« ZurückWeiter »
feel convinced that you would not have committed the error of which M. Carnot has been guilty.'
"Carnot had just then published his famous Memorial in which he justified the regicide.
"I expressed my disapproval of Carnot's ill-judged step; and I assured His Majesty that, with the exception of kneeling at the feet of Carnot, I had done everything in my power to dissuade him from giving his unfortunate Memorial to the world. I pointed out to him the pain which it would inflict on all the voters, many of whom were repentant, and that it would render them the objects of persecution. He disregarded my remonstrances. At least, said I, do not expose the Memorial for sale.
"It was a most reprehensible proceeding,' said Louis XVIII. I was urged to punish him; but I bound my hands, and I am glad I did so. All the happiness of the restoration would have been blighted, had I been compelled to shed blood. Is it not almost inconceivable, Sir, that such an event should have taken place without any violent
"I assure you, my dear Leon, said Prince Cambacérès, that I was extremely gratified at thus being brought to a subject which enabled me without flattery to eulogize the King. Sire, said I, your return is a miracle, and your conduct a sublime example of wisdom. Your execution of the will of Louis XVI. must ever secure to you the affection and veneration of the nation. May your Majesty reign. long, very long, to consolidate the edifice!"
"You are satisfied with the charter?”
"It is a bridge thrown over an abyss: the only path by which the gulf may be passed in perfect safety. It will be the beacon and polar star of the French people.
"It appears to me clear and well arranged.'
"It reserves to the throne all the power necessary for its preservation; and it leaves to the people all the liberty of which they stand in need. Your Majesty has triumphantly resolved a most difficult problem.
"I conjure you, my dear Duke, to use your influence to prevail on the men of the revolution to rally round us. They will find it their interest to do so. Our intention is to follow the example of Bonaparte and to receive every
one: to employ men who are capable of being useful, both in military and civil affairs. In the first instance, some acts of injustice have been committed; but, be assured, I will repair them. I bring with me peace and a prosperity hitherto unknown to France. I have witnessed in England the advantages of the protection accorded to trade. Union and oblivion are the sole objects of my desire. You are a man of judgment and tact, and you enjoy a high reputation abroad. It excites surprise that you are not in my council; I tell you again that you will have a place there, and soon. Reside in Paris, or travel: in short, go and come as you please. If, by chance, the spirit of intrigue should destroy your quiet, appeal to me.'
"With these words, the King dismissed me, and I returned home quite transported with my reception. Now, this circumstance must be known to very few, and I have made you one of those few, because I know you to be discreet and attached to me."
I expressed my acknowledgments for the confidence the Duke reposed in me; but I felt that I deserved it, by the sincere regard I cherished for him. I am gratified in having the opportunity of rendering him justice and recording his virtues. On that same day, I asked him what he thought of public affairs. He closed his eyes, compressed his lips, made a sort of grimace, which certainly did not improve his looks, and, after a minute's reflection, said:
"I should wish to predict nothing but prosperity, and yet I see the future overclouded by storms. The Emperor's stay in the Isle of Elba will only be temporary. They are driving him to return to France. If he should come back, all that is done will be undone, and Europe will be convulsed for more than half a century. The King is a monarch of the rarest merit. If he do not fall a victim to some political tempest, he will die on the throne. But, after him, unwise counsellors will be listened to; women will resume their sway; frivolity will be considered one of the cardinal virtues among the higher ranks. The army and literary men, who form an order in the state, will be dissatisfied, and the whole edifice will totter to its foundation."
"And how is this catastrophe to be avoided, Monseigneur?"
"By following the tact of the Emperor. The change that has taken place should have been regarded merely as a question of persons, and not of principles. The Emperor was dead; we had only to cry Vive le roi!....The King was precisely the same as the Emperor. Every thing was in its place, and every functionary at his post. Except that the chief of the state bore the title of King, we were still in the empire. The tri-coloured flag and the eagle were abolished, it is true, and fleurs-de-lis were substituted for bees. These were the only changes, and no official man was to be removed from his post, except by death or voluntary resignation. Had this plan been strictly adhered to, all pretext for discontent and recrimination would have been removed. Custom had moulded us to obedience; we could dispense with the liberty of the press, and even with personal liberty. The severity of the conscription being mitigated by the establishment of peace, general happiness would have prevailed. But, instead of this, we are threatened with complete change, which has the effect of inspiring fear. All this will end badly. What do you propose to do?
