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ascribe them to some one else; if they are
forced to acknowledge that she has discovered
merit, they sift so maliciously her character,
her morals, her conduct, and her talents, that
they balance the reputation of her genius

278 Private Memoirs

by the publicity which they give to her

Besides, my happiness was my chief concern ;
and I perceived that the ' pubh'c never inter-
meddled with the happiness of any one without
marring it. I do not find anything so agreeable
as to have our real value appreciated by the
people with whom we live ; and nothing so
empty as the admiration of a few persons whom
we are never likely to meet.

Alas ! what an injury did those do me who
took it upon them to withdraw the veil under
which I loved to remain concealed ! During
twelve years of my life I have shared my hus-
band's tasks, as I shared his meals, quite natu-
rally and as a matter of course. If one part
of his works happened to be quoted in which
were discovered unwonted graces of style, or if
a flattering reception was given to an academic
trifle he was pleased to transmit to the learned
societies of which he was a member, I partici-
pated in his satisfaction, without remarking the
more particularly on that account, whether it
was I who had composed it; and he often
ended by persuading himself that he had been
in a better vein than usual when he wrote

of Madame Roland 279

such and such a passage. During his adminis-
tration, if it was necessary to express great or
striking truths, I employed the whole bent of
my mind ; and it was but natural that its efforts
should be preferable to those of a secretary. I
loved my country; I was an enthusiast in the
cause of liberty; I was unacquainted with any
interest or any passions that could enter into
competition with these; and my language ought
to be pure and pathetic, as it was that of the
heart and of truth.

I was so much impressed with the import-
ance of the subject that I never thought of
myself. Once only I was amused with the
singularity of the relative situations. This was
when employed in writing to the pope in be-
half of the French artists imprisoned at Rome.
A letter to the pope, in the name of the Execu-
tive Council of France, sketched secretly by the
hand of a woman, in the plain cabinet, which
Marat was pleased to term a " boudoir," ap-
peared to me such a bit of humor that I
laughed heartily when I had finished it.

The pleasure of these contrasts consisted in
the very secrecy ; but this was necessarily less
attainable in a public situation, where the eye

2 8o Private Memoirs

of the clerk distinguishes the papers which he
copies. There is nothing singular, however, in
all this, unless it be its novelty. Why should
not a woman act as secretary to her husband,
without lessening his merit? It is well known
that ministers cannot do everything themselves ;
and surely, if the wives of our rulers under the
old (or even the new) regime had been capable
of making draughts of letters, official despatches,
or proclamations, it would have been better to
employ their time in this manner than in solicit-
ing and intriguing for all sorts of people: the
one excludes the other by the very nature of

If those who knew me had judged properly
in respect to facts, they would have prevented
me from suffering a sort of celebrity which I
never envied ; instead of now spending my time
in refuting falsehood, I should be reading a
chapter of Montaigne, painting" a flower, or play-
ing an ariette, and thus beguihng the solitude
of my prison, without sitting down to write my

But I now anticipate a period which I had
not as yet attained. I make my remarks equally
without constraint, and without scruple ; since

of Madame Roland 281

it is myself that is to be described, it is neces-
sary that I should be seen with all my irregu-
larities. I do not lead my pen, it carries me
along with it wherever it pleases, and I give it
the rein.

My father honestly endeavored for some time
after he became a widower, to remain more at
home than hitherto ; but he became weary of this,
and when the love of his profession did not get
the better of his failing, all my efforts could not
cure it. I wished to converse with him, but we
had few ideas in common ; and he then prob-
ably hankered after a mode of Hfe which he
did not wish that I should be acquainted with.
I often sat down to piquet with him. It was not
perhaps very amusing for him to play with his
own daughter; besides he was not ignorant
that I detested cards, and however desirous I
might be to persuade him that I took pleasure
ir them, and however honestly I tried for his
sake to do so, he entertained no doubt that it
was all mere complaisance on my part.

