Una Pope-Hennessy.

Secret societies and the French revolution, together with some kindred studies by Una Birch online

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86



The Comte de Saint-Germain

and talked but in vague and general terms in
reply to his advances. Lord Holdernesse
approved this caution, but said that His Majesty
(George II.) did not think it unlikely that
Saint-Germain might have real authorisation
to talk as he has done, but that General Yorke
should be reminded that he cannot be dis-
avowed by his Government, as Saint-Germain
may be whenever it pleases Louis XV. so to do.
Choiseul, rather naturally, did not like being
undermined by Louis XV.'s secret agents, and
was especially incensed over Saint-Germain's
action at the Hague. He went so far as to
write to the official French representative,
D'AiFry, to order him to demand the States-
General to give up Saint-Germain, and that
being done to bind him hand and foot and send
him to the Bastille. D'Affi-y meanwhile had
written to Choiseul a despatch bitterly reproach-
ing him for allowing a peace to be negotiated
under his very eyes at the Hague, without
informing him of it. This despatch Choiseul
read in Council, after which he repeated his own
instructions to D'AfFry on the extradition of
Saint-Germain, and said, looking at Louis XV.
and Belle-Isle : " If I did not give myself time

8f



The Comte de Saint-Germain

to take the orders of the King it is because
I am convinced that no one here would be rash
enough to negotiate a treaty of peace without
the knowledge of your Majesty's Minister
for Foreign Affairs."

Other diplomats who met Saint-Germain at
the Hague also wrote to the Foreign Secretaries
of their respective countries for instructions. It
was so puzzling to them and to every one else
that M. d'Affry should at first have welcomed
Saint-Germain and then have nothing to say to
him, and that Choiseul should go out of his
way to discredit him by demanding his arrest.
Bentinck, the President of the Deputy Com-
missioners of the Province of Holland, who was
most friendly with Saint-Germain, was extremely
grieved that a plea for his arrest should have
been laid before the States-General by M. d'AfFry
at the instance of the French Government, and
immediately assisted the Count to escape from
the Hague. A few days after Saint-Germain
had started for England M. d'Affry was recalled
by his Court.

Kauderbach wrote to Prince Galitzin on the
matter :

" A certain Count Saint-Germain has appeared
88



The Comte de Saint-Germain

here lately (the Hague), and been the subject of
much discourse, from his being suspected of
having some private commission relating to the
peace. He pretended to be very intimate with
Madame Pompadour and in great favour with
the King. At first he was much taken notice of
by M. d'AfFry ; and had insinuated himself into
families of fashion, both here and at Amsterdam.
But within these few days M. d'AfFry has been
with the Pensionary and with me, and has
showed us a letter from M. de Choiseul, in
which he says that the King had heard of Saint-
Germain's conduct with indignation ; that he
was a vagabond, a cheat, and a worthless fellow,
and that the King ordered him (M. d'Affry)
to demand him of Their High Mightinesses,
and to desire that he may be arrested and sent
immediately to Lisle, in order to his being
brought from thence and confined in France.
The gentleman having got some ground to
suspect what was preparing for him, went off,
and it is thought he is gone to England, where
he may probably open some new scene." *

* The Hague, April i8, 1760. Series Foreign Ambas-
sadors (Intercepted). Extract from copy of letter from
M. Kauderbach to Prince Galitzin, received April 22, 1760.



The Comte de Saint-Germain

Later on in the same day Kauderbach dis-
covered that Bentinck had assisted him to
escape, that he was with Saint-Germain till one
hour past midnight one morning, and that four
hours later a carriage with four horses came to
convey the Count to Helvoet Sluys. He further
wishes Galitzin joy of the adventurer.

"I think him at the end of his resources.
He has pawned coloured stones here, such as
opals, sapphires, emeralds, and rubies, and this
is the man who pretends he can convert moun-
tains into gold who has lived like this at the
Hague ! He lies in a scandalous way, and he
tried to convince us that he had completely
cured a man who had cut lofF his thumb. He
picked up the thumb thirty yards away from its
owner and stuck it on again with strong glue,
ex ungue leonem. I have seen the papers by
which he pretends he is authorised to be con-
fidential negotiator ; they consist of a passport
from the King of France and two letters from
Marshal Belle-Isle, which, after all, stand for
nothing, as the Marshal is always corresponding
with the most vile newsmongers,"

