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cherries. Louise thanked her young lover with a hand-pressure for the
tender attention, but she declared that she would touch none of the
cherries unless Napoleon enjoyed them with her, and to please his
beloved he had to obey.

They sat down on the seat before the bower and enjoyed the golden light
of the moon, the night air amid the lime-trees, the joy of being thus
secretly together, and with infinite delight they ate of the sweet juicy
cherries. But when the last cherry was eaten, the moon became darkened,
a rude night breeze shook the trees, and made the young maid tremble
with cold. She must not remain from home any longer, she must not
expose herself to the dangerous night air; thus argued the considerate
tenderness of the young lieutenant, and, kissing her hand, he bade
farewell to Louise, and watched until the tender ethereal figure had
vanished behind the little door which led from the park into the house.
[Footnote: "Memorial de St. Helene," p. 30.]

The sweet idyl of his first love had, however, come to a sudden and
unexpected end. The young Second-Lieutenant Bonaparte was ordered to
Lyons with his regiment, and the first innocent romance of his heart was

But he never forgot the young maid, whom he then had so tenderly loved,
and in the later days of his grandeur he remembered her, and when he
learned that she had lost her husband, a M. de Bracieux, and lived in
very depressing circumstances, he appointed her maid of honor to his
sister Elise, and secured her a very handsome competency.

The dream of his first love had been dreamed away; and, perhaps
to forget it, Napoleon again in Lyons gave himself up with deepest
earnestness to study. The Academy of Sciences in Lyons had offered
a prize for the answer to the question: "What are the sentiments and
emotions which are to be instilled into men, so as to make them happy?"

Napoleon entered the lists for this prize, and, if his work did not
receive the prize, it furnished the occasion for the Abbe Raynal, who
had answered the question successfully, to become acquainted with
the young author, and to encourage him to persevere in his literary
pursuits, for which he had exhibited so much talent.

Napoleon then, with all the fire of his soul, began a new work, the
history of the revolutions in Corsica; and, in order to make accurate
researches in the archives of Ajaccio, he obtained leave of absence to
go thither. In the year 1788, Napoleon returned to his native isle to
his mother, to his brothers and sisters, all of whom he had not seen for
nine years, and was welcomed by them with the tenderest affection.

But the joys of the family could draw away the young man but little
from his studies and researches; and, however much he loved his mother,
brothers and sisters, now much grown up, yet he preferred being alone
with his elder brother Joseph, making long walks with him, and in solemn
exchange of thoughts and sentiments, communicating to him his studies,
his hopes, his dreams for the future.

To acquire distinction, fame, reputation with the actual world, and
immortality with the future - such was the object on which all the
wishes, all the hopes of Napoleon were concentrated; and in long hours
of conversation with Joseph he spoke of the lofty glory to carve out an
immortal name, to accomplish deeds before which admiring posterity would

Did Napoleon then think of purchasing for himself an immortal name as
writer, as historian? At least he studied very earnestly the archives of
Ajaccio, and sent a preliminary essay of his history of the revolutions
of Corsica to Raynal for examination. This renowned savant of his day
warmly congratulated the young author on his work, and asked him to send
a copy that he might show it to Mirabeau.

Napoleon complied with these wishes; and when, a few weeks after, he
received a letter from Raynal, after reading it, he, with radiant eyes
and a bright smile, handed it to his brother Joseph.

In this letter of Raynal were found these words: "Monsieur de Mirabeau
has in this little essay found traits which announce a genius of the
first rank. He entreats the young author to come to him in Paris."
[Footnote: "Memoires du Roi Joseph," vol. i., p. 33.]

But the young author could not at once obey the call of the Count de
Mirabeau. A sad family bereavement delayed him at the time in Corsica.
The brother of his grandfather, the aged Archdeacon Lucian, the faithful
counsellor and friend of Letitia and of her young family, was seized
with a mortal disease; the gout, which for years had tormented him, was
now to give him the fatal blow, and the whole family of the Bonapartes
was called to the bedside of the old man to receive his parting words.

