathly
paleness of the guilty one told the contrary, and in fact I had no
sooner unfolded the shawl, than the name appeared, embroidered at
the narrow edging.

"'Ah!' at last exclaimed the countess, in a triumphant tone, 'I
have--' but as she raised her eyes to the young woman, she was
touched by her despairing look. 'Well, then,' cried she, 'this is
one of those mistakes which so often happen. To-morrow I will return
your cashmere.--We have exchanged cashmeres,' said she, turning to
the young lady's father, who, surprised at seeing her naked
shoulders, gazed at his daughter, not understanding the matter. 'You
will have the goodness to send me my shawl to-morrow,' added she,
noticing how the young woman trembled.

"We returned into the ballroom, and the next day the young lady sent
to the Countess de St. Martin her precious shawl.

"Something similar to this happened at the same time to Madame
Hamelin. She was at a ball; when rising from her seat to join in a
contra-dance, she left there a very beautiful black shawl; when she
returned, her shawl was no longer there, but she saw it on the
shoulders of a well-known and distinguished lady. Approaching her,
she said:

"'Madame, you have my shawl!'

"'Not at all, madame!'

"'But, madame, this is my shawl, and, as an evidence, I can state
the number of its palms--it has exactly thirteen, a very unusual

"'My shawl has also, by chance, precisely thirteen palms.'

"'But,' said Madame Hamelin, 'I have torn it since I came here. You
can see where it is torn, and by that means I recognize my shawl.'

"'Ah, my goodness! my shawl has also been torn; that is precisely
why I bought it, for I obtained it on that account somewhat

"It is useless to dispute with a person who is determined to follow
Basil's receipt, that 'what is worth taking is worth keeping.'
Madame Hamelin lost her shawl, and had, as a sole consolation, the
petty vengeance of relating to everybody how it was taken, and of
pointing out the thief, who was in the meanwhile perfectly
shameless." [Footnote: Abrantes, "Memoires," vol. ix., pp. 70-76.]

No one, however, had a larger and more choice selection of these
cashmere shawls than Josephine. Mdlle. Ducrest relates that the
deceased empress had more than one hundred and fifty of the most
magnificent and costly cashmere shawls. She had sent to
Constantinople patterns from which she had them made there, as
pleasing to the eye as they were costly and precious. Every week M.
Lenormant, the first man-milliner in Paris, came to Navarra, the
country residence of the empress, and brought his most beautiful
shawls for her selection. The empress possessed several (having a
white ground covered with roses, violets, paroquets, peacocks, and
other objects of beauty hitherto unknown in France) each of which
cost from fifteen to twenty thousand francs.

The empress went so far in her passion for cashmeres as to have
dresses made of the same material. One day she had put on one of
these dresses, which was so beautiful, that some gentlemen invited
to dinner could not withhold their admiration. One of them, Count
Pourtales, thought that this splendid material would be well adapted
for a gentleman's vest. Josephine, in her large-heartedness, had a
pair of scissors brought; she then cut her dress into several pieces
sufficiently large for a vest, and divided them among the gentlemen
present, so that only the bodice of the dress remained, with a small
piece around the waist But this improvised spencer over the white
richly-embroidered under-dress, was so exceedingly becoming to the
empress, and brought out so exquisitely her beautiful bust, and
slender graceful waist, that it would have been easy to consider as
a piece of coquetry what was simply Josephine's spontaneous
generosity. [Footnote: Mademoiselle Ducrest.]

Josephine, however, did not so assiduously attend to her cashmere
shawls as to forget the unfortunate victims of the infernal machine.
On the contrary, she saw with deep pain how every one was busy in
inculpating others, and in casting suspicions on royalists and
Jacobins, so as to give a pretext to punish them. She noticed that
all those who wished to gain the consul's favor were zealous in
spying out fresh culprits, for it was well known that Bonaparte was
inclined to make of all hostile parties a terrible example, so that,
through the severity of the punishment and the number of the
punished, he might deter the dissatisfied from any further plots.

Josephine's compassionate heart was distressed, through sympathy for
so many unfortunate persons, whom wicked men maliciously were
endeavoring to drag into guilt, so as to have them punished; and the
injustice which the judges manifested at every hearing filled her
with anger and horror. Ever ready to help the needy, and to protect
the persecuted, she addressed herself to Fouche, the minister of
police, and requested him to use mildness and compassion. She wrote
to him:

"Citizen minister, while trembling at the frightful calamity which
has taken place, I feel uneasy and pained at the fear of the
punishments which hang over the poor creatures who, I am told,
belong to families with which I have been connected in days past. I
shall therefore be appealed to by mothers, sisters, and despairing
wives; my heart will be lacerated by the sad consciousness that I
cannot obtain pardon for all those who implore it.

"The generosity of the consul is great, his affection for me is
boundless, I know it well; but the crime is of so awful a nature
that he will deem it necessary to make an example of extreme
severity. The supreme magistrate was not alone exposed to danger--
many others were killed and wounded by this sad event, and it is
this which will make the consul severe and implacable.

"I conjure you, then, citizen minister, to avoid extending your
researches too far, and not always to spy out new persons who might
be compromised by this horrible machine. Must France, which has been
held in terror by so many executions, have to sigh over new victims?
Is it not much more important to appease the minds of the people
than to excite them by new terrors? Finally, would it not be
advisable, so soon as the originators of this awful crime are
captured, to have compassion and mercy upon subordinate persons who
may have been entangled in it through dangerous sophisms and
fanatical sentiments?

"Barely vested with the supreme authority, ought not the first
consul study to win the hearts rather than to make slaves of his
people? Moderate, therefore, by your advice, where in his first
excitement he may be too severe. To punish is, alas, too often
necessary! To pardon is, I trust, still more. In a word, be a
protector to the unfortunate who, through their confession or
repentance, have already made in part penance for their guilt.

