Isaac Disraeli.

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early for the other.

At last Montluc arrived, and found that the whole weight
of this negotiation was to fall on his single shoulders ; and
further, that he was to sleep every night on a pillow of
thorns. Our bishop had not only to allay the ferment of
the popular spirit of the evangelicals, as the protestants were
then called, but even of the more rational catholics of Poland.
He had also to face those haughty and feudal lords, of whom
each considered himself the equal of the sovereign whom he
created, and whose avowed principle was, and many were
incorrupt, that their choice of a sovereign should be regulated
solely by the public interest ; and it was hardly to be ex-
pected that the emperor, the czar, and the king of Sweden,
would prove unsuccessful rivals to the cruel, and voluptuous,
and bigoted duke of Anjou, whose political interests were
too remote and novel to have raised any faction among these
independent Poles.

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The crafty politician had the art of dressing himself up in
all the winning charms of candour and loyalty ; a sweet flow
of honeyed words melted on his lips, while his heart, cold
and immovable as a rock, stood unchanged amidst the most
unforeseen difficulties.

The emperor had set to work the Abb^ Cyre in a sort of
ambiguous character, an envoy for the nonce, to be acknowl-
edged or disavowed as was convenient ; and by his activity
he obtained considerable influence among the Lithuanians,
the Wallachians, and nearly all Prussia, in favour of the
Archduke Ernest. Two Bohemians, who had the advantage
of speaking the Polish language, had arrived with a state
and magnificence becoming kings rather than ambassadors.
The Muscovite had written letters full of golden promises to
the nobility, and was supported by a palatine of high charac-
ter ; a perpetual peace between two such great neighbours
was too inviting a project not to find advocates ; and this
party, Choisnin observes, appeared at first* the most to be
feared. The King of Sweden was a close neighbour, who
had married the sister of their late sovereign, and his son
urged his family claims as superior to those of foreigners.
Among these parties was a patriotic one, who were desirous
of a Pole for their monarch; a king of their father-land,
speaking their mother-tongue, one who would not strike at
the independence of his country, but preserve its integrity
from the stranger. This popular party was even agreeable
to several of the foreign powers themselves, who did not
like to see a rival power strengthening itself by so strict a
union with Poland ; but in this choice of a sovereign from
among themselves, there were at least thirty lords who equally
thought that they were the proper wood of which kings
should be carved out. The Poles therefore could not agree
on the Pole who deserved to be a Piaste ; an endearing title
for a native monarch, which originated in the name of the
family of the Piastts, who had reigned happily over the
Polish people for the space of five centuries ! The remem-

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brance of their virtues existed in the minds of the honest
Poles in this affectionate title, and their party were called
the Piastis,

Montluc had been deprived of the assistance he had
depended on from many able persons, whom the massacre
of St. Bartholomew had frightened away from every French
political connection. He found that he had himself only to
depend on. We are told that he was not provided with the
usual means which are considered most efficient in elections,
nor possessed the interest nor the splendour of his powerful
competitors : he was to derive all his resources from diplo-
matic finesse. The various ambassadors had fixed and
distant residences, that they might not hold too close an
intercourse with the Polish nobles. Of all things, he was
desirous to obtain an easy access to these chiefs, that he
might observe, and that they might listen. He who would
seduce by his own ingenuity must come in contact with the
object he would corrupt Yet Montluc persisted in not ap-
proaching them without being sought after, which answered
his purpose in the end. One favourite argument which our
Talleyrand had set afloat, was to show that all the benefits
which the different competitors had promised to the Poles
were accompanied by other circumstances which could not
fail to be ruinous to the country: while the offer of his
master, whose interests were remote, could not be adverse to
those of the Polish nation : so that much good might be
expected from him, without any fear of accompanying evil.
Montluc procured a clever Frenchman to be the bearer of
his first dispatch, in Latin, to the diet; which had hardly
assembled, ere suspicions and jealousies were already break-
ing out. The emperor's ambassadors had offended the pride
of the Polish nobles by travelling about the country without
leave, and resorting to the infanta; and besides, in some
intercepted letters the Polish nation was designated as gens
harhara et gens inepta. " I do not think that the said letter
was really written by the said ambassadors, who were states

