Memoirs of the Comtesse du Barry
Baron Etienne Leon Lamothe-Langon
Part 4 out of 10
stone: he burns you on the slightest touch. But now, to this
letter; you will see what he says to you. He begs me most
particularly to conceal from every body the step he has taken
with you. What he most dreads is, lest you should proclaim from
the housetops that he is in correspondence with you. I conjure
you, on his behalf, to exercise the greatest discretion, and I
think that you are interested in doing so; for, if what he has done
should be made public, he will not fail to exercise upon you the
virulence of his biting wit."
Our conversation was interrupted by a stir which we heard in the
château, and which announced to us the king. The maréchal hastily
desired me not to show Voltaire's letter to the king until I had
read it previously to myself. "He does not like this extraordinary
man," he added, "and accuses him of having failed in respect,
and perhaps you will find in this paper some expression which
may displease him."
Scarcely had I put the epistle in my pocket, when the king entered.
"What are you talking about," said he, "you seem agitated?"
"Of M. de Voltaire, sire," I replied, with so much presence of
mind as to please the duc de Richelieu.
"What, is he at his tricks again? Have you any cause of complaint
"Quite the reverse; he has charged M. d'Argental to say to M. de
Richelieu, that he was sorry that he could not come and prostrate
himself at my feet."
"Ah," said the king, remembering the letter to the duc d'Aiguillon,
"he persists in his coquetries towards you: that is better than
being lampooned by him. But do not place too much confidence in
this gentleman of the chamber: he weighs every thing in two scales;
and I doubt much whether he will spare you when he evinces but
little consideration for me."
Certainly Richelieu had a good opportunity of undertaking the
defence of his illustrious friend. He did no such thing; and I
have always thought that Voltaire was the person whom the duke
detested more heartily than any other person in the world. He did,
in fact, dread him too much to esteem him as a real friend.
"M. d'Argental," said the king, "unites then at my court the double
function of minister of Parma and steward of Ferney.* Are these
two offices compatible?"
*The name of Voltaire's residence- TRANS
"Yes, sire," replied the duke, laughing, "since he has not
presented officially to your majesty the letters of his creation as
comte de Tournay."
The king began to laugh. This was the name of an estate which
Voltaire had, and which he sometimes assumed.
Unpublished letter of Voltaire to madame du Barry--Reply of the
countess--The maréchale de Mirepoix--Her first interview with
madame du Barry--Anecdote of the diamonds of madame de Mirepoix--
The king pays for them--Singular gratitude of the maréchale--The
portfolio, and an unpublished letter of the marquise de Pompadour
By the way in which the king continued to speak to me of M. de
Voltaire, I clearly saw how right the duke was in advising me to
read the letter myself before I showed it to my august protector. I
could not read it until the next day, and found it conceived in the
"MADAME LA COMTESSE:--I feel myself urged by an extreme desire
to have an explanation with you, after the receipt of a letter
which M. the duc d'Aiguillon wrote to me last year. This nobleman,
nephew of a gentleman, as celebrated for the name he bears as by
his own reputation, and who has been my friend for more than
sixty years, has communicated to me the pain which had been caused
you by a certain piece of poetry, of my writing as was stated,
and in which my style was recognised. Alas! madame, ever since
the most foolish desire in the world has excited me to commit a
great deal of idle trash to paper, not a month, a week, nay, even a
day passes in which I am not accused and convicted of some great
enormity; that is to say, the malicious author of all sorts of
turpitudes and extravagancies. Eh! , the entire
life-time of ten men would not be sufficient to write all with
which I am charged, to my unutterable despair in this world, and
to my eternal damnation in that which is to come.
"It is no doubt, much to die in final impenitence; altho' hell may
contain all the honest men of antiquity and a great portion of those
of our times; and paradise would not be much to hope for if we
must find ourselves face to face with messieurs Fréron, Nonatte,
Patouillet, Abraham Chauneix, and other saints cut out of the same
cloth. But how much more severe would it be to sustain your
anger! The hatred of the Graces brings down misfortune on men
of letters; and when he embroils himself with Venus and the Muses
he is a lost being; as, for instance, M. Dorat, who incessantly
slanders his mistresses, and writes nothing but puerilities.
"I have been very cautious, in my long career, how I committed
such a fault. If perchance I have lightly assailed the common cry
of scribblers or pendants who were worthless, I have never ceased
to burn incense on the altars of the ladies; them I have always sung
when I--could not do otherwise. Independently, madame, of the
profound respect I bear all your sex I profess a particular regard
towards all those who approach our sovereign, and whom he
invests with his confidence: in this I prove myself no less a
faithful subject than a gallant Frenchman; and I venerate the God
I serve in his constant friendships as I would do in his caprices.
Thus I was far from outraging and insulting you still more
grievously by composing a hateful work which I detest with my
whole heart, and which makes me shed tears of blood when I think
that people did not blush to attribute it to me.
"Believe in my respectful attachment, madame, no less than in
my cruel destiny, which renders me odious to those by whom I
would be loved. My enemies, a portion of whom are amongst yours,
certainly succeed each other with frightful eagerness to try my wind.
Now they have just published under my name some attacks on the
poor president Henault, whom I love with sincere affection. What
have they not attributed to me to inculpate me with my friends,
with my illustrious protectors, M. le maréchal duc de Richelieu and
their majesties the king of Prussia and the czarina of Russia!
"I could excuse them for making war upon strangers in my name,
altho' that would be a pirate's method; but to attack, under my
banner, my master, my sovereign lord, this I can never pardon, and
I will raise against them even a dying voice; particularly when they
strike you with the same blows; you, who love literature; you, who
do me the honor to charge your memory with my feeble productions.
It is an infamy to pretend that I fire on my own troops.
"Under any circumstances, madame, I am before you in a very
delicate situation. There is in Versailles a family which overwhelms
me with marks of their friendship. Mine ought to appertain to it to
perpetuity; yet I learn that it is so unfortunate as to have no
conception of your merit, and that envious talebearers place
themselves between you and it. I am told that there is a kind of
declared war; it is added, that I have furnished supplies to this
camp, the chiefs of which I love and esteem. More wise, more
submissive, I keep myself out of the way of blows; and my reverence
for the supreme master is such, that I turn away my very eyes that
they may not be spectators of the fight.
"Do not then, madame, think that any sentiment of affection has
compelled, or can compel me to take arms against you. I would
refuse any proposition which should rank me as hostile to you, if
the natural generosity of your enemies could so far forget it. In
reality they are as incapable of ordering a bad action as I am of
listening to those who should show themselves so devoid of sense
as to propose such a thing to me.
"I am persuaded that you have understood me, and I am fully
cleared in your eyes. It would be delightful to me to ascertain
this with certainty. I charge M. le maréchal duc de Richelieu
to explain to you my disquietude on this head, and the favor I
seek at your hands, from you who command France, whilst I, I
ought to die in peace, not to displease any person, and live
wisely with all. I conclude, madame la comtesse, this long and
stupid epistle, which is, in fact, less a letter than a real case
for consideration, by begging you to believe me, etc.,
", April 28, 1769. Gentleman in ordinary to the king.
"P. S. My enemies say everywhere that I am not a Christian. I
have just given them the lie direct, by performing my Easter
devotions () publicly; thus proving to all my lively
desire to terminate my long career in the religion in which I was
born; and I have fulfilled this important act after a dozen
consecutive attacks of fever, which made me fear I should die
before I could assure you of my respect and my devotion."
This apology gave me real pleasure. I pretended to believe the
sincerity of him who addressed me, altho' he had not convinced
me of his innocence; and I wrote the following reply to M. de
Voltaire, which a silly pride dictates to me to communicate to
you, in conjunction with the letter of the philosopher:
"MONSIEUR:--Even were you culpable from too much friendship
towards those you cherish, I would pardon you as a recompense for
the letter you address to me. This ought the more to charm me, as
it gives me the certainty that you had been unworthily calumniated.
Could you have said, under the veil of secrecy, things disagreeable
to a great king, for whom, in common with all France, you profess
sincere love? It is impossible. Could you, with gaiety of heart,
wound a female who never did you harm, and who admires your
splendid genius? In fact, could those you call your friends have
stooped so low as not to have feared to compromise you, by making
you play a part unworthy of your elevated reputation? All these
suppositions were unreasonable: I could not for a moment admit them,
and your two letters have entirely justified you. I can now give
myself up without regret to my enthusiasm for you and your works.
It would have been too cruel for me to have learnt with certainty
that he whom I regarded as the first writer of the age had become
my detractor without motive, without provocation. That it is not so
I give thanks to Providence.
"M. the duc d'Aiguillon did not deceive you when he told you
that I fed on your sublime poetry. I am in literature a perfect
novice, and yet am sensible of the true beauties which abound
in your works. I am to be included amongst the stones which
were animated by Amphion: this is one of your triumphs; but to
this you must be accustomed.
"Believe also that all your friends are not in the enemy's camp.
There are those about me who love you sincerely, M. de Chauvelin,
for instance, MM. de Richelieu and d'Aiguillon: this latter eulogizes
you incessantly; and if all the world thought as he does, you would
be here in your place. But there are terrible prejudices which my
candor will not allow me to dissemble, which you have to overcome.
There is who complains of you, and this one must be won over
to your interests. He wishes you to testify more veneration for
what he venerates himself; that your attacks should not be so
vehement nor so constant. Is it then impossible for you to comply
his wishes in this particular? Be sure that you only, in setting no
bounds in your attacks on religion, do yourself a vast mischief with
the person in question.
"It will appear strange that I should hold such language to you:
I only do it to serve you: do not take my statements unkindly. I
have now a favor to ask of you; which is, to include me in the list
of those to whom you send the first fruits of the brilliant
productions of your pen. There is none who is more devoted to
you, and who has a more ardent desire to convince you of this.
"I am, , with real
I showed this letter to M. de Richelieu.
"Why," he inquired, 'have you not assured him as to your indiscretion,
which he fears?"
"Because his fear seemed to me unjust, and I leave you to represent
me to him as I am; and now," I added, "it does not appear to me
necessary for the king to know anything of this."
"You think wisely, madame; what most displeased him was to see
madame de Pompadour in regular correspondence with M. de Voltaire."
