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THE MEMOIRS OF FRANÇOIS RENÉ

VICOMTE DE CHATEAUBRIAND

SOMETIME AMBASSADOR TO ENGLAND

BEING A TRANSLATION BY ALEXANDER TEIXEIRA DE MATTOS
OF THE MÉMOIRES D'OUTRE-TOMBE WITH ILLUSTRATIONS
FROM CONTEMPORARY SOURCES. In 6 Volumes. Vol. II

"NOTRE SANG A TEINT
LA BANNIÈRE DE FRANCE"

LONDON: PUBLISHED BY FREEMANTLE
AND CO. AT 217 PICCADILLY MDCCCCII


[Illustration: Napoléon Bonaparte.]




CONTENTS


VOLUME II

BOOK VII

I go to see my mother - Saint-Malo - Progress of the Revolution
- My marriage - Paris - Old acquaintances and new - The Abbé
Barthélemy - Saint-Ange - The theatres - Changes in Paris - The
Club des Cordeliers - Marat - Danton - Camille Desmoulins - Fabre
d'Églantine - M. de Malesherbes' opinion on the emigration - I play
and lose - Adventure of the hackney-coach - Madame Roland - Barère at
the Hermitage - Second Federation of the 14th of July - Preparations
for the emigration - I emigrate with my brother - Adventure of
Saint-Louis - We cross the frontier - Brussels - Dinner at the Baron
de Breteuil's - Rivarol - Departure for the army of the Princes - The
journey - I meet the Prussian army - I arrive at Trèves - The Army of the
Princes - A Roman amphitheatre - _Atala_ - The shirts of Henry IV. - A
soldier's life - Last appearance of old military France - Commencement
of the siege of Thionville - The Chevalier de La Baronnais - Continuation
of the siege - A contrast - Saints in the woods - Battle of Bouvines - A
patrol - An unexpected encounter - Effects of a cannon-ball and a
shell - Market in camp - Night amid piled arms - The Dutch dog - A
recollection of the _Martyrs_ - The nature of my company - With the
outposts - Eudora - Ulysses - Passage of the Moselle - A fight - Libba, the
deaf and dumb girl - Assault of Thionville - The siege is raised - We
enter Verdun - The Prussian evil - The retreat - Smallpox - The
Ardennes - The Prince de Ligne's baggage-wagons - The women of Namur - I
meet my brother at Brussels - Our last farewell - Ostend - I take
passage for Jersey - I land at Guernsey - The pilot's wife - Jersey - My
uncle de Bedée and his family - Description of the island - The Duc de
Berry - Lost friends and relations - The misfortune of growing old - I go
to England - Last meeting with Gesril

BOOK VIII

The Literary Fund - My garret in Holborn - Decline in health - Visit
to the doctors - Emigrants in London - Peltier - Literary labours - My
friendship with Hingant - Our excursions - A night in Westminster
Abbey - Distress - Unexpected succour - Lodging overlooking a
cemetery - New companions in misfortune - Our pleasures - My cousin
de La Boüétardais - A sumptuous rout - I come to the end of my forty
crowns - Renewed distress - Table d'hôte - Bishops-Dinner at the London
Tavern - The Camden Manuscripts - My work in the country - Death of
my brother - Misfortunes of my family - Two Frances - Letters from
Hingant - Charlotte - I return to London - An extraordinary meeting - A
defect in my character - The _Essai historique sur les révolutions_ - Its
effect - Letter from Lemierre, nephew to the poet - Fontanes - Cléry


