Famous Affinities of History (Complete)
Part 5 out of 8
named Lola Oliver. "Lola" is a diminutive of Dolores, and as
"Lola" she became known to the world.
She lived at one time or another in nearly all the countries of
Europe, and likewise in India, America, and Australia. It would be
impossible to set down here all the sensations that she achieved.
Let us select the climax of her career and show how she overturned
a kingdom, passing but lightly over her early and her later years.
She was born in Limerick in 1818, but her father's parents cast
off their son and his young wife, the Spanish dancer. They went to
India, and in 1825 the father died, leaving his young widow
without a rupee; but she was quickly married again, this time to
an officer of importance.
The former danseuse became a very conventional person, a fit match
for her highly conventional husband; but the small daughter did
not take kindly to the proprieties of life. The Hindu servants
taught her more things than she should have known; and at one time
her stepfather found her performing the danse du ventre. It was
the Moorish strain inherited from her mother.
She was sent back to Europe, however, and had a sort of education
in Scotland and England, and finally in Paris, where she was
detected in an incipient flirtation with her music-master. There
were other persons hanging about her from her fifteenth year, at
which time her stepfather, in India, had arranged a marriage
between her and a rich but uninteresting old judge. One of her
numerous admirers told her this.
"What on earth am I to do?" asked little Lola, most naively.
"Why, marry me," said the artful adviser, who was Captain Thomas
James; and so the very next day they fled to Dublin and were
speedily married at Meath.
Lola's husband was violently in love with her, but, unfortunately,
others were no less susceptible to her charms. She was presented
at the vice-regal court, and everybody there became her victim.
Even the viceroy, Lord Normanby, was greatly taken with her. This
nobleman's position was such that Captain James could not object
to his attentions, though they made the husband angry to a degree.
The viceroy would draw her into alcoves and engage her in
flattering conversation, while poor James could only gnaw his
nails and let green-eyed jealousy prey upon his heart. His only
recourse was to take her into the country, where she speedily
became bored; and boredom is the death of love.
Later she went with Captain James to India. She endured a campaign
in Afghanistan, in which she thoroughly enjoyed herself because of
the attentions of the officers. On her return to London in 1842,
one Captain Lennox was a fellow passenger; and their association
resulted in an action for divorce, by which she was freed from her
husband, and yet by a technicality was not able to marry Lennox,
whose family in any case would probably have prevented the
Mrs. Mayne says, in writing on this point:
Even Lola never quite succeeded in being allowed to commit bigamy
unmolested, though in later years she did commit it and took
refuge in Spain to escape punishment.
The same writer has given a vivid picture of what happened soon
after the divorce. Lola tried to forget her past and to create a
new and brighter future. Here is the narrative:
Her Majesty's Theater was crowded on the night of June 10,1843. A
new Spanish dancer was announced--"Dona Lola Montez." It was her
debut, and Lumley, the manager, had been puffing her beforehand,
as he alone knew how. To Lord Ranelagh, the leader of the
dilettante group of fashionable young men, he had whispered,
"I have a surprise in store. You shall see."
So Ranelagh and a party of his friends filled the omnibus boxes,
those tribunes at the side of the stage whence success or failure
was pronounced. Things had been done with Lumley's consummate art;
the packed house was murmurous with excitement. She was a raving
beauty, said report--and then, those intoxicating Spanish dances!
Taglioni, Cerito, Fanny Elssler, all were to be eclipsed.
Ranelagh's glasses were steadily leveled on the stage from the
moment her entrance was imminent. She came on. There was a murmur
of admiration--but Ranelagh made no sign. And then she began to
dance. A sense of disappointment, perhaps? But she was very
lovely, very graceful, "like a flower swept by the wind, she
floated round the stage"--not a dancer, but, by George, a beauty!
And still Ranelagh made no sign.
Yet, no. What low, sibilant sound is that? And then what confused,
angry words from the tribunal? He turns to his friends, his eyes
ablaze with anger, opera-glass in hand. And now again the terrible
"Hiss-s-s!" taken up by the other box, and the words repeated
loudly and more angrily even than before--the historic words which
sealed Lola's doom at Her Majesty's Theater: "WHY, IT'S BETTY
She was, indeed, Betty James, and London would not accept her as
Lola Montez. She left England and appeared upon the Continent as a
beautiful virago, making a sensation--as the French would say, a
succes de scandale--by boxing the ears of people who offended her,
and even on one occasion horsewhipping a policeman who was in
attendance on the King of Prussia. In Paris she tried once more to
be a dancer, but Paris would not have her. She betook herself to
Dresden and Warsaw, where she sought to attract attention by her
eccentricities, making mouths at the spectators, flinging her
garters in their faces, and one time removing her skirts and still
more necessary garments, whereupon her manager broke off his
engagement with her.
An English writer who heard a great deal of her and who saw her
often about this time writes that there was nothing wonderful
about her except "her beauty and her impudence." She had no talent
nor any of the graces which make women attractive; yet many men of
talent raved about her. The clever young journalist, Dujarrier,
who assisted Emile Girardin, was her lover in Paris. He was killed
in a duel and left Lola twenty thousand francs and some
securities, so that she no longer had to sing in the streets as
she did in Warsaw.
She now betook herself to Munich, the capital of Bavaria. That
country was then governed by Ludwig I., a king as eccentric as
Lola herself. He was a curious compound of kindliness, ideality,
and peculiar ways. For instance, he would never use a carriage
even on state occasions. He prowled around the streets, knocking
off the hats of those whom he chanced to meet. Like his
unfortunate descendant, Ludwig II., he wrote poetry, and he had a
picture-gallery devoted to portraits of the beautiful women whom
he had met.
He dressed like an English fox-hunter, with a most extraordinary
hat, and what was odd and peculiar in others pleased him because
he was odd and peculiar himself. Therefore when Lola made her
first appearance at the Court Theater he was enchanted with her.
He summoned her at once to the palace, and within five days he
presented her to the court, saying as he did so:
"Meine Herren, I present you to my best friend."
In less than a month this curious monarch had given Lola the title
of Countess of Landsfeld. A handsome house was built for her, and
a pension of twenty thousand florins was granted her. This was in
1847. With the people of Munich she was unpopular. They did not
mind the eccentricities of the king, since these amused them and
did the country no perceptible harm; but they were enraged by this
beautiful woman, who had no softness such as a woman ought to
have. Her swearing, her readiness to box the ears of every one
whom she disliked, the huge bulldog which accompanied her
everywhere--all these things were beyond endurance.
She was discourteous to the queen, besides meddling with the
politics of the kingdom. Either of these things would have been
sufficient to make her hated. Together, they were more than the
city of Munich could endure. Finally the countess tried to
establish a new corps in the university. This was the last touch
of all. A student who ventured to wear her colors was beaten and
arrested. Lola came to his aid with all her wonted boldness; but
the city was in commotion.
Daggers were drawn; Lola was hustled and insulted. The foolish
king rushed out to protect her; and on his arm she was led in
safety to the palace. As she entered the gates she turned and
fired a pistol into the mob. No one was hurt, but a great rage
took possession of the people. The king issued a decree closing
the university for a year. By this time, however, Munich was in
possession of a mob, and the Bavarians demanded that she should
leave the country.
Ludwig faced the chamber of peers, where the demand of the
populace was placed before him.
"I would rather lose my crown!" he replied.
The lords of Bavaria regarded him with grim silence; and in their
eyes he read the determination of his people. On the following day
a royal decree revoked Lola's rights as a subject of Bavaria, and
still another decree ordered her to be expelled. The mob yelled
with joy and burned her house. Poor Ludwig watched the tumult by
the light of the leaping flames.
He was still in love with her and tried to keep her in the
kingdom; but the result was that Ludwig himself was forced to
abdicate. He had given his throne for the light love of this
beautiful but half-crazy woman. She would have no more to do with
him; and as for him, he had to give place to his son Maximilian.
Ludwig had lost a kingdom merely because this strange, outrageous
creature had piqued him and made him think that she was unique
The rest of her career was adventurous. In England she contracted
a bigamous marriage with a youthful officer, and within two weeks
they fled to Spain for safety from the law. Her husband was
drowned, and she made still another marriage. She visited
Australia, and at Melbourne she had a fight with a strapping
woman, who clawed her face until Lola fell fainting to the ground.
It is a squalid record of horse-whippings, face-scratchings--in
short, a rowdy life.
Her end was like that of Becky Sharp. In America she delivered
lectures which were written for her by a clergyman and which dealt
with the art of beauty. She had a temporary success; but soon she
became quite poor, and took to piety, professing to be a sort of
piteous, penitent Magdalen. In this role she made effective use of
her beautiful dark hair, her pallor, and her wonderful eyes. But
the violence of her disposition had wrecked her physically; and
she died of paralysis in Astoria, on Long Island, in 1861. Upon
her grave in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, there is a tablet to
her memory, bearing the inscription: "Mrs. Eliza Gilbert, born
1818, died 1861."
What can one say of a woman such as this? She had no morals, and
her manners were outrageous. The love she felt was the love of a
she-wolf. Fourteen biographies of her have been written, besides
her own autobiography, which was called The Story of a Penitent,
and which tells less about her than any of the other books. Her
beauty was undeniable. Her courage was the blended courage of the
Celt, the Spaniard, and the Moor. Yet all that one can say of her
was said by the elder Dumas when he declared that she was born to
be the evil genius of every one who cared for her. Her greatest
fame comes from the fact that in less than three years she
overturned a kingdom and lost a king his throne.
LEON GAMBETTA AND LEONIE LEON
The present French Republic has endured for over forty years.
Within that time it has produced just one man of extraordinary
power and parts. This was Leon Gambetta. Other men as remarkable
as he were conspicuous in French political life during the first
few years of the republic; but they belonged to an earlier
generation, while Gambetta leaped into prominence only when the
empire fell, crashing down in ruin and disaster.
It is still too early to form an accurate estimate of him as a
statesman. His friends praise him extravagantly. His enemies still
revile him bitterly. The period of his political career lasted for
little more than a decade, yet in that time it may be said that he
lived almost a life of fifty years. Only a short time ago did the
French government cause his body to be placed within the great
Pantheon, which contains memorials of the heroes and heroines of
France. But, though we may not fairly judge of his political
motives, we can readily reconstruct a picture of him as a man, and
in doing so recall his one romance, which many will remember after
they have forgotten his oratorical triumphs and his statecraft.