Kauderbach's opinion was not held by every
90



The Comte de Saint-Germain

one, for Saint-Germain had greatly impressed
a Dutch nobleman, who was beyond measure
distressed at his sudden departure from the
Hague. Writing to England Count de la
" Watn '* said, " I know that you are the
greatest man on earth, and I am mortified that
these wretched people annoy you and intrigue
against your peace-making efforts. ... I
hear that M. d'Affry has been unexpectedly
summoned by his Court. I only hope he may
get what he deserves." Saint-Germain mean-
while went to England, where he suffered arrest.
** His examination has produced nothing very
material," wrote Lord Holdernesse to Mitchell,
the British envoy in Prussia, but he still thought
it advisable for the Count to leave England.
This he apparently did not do, for the London
papers of June 1760 tell stories of his behaviour
and make guesses as to his origin and mission.

" Whatever may have been the business of a
certain foreigner here about whom the French
have just made or have affected to make a
great bustle, there is something in his most
unintelligible history that is very entertaining ;
and there are accounts of transactions which

91



The Comte de Saint-Germain



bound so nearly upon the marvellous that It
is impossible but that they must excite the
attention of this Athenian age. I imagine this
gentleman, against whom no ill was ever alleged,
and for whose genius and knowledge I have the
most sincere respect, will not take umbrage at
my observing that the high title he assumes is
not the right of lineage or the gift of royal
favour ; what is his real name is perhaps one of
those mysteries which at his death will surprise
the world more than all the strange incidents of
his life ; but himself will not be averse, I think,
to own this, by which he goes, is no more than
a travelling title.

" There seems something insulting In the
term un inconnu^ by which the French have
spoken of him ; and the terms we have borrowed
from their language of an aventurier and a
chevalier d' Industrie always convey reproach, as
they have been applied to this — I had almost
said nobleman. It is justice to declare that in
any ill sense they appear to be very foreign from
his character. It is certain that, like the persons
generally understood by these denominations,
he has supported himself always at a consider-
able expense, and in perfect independence, with-

92



The Comte de Saint-Germain

out any visible or known way of living ; but let
those who say this always add that he does not
play ; nor is there perhaps a person in the world
who can say he has enriched himself sixpence at
his expense.

" The country of this stranger is as perfectly
unknown as his name ; but concerning both, as
also of his early life, busy conjecture has taken
the place of knowledge ; and as it was equal
what to invent, the perverseness of human
nature and perhaps envy in those who took the
charge of the invention has led them to select
passages less favourable than would have been
furnished by truth. Till more authentic mate-
rials shall have been produced it will be proper
that the world suspend their curiosity, and
charity requires not to believe some things which
have no foundation.

" All we can with justice say is : This gen-
tleman is to be considered as an unknown and
inoffensive stranger, who has supplies for a large
expence, the sources of which are not under-
stood.

"Many years ago he was in England, and
since that time has visited the several other
European kingdoms, always keeping up the

93



The Comte de Saint-Germain

appearance of a man of fashion, and always
living with credit.

'^ The 'reader who remembers Gil Bias's
master who spent his money without anybody's
understanding how he lived, 'tis applicable in
more respects than one to this stranger, who,
like him, has been examined also in dangerous
times, but found innocent and respectable. But
there is this difference, that the hero of our
story seems to have his money concentrated, as
chymists keep their powerful menstruums, not
in its natural and bulky form, for no carts used
to come loaded to his lodgings.

" He had the address to find the reigning
foible always of the place where he was going to
reside, and on that he built the scheme of ren-
dering himself agreeable. When he came here
and he found music was the hobby of this
country, and took the fiddle with as good grace
as if he had been a native player in whom true
virtu reigns ; and there he appeared a connoisseur
in gems, antiques, and medals ; in France he
was a fop, in Germany a chymist.

" By these arts he introduced himself in each
of those countries, and to his high praise it must
be owned that to whichever of them or to what-

94



The Comte de Saint-Germain

soever else it may have been that he was bred,
yet whichever he chose for the time seemed to
have been the only employment of his life.

