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AULINE
BONAPARTE



R LOVERS



From the collection of the






o Prejinger h
u * ( Jjibrary
t p



San Francisco, California
2007



/::! :

' i , i " .




PAULINE BONAPARTE
From an etching by Mn/f. Foiir



PAULINE BONAPARTE
I AND HER LOVERS I

AS REVEALED BY CONTEMPORARY WITNESSES
BY HER OWN LOVE-LETTERS AND BY
THE ANTI-NAPOLEONIC PAMPHLETEERS

BY HECTOR FLEISCHMANN

AUTHORIZED TRANSLATION WITH
SIXTEEN ILLUSTRATIONS : : :



LONDON: JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD
NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY
TORONTO: BELL & COCKBURN MCMXIV



v



WILLIAM UKENDON AND SON, LTD., PRINTERS, PLYMOUTH



CONTENTS

BOOK I. "LA DIVA PAOLINA"

CHAPTER I
HER EARLY LOVE-AFFAIRS

The Bonaparte family as refugees at Marseilles
Signora Letizia's daughters Ups and downs of
Fortune Early stages of the too-gay-Pauline myth
Charges brought by royalist libellers Pauline
bathes stark naked in Marseilles harbour Corporal
Cervoni as a lover of hers The 1815 pamphlets
Appearances deceptive in the behaviour of the
Bonaparte girls The story of Stanislas Freron
The comedian's revenge " Avis important aux
femmes grosses " Freron and the ladies The
" People's Spokesman " and Messalina- Antoinette
A scene from the sentimental experiences of Lucile
Desmoulins Freron the harbinger of the Terror
Freron the harbinger of Mercy His liaison with
Pauline Causes of love on either side Examination
of an impassioned correspondence Bonaparte
favours a marriage His letter to Freron Sudden
change Why ? Freron's mistress Pauline's dis-
satisfaction Bonaparte appealed to The match
broken off Napoleon's moral objections

CHAPTER II
PAULINE MARRIED

Pauline's betrothed Napoleon's choice General
Leclerc Supposed love-scene behind a screen
Absurdity of the tale Leclerc happy Pauline goes



308153



vi CONTENTS

PAGE

to boarding-school to complete her education
Birth of Dermide Reluctance to accompany her
husband to Hayti The First Consul settles the
question Curious agreement of two witnesses
Did Leclerc plunder at Hayti ? Pauline's dis-
illusionment Death of Leclerc " Post-mortem "
Fashionable amusements in the colony French
women and the negroes Decision come to by
Leclerc to check the taste for black men Charges
against Pauline Petion and the negro King Henry I
Quaint court of this imitator of Napoleon End of
Freron Misery of his last years His death
Imposing funeral accorded to Leclerc His body
brought back to France Those best acquainted
with Pauline's early love-affairs are no more . . 54

CHAPTER III
A " MERRY WIDOW "

Pauline settles down at Paris Buys the Hotel du Charost
Her supposed wealth Her lovers ; Semonville,
MacDonald, Humbert The lady-killing dealer in
rabbit-skins Humbert's career in love and in war
His relations with Pauline at Hayti Enquiry into
the possibility of a liaison Admiral De Cres' passion
for Pauline She finds another lover ; Rapenouille,
otherwise known as Lafon This " romantic " actor's
conquests among the ladies Mile. George's curious
evidence How Pauline came to know Lafon The
Plessis-Chamant theatre The actor's reticence con-
cerning the liaison A love-affair without an echo
Disappearance of Rapenouille, otherwise known as
Lafon ........ 90

CHAPTER IV
PATHOLOGY OF A " LIGHT-O'-LOVE "

Pauline's beauty Its influence over Napoleon
Feminine evidence ; Duchess d'Abrantes, Countess



CONTENTS vii

PAGE

Potocka, Georgette Ducrest Men's evidence ;
Desaix, Arnault, Beugnot, Thiebault, Lewis Gold-
smith Moral deficiencies of "la diva Paolina "
Pauline ill What was the illness ? . . . .113

CHAPTER V
THE " DUMMY HUSBAND "

