Madame de (Anne-Louise-Germaine) Staël.

Ten years' exile; online

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present day, that you discover the superiority of
his understanding.

The Austrian Ambassador was a courtier of a
totally different stamp, but not less desirous of
pleasing the higher powers. Tlie one had all the

TEN years' exile 41

"inTormation of a literary character ; the other knew
nothing of literature beyond the French plays, in
which he had acted the parts of Crispin and Chry-
salde. It is a known fact, that when ambassador
to Catherine II , he once received despatches from
his court, when he happened to be dressed as ah
old woman ; and it was with difficulty that the cou-
rier could be made to recognize his ambassador in
that costume. M. de C. was an extremely com-
mon-place character; he said the same things to
almost every one he met in a drawing room : he
spoke to every person with a kind of cordiality in
which sentiments and ideas had no part. His man-
ners were engaging, and his conversation pretty
well formed by the world ; but to send such a man
to negotiate with the revolutionary strength and
roughness that surrounded Bonaparte, was a most
pitiable spectacle. An aide-de-camp of Bonaparte
complained of the familiarity of M. de C. ; he was
displeased that one of the first noblemen of the Aus-
trian monarchy should squeeze his hand without
ceremony. These new debutans in politeness could
not conceive that ease was in good taste. In truth,
if they had been at their ease, they would have
committed strange inconsistencies, and arrogant
stiffness was much better suited to them in the new
part they wished to play.

Joseph Bonaparte, who negociated the peace of
Luneville, invited M. de C. to his charming coun-
try seat of Morfontaine, where I happened to meet
him. Joseph was extremely fond of rural occupa-
tion, and would walk with ease and pleasure in his
gardens for eight .hours in succession. M. de C.
tried to follow him, more out of breath than the
Duke of Mayenne, whom Henry IV. amused him-


42 TEN years' EXILK.

self with making walkabout, notwithstanding his
corpulence. The poor man talked very much of
fishing, among the pleasures of the country, because
it allowed him to sit down ; he absolutely warmed
in speaking of the innocent pleasure of catching
some little fish with the line.

When he was ambassador at Petersburg, Paul I.
had treated him with the greatest indignity. He
and I were playing at backgammon in the drawing
room at Morfonlaine, when one of my friends came
in and informed us of the sudden death of that So-
vereign. M. de C. immediately began making the
most official lamentations possible on this event.
*• Although I had reason to complain of him," said
be, " I shall always acknowledge the excellent
qualities of this prince, and I cannot help regretting
his loss." He thought rightly that the death of Paul
was a fortunate event for Austria, and for Europe;
but he had in his conversation, a court mourning,
that was really quite intolerable. It is to be hoped,
that the progress of time will rid the world of the
courtier spirit, the most insipid of all others, to say
nothing more.

Bonaparte was extremely alarmed at the death of
Paul, and it is said, that on that occasion he utter-
ed the first — Ah, my God ! that was ever heard to
proceed from his lips. He had no reason, however,
to disturb himself; for the French were then more
disposed to endure tyranny than the Russians.

I was invited to general Berthier's one day, when
the first consul was to be of the party ; and as I
knew that he expressed himself very unfavourably
about me, it struck me that he might perhaps accost
me with some of those rude expressions, which he
often took pleasure in addressing to females, even

TEN years' exile. 4S

to those who paid their court to him ; I wrote down
therefore as they occurred to me, before I went to
the entertainment, a variety of tart and piquant re-
plies which I might make to what I supposed he
might say to me. I did not wish to be taken by
surprise, if he allowed himself to insult me, for that
would have been to show a want both of character
and understanding ; and as no person could pro-
mise themselves not to be confused in the presence
of such a man, I prepared myself before hand to
brave him. Fortunately the precaution was unne-
cessary ; he only addressed the most common ques-
tions possible to me ; and the same thing happened
to all of his opponents, to whom he attributed the
possibility of replying to him : at all times, how-
ever, he never attacks, but when he feels himself
much the strongest. During supper, the first con-
sul stood behind the chair of Madame Bonaparte,
and balanced himself sometimes on one leg, and
sometimes on the other, in themanner of the princes
of the house of Bourbon. I made my neighbour
remark this vocation for myallVs already so 4ticidt'd.