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men too politic to employ such unguarded language," very
ingenuously writes the secretary of Montluc. However, it
was a blow levelled at the imperial ambassadors ; while the
letter of the French bishop, composed " in a humble and
modest style," began to melt their proud spirits, and two
thousand copies of the French bishop's letter were eagerly

" But this good fortune did not last more than four-and-
twenty hours," mournfully writes' our honest secretary ; " for
suddenly the news of the fatal day of St. Bartholomew
arrived, and every Frenchman was detested."

Montluc, in this distress, published an apology for les
Matinees Parisiennes, which he reduced to some excesses of
the people, the result of a conspiracy plotted by the protest-
ants ; and he adroitly introduced as a personage his master
Anjou, declaring that ** he scorned to oppress a party whom
he had so often conquered with sword in hand." This
pamphlet, which still exists, must have cost the good bishop
some invention ; but in elections the lie of the moment serves
a purpose ; and although Montluc was in due time bitterly
recriminated on, still the apology served to divide public

Montluc was a whole cabinet to himself: he dispersed
another tract in the character of a Polish gentleman, in
which the French interests were urged by such arguments,
that the leading chiefs never met without disputing; and
Montluc now found that he had succeeded in creating a
French party. The Austrian then employed a real Polish
gentleman to write for his party ; but this was too genuine a
production, for the writer wrote too much in earnest ; and in
politics we must not be in a passion.

The mutual jealousies of each party assisted the views of
our negotiator ; they would side with him against each other.
The archduke and the czar opposed the Turk ; the Musco-
vite could not endure that Sweden should be aggrandized
by this new crown; and Denmark was still more uneasy.

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Montluc had discovered how ever}' party had its vulnerable
point, by which it could be managed. The cards had now
got fairly shuffled, and he depended on his usual good play.

Our bishop got hold of a palatine to write for the French
cause in the vernacular tongue ; and appears to have held a
more mysterious intercourse with another palatine, Albert
Lasky. Mutual accusations were made in the open diet :
the Poles accused some Lithuanian lords of having con-
tracted certain engagements with the czar ; these in return
accused the Poles, and particularly this Lasky, with being
corrupted by the gold of France. Another circumstance
afterwards arose ; the Spanish ambassador had forty thou-
sand thalers sent to him, but which never passed the fron-
tiers, as this fresh supply arrived too late for the election.
"I believe," writes our secretary with great simplicity,
" that this money was only designed to distribute among the
trumpeters and the tabourines." The usual expedient in
contested elections was now evidently introduced ; our sec-
retary acknowledging that Montluc daily acquired new
supporters, because he did not attempt to gain them over
merely by promises — resting his whole cause on thi^ argu-
ment, that the interest of the nation was concerned in the
French election.

Still would ill fortune cross our crafty politician when
every thing was proceeding smoothly. The massacre was
refreshed with more damning particulars ; some letters were
forged, and others were but too true ; all parties, with rival
intrepidity, were carrying on a complete scene of deception.
A rumour spread that the French king disavowed his accred-
ited agent, and apologized to the emperor for having yielded
to the importunities of a political speculator, whom he was
now resolved to recall. This somewhat paralyzed the exer-
tions of those palatines who had involved themselves in the
intrigues of Montluc, who was now forced patiently to wait
for the arrival of a courier with renewed testimonials of his
diplomatic character from the French court. A great odium

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was cast od the French in the course of this negotiation by
a distribution of prints, which exposed the most inventive
cruelties practised by the Catholics on the Reformed ; such
as women cleaved in half in the act of attempting to snatch
their children from their butchers ; while Charles the Ninth
and the Duke of Anjou were hideously represented in their
persons, and as spectators of such horrid tragedies, with
words written in labels, complaining that the executioners
were not zealous enough in this holy work. These prints,
accompanied by libels and by horrid narratives, inflamed the
popular indignation, and more particularly the women, who
were affected to tears, as if these horrid scenes had been
passing before their eyes.