Disbelief current as to the possibility of Pauline marrying
a prince Borghdse at Paris His physique and
attractions for Pauline First rumours of the
marriage Ironical congratulations from Peltier
Conditions prescribed by the First Consul The
Fiancees give him the slip Bonaparte takes his
revenge Sound advice to the bride as to her
behaviour Death of little Dermide Pauline's
disillusionment as regards Borghdse He is only
made for show Indiscreet disclosures by the
deceived bride Why she left her husband
Borghese in fault He accepts the role of " dummy
husband " without hesitation . . . .123

BOOK II. THE IMPERIAL VENUS

CHAPTER I
NAPOLEON AND His SISTER

Why Napoleon left Pauline out of his political plans
Although preferring her to his other sisters She
causes dissatisfaction at Rome Another letter
from Napoleon She assists the Emperor in his
amours Her gross witticism at the expense of
Marie-Louise " Paulette " gives place to " Pauline,
Imperial Princess " Napoleon and her lovers
De Montrond, his temperament, his sallies, his
successes Napoleon uses political means to separate
him from Pauline The Emperor intervenes again
De Canouville's coxcombry The dentist's adventure



viii CONTENTS

PACB

The adventure of the fur cape De Canouville's
punishment His successor ; M. de Septeuil Death
of the lover at the battle of Moskowa Why the
Emperor intervened in one liaison and not in another 143

CHAPTER II

" A GENTLEMAN OF THE OLD SCHOOL " AND THE
MODEST MUSICIAN

M. de Forbin, painter, litterateur, lover Proves an
expensive luxury Pauline's love-letter to him
Her lamentations concerning the lack of complaisance
among the ladies of her household Love-promises
made to M. de Forbin She forsakes him for a
musician, Blangini His na'ive conceit A bashful
man, unwilling to be seen without his breeches
Turns an honest penny by retailing his amours
His introduction to Pauline's household Loses his
voice Frequent duets Love-aflfair with Pauline
becomes slavery Blangini's fear of the Emperor, and
of Prince Borghese The rupture End of his career 166

CHAPTER III

THE SYBARITIC PRINCESS

Pauline's illnesses and her stratagems Napoleon is
sometimes deceived How the Princess lived in the
provinces Curious details concerning the personnel
of her household The negro and the Princess's
bidet Blow given to a maid Sybaritic customs of
Pauline The Emperor affects ignorance His real
feelings Caroline makes a shrewd guess Barras'
curious anecdote Receptions in the bath-room
The negro-in-waiting there Constant's bashfulness
A " sketch from life " by the Baroness du Montet
Pleasant tasks for the Princess's pages Canova and
the nude statue of Pauline The Imperial Venus
Restrictions placed on the exhibition of it by the
Princess's husband . . . . . .184



CONTENTS ix

PAGE

CHAPTER IV
A HITHERTO UNKNOWN LIAISON OF PAULINE'S

The Princess's four lovers in 1812 One unknown hitherto;
Talma Paris gossip Talma reads to Pauline
Nocturnal diversions during her stay at Aix
Complaints about the Duchesse d'AbrantSs The
lover's correspondence by " poste restante " Talma
offers her watches at seven louis apiece Supplies
her with books Pauline when she hears of Canou-
ville's death Writes a love-letter to Talma the
same day Past pleasures recalled by the tragedian
His requests for small presents ; a bandanna, a
bust, a boat, a licence Talma as intermediary in
the purchase of a chateau The irony of his funeral,
it is one of Pauline's earliest lovers who pronounces
the funeral oration ...... 202

CHAPTER V
A BEAUTY TO THE LAST

Pauline's unlucky year ; 1813 No lovers Loneliness
of her life Further journeys The events of 1814
draw her closer to the Emperor Her secret voyage to
the Isle of Elba She settles there A gracious
influence on the rough soldier colony of the island
Napoleon selects a dancer for her Improbable
flirtation with Drouot Her last lover, Duchand
Duchand's end The death of the Empire is the end
of Pauline Her farewell to frivolity She wants a
divorce from Borghdse Her various letters on this
subject Slow agony At the final hour the coquette
reawakes in her She wishes to die beautiful and
does so 228



ILLUSTRATIONS

PAULINE BONAPARTE ..... Frontispiece
From an etching by Mme. Fournier.

PAULINE BONAPARTE ..... Face page 10
From a Lithograph of the period of Louis-
Philippe. Artist unknown.

