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Le prince, en page et tres fatigué, demanda la permission d'ôter son col; il se met à l'aise, déboutonne son babit, souffle, respire avec tant de bonhommie, d'une manière et avec une figure qui paroissoient si plaisantes à ma tante, qu'elle fit un éclat de rire immodéré, en l'appellant gros papa ; et ce fut, dit M. le duc d'Orléans, avec une telle gaieté et une telle gentillesse que dès ce moment elle lui gagna le cæur; et il en derint amoureux.'
Madame de Montesson, however, was still in need of a remedy for her life interest in the Count de Guignes. At Barege, she found the waters of oblivion; and from that place she wrote to her niece that solitude had restored her peace of mind. On her return, the duke offered to marry her privately. She consented, on condition that bis son should approve of the marriage. A probationary delay of two years was agreed to on all sides. The royal assent was obtained after some difficulty, on condition that the future bride was to retain her former name, to assume no rank, nor to declare her marriage, and never afterwards to appear at court. Before the ceremony, however, she thought fit to be sented there, and strange coincidence !--her presentation took place the very same day when Madame du Barry was first publicly received. The delay of two years was soon infringed; the Archbishop of Paris bestowed the nuptial benediction, at midnight, in the duke's private chapel, in the presence of two witnesses ;-the secret was religiously kept for three weeks, after which it became the secret de la comédie.'
During the whole of this transaction-and indeed all through her career—there is no kind of artifice, duplicity or meanness, of which Madame de Genlis does not accuse her aunt. Now we do not intend to be the champions of this lady, being much inclined to credit what perfidious friendship has thus revealed. But we must ask, why has not Madame de Genlis been equally severe upon every dissembler, upon every artful and designing person; upon vice, profligacy and libertinism, wherever she found them? Was her aunt the only one, for instance, among her friends and connections, at whose door such charges could lie? Is she alone, among the nearest intimates of this respectable niece, stigmatized by public opinion? Has not notoriety stamped its disgrace or its honours upon some, and a tribunal upon others ? Had a spirit of universal justice guided our authoress, we should not make these allusions : but it is far otherwise.
One of the greatest events in the life of a matron is the marriage of her daughter; and this important incident in the history of Madame de Genlis leads to many reflections. We shall relate the circumstances faithfully, as they stand in our original. A certain Madame du Pont, knowing the friendship which Madame de Montesson felt for Monsieur de Valence, advised Madame de
Genlis to propose a marriage between her second daughter and bim ; supposing that Madame de Montesson would amply provide for the young couple. To this proposal Madame de Montesson, who, says Madame de Genlis, would not have made any sacrifice for her grand-niece only, consented. The marriage took place. Pulcherie was beautiful, her heart excellent, and her principles as pure as her heart. Of course, as Madame de Genlis had educated her, she possessed every accomplishment-singing, dancing, painting, declamation, with forty &c.'s. An excess of vivacity, which she had shown in her infancy too, was subdued, and she was altogether a most delightful person.
'I must confess, with the sincerity which I profess, that my ambition for my daughter on this occasion outweighed my prudence; for the very motive which decided me in favour of the marriage should have turned me from it. The rumours of the world with regard to the affection of Madame de Montesson for Monsieur de Valence were doubtless without foundation ; but she did such extraordinary things for him, that these surmises were confirmed; and the universal opinion was, that her intention, in promoting this marriage, was to fix near her
person the man whom she loved. I ought to have said to myself, Madame de Montesson, incapable at all times of being a good adviser, never could love my daughter; besides, I am acting contrary to good morals in taking advantage of a sentiment which is thought to be criminal, however platonic it may be in reality. But I encouraged myself by saying, perhaps this intimacy is pure ; at all events, even if Monsieur de Valence has been the lover of my aunt, now aged fortyseven, (Monsieur de Valence being twenty-nine, and his intended bride seventeen,) he will cease to be so when he marries my daughter; and my daughter, who places all her confidence in me, may receive from me such advice as will ensure her happiness. In short, my ambition in this being only relative--for my daughter, not for myself-I ceased to reproach myself. I never was ambitious for myself, but only for those whom I loved, &c.' * I must refute, continues our respectable French moralist,' an idle tale then generally current in the world. It has been said, that one day, when the Duke of Orleans was supposed to be at a distance from home, he suddenly entered my aunt's cabinet, and there found Monsieur de Valence upon his knees before her ; that she, with admirable presence of mind, said, “He is soliciting, as you see, the hand of my niece.” From this incident the marriage is reported to have arisen. I can certify that this anecdote is entirely without foundation.'
