Laure Junot Abrantès.

Memoirs of Madame Junot (Duchesse D'Abrantès) (Volume 3) online

. (page 3 of 24)
Online LibraryLaure Junot AbrantèsMemoirs of Madame Junot (Duchesse D'Abrantès) (Volume 3) → online text (page 3 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

seen his smile or frown would have struck me mute.

The result of this fine story is that I played the last
scene like a true maniac. But, owing to those unlucky
boots, I forgot the Turkish sabre and its sharpness, and
when at the conclusion Agatha flourishes it about the
ears of Albert, and then suddenly falls into a swoon, the
point of the unfortunate Damascus penetrated my white
slipper and made a deep cut in my foot, of which I
still bear the scar.

But let me ask, Was any one ever seen to enter a the-
atre in the dress of a dragoon officer and in white satin
slippers ?

The First Consul was for six months unmerciful upon
those unlucky white slippers. I verily think he would


have dragged them into a discussion even upon the bull

I now remember it was the same day that, the conver-
sation turning at table on the pleasure of acting in the
country, the First Consul said to Cambac^r^s, who ex-
pressed his participation in it: " That this pleasure could
consist only in hearsay, for he surely had never taken
part in a comedy. " Cambacdrfes seemed piqued, and
replied in an accent really amusing when contrasted with
his melancholy and severe countenance :

" And why. Citizen First Consul, do you think that I
have not gaiety enough to act in comedy ? " " Eeally,
Citizen Cambacdr^s, " replied Napoleon, " I think you
have no gaiety at all. "

" Well, I have very often acted in comedy, neverthe-
less, not only at Montpellier, but at B^ziers, at the house
of an old family friend, where for six months in the
year the theatre was in activity, and one of the parts in
which I was eminently successful was that of Eenaud
d'Aste. "

" And did you sing ? " cried Madame Bonaparte, and
all the party laughed, but Cambacdrfes, no way discon-
certed by our hilarity, continued : " And as all characters
suited me alike, I played equally well Le Montauciel in
The Deserter. " This time the laugh was universal. But
Cambac^r^s was not easily turned from an agreeable sub-
ject, and having once entered on the history of his scenic
adventure, the petty jealousies and intrigues of his com-
pany, there was no stopping him under half an hour;
the rather, as Napoleon, his elbow on the table, listened
with an attention which did not surprise me, because I
had observed the interest with which he would attend
to our reports of the thousand little incidents that arise
during the rehearsal of a play.

The First Consul should have been seen in his func-


tions of stage manager to be known under an aspect
entirely different from all his portraits. " The First
Consul at Malmaison, the First Consul at St. Cloud,
and the First Consul at the Tuileries, " said Mr, Fox to
me, " are three men forming together the heau ideal of
human greatness; but I could wish to be a painter,"
added he, " to take his portrait under these different
characters, because I should have three resemblances of
the same face with three different aspects. "

The statesman was right; I had remarked it before
him, and was pleased at hearing my own idea so strik-
ingly expressed by the man whom, of all Englishmen, I
at that time most highly appreciated. It was perfectly
true, and Bonaparte at Malmaison was admirable in
extreme simplicity.

One of our best actors was Isabey, perhaps the very
best, Queen Hortense excepted. He, however, ceased to
form often a member of our corjps comique rather than
dramatique, for reasons which were but imperfectly

One day the First Consul, on dismounting from his
horse, and traversing the gallery adjoining the centre
salon at Malmaison, stopped to examine a portfolio of
engravings which had been placed upon a table at the
park end of the gallery. Isabey is said to have entered
a moment after him from the theatre, and by the opposite
door at the end next the court. The First Consul was
then slim, and wore the uniform of the guides or horse
chasseurs of the Guard, — that beloved uniform, the very
sight of which makes the heart beat. Eugene Beauhar-
nais, as I have before observed, was colonel of that fine

Isabey, who had not heard the First Consul return from
his ride, seeing a small slender figure at the end of the
gallery, dressed in the uniform of the chasseurs, and


observing the two epaulettes, supposed it to be Eugfene,
with whom he was extremely intimate, and determined
to take him by surprise. Dexterous, light, active, and
supple as a cat in his movements, he advanced softly,
without the slightest sound, to within a short distance,
then, taking a spring, leaped at one bound upon the First
Consul and alighted on his neck. Napoleon imagined the
house was falling, or that the old gcntlc7nan was come to
strangle him. Eising up, he disengaged himself by
main force from his new-fashioned collar, and threw
poor Isabey in his turn upon the ground, and, present-
ing to his dismayed view a countenance for which he was
certainly little prej^ared, demanded in a severe tone : —

" What is the meaning of this buffoonery ? "

" I thought it was Eugene, " stammered out the luck-
less youth.

