I happened to own a mechanical toy, a little fountain, and our mad project was nothing less than to pay our way throughout the world by showing its performances in every village. We started in the highest spirits, but the fountain was never remunerative, and soon its works went wrong. This threw no gloom over our merry, fantastic journey, and it was only when Annecy was near that I became a little thoughtful, for my benefactress supposed that my last place had established me for life.
We entered the little town and parted, and I came trembling to her door. The adorable woman showed little surprise, and no sorrow. I told her my story, and was forgiven. Henceforth her home was mine.
Seeking a Career
The house was an old one, but spacious and comfortable, and the window of my room looked out, over garden and stream, to the open country. The menage was by no means magnificent, but was abundant in a patriarchal way; Madame de Warens had no idea of economy, and with her hospitalities and speculations was ever running more deeply into debt. The household, besides herself and me, consisted of housemaid, cook, and a footman named Claude Anet.
From the first day, the sweetest familiarity reigned our intercourse. She called me "Little one," I called her my little mother, and these names express the relation of our hearts. She sought always my good, never her own pleasure; she was deeply attached to me, and lavished on me her maternal caresses. I was now about nineteen years old, but was only occupied about the house in writing for her, or in helping her in her pharmaceutical experiments.
But madame was thinking of my future, and sent me on some pretext to see M. d'Aubonne, a relative of hers, to find out what might be made of me. His report of me was, that I was a poor-spirited creature, narrow, ignorant, and clownish, and that the career of village priest was the best that could be hoped for. Once more, therefore, I was set to Latin at the seminary; but after some months I was returned by the bishop and the rector as incapable of learning, though a passably well-conducted youth. In the meantime I had been taken with a strong taste for music, and it was arranged that I should spend the winter at the house of M. le Maitre, director of music at the cathedral; he was a young man of great talent and of high spirits, and lived only twenty paces from my little mother. There I spent one of the most pleasant times of my life. But it was cut short by a quarrel between Le Maitre and the cathedral chapter, who had, as he thought, put a slight upon him. His revenge was to desert his post on the eve of the elaborate Easter services, and madame desired me to assist him in his flight. I was to attend him to Lyons, and remain with him as long as he should need me. Her purpose was, as I have since learned, to detach me from a plausible adventurer, M. Venture, a man of great musical talent who had turned up at Annecy, and had engaged my fancy. Our flight was successful. But on the second day after our arrival at Lyons Le Maitre fell ill with a sudden seizure in the street, and I, after telling the bystanders the name of his inn, and begging them to carry him thither, slipped round the nearest corner and disappeared. Le Maitre was deserted at his worst need by the only friend on whom he had to count. I returned at once to Annecy, only to find that madame had left for Paris.
M. Venture, however, was still there, and had turned the heads of all the ladies in the place, and for a time I shared his lodging. Then, after travelling with Merceret, the housemaid, as far as her home at Fribourg-for she had to return thither and could find no other attendant—I turned aside to Lausanne, with the idea of seeing the lake. I arrived here without a penny, and it occurred to me to play Venture's game on my own account. I took a false name, called myself a Parisian, and having secured a lodging, set up as a teacher of music, though I knew next to nothing of the art. There was a professor of law in the town who was an amateur of music, and held concert parties in his house; to this man I had the effrontry to propose a symphony of my own. I worked a fortnight at this production, wrote out the instrumental parts, and on the appointed evening stood up before the orchestra and audience, tapped my desk, raised by baton, and—never since music began has there been such an orgy of discords. The musicians could hardly sit in their chairs for laughing, yet played even louder and louder as the fun took hold of them; the audience sought to stop their ears; and I, sweat pouring down my face, conducted this atrocity to the end. But the end was a little minuet which Venture had taught me; I had appended it to my symphony, calling it my own work. Its magic put the whole room in good humour, and I was feliciated on my taste in melody. Next day one of my orchestra came to see me, and in my despair and broken spirit I told him my whole story. By nightfall it was known to all Lausanne. But at Neufchatel, through the next winter, I gradually learned music by teaching it.
My next occupation was that of interpreter to a Greek prelate and archimandrite of Jerusalem, whom I met when dining in a little restaurant. He was collecting money throughout Europe for the restoration of the Holy Sepulchre; and accompanying him from city to city, I was of much service to him, even addressing the Senate at Berne on behalf of his project. Unfortunately for my employer, he addressed himself to the Marquis de Bonac, who had been ambassador to the Porte, and knew all about the Holy Sepulchre. I don't know what passed at their interview, but the archimandrite disappeared and I was detained. In my desolation I told the marquis the history of my life, and by him was sent to Paris, with plenty of money in my pocket, to enter the service of a young friend of his in the army. My first sight of the city was a disappointment which I have never got over, and the proposed engagement fell through. Coming to the end of my resources, I set out by way of Lyons, where I suffered the extremity of poverty, to find Mme. de Warens, who was now, as I learned, at Chamberi. I came to her house and found the intendant-general with her. Without addressing me, she said, "Here, sir, he is; protect him as long as he deserves it, and his future is assured." And to me, "My child, you belong to the king." And thus I became a secretary in the ordnance survey. After five years of follies and sufferings since I had left Geneva, I began to earn an honest living.
Our Little Circle
It was in 1732, and I was nearly twenty-one years old, when I began the life of the office. I lived with the little mother in a dismal house, which she rented because it belonged to the financial secretary who controlled her pension. The faithful Claude Anet was still with her, and shortly after my return I learned accidentally that their relation was closer than I had ever dreamed of. In a fit of temper his mistress had taunted him outrageously. The poor fellow, in despair, had taken laudanum; and madame, in her terror and distress, told me the whole story. We brought him round, and things went on as before, but it was hard to me to know that anyone was more intimate with her than myself.
My passion for music increased this year until I could hardly take interest in anything else, and at last the work at the office grew so intolerable to me that I determined to resign my place. I extorted an unwilling permission from madame, said good-bye to my chief, and threw myself into the teaching of music.
I soon had as many pupils as I needed, and the constant intercourse with these ladies was very pleasant to me. But from the stories which I carried home of our interviews the little mother apprehended dangers of which I was not at that time conscious. The course which she took was a singular one. She had rented a little garden outside the town, and here she invited me to spend the day with her. Thither we went, and from the drift of her conversation, which was full of good sense and kindliest warnings, I gradually perceived the degree of her goodness towards me. The compact involved conditions, and my answer was to be given on that day week.
Thus was established among the three of us a society to which there is perhaps no parallel. All our wishes, our cares, our interests were in common. If one of us was missing from the dinner-table, or a fourth was present, all seemed out of order. But our little circle was broken all too soon. Claude Anet, on a botanical excursion, fell a victim to pleurisy, and died, notwithstanding all her care. He had been a most watchful economist of her pension and a restraint on her enterprises, and his loss was felt not only in our diminished party, but also in the wasting of her resources. For the next three years these went from bad to worse. Unfortunately, the life to which I had taken, of drifting from one interest to another—now literature, now chess, now a journey, now music—brought in nothing and cost a good deal; and to complete our anxieties, I fell ill nearly to death. Her care and utter devotion saved me, and from that time our very existence was in common.
I was ordered to the country. We found near Chamberi a little house, Les Charmettes, set in a garden among trees, as retired and solitary a home as if it had been a hundred miles from the town. There we took up a new life towards the autumn of 1736; there began the brief happiness of my existence. We were all in all to one another; together we roamed the country, worked in the garden, gathered fruit and flowers, lay under the trees and listened to the birds. Golden hours, your memory is my only treasure!
Even a sudden illness, which affected my heart so that its pulse has from that time incessantly throbbed like a drum in my ears, and has made me a constant sufferer from insomnia, turned out to be a heavenly blessing. Thinking myself a dead man, I only then began to live, and applied myself very eagerly to learning. With my little mother as my teacher, I turned to the study of religion. I sought books, and philosophy, the sciences, and Latin followed in their turn. Nature, learning, leisure, and our ineffably sweet companionship—I thought, poor fool, that these joys would be with me to the end. It was otherwise decreed.
My bodily condition has become pitiable, and it was determined that I should go to Montpellier to consult a physician. I fell in, on the way thither, with the Marquis de Torignan and his party, who were travelling in the same direction. We struck up acquaintance, and I joined them, taking an assumed name, and giving myself out for an Englishman. Becoming intimate with a Madame de Larnage, who was among them, I continued to travel with her day by day, after the others had reached their destination. She was a woman of infinite charm. Mme. de Warens was forgotten utterly, and I willingly agreed to settle down in her vicinity, after fulfilling the purpose of my journey to Montpellier. However, after two pleasurable months in that city, when I found myself at the stage where the road divided—one road going to Mme. de Larnage, the other to Les Charmettes—I balanced love against pleasure, and finding an equipoise, I decided by reason.