This is bold in Madame de Genlis. The anecdote certainly was, and still is, universally believed.
Now let it be remembered who and what Madame de Genlis is, and what is the society in which she moved, and which she paints. She did not, like Madame d'Epinay and many others, belong to a set whose privilege it was to sin with more renown and levity than all the rest of their fellow-citizens. She lived in
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a general society, which may be held as affording a fair average of the morality of the upper classes. She herself is, from the beginning to the end of her book, a moralist, very religious, almost a devote ; perpetually talking of piety and prayer, and abusing all who do not. Yet she solicits her aunt, whom she reviles from first to last, to bestow a fortune upon her daughter, and to marry her to the man whom universal opinion' held to be the paramour of that very aunt; and she can calm her conscience by saying, ' perhaps he is not her paramour. Neither is any person shocked at such a marriage or such conduct. Such things are, and pass over their heads, indeed, like a summer's cloud, without any special wonder. A grey-headed adulteress, without exciting horror, or any thing like horror, bestows upon her grand-niece the man whom she wishes to fix as a lover near her own person; and the woman who solicits this marriage—and tells the tale without a blush-is the spotless mother of the virgin bride.
This anecdote is bad enough; we must relate another. Madame de Logny, a rich widow, had two daughters, one of whom married M. de L. the other M. de C- A very trilling dispute excited in her bosom the most violent hatred against Madame de L- ; she ceased to see her during her life, and, on her death-bed, she literally dowered her with her curse, and bequeathed her entire property to Madame de C- Madame de C—, however, had the extreme delicacy not to take advantage of the will, but gave up to her sister the share of her mother's fortune, to which she was otherwise entitled. Nay, so far did she carry her scruples, that in dividing a certain quantity of gilt spoons, the number of which was odd, she ordered that which had no fellow to be broken, in order that each might have the half -a procédé most eminently French. This disinterestedness excited universal admiration; and the first time that our authoress met Madame de C-, she jumped upon her neck and swore eternal friendship.
This admirable Madame de Chad a brother-in-law, the Vicomte de C—, aged twenty-seven, accomplished and band
The intimacy of Madame de C— with the autobiographer gave this gentleman frequent opportunities of seeing the latter, and he declared himself enamoured, in a letter which he had conveyed to her during the absence of Monsieur de Genlis. The letter, she says, was clever, but too studied and emphatic. It remained unanswered; but that same evening our heroine, more curious than embarrassed, went to supper at Madame de C's. There he contrived to seat himself beside her, and said • “You remained a long time this morning at the public baths." I
asked hiin,' says our authoress,“ how he knew that. " I know all that you do,” said he; “ I follow you every where, and disguised in a thousand shapes. How often did you not see me without knowing me! Yesterday, at twelve, you were in the Luxembourg gardens in a blue gown;
this morning, in returning from the bath, you went to mass at the Carmes. I was behind you for a quarter of an hour; then I waited for you
at the door of the church, where, as you went out, you gave me alms." This information astonished me, and I asked him how much I had given him. “ Two sols," answered he; “I shall have them set in gold, and wear them all my life next to my heart." These disguises excited my curiosity, and amused me, (the lover certainly attacked her on her weak side,) and as he gave me an exact account of all I did, I could not doubt his veracity. Every Sunday he wrote me volumes containing all that I had done during the week, so accurately, that I could not but be convinced that he had never quitted my most private footsteps; yet I never gave him the least encouragement or ground for hope. One evening, as I was tuning my harp, he approached me, and, opening his waistcoat, showed me the two sols set in gold, and suspended to a string platted of dark hair. I smiled, and asked him whose bair that was. « To whose hair could I attach those sols but to yours?" “ To mine!” “ Yes! I cut this string myself from your own head, one day as I was dressing your hair. At this I burst out laughing. “ It is true," continued he; “ Madame Dufour, your coiffeuse, (for in those good days men hairdressers were thought indecent,) often sends you a female apprentice in her room. I bribed one of these to let me take her place, and, dressed as a woman, aided by the talent which I possess in a supreme degree for disguising myself a talent which I owe to you—about three weeks since I cut off this hair from your head." In the midst of my astonishment I recollected, in fact, that one of Madame Dufour's girls had been very silent, and had often excited my laughter by her sighs; and though my memory could trace no resemblance between her countenance and that of the Viscount, I was convinced that he was the person, and conceived the highest opinion of his powers of mimickry. This belief was confirmed when he assured me that he had spent six weeks in studying the art of hairdressing, in order to cut that lock from
