Part 8 out of 8
piecemeal from her mangled corpse. The beauty of that form, though
headless, mutilated and reeking with the hot blood of their foul crime--
how shall I describe it?--excited that atrocious excess of lust, which
impelled these hordes of assassins to satiate their demoniac passions
upon the remains of this virtuous angel.
This incredible crime being perpetrated, the wretches fastened ropes
round the body, arms, and legs, and dragged it naked through the streets
of Paris, till no vestige remained by which it could be distinguished as
belonging to the human species; and then left it among the hundreds of
innocent victims of that awful day, who were heaped up to putrefy in one
confused and disgusting mass.
The head was reserved for other purposes of cruelty and horror. It was
first borne to the Temple, beneath the windows of the royal prisoners.
The wretches who were hired daily to insult them in their dens of misery,
by proclaiming all the horrors vomited from the national Vesuvius, were
commissioned to redouble their howls of what had befallen the Princesse
[These horrid circumstances I had from the Chevalier Clery, who was
the only attendant allowed to assist Louis XVI. and his unhappy
family, during their last captivity; but who was banished from the
Temple as soon as his royal master was beheaded, and never permitted
to return. Clery told me all this when I met him at Pyrmont, in
Germany. He was then in attendance upon the late Comtesse de Lisle,
wife of Louie XVIII., at whose musical parties I had often the
honour of assisting, when on a visit to the beautiful Duchesse de
Guiche. On returning to Paris from Germany, on my way back into
Italy, I met the wife of Clery, and her friend M. Beaumont, both old
friends of mine, who confirmed Clery's statement, and assured me
they were all for two years in hourly expectation of being sent to
the Place de Greve for execution. The death of Robespierre saved
Madame Clery taught Marie Antoinette to play upon the harp. Madame
Beaumont was a natural daughter of Louis XV. I had often occasion
to be in their agreeable society; and, as might be expected, their
minds were stored with the most authentic anecdotes and information
upon the topics of the day.]
The Queen sprang up at the name of her friend. She heard subjoined to,
it, "la voila en triomphe," and then came shouts and laughter. She
looked out. At a distance she perceived something like a Bacchanalian
procession, and thought, as she hoped, that the Princess was coming to
her in triumph from her prison, and her heart rejoiced in the
anticipation of once more being, blessed with her society. But the King,
who had seen and heard more distinctly from his apartment, flew to that
of the Queen. That the horrid object might not escape observation, the
monsters had mounted upon each other's shoulders so as to lift the
bleeding head quite up to the prison bars. The King came just in time to
snatch Her Majesty from the, spot, and thus she was prevented from seeing
it. He took her up in his arms and carried her to a distant part of the
Temple, but the mob pursued her in her retreat, and howled the fatal
truth even at her, very door, adding that her head would be the next, the
nation would require. Her Majesty fell into violent hysterics. The
butchers of human flesh continued in the interior of the Temple, parading
the triumph of their assassination, until the shrieks of the Princesse
Elizabeth at the state in which she saw the Queen, and serious fears for
the safety of the royal prisoners, aroused the commandant to treble the
national guards and chase the barbarians to the outside, where they
remained for hours.
It now remains for me to complete my record by a few facts and
observations relating to the illustrious victims who a short time
survived the Princesse de Lamballe. I shall add to this painful
narrative some details which have been mentioned to me concerning their
remorseless persecutors, who were not long left unpursued by just and
awful retribution. Having done this, I shall dismiss the subject.
The execrable and sacrilegious modern French Pharisees, who butchered, on
the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd of September, 1792, all the prisoners at Paris, by
these massacres only gave the signal for the more diabolical machinations
which led to the destruction of the still more sacred victims of the 21st
of January, and the 16th of October, 1793, and the myriads who followed.
The King himself never had a doubt with regard to his ultimate fate.