THE VENUS BoRGHiiSE . . 9 . ,, ,, 18

THE STATUE OF GENERAL LECLERC AT PONTOISE ,, ,, 60

MARSHAL MACDONALD . . . . . ,, 96

PRINCE BORGH^SE ......,, 126

PAULINE BONAPARTE. (Princess Borghese) . ,, 130

From the portrait by Robert Lefevre in the
Versailles Collection.

M. DE CANOUVILLE ......,, 158

COMTE DE FORBIN ......,,,, l66

BLANGINI . . . . ' . ,, ,, 178

AUTOGRAPH LETTER OF PAULINE BONAPARTE . ,, 184

QUEEN HORTENSE ......,, 202

From an engraving by Pauquet.

PAULINE BONAPARTE . . . . 216

From a lithograph of about 1840.

PAULINE BONAPARTE . . . . . ,, 228
From a lithograph by Prunier.

ELISA BONAPARTE, SISTER OF PAULINE BONAPARTE ,, 232
CAROLINE MURAT, SISTER OF PAULINE BONAPARTE ,, 240

xi



BOOK I

"LA DIVA PAOLINA"



PAULINE BONAPARTE
I AND HER LOVERS I

CHAPTER I

HER EARLY LOVE-AFFAIRS

IT was one day in June, 1793, a sultry,
sunny, radiant day, that Signora Letizia
Bonaparte reached Marseilles, bringing
along with her a shabby, cheerful troop of out-
at-elbows boys and down-at-heels girls, and
took up her abode on the fourth floor of a
house in the Rue Pavilion. This is the first
lodging they have had for a month which was
not more or less of a makeshift. Ever since
May 27, the day on which the anti-French
Consulta, formed by Paoli in Corsica, decreed
the banishment of the Bonapartes, the family
has been wandering from thicket to thicket,
through the bush of the table-land of the



4. .PAULINE BONAPARTE w HER LOVERS

island, sleeping on the undergrowth, with next
to nothing to eat, living anyhow, an existence
without a moment's peace, tracked and hunted
day by day, far from their burned house and
ravaged fields, pushing on towards the coast,
towards Calvi, where Napoleon is waiting with
the sailing-boat on which their chance of
liberty depends. On June n, without money
or belongings, the family of fugitives embarked.
Just the wind they wanted was blowing, and
two days later 1 their boat reached Toulon.

Some means of living, some lodging, must
be found, no matter where. To begin with,
it is on the outskirts of La Valette, at the
house of a woman named Cordeil, that they
stay. 2

After a few days the fugitives take to the
road again, stopping a short time at Bandol.
Marseilles is stopping-place number three. The
town is given over to the Terror ; the tumbrils
bearing the condemned to their death pass

1 For the flight of the Bonapartes, cf. T. Nasica, Memoires
sur I'enfance et la jeunesse de Napoleon jusqu'd I'dge de vingt-
trois ans, precedes d'une notice historique sur son pere ; Paris,
1852 ; and the sources indicated by M. Frederic Masson,
Napoleon dans sa jeunesse, 1769-1793 ; Paris, 1908, p. 339.

1 Baron Larrey, of the Institute of France, Madame Mre
(Napoleonis mater), essai historique; Paris, 1892, I. 213.



HER EARLY LOVE-AFFAIRS 5

under their windows ; * but that's nothing ;
Marseilles is a centre where some help can be
had in these days of misery, and whence a
look-out can be kept for the turning of the
tide.

The older male members find their feet
quickly enough. Joseph slips into the army
administration, rises to the post of military
superintendent of the first class, and gets en-
trusted with the supervision of the Marseilles
hospitals. Lucien, after a spell of enforced
idleness, makes up his mind to try his luck
further afield. Accordingly we may find him
in the Var, at Saint-Maximin, in charge of a
warehouse, orator-in-chief at the Jacobin Club,
and favoured suitor for the hand of the daughter
of the inn-keeper with whom he lodges. Uncle
Fesch, Signora Letizia's foster-brother, has also
made his way. He is with the Alpine division
of the army, looking after the stores. Louis has
become a lieutenant in the 4th Regiment of
Artillery. Jerome will go to school as soon as
he has got his first pair of breeches. Such is
the introduction to French life of those who

1 Prince Napoleon, Napoleon et ses detracteurs; Paris, 1887,
p. 25.



6 PAULINE BONAPARTE W HER LOVERS

one day will be high dignitaries of the Empire,
and kings.