BOOK IX

Death of my mother - I return to religion - The _Génie du
Christianisme_ - Letter from the Chevalier de Panat - My uncle, M. de
Bedée: his eldest daughter - English literature - Decline of the old
school - Historians - Poets - Publicists - Shakespeare - Old novels - New
novels - Richardson - Sir Walter Scott - New poetry - Beattie - Lord
Byron - England from Richmond to Greenwich - A trip with
Peltier - Blenheim - Stowe - Hampton Court - Oxford - Eton College - Private
manners - Political manners - Fox - Pitt - Burke - George III. - Return
of the emigrants to France - The Prussian Minister gives me a false
passport in the name of La Sagne, a resident of Neuchâtel in
Switzerland - Death of Lord Londonderry - End of my career as a soldier
and traveller - I land at Calais


PART THE SECOND

1800-1814

BOOK I

My stay at Dieppe - Two phases of society - The position of my
Memoirs - The year 1800 - Aspect of France - I arrive in Paris - Changes in
society - The year 1801 - The _Mercure_ - _Atala_ - Madame de Beaumont and
her circle - Summer at Savigny - The year 1802 - Talma - The year 1803 - The
_Génie du Christianisme_ - Failure prophesied - Cause of its final
success - Defects in the work

BOOK II

The years 1802 and 1803 - Country-houses - Madame de Custine - M. de
Saint-Martin - Madame de Houdetot and Saint-Lambert - Journey to
the south of France - M. de la Harpe - His death - Interview with
Bonaparte - I am appointed First Secretary of Embassy in Rome - Journey
from Paris to the Savoy Alps - From Mont Cenis to Rome - Milan to
Rome - Cardinal Fesch's palace - My occupations - Madame de Beaumont's
manuscripts - Letters from Madame de Caud - Madame de Beaumont's arrival
in Rome - Letters from my sister - Letter from Madame de Krüdener - Death
of Madame de Beaumont - Her funeral - Letters from M. de Chênedollé,
M. de Fontanes, M. Necker, and Madame de Staël - The years 1803 and
1804 - First idea of my Memoirs - I am appointed French Minister to the
Valais - Departure from Rome - The year 1804 - The Valais Republic - A
visit to the Tuileries - The Hôtel de Montmorin - I hear the death cried
of the Duc d'Enghien - I give in my resignation

BOOK III

Death of the Duc d'Enghien - The year 1804 - General Hulin - The Duc de
Rovigo - M. de Talleyrand - Part played by each - Bonaparte, his sophistry
and remorse - Conclusions to be drawn from the whole story - Enmities
engendered by the death of the Duc D'Enghien - An article in the
_Mercure_ - Change in the life of Bonaparte

BOOK IV

The year 1804 - I move to the Rue de Miromesnil-Verneuil - Alexis de
Tocqueville - Le Ménil - Mézy - Mérévil - Madame de Coislin - Journey to
Vichy, in Auvergne, and to Mont Blanc - Return to Lyons - Excursion
to the Grande Chartreuse - Death of Madame de Caud - The years 1805
and 1806 - I return to Paris - I leave for the Levant - I embark in
Constantinople on a ship carrying pilgrims for Syria - From Tunis to
my return to France through Spain - Reflections on my voyage - Death of
Julien




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

VOL. II

Portrait of

Napoleon Bonaparte
The Comte de Rivarol
Frederic William II
Peltier, editor of the _Actes des Apôtres_
William Pitt
Edmund Burke
George III
The Duc D'Enghien




THE MEMOIRS OF CHATEAUBRIAND


VOLUME II


BOOK VII[1]