"As I myself, without any fault on my part, nearly lost my life in
the revolution, you can easily understand that I take an interest in
those who can perhaps be saved without thereby endangering my
husband's life, which is so precious to me and to France. I
therefore earnestly desire that you will make a distinction between
the leaders of this conspiracy and those who, from fear or weakness,
have been seduced into bringing upon themselves a portion of the
guilt. As a woman, a wife, a mother, I can readily feel for all the
heart-rending agonies of those families which appeal to me.

"Do what you possibly can, citizen minister, to diminish their
numbers; you will thereby spare me much anxiety. I can never be deaf
to the cries of distress from the needy; but in this matter you can
do a great deal more than I can, and therefore pardon what may seem
strange in my pleadings with you.

"Believe in my gratitude and loyalty of sentiment.

"JOSEPHINE." [Footnote: Ducrest, "Memoires," vol. iii., p. 231.]



In the Tuileries the first consul, with his wife, resided in all the
pomp and dignity of his new office. There he was the sovereign, the
commander; there he ruled, and, like a king, all bowed to him; the
people humbled themselves and recognized him as their master.

In the Tuileries etiquette and the stiff pomp of a princely court
prevailed more and more. Bonaparte required of his wife that she
should there represent the dignity and the grandeur of her new
position; that she should appear as the first, the most exalted, and
the most unapproachable of women. In the Tuileries there were no
more evenings of pleasant social gatherings, of joyous conversation
with friends whom affection made equals, and who, in love and
admiration, recognizing Bonaparte's ascendency, brought him of their
own free choice their esteem and high consideration. Now, it was all
honor and duty; now, the friends of the past wore servants who, for
duty's sake, had to be subservient to their master, and abide by the
rules of etiquette, otherwise the frown on their lofty ruler's brow
would bring them back within their bounds.

Josephine was pained at these limits set to her personal freedom--at
these claims of etiquette, which did not permit her friends to
remain at her side, but strove to exalt above them the wife of the
first consul. Her sense of modesty ever accepted the pleasant,
genial household affections as more agreeable and more precious than
the burdensome representations, levees, and the tediousness of
ceremonial receptions; her sense of modesty longed for the quiet and
repose of retirement, and she was happy when, at the close of the
court festivities, she could return to Malmaison, there to enjoy the
coming of spring, the blossoming of summer, and the glorious beauty
of autumn with its manifold colors.

In Malmaison were centered all her joys and pleasures. There she
could satisfy all the inclinations of her heart, all the fancies of
her imagination, all the wants of her mind; there she could be the
tender wife and mother, and the faithful friend; there she could
receive, without the annoyance of etiquette, men of learning and
art; there she could cultivate the soil and devote herself to
botany, her favorite study, and to her flowers, the dearest and most
faithful friends of her whole life.

Josephine sought for and found in Malmaison her earthly paradise;
there she was happy, and the care and the secret anguish which in
Paris wove around her heart its network, and every now and then
whispered the nefarious words of divorce and separation, followed
her not in the beautiful and friendly Malmaison; she left all this
in Paris with the stiff Madame Etiquette, who once in the Tuileries
had poisoned the existence of the Queen Marie Antoinette, and now
sought to intrude herself upon the consulate as an ill-tempered

But in Malmaison there was no etiquette, none of the dignified
coldness of court-life. There you were allowed to laugh, to jest,
and to be happy. In Malmaison the first consul laid aside his
gravity; there his gloomy brow brightened, and he became again
General Bonaparte, the lover of his Josephine, the confidential
companion of his friends, the harmless individual, who seemed to
have nothing to require from Heaven but the happiness of the passing
hour, and who could laugh at a joke with the same guilelessuess as
any other child of the people who never deemed it necessary to
cultivate a close intimacy with the grave and gloomy Madame

It is true Malmaison was not Bonaparte's sole country residence. The
city of Paris had presented him with the pleasure-castle of St.
Cloud, the same which Louis XVI. gave to his wife, and where, to the
very great annoyance of the proud Parisians, she had for the first
time engraven on the regulation-tablets, at the entrance of the
park, the fatal words--"De par la Reine."

Now this royal mansion of pleasure belonged to the first consul of
the republic; it was his summer residence, but there he was still
the consul, the first magistrate, and the representative of France;
and he had there to give receptions, hold levees, receive the
ministers, councillors of state, and the foreign ambassadors, and
appear in all the pomp and circumstance of his position.

But in Malmaison his countenance and his being were changed. Here he
was the cheerful man, enjoying life; he was the joyous companion,
the modest land-owner, who with genial delight surveyed the produce
of his soil, and even calculated how much profit it could bring him.

"The first consul in Malmaison," said the English minister, Fox,
"the first consul in St. Cloud, and the first consul in the
Tuileries, are three different persons, who together form that great
and wonderful idea; I should exceedingly like to be able to
represent exactly after nature these three portraits; they must be
very much alike, and yet very different."

It is certain, however, that of these three portraits that of the
first consul in Malmaison was the most amiable, and that of the
first consul of the Tuileries the most imposing.

In Malmaison Bonaparte's countenance was cheerful and free from
care; in the Tuileries he was grave and dignified. On his clouded
brow were enthroned great designs; from the deep, dark eyes shot
lightnings ready to fire a world--to erect or destroy kingdoms. In
Malmaison these eyes with cheerful brilliancy reposed on Josephine;
his otherwise earnest lips welcomed there the beloved of his heart
with merry pleasantry and spirited raillery; there he loved to see
Josephine in simple, modest toilet; and if in the lofty halls of the
Tuileries he exacted from the wife of the first consul a brilliant
toilet, the bejewelled magnificence of the first lady of France, he
was delighted when in Malmaison he saw coming through the green
foliage the wife of General Bonaparte in simple white muslin, with a
laughing countenance; and with her sweet voice, which he still
considered as the finest music he ever heard, she bade welcome to
her husband who here was changed into her tender lover.