The little mother knew by my letter at what hour I should arrive. I came to the garden; no one came out to meet me. I entered; the servants seemed surprised to see me. I ran upstairs and found her; her welcome was restrained and cold. The truth burst upon me. My place was taken!
Darkness flooded my soul, and from that moment onward my sensibilities have been but half-alive. I took a situation as tutor in a private family, but all my thoughts were of Charmettes and of our innocent life together, now gone for ever. O dreadful illusion of human destiny!
The Gathering Gloom
I take up my pen again, after an interval of two years, to add a sequel to my confessions. How different is the picture now! For thirty years fate had favoured my inclinations, but for the second thirty, which I must try to sketch, she has ground me in the mortar of the most appalling afflictions.
This second part must inevitably be inferior, in every respect, to the first. For I wrote, before, with pleasure and at ease; but now my decaying memory and enfeebled brain have made me almost incapable of work, and I have nothing to tell of but treacheries, perfidies, and torturing memories. The walls around me have ears; I am encompassed by spies and vigilant enemies. Racked with anxiety and fear, I scribble page after page without revising them. An immense conspiracy surrounds me....
[These delusions of suspicion are perhaps the most characteristic symptoms of insanity. They colour so deeply the entire texture of Rousseau's prolix second part as to make it not only unreliable, but almost unreadable. Only its human interest gives value to the first part; from the second part human interest is totally absent. The unhappy creature, besotted with intellectual pride, was already insane, inhuman; and this morbid condition had been aggravated by years of brooding rancour before he wrote this miserable indictment of men who had done their best to befriend him.—ED.]
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Francois, Duc de la Rochefoucauld, was born in Paris on September 15, 1613. Sprung from one of the noblest families of France, handsome, winning, and brave to recklessness, he intrigued and fought against Richelieu and Mazarin, and was one of the leaders in the civil war of La Fronde. But though marked by birth and talent for a high position in the state, he failed in nearly everything he undertook, owing to his extraordinary indolence of mind, and in the prime of his life he became a rather embittered spectator of a world in which he was not able to make his way. The "Memoirs," with their studied tone of historical coldness, present a striking contrast to the brilliant vivacity of the "Maxims." This, in all probability, is due to the fact that while the latter were frequently added to and edited during their author's lifetime, no such fate befell the "Memoirs," of which the first edition, published without La Rochefoucauld's authority, appeared in 1662. Barely a third of them could be attributed to their reputed author, the work being compiled mainly from various commonplace books. In spite of La Rochefoucauld's protests, the pirated "Memoirs" continued to be printed, and it was not until very many years after his death, in 1817, that an authentic edition made its appearance. The "Memoirs" are of great literary value, yielding in interest to no memoirs of the time. La Rochefoucauld died in Paris on March 17, 1680.
King Louis XIII. was of feeble constitution, further impaired by over-exertion in hunting. His temperament was severe and solitary; he wished to be governed, but was sometimes impatient of government. His mind took note only of details, and his knowledge of war was fit rather for a subordinate officer than for a king. Cardinal Richelieu, who owed all his elevation to the queen-mother, Marie de Medicis, was ruler of the state. His vast and penetrating mind formed projects as bold as he was personally timid. His policy was to establish the king's authority and his own, by the ruin of the Huguenots and of the great houses of the kingdom, and then to attack the house of Austria, a power most redoubtable to France. He stuck at nothing, either to advance his satellites or to destroy his enemies. The passion which he had long cherished for the queen had changed to dislike, and she had an aversion for Richelieu. The king was embittered against her by jealousy and by the sterility of their marriage. The queen was an amiable woman, without falsity of any kind, and with many virtues; her intimate friend was Madame de Chevreuse, who was of her own age and of kindred sentiments.
But Madame de Chevreuse almost always brought misfortune to those whom she interested in her projects. She had much spirit, ambition, and beauty, and made full use of her charms to forward these enterprises of hers. Already Cardinal Richelieu had accused the queen and her of complicity in Chalais's plot against the king's life—for Chalais had been her warm admirer—and the king believed in their guilt to the end of his days. Again, when the young and handsome Lord Holland came to France to arrange the marriage of the King of England to the sister of the King of France, and quickly won the affection of Madame de Chevreuse, the two lovers thought fit to celebrate their attachment by inspiring a similar intrigue between the French queen and the Duke of Buckingham, who had not so much as met one another. This astonishing undertaking was successful. Buckingham came over to wed madame in the name of his master, and his ardent love for the queen, which she fully returned, deeply wounded both the king and Richelieu. The cardinal sought his revenge through Lady Carlisle. That haughty and jealous woman, to whom Buckingham had long been attached, noticed one night at a ball in England that he was wearing diamonds which she had not seen before, and contrived, unobserved, to detach them, in order that she might send them to Richelieu. These diamonds had been the gift of the King of France to his queen, and it was intended that the cardinal, by showing them to the king, should prove the queen's weakness. But the Duke of Buckingham discovered his loss the same night, and at once suspected Lady Carlisle's design. He issued an immediate order that the English ports should be closed, and that no one should be permitted, under whatever pretext, to leave the country; and then, having had exactly similar jewels prepared, he sent them to the Queen of France, with an account of the whole matter.
It was at this time that the cardinal formed the project of the destruction of the Huguenot party, and of laying siege to La Rochelle. The Duke of Buckingham came with a powerful fleet to aid La Rochelle, but in vain; the fortress was taken, and the duke was assassinated in England. This murder gave the cardinal an inhuman joy; he jested at the queen's sorrows, and began to hope again.
After the ruin of the Huguenots I returned from the army to court, being now seventeen years old, and began to notice the state of affairs. The queen-mother and the cardinal were at enmity, and though everyone saw that something would come of it, no one could foretell what would happen. The cardinal's situation was precarious, the king had learned of his love for the queen, and was quite ready to disgrace him, and even asked the queen-mother to nominate someone to replace him. She hesitated, and that hesitation was her ruin and saved the cardinal.
The reversal of the situation took place on the famous "day of dupes," on which the queen-mother, presuming too much on her power, challenged the cardinal, in the king's presence, with his ingratitude and treacheries. No one doubted but that Richelieu's day was over, and the whole court crowded to the queen-mother to share her imaginary triumph. But the king went the same day to Versailles, and the cardinal followed him; the queen, fearing that she would find Versailles dull and uncomfortable, remained behind; and the wily statesman made such good use of his opportunity that the king's consent was won to the downfall of his mother. She was soon arrested, and her sorrows lasted as long as her life.
Many were implicated in her ruin, and were exiled or thrown into the Bastille, or brought to the scaffold; and so much bloodshed and so many fortunes reversed brought odium on the name of Richelieu. The mild regency of Marie de Medicis was remembered, and all the great families lamented that liberty was a thing of the past.
For my part, I thought that the queen's cause was the only one, which an honourable man could follow. She was unhappy; the cardinal was rather her tyrant than her lover; she had been good to me, and had trusted me; Mademoiselle d'Hautefort, with whom I had great friendship, was her friend, too—sufficient reasons, these, to dazzle a youth who had seen almost nothing of the world, and to turn his steps in a direction quite contrary to his interests. King and cardinal alike soon came to detest me, and my life thenceforth was troubled by the visitations of their displeasure. In recording the scenes in which I have had a part, I have no intention of writing history, but only of touching on a few personal episodes.
War was declared in 1635 against the King of Spain, and I accompanied the French army of twenty thousand men which marched to the support of the Prince of Orange in Flanders. During neither this nor the following winter was I allowed at court. Madame de Chevreuse, who had been sent to Tours on the occasion of Richelieu's triumph had heard a good account of me from the queen, and invited me to see her; we soon struck up a very great friendship, and I came to be a confidential intermediary between the queen and her, and was often entrusted by one or other of them with most perilous commissions.
When I was at last readmitted to court in 1637, I found the queen in great trouble. She had been accused of a crime against the state, a treasonable understanding with the Spanish minister; some of her servants were arrested; the chancellor examined her like a criminal; it was even proposed to seclude her at Havre, annul her marriage, and repudiate her altogether. In this extremity, abandoned by all the world, she proposed that I should kidnap her and Mademoiselle d'Hautefort and carry them off to Brussels. Difficult and dangerous as this project was, it gave me greater joy than any I had known, for I was at an age when a man likes to engage in dashing and heroic feats. Happily, however, the chancellor's investigations proved her majesty not guilty.