I go to see my mother - Saint-Malo - Progress of the Revolution - My
marriage - Paris - Old acquaintances and new - The Abbé
Barthélemy - Saint-Ange - The theatres - Changes in Paris - The
Club des Cordeliers - Marat - Danton - Camille Desmoulins - Fabre
d'Églantine - M. de Malesherbes' opinion on the emigration - I play
and lose - Adventure of the hackney-coach - Madame Roland - Barère at
the Hermitage - Second Federation of the 14th of July - Preparations
for the emigration - I emigrate with my brother - Adventure of
Saint-Louis - We cross the frontier - Brussels - Dinner at the Baron
de Breteuil's - Rivarol - Departure for the army of the Princes - The
journey - I meet the Prussian army - I arrive at Trèves - The Army of the
Princes - A Roman amphitheatre - _Atala_ - The shirts of Henry IV. - A
soldier's life - Last appearance of old military France - Commencement of
the siege of Thionville - The Chevalier de La Baronnais - Continuation
of the siege - A contrast - Saints in the woods - Battle of Bouvines - A
patrol - An unexpected encounter - Effects of a cannon-ball and a
shell - Market in camp - Night amid piled arms - The Dutch dog - A
recollection of the _Martyrs_ - The nature of my company - With the
outposts - Eudora - Ulysses - Passage of the Moselle - A fight - Libba, the
deaf and dumb girl - Assault of Thionville - The siege is raised - We
enter Verdun - The Prussian evil - The retreat - Smallpox - The
Ardennes - The Prince de Ligne's baggage-wagons - The women of Namur - I
meet my brother at Brussels - Our last farewell - Ostend - I take
passage for Jersey - I land at Guernsey - The pilot's wife - Jersey - My
uncle de Bedée and his family - Description of the island - The Duc de
Berry - Lost friends and relations - The misfortune of growing old - I go
to England - Last meeting with Gesril.


I wrote to my brother in Paris giving him particulars of my crossing,
telling him the reasons for my return, and asking him to lend me the
money wherewith to pay my passage. My brother answered that he had
forwarded my letter to my mother. Madame de Chateaubriand did not keep
me waiting: she enabled me to clear my debt and to leave the Havre.
She told me that Lucile was with her, also my uncle de Bedée and his
family. This intelligence persuaded me to go to Saint-Malo, so that I
might consult my uncle on the question of my proposed emigration.

Revolutions are like rivers: they grow wider in their course; I found
that which I had left in France enormously swollen and overflowing its
banks: I had left it with Mirabeau under the "Constituent," I found it
with Danton[2] under the "Legislative[3]" Assembly.

The Treaty of Pilnitz, of the 27th of August 1791, had become known in
Paris. On the 14th of December 1791, while I was being tossed by the
storms, the King announced that he had written to the Princes of the
Germanic Body, and in particular to the Elector of Trèves, touching
the German armaments. The brothers of Louis XVI., the Prince de Condé,
M. de Calonne, the Vicomte de Mirabeau, and M. de Laqueville[4] were
almost immediately impeached. As early as the 9th of November, a
previous decree had been hurled against the other Emigrants: it was to
enter these ranks, already proscribed, that I was hastening; others
might perhaps have retreated, but the threats of the stronger have
always made me take the side of the weaker: the pride of victory is
unendurable to me.

On my way from the Havre to Saint-Malo I was able to observe the
divisions and misfortunes of France: the country-seats were burnt
and abandoned; the owners, to whom distaffs had been sent, had left;
the women were living sheltered in the towns. The hamlets and small
market-towns groaned under the tyranny of clubs affiliated to the
central Club des Cordeliers, since amalgamated with the Jacobins. The
antagonist of the latter, the Société Monarchique, or des Feuillants,
no longer existed; the vulgar nickname of _sans-culotte_ had become
popular; the King was never spoken of save as "Monsieur Veto" or
"Monsieur Capet."

[Sidenote: My marriage.]

I was tenderly welcomed by my mother and my family, although they
deplored the inopportune moment which I had selected for my return.
My uncle, the Comte de Bedée, was preparing to go to Jersey with his
wife, his son, and his daughters. It was a question of finding money to
enable me to join the Princes. My American journey had made a breach
in my fortune; my property was reduced to almost nothing, where my
younger son's portion was concerned, through the suppression of the
feudal rights; and the benefices that were to accrue to me by virtue of
my affiliation to the Order of Malta had fallen, with the remainder of
the goods of the clergy, into the hands of the nation. This conjuncture
of circumstances decided the most serious step in my life: my family
married me in order to procure me the means of going to get killed in
support of a cause which I did not love.