I have related to you this episode of my history, that it may
recompense you for the tiresome details of my presentation. I
resume my recital. I told you that M. de Maupeou had told me
that he would endeavor to bring madame la maréchale de Mirepoix,
and introduce her to me, trusting to the friendship she had evinced
for madame de Pompadour during, the whole time of the favor and
life of her who preceded me in the affections of Louis XV. I
found, to my surprise, that he said nothing to me concerning it
for several days, when suddenly madame la maréchale de Mirepoix
At this name and this title I rose quite in a fluster, without
clearly knowing what could be the object of this visit, for which
I was unprepared. The maréchale, who followed closely on the
valet's heels, did not give me time for much reflection. She took
me really , and I had not time to go and meet her.
"Madame la maréchale," said I, accosting her, "what lucky chance
brings you to a place where the desire to have your society is so great?"
"It is the feeling of real sympathy," she replied, with a gracious
smile; "for I also have longed for a considerable time to visit
you, and have yielded to my wishes as soon as I was certain that
my advances would not be repulsed."
"Ah, madame.," said I, "had you seriously any such fear? That
tells me much less of the mistrust you had of yourself than of the
bad opinion you had conceived of me. The honor of your visits--"
"The honor of my visits! That's admirable! I wish to obtain a
portion of your friendship, and to testify to the king that I am
sincerely attached to him."
"You overwhelm me, madame," cried I, much delighted, "and I beg
you to give me your confidence."
"Well, now, all is arranged between us: I suit you and you please
me. It is long since I was desirous of coming to you, but we are
all under the yoke of the must absurd tyranny: soon we shall have
no permission to go, to come, to speak, to hold our tongues, without
first obtaining the consent of a certain family. This yoke has
wearied me; and on the first word of the chancellor of France I
hastened to you."
"I had begged him, madame, to express to you how much I should be
charmed to have you when the king graced me with his presence. He
likes you, he is accustomed to the delights of your society; and I
should have been deeply chagrined had I come here only to deprive
him of that pleasure."
"He is a good master," said the maréchale, "he is worthy of all
our love. I have had opportunities of knowing him thoroughly,
for I was most intimate with madame de Pompadour; and I believe
that my advice will not be useless to you."
"I ask it of you, madame la maréchale, for it will be precious to me."
"Since we are friends, madame," said she, seating herself in a
chair, "do not think ill of me if I establish myself at my ease,
and take my station as in the days of yore. The king loves you:
so much the better. You will have a double empire over him. He
did not love the marquise, and allowed himself to be governed by
her; for with him--I ask pardon of your excessive beauty--custom
does all. It is necessary, my dear countess, to use the double lever
you have, of your own charms and his constant custom to do
to-morrow what he does to-day because he did it yesterday, and
for this you lack neither grace nor wit."
I had heard a great deal concerning madame de Mirepoix; but I
own to you, that before I heard her speak I had no idea what sort
of a person she would prove. She had an air of so much frankness
and truth, that it was impossible not to be charmed by it. The greater
part of the time I did not know how to defend myself from her--at
once so natural and so perfidious; and occasionally I allowed myself
to love her with all my heart, so much did she seem to cherish me
with all enthusiasm. She had depth of wit, a piquancy of expression,
and knew how to disguise those interested adulations with turns
so noble and beautiful that I have never met, neither before nor
since, any woman worthy of being compared with her. She was,
in her single self, a whole society; and certainly there was no
possibility of being wearied when she was there. Her temper was
most equable, a qualification rarely obtained without a loss of
warmth of feeling. She always pleased because her business was
to please and not to love; and it always sufficed her to render others
enthusiastic and ardent. Except this tendency to egotism, she was
the charm of society, the life of the party whom she enlivened by
her presence. She knew precisely when to mourn with the afflicted,
and joke with the merry-hearted. The king had much pleasure in
her company: he knew that she only thought how to amuse him; and,
moreover, as he had seen her from morning till evening with the
marquise de Pompadour, her absence from my parties was insupportable
to him, and almost contrary to the rules of etiquette at the château.
I cannot tell you how great was his satisfaction, when, at the
first supper which followed our intimacy, he saw her enter. He
ran to meet her like a child, and gave a cry of joy, which must
have been very pleasing to the maréchale.
"You are a dear woman," he said to her, with an air which accorded
with his words, "I always find you when I want you; and you can
nowhere be more in place than here. I ask your friendship for our
"She has it already, sire, from the moment I saw her; and I
consider my intimacy with her as one of the happiest chances
of my life."
The king showed the utmost good humor in the world during the
rest of the evening. He scolded me, however, for the mystery I
had made in concealing from him the agreeable visit of the
maréchale. I justified myself easily by the pleasure which this
surprise caused him; and, on my side, gave my sincere thanks
to the chancellor.
"You owe me none," said he; "the good maréchale felt herself
somewhat ill at ease not to be on close terms with her who
possesses the affections of the king. It is an indispensable
necessity that she should play a part in the lesser apartments;
and as the principal character no longer suits her, she is
contented to perform that of confidante, and ran here on my
"Never mind the motive that brought her," I said; "she is a
companion for me much more desirable than madame de Bearn."
"First from her rank," said the chancellor, smiling maliciously,
"and then by virtue of her cousinship with the Holy Virgin."
I confess that I was ignorant of this incident in the house of
Levi; and I laughed heartily at the description of the picture,
in which one of the lords of this house is represented on his
knees before the mother of God, who says to him, "
to which he replies, "" I took
care, however, how I joked on this point with the maréchale, who
listened to nothing that touched on the nobility of the ancestors of
her husband or on those of her own family.
Great had been the outcry in the palace against the duc de la
Vauguyon and madame de Bearn, but how much louder did it become
on the defection of the marquise de Mirepoix. The cabal was
destroyed; for a woman of rank and birth like the maréchale was
to me a conquest of the utmost importance. The princesse de
Guémenée and the duchesse de Grammont were wofully enraged.
This they manifested by satirical sneers, epigrams, and verses,
which were put forth in abundance. All these inffictions disturbed
her but little; the main point in her eyes was to possess the
favor of the master; and she had it, for he felt that he was
bound to her by her complaisance.
He was not long in giving her an unequivocal proof of his regard.
The duc de Duras asked her, in presence of the king and myself,
why she did not wear her diamonds as usual.
"They are my representatives," was her reply.
"What do you mean by representatives?" said I.
"Why, my dear countess, they are with a Jew instead of my
sign-manual. The rogue had no respect for the word of a relation
of the Holy Virgin and the daughter of the Beauvau. I was in
want of thirty thousand francs; and to procure it I have given
up my ornaments, not wishing to send to the Jew the old plate of
my family, altho' the hunks wanted it."
We all laughed at her frankness, and the gaiety with which she
gave this statement, but we went no further; to her great regret,
no doubt, for I believe that the scene had been prepared between
her and M. de Duras, either to let her profit in time of need, or
else that she wished to pluck a feather from our wing. When I
was alone with the king, he said,
"The poor maréchale pains me; I should like to oblige her and
think I will give her five hundred louis."
"What will such a petty sum avail her? You know what she wants;
either send her the whole or none. A king should do nothing by halves."
Louis XV answered me nothing; he only made a face, and began to
walk up and down the room. "Ah," said I, "this excellent woman
loves your majesty so much, that you ought to show your gratitude
to her, were it only to recompense her for her intimacy with me."
"Well, you shall carry her the sum yourself, which Lebel shall
bring you from me. But thirty thousand francs, that makes a
large pile of crown-pieces."
"Then I must take it in gold."
"No, but in good notes. We must not, even by a look, intimate
that she has her visits to us. There are such creatures in
The next morning Lebel brought me a very handsome rose-colored
portfolio, embroidered with silver and auburn hair: it contained
the thirty thousand francs in notes. I hastened to the maréchale.
We were then at Marly.
"What good wind blows you hither?" said madame de Mirepoix.
"A royal gallantry," I replied; "you appeared unhappy, and our
excellent prince sends you the money necessary to redeem
The eyes of the lady became animated, and she embraced me heartily.
"It is to you that I owe this bounty of the king."
"Yes, partly, to make the present entire; he would only have
given you half the sum."
"I recognize him well in that he does not like to empty his casket.
He would draw on the public treasury without hesitation for
double the revenue of France, and would not make a division of a
single crown of his own private ."
I give this speech ; and this was all the gratitude
which madame de Mirepoix manifested towards Louis XV. I was
pained at it, but made no remark. She took up the portfolio,
examined it carefully, and, bursting into a fit of laughter, said,
while she flung herself into an arm-chair,
"Ah! ah! ah! this is an unexpected rencontre! Look at this
portfolio, my dear friend: do you see the locks with which it is
decorated? Well, they once adorned the head of madame de
Pompadour. She herself used them to embroider this garland of
silver thread; she gave it to the king on his birthday. Louis XV
swore never to separate from it, and here it is in my hands."
Then, opening the portfolio, and rummaging it over, she found in
a secret pocket a paper, which she opened, saying, "I knew he
had left it."
It was a letter of madame de Pompadour, which I wished to have,
and the maréchale gave me it instantly; the notes remained with
her. I copy the note, to give you an idea of the sensibility of
"SIRE,--I am ill; dangerously so, perhaps. In the melancholy
feeling which preys upon me, I have formed a desire to leave
you a souvenir, which will always make me present to your memory.
I have embroidered this portfolio with my own hair; accept it;
never part with it. Enclose in it your most important papers,
and let its contents prove your estimation of it. Will you not
accord my prayer? Sign it, I beseech you; it is the caprice, the
wish of a dying woman."
Beneath it was written,
"This token of love shall never quit me. Louis."
Conversation of the maréchale de Mirepoix with the comtesse du
Barry on court friendship--Intrigues of madame de Bearn--Preconcerted
meeting with madame de Flaracourt---Rage of madame de Bearn--
Portrait and conversation of madame de Flaracourt with the
comtesse du Barry--Insult from the princesse de Guémenée--Her
banishment--Explanation of the king and the duc de Choiseul
relative to madame du Barry--The comtesse d'Egmont
However giddy I was I did not partake in the excessive gaiety of
madame de Mirepoix. I was pained to see how little reliance
could be placed on the sensibility of the king, as well as how
far I could esteem the consideration of the maréchale for madame
de Pompadour, from whom she had experienced so many marks of
friendship. This courtier baseness appeared to me so villainous,
that I could not entirely conceal how I was affected with displeasure.
Madame de Mirepoix saw it, and, looking at me attentively, said,
"Do you feel any desire to become pathetical in the country we
live in? I warn you that it will be at your own expense. We must
learn to content ourselves here with appearances, and examine
"'There is then no reality?" said I to her.