I could have wished to render his house agree-
able to him, but the means were not in my
power, as I had no other acquaintance than my
old relations whom I visited, and who never put

282 Private Memoirs

themselves out of their usual way. He might
have formed a little society at home, but he had
become accustomed to one of another sort else-
where, and he well knew that it would not have
been proper to introduce me there. Was my
mother really in the wrong to live a life so
secluded, and not to make her house gay enough
to be attractive to her husband? This would
be blaming her too readily; but it would also
be unjust to consider my father as entirely to
blame for his failings. There is such a connec-
tion between the evils which flow necessarily
from a first cause, that it is proper always to
ascend to the source for an explanation.

Our legislators of the present day aim to
attain a general good, whence is to spring the
happiness of individuals ; I am much afraid this
is like putting the cart before the horse. It
would be more conformable with nature, and
perhaps with reason, to study well what con-
stitutes domestic happiness, to insure it to in-
dividuals in such a manner that the common
felicity shall be composed of that of each citi-
zen, and that all shall be interested in conserv-
ing the order of things which has procured
them this. However charming; the written

of Madame Roland 283

principles of a constitution may be, if I behold
a portion of those who have adopted it in grief
and tears, I must believe it to be no other than
a political monster ; if those who do not weep
rejoice in the sufferings of the rest, I shall say-
that it is atrocious, and that its authors are
either weak or wicked men.

In a marriage where the parties are ill mated,
the virtue of one of them may maintain order
and peace, but the want of happiness will be
experienced sooner or later, and produce in-
conveniencies more or less hurtful. The scaf-
folding of these unions resembles the system
of our politicians ; the bases are rotten, and
the whole will some day give way, in spite of
the art employed in its construction.

My mother could not collect around her any
others than such as resembled herself, and
these would not have suited my father ; on the
other hand, those whom he would have liked
to have constantly about him would not only
have been disagreeable to my mother, but
incompatible with the manner in which she
wished to educate me. She therefore neces-
sarily confined herself to her own family, and
cultivated only those superficial connections

284 Private Memoirs

which produce an acquaintance without creat-
ing an intimacy.

Everything went well while my father, with
a good business and a young wife, found in
his own home all the employment and pleasure
which he could desire. But he was a year
younger than my mother; she began early in
life to experience infirmities ; some circum-
stances slackened his ardor for labor; the
desire of getting rich made him embark in a
few hazardous enterprises : thenceforward all
was lost. The love of labor forms the virtue
of man in a state of society; it is essentially
that of the individual who does not possess a
cultivated mind. The moment that this desire
languishes, danger is at hand ; if it be extin-
guished, he becomes a prey to the passions,
which are always more fatal when there is less
employment, because then there is also less

Become a widower at the very moment when
he stood in need of new ties to confine him at
home, my poor father kept a mistress, that he
might not present his daughter with a step-
mother; he had recourse to play, to indemnify
himself for his loss of employment; and, with-

of Madame Roland 285

out ceasing to be an honest man, sank gradually
and insensibly to ruin.

My relations, worthy and unsuspicious people,
confiding in rrty father's attachment to me, had
not demanded an inventory of the estate after
the death of his wife; my interests appeared
to be safely confided to his guardianship ; they
would have imagined that they had wronged
him had they done otherwise. I was placed
in a situation that enabled me to surmise the
contrary; but as I would have deemed it in-
decent to reveal what I knew on this subject,
I remained silent and resigned. Behold me
then alone in the house, my time divided be-
tween my housework and my studies, which I
sometimes abandoned in order to answer people
who were vexed at not finding my father at
home. Two apprentices, one of whom lived
in the house, were now sufficient for the work
of the shop.

My servant was a little woman of fifty-five,
thin, alert, sprightly, and gay, who loved me
exceedingly because I made life pleasant for
her. She always attended me when I went
out without my father, but my walks never ex-
tended beyond the house of my grandparents

286 Private Memoirs

and the church. I had not again grown de-
vout; but what I no longer practised out of
regard to the scruples of my mother, I con-
tinued from a sense of duty to the good order
of society and the edification of my neighbor.
In obedience to this principle, I carried with
me to church, if not the ardent piety of former
years, at least enough of decorum and a spirit
of meditation. I no longer accompanied the
ordinary of the mass ; I read some Christian
work. For Saint Augustine I have always had
much liking — and assuredly there are fathers
of the church whom one may peruse without
being devout, for there is food enough in them
both for the heart and the mind.