Paris in 1801.

The opposition in the tribunate still continued ;
that is to say, about twenty members out of a hun-
dred, tried to speak out against the measures of
every kind, with which tyranny was preparing. A
grand question arose, in the law which gave to the
government the fatal power of creating special tri-
bunals to try persons accused of state crimes ; as if
the handing over a man to these extraordinary tri-
bunals, was not already prejudging the question,
that is to say, if he is a criminal, and a criminal of
state ; and as if, of all crimes, political crimes were
not those which required the greatest precaution
and independence in the manner of examining
them, as the government is in such causes almost
always a party interested.

We have since seen what are the military com-
missions to try crimes of state ; and the death
of the Duke d'Enghien marks to all, the horror
which that hypocritical power ought to inspire,
which covers murder with the mantle of the

The resistance of the tribunate, feeble as it
was, displeased the first consul ; not that it was
any obstacle to his designs, but it kept up the
habit of thinking in the nation, which he wished
to stiile entirely. He put into the journals, among
other things, an absurd argument against the op-
position. Nothing is so simple or so proper, was

TEN years' exile. 45

it there said, as an opposition in England, because
the king is the enemy of the people ; but in a
country, where the executive government is it-
self named by the people, it is opposing the na-
tion to oppose its representative. What a number
of phrases of this kind have the scribes of Napo-
leon deluged the public with for ten years ! In
England or America the meanest peasant would
laugh in your face at a sophism of this nature ; in
France, all that is desired, is to have a phrase
ready, with which to give to one's inte^peat the
appearance of conviction.

Very few persons showed themselves strangers
to the desire of having places ; a great number
were ruined, and the interest of their wives and
children, or of their nephews and nieces, if they
had no children, or of their cousins, if they had
no nephews, obliged them, they said, to seek
employment from the government. The great
strength of the heads of the state in France, is
the prodigious taste that the people have for pla-
ces ; vanity even makes them more sought for,
than the emolument attached to them. Bona-
parte received thousands of petitions for every
office, from the highest to the lowest. If he had
not had naturally a profound contempt for the hu-
man race, he would have conceived it in running
over petitions, signed by names illustrious from
their ancestry, or celebrated by revolutionary ac-
tions in complete opposition to the new functions
they were ambitious of fulfilling.

The winter of 1801 at Paris was made extreme-
ly agreeable to me, by the readiness with which
Fouche granted the applications I made to him
for the return of different emigrants : in this way


46 TEN tears' EX1LE«

he left me, in the midst of my disgrace, the plea-
sure of being useful, and I retain a most grateful
recollection to him for it. It must be confessed,
that in the actions of women, there is always a
little coquetry, and that the greater part of their
very virtues are mixed with the desire of pleas-
ing, and of being surrounded by friends, whose at-
tachment to them is heightened by the feeling of
obligation. In this point of view only, can our
sex be pardoned for being fond of influence : but
there are occasions when we ought even to sa-
crifice the pleasure of obliging to preserve our
dignity : for we may do every thing for the sake
of otheri, excepting to degrade our character.
Our own conscience is as it were the treasure of
the Almighty, which we are not permitted to make
use of for the advantage of others.

Bonaparte was still at some expense on account
of the Institute, upon which he piqued himself so
much when he was in Egypt : but there was
among the men of letters, and the savans, a petty
philosophical opposition, unfortunately of a very
bad description, which was entirely directed
against the re-establishment of religion. By a
fatal caprice, the enlightened spirits in France
wished to console themselves for the slavery of
this world, by endeavouring to destroy the hopes
of abetter : this singular inconsistency would not
have happened under the protestant religion; but
the catholic clergy had enemies, whom their
courage and misfortunes had not yet disarmed ;
and perhaps, it is really difficult to make the au-
thority of the pope, and of priests subject to the
pope, harmonize with the independence of a
^tateo Be that as it may, the Institute exhibited

TEN years' exile. 47

for religion, independent of its ministers, none of
that profound respect, inseparable from a lofty
combination of mind and genius ; and Bonaparte
was left to support, against men of more value
than himself, opinions which were of more value
than them.