His only wish was to make it the means of emancipation for the Queen and
Royal Family. It was his intention to appeal to the National Assembly
upon the subject, after his trial. Such also was the particular wish of
his saint-like sister, the Princesse Elizabeth, who imagined that an
appeal under such circumstances could not be resisted. But the Queen
strongly opposed the measure; and His Majesty said he should be loath,
in the last moments of his painful existence, in anything to thwart one
whom he loved so tenderly.
He had long accustomed himself, when he spoke of the Queen and royal
infants, in deference to the temper of the times, only to say, "my wife
and children." They, as he told Clery, formed a tie, and the only one
remaining, which still bound him to earth. Their last embraces, he said,
went so to his aching heart, that he could even yet feel their little
hands clinging about him, and see their streaming eyes, and hear their
agonized and broken voices. The day previous to the fatal catastrophe,
when permitted for the last time to see his family, the Princesse
Elizabeth whispered him, not for herself, but for the Queen and his
helpless innocents, to remember his intentions. He said he should not
feel himself happy if, in his last hour, he did not give them a proof of
his paternal affection, in obtaining an assurance that the sacrifice of
his life should be the guarantee of theirs. So intent was his mind upon
this purpose, said Clery to me, that when his assassins came to take him
to the slaughtering-place, he said, "I hope my death will appease the
nation, and that my innocent family, who have suffered on my account,
will now be released."
The ruffians answered, "The nation, always magnanimous, only seeks to
punish the guilty. You may be assured your family will be respected."
Events have proved how well they kept their word.
It was to fulfil the intention of recommending his family to the people
with his dying breath that he commenced his address upon the scaffold,
when Santerre ordered the drums to drown his last accents, and the axe
The Princesse Elizabeth, and perhaps others of the royal prisoners, hoped
he would have been reprieved, till Herbert, that real 'Pere du chene',
with a smile upon his countenance, came triumphantly to announce to the
disconsolate family that Louis was no more!
Perhaps there never was a King more misrepresented and less understood,
especially by the immediate age in which he lived, than Louis XVI. He
was the victim of natural timidity, increased by the horror of bloodshed,
which the exigencies of the times rendered indispensable to his safety.
He appeared weak in intellect, when he was only so from circumstances.
An overwrought anxiety to be just made him hesitate about the mode of
overcoming the abuses, until its procrastination had destroyed the object
of his wishes. He had courage sufficient, as well as decision, where
others were not menaced and the danger was confined to himself; but,
where his family or his people were involved, he was utterly unfit to
give direction. The want of self-sufficiency in his own faculties have
been his, and his throne's, ruin. He consulted those who caused him to
swerve from the path his own better reason had dictated, and, in seeking
the best course, he often chose the worst.
The same fatal timidity which pervaded his character extended to his
manners. From being merely awkward, he at last became uncouth; but from
the natural goodness of his heart, the nearest to him soon lost sight of
his ungentleness from the rectitude of his intentions, and, to parody the
poet, saw his deportment in his feelings.
Previous to the Revolution, Louis XVI. was generally considered gentle
and affable, though never polished. But the numberless outrages suffered
by his Queen, his family, his friends, and himself, especially towards
the close of his career, soured him to an air of rudeness, utterly
foreign to his nature and to his intention.
It must not be forgotten that he lived in a time of unprecedented
difficulty. He was a lamb governing tigers. So far as his own personal
bearing is concerned, who is there among his predecessors, that, replaced
upon the throne, would have resisted the vicissitudes brought about by
internal discord, rebellion, and riot, like himself? What said he when
one of the heterogeneous, plebeian, revolutionary assemblies not only
insulted him, but added to the insult a laugh? "If you think you can
govern better, I am ready to resign," was the mild but firm reply of
How glorious would have been the triumph for the most civilized nation in
the centre of Europe had the insulter taken him at his word. When the
experimentalists did attempt to govern, we all know, and have too
severely felt, the consequences. Yet this unfortunate monarch has been
represented to the world as imbecile, and taxed with wanting character,
firmness, and fortitude, because he has been vanquished! The despot-
conqueror has been vanquished since!