Leon Gambetta was the true type of the southern Frenchman--what
his countrymen call a meridional. The Frenchman of the south is
different from the Frenchman of the north, for the latter has in
his veins a touch of the viking blood, so that he is very apt to
be fair-haired and blue-eyed, temperate in speech, and self-
controlled. He is different, again, from the Frenchman of central
France, who is almost purely Celtic. The meridional has a marked
vein of the Italian in him, derived from the conquerors of ancient
Gaul. He is impulsive, ardent, fiery in speech, hot-tempered, and
vivacious to an extraordinary degree.
Gambetta, who was born at Cahors, was French only on his mother's
side, since his father was of Italian birth. It is said also that
somewhere in his ancestry there was a touch of the Oriental. At
any rate, he was one of the most southern of the sons of southern
France, and he showed the precocious maturity which belongs to a
certain type of Italian. At twenty-one he had already been
admitted to the French bar, and had drifted to Paris, where his
audacity, his pushing nature, and his red-hot un-restraint of
speech gave him a certain notoriety from the very first.
It was toward the end of the reign of Napoleon III. that Gambetta
saw his opportunity. The emperor, weakened by disease and yielding
to a sort of feeble idealism, gave to France a greater freedom of
speech than it had enjoyed while he was more virile. This
relaxation of control merely gave to his opponents more courage to
attack him and his empire. Demagogues harangued the crowds in
words which would once have led to their imprisonment. In the
National Assembly the opposition did all within its power to
hamper and defeat the policy of the government.
In short, republicanism began to rise in an ominous and
threatening way; and at the head of republicanism in Paris stood
forth Gambetta, with his impassioned eloquence, his stinging
phrases, and his youthful boldness. He became the idol of that
part of Paris known as Belleville, where artisans and laborers
united with the rabble of the streets in hating the empire and in
crying out for a republic.
Gambetta was precisely the man to voice the feelings of these
people. Whatever polish he acquired in after years was then quite
lacking; and the crudity of his manners actually helped him with
the men whom he harangued. A recent book by M. Francis Laur, an
ardent admirer of Gambetta, gives a picture of the man which may
be nearly true of him in his later life, but which is certainly
too flattering when applied to Gambetta in 1868, at the age of
How do we see Gambetta as he was at thirty? A man of powerful
frame and of intense vitality, with thick, clustering hair, which
he shook as a lion shakes its mane; olive-skinned, with eyes that
darted fire, a resonant, sonorous voice, and a personal magnetism
which was instantly felt by all who met him or who heard him
speak. His manners were not refined. He was fond of oil and
garlic. His gestures were often more frantic than impressive, so
that his enemies called him "the furious fool." He had a trick of
spitting while he spoke. He was by no means the sort of man whose
habits had been formed in drawing-rooms or among people of good
breeding. Yet his oratory was, of its kind, superb.
In 1869 Gambetta was elected by the Red Republicans to the Corps
Legislatif. From the very first his vehemence and fire gained him
a ready hearing. The chamber itself was arranged like a great
theater, the members occupying the floor and the public the
galleries. Each orator in addressing the house mounted a sort of
rostrum and from it faced the whole assemblage, not noticing, as
with us, the presiding officer at all. The very nature of this
arrangement stimulated parliamentary speaking into eloquence and
After Gambetta had spoken a few times he noticed in the gallery a
tall, graceful woman, dressed in some neutral color and wearing
long black gloves, which accentuated the beauty of her hands and
arms. No one in the whole assembly paid such close attention to
the orator as did this woman, whom he had never seen before and
who appeared to be entirely alone.
When it came to him to speak on another day he saw sitting in the
same place the same stately and yet lithe and sinuous figure. This
was repeated again and again, until at last whenever he came to a
peculiarly fervid burst of oratory he turned to this woman's face
and saw it lighted up by the same enthusiasm which was stirring
Finally, in the early part of 1870, there came a day when Gambetta
surpassed himself in eloquence. His theme was the grandeur of
republican government. Never in his life had he spoken so boldly
as then, or with such fervor. The ministers of the emperor shrank
back in dismay as this big-voiced, strong-limbed man hurled forth
sentence after sentence like successive peals of irresistible
As Gambetta rolled forth his sentences, superb in their rhetoric
and all ablaze with that sort of intense feeling which masters an
orator in the moment of his triumph, the face of the lady in the
gallery responded to him with wonderful appreciation. She was no
longer calm, unmoved, and almost severe. She flushed, and her eyes
as they met his seemed to sparkle with living fire. When he
finished and descended from the rostrum he looked at her, and
their eyes cried out as significantly as if the two had spoken to
Then Gambetta did what a person of finer breeding would not have
done. He hastily scribbled a note, sealed it, and called to his
side one of the official pages. In the presence of the great
assemblage, where he was for the moment the center of attention,
he pointed to the lady in the gallery and ordered the page to take
the note to her.
One may excuse this only on the ground that he was completely
carried away by his emotion, so that to him there was no one
present save this enigmatically fascinating woman and himself. But
the lady on her side was wiser; or perhaps a slight delay gave her
time to recover her discretion. When Gambetta's note was brought
to her she took it quietly and tore it into little pieces without
reading it; and then, rising, she glided through the crowd and
Gambetta in his excitement had acted as if she were a mere
adventuress. With perfect dignity she had shown him that she was a
woman who retained her self-respect.
Immediately upon the heels of this curious incident came the
outbreak of the war with Germany. In the war the empire was
shattered at Sedan. The republic was proclaimed in Paris. The
French capital was besieged by a vast German army. Gambetta was
made minister of the interior, and remained for a while in Paris
even after it had been blockaded. But his fiery spirit chafed
under such conditions. He longed to go forth into the south of
France and arouse his countrymen with a cry to arms against the
Escaping in a balloon, he safely reached the city of Tours; and
there he established what was practically a dictatorship. He flung
himself with tremendous energy into the task of organizing armies,
of equipping them, and of directing their movements for the relief
of Paris. He did, in fact, accomplish wonders. He kept the spirit
of the nation still alive. Three new armies were launched against
the Germans. Gambetta was everywhere and took part in everything
that was done. His inexperience in military affairs, coupled with
his impatience of advice, led him to make serious mistakes.
Nevertheless, one of his armies practically defeated the Germans
at Orleans; and could he have had his own way, even the fall of
Paris would not have ended the war.
"Never," said Gambetta, "shall I consent to peace so long as
France still has two hundred thousand men under arms and more than
a thousand cannon to direct against the enemy!"
But he was overruled by other and less fiery statesmen. Peace was
made, and Gambetta retired for a moment into private life. If he
had not succeeded in expelling the German hosts he had, at any
rate, made Bismarck hate him, and he had saved the honor of
It was while the National Assembly at Versailles was debating the
terms of peace with Germany that Gambetta once more delivered a
noble and patriotic speech. As he concluded he felt a strange
magnetic attraction; and, sweeping the audience with a glance, he
saw before him, not very far away, the same woman with the long
black gloves, having about her still an air of mystery, but again
meeting his eyes with her own, suffused with feeling.
Gambetta hurried to an anteroom and hastily scribbled the
At last I see you once more. Is it really you?
The scrawl was taken to her by a discreet official, and this time
she received the letter, pressed it to her heart, and then slipped
it into the bodice of her gown. But this time, as before, she left
without making a reply.
It was an encouragement, yet it gave no opening to Gambetta--for
she returned to the National Assembly no more. But now his heart
was full of hope, for he was convinced with a very deep conviction
that somewhere, soon, and in some way he would meet this woman,
who had become to him one of the intense realities of his life. He
did not know her name. They had never exchanged a word. Yet he was
sure that time would bring them close together.
His intuition was unerring. What we call chance often seems to
know what it is doing. Within a year after the occurrence that has
just been narrated an old friend of Gambetta's met with an
accident which confined him to his house. The statesman strolled
to his friend's residence. The accident was a trifling one, and
the mistress of the house was holding a sort of informal
reception, answering questions that were asked her by the numerous
acquaintances who called.
As Gambetta was speaking, of a sudden he saw before him, at the
extremity of the room, the lady of his dreams, the sphinx of his
waking hours, the woman who four years earlier had torn up the
note which he addressed to her, but who more recently had kept his
written words. Both of them were deeply agitated, yet both of them
carried off the situation without betraying themselves to others,
Gambetta approached, and they exchanged a few casual commonplaces.
But now, close together, eye and voice spoke of what was in their
Presently the lady took her leave. Gambetta followed closely. In
the street he turned to her and said in pleading tones:
"Why did you destroy my letter? You knew I loved you, and yet all
these years you have kept away from me in silence."
Then the girl--for she was little more than a girl--hesitated for
a moment. As he looked upon her face he saw that her eyes were
full of tears. At last she spoke with emotion:
"You cannot love me, for I am unworthy of you. Do not urge me. Do
not make promises. Let us say good-by. At least I must first tell
you of my story, for I am one of those women whom no one ever
Gambetta brushed aside her pleadings. He begged that he might see
her soon. Little by little she consented; but she would not see
him at her house. She knew that his enemies were many and that
everything he did would be used against him. In the end she agreed
to meet him in the park at Versailles, near the Petit Trianon, at
eight o'clock in the morning.
When she had made this promise he left her. Already a new
inspiration had come to him, and he felt that with this woman by
his side he could accomplish anything.
At the appointed hour, in the silence of the park and amid the
sunshine of the beautiful morning, the two met once again.
Gambetta seized her hands with eagerness and cried out in an
"At last! At last! At last!"
But the woman's eyes were heavy with sorrow, and upon her face
there was a settled melancholy. She trembled at his touch and
almost shrank from him. Here was seen the impetuosity of the
meridional. He had first spoken to this woman only two days
before. He knew nothing of her station, of her surroundings, of
her character. He did not even know her name. Yet one thing he
knew absolutely--that she was made for him and that he must have
her for his own. He spoke at once of marriage; but at this she
drew away from him still farther.
"No," she said. "I told you that you must not speak to me until
you have heard my story."
He led her to a great stone bench near by; and, passing his arm
about her waist, he drew her head down to his shoulder as he said:
"Well, tell me. I will listen."
Then this girl of twenty-four, with perfect frankness, because she
was absolutely loyal, told him why she felt that they must never
see each other any more-much less marry and be happy. She was the
daughter of a colonel in the French army. The sudden death of her
father had left her penniless and alone. Coming to Paris at the
age of eighteen, she had given lessons in the household of a high
officer of the empire. This man had been attracted by her beauty,
and had seduced her.