Montluc replied to the libels as fast as they appeared,
while he skilfully introduced the most elaborate panegyrics
on the Duke of Anjou ; and in return for the caricatures, he
distributed two portraits of the king and the duke, to show
the ladies, if not the diet, that neither of these princes had
such ferocious and inhuman faces. Such are the small
means by which the politician condescends to work his great
designs ; and the very means by which his enemies thought
they should ruin his cause, Montluc adroitly turned to his
own advantage. Any thing of instant occurrence serves
electioneeidng purposes, and Montluc eagerly seized this
favourable occasion to exhaust his imagination on an ideal
sovereign, and to hazard, with address, anecdotes, whose
authenticity he could never have proved, till he perplexed
even unwilling minds to be uncertain whether that intolerant
and inhuman duke was not the most heroic and most mer-
ciful of princes. It is probable that the Frenchman abused
even the license of the French eloge^ for a noble Pole told
Montluc that he was always amplifying his duke with such
ideal greatness, and attributing to him such immaculate pur-
ity of sentiment, that it was inferred there was no man in
Poland who could possibly equal him ; and that his declara-
tion, that the duke was not desirous of reigning over Poland

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to possess the wealth and grandeur of the kingdom, and that
be was solely ambitious of the honour to be the head of such
a great and virtuous nobility, had offended many lords, who
did not believe that the duke sought the Polish crown merdy
to be the sovereign of a virtuous people.

These Polish statesmen appear, indeed, to have been more
enlightened than the subtle politician perhaps calculated on ;
for when Montluc was over anxious to exculpate the Duke
of Anjou from having been an actor in the Parisian massacre,
a noble Pole observed, " That he need not lose his time at
framing any apologies ; for if he could prove that it was the
interest of the country that the duke ought to be elected their
king, it was dijl that was required, ffis cruelty, were it true,
would be no reason to prevent his election, for we have
nothing to dread from it : once in our kingdom, he will have
more reason to fear us than we him, should he ever attempt
our lives, our property, or our liberty."

Another Polish lord, whose scruples were as pious as his
patriotism was suspicious, however observed that, in his con-
ferences with the French bishop, the bishop had never once
mentioned God, whom all parties ought to implore to touch
the hearts of the electors, in their choice of God's " anointed."
Montluc might have felt himself unexpectedly embarrassed
at the religious scruples of this lord, but the politician was
never at a fault. " Speaking to a man of letters, as his
lordship was," replied the French bishop, " it was not for
him to remind his lordship wiiat he so well knew ; but since
he had touched on the subject, he would, however, say, that
were a sick man desirous of having a physician, the friend
who undertook to procure one would not do his duty should
he say it was necessary to call in one whom God had chosen
to restore his health ; but another who should say that the
most learned and skilful is he whom God has chosen, would
be doing the best for the patient, and evince most judgments
By a parity of reason we must believe that God will not
send an angel to point out the man whom he would have his

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anointed ; sufficient for us that God has given us a knowl-
edge of the requisites of a good king; and if the Polish
gentlemen choose such a sovereign, it will be him whom Grod
has chosen." This shrewd argument delighted the Polish
lord, who repeated the story in different companies, to the
honour of the bishop. "And in this manner," adds the
secretary with great naivete, " did the sieur, strengthened by
good arguments, divulge his opinions, which were received
by many, and run from hand to hand."

Montluc had his inferior manoeuvres. He had to equipoise
the opposite interests of the Catholics and the Evangelists, or
the Reformed : it was mingling fire and water without suffer-
ing them to hiss, or to extinguish one another. When the
imperial ambassadors gSLve fetes to the higher nobility only,
they consequently offended the lesser. The Frenchman gave
no banquets, but his house was open to all at all times, who
were equally welcome. " You will see that the fetes of the
imperialists will do them more harm than good," observed
Montluc to his secretary.

