George Hooker Colton.

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1850.

in Grenoble as in Paris : moreover, she had a
decided taste for contradiction and repartee, so
that she was called Mademoiselle Nenni
throughout the country, from her habit of al-
ways replying in the negative. I

"The alternative presented by the mother
alarmed Claudine : she represented its injus-
tice, if she was to remain in the country, where
no eligible partner was likely to appear. Ma-
dame yielded to this reasoning, and removed
for a season to Grenoble, where Claudine was
presented to fashionable society, in a robe
made from her mother's well-preserved wed-
ding-gown. At her first ball, she captivated
M. de Chandennier, a young man of good fa-
mily and tolerable fortune. He at first medi-
tated nothing more than a little flirtation with
the rustic beauty, whom he hoped to dazzle
and overawe by his superior knowledge of the
world ; but he soon found that he was beaten
at his own weapons. Long before the ball
had concluded, Chandennier had abandoned
all his plans of a wealthy marriage, for love
and a cottage with the beauty of Grenoble.

" Five or six days after the ball, it was an-
nounced that a brilliant band of cavaliers was
approaching the dilapidated castle of the Ten-
cins; and all the preparations usually adopt-
ed by pride to hide poverty were hastily made
for their reception. A ploughboy, in an old
livery, enacted tli^ part of porter, and the
farm-servants, unprepared by previous drill,
were suddenly transformed into grooms, ush-
ers, footmen, and feudal retainers. Several
amusing blunders were made : the porter,
dazzled by the dresses of the guests, exhaust-
ed himself in mute salutations; the groom was
so charmed with M. de Chandennier's horse,
that he compelled the gentleman to tell him the
price of the animal before he assisted him to
dismount ; and the footmen, instead of mar-
shalling the way, ran against each other, and
knocked their heads together, so that Chan-
dennier in the end entered the saloon without
being previously announced.

" Claudine and her mother had too much
tact to notice the confusion which the polite
Chandennier affected not to perceive.

"After some time, it was proposed that the
gentleman should visit the gardens, accompa-
nied by Claudine and her two sisters, the elder
of whom was only ten years of age. In this
promenade, the conquest was completed : the
mother, who watched from the windows,
though she conld not hear the conversation,
easily learned from the cavalier's animated
gestures that his heart was won.

" Chandennier was an ardent lover, but
could not be induced to make a formal propo-
sal of marriage. Evil tongues soon began to
propagate scandal. At a later period, such
attentions might have passed unnoticed ; but at
this period the piety and prudery of Madame



Memoirs of the House of Orleans.



263



de Maintenon reigned supreme. The ladies
of the provinces, aping the manners of Ver-
sailles, had three confessors apiece, read homi-
lies and were convinced that society was
threatened with total ruin by the profane
levity of rising generations. It was speedily
decided that Claudine had fallen a victim to
vanity and temptation.

" The abbess of Montfleury, a distant rela-
tion of the Tencins came to the castle and
informed Claudine and her mother of the
calumnies which had been propogated.

"Claudine overwhelmed Chandennier with
reproaches till he offered to silence the scandal
by making her his wife. Though this had
been the great object of her acts and hopes,
she could not resist the waywardness of her
temper. She declared that the lover should
endure the penance of three months' delay
which she would spend in a convent ; and she
insisted that the abbess should convey her off
to Mont fleury within an hour.t

Chandemier's self love was wounded by
such caprice ; his friends in Grenoble jested
him on having been the dupe of a village
coquette. His ambitious hopes returned, he
remembered his resolution to seek for a weal-
thy wife, and finally wrote Claudine a letter
in which he showed that he clearly under-
stood the nature of the farce she was playing,
declared himself no longer her dupe and bade
her farewell in cold and cutting terms.

•' This rupture grievously disappointed Clau-
dine : she dreaded to face the reproaches of
her mother, and the laughter of the world. —
To escape both, she loudly proclaimed that she
had refused Cliandennier, in order to devote
herself to heaven. All the pious people in
the province declared that they were edified
by such a sacrifice. The news reached Paris,
and was the theme of conversation in the sa-
loons of IMadame de Maintenon ; and her
profession was made in the presence of aU
the clergy and nobles of the south of France.