I wished to go through a course of reading
of the preachers, the living as well as the
dead. The eloquence of the pulpit is of a sort
to enable the gift of oratory to unfold itself
with splendor. I had already read Bossuet
and Flechier; I was glad to review them now
with a maturer eye, and I became familiar with
Bourdaloue and Massillon ; nothing could be
more diverting than to see their names entered
in my little memorandum book with those of
De Pauw, Raynal, and the author of " The Sys-

of Madame Roland 287

tern of Nature ; " but what is still more so, is,
that in consequence of reading sermons, I was
seized with the desire of composing one. I was
vexed that the preachers always recurred to
mysteries; it seemed to me that they ought
to have drawn up moral discourses, in which
the devil and the incarnation were never men-
tioned. I accordingly seized my pen, to try
my own hand at the business, and wrote a ser-
mon on the love of one's neighbor. I amused
my little uncle with it ; he was become a canon
of Vincennes, and said it was wrong in me not
to have undertaken this sooner and at a time
when he himself was obliged to compose dis-
courses, as in that case he would have preached

I had often heard the logic of Bourdaloue
much vaunted ; I dared in some measure to differ
from his admirers, and actually drew up a crit-
icism on one of his most esteemed discourses ;
but I never showed it to any one. I love to
render an account to myself of my own opin-
ions, but I do not choose to submit them to
the eye of another. Massillon, less lofty than
Bourdaloue, and far more affecting, won my
esteem. I was not then acquainted with the

288 Private Memoirs

Protestant orators, among whom Blair, more
especially, has cultivated with equal simplicity
and elegance that species of composition, whose
existence I readily conceived, and which I
could have wished to see adopted.

Among the preachers of that day, I have
heard the Abbe I'Enfant, toward the close of
his brilliant career; polish and reason appeared
to me to characterize him. Father l^lis6e was
already out of fashion, notwithstanding his close
reasoning and chaste diction : his mind was too
metaphysical and his delivery too simple to
please the vulgar.

Paris was a singular place in those times ;
this rendezvous of all the impurities of the
kingdom, was also the focus of taste and
knowledge : preacher or comedian, professor
or mountebank, in short whoever possessed
abilities, was followed in his turn ; but the first
mind in the world would not have long fixed
the public attention, for which novelty was
always necessary, and this was effected by noise
as well as by merit.

A certain person leaving the famous order
of the Jesuits, becoming a missionary, and
pretending to exhibit himself at court, was

of Madame Roland 289

enabled by that means to attract notice and
procure a number of followers. I also went
to hear this Abbe de Beauregard ; he was a
little man, with a powerful voice, and declaimed
with wonderful impudence and extraordinary
violence. He retailed commonplaces with the
air of inspiration, and he supported these by
such terrible gesticulations, that he persuaded a
great number of people they were very fine.
I did not then know so well as now that men
assembled together in great numbers possess
ears rather than judgment; that to astonish
is to lead them, and that whoever assumes the
authority of commanding, disposes them to
obey. I could not find utterance for my aston-
ishment at the success of this personage, who
was either a great fanatic, or a great rogue, and
perhaps both.

I had not sufficiently analyzed the accounts
of the orators of the ancient republics ; else
I should have been better able to judge respect-
ing the means of affecting the passions of the
people. But I shall never forget a vulgar man
planted directly opposite the pulpit in which
Beauregard was displaying his antics, with his
eyes fixed on the orator, his mouth open, and

290 Private Memoirs

involuntarily allowing to escape the expression
of his stupid admiration in the three follow-
ing words, which I well recollect : " How he
sweats ! " Behold then the means of imposing
upon fools ! How much reason had Phocion,
surprised at finding himself applauded in an
assembly of the people, to demand of his
friends whether he had not uttered something
foolish !