But an unfortunate series of accidents led to my imprisonment for a week in the Bastille. A signal had been agreed upon between the queen and Madame de Chevreuse during the recent trouble. If all went well, Madame de Chevreuse was to receive a prayer-book bound in green, but a red binding was to indicate disaster. I never knew which of the two ladies made the mistake, but when the queen was acquitted Madame de Chevreuse received what she took to be the signal of misfortune; concluded that both she and the queen were undone, and disguising herself as a man, she fled to Spain. This escapade, so surprising at the very moment when the Queen's troubles had come to an end, inspired the king and the cardinal with the gravest suspicions that they had not, after all, fathomed her majesty's treachery. The cardinal summoned me to Paris, and hinted at unpleasant consequences if I did not reveal all I knew. I knew nothing; and as my manner seemed more reserved and dry than he was accustomed to, I was sent to the Bastille.
The little time that I spent there showed me more vividly than anything I had yet seen the picture of vengeance. I saw there men of great names and of great merits, an infinite number of men and women of all ranks in life, all unhappy in the affliction of long and cruel incarceration. The sight of so many pitiable creatures did much to increase my natural hatred for Cardinal Richelieu's administration. I was released in eight days, and thought myself very fortunate to escape at a period when none others were set at liberty.
But my disgrace was well repaid. The queen showed herself gratefully aware of all that I had suffered in her service; Mademoiselle d'Hautefort gave full expression to her esteem and friendship; and Madame de Chevreuse was not less gracious. I enjoyed not only the favour of those to whom I was attached, but also a certain approval which the world is not slow to give to the unfortunate whose conduct has not really been disgraceful. Under these conditions an exile of two or three years from court was not intolerable. I was young; the king and the cardinal were failing in health; I had everything to hope for from a change. I was happy in my family, and enjoyed all the pleasures of country life, and the neighbouring provinces were full of other exiles.
Cardinal Richelieu died on December 4, 1642. Although his enemies could only rejoice at finding themselves free at last from so many persecutions, the event has shown that the state could ill spare him. He had made so many changes in public affairs that he alone was able to direct them safely. No one before Richelieu had known all the power of the kingdom, or had been able to gather it all up into the hands of the sovereign. The severity of his adminstration had cost many lives; the nobility had been humbled, and the common people had been loaded with taxes; but the grandeur of his political designs, such as the taking of La Rochelle, the destruction of the Huguenot party, and the weakening of the house of Austria, no less than his intrepidity in carrying them out, have secured for his memory a justly-merited fame.
Under Mazarin's Rule
I returned to Paris immediately after the death of Richelieu, thinking that I might have occasion to serve the queen. In accordance with the late cardinal's will, Cardinal Mazarin succeeded to his powers. The king's state of health went from bad to worse, and the court was filled with intrigues with regard to the regency which must so soon be appointed. His death took place on May 14, 1643. The queen at once brought her little son, Louis XIV., to Paris; two days later she was declared regent in parliament; and the same evening, to the amazement of his enemies, she appointed Cardinal Mazarin chief of the council.
Mazarin's mind was great, industrious, insinuating, and artful, and his character was so supple that he could become as many different men as he had occasion to personate. But he was shortsighted even in his grandest projects; and, unlike his predecessor, whose mind was bold but his temperature timid, Mazarin was bolder in temper than in conception. A pretended moderation veiled his ambition and his avarice; he said he wanted nothing for himself.
The court was now divided between the Duke of Beaufort and the cardinal, and it was expected that the return of Madame de Chevreuse would incline the queen to the former party. But the queen was in no hurry for that lady's return, knowing well what turmoils she was apt to bring in her train. Perhaps I urged her recall more boldly than was wise; at any rate, I won my point, and her majesty sent me to form Madame de Chevreuse for her appearance at court under the new conditions.
I represented to her how indispensable Cardinal Mazarin was to the state; that he was accused of no crime, and was guiltless of Richelieu's oppressions; and that the most fatal course she could take would be to attempt to govern the queen. Madame de Chevreuse promised to follow my advice, and came up to court, but her old instincts of domination were too much for her, and she soon declared herself openly against the minister who enjoyed all the queen's confidence. She even attempted his overthrow, and for that purpose united herself to the party known as the "Importans," which was led by the Duke of Beaufort.
After various manoeuvres on the part of the cardinal and of Madame de Chevreuse to get the upper hand, Mazarin discovered a plot against his life, in which the Duke of Beaufort was implicated, and had the duke arrested and imprisoned. At the same time Madame de Chevreuse was sent away to Tours, and as I was unwilling to promise that I would have no more to do with her, I lost the favour of the queen, provoked the cardinal's displeasure, and soon found that Madame de Chevreuse herself was forgetful of all I had done for her.
Kept in idleness, tantalised by promises of office which were never fulfilled, and forbidden even to follow the wars, my wretched position led me at last to seek some way of showing my resentment at the treatment I had received from the queen and cardinal. The means were at hand. Like many others, I had come under the spell of the beauty and charm of Madame de Longueville, and thus come gradually into association with the party of the Fronde. I followed the Duke of Enghien, her brother, to the attack on Courtray, then to Mardick, where I was wounded; and this time of military service united me more closely to his later interests.
By the year 1647 everyone was weary of Mazarin's rule. His bad faith, his weakness, and his trickiness were becoming known, provinces and towns alike were groaning under taxation, and the citizens of Paris were reduced to mere despair. Parliament tried respectful remonstrances in vain; the cardinal thought himself safe in the servility of the nation. But the great majority in France desired a change, and then smouldering discontent soon burst into a flame.
The Duke of Enghien, who had become, by the death of his father, Prince of Conde, had gained in 1648 a great victory in Flanders, and a solemn thanksgiving was held in Notre Dame to celebrate it. Mazarin chose this moment for the arrest of Broussel and other members of parliament who had voiced most urgently the public distress. The action roused Paris to a fury which astonished him; the people sought him to tear him to pieces; barricades were erected in the streets, and the king and queen were besieged in the royal palace. Resistance to the parliament's demands were at the moment impossible; the prisoners had to be released.
I was at this time absent from Paris, having been sent down by the queen to my government at Poitou, which I had purchased; the province was almost in insurrection and I had to pacify it. I happened to be deeply wounded by a new slight which Cardinal Mazarin had put upon me, when Madame de Longueville sent for me to come to Paris, informing me that the whole plan for a civil war had been drawn up, and asking for my counsel in the matter. The news delighted me, and I arrived at the capital eager for my revenge on the queen and the cardinal.
Mazarin, on the other hand, had formed his plan. Realising that Paris was unsafe, he determined to leave it, to place the king at Saint-Germain, and to lay siege to the city, which would soon be reduced to famine and dissensions. Their escape was made at midnight on the eve of Epiphany, 1649, all the court following in great disorder.
The city was for a time in much perplexity, but the arrival of the Duke of Beaufort, who had broken prison at Vincennes, put heart into the people, who took him for their liberator. Other great personages threw in their lot with the popular cause; a large war-chest was quickly raised and troops were levied, and the parliament of Paris put itself into communication with the other parliaments of the kingdom. All preparations were made for a civil war, the real basis of which was a general hatred of Cardinal Mazarin, which was common to both parties. In an early engagement outside the city I was so gravely wounded as to see no more of this war, the events of which are hardly worth narrating. On April 1, 1649, the Parliament received an amnesty from the king. Neither party had vanquished the other; the cardinal and the parliament were each as strong as before, but everyone was glad to be rid, for the time, of the horrors of civil war.
Wars of the Fronde
The Prince of Conde, who had great influence in the council, showed himself so contemptuous to Mazarin, and became so inconvenient to the queen by his arrogance that she decided to arrest him, and to involve Madame de Longueville, the duke, her husband, and the Prince of Conti in the same disgrace. Accordingly, on January 18, 1650, the Prince of Conde, the Duke of Longueville, and the Prince of Conti were seized and imprisoned at Vincennes, and the order was given at the same time to arrest Madame de Longueville and myself. But we succeeded in escaping together to Dieppe, where we were forced to separate; Madame de Longueville found refuge at Stenay, where she met with Turenne, and I returned to my government of Poitou and formed an alliance there with the Duke of Bouillon, Turenne's brother. Together the duke and I matured designs which led to the civil war in the south.
My father having died at Verteuil in March, 1650, I succeeded to the title of Duke of La Rochefoucauld. I invited a large number of nobles and gentlemen of that region to the funeral ceremonies; our plans were put before them; though some of them held back, most were favourable; and I soon found myself at the head of a force of two thousand horse and eight hundred foot. The Duke of Bouillon and I were joined by the young Princess of Conde, with her son the Duke of Enghien; we gathered more troops at Turenne, and marched upon Bordeaux. After overcoming some opposition, the princess entered that city in triumph on May 31, 1650, and we joined her a few days later.