" The beautiful nun became the rage ; the
parlor of the convent was the centre of attrac-
tion for all the pious and fashionable in
Grenoble and its vicinity; the devout and the
dissipated flocked hither together. The nuns
were delighted, and the abbess, who was
rather short-sighted, believed that her con-
vent was about to sanctify the whole king-
dom.

" There were, however, some envious people
who thought such scenes not consistent with
conventual propriety. They represented the
state of the convent to Lecamus, the Arch-
bishop of the diocese. One day, when mirth
and gallantry were at their highest in the
parlor, the door was suddenly thrown open,
and the grave prelate stood in the midst of
the astonished assembly. The crowd disper-
sed in an instant, Claudine comprehended



264



Memoirs of the Home of Orleans.



Sept.



the crisis, and stood her ground beside the
abbess.

"Lecamus was a better theologian than
logician. He quoted the rules of his order
and several long passages from St. Agustine,
to all of which Claudine replied by clever ap-
peals to his feelings. Lecamus was quite
won over. He left the convent without pro-
nouncing a word of censure, and when his
more austere brethren remonstrated, he replied
" we must leave the poor young ladies a little
liberty. There is one amongst them a youlh-
" fnl model of innocence and virtue, who has
pledged herself for the conduct of the rest.

"^'The worthy archbishop thenceforward
visited Montfleury more frequently than any
other convent in his diocese ; and showed a
marked preference for the sparkling conversa-
tion of Claudine ; he sanctioned the amuse-
ments she patronized and lightened the
penances for slight breaches of conventual
discipline at her solicitation. This influence
with the archbishop rendered Claudine all
powerful with the sisterhood ; she was, in
factj allowed the entire direction of the con-
vent.

"At this period "Fontenelle's Eclogues"'
had spread a passion for the imaginative sen-
timentalism of pastoral life throughout France.
In every rank of life, persons were anxious
to become shepherds and sheperdesses ; to
discuss the mysteries of love when they led
their flocks to pasture, and recite pastoral
odes under the shade of the wide-spreading
beech.

" Fontenelle with the sanction of the arch-
bishop presented a copy of his pastorals to
the innocent nuns of Montfleury. The deli-
cious poetry turned their brains, and they
bought a pet sheep which they soon cram-
med to death with sweet-meats.

" M. Destouches, a j'oung landed proprie-
tor in the neighborhood, was seized with the
pastoral mania. He roamed the iields dressed
as a shepherd, reading or reciting favorite
passages from Fontenelle ; and sometimes his
voice penetrated into the convent, and brought
a poetical response from the amiable Clau-
dine. M. Destouches was introduced at
Montfleury and became the most favored
visitor of the parlor.

"At this time Louis Fourteenth died, and
the profligate follies of the regency commenced.
The relaxation of morals was felt throughout
France, and M. Destouches was permitted to
give a pastoral fete to the nuns of Mont-
fleury. Claudine was the heroine of the en-
tertainment; she and Destouches discussed
the mysteries of pastoral and Platonic love
until sunset, when the fireworks, having en-
gaged general attention, they turned into a
shady walk, to indulge their interchange of
sentiment more freely. Sentiment soon gave



place to warmer emotions; Claudine forgot
her habits of negation at the moment they
would have been most useful to tier — she and
M. Destouches became more than poetic
lovers, and vowed eternal attachment to each
other.

" The natural consequences followed — ■
Claudine felt that she was about to become a
mother, and she resolved to confide to Arch-
bishop Lecamus the secret of her situation.
It is easier to conceive than describe the sur-
prise and horror of the worthy prelate. But
Claudine retained her influence over him.
She induced him to inform Fontenelle of the
consequences produced by the influence of his
poetry, and to exert himself to procure a dis-
pensation from the pope. Clement XI. was
an admirer of Fontenelle ; he was also anxious
to gain literary support in France, where the
controversy respecting the bull Unigenitus
was then raging. Claudine was named a
canoness in the Chapter of Neuville. After
having taken possession of her prebend, Clau-
dine retired to a small village near Grenoble,
where she gave birth to a son, who received
the name of D"Alembert. It is scarcely ne-
cessary to add that this boy subsequently
attained European celebrity as the great
mathematician D'Alembert, one of the most
eminent of the Encyclopedist philosophers,
and Fontenelle's successor as perpetual se-
cretary to the French Academy. After a
short time, she received evidence that M. Des-
touches was a faithless lover, and this, united
to some maternal advice which her mother is
said to have given shortly before her death,
induced the pastoral canoness to set out for
Paris, with the determined purpose of capti-
vating the heart of the Regent.

