HotFreeBooks.com
"Written by Herself"
by Baron Etienne Leon Lamothe-Langon
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

This is the Plain Vanilla ASCII version, version 11. You can read with the French accents in version 10.





Memoirs of the Comtesse du Barry With Minute Details of Her Entire Career as Favorite of Louis XV

"Written by Herself"

by Baron Etienne Leon Lamothe-Langon



with a special introduction by Robert Arnot, M.A.





Gutenberg Editor's note: This delightful (piquant, the comtesse would say) pseudonymous work was in fact written not "by herself" but by Baron Etienne Leon Lamothe-Langon (1786-1864). The persona created is that of a woman who always tells the truth as she sees it, but it is made clear to the reader that what the narrator sees is very seldom exactly the objective truth. The author ends as well as begins (in the middle of the action), thus creating an illusion of a slice of a journal but simultaneously giving the reader the uneasy feeling that the first and last chapters seem to be missing.

The French-style quotation marks have, for ease in typesetting and use, been changed to American-style quotation marks, and the dot after the name of Louis XV has been removed to conform to American punctuation. Italics are indicated by placing around the word or phrase italicized. Captions of illustrations are omitted because the illustrations themselves cannot be inserted. A few minor editing errors have been silently corrected. No other changes have been made; the irregularity in italicizing or not italicizing, in translating or not translating French words, and in punctuating quotations of letters, is in the text itself.

Notes are identified as coming from author, tr. (translator), editor, or Gutenberg editor.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER I

Letter from Lebel—Visit from Lebel—Nothing conclusive—Another visit from Lebel—Invitation to sup with the king—Instructions of the comte Jean to the comtesse

CHAPTER II

A slight preface—Arrival at Versailles——Portrait of the king—The duc de Richelieu—The marquis de Chauvelin—The duc de la Vauguyon-Supper with the king—The first night—The following day—The curiosity of comte Jean—Presents from the king—How disposed of

CHAPTER III

The king's message—Letter from the countess—A second supper at Versailles—The duc d'Ayen—A short account of M. de Fleury—The duc de Duras -Conversation with the king—The next day—A visit from the duc de Richelieu—Visit from the duc de la Vauguyon—Visit from comte Jean—Visit from the king—A third supper—Favor

CHAPTER IV

The duc d'Aiguillon—The duc de Fronsac—The duchesse de Grammont—The meeting—Sharp words on both sides—The duc de Choiseul—Mesdames d'Aiguillon—Letter from the duc d'Aiguillon— Reply of madame du Barry—Mademoiselle Guimard—The prince de Soubise—Explanation—The Rohans—Madame de Marsan—Court friendships

CHAPTER V

The duc de la Vauguyon and the comtesse du Barry—The marquis de Chauvelin and the comtesse—M. de Montbarrey and the comtesse— Intrigues—Lebel—Arrival of the du Barry family—The comte d'Hargicourt—The demoiselles du Barry—Marriage of the comtesse— The marquis de Bonrepos—Correspondences—The broken glass

CHAPTER VI

Journey to Choisy—The comtesse du Barry and Louis XV—The king of Denmark—The czar Peter—Frederick II—The abbe de la Chapelle— An experiment—New intrigues—Secret agents-The comtesse and Louis XV—Of the presentation—Letter of the comtesse to the duc d'Aiguillon—Reply—Prince de Soubise

CHAPTER VII

The comtesse and the duc d'Aiguillon—M. de Soubise—Louis XV and the duc d'Aiguillon—Letter from the comtesse to the king— Answer of the king-The "<Nouvelles a la Main>"—The comtesse and Louis XV—The supper—The court ladies mystified—The comtesse and M. de Sartines

CHAPTER VIII

The sieur Ledoux—The —The duc de la Vrilliere— Madame de Langeac—M. de Maupeou—Louis XV—The comte Jean

CHAPTER IX

The king of Denmark—The courtesans of Paris—The duc de Choiseul and the bishop of Orleans—Witty repartees of the king of Denmark— His visit to madame du Barry—"The court of king Petaud," a satire— Letter of the duc d'Aiguillon to Voltaire—The duchesse de Grammont mystified—Unpublished letter of Voltaire's

CHAPTER X

When is the presentation to take place?—Conversation on this subject with the king—M. de Maupeou and M. de la Vauguyon— Conversation on the same subject with the king and the duc de Richelieu—M. de la Vrilliere—M. Bertin—-Louis XV and the comtesse—The king's promise—The fire-works, an anecdote—The marquise de Castellane—M. de Maupeou at the duc de Choiseul's— The duchesse de Grammont

CHAPTER XI

A word concerning the duchesse de Choiseul—The apartment of the Comte de Noailles—The Noailles—Intrigues for presentation—The comte de Bearn—M. Morand once more—Visit of the comtesse Bearn to the comtesse du Barry—Conversation—Interested complaisance— The king and the comtesse du Barry—Dispute and reconciliation

CHAPTER XII

The comtesse de Bearn—The supper—Louis XV—Intrigues against my presentation—M. de Roquelaure—The scalded foot—The comtesse d'Aloigny—The duc d'Aiguillon and madame de Bearn—Anger of the king's daughters—Madame Adelaide and the comtesse du Barry— Dissatisfaction of the king

CHAPTER XIII

Of the presentation—The king and the duc de Richelieu at comtesse du Barry's—M. de la Vauguyon—Conversation—Letter of the duke to the comtesse du Barry—Reply—The countess unites herself with the Jesuit party—Madame Louise—Madame Sophie—M. Bertin—Madame de Bercheny

CHAPTER XIV

The princesses consent to the presentation of madame du Barry— Ingenious artifice employed by the king to offer a present to the duc de la Vauguyon—Madame du Barry's letter respecting it—The duke's reply—The king's letter—The court in despair—Couplets concerning madame du Barry—Her presentation—A change in public opinion—An evening party at the house of the countess—Joy of her partizans—Conversation with the chancellor respecting the lady of the marechal de Mirepoix

CHAPTER XV

The Comte de la Marche, a prince of the blood—Madame de Beauvoir, his mistress—Madame du Barry complains to the prince de Soubise of the princess de Guemenee—The king consoles the countess for this—The duc de Choiseul—The king speaks to him of madame du Barry—Voltaire writes to her—The opinions of Richelieu and the king concerning Voltaire

CHAPTER XVI

Unpublished letter of Voltaire to madame du Barry—Reply of the countess—The marechale de Mirepoix—Her first interview with madame du Barry—Anecdote of the diamonds of madame de Mirepoix— The king pays for them—Singular gratitude of the marechale—The portfolio, and an unpublished letter of the marquise de Pompadour

CHAPTER XVII

Conversation of the marechale de Mirepoix with the comtesse du Barry on court friendship—Intrigues of madame de Bearn—Preconcerted meeting with madame de Flaracourt—-Rage of madame de Bearn— Portrait and conversation of madame de Flaracourt with the comtesse du Barry—Insult from the princesse de Guemenee—Her banishment—Explanation of the king and the duc de Choiseul relative to madame du Barry—The comtesse d'Egmont

CHAPTER XVIII

Intrigue of the comtesse d'Egmont with a shopman—His unhappy fate—The comtesse du Barry protects him—Conduct of Louis XV upon the occasion—The young man quits France—Madame du Barry's letter to the comtesse d'Egmont—Quarrel with the marechal de Richelieu

CHAPTER XIX

Madame du Barry separates from madame de Bearn—Letters between these ladies—Portrait of madame de l'Hopital—The ladder—The bell—Conversation with madame de Mirepoix—First visit to Chantilly— Intrigues to prevent the countess from going thither—The king's Displeasure towards the princesses—The archbishop de Senlis

CHAPTER XX

Unpublished letter of Louis XV—Madame du Barry's cousin, M. de Maupeou—The comtesse du Barry saves the life of a young girl seduced by the arts of the cure of her village—She obtains pardon of the comte and comtesse de Louerne—The king presents her with Lucienne—A second meeting with the youthful prophet—His further predictions—He is sought for—His mysterious letter to the countess

CHAPTER XXI

Extraordinary anecdote of Louis XIV and madame de Maintenon— The comtesse du Barry at Chantilly—Opinion of king and comte de la Marche respecting the "Iron Mask"—Madame du Barry visits madame de Lagarde

CHAPTER XXII

The chevalier de la Morliere—Portrait of the duc de Choiseul— The duc de Choiseul and the comtesse du Barry—No reconciliation effected—Madame du Barry and the duc d'Aiguillon—Madame du Barry and Louis XV

CHAPTER XXIII

Dorine—Mademoiselle Choin and the marechal d'Uxelles—Zamor— M. de Maupeou's wig—Henriette—The duc de Villeroi and Sophie— Letter from the comtesse du Barry to the duc de Villeroi—His reply—The countess writes again—Madame du Barry and Sophie— Louis XV and the comtesse du Barry

CHAPTER XXIV

The prince des Deux Ponts—Prince Max—The dauphin and Marie Antoinette—The comtesse du Barry and Bridget Rupert—The countess and Genevieve Mathon—Noel—Fresh amours—Nocturnal adventure— Conclusion of this intrigue

CHAPTER XXV

Madame du Barry succeeds in alienating Louis XV from the due de Choiseul—Letter from madame de Grammont—Louis XV—The chancellor and the countess—Louis XV and the abbe de la Ville—The marechale de Mirepoix and madame du Barry

CHAPTER XXVI

Baron d'Oigny, general post-master—The king and the countess read the opened letters—The disgrace of de Choiseul resolved upon——Anecdote—Spectre of Philip II, king of Spain—The duc de Choiseul banished—Visits to Chanteloup—The princesses—The dauphin and dauphiness- Candidates for the ministry

CHAPTER XXVII

The comte de la Marche and the comtesse du Barry—The countess and the prince de Conde—The duc de la Vauguyon and the countess— Provisional minister—Refusal of the secretaryship of war—Displeasure of the king—The marechale de Mirepoix- Unpublished letter from Voltaire to Madame du Barry—Her reply

CHAPTER XXVIII

A few words respecting Jean Jacques Rousseau—The comtesse du Barry is desirous of his acquaintance—The countess visits Jean Jacques Rousseau—His household furniture—His portrait—Therese—A second visit from madame du Barry to Jean Jacques Rousseau—The countess relates her visit to the king—Billet from J. J. Rousseau to madame du Barry—The two duchesses d'Aiguillon