In Malmaison, Bonaparte would even put off his general's uniform,
and, in his plain gray coat of a soldier, walk through the park in
the neighborhood, resting on the arm of his confidant, Duroc, and
would begin a friendly conversation with the first farmer he met,
perfectly satisfied when in the little man with the gray tightly-
buttoned coat, no one suspected or imagined to see the first consul
of the republic.

Every Saturday the first consul hastened to the chateau to pass
there, as he said, his Sunday, his day of rest; and only on Monday
morning did he return to Paris, "to take up his chain again."

How genial and happy were these days of rest! How eagerly did
Josephine labor to make them days of felicity for Bonaparte! how
ingenious to prepare for him new festivities and new surprises! and
how her eyes brightened when she had succeeded in making Bonaparte
joyous and contented!

If the weather was favorable, the whole company in Malmaison, the
young generals, with their beautiful, young, and lively wives, who
surrounded Bonaparte and Josephine, and of whom a great number
belonged to their family, made promenades through the park, then
they seated themselves on a fine spot to repeat stories or to
indulge in harmless sociable games, in which Bonaparte with the most
cheerful alacrity took part. Even down to the game of "catch" and to
that of "room-renting" did Bonaparte condescend to play; and as
Marie Antoinette with her husband and her court played at
blindman's-buff in the gardens of Trianon, so Bonaparte was pleased
on the lawns of Malmaison to play at "room-renting."

How often after a dark, cloudy morning, when suddenly at noon the
skies would become clear and the sunshine break through the clouds,
would Bonaparte's countenance gladden with all the spirit of a
school-boy, in the midst of holidays, and, throwing off his coat,
laughingly exclaim, "Now come, one and all, and let us rent the

And then on the large, open lawn, surrounded on all sides by tall
trees, the first consul with his wife, his generals and their young
wives, would begin the exhilarating, harmless child's-play,
forgetful of all care, void of all fear, except that he should lose
his tree, and that as a penniless individual having to rent a room
he would have to stand in the centre before all eyes, just as first
consul he stood before all eyes in the centre of France, and
struggled for a place the importance and title of which were known
only to his silent soul. But in Malmaison, at the game of "room to
let," Bonaparte had no remembrance whatever of the ambitious wishes
of the first consul; the whole world seemed to have set, the
memories of his youth passed before his eyes in such beauty,
saluting him with the gracious looks of childhood, as nearly to make
him an enthusiast.

How often, when on Josephine's arm, surrounded by a laughing, noisy
group of friends, and walking through shady paths, on hearing the
bells of the neighboring village chime their vespers, would
Bonaparte suddenly interrupt the conversation and stand still to
hear them! With a motion of the hand he would command silence, while
he listened with a smile of grief to sounds which recalled days long
gone by. "These bells remind me of the days of my boyhood," said he
to Josephine; "it seems to me, when I hear them, that I am still in

To keep alive the memories of his school-days in Brienne, he sent
for one of his teachers, the Abbe Dupuis, who had been remarkably
kind to him, and invited him to Malmaison, to arrange there a
library, and to take charge of it; he sent also for the porter of
Brienne whose wife he had so severely prohibited from entering the
theatre, and made him the porter of the chateau.

In bad weather and on rainy days the whole company gathered in the
large drawing-room, and found amusement in playing the various games
of cards, in which Bonaparte not only took much interest, but in
which he so eagerly played, that he often had recourse to apparent
bungling, so as to command success. Adjoining the drawing-room,
where conversation and amusements took place, was a room where the
company sang and practised music, to the delight of Bonaparte, who
often, when one of his favorite tunes was played, would chime in
vigorously with the melody, nowise disturbed by the fact that he
never could catch the right tune, and that he broke out every time
into distressing discordance!

But all songs and music subsided, all plays were interrupted, when
Bonaparte, excited perhaps by the approaching twilight, or by some
awakened memory, began to relate one of those tragic, fearful
stories which no one could tell so well as he. Then, with arms
folded behind his back, he slowly paced the drawing-room, and with
sinister looks, tragic manner, and sepulchral voice, he would begin
the solemn introduction of his narrative:

"When death strikes, at a distance, a person whom we love," said he,
one evening, with a voice tremulous with horror, "a certain
foreboding nearly always makes us anticipate the event, and the
person, touched by the hand of death, appears to us at the moment we
lose him on earth."

"How very sad and mournful that sounds!" sighed Josephine, as she
placed both her arms on Bonaparte's shoulder, as if she would hold
him, and chain him to earth, that he might not vanish away with
every ghost-like form.

Bonaparte turned to her with a genial smile, and shook his head at
her, so as to assure her of his existence and his love. Then he
began his story with all the earnestness and tragic power of an
improvisator of ancient Rome. He told how once Louis XIV., in the
great gallery of Versailles, received the bulletin of the battle of
Friedlingen, and how, unfolding it, he read to the assembled court
the names of the slain and of the wounded. Quietness reigned in the
splendidly-illumined gallery; and the courtiers in their embroidered
coats, who, ordinarily, were so full of merriment and so high-
spirited, had, all at once, become thoughtful. They gathered in a
circle around the monarch, from whose lips slowly, like falling
tears, fell one by one the names of the killed. Here and there the
cheeks of their relatives turned pale. Suddenly the Count de Beaugre
saw appear, at the farther end of the gallery, stately and ghost-
like, the blood-stained figure of his son, who, with eyes wide open,
stared at his father, and saluted him with a slight motion of the
head, and then glided away through the door. "My son is dead!" cried
Count de Beaugre--and, at the very same moment, the king uttered his
name as one of the slain!" [Footnote: Bourrienne, "Memoires," vol.
iii., p. 225.]