His acquirements were considerable. His memory was remarkably retentive
and well-stored,--a quality, I should infer from all I have observed,
common to most Sovereigns. By the multiplicity of persons they are in
the habit of seeing, and the vast variety of objects continually passing
through their minds, this faculty is kept in perpetual exercise.
But the circumstance which probably injured Louis XVI. more than any
other was his familiarity with the locksmith, Gamin. Innocent as was the
motive whence it arose, this low connection lessened him more with the
whole nation than if he had been the most vicious of Princes. How
careful Sovereigns ought to be, with respect to the attention they bestow
on men in humble life; especially those whose principles may have been
demoralized by the meanness of the associations consequent upon their
occupation, and whose low origin may have denied them opportunities of
This observation map even be extended to the liberal arts. It does not
follow because a monarch is fond of these that he should so far forget
himself as to make their professors his boon companions. He loses ground
whenever he places his inferiors on a level with himself. Men are
estimated from the deference they pay to their own stations in society.
The great Frederic of Prussia used to sap, "I must show myself a King,
because my trade is royalty."
It was only in destitution and anguish that the real character of Louis
developed itself. He was firm and patient, utterly regardless of
himself, but wrung to the heart for others, not even excepting his
deluded murderers. Nothing could swerve him from his trust in Heaven,
and he left a glorious example of how far religion can triumph over every
calamity and every insult this world has power to inflict.
There was a national guard, who, at the time of the imprisonment of the
Royal Family, was looked upon as the most violent of Jacobins, and the
sworn enemy of royalty. On that account the sanguinary agents of the
self-created Assembly employed him to frequent the Temple. His special
commission was to stimulate the King and Royal Family by every possible
argument to self-destruction.
But this man was a friend in disguise. He undertook the hateful office
merely to render every service in his power, and convey regular
information of the plots of the Assembly against those whom he was
deputed to persecute. The better to deceive his companions, he would
read aloud to the Royal Family all the debates of the regicides, which
those who were with him encouraged, believing it meant to torture and
insult, when the real motive was to prepare them to meet every
accusation, by communicating to them each charge as it occurred. So
thoroughly were the Assembly deceived, that the friendly guard was
allowed free access to the apartments, in order to facilitate, as was
imagined, his wish to agonize and annoy. By this means, he was enabled
to caution the illustrious prisoners never to betray any emotion at what
he read, and to rely upon his doing his best to soften the rigour of
The individual of whom I speak communicated these circumstances to me
himself. He declared, also, that the Duc d'Orleans came frequently to
the Temple during the imprisonment of Louis XVI., but, always in
disguise; and never, till within a few days after the murder of the poor
King, did he disclose himself. On that occasion he had bribed the men
who were accustomed to light the fires, to admit him in their stead to
the apartment of the Princesse Elizabeth. He found her on her knees, in
fervent prayer for the departed soul of her beloved brother. He
performed this office, totally unperceived by this predestined victim;
but his courage was subdued by her piety. He dared not extend the
stratagem to the apartment of the Queen. On leaving the angelic
Princess, he was so overcome by remorse that he: requested my informant
to give him a glass of water, saying, "that woman has unmanned me." It
was by this circumstance he was discovered.
The Queen was immediately apprised by the good man of the occurrence.
"Gracious God!" exclaimed Her Majesty, "I thought once or twice that I
had seen him at our miserable dinner hours, occupied with the other
jailers at the outside door. I even mentioned the circumstance to
Elizabeth, and she replied, "I also have observed a man resembling
D'ORLEANS, but it cannot be he, for the man I noticed had a wooden leg."
"That was the very disguise he was discovered in this morning, when
preparing, or pretending to prepare, the fire in the Princesse
Elizabeth's apartment," replied the national guard.
