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that career which she rendered so illustrious
through her talents and her sufferings. At this
early period there were struggling in her bosom
those very emotions which soon after agitated
every mind in France, and which overthrew in
chaotic ruin both the altar and the throne.
The dissolute lives of many of the Catholic
clergy, and their indolence and luxury, began
to alarm her faith. The unceasing denuncia-
tions of her father gave additional impulse to
every such suggestion. She could not but see
that the pride and power of the state were sus-
tained by the superstitious terrors wielded by
the Church. She could not be blind to the
trickery by which money was wrested from tor-
tured consciences, and from ignorance, imbecil-


ity, and dotage. She could not but admire her
mother's placid piety, neither could she conceal
from herself that her faith was feeling, her prin-
ciples sentiments. De«eply as her own feelings
had been impressed in the convent, and much
as she loved the gentle sisters there, she sought
in vain for a foundation for the gigantic fabric
of spiritual dominion towering above her. She
looked upon the gorgeous pomp of papal wor-
ship, with its gormandizing pastors and its
starving flocks, with its pageants to excite the
sense and to paralyze the mind, with its friars
and monks loitering in sloth and uselessness,
and often in the grossest dissipation, and her
reason gradually began to condemn it as a
gigantic superstition for the enthralment of
mankind. Still, the influence of Christian sen-
timents, like a guardian angel; ever hovered
around her, and when her bewildered mind was
groping amid the labyrinths of unbelief, her
Iteart still clung to all that is pure in Christian
morals, and to all that is consolatory in the
hopes of immortality ; and even when be-
nighted in the most painful atheistic doubts,
conscience became her deity ; its voice she most
reverently obeyed.

She turned from the Church to the state.
She saw the sons and the daughters of aristo-
cratic pride, glittering in gilded chariots, and
surrounded by insolent menials, sweep by her.


through the Elysian Fields, while she trod the
dusty pathway. Her proud spirit revolted,
more and more, at the apparent injustice. She
had studied the organization of society. She
was familiar with the modes of popular op-
pression. She understood the operation of
that system of taxes, so ingeniously devised to
sink the mass of the people in poverty and deg-
radation, that princes and nobles might revel
in voluptuous splendor. Indignation nerved
her spirit as she reflected upon the usurpation
thus ostentatiously displayed. The seclusion
in which she lived encouraged deep musings
upon these vast inequalities of life. Piety had
not taught her submission. Philosophy had
not yet taught her the impossibility of adjust-
ing these allotments of our earthly state, so as
to distribute the gifts of fortune in accordance
with merit. Little, however, did the proud
grandees imagine, as in courtly splendor they
swept by the plebeian maiden, enveloping her
in the dust of their chariots, that her voice
would yet aid to upheave their castles from their
foundations, and whelm the monarchy and the
aristocracy of France in one common ruin.

At this time circumstances brought her in
contact with several ladies connected with no-
ble families. The ignorance of these ladies,
their pride, their arrogance, excited in Jane's
mind deep contempt. She could not but feel


her own immeasurable superiority over them,
and yet she perceived with indignation that
the accident of birth invested them with a
factitious dignity, which enabled them to look
down upon her with condescension. A lady of
noble birth, who had lost fortune and friends
through the fraud and dissipation of those
connected with her, came to board for a short
time in her father's family. This lady was
forty years of age, insufferably proud of her
pedigree, and in her manners stiff and repul-
sive. She was exceedingly illiterate and unin-
formed, being unable to write a line with cor-
rectness, and having no knowledge beyond
ihat which may be picked up in the ball-room
and the theater. There was nothing in her
character to win esteem. She was trying, by
a law-suit, to recover a portion of her lost for-
tune. Jane wrote petitions for her, and let-
ters, and sometimes went with her to make
interest with persons whose influence would be
important. She perceived that, notwithstand-
ing her deficiency in every personal quality to
inspire esteem or love, she was treated, in con-
sequence of her birth, with the most marked
deference. Whenever she mentioned the
names of her high-born ancestry — and those
names were ever upon her lips — she was lis-
tened to with the greatest respect. Jane con-
trasted the receptioa which this illiterate de-



scendant of nobility enjoyed with the reception
which her grandmother encountered in the
visit to Madame De Boismorel, and it ap-
peared to her that the world was exceedingly
unjust, and that the institutions of society
were highly absurd. Thus was her mind train-