" And suppose it was Eugene, " replied the First Consul,
" must you needs break his shoulder-blades ? " And he
walked out of the gallery.

This story was soon bruited about. The First Consul
had too much tact not to perceive that his was the ridi-
culous share of the adventure ; Isabey understood it to
the full as well, and both would willingly have kept the
secret. But whether the one in the first moment of his
panic related the whole to Eugene himself, or the other
in his resentment could not withhold it from Madame
Bonaparte, the affair got wind. I know that a short time
afterwards its truth was denied. At all events, if it
caused the departure of Isabey and his loss to our com-
pany, I must call it an act of useless injustice.

General Lallemand, at that time aide-de-camp to my
husband, was also' one of our best actors. I have seen
but few good comedians, and of those very few indeed
were his equals. His talent was natural, but had been
improved by the instructions of Michau, from whom he


imbibed a portion of that ease and humour which was
the principal charm of Michau's own acting.

This excellent man once said to me, " It is always
useful to make people laugh, " and in illustration of this
truth related an anecdote of himself. Passing once
quietly along the streets, he encountered one of those
disorderly mobs that were in the habit of parading Paris
in those happy days when the lamp-posts served for
hanging up our gallant citizens ; they would have made
him join their march, but he resisted, and demanded in
the name of that liberty, whose scarlet ensign was as
usual conspicuous in the foremost group, that he should
be suffered to continue his route in pursuance of his own
affairs. The discussion was brief, the lamp was shattered,
and poor Michau, already stripped of his coat, was on the
point of being hoisted in its place, when a fat fellow,
with his plump arms bare, and a red and jolly face,
rushed into the midst of the banditti and snatched
Michau from their grasp, exclaiming:

"What are you about, simpletons? don't you know
'Punch of the BepuUique'?" The Comedie Frangaise
was at that time called the Theatre de la Repiiblique.

And thanks to his title of "Punch," with which his
deliverer, the butcher's boy, had invested him, Michau
found himself at liberty, and accepted the apologies
which two hundred rascals offered for their design of
hanging him, as coolly as if they had simply trodden
on his toes!


A SERIES of victories of the French arms had at length
determined Austria to conclude a treaty of peace ; it was
signed at Luneville by Count Louis von Cobentzel for
the Emperor and Germanic Confederation on the one part,
and by Joseph Bonaparte in the name of the French
Republic, which might still call itself One, and more than
ever Indivisible.

All who had been concerned in the Congress came to
Paris to share in the magnificent fetes which the First
Consul commanded, that the people might have an oppor-
tunity of testifying their joy ; and that a free circulation
of money might revive commerce, and give work to that
multitude of individuals who, to the number of a hundred
thousand, exist in Paris by the labour of their hands, — a
labour which, though chiefly devoted to objects of luxury,
produces those commodities which the higher classes,
especially in seasons of festivity, can no more do without
than the lower can subsist without bread. The fetes given
by the Government were a signal not only to Paris, but to
the whole of France, for balls, dinners, and social assem-
blages of every kind. Hence commenced in Paris, at this
period, life and gaiety, which ceased not to animate it till
the change introduced in 1814. Each succeeding day
brought ten invitations for the evening.

The almost Oriental luxury which the Emperor after-
wards introduced into his Court was not then known.
Madame Bonaparte, who possessed in the highest perfec-


tion the art of dressing, set the example of extreme ele-
gance. No sight could be more charming than a ball at
Malmaison, composed of the numerous ladies connected
with the Military Household which the First Consul had
just formed, and who constituted, without having yet re-
ceived the name, the Court of Madame Bonaparte.