"Merciful Heaven!" said the Queen, "is he not yet satisfied? Must he
even satiate his barbarous brutality with being an eye-witness of the
horrid state into which he has thrown us? Save me," continued Her
Majesty, "oh, save me from contaminating my feeble sight, which is almost
exhausted, nearly parched up for the loss of my dear husband, by looking
on him!--Oh, death! come, come and release me from such a sight!"
"Luckily," observed the guard to me, "it was the hour of the general jail
dinner, and we were alone; otherwise, I should infallibly have been
discovered, as my tears fell faster than those of the Queen, for really
hers seemed to be nearly exhausted: However," pursued he, "that D'ORLEANS
did see the Queen, and that the Queen saw him, I am very sure. From what
passed between them in the month of July, 1793, she was hurried off from
the Temple to the common prison, to take her trial." This circumstance
combined, with other motives, to make the Assembly hasten the Duke's
trial soon after, who had been sent with his young son to Marseilles,
there being no doubt that he wished to rescue the Queen, so as to have
her in his own power.
On the 16th of October, Her Majesty was beheaded. Her death was
consistent with her life. She met her fate like a Christian, but still
like a Queen.
Perhaps, had Marie Antoinette been uncontrolled in the exercise of her
judgment, she would have shown a spirit in emergency better adapted to
wrestle with the times than had been discovered by His Majesty. Certain
it is she was generally esteemed the most proper to be consulted of the
two. From the imperfect idea which many of the persons in office
entertained of the King's capacity, few of them ever made any
communication of importance but to the Queen. Her Majesty never kept a
single circumstance from her husband's knowledge, and scarcely decided on
the smallest trifle without his consent; but so thorough was his
confidence in the correctness of her judgment that he seldom, if ever,
opposed her decisions. The Princesse de Lamballe used to say, "Though
Marie Antoinette is not a woman of great or uncommon talents, yet her
long practical knowledge gave her an insight into matters of moment which
she turned to advantage with so much coolness and address amid
difficulties, that I am convinced she only wanted free scope to have
shone in the history of Princes as a great Queen. Her natural tendencies
were perfectly domestic. Had she been kept in countenance by the manners
of the times, or favoured earlier by circumstances, she would have sought
her only pleasures in the family circle, and, far from Court intrigue,
have become the model of her sex and age."
It is by no means to be wondered at that, in her peculiar situation,
surrounded by a thoughtless and dissipated Court, long denied the natural
ties so necessary to such a heart, in the heyday of youth and beauty, and
possessing an animated and lively spirit, she should have given way in
the earlier part of her career to gaiety, and been pleased with a round
of amusement. The sincere friendship which she afterwards formed for the
Duchesse de Polignac encouraged this predilection. The plot to destroy
her had already been formed, and her enemies were too sharp-sighted and
adroit not to profit and take advantage of the opportunities afforded by
this weakness. The miscreant had murdered her character long, long
before they assailed her person.
The charge against her of extravagance has been already refuted. Her
private palace was furnished from the State lumber rooms, and what was
purchased, paid for out of her savings. As for her favourites, she never
had but two, and these were no supernumerary expense or encumbrance to
Perhaps it would have been better had she been more thoroughly directed
by the Princesse de Lamballe. She was perfectly conscious of her good
qualities, but De Polignac dazzled and humoured her love of amusement and
display of splendour. Though this favourite was the image of her royal
mistress in her amiable characteristics, the resemblance unfortunately
extended to her weaknesses. This was not the case with the Princesse de
Lamballe; she possessed steadiness, and was governed by the cool
foresight of her father-in-law, the Duc de Penthievre, which both the
other friends wanted.
The unshaken attachment of the Princesse de Lamballe to the Queen,
notwithstanding the slight at which she at one time had reason to feel
piqued, is one of the strongest evidences against the slanderers of Her
Majesty. The moral conduct of the Princess has never been called in
question. Amid the millions of infamous falsehoods invented to vilify
and degrade every other individual connected with the Court, no
imputation, from the moment of her arrival in France, up to the fatal one
of her massacre, ever tarnished her character. To her opinion, then, the
most prejudiced might look with confidence. Certainly no one had a
greater opportunity of knowing the real character of Marie Antoinette.