111 infill 1 1 1 11 Ir 1 Jiil li Ir'Siii nlll





^^^W?^B| liiK^B^sii

Salon of an Aristocrat,
ing for activity in the arena of revolution.
She was pondering deeply all the abuses of
society. She had become enamored of the
republican liberty of antiquity. She was
ready to embrace with enthusiasm any hopes
of change. All the games and amusements of
girlhood appeared to her frivolous, as, day
after day, her whole mental powers were en-
grossed by these profound contemplations, and
by aspirations for the elevation of herself and
of mankind.

4— Roland

11 FJ



A SOUL SO active so imaginative, and so full
of feeling as that of Jane, could not long
slumber unconscious of the emotion of love.
In the unaffected and touching narrative which
she gives of her own character, in the Journal
which she subsequently wrote in the gloom of
a prison, she alludes to the first rising of that
mysterious passion in her bosom. With that
frankness which ever marked her character,
she describes the strange fluttering of her heart,
the embarrassment, the attraction, and the in-
stinctive diffidence she experienced when in the
presence of a young man who had, all uncon-
sciously, interested her affections. It seems
that there was a youthful painter named Tabo-
ral, of pale, and pensive, and intellectual coun-
tenance — an artist with soul-inspired enthu-
siasm beaming from his eye — who occasionally
called upon her father. Jane had just been
reading the Heloise of Eousseau, that gushing
fountain of sentimentality. Her young heart
took fire. His features mingled insensibly in

her dreamings and her visions, and dwelt, a wel-



come guest, in her castles in the air. The dif-
fident young man, with all the sensitiveness of
genius, could not speak to the daughter, of
whose accomplishments the father was so justly
proud, without blushing like a girl. When
Jane heard him in the shop, she always con-
trived to make some errand to go in*. There
was a pencil or something else to be sought for.
But the moment she was in the presence of
Taboral, instinctive embarrassment drove her
away, and she retired more rapidly than she en-
tered, and with a palpitating heart ran to hide
herself in her little chamber.

This emotion, however, was fleeting and
transient, and soon forgotten. Indeed, highly
imaginative as was Jane, her imagination was
vigorous and intellectual, and her tastes led her
far a'way from those enervating love-dreams, in
which a weaker m.ind would have indulged. A
young lady so fascinating in mind and person
could not but attract much attention. Many
suitors began to appear, one after another, but
she manifested no interest in any of them. The
customs of society in France were such at that
time, that it was difficult for any one who
sought the hand of Jane to obtain an introduc-
tion to her. Consequently, the expedient was
usually adopted of writing first to her parents.
These letters were always immediately shown
to Jane. She judged of the character of the


writer by the character of the epistles. Her
father, knowing her intellectual superiority,
looked to her as his secretary to reply to all
these letters. She consequently wrote the an-
swers, which her father carefully copied, and
sent in his own name. She was often amused
with the gravity with which she, as the father
of herself, with parental prudence discussed her
own interests. In subsequent years she wrote
to kings and to cabinets in the name of her hus-
band ; and the sentiments which flowed from
her pen, adopted by the ministry of France as
their own, guided the councils of nations.

Her father, regarding commerce as the source
of wealth, and wealth as the source of power
and dignity, was very anxious that his daughter
should accept some of the lucrative offers she
was receiving from young men of the family
acquaintance who were engaged in trade. But
Jane had no such thought. Her proud spirit
revolted from such a connection. From her
sublimated position among the ancient heroes,
and her ambitious aspirings to dwelt in the loft-
iest regions of intellect, she could not think of
allying her soul with those whose energies were
expended in buying and selling ; and she de-
clared that she would have no husband but one
with whom she could cherish congenial sym-

At one time a rich meat merchant of the

Madame Roland, face j>. 48

Maximilien Marie Isidore Robespierre. {See p. 96.)


neighborhood solicited her hand. Her father,
allured by his wealth, was very anxious that
his (laughter should accept the offer. In reply
to his urgency Jane firmly replied.

