Mme. Du Hausset.

Memoirs of the Courts of Louis XV and XVI. Being secret memoirs of Madame Du Hausset, lady's maid to Madame de Pompadour, and of the Princess Lamballe — Volume 2 online

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Produced by David Widger





MEMOIRS OF LOUIS XV. AND XVI.

Being Secret Memoirs of Madame du Hausset,
Lady's Maid to Madame de Pompadour,
and of an unknown English Girl
and the Princess Lamballe




BOOK 2.



Madame sent for me yesterday evening, at seven o'clock, to read something
to her; the ladies who were intimate with her were at Paris, and M. de
Gontaut ill. "The King," said she, "will stay late at the Council this
evening; they are occupied with the affairs of the Parliament again." She
bade me leave off reading, and I was going to quit the room, but she
called out, "Stop." She rose; a letter was brought in for her, and she
took it with an air of impatience and ill-humour. After a considerable
time she began to talk openly, which only happened when she was extremely
vexed; and, as none of her confidential friends were at hand, she said to
me, "This is from my brother. It is what he would not have dared to say
to me, so he writes. I had arranged a marriage for him with the daughter
of a man of title; he appeared to be well inclined to it, and I,
therefore, pledged my word. He now tells me that he has made inquiries;
that the parents are people of insupportable hauteur; that the daughter
is very badly educated; and that he knows, from authority not to be
doubted, that when she heard this marriage discussed, she spoke of the
connection with the most supreme contempt; that he is certain of this
fact; and that I was still more contemptuously spoken of than himself. In
a word, he begs me to break off the treaty. But he has let me go too
far; and now he will make these people my irreconcilable enemies. This
has been put in his head by some of his flatterers; they do not wish him
to change his way of living; and very few of them would be received by
his wife." I tried to soften Madame, and, though I did not venture to
tell her so, I thought her brother right. She persisted in saying these
were lies, and, on the following Sunday, treated her brother very coldly.
He said nothing to me at that time; if he had, he would have embarrassed
me greatly. Madame atoned for everything by procuring favours, which
were the means of facilitating the young lady's marriage with a gentleman
of the Court. Her conduct, two months after marriage, compelled Madame
to confess that her brother had been perfectly right.

I saw my friend, Madame du Chiron. "Why," said she, "is the Marquise so
violent an enemy to the Jesuits? I assure you she is wrong. All
powerful as she is, she may find herself the worse for their enmity." I
replied that I knew nothing about the matter. "It is, however,
unquestionably a fact; and she does not feel that a word more or less
might decide her fate." - "How do you mean?" said I. "Well, I will
explain myself fully," said she. "You know what took place at the time
the King was stabbed: an attempt was made to get her out of the Castle
instantly. The Jesuits have no other object than the salvation of their
penitents; but they are men, and hatred may, without their being aware of
it, influence their minds, and inspire them with a greater degree of
severity than circumstances absolutely demand. Favour and partiality
may, on the other hand, induce the confessor to make great concessions;
and the shortest interval may suffice to save a favourite, especially if
any decent pretext can be found for prolonging her stay at Court." I
agreed with her in all she said, but I told her that I dared not touch
that string. On reflecting on this conversation afterwards, I was
forcibly struck with this fresh proof of the intrigues of the Jesuits,
which, indeed, I knew well already. I thought that, in spite of what I
had replied to Madame du Chiron, I ought to communicate this to Madame de
Pompadour, for the ease of my conscience; but that I would abstain from
making any reflection upon it. "Your friend, Madame du Chiron," said
she, "is, I perceive, affiliated to the Jesuits, and what she says does
not originate with herself. She is commissioned by some reverend father,
and I will know by whom." Spies were, accordingly, set to watch her
movements, and they discovered that one Father de Saci, and, still more
particularly, one Father Frey, guided this lady's conduct. "What a
pity," said Madame to me, "that the Abbe Chauvelin cannot know this." He
was the most formidable enemy of the reverend fathers. Madame du Chiron
always looked upon me as a Jansenist, because I would not espouse the
interests of the good fathers with as much warmth as she did.