The grievance of the princess and the presence of her son excited the liveliest enthusiasm, and the party opposed to Mazarin had entire mastery of the town. The revolt of Bordeaux carried with it almost all Guienne, and Mazarin determined to crush it before it should extend to the neighbouring provinces. A royal army of veterans was sent down, Bordeaux was closely invested, an obstinate defence was made, but the town had to capitulate on September 28, on the condition of an amnesty to the princess and her adherents.
Meanwhile Turenne, with a Spanish force, had made a vain attempt to rescue the captive princes, and Mazarin had removed them to Havre, where the government was devoted to him. There was now such general dread and hatred of the cardinal, that people were willing to unite with those whom they had considered their mortal enemies in order to secure his ruin. In the early days of 1651 I was summoned to Paris by the Princess Palatine, who united a taste for gallantry with a remarkable talent for intrigue, and remained for some time hidden in her house, where I was witness to many consultations for the removal of Mazarin from power. I even made a last attempt to persuade the cardinal himself to release the princes; in four nocturnal interviews I tried to show him how all parties were uniting to compass his ruin, but was unable to convince him without betraying secrets which were not my own. Mazarin gave me no hope of their liberation.
Then arose a general storm against the minister, and he made his escape on the night of February 7. The queen would have followed him with her son, but the Frondeurs and the partisans of the princes kept her prisoner in her palace. Without any hope of assistance, and daunted day and night by an infuriated populate, she sent for me and gave me an order to the governor of Havre to release the princes immediately. I warned the leaders of the Fronde that her sincerity was not above suspicion, and that all depended upon her close imprisonment, and so set out along the northern road upon my mission. But the cardinal had been beforehand with me, the princes were at liberty, and on February 16 they entered Paris in triumph.
Mazarin, who had fled to Cologne, whence he continued to direct the queen's cabinet, returned to France at the head of a small army in January, 1652, and arrived at Poitiers without meeting any resistance. The party opposed to him was rent by faction and strife, but the Prince of Conde united it, and fought an indecisive engagement with the royal troops on April 8. On the 11th the prince and I were well received in Paris, but it was evident that the citizens were weary of all these troubles, desired nothing so much as the king's return, and detested the ambition of the leaders of faction. Indeed, the magistrates were negotiating with Mazarin, and declared the city neutral. On July 2 the Prince of Conde was marching his force from Saint-Cloud to Charenton when he was attacked by Turenne; and in the sanguinary combat which followed, and in which I was fighting beside the prince, I received a wound in the head which prevented my taking any further part in these disturbances.
Shortly afterwards, the Prince of Conde, his popularity wholly gone, took service under the King of Spain; King Louis XIV., amid general acclamations, returned to Paris on October 21; and Cardinal Mazarin, having overcome all his enemies, entered the capital in a veritable triumph, in February, 1653.
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MADAME DE SEVIGNE
Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, who became Madame de Sevigne, was born at Paris on February 6, 1626. Her father and mother died during her childhood and Marie was left to the care of her uncle, priest of Coulanges; she received an admirable education and became a great lover of history and of classical literature. At eighteen years of age she married the Marquis Henri de Sevigne, who was killed in a duel in 1651, and thenceforth Madame de Sevigne gave herself up altogether to the care of her two children. Her wit, her kindliness, and happiness, her charity and fidelity, and especially a certain rare genius for friendship, won for her the warm devotion of many great people of that brilliant age. Her daughter was married in 1669 to the Comte de Grignan, a great official, lieutenant-general of Languedoc and then of Provence, a man of honour, but accustomed to the most lavish expenditure, which burdened his life with enormous debts. The famous "Letters" of Madame de Sevigne numbering over 1,000 were written over a period of twenty-five years, chiefly to this daughter, Madame de Grignan. They are valued for their vivacious and graceful style, the light which they throw upon the thoughts and movements of her time, but especially for their revelation of a wonderfully sweet and gracious personality. Madame de Sevigne died on April 18, 169696.
Love for her Daughter
My dear child: I have been here but three hours, and already take my pen to talk to you. I left Paris with the Abbe, Helene, Hebert and Marphise, so that I might get away from the noise and bustle of the town until Thursday evening. I want to have perfect quietness, in which to reflect. I intend to fast for many good reasons, and to walk much to make up for the long time I have spent in my room; and above all, I want to discipline myself for the love of God.
But, my dear daughter, what I shall do more than all this, will be to think of you. I have not ceased to do so since I arrived here; and being quite unable to restrain my feelings, I have betaken myself to the little shady walk you so loved, to write to you, and am sitting on the mossy bank where you so often used to lie. But, my dear, where in this place have I not seen you? Do not thoughts of you haunt my heart everywhere I turn?—in the house, in the church, in the field, in the garden—every spot speaks to me of you. You are in my thoughts all the time, and my heart cries out for you again and again. I search in vain for the dear, dear child I love so passionately; but she is 600 miles away, and I cannot call her to my side. My tears fall, and I cannot stop them. I know it is weak, but this tenderness for you is right and natural and I cannot be strong.
I wonder what your mood will be when you receive this letter; perhaps at that moment you will not be touched with the emotions I now feel so poignantly, and then you may not read it in the spirit in which it was written. But against that I cannot guard, and the act of writing relieves my feelings at the moment—that is at least what I ask of it. You would not believe the condition into which this place has thrown me.
Do not refer to my weakness, I beg of you; but you must love me, and have respect for my tears, since they flow from a heart which is full of you.
The Brinvilliers Affair
The Brinvilliers affair is still the only thing talked of in Paris. The Marquise confessed to having poisoned her father, her brothers, and one of her children. The Chevalier Duget had been one of those who had partaken of a poisoned dish of pigeon-pie; and when the Brinvilliers was told three years later that he was still alive, her only remark was "that man surely has an excellent constitution." It seems she fell deeply in love with Sainte Croix, an officer in the regiment of her husband, the Marquis, who lived in their house. Believing that Sainte Croix would marry her if she were free, she attempted to poison her husband. Sainte Croix, not reciprocating her desire, administered an antidote, and thus saved the poor Marquis's life.
And now, all is over. The Brinvilliers is no more. Judgment was given yesterday and this morning her sentence was read to her—she was to make a public confession in front of Notre Dame, after which she was to be executed, her body burnt and her ashes scattered to the winds. She was threatened with torture, but said it was unnecessary and that she would tell all. Accordingly she recounted the history of her whole life, which was even more horrible than anyone had imagined, and I could not hear of it without shuddering.
At six in the morning she was led out, barefoot, and clad only in one loose garment, with a halter round her neck. From Notre Dame she was carried back in the same Tumbril, in which I saw her lying on straw, with the Doctor on one side of her and the executioner on the other; the sight of her struck me with horror. I am told that she mounted the scaffold with a firm step, and died as she had lived, resolutely, and without fear or emotion.
She asked her confessor to place the executioner so that she need not gaze on Degrais, who, you will remember, tracked her to England, and ultimately arrested her at Liege. After she had mounted the ladder to the scaffold she was exposed to the public for a quarter of an hour, while the executioner arranged her for execution. This raised a murmur of disapproval among the people, and it was a great cruelty. It seems that some say she was a saint; and after her body had been burned, the people crowded near to search for bones as relics, but little was to be found, as her ashes were thrown into the fire. And, it may be supposed, that we now inhale what remains of her. It is to be hoped that we shall not inhale her murderous instincts also.
She had two confessors, of whom one counselled her to tell everything, the other nothing. She laughed, and said, "I may in conscience do what pleases me best."
I was pleased to hear what you think of this horrible woman; it is not possible that she should be in Paradise; her vile soul must be separated from others.
You ask me if I am devout. Alas! No, which is a sorrow to me; but I am in a way detached from what is called the world. Old age, and a little sickness give one time to reflect. But, my dear child, what I do not give to the world, I give to you; so that I hardly advance in the region of detachment; and you know the true way towards a devout life lies in some degree of effacement, first of all, of that which our heart holds dearest.
One of my great desires is to become devout. Every day I am tormented by this idea. I do not belong to God, neither do I belong to the Devil; this indecision is a perpetual torment to me, although between ourselves, I believe this state to be a most natural one. One does not belong to the Devil, because one fears God: also, one does not belong to God, because His law is hard, and one does not like to renounce oneself. These are the luke-warm, and their great number does not surprise me at all; I can enter into their reasonings; but God hates them; therefore we must cease to serve in this state—and there is the difficulty.
