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case, probably aimed at nothing higher than
espionage upon the First Consul, the diplomatist
being willing to allow the actress a small social
role in return for inside information. Georgina,
who appears to have been sincerely attached to
Bonaparte to the very end of her days, soon
acquainted her lover with his Minister's advances,
and the First Consul was puzzled.

" What is that viper Talleyrand up to now ? "
he wonders. " He wants everyone to be as
crooked as he is himself, and likes to make
mischief everywhere. You are quite right to
have nothing to do with society."

Bonaparte then criticises some role of hers
in which she plays her part without passion,
and advises her, if she wants to learn what the
sentiments of a mother are like, to become one.
The actress tells us, too, that Bonaparte once sent
her to a sage-femme in the Faubourg in order to ^


// learn from that worthy some of the secrets of
maternity ! A few days before his departure for
the new camp at Boulogne, they spend a night
together, playing like two children on the hearth-
rug before the fire. Bonaparte tells the actress
of his approaching departure, and fearing that
she may want for money during his absence,
stuffs several handfuls of bank-notes down her
corsage^ the amount, says the actress, being for
£1600. On his return from Boulogne she visits
him at the Tuileries, where the Consul has a
private apartment at the top of the Palace,
looking out over the great city. On making her
way up to this cabinet particulier, Georgina drops
an overshoe and sends Constant to fetch it,
which he does. The Consul appears and is as
kind as ever, nor does he fail, says the actress, to
help her to undress and to dress again, acting with
his natural sense of order, like a trained femme
de chamhre.

It was during one of the many visits of this
actress to the First Consul that occurred the
famous scene in which Madame de Remusat
shows how jealous of her great husband Josephine
could be at times. On one occasion — well after
midnight — Madame Bonaparte, strong with an
intuition that the First Consul was not quite
alone in his small apartment on the floor above,
aroused Madame de Remusat, her lady-of -honour,
and with a lighted candle, the two women picked
their way up the private staircase, Madame de
Remusat thoroughly ashamed, she tells, of the


role which she was forced to play. As the pair
crept up the stairs, a slight movement was heard,
and Josephine, seized with sudden fright, declares
that it must be Roustan, the mameluke, a monster,
she says, who is capable of killing them both at
sight. This warning is quite enough for Madame
de Remusat, who turns about without further
parley, escaping back to their quarters ; her
mistress soon follows, and both women burst out
laughing at their own discomfiture.

Shortly before the establishment of the Empire,
Mademoiselle had to complain of the inattention
of her great lover wlio, during one long fortnight,
did not summon her to his Palace. Georgina
thought that the liaison was drawing to its in-
evitable end, and on visiting the theatre on the
same occasion as Bonaparte, when she occupied
the box opposite his, affected not to be aware of
his presence. Murat, acting by instruction, we
may imagine, paid her a visit during the last act,
and taking advantage of her offer of a seat in her
carriage, advised the actress, on the homeward
journey, to call upon the First Consul as he liad
asked her to do. Georgina visits her patron,
accordingly, and learns from his lips that he cannot
see her for some time, but that he will always
look after her interests. Talma assured her, on
the day after this visit, that the Consul was to
change his exalted rank for a still loftier one, and
that it was reasonable policy on the part of the
Emperor-elect to use circumspection ; besides,
he added, Bonaparte was not the man to allow


his love affairs to spoil his real role in the

A few months afterwards Georgina, with her
somewhat commonplace family, was an eye-witness
of the Imperial procession to Notre Dame, 2nd
December 1804. Cinna was to be staged by
Imperial command, within ten days of the Corona-
tion ; Georgina played her usual part of Emilia, and
with great success. Not till five weeks had passed,
however, was the actress to meet the Emperor,
who received her with the same unaffected kindli-
ness as in the old Consular days. Poor Georgina,
unused to courts and with much of the naivete of
the bourgeoisie in her conceptions of what was
proper form, attempted a courtly role which did
not please the master.

" Stilted manners do not suit you, Georgina,"
said the simple soldier. " Be as you used to be —
unaffected and frank."

For all his studied plainness, the actress found,
nevertheless, that the Emperor had displaced the
Citoyen Consul, that the new style of drama
seemed to her, she says, to be acted on a higher
and more imposing plane, and Georgina quickly
realised that she could never find happiness in
such surroundings. Madame Duchatel, a lady-
of-honour, in any case, soon attracted the
Emperor's notice and Mademoiselle George only
met her old lover at very rare intervals thereafter.
Her relations with Napoleon lasted about two
years in all, and it is fairly well established that
the Corsican divided the favours of the actress


with a considerable number of flaneurs of note
in Paris. In all probability this fact revealed
itself to the First Consul only after a lengthy
acquaintance with Georgina, and accounted for
the sudden enough rupture of the alliance.

Frenchmen as a rule are most hypercritical
of each other in regard to what they call bonnes
fortunes, and Voltaire has told us that they do
not easily forgive any man his success among
womankind. Accordingly, we may well believe
that the young Conqueror of Italy soon became
an object of the sarcasms of ordinary men, and
more particularly on account of the fact that
in the Consular period he was unusually thin
and weakly-looking, while his height — actually
five feet six and three-quarter inches, in English
measurement, or about five feet three inches
according to French standards — was poor among
the existing race of Frenchmen, who were then of
lofty stature, like their Gallic ancestors, and whose
subsequent decrease in stature Avas due, in a large
part, to the ravages caused by the Imperial wars
among the manhood of France. In a capital
which in those days — if we are to trust the writers
— had raised cuckoldry to the proportions of a
social art, we may be certain that the mistress of
so great a man could not escape the aggressive
attentions of men whose existence depended so
largely on new sensations. It was among this
peculiar race of beings that Napoleon earned the
reputation of being a niais — where women were


The Emperor, it would seem, objected in Made-
moiselle George to two characteristics which, he
very correctly said, showed that she came of a
" race grossiere,^^ or common race — namely, her
large hands and feet, and only overlooked these
defects in consideration of other first-class quali-
fications which she possessed for the role of
hetaira. During their association the soldier gave
his mistress many thousands of pounds, and even
several years after the rupture, sent her a present
of £400 on his name-day. The actress admits
that he always paid her himself, sparing her the
ordeal of calling on his banker, a fact which
showed that Bonaparte possessed better taste in
such matters than the late Marquis of Steyne.
Although, in 1808, Georgina deserted Paris for
Moscow, under circumstances which she recounts
herself. Napoleon had her reinstated at the
Comedie Franc/aise in 1813, and even had her paid
the salary she had forfeited over a jDcriod of five

During the Hundred Days, Georgina wrote to
her old lover, offering to hand over to him certain
letters which incriminated Fouche, and Napoleon
sent a confidential man to fetch them, asking him
on his return if the actress had complained about
the state of her affairs. Georgina had not men-
tioned that she was in poor circumstances.
Nevertheless the Emperor sent her an order for
£800 on his privy purse. To the very end the
actress spoke well of the Corsican, but not as a
woman talks of an old and favoured lover ; rather



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Online LibraryHamil GrantThe soul of Napoleon → online text (page 6 of 17)