"Ah! may I never see such a ghost-like figure," murmured Josephine,
drawing closer to her husband. "Bonaparte, promise me that you will
never go to war again; that you will keep peace with all the world,
so that I may have no cause of alarm!"

"And to tremble at my ghost," exclaimed Bonaparte, laughing. "Look
at this selfish woman, she does not wish me a hero's death, lest I
should appear to her here in the shape of a bloody placard!"

With her small bejewelled hand Josephine closed his mouth, and
ordered lights to be brought; she asked Lavalette to play a lively
dancing-tune, and cried out to the joyous youthful group, at the
head of whom were Hortense and Eugene, to fall in for a dance.

"Nothing more charming," writes the Duchess d'Abrantes, "could be
seen than a ball in Malmaison, made up as it was of the young ladies
whom the military family of the first consul brought together, and
who, without having the name of it, formed the court of Madame
Bonaparte. They were all young, many of them very beautiful; and
when this lovely group were dressed in white crape, adorned with
flowers, their heads crowned with wreaths as fresh as the hues of
their young, laughing, charming faces, it was indeed a bewitching
sight to witness the animated and lively dance in these halls,
through which walked the first consul, surrounded by the men with
whom he discussed and decided the destinies of Europe." [Footnote:
Abrantes, "Memoires," vol. iii., p. 329.]

But the best and most exciting amusement in Malmaison was the
theatre; and nothing delighted Bonaparte so much as this, where the
young troop of lovers in the palace performed little operas and
vaudevilles, and went through their parts with all the eagerness of
real actors, perfectly happy in having the consul and his wife for
audience. In Malmaison, Bonaparte abandoned himself with boundless
joy to his fondness for the theatre; here he applauded with all the
gusto of an amateur, laughed with the laisser-aller of a college-boy
at the harmless jokes of the vaudevilles, and here also he took
great pleasure in the dramatic performances of Eugene, who excelled
especially in comic roles.

Bonaparte had a most convenient stage constructed in Malmaison for
his actors; he had the most beautiful costumes made for each new
piece, and the actors Talma and Michet had to come every week to the
chateau, to give the young people instruction in their parts. The
ordinary actors of this theatre in the castle were Eugene and
Hortense, Caroline Murat, Lauriston, M. Didelot, the prefect of the
palace, some of the officers attached to the establishment, and the
Count Bourrienne, the friend of Bonaparte's youth, who now had
become the first secretary of the consul. The pieces which Bonaparte
attended with the greatest pleasure were the "Barber of Seville,"
and "Mistrust and Malice." The young and amiable Hortense made an
excellent Rosine in the "Barber of Seville," and Bonaparte never
failed to clap his hands in hearty applause to Hortense, when
Josephine with cheerful smiles would thank him, for she seemed as
proud of her daughter's talent as of her husband's applause.

Bourrienne, in his memoirs, gives a faithful description of those
evening theatrical performances, and of the happy life enjoyed in
Malmaison; he lingers with a sober joy over those beautiful and
innocent memories of other days.

"Bonaparte," says he, "found great pleasure in our dramatic
entertainments; he loved to see comedies represented by those who
surrounded him, and oftentimes paid us flattering compliments.
Though it amused me as much as it did the others, yet I was more
than once obliged to call Bonaparte's attention to the fact that my
other occupations did not give me time enough to learn my parts. He
then, in his flattering way, said: 'Ah, Bourrienne, let me alone.
You have so excellent a memory! You know that this is an amusement
to me! You see that these performances enliven Malmaison and make it
cheerful! Josephine is so fond of them! Rise a little earlier!'

"'It is a fact--I sleep a great deal!'

"'Allons, Bourrienne, do it to please me; you do make me laugh so
heartily! Deprive me not of this pleasure. You know well that
otherwise I have but few recreations.'

"'Ah, parbleu! I will not deprive you of it. I am happy to be able
to contribute something to your amusement.' Consequently I rose
earlier, to learn my parts.

"On the theatre days the company at Malmaison was always very large.
After the performance a brilliant crowd undulated like waves in the
halls of the first story. The most animated and varied conversation
took place, and I can truly affirm that cheerfulness and sincerity
were the life of those conversations, and their principal charm.
Refreshments of all kinds were distributed, and Josephine performed
the honors of those gatherings with so much amiableness and
complacency that each one might believe she busied herself more with
him than with any one else. At the end of the delightful soirees,
which generally closed after midnight, we returned to Paris, where
the cares of life awaited us." [Footnote: Bourrienne, "Memoires,"
vol. v., p. 26.]

Time was spent not only in festivities and amusements at Malmaison,
but sciences and arts also formed there a serious occupation, and it
was Josephine who was the prime mover. She invited to the chateau
painters, sculptors, musicians, architects, and savants of every
profession, and thus to the Graces she added the Arts for



Above all things, Josephine, in her retreat, devoted her time and
leisure hours to botany and to her dear flowers. Alexander Lenoir,
the famous architect of that day, had to assist her in enlarging the
little castle of Malinaison, and to open more suitable halls for the
arts and sciences. Under Josephine's direction there arose the
splendid library-room resting upon columns; it was Josephine who had
the beautiful gallery of paintings constructed, and also with
remarkable judgment purchased a selection of the finest paintings of
the great masters to adorn this gallery. Besides which, she gave to
living painters orders of importance, and encouraged them to
originate new pieces, that art itself might have a part in the new
era of peace and prosperity, which, under the consulate, seemed to
spread over France.

Alongside of the paintings Josephine adorned this gallery with the
finest antique statues, with a collection of the rarest painted
vases of Pompeii, and with ten paintings on cement, memorials of
Grecian art, representing the nine Muses and Apollo Mersagetos.
These last splendid subjects were a present which the King of Naples
had given to Josephine during her residence in Italy. Always
attentive not only to promote the arts, but also to help the artists
and to increase their reputation, Josephine would buy some new
pieces of sculpture, and give them a place in Malmaison. The two
most exquisite masterpieces of Canova, "The Dancing-Girl" and
"Paris," were purchased by Josephine at an enormous price for her
gallery, whose chief ornament they were.