I am overwhelmed by the death of M. du Mans; I had never thought of death in connection with him. Yet he has died of a trifling fever, without having had time to think either of heaven or of earth. Providence sometimes shows its authority by sudden visitations, from which we should profit.
What you say as to the anxieties which we so often and so naturally feel about the future, and as to how our inclinations are insensibly changed by necessity, is a subject worthy of a book like Pascal's; nothing is so satisfying, nothing so useful as meditations of this kind. But how many people of your age think this? I know of none; and I honour your sound reasoning and courage. With me it is not so, especially when my heart afflicts me; my words are indifferently good; I write as those who speak well; but the depth of my feeling kills me. This I feel when I write to you of the pain of separation. I have not myself found the proverb true, "To cloak oneself according to the cold." I have no cloak against cold like this. Yet I manage to find occupation, and the time passes somehow. But in general it is true that our thoughts and inclinations turn into other channels, and our sorrows cease to be such.
Love of Life
You ask me, dear child, if I am still in love with life. I must confess that I find its sorrows grievous, but my distaste for death is even stronger. It is sad to think I must finish my life with death, and if it were possible I would retrace my steps. I find myself embarked on life without my consent, and am in a perplexing situation. I shall have to take leave of life, and the fact overwhelms me: for how, or by what gate, shall I pass away? When will death come, and in what disposition will it find me? Shall I suffer a thousand pains which will make me die in despair? Shall I die in a transport of joy? Shall I die of an accident? How shall I stand before God? What shall I have to offer Him? Shall I return to Him in fear and necessity, and be conscious of no other feeling but terror? What can I hope for? Am I worthy of Paradise? Or worthy only of Hell? What an alternative! What perplexity! Nothing is so mad as to leave one's safety thus in uncertainty; but nothing is more natural; and the foolish life I lead is perfectly easy to understand. I plunge myself into these thoughts; and I find death so terrible, that I hate life more because it leads to death, than because it leads me through troublesome places. You will say I wish to live for ever. Not at all; but if I had been asked, I would willingly have died in my nurse's arms, for I should thus have avoided many sorrows and would have secured heaven with certainty and ease.
The Order of God
Providence wills order; but if order is nothing other than the will of God, almost all that occurs is done against His will: all the persecutions, for instance, against St. Athanasius; all the prosperity of ill-doers and tyrants—all this is against order and therefore against the will of God. We must surely hold to what St. Augustine says, that God permits all these things so that he may manifest His glory by means that are unknown to us. St. Augustine knows no rule nor order but the will of God. If we did not follow this doctrine, we should be forced to conclude that almost everything is contrary to the will of Him who made it, and this seems to me a dreadful conclusion.
I should like to complain to Father Malebranche about the mice which eat everything here; is that in order? Sugar, fruit, preserves, everything is devoured by them. And was it order last year, that miserable caterpillars destroyed the leaves of our forest-trees and gardens, and all the fruit in the country-side? Father Payen, most peaceable of men, has his head broken; is that order? Yes, Father, all that is doubtless good. God knows how to dispose of it to His glory, though we know not how. We must take it as true, for if we do not regard the will of God as equivalent to all law and order, we fall into great difficulties.
You are such a philosopher, my very dear child, that there is no way of being happy with you. Your mind runs on beyond our hopes to picture to itself the loss of all we hope for; and you see, in our meetings, the inevitable separation that is to follow. Surely that is not the way to deal with the good things Providence prepares for us; we should rather husband and enjoy them. But after having made this little reproach, I must confess in all honesty that I deserve it just as much as you. No one can be more daunted than I am by the flight of time, nor feel more keenly beforehand the griefs which ordinarily follow pleasures. Indeed, my daughter, life mingles its good and ill: when one has what one desires, one is all the nearer to losing it; when it is further from us, we dream of finding it. So we must just take things as God sends them. For my part, I would cherish the hope of seeing you without mixing in with other feelings; and look forward to holding you in my arms next month. I wish to believe God will allow us this perfect joy, although it would be the easiest thing in the world to mix it with bitterness, if we so desired. All that remains, my very dear one, is to breathe and to live.
The Prince of Orange and England
The Prince of Orange has declared himself protector of the religion of England, and has asked to have charge of the education of the young Prince. It is a bold step, and several of the English nobility have joined him. We are all hoping that the Prince of Orange has made a mistake, and that King James II. will give him a good beating. He has received the Milords, confirmed the attachment of those most devoted to him, and has declared entire liberty of conscience. But we understand that the King of England has united all his people round him, by affording a greater degree of religious liberty.
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What shall we say of this English nation? Its customs and manners go from bad to worse. The King of England has escaped from London, apparently by kind permission of the Prince of Orange; the Queen will arrive at St. Germain in a day or two. It is quite certain that war will be declared against us soon, if indeed we are not the first to declare it. We are sending the Abbe Testu to St. Germain to help in establishing there the King and Queen of England and the Prince of Wales. Our King of France has behaved quite divinely to these Majesties of England; for to comfort and sustain, as he has done, a betrayed and abandoned king, is to act in the image of the Almighty.
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It is good news that the King of England has left this morning for Ireland, where they are anxiously awaiting him. He will be better there than here. He is travelling through Brittany like lightning, and at Brest he will find Marshall d'Estree with transport and frigates ready. He carries large treasure, and the King has given him arms for ten thousand men; as his Majesty of England was saying good-bye, he said, laughing, that he had forgotten arms for himself, and our King gave him his own. Our heroes of romance have done nothing more gallant. What will not this brave and unfortunate King accomplish with these ever victorious weapons? He goes forth with the helmet and cuirass of Renaud, Amadis, and our most illustrious paladins, supported by unexampled generosity and magnanimity.
So you have been struck by Madame de la Fayette's words, inspired by so much friendliness. I never let myself forget the fact that I am growing old; but I must confess that I was simply astonished at what she said, because I do not yet feel any infirmity to keep me in mind of my advancing years. I think of them, however, and find that life offers us hard conditions: here have I been led, in spite of myself, to the fatal period at which one must die—old age. I see it; old age has stolen upon me; and my only desire is to go no further. I do not want to travel along that road of infirmities, pains, the loss of memory, the disfigurements to which I look forward as an outrage; yet I hear a voice saying in my ear—"You must pass down that road, whether you like it or not, or else you must die"; and this second alternative is as repugnant to nature as the first. This is the inevitable lot of whoever advances too far along the course of life. Yet, a return to God's will, and submission to that universal law which has condemned us all to death, is enough to seat reason again on her throne, and to give us patience. Do you too have patience, my darling; don't let your love, too tender, cause you tears which your reason must condemn.
Your brother has come under the Empire of Ninon de Lenclos; I fear it will bring evil; she ruined his father. We must recommend him to God. Christian women, or at least who wish to be so, cannot see disorder like his without sorrow.
But what a dangerous person this Ninon is! She finds that your brother has the simplicity of a dove, and is like his mother; it is Madame de Grignan who has all the salt of the family, and is not so simple as to be ruled. Someone, meaning to take your part, tried to correct her notion of you, but Ninon contradicted him and said she knew you better. What a corrupt creature! Because you are beautiful and spirited she must needs add to you another quality without which, on her principles, you cannot be perfect. I have been deeply troubled by the harm she is doing to my son. But do not speak of the matter to him; Madame de la Fayette and I are doing our best to extricate him from his perilous attachment.
We have been reading for our amusement those little Provincial Letters. Heavens, what charm they have! How eagerly my son reads them! I always think of my daughter, and how worthy of her is the incomparable justice of their reasoning; but your brother says that you complain that the writer is always saying the same thing. Well, well; all the better! Is it possible that there should be a more perfect style, or a finer, more delicate or more natural raillery? Could anything be more worthy of comparison with Plato's "Dialogues"? But after the first ten letters, what earnestness, solidity, force and eloquence! What love for God and for truth, what exquisite skill in maintaining it and making it understood, characterise these eight last letters with their so different tone! I understand that you have read them only hurriedly, enjoying the more amusing passages; but that is not how one reads them at leisure.