"Yes," she answered me, "but only two things, power and money:
the rest is 'leather and prunella' (): no person
has time to love sincerely; it is hatred only that takes deep root
and never dies. To hope to give birth to a real passion, an
Orestean and Pyladean friendship, is a dream from which you must
'Then you do not love me?"
"You ask me a very awkward question, my darling, I can tell you.
I do love you, and very much, too: I have proved it by ranging
myself on your side, and by declaring, with the utmost frankness,
that I would rather see you in the situation in which you are,
than any other woman of the court. But there is a long space
between this and heroical friendship: I should deceive you if I
were to affirm the contrary, and there would be no common sense
in giving faith to my words. Every one has too much business,
too much intrigue, too many quarrels on hand, to have any leisure
to think of others: every one lives for himself alone. Mesdames
de Guémenée and de Grammont appear very intimate: that is easily
explained, they unite against a common enemy. But were your
station left vacant, no sooner would the king have thrown the apple
to one of them, but the other would detest her instantly."
Contrary to custom I made no reply: I was absorbed in painful
reflections to which this conversation had given rise. The
maréchale perceived it, and said,
"We should fall into philosophy if we probed this subject too
deeply. Let us think no more of this: besides, I have a new
defection to tell you of. Madame de Flaracourt told me yesterday
that she much regretted having misunderstood you, and that you
were worth more than all those who persecute you. She appeared
to me disposed to ally herself to you for the least encouragement
which you might be induced to hold out to her."
"You know very well," I replied, "that I am willing to adopt
your advice. The house of Flaracourt is not to be despised, and
I ask no better than to be on amicable terms with the lady."
"Well, then, come this morning and walk in the grove nearest the
pavilion, I shall be there with madame de Flaracourt: we will
meet by chance, compliments will follow, and the alliance will
The maréchale and I had scarcely separated when madame de Bearn
was announced. This lady besieged me night and day. Gifted
with a subtle and penetrating spirit--that talent which procures
advancement at court, she saw, with pain, that I sought to attract
other females about me: she would fain have remained my only
friend, that she might, unopposed, influence me in all I did. She
saw, therefore, the appearance of madame de Mirepoix in my
drawing-room with uneasiness: her bad humor was sufficiently
apparent to attract the notice of the maréchale, who laughed at it:
her social position as a titled woman, and the king's friendship,
giving her confidence that her credit would always exceed that of
Madame de Bearn was compelled to submit to the ascendancy of the
maréchale, but yet did not the less relax in her efforts to keep
from me all other female society, she hoped that at last the king
would distinguish her, and call her into his intimacy as my friend;
she was not more fond of the comtesse d'Aloigny, altho' the nullity
of this lady need not have alarmed her much. For me, I began to
resent the irksomeness of having incessantly at my side a person
who manifested too openly her desire to compel me to submit to
her wishes, and I waited, to secure my freedom, only until the
circle of females I could admit to my society should be extended.
Such were our reciprocal feelings during our stay at Marly. The
madame de Bearn watched me with more care than at Versailles,
fearing, no doubt, that the freedom of the country might facilitate
connections prejudicial to her interests. Little did she anticipate
on this day the stroke which was in preparation for her. I asked
her spitefully to take a turn with me into the park, and I took
care not to announce the meeting which we had arranged.
Behold us then walking this way and that, quite by chance, without
however going any distance from the pavilion. Madame de Bearn,
not liking the vicinity of the château, was desirous to go into the
wood. I declined this under vain excuses, when suddenly madame
de Mirepoix and madame de Flaracourt appeared at the end of
a very short walk.
"Let us turn this way," said the countess to me, "here comes one
of our enemies, whom it would be as well to avoid."
"Why turn away?" I replied; "she is alone, we are two, and then
the maréchale de Mirepoix is not opposed to us."
Saying this, I advanced towards them. Madame de Flaracourt appeared
very gracious: I replied to her advances with due politeness, and
instead of separating, we continued to walk about together. Madame
de Bearn saw clearly that chance was not the sole cause of this
meeting: she dissembled as well as she could. I afterwards learnt
that she owed me a spite, particularly for the mystery which I had
made of this occurrence. The marked silence, and the sullen air
she assumed during this interview, and which her sense and
knowledge of the world should have prevented her from manifesting,
proved to me, on this occasion, as on many other others, that
temper cannot always be conquered, and that at times it will burst
forth in spite of the experience and caution of the courtier.
I did not give myself much trouble on this subject: I had well
recompensed the good offices of the countess: I had ample proof
that in serving me she had acted on the impulse of self-interest:
we were quits, I thought, and I saw no reason why I should
remain isolated just to serve her pleasure.
When we returned to my apartments I saw plainly, by her mutterings,
her sighs, and the shrugging of her shoulders, that she was deeply
irritated at what had just taken place. She was desirous of
provoking an explanation, but as that could only tend to her
disadvantage, she contented herself with leaving me earlier than
her usual want, without saying anything disagreeable. Her custom
was not to leave me alone, and her abrupt departure confirmed me
in the idea I had imbibed, that this sort of comedy had much
In the course of the same day I received a visit from the comtesse
de Flaracourt. This lady, whose sparkling eyes shone with an air
of mischief, presented herself to me with an appearance of
openness and confidence which completely cloaked the malignity
and treachery of her character. She threw her arms round my neck
with as much grace as tenderness, and taking my hand, as if to
arrest my attention, said:
"I ought, madame, to explain to you the delay that I have made
before I introduce myself to you, as well as the promptitude of
this my first visit. I was prejudiced against you, and had formed
a false estimate of you. My with mesdames d'Egmont,
de Brionne, and de Grammont naturally placed me in the rank
opposed to you: so much for what has passed. But I have seen
you: I have studied you at a distance, as well as close, and I
have recognised, without difficulty, the injustice of your enemies.
I have been enraged with myself for having been deceived regarding
you: I wish to repair my wrongs. Enlightened by the opinion of
the maréchale de Mirepoix, I have not hesitated to approach you
under her auspices, and our first meeting has so happily furnished
me with an opportunity of appreciating you, that I would not delay
any longer the pleasure of making you a personal avowal of my
past sentiments, and of those with which you now inspire me."
The tone in which madame de Flaracourt uttered these words was so
gracious and so persuasive, that I could not resist the pleasure of
embracing her. She returned my kiss with the same eagerness,
and would not listen to my thanks.
"All is explained between us," she continued, "let us forget the
past, and let us do as if meeting for the first time to-day; we
henceforward date this as the first of our acquaintance."
"The affability with which you have presented yourself to me," I
replied, "does not permit me to believe that I have only known
you from this morning; I am in an illusion which will only allow
me to look on our recent alliance as an ancient friendship."
After having exchanged some conversation of the same tenor, we
talked of my situation as regarded the other females of the court.
"They hate you for two reasons," said the countess: "in the first
place, because you have made a conquest which all the world envies
you; secondly because you are not one of us. There is not one
family who can lean on you in virtue of the rights of blood, or
alliances which stand instead of it. You have superseded a woman
who more than any other could have a claim to your good fortune:
she is sister to the prime minister, who has in her train, like
Lucifer, more than a third part of heaven, for all the courtiers
hang on her brother.
"On the other hand, we are not accustomed to remain so long in
opposition to the will of the king. Such a resistance is not natural
to us; it weighs upon us, it harms us, the favor of our master
being our chief good. We are only something thro' him, and when
combatting against him we have neither the courage nor the
perseverance. Thus you may be very certain that the majority
of women who oppose you do it against the grain: and if you add
to this that they are incessantly exposed to the murmurs and
complaints of their husbands, sons, brothers, and lovers, you
will easily be convinced that they only aspire to finding a means
of reconciling the regard they owe to the Choiseuls and the terror
which they inspire, with the desire they have to seek your
protection and the friendship of the king. The cabal only flies
on one wing, and I cannot divine its situation at the commencement
of the next winter. Do not disquiet yourself any more with what
it can do: keep yourself quiet; continue to please the 'master,'
and you will triumph over the multitude as easily as you have
conquered the resistance of mesdames."
Such was the language of the comtesse de Flaracourt: it agreed,
as you will perceive, with that of madame de Mirepoix, and I
ought the more to believe it, as it was the fruit of their
experience and profound knowledge of court manners. Their
example proved to me, as well as their words, that all those who
approached the king could not bear for a long time the position in
which he placed those whom he did not look upon with pleasure.
However, Louis XV evinced more plainly from day to day the
ascendancy I had over his mind. He assisted publicly at my toilet*,
he walked out with me, left me as little as possible, and sought
by every attention to console me for the impertinences with which
my enemies bespattered me. The following anecdote will prove to
you how little consideration he had for those persons who dared to
insult me openly.
One day at Marly, I entered the drawing-room; there was a vacant
seat near the princesse de Guémenée, I went to it, and scarcely
was seated when my neighbor got up, saying, "What horror!" and
betook herself to the further end of the room. I was much confused:
the offence was too public for me to restrain my resentment, and
even when I wished to do so the thing was scarcely possible. The
comte Jean, who had witnessed it, and my sisters-in-law, who
learnt it from him, were enraged. I was compelled to complain to
the king, who instantly sent the princesse de Guémenée an order
to quit Marly forthwith, and betake herself to the princesse de
Marsan, of the children of the royal family of France,
of whose post she had the reversion.
Never did a just chastisement produce a greater effect. The
outcry against me was louder than ever, it seemed as tho' the
whole nobility of France was immolated at "one fell swoop."
To have heard the universal clamor, it would have been thought
that the princess had been sent to the most obscure prison in the
kingdom. This proof of the king's regard for me did much mischief,
no doubt, as it furnished my enemies with a pretext to accuse me
of a vindictive spirit. Could I do otherwise? Ought I to have
allowed myself to be overwhelmed with impunity, and was it
consistent with the dignity of my august protector, that I should
be insulted thus openly by his subjects, his courtiers, his guests,
even in the private apartments of his palace?
However, this wrath of the nobility did not prevent the Choiseul
family from experiencing a feeling of fright. They had just
received a signal favor. The government of Strasbourg, considered
as the key of France and Alsace, had been given in reversion to
the comte de Stainville, brother of the duc de Choiseul. Certainly
this choice was a very great proof of the indulgence of the king,
and the moment was badly chosen to pay with ingratitude a benefit
so important. This did not hinder the duchesse de Grammont, and
all the women of her house, or who were her allies, from continuing
to intrigue against me. It was natural to believe that the king
would not permit such doing for a long time, and that should he
become enraged at them, that I should attempt to soothe his anger.