Then there are the girls.

The eldest is sixteen ; this is Elisa, who is
going to be Princess of Lucca and Piombino,
and Grand-duchess of Tuscany. At present she
is looking after the poverty-stricken house-
keeping, and the education of her youngest sister,
little Caroline, nine years old and destined to
wear the crown of Naples. Between No. i and
No. 3 comes No. 2, Paulette, that is Pauline,
making the most of a butterfly existence, with
all the happy-go-lucky zest of thoughtless
thirteen. Overshadowing all of them looms the
Roman figure of their mother, overworn with
cares, a prey to anxiety ; day by day and hour
by hour on the defensive against the insidious
assaults of want. And there, in the distance,
hard by beleaguered Toulon, stands the figure
of the second brother, Napoleon, beginning his
career.

But the whole process is a painful one. What
can Joseph do for the family ? A little assist-
ance at odd intervals, and that with difficulty.
Lucien, too ? To meet his bill at the inn he will
find himself obliged to marry the daughter.



HER EARLY LOVE-AFFAIRS 7

Fesch economizes, but that does not yield much !
As for Louis, he cannot do much more than
keep himself alive. So, too, with Napoleon,
nothing happens, and Toulon not yet fallen.
But something must be found to eat.

On July n, 1793, Convention has decided
to grant temporary assistance to the Corsicans
who have been driven from their island as a
result of loyalty to France ; something to keep
them from dying of hunger. The Bonaparte
women-folk are entitled to this. Every month,
then, as " needlewomen/' they appear before
the municipality to claim their dole. 1 So much
for necessaries ; but nothing beyond: no luxuries,
no comforts for the mother, no pretty fripperies
for the girls, not so much as a remnant of ribbon.
So shabby are their dresses that they are ashamed
to go out in daytime. 2 They can but economize
and wait ; perhaps one day . . .

Then, suddenly, comes the catastrophe. At
Paris the .Thermidor mob has just overthrown
Robespierre. Immediately after, hands still

1 Paul Gaffarel, Les Bonaparte a Marseille (1793-1 797) >
Marseille, 1905, p. 42.

2 Gustave Hue, Un complot de police sous le Consulat, la
conspiration de Cerrachi ei Arena (vendemiaire, an IX) ; Paris,
1909, P- 3 2 -



8 PAULINE BONAPARTE fcf HER LOVERS

stained with that noble blood are signing revoca-
tions, confiscations, arrests. Young Napoleon
has been unfortunate enough to win the approval
of the Incorruptible^ brother ; so we see him
cashiered, arrested, and though released, sent
nevertheless in disgrace to the Vendee army.
Bearing the same name as he, the brothers bear
similar burdens. Joseph flies to Genoa, and has
to resort to pitiable makeshifts to keep body
and soul together ; Lucien is put under lock
and key ; Louis loses his rank and is sent to
the school at Chalons. The discreet and crafty
Fesch is the only one who, aided in his case by
a non-committal name, escapes and continues
to thrive, undetected, in various obscure
corners.

But then comes the stroke of luck, as unex-
pectedly as the catastrophe had done. To
checkmate the Vendemiaire royalist insurrec-
tion, Barras has need of a master of men, and,
mindful of Toulon, has chosen Bonaparte for
the police operations, which end in the " whiff
of grapeshot " in the par vis St. Roch. Then
the wheel of Fortune turns round again. Bundles
of paper-money are sent off to Marseilles, Joseph
will be appointed consul at Genoa, Lucien



HER EARLY LOVE-AFFAIRS 9

military superintendent with the Germany
Army, Louis a lieutenant. And the future is
under consideration. Everything comes right
in a minute. The sisters will have dresses, and
feathers in their hats.

To emphasize the suddenness of this volte-
face and the need for it a royalist pamphle-
teer, Peltier, a refugee in London, invents (dur-
ing the Consulate) a letter by Pauline, dated
from Marseilles at the end of September, 1795.
It would be absurd to advance detailed proof
of its apocryphal character, but, such as it
is, it is curious, echoing as it does the wretched-
ness experienced by the family during this
interval of gloom in the early days of the
Napoleonidae.