CHAPTER XXIX

The king's friends—The duc de Fronsac—The duc d'Ayen's remark— Manner of living at court—The marquis de Dreux—Breze—Education of Louis XV—The —Its household—Its inmates— Mere Bompart—Livres expended on the — Good advice—Madame

CHAPTER XXX Fte given by the comtesse de Valentinois—The comtesse du Barry feigns an indisposition—Her dress—The duc de Cosse—The comte and comtesse de Provence—Dramatic entertainment—Favart and Voisenon—A few observations—A pension—The marechale de Luxembourg—Adventure of M. de Bombelles—Copy of a letter addressed to him—Louis XV—M. de Maupeou and madame du Barry

CHAPTER XXXI

Madame du Barry purchases the services of Marin the gazetteer —Louis XV and madame de Rumas—M. de Rumas and the comtesse du Barry—An intrigue——A present upon the occasion—The duc de Richelieu in disgrace—100,000 livres

CHAPTER XXXII

A prefatory remark—Madame Brillant—The marechale de Luxembourg's cat—Despair of the marechale—The ambassador, Beaumarchais, and the duc de Chaulnes—the comte d'Aranda—Louis XV and his relics—The abbe de Beauvais—His sermons—He is appointed bishop

CHAPTER XXXIII

M. D——n and madame de Blessac—Anecdote—The rendezvous and the Ball—The wife of Gaubert—They wish to give her to the king— Intrigues—Their results—Letter from the duc de la Vrilliere to the countess—Reply-Reconciliation

CHAPTER XXXIV

Conversation with the king—Marriage of the comte d'Artois— Intrigues—The place of lady of honor—The marechale de Mirepoix— The comtesse de Forcalquier and madame du Barry—The comtesse de Forcalquier and madame Boncault

CHAPTER XXXV

Marriage of madame Boncault—The comte de Bourbon Busset —Marriage of comte d'Hargicourt—Disgrace of the comte de Broglie—He is replaced by M. Lemoine—The king complains of ennui—Conversations on the subject—Entry into Paris

CHAPTER XXXVI

Visit from a stranger—Madame de Pompadour and a Jacobinical monk—Continuation of this history—Deliverance of a state prisoner—A meeting with the stranger

CHAPTER XXXVII

A conspiracy—A scheme for poisoning madame du Barry—The four bottles—Letter to the duc d'Aiguillon—Advice of the ministers— Opinion of the physicians—The chancellor and lieutenant of police—Resolution of the council

CHAPTER XXXVIII

Conclusion of this affair—A letter from the —Her Examination—Arrest of Cabert the Swiss—He dies in the Bastille of poison—Madame Lorimer is arrested and poisoned—-The innocence of the Jesuits acknowledged—Madame de Mirepoix and the 100,000 francs—Forgetfulness on the part of the lieutenant of police—A visit from comte Jean—Madame de Mirepoix

CHAPTER XXXIX

My alarms—An of the —Comte Jean endeavours to direct the king's ideas—A supper at Trianon— Table talk—The king is seized with illness—His conversation with me—The joiner's daughter and the small-pox—My despair— Conduct of La Martiniere the surgeon

CHAPTER XL.

La Martiniere causes the king to be removed to Versailles—The young prophet appears again to madame du Barry—Prediction respecting cardinal de Richelieu—The joiner's daughter requests to see madame du Barry—Madame de Mirepoix and the 50,000 francs—A in the salon of madame du Barry

CHAPTER XLI

Interview with the joiner's daughter—Consultation of the physicians respecting the king—The small-pox declares itself—the comte de Muy—The princesses—Extreme sensibility of madame de Mirepoix—The king is kept in ignorance of his real condition—The archbishop of Paris visits Versailles

CHAPTER XLII

First proceedings of the council—The dauphin receives the prelates with great coolness—Situation of the archbishop of Paris— Richelieu evades the project for confessing the king—The friends of madame du Barry come forward—The English physician—The abbe Terray—Interview with the prince de Soubise—The prince and the courtiers—La Martiniere informs the king of France the true nature of his complaint—Consequences of this disclosure

CHAPTER XLIII

Terror of the king—A complication—Filial piety of the princesses— Last interview between madame du Barry and Louis XV—Conversation with the marechale de Mirepoix—The chancellor Maupeou—The fragment—Comte Jean

CHAPTER XLIV

The duc d'Aiguillon brings an order for the immediate departure of madame du Barry—The king's remarks recapitulated—The countess holds a privy council—Letter to madame de Mirepoix and the ducs de Cosse and d'Aiguillon—Night of departure—Ruel—Visit from madame de Forcalquier

CHAPTER XLV

The duc d'Aiguillon's first letter—The marechale de Mirepoix —A second letter from the duc d'Aiguillon—Numerous visitors

CHAPTER XLVI

A third letter from the duke—The king receives extreme unction— Letter from madame Victoire to the dauphin—M. de Machault—A promenade with the duc de Cosse—Kind attention from the prince des Deux Pouts—A fourth letter from the duc d'Aiguillon—Comte Jean bids me farewell—M. d'Aiguillon's fifth letter, containing an account of the death of Louis XV—The duc de la Vrilliere—The —Letter to the queen—Departure for the abbey of

Special Introduction by Robert Arnot

Up to the time of the Du Barry the court of France had been the stage where the whole political and human drama of that country was enacted. Under Louis XV the drama had been transformed into parades—parades which were of as much importance to the people as to those who took part in them. The spectators, hitherto silent, now began to hiss and be moved. The scene of the comedy was changed, and the play was continued among the spectators. The old theatre became an ante-chamber or a dressing-room, and was no longer important except in connection with the Cardinal de Bernis and the Duc de Richelieu, or Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry.

The monarchy had still a step to take towards its downfall. It had already created the (Louis XV's seraglio), but had not yet descended to the Parisian house of prostitution. It made this descent leaning on the arm of Madame du Barry. Madame du Barry was a moral sister to Manon Lescaut, but instead of taking herself off to Louisiana to repent, she plunged into the golden whirlpool at Versailles as a finish to her career. Could the coaches of a King mean more than the ordinary carriage of an abandoned girl?

Jeanne Vaubernier—known in the bagnios by the name of Mademoiselle Lange—was born at Vaucouleurs, as was Jeanne d'Arc. Better still, this later Jeanne said openly at Versailles—dared she say otherwise?— that she was descended in a straight line from the illustrious, the venerated, the august, sacred, national maid, Jeanne.* "Why did Du Barry come to Paris?'" says Leon Gozlan in that account of the Chteau de Lucienne which makes a brilliant and learned chapter in the history of France. "Does one ever know precisely why things are done? She obeyed the magnet which attracts to Paris all who in themselves have a title to glory, to celebrity, or to misfortune. Du Barry had a pretty, provincial face, bright and charming, a face astonished at everything, hair soft and ash-colored, blue eyes, veiled and half open, and a skin fair with rose tints. She was a child of destiny. Who could have said, when she crossed the great town in her basket cart, which rolled lazily along on its massive, creaking wheels, that some day she would have equipages more beautiful than any of those which covered her with mud in passing, and on her arms more laces and diamonds than any of these ladies attended by footmen in liveries?"

*A claim which blithely ignored the fact that Jeanne d'Arc had no children.—Gutenberg editor

When Jeanne left the provinces to come to Paris, she found her native country. She was granted the freedom of the city, and expanded in her joy like a delicate plant transplanted into a hothouse. She found herself at home for the first time; and felt that she could rule as a despot over all frequenters of the streets. She learned fashion and love at one and the same time. Gourdan had a hat made for her, and, as a reward, initiated her into the customs. But she was called to other destinies.

One day, when she was walking in the Tuileries, a lunatic—and lunatics have second sight—asked her favor when she should become queen. Du Barry said to herself: "This man is mad." But then she thought of the Pompadour, blushed—it was the only time— and turned her eyes towards Versailles.

But Versailles was an unhoped-for shore to such a girl as this, a girl known to all Paris. Would the King care to be the lover of one who had ruled all his courtesans? Who could say? The King often wearied of what he had. Had not a poet already been found who compared her to Venus:

O Jeanne, thy beauty seduces And charms the whole world; In vain does the duchess redden And the princess growl; They know that Venus rides proudly The foam of the wave.

The poet, while not Voltaire, was no less a man than Bouffiers.

While the King was seeking a mistress—a nocturnal reverse of Diogenes, fleeing from the lanterns of the wise—he found Jeanne Vaubernier. He thought he could love her for one evening. "Not enough," said she, "you must love me until broad daylight." So he loved her for a whole day. What should one eat in order to be loved by royalty? Was it necessary to have a coat of arms? She had them in number, because she had been loved by all the great names in the book of heraldry. And so she begged the Viscount Jean du Barry to give her the title of viscountess. "Better still," exclaimed Jean, "I will give you the title of countess. My brother will marry you; he is a male scamp, and you are the female. What a beautiful marriage!"

So they were united. The newly made countess was solemnly presented at court by a countess of an ancient date, namely, the Countess de Bearn. King Voltaire protested, in a satire entitled "<The Court of King Petaud>" (topsy-turvy), afterwards denying it. The duc de Choiseul protested, France protested, but all Versailles threw itself passionately at the feet of the new countess. Even the daughters of the King paid her court, and allowed her to call them by their pet names: Loque, Chiffe, and Graille. The King, jealous of this gracious familiarity, wished her to call him by some pet name, and so the Bacchante, who believed that through the King she held all France in her hand, called him "La France," making him a wife to his Gray Musketeers.

Oh, that happy time! Du Barry and Louis XV hid their life—like the sage—in their little apartments. She honeyed his chocolate, and he himself made her coffee. Royalty consecrated a new verb for the dictionary of the Academy, and Madame du Barry said to the King: "At home, I can love you to madness." The King gave the castle of Lucienne to his mistress in order to be able to sing the same song. Truly the Romeo and Juliet .