Matters were in this state, when one morning, after his accustomed
routine, the duc de Choiseul requested a private audience of the
king. "I grant it this moment," said the prince, "what have you
to say to me?"
"I wish to explain to your majesty how excessively painful is the
situation in which I am placed with regard to some of the members
of my family. All the females, and my sister at their head, attack
me about a quarrel which is strange to me, and with which I have
declared I would not meddle."
"You do well, monsieur le duc," said the king, with cool gravity,
"I am much vexed at all that is going on, and have resolved not
to suffer it any longer."
The decision of this discourse made a deep impression M. de
Choiseul: he sought to conceal it whilst he replied:
"It is difficult, sire, to make women listen to reason."
"All are not unreasonable," rejoined the king: "your wife, for
instance, is a model of reason and wisdom: she has perfect control
of herself. She is the wise woman of scripture."
This flattery and justly merited eulogium, which the king made of
the duchess whenever he found an opportunity, was the more painful
to M. de Choiseul, as his conduct was not irreproachable towards
a woman whose virtues he alone did not justly appreciate. It was
a direct satire against his sister's conduct, whose ascendancy over
him, her brother, the king well knew. He replied that the good
behavior of his wife was the safeguard of his family, and he
greatly regretted that the duchesse de Grammont had not a right to
the same eulogium.
"I beg you," said the prince, "to engage her to change her language,
and to conduct herself with less boldness, if she would not have
me force her to repent."
"That, sire, is a mission painful to fulfil, and words very hard
to convey to her."
"So much the worse for her," replied the king, elevating his
voice, "if she bear any friendship for you, let her prove it in
this particular: your interests should keep her mouth shut."
The duke had no difficulty to comprehend the indirect menace
implied: he instantly renewed his regrets for the
disturbances that had occurred.
"Add ," said Louis XV. "I am content with you and
your services, duke. I have just proved this to you, by giving
your brother more than he could expect from me; but have not I
the right to have my intimacies respected? It appears to me that
if you spoke more decidedly in your family you would command
"This makes me fear, sire, that your majesty does not believe me
sincere in my expression of the regret which I just took the
liberty to utter to your majesty."
", monsieur le duc, you certainly do not like
madame du Barry."
"I neither like nor hate her, sire; but I see with trouble that
she receives at her house all my enemies."
"Whose fault is that if it be so? Your own; you, who would never
visit her; she would have received you with pleasure, and I have
not concealed from you the satisfaction I should have experienced."
These last words made the duke start, his eyes became animated.
After a moment's reflection he said to the king,
"Sire, is it indispensably necessary for the service of the state
that I endeavor to attain the good-will of madame la comtesse
"Well, then, sire, allow matters to remain as they are. It would
cost me much to quarrel with my whole family, the more so as
this sacrifice is not useful to you, and would in no wise alter
my position with your majesty."
However painful to the king such a determination might be, he
did not allow the duke to perceive it; he dissembled the resentment
he felt, and contented himself with saying,
"Duc de Choiseul, I do not pretend to impose chains on you; I
have spoken to you as a friend rather than as a sovereign. Now
I return to what was said at first, and accept with confidence the
promise you make me not to torment a lady whom I love most sincerely."
Thus ended a conversation from which the duke, with a less haughty
disposition, might have extracted greater advantages and played
a surer game. It was the last plank of safety offered in the
shipwreck which menaced him. He disdained it: the opportunity of
seizing it did not present itself again. I doubt not but that if
he would have united himself freely and sincerely with me I
should not have played him false. Louis XV, satisfied with his
condescension in my behalf, would have kept him at the head of
his ministry: but his pride ruined him, he could not throw off
the yoke which the duchesse de Grammont had imposed on him: he
recoiled from the idea of telling her that he had made a treaty
of peace with me, and that was not one of the least causes of
The journey to Marly gave birth to a multitude of intrigues of
persons who thought to wrap themselves up in profound mystery,
and all whose actions we knew. The police were very active
about the royal abodes, especially since the fatal deed of the
regicide Damiens. To keep them perpetually on the watch, they
were ordered to watch attentively the amours of the lords and
ladies of the court.
The daughter of the duc de Richelieu, the comtesse d'Egmont, whose
age was no pretext for her follies, dearly liked low love adventures.
She used to seek them out in Paris, when she could find none at
Versailles. She was not, however, the more indulgent towards me.
This lady was not always content with noble lovers, but sought
them in all classes, and more than once, simple mortals, men of
low order, obtained preference over demi-gods. Her conduct in
this respect was the result of long experience. She used to go out
alone, and traverse the streets of Paris. She entered the shops,
and when her eye rested on a good figure, having wide shoulders,
sinewy limbs, and a good looking face, she then called up all the
resources of her mind to form and carry on an intrigue, of which
the consequences, at first agreeable to him who was the object
of it, terminated most frequently fatally. The following adventure
will give you an idea of the talent of madame d'Egmont in this way,
and how she got rid of her adorers when she had exhausted with
them the cup of pleasure.
Intrigue of the comtesse d'Egmont with a shopman--His unhappy
fate--The comtesse du Barry protects him--Conduct of Louis XV
upon the occasion--The young man quits France--Madame du Barry's
letter to the comtesse d’Egmont--Quarrel with the maréchal
The comtesse d'Egmont was one day observed to quit her house
attired with the most parsimonious simplicity; her head being
covered by an enormously deep bonnet, which wholly concealed her
countenance, and the rest of her person enveloped in a pelisse,
whose many rents betrayed its long service. In this strange
dress she traversed the streets of Paris in search of adventures.
She was going, she said, wittily enough, "to return to the cits
what her father and brother had so frequently robbed them of."
Chance having led her steps to the rue St. Martin, she was
stopped there by a confusion of carriages, which compelled her
first to shelter herself against the wall, and afterwards to take
refuge in an opposite shop, which was one occupied by a linen-draper.
She looked around her with the eye of a connoisseur, and perceived
beneath the modest garb of a shopman one of those broad-shouldered
youths, whose open smiling countenance and gently tinged complexion
bespoke a person whose simplicity of character differed greatly from
the vast energy of his physical powers: he resembled the Farnese
Hercules upon a reduced scale. The princess approached him, and
requested to see some muslins, from which she selected two gowns,
and after having paid for them, requested the master of the shop
to send his shopman with them, in the course of half an hour, to
an address she gave as her usual abode.
The comtesse d'Egmont had engaged an apartment on the third floor
of a house in the rue Tiquetonne, which was in the heart of Paris.
The porteress of the dwelling knew her only as madame Rossin: her
household consisted of a housekeeper and an old man, both devoted
to a mistress whose character they well understood, and to whom
they had every motive to be faithful.
Here it was, then, that the lady hastened to await the arrival
of the new object of her plebeian inclinations. Young Moireau
(for such was the shopman's name) was not long ere he arrived
with his parcel. Madame d'Egmont was ready to receive him: she
had had sufficient time to exchange her shabby walking dress for
one which bespoke both coquetry and voluptuousness; the softness
of her smile, and the turn of her features announced one whose
warmth of passions would hold out the most flattering hopes of
success to him who should seek her love.
Madame Rossin and the young shopman were soon engaged in
conversation, further animated by the bright glances sent direct
from the eyes of madame to the unguarded heart of her admiring
visitor. Emboldened by the graciousness of her manner, he
presumed to touch her fair hand: the lady, in affected anger,
rose, and commanded him to quit the house. The terrified youth
fell at her feet, imploring pardon for his boldness, and then
hastily quitted the room ere the feigned madame Rossin could
pronounce the forgiveness he demanded. 'The fool," was (doubtless)
the princess's exclamation, "had he been brought up at court he
would have conducted himself very differently."
This silliness of proceeding was, however, far from being
displeasing to the princess: on the contrary, it seemed to increase
her determination to prosecute the adventure. Accordingly, on
the following day she hastened to resume her former walking dress,
and in it to take the road which led to the rue St. Martin, and
again to present herself as a customer at the linen-draper's shop.
This time she purchased cloth for chemises. Indescribable and
unspeakable was the joy of young Moireau, when, after having
served the mistress of his thoughts, he heard her request of his
master to allow the goods she had selected to be sent to her
residence; and equally was he surprised that she omitted to name
him as the person she wished should convey them. Nevertheless,
as may be imagined, Moireau obtained possession of the parcel,
and was soon on his way to the rue Tiquetonne, where he found
the lady more languishing and attractive than before; and soon
they were deep in the most earnest and interesting conversation.
Moireau, who now saw that his boldness was not displeasing to the
lady, became more and more presuming: true, his overtures were
refused, but so gently, that it only fanned his flame; nor was it
till after reiterated prayers that be succeeded in obtaining her
promise to meet him on the following Sunday. The princess, like
a skilful manoeuvrer, reckoned upon the additional violence his
ardor would receive from this delay. The affection with which
she had inspired him would only gain strength by thus deferring
the day for their next meeting, whilst he would have time to
meditate upon the virtue as well as the charms of her he had won.
The long looked for Sunday at length arrived, and Moireau was
first at the place of rendezvous. His simple dress augmented his
natural good looks, whilst the countess had spared no pains to
render her appearance calculated to captivate and seduce. All
reserve was thrown aside; and to satisfy the eager curiosity of
her lover, she stated herself to be the widow of a country lawyer,
who had come to Paris to carry on a lawsuit. It would be useless
to follow the princess during the further course of this meeting.
Suffice it to say, that Moirreau and madame d'Egmont separated
mutually happy and satisfied with each other.
The youth, who was now ages gone in love, had only reached his
twenty-second year, and madame Rossin was his first attachment.
So ardent and impetuous did his passion hourly grow, that it
became a species of insanity. On the other hand, the high-born
dame, who had thus captivated him, felt all the attractions of
his simple and untutored love, further set off by the fine manly
figure of the young shopman. Indeed, so much novelty and interest
did she experience in her new amour, that, far from finding
herself, as she had expected, disposed to relinquish the affair
(as she had anticipated) at the end of two or three interviews,
which she had imagined would have satisfied her capricious fancy,
she put off, to an indefinite period, her original project of ending
the affair by feigning a return to the country.
This resolution, however, she did not feel courage to carry into
effect; and two or three months rolled rapidly away without any
diminution of their reciprocal flame, when one fine Sunday
evening Moireau, whose time hung heavily on his hands, took it
into his head to visit the opera. This species of amusement
constitutes the of the delights of a French cit.