She was an eye-witness to her conduct during the most brilliant and
luxurious portion of her reign; she saw her from the meridian of her
magnificence down to her dejection to the depths of unparalleled misery.
If the unfortunate Queen had ever been guilty of the slightest of those
glaring vices of which she was so generally accused, the Princess must
have been aware of them; and it was not in her nature to have remained
the friend and advocate, even unto death, of one capable of depravity.
Yet not a breath of discord ever arose between them on that score.
Virtue and vice can never harmonize; and even had policy kept Her
Highness from avowing a change of sentiments, it never could have
continued her enthusiasm, which was augmented, and not diminished, by the
fall of her royal friend. An attachment which holds through every
vicissitude must be deeply rooted from conviction of the integrity of its
The friendship that subsisted between this illustrious pair is an
everlasting monument that honours their sex. The Queen used to say of
her, that she was the only woman she had ever known without gall.
"Like the blessed land of Ireland," observed Her Majesty, "exempt from
the reptiles elsewhere so dangerous to mankind, so was she freed by
Providence from the venom by which the finest form in others is
empoisoned. No envy, no ambition, no desire, but to contribute to the
welfare and happiness of her fellow creatures--and yet, with all these
estimable virtues, these angelic qualities, she is doomed, from her
virtuous attachment to our persons, to sink under the weight of that
affliction, which, sooner or later, must bury us all in one common ruin--
a ruin which is threatening hourly."
These presentiments of the awful result of impending storms were mutual.
From frequent conversations with the Princesse de Lamballe, from the
evidence of her letters and her private papers, and from many remarks
which have been repeated to me personally by Her Highness, and from
persons in her confidence, there is abundant evidence of the forebodings
she constantly had of her own and the Queen's untimely end.
[A very remarkable circumstance was related to me when I was at
Vienna, after this horrid murder. The Princess of Lobkowitz, sister
to the Princesse de Lamballe, received a box, with an anonymous
letter, telling her to conceal the box carefully till further
notice. After the riots had subsided a little in France, she was
apprised that the box contained all, or the greater part, of the
jewels belonging to the Princess, and had been taken from the
Tuileries on the 10th of August.
It is supposed that the jewels had been packed by the Princess in
anticipation of her doom, and forwarded to her sister through her
agency or desire.]
There was no friend of the Queen to whom the King showed any deference,
or rather anything like the deference he paid to the Princesse de
Lamballe. When the Duchesse de Polignac, the Comtesse Diane de Polignac,
the Comte d'Artois, the Duchesse de Guiche, her husband, the present Duc
de Grammont, the Prince of Hesse-Darmstadt, etc., fled from Paris, he and
the Queen, as if they had foreseen the awful catastrophe which was to
destroy her so horribly, entreated her to leave the Court, and take
refuge in Italy. So also did her father-in-law, the Duc de Penthievre;
but all in vain. She saw her friend deprived of De Polignac, and all
those near and dear to her heart, and became deaf to every solicitation.
Could such constancy, which looked death in its worst form in the face
unshrinking, have existed without great and estimable qualities in its
The brother-in-law of the Princesse de Lamballe, the Duc d'Orleans, was
her declared enemy merely from her attachment to the Queen. These three
great victims have been persecuted to the tomb, which had no sooner
closed over the last than the hand of Heaven fell upon their destroyer.
That Louis XVI. was not the friend of this member of his family can
excite no surprise, but must rather challenge admiration. He had been
seduced by his artful and designing regicide companions to expend
millions to undermine the throne, and shake it to pieces under the feet
of his relative, his Sovereign, the friend of his earliest youth, who was
aware of the treason, and who held the thunderbolt, but would not crush
him. But they have been foiled in their hope of building a throne for
him upon the ruin they had made, and placed an age where they flattered
him he would find a diadem.