" 'Twas thus in all the rest ; among the
Germans, where he played chymistry, he was
every inch a chymist ; and he was certainly in
Paris every inch a fop. From Germany he
carried into France the reputation of a high and
sovereign alchymist, who possessed the secret
powder, and in consequence the universal medi-
cine. The whisper ran the stranger could make
gold. The expence at which he lived seemed
to ^confirm that account ; but the minister at
that time, to whom the matter had been whis-
pered as important, smiling answered he would
put it on a short issue. He ordered an enquiry
to be made whence the remittances he received
came, and told those who had applied to him
that he would soon show them what quarries
they were which yielded this philosopher's stone.
The means that great man took to explain the
mystery, though very judicious, served only to
increase it ; whether the stranger had accounts
of the enquiry that was ordered and found
means to evade it, and by what other accident
'tis not known, but the fact is that in the space

95



The Comte de Saint-Germain

of two years, while he was thus watched, he lived
as usual, paid for everything in ready money,
and yet no remittance came into the kingdom
for him.

" The thing was spoken ot and none now
doubted what at first had been treated as a
chimera ; he was understood to possess, with
the other grand secret, a remedy for all diseases,
and even for the infirmities in which time
triumphs over the human fabric." *

One diplomat, who was as curious as every
one else in London, wrote home to say that the
Count frequented the houses of "the best families
in England," that he was " well-dressed, modest,
and never ran into debt.'* Another secretary
of embassy. Von Edelsheim, received a letter
from his master, Frederick the Great,! com-
menting on the political phenomenon — " a man
whom no one has been able to understand, a
man so high in favour with the French King
that he had thought of presenting him with the
Palace of Chambord." The secret, if secret

* Anecdotes of a Mysterious Stranger, "London
Chronicle/' May 31 to June 3, 1760.

t Dated from Freyberg, "CEuvresposthumesdeFr6d.il.,
Roi de Prusse," vol. iii. p. 73. Berlin 1783.

96



The Comfe de Saint 'Germain

there was, of Saint-Germain's life was well kept,
for no one knew more about him in London
after he had been there several months than they
did when he arrived. When his business in
England was over he went to France, and in the
following year the Marquis d'Urfe met him in
the Bois de Boulogne. From Paris he went to
Petersburg to help the daughter of his old friend
Princess Anhalt-Zerbst to mount the throne of
Russia. This daughter, Catherine, had for
seventeen miserable years been married to a
drunken and dissolute husband, who, on the
death of his aunt, the Tsarina Elizabeth, in 1 762,
became the Tsar Peter. In this year his wife,
together with the Orloffs and Saint-Germain,
planned his overthrow. The Royal guards were
incited to revolt ; Peter was coerced into abdi-
cation ; the priests were won over and were
persuaded to anoint Catherine as proxy for her
son. The Orloffs completed the coup ddtat by
strangling Peter and proclaiming Catherine
Empress in her own right. Gregor OrloiF, who
was the Tsarina's lover, told the Margrave of
Brandenburg-Anspach how large a part in this
revolution Saint-Germain played. Catherine II.
lived to enjoy the throne she had seized

97 G



The Comte de Saint-Germain

for twenty-nine years (1762-91), and during at
least the earlier portion of that time she gave
her protection to the masonic and Illuminist
societies founded by Saint-Germain and his
accomplices within her realm, though later she
turned violently against them. From Peters-
burg the Count went to Brussels, where he
spent Christmas 1762. Cobenzl, who renewed
acquaintance with him about this time, found
him ** the most singular man " he had ever
known, and announced that he believed him to
be " the son of a clandestine union in a power-
ful and illustrious family. Possessed of great
wealth, he lives in the greatest simplicity ; he
knows everything and shows an uprightness and
a goodness of soul worthy of admiration."
Cobenzl was particularly interested in Saint-
Germain's chemical experiments, and longed to
put some of his inventions to practical money-
making uses. He begged the Count to set up
an industry at Tournay, and recommended him
to a "good and trustworthy merchant'* there
of his acquaintance. His friend, who at that
time was known as M. de Zurmont, acceded to
his request and set up a factory where a dyeing
business was carried on with profitable results.

98



The Comte de Saint-Germain

While Saint-Germain was living at Tournay
Casanova arrived at the town, and being in-
formed of the presence of the Count within it
desired to be presented to him. On being told
that M. de Zurmont received no one he wrote
to request an interview, which was granted
on the condition that Casanova should come
incognito^ and that he should not expect to be
invited to partake of food. The Count, who
was dressed during this interview in Armenian
clothes, and who wore a long beard, talked
much of his factory and of the interest which
Graf Cobenzl took in the experiment.