Having gained over by every possible contrivance a
number of the Polish nobles, and showered his courtesies
on those of the inferior orders, at length the critical moment
approached, and the finishing hand was to be put to the
work. Poland, with the appearance of a popular govern-
ment, was a singular aristocracy of a hundred thousand
electors, consisting of the higher and the lower nobility, and
the gentry ; the people had no concern with the government.
Yet still it was to be treated by the politician as a popular
government, where those who possessed the greatest influence
over such large assemblies were orators, and he who de-
livered himself with the most fluency, and the most pertinent
arguments, would infallibly bend every heart to the point he
wished. The French bishop depended greatly on the effect
which his oration was to produce when the ambassadors
were respectively to be heard before the assembled diet ; the
great and concluding act of so many tedious and difficult

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negotiations — "which had cost my master," writes the in-
genious secretary, " six months' daily and nightly labours ;
he had never been assisted or comforted by any but his poor
servants ; and in the course of these six months had written
ten reams of paper, a thing which for forty years he had not
used himself to."

Every ambassador was now to deliver an oration before
the assembled electors, and thirty-two copies were to be
printed to present one to each palatine, who in his turn was
to communicate it to his lords. But a fresh difficulty
occurred to the French negotiator; as he trusted greatly
to his address influencing the multitude, and creating a
popular opinion in his favour, he regretted to find that the
imperial ambassador would deliver his speech in the Bohe-
mian language, so that he would be understood by the greater
part of the assembly ; a considerable advantage over Mont-
luc, who could only address them in Latin. The inventive
genius of the French bishop resolved on two things which
had never before been practised: first, to have his Latin
translated into the vernacular idiom ; and, secondly, to print
an edition of fifteen hundred copies in both languages, and
thus to obtain a vast advantage over the other ambassadors
with their thirty-two manuscript copies, of which each copy
was used to be read to 1200 persons. The great difficulty
was to get it secretly translated and printed. This fell to the
management of Choisnin, the secretary. He set off to the
castle of the palatine, Solikotski, who was deep in the French
interest; Solikotski dispatched the version in six days.
Hastening with the precious MS. to Cracow, Choisnin flew
to a trusty printer, with whom he was connected ; the sheets
were deposited every night at Choisnin's lodgings, and at the
end of a fortnight the diligent secretary conducted the 1500
copies in secret triumph to Warsaw.

Yet this glorious labour was not ended ; Montluc was in
no haste to deliver his wonder-working oration, on which the
fate of a crown seemed to depend. When his turn came to

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be heard, he suddenly fell sick ; for the fact was, that he
wished to speak last, which would give him the advantage
of replying to any objection raised by his rivals, and admit
also of an attack on their weak points.

He contrived to obtain copies of their harangues, and dis-
covered five points which struck at the French interest. Our
poor bishop had now to sit up through the night to rewrite
five leaves of his printed oration, and cancel five which had
been printed ; and worse ! he had to get them by heart, and
to have them translated and inserted, by employing twenty
scribes day and night. " It is scarcely credible what my
master went through about this time," saith the historian of
his " gestes."

The council or diet was held in a vast plain. Twelve
pavilions were raised to receive the Polish nobility and the
ambassadors. One of a circular form was supported by a
single mast, and was large enough to contain 6000 persons,
without any one approaching the mast nearer than by twenty
steps, leaving this space void to preserve silence ; the dif-
ferent orders were placed around; the archbishop and the
bishops, the palatines, the castellans, each according to their
rank. During the six weeks of the sittings of the diet,
100,000 horses were in the environs, yet forage and every
sort of provisions abounded. There were no disturbances,
not a single quarrel occurred, although there wanted not in
that meeting for enmities of long standing. It was strange,
and even awful, to view such a mighty assembly preserving
the greatest order, and every one seriously intent on this
solemn occasion.