"Alas" (writes Pauline in this note), "I
should very much like to have a hat all to my-
self ; Elisa and I have only one between us.
It's true that to-day (which is my turn to wear
it) I am making quite a different hat of it by
replacing pink ribbon by white ribbon and
trimming it with different flowers. But sup-
posing any one happens to notice that when I
am wearing it, my sister goes bareheaded, there
are all my tricks discovered ! Oh ! how red I



io PAULINE BONAPARTE W HER LOVERS

should get ! But patience ! Napoleon writes
that he has killed lots of Parisians and that
he has been promised a fine post in payment
for it. Then, I hope, I shall have a hat of my
own/' !

Barring the end, would not this note be worthy
of Pauline and of what we know as regards her
frivolity when appearance was concerned ? But
this much is nothing but good-natured jesting ;
Peltier has other accusations in his sack. It is
to him that we owe the earliest tales of Pauline's
earliest experiments in dissipation which were
to lead up to that career of eroticism in which
she was to excel.

According to Peltier, Pauline had her first
lover at Marseilles in 1794, that is to say, when
she was fourteen. He omits to inform us of
his name, but makes up for that by telling us
that she bathed stark naked in the harbour.
The probability of this is obviously as clear as
daylight. It appears that fervent royalists in
London accepted them as gospel-truth. Further-
more, Peltier, covered with blushes, states that
" widow Bonaparte/' at Marseilles, did business

1 Lefebvre Saint-Ogan, L'Envers de I' Epopee ; La Nouvelle
Revue, Feb. 15, 1910, p. 447.



fv : V . '* '




PAULINE BONAPARTE
From a lithograph of the period of Louis- Philippe. Artist unknown



. " '
' ' : ; - :'..*



HER EARLY LOVE-AFFAIRS n

openly in the charms of her daughters. 1 Four-
teen years of age ! That is the year given by a
Russian pamphlet of 1813, likewise, for the be-
ginnings of Pauline's licentiousness. If we may
believe this latter, Napoleon's sister began by
leaving home to follow her lover, corporal
Cervoni. The next year, i.e. 1796, she entered
a house of ill-fame at Paris another of these
highly probable suggestions, inasmuch as we
know that Pauline came to Paris for the first
time towards the end of 1797, after her marriage
with Leclerc. Corporal Cervoni, however, with
whose name hers is coupled, is not mytholo-

1 Lefebvre Saint-Ogan, L'Envers de I'Epopee, p. 439. These
attacks irritated the First Consul considerably. " He was
annoyed," says Bourrienne, " by the insults which came forth
in plenty in English journals and pamphlets, especially the
Ambigu, the work of one Peltier, who had been responsible
for the Actes des Apotres at Paris. The Ambigu was always
full of exceedingly violent attacks on the First Consul and on
the French nation, a very creditable thing, obviously, to its
French author." (Memoires de M. de Bourrienne, ministre
d'Etat, sur Napoleon, le Directoire, le Consulat, I'Empire, et la
Restauration ; Brussels, 1829; IV. 244.) Bonaparte in-
stituted proceedings, quite unofficially, against Peltier in
London, and won the case, which gave the finishing touch to
Peltier's defamatory fury.

2 Campagne de Napoleon en Russie et sa fuite, d'apres les
sources les plus veridiques ; Moscow, 1813. Voensky's Rousskai'a
Starina, 1908, Vol. CXXXVI. p. 64. Frederic Hausser, Un
pamphlet Russe sur Napoleon, Feuilles d'histoire du XV IP au
XX e siecle, Feb. i, 1910, p. 145.