Madame de Pompadour during her life had
extended both to Saint-Germain and Casanova
a protective and kindly patronage, and at her
death Saint-Germain disappeared from France
for four years. During this disappearance from
obvious life he was most probably carrying out
those larger activities to which his whole being
was devoted. The founding of new masonic
lodges, the initiation of illuminates, the organi-
sation of fresh groups in different parts of
Europe, as well as the share he took in
Weishaupt's great scheme for the amalgamation
of secret societies, kept him constantly occupied

99



The Comte de Saint-Germain

and continuously travelling. His advantages
as an illuminate agent were enormous, and he
could work more effectively for the emancipa-
tion of man from the ancient tyrannies than
almost any one of his generation. As a political
agent he gained the ear and heard the views of
the most inaccessible ministers in Europe ; as a
man of fashion he was received in every house ;
as an alchemist and magician he invested himself
in the eyes of the crowd with awe and mystery ;
as a musician he disarmed suspicion and was
welcomed by the ladies of all courts ; but these
various activities seemed to have served only
as a cloak for the great work of his life, served
but to conceal from an unspeculative generation
the seriousness of his real mission. In 1768
the course of his journey ings took him to
Berlin, where the celebrated Pernetti was living.
This learned Benedictine, who was a free-
thinker and in favour of the secularisation of
his order, had left Avignon a short while be-
fore to become librarian to the encyclopaedist
King. He welcomed the arrival of Saint-
Germain with delight, and " was not slow in
recognising in him the characteristics of an
adept." Thiebault says that during the year

100



The Comte de Saint'-Germain

of his stay in Berlin they " had marvels without
end, but never anything mean or scandalous."

From Berlin he went to Italy, travelling
under the name of D'Aymar or Bellamare, and
Graf von Lamberg discovered him near Venice
experimenting in the bleaching of flax. It
appears that he had found time to organise a
small industry there since leaving Germany,
for he ^had over a hundred hands in regular
employment. Von Lamberg persuaded Saint-
Germain to travel with him, and they visited
Corsica in the year of Napoleon's birth (1769).
A newsletter from Tunis shows that after
exploring that island they went to Africa.
" Graf Max. v. Lamberg, having paid a visit
to Corsica to make various investigations, has
been staying here (Tunis) since the end of
June in company with the Signor de Saint-
Germain, celebrated in Europe for the vastness
of his political and philosophical knowledge." *

The mystery of his life became deeper when
he recrossed the Mediterranean to meet the
OrlofFs at Leghorn, for while with them he
wore the uniform of a Russian general. The
Russians at the time were fighting the Turks
* " Le Notize del Mondo," Florence, July 1770.

lOI



The Comte de Saint-Germain

by sea as well as on the Kaghul, and the OrlofFs
were waiting to embark for the war. It was
observed that they addressed Saint- Germain as
Count SoltykofF. The Count became renowned
at this time for his recipe for " Acqua Bene-
detta " {anglice Russian Tea) an infusion used
on Russian men-of-war to preserve the health of
the troops in the severe heat. The English
Consul at Leghorn secured the recipe, and
wrote home in triumph to announce the
fact.

On the fall of his old enemy Choiseul the
Count hastened to Paris (1770), where he
established himself splendidly and soon be-
came an effective figure in the fashionable
world. His generosity and manner of life
excited the admiration of the people, and his
intimacy with the old and now decrepit King
gave him an importance that impressed the
vulgar. After two years of French life he
went on a mission to Vienna where he asso-
ciated intimately with the Orloffs, to whom he
had become ^' caro padre." Louis XV., who
was at the time ruling without the hindrance of
a Parliament, had probably despatched Saint-
Germain to the Austrian capital to gather all

102



The Comte de Saint-Germain

possible information as to the partition of
Poland. The Treaty of Petersburg, by which
this was effected, was arranged during his visit,
and Austria, Russia, and Prussia shared the
spoils. After its conclusion Saint-Germain re-
turned to Paris and remained there till the death
of Louis XV.* Louis XVL, on his accession,
recalled Choiseul to his councils, and Saint-
Germain left France. The next few years he
spent in Germany in the society of the, at that
time, unknown leaders of the secret societies.
Bieberstein, Weishaupt, Prince Charles of
Hesse, and Mirabeau are known to have been
his friends ; he instructed Cagliostro in the
mysteries of the magician's craft, and worked
in conjunction with Nicolai at securing the
German press in the interest of the perfectibilist
movement. In 1784 the illuminate, Dr. Biester,
of Berlin, certified that Saint-Germain had been
*' dead as a door nail for two years." Great
uncertainty and vagueness surround his latter
days, for no confidence can be reposed in the
announcement by one illuminate of the death
of another, for, as is well known, all means to
secure the end were in their code justifiable,

