P. J. (Paul Julius) Möbius.

Autobiography; a collection of the most instructive and amusing lives ever published online

. (page 9 of 28)
Online LibraryP. J. (Paul Julius) MöbiusAutobiography; a collection of the most instructive and amusing lives ever published → online text (page 9 of 28)
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irreparable. The marechale de Luxembourg is well
nigh distracted with grief.^ :

*' Good heavens !** exclaimed I, " can the duchesse
de Lauzun be dead ?'*

"Alas! no."

** Perhaps poor madame de Bonfflers T*

" No, my friend.'*

*' Who then is the object of so much regret ? Speak ;
tell me.*'

*' Madame Brillant.'*

** A friend of the old mar^hale's ?"

" More than a friend,*' replied madame de Mire-
poix ; *« her faithful companion ; her only companion ;
her only beloved object, since her lovers and admirers
ceased to oflFer their homage — ^in a word, her cat."

'< Bless me !*' cried I, " how you frightened me ! but
what sort of a cat could this have been to cause so
many tears T

*' Is it possible that you do not know madame Bril-
lant, at least by name ?**

" I assure you,** said I, ** this is the very first time
I ever heard lier name."

" Well, if it be so, I will be careful not to repeat


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todi a thing to mtdame de Lmemboorg ; die woold
aeter pardoD you for k. listeOy my dear coantess/'
continued madame de Mirepoix ; ** under the present
circumstanoei it will be sufficient for you to write your
name in her ▼isiting-book«'*

I burst into a fit of laughter.

*' It is no joke I promise you,** exclaimed the mar^
chale, << the death of madame Brillant is a positive
calamity to madame de Luxembourg. Letters of con*
dolence will arrive from Chanteloup; madame da
Defiant will be in deep affliction, and the virtues and
amiable qualities of the deceased cat will long furnish
subjects of conversation/'

*' It was then a singularly engaging animal, I pre-
sume f

** On the contrary, one of the most stupid, disagree^
able, and dirty creatures of its kind ; but still it was
the cat of madame de Luxembourg.*'

And after this funeral oration the mar^dmle and
myself burst into a violent fit of laughter.

When the king joined us, I acquainted him with
this death, and my conversation with the mar^chale.
Louis XV. listened to my recital with an air of gravity ;
when I had finished, he said,

? 'n*® present opportunity is admirably adapted fot
satisfying the request of one of my retinue, one of the
best-hearted creatures, and at the same time one of the
silliest men in the kingdom.*'

" I beg your pardon, sire,** cried I, '* but what is his
name ? for the description is so general, that I fear least
I should be at a loss to recoUect of whom you are

" You are very ill-natured," cried Louis XV., " and
'iy know whether you deserve to be gratified by
the name of the poor gentleman : however, I
it to you ; he is called Corbin de la Chevrol*
few days since this simple young man, having
m audience, informed me, that he was desirous
ng a rich heiress, but that the young lady's

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ftunily were resolved she should marry no one iR^ho was
not previously employed as an ambassador. I expressed
my surprise at so strange a caprice, but the poor fellow
endeavoured to vindicate bis bride*s relations, by stat-*
ing that they were willing to consider him as my am*
bassador if I would only commission him to carry some
message of compliment or condolence. Accordingly
I promised to employ him upon the occasion of the
first death or marrisige which should take place in a
ducal family. Now, I think I cannot do better than
make him the bearer of my inquiries after the mar6-
chale de lAixembourg.'*

This idea struck me as highly amusing, and I im-
mediately dispatched a servant to summon M. de la
Chevrollerie to the presence of the king. This being
done, that gentleman presented himself with all the
dignity and importance of one who felt that a mission
of high moment was about to be intrusted to him.

His majesty charged him to depart immediately to
the house of madame de Luxembourg, and to convey
his royal master's sincere condolences for the heavy
loss she had ^sustained in madame Brillant.

M. Corbin de la Chevrollerie departed with much
pride €md self-complacency upon his embassy : he re*
turned in about half an hour.