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The Life of Nelson
Robert Southey, man of letters and poet-laureate, was born at Bristol on August 12, 1774, and received at various schools a desultory education, which he completed by an idle year at Oxford. Here he became acquainted with Coleridge; and Southey, who had practised verse from early boyhood, and acquired a strong taste for the drama, being also an ardent republican and romanticist, was easily enlisted by the elder poet in his scheme for a model republic, or "Pantisocracy," in the wilds of America. They married two sisters, the Misses Fricker, and a third sister married Robert Lovel, also a poet. The experiment of pantisocracy was fortunately never carried out, and Southey's career for the next eight years was exceedingly fragmentary; but in 1803 there was a reunion of the three sisters at Keswick, though one of the husbands, Lovel, was dead. Here Southey entered steadily and industriously on the life of an author for livelihood; it was by no means unremunerative. Southey's output of work, both prose and verse, was very voluminous, and its quality could not but suffer. He was appointed poet-laureate in 1813; and received a government pension of L160 a year from 1807, which was increased by L300 a year in 1835. He died on March 21, 1843. In a prefatory note to that peerless model of short biographies, the "Life of Nelson," which appeared in 1813, and is considered his most important work, Southey describes it as "clear and concise enough to become a manual for the young sailor, which he may carry about with him till he has treasured up the example in his memory and in his heart."
I.—A Captain at Twenty
Horatio, son of Edmund and Catherine Nelson, was born on September 29, 1758, in the parsonage of Burnham Thorpe, a Norfolk village, where his father was rector. His mother's maiden name was Suckling; her grandmother was an elder sister of Sir Robert Walpole, and this child was named after his godfather, the first Lord Walpole. Mrs. Nelson died in 1767, leaving eight children, and her brother, Captain Maurice Suckling, R.N., visited the widower, and promised to take care of one of the boys.
Three years later, when Horatio was twelve years old, he read in the newspaper that his uncle was appointed to the Raisonnable, and urged his father to let him go to sea with his Uncle Maurice.
The boy was never strong, but he had already given proofs of a resolute heart and a noble mind. Captain Suckling took an interest in him, and sent him on a first voyage in a merchant ship to the West Indies, and then, as coxswain, with the Arctic expedition of 1773, when Horatio showed his courage by attacking a Polar bear.
A voyage to the East Indies followed, and gave him the rank of midshipman. But the tropical climate reduced him almost to a skeleton; he lost for a time the use of his limbs, and was sent home as his only chance of life. He returned under great depression of spirits. In later years he related how the despair was cleared away by a glow of patriotism, in which his king and country came vividly before his mind. "Well, then," he exclaimed, "I will be a hero, and, confiding in Providence, I will brave every danger!"
On April 8, 1777, he passed his examination for a lieutenancy, and was appointed to the Lowestoft frigate, Captain Locker, then fitting out for Jamaica. Privateers under American colours were harassing British trade in the West Indies, and Nelson saw much active service. He was removed to the Bristol flagship, then to the command of the Badger, then to the Hinchinbrook, and before the age of twenty-one he had gained a rank which brought all the honours of the service within his reach.
An expedition was at this time projected to seize the region of Lake Nicaragua, and thus to cut the communication of the Spaniards between their northern and southern possessions; and in pursuit of this policy Nelson was sent with a small force, early in 1780, to Honduras. Here, after deeds of great gallantry, his command was almost annihilated by the deadly climate, and he himself was so reduced by dysentery that he was compelled to return to England.
His next ship was the Albemarle, twenty-eight guns, in which he was kept, to his great annoyance, in the North Sea for the whole winter of 1781-2, and was sent in the spring to Quebec. The Albemarle then served on the West Indian station until tidings came that the preliminaries of peace had been signed, and she returned to England, and was paid off in 1783.
"I have closed the war," said Nelson, in one of his letters, "without a fortune; but there is not a speck on my character. True honour, I hope, predominated in my mind far above riches." He did not apply for a ship, because he was not wealthy enough to live on board in the manner which was then customary.
But, after living for a time in lodgings in St. Omer's in France, he was appointed to the Boreas, going to the Leeward Islands, and on his arrival in the West Indies in 1784, found himself senior captain, and therefore second in command on that station.
The Americans were at this time trading with our islands, taking advantage of the register of their ships, which had been issued while they were British subjects. Nelson knew that, by the Navigation Act, no foreigners, directly or indirectly, were permitted to carry on any trade with these possessions; and also that the Americans had made themselves foreigners with regard to England.
Contrary to the orders both of the admiral and of the governor, he insisted that our ships of war were not sent abroad to make a show of, and seized four American vessels at Nevis; and when the matter was brought into court at that place he pleaded his own cause, and the ships were condemned.
While the lawsuit was proceeding, Nelson formed an attachment to a young widow, Mrs. Nisbet, niece of the President of Nevis, and was married to her on March 11, 1787. She was then in her eighteenth year, and had one child, a son, Josiah, who was three years old. They returned together to England and took up their abode at the old parsonage, where Nelson amused himself with farming and country sports, and continued a relentless campaign against the speculators and fraudulent contractors attached to the naval service in the West Indies. After many vain attempts to secure a ship, he was at last appointed, on January 30, 1793, to the Agamemnon, sixty-four guns.
II.—In the Mediterranean
The Agamemnon was ordered to the Mediterranean under Lord Hood, and Nelson was sent with despatches to Sir William Hamilton, our envoy to the court of Naples. Sir William, after his first interview with him, told Lady Hamilton that he was about to introduce a little man to her who could not boast of being very handsome, but who would one day astonish the world. Thus that acquaintance began which ended in the destruction of Nelson's domestic happiness, though it threatened no such consequences then. Here also began that acquaintance with the Neapolitan court which led to the only blot on Nelson's public character.
Having accomplished this mission, Nelson was sent to join Commodore Linzee at Tunis, and shortly afterwards to co-operate with General Paoli and the Anti-Gallican party in Corsica. At this time, 1794, Nelson was able to say, "My seamen are now what British seamen ought to be, almost invincible. They really mind shot no more than peas." And again, after capturing Bastia, "I am all astonishment when I reflect on what we have achieved! I was always of opinion, have ever acted up to it, and never had any reason to repent it, that one Englishman was equal to three Frenchmen." The Agamemnon was then dispatched to co-operate in the siege of Calvi with General Sir Charles Stuart, at which Nelson lost the sight of one eye; and later played a glorious part in the attack by Admiral Hotham's squadron on the French fleet. This action saved Corsica for the time.
Nelson was made colonel of marines in 1795, a mark of approbation which he had long wished for; and the Agamemnon was ordered to Genoa, to co-operate with the Austrian and Sardinian forces. The incapacity and misconduct of the Austrian General de Vins, however, gave the enemy possession of the Genoese coast. The Agamemnon, therefore, could no longer be useful on this station, and Nelson sailed for Leghorn to refit, and then joined the Mediterranean fleet under Sir John Jervis.
England at that time depended too much on the rotten governments of the Continent, and too little upon itself. Corsica was therefore abandoned by Britain, and Nelson, after superintending the evacuation of Corsica, was ordered to hoist his broad pennant on board the Minerva frigate. He then sailed for Gibraltar, and proceeded westward in search of the admiral.
III.—St. Vincent and the Nile
Off the mouth of the Straits of Gilbraltar he fell in with the Spanish fleet; and on February 13, 1797, reaching the station off Cape St. Vincent, he communicated this intelligence to Sir John Jervis, and was directed to shift his broad pennant on board the Captain. On the following morning was fought the battle of Cape St. Vincent. The British had only fifteen ships of the line against twenty-seven Spanish ships, but Britain, largely through Nelson's intrepidity, secured an overwhelming victory. The commander-in-chief was rewarded with the title of Earl St. Vincent, and Nelson was advanced to the rank of rear-admiral and received the Order of the Bath.
Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson was now removed to the Theseus, and was employed in the blockade of Cadiz, where he went through the most perilous action in which he was ever engaged. Making a night attack upon the Spanish gunboats, his barge, carrying twelve men, was attacked by an armed launch carrying twenty-six men; the admiral was only saved by the heroic devotion of his coxswain; but eighteen of the enemy were killed, the rest wounded, and their launch taken.
Twelve days later Nelson sailed at the head of an expedition against Teneriffe, and on the night of July 24, 1797, made a boat attack on the port of Santa Cruz. On this occasion he was wounded in the right elbow, and the arm had to be amputated. The small force, which had made its way into the town, capitulated on honourable terms, and the Spanish governor distinguished himself by the most humane and generous conduct to his enemies. There is no doubt that Nelson's life was saved by the careful attentions of his stepson, Nisbet, who was with him in the boat.
Nisbet was immediately promoted, and honours awaited Nelson in England. The freedom of the cities of Bristol and London were conferred on him, and he received a pension of L1,000 a year. He had performed an extraordinary series of services during the war; including four actions with the fleets of the enemy, three actions with boats employed in cutting out of harbour, and in taking three towns; he had commanded the batteries at the sieges of Bastia and Calvi, he had assisted at the capture of twenty-eight ships of war, and had taken and destroyed nearly fifty merchant vessels; and had been engaged against the enemy upwards of a hundred and twenty times, in which service he had lost his right eye and right arm.