* May 10, 1774.
103



The Comte de Saint-Germain



and it may have been to the interest of the
society that Saint-Germain should have been
thought dead. He is reported to have attended
the Paris Congress of Masonry as a representa-
tive mason in 1785, but no proof of this is
available. Madame d'Adh6mar,* whose me-
moirs one cannot help suspecting are apocryphal,
alleges that Saint-Germain frequently had inter-
views with the King and Queen, in which he
warned them of their approaching fate, but
*' M. de Maurepas, not wishing the salvation
of the country to come from any one but him-
self, ousted the thaumaturgist and he reappeared
no more" (1788).

Madame d'Adhemar copied a letter from
Saint-Germain containing prophetic verses.

The time is fast approaching when imprudent France,
Surrounded by misfortune she might have spared herself.
Will call to mind such hell as Dante painted.

Falling shall we see sceptre, censor, scales,
Towers and escutcheons, even the white flag.

Great streams of blood are flowing in each town ;
Sobs only do I hear, and exiles see.
On all sides civil discord loudly roars

* "Les Souvenirs de Marie-Antoinette," cit. by Mrs.
Cooper Oakley, vol. xxiii. Theos. Rev.

104



The Comte de Saint-Germain



And uttering cries, on all sides virtue flees
As from the Assembly votes of death arise.
Great God, who can reply to murderous judges ?
And on what brows august I see the swords descend !

The Queen asked Madame d'Adhemar what
she thought ot the verses. "They are dismaying ;
but they cannot affect your Majesty,'* she said.

Saint-Germain, who had other prophecies to
make, offered to meet Madame d'Adh6mar in
the Church of the "RecoUets" at the eight
o'clock Mass. She went to the appointed place
in her sedan chair and recounts the words of
the ** Wundermann.''

'^ Saint-Germain. I am Cassandra, prophet
of evil . . . Madame, he who sows the wind
reaps the whirlwind . . . / can do nothing ; my
hands are tied by a stronger than myself,

" Madame. Will you see the Queen ?

'' Saint-Germain. No ; she is doomed.

" Madame. Doomed to what ?

" Saint-Germain. Death.

" Madame. And you — you too ?

"Saint-Germain. Yes — -like Cazotte. . . .
Return to the Palace ; tell the Queen to take
heed to herself, that this day will be fatal to
her. . . .

105



The Comte de Saint-Germain

"Madame. But M. de Lafayette

*' Saint-Germain. A balloon inflated with
wind ! Even now they are settling what to do
with him, whether he shall be instrument or
victim ; by noon all wilF be decided. . . . The
hour of repose is past, and the decrees of
Providence must be fulfilled.

'* Madame. What do they want }
" Saint-Germain. The complete ruin of the
Bourbons. They will expel them from all the
thrones they occupy and in less than a century
they will return in all their different branches to
the rank of simple private individuals. France
as Kingdom, Republic, Empire, and mixed
Government will be tormented, agitated, torn.
From the hands of class tyrants she will pass to
those who are ambitious and without merit."

The prophecies preserved by Madame d'Ad-
hemar remind us of those of Cazotte, which
La Harpe affirms were uttered in his presence,
but it is always difficult for plain people, no
matter how credulous they be, to credit any
human being with foreknowledge of events, and
it is quite probable that Madame d'Adh^mar,*

* She died in 1822.
106



The Comte de Saint-Germain

writing her memoirs in the early nineteenth
century in the red afterglow of the Revolution,
not only confused dates, but even invented
words more prescient than any Saint-Germain
ever spoke. However that be, and even if the
words of Madame d'Adhemar are not to be
reUed on, we find ourselves still face to face
with an enigmatic personality of unusual power
and numberless parts. He has been dead a
little more than a century, and so in time is
almost one of ourselves ; he lived surrounded
by spies and secret agents ; he took no pains to
conceal his habits from the world, and yet he
remains a mystery. He was involved in many
of the most important events of the eighteenth
century and was responsible for much of its
diplomacy. Some day, perhaps, his life may be


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