" At the time when the Canoness de Tencin
set out for Pari.?, the extravagance of the
regency was at its height. A fever of dissi-
pation had turned every brain. The Regent
to secure leisure for his criminal indulgences
had intrusted the entire administration to Car-
dinal Dubois. The sun rose on the unextin-
guished tapers in the Palais Royal. The
Regent's daughter maintained the state of a
queen, and the habits of a courtesan in the
Luxembourg. Songs, suppers, and assigna-
tions made the entire sum of life.

" Claudine was soon invited to the brilliant
assemblies at the Palais Royal, and after
several failures succeeded in attracting the
attention of the Regent.

"Fontenelle, who half persuaded himself
that he was in love with Claudine, visited her
one morning ; her carriage was at the door
and the lady dressed in the most alluring style.
He spoke of love, and was ridiculed, as she
had shown him some attention the day before
he was surprised, but the mystery was ex-
plained when he heard her direct the coach-



1850.



Me77ioirs of the House of Orleans.



265



man to drive to the Palais Royal, and set her
down at the private entrance. She believed
that her fortune was fixed, when Orleans pub-
licly installed her as his mistress, and she
hoped to acquire the same influence in the
state as a Montespan or a JNIaintenon. She
did not know the Regent : as inconstant as he
was profligate, he parted from a mistress with
as little scruple as he changed his coat.

"One day when he visited her at her toi-
lette, she reproached him with indolence, his
disregard for glory, and his neglect of the
duties of his station. Orleans in vain en-
deavored to turn her from the subject by witty
replies; but at length worn out, he ordered
his servants to throw open the doors, and to
admit the entire circle of his profligate com-
panions. Claudine, half-dressed, hid herself
behind a screen; but the Regent threw down
the screen, and sarcastically introduced her to
his companions as '• a female Plato, peculiar-
ly suited to become a professor in the univer-
sity, or the tutor of any ambitious youth who
wished to combine love with politics and
sentimentality with statistics, adding, that he
had already received enough of her lessons,
and would recommend her to seek another
pupil.

'■ Claudine, though bitterly mortified, lost
neither her wit nor her presence of mind. —
Assuming a high tone, she sternly reproved
the Regent for the gross insult he had offered
her, and then, having made a formal rever-
ence to the company, she retired with as much
composure as if she had been a spectator, not
an actor, in the scene. On the stairs she met
Dubois, the regent's powerful favorite, to
whom she briefly related what had just hap-
pened. Dubois at once proposed to her to
take revenge by becoming his mistress, as-
suring her that he would enable her to govern
France in spite of the Regent. The bargain
was soon concluded ; Claudine placed herself
under the protection of Dubois, and was per-
mitted to enjoy a large share of the ministerial
authority.

" After the death of Dubois, her first care
was for the promotion of her brother, and she
sought for an ally in a new lover : She fixed
her choice on the celebrated Due de Riche-
lieu.

"Richelieu was attracted to Claudine more
by her political abilities than by her jjersonal
charms. Ambition was with them a more
powerful bond of union than love, and their
intrigues against the successive ministers of
Louis XV. would furnish materials for a
volume. More than ten times power eluded
their grasp when .success seemed most certain,
until at length Claudine resolved to abandon
political life, which she did with the same
suddenness of decision and inflexible firm-
ness which she displayed in entering and



quitting the convent, and in breaking off her
connexion with the Regent.

" Great was the a.stonishment of Paris when
Madame de Tencin appeared before the world
as an authoress. From the moment of her
first appearence in print, jNIadame de Tencin's
saloons became the rendezvous of the lead-
ing philosophers and writers of the age. —
aiontesquieu, Fontenelle, Marian, Astruc,
Helvetius, and many others, were her daily
guests ; she applied all her energies to extend
their fame and the circulation of their works,
with the same ardent boldness which she had
previously displayed in more questionable
pursuits. Several other ladies followed her
example, and for some time the patronage of
literature became almost the rage in Paris;
but no saloons ever rivalled those of INIadame
de Tencin, because no where else was so
much discrimination shown in the selection of
guests.