Later she had secured the means of living modestly, realizing more
deeply each month how dreadful had been her fate and how she had
been cut off from the lot of other girls. She felt that her life
must be a perpetual penance for what had befallen her through her
ignorance and inexperience. She told Gambetta that her name was
Leonie Leon. As is the custom of Frenchwomen who live alone, she
styled herself madame. It is doubtful whether the name by which
she passed was that which had been given to her at baptism; but,
if so, her true name has never been disclosed.
When she had told the whole of her sad story to Gambetta he made
nothing of it. She said to him again:
"You cannot love me. I should only dim your fame. You can have
nothing in common with a dishonored, ruined girl. That is what I
came here to explain to you. Let us part, and let us for all time
forget each other."
But Gambetta took no heed of what she said. Now that he had found
her, he would not consent to lose her. He seized her slender hands
and covered them with kisses. Again he urged that she should marry
Her answer was a curious one. She was a devoted Catholic and would
not regard any marriage as valid save a religious marriage. On the
other hand, Gambetta, though not absolutely irreligious, was
leading the opposition to the Catholic party in France. The Church
to him was not so much a religious body as a political one, and to
it he was unalterably opposed. Personally, he would have no
objections to being married by a priest; but as a leader of the
anti-clerical party he felt that he must not recognize the
Church's claim in any way. A religious marriage would destroy his
influence with his followers and might even imperil the future of
They pleaded long and earnestly both then and afterward. He urged
a civil marriage, but she declared that only a marriage according
to the rites of the Church could ever purify her past and give her
back her self-respect. In this she was absolutely stubborn, yet
she did not urge upon Gambetta that he should destroy his
influence by marrying her in church.
Through all this interplay of argument and pleading and emotion
the two grew every moment more hopelessly in love. Then the woman,
with a woman's curious subtlety and indirectness, reached a
somewhat singular conclusion. She would hear nothing of a civil
marriage, because a civil marriage was no marriage in the eyes of
Pope and prelate. On the other hand, she did not wish Gambetta to
mar his political career by going through a religious ceremony.
She had heard from a priest that the Church recognized two forms
of betrothal. The usual one looked to a marriage in the future and
gave no marriage privileges until after the formal ceremony. But
there was another kind of betrothal known to the theologians as
sponsalia de praesente. According to this, if there were an actual
betrothal, the pair might have the privileges and rights of
marriage immediately, if only they sincerely meant to be married
in the future.
The eager mind of Leonie Leon caught at this bit of ecclesiastical
law and used it with great ingenuity.
"Let us," she said, "be formally betrothed by the interchange of a
ring, and let us promise each other to marry in the future. After
such a betrothal as this we shall be the same as married; for we
shall be acting according to the laws of the Church."
Gambetta gladly gave his promise. A betrothal ring was purchased;
and then, her conscience being appeased, she gave herself
completely to her lover. Gambetta was sincere. He said to her:
"If the time should ever come when I shall lose my political
station, when I am beaten in the struggle, when I am deserted and
alone, will you not then marry me when I ask you?"
And Leonie, with her arms about his neck, promised that she would.
Yet neither of them specified what sort of marriage this should
be, nor did it seem at the moment as if the question could arise.
For Gambetta was very powerful. He led his party to success in the
election of 1877. Again and again his triumphant oratory mastered
the National Assembly of France. In 1879 he was chosen to be
president of the Chamber of Deputies. He towered far above the
president of the republic--Jules Grevy, that hard-headed, close-
fisted old peasant--and his star had reached its zenith.
All this time he and Leonie Leon maintained their intimacy, though
it was carefully concealed save from a very few. She lived in a
plain but pretty house on the Avenue Perrichont in the quiet
quarter of Auteuil; but Gambetta never came there. Where and when
they met was a secret guarded very carefully by the few who were
his close associates. But meet they did continually, and their
affection grew stronger every year. Leonie thrilled at the
victories of the man she loved; and he found joy in the hours that
he spent with her.
Gambetta's need of rest was very great, for he worked at the
highest tension, like an engine which is using every pound of
steam. Bismarck, whose spies kept him well informed of everything
that was happening in Paris, and who had no liking for Gambetta,
since the latter always spoke of him as "the Ogre," once said to a
Frenchman named Cheberry:
"He is the only one among you who thinks of revenge, and who is
any sort of a menace to Germany. But, fortunately, he won't last
much longer. I am not speaking thoughtlessly. I know from secret
reports what sort of a life your great man leads, and I know his
habits. Why, his life is a life of continual overwork. He rests
neither night nor day. All politicians who have led the same life
have died young. To he able to serve one's country for a long time
a statesman must marry an ugly woman, have children like the rest
of the world, and a country place or a house to one's self like
any common peasant, where he can go and rest."
The Iron Chancellor chuckled as he said this, and he was right.
And yet Gambetta's end came not so much through overwork as by an
It may be that the ambition of Mme. Leon stimulated him beyond his
powers. However this may be, early in 1882, when he was defeated
in Parliament on a question which he considered vital, he
immediately resigned and turned his back on public life. His
fickle friends soon deserted him. His enemies jeered and hooted
the mention of his name.
He had reached the time which with a sort of prophetic instinct he
had foreseen nearly ten years before. So he turned to the woman
who had been faithful and loving to him; and he turned to her with
a feeling of infinite peace.
"You promised me," he said, "that if ever I was defeated and alone
you would marry me. The time is now."
Then this man, who had exercised the powers of a dictator, who had
levied armies and shaken governments, and through whose hands
there had passed thousands of millions of francs, sought for a
country home. He found for sale a small estate which had once
belonged to Balzac, and which is known as Les Jardies. It was in
wretched repair; yet the small sum which it cost Gambetta--twelve
thousand francs--was practically all that he possessed. Worn and
weary as he was, it seemed to him a haven of delightful peace; for
here he might live in the quiet country with the still beautiful
woman who was soon to become his wife.
It is not known what form of marriage they at last agreed upon.
She may have consented to a civil ceremony; or he, being now out
of public life, may have felt that he could be married by the
Church. The day for their wedding had been set, and Gambetta was
already at Les Jardies. But there came a rumor that he had been
shot. Still further tidings bore the news that he was dying.
Paris, fond as it was of scandals, immediately spread the tale
that he had been shot by a jealous woman.
The truth is quite the contrary. Gambetta, in arranging his
effects in his new home, took it upon himself to clean a pair of
dueling-pistols; for every French politician of importance must
fight duels, and Gambetta had already done so. Unfortunately, one
cartridge remained unnoticed in the pistol which Gambetta cleaned.
As he held the pistol-barrel against the soft part of his hand the
cartridge exploded, and the ball passed through the base of the
thumb with a rending, spluttering noise.
The wound was not in itself serious, but now the prophecy of
Bismarck was fulfilled. Gambetta had exhausted his vitality; a
fever set in, and before long he died of internal ulceration.
This was the end of a great career and of a great romance of love.
Leonie Leon was half distraught at the death of the lover who was
so soon to be her husband. She wandered for hours in the forest
until she reached a convent, where she was received. Afterward she
came to Paris and hid herself away in a garret of the slums. All
the light of her life had gone out. She wished that she had died
with him whose glory had been her life. Friends of Gambetta,
however, discovered her and cared for her until her death, long
afterward, in 1906.
She lived upon the memories of the past, of the swift love that
had come at first sight, but which had lasted unbrokenly; which
had given her the pride of conquest, and which had brought her
lover both happiness and inspiration and a refining touch which
had smoothed away his roughness and made him fit to stand in
palaces with dignity and distinction.
As for him, he left a few lines which have been carefully
preserved, and which sum up his thought of her. They read:
To the light of my soul; to the star, of my life--Leonie Leon. For
ever! For ever!
LADY BLESSINGTON AND COUNT D'ORSAY
Often there has arisen some man who, either by his natural gifts
or by his impudence or by the combination of both, has made
himself a recognized leader in the English fashionable world. One
of the first of these men was Richard Nash, usually known as "Beau
Nash," who flourished in the eighteenth century. Nash was a man of
doubtful origin; nor was he attractive in his looks, for he was a
huge, clumsy creature with features that were both irregular and
harsh. Nevertheless, for nearly fifty years Beau Nash was an
arbiter of fashion. Goldsmith, who wrote his life, declared that
his supremacy was due to his pleasing manners, "his assiduity,
flattery, fine clothes, and as much wit as the ladies had whom he
addressed." He converted the town of Bath from a rude little
hamlet into an English Newport, of which he was the social
autocrat. He actually drew up a set of written rules which some of
the best-born and best-bred people follow slavishly.
Even better known to us is George Bryan Brummel, commonly called
"Beau Brummel," who by his friendship with George IV.--then Prince
Regent--was an oracle at court on everything that related to dress
and etiquette and the proper mode of living. His memory has been
kept alive most of all by Richard Mansfield's famous impersonation
of him. The play is based upon the actual facts; for after Brummel
had lost the royal favor he died an insane pauper in the French
town of Caen. He, too, had a distinguished biographer, since
Bulwer-Lytton's novel Pelham is really the narrative of Brummel's
Long after Brummel, Lord Banelagh led the gilded youth of London,
and it was at this time that the notorious Lola Montez made her
first appearance in the British capital.
These three men--Nash, Brummel, and Ranelagh--had the advantage of
being Englishmen, and, therefore, of not incurring the old-time
English suspicion of foreigners. A much higher type of social
arbiter was a Frenchman who for twenty years during the early part
of Queen Victoria's reign gave law to the great world of fashion,
besides exercising a definite influence upon English art and
This was Count Albert Guillaume d'Orsay, the son of one of
Napoleon's generals, and descended by a morganatic marriage from
the King of Wurttemburg. The old general, his father, was a man of
high courage, impressive appearance, and keen intellect, all of
which qualities he transmitted to his son. The young Count
d'Orsay, when he came of age, found the Napoleonic era ended and
France governed by Louis XVIII. The king gave Count d'Orsay a
commission in the army in a regiment stationed at Valence in the
southeastern part of France. He had already visited England and
learned the English language, and he had made some distinguished
friends there, among whom were Lord Byron and Thomas Moore.
On his return to France he began his garrison life at Valence,
where he showed some of the finer qualities of his character. It
is not merely that he was handsome and accomplished and that he
had the gift of winning the affections of those about him. Unlike
Nash and Brummel, he was a gentleman in every sense, and his
courtesy was of the highest kind. At the balls given by his
regiment, although he was more courted than any other officer, he
always sought out the plainest girls and showed them the most
flattering attentions. No "wallflowers" were left neglected when
D'Orsay was present.