** Sire," cried he, " I have fulfilled your royal plea-
sure to madame de Luxembourg. She desires me to
thank you most humbly for your gracious condescen-
sion : she is in violent distress for the severe loss she
has experienced, and begged my excuse for quitting
me suddenly, as she had to superintend the stuffing of
the deceased.'*

" The stuffing I" exclaimed the king ; " surely you
mean the embalming ?**

" No, sire," replied the ambassador, gravely, <* the

*' Monsieur de la Chevrollerie,** cried I, bursting
into a violent fit of laughter, ** do you know in what
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degree of relatioi^ip the deceased madame Brillant
sUxmI to madame de Luxembourg?**

** No, madam,** replied the ambassador, gravely,
*\ but I believe she was her aunt, for I heard one of the
females in waiting say, that this poor madame Brillant
was very old, and that she had lived with her mistress
during the last fourteen years.'*

Thus finished this little jest. However, Louis XV.,
who was extremely kind to all about him, especially
those in his service, shortly after recompensed his
simple-minded ambassador, by intrusting him with a
commission at once profitable and honourable.

Another event which took place at this period caused
no less noise than the death of madame Brillant At
this time mademoiselle Mesnard was, for her many
charms of mind and person, the general rage throughout
Paris. Courtiers, lawyers, bankers, and citizens
crowded alike to ofier their homage. Frail as fair,
mademoiselle Mesnard received all kindly, and took
with gracious smiles the rich gifts showered upon her
by her various adorers. The first noblemen of the
court, knights of the different orders, farmers-general,
all aspired to the honour of ruining themselves for her.
She had already satisfied the ruinous propensities of at
least a dozen lovers, when the due de Chaulnes entered
the lists, and was fortunate enough to eclipse all his
rivals. He might long have enjoyed the preference
thus obtained, but for an act of the greatest imprudence
of which a lover could be guilty. He was so indiscreet
as to invite several of his most intimate friends to sup
with himself and mademoiselle Mesnard. Amongst
the number was Caron de Beaumarchais, a man pos-
sessed of the grace of a prince and the generous pro-
fusion of a highwayman. Caron de Beaumarchais
attracted the fancy of the fickle mademoiselle Mesnard,
a mutual understanding was soon established between
them, and in a snug little cottage surrounded by beau*
tiful grounds in the environs of Pdre la Chaise, the

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«namouried lovers frequently met to exchange their
soft vows.

Happily the deity who presided over the honour of
the duke was carefully watching their proceedings.
This guardian angel was no other than roadame Du-
verger, his former mistress, who, unable to bear the
desertion of her noble admirer, had vowed, in the first
burst of rage and disappointment, to have revenge
sooner or later upon her triumphant rival. With this
view she spied out all the proceedings of mademoiselle
Mesnard, whose stolen interviews and infidelity she
was not long in detecting ; she even contrived to win
over a fern me de chambre, by whose connivance she
was enabled to obtain possession of several letters
containing irrefragable proofs of guilt, and these she
immediately forwarded to the due de Chaulnes.

This proud and haughty nobleman might have par-
doned his mistress had she quitted him for a peer of
the realm and his equal, but to be supplanted by a
mere man of business ; an author, too ! the disgrace
was too horrible for endurance. The enraged lover
flew to Beaumarchais, and reproached him bitterly with
his treachery ; the latter sought to deny the charge, but
the duke, losing all self-possession, threw the ^letters
in his face, calling him a base liar. At this insult
Beaumarchais, who, whatever his enemies may say of
him, was certainly not deficient in courage, demanded
instant satisfaction. The duke, by way of answer,
seized the man of letters by the^ collar, Beaumarchais
called his servants, who, in their turn, summoned the
guard, which speedily arrived accompanied by the
commissary, and with much difficulty they succeeded
in removing M. de Chaulnes (who appeared to have
entirely lost his reason) from the room.

The conduct of the duke appeared to us completely
out of place, and he would certainly have answered for
it within the walls of the Bastille, had not his family
made great intercession for him. On the other hand,
Beaumarchais, who eagerly availed himself of ever^
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opportunity of writing memorials, composed one on
the subject of his quarrel with M. de Chaulnes, com-
plaining that a great nobleman bad dared to force him-
self into his house, and lay forcible hands on him, as
though he were a thief or a felon. The whole of the
pamphlet which related to this afisur was admirably
written, and, like the Barber of Seville, marked by a
strongly sarcastic vein. However, the thing faiied»
and the ducde la Vrilli^re, the sworn enemy of men of
wit and talent, caused Beaumarchais to be immediately
confined within Fort TEv^que. So that the offended
party was made to suffer the penalty of the offence.