An invitation to Madame de Tencin's sup-
pers soon became an object of ambition in
Paris. Literary merit was the only passport
to these assemblies ; rank and fortune were
of no avail when this great requisite was
wanting. She called the wits gathered round
her " the beasts of her managerie," and com-
pelled them to submit to her whims and ca-
prices. One of these was very singular. She
presented each of her favorites annually with
a breeches of black velvet, and insisted that
it should be worn as her livery in the evening
assemblies. Proud as M. de Montesquieu
was, he had to receive this strange boon like
the rest. The "Gazette de France" avers
that more than eight thousand yards of velvet
had been thus used by the amiable canoness.

" She was the first who introduced INIar-
montel into public life, and her patronage was
of great service to him in his early struggles.

'•Claudine de Tencin died in 1749, unjustly
calumniated by the Parisian public. It was
her fate to be believed innocent during the
period of her pastoral intrigues, to be accused
of excessive gallantry when she was exclu-
sively devoted to politics, and to be censured
for ambition when she had abandoned all
other pursuits for the enjoyment of a literary
life. She was deeply regretted in her own
circle ; she left legacies to her chief favorites,
all of whom went into mourning as for a near
relation. Even Fontenelle grieved for her,
and thus characteristically expressed his sor-
row.

" The loss is irreparable : she knew my
taste and always provided for me the dishes
I preferred. I shall never find such delicate
attention paid me at the dinner table of Ma-
dame Geoffrin."

From infancy the Regent Orleans dis-
played the most ardent pasaion for knowl-



266



Memoirs of the House of Orleans.



Sept.



edge. He is said to have been an excel-
lent linguist, a sound historian, a mathema-
tician, a naturalist, and, unfortunately for
himself in that age of superstition, a chemist ;
but his precocity in sensuality and profligacy
was equal to his knowledge. His mother com-
pared him to Madame de Longueville, who
of all things professed to dislike "innocent
am.usements. " He possessed, naturally,
great courage, — so much that his governor,
the Marquis D'Arcy, thought proper to
suppress it. Through the incapacity of
Marchin and Marshal Feuillade, his first
campaign was unsuccessful, but the Duke's
bravery and skill were manifest, and on his
return, the King, as a mark of respect for
his services, appointed him to the command
of the army in Spain. While there, apian
was concocted to remove Philip the Fifth
from the Spanish throne, and set up the
Duke of Orleans in his stead. Great con-
fusion was produced in France when this
was discovered ; the dauphin and princes
of the blood demanded that a criminal pro-
cess should be issued against the Duke, and
even the King treated him coolly, but
either influenced by his daughter, the
Duchess of Orleans, or, as some suppose,
having been secretly cognizant of, and not
averse to the plot, forbore to follow up the
facts. The daring defiance, however, with
which his nephew plunged deeper than ever
into debauchery and impiety, completely
alienated from him the regard of his sove-
reign, and no longer a frequent visitor at
Versailles, the Duke thenceforward lived in
suspicious privacy at the Palais Royal, de-
voting himself to chemistry and " the more
questionable pursuits of astrology, alchemy,
and the magical arts of devination." Night
and day his furnaces and alembics were at
work, and it was readily believed that he
was employed in preparing poison.

Our author describes Paris at the time
full of sinister adventurers, by means of
whom whole families suddenly and inexpli-
cably disappeared from the world. " As-
sassinations," he says, "were stories of
every day, and the study of poisons intro-
duced by the Medicis, had been carried to
such perfection, that a glove, an embroi-
dered perfume-bag, a scarf or a shawl, were
often the means of conveying it. Fashion
and death moved in concert. The fable of
the tunic of Nessus was transferred to those
robes of gauze and silk which adorn joyous



halls and sumptuous festivities. Even at
the domestic hearth, people trembled when
the silver cup was offered to the ruby
lips of infancy, or when a jewel of more
than ordinary brilliancy was seen to sparkle
on the breast of a young lady at some
country spectacle." This was undoubtedly
the superstition and ignorance of the age,
for no such poisons are now believed ever
to have been known.

The successive deaths of the Dauphin, the
Duke and Duchess of Burgundy, and their
eldest son, and the Duke of Berri, attend-
ed with such singular circumstances, im-
pressed the whole nation with the idea that
poisons had been administered. The Duke
of Orleans was believed to be skilled in
them, and, as between him and the suc-
cession these deaths left only Philip of
Spain, who had renounced his pretensions,
and a feeble and sickly child, suspicions
and whispers soon took the form of direct
charges against him. St. Simon asserts,
that these reports were disseminated by
hired agents of the Duke de Maine and
Madame de Maintenon.

