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favourite fell on Louis XV., whose faults were so fatally expatiated by his successor.
The unexampled and formidable execration which the Choiseuls raised against Madame du Barri, has been held to be not amongst the slightest of the causes which developed the germ of the French Revolution. The grave and decorous old age of Louis XIV. had caused the errors of his youth to be completely forgotten ; the corrupt old age of Louis XV. had a contrary effect-it recalled into one broad view all the vices of royalty. Madame de Maintenon had by the excessive severity of her morals obtained the pardon of almost all the favourites ; the conduct of Madame du Barri revived the recollection of all the royal courtesans. The result was a condensation of all past hatreds on Louis XV.; the iniquities of former reigns were all turned against him.
But formidable as was the array against Madame du Barri, and violent the opposition she had to encounter, not only did she bravely bear up against it, but in the teeth of the greatest difficulties, had the hardihood to attempt to overcome one that had hitherto been looked
upon as insurmountable. She resolved to ask a favour of the king, of so extravagant a nature, that had it been merely hinted at fifty years before, the speaker would have been condemned to perpetual exile.
However abandoned the morals of the court had become since the regency, there had never been the slightest deviation from the most rigid etiquette. Nothing in that respect had changed since the reign of Louis XIV.; the nobility, it is true, degraded themselves to the level of the canaille, but the canaille did not become noble. Amongst the greatest distinctions conferred at court during the last three centuries, the chiefest was that of being presented. In that little word was summed up all that was thought worth living for by those who only lived to bask in the rays of royalty.
Madame du Barri yearned to be presented. It was Jean du Barri, the man who stuck at nothing, who counselled her to make the bold request. “ To be thus” was “nothing,” unless she could be “safely thus”-and this conventional safety consisted in being placed on an equal footing with the princes and princesses of the blood, the great lords and ladies of the court, by being recognised in the public presence of the king:
the young and beautiful countess only hinted at her wish, and Louis merely smiled. In a short time she repeated her request, and the king gaily turned it off ; again she renewed her instances, and on every occasion the monarch's opposition became less formidable. She recalled to his memory, tenderly, but not without an accent of reproach, that she enjoyed nothing but the favour-precious, no doubt, but precarious-of accompanying him on his excursions and occupying an obscure apartment in some corner of his châteaux ; she did not sit with him in his carriages, she did not eat at his table, nor was admitted to play with him ; no prince, no ambassador, no dignitary, came to present his respects to her. Finally, she said, that with more love for him than had ever been felt by the Demoiselles de Nesle, or by Madame de Pompadour, she enjoyed none of the advantages which they had possessed. Why was this difference made ? What was the cause of this injustice? The king began to find himself in a strait ; he knew not what answer to make. The Du Barris attacked him on another side ; they also enlisted the newspapers in their favour, and caused to be inserted such paragraphs as the following:
“Madame du Barri continues to merit the attention both of the court
and of the town. There is a talk of her being presented. At Versailles bets are openly made for and against the fact. One thing is certain, if she attains this honour, there will be great changes in the ministry. The aversion which M. de Choiseul has shown towards her will not admit of his retaining his place. She is supported by MM. Bertin, de Saint Florentin, the Duke d’Aiguillon, the Duke de Richelieu, and all the devots, who will look upon it as a good work, if they succeed, no matter how, in ousting M. de Choiseul.”
A few days after, the same papers (well paid for doing so), stated the fact as more and more positive:
“ The rumour at Versailles is, that Madame du Barri will be presented on the 3rd of next month.”
Assailed on every hand, the old king endeavoured at last, merely to break his fall, by compromising the matter, which he thought to do by giving to Madame du Barri the apartments which Madame de Pompadour had occupied at Versailles. This, he thought, would be installation, but not presentation; the court would murmur but little, and the countess, partly satisfied, would be patient for a time. He reckoned without his host. The countess was not satisfied, and moreover, M. de Noailles, who was the governor of the château, raised his voice against it. The latter was silenced without much difficulty, but the king was obliged to give his consent to the presentation, which was fixed for the 25th of January, 1769.