Du Barry threw out her fish-wifely epithets with ineffable tenderness. She only opened her eyes half way, even when she took him by the throat. The King was enchanted by these humors. It was a new world. But someone said to him: "Ah, Sire, it is easy to see that your Majesty has never been at the house of Gourdan."

Yet Du Barry was adored by poets and artists. She extended both hands to them. Jeanne's beauty had a penetrating, singular charm. At once she was blonde and brunette—black eyebrows and lashes with blue eyes, rebellious light hair with darker shadows, cheeks of ideal contour, whose pale rose tints were often heightened by two or three touches—a lie "formed by the hand of Love," as anthology puts it—a nose with expressive nostrils, an air of childlike candour, and a look seductive to intoxication. A bold yet shrinking Venus, a Hebe yet a Bacchante. With much grace Voltaire says:

"Madame:

"M. de la Borde tells me that you have ordered him to kiss me on both cheeks for you:

"What! Two kisses at life's end What a passport to send me! Two is one too much, Adorable Nymph; I should die of pleasure at the first.

"He showed me your portrait, and be not offended, Madame, when I tell you that I have taken the liberty of giving that the two kisses."

Perhaps Voltaire would not have written this letter, had he not read the one written by the King to the Duc de Choiseul, who refused to pay court to the left-hand queen:

"My Cousin,

"The discontent which your acts cause me forces me to exile you to Chanteloup, where you will take yourself within twenty-four hours. I would have sent you farther away were it not for the particular esteem in which I hold Madame de Choiseul. With this, I pray God, my cousin, to take you into His safe and holy protection. "Louis."

This exile was the only crime of the courtesan. On none of her enemies did she close the gates of the Bastille. And more than once did she place a pen in the hands of Louis XV with which to sign a pardon. Sometimes, indeed, she was ironic in her compassion.

"Madame," said M. de Sartines to her one day, "I have discovered a rogue who is scattering songs about you; what is to be done with him?"

"Sentence him to sing them for a livelihood." But she afterwards made the mistake of pensioning Chevalier de Morande to buy silence.

The pleasures of the King and his favorite were troubled only by the fortune-tellers. Neither the King nor the countess believed in the predictions of the philosophers, but they did believe in divination. One day, returning from Choisy, Louis XV found under a cushion of his coach a slip of paper on which was transcribed this prediction of the monk Aimonius, the savant who could read all things from the vast book of the stars:

"As soon as Childeric had returned from Thuringia, he was crowned King of France And no sooner was he King than he espoused Basine, wife of the King of Thuringia. She came herself to find Childeric. The first night of the marriage, and before the King had retired, the queen begged Childeric to look from one of the palace windows which opened on a park, and tell what he saw there. Childeric looked out and, much terrified, reported to the princess that he had seen tigers and lions. Basine sent him a second time to look out. This time the prince only saw bears and wolves, and the third time he perceived only cats and dogs, fighting and combating each other. Then Basine said to him: I will give you an explanation of what you have seen: The first figure shows you your successors, who will excel you in courage and power; the second represents another race which will be illustrious for their conquests, and which will augment your kingdom for many centuries; but the third denotes the end of your kingdom, which will be given over to pleasures and will lose to you the friendship of your subjects; and this because the little animals signify a people who, emancipated from fear of princes, will massacre them and make war upon each other."

Louis read the prediction and passed the paper to the Countess: "After us the end of the world," said she gaily. The King laughed, but the abbe de Beauvais celebrated high mass at Versailles after the carnival of 1774, and dared to say, in righteous anger: "This carnival is the last; yet forty days and Nineveh shall perish." Louis turned pale. "Is it God who speaks thus?" murmured he, raising his eyes to the altar. The next day he went to the hunt in grand style, but from that evening he was afraid of solitude and silence: "It is like the tomb; I do not wish to put myself in such a place," said he to Madame du Barry. The duc de Richelieu tried to divert him. "No," said he suddenly, as if the Trappist's denunciation had again recurred to him, "I shall be at ease only when these forty days have passed." He died on the fortieth day.

Du Barry believed neither in God nor in the devil, but she believed in the almanac of Liege. She scarcely read any book but this— faithful to her earliest habits. And the almanac of Liege, in its prediction for April, 1774, said: "A woman, the greatest of favorites, will play her last role." So Madame the Countess du Barry said without ceasing: "I shall not be tranquil until these forty days have passed." The thirty-seventh day the King went to the hunt attended with all the respect due to his rank. Jeanne wept in silence and prayed to God as one who has long neglected her prayers.

Louis XV had not neglected his prayers, and gave two hundred thousand livres to the poor, besides ordering masses at St. Genevieve. Parliament opened the shrine, and knelt gravely before that miraculous relic. The least serious of all these good worshippers was, strange to say, the curate of St. Genevieve: "Ah, well!" said he gaily, when Louis was dead, "let us continue to talk of the miracles of St. Genevieve. Of what can you complain? Is not the King dead?"

At the last moment it was not God who held the heart of Louis—it was his mistress. "Ask the Countess to come here again," he said.

"Sire, you know that she has gone away," they answered.

"Ah! has she gone? Then I must go!" So he departed.

His end drew forth some maledictions. There were insults even at his funeral services. "Nevertheless," said one old soldier, "he was at the battle of Fontenoy." That was the most eloquent funeral oration of Louis XV.

"The King is dead, long live the King!" But before the death of Louis XVI they cried: "The king is dead, long live the Republic!"

Rose-colored mourning was worn in the good city of Paris. The funeral oration of the King and a lament for his mistress were pronounced by Sophie Arnould, of which masterpiece of sacred eloquence the last words only are preserved: "Behold us orphaned both of father and mother."

If Madame du Barry was one of the seven plagues of royalty, she died faithful to royalty. After her exile to Pont aux Dames she returned to Lucienne, where the duc de Cosse Brissac consoled her for the death of Louis XV. But what she loved in Louis was that he was a king; her true country was Versailles; her true light was the sun of court life. Like Montespan, also a courtesan of high order, she often went in these dark days to cast a loving look upon the solitary park in the maze of the Trianon. Yet she was particularly happy at Lucienne.

I have compared her to Manon Lescaut, and I believe her to have been also a sister to Ganesin. All three were destroyed by passion.

One day she found herself still young at Lucienne, although her sun was setting. She loved the duc de Brissac, and how many pages of her past romance would she that day have liked to erase and forget!

"Why do you weep, Countess?" asked her lover.

"My friend," she responded, "I weep because I love you, shall I say it? I weep because I am happy."

She was right; happiness is a festival that should know no to-morrow. But on the morrow of her happiness, the Revolution knocked at the castle gate of Lucienne.

"Who goes there?"

"I am justice; prepare for destiny."

The Queen, the true queen, had been good to her as to everybody. Marie Antoinette remembered that the favorite had not been wicked. The debts of Du Barry were paid and money enough was given to her so that she could still give with both hands. Lucienne became an echo of Versailles. Foreign kings and Parisian philosophers came to chat in its portals. Minerva visited shameless Venus. But wisdom took not root at Lucienne.

For the Revolution, alas! had to cut off this charming head, which was at one time the ideal of beauty—of court beauty. Madame du Barry gave hospitality to the wounded at the arrest of the queen. "These wounded youths have no other regret than that they have not died for a princess so worthy as your Majesty," she said. "What I have done for these brave men is only what they have merited. I consoled them, and I respect their wounds when I think, Madame, that without their devotion, your Majesty would no longer be alive. Lucienne is yours, Madame, for was it not your beneficence which gave it to me? All I possess has come to me through the royal family. I have too much loyalty to forget it."

But negro Zamor became a citizen like Mirabeau. It was Zamor who took to Du Barry her lover's head. It was Zamor who denounced her at the club of the Jacobins. "The fealty (faith) of the black man is white," said the negro. But he learned how to make it red. Jeanne was imprisoned and tried before Dumas.

"Your age?"

"Forty-two years." She was really forty-seven. Coquetry even at the guillotine.

The public accuser, Fouquier Tinville, was not disarmed by the sweet voluptuousness still possessed by this pale and already fading beauty. He accused her of treason against the nation. Could the defender of Du Barry, who had also defended Marie Antoinette, find an eloquent word? No; Fouquier Tinville was more eloquent than Chauveau-Lagarde. So the mistress of Louis was condemned. It was eleven o'clock in the evening—the hour for supper at Versailles when she was queen!

She passed the night in prayer and weeping, or rather in a frenzy of fright. In the morning she said it was "too early to die"; she wished to have a little time in order to make some disclosures. The Comite sent someone to listen to her. What did she say? She revealed all that was hidden away at Lucienne; she gave word by word an inventory of the treasures she had concealed, forgetting nothing, for did not each word give her a second of time?

"Have you finished?" said the inquisitor. "No," said Jeanne. "I have not mentioned a silver syringe concealed under the staircase!"

Meanwhile the horses of destiny stamped with impatience, and spectators were knocking at the prison gate. When they put her, already half dead, on the little cart, she bent her head and grew pale. The Du Barry alone—a sinner without redemption.

She saw the people in the square of Louis XV; she struck her breast three times and murmured: "It is my fault!" But this Christian resignation abandoned her when she mounted the scaffold—there where the statue of Louis XV had been—and she implored of the executioner:

"One moment, Mr. Executioner! One moment more!"

But the executioner was pitiless Sanson. It was block and the knife—without the "one moment!"

Such was the last bed of the Du Barry. Had the almanac of Liege only predicted to her that the one who would lead her to her bed for the last time would not be a King but a citizen executioner, it might have been—but why moralize?

Robert Arnot <To the Reader

<As the early part of Madame du Barry's career had little to differentiate it from the life of an ordinary courtezan, the editor has deemed it best to confine the memoirs to the years in her life which helped to make history.



*"Editor here means the author, who is assuming the persona of the editor of the Comtesse's memoirs.



CHAPTER I

Letter from Lebel—Visit from Lebel—Nothing conclusive—Another visit from Lebel—Invitation to sup with the king—Instructions of the comte Jean to the comtesse

One morning comte Jean entered my apartment, his face beaming with delight.

'Read," said he, giving me a letter, "read, Jeannette: victory is ours. News from Morand. Lebel is coming to Paris, and will dine with us. Are we alone?"

"No, there are two of your countrymen whom you invited yesterday."