Moireau seated himself in the pit, just opposite the box of the
gentlemen in waiting. The performance was "Castor and Pollux."
At the commencement of the second act a sudden noise and bustle
drew Moireau from the contemplative admiration into which the
splendor of the piece had thrown him. The disturbance arose from
a general move, which was taking place in the box belonging to
the gentlemen in waiting. Madame d'Egmont had just arrived,
attended by four or five grand lords of the court covered with
gold, and decorated with the order of the Holy Ghost, and two
ladies richly dressed, from whom she was distinguished as much by
the superior magnificence of her attire as by her striking beauty.
Moireau could not believe his eyes; he felt assured he beheld
madame Rossin, yet he fancied he must be under the influence of
some fantastic dream; but every look, every gesture of the
princess, a thousand trifles, which would have escaped the
notice of a common observer, but which were engraved in indelible
characters on the heart of her admirer, all concurred to assure
him that he recognised in this lovely and dazzling female, so
splendidly attired and so regally attended, the cherished mistress
of his affections; she whom that very morning he had held in his
embrace. He addressed a thousand questions to those about him,
from whom he learnt his own good fortune and the exalted rank of
her he had won. Scarcely could he restrain the burst of joy, when
informed that the fair object, glittering with jewels and radiant
in beauty, was the daughter of Richelieu, and the wife of one of
the princes of the noble houses of Egmont.
A thousand tumultuous and flattering ideas rushed in crowds to
the brain of young Moireau, and he saw in anticipation a long
and brilliant vista opening before him. Poor inexperienced
youth! He mistook the wisest and safest path, which would have
been to have appeared ignorant of the high rank of his mistress,
and to have induced her, from motives of affection, to preside
over his fortunes, and to rise by her means without allowing her
to suspect he guessed her ability to bestow riches and preferment.
He, on the contrary, hastened to her with the account of his
having discovered her real rank and station. Madame d'Egmont,
whose self-possession enabled her to conceal the terror and
uneasiness his recital inspired her with, listened calmly and
silently till he had ceased speaking, and then asked him, with a
playful smile, if he was quite sure of being in his right senses?
"For how otherwise could you," said she, "confuse a poor obscure
widow like myself with the rich and powerful princess you speak
of? My friend, you are under the influence of a dream; believe
me, I am neither more nor less than poor widow Rossin, and can
boast of no claim to the illustrious name of Egmont or Richelieu."
But the more she spoke the less she persuaded, and young Moireau
was not to be reasoned out of his conviction. of her identity
with the high-born princess of Egmont, and he alternately employed
threats and promises to induce her to confess the fact; but the
lady was firm and immovable. Resolved at all risk to preserve
her incognito, she found herself compelled to bring the affair
to a conclusion, by feigning extreme anger at the pertinacity
with which Moireau importuned her upon a subject which she
protested she knew nothing: her lover retaliated, and a desperate
quarrel ensued. Moireau rushed angrily from her presence, vowing
that he would publish his adventure thro'out Paris; an empty
threat, which his devotion to the princess would never have
permitted him to carry into execution.
Madame d'Egmont, however, was not so sure that her secret was
safe, and she lost not an instant in repairing to the house of M.
de Sartines, to obtain from him a against the
aspiring shopman, who, seized in the street, was conveyed away,
and confined as a maniac in a madhouse, where, but for a
circumstance you shall hear, he would doubtless be still.
I happened to be with the king when the lieutenant of police
arrived upon matters connected with his employment. According
to custom, Louis inquired whether he had anything very amusing
to communicate to him? "Many things, sire," replied he, "and
amongst others an anecdote of madame d'Egmont"; and he began to
relate to us, word for word, what I have written you. The king
laughed till he cried; as for me, altho' I could not help finding
the tale sufficiently comic to induce risibility, I listened with
more coolness; and when it was completed, I exclaimed,
"Can it be, sire, that you will permit this unfortunate young man
to be the eternal victim of so unprincipled a woman?"
"What would you have me do?" said Louis; "how can I interfere
without compromising the reputation of madame d'Egmont?"
"Allow me to say," replied I, "that this fear ought not to prevent
your majesty's interference. You are father of your subjects;
and the respect you entertain for madame d'Egmont should not
outweigh your duty, which imperatively calls upon you to command
the release of this wretched young man."
"But," argued the king, "by such a step I shall for ever disoblige
the duc de Richelieu and his family."
"Fear it not," cried I, "if your majesty will trust to me, I will
undertake to bring the maréchal and his nephew to approve of
your proceedings; and as for the rest of his family, let them go
where they will; for the empire of the world I should be sorry
to bear them company."
This manner of speaking pleased the king; and, turning to M. de
Sartines, "Lieutenant of police," said he, "you have heard my
fair chancellor; you will act in strict conformity with the orders
she will transmit you from me."
"Then take these orders now, sir," said I: "in the first place,
this ill-treated young Moireau must immediately be set at liberty,
and my own police (for I must tell you I had them) will give me
the faithful account of all your proceedings in this affair."
The king comprehended my meaning. "You will keep a careful watch,"
added he to M. de Sartines, "that no harm befalls this unfortunate
youth, whom, I beg, you will discreetly recommend to quit France
ere the malice of those who have reason to fear his reappearance
works him some evil."
"And who, sire," asked I, "shall dare injure one whom your
majesty deigns to honor with your protection?"
"Madame," replied M. de Sartines, "even his majesty's high patronage
cannot prevent a secret blow from some daring hand; a quarrel
purposely got up; a beverage previously drugged; a fall from any
of the bridges into the river; or, even the supposition of one
found dead, having destroyed himself."
"You make me shudder," said I, "in thus unveiling the extent of
human depravity. So, then, this young man, whose only fault
appears to have been that captivating the eyes of a noble lady,
should perish in a dungeon, or save his life at the sacrifice of
country, friends, connections; and all this for having listened to
the passion of a woman, as licentious in manners as illustrious
by birth: this frightful injustice rouses all my indignation.
Well, then, since the power of the monarch of France is insufficient
to protect his oppressed subject in his own realms, let him
shield him from want in a foreign land, by allowing him a pension
of one hundred louis. I will take upon myself to defray the
expenses of his journey."
Thus saying, I was hastening to the adjoining room, where stood
my , to take from it a thousand crowns I wished to
give for the purpose. The king held me back by my arm, saying
"You are the most excellent creature I know of, but you see I am
always master. I will undertake to provide for this young man.
M. de Sartines," pursued he, "I wish to secure to him a thousand
crowns yearly; and, further, you will supply him with six thousand
francs ready money, which M. de la Borde will repay to your order.
" said the king, turning to me.
My only reply was to throw my arms around his neck without ceremony,
spite of the presence of a witness, who might blush at my familiarity.
"You are indeed," said I, "a really good prince; it is only a pity
you will not assert your right to rule alone."
"You are a little rebel," cried he, "to doubt my absolute power."
This tone of playful gaiety was kept up some time after the
departure of the lieutenant of police.
M. de Sartines returned next day to tell me that everything had
been accomplished to my desire. "M. Moireau," said he, "has left
prison, and departs for Spain to-morrow morning: his intention
is to join some friends of his at Madrid. He is informed of all
he owes you, and entreats your acceptance of his most grateful
and respectful acknowledgments. Will you see him?"
"That would be useless," answered I; "say to him only, that I
request he will write to me upon his arrival at Madrid, and give
me the history of his late adventure in its fullest details."
Moireau did not disappoint me; and so soon as his letter reached
me I hastened to copy it, merely suppressing the date of the place
from which it was written, and forwarded it immediately to the
comtesse d'Egmont, with the following note:--
"The many proofs of tender attachment with which the widow
Rossin honored young Moireau make me believe that she will learn
with pleasure of my having the good fortune to rescue the ill-fated
youth from the cruelty of the comtesse d'Egmont. This interesting
young man no longer groans a wretched prisoner in the gloomy
abode that haughty lady had selected for him, but is at this minute
safe in a neighboring kingdom, under the powerful patronage of
king of France, who is in possession of every circumstance relative
to the affair. I likewise know the whole of the matter, and have in
my keeping the most irrefragable proofs of all that took place and
should I henceforward have any reason to complain of the comtesse
d'Egmont, I shall publish these documents with permission of those
"The public will then be enabled to judge of the virtue and
humanity of one who affects to treat me with a ridiculous disdain.
There exists no law against a fair lady having lovers and admirers,
but a stern one forbids her to command or procure their destruction.
I KNOW ALL; and madame d'Egmont's future conduct will decide my
silence and discretion. The affair with Moireau is not the only one,
others of even a graver sin preceded it. I can publish the whole
together; and, I repeat, my determination on this head depends
wholly and entirely upon the manner in which madame d'Egmont shall
henceforward conduct herself towards me. I beg madame de Rossin
will allow me to subscribe myself, with every feeling she so well,
"Her very humble and most obedient servant,
"THE COMTESSE DU BARRY"
I had communicated to no one the secret of this vengeance; I wished
to keep the delight of thus exciting the rage of the princesse
d'Egmont all to myself. I was certain, that whatever might
henceforward be her line of conduct towards me, that whenever
she found herself in my presence, she would bitterly feel the
stings of an accusing conscience, and the gnawings of that worm
which dieth not in the heart of hypocritical and wicked persons,
more especially when compelled to meet the eye of those who
could unmask them in a minute.
On the following day I received a visit from the duc de Richelieu.
Spite of the many endeavors he made to appear smiling and good
humored, a deep rage kept its station round his mouth, and
contracted his lips even in the midst of the artificial smile with
which he sought to dissimulate his wrath.
"Madame, good morning," said he to me, "I come to offer my
congratulations, you really are become quite one of us; upon my
word, the most experienced courtier has nothing more to teach you."
"I am as yet in ignorance of the cause to which I may ascribe
these compliments, M. le maréchal, which I greatly fear surpass
my poor merits; and which even you will be compelled to retract
them when I am better known to you."
"Fear it not, madame," said he, "your commencement is a master-stroke;
and the letter you yesterday addressed to the comtesse d'Egmont--"
"Ah, sir," exclaimed I, with unfeigned astonishment, "in her place
I certainly should not have selected you as my confidant in
"And who could she better have selected than her father? But
that is not the matter in hand. My daughter is filled with anger
against you; and if I must speak the truth, I do not think your
behavior towards her quite what it should have been."