Weeping, they all stood around his couch; weeping, Letitia bent over the
aged man, whose countenance was already signed with the hand of death.
Around kneeled the younger children of Letitia, for their great-uncle
had long been to them a kind father and protector; and on the other
side of the couch, facing Letitia and her brother, the Abbe Fesch, stood
Joseph and Napoleon, gazing with sad looks on their uncle.

His large, already obscured eyes wandered with a deep, searching glance
upon all the members of the Bonaparte family, and then at last remained
fixed with a wondrous brilliancy of expression on the pale, grave face
of Napoleon.

At this moment, the Abbe Fesch, with a voice trembling with emotion and
full of holy zeal, began to intone the prayers for the dead. But the old
priest ordered him with a voice full of impatience to be silent.

"I have prayed long enough in my life," said he; "I have now but a few
moments to live, and I must give them to my family."

The loud sobbings of Letitia and of her children interrupted him, and
called forth a last genial smile upon the already stiffening features.

"Letitia," said he, in a loud, friendly tone, "Letitia, cease to shed
tears; I die happy, for I see you surrounded by all your children. My
life is no longer necessary to the children of my dear Charles; I
can therefore die. Joseph is at the head of the administration of
the country, and he will know how to take care of what belongs to his
family. You, Napoleon," continued he, with a louder voice, "you will be
a great and exalted man." [Footnote: "Tu poi. Napoleon, serai unomone"
such were the words of the dying man, assures us King Joseph in his
memoirs; whilst Las Casas, in his memorial of St. Helena, makes Napoleon
relate that his uncle had told him, "You, Napoleon, will be the head of
the family."]

His eyes turned on Napoleon, he sank back on the cushions, and his dying
lips murmured yet once more, "Tu serai unomone!"

After the body of the worthy great-uncle had been laid in the grave,
Napoleon left Corsica to return to France and to his regiment, for the
time of his leave of absence had expired.

For the second time the lips of a dying man had prophesied him a great
and brilliant future. His dying father had said that one day the sword
of his son Napoleon would make all Europe bow under the yoke; his
great-uncle had prophesied he would be a great and exalted personage.

To these prophecies of the dying is to be added Mirabeau's judgment,
which called Napoleon a genius of the first stamp.

But this great and glorious future was yet screened under dark
clouds from the eyes of the young lieutenant of artillery, and the
blood-dripping hand of the Revolution was first needed to tear away
these clouds and to convert the king's lieutenant of artillery into the
Emperor of France!


The dark clouds which hung yet over the future of Napoleon Bonaparte,
the lieutenant of artillery, were gathering in heavier and heavier
masses over all France, and already were overshadowing the throne of the

Marie Antoinette had already abandoned the paradise of innocency in
Trianon, and when she came there now it was to weep in silence, to cast
away the mask from her face, and under the garb of the proud, imperious,
ambitious queen to exhibit the pallid, anxious countenance of the woman.

Alas! they were passed away, those days of festivity, those innocent
joys of Trianon; the royal farmer's wife had no more the heart to carry
the spindle, to gather eggs from the hens' nests, and to perform with
her friends the joyous idyls of a pastoral life.

The queen had procured for herself a few years of freedom and license by
banishing from Versailles and from the Tuileries the burdensome Madame
Etiquette, who hitherto had watched over every step of a Queen of
France, but in her place Madame Politique had entered into the palace,
and Marie Antoinette could not drive her away as she had done with
Madame Etiquette.

For Madame Politique came into the queen's apartments, ushered in by a
powerful and irresistible suite. The failure of the crops throughout
the land, want, the cries of distress from a famishing people, the
disordered finances of the state - such was the suite which accompanied
Politique before the queen; pamphlets, pasquinades, sarcastic songs
on Marie Antoinette, whom no more the people called their queen,
but already the foreigner, L'Autrichienne - such were the gifts which
Politique brought for the queen.

The beautiful and innocent days of Trianon were gone, no longer could
Marie Antoinette forget that she was a queen! The burden of her lofty
position pressed upon her always; and, if now and then she sought to
adorn her head with roses, her crown pressed their thorns with deeper
pain into her brow.

