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de C- “Let us no more deplore the fate of the unfortunate lover; he is come to life again.” He then told me that the Viscount had gone into the forest of Senard, to execute bis purpose of suicide; that at the very moment when his arm was raised to strike, a hermit stood before bim and dragged him to his hermitage. There, restored to reason and religion, he lived three months in the midst of a society of brothers, unknown to them, edifying them by bis conversation, and passing among them for a saint. He left this retreat occasionally, indeed, to go disguised as an Armenian to the Palais Royal, in order to watch me, and to observe the impression which the rumour of his death would make upon me. Finding me, however, neither changed nor emaciated, he confessed to his brother that my insensibility had cured him; and one of my friends called me a monster of obduracy.'
Now we think that, all circumstances considered, it would be difficult to find a companion to this tale out of France. That this state of morality should be so general as to excite no special disgust, that public opinion should but smile at it, denotes a truly fearful and established reign of depravity. What should we think of a person whose friends, like those of our authoress, universally found nothing reproachable in her conduct but her hardheartedness? What should we think of her wonderful esteem for the married lady who made a declaration of her passion to this Vicomte? What of the reproaches of this Count? And what men must they have been who gloried in the duplicity, the folly and the talent lavished on such a pursuit ? Neither is this all.
e hope our tale is not too long, for we must continue it. Mere indiscriminate unimpassioned seduction was not the boundary of our hero's depravity. One day the elder brother, the Count de C-, entered the apartment of Madame de Genlis. "“ Ah,” cried he,
“I am going to relate to you the horror of hor“ Of whom?” “Of the most accomplished villain in existence, of
my brother.” He then proceeded to state that Madame de C, his wife, lately dead, had left a box which he knew to contain letters. "I had long,” said he, “ deferred opening it, but this morning I resolved to examine it. I found epistles from many persons, but the thickness of the bottom convinced me that I had not seen all. At length I found a secret spring, and the false bottom flew out. Under it I detected an immense number of notes and letters from my brother to my wife, declaring in the most passionate language bis love for her, which he protested was perfectly pure, but which nevertheless employed every means of seduction. These letters prove that my wife always treated his protestations with severity, though he frequently threatened to commit some desperate act, after divulging all to me. He often speaks of you, and
says that his passion for you was all a feint to conceal his real sentiments.”
Madame de Genlis then quotes two passages from the Vicomte's letters to his brother's wife.
"At least,' he writes, “this feint does not disturb her tranquillity: Provided she (i. e. Mad. Genlis) can but amuse herself, provided she is praised and flattered, that is all she wants. Her vanity and her vivacity will always stand in the place of reason to her, and she never will know what a strong attachment is.' (Our roué had no slight knowledge of the person with whom he had to deal. And again :) 'So much the better that the world should think that it is upon her account that I am going to Corsica. But how can you, who, with so much nobleness and sensibility, are only alarmed, not moved, by my resolution, fear the dangerous impression which it
her ? Trust more to her vanity, and be sure that as long as she thinks herself the cause of my departure, she will find it quite natural.'
These phrases, indeed, help Madame de Genlis to discover that the Vicomte was a Lovelace, much more pertidious and artful than the hero of Richardson.
• What (she exclaims) would have been my misery had I loved him, had
my instinct not warned me of his duplicity! But what did the outraged brother and husband, the Count de C--, feel in this conjuncture? He lives with his brother on the same terms as usual. At first, indeed, the effort pained him, but in six months he forgot the injury of which he at first pretended ignorance. On this occasion Madame de Genlis bestows the epithet virtuous upon the Count de C- True-forgiveness of injury is a virtue; but what shall we say of the indifference which, in six months, can forget such depravity as this? Madame de C-, too, our authoress holds up to the world as a model of virtue; and the delicacy of dividing the gilt spoon we have already noticed. But a woman who can receive, keep and hoard up in a secret treasure, love-letters from her husband's brother, to the day of her death, would certainly not be held as very virtuous in most countries with which we have any acquaintance.
Of all the serigus concerns of life, says Beaumarchais, the most farcical is matrimony; and such seems to have been the universal creed of his countrymen. It is, indeed, difficult to suppose that rational beings ever did or could treat with such levity a thing upon which so much of human happiness depends. But it is or at least it was in the moral constitution of that nation to consider serious things with frivolity, and trifles with importanee. Of all that can be turned into ridicule, of all that can raise a smile in private or in public, in the closet or upon the stage, the most fertile source of laughter is an injured husband; and the thing which, religión not excepted, creates the greatest mirth, is the rupture of the marriage vow.