Her fondness for flowers was such that she spared neither expense
nor labor to procure those worthy of Malmaison. She caused also
large green-houses and hot-houses to be constructed, the latter
suited to the culture of the pineapple and of the peach. In the
green-houses were found flowers and plants of every zone, and of all
countries. People, knowing her taste for botany, sent her from the
most remote places the choicest plants. Even the prince regent of
England, the most violent and bitter enemy of the first consul, had
high esteem for this taste of Josephine; and during the war, when
some French ships, captured by the English, were found to have on
board a collection of tropical plants for her, he had them carried
with all dispatch to Madame Bonaparte.

Josephine had a lofty aim: she wanted to gather into her hot-houses
all the species and families, all the varieties of the tropical
plants, and she strove to accomplish this with a perseverance, a
zeal, and an earnestness of which no one would have thought her
indolent, soft Creole nature capable. To increase her precious
collection, she spared neither money nor time, neither supplications
nor efforts. All travellers, all seafaring men, who came into her
drawing-room were entreated to send plants to Malmaison; and even
the secretary of the navy did not fail to give instructions to the
captains of vessels sailing to far-distant lands to bring back
plants for the wife of the first consul. If it were a matter of
purchase, nothing was too expensive, and when, through her fondness
for beautiful objects, Josephine's purse was exhausted, and her
means curtailed, she sooner gave up the purchase of a beautiful
ornament than that of a rare plant.

The hot-houses of Malmaison caused, therefore, a considerable
increase in her expenses, and were a heavy burden to her treasury;
and for their sake, when the day of payment came, Josephine had to
receive from her husband many severe reproaches, and was forced to
shed many a bitter tear. But this, perhaps, made them still dearer;
no sooner were the tears dried up and the expenses covered, than
Josephine again abandoned herself with renewed zeal to her passion
for collecting plants and costly studies in botany, especially since
she had succeeded in winning to her person the renowned botanist and
learned Bonpland, and in having him appointed superintendent of her
gardens and hot-houses. It was Bonpland who cultivated Josephine's
inclination for botany, and exalted her passion into a science. He
filled the green-houses of Malmaison with the rarest plants, and
taught Josephine at the same time their classifications and sexes,
and she quickly proved herself to be a zealous and tractable pupil.
She soon learned the names of the plants, as well as their family
names, as classified by the naturalists; she became acquainted with
their origin and their virtues, and was extremely sad and dejected
when, in one of her families, a single species was wanting. But what
a joy when this gap was filled! No price was too exorbitant, then,
to procure the missing species; and one day she paid for a small,
insignificant plant from Chili the high price of three thousand
francs, filling Bonpland with ecstasy, but the emperor with deep
wrath as soon as he heard it. [Footnote: Avrillon, "Memoires sur
l'Imperatrice Josephine."]

Next to botany, it was music which Josephine delighted in and
cultivated. Since the cares and the numerous relations of her
diversified life claimed so much of her time, she had abandoned the
exercises of music; and it was only at the hour of unusual serenity
of mind, or of more lively recollections of the past, that she was
heard singing softly one of the songs of her own native isle, even
as Bonaparte himself, when he was meditating and deciding about some
new campaign, would betray the drift of his thoughts by singing
louder and louder the favorite melody of the day, Marlborough s'en
va-t-en guerre. But Josephine had the satisfaction that Hortense was
not only an excellent performer on the piano and the harp, but that
she could also write original compositions, whose softness and
harmonious combinations made them popular throughout France. Another
satisfaction was, that Eugene sang, in a fine clear voice, with
great talent, and that frequently he would by his excellent singing
draw even the first consul into loud expressions of admiration.

Bonaparte was not easily satisfied as regards singing; it was seldom
that music elicited any commendation from him. The Italian music
alone could excite his enthusiasm, and through its impassioned
fervor rouse him up, or its humorous passages enliven him. Therefore
Bonaparte, when consul or emperor, always patronized the Italian
music in preference to any other, and he constantly and publicly
expressed this liking, without considering how much he might thereby
wound the French artistes in their ambition and love of fame. He
therefore appointed an Italian to be first singer at the opera. It
is true this was Maestro Paesiello, whose operas were then making
their way through Europe, and everywhere meeting with approbation.
Bonaparte also was extremely fond of them, and at every opportunity
he manifested to the maestro his good-will and approbation. But one
day this commendation of Paesiello was changed to the most stinging
censure. It was on the occasion of the first representation of
Paesiello's Zingari in Fiera. The first consul and his wife were in
their loge, and to show to the public how much he honored and
esteemed the composer, he had invited Paesiello to attend the
performance in his loge.

Bonaparte followed the performance with the most enthusiastic
demonstrations of gratification; he heartily applauded each part,
and paid to Paesiello compliments which were the more flattering
since every one knew that the lips which uttered them were not
profuse in their use. A tenor part had just ended, and its effect
had been remarkable. The audience was full of enthusiasm. Bonaparte,
who by his hearty applause had given the signal to a storm of
cheers, turned toward Paesiello, and, offering him his hand,

"Truly, my dear friend, the man who has composed this melody can
boast of being the first composer in Europe!"

Paesiello became pale, his whole body trembled, and, with stammering
voice, he said:

"General, this melody is from Cimarosa. I have placed it in my opera
merely to please the singers."

The first consul shrugged his shoulders.