It is strange how completely human beings are in the hands of
fate. Here was a young French officer quartered in a provincial
town in the valley of the Rhone. Who would have supposed that he
was destined to become not only a Londoner, but a favorite at the
British court, a model of fashion, a dictator of etiquette, widely
known for his accomplishments, the patron of literary men and of
distinguished artists? But all these things were to come to pass
by a mere accident of fortune.
During his firsts visit to London, which has already been
mentioned, Count d'Orsay was invited once or twice to receptions
given by the Earl and Countess of Blessington, where he was well
received, though this was only an incident of his English sojourn.
Before the story proceeds any further it is necessary to give an
account of the Earl and of Lady Blessington, since both of their
careers had been, to say the least, unusual.
Lord Blessington was an Irish peer for whom an ancient title had
been revived. He was remotely descended from the Stuarts of
Scotland, and therefore had royal blood to boast of. He had been
well educated, and in many ways was a man of pleasing manner. On
the other hand, he had early inherited a very large property which
yielded him an income of about thirty thousand pounds a year. He
had estates in Ireland, and he owned nearly the whole of a
fashionable street in London, with the buildings erected on it.
This fortune and the absence of any one who could control him had
made him wilful and extravagant and had wrought in him a curious
love of personal display. Even as a child he would clamor to be
dressed in the most gorgeous uniforms; and when he got possession
of his property his love of display became almost a monomania. He
built a theater as an adjunct to his country house in Ireland and
imported players from London and elsewhere to act in it. He loved
to mingle with the mummers, to try on their various costumes, and
to parade up and down, now as an oriental prince and now as a
In London he hung about the green-rooms, and was a well-known
figure wherever actors or actresses were collected. Such was his
love of the stage that he sought to marry into the profession and
set his heart on a girl named Mary Campbell Browne, who was very
beautiful to look at, but who was not conspicuous either for her
mind or for her morals. When Lord Blessington proposed marriage to
her she was obliged to tell him that she already had one husband
still alive, but she was perfectly willing to live with him and
dispense with the marriage ceremony. So for several years she did
live with him and bore him two children.
It speaks well for the earl that when the inconvenient husband
died a marriage at once took place and Mrs. Browne became a
countess. Then, after other children had been born, the lady died,
leaving the earl a widower at about the age of forty. The only
legitimate son born of this marriage followed his mother to the
grave; and so for the third time the earldom of Blessington seemed
likely to become extinct. The death of his wife, however, gave the
earl a special opportunity to display his extravagant tastes. He
spent more than four thousand pounds on the funeral ceremonies,
importing from France a huge black velvet catafalque which had
shortly before been used at the public funeral of Napoleon's
marshal, Duroc, while the house blazed with enormous wax tapers
and glittered with cloth of gold.
Lord Blessington soon plunged again into the busy life of London.
Having now no heir, there was no restraint on his expenditures,
and he borrowed large sums of money in order to buy additional
estates and houses and to experience the exquisite joy of spending
lavishly. At this time he had his lands in Ireland, a town house
in St. James's Square, another in Seymour Place, and still another
which was afterward to become famous as Gore House, in Kensington.
Some years before he had met in Ireland a lady called Mrs. Maurice
Farmer; and it happened that she now came to London. The earlier
story of her still young life must here be told, because her name
afterward became famous, and because the tale illustrates
wonderfully well the raw, crude, lawless period of the Regency,
when England was fighting her long war with Napoleon, when the
Prince Regent was imitating all the vices of the old French kings,
when prize-fighting, deep drinking, dueling, and dicing were
practised without restraint in all the large cities and towns of
the United Kingdom. It was, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has said,
"an age of folly and of heroism"; for, while it produced some of
the greatest black-guards known to history, it produced also such
men as Wellington and Nelson, the two Pitts, Sheridan, Byron,
Shelley, and Sir Walter Scott.
Mrs. Maurice Farmer was the daughter of a small Irish landowner
named Robert Power--himself the incarnation of all the vices of
the time. There was little law in Ireland, not even that which
comes from public opinion; and Robert Power rode hard to hounds,
gambled recklessly, and assembled in his house all sorts of
reprobates, with whom he held frightful orgies that lasted from
sunset until dawn. His wife and his young daughters viewed him
with terror, and the life they led was a perpetual nightmare
because of the bestial carousings in which their father engaged,
wasting his money and mortgaging his estates until the end of his
wild career was in plain sight.
There happened to be stationed at Clonmel a regiment of infantry
in which there served a captain named Maurice St. Leger Farmer. He
was a man of some means, but eccentric to a degree. His temper was
so utterly uncontrolled that even his fellow officers could
scarcely live with him, and he was given to strange caprices. It
happened that at a ball in Clonmel he met the young daughter of
Robert Power, then a mere child of fourteen years. Captain Farmer
was seized with an infatuation for the girl, and he went almost at
once to her father, asking for her hand in marriage and proposing
to settle a sum of money upon her if she married him.
The hard-riding squireen jumped at the offer. His own estate was
being stripped bare. Here was a chance to provide for one of his
daughters, or, rather, to get rid of her, and he agreed that she
should be married out of hand. Going home, he roughly informed the
girl that she was to be the wife of Captain Farmer. He so bullied
his wife that she was compelled to join him in this command.
What was poor little Margaret Power to do? She was only a child.
She knew nothing of the world. She was accustomed to obey her
father as she would have obeyed some evil genius who had her in
his power. There were tears and lamentations. She was frightened
half to death; yet for her there was no help. Therefore, while not
yet fifteen her marriage took place, and she was the unhappy slave
of a half-crazy tyrant. She had then no beauty whatsoever. She was
wholly undeveloped--thin and pale, and with rough hair that fell
over her frightened eyes; yet Farmer wanted her, and he settled
his money on her, just as he would have spent the same amount to
gratify any other sudden whim.
The life she led with him for a few months showed him to be more
of a devil than a man. He took a peculiar delight in terrifying
her, in subjecting her to every sort of outrage; nor did he
refrain even from beating her with his fists. The girl could stand
a great deal, but this was too much. She returned to her father's
house, where she was received with the bitterest reproaches, but
where, at least, she was safe from harm, since her possession of a
dowry made her a person of some small importance.
Not long afterward Captain Farmer fell into a dispute with his
colonel, Lord Caledon, and in the course of it he drew his sword
on his commanding officer. The court-martial which was convened to
try him would probably have had him shot were it not for the very
general belief that he was insane. So he was simply cashiered and
obliged to leave the service and betake himself elsewhere. Thus
the girl whom, he had married was quite free--free to leave her
wretched home and even to leave Ireland.
She did leave Ireland and establish herself in London, where she
had some acquaintances, among them the Earl of Blessington. As
already said, he had met her in Ireland while she was living with
her husband; and now from time to time he saw her in a friendly
way. After the death of his wife he became infatuated with
Margaret Farmer. She was a good deal alone, and his attentions
gave her entertainment. Her past experience led her to have no
real belief in love. She had become, however, in a small way
interested in literature and art, with an eager ambition to be
known as a writer. As it happened, Captain Farmer, whose name she
bore, had died some months before Lord Blessington had decided to
make a new marriage. The earl proposed to Margaret Farmer, and the
two were married by special license.
The Countess of Blessington--to give the lady her new title--was
now twenty-eight years of age and had developed into a woman of
great beauty. She was noted for the peculiarly vivacious and
radiant expression which was always on her face. She had a kind of
vivid loveliness accompanied by grace, simplicity, and a form of
exquisite proportions. The ugly duckling had become a swan, for
now there was no trace of her former plainness to be seen.
Not yet in her life had love come to her. Her first husband had
been thrust upon her and had treated her outrageously. Her second
husband was much older than she; and, though she was not without a
certain kindly feeling for one who had been kind to her, she
married him, first of all, for his title and position.
Having been reared in poverty, she had no conception of the value
of money; and, though the earl was remarkably extravagant, the new
countess was even more so. One after another their London houses
were opened and decorated with the utmost lavishness. They gave
innumerable entertainments, not only to the nobility and to men of
rank, but--because this was Lady Blessington's peculiar fad--to
artists and actors and writers of all degrees. The American, N. P.
Willis, in his Pencilings by the Way, has given an interesting
sketch of the countess and her surroundings, while the younger
Disraeli (Lord Beaconsfield) has depicted D'Orsay as Count Mirabel
in Henrietta Temple. Willis says:
In a long library, lined alternately with splendidly bound books
and mirrors, and with a deep window of the breadth of the room
opening upon Hyde Park, I found Lady Blessington alone. The
picture, to my eye, as the door opened, was a very lovely one--a
woman of remarkable beauty, half buried in a fauteuil of yellow
satin, reading by a magnificent lamp suspended from the center of
the arched ceiling. Sofas, couches, ottomans, and busts, arranged
in rather a crowded sumptuousness through the room; enameled
tables, covered with expensive and elegant trifles in every
corner, and a delicate white hand in relief on the back of a book,
to which the eye was attracted by the blaze of diamond rings.
All this "crowded sumptuousness" was due to the taste of Lady
Blessington. Amid it she received royal dukes, statesmen such as
Palmerston, Canning, Castlereagh, Russell, and Brougham, actors
such as Kemble and Matthews, artists such as Lawrence and Wilkie,
and men of letters such as Moore, Bulwer-Lytton, and the two
Disraelis. To maintain this sort of life Lord Blessington raised
large amounts of money, totaling about half a million pounds
sterling, by mortgaging his different estates and giving his
promissory notes to money-lenders. Of course, he did not spend
this vast sum immediately. He might have lived in comparative
luxury upon his income; but he was a restless, eager, improvident
nobleman, and his extravagances were prompted by the urgings of
In all this display, which Lady Blessington both stimulated and
shared, there is to be found a psychological basis. She was now
verging upon the thirties--a time which is a very critical period
in a woman's emotional life, if she has not already given herself
over to love and been loved in return. During Lady Blessington's
earlier years she had suffered in many ways, and it is probable
that no thought of love had entered her mind. She was only too
glad if she could escape from the harshness of her father and the
cruelty of her first husband. Then came her development into a
beautiful woman, content for the time to be languorously stagnant
and to enjoy the rest and peace which had come to her.