Madame is completely absorbed in the Abbe de Bernis, whom she thinks
capable of anything; she talks of him incessantly. Apropos, of this
Abbe, I must relate an anecdote, which almost makes one believe in
conjurors. A year, or fifteen months, before her disgrace, Madame de
Pompadour, being at Fontainebleau, sat down to write at a desk, over
which hung a portrait of the King. While she was, shutting the desk,
after she had finished writing, the picture fell, and struck her
violently on the head.. The persons who saw the accident were alarmed,
and sent for Dr. Quesnay. He asked the circumstances of the case, and
ordered bleeding and anodynes. Just, as she had been bled, Madame de
Brancas entered, and saw us all in confusion and agitation, and Madame
lying on her chaise-longue. She asked what was the matter, and was told.
After having expressed her regret, and having consoled her, she said, "I
ask it as a favour of Madame, and of the King (who had just come in),
that they will instantly send a courier to the Abbe de Bernis, and that
the Marquise will have the goodness to write a letter, merely requesting
him to inform her what his fortune-tellers told him, and to withhold
nothing from the fear of making her uneasy." The thing was, done as she
desired, and she then told us that La Bontemps had predicted, from the
dregs in the, coffee-cup, in which she read everything, that the, head of
her best friend was in danger, but that no fatal consequences would
ensue.

The next day, the Abbe wrote word that Madame Bontemps also said to him,
"You came into the world almost black," and that this was the fact. This
colour, which lasted for some time, was attributed to a picture which
hung at the foot of his, mother's bed, and which she often looked at. It
represented a Moor bringing to Cleopatra a basket of flowers, containing
the asp by whose bite she destroyed herself. He said that she also told
him, "You have a great deal of money about you, but it does not belong to
you;" and that he had actually in his pocket two hundred Louis for the
Duc de La Valliere. Lastly, he informed us that she said, looking in the
cup, "I see one of your friends - the best - a distinguished lady,
threatened with an accident;" that he confessed that, in spite of all his
philosophy, he turned pale; that she remarked this, looked again into the
cup, and continued, "Her head will be slightly in danger, but of this no
appearance will remain half an hour afterwards." It was impossible to
doubt the facts. They appeared so surprising to the King, that he
desired some inquiry to be made concerning the fortune-teller. Madame,
however, protected her from the pursuit of the Police.

A man, who was quite as astonishing as this fortune-teller, often visited
Madame de Pompadour. This was the Comte de St. Germain, who wished to
have it believed that he had lived several centuries.

[St. Germain was an adept - a worthy predecessor of Cagliostro, who
expected to live five hundred years. The Count de St. Germain pretended
to have already lived two thousand, and, according to him, the account
was still running. He went so far as to claim the power of transmitting
the gift of long life. One day, calling upon his servant to, bear
witness to a fact that went pretty far back, the man replied, "I have no
recollection of it, sir; you forget that I have only had the honour of
serving you for five hundred years."

St. Germain, like all other charlatans of this sort, assumed a theatrical
magnificence, and an air of science calculated to deceive the vulgar.
His best instrument of deception was the phantasmagoria; and as, by means
of this abuse of the science of optics, he called up shades which were
asked for, and almost always recognised, his correspondence with the
other world was a thing proved by the concurrent testimony of numerous
witnesses.

He played the same game in London, Venice, and Holland, but he constantly
regretted Paris, where his miracles were never questioned.

St. Germain passed his latter days at the Court of the Prince of Hesse
Cassel, and died at Plewig, in 1784, in the midst of his enthusiastic
disciples, and to their infinite astonishment at his sharing the common
destiny.]