Early in 1789, Sir Horatio Nelson hoisted his flag in the Vanguard, and left England to rejoin Earl St. Vincent. He was dispatched to the Mediterranean, to ascertain the object of Bonaparte's great expedition, then fitting out at Toulon; and sailed from Gibraltar on May 9 with three ships of the line, four frigates, and a sloop. The Vanguard was dismantled in a storm, but was refitted in the Sardinian harbour of St. Pietro, and was joined by a reinforcement of eleven ships from Earl St. Vincent.
The first news of the enemy's armament was that it had surprised Malta, but Nelson soon heard that they had left that island on June 16, and judged that Egypt was their destination. He arrived off Alexandria on the 28th, but did not find them; returned by a circuitous course to Sicily, then sailed to the Morea, where he gained news of the French, and on August I came in sight of Alexandria and the French fleet. "Before this time to-morrow," he said to his officers, "I shall have gained a peerage or Westminster Abbey."
Bonaparte's ships of war, under Admiral Brueys, were moored in Aboukir Bay in a strong line of battle; and the advantage of numbers, both in ships, guns, and men, was in favour of the French. Yet only four French ships out of seventeen escaped, and the victory was the most complete and glorious in the annals of naval history.
Nelson was now at the summit of his glory; and congratulations, rewards, and honours were showered upon him by all the states, princes, and powers to whom his victory had given respite. He was created Baron Nelson of the Nile and of Burnham Thorpe, with a pension of L2,000 a year for his own life, and those of his successors; a grant of L10,000 was voted to him by the East India Company; and the King of Naples made him Duke of Bronte.
As soon as his shattered frame had sufficiently recovered, Nelson was called to services of greater importance than any one in which he had been hitherto employed.
The kindest attentions and warmest affection were awaiting him at Naples; the king, the queen, and Lady Hamilton, who was the queen's constant favourite, welcomed their hero and deliverer with the most splendid festivities. General Mack, with whom Nelson was to co-operate, was at the head of the Neapolitan troops; and while he marched with 32,000 men into the Roman state, 5,000 Neapolitans were embarked on the British and Portuguese squadron to take possession of Leghorn.
Nelson's fears of the result were soon verified. "The Neapolitan officers," he said, "did not lose much honour, for God knows they had not much to lose—but they lost all they had." The French in the Roman State routed the cowardly Neapolitans. There was a strong revolutionary party in Naples itself; and it was agreed that the royal family must seek safety in flight. Their secret escape, with much treasure, on board the Vanguard, was conducted with the greatest address by Lady Hamilton, and Nelson conveyed them through a wild storm to Palermo.
He had by this time formed an infatuated attachment for Lady Hamilton, which totally weaned his affections from his wife. He was dissatisfied with himself and weary of the world. But, in accordance with his principle of duty "to assist in driving the French to the devil and in restoring peace and happiness to mankind," he at length expelled the French from Naples and restored Ferdinand to his throne. Weak in health, dispirited, and smarting under a censure from the Admiralty for a disobedience to orders, Nelson resigned his command, and reached England in November 1800, having travelled with Sir William and Lady Hamilton.
The great admiral was welcomed to England with every mark of popular honour; but he had forfeited domestic happiness for ever. Before he had been three months at home, he separated from Lady Nelson, vowing that there was nothing in her or in her conduct that he could have wished otherwise.
In January 1801 he was sent to the Baltic as second in command under Sir Hyde Parker. Russia, Denmark, and Sweden had founded a confederacy for making England resign her naval rights, and the British Cabinet decided instantly to crush it. The fleet sailed on March 12; Nelson represented to Sir Hyde Parker the necessity of attacking Copenhagen; and on April 2 the British vessels opened fire on the Danish fleet and land batteries. The Danes, in return, fought their guns manfully, and at one o'clock, after three hours' endurance, Sir Hyde Parker gave the signal for discontinuing action. Nelson ordered that signal to be acknowledged, but continued to fly the signal for close action. "You know, Foley," he said, turning to the captain of the ship, "I have only one eye; I have a right to be blind sometimes!" Then, putting the glass to his blind eye, in the mood that sports with bitterness, he exclaimed, "I really do not see the signal. Keep mine for closer battle flying! That's the way I answer such signals. Nail mine to that mast!" Admiral Graves disobeyed in like manner, and the other ships of the line also continued the action. The victory was soon complete, and Sir Hyde Parker heartily expressed his satisfaction and gratitude.
For the battle of Copenhagen, Nelson was raised to the rank of viscount. Had he lived long enough, he would have fought his way up to a dukedom.
After holding a command in the English Channel, to watch the preparations which were being made at Boulogne for an invasion of England, Nelson retired on the conclusion of the Peace of Amiens to his estate at Merton, in Surrey, meaning to pass his days there in the society of Sir William and Lady Hamilton. Sir William died early in 1803, and, as the government would do nothing for her, Nelson settled on Lady Hamilton a sum equal to the pension of L1,200 a year which her husband had enjoyed. A few weeks after this event the war was renewed, and the day after his majesty's message to parliament, Nelson departed to take command of the Mediterranean fleet.
He took his station immediately off Toulon, and there, with incessant vigilance, waited for the coming out of the enemy. From May 1803 to August 1805 he left the Victory only three times, each time upon the king's service, and on no occasion for more than an hour.
War having been declared between England and Spain, the Toulon fleet, having the Spaniards to co-operate with them, put to sea on January 18, 1804. Nelson, who was off Sardinia when he heard the news the next day, sought them in vain through the Mediterranean, until he heard that they had been dispersed by a gale, and had returned to Toulon. On March 31 they emerged again, and passed out of the Straits of Gibraltar, but the British fleet was kept by adverse winds from reaching the Atlantic till April 5.
The enemy had thirty-five days start on their run to the West Indies, and Nelson, misled by false information, sought them among the islands, until he learned at Antigua on June 9 that they had sailed again for Europe. He made all speed across the Atlantic, and again sought the enemy vainly, until he joined Admiral Cornwallis off Ushant on August 15. The same evening he was ordered to proceed with the Victory and Superb to Portsmouth.
Here, at last, he heard news of the combined fleets; Sir Robert Calder had fallen in with them near Finisterre and had fought an indecisive engagement.
On September 14, 1805, he passed through the crowds at Portsmouth, many of whom were in tears, many kneeling and blessing him as he passed. He arrived off Cadiz on September 29 with twenty-three ships, and on October 9 he sent Collingwood his plan of attack—what he called "the Nelson-touch." These tactics consisted in cutting through the line of the enemy in three places.
On the morning of the 19th the enemy came out of the port of Cadiz, and all that day and night, and the next day, the British pursued them. At daybreak of the 21st, the combined fleets were distinctly seen from the Victory, about twelve miles to leeward. Signal was made to bear down on the enemy in two lines, and all sail was set, the Victory leading.
Nelson now retired to his cabin and wrote in his diary a prayer committing himself and the British cause to Heaven, and then wrote a memorial setting forth Lady Hamilton's services to Britain, and leaving her and her daughter Horatia as a legacy to his country.
Villeneuve, commanding the enemy, was a skilful seaman, and his plan of defence was as original as the plan of attack. He formed the fleet in a double line, every alternate ship being a cable's length to windward of her second ahead and astern. Nelson, certain of triumph, issued his last signal: "England expects every man to do his duty," which was received throughout the fleet with acclamations.
The English lines, led by Nelson and by Collingwood, swept down upon the hostile fleet, the Victory steering for the bow of the Santissima Trinidad. At four minutes after twelve she opened fire, and almost immediately ran against the Redoubtable. Four ships, two British and two French, formed as compact a tier as if they had been moored together, their heads all lying the same way.
At a quarter past one, a ball fired from the mizzen-top of the Redoubtable struck Nelson on the left shoulder, and he fell on his face. "They have done for me at last, Hardy," he said; "my backbone is shot through." He was carried below, laid on a pallet in the midshipmen's berth, and insisted that the surgeon should leave him—"for you can do nothing for me." He was in great pain, and expressed much anxiety for the event of the action, until Captain Hardy was able to tell him that fifteen of the enemy had been taken. Repeating that he left Lady Hamilton and Horatia as a legacy to his country, and exclaiming, "Thank God, I have done my duty!" Nelson expired.
He cannot be said to have fallen prematurely whose work was done.