When she married Lord Blessington her love life had not yet
commenced; and, in fact, there could be no love life in such a
marriage--a marriage with a man much older than herself, scatter-
brained, showy, and having no intellectual gifts. So for a time
she sought satisfaction in social triumphs, in capturing political
and literary lions in order to exhibit them in her salon, and in
spending money right and left with a lavish hand. But, after all,
in a woman of her temperament none of these things could satisfy
her inner longings. Beautiful, full of Celtic vivacity,
imaginative and eager, such a nature as hers would in the end be
starved unless her heart should be deeply touched and unless all
her pent-up emotion could give itself up entirely in the great
After a few years of London she grew restless and dissatisfied.
Her surroundings wearied her. There was a call within her for
something more than she had yet experienced. The earl, her
husband, was by nature no less restless; and so, without knowing
the reason--which, indeed, she herself did not understand--he
readily assented to a journey on the Continent.
As they traveled southward they reached at length the town of
Valence, where Count d'Orsay was still quartered with his
regiment. A vague, indefinable feeling of attraction swept over
this woman, who was now a woman of the world and yet quite
inexperienced in affairs relating to the heart. The mere sound of
the French officer's voice, the mere sight of his face, the mere
knowledge of his presence, stirred her as nothing had ever stirred
her until that time. Yet neither he nor she appears to have been
conscious at once of the secret of their liking. It was enough
that they were soothed and satisfied with each other's company.
Oddly enough, the Earl of Blessington became as devoted to D'Orsay
as did his wife. The two urged the count to secure a leave of
absence and to accompany them to Italy. This he was easily
persuaded to do; and the three passed weeks and months of a
languorous and alluring intercourse among the lakes and the
seductive influence of romantic Italy. Just what passed between
Count d'Orsay and Margaret Blessington at this time cannot be
known, for the secret of it has perished with them; but it is
certain that before very long they came to know that each was
indispensable to the other.
The situation was complicated by the Earl of Blessington, who,
entirely unsuspicious, proposed that the Count should marry Lady
Harriet Gardiner, his eldest legitimate daughter by his first
wife. He pressed the match upon the embarrassed D'Orsay, and
offered to settle the sum of forty thousand pounds upon the bride.
The girl was less than fifteen years of age. She had no gifts
either of beauty or of intelligence; and, in addition, D'Orsay was
now deeply in love with her stepmother.
On the other hand, his position with the Blessingtons was daily
growing more difficult. People had begun to talk of the almost
open relations between Count d'Orsay and Lady Blessington. Lord
Byron, in a letter written to the countess, spoke to her openly
and in a playful way of "YOUR D'Orsay." The manners and morals of
the time were decidedly irregular; yet sooner or later the earl
was sure to gain some hint of what every one was saying.
Therefore, much against his real desire, yet in order to shelter
his relations with Lady Blessington, D'Orsay agreed to the
marriage with Lady Harriet, who was only fifteen years of age.
This made the intimacy between D'Orsay and the Blessingtons appear
to be not unusual; but, as a matter of fact, the marriage was no
marriage. The unattractive girl who had become a bride merely to
hide the indiscretions of her stepmother was left entirely to
herself; while the whole family, returning to London, made their
home together in Seymour Place.
Could D'Orsay have foreseen the future he would never have done
what must always seem an act so utterly unworthy of him. For
within two years Lord Blessington fell ill and died. Had not
D'Orsay been married he would now have been free to marry Lady
Blessington. As it was, he was bound fast to her stepdaughter; and
since at that time there was no divorce court in England, and
since he had no reason for seeking a divorce, he was obliged to
live on through many years in a most ambiguous situation. He did,
however, separate himself from his childish bride; and, having
done so, he openly took up his residence with Lady Blessington at
Gore House. By this time, however, the companionship of the two
had received a sort of general sanction, and in that easy-going
age most people took it as a matter of course.
The two were now quite free to live precisely as they would. Lady
Blessington became extravagantly happy, and Count d'Orsay was
accepted in London as an oracle of fashion. Every one was eager to
visit Gore House, and there they received all the notable men of
the time. The improvidence of Lady Blessington, however, was in no
respect diminished. She lived upon her jointure, recklessly
spending capital as well as interest, and gathering under her roof
a rare museum of artistic works, from jewels and curios up to
magnificent pictures and beautiful statuary.
D'Orsay had sufficient self-respect not to live upon the money
that had come to Lady Blessington from her husband. He was a
skilful painter, and he practised his art in a professional way.
His portrait of the Duke of Wellington was preferred by that
famous soldier to any other that had been made of him. The Iron
Duke was, in fact, a frequent visitor at Gore House, and he had a
very high opinion of Count d'Orsay. Lady Blessington herself
engaged in writing novels of "high life," some of which were very
popular in their day. But of all that she wrote there remains only
one book which is of permanent value--her Conversations with Lord
Byron, a very valuable contribution to our knowledge of the
But a nemesis was destined to overtake the pair. Money flowed
through Lady Blessington's hands like water, and she could never
be brought to understand that what she had might not last for
ever. Finally, it was all gone, yet her extravagance continued.
Debts were heaped up mountain-high. She signed notes of hand
without even reading them. She incurred obligations of every sort
without a moment's hesitation.
For a long time her creditors held aloof, not believing that her
resources were in reality exhausted; but in the end there came a
crash as sudden as it was ruinous. As if moved by a single
impulse, those to whom she owed money took out judgments against
her and descended upon Gore House in a swarm. This was in the
spring of 1849, when Lady Blessington was in her sixtieth year and
It is a curious coincidence that her earliest novel had portrayed
the wreck of a great establishment such as her own. Of the scene
in Gore House Mr. Madden, Lady Blessington's literary biographer,
Numerous creditors, bill-discounters, money-lenders, jewelers,
lace-venders, tax-collectors, gas-company agents, all persons
having claims to urge pressed them at this period simultaneously.
An execution for a debt of four thousand pounds was at length put
in by a house largely engaged in the silk, lace, India-shawl, and
This sum of four thousand pounds was only a nominal claim, but it
opened the flood-gates for all of Lady Blessington's creditors.
Mr. Madden writes still further:
On the 10th of May, 1849, I visited Gore House for the last time.
The auction was going on. There was a large assemblage of people
of fashion. Every room was thronged; the well-known library-salon,
in which the conversaziones took place, was crowded, but not with
guests. The arm-chair in which the lady of the mansion was wont to
sit was occupied by a stout, coarse gentleman of the Jewish
persuasion, busily engaged in examining a marble hand extended on
a book, the fingers of which were modeled from a cast of those of
the absent mistress of the establishment. People, as they passed
through the room, poked the furniture, pulled about the precious
objects of art and ornaments of various kinds that lay on the
table; and some made jests and ribald jokes on the scene they
At this compulsory sale things went for less than half their
value. Pictures by Lawrence and Landseer, a library consisting of
thousands of volumes, vases of exquisite workmanship, chandeliers
of ormolu, and precious porcelains--all were knocked down
relentlessly at farcical prices. Lady Blessington reserved nothing
for herself. She knew that the hour had struck, and very soon she
was on her way to Paris, whither Count d'Orsay had already gone,
having been threatened with arrest by a boot-maker to whom he owed
five hundred pounds.
D'Orsay very naturally went to Paris, for, like his father, he had
always been an ardent Bonapartist, and now Prince Louis Bonaparte
had been chosen president of the Second French Republic. During
the prince's long period of exile he had been the guest of Count
d'Orsay, who had helped him both with money and with influence.
D'Orsay now expected some return for his former generosity. It
came, but it came too late. In 1852, shortly after Prince Louis
assumed the title of emperor, the count was appointed director of
fine arts; but when the news was brought to him he was already
dying. Lady Blessington died soon after coming to Paris, before
the end of the year 1849.
Comment upon this tangled story is scarcely needed. Yet one may
quote some sayings from a sort of diary which Lady Blessington
called her "Night Book." They seem to show that her supreme
happiness lasted only for a little while, and that deep down in
her heart she had condemned herself.
A woman's head is always influenced by her heart; but a man's
heart is always influenced by his head.
The separation of friends by death is less terrible than the
divorce of two hearts that have loved, but have ceased to
sympathize, while memory still recalls what they once were to each
People are seldom tired of the world until the world is tired of
A woman should not paint sentiment until she has ceased to inspire
It is less difficult for a woman to obtain celebrity by her genius
than to be pardoned for it.
Memory seldom fails when its office is to show us the tombs of our
BYRON AND THE COUNTESS GUICCIOLI
In 1812, when he was in his twenty-fourth year, Lord Byron was
more talked of than any other man in London. He was in the first
flush of his brilliant career, having published the early cantos
of "Childe Harold." Moreover, he was a peer of the realm,
handsome, ardent, and possessing a personal fascination which few
men and still fewer women could resist.
Byron's childhood had been one to excite in him strong feelings of
revolt, and he had inherited a profligate and passionate nature.
His father was a gambler and a spendthrift. His mother was
eccentric to a degree. Byron himself, throughout his boyish years,
had been morbidly sensitive because of a physical deformity--a
lame, misshapen foot. This and the strange treatment which his
mother accorded him left him headstrong, wilful, almost from the
first an enemy to whatever was established and conventional.
As a boy, he was remarkable for the sentimental attachments which
he formed. At eight years of age he was violently in love with a
young girl named Mary Duff. At ten his cousin, Margaret Parker,
excited in him a strange, un-childish passion. At fifteen came one
of the greatest crises of his life, when he became enamored of
Mary Chaworth, whose grand-father had been killed in a duel by
Byron's great-uncle. Young as he was, he would have married her
immediately; but Miss Chaworth was two years older than he, and
absolutely refused to take seriously the devotion of a school-boy.
Byron felt the disappointment keenly; and after a short stay at
Cambridge, he left England, visited Portugal and Spain, and
traveled eastward as far as Greece and Turkey. At Athens he wrote
the pretty little poem to the "maid of Athens"--Miss Theresa
Macri, daughter of the British vice-consul. He returned to London
to become at one leap the most admired poet of the day and the
greatest social favorite. He was possessed of striking personal
beauty. Sir Walter Scott said of him: "His countenance was a thing
to dream of." His glorious eyes, his mobile, eloquent face,
fascinated all; and he was, besides, a genius of the first rank.
With these endowments, he plunged into the social whirlpool,
denying himself nothing, and receiving everything-adulation,
friendship, and unstinted love. Darkly mysterious stories of his
adventures in the East made many think that he was the hero of
some of his own poems, such as "The Giaour" and "The Corsair." A
German wrote of him that "he was positively besieged by women."