All were young, many were pretty, and 1 know but one
ugly enough to merit the epithet. When this beautiful
group was attired in robes of white crape trimmed with
flowers, and their hair ornamented with garlands as fresh
as the complexion of their merry faces, smiling with hap-
piness and good-humour, it was a charming and striking
spectacle to see the animated dance which derived its zest
from their gaiety in the same room in which the First
Consul and the most eminent persons in Europe were
promenading. These assemblies required a continual re-
newal of dress, and the first year of the Consulate saw
the revival of that trade in the manufacturing towns of
France, which again became an honour to the country.
The Government officers, no doubt, made smaller accum-
ulations, or laid out less money on estates ; but shop-
keepers sold their goods, domestics procured places, and
workmen got into employment through the medium of
from eiuht to ten thousand balls and five or six thousand
dinners, which were given in the course of the winter at
Paris. It followed that the silk mercers sold a million
yards of satin or velvet, crape and tulle in proportion, the
shoemakers manufactured their shoes, the artificial florist
was called to assist at the toilet with his flowers, the
hairdresser and dressmaker with their industry, and the
perfumer with his gloves, fans, and essences.

The higher classes of trade were equally indispensable ;
the jeweller, the goldsmith, the glass and porcelain manu-
facturer, the upholsterer, the cabinet-maker, all flourished ;
the money passed through their hands into those of their


workpeople, and the immense population of this great
town were all employed and all happy, because the
superior classes received company, and expended their
incomes in an honourable manner.

I have known the people of the Faubourgs at this
period, when to be peaceful they asked only to be em-
ployed, and work was furnished to tliem in abundance.
More virtues or more noble sentiments will nowhere be
found than among the working classes of Paris. Never
did they rise into tumult through the whole course of the
lievolution except when driven into violence by misery
and hvmger. Hunger ! the most imperious of wants !
that which blinds the eye and deafens the ear to all other
considerations and ripens the fruits sown by an improvi-
dent Government, — despair and revolt.

But at the epoch ^ of which I am writing things were
not so ; all prospered. The Peace of Luneville, which
secured to France the Ehine as the limit, had been signed.
The concessions stipulated at Campo-Formio between
General P)onaparte and Count Louis von Cobentzel were
confirmed ; these concessions were the Duchies of Milan,
of Mantua and Modena, together with the Ionian Islands,
to be added to the Cisalpine Republic. All was glory
shed upon France by the First Consul, and sensibly felt
I)y a grateful nation.

All this was not, however, conceded without much hesi-
tation on the part of the Austrians ; it was the necessity
of retreating on all sides before our cannon which first
induced Austria to treat without the consent of England,
notwithstanding her recent engagement to the contrary.
This was a great victory gained over English gold. But
Joseph Bonaparte, after having given some grand dinners
at Paris to the Count von Cobentzel, in which department
we had given him all the assistance in our power, was

. 1 The 9th of February, 1801.


obliged to maintain against him at Luneville many long
and warm discussions upon every point to be surrendered,
for, alas ! we were unreasonable, and asked, the plenipo-
tentiary thought, too much. Happily for the success of
Joseph's negotiations, he received, just at the critical mo-
ment, a courier from General Brune, bringing a copy of a
despatch to the First Consul, announcing a victory in the
true Republican style of conciseness : —

*' Citizen First Consul,

" I have the honour to inform you that I crossed the Adige
yesterday, 1st of January, immediately above Verona ; which
puts me into a position to announce to you very shortly the
occupation of that town.

" I salute you with respect,

" Brune."

Accordingly, on the 3rd of January Verona was oc-
cupied by our troops, as well as Vicenza some days after-
wards, and the Breuta was then crossed. In fact, the
army was now on the march, and with sufficient rapidity
to form a junction with Moreau, who, on his part, en-
camped at the distance of twenty-five leagues from
Vienna, had concluded an armistice with the Archduke
Charles, a good prince, an honest man, and a great captain,^
but often unfortunate. M. de Bellegarde, who was so too
(that is, unfortunate ; for the rest I am not competent
to speak), took the same method to obtain some quiet

An armistice was concluded between him and General
Brune, and three weeks after the glorious Treaty of
Luneville was signed, which wholly restored Marshal
Bellegarde's repose, and I may add en 'passant that of
some other Austrian Generals-in-Chief, who had had
enough of this war. The Prince Charles was the only

1 Who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Aspern.


one of them whose noble conduct, even under every
reverse, was wortliy of his exalted birth and great soul,
I more than esteem the character of this Prince, and
believe I know it as well as a personage of his rank can
be known without the advantage of personal access.