In the same year the comte de Fuentes, ambassador
from Spain to the court of Louis XV., took leave of us.
He was replaced by the comte d'Aranda, who was in a
manner in disgrace with his royal master : this noble-
man arrived preceded by a highly flattering reputation.
In the first place, he had just completed the destruction
'of the Jesuits, and this was entitling him to no small
thanks and praises from the encyclopedists. Every
one knows those two lines of Voltaire's—

'' Aranda dans TEspagne iostruisant les fideles,
A r inquisition vient de rogner les ailes.'*

The simplicity of comte d*Aranda indemnified us in
some degree for the haughty superciliousness of bis
predecessor. Although no longer young, he still pre-
served all the tone and vigour of his mind, and only
the habit which appeared to have been born with him
of reflecting, gave him a slow and measured tone in
speaking. His reserved and embarrassed manners
were but ill-calculated to show the man as he really
was, and it required all the advantages of intimacy to
see him in his true value. You may attach so much
more credit to what I say of this individual, as I can
only add, that he was by no means one of my best

When Louis XV^. heard of the nomination of the

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comte d^Aranda to die embassy from Spain to France^
he observed to me^

" The king of Spain gets rid of his Choiseul by
tending him to me.**

** Tlien ^hy not follow so excellent an example,
sireT* replied I; ** and since your Choiseul is weary
of ChanteloQp, why not command him upon some
political errand to tne court of Madrid/*

«* Heaven preserve me from such a thing,'* exclaimed
Louis XV. ** Such a man as he is ought never to quit
the kingdom, and I have been guilty of considerable
oversight to leave him the liberty of so doing. But to
return to comte d*Aranda ; he has some merit I under-
stand ; still I like not that class of persons around me ;
they are inexorable censors, who condemn alike every
action of my life.**

However, not the king*8 greatest enemy could have
fcund fiEtultwith his manner of passing his leisure hours.
A great part of each day was occupied in a mysterious
manufacture of cases for relics, and one of his valets de
chambre, named Turpigny, was intrusted with the
commission of purchasing old shrines and reliquaries ;
he caused the sacred bones, or whatever else they might
contain, to be taken out by Grandelatz, one of his
almoners, re-adjusted, and then returned to new cases.
These reliquaries were distributed by him to his daugh-
ters, or any ladies of the court of great adinowledged
piety. When I heard of this I mentioned it to the
king, who wished at first to conceal the fact ; but, as
he was no adept at falsehood or disguise, he was com-
pelled to admit the fact.

" I trust, sire,** said I, " that you will bestow one
of your prettiest and best-ananged reliquaries on me.**

" No, no,** returned he, hastily, " that cannot be.**

" And why not," asked I.

" Because,*' answered he, ** it would be sinful of me.
Ask any thing else in my power to bestow, and it shall
be yours."

'* This was no hypocrisy on the part of Louis XV.,

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who, spite of his somewhat irregular mode of life, pro*
fessed to hold religion in the highest honour and
esteem ; to all that it proscribed he paid the submission
of a child. We had ample proofs of this in the sermons
preached at Versailles by the abb^ de Beauvais, after-
wards bishop of Senetz.

This ecclesiastic, filled with an inconsiderate zeal,
feared not openly to attack the king in his public dis-
courses ; he even went so far as to interfere with many
things of which he was not a competent judge, and
which by no means belonged to his jurisdiction : in
fact, there were ample grounds for sending the abb^ to
the Bastille. The court openly expressed its dissatis-
faction at this audacity, and for my own part I could
not avoid evincing the lively chagrin it caused me.
Yet, would you believe it, Louis XV. declared, in a
tone from which there was no appeal, that this abb^
had merely done his duty, and that those who had
been less scrupulous in the performance of theirs,
would do well to be silent on the subject. This was
not all ; the cardinal de la Roche Aymon, his grand
almoner, refused to sanction the nomination of M. de
Beauvais to the bishopric, under the pretext of his not
being nobly descended.