The Prince de Conti told me at Barcelona that the Duchesse d'Orleans had
assured him that, even had the Duc d'Orleans survived, he never could
have attained, his object. The immense sums he had lavished upon the
horde of his revolutionary satellites had, previous to his death, thrown
him into embarrassment. The avarice of his party increased as his
resources diminished. The evil, as evil generally does, would have
wrought its own punishment in either way. He must have lived suspected
and miserable, had he not died. But his reckless character did not
desert him at the scaffold. It is said that before he arrived at the
Place de Greve he ate a very rich ragout, and drank a bottle of
champagne, and left the world as he had gone through it.
The supernumerary, the uncalled-for martyr, the last of the four devoted
royal sufferers, was beheaded the following spring. For this murder
there could not have been the shadow of a pretext. The virtues of this
victim were sufficient to redeem the name of Elizabeth
[The eighteen years' imprisonment and final murder of Mary, Queen of
Scots, by Elizabeth of England, is enough to stigmatize her forever,
independently of the many other acts of tyranny which stain her
memory. The dethronement by Elizabeth of Russia of the innocent
Prince Ivan, her near relation, while yet in the cradle, gives the
Northern Empress a claim to a similar character to the British
from the stain with which the two of England and Russia, who had already
borne it, had clouded its immortality. She had never, in any way,
interfered in political events. Malice itself had never whispered a
circumstance to her dispraise. After this wanton assassination, it is
scarcely to be expected that the innocent and candid looks and streaming
azure eyes of that angelic infant, the Dauphin, though raised in humble
supplication to his brutal assassins, with an eloquence which would have
disarmed the savage tiger, could have won wretches so much more pitiless
than the most ferocious beasts of the wilderness, or saved him from their
slow but sure poison, whose breath was worse than the upas tree to all
who came within its influence.
The Duchesse d'Angouleme, the only survivor of these wretched captives,
is a living proof of the baleful influence of that contaminated prison,
the infectious tomb of the royal martyrs. That once lovely countenance,
which, with the goodness and amiableness of her royal father, whose
mildness hung on her lips like the milk and honey of human kindness,
blended the dignity, grace, elegance, and innocent vivacity, which were
the acknowledged characteristics of her beautiful mother, lost for some
time all traces of its original attractions. The lines of deep-seated
sorrow are not easily obliterated. If the sanguinary republic had not
wished to obtain by exchange the Generals La Fayette, Bournonville,
Lameth, etc., whom Dumourier had treacherously consigned into the hands
of Austria, there is little: doubt but that, from the prison in which she
was so long doomed to vegetate only to make life a burthen, she would
have been sent to share the fate of her murdered family.
How can the Parisians complain that they found her Royal Highness, on her
return to France, by no means what they required in a Princess? Can it
be wondered at that her marked grief should be visible when amidst the
murderers of her family? It should rather be a wonder that she can at
all bear the scenes in which she moves, and not abhor the very name of
Paris, when every step must remind her of some out rage to herself, or
those most dear to her, or of some beloved relative or friend destroyed!
Her return can only be accounted for by the spell of that all-powerful
'amor patriae', which sometimes prevails over every other influence.
Before I dismiss this subject, it may not be uninteresting to my readers
to receive some desultory anecdotes that I have heard concerning one or
two of the leading monsters, by whom the horrors upon which I have
expatiated were occasioned.
David, the famous painter, was a member of the sanguinary tribunal which
condemned the King. On this account he has been banished from France
since the restoration.
If any one deserved this severity, it was David. It was at the expense
of the Court of Louis XVI. that this ungrateful being was sent to Rome,
to perfect himself in his sublime art. His studies finished, he was
pensioned from the same patrons, and upheld as an artist by the special
protection of every member of the Royal Family.