Unfortunate queen! Even the circle of friends she had gathered round her
person only urged her on more and more into the circle which politics
had traced around her. In her innocency and thoughtlessness of heart she
imagined that, to a queen as to any other woman, it might be allowed
to have about her friends and confidants, to enjoy the pleasures of
society, and to amuse one another! But now she had to learn that a queen
dare not have confidants, friends, or social circles!

Her friends, in whose disinterestedness she had trusted, approached
her with demands, with prayers; they claimed power, influence, and
distinctions; they all wanted to rule through the queen; they all wanted
through her to impose laws to king and state; they wanted to name and
to depose ministers; they wanted their friendship to be rewarded with
embassies, ministerial offices, decorations, and titles.

And when Marie Antoinette refused compliance with their wishes, her
beautiful friends, the Duchesses de Polignac, wept, and her friends,
Messieurs Vesenval, Vaudreuil, Coigny, and Polignac, dared be angry and
murmur at her.

But when Marie Antoinette consented - when she used her influence with
the king, to satisfy the wishes of her friends, and to make ministers of
her facon - then the queen's enemies, with loud, mad-dog cry, lifted up
the voice and complained and clamored that it was no more the king but
the queen who reigned; that she was the one who precipitated the nation
into wretchedness and want; that she gave millions to her friends,
whilst the people were perishing with hunger; that she sent millions to
her brother, the Emperor of Austria, whilst the country was only able
to pay the interest of her enormous debt; that she, in unrestrained
appetite and licentiousness, lived only for pleasure and festivities,
whilst France was depressed under misery and want.

And the queen's enemies were mightier, more numerous, and more loyal one
to another than the queen's friends, who were ever ready to pass into
the camp of her foes as soon as Marie Antoinette gratified not their
wishes and would not satisfy their political claims.

At the head of these enemies was the king's brother, the Count de
Provence, who never forgave the queen for being an Austrian princess;
there were also the king's aunts, who could never forgive her that the
king loved her, that by means of this love to his wife they should lose
the influence which these aunts, and especially Madame Adelaide, had
before exercised over him; there was the Duke d'Orleans, who had to
revenge himself for the disgust and dislike which Marie Antoinette
publicly expressed against this vicious and wild prince; there was the
Cardinal Prince de Rohan, whose criminal passion the queen had repelled
with contemptuous disgust, and who had paid for this passion one million
francs, with imprisonment, shame, and ridicule. For this passion for the
queen had blinded the cardinal, and made him believe in the possibility
of a return. In his blindness he had placed confidence in the
whisperings and false promises of the insidious intriguer Madame de
la Motte-Valois, who, in the queen's name, asked from him a loan of a
million for the purchase of a jewelled ornament which highly pleased
the queen, and which she, notwithstanding her exhausted coffers, was
resolved to possess.

Yes, love had blinded Cardinal de Rohan, and with blind eyes he had
accepted as letters from the queen those which Madame de la Motte
brought him; and he could not see that the person who gave him a
rendezvous in the gardens of Versailles was not the queen, but only a
common, vicious woman, who had been clothed in the queen's garments.

The queen had been travestied into a wench, and the highest
ecclesiastical dignitary of the land was the one who took this wench for
his queen, was the one who, with a rendezvous, a kiss on the hand, and
a rose, was rewarded for the million he had given to the jeweller for a
necklace of diamonds!

It is true, the deception was discovered; it is true, it was Marie
Antoinette herself who asked for a strict investigation, who with tears
of anger required from her consort that this horrible intrigue which had
been woven round her person should be investigated and judged publicly
before the Parliament; that the Cardinal de Rohan should be punished for
the criminal insult offered by him to the queen, since he thought her
capable of granting him a rendezvous, of exchanging with him letters of
tender passion, and of accepting gifts from him!

But the Parliament, which recognized the guilt of Madame de la Motte,
which ordered her to be whipped, branded, and driven out of the country
as an impostor and a thief, the Parliament declared the Cardinal de
Rohan innocent; all punishments were removed from him, and he was
re-established in all his dignities and rights. And the people, who in
enormous masses had besieged the Parliament buildings, welcomed this
decision of the judges with loud demonstrations and shouts of joy, and
carried the cardinal in triumph through the streets, and honored and
glorified him as a martyr and a saint.