It is useless to remark, as the facts speak for themselves, that the king grew daily fonder of Madame du Barri. It was a complete fascination which took possession of every faculty, and rendered him deaf and insensible to all the prayers and solicitations of those nearest to him, who sought to deter him from the scandal of this presentation. He was impenetrable alike to satire as to grave requests, and the former was not wanting, for Voltaire himself, from his retreat at Fernay, wrote some satirical verses on the amours of his sovereign and constant enemy ; this gibing humour, however, was not of long duration, for the cunuing old fox soon discovered in what quarter the wind lay, and, changing his tone, speedily denied the verses, and prepared his most polished prose to compliment her who not only knew how to pardon, but how not to remember.
The presentation was accordingly resolved on, and Madame de Bearn was selected as the god-mother of the débutante—the person, that is, upon whom devolved the necessary task of presenting. It was a lucky thing for Madame de Bearn that the function, disdainfully refused by all the other ladies of quality, fell to her lot. Her debts were paid, her son received a valuable appointment, and other members of her family were not forgotten. Still, however, the presentation was delayed, the princesses having been instigated by the Choiseuls to oppose it. The king made another move: he gave the apartments occupied by the late dauphiness to his mistress, whom he thus advanced one step, until he was able to grant her the highest ; in his eyes the apartments of Madame de Pompadour were no longer good enough for her. Meantime, the animosity against the favourite continued to increase, while she, always gay and charming, amused herself, under the gilded roofs of Versailles, by tossing oranges about the rooms, exclaiming with every jerk,
“Saute, Choiseul! Saute, Praslin !"
M. de Praslin (the ancestor of the unhappy man whose tragic acts have not been effaced even by the great events in France, which still occupy the public mind), was the cousin of the Duke de Choiseul, and had been appointed by him Minister for Foreign Affairs, when the latter assumed the direction of the ministries of the war and naval departments. They entertained the same views, shared the same successes, and partook of the same reverses, for when the Duke de Choiseul was exiled to Chanteloup, the Duke de Praslin was sent to Vaux.
As it was to be feared that the king becoming sated with the charms of the countess might become more difficult as to the presentation, it became necessary to carry the question, no matter at what price. Jean du Barri again came forward as the grand adviser. After a few days of lassitude and sadness, Madame du Barri threw herself at the feet of the king and earnestly entreated of him to shield her from the calumnies of her enemies by consenting to her being presented. This mark of esteem would make them silent, without it she should die of shame and grief. Perhaps in speaking thus, she may have been sincere, for there is no origin, however humble, which enables a young and beautiful woman to endure the insults of those whose enmity she has provoked by no injustice on her own part. A few days afterwards the following appeared in the papers :
“On Friday evening the 24th, the king on his return from hunting announced a presentation for the following day, it was to be unique and one that had been under consideration for some time; his majesty finally declared that it was to be that of Madame du Barri. On the same evening a jeweller waited on the countess with a parure valued at 100,000 francs. On the morrow the attendance at court was more numerous than that which preceded the marriage of the Duke de Chartres, so much so, indeed, that the king, astonished at the deluge of spectators, inquired if the palace were on fire."