One day, at her toilet, Madame said to him, in my presence, "What was the
personal appearance of Francis I.? He was a King I should have
liked." - "He was, indeed, very captivating," said St. Germain; and he
proceeded to describe his face and person as one does that of a man one
has accurately observed. "It is a pity he was too ardent. I could have
given him some good advice, which would have saved him from all his
misfortunes; but he would not have followed it; for it seems as if a
fatality attended Princes, forcing them to shut their ears, those of the
mind, at least, to the best advice, and especially in the most critical
moments." - "And the Constable," said Madame, "what do you say of
him?" - "I cannot say much good or much harm of him," replied he. "Was
the Court of Francis I. very brilliant?" - "Very brilliant; but those of
his grandsons infinitely surpassed it. In the time of Mary Stuart and
Margaret of Valois it was a land of enchantment - a temple, sacred to
pleasures of every kind; those of the mind were not neglected. The two
Queens were learned, wrote verses, and spoke with captivating grace and
eloquence." Madame said, laughing, "You seem to have seen all this." - "I
have an excellent memory," said he, "and have read the history of France
with great care. I sometimes amuse myself, not by making, but by letting
it be believed that I lived in old times." - "You do not tell me your age,
however, and you give yourself out for very old. The Comtesse de Gergy,
who was Ambassadress to Venice, I think, fifty years ago, says she knew
you there exactly what you are now." - "It is true, Madame, that I have
known Madame de Gergy a long time." - "But, according to what she says,
you would be more than a hundred" - "That is not impossible," said he,
laughing; "but it is, I allow, still more possible that Madame de Gergy,
for whom I have the greatest respect, may be in her dotage." - "You have
given her an elixir, the effect of which is surprising. She declares that
for a long time she has felt as if she was only four-and-twenty years of
age; why don't you give some to the King?" - "Ah! Madame," said he, with a
sort of terror, "I must be mad to think of giving the King an unknown
drug." I went into my room to write down this conversation. Some days
afterwards, the King, Madame de Pompadour, some Lords of the Court, and
the Comte de St. Germain, were talking about his secret for causing the
spots in diamonds to disappear. The King ordered a diamond of middling
size, which had a spot, to be brought. It was weighed; and the King said
to the Count, "It is valued at two hundred and forty louis; but it would
be worth four hundred if it had no spot. Will you try to put a hundred
and sixty louis into my pocket?" He examined it carefully, and said, "It
may be done; and I will bring it you again in a month." At the time
appointed, the Count brought back the diamond without a spot, and gave it
to the King. It was wrapped in a cloth of amianthus, which he took off.
The King had it weighed, and found it but very little diminished. The
King sent it to his jeweller by M. de Gontaut, without telling him
anything of what had passed. The jeweller gave three hundred and eighty
louis for it. The King, however, sent for it back again, and kept it as
a curiosity. He could not overcome his surprise, and said that M. de St.
Germain must be worth millions, especially if he had also the secret of
making large diamonds out of a number of small ones. He neither said
that he had, nor that he had not; but he positively asserted that he
could make pearls grow, and give them the finest water. The King, paid
him great attention, and so did Madame de Pompadour. It was from her I
learnt what I have just related. M. Queanay said, talking of the pearls,
"They are produced by a disease in the oyster. It is possible to know
the cause of it; but, be that as it may, he is not the less a quack,
since he pretends to have the elixir vitae, and to have lived several
centuries. Our master is, however, infatuated by him, and sometimes
talks of him as if his descent were illustrious."

I have seen him frequently: he appeared to be about fifty; he was neither
fat nor thin; he had an acute, intelligent look, dressed very simply, but
in good taste; he wore very fine diamonds in his rings, watch, and
snuff-box. He came, one day, to visit Madame de Pompadour, at a time
when the Court was in full splendour, with knee and shoe-buckles of
diamonds so fine and brilliant that Madame said she did not believe the
King had any equal to them. He went into the antechamber to take them
off, and brought them to be examined; they were compared with others in
the room, and the Duc de Gontaut, who was present, said they were worth
at least eight thousand louis. He wore, at the same time, a snuff-box of
inestimable value, and ruby sleeve-buttons, which were perfectly
dazzling. Nobody could find out by what means this man became so rich
and so remarkable; but the King would not suffer him to be spoken of with
ridicule or contempt. He was said to be a bastard son of the King of
Portugal.

I learnt, from M. de Marigny, that the relations of the good little
Marechale (de Mirepoix) had been extremely severe upon her, for what they
called the baseness of her conduct, with regard to Madame de Pompadour.
They said she held the stones of the cherries which Madame ate in her
carriage, in her beautiful little hands, and that she sate in the front
of the carriage, while Madame occupied the whole seat in the inside. The
truth was, that, in going to Crecy, on an insupportably hot day, they
both wished to sit alone, that they might be cooler; and as to the matter
of the cherries, the villagers having brought them some, they ate them to
refresh themselves, while the horses were changed; and the Marechal
emptied her pocket-handkerchief, into which they had both thrown the
cherry-stones, out of the carriage window. The people who were changing
the horses had given their own version of the affair.