There was living in retirement, at Saint-Malo, M. de Lavigne[5], a
knight of Saint-Louis, and formerly Commandant of Lorient. The Comte
d'Artois had stayed with him there when he visited Brittany: the Prince
was charmed with his host, and promised to grant him any favour he
might at any time demand. M. de Lavigne had two sons: one of them[6]
married Mademoiselle de La Placelière. Two daughters, born of this
marriage, were left orphans on both sides at a tender age. The elder
married the Comte du Plessix-Parscau[7], a captain in the Navy, the
son and grandson of admirals, himself to-day a rear-admiral, a red
ribbon[8] and commander of the corps of naval cadets at Brest; the
younger[9] was living with her grandfather, and was seventeen years of
age when I arrived at Saint-Malo on my return from America. She was
white, delicate, slender and very pretty: she wore her beautiful fair
hair, which curled naturally, hanging low like a child's. Her fortune
was valued at five or six hundred thousand francs.

My sisters took it into their heads to make me marry Mademoiselle de
Lavigne, who had become greatly attached to Lucile. The affair was
managed without my knowledge. I had seen Mademoiselle de Lavigne three
or four times at most; I recognised her at a distance on the "Furrow"
by her pink pelisse, her white gown and her fair hair blown out by
the wind, when I was on the beach abandoning myself to the caresses
of my old mistress, the sea. I felt myself to possess none of the
good qualities of a husband. All my illusions were alive, nothing was
spent within me; the very energy of my existence had doubled through
my travels. I was racked by the muse. Lucile liked Mademoiselle de
Lavigne, and saw the independence of my fortune in this marriage:

"Have your way!" said I.

In me the public man is inflexible; the private man is at the mercy of
whomsoever wishes to seize hold of him, and, to save myself an hour's
wrangling, I would become a slave for a century.

The consent of the grandfather, the paternal uncle and the principal
relatives was easily obtained: there remained to be overcome the
objections of a maternal uncle, M. de Vauvert[10], a great democrat,
who opposed the marriage of his niece with an aristocrat like myself,
who was not one at all. We thought ourselves able to do without him,
but my pious mother insisted that the religious marriage should be
performed by a "non-juror" priest, which could only be done in secret.
M. de Vauvert knew this, and let loose the law upon us, under pretext
of rape and breach of the laws, and pleading the imaginary state of
second childhood into which the grandfather, M. de Lavigne, had fallen.
Mademoiselle de Lavigne, who had become Madame de Chateaubriand,
without my having held any communication with her, was taken away in
the name of the law and put into the Convent of Victory at Saint-Malo,
pending the decision of the courts.

There was no rape, breach of the laws, adventure, nor love in the
whole matter; the wedding had only the bad side of a novel: truth.
The case was tried and the court pronounced the marriage civilly
valid. The members of both families being in agreement, M. de Vauvert
abandoned the proceedings. The constitutional clergyman, lavishly
feed, withdrew his protest against the first nuptial benediction, and
Madame de Chateaubriand was released from the convent, where Lucile had
imprisoned herself with her.

It was a new acquaintance that I had to make, and it brought me all
that I could wish. I doubt whether a finer intelligence than my wife's
has ever existed: she guesses the thought and the word about to spring
to the brow or the lips of the person with whom she converses; to
deceive her is impossible. Madame de Chateaubriand has an original and
cultured mind, writes most cleverly, tells a story to perfection, and
admires me without ever having read two lines of my works: she would
dread to find ideas in them that differ from hers, or to discover that
people are not sufficiently enthusiastic over my merit. Although a
passionate judge, she is well-informed and a good judge.

Madame de Chateaubriand's defects, if she have any, proceed from the
superabundance of her good qualities; my own very serious defects
result from the sterility of mine. It is easy to possess resignation,
patience, a general obligingness, equanimity of temper, when one
interests himself in nothing, when one is wearied by everything,
when one replies to good and bad fortune alike with a desperate and
despairing "What does it matter?"