"Really, monsieur, I was not prepared for a reproach of this kind;
and what can madame d'Egmont allege against me? 'Tis she who
has pursued me with the most bitter sarcasms, the most determined
malice; and, I may add, the most impertinent behavior. I entreat
your pardon for using such strong expressions, but her behavior
allows of none milder. And what have I done in my turn? snatched
from a lingering death an unfortunate young man, whose only
crime consisted in having pleased this unreasonable madame
d'Egmont. I procured the king's protection for the miserable
object of the princess's affection; I obtained his safe removal
to another country; and, having done all this, I communicated my
knowledge of the transaction to the comtesse d'Egmont. Does this
bear any comparison with her line of conduct towards me?"
"But your letter, madame; your letter--"
"Would bear alterations and amendments, sir, I am aware: I admit I
did not sufficiently insist upon the atrocity of such an abuse
"You are then resolved, madame, to make us your enemies."
"I should be very sorry, monsieur le duc, to be compelled to such
extremities; but if your friendship can only be purchased at the
price of my submitting to continually receive the insults of your
family, I should be the first to cease to aspire to it. If
Madame d'Egmont holds herself aggrieved by me, let her carry her
complaint before the parliament; we shall then see what redress
she will get. She has compromised the king's name by an arbitrary
act; and since you thus attack me, you must not take it amiss if
I make the king acquainted with the whole business."
The maréchal, surprised at so severe a reply, could no longer
restrain the rage which filled him. "I should have thought,
madame," said he, "that my daughter, in whose veins flows royal
blood, might have merited some little consideration from the
comtesse du Barry."
"It is well, then, monsieur le duc," replied I, "to point out to
you your error. I see in my enemies their works and actions
alone, without any reference to their birth, be it high or low;
and the conduct of madame d'Egmont has been so violent and
unceasing towards me, that it leaves me without the smallest
regret for that I have pursued towards her."
I had imagined that this reply would still further irritate the
angry feelings of the duc de Richelieu, but it did not: he easily
guessed that nothing but the king's support could have inspired
me to express myself with so much energy; and, if paternal
vanity strove in his heart, personal interests spoke there with
even a louder voice. He therefore sought to lay aside his anger,
and, like a skilful courtier, changing his angry look and tone
for one of cheerfulness:
"Madame," said he, "I yield; I see it will not do to enter the
lists against you. I confess I came this morning but to sound
your courage, and already you have driven me off the field
vanquished. There is one favor I would implore of your generosity,
and that is, to be silent as to all that has transpired."
"I shall not speak of it, monsieur le duc," replied I, much moved,
"unless you or madame d'Egmont set me the example."
"In that case the affair will for ever remain buried in oblivion;
but, madame, I will not conceal from you, that my daughter has
become your most bitter and irreconcilable enemy. "
"The motives which have actuated me, monsieur le maréchal, are
such as to leave me very little concern upon that subject. I
flatter myself this affair will not keep you away from me, who
would fain reckon as firmly on your friendship as yon may do on mine."
The maréchal kissed my hand in token of amity, and from that
moment the matter was never mentioned.
A similar scene had already occurred with the prince de Soubise,
relative to the exile of his daughter. Was it not somewhat
strange, as well as unjust, that all the noblemen of the day wished
to preserve to their relations the right of offending me with
impunity, without permitting me even the right of defending myself.
Madame du Barry separates from madame de Bearn--Letters between
these ladies--Portrait of madame de l’Hôpital--The ladder--The
bell--Conversation with madame de Mirepoix--First visit to Chantilly--
Intrigues to prevent the countess from going thither--The king's
Displeasure towards the princesses--The archbishop de Senlis
The spoiled child of fortune, I had now attained the height of my
wishes. The king's passion augmented daily, and my empire became
such as to defy the utmost endeavors of my enemies to undermine
it. Another woman in my place would have employed her power in
striking terror amongst all who were opposed to her, but for my
own part I contented myself with repulsing their attempts to injure
me, and in proceeding to severity only when my personal interests
were too deeply concerned to admit of my passing the matter
over in silence.
There was no accusation too infamous to be laid to my charge;
amongst other enormities they scrupled not to allege that I had
been the murderess of Lebel, the king's , who
died by poison! Was it likely, was it probable that I should seek
the destruction of him to whom I owed my elevation, the most
devoted of friends, and for whom my heart cherished the most
lively sense of gratitude? What interest could I possibly derive
from the perpetration of such a crime? The imputation was too
absurd for belief, but slander cares little for the seeming
improbability of such an event. The simple fact remained that
Lebel was dead, of course the cruel and unjust consequence
became in the hands of my enemies, that I had been the principal
accessory to it.
My most trifling actions were misrepresented with the same black
malignity. They even made it a crime in me to have written to
madame de Bearn, thanking her for her past kindnesses, and thus
setting her at liberty to retire from the mercenary services she
pretended to have afforded me. And who could blame me for seeking
to render myself independent of her control, or for becoming weary
of the tyrannical guidance of one who had taken it into her head
that I had become her sole property, and who, in pursuance of
this idea, bored and tormented me to death with her follies and
exactions, and even took upon herself to be out of humor at the
least indication of my attaching myself to any other lady of the
court. According to her view of things, gratitude imposed on me
the rigorous law of forming an intimacy with her alone; in a word,
she exercised over me the most galling dominion, which my family
had long counselled me to shake off; in truth, I was perfectly
tired of bearing the yoke her capricious and overbearing temper
imposed upon me, but I determined, if possible, to do nothing
hastily, and to endure it with patience as long as I could. But
now that the number of my female friends was augmented by the
addition of the marquise de Montmorency and the comtesse de
l'Hôpital I determined no longer to bear the constant display of
madame de Bearn's despotic sway, and finding no chance of accommodating
our tastes and humors, I resolved to free myself from her thraldom.
Another powerful reason for this measure was the dislike with
which the king regarded her; not that she was deficient in birth or
good breeding, but amidst the polish of high life she occasionally i
ntroduced the most vulgar and provincial manners, a fault of all
others most offensive to the king, whose disgust was further
excited by the undisguised avidity with which, at every opportunity,
she sought to turn her admission to the king's private society to
account, by preferring some request or soliciting some particular
favor. Instead of giving herself up to the joy and hilarity that
reigned around, she seemed always on the watch to seize every
possible advantage to herself. Immediately that the king was
apprized of my intention of dismissing her from any further cares
for me, "You are quite right," said he, "to get rid of this
troublesome woman, who never visits us without calculating the
degree of interest she can derive from it, and seems to me,
whenever she approaches me, as tho' she were devising some fresh
petition to obtain from me. And now, too, that the first ladies
of the court fill your drawing-rooms, why should you endure her
Strengthened by these sentiments on the king's part, I lost no
time in writing to madame de Bearn a letter, of which many false
copies were circulated; however, I subjoin the following as the
veritable epistle addressed by me to the countess:--
"MADAME,--It would be the height of selfishness on my part to
tax further the kindness and attention you have been pleased to
show me. I am well aware how many public and private duties claim
your care, and I therefore (with much regret) beg to restore to you
that liberty you have so generously sacrificed to my interests.
Conscious of the ennui which oppresses you in this part of the
country, I write to entreat that you will allow no consideration
connected with me to detain you longer in a place so irksome, but,
since our visit to Marly is concluded, fly upon the wings of
impatience to the gay scenes of Paris and Luxembourg. Be assured
that it will at all times afford me much pleasure to evince the
gratitude with which I shall ever remain,
"Madame, yours sincerely,
"THE COMTESSE Du Barry."
"P. S. I am commissioned to entreat your acceptance of the
accompanying casket; it is the gift of one whose favors are never
refused; you will easily guess, to whom I allude, and I doubt not
bring yourself to conform to the usual custom."
The jewels sent were a pair of ear-rings and an of emeralds
encircled with diamonds. The king was desirous of bestowing upon
madame de Bearn this particular mark of his recollection of her
services towards me, but it did not allay the indignation with
which she expressed her sense of my bitter ingratitude, as she
termed it, as tho' her interested cooperation had not been
sufficiently repaid . Nevertheless, she forbore to come to a
decided quarrel with me, but satisfied herself with loading me
with every reproach in private, whilst she wrote to thank me for
all the favors I had bestowed upon her, and entreated I would keep
her remembrance alive in the mind of my royal protector.
As there was nothing offensive in the style of the letter I
showed it to the king; when he came to the part where madame de
Bearn recommended herself to his kind recollection, and expressed
her desire to be permitted to throw herself once more at his feet,
"Heaven preserve me," cried he, "from receiving this mark of the
lady's respect. No, no, she is bad enough at a distance; I should
be bored to death were she so near to me as she prays for. Thank
God we have got rid of her, and now trust to your own guidance;
try the powers of your own wings to bear you in safety, I feel
persuaded you will never be at a loss."
About this time the prince de Soubise, anxious to evince that he
no longer retained any feelings of coolness towards me, requested
his mistress, madame de l'Hôpital, to call upon me. This lady,
without being a regular beauty, was yet very attractive. She was
past the meridian of her charms, but what she wanted in youth
she amply compensated for by the vivacity and brilliancy of her
conversation, as well as the freedom of her ideas, which made
her the idol of all the old libertines of the court. The prince
de Soubise was greatly attached to her, and preferred her in
reality, to mademoiselle Guimard, whom he only retained for form's
sake, and because he thought it suitable to his dignity to have
an opera dancer in his pay; this nobleman (as you will find) had
rather singular ideas of the duties attached to his station.
Madame de l'Hôpital had had a vast number of gallant adventures,
which she was very fond of relating. I shall mention two of the
most amusing, which will serve to convey an idea of the skilfulness
and ready wit with which she extricated herself from the most
A young man, whose love she permitted, whose name was the chevalier
de Cressy, was obliged, in order to visit her, to scale a terrace
upon which a window opened, which conducted to the sleeping-room
of his mistress. He was generally accompanied by his valet, a
good-looking youth, who, disliking a state of idleness, had
contrived to insinuate himself into the good graces of the lady's
maid. The valet, during his master's stay with madame, had
likewise ascended the terrace, and penetrated, by the aid of another
window, into the chamber where reposed the object of his tender
love. All this was accomplished with as little noise as possible,
in order to prevent the mischance of awakening the marquis de
l'Hôpital, who was quietly asleep in an adjoining room.