"I will write and put them off. Morand alone must dine with Lebel; he ought to have a place at the feast which he furnishes with such good music. Come, my dear girl, we touch the moment of importance, it is in your beauty and power of pleasing that I place all my hopes. I think I may rely on you; but, above all, do not forget that you are my sister-in-law."

"Brother-in-law," said I, laughing, "it is not unnecessary that I should know decidedly to which of family I am married? The custom in France is not that a woman be the undivided property of three brothers."

"That only happens in Venice," replied the comte; "my brother Elie is too young, you must be the wife of Guillaume, my second brother."

"Very well; I am the comtesse Guillaume du Barry; that does famously well; we like to know whom we are married to."

After this conversation, comte Jean insisted on presiding at my toilette. He acquitted himself of the task, with a most laughable attention. During two good hours, at least, he tormented first Henriette, and then the female hairdresser, for I had not yet followed the mode, which began to be very general, of having my hair dressed by a man. Comte Jean passed alternately from my dressing-room to the kitchen. He knew Lebel was a gallant and a gourmand*, and he was anxious to please him in all senses at once.

*He seems to mean "gourmet" rather than "gourmand." —-Gutenberg editor

At one o'clock I was under arms, and prepared to receive him on whom my destiny depended. As soon as I reached the drawing-room, comte Jean compelled me to submit to the test of a rigid examination.

His serious air amused me much as he gazed at me some time in solemn silence. At length his forehead relaxed, a smile of satisfaction played on his lips, and extending his arms to me, without venturing to touch me, "You are charming, divine," he said; "Lebel ought to go and hang himself if he does not fall down at your knees."

Soon afterwards the folding-doors were hastily opened, and a servant announced M. Lebel, <premier de sa Majeste>, with M. Morand. The comte went to meet the arrivals, and as I now saw Lebel for the first time, he presented him to me formally.

"Sister, this is M. Lebel, <premier de sa Majeste >, who has done us the honor to come and dine with us."

"And he confers a real pleasure on us," said I, looking smilingly on M. Lebel. My look had its effect, for Lebel remained mute and motionless from admiration at my person. At length he stammered out a few incoherent words, which I imagined to be compliments. The comte watched Lebel anxiously, and Morand began to rub his hands, saying:

"Well, sir, what think you of our celestial beauty?"

"She is worthy of a throne," replied Lebel, bending his head before me, and taking my hand, which he pressed respectfully to his lips. This reply was, perhaps, inadvertently made, but I took it as a good augury. "Yes," added Lebel, "you are the most lovely creature I ever met, though no one is more in the habit of seeing handsome females than myself."

"And of causing them to be seen by others," replied comte Jean.

This was an opening which was not followed up by Lebel. His first enthusiasm having passed, he measured me from head to foot, as if he would take an accurate description of my person.

For my part I began to support the looks of Lebel with more assurance. He was a man of no particular "mark or likelihood," but had made his way. Living at Versailles had given him a certain air of easy impertinence, but you could not discover anything distinguished in his manners, nothing which concealed his humble extraction. The direction of the gave him much influence with the king, who found the convenience of such a man, who was willing to take upon himself all the disagreeable part of his clandestine amours. His duties placed him in contact with the ministers, the lieutenant of police, and the comptroller-general. The highest nobility sought his friendship with avidity. They all had a wife, a sister, a daughter, whom they wished to make the favorite sultana; and for this it was necessary to get the ear of Lebel. Thus, under a libertine prince, the destinies of France were at the mercy of a .

I should tell you, however, that I never had occasion but to speak well of him, and that I have the utmost gratitude for all he did for me. The attachment he testified on our first meeting has never been altered. He gave me his protection as far as it was necessary for me, and when the favor of the king had accorded to me a station, whence all the court sought to hurl me, Lebel seconded me with all his power in my efforts to preserve it. I will say, that it is to his vigilance that I owe the overthrow of more than one conspiracy against me. He was a warm and sincere friend, and not at all interested in the services he rendered. He did a great deal of good, as well as harm, in private. I know poor families whom he has assisted with his own purse, when he could obtain nothing for them from the king, for Louis was only prodigal in his pleasures.

However, we dined, and Lebel praised me incessantly to the very skies, and that with so much warmth, that I was fearful at one time he would fall in love with me himself, and would not resign me to another. Thank heaven, Lebel was a faithful servant.

After dinner, when we left the table, Lebel paid me some compliments; then pulling out his watch, he spoke of an appointment at the Marais, and left without saying a word of seeing us again.

At this abrupt departure, comte Jean and I looked at each other with astonishment. As for Morand, he was overjoyed.

"Well, comtesse," said he, "behold the number of your slaves increased by an illustrious adorer. You have made a conquest of M. Lebel, and I am certain he has gone away deeply smitten."

"I hope we shall see him again," said comte Jean.

"Do you doubt it?"

"Assure him," said I, "of the pleasure it will afford us to receive him as he merits."

Several persons entered, and M. Morand, profiting by the bustle which their entrance occasioned, approached me, and said, in a low tone,

"You are in possession of his heart, will you charge me with any message to him?"

"M. Morand," was my reply, "what are you thinking of? A woman of my rank throw herself at any person's head?"

"No, certainly not; but you can send him a kind word, or some affectionate token."

"I could not think of it; M. Lebel appeared to me a most agreeable man, and I shall be at all times delighted to see him."

Morand asked nothing more than this, and there our conversation ended.

Two days elapsed without being marked by any event. Comte Jean had spent them with much anxiety. He was absent, when, on the third morning, Henriette came hastily into my room. "Madame," she said, "the of the king is in the drawing-room, and inquires if you will receive him."

At this news I was surprised and vexed. M. Lebel took me unawares; my toilette was not begun. I gave a hasty glance at my mirror, "Let M. Lebel come in"; and M. Lebel, who was on the heels of my maid, entered instantly. After having saluted me, he said,

"It is only you, Madame, whom one might thus surprise. Your beauty needs no ornament, your charms are decoration sufficient."

I replied to this compliment with (of course) much modesty, according to custom. We entered into conversation, and I found that Lebel really thought me the sister-in-law of comte Jean; and I remarked the involuntary respect that attended even his familiarity. I left him in his error, which was material to my interests. He talked to me some time of my attractions, of the part which a female like myself might assume in France. But fearing to compromise myself, I made no reply, but preserved the reserve which my character imposed upon me. I am not clever, my friend, I never could conduct an intrigue: I feared to speak or do wrong; and whilst I kept a tranquil appearance, I was internally agitated at the absence of comte Jean.

Fortune sent him to me. He was passing the street, when he saw at our door a carriage with the royal livery. Lebel always used it when his affairs did not demand a positive incognito. This equipage made him suspect a visit from Lebel, and he came in opportunely to extricate me from my embarrassment.

"Sir," said Lebel to him, when he entered, "here is the lady whose extreme modesty refuses to listen to what I dare not thus explain to her."

"Is it anything I may hear for her?" said the comte, with a smiling air.

"Yes, I am the ambassador of a mighty power: you are the minister plenipotentiary of the lady, and with your leave, we will go into your private room to discuss the articles of the secret treaty which I have been charged to propose to you. What says madame?"

"I consent to anything that may come from such an ambassador."

Comte Jean instantly led him into another room, and when they were alone, Lebel said to him, "Do you know that your sister-in- law is a most fascinating creature? She has occupied my thoughts since I have known her, and in my enthusiasm I could not help speaking of her in a certain quarter. So highly have I eulogized her, that his majesty desires an interview with her, that he may judge with his own eyes if I am an appreciator of beauty."

At these words comte Jean felt a momentary agitation, but soon recovering himself, he replied:

"I am exceedingly obliged to you, sir, for the favorable disposition you have evinced towards the comtesse du Barry. She and I have as much respect as love for his majesty; but my sister-in-law has not been presented, and, consequently, I can scarcely see how she can be allowed to pay her respects to his majesty."

"Do not let that disturb you; it is not intended that she shall go and partake of the magnificence of Versailles, but be admitted to an intimacy much more flattering. Would you refuse to grant him that pleasure?"

"It would be a crime of ," said the comte Jean, laughing, "and my family have too much respect for their monarch. We should not be content with a fugitive favor."

"You may expect everything from the charms of the comtesse; I am certain they will have the utmost success; but for me, I can give you no guarantee. You must run the chance."

"Your protection, however, is the only thing which encourages my sister-in-law in this affair. But tell me when is this meeting to take place?"

"Instantly. The king is impatient to see the comtesse and I have promised that she will sup with him to-morrow evening in my apartment at Versailles."

"How is she to be introduced to the king?"

"I am to entertain four of my friends."

"Who are they?"

"'First, the baron de Gonesse."

"Who is he?"

"The king himself."

"Well, who next?"

"The duc de Richelieu."

"Who else?"

"The marquis de Chauvelin."

"Well?"

"The duc de la Vauguyon."

"What, the devotee?"

"The hypocrite. But never mind: the main point is, that you must not appear to recognize the king. Instruct your sister-in-law to this effect."

"Certainly; if she must sin, she had better do so with some reason."

While these gentlemen were thus disposing of me, what was I doing? Alone, in my room, I waited the result of their conference with mortal impatience. The character I had to play was a superb one, and at the moment was about to enter on the stage, I felt all the difficulties of my part. I feared I should not succeed, but fail amid the insulting hisses of the Versailles party.

My fears at once disappeared, and then I pictured myself sitting on a throne, magnificently attired; my imagination wandered in all the enchantments of greatness; —then, as if from remorse, I recalled my past life. The former lover of Nicholas blushed before the future mistress of Louis XV. A thousand different reflections crowded upon me, and mingled in my brain. If to live is to think, I lived a whole age in one quarter of an hour. At length I heard some doors open, a carriage rolled away, and comte Jean entered my chamber.

"Victory!" cried he, embracing me with transport. "Victory! my dear Jeanne, to-morrow you sup with the king."

On this information I turned pale, my strength forsook me, and I was compelled to sit down, or rather to fall into a chair; for, according to Jean Jacques Rousseau, my legs shook under me (). This, however, was the only movement of weakness which I betrayed. When I recovered a little, the comte Jean told me the conversation he had had with Lebel. I joked about the title of baron de Gonesse, and I promised to treat the king as if ignorant of his incognito. One thing only made me uneasy, and that was supping with the duc de Richelieu, who had seen me before at madame de Lagarde's; but the idea that he would not remember me gave me renewed courage.