This triumph of the cardinal was an affecting defeat to the queen; it
was the first awful testimony, spoken loudly and openly, by the popular

Hitherto her enemies had worked against her quietly, and in the darkness
of night; but now, in open day, they dared launch against her their
terrible accusations, and represent her imprudence as a crime, her
errors as shameful and premeditated wickedness. No one believed in the
queen's innocency in this necklace transaction; and whereas Cardinal
de Rohan had been made a martyr, whereas Parliament had declared him
innocent, the queen consequently must be the guilty one, to whose
cupidity the cardinal and the unfortunate Madame de la Motte and also
the beautiful D'Olivia, who in this horrible farce had played the part
of the queen, had been sacrificed.

The name, the character, the reputation of the queen, had been trodden
down in the dust, and the Count de Provence, who himself composed
sarcastic songs and pasquinades against his royal sister-in-law, and
had copies of them circulated through the court, reflected not that in
calumniating the queen and exposing her to the scorn and ridicule of
the world he thereby shook the throne itself, and imperilled the awe and
respect which the people should have had for the monarchy. And all the
other mighty dignitaries and foes of Marie Antoinette did not calculate
that in exciting the storm of calumny against the Queen of France, they
also attacked the king and the aristocracy, and tore down the barrier
which hitherto had stood between the people and the nobility.

Hitherto pamphlets and sarcastic songs only had been directed against
the queen; but now, in the year 1787, all France was to re-echo a
pamphlet launched against the nobility and the whole aristocracy.

This pamphlet was "The Wedding of Figaro," by Beaumarchais. The habits
of the aristocracy, of the higher classes, were in this drama castigated
and thrown to the scorn, ridicule, and laughter of all France. Every
thing which the people hitherto had held sacred, was laughed at in this
drama; all the laws of manners, of rank, of morality, were scorned
at, hissed at; and, under this hissing, appeared in full view and with
fearful veracity the rotten and poisoned condition of the so-called
upper classes of society.

It was in vain that the censor declared the publication illegal, and
prohibited the representation of "The Wedding of Figaro." The opposition
took advantage of this measure, and since it could not be published,
hundreds of copies were circulated; and, if it could not be represented,
its reading was listened to. It soon became fashionable to attend at the
readings of "Figaro's Wedding" and to possess a copy of the drama.
Even in the queen's social circle, in the circle of the Polignacs, this
dangerous drama was patronized, and even the queen was requested to use
her influence upon the king for its representation.

This general clamor, this tempest of the public opinion, excited
even the king's curiosity; and as everybody attended the readings of
Beaumarchais' drama, the crowned heads had also to bow to the fashion.
Madame de Campan had to read before the king and the queen this renowned
"Wedding of Figaro," so that the king might give his decision. The
good-natured countenance of the king darkened more and more, and during
Figaro's monologue, in which the different institutions of the state
are ridiculed, especially when, with words full of poison and scorn, the
author alludes to state-prisons, the king rose angrily from his seat.

"It is a contemptible thing," cried he, vehemently. "The Bastile must be
destroyed before the representation of this piece would not appear as a
dangerous inconsequence. This man ridicules every thing which in a state
ought to be esteemed and respected."

"This piece will not then be represented?" asked Marie Antoinette, at
the close of the reading.

"No, certainly not!" exclaimed Louis, "you can be convinced of it; this
piece will not be represented."

But the clamor, the longings for this representation were more and more
loudly expressed, and more and more pressing. It was in vain that the
king by his decree forbade its already-announced representation in the
theatre of the menus plaisirs. Beaumarchais cried aloud to the murmuring
audience, who complained very loudly against this tyranny, against
this oppression of the king, the consoling words: "Well, sirs, the king
desires that my drama be not represented here, but I swear that it will
be represented, perhaps even in the chancel of Notre Dame."

It was soon apparent that Beaumarchais' words and the wishes of the
public opinion were stronger than the words and the wishes of the king
and of his highest officers. The king himself felt it and acknowledged
it soon; he shrugged his shoulders compassionately when the chancellor
of the seal, adhering still to his opposition, would by no means consent
to the performance of the drama.