my head with his own hands. Nevertheless, I could not help discovering in his recital an infinite number of falsehoods; and, notwithstanding my predilection for the marvellous, his audacity frightened me. Every instant I apprehended some disaster; every strange face I saw I thought was his; and these perpetual alarms made me take a decided aversion for the hero of this wild romance, which, during the first three or four montbs had amused me. I returned him, unopened, the next letter which he sent me; and this, indeed, I ought to have done after knowing the contents of the first. When next I met him, he darted his angry eyes at me, threatening me with every kind of extravagance if I continued not to read his letters. Fear made me comply. (What a state of society, where a woman can find no security against the importunities of a libertine, but is compelled to listen to him because she knows that public opinion would call her aversion prudery, and where prudery
is a more serious reproach than gallantry!) A visit to L'Ile-Adam, where he was not invited, interrupted this epistolary intimacy, but upon my return to Paris the suppers began again. At one of these, the conversation turned upon some young men of the court, who had gone to Corsica, to serve in the wars there, as simple volunteers. Many persons blamed them, but I undertook their defence upon the principles of chivalry. When the Viscount de C was handing me to my carriage, he said, “ Madam, have you any commands for Corsica ?” “How," said I, laughing, “ are you going to Corsica?” “ Do you not approve of those who do?” “ But tbis is not in earnest." " Perfectly so. At five in the morning, that is to say in four hours, I depart.” The next morning a note from his sister-in-law came to chide me for having thus determined him to set off for Corsica so suddenly. This adventure was much talked of in the world, and I must confess that it flattered my vanity; while the sentimental ladies were quite shocked at the little sensibility which I showed for a lover worthy of the best days of chivalry. One of my friends in particular assured me that he was the most virtuous man upon earth; confessed that she herself had once most passionately loved him, and that, in a moment of “ égarement,” she had told him so ; that he threw himself at her feet, implored her pity and ber friendship, declared that his heart was mine, and that he loved me most tenderly, though unrequited. My friend was in raptures at the frankness of this conduct, and I myself found it estimable; though I could not help admitting the evil thought, that the Viscount, knowing the candour and vivacity of my friend, acted thus merely in the hope that she might inform me of it. M. de C- remained a year in Corsica, where his valour was most conspicuous. On his return he spoke no more of his love for me; but hearing me once express some anxiety about a friend who was ill at Brussels, he entered my room the next day but one, booted and spurred, with a whip in one hand, and in the other a letter. “ Here,” said he,“ is a letter from your friend. She has, indeed, been ill, but is now recovered; I saw her on her couch.” “ What! have you been to Brussels !” Certainly. You were uneasy, and that was suf. ficient motive." I was moved even to tears at this act of kindness, and the Viscount thought he had at last found the way to my heart. A few days afterwards, being alone with me, he threw himself on his knees, repeated his protestations, and swore that if I did not requite bim he would kill himself. His impetuosity filled me with terror and indignation. I rang the bell, and ordered my servant to show him down stairs. The next morning I received a note from him, (what still another note!) dated “ 23d August, the last day of my life.” I wrote to the Count de
- his brother, who immediately came to me, and on wbose face I read confirmed the sad news. He told me that the Viscount had disappeared that morning at four o'clock, leaving a few lines to say that none should ever hear of him again. “ It is you who have driven him to this act of despair,” repeated the Count at every moment. My anxiety and my grief were extreme, and we agreed to keep this story as secret as we could. ' Four months passed thus, when I received a letter from the Count