I had, as you know, a very pretty room at Madame's hotel, whither I
generally went privately. I had, one day, had visits from two or three
Paris representatives, who told me news; and Madame, having sent for me,
I went to her, and found her with M. de Gontaut. I could not help
instantly saying to her, "You must be much pleased, Madame, at the noble
action of the Marquis de - - - ." Madame replied, drily, "Hold your
tongue, and listen to what I have to say to you." I returned to my
little room, where I found the Comtesse d'Amblimont, to whom I mentioned
Madame's reception of me. "I know what is the matter," said she; "it has
no relation to you. I will explain it to you. The Marquis de - - - -has
told all Paris, that, some days ago, going home at night, alone, and on
foot, he heard cries in a street called Ferou, which is dark, and, in
great part, arched over; that he drew his sword, and went down the
street, in which he saw, by the light of a lamp, a very handsome woman,
to whom some ruffians were offering violence; that he approached, and
that the woman cried out, 'Save me! save me!' that he rushed upon the
wretches, two of whom fought him, sword in hand, whilst a third held the
woman, and tried to stop her mouth; that he wounded one in the arm; and
that the ruffians, hearing people pass at the end of the street, and
fearing they might come to his assistance, fled; that he went up to the
lady, who told him that they were not robbers, but villains, one of whom
was desperately in love with her; and that the lady knew not how to
express her gratitude; that she had begged him not to follow her, after
he had conducted her to a fiacre; that she would not tell him her name,
but that she insisted on his accepting a little ring, as a token of
remembrance; and that she promised to see him again, and to tell him her
whole history, if he gave her his address; that he complied with this
request of the lady, whom he represented as a charming person, and who,
in the overflowing of her gratitude, embraced him several times. This is
all very fine, so far," said Madame d'Amblimont, "but hear the rest. The
Marquis de exhibited himself everywhere the next day, with a black ribbon
bound round his arm, near the wrist, in which part he said he had
received a wound. He related his story to everybody, and everybody
commented upon it after his own fashion. He went to dine with the
Dauphin, who spoke to him of his bravery, and of his fair unknown, and
told him that he had already complimented the Duc de C - - on the affair.
I forgot to tell you," continued Madame d'Amblimont, "that, on the very
night of the adventure, he called on Madame d'Estillac, an old gambler,
whose house is open till four in the morning; that everybody there was
surprised at the disordered state in which he appeared; that his bagwig
had fallen off, one skirt of his coat was cut, and his right hand
bleeding. That they instantly bound it up, and gave him some Rota wine.
Four days ago, the Duc de C - - supped with the King, and sat near M. de
St. Florentin. He talked to him of his relation's adventure, and asked
him if he had made any inquiries concerning the lady. M. de St.
Florentin coldly answered, 'No!' and M. de C - - remarked, on asking him
some further questions, that he kept his eyes firmed on his plate,
looking embarrassed, and answered in monosyllables. He asked him the
reason of this, upon which M. de Florentin told him that it was extremely
distressing to him to see him under such a mistake. 'How can you know
that, supposing it to be the fact?' said M. de - - - , 'Nothing is more
easy to prove,' replied M. de St. Florentin. 'You may imagine that, as
soon as I was informed of the Marquis de - - - 's adventure, I set on
foot inquiries, the result of which was, that, on the night when this
affair was said to have taken place, a party of the watch was set in
ambuscade in this very street, for the purpose of catching a thief who
was coming out of the gaming house; that this party was there four hours,
and heard not the slightest noise.' M. de C was greatly incensed at this
recital, which M. de St. Florentin ought, indeed, to have communicated to
the King. He has ordered, or will order, his relation to retire to his
province.

"After this, you will judge, my dear, whether you were very likely to be
graciously received when you went open-mouthed with your compliment to
the Marquise. This adventure," continued she, "reminded the King of one
which occurred about fifteen years ago. The Comte d'E - - , who was what
is called 'enfant d'honneur' to the Dauphin, and about fourteen years of
age, came into the Dauphin's apartments, one evening, with his bag-wig
snatched off, and his ruffles torn, and said that, having walked rather
late near the piece of water des Suisses, he had been attacked by two
robbers; that he had refused to give them anything, drawn his sword, and
put himself in an attitude of defence; that one of the robbers was armed
with a sword, the other with a large stick, from which he had received
several blows, but that he had wounded one in the arm, and that, hearing
a noise at that moment, they had fled. But unluckily for the little
Count, it was known that people were on the spot at the precise time he
mentioned, and had heard nothing. The Count was pardoned, on account of
his youth. The Dauphin made him confess the truth, and it was looked
upon as a childish freak to set people talking about him."