"I am sorry, my dear sir," said he, "but I cannot recall what I have

The next day, however, he sent to the composer of the opera, as an
acknowledgment of his esteem, a magnificent present, with which he
no doubt wished to heal the pain which he had unwittingly caused the
maestro. But Paesiello possessed a temper easily wounded, and the
more so since he considered himself as the first and greatest
composer in the world, and was sincere in the opinion that others
could compose good music, but that his alone was grand and

Bonaparte's present could not, therefore, heal the wound which the
praise of Cimarosa's melody had inflicted, and this wound was soon
to be probed deeper, and become fatal to Paesiello. Another new
opera from Paesiello, Proserpina, was to be represented. The first
consul, who was anxious to secure for his protege a brilliant
success, had given orders to bring it out in the most splendid
style; the most beautiful decorations and the richest costumes had
been provided, and a stage erected for a ballet, on which the
favorite ballet-leaders of Paris were to practise their art.

The mighty first consul was, on the evening of the first performance
of the opera of Proserpina, to learn the lesson, that there exists a
power which will not be bound in fetters, and which is stronger and
more influential than the dictates of the mighty--the power of
public opinion. This stood in direct opposition to the first consul,
by the voiceless, cold silence with which it received Paesiello's
piece. Bonaparte might applaud as heartily as he pleased, and that
might elicit an echo from the group of his favorites, but the public
remained unmoved, and Bonaparte had the humiliation to see this
opera, notwithstanding his approbation, prove a complete failure. He
felt as nervous and excited as the composer himself, for he declared
loudly and angrily that the French knew nothing about music, and
that it was necessary to teach them that the Italians alone
understood the art of composition.

To teach this to the French the opera of Proserpina was to be
repeated until the mind of the public should have been educated to
its beauty, and they had been forced to acknowledge it. A decided
warfare ensued between this opera and the public, each party being
determined to have its own way; the authorities persevered in having
the performance repeated, and the public kept away from it with
equal obstinacy. The latter, however, had the advantage in this
case, for they could not be forced to attend where they were
unwilling to go, and so they won the victory, and the authorities
had to yield.

Paesiello, touched to the quick by the failure of Proserpina,
resigned his position as leader, and left Paris to return to Italy.
The question now was, how to fill this important and honorable
position. The Parisians were excited about this nomination, and
divided into two parties, each of which defended its candidate with
the greatest zeal, and maintained that he would be the one who would
receive Bonaparte's appointment. The candidates of these two parties
were the Frenchman Mehul and the Italian Cherubini. Those who formed
the party of Cherubini calculated especially on Bonaparte's well-
known preference for Italian music. They knew that, though he was
much attached to Mehul, whom he had known before the expedition to
Egypt, and had shown him many favors, yet he had often expressed his
contempt for French music, and was committed against him by the very
fact of his maintaining that the Italians alone understood the art
of musical composition.

Mehul had for a long time endured in silence the criticisms of
Bonaparte; he had patiently returned no answer when he repeated to
him: "Science, and only science--that is all the French musicians
understand; my dear sir, grace, melody, and joyousness, are unknown
to you Frenchmen and to the Germans; the Italians alone are masters

One day Mehul, having become tired of these constant discouraging
remarks, resolved to let the first consul, who so often gave him
bitter pills to swallow, have a taste of them himself.

He went, therefore, to his friend, the poet Marsollier, and begged
him to write an extremely lively and extravagant piece, whose design
would be absurd enough to make it pass as the work of some Italian
pamphlet-writer, and at the same time he enjoined the most profound

Marsollier complied willingly with the wishes of his friend, and
after a few days he brought him the text for the small opera Irato.
With the same alacrity did Mehul sit down to the task of composing,
and when the work was done, Marsollier went to the committee of the
comic opera to tell them he had just received from Italy a score
whose music was so extraordinary that he was fully convinced of its
success, and had therefore been to the trouble, notwithstanding the
weakness and foolishness of the libretto, to translate the text into
French. The committee tried the score, was enchanted with the music,
and was fully convinced of the brilliant success of the little
opera, inasmuch as the strange and lively text was well adapted to
excite the hilarity and the merriment of the public. The first
singers of the opera were rivals for the parts; all the newspapers
published the pompous advertisement that in a short time would be
performed at the Opera Comique a charming, entrancing opera, the
maiden piece of a young Italian.

Finally its first performance was announced; the first consul
declared that he and his wife would attend, and he invited Mehul,
whom he liked to tease and worry, because he loved him from his
heart, to attend the performance in his loge.

"It will undoubtedly be a mortification to you, my poor friend,"
said he, laughing; "but perhaps when you hear this enchanting music,
so different from that of the French, you will imitate it, and cease

Mehul replied with a bow; he then began to excuse himself from
accompanying the first consul to the theatre; and it was only after
Bonaparte and Josephine had pressed him very much, that he accepted
the invitation, and went with them to their loge.

The opera began, and, immediately after the first melody, Bonaparte
applauded and expressed his admiration. There never had been any
thing more charming--never had the French written music with so much
freshness, elegance, or so naturally. Bonaparte continued his
praise, and often-times repeated: "It is certain there is nothing
superior to Italian music."

At last the opera ended amid a real storm of applause; and, with
their enthusiasm at the highest pitch, the audience claimed to know
the names of the poet and of the composer. After a long pause the
curtain rose and the registrar appeared; he made the three customary
bows, and in a loud voice named Marsollier as the author and Mehul
as the composer of the opera Irato.

The audience received this news with an unceasing storm of applause.
They, like the consul and the singers who had taken part in the
opera, knew nothing of the mystification, so well had the secret
been kept.

Josephine turned smilingly to Bonaparte, and with her own charming
grace offered her hand to Mehul and thanked him for the twofold
enjoyment he had that day prepared for her, by furnishing her his
entrancing opera, and by having prepared a little defeat of
Bonaparte, that traitor to his country, who dared prefer the Italian
music to the French.

Bonaparte himself looked at the affair on its bright side; he had
enjoyed the opera; he had laughed; he was satisfied, and
consequently he overlooked the deceitful surprise.

"Conquer me always in this manner!" said he, laughing, to Mehul,
"and I shall enjoy both your fame and my amusement."