One clear moonlight night, at the very instant when M. de Cressy
was about to step out of the window, in order to return to his own
apartment, a terrible crash of broken glass was heard. The
terrified chevalier sought the aid of his ladder, but it had
disappeared. Not knowing what to do, the chevalier returned to
madame de l'Hôpital, who, seized with terror, had only just time
to conceal him in her chamber, when the marquis opened his window
to ascertain the cause of all this confusion. In an instant the
alarm spread, and heads were popped out of the different windows
of the castle, each vieing with the other in vociferating "Thieves!
thieves! murder! fire!"
The unfortunate author of all this disturbance was the unlucky
valet; who, in his overeagerness to reach his Dulcinea, had
attempted to climb his ladder so nimbly, that it fell down, and,
striking against the windows of a room near which he had fixed
it, had broken several panes of glass. The poor valet never
stopped to replace the ladder; but, terrified as well as hurt by
his rapid descent, scrambled off as well as he could, abandoning
his master in his present critical situation.
The ladder thrown down in the courtyard was abundant proof that
some audacious attempt had been made upon the lives and safety
of the inhabitants of the castle; and the general determination
was to catch the thieves: for, it was presumed, as no outlet for
their escape was discernible, that they must be concealed within
its walls. The servants, with their master at their head, were
speedily assembled for the purpose, when the absence of the
chevalier de Cressy was observed. Where could he be? was the
general wonder. Was it possible that, amidst the universal
uproar with which the castle had resounded, he had slept so
soundly as to be yet unconscious of all this bustle? An
over-officious friend was upon the point of going to his chamber,
to ascertain the cause of his absenting himself at such a moment,
when madame de l'Hôpital sent to request her husband would come
to her immediately. "Sir," said she, when they were alone, "the
disturbance which has thus broken our rest is not the work of
thieves, but originates in the shameless licentiousness of a man
unworthy of his name and the rank he occupies. The chevalier de
Cressy, forgetful of his being your guest, and of respecting the
honor of all beneath your roof, has dared to carry on a base
intrigue with my woman, in whose apartment you will find him at
this very minute. A conduct so profligate and insulting fills me
with an indignation which I think that you, sir, after what you
have heard, cannot but partake."
The marquis de l'Hôpital, who did not see the thing in the same
serious light, sought to appease the virtuous indignation of his
lady, and went himself to release the chevalier from his place of
concealment; leading him thro' his own apartment to join the
crowd of armed servants, who, as may be supposed, were unable to
detect the supposed invaders of their repose.
On the following morning the chevalier as agreed upon, wrote a
penitential letter to madame, entreating her pardon for his
improper attentions to her servant, whom she affected to dismiss
with every mark of gravest displeasure. The weeping Abigail
threw herself at the feet of her mistress: and the compassionate
marquis (before whom the scene was enacted), touched with pity,
implored his lady to receive the afflicted and penitent Javotte
once more into her service. This was at length granted to his
solicitations; and Javotte received a hundred louis as the price
of her silence, and found it sufficient compensation for the bad
opinion the marquis entertained of her virtue.
The second trick the marchioness played her husband was not
The chevalier de Cressy and herself could not meet so frequently
as both desired; and whilst suffering under the void occasioned
by his absence, chance threw in her way a young relative of her
husband's, a youth of about eighteen, as beautiful as Love, and
as daring as that god. They were then in the country during the
fine days of summer, and both time and place were favorable to
the prosecution of their growing passion. One day madame de
l'Hôpital and her cousin were sauntering about the park heedless
of the approaching dinner-hour, and equally deaf to the sound of
the dinner-bell, which rung its accustomed peal in vain for them
whose ears were occupied in listening to sweeter sounds. At
length the master of the house, alarmed at the protracted absence
of his wife and friend, went himself, attended by many guests
assembled at his house, in search of the stray ones; the servants
likewise received orders to disperse themselves over the grounds
in different directions; and madame de l'Hôpital and her companion
were only aroused to a recollection of the flight of time by
hearing their names loudly shouted by a dozen different voices.
Fortunately they were just in time to separate in opposite paths,
and thus to enter the castle without any suspicion being excited
of their having been so recently in each other's company. The
marquis angrily remonstrated with his lady for having obliged
him to send in search of her, and she excused herself by protesting
that she had not heard the dinner-bell. The marquis replied, that
the thing was impossible; and after some angry discussion the
matter rested there.
A few days after this the marchioness, with her husband and
cousin, were rambling over the grounds, when they found themselves
at the entrance of a hermitage, where madame de l'Hôpital had
told the marquis she had sat down to rest herself on the day of
her failing to attend the dinner-hour. M. de l'Hôpital resumed
the dispute, by protesting that from this situation the dinner-bell
might easily be heard: the lady continued firm in protesting it
could not, till, at last, feigning extreme anger, she exclaimed.
"Well then, sir, since you refuse to believe assertion, go
yourself and ring the bell as loudly as you please, your cousin
will remain here with me, and determine if it be possible to
distinguish the sound from here."
The fool of a marquis set off in the height of his zeal to convince
his wife, and, arriving at the turret where the bell was placed,
began ringing it with all his might and main, leaving the lovers
the undisturbed opportunity they were not slow in taking advantage
of. When the marquis had ceased his chimes, the loving pair went
to meet him.
"Well, my good cousin," inquired he, as they approached, "which
of us was right? Could you hear it or not?"
"Yourself, most assuredly," replied the young man, not without a
slight blush. "I can assure you that both madame and myself
heard the bell the whole time you were ringing it."
"There, I told you so; I told you so"; cried the delighted husband,
triumphantly rubbing his hands.
I thought when this lively and piquant adventure was related to
me, that it was well worthy of being immortalized by the pen of
a La Fontaine. The marchioness gave these anecdotes with a grace
and talent peculiarly her own; and I sometimes imagined that
some of the many she favored us with had perhaps taken place in
a more recent period than that she assigned to them; and that,
in order to divert our suspicions as to who were the real actors,
she frequently substituted the for what should have been
with more correctness the time. With manners so
calculated to win, she could not fail being a delightful companion,
altho' in my heart I could not help giving the preference to the
society of the maréchale de Mirepoix.
Besides, the preference evinced by this lady in so generously
separating herself from all her family, in order to attach herself
to me, was not without its full value in my eyes. I knew myself
to be generally disliked by her brother and sister-in-law, the
prince and princesse de Beauvau, the latter of whom was secretly
the mistress of the duc de Choiseul, over whom she exercised an
equal empire with the duchesse de Grammont, and I was every day
the object of some fresh attack on their part. I used sometimes
to complain of this to the maréchale. "My dear friend," she would
reply, "I am sorry, but cannot help it; in the midst of times such
as we live in, and in such a court too, the prince de Beauvau
aspires to be a noble Roman, and would fain be the Cato of his
country at least. When I recommend to him a greater degree of
prudence, he talks to me of virtue, as tho' at Versailles duty
did not consist in implicit obedience to the wishes of our royal
master; either obedience or absence from court is the golden rule
laid down, from which none dare deviate. As to my sister-in-law
she aims at the heroic likewise, altho her models are formed from
another school; in fact, she has pored over the romances of Cyrus.
Cassander, and Clelia, till she is half bewildered, and holds forth
upon the virtues of these famous heroines, till I am frequently
upon the point of exclaiming, "Ah, my dear, it is all very fine;
but Clelia and Mandane would not have shared their bed with
the duc de Choiseul."
By these lively sallies the maréchale succeeded in diverting my
anger from her relations, and I generally forgot my resentment
in a hearty fit of laughter, brought on by her sprightly
conversation. I found myself becoming daily more attached to
her, and her presence helped to console me for the many vexations
I continually encountered.
The greatest disagreeableness I encountered was occasioned by the
capricious behavior of the princesses, who sometimes received me
with pleasure and at others evinced a disposition to annoy me in
every possible way, according as it suited the whims and wishes
of those about them. The following may serve as an instance of
The prince de Condé having announced his intention of giving a
grand Fête at Chantilly, the princesses declared they would not
be present if I were there. The prince de Condé, spite of his
claims to the character of a great man, was nevertheless one of
the most subtle courtiers; and as soon as he was informed of the
princesses' intention, he came, without ceremony, to explain the
matter to me. This was the first visit he had honored me with.
"Madame," said he, "I had flattered myself you would have embellished
Chantilly with your presence; but the beauties of the court, too
justly alarmed at the idea of being eclipsed by your dazzling
charms, have so successfully manoeuvred, that they have wrought
upon the royal daughters of our august monarch to declare, that
the beauty of their attending nymphs shall not be effaced by yours.
You have too much good sense to see the affair in any but its true
light; and the disappointment your absence will inflict on me would
be too cruelly felt for endurance, did I not seek to pacify my
anxious wishes on the subject, by obtaining your promise to pay
me a visit when the king next honors Chantilly with his presence."
I felt deeply flattered by the invitation. The prince continued
to pay me several elegant and gallant compliments; and I was,
upon the whole, charmed with our interview. However, the king
was highly displeased with his daughters' proceedings. "I have
a great inclination," said he, "to forbid their going to Chantilly at
all. Upon my word, if I were to listen to them, they would fain
make of me the same puppet they allow themselves to become in
the hands of the greatest simpleton who will take the trouble of
I endeavored to appease his anger, by reminding him, that he could
not expect perfection from his daughters; and that, forced as they
were to hear me continually spoken ill of by my enemies, it was
next to impossible they should be able to prevent themselves from
adopting the opinion of those around them. "And that," said he,
"is what I principally find fault with. What have they to do with
aping the tone of those about them; and what point of their duty
teaches them to detest those whom I love? I will take care to let
them know my displeasure."
All my endeavors were in vain; I could obtain no change of his
purpose; and, summoning the archbishop de Senlis, he spoke to
him in a manner that plainly evinced his intention of making him
responsible for the actions of the princesses. Poor M. de
Roquelaure called all the saints in paradise to witness his innocence.
"Silence, sir," exclaimed the king, "I am perfectly certain this
affair has not gone on without your knowledge and probable
participation. I know you well for a person devoted to the
ladies, as a gay, gallant gentleman need be: I know likewise
that you expend the revenues of your bishopric and livings upon
the prettiest girls of Paris; thus I can hardly suppose you would
have counselled my daughters' conduct. No, I blame those wicked
and vindictive scandal-mongers, whose age is their only protection,
and those intriguing men who beset my daughters' ears."
"Sire," protested the trembling bishop, "I entreat you to believe
I am innocent of the whole affair."