This same M. de Beauregard would have
made a fierce clitbbist ; and how many of the
members of the popular societies, in their
enthusiasm over brazen-faced babblers, have
recalled to my memory the expression made
use of by the man just spoken of, " How he
sweats ! "

My illness had created some talk; it would
appear that people deemed it either very un-
common, or very charming, that a young girl
should be in danger of losing her life through
mere sorrow at the death of her mother. I
received many marks of regard on this account,
which were extremely agreeable to me. M. de
Boismorel was one of the first who bestowed
them ; I had not seen him since his visits at
my grandmother's. I perceived the impression

of Madame Roland 291

which the change that had taken place in my
person since that period, produced upon him.
He returned during my absence, conversed a
long time with my father, who doubtless spoke
to him about my studies, and showed him the
little apartment in which I passed my time.
They looked at my books ; my works were
upon the table ; these excited his curiosity, and
my father took upon himself to gratify it, by
showing them to him.

Great displeasure and complaints ensued on
my part, when I found on my return that they
had violated my asylum. My father pretended
that he would not have complied with the
wishes of any person less grave and less worthy
of consideration than M. de Boismorel. His
reasons did not make me relish his proceedings,
as it was an offence against liberty and prop-
erty; it was disposing, without my consent, of
what I alone possessed the right of conferring;
but, at all events, the harm was done. Next
day I received a well-written letter from M. de
Boismorel, couched in too flattering terms not
to procure his pardon for having profited by
the indiscretion of my father, and offering me
access to his library. I did not read this

292 Private Memoirs

proposal with indifference : from that moment
a correspondence began between us ; I tasted
for the first time those agreeable sensations
which sensibility and self-love make us exper-
ience when we find ourselves esteemed by those
whose judgment we value.

M. de Boismorel no longer resided at Paris;
his partiality for the country, and his wish not
to remove his mother to too great a distance
from the capital, had made him purchase the
" Petit-Bercy" below Charenton, a charming
house, the garden of which extended to the
banks of the Seine. He pressed us much
to take a walk thither, testifying at the same
time, the greatest eagerness to receive us. I
recollected the reception given us by his mother
upon a former occasion, and was not in the least
tempted to renew that experience ; so I resisted
the entreaties of my father. He insisted ; and,
as I would not oppose the little trips which he
sometimes liked to make with me, we one day
set out for Bercy. The ladies of the family of
Boismorel were sitting in the summer salon;
the presence of the daughter-in-law, whose ami-
able disposition I had heard much talk of, im-
mediately put me at my ease. The mother,

of Madame Roland 293

whose manner may be recollected, and whom
years had not rendered more humble, evinced
however more politeness toward a young per-
son who had the appearance of respecting her-
self, than she had formerly shown to a child
whom she deemed of no consequence.

" How well your dear daughter looks, Mr.
Phlipon ! But do you know that my son is
enchanted with her? Tell me, mademoiselle,
do you not wish to be married?"

" Others have already thought for me on that
subject, madame, but I have not as yet seen
reason to come to any determination."

" You are hard to please, I suppose ! Have
you any repugnance to a man of a certain

" The knowledge I might have of a person
would alone determine my attachment, my re-
fusal, or my acceptation."

" Those kinds of marriages have most solid-
ity; a young man often escapes through our
fingers, when one thinks him most attached."

" And why, mother," said M. de Boismorel,
who just entered, " should not mademoiselle
believe herself able to captivate such a person

2 94 Private Memoirs

" She is dressed with taste," observed Madame
de Boismorel to her daughter-in-law.

" Ah ! extremely well, and so modestly too,"
replied the young woman, with all that suavity
which appertains only to devotees, for she be-
longed to that class ; and the little curls shading
an agreeable face that had seen thirty-four
summers, were disposed with due primness.

" How different," added she, " from that
ridiculous mass of plumage we see fluttering
above empty heads ! You do not love feathers,

" I never wear them, madame, because, being
the daughter of an artist, they would seem to
announce a situation and fortune to which I
do not pretend."

" But would you wear them were you in an-
other situation ? "

" I do not know ; I attach but little import-
ance to such trifles ; in regard to myself, I esti-
mate those matters by convenience alone, and
I take good care not to judge a person by my
first impressions of her toilette."