M. de Beyons, bishop of Carcossone, a prelate of
irreproachable character, was deeply distressed to find
that the want of birth would exclude M. de Beauvais
from the dignities of his holy profession. He went to
discuss the matter with the grand almoner, who again
advanced his ^eivourite plea for excluding M. de Beau-
vais. " My lord," replied M. de Beyons, •* if I believed
that nobility of descent were the chief requisite for our
advancement in our blessed calling, I would trample
my crosier under foot, and renounce for ever all church

M. de Beyons sought the king, and loudly complained
to him of the infatuation and obstinacy of M. de la
Roche Aymon. Louis XV. however commanded that
M. de Beauvais should be appointed to the first vacant

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gee, and when the grand almoner repeated his objections
to the preferment, the king answered, ** Monsieur le
cardinal, in the days of our blessed Saviour the apostles
had no need to present their genealogical tree, duly
winessed and attested. It is my pleasure to make M.
de Beauvais a bishop ; let that end the discussion of
the matter.**

The command was too peremptory to admit of any
course but instant and entire submission.


M. D n and msdame de Blessao — Anecdote— The reodesvons and

the ball— The wife of Qanbert— They wish to give her to the king'—
Intrigaes— Their resalts— Letter from the due de la Vrilli^re to the
eonntess— Reply— Reconciliation.

Amongst the pages of the chapel was one whom the
king distinguished so greatly, that he raised him to the
rank of a gentleman of the bedchamber, and confided
to his charge the cabinet of medals, for which he bad
imbibed a taste since his liaison with madame de
Pompadour. This esteemed page was named M.

D n, who united to the most amiable wit a varied

and deep knowledge of men and things. He had had
adventures at an age when they are only usually just
understood, and talked of them with the utmost indis-
cretion. But this so far from doing him any injury in
the eyes of the world, only served to make him the
more admired ; for women in general have an inclina-
tion for those who do not respect their reputation.

At the period I allude to a madame de Blessac, a
very well^looking woman, took upon herself to be very

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kindly disposed towards the gentleroan^n-waiting.
She told him so, and thereupon M. de D— *»n rang^
himself under her banner, and swore eternal constancy.
However, the lady, by some accident, became greatly
smitten with the prince de la Trimouille, and without
quitting the little keeper of medals, gave him a lord for

a substitute. M. D n soon learnt this fisict, that he

was not the sole possessor of a heart which formed all
his joy and glory. He found he was deceived, and
he swore to be revenged.

Now the prince de la Trimouille had for his mis-
tress mademoiselle Lubert, an opera-dancer, very pretty

and extraordinarily silly. M. D n went to her;

" Mademoiselle,'* said he, ** I come to oflTer my services
to you in the same way that M. de Trimouille has
offered his to madame de Blessac, with whom I was
on exceedingly intimate terms.*'

The services of young D n were accepted, and
he was happy. He then wrote to his former mistress,
saying, that anxious to give her a proof of his sincere
attachment he had visited mademoiselle Lubert, that
he might leave her at leisure to receive the visits of the
prince de la Trimouille.

Madame de Blessac, stung to the quick, quar*
relied with the prince, who was excessively enraged
with his rival ; and there certainly would have been an
affairbetween these two gentlemen, had not the king
preserved the peace by sending his gentleman to St,

Petersburg as attache to the embassy. M. D n

went to Russia iherefore, and on his return came to
see me, and is now one of the most welcome and
agreeable of the men of my private circle.

As to madame de Blessac, she continued to carry on
the war in grand style. Her husband dying she
married again to a foolish count, three parts ruined,
and who speedily dissipated the other quarter of his
own fortune and the whole of his wife^s. Madame
Ramoski then attacked the rich men of the day one
after another. One alone stood out against her; it was

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M. de la GBxdt, who bad been one of my admirers.
Madame Ramoski wrote to him - he did not answer.
At length she determined on yisiting him, and wrote
him a note, to say she should call upon him about six
o'clock in the evening. What did M. de la Garde ? Why
he gave a ball on that veiy evening ; and, when madame
Ramoski reached his hotel, she found it illuminated. As
she had come quite unprepared she was compelled to
return as she came, very discontentedly.

But to leave madame de Blessac and M. D-^— n,
and to talk of my own matters. We had at this period
a very great alarm at the chateau, caused by the crime
of a man, who preferred rather to assassinate his wife
than to allow her to dishonour him. It is worthy of

A petty shopkeeper of Paris, named Gaubert, who
lived in the rue de la Montague Sainte-Genevieve, had
recently married a woman much younger than himself.
From the Petit Pont to the rue Mouffetard, madame
Gaubert was talked of for her lo?ely face and beautiful
figure ; she was the Venus of the quarter. Everybody
paid court to her, but she listened to none of her own
rank, for her vanity suggested that she deserved suitors
of a loftier rank.