Brune, who gave so fortunate an impetus to the diplo-
macy of Luneville, was born at Brives, and, like all na-
tives of the South, was ardent, active, fond of literature,
poetry, and the fine arts ; he possessed a large share of
information, betook himself to composition, and, to facili-
tate the publication of his works, became a printer.
When the Eevolution opened Brune was young ; his
head and heart confessed but one idea, — glory and his
country. He soon cast away his pen, ink, and paper,
and took up sword and gun to enter one of those batta-
lions of heroes which France produced by thousands in
those radiant days of glory and liberty, and which were
formed without the necessity of beating to arms. His
battalion of the Seine and Oise was commanded by Gen-
eral Lapoype.

None of our Marshals have been so misrepresented as
Brune. He was not one of Moreau's Generals, as it was
the fashion to denominate those who had served in the
Army of the Ehine. Had the restored Princes believed
him so, they would surely have protected him from the
popular fury, as senseless as all the accusations which
have been advanced against him ; but Brune did not
belong to the Army of the Ehine, neither was he in Paris
in the autumn of 1792.

Those, therefore, who accuse him of participating in
the horrible saturnalia of the Septembrisers, to which,
had he been at Paris, he would neither in heart, word,
nor jest have assented, should, before staining his life
with a falsehood, in order to palliate the horror of his
death, have ascertained whether in physical possibility


he could have committed the atrocious crime with which
he is charged, and of which an alibi of several hundred
leagues is, I apprehend, a sufficient refutation. Brune
was not at Paris in September, 1792, but at Eadmack.

Brune advanced rapidly to an elevated rank in the
army ; he had courage and agreeable address, a union
always tending to success, but at this period insuring it.
The cannon made gaps in the ranks with a frightful
rapidity, and so caused rapid promotion for those who
obtained the notice of their chiefs, though it might be
only to advance them more certainly to the honours of a
soldier's grave. The cradle of Brune's glory was the
Army of Italy, then under the command of Kellerman
and Brunet.

It is remarkable that notwithstanding the activity of
Brune's military life and a renown well earned before
General Bonaparte's accession to the command of the
Army of Italy in 1795, he is scarcely mentioned in the
journals of the time ; the Moniteur, for example, notices
him only in 1797. Brune, however, largely contributed
his portion of the glory to the three brilliant days pre-
ceding and following the battle of Rivoli, which decided
the fate of Italy. He was soon after made Commander-
in-Chief of the army in Helvetia ; laid siege to Berne,
and by its surrender compelled the submission of all
Switzerland. From thence he was transferred to the
Texel, to oppose the landing of the Anglo-Russian army
under the command of the Duke of York, which might
have been a fatal event for France, while at the same
moment Mass^na was sinking in Switzerland under the
superior force of the enemy.

The road to Paris was open to the enemy, and Brune,
with 20,000 men, whom the Directory kept in a state of
inefficient provision, was to check the advance of an
Anglo-Russian army which had been disembarked at


Alkmaar, and was joined by a Dutch force of 18,000
men. The Duke of York was entirely beaten at Bergen-
op-Zoom, which led to the capitulation of his whole army
at Alkmaar ; and Mass^na at the same time gained the
battle of Zurich — two victories which saved France, as
Marshal Villars had saved her at Denain.

Peace now gave a momentary security to our frontier,
and the overthrow of the Directory opened a prospect of
good government for France ; the First Consul's anxious
care was directed to the re-establishment of order in
those fine provinces so long desolated by internal con-
flicts, and he sent Brune into the "West, where General
Hedouville had already prepared a convention, which
was signed almost immediately after, and secured the
submission and tranquillity of both sides of the Loire.
At this period the First Consul appointed Brune to the
command of the Army of Italy, which brings us to the
point whence we set out.