At length the elaborate oration was delivered : it lasted
three hours, and Choisnin assures us not a single auditor
felt weary. " A cry of joy broke out from the tent, and
was reechoed through the plain, when Montluc ceased: it
was a public acclamation ; and had the election been fixed
for that moment, when all hearts were warm, surely the
duke had been chosen without a dissenting voice.*' Thus

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writes, in rapture, the ingenuous secretary ; and in the spirit
of the times communicates a deh'ghtful augury attending this
speech, by which evidently was foreseen its happy termina-
tion. "Those who disdain all things will take this to be
a mere invention of mine," says honest Choisnin : " but true
it is, that while the said sievr delivered his harangue, a lark
was seen all the while upon the mast of the pavilion, singing
and warbling, which was remarked by a great number of
lords, because the lark is accustomed only to rest itself on
the earth: the most impartial confessed this to be a good
augury.* Also it was observed, that when the other am-
bassadors were speaking, a hare, and at another time a hog,
ran through the tent; and when the Swedish ambassador
spoke, the great tent fell half-way down. This lark singing
all the while did no little good to our cause ; for many of the
nobles and gentry noted this curious particularity, because
when a thing which does not commonly happen occurs in a
public affair, such appearances give rise to hopes either of
good or of evil."

The singing of this lark in favour of the Duke of Anjou
is not so evident as the cunning trick of the other French
agent, the political Bishop of Valence, who now reaped the
full advantage of his 1500 copies over the thirty-two of his
rivals. Every one had the French one in hand or read it to
his friends ; while the others, in manuscript, were confined to
a very narrow circle.

The period from the 10th of April to the 6th of May,
when they proceeded to the election, proved to be an interval
of infinite perplexities, troubles, and activity ; it is probable
that the secret history of this period of the negotiations was
never written. The other ambassadors were for protracting
the election, perceiving the French interest prevalent : but

* Our honest secretary reminds me of a passage in Geoffroy of Mon-
mouth, who says, " at this place an eagh spoke while the wall of the town
^^as building; and indeed I should not have failed transmitting the speech to
posterity had I thought it true as the rest of the history."

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delay would not serve the purpose of Montluc, he not being
so well provided with friends and means on the spot as the
others were. The public opinion which he had succeeded in
creating, by some unforeseen circumstance, might change.

During this interval, the bishop had to put several agents
of the other parties hors de combat. He got rid of a formi-
dable adversary in the Cardinal Commendon, an agent of the
pope's, whom he proved ought not to be present at the elec-
tion, and the cardinal was ordered to take his departure. A
bullying colonel was set upon the French negotiator, and
went about from tent to tent with a list of the debts of the
Duke of Anjou, to show that the nation could expect nothing
profitable from a ruined spendthrift. The page of a Polish
count flew to Montluc for protection, entreating permission to
accompany the bishop on his return to Paris. The servants
of the count pursued the page ; but this young gentleman
had so insinuated himself into the favour of the bishop, that
he was suffered to remain. The next day the page desired
Montluc would grant him the full liberty of his religion being
an evangelical, that he might communicate this to his friends,
and thus fin them to the French party. Montluc was too
penetrating for this young political agent, whom he discov-
ered to be a spy, and the pursuit of his fellows to have been
a farce ; he sent the page back to his master, the evangelical
count, observing that such tricks were too gross to be played
on one who had managed affairs in all the courts of Europe
before he came into Poland.

Another alarm was raised by a letter from the grand vizier
of Selim the Second, addressed to the diet, in which he re-
quested that they would either choose a king from among
themselves, or elect the brother of the king of France.
Some zealous Frenchman at the Sublime Porte had offi-
ciously procured this recommendation from the enemy of
Christianity ; but an alliance with Mahometanism did no ser-
vice to Montluc, either with the catholics or the evangelicals.
The bishop was in despair, and thought that his handy-work

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of six months' toil and trouble was to be shook into pieces in

Online LibraryIsaac DisraeliCuriosities of literature → online text (page 23 of 43)