* * * * *
MADAME DE STAAL
Marguerite Jeanne de Launay, Baronne de Staal, was born in Paris on May 30, 1684. Her father was a painter of the name of Cordier who was in England when his daughter was born; and the name by which she was known, de Launay, was that of her mother's family. Her story is told by herself, with admirable sincerity, in these Memoirs, which follow her life until the year 1735, when, at the age of fifty-one, she married Baron de Staal, a widower and an officer in the Guard. Her death took place in Paris on June 16, 1750. Her Memoirs, first published in 1755, are among the most interesting records of that period, and though their historical accuracy has been doubted, her portraits of persons are vivid and convincing. Her style has been highly commended by Sainte-Beuve and other French literary critics.
A Convent Child
If I write the record of my life, it is not because it deserves attention, but in order to amuse myself by my recollections. My story is just the opposite of the ordinary romance, wherein a girl brought up as a peasant becomes an illustrious princess; for I was treated in childhood as a person of distinction, and had to find out later that I was a nobody and owned nothing in the world. And so, not having been trained from the first to ill fortune, my spirit has always rebelled against the servitude in which I have had to live.
My father, for some reason that I never knew, had to leave France and live in England; and my mother, alone in Paris and without resources, took me with her as an infant to find a refuge in the abbey of Saint-Sauveur d'Evreux in Normandy, where Madame de La Rochefoucauld, the abbess, received us free of charge.
There was at that time a lengthy disagreement between King Louis XIV. and the Pope with regard to the nomination of abbesses, in consequence of which two ladies Mesdames de Grieu, having been disappointed of an expected establishment, retired to Saint-Sauveur, where they formed a great friendship with my mother, and became devoted to her two-year-old child. I was naturally very popular in the convent, and having a bright disposition I was educated with the utmost care.
Chiefly with a view to giving me greater advantage, the elder Madame de Grieu sought and at length obtained the Priory of Saint-Louis at Rouen, and took me thither with the consent of my mother. Saint-Louis was like a little kingdom, where I reigned as a sovereign; the abbess and her sister had no thought but to satisfy my every fancy, and the whole convent was forced to pay court to me. All that was done for me cost me so little that it seemed a matter of course that I should be flattered and served, and at an early age I had contracted all the defects which I have since had to allow for in the great.
This extreme indulgence would have turned my defects into vices, if devotion had not ruled my passions from the first. Religion was the one great object before my eyes; I had been well instructed in it; I read continually the devotional books in the convent library, and passed much of my time in prayer and meditation. Yet my early desire to become a nun passed gradually away, until I thought of it no more.
Mademoiselle de Silly, an amiable and cultivated young lady whose actions were ruled by principles rather than by feelings, came to live at Saint-Louis, and I was soon attached to her with all the ardour of a girl's affection; her tastes became mine, and I used to read all day beside her. She was then studying the philosophy of Descartes, and I became absorbed in questions of that kind to the neglect of everything else, until, fearing lest they might disturb my faith, I resolutely banished them from my mind.
I was about fourteen years old when the convent of Saint-Louis fell into great poverty owing to a famine which was desolating France, and the disaffection of the nuns was centred on me as a chief cause of unnecessary expense. Their complaints came to the archbishop of Rouen, and abbess had difficulty in keeping me with her. My helpless condition began to force itself on my attention; and I realised that if the abbess were to die I was alone and without support in the world.
An unexpected event now drew me closer to Mademoiselle de Silly. Her mother, having come to Rouen, took her home to Silly, and invited me to accompany her. I accepted joyfully, and spent several months in the solitary and melancholy old castle. The Marquis was extremely economical, the Marquise very devout, and we saw few people. One visitor from the neighborhood, however, attracted me strongly; and as he came often and stayed long, my friend and I agreed that one of us had pleased him. When he had declared his affection, and it was not for me, I learned what jealousy is—a kind of horror like that of falling down through a fathomless abyss.
During the next visit to Silly in the following year the son of the house arrived, and at first kept very much to himself and to his books. But having heard his sister and myself complaining of these unsociable ways, he frankly confessed his fault and amended it, and from that day we spent every hour together. His mind and his manner was infinitely agreeable; and in my successive visits to Silly we formed a delightful friendship which was never interrupted by more ardent feelings.
Thrown on the World
At length my dear abbess fell so dangerously ill that I saw I was about to lose her; and I became desolately aware that I owed her all, and that her death would not only leave me absolutely helpless, but would also deprive me of my best friend. I never knew anyone else so abundant in goodness, with so much sweetness, attention for others and forgetfulness of self, nor with such exact regard for every duty. Her death came soon, and it was evident that neither her sister nor I could remain at the convent. Several generous helpers came forward with offers of support, but in my uncertain position I judged it better to refuse them all. I was resolved to suffer any misery and servitude rather than sacrifice my independence, and only accepted a small loan sufficient to take me to Paris.
I was soon in the great city, looking out for a situation as children's governess; fortunately, I had a taste for that occupation, and imagined that taste for it meant talent. I had a sister, in the household of the Duchess de La Ferte, and found her very amiable and helpful. With her assistance I went to board at a cheap rate in the convent of the Presentation, and she succeeded in inspiring her mistress with so elevated an idea of my attainments that the Duchess soon afterwards sent for me. After showing me off as a prodigy of learning to all her friends, the Duchess de La Ferte, a voluble and enthusiastic woman, conceived a violent affection for me, and projected innumerable schemes for my advancement, which ended in my being received into her own household as her secretary.
I should have been delighted with this position if I had not remembered how my sister, who had gone there as her favourite, had fallen to the situation of chambermaid, and if I had not realised that my mistress's affection would probably be as short-lived as it was intemperate. It proved to be so indeed; it was succeeded by a hatred as violent as her attachment had been; and after subjecting me to every indignity she finally disposed of me by placing me in the household of the Duchess of Maine, at Sceaux.
Here I inhabited a tiny room, without windows or fireplace, and so low that it was impossible to stand upright. I was given sewing to do, but my first piece of work proved my incapacity, and my extremely short-sight made me equally helpless in waiting on the Duchess. I was astonished at the patience with which she bore my awkwardness, but my fellow-servants, with whom I was most unpopular, were less merciful. The hard and thankless existence, so different from anything which I had been accustomed, threw me into a profound depression, until I began to cherish the idea of taking leave of life.
But gradually my situation altered for the better. Her Serene Highness the Duchess began to take notice of me, and became accustomed to speak to me and to take interest and pleasure in my replies. She had now succeeded in raising her family to rank equal to her own, and by a famous edict her children and their descendants had been brought within the succession to the crown. Her delight in amusements and in pageants was now at its highest, and it happened that the Abbe de Vaubrun, designing a spectacular piece in honor of Night, confided to me the task of writing and delivering an epilogue in that character. My stage-fright spoiled my elocution, but from that day I was entrusted with the organisation of these magnificent entertainments, and the last of them was entirely designed and written by myself. By this means I came to take a quite different place in the household.
King Louis XIV. had been failing for some time, though every one pretended not to notice it; and the Duchess of Maine, ever anxious for the greatness of her family, was very eager to know his testamentary intentions. Enough was ascertained, by the help of Madame de Maintenon, to show that the King's dispositions were in favour of the Duke of Orleans, and the mistake was made of confiding to the Duke his future advantage. As the illness progressed, a council of regency was formed with the Duke of Orleans at its head, and when the King died the Duke was appointed Regent by Parliament, and the Duke of Maine was entrusted with the education of the young King.
The Duchess of Maine, who had come up to Paris for this anxious time, suffered a good deal from insomnia, and now called me in to read to her every night. But there was more conversation than reading, and she poured out to me in entire confidence all her secrets, projects, complaints and regrets. This touching confidence made me very deeply attached to her; and when she and her husband removed to the Tuilleries to superintend the King's education, they took me with them.
In defence of the interests of her family in the succession to the Crown, which were threatened by the Duke of Orleans, Cardinal Polignac and others undertook the preparation of a very learned memoir, based on a great mass of historical and legal precedents; the Duchess threw herself into the most laborious researches to assist them, and I was set to study ancient volumes and to correspond with all kinds of authorities. The great work was finished at last; it was a fine, well-written production; but it did not repay the trouble it had cost. The question was decided against the family of Maine, the edict conferring on them the succession to the Crown was revoked, and the rank of princes of the blood was taken from them.
It is impossible to describe the sorrow of my mistress at this sudden overthrow of the fortunes of her family. She was wholly unable to acquiesce in it, and her illtreatment in France suggested to her the idea of seeking help from the King of Spain. The Baron de Walef, who was going to that court, undertook to represent her case there, and the Duchess of Maine held secret interviews with the Spanish ambassador in Paris. Several other persons became implicated in these intrigues; the Duchess became more deeply compromised than she had at first intended; and her interests became interwoven with other chimerical projects, including the restoration of the Pretender in England. These movements became known to the Duke of Orleans, and my mistress's intrigues were soon brought to an end.