"Sir," interrupted the king, "I know well that you are as good a
courtier as a prelate, but still I believe you merely ape your
betters; and far from entertaining any personal dislike to the
comtesse du Barry, you would not object to receive either the
archbishopric of d'Albi or Sens from her hands, were they in her
power to bestow."
The conversation went on in this style for more than half an
hour. The king, who had amused himself highly at the terror of
the bishop, left off in excellent humor.
This interview had not been productive of equal amusement to M.
de Roquelaure, whose self-love had been deeply humbled by the
way in which the king had spoken. No sooner did he feel himself
at liberty, than he hastened to communicate to the princesses the
violent displeasure they had excited; and these ladies, so brave
and daring whilst their father appeared to offer no show of
authority or anger, durst proceed no further when they heard of
his seriously disapproving of it; and they felt the full
inconsistency of their conduct, in first admitting me into their
presence, and then refusing to meet me at any other place. The
consequence of their deliberation upon the subject was to depute
the bishop de Senlis to call upon me. This accommodating prelate
discharged his mission with the utmost amenity, presenting me
with the united compliments of the royal sisters, who all joined
in requesting the pleasure of meeting me at Chantilly. Had not
the prince de Condé held out the flattering prospect of giving
me a Fête wholly to myself, in all probability I should have
profited by their invitation; but knowing of the secret intention
of the prince, I returned for answer, "that it was sufficiently
flattering and gratifying to me, to find that I still preserved
any portion of the princesses' kind favor, but that I was
abundantly honored by the intimation of my presence
being agreeable. Nevertheless, as I had good authority for
conjecturing that it might not be equally so to many of the
ladies of their court, I should abstain from giving offence to
any one by my presence."
"Ah, madame,,, cried M. de Roquelaure, "I entreat of you not to
insist upon my carrying the latter part of this message to the
princesses, they would be so much grieved."
"Well, then, sir," said I, "tell them that I am indisposed, and
that the state of my health will detain me at Versailles."
'That indeed," said he, " is a more respectful message; and
further I would venture to ask of your goodness, that since it
is not your pleasure to honor Chantilly with your presence, that
you will have the kindness to mention in the proper quarter, that
far from my royal ladies opposing any obstacle to your going,
they would have been much delighted with your presence there."
"Be assured, sir," answered I, " that I shall ever feel proud and
honored by the princesses' notice; and I will take care that the
faithful account of all their gracious condescension shall be
faithfully and loudly reported."
The bishop departed much pleased with the success of
his negotiation; and, above all, with the agreeable turn
the affair had taken.
When I next saw the king, I said to him, "Your daughters, sire,
are as amiable as you would have them; they have been informed
that some evil disposed persons have asserted, that they had
prohibited my being of the party to Chantilly; and in order to
testify how differently they were disposed towards me, they
despatched the bishop de Senlis."
"A most fit person to be intrusted with such a commission,"
replied the king; "for I have, in every instance, endeavored to
justify the wishes of this holy pillar of the church, this worthy
prelate with his double-faced politeness, towards those whom
he openly compliments, and reviles in private, just as his interest
may require it. Well! and what did you say to him?"
"That I most humbly thanked the princesses, but that the state
of my health did not permit of my visiting Chantilly for the present."
"That is all very well," answered Louis XV; "you have framed
your excuse with much generosity, which I greatly fear will meet
with a very different turn; for if you do not accompany me to
Chantilly, the report circulated will be, that the princesses have
forbidden you their presence; which my dearly beloved daughters,
whose characters I fully understand, will neither affirm nor deny
before the public, whilst in private they will vow that they
prohibited you from following them. Always excepting madame
Louise, who is an angel upon earth, as she will most assuredly be
one day in heaven, where I trust her prayers for me and mine
will be heard."
I did not at the time pay any particular attention to the latter
part of the king's discourse, for, indeed, the beginning was far
more interesting to me; but when I afterwards learnt that madame
Louise had quitted the grandeurs of Versailles for the gloom and
austerity of a convent I recollected it, and easily comprehended
that it was spoken in allusion to an event which took place some
time afterwards, and of which I shall speak in its proper place.
However, the king's prediction was exactly verified; and the
report in general circulation was, that the princesses had
declared their intention of not going to Chantilly; it was
further rumored, that I was there, but in a private and concealed
manner. This is wholly untrue; the king would never have permitted
such a humiliation; nor do I believe I should have submitted to it
had he even desired it. However all this may be, he sought to
recompense me for his absence by writing a most delightful letter,
which I will subjoin for your gratification. To me it was of so
much the greater value, that having its royal writer's permission
to show it, it became the first death-blow I aimed at the cabal
against me. The king possessed a much greater portion of wit and
talent than the weakness and timidity of his character permitted
Unpublished letter of Louis XV--Madame du Barry's cousin, M. de
Maupeou--The comtesse du Barry saves the life of a young girl
seduced by the arts of the curé of her village--She obtains pardon
of the comte and comtesse de Louerne--The king presents her with
Lucienne--A second meeting with the youthful prophet--His further
predictions--He is sought for--His mysterious letter to the countess
"How does my sweet friend contrive to bear our tedious
separation? is she happy and amused? In that case I can
say, she has greatly the advantage over him who now
addresses her. No, my lovely countess, I am dragging
on a tedious and uninteresting existence, spite of the
great and earnest endeavors of my good cousin and host
to provide for my enjoying the gaiety by which I am
surrounded; but, alas! amidst the many faces with
which his mansion is thronged, that one which is
dearest to me is wanting, and all becomes a blank
in my eyes; and I yawn with irrepressible weariness
in the midst of the glittering pageants given to
honor my arrival; and you may rest assured that I
shall hail with delight the termination of a visit,
which seems already to have swelled the period of
our separation into ages. I will not attempt to
conceal from you, that those who have good cause
to envy your supreme dominion over my heart, have
set every scheme in action to lead me even into a
temporary oblivion of you, but their attempts are
as vain as their impotent rivalry, and need cause
no uneasiness to you, my beloved friend. I
frequently smile at the vast pains and precautions of
which my '' is the object; and I am
encountering '' some of
those fair ladies who would fain usurp your place,
sometimes bedecked with jewels rare, and sometimes,
as Racine says,
"<------ dans le simple appareil
D'une beaute, qu'on vient d'arracher au sommeil.>'
"Madame de Grammont, for instance, takes an infinity of
trouble respecting my choice of your successor, which
she is resolved shall be either herself or one of her
choosing. I protest to you that I find all these plots
and counterplots very amusing; and can only say, that
my daughters, who are completely duped by those
practising them, must be more completely deceived
than I had imagined possible. Nor can I quite deny
that I feel a half mischievous delight in reducing to
"'<-------ce peuple de rivales
Qui toutes, disputant, d'un si grand interet,
Des yeux d'Assuérus attendent leur arret.>'
" (which, of course, means me) keeps one
perpetual reply to all their high-sounding praises and
eulogiums of such or such a lady. 'She is well enough,
certainly; but the comtesse du Barry excels her a
hundredfold': then follow such shrugs, such contortions
of countenance, and such vain efforts to repress the
rage of disappointed vanity and ambition, that I am
nearly ready to die with laughter.
"Apropos of dying; I inquired the number of deaths
which took place at Chantilly last week; only four,
they say! Now I think that number quite sufficient
for the size of the place. I walked as far as the
village cemetery, which is large and judiciously
placed. I must tell you, that one of my footmen has
gone to that last journey from which none return:
he was a tall, presuming sort of fellow, remarkable
for nothing but his impertinence, and the continual
scrapes he was forever getting into amongst the
soubrettes. However, he met with his death in some
sudden brawl. My people sought to conceal this
piece of intelligence from me; but having once heard
of it, I despatched Flamarens to ascertain in what
corner of the cemetery he has been interred.
"The duc de Tresmes talks much of you, and boasts
greatly to the honor of your friendship; he has dubbed
himself your ''; this is not amiss for a peer
of France, and what is still more gratifying, he has
assumed a title which, I believe, no one in the kingdom
will attempt to dispute his incontestable claim to call
his own. Villeroi is all impatience to return to
Versailles. The dukes of Richelieu and d'Aiguillon,
both uncle and nephew, recommend themselves to your
kind recollection. Thus you see you may reckon upon
a few devoted and attached friends, even without
him, whose hand is busily tracing these lines, and he,
I can promise you, is inferior to none in the truest
love and affection for you.
"The ladies of whom I would have you be most on your
guard are mesdames de C., de B., de P., de G. They
really throw themselves in my way till I can call them
nothing but fools for their pains; but I must do them
the justice to say that they are less ambitious than
you, and so that they could rob you of your place
would care very little whether I could offer them my
heart with the other honors to which they aspire; in
fact, 'tis time we were together again, for the people
here seem determined to profit by my stay amongst
them. My cousin entertains us magnificently, and
pleasure succeeds pleasure in a continual round of
enchantment: he tells me he has others still more
charming in store against the time when you will
honor him with your presence. Am I right in
promising this will be ere very long? Adieu, what a
long letter have I written you. I will now conclude
by bestowing an imaginary kiss on that lovely face,
which must satisfy me till I have the felicity of
seeing you again.
"And now, my dear friend and fairest countess, I will
end my lengthened epistle by praying God to have you
ever in His holy care and keeping."
The receipt of this letter afforded me the liveliest pleasure, and
I wrote to the king regularly every night and morning. I might
here introduce a specimen of my own epistolary style, but I will
not; for altho' the whimsical and extravagant things my pen gave
utterance to were exactly to the king's taste, they might surprise
you; but my royal correspondent loved the wild and bizarre turn
of my expressions, and I fulfilled his wishes; perhaps it was not
the only instance in which I gratified his inclination.
My , the chancellor of France, had remained to keep me
company instead of joining the party at Chantilly. ,
say you, and by what right or title could M. de Maupeou become
such? I will tell you. First of all he only aspired to the honor
of relationship, but afterwards, turning over the archives of his
family, he found the most incontestable proofs of his belonging
to the ancient families of the du Barry; and full of joy, he
hurried to me, unrolling at my feet his genealogical tree, to the
great amusement of comte Jean and my sisters-in-law, who, after
a long examination, declared that he was justly entitled to the
appellation of first cousin; from that period he always addressed
me , which I flattered him by returning whenever I was
in the humor.
About this period I was the happy instrument in saving from death
a young girl whose judges (as will be seen) were about to sentence
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