On so important an occasion, comte Jean did not forget to repeat his instructions over again. These are nearly his words, for I think I learnt them by heart.

"Remember that it is on your first interview that your safety depends. Let him learn, through you, those utter tendernesses which have been sought for him in vain heretofore. He is like the monarch of old, who was willing to pay the half of his crown for an unknown pleasure. Lebel is wearied in seeking every week for new fruit. He is quite disposed to serve you, and will second you in the best manner. You are about to become the centre of attraction to all courtiers, and noble . You must expect that they will endeavor to cry you down, because you will have carried off from them a gem to which every family has its pretensions. You must at first stand firmly before the storm, but afterward you will find all enlist themselves under your banner, who have no wife, sister, nor daughter; that is, all who have no mistress to offer to the king. You must attach these to you by place and favor: they must be first thought of, and then you must think of yourself and me, my dear girl."

"All this is well enough," I replied, "but as yet I am nothing."

"! to-morrow you will be everything," cried comte Jean, with his determined energy. "But we must think about this morrow. Make haste, noble comtesse; go to all the milliners, seek what is elegant rather than what is rich. Be as lovely, pleasing, and gay as possible; this is the main point, and God will do all the rest."

He pronounced this blasphemy in a laughing tone, and I confess I could not help joining in the laugh, and then hastened to comply with his directions.



CHAPTER II

A slight preface—Arrival at Versailles——Portrait of the king—The duc de Richelieu—The marquis de Chauvelin—The duc de la Vauguyon-Supper with the king—The first night—The following day—The curiosity of comte Jean—Presents from the king—How disposed of

The chances against our succeeding in our enterprise were at least a thousand to one. The sea upon which, trusting to the favorable influence of my leading star, we were about to venture, was filled with rocks and shoals which threatened the poor mariner who should direct his bark near them. In the first place, I had to dread my obscure birth, as well as the manner in which my life had been passed; and still more had I to fear the indifferent reputation of comte Jean. There was more than sufficient in all this to disturb a head far stronger than I could boast. However, thanks to my thoughtfulness, no troublesome thoughts interfered to break my rest on the night preceding a day so important to me, and I slept as tranquilly as though upon waking I had no other occupation for my time than a walk on the boulevards, or a drive to the Bois de Boulogne.

Comte Jean, however, had passed a very different night; for once, the whisperings of ambition had overcome even his natural indifference and carelessness, and tired of tossing upon a sleepless pillow, he arose at the first break of day, reproached me for slumbering so long, and allowed me neither peace nor rest till I joined him dressed for our journey. At length, we set out according to our agreement with Lebel; I was closely muffled up in my large —the carriage rolled along till we reached Versailles, where we had for the last month engaged a lodging, which might be useful to us in all events; we alighted, and after vainly seeking a few moments' repose, proceeded on foot to Lebel, in whose apartments we were to attire ourselves in a suitable manner.

"You are welcome," said the comte, "pray consider yourself as at home."

"I accept your augury," replied I, "it would be amusing enough to find that my young prophet had predicted rightly."

"Well then," said my conductor, laughing, "I recommend you to manage a slip on the staircase, it would be taking possession after the manner of the ancients."

"No, no, I thank you," answered I; "no falls if you please, they are not propitious in France."

Whilst we were thus speaking, we were crossing a long suite of chambers, and reached the one at which we were expected. We knocked cautiously at a door, which was opened to us with equal caution. Scarcely had we entered, than Lebel came eagerly forward to receive us.

"Ah, madame!" cried he, "I began to fear you might not come, you have been looked for with an impatience—"

"Which can hardly equal mine," interrupted I; "for you were prepared for your visitor, whilst I have yet to learn who is the friend that so kindly desires to see me."

"It is better it should be so," added Lebel ; "do not seek either to guess or discover more, than that you will here meet with some cheerful society, friends of mine, who will sup at my house, but with whom circumstances prevent my sitting down at table."

"How!" said I, with affected surprise, "not sup with us?"

"Even so," replied Lebel; and then added with a laugh, " and I sit down to supper together! What an idea! No! you will find that just as the guests are about to sit down at table, I shall suddenly be called out of the room, and shall only return at the close of the repast."

All this was but of small import to me. Nevertheless, I affected to regret the unavoidable absence of Lebel. In fact, I believe that the first breath inspired at court is fraught with falsehood and deceit, entirely destructive to every feeling of natural candor.

Lebel, with the most ceremonious gallantry, conducted me to a private dressing-room, where I found several females waiting to assist me at my toilet; I abandoned myself to their cares, which were, indeed, most skilfully exercised in my behalf. They wrought wonders in my appearance, bathing me after the Eastern fashion, adorning my hair and person, till I issued from their hands blooming and beauteous as an houri.

When I returned to the room in which Lebel was expecting me, his surprise was almost overpowering.

"You are, indeed," exclaimed he, "the new sun which is to rise upon Versailles."

"Excellent!" cried I, laughing extravagantly, "but like the planet you are pleased to compare me with, I must reserve my splendid rising till I have obtained fresh powers from the aid of night."*

*<Mais avant de me lever il faut que je me couche>, is the witty reply in the original, but which it is impossible to render fully and piquantly through the dilution of a translation.—-tr.

The comte entered, and joined his congratulations upon the beauty of my appearance; all at once the hasty, sound of a bell, violently pulled, was heard.

"The object of your attack approaches," said Lebel to me, "it would be as well to reconnoitre a little. Remember, not a word of his rank, no cast down, timid looks at his sovereign power; no bending of knees, or faltering of voice."

The advice thus given was useless. Comte Jean, who bore the reputation of, at least, a man of much cool impudence, was, I am certain, more deficient than myself in courage upon the occasion, and I verily believe, asked himself several times whether he dared appear before his prince with one whom he was falsely asserting to be his sister-in-law. However these thoughts might or might not have disturbed him, we proceeded onwards till we reached the apartment where our invited friends were expecting us; and here I will, with the reader's permission, digress awhile, in order to say a few introductory words respecting the four personages with whom I had the honor of supping.

And first, Louis XVth, king of France (or as he was upon the present occasion styled the baron de Gonesse), was one of those sentimental egotists who believed he loved the whole world, his subjects, and his family; while in reality, the sole engrossing object was . Gifted with many personal and intellectual endowments, which might have disputed the palm with the most lively and engaging personages of the court, he was yet devoured by ennui, and of this he was well aware, but his mind was made up to meet this ennui, as one of the necessary accompaniments of royalty. Devoid of taste in literary matters, he despised all connected with the , and esteemed men only in proportion to the number and richness of their armorial bearings. M. de Voltaire ranked him beneath the lowest country-squire; and the very mention of a man of letters was terrifying to his imagination from its disturbing the current of his own ideas; he revelled in the plenitude of power, yet felt dissatisfied with the mere title of king. He ardently desired to signalize himself as the first general of the age, and prevented from obtaining this (in his opinion) highest of honors, entertained the utmost jealousy of Frederick II, and spoke with undisguised spleen and ill-humor of the exploits of his brother of Prussia.

The habit of commanding, and the prompt obedience he had ever met with, had palled upon his mind, and impressed him with feelings of indifference for all things which thus appeared so easily obtained; and this satiety and consequent listlessness was by many construed into melancholy of disposition. He disliked any appearance of opposition to his will; not that he particularly resented the opposition itself, but he knew his own weakness, and feared lest he should be compelled to make a show of a firmness he was conscious of not possessing. For the clergy he entertained the most superstitious veneration; and he feared God because he had a still greater awe and dread of the devil. In the hands of his confessor he confidently believed was lodged the absolute power to confer on him unlimited license to commit any or every sin. He greatly dreaded pamphlets, satires, epigrams, and the opinion of posterity and yet his conduct was that of a man who scoffs at the world's judgment. This hasty sketch may with safety be taken as the portrait of Louis XV, although much might be added; yet for the present I will confine myself to the outline of my picture, which I shall have frequent occasion to retouch in the course of my journal; it is my intention to present him in all possible lights before the reader, and I flatter myself I shall produce a perfect resemblance of the man I seek to depict. Let us now proceed to consider the duc de Richelieu.

This nobleman, when in his seventy-second year, had preserved, even in so advanced an age, all his former pretensions to notice; his success in so many love affairs, a success which he never could have merited, had rendered him celebrated; he was now a superannuated coxcomb, a wearisome and clumsy butterfly; when however, he could be brought to exercise his sense by remembering that he was no longer young, he became fascinating beyond idea, from the finished ease and grace of his manner, and the polished and piquant style of his discourse; still I speak of him as a mere man of outward show, for the duke's attainments were certainly superficial, and he possessed more of the jargon of a man of letters than the sound reality. Among other proofs of consummate ignorance he was deficient even in orthography, and was fool enough to boast of so disgraceful a fact, as though it conferred honor on him; perhaps, indeed, he found that the easiest way of getting over the business.

He possessed a most ignoble turn of mind; all feelings of an elevated nature were wanting within him. A bad son, an unkind husband, and a worse father, he could scarcely be expected to become a steady friend. All whom he feared, he hesitated not to trample under foot; and his favorite maxim, which he has a hundred times repeated to me, was, that "we should never hesitate to set our foot upon the necks of all those who might in any way interfere with our projects—dead men [he would further add] tell no tales!" There was one person, nevertheless, whom he detested and flattered at the same time, and this was Voltaire, who well repaid him in like coin. He called the duc de Richelieu, the tyrant of the tennis-court* (), and the duke returned the compliment by invariably designating him "Scoundrel" and "Poetaster"; the only difference was that the duc de Richelieu only treated the poet thus in , whilst M. de Voltaire sought not to conceal, either in his writings or conversation, his candid opinion of the illustrious duke and peer; and he might justly accuse the duke of ingratitude, for he, no doubt, owed a considerable portion of the reputation he enjoyed as a general, to the brilliant verses in which Voltaire had celebrated his exploits.

*<La Comedie Francaise>—tr.