" I can not, dear father, descend from my no-
ble imaginings. What I want in a husband is
a soul, not a fortune. I will die single rather
than prostitute my own mind in a union with;
a being with whom I have no sympathies.-
Brought up from my infancy in connection with
the great men of all ages — familiar with lofty
ideas and illustrious examples — have I lived
with Plato, with all the philosophers, all the
poets, all the politicians of antiquity, merely to
unite myself with a shop-keeper, who will nei-
ther appreciate nor feel anything as I do ?
Why have you suffered me, father, to contract
these intellectual habits and tastes, if you wish
me to form such an alliance ?/ I know not
whom I may marry ; but it must be one who
can share my thoughts and sympathize with my
pursuits." /

'^ But, my daughter, there are many men of
business who have extensive information and
polished manners."

" That may be," Jane answered, ''but they
do not possess the kind of information, and the
character of mind, and the intellectual tastes
which I wish any one who is my husband to


*' Do you not suppose/' rejoined her father,

" that Mr. and his wife are happy ?

He has just retired from business with an
ample fortune. They have a beautiful house,
and receive the best of company."

" I am no judge," was the reply, '^ of other
people's happiness. But my own heart is not
fixed on riches. I conceive that the strictest
union of affection is requisite to conjugal
felicity. I cannot connect myself with any
man whose tastes and sympathies are not in
accordance with my own. My husband must
be my superior. Since both nature and the
laws give him the preeminence, I should be
ashamed if he did not really deserve it."

'^I suppose, then, you want a counselor for
your husband. But ladies are seldom happy
with these learned gentlemen. They have a
great deal of pride, and very little money."

'* Father," Jane earnestly replied, "I care
not about the profession. I wish only to marry
a man whom I can love."

" But you persist in thinking such a man
will never be found in trade. You will find it,
liowever, a very pleasant thing to sit at ease in
your own parlor while your husband is accum-
ulating a fortune. Now there is Madame
Dargens : she understands diamonds as well as
her husband. She can make good bargains in
his absence, and could carry on all his business


perfectly w*ll if she were left a widow. You
are intelligent. You perfectly understand that
branch of business since you studied the treat-
ise on precious stones. You might do what-
ever you please. You would have led a very
happy life if you could but have fancied De-
lorme, Dabrieul, or — ''

" Father," earnestly exclaimed Jane, ** I
have discovered that the only way to make a
fortune in trade is by selling dear that which
has been bought cheap ; by overcharging the
customer, and beating down the poor workman.
I could never descend to such practises ; nor
could I respect a man who made them his oc-
cupation from morning till night."

*' Do you then suppose that there are no
honest tradesmen ? "

** I presume that there are," was the reply ;
'* but the number is not large ; and among
them I am not likely to find a husband who
will sympathize with me."

" And what will you do if you do not find
the idol of your imagination ? "

"I will live single."

'^ Perhaps you will not find that as pleasant
as you imagine. You may think that there is
time enough yet. But weariness will come at
last. The crowd of lovers will soon pass away,
and you know the fable."

*^ Well, then, by meriting happiness, 1 will


take revenge upon the injustice which would
deprive me of it."

" Oh ! now you are in the clouds again, my /
child. It is very pleasant to soar to such a j
height, but it is not easy to keep the elevation.'' /

The judicious mother of Jane, anxious to
see her daughter settled in life, endeavored to
form a match for her with a young physician.
Much maneuvering was necessary to bring
about the desired result. The young practi-
tioner was nothing loth to lend his aid. The
pecuniary arrangements were all made, and
the bargain completed, before Jane knew any-
thing of the matter. The mother and
daughter went out one morning to make a call
upon a friend, at whose house the prospective
husband of Jane, by previous appointment,
was accidentally to be. It was a curious inter-
view. The friends so overacted their part,
that Jane, immediately saw through the plot.
Her mother was pensive and anxious. Her
friends were voluble, and prodigal of sly in-
timations. The young gentleman was very
lavish of his powers of pleasing, loaded Jane
with flippant compliments, devoured confec-
tionery with high relish, and chattered most
flippantly in the most approved style of fashion-
able inanition. The high-spirited girl had no
idea of being thus disposed of in the matri-
monial bazaar. The profession of the doctor


was pleasing to her, as it promised an enlight-
ened mind, and she was willing to consent to
make his acquaintance. Her mother urged
her to decide at once.