The observation was severe; but I pro-
nounced it so mildly that the edge was blunted.

•* A philosopher ! " exclaims she, with a sigh,

of Madame Roland 295

as if she had recollected that I did not belong
to her sect.

After a nice examination of my person, sea-
soned with compliments similar to those I have
related, M. de Boismorel put an end to the
inventory by proposing that we should visit his
garden and library. I admired the situation of
the first, in which he made me remark a noble
cedar of Lebanon ; I glanced at the other with
delight, and I pointed out the works, and even
collections which I begged him to lend me,
such as Bayle among others, and the " Memoirs
of the Academies."

The ladies invited us to dinner on a day fixed
by them for that purpose ; we repaired thither
accordingly, and I soon judged, by the two or
three men of business who were our fellow-
guests, that they had suited the company to
my father, without considering me. But M. de
Boismorel had recourse as before to his library
and the garden, where we conversed together.
He had caused his son to form one of the party ;
he was a young man of seventeen, ugly enough,
and more eccentric than amiable. The com-
pany that arrived in the evening, and which I
examined with an observing eye, did not appear


Private Memoirs

to me to be very attractive, notwithstanding its
titles ; the daughters of a marquis, some coun-
sellors, a prior and a few old baronesses, talked
with more importance, but to the full as in-
sipidly as nuns, churchwardens, and tradesmen.
Those points of view in which I consider the
world, and examine it unperceived by any one,
disgust me with it, and attach me still more to
my own manner of living.

M. de Boismorel did not let slip this opportu-
nity to form a connection, on which perhaps
he founded some project; he accordingly so
ordered matters that the two fathers and the
two children formed a select party.

It was in this manner also, that he accom-
panied me to the public meeting of the French
Academy, on the succeeding anniversary of St.
Louis. Those meetings were at that time the
rendezvous of good company, and they ex-
hibited all the contrasts which our manners
and our follies could not fail to produce. On
the morning of St. Louis's day, they celebrated
a mass in the chapel of the Academy, at which
the singers of the Opera assisted, and at the
conclusion a favorite orator of the beau monde
delivered a panegyric on the Saint-King.

of Madame Roland 297

The Abbe de Besplas was pitched upon for
this function. I Hstened to him with great
pleasure, notwithstanding the triviahty and stale-
ness of his theme; he mingled with his dis-
course certain bold philosophical touches and
indirect satires on the government, which he
was obliged to alter when he printed his speech.

M. de Boismorel, who was intimate with him,
endeavored in vain to obtain a faithful copy,
which he would have communicated to me ;
the Abbe de Besplas, attached to the court as
chaplain to Monsieur, was exceedingly fortunate
to procure pardon for his boldness, by the
absolute sacrifice of the offensive remarks. The
evening session of the Academy opened a career
to the first-rate wits in the kingdom, to the
grandees who wished to enter their names on
that list, and exhibit themselves in such a con-
spicuous station to the eyes of the public ; in
fine, to the amateurs who went to hear one class,
to see another, and to show themselves to all ;
and to the handsome women, who were sure of
their share of attention.

I noticed especially d'Alembert, whose name,
and whose " Miscellanies" and "Discourses con-
cerning the Encyclopedia," had excited my curi-

298 Private Memoirs

osity. His insignificant figure and shrill voice
made me think that it was better to be ac-
quainted with the writings of a philosopher than
his person. The Abbe de Lille confirmed this
observation, in respect to men of letters ; he
read some charming verses in a very clumsy
manner. The eulogy on Catinat by La Harpe
gained the prize, and it well deserved it.

As free from affectation at the Academy as
in the church, and as I have since then been
when at the play, I did not mingle in the noisy
plaudits conferred on the striking passages, for
these were often meant only to evince the fine
taste and discrimination of those who bestowed
them. I was extremely attentive ; I listened
without noticing those around me ; and when
I was affected I wept, without caring whether
it appeared singular to any one. I however
had occasion to perceive that this was the case ;
for, as M. de Boismorel conducted me to the
door, I noticed certain persons pointing me out

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