From the humblest maid-servants up to ladies of high rank, he had
only to throw his handkerchief to make a conquest. Some women did
not even wait for the handkerchief to be thrown. No wonder that he
was sated with so much adoration and that he wrote of women:
I regard them as very pretty but inferior creatures. I look on
them as grown-up children; but, like a foolish mother, I am
constantly the slave of one of them. Give a woman a looking-glass
and burnt almonds, and she will be content.
The liaison which attracted the most attention at this time was
that between Byron and Lady Caroline Lamb. Byron has been greatly
blamed for his share in it; but there is much to be said on the
other side. Lady Caroline was happily married to the Right Hon.
William Lamb, afterward Lord Melbourne, and destined to be the
first prime minister of Queen Victoria. He was an easy-going,
genial man of the world who placed too much confidence in the
honor of his wife. She, on the other hand, was a sentimental fool,
always restless, always in search of some new excitement. She
thought herself a poet, and scribbled verses, which her friends
politely admired, and from which they escaped as soon as possible.
When she first met Byron, she cried out: "That pale face is my
fate!" And she afterward added: "Mad, bad, and dangerous to know!"
It was not long before the intimacy of the two came very near the
point of open scandal; but Byron was the wooed and not the wooer.
This woman, older than he, flung herself directly at his head.
Naturally enough, it was not very long before she bored him
thoroughly. Her romantic impetuosity became tiresome, and very
soon she fell to talking always of herself, thrusting her poems
upon him, and growing vexed and peevish when he would not praise
them. As was well said, "he grew moody and she fretful when their
mutual egotisms jarred."
In a burst of resentment she left him, but when she returned, she
was worse than ever. She insisted on seeing him. On one occasion
she made her way into his rooms disguised as a boy. At another
time, when she thought he had slighted her, she tried to stab
herself with a pair of scissors. Still later, she offered her
favors to any one who would kill him. Byron himself wrote of her:
You can have no idea of the horrible and absurd things that she
has said and done.
Her story has been utilized by Mrs. Humphry Ward in her novel,
"The Marriage of William Ashe."
Perhaps this trying experience led Byron to end his life of
dissipation. At any rate, in 1813, he proposed marriage to Miss
Anne Millbanke, who at first refused him; but he persisted, and in
1815 the two were married. Byron seems to have had a premonition
that he was making a terrible mistake. During the wedding ceremony
he trembled like a leaf, and made the wrong responses to the
clergyman. After the wedding was over, in handing his bride into
the carriage which awaited them, he said to her:
"Miss Millbanke, are you ready?"
It was a strange blunder for a bridegroom, and one which many
regarded at the time as ominous for the future. In truth, no two
persons could have been more thoroughly mismated--Byron, the human
volcano, and his wife, a prim, narrow-minded, and peevish woman.
Their incompatibility was evident enough from the very first, so
that when they returned from their wedding-journey, and some one
asked Byron about his honeymoon, he answered:
"Call it rather a treacle moon!"
It is hardly necessary here to tell over the story of their
domestic troubles. Only five weeks after their daughter's birth,
they parted. Lady Byron declared that her husband was insane;
while after trying many times to win from her something more than
a tepid affection, he gave up the task in a sort of despairing
anger. It should be mentioned here, for the benefit of those who
recall the hideous charges made many decades afterward by Mrs.
Harriet Beecher Stowe on the authority of Lady Byron, that the
latter remained on terms of friendly intimacy with Augusta Leigh,
Lord Byron's sister, and that even on her death-bed she sent an
amicable message to Mrs. Leigh.
Byron, however, stung by the bitter attacks that were made upon
him, left England, and after traveling down the Rhine through
Switzerland, he took up his abode in Venice. His joy at leaving
England and ridding himself of the annoyances which had clustered
thick about him, he expressed in these lines:
Once more upon the waters! yet once more!
And the waves bound beneath me as a steed
That knows his rider. Welcome to the roar!
Meanwhile he enjoyed himself in reckless fashion. Money poured in
upon him from his English publisher. For two cantos of "Childe
Harold" and "Manfred," Murray paid him twenty thousand dollars.
For the fourth canto, Byron demanded and received more than twelve
thousand dollars. In Italy he lived on friendly terms with Shelley
and Thomas Moore; but eventually he parted from them both, for he
was about to enter upon a new phase of his curious career.
He was no longer the Byron of 1815. Four years of high living and
much brandy-and-water had robbed his features of their refinement.
His look was no longer spiritual. He was beginning to grow stout.
Yet the change had not been altogether unfortunate. He had lost
something of his wild impetuosity, and his sense of humor had
developed. In his thirtieth year, in fact, he had at last become a
It was soon after this that he met a woman who was to be to him
for the rest of his life what a well-known writer has called "a
star on the stormy horizon of the poet." This woman was Teresa,
Countess Guiccioli, whom he first came to know in Venice. She was
then only nineteen years of age, and she was married to a man who
was more than forty years her senior. Unlike the typical Italian
woman, she was blonde, with dreamy eyes and an abundance of golden
hair, and her manner was at once modest and graceful. She had
known Byron but a very short time when she found herself thrilling
with a passion of which until then she had never dreamed. It was
written of her:
She had thought of love but as an amusement; yet she now became
To this love Byron gave an immediate response, and from that time
until his death he cared for no other woman. The two were
absolutely mated. Nevertheless, there were difficulties which
might have been expected. Count Guiccioli, while he seemed to
admire Byron, watched him with Italian subtlety. The English poet
and the Italian countess met frequently. When Byron was prostrated
by an attack of fever, the countess remained beside him, and he
was just recovering when Count Guiccioli appeared upon the scene
and carried off his wife. Byron was in despair. He exchanged the
most ardent letters with the countess, yet he dreaded assassins
whom he believed to have been hired by her husband. Whenever he
rode out, he went armed with sword and pistols.
Amid all this storm and stress, Byron's literary activity was
remarkable. He wrote some of his most famous poems at this time,
and he hoped for the day when he and the woman whom he loved might
be united once for all. This came about in the end through the
persistence of the pair. The Countess Guiccioli openly took up her
abode with him, not to be separated until the poet sailed for
Greece to aid the Greeks in their struggle for independence. This
was in 1822, when Byron was in his thirty-fifth year. He never
returned to Italy, but died in the historic land for which he gave
his life as truly as if he had fallen upon the field of battle.
Teresa Guiccioli had been, in all but name, his wife for just
three years. Much, has been said in condemnation of this love-
affair; but in many ways it is less censurable than almost
anything in his career. It was an instance of genuine love, a love
which purified and exalted this man of dark and moody moments. It
saved him from those fitful passions and orgies of self-indulgence
which had exhausted him. It proved to be an inspiration which at
last led him to die for a cause approved by all the world.
As for the woman, what shall we say of her? She came to him
unspotted by the world. A demand for divorce which her husband
made was rejected. A pontifical brief pronounced a formal
separation between the two. The countess gladly left behind "her
palaces, her equipages, society, and riches, for the love of the
poet who had won her heart."
Unlike the other women who had cared for him, she was unselfish in
her devotion. She thought more of his fame than did he himself.
Emilio Castelar has written:
She restored him and elevated him. She drew him from the mire and
set the crown of purity upon his brow. Then, when she had
recovered this great heart, instead of keeping it as her own
possession, she gave it to humanity.
For twenty-seven years after Byron's death, she remained, as it
were, widowed and alone. Then, in her old age, she married the
Marquis de Boissy; but the marriage was purely one of convenience.
Her heart was always Byron's, whom she defended with vivacity. In
1868, she published her memoirs of the poet, filled with
interesting and affecting recollections. She died as late as 1873.
Some time between the year 1866 and that of her death, she is said
to have visited Newstead Abbey, which had once been Byron's home.
She was very old, a widow, and alone; but her affection for the
poet-lover of her youth was still as strong as ever.
Byron's life was short, if measured by years only. Measured by
achievement, it was filled to the very full. His genius blazes
like a meteor in the records of English poetry; and some of that
splendor gleams about the lovely woman who turned him away from
vice and folly and made him worthy of his historic ancestry, of
his country, and of himself.
THE STORY OF MME. DE STAEL
Each century, or sometimes each generation, is distinguished by
some especial interest among those who are given to fancies--not
to call them fads. Thus, at the present time, the cultivated few
are taken up with what they choose to term the "new thought," or
the "new criticism," or, on the other hand, with socialistic
theories and projects. Thirty years ago, when Oscar Wilde was
regarded seriously by some people, there were many who made a cult
of estheticism. It was just as interesting when their leader--
Walked down Piccadilly with a poppy or a lily
In his medieval hand,
or when Sir William Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan guyed him as
Bunthorne in "Patience."
When Charles Kingsley was a great expounder of British common
sense, "muscular Christianity" was a phrase which was taken up by
many followers. A little earlier, Puseyism and a primitive form of
socialism were in vogue with the intellectuals. There are just as
many different fashions in thought as in garments, and they come
and go without any particular reason. To-day, they are discussed
and practised everywhere. To-morrow, they are almost forgotten in
the rapid pursuit of something new.
Forty years before the French Revolution burst forth with all its
thunderings, France and Germany were affected by what was
generally styled "sensibility." Sensibility was the sister of
sentimentality and the half-sister of sentiment. Sentiment is a
fine thing in itself. It is consistent with strength and humor and
manliness; but sentimentality and sensibility are poor cheeping
creatures that run scuttering along the ground, quivering and
whimpering and asking for perpetual sympathy, which they do not at
No one need be ashamed of sentiment. It simply gives temper to the
blade, and mellowness to the intellect. Sensibility, on the other
hand, is full of shivers and shakes and falsetto notes and
squeaks. It is, in fact, all humbug, just as sentiment is often
Therefore, to find an interesting phase of human folly, we may
look back to the years which lie between 1756 and 1793 as the era
of sensibility. The great prophets of this false god, or goddess,
were Rousseau in France and Goethe with Schiller in Germany,
together with a host of midgets who shook and shivered in
imitation of their masters. It is not for us to catalogue these
persons. Some of them were great figures in literature and
philosophy, and strong enough to shake aside the silliness of
sensibility; but others, while they professed to be great as
writers or philosophers, are now remembered only because their
devotion to sensibility made them conspicuous in their own time.
They dabbled in one thing and another; they "cribbed" from every
popular writer of the day. The only thing that actually belonged
to them was a high degree of sensibility.
And what, one may ask, was this precious thing--this sensibility?