In this year, (1801,) the first consul ordered
the king of Spain to make war upon Portugal,
and the feeble monarch of that illustrious nation
condemned his army to this expedition, equally
servile and unjust, against a neighbour who had
no hostile intentions, and whose only offence was
his alliance with that England, which has since
shown itself so true a friend to Spain ; and all this
in obedience to the man who was preparing to de-
prive him of his very existence. When we have
seen these same Spaniards giving with so much
energy the signal of the resurrection of the world,
we learn to know v^hat nations are, and what are
the consequences of refusing them a legal means
of expressing their opinion, and regulating their
own destiny.

Toward the spring of 1801, the first consul
took it into his head to make a king, and a king of
the house of Bourbon ; he bestowed Tuscany
upon him, designating it by the classical name of
Etruria, for the purpose of commencing the grand
masquerade of Europe. This infanta of Spain
was ordered to Paris for the purpose of exhibiting
to the French the spectacle of a prince of the an-
cient dynasty humbled before the first consul ;
more humbled by his gifts than he ever could have
been by his persecution. Bonaparte tried upon
this royal lamb the experiment of making a king
wait in his antichamber ; he allowed himself to be

48 TEN years' exile.

applauded at the theatre, upon the recitation of
this verse :

** J'ai fait des rois, madame, et n'ai pas voulu I'etre :"

(I have made kings, madam, and have not wished
to be one ;) promising himself to be more than a
king, when the opportunity should offer. Every
day some fresh blunder of this poor king of Etru-
ria was the subject of this conversation ; he was
taken to the museum, to the Cabinet of Natural
History, and some of his questions about quadru-
peds and fishes, which a well educated child of
twelve years old would have been ashamed to put,
were quoted as proofs of intelligence. In the
evening he was conducted to entertainments,
where the female opera dancers came and mixed
with the ladies of the new court ; the little mo-
narch, in spite of his devotion, preferred dancing
with them, and in return, sent them, next day,
presents of elegant and good books for their in-
struction. This period of transition from revo-
lutionary habits to monarchical pretensions in
France, was a most singular one ; as there was as
little independence in the one, as dignity in the
other, their absurdities harmonised perfectly to-
gether ; each of them in their own way formed a
group round the parti-coloured potentate, who at
the same time employed the forcible me^ins of
both regimes.

For the last time, the 14th of July, the anni-
versary of the revolution, was celebrated this
year, and a pompous proclamation was put forth
to remind the people of the advantages resulting
from (hat day, not one of which advantages the


lirst consul had not made up his mind to destroy.
Of all the collections that were ever made, that of
the proclamations of this man is the most singu-
lar ; it is a complete encyclopedia of contradic-
tions ; and if chaos itself were employed to in-
struct the earth, it would, doubtless, in a similar
way, throw at the heads of mankind, eulogiums
of peace and war, of knowledge and prejudices,
of liberty and despotism, praises and insults upon
all governments and all religions.

It was at this period that Bonaparte sent Ge-
neral Leclerc to Saint Domingo, and designated
him in his decree our brother-in-law. This first
royal zwe, which associated the French with the
prosperity of this family, was a most bitter pill to
me. He obliged his beautiful sister to accompany
her husband to Saint Domingo, where her health
was completely ruined ; a singular act of despo-
tism for a man who is not accustomed to great se-
verity of principles in those about his person ; but
he makes use of morality only to harass some, and
dazzle others. A peace was in the sequel con-
cluded with the chief of the negroes, Toussaint-
Louverture. This man was, no doubt, a great
criminal, but Bonaparte had signed conditions
with him, in complete violation of which, Tous-
saint was conducted to a prison in France, where
he ended his days in the most miserable manner.
Perhaps Bonaparte himself hardly recollects this
crime, because he has been less reproached with
it than others.

In a great forge, we see with astonishment the vi-
olence of the machines which are set in motion by a
single will : these hammers, those flatteners, seem so
many persons, or rather devouring animals. Should

59 TEN years' exile.

you attempt to resist their force, they would annihi-
late you ; notwithstanding, all this apparent fury is
calculated beforehand, and a single mover gives
action to these springs. The tyranny of Bonaparte
is represented to my eyes by this image ; he makes
thousands of men perish, as these wheels beat the
iron, and his agents are the greater part of them
equally insensible; the invisible impulse ef these
human machines proceeds from a will at once vio-
lent and methodical, which transforms morallife in-
to its servile instrument. Finally, to complete the
comparison, it is sufficient to seize the mover to re-
store every thing to a state of repose.