It was in the month of November, 1800, that Macdon-
ald at the head of the Army of the Grisons, comprehend-
ing the importance of his junction with Brune, penetrated
into the A^alteline by the passage of the Splugen, one of
the most elevated summits of the Alps, and, braving tem-
pests and avalanches, succeeded in his prodigious efforts
by the most unprecedented display of courage and in-
dustry. But to the Chief of the Staff of this army, Gen-
eral Mathieu Dumas, is to be attributed, perhaps almost
even more than to Macdonald himself, this triumph over
the elements and Nature ; all the resources which pa-
tience, vigilance, activity, and philanthropy could supply
to the warrior, he provided, in forestalling his wants and
protecting him from other dangers than those of the
sword and the cannon.^

1 See Memoirs of General Count Mathieu Dumas (English edition),
vol. ii., p. 162. (London; Bentley, 1839.)


Brune, meanwhile, was attempting the passage of the
Mincio, in face of the fine army of Marshal Belle-
garde ; the Battle of Pozzolo, in which Suchet, unsup-
ported, sustained for many hours tlie whole weight
of the enemy's forces, and which was finally decided
by an admirable charge of cavalry, under Davoiit, en-
abled him, on the 25th, 26th, and 27th of December,
1800, to effect his purpose, and nearly destroy the
Austrian army. Its ultimate important influence upon
the conditions of the Peace of Luneville has been
already detailed.

Brune now returned to France, retired to his estate
of Saint Just, in Champagne, did good in his neighbour-
hood and amused himself with literature. In 1804
he was one of the sixteen Marshals w^iom Bonaparte
appointed on the establishment of the Empire. In
1807 Brune was ordered with a corps d'armcc into
Swedish Pomerania; he took Stralsund and the Isle
of Ptugen, and forced the Swedish army to retire. His
interview with the King of Sweden during the siege
of Stralsund, the particulars of which, as published
by Gustavus, Brune denied to be correct, caused Na-
poleon's high displeasure ; he continued for many years
in disgrace, and the name of the conqueror of Bergen
and the pacificator of the East was, during this period,
never pronounced.

On Napoleon's return, however, in March, 1815, Mar-
shal Brune was drawn from his retirement and accepted
a post of great confidence and delicacy, — the command
of the Eighth Military Division, which committed the
peace of the South to his keeping. The restoration of
Louis XVIII. and his re-entry into Paris found Brune at
his post ; he went to Toulon himself to restore the white
flag there, lest its reappearance should be the signal for
popular tumult, and w^as afterwards summoned to Paris.


Tt was on his way thither, at Avignon, that he met with
the dreadful death which has stained the era to which
it belongs with indelible infamy. Many particulars of it
I received from an eye-witness.

Marshal Brune on reaching Avignon was warned that
much agitation prevailed in the town, and that it was
particularly directed against him ; he was strongly recom-
mended to avoid passing through ; but turning a deaf
ear to all advice, he commanded his postilions to drive
to the post-house ; here an armed mob of 800 men,
calling themselves Eoyalists, besieged him in a room to
which they had driven him for refuge ; the Mayor, the
Prefect, and a few gens-d' armes succeeded in protecting him
during four hours from their infuriated attacks, while
3,000 citizens looked with apathy upon the atrocious
scene, without affording the smallest assistance. The
gallant resistance of the police was at length overpowered,
and under the stupid pretence that the Marshal had
been the murderer of the Princesse de Lamballe, — a vile
slander generally circulated, and which I have already
refuted,^ in proving that he was not at Paris when that
tragedy was performed, — he was put to death by the
mob in the most barbarous manner ; his lacerated corpse,
after being dragged through the mud, was thrown into
the Khone ; and the river refusing to contain it, it lay
two days unburied upon the strand, whither the waves
had cast it.^

1 Page 229.

2 A curious incident, which occurred eighteen years previously, closely
connected with the tragical event, took place in Italy in the year 1797.
General Massena was called to Milan by General Bonaparte, then com-
manding in chief, to assist at some national festival. The command of
Massena's division then devolved on Brune, who celebrated the same/e^e
at Padua. A banquet was given at which much patriotic poetry was read
and sung. General Brune, who was wedded to literature, and fond of
poetry, heard some stanzas of a song, the sentiment of which pleased him.


Junot was necessarily acquainted with many facts and
events, because the military Commandant of a great city
receives a daily report as to its order or condition, and
this opened to him an infinity of doors of observation,
into which sometimes he would not even look. Fre-

Online LibraryLaure Junot AbrantèsMemoirs of Madame Junot (Duchesse D'Abrantès) (Volume 3) → online text (page 3 of 24)