Under the old monarchical regimen, the only value that was set upon female virtue was in its sacrifice, and matrimony was
little more than a sacramental license to become unchaste. Before marriage, no communication was allowed between men and women; and the daughters of France were hardly permitted to hear the sound of a male voice. Their usual place of education was a convent, whence they were occasionally taken out by their mothers, whose apron string—to use a vulgar phrase—they never quitted, unless now and then at a ball, during the hurried movements of a country dance. This was the only diversion they were allowed to share; and such were the limits of their intercourse with the sex with whom they divided the world. They had no opportunity of knowing what mankind was; none of forming their hearts and minds in the likeness of the being with whom they were to pass their lives, or of searching out one congenial to their own. No gradual developement, no imperceptible transition led them from infancy to womanhood, and prepared them to fulfil the condition of wife and mother. The state of matron, the blessed state of consort and parent, they never knew ; for between education and dissipation, whatever passions might be awakened, the affections slumbered. In the greatest concern of their lives, they were bereft of choice, even of a preference, and others selected for them. In high life, the parents looked around them among their acquaintances of similar birth, rank, and fortune, for a male child whose age might suit that of their daughter, and at a very early period, sometimes long before the children were marriageable, an union was agreed upon between the families, upon the same principle as Arabian breeders couple their horses, upon richness of blood. A day or two before the ceremony was performed-generally indeed not more than twenty-four hours sooner, and long after the gowns and jewelsor, to use the technical terms for these important pieces of French paraphernalia, the trousseaw and the corbeil-were purchased, the parties were led out of their respective nurseries, to meet for the first time; to show and see each other's shapes and motions. If these were mutually pleasing, the omen was propitious; if not, the marriage did not the less take place. The nuptial service oyer, it sometimes happened that the new married couple were permitted to reside together; though not unfrequently the bride was conducted back from the foot of the altar to her former abode, and the bridegroom sent to travel or otherwise improve himself until his papa and mamma judged him fit to undertake the care of his wife;—and then began the honeymoon. From that instant a new era opened in the life of the female. Her former mien and manners were sunk in the new part which she had to play. Her retreating look became advancing; her timidity was changed to confidence, and she immediately assumed
a perpendicular assurance in the world, without which no married woman could have maintained her footing among her fellows. This conversion began to be apparent in twenty-four hours, though it was not always completed in so short a time; and its suddenness proved that one or other, if not both of the parts so performed, must be the result of very high and general endowments for that species of disguise of which we find so many instances in the Memoirs of Mad. de Genlis.
During the first year, the bride was consigned to the superiotendance of her new mother, as the person most interested in preserving the honour of the family. By the honour of the family' we do not mean, as an English reader might suppose, that nice and delicate honour which is sullied almost by the breath of falsehood, and sickens even by calumny; but that distinction which a family derives from the air and gait, the mien and manners, the general deportment and fashion of a female newly adopted into its bosom. To form and perfect these, to give that fluent practice of the etiquettes of high life, which babit only can bestow, was the mighty matter of the first year of matrimonial education. This maternal tuition, indeed, was a restriction upon the developement of the principles which universal custom sanctioned ; and it seldom happened that, during the first twelve months, any affair of gallantry was set on foot, or that any thing more than a little general inanæuvring took place. Self-defence made some instruction in amorous tactics necessary; for, even if sure to fall, let us fall with honour. In consequence of this vigilance, the spuriousness of the heir was a rare occurrence; and the real father of the first born of the land very often was, in fact, the pater quem nuptia demonstrabant.
But the precaution of not allowing the heart to speak for itself before marriage was not adequate to the end of general legitimacy. Consciences quite timorous as to the representative of the family, yet allowed the utmost latitude as to all the puînés ; these, generally destined to the trade of arms and gallantry, which required no wife, or else to be knights of Malta, abbés,-and, if they could, archbishops and cardinals—to live in sworn celibacy
--were mere dams in the current of genealogy. Indeed, anecdotes innumerable are upon record, of the most extraordinary squeamishness on the former head, and the most admirable liberality on the latter.
Two things are much commended by the encomiasts of this system of female morality; first, the honour of French ladies is intact, for they are constant to their lovers : second, they never degrade themselves by fixing their affections upon persons of inferior birth; and considerable superiority is thence inferred
over the ladies of other less polished lands. Now it may be true that these Parisian dames were constant to their lovers; but we should like to have this phrase explained. Among the profound commentaries of that nation—for it has been said that the whole spirit of the nation resides in its songs--we recollect one which may assist us in the present inquiry.
à ma belle,
Quand son tour revient.' But, supposing the assertion to be true in the literal meaning, and admitting the full claim of honour which is grounded upon it, we cannot help thinking that there might have been as much honour, and perhaps more virtue, in being faithful to a husband.
The second assertion may also be true: this kind of love admitted pot of discrepancies in or out of marriage. But then what was this French love? why, the very fact alleged explains what it was. It levelled no distinctions; it broke no boundaries. It could indeed run even upon even ground; but it could neither overleap the mountain, nor descend into the valley. It had its etiquette, its forms of demeanour, its titles of nobility, its heraldry and its parchments; and any thing short of sixteen quarters dishonoured it. That is to say, it was not love. It was, in its best sense, gallantry; in its least refined, appetite. It might spend a year in Corsica, or ride post to Brussels; it might commit every extravagance, it might do all but love. The heart of a lover of this school might beat for glory, for renown; it might glow with courage, or pant for admiration; it might swear, protest, and fight, run wild, and rave; but it could never melt with tenderness, nor dissolve into affection.
Such was the principle upon which the rising generation of old France was annually supplied with wives and husbands. The annual rotation of population brought into the matrimonial market a certain quantity of nubile head of cattle of whom society absolutely required the consumption, and provided these were paired off, it mattered not with whom the individual was mated. In the same manner a regiment of dragoons is provided with chargers at every remount, and every trooper has his horse-though none has the right to choose; neither is the service of government injured. The selection of lovers between their married folks
pro.ceeded on another principle, and reminds us of a play of our youth, blindman's buff, where, when our eyes were well closed, we were told to turn about three times and catch whom we could. The state of things in our islands has placed the intercourse