From far and near numbers indeed came to witness this novel coronation. The immense place d'armes of Versailles, and the three superb avenues which lead to it, were from dawn to mid-day filled with people on foot, in carriages, and on horseback. It was a curiosity ill requited, for what could they hope to see? Madame du Barri had no distance to go ; her carriage simply made the round of the royal court without any body outside being aware of it. But it was enough that she was to be presented at all, to set every body in motion for twenty leagues round. None of the rumours which spoke of slights attendant on the ceremony were
the occasion. It had been said that the outraged princesses, the daughters of Louis XV. would rise and leave the court in disgust, that the Duke de Choiseul would resign his portfolio, and that the court itself would disappear en masse. Nothing of the kind happened. The gilded doors were thrown open ; Madame du Barri, not without some emotion, made her reverence first to the king and then to the three princesses, all of whom received her most graciously. It had also been asserted that if she threw open her own apartments on the day of presentation, they would be entirely deserted. She did so, and the rooms were thronged with courtiers. Almost every great name in France was heard there—Conti
, Soubise, Richelieu, d'Aiguillon, d'Ayen, all- except the immediate partisans of the Duke de Choiseul ; for the neutrals, those who had to complain of the
minister and those who could not expect any thing from him, swelled the number of Madame Du Barri's adherents. It is true there were more men than women, and that of the latter there were but few to accompany her to Marly a few days after her presentation, notwithstanding the most assiduous efforts were made to gain them over. The ladies of the court affected to object to her manners and style of conversation, in which her expletives were not the most choice. Théveneau de Morande gives an instance of this in describing a card-party at Marly when seated amidst dukes and marquises, and on the point of losing the game, she exclaimed with more energy than refinement, “ Ah! je suis frite!” But the stories that are told of her in this particular, as in many others which tend to throw ridicule upon her, have their origin most likely in envy at her sudden greatness. Let us turn to the really bright side of her character, and there we shall find that the more she rose in favour, the more simple, amiable, modest, and kind she became. She never inflicted punishment, nor exacted vengeance, and the king was consequently in a state of perpetual astonishment. * I shall be obliged," said he often to her, " to sell the Bastille, you send nobody there!"
EASTERN LIFE, PRESENT AND PAST.*
The East will always find its vindicators. Frivolity and levity may cast a temporary ridicule upon the solemn and sacred past, but feelings so alien to a just appreciation of lands that cradled religion and civilisation cannot prevail long. Thoughtful minds sufficiently disciplined to sympathise with and to understand the great lessons of antiquity, will come forth ever and anon, to echo the truths of early religion, and of a primeval civilisation. Here, for example, is an author-a lady, too--but a lady trained by long habits of intellectual inquiry ; upon whom the contemplation of Eastern life both present and past has had just the effect that such a contemplation ought to have. “She returns from her journey her intellect crowded with new ideas, her heart full of new impressions, her whole mind chastened by a world of new associations.
Egypt (says Miss Martineau, wlien under the immediate influence of the ruins of a city of a hundred gates) is not the country to go to for the recreation of travel. Itis too suggestive and tooconfounding to be met but in the spirit of study. One's powers of observation sink under the perpetual exercise of thought, and the lightest hearted voyager, who sets forth from Cairo eager for new scenes and days of frolic, comes back an antique, a citizen of the world of six thousand years ago, kindred with the mummy. Nothing but large knowledge and sound habits of thought can save him from returning perplexed and borne down ;unless indeed it be ignorance and levity. A man who goes to shoot crocodiles, and flog Arabs, and eat ostriches' eggs, looks upon the monuments as so many strange old stone heaps, and comes back“ bored to death with the Nile," as we were told we should be. He turns back from Thebes, or from the first cataract, perhaps without having even seen the cataract, when within a mile of it, as in a case I know ; and he pays his crew to work night and day, to get back to Cairo as fast as possible. He may return gay and unworn : so may the true philosopher, to whom no tidings of man in any age come amiss ; who has no prejudices to be painfully weaned from, and an imagination too strong to be overwhelmed by mystery and the rush of a host of new ideas. But for all between the two extremes of levity and wisdom, a Nile voyage is as serious a labour as the mind and spirits can be involved in ; a trial even to health and temper such as is little dreamed of on leaving home. The labour and care are well bestowed, however, for the thoughtful traveller can hardly fail of returning from Egypt a wiser, and therefore a better man.
This is the kind of traveller with whom it is pleasant to go along hand in hand. Resolute to receive the true impressions of the country, however serious and solemn they may be, and yet imaginative enough also to kindle with the fire that is breathed into the being of this day, by the philosophy of a remote antiquity; we feel that with such a companion, we are certain of instruction and equally sure of whatever delight there is in intellectual improvement.
Miss Martineau takes little note at starting of Alexandria ; she hastened through the dreary city almost without a novel remark, only wondering how any one, after seeing the beauty of Cairo, and enjoying the antiquities of Upper Egypt, would come back to it, who could leave the country in any
other way. But there is an anecdote told, in connexion with the Mahmoudiyah canal, which we have not yet met elsewhere.
* Eastern Life, Present and Past. By Harriet Martineau. 3 vols. Edward Moxon.