''What, mother ! " she exclaimed, '' would
you have me take one for my husband upon
the strength of a single interview ? "

" It is not exactly so/' she replied. '' This
young gentleman's intimacy with our friends
enables us to judge of his conduct and way of
life. We know his disposition. These are the
main points. You have attained the proper
age to be settled in the world. You have
refused many offers from tradesmen, and it is
from that class alone that you are likely to re-
ceive addresses. You seem fully resolved
never to marry a man in business. You may
never have another such offer. The present
match is very eligible in every external point
of view. Beware how you reject it too light-


Jane, thus urged, consented to see the young
physician at her father's house, that she might
become acquainted with him. She, however,
determined that no earthly power should in-
duce her to marry him, unless she found in
him a congenial spirit. Fortunately, she was
saved all further trouble in the matter by a
dispute which arose between her lover and her
father respecting the pecuniary arrangements.

54 MadAmE iiOLAiTt).

and which broke oS all further connection be-
tween the parties.

Her mother's health now began rapidly to
decline. A stroke of palsy deprived her of her
accustomed elasticity of spirits, and secluding
herself from society, she became silent and
sad. In view of approaching death, she often
lamented that she could not see her daughter
well married before she left the world. An
offer which Jane received from a very honest,
industrious, and thrifty jeweler, aroused anew
a mother's maternal solicitude.

" Why," she exclaimed, with melancholy
earnestness, '^ will you reject this young man ?
He has an amiable disposition, and high repu-
tation for integrity and sobriety. He is al-
ready in easy circumstances, and is in a fair
way of soon acquiring a brilliant fortune. He
knows that you have a superior mind. He
professes great esteem for you, and will be
proud of following your advice. You might
lead him in any way you like."

" But, my d'ear mother, I do not want a
husband who is to be led. He would be too
cumbersome a child for me to take care of."

" Do you know that you are a very whimsical
girl, my child ? And how do you think you
would like a husband who was your master and
tyrant ? "

*' I certainly," Jane replied, ^'should not


like a man who assumed airs of authority, for
that would only provoke me to resist. But I
am sure that I could never love a husband
whom it was necessary for me to govern. I
should be ashamed of my own power."

" I understand you, Jane. You would like
to have a man think himself the master, while
he obeyed you in every particular."

*' No, mother, it is not that either. I hate
servitude ; but empire would only embarrass
me. I wish to gain the affections of a man
who would make his happiness consist in con-
tributing to mine, as his good sense and regard
for me should dictate."

" But, my daughter, there would be hardly
such a thing in the world as a happy couple, if
happiness could not exist without that perfect
congeniality of taste and opinions which you
imagine to be so necessary."

** I do not know, mother, of a single, person
whose happiness I envy."

**Very well, but among those matches
which you do not envy, there may be some far
preferable to remaining always single. I may
be called out of the world sooner than you
imagine. Your father is still young. I can-
not tell you all the disagreeable things my
fondness for you makes me fear. I should be
indeed happy, could I see you united to some
worthy man before I die."


This was the first time that the idea of her
mother's death ever seriously entered the mind
of Jane. With an eager gaze, she fixed her
eye upon her pale and wasted cheek and her
emaciate frame, and the dreadful truth, with
the suddenness of a revelation, burst upon her.
Her whole frame shook with emotion, and she
burst into a flood of tears. Her mother, much
moved, tried to console her.

" Do not be alarmed, my dear child," said
she, tenderly. *^I am not dangerously ill.
But in forming our plans, we should take into
consideration all chances. A worthy man
offers you his hand. You have now attained
your twentieth year. You cannot expect as
many suitors as you have had for the last five
years. I may be suddenly taken from you.
Do not, then, reject a husband who, it is true,
has not all the refinement you could desire,
but who will love you, and with whom you can
be happy."