Her husband was very jealous. Unfortunately M.
Gaubert had for cousin one of the valets of the king :
this man, who knew the taste of his master, thought
how he could best turn his pretty cousin to account.
He spoke to her of the generosity of Louis XV., of the
grandeur of Versailles, and of the part which her beauty
entitled her to play there. In fact, he so managed to
turn the head of this young woman, that she begged
him to obtain for her a place in the king's favour.
Consequently Girard (that was his name) went to
madame de Langeac, and told her the affair as it was.
She, pleased wUh an opportunity of injuring me, wcLt
to Paris, and betook herself incog, to the shop of ma-
dame Gaubert. She found her charming, and spoke of
her to the due de la Vrilli^re, and both agreed to show

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her portrait to his majesty. But how to procure this
portrait ? Her hushand was her very shadow, and never
left her. Le petit saint, who was never at a loss,
issued a iettre de cachet against him, and the unfortu-
nate man was shut up in Fort TEv^que. It was not
until the portrait was finished that he was set at liberty. ,

He returned to his home without guessing at the
motives of his detention, but he learnt that his wife had
had her portrait painted during his absence, and his
jealousy was set to work. Soon a letter from Girard,
a fatal letter, which fell into his hands, convinced him
of the injury done hiih. He took his wife apart, and,
feigning a resignation which he did not feel, <' My
love/' he said, " I loved thee, I love thee still ; I
thought, too, that thou wert content with our compe-
tence, and wouldst not have quitted thine husband for
any other in the world : I have been convinced other-
wise. A letter from Girard informs me, that with thine
own consent the king, whom thy portrait has pleased,
desires to see thee this very day. It is a misfortune*
but we must submit. Only before thou art established
at Versailles, I shoiild wish thee to dine with me once
more. You can invite cousin Girard too, for I owe
him something fur what he has done for thee.**

The young wife promised to return and see her hus-
band. That evening at the performance at the court
she was seated in the same box with the marquise de
Langeac; the king's glass was directed towards her
the whole time, and at the termination of the spectacle
it was announced to her, that she was to sleep at the
ch&teau the next evening. The project was never

The next day, according to promise, the young wife
went to Paris with the valet. She informed her hus-
band of the success which had befallen her, and he
appeared delighted. Dinuer being ready, they seated
themselves at table, eat and drank. Girard began to
laugh at his cousin for his complaisance, when sud-
denly all desire to jest left him. He experienced most

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horrible pains, and bis cousin suffered as well as him-
self. ** Wretches !'* said Gaubert to them, " did you
think I would brook dishonour ? No, no ! I have de-
ceived you both the better to wreak my vengeance, I
am now happy. Neither king nor valet shall ever
possess ray wife. I have poisoned you, and you must
die." The two victims implored his pity. "'Yes,"
said he to his wife, " thy sufferings pain me, and I will
free you from them/' He then plunged a knife to her
heart ; and, turning to Girard, said, " As for thee, I
hate thee too much to kill thee ; die." And he left

The next day M. de Sartines came and told me the
whole story. He had learnt them from the valet, who had
survived his poisoning for some hours. Gaubert could
not be found, and it was feared that he would attempt
some desperate deed. No one dared mention it to the
king, but the captain of the guards and the first gentle-
man in waiting took every possible precaution; and
when Louis XV. asked for the young female who was
to be brought to him, they told him that she had died of
a violent distemper. It was not until some days after-
wards that the terror which pervaded the chateau
ceased. They had found the body of the unfortunate
Gaubert on the banks of the Seine.

In spite of what had passed, the due de la Vrillidre
had the impudence to present himself to me. I treated
him with disdain, reproaching him and Langeac for
their conduct. He left me in despair, and wrote me
the following letter : —

*• Madame la comtesse, — Your anger kills me. I
am guilty, but not so much so as you may imagine.
The duty of my office compels me to do many things
•which are disagreeable to me. In the affair for which
you have so slightingly treated me there was no intent
to injure you, but only to procure for the king an
amusement which should make him the more estimate
your charms and your society. Do not doubt this in-
tent I beseech you. Forgive a fault in which my heart

VOL. Ill, L

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bore no share ; I am sufficiently miserable, and shaU
not know repose until I be reinstated in your good

Online LibraryP. J. (Paul Julius) MöbiusAutobiography; a collection of the most instructive and amusing lives ever published → online text (page 9 of 28)