The marquis de Chauvelin was equally skilful as a warrior and diplomatist. Gentle, graceful, and witty, he joined to the most extreme versatility of talent the utmost simplicity of character. Once known, he could not fail of being valued and esteemed, and the king entertained the most lively regard for him. The noble minded marquis was far from taking advantage of his sovereign's favor, far from it; he neither boasted of it, nor presumed upon it. This truly wonderful man died, unhappily, too soon for me, for the king on whom he bestowed the sagest counsels, and for foreign courts who knew and appreciated his worth. I shall have occasion to speak of him hereafter; he had a brother, a wicked little hump-backed creature, brave as Caesar, and a bitter enemy to the Jesuits, whom he did not a little contribute to overturn in the parliament of Paris, to which he belonged. The king detested this man as much as he loved and cherished the brother, and that is saying not a little.

The fourth guest was the duc de la Vauguyon, the really tutor to the princes of France, for he had educated four successively. He had displayed in the army both bravery and talent, but he was a confirmed Jesuit, and conducted himself towards me upon the strictest principles of his order. He will appear again on the scene hereafter, but for the present I must lay him aside, whilst I return to my to the saloon, which I was about to enter.

Immediately after Lebel had conducted me into it, he was called away, and quitted us. The king rose and approached me, saluting me with the most admirable gallantry, and addressing to me the most encouraging and gratifying words. His gentle, yet polished manners, fine countenance, noble air, and the free and unrestrained glances of admiration which sparkled in his eyes, communicated to me a feeling of support and confidence which effectually reassured me, and roused me from the involuntary emotion I had felt at the moment when I first appeared in his presence. The king addressed a few words to comte Jean, and then regarded him steadily, as tho' he were trying to recall his features; but his eye quickly turned on me again, upon whom he bestowed the most intoxicating attention. Never was first sight more effective, and never did a flame so rapidly increase as did the passion of my noble adorer. Ere we had seated ourselves at the supper-table, he was ages gone in love.

It would have provoked a smile from any countenance to perceive how the respect and admiration with which the three courtiers regarded me increased in proportion as the sentiments of the king towards me betrayed themselves more and more. At first I had been considered as a person of little or no importance. Soon, however, as their sagacious eyes discovered the state of their master's mind, the air of familiarity with which they had regarded me gave place to a more studied politeness, which, in its turn, as matters progressed, was superseded by the most delicate attention; and ere we rose from table these gentlemen watched my looks with the most eager anxiety to obtain the honor of my notice, and hopes of future patronage from one whom they easily foresaw would be fully qualified to bestow it. Comte Jean observed all that was passing in profound silence. As for me, I talked and laughed with perfect freedom from restraint, and my frank unaffected mirth appeared to enchant the king; I knew that he was weary of the nice formalities of courtly beauty, and desired to refresh his eyes and ears with something less refined, and I gratified him to his heart's wish. The conversation became lively and animated, the merits of men of letters were discussed, the French and Italian theatre passed in review before us, and finally, we amused ourselves with anecdotes relative to the intrigues of court. The baron de Gonesse related to us a circumstance which had just been communicated to him by a county magistrate. I must here apprize the reader that these administrators of justice were directed to collect all the facts, scandalous, horrible, ridiculous, or piquant, which occurred within their jurisdiction, in order that, being forwarded to the king, they might aid in distracting his mind from the heavy cares of government. Alas! how many strange and eventful things have I since learned by similar channels.

The supper terminated, the king's friends remained some time conversing with us. Whilst these noblemen were busily celebrating my praises in words sufficiently loud to reach the king's ear, the baron de Gonesse, standing by my side, was prosecuting his suit in the most ardent terms. I received his overtures with becoming grace and modesty. As I have before said, the exterior of the king was very prepossessing, and what he wanted in youth, he made up by all the mature graces of dignified royalty. At last Lebel appeared, and made me a sign to rise from my seat. Up to this period nothing had arisen to betray the incognito of the august monarch, and in order to keep up my pretended ignorance of his grandeur, I quitted the apartment with little ceremony. Lebel conducted me to an adjoining chamber, furnished with the utmost magnificence. When we were seated, he turned to the comte Jean, who had followed us, and said, "It rests with yourself whether you will return to Paris, or remain at Versailles. But as for , who seems much fatigued, she will, we trust, honor us by accepting a bed at the castle."

My self-created brother-in-law understood as well as I did the significance of these words, and clearly read in their import how far I had attracted the favor of the king. In order to have rendered the impression more lasting, we could have wished that matters had been less precipitated, but we were under a roof where everything yielded to the caprices of its master, and resignation to his will became a matter of course. And here I trust I may be pardoned if I pass over certain details which could not, at this lapse of time, interest or amuse any one; besides, altho' I have found no difficulty in reciting former events of my life, I find my pen more prudish and coy than were my ears or mouth. All I shall say is, that the following day, as soon as I was left alone in my chamber, Lebel entered, and prostrating himself at the side of my bed,—

"Madame la comtesse," said he, "is queen and mistress here. Not only has your noble lover failed to communicate to me the usual signal of disgust or dislike, but he has spoken of you to me in the most favorable light, declaring, that, for the first time in his life, he felt the influence of a true and sincere affection; for this reason he desired I would not convey to you the contents of this casket, as originally intended."

"And what does it contain?" asked I, with childish eagerness.

"Oh, a trifle unworthy of her who is now the mistress of his warmest love; only a purse containing a hundred louis, and a suit of emeralds worth a similar sum. He bade me say it might have served to recompense a mere fleeting fancy, but that it is unworthy of your charms, nor can he insult you by the offer of it."

"Will he then see me again?" inquired I.

"To-morrow evening, if agreeable to you."

"Only say that his wishes are mine."

"Would you wish to see the comte Jean before you rise? He has been waiting with the utmost impatience to see you since seven o'clock this morning."

"Let him come in."

The comte entered, and I saw by the triumphant joy painted on his face, that Lebel had told him of propitious state of things. He ran up to me with outstretched arms, congratulating me upon my success, and putting at the same time several questions, to which, either from mere womanly caprice, or presuming upon my recent elevation to the character of prime favorite, I refused to reply.

My folly drew down on me his severe anger, and several oaths escaped his lips, which, echoed back by walls so unused to similar violence, struck Lebel with terror. That faithful ally placed his hand over his mouth, imploring of him to recollect himself, and the place he was in. As for me, dreading some foolish burst of his impetuosity, I tried some of my sweetest smiles, and inviting him to sit beside me, related to him and Lebel those particulars which my pen refuses to retrace. Amongst other things, I told them I had said to the king, that I had perfectly known who he was all the preceding evening when supping with him, and that he had the simplicity to say, "he was surprised I had not appeared more embarrassed in his presence."

Our conversation terminated, I wished to return to Paris, and I was, without further hindrance, allowed to depart. Scarcely had I arrived there an hour, than I received from his majesty a magnificent diamond agraffe, worth at least 60,000 francs, and bank notes to the amount of 200,000 livres.

Comte Jean and myself were well nigh stupefied with astonishment at the sight of such treasures; to us, who had never in our lives possessed such sums, they appeared inexhaustible. My brother-in-law divided them into two equal portions, one of which he put into his pocket, and the other into my . With this arrangement I did not interfere; nothing seemed to me more simple than that he should satisfy his need out of my superfluity. I bestowed two thousand crowns upon Henriette, and expended in the course of the day at least a quarter of my riches in trifles, as unnecessary as useless; and all this without once remembering that as I owed my present abundance to a momentary inclination on the part of the king, so the turn of an hour, or a fresh fancy on the part of my munificent adorer, might reduce me to the unprovided state in which I had been so lately. That evening was passed tete-a-tete with comte Jean; he thought, as I did, that the foundation of our treasure was firm as a rock, and he gave me many counsels for the future which I promised to observe; for indeed it was to my own interest to do so. Upon how many follies did we then debate, which, but a few days afterwards we found practicable. The different ministers passed in review before us; some we determined upon retaining, whilst others were dismissed, and already I began in idea to act with sovereign power over these illustrious personages, amongst whom I anticipated shortly playing so important a part. "After all," said I, "the world is but an amusing theatre, and I see no reason why a pretty woman should not play a principal part in it."



CHAPTER III

The king's message—Letter from the countess—A second supper at Versailles—The duc d'Ayen—A short account of M. de Fleury—The duc de Duras -Conversation with the king—The next day—A visit from the duc de Richelieu—Visit from the duc de la Vauguyon—Visit from comte Jean—Visit from the king—A third supper—Favor

Early the following day I received a message from the king, accompanied with a bouquet of flowers tied round with a string of diamonds. A short letter was annexed to this splendid gift, which I would transcribe here, had it not been taken from me with many others. My reply, which I wrote upon the spur of the moment, was concise, and, as I preserved the rough copy, under the impression of its being one day useful, I can give the reader the exact words.

"The billet traced by your noble hands, renders me the happiest of women. My joy is beyond description. Thanks, monsieur le Baron, for your charming flowers. Alas! they will be faded and withered by to-morrow, but not so fleeting and short-lived are the sentiments with which you have inspired me. Believe me, the desire you express to see me again is entirely mutual; and in the impatience with which you await our next interview, I read but my own sentiments. The ardor with which you long to embrace me, is fully equalled by the affection which leads me to desire no gratification greater than that of passing my whole life in your society. Adieu, monsieur le baron; you have forbidden my addressing you as your rank and my respect would have me, I will therefore content myself with assuring you of the ardent affection of the

"COMTESSE Du Barry."

The signature I adopted was a bold piece of falsehood, but it was too late to recede; besides, I was addressing myself in my letter, not to the king, but to the baron de Gonesse; for Louis, by I know not what unaccountable caprice, seemed to wish to preserve his incognito. I have since learned that Francis I assumed the same name, altho' upon a very different occasion. Replying to a letter from Charles V, in which that emperor had given himself a long string of high sounding titles, he contented himself with simply signing his letter, "<"Franois, baron de Gonesse.>" Louis XV was very fond of borrowed appellations. Unlike the vanity so common to mankind, of seeking to set off their pretensions by assumed titles, it is the pleasure of royalty to descend to a lower grade in society when concealment becomes desirable, either from policy or pleasure; and Louis sought in the familiarity in which a plain baron might safely indulge, a relief from the ennui attendant upon the rigid etiquette of a regal state. I had omitted in my letter to the baron, to remind him that we were to meet that very evening, but that did not prevent my repairing to Versailles punctually at the appointed hour. I was conducted into the same apartment as before, where I found the same females who had then assisted at my toilet* again prepared to lend their aid; and from this moment I had a regular establishment of attendants appointed for my use.