"To keep myself aloof; to look on at passing events, and await their result."
"Do not become a member of any association."
"Monseigneur, I have resolved neither to become a freemason nor a penitent; and, moreover, I am resolved to keep myself clear of that host of intriguers, who are divided into two sections: rogues and dupes."
"What!..You are a native of Montpellier, transplanted to Toulouse and Carcassone!.. and is it possible that you have not put on either the blue gown or the black, the grey or the white?"
"My father-in-law, who is Prior of the white brotherhood of Carcassone, entered my name in the association; but that was not enough: it was necessary to have my person, also, and that was not quite so easy. My father-inlaw now found himself in a difficulty. He knew that a direct refusal was not to be thought of. Consequently, one day when I was busily engaged writing in my library, the
An Honour Declined.
door was opened, and the servant announced some gentletlemen from the brotherhood of the White Penitents of Carcassone. I was confounded. I rose from my chair, and beheld all the dignitaries before me, except the prior, who, for good reasons, had entrenched himself behind the door. The spokesman of the party stepped forward and repeated the names of all my ancestors who had been penitents, and informed me that all my relations, now existing, were penitents also; after saying which, he wound up speech by the flattering intimation that, at the express request of M. G- and my father-in-law, I had been unanimously received a member of the brotherhood. This was a critical moment. To decline the honour, appeared next to impossible; and might perhaps, have been attended with danger. Fanaticism is not yet extinct in the south. I, therefore, bowed, profoundly, and said: Gentlemen I should feel highly honoured in being associated with you; but there is an insurmountable obstacle in the way. I am a jansenist, and, consequently, cannot become a white penitent. The solemn tone in which I uttered this announcement carried conviction to the minds of the worthy citizens, who, though very good men of business, were profoundly ignorant, (and Heaven grant they may continue so,) of the propositions of the Bishop of Ypres, and of the formidable dispute to which the Bull Unigenitus had given rise. What is a jansenist? thought they....Doubtless a member of some brotherhood, cherishing feelings of rivalry and jealousy towards the Whites.
A few half whispered remarks were interchanged, and then one of the deputation said:
"Oh then! if Monsieur is a jansenist, he of course cannot join us.... But your name. you can surely let us have your name?'
"I trust, gentlemen, replied I, that you are too well aware of the duties of a jansenist to make such a proposition seriously.
"Exclamations of regret were renewed; and I, being tolerably well practised in the art of getting rid of tiresome visitors, provoked a retreat: I followed the party through the suite of drawing-rooms and down the staircase, and, being closely pressed under the entrance vestibule, they
Anecdote of Princess Borghese.
were completely routed. There I abandoned the pursuit of the enemy, who, however, rallied for the purpose of calling the venerable prior, my father-in-law, to account for the mistake into which he had led them, whilst I returned to my library, and prepared myself for a family storm." "Then you are a jansenist?" said Prince Čambacérès, who had been not a little amused at my story.
"Ah, Monseigneur! Heaven forbid! In religion, as well as in politics, I am for unity. I approve and condemn those things, which are approved and condemned by the Church. I admire the learning of Port-Royal, but I fear the institution tends to republicanism."
"During the revolution, we saw dozens of jansenists under the jacobin flags."
"Alas! we did, Monseigneur. Submission to authority is a doctrine which enables a man to sleep soundly; and he is not a bit the worse for it."
"The awkward dilemma in which your father-in-law placed you, though with very good intention, reminds me of an incident, somewhat similar, which occurred to myself."
"Pray tell it me, Prince, said I; it will be a valuable contribution to those notes which you and some of your friends have so kindly enabled me to collect."
"You shall have it most willingly. In the anecdotes with which I have furnished you, there are many piquant traits which I should be very sorry to lose. I may not be inclined to insert them in my Memoirs, and, if I do not commit them to paper they will be lost. I therefore consign them to you, with permission to make what use of them you please. And now for my story.
"The Emperor had reached the zenith of his prosperity. He was making kings with as much ease as he was making marshals. Murat had just been transferred from the grand Duchy of Berg to the throne of Naples, when one morning a carriage drove into my court-yard and a lady alighted from it. Ah Miséricorde! I exclaimed, it is her Imperial Highness the Princess de Guastalla (Madame Borghese, the beautiful Pauline Bonaparte). I was hastening down stairs to receive her with all due ceremony, when happening to pass a window which looked out to the garden, I