Journey to Coppet, — Preliminaries of peace with


I WENT, according to my usual happy custom,
to spend the summer with my father. I found him
extremely indignant at the state of affairs ; and as
he had all his life been as much attached to real
liberty as he detested popular anarchy, he felt in-
clined to draw his pen against the tyranny of one,
after having so long fought against that of the many.
My father was fond of glory, and however prudent
his character, hazards of every kind did not displease
him, when the public esteem was to be deserved by
incurring them. I was quite sensible of the danger
to which any work of his which should displease the
first consul, would expose myself; but I could not
resolve to stifle this song of the swan, who wished to
make himself heard once more on the tomb of
French liberty. I encouraged him therefore in his
design, but we deferred to the following year the
question whether what he wrote should be published.

The news of the signature of the preliminaries of
peace between England and France, came to put
the crown to Bonaparte's good fortune. When I
learned that England had recognised his power, it
seemed to me that I had been wrong in bating it 5
but circumstances were not long in relieving me
from this scruple. The most remarkable article of
these preliminaries was the complete evacuation of
Egypt : that expedition therefore had had no other

62 TEN years' exile^

result than to make Bonaparte talked of. Several
publications written in places beyond the reach of
Bonaparte's power, accuse him of having made
Kleber be assassinated in Egypt, because he was
jealous of his influence ; and I have been assured
by persons worthy of credit, that the duel in which
General D'Estaing was killed by General Regnier,
was provoked by a discussion on this point. It ap-
pears to me, however, scarcely credible that Bona-
parte should have had the means of arming a Turk
against the life of a French general, at a moment
when he was far removed from the theatre of the
crime. Nothing ought to be said against him of
which there are not proofs ; the discovery of a
single error of this kind among the most notorious
truths would tarnish their lustre. We must not fight
Bonaparte with any of his own weapons.

I delayed my return to Paris to avoid being
present at the great fete in honour of the peace.
I know no sensation more painful than these pub-
lic rejoicings in which the heart refuses to parti-
cipate. We feel a sort of contempt for this booby
people which comes to celebrate the yoke pre-
paring for it : these dull victims dancing before
the palace of their sacrificer : this first consul de-
signated the father of the nation which he was
about to devour : this mixture of stupidity on one
side, and cunning on the other : the stale hypo-
crisy of the couriiers throwing a veil over the ar-
rogance of the master: all inspired me with an
insurmountable disgust. It was necessary, how-
ever, to constrain one's feelings, and during these
solemnities you were exposed to meet with offi-
cial congratulations, which at other times it was
more easy to avoid.


Bonaparte then proclaimed that peace was the
first want of the world : every day he signed some
new treaty, therein resembling the care with
^which Polyphemus counted the sheep as he drove
Ithem into his den. The United States of Ameri-
IPca also made peace with France, and sent as their
plenipotentiary, a man who did not know a word
of French, apparently ignorant that the most com-
plete acquaintance with the language was barely
sufficient to penetrate the truth, in a government
which knew so well how to conceal it. The first
consul, on the presentation of Mr. Livingston,
complimented him, through an interpreter, on the
purity of manners in America, and added, " the
old world is very corrupt ;" then turning round
to M. de * '^, he repeated twice, " explain to him
that the old world is very corrupt: you know
something of it, don't you ?" This was one of
the most agreeable speeches he ever addressed in
public to this courtier, who was possessed of bet-
ter taste than his fellows, and wished to preserve
some dignity in his manners, although he sacrifi-
ced that of the mind to his ambition.