Madame de Chateaubriand is better than I, although less accessible in
her intercourse with others. Have I been irreproachable in my relations
with her? Have I offered my companion all the sentiments which she
deserved and which were hers by right? Has she ever complained? What
happiness has she tasted in reward for her consistent affection? She
has shared my adversities; she has been plunged into the prisons of
the Terror, the persecutions of the Empire, the disgraces of the
Restoration; she has not known the joys of maternity to counterbalance
her sufferings. Deprived of children, which she might perhaps have had
in another union, and which she would have loved madly; having none of
the honours and affections which surround the mother of a family and
console a woman for the loss of her prime, she has travelled, sterile
and solitary, towards old age. Often separated from me, disliking
literature, to her the pride of bearing my name makes no amends. Timid
and trembling for me alone, she is deprived, through her ever-renewed
anxiety, of sleep and of the time to cure her ills: I am her chronic
infirmity and the cause of her relapses. Can I compare an occasional
impatience which she has shown me with the cares which I have caused
her? Can I set my good qualities, such as they are, against her
virtues, which support the poor, which have established the Infirmerie
de Marie-Thérèse in the face of all obstacles? What are my labours
beside the works of that Christian woman? When the two of us appear
before God, it is I who shall be condemned.

Upon the whole, when I consider my nature with all its imperfections,
is it certain that marriage has spoilt my destiny?

I should no doubt have had more leisure and repose; I should have been
better received in certain circles and by certain of the great ones of
this earth; yet in politics, though Madame de Chateaubriand may have
crossed me, she never checked me, for here, as in matters affecting
my honour, I judge only by my own feeling. Should I have produced a
greater number of works if I had remained independent, and would those
works have been any better? Have there not been circumstances, as shall
be seen, in which, by marrying outside France, I should have ceased
to write and disowned my country? If I had not married, would not my
weakness have made me the prey of some worthless creature? Should not
I have squandered and polluted my days like Lord Byron[11]? To-day,
when I am sinking into old age, all my wildness would have passed;
nothing would remain to me but emptiness and regrets: I should be an
old bachelor, unesteemed, either deceived or undeceived, an old bird
repeating my worn-out song to whosoever refused to listen to it. The
full indulgence of my desires would not have added one string more
to my lyre, nor one more earnest note to my voice. The constraint of
my feelings, the mystery of my thoughts have perhaps increased the
forcefulness of my accents, quickened my works with an internal fever,
with a hidden flame, which would have spent itself in the free air
of love. Held back by an indissoluble tie, I purchased at first, at
the cost of a little bitterness, the sweets which I taste to-day. Of
the ills of my existence I have preserved only the incurable part. I
therefore owe an affectionate and eternal gratitude to my wife, whose
attachment has been as touching as it has been profound and sincere.
She has rendered my life more grave, more noble, more honourable, by
always inspiring me with respect for duty, if not always with the
strength to perform it.

I was married at the end of March 1792, and on the 20th of April the
Legislative Assembly declared war against Francis II.[12], who had just
succeeded his father Leopold; on the 10th of the same month Benedict
Labre[13] was beatified in Rome: there you have two different worlds.
The war hurried the remaining nobles out of France. Persecutions were
being redoubled on the one hand; on the other, the Royalists were no
longer permitted to stay at home without being accounted as cowards: it
was time for me to make my way to the camp which I had come so far to
seek. My uncle de Bedée and his family took ship for Jersey, and I set
out for Paris with my wife and my sisters Lucile and Julie.

[Sidenote: We go to Paris.]