The friends of Cherubini thought of this little event when the
question arose as to the appointment to the situation of first
singer at the Grand Opera, and they therefore did not hesitate to
wager that Cherubini would be appointed, since he was an Italian.

But they knew not that Bonaparte had pardoned Mehul, and frequently
joked with him, whilst he ever grumbled at Cherubini on account of
an expression which the latter had once allowed himself to use
against General Bonaparte.

Bonaparte had conversed with Cherubini after a representation of one
of his operas, and, while he congratulated him, he however added
that this opera did not please him as much as the other pieces of
Cherubini--that he thought it somewhat sober and scientific, and
that he missed in it the accustomed richness of the maestro's
melodies. This criticism wounded Cherubini as if pierced by a
dagger, and with the irritable vehemence of an Italian he replied:

"General, busy yourself in winning battles--that is your trade; but
leave me to practise mine, about which you know nothing."

The Consul Bonaparte had neither forgotten nor pardoned Cherubini's
answer; and, despite his fondness for Italian music, he was resolved
to give to Mehul the position vacated by Paesiello.

Josephine approved entirely of this choice, and, in order to witness
Mehul's joy, she invited him to Malmaison, that the consul might
there inform him of his appointment. How great, however, was her and
Bonaparte's surprise, when Mehul, instead of being delighted with
this distinguished appointment, positively refused to accept it!

"I can accept this position only under one condition," said Mehul,
"which is, that I may be allowed to divide it with my friend

"Do not speak to me about him," exclaimed Bonaparte, with animation;
"he is a coarse man, and I cannot tolerate him."

"He may have had the misfortune to displease you," replied Mehul,
eagerly, "but he is a master to us all, and especially as regards
sacred music. He now is in a very inferior position; he has a large
family, and I sincerely desire to reconcile him to you."

"I repeat to you that I do not wish to know any thing about him."

"In that case I must decline the position," said Mehul, gravely,
"and nothing will alter my resolution. I am a member of the
Institute--Cherubini is not; I do not wish it to be said that I have
misused the good-will with which you honor me for the sake of
confiscating to my profit every situation, and of despoiling a man
of reputation of the reward to which he is most justly entitled."

And Mehul, notwithstanding Josephine's intercession and Bonaparte's
ill-will, remained firm in his decision; he would not accept the
honorable and distinguished position of first singer at the Grand
Opera; and Bonaparte, after expressing his determination, would not
change it. Neither would he confer upon Cherubini the honor refused
by Mehnl. He therefore commissioned Josephine to name a successor to
Paesiello; and she went to Madame de Montesson, to confer with her
on the matter.

Madame de Montesson could suggest no definite plan, but she told
Josephine of a French composer, of the name of Lesueur, who,
notwithstanding his great talents, lived in his native city of Paris
poor and unknown, and who had not succeeded in having his opera,
"The Bards," represented at the Grand Opera, simply on the ground
that he was a Frenchman, and that every one knew Bonaparte's strange
aversion to French music.

Josephine's generous heart at once took sides with Lesueur; her
exquisite tact taught her that the public ought to know that the
first consul would not consult his own personal gratification, when
the question was to render justice to a Frenchman. She therefore
recommended to her husband, with all her ability, the poor composer
Lesueur, who was unknown to fame, and lost in obscurity; she
represented his appointment as such an act of generosity and of
policy, that Bonaparte acceded to her wishes at once, and appointed
Lesueur to the office of first master of the Grand Opera.

And Josephine had the pleasure of seeing that the new opera-leader
justified her expectations. His opera, "The Bards," was naturally
brought into requisition; it had a brilliant and unexampled success,
and even Bonaparte, at the first representation, forgot his
prejudices against French music, and applauded quite as heartily as
if it had been Italian.



The sun of happiness which for Josephine seemed to shine so brightly
over Malmaison, had nevertheless its long shadows and its dark
specks; even her gracious countenance was obscured, her heart filled
with sad forebodings, and her bosom stung as if by scorpions hidden
under flowers.

Josephine had in her immediate circle violent and bitter enemies,
who were ever busy in undermining the influence which she possessed
over her husband, to steal from his heart the love he cherished for
her, and to remove from his side the woman who, by her presence,
kept them in the shade, and who wielded or destroyed the influence
which they desired to have over him.

These enemies were the brothers and especially the sisters of
Bonaparte. Among the brothers of the first consul, Lucien showed to
his sister-in-law the most violent and irreconcilable enmity. He
left no means untried to do her injury, and to convert her into an
object of suspicion, and this because he was convinced that
Josephine was the prime cause of the hostile sentiments of Napoleon
against him, and because he believed that, Josephine once out of the
way, Napoleon's ear would be open to conviction, and that he,
Lucien, the most powerful citizen, next to his brother, would be the
second "first consul." He was not aware that Napoleon's keen eagle
eye had fathomed his ambitious heart; that he was the one who kept
Lucien away, because he mistrusted him, because he feared his
ambition, and even looked upon him as capable of the bold design of
casting Napoleon aside, and setting himself up in his place. Lucien
was unaware of the influence which Josephine frequently exerted over
the mind of the first consul, in favor of himself; that it was she
who had pacified Napoleon's anger at Lucien's marriage, contracted
without his consent, and prevented him from annulling it violently.
The other brothers of Napoleon, influenced, perhaps, by the enmity
of Lucien, were also disaffected toward their sister-in-law, and of
them all, only Louis, the youngest, the one who loved the first
consul most tenderly and most sincerely, showed toward her due
respect and affection.