And yet this man, if he may be dignified by the name, had the baseness to
say in the hearing of the unfortunate Louis XVI., when on trial, "Well!
when are we to have his head dressed, a la guillotine."
At another time, being deputed to visit the Temple, as one of the
committee of public safety, as he held out his snuff-box before the
Princesse Elizabeth, she, conceiving he meant to offer it, took a pinch.
The monster, observing what she had done, darting a look of contempt at
her, instantly threw away the snuff, and dashed the box to pieces on the
Robespierre had a confidential physician, who attended him almost to the
period when he ascended the scaffold, and who was very often obliged,
'malgre-lui', to dine tete-a-tete with this monopolizer of human flesh
and blood. One day he happened to be with him, after a very
extraordinary number had been executed, and amongst the rest, some of the
physician's most intimate acquaintances.
The unwilling guest was naturally very downcast, and ill at ease, and
could not dissemble his anguish. He tried to stammer out excuses and get
away from the table.
Robespierre, perceiving his distress, interrogated him as to the cause.
The physician, putting his hand to his head, discovered his reluctance to
Robespierre took him by the hand, assured him he had nothing to fear, and
added, "Come, doctor, you, as a professional man, must be well informed
as to the sentiments of the major part of the Parisians respecting me.
I entreat you, my dear friend, frankly to avow their opinion. It may
perhaps serve me for the future, as a guide for governing them."
The physician answered, "I can no longer resist the impulse of nature.
I know I shall thereby oppose myself to your power, but I must tell you,
you are generally abhorred,--considered the Attila, the Sylla, of the
age,--the two-footed plague, that, walks about to fill peaceful abodes
with miseries and family mournings. The myriads you are daily sending to
the slaughter at the Place de Greve, who have, committed no crime, the
carts of a certain description, you have ordered daily to bear a stated
number to be sacrificed, directing they should be taken from the prisons,
and, if enough are not in the prisons, seized, indiscriminately in the
streets, that no place in the deadly vehicle may be left unoccupied, and
all this without a trial, without even an accusation, and without any
sanction but your own mandate--these things call the public curse upon
you, which is not the less bitter for not being audible."
"Ah!" said Robespierre, laughing. "This puts me in mind of a story told
of the cruelty and tyranny, of Pope Sixtus the Fifth, who, having one
night, after he had enjoyed himself at a Bacchanalian supper, when heated
with wine, by way of a 'bonne bouche', ordered the first man that should
come through the gate of the 'Strada del popolo' at Rome to be
immediately hanged. Every person at this drunken conclave--nay, all
Rome--considered the Pope a tyrant, the most cruel of tyrants, till it
was made known and proved, after his death, that the wretch so executed
had murdered his father and mother ten years previously. I know whom I
send to the Place de Greve. All who go there are guilty, though they may
not seem so. Go on, what else have you heard?"
"Why, that you have so terrified all descriptions of persons, that they
fear even your very breath, and look upon you as worse than the plague;
and I should not be surprised, if you persist in this course of conduct,
if something serious to yourself should be the consequence, and that ere
Not the least extraordinary part of the story is that this dialogue
between the devil and the doctor took place but a very, few hours
previous to Robespierre's being denounced by Tallien and Carriere to
the national convention, as a conspirator against the republican cause.
In defending himself from being arrested by the guard, he attempted to
shoot himself, but the ball missed, broke the monster's jaw-bone only,
and nearly impeded his speaking.
Singularly enough, it was this physician who was sent for to assist and
dress his wounds. Robespierre replied to the doctor's observations,
laughing, and in the following language:
"Oh, poor devils! they do not know their own interest. But my plan of
exterminating the evil will soon teach them. This is the only thing for
the good of the nation; for, before you can reform a thousand Frenchmen,
you must first lop off half a million of these vagabonds, and, if God
spare my life, in a few months there will be so many the less to breed
internal commotions, and disturb the general peace of Europe.