12 PAULINE BONAPARTE fcf HER LOVERS

gical ; this is Jean-Baptiste Cervoni, born 1768,
" a man of merit, brave and honourable, albeit
a Corsican," says Barras concerning him. 1 It
was this same Cervoni who was the first to
reconnoitre in Toulon, after its recapture, at
the head of 200 men. He was killed on the

1 Barras, moreover, speaking of Cervoni, recalls the follow-
ing anecdote which undoubtedly shows him to have been
far less intimate with the princess than is affirmed by the
Russian pamphlet of 1813. " On her arrival at Aix the
princess received the homage of all the old nobility military
and parliamentary. General Cervoni, a companion of her
childhood, was received by her on the same cordial footing as
of old, and maintained the same attitude himself so naively
in fact, as one day to presume to sit down in a chair near her
Imperial Highness while a numerous gathering of men and
ladies remained standing. One of the princess's chamber-
lain's considered the general's behaviour so improper that he
termed it impertinent and indecent. ' If the princess makes
a sign to me,' said the chamberlain, ' I will put this free-and-
easy general in his place, that is, out of the door.' When this
remark reached Cervoni, which it did through one of his
A.D.C.'s, it made him very angry. He is said to have marched
up to the group of the princess's officials saying, ' Point out
this wag to me so that I can give him a thorough good thrash-
ing.' Cervoni added that the chamberlain took to his heels.
Cervoni went back to the princess, who was the first to laugh
at the snub to her obsequious chamberlain ; and to show how
entirely she was on the general's side asked him to arrange a
reception and a ball for her at his country-house near Marseilles.
Cervoni, when saying good-bye, added, ' I am going to get
everything ready, but mind, no chamberlains.' " (Mtmoires de
Barras, membre du Directoire, edited with a general introduc-
tion, prefaces, and appendices by Georges Duruy ; Paris, 1896,
IV. 190 191.)



HER EARLY LOVE-AFFAIRS 13

field of battle at Eckmiihl. The list of Pauline's
lovers is long enough for there to be no need
to lengthen it by adding the name of Cervoni,
who had less brilliant adventures in love-affairs
and in barracks.

The royalist Peltier, then, is the inventor,
or at any rate the earliest propagator, of the
myth of Pauline the shameless. He repeated
his charges often enough to render it an
article of faith among his rivals. Like him,
the English Jew, Lewis Goldsmith, gives
the age of fourteen years as that of Pauline's
introduction to the " honourable profession of
courtezan/' 1 Given this libellous statement,
good Frenchmen of 1815 will have nothing more
to do than to amplify in their outrageous pam-
phlets of the Hundred Days. For example, a
personage in a peasant's dialogue holds forth
thus with a comic earnestness :

" You will know that Pauline, Caroline, 2 and

1 Lewis Goldsmith, notary, ex-interpreter at the Courts of
Justice and the Council of the Prize Court at Paris, Histoire
secrtte du cabinet de Napoleon Buonaparte et de la cour de Saint-
Cloud ; 3rd edition, London and Paris, July i, 1814, p. 127.

* Is there any need to remind the reader that at this date
Caroline had not reached her tenth year ? But, when en-
deavouring to overwhelm the fallen Napoleonidae, why con-
sider such details ?



14 PAULINE BONAPARTE W HER LOVERS

Elisa, Bonaparte's sisters, lived at Marseilles in
a way in which we should be sorry for our
daughters, or lady friends, to live ; that, during
the stay that I once made in that town, I have
seen them promenade in the evening just as
certain girls do in the Rue St. Honor e and at
the Palais Royal."

Whereto the local busybody makes a telling
reply with her usual absurd knowingness :

" Yes, and that's a fact ! And how can any
respectable woman contain herself when she
sees these beggar-girls turned into queens and
princesses, and acting their parts with such
disgusting impudence ? We should have to
have no souls, or only be made of mud, not to
choke at the idea. Street- walkers and trulls
changed into queens ? It's not as if, when they
did arrive at high degree, they behaved as
queens ; not a bit of it ; what they were at
Marseilles, they still were as queens, the only
difference being that then they received money,
whereas as ' Their Majesties ' they paid it.
Fine ' Majesties ' those ! . . ."*

1 Les soirees de Normandie, ou la femme qui a raison, con-
versation politique ; Paris Imprimerie royale, chez tons les
marchands de verites, June 18, 1815, p. 20.



HER EARLY LOVE-AFFAIRS 15

What stupid lampoons these were ! No doubt,
in the course of their reigns, Napoleon's sisters
did sometimes, and too carelessly, lay them-
selves open to such charges, but they can
assuredly be acquitted of the wholesale carry-


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Online LibraryHector FleischmannPauline Bonaparte and her lovers → online text (page 1 of 16)