"You will see," said Louis, with his own soft, good-natured smile - "you
will see that Beaumarchais' credit is better than that of the great-seal
bearer." [Footnote: "Memoires de Madame de Campan," vol. i., p. 279.]

The king's prophecy was correct - Beaumarchais had more credit than the
chancellor! His powerful patrons in high places, and all those who
made opposition to the king and queen, and at their head the Count de
Provence, banded together to have this piece publicly represented. The
king's consent was elicited from him by the assurance made public
that Beaumarchais had stricken out of his drama all the offensive and
captious parts, and that it was now a mere innocent and somewhat tedious

The king gave his consent, and "The Wedding of Figaro" was represented
at the Theatre Francais.

The effect of this drama on the public was a thing unheard of; so
enthusiastic that Beaumarchais himself laughingly said: "There
is something yet more foolhardy than my piece, and that is, its
result" - that the renowned actress Sophie Arnold, in allusion to this,
that the opponents of this drama had prophesied that it would fall
through, exclaimed: "The piece will fall through to-day more than fifty
times one after another!"

But even this prophecy of the actress did not reach the full result,
and the sixtieth representation was as crowded as the first. All Paris
wanted to see it, so as to hiss the government, the nobility, clergy,
morality. There was a rush from the provinces to Paris for the sake of
attending the representation of "Figaro's Wedding;" and even those who
hitherto had opposed the performance, pressed forward to see it.

One day Beaumarchais received a letter from the Duke de Villequier,
asking of him as a favor to give up for that evening his trellised
box in behalf of some ladies of the court, who desired to see "Figaro"
without being seen.

Beaumarchais answered: "My lord duke, I have no respect for ladies who
desire to see a performance which they consider improper, and who wish
to see it under cover. I cannot stoop to such fancies. I have given my
piece to the public to amuse and not to instruct them, not to procure to
tamed wenches (begueules mitigees) the satisfaction of thinking well of
the piece in a small trellised box, and then to say all manner of evil
against it in public. The pleasure of vice and the honors of
virtue, that is what the prudery of our age demands. My piece is not
double-faced. It must be accepted or repelled. I salute you, my lord
duke, and keep my box." [Footnote: "Correspondance de Diderot et Grimm
avec un Souverain."]

All Paris chuckled over this letter, which was circulated in hundreds
of copies, as the drama itself had circulated at first. Every one was
convinced that it was the queen who wanted to attend the representation
of "Figaro" in the trellised box; for it, was well known that the
queen, angry at monsieur for having been present with all his suite at
a representation in the box reserved for the court, had openly declared:
"Could she come to the conclusion of seeing this drama, she would only
see it through a small trellised box, and that without any ceremony."

In laughing at the letter of Beaumarchais, the ridicule was directed
against the queen, who had been refused in so shameful a manner. But
Marie Antoinette did not wish to be laughed at. She still hoped to
overcome her enemies, and to win the public sentiment. She requested an
investigation, she insisted that the Duke de Villequier should openly
acknowledge for whom among the ladies of the court he had asked for the
box; that Beaumarchais should publicly confess that he had not dared
suppose his words were directed against the queen.

The whole matter was brought to an end by an arbitrary decree.
Beaumarchais was compelled publicly to acknowledge that his famous
letter was directed neither to a duke nor to a peer, but to one of his
friends, whose strange request he had thus answered in the first flush
of anger. But it is evident no one believed in this explanation, and
every one felt pleasure in referring to the queen the expression of
"begueule mitigee."

Paris, which for a whole winter had laughed at a theatrical piece, and
was satiated with it, was now to assist at the first scene of a drama
whose tragical power and force were to tear France asunder, and whose
continuance was to be marked by blood and tears.

This important drama, whose opening followed closely Beaumarchais'
drama, exhibited its first scene at Versailles at the opening of the
States-General on the 5th of May, 1789. All Paris, all France watched
this event as the rise of a new sun, of a new era which was to break
upon France and bring her happiness, salvation, and strength. A new, an
unsuspected power entered with it upon the scene, the Tiers Etat;
the third class was, at the opening of the States-General, solemnly
recognized as a third power, alongside of the nobility and clergy.

Online LibraryL. MühlbachEmpress Josephine → online text (page 8 of 40)