'^ Yes, my dear mother," exclaimed Jane,
with a deep and impassioned sigh, '*as happy
as you have been.

The expression escaped her in the excite-
ment of the moment. Never before had she
ventured in the remotest way to allude to the
total want of congeniality which she could not
but perceive existed between her father and
her mother. Indeed her mother's character


for patience and placid submission was so re-
markable, that Jane did not know how deeply
she had suffered, nor what a life of martyrdom
she was leading. The effect of Jane's unpre-
meditated remark opened her eyes to the sad
reality. Her mother was greatly disconcerted.
Her cheek changed color. Her lip trembled.
She made no reply. She never again opened
her lips upon the subject of the marriage of
her child.

The father of Jane, with no religious belief
to control his passions or guide his conduct,
was gradually falling into those habits of dis-
sipation to which he was peculiarly exposed by
the character of the times. He neglected his
business. He formed disreputable acquaint-
ances. He became irritable and domineer-
ing over his wife, and was often absent from
home, with convivial clubs, until a late hour of
the night. Neither mother nor daughter ever
uttered one word to each other in reference to
the failings of the husband and father. Jane,
however, had so powerful an influence over him,
that she often, by her persuasive skill, averted
the storm which was about to descend upon
her meek and unresisting parent.

The poor mother, in silence and sorrow, was
sinking to the tomb far more rapidly than Jane
imagined. One summer's day, the father,
mother, and daughter took a short excursion


into the country. The day was warm and
beautiful. In a little boat they glided over the
pleasant waters of the Seine, feasting their
eyes with the beauties of nature and art which
fringed the shores. The pale cheek of the
dying wife became flushed with animation as
she once again breathed the invigorating air
of the country, and the daughter beguiled her
fears with the delusive hope that it was the
flush of returning health. When they reached
their home, Madame Phlippon, fatigued with
the excursion, retired to her chamber for rest.
Jane, accompanied by her maid, went to the
convent to call upon her old friends the nuns.
She made a very short call.

"Why are you in such haste ?" inquired
Sister Agatha.

** I am anxious to return to my mother."
** But you told me that she was better."
'^ She is much better than usual. But I have
a strange feeling of solicitude about her. I
shall not feel easy until I see her again."

She hurried home and was met at the door by
a little girl, who informed her that her mother
was very dangerously ill. She flew to the
room, and found her almost lifeless. Another
stroke of paralysis had done its work, and she
was dying. She raised her languid eyes to her
child, but her palsied tongue could speak no
word of tenderness. One arm only obeyed the


impulse of her will. She raised it, and affec-
tionately patted the cheek of her beloved
daughter, and wiped the tears which were
flowing down her cheeks. The priest came to
administer the last consolations of religion.
Jane, with her eyes riveted upon her dying
parent, endeavored to hold the light. Over-
powered with anguish, the light suddenly
dropped from her hand, and she fell senseless
upon the floor. AYhen she recovered from this
swoon her mother was dead.

Jane was entirely overwhelmed with uncon-
trollable and delirious sorrow. For many days
it was apprehended that her own life would
fc*lLa sacrifice to the blow which her affections
had received. Instead of being a support to
the family in this hour of trial, she added to
the burden and the care. The Abb6 Legrand,
who stood by her bedside as her whole frame
was shaken by convulsions, very sensibly re-
marked, ** It is a good thing to possess sensi-
bility. It is very unfortunate to have so
much of it." Gradually Jane regained com-
posure, but life, to her, was darkened. She
now began to realize all those evils which her
fond mother had apprehended. Speaking of
her departed parent, she says, ^' The world
never contained a better or a more amiable
woman. There was nothing brilliant in her
character, but she possessed every quality to

5- Roland


endear her to all by whom she was known.
Naturally endowed with the sweetest disposi-
tion, virtue seemed never to cost her any
effort. Her pure and tranquil spirit pursued
its even course like the docile stream that
bathes with equal gentleness, the foot of the
rock which holds it captive, and the valley
which it at once enriches and adorns. With
her death was concluded the tranquillity of my
youth, which till then was passed in the enjoy-
ment of blissful affections and beloved occupa-

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Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Mme. Roland → online text (page 3 of 15)