It was really a sort of St. Vitus's dance of the mind, and almost
of the body. When two persons, in any way interested in each
other, were brought into the same room, one of them appeared to be
seized with a rotary movement. The voice rose to a higher pitch
than usual, and assumed a tremolo. Then, if the other person was
also endowed with sensibility, he or she would rotate and quake in
somewhat the same manner. Their cups of tea would be considerably
agitated. They would move about in as unnatural a manner as
possible; and when they left the room, they would do so with
gaspings and much waste of breath.
This was not an exhibition of love--or, at least, not necessarily
so. You might exhibit sensibility before a famous poet, or a
gallant soldier, or a celebrated traveler--or, for that matter,
before a remarkable buffoon, like Cagliostro, or a freak, like
It is plain enough that sensibility was entirely an abnormal
thing, and denoted an abnormal state of mind. Only among people
like the Germans and French of that period, who were forbidden to
take part in public affairs, could it have flourished so long, and
have put forth such rank and fetid outgrowths. From it sprang the
"elective affinities" of Goethe, and the loose morality of the
French royalists, which rushed on into the roaring sea of
infidelity, blasphemy, and anarchy of the Revolution.
Of all the historic figures of that time, there is just one which
to-day stands forth as representing sensibility. In her own time
she was thought to be something of a philosopher, and something
more of a novelist. She consorted with all the clever men and
women of her age. But now she holds a minute niche in history
because of the fact that Napoleon stooped to hate her, and because
she personifies sensibility.
Criticism has stripped from her the rags and tatters of the
philosophy which was not her own. It is seen that she was indebted
to the brains of others for such imaginative bits of fiction as
she put forth in Delphine and Corinne; but as the exponent of
sensibility she remains unique. This woman was Anne Louise
Germaine Necker, usually known as Mme. de Stael.
There was much about Mile. Necker's parentage that made her
interesting. Her father was the Genevese banker and minister of
Louis XVI, who failed wretchedly in his attempts to save the
finances of France. Her mother, Suzanne Curchod, as a young girl,
had won the love of the famous English historian, Edward Gibbon.
She had first refused him, and then almost frantically tried to
get him back; but by this time Gibbon was more comfortable in
single life and less infatuated with Mlle. Curchod, who presently
married Jacques Necker.
M. Necker's money made his daughter a very celebrated "catch." Her
mother brought her to Paris when the French capital was brilliant
beyond description, and yet was tottering to its fall. The
rumblings of the Revolution could be heard by almost every ear;
and yet society and the court, refusing to listen, plunged into
the wildest revelry under the leadership of the giddy Marie
It was here that the young girl was initiated into the most
elegant forms of luxury, and met the cleverest men of that time--
Voltaire, Rousseau, Lamartine, Chateaubriand, Volney. She set
herself to be the most accomplished woman of her day, not merely
in belles lettres, but in the natural and political sciences.
Thus, when her father was drawing up his monograph on the French
finances, Germaine labored hard over a supplementary report,
studying documents, records, and the most complicated statistics,
so that she might obtain a mastery of the subject.
"I mean to know everything that anybody knows," she said, with an
arrogance which was rather admired in so young a woman.
But, unfortunately, her mind was not great enough to fulfil her
aspiration. The most she ever achieved was a fair knowledge of
many things--a knowledge which seemed surprising to the average
man, but which was superficial enough to the accomplished
In her twentieth year (1786) it was thought best that she should
marry. Her revels, as well as her hard studies, had told upon her
health, and her mother believed that she could not be at once a
blue-stocking and a woman of the world.
There was something very odd about the relation that existed
between the young girl and this mother of hers. In the Swiss
province where they had both been born, the mother had been
considered rather bold and forward. Her penchant for Gibbon was
only one of a number of adventures that have been told about her.
She was by no means coy with the gallants of Geneva. Yet, after
her marriage, and when she came to Paris, she seemed to be
transformed into a sort of Swiss Puritan.
As such, she undertook her daughter's bringing up, and was
extremely careful about everything that Germaine did and about the
company she kept. On the other hand, the daughter, who in the city
of Calvin had been rather dull and quiet in her ways, launched out
into a gaiety such as she had never known in Switzerland. Mother
and daughter, in fact, changed parts. The country beauty of Geneva
became the prude of Paris, while the quiet, unemotional young
Genevese became the light of all the Parisian salons, whether
social or intellectual.
The mother was a very beautiful woman. The daughter, who was to
become so famous, is best described by those two very
uncomplimentary English words, "dumpy" and "frumpy." She had
bulging eyes--which are not emphasized in the flattering portrait
by Gerard--and her hair was unbecomingly dressed. There are
reasons for thinking that Germaine bitterly hated her mother, and
was intensely jealous of her charm of person. It may be also that
Mme. Necker envied the daughter's cleverness, even though that
cleverness was little more, in the end, than the borrowing of
brilliant things from other persons. At any rate, the two never
cared for each other, and Germaine gave to her father the
affection which her mother neither received nor sought.
It was perhaps to tame the daughter's exuberance that a marriage
was arranged for Mlle. Necker with the Baron de Stael-Holstein,
who then represented the court of Sweden at Paris. Many eyebrows
were lifted when this match was announced. Baron de Stael had no
personal charm, nor any reputation for wit. His standing in the
diplomatic corps was not very high. His favorite occupations were
playing cards and drinking enormous quantities of punch. Could he
be considered a match for the extremely clever Mlle. Necker, whose
father had an enormous fortune, and who was herself considered a
gem of wit and mental power, ready to discuss political economy,
or the romantic movement of socialism, or platonic love?
Many differed about this. Mlle. Necker was, to be sure, rich and
clever; but the Baron de Stael was of an old family, and had a
title. Moreover, his easy-going ways--even his punch-drinking and
his card-playing--made him a desirable husband at that time of
French social history, when the aristocracy wished to act exactly
as it pleased, with wanton license, and when an embassy was a very
convenient place into which an indiscreet ambassadress might
retire when the mob grew dangerous. For Paris was now approaching
the time of revolution, and all "aristocrats" were more or less in
At first Mme. de Stael rather sympathized with the outbreak of the
people; but later their excesses drove her back into sympathy with
the royalists. It was then that she became indiscreet and abused
the privilege of the embassy in giving shelter to her friends. She
was obliged to make a sudden flight across the frontier, whence
she did not return until Napoleon loomed up, a political giant on
the horizon--victorious general, consul, and emperor.
Mme. de Stael's relations with Napoleon have, as I remarked above,
been among her few titles to serious remembrance. The Corsican
eagle and the dumpy little Genevese make, indeed, a peculiar pair;
and for this reason writers have enhanced the oddities of the
"Napoleon," says one, "did not wish any one to be near him who was
as clever as himself."
"No," adds another, "Mme. de Stael made a dead set at Napoleon,
because she wished to conquer and achieve the admiration of
everybody, even of the greatest man who ever lived."
"Napoleon found her to be a good deal of a nuisance," observes a
third. "She knew too much, and was always trying to force her
knowledge upon others."
The legend has sprung up that Mme. de Stael was too wise and witty
to be acceptable to Napoleon; and many women repeated with unction
that the conqueror of Europe was no match for this frowsy little
woman. It is, perhaps, worth while to look into the facts, and to
decide whether Napoleon was really of so petty a nature as to feel
himself inferior to this rather comic creature, even though at the
time many people thought her a remarkable genius.
In the first place, knowing Napoleon, as we have come to know him
through the pages of Mme. de Remusat, Frederic Masson, and others,
we can readily imagine the impatience with which the great soldier
would sit at dinner, hastening to finish his meal, crowding the
whole ceremony into twenty minutes, gulping a glass or two of wine
and a cup of coffee, and then being interrupted by a fussy little
female who wanted to talk about the ethics of history, or the
possibility of a new form of government. Napoleon, himself, was
making history, and writing it in fire and flame; and as for
governments, he invented governments all over Europe as suited his
imperial will. What patience could he have with one whom an
English writer has rather unkindly described as "an ugly coquette,
an old woman who made a ridiculous marriage, a blue-stocking, who
spent much of her time in pestering men of genius, and drawing
from them sarcastic comment behind their backs?"
Napoleon was not the sort of a man to be routed in discussion, but
he was most decidedly the sort of man to be bored and irritated by
pedantry. Consequently, he found Mme. de Stael a good deal of a
nuisance in the salons of Paris and its vicinity. He cared not the
least for her epigrams. She might go somewhere else and write all
the epigrams she pleased. When he banished her, in 1803, she
merely crossed the Rhine into Germany, and established herself at
The emperor received her son, Auguste de Stael-Holstein, with much
good humor, though he refused the boy's appeal on behalf of his
"My dear baron," said Napoleon, "if your mother were to be in
Paris for two months, I should really be obliged to lock her up in
one of the castles, which would be most unpleasant treatment for
me to show a lady. No, let her go anywhere else and we can get
along perfectly. All Europe is open to her--Rome, Vienna, St.
Petersburg; and if she wishes to write libels on me, England is a
convenient and inexpensive place. Only Paris is just a little too
Thus the emperor gibed the boy--he was only fifteen or sixteen--
and made fun of the exiled blue-stocking; but there was not a sign
of malice in what he said, nor, indeed, of any serious feeling at
all. The legend about Napoleon and Mme. de Stael must, therefore,
go into the waste-basket, except in so far as it is true that she
succeeded in boring him.
For the rest, she was an earlier George Sand--unattractive in
person, yet able to attract; loving love for love's sake, though
seldom receiving it in return; throwing herself at the head of
every distinguished man, and generally finding that he regarded
her overtures with mockery. To enumerate the men for whom she
professed to care would be tedious, since the record of her
passions has no reality about it, save, perhaps, with two
She did care deeply and sincerely for Henri Benjamin Constant, the
brilliant politician and novelist. He was one of her coterie in
Paris, and their common political sentiments formed a bond of
friendship between them. Constant was banished by Napoleon in
1802, and when Mme. de Stael followed him into exile a year later
he joined her in Germany.
The story of their relations was told by Constant in Adolphe,
while Mme. de Stael based Delphine on her experiences with him. It
seems that he was puzzled by her ardor; she was infatuated by his
genius. Together they went through all the phases of the tender
passion; and yet, at intervals, they would tire of each other and
separate for a while, and she would amuse herself with other men.
At last she really believed that her love for him was entirely
"I always loved my lovers more than they loved me," she said once,
and it was true.
Yet, on the other hand, she was frankly false to all of them, and
hence arose these intervals. In one of them she fell in with a
young Italian named Rocca, and by way of a change she not only
amused herself with him, but even married him. At this time--1811
--she was forty-five, while Rocca was only twenty-three--a young
soldier who had fought in Spain, and who made eager love to the
she-philosopher when he was invalided at Geneva.