We had secured an apartment in the little Hôtel de Villette, in the
Cul-de-Sac Férou, Faubourg Saint-Germain. I hastened in search of
my first friends. I saw the men of letters with whom I had had some
acquaintance. Among new faces I noticed those of the learned Abbé
Barthélemy[14] and the poet Saint-Ange[15]. The abbé modelled the
_gynecœa_ of Athens too closely upon the drawing-rooms at Chanteloup.
The translator of Ovid was not a man without talent; talent is a gift,
an isolated thing: it can come together with other mental faculties,
it can be separated from them. Saint-Ange supplied a proof of this; he
made the greatest efforts not to be stupid, but was unable to prevent
himself. A man whose pencil I admired and still admire, Bernardin de
Saint-Pierre[16], was lacking in intelligence, and unfortunately his
character was on a level with his intelligence. How many pictures in
the _Études de la nature_ are spoilt by the writer's limited mind and
want of elevation of soul.

Rulhière had died suddenly, in 1791[17], before my departure for
America. I have since seen his little house at Saint-Denis, with the
fountain and the pretty statue of Love, at the foot of which one reads
these verses:

D'Egmont avec l'Amour visita cette rive:
Une image de sa beauté
Se peignit un moment sur l'onde fugitive:
D'Egmont a disparu; l'Amour seul est resté[18].

When I left France the theatres of Paris were still ringing with the
_Réveil d'Épiménide_[19], and with this stanza:

J'aime la vertu guerrière
De nos braves défenseurs,
Mais d'un peuple sanguinaire
Je déteste les fureurs.
À l'Europe redoutables,
Soyons libres à jamais,
Mais soyons toujours aimables
Et gardons l'esprit français[20].

When I returned, the _Réveil d'Épiménide_ had been forgotten; and, if
the stanza had been sung, the author would have been badly handled.
_Charles IX._ was now the rage. The popularity of this piece depended
principally upon the circumstances of the time: the tocsin, a nation
armed with poniards, the hatred of the kings and the priests, all these
offered a reproduction between four walls of the tragedy which was
being publicly enacted. Talma, still at the commencement of his career,
was continuing his successes.

While tragedy dyed the streets, the pastoral flourished on the stage;
there was question of little but innocent shepherds and virginal
shepherdesses: fields, brooks, meadows, sheep, doves, the golden age
beneath the thatch, were revived to the sighing of the shepherd's
pipe before the cooing Tirces and the simple-minded knitting-women
who had but lately left that other spectacle of the guillotine. Had
Sanson had time, he would have played Colin to Mademoiselle Théroigne
de Méricourt's[21] Babet. The Conventionals plumed themselves upon
being the mildest of men: good fathers, good sons, good husbands, they
went out walking with the children, acted as their nurses, wept with
tenderness at their simple games; they lifted these little lambs gently
in their arms to show them the "gee-gees" of the carts carrying the
victims to execution. They sang the praises of nature, peace, pity,
kindness, candour, the domestic virtues; these devout philanthropists,
with extreme sensibility, sent their neighbours to have their heads
sliced off for the greater happiness of mankind.

*

[Sidenote: Paris in 1792.]

Paris in 1792 no longer presented the outward aspect of 1789 and 1790:
one saw no longer the budding Revolution, but a people marching drunk
to its destinies, across abysses and by uncertain roads. The appearance
of the people was no longer tumultuous, curious, eager: it was
threatening. In the streets one met none but frightened or ferocious
figures, men creeping along the houses so as not to be seen, or others
seeking their prey: timid and lowered eyes were turned away from you,
or else harsh eyes were fixed on yours in order to sound and fathom you.

All diversity of costume had ceased; the old world kept in the
background; men had donned the uniform cloak of the new world, a
cloak which had become merely the last garment of the future victims.
Already the social license displayed at the rejuvenation of France,
the liberties of 1789, those fantastic and unruly liberties of a state



Online LibraryFrançois-René ChateaubriandThe Memoirs of François René Vicomte de Chateaubriand sometime Ambassador to England. v 2/6 → online text (page 1 of 35)