*A word of which the meaning has greatly changed over the last two centuries. Here it means putting on her clothing, makeup, jewelry, and so forth. Through most of this book it is spelled "toilette."—Gutenberg ed.

The moment the king was informed of my arrival, unable to restrain his impatience, he hastened to me to assist at my dressing table, and he continued standing beside me so long as the operation lasted; I felt greatly embarrassed, not knowing whether I durst take the liberty of requesting him to be seated. However, my silence on the subject was greatly admired, and ascribed to my perfect acquaintance with polished life, when in reality it originated from mere timidity. My triumph was complete; the monarch smiled at and admired every word as it fell from my lips, kissed my hands, and played with the curls of my long hair, sportively twisting his fingers amidst my flowing ringlets with all the vivacity of a lover of twenty. The company upon this evening was different from that of the former occasion, consisting of the duc de Duras, first gentleman of the bedchamber, and the duc d'Ayen, who had the reputation of being a great wit; however, in my opinion, he was much more deserving the character of a real fiend; his very breath was poisonous, and his touch venomous as the bite of an adder. I well remember what M. de Fleury said of him to the king in my presence. "Sire," said he, "the thing I most dread in the world next to a bite from M. d'Ayen, is the bite of a mad dog." For my own part, I did not in the end look upon him with less terror, and well he paid me for my fears. Upon one occasion, when the king was speaking of me to him, he said, "I am well aware that I succeed St. Foix."

"Yes, sire"; replied the duke, "in the same manner as your majesty succeeds Pharamond!"

I never forgave him those words, dictated by a fiendish malice. However, upon the evening of my first introduction to him, he behaved to me with the most marked politeness. I was then an object of no consequence to his interests, and his vision had not yet revealed to him the height I was destined to attain. He looked upon me but as one of those meteors which sparkled and shone in the castle at Versailles for twenty-four hours, and sank to rise no more.

The duc de Duras was not an ill-disposed person, but inconceivably stupid; indeed, wit was by no means a family inheritance. Both father and son, good sort of people in other respects, were for ever saying or doing some good thing in support of their reputation for stupidity at court. One day the king quite jokingly inquired of the duc de Duras, what was done with the old moons. "Upon my word, sire," replied he," I can give you no idea, never having seen, but with your majesty's permission, I will endeavor to learn from M. de Cassini*!" To such a pitch did the poor man's simplicity extend. Both father and son were nominated to attend the king of Denmark, when on his road to visit France. The king observed to a person who repeated it to me: "The French are generally styled a clever, witty nation; I cannot say I should ever have been able to discover it, had I been tempted to form my opinion from the specimen they have sent me."

*The royal astronomer —Gutenberg ed.

As far as I am concerned, after saying so many unfavorable things of the Messrs. de Duras, I must do them the justice to say, that their conduct towards me was everything that could be desired. I was always glad to see them; it gave my own imagination a sort of sedative dose to converse with these two simple-minded beings, whose interests I was always ready to promote by every means in my power, and I trust the memory of what I have done will be long remembered by the noble house of Duras.

This supper did not pass off so gaily as the former one. The duc de Duras spoke as little as possible, in the dread of making some unlucky speech, and the duc d'Ayen sat devouring the spleen he could not give vent to, and meditating fresh objects upon whom to exercise his malignity; he vainly endeavored to lead me on to make some ridiculous observation, but without success; happily for him, the king did not perceive his aim. My royal lover was indeed so entirely engrossed by me, that he lost all the duke's manoeuvres; his transports appeared too much for his senses to sustain, and he vowed that I should never quit him more, but remain to be elevated by his power to the first place at court. At the monarch's sign, the two guests withdrew.

When the duc d'Ayen quitted the room, 'That nobleman is by no means to my taste," said I to the king, "he has the air of a spy, who wishes me no good."

"Do you really think so, my lovely comtesse?"

"I am certain of it; and I already shudder at the bare anticipation of an enemy having access to your majesty's ear."

"Reassure yourself," said the king, with the utmost tenderness, "in me you have a sure defender, who will never forsake you; look upon me from this minute as your natural protector, and woe to him on whose head your displeasure shall fall."

After this conversation the king and myself retired to rest, and when he quitted me in the morning, he entreated me not to return to Paris, but to give him my company for a whole week. Lebel made his appearance to beg I would consider myself mistress of the apartments I occupied, and that he had received orders to provide me with an establishment upon the most handsome scale.

That very day Henriette, whom I had sent for, and instituted as my head waiting-woman, informed me, that an old gentleman, attired as tho' for a grand gala, but who refused to send in his name, begged to be permitted to pay his respects. I bade her admit him; it was the duc de Richelieu.

"Madame la comtesse," said he, bowing low, "I come to complain of your want of condescension; unless, indeed, your memory has been at fault. Was it possible that when I had the honor of supping with you the other night, you did not recollect your former old friend?"

"If, indeed, my forgetfulness were a fault, monsieur le marechal, it was one in which you bore an equal share; you were not more forward than myself in displaying marks of recognition."

"That arose only from the dazzling increase of your beauty. You were but a nymph when last my eyes had beheld you, and now you are matured into a goddess."

The duke then made some slight allusion to the family of madame Lagarde, but guessing with his admirable tact, that such reminiscences could not be particularly agreeable to me, he dexterously turned the conversation, by requesting permission to present to me his nephew, the duc d'Aiguillon, that he might leave a worthy substitute and champion near the king when state affairs called him into Gascony; he craved my kind offices to obtain the intimate acquaintance of comte Jean. They were subsequently at daggers drawn with each other, but this haughty overbearing lord conducted himself at first with the most abject servility. The third favor he had to solicit was that I would name him to the king as frequently as opportunities occurred to form one of our supper parties. All this I engaged to do, nor indeed could I refuse after the violent protestations of friendship he made me.

"You will, ere long," said he, "see the whole court at your feet, but beware of considering them all as your friends; have a care, above all, of the duchesse de Grammont. She has been long endeavoring to obtain the king's affections, and she will see with hatred and fury another more worthy engrossing the place she has so vainly contended for; she and her impertinent brother will call in the aid of the devil himself to dispossess you of your elevated seat; you are lost if you do not twist both their necks."

"How, monsieur le marechal, shall I mark my career by a murder?"

"You take me too literally; I only mean that in your place I would not be at the trouble of keeping any terms with them."

"Ah, monsieur le duc, I understand you now; yet it seems a bad augury to have to begin my reign by cabals and intrigues."

"Alas! my fair comtesse, you are too good, too guileless for a court life; between ourselves we are all hypocrites more or less; mistrust every one, even those make the finest protestations."

"In that case the first object of my suspicion would be my old and esteemed friend the marechal de Richelieu."

"Ah, madame! this is not fair usage, thus to turn my weapons against myself, and to fight me with my own arms."

Upon this the duke quitted me, and scarcely had he left the room, when the duc la Vauguyon entered. This gentleman offered me no advice; he contented himself by styling the Jesuits his "very good friends," and continually turning the conversation upon their merits. I allowed him to express his attachment, without interruption, for these disagreeable men, whom I determined in my own mind to have nothing to do with, recollecting all I had heard of their dislike to our sex. After an hour passed in amusing talk, the duc de la Vauguyon retired, well pleased with his visit, and his place was immediately supplied by comte Jean, to whom I communicated all that had passed between my late visitors and myself.

"For heaven's sake," said he, "let us not be the dupes of these great lords; before we range ourselves under the banners of either of them let us secure our own footing; let us wait till you are presented."

"But, my good friend, I must be a married lady to obtain that honor."

"And so you will be shortly, do not be uneasy about that. I have written to my brother William to set out without delay for Paris. Your swain will be easily induced to marry you. What do you think of that?"

I gave comte Jean to comprehend, by signs, that I left my destiny in his hands, and he kissed my hands and withdrew. The king managed to steal a few minutes to converse with me.

"You did not intrust me, my sweet friend," said he, "with the circumstance of your having formerly known the duc de Richelieu; less reserved on the subject than you were, he told me he had seen you at the house of madame Lagarde, who considered you one of her dearest friends."

"Sire," replied I, "I was too much occupied with your majesty, to think of any other person in the world."

My answer delighted him, he looked at me in the most gracious manner.

"You would almost persuade me that you love me," said he, smiling.

"Indeed, your majesty," said I, "I only pray that you desire the continuance of my affection."

"In that case," replied he, kissing my hand with fervor, "you do but partake of my tenderness for you."

These words flattered my vanity, and here I must declare that if I never felt for the king that violent attachment which is termed love, I ever entertained for him the warmest esteem. He was so attentive, so kind to me, that I must have been a monster of ingratitude could I have looked upon him with indifference.

Our supper on this night was again lively as the first had been. The duc de Richelieu entertained us with several amusing anecdotes; not that they contained any thing very piquant, but the duke related them well, and we were all in the humor to be pleased, and laughed heartily at what he said. Comte Jean, whose eye constantly followed me, appeared perfectly satisfied with all I said or did. As for the king, he seemed enchanted with me, and seemed wholly occupied in watching my looks, that he might anticipate my wants. After supper, in the which followed, he explained himself in terms which left me no doubt how securely my empire over him was established. Had he been less explicit on the subject, the flattering marks of favor, and the adulatory compliments I received from all on the following day, would well have assured me of it. I was no longer an obscure and friendless individual, but the beloved mistress of the king; I was, to use the expression of Lebel, a new sun which had arisen to illumine horizon of Versailles. I could no longer doubt my power when I saw noble personages present themselves to solicit the most servile employments about my person. Amongst others, I might instance a certain lady de St. Benoit, who continued first lady of my chamber, during the whole time of my regency;—my justly-valued Henriette being contented to take the second place of honor.