His three sisters were still more active in their opposition.
Constantly quarrelling among themselves, they, however, united
heartily in the common feeling of hatred to Josephine. It was she
who stood in their way, who every day excited anew their anger by
the position she held at Napoleon's side, and in virtue of which the
three sisters were thrust into the background. Josephine, the wife
of the first consul, was the one to whom France made obeisance, upon
whom the ambassadors of foreign powers first waited, and afterward
upon the sisters of the first consul. It was Josephine who took the
precedence in solemn ceremonies, and to whom, by Bonaparte's
commands, they had to manifest respect. And this woman, who by her
eminence placed the sisters of Bonaparte in an inferior position,
was not of nobler or more distinguished blood than they; she was not
young, she was not beautiful, she was not even able to give birth to
a child, for which her husband so intensely longed.

The three sisters might have been submissive to the daughter of a
prince, they might have conceded to her the right of precedence, but
the widow of the Viscount de Beauharnais was not superior to them in
rank or birth; she was far inferior to them in beauty and youth--and
yet they had to give way to her, and see her take the first place!

From these sentiments of jealousy and envy sprang the enmity which
the three sisters of Bonaparte, Madame Elise Bacciocchi, Madame
Pauline Borghese, and Madame Caroline Murat, cherished against
Josephine, and which her gentle words and kind heart could never

Josephine was in their way--she must therefore fall. Such is the key
to the right understanding of the conduct of the three beautiful
sisters of Napoleon toward the wife of their brother. In their
violence they disregarded all propriety, and shrank from no calumny
or malice to accomplish their ends. It was a constant warfare with
intrigues and malicious suspicions. Every action of Josephine was
observed, every step was watched, in the hope of finding something
to render her suspicious to her husband. On every occasion the three
sisters besieged him with complaints concerning the lofty and proud
demeanor of Josephine, and ridiculed him about his old, childless
wife, who stood in the way of his growing fame! Though Bonaparte in
these conflicts always sided with Josephine against his sisters, yet
there probably remained in his heart a sting from the ridicule which
they had directed against him.

This hostility of the Bonaparte family was not unknown to Josephine;
her soul suffered under these ceaseless attacks, her heart was
agonized at the thought that the efforts of her sisters-in-law might
finally succeed in withdrawing from her the love of her husband. She
was persuaded that even in the Bonaparte family she needed a
protector, that she must look for one among the brothers, so as to
counteract the enmity of the sisters; and she chose for this Louis
Bonaparte. She entreated Napoleon to give to his young, beloved
brother the hand of her daughter Hortense. It would be a new bond
chaining Bonaparte to her--a new fortress for her love--if he would
but make her daughter his sister-in-law, and his brother her son-in-

Napoleon did not oppose her wishes; he consented that Hortense
should be married to his brother. It is true the young people were
not consulted; for the first time, Josephine's selfishness got the
better of her love for her child--she sacrificed the welfare of her
daughter to secure her own happiness.

But Hortense loved another, yet she yielded to the entreaties and
tears of her mother, and became the wife of this laconic, timid
young man, whose meagre, unpretending appearance resembled so little
the ideal which her maidenly heart had pictured of her future

Louis on his side had not the slightest inclination for Hortense; he
never would have chosen her for his wife, for their characters were
too different; their inclinations and wishes were not in sympathy
with each other. But through obedience to the wishes of his brother,
he accepted the proffered hand of Josephine's daughter, and became
the husband of the beautiful, blond-haired Hortense de Beauharnais.

In February, of the year 1802, the marriage of the young couple took
place, and this family event was celebrated with the most
magnificent festivities. Josephine's joy and happiness were
complete--she had thrown a bridge over the abyss, and was now secure
against the hostilities of her sisters-in-law, by giving up her own

Every thing was resplendent with beauty and joy at these
festivities; every thing wore an appearance of happiness; only the
countenances of the newly-married couple were grave and sad, and
their deep melancholy contrasted strikingly with the happiness of
which they themselves were the cause. Adorned with diamonds and
flowers, Hortense appeared to be a stranger to all the pomp which
surrounded her, and to be occupied only with her own sad communings.
Louis Bonaparte was pale and grave, like Hortense; he seldom
addressed a word to the young wife that the orders of his brother
had given him; and she avoided her husband's looks, perhaps to
hinder him from reading there the indifference and dislike she felt
for him. [Footnote: "Memoires sur l'Imperatrice Josephine, la Cour
de Navarre," etc., par Mlle. Ducrest, vol. i., p. 49.]

But Josephine was happy, for she knew the noble, faithful, and
generous spirit of the man to whom she had given her daughter; and
she trusted that the two young hearts, now that they were linked
together, would soon love one another. She hoped much more from this
alliance; she hoped not only to find in it a shield against domestic
animosities, but also to give to her husband, even if indirectly,
the children he so much desired--for the offspring of his brother
and the daughter of his Josephine would be nearly the same as his
own, and they could adopt and love them as such. This was
Josephine's hope, the dream of her happiness, when she gave her
daughter in marriage to the brother of her husband.

The fact that the first consul was childless was not only a family
solicitude, it was also a political question. The people themselves
had changed the face of affairs, they had by solemn vote decided to
confer the consulate for life upon Napoleon, who had previously been
elected for ten years only. In other words, the French people had
chosen Bonaparte for their master and ruler, and he now lacked but
the title to be king. Every one felt and knew that this consulate
for life was but the prelude to royalty; that the golden laurel-
wreath of the first consul would soon be converted into a golden
crown, so as to secure to France an enduring peace, and to make firm
its political situation.

With her keen political instinct, Josephine trembled at the thought
that the King or Emperor Bonaparte would have to establish for
himself a dynasty--that he would have to appease the apprehensions
of France by offering to the nation a son who would be his
legitimate heir and successor. Thus was the subject of divorce kept
hanging over her head until the conviction was forced upon her mind
that some day Napoleon would be led into sacrificing his love to
politics. Josephine was conscious of it, and consequently the hopes
of Napoleon's future greatness, which so pleased his brothers and
sisters, only made her sorrowful, and she therefore entreated
Bonaparte with tender appeal to remain content with the high dignity

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