The marriage was made on terms imposed by the middle-aged woman
who became his bride. In the first place, it was to be kept
secret; and second, she would not take her husband's name, but he
must pass himself off as her lover, even though she bore him
children. The reason she gave for this extraordinary exhibition of
her vanity was that a change of name on her part would put
"In fact," she said, "if Mme. de Stael were to change her name, it
would unsettle the heads of all Europe!"
And so she married Rocca, who was faithful to her to the end,
though she grew extremely plain and querulous, while he became
deaf and soon lost his former charm. Her life was the life of a
woman who had, in her own phrase, "attempted everything"; and yet
she had accomplished nothing that would last. She was loved by a
man of genius, but he did not love her to the end. She was loved
by a man of action, and she tired of him very soon. She had a
wonderful reputation for her knowledge of history and philosophy,
and yet what she knew of those subjects is now seen to be merely
the scraps and borrowings of others.
Something she did when she introduced the romantic literature into
France; and there are passages from her writings which seem worthy
of preservation. For instance, we may quote her outburst with
regard to unhappy marriages. "It was the subject," says Mr.
Gribble, "on which she had begun to think before she was married,
and which continued to haunt her long after she was left a widow;
though one suspects that the word 'marriage' became a form of
speech employed to describe her relations, not with her husband,
but with her lovers." The passage to which I refer is as follows:
In an unhappy marriage, there is a violence of distress surpassing
all other sufferings in the world. A woman's whole soul depends
upon the conjugal tie. To struggle against fate alone, to journey
to the grave without a friend to support you or to regret you, is
an isolation of which the deserts of Arabia give but a faint and
feeble idea. When all the treasure of your youth has been given in
vain, when you can no longer hope that the reflection of these
first rays will shine upon the end of your life, when there is
nothing in the dusk to remind you of the dawn, and when the
twilight is pale and colorless as a livid specter that precedes
the night, your heart revolts, and you feel that you have been
robbed of the gifts of God upon earth.
Equally striking is another prose passage of hers, which seems
less the careful thought of a philosopher than the screeching of a
termagant. It is odd that the first two sentences recall two
famous lines of Byron:
Man's love is of man's life a thing apart;
'Tis woman's whole existence.
The passage by Mme. de Stael is longer and less piquant:
Love is woman's whole existence. It is only an episode in the
lives of men. Reputation, honor, esteem, everything depends upon
how a woman conducts herself in this regard; whereas, according to
the rules of an unjust world, the laws of morality itself are
suspended in men's relations with women. They may pass as good
men, though they have caused women the most terrible suffering
which it is in the power of one human being to inflict upon
another. They may be regarded as loyal, though they have betrayed
them. They may have received from a woman marks of a devotion
which would so link two friends, two fellow soldiers, that either
would feel dishonored if he forgot them, and they may consider
themselves free of all obligations by attributing the services to
love--as if this additional gift of love detracted from the value
of the rest!
One cannot help noticing how lacking in neatness of expression is
this woman who wrote so much. It is because she wrote so much that
she wrote in such a muffled manner. It is because she thought so
much that her reflections were either not her own, or were never
clear. It is because she loved so much, and had so many lovers--
Benjamin Constant; Vincenzo Monti, the Italian poet; M. de
Narbonne, and others, as well as young Rocca--that she found both
love and lovers tedious.
She talked so much that her conversation was almost always mere
personal opinion. Thus she told Goethe that he never was really
brilliant until after he had got through a bottle of champagne.
Schiller said that to talk with her was to have a "rough time,"
and that after she left him, he always felt like a man who was
just getting over a serious illness. She never had time to do
anything very well.
There is an interesting glimpse of her in the recollections of Dr.
Bollmann, at the period when Mme. de Stael was in her prime. The
worthy doctor set her down as a genius--an extraordinary,
eccentric woman in all that she did. She slept but a few hours out
of the twenty-four, and was uninterruptedly and fearfully busy all
the rest of the time. While her hair was being dressed, and even
while she breakfasted, she used to keep on writing, nor did she
ever rest sufficiently to examine what she had written.
Such then was Mme. de Stael, a type of the time in which she
lived, so far as concerns her worship of sensibility--of
sensibility, and not of love; for love is too great to be so
scattered and made a thing to prattle of, to cheapen, and thus
destroy. So we find at the last that Germaine de Stael, though she
was much read and much feted and much followed, came finally to
that last halting-place where confessedly she was merely an old
woman, eccentric, and unattractive. She sued her former lovers for
the money she had lent them, she scolded and found fault--as
perhaps befits her age.
But such is the natural end of sensibility, and of the woman who
typifies it for succeeding generations.
THE STORY OF KARL MARX
Some time ago I entered a fairly large library--one of more than
two hundred thousand volumes--to seek the little brochure on Karl
Marx written by his old friend and genial comrade Wilhelm
Liebknecht. It was in the card catalogue. As I made a note of its
number, my friend the librarian came up to me, and I asked him
whether it was not strange that a man like Marx should have so
many books devoted to him, for I had roughly reckoned the number
at several hundred.
"Not at all," said he; "and we have here only a feeble nucleus of
the Marx literature--just enough, in fact, to give you a glimpse
of what that literature really is. These are merely the books
written by Marx himself, and the translations of them, with a few
expository monographs. Anything like a real Marx collection would
take up a special room in this library, and would have to have its
own separate catalogue. You see that even these two or three
hundred books contain large volumes of small pamphlets in many
languages--German, English, French, Italian, Russian, Polish,
Yiddish, Swedish, Hungarian, Spanish; and here," he concluded,
pointing to a recently numbered card, "is one in Japanese."
My curiosity was sufficiently excited to look into the matter
somewhat further. I visited another library, which was appreciably
larger, and whose managers were evidently less guided by their
prejudices. Here were several thousand books on Marx, and I spent
the best part of the day in looking them over.
What struck me as most singular was the fact that there was
scarcely a volume about Marx himself. Practically all the books
dealt with his theory of capital and his other socialistic views.
The man himself, his personality, and the facts of his life were
dismissed in the most meager fashion, while his economic theories
were discussed with something that verged upon fury. Even such
standard works as those of Mehring and Spargo, which profess to be
partly biographical, sum up the personal side of Marx in a few
pages. In fact, in the latter's preface he seems conscious of this
defect, and says:
Whether socialism proves, in the long span of centuries, to be
good or evil, a blessing to men or a curse, Karl Marx must always
be an object of interest as one of the great world-figures of
immortal memory. As the years go by, thoughtful men and women will
find the same interest in studying the life and work of Marx that
they do in studying the life and work of Cromwell, of Wesley, or
of Darwin, to name three immortal world-figures of vastly
Singularly little is known of Karl Marx, even by his most ardent
followers. They know his work, having studied his Das Kapital with
the devotion and earnestness with which an older generation of
Christians studied the Bible, but they are very generally
unacquainted with the man himself. Although more than twenty-six
years have elapsed since the death of Marx, there is no adequate
biography of him in any language.
Doubtless some better-equipped German writer, such as Franz
Mehring or Eduard Bernstein, will some day give us the adequate
and full biography for which the world now waits.
Here is an admission that there exists no adequate biography of
Karl Marx, and here is also an intimation that simply as a man,
and not merely as a great firebrand of socialism, Marx is well
worth studying. And so it has occurred to me to give in these
pages one episode of his career that seems to me quite curious,
together with some significant touches concerning the man as apart
from the socialist. Let the thousands of volumes already in
existence suffice for the latter. The motto of this paper is not
the Vergilian "Arms and the man I sing," but simply "The man I
sing"--and the woman. Karl Marx was born nearly ninety-four years
ago--May 5, 1818--in the city which the French call Treves and the
Germans Trier, among the vine-clad hills of the Moselle. Today,
the town is commonplace enough when you pass through it, but when
you look into its history, and seek out that history's evidences,
you will find that it was not always a rather sleepy little place.
It was one of the chosen abodes of the Emperors of the West, after
Rome began to be governed by Gauls and Spaniards, rather than by
Romans and Italians. The traveler often pauses there to see the
Porta Nigra, that immense gate once strongly fortified, and he
will doubtless visit also what is left of the fine baths and
Treves, therefore, has a right to be termed imperial, and it was
the birthplace of one whose sway over the minds of men has been
both imperial and imperious.
Karl Marx was one of those whose intellectual achievements were so
great as to dwarf his individuality and his private life. What he
taught with almost terrific vigor made his very presence in the
Continental monarchies a source of eminent danger. He was driven
from country to country. Kings and emperors were leagued together
against him. Soldiers were called forth, and blood was shed
because of him. But, little by little, his teaching seems to have
leavened the thought of the whole civilized world, so that to-day
thousands who barely know his name are deeply affected by his
ideas, and believe that the state should control and manage
everything for the good of all.
Marx seems to have inherited little from either of his parents.
His father, Heinrich Marx, was a provincial Jewish lawyer who had
adopted Christianity, probably because it was expedient, and
because it enabled him to hold local offices and gain some social
consequence. He had changed his name from Mordecai to Marx.
The elder Marx was very shrewd and tactful, and achieved a fair
position among the professional men and small officials in the
city of Treves. He had seen the horrors of the French Revolution,
and was philosopher enough to understand the meaning of that
mighty upheaval, and of the Napoleonic era which followed.
Napoleon, indeed, had done much to relieve his race from petty
oppression. France made the Jews in every respect the equals of
the Gentiles. One of its ablest marshals--Massena--was a Jew, and
therefore, when the imperial eagle was at the zenith of its
flight, the Jews in every city and town of Europe were
enthusiastic admirers of Napoleon, some even calling him the
Karl Marx's mother, it is certain, endowed him with none of his
gifts. She was a Netherlandish Jewess of the strictly domestic and
conservative type, fond of her children and her home, and
detesting any talk that looked to revolutionary ideas or to a
change in the social order. She became a Christian with her
husband, but the word meant little to her. It was sufficient that
she believed in God; and for this she was teased by some of her
skeptical friends. Replying to them, she uttered the only epigram
that has ever been ascribed to her.
"Yes," she said, "I believe in God, not for God's sake, but for my
She was so little affected by change of scene that to the day of
her death she never mastered German, but spoke almost wholly in
her native Dutch. Had we time, we might dwell upon the unhappy
paradox of her life. In her son Karl she found an especial joy, as
did her husband. Had the father lived beyond Karl's early youth,
he would doubtless have been greatly pained by the radicalism of
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