CHAPTER IV

The duc d'Aiguillon—The duc de Fronsac—The duchesse de Grammont—The meeting—Sharp words on both sides—The duc de Choiseul—Mesdames d'Aiguillon—Letter from the duc d'Aiguillon— Reply of madame du Barry—Mademoiselle Guimard—The prince de Soubise—Explanation—The Rohans—Madame de Marsan—Court friendships

The duc de Richelieu, who was in haste to go to Guienne, lost no time in presenting to me the duc d'Aiguillon. He was not young, but handsome and well made, with much amiability and great courage. A sincere friend, no consideration could weaken his regard; an adversary to be dreaded, no obstacle could repress his boldness. His enemies—and amongst them he included the whole magistracy—his enemies, I say, have used him shamefully, but he treated them too ill for them to be believed in any thing they say of him. If he were ambitious, he had the excuse of superior merit, and if he showed himself too severe in one particular, it proceeded from an energy of mind which did not allow him to have more pity for others than they had for him. Do not, my friend, think that the attachment I had for him can transport me beyond just limits. Since he is in his grave, my illusions, if I had any, have dissipated. I only give to my deceased friends the tribute due to them—truth and tears. But really, without thinking of it, I am attributing to myself these virtues without necessity, forgetting that you are not one of those who would fain render me as black as possible in the eyes of posterity.

In proportion as the first sight of the uncle had prejudiced me against him, so much more did it propitiate me towards the nephew. I saw in him a generous heart, and a genius capable of lofty actions which you would vainly have sought for in the marechal de Richelieu. No doubt at the beginning of our the duc d'Aiguillon only saw in me a woman who could be useful to his projects and plans; but soon his heart joined the alliance, and a devotion of calculation was succeeded by a vehement passion, of which I was justly proud, as it subdued to my chains the most accomplished of courtiers.

Our first interview was lively. The marechal and he supported the conversation with much gaiety. M. de Richelieu, as I have already told you, had neither wit nor information, but possessed that ease of the first circles, those manners of high breeding, those courtly graces, which often surpass wit and information.

"My nephew," said he to the duke, "madame can do much for us, but we must first do something for her. Without support, without friends, she will be lost at Versailles; let us be her partisans if she will allow it, and let her youth have the benefit of our experience."

The tone in which the duc d'Aiguillon replied delighted me. He said he was but too happy to serve me, and begged me to rely on him as I would on myself.

"But," he continued, "but we have to struggle with a powerful party. The duchesse de Grammont and her brother are not the persons to give up the field without striking a blow. But, madame, by the assistance of your happy and lovely star, I will enter the lists with pleasure, and if a glance of your eyes will recompense a conqueror, I shall be he."

"Oh," exclaimed the duke, "my nephew's a second Amadis in gallantry, and of undaunted courage. You will be satisfied with him, madame, much more than with my son, who only resembles the family in his defects."

The duc de Fronsac was justly hated by his father; he was what is called a decided scamp, without one redeeming point or virtue. Dissipated without agreeableness, a courtier without address, a soldier without courage, he thoroughly deserved his bad reputation. He was not hated, because hatred implies a species of honor, but he was universally despised. His father hated him; he hated his father. The reciprocity was edifying. I have often seen the duc de Fronsac, and always with disgust. He had incurred the extremity of punishment; when trying to carry off a butcher's daughter, he rendered himself guilty of the triple crimes of arson, rape, and robbery. This was the most splendid deed of his life, at least his father said so, the only one in which he had shown—guess what for, my friend, I will not pen the cynical word made use of by his father. It must be confessed that we sometimes kept very bad company at Versailles. The king, who abhorred degrading actions, did not like the duc de Fronsac, but was full of kindly feeling towards the duc d'Aiguillon. The latter experienced the extent of his favor in his long and obstinate struggle with the parliament of Bretagne. It must be owned, that if he gained the victory at court, he decidedly lost it in the city, and I was publicly insulted on this account in the most brutal manner. However, the friendship which his first interview inspired me with, I have always preserved unaltered.

The week glided away, and each day my fortune seemed more fully assured. The love of the king increased, he heaped presents on me perpetually, and seemed to think he never could do enough for me. The bounties of Louis XV were known, and instantly aroused against me the two enemies with whom I had been threatened—the duc de Choiseul and the duchesse de Grammont, his sister. I must say, however, that, at first, the brother contented himself with despising me, but the duchesse was furious; I had offended her feminine self-love, and she could not forgive me. I have told you that she obtained possession of the king by stratagem. This is fact. She was in a place of concealment during a regal debauch, and when Louis left the table, with his head heated by wine, she awaited him in his bed to commit a sort of violence on him. What curious ambition! As soon as this noble lady learned my position, she was desirous of knowing who I was, and I have been told since all the measures she took to learn this. She did not confine her search to the circle of Versailles, but hastened to prosecute her inquiries in Paris with M. de Sartines. The lieutenant of police not suspecting the favor that awaited me, as well as that which I already enjoyed, and on the other hand persuaded of that of the Choiseul family, set all his bloodhounds on my traces. They did not fail to bring him back a thousand horrible tales about me, with which he gratified the duchesse, who, thinking thereby to do me a severe injury, spread in the chateau a multitude of prejudicial tales against me, hoping that they would reach the ears of the king and disgust him with his amour. It was at this juncture that appeared in the "<Nouvelles a la Main>" those infamous articles, collected in what they call the Collection of Bachaumont. From the same source proceeded the songs which filled Paris, and were sung about everywhere. These scandals produced no other effect than increasing the attachment which the king had for me, and to diminish that which he felt for the duc de Choiseul.

Passion never reasons; if it had common sense, it would perceive that it cannot disgust a lover by vilifying his mistress, but, on the contrary, interests his self-love in supporting her. Thus all these intrigues scathed me not; I did not mention to my counsellor comte Jean an insult which I met with in the park at Versailles from madame de Grammont. I did not tell it to the king, not wishing to create any disturbance at court. I avenged myself by myself, and think I conducted myself remarkably well in this adventure, which was as follows:

I was walking in the garden with Henriette, who had given me her arm; it was early in the morning, and the walks appeared solitary. We walked towards the side of the Ile d'Amour, when we heard the steps of two persons who came behind us. Henriette turned her head and then said to me, "Here are mesdames de Brionne and de Grammont." I knew the latter but very slightly, and the former not at all. Certainly she could not have been there by chance; they knew I should be there, and wished to see me closely. Not suspecting what was to follow, I was delighted at the rencontre. They passed us with head erect, haughty air; looked at me with a disdainful stare, laughed rudely and walked away. Altho' such behavior offended me, it did not put me out of humor; I thought it very natural for madame de Grammont to be irritated against me. Henriette had less magnanimity. She repeated so often how impertinent it was thus to insult a female honored by the bounties of the king, and so far excited my feelings, that instead of returning as prudence suggested, I followed the steps of these ladies. I did not proceed far before I rejoined them; they were seated on a bench, awaiting my arrival as it appeared. I passed close to them, and at that moment the duchesse de Grammont, raising her voice, said,

"It must be a profitable business to sleep with every body."

I was excessively nettled, and instantly retorted, "At least I cannot be accused of making a forcible entry into any person's bed." The arrow went to the mark and penetrated deeply. The whole countenance of the duchesse turned pale, except her lips, which became blue. She would have said something foolish, but madame de Brionne, more cool because touched less nearly, placed her hand over her companion's mouth. I in my turn walked away with Henriette, laughing till tears came into my eyes at this pleasing victory.

The duchesse de Grammont, who had no further inclination to laugh, told the whole to her brother. He, who loved her excessively, too much so perhaps, reprimanded her, nevertheless, and pointed out to her the disadvantage in an open struggle with me. Madame de Brionne was enjoined to secrecy, but that did not prevent her from confiding the affair to the dowager duchesse d'Aiguillon.

This latter was a lady of most superior merit, uniting to much wit more solid acquirements. She spoke English like a native. Her death, which happened in 1772, was a great misfortune to her son, to whom she gave the most excellent counsel. She told my adventure to her daughter-in-law, who, excessively ambitious, saw, without any pain, the increasing attachment of her husband for me. I must tell you, in a parenthesis, that I always lived on the best terms with her, and that, in my disgrace, her friendship did not weaken. I must do her this justice. All my have not been equally faithful towards me.

These two ladies knowing this occurrence, the duc d'Aiguillon was not long kept in ignorance that something had happened. He came in haste to see me, and inquired what it was. But he asked in vain, I would not tell him. My secrecy hurt him, and on his return home he wrote to me. As I have great pleasure in telling you all that recalls this amiable gentleman to my mind, I will transcribe his letter, which will give you an opportunity of judging of the turn of his mind.

<I am very unhappy, madame. I had flattered myself with having obtained your confidence, but the obstinate silence which you have kept with me has cruelly informed me of my mistake. Allow the deep interest with which you have inspired me to offer a suggestion. You know nothing of forms, you are unacquainted with our usages: you require a friend who shall direct and counsel you. Why should you not select a man entirely devoted to you, and as equally so to the king, the king whose affections you possess—and who could refuse them to you? I pause. Nothing is more dangerous than to use a pen where we have a heart overflowing like mine. Be more gracious towards me, I ask it of you in charity, and take no pleasure in driving me to twofold desperation. Adieu, madame, etc.

"Signed, the Duc D'A."

I read and read again this epistle: it delighted me from beginning to end. I found in it a depth of passion which did not displease me: I perfectly comprehended the obscurity of the latter phrase. I needed a sort of mentor superior to comte Jean, and I preferred the duc d'Aiguillon to any other, because he pleased me. This feeling decided me, and I replied to him in these terms:—

"You are wrong, monsieur, to be annoyed, and to think that I am not disposed to grant you my confidence. It seems to me that I cannot place myself in better hands. However, we do not know each other well enough for me to repose in you at once: see me frequently, and then, with the habit of being in your company, I will allow myself to glide quietly into that state of confidence which you desire. Yes, I am indeed a stranger to all that passes around me; my only support is the protection with which the king honors me. That is all-powerful, but I will not employ it unseasonably or improperly. I know that I need the counsels of an honorable, prudent, and well-informed man. I accept, therefore, of yours; I even ask them from you, if your friendship go along with them. Adieu, monsieur. My regards are due to your uncle, the marechal, the first time you write to him."

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse