Laure Junot Abrantès.

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

. (page 8 of 24)
Online LibraryLaure Junot AbrantèsMemoirs of Madame Junot (Duchesse D'Abrantès) (Volume 3) → online text (page 8 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

tions. I told him to put them all into the fire ; at first
he was not disposed to do so, because he preferred read-
ing them. A hundred newspapers a day, as you know,
would not satisfy his ravenous appetite for politics ; but
this abominable packet contained no newspapers, and
the whole was committed to the flames."

Junot kissed my mother's hands, saying, "How I
admire you for being so sensible ! " My mother looked
at him with a sweet smile. " It is not on your own
account that you thank me, my son," said she, " but on
Bonaparte's. Why should you be surprised that I could
destroy attacks upon his reputation, and especially such
as are absolutely false ? — the little I saw of those libels
certaialy was so. If you think I cherish an unjust aver-
sion to General Bonaparte you are very much mistaken.
I do not entertain for him that admiration which trans-
ports into regions where no one can follow; but I
consider him great, and even good, only his own interests
lead him to forget or neglect those of others. Why
should I not excuse that ? It is the common failing of
mankind. Well, he is as good as other men, but do not
tell me that he is more than man."


This had always been my mother's manner of speaking
of General Bonaparte since my marriage. Junot re-
turned home thoughtful, but rejoiced to be able to
relate to the First Consul my mother's war against the
pamphlets. He wished to see me before going to the
Tuileries, where he expected to find the First Consul in
Madame Bonaparte's apartments, as he spent every even-
ing there when they did not go into public. He re-
peated the anecdote to me, and I shared his surprise.
I thought the affair more and more strange ; but we had
not yet come to the end of it. While we continued dis-
cussing the evening slipped away, so that Junot could
not go to the Tuileries. The next day was devoted
to a parade, so that he was again obliged to postpone
his interview with the First Consul.

The evening of this day a courier arrived from Mar-
seilles, where my brother was stationed as one of the
three Commissaries-General of the Police of the Eepublic.
The courier brought us a letter from my brother, with
another packet of the same pamphlets and journals, the
whole written by the hand, but by way of variety some
of these were in the Frovcnqul dialect, worthy of the
days of the good King Ednd. It was added that the
pamphlets were sent by my mother, but through my
agency ; only they had the prudence to make me say :
" You will easily understand why I do not write to you

My brother, on whose good-nature they had relied
rather too much, at first took this present for a hoax, as
he could not for a moment believe it came from me.
Albert had never participated in my mother's resentment,
which he thought unjust, but was devotedly attached to
the First Consul I thought as he did; and without
blaming my mother, whom we adored and respected, we
did not exactly think with her respecting Napoleon,


But Albert knew my mother's noble heart, and was per-
fectly sure that she would not join in such a tissue of vile
abuse ; and my name introduced into the affair was suffi-
cient to convince him that it was all a deception.

He accordingly sent for one of the police officers whom
he could trust, and charged him to make all possible
research at Marseilles to discover who had transcribed the
pamphlets and who had delivered them. And judging
that my mother and myself might be compromised in
this mysterious business, his affection induced him, with-
out loss of time, to send a courier to Junot with the
whole atrocious baggage of pamphlets, journals, and let-
ters, several from me, but not written by me. Junot
read Albert's letter, and leapt for joy at the thought of
his triumph.

" I should not sleep to-night, " said he, " if I did not
see the First Consul ; and it is not yet too late to ask for
a moment's audience ; besides, the affair is not a little
complicated, and the First Consul must read Albert's
letter. "

I approved of his intention, and though it was nearly
eleven o'clock he proceeded to the Tuileries. The First
Consul, fatigued with the review of the morning, was
just going to bed, but Junot was admitted at once.
Napoleon made a remark upon the air of hilarity which
his countenance exhibited ; and Junot, without answer-
ing, put my brother's letter before him. He read it
rapidly, and seemed struck by it, for he directly read it
again, laid it upon the table, walked about the room,
then took the letter up, and ran through it again, rubbing
his forehead ; at last he suddenly stopped before Junot,
and said, " Can you give me your word of honour that
your mother-in-law is not concerned in all this ? "

" My mother-in-law ! " exclaimed Junot, and he related
to the First Consul the history of the burnt papers. As


he spoke, Napoleon became by degrees more attentive ;
then began to walk rapidly up and down the room, and
at last assvimed an angry frown. Junot could not under-
stand it. " If Madame Permon's opinion was not so well
known, " said he with bitterness, " she would not have
such presents made her. See if such have been sent to
Madame Gheneuc, or to the mother-in-law of any of my
other Generals. Madame Permon dislikes me — this is
know^l, and is the groundwork of the whole proceeding.
People who detest me meet in her drawing-room ; people
who, before my return from Egypt, were prisoners in the
Temple for their opinions — these are her friends. And
you, great blockhead ! you make them your friends also
. . . you make friends of my enemies ! "

Junot looked stupefied, staring at the First Consul. He
make friends of his General's enemies! He thought it
all a dream. " Of whom are you speaking. General ? "
said he at length. "Of M. d'Orsay, to be sure — he
whom they call the handsome D'Orsay. Was he not on
the point of being shot for a conspirator, and was he not
sent to the Temple ? Fouch^ told me the other day that
lie was a dangerous man. "

Junot smiled bitterly. " General, you have given me
to understand in two syllables to whom I am indebted
for all this, and I shall know how to thank him. I shall
begin by saying that Citizen Fouch^ has told you a false-
hood in asserting that Albert d'Orsay was a dangerous
man and a conspirator. He is the most loyal and honest
man living, of the highest honour ; and if, in returning
to France, he has given his word to be faithful to the
established Government, he will keep it. I should have
thought. General, that as Fouchd gave him the title of
my friend you would have held him worthy of your
esteem as a man of honour; for I could not give my
friendship to anyone who was not. But, General, you


should never have believed that an enemy of yours could
be my friend. " Junot passed his hand over his forehead,
which was dripping. Napoleon knew him too well not
to be conscious how much he suffered. He approached
him, and pressed his hand affectionately. Junot was

" Come ! don't be childish. I tell you I am not speak-
ing of you, my faithful friend. Have you not proved
your attachment when I was in fetters ? would you not
have followed me to prison ? " "I should have followed
you to the scaffold ! " cried Junot, striking his fist upon
the table. Napoleon laughed. " Well, don't you see,
then, that it is impossible for me to say anything that
should go to your heart and hurt you, Monsieur Junot ? "
And he pulled his ears, his nose, and his hair. Junot
drew back.

" Ah ! I have hurt you, " said Napoleon, approaching
him, and resting his little white hand upon Junot's light
hair, caressing him, as if he meant to pacify a child.
" Junot, " he continued, " do you remember being at
the Serbelloni Palace at Milan, when you had just re-
ceived a wound — just here — at this place ? " And the
small white hand gently touched the large cicatrice. " I
pulled away your hair, and my hand was full of your
blood. ..." The First Consul turned pale at the recol-
lection. And it is a remarkable circumstance that Napo-
leon spoke to me not less than ten times, in the course of
his reign, of this incident at Milan, and never without
starting and turning pale at the recollection of his blood-
stained hand.

" Yes, " he continued, with a movement as if to repress
a shudder — • " yes, I confess at that moment I felt that
there is a weakness inherent in human nature which is
only more exquisitely developed in the female constitu-
tion. I then understood that it was possible to faint.


I have not forgotten that moment, my friend ; and the
name of Junot can never be mingled in my mind with
even the appearance of perfidy. Your head is too hot, too
heedless, but you are a loyal and brave fellow. You,
Lannes, Marmont, Duroc, Berthier, Bessi^res. " At each
name Napoleon took a pinch of snuff and a turn in the
room, sometimes making a pause and smiling as the
name recalled any proof of attachment. " My son,
Eugene — yes, those are hearts which love me, which I
can depend upon. Lemarrois, too, is another faithful
friend. And that poor Eapp, he has been but a short
time with me, yet he pushes his affection even to an
extent that might give offence ; do you know he even
scolds me sometimes ? "

The First Consul, who had taken Junot's arm while
speaking, was leaning upon him as he walked; then,
standing near the window, he disengaged his arm, and,
resting it on my husband's shoulder, compelled him
almost to stoop as he leant upon him.

" How many of the persons now passing below this
window, " said Junot, smiling, " would give years of their
existence to be where I am now, close to you. General,
supporting that arm which can raise the world! Yes,
I believe there are many who would make great sacrifices
only to be able to say they had been so fortunate ; but in
all Paris there is not a heart as happy as mine is at this
moment. "

Napoleon disengaged his arm, looking at Junot with
that ineffable smile to which he owed his power of con-
quering with a single word, and said, " Well, my old
friend, we will say no more of this foolish affair of the
pamphlets — bui attend : what am I to think when I
know that you receive so many of my enemies ? That
your wife and your mother-in-law are intimately ac-
quainted with numerous persons who are my enemies,

Photo- Etching. — After Painting by Joubert,


who hate me and desire my fall ? nay, more, my death
— as they have proved. "

" But, General, give me leave to answer that among all
the persons you speak of there is not one who, even before
my wife's marriage, would have dared in her presence to
use an expression disrespectful to you. With respect to
my mother-in-law, I have frequently heard her speak of
you, General, but never in terms which could give me
pain. Madame Permon is too much attached to Madame
Bonaparte, to your mother, and to all your brothers. "
" Oh yes, Lucien especially, " interrupted the First Consul,
with a bitter smile. " Lucien is her favourite. She
thinks him a prodigy ; nevertheless; Madame Permon is
no Republican ! How do they contrive to agree on that
point ? "

" I have not twice heard my mother-in-law talk politics
since I have belonged to her family, " replied Junot.
" The subjects of conversation in her drawing-room are
literature and music, a thousand important nothings, the
affairs of society and fashion ; and it must be confessed
that the society of the old school understood the manage-
ment of such conversation better than we do; besides.
General, if you were aware of the present state of Madame
de Permon 's health you would not suspect a person pre-
paring for the grave to be amusing herself with such mis-
erable trifles. "

Here I ought to do full justice to Napoleon. "WTien
Junot was speaking thus of my mother he was some paces
distant from him ; he stepped hastily to him and pressed
his arm forcibly, saying : " Ah ! what do you say ? Is
Madame Permon very ill ? " " Dying, General ; all the
physicians we have called in agree upon her danger. "
" Corvisart must see her. " He rang the bell. " Send
someone immediately to tell Citizen Corvisart that I wish
to see him. Is it possible ! " said he, as he walked with


an agitated step — " is it possible that a woman so fresh
and beautiful only fifteen months ago can be so seriously
ill ? Poor Madame Permon ! Poor Madame Permon ! "

He sank into his arm-chair, put his two hands before
his eyes, and sat some time without speaking; then,
rising, he recommenced that rapid promenade which was
his usual habit wdien strongly affected. "Desgenettes
and Ivan must also be sent to her ; it is impossible that
the faculty should be unable to save a person so lately as
healthy and fresh as a rose. " " General, " replied Junot,
" Madame Permon 's malady is of a deplorable nature in
the history of the healing art ; she will sink in defiance
of medical aid. " And hereupon he repeated Baude-
locque's answer to him, when Junot, fearing for my
mother's life, asked his opinion : " General, he who could
cure such a complaint as Madame Permon 's might boast
of performing as great a miracle as if he had restored a
decapitated man to life. "

Napoleon seemed quite overwhelmed in listening to
this sentence; but impressions, however strong, were
only transiently marked upon his countenance ; he soon
recovered himself, and was apparently quite calm when
Junot took leave of him.

My recent mention of my husband's wound recalls to
my memory a trivial circumstance connected with it,
which happened in Italy. This terrible wound, which
had nearly cost him an arm, kept him confined six weeks ;
notwithstanding M. Ivan's fraternal care of his patient
he was very long in recovering from its effects.

During the tedious hours that he lay upon a sofa,
dressed in a white wrapping-gown, he played the agree-
able, being really a handsome youth ; and, as his greatest
defect at that time was too high a colour, his complexion
was improved by his loss of blood. Madame Bonaparte
and Madame Leclerc were among the ladies who assisted


in dissipating, by their presence, the tedium of confine-
ment. One day, when they were making this visit of
charity, Junot was very much enfeebled, not only by the
effects of his wound, but of an abundant bleeding he had
undergone that morning; however, he collected all his
strength to receive his charming visitors, happy in hav-
ing beside his couch of suffering two of the most lovely
women in Milan. For if Madame Bonaparte could not
be compared in beauty to Madame Leclerc, she was very
handsome at that period, and the extreme elegance of her
manners and really fascinating gracefulness might well
be taken as a substitute for more regular beauty. Indeed,
if her teeth had been good I should have preferred her face
to that of the most celebrated beauty of her Court.

The pleasing conversation of two such women was no
doubt the best panacea for pain, and at first produced its
full effect. Junot was the happiest of men to be attended
by two such stxurs de la charite. Time, however, rolled
softly on, and with its lapse matters changed. Junot 's
heart began to sink, his sight to fail ; he became paler,
and at length his eyes closed. Madame Leclerc first
perceived his condition, and, standing up, cried out :
" Good heavens, Junot! what is the matter ? "

Junot had still strength enough left to extend towards
her the hand which lay upon his bosom, and instantly
Pauline's white gown was covered with blood. The
bandage round his arm had unfastened, and the blood,
confined within the thick sleeve of his wrapper, had
flowed gently and unperceived till his strength was nearly
exhausted ; but the effort of moving his arm in a moment
of surprise had caused it to spring forth in abundance,
and Junot fainted completely. On recovering he found
himself the object of the most anxious cares, tendered by
the prettiest hands in the world. Heldt, his Alsatian
valet, had replaced the bandage, and the ladies, after a

VOL. III. — 7


few moments, left the patient to repose, and the accident
had no other consequence than retarding his conva-

" But, " said I, when he related this little adventure to
me, " how was it that you did not feel that your arm was
bathed in blood ? " "I was aware of it, " he replied ;
" but could I desire these ladies to leave me ? " " No, but
you could have had the bandage replaced. " " That could
only be done in their presence when I was insensible ; in
any other case the thing was impossible. "

I looked at Junot with amazement, asking myself if he
had been educated by Yseulte with the white hands, or
the fair Guinevere, for none but a Tristan or a Launcelot
could have had such ideas; when suddenly the remem-
brance of a certain promenade on the Boulevards in the
year of grace 1795, when Junot was madly in love with
Paulette Bonaparte,^ crossed my mind, and the whole

was explained.

1 Pauline.


I HAVE dwelt at some length upon the libellous pam-
phlets, because it furnishes a good ground for the ex-
tremely false ideas which existed in foreign countries of
the interior condition of France, and especially of the
intercourse which General Bonaparte had with those who
surrounded him. It is an important circumstance of his
life, and the cause of the judgments passed upon him in
many countries where they did not take the trouble of
investigating the truth of what was advanced concerning
him. I believe the prejudices of distrust exaggerated the
good as much as the bad, for, amongst the strangers who
just now abounded in France, many entertained the most
ridiculous notions, both for and against Napoleon.

One believed that he drank a cup of coffee every hour ;
another, that he passed entire days in the bath ; a third,
that he took his dinner standing, and a thousand absurd-
ities each one more ridiculous than the other. It is
remarkable that the most extraordinary versions of these
absurdities came from England, and that the emigrants
who returned from thence had formed opinions totally
different from the reality. One whom I knew was per-
fectly astonished at seeing him, so entirely false was the
impression he had imbibed.

One of these pamphlets, badly composed, and in manu-
script, contained a most ridiculous scene, said to have
passed between Napoleon and General Lannes, of which
Madame Bonaparte was the subject. The whole is abso-


lutely false, but it is a curious fact that at a later period
a dispute really took place between Launes and Napo-
leon, in which Madame Bonaparte was concerned. At
the time of the affair of the military chest of the guards.
General Lannes, who really was not so much to blame
as was represented, learned that Madame Bonaparte had
been attempting to screen the guilty parties at his ex-
pense, and gave vent to his wrath against her in the
cabinet of the First Consul with a freedom which,' per-
haps, a friend should not have indulged in. He told
Napoleon that instead of listening to the gossiping of an
old woman he had much better take a young one. The
discussion was warm; keen, and even abusive, words
were not spared ; General Lannes forgot himself so far as
to speak in injurious terms of Madame Bonaparte, and
was really in a passion on that occasion. But he had
never before disputed with the First Consul; nor was
the thing easy.

It is the same with the familiarity with which Lannes
and others are said to have been in the habit of address-
ing him. I do not deny that some of these Generals
used the pronoun thou in speaking to him, though fully
persuaded of the contrary ; but for this I can answer, that
if such a habit ever existed it was disused after his re-
turn from Egypt. I never heard anyone hUoyer the First
Consul He did so by many of them, by Junot to the
last ; ^ it was only on ascending the throne that he ceased
to address them in this familiar style in public, and in
the cordial intercourse of private friendship which always
subsisted between him and Lannes, Junot, Berthier, and
two or three others, he continued to use the pronoun

1 [Accordingly, in all the conversations between Napoleon and Junot
in the French work, Napoleon always uses the pronoun thou, and Junot
you ; but as the French familiar style of tutoying would sound oddly to
an English ear, the difference could not be marked in the translation.
It is, in fact, using the language of the Quakers. — Editok.]


thou. But to say toi to General Bonaparte was quite
another thing, and I do not believe Lannes ever did so.

Already in Italy we find Bourrienne did so no longer;
Junot never did, nor did Berthier, who, with the army
in Italy, was surely sufficiently intimate with him — if
anyone could be. But after the campaigns of Italy and
Egypt Napoleon felt too strongly the necessity of being
obeyed, and of establishing around him that barrier of
respect which familiarity destroys, to permit such a
fashion of addressing him. In some Memoirs you might
imagine General Lannes extending his hand to Napoleon,
and accosting him with " Bon jour, comment te portes-tu? "
But certainly, if in his sleep or in a fit of absence he
had been guilty of such irregularity, the First Consul
would have known how to repress it by some such reply
as M. de Narbonne gave to the friend whom he had never
seen : " Very well, friend, but what is thy name ? " At
least, I can affirm that during the long period in which
I was \\itness of the intercourse of Napoleon with
General Lannes I never either heard or saw anything of
the kind.

In the time of the Consulate there was at Paris an
Abbe Bossu, who received the candidates for the Poly-
technic School. He was not the only examiner, but his
veto was strict ; he was a man of great learning and very
severe. The Polytechnic School, created at first under
the name of the Central School of Public Works, by
virtue of a decree of the Convention in Germinal of the
year iii. (21st March, 1795), after being disorganized by
the destructive system which ruined us, had been recon-
structed and put into activity by the First Consul in
Frimaire of the year viii. , immediately after his accession
to power. ^ The analysis of the mathematical sciences,

^ The First Consul did not found the Polytechnic School, as is stated
by many writers; he re-established it the 16th December, 1799, which


with their application to mechanism, geometry, etc. ; the
physical sciences, including chemistry and general
physics, formed the course of study pursued in the Poly-
technic School from its foundation. The most illustrious
names in knowledge and science were then at the head
of that battalion of young men whose youthful minds
were eager to become participators in the sublime acquire-
ments of their masters.^

The aide-de-camp on duty, one day crossing the court
of the mansion at Malmaison, found there a young man
of a pleasing countenance and good figure, well dressed,
and bearing the stamp of good birth and good education.
He was leaning against one of the (two) great sentry-
boxes which stood on the east side of the inner gate, look-
ing towards the house with an uneasy and melancholy
air, and apparently seeking someone whom he might
address. The aide-de-camp, M. de Lacuee, approached
him, and with his habitual politeness inquired if he
wanted anything there. The young man, starting from
his profound reverie, answered :

" Ah, sir ! I want what everyone tells me is impossi-
ble, and yet I shall die if I cannot obtain it : I want to
see the First Consul. At the door of the house I was
repulsed — I was asked if I had an appointment. Oh,
that I could have one ! I believe an appointment to
meet the most adorable mistress could not make my heart
beat so violently as would an appointment with General
Bonaparte. I must speak to him. "

may have given rise to the error. It was the Convention that organized
most of the fine institutions of this nature in France.

1 France owes much to such men as Monge, Berthollet, Vauquelin,
Fourcroy, Chaptal, ancl- Lagrange, so famous in literary and scientific
acquirements ; they are highly to be esteemed on account of their great

Online LibraryLaure Junot AbrantèsMemoirs of Madame Junot (Duchesse D'Abrantès) (Volume 3) → online text (page 8 of 24)