The King disliked the King of Prussia because he knew that the latter was
in the habit of jesting upon his mistress, and the kind of life he led.
It was Frederick's fault, as I have heard it said, that the King was not
his most steadfast ally and friend, as much as sovereigns can be towards
each other; but the jestings of Frederick had stung him, and made him
conclude the treaty of Versailles. One day, he entered Madame's
apartment with a paper in his hand, and said, "The King of Prussia is
certainly a great man; he loves men of talent, and, like Louis XIV., he
wishes to make Europe ring with his favours towards foreign savans. There
is a letter from him, addressed to Milord Marshal,

[George Keith, better known under the name of Milord Marshal, was the
eldest son of William Keith, Earl Marshal of Scotland. He was an avowed
partisan of the Stuarts, and did not lay down the arms he had taken up in
their cause until it became utterly desperate, and drew upon its
defenders useless dangers. When they were driven from their country, he
renounced it, and took up his residence successively in France, Prussia,
Spain, and Italy. The delicious country and climate of Valencia he
preferred above any other.

Milord Marshal died in the month of May, 1778. It was he who said to
Madame Geoffrin, speaking of his brother, who was field-marshal in the
Prussian service, and died on the field of honour, "My brother leaves me
the most glorious inheritance" (he had just laid the whole of Bohemia
under contribution); "his property does not amount to seventy ducats." A
eulogium on Milord Marshal, by D'Alembert, is extant. It is the most
cruelly mangled of all his works, by Linguet]

ordering him to acquaint a 'superieur' man of my kingdom (D'Alembert)
that he has granted him a "pension;" and, looking at the letter, he read
the following words: "You must know that there is in Paris a man of the
greatest merit, whose fortune is not proportionate to his talents and
character. I may serve as eyes to the blind goddess, and repair in some
measure the injustice, and I beg you to offer on that account. I flatter
myself that he will accept this pension because of the pleasure I shall
feel in obliging a man who joins beauty of character to the most sublime
intellectual talents." The King here stopped, on seeing MM. de Ayen and
de Gontaut enter, and then recommenced reading the letter to them, and
added, "It was given me by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, to whom it
was confided by Milord Marshal, for the purpose of obtaining my
permission for this sublime genius to accept the favour. But," said the
King, "what do you think is the amount?" Some said six, eight, ten
thousand livres. "You have not guessed," said the King; "it is twelve
hundred livres." - "For sublime talents," said the Duc d'Ayen, "it is not
much. But the philosophers will make Europe resound with this letter,
and the King of Prussia will have the pleasure of making a great noise at
little expense."

The Chevalier de Courten, - [The Chevalier de Courten was a Swiss, and a
man of talent.] - who had been in Prussia, came in, and, hearing this
story told, said, "I have seen what is much better than that: passing
through a village in Prussia, I got out at the posthouse, while I was
waiting for horses; and the postmaster, who was a captain in the Prussian
service, showed me several letters in Frederick's handwriting, addressed
to his uncle, who was a man of rank, promising him to provide for his
nephews; the provision he made for this, the eldest of these nephews, who
was dreadfully wounded, was the postmastership which he then held." M.
de Marigny related this story at Quesnay's, and added, that the man of
genius above mentioned was D'Alembert, and that the King had permitted
him to accept the pension. He added, that his sister had suggested to
the King that he had better give D'Alembert a pension of twice the value,
and forbid him to take the King of Prussia's. This advice he would not
take, because he looked upon D'Alembert as an infidel. M. de Marigny
took a copy of the letter, which he lent me.

A certain nobleman, at one time, affected to cast tender glances on
Madame Adelaide. She was wholly unconscious of it; but, as there are
Arguses at Court, the King was, of course, told of it, and, indeed, he


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Online LibraryMme. Du HaussetMemoirs of the Courts of Louis XV and XVI. Being secret memoirs of Madame Du Hausset, lady's maid to Madame de Pompadour, and of the Princess Lamballe — Volume 2 → online text (page 1 of 5)