[When Bonaparte was contriving the Consulship for life, and, in the
Irish way, forced the Italian Republic to volunteer an offer of the
Consulship of Italy, by a deputation to him at Paris, I happened to
be there. Many Italians, besides the deputies, went on the
occasion, and, among them, we had the good fortune to meet the Abbe
Fortis, the celebrated naturalist, a gentleman of first-rate
abilities, who had travelled three-fourths of the globe in
mineralogical research. The Abbe chanced one day to be in company
with my husband, who was an old acquaintance of his, where many of
the chopfallen deputies, like themselves, true lovers of their
country, could not help declaring their indignation at its degraded
state, and reprobating Bonaparte for rendering it so ridiculous in
the face of Europe and the world. The Abbe Fords, with the voice of
a Stentor, and spreading his gigantic form, which exceeded six feet
in height, exclaimed: "This would not have been the case had that
just and wise man Robespierre lived but a little longer."
Every one present was struck with horror at the observation.
Noticing the effect of his words, the Abbe resumed:
"I knew well I should frighten you in showing any partiality for
that bloody monopoliser of human heads. But you do not know the
perfidy of the French nation so well as I do. I have lived among
them many years. France is the sink of human deception. A Frenchman
will deceive his father, wife, and child; for deception is his
element. Robespierre knew this, and acted upon it, as you shall
The Abbe then related to us the story I have detailed above,
verbatim, as he had it from the son of Esculapius, who himself
confirmed it afterwards in a conversation with the Abbe in our
Having completed his anecdote, "Well," said the Abbe, "was I not
right in my opinion of this great philosopher and foreseer of evils,
when I observed that had be but lived a few months longer, there
would have been so many less in the world to disturb its
The same physician observed that from the immense number of executions
during the sanguinary reign of that monster, the Place de Greve became so
complete a swamp of human blood that it would scarcely hold the
scaffolding of the instrument of death, which, in consequence, was
obliged to be continually moved from one side of the square to the other.
Many of the soldiers and officers, who were obliged to attend these
horrible executions, had constantly their half-boots and stockings filled
with the blood of the poor sufferers; and as, whenever there was any
national festival to be given, it generally followed one of the most
sanguinary of these massacres, the public places, the theatres
especially, all bore the tracks of blood throughout the saloons and
The infamous Carrier, who was the execrable agent of his still more
execrable employer, Robespierre, was left afterwards to join Tallien in a
conspiracy against him, merely to save himself; but did not long survive
his atrocious crimes or his perfidy.
It is impossible to calculate the vast number of private assassinations
committed in the dead of the night, by order of this cannibal, on persons
of every rank and description.
My task is now ended. Nothing remains for me but the reflections which
these sad and shocking remembrances cannot fail to awaken in all minds,
and especially in mine. Is it not astonishing that, in an age so
refined, so free from the enormous and flagitious crimes which were the
common stains of barbarous centuries, and at an epoch peculiarly
enlightened by liberal views, the French nation, by all deemed the most
polished since the Christian era, should have given an example of such
wanton, brutal, and coarse depravity to the world, under pretences
altogether chimerical, and, after unprecedented bloodshed and horror,
ended at the point where it began!
The organized system of plunder and anarchy, exercised under different
forms more or less sanguinary, produced no permanent result beyond an
incontestible proof that the versatility of the French nation, and its
puny suppleness of character, utterly incapacitate it for that energetic
enterprise without which there can be no hope of permanent emancipation
from national slavery. It is my unalterable conviction that the French
will never know how to enjoy an independent and free Constitution.
The tree of liberty unavoidably in all nations has been sprinkled with
human blood; but, when bathed by innocent victims, like the foul weed,
though it spring up, it rots in its infancy, and becomes loathsome and
infectious. Such has been the case in France; and the result justifies
the Italian satire:
"Un albero senza fruta
Baretta senza testa
Governo che non resta."
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