The long and imperious reign of Louis
Fourteenth drew at length to its close.
"That sun," says Lord Mahon, "so bright
in its meridian, so dim and clouded at its
setting, was now to disappear " At his
death, the whole aspect of society became
changed; a totally different political course
was adopted, and great and sudden altera-
tions were effected in the foreign relations
of France. Philip of Orleans, at the period
of his accession to the regency, was in his
forty-second year ; his manners, we are
told, were gentle, his conversation was at-
tractive, and he was skilled in music and
painting. He now gave full scope to his de-
baucheries, and made a bravado of his im-
piety. On being complimented before a
large company by one of the ladies of his
mother's household, upon the apparent de-
votion with which she had seen him poring
over his book at mass, he replied, " You are
a great fool, Madame Limbert, — do you
know what I was reading } It was a vol-
ume of Rabelais which 1 took with me to
prevent my being wearied." When it was
believed, after the death of Louis Four-
teenth, that the Regent would favor the
Jansenists, and act in concert with the par-
liament, the tide of opinion turned in his
favor and he became popular, but the first



1850.



Memoirs of the House of Orleans.



267



illness of the young king revived suspicion.
The accusations of his plotting the death of
Louis Fifteenth were doubtless groundless.
" With all his failings in private life," says
Lord Mahon, " the Regent was certainly a
man of honor in public, and nothing could
be more pure and above reproach than his
care of his infant sovereign."

The rapid decline of the Duke's short-
lived popularity was hastened by the terri-
ble philippics of Le Grange Chancel and
others of the Duchess de Maine's party,
who collected every scandal that had ever
been invented ; and it was at this time that
Voltaire gave to the world that pointed al-
legory of the court and its morals, his
Tragedy of " ffidipus."

The Duchess de Maine's conspiracy, by
which she hoped to overthrow the whole
political system of Europe, brought about
a war with Spain, and an insurrection in
the provinces. But the firmness and energy
of the Regent and his able minister, toge-
ther with the unexampled facilities of credit
afibrded by Law's Bank, ensured to them
a complete triumph and success. In no
instance was the united political skill of the
Regent and Dubois more remarkable than
in their discovery and suppression of the
insurrection in Brittany, and the plot laid
by Philip of Spain for the aggrandizement
of the Duke de Maine, and the deposition
of the Regent. It was easy, comparatively,
to crush, in Paris, this movement in favor
of constitutional freedom, but the provin-
cial nobles and gentry had taken the case
seriously to heart.

" The connection between France and
Brittany had,'' says our author, " some
striking points of similitude to that between
England and Ireland. The term ' Frank'
was used in Brittany, as that of ' Saxon'
in Ireland, to express hatred to an alien
race. The Barons of Brittany preferred
a rude independence in their own castles, to
the splendid servility of the court. Their
dislike to the Franks and their monarch
was nurtured by numerous ballads, describ-
ing the treachery to which every noble
Breton was exposed who ventured to seek
his fortune at the court of Paris." One
of these legends is described by our author.
It is entitled " A Page of Louis XL"

" The ballad opens with a description of the
young page's sufieriiigs in the prison into



which he had been thrown by the King. A
vassel of his house comes to the grating, and
the page sends him to inform his sister of his
danger, and to beg that she would come to
embrace him before his death.

" The second 'fytte' describes the speed with
which the vassal performed his task, and the
distress which his intelligence produced in the
page's family. It ends with the sister's depar-
ture from Paris.

"The third ' fytte' we shall translate literal-
ly. The King's young page said, as he
mounted the first step of the scaffold : 'Death
would have no terror were it not far from my
country, and without sympathizing attend-
ance ; were it not far from my country, were
it not without friends, were it not for my sis-
ter in Brittany. She will ask for her brother
every night ; she will ask for her little brother
every hour.' The young page said, as he
mounted the second step of the scaffold, ' I
would wish before I die to have news of my
country ; to have news of my sister, of my
dear little sister. Does she know it]' The
young page said, as he mounted the third step
of the scaffold, ' I hear the tramp of horses in
the street : my sister and her suite are coming !



Online LibraryGeorge Hooker ColtonThe American review : a Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science (Volume 12) → online text (page 47 of 125)