Meantime, however, monarchical institutions
were rapidly advancing under the shadow of the
republic. A pretorian guard was organized :
the crown diamonds were made use of to orna-
ment the sword of the first consul, and there was
observable in his dress, as well as in the political
situation of the day, a mixture of the old and
new regime : he had his dresses covered with gold,
and his hair cropped, a little body, and a large
head, an indescribable air of awkwardness and
arrogance, of disdain, and embarrassment, which
altogether formed a combination of the bad g^^.-


54 TEN years' exile.

ces of a parvenu, with all the audacity of a tyrant.
His smile has been cried up as agreeable ; my
own opinion is, that in any other person it would
have been found unpleasant ; for this smile,
breaking out from a confirmed serious mood, ra-
ther resembled an involuntary twitch than a na-
tural movement, and the expression of his eyes
was never in unison with that of his mouth ; but
as his smile had the effect of encouraging those
who were about him, the relief which it gave them
made it be taken for a charm. I recollect once
being told very gravely by a member of the In-
stitute, a counsellor of stale, that Bonaparte's nails
were perfectly well made. Another time a cour-
tier exclaimed, '^The first consul's hand is beau-
tiful !" "Ah! for heaven's sake, Sir," replied
a young nobleman of the ancient noblesse, who
was not then a chamberlain, *' don't let us talk
politics." The same courtier, speaking afl'ec-
tionately of the first consul, said, " He frequent-
ly displays the most infantine sweetness." Cer^
tainly, in his own family, he amused him.-3elf some-
times with innocent games ; he has been seen to
dance with his generals ; it is even said that at
Munich, in the palace of the king and queen of
Bavaria, to whom no doubt this gayety appeared
very odd, he assumed one evening the Spanish
costume of the Emperor Charles Vll. and be-
gan dancing an old French country dance, la


Paris in lS62*-^Bonaparte President of the Italian
republic,-— Mi^' return to Coppet,

Every step of the first consul announced more
and more openly his boundless ambition. While
the peace with England was negotiating at Amiens,
he assembled at Lyons the Cisalpine Consulta, con-
sisting of the deputies from Lombardy and the ad-
jacent states, which had been formed into a repub-
lic under the directory, and who now inquired
what new form of government they were to assume.
As people were not yet accustomed to the idea of
the unity of the French republic being transformed
into the unity of one man, no one ever dreamt of
the same person uniting on his own head the first
consulship of France and the presidency of Ita]}^ ;
it was expected therefore that Count Meizi wonld
be nominated to the oOice, as tlie person most dis-
tinguished by his knowledge, his illustrious birth,
and the respect of his fellow citizens. All of a sud-
den the report got abroad that Bonaparte was to
get himself nominated ; and at this news a moment
of life seemed still perceptible in the pubhc feeling.
It was said that tiie French constitution deprived
of the right of citizenship whoever accepted em-
ployment in a foreign country ; but was he a
Frenchman, who only wanted to make use of the
great nation for the oppression of Europe, and
vice versa? Bonaparte juggled the nomination of
president out of all these Italians, who only learned

.^'6 TEN years' exile.

a few hours before proceeding to the scrutiny, that
they must appoint him. They were told to join the
name of Count Melzi, as vice-president, to that of
Bonaparte. They were assured that they would
only be governed by the former, who would always
reside among them, and that the latter was merely
ambiiious of an honorary title. Bonaparte said to
thern himself in his usual emphatic manner, " Cis-
ulpines, 1 shall preserve only the great idea of your
interests." But the great idea meant the complete
power. The day after this election, tliey were se-
riously occupied in making a constitution, as if any
one could exist by the side of this iron hand. The
nation was divided into three classes ; ibe possidenti,
the dottij and the commercianti. The landholders,
to be taxed ; the literary men, to be silenced ; and
the merchants, to have all the ports shut against
them. These sounding words in Italian are even
better adapted to the purposes of quackery than the
corresponding French.

Bonaparte had changed the name of Cisalpine
repiihlic into that of Italian republic, thereby giving
j.urope an anticipation of his future conquests in
the rest of Italy. Such a step was every thing but
pacinc, and yei it did not prevent the signature of
the treaty of Amiens ; so much did Europe, and
even England itself, then desire peace ! I was at
the English ambassador's at the moment of his re-
reiving the terms of this treaty. He read them
aloud to the persons who were dining with him,
and it is impossible for me to express the astonish-
ment I felt at every article. England restored all

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Online LibraryMadame de (Anne-Louise-Germaine) StaëlTen years' exile; → online text (page 3 of 18)